Provocation #16

It is the Spirit who gives life. The life-giving Spirit is not a direct heightening of our natural powers – what blasphemy! How horrible to understand the Spirit in this way! Christ brings new life! A new life, yes, and this is no platitude such as we use every time something new begins to stir in us. No, it is a new life, literally a new life – because, mark this well, death goes in between life and the new life on the other side of death. Yes, that is a new life.

Christianity teaches that you must die. Your power must be dismantled. And the life-giving Spirit is the very one who slays you. The first thing this Spirit says is that you must enter into death, you must die to yourself. The life-giving Spirit – that is the invitation. Who would not willingly take hold of it? But die first – there’s the rub!

You must first die to every earthly hope, to every merely human confidence. You must die to your selfishness, and to the world, because it is only through your selfishness that the world has power over you. Naturally there is nothing a human being hangs on to so firmly – indeed, with his whole self – as to his selfishness! Ah, the separation of soul and body at the hour of death is not as painful as being forced to be separated from our flesh when we are alive! Yes, we human beings do not hang on to this physical life as firmly as we do to our selfishness!

What, exactly, does it mean to die to yourself? It is more than not seeing your wish fulfilled or to be deprived of the one that is dearest to you. True, this is painful enough, and selfishness is wounded. But it does not follow that you are dying. No, but personally to shatter your own fulfilled desire, personally to deprive yourself of the dearly desired one who is now your own: this is what it means to wound selfishness at the root, as it was with Abraham when God demanded that he sacrifice Isaac. Christianity is not what we are all too eager to make it. It is not a quack doctor who is promptly at your service and immediately applies the remedy but then bungles everything. Christianity waits before it applies its remedy. This is Christianity’s severity. It demands a great sacrifice, one which we often despair of making and can only later see why it was necessary to hold out and wait.

Surely you have experienced, as I have, that when you begin to moan, and say, “I can’t take any more,” that on the next day you discover that you could. Consider a team of horses that groan and pant, feel exhausted, and feel that a handful of oats is just what is needed. However, they also don’t realize that with only a momentary halt the heavily loaded wagon will roll back down the hill and plunge them and driver and everything into the abyss. Is it cruel of the driver that the lashes fall more dreadfully than ever before, especially on this team of horses who are as dear to him as the apple of his eye – is this cruel or is it kind? Is the driver cruel when the lashing is finally the only thing that can save the horses from ruin and help them pull through?

So it is with dying to yourself and to the world. But then, my listener, remember that then comes the life-giving Spirit. When? When you are dead to everything else. When does the Comforter come? Not until you have died to your selfishness and come to the end of your own strength. Not until you in love to God have learned to hate yourself, even your ability, not until then can there be talk of the Spirit, of life, of new life.

Once upon a time there was a rich man. He purchased a team of entirely splendid horses, which he wanted for his own pleasure and the pleasure of driving them himself. A year or two passed by. If anyone who had known these horses earlier now saw him driving them, he would not be able to recognize them. Their eyes were now dull and drowsy, their gait lacked style and precision, they had no staying power, no endurance. Moreover, they had acquired all sorts of bad habits, and though they had plenty of feed, they grew thinner and thinner as each day passed by.

So he called in the royal coachman. The royal coachman drove them for a month. In the whole countryside there was not a team of horses that carried their heads so proudly, whose eyes were so fiery, whose gait was so beautiful. There wasn’t a team that could hold out running as they did, even thirty miles in a stretch without stopping. How did this happen? It is easy to see: the owner, not being a coachman, drove the horses according to the horses’ understanding of what it is to drive. The royal coachman, by contrast, drove the horses according to the coachman’s understanding of what it is to drive.

So it is with us human beings. When I think of myself and the countless people I have come to know, I must confess that here are capacities and talents and qualifications enough, but the coachman is lacking. We humans have been, if I may put it this way (in order to carry on with the metaphor), driven according to the horses’ (i.e., our) understanding of driving. We are governed, educated, and brought up according to the world’s conception of what it means to be human. See, because of this we lack vitality and are unable to endure the sacrifice. We are impatient and impulsively use the means of the moment and, in turn, want instantly to see the reward for our work, which for that very reason is not very good.

