Archive for December, 2012

A View from the Farm

Posted: 14 December 2012 in Faith and Life

For they sow the wind

And they reap the whirlwind

(the prophet named Hosea)

I have learned a very few things on the farm where I have worked these past two-plus years.  One is—if you want to harvest a particular crop you have to plant its seeds.

Sowing and reaping… one of the few constants on the farm—even in the hard years.

It is actually pretty straightforward: if you want tomatoes, sow tomato seeds.  If you want garlic, sow garlic cloves, if melons, sow melon seeds.  And so on.

Of course when you plant a tomato seed you don’t just get one tomato, but rather a bush or vine laden with fruit.  Planting a single, tiny seed provides a bounty that far surpasses what is suggested by what is sown.  And that is the miracle of farming. Of growing food.  Of bringing forth life.

If we wanted to we could plant chickweed, or star thistle or dock (or any number of noxious weeds that infest the earth).  Indeed we could.  And if we did, we could not hope for just one small tame chickweed or star thistle or dock plant.  Oh no… if we planted these things we would soon find an uncontrolled plot of aggressive and greedy plants that would have no value but would, in time, strangle all the good fruit we desire (and work so hard to coax from the ground).  These weeds cannot be contained–you plant a little, you get a lot.

(Hell, even if we don’t plant them we spend all spring, summer and most of fall trying to rid the place of their pernicious presence).

And that is the view of sowing and reaping from the farm.  So simple I can teach a child the basics of this straightforward cause and effect.

And so we sow… And so we reap.

Why then are we surprised?  Why then are we shocked?  When we sow narcissistic autonomy (and its close genetic cousin anonymous anomie), why are we so taken by surprise when we reap nihilistic carnage?

When we sow the right to bear destruction in our hands, why do we shake our head in disbelief when we reap piles of corpses strewn about like so much flotsam in a stream?

When we sow death, why are we amazed to find a harvest of zombies in our land—not the plodding variety of Day of the Dead but rather the swift of foot, ravenous ones of 28 Days Later who hunt in packs and destroy everything in their path.

When we sow blood, why are we startled by the vampires we find at the windows on those dark foggy nights—again, not the achingly beautiful and pitiful ones of the Twilight genre but rather the Vlads of lore who hoist severed heads on pikes and who drain all the blood of all the world to quench their insatiable demand.

(I speak metaphorically of course.  There are no zombies.  There are no vampires… Of course, saying that merely obscures the fact that we simply do not have a name for the creatures of our making who live among us in these days.  We only know they deal death as we helplessly wring our hands and move on and try to forget… to forget… to forget.)

But we cannot forget because a seed sown yields its crop just a sure as the sun traverses the sky and the tides rise and fall.  There are few inevitabilities on the farm, but a harvest will follow a planting—that is sure.

We have sown the pornography of violence in many vacant lots and fertile fields: We have scattered its seed in the fields of chosen wars, in the skys of distant dusty lands, and in the dark corners of empire where little sun shines (but it only takes a little).  We have planted it in the minds and hearts of a generation and called it entertainment.  We have cultivated it in torture prisons (claiming it was necessary for our security) and in the myriad acts of dehumanization we rehearse.  All to make it possible to kill the other with a clear conscience.

And then, incomprehensively, we stand in awe when the harvest we reap takes our most vulnerable in the blink of an eye—in the time it takes to squeeze a trigger and fire off enough rounds to obliterate a small village.  We have sown violence and reaped mass murder.

If we sow… we will reap (a truism)

It takes very little cognitive ability to suggest that it is past time to rethink our “cultural” practices; to ask “what is the fruit we desire?” It is past time to inquire about what makes for a harvest of peace and security and life.

On the farm we plan out our harvest each year and then we find the seeds we need to plant to get us to that point.  The view from the farm says we can/must do the same in our cities and towns, in our villages and schools, in our places of work and play.  If we want life, we must find its seeds…

(For Jaime and Beatriz—little ones who will reap fully the harvest from the seeds I sow)

This post (with minor modifications) was published by the Davis Vanguard (a local newsblog in my town)

I attended a community gathering in our town on Saturday called “Breaking the Silence of Racism”—an uncomfortable event in which we told and listened to painful stories with our neighbors in our and other cities in our county. As I listened to the vignettes (each speaker was limited to about 3 minutes to share their stories), I began to consider not just the content of each but how each struck me in terms of how “real” they sounded to me.  In other words, I began to examine how I was hearing the stories.

When I heard the story of a white man my age (a man I know and respect) about how his biracial grandchildren were verbally abused in by students in the local school system, my throat clenched and my heart raced.  As the man nearly broke down, I felt I might do the same.  As a grandfather of two (very young) biracial grandchildren I could feel his hurt, anger and confusion and I accepted both the validity of his story and the pain that went with it.

But what of the stories of the Hispanic mothers who told of their confusion and doubt about whether the county criminal system could offer their sons justice or whether they might be treated differently if they were white?  What of the story of a leader in the Hispanic community who questioned whether a white young man would have been shot for fleeing from police during a stop for which there was no apparent motive (or whether a young white man would have even been stopped)?  How did I hear these stories? (more…)