Workshops and Beyond
I was looking in this guy's workshop the other day. He had a lot of stuff in there. Workbenches, tools galore; wood, saws, metal sheets, lathes, screws, nails, brackets, wire, socket sets, paints, brushes, electric drills, tins and bottles of chemicals, reference books - the whole of the kit any working man or practical man would use for making, mending, repairing and generally creating.
In certain communities and families it's just a given that a man needs a workshop or a shed in order to do his man things - a place and a space where he can lose himself in peace, organise his stuff to suit himself, and have his thoughts to himself.
I sometimes wonder whether I did my son a big disservice by never having a proper workshop. It turns out he's a practical guy, and potentially a creative guy - someone who enjoys using his hands as well as his imagination. By not offering him an 'apprenticeship' of time messing about in a workshop he never got into the habit of being creative with various tools and materials. He can apply himself to it if he has to, but it's not like a habit or a way of living.
The fact that my own dad didn't have a proper workshop until after I'd left home probably meant that I didn't have a grounding in using tools in a creative way either. And there was no way that this was ever going to happen at school. Though we did have token woodwork and metalwork 'lessons', it was always a question of following specific instructions given by the teacher - never an opportunity to work in any creative or self-directed way. It was only in the 5th form that we could develop our own projects, which in my case resulted in very fine backrest for my Modded-up Lambretta.
Considering didatic teaching methods in subjects like metalwork and woodwork might help to understand the effects of didactic teaching right across the curriculum. How does anyone get into the habit of thinking and doing things creatively unless we have daily practice of thinking and working creatively? Is it any wonder that so few of us habitually think creatively, or live life creatively? Is it any wonder so few acquire the habit of lifelong learning and a love of learning for its own sake?
Maybe it used to be different for girls, assuming they had a mother, at least, who was able to teach various sorts of creative skills with fabrics and wools, needles, scissors and pins. In a sense, too, kitchens have always been creative workshops for families who cook with basic ingredients, and approach food and eating with imagination and enjoyment. Unfortunately this didn't happen for me and my sister - family meals were matters of meat and two veg, simply and unimaginatively boiled, roasted and fried. Not that my mum was to blame for that - having grown up in a household where food was limited in availability in the shops, and the family was too big for the kitchen to function as a creative workshop.
What we should really be doing with our kids is letting them loose with piles of wood, metals, paper, paints, vegetables and meats and allowing them to experiment and invent to their hearts' content. Apart from being somewhat messier, wouldn't that be better than letting them fill their time with TV and computer games? These things have their place in modern life, but the place ought to be a lot smaller.
In some ways my favourite creative machine when I was a kid was my bike. My parents clearly trusted me to ride it safely because they did me the enormous favour of allowing me the freedom to roam far and wide, in town and country. What better way to investigate the wider world beyond your own backyard, street, estate and town? Cycling used to be, and it still is, the best way to discover new places and to experience them to the full.
In terms of home workshops, there are so few people who still work creatively with their hands that it's not surprising that they're ceasing to exist - at least as a separate basement, loft, attic, outbuilding or shed. These days people would rather invest in a so-called summerhouse or a basic storage shed than build a workshop. The nearest we tend to get at home to spending time in a workshop or a studio is to surround ourselves with computers, creative software, routers, webcams, printers, hard drives, amplifiers, speakers, books, paper, post-its, newspapers, magazines, notebooks, pinboards, file boxes, scissors, paper cutters, pens and pencils.
Careful though - if you don't have the space for a separate 'office' you could easily create quite a lot of mess and untidyness, and find yourself living in a workshop or studio rather than a 'home'.
Moving to Malmesbury
As readers will have noticed on the label, Oxzen is concerned with "Enquiries into philosophy . . . "
Malmesbury bids to become UK's first 'philosophy town'
The quiet Wiltshire market town of Malmesbury is hoping to capitalise on an increasing interest in thinking and become known as the UK's first "philosophy town".
Planned "philosophy town" events include a festival of history, ideas and philosophy and an all-night examination of enlightenment.
Philosopher Angie Hobbs believes the time is right for a "philosophy" town.
"I think people are hungry for this stuff," she said. "We've got ourselves in such as mess in the world – the environment, the banking crisis, the whole issue of fairness.
"Philosophy may be able to help a bit. We don't have all the answers but we can help the debate."
"It's OK to dabble. Don't be scared. There are a lot of people thinking we really need this because we've got into such a mess not using human reason to its full potential."
Michael Cuthbert, head of the philosophy town project, believes that radio programmes such as Radio 4's In Our Time and Moral Maze, and the rise in popularity of the work of thinkers such as Alain de Botton, showed the time was ripe for a philosophy destination.
"People are more loose in their loyalties and more questioning. They want to grapple with big ideas," he said.
He enthuses about initiatives such as the walking route – professional philosophers will walk alongside participants or meet them in the pub for a debate at the end of the day.
