The Businessman and the Forest Gardener
I was having some food one evening a few weeks ago, in Porto, with the crew from Free and Real from IMF-bailed-out Greece, who have been organising Freeconomy Athens and related things over there. After dinner, putting the world to right, and some Greek Tsikoudia, one of their crew, Panos, began sharing a couple of little parables with me, both of which described the insanity of modern human culture - this modern delusional story that now masquerades as no-less-than human nature - much better than I ever could. One of them was a fantastic little story: The Businessman and the Forest Gardener.
One day a man, let's call him Martin, was pottering around in a beautiful forest garden in the middle of the English countryside, harvesting some autumn olives, medlars, James Grieve apples, walnuts and a whole range of unusual leafs. Martin loved forest gardening - not only was he working in complete harmony with Nature, it required only a fraction of the labour that conventional agriculture took, whilst still producing more than enough food for his family of four. But, truth be known, all he was really doing was enjoying some afternoon sunshine and eating fruits picked straight from the tree!
A businessman just happened to walk past this bountiful garden. He noticed the forest gardener was sitting in a little clearing under a plum tree, and decided to find out why this gardener was lazing around in his one acre forest garden instead of working harder to make a living for himself and his family.
"You aren't going to grow much food that way," said the businessman to the forest gardener, "you should be working hard rather than lying under the tree!" The forest gardener looked up at the businessman, smiled and replied, "And what will my reward be?"
"Well, you can buy more land so that you can grow more vegetables and fruit!" was the businessman's answer.
"And then what will my reward be?" asked the forest gardener, still smiling. The businessman replied, "You will make money and you'll be able to buy a tractor and other labour saving machines, which will then result in larger harvests of fruit and veg!"
"And then what will my reward be?" asked the forest gardener again.
The businessman was beginning to get a little irritated with the forest gardener's questions. "You can buy better machinery, and hire some people to work for you!" he said. "And then what will my reward be?" repeated the forest gardener.
The businessman was getting angry. "Don't you understand? You can build up a fleet of tractors and combine harvesters, buy more land, convert it all to intensive agriculture and let all your employees grow your fruit, nuts and veg for you!" Once again the forest gardener asked, "And then what will my reward be?"
The businessman was red with rage and shouted at the forest gardener, "Don't you understand that you can become so rich that you will never have to work for your living again! You can spend all the rest of your days sitting in this garden, looking at the sunset. You won't have a care in the world!"
The forest gardener, still smiling, looked up and said, "And what do you think I'm doing right now?"
(Thanks to Panos for the wisdom, Apostolos for the Tsikoudia, all the crew for the dinner and the Portuguese couch-surfing hosts for having me over for dinner!).
One little side story to this - when I told Panos I'd credit him with the story (as opposed to pretending I made it up myself!), he said "you don't have to give any credit to me, because as we already know, everything is a remix. These really are life lessons and should not be credited with anyone's name. It either speaks to the reader, or it doesn't." Which is just an important a lesson as is in the parable I think.
Got any stories you'd like to tell, tales that will help us all deconstruct the myths we've been told - formally and informally - from birth, and allow us to imagine and enact new stories? If so, feel free to share them below, or to just leave links.
On another note, I've just spent the weekend doing a two-day Permaculture course with Patrick Whitefield, author of The Earth Care Manual (a book that changed my life five years ago), who very generously offered our Freeconomy group a tailor-made free two day course as his gift to help us make the moneyless village happen as quickly as possible. Not only is Patrick one of the best Permaculture teachers in the world, with a wealth of knowledge and experience that is breathtakingly deep, he is also easily one of the most beautiful souls I've ever had the privilege to meet.
My advice: make the time to do one of his courses, as he'll save you huge amounts of energy (human and otherwise), money and no end of mistakes that could set back your land-based project many years.
Great to be sharing the planet with you all.
Comment on this Post:
Carolyn comments ...
Aaaah Mark... brilliant as always. I would LOVE to go on a permaculture course. In due time I'm sure... ;-) Great parable! Much love xxx
chrissy comments ...
excellent story, really does get the perspective.
Don't have a parable to hand, but I was always struck by the book "Heidi" and when she came back from picking wild strawberries with a shilling in her hand, she had sold the wild strawberries in the market, the Grandfather was very angry and told her to bite on the shilling and see how it tasted.
Never forgotten that one.
Petefree comments ...
Good story, two ways to get to be rich, increase income or decrease bills.
It also sounds similar to the societal attitudes encountered by the author of the book, 'the worm forgives the plough', the second half of that book is amazingly interesting as regards his experiences of working with trees, and how he perceives peoples attitudes.
