Busy time at the farm. Yesterday, I posted a piece on the need for a new way of looking at the ethics of animal rescue, The piece went viral, and has of the moment more than 10,000 shares on Facebook alone. I welcome the new and old readers to the blog and thank you for considering subscriptions for the blog, they help me pay for the photography and website maintenance fees, which are high and growing.
I am told the traffic through the blog is through the roof right now, for various reasons, and so it is an opportunity to mention that subscriptions are important, they make it possible for me to do my work, take my photos, wrote and research my posts. They are the new way for book writers like me, who can no longer make enough money off of hardcover books to only write books.
I saw this challenge coming in 2007 and started this blog, it now has more than four million visits a year. I began the subscription program two years ago, it is simply payment for my work, the blog is free whether you contribute to it or not. People stood by me when I started, I will stand by them.
Subscribing is easy, you can pay $3 a month, $5 a month, or $60 a year. I wanted to offer as many options as possible. They are all inexpensive, from my point of view, the blog is hard work, and I do it just about every day. But I know some people are struggling financially, and I understand that.
You can cancel at any time, and I do not have any control or knowledge of your money, you manage your own account. No financial information of any kind is stored on my blog or the website company that hosts it. Two security companies monitor the blog, it is as safe as I can make it. You can use credit cards or Paypal.
A very small percentage of blog readers are subscribers, I think that is beginning to change. It is good to be paid for my work, something I resisted for six or seven years.
So if you choose to subscribe, thank you, you are making a huge difference and investing in the writing world of the future. The subscriptions matter. If not, thanks for thinking about it.
Secondly, I am hosting a Blogging Workshop on November 7-8 at the Pompanuck Farm Institute. The fee is $400 and I will be joined by a social media expert and a tech adviser. Blogs have become a revolutionary new means of expression for people, they are important and we will spend the better part of the weekend talking about how to start a blog and make it work, and sharing ideas in a very beautiful setting. My teaching will focus on the creative aspects and significance of blogging, I am not a computer whiz, but we will have one or two around. The fee does not cover food or lodging. The class is limited to 10 people, if you are interested, please e-mall Deb Foster – firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Bedlam Farm October Open House is just a few weeks away. Lots of good and inexpensive art, singing, sheepherding with Red and Fate, big draft horses from Blue Star Equiculture, poetry readings and talks, donkey and pony visits. October ll, 11 to 4 p.m. No pets please. Check it out.
The old farmers I know all have told me at one time or another that they do not ever buy what they can not pay for. They know they are dinosaurs, and this is not the way of the world any longer, but I have heard their beliefs and they have often rattled around in my head.
In many ways, America is a fear machine, and the machine is run on the idea that we need more and more things all of the time, as I got older, I realized there will never be a point where I have enough of the things they tell me I must have to life safely in this world.
Last year we canceled our TV cable contract. It cost a lot of money and we never watched it. I always thought I had to have a TV. I don’t.
Last month I canceled all of my credit cards. I’ve decided that technology is precious and valuable, but that a healthy and peaceful mind, a meaningful life, a spiritual life, increasingly depends on making hard choices about information, money and devices. We can complain all we want about e-mails and social media, but if we want our lives back to any degree, we will have to actually change.
Our world is becoming as complex and stressful as it is angry, and I mean to deal with it in a positive and serious way. I embrace change, but I want to control it, and to deal with it in a rational way. I don’t wish to spend much of my life arguing with people or defending myself.
And I don’t wish to spend the rest of my life, or most of any day checking e-mails and texts, answering hundreds of Facebook messages that are mostly about nothing, fending off invasive personal messages from strangers, getting e-mail bulletins from credit card companies every time I buy something – or don’t. I don’t wish to be asked every time I buy something how the service was, and if I was satisfied, and told how much I am valued by corporations that care nothing about me, or if I liked the packaging.
This morning, a dozen messages from total strangers asking me, “how are you?” If I answered them all, I would not be good.
I don’t wish to return to the isolated life of the author, when nobody could reach me but my agent. Nor will I fully accept the dimensions and repercussions of the new way of the world, the avalanche of information, advice, bad news and spam, of strangers and judges, much of it disturbing and unwanted, that has invaded my life and my consciousness and tested my discipline and character.
Everyone around me seems angrier and more tense and I think I know why. Too many things are plugged into their heads. Facebook has advanced the idea that we can message anybody about anything at any time. I don’t like this idea. It is teaching people bad manners – to be invasive, presumptuous, judgmental and insensitive. To grieve and be soothed in public. And to learn how to rude and hostile.The Internet has taught us to only talk to each other, and to hate people who are different. Even the Pope is caught up in the American madness, every word measured against what the left and the right would like to hear.
They say if you are a public person, you are asking for it. I say nuts to that, I am responsible for my life.
Canceling the TV cable l offerings was pretty easy. Maria and I have never watched much TV. If we want to see a movie or other kind of program, we can stream it on the Ipad or the Iphone. Mostly, we spent the evenings talking and reading. Sometimes blogging. Neither of us can tolerate the sound of the TV blaring all night, or even for much of it. It is shocking how little I miss it, I had a TV my whole life.
The credit cards were a bigger deal. I used to run up big credit card bills, but have not for some years. I was drowning in notifications, solicitations, survey requests, special offers, transfers. And owed money. I got my first credit card in 1972, and I was quite proud of myself. Somebody else worried about the bills. I was always a person who bought things easily and thoughtlessly. I changed that bad habit a few years ago, and found there is always more to do. My life has always been crowded and cluttered with junk. I am working on that.
