The One-Straw Revolution

by Masanobu Fukuoka

fukuokaIn this relatively short book, Fukuoka describes how he came into natural farming and how his simple principles of working the land reflect his philosophy of casting aside human will and ego. By cooperating with the natural patterns of nature, he has found a way to produce an abundance of rice, winter grains, citrus, and wild vegetables on land that becomes more fertile with each year.

His journey begins at the age of 25, when the simple thought occurs to him that humans know nothing at all. As he follows this concept to its logical conclusion (maybe he doesn’t even exist at all!), he abandons a way of life centered on human knowledge, choosing instead to fully embrace the incomprehensibility of nature. The four principles of his farming are simple: 1) no plowing 2) no chemical fertilizers or prepared compost 3) no weeding by tillage or herbicide and 4) no dependence on chemicals. His methods are based on decades of observations of complex, naturally occurring systems, which he aims to do as little as possible to tamper with.

While the language of the book is simple, I found the philosophy difficult to wrap my head around. In fact, by trying to intellectualize it, I am automatically not resigning myself to nature. Nevertheless, Fukuoka’s most poignant point for me is that we can choose to live within a different societal construct from the one that has caused so much destruction to the earth, body, and spirit. He delves into details such as the role of a spider within his rice fields and the synergistic effects of a specific acacia tree, while also linking these elements to a holistic concept. Fukuoka’s life and his impact on those who have visited his farm are a breath of fresh air to someone who has read too many books about the many ways we are destroying the earth.

 “The human being was a happy creature, but he created a hard world and now struggles trying to break out of it.”

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2 Comments

  1. I love that book, and one of the reasons is because that revelation of his is included. One of the things that I’ve learned in my life is the meaning of the phrase “the more you know, the more you know you don’t know”.
    Professors talk about it when you start college. Toward the end of college you start to realize that they were right. The more you learn about a subject, the more you realize that we know nothing about the subject at all.

    You can see this on forums, pick any special interest and browse their forums and there will be a trigger topic. Some newbie question that Sparks controversy. Within the thread are two main players. The well-known and loved Guru of the subject, and the self-proclaimed expert. The guru will answer every question with, “well it depends”, the expert will give a black and white answer in an irritated fashion and proclaim they have a degree in the subject. Maybe they do, narcissists often act like spoiled brats, and unfortunately sometimes they are also otherwise competent.

    Anyways my point is the guru is the true expert. They have to be wisdom to understand how much they do not and cannot ever know.

    In other words, if you let concrete definitions of words loosen to the concepts below them (because of translation), I think this is related to what he is saying.

    He was working hard and some may say he had an epiphany (I’m one of them), or a nervous breakdown, but it seemed he had an experience the enlightened his understanding of this concept. He realized the some of his knowledge was worthless. He took it further and saw that the sum of human knowledge was worthless. Our definition of ourselves, and the world around us, is part of this knowledge, and therefore worthless.

    At least that’s how I understood it.

    Like

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