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The Though Kitchen - Dedicated to Stirring the Pot

So What About Those Objects In Your life?

Posted by admin | December 1st, 2008 | Filed under Uncategorized

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In the early days of conversation about Nau, long before we officially opened for business, we talked about the idea of living a “considered” life. We thought about it as it related to our own lives. We also thought about it as it related to our business and, more specifically, our product. The idea was to consider every detail of our product in the context of our overarching design philosophy. We said we wanted our product to be beautiful, perform in the functional sense of the word, and be as sustainable as possible. As part of that aspiration we wanted our product to be multifunctional and durable, physically and aesthetically, so that in the end you’d have to buy less of it. Not business as usual but what we believed to be the way of the future.

The recent financial crisis has caused us to return to this conversation. In fact, I suspect it’s a conversation that is being repeated elsewhere. We seem to be re-thinking the notion of consumption and, in some instances, our relationship to the material world.

That’s why I was so struck when I read Bruce Sterling recent essay The Last Viridian Note . In it he reflects on his own personal relationship to goods and services (mostly goods) and how that relationship has been revolutionized since he wrote his seminal manifesto Viridian Design in 2000. In his most recent writing he asks the question:

“What is “sustainability? Sustainable practices navigate successfully through time and space, while others crack up and vanish. So basically, the sustainable is about time ” time and space. You need to re-think your relationship to material possessions in terms of things that occupy your time. The things that are physically closest to you. Time and space.”

He goes on to say that possessions should be divided into four distinct categories:

-Beautiful things.
-Emotionally important things.
-Tools, devices and appliances that efficiently perform a useful function.
-Everything else.

Sterling argues that anything in the “everything else” category should be documented in a digital image bank and then removed from “your time and space.” Although they may belong to you, they don’t belong with you. He goes on to say “Their blissful absence from your life makes new time and space for something better for you ” and for the changed world you want to live to see.”

It’s a provocative read from a person who has demonstrated the ability to see the future. I highly recommend creating some time and space (in this case about five minutes) to The Last Viridian Note .

4 Responses to “So What About Those Objects In Your life?”

  • December 2, 2008 at 2:00 am | Eric Reynolds says


    I am so pleased to see you blogging on this topic… and these two particular articles in partiular… by such an important thought leader that so many at UTW/Nau must admire.

    While we never spoke directly about the connection; it is my hope that in offerring up the following memory of the early days at UTW/Nau it might inspire a thread of comments; or even a topic for a future theme in The Thought Kitchen.

    I wonder today what you all think of my disdain for the term “sustainability” as being a word that is basically pretty lame. Since it has been 30+ years of usage… and what do we see? It has failed miserably to communicate what it is really all about.

    Isn’t Sterling saying sometihng similar to what the Japanese refer to as “Fairness Across Space. Fairness Across Time.” That is their “definition” of “sustainability” as I get it from my reading. When we here in the most influential society on earth get that… well, then I’ll believe truly “Yes, We Can… change the world.”

    Without that core belief balancing the gyroscope of our lives… I believe we are doomed to a slow delusional descent into ruin. For us, and 90% of all species on Earth.


  • December 2, 2008 at 11:58 am | Skunk says


    I have done the same, not for idealist reasons, but pragmatic ones. Helps me pay for my new toys and clear out the clutter to make room for things that matter–beer, ammo and video games!!

    Climbing gear can be a bit bulky, too.


  • December 3, 2008 at 2:24 pm | Ian Yolles says


    I agree, the term sustainability is pretty limited. It suggests the object of the game is to sustain things which echoes the status quo. We are in need of radical change so the term itself is inadequate. I just can’t think of a better one but the notion of time and space as Sterling references it is interesting.


    Whatever turns your crank. Got to make room for what’s most important to you.

  • May 12, 2009 at 11:15 am | Everything Must Go | Sweetpea Bicycles says

    [...] with the objects that come into my life. I was introduced to it on BoingBoing and then again on the Nau blog, but it came from something called the Last Viridian Note.  A couple of key [...]

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