Well, I guess it’s about time that we got started – really started – opening this Institute.  The Endurable Living Institute.  It has been a long time coming, only because I (and now we) have been thinking on it, working toward it, planning it, and all the while learning, practising, experimenting, and otherwise getting ready for launching it.  I guess, thinking about it now, it has been at least 40 years and more in the making.  Now we have the land, we have some solid experience and knowledge, we have the dot.coms (my friend Jaime has been guiding the development of this website) and we are ready to provide some real classes in all variety of practical skills combined with practical theory.

The inter-connected themes of all our teachings at the Institute will be centred around the base of Mr. Maslow’s (greened) pyramid: endurable shelter, good food, low-cost transportation, and practical tools, utensils, and clothing…. The essentials for living on our planet within its means – whether the CRUNCH comes or not.  Oh – and we might have some fun and music along the way.22 Hamilton-Path-1 (Small)

Learning and Doing.  Theory and Practice.  Design and Execution.  Pencil and Hammer (Hoe, Needle, Loom, Potters Wheel, Tiller, Trowel, Forge…)

I have always been bothered (amused and despaired) by the distinction our society makes between the trades (the makers) and the “professionals” (the theoreticians).   Between the worlds of what we call “blue collar” and “white collar” – where as a result you get Architects who cannot sling a hammer and Carpenters who are not allowed to think much beyond the next coffee break.

We even differentiate within the so-called building “professions”, where Architects are considered to be semi-artistes and Engineers are not supposed to hit the creative key on their calculators.  Boxing and packaging of knowledge and skill is something our western world has developed into a fine practice – to a point where there are no longer any paths to attain a true understanding of how to survive in our world other than by getting a trades diploma or a university degree. The irony is that these credentials alone will not prepare anyone for a world without ready energy or one with other resources that are degrading and dwindling apace.

If anyone bothered to think about it much, this approach to learning is not only stupid, it is not effective in any long term (endurable) way, for we are now a nation of specialists in narrow aspects of a billion branches of endeavour, and our obsession with litigation drives us to ever-greater frenzies of engaging these experts to provide answers to what are often some fairly simple problems (last month a structural engineer I know very well was asked by a government agency to design a wooden shelf that was supposed to hold 16″ tall boxes of paper files).

Trip Jan 16-Feb 16 09 (Small)The old, the basic, skills and understanding are being lost as alarmingly as fish are disappearing from the seas.  How many of us knows how to build our own shelter?   How about building a shelter that requires very little energy to live in?  Who knows how to plant a simple vegetable garden that does not require all sorts of additives?  Or to sail a boat that needs no power other than that provided by the wind? Or to make her own furniture or eating bowls.  Who can sew his own clothes?  Or even imagine doing something like darning socks?  What is “darning socks” (what’s a darning ball)?

To really know something often requires a deeper understanding (theory) than that which is acquired by rote learning: rote is not enough to really know how a thing is done – for that, we must be trained in the doing as well.  Thus – for shelter – a person should, I believe, acquire the dexterity to build a house and at the same time gain a clear understanding of how moisture flows and how heat is transmitted, of  how the sun moves at different seasons and why in northern climates we might want to build south-facing rooms with dark-coloured dense floors like concrete, tile, brick, or the like. And that person would also want to learn how to acquire enough confidence in his or her innate aesthetic sense that the house will be a welcoming, beautiful building – one that may even sing a small song of its own?

Who knows about common wild plants that grow by the roadside or in our back yards that can be used as food or medicine?

These are some of the thoughts behind the Endurable Living Institute.  To make.  To understand.  To create beauty.  To begin to learn to live lightly.  To laugh.  To endure – and thrive – in a world that is becoming less.

We will be starting out small, with one or three classes in hands/mind skills with which we are most familiar, and will gradually, as we learn from successes and your input, invite other dedicated teachers in other life skills to come and share their knowledge and enthusiasm.

There are many things to figure out still……I must stop writing now –  and post this.

Well, there is the first post.  In later ones I will develop these and other themes, and will let you in a bit more about us and our dream for our Institute.  These posts will probably be free-ranging and may stir up a bit of controversy.  I hope.

Till next post.

Tom Livingston

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