Id love to have more different examples like the one you told, because we need visions of contentment success to aim for, rather than visions of race for riches success.
One little story or picture that I can think of is one of the aesops fables, of a chicken pecking at the ground for food, when she pecks at a valuable piece of jewelry she says something like, what earthly use is this?
Another one which I have lost and have been trying to find, is one of the Mullah Nasrudin short amusing stories. In this one page short paragraph story he takes a class on the subject of love, and he charges them money for the class, or he includes a money aspect in some way. It is a very simple but subtle story because one understands the message very clearly that
money and love dont mix, and the laugh really is that he, the teacher of love. isnt very loving! Possibly that doesnt exactly describe the story, (if I could tell it I wouldnt be trying to find it) but the laugh is in the message given that where there is money there is no love, and absolutely no-one reading it could fail to see that message, yet it is funny on a subconscious level, not a conscious level. Because how many people do we know who say it is not money that is at fault it is the way people use money thats at fault! this little story contradicts that notion completely!
I think humour and sense is needed to oppose conventional very serious emotional feelings that money buys food for a starving world where every 5 seconds a child dies of malnutrition.
Which reminds me of a clip in a film I saw recently where Milton Friedman said that it was not money that was at fault, but a persons neighbours in not helping the poor person out.
At the bottom, you die if your moneyless. Thats what we see now in our still mainly vegetarian world of abundant oil energy well able to feed all. - That is the problem with money. It is as a system of provision which only makes available things which we value, things which are scarce, and insufficient!.
Free land, permanent culture and edible gardening, renewables and redurables are so very very important for the basics.
With only the basics we can be rich!
P.s. Thats really interesting about the Heidi story. Thanks for that.
Lila comments ...
Ah, the difference between a rich life & a life richly lived! One parable that forever changed my perspective is the Demon Cratius story about money from the Anastasia/Ringing Cedars books-maybe one of you who is more tech savvy than I could share it with Mark?
Denis Ethier comments ...
I heard a version with a simple fisherman fishing in the morning and relaxing on the beach the rest of the day.
Great to hear that version too
Fourpie comments ...
Of course the forest idyl is spoilt, when the business man thinks, "Well if you won't do anything with it, I'll take it for myself." and comes back with a gang of thugs to steal it or at the very least, beat 'taxes' out of you, so you have to adopt his businesss practices to pay the thugs. Sorry if my cynicism spoils the fun, but I think you'll agree that is the unfortunate way of the world. Look at all the tribal peoples that have lost their lands.
Phil in Andover
Vote with your wallet. The only vote with real effect.
Luke Devlin comments ...
Great story! I like the idea of it being a remix too, as it's very old, being first attributed to Pyrrhus of Epirus (circa 270 BC!) Montaigne's version:
When King Pyrrhus prepared for his expedition into Italy, his wise counsellor Cyneas, to make him sensible of the vanity of his ambition: "Well, sir," said he, "to what end do you make all this mighty preparation?"--"To make myself master of Italy," replied the king. "And what after that is done?" said Cyneas. "I will pass over into Gaul and Spain," said the other. "And what then?"--"I will then go to subdue Africa; and lastly, when I have brought the whole world to my subjection, I will sit down and rest content at my own ease."
"For God sake, sir," replied Cyneas, "tell me what hinders that you may not, if you please, be now in the condition you speak of? Why do you not now at this instant settle yourself in the state you seem to aim at, and spare all the labour and hazard you interpose?"
"Nimirum, quia non cognovit, qux esset habendi
Finis, et omnino quoad crescat vera voluptas."
["Forsooth because he does not know what should be the limit of acquisition, and altogether how far real pleasure should increase." --Lucretius, v. 1431]
Old stories need to be retold for modern times, a bit like folk music. I prefer the version with the guy chilling out in his garden rather than conquering nations, anyway!
Jonathan Gadsby comments ...
Hi Mark: This is similar to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince - which has a parable about a man who invents a tablet that you can take and never need to drink afterwards. The argument goes that it saves you lots of time. The little prince replies that with the time he would save he would want to walk to a well and have a nice refreshing drink of water...
Mark Boyle comments ...
@ Jonathan - The Little Prince is one of my favourite books! Thanks for that.
@Chrissy - a very wise little lesson in Heidi too!
@ Phil (aka Fourpie) - I agree, Tribal people are being destroyed by civilisation. Where you put your money is the new vote. But with my wallet (I don't actually have one) I do what I do at election time, and vote for no one.
@ Luke - yeah I adapted it to encompass something I feel really is the way forward in terms of food production - forest gardening.
Sandra comments ...
