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Is Being Car Free Part of a Larger Move Towards Simplicity?

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Is Being Car Free Part of a Larger Move Towards Simplicity?

Old 08-16-05, 12:31 PM
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AlanK
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[Moderator note] Title edited per OP

This has probably been discussed elsewhere, but is going car-free part of a move to a more simple lifestyle? For me, the answer is a definite yes. Over the past 10 years or so, I've been working to eliminate unnecessary elements from my life: cars, unhealthy food, clothes I don't wear anymore - basically anything extravagant or unnecessary. Unfortunately, I still watch TV, but hopefully I'll be able to beat that demon eventually.

It seems to me that most **** sapiens haven't learned an important principle of evolution: the simpler an organism is, the more adaptable it is. The perfect example of this is insects, especially cockroaches. These animals have survived for about 2.5 billion years because they are simple and highly adaptable. They consumer comparatively view resources, can subsist and almost anything, and can adapt to any climate except extreme cold.

Now I'm not saying we should become like insects - we can't. But we should learn from their success. Simpler is usually better.
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Old 08-16-05, 01:06 PM
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Yeah, getting rid of the cage was definitely influenced by my need to lead a "minimalist" life and all that other voluntary simplicity/aging hipster type stuff......





.....and the fact that I'm a cheap bastard.
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Old 08-16-05, 01:09 PM
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i've been simplifying my life over the last several weeks. i've been car free for a few years but am about to add a bike... so for me, it's going to be an improvement to have one, not a simplification thing.

like you, i've gotten rid of a lot of clothes and other clutter i didn't need around me. the process is still going on actually. i've eaten pretty healthy foods for quite some time (though i'd never go organic or veg).

i appreciate the insect analogy and i understand you don't mean it in a PRECISE way... i think the problem with comparing mankind to any other carbon based life form is that we have no singular culture to adhere to. that's why we'll never be as adaptable. our behavior patterns and lifestyles are far too varied to become so adaptable. besides, we've fooled ourselves into thinking we control/impact the environment rather than it controlling/impacting us... so we're already too egocentric to reach any degree of adaptability.
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Old 08-16-05, 01:14 PM
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Originally Posted by AlanK
It seems to me that most **** sapiens haven't learned an important principle of evolution: the simpler an organism is, the more adaptable it is. The perfect example of this is insects, especially cockroaches. These animals have survived for about 2.5 billion years because they are simple and highly adaptable. They consumer comparatively view resources, can subsist and almost anything, and can adapt to any climate except extreme cold.

Now I'm not saying we should become like insects - we can't. But we should learn from their success. Simpler is usually better.
That isn't quite right - the cockroach is simply an adaptable insect. In most cases, simple organisms do not adapt well - take them out of their environment, or change it, and they die off. Evolution has generally given complex organisms a better chance for survival - humans can adapt to many extremes and undertake a variety of tasks, due to our complexity, the highest embodiment of which is the brain, which also gives us our greatest advantage. The same applies somewhat to societies, which are of course organic in nature - the more complex they are, the bettter able to adapt to changes in weather, economic conditions, external threats, etc, given a form of organization that allows input and change.

In spite of all this, I agree that as individuals, we often do better with less complexity to distract us, and more attention placed on the essential and valuable aspects of life than drowning in minutia. But this is really a modification to our environment than to ourselves, except in the behaviors we adopt to accomplish those changes. I myself am slowly attempting to achieve a similar simplification in my environment as you.
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Old 08-16-05, 01:28 PM
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mtnroads...

Good points. I suppose I meant simple in functional/mechanical terms. Animals that focus on what is essential seem to do well. In the case of simple organism that adaptable, I think you're referring to the really simple organisms like ameobas. Insects, rodents, some types of fish and birds, microbes... These are all highly adaptable species, largely because of their simplicity.
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Old 08-16-05, 01:55 PM
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Going car free doesn't necessarily simplify my life -- it just means that I live healthier, consume less, and provides more flexibility in my activities.

Being car free also helps me adapt better to a life that's becoming increasingly more complex and filled with greater uncertainties. Whenever I really need a car, I can go out and rent one that would fit the needs for whatever it is I'm up to. Also, because I have one less big thing to worry about, I can take off for a gig in Tokyo or elsewhere for an undefined period of time and not have to worry about what I'm going to do with my car.

