The New York Times ran a story on the last day of 2009 in the Home and Garden Section about a modern couple who lives in a Yurt. A Yurt is a large circular tent, common throughout the nomadic parts of Mongolia, which is why it ran in the Home and Garden Section. The Yurt was the hook.
That did not catch my attention as much as the headline, which ran “Broadband Yes. Toilet No.”
It gets better.The details are eye-opening, and give new meaning to the death of distance.
This couple met in college, and, according to the story, fell for each other rather quickly.
Today they live on an island, three miles from a town of 250 people, with no running water. In other words, they have no modern plumbing. They have an outhouse outside. (That sort of detail might normally escape the typical reporter, but this story is supposed to talk about the house, so there you go.)
Here is another detail. Their yurt abode contains a wood stove that heats the tent to no better than freezing on the coldest winter days.
Oh, and did I mention the one year old infant? They also have a young child at home. The article contains a picture of the dazed little infant strapped to the mom while she does something.
If nothing else, view the slide show. Unbelievable way to live.
A new hierarchy of needs?
So here is the twist. Despite deliberately choosing a Eskimo-like existence, this couple continues to get broadband.
Yep, you heard that right. They are willing to give up many of the comforts of a modern existence — no kitchen, no flush toilet, no hot showers, no private bedrooms, no heat in the winter — but not their connectivity.
It looks nuts to me, but who am I to say what is right for someone else? I respect that they made their choices in a thoughtful manner.
Oh, but they will not give up their broadband. Out there in the wilderness of Alaska in their Yurt, sharing life with the bears, and they will not give up their broadband.
Perhaps this couple has defined a new hierarchy of needs. The traditional hierarchy, you may recall, comes from Maslow, and goes something like this: Healthy and well adjusted individuals first satisfy their physiological needs, then their safety needs, then some basic happiness needs, then self-actualization and peak experiences.
This couple seems to live according to a different hierarchy. It starts with basic physiological needs (albeit it is rather skimpy even on those), progressing up to safety and love/belong. Next is broadband, the cellphone. Those seem to be necessary to reach self-actualization.
The deployment of the Internet has given rise to all manner of forecast about the death of distance. This couple seems to have taken those forecasts in a direction nobody anticipated. They are living according to their convictions next to the Walden Pond of their choice.
Are they a bit nuts or pointing out the emergence of a new hierarchy of needs? You decide.