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The Village Idiot

Hunting for answers to half-formed questions

Jack Deatherage, Jr.

(2/2011) It seems my life has been spent hunting answers to half-formed questions, seeking some acceptable reason for my being here.

That I still bother to think about such nonsense gives me pause. Iím well aware of a hole in my being, of a need I have yet to attend. I used to think it was a lack of a god. Sitting among my pagan fellows, I slowly learned that many of them are at least as holed as I. Perhaps no better at defining their lack, than my own questing in the dark, they too stumble about hoping to touch something real.

So I moved along in my searching and found the philosophers, Western and Eastern. The wise ones who cast before me centuries of thinkers who reasoned their lives into meaning, only to have their reasons trumped by some later ponderer. Happily I listened to them prove their god(s) to their satisfaction, though never to mine.

Disappointed, I considered whether I needed to fill the hole at all. There seem to be so many people for whom just waking up and moving through the day is enough. They question nothing and appear content to be where and what they are. Why canít I be like them? Obviously, because Iím not.

I did find useful concepts among certain philosophers, at least those few actually living their philosophies. One of them (a communist at home on the farm, a serious capitalist off it) has claimed to have looked upon ĎBabyloní and found it sorely lacking in anything truly useful to, while being repressive and destruct of, the soul he believes he is. He has climbed his mountain, cleared a bit of ground, sown his seeds and taken to raising/educating his clan along with most of the food they consume. I think his goal is not to avoid Babylon, but to view it in its entirety so he can fully understand what his god (Mother Earth? Nature?) offers him, counter to the Siren promises of ĎBabyloní.

He, Eleutheros (Freeman), defines ĎBabyloní thus: "the human lifespan - three score miles and ten is 70 years. During that brief span the person goes from Babylon, or Babyland, through his life to the dotage of old age and thus back again to Babyland. Too short according to the popular lament to waste one's life in unfulfilling pursuits. Yet that is just what we do. We live our lives at the behest of someone else or something else that Ö I call Babylon - wage slavery and the consumerism it supports and depends on."

Another philosophers, living in the heart of Babylon, ministers to those lost in its tangle and desperate for some connection to reality, Nature.

Oddly, both philosophers work, or have worked, in fields of science. One worked for a drug company and the other a telecommunications satellite company. As different in lifestyles and worldviews as these two individuals are, they have been patient with me, taking time from their busy lives to explain what they are about and to answer my questions.

A third philosopher has encouraged me to keep on asking questions, especially when presented with a truth that canít be proven. As devoted to his god and church as he is, he manages to accept that I canít believe. Rather than condemn me he tells me we will eventually find ourselves before the same god, arriving from different directions just as one would expect. I find some small comfort in that.

While Iíve found no answer among the philosophers Iíve at least found ideas that might make my seeking more bearable. One being, Roman Stoicism. Not the corrupt stoicism of mindless endurance argued today, but a seeking of tranquility brought about by changing what one can and accepting what one cannot change.

Iím going to borrow something from another of the wise men, Gene Logsdon, author of The Contrary Farmer.

"Unfortunately I tried to follow his [fatherís] advice and it took me until I was forty-two to realize that I knew what was better for me when I was twelve. And having hunted everywhere for the peculiar kind of freedom I had tried to articulate that day, I came back to my boyhood home - the place of my beginnings - and found it. What I learned in the process was to follow my own mind because worldly wisdom invariably springs from notions that are largely erroneous. The only really good advice that holds up in all situations is: Always make friends with the cook."

Indeed, itís taken me to age fifty-six to reach a similar conclusion. Looking back to the time when I knew the world was right I find my grandfatherís little farm. Which, while it didnít supply the family with all their needs, it certainly allowed them to stand on the edge of Babylon. Perhaps I need to return to such a place. To work the soil, tend the livestock, butcher the animals I care for so I can feed myself, body and soul from the ground I stand on.

But if there is one thing I have learned something from my own experiences, it is best to be the cook.

Read other articles by Jack Deatherage, Jr.