“It [Jazz] is an art that thrives on what it can do, not so much on what it does.”
Ben Ratliff

Coltrane - The Story of a Sound

World Made by Hand


A few weeks ago a relative (I think he is an uncle … but uncle sounds to generic to me), with whom I’ve connected only in recent years, sent me a book to read. He sent it in a context of a dialogue we were having by email about the direction my life is taking. He had what I presume to be a good-run in business and now travels the world. I would say he is a cross between a realist and a pessimist (he would probably embrace the former and be ambivalent about the latter).

I was happy to receive the book – it was a much appreciated gift that carried over with it care and interest. It’s been a while since I’ve held a new book that wasn’t about some construction or gardening or other life-skill. But, I was tentative about reading it. I am in a new existence … one that comes with an abundance of sometimes hard work that leads to an abundance of fruits. I still feel very much challenged by this new life and am still working on my faith capacity in light of the unrelenting challenges. I expected the book to challenge my faiths and beliefs and I wasn’t sure I needed another challenge.

But I did go ahead and read the book and enjoyed reading it … not so much because of the book (which was OK) but because I could hold a book. I actually rationed the reading out so it would last a while. The book is called World Made by Hand.

It describes a USA which has, through some kind of hinted at disaster, been forced into an old/new existence where there is no electricity, no cars, no government, etc. It uses an unsurprising story line to weave fairly dogmatic characters to draw a picture of this existence. It has a weak quasi-spiritual ending which seems forced upon¬† a story that wasn’t really going anywhere. I often wonder if this reflected absence of and need for spiritual quality isn’t at the root of many problems. It also amuses me that American culture has a hard time producing anything that doesn’t have a clear and satisfying ending … I see it a lot in movies and now this book too.

Ironically the so called harsh existence of the book is not unlike the real existence of Romanian village life. Here a horse and carriage, though much slower and sometimes bothersome, is often more useful then a gas-guzzling car. It is a difficult thought sustainable lifestyle. We are working to create an improved version of this existence. It isn’t quite a world made by hand because we do rely on electricity and use power tools and sometimes hire a tractor to do some digging for us.¬† We do use a car to get to the city to acquire things (an infrastructure) we need to create our world … and as we progress our need to visit the city is reduced.

We chose to embrace this existence (that we are just beginning to shape), we weren’t forced into it by financial crisis, war or disease (though I believe that others may be forced into in in the future in what may be a personal drama not necessarily a global one). I do believe the world is undergoing a collapse … but I don’t think it is heading into devastation. I believe that it was heading into devastation and that the collapse we are witnessing (those of us with open eyes) is a natural act of healing … one that despite it’s harsh effects will ultimately prevent devastation.

The book also reflects to me an ignorance of mainstream western society (of which I was until recently a member) on how to make a world by hand. I feel fortunate to live in an age where people (way out from the mainstream) have been making worlds by hand and coming up with better and better ways to do so. People who live sustainable and abundant lives while the mainstream is in a losing effort for achieving a petty existence. People who are passionate about sharing their revelations to the few who are interested in listening.

With that in mind … I am going to finish my tea and had back into the barn to continue work on the super-simple and super-wood-efficient rocket stove model (built mostly of purchased firebricks that I hope we’ll be able to manufacture on our own next year) we intend to build in our bedroom.


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