Category Archives: Books

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

I’d seen these inspirational cards at my local bookstore, but they were selling for $24.95, which I felt was a little steep. But I did wonder about them, and I also contemplated getting the full-length book of the same name.

A couple of days afterwards, out of the blue at my local thrift store, the manageress winked and smiled at me, and drew out from behind the counter the very deck of cards I’d been thinking about. Their price? $6.50. Snap!

For information about Don Miguel Ruiz’s book and philosophy, and where you can buy the cards and/or book, read here.

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The deck is also available as an App for Apple iOS here. Sadly, it’s not available yet on Android.

The “4 Agreements” are based on ancient Toltec wisdom, and are encapsulated in this card below (from the book):

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The cards and deck are by Hay House publishers, here is the link to their website if you’re interested in this title, and many other inspirational titles published by Hay House.

Here are some of the cards, some showing their fronts or backs only, others showing both fronts and backs. I’ve used Google Images today, (because it’s too bloody hot today and I’m too lazy to work up steam for a home photo shoot).

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Art Abandonment : Rockingham Part I

Okay, this is not strictly the abandonment of Art. My 2 printers are currently in hibernation…oh alright, they’re both being perfectly beastly and won’t print true colours but rather just reds and blues. And there’s nothing wrong with the ink cartridges or nozzles, I’ve checked. I was going to print off some of my artwork, to abandon on our foreshore, but I can’t now, as I really don’t specialise in just reds and blues.

So, instead, I’ve decided to recycle some inspirational books that I’d previously bought from our local thrift stores. Someone else can benefit from reading them now. And who knows, it just might brighten up someone’s day, to find a nice little gift on a park bench.

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I just decided to wrap each book up in brown paper, stick on an Art Abandonment label, tie it up with some twine, and Bob’s your uncle. Yes, alright, I ran out of twine halfway. ;)

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I posted about this on Facebook’s Art Abandonment page. Got quite a lot of interest and encouraging comments too. Then, as is usually the case, someone, a Mod from the Group, I think, pointed out that if I wasn’t Abandoning Art but rather books, my post would have to be removed from their wall.

I didn’t reply to that comment, as it was past midnight by then and I needed my beauty sleep. But just before I drifted off, it occurred to me that I could add some of my Lenormand cards to the packages, and that would count as Art, for the sake of conforming to the group’s requirements. I have a couple of decks where the printer’s cutter did not align properly and left uneven borders. I would perform a “borderectomy” on those cards first thing in the morning, and include them with the books.

That would then be Art Abandonment AND Random Acts of Kindness.

However, when I woke up this morning, my post had already been removed by the Mod of the group. Without even waiting for my response grrr. Maybe they’re in America and didn’t realise the vast time difference between Australia and their country?

No worries, I’ll just do the borderectomy, include the cards with my packages, take more photos, then re-post to the Art Abandonment group page.

Commencing Borderectomy…

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Ready to rock-n-roll! Tomorrow The Kid and I will cycle down to the Rockingham foreshore and leave these babies here and there, for people to find.

A new creative project: Steampunk Art

This just came in the post today, yippee!

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It’s Dover’s Steampunk Sourcebook, which I bought from The Book Depository (a great online bookseller, especially if you live in far flung places, as all their items come with Free Delivery as standard). This book comes with a CD-ROM, so I can load all the images therein onto my computer, for future reference. I’m already a fan of Dover Pictura, the division of Dover that specialises in selling royalty-free images for online download.

I’ve already amassed a collection of copyright free Steampunk images from the British Library’s archives. Add this to my arsenal, and a few other images from my collection of scrapbooking papers, and I should have the makings of a Steampunk Lenormand cards deck. Or even a Steampunk Oracle cards deck. Hmmm, I might even create some t-shirt designs or canvas art using these images. How exciting!

Here are a few photos showing the contents of the book, to whet your appetite.

