On the doing of 'real stuff', Temple Grandin speaks truth to power, and to the powerlessness we mire ourselves in with endless 'abstractification": Policy makers with no experience on the ground with the things they aim to regulate, mathematical abstractification to create the "next credit default swap": these are the ills of our age.
I admire the plain spoken, the direct, the radically honest, and those whose craft leads them to create things of both beauty and usefulness. Temple Grandin is one of our heroes here on the farm, helping us see things as others see them: specifically, how cows see and process visual information and react to it: either calmly, or, not so calmly.
Today I spent 5 hours working with locally grown flowers, including some from my own garden, for a wedding; the ritual bathing of the stems in warm fresh clean water, the careful plucking of errant and unwanted leaves, the blocking of blooms by colour in buckets in shade, then in the cooler: violet campanula, fuschia gomphrena, magenta celosia, magenta phalenopsis orchids, plum and silver heuchera amethyst mist leaves, white orchids, white lysimachia, white achillea, white valerian, white and green false solomon's seal, the white spires of four foot tall pacific giant hybrid delphinium, the rounded cerebral shapes of 'annabelle' hydrangea in white and young fresh green, glossy green camellia leaves, the shock of the chartreuse heuchera 'citronelle'.
These hours grounded me back in the world of tangible, beautiful, and intricate things of Nature, the way with flowers requires a simplicity of Mind: to make a Bride's bouquet as she has dreamed of it, to make each vase hold flowers so that their complex beauty is a calm oasis for the eye in the swirl of a wedding party.
After getting to some sort of milestone with elected officials on a multi year design project, the respite was real. The design project was one so deceptively DIFFICULT, made so by endless abstractification by so many entities.
What could be simpler and cheaper? to clean up the runoff coming from urban and suburban roofs, driveways, yards, gardens in our #Chesapeake Bay watersheds (in our case, the Rappahannock), than to do it at the source, one yard at a time?
As it turns out: nothing. The obvious answer IS the correct one. The old ways, from Agricola to the CCC to permaculture, are still the best. Empirical and close observation of historical examples are more instructive than all the PDF's, tomes, trainings and mathematical models in the world.
But the ABSTRACTIFICATION of this obvious result by regulators, legislators, planners, city managers, stormwater engineers, soil scientists and model-makers is one of the most daunting educations I've ever undertaken: partly because of the acronyms, dependence on mathematical models rather than historical examples and what we already know works. It's positively Corporate in the endless torpor it generates.
The most difficult challenge of the process was not the constraint of using existing design methods, practices, and systems, applied to a tiny suburban lot with an oversized house on it and nothing but turf and a single tree on it.
The most difficult challenge was simply sticking to the simple task of avoiding re-inventing the wheel. If there are existing methods that have been shown to work, use them, and observe the results, rather than abstracting to something else.
We seem so addicted to making the Perfect the Enemy of the Good, and the Abstract the Enemy of the Practical and Useful. The result is a hovering helicopter like buzz: failure to launch - because we cannot ever get beyond the abstractification to create what Temple Grandin calls 'real stuff' coupled with failure to land - generating more and more options of where to fly and where to land, while burning fuel.
Thank you Temple Grandin for pointing out one of the useless vanities of our age. Given the applause from your young student graduating audience, it seems your admonition to 'create real stuff' hit home.
Young people want to do real work, real play, and make real contributions with their hands, hearts and heads. Despite being seemingly addicted to tiny devices that lead them into hours of abstractification, this younger generation seem to want to experience the real, the gritty, the useful, and do seem to want to have clean water and living streams, Bay and ocean. Give them a ploughshare, and they will use it. Give them an app, and they will use it too. Sustainable ag and farming in general is au courant among the young just now, perhaps for its geeky allure.
Give people a reason, and give them a job: cleaning up the streams of the Chesapeake Bay watershed in 6 states and DC by cleaning up their own little acre, one yard at a time.