Consider for a moment what has happened in the last month. There has been the turmoil and overthrow of several longstanding governments in the Mideast. This brings a very real threat of major disruptions to a world solidly dependent on large quantities of Mideast oil. The crisis in Japan and its effect on not only that country but the world as the aftermath of the earthquake and nuclear nightmares get worse day after day. No one really knows where all this will end or what that journey will be like, but rather substantial shakeups to our daily routines are certainly possible.
That got me to thinking what I could and could not live without. Some things are essential to my survival, some to my happiness and sense of satisfaction. Others are a part of of daily life but I could certainly function without them. This list is by no means complete, but it might be a though starter for you, too.
It would be very difficult or very unpleasant to live without:
My wife and family. Could I physically survive without them? Yes. Would it turn my world upside down and remove a large share of what I feel makes my life meaningful? Absolutely. If things ever begin to unravel I want to have those most dear to me by my side.
Freedoms. If I had been born someplace other than The United States or another country in the developed world my sense of what constitutes key freedoms would probably be very different. But, being born to a middle class family in 1949 in America I have come to believe certain freedoms are a part of life. Among those are the freedom to live where I want and choose my life's work. The freedom of the press, of peaceable assembly, to raise my children they way I believe is best and of an orderly and non-violent transition of power are what I expect. On a daily basis I don't think how unusual this list would be to billions of people around the world. But, if suddenly they were gone I would be hard-pressed to adjust.
Basic services: Dependable electricity, clean water, police and fire protection, good medical care, access to safe and plentiful food are certainly high on my very important list. Could I survive without them? Frankly, I don't know. Particularly in Phoenix, making it through a summer without air conditioning would be nearly impossible and is fatal to some of our citizens every year.
An automobile. It would very very difficult and very uncomfortable to live where I live without access to a car and gas. Phoenix is not designed with pedestrians, bike riders, or users of public transportation in mind. I would most likely survive but it would be extremely limiting, inconvenient, and in the summer, downright dangerous.
Things I could live without but would rather not:
Good friends. As my post of a few days ago made clear, having good friends is important to me. When a friendship ends I feel a loss. When a friendship continues and strengthens my life is enriched. I certainly could survive if I had no close friends, but the effect on my life would be unpleasant.
Access to the world through Internet. It wasn't until 1995 that tapping into the Internet became common. True, it was only dial-up with all sorts of limitations. But, from that point forward the world and our lives would not go unchanged.
Today, the Internet is essential to the smooth functioning of the global economy. It is so much a part of our daily lives we only think about its importance when we lose access for a few hours or days. I am sure you have noticed that one of the first things an autocratic government does when it gets into trouble is to prevent its citizens from connecting to the rest of the world. Could I live without the Internet? Yes. But I would be living in a very different world.
Availability of cultural, sporting and entertainment options. Access to music and books. What brings dimension to my life is the ability, on occasion, to add something different to the usual routine. Music concerts, plays, a hike through the mountain preserves, a picnic on a warm afternoon are spice to my normal diet. While I may someday end up with nothing but a Kindle, for now I enjoy the feel of a book. I enjoy listening to Pandora radio, but live music is just better. Certainly I could easliy survive without any of this, but life would be much less enjoyable.
In reviewing this list it is clear I live a privileged life. In many parts of the world and for the majority of its population, even clean water and safe food are too much to hope for. Those billions are focused on pure survival and nothing else. I don't feel guilty about what I have. But, I am very much aware of my blessings and my responsibilities to reduce as much as possible the damage I cause to the environment.
Overall, I am an optimist. Excessive worry is a waste of energy and time. But, prudent preparation and awareness are not incompatible with believing things will be OK. Just after beginning to see the end of the horrible economic mess of the last few years now we seem to be entering another period of uncertainty. I am still confident in my future, but my eyes are wide open.
What about your list? What happens if the situation in the Mideast becomes much worse? Do you have any doubt that gas could become $5 a gallon (or more)? Do you think our present way of life would remain unchanged? What if a cloud of radiation starts circling the globe? How would your life be affected? What you you live without and still function? What might prove to be too much?