January 31, 2010

Are We Still Going Up If We Are Going Down?

"The environmental disruptions, the ever-increasing list of species extinctions - all are evidence to those who are willing to see that this past 10,000-year phase of development does not mark great evolutionary progress but a terminal crisis in the life cycle of the planet.

It is time to imagine beyond endings."

From: Voices of the First Day: Awakening in the Aboriginal Dreamtime by Robert Lawlor, 1991

I have often wondered why the concept of evolution, a supposedly scientific theory (culturally-generated story), has white males at the top of the ladder with everything and everyone else taking up the rungs below.

We need a new story. Let's knock down the ladder and make it into a bridge.

January 30, 2010

What Would You Do With Spiderman's Head, Arms, And Legs?

When we are children spontaneity and creativity are how we roll. The borders and limits of the 'realities' of the adult world are not yet obvious. Joy rules the day and fun is made with natural and found objects. Pillows and blankets become forts, pots and pans musical instruments, and natural areas the settings for major adventures. Anything is possible.

As constricted grown ups with adult responsibilities we set aside our childhood ways. This often means simultaneously setting aside much of our spontaneous nature, as well as our belief in our own creative powers. When we are free of stressful conditions, are unafraid, and have time to be ourselves, the magical qualities of childhood can once again guide our discoveries.

This week I found a Spiderman action figure while out for a walk in the hood. The webbed wonder had obviously tangled with an evil foe, and lost. His body section was in rough shape and I buried it solemnly while several spiders gathered nearby. The limbs and head I put on ice and brought home.

When I got home Linda reminded me that we took a well-ripped Spiderman action figure traveling overseas with us. It was an unclaimed toy at the end of a year of teaching grade 6, and it acted as our unofficial mascot.

Could this be the same one? Did he follow us from the prairies? Last time we saw him he was hanging from our friend's houseplant, scanning the living room for nefarious activity. But that was 5 years ago and 1500 km away.

We started thinking of things we could replace Spiderman's torso with. An early idea was Spiderloaf (not that kind of loaf), because I had just baked a couple of banana loaves. We fused Spidey's head and limbs to the loaf, but he looked bloated and slow. Plus he was nutty. Walnutty.

The versions seen here were created complete with lyrics for the theme song. We also thought about their special powers.

Spiderpod, for example, can spin a world wide web and download about 150 songs.

Spiderdriver can solve any crime as long as it has a Phillips head.

Spiderpen could have been Spidersword, but his keen senses told him which was mightier and he requested a pen/body transplant.

Finally, we have Spiderband. He's bendy and stretchy, and can propel himself vast distances with a single snap.

The grown-up world, highly over-rated in my opinion, is not as set as we think, and responsibilities can and should be set aside occasionally for mental health purposes. It feels good to reclaim the best parts of childhood so that we can again feel the magic. Feel the joy. Run. Jump. Play.

Shakti Gawain says, "As you open to the playfulness in the universe, you see its humor in many ways."

I try to play a bit each and every day.

January 21, 2010

The Great Recession Generation To Learn Value Of Frugality

It's not the Greater Depression. It isn't even a minor depression. But it is the Great Recession - the biggest, baddest, meanest recession of the last 70 years. Some are predicting that the current generation may not get more stuff than their parents, the first time this has happened in decades. A whole generation is being introduced to the thrifty, efficient ways of their ancestors.

What the simple living and environmental movements couldn't achieve in decades the Great Recession has managed to do over the course of a couple of years. We are going back to less wasteful, more sensible times. Bigger is no longer better, and excess no longer means success.

In good times super-sized trucks, TVs, and houses signal to others that you have achieved the American Dream. George Carlin observed that it's called the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it. Sure enough, we have woken up and the 'good life' fantasy is dissipating into thin air. Turns out a lot of the dream was bought on credit, and the banks want it back.

Excess does not look the same through our recession-coloured glasses. It looks like what it has always been - waste. It has taken the biggest financial kick in the ass in seventy years to make us realize that we must adhere to nature's limits, and nature is frugal. Nature does not waste.

A policy in our home is to not replace anything till it is worn out or broken beyond repair. It is not only about saving money. It is also about honouring the earth by using its resources as economically as possible. Many things we buy would serve us faithfully for decades, if not a lifetime. A cast iron frying pan will last several generations.

In spite of what a New York author said in her 2006 book (with a title similar to this blog) about her year-long experiment with the simple life, you can't really wear out a sweater in a few months. A beggar in India with no arms and no legs might wear out a sweater in a year.

All the things that we buy, and used to cherish till worn or broke, have become 'starter' items on an endless evolution of upgrades. The Ikea student furniture for the dorm is the gateway drug to the crack of leather sectionals in granite and stainless steel starter homes.

I could see that we were at the nadir of our obsession with acquiring new things when I spotted a particularly blatant commercial on TV. A car manufacturer showed an entire family, small kids included, pushing their new-ish, perfectly good mini-van over a cliff so they could go buy a new one.

