Dropping Out or In?

Szu-ting Yi getting some tips on yak wool weaving in Western China

I used to think that high tech and people living close to the land or subsistence cultures were mutually exclusive of each other. But recently I have begun to see, both in my travels around the world and in my own life, how technology allows us to follow our own path and create the kind of world we want to live in.

I recently watched videos about two people who had dropped off the grid. One is a climber I know named Alf Randell. I first met Alf at Wild Iris, a rock climbing area outside of Lander WY. Alf lived in a beat up camper and re-soled shoes to make money. His chosen lifestyle allowed him the flexibility to climb as much as he wanted. The second video is about John Coffer a man who left a monetarily lucrative life in FL and bought 50 acres in NY were he built a log cabin. Earlier in their lives both of these men were educated and successful in the eyes of society, but the fast paced, crowded modern society was not for them and they chose a different way to live.

One of the first Americans to document living deliberately close to the earth was Henry David Thoreau. In 1854 he took up residence in a small cabin on the edge of a pond where he lived for two years, two weeks and two days. He later wrote a book about his experience called Walden Pond. Thoreau stated, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.”

Thoreau’s experience and message has often been misconstrued. Thoreau never claimed to live in the wilderness with no contact with the outside world. In fact, the cabin was located less than two miles from his parents house outside of Concord, MA, where he would travel to every couple of days to read  the newspaper.

In the second video John Coffer offers a valuable insight into his life and living in general when he states, “You can blend the old timeless things in with the latest technology to get things done in this life. I think there are going to be more people looking back at models from the past and use them to blend in with new ideas and technologies today.”

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