Archive for ‘Making’

February 21, 2011

4…Making Honey

“Bees make honey from the bitterest weeds.” So the saying goes…

Here’s another: “Weeds have flowers, too”

I started saying it when I was trying my hardest to be a self-employed craft-isan, and was puzzling over what to silkscreen onto objects to make them sell. You see, when the craft fairs got saturated with owls, squirrels, deer and little songbirds, I thought I’d be clever and figure out how to elevate something less cute to the level of craft icon. I never did get around to it (and I’ve since given up trying to put my finger on the retail pulse of the crafty scene), but when I started digging a little deeper into the world of gardening, the phrase “weeds have flowers, too” developed new resonance.

Our backyard jungles, roadside grassy ditches, hiking trail forests and other habitually traversed landscapes are populated by an amalgam of intentional and unintentional varieties of plant and animal life. Weeds have a part to play that is often overlooked and under-appreciated (for a fascinating account of how, check out chapter 7, “Weeds”, of Alfred W. Crosby’s “Ecological Imperialism”). Organic gardening and permaculture design both incorporate a “live and let live” approach to certain weeds and insects, because we’ve learned that when gardeners and farmers strive to create sterile conditions or mono-culture in order to maximize production or for aesthetic concerns, we create unstable environments that require maximum upkeep and toxic “solutions” to “problems” that, on second look, were in the eye of the beholder.

Bees may be clever for transforming the “bitter” into the “sweet”, but so too does the “bitter weed” have inherent value in its ability to transform the situations it encounters. Weeds are opportunistic, and for this reason we battle them constantly, because humans are opportunistic too (except weeds are uncontrolled, and its hard to say the same for humans). Weeds make comfortable quarters for themselves in places that other species take a pass on.

We can learn a lot from bees, about making sweet tasty lemonade out of sour life lemons…about busying ourselves and doing the valuable work of making palatable something that was formerly hard to swallow.

And we can also learn a lot from weeds…about making do with what’s available…about teaming up in mutually beneficial relationships…about thriving in less-than-perfect circumstances.

We can afford to let our ideas, thoughts, and actions be a little weedy (popping up where they may, opportunistic but also collaborative, able to subsist even during dry/wet/hot/cold spells) and our attitude towards other people’s weedy ideas, thoughts and actions could be a little bee-like (taking the parts of the idea we can work with, adding it to the whole mix of available materials and concepts, transforming it into something that many can taste and enjoy… other bees, people, bears… you name it).

Making Honey from the Bitterest Weeds

“Bees make honey from the bitterest weeds.” So the saying goes…

Here’s another: “Weeds have flowers, too”

 

I started saying it when I was trying my hardest to be a self-employed craft-isan, and needed to figure out what to silkscreen onto objects to make them sell. When the craft fairs got saturated with owls, squirrels, deer and little songbirds, I tried to figure out how to elevate something less cute to the level of craft icon. I never got around to it, and I’ve since given up trying to put my finger on the retail pulse of the crafty scene, but when I started digging a little deeper into the world of gardening, the phrase “weeds have flowers, too” developed new resonance.

 

Our backyard jungles, roadside grassy ditches, hiking trail forests and other habitually traversed landscapes are populated by an amalgam of intentional and unintentional varieties of plant and animal life. Weeds have a part to play that is often overlooked and under-appreciated. Organic gardening and permaculture design both incorporate a “live and let live” approach to certain weeds and insects because when gardeners and farmers strive to create sterile conditions or mono-culture in order to maximize production or for aesthetic concerns, they create unstable environments that require maximum upkeep and toxic “solutions” to “problems” that, on second look, were in the eye of the beholder.

 

Bees may be clever for transforming the “bitter” into the “sweet”, but so too does the “bitter weed” have inherent value in its ability to transform the situations it encounters. Weeds are opportunistic, and for this reason we battle them constantly, because humans are opportunistic too (except weeds are uncontrolled, and its hard to say the same for humans). Weeds make comfortable quarters for themselves in places that other species take a pass on.

 

We can learn a lot from bees, about making sweet tasty lemonade out of sour life lemons…about busying ourselves and doing the valuable work of making palatable something that was formerly hard to swallow.

 

And we can also learn a lot from weeds…about making do with what’s available…about teaming up in mutually beneficial relationships…about thriving in less-than-perfect circumstances.

 

We can afford to let our ideas, thoughts, and actions be a little weedy (popping up where they may, opportunistic but also collaborative, able to subsist even during dry/wet/hot/cold spells) and our attitude towards other people’s weedy ideas, thoughts and actions could be a little bee-like (taking the parts of the idea we can work with, adding it to the whole mix of available materials and concepts, transforming it into something that many can taste and enjoy… other bees, people, bears… you name it).

February 6, 2011

6…Dream Worlds

"Those youngsters will throw their lives away..."“Those youngsters will throw their lives away…drawing things that never were.”

-Grandpa Simpson

“The Simpsons” may not be a reality show, but… it does tend to ring true.

Grandpa Simpson’s lament is the self-same of many who don’t quite see the value in imagination, or the “creating” part of “creativity”. They forget that thinking tends to have practical, purposeful ends. Even industrial capitalism in all its instrumentality, once figured more as a dream and less as a reality. Now it is a nightmare, the alpha/omega of ingenuity and all of ingenuity’s disastrous side-effects…

But come again? How many ways can we read (and heed) Grandpa Simpson’s cry? Is he himself oblivious to the worth of those youngster’s activities? Or does he see the dreamers and drawers as making triumphant but ultimately wasted efforts to imagine things differently? Or, might he be fearful that his progeny will naively place too much faith and expend too much energy in a bankrupt profession that society consistently devalues?

More to the point, just how does he imagine their (our) time would be better spent?

If one draws things “as they are”, one’s claim to truth will eventually be overturned or, at the very least, subsumed by the multitude of conflicting claims to truth. In this sea of conflicting claims, does a contested truth amount to a “thing that never was”? Or is truth a non-euclidean space, wherein two truths (or more) can easily co-exist (no matter how contrary they seem)?

If one opts out of drawing anything at all, what imaginative space would be left and in what ways would cultures (the majority being so steeped in the representational world of the image) be affected?

If one draws only schematics, that can and will be materialized, is one not then a designer of a “new world” within which others must then live, with no hope themselves of imagining other versions unless they can be sure enough (and by sure, read: privileged) that their vision will in fact become a reality?

But I’m not drawing a picture here of things that never were. These “what ifs” are true to life as far as I see it.

And, truthfully:

We need youngsters to keep drawing themselves out of tight spots, and imagining things that have not come to be, and following lines of flight however fanciful they appear.

We need to come to the table without our minds made up, and without being so quick on the draw (so to speak!) to dismantle the other stories being told or worlds being imagined or images being pictured.

We have all been youngsters once, with tremendous capacities for “divergent thinking” and its haphazard genius. Those youngsters (or youngsters-at-heart) who still see multiple answers to all of life’s questions have a story to tell that is worth hearing, they have a drawing that is worth drawing—regardless of its worth in the marketplace.

RSA Animate, check it:

“Changing Education Paradigms” Sir Ken Robinson

“Smile or Die” Barbara Ehrenreich