I’m through with symbolic, feelgood, bumper-sticker activism; I’ve taken Phil Ochs’s I Ain’t a-Marchin’ Anymore to heart and I’ve left the “peace parade” marches and rallies with their tired chants and terrible speakers behind. I take a practical approach, learning about the tax laws and about how to live well by being down-to-earth and sensibly frugal.
How do I feel about my life now that I’ve gone from a $100,000-a-year urban playboy lifestyle to living on around $12,000? Money Magazine profiled me briefly, for an article they put out on how to avoid paying taxes. They concluded that their readers probably wouldn’t enjoy what they called the “ascetic lifestyle” that comes along with my technique.
If this is “asceticism,” asceticism is very underrated. The life I’m leading now is fuller and more enjoyable than ever; I have less anxiety (and less guilt about my taxes) and I feel like I have integrity, and I’m genuinely living a life of abundance.
For one thing, by being willing to take in less income, I am able to work fewer hours. It turns out that those free hours are much more valuable than the money for which I’d been trading them (and the more practice I get in living vigorously, the more valuable my free time becomes to me). Now, more of what I do with my life is for goals I think are valuable, useful, and interesting; much less is what I have to put up with for a paycheck.
I don’t have a one-size-fits-all strategy for abundance and fulfillment. But what I’ve learned is that by taking a more direct responsibility for your life and your effect on the world, by radically reassessing how your activities relate to your priorities, and by backing away from the consumer and job cultures, you can make your own life better and reduce your complicity in making other people’s lives suck.