“I do not particularly like the word ‘work.’ Human beings are the only animals who have to work, and I think that is the most ridiculous thing in the world. Other animals make their livings by living, but people work like crazy, thinking that they have to in order to stay alive. The bigger the job, the greater the challenge, the more wonderful they think it is. It would be good to give up that way of thinking and live an easy, comfortable life with plenty of free time. I think that the way animals live in the tropics, stepping outside in the morning and evening to see if there is something to eat, and taking a long nap in the afternoon, must be a wonderful life. For human beings, a life of such simplicity would be possible if one worked to produce directly his daily necessities. In such a life, work is not work as people generally think of it, but simply doing what needs to be done.” – Masanobu Fukuota
My friend, Gary, posted this to my timeline and asked me my thoughts on it. For me, it is one of those quotes that needs to be read, and read again, then pondered. On one hand, I can agree with the idea of not liking the word ‘work’. It just seems to have such a negative connotation. But the idea of not working is staggering to me. As a small farmer, the best I can do is shift the word ‘work’ to the phrase ‘labor of love’.
Maybe in the tropics….
Animals in the tropics may only have to poke their heads out twice a day to see what is on Mother Nature’s buffet, then nap the rest of the time. I have so many questions about this, that I don’t know if I have time to list them, much less discover the answers. Here on the farm, though, there isn’t one animal that doesn’t work for its keep. The dogs herd cattle and provide security. The cats keep the mice out of the barn. The chickens provide weeding services and lay eggs. The guineas are on bug and snake patrol and are an early warning system. The cows are our fertilize producers and spreaders, as well as providers of milk and beef. It may appear that they are napping away quite a few hours, but in reality, they are just on their break. As they work, we do to. We cut hay to provide food over the winter. Our ‘spent’ vegetables and the weeds I pull out of the garden are given to the chickens and guineas, or put on a compost pile for future use. Part of our meat harvest is given to the dogs, and the rest of the feed is purchased with income from off-farm jobs.
I love the idea of waking up each morning and having the luxury to decide if I want to go outside and put forth some effort, or just curl up with a good book and while away the hours in a fantasy world. Unfortunately, if that is taking place more than likely we have a storm outside and the book is research. AND, it means my housework is done – which is not usually the case.
The truth of the matter is, I don’t want to do ‘nothing’ all day. From as early as Adam and Eve, work is one of the inherent pieces of the human makeup. Whether we like it or not, man has to do more than just simply ‘working to produce directly his daily necessities’. As one example of many, I love to grow our own fruits and vegetables. But even if I save the majority of my seeds, I still have to purchase some of them from somewhere. That means someone out there has to own a store where I can purchase them. The store owner had to get them from, at the very least, a farmer who produces them then sells them to the shops. If I am going to buy seeds, it means I have to have a source of income from which to pay for my purchase. It’s a domino effect, in reverse. Quite frankly, I don’t find gardening work at all. On the contrary, I find it is a labor of love, and often, an escape from the real world. As I pull weeds, tie up tomatoes and thin carrots and beets, I can slightly lengthen the tether on my mind, and allow my thoughts to wander. More than likely, that store owner also enjoys running a mercantile, and doesn’t consider it work either.
‘Work’ may have a negative connotation, but have you ever considered the side benefits of that labor? I always have a sense of elation when I gaze at a neatly weeded garden, or a yard that has been freshly mowed. There is a sense of pride when the new grape arbor is completed, or I see the cows meandering in the pasture that is now surrounded by a secure fence. To sit down at a table that is laden with food that we have planted, tended, harvested and preserved has a never ending depth of contentment. Without ‘work’, I would never know those joyous emotions. Those very emotions are one of the biggest reasons I live on a small farm, and love every single minute of it. Work or not.
And that, my dear friend (and ‘adopted’ brother) Gary, is just the tip of the iceberg on my thoughts about this quote. Thank you for a sharing it, and giving me an opportunity to exercise my brain with thoughts of something besides how to build a twenty-foot cinderblock fence around my entire property in order to keep the Houdini wannabe cows in the pasture, and only spend $29.95 doing it.
There are so many thoughts running through my head on this quote that I could probably write an entire dissertation on my viewpoint, but a simple blog post is not the place to do it. I will, however, challenge each of you to read, re-read, and ponder this quote and determine how you think about it. I would also love to know your thoughts on it, and how you view the idea of work. Please, share your thoughts. I know Gary would love to hear from you as well!!!