Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Toomas Karmo: A Happy Sunday, with Iranian Rice, and with Farmers'-Market Apples

Quality assessment:

On the 5-point scale current in Estonia, and surely in nearby nations, and familiar to observers of the academic arrangements of the late, unlamented, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (applying the easy and lax standards Kmo deploys in his grubby imaginary "Aleksandr Stepanovitsh Popovi nimeline sangarliku raadio instituut" (the "Alexandr Stepanovitch Popov Institute of Heroic Radio") and his  grubby imaginary "Nikolai Ivanovitsh Lobatshevski nimeline sotsalitsliku matemaatika instituut" (the "Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky Institute of Socialist Mathematics") - where, on the lax and easy grading philosophy of the twin Institutes, 1/5 is "epic fail", 2/5 is "failure not so disastrous as to be epic", 3/5 is "mediocre pass", 4/5 is "good", and 5/5 is "excellent"): 3/5. Justification: There was enough time to write out the planned points to reasonable length, from a writing plan which itself was rather light in substance.   

Revision history:

All times in these blog "revision histories" are stated in UTC (Universal Coordinated Time/ Temps Universel Coordoné,  a precisification of the old GMT, or "Greenwich Mean Time"), in the ISO-prescribed YYYYMMDDThhmmZ timestamping format. UTC currently leads Toronto civil time by 4 hours and currently lags Tallinn civil time by 3 hours.
  • 20170921T1922Z/version 2.0.0: Kmo finished converting his point-form outline into coherent full-sentences prose, adding also some material on a Persian salad, and on Ryvita. - He reserved the right to make tiny, nonsubstantive, purely cosmetic, tweaks over the coming 48 hours, as here-undocumented version 2.0.1, 2.0.2, 2.0.3, ... ,  . 
  • 20170921T0300Z/version 1.0.0: Kmo had time and strength (he had suffered an attack of depression, delaying his work) to upload a fully polished point-form outline. He hoped to finish converting this into coherent full-sentences prose by UTC=20170921T1600Z.   

[CAUTION: A bug in the blogger server-side software has in some past months shown a propensity to insert inappropriate whitespace at some points in some of my posted essays. If a screen seems to end in empty space, keep scrolling down. The end of the posting is not reached until the usual blogger "Posted by Toomas (Tom) Karmo at" appears. - The blogger software has also shown a propensity, at any rate when coupled with my erstwhile, out-of-date, Web-authoring uploading browser, to generate HTML that gets formatted in different ways on different downloading browsers. Some downloading browsers have sometimes perhaps not correctly read in the entirety of the "Cascading Style Sheets" (CSS) which on all ordinary Web servers control the browser placement of margins, sidebars, and the like. If you suspect CSS problems in your particular browser, be patient: it is probable that while some content has been shoved into some odd place (for instance, down to the bottom of your browser, where it ought to appear in the right-hand margin), all the server content has been pushed down into your browser in some place or other. - Finally, there may be blogger vagaries, outside my control, in font sizing or interlinear spacing or right-margin justification. - Anyone inclined to help with trouble-shooting, or to offer other kinds of technical advice, is welcome to write me via]

My latest scheduled day off, the Sunday which was 2017-09-17, was in various ways unexpectedly happy. I took a photo, uploaded to the top of this blog, to document a part of the day. 

The left part of the photo records the fact that I received, to my surprise, the gift of an authentic Iranian meal. In the smaller of the two bowls is a dish of meat and beans, with strong spices (possibly including mint). 

This unexpectedly happy experience reminds me of a similarly unexpected, and similarly happy, meal in Singapore, back in 1987.

In 1985, at the start of my two-year appointment, the National University of Singapore assigned me a two-bedroom flat, with balcony, on the far side of Kent Ridge from the University. My digs were in a big compound, or in Soviet-Estonian terminology mikrorajoon, of low-rise buildings once held by the British military (perhaps from some point in the early postwar era up to the 1960s independence of Singapore). Those various buildings, scattered on and beside lush lawns, were named after British victories and British defeats, with easily readable big-letter plaques near their various entrances. Fortunately, nobody had thought to remove the signage, which by the 1980s had become historic in a wonderfully Sir-Noël Coward, "Mad Dogs and Englishmen", sense. Somewhere in that compound of former officers' quarters was a "Quebec". (I do not know if its plaque was meant to refer to the offensive operation of 1759, in which the British prevailed over the colonial French (some of us will rather regret this), or instead to the defensive operation of 1775, in which the French and their new British rulers jointly prevailed over the incoming Americans.) I, however, lived not in "Quebec" - no matter how you interpreted that particular name plaque, "Quebec" did count, for good or ill, as a British victory - but in something less triumphalist, "Gallipoli".

I have never before lived, and I presume I shall never again live, in such a mixture of mild discomfort and colonial-era luxury as "Gallipoli" afforded to its four or six or eight (or thereabouts) flat-dwellers. Some of the windows in my particular flat, or perhaps my long balcony, overlooked a grassy slope leading down to the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur railway. My flat had two furnished bedrooms, one of them large. The flat had also a furnished sitting-dining room, and a kitchen, and a door to the front stairs, and a door to the back stairs. On those back stairs, perhaps across a small landing from my flat proper, was even a bit of Servant Accommodation, in the form of an "Amah Room".

From this it was, to be sure, evident how the unsatisfactory the departed British military could be in their attitude toward their locally recruited domestic staff. The "Amah Room" was equipped with an adjacent cold-water shower and classic-Asian porcelain squat toilet, and yet lacked hot water. Further, the "Amah Room" had no windows to the lawns outside,. Finally, what was bad to the point of horror was that details of life in this cramped "Room" had been open to immediate inspection by the supervising British household, since its walls were of mere wire mesh - making it in fact less "Room", in the accepted civilized sense of that word, than cage.

In this room-or-cage-or-prison-cell on my back stair there eventually lived a National University of Singapore engineering student, seeking accommodation, and happy enough to get it from me for free. Once he moved in, I largely ignored him, and he for his part kept a low profile - except that on infrequent occasions he would politely ask for permission to use my telephone, for chatting with his Mum, up in Malaysia. I did manage to learn that he was interested in microprocessors, and was doing some kind of project work with an 8-bit workhorse of the day, the Zilog Z-80.

So much for life on the back stairs.

One fine morning, on the other hand, at 7.40 or so, as I was preparing to rush off to the university, there came a knock from the more respectable front stairs. This visitor proved to be not an engineering student from Malaysia but a rather diminutive Malay lady, of an uncertain age and with a rather tottering English, equipped with an ancient letter of reference from the now-long-departed British military. (The British letter writer, in what some might consider a fussy spirit, said that whereas she was wonderful with children, she should on no account be encouraged to cook. Since her English was shaky, I think she was in the happy position of not having read that frank letter.)

"Sir want part-time Amah?" she asked.

Being in a hurry to get to campus, I felt I needed a part-time Amah to the exact same extent that I needed, at that hurried point in the working morning, trepanning of the skull. Nevertheless, I kept my composure, taking the view that supplying what she was unexpectedly seeking of me might count for Good Karma - being in an adequately plausible accounting (so I hastily figured it) a type of Foreign Aid. So we quickly agreed on our commercial terms, with her compensation pitched by me 20 percent or 30 percent higher than the going local part-time (non-residential) Amah rate. 

Upon starting her duties - these involved one day of cleaning and washing per week, and so I bought a modest washing machine when she started - Mrs S____ proved helpful to the point of becoming a lifeline. Without her, I would have been hard pressed to figure out how to deal with the unfamiliar tropics. Without her, in particular, I would not have known how important it is in a tropical colonial-epoch luxury flat with ceiling fans, as opposed to modern in-window refrigerating units, to air all the bed-linens, on a line strung along one's balcony, weekly - I think including even linens from storage. If my recall is accurate, I gathered somehow, with her help, that should you rashly keep your unused linens folded up in a closet in Singapore, in the absence of modern air conditioning, they are liable to grow mould.

Our happy relationship lasted right up to my 1987 departure from Singapore. At one point in our two years together, I was even invited to a wedding in Mrs S____'s family - bride and groom resplendent on a pair of thrones, as was the local Islamic custom; and an egg, or something similar, given to each guest in a gilt-wire frame, as again must have been the local Islamic custom. (I perhaps still have this frame, minus its (as I now think, edible) contents.) A little knot of Western guests, I among them, took in the joyous proceedings rather stoically, huddled together in the poker-faced resignation of Victorian anthropologists.

On the last day of her service, in 1987, Mrs S____ to my astonishment brought hot "tiffin", in a "tiffin carrier".

The Imperial jargon of "tiffin" seems to me to have spread widely enough, at any rate over the many outposts which lay east of Suez. Viewers of the film Carry on up the Khyber will recall Sir Sidney Rough-Diamond, on of course the Indian subcontinent, hastening to a meeting with a local potentate, "The Khazi" (here I quote  loosely, and from memory, sorry):
Sir Sidney [to his wife]: Can't stop, darling. Urgent business. Must go to The Khazi.

Lady Rough-Diamond [misunderstanding him: although he is in Queen Vicky's diplomatic service, she is not]: Well, you should have gone earlier. We're all sitting down to tiffin. It's Very Rude.

In Singapore, a "Tiffin Carrier" was in 1987, and perhaps still is now, thirty years later, an imposing set of three or four or five (or so) metal canisters, accommodating enough rice for a family (with also multiple stews, such as stroganoffs or curries), and held together as a stack with a frame-cum-handle in suitably light metal.  Mrs S____ had lovingly prepared a huge, hot, tiffin, and had packed its several components into the several canisters of her Carrier, and had then taken the bus from her own digs down to my digs. This was some considerable distance, amounting to possibly four or five or six kilometres.

