November 29, 2018

All Wound Up About Christmas?

How to Have A Buy Nothing Christmas

Step 1: Take a risk - don’t conform to those in the spending spree.

Step 2: The best gifts come in no packages. The Christmas story is all about flipping the system on its lid.

Step 3: Image is everything? Well, don’t get pegged as a mindless consumer - be a rebel this Christmas, and buy nothing.

November 26, 2018

There Is A Book For Everyone

Illustration from: eye, The International Review of Graphic Design.

At one time, not that long ago, books were only attainable by monasteries, educational institutions, and extremely rich people. Painstakingly produced by hand in 'scriptoriums', books were luxury items of the highest order. 

Today, by comparison, it's Bookapalooza. Books for everyone!

It was the invention of the printing press in the late 1430s that launched this reading and learning revolution with impacts that continue to this day.

I think it can be safely said that there is an apt book for everyone - something to think about in situations where gift giving is appropriate. 

Some say that people don't read books these days (the kind with a spine and paper pages that you hold in your hand). Sigh.

That may be true, but they are less likely to enjoy reading a book if they don't have easy access to books around them. Therefore, if you want to give a gift, consider giving a book. 

What a treasure they are, each and every one of them. Just like those of the handwritten variety were in the Dark and Middle Ages.

Note: a trip to the library to get a library card is a good gift, too. Or, if you wish to buy a book, consider a trip to a local used book store to see what you can find.

Happy reading.

November 24, 2018

There Is Nothing To Buy In Nature

Definitely not shopping.

Breaking News: 'Not Buying Anything' Blogger Seen Shopping On Buy Nothing Day

Hey, I just fake news-ed myself.

In reality, I did not go shopping on Buy Nothing Day. I went for a hike instead, and what could be better than that on this special day? In nature, even though there is infinite value all around, there is nothing to buy here. 

I took advantage of a recent snowfall to enjoy my first snowshoe of the season. Conditions were generally excellent for an early season excursion.

My usual route traverses an old mixed forest along an old logging track, and then drops down to the brook at the bottom of the valley.

It is very quiet alongside the brook, the loudest thing being the water gushing and gurgling to the sea, which is about 4 km away as the raven flies. 

When the water is high after big rains or heavy snow melts, you can hear large rocks and boulders being swept along the brook bottom; rock drums tumbling out an irregular beat.

From the brook it is up all the way to home. This time of year I am often racing the sunset to get back before dark. It has a way of motivating me to a swift ascent up the forest cloaked slope.

But I never move so fast that I can't stop for neat stuff. I pause to listen to a trickle of water coming down the hillside. The sound is trance inducing, and focuses me into a spontaneous nature meditation. 

I press on, moving through puffy, deep snow. It is very forgiving, and the hiking is easy. I always use hiking poles, so I feel like a four-legged forest creature, sure-footed and comfortable in this environment.

Just before I get home, near the top of the hillside, I pass through a spruce forest. It is the proverbial "deep, dark forest" found in all kinds of scary stories. But the only tracks I see were left by bunnies and squirrels. 

In here, most of the snow is in the canopy above, not on the ground below. There is just enough to get me and my snowshoes through successfully... before a troll (not the Internet kind) gets me.

While making my way through the spruce labyrinth, I hear two ravens conversing in the distance. Some believe that ravens guide travellers to their destination. 

Indeed, I can see through the trees that I am just about home. 

My hike yielded plenty of value, but I didn't have to buy anything. That is the real news.

November 22, 2018

Black Friday - The Great Shopocalypse

Warning. Do not venture into the marketplace. Lock your doors. Stay inside. Freeze your credit card in a container of water in the deep freeze. Check your infinite desires at the door. The biggest shopocalypse of the year is upon us.

Yes, tomorrow is that consumiest of consumer days, Black Friday. Shopping zombies will be everywhere, tearing each other limb from limb to grab the latest consumer item from the grasping hands of competing "shombies".

Good thing they are dead inside already, as such a scene is surely fatal to one's soul.

Today, however, is a nicer day in America. Thanksgiving is a holiday that is not political, nor is it religious. You don't have to buy anything, except good food to share. It is a day of being grateful for what we already have.

So happy day of thanks to all our wonderful American readers.

