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Freedom is the space within which we can act.


Think of these spaces as farm fields: the first season, the first step is to survey them, clear them of obstacles and choose which ones to plant—and which to leave fallow.


We probably have much more freedom, and therefore many more fields ((Thanks to the Stoics for the analogy of “fertile fields”. See Diogenes Laërtius‘s The Lives of the Philosophers)) than we may first realize. Since this much “Freedom succumbs to dizziness”, as Kierkegard ((The Concept of Anxiety, 1844)) put it, it may help to categorize various types.FARM 4H fields

Along the four cardinal directions (N,S,E&W), we can categorize lay the four Hs:((This is inspired by The 4H, an agricultural-focused youth organization–and their pledge))

Head (mental & intellectual, like fields of knowledge, cognitive skills, focal abilities AKA “headspace”)

Health (physiological spaces, like our relative freedom from injury, disease, and addiction)

Heart (emotional and social, like our ability to empathize and our relationships)

Hand (the most tangible, like time and financial spaces)

The place to improve the world is first in one’s own heart and head and hands, and then work outwards from there. Other people can talk about how to expand the destiny of mankind. I just want to talk about how to fix a motorcycle. I think that what I have to say has more lasting value. -Robert M. Pirsig,  Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

These four points run along two axes:

the x-axis (left-right) is the integration axis: Health is about wholeness: concern for the various aspects of ourselves and unifying them. Heart is about oneness: concern for other(s) and aligning ourselves with them.

the y-axis (up-down) is the development axis: Head is about thinking: the scope and depth of our intellect, while Hand is about doing: our capacity for action.

“We must cultivate our own garden.” – Voltaire, in his Candide conclusion.

Effective action begins with working within our own fields: where we have control or at least significant influence.

Care about vs. Care for

One heuristic, that will be more fully developed in Responsibility (the flip side of Freedom) is distinguish between what you simply care about and what you can personally care for. The former are not your fields. Choosing them leads to complaining, wishful thinking as action depends upon the actions of others and/or circumstances outside your control.

CHOOSING FIELDS: As we look at and define more closely the various spaces we have, we’ll see many, much more freedom than we previously thought. This can overwhelm, even lead to anxiety.

We may not, especially if new to FARMing, be able to effectively sow, care, and harvest many fields—at least in one growing season. So, it best to focus on a few.

Since we learn by doing, as an exercise, you may choose to label and define in several words:

Field 1_________________________

Field 2_________________________

Field 3_________________________

Some suggestions for choosing where to focus:

Obstacles: It’s important to identify and map out the obstacles in our fields. In agriculture, these can be rocks, clay, stumps, etc.  In our selves, these includes injuries (both physical and emotional), blind spots that we may be aware of, addictions and obsessions can effect even the strong willed. Some obstacles can be easily removed, while others take much more effort, and even may turn out to be immovable objects. If so, we decide to avoid and work around those obstacles–or in extreme cases, not sow in those fields altogether.

Exchangeability: Some examples are obvious, common and easy to calculate: we exchange temporal for financial space (time for money) by working overtime—or vice versa by taking a day off. Others may be more dynamic: saving six months of salary (a financial buffer, or space) could also increase your comfort zone (a type of emotional space) to risk making changes to your employment situation, which in turn may increase your space in several ways.

Arability: This agricultural term refers to the current suitability of fields for planting.  Farmers make fields more arable by:

  • rotating crops planted on them
  • planting “cover crops” which enrich the soil, but are plowed under, rather than harvested.
  • simply letting them “fallow” or rest

Arable also applies to seeds, though less often. So, we will look next at seeds of one’s potential.