buddhism

Persistent Perseverance

To make anything of value work, persistence is the key.  This old and perhaps worn-out adage is, in fact, true.  As a newly minted, self-sufficient farmer I can attest for that.  However, persistence is only half the story.

Perseverance is the other half.  Self-sufficiency is honest work; it is demanding work, and it is unforgiving.  Failure is not an option: it is a matter of fact, it is an absolute.  You will persist…at first.

And when persistence seems impossible, perseverance needs to take over.

Often times the work will seem endless, giving up seems at times the only option, but only half of that is true: the work is endless but life is not.

Take time to look up at the stars at night.  Take time to watch the fog break early in the morning over the uncut fields.  Take time to watch the turkey eating the fallen crab apples down by the creek.  And take time to enjoy life and the ones you love.

Work will be there, as it always is, but we must persevere in the happiness that is life and be persistent in the value that we put upon it.

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The Sun Goes Down

A new place; a new beginning. Pulling the old, familiar tools out again I go to work. Things are the same, but yet (as people always seem to say) they are the same. The smells that make up a home coat this house, but they are unfamiliar as they always are. At first, not knowing where to begin, I begin; and the day goes. The sun comes up.

I throw old memories down the staircase knowing that at one time they were important. They aren’t mine, but I feel for them nevertheless. Almost as if time as stopped I pause at a few, looking at them and understanding that there is a time for everything and an end to everything as well. The house is full of these memories; some are good, and some are just…memories.

The wood stove warms up the place and it comes to life. The house was never dead as some that I have known were near. It is a heavy feeling to work in a near-dead house. This one is tired, it is worn out but friendly. Silent, but thankful. Years go by in an hour. Days go by in a minute. I put another slice of wood in the stove and the cinammon smell of dried oak and pine fill the room.

The house is patient with me as I go about my chores. I leave for while to start a tractor, to make plans, to pick up wood, to have coffee, but I come back and start again. Each time I walk into the house the musty smell of smoke, incense, wood and beer fill my nose. It is not a bad smell, not a good smell; it is the smell of years of life, of existence, of survival, of talks and fights.  It is not my life, but somehow it is all of our lives. Human life is messy and the house as experienced all that people can give it.

And now, like me, it begins a new adventure. I almost see it smile as a close the door as the sun goes slowly down behind the trees.

More is Not Better

Give Me Give Me MORE | sweatglow

There’s a lesson to be learned in the idea that more is better.  First, this is an idea that has proven itself time and time again false, and yet as a society, as individuals, and as a race we continually strive for more.

More is larger, more is better; we need more and we desire more!  In fact, our society has based the concept of progress on the idea of more.  Oddly enough, it seems that intuitively we know that this is not correct; it is not right.  But we continue on.

Our current president has made a name for himself by believing, or at least selling the belief, that more is better.  The idea clearly does not work.  More seems to undermine better; quantity does not equal quality.  Rhetoric does not equal intelligence.

To move forward the concept of value needs to be redefined: both what we value and why we value it.  A self-sufficient lifestyle will do wonders in redefining what is important.  In fact, the whole concept of self-sufficiency is better because it allows us to redefine value based upon need alone.

No longer is money the measure of value; no longer can we confuse desire with need.  No longer can we continually accept that more is better.  To be self-sufficient is not simply to feed, heat and shelter yourself.  No, to be self-sufficient one must THINK for one’s self.  More thinking does not equal better thinking.  More production does not equal better products.

We can no longer define what we value with quantity.  So, what do we do?  One good starting point might be to start with less: buy less, think better about those few things that are actually important, and produce quality rather than depend upon quantity.  Perhaps we will find that more is worthy only of less thought, and less importance.

 

Sometimes…

bob the rooster

In Memory of “Bob” the rooster and one of his girls.

This last week we have lost a beautiful rooster and hen; one to a hawk, and the rooster to  (what I believe) to be a fox.  These losses were unfortunate, but the fact remains: this is what those animals do.  They are predators and they were acting naturally.  As a farmer, my natural reaction is and was anger: something must pay, and the hawk and fox were prime possible recipients.  As an intelligent person, however, I am capable of understanding justice.

