“If at times in this book the tone of writing appears to be unduly controversial I attribute this to long contact with many of the closed minds and the unimaginative mentalities with which agriculture, like any other science, is afflicted. The writer is by nature an amiable and kindly person, very gregarious and fond of people and of conversation, of argument and even of controversy, and the exploration of other minds where there is anything to explore. But he has had some startling experiences with the closed mind which will not accept what it sees and knows but takes refuge sometimes in wild and fantastic speculation and sometimes feeble diversions to find reasons to deny or discredit a fact that may prove unwelcome or embarrassing.”
He also writes out so perfectly my recent sentiments about Anthroposophy:
“One of the great errors of our time, and one which has brought us in our time much misery, is the attribution of an overweening and disproportionate importance to man and his mind. Man himself, as a physical machine, as a mechanistic functional and living organism, is indeed marvelous as is every part of the universe; but his ego and self-importance, in our time, are given a distorted, decadent, and tragi-comic importance.
“Man is merely a part of the universe, and not a very great part, which happens to be fortunate principally in having evolved such traits and powers as consciousness, reflection, logic and thought. The wise and happy man is the one who finds himself in adjustment to this truth, who never needs, in moments of disillusionment and despair, to cut himself down to size because it has never occurred to him, in the beginning or at any time, to inflate his own importance whether through ignorance, morbidity, egotism or undergoing psychoanalysis (which is merely another name for one of the age-old manifestations of brooding impotence and frustration of the incomplete man).
“It is only later in life, in the midst of what is still a somewhat turbulent and certainly a varied existence, that any full understanding and satisfaction of this sense of belonging, of being a small and relatively unimportant part of something vast but infinitely friendly, has come to me. It is only now that I have come to understand that from earliest childhood, this passion to belong, to lose one’s self in the whole pattern of life, was the strong and overwhelming force that unconsciously has directed every thought, every act, every motive of my existance.”
One thing that I very strongly recognize (and understand) about strict life philosophies or religions is that people are brought to them by the same deep longing that Bromfield describes – the desire to belong, to have a place here, to do what is right. The questions around this have been things that for me, too, have directed my entire existance. In many instances I have been drawn towards something that looks beautiful, but always turns out to be a lovely illusion of rightness disguising an ugly, petrified dogma.
It was this that inspired me to be vegan when I was a teenager. It was this that led me to spent several very unhappy years in a psycotic attachment parenting mom’s group. It was what brought me to choose Waldorf-style education for my children, and to look deeper into Anthroposophy. I wanted to belong somewhere. I wanted to be around other people who were comfortable with me, who I felt in common with.
Turning 30 was a big mix-up for me. I felt like at this point, I should have accomplished something. I desperately tried to think back on my life and find something I had done that had lasting meaning, and couldn’t come up with anything. In fact, in looking back, I find I have never properly fit in any where. Not in my family, not in public school, not in groups of friends, not at work, not at the crunchy, Waldorf-inspired preschool, not with the local “cool” crowd, and certainly not in that mom’s group. Not even with the vegans, who tend to be notorious weirdos, because it made me sick to deny myself animal foods and eat soy. I did realize that a lot of this was because I have a natural intolerance for pretentiousness and bullshit, and for some reason I insist on making myself unpopular by not keeping my mouth shut, but it didn’t make me feel any better. Bottom line: I don’t fit in. I don’t belong here.
I spent a lot of time considering this world where I don’t fit in, don’t belong. The more I considered other people, the more I was glad to NOT fit in. There were some insights – a friend of mine married (and divorced) a Hare Krishna man who tried to control her life. She suddenly had to be strict vegetarian, although this was obviously not good for her health. But she was suddenly surrounded by people who liked her simply for joining them in their belief system. They did not really like or care about her. Many of them no longer speak to her, because she isn’t “one of them” anymore. Seeing this made some things clear to me. I saw myself in that situation. Over and over again. And I never learned from it.
I realized why strict, domineering religions are so popular. They give you a very clear, extremely rigid format to live your life within, and promise that you will be “good” if you follow directions and will be rewarded at the end. With Anthroposophy, you become “evolved.” You don’t have to think, just follow the rules. You will know what’s right because someone will tell you it is. There is no scary uncertainty of trying to figure things out yourself and eventually finding that you have changed your mind. And to top it all, there’s a whole community of other people who will like you simply because you are seen as being similar to them!
So far I have yet to see anyone who has really actually benefited from this, and I certainly have seen the negative effects, not just from people who are spiritually crippled by the judgments of their fellow church members, but also in social groups. Usually the parts of the religion/belief system that do have benefits are not the nasty, punishing, dogmatic ones, but the lovely illusion that the belief system flags on the outside to get people to join. We do know what’s right, if we would only follow our hearts, and veer away from the damaging things. But that’s the catch – it’s usually all or none with this kind of thing.
Clearly, there is no sense in turning to other people for this sense of belonging. Real meaning is found here, in reality, in nature, in taking up our small part in this huge, beautiful universe. In response, I turn to the earth. It’s high time I got my garden in this fall.
“In writing this book I have thought many times of Margaret Fuller’s grandiloquent assertion, “I accept the Universe,” and of Carlyle’s quick response, “Gad, she’d better!” There are no short-cuts, economic or medical or scientific, where laws of the universe are involved. One works with Nature, whether in terms of soil or of human character, or one is destroyed….It would be well for man to contemplate daily the principal fact of his brief existence – the fact of his colossal physical insignificance.