Axel Heyst's Journal

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AxelHeyst
Posts: 262
Joined: Thu Jan 09, 2020 4:55 pm
Location: The Mountains, USA

Axel Heyst's Journal

Post by AxelHeyst »

It seems to me that a solid percentage of active journals in this forum were begun a good ways down the path to FIERE (edit: I see I was incorrect about this). This journal is not going to be like that. :) I'm starting close to ground zero, both in financial terms and in terms of a habituated ERE lifestyle.

This journal will likely be uninteresting to intermediate and advanced ERE'ers, at least to start, as I document my journey out of the most basic errors of consumer thinking.

A summary intro of myself:
  • 33yo Western American Male.
  • In a delightful relationship with a FIRE-friendly lady. I'll call her DW even though that's technically inaccurate, it's close enough. We're #childfree.
  • Sole financial contributor to our household at the moment.
  • White collar, decent job, I enjoy my work and have a lot of flexibility.
  • I work completely remote, since 2016.
  • I lived in the Bay for about 7 years, without any thoughts of FIRE, and so when I left in 2016 I was carrying about $20k in debt.
  • I read ERE in 2017 or so, and by mid-2019, my savings were at about $30k, largely due to building and living in Serenity, my converted cargo trailer.
  • I never really dove in to and absorbed the ERE philosophy, mostly because I thought "I live in a small metal box, I'm good".
  • In the past 9 months my savings completely stagnated, and I realized I've been making dumb decisions with respect to money, lifestyle, freedom, health, etc.
A brief outline of my financial situation as of today:
  • Income: $6k/mo. Will go up a bit in March, to $130k gross salary.
  • Savings: $22k.
  • Debt: none
  • 401(k): $60k
  • Current Estimated Annual Expenses: $46k. :(
  • SR: historically over the past few months, it's been negative. I'm working on my budget and with a smidge of discipline think I ought to be able to get it to 25% while I'm in my current situation.*
Image

*My current situation, is that I'm in a 5 month lease for an apartment at $1,700/mo. That's normal housing cost for a 1bed where we're at. I'm also supporting DW at about $1k/mo, so she doesn't have to work while getting her business off the ground. At the moment I'm the sole financial contributor to our little household.

After the lease is up, we're going nomad again, so housing cost goes to zero. And ideally by about then, DW will be mostly independent of my support. So if I just knock those two expenses off, and assume no other improvements in frugality, my SR goes to 65%+, about $4k/mo. But I'll be targeting a more aggressive SR by then.

Goals
I have more to read, absorb, and numbers to crunch to validate these ideas, but the gist of my plan is:
  • FIRE in 2027, with a stretch goal of 2025 (maybe 'semi-FIRE in 2025...).
  • Heavily invest time in multi-dimensionally valuable skills (dimensions of enjoyment, low/no cost, potential for renumeration, valuable in a post-financial future, etc).
  • Solidify my current Wheaton level, and progress methodically.
  • Habituate the practices at each Wheaton level as I go, so the skills and way of life becomes automatic, reflective.
Current Actions
I'm locked in to high housing and support expenses for several months. But I can take this time to focus on finding and plugging all the 'leaks' in my system (food, recreation, travel), and replace expensive habits with upskilling hobbies - in other words, with figuring out how to have a fulfilling life at a 'radically' low CoL.

I'm financially illiterate when it comes to investing. I have a very tall stack of books to read. I don't anticipate taking actions on an investment front for some time, until I can bring my knowledge level up to some level of basic competence.

Okay, that's enough for now to get this started. I'll be updating regularly - my next mission is to cut my grocery bill for myself from $600/mo to $250/mo as a low-carb, mostly paleo, high-metabolism active mountain lifestyle individual...

[edited to adopt DW terminology]
Last edited by AxelHeyst on Tue Jan 14, 2020 10:56 am, edited 2 times in total.

AxelHeyst
Posts: 262
Joined: Thu Jan 09, 2020 4:55 pm
Location: The Mountains, USA

Re: Axel Heyst's Journal

Post by AxelHeyst »

Some Thoughts on the Housing-Transportation Nexus for 2020
At the moment, we're paying $1,700/mo rent, plus heating (electric, and it's cold here, I'm guessing $100-200/mo but haven't seen the first bill yet). We have one vehicle here, my Tacoma that gets 18mpg. We both work from home, and the grocery store is a 10mi drive, so daily gas use is low although we've got a few longer trips this month which are going to hit it.

This lease is through the end of May, and then we're moving back in to our rigs for the rest of summer. Our rigs are:
Serenity, my cargo trailer conversion, that I tow with my Tacoma.
Garfield, DW's 1985 Westfalia.
The BFT, our 15' diameter canvas tent.

So beginning in June, our housing cost will go to zero or close. But we'll likely drive more, so our fuel costs will go up a bit.

