November 26, 2014

Black Friday Creep

Oh, Canada.
Our home on the Native's land.
True consumer love is our dictator's command.
With glowing wallets we compete for thy consumer goods.
The true North, strong and free... to shop for bargains all week and beyond.
Oh, Canada. We stand on guard for thy economy to the detriment of everything else.

- Canada's new national anthem

Did you know that Canada never traditionally had anything called Black Friday until fairly recently? In the past while our American cousins across the border hit the shopping malls this time of year, we tended to look on with a mixture of confusion and curiosity.

Now this celebration of unfettered consumer lust is not only creeping into our country, but it is starting to bloat like an out of control diner at an all you can eat buffet. For the first time I am now seeing "Black Friday Week" advertisements.

Apparently I should be looking forward to a whole week of frenzied, chaotic and competitive debt-fueled shopping. I note that grocery stores don't get into this action, probably because business people don't usually mark down stuff you actually need to survive.

It isn't actually Black Friday Creep, it is that Black Friday Is Creepy. They think we are gullible, out of control consumers and nothing more, wiling to sacrifice everything at the alter of greed and consumer dreams. Why not prove them wrong?

Alternatives To Black Friday Day... Week... Month

  • Only buy things that don't harm people or the environment. That should reduce your shopping list considerably.
  • Realize that you don't need anything They have to offer.
  • Spend the day (or week) repairing clothes and things that you have that can be made useful once again.
  • Go for a Buy Nothing Day hike and enjoy all the free nature out there.
  • If you must shop, shop Main Street rather than Wall Street. Buy from small businesses and local artisans, and get unique goods not available from the mass producers of crap.
  • Give the gift of kindness - that stuff is free and should be shared widely and frequently.
  • Be empowered by not shopping. If you don't like being told what to do by fascist governments and the corporations they support, exercise one of the last freedoms you have left - the freedom NOT TO SHOP. It is empowering to not blindly follow orders from above.
  • Celebrate Buy Nothing Day on November 28 (North America) and November 29 (International). 
  • Or co-opt the creep thing and celebrate Buy Nothing Week, or Month, or Year!

November 24, 2014

Solstice - We Survive

A little Larch loses its leaves.

We are one moon cycle from winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. People all over the northern hemisphere celebrate solstice as it represents the day that the sun starts its return to northern skies.

That was the crux of all celebrations at this time of year before they were co-opted by corporate interests. We celebrated surviving the frightening experience of the sun's heat and light leaving us in the cold and dark.

And then, on winter solstice, the sun returns to us. Thank the solar system and physics - the heat and light return. We just may be fortunate enough to enjoy another year. The green fuse sparks to life.

I was reminded of the greatness of this time of year, and the hope that solstice offers year after year after year, when I stumbled upon a luminescent tiny tree in the forest while on a hike.

You may see a scraggly, little "Charlie Brown Christmas tree", but I saw a magnificent Solstice Tree that was positively radiant in photonic splendour.

Even as its needles turned gold and began to fall, it was already hinting at the warmth that follows the chill winds of winter. Its resplendent display spoke to me, and it said, "See you when the sun returns and we can grow together again."

What could be better than that?

November 21, 2014

Zen And The Art Of Farming

"Observe nature thoroughly rather than labour thoughtlessly."

Masanobu Fukuoka's 1975 book The One-Straw Revolution  has been described as "Zen And The Art Of Farming". In it the Japanese farmer/philosopher lays out his natural farming manifesto which has influenced many a back-to-the-lander.

Fukuoka links the healing of our planet with the ultimate health of the human spirit - the two will improve together. Getting in touch with nature leads us back to ourselves.

I love how he questions our current notions of work. He thought that doing too much was what was harmful to our planet, and was very much into labouring efficiently.

This farming master was into doing what needed to be done and no more, and called his methods "Do Nothing Farming".
“I do not particularly like the word 'work.' Human beings are the only animals who have to work, and I think that is the most ridiculous thing in the world.  
Other animals make their livings by living, but people work like crazy, thinking that they have to in order to stay alive. The bigger the job, the greater the challenge, the more wonderful they think it is.  
It would be good to give up that way of thinking and live an easy, comfortable life with plenty of free time. I think that the way animals live in the tropics, stepping outside in the morning and evening to see if there is something to eat, and taking a long nap in the afternoon, must be a wonderful life.  
For human beings, a life of such simplicity would be possible if one worked to produce directly his daily necessities. In such a life, work is not work as people generally think of it, but simply doing what needs to be done.” 
My dad said as much in one of his favourite sayings which I grew up hearing often. When things got busy in his job as a teacher he would say, "Never mind all that - just living is a full time activity".

While he taught for 35 years, I never saw my father happier than in retirement when all he needed to do was what needed to be done. And no more.

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