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I’ll be interviewing sometimes local author Andy Courtier on his newly published Book A Different Kind of Luxury.  The book contains the stories of eleven colorful representatives of Japan’s back-to-the-land movement.  Japan is a country as fast-paced and materialist as any, and the people in the book and others like them face enormous cultural pressures to conform, but nevertheless maintain the good life as they see it.  Andy Courtier spends most of his time in the Bay Area or traveling, but as a home base he and his partner Cynthia own rural property just across the Trinity border.  Many of you probably know them.

Author and photographer Andy Couturier will discuss his book of profiles of people living simple, sustainable, extraordinary lives in rural Japan.  A Different Kind of Luxury: Japanese Lessons in Simple Living and Inner Abundance, just published by Berkeley-based Stone Bridge Press, lets readers feel the flavor and texture of the lives of a number of fascinating artists, philosophers and farmers who’ve chosen lives of reduced consumption and increased satisfaction.  Although raised in the tumult of Japan’s industrial powerhouse, each of the men and women profiled have made the transition to a slower, more deeply satisfying lives with plenty of time for contemplation and a deeper connection with the natural world.

Raised in the tumult of Japan’s industrial powerhouse, the eleven men and women profiled in this book have all made the transition to sustainable, fulfilling lives. Their lives are simple, yet they are surrounded by the luxuries of nature, art, contemplation, delicious food, and an abundance of time.  For example:

* Atsuko Watanabe is an environmentalist and home-schooler who explores esoteric spiritual traditions  while raising her two daughters in an old farmhouse

* Akira Ito is an ex-petroleum engineer who has become a painter and children’s book illustrator and explores the role of chi (life energy) in the universe through art and traditional Chinese music

* Kogan Murata grows rice and crafts elegant bamboo flutes that he plays for alms in the surrounding villages

* Jinko Kaneko is a fine artist and fabric dyer who runs a Himalayan-style curry restaurant in the Japan Alps

By presenting the journeys of these ordinary-yet exceptional-people, Andy Couturier shows how we, too, can travel a meaningful path of living simply, with respect for our communities and our natural resources. When we leave behind the tremendous burdens of wage labor, debt, stress, and daily busy-ness, we grow rich in a whole new way. These Japanese are pioneers in a sense; drawing on traditional Eastern spiritual wisdom they have forged a new style of modernity, and in their success is a lesson for us all: live a life that matters.

He has a blog with excerpts and discussion.

Show time is 7:00 p.m., this Thursday evening on KMUD.  Call-ins are welcome.  I intend to focus on comparison and contrast between the people in his book and many of those who came to Humboldt to simplify and focus.  The central question:  what is the “good life” and how does one attain it?

For consideration of the theme, read this old guest post:  Sohum and Ecological Roots.

The polls have the Massachusetts race between a hungry Republican with a motivated tea party base in a dead heat, with perhaps even an advantage to the Republican.  If he wins, health care reform is dead (along with 50 thousand Americans a year) and Obama’s presidency is essentially over, at least as far as any real reforms are concerned.  Obama has brought this upon himself playing everything safe and timidly from the beginning, profoundly disappointing his base with no acknowledgment of his many, many compromises from his Republican opposition.  So you have a hungry opposition and a demoralized base – exactly where we were in 1994.  Unfortunately Obama appointed no real progressive to any cabinet position of note, and surrounded himself with conservative people sans any understanding of history.  Meanwhile the Party leadership endorsed a lackluster candidate much more like Kerry than Kennedy.

As it is happening, Democratic turnout is expected to be very low.  You can’t spend a whole year demoralizing your own base and expect them to turn out for you.

Ironically, the Democrats’ best hopes in the election tomorrow come from a Libertarian candidate under enormous pressure to drop out of the race and endorse the Republican.


January 2010