In July, we go to Michigan for several months. My current thinking is to leave Serenity and my truck here, and just make the drive in Garfield the van. We have family and friends with land there, so housing costs will be zero. The gas to get out there will be around $500 though.

I'm planning on building a microshelter in Michigan, enough to provide space for us to work in, and a composting toilet and outdoor solar shower. When we vacate the microshelter, there's a potential our friends will be able to rent it out as vacation rental space and kick us back some small income from it.

We might leave Garfield the van in Michigan when it starts to get cold, and take the train back to California. Upon arriving, we'll seek a similar situation, some land where we can set up our rigs and build another microstructure. Same deal: when we're not in it, there might be potential for it to be vacation rented, providing some small income.

Thoughts on Budget
I crunched some numbers, and they surprised me.
If we get our spending under control (particularly in the categories of 1) Food and 2) dumb crap we didn't need anyways), we can hit a SR of 44% even while I'm paying for this expensive rental, and supporting DW.
Once we get out of the lease, SR jumps to 70%. Once DW gets her business to the point of covering her bills, my SR goes to 88%.
Assuming we can get our annual expenses below $15k/yr (and I'm aiming for $10k), FIRE date is 2025-ish.

Whoa. That's some heavy duty motivation right there.

For the time being I'm focused primarily on getting grocery budget down (as we're somewhat locked in to our current Housing and Transportation situation for the near future, that's the lowest hanging fruit) and generally seeking to aim for that $10k/year lifestyle.

classical_Liberal
Posts: 1778
Joined: Sun Mar 20, 2016 6:05 am

Re: Axel Heyst's Journal

Post by classical_Liberal »

Dude, you totally stole the name I was saving for the Van/RV/Trailer that I'm gonna eventually, maybe someday, buy to slow travel the US. Well, I guess the plans are far from a definite, but the name was SOLID! Any Firefly connotation with your name choice?

Oh, welcome, congrats on ERE and all that too...

PS
I'm still gonna use the name :evil:

AxelHeyst
Posts: 262
Joined: Thu Jan 09, 2020 4:55 pm
Location: The Mountains, USA

Re: Axel Heyst's Journal

Post by AxelHeyst »

@c_L, you can't take the sky from me ;)

I too had her name picked out years before I got her. There's plenty of room in the 'verse for more than one Serenity - we'll have to find them all and do meetups out in the desert sometime.

Thanks for the welcome, glad to be here.

mooretrees
Posts: 278
Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2019 1:21 pm

Re: Axel Heyst's Journal

Post by mooretrees »

Welcome! I appreciate the comment in my journal, I'm ready for any suggestions for solar. I've been watching youtube van conversion videos and reading one intro solar book as a start.

BTW, your comments on your chart were pretty funny!

With regards to the starting point of ERE and journals, I do think there is a wide spread of starting points. From folks like me, deep in debt and Wheaton 1 to ffj and Tyler900 who are at quite different places. The idea behind Wheaton levels might be useful to focus on, for instance I get the most out of journals that are a level or two above me. There's no point for me to look to closely at folks who are at much higher levels (Jacob, 7w5 for example) it just doesn't make sense to me (yet!).

A possibly useful thread: viewtopic.php?f=7&t=8103&hilit=wheaton+level that you might be familiar with already.

AxelHeyst
Posts: 262
Joined: Thu Jan 09, 2020 4:55 pm
Location: The Mountains, USA

Re: Axel Heyst's Journal

Post by AxelHeyst »

@MEA that's the best description of my life I've heard yet. Cheers.

It's worth noting that both DW and I are terrified by the idea of being in one place for more than a year. We get restless and weird. She's averaged 6mo in one place since she left home, I averaged 9mo before moving in to Serenity.

@mooretrees - Thank you! now that I've read more journals, I see there's wider spread of starting points than I thought at first. And thank you for the link to the Wheaton thread. I'd found the wiki article but the topic helped me understand it much better. Particularly the point that the utility of the scale is to help people not give too-advanced information to people lower down the scale.

I think I'm a Wheaton 3-4, with a fair amount of momentum to drop in to 5-6 sooner rather than later.

I'm struggling a little to figure out how to properly communicate ERE to DW. To someone low on the Wheaton scale, it seems to me that ERE just sounds like "Act poor AF even though you have a decent job". Which is very hard to accept, particularly for someone like my DW who *actually* grew up poor AF, who had a pretty gnarly childhood because of that, and so she has a pretty strong emotional aversion (even revulsion perhaps) to the notion.

She's intellectually 100% on board, but introducing behaviors that remind her of her childhood is going to be hard for her. I get that the scarcity mentality, the extreme focus on cutting expenses, is a phase that we'll go through and in the future we won't even think about it as we're focused on yields and flows and living an amazing life... but getting through that phase will certainly be a challenge. I'm scouring the forum for any experiences others might have had related to this topic.

