July 22, 2017

Could I Live Without?

My recent computer hacking problems have forced me to think about what I could live without. and what would diminish my life's satisfaction. Some things are essential to me, 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 thought 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. 


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

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 Spotify radio, but live music is just better. Certainly I could easily 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. After seeing the end of the horrible economic mess of the last decade now we seem to be in another period of political uncertainty. I am still confident in my future, but my eyes are wide open.

What about your list? What could live without and still function? What would make your list of essential to your happiness and well being? 


  1. Of course there are things you could live without, but the quality of your life would greatly diminish and depression could set in. We are spoiled in this country, but it's relevant really, as this is all we've ever known. Friends and family are like the glue that holds all the rest together. I'll admit to TV and my IPad as being high on the list of needs and good restaurants.

    1. If I were being completely literal I would stress more essential items. But, it is safe to assume those reading this blog have the basics and many of the extras of life within our grasp. As you note we are spoiled, so this is really an exercise in hierarchies.

      I like your honesty in listing TVs, ipads, and good restuarants high on your list of needs. In their own way, each does make our lives more satisfying.

  2. I am still in a love hate relationship with some things about the computer. Mainly social media. I find I really have to fight the urge to visit my Facebook page, Twitter page etc. I waste too much precious time on these things. These are things I most certainly could live without and should live without.

    1. I have cut way back on social media time. Except for some mild promotion of these posts on Twitter, I hold off any reading until just before bed. Facebook gets even less attention. I don't really feel I am missing much.

  3. In addition to what you've already listed, Bob, access to the amazing outdoors, including pristine forests, clean oceans, rivers and lakes, and smog-free air to breath are things I would not want to live without. Having traveled to other countries where these basic elements no longer exist, I treasure them even more here in North America. They are the places I go to escape the insanity of humanity, restore my soul, feel my higher power, strengthen my body, and appreciate anew the wonder that is Earth.

    The list of things I Could Live Without is much, much longer, starting with fake news, social media and reality TV!On

    Excepting your blog of course. And my own!

    1. Reality TV...what a misnomer!

      Betty and i just returned from a quick trip today to a mountain town 90 minutes north of our home. We went to support a friend at a book festival (80 authors...I only bought 3 books..maybe a new record), and breathe cooler and fresher air. It was a much needed break.

      Your new home shows the importance of the natural world to you and Mike. You must be pinching yourself over realizing a dream to be near the ocean.

    2. To be able to see the ocean daily from our home is amazing. There is a space my head drops into when I'm out on our balcony gazing at it, even a bit in the distance as it is, that is hard to describe. Soothing? That is probably as close of a word as I can come up with.

      Hopefully you and Betty will soon be here to experience it for yourselves!

    3. Yep. The January dates we discussed still look good.

  4. The thing that always amazes me is how our grandparents -- people we knew! -- lived without a lot of these things, such as the internet and a/c. My grandmother had a car and a telephone; but no indoor plumbing!

    1. I vividly remember gathering around the huge radio in my grandfather's living room for evening entertainment when we visited him and my grandmother each summer He didn't have a TV, even in the early 1960's, but I don't remember even noticing its lack when we visited.

      They lived in Pittsburgh, so indoor plumbing was standard!

  5. P. S. I echo Tamara's comment about fake news, social media and reality TV (excepting our blogs, of course).

    1. Fake news...don't even get me started. Fake news that is really made up, and real news that is branded fake..it is enough to drive me round the bend.

  6. Would not want to be without my little family--Ken and Andrew make my life worth living!

    I COULD live without:

    Our second car.I resent the fees attached to cars: insurance,tires,oil changes,registration.

    Square footage. I love having space , but in Az. we have become used to large homes, as our housing market has always been pretty cheap compared to rest of the country.Ken and I lived in a one room studio when we first got married, we've lived in a mobile home, and we've lived in smaller to spacious homes here in the V alley. All good. I don't WANT to give up the lovely home and space I have but I know from experience we can live smaller if we ever had to.

    Could not live without books and music, as you mention.A MUST!!!!!

    Would not miss a TV set. We did not have one till Andrew was 9 years old! On purpose.

    NEED: NATURE to gaze upon. I don't think I could live in a city.I have to have natural environments outside my window..water (pool) plants,sky,trees,birds.

    Internet: That's a tough one. I have many far flung friendships and the internet is how we stay in touch on a daily basis.I feel close to my friends when I share photos of their grandkids, their trips, and hear their thoughts. I'd miss it bad. But I suppose I could live without. Life would be black and white though instead of technicolor!

    PHONE: I think I could live without it. The screen is too small for me to really USE the thing for anything but calls or texts. And I really can't remember a time when I HAD TO have my phone with me.. a true emergency. People my age grew up without personal phones, I often forget to take mine with me anyway. In a true emergency EVERYONE ELSE has a phone, in fact, I had a car wreck in 1999 and someone at the scene ,with a phone ,called Ken and the police, I did not have a phone at the time and was not in condition to use it anyway!

    Chico's: I'm joking,sort of. I have learned to live without Chico's.When I worked,I was a regular customer and enjoyed my Chico shopping days.No paycheck= no Chico's. I have enough clothing to last the rest of my life anyway.But that was a fun hobby while it lasted,LOL!

