This is a question that keeps coming up along my permaculture journey and one I talk about during different aspects of some of the courses I help facilitate.

The first time I encountered this question was in reading Plato who was a philosopher from the 5th century BC where he posed the question – What is the good life? by this he was referring to the aspects of Conviviality (To have fun and celebrate), Citizenship (Taking care of your family and community), Artistic and Intellectual growth (music, science, arts, community) and spiritual development and fulfillment (of the individual and shared).

Claude Lewenz in his book ‘How to Build a Villagetown’ he proposes the idea of building a habitat to not only be a wonderful place to live, but also solve all sorts of social, economic and environmental challenges facing modern society. The author, Claude Lewenz took about 20 years, and considerable research, dialogue, focus groups and real-life testing to refine.

What happens if instead we build human habitat where we don’t need to drive? We don’t reduce or offset CO₂ emissions, we stop emitting. We burn no fuel – zero emissions. Design to remove the need for cars as local transport.
What if we place everything people need… work, shopping, schooling, cafés, recreation and a wide range of housing, all within a 10-minute walk of our homes. Within that habitat.
Old people need not move to retirement homes when they lose their driver license. Children play in the streets safely. People connect on plazas, no appointment needed; quality of life goes up. Streets are narrower, cost less to build and maintain. The settlement rather than development that costs less to build, needs less land, yet brings i the experience of place.

David Holmgren in his new book – Retrosuburbia, also addresses this in a different context were we look at what we already have and how can we re-skill, retrofit and fundamentally redesign our already existing households and communities for not only ‘The Good Life’ but for an energy decent future.

How can we use our domains – Built, Biological and Behavioural to improve our quality of life for ourselves and our families in a time of financial and property bubbles, Rising costs and shortages and the potential of climate chaos.

The graph below reminds me strongly of the web of life chart from holistic context and in this David asks us to evaluate our lives by simply dividing the amount of hours per week and see how it meets our needs. A simple yet powerful tool in helping to identify how we can start looking at what makes up a good life for us. 

the Web of life is also a great tool in how we can ‘rank’ various aspects of our life to help identify our ‘weakest link’ and gives us the opportunity to start working on the various aspect one section at a time so not to overwhelm us – our daily statement of purpose.

So what does the question ‘what makes for a complete and balanced life’ mean to you?

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