15 January 2015

Food Not Lawns book excerpt: Make Time for What You Love


The ancient Mayan calendar followed the cycles of Venus, the first and brightest star in the sky. Our modern clock and calendar system is based on the movements of the Earth and her moon. However, these heavenly bodies never return to the exact same place twice. They rotate, they orbit, they speed up and slow down, but they do not do these things the same way every time. Because of this, the tools we use to document the passage of time must fudge the truth into predictable, repeating cycles, which are programmed into machines and printed out years ahead. 

Billions of people organize their lives around this little ruse, and see the passage of time as a straight line from birth to death. Any little quiver, any bump on this long and narrow road is seen as a perversion, an unlikely superstition best reserved for mad scientists and acid heads. But nothing in nature moves in a straight line, and time is no exception. 

Time is not linear, it’s a cycle. It curls, spills, flows around obstacles, pools, flashes with light and darkness. It can be swallowed, absorbed, filtered, lost and found. Time is not static; like every other element in a design, its form and value are relative to scale and placement within the system. A weekend for us is a lifetime to a butterfly. She will emerge, learn to survive, explore, and procreate, then she will grow old and find a place to die, all in the time it takes us to mow the lawn, watch a few football games, and eat nine meals. 

Like money, time can be spent or saved, wasted and lost, and we never seem to have enough of it. But this commodified attitude about time does not take into account the many layers of experience that each moment contains. Unlike money, time is something of nature, something that exists all around us, whether we see it as valid or not. Money is about stuff, power, ownership—time is about life, experience, and freedom. To break out of this bewitching but utterly false marriage between money and time, we must return to the understanding of time as a pattern in living nature, and find ways to integrate that pattern into our gardens and other projects. 

Our perception of time has a great influence over the way we live. Just as the past and future exist in our minds, memories, records, and designs, so does the present exist in many layers at once. Like a paradise garden, our experience grows in exponential directions at once. Consider a time when you were traveling, and every day became a significant and memorable series of events. Or a moment when you were passionately in love, or deeply involved in a project, and the whole day went by in what seemed like two hours. Was it like dreamtime, where lifetimes can go by in the twitch of an eye? How are these experiences of time different from when you are driving to work, watching television, or shopping? 

Woody Guthrie once said, “You can’t kill time without injuring eternity.” So how can we make best use of the now, while planning for the future, learning from the past, and being completely present? Here are some ideas. 

I haven’t used an alarm clock for ten years, because I just can’t take the intrusion. Waking up like that can’t be good for one’s mental health. I am a true believer in every person’s right to sleep as much as they need to, but even when you have to get up early, there are other ways to ‘rouse yourself. Many people claim to have an excellent internal clock, and they tell stories of waking up right before the alarm goes off. You can probably do this too. If you tend to sleep very heavily, and feel dependent on an alarm clock, try taking afternoon naps, cutting back on caffeine and sugar, and scheduling appointments later in the day. 

By removing the clock we place trust in ourselves to know when it is the right time to do something, such as wake up, eat, go to work, go to bed, and so forth. This might seem impractical for some people, but just try it for a few weeks. If you enjoy being free of the alarm, but need to get up early every single morning, get a rooster or move your bed so that the morning sun shines on your face through the window. Or ask a neighbor who is a natural early riser to wake you up for morning yoga, and you’ll stack function, friendship, and exercise. 

Get Organized

If you spend five minutes every day looking for your keys that’s thirty hours each year. If you spend a few minutes creating a convenient place to keep your keys, and training yourself to put them there, you can use the saved time for something you enjoy. Similarily, if you spend an extra two minutes every time you walk out of the way to a toolshed, and you go there four times a week, you can save yourself seven hours a year by moving the toolshed closer to the path. Use this principle of relative location to establish easy, efficient patterns of use, and you will open up blocks of time in your life. 

Stack Functions

If you aren’t ready for an early retirement, consider evaluating the ecological integrity of your livelihood. Does the job you do cause more harm to the environment than you can correct by your own efforts? If so, how do you feel about it? Can you find a way to make ends meet that is more true to your ethics? This issue of “right livelihood” can be a sensitive one, but as we work to better our gardens and communities, we must ask ourselves if our work-time is as well spent as the boss might have us believe. 

