Outside The Box.
At the Ruskin Mill therapy centre for young adults, one of the courses they do is baking bread. They are given an ounce of rye seed and told to bake a two pound loaf of bread. My question to you is how can they do this?
Why? Because if you couldn’t, you are abstracted from reality. Final. Your bread comes pre-sliced with a sell-by date. No further thought required.
The reality of bread is very different. Bread doesn’t just appear on the shelves of a supermarket. Using your imagination can help here to a degree. The issues I want to raise here are a little deeper. And far more powerful.
Riddles of this kind are troublesome for the intellectual. How is it that you can make so much bread from so little? It simply doesn’t make any sense. Until you start thinking outside the box, start undoing your assumptions about the world you live in. Intellectual, rational thought has a habit of working in sensible rational lines. There’s a very real problem with this: you can only describe the smallest part of nature using rational thought. Because this is our first step outside the realms of the intellect. It is still thinking, only it isn’t rational. When you realize just how much of your life isn’t rational, you may begin to see the real power that humans possess.
Now: do you want a clue to the answer? Compost.
Compost??? Are you crazy? What has that to do with bread? Surely yeast, salt, a little water and oil! Not compost. Well, actually, yes. Compost. You might begin to realize just how far we have journeyed away from reality.
Our Electric World
Today we live in a world that is largely driven by electricity – or some other kind of fuel. It is as it were, a fog. In a very real way it has allowed each of us to become super-human. It has allowed us the facility to do things that would have been impossible even fifteen years ago. Yet it has come at a terrible cost. We have become divorced from nature. Universities openly train you in a way that removes you from participating in nature. Whilst laudable, it is tragic. In removing themselves into what Teilhard de Chardin calls the noosphere, the realms of thought, we are able to imagine things that – put bluntly – don’t exist. They can exist in your imagination, fine. Only do they exist in the world you really live in? Does this make any difference, you say!
Well, the answer is yes, it does. It makes a great deal of difference.
A good example might be fitting wheel nuts to motorcars. As a job, it is boring and repetitive and not very demanding. The job is as distant from the real world as any. You can say that the job is an necessary one, it feeds him and his family, keeps people supplied with motorcars. I want to suggest that whilst these things are all very useful, they are based on assumptions that are very very far from being natural. This is important if only because most of us think it normal and natural to think of motorcars as normality. They are anything but. The entire point of understanding the imagination is to better understand both ourselves and the world we live in.
The bigger problem of industrializing food production and the dangers that lie in this are but one product of this essential misconception. That is why compost is important. Well, to me it is. If you take the time to get to know how I think, you may come to agree with me in the course of time.
The promise of the Muse “Seek patiently and you shall find”.
Because the reason you couldn’t answer to the riddle is because you were thinking of baking the bread today. At Ruskin Mill the bread is baked after an entire summer has passed. That means sowing the seed, tending the plants and harvesting them. That handful of seeds when sown will give you back twenty to fifty times its weight. That means you can bake a loaf of bread from two ounces of seed. If you give it time enough, that is! And compost? You get better bread from plants grown in good soil, and that means compost.
(1) You can find out more about the work of Ruskin Mill here: http://www.rmt.org/
(2) More about Robert Graves’ “The White Goddess” can be found here at Wikipedia.