What are we seeking in the “Self Help” section of the bookstore? Does it help or is it just something more to purchase and put on the shelf? Here’s a good little post from Becomingaminimalist.org.
“We live in an age when unnecessary things are our only necessities.”
— Oscar Wilde
I’m not one for New Year resolutions. However, it is a time of reflection and I’m glad for the progress I have made in decluttering my life and prioritizing what truly matters over the past few years. Maybe 2016 is the year for another person out there to step away from the frenzy of mindless consumption. More junk around house doesn’t make anyone more happy. And it is certainly not your duty to spend your hard-earned capital only to increase corporate profit.
Alternatively, I don’t advocate volunteer poverty as such. It is wonderful to have nice things; decent clothing, well-made furniture, good food, and a cozy house. Just remember, unless you were born into wealth you did not earn yourself, the objects you buy don’t really cost money, they cost your time, freedom, and ultimately, your life.
My constant resolution is to become better, do better things, and be a better person than I was last year.
Happy New Year to all.
What are you resolved to do this year?
Sorry for the annoying ads recently on my blog. I say mine, but really it is owned by WordPress and I was enticed to offset some costs by cowing to ads. I decided when I had a serious complaint about these, I would take them off. I am glad to say, there is now likely to be only one small ad at the bottom of the post or page and I hope this makes the internet experience better for everyone.
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.
About an addiction I didn’t even realize I had.
It seems that minimalism is the word du jour around the internet these days. Tiny houses, the 100 Thing Challenge, Non-Conformist work strategies, and urban homesteaders are filling blog-space with ideas and adventures outside the old consumerist norm. Many people are looking for something more in their lives and realizing that Stuff is not the answer. There is often an epiphany in someone’s life when they come to the realization that humans are not just professional consumers or targets for marketing strategies. Shopping is not a valid pastime. Hopefully there is more to our short existence than reality TV. Having lived without regular television for quite a few years I feel very lucky to miss out on political soundbites, sit-coms, and mass marketing of sports-watching. Unfortunately, even with my relative isolation, I know about these things from reading the news on the Internet almost daily.
Choosing to not buy into most popular-culture lightens my mental load a lot and (hopefully) allows time for deeper and more elevated thinking as well as crafting a better life. Daily walks, exercise, building things, cooking good food, and reading make for a calmer mind and a lower stress level. These are intentional activities not the imposed sedation of consumer culture.
When I had to leave Flagstaff about eight years ago, I began uncluttering my belongings. I don’t think of myself as a collector, but I had amassed an enormous library of books. This is what people on an academic path do … right? Who did I think I was? Some nineteenth-century English aristocrat? Why would I possibly need a personal library? It hit me one day that this was crazy. I have hauled books around since I was a teenager until it became truckloads to move while nearly always living within twenty minutes of a large, academic library.
Sure, as a person who researches writes for work there are certain references and sources I need to have on hand and could not adequately perform my job without, but I had fallen into the trap of keeping books around “just in case” I wanted them again. That’s not to say that there aren’t recreational books I would never want to be without and I hope to read or reference many more times before I die.
I was able to sell a fair number of books and make a few dollars from them but, in the end, found that there isn’t a high monetary value on most books. These I gave away. I gave away even more to the local library and to the Goodwill store. I still have far too many books, but now its really just the one’s I love or have a need for. The ones I may not need but can’t quite part with are: a few rare antiques, first editions, special editions, and expensive academic tomes.
I’m still giving away books but I’m still buying them as well. Being far from a real bookstore actually makes it easier, not harder, to shop, read reviews, preview and purchase books. Without getting up I can order a book and expect it in my post office box in a week. Such is the Amazon.com culture.
I still read voraciously, but now, when considering a book, I really try to consider how much I want to own it and do I want to lug it around? Another anchor holding me down. Can my local library get it? This has been a difficult addiction to overcome. I’ve bought books since I was fourteen and, on some level, prided myself on having such an extensive collection at my fingertips. It felt good to put another dozen or so hardbacks in my Goodwill box this morning. Just a few hundred more to let go (but a few more are on their way to my post office).