Funny how Mark spends most of his time on Facebook and writing his blog here - thinking we all need to hear his wisdom. Mark, you've been writing a blog for nearly FOUR years, do you think you should just concentrate on your own life instead of preaching to others. You've set up Freeconomy and claim you don't want to be a celebrity, but you behave like one. People would respect you more if you went and helped others instead of preaching!!!
Mark Boyle comments ...
@ Sandra - Mark Twain once said "How do I know what I think about it, I haven't written about it yet." Writing is my way in which I clarify my own thoughts on life. I then try to apply whatever I come up with after I've written about it into my daily life, and so by writing this blog I feel I am concentrating on my own life, if that makes sense?
I share these thoughts in the chance they are helpful to someone, to give another perspective on something. My life changed when others changed my perspective. If you don't find it useful, don't read it, its that simple, I really don't mind either way.
In terms of your claim that I spend all my time writing this blog and on facebook, let me clarify. This blog takes about 4-6 hours to write sometimes. 3-5 of those are spent in my orchard, listening to the birds and the rest of nature, writing it up. These are some of my favourite hours in a month. The last hour or so is spent typing it up. I write one every 2-3 weeks. Which means I spend about 1-3 hours a month on this computer writing this blog. That's not exactly all my time! But hey, if you say it is...! I probably write 2-3 little comments a week on facebook, totally all of about 30mins a week. Which, I agree, is time I'd rather spend in the orchard!
How do you know if I also help others or not also? I may do, I may not do? Point is, you've no idea if I do or not. You seem to be making a lot of assumptions about me!
Anyway, responding to you has already added another 10mins to that figure, so I'll leave it there! Have a great day!
jason palmer comments ...
I am going to work at philosophy now magazine, i will get you on the front cover asap
Sally Anne comments ...
That's so gorgeous... really love it... less is in fact more xo [let mother nature do her thing so we can all be free economists... thanks for this post]
liz comments ...
Yay Mark! Sorry I didn't get to say goodbye after the workshop. The original parable is about a fisherman and a businessman, just switch the forest with fish, and lazing in a boat :)
Josef Davies-Coates comments ...
This is the same parable but with a fisherman and a MBA graduate, made into a really nice little animation:
Also, I've not read them yet, but have got the Anatasia books here:
Yvonne Davidson comments ...
I have a boring job but only work so can get enough money to take early retirement & sail the country in our canal boat. Material possessions don't interest me would rather be happy xxx
Sonja Kruse comments ...
Thanks, REMIX ;-)
Joey comments ...
I believe your story about the gardener and the businessman originated w/the Greek Cynic Diogenes and Alexander the Great a little over 2000 years ago:
Veterans for Peace USA
Diogenes and Alexander the Great
"I am Alexander the Great," said the monarch to Diogenes.
"And I am Diogenes the Cynic," replied Diogenes
Alexander stood opposite Diogenes and asked, "Are you not afraid of me?"
"Why, what are you," said Diogenes, "a good thing or a bad?"
Alexander replied, "A good thing" whereupon Diogenes said, "Who, then, is afraid of the good?"
Diogenes asked Alexander what his plans were. Alexander answered that he planned to conquer and subjugate Greece.
"Then what?" Diogenes asked.
Alexander said that he planned to conquer and subjugate Asia Minor.
Alexander said that he planned to conquer and subjugate the world.
Diogenes, who was not easily dissuaded from a line of inquiry, posed the question again: "What next?"
Alexander the Great told Diogenes that after all that conquering and subjugating, he planned to relax and enjoy himself.
Julene Nahar Siddique comments ...
Nuna LulaBaby comments ...
on the Utube page, there is another,"Parable about the $700billion bailout." It is the same parable I think. Would you rather spend your prescious time doing your portion with joy in your heart,feeding and loving your family and doing Gods' will or toil your whole life away to obtain physical wealth?....God or Gold?
kyle comments ...
I love the fact that the deepest truths are often the simplest. Thank you for sharing the sharings of others, like Panos, Mark, and for continuing to look for ways to inspire us.
A picture can share a thousand words and a parable can sometimes share a thousand pictures. :0)
I don't have any stories off the top of my head, but I hope these few quotes below inspire people.
Treat the earth well.
It was not given to you by your parents,
it was loaned to you by your children.
We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors,
we borrow it from our Children.
~ Ancient Indian Proverb ~
Humankind has not woven the web of life.
We are but one thread within it.
Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.
All things are bound together.
All things connect.
~ Chief Seattle, 1854 ~
When all the trees have been cut down,
when all the animals have been hunted,
when all the waters are polluted,
when all the air is unsafe to breathe,
only then will you discover you cannot eat money.
