Monday, July 23, 2007


Get a Hobby, But Make It Ancient

After Live Earth, I was going to suggest that everyone in the over-developed world get rid of a hobby - just one. Hobbies use resources and most of us start hobbies with good intentions of keeping them up. We purchase all the proper stuff to take part in our chosen hobby, plus a bunch of storage containers to keep everything organized. After a short while, the hobby is forgotten. We're too busy; it was too hard, etc. etc. And the stuff for our hobby sits - wasted resources. Better it sit than go to a landfill, however it's even better that it go to someone who will use it.

The other trouble with hobbies from a resources standpoint is that most of them involve making things - turning one thing, or a variety of things, into another. Behold! CREATION!

Being an artist, I understand the thrill of creation. It's addictive. It's also caused no end of introspection along the lines of: How many wall hangings & paintings & useless knick-knacks does this planet need? I've long been attracted to the idea of the art of utility - making useful things beautiful. I also like small art, which uses fewer resources because of size. Many artists in general are scavengers, turning junk into art and building the concept of recycling into their work. My husband's motorcycle table is a great example. Then, there's slow art - where it might take years to complete one work. Think of all of these suggestions as the RUSS method of artistic resource conservation. R - ecycled art, U - seful art, S - mall art, S - low art.

On a personal level, this use of resources issue has caused me to cut back on my artistic creation and contributed somewhat to my increase in writing. The creativity has to come out somehow and writing, at its most essential (read: without computer), is not more than pen to paper, which results in an infinite number of potential creative outcomes.

Lose a hobby was my suggestion after Live Earth. Better yet, don't start one unless you're darn sure it's one you're going to stick with or you're sure you'll die if you don't have this outlet. (Don't, however, let this stop you from taking a class or several in order to try something out. Just don't spend money on resources you're not going to use.)

After reading Terry Glavin's "The Sixth Extinction," I've changed my mind. Get a hobby, but make it an ancient one. According to Pat Mooney, who is quoted in Glavin's book, "Our generation may be the first in the history of the world to lose more knowledge than we gain." (pg. 222)

Not only are we losing biological diversity in the form of plants and animals, we are also losing cultural diversity, which includes language and ways of life. The only way we're going to keep some of these things alive is to learn what our forebears knew and keep transmitting it to interested youngsters.

Show of hands. How many people tat anymore? How many of you speak Ojibwe? Can you turn flax into linen? Brew a batch of beer? Play a children's game from two generations ago? These are things that were still commonly being done only a very short while ago. Think of all the cultural activities we've already lost that are from before that time.

If you're interested in finding an ancient hobby, check out your local museum. Small museums are a great repository of books and other information that can lead you to what came before. Sometimes, they'll even contain artifacts that relate to that old hobby, so you can see what tools were used. If you decide to adopt an ancient hobby, make sure to share what you learn, either by writing or teaching. We've got information to save.

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