Raw, idiom, 14a: in the natural, uncultivated, or unrefined state: nature in the raw.
It's the longest day of the year, baby, a midsummer night's dream, for sure. The sun hung around late last night at Flying, deep into the heart of practice.
And it's got me thinking about land.
Have you read any Wendell Berry? He's a writer dude from Kentucky with a populist progressive earthy-pagan-Christian spin whom I've long adored. Something about this penchant for old man writer crushes — Gary Snyder, anyone? — makes me wonder if there's anyone in my generation who's saying the same thing, who's got an eye for the wild and for the sacred and for the fact that endless Tweeting and Facebooking can't quite reimagine the divine in the way that stepping through wild prairie grasses or an overgrown ridge overlooking the sea just might.
Wendell Berry's writing is so rich with truth and spirit and fire and, well, just down to earth knowing, that sometimes I get overwhelmed. It hits me all hard, square in the jaw, and reminds me of my roots — those southeast Nebraska German farmer roots that I tried for so many years to run from and that I now realize are, well, a rare gift.
We uproot ourselves (literally, folks) and zoom off to urban centers and get so stuck in that prana-empty, cement-hewn life that we forget. We forget our bodies and our labor and our breath and we get so goddamned lost in our heads (as Berry reminds us, “thinking is the most overrated human activity") that suddenly all that rich real stuff of life ends up by the wayside.
So god/dess bless Wendell for reminding us. Check it, people:
“Why do farmers farm, given their economic adversities on top of the many frustrations and difficulties normal to farming? And always the answer is: "Love. They must do it for love." Farmers farm for the love of farming. They love to watch and nurture the growth of plants. They love to live in the presence of animals. They love to work outdoors. They love the weather, maybe even when it is making them miserable. They love to live where they work and to work where they live. If the scale of their farming is small enough, they like to work in the company of their children and with the help of their children. They love the measure of independence that farm life can still provide. I have an idea that a lot of farmers have gone to a lot of trouble merely to be self-employed to live at least a part of their lives without a boss."It's not about the 401K or the company car or the sweet benefits. Fuck that shit. It's about the intangibles. It's about the realness. It's about coming back into the body, the moment, the day.
“To live, we must daily break the body and shed the blood of Creation. When we do this knowingly, lovingly, skillfully, reverently, it is a sacrament. When we do it ignorantly, greedily, clumsily, destructively, it is a desecration. In such desecration we condemn ourselves to spiritual and moral loneliness, and others to want."
“There are moments when the heart is generous, and then it knows that for better or worse our lives are woven together here, one with one another and with the place and all the living things."
This is yoga, kids. Think about it.
“[All the ancient wisdom] tells us that work is necessary to us, as much a part of our condition as mortality; that good work is our salvation and our joy; that shoddy or dishonest or self-serving work is our curse and our doom. We have tried to escape the sweat and sorrow promised in Genesis — only to find that, in order to do so, we must forswear love and excellence, health and joy."Here we re-envision the body as agent, as actually involved, as not engineered out of the work in deference to the mind, but rather, in fact, as a contributor, a restorer of labor's dignity. Sweet. So, indeed, there is potential for work to be holy after all. But, in spite of that understanding,
“We can say without exaggeration that the present national ambition of the United States is unemployment. People live for quitting time, for weekends, for vacations, and for retirement; moreover, this ambition seems to be classless, as true in the executive suites as on the assembly lines. One works not because the work is necessary, valuable, useful to a desirable end, or because one loves to do it, but only to be able to quit — a condition that a saner time would regard as infernal, a condemnation.”This is fucked up. We've talked about this before — that potentiality for our labor to be something sacred, enjoyable, rather than a chore. What does it take to find life-giving, prana-enriching, valuable, powerful work? Getting out from behind the goddamned computer? We go to the land, and it reminds us what true connection — that's code for yoga, folks, and community, and even art, too, dammit! — might feel like.
“The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life.”
"Every man is called to give love to the work of his hands. Every man is called to be an artist. The small family farm is one of the last places — they are getting rarer every day — where men and women (and girls and boys, too) can answer that call to be an artist, to learn to give love to the work of their hands. It is one of the last places where the maker — and some farmers still do talk about "making the crops" — is responsible, from start to finish, for the thing made. This certainly is a spiritual value, but it is not for that reason an impractical or uneconomic one. In fact, from the exercise of this responsibility, this giving of love to the work of the hands, the farmer, the farm, the consumer, and the nation all stand to gain in the most practical ways: They gain the means of life, the goodness of food, and the longevity and dependability of the sources of food, both natural and cultural. The proper answer to the spiritual calling becomes, in turn, the proper fulfillment of physical need.”
― Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: Writings on Farming and Food