learning

Lesson # 1,499,789,321

 

A bear got into one of my hives last week.  The carnage was, well…it was a bear.  Right behind where the hive sits there was a large place where it was obvious that he just laid down and slicked up the frames.  There was wax and wood all over the place, but there were three or four frames that seemed like they were laid gently next to some bricks.

I didn’t notice the hive had been massacred right off the bat.  During the day I like to look out the back window of the soon-to-be shop and watch the bees fly in and out of their home.  I did this, and I noticed.  Running out and realizing what had happened I didn’t get angry; it was strange.

I picked up the leaning frames and instantly saw a huge glump of bees: was the queen alright?!  Gently I set up the hive again, and put the three frames (full of globs of bees) in the middle,  surrounding them with clean, unadulterated frames.  The next day I added a frame of honey; they weren’t so nice.

Everyone has told me that bears attack hives; up in the mountains of Colorado, and evidently in Northern New England.  I can’t blame the bear, it must eat as we all do.  I only have myself to blame.  That is in fact lesson that is cyclical: it is my fault and no one else’s.  The lessons we learn are seldom about bears or bees, accidents or bad “fate”  (There is no such thing you know).

It is our fault, the blame is our own; and we must learn because to make mistakes is human, but to learn from them is god-like.

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MISTAKES, MISGIVINGS, AND MOTIVATIONS: III

face roadmap

As he realized, there was no explanation and searching for answers to the puzzle that the past posed, he found none.  With the past in his pocket, there was only the unknown, the future left to pack.  And as he folded and flipped the future a new realization dawned: it was not his own.

“The future is not ours…”, he thought out loud.  “The future belongs to no one; it is, in fact, nothing.”  As the thought settled in his head he reached for another piece to pack and found that there was always something to put into his bag, into his pocket to become the tear-soaked past.

“Something out of nothing is the truth; finally!  The Truth!!”

And what of meaning and these dangerous days of wonder and worry.  There will come more mistakes and more misgivings, but of what?  And about what?  If the future is truly nothing, than we are left with the pocket full of past and the present that we cannot notice.  Are we truly slaves to the limits of time or are we burdened with the freedom of space?

Philosophical nonsense made meaningless by poetry and prose, by literature and leitmotifs.  And as these thoughts ran through his head, the responsibilities that he had once believed he had had continued to create something that was never his.  Picking up his empty bag and feeling the weight in his pocket, he turned to go.

Pick Your Paths Carefully

How to Choose Between Two Paths in Life | JP Morgan Creating

Some may remember a series of books by Carlos Castenada written in the seventies about a “real, spiritual”** adventure taken by Mr. Castenada, soon afterwards debunked.  In these books the concept of human battles was presented; battles against fear, power, clarity and finally old age.

Fear is the first of the four battles that we must, as individuals and societies, overcome.  While fear is evolutionarily founded on the overwhelming desire to survive, in the context of our modern lives it often misinforms us given our homogeneous societies, given the social pressures that we all endure: mind your parents, go to school, get married, have kids, and retire.  Fear, I have found, often leads many people down paths that they never wanted, that they never desired and stunts intellectual growth.  In short, most of our fear is disconnected from its evolutionary roots of survival and has become a road block to personal growth.

Once we realize that fear is sometimes founded, but more often not founded in reality, we recognize the power that the realization offers us.  Power comes in many forms, one of the more common forms is money.  With money comes security and with security comes the illusion of power.  Our happiness, our contentedness, our self becomes defined by the power that we hold as all important and they (in turn) become dependent on the power that we believe we have.  Soon enough the slave becomes the master.

Our happiness, our contentedness and our security safely put in their virtuous places we are enlightened to the fact that our lives are short and perhaps insignificant in the grande scheme of things.  Perhaps we recognize that independence is based upon understanding and curiosity and that it is these concepts that lead us to the ever illusive peace and contentedness that seems to elude so many.  The universe opens up, we achieve Nirvana, we find god(s); we are clear about our place and purpose in the universe.  And then we are old.

Our bodies let is down when our minds should be at their best.  Aches and pains sneak up on us as we watch the universe expand beyond our comprehension.  We have lived enough years to realize the regrets that we fought so hard not to have, and now some changes, some things, are outside of our grasp.  Our clarity drives these truths home, and we watch as our happiness is now in danger.

It is at this point that we must make our choice, according to Castenada: to jump into the abyss leaving all we know behind, or to fade toward the light and into the oblivion of the masses.  The one leads to loneliness, and the other leads to loss of self; and it is at this point that we face our old enemy fear again and the journey begins again.  Pick your paths carefully and fight like a Viking.

