I picked up this copy of The Last Whole Earth Catalog (circa 1971) at the flea market today. The man selling it was very enthused by the memories of it from his young adulthood. We can take glimpses back into what life was like for men and women in the 60's and 70's, but it's hard to really understand that shift in cultural perspective unless you've lived through it. How empowering yet isolating it must have been, trying to unlearn everything you had come to understand about society. Testing your own limits. Growing together. Learning to trust. Allowing yourself to fail. I see it in the way people talk about the time. The pride they feel in having experienced it. The question is, what was learned? What still remains? Is it time again to question our routines and the things we assume to be fact?
Here are a few images from a quick skim of this huge catalogue. It includes informtive articles, poems, diagrams & quotes along with descriptions of hundreds of manuals & publications covering everything from building housing, to repairing all kinds of mechanical devices yourself, fashion, child rearing, relationships, sexuality, spirituality, cooking, crafting, farming, communal living, science & nature study.
I understand the appeal of Whole Earth. Do you ever think about how little you might understand about how the world works, and on a smaller scale, how things are made, how your government runs, where food really comes from? I definitely do, and it scares me how much I don't know. Would it benefit us as a society to be more self sufficient? I think these questions are being asked again, and I want to believe it's not just a trend. I hope we can channel that same spark of inquiry that inspired the men & women of the 1960's to challenge themselves. It's not an easy path to take, but I'm sure that it's a worthwhile one.
You can read the back issues of The Whole Earth Catalogue on their website