I am having a great time writing my new ideas . This must be the most creative period of my life. I have started two new blogs. I hope I will start posting here more also. Cheers guys!
I am having a great time writing my new ideas . This must be the most creative period of my life. I have started two new blogs. I hope I will start posting here more also. Cheers guys!
Mike emailed me the other day and asked a reasonable question, “What happens if everyone stops buying things, and tries to live with fewer things? Doesn't that destroy the economy even further?”
It’s a valid concern. In my forthcoming book, The 100 Thing Challenge, there’s a chapter that offers a high-level answer to this question. But since my book doesn’t hit store shelves and Kindles until December 28th (which doesn’t stop anyone from pre-ordering it, hint hint), I’d like to try to offer up a short answer to Mike’s question. Here are a few principles on how you can buy less and save the economy.
When we use our skills and resources well, it is always good for an economy. Buying stuff we cannot afford, manufactured out of materials that ruin the earth and made by people who are exploited, using credit backed by money we don’t really have isn’t good for the economy. The statistic we all know is that 70% of the U.S. economy is fueled by consumption. Unfortunately, too much of that consumption is unsustainable. It’s financially unsustainable. It’s environmentally unsustainable. It’s socially and morally unsustainable. Furthermore, it’s emotionally unsustainable - we who have bought all this consumer junk aren’t any happier. It’s not that buying stuff is wrong, it’s that American-style consumerism has created an unsustainable economy propped up by the guilt of average people who feel pressured, either by duty or by jealously, to consume unnecessarily using credit. The reaction isn’t to stop all commerce, rather it is to change the way commerce happens.
Money unspent can be money used well. If you’ve noticed, big business and banks have been stingy on lending their capital. That’s because for decades our economy has been fueled by you and me seeking unwise loans to buy overpriced and unnecessary things from unethical lenders who, if they did the math, should have known we could never pay them back. There is now a theme among some preachers of economic recovery that average people like you and me should start buying again in order to give confidence back to big business and banks. So that, you guessed it, we can start the whole ridiculous cycle again. Don’t participate! Even us lowly “consumers” can save money and invest. We have more to contribute to the economy with our money than our next purchase.
We are humans, not consumers. Now, let’s act like it! I must confess that sometimes I’m surprised by humans. There is simply nothing else on earth remotely like us. But we’re too content to act beneath ourselves. Dogs act like dogs. Birds act like birds. Snakes act like snakes. Bugs act like bugs. Even dolphins act like dolphins. Dolphins are scary smart. Even so, they still swim around and act like dolphins. But humans? We often act like jackasses. We’ll divorce the woman we once loved in order to pursue wealth. We’ll charge up a credit card in order to buy cute clothes to try to be more attractive for some guy who treats us like nothing. We’ll stop being friends with someone who’s no longer in our socio-economic strata. We sometimes act inhuman. We sometimes act as if things are more important than people. Just flip that around. Act like people are most important. You’ll find yourself buying less things and you’ll start making the world a more valuable place. And you’ll be a blessing to many people along the way, including yourself.
I’m not an economic guru. I’m not a policy maker. I’m pretty much an average person like most of you reading this blog, which means I’ve got the same common sense that you do. If we people were to spend the next decade or two acting on these three principles, we’d save the economy and make the world a better place.
Healthcare is also a mess. I don't understand why so many people must suffer. Doctors are payed to little comparing to the work the put in. I went to a local hospital just the other day and saw a guy there that really impressed me. He suffered of lupus disease. It looks horrible and I am sure it hurts a lot. here is what more info on that : http://www.lupuspictures.org/lupus-complications-pictures_8.html
There would still be unethical big businesses. There would still be greedy bankers. There would still be foolish consumers. But if we didn’t play along with American-style consumerism, if we decided that life -- that every human life -- is worth more than material possessions, well, it would really be an amazing world for our grandchildren to live in. As it is, if you’re privileged enough to be reading this blog post on a computer, you’re likely living in a pretty good world yourself. But you know that it’s going in some wrong directions. The economic, ecological, social, and spiritual foundations of debt-fueled American-style consumerism are unsustainable. It’s not likely that we’ll be able to recover and reorder the economy on a global scale in the next decade or two. We can, however, recover and reorder our own economic priorities. And, at the end of our lives, we can leave the world a little bit better if we’ve focused on loving people more than anything else.
That’s why I truly believe that a 100 Thing Challenge is a great idea for people like you and me. It will change our behavior and help us form new habits. It will open up the possibilities of a whole new world: the possibility of spending less and avoiding economic disaster!
Stuart Fleming added a great comment to my recent post about teaching children financial responsibility. He thinks about these things and has a few ideas himself. I want to quickly comment on the idea that we grown ups should invest and should teach our children to invest.
