Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Why do we work?

You don't have to live like they tell you.

I thought he made quite an important point. People don't want to quit mainstream city life because they fear they're going to be poor. But he said something quite interesting that will ring true for anyone who has lived - or tried to live - in a major modern city like London, New York, Toronto or Vancouver.

"I had a fairly normal life in London. Got up. Went to work. Socialized on the weekends. I felt like I didn't have enough time to do all the different things I wanted to do. The idea of working for like two-thirds of your life and having very little time tosocialize and do hobbies and things...it just doesn't sit right. All the bills, mortgages, electric, water, internet, TV licenses, insurances just... I don't know. I earned good money but everything just went. Everyone had their hand in my pocket until there was nothing left."

The only problem with that life - living to make money - was that he had to live in the city to do it. To make that money, just barely enough to sustain his life there cost him every penny he made. This meant that in effect he was living in order to keep working. How that differs from slavery is something that might be worth considering. If you make way less money, but have the ability to live on next to nothing, and live much better, how are you "poor"?

I make considerably less money now than I did in Toronto, and yet, I live a hundred times better and am ten thousand times happier. I think the sheer misery of life in the urban centre of Canada's financial capital was going to kill me if I stayed any longer. (Five years. And eleven in the gloomiest, darkest, wettest city in the world.) Even in terms of things I don't have to put up with. I don't have the hellish expense of maintaining a Toronto lifestyle, desperately struggling every month, from paycheque to paycheque, to get the bank balance up to the red line.

And I don't have to contend with the horrors of Toronto itself. I don't wake up every morning to the roar and screech of traffic; I don't have to commute on the GEEDEE Toronto Streetcars. I don't have to jam myself like a sweaty sardine onto the Toronto subway. (There are whole websites dedicated to how much everyone hates the TTC... don't get me started. It's like a damned post-apocalyptic dystopia on those things. Just thinking about it enough to have written those sentences is filling me with the old frustrated rage and existential despair...Dear God! The "short turn"... Oh, I'd managed to forget the Short Turn...)

Most important, I don't have to live with my soul turned down to the lowest possible level of sensitivity. That was probably the worst part: city life forces you to run your soul at the lowest possible level of consciousness. Why is city life so evil, so harmful, so corrosive to the human spirit? I think it's because in order to maintain it, you just have to shut down.

The essential meaninglessness of modern life, its circular, self-enclosed bubbleverse logic, is something that a lot of people are starting to think about: "I live (miserably) in the city so I can have a job so I can go on living in the city... miserably."

These questions: "How ought we to live?" are particularly piquant since so many of us of the post-Revolution generation never married and/or had children.

Meaning, purpose, authentic context, are huge issues for us. Many of the people raised by the Revolutionaries never went for the settled life at all, or found it extremely difficult to achieve, either practically or psychologically. Even when it wasn't financially out of reach (check out university tuition increases in the 2nd half of the 20th century, then compare it with the studies showing the real-world employability of university graduates ... it's some sobering stuff) it was often something we just couldn't conceive of for ourselves.

The two mental processes that are absolute requirements for accomplishment in life - curiosity and imagination - are precisely the two that absolutely must be shut off completely in an urban environment, simply to make it bearable.

This generation, and I think much of the generations that followed, really just doesn't have any confidence in the thing we've created that we call "normal life".  All the official revolutions since 1600 have been in different ways essentially anti-human. Since the Protestant/secularist Revolution, then the Industrial Revolution and then, after the horrors of the early 20th century, the Sexual Revolution, have combined one after the other to strip away the very core of those things that make us human.

I think it's significant that now a major focus for technology innovators, guys like Elon Musk and others less celebrated, is to figure out ways to make modern urban life less unbearable. But heavens! That seems like a pretty damn low bar to me. Less unbearable... Can't we hope for a little better than that?


Here's that hobbit house in real life, without the expensive BBC-level production values.

Still looks pretty good to me.

If page views are anything to go by, it seems like it looks pretty good to quite a lot of people.


Thursday, August 09, 2018

Good eats

I guess this is getting down to monthly posts. I know. I was always posting more before I got addicted to Facebook. It's Zuckerberg's fault. I used to toss everything up onto this site, and then there was FB and Twitter and all manner of distractions. Still, I haven't forgotten the Home Blog.


Made Pastizzi for lunch today. Much better this time than my other attempts. (Followed a recipe. That seems to work. Who knew?)

A VERy traditional Maltese treat: pea pastizzi.