~ Cree Prophecy ~
Only when the last tree has died
and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught
will we realise we cannot eat money.
~ Cree Indian Proverb ~
I do not think the measure of a civilization
is how tall its buildings of concrete are,
But rather how well its people have learned to relate
to their environment and fellow man.
~ Sun Bear of the Chippewa Tribe ~
Aurore Dambremont comments ...
Hello Mark! I wish I could translate this story in French to publish it on my blog, can I?
I use it to share with as many people as possible around me, in a positive and attractive way the respect for our planet and learn about philosophies. Thank you for sharing with us.
Jorge Moita comments ...
Hope Portuguese can really learn from this...;)
Marta Gonzago comments ...
great! I will send you stories.
Tenma13 comments ...
The Story of the Taoist Farmer - http://www.noogenesis.com/pineapple/Taoist_Farmer.html
really like this as I like how it highlights mans constant desire to add a narrative to events when none exist. First encountered it on a economics blog or in Nasim Telebs book Fooled by randomness or black swan, can't remember.......
This is interesting too....
For Want of a Nail
For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
Was introduced to this in the BBC series on Chaos Theory. Youtube has it up. Really interesting.
cheers for the interesting post :)
Diane comments ...
I am glad you keep writing your blog. That I can find people who write about this stuff and not read it all in 5 minutes and have that be the last of it give me some hope, helps me learn and feel less alone with my thoughts. I feel overwhelmed by all the advertising of our modern world. You could post all day every day and it still wouldn't be enough to counter all that advertising. Just the other day I went to the store to buy some band-aids and the products on the shelves literally started talking to me. It's gotten absurd!
Ana comments ...
The reason I think the parable is not applicable to real life because it has been forgotten to add the taxes of land and fishery etc. Everyone born in this planet is a slave of the establishment, freedom is a fantasy.
It's the greed of the establishment that it's making peoples greeder, the illusion of indefinitly economic grow of prices, bills, taxes ...
What we need it's a paceful revolution; some people will following Marks actions and hopefully others solutions will appear along the moneyless transition way.
Going to courses and buying books are not in the list of our priorities, and I would like that Mark will stop promoting them. It's not helpful for people like us who struggle to live with less money and cope with everyday essentials.
Our last riddance has been the cancellation of our tv licence.
Mark sorry I sound so critical, but I'm still on your side.
Ana comments ...
I always remember when Jesus from the bible said 'to give to Caesar what is of Caesar' (sorry I cannot remember the exact words), what it just shows that Jesus was impartial about it, what I short of agree. It's not the money to blame but the greed behind it, but if more people suscribe to moneyless the whole system will collapse that why I support it, in other words, money is useful but in the society we have created money is corrupted and have to go or change?!.
Beans comments ...
I'm very glad you brought this up. This is a very interesting encounter that we see in this passage. It was a trick question designed by Jesus' enemies to catch him in his words. The Pharasies were the religious leaders and Herod was the secular ruler. The Jewish zealots at that time believed it was wrong to pay tribute to Rome and of course the secular authorities (The Herodians) were appointed by Rome. So what they were doing was asking Jesus a quetsion which would get him into trouble whichever way he answered. But look at how he answers it.
Matthew 22 (http://www.blueletterbible.org/Bible.cfm?b=Mat&c=22&t=KJV#21)
15.Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in [his] talk.
16. And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any [man]: for thou regardest not the person of men.
17.Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?
18.But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, [ye] hypocrites?
19.Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny.
20.And he saith unto them, Whose [is] this image and superscription?
21.They say unto him, Caesar's. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's.
22.When they had heard [these words], they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.
Now most people hear what they want to hear. So Religion through the centuries has tauight that we should pay taxes, right?
But look at what JESUS really says... "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's".
Now, ask yourself, what belongs to God? and what belongs to Ceasar?
If you give to God that which belongs to God, what is left for Ceasar?
Mike Wilcox comments ...
This is a true tale, it's true because I was the instigator of the exchange that took place.
I was in Barbados on a two week vacation in a beachfront hotel and everyday this catamaran would show up and ferry tourists a couple of miles up and down the beach. The fellow sailing the catamaran never took out more than six couples a day, he'd then pull up the catamaran on the beach, pull out a cooler of beer and sit in the shade until until dinnertime.
After about the fourth day of watching this I went out on a sail with him and asked him about his life and the sailing. He told me:
"The boat belong to the bossman, I get X dollars for everyone I take out"
I did some mental calculation on the cost of this boat and how long it would take him to buy his own boat and said, " you know, this catamaran sells new for about $2000, a good used one about $1200, if you took out two extra people a day this season you could buy your own boat, pay someone else to pilot it. In couple of years you'd have your own fleet of them and do what whatever you like".
