Bordering on Complete Sanity: Slow down and live simply … or else

By Sandy Compton
Reader Columnist

A problem with being a writer is that if you write long enough you begin to repeat yourself. Vonnegut and Heinlein escaped it, but Grisham, King, L’Amour and even Michener became formulaic. The happy part for them was that certain audiences love their formulas, so they became wealthy and famous by writing the same thing again and again.

I’m neither famous nor wealthy. Of course, I’ve been advocating slowing down, living more simply and — here’s the crux of the issue — taking responsibility for our lives,  which is not the most exciting or attractive of content. A relatively small minority takes the message to heart, while the majority of the planet insists on going faster and acting stupider.

So, why am I saying it again? Because I still think it needs to be heard.

Sandy Compton. Illustration by Daniel Cape.

The cultures of the world are being dismantled by our current velocity. On every continent, the good works done in the 20th century are being undone by the excesses of the early 21st.

Our government seems to be in the clutches of a free-for-all of blatant self-interest and calculated groping for whatever can be had for the individual and their friends. Rude, misogynistic, reliably unpredictable and malicious Donald Trump endorses racism during his endless, moronic “tweets.” Secretay of the Interior Ryan Zinke undoes national monuments protecting incredible public lands in Utah. Sen. Steve Daines introduces legislation to “unprotect” a half-million acres of Wilderness Study Areas in Montana under the ridiculously deceptive and cynical name of “Protect Public Use of Public Lands Act.” House Rep. Greg Gianforte believes that the world was created 4,500 years ago and cops to assault for punching a reporter. And that’s just a very short, somewhat provincial list.

A form of Ronald Reagan’s “trickle down” policy seems to be at work here. We watch our leaders and say to ourselves, “Screw it. If they can get away with that kind of behavior, why bother?” Or, do we elect leaders like that because that’s also who we are: short-sighted, greedy, dishonest, misanthropic, disrespectful bigots?

I drove through a small city last week at 4:45, and it was akin to being in a sci-fi movie; cars of all shapes and sizes zipping around, changing lanes without warning, running yellow lights and red lights, charging wildly into the green; as if the life of the drivers depended on getting to their destination in the next minute.

“Why,” I thought to myself, “are these people in such a hurry?”

There’s something going on that I can’t see, but I can feel; a frenetic response to a disturbance in the Force, maybe. It’s like a beast has stuck its nose in our anthill, and we ants are in panic, running in circles. We know something is wrong, and we are trying to parse it out with limited knowledge and no good leadership. The queen, who we are all genetically sworn to protect, is buried deep inside the nest. All we know is that something has invaded, and we are to swarm to drive it off or kill it; or die in the attempt.

That’s fine with the beast. It will just lick us up as we come mindlessly to it.

We are not ants, though we act like it some days. We can determine — should we care to take the time — what to do next, but we have to first stop running in circles. The bastards who are trying to lick us up and everything we value — believe me, they won’t quit at national monuments, wilderness study areas or even the basic right to live without fear — aren’t going to desist unless we make a concerted effort to stop them.

The most important means of stopping them is to unite in dislodging them from power, and this has to happen at all levels — city council, county commission and state legislature on up through the Presidency itself. This means getting off our lazy, complacent, apathetic butts and voting on election day. It means understanding who to vote for and why. It means keeping track of what’s going on in Washington, D.C., Boise, Helena, the chambers of the county commission and at city council.

Too busy for that? Self-serving leadership loves that idea, and does their best to make sure it’s true. The fewer people who vote or know who to vote for, the more likely they are to retain office. While you are running a yellow light be next in line at Starbucks, some of your elected representatives are introducing legislation that is against the world’s best interests.

There are great movements out there addressing our future. You don’t have to join them all, but you might get involved with at least one of them. And slow down. If we continue to blast along as if there’s no tomorrow, tomorrow will be way ugly.

Sandy Compton, who has lived in “Montaho” since he was a wee boy, has been writing for publications for 35 years. Read more at

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