AxelHeyst
Posts: 262
Joined: Thu Jan 09, 2020 4:55 pm
Location: The Mountains, USA

Re: Axel Heyst's Journal

Post by AxelHeyst »

Why I'm Here: Thoughts on Motivation, Philosophy, and Moral Foundation
[This is going to be a long therapy session for myself. You've been warned.]

I was fortunate to raised in an anti-consumer-friendly and skeptical manner. I was homeschooled K-12, largely because my parents figured they could provide us with a better education than the local schools. We also moved to a chunk of desert completely off-grid when I was 13, and began the process of developing it and building a house. These early experiences, in retrospect, implicitly taught me that every status quo lifestyle choice is worth questioning, and that alternative paths really aren't that scary.

College was an opportunity to experiment with different forms of 'simple living' - living on 1 jacob, living in a borrowed truck, living in a tent in a canyon behind campus, etc. I read a lot and became convinced that the world was organized in an insane manner. I didn't really know what to do about it though - I had the critique of consumer society, but not a solution.

After graduation, a combination of girlfriends who didn't see eye to eye with my radical critique of society, a people-pleasing and conflict-avoidant personality, and getting a 'good job' in the SF Bay Area were all forces that eroded any real execution in my day to day life of my anti-consumer views.

The realities of making a starting salary of $56k and living in San Francisco, then Oakland, in the 2010's, meant I by no means led a high-earner's lifestyle. I lived with roommates stuffed in to units designed for one person, I lived with rats, I dealt with landlord-reoccupation evictions, I didn't own a car the entire time I lived in the Bay. I lived in ~13 different places in the 7 years I lived in the Area. I worked a lot, but the recession hit late and stuck around in my industry, so my salary was slow to grow. Although my lifestyle was modest, I didn't have any of the tools of ERE and I merely managed to pay off my student debt, then live paycheck to paycheck.

I enthusiastically participated in the Oakland Occupy movement, even spent a couple nights in a government holding facility ("jail") which turned out to be time well invested: as it was an illegally-executed mass arrest, we all received a ~$3,000 class action settlement. That's what I used to polish off my students loans and help out a Nepalese family after the quake over there, which had a nice ironic symmetry to it.

I worked (and still do) in the 'sustainable built environment' - we design highly energy efficient, low-carbon-footprint, healthy materials mechanical electrical and plumbing systems for green buildings. We've worked on everything from small eco-sheds in the woods to buildings you've seen in the news, for companies whose products you use. I've been deep into the philosophy and daily execution of the sustainability movement for some time.

My reading on 'the issues of our time' - peak oil/soil/heavymetals/everything, species extinction, ecosystem destruction, the Myth of Progress, the mechanisms of collapse, critiques of capitalism, industrialism, agriculture, 'civilization' itself, has led me on a roller coaster of engagement and disillusion.

I used to blog about sustainability. Then I realized we were all f*ked and there was nothing I could do about it, and stopped, and focused mainly on riding mountain bikes and drinking beer with friends.

Then I realized I was being a coward, and so I re-engaged and got back in to the game, and read the full IPCC report. Mistake. I think my response to that was to become a workaholic and ramp up to 80+hrs, ramping my caffeine intake up to 6 camping-stove-mugs of coffee a day, with a few Racer 5s as a sleep aid before bed.

We all know about climate denialism. It's folks who think climate change is a liberal-elite conspiracy to impoverish the middle class, or at least who think that AGW isn't that big of a deal. What a lot of people don't know is that climate denialism comes on a scale. The 'climate change is a hoax' folks are at one end.

At another point on that climate-denial spectrum is people who work in sustainability, and *have* to think that what they're doing day in and day out is having any impact on the world at all. They're not in denial that climate change is real; they're in denial about our chances to Save the World and preserve a Glittering Future for Our Children. They've bought in to the Myth of Progress, Green Edition, that we're going to design bright green buildings in our bright green cities, biking and taking Hyperloops everywhere, and we're going to end poverty and racial injustice (because of our green technology... somehow), and Everything's Going to be Great.

People in sustainability generally aren't in it for the money. They're in it for the Vision, the mission, the belief, the cause. We all work long hours because we think we're Soldiers for the Bright Green Tomorrow.

So imagine that's your story, your core identity. And then imagine being confronted with the idea that every single thing you've ever done has actually hastened climate catastrophe. That really, you've just accomplished slightly less-awful things than the folks who don't give a rats ass about sustainability. That there is essentially going to be zero difference in the year 2100 with and without your efforts. That your life is a bloody waste.

Needless to say, that's a pretty unpalatable thought to wrestle with over your organic wheaties with oat milk on a drizzly Monday morning. So, most of us don't. We push the thought out of our heads, because neuro-typical humans aren't built to deal with that kind of cognitive dissonance. We change the channel, read some uplifting 'news' story on treehugger, bike to work, and dig in to the daily grind of convincing a tech developer that they should push their sustainability goals a smidge more.

