I am so sorry to hear of Emilia's death. I had mailed her the article from Science that she wanted about protective plant guilds and wondered why she had not responded. Now I learn the sad reason. She was a great practitioner and adapter of natural farming, and it was only in that capacity that I "knew" her. You are fortunate to have met her in person, beyond the limitations of books, videos, and the Web. I looked forward to corresponding with her for at least another 20 years.
I feel no tension toward those who read Fukuoka for philosophy. I agree with Steve that one of Fukuoka's main goals is to help people achieve economy in their lives, not just in the way that they grow food. But philosophy must be embodied if it is to be real, and the body (corps) of Fukuoka's writing concerns farming, for the simple reason that he choose to live as a small-scale farmer, and small-scale farming was what he knows most about. When he speaks of his experience as a small-scale farmer in Japan, I tend to believe him; when he strays far afield, I tend to be more skeptical, as I would with anyone who I felt was getting beyond his or her depth.
I was initally attracted to Fukuoka because he did really seem to be living an ecologically sustainable life, unlike many of the hippies and genX tribe who drive their Volkswagen bus or gas-guzzling SUV to Earth Day Celebrations. Talk about tension! The contradiction between making a parking lot into gasoline city while blathering about global warming and pollution on the one hand, and Fukuoka living in a hut, growing his own food, and using a truck only to distribute the produce is unmistakable. The first group are pretenders; Fukuoka is real. I still feel that way about him; he may frequently overextend himself by making wild claims that lie outside his experience, but when he talks about his observations on his own farm he is real and cannot be deconstructed, any more than you can deconstruct, say, William Blake. Blake saw those angels in the tree and Fukuoka saw that heron.
Let's consider a cultural limitation of Fukuoka to show why he may not be the best guide to acheiving more sustainability in all areas of life (beyond his wonderful idea of non-till, deep-mulch, polycrop synergistic farming on a small scale). Fukuoka's idea of a dwelling was a live in a simple hut. I don't think simple huts are going to be accepted by many in any "modern" industrial country. So if we want sustainability in housing we are going to have to try something else. To illustrate my point, Let me quote an Amazon.com review of MIT engineer James Kachadorian's book "The Passive Solar House" by someone who grew up living in a hut in Korea:
"Getting Away from Rice Power, April 26, 2000"
"My name is Jimmy Pak, I used to live in Korea where everything was powered by mule. When I moved to America with my wife Ellen Su, we bought our first house here. It sure beats the bamboo shacks we came from." Jimmy Pak ends his review by offering to "send you a pound of rice"; that is, he is only too happy to exchaange bamboo huts, mule power and rice power for solar power. So, if he were at a symposium with Fukuoka and Kachadorian, Jimmy would most likely listen transfixed to Fukuoka on how to make philosophy work in the garden, but he would be drawn (like me) more to Kachadorian on how to make philosophy work in the nice, warm solar house.
Similarily, I find Daniel Chiras in "The Solar House: Heating and Passive Cooling" or Sue Roaf' in "Eco House: A Design Guide" better Zen masters than Fukuoka when it comes to dwellings. I suspect that other, machine-oriented, masters could teach even Fukuoka a thing or two about biodiesel, hydrogen-powered or even photovoltaic powered trucks, tractors, and cars, to say nothing of Internet. . Life is short; art is long--no one can know everything. Let us revere each for what he or she knows best and not expect miracles.
Bob, by the winding snake of the Mississippi, of which Jerome Kern said in his great eponoymous song: "He must know something, but he don't say nothing; he just keeps rolling along. You and me, we sweat and strain; back all breaking, racked with pain: tote that barge, lift that bale..."
> wrote: Hello Everyone, from the evidence of a growing number of posts to this list
there seems to be a tension between those who read only practice and those
who read only philosophy into Fukuoka's books.
These lines from Steve and Robert's posts might characterize the opposing
"Would it be fair to say that the gardening is not the heart of Fukuoka's
teaching? ie that gardening is simply the metaphor for one to realise a
greater economy in life."
"He is a practical rather than a theoretical man. If we take his farming
approach as metaphor only, we foolishly deconstruct him and leave little
behind to work with."
Steve has responded to Fukuoka's 'do-nothing' approach extended into all
aspects of life and not just farming, while Robert believes there is nothing
left if the practical approach is ignored. Neither are wrong, but then again
neither are right: or, at least, they are right to the extent that they use
Fukuoka in their own personal, yet different ways. Right and wrong just do
But then, neither do practice and philosophy. If not this but that, is the
tit-for-tat of western dualism, of subject/object, which Fukuoka rails
against. It has been written before that they are rather the two faces of
the same coin. Thus we have the movement of thought in the West: thesis +
antithesis = synthesis!
But go carefully with this imperial triumvirate, it may not be the
conclusion Fukuoka suggests (as Kristi says, like any good Zen master,
Fukuoka does not answer directly). It underwrites western intellectual
history: from the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost down to Hegel's
Dialectic, our thought dances this dull three-step.
What if there were no Nature versus Man, Spirit versus Intellect? What if
there truly is no Right or Wrong or even Good or Bad? When Fukuoka
understood nothingness as the night heron flew up and gave a call, he
understood the triviality of these human constructs.
Sometimes, considering this insight, I do not understand why Fukuoka did not
remain silent. When he wrote or dictated every word of his books, he must
have known the uselessness of his endeavour - how could it be otherwise
after realising that humanity is nothing and understands nothing!
We do, must do, what we do. We think, agonise over every move we make or act
without thought. It really makes no difference.
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