“A main motivation for settling down…was probably to make an alcoholic beverage….”
– Patrick McGovern
Last week, my husband and I watched a short documentary called How Beer Saved the World. You can watch it here for free. It’s also on Netflix.
This film is a fun way to learn a little of the history of beer, though I’d recommend visiting your local library if you’re serious about studying the topic.
Like many other prime-time “science” and “history” shows these days, How Beer Saved the World focuses more on entertainment than education.
Big on hyperbole, humor and product placement (MillerCoors), the Discovery Channel documentary claims beer is responsible for farming, the wheel, math, written language, the founding of America, modern medicine and child-labor laws.
You’re probably wondering what a beer documentary has to do with minimalism
In the first few minutes, the show makes the following claim:
“Human beings like us have been around for about 100,000 years. For the first 90,000, we were nomads, hunter-gatherers. All we had to worry about was food.
The life of a hunter-gatherer is probably not as hard as some people would think. They spend about 2 hours a day gathering grains and hunting. And they spend a lot of time socializing.”
When we heard this, my husband and I wondered aloud why beer was said to have “saved the world” when the pre-beer life sounded pretty good. We used to work only 2 hours a day? What happened?
“Recent discoveries suggest that the adoption of agriculture…was in many ways a catastrophe from which we have never recovered.”
– Jared Diamond
Apparently we’re not the only ones who wondered why becoming an agrarian society is considered such a good thing. I came across an article published in Discover magazine in 1987 titled The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race.
The gist of the article is that agriculture gave us social and gender inequality, starvation, malnutrition, epidemic diseases and despotism.
I have no idea as to whether agriculture (and beer) saved the world or ruined it. I do know that what humankind has traditionally seen as progress is not always so.
“[W]e spend more than we make on more than we need, which sends us back to work to get the money to spend to get more stuff to….”
– Joe Dominguez & Vicki Robin
Many of us work at jobs we don’t even like to buy a bunch of extra stuff we don’t need – and somehow consider that “progress.”
In fact, someone owning a mansion and multiple vacation homes is almost universally considered successful, though there’s no free time for enjoying any of those homes.
Even middle class families work hard and go into debt to pay for things they don’t need. While family sizes have gotten smaller, houses have gotten much bigger. We also have a lot more expensive “toys” than we used to.
Instead of entertaining ourselves playing card games, reading books or watching the one TV shared by the family, many households have multiple TVs, computers, tablets and smartphones. In addition to the cost of buying those items, it’s not hard for a family to spend several hundred dollars a month on cable TV, internet service and smart-phone plans.
Even crazier, Americans throw away 25-40% of the food they buy. Think how many hours we’re working to buy something that goes straight into the trash can.
Your Money or Your Life
We often think those figures apply to everyone else, not us, but if you take some time to think about it, you’re likely to find some areas you could improve.
You might find it hard to get a handle on just how much money you’re wasting. In Your Money or Your Life, authors Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin provide exercises designed to help you calculate:
- What you have to show for the money you’ve earned so far.
- Your true hourly wage, factoring in commute time and expenses, cost of work-related clothing, etc.
- How many hours of your life you’re trading for each type of cost.
Dominguez and Robin also offer tips on how to live more frugally, manage your finances and retire early.
Note that the book I checked out from my library is from 1992, and that’s what I’ve linked to above. There’s a newer edition as well.
What about you?
Are you trying to cram “life” into the few hours remaining once you’re done “earning a living” and completing chores? How are you trying to make time for a more meaningful and fulfilling life?