Andy为大家介绍了他在日本生活时遇见的几位日本人的故事。他们在80、90年代离开了东京或其他日本大城市的繁忙都市生活，在日本农村建立了新的家庭生活。陶艺、玩偶雕刻、耕作等丰富着他们在农村的生活。Andy探讨了他们这种返璞归真、离城归乡的生活是否是一种回归、一种历史的倒退，对我们未来的时代和发展的意义。也许在中国的上一代看来，这是曾经经历过贫穷的农村生活，是艰难痛苦的时代和回忆。在他看来，这不是一种倒退，而是更好的生活。当年的中国生活为了生存，为了满足最基本的生活需求。而当今生活在中国的新一代，特别是居住在大城市勇敢追随梦想的这一代，生活的意义仍是为了生存吗？是否该开展对生活意义的新的思考？Andy为观众展现了一位日本人的艺术作品。作品一角抽象的书写了“who am I？我是谁？”如此抽象深奥的问题，当今哪个社会个体还会对此有所深思？
“为什么您的书名为the abundance of less而不是less is more呢？”这位观众问的同时其实不知她已解答了这个问题。我与Tiffany尴尬的相视一笑，一个月前在为书名做翻译时，我们并没有思考的那么深透，我们选择了《少即是多》---那时的我们对生活的思考就如Andy所说，停留在愚昧的追求“多”的层面上。
Since the first industrial revolution in the 18th century, modern technology has been developed vigorously to increase work efficiency and production for the human kind. While the grandparent generation is finally taking the step to learn the new technology and to adapt to the new modern age, we are embracing the 6th industrial revolution. We are stepping onto the timeline where the next industrial revolution, the era of AI, is again creating and visioning a new society. Nevertheless, in this set, the robots are our competitors. They are the ones who will take over the majority of modern labor and manual work.
So how will the future labor market truly lead us to? How will humanity play in the era of artificial intelligence?
According to extensive research, there’re probably two moves for the future humans to learn and survive: traditional trades, which mainly focuses on craftsmanship, and agriculture, the planting and farming of food.
Reflecting on Charles Darwin’s theory, the answer to become the fittest of the survival is to learn and to adapt. Unfortunately, the city will be a deathtrap if the electricity goes off or no more coal can be dug out from the planet. Learning to adapt to the automated world would not be the solution. With human race at the cusp of being replaced by AI, humanity, which has been gradually lost throughout the period of automation, needs to be searched back to complete our whole beings, spiritually, physically, intellectually, emotionally and more.
The concept of human nature in truth is being forgotten on the side, even though we talk about nature all the time. Lots of audience has asked, is going back to countryside the only way? While the others asked, what’s the first step people can do in the city? The space and the environment truly can impact humanity, but humanity is not solely defined by such. Just like in the Abundance of Less, it is not only the nature, the country, the land that are calling these Japanese individuals to go back, but also the human nature that is rooted with the soil, with the use of hands. The warmth under the skin flows with the way of living free.
We need to take the transition and move to the right direction. After all, will we be the deadly zombies sitting in the self-driving cars and being taken from place to place or the real humans creating our own purposeful life with hands? And we shall think the meaning of sustainability when the time comes.
“As scientists we try to comprehend the world. As designers we try to change it. We engage with the big questions of our time―global economic inequality, environmental destruction and climate change, technologies of surveillance, and security policies―by drawing on the tools of both, research and design.”
---Friedrich von Borries
Design plays a greater role than what we thought. Friedrich von Borries, a German architect and also the Professor of Design Theory, has developed his theory of design towards the goal of a culture transformation. While the current society focuses on the middle two categories, the social design and security design, which have caused most of the conflicts nowadays, more work needs to be done on designing survival through the design of one self, to complete a holistic pyramid of culture design.
The 10 individuals who left city to the country moved for his or her own reason. Around the messages shown in his book, Andy pointed out a few design issues in the modern days and shared a leading guide we can follow to help make this society a better place.
In an urban society, The way we language our problems determines the solution we can come up with. Nevertheless, language has been used over-furiously than its initial intention in this age—the negativtiy and violence within the words have created a world under the dark clouds. How can this be altered and to create a more ideal society?
“If you don't have a whole lot of unsatisfied people, the economy stops dead, doesn’t it? ” The fact that our economy is so realiant on people’s unhappiness and pesssimism introdouces another society desgin issue. “I think all people want freedom, but they’ve got this idea inserted into their head about money. ” So what on earth is economy playing on freedom? How can we lead to a healthier economic system instead?
