Monday, March 29, 2010
Ouroboric Living (Closing the Circle)
I am setting out to deeply explore the cycles of consumption and waste within my own life, using the Ouroboros as a model. The circular image of the serpent devouring it's own tail, ancient symbol of self-contained consciousness, will now be applied to an exploration of the existing cycles of my own activity, in order to raise my awareness, to gain self-suffiency, and to promote a vision of smaller, local, autonomous businesses.
When I consume anything, I want to be aware of where it came from, how it was made, and what it is made of. My goal is to get as close as possible to the source, the method of trade, and what happens when I take it into myself. When I eat an egg, I want it to come, if not directly from under the chicken, then from the farmer who raises the chicken. That way, I can ask them questions about their chickens, and consequently, know more about the egg I'm eating.
To this end, I have begun to read the ingredient lists of everything I consider buying at the store. If there is any ingredient that I don't understand in plain language (i.e. chemical compounds), then I won't buy the product. I look for where the food item is made, in order to buy from local businesses whenever possible.
Some products have moved so far away from their original, natural sources that they are hopelessly entangled in chemical additives. For these, I have begun to make my own versions, from basic ingredients. These include toothpaste, which I now make from baking soda, salt, aloe gel, lemon peel and essential oils, and dish soap, which I have replaced with finely sifted wood ash from my fireplace.
Fresh produce from local farmers is now my first choice when buying fruits and vegetables, and I plan to learn how to garden this spring. When purchasing manufactured goods I look at second-hand options such as craigslist and thrift stores, and want to begin barter exchanges with others. This undercuts the planned obsolescence features that large corporations use to keep us hooked into their cycles of consumption.
Last summer, my son and I furnished our casita completely with good quality finds from the local thrift store for under $150. Our like new sofa came from a neighbor who was moving and didn't want it anymore. The computer I am typing this on (an Apple iBook G4) was purchased from a student for $350 cash.
On the other end, as I consume goods, waste is produced. Although I don't yet know what the city actually does with it, I recycle glass, plastic, metal, and paper, on the hope that it actually is reused. Food waste goes into a compost heap that has begun to provide fertile soil for my plants. Wood and paper scrap that is not recycled goes into the fireplace to help heat our rooms. Then, ash from the fireplace is used to wash the dishes.
Still, there is much that I have not yet addressed. In the area of transportation, I still buy 1-2 tanks of gasoline per month, no doubt produced by a big oil company, for my 1989 Honda Wagovan. I pay my cell phone provider way too much for a service I can probably get for free on the internet. I could find a way to utilize gray water (non-toilet based waste water) from the shower and kitchen sink to water my plants with.
So, this is just a beginning, but where to from here? I envision a world made up of small, independent businesses and individuals, collaborating together in widening circles of trade. A world where disconnected large governmental and corporate structures become irrelevant, because we have quit feeding their endless appetite, and have chosen to do business with real people we can see, know and meet face-to-face. A place where waste products are used and reused to participate again in the wheel of consumption, just as in nature. It is here that the creative cycles of consumption and waste will begin to meet and the circle of the Ouroboros connects.