Advice from 1932

     Although it has hung in our kitchen for several decades the printed advice by Scott Nearing from seventy-six years ago is rarely noticed by anyone. The kitchen is a source of food and drink, not a library.  Yesterday, I accidentally knocked its frame from the wall and the glass shattered.  This presented me with an opportunity to re-read it. 

      Before a  reader rushes to a computer to inform me that Scott Nearing was an early twentieth century socialist who was booted from his teaching job because of his sympathy with communists, let me save time for us all.  I have read his autobiography, The Making of a Radical, and am familiar with the works of his critics as well as his fans. I don't subscribe to his socialist views.

      Nearing described himself as pacifist, a socialist, and a vegetarian. He wrote "I became a vegetarian because I was persuaded that life is as valid for other creatures as it is for humans. I do not need dead animal bodies to keep me alive, strong and healthy. Therefore, I will not kill for food."  Apparently his vegetarianism wasn't harmful.  He lived nearly three weeks beyond his 100th birthday and died on his own terms August 24, 1983.  

     His "terms" were simple.  When he sensed it was time to end life's journey he stopped eating.  In his last ten days he existed only on water.  No hospitals or doctors, just a peaceful exit at home with his wife, Helen, at his side.  

     In 1932 Americans were in a jam.  A full-blown economic depression descended on the country after the go-go 1920s.  It was also the year Nearing offered the advice that is sensible even seventy-six years later.  "Eliminate non-essential things," said Nearing.  "Keep distractions to a minimum."  His suggestion to "Do research and follow trends" may be misunderstood to mean that we should go along with whatever nonsense popular opinion is promoting, but he was really saying we should keep an eye on what's happening so we can avoid the pitfalls popular trends may place in our path.

     With a severe economic recession comes a desire by a lot of people to simplify their lives and escape the tangled burdens that nearly overwhelm them.  That's when they begin to discover people like Scott and Helen Nearing who "escaped the tangle" in the early 1930s and developed a self-sufficient lifestyle in Vermont.  The Nearings attracted a large following in the inflationary '70s and, although they are both deceased, we won't be surprised to hear of renewed interest in  their books, such as Living the Good Life.

    The Nearings believed that living a well-ordered simple life resulted in living a happy life.  The present economic turmoil may be the ideal time to experiment with the old axiom, "Simplify! Simplify!"  It certainly worked for them. 

     July 4th, 2008

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My Immigrant Relative
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Unionize School Children
Hucksterism Gone Wild
Unmanageable Religious Violence