This blog was originally published in August of 2018 but is still so relevant today. We have spent much of 2020 considering how our time is spent – from the 5-week Slow Living Challenge to a mandatory worldwide slowdown. We have been rediscovering the simple pleasure of “making” and how it’s more than a pastime, but rather a form of healing for ourselves and the groundwork for a sustainable future.
This blog felt especially relevant as we see our communities start to shift back into pre-quarantine routines. It also closely relates to our recent podcast recording with Anna Brones, who embodies the heart and soul of the slow living movement. We discuss where sustainability and privilege intersect, and how to reclaim our creative time. Click below to listen, or scroll to read on.
We’ve been sold the goods–literally. Somewhere along the line, we were convinced that it was better to buy everything we needed rather than to make, that our lives would be better when our food, our clothing, our living spaces and everything in them was produced somewhere out of sight and out of mind. This message, delivered through the word “convenience,” was that our time was better spent pursuing other things. And we bought that whole idea–along with all of the other millions upon millions of products that have filled not only shopping malls, outlet centers, and megastores, but our houses, lives and landscapes.
It’s ironic that the human quality of ingenuity that made our self-sufficiency possible in the first place is the very thing that’s taken our culture to such extremes. We are creative beings, and have reached our position as the dominant species by our perpetual spirit of the invention. Every perceived obstacle on our human path is met with a solution, a product, a system that eventually becomes an industry. We have an incessant forward-moving instinct. But we are at the far end of the pendulum’s swing. Our consumerism is a cultural tsunami, full of brokenness at every level from our earth home to the very deepest part of our human hearts and everything in between. We are soul-sick with longing for balance.
It will be the same quality of problem-solving that will eventually see us through this, that will bring us back, certainly not to the self-reliance of our predecessors–there are too many of us and we’ve come way too far for that– but at least to a place of more equilibrium and hopefully, more of a circular economy. Yet right here and now, it’s time for the medicine of “making” to be fully embraced as a step towards healing. We’ve all made something at one time or another, some food or clothing or craft, and have felt that surge of satisfaction that comes from creating. There’s no denying that this pure and simple act is part of our humanness, essential to our individual well being and to our society as a whole.
We recently attended a retreat in Maine hosted by A Gathering of Stitches, during which both of us, guided by skilled instructors and surrounded by a community of fun-loving, creative and supportive new friends, learned not only how to make a garment from scratch, but how “making” is so much more than a pastime. It’s not only part of our own healing, but is a radical political statement and an act of transformation. In refusing to feed the beast of fast fashion, we do our small but powerful part in cutting off its lifeline. Without a continual, massive infusion of consumer participation, it cannot live, and neither can the broken food industry or the pharmaceutical companies that have compromised our nation’s health, nor the scourge of single-use plastics or the toxic residuals of waste dumps filled with the refuse of our collective illness.
Paradigm shifts don’t happen overnight, however, and we don’t do ourselves any favors by becoming loud zealots who have no patience for the power of increment. History has shown us over and over that it’s the ripples of the small acts that create the waves of change.
So how can you be a “maker,” even in the smallest of ways? You certainly don’t have to be an artist or a gourmet cook. You can make your own coffee or tea instead of going to Starbucks, find a new use for something you might have thrown away, make a meal instead of going out, recycle a piece of paper to write a letter, make a cute patch for that hole in your pants. The possibilities are endless–and the effect is profound.
So what will be your medicine today?