Much study wearies the flesh

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I think I’ve been reading too much – and it’s all the fault of the southwesterly winds. We did at least manage 3 hours on the allotment yesterday, but today, after setting out on a fruitless (yes) mission to pick damsons, it hammered down so much we turned around and came home again whereupon I spent the rest of the day watching 2 films about Arne Naess and reading his book “Ecology of Wisdom”.  I had to check him out because his name, and the concept of ‘deep ecology’ have come up quite a lot in my reading recently and I always find it better to go back to the source and make my own mind up..

The introduction was a bit repetitive, whereas the initial chapter on place was really intriguing.  But I came away from the first three essays thinking that, after looking at his CV, I felt more disabled than enabled by his mountaintop vision. There was something a shade too muscular, too charismatic, for me. I’ll never build a primitive hut on the side of a mountain, or read Spinoza in Latin, or learn Ghandian boxing.  So does that mean that the Potwell Inn is forever condemned to the sidelines?  Does it mean that my proposed ecology of Muckyannydinny Lane, the rubbish filled alley connecting two estates, will never see the light of day because it’s too ordinary?

I liked the man and some at least of his writing, but it seems to me as if his disciples (where have I heard this story before?) have added whole chunks of metaphysics and rather extreme conclusions to his initial words.  Isn’t it always the same? The moment we canonize someone, the followers feel free to claim pretty much anything they like and then stamp it with the saint’s imprimatur to put it beyond debate.

So here I am with a seed catalogue in one hand and the disabling thought in my mind that I really don’t know what we should be doing for the best.  Is the bib and brace overall and the Tilly hat more of a deferential tug of the forelock to the past? (see postbox). Is there some complete system for the ethically perfect life that I haven’t stumbled across yet or am I condemned to stumble around in the dark?  I know there are people who’ve found the answer because you can sense by their absolute certainty and their gimlet eyes that they have the truth – I’m not being smart and ironical here, I’m both envious of and repelled by their purity.

Loving the earth and the natural world is easy, and counting ourselves among the creatures surely involves loving one another as well as the birds, bees and wolves, and yet the most forceful expositions of rewilding seem almost Malthusian – discarding human lives as if they (we) are a form of infection.  The most common exposition of the technological dream, of carbon capture and fusion power et al  seem to me to be putting your trust into the power of the unicorn, and somewhere in the middle you land up being despised by almost everyone.  All I can think of is to try to live ethically as best I can, reduce my impact on the earth and keep the Potwell Inn going so we, the bewildered, can spent our twilight years with shaking hands and rheumy eyes discussing the price of onions over a pint of Ushers cider.

Today I baked another sourdough and took 15 minutes off the baking time to try to create a less daunting crust.  Madame cooked ratatouille – possibly the last of the season from our own produce.

My son asked me at the weekend why I don’t blog about politics.  It’s for the same reason I don’t go around bludgeoning people who steal our coldframes, it’s all got a bit too poisonous and I think it’s bad for me.  One of my ex parishioners facebooked to say I was being very stoic.  OK Chris – you’ve  found me out!

Author: Dave Pole

I've spent my life doing a lot of things, all of them interesting and many of them great fun. When most people see my CV they probably think I'm making things up because it includes being a rather bad welder and engineering dogsbody, a potter, a groundsman and bus driver. I taught in a prison and in one of those ghastly old mental institutions as an art therapist and I spent ten years as a community artist. I was one of the founding members of Spike Island, which began life as Artspace Bristol. ! wrote a column for Bristol Evening Post (I got sacked three times, in which I take some pride) and I worked in local and network radio and then finally became an Anglican parish priest for 25 years, retiring at 68 when I realised that the institutional church and me were on different paths. What interests me? It would be easier to list what doesn't, but I love cooking and baking with our home grown ingredients. I'm fascinated by botany and wildlife in general, and botanical illustration. We have a camper van that takes us to the wild places, we love walking, especially in the hills, and we take too many photographs. But what really animates me is the question "what does it mean to be human?". I've spent my life exploring it in every possible way and the answer is ..... well, today it's sitting in the van in the rain and looking across Ramsey Sound towards Ramsey Island. But it might as easily be digging potatoes or making pickle, singing or finding an orchid or just sitting. But it sure as hell doesn't mean getting a promotion, beasting your co-workers or being obsequious to power, which ensured that my rise to greatness in the Church of England flatlined 30 years ago after about 2 days. But I'm still here and still searching for that elusive sweet spot, and I don't have to please anyone any more. Over the last 50 or so years we've had a succession of gardens, some more like wildernesses when we were both working full-time, but now we're back in the game with our two allotments in Bath.

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