8 Key Lessons for Living a Simple Life

For the last dozen years, I’ve been living a (relatively) simple life. At times, the complexity of my life grows, and I renew my commitment to living simply.

Living a simple life is about paring back, so that you have space to breath. It’s about doing with less, because you realize that having more and doing more doesn’t lead to happiness. It’s about finding joys in the simple things, and being content with solitude, quiet, contemplation and savoring the moment.

I’ve learned some key lessons for living a simple life, and I thought I’d share a few with you.

  1. We create our own struggles. All the stress, all the frustrations and disappointments, all the busyness and rushing … we create these with attachments in our heads. By letting go, we can relax and live more simply.
  2. Become mindful of attachments that lead to clutter and complexity. For example, if you are attached to sentimental items, you won’t be able to let go of clutter. If you are attached to living a certain way, you will not be able to let go of a lot of stuff. If you are attached to doing a lot of activities and messaging everyone, your life will be complex.
  3. Distraction, busyness and constant switching are mental habits. We don’t need any of these habits, but they build up over the years because they comfort us. We can live more simply by letting go of these mental habits. What would life be like without constant switching, distraction and busyness?
  4. Single-task by putting your life in full-screen mode. Imagine that everything you do — a work task, answering an email or message, washing a dish, reading an article — goes into full-screen mode, so that you don’t do or look at anything else. You just inhabit that task fully, and are fully present as you do it. What would your life be like? In my experience, it’s much less stressful when you work and live this way. Things get your full attention, and you do them much better. And you can even savor them.
  5. Create space between things. Add padding to everything. Do half of what you imagine you can do. We tend to cram as much as possible into our days. And this becomes stressful, because we always underestimate how long things will take, and we forget about maintenance tasks like putting on clothes and brushing teeth and preparing meals. We never feel like we have enough time because we try to do too much. But what would it be like if we did less? What would it be like if we padded how long things took, so that we have the space to actually do them well, with full attention? What would it be like if we took a few minutes’ pause between tasks, to savor the accomplishment of the last task, to savor the space between things, to savor being alive?
  6. Find joy in a few simple things. For me, those include writing, reading/learning, walking and doing other active things, eating simple food, meditating, spending quality time with people I care about. Most of that doesn’t cost anything or require any possessions (especially if you use the library for books!). I’m not saying I have zero possessions, nor that I only do these few things. But to the extent that I remember the simple things I love doing, my life suddenly becomes simpler. When I remember, I can let go of everything else my mind has fixated on, and just find the simple joy of doing simple activities.
  7. Get clear about what you want, and say no to more things. We are rarely very clear on what we want. When we see someone post a photo of something cool, we might all of a sudden get fixed on doing that too, and suddenly the course of our lives veer off in a new direction. Same thing if we read about something cool, or watch a video of a new destination or hobby. When someone invites us to something cool, we instantly want to say yes, because our minds love saying yes to everything, to all the shiny new toys. What if we became crystal clear on what we wanted in life? If we knew what we wanted to create, how we wanted to live … we could say yes to these things, and no to everything else. Saying no to more things would simplify our lives.
  8. Practice doing nothing, exquisitely. How often do we actually do nothing? OK, technically we’re always “doing something,” but you know what I mean — just sit there and do nothing. No need to plan, no need to read, no need to watch something, no need to do a chore or eat while you do nothing. Just don’t do anything. Don’t accomplish anything, don’t take care of anything. What happens is you will start to notice your brain’s habit of wanting to get something done — it will almost itch to do something. This exposes our mental habits, which is a good thing. However, keep doing nothing. Just sit for awhile, resisting the urge to do something. After some practice, you can get good at doing nothing. And this leads to the mental habit of contentment, gratitude without complaining.

Of course, these are not the only lessons you’ll need for living a simple life. But the best ones are the ones you discover yourself. Try these and see what happens — I think you’ll find out something beautiful about yourself, and about life.

The best kind of simplicity is that which exposes the raw beauty, joy and heartbreak of life as it is.

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Life’s Conflicts Are the Plot Points of Your Life’s Story

What would life be like if you were aware of being in a story?