If you go to the bleeding edge of the reality of the 'issues of our time', and hold those ideas in your head, there is no way to cope with working in sustainability. You'll go nuts. You'll develop a cocaine habit. You'll become an alcoholic. You'll take a tech job and forget the whole thing. You'll figure out some way to solve the issue, and Superman still isn't returning Obama's voicemails atm, so it's just you against the world. Because the narrative of sustainability isn't matching up with the numbers coming out of the Mauna Loa Observatory.

Uh. Where was I going with that?

Right, the point was, this whole "I'm gonna save the world"/"my life's a waste" roller coaster of denialism and despair is central to understanding the choices I've made over the past decade. For those who understand controls systems, I was short-cycling. When I'm in denial, I take trips to Europe, buy expensive mountain bikes, and drink enough beer that I don't have to think about it. When I'm trying to save the world, I'm reading a stack of books, going vegetarian (4 years), feeling massive guilt over the things I've spent money on, and working too much.

...and remembering that that quarter in school when I lived in a tent and spent 1 jacob or less, was perhaps the happiest and most fulfilling time of my life. And trying to figure out why that was. And realizing that maybe the best I can do in this world is to reduce my consumption down, way down, and be an example that you don't have to consume 10 earth's resources to have a good life. That maybe the Standard Western Lifestyle is the reason why we're all dying of heart disease, diabetes, and mental illness, and why the planet's immune system is activating to try to fling us off it like a bad cold.

And so, here I am in this mental state, having fought the good fight for a decade and coming to the conclusion that really all I can do is reduce my personal impact radically, and begin the process of adapting to a very different future (trying to Collapse Now and Avoid the Rush, as John Michael Greer would say), and trying to figure out how to actually DO that, and I stumble across the ERE community.

A community basically saying, here are the tools to reduce your impact and have a good life doing it, and maybe be a little better prepared for the upheavals of the coming decades. Just follow these steps, here's a bunch of people who've pulled it off already, no big deal. Welcome.

Cognitive dissonance is a state of mind where your actions and beliefs aren't in alignment. Humans solve cognitive dissonance by bringing those two into alignment. It's typically far easier to change your beliefs than your actions, particularly when you aren't aware of how to change your actions, because you don't know anyone else doing it, you can't see it. My life has been an exercise is struggling to change my actions, until I snapped under the strain and changed my beliefs (it's not so bad, maybe it is just a liberal conspiracy, They'll think of Something, it's all going to collapse anyways so it doesn't really matter what I do, maybe Elon Musk will figure it out and I could just buy something that'll save the world?....).

The ERE community, to me, is the clear-cut plan of action to solve my cognitive dissonance by changing my actions, not my mind. I don't have it all figured out yet, not nearly. But I'm terribly glad to be here. It already feels like home. Thank you.

So to sum it all up: my DW and I have been seeking to decouple our lives from consumer society as much as possible for some time now. We want to homestead, learn ancestral skills, hunt, grow a permaculture garden, become engaged in an ecological community, slowly release ourselves from the high-technological intertwinement of western culture, and be people who will be able to provide value to our community now and through any future scenario. We want to be part of the solution rather than the problem. We see ERE as a path/set of tools to realize those intentions.

classical_Liberal
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Re: Axel Heyst's Journal

Post by classical_Liberal »

Wow really good post! Just an FYI, you'll fit in here just fine, I'd say many if not most of the folks here have had a similar past. Not me though :D

One of the many things I like about your post is that it outlines why it's so hard to get the green movement to look at reality. People who are normally so logical, when confronted with the hypocrisy of what they are doing, become violently opposed to any reason. Look at one, very famous, FIRE blogger who falls into this category. Having followersfly around the world to meet up and form exclusive little bubbles to feel good about their reduced consumerism. Like, dude, you flew on an airplane to get here! Your message was reaching millions on the low energy website! How is getting a few hundred people to fly somewhere they don't need to be going to help? Or the more "normal", look at my fancy new Tesla, attitude. Anyway, given the personal psychology you described, I now have more compassion for people who think this way.

Maybe I can offer you some hope? What I find confusing is that climate doomers seem to only focus on human history for the past 200 years or so, forgetting we've been around for at least 200,000. Looking at the longer time frame, homo sapien has managed to out live all other advanced hominids (some of whom interbread with us as their only way to survive). We have endured catastrophic climate change before (glacial ice sheet evidence) and survived. Even in just the last 6000 years of our recorded history, our social institutions and governments have burned to the ground time and time again, yet here we are. We've flirted with catastrophe of disease and famine before we even understood what caused these things, yet here we are. Humans will survive this latest self created disaster, just like all others, we will not go extinct from this.

