Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Real World...

A simpler time

I tend not to write too much here about my personal life, and for good reason: I don't really know how. I have trouble sitting down and sharing what I'm thinking. My wife might (jokingly?) say that it's because I'm a shallow person, but I think it's more because I'm kind of private, except to a very few.

I was just reading a post by Victor Davis Hanson, a conservative opinion writer, lecturer, author, and military historian, in which he shared his perspective on the "rat race." He contrasts his life, and his parents' life with that of his grandparents, and the simplicity and healthiness of growing up and working on the farm (scroll down to The Agrarian Life):

Stress of the modern workplace surely is the real killer of Americans. My maternal grandparents lived to be 86 and 91; their two professional daughters, my mother and aunt, died at 66 and 49 respectively. My paternal grandfather lived to be 81, his son, my father died at 75. The older generation lived pretty much in one place, rarely if ever traveled, and set their schedule by the natural year. They worked within sight on their farmhouses, ate much of what they grew, and were up at 4 and in bed at 9 or 10.

My parents, in contrast, entered the rat race and all that entailed, and toward the end of their lives understood the toll it took. I don’t want to romanticize farm life; I found it brutal and dangerous, but the wear is of a different sort.

The healthiest period of my own life was when farming. In one stretch I didn’t leave the 135 acres for nearly a month, and didn’t go into Fresno for six weeks. We forget how liberating an experience it is to have such a routine, as one’s world shrinks to a few acres. I wrote about it in depth in Fields Without Dreams and The Land Was Everything, this sense of near exhilaration of wearing what you want, not worried whether your hair is uncombed or your shirt unbuttoned or a shoe lace broken.

All that—physical work interspersed with contemplation while pruning or shoveling, complete responsibility for your own success or failure, constant attention to the weather—has some sort of healthy effect on the body. I confess I was always skeptical of New Age nostrums and non-traditional medical advice, but I also confess that something about farming made chronic conditions disappear over time.

What made me think about posting this was a visit last night to a Tang Soo Do school in my local area, mostly for my son. We took a lesson from the instructor, then I sat down with him, and eventually confessed my years of experience (it was our second visit, but first lesson), and we enjoyed discussing the martial arts and instructing. The instructor related the fact that he's got a day job, and does this (teaching TSD) in the evening, and it made me remember the adventure and simplicity of owning my own schools. I got up, ran errands, went to the school, had lunch, and taught, assisted, and managed the school. I wore a dobok or gi all day long, rarely wore shoes, and, when not doing something more important, kicked, punched, sparred, and did forms. My daily life was simple...

I married a beautiful, wonderful, smart woman in 1995. As anyone who knows us both will tell you, she was, and is, way out of my league, and within six months, she broke the news to me between classes: I was going to be a father. My mom was actually visiting the school at the time and took a picture of my wife breaking the news to me. Shock. Awe. Slack jaw. Drool? Anyway, I knew, at that moment that my life had to change.

Over the next few days I absorbed the realization that I was going to have to either 1) open 5 more schools and become well-off enough to afford to not be there, or 2) go out into the real world. I chose the latter. It just made sense. At the time, I had months where I was making pretty good money, and many other months where we were lucky to eat. I needed some stability, which eventually led me to my career in law enforcement technology.

Much is different about the real world, and I can't help but look back with nostalgia at that time, and think that Hanson is probably right. I know that whenever I get an opportunity to do physical labor, I love it. There's something about performing manual labor that's good for the body and soul. I think teaching martial arts fits. And there's the no shoes thing too...

Read the rest of Hanson's post, too.

5 comments:

Dojo Rat said...

I totally agree with the author on farm life. I ran a farm in Oregon for eight years, and one in Washington (organic vegetables) for three. Now I found more money in tree pruning and landscape maintanence, but I live by the seasons and am in the field every day. I've never been on an extended vacation, and have never been on an airplane in my life. I set my own rules and time schedule. We are up here in the rebirth of the "back to the land movement". There are tons of educated hippie kids living in the woods with moss in their hair, working on upstart organic farms, playing music and living large. That doesn't take much money. Sometimes, they will gain enough skills to become a small-time contractor, but many reject their parents rat race. Many of my friends that were able to afford property in our rural area have set up camps, trailer sites, yurts, teepee's and sheds for other people to share their property and collect rent or exchange labor. As we approach peak oil and the coming recession, rural life will look much more appealing, safe and healthy.
Thanks for the thoughtful post!
D.R.

Nathan Teodoro said...

Wow! Now I see where you get the Cute Hippie Chick pics!

Dojo Rat said...

Hmmmm....That gives me a few ideas...

Argonautica said...

Farm Living is not the life for me, I'm much too lazy.

That said, the post definitely resonated with me. I would love to be able to quit the day job and spend my day on blogging, exercise, martial research/writing, online ventures, house upkeep, and martial arts.

I was recently seriously considering moving in that direction, but baby #2 is on the way and I guess I'll just suck it up for at least a few more years.

Or then again, maybe I'll stay home with the kid and kickbox with an infant carrier on my back. The back's off limits anyway, right?

Nathan Teodoro said...

There's an attraction for "the simple" life that probably all of us have. Though, I'd hazard that working a farm isn't simple. I am less than a white belt at being in touch with the seasons, planting, harvesting, etc. Much less getting up before dawn! Sheesh!
I do have fantasies about winning the lottery, actually opening a martial combat compound, and just training all day, entering the Bloodsport kumite, becoming a secret agent (with only martial arts being used), seeing the world, and so on. Wait. Wasn't this post about going back to the simple life? Back to the drawing board...