One Dimension Shy

March 18, 2013 § 18 Comments


Last night at my folks house for dinner, there was a discussion about this blog. Of course, my parents love it, if only because it cracks open the window into our lives a little further. Like most parents, they want to know more about their children than their children are sometimes inclined to share, so any extra scraps are consumed with glee.

Penny, it should be said, is less enthusiastic. This is in part because she’s inherently a private person, but also because she’s not a fan of the medium in general. It feels to her like an artifice of true connectivity, and she also dislikes what she perceives as the self-aggrandizing and voyeuristic nature of most blogs. Penny is one of the most grounded and secure people I’ve ever met, and to her, blogging feels like the antithesis of these qualities. In short, if you are truly happy with and immersed in your life, why would you feel the need to broadcast it to others?

Furthermore, you have to understand that Penny dislikes computers, and simply cannot fathom why anyone would spend a half-second more in front of one than absolutely necessary. It’s not that she doesn’t like to read (she reads voraciously), or finds everything that is available via the Internets distasteful; it’s simple that she abhors staring into a screen. Fair enough, I’d say, because despite however curmudgeonly a brush it might paint me with, I think there is something inherently different between reading a book and reading pixels.

It’s also important to understand that Penny is not a dreamer, but a doer. Once she decides on a course of action, she commits herself to it until completion. She is not afraid of reevaluating and possibly shifting gears; it’s just that she has little-to-no patience for dithering. To her, there is something in the nature of the blog that is noncommittal, that suggests a passing relationship based on something less than full engagement.

If there’s an irony in any of this, I suppose it’s that Penny is the source point for many of the ideas and themes I write about. More so than myself, she is the one responsible for ensuring that our lives have been only minimally hijacked by 21st-century expectations. She has no desire for money or stuff beyond the absolute minimum necessary to support our little hill farm enterprise, and she feels enormously connected to the natural world and the rhythms of our small lives. In this regard, I find her inspiring.

Penny has made her peace with this site. I don’t agree with all of her views regarding the medium, but I value her perspective tremendously. If nothing else, it reminds me that no matter how honest and sincere I try to be in this space, it is in a sense not real. It is only a two-dimensional version and a fractional vision of a world that is decidedly three dimensional, whole, and imperfect.






§ 18 Responses to One Dimension Shy

  • An Untidy Life says:

    with that it feels odd to comment. But comment I will. Tell Penny I’m with her…or dream of being her? However without a blog, Amanda Soule’s, I would not have found Taproot, therefore not have found you. From which I bought and read your books, offline. And from there a whole new perspective was born. One that questions my status quo. I was going there already but lacked the words. You have good words. My profession is in the world of computers, as is my husband’s, but could I live without it? Absolutely. My world would be smaller and different – not more or less fulfilled. My boys however would think the world had ended without Mindcraft.

    • Ben Hewitt says:

      Thanks so much for the comment. I almost didn’t post this, for fear of alienating people. But once I started thinking about it, it felt almost dishonest not to write about it.

  • Jennifer Fisk says:

    I think Penny is right about the nature of many blogs. There is even one that I follow whose author left a real job with benefits to become a full time farmer. This blogger writes often about things that she does that are clearly mistakes, rarely says anything helpful for those trying to begin a form of homesteading and often asks for financial assistance from her readers.
    Many blogs offer points that are helpful to homesteader neophytes. Your’s offers an insight into the life of a family some of us wish we’d had the guts to be. I always enjoy reading about the latest adventure of your boys and wish my 4 could have been raised as they are.

  • Miriam says:

    I wondered what your wife thought;) Thanks for sharing. My husband has little interest in blogging but he doesn’t seem to mind that I enjoy it. For me, it’s a way to discipline myself to write- something I neglected for years. I don’t think it has to be either/or with technology- it’s possible to have balance in one’s life. I don’t write much on paper anymore, but I still read real books all the time:)

  • Julie says:

    I loved getting a little insight into Penny. Thanks for sharing! Your blog holds much significance and inspiration to me, but agree that most screen time lacks value. Great perspectives coming from you both.

