William Morris – Claims for a Decent Life
Last week as I struggled to shake off a nasty cold virus we hosted an all day event, “William Morris Today: the future of art, craft and design” sponsored by The William Morris Society and Schumacher Institute. This was intended as an exploration of Morris’ lecture, “How We Live and How We Might Live” delivered on November 30th, 1884. In this Morris identified four claims for making a decent life: a healthy body; an active mind in sympathy with the past, the present and the future; an occupation for a healthy body and an active mind; and a beautiful world to live in. Very worthy principles to explore.
I was mainly bed bound, but came down stairs to talk about my grandfather’s ties with William Morris – and how William Morris had shaped the way I had been brought up and thought. As I returned to my bed, missing the illuminating speakers talking on the relevance of a “new” social organisation based on the revival of Guild organisations, the role of the digital arts, and the conservation of our most precious commodity – water – I thought of the Cree Indian prophesy, “Only when the last tree has been cut down, the last fish been caught, and the last stream poisoned, will we realize we cannot eat money.”
Morris understood this very clearly – “Wealth is what Nature gives us and what a reasonable man can make out of the gifts of Nature for his reasonable use. The sunlight, the fresh air, the unspoiled face of the earth, food, raiment and housing necessary and decent; the storing up of knowledge of all kinds, and the power of disseminating it; means of free communication between man and man; works of art, the beauty which man creates when he is most a man, most aspiring and thoughtful – all things which serve the pleasure of people, free, manly, and uncorrupted. This is wealth.” (from ‘Useful Work versus Useless Toil’, 1884).
I hope that Hilles can continue to support and develop these principles in future and look forward to hosting future events.