While these problems falls in the category of social design, how can we nowadays take the initiatives to make moves in self-design and survival design by start design our basic spiritual and survival needs.
“So where should we start? Top down or bottom up?” One professor from Tongji wondered.
To Andy, the top down and bottom up way of thinking is being influenced by the hierarchical society that we reinforce for. The higher, the better. Well, is it? For a culture transformation, more rethinking of the structure of our society is needed. “Sometimes touching the earth is just enough, even if not a single thing grows from what I plant.” Like what Wakako Oe said in Andy’s book, we need to treat and think our surroundings with less superiority but more caring, awe and respect. Maybe neither top down nor bottom up is the way to go.
Friends from Tongji, along with Andy and Cynthia, sat in a circle and shared ideas and thoughts in the dark without artificial light for 30 minutes. It was the first step we took to rethink and redesign our way of living. More human connection. Less environmental impact. I’m not sure how people felt but I thought that was beautiful.
To make the Abundance of Less campaign happen, interestingly, both the Green Initiatives team and Andy and Cynthia were sort of pushed into a fast pace and always on the road type of life. Undoubtedly, this contradicts one of the messages from the book, which was the beauty of slowness. Maybe that's a trial run of testing "the abundance of less" concepts in an urban environment? But when we looked back, among these event hopping, we all felt inspired and were taking Andy’s message into heart, and practicing mindfulness and building beautiful connections along the way. So here I want to take a break and appreciate these moments.
"Working on busy schedules and various projects, we hardly have time to chat and share about our life in the office. Gathering here at Andy's event, we now have time. And it feels like an intimate community."
“Either way, I wait for 40 minutes (order waimai vs. go get my own food). So I just ride my bike to the peanut sauce noodle place and I bring my own container. ‘Convenience only speeds you up.’ And inconvenience does offer me time to take a break and at the same reduce plastic consumption. ”
“I had a great time taking it slow to bike with my dog from Shanghai to Dianshan Lake, instead of taking the bus. Sooo slow… that I missed the lunch (laughing). But I made it up during dinner anyway.”
It was an eco-culture weekend getaway from Shanghai. The destination was Shanghai Yacht Club at Dianshan Lake, which is 60 km from People’s square, not too far. While Andy took a day resting, a few families joined Green Initiatives canoeing through the canal into the Dianshan Lake, and exploring the aquatic plants and creatures floating on top of the water as well as the village fishing boats on the side. While kids returned back to their natural playground, climbing trees and building sand castles, parents joined friends from the Lakeside Art Community for a tea ceremony under the giant tree. On the second day, kids also had a good time taking Joan’s eco-learning class, where they tested the water quality, learnt about the soil types, and explored the local flora, and fauna.
“But we, as human, sometimes focus solely on biodiversity,
but forget about our own human culture diversity.”
-Stone, Gaeml Culture
This weekend, Andy and Cynthia walked through the eastern Jiangnan villages, took a slow boat and visited an old house recovered by a team of local and international volunteers. Introduced by Wenyu, the founder of Lakeside Art Community, the 460 pieces of carved wood that built up this house were originated and transported from an old ancient earthen building village in Anhui. “The entire village was about to be taken down. Antique collectors saved these pieces and that’s why they are here.” In the future, this place will be used as a platform for local and international artists to perform, to preserve the local village culture, and to build a space for art, culture and nature to interconnect.
Andy was amazed to witness the old house, as well as to hear the story and the vision behind. However, to Andy, the most memorable time of his China tour so far goes to the night sitting in the SYC Clubhouse and listening to stories of the Guizhou ethnic minority group.
We stopped talking and took off our shoes, hands holding hands in a special pattern, bare feet walking on the wet post-rain concrete ground in the darkness, following the melody sung by Stone, a Chinese ethnics minority culture anthropologist.
The village that her family is from and lives in is in crisis, both environmental crisis and human crisis. There’s no written language for the local villagers. Singing songs are the only medium to tell out their stories and their histories. The economic plants are replacing and taking over the local biodiversity. The locals are losing their native rice grain species. …
Living in a globalized world, we are blinded by the similarity we share. There was so much happiness seen when these local villagers danced their daily life out to the outsiders. It was sharing and connecting of culture differences. But sometimes in our mind, the indigenous dance we see might be just a simple form of performance, but not a type of traditional life. Maybe in an urbanized world, “farm to table” is how we understand our connection to land. We are over driven by our selfishness and ego that we forget about our ancestors who were once living on this land, and our future generations who will be visiting the same land soon.