He replied, "Why would I want to do that? I do what I like now, I get to sail everyday without have to buy a boat, talk to people from all over the world and drink beer on the beach all afternoon".
I laughed at that, realizing he was right and I was the one who needed to rethink my life.
K comments ...
While I appreciate much of the sentiment expressed in Mark's initial story (and Mike Wilcox's real-life story), I believe it is important to remember that just doing the bare minimum in order for us to live a comfortable life is not, IMO, what people need to hear right now. There are a lot of needs for us to fill. There is a lot of work that we need to do, to help those less fortunate than ourselves. A first step may be to realise that hungering after more than we actually need is self-destructive, but ideally this follows on to step number 2, which is to use the time/life we win back through non-comformity with Caesar, in order to pay-it-forward as much as we are able. Taking time out chilling in the garden can be helpful at regular intervals along the way, as long as the majority of our time is using the peace, insight, energy we have gained from doing so, making the world a healthier and happier place to live in for the vast majority of individuals who rarely have access to the luxuries of the "garden" in the first place.
Mark Boyle comments ...
@ K - it's a very good point, and I agree. But it wasn't the point of this particular story, which is really just trying to say that why do we all, collectively, constantly keep trying to 'expand' just so that we can then 'buy' the time to do the things that we could do anyway if we weren't trying to expand. It wasn't making any other social comment than that.
Having said that, if everyone lived with the perspective of the forest gardener, there would be no need for activists and the like, as there'd be nothing to fix. But we don't, hence why I also agree with you!
Thanks for the addition.
Diane comments ...
Isn't this story played out in a personal way for many of us? We are told that it is wrong for us not to live up to our potential. We should not settle to work at a low-pay, low-stress job. We should strive to own the company. It gets so ingrained into us that if we don't live up to expectations we feel like we are bad people. I'm curious how you deal with that, those of you who are moneyless or who have downshifted your lives? I have downshifted but struggle. I feel that there is a subtle, unsaid thing in the air in my home that I threw away my potential, that I'm not trying hard enough, working hard enough, succeeding as much as my skills or intelligence should let me. That I sold my self short, that I'm undervaluing myself. Sometimes the voices in my head say it the lodest. It can be stressful. Were I to follow a path like Mark's, I don't know that I could turn off those voices. I don't think I could do it.
Aldas comments ...
Kudos to Mark, Mike Wilcox and others. I was so happy when company reduced working hours this year (second time in total). Last 4 days I was laying down in the backyard garden (1/20th of an acre) with soulmate we started last year and it's so true what you guys all are saying. Peace and Love.
Lila comments ...
I feel you sister! But know this: it takes far far more intelligence, ingenuity, & resourcefulness to live downshifted/moneyless than to robotically follow the status quo. You have not forsaken your potential- you are MAXIMIZING IT!
I understand what you are saying Diane, I have often been told I have not achieved or reached my "potential" but people do not understand when I say I am not interested in management and more qualifications.
It is not easy, I recently was tempted to go to an interview for a job paying good money, but came away knowing it was not right for me anymore, not cos I could not, but WOULD not feel content in the work. Luckily my husband agreed, and said I would only cause trouble (cos I would challenge the attitude and lack of equality,) and then leave within months! LOL! Better to be in a job where you are happy and content.
We found ourselves needing more money to cheer ourselves up and no time to spend it in a past job I had! If that is not slavery I do not know what is. So many people believe they have to stay and put up with poor work conditions when the truth is they do not, it is a reality inflicted on us by people who want us to continue working for their benefit.
K comments ...
@Mark: thanks for the clarification. I do agree that never-ending expansion on the material plane is not only a prison, but an "unreality". We simply can't progress at the rate at which we are set to expand (population, raw materials etc.).
On a more spiritual note, I'm probably getting this completely wrong, but a while back someone quoted Lao-tse to me:
"In order to contract something, one must first let it fully expand."
I take this to mean that before we settle on something, we need to expand to the point that we can see things clearly enough in order to share what we can see in a way in which we do justice to what we have seen. We are taught to contract very soon in life - to "find a career that we want to pursue"... or to "marry that special person" just a little bit too soon (before we've properly got to know both her/him and/or ourselves!)
That is why I do believe we need time out in the garden, so to speak, in order to really work out who we are, what we were put on this earth to do, and how best to go about actually doing it. It's just all too often these days that people are taught to "find themselves" (in a never-ending library of self-help books), without the crucial bit tacked on the end - which is that the way to find ourselves is in the service of others.
