Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Failure, as usual

Well, I failed to get up early enough and get together the gumption to play pipes in downtown Willimantic on the Fourth of July. There would have been a good audience for the parade and the road race, but I slept in. I thought I could stay up til 8:30 AM, but I crashed at about 6. I did play for a while on my front lawn and entertained a few folks. Some of the playing wasn't great--I was trying out some of my new, hard material.

Another opportunity for failure emerges tomorrow. I have a chiropractor's appointment in the morning across town. I plan to bike there and back. I will have to stop and get some meds at the pharmacy tomorrow, as well. With hope, I can make one trip.

Contemplation of the moneyless condition has led me to believe that I might be too lazy for it. I hate to drive, but I like it better than walking or biking the distances that dominate modern suburban life. Likewise, with food and shelter, I like meat, air conditioning and heat and I prefer shopping to foraging or farming. "There's got to be some way out of this place said the joker to the king." The suffocating hierarchic totalitarian capitalist system or a lifetime of drudgery just to survive. Oh, and complete isolation from friends, family, and my long-suffering spouse. I'm hoping to ease that isolation tomorrow with some social interaction.

I hoped to develop some new social contacts locally during this experiment, but I haven't done any of that so far. Part of my reason for going 6 weeks rather than a day or week or month is that I wanted to force myself to have to see other people and interact with them, even give and receive with them. Otherwise, I'm just hiding out here not learning anything about going moneyless except that there's some cool stuff on Netflix Instant.

Going to read Tonya's story tomorrow--that should be interesting, and I can send her my thoughts on it, which will be a nice way of flexing old fiction muscles.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Six weeks free from using money and driving

I'm currently conducting an experiment to see what it would be like not using money or driving for six weeks. I'd at first decided not to blog this experiment because let's face it, my moneyless forays have failed utterly in the past. I think I made it one week the last time I tried this experiment. I didn't want to make a big announcement that I was going moneyless for six weeks and then have to post the next day that I drove to an appointment with my chiropractor.

So far so bad, actually. I haven't used money to buy anything but I drove back from the train station yesterday. My wife drove herself to the train station yesterday and I relented and drove the car back home. I suspect I'll pick her up next week at the train station as well unless I can find some way around it.

But that's only half the story. For this moneyless experiment, I'd hoped to solve the main problem with my last, week-long moneyless experiment, and, no, it wasn't the distance to the chiropractor's office. It was social isolation. I play in a band, I visit people I know, I go to friends' gigs, I go out to lunch with people. I did none of that when I tried going moneyless before and it resulted a complete disconnection from my friends and colleagues. This time, I reckoned, I would develop closer ties within human-powered travel distance from my house. So far, though, I've failed completely on that front. I've pretty much stayed in the house and not seen anyone or done anything in the community.

However, today I walked down to Walgreens and picked up a prescription. (There was no copay.) On the walk, I identified a number of edible forage plants that I didn't know grew in town. I also spoke to my neighbor and she asked if I was going to the Fourth of July boom-box parade downtown tomorrow. What a great idea! I think I make take the bagpipes down there and play either before of after the parade at the war memorial. What a great way to meet people and enjoy some time with other people. Sounds like a plan!

I also had an idea for another experiment. When I was walking back, I walked by a church where services had just finished and people were leaving. I wondered what would happen if I stuck my thumb out and tried to beg a ride. It's nominally a Christian church, but I wonder how many people would be charitable enough to stop and essentially offer what amounts to almost nothing in actual money costs to someone in need. I thought it might be more fun to do this with the a small handwritten sign that says "A true Christian would help" and have someone videotape the interactions (or lack of interactions) I would have with the parishioners. Then I could post the edited videos from a variety of different churches on youtube or somewhere. I'll have to think about think about how to do that--I have a friend who might have the time and interest.

That got me thinking about interviewing religious people and asking them how they live their faiths and what that would mean to them. Most religions give lip service to helping others and eschewing wealth. Jesus was pretty explicit about it, for example, telling people to abandon their families, give all their wealth to the poor, and follow him. I just wonder how people square participating in money-based industrial civilization if they're religious. Suelo has a great discussion of what all the major world religions say about money at his website, Living Without Money:

Here's the One Point We Know the World's Religions Agree Upon (in Word)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Failure at dumpster diving

I admit it -- I'm a failure at dumpster diving. In fact, I haven't posted in a month and half because I was so discouraged. I went to the dumpster I mentioned in the last post and rummaged. I found nothing but ordinary garbage -- what looked like stuff you'd empty from the trash cans in the break room of the store. It's a sign, or I'm going to take it as such.

