living aboard is very much a marginal lifestyle in so many senses of the word. i must point out that liveaboarding is not the same as the cruising lifestyle. cruising is a middle-class privileged lifestyle-it takes a lot of scratch to earn enough to purchase a yacht, outfit it for cruising, and put enough aside to live on while you take off for mexico. most folks i’ve met that embrace this kind of life on the water were generally well educted professionals on early retirement. the rest of us seem more like people enjoying simplicity and often solitude. most seem to be bachelors. i have no idea how most live economically.
after 19 months of this, i can say that it is marginal-it’s can sometimes be cold, noisy and unsettling when the wind blows strong from the southwest. the galley is tiny and cramped. and it’s expensive. although the actual rent isn’t bad, the cost of the boat (this boat) is high, there are ongoing maintenance costs. and what’s more, i find we spend more getting out and getting off the boat, especially in the winter time. i refuse to spend all of my time huddled aboard, so i spend several hours in coffee shops.
at one time if felt rather proud about lessening my carbon footprint. i saw it as a moral good. and it’s nice not to have space to put stuff, so we don’t buy junk, lessening our consumption. of course if everyone did that the economy would tank. like about now.
old lefties/envirogeeks like myself tend to decry our civilisation’s wasteful, consumptive ways, but i’m starting to question the wisdom of that approach. while there is no doubt that we do consume too much and a lot of the world’s environmental degradation comes from that consumption, it’s important to realise that everything we consume – and that includes social services – is only posible due to the economy and the wealth it generates. moving aboard and the small hardships we face as a consequence of that, is nothing like waht we would face without modern conveniences. how many of us could survive a hunter -gatherer or primitive agrarian lifestyle? there is not an aspect of our lives that isn’t touched, that isn’t made profoundly easier as a consequence of the flow of money, even among the most disadvantaged of us.
in my last book i did a lot of research on peasant lifestyles of the early 19th century, and i cannot begin to imagine living with that kind of hardship. perhaps i’m just getting old.
to be sure consumption alone is focused too much on. it has become a value ingrained in too many people. while it is good to have junk, junk in itself is essentially meaningless, not a good in itself like some people think. as religion has faded, consumption seems in part to have taken over as a locus of morality, and a selfish one at that. there’s no way that story can have a happy ending.
fortunately we know that happiness and contentment have little to do with wealth, and so junk falls back into it’s rightful place. but that doesn’t mena that i still hold onto that older belief that consumption in itself is bad, or materialism for that matter. the more i look into the world the more i start seeing shades of grey and the less i feel like taking a stand for an ethic or value, because too often these things are contingent rather than absolute. people love to take stands, and god bless ‘em for their passion. but the guy ion the left is just as convinced he’s right as the guy on the right, and the corporate exec believes in what he does as much as the protestor that condemns his business.
sometimes things might really be black and white, but too often i think that just reflects the limits of my own thinking rather than a reflection of reality. adn imagining that i’m doing a good by living simply might just be a lot of antisocial hogwash.
i heard an interesting quote from the poet Shelly:
to be greatly good we must imagine clearly, must see ourselves and the world through the eyes of another and many others.
basically, what others – especially the downtrodden and poor from around the world – would say to us, what is expected of us is the prime determinant of whether we live justifiable and legitimate lives. there may be something to that. but then again, if i was condemned by a hungy man from Senegal – i would have to ask him “how do you know you wouldn’t do the same, or worse, if you were in my shoes?”
i see that the weird weather of the last month is finally moving on and we are getting back to seasonal normals. the forecast shows showers, then clearing followed by showers then clearing again. the usual pattern of warm fronts and cold fronts, warm fronts and cold fronts. the wind is from the southwest again and we are probably in for a bumpy, noisy night.