What is an appropriate life? What is enough? What do we need for true happiness? These and similar questions have been at the unconscious center of my journey most of my life, but have only come into sharp conscious focus in the past year. The questions of appropriateness, happiness, and sufficiency are no longer mere philosophical talking points, but have become fundamental to my own existence – and, I believe, to the continued existence of human beings on Earth. I can make no greater recommendation for the compassionate, incisive, and transformational exploration of these themes than, Twelve by Twelve – A One-Room Cabin off the Grid and Beyond the American Dream, by William Powers.
Using a pseudonym for the actual person, Powers describes his encounter with an incredible woman, “Jackie,” – a physician who has chosen to limit her income to $11,000 a year in order to protest war taxes, and to dedicate herself to living a life of subtle and peaceful activism. She has chosen to live in a twelve foot by twelve foot dwelling because, where she lives in North Carolina, if you live 12 X 12 you don’t have to “connect” to the grid of modern life.
Jackie invited Powers to visit her at her 12 X 12, situated on two acres that she had rented from a sympathetic friend and turned into a permaculture of fruit trees, flowering tea plants, edible plants, vegetables, and honeybees. As he sat talking with her in the confines of her home, he recalls, “… the 12 X 12, tiny as it was, expanded outward. Outward to her neighbors. Outward to the forest.
His turning point came when, a few months later, Jackie invited him to live at the 12 X 12 while she was away visiting friends and participating in a desert vigil for peace at the Nevada Atomic Test Site. He accepted her invitation and stepped into an adventure that transformed his life.
At first terrified, then conflicted, then finding deep peace, and finally reentering his life with new conviction, he tells his story of “living 12 X 12” with grace and power. What is appropriate living? What is happiness? What is enough? What is freedom? The answers implied in Twelve by Twelve are both compelling and disturbing. William Powers has written a book that must be read, slowly, deeply, and often by anyone desiring to dream a new Dream for America, for themselves, and for the Earth.