The Old Philosopher’s Self-Introduction, May 2011.
“The Old Philosopher” is a retired sociology professor, by faith a Christian, who lives in a 94 acre forest “terrain” in rural New Brunswick. The forest keeps me fit by all the work it needs to achieve its potential, and rewards the work with gradually increasing beauty. During 2007-09 i was editor of Ecoforestry.
Why “Old Philosopher”? It’s factually true: I am old—closer to 70 than to 65—and my highest degree is Doctor of Philosophy. My studies since receiving that degree [major subject Sociology, emphases in research design and inference, and small group self-organization] have emphasized
renewable resource ecology and subsistence, especially ecoforestry;
the work of scientific research, for testing theory and for practical utilization;
co-operatives and communal living, from Benedictines and Hutterites to large families;
technology, especially simple elegant technology such as bow-saws, filet knives, the kachelofen, kayaks, locking pliers, mulches, skis, sun-porches, the travois [and its adaptation the Red River cart];
nationhood and cultural identity; and
criminology and “corrections”.
It’s also an encouragement to readers, to take what i write philosophically. Reflect on it. Consider how it does and doesn’t apply to your life and to what you know of the world. Consider how you might be able to improve on it. (As i’ll repeat later, men are evolved for teamwork.)
Gender relations, odd as it may seem, is a recent “topic area” for me. I was in middle age before i found out my mother had been abusive—from a good Buddhist psychiatrist—so at one time i too suffered “false consciousness” about the privileges of women. I’ve been rejected by a wife and divorced, experienced discrimination against our gender, and left a professorship to be a single father to two boys. For a while i “looked into the possibility of remarriage, including some post-marital sex”, then chose to follow an old Christian rule which requires divorced men and women, even when not to blame, to abstain from sex; and have now been abstinent “for several years—long enough that i seldom notice the sexual potential of a situation”.
Like many good writers1, i have quirks. No Churchillian cigars, no Trudeauvian elegance; maybe some wry but instructive humour ranging from Semitic-style hyperbole and Nasrudin-style sophomorism, to literal-minded unmasking of misinformation and the occasional cliche. I try to keep to a level of material consumption similar to such “middle-income countries of the Earth” as Mexico, Poland, and South Africa (but have not lived in any of those three; i have lived about a year in Finland and longer in the US—all of it more than two decades ago). Food quirks include making my own bean dishes, beer, bread, jam, relish, sauces, and wine2. I grow eight or ten vegetables from saved seed. I haven’t worn a necktie in this century.
One of my quirks is not to capitalize the pronoun “i” in the middle of a sentence. It seems egotistical to capitalize the pronoun that represents me self; and how often is egotism likeable? (In the same perspective, i prefer pictures of Bishops and Archbishops dressed plainly to those showing them bedecked in silk and gold. How did the successors to those humble vigorous plain-spoken fishermen of Galilee, get so fine-and-fancy? Jesus himself, in Royal Procession, wore fairly ordinary garb and rode on a borrowed donkey. So far, it seems to me i should live simply, simply because He did.)
I believe that doing a lot of skilled, heavy manual labour—ecoforestry especially—has contributed to my sense of worth as a man and my conviction that men are valuable in ways women cannot equal. It’s not just chain saws nor the lower back, though the lower back is a significant aspect. Men’s physique has formed for hunting and—skilled heavy work. Women’s physique has formed for pregnancy, lactation, and gathering. Our two complementary evolutions have also affected our psychologies. Some week soon, i want to write a longer reflection on evolution and gender-personality and gender special competences. For now, remember that ecological restoration calls for a great deal of skilled, heavy, manual work—men’s work. (And don’t let any tendentious sugar-and-everything-nice type, say that it was men who wrecked the Earth. It was industrialism, at least most lately; and in Canada, industrialism has produced especially consumer goods—which in my humble opinion, are bought by-and-for women more than by-and-for men.)
Remember also, that hunting in evolutionary times was low-technology teamwork. Co-operation is in our nature; we are descended from men who survived because they co-operated. So let me end this introduction with a slogan the hunters would recognize though in prehistoric times they probably wouldn’t have put it quantitatively. I do believe there’s more manhood in these words than in any ATV or cigar:
Whatever costs you one and gains your brothers two, do.
Whatever costs your brothers more than it gains you, don’t.
1 The fact that i have quirks does not guarantee that i’m a good writer. That’s for readers to decide: Good writing is writing that does the reader good—and that, in turn, means that a good writer for Al may not be a good writer for Zach.
2 One incentive toward moderation, for us who make our own wine, is wanting it to age a year to three years before we drink it. Aged fruit [including grape] wine is better. (Dandelion wine, i’m not so sure.)