Chapter 1 explains how we got to where we are — why the problems of excess, of too many things and too many things to do, are unique to this moment in history, and how a pattern of waiting (waiting for a rainy day) goes together with a primal fear (the fear of nothing) to create many of the difficulties of life.
One day many years ago, I got my boots stuck in the soggy ground of a swamp. It seemed that I could not go anywhere, but actually it was only the boots that were stuck. What kept me stuck was an unexamined assumption — the idea that I had to keep my feet in my boots. The problem was solved quickly when I realized I could step out of the boots. Whenever you seem to be stuck, it is time to start questioning the ideas that keep you where you are.
The unthinking attachment to things causes one of the world’s great recurring tragedies. Instead of choosing the lives they live, most people are living in ways that come to them essentially by accident.
Everything they do is defined by the first stuff that happened to fall into their lives. They can’t bring themselves to give this stuff up, yet until they do, they are stuck with the stuff they have, mired in it and living a life that is not going anywhere. Most people, I am afraid, simply stay stuck. Barely inching forward, they mistakenly think this slight progress is the journey of life.
To make real progress, you need to go back to where you were before your life got bogged down by the excess in it. You need to rediscover the feeling of having enough things to take effective action but not much more. You need to get out of the swamp and back onto the road. It is as simple — and as difficult — as giving things up.