I’ve been thinking a lot about consumption of late. More precisely, the fact that I don’t participate in much of it anymore. Not that I ever was a big shopper but lately I’ve noticed I don’t buy anything at all except for food. And books. And art supplies. That’s about it really.
Then these thoughts started connecting to stuff I've been thinking about in terms of abundance. This bubbled up especially while I was reading Daniel Pink’s book ‘A whole new mind: why right-brainers will rule the future’. Quite a good read for lots of reasons (more on that in another post). Dan emphasizes how we live in a time of abundance and how this allows people to have the time to, amongst other things, question the meaning of life and to focus on quality and beauty in our lives. It must be said that Dan is talking about abundance in relation to the wealthy West and not the whole globe. Abundance is clearly not something enjoyed by all.
Then yesterday I saw Kate Holden’s article where she tells a funny tale of realising she’s doesn’t have much stuff when it came time to fill out a home contents insurance form. As I read it I thought, yes! I know that feeling well. I too was overwhelmed when I had to fill out a similar form. Abundance gone mad. Every time I walk into a large department store these days I feel overwhelmed with all the stuff in the world. I wonder who buys it and why we need it all.
This theme is now being picked up in recent newspaper articles claiming that small houses are beautiful. Most of us don't need big houses. They're vast spaces to clean and heat and cool. And they're expensive to build and maintain. At last some common sense!
It's somewhat challenging and tricky then, as someone who prints, designs and illustrates to think about how I fit in with the consumption/abundance thing. I think anyone who makes anything and sells it (including skill) thinks about this at some time or another. The good news, if we're to follow Daniel Pink's argument, is that people with design and conceptual capabilities are going to be very much in demand in the future. This is starting to be the case already. Anyone with skills that can't be replicated by a computer will be needed as we move into an era dominated by abundance and automation. Pink explains that this means there will be a demand for clever design and beauty as abundance moves us away from a focusing merely on function.
Kind of heartening, don't you think?