Leaving Babylon

11/19/2008 at 8:10 pm (thoughts)

Eleutheros calls the ridiculous consumer culture Babylon. You really should read his blog to find out why. But I like the term so I hope he doesn’t mind if I start using it too, it sure is a lot easier to say than “ridiculous consumer culture.”

My wife and I have been working towards living lives as far outside of Babylon as possible. It’s been a long journey but we’ve been making baby steps. Our main problem has been that we get ourselves to a certain point, and then one thing or another will happen and we will plunge headfirst back into Babylon.

Thankfully we always come back to our senses and start working our way out again. This time though, we’ve definitely gotten it through our head that we want nothing to do with it.

Through reading Eleutheros’ blog, and through my own interactions with folks I’ve really been thinking lately about how totally different the mindset is between us and the Babylonian.

A neighbor can’t understand why I’d choose an axe or scythe over their motorized counterparts, I can’t understand why he’d want to have to leave home to earn money in order to operate noisy, smelly machinery.

Noel’s family came for a visit this past weekend. They cannot understand why we have blocked nine-tenths of the house off for the winter. I cannot understand why anyone would want to pay exorbitant amounts of money to heat a gigantic house when a human being can only occupy a couple square feet at a time anyway.

The mindsets needed for the two different lifestyles are complete and polar opposites.

Noel and I have been working on leaving the mindset since just after our marriage, going on 12 years now. As I mentioned we’d make progress then slip back along to where we were before. Eleutheros makes the point that it is very important to make progress and then “tie a knot” to ensure that you do not slip past that point again.

But the transition between the mindsets is not easy. And it is not very pleasant either.

You’ll have friends and family, “why do you do such and such? Why can’t you just be normal?”

You’ll have the world in general looking down upon you and constantly trying to make you into one of its own.

And you’ll battle your own inner demons as well.

In my opinion, one of the most essential steps is also the most hard: Having a clear vision.

It is essential in that you’ve got to have a clear idea of what you’re working towards. It is the hardest in that — at least for me — you don’t necessarily know at first what it is you want to accomplish.

Noel and I started out just trying to live a simpler life and not have to be chasing after money all the time. It has evolved into a deep-seated feeling that there is something wrong and unsustainable about the way the modern world lives.

If we would’ve had the vision that we have now … if we would’ve known then what we know now … if we’d been able to read the writings of the people that we read now … if we’d had the experience we have now — a whole lot of “ifs” — we would’ve been settled on our land living life the way we want.

But we only had the vaguest notions about what we wanted to accomplish. And the worse thing of all was that at some points we thought we could accomplish those things within Babylon’s rules, which is flat not possible.

So it is of prime importance to anyone hoping to leave Babylon behind that you create a set of guidelines. A list of what you want to accomplish and maybe even why. And stick to it! Once you reach one milepost, tie that knot and don’t slip back down again.

So I’m going to take my own advice and I’ll start my list right here:

  • No power tools or machinery
  • Produce all of our own food
  • Disconnect from “the grid”
  • Be water self-sufficient

See, it’s a simple list. But if we’d had that when we started out, we would’ve saved ourselves a lot of grief … maybe.

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4 Comments

  1. sammi said,

    You sound alot like me about 10 years ago, I havent gotten out yet (if ever) and I have lost a bit of energy but i still want OUT.

    How do you feel about healthcare?

  2. Nick Wright said,

    You sound alot like me about 10 years ago, I havent gotten out yet (if ever) and I have lost a bit of energy but i still want OUT.

    The hardest change of mindset that I’ve gone through was the one where I realized that the only thing keeping me in Babylon was me. I’d make excuse after excuse, “I’ve got to make money to do this, I’ve got to do this thing their way.” But in reality it was just me unwilling to make the break. And I still struggle with this. Babylon’s “goods” make for the illusion of an easy life, and a body has a way of becoming addicted to them.

    How do you feel about healthcare?

    I think being healthy is a wonderful thing to be. My wife and I are very rarely sick. Living in close proximity to the real world around you, preparing your own food, doing real manual labor does that for you I believe.

