V146: Voluntary Change

I lifted the concept for this title from a post by Sharon Astyk. Sharon has just finished her second book. Depletion and Abundance: Life on the New Home Front will be available in the Fall of 2008. A Nation of Farmers, coauthored with Aaron Newton, will be forthcoming in the Spring of 2009.
A little while ago I wrote that we were in a fast crash, and I haven’t changed my mind. A few people didn’t quite get what I was saying - my claim was not that we were weeks away from some grand apocalypse. In fact, it was the opposite - that we are in the midst of billions of aggregate small collapses, an intensification of events (because there are always people and things collapsing around us), that is forcing more and more of us into deep change - some voluntarily, as we come to an understand of events, but most by collapsing their personal worlds, their personal economies, and most of all, their ability to understand and predict what will come next.
Voluntary change is much more stimulating, it feels like adventure, pioneering and can be fun; whereas, forced change like rationing, foreclosure, job layoff, food stamps and eviction are all sure ways to feel deprivation, humiliation, desperation and resentment. As Sharon describes it above, deep change is the collapse of personal worlds and personal economies and the ability to understand or predict what will come next. I repeat that because I want to emphasize it as part of my own experience.

I have undergone the collapse of my personal world, personal economy and the ability to understand or predict what will come next a bunch of times in my life. Over and over life taught me that the unpredicted could wipe out all security. It helped me develop a notion of creating a life that was not based on credit or reliance on too many things not in my control.

I took on the most recent set voluntary changes for a simpler lifestyle after losing a job and deciding to move to a new community where my son was living. I had little to begin with as an older woman. I was never paid on par with male colleagues and was not part of any old boys’ network of financial support and I don't come from family money I can rely on beyond small loans or gifts. I have been pretty much on my own my whole adult life. I had the privilege of being white and the advantage of having a good mind to get an Ivy League education on loans and grants and good jobs through these credentials and chutzpah.

Yet, in these last years my temperament, my values and the death of a child all contributed to my utter lack of ambition. In truth I recognized this reality within myself eighteen years ago and have been steadily adjusting my expenses and habits ever since. I have written before about Your Money or Your Life being a transformative book for me here and here. It can’t hurt to again repeat the following piece subtitled, "Enoughness" by one of the authors, Vicki Robin.

• I pledge to discover how much is enough for me to be truly fulfilled, and to consume only that.
• I also pledge to be part of the discovery of how much would be enough for everyone not only to survive but to thrive, and to find ways for them to have access to that.
• Through this commitment to restraint and justice, I am healing my life and am part of the healing of the world.
Even when I came up with a business model for my own entrepreneurial venture, make-a-plan, in 2003 I struggled with my target client. I wanted to provide services to the low and middle income person needing assistance in planning DIY changes and renovations to his or her home. As a design professional I’d spent my career doing space plans and working drawings for banks, government offices and the like. Most self employed designers realize their market was the rich. Frankly, only the rich will pay for design services because the rich can and most people rich and poor don’t understand the value of good design anyway. Design is often misunderstood as another word for decoration even by intelligent, educated people.

I am sixty years old and I have a fantastic idea for a verdant vocation, make-a-(green) plan, and other ventures; but, I don’t have the capital, the collaborators or a compelling reason to work that hard to launch a viable business. It is selling a concept to people who think cheap goods, cheap food, crap television and corrupt government are life. The prevailing attitude is it always has been and will always be. Instead, I blog to the dozen or so reading with some ideas and tips on voluntary change.

On the one hand I don’t mind that it seems like a tiny circle of people in a virtual community are simply reinforcing each other’s steps towards sustainable life. But another part of me would love to be able to nudge the people in my vicinity, my local community towards voluntary change. I would also like to see some of the feminist and progressive voices raised towards sustainable issues rather than the broken political system they are fixated upon in the blogosphere.

Musing via a blog post is somewhat rude or self indulgent. I am feeling the need to chronicle voluntary change and the excitement that it can engender and feeling the weight of denseness the majority of words and voices I read and hear. Millions and millions just don’t know what is going on and will experience deep change in countless unpleasant ways. And it just shouldn’t be that way.

Image from WebUrbanist


Melanie Lytle said...

What a powerful image - thanks for sharing!

Rosa said...

I think at the very least you are doing your part of transforming your community.

You are not responsible for anyone else's consciousness, but to the extent you are able, you are responsible for sharing tools, strategies, and knowledge - and when you talk about the garden project, documenting your community, building ties to your neighbors, sharing information with your son, what I hear is that you are doing that.

katecontinued said...

Thank you, Rosa. That is thoughtful of you to remind me of these better parts of my life. It is such a vacillating week (another v word). I feel connected, then out here on my own and a part of something and then not. I am sure the sadness of the primary hatefulness was largely responsible. I am glad that this phase is over and we might witness more cooperation against the hate that is coming.