The Roman Stoic Seneca said that each month, he would set aside some days to live simply and roughly (like a condition of poverty). In so doing, he reasoned, he would see the condition he feared and perhaps fear it less in the future – and become more virtuous as a result.
For a modern practitioner of Senecan wisdom, this doesn’t have to be a chore. It can be a vacation: just go camping.
I’ve been doing some primitive camping myself for the last few nights, and I can tell you I have a better appreciation for both poverty and the fruits of civilization.
Even with a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and tent, the hard ground is unpleasant. Sleep outdoors is fitful and I awake many times at night.
Without a running water source, it’s a chore to keep clean or to clean dishes. If I hadn’t had the help of some wet wipes, I would be struggling to clean my hands and face before and after meals.
Without good starter fuel, fires are hard to start and hard to keep going. Fuel burns too fast or not at all. Cooking over fire is another challenge: it takes forever. In its absence, I eat cold slop of pancake mix, or half-cooked eggs. And of course I didn’t remember to bring eating utensils, so I eat with a spatula.
I have become hyper-aware of the conveniences I miss. And I’m also aware of just how far I still am from “primitive.” I have cook gear. I have a tent. I have food I packed in – even cold food on ice! I’m far from the worst poverty humans have faced. And I can handle this as they survived much worse.
Would be healthy for us all to do this at least once a year for a few days. Hard to beat the realizations of camping.