contributor Christopher Weller
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” ~ Lao Tzu (6th Century B.C.E.)
Part of the connection that has been lost to this world is the true love for it- love that is founded on the desire to connect to the world and all that is in it, and of course, having a deep respect for all that the world is. This comes from what the Greeks would call a desire to γνῶθι σεαυτόν, or “know thyself.” To reach this level of understanding, they believed was equivalent to understanding one of the great secrets of the Cosmos, referring to it as achieving “the Beautiful.” Such a closely guarded secret, and believed to be so powerful that only through a highly monitored form of pedagogy could one learn the road to such knowledge. But, the connection to the world that I refer to is much deeper, and older than these cultures. It is a need to be part of the world, and a respect for it so great, so much as part of one’s being, that to take from it more than what one needs breaks the bonds of the human spirit with the world, and becomes lost forever, forgotten.
ηχώ, or “ecos,” is the Greek word for “home,” and it is where we get our word “economy,” which means “management of the home.” But, as we have seen today, we have perverted what that word means, and pushed this cultural myth beyond what the “home,” our planet, can give. Now, most do not know that “economy” is not the great casino game of the stock market. It is not the grand ponzi scheme of the global monetary system and its endless pursuit of debt slavery. It is not the mendacious lies fed to you daily by the corporate powers, claiming a world of “happiness,” “peace,” and most especially, “efficiency,” making a mockery of what economy meant to the original human cultures – cultures that had the skills to coexist with the world, rather than seek evermore to find ways to destroy it. It is a great web of deceit spun through the myth of civilization itself.
But, “efficient” for whom? There is only efficiency in gaining more for the few and less for the many. There is only efficiency in converting more of the living world into the dead. There is only happiness and peace for those who continue to engage in the world of pain that they’ve created. In the corporate controlled world, there is no room for morals and no room for sanity. The only thing that is well understood is to perpetually grow profit and power. The only thing that is truly “efficient” in their eyes is how fast and effectively the paradise of this world can be turned into their paradise, ensuring that their families, their salaries, their shareholders, and their lives continue to prosper, while the rest of the world is torn apart.
Today, in this world, there is no room for the traditions of craftsmanship, and pride in one’s work, in what we create, no pride, honor, or respect to have a connection to what gifts the world provides for us – skills that have been passed down for generations, traditions inherently human in all respects, which had been the cornerstone of how humanity had managed their home on this planet for tens of thousands of years. Such traditions do not fit the dominant culture and its corporate hegemony’s definition of “economy.” Neither do they fit their perverse conception of what “growth” means, whether it be the culmination of what it has become today, industrialized capitalism, or any other form it may morph into, nor any of its predecessors.
For the majority of human history our home was managed by a tradition not merely based on survival, but symbiotic relationships with our environments, spiritual connections to the land, our community, and between each other. We had a true understanding of our place in this world. There was no perverted sense of how we grew, or better, how we developed, both as part of the community of life and how we developed as persons, mentally and spiritually. For all of this understanding was at one with the world, not at war with it. Everything that we were was coupled with the acknowledgements of our physical limits, but simultaneously a deeper understanding of the limitlessness of the human mind and spirit, where our future was eternally part of our past and our present, and all was at complete synchronicity with the Earth.
In the world today, pride and love for our work is lost. Connection to the land we have exploited. The products we produce, and the culture of consumption are captive between a permanent, seemingly impenetrable barrier erected in the name of profit and separated from the real world. It is the rule, when connection was once the fabric of human society. It was all that was needed. Growth, consumption, exploitation, separation, division, and delusion create needs that only serve the monstrosity that we have become – serving only the great Lord of profit and money – the false god of humanity today. Locked in isolation from each other behind these great walls that have imprisoned us in our own misery, in self-banishment from the land that has given us life, we’ve become addicted and dependent upon this false god and it will soon seal our doom if allowed to continue.
Like the medieval guilds, confraternities that had formed in order to protect their skills and guard their secrets of craftsmanship & techniques from the rising merchant class, the progenitor of Modern Industrialized Capitalism of today, we have yet to protect the common guild of how it is to be human, how it is to be in symbiosis with this planet, and how it is to connect to everything in it. We have lost it in the sacrifice of striving for dominance, power, and the false needs we create in the name of greed and growth. But, we have not recognized we’ve become powerless because of it.
