I’ve carried around an idea in my head for a while, and in the past few weeks I decided to make it a reality.
I call it The Self-Reliance Catalog, and it’s a carefully curated collection of our favorite resources, tools and appropriate technology for self-reliance and resilience.
The goal of The Self-Reliance Catalog is to help you know better what is worth getting and where and how to do the getting, whether that “thing” is a plant, a tool, a book, or even a design for a shelter.
If you’ve been interested in self-reliance or whole systems thinking for any longer period of time you might be familiar with The Whole Earth Catalog that had its golden era between 1968-1972, a catalog that Apple founder Steve Jobs called “one of the bibles of my generation”.
Now, more than two decades after the last full publication of the WEC, The Self-Reliance Catalog aims to serve a similar purpose for new and old generations alike; which is to function as an evaluation and access device for “things” that help you build a better life for yourself and those you hold dear.
If enough of us pursue this path, it’s inevitable that we’ll create a better life not only for ourselves but for every living being on this planet.
Food, water, energy, and shelter are some of the main areas that the Self-Reliance Catalog will eventually cover.
But it will not be an all-encompassing database with thousands of entries. Rather, it will be a carefully curated collection of favorites.
Information overload is the enemy of actually getting stuff done, and there has never been more information available to mankind.
We don’t lack information. We lack wisdom. Maria Popova of Brain Pickings does a better job of explaining this than I ever could, so I’d like to share with you a part of her short essay on this topic:
We live in a world awash with information, but we seem to face a growing scarcity of wisdom. And what’s worse, we confuse the two. We believe that having access to more information produces more knowledge, which results in more wisdom. But, if anything, the opposite is true — more and more information without the proper context and interpretation only muddles our understanding of the world rather than enriching it.
To grasp the importance of this, we first need to define these concepts as a ladder of understanding.
At its base is a piece of information, which simply tells us some basic fact about the world. Above that is knowledge — the understanding of how different bits of information fit together to reveal some truth about the world. Knowledge hinges on an act of correlation and interpretation. At the top is wisdom, which has a moral component — it is the application of information worth remembering and knowledge that matters to understanding not only how the world works, but also how it should work. And that requires a moral framework of what should and shouldn’t matter, as well as an ideal of the world at its highest potentiality.
At a time when information is increasingly cheap and wisdom increasingly expensive, this gap is where the modern storyteller’s value lives.
I think of it this way:
Information is having a library of books on shipbuilding. Knowledge applies that to building a ship. Access to the information — to the books — is a prerequisite for the knowledge, but not a guarantee of it.
Once you’ve built your ship, wisdom is what allows you to sail it without sinking, to protect it from the storm that creeps up from the horizon in the dead of the night, to point it just so that the wind breathes life into its sails.
Moral wisdom helps you tell the difference between the right direction and the wrong direction in steering the ship.
A great storyteller is the kindly captain who sails her ship with tremendous wisdom and boundless courage; who points its nose in the direction of horizons and worlds chosen with unflinching idealism and integrity; who brings us somewhat closer to the answer, to our particular answer, to that grand question: Why are we here?
The purpose of The Self-Reliance Catalog is certainly not to add to the mountain of information that’s really out there. Rather, it’s a colored lens with which to view this information.
This lens shows only the bits of information that really matters (in our highly subjective view), and how these different bits fits together as a whole.
Even more so The Self-Reliance Catalog is about understanding not how the world works today, but how it could work at its highest potential. It’s about another world that has not yet been realized.
I do think we can create a much better world for ourselves and for posterity. Walden Labs and The Self-Reliance Catalog is my way of telling that story. And maybe most of all I’m trying, in whatever small way I can, to contribute to answering that grand question: Why are we here?
The bottom line is, in The Self-Reliance Catalog we’re cutting through the noise for you so that you can spend less time plugged into the internet and more time taking practical steps to improve your life and the lives of those you hold dear.
And we’re starting with our favorite plants, these mindblowing natural machines that nourish our bodies and regenerate Spaceship Earth. Machines that work 24/7 to put food on our tables and keep our bodies and minds healthy.
We share some of our personal plant favorites, and favorites of permaculture / resiliency experts such as Toby Hemenway, Patrick Whitefield, Ben Falk, and more.
You’ll learn why the plant matters and, just as important, exactly where you can get your hands on the plant in the form of seeds or live plants.
The 1.0 version of The Self-Reliance Catalog is ready and waiting for you when you register for your free My WaldenLabs membership.
We’re just getting started, and I invite you to join us.
Register here (it’s free)