For some time now I’ve been fascinated by the idea of the monomyth popularized by thinkers like Joseph Campbell, C.S. Lewis, and (more recently) Jordan Peterson. One way of understanding a piece of what they have said is that all humans indeed occupy a story framework. We’re all taking Campbell’s “hero’s journey” and passing through its phases, which may look different for each of us.

It can be a powerful thing to think of yourself as a hero on a hero’s journey (and occasionally a dangerous thing*). But this story plot mindset is particularly valuable when you hit the down parts of the hero’s journey cycle. If you can embrace your life as a story, you will be prepared for many of the things that make stories both tragic and interesting (at the same time).

If thinkers like Campbell are right, every hero recapitulates most or all of the major themes that has ever happened in the stories of other heroes. And since the stories of heroes are the stories of each of us, in short, everything that has ever happened to others human can and will happen to you (consider that your Miranda warning for life).

You can expect to fail. How many protagonists know what they’re doing when they begin their journeys?

You can expect to hit walls. What kind of story would it be if things always worked?

You can expect to be misunderstood as a matter of course. How many great heroes (in fiction or reality) have escaped that fate?

You can expect to be hated. How do you expect to do any great good if you are so normal as to not be disliked by anyone?

You can expect betrayal. How many stories have you read in which the protagonist has been betrayed? Plenty. Why do you think your story should be any different?

You can even expect to be not only a hero in the course of your life. You will be an antagonist from time to time, no matter how good you are (or think you are).

Of course, you shouldn’t aim for bad things to happen to you, or for bad things to do. But you shouldn’t be too surprised or upset when conflicts arise. How many of the stories you love were free of these things anyway? Conflict makes the plot and makes the hero’s journey a journey.

As the Stoics, the Buddhists, and their later interpreters have explained in various forms**,  the greater part of our pain and angst as human beings comes from our attachment to illusions. One of the great illusions all of us probably hold when we’re young is the belief that “this time it will be different.” You probably think (I know I have) that you will be the lucky one to escape being hated, to escape failing, to escape your own shortcomings.

That illusion makes reality more difficult to handle. All of these things become easier and even acceptable when you realize that they’re just tolls to pay and gates to pass through. You can exercise a great deal of control over life, but the odds are that you will have a choice not of *whether* to pass through suffering but instead of *how*, *when*, and *where* you want to pass through suffering. That’s a lot of power, and your responsibility (your “ability to respond” as Nathaniel Branden might put it) can be a comfort in the face of conflict.

But don’t forget that when you do pass through conflict and suffering, you may be experiencing exactly what you need to experience to live out your full story. You might be progressing, even in the things that feel like regress.

*A danger of this mindset can be grandiosity.

**Intellectual Credit: Obviously Campbell and Lewis and Peterson, but also Stoics like Marcus Aurelius and Seneca (and modern Stoic interpreters like Tim Ferris and Ryan Holiday). Many more beside. Some credit to The Courage To Be Disliked, which has been filling my brain with Adlerian psychology recently. Building a Story Brand has been my latest exposure to the hero’s journey.

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The Stories That Stop Us From Being Present & Taking Action

Most of us have spent our lives caught up in plans, expectations, ambitions for the future; in regrets, guilt or shame about the past. To come into the present is to stop the war. ~Jack Kornfield

I get emails all the time from people who are struggling with very common difficulties:

  • Wanting to overcome anger
  • Wanting to deal more calmly with stress
  • Hurt by other people’s inconsiderate actions
  • Getting stuck in resentment and thinking about how others have wronged you
  • Struggling with change because it’s hard
  • Struggling with letting go of clutter because of various emotional attachments
  • Finding all kinds of obstacles to taking on a project, side hustle, new business, writing a book/blog, etc.

And I completely understand these difficulties, because I struggle with them too. Here’s the thing — there are just two things stopping us from being present or taking the action we want to take:

  1. The stories we have in our heads about other people, what’s happening, and ourselves
  2. Our habitual pattern of staying in those stories instead of being present or taking action

It’s really one thing: our mental habit of staying stuck in the stories in our heads.