Do we really fall for such blatant, disorienting propaganda promoting endless waste? It is easier to fall prey to such manipulation when we are flush with cash or cheap credit.

In this new era of perpetual recession we will find that we can do without the propaganda, and a great deal of what it promised. The acquisitive part of the American Dream was always an unattainable illusion. Our desperate attempts to achieve it has slain the earth, and made us fat, slow, and vulnerable.

Some say that the Recession Generation will be traumatized, but I say they will be unfettered. Saved from mindless toil and constant lifestyle upgrades, this generation will make frugality and common sense mainstream. They will be free and the healing will begin.

January 15, 2010

Over-rated: Money, Under-rated: A Happy Hoop

Part of the appeal of the simple life for me is enjoying the basic things that we often take for granted. Bodily functions, like toileting, have a way of impacting ones life in a most profound way. I am not alone in thinking this... saying it, maybe, but you know exactly what I mean, don't you? A sore hoop can ruin your whole day, regardless of how much money you have.

When a friend was in nursing school one nugget of information she shared was, "If you don't poo or pee you die." That makes a lot of sense. If you don't take care of basic bodily functions you are going to be one unhappy camper. Just ask the guy in post-op that hasn't had a movement in a week.

This reminded me of one of the most useful things I read last year. The practical tip was in a book about caring for the human body, something I am increasingly interested in as I begin to see evidence of mine wearing down. The book advised, in the chapter on the digestive tract, to wet your toilet paper before wiping.

Now there is piece of advice that can have an immediate impact on your quality of life.

While I was traveling, the lack of toilet paper in many places turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Soon I tapped into the wisdom of using water to clean the backside, instead of using paper to wipe everything around. Like a friend said, "If you got some poop on your face would you wipe it off with toilet paper, or would you wash it with water?"

Toilet paper under a microscope.

I wonder what the frictional difference is between water and toilet paper? It's like comparing silk and sand. Even the very best pillowy soft, triple-ply, 100% virgin forest toilet paper is made of scratchy cellulose fibre. Wetting it decreases the friction considerably, reducing the damage to your delicate parts.

I like to make sure to get 100% post-consumer TP (made from recycled paper), which has come a long way since the original brown stuff with wood chips in it.

We aren't set up for using water to wash with as in several places I have visited, but now I have fused two toileting technologies, and I swear by wet sand paper. I mean, toilet paper.

Who knows, this could help me make the switch back to water only. Trees would be left standing, my hoop would be happier, and money would be saved. I wonder what I should do with my share of the $2.5 billion dollars that Americans spend on TP every year?

Celebrate the healthy functioning of your body. Be thankful if it is squeaky clean and happily working as it should.

January 12, 2010

Join The NBA Community: Become A Follower

The Aboriginal Rainbow Serpent is an energy figure symbolic of the sacred body of the earth and the preformative spiritual order of the universe. It is also the original appearance of creative energy in the Dreamtime. The serpent is always associated with vibration and flowing energy fields. Robert Lawlor
We would like to invite you to join NBA by becoming a follower. I sincerely thank the 12 or so brave individuals that have been on the leading edge of publicly joining our community. They noticed the gadget on the right margin, and have chosen to use it to show their support. Future followers will be following them in their support of our blog's mandate.

Why become a follower? First of all, it is free. You don't have to buy anything, no noxious advertising will assault your frugal sensibilities, and being a member of NBA has benefits. If you have a google account being a follower will automatically send NBA posts to your reader. And as a follower you will feel more of a part of the community and may feel more welcome to participate and help make it suit your needs.

Over the past 6 months to a year we have stepped up our efforts to become a preferred source of entertaining, useful, and occasionally controversial information on how the end of consumer culture will bring an enhanced quality of life for all.

It has been an exciting time and although we can not claim any kind of viral status, we have logged several thousand visits. My mother even phoned to congratulate us after going on-line at my sister's place and clicking through a few page views on our blog.

It is amazingly motivating to know that there is support out there for the content that we offer. Having followers is both carrot and stick, and will ensure on-going posts continue, and improve.

Our message may be highly counter-culture (although less so all the time it seems), but it is on the fringes where new ideas take hold. We are happy to see that the crowd out here is growing larger all the time. Our individual actions will lead the way to global change. Together we are strong.

Please think about joining our fringe community and becoming a follower of Not Buying Anything. Whether you become a follower or not, thank you for your support. We would love to hear from you, and appreciate all comments, suggestions, and feedback.

January 7, 2010

What Are You Optimistic About?

Japanese Kanji symbol for Optimism

Sometimes I fear I focus more on 'consume less', and not enough on 'live more'. Talk of a global depression with simultaneous climatic catastrophes makes life seem more hazardous than the Cold War years. It is easy to get caught up in the sensational doom and gloom headlines and disaster entertainment. Is there anything left to feel optimistic about?

