Simplicity is the highest level of Sophistication.
Less is More
I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.
– Thomas Jefferson
It takes less time to do a thing right than it does to explain why you did it wrong.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
It is a Divine Paradox I am blessed to witness in my short life; less is more—die to live. I love reading scripture and seeking the truth; it is the only source of the truth in today’s world. Knowing what is honest and good comes as a feeling, not as a written dogma or observation—discernment is a blessing. My reality is not that of another; the way I choose to live life is my choice. The moral code I desire to live by and the virtues I respect are the yeast of my Christian Faith. Truth is the source of contentment, and contented life is a joyful life.
I chased the mountain of products, places, and human adoration in search of a grail that would bring me to the happy mountaintop, to a state of true nirvana, true love, authentic self—what I found instead was a lie—the deception of the mass marketing of happiness. I knew nothing about true happiness. I could not smell life’s fragrance. I could not see the truth; I rarely felt true joy, the joy of my childhood. I just took another drug to numb the void. I desperately wanted to find out what I was doing wrong; my life appeared as fertile ground for happiness at first glance. What the heck?
During the warm months of spring, summer, and fall, I live on a boundary water lake between North Dakota and Manitoba, Canada. For the past eleven years, we have enjoyed a tropical paradise, Hawaii, in the cold of winter. The people I met said I was living the dream, but instead, I was dreaming of life. I never realized the amount of effort, money, and stress caused by maintaining two properties and traveling between them. At first glance, we have an abundance of reasons to be content, but too much of anything becomes too much. We sold our Hawaii home in February 2021. We decided to simplify back to our great plains Dakotah roots and become more self-sufficient—get back to the basics of life, and live the simpler life. We also wanted to spend time traveling the American lower 48, Alaska, and Canada, recording our experiences in words and pictures. The change would require relocating everything back to the mainland. At seventy-one years old, the transition has proven to be a great challenge and a test of will. Additionally, we would need to build, rebuild, or purchase a recreational vehicle or camper for our travel adventures—something small that all National Parks accept.
It takes half your life before you discover life is a do-it-yourself project.
We traveled on our 1991 Haley Davidson Heritage with a tent in our youth. The Harley is still with us, but those tent days on the hard ground are over for me. I need a bit more comfort; the problem is that convenience is expensive these days. A new tiny (24 feet and under) RV is crazy expensive; up to two-hundred-thousand dollars; well beyond our budget. It became evident we were about to overcomplicate our new simplicity mantra. We both want to travel the USA and see more than hotel room vistas, so we began our search for a workable solution. We finally found a Canadian-built 2008 PleasureWay RV in excellent condition with low miles for a fraction of the price of a shiny new RV—we call her Lucille after Lucille Ball and BB King’s guitar. Having an RV is not what one does to simplify; it requires care, fuel, and a garage big enough to keep it sheltered—a garage we did not have. In the end, we have our traveling solution, a garage to house it, a man cave for me, and a she-shed for Linda for less than the price of a new RV. I am grateful for the opportunity and blessing of each and realize we are far from living a simple life. But does a simple life mean a spartan lifestyle wearing sackcloth and eating locusts?
Seeking happiness must start with gratitude in whatever circumstance life has brought. The Apostle Paul realized his source of a contented life was spirit-filled with a thankful heart. Paul did say he had plenty, and another time he was hungry. Paul found peace and contentment continuously regardless of circumstance.
Not that I speak regarding need, for I have learned in whatever state I am to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things, I have learned both to be complete and hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. ~ Philippians 4:11-13
Paul received his contentment, his happiness in knowing God and sharing his gratefulness with others. I speak of contentment, not a lazy lifestyle where everything is good enough and void of excellence. I speak of contentment as the happiness everyone seeks. Joy and happiness result from hard productive work, not the latest shiny thing. Paul the Apostle made fine, high-quality tents to fund his global ministry. Living an abundant life is key to contentment and happiness. God designed humans to be creative, hard-working, imaginative, and entrepreneurial. We are not intended to retire before death to live a reclined life of leisure. In Proverbs 16:27, Solomon writes, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop; idle lips are his mouthpiece.”
