Sunday, February 22, 2009

One-Straw Rev. - Ch.3

Returning to the Country

On the day following this experience, May 16th, I reported to work and handed in my resignation on the spot. My superiors and friends were amazed. They had no idea what to make of this. They held a farewell party for me in a restaurant above the wharf, but the atmosphere was a bit peculiar. This young man who had, until the previous day, gotten along well with everyone, who did not seem particularly dissatisfied with his work, who, on the contrary, had wholeheartedly dedicated himself to his research, had suddenly announced that he was quitting. And there I was, laughing happily.

At that time I addressed everyone as follows, "On this side is the wharf. On the other side is Pier 4. If you think there is life on this side, then death is on the other. If you want to get rid of the idea of death, then you should rid yourself of the notion that there is life on this side. Life and death are one."

When I said this everyone became even more concerned about me. "What's he saying? He must be out of his mind," they must have thought. They all saw me off with rueful faces. I was the only one who walked out briskly, in high spirits.

At that time my roommate was extremely worried about me and suggested that I take a quiet rest, perhaps out on the Boso Peninsula. So I left. I would have gone anywhere at all if someone had asked me. I boarded the bus and rode for many miles gazing out at the checkered pattern of fields and small villages along the highway. At one stop, I saw a small sign which read, "Utopia." I got off the bus there and set out in search of it.

On the coast there was a small inn and, climbing the cliff, I found a place with a truly wonderful view. I stayed at the inn and spent the days dozing in the tall grasses overlooking the sea. It may have been a few days, a week, or a month, but anyway I stayed there for some time. As the days passed my exhilaration dimmed, and I began to reflect on just what had happened. You could say I was finally coming to myself again.

I went to Tokyo and stayed for a while, passing the days by walking in the park, stopping people on the street and talking to them, sleeping here and there. My friend was worried and came to see how I was getting along. "Aren't you living in some dream world, some world of illusion?" he asked. "No," I replied, "it's you who are living in the dream world." We both thought, "I am right and you are in the dream world." When my friend turned to say good-bye, I answered with something like, "Don't say good-bye. To part is just to part." My friend seemed to have given up hope.

I left Tokyo, passed through the Kansai area* and came as far south as Kyushu. I was enjoying myself, drifting from place to place with the breeze. I challenged a lot of people with my conviction that everything is meaningless and of no value, that everything returns to nothingness.

But this was too much, or too little, for the everyday world to conceive. There was no communication whatsoever. I could only think of this concept of non-usefulness as being of great benefit to the world', and particularly the present world which is moving so rapidly in the opposite direction. I actually wandered about with the intention of spreading the word throughout the whole country. The outcome was that wherever I went I was ignored as an eccentric. So I returned to my father's farm in the country.

My father was growing tangerines at that time and I moved into a hut on the mountain and began to live a very simple, primitive life. I thought that if here, as a farmer of citrus and grain, I could actually demonstrate my realization, the world would recognize its truth. Instead of offering a hundred explanations, would not practicing this philosophy be the best way? My method of "do-nothing"** farming began with this thought. It was in the 13th year of the present emperor's reign, 1938.

I settled myself on the mountain and everything went well up to the time that my father entrusted me with the richly-bearing trees in the orchard. He had already pruned the trees to "the shape of sake cups" so that the fruit could easily be harvested. When I left them abandoned in this state, the result was that the branches became intertwined, insects attacked the trees and the entire orchard withered away in no time.

My conviction was that crops grow themselves and should not have to be grown. I had acted in the belief that everything should be left to take its natural course, but I found that if you apply this way of thinking all at once, before long things do not go so well. This is abandonment, not "natural farming."
* Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto.
**With this expression Mr. Fukuoka draws attention to his method's comparative ease. This way of farming requires hard work, especially at the harvest, but far less than other methods.

My father was shocked. He said I must re-discipline myself, perhaps take a job somewhere and return when I had pulled myself back together. At that time my father was headman of the village, and it was hard for the other members of the community to relate to his eccentric son, who obviously could not get along with the world, living as he did back in the mountains. Moreover, I disliked the prospect of military service, and as the war was becoming more and more violent, I decided to go along humbly with my father's wishes and take a job.

At that time technical specialists were few. The Kochi Prefecture Testing Station heard about me, and it came about that I was offered the post of Head Researcher of Disease and Insect Control. I imposed upon the kindness of Kochi Prefecture for almost eight years. At the testing center I became a supervisor in the scientific agriculture division, and in research devoted myself to increasing wartime food productivity. But actually during those eight years, I was pondering the relationship between scientific and natural agriculture. Chemical agriculture, which utilizes the products of human intelligence, was reputed to be superior. The question which was always in the back of my mind was whether or not natural agriculture could stand up against modern science.

When the war ended I felt a fresh breeze of freedom, and with a sigh of relief I returned to my home village to take up farming anew.

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