Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Agriculture

Agriculture began more than 14,000 years ago and soon became civilization’s main occupation. The labor force population percentage of farmers in the USA in 1790 was 90%, in 1850 64%, in 1900 38%, in 1950 12.2%, and in 1990 2.6%. Worldwide though agriculture still employees 40% of the workforce and up to 75% in the poorer countries. After forming the basis for our social, political, and religious culture for so many thousands of years and then so rapidly changing, the forces on all aspects of cultural became and remain immense. Much of the conservative philosophy, Fox News, white supremacism, and the alt-right may be based on farming nostalgia and our lack of integrating these changes into new, more viable, and meaningful cultural forms and understanding. Instead of this political extremism, a better solution could be reconnecting to that atavistic, magical, earth-bound energy by gardening and nurturing plants.

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Quotes (71)

“The true and worst but most often unpunished criminals wearing wealth fill their mansions with splendor when granaries are empty and farms are poor and wild. They never hunger, never thirst; yet eat and drink until they burst.”

Lao Tzu 老子 604 BCE - via Shan Dao, Witter Bynner; #53
(Lǎozǐ)

“If your plan is for one year plant rice. If your plan is for ten years plant trees. If your plan is for one hundred years educate children.”

Confucius 孔丘 551 – 479 BCE
(Kongzi, Kǒng Zǐ)
History's most influential "failure"

78. Water

“However well a man sows a field or plants a farm, he cannot know who will gather in the fruits; another may build a beautiful house, but he knows not who will inhabit it.”

Xenophon of Athens Ξενοφῶν  (430–354 BCE) via Shan Dao
General, Socratic biographer, philosopher

“Plant mulberry trees around the homesteads and people will be able to wear silk. Promote the breeding of pigs and fowl and people will be able to eat meat. Assure farmers the time to cultivate their fields and families will not suffer from hunger.”

Mencius 孟子 372 – 289 BCE via James Legge, Shan Dao
(Mengzi)
from Book of Mencius 孟子

“Society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”

Anonymous -800 to present via anonymous Greek proverb​
Freedom from the narrow boxes defined by personal history

54. Planting Well

“How lucky, if they know their happiness are farmers—more than lucky, they for whom, far from the clash of arms, the earth herself, most fair in dealing, freely lavishes an easy livelihood.”

Virgil 70 – 19 BCE via John Dryden
(Publius Vergilius Maro)
from Georgics (29 BC)

“A man reaps what he sows.”

Jesus 3 BCE – 30 CE via Galatians 6:7 (tr: Saint Paul)
from New Testament Διαθήκη

“When soldiers become farmers, wealth naturally distributes and equalizes.”

Wang Zhen 809 – 859 CE via Shan Dao
from Daodejing Lunbing Yaoyishu, The Tao of War

77. Stringing a Bow

“The state should take the entire management of commerce, industry and agriculture into its own hands , with a view to succoring the working classes and preventing them from being ground into dust by the rich.”

Wang Anshi 王安石 1021 – 1086 CE via Will Durant

“And those who husbanded the Golden Grain,
And those who flung it to the Winds like Rain,
Alike to no such golden Earth are turn'd
As, buried once, Men want dug up again.”

Omar Khayyám 1048 – 1131 CE via Edward Fitzgerald
Persian Astronomer-Poet, prophet of the here and now

from Rubaiyat

Themes: Agriculture

“When the ruler possesses the Tao, soldiers become farmers. When the ruler does not possess the Tao, farmers become soldiers.”

Li Xizhai 12th century CE via Red Pine
(Li Hsi-Chai)
from Tao-te-chen-ching yi-chieh

Themes: Agriculture War

46. Enough

“And when the Moon says, 'it is time to plant,' why not dance, dance and sing?”

Hafiz خواجه شمس‌‌الدین محمد حافظ شیرازی 1315 – 1394 CE via Daniel Ladinsky
(Hafez, Shams-ud-Dīn Muḥammad)
Inspiring friend to the true and free human spirit

“Without army, no king; without revenues, no army; without taxes, no revenue; without agriculture, no taxes; without just government, no agriculture”

Ibn Khaldun أبو زيد عبد الرحمن بن محمد بن خلدون الحضرمي 1332 – 1406 CE

53. Shameless Thieves

“Whoever could make two ears of corn, or two blades of grass, to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve more of mankind, and do more essential service to his country, than the whole race of politicians put together.”

Jonathan Swift 1667 – 1745 CE
"Foremost prose satirist in the English language"

from Gulliver's Travels

Themes: Agriculture

“There seem to be but three ways for a nation to acquire wealth. The first is by war...This is robbery. The second by commerce, which is generally cheating. The third by agriculture, the only honest way, wherein man receives a real increase of the seed thrown into the ground, in a kind of continual miracle.”

