When I drive, as we all do, we pass farms. We see fields of wheat or pasture, grazing cattle, or rows of soybean and corn. Even more, we see something that is hard to describe in words. That something is the reason why farms are the subject of paintings, photography, music, and poems. Tranquility doesn’t quite explain it, but it’s a start. But more importantly, farms also provide us the food we eat. The work is hard, the hours are endless, and the natural world is brutal. It’s a very different scene in the eyes of the farmer. They carry a burden that few of us will experience. The food that magically appears in our grocery stores must come from somewhere, and most of us have no idea where that where is. Or what it takes for that magic to happen. Inspiration is empowering, and if farms provide that, then by all means, let it happen. But farms are more. They are the backbone of every civilization. If agriculture falls, everything falls. Inspiration is critical in our world, but having an acute perception of reality is why we will survive. And why we will progress. This is not to say that inspiration and reality are separated- they shouldn’t be, but we can view it as such, and sometimes reality is compromised by idealism.
But learning to walk that fine line is the topic of another day.
I challenge you, the next time you pass a farm, to see the reality. I challenge you to view that tranquil scene as data- data that will make us better- data that will let us progress. I challenge you to see that scene as an ecological system, with almost infinite biological interactions, moving, working, in unison and in conflict, together, making that system work, allowing that crop to grow, so that we can eat. I challenge you to imagine, where we might be, where we might evolve, if we could understand that system.