These early guilds formed out of egalitarian communities, and swore oaths to protect their common funds & wealth and supported each other in local feuds or business ventures. One could not ascend to the higher ranks of the guild without earning the trust of the others. Is this not what we need most today, to defend and protect the common guild of humanity?
And we wonder why all of our products today seem to have no life to them, no character, no endurance, and love put into them, made to be thrown away to waste, just as much as our lives have become disposable in the eyes of the powerful. It couldn’t be more clear. In this culture, it is inefficiency, the disposable, and planned obsolescence, which allows for the destructiveness to persist, is what is desired. It is what is profitable. And, it is that which creates both our false needs and our belief that we need them, and at times are forced to believe in for our very survival.
As we dredge on with our daily lives we must toil and toil to get by, further pressed for time- less time for family, less time for children, less time for ourselves, less time for community, less time to change things – more and more stress on our bodies, our minds, and our souls. The vicious cycle of false needs feeds upon such misery, creating a false sense of security in the convenience of a disposable, throw-away society.
Our world has become filled with energy drinks, coffee shops on every corner, pharmaceuticals of every sort, all produced for one reason, to keep us working and consuming – to keep profits up and production indexes high. All the while, families, relationships, and communities, both human and non-human, are degraded and destroyed. We are made expendable, just like the products we produce – a seemingly endless assembly line of pain and misery. As we ourselves become obsolete, our lives end – a life without meaning – leaving only voids to be filled by others desperate to survive and support their lives. The vicious cycle continues, and we are separated more and more from the land, from each other, and from where are souls are at peace.
The present has become “the good ‘ole days,” and the future can’t be seen beyond the day’s drudgery. We can only focus on getting by one more year, one more month, or one more day. We are made to believe that this is the only way, the best way to live. There is never time to even contemplate anything else, whether this is all unnecessary, that this is not the way it has always been, that this is not the way it is supposed to be!
It is not only our products or our lives, but the entire dominant culture has an intrinsically planned obsolescence. Before we know it, our children are adults and must venture into this Brave New World themselves. Before we know it, our relationships are deadened and numb. Before we know it, we are old and tired. Before we know it, someone we know has lost their lives in the endless pursuits of war in the name of profit and growth. Before we know it, there is someone we know that has given up and took their own lives in hope to escape the misery of such obsolescence. Before we know it, we have wondered where are lives have gone and what meaning and purpose remains. Before we know it, our planet, our home, is a barren wasteland. Our products, our lives, our souls, and the culture that imprisons us are obsolete, because we treat our whole world the same.
We have forgotten the skills that hold us together. The mastery of existence in this world has been lost, and there has been no collective, no guild formed to protect what was lost. If there is no effort to guard theses sacred skills of what had enabled humanity to coexist with the natural world for the majority of its history, is it no wonder then that they have been laid to waste, and themselves become obsolete?
Our trade, our mastery, is to be human first. Our skills are measured by how and what we produce from the bounty of our home. Our ancestral cultures, that have been here many times longer than the dominant culture in charge today, understood what it meant to manage and respect their home. And, we today, know that it is the only one we have. This culture has led us to believe that the arts and mastery of this Forgotten Guild are some sort of guarded secret, or better, that it is something we have risen above, but it is indeed not. It has only been hidden from you by the same society that has also enslaved you and every living thing on this planet for its own exploitation, treating you just as it produces its products of consumption, to become obsolete once there is no profit left to be made from you.
The knowledge and wisdom of the Forgotten Guild exists all around you, in the air you breath, in the rain on your face, in the people you meet, in the love you feel, it is in the fruit you pluck from the tree, or in the eyes of your child when their face lights up with pride and joy after accomplishing a skill or task on their own that you have taught them. It is in true existence. It is found when one relinquishes the hold this culture has upon you and see the world with clarity. It is a wealth worth protecting and fighting for, like the guilds of old, but it is for everyone to share. It has been stolen from you, and must be returned.
For, this understanding of the world, that which is deeply, truly human, is where craftsman is the craft, the tools are that which is tooled, the apprentice is the teacher, and it is an eternal college, carried forth by connection and love for this world.