A manifesto of making (sort of)

June 29, 2009 at 10:16 am (Uncategorized)

I have this fantasy of someday living in a house I have built and designed myself. The whole thing would be constructed by my own hands, from top to bottom. Inside, it would be furnished with stuff I’d made myself (or in some cases, a close friend had made) specifically with me, my needs, and my space in mind. When something would break or wear down, I could fix it myself. Outside, I would grow my own vegetables and keep a few animals, so that I could produce my own food; in the situation where too much was produced, I would give it away to charity. I would wear clothes I made myself and ride around on a bike made from parts of other bikes I’d found over the years and fixed into one I could use. And of course, I would make lots and lots of art.

This is all fantasy, of course – anyone who is familiar with my building skills knows that I lack the ability to construct anything even close to a house, let alone one that can withstand weather and nature for more than the very shortest of times. But the idea of living in a world where I have made everything (or again, where everything is made either by me or people I personally know) is so appealing. I think so much about the idea of “dropping out” (in that “tune in, turn on, drop out” sort of way) but I don’t ever want to drop out of that which I have a responsibility to, or that I genuinely enjoy. I just want to shed this world of stuff that has never quite suited me, fit me, or understood who I am – nor have I understood really what it is, where it came from, and who made it.

This summer, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the possibility of making as much of my world as is reasonably possible.

On of the things I’ve come back to over and over as I’ve been doing the vegan thing, is that the excuse people use to not do it is, “Well, I could never give up cheese (or whatever one particular animal byproduct).” I find this to be such a stubbornly bad reason to not pursue veganism – what happens is, because they can’t give up cheese, they go on eating meat and eggs and putting milk in their coffee and so on; wouldn’t it make much more sense to simply keep the cheese in your diet and eliminate all that other stuff? Sure, you wouldn’t “technically” be vegan, but you would still drastically cut down the amount of animals you consume which I think we can all agree is a good thing.

I think the same sort of thinking has kept me away from making my world as much as I reasonably can. Knowing that I can’t ever build a house somehow keeps me buying clothes when I could be making my own, or that sort of thing. I find it liberating to make things, in a way that purchasing things never feels. Going to a store and buying X always makes me feel as though I’m entering into a contract in some way – with the store, the producer of the good, and with our culture in general. I’ve been thinking that lately, the only sort of contract I want to have is with myself.

So maybe, I won’t ever totally live off-the-grid or in a homemade house or that sort of thing, but I can drop out as much as possible, and constantly keep expanding the idea of what it means to drop out. This, to me, sounds like the way to go.

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