Exploring Values & The Meaning of Stuff | Part 1

Apr 1st

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This past weekend my husband and I embarked on the monumental task of installing a good sized garden on the bit of property that surrounds our home. Monumental because it doesn’t just involve breaking sod, it involves some serious landscaping using gabions, rail road ties, large rocks and heavy duty machinery to level, tier and carve out a space we can use to grow our veggies.

Last night this sparked a conversation between me and my husband. At the core of the conversation was values – what we value, why we value and how values change. Our garden, for instance, represents an opportunity to get our proverbial hands dirty. By the time we are done with the costs to landscape and bring in good garden soil, we most likely will have spent more on our kales and tomatoes than if we had just purchased our produce from PCC Natural Markets (like we normally do). But our goal is not just to grow food, our goal is to learn. That is where the value lies – in the experience – not the actual physical goods.

Can you tell where I am going with this?

I read a lot of blogs on simple living and minimalism. While I don’t take everything I read in these blogs as the last word – I mean, have you ever tried gardening, chicken keeping, or (gasp!) farming with NO waste and minimal tools. Everything from the chicken food to the vermiculite and veggie seeds come in packaging. And I’m sorry, but one shovel is not enough to perform every task in the garden. However, these blogs pack a powerful message that can sometimes be lost in the singular focus on decluttering stuff: that experiences, passions and creativity are more important than your stuff.

This society, however, has nurtured a strong desire to have more. More means you are well off. More means you are better. More means you have power. More means more!

Don’t think this message is anything new though. In fact, our desire to have more has roots that reach far back into history, back to a time when most of the world’s population lived a subsistence life. Only the wealthy had a grassy yard and meat was considered a luxury commodity.

So to delve deeper into the subject of values and stuff, I want to kick off a series of posts that focuses on the history of human values, material goods and the relation to wealth (focusing on those who migrated from Europe to America) and how this background affects our current society’s values in America today.

To be continued.