Put together out of components or parts
Some people are always complaining about the terrible things companies (large and small) are doing to the planet, and at one time I used to join in with them – until I started to consider my modern life. I would like to believe that I have given up the trappings of the western lifestyle, but that is blatantly untrue.
So, ok, I don’t have a mobile phone anymore, but I live in modern dwellings wherever I am in the world. I still have a car, although I don’t use it often. I occasionally buy cd’s of artists I like. I use the internet. I have a laptop. I wear modern clothes. I like fashionable shoes. I enjoy doing winter sports from time to time. I have a snowboard, a kiteboard, and a landboard which all hook up via a harness to a power kite. I have special winter clothes. I like to buy dried soya products. I still buy various things I “need” from retail shops. I take the plane. I take the train. I walk on the roads. I go to a cafe from time to time. I use the telephone. I go to the cinema. Need I go on? I am still a modern western consumer whether I like it or not!
I wrote in other topics that at one point, I was living on an island at a buddhist retreat, which sounds as far away from modern life as one could be, but that wasn’t the case at all! They shipped in their food via a boat driven by petrol from a local retailer who in turn bought their products from wholesalers, who bought from distributors or growers worldwide, and the food was shipped via plane or ship from all four corners of the world!
The food was then transported up to the purpose built centre made of concrete, bricks, with wooden doors and double glazed windows in plastic wheelbarrows, where it was stored in nice shiny fridges and freezers, and then prepared on plastic chopping boards on aluminium benches and then cooked in aluminium pots on a nice stove (gas powered), and served on china plates and eaten with stainless steel knives and forks, before being washed in a sink with water heated by immersion heaters and sometimes solar panels, scrubbed clean using cloths and washing up liquid before being dried by cotton dishcloths! And that’s just the start of it!
Modern porcelain toilets and basins, cotton towels, bed sheets and pillows. Modern beds, desks, lighting, power showers, meditation cushions, candles, incense, and even statues of the buddha! All made by manufacturing companies somewhere in the world.
I think it is of the utmost importance we do not fool ourselves, or attempt to fool others into thinking we are free of the trappings of modern life. We are not. Everything we have and use (with some small exceptions) is manufactured on a production line.
Before you offer various handmade items for exhibit, please think about this. The man who makes the handmade table you have in your kitchen probably didn’t whittle it from a tree in a forest! More likely he bought the wood pre-cut from a wood supplier, and then started to make the table (oh, using tools made by tool making companies) which was glued or nailed using the modern items (glue or nails), manufactured by a company somewhere!
And if you look around your house – go on, have a look now – you will notice that everything you have has been made by someone else. The taps you turn on, the shower you step into, the shower gel, the soap, the toothpaste, the toothbrush, the fire to keep you warm at night, the central heating, the light bulbs, the telephone, the tv, the dvd player…As you can see, we could probably fill up this whole book with items we buy, but that would be a waste of paper!
I used to feel terrible that I was buying so many items, but we mustn’t feel too bad about all this. There is nothing wrong with buying or using products made by manufacturers. Far from it. I’d like to see us all trying to start from scratch to make tools and products. None of us have the skills to make everything we need, let alone things we desire. That is the modern life we live in.
Specialisation has enabled us to become really good at one thing, and if everyone were generalists we would not have seen the technological improvements we have today. So we really owe a debt of thanks to all those brains who have started companies to design and build products that have made our life easier and more comfortable. You don’t have to go back very far in time to imagine what life would have been like without the things that make it possible to spend our days working as marketing executives and stockbrokers!
So what’s the problem?
On the surface, nothing. We could very well end this topic now by congratulating ourselves on a job well done. Companies make the stuff we want. We buy it. People are kept in work. Money is generated, money is spent. Perfect. Well almost, if it weren’t for the fact that the whole process is building up momentum, until now, the happiness and success of everyone depends on us making and buying more and more stuff, whatever the cost.
You see, the raw ingredients have to come from somewhere, and so does the energy required to turn them into something saleable. We are using up more and more of the planets resources, and we are literally digging the planet up to have things which make us comfortable. Think about it carefully for a moment will you.