Things were different once. There was a time when it pleased the Spirit himself to be the coachman. He drove the horses according to the coachman’s understanding of what it is to drive. Oh, what a human being was capable of then! Ponder this! There sat twelve disciples, all of whom were of but a common social class. Their task, however, was to transform the world, and on the most appalling scale. And when the Spirit descended, the transformation indeed was set in motion.

They carried Christianity through. They were men just like us, but they were driven well! Yes, indeed, that they were! They were like that team of horses when the royal coachman drove them. Never has a human being lifted his head as high as did the first Christians in humility before God! And just as that team of horses could run if need be thirty miles without pausing to catch their wind, so also did they run; they ran seventy years at a stretch without getting out of the harness, without stopping anywhere. No, proud as they were in their humility before God, they exclaimed, “It is not for us to hold back and dawdle along the way. We will not stop – until eternity.” They were driven well, yes, that they were!

Oh Holy Spirit, you who give new life, we pray for ourselves but also for all people. Here there is no want of capabilities, nor of education, nor of sagacity – indeed, there may rather be too much. But what is lacking is that you take away that which is corrupting us, that you take away our power and grant us new life. Certainly a person experiences a shudder like death’s shudder when you, in order to become the power in him, take power away from him. So, help us also to die, to die to ourselves. If even the horses came to realize how good it was for them that the royal coachman took the reins, although it surely made them shudder at first and they at first rebelled, but in vain, should not we who are created in your image quickly come to understand what a blessing it is that you have the power and give life! Oh Holy Spirit, take the reigns of our lives and rule us. May it be you that has the power.

Provocations are taken from Provocations: The Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard

Provocation #15

Jesus says, “Forgive, and you will also be forgiven”. That is to say, forgiveness is forgiveness. Your forgiveness of another is your own forgiveness; the forgiveness you give is the forgiveness you receive. If you wholeheartedly forgive your enemy, you may dare hope for your own forgiveness, for it is one and the same. God forgives you neither more nor less than as you forgive your trespassers.

It is an illusion to imagine that you have forgiveness while you are slack in forgiving others. No, there is not a more exact agreement between the sky above and its reflection in the sea below, than there is between forgiveness and forgiving. Is it not pure conceit to believe in your own forgiveness when you will not forgive others? For how in truth can you believe in forgiveness if your own life is a refutation of the existence of forgiveness?! Yes, to accuse another person before God is to accuse yourself, like-for-like.

People so gladly deceive themselves, so gladly imagine that they can have, as it were, a private relationship with God. But if you complain of your enemies to God, he makes short work of it and opens a case against you, because before God you too are a guilty person. To complain against another is to complain against yourself. You think that God should take your side, that God and you together should turn against your enemy, against him who did you wrong. But this is a complete misunderstanding. God looks without discrimination upon all. Go ahead. If you intend to have God judge someone else, then you have made God your judge as well. God is, like-for-like, simultaneously your judge. If, however, you refuse to accuse someone before God he will be merciful towards you.

Provocations are taken from Provocations: The Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard

Provocation #14

Christianity claims to be the eternal, essential truth that has come into existence in time. It proclaims itself as the paradox and thus requires the inwardness of faith – that which is an offense to the Jews, foolishness to the Greeks, and an absurdity to the understanding. It cannot be expressed more strongly: Objectivity and faith are at complete odds with each other. What does objective faith mean? Doesn’t it amount to nothing more than a sum of tenets?

Christianity is nothing of the kind. On the contrary, it is inwardness, an inwardness of existence that places a person decisively, more decisively than any judge can place the accused, between time and eternity, between heaven and hell in the time of salvation. But objective faith? It is as if Christianity was a little system of sorts, although presumably not as good as the Hegelian system. It is as if Christ – it is not my fault that I say it – had been a professor and as if the apostles had formed a little professional society of thinkers. The passion of inwardness and objective deliberation are at complete odds with each other. There is no way of getting around it. To become objective, to become preoccupied with the “what” of Christianity, instead of with the “how” of being Christian, is nothing but a retrogression.