The only thing we truly get to choose now is how much human suffering will occur as we adapt. Looking at history there is generally at shit-ton of human suffering with change. At the end of it though, it's completely possible that a shiny new order of human social progress will create a great society. None of us will live to see that outcome though, but we will likely begin to see the suffering of change in our lifetimes. We need to feel like we are taking action that we can see the benefits of in near terms. One way to take action is to try and minimize the suffering you and yours are likely to endure during the transition. The solution here is ERE. Another way is to look at how you can potentially minimize general human suffering through this period of change. Your job of advancing sustainable tech does this. It's not a solution to the problem of climate change, it's one of many solutions to the problem of human suffering. So, kudos!!!

One other point I've never understood is that climate doomers seem to think humans are some evil source of destruction of the natural world. Yet in the same breath claim that humans are only one organism, part of the natural world. This creates some weird sense of self-hate, and species hate that really makes no sense. If we are indeed just one more species on earth, if we are creating the sixth mass extinction through our activities, isn't that just part of the natural process? Part of a much larger, beyond our comprehension, large cycle of extinctions on this planet that makes way for a new order of life? Look at the Great Oxygenation Extinction, do you blame a bunch of photosynthesis based organisms for utilizing energy more efficiently to survive and thrive for this extinction? If it didn't happen, biodiversity on Earth and the eventual Cambrian Explosion would have never happened! Yes, humans are just one part of the biosphere, and yes we are changing it, but if the planet had a consciousness it would probably have a "been there, done that" attitude about the whole thing. It's only our self delusion of importance that allows us to hate ourselves for what's happening. So stop it!

AxelHeyst
Posts: 262
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Re: Axel Heyst's Journal

Post by AxelHeyst »

@c_L, ah, so much goodness in your post. Thank you.

There *is* so much self-hate in the climate doomer world. And I think it's due to the cognitive error of putting humans outside of 'nature', the whole concept of 'wilderness' as something that humans exist outside of, which is exactly the kind of thinking that got us in this mess in the first place.

If humans are evil, then nature is evil, because humans are a part of it. I just find the whole evil vs. not-evil language to be an unuseful relic of a monotheistic worldview designed to control people (nothing against with monotheism in general, just, certain specific implementations of it and their impact on thought patters in the western world...) But I'm getting on a tangent there.

I think a big source of angst in the sustainability field is a lack of clarity on what we're fighting for. We say we want to save the planet, save the ecosystems, but what we really mean is we want to save this civilization, we want to save this particular arrangement of interaction with reality (political, social, physical, etc), with only some minor tweaks to what we buy, and how much we recycle. It is my view, after many many books and many many scribbled journals, that those things are not worth fighting for. Those things are deeply, inherently unsustainable, and they need to be done away with as quickly and efficiently as possible. A lot of the cognitive dissonance comes because people don't really understand that they're fighting for this social structure, not 'the planet', and they have a glimmer that that's not the right fight but they don't have the intellectual tools to understand what they are fighting for.

It's like no one can imagine an existence where we have humans, and the planet, but not this particular civilization. If we can just agree that this particular civilization is unlikely to survive the next, say, 100 years, and that's a good thing, and let's put our attention to what comes next that's better, and how do we get there with the minimum amount of human suffering as you say... god, I can fight for that!

What I can no longer feel good about fighting for, is fighting for a system that is destructive and unsustainable to its core and trying to paint a bright green face on it.

My only quibble with your post: we might go extinct from this. Probably not. But maybe.

classical_Liberal
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Re: Axel Heyst's Journal

Post by classical_Liberal »

AxelHeyst wrote:
Tue Jan 14, 2020 5:31 pm
My only quibble with your post: we might go extinct from this. Probably not. But maybe.
I agree with this with in the context that there are many things that could cause our extinction, climate change being one of them. There are unknown/unknowns, things we don't even know about that could kill us off. There are known/unknowns, things like asteroid impact. We know one could wipe us out, we just don't know for sure if there are any currently on a collision course. Then there are known/knowns (lets call it partially-knowns). Things like climate change. We know this could cause extinction, but we also have some understanding of the Who, What, When, Where, and Why of this potential. As a result, we have the best chance to adapt to this type of event, hence this type of extinction event actually has a lower likelihood of killing us off.
AxelHeyst wrote:
Tue Jan 14, 2020 5:31 pm
I think a big source of angst in the sustainability field is a lack of clarity on what we're fighting for. We say we want to save the planet, save the ecosystems, but what we really mean is we want to save this civilization, we want to save this particular arrangement of interaction with reality (political, social, physical, etc), with only some minor tweaks to what we buy, and how much we recycle. It is my view, after many many books and many many scribbled journals, that those things are not worth fighting for. Those things are deeply, inherently unsustainable, and they need to be done away with as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Agree to a large degree, but let's not get self-hating again. Our current civilization has made AMAZING progress in the realm of human social development. Recent events like self-governance, almost universal distaste for human slavery, and willingness to understand each other cross culturally. Technological progress to understand the universe, cure disease, and modify the genome. These, and many more, are all good (EDIT: in terms of reducing human suffering and increasing long term species survival) things that are mostly predicated on our use of fossil fuels. While consumerism sucks, it's arguable that some or all of the above would not have taken place if we hadn't created this climate issue.

