Tuesday, February 21, 2012
The Sound of Silence
We live "off-the-grid". We have a generator, solar panels, inverters and charge controllers. We have a refrigerator that was designed for off-grid living and propane appliances. We flush our toilet only when absolutely necessary and turn off lights when we leave a room. We have a Tri-metric meter that shows us our current electrical usage and also lets us know how much power we are generating, either by the sun or the gas generator. We have to start our generator to take a shower and to do laundry. Our life is anything but silent.
But it hasn't been that way. When we first began this off-grid journey, we were truly living non-electric. We had no power, generated by the sun or otherwise. We hauled our water, disposed of our waste in special plastic bags and used oil lamps for illumination. Our refrigerator was propane and our heat source, wood. Our home was silent. No electric refrigerator cycling off and on. No dryer humming in the background. No music, no television, no fan whirling on the back of the computer. No generator providing constant background noise. Nothing. Silence. It was wonderful.
When we lived completely non-electric, our bodies were tuned to the cycles of nature. We rarely stayed up past 8:30 on a winter evening because we were tired and there was nothing else to occupy our time. We woke with the sun because we were well rested. Our minds were sharp and clear because we didn't have constant input from ipods, television, stereo's and computers. We spent our time doing or reading. Without the constant bombardment of advertising slogans and media input, we were quite content - not envious of the newest, latest must have.
But, as time went on, our life "improved". A generator took the place of hauling water (and what a blessing that was!) and an electric refrigerator replaced the propane fridge. Little by little, noise crept back into our lives. The constant whirl of the wind turbine became a comforting companion. Movies were an anticipated treat. Soon, music, generators and the hum of electric fans replaced the quiet solitude of our non-electric life. Although technically off-the-grid, we were no long non-electric.
I appreciate running water. I believe that an electric washing machine is a gift from God. But, I often wonder how much we give up to secure convenient comforts. We exchanged quiet simplicity for modern convenience. And there is a price to be paid. The more plugged in we become, the more unplugged from each other we become. Rather than spending time reading together, we spend time watching the television and puttering on the computer. Rather than slowly doing one chore after another, intimately involved with the life we are living, we rush from one task to the next, missing the subtle yet significant joys of being connected.
Living the simple, off-the-grid life that we live is wonderful, yet even it leaves something to be desired. I miss the days of "Little House on the Prairie" by lantern light. I miss the calm pace set by the necessity of doing things the "hard way". I miss the quiet of the propane refrigerator and the oil lamps. I miss the gentle influence of a life filled with silence.
As Sir Knight and I prepare for the future, we purposefully look to the past. Although I appreciate all of the improvements we have made and each hard-won step toward independence, I realize that technology comes with a price. And that price could be too steep to pay. If and when we are confronted with a societal collapse, all the technology in the world won't keep you afloat. We, as a people, will have to get back-to-basics, and that really isn't all bad. The very essence of preparedness is simplicity. And, simplicity doesn't, by definition, imply easy. Hauling water can be very difficult, however, it can be a lot more simple than keeping your generator running. Oil lamps can be a pain to keep full and clean, but the cost and upkeep will be by far less than sustaining a wind turbine. Rather than buying $5000.00 worth of solar panels, buying a generator and storing fuel, you could built an outhouse and be done with it. Using an outhouse isn't any ones romantic ideal, however it is far more romantic than a full toilet and a plunger.
I encourage each of you to look toward simple. Embrace and prepare for a non-electric life rather than an off-the-grid life. Don't be afraid of a little hard work. Although challenging, living a non-electric life has dividends that can't be measured by any monetary system.
Our future shouldn't arouse fear. We should view it as a personal challenge. Rather than trying to prepare for our future by implementing systems to ensure that our circumstances don't change, prepare for a great change of circumstances. The key here is to prepare. Be ready to haul water. Build an outhouse. Buy a whole lot of kerosene and lamps and wicks. Be ready to hunker down in the storm - and thrive. And most of all, embrace the sounds of silence.