Sunday, July 08, 2007

The Wisdom of Insecurity

Thank goodness for Zane over at Lichenology. He reminds us to look at what is worth keeping as well as what is worth getting rid of. That is also one of the most interesting things that Jared Diamond talked about in his books -- that the core values of a society were often the things that had helped them survive and to thrive, and then when something changed, most often the environment, some of those values were no longer appropriate. Some of those values, in fact, became the very things that led to the collapse of the societies.

I just about assume collapse. And what I look toward, and look for, is the worthy values, the worthy skills, the worthwhile modes of exchange. What is worthy, period. I often feel like there is this fine line in writing this blog to portray the bad and the good as it were: that work is hard but healthful, that food is slow but better, that I have relationship with a lot fewer people but a lot more of my life. Reduction is a by-product of a good life, not a worthy thing in and of itself necessarily.

So, what is valuable? Worthy? Worth holding on to, preserving, husbanding, propagating?

I’d have to start with freedom. Independence. Which then becomes individuality. Contrary to popular uber-liberal opinion, individuality is not a bad thing. A community can only start with strong individuals. If we are not independent, then we cannot depend upon one another. And freedom, well, we don’t as a society have it now. I think some individuals grasp a little more of it than others, because we’re willing to wrestle for it.

A long-term perspective is a worthy thing, and a short-term perspective is largely what is wrong with the world now. I think we have to think about how things impact today, and tomorrow, and next month, and next year, and 5 & 10 years out, and the next generation. And then think about the world of your grandchildren. And their children. I think of the changes in my grandfather’s lifetime, and the changes in mine, and I know I cannot imagine their world. But honestly, one really simple way to develop some long term perspective is to do some canning in July.

Family, clan, community -- these are vital. But these have to grow organically and cannot be artificially contrived anymore than a buffalo can be installed on a prairie. And another thought, they aren’t just one thing, a family, a clan, or a community. What I consider my “community” is different for everyone in it, and their “community” is different from mine. I think people’s ideas about this are way too static, fixed.

Almost but not quite synonymous with family is land. The land, and the land’s community, the flora and fauna, are worthy. There is no such thing as not impacting the earth, at least not while you are alive, but one can do it lightly, one can live without annihilating everything else. But if I understand that the nature of the skunk is to grab a chicken trying to go to roost, that old skunk is going to have to understand that it is my nature to not suffer him to live.

And then there are knowledge, skill & abilities. And tools. And this is where some degree of specialization makes sense. But not too much. Everyone should come close to knowing how to do everything else, but some people will be better at some things than others, that’s just natural. But which knowledge, skills & abilities? And tools? Everything and more. There’s the cooking and gardening, sure, but there’s also the engineering and physics and animal sciences. There’s bugs and soil to know, and healing arts, and how to just sit still and wait and do nothing. And tools and devices! As long as they are simple.

So much that I come to this -- the most important quality to foster in you and yours is the attitude that you can figure it out. You can do it, no question. If you don’t know how to make clothes, well, it might be harder for you if clothing becomes difficult to get, but don’t you think you could figure something out? If you do know how to make clothes, using a pattern and bought cloth, it still might be hard for you if you don’t have these things and can’t think of clothing outside of that paradigm. And you don’t always have to have everything figured out before you try to do it.

And very importantly, the conviction that you aren’t owed anything. Not a free lunch, not health care, not food, or water, a roof over your head, or a ride to town. No things, not the corn crop or the pumpkin crop or the health of the cow, are guaranteed. That’s why life is exciting. It is my personal belief that we need that insecurity, that challenge, and not having that insecurity explains football and nascar and the stock market and office politics and the neighbor who suddenly decides to not speak to you. It is my personal belief that we need that insecurity in order to have the room to be able to be kind to each other in ways that matter and are real, and having no consequences of not being kind explains road rage and conspicuous consumption and the you-owe-it-to-me mentality.


icecold1967 said...


eva said...

It`s exactly what I`m thinking about constantly. It`s how I want to live (so badly!), and I think living in small communities in harmony with your given environment is our way (out). I think and value about my skills and I question myself how good I am in one thing or another. What skills do I have that are valuable to community? What should I learn or deepen my knowledge in? There are many areas in what I need to become more aware.
As for insecurity...I`m not sure. I think, we should gain trust in life generally. Trust and love and believe that everything in life is perfect and harmonious in it`s own way. Of course nothing (material) happens by itself, you have to work for it, but life itself has it`s own path, current and learning to flow with it ,not against it, is a lesson yet to be learned.
Thank You for your lovely and thoughtful post. I need to come here every day.

Madcap said...

This post touches on a lot of things that I've been experiencing and thinking about lately. Hands-on skills, real value, real love.

Alecto said...

When I get right down to it, after chasing away everything I possess, what gets to me is the ability or inability to feed, shelter and protect myself. I suppose this probably drives my need to garden more than anything - this being considered serious lunacy where I live as it's better to go to the gym, shop or have my nails done, right? This all translates into the ability to understand my environment or learn fast enough to eat and stay warm before something gets me, I die of exposure or starve.

Jim said...

A post full of wisdom by the CG I so admire.

If humans are to survive the inevitable collapse, it's people like you who will be among them.

El said...

Thanks, CG!

clairesgarden said...

its worth holding onto some knowlege, stories from people no longer here, their garden and horsewise experience, much missed.

zane said...

Hey CG--As always, I love your take, and it's fun to riff on a topic with you.

I agree with your indictment of entitlement--we have been taught to expect someone or something to take care of our problems and this is perhaps the biggest hurdle to us ever forming self-reliant communities of contributing, inter-dependant individuals.

the Contrary Goddess said...

I've left this up on top for a good while partly because I think it is really important. I'm especially taken with the wisdom of insecurity -- Alan Watts has a book by that name -- that we need it, for productive and compassionate reasons.

~kk said...

Where can i get this book from ?
The Wisdom of Insecurity by Allan Watts. I have been searching for long here in India.... but i m unable to find this book in any of the bookstores here... can u help me out.