  • Wendy H says:

    Great post, Ben … thought-provoking! Blogging is a medium to express and be heard, to connect with others who share in similar thinking and concepts (and counter concepts) – esp. when it might be hard to find them in your own backyard. It helps us (those of us who don’t have family, esp.) to see we are not alone and can be a part of a greater community. It helps us learn about ourselves and others, too – to grow beyond our own little world (and mind). You have a gem in Penny, someone who will keep your feet well planted. We all need one of those in our lives, don’t we! ;-)

  • Anony-country-mouse says:

    Here is something else that no amount of money can buy… anonymity!

    • Ben Hewitt says:

      You ain’t kidding. This is something I struggle with mightily: Balancing privacy/anonymity vs the exposure that helps make my paying work viable. In a sense, we depend on my not being anonymous. And Penny recognizes this.

      Anyway. Excellent point, saillemercy. Whoever the hell you are ;)

  • “if you are truly happy with and immersed in your life, why would you feel the need to broadcast it to others?”

    Oh, no. That’s not it at all. I feel a distinct need to help others avoid my mistakes, to share my ideas and improvements to a wide audience and speed the evolution of modern ecological and agricultural practices. It’s not narcissism, though it could be. It’s taking a moment out of my day to pay a debt of gratitude to a larger community.

    However, I am also a doer. I hate indecisiveness. I make a decision then work to make it the right decision. I have no problem admitting when I have made a mistake, just finding time to write about it.

  • Tonya says:

    It is a funny thing,this blogging world – there are so many days when I wonder if I should stop. .. wondering if I am just doing it for me like Penny said and then that very day I will get an email from someone thanking me because they sometimes feel alone in their nonconsumeristic strivings, or glad to read about a large family living “large” on very little – and that keeps me going.
    Thank you for your writing. It it grounding to read of others that have similar viewpoints.
    (We also avoid much of the outside world – and I have been telling my husband lately that perhaps I am feeling too isolated – but maybe that is a good thing.)
    Really looking forward to “consuming” your book.

    • Ben Hewitt says:

      Thanks, Tonya. Clearly, I’m a bit conflicted, too.

      Hey, I sent you an email about the NEK development hype a while backů did you get that? If not, would you email me?


  • Vonnie says:

    Hmmmm…interesting perspective your wife has there. I agree with her to some extent and often times much time will pass between posts on my blog because we’re dealing with something that feels too personal to share. So, I get it. But I also find the immediate availability of the writing to be so enticing, is it not? To know that I can throw something up there that others can read so quickly, be it worthy of their time or not, but my thoughts just the same…well, yes, enticing for me to be sure. I found a sense of fun I had not experienced before I started my blog many years ago. And I limit my reading to a few others I feel interesting enough to spend time in front of the screen myself, which I’m also not that fond of. I’d sure miss your blog, though, if you didn’t send your thoughts out into the world. ~Vonnie

  • Vonnie says:

    Oh, and I’d also like to add that I’m a doer as well…I wonder if Penny gets impatient with those in her life that are not as I do. That’s something I struggle with all the time, just allowing that my thoughts and ways are my own and others are their own. I’m a work in progress myself. ~V

  • Michele says:

    Internet community does feel sterile and fraudulent sometimes…somehow disingenuous…but how remarkable to share thoughts and ideas over so wide an expanse, too. That is no small thing. After a day of teaching high school English and contemplating the hows and whys of so much, I find myself looking forward to reading your blog. How extraordinary it is to have your clever thinking find its way into some other house perhaps many, many miles away. Is there anything lovelier than exchanging ideas, hot coffee, and clean socks?

  • Melanie says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and insights into the big issues that dominate family life. I live near Sydney Australia – and look forward to your refreshing views on modern culture with its many pitfalls. I find your blog reassuring and relevant for a mum trying to guide her family to a positive place and simpler lifestyle.

  • […] post got me thinking again about Penny’s views regarding online connectivity, and to what extent I should embrace these mediums. If it’s not […]

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