Βy “like this”, I mean living unconsciously, recklessly, and mechanically. Living without intention, without deep thinking.
The new year had just begun. I found myself listening to the radio and people were moaning that 2023 wouldn’t have many long weekends except for the public holiday of Epiphany. When will it be perceived that people are living an intolerable life because of the capitalist system? When will the world revolt? When will we bring down the capitalist system that destroys our lives? We shouldn’t be waiting to truly live and enjoy life only during the public holidays and days off. If we are to live like this, then what is the point of living such a life? According to a 2019 survey of 34,000 respondents that came from 28 countries, it demonstrated that 56% of the respondents didn’t have any faith to capitalism and they believed it would bring more harm than good.
Albert Camus wrote: “Become so very free that your whole existence is an act of rebellion. “ Since October 2021, that’s what I’ve been doing, living off the grid, in the middle of nowhere, in an olive grove.
I did not draw this conclusion by myself though, not until a friend’s cousin mentioned that when he came to visit, and saw where and how I am living. He told me this fact at the time, and I have to admit that it pleased me, because it had never occurred to me. Obviously, a complete independence and self-sufficiency may never come. However, slowly, through online seminars and studying hard, while I also do some trials hands-on, I am learning not only how to produce food with respect to the environment and all the other animals [meaning without the use of manure (veganic gardening, vegan permaculture), but also how to make my organic waste -through composting it-, a soil of good quality to feed the land and the plants.
Nevertheles,, Perhaps the best thing I have succeeded during the last winter, is the fact that I managed to keep the tiny house warm for 2.5 months with wood from mine and my partner’s pruned olive trees, combined with dry wood that I gathered from the forest in the summer. The days when I picked up and gathered some olive branches which were thrown nearby by some ignorant people, and then used a hand saw to cut them in pieces in order to burn them on the stove, were the days that brought me great satisfaction and hope for a really self-sufficient life.
I decided to start this way of living while I was raised by parents and grandparents who had nothing to do with a farm life, they were all people with PhDs, people who never grew any food, I grew up living in an apartment, in a suburb of Athens, without having a village to go to, unlike to my other classmates. So, I started out with 0 knowledge but with so much will to learn, that I hope to achieve at least some of my goals while I am lenient with myself, of course.
Every year, I harvest the olives and I make my own organic olive oil, for which I am so deeply grateful. Undoubtedly, I could not make my own olive oil alone because it is a hell of a work, so I am more grateful to the people who help me, without expecting anything in return…(obviously I give them olive oil, but it’s important to distiguish them from others who offer to help with exchange some of the olive oil).
Once in a while, I eat my own vegetables but I must admit that I produce more in the summer than in the winter…
Another thing I learn and started doing is to cut wild herbs (the famous ‘horta’ that tourists eat in Greek taverns) from the field and I boil them (they are so nutritious) and I also took some botanical classes to be able to recognise herbs to collect every Spring / Summer/ Autumn.
Afterwards, I make tinctures and oil remedies from the herbs, which help us gain more autonomy: they provide us with all the vitamins we need and consequently we no longer need to buy synthetic supplements, they heal wounds etc.
These practices are part of-the so-called plant medicine (I have introduced them into the diet of my dogs too as they help them stay healthy as well).
Finally, I learned to make pickles which I introduced them into my daily diet, so that my gut’s microbiome becomes healthier, and my soul is also lighter, since ultimately our mental and brain health starts from the intestines.
All these things together take time and effort of course, but I do it all at my own pace, listening and respecting my body and my soul, my stamina and my mood.
As a result, this is how I got rid of the antidepressants that kept me alive for 6 years. Every 2 years I cut the dose a little bit while I had started trail running and winter swimming. At the same time I had already started living in isolated villages, away from society, keeping contact only with a few carefully selected people.
And somehow, after 5 consecutive years living a nomadic life by accident, I ended up where I am now and I started planting roots.
It’s not easy, no matter how great it sounds. It has many difficulties that you can’t imagine when you dream about this life, but if you persevere and don’t give up, you will be rewarded.
Most people will think, not everyone can do that. But I will not go into details here, I will not explain with hands-on examples and questions of how and why all this became possible, because these are of no concern to anyone. It is a personal matter based on death and pain, and noone should focus on a tree while there is a whole forest behind it.
As my mother was saying: “What matters the most is not what you go through in your life, but how you deal with it.” I learned that valuable lesson from a friend of hers, after she died…
There are many stories out there, of people who didn’t have anything or anyone in their life but they achieved a lot.
