Here's another short excerpt from "Squatter in Los Angeles," my e-book which is available on Kindle, or from the Store at www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance.com as a pdf. I'd love to hear your comments.
COUNTRY IN THE CITY
Part of the underpinnings for my philosophy of what I did stemmed from my reading of the Plain Truth magazine back when I was still living with my parents. I’d read about subjects such as agriculture, and various social ills. I’d have long discussions with Nathaniel Schleimer. We were high school buddies, inseparable, and we’d go into Eaton Canyon at night, and sit and talk. We were both hikers, backpackers, bicyclists. We both had a love and respect for the natural world, not as nature-worshippers exactly, but from the standpoint that our life is dependent on the life of the planet.
We knew without having to earn a PhD that to stay in radiant health, you had to exercise, and drink good water, and eat good food, and think good thoughts. Neither Nathaniel nor I were optimistic about the state of the affairs of the world. We didn’t have to look far to see that the system was constantly being stretched beyond its limits by too many people, all needing to eat, and the growers and deliverers and processors of food all finding ways to take shortcuts to feed the masses. That’s why we got interested in wild foods. We didn’t think we were particularly special, but we knew that a step in the right direction was to learn the skills of self-reliance, one by one, little by little.
We were still young, and still living with our parents, but we seemed to work out the general and most sensible path for survival. We saw dark clouds looming for this country, and though we hadn’t yet risen to the level of being concerned about our fellow man, we wanted to survive ourselves.
By the time I’d graduated from high school, I wanted nothing more than to live this life, and living on a farm made the most sense. I moved to Chardon, Ohio and lived on my grandfather’s farm with my brother and my uncle for 7 months.
Still, since I didn’t have the tools and resources to actually live the life I wanted to live there, I came back to California. My interests coincided with the non-profit WTI of Highland Park, a small group of people who had taken up roots in a ruralish-seeming part of Los Angeles. They were sometimes described to me as people who were trying to live country in the city, an ideal that appealed to me. As Nathaniel and I often lamented, why do so many of us backpackers go into the wilderness and practice their high degree of concern for the land and water and resource-use, but then return back home and practice the same tired wastefulness as everyone else? Why not “be here now,” and “be the example of what you want to see in the world,” as others have said?
So when I was in the unenviable position of being a squatter, these are many of the ideas that ran through my mind each day. Here I am, now, and I can live and practice these principles, more or less unfettered. Just do it! I was still in the position of having few monetary resources, but lots of ideas, sufficient time, and good health so that I had no excuses for not living what I believed.
I have many times thought back to my friend Joe who I’d invite to my high school to speak about ecology and natural living. Joe had the words, and the ideas, and the concepts. Yet, once when I visited Joe and began to ask him some questions about what he personally did to be a part of the solution, he disappointed me by asserting that “nothing will change without government intervention.” I found that absurd, and still do. Of course, I am writing this decades later, and I have a greater perspective now. I remember reading about the “re-education” camps of the North Vietnamese, and of Pol Pot. In those extreme cases, “government intervention” simply meant “do it the way we tell you or we kill you.” Is that really what’s required to change the world?
Well, to be fair, Joe did have a point, to a degree. However, I have slowly come to the realization that no one can change the world, you can only change yourself, and your habits and behavior. Now, that might affect others who see your example. Maybe. They see “something better,” something that rings true and they try it in their own way in their own life. You’ve affected one person by changing your behavior. Then, the idea catches on. Why didn’t we think of this before? It become almost the norm, and then little by little, further refinements in our thinking and in our actions.