Alien encounters

“We cannot solve your problems; we cannot come to you or take you to some other world; we cannot teach you anything you are not ready to learn. All we can offer is the chance to communicate with other intelligent beings, to try to grasp something of the way we and other species experience our worlds, to share your own experiences with others who are eager to learn about them, and to know that you are not alone in the universe. If that is enough, we welcome you to the conversation between worlds.” 
–John Michael Greer: Star’s Reach

Belongs into any communication about what Auroville can and cannot do. Or anybody else, really.

Don’t sleep, there are snakes

If someone asserts something like, “X happens every time I apply Y”, or, “All elements in the C set are smaller than D”, the rules of reason allow for falsifying the claim by just one single exception.
Sentences like, “Man is greedy”, “Humans are selfish”, “We cannot change our ways”, fall under the same rule. The absoluteness with which those allegations are made cannot prove valid in the face of so many cases in which culture or personal decisions have expressed in totally different behaviour.

Discussing civilization and its effects and implications on an individual’s perception of reality, I use to refer to the lifestyle of indigenous peoples like the Mbuti Pygmees of Congo, and low-tech cultures like the Ladakh Tibetans. My intention in pointing at these tribes and cultures was neither in order to show ‘perfectness’, or to suggest you to copy their ways; nor would I say that “all primitive cultures are non-violent and have no problems”, as some conversational partners accused me of.
I compared certain older lifestyles with the currently world-dominating technological money-driven civilization to prove that many forms of thought, speech, and behaviour which most civilized people prefer to see as human nature (or as an irreversibly ‘advanced’ state of development, or as something ‘without alternatives’) are in fact a matter of circumstances, culture, and conscious decision. Which means behaviour can be changed as soon as individuals become aware of its roots, modes of operation, and effects on their lives. There are examples in abundance, of people who broke ‘the rules’ of the so-called greedy, selfish human nature, and who showed that there are alternatives to what most people regard as normal, inevitable, inescable, unavoidable, and necessary.

Very few forms of behaviour and values are based on human nature. Human nature could be regarded as a range of abilities we might exert depending on the situation and our value system rather than a strict rule. No such thing as a rule there. Every move of the mind, every single need can be overridden by willpower. Aside from looking into the examples I have given in the past I invite you to find further exceptions to anything you regard as self-evident, natural, understood, or normal. It’s fun, and you’ll be surprised, I promise.

Daniel Everett’s book “Don’t sleep, there are snakes: Life and language in the Amazonian jungle” is such an eye-opener. Everett, a former US missionary, travelled to Brazil in order to study the Pirahã language. The Pirahã are a people living along the Maici River, a tributary to the Amazon system. Their culture and language are unique in so far as they have no words for worries, colours, numbers, and time references. No such concepts do exist, nor do the Pirahã seem to be able to ‘get’ it. This is due to a mindset which Everett calls immediacy, meaning that a Pirahã speaker only refers to things he has experienced himself, or someone alive told him she did. Probable future events therefore can’t be told, while dreams count as experience and are considered as very real; so if a Pirahã says he had a conversation with a spirit, he actually means it. Pirahã can joke and lie, but tell no fictionary tales. The language is shaped in a way that allows exactly that what they enact as a culture.

What we can learn from this is, that language, culture, and reality are closely intertwined. They influence each other, depend on each other, and can be seen as expression of one another.

Questioning the Western idea of just one indivisible objective reality “out there”, Everett quotes Edward Sapir’s “The status of linguistics as a science” (1929):

“Human beings do not live in the objective world alone, nor alone in the world of social activity as ordinarily understood, but are very much at the mercy of the particular language which has become the medium of expression for their society. It is quite an illusion to imagine that one adjusts to reality essentially without the use of language and that language is merely an incidental means of solving specific problems of communication or reflection […] No two languages are ever sufficiently similar to be considered as representing the same social reality. The worlds in which different societies live are distinct worlds, not merely the same worlds with different labels attached.”

Figure out the implications for the validity of scientific discoveries, and particularly for unifying theories, and deterministic points of view.

