Well, it’s been another productive week at the Harn and I feel HUGE Gratitude for being here.
Though we’re working harder than we have in a long time, I am happier than I ever was in Corporate World. I can’t explain the overwhelming joy I have whenever Dan asks, “So, how are you liking this retirement thing?” I am overjoyed by the ability to take my day at my own pace, decide what I want to do when, not feel the pressure of an inflexible agenda. Of course, there are still some things I must adhere to – the Knitting and Garden Clubs meet at specified times, stores are only open certain hours so I sometimes have to wait to make a purchase, especially since I often shop thrift where the hours can be more restricted. But hey, those people probably enjoy their free-time too!
I‘ve recently been turned on to an article on the concept of NOT working for a living.
http://www.filmsforaction.org/articles/bertrand-russell-and-buckminster-fuller-on-why-we-should-work-less-and-live-and-learn-more/ The premise is that if we spend all our useful time at a job, or we work so many hours so as not to be able to appreciate any leisure, we lose a great ability to create in our off-time. We make a living but don’t fully create a life. In leisure, we can more fully develop and thus, find ourselves happier. We can also contribute more to our communities.
There are links to the works of others along these lines in the above article. But here are a few snippets I particularly liked from the Bertrand Russell link (he was writing in 1932):
“In the West… We have no attempt at economic justice, so that a large proportion of the total produce goes to a small minority of the population, many of whom do no work at all. Owing to the absence of any central control over production, we produce hosts of things that are not wanted. We keep a large percentage of the working population idle, because we can dispense with their labor by making the others overwork. When all these methods prove inadequate, we have a war: we cause a number of people to manufacture high explosives, and a number of others to explode them, as if we were children who had just discovered fireworks. By a combination of all these devices we manage, though with difficulty, to keep alive the notion that a great deal of severe manual work must be the lot of the average man….
In a world where no one is compelled to work more than four hours a day, every person possessed of scientific curiosity will be able to indulge it, and every painter will be able to paint without starving, however excellent his pictures may be. Young writers will not be obliged to draw attention to themselves by sensational pot-boilers, with a view to acquiring the economic independence needed for monumental works, for which, when the time at last comes, they will have lost the taste and capacity. … Medical men will have the time to learn about the progress of medicine, teachers will not be exasperatedly struggling to teach by routine methods things which they learnt in their youth, which may, in the interval, have been proved to be untrue.
Above all, there will be happiness and joy of life, instead of frayed nerves, weariness, and dyspepsia. The work exacted will be enough to make leisure delightful, but not enough to produce exhaustion. Since men will not be tired in their spare time, they will not demand only such amusements as are passive and vapid. At least one per cent will probably devote the time not spent in professional work to pursuits of some public importance, and, since they will not depend upon these pursuits for their livelihood, their originality will be unhampered, and there will be no need to conform to the standards set by elderly pundits. But it is not only in these exceptional cases that the advantages of leisure will appear. Ordinary men and women, having the opportunity of a happy life, will become more kindly and less persecuting and less inclined to view others with suspicion. The taste for war will die out, partly for this reason, and partly because it will involve long and severe work for all. Good nature is, of all moral qualities, the one that the world needs most, and good nature is the result of ease and security, not of a life of arduous struggle. Modern methods of production have given us the possibility of ease and security for all; we have chosen, instead, to have overwork for some and starvation for others. Hitherto we have continued to be as energetic as we were before there were machines; in this we have been foolish, but there is no reason to go on being foolish forever.”
And Buckminster Fuller wrote in 1970:
“We should do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian Darwinian theory he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.”
I have realized the insanity in this idea of working your whole life away for “the man” and instead, am finding a way of life that is more satisfying and fulfilling by working for myself. Yes, I’ve planted a bunch of trees and garden beds and have a couple hives of bees that require my attention. Yes, there are days when I am utterly exhausted at bed time. But it is a good feeling to be working outside with the land, enjoying the natural world around me, getting help from neighbors and assisting them with their work.
It has been a real joy for me to help my neighbor Connie in preparing plants for the Shevlin Garden Club plant sale. I am learning so many new plant names and uses! We are, at the same time, ridding her garden of a lot of extra plants that have cropped up ~ Nature’s abundance can be overwhelming! And she has given me loads of these plants to put in at our homestead. I said to her yesterday, “I told Dan I’m not sure who feels like their getting the better deal out of this arrangement!” But we both agreed that we were pleased with the time spent together and we both feel satisfied with the results. That’s a win-win. And there are lots of other folks here where it seems we are blessings to each other. We share our excess (sometimes even our unwanted excess) and others find it to be a bounty… like trading pallets for old alfalfa bales. One man’s excess can meet another man’s need.
It’s like that out here in rural Minnesota. A couple weeks back the neighbor with overproducing chickens came by to unload a couple dozen fresh eggs. It was perfect timing as we were low on eggs. We bought a couple more this past week from her so I’m feeling like I’m giving a bit back there.
And then there are the times when I feel truly blessed for not having done anything at all.
We just met Okie, brother to neighbor Carol, and friend to many here. He and Carol were checking our next door neighbor’s place and ended up coming over to our driveway where we checked out the bees and chatted. We were putting up the greenhouse and, when I shared that I was probably behind on seed starting, Okie offered us a couple tomato plants. He even offered to deliver them. When he came back with the tomatoes (an abundance of plants), he also brought us some prizes from his pantry – pickled beets and salsa from their garden. And the biggest treat? A bag of fresh-caught Walleye! We were ecstatic. We ate good that night! I seasoned the fish in three different ways and Dan grilled them up. On tasting the various styles, we came to the conclusion you just can’t go wrong with cooking that fish of Okie’s – it’s delicious every way! Okie didn’t know it but pickled beets are one of my favorite things. I fretted that his would be too unlike those I’d grown up on to be “good”. You know how your mama’s way of cooking is the “right” way? Well, I was pleasantly surprised to find the beets different from those I grew up with but REALLY GOOD! They accompanied our meal and have been a welcome addition on salads this past week.
Which brings me to the challenge I feel in this new way of life. I don’t often feel that I have much to offer. I can give a smile or a hug but I don’t have garden plenty or loads of plants I’ve nurtured to overproduction. I feel like I’m getting so much more than I can repay. And I know the gifts aren’t given with an expectation of return. But it sure feels good when I can give something in return; to show my appreciation for what has been shared by also sharing something. As an artist, it’s sometimes hard to know what things people will like so I find it hard to offer art but that is sometimes the way I give back. I did have some great compliments on my boots and so maybe I can offer to paint boots for people! We’ll see how things mature. I’m sure I’ll find my niche for sharing. I’m hopeful that it’s in honey. I have so much to learn with the bees but I’m thinking they might be my key to bringing abundance to the neighborhood.
While I often feel like there is an overwhelming amount of things to do, I know much of that is because we are just getting started. When I compare our homestead to those of friends and neighbors, I have to remember that many of them have years or even decades of time invested in their places. The Harn was not built in a day and the Homestead too will take time. I remind myself that there are only so many hours in a day and almost everything can wait for another day. But we do stay productive and busy.
We give a talk this week for the Leech Lake Tribal College on our sustainable life for a session called “Earth, Water, and Connection to Others”. It’s part of a week-long seminar of Open Community Discussions (maawanji’idiwag) on everything from Child Welfare and Foster Care to Nutrition, Exercise, and Addiction – all focused on how we can make the world a better place for our children. I am hopeful this is a way I can give back to my community. At least until the honey can be harvested…