The Most Radical Thing You Can Do …

The Most Radical Thing You Can Do …

… is stay home. Rebecca Solnit, one of my favorite writers, has a lovely piece over at Orion in which she quotes Gary Snyder: “The most radical thing you can do is stay home.”

Like everyone else, I’ve been thinking a lot about the economic situation — as much as I’d like to be economically independent here at LivingSmall, I’m still a good ten years away from that, and my Corporate Job depends on the world economy not collapsing entirely. And while I don’t want to see a world recession or depression, it also seems to me that perhaps we need some new metrics for calculating success. Does it really have to be geometric growth or nothing? Isn’t there some middle way? Some saner measurement of growth that would allow the indigenous peoples Solnit discusses to stay home, not be forced to migrate to hostile foreign places where menial jobs pay money they cannot make at home? Some saner measurement in which frantic activity — working long hours, going to the gym, shopping for entertainment, driving driving driving — are looked at with a more critical eye?

One of my goals when I moved here was to find a place and root in it. Snyder was, in many ways my model. I studied with him a little bit in grad school, and the freedom he’d earned by buying a place he could afford, and staying there, was something I envied. He didn’t have to go teach in places where he didn’t want to live. He lived very close to the ground — off the grid, homesteading in the most elegant way imaginable (he had one of the earliest solar power setups for his computers for example).

Although I adore summer here — it’s so short, and everyone comes out of their hidey-holes and plays hard — it’s in winter that we all really settle into our selves and get the real work done. This is a town full of writers, after all, and it’s in winter that we get back into the rhythm of it all. For me, that means being up early enough to check the news, eat breakfast, walk the dog, and get some writing in before logging on to the Corporate Job. It also means weekends of retreat. I’ll go out on a Friday, but when I can, I try to get two uninterrupted days of quiet over the weekend in order to get back to the novel I’m still working on. I find it takes until Saturday afternoon or evening for that part of my brain to open up again, for the busy-ness of the week to subside, and as the days grow shorter, and as I mourn the death of the garden, I also welcome the silence of snowfall, and the cozy home that is my basement writing office.

I only hope that as we’re all forced to think a little bit more about our consumption levels, that perhaps the quieter joys of staying home will what, catch on a little bit? What’s wrong with talking to one another? Hanging out? Playing a board game or going for a walk or making a craft together? Will the world economy really collapse if we all just dial it back a little bit? Or can we maybe invent a saner economy? That’s my little hope at any rate …

2 thoughts on “The Most Radical Thing You Can Do …

  1. I am so very glad you wrote this post! I live very much like you describe…and sometimes I wonder if I’m not being a hermit making sure I take as many weekends alone to do my creative things and turning down social obligations so I can just re-calibrate to my soul again. I like one-on-one conversation and the small “old-fashioned” gestures our modern world tends to forget about – like canning and knitting.

    I could go on and on, but suffice it to say, I agree…something good will come of our having to scale back, slow down, and assess. I’m glad there are a few of us that know this already.

  2. Greetings from the Evergreen State. I read the Orion article as well and found your site while googling the Snyder quote. Do you know where it was originally published? The funny thing is, I was thinking along the same lines before Orion arrived at my door.

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