Category Archives: Philosophy

Living thoughtfully

There’s rustic and there’s rustic

“Rustic is in,” Lianne assured me. “You must see the rustic bed made from pallets and lights in Pinterest” (see below)

The rustic bed that Lianne loved in Pinterest
The rustic bed that Lianne loved in Pinterest

“Ja, but there’s rustic and there’s rustic,” I replied. “You’re talking the clothes in Swellendam mall: all torn (below see an example of what I mean – also ripped from Pinterest).”

Machine distressed jeans
Machine distressed jeans

Or, I could have added, these seven magnificently scrubbed and groomed gentlemen below

The Magnificent Seven: all scrubbed, groomed and waiting for the cameras
The Magnificent Seven: all scrubbed, groomed and waiting for the cameras

For rustic I invite you to the real thing, shovelling a winter barn’s worth of goat shit:

Spring-cleaning the barn
Spring-cleaning the barn

or this sawdust-based humanure composting toilet – because, as Joseph Jenkins points out in his The Humanure Handbook, we need to take responsibility for our own shit as we’re the only species that shits in our drinking water:

Sawdust humanure composting toilet
Sawdust humanure composting toilet

A little later in the evening Lianne mentioned that no one on the farm where she is leasing a cottage wants to slaughter. “Even when a cow dies, they don’t eat it, they bury it. When the owner asks the volk (workers) who will slag (slaughter) a rooster or a chicken they all vanish.”

“But you could do it yourself,” I point out. “My son and daughter-in-law slaughter. I respect them for that.”

“No!” and she shudders. This from someone who eats only meat, no vegetables.

“There’s rustic and there’s rustic,” I pointedly replied. Everyone laughed, Lianne included.

Designer, safe and nice versus the real

Yes, there’s rustic and there’s rustic. The one is designer, safe and nice, the other exposes us to real. But doing safe and nice might be our species’ psychological downfall, in that safe and nice cut us off from the  noumenal world-in-itself of Immanuel Kant or from what Jiddu Krishnamurti understood as the new. And feeling cut off leads to a sense of emptiness and meaninglessness. People who are cut off from nature also cannot feel how their everyday actions (for instance, spraying their grass verges with Monsanto’s Roundup, or eating battery chickens and eggs) cause undue suffering to the non-human world of which we are part and is, I believe, at the heart of our planet’s crisis.


I manage a small agroecology farming operation in Suurbraak on behalf of my son (Matt) and daughter-in-law (Sasha). On my return Japie Present reported that when he had tried to secure the ducks and chickens for the night he wasn’t able to find the fourth duck.

I didn’t give it too much thought as I was reasonably sure that number four would pitch the following morning.

Number four didn’t return. Instead I noted that father duck was in a depression, so it must have been his partner who was missing. That night I picked and placed him in the shelter. He made no resistance.

The following morning father duck was sitting in their drinking basin, which I carefully pulled out of the enclosure without him making any attempt to flee or resist.

For the rest of the day he sat on the edge of the pond totally catatonic.

He wasn’t around for the evening feed and after a search I found him dead at the side of the pond. He must have drowned from grief as his beak was under the surface of the water.

I have no idea what happened to his partner. Matt suggests she might still return (‘Sad times, h, delicate balance, she might return’) but the implications are frightening. I feel loss, a sense of unease and deep concern about – I don’t know what. Are we, as humans, missing something?

Matt explained in an email how he saw the situation: ‘There’s an “over-soul”, which is damaged when a breeding pair terminates, this helps understand the larger unease’.

I traced the term the Over-Soul to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay of the same name:

We see the world piece by piece, as the sun, the moon, the animal, the tree; but the whole, of which these are the shining parts, is the soul

If Emerson is right and we, Homo sapiens, are part of a whole, then what harm aren’t we doing to that whole and to ourselves through our CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations), genetic engineering, and our use of herbicides and pesticides?

And in the age of Tinder, what doesn’t this incident say about the quality of our own relationships?

Camus, on the heart

I have spent ten years winning something which I find priceless: a heart free of bitterness

(Albert Camus quoted in ‘The Heart of Albert Camus’ in Watson, Steven (2012:174). The Music in the Ice. Penguin, Cape Town