When I say “stories,” this isn’t a judgment about whether what we’re saying in our heads is true or not. It’s just what our minds do — they make up a narrative about the world, including other people and ourselves. Our minds are narrative machines. You could see the narrative as true or not, but that’s not the point — the narrative is getting in the way of being present and taking action.

What kind of stories do I mean? I mean things that we make up and spin around in our heads (true or not):

  • They shouldn’t act that way
  • If they loved me they wouldn’t be so inconsiderate
  • This is too hard, I don’t want to do this
  • I suck, I keep failing, I am inadequate
  • They keep doing this, I don’t know why they keep doing that to me
  • They hurt me, they are not a good person
  • I can’t start my business/blog/project until I learn this, or get to this place in my life, or have perfect peace in my day and am in a good mood
  • This shouldn’t be happening to me! This sucks!

These stories have some truth to them, which is why we cling to them so much. But these stories block us from being present. They are not helpful.

What would it be like if we didn’t cling to them so much? What if we could develop a mind that clings to nothing?

Dropping the Stories & Becoming Present

We can’t stop the mind from coming up with the stories, as it is a narrative machine. However, that doesn’t mean we have to cling to the stories and keep them spinning around in our heads.

Notice when you’re stuck in a story. Hint: if you’re angry, stressed, frustrated, disappointed, feeling shame or fear, dreaming about the future, thinking about something that happened … you’re stuck in a story.

Notice that the story is causing you to be stressed, angry, afraid, whatever. Notice that you are spinning it around in your head, and it is occupying your attention.

Now see if you can drop out of the story and into the present moment. Become curious: What is happening right now, in front of you? What sensations can you notice in your body? What is the light like? What sounds can you notice?

When you go back to your story (you will), try coming back to the present moment. Stay longer. Come back gently, without judgment.

What can you appreciate in this moment? A feeling of appreciating the sacredness of this moment can counteract the story, and change your way of being.

Dealing with Stress & Anger Without the Story

Stress and anger can be difficult things, because we have such a hard time letting them go.

But what if you could drop out of the stories that are causing the stress and anger (or frustration, resentment, complaining) and just be present with whatever you’re feeling?

Drop into your body and notice what sensations are there.

If you have difficult sensations in your body, see if you can be curious about them and stay with them, rather than spinning around a story about them. Stay with them longer (they might be located in your chest area), as you would try to stay with the sensations of your breath during a breath meditation.

Again, when your mind wanders back to the story, just come back gently. Stay with the sensations. Be present with them.

Touching the sensations in your body, of stress or anger, is a way to transform yourself. It doesn’t necessarily get rid of the feelings — but it changes your relationship to them. You no longer need to get rid of them, because you are fine just being with them. You develop a trust that you can stay present with them, without running or hiding or needing to do anything about them.

Each time you get stressed, each time you feel anger or frustration or resentment … this is an opportunity to practice and develop trust in yourself. Every spike of fear or stress is an opportunity to transform, to open, to stay and be present.

In this way, every stress is making you more mindful, less attached, and more open to life.

Taking Action Without the Story

The stories in our heads also stop us from taking the action we want to take in our lives — from changing habits to eating better to getting rid of clutter to tackling that difficult project.

Some examples:

  • I don’t feel like exercising, I feel lazy, it’s too hard
  • I don’t know how to tackle this big project, it’s too complicated
  • I don’t know how to blog, there is so much I don’t know, I have to learn it all before I can start
  • There’s too much clutter, and I don’t know what to do with it all, I can’t tackle all of that
  • Maybe I should do something else, I don’t really like this kind of work, I think I would be better trying one of the other options I like

There is some truth to each of the stories, but the fact is, they are getting in the way of action. They aren’t helpful.

What would happen if we just dropped the stories and took action, staying in the present as we did so?

Imagine dropping into your body when you have a story about why you shouldn’t exercise … and getting present. Then putting on your workout clothes and shoes, staying present without the story. Then doing some pushups or starting to run.

You don’t need the story to take action. Drop into the present, and just act. Stay present as you act. Be curious about what it’s like, rather than thinking you know what it will be like ahead of time. Take a “don’t know” mindset, and find out!

