To think circular and specially to act circular we have to take a look at our personal behaviour first. Circularity is not something that is only about products. Circularity is something that is to be found throughout everything we do, we only need to recognize and acknowledge it as such. To understand what circular is, in my opinion, I would like to take you through our current systems and our modern thinking.
I think our Western society still is based on the medieval Christian ideals and its crusades around the world. As children we have all been taught, aware and unaware, we should get our right in all discussions; about what is right and wrong, man or woman, black and white. About our life cycle we are taught we are being born and will die, a very linear way of thinking (and in Christian education about judgment day, heaven and hell, good and evil). Our Western thinking is permeated with opposites and does not recognize grey areas, or better said; it prefers not to see them. Of course not everybody is as black/white minded as this, but I think we all agree we have been grown up with similar ideas. I would like to share with you the following list:
Good – Evil | Heaven – Hell | Beautiful – Ugly | Rich – Poor | White – Black | Smart – Dumb | Rational – Emotional | Organized – Chaotic | Power – Weak | Native – Immigrant | Man – Woman | We – They | Success – Failure | Big – Small | Skinny – Fat | Straight – Curving | New – Old | Neatly – Clumsily | Life – Death | Equal – Unequal | Possess – Lack
It is only a short list of opposites, in which we in our Western society have a preference towards all written in the left column. Throughout our life we are forced, again aware and unaware, to be(come) a person fitting as much as possible into the left column. When you do not check all left column but belong to some of the right you will feel less important to our society. This way of thinking and acting is part of the big failure of our Western way of thinking. As long as we will think, and believe, in opposites we will not be able to think circular at all.
To become a circular society we need to shift our paradigm. We need to realise that all in the left column would never have existed without the right column. When there would not be darkness we would never have seen the beauty of light. When there are no women men would be useless and so on… All we still see as opposites we need to start seeing as one big whole, things that can not exist without each other. At the same time we should be(come) aware there are many grey areas between and around these ‘opposites’. These grey areas are as important to our society and take care of a harmonious and balanced society. But we need to treat all with the same amount of respect; as well the opposites as all the inbetweens. Luckily we can see our society is taking steps in the right direction. More and more we realise that not everyone is a 100% man or woman and not everyone is hetero sexual and not everybody is black or white. Still there is a fear in our Western way of thinking to lose control. To dominate a potential chaos we still put everything in boxes. We do create extra boxes to go with/along the existing to put those that are ‘different’ and give them ‘a place’ in society. I think also that shows us our society is not ready for intrinsic circular thinking yet…
Before I continue explaining why I think our Western paradigm blocks us from circularity I would like to share with you two non-Western philosophies all about the perfect balance of opposites.
Ying Yang, opposites fused together
At first the Yin Yang sign from the ancient Chinese teaching. The Yin Yang sign is know by all of us and maybe its is not so credible anymore due to the fact that it has been commercially exploited too much. Nonetheless it is a beautiful sign showing us the apparent cosmic duality (shown as black and white, but to be translated to all opposites) at once, or actualy, as a perfect whole. The symbol shows one cannot exist without the other. It shows they are fused together.
A lot of my personal knowledge I take from non Western philosophies and one philosophy that is important to me is the one of Kabbalah. A big part of the Kabbalah can be summarized in the so called ‘tree of life’. The Kabbalistic tree of life is a schematic overview of the path one should take in life in order to get ‘enlightenment’. The interesting thing about this path is that it exists of only opposites. Opposites one should get aligned with each other throughout life (or multiple lifes). Shortly, and from my personal perspective, explained: it assumes we have to balance our emotional (IV) and rational (III) self with each other. This we achieve by first balance equality in our body and mind (II). This means one should recognize their male and female characteristics and treat ourselves and others the same. You could say one must be able to see him-/herself as being an psychic hermaphrodite before we can arrange the balance between our emotions and rational thinking. When we have found that balance we would be ready to find true beauty (V), beauty in all that surrounds us. In Kabbalah terms beauty is the key to spirituality, something I think is very interesting as I am such an aesthetic thinking person. With beauty as the key and the earlier achieved balance one can start working on the balance between power/strength (VI) and care/empathy (VII). As soon as that is all in balance we arrived at the part of creation (VIII, IX, X), so the Kabbalistic philosophy sais. Loosely translated, and in a more modern manner, this is the place you will find understanding about life and death and a holistic and never ending whole. A place without opposites, the place of intrinsic circularity.
When we translate all of that towards our modern society we can see our society is working to get the second spectrum in balance (II, III, IV). Movements like Black Lives Matters, genderfluid thinking, more female directors are all part of equalizing and balancing all people on our planet. Movements like the return of crafts or needleworks and the questions we ask ourselves about technological innovations are all part of the balance between rationality and emotions.
At Hul le Kes we are focussing on the last two spectra (V, VI, VII & VIII, IX, X), of course without lose sight of the first spectra. We are continuously looking for ways to find the perfect balance between aesthetics, impact, empathy, design, transience and raw materials. That we do based upon a, more and more, circular and holistic way of thinking. We should of course be realistic and so we do realise our society in general is far away from this stage. Our mission is to share as much as we can from the mentioned spectra. We believe that by sharing people will eventually feel attracted towards a intrinsic circular behavior.
To start acting circular we first need to see everyone and everything as a whole, a whole in which nothing is more important or less important than the other. Holistic thinking, in which there is no beginning nor end a place where are no opposites. How we will be able to get there and more concrete examples I will share with you in part two of this blog.
(TIP: if you want to know more about the ten disciplines of Kabbalah in order to fashion and design: In June 2021 Fashion + Design Festival Arnhem will be all about ‘Purpose’. The purpose of fashion and design to our society will be explained with Dutch designers by using the ten disciplines of Kabbalah as a base)
Sebastiaan Kramer (34) is managing director at Hul le Kes. Together with Sjaak Hullekes he graduated from ArtEZ University of the Arts in Arnhem. Ever since their graduation they work and live together. Although Sebastiaan started his career as a fashion designer nowadays he is working on managing the company. He studied Business Administration where he focused on non Western and alternative ways of management. Besides his job at Hul le Kes he also manages Studio RYN and is artistic director at Fashion + Design Festival Arnhem and Duurzame Mode 025 (Sustainable Fashion 025).