Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Edo (1603-1868)

I have been reading Azby Brown's book Just Enough, lessons in living green from traditional Japan and I've also been glued to the news when I'm not in the wood shop. My own thoughts and prayers are with the Japanese people. We know that "things can get out of hand," which is a phrase we use to suggest that we no longer have human control. With the massive scale of the disaster compounded by the out-of-control nuclear power plant, things are clearly out of hand. As we struggle to get a grip, is it too soon to draw what lessons we can from the experience of others to make our own lives richer, more secure, and more fulfilled?

The Edo period in Japan (1603-1868) was noted as a period of order, marked by excellence in arts and crafts, and environmental sustainability. The period was preceded by one of environmental collapse, and followed by the age of industrialization leading to Japan's role in WWII. Azby's book takes a look at that period to discover means through which we might reshape our own culture to become more sustainable and meaningful.

In Azby's introduction he makes reference to a classic, Small is Beautiful: Economics as if people mattered, by E. F. Schumaker:
Instead of assuming that someone who consumes more is necessarily better off than one who consumes less, "since consumption is merely means to human well-being, the aim should be to obtain the maximum of well-being with the minimum of consumption."
I would add that if consumption is a means to human well-being, then making, fixing and creating are even more.

I am convinced that the richer, more fulfilled and secure life we might seek for ourselves and hope for others would have something to do with our hands. If we were makers rather than merely consumers, how would that affect our lives? Your thoughts?

My own are simple: make, fix and create.

John Grossbohlin sent a link to an editorial in the New York Times, Let Kids Rule the School and Randall Henson sent a link to a boat builder, Douglas Brooks who is helping to preserve traditional Japanese boat building techniques. It seems all the information about Wisdom of the Hands is out there, but too few are willing to take the chance to do anything about it.

This afternoon, I am engaged in my friendly competition with the Chinese, by making wooden boxes.


  1. Making leads to enrichment, consuming gets us rich. In making thing things we create, provide and become independent. A consumer is forever dependent on an outside source to get it's fill. When we make we determine the cost of our creations. A consumer is told how much what they consume costs. Consumers aren't givers, they don't share much. How does this work for our communities?

  2. How does this work for our communities? It seems that many of those who most strongly advocate consumerism withdraw into gated communities and buy guns for their own protection.