My partner barged into the bathroom, on a mission. He flung open the vanity drawers, grasping at the contents. He sighed when he couldn’t find what he was after. “Do you know where the scissors are?” Slightly perturbed that my relaxing morning shower had been interrupted, I bit back “Which scissors? Do you need to cut your finger nails, or..?” This wasn’t the right answer apparently. “I need to open the soy milk container” he mumbled on his way out of the bathroom, presumably to turn upside down a drawer elsewhere in the house.
He didn’t need scissors at all. He needed to open something.
We can be a misguided lot. We don’t need a lot of things we say we do. We don’t need a shovel. We need to dig a hole. We don’t need a car. We need to get ourselves and our things from one place to another. We don’t need a house. We need a place to live–which can mean different things to different people. We don’t need to go grocery shopping. We need to eat.
I think this tendency to mix up what we need and want (or are use to in a particular situation) restricts our ability to come up with creative solutions. If one is dead set that food comes from the supermarket, what are they going to do if the supermarket shelves are bare, or they can’t afford to make the weekly trip? They’ll probably spend a lot of time agonising over the situation rather than targeting their energy at putting food on the plate. Likewise the house example. Not only do we think we need a house to live in, there are expectations as to how big that house should be, how many bedrooms, what sort of appliances it is fitted out with, and how it blends in with the rest of the street. With the number of people struggling to afford their rent across the world, or worse, living rough, this seems like an arbitrary way of looking at the situation. Some argue that it’s about dignity. Does dignify really require three bedrooms and a dishwasher?
By thinking the only way to put food on the table is to go to the shop, the novel ideas of swapping, moneyless economies, growing your own, and trade and barter don’t get feet. Rather than considering how it might possibly work, it’s too easy to say that it won’t or can’t. Simply because it is so distant from our current ways of addressing the situation of feeding ourselves. Passionate productive gardeners are still called hippies.
What’s the moral of all this, you ask? The permaculture principle: Creatively Use and Respond to Change. By change, it isn’t meant economic collapse or natural disasters, necessarily. It can simply be a change of consciousness. Perhaps you realise that living in the normal house and buying your fruit and vegetables from Coles is risky or not as good as it seems. What if you lost your job? What if there was a disaster? The cost of running your big house in the suburbs is getting higher and higher each year. You read an article about pesticides and fungicides on commercial vegetable crops–you’re worried about your iceberg lettuce from the supermarket. None of these situations need be addressed by throwing your arms into the air and giving up. There simply isn’t just one way to address them. By understanding that you don’t need scissors to open the packet–perhaps there is a better, more efficiency way–you can appreciate that the world of problems isn’t as you see it. Problems can become opportunities.
Oh, by the way, we used to a knife instead. Did a fine job of opening the Bonsoy.