    But I have a feeling that you are referring to the modern Babylonian medical establishment which has exceeded in prolonging the length of a person’s life. But at what cost?

    I should note that only twice in the past 12 years have I been truly sick, and both times were the direct result of playing in Babylon’s sandbox.

    Modern healthcare providers and insurance companies have created themselves quite the little scam in my opinion. No one can afford “healthcare” any more, so they have to purchase insurance. And then insurance doesn’t pay for the “healthcare” in many instances anyway. The last time I went to the doctor netted me a bill of almost $1,000 and several hours spent in the hospital only for them to tell me to go home and wait it out.

    So needless to say I don’t have a very bright view of modern “healthcare.”

    My wife, on the other hand, is becoming quite the herbal wise woman. And she can fix me something for what ails me, should I ever ail. And just about anything she needs can already be — or will be soon — found in the backyard.

  3. Matt Davis said,

    Hello Nick,

    I came across your blog through your comments over at Scott Terry’s and Pastor Brett’s blog.

    First I’d like to say that I rejoice in your conversion. It is a blessed thing to hear of God’s saving grace on others. May He richly bless you and your wife in your life and may you honor Him in all that you do, say and think.

    Second, I’d wanted to tell you that I admire that you still hang around the Reformed Agrarian blogs after the tongue lashing you took. We reformed guys are often willing to defend our beliefs to the death if need be. That can be a good thing and a bad thing sometimes. BTW, I agree with the Pastor’s and Scott’s take on armed insurrection when done properly. :o)

    Third, are you Ozarks Nick? If so, your original blog was one that I used to frequent when the idea of agrarianism first started entering my mind. I had discovered it shortly before you (or he) stopped posting… must’ve been about three years ago as that was right around the time of Hurricane Katrina. All time down here (New Orleans area) is listed as Pre-Katrina and Post-Katrina.

    Lastly, This post really hits home with us. We (my wife, I and our eight children) live on 1/2 acre in a suburban/rural subdivision in a house that we still owe about 96K on (but are trying feverishly to sell). One thing that there is no doubt about… you will NOT EVER free yourself from Babylon while in debt to her. That may sound obvious, but it wasn’t to me at first.
    While I am in agreement with much of what you said in this post, I do think that time needs to be factored into the argument concerning machinary and grid power. I paid $600.00 for a chain saw 3 years ago. I’ve purchased 2 new blades and 1 new bar since then. I can fell an oak tree up to 3 feet in diameter and cut it up for firewood using less than $10.00 worth of fuel. A red oak tree that sizewill give two families of my size enough wood for two cold winters down here and then some. Granted, it doesn’t get very cold here, but we do not use anything but our yuppy style fireplace for heat. I also just built a fantastic greenhouse out of PVC and several rabbit hutch frames using power tools. It could all have been done without power, but at what cost?
    My philosophy is this… take what need from Babylon when you can and leave the rest. I am personally not interested in getting “off grid”. I am, however, interested in reducing our dependence on electricity to the point that if we had to, we could do without.
    Maybe my views would be different if I didn’t spend 50-60 hours a week working for Babylonian coin. Then again, maybe if my views were different, I wouldn’t have to spend so much time working for Babylonian coin. It’s a catch 22.
    We have, by the grace of God moved beyond worrying about family and friends asking “why do you do such and such? Why can’t you just be normal?” As a matter of fact, we all kind of like being peculiar.

    In Christ,

    Matt Davis

  4. Nick Wright said,

    Hello Nick,

    I came across your blog through your comments over at Scott Terry’s and Pastor Brett’s blog.

    First I’d like to say that I rejoice in your conversion. It is a blessed thing to hear of God’s saving grace on others. May He richly bless you and your wife in your life and may you honor Him in all that you do, say and think.

    Thank you.

    Second, I’d wanted to tell you that I admire that you still hang around the Reformed Agrarian blogs after the tongue lashing you took. We reformed guys are often willing to defend our beliefs to the death if need be. That can be a good thing and a bad thing sometimes. BTW, I agree with the Pastor’s and Scott’s take on armed insurrection when done properly. :o)

    I was inappropriate. I was riled up on the subject already and found his post and well … you know the rest.

