Saturday, July 17, 2010

Living Small

Yahoo! is running a series of uplifting love-thyself/Earth videos called Second Act where they profile a guy who is living super-small. Generally, this guy is harmless, and I find his dedication to his work and life to be impressive and honorable, but he's a limited case, for one thing, and for another, what he's doing isn't all that impressive. From an American perspective, it's amazing. Living in 100 square feet seems almost impossible.

The average American home is over 2,000 ft/sq. My rather modest home is still over 1,300, and he's living in 100. Incroyable! But this isn't really stunning in the grand scheme of global housing. Chinese workers live in not much more, and there are multiple people in those places. Japanese city-dwellers have whole families living in less than 1,000 ft/sq. Yes, he's pushing it to the limit, but only in America is his action truly remarkable.

And perhaps that's his point. America has so much space and so much money, we've lost our ability to properly put our lives into a larger perspective. Does the average family really need 2,500 ft/sq of living space. I can almost guarantee not. But when all of your neighbors have the same thing, we might sometimes think that we do.

Second, and perhaps most important, is that when he says "all he needs," he obviously doesn't need a lot. If he was an artist with one thousand pencils, brushes, and pens, would this still be all he needed? I doubt it. Would it still be all he needed if he wasn't single? Or would he have to double his space? What if he did audio production and needed speakers? Or if he was an aspiring chef? What was his job? A cashier. And what does he do, now? He apparently spends his time feeling self-important and, um, living. This is an incredibly low-energy style of living, both in input and output, and one that lends itself to a life spartan. I'd imagine that all of the people who are now big supporters of him and his work live similar, uneventful lives. Notice how one of them was a "sustainability teacher"... Right.

Still, setting aside the mockery of that last paragraph, I appreciate his work and what he's doing, I truly do. I find a lot wrong with it, and get more than a whiff of hippy self-righteousness, but the idea that he's espousing -you need less than you think- is a good one.

No comments: