Some things to refer to . . .

“Those choosing to live in a simple way have often sought the middle way between poverty and wealth. They have concentrated on moderation: quality rather than quantity. They have sought to live a more balanced and measured life, one which not only protects the mind, encourages creativity and helps the good of society, but at the same time acts as a corrective to the materialistic excesses of a culture more preoccupied with indulgence than the consequences of profligacy. Voluntary simplicity is a pathway towards the maintenance of a life that is comfortable but not luxurious; frugal but not pinching, decent but not boring; one that seeks to discard the specialist’s divisions between work and life, art and everyday activity.” Lane, John; Timeless Simplicity: Green Books 2001; page16

“The arrival of industrialization, with its stimulation of population, overturning of the customary modes of life and work, and slow destruction of the countryside, led to a powerful reaction: it inaugurated a kind of dreamer’s rhapsody of lament, of celebration and nostalgia for a lost simplicity. William Wordsworth and John Keats wrote about it. William Blake, who materially speaking, lived a life of extreme frugality, engraved and wrote about it; as did Samuel Palmer, and at a later period William Morris, in his utopian novel News from Nowhere.

Morris conjectured a society of comfort, dignity and security, one that was to replace the sordid nightmare of mechanized industrial capitalism. In his novel, the machines have been destroyed, the manufacture of goods now offers both mental and physical pleasure, while underlying all would be a sense of community and fulfilling leisure. Commerce and the market system have been replaced by a co-operative administration of social affairs.

Like John Ruskin and the Arts and Crafts movement as a whole, Morris was a hugely influential exemplar whose legacy continues to inspire. To an extent, his vision was taken up and developed by Eric Gill, whose writings present a coherent view of human life in which art, work and spiritual values are fully integrated. Simple living and ‘a reasonable, decent, holy tradition of work’ were underpinning assumptions of his own life and thinking. Gill, too, called for a ‘holy poverty’ as the only rational attitude to material things.” Lane, John; Timeless Simplicity: Green Books 2001; page30

“Nature, too, is another indispensable factor in bringing us nearer to the authentic life. It provides us with the experience of infinite loveliness, whose contemplation holds the power to return us, as a friend once put it to me, “to my source”. Silence of this kind is a central part of the soul’s interior abundance; in the deep wells of solitude we find inner peace. How this silence is to be discovered – whether in meditation, in nature or in concentrated work – is for each to discover for himself or herself; but without it we can never hope to reach the inner springs of life, the forces of the soul” Lane, John; Timeless Simplicity: Green Books 2001; page101

“It is fundamental to the world view of modernism that all benefits are man made – the products of scientific, technological and industrial progress, and made available via the market system. Thus health is seen as something that is dispensed in hospitals, or at least by the medical profession, with the aid of the latest technological devices and pharmaceutical preparations. Education is seen as a commodity that can only be acquired in schools and universities. Law and order, rather than being natural features of human society, are seen instead as provided by our police force in conjunction with the law courts and the prison system. Even society is seen as man-made, brought into being by the ‘social contract’. Not surprisingly, a country’s wealth is measured by its per capita Gross National Product (GNP), which provides a rough measure of its ability to provide its citizens with all such man made commodities, a principle faithfully reflected in modern economics.

For economists trained in these ideas, natural benefits – those provided by the normal workings of biospheric processes, assuring the stability of our climate the fertility of our soil, the replenishment of our water supplies, and the integrity and cohesion of our families and communities – are not regarded as benefits at all; indeed, our economists attribute to them no value of any kind. It follows that to be deprived of these non benefits cannot constitute a ‘cost’ and the natural systems that provide them can thereby be destroyed with economic impunity” Goldsmith, Edward; The Way, An ecological worldview; Themis Books 1996; page207

“The notion that mans mental processes are categorically distinct from those of other animals is a gratuitous assumption based on no valid knowledge of any kind. In particular it is gratuitous to insist, as mainstream science does today, that only humans are intelligent – especially since the term has never even been satisfactorily defined. Admittedly, we have intelligence tests, but as Herrick notes ‘we do not know just what it is they measure.’ Some authors, among them Ashis Nandy, suggest that intelligence is little more than ‘that which is tested by intelligence tests’.” Goldsmith, Edward; The Way, An ecological worldview; Themis Books 1996; page197

“In his essay on this theme, “Peaks and Troughs” Hillman writes that the soul is the psyche’s actual life, including “the present mess it is in, its discontent, dishonesties, and thrilling illusions.” Something in us – tradition calls it spirit – wants to transcend these messy conditions of actual life to find some blissful or at least brighter experience, or an expression of meaning that will take us away intellectually from the quagmire of actual existence. When the soul does rise above the conditions of ordinary life into meaning and healing, it hovers closely and floats; it doesn’t soar. Its mode of reflection is reverie rather than intellectual analysis, and its process of healing takes place amid the everyday flux of mood, the ups and downs of emotions, and the certain knowledge that there is no ultimate healing: death is an eternal presence in the soul.” Moore, Thomas; Soul Mates: Honouring the mysteries of love and relationship; Harper Perennial, 1994; pages 4,5

“Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them. Now we face the question whether a still higher ‘standard of living’ is worth its cost in things natural, wild and free. For us of the minority, the opportunity to see geese is more important than television, and the chance to find a pasque-flower is a right as inalienable as free speech.

