Lately I’ve been talking to a lot of people about how frustrating it has been to get funding for The NCSC Hearth.  Each of them has said some version of the same thing, “Why don’t you start small with a storefront and let things grow?”   That seems like an obvious answer, but it rings hollow to me. I thought I’d try to explain why here.

When I look at the issues that our country faces in the future, the arts are in danger, but have many more promoters because art is something that is very approachable for a range of people.  People have an innate appreciation for beauty, and there is a status that correlates with being an “art lover.”  I count myself as one of those lovers of art, but more of creativity that combines with talent. However, the aspects that are most important to me in the Hearth project are not directly artistic. If our mission is like a dinner, the arts are the bread and the dessert.  I’m more concerned with the meat and the vegetables.  They are more related to necessities, and how those requirement blend function with creativity.  But I also think that there are more important things to consider when looking forward. There are people who believe that they are above menial work, that beauty is the definition of quality, and that having the most “things” makes them better than others who have less. In many cases these are the same people who complain the loudest that their “things” are being unfairly taxed, and that they are carrying the rest of us.  It seems to me that this is just one of those lessons that has been lost since our society moved from agricultural to industrial and finally onto information based.

Back in “the old days,” one person’s existence was not that different from anyone else’s.  Some had more success because of the type of land they owned, or the work they put in, but not usually because they inherited it.  The “hidden life” of the affluent seemed so preferable to the hard work of every day life, but in my way of thinking it was by far the most precarious.  They were completely reliant on the work of others, having lost, or in many cases, never learning the skills needed to prepare their feasts, grow their victuals, or construct their homes.  What if their servants got sick and left them alone? How long before they sought to learn the skills of every day life?

In many ways we face that same problem now.  Most Americans have “risen” to the ranks of the “entitled,” whether they are affluent, or not. For a variety of reasons the critical lessons that were once taught on the farm and in everyday life, have been lost. More than where the food comes from, children now lose patience when their laptop boots up slowly. Imagine how frustrating it is to actually wait for 9 months for a calf to be born, then another week before the milk can be drink, or several more months before the calf grows to a harvesting point, if it’s going to be used as meat. If she is destined to be a milk source, that’s another two years to wait.  I think that is the opposite of megahertz or gigahertz. It’s called patience and life.

Once we demanded that people who were imprisoned do something to contribute to society while they were incarcerated, such as license plates or rock splitting, those are now considered “beneath them.” Now we put people in prison with little skill training, less positive structure for their energy, and then expect them to come back into society a “changed person.”  We expect that our soldiers will be able to “turn off” their training of vigilance, suspicion and willingness to kill as soon as they take off their uniforms. But we also know that the things they’ve seen and done will leave scars, both visible and invisible.  Some of those injuries can be surgically repaired, but psychological damage, lost limbs, brain trauma, take different approaches, most of which are not available everywhere. The people who can help them often do not have places to work from, and finding matches is difficult.

But what if a place was created that would allow more children to learn these “moral skills,” such as patience, the value of hard work, self-respect, and appreciation rather than jealousy?  What if that same place allowed kids that already have those experiences to teach them to others, to enjoy each other’s company, and to raise a generation of compassionate, informed adults?  Suppose that same space allowed those who have the equipment, skills and experience to work with veterans and others to learn how to grow or make something that contributes to a better life for themselves or others?   What if equipment, space knowledge could be shared between generations, cultures, and individuals to give people more security in the future?  Is that less important than art? To me it is a form of art all its own.

One artist once said to my husband, “Art is beautiful or transformative. If it’s practical or useful it’s not art, it’s something else. “ I strongly disagree. There are many truly useful things are art, from a quilt to a wooden bowl to a solar panel designed to blend in with stained glass. These are the tools of a self-reliant future. They are not flashy or stylish, but they need to be eternal and available. This is not something that can fit in a storefront. It needs space for animals, community gatherings, machinery to be installed, and room to spread our arms. To have a storefront would only serve as a “this way to..” arrow. Why spread ourselves that thin?  If it’s worth learning, isn’t it worth adventuring to find?

We’ve started a fundraising program, again, to raise funds for The NCSC Hearth. If you agree that people need to understand how to care for themselves without a charge card.  If you value the knowledge that permits people to live among the planet’s residents, not above them.  If you recognize that self-reliance allows people to share themselves with others because they are not so fearful, then work with us through buying a t-shirt or giving a donation.  Flashy is fine. Functional is required.

Tshirts at www.booster.com/FoodLeader 
Donations at www.northcountrysustain.org/Revivor.html

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