Slate has kicked off its brand new photo blog (called Behold) with a look at photographer Lucas Foglia’s study of “off-the-grid” lifestyles increasingly being adopted by people in the southeastern United States.
It has a lot of rather bucolic and wholesome photographs (children drinking raw goat’s milk straight from the natural dispenser put in place by God) but the truest thing it records is this question: How complex is the simple life?
It reminds me of Sarojini Naidu’s acute observation of Mahatma Gandhi’s determination to live in poverty: ” It costs a lot to keep Gandhi poor.” She was speaking only half in jest.
Might going off-the-grid be somewhat similar?
Like the paradox of the violent pro-life anti-abortionists?
Nick Rosen, founder of the Off-Grid website was recently quoted to say that it can vary, depending how deeply people go off-grid. “You can’t get off all of the grids all the time. It’s a question of which grids you choose to get off of and in what way and for how long.”
It seems the Pocahontas Principle (Sing with all the voices of the mountain/ Paint with all the colours of the wind) is a tad arbitrary. Rosen, for instance, includes people who live off-the-grid part of the year for leisure reasons, as well as those who go off the public electrical or water systems but still participate in what he calls the “car grid” or the “supermarket grid” or “bank grid.”
That sounds frightfully inclusive but like anything, surely there’s a basic level that indicates membership of the club? Else, it might extend to the weekend walking brigade, the rock climbing contingent, or even to moi – city-dwelling and laptop-loving but pretty much off the processed food grid. More or less. Detanzantan, as they say in Haitian Creole.