Thursday, April 23, 2015

The simple life, or a complicated one?

I have a relative who needs one of these.

This last week I had an elderly relative come and stay with us for several days, which is why posting was a bit sparse.  This relative comes about once a year and it's always a very stressful time for us all, due to their being extremely techno-phobic. For while the Simple Life may be an admirable way of living on the homestead, to completely unplug is to virtually guarantee trouble for yourself and those you love.

This is because the technophobes or Luddites among us continue living in the same world we do, only without the conveniences.  And because of that, their technophobia is, rather than a statement about how simple their lives are, instead a signature characteristic of someone who manipulates, cajoles, or otherwise manages to get others to do their techno-bidding so they don't have to live in the same century everyone else does.

Seems like a good compromise.

See, the thing is,  all those techno-chores the Luddites scorn still need to get done. By someone. The Amish solicit automobile rides, when necessary, from non-Amish with cars, and borrow telephones when they need to.  They also use the bus systems and bring their children in for 21st century medical care when needed. 

Maybe there are people in Alaska or someplace like that, living off the grid and off the radar of the government, banks, etc., but for most people, at some point they need to make contact in a 21st century way, and the way technophobic people do that is to task their connected friends and relatives to do it for them.  So they don't really eschew technology,  they just pass the buck onto someone else to do the heavy lifting when they want or need something.

Take my relative's arrival, for example. I had to go online to arrange transportation from the first US airport they flew into, because they did not have a credit card to book a shuttle bus or hire a car.  If they got stranded, there would have been no way for them to let me know, because they refuse to own a cell phone. And without a debit card, they could not even have used an ATM to take out enough cash to pay a taxi.
Be a Luddite at your own risk.

All of this avoidance of modern technology is actually a source of stubborn pride with this relative -- they actually believe they are living a simpler life because they are avoiding all that technology.  Instead, their lives balance on a fine thread of a) well-meaning people willing to help out, combined with b) the luck that nothing will go wrong.

Because, like it or not, we all need our credit card in times of emergency...or our cell phones...or our checkbook. To live without those things in this day and age is inviting disaster. 

This relative finally moved on to someone else's house after a week with us, and I have to say, we all breathed a collective sigh of relief. Yes, we live the simple life here on the homestead; as I write this there are sweet cucumber and tomato seedlings growing in the conservatory, and a nice strawberry-rhubarb pie in the oven.  Later tonight, I will light the candles and get ready for bed, thankful for another day of home-grown simplicity.

And yet, when I cash my check at the bank tomorrow, it will be at the ATM, and I will pay my bills online after that. Because to try and do otherwise -- to live without computer, without plastic money, without a checkbook, and without a cell phone -- would make my life more complicated, not more simple.  

Yes, we all sometimes long for the days when those things were not part of society.  But not having any of them does not mean you have successfully turned the clock back.  All you've done is made doing life's business more difficult for yourself and, inevitably, for those you love.

Sometimes, living a truly simple life means living a hybrid one, somewhere in between our grandparents' century and this one. So my advice is this:  farm, eat and consume in a 19th century manner...but for heaven's sake,  bank in this one.


  1. Haha I think I know the town where the Amish ATM photo was taken. This is SO true. It takes so much more energy to avoid some things than just embrace them! I know these things change rapidly and it's impossible to understand everything as it comes along, but a willingness to learn and accept is usually the most important step! Being stubborn just for the sake of being stubborn isolates you quickly.

    1. I agree. I don't think you necessarily need the latest and greatest gadgets, but you need to stay within 10 years or so of where technology is. I just got a Smart Phone myself within the last two years, so I'm a bit behind, but never to a point where I was unable to function. But you are right, some people are stubborn just for the sake of being stubborn. To refuse to own any plastic (credit OR ATM) in this day and age if you're traveling around the world is just crazy.