Dateline: 31 October 2015
The words and thoughts that follow come from an essay titled The Better Life, written by Willis D. Nutting. They are an excellent analysis of the beauty, the inherent value, and the "rightness" of autonomous agrarian work, as opposed to working as a drone in the the industrial system.
I found this essay in The Rural Solution: Modern Catholic Voices on Going "Back to the Land." The book is thin, but pithy. It is a clear and compelling call for Catholic families to flee the cities and suburbs and return to the land.
I have written here in the past about the Catholic Land Movement and the book, Flee To The Fields. And I have written about C.F. Marley, a remarkable man who introduced me to the Catholic-agrarian movement (my opinion of Catholic-agrarianism is expressed in my C.F. Marley essay).
The following excerpts refer to men but, of course, you can (and should) substitute the word "woman" for man, for this discussion equally applies to all of mankind.
"One of the most dismal things about the truly urban man is that he does not understand work, for he has not experienced it. Of course he knows physical exhaustion and mental drudgery; he has nervous breakdowns and high blood pressure, and he dies of coronary thrombosis—but all these things happen to him not because he works but because he does not work. This requires explanation.
For real work to be done several elements must necessarily be present: (1) the mind conceives something to be done; (2) the hand, aided by tools, carries out the conception through the manipulation of certain (3) raw materials. The result is (4) a new creation, either something made, or some change brought about in the physical situation.
When a man presides in this whole process—when his mind and hand work together, using his tools and his materials, to produce something which, when it is produced, is his, then he is really working. And this work is one of the greatest things man can do, both in the way of education and of satisfaction, for in it he is realizing a part of his likeness to God. Man is not only homo sapiens; he is also homo faber, man the maker. It is his nature to work. When he can not work he is restless and discontented.
In our modern world, with craftsmen almost extinct and artists an infinitesimal and professional minority, the rural home supplies almost the only setting in which a person can do work. Elsewhere the planner does not carry out his plans and therefore performs only part of what he is fitted to do. The man who toils does so by carrying out the plans made by someone else, and he performs only a mutilated function. Neither of them possesses the thing made as a result of the planning and the toil. That belongs to someone who has done nothing but furnish the money. Thus all the people concerned with the production of things are acquainted merely with isolated aspects of the work process. They are not doing what by nature they are designed to do. And as a consequence their labor is a chore, an unpleasant necessity which they indulge in as little as possible. They become abnormally interested in recreation and live for the weekend and the vacation."
"The opportunity for real, soul-satisfying work, so rare in our day, is found abundantly in rural living. Here a man can make long-range plans and can carry them out without exploiting his fellow man; for the things that he uses are things that exist to be used: soil, plants, animals, building materials, etc. he can live a whole life of work without once using another man as a mere means for carrying out his plans. And neither does he become a tool of someone else. With the materials at hand he can employ the splendid coordination of mind and hand to create something of value for his family. He can fulfill his real nature in real work. And this work is much more joyful than any mere recreation. As a matter of fact this work carries with it its own recreation, so that the man who works does not have to worry about how he is going to have his good times. The work itself is a good time even though it be hard. There is a joy in toil which the football player knows not. It is a quiet joy that comes from the knowledge that one has accomplished something, something of real value, and that the accomplishment is his own.
Around me live several men who are "homesteaders." They work in town or in school and live in the country. They spend long hours in the evenings working on their land. Their companions on the job or at school go to the movies or play poker in the evenings, but these men work at home. Their companions spend money; they save it. And when you talk with these men you come to realize that their interest, their real life, is in what they do at home. On the job they carry out someone else's plans. That is drudgery. But at home they are their own masters. They are exercising their autonomy which is necessary to human dignity. These few hours of autonomy constitute for them their real life. Their rural homes give them their one chance to be human."