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Banbury Cross

a pillow for lost thoughts...

Post details: Country Life

Country Life

Lyrics to one of the older Genesis songs contains the following piece of wisdom:

"I'd rather trust a countryman than a townman,
You can judge by his eyes, take a look if you can,
He'll smile through his guard,
Survival trains hard"

I think the central observation in this verse is that great outdoors require a different kind of man, a different kind of character and a different survival mode. In the countryside, if you need more food, you negotiate directly with Mother Nature, which is uncompromising, but fair. In other words: if you have more mouths to fill, you add extra land to till. Case closed. In the city, however, you have to deal with your fellow denizens and if you want to make more money - you need to outfox competitors. That hones a slightly twisted set of survival skills. Shredding credit card applications is a different experience than shredding beef.

The simplicity inherent in the country life also engenders certain moral clarity. That is probably why I enjoy talking to farmers more than to any other professional group. Out there in cornfields, there is no fast track, no inside game, no commercial jingle, no illicit bribery, no price fixing. Your sweat is your credit. Farmers know what labor is really worth and their general views are Earthy - which is just my little code word for pragmatic, rational and straightforward. Living off the soil creates a deeply rooted and intuitive system of values. You get out what you put in.

But there is more allure to the countryside than the more transparent form of subsistence. People who work off of the soil have one more advantage. They see more of the color which is like amniotic fluid for our fragile psyche - the color of the life itself: green. From mountain meadows to wheat patches, from the plush carpet of grasslands to the puffy hairdo of the forest foliage, its chlorophyll based hues soothe and calm our jaded existence. When you enter a woods clearing and see the crisp sprinkled light dancing among the green coppice you can sense your own recharging light go on. It is almost as if your soul just got hit with a second hand photosynthesis. Everything around you grows and you grow with it.

When we moved en masse to cities in search for an easier life, we gave up our instinctive sense of growing. Concrete structures around us don't grow - they stay put. Asphalted streets don't respire - they drain (provided that the sewage system works). The gray and beige tones of most man made structures is a poor substitute for green. And worst of all, we lost our link to land, and with it a natural gauge for calibrating our values.

Sometimes I cannot help thinking about a social experiment in which we'd institutionalize some sort of farm-based summer jobs for all young people at the onset of their productive life. Kind of like a mandatory military service, except we wouldn't ask our youngsters to carry arms, rather we'd invite them to carry rakes and pitchforks and work on the land for some period of time, say 3-6 months. They could upkeep a new forest, make hay on a meadow, fish on an open sea or work in the cotton fields. Learning first hand that the world is growing and breathing would bring fresh perspective to those who might otherwise lose it in the micro-cosmos of their highly specialized professions. Imagine that all our politicians would go through this kind of service. I bet the trust in Congress would shoot up immediately. Even wizards of Wall Street and Silicon Valley could deepen their sense of belonging to a larger entity. Heck, now that I think of it, it might be a worthy experience for all of us. Maybe we could repeat it every 10-15 years. It would be like a driver's license renewal. A periodic extension of our personal contract with Mother Nature.

In return we'd all get an extra supply of organic produce and much healthier society to boot.

Both physically and mentally.

z3

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