Saturday, May 9, 2015

Lost skills of the modern age

I finished dinner.  It was not quite bedtime.  I was tired.  How to spend some quiet restful time until bedtime?  In the winter, I would go to the computer.  But now it is warm.  I went out and sat on the balcony.  The wind was whooshing in the trees.  Space for thinking.  In winter, I don't make space for thinking.  Unless I do meditation.  I did meditation for about two weeks last January and February, but soon fell out of the habit. 

And what I saw in my moment of contemplation was an economy of specialization.  Not Far From the Tree by John Bunker is a book about apples in a small town in Maine, but what I found most striking in it was the way that Maine farmers grew things for there own use, and then transitioned to growing them to sell.  For  millenia, humans have been so much more capable of taking care of themselves than we are now, at least those of us in developed nations.  If we want something, we buy it.  We have no idea how to create something ourselves. 

A few months ago, someone wrote on Facebook complaining about neighbors who put everything out as trash, rather than separating out the recyclables.  Another person, a local community organizer, posted a link to a pdf flyer listing what can be recycled.  He suggested that the original complainer print out some copies and distribute them in his neighborhood. 

Actually do something? Unheard of.  We expect everything to be done for us.  Have a problem with the neighbors? Complain to Code Enforcement or the police.  Let them fix it.  We wouldn't want to actually talk to our neighbors.

We talk to our coworkers.  My coworker is supposed to organize staff meetings once a month.  She consistently screws it up.  I told her last month where the problems were.  She forgot, so this month, I tried again, and really walked her through it.  There are three different calendars, and each lists a different location.  When she sends her email announcement, she just says the meeting is in the conference room, but she doesn't say which conference room.  Then she gets annoyed at people for not knowing where the meeting is, feeling as if they did not read her email.  So I walked her through each calendar, telling her what it says now, and discussing how to fix it.

But I would not do that with neighbors.  I don't know my neighbors.  I don't want to know my neighbors.  They are very different from me.  I don't know how to talk to them.  Sometimes people who try to communicate with neighbors get shot for it. 

I don't know how to communicate with neighbors.  I don't know how to build a house.  I don't know how to build a fire for cooking.  I don't know how to grow my own food.  I don't know how to find food in a forest.  I don't know how to make clothes.  I don't know how to make fabric.  I don't know how to make a pot.  I don't know how to make a musical instrument.  My ancestors knew how to do these things. 

If civilization fell apart, we would be lost.  The Transition movement tries to remedy this.

No comments:

Post a Comment