Begin where you are. Don’t wait for someone else to change things for you. Do it yourself
Norman Vincent Peale
I have never understood man’s misdirected desire for idleness, the leisurely lifestyle. I tried it, boredom set in quickly, and cocktail hour did not come soon enough. Hard work does not come easy for anyone, but
productive hard work brings satisfaction and a quiet mind at the end of the day. I struggle with the time I spend writing these thoughts; it all seems unproductive; it requires sitting and typing words onto a silicon chip; it is a “desk job.” When I finish the writing, I send it out into the bit and byte abyss where another soul may stumble upon it, and hopefully, my effort may improve their life in a small way. That could be considered a productive time spent, but I like to see, smell, feel, and taste productivity. I enjoy watching the garden flourish and tasting the bounty. I enjoy looking at the things I make of wood, steel, and concrete. I find happiness in walking on black loam soil barefooted. Joy is in every relationship, flower, tree, bush, and shrub I plant to grow—every cabinet or chair I make—every photograph I take. Time is precious to me; I do not want to waste any moment or opportunity. I see a sea of people idling away the hours in self-indulgence and complaining about people with differing opinions instead of spending the time in honest work and open dialog to find solutions. Do we need a productivity revolution that builds opportunity for everyone and rewards the most productive workers? A united, abundant loving planet is the world of dreams, but a world all would want to be reality.
Don’t wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize ordinary occasions and make them great. Weak men wait for opportunities; strong men make them.
Orison Swett Marden
Together Linda and I have built a life—we built or remodeled every home—we found solutions without buying the latest, most expensive things—we care for what blessings we have—all of it came from hard work and determination. The temptation to have the latest new shiny is always on display and flashed across temptation media. A new car sounds good as you are busting knuckles on the old one you have. The average age of our vehicles is twenty years—the oldest is fifty-eight, a 1964 Chevy C10 pickup. Calling a plumber is tempting when old bones creek crawling under a sink. All our work feels suitable and sound, and we have more than we should. I am grateful I can do this work at my age. The work I do now takes a bit longer and often requires plenty of Ben Gay on sore muscles, but the satisfaction at completion is worth it. We are far from a simple life but gaining on contentment.
America is built upon the hard work, determination, and blood of a melting pot of people. America is changing; once the land of opportunity and freedom, if you are willing to risk the adventure and persevere, is turning to a land of fear in search of a free ride. America is no longer a united nation under God but a divisive country of greed and leisure. Socialism presses upon hard work and excellence—America is becoming a “take care of me” place. I witnessed an interview with a college student who believes the Government should pay all citizens a living for just living. When pressed for where the money would come from, the student replied, “The government would just print it.” The interviewer then asked, “If your neighbor would take his “free money” money and work to make much more and have a bigger house than you, would that be acceptable?” The student replied, “No, they should take his excess and spread it to everyone.” The interviewer responded as he walked away, “So, you believe we can live with no one seeking excellence in entrepreneurial efforts?” As he walked away, he could hear, “That is socialism!” That thinking boggles me; if I needed an apple, who would pick the apple?
Yesterday, I watched YouTube videos and came across a Joe Rogan podcast with Gabrielle Reece, a professional volleyballer married to big-wave surfer Laird Hamilton. The discussion was about what life is like living in Hawaii. Gabrielle exemplified that it is a good day if there is “productivity” on any day. She also said, “Living on Kauai, the rainiest spot on earth, there are plenty of boring, unproductive indoor wet days” Gabrielle discussed the dark side of Hawaii’s drug and homeless problem. She said, “Hawaiians are a warrior culture all about family—Ohana. Because Mainlanders, Europeans, and Asians have occupied the islands, little opportunity exists for Hawaiians, boredom comes, and addictions soon to follow.” My relationship with Hawaii agrees with Gabrielle’s view; we converted paradise into a federal reservation for Native Hawaiians.
I live twenty-five miles from the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa reservation, a great people I love. I have lifelong friends, brothers, and sisters from the Rez and currently living in it. The Rez has little opportunity but plenty of boredom, unproductive time, and addictions. I had the satisfaction of working for a Turtle Mountain Native Corporation that provided hundreds of good-paying jobs on the Rez—I stand as witness to how having the opportunity to be productive and self-reliant can heal all wounds. Leaving the Rez is very difficult, but many have and lead incredible successful lives—but that is not why the Government created the reservation system—the Rez is intended to coral a people away from an opportunity. The “What do we do about our Indian problem” plan takes away subsistence on nature by providing for their every need to force reliance on the system. The socialist movement and the great reset want all people to be on the Rez, dependent on the decisions of the unproductive politicians and rulers.
