Themes arise. As a writer I love that. As an intuitive innovator I cheer it. I’ll pour the wine later. I’ll drink tea while I am writing. I happily guest blogged about the tools of my trade, a trade that seems one-sided considering my sales during this economy. I’m the frugal sort, so instead of impressive technical descriptions I philosophized about the how and why of using simple equipment. About the same time a comment came in from my “Cobwebs In The Car” post. I’d written about my use of simplicity as partial solutions to pervasive problems. Life doesn’t have to be complex to be good, and while I prefer simple, the unfortunate fact is that simple is sometimes imposed into fragile circumstances. Sound complicated? It ain’t, and the frailty may be temporary.
Angela Hemming is the Digital Media Producer for Ahem Productions. We met at the conference I described in Collaborating for Causes. She suggested a simple collaboration, me as a guest blogger. Here’s how she describes the blog.
“Welcome to a weekly series called “Tools of the Trade,” in which I invite creative professionals all over the world to share a little bit about what they do and where they do it. I encourage them to define “Tools of the Trade” however they like. ” Well, she said “however they like”, so I jumped in. My writing is based on notes on paper, composed in TextEdit (ala the PC’s Notepad), and only transferred to MS Word as necessary. My photography is based on a lower end Nikon, a D40, that has fewer pixels than some phone cameras. My teaching and consulting are almost technology free, but heating and lighting are appreciated. (Though I did just have two fine meetings outdoors today. But I digress.) Fancier technology may get me better gigs, be more impressive, but the extra costs can easily exceed the incremental benefits. I keep it simple.
And then there was my post about bicycling more and driving less, to the extent that the spiders were weaving the steering wheel to the rear view mirror. (Where would you place a front view mirror?) Using my car less decreases its pollution, cost of operation, and my anxiety over a high oil pressure anomaly. But Hannah Lee Jones made a comment about the underlying issue. Here’s a snippet of her comment; “It seems that a lot of what we propose as solutions are dependent upon an infrastructure that is a lot more fragile than we could ever guess.”
The world is a fragile place, at least in regards to supporting the human race. The biosphere is being challenged, and just like with the dinosaurs, it may evolve a solution that doesn’t involve the dominant species. Stay tuned. Very few things can disturb the planet. The human race, however, has lived a precarious life. A long while ago the population collapsed from millions until there were less than 20,000 of us on the planet. That’s the population of the southern half of my sparsely populated rural island stretched across the globe. Evidently agriculture saved us (though genetically my body hasn’t evolved to properly digest wheat, so the adaptation continues). Even after the rise of historical civilizations, life has been fragile. History has more examples of civilizations failing than it does of civilizations surviving. Now that the human race has gone global though we may have raised the sensitivities through numbers and technology. The majority of seven billion people do not have adequate power, water, food, education, health care, or security. Until we provide the basics to the vast majority, and do so sustainably, we as a species are fragile.
But I won’t say that I use simple solutions because I expect my solitary efforts to be a shining example. If some see it as a positive role model then great. Glad to be of service. I use simple solutions for two reasons.
One is what I described in my post on Angela’s blog. Pardon me as I steal from myself. “I am a minimalist, not through some grand plan, but probably because I was brought up in a family that had to be careful with money. That carefulness was handy during my aerospace career. If something is going to fly, every ounce counts and if something isn’t necessary it is left behind. Self-propelled tours of bits of the planet by hiking, skiing, and bicycling reinforced the notion. I’ve learned to live for days or weeks on what can fit into a backpack or panniers. Gear has to be simple, compact, rugged, and easily replaceable.”
The other reason is that I must. My finances, my liquid net worth, are in such bad shape that I am applying for jobs and scrambling to make my efforts pay my bills. In general that means making money. I haven’t found any other way to pay the mortgage or the insurance. My situation is fragile. I am also an optimist. The odds of everything succeeding are very small. The odds of everything failing are also small. The most likely result is that something good enough will happen. Of course, I’ve been thinking that for months now. (Cheer up. Some good things are coming. Any day now. Really. Actually yes. Stay tuned. I look forward to blogging about good news, and in the meantime, go buy one of my books or photos or call for a consultation.) After my finances improve sufficiently I will get the car fixed, maybe get the sand out of the auto-focus mechanism in my favorite lens, probably add a travel computer for slideshows and such, and generally reduce the frailty in my life.
I am not alone. Many people are in tougher situations. I have specific reasons for hope. Most poor people have hope and whatever they can find at hand. Societies and governments built around them are built on fragile foundations. Governments and institutions work to maintain the status quo because we are in the blind habit of propping up dysfunctional processes. Our civilizations have rarely evolved out of that precarious situation. Something revolutionary might happen. That’s why I tend to invest in innovations and inventions that disrupt convention. To me, MicroVision‘s technology for fitting projectors into cell phones isn’t just a cute way to carry around a 100 inch monitor. It’s a way to abandon the habitual dysfunctional processes that go into digging up tons of sometimes toxic raw materials, to build enormous black boxes, that are shipped around the world in boxes in containers on ships, stored in warehouses, and then discarded after a few years. And the nice thing is that we can disrupt those wasteful practices and end up with the ability to show a wide-screen movie anywhere. Cool and positive. Okay, MicroVision (MVIS), do your stuff and do it soon so I can make my lifestyle much less fragile and help others too.
I am hopeful because the human race is adaptable. We’ve never had to turn around seven billion minds and lives before, but we will probably find a way. I suspect it will happen through innovations, inventions, and ingenuity. That is the basis behind my incubator. Others have similar and possibly better ideas. I’m glad to hear that. The more ideas the better. Now, as for the funding, well – anyone got a few million dimes?
Simple solutions will point us in the right direction. Respecting our frailty and working to reduce it is a necessary goal. And opening the channels for innovations, inventions, and ingenuity will make the effort easier, quicker, and our lives better.
I really should go clean the windshield in the car now. The cobwebs are cute, but more than a bit distracting. Maybe I’ll clean the camera lens too.
PS Even when I work from two of my previous posts, the words stretch out to over 1,300 words. So it goes. If I had more time I’d make it shorter. IIHMTIMIS
Tom – per my comment which you quoted in wonderful context, here is the rejoinder from the angle of one who believes that A. civilization as it’s understood cannot nor will not ever be “sustainable” (the premise of the standpoint is that the two are fundamentally allergic to one another), and B. that we need to stare unflinching at the depth of darkness inherent in a system that is not only dysfunctional but is something in which we are all complicit – even those of us who prefer to talk about solutions.
I share this in love, of course, acknowledging your earlier comment about how the magic happens in the dialectic between extremes. 🙂