Don’t you see, the game is for losers! Winners play by their own rules.
Robert Wright, the New York Times online columnist and author of The Evolution of God, is pretty much what you’d call a cynic. That’s why I was surprised when he spoke with such reverence of the period he spent meditating at a silent Buddhist retreat. “When I came out, I was quite different,” he told me. “It was one of the best things I’d ever done.”
Apparently he doesn’t know what the fuck a Cynic actually is.
So here’s some help for him — and all of you:
CYNICISM. One of the strangest movements in all of philosophy is that of the Cynics who held that we attain happiness and tranquility by denying established convention. Known as the “dog philosophers” for living like dogs, Cynics denied conventions of wealth, reputation, pleasure, property, family duty, and religion. They were typically ascetics since they viewed money as an artificial convention. Of all the Eudimonean schools, Cynicism was the least systematized, having no official treatises; the descriptions we have were authored by people outside the school itself. Rather than making their points in written argument form, the Cynics themselves attempted to teach by example through their lives, which often involved deliberately shocking speech and conduct. Their goal was to grab attention and vividly illustrate the problems with established convention. Cynics used several metaphors to describe their self-appointed task. For example, they considered themselves as messengers of God, the watchdogs of humanity who would bark at illusion, and surgeons whose knife sliced the cancer of pretentiousness from people’s minds.
Antisthenes and Diogenes. The founding father of the school was an Athenian named Antisthenes (440-370 BCE), who first studied rhetoric under the Sophist Gorgias. Dissatisfied with Gorgias, Antisthenes soon gravitated to Socrates, bringing a several of Gorgias’s students with him. While a student of Socrates, he wore tattered clothes, had a matted beard and carried around a bag like a beggar. According to one anecdote, Socrates commented to him, “Why are you so pretentious? Through your rags I see your vanity.” Nevertheless, Antisthenes continued with this manner of appearance. After Socrates’ execution, Antisthenes started his own school, which captured some of the flavor of Socrates’ teachings in extreme form. Following Socrates, he focused on moral concerns and taught that virtue is needed for true happiness. Achieving virtue, though, involve mental and physical toil. In our quest for virtue, we need to exercise self-control, deny pleasures, and study the names of things and their definitions. Also like Socrates, as suggested by the above anecdote, Antisthenes saw foolishness in the established views of the many, and was bold in exposing his discontent. Antisthenes’ attacks on conventional politics were so strong that his school became increasingly unpopular, and many of his more scholarly students abandoned him.
The second great Cynic was a loyal pupil of Antisthenes named Diogenes (4th century BCE). Nicknamed “The Dog”, Diogenes followed Antisthenes manner of appearance and contempt for convention. A highly visible ascetic in Athens, Plato went so far as to call him as “Socrates gone mad.” Events of Diogenes’ life are sketchy. He was exiled from his home country of Sinope when he and his banker father defaced a coin. He arrived in Athens and sought to be a disciple of Antisthenes. Annoyed by Diogenes’ persistence, Antisthenes hit Diogenes with a stick, to which Diogenes replied: “Strike me, Antisthenes, but you will never find a stick sufficiently hard to remove me from your presence, while you speak anything worth hearing.” Impressed by this, Antisthenes accepted him into his school. Diogenes’ behavior was no less strange than his teachers’. He once embraced a cold statue in winter, illustrating how even our perceptions of pain are conventional. During the daytime he carried a lit oil lantern, holding it up to people, illustrating his search for a virtuous person. Another anecdote, of questionable historicity, describes how Alexander the Great sought to meet the strange Diogenes fellow that he heard so much about. Finding Diogenes living in a tub, Alexander said, “I am Alexander the Great” to which Diogenes replied “I am Diogenes the Cynic.” Alexander then asked if Diogenes needed any special favor from him. As the sun was shining brightly that day, Diogenes replied,” You could stand between me and the sun.” Alexander then said, “If I wasn’t Alexander, I’d want to be Diogenes.”
Some bookmarks here because I’m already drowning in them in my browser:
I would make a list of everything you want to pack around with you in your little house. My personal goal is to be able to pack every thing I own into 3 medium sized boxes.
Constructing a simpler life Inactive?
Apparently, not one Katrina Cottage has been built in New Orleans or Louisiana in the two years since the $75 million grant was awarded by FEMA to provide homes for those displaced by Katrina and Rita. BUT, in Mississippi, thousands of cottages have been completed with their $281 million grant. You might be wondering how that could be, and no doubt, Jay Shafer was right about this one: “Mississippi was able to avoid lengthy and complicated environmental regulations by putting their homes on wheels.”
Tiny houses are a captivating illustration of how wonderful a simple life can be.
