Makers, Dreamers, Builders, and Inventors, Unite:
reflections on saving our world
“Perpetual devotion to what a man calls his business, is only to be sustained by perpetual neglect of many other things. And it is by no means certain that a man’s business is the most important thing that he has to do” Robert Louis Stevenson.
Humans are, by nature, makers of things. That’s how we deal with the world… or did, until the Industrial Revolution tore us away from our connection with the earth. Somebody is still making all the stuff, of course, its just outsourced and corporatized, repackaged, and branded. Strangely, the stuff that should last, like clothes, housing, or tools are generally poorly made and often unfixable while the junk that should be disposable is made from plastics that will endure for a geologic age or poison our descendents. But maybe, with a little effort, it doesn’t have to be this way.
Today, instead of procuring our needs directly or through someone we know, we trudge off into an abstract man-made environment to be treated as children and told to perform an obtuse task or two or twenty. And in exchange for giving up our time, we get slips of paper (or more likely, digits only readable to a computer on a plastic card) that confirm that we have performed our work and are now in a position to gather food, shelter, clothing, heat, etc. from a middle-man where profits are almost never seen by the makers.
Creating things like fire, rope, or cutting tools, not to mention shoes or housing will baffle most modern people. Weaving a blanket, sewing a shirt, or butchering an animal are simply out of the question for most of us in the western world. Many of these activities will get you strange looks at best or a call to the authorities at worst. This mindset means that most of us can’t feed or cloth ourselves any longer even if we really want to.
Makers are the hope. We’re out there. Doing things and making stuff. Fending for ourselves in an hostile but lethargic world of expected and nearly enforced consumerism. Once you realize the machine doesn’t work, you can realize it doesn’t really exist.
Most of my adult life, I’ve noticed an interesting paradox. Typical wage-slaves who proudly give 50 hours per week to a faceless and unappreciative mechanism are convinced that the dreamers and the creators are just a bunch idlers and flâneurs when it’s, in fact the lifestyle that they really envy. If it isn’t recognized as drudgery, somehow it’s not real work. But how much do we really need to be happy?
As a side note, many modern philosophers trace this thinking directly to the Protestant Reformation when, as they claim, much of the fun was beaten out of life and holidays were things to be frowned upon. But here I digress.
The internet actually gives me hope, especially seeing the wonderful documentaries of real craftsmen and makers around the world that are emerging from obscurity. Maybe to many, Makers are just a novelty. Something to be ogled at. But knowing there are others out there looking for a deeper purpose and a better existence makes me feel a little better about humanity.
Let’s be realistic; most modern folks wouldn’t opt to live as hunter gatherers as their ancestors did, but maybe we can reach a better balance with our lives than to adopt the imposed role as absolute consumers. And hopefully conscience people can do some good things along the way. Maybe by thinking outside the consumer mindset and choosing to build our homes, make our own socks and shirts, ride a bike, and hunt our meat we can make a difference by both our action and our inaction.
In the words of Samuel Johnson, “To do nothing is within everyone’s power.”
Remember: “An idle mind is a questioning, skeptical mind. Hence it is a mind not too bound up with ephemeral things, as the minds of workers are. The idler, then, is somebody who separates himself from his occupation: there are many people scarcely conscious of living except in the exercise of some conventional occupation”
Robert Louis Stevenson, idler extraordinaire.
Why not go make something? Your great grandparents did.
P.S. Pardon the Friday late night ramblings. My disdain for the modern world is heightened at the end of a ridiculous week at work.