The Hare and the Tortoise

Æsop’s fable of the reckless, over-confident hare and the far-sighted tortoise is one of my favourites. For those of you who can’t remember it, the moral is that although the hare got going fast and almost reached the destination first, his cockiness got the better of him. As the hare took a pre-finish line nap, thinking he had the result in the bag, the tenacious tortoise, moving more slowly and methodically, plodded straight past him and over the finish line…proving that slow and steady wins the race.

These days we seem to have evolved into Hares. Always rushing around, jumping off the springboards of our rash desires without checking what we’re diving into, or what the consequences will be. What with work, meetings, worry, offspring-advancement activities and snatched coffee dates with our friends, we’re constantly on the move and racing against time…which incidentally seems to have sped up. But that’s another story. Continue reading

The Origin of a Species

It’s easy for some to think that we’ve stopped evolving as a species, at least for the time being. As far as we can tell, Homo sapiens has looked, and mostly behaved, fairly similar since it developed speech and communal living, albeit with small changes in language, customs, clothing, transport and house structures. But evolution of any system never really stops, and sometimes can even work in reverse (e.g. Darwin’s finches and Seattle’s sticklebacks).

After all, as Darwin wrote in On the Origin of Species, “Under domestication we see much variability… [which] is governed by many complex laws, – by correlation of growth, by use and disuse, and by the direct action of the physical conditions of life.” A species can only keep reproducing carbon copies of itself for multiple generations “as long as the conditions of life remain the same”.

And the conditions of human life have changed.

But when I was young, we ate meat!

Continue reading

A Ghost of an Idea

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.

– William Morris

There is so much STUFF in the world.  Once upon a time newspapers were printed once a week.  Magazines (or periodicals) were mostly available through the post by subscription, or a small amount of copies were sold at city newsstands. Clothes and shoes were made on demand, only when they were needed.  Milk was delivered only to customers that ordered it.  Gift-giving occasions (Christmas, birthdays, Mothers Day, Easter etc.) were more tradition and family-based than present-based, and one or two thoughtful, quality items were considered more worthy of a ‘gift’ than multiple, cheap and useless items. Continue reading

The Modern Nomad

Once upon a time, humans were nomadic.  Our belongings were limited to the skin wrapped around our hips, a weapon or tool or two, and maybe some animals, rugs or random pots thrown in too.  We roamed free through the forests and across the plains.  We didn’t have to be home by nightfall, we just slept under the stars, wherever we were.

Then we got sick of roaming and settled down, building walls around us to shut out the night…or shut ourselves in.  We began to collect things—furniture, clothes, books, pianos, fine china dishes, cushions and crystal glasses.  A home quickly changed from a safe place to pass the night and spend time with your family to a showroom of your life, full of advertisements of your wealth, status and style.  Furniture was once built to last generations, fine china dishes were family heirlooms and clothes came in two sets—Good and Everyday. Continue reading

Recycled cars

I’ve already written about how waste has conquered the world through the rise of Convenience (read All hail the Goddess Disposability!), particularly in light of electronic rubbish.  But there’s a myriad of other gratuitous waste surpluses floating around the world.

Cars are just one of these.  Remember watching the cars on the road about 15 years ago?  You could pick the ‘rich’ people in town because they were the ones driving the few new cars, still shiny with the novelty of recent purchase.  Everyone else was still driving around in the first and only car they ever bought new, 5, 10 or even 15 years ago.  If it still started and stayed in one piece, there wasn’t really a reason to buy a new one.

Now, cars are designed specifically (yes, it’s true, I’m not being a cynic) to last only a few years.  You are encouraged to buy a new car every 5 years (and you thought the sudden rise of perfect competition in new car extended warranties was just your lucky day!).  The concept of dud car makes has become pretty much obsolete because EVERY make is built to run like a dream for the first few years. Continue reading