I am alive in a designed ecosystem predicated on the buying and selling of material goods. With so much nuance in the marketplace how do I define a criteria by which to acquire these material goods to maximize survival?
Set priority and purpose to the acquisition of material goods in a layered approach and own the means of production for a well-defined outcome of well-being in abundance.
Recognize that I consume, and as long as I am alive I will always be consuming. In the process of consumption I am leaving wastes. I am not discouraged by this, everything seems to be doing it. All of life does it. Even the stars consume hydrogen and from it fuse the heavier elements as their own forms of waste. The critical insight is that these wastes are not wasted if they are picked up and utilized through consumption by some other aspect of the ecosystem.
The word consume comes from the latin consumere which means to devour, eat, use up, squander or waste. In modern english it carries the same variations in meaning. First the relatively innocuous meanings to ingest and to buy goods and services. Then the definitions turn decidedly… darker: use up a resource or to completely destroy as by a fire and absorb all the attention and energy of someone. My society views each individual within it as a consumer. A consumer is one who consumes. It is the basic protocol of the social fabric today and the dominant interaction between people and nations. Since its inception as such, it has been debated on the fringes of society by those for and against this kind of system. It even has its own -ism.
The term 'consumerism' would pin the tag where it actually belongs—on Mr. Consumer, the real boss and beneficiary…— John Bugas
With a mindful consumption there is a layered criteria for the objects I possess. It’s hard to discuss a system because I can only talk about or really even think about one thing at a time. It is important to recognize that a system is more than the sum of its components, more than simply the objects in the system. My personal space is the system in focus and the purpose of a system can only be defined by what the system does. The interaction of objects in a system are established and self-reinforced by properties of the objects themselves, or through agreed upon rules and guidelines — through protocols. It is these interactions that give rise to the emergent qualities of a system — its purpose. Despite there being no definitive order to these interactions, to talk about a system at all requires I use language. Using language demands that I proceed in some kind of order anyway.
The first layer of criteria to discuss centers upon the layers of necessity which align the objects of my personal space with purpose and priority. Objects to be used for the purposes of protecting or regenerating myself or my ecosystem are the first priority. These objects are the easiest to enumerate and obtain. Objects to be used in the manufacture of well-being in abundance are a secondary priority. They can still be acquired off-the-shelf but the correct combination of objects and the assembly of this system requires an initial ingenuity, followed by an industriousness and a sharing of knowledge. Objects to inspire joy or to be utilized in my own chosen purpose are tertiary priorities. Whether the market offers these objects to me or I make them myself, they can only be identified through my own inclinations or passions.
When consumption is combined with the real mindfulness I get a recognition that the objects in my personal space are components of my extended mind and body. These are my sacred objects, and each object I possess should have a definite purpose. Where possible, an object should fill the role of more than one purpose. Avoid unitaskers and instead use robust tools. Maintain a catalogue of proper techniques to save myself both time and money. Avoid excess which leads to unnecessary management, maintenance, waste and clutter.
A real mindfulness awakens me from the deep trance of mindless consumerism. It enables me to take authentic action. To take the steps toward making my consumption criteria known. Voting with my dollars or abstaining from future votes because I have voted today to empower myself and own the means of production at home — the means to produce well-being in abundance, myself.
Well-being can be well-defined — not just an abstract idea of being comfortable, healthy and happy but a quantification. A quantification of nutrition in the form of food. A quantification of the amount of energy used by objects in my personal space. Quantifying what energy can be produced at home from sunlight, wind, and still other alternative means of harvesting energy from the environment. Quantifying water as it is used to hydrate my body as well as within processes that take place cyclically in my personal space. Identifying sources for water in my immediate environment, quantifying and projecting collection and utilization. Quantifying the dimensions of my shelter and the space I have to produce and optimizing over time the processes and arrangements of objects used in production. Quantifying the amount and the means to acquire raw materials, feedstocks, or that which I cannot produce myself as additional resources and objects. Quantifying the various tools and recipes to maintain or produce what is required to produce well-being in abundance.
It is not necessary that I know exactly how to accomplish all of this a priori. By sharing recipes and rituals I can access knowledge without trial and error learning alone. By repeatedly asking “what?” I can lead myself to discover new and novel solutions. By using open source methods for collaboration, a design for the regenerative living system can be established. It can be iterated through successive versions converging on optimal with off the shelf components. Steadily improving with additional contributions and open source components. Finally culminating in the blueprints to an at-home microfactory capable of fabricating itself with feedstocks. To be replicated for others while providing a well-defined well-being in abundance.
What happens then when consumers demand well-being? An ideology can emerge that does not actually provide well-being. What happens when the demand for well-being is well-defined? Then the problem with providing it to everyone leaves the realm of ideology and enters the realm of engineering.
...Somehow, I just can't picture them shouting: 'Down with the consumers!'— John Bugas
Adopting a technique for mindful consumption builds upon the capacity in myself to protect and regenerate the ecosystem of my personal space. To protect is to understand the qualities of the materials and objects I’m consuming, to protect myself and others via the ecosystem from toxicity. To regenerate is to understand that the lifecycle of my sacred objects can last beyond my experiences with them. That the materials for their construction can be recycled myself or sourced from living systems integrated into my personal space.
A mindful consumption leads to the realization that you are a steward of your own ecosystem and ecosystems can be designed and used as though they are technology. A technology to produce more than what you put in. You establish the initial conditions and nature takes its course.