I just wanted to throw that in to the mix, not because I disagree with the story you included in your initial post, but because I think a lot of us are looking for ways to settle on a contraction before we've expanded to the point necessary that we may even decide that contraction isn't needed any more. Am I in space right now. :0)
A short story for you (true to life). Last week I had a meeting with a very successful, friendly lawyer, who confided in me that his firm was now the largest in the country. However, he did not have a life. Those were pretty much his own words. He had heaps of money, reputation, prestige etc. However, he felt that he no longer had a life and that he had started something, which he could not get out of (at least he felt that he couldn't, which is all it may take for us to convince ourselves that there isn't another way out).
I found this true story very sad and I wonder how many other people across the planet would also, in those often rare moments of honesty and humility, share something similar.
Apostolos comments ...
We miss you!!
derek robertson comments ...
The first book I read in the sense that it made me think was Thoreau's
Walden - he was a master of the art of 'being' as opposed to 'having' -
which is sometimes given as the definition of being a "Green". Here are two quotes, one from Life Without Principle and the second from Walden -
"If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day he is in
danger of being regarded as a loafer; but if he spends his whole day as a
speculator, shearing off those woods and making the Earth bald before her
time, he is esteemed an industrious and enterprising citizen. As if a town
had no interests in forests but to cut them down." - Life Without
Next Thoreau was meditating on the various ponds in his locality,
here reflecting on Flint's Pond (with apologies to honest farmers);
"Flint's Pond! Such is the poverty of our nomenclature. What right had
the unclean and stupid farmer, whose farm abutted on this sky water, whose
shores he so ruthlessly laid bare, to give his name to it? Some
skinflint, who loved better the reflecting surface of a dollar, or
bright cent, in which he could see his own brazen face; who regarded even
the wild ducks who settled on it as trespassers; his fingers grown into
crooked and horny talons, from the long habit of grasping harpy-like; so
it is not named for me. I go there not to see him nor to hear of him, who
never loved it, who never protected it , who never spoke a good word for
it, nor thanked God that He made it. Rather let it be named from the
fishes that swim in it, the wild fowl or quadrupeds which frequent it, the
wild flowers that grow by it's shores, or some wild man or child the
thread of whose history is interwoven with it's own; not from him who
could show no title to it but the deed which a like-minded neighbour or
legislature gave him - him who thought only of it's money value; whose
presence perchance cursed all the shore; who exhausted all the land
around it, and who would have fain exhausted the waters within it; who
regretted only that it was not English hay or cranberry meadow - there was
nothing to redeem it, forsooth, in his eyes - and who would have drained
and sold it for the mud at it's bottom. It did not turn his mill, and it
was no privilege to him to behold it. I respect not his labours, his farm
where everything has it's price, who would carry the landscape, who would
carry his God, to market, if he could get anything for him; who goes to
market for his god as it is; on whose farm nothing grows free, whose
fields bear no crops, whose meadows no flowers, whose trees no fruits,
but dollars; who loves not the beauty of his fruits, whose fruits are not
ripe for him till they are turned to dollars........" - Walden 1854
This I think is the disease of contemporary economics and our consumer
culture. We need to play some part in pushing back the "brazen faces" (maybe sometimes our own) from destroying the real treasures of the world.
Omar comments ...
A zen master lived the simplest kind of life in a little hut at the foot of a mountain. One evening, while he was away, a thief sneaked into the hut only to find there was nothing in it to steal. The zen master returned and found him. "You have come a long way to visit me," he told the prowler, "and you should not return empty handed. Please take my clothes as a gift." The thief was bewildered, but he took the clothes and ran away. The Master sat naked, watching the moon. "Poor fellow," he mused, " I wish I could give him this beautiful moon."
Derek Dubolski comments ...
Loved the story! Will check out Patrick! Thanks.
Lygeia comments ...
K said: "I do agree that never-ending expansion on the material plane is not only a prison, but an 'unreality'. "
Some people believe that sigils or symbols from other realities try to intersect with our own and make themselves "real." Examples are marketing logos which are supposed to invoke the product with a few simple lines or intersecting shapes.
The belief is that our "things" may try to co-opt our consciousness and we should be more careful about what we accumulate and pay attention to.
Ant comments ...
Derek Robertson - thanks for the beautiful Thoreau quote. He was certainly a rare man - courageous, intelligent, poetic and of high integrity.
jermy comments ...
The forest gardener, still smiling, looked up and said, "And what do you think I'm doing right now?"
jaz comments ...
Loved the parable - if you have more please share.