I've been a little bit distracted and so have not been able to give my $10,000 Challenge as much attention as I'd like. The idea of it, though, is to take a chunk of money and put it to good use to 1. realize a good return and 2. add more value to the economy. Thus far I've used $100 of this money to buy the URL www.100ThingChallenge.com. Also I am using some of this money to develop an identity for the 100 Thing Challenge with one of my friends who is an amazing designer.
But also I invested some of it in Apple (AAPL). Nothing big time. I bought 15 shares a while back when it was trading below $200 a share. Looking over the company's fundamentals, anticipating its strong earnings, and believing that its Tablet will be "game changing" like the iPhone was, I believed that Apple was a sure bet. And it appeared that I was right. Pretty much the day I bought, the stock rode up to $205 and then into the $220s. All the fundamentals stayed in place. Earnings (to be released on Monday) are sure to be great. Price targets are being set for $240 or even $260. This stock is exactly what an average investor can choose with minimal risk.
But then Friday. Apple dropped like Newton's Apple right through $200 a share, which was my stop price. Why? It's a portrait of our economic meltdown. It took a dive because there are crooks who manipulate the market, and there is nothing an average investor can do about it but sit back and take the hit. Here's what happened to Apple's stock. Worst of all? In after hours trading, the price jumped back up to $204. Who wants to bet it will open in the $210-215 range tomorrow?
Now some will say that this is just the way it works and why it is risky to be in the stock market. Uh, no. This is the same reason it's risky to get involved in the mafia, because you're dealing with dishonest people who are willing to change their minds and kill you at a moment's notice.
I was talking to a day-trading buddy of mine a while back and he suggested a better use for my $10,000 than investing in the market. He thought I should use it to take as many people out for coffee as possible until I find one of them to hire me for lots of money. It was sort of tongue and cheek, but only sort of.
To be honest, I might still try to pick up some Apple shares in pre-hours trading on Monday. Despite the crooks who screwed average investors like me on Friday, I think it's obvious that Apple is a solid company. Moreover, I think that over the next few years their Tablet will do for publishing what the iPhone did for communications and music. (Not that I'm all happy about what happened. There are some negative consequences. But you cannot deny that the iPhone created the new way in which these industries work.)
But my sense is this. If we adults want to put some investment money to good use, and if we want to teach our children to do the same, it's probably best to start with a lemonade stand on a hot summer day.
I love the book The Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White. Definitely a five-star book. Like Charlotte’s Web, the book is a “children’s” book fit for adults. The best children’s literature is like that; you can absolutely enjoy it and think deeply about it as an adult reader.
Well, I wouldn’t say that The Trumpet of the Swan is a book about consumerism, but material possessions are an important theme in the book. There’s this great scene when one of the main characters, a young boy named Sam, is talking with a zookeeper. The zookeeper says something along the lines of, “Birds and other animals have it easy. They don’t have to buy things. I mean, you can teach a monkey to ride a motorcycle, but I’ve never known a monkey to go out and buy a motorcycle.”
Sam is sharp-witted and responds something like, “That’s true, but some animals collect stuff. Rats, for example, will find shiny objects and bring them into their dens just to keep them.”
(Aside: I assume E. B. White was making an allusion to Templeton from Charlotte’s Web when he had Sam say this. But a better animal to illustrate the point might have been a bowerbird, since Sam was talking to the head man of birds and because bowerbirds, it seems to me, are the most human-like in their collecting and using of stuff.)
Think about this for a moment. There are human beings on earth. We’re one kind of creature. After that scientists have a hard time estimated the number of other kinds of creatures on the planet. But they think somewhere in the range of 10 million different creatures, give or take several million. 10 million! There are 10 million different creatures on the earth and one of them, humans, have
I appreciate Sam’s quick wit. But it’s not quite right. No other creature even comes close to human beings when we’re talking about shopping and, I should add, making the products and social structures necessary for shopping to happen.
Take a moment, wherever you are right now, to stop and look around. Think about all the things you see. The computer or mobile phone. The furniture. The window. The linens. The clothes you are wearing (I hope). The jewelry. The sounds of mechanical things. The building you’re in or the buildings you’re near.
This topic we talk about -- consumerism and material possessions. It’s a big one.
This is not a jeremiad against petroleum. But don’t expect to chant “drill, baby, drill” after reading this either.
Have a look at this infograph detailing the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Did you see the very bottom? Over 3,800 oil wells in the Gulf. I suppose that after drilling so many wells and having so much success, it is understandable that the technology and attitudes that perfected getting oil out of the earth were casual about preventing disaster. It seemed like it would never happen. It did.
