The Mad Agriculture Journal
November 30, 2020
We live in challenging and wondrous times. 2020 has been a tumultuous year. It has been a year of decomposition, in many ways, and I can see things rising from the ashes already.
Through it all, I’ve noticed myself becoming wildly impatient with reality. Consternation is reflected in my two essays for this journal; one cuts sharply against the grain and the other is unabashed satire - two modes of illumination that I rarely lean into. In times like these, it is so difficult not to succumb to the rancor of division. Most people fight tenaciously for what they believe, including me. It’s much easier to fight for something, than to deeply consider the other.
Much of this stems from our inability to question the self. Stepping outside our moral matrix is unfamiliar and uncomfortable, and something we’re not taught to do. (Jon Heights book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good people are divided on religion and politics, has been helpful.) Questioning deeply held beliefs, often unconsciously held or imbued, is very hard to do. How often do I liberally apply skepticism to everyone and everything, but myself? When was the last time I’ve changed in a profound way?
I’ve been working to change myself by trying to uproot racism in my life and in the work of Mad Agriculture. It’s been challenging. Following our work with Soul Fire Farm, as I read everything I can from Chris Newman of Sylvanaqua Farms, I’ve been somewhat dumbfounded by how people very much unlike me have the ability to know me better than I know myself - an admission that is difficult to grapple with and reflect on. I’ve come to realize that the paradigm that I live and breathe is hard to see, and harder to change.
The word ‘paradigm’ always reminds me of Thomas Kuhn, who popularized the word in his book, Structure of Scientific Revolutions. During college, he couldn’t understand how Aristotle, a brilliant thinker, got physics entirely wrong. While staring out his dorm window at Harvard, gazing at how sunshine illuminated a vine climbing up the adjacent building, he realized that every view has a shadow, and the light that reveals the things we see does not reveal everything to the viewer.
Point being, our perspective is limited, and the way we gaze upon each other and ourselves reveals only what is partially true. We must remember, more than ever (please watch Social Dilemma), that each of us positions ourselves to see what we want to see. And in turn, our sources, our knowledge and who we surround ourselves with reinforce our paradigm. If we hope to change the world, we must begin with the courage of changing ourselves. And to do this, we need others in our lives, people that are different than ourselves, different sorts of lights, to expose and help us transform into what the world needs.