This blog is about my own journey to sustainability—getting outside of the box and being more authentically human. It’s about not viewing 'wealth' as money, but as something much more holistic and broad. The ideas presented here come from my newest book, The Good Life: How to Create a Sustainable and Fulfilling Lifestyle.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Forward: by Greg Joly

Here is the Foreword, by Greg Joly, to my new book, The Good Life: How to Create a Sustainable and Fulfilling Lifestyle

"The good life is more than a yearning for the good, the
beautiful, the true. It includes decision, will, determination,
and effort, individually and collectively, to be clear
regarding the theory as well as successful in practice…
aiming at that integration of thought, the word and deed
which is the expression of wisdom and the basis of
serenity and inner peace."


—Scott Nearing—

Where does the human heart find its greatest repose and happiness? Within the maelstrom of consumer fetishism and consumptive excess, or in a principled life whose actions are measured in the industrious accumulation of daily joys? The answer arrived at to this inquiry will tempter the reader’s response to this book. If your answer is the former, then your consumerist education by mass-media advertising is complete. If you answer the second, or even yearn for such a life, then this book will provide a clear hearted story of how individual self-introspection twinned with the labor of the hands can fulfill not only one’s personal needs, but also healthfully effect other’s lives, be they human, animal or mineral. And in this saga of Ackerman’s sub-zero mornings in mid-winter Vermont, hours spent in the tending and gathering of foodstuffs for family and attendant beasts, the quiet satisfaction of a child thanking her for his upbringing by not only discerning her actions but also decoding the principles she employed to teach him, and the pasture beauty of a night with Saturn jewelling Mt. Shasta skies, you will find an individual intelligence searching to plan, build, struggle with, re-envision, strengthen and variously evolve a humane good life. Through this book, Ackerman weds the work of the hands with the considerations of the mind. She demonstrates the useable vitality of philosophy by taking Heidegger, Plato and Sartre out to the wood shed and using them to sharpen the tools properly. They take an edge and as with any well-cared for tool the work goes easier and with greater purpose.

How better to view a book than as a useful tool? I view this volume as a practical course in radical stability through voluntary simplicity. Freedom cultivated through a consideration of the tensions between conditioning and consciousness. The late-Empiric United States juggernaut that threatens to complete its subconscious terminator-like mission can only be turned from its Apocalypse by the concerted response of communal individualism, what Victor Turner terms an independent domain of creative activity. Does this seem woefully inadequate to meet our present situation? Certainly, but what other course is left to us? And what other course could fulfill our visions beyond a welter of market necessities, collateralized debt obligations and the stagnation of enforced unemployable redundancy. To this end Ackerman unthreads the beliefs which drive our internal calculus concerning time, money and wealth, then proceeds to examine how she reconstructed her own internal mindscape so as to be able to see the “world” more clearly and thus be able to interact with it on a deeper and more health-fulfillling manner. Yes, yes, I here you say, but what does he mean? Take horse bedding. The expense of it. The faults inherent in various materials. Now take the keenness of a self-disciplined thinker who has incubated a program of rational thought. Ackerman sees the waste paper generated at a local college, carts the “waste” home, beds her horse in it who voids his waste onto it and which she then cures into the world’s true gold--compost. If we cannot find such creative ways of dealing with our daily “wastes”, then we will allow the juggernaut to carry us into the chaotic abyss of environmental collapse. In the exercise of urine mindfulness, Ackerman shows us how to see where we are so that we can decide what direction is truly in the best interest of ourselves and nature, rather than what is economically expedient.

Thoreau observed: Is not the poet bound to write his own biography? We do not wish to know how his imaginary hero, but how he, the actual hero, lived from day to day.”—October 21, 1857. Excepting the gender, how well this applies to Ackerman’s work. Here we have an honest, forthright, detailed, considerate philo-manual biography which provides the reader with not the good life, but a good life. This is not a manual as to how to live your life, but a concordance of ideas and processes by which you can envision a new lifeway in a practicable manner; a culturing of the soul that provides us the possibility of a transformed social structure just when the horizon seems, if not downright uglified, bleak. Dumas wrote: The soul forms its own horizon. Sherry L. Ackerman has revealed the astro-mechanics of her journey so as to assist us in our own cross-grained, yet ultimately rewarding, life-long epoch traversal.

—Greg Joly

Maynard Hollow, Vermont
May Day 2010