At this point, it is necessary to add that the Singapore Archdiocese, at least in 1987, could be tediously strict. Mrs S____'s last day happened to be a Friday. For some local ecclesial reason, it was normally forbidden for Singapore Catholics to eat meat on a Friday. So the situation with her big, hot Tiffin Carrier could have played out badly. I hope I would have had the presence of mind to take the diplomatically correct decision - namely, to eat the various meat dishes from the Carrier in Mrs S____'s presence with boisterous relish, and then in due course to bring the matter up - I mean to say, to mention the matter - to the priest at Confession. 

As extraordinary as this coincidence will appear to the reader, however, that particular Friday happened in formal ecclesial terms to coincide with the Feast of Saint Anne. We had been told from the pulpit, quite explicitly, at any rate in my own local parish, earlier in that week or fortnight, that it would be fine to consume meat on the Friday of the Feast. 

Narrow diplomatic escapes like this help bolster one's belief in Providence.

So on consuming last Sunday's unexpected gift of an authentic Iranian, or Persian, supper, I was at once transported to that memorable Singapore Tiffin Carrier from a Friday in 1987, on the so-providentially coincident Feast of Saint Anne. Although Persian and Straits Malay culinary traditions are bound to differ, to my untutored palate the respective experiences, in 2017 and 1987, were identical, and identically delicious. 


I proceed now to the other half of my photo.

On the right half can be seen the McIntosh apples which I purchased from the local downtown-Richmond Hill farmers' market a few hours before the surprise of the Iranian supper - in fact from the same table as I showed toward the end of my posting from 2017-09-11 or 2017-09-12, under the heading "Toomas Karmo quoting also Pius XII: Theology of Farming, and Our Local Farmers' Market". 

Upon checking with Zach at the Sunday table, I was able to confirm that his McIntoshes were of known provenance, having in fact come from his own landlord's orchard. 

What was chiefly important about them (and can already be guessed from their appearance in my photo) was their freedom from chemical manipulation. 

It is one thing to spray or coat fruit, as a cosmetic measure, with fungicides and other "preparations". One might recall the late, unlamented 1930s German Reich, where food could be remarkably artificial - the seeming sausage, pastries, and butter at tiffin in August-of-1939 Berlin, for instance, I gather being in reality liable to be  Präparate from codfish - das Präprat, die Präparate, I think; and ich präpariere = "I am preparing/am concocoting." (I gather from the dictionary that one can also say ich präpariere in the anatomy lab, upon slitting the frog's abdominal musculature with scalpel, as formaldehyde fumes rise from one's nasty little wax tray.)

One might recall also the term препарат, or "preparation", in classical administrative Russian. It has, for instance, been suggested that Uncle Joe got polished off by some colleagues in March of 1953, with a warfarin препарат. Included in, or even central to, the operation may have been a cosy little tiffin-for-five, at which Uncle Joe had as his table companions Beria, Bulganin, Khrushchev, and Malenkov. Part of the suggestion is that people were getting a bit worried over Uncle Joe, feeling that he might be now rashly contemplating a war with Uncle Sam:  (The 2003-03-05 New York "Old Gray Lady" scribe, Michael Wines, cites historians Vladimir P.Naumov in Russia and Jonathan Brent at Yale.) 

It is a different, and in the opinion of some of us a preferable, thing to grow apples without  "preparations", or препаратн, at whatever cost to the appearance of the fruit. When the farmers' market closes down after 2017-10-01, some of us will therefore be awaiting its spring-of-2018 return with impatience. 


My story about Sunday has a small sequel. On Wednesday evening, I was unexpectedly given a cold Iranian salad, the remains of which proved specially delicious at Thursday lunch when combined with an avocado pear and two slices of rye crispbread: 

This is the bread sold in our local WalMart, here in Richmond Hill, Ontario, under the brand name "Ryvita". Here is what I find printed on the package:


There are also a few lines of legal boilerplate as a supplementary "MAY CONTAIN:" list. The list indicates that there may be trace quantities of oats, wheat, sesame seeds, and soy. Those minute quantities, however, surely do not belong to the bread recipe, but instead reflect the varying uses of machinery in the factory - the packaging indicates that this is somewhere out in Bedfordshire - as different products come off the production line.

The so-short "INGREDIENTS:" list shows Ryvita to be a bakery equivalent of Zach's McIntosh apples. Here, as with his apples, we have food free of препаратн. It is of course environmentally irresponsible for Ontario consumers to buy food baked in Bedforshire, and shipped over the Atlantic with much emission of greenhouse gas. But if all that goes into the product - so delicious with a Persian salad - is rye flour and salt, it must be possible even for clumsy, ageing, autistic, depression-afflicted, and visually impaired people, like me, to try baking it themselves. I now dream of small environmentally responsible experiments, at first just with electric oven, and with a little bag of rye flour from the fancy-cereal shelf at one of our local big-box stores, misleadingly named "Food Basics". If I make any progress over the coming months, I would hope to report it on this blog. 

[This is the end of the current blog posting.]

Monday, 18 September 2017

blogging delayed (later this week, I think)

Sorry, everyone: it seems that I shall be missing my normal blog upload timetable, which calls for action in the  4-hour window UTC= 20170919T001Z/20170919T0401Z. Hope to be blogging again a little LATER in the week.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Toomas Karmo quoting also Pius XII: Theology of Farming, and Our Local Farmers' Market

Quality assessment:

On the 5-point scale current in Estonia, and surely in nearby nations, and familiar to observers of the academic arrangements of the late, unlamented, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (applying the easy and lax standards Kmo deploys in his grubby imaginary "Aleksandr Stepanovitsh Popovi nimeline sangarliku raadio instituut" (the "Alexandr Stepanovitch Popov Institute of Heroic Radio") and his  grubby imaginary "Nikolai Ivanovitsh Lobatshevski nimeline sotsalitsliku matemaatika instituut" (the "Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky Institute of Socialist Mathematics") - where, on the lax and easy grading philosophy of the twin Institutes, 1/5 is "epic fail", 2/5 is "failure not so disastrous as to be epic", 3/5 is "mediocre pass", 4/5 is "good", and 5/5 is "excellent"): 4/5. Justification: There was enough time to write out the  necessary points to reasonable length.

Revision history:

All times in these blog "revision histories" are stated in UTC (Universal Coordinated Time/ Temps Universel Coordoné,  a precisification of the old GMT, or "Greenwich Mean Time"), in the ISO-prescribed YYYYMMDDThhmmZ timestamping format. UTC currently leads Toronto civil time by 4 hours and currently lags Tallinn civil time by 3 hours.

  • 20170922T1442Z/version 3.2.0: In previous versions, Kmo had given Web-URL information for the artisanal sausage mentioned toward the end of the posting. He now removed this information, at the request of the market-table vendor, replacing it with a URL for the hamlet of Atwood (in which the sausage is being made).  
  • 20170912T1801Z/version 3.1.0: Kmo, while making purely cosmetic tweaks, also had to correct a misprint touching in a mildly comic way on substance: "familiar character of farming", where what was intended was "Familial character of farming". (Useful sentence in the preface or foreword to the minor prewar-British classic, 1066 and All That, purporting to address a typesetting error: "For 'pheasant', read 'peasant', throughout.") - Kmo reserved the right to make tiny, nonsubstantive, purely cosmetic, tweaks over the coming 48 hours, as here-undocumented versions 3.1.1, 3.1.2, 3.1.3, ... . 
  • 20170912T1602Z/version 3.0.0: Kmo finished converting his points into a full-sentences essay, adding also a few thoughts he had not worked out for the upload of 20170912T0432Z. He reserved the right to make tiny, nonsubstantive, purely cosmetic, tweaks over the coming 48 hours, as here-undocumented versions 3.0.1, 3.0.2, 3.0.3, ... . 
  • 20170912T0432Z/version 2.0.0: Kmo nearly finished converting his points into a coherent full-sentences essay. He realized he would have to do the last bit, most of which awkwardly sits at the very start of the essay, somewhat later, perhaps around 20170912T1600Z. He hoped at that time also to be able to polish and improve what has by now been written out as full sentences. 
  • 20170912T0001Z/version 1.0.0: Kmo had time to do an upload with Pius XII correctly quoted, and with his own comments and supplementary material in one way or another sketched, in point form as opposed to properly coherent sentences. He hoped to finish converting this into a coherent full-sentences essay over the coming three or four hours.

[CAUTION: A bug in the blogger server-side software has in some past months shown a propensity to insert inappropriate whitespace at some points in some of my posted essays. If a screen seems to end in empty space, keep scrolling down. The end of the posting is not reached until the usual blogger "Posted by Toomas (Tom) Karmo at" appears. - The blogger software has also shown a propensity, at any rate when coupled with my erstwhile, out-of-date, Web-authoring uploading browser, to generate HTML that gets formatted in different ways on different downloading browsers. Some downloading browsers have sometimes perhaps not correctly read in the entirety of the "Cascading Style Sheets" (CSS) which on all ordinary Web servers control the browser placement of margins, sidebars, and the like. If you suspect CSS problems in your particular browser, be patient: it is probable that while some content has been shoved into some odd place (for instance, down to the bottom of your browser, where it ought to appear in the right-hand margin), all the server content has been pushed down into your browser in some place or other. - Finally, there may be blogger vagaries, outside my control, in font sizing or interlinear spacing or right-margin justification. - Anyone inclined to help with trouble-shooting, or to offer other kinds of technical advice, is welcome to write me via]



I am proposing not to do any upload this week for my multi-part essay on the analytical philosophy of perception and action. (That essay, or perhaps by now that short-and-rough book, is growing like the poet Andrew Marvell's "vegetable love"—"vaster than empires, and more slow".) A fresh analytical-philosophy upload can wait for one, two, or even three weeks. At present it is appropriate to consider instead the farming vocation, from the joint perspectives of theology and political economy.

