On farming …

January 12, 2016

and covering your donkey ….

There was a farmer who grew excellent quality corn. Every year he won the award for the best grown corn. One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned something interesting about how he grew it. The reporter discovered that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbors. “How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbors when they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?” the reporter asked.

“Why sir,” said the farmer, “Didn’t you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn.”

So it is with our lives… Those who want to live meaningfully and well must help enrich the lives of others, for the value of a life is measured by the lives it touches. And those who choose to be happy must help others find happiness, for the welfare of each is bound up with the welfare of all…


[That little story was swiped from Facebook without permission, ……………..what?…..]  


Everyone (I suppose) loves a “feel-good” story. Like any story, of course, when told around the campfire often enough, and for an extended time, the details cannot help but change.

This is not by any design or intent. Perhaps the greatest reason would be context. Another would be the nature of human communication or language itself.

“Watching a buddy’s back”, for example, is kind of a nice metaphor for friendship, teamwork, and so forth. The precise meaning depends upon context. One might safely assume that the concept was first given voice during some primitive confrontation somewhere, sometime, and when used in that same context even today could be taken quite literally, indicating concerns regarding survival. The intent and meaning today, however, is normally a mixed bag of the literal and the metaphorical. While the circumstance surrounding the phrase’s use may be metaphorical, and would be considered an exaggeration of the mood accompanying a literal context, the intent would be to lend precisely that kind of intensity to a more benign situation.

The study of philology, or the history and origins of words and phrases, may provide some insight.

An immeasurable and indistinct length of time ago, one of humanity’s primary concerns was survival. If a person should survive into the following day, he would then focus on water, and food. Thirst and hunger abated, or at least temporarily distracted, things like shelter and clothing, such as it were, could see daylight. Extensively changed, often beyond recognition, and certainly beyond any imaginable context for most of us, much of our modern communication could likely be linked to those times long before car payments and credit limits and matters of “style” became the first things one thought of upon awakening in a comfortable bed to the aroma of automatically perked coffee.

Thus, I would suggest that the warm-fuzzy tale of a farmer and his fields of corn must bear such a history, its origins lost among the multitude of lessons of survival no doubt learned through observing the experiences of those who didn’t survive to tell the tales.

As mentioned earlier, contexts change, as do intents, though function may remain related. The path of human development and evolution evidently favored those who gathered into groups and coined such strokes of genius as “safety in numbers,” just as they favored those who ate organic material instead of pretty rocks.

Several hundred contexts later, with countless factors added to, or subtracted from, the pile, such allegories as the corn farmer tale came to be part and parcel of various religious tenets. As is often the case, “points” are made, in more ways than one, by the use of exaggeration, overstatement, and the clouding of boundaries between contexts, so that survival of the group transitioned to survival within the group, and so on. Securing enough points to earn whatever the promised rewards might be meant following the tenets of one’s inherited or chosen creed better than one’s neighbor, who, ironically, one was also often charged with ensuring the welfare of. Sometimes that meant giving your best seed to the farmer down the road.

Presently, early in the twenty first century, the evolving metaphor has come to link salvation, in its various formats, with providing for the survival of imperfect strangers through the provision of metaphorical as well as actual Free Lunch, Potlatch style.

And similar to the tale of the fortunate farmer (and his even more fortunate neighbors, who apparently enjoyed the products of his labor), seeing to the welfare and good fortune of one’s neighbors, even if it means conscripting the assets and unwitting participation of The Unwashed, may very well be about taking care of one’s own backside far more than that of one’s neighbor.


~-~* * *~-~




  1. I like the concept of helping others. Seems to be inbred in human nature. Even Atheists do it. Trickle up theory indicates the resultant circulation of good fortune, good vibes, and even money enriches us all.


    • Interesting, the visual of “trickle-up theory” as the apparent obverse of the “trickle down theory”. I guess which one might find most satisfactory would depend on a number of things, including whether one is being trickled on, one is doing the trickling, the nature of other trickle theories unmentioned which might be lateral, omnidirectional, or perhaps even static, in which case one might be both trickler and tricklee . Nevertheless, I agree that it does feel good to help others. Having someone else help someone else on my behalf, and on my nickel, might be fulfilling for them but doesn’t do much for me. The satirical point of the blog, of course, was the way the idea of “helping” has become an industry in its own right….I know both sides of that coin, in a way, I guess, and being a grumpy old bahstid I found it a relevant broken record to spin and to practice curmudgeonry about….


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