A message from John Meadley

The end of the year is a time for reflection.  The word brings to mind a clear pool of water – itself the essence of life – into which we can look and see the life within whilst also seeing ourselves and our surroundings reflected in the water.  This year my reflections have focused around three words – beauty, authenticity and joy.

Beauty – “that quality or combination of qualities which delights the senses or mental faculties”…..be it a landscape, a picture, a sunset, a person…..A thing of beauty is a joy forever; its loveliness increases: it will never pass into nothingness (Keats).

Authenticity – from the Greek word authentikos (also the root of the word author) it defines something is real, actual, genuine, original, first-hand, proceeding from its stated source…surely something that we are all seeking in this increasingly binary world contorted by spin and fake news.

Joy – vivid pleasure from a sense of well-being or satisfaction; exultation; gladness; mirth.   The related verb is to rejoice – to feel joy….what we feel at the birth of a child or a calf or after a good harvest or when families and friends come together.  I can see it on our Pasture for Life forum – the sheer joy of being able to help someone else to solve a problem….or of having a problem solved by someone else – the joy of knowledge freely shared and gratefully received.  I can see it in the generous sharing of the biodiversity on your farms (with now a dozen examples and growing).

All three words take us beyond the material into the intangible.  There is an oft-quoted phrase amongst management gurus which goes “you cannot manage what you cannot measure”.   Whilst true if focused on your balance sheet, or the protein content of your hay or the calcium level in an animal’s bloodstream…..there are other times when you “sense” what is the right thing to do…..your nose twitches….you have a hunch.  Such things cannot be measured – perhaps because they are an amalgam of different elements or senses – or because they are ephemeral.  In what units could you “measure” beauty or authenticity or joy?

Raising ruminant animals wholly on pasture – which is their natural diet, with which they co-evolved, which covers two thirds of the world’s farmland, which is the world’s largest solar panel and beneath which is the world’s largest single store of carbon – reflects this beauty (delighting the senses), authenticity (genuine) and joy (a sense of well-being) which can encourage and nurture us during these increasingly uncertain times and as we continue to learn, share our knowledge and encourage others to join us on the journey.

The following have given me both food for thought and comfort and I am happy to encourage you to ponder on them.

The one contains the all.  If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there can be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow; and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either.

If we continue to look into the sheet of paper, we can see the sunshine in it.  If the sunshine is not there, the forest cannot grow.  Without the sunshine, nothing can grow, not even us.

Looking more deeply we can see the logger who cut the tree and brought it to the mill to be transformed into paper. We also see the wheat. We know that the logger cannot exist without his daily bread. So the wheat that became his bread is also in the sheet of paper. The logger’s father and mother are in the paper as well. Without all these other things there would be no sheet of paper at all.

Looking even more deeply, we can see we are also in the paper – because when we look at a sheet of paper it becomes the object of our perception. Everything – time, space, the Earth, the rain, the minerals in the soil, the sunshine, the cloud, the river, the heat and even consciousness – is in that sheet of paper. Everything coexists with it.  As thin as this sheet of paper is, it contains everything in the universe. So the one contains the all.   From The Other Shore: Thich That Hanh

It is not so important when the perfect world will be achieved or what it will be like. What matters is living our lives in the power of love and not worrying too much about the results. In doing this, that means becoming part of the end. Hence we lose the sense of helplessness and futility in the face of the worlds crushing problems. We also lose the craving for success, always focusing on the goal to the exclusion of the way of getting there. We must literally not take too much thought for the morrow but throw ourselves wholeheartedly into the present. That is the beauty of the way of love; it cannot be planned and its end cannot be foretold.   From Wolf Mendl. Prophets and reconcilers

If you wear your headphones around the farm – or even if not – I encourage you to listen to this edition of Radio 4’s The Cultural Life in which the Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson talks about the creative turning points of his life.  Whether or not classical music is your thing, listening to the beauty of his playing and to his description of how he seeks authenticity will bring you both joy and a sense of peace.  

Wishing you such joy and peace throughout the Christmas season and beyond and with thanks for sharing the journey.


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