You should have seen us when we wore Rolexes, big diamonds and the latest fashions. You should have seen our 3000 sq. ft. house that required a full-time housekeeper and gardeners, not to mention the electric, phone and water bills. You should have seen my long, weekly manicured fingernails and perfectly coiffed hair. You should have seen the Cadillacs we drove. It was the image of monetary wealth – unfortunately, all too often confused with real value.
You wouldn’t have known we were people who could be happy in a 1 bedroom cinderblock house in which we must keep a fire going in order to stay warm. That is, of course, unless you chose to look under the surface. All that opulence never impressed us, even though it was never bought on credit but with money we had worked our buns off to make. It was just a tool we used to get ourselves to our goal – a self-sufficient, off-grid survivalist retreat.
Our first house in the wilderness was a 16′ by 32′ plywood shack, finished only well enough to be livable, not aesthetically pleasing. It didn’t take much of our funds and we chose not to put a lot of money into it at the time. We knew we were going to build another someday (it happened a mere 2 years later). But that plywood shack had VALUE. It kept us warm and protected from the weather and gave us the freedom to finish other projects.
Many people came for a visit to our Shangri-la, to decide if the off-grid life was for them. Many of them looked at our house and left in terror. They thought we were just some down-and-out, poor-trash types who were living in the best place they could afford, never having had the experience of living what they understood to be “the good life”. What they didn’t know and what they couldn’t understand was that we had lived their ideal of “the good life”, but we were not so taken in by it that we couldn’t shed it for a much better way of life – one that was based on what you could do or what you could figure out, rather than what you could buy. You see, if you always have to buy what you need, you are trapped in the rat race, always having to make more money as the prices go up and up for that which you are used to having. So does the $6 you pay for a loaf of bread today have any more VALUE than the $3 you used to pay for that same loaf of bread? Does your McMansion keep the rain out any better than a tent?
When you come into contact with people who have less money than you do, do you automatically judge them as lesser beings than you are based on their bank account? Do you treat people who have more money than you do as your betters? Try this instead – find out who they are deep inside before you judge them at all. See if you can ignore their bank balance completely as you learn who they are. Do they have the milk of human kindness within them, or is their only concern what you can do for them, how you can be used to add to their money pile, their feeling of self-worth?
Last week, while we were waiting for a few more sales of our book, we ran out of some things and dinners had become rather meager. So we went into the garden and picked a few green tomatoes and a butternut squash that was not quite ripe yet. We added a yucca fruit and some desert figs (prickly pear berries) from our yard. We fried them up with pasta we made from a few eggs we collected from the chicken coop, and sat down to a beautiful dinner, cooked with love. A smile came over our son Jesse’s face as he exclaimed, “Abundance!” He knows the difference between money and value.
Don’t assume that because someone has no bank account that they have no value or that or that the reverse is also the case. We know a family that has virtually no money and no vehicle. They work hard and listen to classical music much of the day and they have wonderful, intellectual conversations with each other. Meals are cooked from simple, whole foods and are eaten together. I know another family that lives in a big suburban house in a gated community. Dad goes off to work every day and is not involved with the children much except to pay for what they see on TV with his 12-14 daily hours of labor. Dinners are usually eaten separately and consist of whatever was convenient to pick up from a fast-food restaurant on the way home. Their conversations – rare as they are – revolve around this weekend’s football game and what trouble Lindsay Lohan has gotten into this week. And each of them is only looking for what they can get for themselves.
Take away the first family’s money – what little they have – and they still have their brains because they use them in conversation. They still have their health because they eat nutritious foods they cook themselves. Take away the later family’s money and there’s not much left.
We have been programmed for a long time now (since the inception of TV) to go only for the brass ring and not to bother enjoying the ride. We’ve been programmed to place our self-worth in the hands of consumerism. And that means our personal value derives from an accounting of our money. What if there is no more money? Will you have any value without it?
The world is primed for a major shake up. It’s almost tangible. It’s certainly undeniable at this point. But the outcome is not certain. It can be pulled towards the same old lower vibrational paradigm of caring only about yourself and thinking that money is the true measure of value, or it can be pulled towards the higher vibrational paradigm of caring about others, giving of yourself and sharing the best – the most valuable – traits of humanity. “He who dies with the most toys wins,” is how the bumper sticker of the 80s read. Let’s create a bumper sticker for the new paradigm – “He who lives with the most love in their heart has already won.”
Dan & Sheila are the authors of Surviving Survivalism – How to Avoid Survivalism Culture Shock, and hosts of the podcast, Still Surviving with Dan & Sheila. For questions about space in their Intentional Survivalist Community or other survivalist issues, they can be reached at [email protected].