“It's a series of approximation towards an ever-changing goal,” Cynthia said. Thanks to these individuals who tell the stories, bring the words out from the village and let us know. Even though we don’t know where the action can lead to, taking every little step is like steering the wheel of the boat. It will lead us to a final goal.
“So is there any hope living in the city?” an audience asked at one of the events.
Living in the metropolitan Shanghai, the center of economic development, the incubator of creativity, and the future of technology, people are also living in stress. With the overwhelming information and fast changing trends that keep pushing us, we want someone to tell us—there is hope in the city.
Shared by Andy, the five words he summarized from the book can be the takeaway practice in our urban life. Gentle. Small. Humble. Slow. Simple. Something we can take the first step to try.
To be honest, I was quite curious how Andy’s talk, which is about sustainability, about our future, can turn out at the elementary school of Fu Dan International School.
“Our world is in danger. We are in danger.” The truth was revealed to the kids dressed in all colors of summer clothes. There was no need for us to tell them. They knew. They understood the environmental problems and crisis we are having—overfishing, trees being overcut, the ghost floating trash left in the ocean that is killing the wild sea creatures.
The kids had their hands rising up in the sky. They were so eager to learn about these stories that Andy shared; they were the lucky ones who had plenty of time to create art and music that they loved, and they wanted to see the Japanese art work and hear the flute melodies; they had endless questions and imagination about Andy and Cynthia’s wooden handmade house and the encounters they had in their backyard.
“Where did you live when you built the house?”
“What kind of animals have you seen near the house?”
“If you cut trees to build your house, doesn’t that destroy the forest?”
I think this is the answer to our hope living in the city. Or at least the reason we need to fill our heart with hope to continue what we do. The kids truly believe the existence of woodpeckers, frogs, and bobcats. They are around us, not just in the zoo. Their belief in art creation and natural world is a message for us to keep the world alive. One dad shared his thought during one of the conversations, “kids nowadays are so adaptive in different environment. They are happy in nature. They are happy in the city as well.” That’s a good balanced life and an encouraging message to hear. If we do have the hope, shouldn’t this be more sustainable and last longer? Before we hand by hand destroy the happiness in the city or in nature, we still need to collectively make more conscious choices to slow the process and delay the day to come.
We are always seeking for an answer in our life. What time should I set for my tomorrow’s alarm? What should I eat for dinner? What should I do for my career? … In the society now, we have reached “the beauty of speed” as the futurists declared a century ago. But the truth behind is we are constantly thinking about the next second while we barely even have the time to give it a good answer.
Well, said by Cynthia a century later, “slow down. It’s time to take time to make our time.”
On June.7th, Thursday, the colorful Actiu/ Work Wonders display room welcomed a big group of people who came from various corners of Shanghai, who are doing all types of crazy, amazing or even life-changing things for the society we are living in. Indeed, how can we simply sit and watch the world burning in turmoil? We want to be the superman, the super hero, to create solutions for the social crisis and save the world. But trace back to Taoism, the Chinese philosophy that was originated 2000 years ago, the way of our living should be balanced and harmonious. I cannot deny this had to be one of the leading factors that brought people together here-- seeking out for a different or better path which leads to future sustainability, community give back, and healthy work-life balance for ourselves.
Andy opened the night by offering the time for people to think for themselves: “what is the quality of a good work-life balance?” The five minutes was full of self-reflection and deep thinking with ourselves or with people around. The five minutes seemed so precious.
Maybe there’s no need of work-life balance if people are satisfied; maybe the future technology will relief the work labor for more time to think and to follow the true heart…
Andy then shared with us the economics of happiness from his book. “One grain of rice. If there’s 100 grains of rice on each stalk, imagine there are 10 stalks. Can anyone do the calculation?” He paused, “that’s 1000 grains. From one to 1000-- isn’t that better than putting money in the bank?”
The individuals in his book are not living in a utopian world in the countryside. Their life is, like ours, surrounded by kids, family, work, calculation of the money they earn per year, and what can be put on the dinner table. Nevertheless, some of the guarantees in their life are they are “producing less and consuming less”, which helped solve the world overconsumption and waste problem; they can offer food to neighbors to help out the community needs; they have plenty of time to create art and follow their true passion.
