Sunday, 27 December 2009


I once met a man called Chris at a hippie camp (Dance Camp East). (This photo shows him after I had 'done' his hair ready for the ball.) You certainly meet a selection of colourful, thought-provoking people at hippie camps. He told me that at the age of 23 that he decided that a LOT of the world's serious difficulties were and would be caused by over-consumption. He decided (at that young age) that he would reduce his own level of consumption by limiting his income and vowed to himself to only ever earn enough to ensure just his basic needs were met.

He also told me that he never saw life in terms of acquisition of material goods, but acquisition of skills. He said that every time he saw an opportunity to learn a skill, he would jump at it. He clearly had a wide array of skills (could fix, make or build almost anything) and people definitely showed admiration for his abilities. Perhaps the acquisition of skills really has waned in our society such that those with a healthy dollop of them them stand out. Or perhaps we just have more depth of skill rather than breadth. We can certainly get by with less physical and dexterous skills than our ancestors would have needed. But one thing is certain - skills are a positive thing!

(BTW This man is currently very involved in sustainable living projects - writing books etc - and says that even though he suspects humankind is almost definitely heading for disaster, this does not stop him doing his bit to attempt to prevent it!)

Having just experienced the madness that is Christmas: the ultimate in over-consumption and having watched my children go from a state of extreme over-excitement through anticipation to eventually being a little bored with each toy they acquired - always sets me off thinking about acquisition of 'things' and how we keep failing to learn that it really is not the secret to inner contentment (if indeed that is what people have realised they might be looking for?!?!) There is also some strange need for some to acquire 'bigger and better' to have an obvious indication of wealth and a display of 'superiority' over others. This can only be an insecurity - yes?

Acquiring skills is deeply satisfying and great for self esteem and undoubtedly provides a more sustainable satisfaction than acquiring a new gadget/toy/thing. What's more in carrying out something in a skilled way we can often experience what is called 'flow' - a meditative type state of absorption in what we are doing. So as we are building up to the time of fresh starts and future visions, I am going to ponder what skills I might like to acquire or develop further in 2010 and leave the purchasing of a red Porsche to someone else.

Any suggestions?


  1. Good memories are important too, which is why I feel it is more important to 'do' and 'achieve' than it is to acquire - all those clichés about having one go at life - they are true. We can be as rich as Croesus but to have few happy memories would make very poor in another sense.

    It's that diminishing returns thing again!

  2. I'm going to be editing my novel in 2010 and maybe writing another one! It gave me a really good sense of flow and would eat up whole hours at a time in happy creative absorption!

  3. is Chris's website. It's full of good ideas. A man who is enthusiastic and committed without a hint of sanctimony.

  4. Here here. That's why my kids only got three presents each, two little ones and a main skill-learning present! - for my son, a drum kit, and for my 3-year-old daughter, clippy cloppy shoes. You can never master the skill of walking in high heels too young. xxx

  5. Love the hair do. Can I employ you as my hair stylist please?

  6. I have decided to learn how to use a chainsaw.
    No perhaps not.

    Yep memories can warm you up on a cold day.

    Nikki - can I read your novel?

    Thanks for the website link Jonathan...makes me realise how great Chris really is..and he's always so humble and funny. I kept following him and Rosie around waiting for him to drop little pearls of wisdom - which he regularly did!

    I haven't mastered clip cloppy shoes at all. Negligent mother of mine!

    Cogitator, you have seen two examples of what I do to people's Barnet...and you're still putting yourself forward. I diagnose you as bonkers.

  7. We had a £1 limit again on one prezzie. Much more fun. We've never managed to cap the hat trick of a friend of ours who started year he wrapped up carefully chosen library books.

  8. we do keep failing to learn that aquisitions will not make us happy.
    why is that?
    why is it so hard?
    i realized this (again) as i stood in a line up in the store today and thought, 'what am i doing? wasting my free time, not to mention money, buying. for the sake of it.'
    i've promised myself to stay out of all stores for the forseeable future unless i need food.
    (fingers crossed i can stick to it.)


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