Junk and Luxury

By Bret Burquest


One of the fastest ways to fail in life is to work so hard your manager will think you're after his job.


In 1976, one year before our semi-blissful marriage of five years and two days, my ex-wife and I went on a sailing adventure in the West Indies. We paid good money to be deckhands on a 248-foot, four-mast schooner; island-hopping the Leeward Islands of St. Martins, St. Barts, St Eustatius, St. Kitts and Nevis for two weeks.


After a few days, we hooked up with a couple from Philadelphia and a couple from Alaska.


One day the six of us were wandering the neighborhood back streets of a town on Nevis. Some of the locals were sitting on the front porches of their modest houses, playing dominoes or watching the tourists pass by.


The couple from Philadelphia (liberals) mentioned how poor everyone seemed and suggested there should be an influx of government money to help everyone out. The couple from Alaska (conservatives) wondered why no one seemed to be working very hard and suggested an influx of private industry to kick-start the economy.


My ex-wife was too busy looking for a shop where she could buy some more useless junk to notice anything.


However, I noticed and wondered if I was the only sane person in the group. Everyone I saw along the street appeared to be perfectly content in their existence. You could see the happiness in the twinkle in their eyes. It was beyond my comprehension why anyone would want to barge in and spoil a perfectly desirable way of life.


Apparently, there's a big difference between liberals and conservatives and relatively sane human beings.


Once upon a time in America, the Europeans had not yet arrived to spoil a perfectly desirable way of life.


There were indigenous folks (Native Americans) scattered throughout the continent, doing just fine until the white man arrived on the eastern shore, stuck a flag in the ground and declared it to be a "discovery."


Some of the indigenous folks had permanent settlements while others were hunter-gatherer nomads.


A hunter-gatherer society consisted of small bands of nomadic people who lived in an area where it was too harsh to allow permanent settlements. They survived by foraging for edible plants and wild animals. Basically, they wandered from one food source to another. Everything they owned, they carried on their backs. 


One of the major areas of concentration of hunter-gatherer nomads was the Great Basin Desert area of the southwest (Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, etc.). These societies were part of the Shoshonean bands of Indians (Hopi, Piute, Mono, Comanche, Kawai, Panamint, Chemehuevi and others).


In an article titled "The Art of Nothing," Thomas J. Elpel declares, "Hunter-gatherer societies succeeded in working only one or two hours per day, yet in our efforts to reproduce their lifestyle we end up working all day."


Elpel is the director of Hollowtop Outdoor Primitive School in Montana and author of many books on survival.


According to Elpel, the hunter-gatherers "had a lot of time on their hands because they produced almost no material culture." They basically sat around all day doing nothing. This helped conserve energy, an economical imperative so they wouldn't be forced to harvest more food each day to feed themselves.


They also produced no unnecessary material goods, including artwork. Whenever they were forced to move on, they needed to do so with a minimal of effort. They didn't want to be dragging junk or luxury items with them.


In our materialistic culture where the objective always seems to be growth, we love junk and luxury. Often they're the same thing. We work 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, just to stay even. In fact, we're less than even since our national debt is in the multiple trillions and rising. But we're too busy "getting ahead" to notice.


"Some people see things that are and ask, Why? Some people dream of things that never were and ask, Why not? Some people have to go to work and don't have time for all that."  George Carlin


So, you can be a go-getter and spin your wheels in pursuit of junk and luxury; or you can be a do-nothing and observe the folly of the go-getters as they work harder and harder while getting deeper and deeper in debt.


Work is something you do because it's necessary for survival.


Work you do beyond that is called a burden.


* * *


Bret Burquest is an award-winning columns and author of four novels. Contact bret@centurytel.net




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