Don’t have any clarity about a project? Start doing it, and clarity will come as you discover what it’s like.

Afraid you’re not good enough to do the project? Only one way to truly know — take action on it and see!

Feeling overwhelmed because there’s too much clutter to tackle? Declutter one thing. Take action on one spot on your counter. There’s no need for the story about it being too much.

The truth is, even if we can’t avoid generating these stories, we don’t have to get stuck in them, especially if they are unhelpful. Sometimes it’s good to have a narrative that helps us plan and figure things out, but often it’s better just to find out by being present and taking action.

And you can do that very simply: just drop into the sensations of your body and surroundings. Notice. Get curious. Stay. Come back gently. Appreciate the sacredness of this moment.

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A Guide to Letting Go of Shame & Fear

Many of us are so often in a state of shame or fear that we often don’t realize they’re even there.

Shame and fear pervade most of our lives to an extent rarely understood, so that our days revolve around them.

Some examples of shame and fear that are fairly common:

  • We are unhappy with ourselves or our bodies, and feel a sense of shame around how we look or how we are
  • We procrastinate or get lost in distraction, and feel shame around that laziness or lack of focus
  • We don’t exercise, meditate, write, journal, read or eat as well as we’d like, and feel shame around these failures
  • We don’t call our loved ones as much as we’d like, and feel shame around that
  • We fear the unknown, and so we stress out about the uncertainty in our lives
  • We feel shaky if we have to give a presentation or speech, and so we do worse (and feel shame about it) or enjoy it less than we could
  • We don’t speak the truth or have difficult conversations for fear of the fallout of such directness
  • We shrink away from difficult tasks or projects because of fear of discomfort or being overwhelmed
  • We stress out about upcoming trips, meetings, parties, projects because of fear of how it’ll go

So we allow fear to cause us to shrink from taking the action we want, or to make those actions less enjoyable. We allow shame to make us feel bad about ourselves and our lives, degrading our happiness and relationships.

What would it be like if you were free of shame?

How would you act if you were free of fear?

Those aren’t just idle questions: take a moment to reflect on them. They allow us to envision who we could be without shame and fear.

Imagine that you didn’t feel fear (I’m not saying that’s possible, but imagine it) … how would you act differently? For me, I might take bolder chances with my business, push into areas that usually scare the crap out of me. I might give public talks with a greater sense of ease and confidence. I’d openly and lovingly have difficult conversations instead of putting them off. I’d stress out about the future less, trusting more.

Imagine what your life would be like without shame. You could just be present with what’s happening right now, rather than feeling bad about what you’ve already done. You could be happy with who you are, instead of feeling shame about yourself or your body. You could talk to strangers more easily, rather than worrying about what they might think of you. You could miss a couple of workout sessions (or meditation, healthy eating, journaling, etc.) and just start again, without beating yourself up for messing up.

Life without shame and fear would be more easeful, more peaceful, more confident and trusting.

Now, I’m not saying you can live a life completely free of shame and fear — they will come up whether you like it or not. What I’m proposing is that we can let go of them when they come up, or at least not let them control us.

The Process of Letting Go

So fear and shame will arise, no matter how much meditation we do, no matter how much we work on ourselves. Emotions come up without our control … but what we do once they come up is, at least to some extent, up to us.

So fear comes up — that in and of itself isn’t a problem. It’s the holding on to the fear that becomes the problem. It’s the letting the fear hold us back from doing what we would otherwise do, or hurt our happiness, that becomes the real difficulty. The same is true of shame.

Step 1: When shame or fear comes up, we can notice. Then we can see them as “no big deal.” They’re not a problem, just a sensation in our body. So the first step is just noticing the sensation caused by fear or shame, without judgment, just observing. Just being mindful of sensation, not getting caught up in them. You’ll notice that neither shame nor fear is that bad, nothing to hate, they’re just sensations.

Step 2: From this place of noticing, we can become curious. What does this feel like? Where is it coming from? For example, we can feel shame and then be curious about how it feels in our body. Then notice that it’s coming from a sense of not liking something about ourselves. Why do we not like this thing about ourselves? Is there an ideal or expectation we’ve created that causes this dislike? Maybe I think I should be perfect at work or exercise, and I’m not living up to that. For fear … it often comes from a lack of trust, and a sense of uncertainty. Maybe we also have an ideal that there will be no uncertainty, only stability and control, and so fear comes up when this ideal isn’t met.