Why do I write on this productivity and gratitude rant today? Because I believe our leisure goal will be the end of our liberty and freedom. America will become the land of the fat cat waiting for the next meal handout from a government overseer. Today the lies from the socialist left are a death toll on progress and productivity. Socialism is just another word for reservation. Socialism is a conman’s “don’t worry, and I will take care of you” con to the people.
You can’t trust other people. If it’s essential, you have to do it yourself.
It is good to be back on the farm gardening, at the lake, building our edible forest, and building a homeless dependent on outside services. Is it feasible to be self-reliant? Indeed, copy what my grandparents did on the farm. Raise all food: garden, chickens, ducks, a pig, and hunt and fish for proteins— have a clean water supply, heat with wood stoves, sew your clothes, light with oil lamps and candles, barter for other necessities, or sell anything the family can’t eat and the products they made to pay taxes and essentials. Homesteading, gardening, DIY, and simple living videos are the hit of YouTube, reflecting a move in the right direction. People are moving from the cities to open land and buying a tractor. A race is on to keep us from our reliance; the billionaire is buying productive farmland with water at a furious pace—why?
Sure, self-sufficiency and simple living are possible, so are community and opportunity—both require hard work and commonsense knowledge to do for yourself if necessary, then help another do the same. Doing more with less and enjoying the effort should be the goal. The shiny new car in the showroom and the fifty-eight-year-old pickup will get you to your destination—that is the only purpose of a vehicle. A vehicle alone cannot elevate your status in society—it is just a car. The only way to improve is by recognizing opportunities, being prepared to act on them, and being willing to labor for them. The “Green Movement” is, at first glance, good. We all need to respect the planet on which we live. We all need to do more with less. We all need to reduce our consumption. We all need to live a simpler productive life. But flying in personal jets or motoring yachts to meet in Davos, Switzerland, is not green! For those elites, it is a source of power and money.
If you keep thinking about what you want to do or what you hope will happen, you don’t do it, and it won’t happen.
Linda and I are far from living a simple life, but we seek opportunities to move towards that goal every day. Inflation is upon us; here is a top-ten list of possibilities to rid your anxiety of it (If you live in a city in a building, some are difficult):
- Sharpen your DIY skills and invest in tools. Take a class, watch YouTube, or find a mentor.
- Grow a garden; get a window to grow box with lights in an apartment or plant a community garden.
- Learn how to preserve foods: canning, smoking, freeze-drying, dehydrating, and curing.
- Start foraging, and learn to recognize the food all around you.
- Take up hunting and fishing.
- Reduce your consumption of energy and produce your own:
- Only drive with objectives in mind, carpool, and use public transportation.
- Improve the efficiency of your living space—curtains, insulation, led lighting.
- Get a chainsaw and a wood stove—tricky if you are a city dweller.
- Maximize passive solar, and invest sensibly in the wind, solar and other renewables.
- Sleep when it’s dark and do all else when light
- Start a food coop, and invest in a young farmer/rancher for proteins.
- Turn your hobby and skills into revenue, and be entrepreneurial until the day you die.
- Start brewing, fermenting, and distilling your spirits.
- Care for your body and mental health.
- Prayer and meditation in gratitude
- Do gardening, cooping, fishing, foraging, and hunting for fresh, primarily organic food—the work is excellent for healthy minds and bodies.
- Forage for medicinal herbs and fungi, and learn more about holistic medicines.
- Get off the meds.
- Quit the throw-a-way lifestyle, reuse/repurpose what you can, or give it to another who can.
- Above all else, be grateful for what you have done, do more with less, and care for others.
Will all of this be simple? Not at all, it will be hard work, but it will be good and honest. Be grateful to God for your blessings—gratitude is the only path to joy and happiness.
For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.
2 Thessalonians 3:10
SIMPLE LIVING HARD WORK IN PICTURES