Wednesday, May 12, 2010
The Beauty of Simplicy
comfort food: biscuits and lamb & barley stew
"Trapper" Ray's old simple home
On this blog we talk about a rather large variety of circumstances, happenings and speculations. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I find it pretty much overwhelming. Let’s face it, we are in a period of history when complexity is dominating our lives, either in fact or as a side effect. This complexity is leading to all kinds of additional problems within society which sure seems to me to be obvious. The newest example would be the oil leak in the Gulf.
Looking at a couple of these complex systems is worth while. Some of the most obvious are the supply of water, electricity, food and warmth, the absolute basics. We know that our food chain is very fragile and subject to disruption or even failing altogether under the right circumstances. We are also aware of the electrical grid, a monster of complexity that is subject to massive failure for large amounts of people. Water is now a big issue. Fresh potable water is an extremely small percentage of the total water on this planet, only about 3%. With huge human populations, the technology and complex system to make it available is also quite fragile. The same can be said for supplying heat to human habitation which is highly dependent on a diminishing supply of hydrocarbons and the complexity of the distribution system.
On April 28, The Archdruid blog posted a long essay on the “The Costs of Complexity”. He has talked about this in other postings. In fact, many other authors have approached this subject from the standpoint that complexity always reaches a point of diminishing returns, and if restlessly pursued, will eventually collapse the whole system. It seems obvious to me that adding layers of complexity to either solve problems or to enhance someone’s gain is ultimately doomed to failure.
From a population standpoint, increasing complexity creates confusion and an almost total inability to see the bigger picture outside of single issue concern. This confusion appears to me to be the biggest problem we have in modern society today. Groups have been formed that want to deal with individual issues as if they are discreet and have no relationship to anything else. Pick any group you wish; tea party, PETA, the environmentalists, political parties and their ideologies, tax protesters, any of them. They all treat their favorite issues as discreet entries in human existence. It sure doesn’t appear to me that this works at all. Thus we have a fractured, confused and angry population that has shown itself unable to affect any meaningful changes in the status quo.
Personally, I suspect that this overlying complexity is deliberate. It keeps the populations from understanding their situation and wresting control from the elites by keeping attention on a minimum of favorite issues instead of seeing a bigger picture of control and greed.
The world’s financial and economic systems suffer from the same problem, over complexity, and we have in our face the result of that. Taking a rough count, it appears to me that for every pundit declaring that everything is under control, that we live in freedom, that the good times are just around the corner there are 5-10 pundits that declare that we are doomed, that we cannot continue in the same path that we have been on for a couple of hundred years now. If that count is at least close, how come more people do not take notice? I suspect that to recognize a disaster is coming means that a radical change in life style must also come. And who in hell wants to give up the big screen TV, the IPhone, the big SUV, the 3000 sq ft living space, the toys and accruements of our modern life? Very few will do it voluntarily. The concept that our personal worth is contained in the amount of “things” we possess has permeated most of western thinking. If we give up “things”, we diminish our self worth.
I have a short true story. We have become acquainted with a man in his 90’s over the last year or so. He is one of the last of the old timers in this area, comes from a family that was one of the very earliest settlers around here. We met him through our engagement with the Grange. He impressed us with his gentleness, generosity and humor. Although, I have met people that have known him longer than we have and say that “old Ray didn’t take shit from anyone”. He spent a lot of years selling hides from trapping until he got so old that he couldn’t walk his trap lines anymore. He just recently became enfeebled enough that he had to go into a local assisted living facility. His relatives came in and are in the process of selling off all that he had and also sold the property, which was designated a historical landmark locally. Ray lived pretty much in an early or pre 1900 life style and his house is the original building his parents put up. A great example of how people lived back then. We heard that his son was cleaning up the property and was having a sale of his stuff. We went over to see what was going on. The son and two older ladies (one I think a grand daughter) were masked and cleaning up the inside of the house. Freeacre expressed awe and pleasure at the interior of the tiny little house and was expressing wonderment at how he lived. The two ladies looked at us like we were from another planet. We had gone there to see if there were any hides left from his trapping days, particularly skunk hides since I am learning how to tan hides for usefulness. All that was left was 4 skunk tails that the son gave me. LOL Not sure just what I will do with them yet. When we went back outside, the two women nearly jumped out of their skins and took 4 quick steps back when they saw the tails. (Dirty filthy things you know, but I did notice they wore leather shoes)
Like a lot of people that age, Ray was an accumulator, never threw much of anything away. Boxes and boxes of bottles, scrap steel piles, a lot of stuff that for modern life is not acceptable to keep around. But when you talk to the oldsters still alive from the last depression, it made perfect sense, you don’t just throw stuff away, for next week or next month you will make use of it. When I lived in Arkansas, I met a lot of old- timers just like that, never threw anything away, and if you needed some damned little widget to fix something, they usually had at least a couple of them hung up with bailing wire out in the shed.
The point of this story you ask? Well, we are living in a society known for it proclivity to throw away almost everything and buy new. I assert that this can not and will not continue and most people simply are not able to understand the complexity of our society that has made that, not only possible but desirable. The disdain expressed by Ray’s relatives at his life style was very easily discernable. I truly wonder how they are going to handle life when the throw away society is no longer viable, when you can no longer buy cheap shit that is soon to be added to our tremendous piles of junk and garbage. Look around you, how many home appliances and tools can be repaired by a home repair man anymore? As a society we are completely dependent on the massive complex systems that are not only fragile, but are rapidly becoming unsustainable from a variety of circumstances that sure appear to be eminent.
In light of projections of future events, I guess I will continue to stockpile my piles of wood, metal and parts, along with the tools and knowledge to fix stuff instead of throwing away everything that has no immediate use.