Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front
by Wendell Berry
Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion -- put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go.
Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
mad farmers and loving mothers
After running a work errand to Costco earlier today - which, particularly at this time of year I equate with hell on earth - I find myself exceedingly grateful for the ‘mad farmers’ of the world; for individuals like Wendell Berry who ask the questions that have no answers (i.e. Who really needs 300 York Peppermint Patties or 300 of anything for that matter?) and are joyful though they’ve considered all the facts. (Fact #1: We live in a culture with an overabundance of crap; Fact #2: I own enough yoga clothes to outfit a small village so I can’t pretend I don’t fall victim to fact #1 and the aforementioned question).
While I find the entirety of “The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” rich in truth and uncustomary wisdom, I especially love the following: Ask yourself: Will this satisfy a woman satisfied to bear a child? Will this disturb the sleep of a woman near to giving birth? As we approach Christmas, these beautiful lines call to my mind the image of Mary. Raised Catholic, my spiritual path has admittedly varied over the years, combining a smorgasbord of teachings and philosophies ranging from the mystical Sufism of Rumi to non-dual Tantric philosophy, steeped equally in Leonard Cohen lyrics & high mountain air. Throughout these explorations, the iconic image of Mary as a deeply loving mother is an element of my Catholic upbringing that remains very close to my heart.
My thoughts then turn from Mary & ‘mad farmers’ to the lineage of women from whom I’ve descended - a group of women who are, in certain ways, a divine combination of both; part loving mother, part fox. I think about my paternal grandmother, also named Mary, who I never had the honor of knowing in this lifetime but who is, according to my father, very much alive in my sister’s calm demeanor and small hands.
I think about my grandma Frances - incredibly open-minded, tough as nails and thoroughly accepting & supportive of her twenty-some grandchildren. She is truly a kindred spirit, very much alive in my love of art, in my spunkiness, in my general “out-there-ness”. Hearing about her amazing path in this life, and how much it has changed over the years, gives me the courage to follow my own unique path even when I ‘make more tracks than necessary, and some in the wrong direction.’
From Costco, to mad farmers, to Mary, to Frances, we arrive at my Mom and her sisters (an example of my mind, like me feet, making more tracks than necessary). The Byrne women, while individually strong, are collectively a full-on force to be reckoned with. They, in no particular order:
- Are fiercely loyal to their family and equally, if at times overly, protective of their children;
- If given the choice, prefer to drink PG Tips in thin-lipped white porcelain cups with milk;
- Have a tendency to exaggerate numbers when re-telling a story;
- Are as intelligent as they are beautiful; as strong as they are loving;
- Have an incredibly fast chain of communication with one another that at times seems to defy the laws of physics. This “Family Circuit” ensures that next to nothing will be kept secret, in exchange for the invaluable gift of never having to go through any difficulty on your own. Whether you ask for it or not, you will be held in their web of support and experience. After 28 years in the circuit, and having surely been the topic of conversation more than once, I can safely say that I wouldn’t trade it for anything;
- Can make one killer rhubarb pie (most likely served with PG Tips in porcelain cups);
- Are spiritual seekers and have given their children permission to be the same.
This Thanksgiving, four generations of Byrne women sat together and shared in a gratitude meditation. We shared what we are grateful for and my sister noted how fortunate we are to come from such a strong tribe of women. We shared what we’d like to shed and what we’d like to bring forth. Together we put our hearts and minds close to the carrion of the previous year/years/generations, in order to hear the faint chattering of songs that are to come.