It turns out I don't really need the stuff anyway. We have plenty of food. What's needed presents itself to the faithful when it's needed. In a way, my attempts at dumpster diving are an attempt to provide for an uncertain future where I fear food is scarce. The fear of the future is the problem, and the striving to allay those fears is the troublesome behavior.

A wise person trusts in the abundance that burgeons in the world. Man made scarcity by creating money based on debt. Since all money comes from debt, there's always a scarcity that drives people to repay that debt. The debt behind the money turns mankind into a haunted, driven race that must struggle to repay what can never be repaid, because the amount of debt and money is always increasing. We're like a team of horses being driven hard by the money system.

I'm trying to slip the harness. I'm hoping to stop taking money in the near future, since then I won't be enslaved to it and to those who possess it, who are themselves even bigger slaves to it. Using more of a drug doesn't make you less of an addict -- it makes you more of one. Of course, I haven't really made much progress toward going moneyless. I've trimmed my monthly expenditures down to a quarter of what they were. Groceries, food, gasoline, and medications still come out to a fair amount each month. I'm about broke so the spending is going to stop. What will that mean? I don't know. Can I do the things I really want to without any money? Difficult to imagine it. I need to do some serious thinking about my life and what I'm doing with it.

Ah well, so much for dumpster diving. Maybe I'll get the authentic calling to dive when I really need to, but, for now, I think I'll stop trying.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Dumpter diving

I've been unable to get myself to dumpster dive, but I realize this is an essential skill of the moneyless. I've identified a few key dumpsters in the area and have checked a few and seen that they contain some useful food. The trick is, dumpster diving is not exactly 100 percent guaranteed legal. However, I've been assured by the head of the local trash company that the local police shouldn't bother me. Goodness knows there are a lot bigger fish to fry in this town than your humble correspondent.

It's like giving yourself your first injection. If there wasn't someone there goading me to do it, I probably wouldn't have done it. The diabetes education nurse goaded me and I did it. Now I do it without even thinking about it. I think that's what dumpster diving may be. Perhaps I'm still attached to an identity that doesn't dig through trash and I'm sort of dwelling on the threat of detection to put off trying it. Or I could just be afraid that the police will see and think it's an easy arrest. Who knows? I aim to find out tomorrow. I'm going to try the dumpster at the local organic food store or the bakery -- I haven't decided yet. I know the bakery dumpster does get full on Wednesday. I may save that one for Tuesday or Wednesday. But if I can't get something good from the organic food store dumpster, come on -- it's not likely they'll send thugs out there. I will borrow an apron before I go. With hope, I'll look like I belong.

Wish me luck.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Counseling while quitting money

Surprisingly, my long-suffering wife suggested we start couples counseling in order to help come to grips with the conflicts that my intention to quit money has caused in our marriage. While I won't discuss the specifics of what happened during our first session, I can say that I learned a lot. Foremost, I learned just how unhappy my wife is about this in quantifiable terms when I saw her pre-therapy self-evaluation form. I know I need to help her in any way that I can (apart from deepening my involvement in the money economy;) to ease her anxiety. With hope, our therapist can help us come to some workable solution.

Some good news: I got the bicycle working. Only I would take a month to figure out how to inflate a bicycle tire. In truth, I added Slime, sort of stop-leak for tire, to the tube and inflated it at a gas station. The fix appears to be holding. When I took the bike for my first ride, I found out how out of shape I was. After not more than 20 minutes of riding, I was exhausted and weak. I need to work up to longer trips before I switch over to bicycling as my primary transport.

I left a rock band I was playing guitar in because rehearsal was an hour and a half away by car and I'm not going to be driving anymore. I plan, for the meantime, to confine my guitar playing to recording work done at home with my existing equipment.

I looked in some rubbish today outside a Stop & Shop, but didn't retrieve anything. On Saturday night, I thought of diving at a restaurant that I knew had good stuff in the dumpster, but I didn't want to wait around for them to close and I didn't have any of the equipment I felt I needed, like a flashlight, a diving stick and bags for carrying away the haul. Next time...

