Saturday, March 26, 2011

Twenty-One Days - Day 17: Entertainment

Yes, in fact, I do believe in karma. I do believe that things happen for a reason, and when two events happen that so perfectly fit together, I believe it was fated and not just a coincident.

Like today. The topic of our twenty-one day countdown is low energy entertainment, and today is Earth Hour. Crunchy Chicken has a great suggestion of what we could do to participate in the great experiment.. Unfortunately, at 8:30 PM I still have three young girls running around, wide awake, and it might be a little awkward - for all of us - to have the lights go out and Deus Ex Machina and I sneak back into the bedroom and lock the door for an hour. While my girls are perfectly capable of entertaining themselves, I'm sure they'd wonder where we were and what we were doing, and while we're laid back about most things, that's still an area that is not broached in casual conversation. In short, they "know where babies come from", but the actual logistics of the operation are still in one of those gray areas, and at least for a bit longer, I'm happy to keep it in the shadows.

The question is what do we do for an hour without electronic fun. We could all read, and that would work for that one hour, but what if Earth Hour weren't voluntary? What if having electricity at night was an exception rather than the norm?

In the book, Good-bye to the Mermaids: A Childhood Lost in Hitler's Berlin), the author points out that in post-WWII Berlin, electricity was rationed, and so the things that people found the most valuable were those appliances, etc, that didn't require electricity. Modern stoves and refrigerators and electric coffee grinders weren't very useful, and they only worked sporadically. People were scavenging in the poorer parts of Berlin for hand tools.

Also, an interesting point to note along those lines is that in a subsistence lifestyle, a great deal more time was spent *not* working than was spent working. In our modern lives with all of our modern conveniences, which do most of the hand work for us, we mistakenly think that those who lived a subsistence life (working for food and not for money) worked much harder than we do, toiling away the hours in quiet suffering just to put food on the table, but that is *so* NOT the case. In fact, the average European peasant farmer only worked about nineteen hours per week (over a year with average number of hours varying based on the season).

I had a conversation with a friend the other day, who was just waking up to the fact that when we work for money, a good deal of our time is spent doing things that don't enrich our lives, but when we start to work to live, the whole dynamic of living changes. What she was discovering was that it takes a lot more of our time to work to pay for heating oil and gasoline and electricity than it does to forage firewood, walk to the store, and hang a load of laundry on the line outside. What she was discovering was that when we do it all by hand, instead of paying someone (or something) else to do it for us, we have a lot more time to do nothing.

So, if we're moving toward a lower energy lifestyle, and after we've done our days' work, what do we do?

This evening, my family will be turning out the lights, lighting some oil lamps and playing the Game of Life.

We have a lot of games, puzzles, decks of cards, and artsy-craftsy kinds of projects. We also play musical instruments and dance, and my girls love to perform. We like story-telling and joke-telling. In fact, since we are pretty well adept at entertaining ourselves, some of my girls' favorite times are when we don't have power.

As we transition away from electronic entertainment, having simple games will be very helpful. With that in mind, I have a "Box of Family Fun" to offer - a few games and other togetherness building activities ;). If you're interested in this box of games, please leave a comment.


The winner of the hand-crank coffee grinder is Nick. Congratulations! Please leave a comment with your full name and address. Comments are moderated and I will not publish your information.

The End is Near ... this is the final push toward day twenty-one. Only four days left until the end! Be sure to check back every day, and comment, if you would like to be entered that day's drawing.


  1. Nineteen hours a week? I still find that hard to believe...but certainly a goal worth reaching for ;)

  2. I'm inspired to have you guys over for game night after reading this post. We have a really fun game called Scribblish. So, how about it? Either our place or yours!

  3. Wish I could participate in "Carnal Hour" tonight - but neither me or my hubby are going to feel up to it...the drawbacks of having married someone in the medical field.

    Oh well - we can always do it later in the week when the kids are in school ~grins~

    We have lots of board games around here, as well as things like Wedgits (if you don't know what they are, google it - it's worth it!), legos, K-nex, and other time-consuming toys. We've made our own playdough and the kids love it. And although the TV does use electricity, their tastes have evolved slightly to include shows like "Survivorman"...which has the added benefit of getting them to think about survival and how we can make ends meet in a bad situation (like Japan, right now).

  4. Reading aloud is an entertainment and art form that has seeingly been forgotten. When Stephen King published "The Green Mile" he did so in serializd fashions, withe he hope that people would embrace his Dickensian desire that we read it to each other.

    My husband and I lived in a remote village in the Canadian Rockies at the time, meaning that even a simple trip to the groceryt store meant an hour drive each way. If you wanted to buy anything else, it was two hours each way. So the book worked perefectly for us, he would drive and I would read the current installment aloud.

    My favourite memory of that book was the time we got back home before I had gotten to the end of the chapter, so we literally sat in the driveway for twenty minutes so I could finish reading it to us.

  5. Games are such an important thing in our household, too! In fact, we just went to a birthday party last night (for an adult), which included a potluck, games, and singing along with guitars and other instruments appropriate for kiddos ages 1 1/2 to about 13. (and did I mention there were about 20 kiddos running around?) We were up way too late into the evening, but THAT was truly community. :)

    I'd love to be in on this drawing as well!

  6. I have to wonder how many family members it took to manage the 19 hour work week?
    For entertainment, I collect acoustic musical instruments. My kids can play music. We have guitars, a zither, bells, and a clarinet so far, all found at garage sales. For the adults, I have "teach yourself" books in case we want to learn to play one day. Cards and books of card games too.My kids are older so board games don't appeal right now, but we have them along with the old legos.

  7. We are just now entering into that time of family life with the children understand board games. My youngest is not quiet there yet (he's 3) but my oldest (he's 7) loves board games. So our collection is small, but it is growing. :)

  8. I think it's interesting how our culture is obsessed with "saving time" with everything from washing dishes to accounting. What are we saving it for?? TV? Mall shopping? Wii? It's curious that we're not saving time for worthwhile reasons, making the whole endeavor all very pointless.

  9. subsistence = smart!!!
    Lots of convinient tools such as washing machines also increased the expectation of cleaner clothes meaning daily washing instead or weekly washing. So instead of decreasing work many of the toold actually increased work.
    I read a great book recently that was a fiction story about rationing of electricity and water in London due to global warming. The name has escaped me but I will come back if the fog in my brain disapears.
    We didn't do Earth Hour. But I'm trying to make life changes. In bed at 8pm and up at 5am. Better use of daylight and I'm finding myself to be more productive... I'm usually a night owl, so I shall see how I go.