Another thing we take for granted, yet have no reason to do so is ‘the rising curve’.
Most people do agree that man is curious by nature. We derive our concept of ascension from there. This is our motivation for research, discovery, and management of the physical world around us. Things have to improve and get bigger and better over time, especially the realm of me and mine. Is that innate to man?
Though the Pirahã are curious, too (they are interested in the outside world and their ways), the concept of the ascent of humanity is outlandish to them; they may use imported tools like boats or steel knives, but they refuse to manufacture them on their own i.e. implement new technologies into their cultural setting, even when they know how to do it; doesn’t keep them from getting along phantastically. Similarly they use next to no loan words when speaking. And in relation to the physical world, they think in terms of access and lax possession rather than ownership.

There are many more ways how the Pirahã differ from civilization as we know it, but instead of me telling you how to interpret Daniel Everett’s description of a remote traditional culture, why don’t you have a look inside this gorgeous book yourself?
Remember – this is neither about glorification nor about copying. It is about freedom, promoted by the falsification of the concept of coercion. There is no human nature forcing us to behave in a certain way, there is no determination. If we feel restraint and follow its order, it is just the story we live by. That’s what modern sociology and anthropology can teach us. Nothing more, nothing less.

What’s your story?

As I proceed with translating “The Ascent of Humanity” I almost daily stumble upon sentences reflecting deep insight into the fabric of reality. Stella Osorojos from the Santa Fe Time Bank called it “one of the most important books of the century”. She says she means it, and so do I. So please forgive me for coming back on elaborating on content from “Ascent” every now and then.

Many thinkers describe life as “living a story”, meaning that there is no such thing as an “objective universe out there” by the rules of which we have to live, and that the thing we call reality is not the actual thing of infinite properties, but merely a limited, abstract projection of, and withiin, our mind; what remains after so many filters of perception and selection. That projection is comparable to a map, a picture or a story which represents reality in the form of symbols (“The map is not the landscape”). Depending on the zoom level you prefer, the attributes you pick, the number of details you go into, the presentation format you choose, the symbols you design and the emphasis you set, the outcome will be very different from any other persons’ work. How many different maps of the world are there? How many interpretations of “Amazing Grace” or “The Count of Monte Cristo”? How many different opinions on any political matter, any piece of art, and every single person on earth? How many different definitions of God? And have you ever wondered why witnesses to a certain crime (or any other event) are talking of seemingly completely different things?
All those are stories, and so is life. For the way we look at it is arbitrary – and it shapes our actions depending on the choices we make, thereby changing also the repercussions we experience from outside.
Buddha called the way we usually look at, and live, our lives an ‘illusion’, J.Krishnamurti called it ‘image’, Adyashanti described it as ‘virtual reality’, and Villoldo actually called it ‘a story’. So does Charles Eisenstein who explains in Chapter VII-10 of his book how we are not victims, but creators of our fate; how there is no inescapable coercion, just surrender to stories; and how language, which is a story in itself, partakes in shaping the story of your life: 

Even naming these stories and observing them in operation already makes them less powerful. However, I have found it useful to deliberately undo them through the way I speak to myself and others. We can use words in ways that deny the stories that enslave us, and thus accelerate our freedom. For example, Marshall Rosenberg suggests rephrasing every “have to” sentence as “I choose to… because…”

Here is a personal example. I used to say, “Even though I hate it, I have to give grades.” When I rephrased it as “I choose to give grades because I am afraid I will lose my job if I don’t,” everything became much clearer. I realized that my job was much less important to me than my sense of integrity, which for me personally was violated by giving grades, and so I decided to leave academia. By thinking in terms of “have to” we surrender our power. The very words carry within them an assumption of powerlessness.

As I wrote in earlier essays, a gun to your head does not imply being unrejectably forced to do as you’re told. With or without that gun, you still have all the choices in the world, as long as you are willing to take the consequences. And please don’t ridicule my words there: it doesn’t mean you are to making stupid decisions in a dangerous situation. It just means you are free to do whatever fits into your value system, your story, if you are aware of that story. The less fear you have of forces threatening to overpower you, the more freedom there is for you, up to the point where there is no coercion at all.