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The Smell of Books

I’ve always loved books, ever since I picked my first one up at the age of two. I still remember that book, it was a “Dick and Jane” phonetic storybook, back when Dick was still an acceptable boy’s name. (Hehe, I just looked up “Dick and Jane” on Amazon, just to make sure my memory was accurate, and the books are still going strong!)

Since then, I’ve read and re-read countless books, fiction and non-fiction. Being a believer of total immersion, I read up on obscure and not so obscure subjects such as teddy bears, keeping angora goats, recycling and upcycling, cheesemaking, handbags, felting, needle-felting, beading, handmade books, paper-making, Origami, motorcycling, Freemasonry, perfumes, macarons, French patisserie etc. What can I say, I’m an eclectic magpie.

The rise of e-technology has seen a decline in real books and a phenomenal increase in virtual books. Hardly anyone carries around a book anymore, they’re more likely to be reading an e-book on their smartphone, tablet or e-reader. My Kindle Library has hundreds of titles. But still I buy books for my shelves, even though these days I don’t have the time to read them. My excuse is that I’ll have more than enough time to read them when I’m old and my legs have given up on me. Hopefully by then my eyesight will still be good enough to read with.

And hopefully by that time my nose would still be working. Because, you see, I just love the smell of books.

New books, old books, it doesn’t matter. When I open up a new book, the first thing I do is to bury my nose into the pages and inhale their perfume. How can I describe the smell of a new book? Crisp, clean, with a whiff of vanilla, slightly sweet,
slightly metallic.

I’ve to be more careful with old books. They have their own distinctive smell, but there’s an underlying mustiness, a mouldy, damp, mushroomy scent. I’m paranoid that I might accidentally inhale some spores that may make me ill. With brand new books my nose is right up to the pages; with old books it’s a good 6 inches away.

If I were a parfumier, I’d describe new books as having a fresh, floral base, and old books as having an earthy, mushroom base.

There’s a word that beautifully describes the smell of rain as it hits the earth – Petrichor. I haven’t found one yet that describes the smell of books. Someone please make one (or two) up!

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Here’s a snapshot of the books on my top shelf, which will give you an idea what I’m currently into. Yes, I occasionally take them down for a good sniff or two! Glue-sniffing at its best, I say, and totally harmless.

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And if that’s not enough, for those of you who miss smelling real books because you’ve digitised your entire library, fear not, help is at hand. This blog lists the top 25 paper-scented perfumes and candles. Indulge your senses!

Thoughts on Affluenza

Yes, it’s me again. For today’s post I would like to share some exerpts from the book “Affluenza” by Clive Hamilton and Richard Denniss. The book was published in 2005, and it’s focussed mainly on Australia, but its contents are scarily even more real today, nearly a decade later, and on a global scale, in first world countries.

Food for thought.

Af-flu-en-za n.1.The bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Joneses. 2. An epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by dogged pursuit of the Australian dream. 3. An unsuitable addiction to economic growth.

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Some psychologists argue that our actions are driven by a desire for ‘self-completion’, the theory being that we seek to bring our actual self into accord with our ideal self, or who we wish to be. Today, almost all buying is to some degree an attempt to create or renew a concept of self. We complete ourselves symbolically by acquiring things that compensate for our perceived shortcomings.

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The problem is not that people own things: the problem is that things own people. It is not consuming but consumerism we criticise; not affluence but affluenza. The signs are easy to see in others – the subtle and not-so-subtle displays of wealth, the one-upmanship, the self-doubt – and most Australians acknowledge that our society is too materialistic and money driven. But is much harder to recognise and admit to the signs in ourselves because that can be confronting.

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There is a trend for manufacturers of luxury goods to make entry-level products in an effort to attract consumers other than the very rich. Gucci and Armani attach their name to sunglasses that are bought by people who cannot afford to buy clothes or accessories with such a prestigious label. This is sometimes referred yo as the ‘democratisation of luxury': the people who buy the entry-level products feel they can emulate the image of the very rich.