**I believe this phrase to be oxymoronic.

 

It’s Just a Feeling

There is a place for that feeling that we get, our gut feeling, without explanation, about places, people, and decisions.  Sometimes that feeling is a warm and tingly sensation in the stomach and sometimes that feeling is a knot.  Somehow (it seems) our body is reacting to thoughts that we might not realize that we have; somehow are emotion is a road sign to an unknown understanding.

Perhaps this unconscious intelligence has just been blinded by a society that is motivated not by curiosity but by consumerism?  Maybe it takes time to realize, to listen, that how we feel is sometimes linked to what we do.  David Hume famously stated that reason is the slave of the passions.

Do not get me wrong: logical reasoning and rationale must be the foundation; we cannot lie to ourselves and equate our emotions with intelligence.  However, we are human and we must accept the bastard child, emotion.  Reigned in and controlled it will steer us toward what we truly want, ironically.

Think about it: the dreams that we pursue are not rational when we envision them but must be rationally pursued to make them a reality.  So, it seems, that we have a choice: 1) to sleep and perchance to dream, or 2) To dream and perchance to act.  It’s just a feeling after all, but feelings count when we choose to listen carefully.

 

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.

 

A Two-For!

change-fishWords
In this day and age of endless internet banter it seems that language has been lost. Discussion, too, has taken a blow. We no longer communicate but rather yell our opinions at each other, and of course those opinions are beyond respute. We have answers to questions we do not understand; we have solutions to problems we do not know exist; we speak without understanding the power of words.

Terms either go to the wayside or are used as swords of offensiveness or defensiveness; either way we “are right” when we often do not understand the concepts of words like “right” and “wrong”. Being “politically correct” or simply being empathetic and kind; being “offensive” or simply being “truthful”. Gone are the days, it seems, of being expected to live up to the standards that we create: only need to speak because that is often the only thing we can do.

We use words as weapons and forget the firepower that make language important in the first place: concepts, propositions. We shortcut language without a thought to what that shortcut does to the actual meaning behind words. Without a thought we attack each other. Afterall, they’re only words.

When Things Take a Turn

I recently sold the property that we intended to start our farm on. Oddly enough it was not a difficult decision. The difficulty, as perhaps it always does, lay in the logistics (the work) of actually moving. Even in the short time we were at the place, material and tools pile up. It takes a lot to be self-sufficient.
So, into storage went my workshop and onto my neighbor’s (Neighbor Bob) property went the hens, my tractor and a few other large implements. While our decision to move on from our newly acquired place seems irrational to many I would argue that it would be insane to stretch your hand out to catch a dream and settle.
To expect something you know will not work to get better is to guarantee failure. And so, things take a turn. The work was unrelenting and the limbo that it puts a want-to-be farmer like myself in is almost as stressful as the move itself. But, when things take a turn there is not other option than to enjoy the scenery.
I will not explain that such decisions are easy or that they are the best for everyone, but often times the truth is obvious and that makes the answer even more obvious.
My advice to anyone finding themselves in a situation that is not conducive to their happiness is to remember that change brings new options, many of which were either not noticed or not available. When things take a turn sometimes the best bet is to ride the storm and other times it is to abandon ship. But, the most important aspect of change to remember is that life is short and change, no matter what turn it takes, is inevitable.

Pain

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This week I have had that old and misunderstood teacher, pain, in my life.  This time it came in the form of an old piece of oak and a table saw.  As good teachers ought to, pain pointed out my stupidity but did so not in a condescending way; my lesson was learned in a split second and by my own hand.  I have no excuse, which was the lesson taught.

I have all of my fingers and they all will work normally but for the time being I have thirteen stitches in two of them (nine in my index an four in my thumb).  I took the test and failed.  However, failure is as it always is, a chance to learn.  My Renshi, pain, has not let me down and I have learned; if only I can remember when the lesson is finished.

A teacher and a student are one in the same, but a teacher sometimes needs a reminder that they are a student as well.  I’m not sure what lesson Master Pain has learned.  My lesson has been one of trust: do not do it with machinery and wood!  I have an old adage: comfort is your enemy, and there is another one: familiarity is a teacher of men.

My lesson is all bandaged up now and the learning process has started.  Flashbacks of my lesson continue, I cringe, and I type with eight fingers for the time being but the lesson came at a cheap cost.  Pain is unforgiving, straightforward, and honest as all good teachers should be.  And I am thankful as all understanding students come to be.