My point is we shouldn't throw out the baby with the bathwater. To make sure we don't, we need recognize the positive progress as well and try to find ways to hold onto the positive parts of present civilization. Mainly, because doing so will reduce human suffering in the future. We need people to take a general stock of the situation without self hatred and loathing, even if some of what we do seems wrong (EDIT: again in terms of reducing human suffering and increasing long term species survival).

Edits: trying to stay away from that good/evil dichotomy :D

AxelHeyst
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Location: The Mountains, USA

Re: Axel Heyst's Journal

Post by AxelHeyst »

Yes, I basically agree with you on all points. We're just getting in to subtle nuances, which is fun for me.

I am absolutely against self-hatred. And - I'm not sure anyone knows the answers to these questions, but I often wonder how how many of the progress we've made in terms of solving problems, are problems that we created with systems like highly sophisticated civilization. It's back to your point about how far back do we consider the human experiment. If we look back up to a few thousand years ago, I'm in complete agreement with you. It's when we go back further than that that I'm unsure.

For example: I'm super anti-slavery. But was slavery an issue before we invented sophisticated civilization to go along with agriculture? My understanding of modern anthropology is that, no, slavery wasn't really a thing until we invented systems of mass dominance/hierarchy in conjunction with agriculture. So one could argue that civilization invented slavery, and then thousands of years later invented being anti-slavery, and then went around feeling quite good about itself. I think that's myopic.

There's a similar argument about curing diseases. I know I'm straying into your profession, not mine. But we're working very hard to solve many diseases that never existed before we started domesticating animals and living in cities.

Humans have done some incredible, incredible things, no doubt. Genomes and Higgs-Boson and such. I'm just not sure they're worth it. We don't have any records of the cool shit we came up with before we invented kleptocracies (the earliest proto-civilizations). Just bare glimpses of the stuff we did. Songlines. Being so tuned in to the earth and stars that we could navigate vast distances in open canoes. Some I'm guessing rather sophisticated and beautiful ways of interacting with our fellow humans. Humans who, by all accounts, lived full and socially engaged lives, with minuscule levels of stress and an almost complete lack of mental illness. Infant mortality rates was certainly a bummer though.

The whole "hunter/gatherers lived horrible short lives" line is Pro-Civilization Propaganda. We can have a fun discussion about relative merits, which is largely a discussion of values, but we need to not assume that civilization as we know it with tweaks here and there is the only option on the table.

I suppose I'd better just come out with it - I am, cheerfully, with no animosity, and somewhat cautiously, anti-civ. I don't hate civ, I just think it was one of those things that seemed like a good idea at the time, but we know better now, so let's try something else. I don't advocate we all go "back" to the Stone Age (see above re: human suffering due to the transition etc). I'm advocating we invent something we might call post-civ. Take what we can carry with us from this latest effort, preserve it, even as we evolve our institutions into something that might serve us well into the millennia to come.

Woo that got deep fast. I like this place.

AxelHeyst
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Location: The Mountains, USA

Re: Axel Heyst's Journal

Post by AxelHeyst »

Okay, my current focus is crafting and executing a budget for our household, with the end-goal of having a low-expense lifestyle operationalized (unconscious competence). I've been thinking about the Wheaton Levels, and believe that I'm probably most properly at a 4 - but there are a few aspects of it I need to nail before I can focus on L5. Before re-committing to ERE, I would make decisions at a level of 3 or 2, just because I could. So my aim is to get several months of disciplined L4 actions in, to where the need for discipline starts to drop away.

0. January is about testing ideas, getting a sense for the cost of things, and playing with the budget numbers.
1. Draft a budget I think I can hit for February, for Robyn and myself. Make sure we're clear on what she pays for and what I pay for (e.g. who is grocery shopping, etc).
2. Plug any obvious leaks (subscription services I can replace with one-time costs or nothing, etc).
3. For any categories I'm not sure how to hit, calc it out and make a plan (e.g. for gas, figure out how many miles I can drive for that number, consult my plans, see how many trips to see friends that is, adjust if necessary, etc).
4. Figure out a way to easily gather expense data from Robyn without her feeling snooped on / policed.
5. Track all expenses for the month, comparing to the budget.
6. At end of month, evaluate:
---->Did I meet the budget?
---->Was it hard? Did I feel like I was just eating dog food? Did I feel deprived? Were those feelings legit, or just status anxiety? Should I just push through those feelings or seek solutions?
---->What skills do I need to work on to be satisfied with this level of spending? e.g. learn to cook tastier food? learn to cook 'treats'? Learn to entertain myself in some way other than just going out?
---->Are there any categories that seemed easy, that I can push more aggressively?
---->Are there any categories that felt too hard, I'm not ready to do that, I want to slack off on?
7. Based on the evaluation, adjust next month's budget as necessary, and repeat the process.