    I read a good deal many blogs with whose authors I do not fully agree (many with whom I rarely agree at all in fact). It’s a practice I highly recommend, if a person can avoid making the mistake I did.

    Third, are you Ozarks Nick? If so, your original blog was one that I used to frequent when the idea of agrarianism first started entering my mind. I had discovered it shortly before you (or he) stopped posting… must’ve been about three years ago as that was right around the time of Hurricane Katrina. All time down here (New Orleans area) is listed as Pre-Katrina and Post-Katrina.

    Yes, I am Ozarks Nick. I quit blogging on that blog for a while, then after I returned to Christ I deleted it.

    Lastly, This post really hits home with us. We (my wife, I and our eight children) live on 1/2 acre in a suburban/rural subdivision in a house that we still owe about 96K on (but are trying feverishly to sell). One thing that there is no doubt about… you will NOT EVER free yourself from Babylon while in debt to her. That may sound obvious, but it wasn’t to me at first.
    While I am in agreement with much of what you said in this post, I do think that time needs to be factored into the argument concerning machinary and grid power. I paid $600.00 for a chain saw 3 years ago. I’ve purchased 2 new blades and 1 new bar since then. I can fell an oak tree up to 3 feet in diameter and cut it up for firewood using less than $10.00 worth of fuel. A red oak tree that sizewill give two families of my size enough wood for two cold winters down here and then some. Granted, it doesn’t get very cold here, but we do not use anything but our yuppy style fireplace for heat. I also just built a fantastic greenhouse out of PVC and several rabbit hutch frames using power tools. It could all have been done without power, but at what cost?
    My philosophy is this… take what need from Babylon when you can and leave the rest. I am personally not interested in getting “off grid”. I am, however, interested in reducing our dependence on electricity to the point that if we had to, we could do without.
    Maybe my views would be different if I didn’t spend 50-60 hours a week working for Babylonian coin. Then again, maybe if my views were different, I wouldn’t have to spend so much time working for Babylonian coin. It’s a catch 22.
    We have, by the grace of God moved beyond worrying about family and friends asking “why do you do such and such? Why can’t you just be normal?” As a matter of fact, we all kind of like being peculiar.

    Another important thing I’ve come to realize recently is that there are two kinds of “being in debt” to Babylon.

    The first is where you owe money to Babylon, like your mortgage.

    The second is where you owe part of your living to Babylon. Which is what you are doing when you are relying upon a Babylonian tool to provide some part of your living, as in the case of your chainsaw. Because no true Babylonian tool will ever just let you get by with the initial purchase. A Babylonian tool always requires some kind of commitment to purchasing other items in the future (chains, blades, fuel, oil, parts, etc).

    The thing that made me realize this was a current situation we are facing. We are currently purchasing two houses. One in Missouri will be paid off in less than five months. The second where we are currently living in Kansas will be about 15 years if paid at the scheduled rate.

    But the house in Kansas is about a mile and a half from everywhere we really need to go. Therefore we do not have to own a motor vehicle, and we do not. In Missouri the house is about 8 miles from the closest town, so some kind of motor vehicle would be a necessity.

    By owning and using a chainsaw you are putting yourself in debt to (yoking yourself to) Babylon because you have to go to that world in order to supply yourself with the items necessary to run the tool (fuel, oil, etc).

    As for the time thing. Time is one of the primary reasons that I choose to use human-powered tools over motorized ones. It’s simply a matter of perspective. The debt that I would place myself in to use a power tool would require that I spend time away from home earning coin to pay the debt. My human-powered tools require no such thing.

    You ask what the cost would be doing a job with manual tools. I ask what is the cost of doing it with power tools? And as I see it, the cost is being forced to be away from home for an extended period of time in order to earn money so that I can come home and do the things that I should’ve been doing instead of being “at work” a little faster.

    You say you will take what you need from Babylon and leave the rest. I hope you count the true cost of the things you take from that world. Is being away from your family for 50-60 hours per week really worth being able to cut enough wood for two years in a few hours?

    All the best to you and yours. May God bless and guide your way.

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