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My dear Readers:
I start this first instalment of the piece which bears my name with a brief account of what brings me to the profession of columnist. I might attempt to gain your favour by proposing that this column is being written solely for the good of humankind, conveying my knowledge on how to live well with less. But I am sure you are too wise for that.
Truth is, I am excessively poor and have been promised by the dear gentleman who publishes this periodical that if I help him fill his pages, he will reward me with some form of remuneration. I hope he means money, but I think he means a good meal.
Now if he pays me money, the government will take part of it as an Income Tax. If he pays me in a meal, the government will take some money for an Outflow Tax on my sewer line hook-up. (I often fool them and take my deposit to some public outlet and let them pay the tax.) You can’t win either way but at least I get some good use out of the food before I deposit it in the common fund. As I am not a small man, you can easily see that I have earned much more interest in my life from food than I have from money. Besides, he cooks a pretty good meal when he wants.
I have been asked to write this column because I have some experience with living with less, less in the material sense. I always have felt I was and am rich in all other ways. Living with less and living with minimal adverse environmental impact some times takes a bit of creativity or just plain craziness. Folks have always thought I was a little crazy, even more crazy than poor. A few even think I am creative. So when I was approached by the publisher to write this feature, I was crazy enough to accept, but not creative enough to ask for a big office or salary. Oh well, at least I know it will be an interesting experience.
My friends tell me I should make better use of my time and talents, earn a lot of money and buy a big house. But if I had a big house, I would either have to hire a house cleaner or spend too many hours in domestic chores. The only domestic chores I aspire to are done in the horizontal position, mostly at night and hopefully not alone. If I had a larger house, I would have to spend more time at tasks not of my choosing to earn more money to pay for more utilities, taxes, upkeep and maintenance. I would have to furnish it as well. So why have a big house when a small comfortable one will do? Then more time is mine and I can enjoy life tackling those lists and lists of what I want to do with my allotted time on this Earth.
Actually, I would rather have more land than house. With land you can grow food or trees for fuel, compost, climate control, food and beauty. With land you can let nature flourish on its own, not be managed by humans. You can even encourage nature a bit and she’ll reward you with great wealth. In my hiking through abandoned farm land in Ontario some years ago, I found that many young trees had sprouted in the middle of a pasture. Squirrels had planted nuts by storing them in the ground for the winter and then forgetting where the nuts had been stored (perhaps they had stored more than they needed). If I could buy that land now, I’d be harvesting from those trees: nuts, dead branches for mushroom growing or kindling, leaves for compost and mulch, and still have the beauty.
In the corner of one such field was an old beech tree. I often spent an afternoon in contemplation beneath it, a good use of my time. As the Zen poem goes, Sitting quietly, doing nothing; spring comes and grass grows by itself. For me it was ideas that grew. My thanks to that squirrel, now long dead, for its work in planting that tree. Living gently is not only sensible, it is also fun. That is what I hope my talks to you will be: sensible ways to live gently with lots of fun in it. Remember, taking life too serious can be hazardous to your health.
Well, the editor says I can end now. He believes I have said enough for one issue, and I would hate to talk you to death now that I have your attention.
Your humble servant,
p. Keith, PbH
Poor Keith's Almanac: The Beginning by Keith C. Heidorn, PhD . ©1996, All Rights Reserved.
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