Tag Archive | witter bynner

Those who would take over the earth, never, I notice, succeed


Thinking about the most recent in the GMO debate . . . .

If good science is good for the whole, then agricultural science is a vast and complex study – of soil, of nutrition, of people and society, of plants, of climate, or habitat.   Agriculture itself has empirical demands, hence farmers and gardeners over the millennia of human existence have slowly experimented in endless combinations to develop many seeds and varieties that can sustain us in all different environments and environmental changes.

Recently, in the last few seconds of our human history, we have discovered how to quickly alter the internal structure of plants.  20 years ago the plan was mind over matter, a quick fix to those terrible blights that wipe out crops.   A crazy plan – a plan without long  patient testing, a plan without many different farmers, an irreversible plan  – because the wizards who can change the gene one way, cannot get it all back to change it another way once it enters the soil, water and air.  The plan failed spectacularly, or maybe this was always the real plan: that bio-engineered crops are dependent on high risk chemical fertilization and “pest” control.  Seeds, fertilizer and “pest” control as a big rounded up expensive package of patents, belonging to entities bigger than our smaller nation economies.

Rather: Study with small farmers, not against them.  Study together, study seed freedom, study what works, study variety, study good sense, study sharing, study what the earth herself is teaching.  Teaching free of charge, free of patents, free of any greedy cleverness.

Those who would take over the earth
And shape it to their will
Never, I notice, succeed.
The earth is like a vessel so sacred
That at the mere approach of the profane
It is marred
And when they reach out their fingers it is gone.
For a time in the world some force themselves ahead
And some are left behind,
For a time in the world some make a great noise
And some are held silent,
For a time in the world some are puffed fat
And some are kept hungry,
For a time in the world some push aboard
And some are tipped out:
At no time in the world will a man who is sane
Over-reach himself,
Over-spend himself,
Over-rate himself.

  • Witter Bynner translation of the Tao Te Ching, ancient text dated 4th or 3rd Century BCE


Photocredits: ceseedproduction.wordpress.com


Dream aunt Dao

good aunt dao cropped

In the dream my yoga teacher is showing me an excersize book with a colour crayon background, and written by a child, perhaps a niece.  The child has rewritten the Tao te Ching with a ball point pen, with the “sound man”, “ruler”, “sage” replaced with the aunt, or perhaps “the good aunt”.

In the dream I try hard to remember the Chapter she is showing me, something about seeing.

Perhaps it was Chapter 12?

Racing, chasing, hunting, can drive people mad
And what they achieve leave them no peace.
Therefore the good aunt
Prefers the inner to the outer eye:
She has her yes, –she has her no.

(text after Witter Bynner and others)



From a highveld summer afternoon thunderstorm

Warm lively wishes for 2015 from a wonderful warm and wet day of thunderstorms on the highveld.

I am starting the year with a question about insisting.   There are so many ways in which people, peoples, and our planet home are calling out for what is truly needed, for peace, for fairness, for a future.  What is most urgent is often hard to express, difficult to work towards and awkward to sustain when it makes others uncomfortable.   It takes courage to stand up and be counted.   At the same time, if one always sings the same song, it is hard to bring people along.

My paraphrase:  Nature does not have to insist, the wind can blow for only half a morning, and it can rain for only half the day. If nature does not have to insist, why should we?  (Chapter 23 Tao Te Ching Witter Bynner version).

My 2015 question:  How to be faithful to what is right, but also learn from the thunderstorm?

Nothing is too small

Discover that nothing is too small for clear vision, too insignificant for tender strength . . . .

This is from Chapter 52 of the Tao Te Ching.   Below, a stone and plant photo . . . but really I think about people, and about ourselves.   I think about all the troubles we carry in ourselves, bravely hidden away.   That these too are not too small for clear vision, not too insignificant for tender strength.

I was going to elide …. the bit about tongue and senses.   Because we need to sense our earth, and speak up about what is right and fair.   But true also – not so much curb, but take care where we bring our tongue and senses to bear, to bear fruit.

The source of life
Is as a mother.
Be fond of both mother and children but know the mother dearer
And you outlive death.
Curb your tongue and senses
And you are beyond trouble,
Let them loose
And you are beyond help.
Discover that nothing is too small for clear vision,
Too insignificant for tender strength~
Use outlook
And insight,
Use them both
And you are immune:
For you have witnessed eternity.

(Tao te Ching Chapter 52 – Witter Bynner translation – link here)


Stone and plant Elgin


Stone small significant


Stone wall

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