The Dilemma, and the Move      Sandra J. Stowell, 12/29/00

So what is sin? In the U.S. today, gluttony may be the only society wide sin, and one well practiced (I don't exclude myself here!). However, I choose a more personal interpretation of sin. As an agnostic, with little in the way of structured dogma to guide me, I grope for truth; what is sin, what is selfishness, what is good?

One sin is to live in self-imposed frustration and repression. To live an unrealized life, to be unsatisfied day after day, to live a life of regrets. I do not refer to self-sacrifice; there may be good consequences from giving up desires for a good cause. I won't even argue that constant, lifelong self-sacrifice will always be negative eventually. I refer instead, to a life unrealized due to fear, cultural expectations, or simple habit. Surely this is indeed a sin.

So after this grandiose opening, how have I left a life of such sin? Have I really?

I refer to my departure from city life, from a 40-60 hour work week, from captivity in a consume and spend cycle, and from a routine that seemed doomed to last for another fifteen years until early retirement. Over six years ago my partner and I started to prepare for a major lifestyle change. We purchased a lot in a cohousing community in Port Townsend, a gorgeous small town on the northeast top of the Olympic Peninsula. We sold our Seattle home to fund building a new home, and some three years ago, I left my safe, salaried job at Boeing.

Now our strawbale home is more-or-less complete, and we are in the process of establishing our home business, and indeed ourselves, in this new environment. It seems that our home business will bear a strong resemblance to our work at Boeing, still there are significant differences.

Here are some of the symptoms of sin I have left behind:

I don't work full time. Our home is paid for, and we are free of debt, if not of continuing obligations. We plan to work only "enough", and to consume only "enough". So far we manage this. We have no security in our income, but without debt, we have less fear, and we our retirement savings as a safety net (a luxury!) that we don't expect to touch for quite some time.

This means that I venture, ever so slightly and fearfully, into creating things. I hope to develop the skills to create something of true beauty. For now, I am content to create things I enjoy; things that amuse me, or things that serve a useful purpose without being ugly. I am content to find time for long walks, vigorous bicycle rides, and for baking goodies with the music on high volume. I have time to chat with the friends and neighbors who will be part of my life for a long time. I write letters to the editor of the local newspaper, dip into local politics and good causes, and express my appreciation or concerns for this wonderful place. Maybe one day I will compile some writing work, revise some essays, or turn a journal into something more.

The possibilities are here. I would like earn my modest "living" from crafts or writing (at least I think I would), but just to have time and energy to devote to these things is a wonderful shift in lifestyle. I have truly moved away, not from Seattle, but from a repressed and unsatisfying daily existence.