That isn't tomorrow's story. What a difference 24 hours can make.

Stay tuned for the alternative - Buy Nothing Day.

November 20, 2018

Can Buying Things Change Your Life?

Can buying things change your life? For the better?

I can't think of many things that I have bought that have changed mine. I know that is the promise made by advertisers far and wide for decades, but in the real world this usually fails to pan out.

Can I think of anything I have bought that has changed my life? And if so, has that change been an overall positive one?

I can think of experiences, like going to school, that qualify as having changed my life. And there are many people in this category as well, and I am who I am today because of them. But stuff?

I am hard pressed to think of any material possessions I have purchased that changed me in anywhere close to the same way. We have all spent a lot of money in our lives buying material possessions. Why is it so hard to think of even a handful of worthy ones?

I will try.

My guitar is the first possession that I can think of that has had a meaningful impact on my life. Some of the best money I have ever spent, although I initially learned to play on guitars that were given or borrowed to me.

And I guess my leather hiking boots would make the cut, too, although the pair I am using now were sourced for free.

I enjoy cooking, and the tools and supplies in my kitchen help me make nutritional magic. That mojo could make the difference between sickness and health, so is potentially life changing.

Owning a motor vehicle certainly changed my life, but considering the impact of the internal combustion engine, not to mention the complete hassle of car ownership, I am not sure the overall effect has been positive. I can't say the same of all the bicycles I have owned over the past 50-some years - they have all been life changing possessions.

Finally, I would have to include any art supplies in the life-enhancing category. Paint, brushes, watercolour paper, an easel; all have yielded positive benefits. 

Some people like the rush that results from the process of buying things. I'm not immune to this effect, but I have never let that become the driving force in acquiring material objects. 

Far from being addicted to shopping, I am more like phobic. Therefore I avoid the buyers' remorse that often follows many (most) purchases for a lot of people. It is that moment when we realize that the object we just paid for is unlikely to change our lives, and we would probably be better off without it altogether. 

My personal solution is to not have a lot of things. When I do acquire something, I make every effort to source it for free. It is amazing, if one is willing to be patient, how often this is possible. It may provide a fraction of the initial rush, but in the long term it is the object itself, and not how it was acquired, that makes a difference.

So before forfeiting your hard earned cash, ask yourself, 

"Will buying this item change my life?" 

"Will I still think this is a potential life changing item if I wait a day? A week? A month?"

And lastly, "Can I source it for free?

If a possession helps us reach a goal, or otherwise makes our lives more beautiful and enjoyable, then it might be worth owning; it might change your life. 

Otherwise, save your money, and look to have an experience, or to help someone or something else. That is where the real life changing events take place.

November 18, 2018

Truth Is Not Advertised

I would love to see a few billboards with quotes about truth, like those below. 

“Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.” 

― Henry David Thoreau

“Better a cruel truth than a comfortable delusion.” 

― Edward Abbey

“The only truth is music.” 

― Jack Kerouac

“Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake.” 

― Wallace Stevens

Or how about billboards that contain truths, such as 

"Your lifestyle is killing the planet", or 

"Bicycles are still the most efficient form of transportation in the Universe", or 

"Race is a myth - there is only one race, and that is the human race", or

"We don't give a shit about the planet, we just want your money."

What if the truth were advertised? What truths would you like to see on a billboard?

November 16, 2018


Doesn't anyone tell the truth any more? Is integrity an old fashioned concept that is good in theory, but not practical (or profitable) in commerce? 

For example, in 2010 thousands of "green" consumer products sold in North America were surveyed. 95% of those products were found to be guilty of greenwashing. Green is the new black. That is because greenwashing gets you greenbacks.

Greenwashing is defined as "disinformation disseminated by an organization so as to present an environmentally responsible public image". Unsurprisingly, such disinformation began shortly after environmentalism did.

However, advertisers are using fewer "facts" about their products all the time, because they know that outright lies might get them in trouble. If they are caught. And they are rarely caught, or can operate for years before they are held to task.

Knowing that, advertisers have moved on to the even more subversive task of targeting your subconscious. Neuromarketers have discovered that a large part of consumer's decisions to buy stuff happens at a level we are not even aware of. 

