Living without money is possible. In fact, we can thrive without it. Irishman Mark Boyle challenged the consumer mentality and has developed some profound wisdom in the pursuit of happiness without money.
“If someone told me seven years ago, in my final year of a business and economics degree, that I’d now be living without money, I’d have probably choked on my microwaved ready meal.”
Mark Boyle was just like most of us city dwellers
Like most individuals raised in a consumer-driven society, Boyle never questioned his role as a consumer and employee. he had a fantastic job managing a big organic food company and even had a yacht in the harbor.
“I’d still be doing it today. Instead, for the last fifteen months, I haven’t spent or received a single penny. Zilch”.
What inspired the change…?
The change for Boyle came while he was talking with a friend about a movie he had seen that talked about the profound philosophy of Gandhi.
“Whilst I had been significantly influenced by Mahatma’s quote “be the change you want to see in the world”, I had no idea what that change was up until then.”
The two friends discussed some of the major issues in the world – environmental destruction, resource wars, factory farms, sweatshop labor – and wondered which of the issues they could best devote their time to. Mark and his friend felt like most of us do… how could we really make any difference, “being two small drops in a highly polluted ocean”.
That evening, though, a revelation came through:
“These issues weren’t as unrelated as I had previously thought – they had a common root cause. I believe the fact that we no longer see the direct repercussions our purchases have on the people, environment, and animals they affect is the factor that unites these problems.”
Boyle believes that the degrees of separation between the consumer and the consumed have increased so much that it now means most people are completely unaware of the levels of destruction and suffering embodied in the ‘stuff’ they buy. Boyle had landed on a common thought most cynics hold about the effect of consumerism on the world.
George Carlin is another person who agrees that people are focused on the wrong aspect of living. There is so much more value to life when we focus on what lies beyond the bling and toys.
Boyle desired to be the change he wants to see in the world… and this is how he does it.
“If we grew our own food, we wouldn’t waste a third of it today” is one of Mark’s examples as to why it’s important a reconnection with natural/source living is established.“If we made our own tables and chairs, we wouldn’t throw them out the moment we changed the interior décor. If we had to clean our own water, we probably wouldn’t shit in it”.
Deciding to be the change, this then spurred Mark to fully dive into his new viewpoint and give up money, which he only planned on doing for a year.
“I made a list of the basics I’d need to survive. I adore food, so it was at the top. There are four legs to the food-for-free table: foraging wild food, growing your own, bartering and using waste grub, of which there are far more”.
On his first day, he fed 150 people a three-course meal with waste and foraged food. For himself, however, he ate his own crops and waste only made up about 5% of his diet. “I cooked outside – rain or shine – on a rocket stove”.
The next concern was shelter. He found himself a caravan from Freecycle, parked it on an organic farm he volunteered with and renovated it out to be off the electricity grid. I’d use wood I either coppiced or scavenged to heat my humble abode in a wood burner made from an old gas bottle, and I had a compost loo to make ‘humanure’ for my veggies”. Up front and to the point, Boyle clearly understood the necessity of using every available resource to be most sustainable.
“I bathed in a river, and for toothpaste I used washed up cuttlefish bone with wild fennel seeds, an oddity for a vegan. For loo I’d relieve the local newsagent of its papers (Once I wiped my arse with a story about myself); it wasn’t double quilted but it quickly became normal”.
For transportation, Mark used his bike and trailer, using the 55 km commute to the city as an alternative solution for the gym.
What do other people think of his lifestyle…?
“Many people label me as anti-capitalist. Whilst I do believe capitalism is fundamentally flawed, requiring infinite growth on a finite planet, I am not anti anything.”
Pro-nature, pro-community, and pro-happiness
“And that’s the thing I don’t get – if all this consumerism and environmental destruction brought happiness, it would make some sense. But all the key indicators of unhappiness – depression, crime, mental illness, obesity, suicide and so on are on the increase.”
The joy he has created for himself
“Ironically, I have found this year to be the happiest of my life. I’ve more friends in my community than ever, I haven’t been ill since I began, and I’ve never been fitter. I’ve found that friendship, not money, is real security. That most western poverty is spiritual, and that independence is really interdependent.”
“For over 90 percent of our time on the planet, a period when we lived much more ecologically, we lived without money. Now we are the only species to use it, probably because we are the species most out of touch with nature.”
What has he given up
“Stress. Traffic-jams. Bank statements. Utility bills. Oh yeah, and the odd pint of organic ale with my mates down at the local”.
What a grand example of creating the world you want to experience!