Step 3: Once we notice the ideal causing the shame or fear … we can begin to loosen our attachment to it. Is the ideal something that’s helpful? Is it harming us? Where did it come from? Who would we be without that ideal and the fear/shame that it causes? Imagine yourself without the ideal, and try it on like you would a new outfit. Imagine yourself completely trusting in an uncertain future, free of fear. Imagine yourself completely happy with yourself, free of any ideal of what you should be.

Step 4: With this new outfit — a lack of the ideal causing your shame/fear — see what it’s like to move around in the world without it. Who are you without the fear? Can you move around with a sense of trust in yourself and in the world? Can you move around with a sense of confidence, a sense of happiness in yourself, a sense of love for yourself? Try this on, and see what changes. See what actions you would take without the shame or fear. See how you show up differently.

This isn’t a simple or straightforward process, of course. It’s not as simple as snapping your fingers. But you can try it, and practice. Slowly, you might be able to let go of what ails you, and start to see the beauty in this moment that exists when we let go of what’s getting in the way.

Some Training with Me

If you’d like to retrain these patterns (and others), I’ve launched the Fearless Training Program on Patreon and would love for you to join me.

We’ll be working on:

  • Pushing into our meaningful work with devotion, despite uncertainty
  • Working mindfully with the emotions and habitual patterns that come up
  • Courageously staying and working with fear and other difficulties, with an open heart
  • Training in new patterns of openness, courage, gratitude and joy, in the midst of uncertainty
  • Finding focus in the middle of all of that

It’ll be amazing. Let’s work on this together.

Join my Fearless Training Program on Patreon today.

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Act with Devotion & Intention; Letting Go of Attachment to Outcome

You’re starting a project or a new exercise plan, and it’s in shaky new territory for you. You feel doubt about whether you can do it, and so you’re tensely doing everything you can to make sure it will turn out the way you hope.

The stress, fear, doubt and tension here all come from an attachment to the outcome, to how things will turn out. We want to lose weight and get fit (the results of the exercise) or be brilliant at our new project and have everyone think we’re wonderful.

But perhaps we could acknowledge that:

  • The outcome isn’t always fully in our control. Sometimes other people get in the way or unintentionally sabotage a project, sometimes things happen that we didn’t expect, sometimes despite our best efforts things just turn out differently than we pictured in our heads. On a training plan, the weather could get worse than we thought, we might come down with a flu for a week, we might get injured or things come up to throw our schedule off.
  • There are multiple outcomes that will be OK, if not great. For example, maybe we won’t get six-pack abs if we do our best with this plan, or maybe we won’t finish the marathon we’re training for … but maybe we’ll get healthier despite not meeting the goal? Maybe we’ll enjoy the exercise, maybe we can meet other people trying to get healthier, and maybe we’ll experience beautiful outdoors that we wouldn’t otherwise get to experience? On our new project, maybe it won’t turn out as well as we hope, but we could still enjoy the process, learn a lot, form good relationships with our team or client, get better at the process itself. The outcome we hope for isn’t the only one we can be happy with, and sometimes the actual outcome will be better than we hoped for, if we’re open to it.
  • Focusing on the outcome is detrimental. It causes us to stress out, to enjoy the process less, sometimes to not even start something because we don’t think we have a chance of getting the desired outcome. We don’t ever write that novel because we think we can’t write a good one. But how do you ever get good at writing a novel if you never attempt it? It also causes us to be disappointed with the outcome when it’s not what we want, to be disappointed in ourselves when we don’t live up to our own expectations, to feel that we’re not enough (or others are not enough).

But what if the outcome matters? You are supposed to hit an objective of X for your work … don’t you need to focus on the outcome? Well, you should do the actions that are most likely going to get you that outcome … plan out the steps, then do the steps … but as you’re doing each of the steps themselves, you don’t have to be attached to the outcome.

