In my last post, I spoke about how my partner had revealed her ambition to live on an island – in a house built from shipping containers.
The “island” thing came as no real surprise – since Jan had often spoken about wanting to live near water.
The shipping container idea was different. Jan had always scorned my taste for abstract housing options. When pressed on that point, she revealed that her underlying concern was about our financial security as I moved toward retirement age.
She claimed that we could sell our existing place and buy/build on one of the Bay Islands and, in the process, rid ourselves of our mortgage. She rationalised that, not only would she be able to realise a personal goal, but we would be better placed in terms of our financial future.
Interestingly, all of this coincided with an emerging crisis of my own.
Henry David Thoreau, American author of the utopian classic Walden, wrote “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.”
He believed that many people felt that they were locked into mundane, materialistic lives from which they seemed unable to escape and that created a sense of hopelessness in them.
People are taught that it is wise not do what Thoreau described as “desperate things” so, rather than confronting the way they felt, most people just endured the rising sense of hopelessness – distracting themselves with what he calls “the games and pleasures of mankind.”
Thoreau’s answer to the “quiet desperation” problem was to build a small cabin in the woods (close to Concord in Massachusetts) in which to pursue a simple, self-sufficient lifestyle – with a view to gaining a more objective understanding of society through personal introspection.
For much of the past 40 years, I’d had good jobs, new cars and more than my fair share of baubles and toys. By most calculations, I should have been happy and satisfied – but I wasn’t.
Suffice to say, at 62 years of age, I found myself standing among Thoreau’s quietly desperate mass of men.
While, for much of my adult life, I’ve identified with his back-to-nature, anti-(big) business, simple living, self-sufficiency, civil disobedience mindset, I didn’t make the connection between Thoreau’s writing and what I was feeling.
So, when Jan started talking about living on an island in a shipping container, the penny dropped, and I saw an opportunity to merge her down-sizing agenda with my own interest in simple living and self-sufficiency.
And the search for our new home began.