Would the simplicity of their life, counterculture thinking, and values survive in our living environment? With the rising environmental crisis and human crisis, is their way of living an escape from the reality or a solution to help eliminate the problems? These are our questions and modern struggles. There is debate between our obligation and true passion. There is also the argument that whether decision making should be based on personal emotion or social responsibility.
Before we throw out the next question to worry or overstress about our future, let’s take a deep breathe and make some time for our hands to create, our head to think and our heart to feel. Andy after all is not the God who gives us a direct answer. He is maybe just a kind reminder to the slowly spinning world outside of Shanghai. He is a bold dreamer and also an action maker who sprinkles us some imagination for our possible future. He is the messenger of the lost humanity in an overheated world. And do keep this in mind, “Our brain is small. The world is huge. Why not talk to the person next to you and help each other out?”
As I arrived early at naked Hub Beijing Lu to set up food for tonight’s kick out event, thirty minutes later a book was handed to me by Andy. “Do you read Chinese?” he asked. As I answered “yes”, I looked down to the readings he showed me—pages and pages of ancient Chinese poems written in traditional Chinese characters. “I need someone to read the Chinese version of the poem with me later during the talk. ” I do read Chinese, but the fact is, with more than 7000 characters listed in the modern Chinese dictionaries, most literate people only read 3000-4000 characters, not mentioning the traditional Chinese characters that mainland Chinese don’t usually use. I accepted the challenge.
Peaceful flute melody soon slowly flowed out from the stage. Plant-based snacks were put out on the counter. More new and familiar faces started to gather here at naked Hub. June.5, World Environment Day, and here we were, all together celebrating it, also pre-celebrating for our yet-to-come future when we do figure out the answer to ‘city or countryside?’
“How many of you miss the time being in nature?” Andy threw out the question. I saw many hands rising up. Of course, at the moment we were all here in the city, and that’s where the nostalgia came from. But why do we always end up choosing the city even though we feel the mountains calling? What kind of trap has the city set up for us? What is meaning of being a city dweller? How can we find the solution to a balancing life?
I tried to find the answer in the book as I read it, but every time the answer-seeking journey turned out to be a meditation. While here having Andy sharing some passages from the book with the audience, it seems like he brought us all to a Japanese tatami room. Soon we learnt the story about the flute recording being played at the beginning of the event. Twenty years, seven songs, one Chinese flute. Kogan Marata is the flute artist who has been practicing the same seven songs over and over again in the past two decades, seeking for the perfect tone.
Gentle. Small. Simple. Slow. Humble. These are the five words Andy shared with us. They reveal the essence of the lessons that Andy learnt living the simple rich life in Japan. “When we have time, doing anything is enjoyable”. “Sometimes just touching the earth is enough”. “What I am available to eat, that’s my dinner.” He read out some quotes in the book from time to time.
The messages behind are indeed the answers we are always looking for. When we produce in a small and local scale, we naturally consume less. In addition, we create more time for ourselves to contemplate, to create more purposeful things to do, to have more meaningful conversations, and to build more life-long relationships.
With many Green Initiatives long-term supporters joining the event, the two-hour talk was causal, delightful, and filled with interesting questions from the audience. One audience was a mom of two kids. She longed for a life in the countryside, whereas had doubt for the future of her kids. Nevertheless, the doubt that many parents shared, in Andy and Cynthia’s mind, has an optimistic future. It simply means more time kids can spend with their parents, building up survival skills, such as farming, that the future world would require, learning about biosphere and the moon cycle… Understanding some of the challenges kids might face, they said, a richer life is waiting and kids will be equally amazing people not going to compulsory schools.
“Guts. Have guts.” Andy said.
Well, what a start. Andy and Cynthia arrived in Hongqiao airport late last night and I had it all wrong, heading out to Pudong, but eventually got them safely in their little apartment on lovely Wuyuan Rd in central French Concession. That's where we picked them up today 1 pm, taking them for a welcome birthday brunch to Azul, one or our favorite restaurants in Shanghai.
Wenyu suggested to visit a friend of hers for afternoon tea, were we spent more than three hours in tasting different puer, tieguanyin and wulong teas. Master Nature, as his friends call him, is a Korean connoisseur of tea, spending every year three months in the puer growing regions of Yunnan, where he produces his own tea. It turns out that Andy is all about tea and grateful to spend his birthday sipping on fermented leaves.