What Life Is And What Life Isn’t

Life is…

  • That funny sign or moment that you and your family talk about for hours in one day.
  • Looking up in the sky and wondering “How small am I?”
  • Getting lost while driving somewhere, and finding something even more exciting.
  • The look on your kid’s face when they realize your wisdom helped them “connect the dots.”
  • The first cup of coffee in the morning, on the back deck, on a crisp Fall morning … in silence.
  • Noticing that someone placed three turtles in the pond you walk by every morning.
  • Noticing three more baby turtles a few months later.
  • Opening your Twitter account and coming to the realization that it’s just a tool, nothing more, so “meh.”
  • Just slowing down for the first time in your life to realize that you’ve already been given all the gifts you need.
  • Your son or daughter’s first sports championship … and the look on their face when they’ve won.
  • Thinking.
  • Reflecting.
  • Thanking.
  • Writing.
  • Drawing.
  • Sharing.
  • Reading.
  • Pursuing a thought-experiment in the attempt to solve a bigger world problem.
  • Writing a book in the attempt to help people improve their lives.
  • Realizing you have too much useless stuff.
  • Realizing why you have so much useless stuff, and the impact it’s had on your life.
  • Getting rid of that useless stuff.
  • Realizing you’re not alone, that other people have the same fears, faults, and pretty much the same life as you do.
  • Realizing that since you’re not alone, you can do whatever you want to improve the situation after reading this post.
  • Realizing that life isn’t handed to you on some silver platter, and you are the only one who can impact your life in any meaningful way.
  • Realizing you’re in fact distracted by the links included in this post.
  • Realizing that some (not all) of our technology is completely useless and only there to pull money out of your wallet.
  • Realizing this list is not complete, but that anyone reading this post can complete their own list of what life is.

What life isn’t…

  • The stuff you own.
  • The competition behind the stuff you own.
  • Beating the “Jones’es”.
  • How successful you are.
  • What you look like.
  • About trying to look like “that model in the magazine” (male OR female).
  • Buying the latest purse.
  • Buying the latest wallet.
  • About having the biggest house.
  • Creating an economic system that benefits only you and a select group of others in your wealth or political class.
  • Your opinion “winning.”
  • Greed.
  • Selfishness.
  • Envy.
  • 80 hour workweeks.
  • 60 hour workweeks.
  • Having your kids being raised at daycare all their lives.
  • “Sacrificing” any part of your limited life in the name of some mega-corporation that really won’t give a shit that you did sacrifice.
  • “Trolling” in the sense of the online world.
  • Spamming.
  • Being insecure about yourself.
  • Policing each other with the intent of catching people doing something wrong (which biases your judgment of their doing).
  • Damage to the environment.
  • The latest “fashion trend” which is designed to get you to spend your money on a schedule (nothing more).
  • Upgrading to the latest gadget for no reason other than to be the “first” with it.
  • Scamming other people out of their hard-earned money.
  • Endless, mindless consumption.
  • Remaining a mindless drone.
  • About continuing to think about the superficial.
  • The endless pursuit of perfection.
  • Money.
  • Only choosing A or B.
  • About being a dick.
  • About failing to make personal changes as a result of reading the 2nd part of this big list.

Well, that covers the stuff I’ve thought about for the last couple years.  Will add more as it comes up.

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Slow Down: Let’s Not Let Technology Replace Humanity

We have a gift.

It’s called our humanity.  It consists of our consciousness, ability to adapt, and our ability to think beyond primitive needs.

We live in an age where technology has developed to a point where it can replace certain parts of our humanity.  For example, email replaces face to face meetings, a fact that Stephen Petranek reminded me of before a call we had last week.

Think about this one small way technology is actually damaging our human relationships.  When you email someone, that email takes all of the emotion, tone, inflection, and understanding of the communication away.

You no longer have the necessary elements for a human, face to face conversation.  And while we could replace that with say, a Skype conversation (video or audio), or as Stephen pointed out… a hologram conversation… we don’t do that, do we?

Nope.

We send an email because it’s convenient.

And in our overly progressed, overly efficient society… convenience causes obsolescence.  What we create in technology that can bring us what we want more conveniently, typically makes the solution before it obsolete.

Email is making conversations more convenient.

Plus, we can “hide” behind our monitor, so we sometimes say hurtful things that we would NOT say face to face, or video to video.

This is a simple example.