Provocations are taken from Provocations: The Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard

Provocation #13

Christianity is not to be confused with objective or scientific truth. When Christ came into the world it was difficult to become a Christian, and for this reason one did not become preoccupied with trying to understand it. Now we have almost reached the parody that to become a Christian is nothing at all, but it is a difficult and very involved task to understand it. Everything is reversed. Christianity is transformed into a kind of worldview, a way of thinking about life, and the task of faith consists in understanding and articulating it. But faith essentially relates itself to existence, and becoming a Christian is what is important. Believing in Christ and wanting to “understand” his way by articulating it and elaborating on it is actually a cowardly evasion that wants to shirk the task. To become a Christian is the ultimate, to want to “understand” Christianity, as if it were some doctrine, is open to suspicion.

Provocations are taken from Provocations: The Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard

Jacques and Little Pete

Today, after evening chores, Jacques, the adopted stray also known as “that dog”, broke his tether and ran off.  This was the tether that was preventing him from killing more poultry.  It was nearing dusk, so all the free range chickens were beginning to congregate by their tractor.  It was prime entertainment for a long confined dog.  Because he was a recent adopted stray, he had no reason to respond to his new name, nor the calls of Ariana and I as we labored after him when he ran down the driveway toward the field where the chickens graze.  He disappeared into the collapsed barn that was mostly roof and scrap, as the barn wood had been mostly salvaged for building shelves, or farm structures.  Ariana chased him in, and while I was heading across one of the upper paddocks to head him off, I heard one of the cows bellow.  Pausing in the search for Jacques, I looked north towards the new paddock I had set up this morning.  I could see that one of them was up in the corner, near the water.  They usually only bellow if there is a problem, so I wondered if one of them had gotten themselves stuck in the brambles.  Making note to check on them, I returned to watching for Jacques just in time to see a flock of chickens and two geese running north, away from their tractor, where they should soon be roosting.  Jacques ran across the field toward them, but then veered south, and stopped to lift his leg at the wooded edge of the field.  He disappeared into the woods heading south.

I knew it was pointless to continue the chase, as he had a 100 yard head start, and could easily navigate the woods.  So I sent Ariana back to the house and headed over to check on the cows.  The north most part of the pasture had a narrow strip between the electric fence and some wild rose, and the steer, Big Pete, was holding up the line to get through.  Nothing to worry about.  Eventually one of those nursing mothers would give him a good enough poke with their horns that he would get out of their way.  I stood and watched them for a short while, and the 3 week old bull calf, Little Pete, walked toward me and was watching me.  The calves are short enough to walk under the electric fence, but generally do not wander far from their mothers.  I turned to head back to the chickens to keep and eye out for Jacques, and was was halfway to the driveway when I heard hooves running my way.   I turned to see Little Pete running straight towards me, kicking up his heals as he ran.  I threw my hands wide and then clapped my hands and yelled “Hey! Hey!” and he stopped.  I chased him back to the paddock, and turned again to head back to the chickens.  I was almost to the driveway when I again heard Little Pete heading my way.  I again turned, clapped and shouted, and this time he slowed down, but veered around me and stopped in front of me for a split second before running toward the driveway.  I ran after him, thinking that he would get too far from his mother and turn around to head back.  He ran into the soy field, and then up and into the neighbors yard.  Last Friday after setting up a new pasture, but before electrifying it, the cows had gotten out, and ended up in the neighbor’s garen, tromping through the sweet corn and peppers.  We only knew this happened because the neighbor called and let us know that we would be paying for it.  We went round and herded them back, and quickly electrified the fence.  As soon as Little Pete leapt into their yard, I started picturing him prancing all over the rest of the garden, and braced myself for the looming conversation with the owners.  As I was finally able to see into their yard, I caught a glimpse of Little Pete running at top speed across their lawn, and around their house.  I started thinking about the conversation I would have, asking these recently offended neighbors to help me shoo the rambunctious calf from their yard.  He circled around and came back to the road and stopped.  I only momentarily considered my next move before I turned and started running down the road toward the farm.  It worked and he raced past me and headed back up the path to the pasture.  As I began to slowed my pace, relieved to have him back on our property, I noticed Jacques running up from behind.  I put on my best casual friendly voice and called him.  He slowed down enough to allow me to pick up his leash and lead him back.  I went and checked on the cows, confident that Little Pete would be unlikely to follow me again with Jacques by my side.  All was well, and I took Jacques back to the house and tied him up again.