I was struck a few days ago by reading at an English translation of an address from a figure somewhat disparaged by some historians of the Shoah, Pope Pius XII (Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli, 1876-1958; he was Pope from early 1939 onward). Pius XII delivered his address on 1946-11-15, to a convention of an Italian organization styled in English as the "National Confederation of Farm Owner-Operators".

I have tended to hold a rather negative mental picture of this particular pontiff. While tending to treat with caution the impassioned allegations made against him in connection with the Shoah, I have tended also to suspect that he did nothing to condemn the Wannsee-conference "Final Solution"—maintaining, as far as I have been able to see, a stony silence not only when silence was an appropriate wartime life-saving measure, but also in the postwar years, when silence was far from appropriate.

The papal address on farming, on the other hand, puts Pius XII into a positive light. His words convey insights, in certain instances (as I discuss below) of startling depth and clarity, into our own twenty-first-century problems. If we are going to be serious about the 2015-05-24 encyclical Laudato Si' from Pope Francis (as, I would argue, we must be), then we do well to take this less recent papal communication seriously also.

I reproduce the English translation here tonight as my "Part A", and also the bibliographical notes appearing in my Web source. Those valuable notes, now a little chaotic through some perhaps multi-link chain of literary transmission, were surely added by some editor or editors at some stage or stages, at least in part in perhaps comparatively recent years. All this material I take just as I found it at—except that I make some tiny changes at the copy-edit level, in such things as British-versus-American-spelling; the styling of citations (to the limited extent that time has allowed the pondering of a few bibliographical puzzles); and the consistent use of the em-dash, as opposed to the mere hyphen.

In performing my "Part A" reproduction, I optimistically assume that no legal problems of copyright arise. I will later this week, however, take the precaution of alerting both (1) the office of the Papal Nuncio in Ottawa, and (2) the administrators of, in case anyone from those various desks needs to correct my optimistic legal assumption.

I underline parts of the papal address, like this, which seem to call for special comment from me tonight. My own commentary I add in a different kind of special typography, like this.

In "Part B" of tonight's posting, I extend Pope Pius's themes a little, with some minor remarks on our own Sunday-midday farmers' market, here in downtown Richmond Hill, Ontario.

Pope Pius XII on Farming (1946-11-15), with My Own Minor Running Notes
as Commentary,
and with Imported Bibliographic Endnotes 


A Welcome

We always experience particular pleasure in welcoming representatives of occupations that make up the economic and social life of a people. We have added satisfaction on this occasion in greeting you, beloved sons, delegates of a vast National Confederation, comprised of a large number of owner-operator farmers. The lands that you cultivate are the “sweet fields,” “dulcia arva,” so dear to the gentle Vergil (Eclogue, 1, 3). They are the lands of Italy, whose perennial and life-giving healthfulness, whose fertile fields, sunny hills, and shadowy woods, whose generous vines and olive trees, whose sleek flocks were exalted by Pliny (Naturalis Historia 1. III, 5, n. 41). “O fortunatos nimium, sua si bona norint, agricolas!” (Vergilius, Georgica II, 458-459). “O more than happy husbandmen,” exclaimed the great poet of the country, “did they but know their blessings!” Hence We could not let this occasion pass without speaking some word of encouragement and exhortation, especially since we are all well aware how much the moral recovery of our whole people depends on a class of farmers socially sound and religiously firm.1 

[The classical erudition is wonderful. So is the reference to Vergil as "gentle". We tend nowadays to think of Vergil as the author of the Aeneid, and therefore as a propagandist for Augustus Caesar's Empire. In reality, however, the Aeneid marks the (imperially funded) culmination of this (in private life, shy) poet's career. An earlier poetic work of Vergil's, the Georgica or "Georgics", is said to celebrate the agronomic vocation. Perhaps some of my readers, able to do better than I have been, will embark on some serious reading of it, at least in English translation. (I do myself have some Vergilian Latin-text exposure. This, however, involves not the Georgica but one "Book" of the Aeneid, from a 1983 semester at Monash University in Melbourne under the now-mourned Latinist Gavin Betts (1932-2013;  Let me remark also, by way of a helpful digression, that a serious reading in the Georgica might be coupled with a reading in Vita Sackville-West's 1926 The Land. That short book is said to be a poem celebrating the Kentish annual agronomic cycle, I would imagine in Vergil's spirit. Like the Georgica, The Land still languishes on my must-eventually-read-this mental list. I do, on the other hand, have, and do highly prize, Vita Sackville-West's companion short-book poem The Garden (first published in 1946). Purchase opportunities for The Land, in a modern printing uniform with the printing of The Garden that I own and can recommend, may be investigated  on]

Contact with Nature

More than anyone else. you live in continual contact with nature. It is actual contact, since your lives are lived in places still remote from the excesses of an artificial civilization. Under the sun of the Heavenly Father your lives are dedicated to bringing forth from the depths of the earth the abundant riches which His hand has hidden there for you. Your contact with Mother Earth has also a deep social significance, because your families are not merely consumer-communities but also and especially producer-communities.2

[Pope Pius's phrase "the excesses of an artificial civilization" rang true enough when he delivered it from his 1946-11-15 podium. And how much truer does it ring now, in an era of "vanity plates" (for motorcars) and selfie-sticks (for the friendless)!]

Rooted in the Family

Your lives are rooted in the family—universally, deeply, and completely; consequently, they conform very closely to nature. In this fact lies your economic strength and your ability to withstand adversity in critical times. Your being so strongly rooted in the family constitutes the importance of your contribution to the correct development of the private and public order of society. You are called upon for this reason to perform an indispensable function as source and defense of a stainless moral and religious life. For the land is a kind of nursery which supplies men, sound in soul and body, for all occupations, for the Church, and for the State.3

[This, it must be admitted, is rather 1946. Better would be "a kind of nursery which supplies people, sound in soul and body..."] 

Rural Culture

So much the more, then, must great care be taken to preserve for the nation the essential elements of what might be called genuine rural culture. We must preserve the qualities of industriousness, simple and honest living, respect for authority, especially for parental authority, love of country, and loyalty to traditions which have proved a source of good throughout the centuries. We must preserve readiness to aid one another within the family circle and amongst families, from home to home. All of these qualities we must have animated with a true religious spirit, for without such a spirit these very virtues tend to degenerate into unbridled greed for profit. May the fear of God and faith in God, a faith which finds daily expression in prayers recited together by the whole family, sustain and guide the life of the workers of the fields. Let the Church remain the heart of the village, the shrine of the people. Sunday after Sunday, may it gather the faithful, true to the sacred traditions of their ancestors. There may they lift their minds above material things to the praise and service of God and to supplication for the strength to think and live in a truly Christian manner during the coming week.4

[Yes. Let the reader here ponder Jean-François Millet's depiction of a couple pausing briefly in their labours when the evening Angelus chimes from a steeple some hundreds of metres distant. I will take a .jpg from (in a view which, as is usual with blogger, can be enlarged through mouse-clicking). Mum and Dad hung over the outsized brick fireplace in our Nova Scotian, Estonian-exile, country home (they had it built in 1952) a reproduction of Millet's "Gleaners":  Now I note, to my astonishment and delight, that the formidable gardener who bought the home, as its third owner, around 1994, has hung a reproduction of the same "Angelus" as I am displaying below. That particular Nova Scotian hectare seems to have acquired occult powers, becoming something of a Jean-François Millet magnet.]


Balanced Rewards

Farming has essentially a family character and is, therefore, very important to the social and economic prosperity of the whole people. In consequence, the tiller of the soil has a special right to a proper reward from his labor. During the last century and even at the present time there have been discouraging examples of attempts to sacrifice farming to other ends. If one is looking for the highest and most rapidly increasing national economy or for the cheapest possible provisioning of the nation with farm products, there will be, in either case, a temptation to sacrifice the farming enterprise.5

[Yes. The essential familial character of farming is evident from the late, unlamented CP-USSR, which tried replacing the family farm with the collectivized agribusiness. Since the family was now not the primary unit of agronomic production (families were now working for their Party bosses, as Soviet factory hands also did), the result wasironically, given the CP-USSR's avowed underlying Marxism—an "alienation of workers from their labour". This played out in occupied Estonia from the compulsory post-war collectivizations pretty much up to the 1991 end of Soviet rule. Things had been bad enough under the barons who ruled the countryside with mailed fist from 1208 or until the 1918-1920 War of Independence.  But at least in those bygone centuries, with the unloved German barons sitting in local manor houses and the Polish, Swedish, or Russian monarch-of-the-day a remote authority who might sometimes discourage local baronial overreach, the family was left with crops it could call its own.] 

Duties to Soil and Neighbour

It devolves upon you, therefore, to demonstrate that on account of its family character farming does not exclude the advantages of other kinds of business, and, furthermore, that it avoids their evils. Be adaptable, attentive, and active stewards of your native soil, which is to be used but never exploited. Let it be seen that you are thinking, thrifty men, open to progress, men who courageously employ your own and others’ capital to help and supplement your labor, provided that such expenditure does not endanger the future of your families. Show that you are honest in your sales, that you are not greedily shrewd at the expense of the public, and that you are well-disposed buyers in your country’s markets.