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Sometimes advertisers try to make us laugh or make us think, but mostly they make us feel deprived, inadequate or anxious. It is axiomatic that they make us feel bad in a way that can be cured by possession of the product they advertise.

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The unspoken role of marketing is to keep consumers in the richest societies in human history feeling deprived. To be successful in the long term, advertising must sell not only products but also a very particular kind of world view – one where happiness can be bought, where problems can be solved by a product, and where having more things is the measure of success.

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Most people in consumer societies believe they need more money than they have, no matter how wealthy they are. Their actions suggest they are convinced that more money means more happiness. But when people reach the financial goals they have set for themselves they feel no happier. Instead of wondering if their yen for more money is the problem, they raise their threshold of sufficiency. This is a vicious cycle.

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The confusion between wants and needs is at the heart of affluenza. When people see wants as needs, it is not surprising that two-thirds say they cannot afford everything they need. And their feelings of deprivation are real, since thwarted desire is transformed into a sense of deprivation. Of course, the purpose of the advertising industry is to convert perceived wants into perceived needs.

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By some kind of financial alchemy, ‘saving’ has become what we do while we are spending. Bargain hunters can easily ‘save’ hundreds of dollars in the post-Christmas sales, but in order to save a great deal we need to max out our credit cards.

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Credit card debt, personal loans, car loans and store credit schemes are all growing rapidly – not to fund assets that will deliver benefits for years to come but to allow people to enjoy the ‘lifestyle’ they have been told they deserve.

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Not long ago, paying off the mortgage on the family home quickly was a common dream. A more recent dream appears to be to extend both the size of the mortgage and the period required to pay it off by borrowing against the home to fund a better ‘lifestyle’.

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Australians are increasingly prone to financial stupidity. People who are permanently in debt exist in a ‘money coma’ – a state of vagueness and confusion about their financial circumstances. One of the steps to recovery from uncontrolled debt is to be very clear about how much you owe and how you can manage your financial life without incurring more debts, yet retailers and consumer lenders work hard to undermine our resolve and confuse us about what taking on debts actually means.

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The upward spiral of desire, debt and consumption has fuelled massive growth in retail spending but appears to have delivered little benefit for national wellbeing.

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People afflicted by affluenza have an insatiable appetite for more things. Although our desire might have no bounds, our capacity to use things is limited: there is only so much we can eat, wear and watch, and a house has only so many rooms we can usefully occupy. The difference between what we buy and what we use is waste.

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Much of our consumption behaviour is designed to bridge the gap beyween our ideal selves and our actual selves. The advertisers work to persuade us that we can construct an ideal self out of the brands they promote.

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Of course, the marketing industry is devoted to persuading us to buy things we don’t need – and often to buy things we don’t want. But it is not just the marketing industry: it is the entire economic and political system that conspires to break down any resistance to buying. If we fail to keep spending, dire warnings are issued.

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Obsolescence is a feature of the consumer electronics industry…Slowly but surely, during the past few decades most Australians have moved from asking themselves “Do I really need a new one” to “Why should I make do with the current one?”

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…and that’s just from the first half of the book. I just hope some of these excerpts strike a chord in yourselves, and perhaps rally you towards making changes in your own lives towards the greater good. Isn’t it time we took charge of our own lives again, instead of letting our governments dictate how we should conduct ourselves?

And yes, there will probably a continuation of this vein of thought in a future post. You have been warned :).

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(Image Source: ABC News/Google. Yes, this is Australia’s biggest stocktake sale. Happening in every single mall in the country, oh say every other month and right after Christmas. Hurry, or you will miss out on buying stuff you don’t need and will never use the deal of the century that thingy that you just Have to have, you’ll know what it is when you see it).

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Let’s go LEGO!

Here’s a name that needs no introduction. You’ve played with it, your children will play with it, and all being well, your grandchildren and great-grandchildren will play with it too.

