Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Fruitful Home

Creativity begins at home.

Lately I've been reading a book called Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture. The author, Shannon Hayes, provides compelling arguments and case studies that present homemaking as a subversive, liberating, beautiful way to oppose much of what ails the industrial (or post-industrial) world.

Many of Hayes's arguments are similar to those put forward by Doris Janzen Longacre in Living More With Less, a life-shaping book I blogged about last summer (read that entry here). Unlike Longacre, Hayes does not write from a theological perspective, and at times her arguments seem to suffer from a kind of domestic-feminist utopianism.  Nevertheless, I am enjoying Radical Homemakers, and I find many of its ideas inspiring.

For example, Hayes argues throughout the book that we should think of our homes primarily as centers of production rather than as units of consumption. She articulates something I have stumbled around in many of my meditations on home: that home is a place where we have resources and make the things we need in community with others (here is one version of that meditation). She indicts economic rubrics that measure the wealth of a home in terms of how much it can or does buy per year, rather than its more complex resources, such as time and relationships.

One of the exciting things about this season of life is that I know I am laying down the habits and ideals that will guide the rest of my adult life. I pray for a robust vision of how that life can flourish.  Thus, I have been thinking and praying about ways my home can be a center of production and not merely a unit of consumption.

Furthermore, I hope that anything I produce in my home would have both material and spiritual value.

What does my home currently produce? 

bread/shared meals 
clothing/ security and comfort
yarn/warmth and hope
letters/friendship and wisdom 
naps/rest and havenhood 

Almost all of my dreams for the future involve deepening the ways in which my home is productive, bearing fruit in many ways.  One day, I hope my home will cultivate

fairy tales  
hospitality to international students
communal prayer 

In Texas I had friends with similar visions, and we worked together to produce all kinds of things in our homes: gardens, hummus, looms, sing-a-longs, Thanksgiving dinners, and much more. Here, too, I have friends who demonstrate what it means to tend a fruitful home. For example, each month my friend and fellow professor Steve hosts, along with his wife Grace, a "fun day" for students and faculty.  This past Saturday was typical: we enjoyed a long and rich breakfast of homemade waffles (with real maple syrup!), fresh fruit, tea, and coffee. We talked, laughed, held children on our laps, told stories. One student mentioned that he would like to memorize some Old English poetry and recite it at a local art walk. Conversation soon turned to the Anglo-Saxon lyres that were used to accompany such poetry, and within minutes everyone was gathered around Steve's work bench, plotting musical instruments and receiving an impromptu lesson in woodworking.

I pray that my home will be such a place --not that I can offer lessons in lyre-making or spoon-carving, but that my home will be a place where ideas take shape in wood or wool, a place where we loath wastefulness because we made, picked, cooked with our own hands.

I pray that my home will be a place where people can be free from systems they do not trust--systems that measure success in dollars, systems that exploit labor for the sake of profit, systems that mass-produce mediocrity, systems that encourage obsolescence and gluttony.

This prayer begins with the 600-square feet I physically inhabit, but it does not end here. I want all my homes--Apartment 218, the University of Mobile, Alabama, my church, my friendships, my family--to be fruitful and free. I can't help but smile to think of it. I'm still so young, with so many ideas, and so much wealth to plant and invest in lasting things, things that will grow.

"But we urge you, brothers, to [love one another] more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one."
(1 Thessalonians 4:10-12 ESV)

Do you agree that the home should be considered a site for production rather than a unit of consumption? What are some things you produce in your home? What would you like to begin producing? 

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