Saturday, March 10, 2007

Today, Joe Barry offered the following observation/question:

...a lot of people re-assessed their lives after 9/11. You may have seen the same influx into your rural area after a number of people left the city and the corporate rat race. Oddly enough, there was no influx into the crafts of those people. I guess the Vietnam war along with the counter cultural movement of the 60's is what sent so many of us looking for meaning in what we do. I wonder what it would take to swing our society away from all the cheaply made Chinese Walmart junk to a Swedish aesthetic of only buying well made and long lasting goods?

I can't say we had many come to our community specifically as a result of 9/11. Land and home prices are significantly lower in the Ozarks than in California or the east coast, and the internet is allowing some corporate people to work at home... virtually anywhere. They've been moving here for years, but they aren't artists or makers. They just want to be some place pretty where there is less crime and better lifestyle. The internet has allowed them to bring their work along on the move.

They're doing what I would have done if I had moved to the mountains with money, but in my move to the Ozarks, I had to make a living. I actually moved here knowing I wanted to work with wood, but as they say in Zen, "Poverty is your greatest treasure, never trade it for an easy life." I had to be a craftsman or wait tables, and making things was my preference. It also captivated me. To see an object created from start to finish in my own hands and from my own imagination was a powerful incentive to keep going. But without poverty to drive my effort and productivity, I doubt whether I would have found any success.

I remember having cousins visit from out east, and I could see that they were clearly shocked by my living standards and conditions. They were relative high-rollers at the edge of the computer boom, and they looked at my life as a self-employed craftsman as something either from Mars or the 17th century. But they could see I was following a dream and never expressed anything but admiration and respect. At the time, I lived alone in a one room basement apartment with the woodshop in the one car attached garage. The open flame gas heat made the apartment a torture chamber for finished work, allowing me to quickly learn the nature of the materials, its expansion and contraction from changes in humidity.

That Zen saying explains a lot. We can be lazy. We have to run for awhile before the endorphins kick in and we find pleasure in the run. We have to be driven by hunger and made hungry by failure before we find the motivation to succeed. We live in a time in which parents attempt to shelter their children from the disappointment opportunities they need most. So, your question, about how to swing us away from cheap stuff? A bit of voluntary poverty might help, and a better understanding of the real needs of our children.

I have a couple zen-like sayings of my own making, just to keep me rolling through hard times.
Confusion is the source of subsequent enlightenment.
When what you make and what you spend are exactly the same, you are in harmony with the universe.

I couldn't resist sharing one more view of Leon's basket. Since you can't hold it, you might as well get a close-up view. What you see is a section about 1 1/2 inches wide x 2 1/2 inches high.

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