Let’s explore that a bit, see how to do it and why it might be helpful.

Letting Go of Attachment to Outcome

Letting go of our attachment to the outcome is freeing. It helps us to be more present with the doing, the being, the act itself, rather than what might come in the future. It can help us have better relationships, because we’re more focused on the people than the goal. It can help us have a better relationship to ourselves, as we focus on our own well-being and contentment, rather than some external source of possible happiness (spoiler: happiness doesn’t come from external things).

What can you focus on instead of outcome? A few good ideas:

  • The intention. I’ve found my intention in doing a task to be much more important than the outcome. It’s what I hope to bring to the task rather than what I hope to get out of it. It’s how I want to show up right now, rather than what I want things to be in the future. Examples: I have an intention to be helpful and loving as I write this post; I intend to be mindful and appreciative of nature as I go out for a walk or run; I intend to be fully present with the person I’m talking to, compassionate and open-hearted with them. I bring this intention and try to let it inform how I work, how I do anything in the world.
  • The effort. Instead of worrying about how things will turn out, pay attention instead to how focused you are on it, how much effort you’re putting into it, how mindful you are as you do it. How much of your heart are you putting into it? How much love and care are you giving it?
  • The process. The outcome is a result of the process — if you’re not getting the outcome you want, focus on improving the process. How much care are you taking as you do it? How can you step up your game? Don’t worry about the outcome as much as you pay attention to how you’re doing things.
  • The moment. What is beautiful about this particular moment, as you do the action? What can you notice? Can you be curious as you do the act, instead of having a fixed mindset? What is there to appreciate about yourself, about the other person, about everything around you, right now?
  • Relationships. Much more important than the outcome is the relationship you have with the people you’re serving and working with, or your relationship with your loved ones. When you’re focused on the outcome, you often disregard the feelings of the people you’re working with, snapping at them when they’re not doing things the way you’d like. Instead, you can focus on your connection with them, on finding ways to make them enjoy the process more, on being loving or compassionate.

Think about how this might change things for you. If you’re working on a shaky new project, you can let go of how you might want things to turn out, and instead focus on how you want to show up, what is beautiful about the moment, having fun with the effort, playing and being curious, being more loving to yourself and others. This transforms every act, every habit, every project, every moment with others.

Do every act out of devotion and love, with letting go of attachment to the outcome.

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The Transition from Slavery to Freedom

I sometimes hear people, including freedom advocates, pondering how society might “transition” from an authoritarian system to a stateless society. The implication is that there could be some sort of gradual, peaceful phasing in of freedom, and a phasing out of governmental controls.

But that is not how things works, and not how things will ever work.

Ultimately, there are only two choices: either you own yourself, or you are the property of someone else (the majority, the collective, some political “authority,” etc.). The choice is binary. You can’t “sort of” belong to yourself and “sort of” be the subject of a ruling class. It’s one or the other. If there is a disagreement between you and some other “part owner” of you, one opinion has to “outrank” the other. And whichever opinion that is, that is the actual owner.

This principle applies to “owning” anything: whoever has the final, exclusive right to decide what is done with something is, by definition, the “owner” of that thing. (This is also why “collective ownership” almost always ends in disaster: if different members of the collective have different ideas about what should be done with what they “collectively own,” then what?) A slave can’t be partially owned by himself and partially owned by his master. Whoever has the final say is the actual owner. A slave who is “allowed” to do certain things by his master is still 100% a slave. Here is how an actual slave expressed the point:

I could see no reason why I should, at the end of each week, pour the reward of my toil into the purse of my master. … He was satisfied with nothing less than the last cent. He would, however, when I made him six dollars, sometimes give me six cents, to encourage me. It had the opposite effect. I regarded it as a sort of admission of my right to the whole. … I always felt worse for having received any thing; for I feared that the giving me a few cents would ease his conscience, and make him feel himself to be a pretty honorable sort of robber.” – Frederick Douglass

Likewise, either “government” has the right to rule, or it doesn’t. You can’t gradually transition from authoritarianism to freedom, as if there some grayscale possible between the two.