Again, once you make some changes in your lifestyle, you may not need that job as much as you once did. Many jobs are just self-perpetuating time sinks; we have to dress nice for work, so we pay for expensive, uncomfortable clothes; we have to drive there so we buy cars and gas; we spend more money at the bar after work, and on therapy, shopping sprees, and expensive vacations just to recover from the drudgery of it all. Then we spend more money trying to prove to ourselves that we don’t spend all our money making money: We buy jet skis, dune-buggies, computer games, DVD players. Yet these are the products of a consumer society, desperate for some tangible validation of its existence.

When expounding the virtues of ecological living, I am not just talking about the small but significant patches of forest saved by using recycled paper, or the fraction of a reduction in the local landfill because you sent less trash there. The best things about ecological living are the indirect effects, in ourselves as we become more ecological individuals, and how that transformation manifests itself through every aspect of our lives.

One of the most common excuses I hear for why people don’t garden and do the other things in this book is, “I don’t have time.” Another is, “ I don’t have any money.” We’ve looked at many ways to be frugal with money by making good use of available resources, but what about time? I know of several excellent strategies for bringing more free time into a busy life, but before we get into the details, let’s make an important foray into the ways we as a culture perceive and document time.

In reality, what we know about time is just a twinkle in the eye of the all-encompassing face of what we don’t understand, scientifically or otherwise. So why then do we need clocks, calendars, and computers to keep track of how long we’ve been alive, awake, asleep, at work or on vacation? Some would say mainly for commerce. Businessmen in early urban cultures invented machines that would document time to assist them in collecting debts and managing investments.i Since then, time has become synonymous with money, and around the world people sell their personal time to make money to survive.

Get Rid of Clocks, Calendars, and Mirrors
Try spending a week without any clocks, calendars, or mirrors. More consumer gadgets, these objects document and reflect the passage of time, and keep us pretending that everything is linear, predictable, and altogether unnatural. Not to say you should never use one again, but consider letting go of your dependence on manufactured time-keeping objects. You will be amazed at the results. I could write a whole book on just this concept. Imagine waking up when you feel rested, eating when you are hungry, celebrating holidays on whatever day you want, and basing your self-image on how you feel, rather than how you look.

Go through your house, garden, workplace, and anywhere else you spend time, and organize it. Get rid of useless junk. Label drawers and cupboards if you need to. Make sure that everything is organized in such a way that you waste no time finding what you need.

Another way to bend time is to stack functions, or multitask, all day, every day. In this way, we can get large amounts of work done with minimal time and effort. At home, I am never empty-handed. I am always getting something, putting something away, moving something to a more relative location. If I am walking from one end of the house or the other, I always try to bring something with me that needs to go where I am going. It is possible, however, to overdo it, so be sure to give your mind and body a break whenever it seems appropriate. Don’t be a workaholic, and remember to look before you leap. This brings us to the next point.

Think Things Through
A stitch in time saves nine, right? Just because you are making best use of your time doesn’t mean you need to be in a hurry. Haste makes waste, for real. Keep your wits about you, and take a minute to evaluate the effectiveness of each action. This sort of temperance could save years of time spent correcting mistakes. Use your observation skills to identify good opportunities, and make prudent choices that reflect your ecological ethic.

Quit Your Job
Now you think I’m crazy for sure, but you can certainly live on much less money, work less at unwanted jobs, and actually live a higher-quality life, because of the freedom and creativity that comes with simplifying your life. It may be hard to imagine being able to pay the bills, but you’ll be surprised at how much money you save when you stop buying things new, limit purchases to those items you absolutely need, use alternative transportation, and cut back on the less essential things like cable TV and junk food. You can probably live a healthy natural life on half as much money as you currently spend, and be at least as content as you are now, but doing less harm to the Earth.

Take a moment to ask yourself—even write it down—“What would I do with my time if I could retire today and not have to worry about money” Be realistic: not everyone can live like a millionaire, and, truly, no one should, if we are to create an ecologically sane society.

success, and quite obviously part of the problem, not the solution. These “toys” not only damage the environment from start to finish; they rob us of our last hours of free time.

John Briggs and F. David Peat, The Seven Life Lessons of Chaos; Spiritual Wisdom From the Science of Change (New York: HarperPerennial, 2000).
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1 comment:

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When that terrible tightness happens in your muscles and you just want to pull your hair out....get up and lift weights. I used hand weights, and did many positions repeatedly until my arms felt like they were going to fall off. That heat you experience is like the same feeling you get when you take a pill...you can do squats to help the RLS...this was the best thing for my body symptoms. The mind was a different challenge.....
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