a blackberry basket made of blackberry vines: stuff and gratitude
How many things do you have in your home? Often I can tell how they make my life better – it’s not that We Should Have Less Stuff, exactly.
In the same facile way that you can look at a dog harness and be happy that you can, you know, leash your little dog without choking her, though, you can be concerned about how much we lose proportion on the hedonic treadmill.
How many containers do I have in my home? I spend a moment thinking about it in the context of the amount of work that went into that basket, how carefully one would treat something one had made in that way, how equivalent my discarded tuppers-ware are.
The aspect that’s scariest to me at the moment is just how much skilled labor goes into things without my awareness of it.
If you ask techie people to estimate how much manual work went into the objects in their home, they’ll often vastly underestimate for whole categories. People look at hypnotic videos of industrial technology and assume everything comes from such magic. Clothing isn’t nearly as automated to produce as people think.
The idea of the basket maker’s satisfaction being completely elided – someone assuming that their shirt appeared from a machine – the vast distances in the global supply chain and the chasms between classes allowing the finished item to be underappreciated casually…
There’s something wonderful about that woven basket, even if you didn’t make it yourself. I have a wooden spatula-spoon that I bought at a farmer’s market. It’s elegant and sturdy. The beauty of its craftsmanship is evident to me and and I can have great affection for it in appreciation of how well it’s made, never mind what a simple thing it is.
What if there’s something bad about losing perspective on this aspect of all the items in one’s life? Sometimes I think the point of the KonMari method isn’t the getting rid of things, but the mindful and appreciative encounter of things.
The crafted item, too, is an indirect encounter with the crafter.
Even if you think it’s bonkers to ponder there being some virtue in a less instrumental approach to inanimate things in your life, there’s something you can still be disconcerted by in our rich modern world’s attitude of discard towards the makers of those things. Maybe you still get to exploitation in a world where we’re not whisking the assembly line worker out of mind – you still get to horrible chemical externalities in a world where we’re all more aware of all the plastic in our lives – I’m not saying there are any shortcuts to ethical societies – but for me today, I am going to try to go through my day a little more mindful of the creators and creations I come across.