William Powers interview

Powers: "more time doing nothing"

William Powers, author of “Twelve by Twelve: A One-Room Cabin Off the Grid & Beyond the American Dream,” did an interview recently with Mother Nature Network.

Here are some extracts:

“There’s no instruction manual for living in a 12-by-12-foot cabin.  It was strange to be at the heart of the world’s richest country and living with no electricity.  There was this sense of nature pressing in around me. At first I felt quite alone out there, but soon I began to think, wow, there is another way.

While I was out there, I got rid of the car and rode a $26 bike. It was a beautiful thing, all that simplicity, because there was this whole new freedom. In my simplicity there was actually expansion because if you take away the clutter, you’re left with this wide-open canvas of creativity and possibility. Those are times where you can find your own inspiration, your own purpose and authenticity, and express yourself from there. And it may be for other people that they would go into that situation and think about it completely differently than I did. But I think that once you’ve gone into this well of solitude and silence, it’s hard to just live a superficial life. You’d maybe continue in the same path but do things a little differently.

I was surprised to find so many people living off the grid, and not just off the electricity grid, but also off the grid culturally. That’s not to say that tomorrow it’s going to become the mainstream culture, but this is the way that social change happens, by these small pockets growing slowly. People start to feel meaning and purpose within, and then they just go gangbusters at a certain point and the movement really explodes. That’s what I’m hoping, that there will be a tipping point, almost like in the 1960s when the counterculture became the culture. Suddenly there were millions of people rejecting consumerism and war and a superficial life and trying to explore other ways of doing things.

Life is not just about increasing its speed and efficiency. I think that the economy should be for creating happiness and well-being, not endless economic growth just the for sake of it. If you can live very well at a lower level, then why not do that?

(Friedman’s) flat world is creating a flat taste. We don’t want to have this OneWorld Uniplanet where everything is the same. There’s a monoculture developing and it’s dangerous not just to the planet but also to our own individuality and our souls and spirits. I’m hoping that the book will be one of the little sparks that helps bring us back to humanity.

One way is to set aside an hour a day where you do absolutely nothing, whether it’s idling in the forest or staring up at the stars. Just try to get out of your brain and feel the energy in your body. We’re too hyperanalytical. It’s kind of a craziness. And there’s no doubt it can lead to economic success and building all kinds of wonderful things, but I think the reason why there isn’t a lot of happiness in America is because we are too much in our own heads. If we’re rich in mind then we’re poor in time. Just try to find that space in your life in different ways. After all, what could be more eco than doing nothing? At least you’re not burning fossil fuels!”

2 Responses

  1. I’m 50 years old, and very sick, but I believe we can have the best of both worlds, without leaving our old people outside to freeze to death, or without modern medical care.

  2. All this is fine for young people who still have their health. Not so great for the elderly who need extra warmth and are not very mobile, and are too stiff to do much by way of growing stuff, and find it hard to build and make things, and may well need medical help in an emergency.

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