Benjamin Franklin 1706 – 1790 CE
from Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

“Your corn is ripe today; mine will be so tomorrow. 'Tis profitable for us both, that I should labour with you today, and that you should aid me tomorrow... I know I should be disappointed, and that I should in vain depend upon your gratitude. Here then I leave you to labour alone; You treat me in the same manner. The seasons change; and both of us lose our harvests for want of mutual confidence and security.”

David Hume 1711 – 1776 CE
"One of the most important philosophers"

Themes: Agriculture

“Metallurgy and agriculture were the two arts which produced this great revolution... it was iron and corn which first civilized men and ruined humanity.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau 1712 – 1778 CE

“That part of the produce of the land which is thus necessary for enabling the farmer to continue his business ought to be considered as a fund sacred to cultivation, which, if the landlord violates, he necessarily reduces the produce of his own land, and in a few years disables the farmer”

Adam Smith 1723 – 1790 CE
''The Father of Economic Capitalism"
from Wealth of Nations

Themes: Agriculture

“Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, and they are tied to their country and wedded to its liberty and interests by the most lasting bonds.”

Thomas Jefferson 1743 – 1826 CE

Themes: Agriculture

“finances founded upon a good system of agriculture never fail.”

Napoleon Bonaparte 1769 – 1821 CE via Breed

Themes: Agriculture

“When tillage begins, other arts follow. The farmers therefore are the founders of human civilization.”

Daniel Webster 1782 – 1852 CE
America's greatest orator

“When the oak is felled the whole forest echoes with its fall, but a hundred acorns are sown in silence by an unnoticed breeze.”

Thomas Carlyle 1795 – 1881 CE
"Great Man” theory of history creator

“That man over there says that woman needs to be helped into carriages and lifted over ditches... Look at my arm! I have ploughed, and planted, and gathered into bards, and no many could head me! And ain't I a woman?”

Sojourner Truth 1797 – 1883 CE
(Isabella (“Bell”) Baumfree)

“If a man owns land, the land owns him.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803 – 1882 CE
Champion of individualism
from Conduct of Life

Themes: Agriculture

“What is a weed? A weed is a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803 – 1882 CE
Champion of individualism

“The greatest fine art of the future will be the making of a comfortable living from a small piece of land.”

Abraham Lincoln 1809 – 1865 CE

“Combine agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country... An establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.”

Karl Marx 1818 – 1883 CE
from Das Kapital; Capital: Critique of Political Economy

Themes: Agriculture

“It will never rain roses: when we want to have more roses, we must plant more roses.”

George Eliot 1819 – 1880 CE
(Mary Anne Evans)
Pioneering literary outsider

“The same will be true of agriculture, which also suffers from the pressure of private property and is held back by the division of privately owned land into small parcels… In this way, such an abundance of goods will be able to satisfy the needs of all its members.”

Friedrich Engels 1820 – 1895 CE
Businessman-philosopher, political theorist

Themes: Agriculture

“‘if you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do today?’ The begrimed-with-sweat farmer answered, ‘I would plow.’”

Leo Tolstoy 1828 – 1910 CE via Elbert Hubbard

“Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”

Robert Louis Stevenson 1850 – 1894 CE

77. Stringing a Bow

“The most striking result of our present system of farming out the national Land and capital to private individuals has been the division of society into hostile classes, with large appetites and no dinners at one extreme, and large dinners and no appetites at the other.”

George Bernard Shaw 1856 – 1950 CE
UK playwright second only to Shakespeare
from A Manifesto

“Once trained, it is essential that their leader leave them, for without his absence they cannot develop themselves. Plants always remain small under a big tree.”

Swami Vivekananda ʃami bibekanɔnd̪o 1863 – 1902 CE
"The maker of modern India"

“The mind can be influenced like a plant, like a cell, like a chemical element; one has only to introduce it into a series of new circumstances or a new setting.

Marcel Proust 1871 – 1922 CE via Justin O'Brien
Apostle of Ordinary Mind
from In Search of Lost Time

“All the land belonged to the Spartans, who, however were forbidden by law and custom to cultivate it themselves, both on the ground that such labor was degrading, and in order that they might always be free for military service.”

Bertrand Russell 1872 – 1970 CE
“20th century Voltaire”
from History of Western Philosophy

Themes: Agriculture

“Even more important that the domestication of animals was the invention of agriculture, which however, introduced bloodthirsty practices into religion that last for many centuries. Fertility rites tended to involve human sacrifice and cannibalism.”

