After years of living in cities, longing for the country; perhaps some peace and quiet, I look out over twenty two acres of forest and a half acre of tilled earth to become garden next year.
This particular post is two things: an apology and and explanation.
First, an apology. I realize that blogs are particularly important to those who write them, and less so to those who read them. That being the case, I must still apologize for not being consistent, if only to myself.
Secondly, an explanation. I have embarked upon an experiment in self-sustainability that involves moving from one side of this country to the other. Such a move takes time and effort which explains my apology above. This experiment involves buying a small (22 acre) plot of land with a house, a barn foundation, and a full woodworking shop. This is the result of several years of contemplation and contrary thinking that has cost comfort and security, I hope, to a good end: to see just how self-sustaining an individual can be.
To this end I would like to invite anyone interested to visit two new sites that will be up and running this fall. First, I will have a podcast called “The Philosophy of Gardening” and at some point and time a youtube channel called Trollcastle Works. These endeavors will simply be a video/audio blog of ongoings around the property that will include forestry work, woodworking and of course gardening.
I hope to have several projects going that include: a small fruit orchard, vegetable garden, furniture making and carpentry, hops and grain fields, and brewing beer. The podcast and videos, I hope, will be of interest to anyone that might consider self-sustainability as a way of life.
I call this an experiment, because I see 100% self-sustainability as being the speed of light, and the experiment’s goal itself being to see how close to this ideal that I can get. There will be failures and there will be accomplishments, and I hope to share both.
The reason for this experiment is, of course, personal, but it stems from a belief that self-sustainability for individuals and families is the only moral option. What better way to test this belief than putting it in practice!
I hope that some of you consider following me on this adventure!
Fear is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, it is protective; a gut instinct is helpful in situations where the facts are not clear. We have an evolutionary trait (called an intentional stance) that we carry in our genes that makes assumptions that have proven to save our hides. Fear is a product of that, a consequence of both our genetic makeup and our desire to survive.
However, in the western world this intentional stance does not always serve us well. Often our fear does not help, but hinders us. The issue is for us to determine why we are afraid. At the end of the day, our actions need to be based upon well-informed decisions, but skepticism concerning our actions is a well-tested intentional stance.
Fear serves us well until we becomes slaves to it.
Perhaps our fear comes down to what it is we actually want: to be correct or to be courageous. Alas, the sword cuts two ways again.
To do what you do
To feel what you feel
To need what you need
To be what you are
You are what you do
You need what you feel
You are what you need
You know what you want
To do, to feel
To feel, to need
To need to be
To be, to want.
To do, to feel, to need, to be
Free to be honest
Is to be honest
But not free.
John Cage was a composer who “wrote” and performed a piece of silence called 4” 33’ (four minutes and thirty-three seconds). It was simply himself, on stage, and sitting at a piano for four minutes and thirty-three seconds. However simplistic and absurd it might have seemed and still perhaps is, I believe that the art, while not found in the actual performance is in fact found in the thought. This is culture.
I believe that many of us are realizing that what we consider culture is really nothing at all but consumerism. Culture is virtuous; consumerism is not. A man sitting at a piano and not playing the instrument, I thought, can be analogous to individuals who find themselves in a consumerist society without being consumers. I know this is a stretch, perhaps, but I believe there is something true in it.
To play a piano is a choice and one must learn, and learning takes time and effort; much time and much effort. That is why so many begin by taking lessons but few come to play the piano. Not being a consumer takes time and much effort.
The burgeoning agrarian movement that seems to be blossoming in this country can be seen as a reaction to a society that has lost its priorities to profit and consumerism, but I like to think of it as a choice, an idea that often times is ridiculed (as John Cage was when he performed his piece).
Perhaps John Cage was reacting to the ever-more complexities of modern classical music at the time? And if so, the analogy becomes even more similar. Rather than complaining as a composer, Cage did something to point this out. In the same way, we can make choices that go against the relentless pressure to consume.
Some may argue that actions such as Cage’s piece or the agrarian movement are simply fads, but I’m not sure that the argument stands. Cage’s piece is famous (or infamous) even today and he as a composer changed the landscape of modern classical music. In the same way I think that as more and more people realize the cost of a consumer lifestyle is not sustainable, they too will choose to take a stand. In Cage’s situation it was not too play for 4 minutes and thirty three seconds.