But sometimes we make our own junk, we buy the great lie that we must live in fear and buy our way out.
I have come to believe e-mail, social media and text messages cause stress and in some people, anger and disconnection. I think the Internet, for all the good it does, is making people angry and incestuous. Too many messages, too much information, too many arguments, too much corporate bad news, too much outrage, too many notifications and alerts for the mind to absorb. I am a creative person, I want to leave room in my mind for my work.
The angry and quarrelsome people of the world, the people eager to mind my business or tell me what to do, or tell me why I am wrong, this is a part of the new way of living. So are the nice people, it should be said.
In recent months, I’ve taken to heart my desire to live a simpler and more considered life. I am still on the hero journey, I expect to die there. I wish to consider what it is I really need and want and love. I will never return to a hollow life.
I want to heed the call of Pope Francis to love our sister the earth, and to live in harmony with my fellow humans. I think about what I waste and discard. What do I really need to be content and productive? I think I have most of it right now. Money brings neither happiness nor security, that is the biggest lie of all.
As I grow older, I don’t care to be wracking up big bills, to fret at the end of the month, to buy things I don’t actually have to have, to fill up the house with boxes and stuff.
Now, I think about how much money I have in the bank before I buy anything. I never used to know what I had in the bank, that was always somebody else’s job. I’ve lost the appetite for buying things. It’s a big load off of my mind. It feels good to know what I have, the old farmers were right, it is sweet to live that way. I have what I need, and I can wait for what I need if I have to. I find my life is more peaceful, I feel it is more under control, there is less stress in it, more time to think and feel. I am still overwhelmed with information pouring into my life that I didn’t ask for and don’t want, but that is a separate issue. It can no longer be resolved simply and easily.
I will have to think about it and work on it. I want fewer messages in my life.
I check the news twice a day now, in the morning, sometimes in the evening. I don’t like much of any of it, I find it has little to do with the reality of my life. A curious thing about the hateful Trump, he was sometimes addictive. But I gave up a 30-year valium habit six years ago, I had no trouble giving Trump up a week or so ago, someone told me he is like a fart, the smell will blow away.
The truth is, I don’t need all of the things they tell me I need. I don’t want all of the things they tell me I want. I feel as if I am taking responsibility for my own life, protecting the space around my head, finding quiet and solitude in a shrieking world. This afternoon, I put my earphones on and sat with my very smart phone, a technology I ironically cherish. I closed my eyes and listened to music and was no longer lost, but was found.
Hundreds of apples fell off the apple trees in the back pasture this week, the first time that has happened in our time on the farm. Maria doesn’t want Chloe to eat too many apples, there is too much sugar in them for horses. She and Fate went out into the pasture and were picking apples up for hours and throwing them over the fence and into the woods. I asked her what she was doing – there were countless apples all over the field.
Maria said she couldn’t help it, she knew we had to open up the pasture and she couldn’t bear to leave all of the apples on the ground. It’s hopeless, I said, there must be a thousand apples on the ground. And I saw the look on her face, and I went back to the barn and got a big buck and some rakes and we raked up hundreds of apples.
I don’t know if there are many more, I didn’t want to look.
St. Therese believed that the people of her time lived in too great a fear of Gods judgment. I suppose in our world, we live in great fear of the judgments of political leaders, and the many hordes of people on social media who live to mind our business. We tremble before the Gods of Facebook and Twitter, and the deepening idea that we must dislike what we disagree with.
A French Carmelite Nun, St. Therese preached and practiced a kind of love, simplicity and spirituality. She is one of those religious figures that have something important to tell us, her beliefs seem so appropriate for our time.
She found a way to take our aspirations to be better – our better sides if you will – and apply that to the small things, the everyday tasks of our lives.
We live where there is a lot of judgement, anger, perpetual outrage and conflict. A world awash in anger and greed and judgment mistreats all life forms, human, plant or animal. Every day, I confront people who are learning to hate what they don’t understand or agree with. Each one, I see is a path to the little way, learning to be civil, to move along, to stand in my truth.
Our media and political systems have become toxic and disturbing. Our political leaders are dispiriting and selfish. We are challenged every day to look within ourselves and find ways to be positive and grounded and uplifting. I love St. Therese’s idea of practicing the “little way” of love. In her life, she worked every day to not miss out on a kind world or gesture, including a smile, or any other act that suggested peace and friendship.
I think of my own translation of the little way: cutting up a credit card, smiling to people on the street, letting others have the right of way, taking a lovely photo, teaching a dog how to live in the world, telling my wife how much I appreciate her, smiling at every cashier or waitperson, encouraging the gifts of another person, being polite to a disembodied voice on the telephone, never speaking poorly of my life, doing any small thing to help heal Mother Earth.
St. Therese believed that fear and judgement are stifling, and that spirituality was about letting go, accepting others. It is about small acts of understanding. Like everyone else in the world, I deal with failure, anger, confusion and arrogance all the time. I doubt I will ever be completely free of these things.
I will never be perfect, I have let go of that ambition. What I want is to to do the best I can for as long as I can.
St. Therese translated her “little way” as a commitment to the tasks and people we meet in our everyday lives. I will never get to do the big things that might change the world, to run a government, be read by millions of people, have a billion dollars to dispense.
But I can embrace St. Therese’s little way. Love is civic and political as well as personal. It is also environmental, it makes itself felt in every action that seeks to build a better world.