Monday, July 26, 2010

Hypocrisy, selfishness and laziness

Looking over my rules, I find them ridiculous. The first rule is plain enough, and draws a bold line between needed and unneeded expenditures:

1. Don't use money unless I've exhausted other alternatives and I face health or well-being consequences.
However, things get very mushy very quickly:
2. I will accept gifts, including the purchase of gasoline, health insurance, medical services, and medications, freely/gleefully offered by my wife or any willing patrons.
Okay, so I'm a leech off the work of my long-suffering wife, bless her soul. The whole substance of my move to get off money has encompassed merely letting my wife buy everything. Granted, I have eliminated all purchases, but she has picked up the slack, most notably in the food-gas continuum which is often most urgent. I mean after all, who wants to be unable to get somewhere on time because of a lack of gas? Why skip eggs when your wife can buy you some? Why bother foraging for food when you can prevail upon friends to buy you a McDonalds hamburger? No, something is dreadfully wrong here. I've got to get off the mark or throw in the towel.

Maybe there is a different modality I should be exploring? Some other way of being that lets me glimpse the Divine in the mundane but that wasn't so hard on the wife.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Ground rules

Going purely moneyless is a difficult option for me for four reasons:

  1. I am married and my wife definitely does not want to go moneyless.
  2. I have several chronic medical conditions that require approximately $15,000 in medication and more in tests and doctor visits per year merely to keep me in a reasonably non-dying condition.
  3. I am a seasoned indoorsman with little or no knowledge of basic outdoor activities and extreme vulnerability to outdoor menaces, such as West Nile virus and skin cancer.
  4. I am a musician who wants to continue playing the instruments I have. I play bagpipes and guitar and each require the acquisition of small amounts of maintenance and other items from time to time, not limited to reeds, strings, and repair services. Also, rehearsals and performances require some mode of transport, and, though I endeavor to reach these through human power alone at some point, that is not feasible right now.

To sum it up, if I went completely moneyless and attempted to live an outdoor-oriented, hunter-gatherer existence, I would likely be dead within a year. Further, I fear that I would have to give up playing music with the people and in the venues that I have been. That fear is probably ungrounded, and I seek to overcome it. However, the immediate prospect of losing performance opportunities works against my central ambition -- to do what I do for love, so I have created rules to protect that part of my life in the meantime. The ground rules that flow from these circumstances are as follows:

  1. Don't use money unless I've exhausted other alternatives and I face health or well-being consequences.
  2. I will accept gifts, including the purchase of gasoline, health insurance, medical services, and medications, freely/gleefully offered by my wife or any willing patrons.
  3. I will accept money for musical performances that I would have performed anyway. This will help offset the costs of transportation and instrument maintenance, if those become an issue.
  4. I will occasionally make purchases or barter to improve the moneyless sustainability of my life. This is a controversial rule for me because it's very difficult in practice to distinguish consumerist indulgence from sustainable acquisition. To help limit this expenditure category, I will offset all such purchases through the liquidation of existing possessions. For example, I am purchasing virtually indestructible plastic bagpipes to replace my fragile, maintenance-prone blackwood set. I will offset the purchase by selling the old set.
  5. I will liquidate unused or unnecessary possessions through donation and sale. Proceeds from sales will go into a joint bank account in order to provide my wife some relief in knowing that I'm not completely insane. She will have use of this cash, which is fitting and proper, since I won't.

As you can see, I am not a purist, like Daniel Suelo, who hasn't used money of any kind for exchange nor used any for-pay services for the past 9 years. (BTW I am a big fan of his blog and website -- see the links below.) I am more of the mind of Ran Prieur (see link below), who recommends a more gradual approach to going moneyless. What I take from his philosophy is that as members of an industrialized society, we no longer have the knowledge, skills, and natural inclinations to live in a moneyless way. Deep down, we are money-based, despite whatever vows or pledges we take, and breaking this attachment is painful and difficult, not the least because important parts of us still crave the warm feelings that having and getting money produce.

My hope is that, through the exercise of these rules, I can free myself from attachment to cash and the exchange mentality.

Next post: Why? What is point of all this?

Links for this post:

Daniel Suelo's sites
Moneyless World -- Free World -- Priceless World
Living Without Money

Ran Prieur's site
Ran Prieur