AT Email: Voting, The Good Life and Scott & Helen Nearing - 2.5.08

AT Email: Voting, The Good Life and Scott & Helen Nearing - 2.5.08

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Maxwell Ryan
Feb 5, 2008


February 5, 2008

On this fairly random Tuesday, in what should be the depths of winter, a huge event is taking place in 24 states across our country.  Whichever way you lean politically, this is bound to be an exciting and long day.  For the first time in awhile, I feel a lot of energy coming off this election and it feels good.

All of this excitement got me thinking last night about Apartment Therapy and what we are trying to do every day with all of these posts.  While many people refer to Apartment Therapy as a “décor” blog, it is – along with all five of our blogs – about empowerment, new ideas and the improving of our homes.  And as much as our national election is allowing us to take stock of our national home and support candidates who we believe will improve it, our own elected office stands right before us every day.  It is our home, our apartment, our house.  In this space, you are your own president, and all of our blogs support you.

House Tour: Holly's Sense of Simplicity

Some people also think that Apartment Therapy is only about “small spaces.” It is not.  We do have an editorial slant, however, and that is a deep seated belief in something that had its heyday in the early 90’s and then seemed to fade away again: simplicity, economy, creativity and intelligence. It was called “simple living” and it gave birth to things like Real Simple magazine and mutated into the passion of the Green movement.  But it may be back in its domestic form. 

In the paper today there’s a good article called Economy Fitful, Americans Start to Pay as They Go. While the article paints itself about belt tightening and the slowing of the economy, as an AT’er, I see a silver lining in these words:

“What we say now is, ‘If we can’t afford it, we can’t buy it,’ ” Ms. Gamble said.And when she looks across the street at that Cadillac, her envy has been replaced by pity for the neighbor on the hook. “I say, ‘Oh my, you’re living here, and driving that? There’s got to be something wrong,’” Ms. Gamble said.

When someone can puncture a hole in envy, particularly as it surrounds our homes and lifestyles, and get back on modest but solid footing with comfort, that is a magic moment, no matter what it takes to get there. 

To me, richness is about living, about people, about doing and making things, not about things themselves, and to a great extent the growth of consumption and dependence on things is a real buzz kill.

Two people, and this is my final point, who personify these beliefs for me are Scott and Helen Nearing.  I recommend checking them out.  They are responsible for a seminal book, The Good Life (1954), which outlines their remove in 1932 from New York City to a Vermont farm where they built their own house, grew their own food and worked and wrote on social causes.

And while their political writings may have faded, their homes and the way they lived persists and carries their ideals like a beacon. To quote them,

"Life is enriched by aspiration and effort, rather than by acquisition and accumulation."

In Helen’s last book, Loving and Leaving the Good Life, written after Scott died at age 100, she powerfully communicates how empowered their life together was, based as it was on people and ideas, and not on things.  This is the best book to start with. Their home, by the way, was beautiful, and people traveled from all over the world to visit them, eat their food and sit in their home.  

Which is all to say that today is a big day, a day to get inspired and take action both at your polling station and at home.  While we depend on our candidates to do our bidding on the national stage, we are the ones who get to do it everyday at home.  So, go ahead and do it. We're with you every step of the way.

Best, Maxwell

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