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Eudaimonia Offerings

22 Jul. 2013 Posted by Scott Selliers
green living, rural living, first time farmers, eco-dad, sustainable living,

The hardest part of making big changes in my life has come in being able to recognize the difference between my dreams and my practical day-to-day actions. As I try to make real the transition from a life of suburban consumerism over to a largely forgotten form of agrarian life, a life aimed at personal self-reliance, I am finding that to keep this difference between what I think it should be like and what it is really going to be like takes more than greenwash sloganeering and armchair slactivism; it seems to take an uncompromising dedication to compromise itself. So the question now is: Do these compromises all have to be sacrifices?

In moving to Middle Tennessee, we were going to need to select the terra firma in which to plant our new lives; the land upon which we could raise our personal Eudaimonia. Our moves prior in life had been part and parcel of our consumerism: how much does the bank say we can afford and which suburban plot screams Us to the world? But the considerations this time around were going to be far more esoteric; a dance was taking shape among considerations of proper soil, availability of water and to a less idealistic note, the inevitable commute. After all, the job making our change possible is in downtown Nashville, and arable land is scarce within a jaunt from the new office. Hence, the idealized concept of the Selliers Family as yeoman famers was going to have to play fiddle to the tune of a paycheck, and that paycheck always seems to be a carbon dioxide-belching commute away. What good is eventual self-reliance if its cost is more of what we were trying to escape? Ends cannot justify means in ecological considerations, for like snow in front of a plow, the more you push the heavier the load becomes.

Escape from the prospect of another term spent in the velvet trap of Suburbia came to us aboard the Music City Star, Nashville’s answer to commuter rail. My wife could ride the train out to the Great Wide Open and nix the excessive carbon emissions; we could live Out and still work In, as it were, all without increasing our carbon footprint. But, as I noted above, the give and take nature of making a dream a reality would have to be recognized. For us, it came in the earthly form of limestone: the train only goes to the east, and in Middle Tennessee the further east you go the rockier it gets. While our dream of agrarian bliss looked verdant green and gently rolling, the reality was going to have to include a few gray rocky patches and hard scrabble under foot. Deciding to take this all in stride, we decided not to view the rocky terrain as a sacrifice in the process of give and take. Instead we used this as a defining feature in the naming of the earthly manifestation of our idealized Eudaimonia: the land we found in rocky Wilson County as a bargain against commute would be christened Stonybrook. Our future would be bound in deed and title to a rocky piece of a former 100-acre homestead just outside of Lebanon, Tennessee; a location chosen in large part by the considerations of our daily commutes to work, as opposed to some dreamy idealism of where and what our land would be.

Such is the nature with all things Green: all things have their cost. It would be easy to throw our hands up and bemoan these costs as sacrifices . But viewing these bumps in the road as merely sacrifices we must endure, cheats us from the sublime experience of viewing our place in the world for what it truly is: what we make of it. The compost pile will smell bad. Sorting our trash into recycle bins will take extra effort. Making do with less will require going without the best of what’s around. Let’s think of these changes that reality demands of our dreams as offerings made of our ignorance up to the Greater Good.

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