Observations, Thoughts and Reflections on 21st Century Life

Tag: consumerism

The Burden of Choice

      'The Writing Table'    www.rebeccapells.co.uk

‘The Writing Table’

Since the middle of the 20th century choice has become the cobweb in which western society resides.  The driver for consumerism and chief supporter of capitalism it is the meeting point of commerce, politics and our personal lives. The axis around which we chase perfection and happiness as along with the goods, we buy the idea that choice is desirable.  Choice has become synonymous with freedom – freedom to exert our preferences and spin a life exactly as we wish it to be.

  Expectations are raised and goalposts moved as we succumb to the intoxifying lure of possibilities.  But too much choice can leave us overwhelmed, saturated with options and oppressed by the burden to make the right decision.  Freedom becomes our jailor as complexity leads to paralysis and fatigue.  Too much information and too complex for us to be confident we are making the right choices; at worst it leaves a trail of anxiety that we may have got it wrong and at best a background sense of dissatisfaction that we may have missed something better.  The thrill of possibility turns to tedium, procrastination, exasperation and ultimately despair of ever achieving our goal and we may in the end withdraw from engagement altogether.

I experienced this first hand last week, spending days at a time staring with increasing chagrin at my computer screen as I attempted to work my way through the hundreds of options and variables a I constructed my new website.  More than once I was ready to give up – the sheer volume of decisions I was ‘forced’ to make was overwhelming.  Convinced that I might miss ‘the one’ I spent hours scrolling through hundreds of font styles, sizes, UPPER/lower case, bold, italic, underlined, custom –  the options were infinite.   The anticipated creative experience turned sour and it was only when I took a step back from the keyboard and revisited my original goal – for a clear and simple site to showcase my paintings –  that in the end I took control and returned to the essence of my desire.

Surrounded by the vicissitudes of life we hinder further our progress by allowing unnecessary complexities to seep in and saturate our daily lives until the picture has become so blurred that we loose sight of our original horizon.  We literally feel swamped by the flotsam and jetsam of choice and anchored down by indecision.  The 21st century will not leave us alone, it will not hold back the tide of modernity.  But we can discipline ourselves to surf the waves of amebic decisions and only roll with the important ones.  We have the ability –  the choice – to live our identity unburdened by minutiae and from place where we bear witness as if for the first time.


For more examples of my art visit http://www.rebeccapells.co.uk


Heirloom Bouquet

Bouquet of Heirlooms

Heirloom Bouquet Rebecca Pells 2015

Never have so many owned so much as we do in the 21st century.  Consumerism is spreading like a virulent disease infecting huge numbers of people.  Far from fleeing and looking for an antidote it’s welcomed by many who seek to catch the bug and embrace it.

From where does our love affair with the inanimate come?  The first objects were practical and necessary – clothes, tools and utensils and then excess commodities which could be traded in exchange for ‘foreign’ goods brought wealth and the ability to purchase more. But from earliest times we have evidence of purely decorative items such as jewellery and ornaments, artifacts which quickly became an indication of status or something cherished.  Items became integrated and entwined in our personal history handed down from generation to generation, a familial wave passing through our lives.

 Although many of us today continue to judge our success and that of others by what we own, abundance seems to have changed this relationship – things are replaced with an up to date version or simply because we have become bored and enjoy the fleeting satisfaction of acquiring the new. Many of us seek an identity  – or perhaps seek to escape from ourselves  – through the things we clutter our lives with.  Barely grasped and with little time for emotional attachment, we no longer truly inhabit the gift of inheritance. Perhaps that is the way it should be, the inanimate remaining transient, pleasing one moment and forgotten the next.

  However, there is a comfort in the familiar, in the multilayered existence of inheritance; a stabilizing, grounding sense of belonging which comes from things with which we grew up, the landmarks by which we navigated our early years.  They are the threshold between our history and the present, between what has been, what is and what is yet to come.  A kind of immortality we cannot ourselves achieve.  Often they are not of much monetary worth, but offer the far greater value of connection.

In the above painting the jugs are from a collection of my mother’s, the string of pearls my grandmother’s and the oak cabinet on which they rest from my great grandparents home.  By contrast, the flowers arranged in a mass produced vase offer a metaphor of contemporary ownership, admired for a short time before fading and being discarded to make way for the fresh.

My Great Grandfather Arthur Pells  1851-1927

My Great Grandfather Arthur Pells 1851-1927

Global Government, a Nice Ideology – or a Brave Way Forward ?

I’m fascinated by how humans have evolved and progressed and their relationship to the environment. Without this knowledge how can we begin to understand our current situation let alone how to move forward with equity and compassion for each other and the planet? It’s like a huge Maypole – planet Earth the pole, standing strong; the ribbons are nations, each fringed by sub-cultures, belief systems and political and economic structures which have developed over centuries. Unlike the May dance which is planned and choreographed, these ribbons of civilization had no blueprint and stepped out according to will, clashing and entwining with one another until they have become inextricably linked in one almighty tangle.

Now we have this great global knot placing intolerable strain on the environment which threatens to topple the delicate balance of the pole itself. How can nations, with their various historical and contemporary complexities, come together to ensure quality of life for all citizens, wildlife and the environment? How are finite resources, faced with increasing demand, to be shared? Our scientists overwhelmingly concluded last week in the IPCC report that climate change is real and whether or not we agree on it’s cause, we have to adapt to a warmer future.  As nations rush to protect and secure their own economic destinies through the promotion of consumerism and engagement in 21st century empire building, how can we make sense of and ease this worldwide tangle enabling us to move forward with equity?

Is there now a case for serious consideration of some kind of global ‘government’, whose members forgo their nationality to become citizens representing the planet ?  The challenges we face are demanding and the urgency to forge something healthy and sustainable serves only to intensify my passion to engage in a new and enlightened way forward.  We only have to look to the Easter Island story as detailed by Jared Diamond in his fascinating book Collapse, to see how easily a civilization can determine it’s own demise through failure to acknowledge facts and adjust it’s way of life accordingly.  Humans have a resistance to change, it has either happened slowly over generations or dramatically through war, disease or environmental ‘disasters’ , but we are surprisingly adaptable. For the first time in history, we’re aware of what is happening across the planet and we have the knowledge to predict what the likely outcome will be if we continue to tread the path we’re on.  But this also gives us a great opportunity to make wise choices.

Global government, a nice ideology – or a brave way forward ?

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