“But where there is danger, there grows also what saves.” Friedrich Hölderlin Attention is our most limited resource. William James proposed…
“But lo! men have become the tools of their tools.” Henry David Thoreau
In 15th and 16th century Venice, more than a dozen laws were passed to prevent ostentatious and wasteful consumption. One such law dictated that no more than six forks and six spoons could be given as a wedding gift; another outlined in detail what could be served as dessert at banquets (in-season fruit and small pieces of pastry). The theory was that cupidity was the root of all evil, that superfluous spending was a threat to the republic.
Fast-forward 500 years and we can give or receive as many forks as we please, and we can serve our guests mangoes from India and mochi from Japan at any time of the year. In the 21st century there are no pesky laws to hold back our desire to consume and discard at will.
The problem is that today we have more than forks and fruit on the menu. Now we have fidget spinners (50 million sold in two months), smartphones (1.3 billion sold per year), and plastic bags (1 trillion used each year), which will take more than 500 years to decompose.
Perhaps the Venetians were on to something.
—Zan Boag, Editor, New Philosopher
News from nowhere
Is less more? ~ Nigel Warburton
The Long Walk ~ Existential Comics
The stuff gap ~ Antonia Case
The power of possessions ~ Carol Hudson
The African Lightning ~ DBC Pierre
History of the world in 34 objects
Hoarder or collector? ~ Patrick Stokes
Living in a material world ~ Tim Kasser
Enslaving things ~ Oliver Burkeman
Selling childhood ~ Gary Cross
To be is to buy ~ Tom Chatfield
The story of our lives ~ Dawn Raffel
Things for the future ~ André Dao
What we leave behind ~ Margaret Gibson
The Dog and the Shadow ~ Samuel Croxall
What your stuff reveals ~ Sam Gosling
A commodified world ~ Damon Young
Ethical dilemmas ~ Matthew Beard
Life, death, and everything in-between
Ode to Common Things ~ Pablo Neruda
Writers’ Award Winner ~ Agnes Tirrito
Writers’ Award Runner-up ~ Warren Ward
The Joneses ~ Thorstein Veblen
Fleshy stuff ~ Marina Benjamin
13 questions ~ David Walsh
And much more.