Toomas (Tom) Karmo: literary: love of the world

Worldly? But "God So Loved the World"

Nobody wants to be worldly. But we all want to do good things for our world. Here are some conceivable lines of action:

  1. We can promote the health of our physical environment:
    • For six decades, from the 1930s onward, Helen and Scott Nearing pioneered a self-sufficient lifestyle in Vermont and Maine. They found that by adopting a vegetarian diet and minimizing the use of machine tools, they could live close to nature, and yet at a high level of civilization. They built in stone (not wood), eschewing carpets, curtains, and central heating, but putting up imposing bookcases and fireplaces. Amazingly, they managed for many years without any electricity at all and did much of their work with hand tools. (There was, though, at least one motor vehicle, capable of carrying loads - perhaps a jeep or small truck.) They performed manual work only four hours a day, leaving the rest of their time free for activities like writing. Part of their secret in time management lay in respect for order and system. Another part of their secret lay in respect for tools. (They did not apply inappropriate technologies. Those tools which they did possess they cared for: spades, for example, were oiled.) For more on this approach to the material side of life, see Helen and Scott Nearing, The Good Life : Helen and Scott Nearing's Sixty Years of Self-Sufficient Living (New York : Schocken Books, c1989).
    • Independently of the Nearings (who were not in religious life, and indeed seem to have been rather determinedly secular), a Nearing-like approach to rural life has been developed by the Madonna House community at Combermere in Ontario.
  2. We can promote the health of our intellectual environment:
    • We can ignore most of television and the daily press. (A good substitute for the daily press is The Economist, a weekly which covers not only politics and the world economy, but to some extent also science and literature. A good substitute for television is the BBC World Service - still available on shortwave, but nowadays more conveniently treated as a print publication, continually updated on the Web at
    • We can ignore the low-quality bloatware tradition of conventional computing, and instead use Linux or some other flavour of Unix. A few suggestions for getting started with Unix are available at this present writer's Unix pages. (Follow the link to technical pages from the main portal, Within Unix, we can, further, avoid the unnecessary refinements of word processors. This strategy involves eschewing Unix "office suites" in favour of the old ASCII editors vi and emacs. (Where exquisite typesetting is really needed, we can get it with TeX. But for the most part, flat ASCII works fine, and has the advantage of emphasizing substance over appearance.) Finally, we can promote the use of SGML (the technology within which, as an application, the CERN physicists developed the HTML-powered Web) and XML.