We always expected our children to surpass their parents; after all, they have the advantage of standing on our shoulders, and of learning from our experience. And there's no question that they have, particularly in the academic and spiritual domains.

So I should not have been so surprised to find both of them carrying our family unconventionality further than we ever imagined.

Not that we were ever all that revolutionary. We followed most of Neil Postman's prescriptions, and those of Cal Thomas, though we were already well established in that lifestyle before we read them. Getting along on one income, and refusing promotions that would have disrupted family life were becoming unusual, even in those days, but not radical. Perhaps had we stayed in the Northeast, our Christian faith might have raised some eyebrows, but not in the South. The decision that we had better things to do than watch television, and our devotion to classical music, certainly set us apart. But more than anything else, what set our children on their radical paths was homeschooling. You don't question the basic assumptions of society in one area without opening others to inquiry; you don't teach your children to think differently about education and expect them to conform blindly in other areas; you don't give them a taste of freedom and think they won't look for other ways to loose their chains.

Heather and Jon chose to reclaim childbirth the way we reclaimed education. They paid a high price for their convictions, which made it all the more difficult for us to recognize how right they were. But, after much struggle, we came around with enthusiasm.

Thus it is that I am trying to maintain an open mind as Janet explores her own non-conformist path, which I will tentatively call reclaiming vocation, unless maybe it should be "reclaiming life in general." I find myself disagreeing vehemently with some of the literature she has shared with us, and some of it could scare me if I let it. But the homeschooling and home birthing communities have shown me that wherever there is a fringe, there is also a lunatic fringe, the existence of which does not negate the value of the basic idea. And from those with whom we have little else in common, we can still learn much.

With that in mind, I recommend checking out Ran Prieur's essay on dropping out of our crazy modern lifestyle. You can spend quite an interesting time wandering around his site. Many of his notions are just plain nuts, but there's gold amidst the dross. I like his insistence that you have to prepare intelligently for freedom.

The goal is not to get out of the prison, but to get out in a way that enables you to stay out. Be patient. Think ahead. Getting free is not like walking through a magic doorway—it's like growing a fruit tree.

Nor does he advocate throwing everything out, just what you don't need and don't want. He plans for his wilderness home, with no other externally-supplied utilities, to have satellite-based Internet service.

He has some good advice—as far as I can tell—for buying land.

I do think he's wrong about the benefits of "mindless" jobs and the advisability of separating vocation and avocation, employment from the rest of life. I think earning your living doing something you enjoy is an important and worthwhile goal. However, I agree there's no shame in doing low-paying or "lowly" work if it enables you to do whatever you find meaningful.

However crazy some of his notions, Ran Prieur is a RETHINKer with some valuable ideas.
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, July 24, 2006 at 10:23 am | Edit
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I find his observations more helpful than his solutions, though he's come up with some interesting ones. For example, he describes our modern lifestyle as "self-defeating, making money which they have to turn around and spend on unhealthful restaurant food because they don't have time to cook, on cars because they have too many obligations to get around by bicycle, and then on bicycles or health club memberships to make up for sitting in their jobs and cars all day." It's not fully true, but it says something about our lives.

Posted by Harp on Tuesday, July 25, 2006 at 6:19 am
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