LEGO. (Yes, I know it should have the copyright symbol after every iteration of it). Yes, we all have fond memories of playing with these little coloured bricks. And one Maths teacher from Cleveland, Ohio, has taken LEGO to dizzying heights by using his mathematical prowess to design programmes that enable him to create domes and spheres etc.

Here are the facts, in a nutshell:

Arthur Gugick, 54, from Cleveland, has built hundreds of scale miniatures using just the colored bricks

Each model contains 5,000 to 20,000 pieces and Mr Gugick owns more than one million overall

The father-of-two has never used glue to hold pieces together and avoids using shop-bought models

He balances the hobby with his day job as a maths teacher at Beachwood High School in Cleveland, Ohio

(Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2782102/Maths-teacher-recreates-famous-artworks-portraits-iconic-buildings-using-LEGO.html?ito=social-facebook)

I’ve pulled together some of Arthur Gugick‘s creations from Google Images, so we can all goggle at them together.

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My soon-to-be 12-year-old son is a LEGO addict. You can never have enough LEGO bricks, it seems. No matter how many bucketloads you buy of the stuff, it’s always just a drop in the ocean.

If you’re at all interested in LEGO, there have been several books published about it recently, some of them showcasing Arthur Gugick’s creations. Mind you, there are dozens of books on LEGO aimed at a younger audience; the ones mentioned here are intended for a more serious and mature practitioner:

Beautiful LEGO https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1593275080/ref=cm_sw_r_awd_MLonub1MEFP0R

Brick City: LEGO® for Grown Ups https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/184533812X/ref=cm_sw_r_awd_kPonub17KF92E

Brick Wonders: Ancient, natural & modern marvels in LEGO® https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1845338871/ref=cm_sw_r_awd_7Qonub19YVBBK

The Art of LEGO Design: Creative Ways to Build Amazing Models https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1593275536/ref=cm_sw_r_awd_BUonub02JTJPW

The LEGO Neighborhood Book: Build a LEGO Town! https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1593275714/ref=cm_sw_r_awd_OVonub13YC8MQ

Build Your Own City: The Big Unofficial Lego Builders Book https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/3868526587/ref=cm_sw_r_awd_.Xonub0HGW4GW

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RETROSPECTIVE : DALIENUTOPIA

Another of my favourite mobile photography themes is Surrealism. Back in April 2011, when I first discovered the Baigup Wetlands just across the river Swan from where we were living in Ascot then, I devoted an entire series of iPhone photographs to the weird and wonderful Australian gumtrees in that swamp, as well as in the reserve on our own side of the river.  I even self-published my first Blurb book, titled “DALIENUTOPIA“, a play on the words “Dali”, “Alien” and “Utopia”. If you like it, please buy a copy!

Here is the link to my DALIENUTOPIA, and here are some of the images from that Series. All photos taken and edited using an iPhone 4. (I’m so happy to have found my images on my external hard-drive. It’s very difficult to find anything there, as I wasn’t terribly organised then and things would be filed willy nilly without a care for chronological order, or titles. Consider this a Retrospective of my mobile photography career!)

Before you ask, Yes, I DID spend a lot of my time ankle or even knee deep in mud for the sake of my Art :-).

Dalienutopia 1

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The Price of Affluenza

My local thrift stores often have book gems that I snap up immediately. One such book was Eckhart Tolle’s “A New Earth”, highly recommended reading.

I love my serendipitous trips to these thrift stores. I like to think of it as the Universe providing knowledge and information for me in a timely manner.

Another book surfaced last week, “Affluenza” by Clive Hamilton and Richard Denniss. I’ve only just begun to delve into this book, and already something has jumped out at me.

