Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Has the Road Actually Become Revolutionary?

Has anyone seen this flick? It is based on the Richard Yates novel of the same name and stars Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. I saw the preview yesterday and it really captured my attention. Here it is:

Revolutionary Road Trailer

The plot involves a married couple who start a family, buy a house in the burbs, and set about to actively embrace the American dream, until they realize that their possessions and their lifestyle are preventing them from living the kind of life they had always desired.

I realize that movies critical of American suburbia, consumerism, post-materialism, etc…have been done before but I can’t help but feel that I am actually witnessing concrete evidence of simple living values in our mass culture. Or maybe not. Maybe I am just seeing what I want to see.

Would definitely appreciate some concrete movie reviews. Also, can anyone point me to similar movies that have come out recently?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Meditation Simplicity


Ok, I confess. Not only have I started attending yoga on a semi-regular basis but I’ve just come back from a meditation class as well. I shudder to think what the Jack of 2007 would think of the Jack of 2009…

Kudos to Tara and the Insight Meditation Community of Washington. The atmosphere was inviting and absolutely conducive to getting a better understanding of meditation as a life-long activity. I know almost nothing about Buddhism or meditation but that did not stop me from enjoying the process itself. While I admit that I nodded off a couple of times during the 30 minute guided meditation period, I can honestly say that I will probably come back for more.

I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something is definitely happening to me. Maybe it’s just curiosity; I’ve been so contemptuous of so many things for so long that it’s fun trying out certain things just to confirm how judgmental I’ve actually been. Or maybe the very act of embracing simple living allows a person to more easily reject existing paradigms and take a chance with the unknown.

Whatever it is, one thing is certain. Right now, there are no boundaries in my life. There are no judgments. Nothing is sacred. Nothing is closed. Whatever paradigms I embraced before are now permeable. Most important of all, nothing can be taken for granted.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Follow Your Dreams Part II

No matter what I say, no matter what I do, and no matter how much I try to ignore it, I can never quite get beyond THIS ONE POST. This thing has taken a life of its own, to a point that I don’t think I really own it any more. Law firm haters have held their own burning parties. Law firm lovers have been as baffled as they have been amused. Education advocates are perpetually shocked and saddened by the desecration of something they see as precious.

As for me, I’m still a bit confused by all the attention. What’s so controversial/rebellious about burning a piece of paper I had forgotten somewhere in my closet all of these years when I can just order another one just like it next week?

In the end, there is something fundamentally wrong with the legal profession in the United States when, after a year of hearing about the ills of collaterized debt obligations and sub-prime mortgages, and the collapse of venerable Wall Street firms, little ol’ Jack’s amateurish, yet well-meaning attempt at simplifying his life further turned out to be the:


On the other hand, if watching a piece of paper go up in flames while listening to some Jane’s Addiction in the background is up your alley, who am I to criticize?

So, by popular demand, I've reposted THE YOUTUBE VERSION OF THE PYRO VIDEO for your own enjoyment/amusement/anger inducement.

[Note that YouTube, in all its legal copyright wisdom, has decided to silence the background song by Jane's Addiction. If you want to view the original video with full music accompaniment, you can always access it via Facebook (via the Voluntary Simplicity Jack account).

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Dear Mom: FUCK YOU



Dear Mom,

I’ve been meaning to talk to you about something for a while now. I don’t know how else to start so let me just cut right to the chase:

I hate so many things about you Mom. I really do. I hate the fact that you feel entitled to criticize everyone in your life because they have chosen a different path from you. I hate your intolerance. I hate your inability to control your anger. I hate feeling sorry for you. I hate it when you do your best to make me feel guilty about the decisions I have made in my life and the kind of person I want to be. I hate it when you scream and yell things that are intended to hurt me. I hate your hypocrisy.

All my life, I’ve been walking on eggshells. I’ve been patient. I’ve swallowed insults. I’ve apologized unnecessarily in order to assuage your insecurities. I’ve spoken quietly, even as a crescendo of screams and accusations rained down on me and other people I love.

But no longer. From now on you will respect my opinions and decisions. You will talk to me in a calm, rational manner. You will accept me for who I am.

You will do all of these things or you will lose your only son.


Dear Mom,

Fuck you, you manipulative, angry bitch!

You think just because you are my mother you are entitled to treat me like shit? Let me let you in on a little secret you lonely, pathetic excuse for a human being…you are NOTHING. Let me repeat that: YOU. ARE. NOTHING! The saddest/funniest thing is that you have only yourself to blame. All your screaming and yelling, all your self-righteous bitterness, all your indignant intolerance has driven away your entire family. Including your only son.

Tell me? Does the thought that I will soon be traveling all over the world with nothing but the clothes on my back confuse you? Does the fact that I no longer give a shit about money, status or expensive “things” make you go bat shit? If so, GOOD. That makes me happy.