Sometimes we are faced with difficult decisions and in these situations we must make a choice: to react or act.  I could shoot hawks and hunt fox but for what reason?  There is only one answer to this: revenge.  Perhaps killing the fox is necessary for it will return, but the hawk…and at best such a decision is only partially reasonable.

This led me to consider reason.  As humans we are emotional creatures with the capacity, with the freedom, to act intelligently.  Unfortunately often enough we do not act accordingly.  The loss of my rooster and hen presented a situation in which I was presented a choice: to act reasonably or emotionally.  But I had left out another choice: the middle ground: to act both reasonably and emotionally.

I was saddened to lose my rooster and hen, but I could not get myself to simply kill animals for what they do naturally: they cannot be held accountable and so it would be immoral of me to kill them for acting the way they act.  However, I did not want them to return and kill more livestock.  The logical conclusion, was to accept the losses and try to lessen the chances of the predator’s capability of doing what comes naturally: to give them a chance to learn.

Many farmers would tell me that it is not worth the trouble: to kill the animals, and sometimes they would be correct.  However, I value my farm animals and other animals and their lives in a different way: as living things.  So, according to my values it is “worth” my trouble to find a compromise.  Sometimes a little emotion goes a long way, and sometimes (in order to remain moral creatures) we must learn to value all life rather than simply the life we deem worthwhile.

The Silence of Space

space II

Much of this blog has centered upon the goal of self-sufficiency, but little do we realize that such goals come with their own baggage.  No matter what the goal we have, it will pale in comparison to the idea of that goal.  This is simply a reality rather than a judgement.  The idea is so opaque, so brittle in its nature; easily breakable but it is the only solid ground we have to stand upon if we are to succeed.

If to simplify we must complicate, then to achieve a goal we must have an idea of that goal . Perhaps the most important act (it does come down to action) is to move forward while remembering the past; to complicate in order to simplify.  But again, remembering the past complicates the very simplicity that we desire.  It does sound so encumbered, so esoteric.    How can self-sufficiency be so complicated?  It is because that while life is simple, to act is complicated.

We must all light upon a surface and look around; we must all settle in the security of knowing that the life that we lead is not only up to us, but up to our realizing that there is no ideal.  We must acknowledge the silent moments and learn from them what we can; they are so few and far between.

So, as I feed the animals I must take the time to consider them.  When I work in the garden, I must look for those moments between the weeds that give me happiness.  When I work a piece of wood, I must follow the history of the grains of the tree that it is made of.  When I look up, I must realize that in the end we are self-sufficient like it or not; realize it or not.  The silence of space reminds me of that, and the act becomes complicated.

Heart and Mind

heart and mind

Decisions need to be made; action needs to be taken.  But, what to do, and why?  This is a common dilemma, one which most of us face at least a time or two in our lives.  These decisions, the “big” ones, often change the course of our lives, leading us to exulted happiness or dark bouts of regret.

At the one end, the decisions we are faced with are dilemmas of Grand Canyon dimensions, and on the other end they are but a fragment of dust in a vast universe.  It is our perspective that makes them greater or lesser important, and respectively more easily or harder to make.

We are told to follow our heart, but there is a price to be paid for doing such impractical things.  We are told to think things through, but then the rewards seem to be much less bright.  Our hearts and minds seem to be in a constant battle, but this is not necessary.

We can follow our hearts while being practical, in fact our hearts are much more fulfilled when the practicality of our decisions is clear.  The practicality of our lives becomes much more bright when we add splashes of color to our dreary necessities.

This is all to say that decisions will be the same, but the road we take to come to them may differ.  Sometimes we follow our heart and it leads us to the necessary practicality to fulfill the hearts desires.  Sometimes we lead with our minds and soon find that life is too dreary without dreams.

The Enemy of the Good

permaculture poster

It is difficult to wake up every morning and face the day, knowing that something that you will do will…fail.  But, this is inevitable; no matter what we do: we will fail.  Failure is a source of stress and frustration, anger and sadness; failure builds like a bomb inside of us and weighs down upon our shoulders.  Failure is physical.