I think my smaller life has offered me a clearer picture of the difference between what I want and what I need.
Google has let me down. I can’t seem to find any blog that’s devoted to folding furniture. Does anybody know of one?
Note: Even though I did this post in Chrome, I had to insert P and BR again. WTF Tumblr? Simple? No.
These tiny, micro houses have a strange appeal to me and every now and then I get the urge to read about them.
Here are some quick notes:
Costs are yet another reason why many seek to build Tiny Houses on trailers. With the elimination of building codes, you by proxy take out contractors, inspectors, permits and certified tradesmen. The average mark up of hired help is roughly 40%. Permits can run a few bucks to several hundreds or even thousands of dollars! Finally, inspections are also removed by pursuing the trailer route. With them in the equation, construction can easily come to a screeching halt quickly and bring lots of worry to the build site.
I’ve seen Habitat for Humanity build people some pretty small places. Aside from the volunteer labor aspect of that, how do they get around the entrenched costs cited above?
The only other special building consideration, after the foundation and bracing, for a little house on wheels is condensation. Unless they are insulated, sealed, and vented properly, small spaces are prone to a lot of condensation. It simply takes less time to fill the air in a small enclosure with the moisture caused by bathing, breathing, laundry, and cooking than it does to fill a large one. If that warm, moist air comes into contact with a sufficiently cold surface, it will condense into water. That is the reason that cars come equipped with defrosters, and that small houses need to be equipped with the right insulation, vapor retarders, and ventilation.
I hadn’t thought of that. These things get awfully complex for something that’s supposed to be so simple.
This chair works great for multiple uses because it’s completely adjustable. It has 13 different height settings and it folds flat for easy storage.
Having been an urban grid rat all my life, I like the idea of a small place without the encumbrances of “normal” homes — intractable neighbors, noise, too damn much to maintain, the threat of an overdue tax bill allowing the State to steal a home, too damned much stuff to buy to fill it, etc.
One of the dangers in me writing about all this, however, is the idea people might get that this is the Kaczynski Syndrome.
No. I like technology and I’d like a proper frikkin flush toilet and shower, not an outhouse or compost bucket. And high-speed Internet access. And I like the idea of no huge financial burden — rent, mortgage — hanging over my head.
Note: I had to add a bunch of P and BR tags here because the Preview formatting in Firefox 2.x was all wrong. I’ll have to investigate this further.
I find myself using this again and again, so here’s a post I can link to.
This is from Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.
She was silent, when she sat beside him in the taxicab. She looked up at the skyscrapers they passed. After a while, she said, “I heard that things like this happened in New York, but I never thought they’d happen to me.”
“Where do you come from?”
“Got any family?”
She hesitated. “I guess so. In Buffalo.”
“What do you mean, you guess so?”
“I walked out on them.”
“I thought that if I ever was to amount to anything, I had to get away from them, clean away.”
“Why? What happened?”
“Nothing happened. And nothing was ever going to happen. That’s what I couldn’t stand.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, they … well, I guess I ought to tell you the truth, Mr. Taggart. My old man’s never been any good, and Ma didn’t care whether he was or not, and I got sick of it always turning out that I was the only one of the seven of us that kept a job, and the rest of them always being out of luck, one way or another. I thought if I didn’t get out, it would get me — I’d rot all the way through, like the rest of them. So I bought a railroad ticket one day and left. Didn’t say good-bye. They didn’t even know I was going.” She gave a soft, startled little laugh at a sudden thought. “Mr. Taggart,” she said, “it was a Taggart train.”
“When did you come here?”
“Six months ago.”
“And you’re all alone?”
“Yes,” she said happily.
“What was it you wanted to do?”
“Well, you know — make something of myself, get somewhere.”
“Oh, I don’t know, but … but people do things in the world. I saw pictures of New York and I thought” — she pointed at the giant buildings beyond the streaks of rain on the cab window — “I thought, somebody built those buildings — he didn’t just sit and whine that the kitchen was filthy and the roof leaking and the plumbing clogged and it’s a goddamn world and … Mr. Taggart” — she jerked her head in a shudder and looked straight at him — “we were stinking poor and not giving a damn about it. That’s what I couldn’t take — that they didn’t really give a damn. Not enough to lift a finger. Not enough to empty the garbage pail. And the woman next door saying it was my duty to help them, saying it made no difference what became of me or of her or of any of us, because what could anybody do anyway!” Beyond the bright look of her eyes, he saw something within her that was hurt and hard.
“I don’t want to talk about them,” she said. “Not with you. This — my meeting you, I mean — that’s what they couldn’t have. That’s what I’m not going to share with them. It’s mine, not theirs.”