Bertrand Russell 1872 – 1970 CE
“20th century Voltaire”
from Unpopular Essays

Themes: Agriculture

“she still had that something which fires the imagination… that somehow revealed the meaning in common things… to make you feel the goodness of planting and tending and harvesting at last… It was no wonder that her sons stood tall and straight. She was a rich mine of life, like the founders of early races.”

Willa Cather 1873 – 1948 CE
Modern day Lao Tzu

62. Basic Goodness

“[The Civil War was really a] social cataclysm in which the capitalists, laborers, and farmers of the North and West drove from power in the national government, the planting aristocracy of the South.”

Charles Beard 1874 – 1948 CE
(Austin)
Pioneering progressive historian

Themes: Agriculture

“Life has always seemed to me like a plant that lives on its rhizome. It's true life is invisible, hidden... What we see is the blossom, which passes. The rhizome remains.”

Carl Jung 1875 – 1961 CE
Insightful shamanistic scientist
from Memories, Dreams, Reflections

“Trees in particular were mysterious and seemed to me direct embodiments of the incomprehensible meaning of life. For that reason, the woods were the place where I felt closest to its deepest meaning and to its awe-inspiring workings.”

Carl Jung 1875 – 1961 CE
Insightful shamanistic scientist
from Memories, Dreams, Reflections

“Jewish farmers have begun to teach their brothers, the Arab farmers, to cultivate the land more intensively; […] We have no desire to dispossess them: we want to live with them. We do not want to dominate them: we want to serve with them.”

Martin Buber מרטין בובר‎‎ 1878 – 1965 CE

“Forests require many years to mature; consequently the long point of view is necessary if the forests are to be maintained for the good of our country.”

Franklin Roosevelt 1882 – 1945 CE
(FDR)
Champion and creator of a more just and equitable society

“An old grandfather of ninety was busy planting an almond tree. ‘What, grandfather!’ I exclaimed. ‘Planting an almond tree?’ And he, bent as he was, turned around and said: ‘My son, I carry on as if I should never die.’ I replied: ‘And I carry on as if I was going to die any minute.’ Which of us was right, boss?”

Nikos Kazantzakis 1883 – 1957 CE
from Zorba the Greek

22. Heaven's Door

“Agriculture, while generating civilization, led not only to private property but to slavery. In purely hunting communities, slavery had been unknown”

Will Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
Philosophy apostle and popularizer of history's lessons
from Our Oriental Heritage

“agriculture itself became an industry, wedded to chemistry and costly machines. Even so, population grew faster then the food supply; ancient customs and taboos defeated modern ways and views; and the people cancelled their prosperity with their fertility.”

Will Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
Philosophy apostle and popularizer of history's lessons
from Heroes of History

Themes: Agriculture

“The old agricultural view of the world in terms of seed and growth did far more justice to the complexity and irrepressible expansiveness of things.”

Will Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
Philosophy apostle and popularizer of history's lessons
from Transition

“Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil, and you're a thousand miles from the corn field.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower 1890 – 1969 CE
from Speech, 1956

“agricultural practices have brought about dramatic decreases in the number of animals and plants of most native species and have simultaneously increased the numbers of other animals and plants... earth is constantly changing through the agency of all the forms of life which are part of it, including humankind.”

René Dubos 1901 – 1982 CE
Influential scientific environmentalist

from Celebrations of life (1981)

“The human woman gives birth just as the earth gives birth to the plants. She gives nourishment, as the plants do. So woman magic and earth magic are the same... In the ancient agricultural world, the Goddess was the only visualized divinity”

Joseph Campbell 1904 – 1987 CE
Great translator of ancient myth into modern symbols
from Power of Myth

Themes: Magic Agriculture

“The person who can most easily take up natural agriculture… has the mind and heart of a child. One must simply know nature . . . real nature, not the one we think we know!”

Masanobu Fukuoka 福岡 正信 1913 – 2008 CE via Larry Korn
from One Straw Revolution

55. Forever Young

“there is no need to plow, no need to apply fertilizer, no need to make compost, no need to use insecticide... there are few agricultural practices that are really necessary.”

Masanobu Fukuoka 福岡 正信 1913 – 2008 CE via Larry Korn
from One Straw Revolution

Themes: Agriculture

60. Less is More

“To be here, caring for a small field, in full possession of the freedom and plentitude of each day, every day—this must have been the original way of agriculture.”

Masanobu Fukuoka 福岡 正信 1913 – 2008 CE
from One Straw Revolution

Themes: Agriculture

“Ultimately, it is not the growing technique which is the most important factor, but rather the state of mind of the farmer.”

Masanobu Fukuoka 福岡 正信 1913 – 2008 CE via Larry Korn
from One Straw Revolution

“Johnson vetoed bills to help Negroes; he made it easy for Confederate states to come back into the Union without guaranteeing equal rights to blacks... made the freed slaves like serfs, still working the plantations [with] labor contracts they could not break under penalty of prison... provided that the courts could assign black children to forced labor with punishment for runaways.”