MISTAKES, MISGIVINGS, AND MOTIVATIONS: II

face roadmap

Motivated by sheer will and some curiosity mixed with a dose of virtue and the endless misunderstanding of truth the path became home. The roots he had dug up so many times, he carried in his bag which was by now old and worn by the mistakes that he’d made. And it was with these misgivings that the man turned around and considered his past for the first time in his life.

Never noticing it before, it was nevertheless worn from wear. Like a shiny piece of metal washed many times and never found, it was clean…almost luxuriously so. The past mirrored the man as he looked into it’s shiny, blank sheen; not so much did it offer up memories, but misgivings as to what could have been compared to what had been.

The past, he found, was not full of memories, but of imaginative vagueness and ample insecurities.
“What if…”
“If only…”
“Had I only known…”
The sentences formed in his head and his imagination finished them thoroughly and almost automatically. It was as if he had no control over his past.
“But it is mine,” he thought.
“This is my past!”

However, the metal simply stood its ground; the past would have none of his illusions. Stamped in metal by his own meanderings the man realized he no longer owned what he had done, what he had been.

Looking around for an explanation, there was none.
Searching for answers to the puzzle that the past posed, he found none.
“There must be, though; the past is mine. IT’S MINE!!”

But the metal dripped in apathy as the man slowly realized that it was only the tears and he put the past back into his pocket.

Rituals

coffee pic

There are rituals that we all seem to abide by often without knowing it.  These rituals seem so inconspicuous when we are alone but when guests come, or when they are otherwise interrupted, they show themselves in unusual ways.  If we work away from the home we tend to enjoy the workplace just a little more; or when we work at home we notice the rituals and how they are being poked at, if just a little.

This is nothing against the guests in our houses; they are welcome and enjoyed.  But the little rituals in our lives are, well, just a little put out.  If you have pets, especially a dog, you probably notice this.  However, when our own rituals must be put on hold, the dog’s perspective doesn’t seem that strange.  We, like our pets, live by rituals.

The ritual itself doesn’t really matter, it is not the ritual act that counts.  Rather it is the act of having a ritual that seems important.  We do things in a certain way, at a certain time.  Personally,  I notice this when my early morning coffee ritual is changed (read “interrupted”).  Coffee itself is a ritual, not just the need and desire for caffeine.  Coffee in the morning and a beer (or two) at night are explicit rituals, but what about those small, inane rituals that our lives are filled up with?

We do not notice the small moments in our lives when we are in the middle of living them.  It is only when we are reminded of them that they matter.  Perhaps rituals are not unlike our past: they are made and then remembered?  Perhaps Hume and other philosophers are right when they state that we are nothing but a collection of memories?  This may be the case, but if so then the memories themselves are rituals incognito.

The Act of Caring

piglets

Pork and Belly: it has been a pleasure!

It is getting close to doing the inevitable for the last time this year: I must “process” the last twenty-five chickens and more difficult, I must say good-bye to Pork and Belly our two pigs. There is no getting around the fact that death is violent, no matter how we choose to express it. Killing is even more violent. But death and killing are ubiquitious and we must come to understand that sometimes the acts are not necesarily wrong if we are to live with peace of mind.

When the decision was made to make self-sufficiency the goal the decision was also made to act philosophically; to be philosophical we must also act philosophical. And the reality of eating brings upon us the reality of killing. I have run into many that have expressed their opinion of the uselessness of philosophy, but in my years of teaching and trying to live philosophy their conclusion seems empty.

To kill an animal, even for food, honestly, we must look it in the eye and put the knife to its throat; this is the honest thing to do and because honesty is important to the act and so the act is philosophical. The question of killing is most certainly a moral question, one which the homesteader needs to ask themself: is it the moral thing that I am doing?

This is all to say that Pork and Belly present a unique opportunity to put philosophy into action, but also present a moral decision. We started with two pigs and they become as much pets as livestock. So, the obvious answer seems to be: more pigs, less pets. In other words, with more animals on the chopping block we don’t get attached. However, this solution is sidestepping the real question; it is a way of making ourselves immune to the inevitable act of killing an animal.

In the end we must choose: to eat meat or not to eat meat, but in making our decision we must also realize that life includes and is not the dichotomy of death: life and death are one in the same, and this idea (again) is philosophical. As humans, we have the ability, the capacity to choose morally, we must choose philosophically; life does not care, but we must because we can.