But fail we will.  Some call failure an opportunity and others call failure a learning adventure, but when we lay our heads down at night to fall into a fitful sleep it is failure that we feel, it is that deep feeling that we did not quite make the grade.  This feeling of failure starts early and is experienced often.

This much is true; this much is the case and it must be the case.  But why do we fail?  This was a question that has been posed for eons and answers are many.  We fail because we do not try; we fail because we do not believe in ourselves; we fail because we have been told we will fail; we fail because we tell ourselves we will fail; we fail because to many anything less than perfection is failure.

Anything less than perfection is failure?  I have been a full time farmer for approximately a year and if I did not know that perfection is an illusion, then farming has taught me the hard lesson that it is, in fact, illusory.  We can gnash our teeth and pull our hair out; we can cry and obsess; we can wail and scream at the gods or we can remember that we should never let the perfect…be the enemy of the good.*

*Sam Harris: Waking up

 

Ten Things to Make you Feel Better

expectations

 

In this age of Trump, fake news, insanity and stupidity everyone needs something to make them feel better.  Here are ten suggestions guaranteed to help:

  1. Plant something and take care of it; start a garden.
  2. Go for a bicycle ride.
  3. Cook something completely from scratch (and drink wine while you’re doing it).
  4. Do something to help someone, but do it anonymously.
  5. Do #3 and take it to a neighbor.
  6. Take a long weekend and spend it in an expensive hotel.
  7. Go for a hike on a quiet trail, early in the morning (and I mean early!)
  8. Write a letter (on paper with a pen) to a friend.
  9. Close all the windows, all the curtains, and the doors and spend a day doing nothing.  Note: be sure to stock up with your favorite food for this one.
  10. Take a first step towards a long put-off dream.

Do not expect these suggestions to have the expected consequences, but if you delve into them in full guaranteed fulfillment is a certain consequent.

Mistakes…Dreams will Be Made

dreams

Dreams are interesting endeavors.  They are experiments more than anything.  But, can pursuing a dream be a mistake?  As mentioned in a previous post, it is hard to remember your goal when you are in the middle of it all.  To answer that rhetorical question: I’m not sure that pursuing a dream can be a mistake.

Think about it: a dream is an experiment; the goal is (at best) unknown and even perhaps undefined.  Pursuing a dream, therefore, can never be a mistake.  Pursuing that dream is always worth it, but it must be remembered that dreams may not be what you think they are.

Sometimes dreams will enlighten, and most of the time they will be frustrating.  Sometimes dreams clarify even if they are never achieved in full.  All of these possibilities are in a way necessities because having a dream itself is a necessity.  Imagine what life would be without dreams.

You must give up things to pursue dreams, but those things are often vague and easily given up, at least in the beginning.  In dreams, mistakes will be made, but it is never a mistake to pursue your dreams.

Want What You Need

need

This time of year is sometimes difficult; it is time for warmth but it is still cold.  The sun is shining, but the wind is blustery and bitter.  Sitting inside by the fire the day looks beautiful but out in the forest nature soon reminds us that it is unforgiving.  And so we sit wanting something that we know we cannot have.  We do this and all the time know that it is a waste of that most precious commodity: time itself.

Days spent pining over the past or looking toward the future are days wasted.  The thought is a bit Buddhistic, but goes beyond the confines of any religion because the act is human.  Perhaps we are hardwired to desire what we do not have.  This desire comes, often enough, in the form of “keeping up with the Jones”.  It rears its ubiquitous head in many ways though.  I would argue that the mess that is our government today is a consequence of wanting what you don’t need rather than needing what you want.

Think of it another way.  We need food, we need shelter…that’s it.  But we want so much more.  These desires will always come at a cost, however.  The more we want, the more we need to understand that nothing is free.  If we want to be moral we must need to be moral. If we want truth, we must need truth.  Of course, we need both, but so many times we do not want either.

Looking out the window and wanting the warmth of Spring will not bring Spring any closer.  Knowing the right thing to do and not actually doing the right thing will not make us moral.  These philosophical ponderings will do no good unless we act upon them.  We must want to act and act in order to know what we need.  This is, perhaps, the secret.  By all means think, but if we want to know what we need we must also act.