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Archive for the ‘nature’ Category

CHANGE CHANgE CHa Ng E

You never step into the same river twice.”

Heraclitus

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Famous philosopher Heraclitus has left us this remarkable fragment which has captured our imagination for over 2500 years. Just imagine your bare feet touching those cold flowing refreshing waters which never remain the same. Feel its rhythm. See those huge boulders and giant rocks the river slowly transforms into sediment as it moves downstream. Upon returning to the very same spot, one realizes, the river is not as it was. Perhaps, we will be lucky enough to realize, we too are not as we were. But it seems we are rarely like flowing rivers. As a matter of fact we rarely even think of our rivers. Our troubled, hardly flowing and lifeless Bogotá river is for us the prime example of our unchanging blindness. Not feeling the river’s rhythms, we are surprised ––as we have been in the recent terrible and costly floodings—– when the river takes back the channels and beds we have, in many instances, unwisely usurped. Could it be that we are more like the boulders and rocks that stubbornly resist personal transformation with their illusory sense of security and obvious grandeur? It seems so.

There exist many famous renown rocks, and business is not the exception. Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the Federal Reserve of the United States from 1987 to 2006, was considered to be the leading expert in the market dynamics of the day. He was named to this powerful position by highly respected and quite loved President Reagan whose economic views have been summarized in his famous words from his First Inaugural Address in 1981: “Government is not the solution, government is the problem.” Famous for his —-NOW seen to be—- extreme views of free market economics, and dead set against major forms of regulation of complex derivatives in market transactions, Greenspan even appeared in the cover of Time Magazine. The cover title said it all, Greenspan and his advisors were held to be “the committee to save the world.” Oedipus too was called on to save Thebes as the riddle-solver he was. But the river flows, and little was Greenspan prepared for its rhythms. Little wonder that once the world financial crisis became OUR river (of course, with exceptions such as that of Canada and the prudential practical wisdom of its banks), Greenspan became paralyzed by his own mind. And soon thereafter we had the opportunity to see a very different Greenspan; the powerful river´s waters had reduced the powerless boulder. Before a Congressional Committee, we witnessed a truly courageous public admission. Like a modern economic Oedipus, Greenspan was asked to respond to Representative Waxman’s “simple” question; “Were you wrong?” By answering, Greenspan allowed us to see for ourselves the fundamental basis of change: “I have found a flaw. I don’t know how significant or permanent it is. But I have been very distressed by that fact.” Greenspan had understood: he had come to understand that he did not know, even though he once thought he did. Another famous philosopher once said something similar. And, in all honesty, how many of us can bear the simplicity of that question for ourselves?

However, we need ask; how could someone so intelligent, so wise and recognized by so many to be so; how could someone like that be simultaneously so resistant to changing his own views on things? Had he not read Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex during his MBA training? Wouldn’t that have made a BIG difference? Perhaps, one could put it this way: there seems to be a kind of inverse relation between changes for personal success and success at personal changes. Following Boyle´s famous law of gases there can develop a powerfully blinding inverse relation between these. Why so? Because, it seems, as successful recognition is gained, the very erotic and self-questioning drive that pushed one originally TO succeed, slowly but surely in many of us looses its rhythmic power. Boyle’s law explains the inverse relationship between the volume and pressure of a gas. Think of a pressure cooker. In our case we could say: the greater the volume of the ego, the less the pressure to change. Think of all the famous bubble bursts of the economy. Ironically, it appears, the more intelligent we are, the less intelligent we are for change. Mintzberg’s call not to pay bonuses seems refreshing. We wish to remain boulders, but the river thinks otherwise. And it will let us know.

But, then, how could one become more prepared for the rhythms of change? For starters, by looking outside oneself. If only Greenspan had looked outside himself and his paradigm. If only he had had courageous friends, and not simply yes-sayers. Heraclitus learned these rhythms from the river, I learned about them partly from experiencing the seasons in my other home country, Canada. Evidently, Vivaldi too learned about them from The Four Seasons, as we all know. Wouldn’t Colombian managers gain much by experiencing the rhythmic presence of the seasons for at least a whole year? Or else, where have YOU learned about the rhythms of change from? And looking beyond, do you —–or your children—- know the beautiful Greek mythological story of the emergence of the seasons, a story whose main characters are Zeus, Demeter, Persephone and Hades? Did Greenspan?

What did I come slowly to learn? One must be prepared for the ever-changing cycles of nature. What “is” quickly turns into a “was”; what “is” quickly reminds one of what “will be”. Summer was just here, and now it has turned into autumn; autumn partly means preparing for the exigencies of winter. And the more you live this, the more you see the “was”, the “is”, and the “will be”; and, more importantly, the more you see the bridges that connect the beauty of their interconnected temporal presence. Or as Confucius put it, always reminding ourselves of China´s leading economic role in today’s world: “Study the past if you would define the future.” Living the seasons may help prepare you for something like this. Let us try.