We know well how often it is possible to fall short of this ideal. Notwithstanding uprightness of intention and dignity of conduct upon which many farmers may pride themselves, it is none the less true that the present day demands great firmness of principle and strength of will. You must prefer to earn a living in the sweat of your brow rather than succumb to the diabolical temptation of easy gain, which would take advantage of the dire need of a neighbor.6

[Not an altogether happy pontifical remark. Accumulating and employing one's own capital is fine. Bank loans, although often unavoidable, are a surrender of power to The Man. Better to be poor, with even an inefficient farm, than to grovel before The Man. Well, this long-dead pontiff does signal the dangers, with his proviso regarding upcoming generations ("provided that such expenditure does not endanger the future of your families"). As our current agronomic arrangements come under strain from climate change, are we perhaps going to see a wave of bank foreclosures?]

Education for Rural Life

Another exhibition of selfishness frequently manifests itself through the fault of parents who put their children to work too early in life to the neglect of their spiritual formation, their education, their scholastic instruction, and their special occupational training. There is no more mistaken idea than the notion that the man who tills the soil does not need a serious and adequate education to enable him to perform the varied duties of the season in timely fashion.7

[Yes, yes, yes. Knowledge is key. Nova Scotia would not have a lowbush-blueberry industry had my Dad, as the Provincial Apiarist (a kind of scientific civil servant) in his postwar Canadian career, first  experimentally tried, and then publicized, the advantages of transporting bee colonies to fields during the June flowering. Government must not only run a scientific civil service, with research labs, lectures and newsletters, and a network of "AgReps" (or "County Agents", or whatever): additionally, government must help universities deliver appropriate diploma and baccalaureate programmes to farmers. In Dad's day, such delivery was through the Nova Scotia Agricultural College. The work continues in Nova Scotia now through the Truro-vicinity campus of Dalhousie University, operating with perhaps improved resources out of the former NSAC buildings. I suspect that has details on the corresponding educational outreach here in Ontario. Back home, the work is in the hands of  the Maaülikool, or Estonian University of Life Sciences, with English-language Web presence at]

Sin, the Land, and Labour

Sin did, in truth, render labor in the fields burdensome, but it was not sin that introduced such labor into the world. Before there was any sin, “God gave man the earth for his cultivation as the most beautiful and honorable occupation in the natural order.” In the wake of the original sin of our first parents, all the actual sins of humanity have caused the curse to weigh upon the earth with increasing heaviness. The soil has suffered successive scourges of every kind—floods, earthquakes, pestilence, devastating wars, and land mines. In some places it has become sterile, barren, and unwholesome, and has refused to yield to man its hidden treasures. The earth is a huge wounded creature; she is ill. Bending over her, not as a slave over the clod, but as the physician over a prostrate sufferer, the tiller lovingly showers on her his care. But love, for all that it is so necessary, is not enough. To know nature, to know, so to speak, the temperament of one’s own piece of land, sometimes so different from that of the very next plot; to be able to discover the germs that spoil it, the rodents that would burrow beneath it, the worms that would eat its fruits, the weeds that would infest its crops; to determine what elements it lacks and to choose the successive plantings that will enrich it even while it rests—these and so many other things require wide and varied knowledge and information.8

[That is to say, "sufferer who is prostrated", not "sufferer requiring Transurethral Resection of Prostate"! The analogy with a physician is, however, apt. Soils, with their colonizing microbes and fungi, and their complex flows of water and nutrients, are ecosystems possessing from a microscope's perspective something of the complexity and subtlety of living tissues.]

[Yes, "sometimes so different from the very next plot". Already in gardening, as distinct from full-scale farming, one notes the difference in microclimate between one bed and another a short walk away. Green nature has a sort of fractal quality—zoom out, as with an aeroplane, and you see a variegated tapestry of regions; zoom in, as it were by crawling on hands and knees, and you still get a variegated tapestry.]

["To choose the successive plantings that will enrich it"yes, yes, yes. Pope Pius here is not breathing a word about the adjusting of nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium abundances through application of those big, dreary, brown-paper sacks of chemical fertilizer. Well, I presume that if crop  rotation ("successive plantings") gets pontifical approval, so also does the judicious application of manure and composteven, I like to speculate, in the framework of the "Bartholemew Mixture" I mentioned on 2017-08-14 or 2017-08-15, in my short horticultural posting on self-watering pots.] 

Land Reforms

Besides all this, and quite apart from the rehabilitation made necessary by the war, in many places the land demands that careful and well-planned preliminary measures be taken before any reform can be accomplished in the matter of land ownership and farm contracts. Without such measures, improvised reform, as history and experience teach us, would develop into sheer demagoguery. Therefore, far from being beneficial, it would be both useless and dangerous, particularly today when humanity must still fear for its daily bread. Quite often in times past, the incoherent, deceptive vaunting of unprincipled orators has made rural populations the unwitting victims of exploitation and slaves to a domination from which they would have instinctively shrunk.9
[The 1920s Estonian experience with land reform, in which baronial estates were compulsorily divided into smallholdings, is generally considered successful. The 1990s post-Soviet Estonian restitution efforts constituted not a fresh land reform, but an attempt to restore what had already been set up in the 1920s. Nowadays, we have to be on guard in every country (for instance, I speculate, in every EU country, Estonia included) against the present or eventual swallowing up of smallholdings by big operators. A key statistic for any national or regional government is "total number of farmsteads". Sound social policy will keep that number high, even at the expense of a potentially competing statistic, "total agricultural production".] 

City or Country

Because the farmer’s life is so close to nature and based so substantially upon the family, certain prevalent types of injustice show up the more flagrantly in relation to that life. Such injustice finds its most evident expression in the conflict between city and country. What is the reason for this conflict, which, unfortunately, is especially characteristic of our own time?
Modern cities, with their constant growth and great concentration of inhabitants, are the typical product of the control wielded over economic life and the very life of man by the interests of large capital. As Our glorious Predecessor, Pius XI, has so effectively shown in his Encyclical “Quadragesimo Anno,” it happens too often that human needs do not, in accordance with their natural and objective importance, rule economic life and the use of capital. On the contrary, capital and its desire for gain determine what the needs of man should be and to what extent they are to be satisfied. Therefore, it is not human labor in the service of the common welfare that attracts capital to it and presses it into its service. Rather, capital tosses labour and man himself here and there like a ball in a game. If the inhabitant of the city suffers from this unnatural state of affairs, so much the more is it contrary to the very essence of the farmer’s life. Notwithstanding all his difficulties, the tiller of the soil still represents the natural order of things willed by God. The farmer knows that man, by his labor, is to control material things; that material things are not to control man.10

["Like a ball in a game": most Canadian and American towns can attest to the malign influence of Capital over the past three decades.

The town I know best is Truro, Nova Scotia, with a population stagnating over the decades at 12,000 or 13,000. We used to have a functioning main street, with long-established businesses incorporating appropriate family references in their titles: Bentley's for upmarket fittings and furnishings (it was there that I first saw an operating colour television, in the autumn of 1966), Thomas's for books, "R. Trueman Macintosh Menswear" (it was from there that my parents were able at one point to get from me, somehow, I think second-hand, a dinner jacket, or in American speech "tuxedo", for use in Oxford or Australia), Weatherbee's for minor hardware, and the circa-1881 florist Suckling & Chase. Above all, dominating the east end of the street, was the multifloor, in some sense multi-bulding, fortress of "A.J. Walker & Son Ltd", or "Walker's", founded around 1891. Around 1990 or 2000 or 2010, someone told me Walker's had stock from even the 1920s. I am inclined to believe this. No matter what one wanted in hardware, Walker's was liable to have it, somewhere and somehow. I recall, for instance, going in around 1970, asking for an audio transformer appropriate for matching low-impedance headphones from the family hi-fi to a high-impedance jack on the family shortwave receiver. This request would now be likely to flummox a big-box store such as Canadian Tire or Home Hardware. At Walker's, however, they swiftly found the requisite item, in one of their bins, despite not being formally an electronics purveyor. (Admittedly, I could not afford the item. But this reflects on the poor state of my finances, not on any rapcity at Walker's.) Now those concerns are gone, in the teeth of competition from big-box operators near or just beyond the town limits. Even Walker's is gone, as of 2012-02-29. This leaves downtown Prince Street scarcely more than a 500-metre or 1000-metre strip of restaurants, cafés, and hairdressers.

In Richmond Hill, Ontario, with its fast-growing population (195,022 in 2016), social conditions differ from stagnant Truro. Richmond Hill is one of those places in Canada to which people from the economically depressed Canadian Maritimes migrate. And yet the capitalism that tosses people around like, in the deceased pontiff's phrase,  "a ball in a game", is if anything still more blatant in its workings here. Truro retains at least a post office in its moribund downtown core. And the last time I walked Prince Street, I think in 2012, I did not see, as I constantly see here on that exact-equivalent-of-Prince which is our local Yonge, storefronts offering porn, "Dick and Jane Romance" (that's underwear, and the like), and fortune-telling.  (All of Richmond Hill's serious, legitimate businesses have since before my 2006 landing here succumbed to the big-box retailers, far from the town core.) It is particularly eerie that in Richmond Hill, the sidewalks of even that Main Drag which is Yonge appear at every hour of every season deserted. Around here, the serious shopping gets done in the heavily capitalized Wal-Marts or Home Depots. People use their cars for that. The unspoken assumption is that if you cannot afford a car and cannot afford bus tickets, you forfeit the right to live here.

I think that, having been sued once (in 2014, by an aspiring Richmond Hill politician), I can nevertheless safely state tonight that Capital, as notably accumulated in a postwar suburban building boom by York Region's DeGasperis and Muzzo families, has made possible the 32-hectare, 14-street, approximately 530-home subdivision now being carved out of the former 77-hectare David Dunlap Observatory and Park, a couple of kilometres south of our Richmond Hill core.