    1. Great list...but I am unfamiliar with Chicos. I assume it was a women's clothing chain.

      A backyard swimming pool can be on my list of not needing or wanting anymore. We had one when the girls were young. It was important for parties and family time. But, starting with the house before the one we are in now, no pool, by choice. Now, a hot tub in the winter months...that is another story!

  7. Hi Bob,

    Pretty much agree with you, would not want to be without family (including pets), freedoms, basic services, and a car. If I moved to a city the car could go, but I hate cities. So living on land is a necessity for me. Good health is also up there on my list of things that are hard to do without.

    I could live without TV, the internet, a phone, most of my books, and everything except wardrobe essentials.

    I would prefer to have access to a good library and post office (for letters) and to keep my musical instruments.

    1. I don't really need to own books anymore, so the library becomes a must-have. I much prefer reading a physical book...the Kindle approach doesn't satisfy me.

      Yes, a double yes, on good health.

  8. As I'm getting older, I'm learning to let go of a lot of things. As I pondered this question, I admit that some of what I could live without is aspirational. I know I can live without close family and friends, given the losses (including by death) I've experienced and witnessing others who go on to thrive in spite of their losses. Kahlil Gibrain's "On Children" resonates with me. I have been threatened in a very real way with the loss of my son in a competitive sporting event and it was a moment of surrender. I have come to learn that there are worse things than death. Loss of freedom? - that would be a tough one and then I think of Elie Wiesel's experience during the holocaust and the movie "Diving Bell and Butterfly" and I'm reminded of the freedom of thought, perhaps the ultimate freedom? Basic services? I have lived without them growing up in rural Alberta. Even today, populations without basic services or considerably distanced from them learn to be self-reliant and somewhat fatalistic. It would be difficult to live without a vehicle living in rural Alberta. I like that we don't have to rely on horses and outdoor toilets and candles and wood for heating. As I age, I don't know that I have the fortitude to tend to the basics of survival but necessity can be very motivational. Life was a lot harder back then but there was little time to worry about leisure activities after the basics of living were attended to. I am perplexed by the governments that worry about internet access to all (LOL) when food and health care isn't universally accessible. I can live without internet connections and tv and social media. Living without Nature would be a tough one for me. I'm with Tamara R - to escape the insanity of humanity, restore my soul, feel my higher power, strengthen my body, appreciate anew the wonder that is Earth. Some things I could live without; some things I wouldn't want to.

    1. Of course, as I re-read what i wrote and all the comments I am reminded how this topic is very much a First World/Developed Nation one. With the majority of the world's population unable to access clean water, adequate food, and basic medical care, our concerns may seem trivial. As noted by one person above, we live where we live and how we live in the society we inhabit, so it is a meaningful discussion from our perspective. Even so, if we could give up some of the things we are talking about so that even a handful of other people would not lead lives of quiet desperation, I am pretty sure we would do so in a heartbeat.

      I am interested in the references to the natural world being so important to so many of us. Arizona is quite different from Alberta or coastal Southern California, or Tennessee, or....Yet, we all feel an important pull of the land. What will climate change do to that link? I hope we figure it out before it is too late.

  9. I have enjoyed pondering this question for a few moments. I agree with many of the thoughts and ideas shared by each of you. However, one thing..my sewing machine..brings me great joy in being able to be creative. I recently resigned from my career after 33 years and had to put it on hold for 10 months, no sewing, while we were packing and moving. I just brought it back out now that we are settled and realized how much I missed it. Great positive topic..thanks for this blog and your dedication with creative and thoughtful conversations.

    1. A sewing machine...that is a perfect example of something that reignites a passion of ours after we retire and have the freedom to follow what we love. Thanks for adding your idea, LL.

  10. Great question! Reminds me of my back to the land days when we would sit around the wood stove and speculate about what we would take to survive if we could only take three things with us into the wild.

    So I see there are two levels to your question--what we need to survive physically, and what we need to sustain our basic quality of life. As to the quality of life, I saw something about a challenge (maybe this is a reality show?) to live without computer/phone technology for a certain amount of time for a large amount of money. I thought, sign me up. I could do that without missing a beat. Yes, I like my stuff, and yes, I get anxious when there is a glitch with my phone or computer. But I could walk away, especially for a small fortune--ha!

    The truth is I think we adapt. Most of us in your audience of retirement aged folks can remember living quite contentedly without many of the things we have today. If we had to, we could again, I suspect.

    A question like this is a great opportunity to reflect on what is truly essential in our lives. I love reading the comments and seeing themes. While we like our things, we seem to be most focused on relationship--our families, friends, pets--and nature.

    You might do a follow up post about what you see in common among all the comments.

    1. So true about life before social media, the Internet, and cell pbones took over. If we had to go back to something like that I think we would quickly adopt. After all, if those things were gone who would we communicate with?

      A follow up post could be interesting. I love the type of comments and the depth of involvement readers have shown, especially over the last year or so.

  11. A very thought-provoking query, Bob! I think human beings are pretty adaptable and most of us could survive and even find some sources of happiness in situations we would find very undesirable. So I think the only things I absolutely need to survive are water and some kind of food. The list of things that are important for my quality of life is much longer, but at the top of the list are: solitude, connections with the natural world, and some source of intellectual stimulation. -Jean


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