I was listening to the radio this morning where they were talking about the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales:
It’s in a place I can’t spell pronounced ‘Ma-hunth-leth’, where an eccentric Earl and an academic joined with other like minds to establish a place for alternatives to the gas-guzzling, power-devouring, wasteful, land-filling norms of our society to be explored and practised. One of them had lived among the Masai and came back thinking that once you have the basics in life, anything else is superfluous. And that set me thinking. It always puts me in mind of King Lear when people say that: I hear his plaintive voice across the centuries, pleading:
‘O reason not the need! Our basest beggars/are in some smallest thing superfluous./ Allow not nature more than nature needs/ man’s life is cheap as beast’s.’
So, what do we need? Beyond the basics – food, water, shelter, clothing – what do we need? Well, I would argue that we need certain rights: the right to reproduce is crucial; and beyond that, the right to a voice – both as a people and as an individual – in fact I think we need Maslow here. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is the ‘go-to’ structure when you are thinking along these lines:
One thing we have here in abundance this morning is: sun! It blazes into the living-room and creeps across the floor minute by minute: when it reaches the back door I shall go and sit in it. We definitely need the sun – and not only to live; we need it in order to be cheerful. So, having spent the whole of March complaining about the cold and dull weather, I am determined to enjoy it. My meditation this morning was on contentment, something I find hard to practice. Of course you can’t – and shouldn’t – be content when you genuinely lack things you need: and far worse than that is to tell others who don’t have these things to be content. But what is does help with is worrying about the future and fretting about things you don’t have. I am currently fretting about not having a decent kitchen and wanting a composting toilet and a greywater recycling facility, not to mention a wood-burning stove and and and and
Yes, a bike with a trailer. I sometimes want a car; but not often. When I see the state of the roads and observe the frankly horrible way in which people behave on them, I’m usually grateful to be out of it. Not to mention the expense…
So what do we need? In order to sustain life, we don’t need a mobile phone or the internet. However, it is increasingly hard to function and interact without these things. But! we have swapped instant communication for real society: we have exchanged instant messaging for proper conversation. I had a row with Mark last night because I was fed up of being in the same room as him but not interacting, having to shout in order to say something because he is always on the BLOODY COMPUTER and wearing headphones!!! It’s not only his fault: I’m the same sometimes, but we need to do something about it: we need to make sure we share experiences, otherwise a marriage just becomes a pair of parallel lives.
And we don’t need that.
PS One of the things I wanted to share with Mark last night was the excellent new series ‘The Politician’s Husband’. We shall make a point of watching the next episode together: