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A new sense of value

We search for value. For some, value seems measured in dollars, yet we have loads of folklore, tales, saying, wisdoms that say value is not monetary. Value, real value is a measure of encompasing, conforming to, enriching, values. Value is uncountable, and perhaps even undefinable.

Value is better defined as "search for quality" than surplus stuff.

We all are involved in this search. A friend, finds quality in leisure. Or at least she finds quality during leisure. I should talk to her about this more. She works as little as she can, grows food, cooks, repairs things herself, barters when she can. She does not practice voluntary poverty primarily, she is not lazy. She does not value money or things money can buy as much as she values freedom from striving for things. This is a great freedom.

The 20th centruy was the century of production. The chief efficiency that we saw during that century was labor efficiency. That is efficiency in terms of labor expended vs amount of production. There was some effort towards other efficiencies such as minimizing resource waste at times or minimizing cost of labor, but the goal of each of these efficiencies was more stuff for less work.We succeeded in revolutionizing our world with the efficiencies we created. The "Women's" movement particulary the release from endless housework was brought about by some of these effiencies. One stop shopping, the washingmachine, dishwasher, readymade bread, the refrigeraotr all to reduced the amount of work needed to keep a home. Work during this century started with the breaking of work into mindless repetitive tasks and ended with these tasks being done by machines.

There were movements that have ran contrary to this drive for production. Luddites destroyed machines as they displaced thier traditional jobs. An overwhelming sense of loss of meaning to wrk and its products drove the arts and crafts movement in Europe and the US. Similar feelings of loss continue to sell handmade goods.

In Japan it seems the drive to hold the line on machines was even stronger . The enforced isolation of Japan seemed to provide some protection of traditional craft. Food production in Japan even today is not nearly as centralized as it is in other parts of the world.

We try and drown our sorrow in meaningless stuff, but the only thing that can drown our sorrows is meaning. The stuff we buy is increasingly meaningless, tasteless, ugly, disposable, and impersonal. What we need is meaningful things with taste, beauty longevity that are personal.

We go to the grocery store and check our selves out. We need not see anyone, talk with anyone or react to anyone. The produce was planted by machines, picked by machines, moved by machines. It is not necessarily the checking ourselves out that is the problem. Self checkout has been around for a long time. Warren Mackenzie invented it. Instead of dealing with the all day interuptions at his pottery, he had a jar in his showroom where you could pay for your pots. Self Checkout did not make his pots impersonal, they already were personal and Self Checkout had no impact.

I was recently looking at pots in the Freer storage vault beneath the National Mall in Washington D.C.. There was an old pot, funky, with a rought fabric-like texture created by some kind of stamp. It had a grey surface, probably bonfired, It seemed to be a pinch pot. In picking up this pot I was aware that the person who made it was not that unlike me, or my students. They were interested in texture, pots, and did not mind the funkiness much. I was granted a personal experience with a potter hundreds of years ago, yet I lack these experineces in my everyday life.

My peers are selling cups for 60 dollars. It hurts to see this. Maybe it shouldn't, but it does. I see enrichment being equated with riches. But I should speak. I could make pots but choose to do other things. Other things less tangible. I am not sure it is better, a part of me says 60$ teabowls are more real, more enriching. Hard to know.

People think answers are easy, you ask a question, figure out the answer and then you know. But questions about values, are always on sliding scales capable of inversion.

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Page last modified on June 23, 2013, at 12:28 AM