The Dream Of A Farm

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We’ve all met that person that talks about how they want to run away from our industrial world and live on the farm.  They might even be us.  Us or not, such dreams usually are a little, well, bullshit.

Living on a farm is hard.  You gotta work with the weather, you have to time things, you have to get really dirty and bloody.  Even if you avoid all the legal and other crap with Big Farm companies like Monsanto and John Deere, it’s work.  Also your local small town is boring.

I think there’s this idea in people’s heads about farming as a simpler, uncomplicated life.  It’s not of course, but thanks to a lot of bad television, films, and propaganda, there’s this idea it’s some simple, noble life.

OK, the propaganda isn’t bad as it obviously convinced people, but still.

As much as I recognize this weird delusional retro-faux-Americana for what it is, I actually think there is something there in this desire to be on the farm.  It’s just not stuff that a lot of farming and ideas of farming really brings.  Within the delusion is a desire for something deeper, and possibly less butcheirng-a-pig intensive.

Farming promises clarity.  Put something in the ground and it’s food.  Raise an animal and it’s food (and other materials).  It’s bounded and obvious.  You know – sort of – what you get.

Farming promises cycles.  Seasons come and go.  Rain comes and goes.  Things grow and are harvested.  There’s a regularity to it, even if our changing climate is currently messing with that.

Farming promises connection.  You eat what you raise in many cases.  You live in the seasons.  You know the land and the sky.

Farming promises reliability – even if we know it doesn’t always deliver.  All that clarity and cycles and connection is predictable and gives you a sense of power.  You do this, you get food, you eat, you go on.

I think, down deep, sincerely a lot of people who fantasize about farming and similar ways to run away just want that clear, predictable, connected, reliable life away from what feels like a lot of bullshit.  They’re just tired of things that mean nothing to them, are shallow, and are annoyingly unpredictable.

When you watch the stock market crash because a cryptobro is found inebriated dressed as Naruto  in front of Grand Central Station so people sell stock in his company?  You can kind of get behind “maybe too much of life is stupid.”

I’ve been thinking about this because of tales and legends of heroes, sages, and so on that had phases of living on a farm or retiring to one.  There’s that desire for simplicity and reliable cycles, and maybe I’m not up for a farm but know what?  Maybe I can bring those things into my life.

I can reduce the bullshit in my life.  I can avoid overcomplication.  I do work (medical IT) that keeps me in touch with reality.  I can focus on and cultivate predictable, reliable things.  I can make my own “farm” by cultivating things that grow and sustain in life.  Friendships, connections, a career that is connected, hobbies that bring me closer to others, and so on.

Plus, seriously, just avoid things like skeevy crypto stocks and the like.  We all know that leads to Grand Central Station Incidents.

Steven Savage

A Future Of Nows – Redux

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Well this is embarrassing. I re-published my math column under this name I had for a philosophy one. So uh . . . let’s post the right one.

The future is fundamentally unknowable, but we seem to work very hard to live there. My friend Serdar explores this in an epic, poetic post at his blog that you should read and reread. We are only ever in this present moment, so any extrapolations on the future are phantasms, if well-directed ones. Our predictions are partial by definition.

This may sound troublesome, but it brings us to a lesson many a mystic has stated – we need to be more aware in this present moment. If you’ve ever practiced meditation for some time, you know that moment of being “here.” Those are the only times in our life we can act, the now.

If you give up on needing the future to be solid, then you can get to where you are. Too many times, we’re somewhere else than the only place we can be – living now.

But the future still vexes us. What can we do about the future, because we wish to have one. Indeed, if you are any kind of meditator, you’ve probably come to realize the only world we have is the one we make for all.

The answer to this, I have found by hard experience, is that we are best off setting goals for a future. Prediction is all well and good, but a prediction can be a trap for arrogance or fatalism.

Thus we can make decisions each there-moment to advance towards our goals. With the future we want in mind – however solid or vague – we can make progress with every second, every minute, every bit of awareness. You build the future in tiny increments of now.

This build-a-future-in-bits even keeps us aware of the now, the only moment we know.

It is with no irony I note this is one of the lessons of Agile philosophy and methodology. Agile approaches emphasize setting goals but knowing we face unknowns and changes. With our future goal in mind, we navigate bit by bit towards what we want, evolving both our approach and what we desire.

An excellent way to live – and perhaps the only one we can do with any sanity, humility, and responsibility.

Sure, it may sound strange to combine mysticism, the human condition, some Zen and Agile. Certainly, I hadn’t foreseen I would write something like this last week.

But as I noted, the future isn’t as easy as it seems.

Steven Savage

A Future Of Nows

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Being a writer, on the side or professionally, requires a lot of skills. A self-publisher wears many hats, but even authors with agents and support have to take on tasks other than writing. Of those many skills, one stands out as very important and easy to miss – Math.

People have widely differing reactions to hearing “we’re going to talk about math.” Trust me, it’s worth it whatever your response is – because math is used everywhere in an author’s work.

A writer’s growth requires math to be measured – and improved. Comparing word counts lets you determine if your typing speed is improving. Time taken to edit a document helps you determine if your grammar is improving. Becoming a better writer may mean being better at math.

But once you’re writing, math comes in again as you plot a schedule. How long will it take you to write this chapter for your pre-readers? How long until you need to get a cover from your artist? Scheduling is all math – often made more challenging with timezones, calculating dates, and the like.

As a book progresses, math once again comes to the fore. How fast are you working? What’s the percentage of a book done? Do you have to change your schedule or speed up your pace? Scheduling is math – but so is seeing how you’re doing.

When a book is done, there comes more math. How many pages is a book, and how does that affect cover size? What’s the ideal formatting with font sizes and margins? If you do self-publishing and don’t outsource formatting and the like, get out your calculator.

Finally, a book launches. It’s out and . . . here comes more math. You have to calculate if your ad spends are paying off. Evaluating book sales requires math, often with complex date-time calculations. Your newsletter opens and clicks need to be compared to past events – which means math.

It’s exhausting, isn’t it? When I first realized I had to write this column, I was overwhelmed with the realization of just how much math my own publishing involved. I was so used to it I didn’t see it – until I wrote this.

If you like math like me, or don’t, this should be a helpful realization. Math is a skill you need to use in writing, and if your math skills are lacking you have a new motivation to improve them. Math makes a better author.

Steven Savage