Eventually, some of society is looking forward to a “singularity” where technology makes some of our biology obsolete.

I don’t look forward to that.  Because when biology, seen as an outdated model by singularists, gets replaced by technology… humanity ceases to exist.

Sure, technology can “perfect” a human form and processes… but it cannot replace humanity.  Technology needs to be left to evolve itself, not transcend to attempt to evolve humanity.

Progress

We strive to make more and more progress as a society, civilization, whatever.

We must move forward, not backward.  We have to upgrade, not remain stable.  We must go faster, not slower.

We must stop doing this.

Not just for ourselves, but for the world as a whole.  When is it good enough?  When do we have “enough” technological progress to say “Hey, let’s stop progressing and use this for awhile.”

There are obvious exceptions to this “slow and stop all progress” mindset.  We have lives to save, an environment we’ve destroyed (but won’t fully admit to doing so), and a future to think about.

We can’t stop every single form of progress in every area of our civilization.  It would be foolish to expect that.

But we can stop all harmful industry, fuels, energy, greed, “efficiency” (notice the quotes), and on … and on. We could start the process of actually stopping all of this now, and turn the page to a new era of our civilization.

It will require resisting old, damaging, expensive (in the big picture, not just $) forms of industry we’ve progressed past for a long time… but we can do it.

We just have to act like we’re capable of as a human civilization.  It might be uncomfortable for a little while, but afterwards, we will enter an era of advanced civilization.  We might just biologically evolve as humans too.

Slow Environmental Progress

Actually, stop and reverse production in oil and other environmental impacts.

“Erinaceous” on Reddit, a very intelligent person, left a rather grim forecast of sorts.

Here’s part of it, with a link to the whole comment directly.  If you can read all of this and NOT want to reverse progress, I don’t know what else to say:

The only low hanging fruit left is degrowth and conservation[1] . Any growth paradigm, even a 100% renewable paradigm leads to overshoot and isn’t remotely possible within our time frame. To stay below 450 ppm/carbon in the atmosphere would require a 130 fold improvement in dollar GDP per gram carbon of emissions. Given that anything that costs a dollar represents roughly 7 MJ of energy there’s basically no way to make those numbers square unless we stop growing the economies and working on poverty reduction, relocalization, ecological agroforestry, rebuilding soil and working less.

That’s kind of the interesting part actually. The way we get out of this mess is by having more time and economies based around art, culture and the humanities ie. the parts of culture that can produce value with very little energy inputs.

What’s the alternative to oil? Local food production based around perennial vegetables and tree crops would require very little energy input and produce as much nutrition per acre as energy intensive agriculture. Plus it would build soil and sequester carbon. This seems like a no brainer. The 500 km salad is gone. I mean it’s gone anyways when oil tops 160-190$/bbl.

Kill the military. The military uses more oil that the entire civilian domestic consumption. Getting rid of that buys us a few years.

The whole comment is here.

“Slow” Is Not An Excuse

I touched on this in the Manifesto, but here is a deeper explanation of what I mean when I say “slow is not an excuse to/for __________.”

Because I started a blog before I actually published this book, I’ve already gotten email questions like:

  • “Joe, won’t ‘going slow’ mean a lack of productivity?”
  • “Joe, isn’t this an excuse to be lazy, or an excuse not to get stuff done?”
  • “Joe, I don’t want to be one of those people who is thought of as a ‘slowpoke’… so how can I implement the principles of Slow?”

And variations of these types of concerns.

They are valid concerns, for sure… but slow isn’t an excuse to use, it’s more of a mindset behind living more deliberately, more consciously, more critically

… instead of rushing to the next thing in the interest of some society-imposed notion we all have to produce as much as we can, as many as we can, or as quickly as we can.

And that mindset can be extrapolated to mean many things.  For example, as it applies to upgrading your technology it can mean thinking and being aware of your need to upgrade, instead of upgrading for the sake of upgrading (or worse because everyone else is doing it, for those Apple fans out there).

It can apply to making products, striving for quality (slow) versus quantity or “mass produced for the masses” (not slow).

And on, and on…

Slow isn’t an excuse for anything, it’s not something you choose to “not do”… instead it’s a methodology, a mindset, for “doing” at a pace where you’re in complete control of the outcome (not marketing, society, emotions etc…).

Be in control of your thinking, eating, upgrading, manufacturing, political views, etc… and don’t let them control you.  To do that, slow down.

THAT is what slow is.