I am thinking about taking Jacques with us on the morning and evening chores, so he can get familiar with what his masters think is important.  He could be a good farm dog, if he can learn to protect, rather than “play” with the livestock.  As for Little Pete, I wonder if this is an indication of his future personality.  A rambunctious and willful steer could be a real challenge when he is over 900 lbs.

From Myth and mind by Harvey Birenbaum

If myth is the creation of a special reality, then in the last analysis it is the linear mode of expression that is distinctly mythic.  The nonlinear may violate common sense, but it does so the better to approximate real experience…  What could be more mythical than the concept of objectivity, the peculiar assumption that we can get absolute and direct knowledge of the world through the human mind or through any instrument that the mind conceives — that we can see, in other words, with the eyes of a god?

Since all these forms of common myth have a kind of reality similar to that of traditional myth, they assert a like kind of ambiguous truth.  To our great experience, we force them too into linear molds and argue endlessly over their absolute worth or worthlessness.  Seeing them as myths, however, allowing them to float free — poised between truth and falsehood, revelation and deception, consciousness and unconsciousness, we can see richer value in them.  As versions of reality, they can be true without having to be the truth, and they can be “true” to varying degrees, in varying ways.  They can function, like all myths, as vehicles for our energy and channels of experience.  They can confront the world, revealing something of its nature and something of our own in a flow of involvement.

We need to gauge our myths to be as sensitive to reality as they can.  If they become to precise, however, they become rigid with error.  In a world of experience, which is composed from perspectives, in which the human situation must (happily) be particularized as your version and mine, in which we will always have second thoughts, third, and fourth, only partial truths can be true, only creative portraits can capture the original truly.

Choruses from The Rock – T.S. Eliot

The Eagle soars in the summit of Heaven,
The Hunter with his dogs pursues his circuit.
O perpetual revolution of configured stars,
O perpetual recurrence of determined seasons,
O world of spring and autumn, birth and dying!
The endless cycle of idea and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.
All our knowledge brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death no nearer to God.
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
The cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries
Brings us farther from God and nearer to the Dust.

The lot of man is ceaseless labor,
Or ceaseless idleness, which is still harder,
Or irregular labour, which is not pleasant.
I have trodden the winepress alone, and I know
That it is hard to be really useful, resigning
The things that men count for happiness, seeking
The good deeds that lead to obscurity, accepting
With equal face those that bring ignominy,
The applause of all or the love of none.
All men are ready to invest their money
But most expect dividends.
I say to you: Make perfect your will.
I say: take no thought of the harvest,
But only of proper sowing.

The world turns and the world changes,
But one thing does not change.
In all of my years, one thing does not change,
However you disguise it, this thing does not change:
The perpetual struggle of Good and Evil.
Forgetful, you neglect your shrines and churches;
The men you are in these times deride
What has been done of good, you find explanations
To satisfy the rational and enlightened mind.
Second, you neglect and belittle the desert.
The desert is not remote in southern tropics
The desert is not only around the corner,
The desert is squeezed in the tube-train next to you,
The desert is in the heart of your brother.
The good man is the builder, if he build what is good.
I will show you the things that are not being done,
And some of the things that were long ago done,
That you may take heart, Make perfect your will.
Let me show you the work of the humble. Listen.