Speaking more generally, without reference to Truro or Richmond Hill, it is Capital we have to thank for the state of our Canadian food, marketed under dozens of brand names and yet produced by just a handful of multinationals—without, I believe, even the Genetically Modified Organism inputs correctly labelled. An observational astrophysicist visiting the David Dunlap Observatory from Slovakia once remarked to me how remarkable it was that Canadian food would not spoil. You could keep this stuff, at least in the big observatory downstairs fridge, for weeks or months, safe in the knowledge that not even Canadian bacteria would fancy it.

It is Capital, again, we have to thank for the bloating of the pharmaceutical industry. The big money is to be made in pharmaceuticals, not in the vitamin and mineral supplements. 

Capital is blind and unthinking, to the point of ignoring questions touching on its own long-term survival. Eventually, laissez-faire Capital undermines even key institutions, notably parliamentary government, in the national cultures that have spawned it. We see this now with Mr Donald Trump.  We may well fear analogous declines in the future political cultures of both Canada and Estonia.]

["To control material things": well, here the deceased pontiff is dated, sounding rather sadly 1946. I think I owe to American author John Michael Greer, in some private e-mail correspondence perhaps eight or more years ago, the recommendation that we abandon even the cleaned-up contemporary language of "stewardship" (this does, admittedly, sound less abrasive than "control"), and speak instead of "partnership". We have to partner with material things, as apiarists partner with their bees, or gardeners partner with their roses and cypresses. It is not that one is the "steward" of the bees, and it would be misleading to speak of "controlling" them, even in the deployment of queen-excluder screens and comb foundation. Rather, a partnership, a mutually beneficial symbiosis, is created: the bees get secure boxes, with external insulation judiciously added in October or November, in return for surrendering a part of their honey stores come September. And Old Testament readers will note the instructions given to Adam and Eve: the authority given them over prelapsarian Eden is the authority of gardeners.]

The Flight to the City

This, then, is the deep-seated cause of the modern conflict between city and country; each viewpoint produces altogether different men. The difference of viewpoints becomes all the more pronounced the more capital, having abdicated its noble mission to promote the good of all groups in society, penetrates the farmer’s world or otherwise involves it in its evils. It glitters its gold and a life of pleasure before the dazzled eyes of the farm-worker to lure him from his land to the city where he may squander his hard-won savings. The city usually holds nothing for him but disillusionment; often he loses his health, his strength, his happiness, his honor, and his very soul there. 11

Land Monopoly

After the land has been so abandoned, capital hastens to make it its own; the land then becomes no longer the object of love but of cold exploitation. Generous nurse of the city as well as of the country; it is made to produce only for speculation—while the people suffer hunger; while the farmer, burdening himself with debts, slowly approaches ruin; while the national economy becomes exhausted from paying high prices for the provisions it is forced to import from abroad. This perversion of private rural property is seriously harmful. The new ownership has no love or concern for the plot that so many generations had lovingly tilled, and is heartless towards the families who till it and dwell upon it now. Private ownership, even though it sometimes leads to exploitation, is not, however, the cause of this perversion. Even in those instances where the State completely arrogates capital and the means of production to itself, industrial interests and foreign trade, characteristic of the city, have the upper hand. The real tiller of the soil then suffers even more. In any case, the fundamental truth consistently maintained by the social teaching of the Church is violated. The Church teaches that the whole economy of the people is organic and that all the productive capacities of national territory should be developed in healthy proportion. The conflict between country and city would never have become so great if this fundamental truth had been observed.12

[The theological significance of private ownership is highlighted by Pope Leo XIII in an encyclical promulgated on 1891-05-15. Leo, sensing the impending political storm around the time V.I.Lenin himself did, started his work with the phrase rerum novarum. Under the usual Curia rules, the initial words of an encyclical become its title. Literally, rerum novarum means "of (pertaining to) new things (new circumstances)", though I see it given on the Web the lurid translation "of revolutionary change". The luridly loose translation might, admittedly, be to an extent defended on the grounds that for Leo, the "new things" were the things of socialists, anarchists, and Marxists. In a partial agreement with those extremists and a partial correction of them, Leo on the one hand insisted on the right of workers to organize themselves into unions as a defence against predatory capitalism, but on the other hand insisted on the right of everyone to own property. 

In twenty-first century terms, we might put it like this: Human dignity requires every work-capable citizen, no matter how unskilled or aged or poor,  to have some means of livelihood which is really her or his own, and is not a mere largess flung to her or him by Crown or State. Wherever possible, people have to live in their own homes, not in the "Council flats" prominent in the 1940s-through-1980s thinking of the British Labour Party. Land has to be held privately, and in small parcels—with exceptions made, to be sure, for public parks; for other types of public nature preserve; for ports, canals, railways, harbours, and whatever limited aerodromes might be feasible in a carbon-neutral economy; for the grounds of the publicly funded hospitals, the publicly funded long-term care homes, and the publicly funded research institutes; and for a mildly dreary list of additional government amenities, such as courthouses and Town Halls. (In particular, I imagine that no matter how hard we try to promote home schooling and private colleges, we will always, bowing to necessity, have to live with government K12 schools and some measure of public universitiesin a generous and unstinting spirit giving them the broad hectares they need to render their work maximally effective.) Where possible, the work-capable citizens have to own their tools outright, rather than operate machinery supplied by "The Man" (or, still worse, by "The Central Committee", in other words by "The Party"). Where straightforward individual ownership proves impossible, workers have to band together into co-ops, as at Mondragon in contemporary Spain, holding their larger pieces of capital equipmenttheir CNC drills and lathes, their hydraulic pressesthrough the power of two-hundred-member, or in extreme cases even four-hundred-member, strictly local, worker collectives, from which outside investments are barred. Where addictions, other mental illnesses, or sheer old age make work difficult, and the impeded citizen's own family cannot help effectively, there have to be self-help co-ops, in the style of Richmond Hill's Krasman Centre (, with enough government support to catalyze the self-organizing process. Under such social arrangements, we all become rather poor, resembling Amish with electrical engineering. But well, you get what you pay for: either you sacrifice at the consumer-goods level now, to get a just society, or you worship at the altar of predatory Capital, eventually losing more (in the multigenerational long run, perhaps eventually losing even your parliamentary representation, your press freedom, and your habeas corpus rights, as the consumer goods continue flowing up to the point of fossil-fuel depletion and climate-driven agricultural breakdown).]  


To Each His Share

You farmers certainly do not desire any such conflict; you want every part of the national economy to have its share; however, you also want to keep your share. Therefore, you must have the help of sensible political planning and sound legislation. But your principal help must came from yourselves, from your cooperative unions, especially from your credit unions. Perhaps, then, the recovery of the whole economy may come from the field of agriculture.13

["From your cooperative unions": oh, yes, clearly. Farming often requires equipment. A moment ago, I mentioned CNC lathes and drills, and hydraulic presses. To this one might now add harvester-combines, threshing machines, and flour mills. The way to proceed was pioneered by the young Jaan Tõnisson in Estonia, and I imagine by many others around the globe in those late Tsarist times. (Tõnisson was born in 1868, and was making his mark in Tartu journalism by the 1890s.) Rather than taking out bank loans, let farmers get their technology through the pooling of savings in local co-ops, at the humble level of county or parish.]

["The recovery of the whole economy may come from the field of agriculture": In his address, the pontiff was of course addressing difficult Italian conditions of 1946. But we will eventually have a New Great Depression, or worse, throughout the EU, Britain, the USA, and Canada. On the far side of that trauma, perhaps 50 or 100 or 200 years from now, our descendants will have to attempt a recovery. At that remote point, it may be the farmers who lead the way. I like to picture the remote future as one in which the family farm predominates, just as it did in Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Estonia back when Tõnisson was young. Everything in that future looksto repeatrather Amish, except that quantum theorists, thermodyamicists, and organic chemists (et cetera) continue to support appropriate local enterprises in their small-scale manufacture of integrated-circuit chips, solar-powered Stirling engines, and biomass-locomotive fuel pellets (et cetera).]

A Community of Labour

And finally a word about labour. You tillers of the soil form within your families a community of labour. You and your fellow-members and associates also form another community of labour. Finally, you desire to form with all the other occupational groups a great community of labour. This is in keeping with what has been ordained by God and nature. This is the true Catholic concept of labour. Work unites all men in common service to the needs of the people and in a unified effort towards perfection of self in honor of the Creator and Redeemer. In any case, remain firm in regarding your labour from the point of view of its essential value. You and your families are contributing to the public welfare; such labour protects your fundamental right to an income sufficient to maintain you in accordance with your dignity and cultural needs as men. It implies also your recognition of the necessity of uniting with all other occupational groups who labour for the various needs of society. Your labour therefore, embodies your support of the principles of social peace.14

A Parting Blessing

With all Our heart, dear sons, We invoke heaven’s choicest blessings on you and on your families. The Church has always blessed you in a particular manner, and in many ways has brought your working year into her liturgical year. We invoke these blessings upon the work of your hands, from which the holy altar of God receives the bread and wine. May the Lord give you, in the words of Holy Scripture, “the dew of heaven, and of the fatness of the earth, abundance of corn and wine!” (Gen., XXVII:28) May your lands, like the fertile Etruscan fields between Fiesole and Arezzo, so greatly admired by Livy, “be rich in grain and cattle and an abundance of all things,” “frumenti ac pecoris et omnium copia rerum opulenti” (Livy, ab Urbe Condita 1. XXII, cap. 3). With these sentiments and these wishes We impart to you and to all those dear to you Our paternal Apostolic Blessing. 15


1. Catholic Rural Life Objectives First Series: O’Hara, Most Rev. Edwin V., “A Spiritual and Material Mission to Rural America,” pp. 3-6. LaFarge, John, S.J., “The Church and Rural Welfare,” pp. 37-41. Bishop, W. Howard, “Agrarianism, the Basis of the New Order,” pp. 49-52. Third Series: Ciognani, Most Rev. Amleto Giovanni, “Address of the Apostolic Delegate,” pp. 9-11. Muench, Most Rev. Aloisius J., “The Catholic Church and Rural Welfare,” pp. 15-19. Sheen, Fulton J., “Challenge to Our Democracy,” pp. 99-102. Manifesto on Rural Life Chapter VIII, The Rural Pastorate, pp. 35-38. Chapter IX, Rural Church Expansion,” pp. 39-42. Agricultural Handbook for Rural Pastors and Laymen, Thomas E. Howard, pp. 44-52. For This We Stand, L. G. Ligutti. Standing on Both Feet, Patrick T. Quinlan. Rural Life in a Peaceful World, p .1. The Popes and Social Principles of Rural Life. The Classics and Rural Life.

