living off the land

C.S. Lewis And J.R.R. Tolkien: “The Strength Of The Hills Is Not Ours”


While permaculture is still a newish (30-40 years) subject of suddenly increased interest (myself falling in among the band-waggon stagers), I’m learning not to be surprised when I stumble upon a highly relevant, pre-dating thought from someone who would not be considered a natural farming resource. In a letter to his life-long pen pal Arthur Greeves dated the 22nd of June, 1930, C.S. Lewis mentions Tolkien’s thoughts on the spiritual and generational effects of living directly off of the physically surrounding country.

“Tolkien once remarked to me that the feeling about home must have been quite different in the days when the family had fed on the produce of the same few miles of country for six generations, and that perhaps this was why they saw nymphs in the fountains and dryads in the wood – they were not mistaken for there was in a sense a real (not metaphorical) connection between them and the countryside. What had been earth and air & later corn, and later still bread, really was in them. We of course who live on a standardised international diet (you may have had Canadian flour, English meat, Scotch oatmeal, African oranges, & Australian wine to day) are really artificial beings and have no connection (save in sentiment) with any place on earth. We are synthetic men, uprooted. The strength of the hills is not ours.”

People like Fukuoka, Lewis, Berry and Tolkien seem to have this in common: they interest was not in resonse to a couple of generations of problems and discontent, or because of some impending global disaster. They began by asking themselves much larger questions about what it means to be human and, when alighting upon confident conclusions, the implications of what they understood led them to value the concepts that permaculture and natural farming ideals now come to out of desparation or fear. They were asking these questions in the 1920’s, 30’s, and 50’s. When everyone else was head over heels in love with new technologies, they were wondering at what had been lost. I am in no way implying that those who desire to live naturally do not see the immense beauty before them, I only mean to point out the difference between coming from a concept to its implication versus finding that the natural is the necessary solution to so much unnatural action. I think I’ll go medetate on these philosophies a bit more before heading back into the practical how-to’s.

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