How Ought One to Live
“There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace. To avoid the first danger, one should plant a garden, preferably where there is no grocer to confuse the issue. To avoid the second, he should lay a split of good oak on the andirons, preferably where there is no furnace, and let it warm his shins while a February blizzard tosses the trees outside.”
- A Sand Country Almanac: By Aldo Leopold
What does it mean to be normal. What is the normal way of living one’s life. Norms change over time, but perhaps it is not normal that we are looking for, but rather how does God intend man to live. We live in a world full of extravagant technological advances. We have the ability to do things that were unfathomable to previous generations. Technology is not evil, but nor is it good. It doesn’t exist in a vacuum, but rather in a real world with real world consequences. It is value laden, and it changes our lives significantly.
Once upon a time human beings grew food and ate it. We are unique amongst creatures in that we are the only ones to have discovered and used agriculture. Our God-endowed reason allows us to not only pick the wild berries, but to cut, plant, cultivate, and improve them. We even discovered how to create thornless blackberries, which surely is a marvelous thing if you have ever picked from the entangled brambles of the wild ones. Certainly agriculture, which is the purposeful growing of food is a critical aspect of humanity’s ability to survive. Without it our population would surely nearly disappear in comparison to our current numbers.
Our world has forgotten what it means to be normal. While we have seen advances in technology beyond our wildest dreams, at the same time we have seen the moral disintegration of our families and communities. When I originally discovered the Catholic Land Movement I was enthralled by the vision it put forth of a family returning to the land to grow their own food in the midst of a rural community rooted in the faith. However, the vision of the founders was based in a world that no longer exists. Today rural life has dissipated into something much less that it once was. Too often rural parishes are comprised of members who have seen many years under the country sun. Too few young families inhabit such places today. The founders presupposed that a local village would provide faith, community, and culture. Today it provides a Wal-Mart and a bar… Too often families who seek to return to the land find themselves seen as backwards and isolated.
Yet, over and over again I have heard from voices as far away as Asia and Europe that say they too feel the longing for the land. Families who feel that their lives are fragmented and long for the unity that the Catholic Land Movement presented. It has led me to discern more clearly what I understand the New Catholic Land Movement to be. I see it now more as a set of ideals rather than an organization. I don’t see it ever organizing into a group that has people hired to promote is ideas. Rather I see it simply as a set of ideas and ideal that can be lived by individuals or families no matter where they find themselves. Those ideas are very simple: Reuniting the life of the family, uniting work, faith, and family life, and living simply on the land. The exact way of living out these ideas are left to your own discernment.
I believe it has now come to a time when I need to again put forth these ideals in the context of our modern lives. Too often those who return to the land find themselves completely disillusioned. Rural life and community are not what they once were. Thus why I have often promoted the need for a Catholic center such as a monastery or university to ground the life of such families. I will be writing more over the coming weeks and months. I plan to go back over many of the ideas I have written on in the past, and to update them as needed. I still believe, as did Servant of God Catherine Doherty that farming is the way of life meant for the majority of men. It is what God intended them to do.