What would I really need in my life?
The ‘hole’ man in Brazil that just died after having lived for 26 years alone in the jungle made me think. Another part of the thinking came from listening to the latest episode of #TeamHuman by Doug Rushkoff and guest Paris Max, which among other things was about how we don’t need all the things we think we need, just because we got used to them. And worse: we have designed our lives in such ways that we in fact do need all these other things – think about how many people ‘need’ a car, because they live in a place that you can only access with a car, and their work and services and friends live so far away that they could never realistically cycle or walk. Do they really *need* the car? Well only given the goals and the circumstances that make up their lives, right?
So. What do we really need? What would be a good life? What should be in it, and what can we really do without, if we’re honest? Instead of starting with the current world, and thinking how to make it better, I decided, just as an exercise, to start from scratch, and list the basic things that I think I would need in order to live a ‘good life’. (I know this is not a realistic activity. And I know ‘it’s not possible to do this for real’. It is meant as a tool for reflection, if anything. And it’s fun). Make the list for yourself. What goes on first? Survival things, of course. Food. Shelter. But it would be more than pure survival for me. At the same time, so many (many many) things that make up my current life could go right out of the window (including ‘windows’, probably). And yet some of the things in my current modern life should stay (my guitar, for example, and ‘education’ should definitely in it, and social activities, and perhaps ‘light after dark’ too). So I am not saying let’s go back to 4000 years ago. But my list also certainly does not present a modern technology invested fully industrialized person that I am right now. In fact 90% of that can go right out the door (including, ‘door’, probably) and I still could be perfectly happy. So here’s my list, first draft, took me 30 minutes, it can be adapted and refined. I’d be happy to hear about your items on the list! (In fact there is two lists: the list with what I need, and the list with examples of what I certainly do not need. You can comment on both).
What would I need to lead a good life?
- Enough food and water each day. Does not need to be fancy food, but no hunger.
- A safe place to live (with my nuclear family if I have one), where we are protected from extreme weather (sun, temperature, rain, wind); dangerous animals (big or small) and other people with bad intentions. Not much is needed in this place. A roof, walls, … what else?
- Basic medical services. It is a big question on its own to define what belongs to this. Better services than what was available in the 15h century, yes. But some of the current medical services seem over-technologized. Not all that happens to your body needs to be ‘fixed’. And perhaps some diseases are the result of industrialization, and would disappear?
- A safe local environment in which I am free to move about and should not be afraid to get mugged, killed, abused.
- Light after dark In the home. Perhaps more a ‘nice to have’ than a must have?
- Individual freedom to live a life and develop yourself on your own termsVery difficult to define, but in general what we mean here is to not be oppressed or restrained by other people purely because they feel like it. No body has the right to constrain the space for free action of another body (unless the actions of this other body are constraining other bodies’ freedom).
- Education. A physical place where people come together to learn and develop themselves as human beings. The goal of this is not purely to increase the amount of scientific knowledge but to increase, on the long run, wisdom. (Science can be part of this, but other forms of knowledge generation too).
- Places that enable people to learn skills, that is, to develop the bodies’ flexibility and adaptivity in dealing with all sorts of circumstances in the local environment. This includes tools, and tools that enable people to create new tools. (With tools I here mean basic handheld physical tools that do not require factories or large infrastructural systems in order to exist.)
- Cultural activities (and things) that bring people together, and generate joyful experiences. Dance, music, theatre, art, some architecture. Ways to appreciate and experience ‘quality’ as created by humans.
- The means to express yourself creatively and to develop yourself intellectually. Language. Something to write on. Something to draw on. Materials to create forms with. Could be totally analogous.
- Nature close by The ability to immerse yourself in, connect to and appreciate the beauty of nature and to resonate with it as being fundamentally part of it.
- Visit family It would be nice to be able to visit family and friends. Either because they live close by, or because there is a way to travel far in reasonable time.
- Travel It would be nice to be able visit the entire planet and meet new people all the time. But, I could live without it.
- Some free time in the week, not being engaged in pure survival all week long, day and night. Time to think, create and have social joyful interactions with others.
- Not oppressing others My good life would be possible only if my way of life is not only possible (explicitly or implicitly) because other people are oppressed, marginalized, constrained, exploited.
- Meaningful social interactions which includes interactions with others that function to help each other solve problems (care for each other), grow and develop together, interactions characterized by the outcome being more than the sum of the parts.
Things I don’t necessarily need (but very much present in my current life).
- Paid job
- Bureaucracy, forms, procedures.
- Economic growth
- Factories, industrialisation
- Espresso machines
- Dish washers
- And so much more!