Friday, 13 December 2019

Winter Solstice - a Wondering on Novelty

Winter's world is whirling past and it's nearly the Solstice - that wonderful bi-annual moment when the worlds of dark and light catch their breath, pause a moment in the dance before the balance shifts and the retreating light becomes the returning light, the returning dark becomes the retreating dark. 
The sun herself seems to stand still, rising and setting in the same place on three consecutive days. Sol - the sun. Stice - standing still.

It is no wonder that upon the very day that the northern curve of our tumbling Earth feels the increasing arc of the warming sun upon her, our calendar brings us the moment we chose to celebrate the birth of the child that many see as 'the light'.

But I've been wondering lately - why is it that we (as a culture) celebrate this birthday with such a lot of 'stuff'? And why do we still buy a lot of stuff even if we're not celebrating a birthday? Or even celebrating anything.

I've carried this question around for a while now and come up with a theory, I'd love to know what you think. I believe we're addicted to novelty: We buy a new thing and then it's not new any more and so maybe we throw it away or maybe we keep it but still we want another. And another. And another.
I believe the constant desire for novelty is hardwired into us as part of our animal bodies.

Because novelty is what the sensuous, sentient, ever turning, changing world is always offering us. No two days are the same, the berries are not the same today as they were yesterday. The moon waxes and wanes, the seasons change, things grow and blossom and bloom and fruit and die. They compost, they are born again, or their descendants are - our world is transformed constantly around us. Newness is an unavoidable condition of aliveness. You cannot - as they say - step in the same river twice.
Unless of course you are completely separated from nature and stuck inside all day. Your wall does not change. Your view, quite literally, does not change.

If we went outside more, if we started to deliberately observe the ways in which each new day brings us newness - even in a city, even on the way to work - perhaps shopping would loose it's attraction?  Perhaps we could stop filling the world with plastic and fumes, cutting down forests and polluting rivers. Perhaps we would no longer believe that the convenience of 'the internet of things' is worth the lives of the majority of our pollinators?

Please, let's go outside and find out. The Anthropocene might just as well be labelled the Consumerpocene, because it's our shopping habit that's one of the main stays in keeping the 21st century version of capitalism alive - and that only seems to be good for a very few.

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