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The discussions I have seen here recently on this site lead me to invite as many of you as possible to take up farming, or at minimum some gardening. Such activity has benefits to the individual beyond the exercise and fresh air attained in its practice.  Specifically, I speak about patience and perseverance, two items that are doled out "the hard way" in farming.

There is no "instant gratification" in farming.  In fact, it’s hard to imagine an endeavor with less instant gratification.  Don’t come out the next morning after planting and expect to see little seedlings popping up—you’re more likely to see where the birds have scratched the soil and eaten many of the seeds.  If you do see a small plant popping up, it’s more likely to be a weed at this early date.

I hear people complain about the pace of reform in government and I wonder if any of them have tried farming.  Farming takes forever before you reap any benefits.  You must have patience to be successful.  And there are many routes to crop failure—drought, flood, hail, weeds, pestilence, unable to plant, unable to harvest, crop rots in the bin...  You must have perseverance to be successful.  Now I think I’m pretty liberal, and if you knew me you would say there is no way possible that I am a blind follower of authority. But after my ordeals in farming, and seeing my parents farm for the last 4 decades, I just don’t think I could ever say, "My god, its been a YEAR, or TWO YEARS, and little has changed.  We need to get someone better in there."

Now I’m sure all the Einsteins out there will point out that you plant seeds in the spring, and (hopefully) you reap the benefits in the fall.  If we’re using an agricultural metaphor to talk about politics then two years is plenty of time.  This is indeed true of many crops.  But what about trees?  You won’t get any good shade from them for many, many years after you plant them, and most don’t put on fruit until they are many years old.  But in either case, IT’S A METAPHOR.  

One’s assumptions almost certainly (and sometimes determine entirely) one’s conclusions.  Moreover, pick your metaphors carefully as they determine what you take to be "the moral of the story."

So what is the best metaphor for politics, political and/or societal change?  Well, that’s a difficult and perhaps an impossible question to fully answer, but one way attempt it is through the asking of simple questions, with answers from simple observations; then making some general conclusions from said observations.  For example:

Q:  What is the likely lifespan of a country or an empire?  Well, if it’s successful at all, it can last centuries.  Some do last for shorter times, but unless they survive for at least a few years, they probably didn’t have much effect, nor get recorded by history that much.

Q:  How long does a political system of any one country or empire last?  Well its possible a particular government could last as short as just a few months, but its much more likely to be at least a few years, up to the life of the country--as long as many centuries.

Q:  How long does it take to enact change on established cultural, societal, and political norms?  Well it depends on the issue, but many important ones take decades to centuries to change.  Nothing firmly established changes easily.  Some would say that it takes as long to change (and or heal from) a norm as said norm had been in existence.  Societal or political institutions, cultural norms or  even just mindsets or notions in our psyche that last decades will take decades to change.  Those lasting centuries will take centuries to change.

Q: In our gut, which metaphor do we feel is more correct to describe our country or political movement, a metaphor of an annual cash crop, or a metaphor of a tree?

We could go on, but I’m with the tree metaphor easily over the annual cash crop metaphor.  The timeframe that I think is reasonable to look for a "harvest" in political matters is a few years, to decades, to a lifetime.  It’s not that I don’t wish some things would change quicker—I do.  But I also wish that the crops would just appear, full and robust, uneaten on by insects or the local wild animals, and most importantly without the long season of work and wait that farming entails.  Now I could dwell on these wishes, but would that really be productive?

I will not argue with you that some things need immediate attention.  Many people need help now.  They’re not going to make it to the next spring.  Perhaps there’s even someone with a chainsaw ready to cut the tree down.  But for all the people holding a chainsaw, there seem to be just as many others ready to plow up the seeds because the seedlings aren’t growing fast enough.

Of course, there are no finite answers or conclusions to any of this discussion, and thus such discussion is easily criticized.  Abstract points, regardless of their relevance, importance, or truth, are always easily ridiculed by that which appears to be to concrete.

But I’d like to leave you with this.  The human beings ultimately have just two jobs:  

  1. Love one another
  1. Live in harmony with your environment

A great way to make progress towards Number 2 is through farming and gardening.  This does not mean merely living in a rural area (especially if you are just bring a suburban attitude to that rural area).  This does not mean just reading about it, or maintaining the green philosophy du jour.  This means the hard work of actually planting, weeding, defending from raid, harvesting, and storing a crop, before even the chance of eating it.  This certainly doesn’t mean you pay someone else to do the dirty work either; the dirt must get under YOUR fingernails to count.