You do not have to believe in the shamanic concept of physical-reality alteration by forces of the psyche to actually shape your personal reality the way it suits you best – although such forces might have an impact, who knows.
Unluckily most of the people I have been talking to hardly understand the concept or even reject it, and I could feel the underlying fear. People speak of freedom, individuality, and the power of love, yet don’t trust it much. And why would they, having been raised under a system where there is such a huge background fear, a survival angst about not fitting in with all the others, losing their job, losing their livelihood, sometimes even physical hurt. How would you not feel threatened and coerced into doing things you don’t like, such as working a degrading job, watching your back, and giving into all sorts of constraints.

The fact is: this is just one story to live by. If you equate an external attempt of force to a reaction of yours, then this story will shape your experience of reality, your life. The threat then, of course, feels very real. But as countless individuals have proven, other ways are possible. With the number of choices available to you, increasing by the degree you free yourself from unconsciously lived-by stories, life becomes better. By better I mean satisfying and fulfilled, as you then tend to make ever more choices by yourself, out of free will, instead of being forced to obey, subordinate, follow, give in, which equals to living someone else’s life. If you take the freedom of living a story where there is no irresistible pressure creates even more freedom. Freedom from (particularly fear), and freedom to (create your reality).
Living by the story of Western civilization, on the other hand, resembles being hunted down by all sorts of predators, getting driven from one crisis into another, until you eventually get trapped and die. You may even be lucky enough to count as one of the predators; but as long as you are unaware of survival-of-the-fittest being just a story – the story of our culture – you are a slave chained to a story like all the others. Gandhi put it best when he asked, “Don’t hate your oppressors. They need liberation, just like you.”

eu angelion ex carolus

“From the egalitarian societies of the Paleolithic, humanity evolved into great agrarian civilizations in which the rich were those who owned slaves. In the Machine Age, overt slavery disappeared, only to be replaced with a system in which nearly everyone did demeaning work out of survival anxiety. “Do it or you will die!” That’s slavery, all right. The great promise of machine technology — Every man a king! Every man a god! — has borne its opposite. Every man a slave. Slaves without human owners, all laboring under the yoke of money.”

Most of the misery we witness, and go through ourselves, arises from the idea of separation and control. We cannot watch things happening “naturally”. We just don’t let go. As we try to subdue reality according to our will, our whole civilization consists of thick layers of patches to problems which previous “solutions” have created in the first place. That’s why things look so complicated; hence the need for experts. To my experience that need is an illusion. Life is much simpler than it seems. It became obvious as soon as I learned how to not divide the world into wrong and right, what should and what should not be, or to look after what I think I “deserve” as “my right”. The first two steps – seeing the illusion and letting go of it – were the most difficult, and the latter one, in my case, is still in progress. Adyashanti so aptly called that, which is keeping us, a fear of breaking the ultimate taboo of leaving humanity behind, as it actually implies the realization that the world (in every sense) cannot be saved, and does neither need nor want to be saved. In fact, civilization has to collapse – rather than slowly fade away – so that every man eventually allows the urge for a different paradigm to be felt within himself.

“With the end of the age of the Machine, we see the possibility of a return to the original egalitarianism, in which the economy is a flow of gifts within a context of abundance […] The collapse of the Newtonian World-machine will reunite us with the world, and we shall once again fall in love with it. To be in love is to dissolve boundaries, to expand oneself to include an other. Already it is happening. Have you noticed? One by one, we are rejecting our society’s priorities and falling in love again with life. That is our true nature, which we can deny only with increasing effort.”

(Quotes from Charles Eisenstein’s “The Ascent of Humanity“, Chapter VII-6. My own writing originally appeared as comment to Mark Boyle’s Freeconomy Blog)

AUTHOR: Is there any way out of this mess?

GOD: “Yes. Shall I say it again? A shift of consciousness. You cannot solve the problems which plague humankind through governmental action or political means. You have been trying that for thousands of years. The change must be made, can be made only in the hearts of man.”
(Neale Donald Walsch: Conversations With God)

In an interview with Larry King, Walsch described the inception of the books as follows: at a low period in his life, Walsch wrote an angry letter to God asking questions about why his life wasn’t working. After writing down all of his questions, he heard a voice over his right shoulder say: “Do you really want an answer to all these questions or are you just venting?” (Wikipedia on “Conversations with God”)

Both quotes kind of sum it up, what I am thinking of the situation we are in. The latter also gives a hint to sane use of thought; philosophy, if you will. Philosophy can equal verbal masturbation if you do it just for the thrill of shuffling words and dealing with puzzles. If it tells you something about the life you are living, and if you use that insight for improving on things, that’s when God is answering your questions. Sometimes, it even might work the other way round, philosophy being an expression of wisdom gained through living. Then God is you.

