The confusing decisions of old folks in Portugal. Or are they?

Michael Beck's picture

I've had a recurring thought lately about personal choices that people make in a lifetime. Some of these are small (“Shall I eat my fifth delicious Portugal orange now or later?”) and some of these are large (Shall I get an office job that pays me millions of dollars or do I choose to live and work for the future I want to see?”). Small or large, these decisions make up a person's life and, to make an understatement, deserve some attention.

In the last couple weeks, I've observed two decisions made (coincidentally?) by elderly people that shocked me, snapped me out of my own little world as I walked along the streets of Portugal.

The first involved an old lady who, as I walked past her, picked up a piece of cane from a rubbish pile and was struggling aggressively with it, twisting and breaking it. I thought to myself, “What in the world is this old woman doing?” Curious, I walked past her and stopped to see what would unfold. Done mangling the cane, she carried on her seemingly normal day with a brand new walking stick that she could keep for tomorrow or as easily (and sustainably, might I add!) discard.

Around a week later, I was walking east of Lisbon to a bike store to speak to the owner about spare bicycle parts. I was walking uphill, the day brilliantly sunny, light shimmering off of the Rio Tejo. Again, I was jolted out of my daydream by an elderly man in a car coasting down the street I was walking up....yes, coasting. The engine was turned off. Now, whether this man ran out of gas or was conserving gas I still do not know but, for the sake of this story, let's say he consciously decided to let gravity transport him down this hill in his metal box on wheels.

The question must be asked; what are small decisions and what are big decisions? Is a small or big decision categorized as such based on cost? Convenience? Morality? Ethics? Faith? Goodwill? Necessity? It is certainly an interesting thought project to consider this; for what reason or reasons do I make the decisions I make? In today's era of international corporate bombardment (in the form of advertising), it is extremely difficult not to feel like you are being told what to do, what to wear, who to hang out with, what to buy, what to live in, etc.

The Iroquois nation weighed larger decisions (ie; where to plant, where to build) with the attempted foresight of seven generations ahead of the given moment. Perhaps this enabled them the sense of more control over their decisions and the inevitable effects of these on future generations.

For me, the decision to buy vs. not buy is one of the more important decisions today. In both of the stories above, these elderly folk decided to not buy, thus choosing, in that moment, not to contribute to the immense production streams that make up capitalism.

I present to you a challenge! Think about all that you buy and ways that you could still have these things and not buy them. Is it possible? Does it take more planning or time?

Eric Puro, another co-founder of, has recently been playing around with the idea of becoming more in touch with the things and processes that make up a life and the sense of fulfillment this provides. I would bet my bottom dollar that the old woman in the above story enjoyed thrashing that cane around to make her walking stick, that the old man enjoyed coasting down the hill in the sun with a ten car train behind him.

I know I got more satisfaction out of building my own home in Oregon then any other decision I've made in my life.

How do you start garnering this type of fulfillment in life? Learn learn learn and have a go at as many different skills and techniques as you can! This is easy to do – all you need is desire, patience, perseverance, a smile and an open mind.

Visit to see where you can learn natural and sustainable building techniques today!


Eric Puro's picture

simply beautiful Michaelbeck.

make joson's picture

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