In the vacant places
We will build with new bricks
There are hands and machines
And clay for new brick
And lime for new mortar
Where the bricks are fallen
We will build with new stone
Where the beams are rotten
We will build with new timbers
Where the word is unspoken
We will build with new speech
There is work together
A Church for all
And a job for each
Every man to his work.

What life have you, if you have not life together?
There is not life that is not in community,
And no community not lived in praise of GOD.
Even the anchorite who meditates alone,
For whom the days and nights repeat the praise of GOD,
Prays for the Church, the Body of Christ incarnate.
And now you live dispersed on ribbon roads,
And no man knows or cares who is his neighbor
Unless his neighbor makes too much disturbance,
But all dash to and fro in motor cars,
Familiar with the roads and settled nowhere.
Nor does the family even move about together,
But every son would have his motor cycle,
And daughters ride away on casual pillions.

Much to cast down, much to build, much to restore;
Let the work not delay, time and the arm not waste;
Let the clay be dug from the pit, let the saw cut the stone,
Let the fire not be quenched in the forge.

The Word of the LORD came unto me, saying:
O miserable cities of designing men,
O wretched generation of enlightened men,
Betrayed in the mazes of your ingenuities,
Sold by the proceeds of your proper inventions:
I have given you hands which you turn from worship,
I have given you speech, for endless palaver,
I have given you my Law, and you set up commissions,
I have given you lips, to express friendly sentiments,
I have given you hearts, for reciprocal distrust.
I have given you the power of choice, and you only alternate
Between futile speculation and unconsidered action.
Many are engaged in writing books and printing them,
Many desire to see their names in print,
Many read nothing but the race reports.
Much is your reading, but not the Word of GOD,
Much is your building, but not the House of GOD,
Will you build me a house of plaster, with corrugated roofing,
To be filled with a litter of Sunday newspapers?

And the wind shall say: “Here were decent godless people:
Their only monument the asphalt road
And a thousand lost golf balls.”

When the Stranger says: “What is the meaning of this city ?
Do you huddle close together because you love each other?”
What will you answer? “We all dwell together
To make money from each other”? or “This is a community”?

Oh my soul, be prepared for the coming of the Stranger.
Be prepared for him who knows how to ask questions.

There is one who remembers the way to your door:
Life you may evade, but Death you shall not.
You shall not deny the Stranger.

They constantly try to escape
From the darkness outside and within
By dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good.
But the man that is shall shadow
The man that pretends to be.

Then it seemed as if men must proceed from light to light, in the light of
the Word,
Through the Passion and Sacrifice saved in spite of their negative being;
Bestial as always before, carnal, self seeking as always before, selfish and
purblind as ever before,
Yet always struggling, always reaffirming, always resuming their march on
the way that was lit by the light;
Often halting, loitering, straying, delaying, returning, yet following no other
way.

But it seems that something has happened that has never happened
before: though we know not just when, or why, or how, or where.
Men have left GOD not for other gods, they say, but for no God; and this has
never happened before
That men both deny gods and worship gods, professing first Reason,
And then Money, and Power, and what they call Life, or Race, or Dialectic.
The Church disowned, the tower overthrown, the bells upturned, what have we to do
But stand with empty hands and palms turned upwards
In an age which advances progressively backwards?

There came one who spoke of the shame of Jerusalem
And the holy places defiled;
Peter the Hermit, scourging with words.
And among his hearers were a few good men,
Many who were evil,
And most who were neither,
Like all men in all places.

In spite of all the dishonour,
the broken standards, the broken lives,
The broken faith in one place or another,
There was something left that was more than the tales
Of old men on winter evenings.

Our age is an age of moderate virtue
And moderate vice

The soul of Man must quicken to creation.

Out of the meaningless practical shapes of all that is living or
lifeless
Joined with the artist’s eye, new life, new form, new colour.
Out of the sea of sound the life of music,
Out of the slimy mud of words, out of the sleet and hail of verbal
imprecisions,
Approximate thoughts and feelings, words that have taken the
place of thoughts and feelings,
There spring the perfect order of speech, and the beauty of incantation.