Have you ever considered where the table you sit at, the computers you use or the tv you watch comes from? You cannot make something out of nothing you know! The more money we earn, the more stuff we want. Our appetites are insatiable. It has become a dangerous sickness of modern times.
Not only do we buy a computer, but next year a new product comes out to replace the one we have. “It’s so old,” we say, “we need to get a new one.” The same goes for cars and sofas, and tv’s. We must have the most up to date stuff. We must!
In fact, if we didn’t keep buying the most up to date products, and replacing our “old” stuff, manufacturers would quickly go out of business, jobs would be lost, the economy would come to a standstill, and from the government’s point of view that would be a disastrous state of affairs. Unemployed people tend to be unhappy people, and unhappy people don’t vote for a government they believe has “failed” them!
So it looks as though we are stuck in this never ending cycle of manufacture and purchasing. If it stops, who knows what would happen to the world we live in.
Unfortunately, the situation is so grave that we should be asking ourselves what will happen to the world we live in if we continue the way we are going? Or, how long have we got before the resources eventually run out? And what will happen to my happiness once no one is making new stuff I can buy? We need to consider this carefully.
Goods are churned out by the millions every year, most of them not designed to last, but priced to sell, and the manufacturers know very well we will have to replace them, not only if they break down, but when they “go out of fashion.” After all, who wants old stuff?
The problem lies in that very fact that most things are designed to be in fashion for only a short period of time. The textile industry is testament to that. And what do we do when things no longer suit us? We toss them away, sometimes in a skip at the local refuse collection point, and sometimes in the recycle bin, thinking we are doing a good thing by recycling, then the next day buying new stuff. It seems to me we are stuck in a loop with no way out! What do you think?
Manufacturers, driven by profit, powered by advertising, supported by us, and the government, are literally eating our home away by using up all the resources – which believe it or not – are in short supply. We have one home, earth, and the only way we can slow this process of “erosion” down is to stop buying new stuff all the time. Can’t you see?
Our psychological desire for more and more shiny new things is costing us the earth! We are so trapped into making ourselves superficially happy, that all we will end up with is a rock floating in space that resembles a waste disposal site.
So what can be done?
Businesses don’t want to stop. The people who work there don’t want to stop. The governments don’t want them to stop, and you and I definitely don’t want them to stop. We’re all too comfortable on this merry-go-round. And anyway, why would you listen to me? I have already told you that I too am bound to this modern way of living. It is hard to give up, “and why should we?” you ask. Well, first of all, if you can’t see why, then you’ll never give it up!
Over the last couple of years I have gradually begun a process of what I like to call “unburdening” my life. I still live in a modern western society, I have not closed my life off to it, after all, we are all in this together, east and west, rich and poor, but I have begun to realise that all the goods in the world cannot make me anymore than just superficially happy. So I have just got rid of them. Not to go and live in a cave somewhere, but to live as me, not me plus everything I desire. Do you follow what I am trying to say here?
I was born into the world as a naked member of homo sapiens (you know, the species you and I belong to?), and I will die as I came into this world. I want to experience life as it is, not through game machines, tv’s, new sofas, and the constant remodelling of my house.
I appreciate that there are items that one needs in life to make us comfortable, but these manufactured goods are not who we are. Of course, we can impress our friends and family with these items, but that is pure ego and status, both of which are irrelevant bolt-ons. I understand the attachment you have to these items, that’s why it need only start slowly; but in order to see the world more clearly we must start to unburden ourselves of these worthless goods.
I am not for one minute suggesting that you become an ascetic (someone who practices self-denial as a spiritual discipline), and wander the globe with only the shirt on your back, but isn’t it time we used this big brain of ours for something more than desire of material possessions?
Even if you don’t care about digging up our one home and polluting our fragile atmosphere with toxic gases, then do something selfish for yourselves.
See what you could be missing behind the veil of constant consumer purchases and try to imagine what your life, and what your families life could be like, if only you were to change your thinking just one degree. Over time, one degree of change can put a ship many miles from it’s destination. Imagine if you were that ship. Where would you end up? Isn’t it time to let go of the attachment to mass marketed, mass produced goods and take a good look inside the box? Your box. Your brain!
Go on, I dare you!
BY ALAN MACMILLAN ORR
‘the natural mind – waking up’