"There's a link between philosophy and walking – from the professor pacing up and down to the great pilgrimages."
Finn Spicer, a Malmesbury resident and part of Bristol University's philosophy department, agreed there was a growing hunger for philosophy.
"And why shouldn't Malmesbury be a centre for that?" he said. Spicer believes it is a thoughtful kind of town where people care about ideas.
"In cafes you do overhear conversations about serious matters and want to chip in."
Fortifying himself with a pint of Pigswill ale in the Whole Hog pub before heading off for a Hobbes lecture was business consultant Jon Gundry.
"You don't have to be a full-time philosopher to like hearing ideas and experiencing argument," he said.
Catherine Doody, the Malmesbury councillor who holds the tourism brief, said: "It would be amazing if we could become another St Ives or Stratford. This is a vibrant community interested in what happening here and elsewhere."
Did she have any personal philosophical thoughts? "You live the best way you can and look after others and enjoy life."
The Philosopher's Walk in Kyoto is the name given to a 2km-long path through north-eastern Kyoto which covers five significant temples and two shrines.
"Walking Meditation" is a traditional method of calming the mind and bringing stillness to its ceaseless and often non-productive thinking. We all experience this when we walk alone or with a silent companion, especially in peaceful and beautiful places where we can re-connect with nature.
Meditation is concerned with the personal, the spiritual and the metaphysical. Philosophy, on the other hand, is concerned with ideas, the intellect, politics, government, ethics, morality and so on.
Meditation is concerned with the transcendental and the spiritual. Philosophy addresses practical issues of how we live as individuals and as societies.
The European Enlightenment was a movement which embraced science and rational thought as a means building a better world. Reason was advocated as the primary source and legitimacy for authority, instead of blind faith or obedience to the church, the monarchy, the Pope, God, custom & tradition, etc.
To Buddhists and Hindus, however, 'enlightenment' refers to a unique and personal experience which wholly transforms the individual. It is a spiritual state in which the individual transcends desire and suffering and attains Satori or Nirvana. Bodhi is achieved through individual meditation by ridding oneself of false beliefs and the hindrance of passions.
What we need is for every town and community to transform itself into both a place of philosophy and of enlightenment. I'll happily live in the first place that achieves this.
See Layers 223, 39, 178, etc.
Meanwhile, here in Dumb Britain, we stumble on in states of ignorance, fear, greed, cupidity and stupidity.
Shock and awe finances
No public service cuts are needed. Our plan to deal with the deficit is all about jobs, revenue and growth
by Mark Serwotka
When George Osborne sits down in the Commons on Wednesday after announcing the comprehensive spending review, he will have set out a package of cuts that will fundamentally undermine the welfare state. Yet there does not need to be a single penny cut from public services – or a single job lost.
These cuts are unavoidable, we are constantly told. Our economy is in a mess. Public spending has been running out of control. The country has "record debts". In what amounts to the political equivalent of shock and awe, the government has drilled this narrative into us so we simply accept our fate. But none of this is true. Our situation has nothing to do with public spending. The collapse in the finance sector, due to greed, caused a sharp recession and higher unemployment, tax revenues shrank dramatically, and the welfare bill increased.
In making cuts, the government is making a political choice, not responding to "record" debt. Research by my union shows that, between 1918 and 1961, the debt was more than 100% of GDP. Osborne's budget papers put the current debt at 53%. Between 1918 and 1961 different choices were made. We established the NHS and welfare services, built council houses, developed state education and pensions, and invested in industry.
Instead, Osborne is choosing to realise a long-held ambition to rid the rich and powerful of the burden of the welfare state. The way we pay benefits to those in need, how we get people back to work, our ability to collect the tax that funds healthcare, education and other vital services for millions of people – no corner of government will be spared the axe.
The cuts threaten to reintroduce Victorian levels of poverty and inequality. The coalition has used the notion of "fairness" as cover for a new division of people into the deserving and undeserving poor, and a demonisation of those receiving welfare.
Our pamphlet, There Is an Alternative: The Case Against Cuts in Public Spending, sets out what could be done instead. We outline a strategy to deal with the deficit by investing to create jobs, raise revenues and generate economic growth. We can also tackle the £120bn a year in tax that is evaded, avoided or not collected, and use the £850bn we hold in nationalised banking assets to work in our interests.
The government is attempting to make us choose who should suffer the most as it tries to generate a sense of inevitability about its draconian cuts. We must not allow ourselves to be divided: the public from the private sector; those in work from those out of work; British nationals from migrants. Unity can be built if we grasp that there does not need to be a single cut in anyone's public services, jobs or benefits.
Trade unions have often worked alone to defend their members from cuts. Now we are building new alliances – nationally and locally – with other unions, pensioners, charities and others to defend jobs and the services our members take pride in delivering. We are planning the most widespread popular movement for many years.