LORD, shall we not bring these gifts to Your service?
Shall we not bring to Your service all our powers
For life, for dignity, grace and order,
And intellectual pleasures of the senses?
The LORD who created must wish us to create
And employ our creation again in His service
Which is already His service in creating.
For Man is joined in spirit and body,
And therefore must serve as spirit and body.
Visible and invisible, two wolds meet in Man;
Visible and invisible must meet in His Temple;
You must not deny the body.
Now you shall see the Temple completed:
After much striving, after many obstacles;
The work of creation is never without travail;
The formed stone, the visible crucifix,
The dressed altar, the lifting light,

Light
Light
The visible reminder of Invisible Light.

Be not too curious of Good and Evil;
Seek not to count the future waves of Time;
But be ye satisfied that you have light
Enough to take your step and find your foothold.

O Light Invisible, we praise Thee!
Too bright for mortal vision.

O Greater Light, we praise Thee for the less;
The eastern light our spires touch at morning,
The light that slants upon our western doors at evening,
The twilight over stagnant pools at batflight,
Moon light and star light, owl and moth light,
Glow-worm glowlight on a grassblade.
O Light Invisible, we worship Thee!

We thank Thee for the light that we have kindled,
The light of altar and of sanctuary;
Small lights of those who meditate at midnight
And lights directed through the coloured panes of windows
And light reflected from the polished stone,
The gilded carven wood, the coloured fresco.
Our gaze is submarine, our eyes look upward
And see the light that fractures through unquiet water.
We see the light but see not whence it comes.
O Light Invisible, we glorify Thee!

In our rhythm of earthly life we tire of light. We are glad when the day ends, when the play ends; and ecstasy is too much pain.
We are children quickly tired: children who are up in the night and fall asleep as the rocket is fired; and the day is long for work or play.
We tire of distraction or concentration, we sleep and are glad to sleep,
Controlled by the rhythm of blood and the day and the night and the seasons.
And we must extinguish the candle, put out the light and relight it;
Forever must quench, forever relight the flame.
Therefore we thank Thee for our little light, that is dappled with shadow.
We thank Thee who hast moved us to building, to finding, to forming at the ends of our fingers and beams of our eyes.
And when we have built an altar to the Invisible Light, we may set thereon the little lights for which our bodily vision is made.
And we thank Thee that darkness reminds us of light.
O Light Invisible, we give Thee thanks for Thy great glory!

The Age of Healing

The Age of Plunder is nearly at an end.
The Age of Healing is ready to be born.

And whether it arrives or not depends upon two people: you and me.

The Age of Plunder was the natural successor to the so-called Age of Reason: the Age in which humankind decided that it knew better than God. For 200 years now the greedy and ruthless have been plundering the planet but their time will soon be up. The whole thing is going to come crashing down.

It could not have gone on much longer anyway – because soon there will be nothing left to plunder. The forests have almost gone from the Earth, the fish of the sea are all but exhausted, the air surrounding us and the waters of the Earth will soon be able to take no more poisonous wastes and, most serious of all, the soil is going. For we soil organisms this could be terminal. As long as the oil reserves last agribusiness will be able to produce the agrichemicals needed to keep some sort of production of vitiated food going from the eroded soil, but the oil deposits – that Pandora’s Box of evil things – will soon be exhausted and then the final account, long deferred, will come up for payment. The bailiffs who present it will have strange names, like Famine, Pestilence and War.

But, thank God, maybe the old Earth will not have to wait for this to happen. The whole great edifice of international trade and finance – the whole mighty plunder-machine – is quite likely to burst like a balloon that has grown too big. The whole thing is becoming unsustainable: it has grown too huge to manage.

Owing to the incorrigible tendency towards cannibalism by the huge industrial corporations – the tendency of the bigger ones to swallow up the smaller ones – these molochs are becoming too large for humans to control or the planet to support. Ten years ago no economist would have predicted the complete collapse of the mighty Soviet machine that had engulfed half the Earth. International capitalism will follow.

