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Sunday, January 26, 2014


The last couple of mornings have been so bitter cold at 0 degrees with wind, I feel for the donkeys unable to get out of the cold. I recall my own need for a long hot bath after enough days and nights of being cold. I realize the need for the sauna in Scandinavia. Cold all the time, it is refreshing to bathe in heat, soak the heat into the bones, warm them, relax the whole body from bracing against the cold. I like the sanity of the Scandinavian countries. I've seen that Sweden has closed down their last prison. Nobody wants in. In Norway, the prison amounts to an apartment complex without walls, without guards carrying guns. Going out in zero weather not just a few days, but for months could get real old real fast. I want to do something for the donkeys, the squirrels, the birds, but there is nothing I can do but feed them, keep them warm on the inside, help the chickadees and the snowbirds make it through the long nights. The temperature is predicted not to rise above 29 for the day. I'll spend as much of the day in bed as possible and tell myself to pretend I'm in Finland, accustomed to it, no problem, it's like this all the time. It actually does help a little bit. It relaxes the body from bracing so much against it. I feel warmer relaxing and receiving the cold than bracing against it. I tell myself it's another lovely day in Helsinki. Sometimes when I go outside to the mailbox and don't want to put on a coat, I relax into the cold on the way out there and back, return to the house feeling fine and my clothes are freezing cold everyplace they touch flesh.

I've noticed in a few Scandinavian films how casual the people are with the cold. In an Icelandic film, I saw a woman putting gas in her car wearing a tshirt and it snowing. I've seen them go into a house and leave the door open, it snowing outside, below freezing, my idea of cold, and nobody has an issue with it. In one of the three Swedish films of the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, I saw a man go into a small shed kind of building, it snowing outside, the door open, and build a fire in a little stove. He used no more wood for the fire than I would use for kindling. I thought that little bit of fire isn't going to heat anything but the draft in the stovepipe, and it very little. Outside the window, I see the calf standing still beside the gate, one side in full sunlight, chewing its cud. Ground must be too cold to lie down on. Donkeys, too, are standing still, soaking up the sun on one full side. It's the still time of day after morning grazing to soak up the sun and lie down for a rest. I saw Jenny yesterday lying down. The ground is frozen solid. If I were out there all the time, I'd acclimatize, too, to some extent. Back in the summer, I would sometimes sit on the ground talking to Jack while he grazed. Not long ago, one day when it was cold, I sat on the ground beside Jenny grazing and talked with her. The cold ground was not so bad to sit on. Didn't do it very long. I'd like to spoil the donkeys, keep them comfortable all the time. However, this is what it does in the world they live in. Same as I need a motorized vehicle to get around in because the world I live in is built around motorized transportation. I'd be arrested for going about in a buggy pulled by a donkey.

I'm remembering a sentence I saw that my friend Susan McCachren posted on facebook, the image a Tibetan lama, the words, "We are prisoners of our own egocentrism." It is about the most obvious thing to see. I know it, see it in a wide variety of ways, but don't think to house it in so obvious a straight-forward sentence, nor think of it so succinctly. In a way, it's what I'm addressing in these daily writings, approaching them subjectively, owning up to my own egocentrism, seeing it in relation to the world around me that I interact with. We all do everything in first person. Objective depends on controlled laboratory conditions. Out here in the world, it seems to me the closest we can get to reality is the subjective. Reality is a difficult word to give a realistic definition to, so I'll jump in and see how close I can get. When I start with only God is real, this means only love is real. If that is so, then reality is found in the love feeling in every living being. It has little to do with mind. In human society, we value mind above all else. We've come to believe that a head full of information is knowledge, which it is, though it is not the end in itself. After working the farm with old man Tom Pruitt for several years, he introduced me to an old boy of his generation, Lef Wagoner, saying to Lef, "I taught him everything he knows." It told me he was proud that I'm a learner. But the first thing that popped into my mind was he did not teach me about the poetry of WB Yeats or the films of Bernardo Bertolucci. I knew, however, that he meant in their way of knowledge, how to do things, how to fix what's broken, how to work with cows, how to cut down a tree so it falls exactly where you want it to, even when it's not leaning in the direction you want it to fall. It's a very clever trick that is easy as a thought and it works every time. He taught me how to make a rail fence out of locust trunks. He taught me how to put a fence post in the ground so it will never wiggle, and to stretch barbed wire so it will stay taut for many a year. He was thinking one kind of education and I was thinking another.

Tom's way of teaching was by doing. Fresh out of a culture that thinks teaching amounts to telling information, in class lectures, assigning reading, explaining and testing, there came a time I was frustrated with Tom because he wasn't "teaching" me. We'd spend the fall months cutting firewood for four houses, two of which burned it like it was trash. He would now and then tell me something like cut the tree level with the ground instead of leaving a stump. I don't use wood anymore, but I see my friends cut wood and everybody leaves a stump. It runs all over me and I want to say something, but it's not my place. I see a stump as eight more sticks of firewood left to rot. Tom, with no more than a seventh grade education, had more wisdom than about anybody else I knew. The most important word in the language for Tom was "experience." He taught by experience. I helped him do the work at first, watching him, following his lead, and paying attention whenever he told me something. Eventually, I learned wisdom comes from experience, first hand knowing, whereas knowledge comes from second, third and fourth hand information, which may or may not be true per detail. Experiential knowledge, learning by doing, affirms the old saying that experience is the best teacher. There I was, Mr college educated intelligent, in a world where my knowledge from another world, another belief system, had no meaning whatsoever. I came into Tom's world an over-educated ignoramus. I didn't know anything, the same as I say now of the college educated middle class moving to the mountains, who know how to work the remote for the television, and that not very well. By now, I have education by gathering information and by experience. I feel like it is a balance I live well with. I like having both book learning knowledge and common sense, which I think of as experiential knowledge. I see the knowledge of accumulated information is something on the order of objective, while the knowledge of experience is subjective. Experience teaches the heart. Information teaches the mind. I need both for a balanced life.


1 comment:

  1. I have many thoughts after reading this blog...mostly I am thinking how true it is that we learn by doing, by our mistakes and by our peers and their follow or not depending on their character and our own character...I so enjoy reading your writing though at times I need to re read it to understand it completely and even then I am not so sure I do..but I will keep reading. ...