Flexibility is good.
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Old 08-16-05, 02:33 PM
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In 1970, when I was 15 years old, I read Walden by Henry David Thoreau. This book is the Bible and Das Kapital of those who wish to lead a simple life. It changed me forever. I have always tried to lead a simple life that is emotionally and spiritually rich. I have not always succeeded, but I have come close at times.

I don't know if Thoreau would have ridden a bike if they had been invented in his lifetime. He walked and canoed everywhere. I didn't ride a bike until about three years ago, but I immediately realized that it fit in well with a simpler life. Now I ride so much that sometimes I worry that I have forgotten how to use the very simplest transport of all -- walking. (Bob Marley: "My feet is my only carriage.")

So to AlanK, thanks for introducing this important topic. I'm really looking forward to reading what all you smart and simple folk have to say about bicycles.
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Old 08-16-05, 02:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Roody
So to AlanK, thanks for introducing this important topic. I'm really looking forward to reading what all you smart and simple folk have to say about bicycles.
:O, well geez, now I'm blushing, esp since I spelled 'simplicity wrong in the thread title' (dope )
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Old 08-16-05, 04:25 PM
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Correlation does not imply causality, so take this as you may. It's also a little rambly.

When I first moved up here I was thrust into full-time car-free because my car's engine caught on fire one day before moving. For most of the time I've been here all I've had is a 13" TV with no off-air reception, a bed, a dresser, a desk, and my computer (dialup). A few months later I succumed to the cable guy's witty ways and dirt-cheap specials on digital service and broadband. I thought I needed a car, so my dad was able to find something for me to drive. Shortly after the car came the laptop that I promised I would use in class (but I'm too nervous to tote it there), the 27" TV, several pieces of furniture, etc.

Now that I haven't been driving for the last few months, I'm once again seeking the simpler life I had when I first moved here. I've seriously curtailed my TV viewing, I hardly ever watch movies, things like that. I'm yearning for that simple life I had when I first moved here. It just felt better somehow... more free. Sitting on the floor eating ramen with my cat laying on my lap really brings back some fond memories. I'm pretty sure I pay several people's salaries at Barnes and Noble, and in my last bunch of books I bought a book on meditation and Thoreau's Walden and Civil Disobedience. I can't wait to finish the books I'm reading so I can read my old friend Walden again.

Last edited by fallstorm; 08-16-05 at 04:28 PM. Reason: typo typo.
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Old 08-16-05, 05:24 PM
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Yes, I would say carfree is part of simplifying my life.Cutting out unnecessary stress and focusing on what is important to me.Reducing consumption of resources and trying to live in balance with my environment rather than trying to control it or let it control me.
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Old 08-16-05, 05:28 PM
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For me it definitely was, once the car was gone and I realized I was going to be just fine without it I naturally started looking at other changes in my life that would simplify things.It isnt for everyone, but its worked for me.
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Old 08-16-05, 06:40 PM
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Originally Posted by pedex
For me it definitely was, once the car was gone and I realized I was going to be just fine without it I naturally started looking at other changes in my life that would simplify things.It isnt for everyone, but its worked for me.
I agree with you except for one thing -- I think it is for everyone -- they just don't know it. Really, I know people who live in mansions and have everything. They are just as miserable as I am.

Thoreau: "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation."

Studies by social psychologists show that people who win the lottery are ecstatic for a while, but after a few months, most are less happy than they were before they won. Yeah you do need some things to be happy, like maybe a nice bike and enough PB&J to keep the cranks turning. After that, you have to sit down and decide what else you really need, and what just gets in the way.
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Old 08-16-05, 07:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Roody
I agree with you except for one thing -- I think it is for everyone -- they just don't know it. Really, I know people who live in mansions and have everything. They are just as miserable as I am.

Thoreau: "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation."

