I am currently in the finishing phase of writing my new book on Anti-trend (with the subtitle; durable design and the art of resilient living), and as a part hereof I am spending a lot of time considering and challenging cultural assumptions that constitute obstacles when seeking more sustainable and resilient ways of life.
My overall hypothesis is that an anti-trendy lifestyle ought to be common or mainstream, as it is the most natural and fulfilling way to live.
Anti-trendy living is synonymous to living authentically and being true to whatever feels natural and right rather than following the “ought too’s” of society or cultural trends (well, sometimes “want to’s” and “ought to’s” might match, but often they seem not to). It is a way of accepting and consciously choosing and taking responsibility for both our reality and our opportunities — or what an existentialist would call: our facticity and our transcendence.
Why is following fleeting trends, consuming according to these, and spending most of our time rushing from one thing to the other the most mainstream or normal way to live in the post-industrial, capitalistic part of the world? Why is anti-trendy living considering an alternative, marginal or unconventional lifestyle?
When talking about my anti-trendy lifestyle choices — such as; very rarely buying new things or new clothes, challenging what it means to be well-dressed by allowing for my clothes to wear out, and by cherishing mends and holes, aiming to find peaceful moments every day to tune in to what I truly want to spend my time on, making a point only to work with stuff I am passionate about, saying “no thank you” to around half of the social activities and gatherings I am invited to attend, trying to teach my children the pleasure of durable skills that are not affected by the shifting breezes of life in the fast lane (like drawing, playing or listening to music, or finding pleasure in literature — as an antidote to only pursuing fleeting trend-based activities that reap instant admiration from other “trend followers”, or that are experienced as appealing due to their “instantly rewarding” anti-trivial qualities, and hence don’t require practice, repetition, or perseverance) – well, then I often experience a particular range of remarks from other people.
And they go somewhat like this:
“Oh but living like that is only for the privileged”, or “what’s wrong with wanting new things; I work hard, so I should be allowed to buy whatever I want”, or “aren’t you afraid of not getting invited another time?”, or “yes, I wish I too had time to teach my children things like that, but I am simply too busy and too tired when I get home from long hours at the office.”
Remarks like that make me wonder:
Are we really that induced by the “no pain no gain”-doctrine? And, are we that stuck in believing that our current reality is unchangeable, and that we aren’t free to choose how we act and how we live our lives? Has shopping become the new “opium for the people”? And particularly: what does it take to change the underlying basic assumptions that determine such responses? What does it take to understand that it is indeed ok to merely engage in passion driven professional activities, and that it is possible to limit consumption? And furthermore, that by doing so, we are actually getting closer to disregarding the assumption that hard work and discipline is the license to enjoyment — and importantly; that enjoyment and welfare equals shopping and consuming?
We could also put it this way: what if my response to the comments on my eager attempts to lead an anti-trendy lifestyle was that it is our own responsibility to reduce consumption, as well as to ensure a resilient and fulfilling lifestyle, both for ourselves but most certainly also for our children?
Obviously, I am not the only one that aspires to anti-trendy living. Anti-trendy living is related to slow living. And, slow living is a rising and growing tendency, which indicates a paradigm shift that was initially blooming in the early years of the 21st century and has its origin in the Slow Food Movement. It was a movement that was kick-started by the financial crisis in 2007-2009, as an antithesis or reaction hereto.
The slow living movement, in brief, is about celebrating slowness and challenging consumerism. The focus is on “little, but good” — and the idea that slowness results in an increased focus on one’s surroundings and the objects found here, and that this focus is a source of intimacy. Physical, sensuous intimacy, that is. A kind of intimacy that might disappear when living life in the fast lane, to use an obvious cliche. And, a kind of intimacy that can lead to sustainable behaviour, because it encourages cherishing and mending our physical belongings rather than replacing them.
As mentioned, I consider the slow movement and the intentions behind it as an expression of a paradigm shift, rather than as a passing trend like many others, due to the fact that it promotes a resilient, fulfilling lifestyle, which essentially appeals to us; to our core as human beings, because it is the most natural way for us to live. It speaks to our fundamental human need to be present and mindful, and to do what we are passionate about instead of the meaningless act of killing time, days, weeks, months, years in an uninspiring job so that we can buy more insignificant stuff (that we then, after a short time period struggle to get rid of).
On top hereof, the current global environmental crisis that we are all facing is water on the slow mover’s mill. Consuming less and living responsibly and consciously suddenly doesn’t seem so much like an alternative lifestyle, but rather like a rational and sensible way of life. Because, do we really have any other options, if we wish to mend the eco-systems?
Basic assumptions of a time era (or a culture) can change as a cause of fundamentally different living conditions – and hence the way people view the good life; time, status, consumption etc. can change and this can affect lifestyle tendencies and preferences. And I think this is about to happen.
But we are not quite there yet. Technology is getting there, though. Sustainable energy, the creation of various new, sustainable materials, material and waste recycling systems, design and architectural made out of waste materials, sustainable transportation etc. is already happening. The real obstacle is our cultural, societal and habitual patterns, and our constant strive for financial and material growth.
We are in need new status symbols and in need of new measurements of success.