Unemployed and Boiling Life Down to the Basics


Unemployed. Cut loose. Sacked. At liberty. In between work. Job seeker. Jobless. Wage-free. Laid off. Let go. Transitioning. Writer.
Each of these describe my current situation, but terrifying says it best.
Henry David Thoreau, in his grand experiment at Walden Pond, sought to “drive life into a corner,” and reduce it to its simplest terms. He feared the prospect of getting to the end of his life and discovering that he had not really lived. Rather than managing a complex life defined by the acquisition and maintenance of possessions, he advocated so simple an existence that if an enemy were to take the City of Duluth, we could walk out from the city limits empty-handed and without anxiety.
In Thoreau’s case he had the luxury of doing the driving. In my case unforeseen circumstances are driving life into a corner. The news came without a moment’s notice, and you dear reader would do well to consider your plan B.
It is best to view this as a great adventure pregnant with opportunity, rather than to go kicking and screaming into a transition that doesn’t produce desirable results.
This opportunity has provided further impetus to my family to further reduce life to simpler terms so we can have the space to pursue our dreams. As Sigurd Olson counsels so effectively in Reflections From the North Country, complexity robs us of time and energy by making life so involved with the unessential, the real things are forgotten and unseen.
The sudden influx of time has enabled me to work on the finishing touches of my first book, which details a grim childhood in a home filled to the brim from an extreme case of hoarding. Seeking companionship, I shared my bedroom with over 100 animals that flew, crawled, and swam. Out-of-control populations of parakeets and finches flew loose while dropping their “payloads” on the large target that was my bed.
It was a chaotic life. Adulthood has been a great pruning of the unnecessary in a quest for simplicity. The second half of the story is about redemption, and a nine month period in which I removed myself from school and the status quo to be rebirthed while living in a cabin near the Gunflint Trail.
This latest trial brings simplicity in the form of humble circumstances. Humility is a necessary component of the well-lived life, and while learning ideas that promote it are beneficial, nothing beats actually being brought low and living it. Humbly embrace the wisdom that these circumstances bring. Buy nothing, and more fully enjoy the blessings you already have. Make no effort to hide behind a facade. Mother Teresa didn’t learn humility by reading about it.
The words of scripture ring with more resonance now:
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those that mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
By being poor and finding it necessary to trust for all provision, we should be able to open our hearts further to the billions around the globe that are truly shackled in poverty. I find myself connecting with them in some way as I embrace the time-consuming task of hanging a load of socks on the clothesline to save a mere quarter. Something as luxurious as a clothes dryer would consume an entire year’s wages or more for most of the world..
Back-to-school shopping is an entirely different experience now, as is virtually everything else. My prayer is that our family will learn from these circumstances rather than wish them away.
Financially we are forced to distill every purchase down to the bare necessities, and these purchases are paired with life choices that more closely resemble our values. If my family let me, we’d sell our car in a heartbeat. That would certainly reduce financial obligations more than my single clothesline!
I invite you to connect with me on http://www.eddygilmore.com, and share any ideas or experiences of your own. Paths out of unemployment that run through local business and entrepreneurship are particularly exciting to explore. Cheers!

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