It is in the nature of a limited company that it can have no responsibility either to the environment around it or to the people who work for it. It is no use blaming the directors – if they do anything that might reduce profits for the shareholders they will quickly be replaced. And the shareholders not only have no liability for debts incurred by the company – but they take no responsibility for the world of nature around them. If the directors can secure bigger profits by dumping poisons into the nearest river – they have to do this. If they do not, they will very quickly be replaced. If they can make more profit by halving the work force – they will have to do so or again they will be replaced. If both shareholders and directors suffer from that most uncapitalist thing – a conscience – to the extent that it interferes with profits – that company will be swallowed up by another giant that has no such inconvenient scruples.

One of the most dramatic effects of the Age of Plunder has been to drive most of the world’s population into vast conurbations. These huge assemblies of uprooted people, called cities, are not only ugly but also dangerous. The billions who live in them can only be kept alive by an enormous system of transport which brings water, food, power, fuel and all the necessities of life, often great distances. Any breakdown in the supply of all this would be disastrous. And the great plundering molochs of companies which run it all get fewer and fewer, and bigger and bigger, and more and more people find themselves out of work, not needed, redundant and disempowered.

And meanwhile the tiny scattering of people left on the land, which is the only source of true wealth, have been forced by their paucity of numbers to resort to more and more destructive methods of producing the huge amount of food needed to sustain these billions. They have been forced to ignore the laws of husbandry, which could have retained the fertility of the soil as long as the world lasted, and farm instead with chemicals and huge machines. The soil is becoming poisoned and eroded. The only beneficiaries of this have been the huge chemical companies but they will destroy themselves in the end because they are killing the goose that laid the golden eggs.

If we open our eyes, we will realize that all this is bound to come crashing down in the end. Then, in the ashes of the Age of Plunder, a new age could arise. The real New Age: the Age of Healing!

We will set about it, just you and me, to heal the ravaged Earth. If we do not – if we fail – then there will not be an Age of Healing: there will be an Age of Chaos and it will not be nice.

And we do not have to wait for the end of the Age of Plunder to start the work. We must start now.

And how can we – just the two of us, you and me, who are so few and disempowered – start this great work by ourselves?

Firstly, say to yourself, and I promise I will do the same, the following resolution:
“I am only one. I can only do what one can do. But what one can do I will do!”
Then consider what you can do.
Refuse to work for the plunderers. Refuse to buy their shoddy goods. Give up the ambition of living like a Texan millionaire. Boycott the Lottery, not because you think you won’t win it, but because you don’t want to win it!

Refuse to shop in the plunderer’s “supermarkets”.

Work, always, for a decentralist economy. Support local traders and producers – try to get what you need from as near your home as you can.

Take part in your local politics – boycott the politics of the huge scale, the remote and far-away. The current non-violent defiance of the law by people protesting against the export of live animals from Britain is a fine example of citizen-power.

Work for an economy in which land and property are fairly shared out among the people so that “everybody has enough and nobody has too much”.

We must withhold our work, our custom, and our investment from plundering industry. This may cause us “financial hardship” : then we must endure “financial hardship” .

Road transport is the most destructive thing of all. If you live in a city, you do not need a car. (When you go to the country you can hire one – it’s much cheaper than owning.) If you live in the country, you may need one – use it as little as possible.

Boycott most goods brought from far away. Take some trouble to find locally produced goods and buy them. Heavy road transport is enormously polluting.

Oppose new road building. Building new roads never relieves traffic congestion – it simply generates more traffic. The only way of solving the traffic problem is to have less traffic.

If you possibly can, do not work for huge organizations. If we withhold our labour from them, they will wither away. (Do not be afraid that this will lose “jobs”. It will create more jobs – a multitude of small firms create more “jobs” than a few big ones).

Support local cultural activities. Boycott mass “culture” coming from countries far away.

Encourage, support, and initiate, local credit and finance organizations.

Buy, if you cannot grow, organically produced food. Thus you will help destroy the polluting chemical industry – and you will be healthier. Boycott, absolutely consistently, all products that have involved cruelty to animals.