7Wannabe5
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Re: Axel Heyst's Journal

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

folks who are at much higher levels (Jacob, 7w5 for example)
Just because I babble a lot on this forum does not mean that I am at anything like Jacob's level. Like Jacob would be the top personal trainer who owns the gym and I would be some yo-yo dieter who splashes around a lot doing water aerobics but avoids the room with the heavy weights.

Anyways, welcome to the forum! Your journal is very interesting so far.

I think it is important to note that there are things about our complex modern society that suck beyond the fact of non-sustainability. For instance, who among us does not on some level wish for the fall simply on the basis that it would demolish current bureaucracy? It's like we're stuck with all these f8cking life-energy-sucking rules or else 2 billion of us have to die. So, I think there is some basis for argument that has been made that there is something about "doomer" perspective which is actually elitist/separatist and I think this needs to be faced head on. I mean I don't want a million kids in Bangladesh to end up as refugees, and I do want to build a foxhole radio from scavenged materials, but it's not necessary, and potentially counter-productive, to entangle these motivations, even if they contribute to the same ends.

AxelHeyst
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Re: Axel Heyst's Journal

Post by AxelHeyst »

@7wb5, I think what you're saying is, let the motivation for the foxhole radio be "because it's fun, it builds self-sufficiency, and because I want to, dammit", and not also "stand back and let me work here, I'm trying to save all the Bangladeshi kids, look at me, I'm (one of) the Saviors we've all been waiting for"?

If so I heartily agree. I don't have to explain that it's an attitude deeply entrenched in the sustainability world, and something I'm still trying to root out of myself. It's the White Savior complex writ global. I'm sure I have big blind spots where I don't even realize I'm still doing it... and there's a big difference between intellectually knowing I need to chill out about something, and having my heart actually unclench.

At any rate, I think all these deep issues are why I'm here. My vision is a lifestyle where I'm living a simple, enjoyable, fulfilling life and doing the right thing because it's the right thing to do, helping out and being helped out by my neighbors, and not living at the expense of someone else's life.

7Wannabe5
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Re: Axel Heyst's Journal

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

Right. I think it's perfectly fine to have either/both motivations, but it is very important to keep them straight. Also, if one's relationship with everybody else on the planet is subject to the same good practice that applies to personal relationships, then "Don't do anything which might lead to feelings of resentment." and "Don't take responsibility where you don't have authority" are relevant. OTOH, the thing that frustrates me most is that there are currently legal (authority enforced) impediments prohibiting ability to "do the right thing" because humans are very slow at encoding adjustments to changing risks in the environment. As in "Sorry about that lead in your city water, but here's your $300 ticket for dumping urine in your garden."

classical_Liberal
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Re: Axel Heyst's Journal

Post by classical_Liberal »

AxelHeyst wrote:
Tue Jan 14, 2020 7:58 pm
The whole "hunter/gatherers lived horrible short lives" line is Pro-Civilization Propaganda. We can have a fun discussion about relative merits, which is largely a discussion of values,
We finally hit a point of real contention. :D I have some pretty hardened believes about how the Historical Anthropologists/Archaeologists choose to view prehistory. I have good reason though, I was introduced to the skepticism through a very good friend who played at grad school in this realm, before quitting out of ethical outrage. Now, don't get me wrong, they have tough jobs in the best of circumstances. Trying to create theories about how people lived based on a few pottery shards and a nearby fire pit is hard. But because the evidence is so subjective, we end up with prevailing beliefs of anthropologists that are completely value based. Even when hit in the head with hard sciences (they interact with geology and historical biologists a lot) they will choose their value based theories over hard evidence. The idea that prehistoric humans basically lived in tribes of egalitarian, socialist groups is purely propaganda from the university level anthropologists. Who, BTW have a lot of that "self-hatred" wrt modern civilizations and capitalism.

Anyway, I could write a short book about all this stuff, with anecdote after anecdote. The point is, there is a reason our ancestors chose agriculture and urban living over hunter-gatherer lifestyles. We don't give them enough credit for being amazingly innovative and intelligent. If, basically globally and culturally universal, our ancestors chose this, I would bet there are some pretty good reasons. I think our civilization based lives are so sheltered it's hard for us to even comprehend how difficult life was before it, and the magnitude of human suffering that accompanied it.

I do agree that civilization, as it's structured has a lot of problems. Again though, to your point, it's like no one can imagine human civilization can exist, but in a better way in some future incarnation. I'd rather not dwell too much on the minor differences we have, because I think we are mostly in alignment.

Re health in the prehistory world, I find that fascinating. Unfortunately there is not a ton of hard data out there. One interesting study of Ötzi, the prehistoric man found frozen in the alps. Showed that he was likely a murder victim, and that he had arteriosclerosis. So, evidently, both murder and heart disease existed before agriculture and civilization. In fairness, I also remember reading study (can't find it now) about a modern day amazon tribe of hunter/gatherers who had virtually no dementia and no heart disease when tested with modern equipment/diagnostics. Of course, one anecdote, and a small, isolated, genetically similar population really makes for only speculation.