Long before humans perfected the use of fossil fuels, however, we perfected the use of CYA. That’s why BP and the U.S. government aren’t being honest about the extent of the oil spilled into the Gulf. For weeks I’ve been griping to friends that there isn’t just one leak. We heard early on that there are at least three leaks. But all the attention from the media and the bickering corporations and the “don’t blame us” Obama administration has been on just one leak. Well, now we learn what’s going on with leak number two - FAR MORE than BP or the U.S. government are willing to admit.
The truth is that as we stand right now, we’re in the worst-case scenario for this oil spill. That can mean only one thing: that the worst-case scenario BP and the U.S. government came up with was actually the best-case scenario. Now we have to start imagining of worster possibilities.
While I think Friedman was way too easy on Obama, his overall assessment was correct. This should be a moment that changes everything. Instead, it will not.
This is such a grievous disaster. I don’t really have a conclusion for this Portrait of Our Economic Meltdown, except to say that it’s so clear that big business and the U.S. government will not change. We people need to change. (And BTW, the way we change isn’t to vote incumbents out of office. We change by changing ourselves, not by changing politicians!) We need to live different lives, not dependent on big-business greed and government fixes.
Change, baby, change!
A while back I spent a weekend in Nashville with a bunch of Gonzos at a gathering of gathers called Hutchmoot. It was a marvelous time and I’m finally getting around to writing about it.
Anyone involved in a creative process knows how exhausting it can be, and collaborative, which adds to the fatigue.
The ability to be creative is a blessing. J. R. R. Tolkien spoke of “subcreation.” Others have observed this too, namely, that while humans cannot create worlds like God, nevertheless we are able to be creative like God. We can subcreate.
We do more than create. We experience creations.
Walter Wangerin, Jr. defines art as “a composed experience that is experienced by someone else.” Wangerin, a brilliant storyteller, believes that art only can be considered art when the experience is shared. Wangerin thinks that his stories -- his subcreations -- are not art until you read them.
We might say that an unshared creation is not art; it’s only storage.
If you’ve ever experienced really good art, you know that it can be, in a way, exhausting. Sometimes the experience is energizing, which eventually leads to weariness when you get past the initial thrill. Sometimes the experience itself takes it out of you.
Christian doctrine teaches that God does not need to rest. God neither gets weary nor exhausted. Therefore, on the seventh day of creation, when it says in the scriptures that God rested, theologians point out that in actuality God “ceased.” That is, on the seventh day of creation, God didn’t lay down on the cool sand of a beach recently made and take a nap. Rather, God simply stopped doing more art.
You have to wonder what the rest of creation did on the seventh day.
Jesus said, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” Did flowers cease on the seventh day? No. On the seventh day, flowers kept right on composing experiences that were experienced by someone else. All of creation did. I know I am being dangerously theological here, but perhaps it is right to say that on the seventh day God stopped his creation ex nihilo and set in motion art. No longer did God make new things out of nothing. Now, what has been made makes art in a never-ending subcreation.
In this manner, let me suggest that the seventh day is the day of art. It’s the day of subcreation: the time when creatures collaborate with the creator and the creation in order to subcreate, to compose experiences that are experienced by others.
There is bad art and there is good art. Anyone who reads in the scriptures a few paragraphs past the account of the seventh day knows where this can lead. The stories we create can turn awful in a hurry. Keep reading, though, and the stories can include nearly unimaginable works of art. Grace.
We are ourselves works of art. We are, each of us, a composed experience experienced by someone else -- by other people and by God. We are also artists. All of us, like it or not, compose our lives to be experienced by someone else -- by other people and by God. It’s a nearly incomprehensible opportunity. We artists get to subcreate a story that can please other creatures, and even the creator.
It’s been a while coming. If all goes according to plan, though, I will receive a hard copy of my copyedited manuscript in the mail today. A two-hundred page book that just needs a few more edits before becoming an advanced reader and then a real live book on the shelves of bookstores.
The plan was to write my book in about ten months. The plan was to hand into my publisher, HarperCollins, a finished manuscript about my year-long 100 Thing Challenge a couple weeks after my simple-living project ended in November of 2009. When I missed that deadline by a month and even then didn’t have anything like a completed book, it got real discouraging.
In retrospect, I don’t know what possessed me to suggest I’d finish writing my first book in ten months. I had a full-time job, a two-hour-a-day commute, three daughters, one wife, nine pets, and, well, the 100 Thing Challenge to live out. Oh sure, there was plenty of time in 2009 for me to dream up fifty thousand coherent words.
I recently found some consolation in a passage from Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life that my wife read to me the other night. Dillard says that it takes between two and ten years to write a book. Most full-time authors, she claims, write a book every three years. Fine. So with some pain and suffering, and with excellent help from my editors, I managed to crack out my first manuscript in about sixteen months. Of course, I am not comparing what I’ve done to anything that Dillard has done. She’s a remarkable author.