There are several very intriguing parables in Ringing Cedars Series by Vladimir Megre.
Demon Cratius - from the book 'New Civilization' is a parable that illustrates how we got into the whole illusion of money equating to freedom and possibly a page from history.
Sikh Truth comments ...
One day, the father of a very wealthy family took his son on a trip to the country with the express purpose of showing him how poor people live.
They spent a couple of days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family.
On their return from their trip, the father asked his son, 'How was the
'It was great, Dad.'
'Did you see how poor people live?' the father asked.
'Oh yeah,' said the son.
'So, tell me, what did you learn from the trip?' asked the father
The son answered:
'I saw that we have one dog and they had four.
We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end.
We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night.
Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon.
We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight.
We have servants who serve us, but they serve others.
We buy our food, but they grow theirs.
We have walls around our property to protect us, they have friends to protect them.'
The boy's father was speechless.
Then his son added, 'Thanks Dad for showing me how poor we are.'
Isn't perspective a wonderful thing?
Rachel from Brisbane comments ...
Sikh Truth, that parable is awesome!! My own young children remind me' often that when we are young we often have such different and more attuned perspectives on life. They also fail to notices wealth and status symbols, instead seeing what's real and important. It's wonderful. We have to try not to educate this out of our children.
Derek, gorgeous prose about the farmer and his pond. I found it touching.
Omar, thx for Zen parable. Not heard that one before. I love zen stories, always out there but usually boil things down to the most elemental. I think I almost excuse zen from Daniel Quinn's criticisms of religion incl Buddhism, for there is so much animism in zen that I find lovely.
Thanks all fir sharing and fueling my inspiration :-)
hubert heathertoes comments ...
claire comments ...
wonderful stuff, thanks. someone at work the other day tried to argue that if we didnt buy more stuff we would be being cruel to chinese workers...gawd! On the upside Ive met several people lately who due to lack of work are turning to the wagon lifestyle and becomming more on the forest gardener side of life. Either way lets all grow some veg! Now going to look up this Patrick chap - thanks for recommendation (-:
Diane comments ...
What is the "wagon lifestyle"? Is that a British version of living in an RV or van?
Hey, I have a question that came to me the other day. I have been living a fairly typical American life, except for being more frugal and underachieving than a typical workaholic American.
One thing we are taught to do here is save for our retirement (invest in the stock market) and we're heavily influenced into believing all social safety-nets will be gone by the time I'm old enough to draw from them. So people my age are put into a place where we have to work like mad if we stand half a chance of not living in a cardboard box in our old age. Heck, we have to work like mad to keep from living in a cardboard box while we are young.
Meanwhile, because I'm intelligent and observant, the idea of trusting in this concept of infinite economic growth, infinite consumption, to carry the day for me in my old age seems like a fools game. I don't trust the infinite growth economic system, and I certainly do not trust the stock market. I cannot ever hope to earn enough money by working to escape being trapped into a job for the rest of my life.
This pressure that we live under in the US (that few people are able to see but me) has left me with a strong feeling of worry. I struggle with a feeling of contraction, of closing in tight, of hoarding and protecting whatever small bit of security I can buy, a kind of feeling of no way would I give anything to anybody because I barely have enough for myself. I hope this is making sense.
So I was wondering the other day, what if I stopped all that and just lived my life oriented toward giving instead of taking. Instead of working at some job, getting involved in things that don't pay but make the world a better place. Instead of trying to hold on to middle class life, let go and see where the path leads? Would I end up living in a cardboard box? Am I struggling and hanging on when the result may very well be the same thing--a cardboard box, a shopping cart full of belongings, and a sign that reads "will work for food"?
Does this make sense? Does it work? It seems sort of like what Mark has done but did he do it from that perspective? Same with Suelo, who I heard of before Mark. They both swore off money. Kind of put that first. But what if you put it second and instead of saying no to money and then just trying to figure out where to go to meet your needs, you instead started by focusing all your energy on giving? Would money, like any other thing you might need, come to you when you needed it? What I mean is, would it become like other things you need, that when tapped into the gift economy it comes at the moment you need it most. Would more doors open, more love enter, more freedom, safety and security follow?
I'm not sure if I am making sense. I'm just trying to figure something out. The way I'm living isn't working and I feel drawn to a lot of things but I feel stuck in that I can't go off and do the things I'm drawn to because they aren't jobs, and that to give up working means giving up on any hope of a decent old age, means giving up my life partner because he's not like you guys at all, means giving up on a lot of things and stepping into a huge unknown.
Emma comments ...
@Diane, welcome to the journey!
Essentially, I feel we are shaping our world with every choice we make, in every moment, and what is important is to do this consciously.