Of course, in our modern world, most disease is lifestyle based. Personally, I think this has something to do with having just so much excess, and something to do with the fact scientific materialism has taken away spirituality and religions role in helping guide people how to live good lives. Like, almost all religions warn us of lethargy and gluttony, yet they are the major causes of modern diseases. There is also the fact people just don't die from things that probably used to be major causes of death, like sabre tooth tiger attacks :lol: , so longevity leads to more lifestyle disease just by compounding factors over time.

GandK
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Re: Axel Heyst's Journal

Post by GandK »

Welcome! Great journal, and thanks for commenting in mine.

Been ruminating about your wife's reluctance. I was once the foot-dragging spouse. I did not grow up in abject poverty, but rather surrounded by it and trying to keep our relative wealth a secret in order to fit in. I'm an INFJ, so fitting into the social structure is required for me, and I also therefore have issues that most TJs would probably call image issues, like your wife. I wonder if you could help her overcome this by getting her to define things better... it helped me. Wealth, poverty, status, home, enough... all of these were fuzzy concepts to me when we started down this road. Take "enough," for example. What does that look like to her? And what does "poverty" mean? It's very hard to avoid looking poor if you don't know exactly what poor means.

AxelHeyst
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Re: Axel Heyst's Journal

Post by AxelHeyst »

@c_L the very good points you raised about how hard it is to know how prehistoric humans lived is why I say I'm cautiously anti-civ. :) I appreciate your points and will dwell on them. It's so tricky, even when thinking to the future, what kind of life would be 'best'. How much should we value comfort over life-dream-fulfillment? Security over opportunity for self-actualization? Life expectancy over strong social bonds? Ultimately these are personal, subjective value statements. Someone like me, who's enjoyed an embarrassment of opportunity and privilege with very little exposure to true hardship and suffering, I tend to like the idea of self-actualization and exposure to adventure at the price of stability and security. My DW's got a different emotional calculus going on in her head, due to her childhood hardships. Interestingly, she is more militantly anti-civ than I am. That's probably because she's ENFP and is righteously outraged at injustice, where it's more like an interesting engineering problem to me.

I grew up thinking a certain thing was true. I was very, very convinced that thing was true, and my whole social environment reinforced that it was true. I was what you would call a true believer. Borderline fundamentalist about it. And later, I decided I was wrong about that thing. That experience, of 100% confidence > glimmer of doubt > solid doubt > deep soul-searching > rejection of previous belief > being really pissed about it > letting it go and moving on, has made me hold my convictions lightly. It's also led me to have some sense of compassion for people I think are wrong about a thing, because I understand intimately at least one set of circumstances that can lead someone to hold a belief I happen to think is bonkers. (I'm not saying you're bonkers, I'm saying I'm always wary of the fact that I might be bonkers and not know it.)

@GandK thanks for the welcome and the comment! That's very thoughtful and I think dead on. She's ENFP, and admits that social expectations are very important to her as well. That's an angle that didn't occur to me - I was more thinking how she'd feel about not going out and having treats as much, but you made me realize perhaps the more important factor to her is how other people might judge her for not going out and having treats as much...

RoamingFrancis
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Re: Axel Heyst's Journal

Post by RoamingFrancis »

I'd probably describe myself as cautiously anti-civ as well; I use the word cautiously because I'm pretty aware of my own ignorance of the topic.

I'm curious if anyone here has read Civilized to Death by Christopher Ryan. He makes the argument that civilization began essentially as a response to crisis. It's been a while since I read the book, so I don't remember the specific details. However, I believe the hypothesis was that there was some sort of famine, some hunter-gatherers figured out a simple irrigation system, and voila, early agriculture.

Earlier it was mentioned that hunter-gatherers intentionally made the switch to civilization, which is evidence that maybe there is some attractive quality about civilization or a solid reason they made the switch. I'm don't think this argument is particularly solid. First of all, we don't know exactly how civilization started. Second of all, the hunter-gatherers who made the switch weren't necessarily thinking in terms of many future generations. It is entirely possible that agriculture offered a temporary solution to a crisis but set off a whole chain of other negative consequences.

Just my thoughts on the subject. I am far from an expert so I'm limited by my own ignorance.

classical_Liberal
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Re: Axel Heyst's Journal

Post by classical_Liberal »

Ha! My GF is an ENFP too! I've found her personality to be very ERE compatible given the right circumstances.
RoamingFrancis wrote:
Wed Jan 15, 2020 8:45 pm
It is entirely possible that agriculture offered a temporary solution to a crisis but set off a whole chain of other negative consequences.
Systems thinking! I like it!...but still disagree because it came about in different geographic regions, with differing cultural circumstances, at different times, over and over again. It seems more like a natural evolution of humanity than a randomly tried solution for specific circumstances.

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