1 cup of dried split peas
pinch salt/half porcini mushroom soup cube
1 onion, chopped v. fine
1 clove garlic, minced
handful of chopped fresh mint
tablespoon curry powder
olive oil

Prepared puff pastry (from the supermarket, cause I ain't an idjit)

Soak the peas overnight. Drain and rinse, then put in a pot with about double the volume of water simmer with the salt, very low until soft. Boil off remaining water (don't strain).

Saute the onion, mint & garlic with the olive oil. When starting to go transparent, add in the peas + a cup of water & curry powder. Simmer together until it's all a nice paste and the water is all gone. Be VERy careful not to let it burn; stir a lot and don't leave it alone,

Set the filling aside to cool.

Cut 8 cm rounds of puff pastry and form in your hands into a pocket. Fill with a tablespoon + of the filling, brush the edges with egg and seal. Bake at 200 for 15 minutes.


In Malta these are sold every morning at every coffee shop, best eaten still warm from the oven. It's one of those nice traditional things that hasn't changed; you can't get them at all after 12 o'clock. They are also to be had filled with ricotta but I like the peas better.


Hi Gerard! I like your bees. Lovely lovely lovely! How envious I am! To be able to live in Ireland in the country on your own land, and have monkish bees!

It makes me homesick.

Here are Gerard's piggies, hilariously named "Rashers" and "Sausages" + a nice long shot of his beautiful homestead garden in Ireland.


Popped over to the farm shop yesterday to pick up some bug spray for the morning glories (they ALWays get spidermites... v. annoying) and saw they're selling brassica seedlings. How the year does tick by, like a big clock with each place on the face marked by things to plant, things to sow, things to pick, seeds to collect, earth to turn over and all in their appointed time...

I built the big orto bed just in time this summer to get the cantaloupes into the ground to produce a little fruit. There are six that will almost certainly get to full size plus a couple more that might make it if the weather stays warm long enough. But they're only filling half the bed.

The other section isn't filled with earth yet, but I was planning on putting the Romanesco broccoli in it. It was the easiest of the brassicas to grow last year and happens also to be the one I like best, so we're going to go full out this year. But it means it's time to plant the autumn veg, and I have to build at least two more beds and fill them with earth.

The one I've got ready to fill now will take 20+ buckets of composted soil from the big pile, which is a job I'm not looking forward to doing in the blistering August heat. I've been tossing lots of cut weeds and other organics in that will be the start. I'm really happy with the way the hugelkultur beds have done in the summer, so there's going to be more of that. But it's a job of work, and no fun to do in the heat. Anyway, mustn't complain; once it's done it's done and doesn't have to be done again.

Building the beds is pretty easy - not complicated. It really just involves doggedly going back and forth with the tufa blocks. One at a time. The big bed took about 45. They weigh about 20 pounds each. It's actually pretty fun, but not something you want to do in August when it's still 32 degrees every day.

It might stil be hot but the plants know when the autumn is coming. Last year my romanesco broccoli did really well, and it's my favourite veg ever, freezes well and always tastes wonderful. I only did ten I think, but this year will skip the cauliflower & red cabbage and do a LOT more broc. I really could just live on the stuff.

But of course, it has to go in soon. I did mine Sept. 14th last year, almost a month after my landlady Annamaria did hers and she got much bigger and better results. (She's been gardening on this plot her whole life, so I always try to do what she tells me.) But it means a lot of prep, and doing that in this heat...


I love this old Irish poem. It's a kind of summation of what life is supposed to be.

God, bless Thou Thyself my reaping
Each ridge, and plain, and field,
Each sickle curved, shapely, hard,
Each ear and handful in the sheaf,
Each ear and handful in the sheaf.

Bless each maiden and youth,
Each woman and tender youngling,
Safeguard them beneath Thy shield of strength,
And guard them in the house of the saints,
Guard them in the house of the saints.

Encompass each goat, sheep and lamb,
Each cow and horse, and store,
Surround Thou the flocks and herds,
And tend them to a kindly fold,
Tend them to a kindly fold.

For the sake of Michael head of hosts,
Of Mary fair-skinned branch of grace,
Of Bride smooth-white of tingleted locks,
Of Columba of the graves and tombs,
Columba of the graves and tombs.


I once had a nice young Benedictine monk - Quebecois - start in horror and fear when I said I wanted to visit Le Barroux or Fontgombault. He jumped up and said, "But.... they are *integrists*!!!" as though he had said they were cannibals. I was rather shocked. I still am when people use the term "integrist" or "ingegralist" as a bad thing. I thought the whole point of Catholicism was to create a completely integrated civilisation, in which every aspect of life - even the most practical - is imbued with the sacred, one that blesses and sacralises and elevates us in every last detail of our lives.

I don't understand a Catholicism that holds up anything else, anything less, as an "ideal".