2.  Catholic Rural Life Objectives Third Series: Cram, Ralph Adams, “What Is a Free Man?” pp. 35-42. The Rural Homestead, Decade of Homesteading, Patrick T. Quinlan. Pioneering Today, C. W. Couture.Catholic Benedicta, Thomas C. Duffy, C.S.C.

3.  Catholic Rural Life Objectives Fourth Series: Kalven, Janet, “Woman and Post-War Reconstruction,” pp. 25-28. Salm, Martin L., My Family Cooperative,” pp. 77-82. First Series: Baker. O. E., “The Church and the Rural Youth,” pp. 7-29. Manifesto on Rural Life Chapter I, “The Rural Catholic Family, pp. 3-7. Task of Woman in the Modern World, Janet Kalven. Land and Life for Woman McDonald, Rosemary, A Rural Mother Looks at the Land,” 14-22. Home Making a Life-time Job, Catherine E. Dorff. Sacramental Protection of The Family, Emerson Hynes. Population Trends, L. G. Ligutti. The Bottom of the Barrel, Can We Survive, Patrick T. Quinlan. Rural Life in a Peaceful World, p. 2.

4.  Catholic Rural Life Objectives Fourth Series: Berger, Leo, “Caring for the Spiritually Underprivileged,” pp. 57-59. Urbain, Joseph V., “Catholic Rural Communities of Tomorrow,” pp. 52-56. Schimek, William, “What Can the Rural Pastor Do?” pp. 60-64. Third Series: Boyle, Most Rev. Hugh C., “The More Abundant Life,” pp. 13-14. Pitt, F. Newton, “Youth Problems in Rural Areas,” pp. 53-59. Taylor, Carl C., “The Restoration of Rural Culture,” pp. 83-91. Treacy, John P., “Will Youth Be Served?” pp. 103-109. Mother Mary of the Incarnate Word. “Evangelizing the Disfranchised,” pp. 111-121. Willmann, Dorothy J., “Reading in the Rural Home,” pp. 163. Manifesto on Rural Life Chapter VI, “Catholic Culture in Rural Society,” pp. 26-28. Speaking of Education Sister Helene, O.P.. “Rural Life and Art,” pp. 13-17. Land and Life for Woman Buckley, Mary Imelda, “Christian Culture and Rural Life.” pp. 1-4. Rogations at Maranatha, Josephine Drabek.Rural Life in a Peaceful World, pp. 4, 13-16. Catholic Rural Life Songs.

5. Catholic Rural Life Objectives Second Series: Walster H. L., “Backgrounds of Economic Distress in the Great Plains,” pp. 101-109 Rural Life in a Peaceful World, pp. 9-10. 

6. Catholic Rural Life Objectives Second Series: Schmiedeler, Edgar. O.S.B., “The Status of the Laborer in Agriculture,” pp. 81-89. Kenkel. Frederick P.; “The Economic Disfranchisement of the Share-Cropper,” pp, 91-100. Manifesto of Rural Life Chapter XI, “Rural Social Charity,” pp. 47-51. Chapter XII, “The Farm Laborer,” pp. 52-54. Rural Life in a Peaceful World, p. 6.

7. Catholic Rural Life Objectives Fourth Series: Muench Most Rev. Aloisius J., “Education for Rural Life,” pp. 19-21. First Series: Johnson, George, “The Professional Preparation of Teachers for Catholic Rural Schools,” pp. 53-56. Second Series: Christensen Chris L., “The Place of Youth in Agriculture and Rural Life”pp. 19-26. Gillis, Michael M., “The Adult Education Movement in Nova Scotia,” pp. 73- 80. Third Series: Johnson, George, “The Federal Government and Education for Rural Life,” pp. 27-33. Rawe, John C. S.J., “Catholic Rural Social Planning,” pp. 71-81. Strittmatter, Denis, O.S.B., “Vocational Training for Colored Youth” pp 123-126. Byrne, Francis J., “Problems and Policies in Catholic Rural School Work in the South,” pp. 127-132. Manifesto on Rural Life Chapter IV, “Catholic Rural Education,” pp. 18-22. Chapter V, “Rural Catholic Youth,” pp. 23-25. Agricultural Handbook for Rural Pastors and Laymen, Howard, pp. 107-111. Speaking of Education Nutting, Willis D., “What Parents Think,” pp. 1-12 Sister M. Samuel, O.S.F., “The Rural Elementary Teacher,” pp. 18-27. Sister M. Mark, O.S.F., “The Rural High School Teacher,” pp. 34-39. A First Born Grows Up, Olive M. Biddison. Cultural Erosion, L. G. Ligutti. A Practical School of Agriculture, Paul Sacco. Dear Sister, Sister M. Gerald, S.S.J. Training a Land Queen, E.L. Chicanot. Rural Life in a Peaceful World, pp. 16-17.

8. Catholic Rural Life Objectives Fourth Series: Jansen, Cornelius H., “The Role of the Scientist,” pp. 22-24. Manifesto on Rural Life Chapter X, “Rural Health,” pp. 43-46. Land and Life for Woman McNally, Patricia, “Health and Rural Living,” pp. 8-10. Drabek, Josephine, “Nobility of Rural Work,” pp. 10-13. Health from the Ground Up, Jonathan Forman. Rural Life in a Peaceful World, p. 17.

9. Catholic Rural Life Objectives Fourth Series: Lissner Will, “Natural Law and Human Rights,” pp. 13-18. Taeusch, Carl, “What Can the Catholic Church Do?” pp. 37-42. First Series: Williams, Michael, “The Green Revolution,” pp. 31-36. Rawe, John C., S.J., “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness in Agriculture,” pp, 35-45. Miller, Raymond J.. “The ‘Quadragesimo Anno’ and the Reconstruction of Agriculture,” pp. 47-56. Manifesto on Rural Life Chapter XVI, “Rural Taxation.” pp. 66-70. Agricultural Handbook for Rural Pastors and Laymen, Howard, pp. 55-66; 127- 141. Man’s Relation to the Land.

10. Catholic Rural Life Objectives Second Series Fichter, Joseph H., S.J., “A Comparative View of Agrarianism,” pp. 111-116. Speaking of Education Sister M. Canice, S.S.N.D., “From Urban Teacher to Rural Teacher,” pp 28-33. Rural Life in a Peaceful World, p. 18.

11. Catholic Rural Life Objectives Second Series: Baker, O E, “Will More or Fewer People Live on the Land?”  Third Series: Briefs, Goetz; “The Back to the Land Idea,” pp. 93-98. Manifesto on Rural Life Chapter III, “Rural Settlement,” pp. 13-17. I Am a Country Pastor, Figures Speak for Themselves, Patrick T. Quinlan.

12. Catholic Rural Life Objectives Second Series: Crowley, Francis M. “Absentee Landlordism in a New Form,” pp. 27-34. Manifesto on Rural Life Chapter II, “Farm Ownership and Land Tenancy,” pp. 8-12. Chapter XV, “Agriculture In the Economic Organism,” pp. 63-65. Rural Life in a Peaceful World, pp. 6-7.

13. Catholic Rural Life Objectives Fourth Series: Ryan, Most Rev. Vincent J., “State and Reconstruction,” pp. 29-36. First Series: Kenkel, Frederick P “The Ethical and Religious Background of Cooperation,” pp. 43-47. Second Series: Michel, Virgil, O.S.B., “The Cooperative Movement and the Liturgical Movement,” pp. 13-18. Schmiedeler, Edgar, O.S.B., “A Review of Rural Insecurity” pp. 43-52. Matt Alphonse J., “Economic and Social Justice for the Negro, pp. 61-69. Manifesto on Rural Life Chapter XIII, “Farmer Cooperatives,” pp. 55-59. Chapter XIV, “Rural Credit” pp. 60-62. Agricultural Handbook for Rural Pastors and Laymen, Howard, pp. 27-38, 69- 88- 91-102; 105-107; 115-122. Catholic Churchmen and Cooperatives. St. Paul to the Galatian Farmers, Most Rev. Joseph H. Schlarman. Rural Life in a Peaceful World, pp. 5; 10-13; 19-20.

14. Manifesto on Rural Life Chapter VII, “Rural Community,” pp. 29-34.

15. The Land and the Spirit, Most Rev. Peter W. Bartholome. Land and Life for Woman Wickes, Mariette, “The Unfolding of the Christian Seasons,” pp. 4-8. Agriculture and the Liturgical Year, Benedict Ehmann. St. Isidore—Patron of Farmers.          

Minor Remarks on Our Local Farmers' Market 

Not all of us can farm. (I, for one, have to concentrate on ongoing minor private studies, with I hope eventually some level of tutoring in mathematics and physics, and with at least my present level of popularizing activity in astronomy.) All us of, however, can support the farmers.