Studies by social psychologists show that people who win the lottery are ecstatic for a while, but after a few months, most are less happy than they were before they won. Yeah you do need some things to be happy, like maybe a nice bike and enough PB&J to keep the cranks turning. After that, you have to sit down and decide what else you really need, and what just gets in the way.
I think it can "be" for everyone, and I know for a fact most people would handle it just fine if properly motivated, but in the US especially we still have 50+ years of latent brainwashing to overcome that is still quite influential.I was raised to avoid exercise, waste energy, get married, have 2 cars, raise 2.5 kids, and live in the 'burbs somewhere, right or wrong, unsustainable or not, this was what was expected,and to a large degree it still is, I see it and hear all the time.These days people like me in a midwestern city like this are basically a freak show as far as most are concerned.I think most can see the benefits and understand the motivation, but there is still a huge kinda detached feeling I get from some folks when they ask me about being a messenger and spending huge amounts of time riding on the street and being carfree.That kind of life just goes against everything most of us have been raised to believe and think, cognitive dissonance puts the jedi mind phuq on most folks when it comes to things like this.My relatives I think still dont get it, but for me, the bottomline is freedom,plain and simple, its freedom.
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Old 08-16-05, 08:13 PM
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I agree with what Roody & pedex just said. I think real wealth in this postmodern world is the time a person has to do as he or she chooses.
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Old 08-16-05, 09:37 PM
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The Lord Buddha taught that no matter how much of something you get, you will never be satisfied. You will always want more or something better. A key to happiness, then, is to separate yourself from your wants and desires. The mind will then no longer suffer from its inability to achieve happiness through the acquisition of "things." (I think George Carlin also does a good routine on our preoccupation with "stuff.")

Going car free is a nice, safe way to help untie yourself from some of the things you desire -or thought you desired; should you become too uncomfortable being separated from these things, you can always go back to living life through a cage. It's not for everyone, but for the rest of us it's a pretty good deal, eh?
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Old 08-16-05, 10:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Pampusik
The Lord Buddha taught that no matter how much of something you get, you will never be satisfied. You will always want more or something better. A key to happiness, then, is to separate yourself from your wants and desires. The mind will then no longer suffer from its inability to achieve happiness through the acquisition of "things." (I think George Carlin also does a good routine on our preoccupation with "stuff.")

Going car free is a nice, safe way to help untie yourself from some of the things you desire -or thought you desired; should you become too uncomfortable being separated from these things, you can always go back to living life through a cage. It's not for everyone, but for the rest of us it's a pretty good deal, eh?
Buddha didn't even get to see this accelerating spiral of wanting more stuff at its worst -- 21st cen. America. When I was a kid I had 4 channels of TV, a transistor radio, a movie once a month, and a parcheesi board. My grandmother felt that this was way too much stuff, too much stimulation for a child. Kids today have 120 channels of TV, sound systems and Ipods, cell phones and text, computers, video games and so forth. Are they any happier with all this stuff than children in my day were or in my grandmother's day? Of course not. Would they be totally miserable without it? You bet your ass they would. But I didn't have any of that stuff and I was not miserable. I didn't know what I was missing. But I have given up a lot of stuff in my life. Am I miserable without it? Absolutely not! Because I am a rational, somewhat enlightened adult. I have been blessed with an ability to discern what is needed for real contentment, and what it means to make ethical decisions about my life. I still have to struggle with this some of the time, but it really does get easier to determine what you really need, and what you must throw away or give away.
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Old 08-16-05, 11:31 PM
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Originally Posted by fallstorm
I'm pretty sure I pay several people's salaries at Barnes and Noble, and in my last bunch of books I bought a book on meditation and Thoreau's Walden and Civil Disobedience.
I can't remember the source of the quote just now, but it describes me pretty well. "Whenever I get money I buy books, then if I have anything left over I spend it on food and shelter." It's a good thing I got a job in a library.

Moving toward carfree is definitely a desire for simplicity on my part. I've given up TV, smoking, and fast food. I'm nearly vegetarian. Which means I occasionally will have some free range chicken from a nearby farmer. Going veg was more a health issue for me than an ethical one.
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Old 08-16-05, 11:40 PM
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Pedex and Roody, word!!