Yesterday I was at the public library waiting for Linda to get off work. As I scanned a shelf of books one title jumped out at me - "What Are You Optimistic About? Today's Leading Thinkers On Why Things Are Good And Getting Better" edited by John Brockman. What? A whole book of good news? I grabbed it.

From Marc D. Hauser who is optimistic about the end of -isms, to Roger C. Schank who is looking forward to the end of the commoditization of knowledge, this book is all about launching into action from a positive place, rather than from frustration and anger.

We may not often hear about the good things that are happening all over our little planet, but happening they are. Will a sunlight-powered future help us on the oily slide down Hubbert's Peak? Will having more women in politics end war? Is capitalism aligning with the good? All of these movements, or revolutions, are getting up to speed in the background hum of chaos. Positive patterns are beginning to emerge from the ether.

The last time I checked, the world was still peopled with mostly warm-hearted, intelligent, caring human beings. I meet them daily. Friends, neighbours, cashiers at the grocery store, fellow walkers, people on-line, all behaving in a most non-apocalyptic manner.

I am optimistic that current and future hardships will draw us together as a community like none other that this world has ever seen. Through the Internet and travel, more of us are meeting each other than ever before, and it seems to me that we are not only getting along, but are also growing and thriving together.

Not that there isn't work to be done, but I feel like we are headed toward a more cooperative future guided by non-violence and doing the least amount of harm. A future where we can talk and share and learn together for the benefit of human kind. I am optimistic that our vast potential as a species will see us to a whole new level of being.

Realizing what we are doing well, celebrating our potential and focusing on solutions will get us to where we need to go. We live more by thinking positive thoughts. What are you optimistic about?

January 3, 2010

My Resolutions for 2010

Making resolutions this time of year seems kind of, well, corny and insincere. Well-meaning individuals purchasing fitness club memberships as part of a resolution to "get buff" be warned. A 2006 British consumer report found that 220m pounds ($375m) was wasted every year in the UK on unused club memberships. And the guilt? Priceless.

Ideally I would be in a constant state of assessing my performance as a functioning human being, rather than possibly once a year. Out of jail? Check. Feeding, clothing, and sheltering self, and loved ones? Check. Doing the least amount of harm to self, others, and planet? Check. Exercising for 30 minutes per day, and expunging the word 'fuck' from my vocabulary? Sound of needle scratching across vinyl, then silence.

I have been trying to check in with myself more often. Then I can begin self-correcting right away by setting small goals for practice and improvement. However, any time we pause to self-reflect and set goals is a good thing, and I wish all of those making pledges for 2010 complete success. I will even jump in with a few of my own:
  1. Get rid of more possessions. The times in my life I have felt completely liberated were while living out of a backpack. A few days in the backcountry of Waterton/Glacier International Peace Park or traveling overseas for months, stripping life to the bare essentials taught me that the world is a wondrous, safe place full of amazing people, and you can carry everything you need to enjoy it all.
  2. Allow a natural, easy flow of money in to, and out of, my life. Money comes. Money goes. Nothing good comes from worrying about it. Everything is going to be alright. We will help each other.
  3. Become more involved in my community. I will become more cooperative within the greater community by volunteering my time in a school, food bank, or where ever else my help is needed.
  4. Start cultivating an allotment in a new community garden area. I miss having a garden. In Sooke and across Vancouver Island great things are happening in the area of farming and food security. I want to grow a green tangle of magnificent munchables, and help others do the same.
  5. Meditate more. Even in my simple lifestyle I am amazed at how I manage to keep busy 99% of the time. I know the Dalai Lama says that sleep is the best meditation, but I would like to be a little more active than that this year.
  6. Go for longer, slower walks. Driving is way to fast, at any speed. Sometimes riding a bike is to fast. I want to see life unfold, manifest, come into being. I find that walking, with frequent stops, is a good pace. Ambling, wayfaring, wandering, getting lost - this is where the magic happens.
  7. Quit drinking coffee. Will 2010 see the end of hot, sweet, milky fair trade coffee? Cut out coffee, cream, and sugar and switch to green tea. I do like green tea.
  8. Practice compassion. This slays the flaming dragons of judgment, outrage, and offense. It fosters acceptance and forgiveness.
  9. Write more letters. Hand written letters have always been special, but are even more so now since the advent of instant communication. For the last few years of my 95 year old grandma's life we corresponded via snail mail. She told my mom every time I wrote, and I enjoyed going to the mailbox to get grandma's cards and letters, always written in perfect script. Grandma passed on in 2009.
  10. Laugh a lot. When I take myself and/or life to seriously it becomes less enjoyable, and I become less effective. I will cultivate mirth, and laugh with abandon more often this year. After all, if it's not fun, it's not sustainable.
Affirmation to start off new year: "I am meeting all of my goals easily and joyfully in 2010." Say it. Repeat as often as necessary. Let's have some fun this year.