After surviving another frantic holiday season, Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Mike VanBuren yearns for a bit of simplicity and a cheap way to watch TV:
After surviving another frantic holiday season, Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Mike
VanBuren yearns for a bit of simplicity and a cheap way to watch TV:
I went to a local electronics store to make a simple purchase. A friend had given me an old
outdoor television antenna. I needed a hundred feet of wire and a rotor kit to hook it up. I’d
never owned an outdoor television antenna.
For years, I’d been content with fuzzy-looking broadcast channels. I’d grown used to unfocused
double images of network news anchors. But now I had a chance to bring a little clarity to my
life. And I was determined to do so.
At the electronics store, the twenty-something clerk looked at me like, “You can’t be serious.”
He couldn’t grasp the fact that I didn’t have cable TV. He offered to fill this void by selling me a
satellite dish system. For a few dollars a month, I could get hundreds of channels.
But I didn’t want hundreds of channels. I was quite satisfied knowing that I’d be getting better
TV reception than ever before – and almost for free. But the clerk didn’t see it that way. In his
eyes, my lack of passion for personal improvement was a serious problem.
That’s the trouble with “consumer” cultures. Most of us have more than we need and don’t even
realize it. We’re constantly foraging for the latest gadgets, newest cars and biggest homes.
Never mind that such desires usually bring more headaches than they’re worth.
Even after 9-11 – when we probably should have been called to sacrifice and to conserve
resources for a larger war effort – the President of the United States told us to go shopping.
What’s that all about?
I think Thoreau had it right when he called upon us to “simplify, simplify.” After all, the essence
of our lives is not found in material things and technology – no matter how revolutionary they
are. True spiritual growth and contentment rise from uncluttered lives.
I’ve been reading lately about a movement known as “voluntary simplicity.” This involves living
– and having more – with less. More joy, peace, time, satisfaction and meaning with less money,
stress, possessions, competition and isolation.
It has nothing to do with depriving ourselves, or living in poverty. It has everything to do with
being content with what we have, finding joy in less and reconnecting with other people and the
natural world that sustains us.
Now, I’m as guilty as the next person when it comes to ignoring this advice. I struggle each day
against the impulse to buy things that I think will add joy and value to my life. They seldom do.
It’s usually the simple things that can’t be purchased in any store which mean the most. Things
like more time for family and community. Less worry about possessions. And greater freedom –
to live and grow and love without constraint.
It has been said that there are two ways to get enough – accumulate more, or desire less. Less, it
seems, is truly more.
And that’s probably the clearest signal I’ll ever get from that battered old antenna.
Mike VanBuren is an award-winning environmental writer living near Richland, Michigan.