Yes for me it's a huge part of living more simply, things are great but after a certain point, things own you instead of the other way around.
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Old 08-17-05, 04:09 AM
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Simplicity is the greatest luxury.
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Old 08-17-05, 08:36 AM
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my priorities in life have definetely shifted this way. i've gone from wanting great tech stuff like stereos and cars, and lived in LA and wanted fancy job with good recognition. i moved back to denver six years, and no great thing happened to change me, i started concentrating more on living and experiences rather than recognition and stuff.

i've also had a nice stable job for the past six years - and where i'm surrounded by salespeople and other folks who ARE into collecting stuff and materialism, so it's a constant reminder of what i DON'T want.

but since i've moved back i've been able to save money/pay down debt and buy a house

luckily my sig. other and i share a car, i use my bike for work commuting, and the money i've saved has allowed for more savings, and my goal of traveling overseas more (one of my life goals)

so my lesson: by living simply, cutting out extraneous expenses, buying used, (used car, used books, etc). you actually live RICHER, through the things you end up being able to afford than mean things to you (like travel)
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Old 08-17-05, 08:57 AM
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Simplicity certainly counts with me. I have little use for the complex and competitive lifestyle so popular with my contemporaries. I am free to enjoy my life after work, and I've adopted a certain ascetism that definitely butters my muffin.

Personal health and enjoyment of cycling are also a big part.

In addition, I have a clear conscience because I'm not directly contributing to so many things that I consider 'evils' in this world that have to do with cars.
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Old 08-17-05, 09:15 AM
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definitely....

i don't like to own things that i can't fix myself.

i'm flummoxed by internal combustion engines, hence the departure in the last several years of the motorcycle, the car, and the power lawn-mower.

one simply doesn't need so many things. each of them weighs on you.

carfree can = simplicity, but it doesn't have to and often doesn't.

i have a friend who is rabidly carfree while being equally rabid about buying and owning other things -- 14 bicycles, 2 paddlecraft, a half-dozen computers, every electronic gadget known to man, huge home theatre, stacks of DVDs, and all sorts of other stuff. i'm sure that not owning and maintaining a car allows him to funnel cash into these other possessions. but mostly it's just because he hates cars and hates driving. for him, carfree is a negation of cars.

Last edited by svwagner; 08-17-05 at 09:25 AM.
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Old 08-17-05, 09:53 AM
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nothing wrong with that... i think simplicity is more a state of mind than what you own and don't own.

when someone owns boats, multiple cars, tons of different services that you have to pay monthly subscriptions for, it can be a job in itself managing everything. (insurance, taxes, etc)

i love flying planes, i have my pilots license, and been working on and off on my instrument rating. it's definetely expensive, and punchin holes in the sky out in the country isn't the most efficient use of time. but it keeps my mind sharp, i enjoy the practice and fast communication with air traffic. i've considered purchasing a share in ownership of an aircraft, but prefer to just rent them, as having to deal with owning one would just complicate my life.

i think if you live your life "simply", and keep focus of what's important in life, there's nothing wrong with treating yourself to your passion, whether it's old cars, planes, ships in a bottle or whatever makes you happy.
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Old 08-17-05, 11:01 AM
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Wow, I'm happy with how this discussion has progressed. As I mentioned in my initial post, really the only indulgence I want to beat is TV. Not so much for the content, there's good and bad TV like any other medium. The problem I have with TV is the commericals. They drive me crazy and I hate supporting commercial culture. I like to think I watch good TV (Nip/Tuck, The Shield, Starved, Rescue Me, The Daily Show), but it's still part of that icky commercial culture.
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Old 08-17-05, 11:26 AM
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Originally Posted by AlanK
Wow, I'm happy with how this discussion has progressed. As I mentioned in my initial post, really the only indulgence I want to beat is TV. Not so much for the content, there's good and bad TV like any other medium. The problem I have with TV is the commericals. They drive me crazy and I hate supporting commercial culture. I like to think I watch good TV (Nip/Tuck, The Shield, Starved, Rescue Me, The Daily Show), but it's still part of that icky commercial culture.
I watch public television, and listen to NPR. I cannot stand other programming. I feel that publc broadcasting is the least biased, and the best way to learn what is really going on in the world, besides reading the NYT and Economist. About the only regular TV show I watch is the News Hour with Jim Lehrer which I catch just about daily. On Fridays they have Mark Shields and David Brooks on for a commentary on the week's events - it is awesome, and will give you amazing insight into what's going on in the Capital.
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