Month: August 2015

The Cynic Speaks

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Cynicism is an easy response to so many issues and situations that we face, and we face too many issues and situations to not be cynical. However appropriate a response to sometimes farcical claims and comments cynicism may be, we cannot rely solely upon cynicism. It is, after all, and easy way out.

Climate change is a dangerous situation that we have caused by our actions but yet cynicism seems to be the popular response to the problem of climate change whether that response is ridiculing the obviously clear science that supports climate change or towards those who make unwarranted assumptions with regard to climate change. Ridicule and unwarranted assumptions are part and parcel of cynicism; they are the tools of the trade.

Woody Allen was quoted as saying “Cynicism is reality with an alternate spelling.” That may be the case but what does it get us? To ridicule a position is sometimes warranted, but rarely helpful. Unwarranted cynicism is what we often are referring to when characters like Jerry McGuire state, “We live in a cynical world.”*

I find myself being cynical when I am afraid, frustrated, and realize that I cannot change the reality of a situation that I do not like. It seems an appropriate response, but if I take a minute to think about it, it is not. It makes for good comedy, and sometimes makes us feel better (at least for a short while), but in the end we are left feeling empty and helpless.

Cynicism is also good at helping us cope, but only if we act upon our cynical viewpoints. I have a beehive that is not as strong as I’d like it to be at this time of year. I am fairly certain it will not make it through the winter. My response: “$&#*% varroa mites and idiot anti-environmentalists…Don’t they understand…” I am, however, not going to give up on the hive.

I think that Woody Allen is incorrect about his view concerning cynicism: reality does not care a whit about the cynic or cynicism. The cynic, in fact, does not face reality, but chooses to dismiss it. Now while I am a cynic, I am also a realist. There’s another quote by Oscar Wilde that I think sums cynicism up: ““A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing.”

I value the wit of cynicism, but not enough to give up.

*To which Patton Oswalt’s brother replied, “Fuck You!”

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Worry, Worry, Worry

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That is, the end of summer and the beginning of cooler nights and the faintest of hints of fall and eventually winter. This is the time to check the hives for health and food. This is the time that the bees begin to make the last push, sometimes swarm (and die), or begin to ready the population for the winter period.

There’s not much one can do as a beekeeper except to watch for swarms, feed if necessary, and ready the hives for winter. I usually wrap mine in black roofing paper and add a layer of insulation under the roof of the hive. I will poke a few small holes in the insulation for venting, and try not to open the hives too much from now on.

This is, I hope, my first winter with bees but I certainly hope it will not be my last. Beekeeping is an adventure and as with all adventures there is a degree of failure. As I have learned, beekeeping is no longer a simple process which (depending upon your attitude) makes the adventure loathsome or more challenging.

These are, after all, my girls and I cannot help but care for the hives that I have. As I am reminded: I have done all that I can. However, it never seems enough. Perhaps it is the human condition that makes us continue to want “more”, to do “more”. We cannot fail; so we tell ourselves. But failure is part of evolution, both the evolution of us as individuals and the evolution of beekeeping as it has become.

In fact, often adventure begins with failure. I know that my short stint in beekeeping began with failure. But the important thing, as the platitude goes, is that we must learn from our mistakes. More importantly, we must continue to learn.

Bees are a good teacher because they never seem to worry. They act. And so, perhaps adventure starts with action, with acting within the moment and not thinking about it too much. Thinking too much is a euphemistic way of saying “worrying” too much, which is what I seem to do with my bees. I’ll do what I can, and have done what I could. That must be enough, although it never is and seems to be the one thing I cannot learn. There is always ignorance, and that is enough to keep one worrying all winter long.

Revolution

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Reading Paul Roberts’ book, The Impulsive Society, I am reminded how all things are interconnected. It is impossible for us to rectify social problems without first rectifying the economic problems. However, economic problems will be beyond us as long as the political problems ensue. These connections are simple enough to recognize. However, the connectivity does not stop there. In fact, it only begins.

Roberts’ book has to do with social, economic and political interconnectivity, but working in the garden and hiking in the mountains reminds one that the important connections are not social, economic or political at all: they are environmental; environmental on a global scale.

