Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Extreme Sport of Oxen Powered Family Farms

"In itself enthusiasm is not a wrong tendency but a false emphasis. Quietism exaggerates only a little the doctrine of the mystics about simplicity in prayer, about disinterested love. Quakerism does but enthrone in dangerous isolation the truth of God's presence within us. Jansenism is the vigilant conscience of Christendom overshadowed by a scruple. Methodism is the call back to Christ in an age of Deism."

"Basically it is the revolt of Platonism against the Aristotelian mise en scene of traditional Christianity. The issue hangs on the question whether the Divine Fact is something given, or something to be inferred. Your Platonist, satisfied that he has formed his notion of God without the aid of syllogisms or analogies, will divorce reason from religion;
From Enthusiasm by Monsignor Ronald Knox

When I think of modern American proponents of Agrarianism my mind immediately imagines 40 acre tracts of land with homes set square upon each tract.

But let the tracts be smaller, or larger, the separation of neighbors is grounded in the American romantic movement. And in particular the joining of rugged individualism with the garden city movement. The same joining of rugged individualism and garden city movement which underlies the extreme sports enthusiasts living in their manicured suburban neighborhoods backed up to vast tracts of open space cutting through the city.

Both rugged individualism and the garden city movement reflect the American id. An id which, in our current society, often seeks extremes of itself; giving that id the appearance of a now unbounded appetite seeking gratification. Whether that unbounded appetite be extreme skiing down cliff faces in the winter and mountain biking up those same cliffs in the summer, or the current fashion of oxen powered family farms.

Virtue and likewise happiness is found in the mean. In moderation. In stability because all of God's creation seeks stability. Whereas the extremes are signs of unhappiness, of dissatisfaction and an appetite seeking stability but unable to find that stability because our society no longer gives proper guidance.

We’ve become a smorgasbord classless homeless society, where anyone can become president because Equality is America’s preeminent virtue. But equality is not stability but the antithesis of stability. And right ordered societies by nature give stability and guidance. And so, like those at the all you can eat local cafeteria, we unbound our appetites and stuff ourselves on our favorites.

I can sympathize with the agrarians, but only within a bounded limit. A reasonable, practical, doable limit.

A limit which recognizes that we are by nature social. As opposed to the agrarians each separated from his neighbors by 40 acres of oxen plowed land with most expecting connecting roads and electricity, and running water and other products of mechanization and such not while proclaiming the virtues of Ludditism and hand woven cloth.

Similar to most vices, heresies and other errors, the American romantic movement’s rugged individualism and garden city movement both contain a good deal which is true and good, as long as those goods aren’t taken to unnatural enthusiastic extremes.

I too want lots of open unspoiled land within easy reach for my children to explore and play in.. With the gradient towards the more uncivilized extending outward. Safe and civilized close at hand and rugged wilderness at the far end but all within reach.

I want a nice lot of private land for a vegetable garden with sufficient area for a horse, goats, ducks, chickens, rabbits and such with a barn and hayloft. With a small orchard of plum, apple and peach trees. And at least one large evergreen tree that’s like a room underneath with branches where my children can climb to the sky. And at least one or two good sized trees with branches situated for building tree houses.

And in general numerous and various interesting areas for the children to play in. With a walking flower garden interspersed between it all. With one nice sized flat grassed area just off the conservatory-dining room doors perfect for tennis, croquet and badminton. I also want a cozy narrow street out front with the sidewalk well separated from the street by a tree-lawn. And a cozy neighborhood to go with it. With my neighbors all close by. And shops, and a hospital and such within easy reach.

All of which is very doable and obtainable if one is willing to settle for what can be purchased with a reasonable living wage. As opposed to looking for and expecting the pristine perfection found in magazines and blogs. Although not necessarily doable and obtainable at present because such locals are currently available, but doable and obtainable because they could be.

Because unlike ox powered family farms, what is asked for is not the having one’s cake while eating it too of luddites on large tracts of land enjoying all the goods of modern mechanized society while living as parasites refusing to help provide that modern mechanized society.

Of course, I also want a large sized house with various places to sit and commune with cozy corners and large sitting space full of comfortable couches. With large open areas between. Lots of long windowless walls for books and art, but with lots of windows with lots of north, south, east and west exposure. A good sized kitchen with lots of storage and counters and a baking pantry.

With the passive solar designed conservatory, right off the front sitting room/ library, serving as the dining and breakfast room, and long enough to be separated in two with a mud room/ potting shed/ greenhouse at one end, and, and . . . And you get the picture, and more like it, along with season passes for the whole family to the art museum, the local ski area and similar along with all the fun stuff that naturally accompanies those passes because I too am a product of my culture.

The first time I ever saw some guy climbing a cliff without protection I was amazed. Amazed that he was still alive since one fall is all it takes to end up dead. I also thought he was a fool because he had let his enthusiasm for pristine perfection of the sport overtake common sense. He falsely emphasized some platonic ideal aspect of the sport over the totality of the sport itself. His enthusiastic tail wagged the common sense dog so to speak, and wagged, i.e. ignored, common sense at the risk of his own life.

It's a common sense every climber in the past had practiced while advancing the art of protection from bolts to pitons to nuts. The advancements were a common sense approach to that same desire to perfect the sport, but moderated by the common sense understanding that life is more precious than pristine perfection of a sport.

When I read an article like this one or this one on oxen plowed farms, I'm likewise amazed, and I likewise think they are letting their enthusiasm for pristine perfection overtake common sense.

A common sense our forefathers practiced in switching to draft horses and then later to tractors, because they didn't falsely emphasize some platonic pristine perfection of farming over farming itself. Of course to all things there is a limit, and industrial sized farms using genetically modified plants, and poisonous fertilizers, and such without regard for the land except what profit can be gained from that land is likewise enthusiasm of the opposite extreme. And like the hipsters of the sixties the aggrarians are right to reject it. But virtue and likewise happiness is found in the mean. In moderation. In common sense.

A common sense which is Catholic A common sense when violated will not persuade anyone except fellow enthusiasts. Whenever I read these kind of articles, such as on oxen plowed farms, I think of the men I work with out in the field doing construction and how they would view those articles. Where I surmise they would view them the same as if someone ordered them to put down their wormdrive skilsaw and start using a handsaw to cut up the framing lumber. The order would be too outrageously absurd to be taken seriously, and they would just ignore it and go on about their business while getting a good laugh.

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