I loathe life-style blogs. In fact, I expend an inordinate amount of effort avoiding them — or, if unable to avoid them, mocking them mercilessly. We seem to be awash in life-style bloggers, instagrammers, influencers, experts, gurus, and brands, don’t we? Everyday another overproduced chit appears in our feeds to remind us of our social indenture, our psychological maladjustment, our moral failings, our inadequate tastes, and our paucity of skills.
Those who know me best are aware that while I have strong practical and æsthetic principles, I’m not one to lord them about. We’re all of us struggling to balance between the competing interests of our lives, to filter out the voices of reason in the din of the madded crowd, to find and hold fast — which is always the hardest part — to some stabilizing rule of life. The truth is: Life is always difficult. Happiness is never permanent. Today’s solutions become tomorrow’s problems. And we are along for the ride, making the most of circumstances largely beyond our control.
As the great naturalist John Muir put it, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” Everything we do, everything we are is inextricable from everything else. Make any one choice and there will be unforeseeable consequences all the way down to the turtles. And this realization, which we too often have — or at least feel like a dead weight, even if we can’t articulate it — is paralyzing.
We’re sold a thousand variations on the theme of self-improvement, untangling the knots and lifting away the burden. We’ll live longer, healthier, more satisfying lives if we just eat enough of this thing and abstain for that other. If we fix our energies on experiences not stuff, we’ll be happy. If we make a difference in the political realm, or we are intentional about our consumption, or we check the privileges of our relative abundance, if we measure out with coffee spoons the carbon we’ve produced, if we do x, y, or z, we will be happier.
Life-style, how we choose to live and act, where we choose to devote our time and our money, is the key to earthly pleasure, we’re told. And tens of thousands of people are lining up everyday to help you change yours. Fix your life with ten easy solutions to clutter, twenty remarkable life-hacks to maximize your potential, and the revolutionary secret to working less and living more. Frankly, I think it’s a heaping pile of putrid horseshit.
And, so, after listening to dozens of friends and family harp on me for years to start a lifestyle blog with DIY tips, tricks, hacks, and ennui-inducing wisdom, I’ve made the not at all hypocritical decision to do so, with one significant caveat: I’m not trying to improve your fucking life. Nothing you do will save you from the constant slog of being human.
What I do propose to do is document my personal philosophies and how I live and fail to live up to them in very practical ways. I will impress upon my readers — should they ever become more than a figment of my imagination — that we are moral beings and this is our curse and our blessing. We must choose between courses of action, we must weigh the advantages and disadvantages latent in those choices. Our choices will never perfect, the outcomes will never be quite as we expected, and we’ll very often be ignorant of their wider ramifications.
Occasionally, we will be happy; most of the time we must learn to be content, dare I say, accept that we’ll often be unhappy, and that the narrative of our emotional lives will never be one of unceasing highs and unmitigated ecstasy. I’ve found that most of life is frankly rather mundane; that most of it is maintenance of our health, our wealth, our homes, our dependents, and conditions. And, so, if I propose to subscribe to any purported life-style, it’s this: To derive as much satisfaction and contentment as possible while being radically imperfect and fallible creatures with unknowable expiration dates.
I find this tends to pivot around a sense of place, an oikophilia — or love of home, and long-term commitments to cultivating and maintaining reasonable and relatively modest outcomes. More so, perhaps, it demands a mature capacity to be disappointed by other people, by changing circumstances; and a readiness to adjust course, to accept defeat, and to feel a little less enthralled to our individual dignity and worth being measured by how successfully we meet someone’s arbitrary criteria for a irreproachable life.
”The great end of prudence is to give cheerfulness to those hours which splendour cannot gild, and acclamation cannot exhilarate; those soft intervals of unbended amusement, in which a man shrinks to his natural dimensions, and throws aside the ornaments or disguises which he feels in privacy to be useless incumbrances, and to lose all effect when they become familiar. To be happy at home is the ultimate result of all ambition, the end to which every enterprise and labour tends, and of which every desire prompts the prosecution.Samuel Johnson1709–1784
Within these pages, I will enthusiastically feature my experiences at home in the kitchen, in the work shop, in the nursery, among my books, in the garden; with friends and family and neighbors and colleagues; with churches, community organizations, and local politics. I hope it will be possible to illustrate that we can shape our lives and influence our communities without superstructures of impenetrable ideology that segment us into miserable tribes of self-righteousness, more ready to shame for non-compliance and non-conformity than to build strong bonds of interdependency and mutual respect.
I hope rather than some imitable life-style performance, carefully curated and managed, something a little more humane; dare I say, holy — or if you prefer wholesome or holistic: An anti-life-style blog, one that is more concerned with being enough, being sufficient, being adequate, being moderate, inexcessive, and accepting the mediocre and middling for what it actually is, to be average, to be ordinary, to be nothing more and nothing less than sorrowfully, joyfully, conflictedly, maddeningly human.
Welcome to the House of Motherfuckin’ Bond.