The Good Life

Yesterday, bouncing out of a quote from Martin Luther King Jr.,* I suggested that the work of securing the necessary rights and protections for those who don’t currently enjoy them is a noble and necessary task, but the higher calling is to lay down our own rights in service of others. You can see the full post here.

This, it seems to me, is something of a foundational commitment for those of us who call ourselves Christians, even if we don’t always (or even often) live it out.

What I want to suggest in this post is that this way of living actually (and somewhat ironically) is what leads to ‘fullness of life’—to flourishing!

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Necessary Rights & the Necessity of Laying Down Our Rights

It’s now 50 years since the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., and his words and example are as relevant—and as challenging—as ever. Though there are constant (conscious and unconscious) attempts to water down Dr King’s powerful words into ‘nice’ sayings and safe and shareable memes, there are numerous voices reminding us how radical were his words and how uncomfortable they should make us if we were to take them seriously.

MLK

I’ve been thinking a lot about Dr King’s words these past few days (I try to read his Letter from a Birmingham Jail on a regular basis), and I’ve kept coming back to this quote of his from an address at Western Michigan University:

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We’re asking all the wrong questions about who wrote the Book of Revelation

I spent a couple of years working towards a PhD in Ancient History, but ultimately fell apart and wasn’t able to complete it. It’s possible, but not probable, that I’ll get back into it one day…but enough of that.

The project was focused on ways of reading the Book of Revelation as political resistance literature (in the context of 1st century Roman Asia Minor), and a significant part of it was the issue of authorship. Now, I do realise that a lot of people will find all of this terribly boring, but I think it’s actually quite an interesting question, and I’ll try to explain why here.

Essentially, I’m convinced that we are asking all the wrong questions about who wrote the Book of Revelation.

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Pioneer Plants & The Kingdom of God

When I was growing up, my mate Dave’s dad had the best lawn I’ve (still) ever seen. It was glorious! Now, Dave’s dad was a big, burly bloke, who happened to be a steelworker, and his attention to his lawn was surprising to me. But this lawn stood as testament to the enormous amount of time and effort that he put into it. It was truly immaculate. As far as I could tell, it was the purest, most perfect lawn that has ever existed.

One day, when I went over to Dave’s house, I was horrified to see the whole lawn completely dead. I immediately assumed some sort of sabotage from a lawn care rival down the street, but it turned out that Dave’s dad was convinced that his lawn was hopelessly riddled with weeds and couldn’t be salvaged. His only choice, it seems, was to nuke it and to start from scratch.

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Permaculture & Playful Failure

Sometimes, it just doesn’t work.

Sometimes, no matter how deeply you’ve studied a site — spending a whole year mapping out seasonal changes, the path of the sun, rainfall and water flows, etc., etc. — and no matter how much you’ve studied soil conditions and plant possibilities in order to find the best possible solution, it just doesn’t work.

Sometimes, plants that, on paper, should thrive in precisely the conditions you’ve identified, die with (what seems like) no good reason.

This can be really disappointing and deflating — especially if you’ve spent quite a lot on a particular plant(!).

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Integrated Design & Human Communities

In a permaculture garden, a significant amount of thought is given to how the individual elements work together — all towards the goal of ‘closed loops’ (i.e. self-sustaining systems) and the best possible yields (a system where each element properly plays its part can be incredibly productive!).

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The Power of Observation

This is the second in a series of posts drawing out some of the applications and implications of permaculture principles for life, work, and mission (you can find the first post here: “Food Forests and Change Management”).

In this post, I want to look at the concept (and practice) of Observation — which happens to be the first principle of permaculture (as articulated by one of the ‘fathers’ of permaculture, David Holmgren).

It’s a simple but profound thought: you need to know the site before you start designing your garden/food forest/whatever. If you don’t adequately understand what you’re working with, you’ll no doubt run into trouble later on due to unsuitable plant selection, misplacement of structures, unhelpful drainage, and a whole host of other problems. You need to know the site before you do anything, and then start interacting with it slowly.

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