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Deliberate Living David Huntley September 26, 2012

The Fault in Personal Anarchy Texts that concern counter-cultural individuals commonly highlight the theme of selfreliance; what makes one self-reliant, the impact it has on an individuals life, and the dangers of carrying that self-reliance to a point where it becomes more harmful than beneficial. This specific warning can be found in Matthew Crawfords closing remarks of Shop Class as Soulcraft, where he writes of the problems caused by overextended self-reliance. Such a sociable individuality contrasts with the self-enclosure that is implicit in the idea of autonomy, which means giving a law to oneself. The idea of autonomy denies that we are born into a world that existed prior to us. It posits an essential aloneness; an autonomous being is free in the sense that a being severed from all others is free. To regard oneself this way is to betray the natural debts we owe to the world, and commit the moral error of ingratitude. For in fact we are basically dependent beings: one upon another, and each on a world that is not of our making (Crawford 208). In Shop Class, Crawford pushed self-reliance in the form of becoming familiar with ones own belongings, thereby becoming master of your own stuff. This familiarity would require basic mechanic or hands-on knowledge in order to solve problems when things malfunction. In this sense, an individual becomes self-reliant in that they can find their own solution instead of needing an overpaid expert to handle it for them. In this specific passage, Crawford cautions against carrying this degree of self-reliance to a point of ingratitude, which results from striving for self-sufficiency, or an autonomous existence, in favor of self-reliance. The difference lies in

the mindset of the individual. While a person who desires to be self-reliant will do things for himself and share with others to gain goods and knowledge that they would not have otherwise experienced, someone who wishes to be self-sufficient wants to live entirely off of what he can create himself. The fault in this ideology, as Crawford illustrates in the excerpt, is that we are naturally dependent beings. No matter how miniscule the involvement, we rely on others to an extent that can never be fully severed. By ignoring this necessary interaction, beings desiring to become autonomous in turn become ignorant and ungrateful of the world that they were born into. When buying something in a store, we are relying not only on the person who made the good, but also the natural world for providing the necessary supplies. In the case of an individual striving to be self-sufficient, in planting a seed, he ignores the fruitfulness of the soil, which comes from generations of past fertilization from other farmers. This flawed thinking sets apart those striving for good in the way of becoming self-realized and reliant compared to those ideologically searching for a perfect, self-governed existence. In Farm City, Novella Carpenter strives to be self-reliant by growing her own food and bartering with others in order to obtain what she needs. She raises animals to kill and consume, relying on her own skills and knowledge to feed herself. Some readers believe that her squatgardening on land that does not belong to her mars her claims of self-reliance, but in accordance with Crawfords words of autonomous ingratitude, Novellas acknowledgment of the squat garden as a gift not only from the landlord, but also from the Earth, sets her apart as a self-reliant individual who is conscious of her natural dependency and ability. Carpenter also fully realizes her dependency on people, especially during her 100 yard experiment, when she becomes limited to solely what she can grow and kill. The experience showed her that while it was possible to survive on just what she could provide for herself, it was not enjoyable, and lessened her

interaction with others. Her dependence on the slaughterer and the chef also set her apart as a self-reliant individual who wanted to gain knowledge and experience to be able to provide for herself without becoming estranged from the rest of the world, where the mass of knowledge and experience lies. Novellas dependence on others, for advice and also for goods and materials, enriched her life and helped her become better at cultivating plants and animals. She depended on Willow for advice on gardening in the city, and in turn found out many methods of planting and growing, and also formed a connection to which she can go if she ever had a question or needed a tool or service. This supports Crawfords idea that desiring less interaction only results in blind ingratitude and a less fulfilled existence. The case of self-reliance versus self-sufficiency is slightly less apparent in Daniel Suelos experience, as told by Mark Sundeen in The Man Who Quit Money. Like Novella, Daniel wished to live in accordance with his personal beliefs, but the difference lies in those beliefs. Where Novella believed that growing her own food would bring enrichment to her own life and teach others the importance of knowing their food, Daniel believed more in the idea of money being an illusion and the fulfillment he would have in life without the stress and distractions of the monetary system. Suelo spent the majority of his adolescence and young adulthood struggling with his personal identity and belief system, eventually admitting to being gay and questioning the religious practices that he had grown up with under the guidance of his parents. With this experience and self-realization under his belt, Daniel was able to confidently make the decision for his life that quitting money would benefit his existence. Daniel depends less on others outright for food or companionship, but he also recognizes the extent to which he does need other people to survive. When he gathers scraps from garbage bins and sleeps on public taxpayer property, he is not blind to the process that was required to provide him with these

