Why farmpunk?

A farmpunk could be described as a neo-agrarian who approaches [agri]culture, community development and/or design with an anarchistic hacker ethos. "Cyber-agrarian" could supplant neo-agrarian, indicating a back-to-the-land perspective that stands apart from past movements because it is heavily informed by conceptual integration in a post-industrial information society (thus "forward to the land" perhaps?) The art and science of modern ecological design—and ultimately, adapting to post-collapse contexts—will be best achieved through the combined arts of cybermancy and geomancy; an embrace of myth and ritual as eco-technologies. In other words: the old ways of bushcraft and woodlore can be combined with modern technoscience (merely another form of lore) in open and decentralized ways that go beyond pure anarcho-primitivism. This blog is an example of just that. Throughout, natural ecologies must be seen as the original cybernetic systems.

**What we call for at the farmpunk headquarters**
°Freedom of information
°Ground-up action + top-down perspectives
°Local agricultural systems (adhering to permaculture/biodynamic principles) as the nuclei of economies
°Bioregional autonomy
°Computers are optional but can be used for good—see peer to peer tech, social media for direct popular management of natural or political disasters (e.g. Arab Spring), or the mission of the hacker collective Anonymous

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Habit of Body Art

I spent a month at an Orthodox Monastery in Greece this summer, volunteering on their farm.

The monastery was perched high on the slope of Mt. Kissavos at around 3,500 feet, which is in the Northern Central portion of Greece, near the port of Volos and with Mt. Olympus to the North. The monastery, populated by nuns and novices from many countries, was about 3 kilometers from the small village of Anatoli, a small cluster of white houses with terra cotta roofs hugging the mountainside. Their mountain rose out of flat alluvial plans below that stretched far to the West. The city of Larissa was in the midst of these plains, surrounded by cultivated land. Even here among the more industrial-scale farmlands, the ever-resourceful shepherds would take their flocks to glean the fields after the grass and grain harvests—things ancient and modern overlapping in a strange symbiosis. From up on the mountain at night, the summer atmosphere refracts the city lights of Larissa, which shimmer thousands of feet below the dark, Oak-shrouded balconies of the monastery. It almost felt like we were on a spaceship slowly orbiting earth. On a clear day we could also see the Aegean to the East, through the trees. Dry aromatic scrub blanketed the land, punctuated with stands of old oaks and little spruces. It was just a few hundred feet too high for the olive, lemon, and fig trees that Greece is known for, but the the air still had that hot herbal smell at mid-day. A few times a day you could hear the whoop of shepherds echoing across the hillsides, as well as the sweet clang of bells and the baaing of the foraging flocks. Sometimes we would meet them on the road to town, somehow both chaotic and organized as they flowed en masse behind their herder and around the slowly creeping automobiles. Foxes, hare, and wild boar roamed the woods, elusive, but leaving their tracks for me in ephemeral patches of mud that appeared after the rare alpine thunderstorms.

My soul feels deeply connected to that land, and to the anarchistic traditions of herding and keeping animals in rural Greece. Gates open, Horses standing aimlessly in the roads. Little sheep poops scattered across the paved roads like marbles. They seemed like sentinels that stood for the arbitrariness of borders, of property lines.

I remembered being in the Arab quarter of the Israeli city of Akko the previous summer. As I walked at night along the sidewalk of a cobblestone city street, with little cars jammed in any possible parking space, a young boy riding a pony bare-back galloped past me. The feeling came again. The strange poetry of the rustic and the modern, together. Westerners divide these things into new and old, dark and light. But really there are no such distinctions.

One sister in particular I became soul-friends with. One of the last days I was there she and I had a deep conversation in which she asked me directly and with curiosity what my tattoos and piercings meant. I was cleaning beets that I'd just dug up, cutting the tops and taproots off with a paring knife, and they were so incredibly red, almost neon in the darkening light of dusk. My body art had come up a few times before but I had always been at a loss for words. Now after working alongside me for several weeks I felt confident that my creaturely presence had articulated many things that words could not, paving the way for what I was about to say. I knew it was important, this conversation, and I had a feeling what I said would get back to the Abbess, for indeed they were all curious about this question, but not all had as much time to spend with the volunteers as this nun did. I had thought about how to speak to this Sister in a language she could understand. This was the language of devotion, of piety, of sacrifice, and also a language of love, of a sacred madness that I felt deeply resonate within me. I knew they were in love, here, even though they seemed so at peace, there was still something fiery beneath it, in a way enabling and creating the ecology of tranquility and synergy that outsiders witnessed. I could feel this being-in-love, and they did not deny it. This sister had told me that when she saw Orthodox monastics for the first time as a 20-something Lutheran in Germany, it was just like falling in love. "They had something, I did not know what. I wanted to find, what is this thing?" she explained in the sort of delightful, concise English that you can expect from someone of a foreign tongue. From then on her course was set towards that embodiment that she had glimpsed. She had drifted towards it and now she was "there," but she was still in love, and so still drifting, or perhaps being drawn by something that was Secret and Full. I understood this. It reminded me of Sufi poetry.

The nuns wore a black habit that covered everything but their faces. I also had a sort of covering—a veil of tattoos, piercings, and a red mohawk that stuck up by itself because my hair is so thick. But our two costumes drew attention in very different ways. We spoke very different languages with our bodies, but we both came to realize that our souls were doing something similar. So I said to her that the best way I could describe it was that my tattoos and piercings, which yes, involved the puncturing of the body, represented a form of devotion, too. This devotion is to the endless cycles of birth and death that characterize all of Life. Yes, it is a celebration of the body that could be interpreted as ego-centered. But the other side of this coin is that they represent how the body will soon pass away. Moreover, to me they are not meant to reveal (as tattoos are often accused of doing), but actually to show how much is hidden. They are a sort of optical illusion, a coy revelation of how much can not be known, a parody of superficiality, even a sort of whimsical self-deprecation, a dazzling distraction, a daring call to the primal eye in all of us that can't help seeking beauty, all at the same time. My adornment then is also a form of "covering" as the habit is a form of covering. But these are both positive forms of covering. Yes, perhaps I capriciously hide behind my shiny septum piercing, but it's only so that I can stalk the Beloved, my friend. We each nodded at the understanding that both "coverings" were a way of expressing that every person is a secret, which was something she said frequently to me and that pleased me very much. The beets, which I had been slowly handing, seemed to represent the bravery to bleed in front of someone else.

Another time previously she had seen my chest tattoo peeking through one of my V-neck shirts. "What does this say?" She asked in a sing-song voice. "It says 'Earthling'" I said. Her: "What does this mean?" Me: "It is from Old English and means literally someone who is from the earth. It can mean any creature, not just humans."
Her: "Oh. Yes. You are an earthling, Beloved by God!"

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