27 June 2011

A simple lifestyle is the key to self-reliance and freedom

Today, I encountered two blog posts that got me thinking again about what self-reliance means for me. Like I mentioned last week, there are few people that are fully self-reliant. So, is self-reliance a matter of degree then? Do we pick one or two things and become self-sufficient in them, but remain dependent on others for the rest?

Certainly, one could do that, but that's not living fully in the spirit of self-reliance. Nor does such an approach enhance our freedom in any appreciable way.

No, the essence of self-reliance involves finding the right balance in our lifestyle simplicity and personal choice.

In his post titled The Freedom of Simplicity, Joel sums up the "simplicity" part nicely:
"It's all a means to an end, and the end is not self-sufficiency, but simplicity. My hope is to reduce my list of needs to the point where they can be met with as little money, meaning time and aggravation, as possible. It'll never hit zero. Things break and wear out, food doesn't grow on trees. But I can find the reasonable minimum of 'things,' and I can train my palate to enjoy simpler food. 'Reasonable' and 'Enjoy' – that’s important."
So, part of being self-reliant is deliberately choosing a simpler lifestyle, at the level of simplicity that meets your needs.

Of course, simplicity is a very subjective thing, and is something you and I need to define for ourselves. What I find reasonable is likely different from others' opinions. For example, I may find it "reasonable" to pay for high-speed Internet access, even though that creates another demand on my time in order to make money to pay for that service. Likewise, even though I might enjoy cable television programming, I might not feel that it's a reasonable use of my resources (i.e,. my time or money).

In the end, choosing a simpler lifestyle — one that results in fewer obligations or demands on you and your life — gives you more choice. That choice is more freedom.

But, what does the ability to choose really mean for us? What does freedom really entail? On a different blog, Rick Saenz discusses related ideas in his similarly titled post, The Freedom of Self-Sufficiency. He wonders about the goal behind being self-reliant:
"Is self-sufficiency merely the route to personal sovereignty, the blissful state of being able to say to anyone and everyone, 'You're not the boss of me!'?"
He answers this question succinctly, inferring the personal responsibility and ethics that go hand-in-hand with the choice afforded by self-sufficiency:
"The good of self-sufficiency lies not in being free to say no on a whim, but in being free to say no when necessary. Self-sufficiency puts a man in a position where doing the right thing will not cost him his living."
Rick illustrates further by quoting Almanzo Wilder, from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book Farmer Boy:
"Father was free and independent; if he went out of his way to please anybody, it was because he wanted to."
In the end, being self-reliant means consciously choosing a lower level of simplicity in our lives, which allows us the freedom to deliberately live our lives according to our personal moral code.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know below!

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