November 21, 2014

Zen And The Art Of Farming

"Observe nature thoroughly rather than labour thoughtlessly."

Masanobu Fukuoka's 1975 book The One-Straw Revolution  has been described as "Zen And The Art Of Farming". In it the Japanese farmer/philosopher lays out his natural farming manifesto which has influenced many a back-to-the-lander.

Fukuoka links the healing of our planet with the ultimate health of the human spirit - the two will improve together. Getting in touch with nature leads us back to ourselves.

I love how he questions our current notions of work. He thought that doing too much was what was harmful to our planet, and was very much into labouring efficiently.

This farming master was into doing what needed to be done and no more, and called his methods "Do Nothing Farming".
“I do not particularly like the word 'work.' Human beings are the only animals who have to work, and I think that is the most ridiculous thing in the world.  
Other animals make their livings by living, but people work like crazy, thinking that they have to in order to stay alive. The bigger the job, the greater the challenge, the more wonderful they think it is.  
It would be good to give up that way of thinking and live an easy, comfortable life with plenty of free time. I think that the way animals live in the tropics, stepping outside in the morning and evening to see if there is something to eat, and taking a long nap in the afternoon, must be a wonderful life.  
For human beings, a life of such simplicity would be possible if one worked to produce directly his daily necessities. In such a life, work is not work as people generally think of it, but simply doing what needs to be done.” 
My dad said as much in one of his favourite sayings which I grew up hearing often. When things got busy in his job as a teacher he would say, "Never mind all that - just living is a full time activity".

While he taught for 35 years, I never saw my father happier than in retirement when all he needed to do was what needed to be done. And no more.

November 19, 2014

I Wore The Same Clothes For A Year

"No one has noticed; no one gives a shit."

Talk about simplifying your wardrobe. Image wearing the same thing to work ever day for a year - that is my kind of no-decision-to-be-made morning dressing routine.

Karl Stefanovic, a TV show host, recently revealed to a sometimes shocked public, "I wore the same clothes for a year". His stated goal was to highlight the double standard that exists between male and female TV personalities.

While his female co-hosts are often lambasted for their fashion choices, he says that males in front of the camera are not held up to the same scrutiny. Of his experiment he said, "No one has noticed; no one gives a shit."

But his project seems larger than he even imagined. I love what this might say about fashion and clothing in general for both genders - it is all a farce designed to keep you spending money. No may notice your expensive clothes. Or your inexpensive clothes. Or that you are wearing clothes at all.

While the rich and famous may be under scrutiny from exploitative tabloids and people with nothing better to do, most of us are not.

Who cares what we wear day after day? Why bother with an expensive wardrobe and a new set of clothes for every fashion season? Does anyone even notice?

Better to save a bundle and wear what ever you want, even if it is the same suit of clothes every day for a year. Or longer.

November 17, 2014

Who Wouldn't Want Lots Of Stuff?

Pepe at home on the farm with his beloved three legged dog Manuela and old VW Beetle.
Once while discussing simple living with a family member I was asked, "Who wouldn't want lots of stuff?" It is a good question seeing as an increasingly large group of humans are choosing to participate in the apparent abundance of consumerism.

Why don't we seem able to acknowledge the limits of nature and stop consuming when we achieve the sweet spot of the Goldilocks Zone? Not too much stuff, and not too little - just enough. We seem to like too much everything.

We act as undisciplined children let loose in a candy shop. But not everyone is making those choices. Yes, it may be a small group, but I like to think that it is growing as our ecological awareness grows.

"Who wouldn't want lots of stuff?" Besides myself, I can think of many others. There have always been simple living role models, and they still exist today.

One of my current favourite simple living inspirations is President Jose Mujica of Uruguay, or Pepe as he is affectionately known by his people.

Despite the perks that come with his office, the only vehicle Mujica uses is his old Volkswagen Beetle. He lives in a three room farm house owned by his wife rather than in the cushy presidential palace, and he donates a large part of his salary to charity.

Pepe does not want the consumer lifestyle.

“I slept for many years on a prison floor, and the nights I got a mattress, I was happy. I survived with barely nothing. So I started giving great importance to the small things in life and to the limits of things. 
If I dedicate myself to having a lot of things, I will have to spend a great part of my life taking care of them. And I won’t have time left to spend it on the things I like – in my case, politics. 
“So living light is no sacrifice for me – it’s an affirmation of freedom, of having the greatest amount of time available for what motivates me. It’s the price of my individual freedom. I’m richer this way.”

Having lots of money and things does not mean you are rich, or free. What if the opposite is true?
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