Here is an excerpt from the book:

“Nineteenth century economists predicted that the abundance made possible by technological advance and the modern organisation of work would result in the emergence of “post-materialist” humans – people existing on a higher plane, where their cultural, intellectual and spiritual powers are refined. In such a world the importance of economic considerations would naturally diminish. The 1960s and 1970s saw a flood of literature predicting a future in which technological progress would allow for us to work only a few hours a week and our main problem would be how best to enjoy our leisure. Futurists saw a future transformed by the fruits of sustaimed growth – a society in which humankind, freed of the chore of making a living, would devote itself to activities that are truly fulfilling. But, instead of witnessing the end of economics, we live in a time when economics and its concerns are more dominant than ever before. Instead of our growing wealth freeing us of our materialist preoccupations, it seems to have had the opposite effect. People in affluent countries are now even more obsessed with money and material acquisition, and the richer they are the more this seems to be the case”.

This book was written in 2005, even before the iPhone was a twinkle in Steve Jobs’ eye. And yet how relevant and accurate the statement above is today.

It seems to be the case of “The more we have, the more we want”. Today’s generation seems unable to appreciate what they already have, they always want the latest, the most expensive, the best. And they generally put themselves out to get it at all cost. Then they sit back and enjoy their latest toy…Until the next one comes along less than a year later. Then it’s a mad scramble all over again, to get THE latest toy.

When will it stop? In case the above was too lengthy to visualise, here is a simple analogy:

A city starts out as a village, which becomes a town, that grows and grows as it attracts more and more industry and with it, people. Its lanes soon turn into roads. Roads turn into highways. As more and more people drive cars, these highways get congested. So the city council decree that they need to widen the highways, from 4 lanes to 8. They say that will ease the congestion and make driving more pleasant and convenient. And so 4 lane highways become 8 lane superhighways. But what do you think happens next? Yes, now there are even More cars on the road, more people buying cars and driving, and the congestion builds up again.

“Build it, and they will come”…that saying has never been truer when reflected on today’s society. Perhaps the economists of the 19th century were correct in theory, apart for one oversight: that humans are not mature enough to make that ideal scenario a reality. We are still very much like children, squealing with delight at the latest shiny gadget and toy, we simply Have to have it, and because we’ve indulged, we’ve fed the industry that creates such shiny gadgets and toys, so they in turn create more and more for us. Then, when we find our money depleted, we shrug and simply find ways to get more money. To buy more stuff. And so it goes on.

When will we grow up? “Poor” countries don’t suffer as much from Affluenza as “Developed” countries. They literally can’t afford to be. They’re more concerned with putting food on the table for their families, staving off starvation, staying alive when wars break out. Affluenza is a disease of the haves, the wannabe-haves and the desperate have-nots.

Perhaps it’s time to step off the treadmill.
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Eckhart Tolle Quotes

I’ve just finished reading my first Eckhart Tolle book “A New Earth – Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose“. Wow. Mind. Blown. I’ve sent off for more of his books. If you’ve never read Tolle before, I highly recommend All his work – books, CDs, DVDs, there’s even a deck of cards you can get.

Here, to summarise Eckhart Tolle’s teachings and principles, are my favourite quotes couched in visual art by various artists, taken from Google Images. All credits to the original artists.

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More Serendipity

I’ll be honest with you. I’m the least spiritual person I know. Now I realise that Spirituality and Religiousness are two different things, but I didn’t when I was younger. Many, many years ago, I thought I’d found Religion…but in actual fact what I’d found was the camaraderie that comes from belonging to a group. In my case it was the Youth Choir of our local church. I was more or less roped into it because I could play the piano.

It was fun, especially once the group discovered that I had a talent for scoring the more modern hymns and songs for multiple voices and parts. Suddenly the Youth Choir became a mellifluous, full-fledged SATB and then some choral sensation.

But whilst I enjoyed the musical aspect of that, the Spiritual or Religious side never struck me. And after a couple of years (I was still a teenager then), the group split up to get married or go into further education.

Between then and today, I’ve mildly dabbled in Tarot reading. Only because I was interested in esoteric origins of the Rider-Waite cards. I doubt I was any good at actually reading the cards.

Lately, however, I have been picking up on all sorts of signs and signals thrown out by the Universe. It may be that the Universe has always been throwing signs and signals my way, but I just wasn’t picking up on them, or if I was, perhaps I had not a clue what to make of them. The Key to deciphering the Message was missing.

