Not farming in a vacuum


Here the problems of the world, if not solved, are at least elucidated.  Also lots of good food eaten.

I have been farming for fifteen years. My spirits tend to rise and fall with the annual successes and failures in these fields. The tiniest bug can be my nemesis. A herculean weeding job, completed, can be as epic a triumph as anything Odysseus encountered. Someone dedicated to the grand political issues of our time might find my life insufferably parochial, but I have found that my psychological survival depends upon my focusing on what needs to be done now, here. I have given my all to make this place on earth healthier, more fertile, more welcoming and loving.

Given this track record, the blister beetles destroying our chard crop would garner my full attention, the gorgeous winter squash crop would make me sing the body triumphant. This year has felt different, however. While I have wanted to write newsletters of my provincial concerns, I have instead been stymied and stupefied by the goings-on in the world at large. The megalomaniac we elected, the hatred spewed, the violence incited, the nuclear bluster spouted, the overt racism, misogyny, xenophobia, etc.—all this has sapped my strength. I, like many of you, have felt sickened and powerless.

It seems to me inadequate to draw back, to turn off “the news,” to cross my fingers that we are not hurtling collectively toward disaster, repeating grave historical tragedies. Do we have to all be waist-deep in water or worse to wake up? Can we realize our common humanity? Can we stop giving away our chances for decent survival to the ultra-rich hoarding all the wealth? What will it take for us to put down our diversions and care for the future that we, individually, will never see? Though we are lost, can we still find ourselves?

I could fill pages with these dismal questions. I would love to conclude with the answers, but I am flummoxed. How comforting it must be to feel in possession of the truth, to cling to simple answers, but I can only side with Socrates, who admits “that I do not think that I know what I do not know.” All the great leaps forward in the last 2500 years have not left this intelligence behind. Can we all just admit our ignorance and be wary of those who would serve our brains irrational diets? We aren’t nearly as smart as we wish we were.

Answerless, gasping for hope, I still believe in this human experiment, in us binding together in communities of compassion and conscience. As much as I rely on my heroes from literature—Thoreau, Joseph Campbell, Chomsky, Zinn, Dylan—I lean on and revere the great persons in my small circle—Hankins, Bruggman, Priester, Willis, Fitzgerald, Brewer, Kalb, Berry, so on. We find hope in one another, in our humor and determination, our work and play. I have had the great fortune to pair with a soulmate nonpareil, a love who keeps me alive and humble. Our two children mean we can’t go nihilistic. We have to keep our queer shoulders to the wheel, to rage against the dying of the light. It’s not about us—any of us. The baton must keep being passed, and any decent teammate better not leave the next runner a big hole to climb out of. We won’t give up, but we might better act up.

Thank you for belonging to this Place on Earth, for working for justice, for fighting the good fight. We are honored to do our small part. If you have any answers for us, please do share.

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