When it comes to the use of electricity, technology and modern conveiences in general, often the response is “I can’t do without…” this or that thing. I often wonder – is it that people *can’t * do without these things, or they won’t? More often than not, I think the answer is “won’t.” For eons man has lived happily without the need for things like microwaves, iPods, cars, televisions (my personal “most-hated” of technological gadgets), dishwashers, etc. Thousands – tens of thousands – hell, hundreds of thousands of years – no need. Yet, in the past couple of generations we’ve succumb to the feigned need for all the creature comforts of modern life.
We’ve become soft. We’ve lost our skills. We’re setting ourselves up for epic failure as a race of humans. We’ve disrespected our ancestors that perfected life skills over the millennia.
Every day there’s some new kitchen gadget designed to make our lives easier… but really, all it does is add to the destruction of age-old skills and gives us one more thing to wash. Last weekend when I was up at LLM’s place, we were sucked into the flashing box for a little while, and on came a commercial for this new contraption to crack eggs. Seriously. They now have an “As Seen on TV” device to help you crack your stinking eggs. We both sat there, slack-jawed, in shock and dismay that someone wasted precious brain power to come up with that. And what’s worse, is that someone will actually buy it… And marketing at it’s best – they made it appear that cracking and scrambling eggs was the most difficult and messy thing a person could possible spend their time doing. I forget how much this contraption cost – but a hard-earned penny would be too much.
I could go on and on with examples just like the can’t-live-without-it egg cracker. But you get the idea. So much stuff in this world to make up for what we could do with two able hands and a couple of basic kitchen essentials like a pan or a bowl.
There’s so much to be learned by looking at the current old order communities. Or by reading the histories of the western migration. Embracing the old world skills and giving them a modern life could be the salvation of our sanity, our bank accounts, and in the worst case scenario, civilization as we know it.
Voluntary simplicity is a philosophy I do my best to embrace. Simplicity is really a misnomer, since the lifestyle is often more time consuming – but it embraces ideals that are finally coming back into vogue in some circles. Movements like the Slow Food community; back yard chickens; organic gardening; food preservation by canning and drying, making bread from scratch. The skills our grandparents, and the generations before them, took for granted. They were the pioneers of voluntarily simplicity – whether they knew it or not. Whether it was voluntary or not…
It’s my goal to learn more of the old skills this year. Last year I perfected bread making, re-introduced myself to canning and drying, learned to tan a deer hide, and gardened until I had dirt permanently embedded in my fingerprints and feet. This year it’s chickens, and toying with sprouting grains. I hope to get my heavy duty grain grinder and stop purchasing flour. I also want to try my hand at cheese and yogurt making, and finally try making tortillas and pita bread. Another thing I’d really like to reincorporate into my life is not buying convenience foods. I don’t buy many of them, but today I came out of the market with two boxes of cereal (frosted shredded wheat – I’m addicted), and a box of macaroni and cheese. I know I can make mac and cheese from scratch, and I ought to be doing that. But I have no clue how they make shredded wheat in those awesome, milk holding little pillows of happiness. 😉
So whether or not you have an unhealthy fascination with making your life more difficult on purpose, like me, I encourage you to try at least one old world skill this summer. Channel your great grandmother and do something you think would have been part of her every day life. It will honor her memory. 🙂