Friday, October 28, 2011

Rigid Thinking


The wife and I have been making a lot of changes recently. Some of these changes have been referenced in many of my recent blogs. These changes have been difficult, but overall they are proving to be very beneficial.

This was highlighted in a meeting that I facilitated this week. We had some downtime during the meeting and I was conversing with some of the other people in the room about my experiences of building geodesic domes at the Burning Man Festival. They seemed fascinated about this and the concept of how the domes were built.

One of the attendees at the meeting questioned how I would section off the interior of a dome into rooms, since the structure is basically round. I looked at her somewhat comically and realized that she was totally rigid in her thinking based on a lifetime of ‘literally’ living inside a box.

I explained to her that if you take the time to lay out the design of the dome and construct it, the cost of making a second or third dome becomes one half to one quarter of the first. So instead of thinking in terms of rooms within the dome, she should think of multiple domes that are connected. Each dome is its own self contained room.

This got me thinking about how we as a culture are marketed to think that we need more than we do.

Last week, we owned three vehicles (four if you count my Segway). We had a small Lexus, a mid-sized Dodge Dakota pickup truck and my Lotus Esprit. My wife and I were thinking about replacing the Lexus with something that was more efficient, since she has a long commute each day. So we were looking into getting a Chevrolet Volt (that uses no gas).

But early last week the wife and I had a little pow-wow on our front porch and we both told each other ‘wait a minute’. What do we plan to be DOING in the next 5 years, as opposed to what are we DOING right now.

We plan on retiring, moving away, building a home in a remote location, taking our large dogs on trips to the vet and dog park and building a lot of large scale projects. How is the Volt going to benefit us in these scenarios? Add to this, that I don’t drive to work and we rarely used the pickup truck, except on weekends to go to Home Depot.

The end result is that we sold both the Lexus and the pickup and got one brand new big-ass full size quad-cab 4X4 pickup truck with a long bed. It gets awful gas mileage and is basically a road going tank that can tow four tons and haul 3/4 of a ton. So as a commuter vehicle for my wife, it isn’t ideal, but it is a great motivator for her to find another job closer to downtown where we live so she doesn’t HAVE to commute so much before we retire.

In retrospect, one new car is actually much cheaper than owning two used ones. Again, thinking outside the box. More cars do not make us happier, they are a burden. (but I still kept the Lotus, hell it is paid for)

Following up on this basic concept of less is actually more, the experiment of disconnecting our home from the phone / internet / mass media has actually worked out rather well. Sure, the first two weeks or so were sort of uncomfortable. Like someone giving up cigarettes. We lost the ability to check our e-mail and Facebook every 5 minutes, and didn’t know what the anxiety story of the day was on the local news, but this faded after a while.

We now find ourselves watching a lot more movies from our extensive video collection and making even better use of Netflix. The internet is free at the library and I read my e-mail at the office. The interesting side affect is, both my wife and I are much more relaxed. The world continues on without us knowing how many fatalities, or debt crisis and tsunamis are out there. We really don’t care anymore. We are looking toward a different future. Not the one that all those advertisement and local news bobble-heads were steering us toward.

What we have learned from all this, is that the media marketing of the American Dream is all a lie. To have something just ‘in case’ you might need it, only applies to insulin or a cell phone to dial 911. We don’t need a Hummer just in case a dam breaks somewhere upstream and we have to quickly scale a mountain to escape the flood waters. We don’t need 99 channels of forced media entertainment to know where the storms are, or god forbid, to know what Paris Hilton is doing. The burden of owning all these things far outweighs their value.

Cigarettes and Alcohol aren’t the only legal things that are addictive in this society. So is debt and anxiety. If you learn to do without and think outside the box, life is actually much better. But like the old saying goes, “We linger so long in Hell, because we know the names of the streets.” Find a different road map folks and don’t be afraid to make some changes.