opportunities. While Suelo has been criticized for not giving back to the community, his role of consuming and using a small portion of our waste as a country could be considered his contribution to the relationship. This interaction enriches his life not only by providing him with food and shelter, but also by making him feel useful while pursuing his idea of a genuine life. Daniels appreciation of what he can learn from others is apparent in the interaction he has with the young man who came to shadow him. Although the man is there in order to learn the ways in which Daniel lived without money, Suelo has no problem joining him to learn his practiced martial art. Daniel, much like Novella, craved knowledge and was not too proud to ask questions or show interest in what others can do, which is why they both lived more fulfilling lives. Daniels situation differs from Novellas in the level and sense of dependency he had on the people around him. Whereas Novella directly interacts with neighbors in order to get knowledge and food, Daniel acts indirectly with others by consuming their waste and eating plants provided by the earth. In their differences, however, lies the basic similarity that all of the books share: the idea of self-reliance as depending on people to enjoy a more enriching life while still entertaining a degree of independence. Crawfords case in Shop Class as Soulcraft, while the mildest of the four, developed into the most effective example of the principle of self-reliance as opposed to self-sufficiency. Crawford relates his life experiences and explains his motivations behind opening up a motorcycle shop after earning a PhD in political philosophy. His idea of self-reliance as being able to manage your own belongings was a different sense of the term than Novella or Daniel adopted, but shared the same common principle of the benefits of interaction. In Crawfords story, he depended on his mentors and employers to gain the necessary knowledge for

understanding the vehicles and machines he eventually owned, and now depends on the same sort of people to ask his advice in order to make a living. This interaction ended up employing him, but without the mechanic job, the knowledge he gained would still be an invaluable part of his journey to self-reliance. Crawford exchanges less physical objects than Novella or Daniel did, but the basic act and motivation lie in the same place, outlining the idea that no matter what is physically exchanged, the exchange in itself is beneficial to both parties involved. These three cases present the benefits of human interaction in order to achieve selfreliance, while Chris McCandless journey to Alaska, written about by Jon Krakauer in Into the Wild, exemplified the faults in eliminating that interaction. Chris, who was young and idealistic in comparison to the other three protagonists, put more stock into not needing human interaction to become fulfilled than into actually being fulfilled. The contradiction can be seen when evaluating all four texts in this light that Chris, while putting more emphasis on eliminating all dependency on other people, depended more on human interaction than any of the others. Chris relied not only on others to hitchhike to Alaska, but also to make money that he naively claimed not to need, as opposed to Daniel Suelo, who lived completely without money but also acknowledged why it was necessary. Chris relied on others to feed and house him when he would stop in an area for a few months, unlike Novella, Daniel or Matthew, who all relied on others for tips or goods but never for survival or entire meals without giving back. Saying that Chriss lack of interaction with others was detrimental to his life would be inaccurate, because he had plenty of interaction before his trip to Alaska. The detriment lies in his way of thinking, that he could survive without the generosity that the people around him had showed, and not only that he could survive, but that he would be better off not finding beauty in human relationships, but instead in nature. While this concept may be true, Chris was ignorant to the interaction

required to follow the ethos through. Where Novella took from the land and gave back the fertilization and utilization back to the soil, Chris did not take necessary knowledge or respect for the territory that he could have gained from the locals, instead choosing to make his own assumptions based off of the fictional works of individuals who had never experienced it. Chris had an epiphany toward the end of his life, realizing what he could have gained from interacting with others, writing in his journal happiness only real when shared. Chriss experiences, while antithetical to the others, supports Crawfords idea from the opposing point of view. His lack of acknowledgement of the good he could derive from others crossed the line from self-reliant to autonomous, causing him to end his life before experiencing all the excitement that he had dreamed of.

Works Cited Crawford, Matthew B. Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work. New York: Penguin,2009. Print. Carpenter, Novella. Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer. New York: Penguin, 2009. Print. Krakauer, Jon. Into the Wild. New York: Anchor, 1997. Print. Sundeen, Mark. The Man Who Quit Money. New York: Riverhead, 2012. Print.