An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of April 19, 2009
issued from  the Siskiyou Mountains west of
Grants Pass, Oregon, USA

NOT ECONOMICALLY FEASIBLE

The other day my friend and I were snipping dried twigs from a cut-down madrone tree. Such snippets are good for starting fires in the stove. Ignite a bit of paper, the paper sets a little teepee of madrone twigs ablaze and once the madrone is afire the regular-size kindling catches. Madrone and manzanita both are heavy, long-burning woods that produce lots of heat and little ash.

"What we're doing isn't so economically feasible," my friend said, shrugging his shoulders. I knew why he said that. First, our work was Mickey Mouse stuff in this land where he-men use chainsaws instead of hand snippers, and move truckloads of timber, not little boxes of twigs. Also, in this culture we're always making mental calculations like this:

"It takes me three hours to produce this box of twigs. Even charging as little for my labor as $5/hour, that means that this box of twigs should be worth at least $15."

But, no one would have paid $15 for our little box of madrone twigs, not even us. "Not economically feasible... "

As we continued working and I thought more on the matter, it grew ever clearer that if you accept "economic prosperity" as the main measure for your success as a human being -- and that's our society's bedrock assumption -- you're in a mess if you care for things that merely enrich life, or make life worth living. Camaraderie and the feeling of working in spitting snow as a Raven calls from up high in a wintry mountain valley aren't "economically feasible."

But, "economics" is no more than an artificial system based on money, and money's value is only what people say it is at the time, and people are likely to say anything.

Moreover, "economics" is a subset (human-imagined system) within a subset (humanity) within a subset (Life on Earth) within a set (the Universe).

In profound contrast, two friends standing shoulder by shoulder snipping twigs for their own warmth on a snow-spitting morning with a Raven overhead... are part of an organic whole, a local manifestation of the blossoming Universe. What my friend and I had that day was something with exactly as much value as a wildflower meadow on a mountain slope, the beauty and meaning of the night sky, as music and the esthetics of geometry... all things to which "economics" attributes no value at all.

That day in the spitting snow, what enormous value our work was in terms of contributing to the blossoming of the Universe, and how beautiful we were just being ourselves, exactly then, exactly there. Facebook Icon.