Our stand against consumerism can start with a split second decision.
To dream of making a dream a reality takes foresight, hope, imagination and a vision. To make a dream a reality takes those things, but it also takes a hefty dose of courage, hard work, money, and willingness to give up comfort in most of its forms. This is why it is easy to dream, but difficult to live your dream.
Be ready to smile when your friends, your family, and most others remind you of how many ways there are to fail, how good you have it and how you should “give it a second thought…” or how it is simply impossible. These will be bumps in the road in comparison to the endless work and hours, to the face of poverty staring in your window, the relentless pummeling that you will take physically and mentally. Make no mistake, to make a dream a reality you must give up the dream…but only almost.
I say “almost” because dreams are not made to be broken. Live your dream!
If you have a dream first make your mind up to do it. Secondly…do it. It really is that simple. Afterwards, don’t look back.
To have regrets is easy: take the path most travelled, bury your hope and your imagination; your vision. To make your regret a reality takes those things, but it also takes a hefty dose of fear, making decisions based upon what others advise, and willingness to give up your dreams. This is why it is easy to forget your dreams, but difficult to live with that decision.
Be ready to smile when your friends, your family, and most others remind you that you could of, or should have if only had. These will be bumps in the road in comparison to the endless days, months and years of remembering the dream, the face of comfort staring in your window, and the relentless pummeling that you will take as you wake up at night and realize that they were right. Make no mistake, to make your regrets a reality you must give up the dream…completely.
I say “completely” because regret lasts a lifetime.
If you have regrets, first recognize them as regrets. Secondly…change them. It really is that simple. Afterwards, don’t look back.
I’ve never really enjoyed taking a vacation. The time, to me, seems ill-spent and empty. I wonder about this: is there something wrong with me, or do I simply need to “relax”? I don’t think so. I think that there is something more going on. Vacation implies the lack of work, but the lack of work is not necessarily a good thing unless, of course, you don’t like your work.
Now I’m not a great fan of polls and statistics, but to make a point here, more than 70% of Americans do not like their jobs! If that is the case, then I can certainly see why so many people put a price upon free time. But I don’t think that makes vacation a positive thing. Vacation is only seen in a positive light if you don’t like your job. Perhaps a better approach than dreaming of beach vacations and beer drinking debauchery is to simply do something that you like to do.
I love my job, and I am in the process of transitioning into another job that I believe I will love even more. This is what some in my family would call a “luxury dilemma”. I would have to concur. The dilemma, however, cannot be solved by taking a vacation but must be solved by doing some work. Research and development attitudes must be taken; assessing risk and defining responsibility must be clarified. Economic outcomes and expenses must be taken into consideration. This all sounds like work, and that is because it is.
I often hear people dreamily wave around the idea of “never working again”, but I firmly believe that they would be miserable after about two weeks. Work defines us, and not having work is in a sense losing one’s self. I am aware that in our modern and progressive societies we have been conditioned to define as work tedious tasks and mundane bureaucratic business. Often we have become nothing more than monkeys in a box looking longingly out sealed windows. We have defined work by profit rather than work by principle, and I think this is where the problem is. We must work for reasons other than making a profit.
I am not saying that we need to give the responsibility of our lives over to someone or something else. However, I am saying that our relentless hunt for more money is making us (and many others) miserable. Vacation entails time to be free from work, but this is only a problem if we do not have a job that we would do for free. Being honest with yourself is often difficult, but is always free. Maybe we need to remember that time is easy but is never free. In fact, it may be the most expensive thing we have.
Money is typically defined as anything of value. Money is often used as a means of barter, trade, and for transactions. And so money is not often valued for itself, but for what it can get us. Money, then is useful, but not necessarily valuable. In thinking of this, I realize that there are two sides to every coin.
It seems that much time and effort is spent in trying to become rich in order to buy things that are not necessarily valuable or useful using something that is not necessarily valuable. This seems strangely a waste (rather than a valuable) of our time. However, most of us live our lives by this axiom; most of us.
