To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not, rich; to listen to stars and birds, babes and sages, with open heart; to study hard; to think quietly, act frankly, talk gently, await occasions, hurry never; in a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common--this is my symphony.
~William Henry Channing

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Thinking Thoughts

I'm reading a book called 'Being Consumed~Economics and Christian Desire' by William T. Cavanaugh. The first two chapters were brain stretching for me as I am not overly academic and it covered quite a bit of ground dealing with globalization and economics. Are you picturing me with a confused look, uttering 'Say, what??' because it happened a lot. But I stuck with it and I am glad I did. Although it makes you want to never shop a chain store ever again.
The basic premise is how far removed we are from the production of the goods we consume. And how the Christian world view should effect our economic practices. We are consumers...there is no escape from that. But, Cavanaugh argues that it is a spiritual discipline and the restlessness and dissatisfaction found in consumerism is also found in a different form in Christianity. Rightly viewed and exercised, the drive of desire for something is the ability to see that all things point to God. It's the idea that things are a means to an end...namely service to God and others. The greatest end being a greater attachment to God and people and a lesser attachment to stuff. Unfortunately most of us are totally detached from not only the products that we consume and discard everyday, but the production and producers of those product.
Here is what has been bouncing off my head since I read it yesterday. "The first step toward overcoming our detachment is to turn our homes into sites of production, not just consumption." This is really what got me to read the book. When Rob read this it had a profound affect on him. He came home and said with the exception of photography we produce nothing in our home. I'm pretty sure that even though we produce vast amounts of laundry and dirty dishes that he was referring to something else. Ditto for the noise the kids generate as well.
I've been looking around to try and figure out what do/can we produce. The meals that Rob provides and that I prepare are, nine out of ten times, only produced by throwing stuff in the shopping cart at the grocery store. Very little of what I make is from scratch. So, I've been trying to come up with ways to challenge myself in this area. Growing food that we use came up but that is a more long term goal I think. Gardening is not for the faint of heart or the uneducated. (By uneducated I mean only someone who is totally ignorant of even the most basic of gardening principles. Someone like myself.) The task then on that front will be to educate myself on what kinds of things we can reasonably grow and use.
A more short term goal to strive for has two parts.

  •  Use more locally grown and produced ingredients. On one hand we already did this when we purchased  locally raised beef. A good step in the right direction that has proven to be superior to store bought meat. I would love to find someone who raises chickens the same way. I also want to visit area farmer's markets and buy my veggies there. I know this will cost a bit more but I think the price is worth paying. 
  • The second part would be to start creating from scratch much more than relying on prepackaged foods. I started a list last night of things I want to learn to make rather than buy. Probably first would be bread. A few weeks ago I got together with some delightful ladies and we made some wheat loaves. I definitely want to keep going down that path. I've been successful in finding some no knead recipes that I can make in my dutch oven too. I also want to make my own spaghetti and alfredo sauces. And I'm looking into different recipes like carrot souffle and other side dishes as well as brownies and cakes. There are other smaller simple things I'm learning to do like making my own chicken and beef stock for use in other meals. Planning ahead to use dry beans for chili instead of canned is something else on my to do list. This kind of thing may be the norm for you but it hasn't been my thought process before...I'm trying to train my head to work this way though.
Lest you think I'm all talk and no follow through tonight's dinner will be a fabulous beef stew made with fresh veggies. Celery, carrots, garlic, green beans and potatoes are currently wafting through the air and making my house smell so good right now! 

There is much more to this concept of consumerism than I've shared here. There is a beautiful picture painted of the Eucharist and consuming/being consumed that I can't even begin to express. And just why is this kind of living important you ask? That will be a post coming later but I will say that it is much more than just living healthier simpler lives.
What do you think? How do you produce and not just consume?


BeckyJ said...

Ah, my friend. You're speaking straight to my heart! I have been wanting to transfer posts from my old blog to the new- posts with recipes for homemade things. You've given me the impetus to go ahead with that.

I have been in this mindset for a long, long time, but don't always take the steps to move forward. I have successfully produced my own cleaning products, laundry detergent, homemade foods and mixes. I've toyed with homemade soap, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, etc. Now I'm researching homemade rugs, works of art, and furniture. This will be a fun journey for you (and me) I think. :)

Marty said...

I think it will be fun...and there is so much inspiring stuff all over the internet and on blogs.
I did the laundry detergent thing for a while but Rob didn't like the fact that there was no smell and he didn't really want to go through the process of finding a scent that would work for everybody. I would love to make some soap though...and dishwasher detergent.
Looking froward to all of your future blogging!

Christine said...

I really appreciate this post. May look into reading that book (once I get back to the States and can purchase it).

Moving over here (to China) forced me to become more of a producer than I ever was before. It wasn't intentional, but out of necessity because of lack of goods. But at the same time, I started reading people like Wendell Berry, etc. who have really challenged my thinking.

At the same time, living in a city produces it's own set of obstacles... which is also something I am interested in thinking through. THanks so much for sharing this. It's inspiring and encouraging to see you taking the small steps.

Marty said...

Thanks Christine! I love reading your blog for the simple reason that your life doesn't seem very 'American'. Your perspective is very intriguing.