“Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.”
I began addressing in Part 1 what I feel we might be losing as a society increasingly losing our connection to the land. Writers and thinkers have long pondered this connection. I’ve gathered many choice morsels on the subject in my reading over the years. My own experiences in the realm of homesteading and in the cultivation of a self-sufficient life-style have also contributed to my views.
I mentioned in the first part that I feel like we might be losing our self-respect and intellectual freedom. These are both areas that directly pertain to us as individuals. But there are two other areas that crucial to consider when investigating the man and the land. They relate to relationships—that which transcends individualism and are even more important to our spiritual well-being.
The first is the connection to my neighbor. I feel we are losing our dependence upon one another. But wait, you said we need to be independent minded. I did. This is a precursor to intellectual freedom. But I didn’t say we don’t need one another.
Self-sufficiency has always gone hand in hand with community. I can’t produce everything I need. You produce something I need. I trade you for what I need to supply you with what you need. We therefore, in effect, meet one another’s needs while retaining a healthy freedom to continue to pursue our own God-given goals and personal interests. It is a cycle of supply and demand, forming the basis of a free-market economy.
Capitalism has gotten a bad rap in recent years. The problem, however, isn’t with the free-market, per say, but with super-corporations and mega-banks who are given special privileges like tax-exemptions and unregulated rein to manipulate the markets. When the government has its hand that far in the economic cookie jar and those who created the financial mess get a nod and a wink for their misdeeds, I have to call it what it is: good-old fashioned fascism.
The economic freedom that evolves out of our mutual-dependency as producers and consumers lifts up the little guy as well as rewarding the go-getters. But bottom line, we need one another. Self-reliance might be better termed community-reliance. This implies our individual and corporate efforts toward sustainability.
But I don’t want to get too far off into economics and risk missing the point: we are losing a healthy dependency upon one another. Or, as is put so succinctly in the Scriptures: love your neighbor as yourself. In seeking to meet my neighbor’s needs, I demonstrate love toward him, and, in the process, find that God meets my needs through my neighbor.
This leads to the final loss I’d like to mention. By losing our connection to the land, we are losing our sense of dependence upon God. Nature is created. It is not divine, though it certainly bears the marks of the Divine. Nature doesn’t care one way or the other because it’s not a personality. It’s amoral. The sun shines equally on the righteous and the wicked. The drought affects the believer and the non-believer. What I’m saying is that we can’t put our trust in nature as if the creation has any power in and of itself to help us. That is folly.
We can, however, place our trust in Him who holds nature together by the power of His Word. The seed God created grows because He designed it to do just that. Sowing and harvest come in regular cycles because of the laws He established. We labor and toil, but do so in faith. I till, plow, and plant. But I can’t do anything to cause the rain to come or the seed to sprout. In fact, there are an infinite number of factors outside of my control. At the end of the day, I have to entrust the meager work of my hands into God’s hands.
I think it would be difficult to work the land, to finish the day with dirt under the fingernails and an ache in the back, to enjoy nature’s bounty, and still be an atheist. The natural realm is a physical testimony of spiritual reality. Philosophers and advocates of religions of all brands have acknowledged this. Many have groped with darkened understanding as they’ve tried to grasp meaning behind it all. I like how the Apostle Paul put it: “…He [God] did not leave himself without a witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17).
I don’t believe everybody is supposed to be a farmer. I don’t even think everyone necessarily needs to have a garden in their backyard or on their apartment balcony (though, there are many benefits to doing so!). You’ve probably perceived that these last two posts have not even really been about land itself. It’s about what the man in connection with the land represents. I believe the further we continue to remove ourselves, individually and as a society, away from vital contact with the land, the more we will suffer the consequences: loss of dignity, loss of intellectual freedom, loss of community, and ultimately, a loss of faith.