Thursday, March 29, 2007
Goodbye for now
On April 1st I’m beginning a ten-day, silent Vipassana meditation course at a retreat center outside of Kathmandu. After that I’m headed up to the high peaks in Langtang National Park along the Tibetan border for some trekking meditation. So there won’t be too much activity on the blog here for the next month or so.
I’ll take lots of photos of the trek and post them here when I get back. And I’ll try to distill whatever metaphysical musings I get out of the experience for you as well. In the meantime, here are some books I’ve run across lately that I highly recommend…
From the Ground Up: Rethinking Industrial Agriculture. By Peter Goering, Helena Norberg-Hodge and John Page. This book concisely critiques several aspects of industrial agriculture such as the application of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, the treatment of animals, biotechnology and the use of hybrid seeds, the mechanization of farming, and the economic and social effects of industrial agriculture on small farmers and rural communities. It’s a quick read and a good general primer on what’s wrong with industrial agriculture.
The Unsettling of America. By Wendell Berry. This book should be required reading for anyone who eats food, because, as Berry points out, “eating is an agricultural act.” Two rare elements are combined in Wendell Berry’s writing: one, he is a great writer, and two, his message is exceedingly important. The Unsettling of America is another critique of industrial agriculture. But unlike the book by Goering et al. that provides mainly a step-wise, logical account of the factual problems in the way we do agriculture, Berry’s critique is much more spiritually based.
Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh. By Helena Norberg-Hodge. This book tells the story of a healthy, happy, enviable traditional society high in the mountains of western Tibet formerly based nearly exclusively on subsistence agriculture. Once the area was opened up to tourism, trade, and so-called “development,” however, their idyllic way of life quickly began to erode. This book is a powerful account of the workings of “development” and its negative effects on traditional cultures and ecological integrity.
The One Straw Revolution. By Masanobu Fukuoka. An entertaining and quick read that describes Fukuoka’s philosophy on life, industrial agriculture, self-reliance, and farming methods that mimic nature. A classic text among alternative agrarians.
The Power of Now. By Eckhart Tolle. This book is perhaps the best book ever written describing the way the mind works and the difficulties generated by the ego for health, happiness and connection with other people. Tolle is able to explain on a conceptual level how the mind works to cause anxiety, depression, pain and suffering; but, as he points out, a conceptual or intellectual understanding is insufficient for gaining control of the mind, ending suffering, and becoming fully present. However, his writing has the power to take you beyond intellectualizing and conceptual understanding to finally experience the workings of the mind directly – this makes it possible to get beyond egocentric ways of living.
Still the Mind. By Alan Watts. This is a quick-reading little book that provides easy access to the teachings and philosophy of Zen Buddhism. Watts’ style is whimsical and entertaining, and his book is full of koans – statements designed to interrupt the mind’s logical, linear processes to produce deep insights into life, the self, the nature of reality, etc. I can also recommend another of Watts’ books, Buddhism: The religion of no religion.
Well, happy reading! I’ll be back in contact around the first of May.