These wild things, I admit, had little human value until mechanization assured us of a good breakfast, and until science disclosed the drama of where they came from and how they live. The whole conflict thus boils down to a question of degree. We of the minority see a law of diminishing returns in progress; our opponents do not.” Leopold, Aldo: A sand country almanac and sketches here and there; Oxford University Press, 1949, special commemorative edition 1989 Forward dated 4th March 1948, p vii

“Conservation is getting nowhere because it is incompatible with our Abrahamic concept of land. We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong. We may begin to use it with love and respect. There is no other way ffor land to survive the impact of mechanized man, nor for us to rreap from it the esthetic harvest it is capable, under science, of contributing to culture.

That land is a community is the basic concept of ecology, but that land is to be loved and respected is an extension of ethics. That land yields a cultural harvest is a fact long known, but latterly often forgotten.” Leopold, Aldo: A sand country almanac and sketches here and there; Oxford University Press, 1949, special commemorative edition 1989 Forward dated 4th March 1948, p viii

“Discontinuity, burst of noise, Cantor dusts – phenomena like these had no place in the geometries of the past two thousand years. The shapes of classical geometry are lines and planes, circles and spheres, triangles and cones. They represent a powerful abstraction of reality, and they inspire a powerful philosophy of Platonic harmony. Euclid made of them a geometry that lasted two millennia, the only geometry still that most people ever learn. Artists found an ideal beauty in them, Ptolemaic astronomers built a theory of the universe out of them. But for understanding complexity, they turn out to be the wrong kind of abstraction.

Clouds are not spheres, Mandelbrot is fond of saying. Mountains are not cones. Lightning does not travel in a straight line. The new geometry mirrors a universe that is rough, not rounded, scabrous, not smooth. It is a geometry of the pitted, pocked, and broken up, the twisted, tangled, and intertwined. The understanding of nature’s complexity awaited a suspicion that the complexity was not just random, not just accident. It required a faith that the interesting feature of lightning bolt’s path, for example, was not its direction, but rather the distribution of zigs and zags. Mandelbrot’s work made a claim about the world, and the claim was the that such odd shapes carry meaning. The pits and tangles are more than blemishes distorting the classic shapes of Euclidian geometry. They are often the keys to the essence of a thing”. Gleick, James, Chaos – Making a New Science, p94,
First published in Britain 1988
Abacus Edition Reprinted 1993 © J/G 1987

“Often the scientists drawn to fractal geometry felt emotional parallels between their new mathematical aesthetic and changes in the arts in the second half of the century. They felt that they were drawing some inner enthusiasm from the culture at large. To Mandlebrot the epitome of the Euclidean sensibility outside mathematics was the architecture of the Bauhaus. It might just as well have been the style of painting best exemplified by the color squares of Josef Albers: spare, orderly, linear, reductionist, geometrical. Geometrical – the word means what it has meant for thousand of years. Buildings that are called geometrical are composed of simple shapes, straight lines and circles, describable with just a few numbers. The vogue for geometrical architecture and painting came and went. Architects no longer care to build blockish skyscrapers like the Seagram Building in New York, once much hailed and copied. To Mandlebrot and his followers the reason is clear. Simple shapes are inhuman. They fail to resonate with the way nature organises itself or with the way human perception sees the world. In the words of Gert Eilenberger, a German physicist who took up non-linear science after specialising in superconductivity: “Why is it that the silhouette of a storm-bent leafless tree against an evening sky in winter is perceived as beautiful, but the corresponding silhouette of any multi-purpose university building is not, in spite of all efforts of the architect? The answer seems to me, even if somewhat speculative, to follow from the new insights into dynamical systems. Our feeling for beauty is inspired by the harmonious arrangement of order and disorder as it occurs in natural objects – in clouds, trees, mountain ranges, or snow crystals. The shapes of all these are dynamical processes jelled into physical forms, and particular combinations of order and disorder are typical for them”. Gleick, James, Chaos – Making a New Science, pp116,
First published in Britain 1988
Abacus Edition Reprinted 1993 © J/G 1987

“. . . . the sociologist Pitirim Sorokin in a monumental four volume work written between 1937 and 1941. . . . calls these three value systems the sensate, the ideational, and the idealistic. The sensate value system holds that matter alone is the ultimate reality, and that spiritual phenomena are but a manifestation of matter. It professes that all ethical values are relative and that sensory perception is the only source of knowledge and truth. The ideational value system is profoundly different. it holds that true reality lies beyond the material world, in the spiritual realm, and that knowledge can be obtained through inner experience. It subscribes to absolute ethical values and superhuman standards of justice, truth, and beauty. Western representations of the ideational concept of spiritual reality include platonic ideas, and judeo-Christian images of God, but Sorokin points out that similar ideas are expressed in the east, in different form, in Hindu, Buddhist, and Taoist cultures.
Sorokin contends that the cyclical rhythms of interplay between sensate and ideational expressions of human culture also produce an intermediate, synthesizing stage – the idealistic – which represents their harmonious blending. According to idealistic beliefs, true reality has both sensory and supersensory aspects which coexist within and all-embracing unity. Idealistic cultural periods thus tend to attain the highest sand noblest expressions of both ideational and sensate styles, producing balance, integration, and esthetic fulfillment in art, philosophy, science, and technology. Examples of such idealistic periods are the Greek flowering of the fifth and fourth centuries, BC, and the European Renaissance.” Capra, Fritjof; The Turning Point, p13
First published 1982
Published 1983 by Flamingo an imprint of Harper Collins,

 

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