Wisdom of a Hardscrabble Farmer

I think a lot of people-even here- use the word job as if it were something to aspire to. Working for others in exchange for wages is definitely better than being in the FSA, but not by much. When money had value and companies had loyalty to employees and benefits were a given it was the kind of thing some men were willing to do in order to support a family because they didn’t have the confidence/aspiration/drive/capital required to create something of their own, but these days a job is no more a guarantee of economic security than a college degree is.

Maybe its time people start reexamining the purpose of life and what you do with the limited amount of time you get.

I started out in one of the hardest working, lowest paying positions on earth- as an infantry private. Those four years were an economic black hole, but it gave me the discipline and the confidence to go out in the world and make my own way. I started my own business with my own two hands and a few tools and by the time I was 45 I had amassed enough capital (not to mention a wife and children) so that I could drop out of this rat race. No debt, no worries, no keeping up with the Joneses, just a profound satisfaction with all the choices that I made over the course of my life that led me here.

Today I do what I want to do. I spend every day with the people I love and care for the most. I work with my whole being- mind, body and soul in the outdoors where men should be. I eat better than Gordon Ramsey, sleep the sleep of the just, eshew materialism and there is a line of people who beat a path to my door to buy our surplus production for top dollar and praise me for it. In short, there isn’t a thing in my life that leaves me unsatisfied or with regret.

We have a little cottage on the property that we have tricked out with a chef’s kitchen perched on the edge of a hilltop with a view of the pastures and ponds, where our renters- skiers from the city in Winter, writers on retreat, entrpeneurs who want to get away from it all, pre-retirees searching for their next step- and every last one of them falls in love with this place, how we live and what we do. It is a palpable envy- though not in a bad way- for something most Americans have forgotten completely in their quest for a job, or a career, or their fortune and that’s a life. A real life, where you provide your own sustenance from your own land using your own wits and hands, surrounded by a loving family.

Somehow we got off course. We lost the thread and forgot what the meaning of life is and this substitute- this pale world of I-gadgets and McMansions, insurance policies and anti-depressants, 401K’s and SUV’s has left an entire generation or more in a state of abject defeat. I look out on the rest of the country and see people who have bloated themselves into Macy’s Day sized bodies on poisonous snacks, who scribble allover their bodies with nonsensical tats, who dress like whores or aquire mountains of debt just so someone will notice them for a moment in a sea of dissatisfied malcontents. Most people couldn’t tell you where their food comes from, how their newest electronic toy works or why they continue with this empty charade day after day, but their behavior screams for meaning.

People have stopped living their own lives. They perform for the public like trained bears, posting every last act on Facebook as if that were proof of their existence, jabbering away with their thumbs like deranged mental patients rather than swinging a hammer or holding the hand of the person next to them.

Our whole society, top to bottom is sick, deeply, seriously ill. We went down a path that led to anger and alienation, depression and dissatisfaction, greed and ennui- every act, top to bottom, from TARP to Knockout King is a manifestation of our poor choices and there is no fix for it short of abandoning everything we’ve done for the past half century.

People talk about the collapse as if it hasn’t happened yet when all you see when you look around is rubble. From a distance, at the right angle and in a good light the Colliseum looks brand new, but we all know that it’s just a shell- and a stark reminder- of what was.

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