Children who escape from war zones and when they grow up they start to succeed and become rich (this is not a goal that makes sense to me but a lot of people find extremely important the financial aspect), people from poor families who once had to get cleaned in fountains or rivers, but they manage to start living today the life that they wanted while always providing support to the poor family…
At the end of the day, what matters the most is the courage, the bravery and the strength of one’s soul.To find the courage and build a meaningful life, to walks away from any unfair or morbid situation, whether it’s a family drama, a poorly paid work or just a job you do half-heartedly. The most important thing is that fear should not win because someone should not dream of the life they would want to live, but instead they should live the life that they dream of. Also, someone should never let anyone tell them whether or not they can achieve the dream, and whether or not they were lucky to achieve it. There’s no luck, we chase our luck and it’s all a matter of perspective.
Like many others, I also went through a phase of not stop being busy, I got a BSc and an MSc and a bunch of diplomas from seminars, I struggled to find a job, then eventually I found one, I quit soon after,I volunteered A LOT, then obtained other jobs, but always lost interest quickly and quit them, so after rethinking everything in life, I stopped wanting to work for anyone who didn’t embrace antispeciesism, especially after the most horrible experience working for an international humanitarian charity. And then, the dream job came to me on its own, a remote job, long before the pandemic, before telecommuting was normalised that is, and I worked as a researcher for organisations who fight for a better life for non-human animals. A meaningful job that you can do from home, at your own pace, and while being able to arrange your schedule as you wish. Half-time with full-time pay. Of course, I had always been hoping to find such a job, and in the end, the universe really does bring us what we ask for… as the neuroscientist Joe Dispenza explains in his book.
Therefore, the question is not whether everyone can do this, but why doesn’t everyone want to do this? We have romanticised workaholism and have forgotten what the joy of life is. “What do you do?” I ask, “I’m swamped / on the run” they reply…people who have children…and I wonder, why did they have children? To be away from home all day and barely make ends meet financially? So that they would never see their children? Children don’t want much, they want their parents by their side, they want love, food and play. Just like any other animal. Because yes, we are just another animal species…but people forget that and that’s where it all starts.
For how much longer will people live like this? Dreaming of escapes from a life built without intention, just following a narrative? Until when will people be eating the easiest, unhealthiest and quickest packaged food, without thinking about how it got to their plate (and I’m not taking vegan processed foods out of the equation)? Until when will people be getting on planes just to get their fix for a few days without thinking about the environmental costs borne by peoples in the global south, meaning those who never get on planes? Until when will they procreate “because he wanted to”, “because it happened” and generally without it being a conscious choice? How long before we stop allowing tourism to destroy local communities during high season and destroy the environment for good, so that the bourgeoisie can relax during their short holidays, leaving the places ravaged afterwards, off season, with a sense of abandonment? Until when will we allow ourselves to live with addictions? Addictions to mobile phones, social networks, internet games, cigarettes, alcohol, caffeine, chocolate… Industries that are all without a single exception based on child labour and environmental destruction?
For how long will the grind culture last? The romanticisation of workaholism, especially by women is at an all-time high. We wanted equal labour rights, we fought for them, or rather we still do, instead of fighting against forced labour!!! When will we eventually get out of the matrix?
I remember my life as a child, waking up at 6.30am for 12 years to catch the school bus and go to school. I remember my ambition to become someone great, like my ancestors, with the weight of their degrees from Harvard and the Sorbonne on my shoulders, not letting me dream of a peaceful life but setting 100 goals and when I didn’t achieve the first one, falling into severe depression. And when I finally did achieve it? Depression came back. Because happiness is not found in the school we attend, nor in a cool job with a fat salary. Happiness lies in the recognition of our intrinsic worth, in our self-worth which is none other than the fact that we too are social animals who have simple needs: to eat, to connect with other individuals of our species, to play AND TO REST.
When did rest turn into laziness? Who invented the concept of laziness basically and why do we accept it?
There is no other animal that works for someone else in order to survive. How long are we going to pretend that this is normal and OK?
Tricia Hersey, an impressive Black American woman, known as the Nap Bishop, through her account The nap ministry and her book Rest is resistance, invites us to rest, take long breaks from social media use (she stops using it every year for 2 months) and allow ourselves to just be. Rest, she claims, is a form of resistence. Because when we rest, great ideas are born. And she’s right. The system doesn’t want us to rest. It wants us exhausted. And we allow it. You can listen to her here (by the way, the podcast, For the wild, is excellent).
Diego Perez, from Ecuador, through his books Inward, Clarity & Connection and Lighter, and his Instagram account Yung Pueblo, invites us to meditate, to pay attention to our inner world, to look inside ourselves, and to work on our traumas, so that we can one day achieve healthier human relationships, and ultimately, a healthier society. When invited on podcasts, he talks about his relationship with his wife in a way I’ve never heard a man talk before. He talks about a relationship of solidarity, giving each other space so that they can both grow. When you read his story, you understand how from the addiction and distraction that addictions of all kinds offer you, you can become self-aware by practicing meditation or some other method of self-improvement. You just have to find the courage to accept the situation and be willing to face it. As he says in his writings, there are many ways to do it. Something that helped me will not necessarily help you, but there is an abundance of methods and tools out there. The question is, do you want to improve yourself? Do you want to live with intention? Do you want to reclaim your human relationships?
