November 9th, 2008
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a tribute to Fukuoka (brainstorming change)


A reader wrote to tell me that Masanobu Fukuoka, the pioneer of natural farming, passed away recently, (a point of which I was not aware). While I am sad that he will not be around to spread more of his wisdom I believe in celebrating a long, satisfying life as his was. He was 95 years old and died peacefully at his farm. He stated in his writings that “Natural farming is not just for growing crops,” he said, “it is for the cultivation and perfection of human beings.”
I was introduced to Fukuoka’s writing by my friend Gayla Trail, and eventually tracked down a copy of “The One Straw Revolution” which was out of print at the time. You may recall this led to me writing a popular post entitled “Why gardening is the same as a career in design”, about Fukuoka’s “non-doing” methods, which I applied to my own life and art making. I also lamented the fact that the book was out of print and sent out a call to publishers to make it accessable for a new generation of readers.
an interesting sidenote: a couple of weeks ago I received a letter from an editor at New York Review of Books. She was intrigued by my post and how I had related Fukuoka’s writings to my life, and sought the book out. They enjoyed it so much that they acquired the rights and are going to be publishing a new edition this spring (may 2009). I am grateful and excited to have had a small hand in bringing this book back to the public. You can pre-order it here. (I have no stake in the book other than I think it’s message is needed in the world.)
some of Fukuoka’s words:
“The more people do, the more society develops, the more problems arise. The increasing desolation of the nature, the exhaustion of resources, the uneasiness and disintegration of the human spirit, all have been brought about by humanity’s trying to accomplish something. Originally there was no reason to progress, and nothing that had to be done. We have come to the point at which there is no other way than to bring about a “movement” not to bring anything about.”
“Why do you have to develop? If economic growth rises from 5% to 10%, is happiness going to double? What’s wrong with a growth rate of 0%? Isn’t this a rather stable kind of economics? Could there be anything better than living simply and taking it easy?

This got me thinking about the idea of “non-movement”. Our culture has be formulated on “progress” and economic gain which has proven to get us all in trouble. Relative to the adfree blog initiative I’ve been trying to brainstorm ideas for new models (ethical alternatives) of what we might term “business”. Something disconnected from profit entirely, but that still allows for creatives to forge a living. Adbusters is also exploring these ideas with their Blackspot shoes. I want to move in a whole new direction, not just repeating the existing models (non-profit, charity based,etc.) These models are fine, but still have their roots in the old economic based system. What if there was something conceptually different?
(as you may remember from the previous post non-doing does not mean “do nothing”, a quote: “when he uses the term “do-nothing” it is not meant to be taken literally, there is in fact a certain amount of work to do on his farm, but that is to say much less work than would be involved using modern techniques. In this context I interpret “do-nothing” as “do-less” or not controlling.”)
What would a non-movement look like?
-based not on progress but allowing things to exist as they are, (using what you have), instead of thinking in terms of “development” one might focus on working with existing ideas/objects/techniques/materials
-working with nature, returning things to the earth, being a part of the existing system, working with the cycles (essentially “doing the opposite” of what we have been doing)
-operating on “instinct”, trusting our nature
-could we take some of the things from the existing system and “re-purpose” them? advertising about sustainability/ideas (not selling products), creating gift economies, turning public spectacle on its head, altering public space to serve the community, technology that encourages face-to-face contact (instead of isolation and false intimacy), instead of taking financial risks (stock market), we put more value on personal risks (life changes).
-what about a movement based on “being” instead of “doing”, creating a culture of cool around sitting, being idle, mindfulness?
-a society based on “less is more”, “giving over getting”, “sharing v.s. selling”
(none of these are new ideas I realize.)
***
this is as far as I have got with my thinking, it has not manifested into a tangible concept as of yet. I know that every time I contemplate “non-movement” something in my body relaxes and takes a deep breath, I relinquish all my striving and need to accomplish/succeed. (What exactly is “success” anyway? It’s meaning is elusive, it is not something that can be easily measured.)
footnote: One of the things I learned from reading the Stephen Duncombe book, is that it is the artist’s role to re-imagine and dream about what the world can be, EVEN if we think it is not possible. ESPECIALLY if we think it is not possible. That is how change occurs.
*if you have any ideas on this line of thinking, feel free to pass them along.
surely we can change the world with our ideas.

 
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