“to hold supported or suspended without motion in a steady position” – Merriam-Webster
We stand poised. The world feels weird because it is shifting eras. Anachronistic cultures continue, for a while. Uncertain cultures are being defined. The previous tide tries to pull us back. If we stand, we still must prepare for the next wave which may push us in unexpected directions.
“Life is a wave. Your attitude is your surfboard. Stay stoked & aim for the light.” – Drew Kampion, editor Surfer and Surfing magazines
How to spend time and money in the meantime, (or as some see it, the mean times)? Frugal folks have an advantage.
Oh, politics. Whether it is impeachment now, or re-election soon, or a redefinition of government, there’s a lot of energy and jostling going on. Bandwagons are lining up, trying to fill themselves with supporters. It’s enough to make it easier to step away from social media, and maybe let the phone screen the calls. The direct cost of politics is time now, and taxes later. I have political opinions, and have even thought of running for office, but for now I’m an occasional spectator waiting for the day when I get to participate: when I mail in my mail-in ballot.
The environment is trickier. Everything we do affects the environment we’re in. A drive to the office costs time, fuel, and eventual maintenance. But, make a good enough income and it’s easier to afford a more fuel-efficient vehicle and maybe not have to work as many days. I don’t know of any cookbooks that list the energy and time costs, as well as the impact of shipping ingredients around the world. Vanilla is a natural ingredient, but it certainly isn’t something I’m growing in my backyard. What’s the true cost of shipping a bean? Which is better: slow roasting a cheap cut of beef, broiling a salmon, collecting a diverse set of ingredients for vegetarian or vegan casserole, or going raw? Better becomes personal because each person’s body and therefore diet is different. Is heating with wood better than heating with fossil fuels? What if a tree fell in the backyard? Getting rid of it otherwise might burn more energy than the wood could provide as heat. It is doubtful that there’s one answer that fits all people.
Culture is changing, as it always has. This time is different. It only takes seconds for themes and memes to wrap around the planet. New ideas took months, years, or decades before the Internet. There’s great hope that some sudden awareness will switch perceptions overnight, or at least within a news cycle. Finally, injustice is being rapidly relayed, but sometimes that’s too fast or too slow or too skewed. We’re getting better at it, in my opinion. In the meantime, or the mean time, paradigms are being energetically uprooted while defenders and deniers energetically try to block the change. (See politics and environment above.) With over seven billion people, there’s no way there’s one answer. And somehow, people pay attention to celebrities who are celebrated for being celebrities. Nice gig.
None of this is new, and if you read this far, congratulations.
I write this because of where we stand. Politics has swing through an era that cheered democracy and inclusion, into global surges in nationalism reminiscent of the preludes to some of our worst wars. The environment arguably passed the point of no return a few years ago when atmospheric carbon dioxide passed 350 ppm. Culturally, we’ve run out of room for communities to exist without impacting each other because those seven billion people, and their lifestyles and choices, are bumping into neighbors and overlapping territories. If you feel pulled and pushed and challenged and resisted, then again, congratulations. You’re aware of the world.
A frugal approach to personal finance has some unintended consequences. Becoming aware of personal values means I’m more aware of my values, particularly in contrast to what I see in the news, the ads, and social media. It’s almost as if they’re talking to someone else, like someone with health benefits, secure income, and a desire to compete with everyone they know. Understanding my personal values means a different balance of my impact on the world and the world’s impact on me. Your answer will be different. I haven’t found a church, political party, or non-profit that exactly reflects my values. For decades I saw that as a failure of my part. I couldn’t fit in. Now I’m glad that my exploration of my values during these more recent decades means I’m more likely to hold positions that don’t have to be negotiated with a clergy, politicos, or other peer pressures. I accommodate and adapt, but I do some from an understanding of my fundamentals.
It would be nice to recount a particular tale, or to show numbers behind some of these assertions. That would make a better literary argument; but that’s not my goal. My goal is simply to pass along encouragement to those who feel so many conflicting pressures from so many influences around them. I’m glad frugality has made it easier to at least partly find a few certainties within an increasingly uncertain world. I’ve found where I want to stand, know where I want to go, and am ready to move. At least to some extent, I’m poised. I hope the same is true for you.