Posted on | October 26, 2012 | 2 Comments
As a Permaculture instructor I have many students in the 17-22 age range that are pondering the why’s and wherefore’s of going to college. Many of them have dreams of buying land and starting farms or working as a designer or practitioner. But many of them also wonder if they should attend college or university and “get a degree”. Of course, most schools focus on “getting a job” after graduation, but we all know the state of employment in the US at present. Even with a more positive employment picture, this idea of one track to success does not do justice to those that dream of a life of self reliance. If this is the goal, a JOB, in whatever field, we would still be working for the clock and the paycheck and we would not realize our more heartfelt dreams. But what would it take to realize those dreams? Hard work, experience, willingness to learn constantly, a direct understanding of the natural world. We cannot cut corners here.
My recommendation to students is this: work as an intern on an established organic farm for a year and do whatever the farmer asks of you. If it is weeding 24/7 do it, but always remember to step back and take in whatever is going on at the farm. Observe. Be present. After a year of farm work the recommendation is to get a job with a conventional builder for a year and learn how to put things together: become a carpenter. After this, work for an electrician, a plumber. Learn these basic skills. After fours years you will have your first degree.
Study, study, study! As you work your hand and eye coordination and build skills, study, study, study, something from every walk of life. And most importantly, what is the design process, the creative process that I see happening all around me, whether it is by the hand of nature or by human ingenuity? How do we find the proper relationships where functions are shared in a balanced manner, where shapes and textures and sizes and forms are brought into an interlocking whole, where the buildings we build do not implode on themselves from lack of strong foundation?
Persevere and keep working it. It may take years. But the joy is in the work, in the learning, in the engineering of place, of getting to know “place”, from the most minute microorganism in the soil to the most majestic constellation overhead. Could we ever “retire” from this joy of learning? How sad to think that one of the goals of people everywhere in this country is to retire. Retire into what? Obscurity, despondence, vacuousness? How odd is this?