The one-straw revolution

Do-nothing farming, also known as natural farming, Fukuoka farming, and The Fukuoka method, is an alternative permaculture farming method to chemical or traditional farming. It reduces human intervention to an absolute minimum, allowing nature to do the work. As odd as it may seem, do-nothing farming is able to produce at least as much food per acre as any other method, without tilling, nursing, pruning, planting in tidy rows, or using machinery, fertilizers, compost and pesticides.

The One-Straw Revolution

The method became widely known through the book The One-Straw Revolution, originally published in 1975, by Masanobu Fukuoka (1913-2008), a Japanese microbiologist who tested spiritual insights on his father’s farm.

He began his career as a soil scientist specializing in plant pathology. In 1938, he began to doubt the wisdom of modern agricultural science. He eventually quit his job as a research scientist, and returned to his family’s farm on the island of Shikoku in Southern Japan to grow organic fruits, vegetables and grain. From that point on he devoted his life to developing a unique small scale organic farming system that does not require weeding, pesticides, fertilizers, or tilling.

The One Straw Revolution has been translated into many languages and usually sold for the net cost price. Fukuoka shared his knowledge with everyone interested and allowed people to volunteer on his farm for days, months or even years.

Idea

Origins

Going through a crisis at the age of 25, Fukuoka had a revelation: “In this world there is nothing at all.” There was no reason to worry about life because he suddenly realized that “all the concepts to which he had been clinging were empty fabrications. All his agonies disappeared like dreams and illusions, a something one might call ‘true nature’ stood revealed.”[1]

This insight, and the observation of a rice plant growing wildly on an uncultivated piece of land lead him to the notion of do-nothing. But having ruined his father’s tangerine garden that way, his first important lesson in natural farming was that one can’t change agricultural techniques abruptly. Trees that have been cultivated cannot adapt to neglect. Newly-planted untouched plants can, he found out. They seem to somehow remember their natural offspring which required no cultivation whatsoever. Human intervention weakens plants, so they get addicted to pruning, fertilizing, plowing, additional watering and pesticides.

During the following years, Masanobu Fukuoka developed, by observing nature and trial, simple methods for a natural way of doing agriculture.

A Way of Life

Fukuoka insisted that natural farming was not just a method but a way of life based on simplicity and oneness with the Earth. Ideally, all people would become farmers. He predicted that a large-scale change in consciousness would lead to the fall of governments and whole economies, for a human being, independent of external food supply, would be no more prey to manipulation, power games and consumerism. He wanted man to reexamine his relationship with nature in its entirety. That would be a revolution triggered by straw. But it requires that people shift to seasonal, regional and vegetarian diet rather than consume exotic and/or protein-rich food.

Fukuoka saw an opportunity that people could live in harmony with each other and with nature: “Natural farming is not simply a way of growing crops; it is the cultivation and perfection of human beings”[2], he said. “Most people do not yet understand the distinction between organic gardening and natural farming. Both scientific agriculture and organic farming are basically scientific in their approach. The boundary between the two is not clear.”[3]

While nature is the real expert in growing stuff, Fukuoka says, man’s intellect has distorted this wisdom. Modern science, along with industry and government, is leading man ever further away from the community of life. We seem to be “so steeped in science that a method of farming which discards science altogether will not be digested.”[4]

Method

Despite the catching phrase “do-nothing” there still is some work to do, of course. But it points out that many agricultural practices, which generally are regarded as essential and indispensable, can be left out, which results in a significant reduction of effort, money and time to be invested.

The method, originally developed for Japanese conditions, got successfully adapted to other places around the world. In India, for example, natural farming is often referred to as Rishi Kheshi.

Green Manure only

Fukuoka mixed seeds of white clover with rice or winter grain. A ground cover of white clover will grow under the grain plants to provide nitrogen and keep weed plants from overpowering the crop. Weeds are also considered part of the ecosystem, periodically cut and allowed to rot on the surface so the nutrients they contain are returned to the soil.

