Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Don't you love a great book?

I've come to the end of "Better Off," and once again I have the yearning to read it again sometime in the future. This is the second read for me. (It's a good thing the library has this book, or I'd be spending the money and storing yet another book.) I just love when you come to the end of a great book. There's that feeling of satisfaction you get from actually having read the entire thing. Plus there's the homey sense of having gotten to know the characters (in fiction) or the author (in non-fiction). I sort of feel like I have a new friend.

And what's even better than finishing one great book? Finishing two in a row. So often a book is either not as good as you hoped, or it starts off great and gradually tapers out. But to have read two great reads in a row is wonderful. Now the pressure is on to pick my next book...

Back to "Better Off." It is such an inspiring read. I really do feel like I'm on a gradual journey, step by step eschewing the "comforts" of modern technology. Like the author, Eric Brende, I do believe there is a place for some of the things we have. My fridge and stove, for example. Love them. Plus my dryer, in the winter time. But I absolutely LOVE my push lawn mower. I actually try to make time to cut the grass to beat James and his electric tear-up-the-grass-into-an-ugly-1/2"-tall-carpet machine. After reading the book again, I'm also intrigued by a hand clothes washer. I saw a video on the type Brende uses in his current house. Imagine a tub with a large stick handle growing up from it. You take hold of the stick and move it back and forth like a lever. It takes about 200 strokes to complete the small load. Even if you were at the slow pace of 2 strokes a second, that's about a minute and a half. Why bother, if you have the ability to simply toss the clothes into a washer and walk away? Consider this quote from the book:

"Primitive technologies are often better suited to the task than more advanced ones. In a world of organic beings and relationships, machines can act as a wrench. It often makes no sense to save labor and time when "labor" provides needed exercise and "time" is spent with family or neighbours."

I just love that thought. Think about that washing machine. If you earn $20 an hour, you had to spend about 50 working hours to buy it. Then you have the worry of it breaking down and needing repairs - repairs you probably don't know how to do yourself, so you have to pay a repairman to do it. Then, because you want to tone your muscles, keep fit, or lose weight, you pay a monthly fee to the gym, where you go and use machines to meet your physical goals. Broken down like that, doesn't it seem silly to buy the washing machine in the first place?

A perfect example in our home is the bathroom. We only have one, and it is on the upper floor. People are surprised we don't have one downstairs. The way I look at it: having a downstairs bathroom would mean one more bathroom to clean, plus I get the added exercise of going up and down the stairs whenever I need to use it, or the boys need help, or we're brushing teeth or washing out a diaper or washing hands...we use the bathroom a lot in a home with three young children.

The other big example from the book is the car. Did you know the just by getting into the car your stress level rises? Even if you are a good driver and you don't feel stressed. The responsibility of driving a massive machine that could potentially harm or kill another human being, even if you are careful and not at fault, is a great thing for our minds to bear. Then, once again, you must consider the outright hours put in to pay for the car, and the hours you must work each week to pay for insurance, gas, registration and upkeep. Never mind the cost of a mechanic and repairs for inevitable breakdowns. Let's do some quick math.

Again, we'll assume a wage of $20/hour.

Cost of car: $12,000 or 600 hours (15 weeks of 8 hour days)
Insurance: $100/month, or 1 hour a week
Gas: $40/week, or 2 hours a week
Additional Costs: $1000 a year, or 50 hours a year
Repairs: anywhere from $300 - $2000 per repair, or 15 hours to 100 hours.

That is a lot of hours to put in, and a lot of added stress. I'm not saying a horse and buggy are a much better option, but certainly a stroll with your family or a group bike ride might save you stress, add valuable time with loved ones, and bonus: meet the gym need once again.

Seriously - gym memberships are a puzzle to me. I had a gym membership for a year, but I only went to lift weights because I enjoyed the actual use of the machine. I was not born with a quick metabolism, or a body that kept a fantastic shape no matter what I ate and how little I exercised (I do know people like this!) But just a few weeks ago I pulled out the last of my pre-pregnancy clothes and discovered, to my delight, that not only did they fit, but I wasn't sucking in and squeezing in like I thought I would - they slipped on into a perfect, comfortable fit! Here is my exercise routine:

1. climb and descend one flight of stairs 30 times a day (okay, I haven't really counted that one!)
2. push a double stroller with two toddlers (100 pounds) while holding a 20 pound weight (Benjamin in the carrier) and walk for 30 - 60 minutes.
3. Mow the backyard with the push lawn mower (takes about 30 minutes).
4. Maintain the garden and trees, which involves squats, arm lifts, digging motion, and more.
5. Around the house chores, which works your arms, legs, and heart. In fact, you probably work all the different muscles in your body when you think of all the different chores around the house. Some day I'll actually sit down and write out a daily exercise routine based on housework.

Why on earth would you spend the added time and money on a gym membership? That's not making life easier. You have to work more at your job to pay for it, and find an extra 6 hours a week to actually go there! Waste of time and money. And you completely miss out on the interaction with friends or family you get in doing chores, going on a bike ride or for a walk, or engaging in another leisure sport (I took up kayaking this year).

Wow, sorry. That got a little preachy, didn't it? I'm certainly not up on a soapbox here, because I haven't quite yet completely adapted the mentality of which Brende write in his book. But as I once again read through "Better Off," I really understood what his point was. I'm not about to move to an Amish community, but I hope to start slowly assessing the role technology and machines play in my life, and see if I can't simplify things a little, save some time and money by getting rid of those "time-saving devices" that actually don't do what they claim.

(Now, the pressure is on for me to choose my next book...three great books in a row is a total high!)


Jules said...

Great post. Gives one a lot to think about. And the car breakdown? Priceless. But you were being too generous. What if you're a young man? Insurance would be way more than that. Steve was so mad when I told him what I paid in insurance when we both had our first cars. And I paid $60 in gas yesterday for the van. So it just goes to further prove your point. Numbers don't lie.

As for your next read, interested in fiction? I've read some great stories recently. I can lend you back The Secret Garden lol. Right now I'm reading Stardust and it's really good. Also, there's a couple readings from school that turned out to be not such a drag; I hate assigned readings.

As for non-fiction, my fave has always been First Person Plural by Cameron West. It's an autobiography about discovering and learning to live with dissociative identity disorder.

Let me know if you want to borrow any of these.

Anonymous said...


I'm not sure I would say that the book I am reading is a great book, but it does give one pause to think. The book is called 'Eat, Pray, Love' and is about a woman's search for herself (she goes to Italy (where she eats), India (where she prays) and Indonesia (where she learns about love). I have just finished the first third of the book (about Italy) and I am looking forward to learning about her journey in India and Indonesia. It gives me more reason (as if I need any more :-) to travel to more parts of our world and get to know the people of those countries.

Love, Mom