GNL number 7


A report of doings at meeting #7, Sunday, January 13, 2008
including liturgical notes, major themes, and odds and ends


I believe it to be perfectly possible for an individual to adopt the way of life of the future
…without having to wait for others to do so.

Be the change you want to see in the world.
—Mahatma Gandhi


  1. Anna, in introducing the topic LIVING SIMPLER, noted her past as a depression-era baby was formative, that she has always lived simply and frugally, “not a consumer”. She described her present life, e.g. heating with wood, and the special pleasure of her non-electric stove fan that’s so satisfyingly heat-propelled and then heat-spreading. She confessed to using and reusing everything, including old envelopes for notes. And she spoke of a vision for her own future and hopefully many others, of living in an intergenerational intentional community.

  2. Ann pointed to Time Pressure as a huge problem, stressor and complicator for us all: so much more to do, more stuff to manage, more options and more expectations, more families with both partners working, all making it harder to sort out and simplify. And she cited the need to examine the “sunk value”, the invisible energy use in the process behind the products we do choose.

  3. Sue said she feels mindfulness is foundational in simpler living, seeing the deep picture and making decisions about all we do on that basis. She spoke of feeling almost a compulsion to use fully, reuse, recycle everything. She and Jay have got used to living in a much cooler house, wearing lots of layers, she said, and told of their recent experience with 7 hours of unplanned electric shut-off, during which they rediscovered they could just look at each other and talk and enjoy it. She also brought a quote (see below).

  4. Ginny, Gail’s mom, told us about her Florida place, which does fine with no air conditioning, only natural ventilation (no rugs or drapes either), much to the shock of her neighbors. She also spoke of the lack of foresight in community planning on the part of local governments there. At the end she said she wished she had a gathering like this back home.

  5. Jack, a famous walker and observer of nature in Cobleskill for many years, noted walking is so important not only to reduce drive-time and for our physical and mental health, but also very important as a social connector and conveyor of simple pleasures (especially if you do it the way Jack always has, taking time to see and smile at and converse with everybeing he meets). Jack also cited the work that certain leaders in India, like Vandana Shiva, have done to promote small local industries with micro-grants and preserve local rural economies.

  6. Gail said selling the store has enabled her to live a simpler life at a much more relaxed pace, with less rush and its tensions, with more time to enjoy it all, work with Cliff, do things thoughtfully that she chooses, like projects with Virginia, and volunteering her time both near home and back here in Schoharie. She also read us a passage from a book on Simplicity (see below).

  7. Cynthia, who’s been enjoying her and Ron’s first year at the camp in Blenheim, said buying Camp B, with its absence of city amenities and abundance of trees and wildlife, sky and stars, has made their life much simpler. (And she sang the praises of her new unplugged carpet sweeper!) She looks forward to biking not only at camp, but hopefully back and forth too.

  8. Adair described her small passive solar house, with its uncurtained windows placed to show moonrise and set in the bedroom, and spoke of other resource-saving ideas, like home rain collector systems, and small but meaningful acts like turning off your computer’s power strip when you’re not using the computer. She also brought us a quote (see below).

  9. Nancy felt we’re called upon to shake free of our brainwashed assumption that we’re losers if we aren’t constantly “producing”, and that we have to learn to prioritize, ask what really matters, what do we really need, and don’t need. She remembered her family’s 7 years of off the grid, back to basic life in central NY during the 70’s, with its windmill, woodstoves, outhouse, outdoor life, dirt (and healthy kids), as very formative to her present attitude and aim of living small, simple, slow, conscious.


I have come to terms with the future.
From this day onward I will walk easy on the earth.
Plant trees. Kill no living things. Live in harmony with all creatures.
I will restore the earth where i am.
Use no more of its resources than I need.
And listen, listen to what it is telling me.
—MJ Slim Hooey


NEXT TIME: Sunday, February 10 (1030), at Nancy’s, 155 North Street, Cobleskill. Ann will lead the discussion; the topic will be GUILT AND OTHER TROUBLEMAKERS (and ALTERNATIVES?). As usual, a fabulous potluck lunch will follow.


Theme-Related Quotes

from Sue:

  • There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence…..and that is activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.

    —Thomas Merton

from Nancy:

  • Haste is violence.
    —Buddhist teaching

from Adair:

  • In a consumer society, there are inevitably two kinds of slavery: the prisoners of addiction and the prisoners of envy.
    —Ivan Illich, in Tools for Conviviality, 1973

from Gail:

  • The Sensuality of Simplicity
    For one afternoon or evening, find natural entertainment where you live. Find it close to your home. Often we think we need to drive miles to hike in the mountains, and we miss the little things close by. Lie in the grass. Snuggle with a a friend or family member and look up at the planets. Talk to your companion. You can get to know people in a new way when you’re cuddled together in the great outdoors. If you live in some place where lying in the grass is difficult, you can capture the same sensation by taking a long evening walk or even sitting on a porch or stairstep. Feel the air against your skin, notice how the patterns of light play against the trees and buildings. Listen to the sounds. When you return, compare the feeling to a night when you spent a lot of money to be entertained. What do you think?
    —Janet Luhrs, in The Simple Living Guide

And Some Theme-Related Notes

  1. Some of us would like to revisit this topic in some form, on a regular basis.

  2. Today’s very stimulating conversation left lots of threads to follow, like:

  • Consumer Culture (Consumed by consumption?)

  • Info Overload, and Stuff Overload (How to get free?)

  • Slowing Down (What does that look like?)

  • What’s a Necessity? (and What are our faux necessities?)

  • What do we want, need our Communities to be like?

  • (How can citizens help government do the needed deep, long planning?)

  • What other Good Ideas do we have (like the Car-Free Day, Light-Free Day (or better yet Unplug Day) that came up today?



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