2014 has been a year of Epiphanies for me. Perhaps it was my husband’s online infidelity with a mutual “friend” on Facebook that sparked it off in me. (They both make electronic music on their computers and although she is in America and hubby is in Australia, they managed to “collaborate” on much more than just Music, as I discovered. Even the fact that she’s old enough to be his mother didn’t stop them). Perhaps I needed that rude awakening to shake me out of my stupor, to sit up and start making sense of what the Universe was trying to tell me.

Those who know me know that I like to speak in metaphors and analogies. I guess that’s one way of distancing myself from the situation, to be able to stand back and view it from different angles. I have written about my husband’s affair and the aftermath of my finding out about it, in various ways right here on my blog. You only need to know where to look.

But anyway, back to my topic for today…

While discussing the height of someone’s heels on Facebook the other day, a friend brought up the subject of bound feet. Now, my own Paternal Grandmother had had bound feet – she could only hobble, and they exuded a sickly sweet odor whenever she removed her “lotus” shoes. My Maternal Grandmother, on the other hand, had fought the custom and defiantly removed her bindings at every opportunity she had…until eventually her family gave up on her. They said she would be cursed to live the life of a poor farmer’s wife, standing in the paddy fields all day with her big, ugly flat feet. Instead, Grandma became a teacher, and then the Principal of a Chinese School in Malaysia, bore 8 children and was the main breadwinner of the family.

There is an excellent book on the culture of foot binding, called “Splendid Slippers” by Beverley Jackson, if you are interested.

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So, onwards to Serendipitious Event No.1. The very next day after that discussion about foot binding on Facebook, I was in my local thrift shop when what should I come across but a reproduction pair of “Lotus shoes” in a glass case. Now, years ago I’d had a similar set of such shoes in red, which I’d brought home as a souvenir from a trip to Malacca in Malaysia. That had not survived 2 years of storage in damp Ireland, the shoes were mouldy by the time they arrived in Australia, and the glass case was broken.

But here was a pair of shoes in blue, in perfect condition. The only flaw was a split in the balsa wood base of the glass case.

If my finding this the very next day after talking about the exact same subject was not a sign from the Universe, then I must be blind.

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Serendipitious Event No.2. On Facebook, again, I’d been trying to convince people that Money is a an invention that we don’t need. Remove the whole concept of Money and its implications…and Civilization would simply carry on exactly the same. The only flaw in this plan lies with human nature itself – people are greedy, lazy and egoistic. Those qualities will prevent humans from embracing a moneyless society. There will always be someone who wants more, or who needs to hoard “for a rainy day”, who thinks he or she should grab as many items as they can and make a profit by selling them, or who decides to just be lazy and let everyone else do all the work. And there are those who believe they should be in charge and hold the purse strings, so to speak.

Anyway, a couple of years ago I’d read Stephenie Meyer’s book The Host, about a world where aliens had taken over most of humanity by latching on to their brains and sending the human’s sentience to permanent sleep. Only a few rebel humans were left that continued to defy the aliens’ plan for total domination. Mind you, these aliens were not bad, they were simply intelligent beings from a more advanced world, that believed in everyone being united in thought and deed, where everyone helped each other and worked towards the common good. They certainly did not suffer from greed, laziness or egoistical tendencies.

The aliens had a moneyless system which worked beautifully. If you were hungry, take what you need. Just remember to make a note of it so the restaurant/cafe/truck stop etc can order more in. If you need fuel for your car, again take what you need.
The station will simply make a tally for refueling purposes. Ditto medicines, consumables, clothes.

I love the whole concept and just wish the producers would have thought to factor that into the film “The Host” when they made it. Alas, the idea never made the crossover from book to film.

A couple of days ago I was searching for “The Host” in one of my local thrift shops…but they didn’t have it. Something made me go back to that shop today. And what do you know, there it was on the shelf.

Another sign from the Universe? You bet!

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