An example of subconscious greenwashing would be something as simple as using green packaging. Those of us that feel deeply about the state of the environment are particularly prone to falling for this simple and subtle trick.

Because we associate green with the environment, our subconscious leads us to decide that something that comes in green packaging is likely good for the Earth. Pictures of trees and flowers work, too. 

Sometimes our subconscious is wrong.Because they just can't resist the easy profits that result, advertisers still resort to straight out, old fashioned lies to trick us into buying their green dipped products. 

 Here are just a couple of examples:
- car manufacturers, such as Volkswagen or Mercedes-Benz advertising their cars as "clean diesel" and "Earth-friendly". The Mercedes diesel cars emit 65 times the green house gas as allowed by the EPA. 
- the "Rainforest Alliance Certified" sticker you may see on products like bananas, coffee, tea and others, may not get any better than the green colour of the label.

Spot checks reveal that some certified farms spray crops near schools and waterways with toxic chemicals. They have also been sued for their misleading claims. 
Assume that any ad you see or hear is an outright lie, and proceed with extreme caution. online before believing any advertising claim.    
Think about any claims that are being made, and ask yourself if they seem reasonable. A eco-friendly cigarette, or car, or chemical? Not likely. 
Even better, make it a habit to not buy anything that is advertised. 
Support local producers and small businesses that have small or non-existent advertising budgets. They are more likely to pay more than lip service to truth and integrity while dealing with their customers.

November 11, 2018

Consumerism Is War

"Selfie" by Joe Webb.

Consumerism is war. 

War on the environment.

War on community.

War on values.

War on each other.

War on human survival.

War causes consumption of weapons of mass delusion and destruction. 

Consumption of weapons of mass delusion and destruction causes war.

In the end, conspicuous consumption wages war on the happiness of consumers themselves. That is because it is a war on all that is good in life.

We make peace when we are dedicated to doing no harm, while reducing our consumption to a reasonable and sustainable level

Consumerism is war. 

Living better with less is an olive branch.

November 10, 2018

Mushroom Mandala

Attention: This is a sacred space.

A mandala is a symbol or diagram that represents the Universe. The word mandala is Sanskrit for "circle". I thought of that when I saw the large mushroom cap, shown above, while out for one of my ritual forest baths. 

When I saw the mushroom I immediately thought of mandalas, which are often circular. The way the leaves fell around it in an intricate supporting pattern formed the larger part of a greater mushroom mandala. 

One thing about mandalas is their impermanence, reflecting the impermanence found in the larger Universe for which it stands. Sand mandalas are literally blown apart not long after they are completed.

A mandala can also be seen as a portal to the self, something that psychologist Carl Jung used in his work. Today, Jungian therapists use mandalas 

"to access progressively deeper levels of the unconscious, ultimately assisting the meditator to experience a mystical sense of oneness with the ultimate unity from which the cosmos in all its manifold forms arises."

Whenever one encounters a mandala, whether one someone else has made, or one you have made, or a natural mandala like the mushroom mandala I found, there is an opportunity for personal growth and integration.

The mushroom mandala reminded me of that. With its support, I meditated for a magical moment. 

"One. One. One."

I am glad I stopped to ponder this sacred circular setup, because next time I pass this way, it will be gone. 

November 6, 2018

A Quiet, Uneventful, and Simple Life

I have always aspired to a quiet, uneventful, and simple life. Some told me that was lazy. However, I was undeterred, and continued to work toward my unambitious and unassuming goal.

Philosopher Tim Maudlin shares a story along this line. “In Book X of Republic, he says, "Plato tells the myth of Er." 

Er was a warrior who was thought to have been killed in a battle and went down to the underworld and saw the afterlife.  
In the afterlife people are rewarded or punished for the life they have just led and then, at the end, get to freely choose their next life. 
Most change to a new sort of life: 
Odysseus, for example, was last to choose among the available lives, but searched and searched and found a quiet and uneventful life, completely unlike his own. 
He said he would have chosen it all the same if he had chosen first.

Hey, if it is good enough for the legendary Greek king of Ithaca, and the hero of Homer's epic poem the Odyssey, it's good enough for me. 

Or anyone.

May we all enjoy quiet, uneventful, and simple lives.