Ducks are let into the grain plot, to eat slugs and other pests. They leave just a little bit of manure.

No prepared compost or chemical fertilizer must be applied.

Seed Balls

In order to protect seeds from being eaten by birds, they have to be dampened a bit, then wrapped in a layer of clay powder, compost, and sometimes manure. The seeds necessary for 1/4 acre can be prepared within a few hours. The result is a denser crop of smaller but highly productive and stronger plants.

Little or no Tillage

The seeds get brought out on the surface of the untilled earth to grow. Tillage is usually unnecessary if the ground is not too hard. Plowing severely disturbs insects and worms which keep the earth fertile.

Mulching

The ground has to stay covered all the time. The clover does that during the growing season.

Shortly after the harvest, the complete straw is scattered loosely (not straight!) in thick layers as mulch. The straw decomposts until the next harvest time, giving back all the taken-out nutrients from the previous crop.

Fukuoka used short-stemmed grains which had a spike to halm weight ratio of 1:1

Crop Rotation

By observation of natural processes, Fukuoka learned about the optimal moment for seeding, and also which plants best complement with each other. He only intervened when necessary.

Regarding grain, he brought out rice and winter grain in rotation. Each grain crop is sown two weeks before the previous one is harvested. This is done by broadcasting the seed among the standing crop(!) During the harvest, the new shoots get trampled down, of course, but they recover quickly and begin to sprout.

This sort of double crop rotation can be done over and over on the exact same spot, without ever depleting the soil. Mulching by clover and straw even enriched its fertility over the years.

Minimal Irrigation

Fukuoka seeded rice directly on the spot where it finally got harvested, without transplanting from a nursery field and without the use of paddy fields. With very little irrigation and just one week of water standing in the field, the do-nothing method saves enormeous amounts of water and labour (i.e. transplanting, min. four times of weeding a year, flooding) and thereby avoids overly methane production.

Natural Pests Regulation

Instead of trying to root out pests, natural farming lets nature have its way. The insect population in and above the ground is much higher than in plowed and sprayed fields. Predators like mice, birds and spiders are allowed to roam. The species control each other and keep balanced. Plagues appear rarely and never mean the loss of whole crops.

No Pruning

Trees and bushes never get pruned. Branches and twigs arrange themselves so they each get the optimum of sunlight. An already pruned tree has to be withdrawn carefully over at least two years before it adapts to do-nothing farming. A wide range of grass species on the ground and mixing various tree species keeps the orchard healthy.

Scattering and Mixing

Vegetables can be grown wherever there is a small unused piece of land, preferrably among fruit trees to enrich the soil. Varieties should be brought out mixed with each other on the already existing vegetation cover.

Results

Fukuoka’s labor resulted in an equal or higher amount in crops than traditional and chemical farming in the same area, while the fertility of the soil constantly increased over the years and natural balance was kept. This balance self-regulated pests so there have been little to no losses in crops. With an average of about one hour of work per day, Fukuoka was able to get as much grain from a quarter acre of land as needed to feed a family of five. Costs reduced to almost zero, as no fertilizer, pesticides, seeds, heavy machines or food had to be bought to run the farm.

Literature

* Masanobu Fukuoka: The One Straw Revolution – The Natural Way of Farming.
* Masanobu Fukuoka: The Road Back to Nature
* Masanobu Fukuoka: The Natural Way of Farming – The Theory and Practice of Green Philosophy

References

1. ↑ http://www.onestrawrevolution.net/MasanobuFukuoka.htm
2. ↑ http://www.onestrawrevolution.net
3. ↑ Masanobu Fukuoka: The Road Back to Nature p.363
4. ↑ http://www.rmaf.org.ph/Awardees/Biography/BiographyFukuokaMas.htm

The homeless troll and the cat with the Hitler mustache

Beim Googlen nach einem alten text adventure (Colossal Cave) stieß ich zufällig auf eine amüsante Kurzgeschichte.

…that poor cat was always outside, watching the carless stragglers. I wanted to pet it but I didn’t because it would make me just as bad as anyone else, condoning its outsideness.
I just kept as far away as I could from that cat, shut my curtains, and pretended I lived on a country lane or on a studio backlot. Finally one day the cat scared the shit out of me…