What do we want? A world of plenty for our own children? Or a world of plenty for all children? A world in which we are able to see the beauty in a buzzards' flight, or spend all our daylight hours in a concrete office? The world becomes the way we shape it, the way we interact with it, how far does a smile travel? What effect does that smile have? Do we need guarantees before we smile, or can we just give because giving is so pleasurable in itself?
A few years ago, I realised that I thought I lived in a world of lack, a fearful place where my perception told me there was not enough. I only changed one thing: my world view. I decided to stop buying anything new and trust that if there was anything I needed, it would present itself to me, and, if it didn't, then I didn't actually need it. One of the major things which followed, and which I hadn't expected, was a phenomenal sense of abundance and a sudden recognition and valuing of all that surrounded me from the nettle patch which gives us yummy soup to remembering how to make enveloppes from random pieces of paper... It has been a joy, but I still wake up in the morning and envy the sparrows their carefree and confident existence, I still have a long way to go!!!!! Love to you all, and thank you Mark.
The Warless Warrior comments ...
A real pleasure to make the acquaintance of you and your friends. Here's a quote that has really spoken to me and will hopefully speak to your readers too.
“I went into the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
Henry David Thoreau,
Walden; Or Life In The Woods
Harry Stottle comments ...
This is a lovely parable, but to my mind it is too simplistic...for example I just read it on my PC connected to the internet using electricity produced by machines that were invented by people who did have the drive and determination to develop technologies that ultimately improve the lot of humankind (at least we hope so!) Not trying to be negative here, just offering a different perspective...
Ashie comments ...
Mark, well done.. such an inspiration you are.
It was after I saw your Can you live without money? that I joined this site.
F d'Anconia comments ...
I have a story. A farmer just spent his time growing enough food for him and his family and spent the rest of the time relaxing and enjoying life. Then one harvest a plague of locusts destroyed his entire crop and he had no surplus saved so they all starved to death. The end.
P. Ness comments ...
awww very goodings!
caroline courtland-smith comments ...
Stuff we really all do know. Don't we?! But sometimes need someone to be braver than we are and actually point out. Poignant and perfect. Thank you for reminding me what is TRUE :]
rosetta stone comments ...
rosetta stone :
Your sharing thank you very much
F d'Anconia it was a shame the person you mentioned only grew one crop, if he had been a clever gardener he would have grown many different and not relied on one crop to feed himself and family, so the crops would not all have bee eaten. And if he only grew one crop and had grown a huge surplus, then surely the locusts would even have taken the surplus?
Regarding the comment made from the lady a few posts ago, (sorry cannot see your name right now,) we have found that it is amazing how when you start giving stuff you don't need to others who do need it, (such as through freegle or nieghbours/friends,) it is such a joy and not only that an unexpected bonus is that you tend to get back what you give, call it kharma if you like, but we have had such lovely surprises and made such good friends that we would not have met if we had sold stuff or put it on the local tip. We have never gone without what we need, and yes we do still need money as we still live in a society based on that principle.
As for the techonology, yes it is wonderful, I am soo glad I have this computer to contact like minded people, and that woudl still happen without money, the difference would be that people would design/create those things "just for the love of it!"
Gary living in France comments ...
Ten years ago I had to decide whether to take a big promotion, more money, longer hours, working next to Heathrow airport which meant commuting at least 3 hours a day. Or, resigning from the company where I had worked hard for 11 years, moving to the south of France nowhere to live, no job, couldn't speak French, but I would be with my French wife and our two young sons. I didn't hesitate as you can imagine, I moved to France.
Although it was hard starting from scratch learning French at 33 years of age amongst various other problems. I found it hard to explain what was so good about it and then one day I said to my family in England "It's like winning the lottery without the money" and thats exactly it!!
Natalie Dee comments ...
A super story! Have read similar "remixed" versions of this before... and yes, so true, why exert so much more energy to achieve what you already have?!
Nice to meet you!
Life Coach & Business Coach
How did you get to Porto without any money being spent whatsoever?
JDC comments ...
Panos nicked that one from Paul McKenna (God knows where Paul got if from). Cute story but there aren't enough forest gardens to go round Mark. There is one problem in the world from which all others emanate and it's the overpopulation caused by the surplus of productivity in an industrial civilisation.
Jared comments ...
This story and this website is one of the first places I've seen Daniel Quinn's message in "Ishmael" echoed so articulately, and it rings so true to me
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Des Troy comments ...
I have a date of Thursday November 10th 2011 for the TEDx event in Leeds - is this any good for you? (I tried emailing but got a failure notice).
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