We have a rare disease. We call it Satisfaction. Most of us contracted it in our early twenties, although it germinated in many even earlier. At the time of publication, much uncertainty exists as to our ability to live in close proximity to normal society on a permanent basis. Our disease is widely believed to be contagious and the consequence of God’s great displeasure besides.

Among the infected too there is debate on the merits of various colony configurations, but it is now clear to us that we must live together. As for being contagious (probably, hopefully) and displeasing God (certainly we provoke wrath in the upholders of modern society’s main tenets) these factor into our decision also, but our calculation is different. Our main goal is to infect. Don’t be shocked. Let me give a full account of the disease, its symptoms, diagnosis, and prognosis and you can judge for yourself.


Satisfaction has its roots in modern American comforts. For the majority basic food and shelter were a given, electricity and gasoline did our heavy lifting and entertained too, a large number of our generation attended college, we moved about the world at will. With these comforts came modern excess — fierce competition amongst a population uneasy with the idea that there is no longer a frontier, the quiet isolation of suburbs cars television and fear, ubiquitous pollution, rampant obesity, common callous exploitation.

Against this backdrop we set out with the natural goal of every generation, to have a better go of it than our parents did. The only difference for our generation is the ambiguity of what exactly better means. To attain a standard of living with more material comforts than our parent’s generation we would need to make vast sums of money. It sometimes seems that it would be better to have fewer modern ills — but this line of reasoning is contentious.

These excesses are alternately blamed on random chance and touted as absolutely, scientifically (unfortunately) essential to our standard of living. The suggestion that comfort might be weighed on a more rational scale against excess is quickly shouted down. So our generation set sail under the flag flown by the generations before us, but was troubled by the shadow it cast.

Often the first sign of a change in course, the first sign of infection, is a sudden outburst of “Fuck it. I’m happy here.” This thought jumped out at me many times. The backdrop could have been one of several places in the South — the rhododendron over the rolling mountaintops, the sandstone bluffs, the rocky creeks they stood high above, or just a patch of sunny grass — but the friends were always dear ones and the setting was always beautiful. The thing you are dismissively cursing is harder to pin down, but in your mind the comfort side of the scale is beginning to wobble off the ground. If these impulses go untreated, the progression of the disease becomes sure and swift. Something deep inside of you shifts and resettles. The scale now balances freely.

Aldo Leopold experienced this shift watching the pale green fire die (and realizing the wolf he just killed had an inner life which deserved existence), Thoreau by idling while his beans grew beside Walden Pond (and growing his own inner life like corn in the night), and Abbey by (… well cagey old Ed never told anyone but probably…) seeing his first buzzard soar over the desert (where he is today, either under the sand or reincarnate in the buzzard).

The exact catalyst varies but the disease is now entrenched. Friends, time, beauty, love, simplicity, silence all take unquestioned precedence over riches, society’s expectations, modern wants. You take desires, distill down your needs, and skim off your wants. You lose your possessive sense of places and they take up possession of you. You are satisfied.

Our generation is now approaching full adulthood. Many of them have garnered real jobs in engineering, business, management, finance. They are poised to make the vast sums of money they will require and are making names for themselves. We, the infected, took seasonal outdoors work, internships, artist-in-residencies, traveling, jobs at tiny non-profits, more education.

We too are making a name for ourselves, although it is too often mispronounced. Our parents have diagnosed a bad economy, wanderlust, a return of the sixties flower children, even sloth. Pundits group us in with the larger mass of ‘twenty-somethings’ or label us ‘green’. Satisfaction is often misdiagnosed. (Fair enough. If it was a medicine rather than a disease the bottle might read: “Warning: side effects may include making art, bicycling, knowledge of eastern religious practice, waking up in the woods… ” and so on for at least a page.)

Satisfaction doesn’t mean spending our lives meditating in full lotus on a mountaintop, on our parent’s couch, or shopping at trendy organic supermarkets. The hippies of the sixties were “a generation searching for the bars of the cage.” Forewarned, we are ready with hacksaws. Lumping us with the bulk of our job hunting generation isn’t correct either. Seeking a (high paying) job or a (long disappeared) secure career is different than seeking a (satisfying) vocation. While the New York Times worries that “social institutions are missing out on young people contributing to productivity and growth,” we would rather contribute to something more worthwhile. Labeling all of our actions, motivations, and thoughts as “green” is perhaps the most common misdiagnosis. Aye, we are people at home in the woods. We’ve read our Muir. We ride bicycles. We can cook a healthy meal from scratch. But our motivation is different than the “green” movement as motivated by advertising-induced guilt to try and protect “our” environment.

Enough about what Satisfaction is not for now. It must be understood for what it is and where it is going, for in it we see the future.

With Satisfaction comes the need to act. We must learn to settle the scale on a balance between the good of comforts and the harm of excess, to live healthily with Satisfaction. If humankind ever had this knowledge we don’t now and desperately need it. We spent so long struggling to survive against nature that we didn’t realize we had made it and before our thinking caught up we had plunged ahead trying to conquer nature, to our detriment. So it is our generation’s job to bring humanity’s way of thinking up to modern reality, to put balance to the test, and to teach what works well. Our gauge will be what promotes happiness, fulfillment, direct connections to other people and the natural world, and simple beauty. Our metric will be what works not just for our generation but will work for the future of the natural community around us and for our grandchildren’s generation.

We worry, though, that Satisfaction may be fleeting, that modern society’s attitudes may spread like its strip malls over our souls before we find our way. That without lots of encouragement and inspiration from like-minded people, we will wander lost. So we have decided to band together and form our own society — where everyone can pursue their own vocations, understand their connections to each other and the land, walk to see a friend, gather around a common meal, test these wild ideas. We have no illusions of complete self sufficiency, complete isolation from modern society, or complete ease in our world. We merely hope to bring more value to the world than we take from it, support ourselves well, and so become contagious. Someday we hope to see our children set off on long walks or bicycle journeys to like minded communities scattered across the land, and return with stories and ideas and news of how Satisfaction is spreading.