When I was a kid, I went to a boarding school that wove a world of farming into its education. There were carrots and beets and tomatoes and lettuce and squash. We slaughtered pigs, cattle and chickens. We shoveled horse, cow, pig and chicken shit. And what we tended ended up on the supper table. Sometimes we had venison for dinner because one or more teachers had gone hunting. There was nothing elevated or magnificent about it. Farming was just part of what we did. I hated weeding worse than I hated the smell of pig shit.
Now, in hard times, the practice of home gardening seems to be on the rise. Gas and food prices are up. The unemployment inflicted by Wall Street and others in cuff links has made a return to the land not just attractive ... it is more like a necessity. The serfs return. Back to the land. An agrarian past whispers. The Industrial Revolution was not for everybody.
I have a lot of admiration for those who tend the land. It is hard work and that hard work fills my stomach and the stomachs of my children. Working seven days a week because those are the demands is not easy. This ain't beamer country. It is hard and it is close to the flow of things. It makes sense to tend what nourishes you.
But I have to admit my teeth itch when the adoration sets in. Anyone can build a soaring philosophy out of anything ... and most especially out of the thing with which they are most intimately concerned. It's not enough to shovel pig shit ... we need a temple to pig shit. And all I can think is, if you've got the time on your hands and the energy to build a temple, get out there and shovel some pig shit.
Somehow, it reminds me of one of my favorite poems, "Homage to My Father" by Seido Ray Ronci:
My father said:
Fuck Father Farrell,
what does he know, that old bastard!
Study all the religions. Learn Italian.
See Venizia, Firenze, talk
to all kinds of people
and never, never think you know more
than someone else! Unless,
unless they're full of shit.
And if they are, tell them;
and if they still don't get it, fuck it,
there's nothing you can do about it.
Learn how to bake bread.
If you can make pasta and bake bread
you can always feed your family,
you can always get a job.
Keep your house clean
and don't worry what anyone else does.
Cut your grass,
prune your fruit trees
or they'll die on you.
Don't drink too much
but don't always be sober --
it makes you nervous.
A couple glasses of wine,
some anisette now and then,
a cigar never hurt nobody.
Nervous people always got an ache here,
an ache there, they get sick,
they die --
Look at Father Farrell:
he'll be dead in a year.