It feels nothing short of a miracle that I am close to publishing my first book. A memoir of sorts. A short breath in the long-winded narrative of authors who have sought out and written about simplicity. I believe in the supernatural. Don’t get me wrong, it seems that book publishing requires some otherworldly intervention, or else books would never get thought up by authors or picked up by acquisitions editors. Of course, is this creative inspiration our reflection of the Divine Image, or does it stem from other powers and principalities? Only time and reviews can tell.
With regards to the time it takes to write a book, I have discovered no formula. The chapter of my book that received the most praise from my editor was outlined one night before bed and written the next day. That chapter will go to print with remarkably few edits. Other chapters, too, were conceived in a night, but then came out like birthing triplets, sideways. Still other parts of my book were thought up over months of contemplation and written down across more months still, like a challenging hike that you don’t regret that you set out on, even though you still have many miles to go.
So time has not been the most consistent factor in my writing experience. Time has been there always. At points exerting itself. At points quietly giving me its blessing.
An author has time to write a book. That’s that. But I found other factors more important than time when writing about the 100 Thing Challenge. People, for example. Who can write a book without other people?
I don't want to get too idealistic here. It strikes me, though, that these days when a person achieves something like the American Dream (let's just say that's moving solidly into the upper-middle class), his lifestyle changes. He becomes a cigar aficionado and also starts collecting fine wines. He starts driving a sports car or a luxury car, perhaps both. He buys a larger, flatter TV and pays for access to sports cable networks.
Now I don't want to suggest that there was a time in America when financial success was divorced from selfishness. Humans are humans. But wasn't there a time when a person's service to his community and country grew in proportion to his family's success?
Here is something to gnaw on. What if we average Americans put a line item into our budgets: "American Value Creation." Not only do we work hard to see other line items (like retirement and college savings and discretionary spending) increase, but we use our ingenuity and resources to increase the value we bring to the American economy, our communities, our culture.
Let's just say you had $10,000 in that line item right now. How would you use it? Suggestions?
For the new year I am resolving to live out some "themes" instead of specific goals.
Theme 1 "Controlled urgency" - I've never been a huge fan of "our times are more awful than other times" thinking. It can create irrational and unfounded panic. That's why I'm committed to controlling my hysteria in 2010. I am just going to calmly point my energy and time toward important life choices amidst twelve trillion dollars of ballooning federal debt, dismal employment numbers, my bankrupt state (CA), crooked financial institutions, and other impending disasters. I might bowl a few games on my buddy's Wii to relax. I'll keep surfing. But for the most part, 2010 is going to be a very very focused year. This is no time to screw around and waste opportunity. My prediction: Responsible living right now is going to pay back on an order of magnitude in a few years.
Theme 2 "Value creation" - I have this financial slogan: "Whenever we use our money and other resources well it is always good for our personal and national economies." I have not always done this. In 2010 pretty much everything I do will be subject to this question, Am I using my money and time well? If I'm not creating more value for my family, community, and the world then I'm not going to do it.
Theme 3 "Include others" - Yeah, I am going to nag you and everyone else I know. They say that "misery loves company," but so does joyfulness and thoughtfulness and responsibility. I've always been amazed at the things friends, family, and strangers will pull me aside to promote. They rant on about how fun Las Vegas is, what a great deal some timeshare is, how smart Sarah Palin is, how cheap Wal-Mart is, and on and on and on. I'm going to be less bashful about speaking up for the things I care about.
Now, regular readers of guynameddave.com may notice no direct social justice themes or religious themes among my three themes for 2010. I'll be working on specifics in those areas, as well as themes specific to family/parenting. And in the "value creation" theme there are several sub-goals related to writing and growing my guynameddave voice on topics like American-style consumerism. So there are specifics within the big-picture themes.
Thanks for reading and encouraging over the last year of the original 100 Thing Challenge. Looking forward to much more this year and down the road.
Truth be told, I've been a bit out of sorts for a week or two, maybe longer. And yet, the 100 Thing Challenge goes on. It has become somewhat habitual. It keeps on keeping on, whether life is treating me well or not. Like love. I suppose that's a good development.
In the midst of my melancholy, I've managed to purge five items from my 100 Thing Challenge list, and also add one much needed item.
Granted the "much needed" item -- a pair of khakis -- has compounded my gloomy mood. I thought I would never own another pair of khakis in my life. Nope, there they are, wrinkle free, hanging in my closet. Yuck.
The 100 Thing Challenge book is progressing. I was encouraged by a few kind words of affirmation from one reader. I have come to realize that writing a book is a profoundly lonely and insecure endeavor. To risk sharing bits and pieces along the way is no easy task. For now I feel like I am moving in the right direction regarding the book and its message, even if the end feels a long way off. So thanks you-know-who, and tomorrow it's back to work.