It is a bit like those first-Soviet, Nazi, and second-Soviet occupations back home, from the late autumn of 1939 all the way up to the late August of 1991. Not everyone could be a partisan in the Estonian woods. Not everyone in Estonian cities was psychologically capable of playing the anti-régime dissident. Of those who lived abroad, not all could write significant novels or plays—much less contribute in the seemingly Quixotic, half-century, work of our Government-in-Exile, with its few surviving embassies. All, however, no matter on which side of the Iron Curtain they may have happened to be living, could say some kind of"No" to The Man. If we lived back home, we could listen to the Voice of America on shortwave, or pass a copy of the samizdat Lisandusi to someone we knew, or get our hands on one of those so-portable slim Estonian paperbacks being quietly brought in from the Maarjamaa press over in Toronto. If we lived abroad, we could keep up our Estonian, in the realization that this was the very thing the occupying Party wanted us, in the younger diaspora generation, living as we are on the safe side of the Iron Curtain, to neglect. 

Nowadays,  "The Man" to whom the "No" must ever so politely be said is not V.I.Lenin at all, but the big (in some instances perhaps the deliberately obscure, the deliberately under-advertised) corporate world that is sucking the life from our institutions. In hardware retailing, which I have discussed tonight with some detailed references to Truro and Richmond Hill, that means the Walmarts and the Home Depots. In the most important thing of all, food, that means among others General Mills, Inc., Kraft Foods Group, Inc., and the Kellogg Company—and once again Walmart, as a food retailer. Going to farmers' markets and small food retailers now is like listening to the Voice of America back home then, under the occupation. It may not do a whole lot of good. It may on occasion be boring.  (Folks, those programmes—I intercepted the 19-metre beam in the Nova Scotia weekend afternoon, on its way out from North Carolina to our people back in (nighttime) Estonia—proved dull, in much the way that the English-language Radio Moscow, readily received in Nova Scotia once my dear parents were in bed or in other ways remote, proved dull.) It is not particularly convenient, and it is not particularly cheap. But it gives us a spirit of independence. When the big crisis comes, as come it eventually must, we or our descendants will have retained some courage to act.

Why, in the Gorbachev years, when the CP-USSR finally faced its crisis, did people so readily take to the Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, East Berlin (and so forth) streets, in their ultimately uncontrollable tens of thousands? It was because they were psychologically primed for it, having kept their inner spirits up in the preceding decades (that is, in the seemingly hopeless decades of Brezhnev, Andropov, and Chernenko). So too now, as our corporate oppression deepens and the big breakdown—with even its attendant opportunities for a fairer way of life—gets closer.

Here in downtown Richmond Hill, our farmers' market is a modest affair, convened for just a few hours on the Sundays of May through September. Everything gets wound up this year on the Sunday which is 2017-10-01 (with, I gather, our Mayor coming once again: this will be a good chance for some of us to ask him, ever so politely, about the 32-hectare David Dunlap Observatory subdivision). But as it used to be kinda-sorta a public duty to listen to the Voice of America (if living back home) or to keep up one's Estonian (if living abroad, as for instance here in Canada), so analogously now it is a public duty to stop at the market.

To make the shopping exercise a bit more bearable for whatever readers I may have in Richmond Hill (and to encourage similar civic efforts, at similar markets, on the part of readers farther afield), I will end by mentioning several of the happy things I have noticed in this particular little public space:

  • It is possible to buy artisanal, essentially family-made, sausage from perhaps two distinct vendors. Being poor, I have to be careful with sausage (and avoid other meats altogether—except for meat of environmentally dubious provenance, in such frequent moments of weakness as lead me to pick up a Dollarama tin (a "can") of so-called "Puritan Beef Stew", or a Dollarama plastic rice container with an accompanying metallic envelope of so-called "Teriyaki Chicken"). And yet even under stiff financial constraints, one can get pepperoni sticks, for possibly around just 25% more than the going Dollarama price. One of the perhaps two different vendors seems to be commercially connected with a Mennonite family, making their sausage in the small community of Atwood (roughly 100 kilometres from Toronto, over in Perth County;,_Ontario).
  • It is possible to buy fine infant foods, in glass jars rather than in plastic, from a small (husband-and-wife?) team with a rudimentary Web site at Last month, the team indeed filmed me tasting a sample. I unfortunately did not in my ineptitude explain to the camera that this was reminiscent, and yet was far preferable to, the infant foods I had ingested in the sunny Eisenhower era, in 1954 or 1955 or so. (I was born in 1953.) Like many infants, I made up my own Estonian words where necessary, since grown-ups on occasion lack words for necessary concepts—and so whereas nasty, fatty bits of meat became in my parlance sibe, delicious baby foods became seibu. There were two types of seibu back then, at least on Mum's shelves: one with meat, or something, and the other incorporating some kind of fruit, such as prunes or apricots. I believe that Eisenhower-era seibu to have come  from the  H.J. Heinz Company (in more recent years, the Kraft Heinz Company). So now we have, right in Richmond Hill, an improvement on the seibu from days of yore—all packed up in glass, and free of preservatives.
  • I make a point of buying some produce from one of the relatively few people actually farming in or near Richmond Hill, the Zach who is one of the young people under the "Soulgarden" umbrella.  (Zach, I suspect in contrast with some farmers' market vendor or vendors, refrains from bringing produce into our market from the Ontario Food Terminal. That's a sad kind of embassy-of-big-business, near the Gardiner Expressway, far indeed from Richmond Hill.)  Soulgarden offers a bit of social-media outreach, at Yesterday I paid Zach an affordable sum for a modest quantity of cherry tomatoes. In previous weeks, I have bought from him, among other things, some species in the Gynura genus, popularly called "longevity spinach". I finish tonight's posting by showing Zach (in light-toned shirt, on the left) and a colleague (in dark-toned shirt, on the right), as photographed by me yesterday with Zach's kind permission. The produce on the left side of his table is from his Richmond Hill operation. Some of the produce either on the far right side or just off the right edge of the photo is not quite so local, but to my mind is authentic enough—coming from a holding of his own personal landlord, admittedly on the Niagara Peninsula across the lake from Toronto.  As is usual with blogger, the image enlarges upon mouse-clicking:

[This is the end of the present blog posting.]

Monday, 4 September 2017

Toomas Karmo: Part M: Perception, Action, and "Subjectivity"

Quality assessment:

On the 5-point scale current in Estonia, and surely in nearby nations, and familiar to observers of the academic arrangements of the late, unlamented, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (applying the easy and lax standards Kmo deploys in his grubby imaginary "Aleksandr Stepanovitsh Popovi nimeline sangarliku raadio instituut" (the "Alexandr Stepanovitch Popov Institute of Heroic Radio") and his  grubby imaginary "Nikolai Ivanovitsh Lobatshevski nimeline sotsalitsliku matemaatika instituut" (the "Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky Institute of Socialist Mathematics") - where, on the lax and easy grading philosophy of the twin Institutes, 1/5 is "epic fail", 2/5 is "failure not so disastrous as to be epic", 3/5 is "mediocre pass", 4/5 is "good", and 5/5 is "excellent"): 4/5. Justification: There was enough time to write out the  necessary points to reasonable length.

Revision history:

All times in these blog "revision histories" are stated in UTC (Universal Coordinated Time/ Temps Universel Coordoné,  a precisification of the old GMT, or "Greenwich Mean Time"), in the ISO-prescribed YYYYMMDDThhmmZ timestamping format. UTC currently leads Toronto civil time by 4 hours and currently lags Tallinn civil time by 3 hours.

  • 20170905T0237Z/version 2.0.0: Kmo finished converting his point-form outline into coherent full-sentences prose. He reserved the right to make tiny, nonsubstantive, purely cosmetic, tweaks over the coming 48 hours, as here-undocumented versions 2.0.1, 2.0.2, 2.0.3, ... . 
  • 20170905T0001Z/version 1.0.0: Kmo had time to upload a moderately polished point-form outline. He hoped to finish converting this into full-sentences prose by 20170905T0401Z.

[CAUTION: A bug in the blogger server-side software has in some past months shown a propensity to insert inappropriate whitespace at some points in some of my posted essays. If a screen seems to end in empty space, keep scrolling down. The end of the posting is not reached until the usual blogger "Posted by Toomas (Tom) Karmo at" appears. - The blogger software has also shown a propensity, at any rate when coupled with my erstwhile, out-of-date, Web-authoring uploading browser, to generate HTML that gets formatted in different ways on different downloading browsers. Some downloading browsers have sometimes perhaps not correctly read in the entirety of the "Cascading Style Sheets" (CSS) which on all ordinary Web servers control the browser placement of margins, sidebars, and the like. If you suspect CSS problems in your particular browser, be patient: it is probable that while some content has been shoved into some odd place (for instance, down to the bottom of your browser, where it ought to appear in the right-hand margin), all the server content has been pushed down into your browser in some place or other. - Finally, there may be blogger vagaries, outside my control, in font sizing or interlinear spacing or right-margin justification. - Anyone inclined to help with trouble-shooting, or to offer other kinds of technical advice, is welcome to write me via]

To begin with, we recall the tightness of the parallels between perception and action. However novel the idea of V-ing-in-W-ing may perhaps seem in its application to perception, the idea is at any rate familiar, within at any rate Departments of Philosophy, in its application to action. The familiarity is due to several respected 1950s-through-1980s Anglo-Saxon philosophical authorities, from whose ranks I at the moment think (mindful, for once, of "Igominy and Humiligation") that I dimly recall two - something like (say I, for once circumspectly) "Elizabeth Honeycombe" and "Arthur C. Dango". I illustrate the "perhaps Honeycombe-Dango" idea by recapitulating an old example, in the process making, for reasons of (slight) authorial convenience a few (inconsequential) changes in its details:
  • You are startling a crow in jumping from veranda to lawn. 
  • You are jumping from veranda to lawn in flexing leg muscles. 
  • You are flexing leg muscles in firing various spinal neurons.
  • You are firing spinal neurons in firing motor-cortex neurons. 
I also reiterate another point from past weeks, namely that just as you could report, in a neurophysiology lab in which electrodes are stimulating your cortex, "Now I am starting to green," so you could be asked in a different kind of neurophysiology lab, in which electrodes are reading out from your cortex, and in which your body is left free to gesticulate and walk and jump, "Please fire some different motor-cortex neurons for our anatomy team now - now those neurons which you use for jumping." (You do this, of course, by performing a jump, right there in the lab - not merely by pretending to yourself that you are jumping.) 


