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.


  1. Living simply is a full time satisfying 'job'. We live in a small town, on a very small plot. We enjoy immensely growing our own veggies, but don't have room to be self sufficient. Neither of us are 'working' now and we have no 'wants'. I try, but it's hard to see how a self sufficient, 'no work' life can be possible for the world's billions of city dwellers. Still...step by step, this situation, as it came about, could be undone, if governments were not obsessed with growth.

    1. Charlotte,

      Reduce your wants, improve your life. That is the way to go. Living a rich and rewarding life in your local community leads to increased self-sufficiency for all.


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