I have only one thing left to say to you:

Go fuck yourself.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Getting Back to Basics


Things are definitely changing. Unwittingly, unwillingly, and even surprisingly, people all across this country (and I suspect even some enlightened souls abroad) are recognizing that there is something seriously wrong with our post-modern culture. The go-go 90’s that begat the unsustainable excesses of post-9/11 Western (or was it strictly American?) materialism is now firmly in our past. All that remains is a massive hangover full of unnecessary debt, ballooning deficits and an unforgiving foreboding that will remain with us for years to come. Has greed have finally crushed the spirit of American exceptionalism once and for all? Only time will tell.

In the meantime, I chuckle at how Wall Street, via Madison Avenue, is claiming the emerging culture of simple living as its own. Check out Allstate’s new ad, ironically entitled Back to Basics:


Corporate hypocrisy aside, one positive byproduct of this historic economic implosion is the sudden realization by millions of people that the “things” that we generally rely on for our own sense of self-worth are ephemeral and finite. In this new world order, your job is expendable. If your job is expendable then, by extension, anything that your job finances is, likewise, expendable. Indeed, that nice house in the suburbs, the Mercedes you are still paying off, your fancy clothes, and those extravagant Caribbean vacations can all be gone in a blink of an eye. Even those of us who could never afford the monthly payments on that Mercedes have been forced to rethink the meaning and value of wealth. For better or worse (I think better), this economic hurricane is showing millions of people that unmitigated consumption can be a trap almost as debilitating and claustrophobic as a prison cell.

Here’s just a little teaser of what I am talking about:

"More young people pursuing simpler life"

The party is over, my dear reader. It was fun while it lasted. The only thing we can do at this point is handle this massive hangover as best we can. Remember to drink lots of water and take some Advil before getting back under the covers. Stay in bed as long as you can. It’s brutal out there.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Yoga Simplicity


One word: unexpected.

I don’t quite understand how it happened but suddenly I’m interested in all sorts of things that would have made me roll my eyes only a year ago. Seriously. There I was this past weekend, sheepishly opening the door to my neighborhood yoga studio and wondering whether my dad was rolling over in his grave. “Geesh Jack, I can’t believe you are being such a fucking fag,” he would have said.

Ok, the fact that I was THE ONLY DUDE there wasn’t all that encouraging. But hey, I sort of dug it. The first part of the class was actually pretty intense. If you read this blog regularly you know that I’m really into weight training so I was pretty surprised when some of those yoga poses totally kicked my ass!

The second part of the class was incredibly relaxing. For several minutes, I was floating in a celestial ether, far from distractions and complications. It was as if there was nothing left but my thoughts. And these were pure and simple.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Progress So Far (Q4 2008)


It’s that time again! I know it’s a little overdue. But hey, with all the holiday merriment and multiple hangovers from the past week now behind me I figured it was about time to check in on how the war against the Enemy is going.

[And, as an aside, feel free to crack jokes about how a lawyer is using quarterly reports to gauge how much closer he is to meaningful simplicity. The way I see it, I have been reviewing and analyzing 10-Qs, 10-Ks, 8-Ks and almost every other type of SEC filing under the sun for 1/5 of my life. To use a similar format in this context is somehow perversely justified. :) ]

So, without further ado, here is Jack’s 2008 Q4 (8-K) report for the quarter ending December 31, 2008:

Getting Rid of Consumer Debt/Student Loans

: Ongoing
: September 1, 2009

Checkmate! As of this quarter I officially have NO consumer debt. I’ve said it before and I will say it again: getting rid of debt actually makes me feel LIGHTER. There are less bills in my mailbox each month. There is less mental energy being wasted on debt in general. Ultimately, less really is more.

On the student loan front, I am waiting to start my new job later in the year before figuring out how to get my law school to pay for some or all of my student loans.


Sale of Stuff

: July 2008
: December 2009

In a reverse from last quarter, I have actually found some buyers for some of the stuff I’ve put up for sale on Craigslist. The process I’ve set up is also freeing in its own right. I’ve gathered all the things I’m selling into one closet. Every time I sell something, the closet gets less cluttered. The cash I get after a sale goes into an envelope. I’ve already deposited over $300 dollars into my savings account. I might have 5-6 items left to sell and then will be holding a garage sale right before leaving my place.


Selling the Townhouse

: October 1, 2008
: September 1, 2009

Now that my house is on the market, all I need to do right now is wait and see. A quick sale would be a godsend, but I’m prepared to wait until the summer to reassess options. The important thing is that the process has started and, for better or worse, the most obvious manifestation of the sick consumerism that gripped me not so long ago will be shed this year.


Leaving My Job
: December 17, 2009
: December 31, 2009

As I’ve said before, in the end, deciding to leave my job early was inevitable. My heart is just not in it anymore. Life is too short to waste an extra year of your life waiting to get paid. Maybe things would be different if I had a family and kids to think about. All I know is that I can’t do this kind of work anymore. Just two more months and then it will all be over….