Back to the Earth

To truly be forgiven we must all get back
To living with the land in harmony — Jason Mraz, Back to the Earth

Our back­packs are packed and our fam­i­ly mem­bers are blink­ing back their last tears: It’s time to say good­bye to the Nether­lands again. We will spend the next five months in Chile, where we will work on sev­er­al farms through WWOOF.

It may not seem the most log­i­cal step after obtain­ing a PhD degree (Fred­dy) and start­ing a career as a researcher (Maaike). And maybe that’s exact­ly why we are doing it. In the past few years we have main­ly worked with our heads, which prac­ti­cal­ly meant sit­ting behind the com­put­er all day. I increas­ing­ly got the feel­ing that there must be more; that as a human I am not designed for such a life.

In this TED talk by Satish Kumar, he says that man­u­al labour should be part of edu­ca­tion. Accord­ing to him, it is impor­tant that chil­dren learn to work with their hands, and have con­tact with nature: “Nature is the great­est teacher.”

I encoun­tered the same idea in a book from 1890: ‘News from Nowhere’ by William Mor­ris. In this utopi­an nov­el, the pro­tag­o­nist ends up in the future, where he is shocked to find out that schol­ars and stu­dents no longer stand on the top of the social lad­der. His guide explains that man­u­al labour is val­ued much more than learn­ing from books:

You see, chil­dren are most­ly giv­en to imi­tat­ing their elders, and when they see most peo­ple about them engaged in gen­uine­ly amus­ing work, like house-build­ing and street-paving, and gar­den­ing, and the like, that is what they want to be doing; so I don’t think we need fear hav­ing too many book-learned men.

We will see for our­selves how it will be to work on the land. No doubt we will need to get used to it… I hope to meet inspir­ing peo­ple who are liv­ing with the ele­ments of nature. Until now I have main­ly read books about spir­i­tu­al ecol­o­gy, and I would like to apply it more in prac­tice. That means going back to the earth or rather: Volver a la tierra!