And as I stated before, not only will you gain the benefit of exercise and fresh air, you will (likely) get a large dose of patience and perseverance, something in my humble opinion, is greatly lacking in our society today.  

Originally posted to Rex Freedom on Sun Dec 05, 2010 at 06:20 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

    •  Glad I found this, thanks to the RR's (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Rex Freedom, isabelle hayes

      rescue rangers).

      Too late to the party to rec, and wish I could have.

      Right up my alley. Just got about 5 yards (cubic yard, it's a LOT of stuff) of leaves delivered today. Fellow with a dump truck who does lawn work, says he can't stand to see them go to waste. I told him, "Well, and they're gold. I can't believe humans would let them go to a landfill."

      Had a blast today spreading them on one bed about 4-6" thick, and taking about 4 wheelbarrow loads to the "back 40". (Back yard, cough.) I have a round wire fence back there, about 3.5 feet in diameter, about 3- 3.5 feet tall, that holds leaves every year. It's astonishing how many leaves it holds.

      I layer in some dirt and some finished leaf mold or finished compost, making sure to get some worms, and come back in the spring/summer to wonderful finished "leaf mold".

      This is a great new discovery for me, being able to have someone drop off the leaves, instead of driving around town picking up full leaf bags after soliciting them on Freecyle or similar.

      If not obvious by now, I wholeheartedly second your notion that people should indeed be gardening. Very few things hit all the right notes:
      --produce organic food
      --save energy on transportation of food
      --provide local food security
      --sequester carbon

      An example of the latter is my bean tipi this year. The bamboo poles were at least 15 feet high. I planted 12-15 scarlet runner beans. They made it to the top and turned around and kept growing. From those tiny little seeds, a TON of leaves and vines were produced. Carbon sequestration in action. I was totally in awe of the process.

      Oh BTW. I planted them "too late" in the season, when any "rational" planting guide would've said, "Don't bother." Glad I did.

      This health care system is a moral atrocity. Dr. Ralphdog

      by AllisonInSeattle on Mon Dec 06, 2010 at 11:12:17 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Going to read this tomorrow! (0+ / 0-)

      Looks intriguing. Love having a good story for my morning lineup.

      "There's no need for any points of view, he simply existed, that's all." -Professor Woland

      by FinchJ on Thu Dec 09, 2010 at 10:32:35 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  There's a lot of wisdom in here. (5+ / 0-)

    If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

    by marykk on Sun Dec 05, 2010 at 06:32:23 PM PST

  •  I enjoyed reading your diary. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rex Freedom, Loonesta, LinSea, jan4insight

    I have been gardening for 35 years, through good years and bad years when there's too much rain and the sun hardly ever comes out, through abundant harvests and failures.  You learn and adjust to conditions as you go on from year to year.

    Your tree analogy is a good one.

  •  Thank you for this sweet whisper of reason (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rex Freedom, Loonesta, Prairie D

    amongst the tumultuous shouting which seems to have become so frequent here of late.

    Dance lightly upon the Earth, Sing her songs with wild abandon, Smile upon all forms of Life ...and be well.

    by LinSea on Sun Dec 05, 2010 at 08:04:07 PM PST

  •  Yes (3+ / 0-)

    We are contesting a world. Buckle down for the long haul. Nicely written and wise.

  •  sorry i missed you, glad for the rescue, nt (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rex Freedom
  •  also (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rex Freedom

    tipped for mentioning the need to get the dirt under one's fingernails;

    there's a health benefit to that, can't remember where i read it, but those who get their hands in earth garner physical/emotional benefits from it

  •  Great diary. (0+ / 0-)

    This does not mean just reading about it, or maintaining the green philosophy du jour.  This means the hard work of actually planting, weeding, defending from raid, harvesting, and storing a crop, before even the chance of eating it.  This certainly doesn’t mean you pay someone else to do the dirty work either; the dirt must get under YOUR fingernails to count.

    Love it. This is exactly in line with how I feel as well. Not only will gardening or farming help slow your life down and reconsider priorities, but it also is absolutely fundamental to life. There is something spiritual going on when you nurture life in a garden that all of us could use more of.

    Thanks for writing this!

    "There's no need for any points of view, he simply existed, that's all." -Professor Woland

    by FinchJ on Fri Dec 10, 2010 at 06:45:36 PM PST

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