Do Something That Won't Compute

 The mad farmer himself. 

The mad farmer himself. 

Mad Farmer's Liberation Front

by: wendell berry

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Life is a mystery not a machine.

beauty hands.jpg

It is so easy to boil down our life values to things we can measure: money, productivity, success, time clocked at work, grades gotten at school, likes, retweets, anything that can be added up and understood. But I think most of us feel intuitively that to treat life in this way is to miss most of its richness. In fact, I think it can lead to despair. Wendell Berry agrees.

For quite a while it has been possible for a free and thoughtful person to see that to treat life as mechanical or predictable or understandable is to reduce it. Now almost suddenly, it is becoming clear that to reduce life to the scope of our understanding (whatever ‘Model’ we use) is to enslave it, make property of it, and put it up for sale.

This is to give up on life, to carry it beyond change and redemption, and to increase the proximity to despair.
— Wendell Berry, Life is a Miracle

But, as Berry notes, most of modern life would have us see the world this way. See the world like a machine. And such a point of view. So how do we resist? 

we reject the life of machines. 

we embrace the life of mystery.

we live like the mad farmer.

This poem is, literally a manifesto, a public declaration of intentions and aims. I love it. Here are three things I think it inspires us to do...

 

1. Purposefully encounter mystery.

Mystery.jpeg

Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

This week, find a way to bring yourself into the presence of mystery. This reminds you that life is not a series of problems to be solved, but mysteries to be embraced, lived through, and given thanks for. Embracing mystery helps us get over ourselves. It helps open our eyes to the wonder all around us.

Ideas;

1. Go on a hike somewhere beautiful. 

2. Listen to a beautiful piece of music. I suggest this one...

3. Go read about physics. It will blow your mind.

2. Invest in something that will outlive you

 Flowers from my garden that the last tenant planted. 

Flowers from my garden that the last tenant planted. 

Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Living in St. Andrews reminds me all the time of the stories and legacies people leave behind them. Good and bad, they're written into the streets and walls of this town. In a world that is obssessed with "quick profit" and everything "ready made" it can be easy to forget that we will die, and that behind us a story will linger, for better or worse. I was even reminded of it today as I picked flowers from my garden that someone else planted. We will all leave something behind us, but what will we leave?

Ideas:

- Plant a community garden (someone else may gather from your garden one day!)

- Teach someone something (knowledge and skill lives on in the person you teach)

- Start a community program that could help people long after you're gone!

- Give lifegiving words (they stick longer than you'd think!)

Ask yourself: Who am I living to satisfy?

Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?

Who are you living to satisfy? A boss? Social media? A parent? A child?

This week, evaluate who it is that you are living to satisfy. Think about who you want to live to satisfy. What would it look like to live your life for a different audience?

3. Pursue Delight

 In the middle of my crazy week editing my Phd chapter, I got to go to my friend's farm cottage. We held baby lambs. It was perfect.

In the middle of my crazy week editing my Phd chapter, I got to go to my friend's farm cottage. We held baby lambs. It was perfect.

Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.

I think one of the sicknesses of our world is cynicism. One of the best tools to fight cynicism is delight. I often think about this when I look at my little niece Lilian Joy. Have I introduced you to my name-sake niece? She arrived into the world on March 2nd during England's biggest storm in 30 years. Already a drama queen. She has the most dramatic hands, and already knows how to stick out her tongue. Isn't she wonderful?

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Lilian keeps me from being cynical. Not only because she is adorable (and who could feel cynical looking at that little button nose??!), but because when I see her, I know I do not have the luxury of cynicism. I must make a better world for this little one. 

She delights me. And in that delight I'm steeled against the darkness of the world. Ready to fight again.

I think that's a pretty good argument for delight. 

So how will you find delight this week?

Some of my suggestions: 

  • play with a child

  • watch a beautiful movie/read a beautiful book.

  • cooking

  • gardening

 

And finally remember: no sorrow is final, do defeat is complete, the war for goodness is slowly being won...

practice resurrection

Joy Clarkson9 Comments