An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
Monthly we have our newest “Godson” (it always seems strange in reference to an adult) over for dinner after Liturgy. He and my wife will discuss their Nourishing Traditions and conspire to see what new non-traditional and yet traditional healthy foods they will force me to eat, which admittedly I will probably end up enjoying. I’m rather along for the ride in all of that, but its all good. Last Sunday we also talked about something else that really was an eye opener.
Our guest noted as we were discussing planting trees that for many people these days the notion planting a tree that won't yield fruit for years is a fools errand...even unthinkable. Even more, planting a tree not for ourselves, but for our kids to enjoy! Previously I had mentioned my history studies with my kids and how we were discussing the transition from nomadic life to farming (some would say the beginning of civilization) and it occurred to us that in many ways we have returned to a nomadic life. It was rather a revelation to me, but it is largely true. No, we are not chasing mammoth herds around again, but we are chasing jobs, technology, innovation, and really money in general. Yes, many move out of some alternative choice (look at us), but for certain we are largely a society with little to no direct connection with our land. And frankly, I don't know what long-term connections we will have to our current land...thoughts of more and better land are in our minds, but time and the economy will tell.
So what if we are modern nomads? Well that is a good question. I note it without any definitive means of applying a moral judgment on our new nomadic life. But, it does seem sad to me and I have been trying to comprehend why I feel this way about it.
Obviously at one point the vast majority of us were farmers and those few who weren’t almost certainly still made use of their land in someway to feed their families. This agrarian way of life, of course, began to change as the Industrial Revolution really got underway. More and more people became less and less attached to the land and more and more attached to cities – where the jobs were/are to be found. It was all a perfectly logical progression. We became mobile and have increasingly done so ever since.
Does attachment to the land DO anything for us? Honestly, I think it might and the word I would suggest is permanence. In some of what I am about to consider, the old chronological order debate of the chicken and egg may be applicable…but I would feel inclined to put up an argument that my answer is chronologically accurate. Anyway, I suggest that our abandonment of the land and the attachment to our modern nomadic life has perhaps instigated and propelled us toward the rather crazy disposable, one-time use world we see around us today. Nothing is expected to last and I wonder if we tend to think it doesn’t need to. I’ve asked before: how many ratchet sets have I owned? How many different front lawns have I mowed? Would I be different - would my life be different - if the answer was “one” and the previous owner and mower was my father? And Grandfather? I don’t know….maybe? It is interesting to consider though isn’t it?
Families today are spread out all over the country. Moving from one house to another is just about normative and moving from one state to another is no big deal. I’m not sure where the phrase “home is where the heart is” came from, but there was once an actual geographic connection with the notion of home – sometimes for generations. To the attorney in San Francisco, his Grandfather’s farm he inherited is little more than dirt with far too little monetary value.
Can you imagine a time when people bought and made things with the expectation that their grandchildren would use them? Can you imagine someone giving thought to planting a fruit tree from which they know they will never see food, but their kids will? Is leading this nomadic life part of what has produced our microwave generation? Yes we own a bit of land…but do we sense a need of stewardship over it? Or is our attitude really all that different from renters? I suppose we all tend to develop a certain affinity for our cities (Seattle?) or general areas (The Pacific Northwest?)…but I don’t think it’s the same.
I sense an inherent value in my kids playing in a tree my grandfather planted. I’m not sure I can accurately express that value right now. I think we DO lose something in adopting this new nomadic life today but I shall have to think more about it. I think there is a move toward what they are calling today “sustainability” but I’m not sure that is the same. I’m talking about a living connection with the past…a closeness to home and to family (extended) and to an abiding tradition of life. And even more that I cannot now bring beyond vague inclinations in my brain...later maybe.
Some will undoubtedly see mistakenly see this post as an apologetic for agrarian life...it's not. I'm wondering here how our shift from life connected to land may have effected our lives and attitudes...good or bad? Both?
To plant a tree I will never eat the fruit of...and to be pleased to do so.
Much more to ponder…no definitive conclusions yet.