Life is being devoured by growth, misplaced growth, growth that refuses to admit to cycles and insists on a manic linearity that can only lead to collapse and immense destruction. This kind of growth exists in nature, it is cancer, malignancy. It is no stretch of poetic fancy to recognize the way our culture is functioning as a form of planetary cancer.
Yet, growth is what makes life possible. Growth is deep within our innate yearnings as organisms. This is the kind of growth that recognizes cycles and fits into the ebb and flow of life. It is growth that sees value in all aspects of existence and does not attempt to bend the world to fit ill-considered whim.
Nurture. Growing within a pattern of cycles, is deeply connected with Food. Through Food, and then expanding out into other endeavors, this form of growing is an important aspect of Craft as well. We see this acting directly when we look at subsistence agriculture and hunting and foraging. Our food is not only found or grown through a series of practices that coalesce as the Crafts surrounding finding and growing food. Food is then made from its ingredients within another series of Crafts surrounding the preservation and preparation of food. When we put these all together we are talking about traditions and rituals and ways of acting that culminate in characterizing how we live.
So much of these Crafts have been, and are continuing to be, lost. Beyond the loss of information is an increasing difficulty for us to even imagine the habits of mind and action required to maintain them. What was once taken for granted, as an ongoing legacy transmitted down the generations, is now a series of isolated artifacts most often collected for reasons that have little to do with their actual value. While we suffer from these losses, we are also recipients of the gift of awareness of the value intrinsic in these Crafts, and the ways of life they create through their practice. What has been discounted and abandoned in a rush after fantasies of power and control is now poignantly precious in our eyes once again.
What this requires of us is that we combine efforts to resurrect these practices and enfold them into our lives with a process of re-examining the meaning of these practices so as to free them from secondary considerations of connoisseurship and fashion. These attitudes may have contributed to salvaging remnants of our traditional crafts, but they now hold these practices at an artificial remove from our actual lives that is increasingly dangerous and maladaptive.
We find that we can increasingly no longer afford to establish and maintain enclaves and preserves that attempt to hold onto aspects of craft as though – and even literally – in a museum. This is both lamentable and also something to be used to our advantage. As our abilities to act whimsically contract, we are given the opportunities to act with serious intent instead. We can work to incorporate as many aspects of craft tradition into our actual every-day lives. This works to reverse the trends, as so well put here by Christian Ford,
“Especially if we’re defining ‘power’ as heat engine and ‘strength’ as muscle. What really strikes me is the corollary, the inverse relationship between power and craft, which I would idiomatically render as ‘the bigger the engine the dumber the man.’ I really do think that there’s a 100% concordance between the availability of ludicrous amounts of power and the ignorance with which we approach our world.”
If we are to reverse this course, for the internally logical reasons that reducing our ignorance is a positive value, as well as out of necessity – as we lose the ability to call on unlimited power – then we need to both adopt and adapt traditional crafts into our lives, and also embrace them as a way of life instead of as an avocation or socially modulated special-interest.
Two major thrusts have driven the increase and spread of poverty. First is the destruction of abundance. The second is the erosion of practical knowledge and its connection with traditions of wisdom that put strength and craft above power and technology. While we are at the mercy of the destruction of abundance that has been carried out, and whose inertia will carry us even deeper into an era of loss, we do have control over how we deal with the second cause of poverty. As the collapse of failed systems proceeds, each of us will have to contend with a growing personal, direct relationship with a narrowing of possibilities. Poverty will no longer be an abstract concept for anyone.
Again, there is a benefit to be gained in this! Our motivations to restore craft and to counter poverty will be personal, not abstract. The direct effort and the direct engagement this calls for is a great opportunity. We are not destined irrevocably into an abject poverty as we see it now in its worst cases. We have the opportunity to exchange the extremes of ease and want for a growing appreciation of enough. As the villagers discover in Stone Soup lack is not sufficient to guarantee poverty. It takes lack and isolation and ignorance to impoverish us. In this way we are all poor today. We risk becoming much poorer unless we take these lessons to heart.
We yearn to be involved in growth, to grow, to be growing, nurturing, belonging. We’ve been taken by a colossal bait & switch. We’ve mistaken the false promises of linear and blinkered growth for the real thing. We’ve suffered as a result. We’ve been a party to tremendous destruction and find ourselves complicit, even against our wills. By turning our attention and efforts to building a new edifice of craft we can change our course and meet our responsibilities.
On so many levels we feel trapped and hemmed in by choices that offer us no choice and condemn us, and everything we care about, to unceasing destruction. By turning our attention away from the enticements and the traumas surrounding these bad choices, we can do the only thing which is in our immediate control. By focusing our attention on matters of craft, of nurture and the growth of this other kind; we open ourselves to new possibilities and limit the hold, and the damage, we do to ourselves, and our world.