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“As I see it, the ultimate goal of natural farming is not the growing of crops …. but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.” (Masanobu Fukuoka, here )

(NOTE: Many of the books are partially available as Google Books. Books with an asterisk (*) are specially recommended)

A. GENERAL

*1. Alternative Construction: Contemporary Natural Building Methods, Lynne Elizabeth (Editor), Cassandra Adams (Editor), here

*2. Back to Basics, Abigail R. Gehring, here

3. Self Sufficient Life And How To Live It Updated And Expanded, John Seymour, here

*4. Mortgage-Free! Innovative Strategies for Debt Free Home Ownership 2nd Edition, Robert L. Roy, here

*5. Home Work: Handbuilt Shelter, Lloyd Kahn, here

6. Builders Of the Pacific Coast, Lloyd Kahn, here

7.  Shelter, Lloyd Kahn, here

*8. The Art of Natural Building, Smith W Kennedy, here

9. Building Without Borders, Joseph F. Kennedy, here

10. The One-Straw Revolution, Masanobu Fukuoka, here (Sometimes available on the web with A Natural Way of Farming,  see end of page here; see interview with Fukuoka,  here )

*11. Places of the Soul: Architecture and Environmental Design as a Healing Art, Christopher Day, here

12. The Timeless Way of Building, Christopher Alexander, here

*13. A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction; Christopher Alexander, here

B. NATURAL BUILDING (SPECIFIC PRACTICAL METHODS)

*1. Building Green: A Complete How-To Guide to Alternative Building Methods Earth Plaster * Straw Bale * Cordwood * Cob * Living Roofs, Clarke Snell, here

*2. Hand Sculpted House: A Practical & Philosophical Guide to Building a Cob Cottage, Ianto Evans, here

*3. New Bamboo: Architecture and Design, Marcelo Villegas, here

*4. Earthbag Building, Kaki K. Hunter, here

5. Earth-sheltered Houses, Rob Roy, here

6. The Stonebuilder’s Primer: A Step-By-Step Guide for Owner-Builders, Charles Long, here

7. Building with Cob: A Step-by-Step Guide, Adam Weismann, here

8. Cabins: A Guide to Building Your Own Nature Retreat, David Stiles, here

*9. Adobe Houses for Today: Flexible Plans for Your Adobe Home, Laura Sanchez, Alex Sanchez, here

*10. Serious Straw Bale: A Construction Guide for All Climates, Paul Lacinski, here

*11. Stoneview: How to Build an Eco-Friendly Little Guesthouse, Rob Roy, here

*12. The Natural Plaster Book: Earth, Lime, and Gypsum Plasters for Natural Homes, Cedar Rose Guelberth, here

13. Graphic Guide to Frame Construction, Rob Thallon, here

14. Tiny Houses,  Mimi Zeiger, here

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Horses 1

Some time has passed since my father’s untimely death. Since then an epitaph has been chosen to be placed near his resting place deep inside a uniquely beautiful natural area within the Andean mountains of our dear Colombia. Surrounded by the nature he loved, he will surely rest in peace. The epitaph chosen, translated into English reads something like this: ”We will always have you in our hearts.” My mother, who spent most of her life beside him even when separated, approved those words. This alone speaks of their great importance.

Although this is quite a nice and simple epitaph, and in fact shows the importance of remembering the love one carries within for those who depart, I think it has some limitations. Perhaps by looking at its limitations we can become more aware of what an epitaph is for and what are the hidden possibilities within for diverse epitaphs. Maybe then we will be better prepared to engage in the reflective process which is behind the selection of those epitaphs with which we will honor the passing through life of those close to us. Perhaps it will even allow us to set out what epitaph will appear above our very own gravestones someday.

The three limitations to this epitaph are as follows: 1. it speaks more of “us” than the person who has died, namely, our father (it says “we” and “our hearts”, instead of “him” and “his heart”); 2. it is the kind of epitaph that could be placed in many tombs, so that the particularity and uniqueness of my father (and he was quite unique, I tell you!) is quite lost, and finally, 3. it tries to convince us that the aim of an epitaph is to touch our emotions primarily and only secondarily our capacity for reflection and creative imagination which are among the highest faculties we possess as human beings. In contrast, I think an epitaph should: 1. speak primarily about the person him/herself who has died, 2. reveal him or her in a special light using the expressive power of language, and finally, 3. should not primarily focus on the emotions, specially if these have not been articulated in the life of the members of these families, but should point towards reflection and the need we have of such reflection in order to guarantee a certain true and honest legacy of the person who has died. How could one come up with such an epitaph?

First off, by looking at the many famous ones which many others have used to remind us of those who were found to be memorable. One can in turn try to relate some of them to the close loved person who has died. In the case of my father two such realms come to mind. On the one hand, the serious type of epitaphs which are usually used for those who have dedicated their lives to the political or public life. The single most famous example of this type of epitaph can be seen in the words found at Thermopylae, words recently beautifully and powerfully recovered in the movie the 300:

“Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by
that here, obedient to their law, we lie.”

At the very least these soldiers asked of their kin not to forget the sacrifice they endured in order to try to secure the lawful freedom of those intimately close they left behind. Another such powerful example of an epitaph that in its simplicity touches us like few can, is the one found at the “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier”. It reads: “Here Rests In Honored Glory An American Soldier Known But To God.” Its power lies precisely in that usually we bury those who are known to us, here the words remind us that many die in anonymity. This epitaph stands against the injustice of such anonymous deaths.

A second realm which could apply to my father would be a more ironic and fun-spirited one. Usually it is artists who have the strength to come up with such kinds of epitaphs. Given my father’s unique sense of humor, one could eventually think of an epitaph such as one which Hemingway once proposed and which reads:

“Pardon me for not getting up”

My father would have laughed.

In this respect, by letting ourselves be touched by what others have decided to lay down as their final resting words ——those few limited marks which will attempt to break us free from our mortal demise and now obvious finitude—— we would be more able to decide which words to choose for those we love and even for ourselves upon, better yet, before (!) our departure. (more…)

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