The Simpler Life
I think I have finally come to understand my rotating obsession with Indonesia (primarily Bali), Japan and trying to relocate to Albany.
Each year that passes, I find that I am becoming more and more disillusioned with Western society. We, as a collective, are very fortunate and privileged to live where we do and have all the social securities that we do – and yet the more we have, the more we want. Instead of being thankful, we have become greedy, self important and rude. We flaunt our success and hoard our excess instead of sharing with the disadvantaged.
I found that I looked to Japan for a more idealistic way of life – people who were considerate towards one another, who worked co-operatively for the collective good of their community. People who were polite and well mannered, considerate and well behaved. People who were diligent and hard working. Everything I wanted our society to be – a stark contrast to the boorish, self-centred, self-serving “I want everything my way, NOW!” attitude of the spoiled Westerner.
During one of my bouts of depression and its subsequent upswing, I became obsessed with moving to Japan, taking up permanent residence, adopting their culture as my own, even changing my name and forging a new identity. If my wife didn’t want to go, fine – I would go by myself. I started studying again, trying to improve my understanding of the written language (I used to be competent in conversational Japanese but struggled with kanji and katakana).
But as I continued reading and referencing the logistics required to relocate, I started reading more and more blogs and journals of people – predominantly Americans – who had been living in Japan for some time, learning from their experiences of settling in and adapting to the culture, all the social protocols and obligations. The more informed I became, the less ideal the lifestyle appeared. Its not that the idea became unappealing, but rather the relocation would simply be exchanging one set of complications for another. Additionally, due to my peculiar dietary and medical requirements, along with many philosophical choices, I would need to import a great number of items from Australia. In short, I would probably be trying to recreate a miniature Perth in a different country.
Thankfully, my manic mood finally reached a degree of equilibrium and I was able to look at the concept with a clear mind. I would love to visit Japan again, but moving there is for a whole different project.
However, remaining in Perth still left with me with that frustration with our selfish, materialist society.
As a thought exercise, I considered how my expectations changed as my income increased. The more I had, the more I wanted and the less satisfied I became. Truthfully, I was happiest and most content when I had very little.
But could I go back to being that way again?
I continue in my pursuit of uncluttering my house – its an ongoing project and will probably last a lifetime. Its not that I want to get rid of absolutely everything, but I certainly would like to pair everything down to the essentials and remove unnecessary duplications.
An aspect of this is an attempt to step away from our disposable culture – I don’t believe in buying the best possible quality of everything; having worked so many years in retail and customer service, it repulses me the amount of money people will spend on an item for what is essentially “boast value” – people who buy expensive products for the sake of buying an expensive product even though they will never use it to its full potential. It would be a demonstration of the shallowness of our society by trying to impress people by flaunting how much money we have to waste. *
Unless a product has a history of longevity and delivers demonstrably better results, I tend to shy away from the premium products and direct people to more conservative, practical and realistic products. When buying for myself, as an example, though I might be happy with a $10 pair of jeans, I am also happy to invest $70 in a higher quality pair that will last longer and fit more comfortably. I do find, however, that the cheaper pants suit my non-fashion oriented tastes a great deal better. I certainly wouldn’t like to invest $100 for a brand name pair that is likely to have been made in the same sweatshop as the $10 pair.
For all our shortcomings as a city, Perth is still a privileged area and living here is a continuous and precarious balance of being in the world, but not of the world – even with my minimalist mindset, I still can be easily distracted by gadgets and materialist possessions. For example, I like my clunky but functional setup with Linux at home, but I am constantly fighting the urge to convert back to Apple – not because of its “coolness” but because all the equipment works together so nicely. A constant battle because Apple represents so many of the aspects of materialist society that I resent and reject. But apart from the tight integration with other Apple products, I cannot justify the expense as using their equipment would not make me any more productive or creative, but more likely would provide me with more distractions.
It would be tempting to run away from society and live as a hermit – as long as I had fresh water, electricity and a broadband internet connection of some description. But what would that achieve? I might be living a more complete and wholesome life but the rest of society would be continuing along their slippery path towards their inevitable self-destruction.
Regrettably, I must continue to live in the world as I have both a duty and obligation to lead by example – to show people a better way to live, rejecting Earthly treasures and selfishness, instead showing love, mercy, kindness and the way to Christ.
Even to those people who are far more deserving of being beaten over the head with a shovel.
* The recent mining boom and subsequent crash was a great example of this – so many people thought “I have just made a bucket load of money, I shall spent it wildly and recklessly.” With so much disposable cash abounding, the cost of living in Western Australia doubled over the next two years and even following the crash, the cost has barely come down.
Current affairs shows started doing reports on how people who were earning six figure salaries last year were now living on the streets following the crash. I’m sorry, but its difficult to be sympathetic to someone who earned in excess of $300,000 over the last two years but has absolutely nothing to show for it.
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