In reading classic philosophical texts (Adam Smith, John Locke, Thomas Jefferson f.ex) it seems that the writers and thinkers of the time realized this, but we have, in our modern and technologically advanced societies, seemed to have lost the capacity for recognizing the “bigger” picture. Roberts’ book compares the individual to the society, but perhaps a more apt comparison is that between human beings and the environments we live in, the greatest environment being the planet as a whole.

I cannot help but think that the social, economic and political problems will continue to be inevitable as long as we view the planet upon which we live as our own personal trashcan. Such thoughts are not consoling, but they seem to be true nevertheless. Such thoughts, however, are often the seed of actions. As we all know, or ought to know, we are on an environmental precipice; we all have heard the global issues that we face not only as nations, but as a species.

Problems faced as a species cannot be rectified by an individual, which goes against the grain of modern consumeristic thought that has pervaded most western societies. But, the fact remains that without society there are no freedoms. Just as in more natural environments: there is no free lunch. So, our social, our economic, and our political problems must (oddly enough) be addressed not from a social, an economic, or a political point of view, but from an environmental, a bio-diverse and even bio-centric point of view.

Think about that the next time you plant a non-GMO tomato or pepper, or the next time you take out some of your lawn to plant perennial, bee-friendly blooms. Consider being part of the solution when you ride a bike to work, or buy only local beef, pork, and chicken. Consider that planting a garden, being a locavore, or riding a bike is a socio-economic-political movement, a revolution, towards a better life for all individuals, human or not.

A Late Post…

Better late than never, I always say…

Jamie Oliver is a man with a mission that promotes healthy eating, use of local ingredients, and the continued support of the art of cooking.  He visited the U.S a while back, trying to change the “food” served in public schools, and was met with the full impact of the American Food Lobbyists.  Click on the pic below to visit his site.

jamie oliver

Lessons From My Dog

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About five years ago I got a dog, Maggie. Now understand: a dog was not part of the plan. However, in the five years that Maggie has been with me she has become part of the plan. When I hike, she goes with me. When I camp, she sleeps in the tent often under my sleeping bag. She is not so much needy as demanding. I understand that people with dogs often get a bit “crazy” (“doggy” as I’ve heard it put), but there is a difference between crazy and caring. Crazy comes from the need to fill a void; care comes from a conscious decision to change. I have found that I truly care for Maggie because I am more than willing to change for her.

The first change I have had to make because of my dog is to understand that anger is not the answer no matter what the occasion. Maggie’s face give me solace and I am reminded that she does not understand anger and because of her naivety my anger must be “redirected”. At first, this angered me… But now the energy wasted and my talent for profanity in two languages must find respite and so I tried silence. However, as any good dog owner will tell you: they know. I continue to be a student, if not a very good one, but Maggie is a good teacher.

The second change I have had to make because of my dog is to understand that Listening is essential for any good relationship. The ability to communicate with another human is difficult enough, but I have since found that communication with your dog (and with most other animals) is not only possible, but indispensable. Maggie reminds me that communication is in fact a two-way street. To communication we must listen. I will repeat Maggie’s lesson: we…must…listen.

The third change that I have made because of my dog is to understand that while sincerity may not be comforting, it is never out of place. Like the anger, Maggie can sense sincerity. It is not enough to feign the truth as it is not enough to feign peace. However, being truthful is always worth it, but only if it is sincere.

The fourth change that I have made because of my dog is to understand that lying doesn’t count. Maggie does not put up with lies, even small ones. She is truly, well, hurt. If I say we are going to “go”, then we must “go”! It is often easy to lie to each other as human beings and sometimes we do it for good reason, but Maggie reminds me that lying does not hurt any less no matter the reasons that we have.

I am aware that these lessons are nothing new, but I was never aware that I could actually become a student of my dog. When we first picked her up at the pound, we took her to dog training classes. However, a few lessons in and we dropped the class because the teacher was teaching the wrong student. Maggie has taught me something that I think we all need to be reminded of, at least once a day: don’t lie and don’t get angry when others do it. Always communicate as clearly and sincerely as possible. Oh, and if you’re going to kiss someone, do it like you mean it!