Nigerian psychologist Bayo Akomolafe, calls upon us to slow down the speed of our lives and allow ourselves time in silence, to sit with the pain we feel because of the climate crisis and all the injustices, abandon the frenzy to solve everything and see what we can learn from the Anthropocene (a proposed geological epoch dating from the commencement of significant human impact on the Earth’s geology and ecosystems, including, but not limited to, anthropogenic climate change). Then, ask ourselves how we can show up in our movements for justice, effectively, if “the ways we respond to the crisis are part of the crisis”?
Chris Christou, a Canadian with Greek roots who lives in Mexico, in his podcast The end of tourism, invites people from all over the world, and together they discuss the injustice and inequality that starts from the mere existence of tourism to the impact on the environment and the local community arising of our obsession to travel. He puts us through a thought process, challenges us to think about why we have such a need for constant travel (is there a connection between colonialism and travel maybe?), and together with his guests, asks questions that are not all answered. And that’s OK. Because the time has now come for humans to accept that we don’t know everything; we don’t have the answer to everything. We can simply ask the questions and in time the answers will be fermented. It’s important to just start asking the questions. To start talking about what we have been afraid to talk about for so long.
Dr Anu Taranath, from India, a professor at the University of Washington, has written the book Beyond Gult Trips: Mindful Travel in an Unequal World through which she calls upon us to think about whether it’s OK to travel from Western societies to countries suffering from poverty, in order to volunteer there. How much can the average white person, endowed with so much privileges, know about suffering in these places? The white saviour syndrome in a nutshell raises (more on that, as it relates to the environment, here) an issue that needs to start being discussed more often and more openly. If we want to help poor people, there are sadly some right next door. It may not be glamorous, it may not involve selfies with BIPOC in tropical places, but they need help too… What is ultimately the motivation that drives the average white person to Africa and Latin America through charities? To help or to stimulate one’s “Ego”’?
The American writer Aimee Lutkin recounts to the book “The lonely hunter – how our search for love is broken” the endless dates she went out with people and their effect on her psyche, something that she started only because she was being told at a dinner party when she was the only single person, that she won’t be alone forever, at some point she will find her partner. Before she had written the book, she wrote an article related to the incident, which you can read here. Again, through her, book a short narrative is evoked and here it concerns the narrative of the sense of normalcy that we are being fed, that life begins only if you find your other half / soulmate and until then, you better not stop looking for it. Her book shares also plenty of the findings from surveys and researches conducted by many scientists specialized mainly on psychology & sociology, who have investigated loneliness, polygamy, human nature, etc.
For how much longer are we going to allow living in a system that gives privileges to married couples (even worse, only to heterosexual married couples in Greece and other countries)?For how much longer are we going to stigmatize and shame people who are single, and mainly women who do not have children and live by themselves? In the modern times of dating apps, with femicides skyrocketing, it’s time for people to accept that women can be single if they want for as long as they want to, and their personal choice doesn’t pose any problem. Someone’s definition for family can their chosen family consisted by friends. In fact, friendships should be celebrated equally as the romantic relationships, without the need of getting married in a church or a city hall. Especially since the procedure of getting married includes paying a ton of money without gaining anything (and with the strong possibility that the marriage would end, which now happens in more than half of the marriages).
There are many more issues with the questions “for how much longer ” going around my head, but I’ll stop here for now. I will just finish the text with two more questions: for how much longer will we live in a world where it is acceptable for everyone to throw away their trash wherever they like? And, how long until someone who does not act this way but ignores of those who do and does not stop to pick up the litter? Finally, for how much longer will we be living in a world where someone abandons non human animals that once decided to adopt (or even worse, shop)? But most importantly, how much longer will we be feeding our pets, petfood that we have not bothered to look out about how and where it is produced and what’s in it exacltly? For instance, could a wildcat ever eat a calf or lambs? I don’t even want to go down the rabbit hole to the chemicals we buy and apply on their fur, monthly…
All this time, I am talking about living life with a lack of intention, as if we been programmed not to have a clear goal in life. For years we have been making hundreds of choices without thinking about them. Unfortunately, we do not take a step back to think and question again, to un-learn what we have been taught by a rotten system and to relearn from the beginning how to be closer to our nature. To finally learn how to become people with compassion, ethos and empathy.
Is it that difficult?
Elisabeth Dimitras (original text here)
Translated by Panayiota Mavroudi via Respond Crisis Translation