Support the local and the small-scale.
I will do the same as I ask you to do.
The tiny amount you and I can do is hardly likely to bring the huge worldwide moloch of plundering industry down? Well, if you and I don’t do it, it will not be done, and the Age of Plunder will terminate in the Age of Chaos. We have to do it – just the two of us – just you and me. There is no “them” – there is nobody else. Just you and me. On our infirm shoulders we must take up this heavy burden now – the task of restoring the health, the wholeness, the beauty and the integrity of our planet. We must start the Age of Healing now! Tomorrow will be too late.

John Seymour from: The Age of Healing published in Resurgence

Linguine Estive

Like every other gardener, we have zucchini (or courgettes), and lots of them. While I no longer turn my nose up at any food, zucchini is on the “tolerate” list, and I don’t usually look for ways to use it. I was pleasantly surprised a couple weeks ago to find that I really liked zucchini in a ratatouille at a wedding at our church. It seemed like a simple recipe, and while you could still taste the “squashiness”, the entire dish was wonderful. I think that experience put me in a place to willfully use the zucchini we have sitting on the counter. This one came from Pizzeria: The Best of Casual Pizza Oven Cooking by Evan Kleiman, and it turned out well, even though I did not have the courgette blossoms.

Summer Linguine

  • 1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil, plus oil as needed
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 russet or golden-fleshed potatoes, peeled and cut into small dice
  • 1 zucchini, ends trimmed, cut in half lengthwise and the cut crosswise into half-moons
  • 1/2 lb. green beans, ends trimmed and strings removed
  • 1/4 lb. zucchini flowers, stamens removed (optional)
  • 1/4 c. coarsely chopped fresh basil
  • salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 lb. dried Italian linguine
  • 2 tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a frying pan over medium-low heat, warm the 1/4 cum olive oil.  Add the shallot and garlic and saute for a few seconds, stirring frequently, just until the flavors are released.  Add the potatoes and saute, gently tossing once or twice, until just tender, about 7 minutes.  Add zucchini, greenbeans, and zucchini flowers (if using), and basil.  Continue sauteing, stirring occasionally, until all the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes longer.  Season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice.

While vegetables are cooking, feel a deep pot three-fourths full with lightly salted water and bring to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and stir a few times to prevent it from sticking together or to the pan.  Cook until al dente, 7-8 minutes or according to the package directions.  Scoop out and reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water.  Drain the linguine thouroughly in a colander.

Immediately place the sauteed vegetables with all their juices and the reserved cooking water in a large shallow pasta bowl.  Add the linguine and butter, toss to mix well and serve immediately.  Pass Parmesan cheese at the table.

Serves 4-6

Weeding

I really like pulling weeds; especially in the herb bed where I can smell the cilantro when I brush it with my elbow, and the blooming parsley and thyme that I push out of the way. Squatting or kneeling on the dirt or grass, head down, looking for unwanted sprouts, grasping them as close to the root as I can and tossing them aside, I let my senses follow the pattern while my mind, freed of attentive work, processes the queue of waiting thoughts. While my hands and eyes are focused on finding and plucking, my mind has space to reorganize impressions and feelings that have been set aside. It is usually mildly cathartic, as I tug at a difficult weed, or pull only the top off a large one, attaching small physical acts to the frustrations and failures unprocessed inside.

It is easy to see my garden as an allegory for my soul. It is difficult but necessary work to weed out those unwanted “bad” plants. Even the “good” plants that are in the wrong place must come out. If I want my garden to be fruitful, the soil must be cultivated, the seeds must be planted, the weeds removed, the plants tended. None of those things are especially easy, and all require regular attentive action. But in the end, I cannot do anything to make the plants. The seed is a grace, a mercy from God: it is life, waiting for my responsiveness.

In both my garden and my soul, the weeds are never completely removed. I try to catch them before they choke the seedlings, crowd out the veggies, or go to seed. Sometimes I have to remind myself that a completely weed-free garden is not possible, but a healthy garden is. Weeding is necessary, but only part of the cultivation process that allows the plants to thrive and bear fruit.