The recent upswing in locavore, organic, self-sustainability and other descriptive ways of living seem to be motivated not by money, but by something far more valuable: happiness. The motivation to turn away from money to “do what’s right”, or to “be more healthy” seems to have its basis in virtue.
Virtue is a philosophical ethical theory founded upon a moral education, which is considered by Aristotle as a good in itself because such a life leads to a higher quality of happiness. Without getting into the philosophy too much, the value of living such a life is found in actually living that life. Money is not valuable in itself. However, living a life of virtue is.
So, one side of the coin seems to be the motivation to be happy, and the other side of the coin seems to be the kind of happiness that matters: the quality of our happiness. Money seems to abide by one side of the coin, but not to the other. Don’t get me wrong; I think that money is a viable tool, a useful means to live comfortably and securely. But I’m not sure that it is the best means.
The current movement towards more viable and sustainable agricultural methods and cultural beliefs is certain to lead to jobs and opportunities that are yet to be seen. But these movements do seem to be good in themselves as well. We have to be careful. On the one hand, money is a motivator for our dreams, but on the other hand money often undermines the dream itself. Perhaps what we must always remember is that what is useful is often not what is valuable, and what is valuable is not always useful: there are always two sides to a coin.
This is part of an old saying: follow your heart. But when I think to follow my heart, my assumption is that in doing so things will somehow “magically” work out. I do realize, perhaps because I listen to my head, that following my heart means a lot of work, a lot of compromise, and as I am beginning to understand: a lot of courage.
Let’s be realistic! Dreams are often best left as such. But following your heart often demands that we forget that fact. In fact, it is often best to do so. I’m sure that many people have realized that much too late. When the dream becomes a nightmare of endless nights, lack of money, and no way out it becomes difficult to remember that it was the heart that got us into the pickle in the first place.
But like love, the heart is a fickle thing, and to truly follow the heart, to make that dream a reality (nightmares and all), often means to follow many paths least followed; often for good reason. When I think of following my heart I always remember that we wake from our dreams and that nightmares end. I remember that money is often found at the end of rainbows.
Perhaps the head or heart question, when I ask it, is already answered and I simply don’t realize it? It’s good to remember that unlike the head, the heart does not ask for permission, directions, or if a dream makes sense or not. The heart is the two year old that we all have inside of us that follows the floating paper in a brisk wind, stumbling down the road with only one goal in mind.
So, the question: do I follow my heart or do I follow my head is in fact a meaningless question because as soon as it has been asked, it has been answered. To not realize this little fact is to live with regret, but only the heart realizes this.
For people who grow their own food, this time of year is a mix of stress and excitement. Seedlings are coming up, but in many parts of the country, it’s too early to put them out. The bees are beginning to get busy, but sometimes they swarm. The worries of a warm summer are coveted because of the unrelenting rain and cool spells that inevitably come. Animals birth, and some die. Farmers start ramping up the season, but have to wait for the always elusive “goldilocks” weather. This mix and match dichotomy is not limited to seasons.
Most of us live in societies where money is the method behind the madness, but want to trust our food while not paying unreal prices for it. For those brave souls who decide to give us what we want, they must try to do the right thing while figuring out the right thing to do in order to keep doing what they love. There must be a pay-off but the cost of that pay-off needs to be taken into consideration as well. Do you sell your soul out of necessity, or is it necessary to keep your principles in order to progress?
From farming come these philosophical conundrums. Gardening is not different. Running a business is, well… no different. Many of us begin the long road of life considering profit as progress. Some of us realize that profit in fact stands in the way of progress. But, these are not solutions; they are challenges that each of us seem to face no matter what we do. I have a dream, yes, but that dream and the reality that it creates are often not one in the same. Profit and progress come in many forms.
A few principles might help. First, be honest; not only with everyone around you, but perhaps most importantly with yourself. Second, know the hill that you will “die on”. There comes a time when profit is no longer a measure of progress, but a detriment to development. The change from one to the other is often slight and barely perceptible. Third, know why you do what you do. We often ask strangers “What do you do?” Perhaps we should start asking: “Why do you do what you do?” A more pertinent question if we are to profit from our progress.