Howard Zinn 1922 – 2010 CE
Historian of the oppressed and defeated

from A People's History of the United States​

Themes: Agriculture

“If you truly get in touch with a piece of carrot, you get in touch with the soil, the rain, the sunshine. You get in touch with Mother Earth”

Thích Nhất Hạnh tʰǐk ɲɜ̌t hɐ̂ʔɲ 1926 CE –

“Until you dig a hole, you plant a tree, you water it and make it survive, you haven’t done a thing. You are just talking.”

Maya Angelou 1928 – 2014 CE

“Every single day we sit down to eat, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and at our table we have food that was planted, picked, or harvested by a farm worker. Why is it that the people who do the most sacred work in our nation are the most oppressed, the most exploited?”

Dolores Huerta 1930 CE –

Themes: Agriculture

“Someday we shall look back on this dark era of agriculture and shake our heads. How could we have ever believed that it was a good idea to grow our food with poisons?”

Jane Goodall 1934 CE –

“People are fed by the food industry, which pays no attention to health, and are treated by the health industry, which pays no attention to food.”

Wendell Berry 1934 CE –

75. Greed

“a lot of farmers have gone to a lot of trouble merely to be self-employed to live at least a part of their lives without a boss.”

Wendell Berry 1934 CE –

59. The Gardening of Spirit

“I'm not really a career person; I'm a gardener, basically.”

John Lennon 1940 – 1980 CE

Themes: Agriculture

59. The Gardening of Spirit

“I try my best to be just like I am but everybody wants you to be just like them... I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more

Bob Dylan 1941 CE – via Maggie's Farm
from Bringing it all Back Home

“Legendary ruler of China's prehistoric period. He is venerated as the father of agriculture and herbal medicine in China.”

Red Pine 1943 CE –
( Bill Porter)
Exceptional translator, cultural diplomat
from Lao-Tzu's Taoteching

Themes: Agriculture

“What if cultivating your own garden were the best way to help the world? What if your little backyard could, with the proper care, grow enough vegetable and fruits to feed a million people? What if your gardening inspired a thousand of your neighbors to do the same?”

Stephen Mitchell 1943 CE –
from Second Book of Tao

59. The Gardening of Spirit

“Fukuoka has been developing a method of natural farming which could help to reverse the degenerative momentum of modern agriculture... His great contribution is to demonstrate that the daily process of establishing spiritual health can bring about a practical and beneficial transformation of the world.”

Larry Korn 1943 CE –

Themes: Agriculture

“There was nothing Suzuki Roshi liked more than working in his garden.”

David Chadwick 1945 CE –
Close student of Suzuki Roshi
from Crooked Cucumber: the Life and Zen Teaching of Shunryu Suzuki

59. The Gardening of Spirit

“Seeds have the power to preserve species, to enhance cultural as well as genetic diversity, to counter economic monopoly and to check the advance of conformity on all its many fronts.”

Michael Pollan 1955 CE –
Champion for Sustainable Agriculture

Themes: Agriculture

“As the United States destroys its independent agriculture, it destroys its own past.”

Eric Schlosser 1959 CE –
Investigative journalist and author.
from Fast Food Nation (2001)

Themes: Agriculture

“Ten thousand years ago most people were hunter-gatherers and only a few pioneers in the Middle East were farmers. Yet the future belonged to the farmers. In 1850 more than 90 per cent of humans were peasants, and in the small villages along the Ganges, the Nile and the Yangtze nobody knew anything about steam engines, railroads or telegraph lines. Yet the fate of those peasants had already been sealed in Manchester and Birmingham by the handful of engineers, politicians and financiers who spearheaded the Industrial Revolution. Steam engines, railroads and telegraphs transformed the production of food, textiles, vehicles and weapons, giving industrial powers a decisive edge over traditional agricultural societies.”

Yuval Harari יובל נח הררי‎ 1976 CE –
Israeli historian, professor, and philosopher

from Homo Deus: A History of Tomorrow

“Industrial farming is one of the worst crimes in history... the fate of industrially farmed animals [is] one of the most pressing ethical questions of our time.”

Yuval Harari יובל נח הררי‎ 1976 CE –
Israeli historian, professor, and philosopher

“When humans learned to farm in the Agricultural Revolution, their collective power to shape their environment increased, but the lot of many individual humans grew harsher. Peasants had to work harder than foragers to eke out less varied and nutritious food, and they were far more exposed to disease and exploitation”

Yuval Harari יובל נח הררי‎ 1976 CE –
Israeli historian, professor, and philosopher

from Sapiens

Themes: Agriculture

Sources

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