The only way in which there will be a “transition” from statism to a stateless society is in the number of people who have given up the superstition of “authority.” But for each individual, he either believes in freedom, or he believes in “government” (i.e., someone else having the right to rule him). The two are mutually exclusive. And believing in a kinder, gentler master/owner, as “minarchists” do, is still to believe in the Divine Right of Politicians, and is still fundamentally incompatible with actual freedom.

For a lot of people, talking about a “transition” from “government” to a stateless society is really just an expression of their own reluctance to give up their own attachment to the political mythology they were taught. They find it uncomfortable to all the way let go of the philosophical security blanket of a protector “government,” so they hope for a more moderate happy medium—more pleasant, comfortable chains, that are a slight improvement but without having to upset their deeply ingrained statist paradigm.

But the choice remains binary. For example, either the state has the right to rob people, or it doesn’t. (It doesn’t.) To “transition” from one to the other would be akin to claiming that 50% forced extortion is intolerable tyranny, but that 49% is righteous and moral. The only principled choices are 0% or 100%. Either you are the property of someone else, and they get to decide how much of your stuff they will take from you (the basis of both the belief in slavery and the belief in “taxation”), or you own yourself, and the state (or anyone else) taking even one penny from you without your permission is immoral theft.

So, for example, to gradually transition from the current levels of authoritarian “taxation” to only voluntarily-funded services implies that, in the interim, legalized extortion is valid and righteous. Is armed robbery okay as long as the thief is slowly phasing out his crimes? Of course not. To talk about any gradual “legislative” solution necessarily implies that it is up to legislatures to decide how much control they should have.

Again, that is analogous to a slavemaster slowly allowing his slaves more and more “freedom.” Until they are released completely, have complete freedom and 100% control over their own lives, they are still slaves, and that is still wrong. As long as the slavemaster has any say in what happens, there is not true freedom. For the exact same reason, engaging in politics at all amounts to condoning authoritarian domination, because petitioning, campaigning, voting, running for office, all of it implies that elections and legislation are actually legitimate, and that the outcome of political rituals determines who has the right to rule.

A slave who still thinks that he needs his master’s permission in order to be free is not even free inside his own head, just as a person still seeking the legislative permission of “government” in order to be free is not even free inside his own head.

If the choice is still up to the ruling class, as all elections, campaigns and political petitions imply, then the people remain slaves, no matter how relatively nice or nasty the rulers decide to be. This is why “political action” is not something anarchists or voluntaryists should engage in, since it obviously implies that voting and legislation are the path to freedom. They are the exact opposite. Always. To play the game at all is to concede that we need the permission of “law-makers” to be free. And that, of course, means we’re not free, no matter what the “law-makers” do or don’t allowus to do.

There will be no gradual “legalization” of freedom. Ever. To try for that is worse than futile: it is entirely counter-productive. Politics is a game of the parasites, by the parasites, and for the parasites. It is never the road to freedom. If anything is gradual, it will be a gradual increase in the number of people “illegally” ignoring, disobeying and/or resisting the state, until its decrees become unenforceable and it’s extortion fees (“taxes”) become uncollectible, before it finally crashes under its own weight. But no, there will be no gentle, official, “legal” transition from freedom to slavery. There never has been, and there never will be.

To expect those in power—those who sought out positions of power—to be the ones who will diminish and eliminate their own power, is ridiculous. As Thomas Jefferson said (and as basic human nature and all of human history should make obvious), “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield, and government to gain ground.”

Just as chattel slavery ended by way of disobedience, “law-breaking,” and occasional violence, so too will statism. There will be no smooth transition, no gradual conversion, between an authoritarian system and a free society. The belief in the Divine Right of Politicians is incompatible in every way with the belief in freedom, and those who muddle the two together (“minarchists,” Constitutionalists, political “Libertarians,” etc.)—or try to find some “compromise” between the two, even if they say it’s just a temporary measure on the way to the goal—are doing little more than strengthening and keeping alive the most dangerous and destructive superstition ever: the belief in “authority.” They are, in fact, prolonging injustice, in the name of being “practical” and “realistic,” when the reality of the situation is that all political action—bickering over who is on the throne and begging the masters for mercy—has never and will never lead to true freedom.

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