How does action relate to "greening", "hurting", and the like? That hurting is outside our immediate control is a medical contingency lacking philosophical significance. We could have nervous systems that do bring our hurting under our unmediated control, in the sense in which our gesticulating, walking, and jumping already are. In that case, "I am hurting" would be less like "I am falling" than "I am jumping." (This would be helpful in Opus Dei, replacing the need for the awkward, perhaps even expensive, Opus Dei cilice - - as an instrument of private bodily penance. "I ought," says my imagined Opus Dei penitent, "to reprimand myself, and yet only moderately, for complicity with Hollywood in viewing Borat last Sunday. So let me now do some hurting, while I recite just Psalm 51. And let me confine my small act of mortification to just the left half of my face, and to one toe.")

We could likewise, with a different neuro-anatomy, ring at will - that is, to be sure, to "ring" in the sense in which tinnitus sufferers are said to ring, rather than in the sense in which bells are said to ring. Similarly, we could with a different neuro-anatomy "sick" and thirst and "green" at will. The situation would differ in degree, and not in kind, from what we already encounter when we are hurting (in the active sense) in doing something a little elaborate. (That something might, for instance, be what real-world penitents do in pressing cilice barbs into contrite flesh . - I do have to confess here to myself having viewed Borat last Sunday, and to having approached outright helplessness in my consequent laughter, and to lack today any deep remorse (let alone contrition) over my various Sunday actions, and to have no cilice in my present toolkit.)

Likewise, the situation would differ in degree, not in kind, from what we already encounter in greening, in the active sense, through ("in") doing something a little elaborate:

I would like to green. How can I, given the limitations of my Homo sapiens anatomy, pull off that particular performance? The sole tactic available to me is elaborate. In Homo sapiens, the performance proves not as easy as singing a Middle C, not as easy as moving a foot. But I can pull it off in a cumbersome way. I do it by directing my corneas away from my book page, raising them toward a sunlit lawn. This redirecting of my corneas I achieve in contracting some neck muscles, and that I achieve in firing motor neurons outside the motor cortex, and that I achieve in firing neurons within the motor cortex. For an animal with a different anatomy, the performance might prove easier, bypassing the motor cortex, and requiring no redirecting of corneas, and perhaps being describable in starkly simple autobiographical terms, along the following lines: "I green, in the active sense, in firing neurons in that special glory of my species, absent from Homo sapiens, namely my Voluntary-Colour cortex."


Next, we ask how action relates to the Kaila-Strawson "sound universe", as developed in "Part I" and "Part J", on 2017-07-24/2017-04-25 and 2017-07-31/2017-08-01. Here is a biographical fragment for a Kaila-Strawson subject who has not only a perceptual life (I copy this verbatim from "Part J") but also a life of agency (this part I now add):

In the minutes leading up to 4:00 pm today, you have been "greening", and have been seeing a chain of ordinary physical things, among them a sunlit lawn, in greening. In your right hand has been a glass with some ice-chilled drink. This glass, at a temperature only a little above 0oC, is one of a chain of ordinary physical things - among them are also events in your nerves, starting with nerves in some correspondingly cold finger flesh, and continuing with neurons within the right arm, the spinal cord, and ultimately the skull - which you have been feeling in "being-chilled". Now, at 4:00 p.m., comes the Great Change.

Suddenly you see nothing at all. You do not experience even an expanse of neutral black, as when you clap a hand over closed eyelids. Your visual life becomes suddenly a Nothing, even as the visual life "behind your head" is in your present circumstances a Nothing. (It is not that the human visual field is bounded by an expanse of neutral white or neutral black. No: outside the limited visual field, with its angular width of maybe just 170 or 190 degrees, nothing at all appears.)

Gone also is the "right-handed being-chilled". Now you have no awareness of cold, or for that matter of warmth, or for that matter of wetness, dryness, or pressure. You likewise have now no feeling of falling, rising, or spinning. Further, you now cease to have sensation-within-the-human-body, such as nausea, or thirst, or the pins-and-needles prickling in some injudiciously immobilized foot.

What you do have is auditory experience, and this you have in astonishing abundance. In your altered state, you note an ensemble of sounds - ringings, buzzings, whistlings, ululations, rumblings, in a variety of pitches and timbres - at times in either soloes or choral plainsong, at other times in harmonies and dissonances, and often with many a diminuendo or crescendo.

Up to 4:00 pm today, you considered various things - prominent among them a pair of Homo sapiens feet and a pair of Homo sapiens hands - to be "under your control". Now, in place of hands and feet, you notice a pair of treble notes in a violin timbre, sounding rather pleasantly at F-above-Middle-C and C-above-Middle-C. You notice also a pair of baritone notes in a rather rough viola timbre - accompanied by a rather insistent, polished, basso profundo,  the latter perhaps mildly reminiscent of the  "romanssi" interpreter Boris Timofeyevich Shtokolov (1930-2005). 

You discovered many years ago - perhaps a mere day or mere week after the date recorded on your birth certificate - that you were able to exercise agency over a certain pair of Homo sapiens hands and a certain pair of Homo sapiens feet, and to some extent also over the Homo sapiens torso to which these four appendages were attached. As you acquired the use of language, you began to call the appendages "my hands" and "my feet", and to refer the torso to which they were attached as  "my torso".

"What," you now ask, "might be analogous to the situation I found myself in so many years ago, and with which I so soon learned to cope?"

To your gratification, you find that you seem to possess fine control over the F-above-Middle-C - making it louder and softer "just like that" - just as before 4:00 p.m. you seemed able, "just like that", to make your right hand approach or recede from the small bit of cartilage you have come to call your nose.  You find also that you seem to enjoy some degree of control, although less fine, over the C-above-Middle-C.  Further, it now seems to you that you enjoy a still different, still less finegrained, control over the two viola notes - with their timbre, pitch, and volume amenable to modification, in ways that are sometimes pleasantly predictable, at other times disconcertingly unpredictable. You admit to yourself that getting the two viola tones to behave just as you desire will require a diligence akin to the diligence you exercised years ago - in fact in the months immediately following the month entered on your birth certificate - as you mastered your legs in crawling and walking.

And there seems also some modest degree of control available to you on the basso profundo.

So you think to yourself: "Well, the high F and the high C are respectively like my right hand  - I manipulate it readily - and my left hand - for with my left, I am clumsy.  Further,  the two viola notes are like my two legs, and the basso profundo is like my torso. So I have now been somehow metamorphosed."

A moment later, a fresh, still happier, thought suggests itself: "Perhaps there is no physical metamorphosis here at all.  Perhaps I am continuing to move Homo sapiens arms, legs and torso, while continuing to sit by a sunlit lawn.  It could be that these physical things have endured the Great Change, and have only changed their appearance - so that all the agency (to take one example, a hand-wave agency) I used to have I still have."

Further investigations will perhaps confirm that happier thought, and perhaps will instead lead more in the direction of Kafka (with, perhaps, the eventual postulation of metamorphosis not even into a baryonic-matter Kafka Cockroach, but, vexingly enough, into Something Exotic and Non-Baryonic).


With blogging time exhausted for this evening, I shall leave a piece of homework. Readers will be helped most at this point not by my respecting my Igominy and Humiligation Precept, with its prohibition on the detailed citing of literature, but by my once again flouting it. So, shamelessly pleading in my defence the best interests of a segment within my readership, I cite some material appearing on the Web a few months ago, and since removed. In his now-discontinued "Archdruid Report" blog, back on 2017-03-08, American analyst John Michael Greer commented sympathetically on Schopenhauer:

Let's review the basic elements of Schopenhauer's thinking. First, the only things we can experience are our own representations. There's probably a real world out there—certainly that hypothesis explains the consistency of our representations with one another, and with those reported by (representations of) other people, with less handwaving than any other theory—but all the data we get from the world out there amounts to a thin trickle of sensory data, which we then assemble into representations of things using a set of prefab templates provided partly by our species' evolutionary history and partly by habits we picked up in early childhood. How much those representations have to do with what's actually out there is a really good question that's probably insoluble in principle.

Second, if we pay attention to our experience, we encounter one thing that isn't a representation—the will. You don't experience the will /.../

Although there is more in Mr Greer (and I presume, without having attempted the reading, in Schopenhauer), it is for tonight's homework-assignment purposes expedient to cut things off here. I choose to treat most of Mr Greer's passage as helpful, stage-setting, context for his portentous final pronouncement, "You don't experience the will."

In past weeks, I have been rejecting, and indeed have at points even been ridiculing, the Schopenhauer-Kant, Descartes-Locke-Berkeley-Hume, Bertie-1912 idea of "sense data" or "representations" (the "Vorstellungen"). But Schopenhauer's celebrated book did get entitled Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung - "The World as Will and Representation". Here, then, is my homework question: having ridiculed those old Teutonic Vorstellungen, should we, or should we not, now also reject this old Teutonic "Wille"? In other words, is it inaccurate, or is it accurate, for Schopenhauer and his expositor Mr Greer to write, "You don't experience the will?"

[This is the end of the present, "Part M", blog posting.]