Sunday, March 25, 2018

Musings of a Seventy-one Year Old Teacher After Reading "The Art of Loading Brush" #4

The Order of Loving Care

Wendell Berry’s discussion of The Order of Loving is Care is based on this economic principle – “. . . the human economy is dependent upon and limited by the natural world (not Wall St.), which is limited, in time, upon human cherishing, forbearance and skill.” This principle is what I attempted to explain in “The Peacemaker.”  Ayowentah (Hiawatha) promoted the principles of peace when he restored the five – and eventually six tribes that became part of the Iroquois Confederacy - to peace and prosperity that lasted for over 300 years. That prosperous culture fell apart and the nation that was built upon its ashes became strong by violating this basic law. At the beginning of the 21st Century we are faced with decline and unless we go back to practicing the idea that agrarianism is the only way to restore our land, we will continue in this decline of never ending war and military and corporate control all over the planet – led by the United States.  We are now at a point where our entire society has lost sight of this and the decline became critical with the decline of agrarianism and the rise of agribusiness in the 1960’s.

The rise of imperialism at the end of the 19th Century was the result of the United States reaching the point where the land that it controlled could no longer feed the industrial economy. That’s when we began to join with the major European powers in pursing the riches of undeveloped lands in the South Pacific and Asia as well as Africa. We know the history – World War I and World War II. After these wars the United States emerged as one of two superpowers who had control of the means to destroy the world so a “cold war” with conventional hot spots all over the world began. That war still continues today and the reason is simple, two superpowers looking to control lands and resources. The social and government philosophies have little to do with it. It’s about control. As these wars continue the environment continues to decline and unless we begin to restore a local economy based on neighborly love and attentiveness to the local landscape, suffering, poor health, lack of education and violence will continue.

Mr. Berry writes of a few farmers around Port William in rural Kentucky who are still practicing agrarian farming techniques. Many of these remain because of the influence of the Amish who still understand agrarian practices and whose community not only prospers but is non-violent. The Amish believe in community and that the Gospel teaches neighborly love because no one can prosper if there are those who suffer lack. Even when violence touched their community in an Amish school in 2006, the Amish astounded the rest of society with their willingness to forgive and to offer the same support to the family of the perpetrator as well as the families who suffered the loss of loved ones.  The Gospel is adhered to strictly according to their interpretations and the Amish believe that if they can’t forgive, they cannot be forgiven.  This story is found in the book Amish Grace

Some of the techniques copied from the Amish as well as a few others who still give attention to the landscape to learn how to farm are annual planting so that the grasses might thatch over the ground to protect from soil erosion, and two story agriculture on lands that are full of rolling hills such as Kentucky. In Kentucky this means planting grass on the lower level of a hill – white grass and blue grass go well together - and planting fruit and nut trees on the second level. All of these practices stem from a spiritual belief expressed by William Blake in the 16th Century – “Everything that lives is holy and every particle of dust breathes its joy.”  No culture understood this better than that of the Iroquois Confederacy who lived and roamed the Eastern Woodlands for centuries developing a paradise that the Anglo-Saxon war machine saw as unlimited wealth for first the coffers of those kings in power in Europe. When the oligarchy that formed the United States’ “democratic republic” came to power after the American Revolution, they continued these practices under the guise of Manifest Destiny.

As the United States began to push into those lands and force these inhabitants out of the country or onto reservations, the care of the land based on the order of living things began its decline. That is chronicled in “The Peacemaker”, but Mr. Berry cites the story of a group of Eastern people living in the Wisconsin Territory after the Revolutionary War. Mr. Berry read about this group in 1994 and relates their story in “The Art of Loading Brush.” The Menominee people who had been living in these forests for hundreds of years were pushed onto a 235,000 acre reservation of which 220,000 was forest land. The Menominee understood that the land around the forest could be no healthier than the woods around it. Therefore, they had a cultural imperative to save it while developing a sustainable logging economy.
Using the techniques described in The Art of Loading Brush and continuous logging for 148 years, the Menominee control a forest that is still believed to contain a billion and a half board feet of standing timber which is the same number of board feet that existed in 1854. (1854 plus 148 is 1994, the date of this reference). The laws that control this operation are the same ones passed down to their culture from the days of The Peacemaker. These are: The Law of Fullness, (to retain fullness those who take the forest must give the land the loving care it needs so that nature can renew),The Law Diversity - one crop planting destroys and taking all the trees at once destroys,) and the Law of Frugality – take only what is needed. The forest still contains hemlock and cedar trees 350 years old; the average age of the maple trees is 140-180 years. Mr. Berry compares that to the state of the forests in Kentucky which in 1994 had been under the control of the United States for 219 years (1994-219 is 1775). This is a striking example of what we have done to the land under our stewardship and the time has come to revert this destructive behavior because if the land goes so go the humans. Consider the human condition in America today, it is as sick and violent as the land we have created.

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