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A Reasonable Life

by Ferenc Mate

259 pages, paperback, Albatross, 3d ed., 2011

Praise for A Reasonable Life

"After reading several books on voluntary simplicity, I was expecting something similar when I picked up A Reasonable Life. I thought it would be one more way to confirm my own beliefs in the growing movement, with a few light stories and some scary statistics thrown in. Well, I was wrong. Mate does not mince words and does not ease you into this concept that living the way many of us live is not living at all. He goes full throttle from page one.

"This book rings hauntingly true for people who have lived the American Dream and found it's not all it's cracked up to be, as well as for those that never bought it in the first place. For those of us raised in big cities (or crowded suburbs), glued to television sets, fed a steady diet of fast food and advertising since birth, it may seem like he's knocking the very stuff we're made of. But many of us know better by now. Those of us who had the big "Is this all there is?" moment once we hit our mid-30s (earlier if you're lucky) and found that all the so-called success in the world doesn't make you happy when you're having chest pains and working 60-plus hours a week.

"Mate has a way of ranting and raving that makes him seem not the least bit crazy or really even angry. Perhaps because his writing is so intelligent, funny and backed up with facts much of the time (his own from stories childhood and adulthood are entertaining and pertinent). I started out a bit jarred by his almost dogmatic proclamations. I ended up cheering along with him by the end: Yes! Yes! We don't have to live this way anymore!

"So what is he really calling for? A better life, I think. He seems to think we could have it by, for starters, creating "hamlets" where people could walk to work and have a real sense of community. He pushes such notions as working a reasonable number of hours, knowing our children, growing our own vegetable gardens and enjoying family-centered Sundays. Are these things really so far out of reach? If they are, doesn't that seem a little sad? I think it should." -- Lu Dumke, Simple Planet,

Quotes from A Reasonable Life

"[This book] started five years ago as a book about our ailing environment and how we could cure it by lifting a finger here, tinkering a bit there. But each time I began to write about packaging, recycling or precycling some piece of junk, the nagging question would erupt as to why we have so much damned junk in the first place? How much does it all really contribute to our lives? And, most important of all, how much does it really cost us, not just in environmental devastation but in our being Human? For the sake of our possessions, how much do we sacrifice of the most precious things of all: our family, friends, our time, even our love and joy?"
. . .
"Let's look at the child's toy. To find it, you, well- meaning parent, drove down to the mall, which was built to display the toy in tasteful, waterfalled, musical surroundings with lots of pretty lights and humming escalators all burning up energy, all, indirectly, belching out tons of pollution. Then you bought the toy. With what? With money you earned with the sweat of your brow, the fumes of your factory, or the tons of wasted energy of computers and copiers and throwaway paper products of your office.

"So you see, you would be misleading yourself if you thought you had simply bought your child a little present. You have done much more than that. For along with Kiburka the jumping-serpent-dildoman transformer, you have also, unwittingly, bought him an added gift: a few hundred cubic feet of poisoned air, and chemical poisons that trickled into creeks and groundwater from the inks, dyes, and bleaches used for refining and coloring the toy, the packaging, the signs, the giftwrap, the gas for your car and the saleslady's lipstick. . . ."

"Such is the way of civilized man; we no longer kill in a bloody hunt for food. We're refined. We work in clean well-lighted places making civilized movements, and kill instead from a great distance . . . ."

Table of Contents of A Reasonable Life

  1. The American Dream
    No Vacancy
  2. The True Cost of a Thing
  3. Sunday
  4. Home?!
  5. The Home Garden
  6. The Myth of the Steady Job
  7. Humane Corporations
  8. Our Devastated Agriculture
  9. True Security in the Country
  10. Unlivable Cities
  11. Humane Small Towns
  12. The Death of the Individual
    Mechanical Lovers, Electronic Friends
  13. Losing Our Children
    The Failure of Education
  14. The Self-Helpless Society
  15. Television
    Zeros as Heroes
  16. A government of the $ by the $ for the $
  17. Reasonable Lives
  18. A Reasonable Future

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