For thousands of years, man has prepared the ground of the earth to receive seeds for planting by the sweat of his brow, just as God had ordained in Genesis. With a pickaxe in one hand, a wheelbarrow, and a shovel, each spring and sometimes fall men would till the soil, working as fast as they could to be ready for planting. When planting time came, they would sow the seeds they had, and having sowed the seeds, gently cover them with dirt, add a little water, and pray that between the sunlight, rains, and daily life the plants they put in the ground would yield their natural results. Some years would be bountiful, and others would be scarce, but the art and science of farming was a cooperation with the Almighty to feed man from the good things of the Earth by trusting in His providence and working with his own tools.
Working the land would stress a man’s body, but it would also make him strong. He would then teach his sons how to work as he did, and they would become strong. As he reached old age, for even the strongest of old men reach a point where they can no longer work as they once did, they would take over for him. Thus was the cycle of life and has been, and for many people still is.
It is no secret that modern technologies have not only made “Western” life “soft,” but much of the entire world like this. Fat people do not exist in areas where there one must work in the field daily in hard labor, and where one is completely dependent on the sweat of one’s brow to feed oneself. However, it does not mean that a man cannot become strong just as those before him did. All he needs to do is get his pickaxe and head to the land, and start working. He will have to start slow, and he will have limitations. There will be a natural hurdle that he must overcome, a threshhold which he must cross before his body grows to be stronger than it was, and then after some time will repeat this again until he becomes fit for working in the fields as many others have before. It is not something that can be rushed, but is a process that takes time, consistency, and dedication to the task.
Most people think about “survival” as something of buying fancy gear, or “stocking up” on stuff. However, can they plan and till a garden? All of the gear in the world does not matter if one does not have the physical capacity to make the best use of one’s body.
I would like to introduce you to two people. The first is an American, the late Richard Proenneke of Alaska. The second is Agafia Lykova from the state of Khakassia, Russia, which sits in Siberia just north of the borders where Russia, China, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia meet. Both of them are equally inspiring in their own ways.
Proenneke was born in Iowa, and after a career in the Navy during the Second World War and work as a mechanic in Alaska for heavy equipment, he moved out to the Alaskan wilderness with a video camera, film, and a diary. The year was 1968, and during this time he filmed himself and his environment, took a great many photos, and documented his life building a log cabin by hand and living in the Alaskan wilderness. While his brother would visit him one to two times a year and he would occasionally go back to the lower 48 states to visit family, for the next thirty years Proenneke lived as a hermit, caring for himself in his cabin, alone in the wilderness. He died in 2003, and his cabin was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Two documentaries about his life have been made, called Alone in the Wilderness and Alone in the Wilderness II. They are highly recommended to watch, and while clips can be seen on Youtube below, the series can be purchased here.
Lykova is a Russian Orthodox Old Believer who fled as a small child with her father, mother, and brothers to Siberia following the continued persecution of Christians in Russia. They went to one of the most remote areas to build a cabin and live out their lives according to their religious beliefs. They suffered many hardships during their life, but managed to survive and live peacefully.
The family was so remote that their existence was not discovered until 1978 by accident, when Russian geologists spotted them from a helicopter. She had never been in civilization, and as her family and the Russian government came to know each other, she became a sensation around the USSR and later the entire world. She still lives in her family’s cabin, although by herself as she is the last one left in her family, and she continues as she has before, leaving only for medical treatments.
A documentary about her life is below:
Both of these people lived very interesting lives, but their lives did not develop as they did ex nihlo. They developed through cause and effect, and their abilities to survive, prosper, and thrive in their environments as they are able to came organically.
The same thing is to be said about one’s spiritual life.
Many emphasize the belief that Christ did save man, and he did so by a single act, so by the act one is able to believe and be saved. There is truth in this statement, and it should not be denied. However, one must also note that to be a Christian is also a matter of exercise, for the soul. Just as a plant grows organically and goes through phases, just as the body adapts to its environment, just as Proenneke and Lykova adapted to their environments and became who they are because of their active work, so must a Christian work actively at being who he says that he is lest he become only a Christian in word and not in practice. However, if one is in a bad state, one can often times reverse the damage by choosing to do what is good and right.
As an example, last year I planted two apple trees. Unfortunately, I did not tend them and the trees became badly neglected. They were so neglected that I thought them to be dead. However, I decided this spring to give them another chance before tearing them up, and that I would take special measures to ensure their health.
I watered them daily. I gave them special fertilizers. I pruned bad or dead branches. I checked their health twice a day. This began back in February.
It is now the end of April, and both trees are covered with green leaves, having recently produced flowers in the past month.
I took the same measures with my new peach tree that I added, which was already in a healthy condition, and it is already producing many small peach buds.
The care for these trees, while the changes made happened quickly by comparison, still did not happen overnight. It involved time, effort, and dedication. But it worked, and they are doing well now. If I was to stop what I was doing and return to the old ways, then the trees would likely revert back to poor health.
Not everything can be done in a single day, and some must wait until tomorrow in the sense of objective time. However, one must also never forget that tomorrow never comes. Life is lived in the present day and the future is defined by the experiences of the past in combination with current actions. History is what once was as it is what is lived in the moment that makes up what is yet to come.
Why did St. John the Baptist so heavily criticize the Pharisees coming for baptism:
At that time Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins.
When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones. Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand. He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” – Matthew 3:5-12
There is much to be said in this. Something that one can derive from it is that one cannot expect to receive the mercy of God as though it were a snack from a vending machine that one puts money into and receives a reward in the moment. Life does not function this way. The same is with human learning, building strength, adapting to environmental circumstances, or even caring for a little plant. Results are build from past actions. The process cannot be altered, but it can be lengthened or shortened many times depending on the decisions made. Thus working “faster” does not abrogate the growing process, but just helps it to reach the necessary stages for growth in less time or with fewer errors in the process.
This is why one must pay attention to political events and news, but one should not concern oneself too much with major events in so far as attempting to “change” or “stop” a situation by some great extraordinary means if one is a common man (as most people are). Political events grow out of economic arrangements and social situations that develop for years- decades or even centuries -and are not easily stopped once brought into a state of motion.
However, a single human being can make influence in the world by focusing on what he can do for himself and those around him, or in his local community. This is where the real power lays, because an empire is simply a large compilation of local communities under a unified rule, and change in a single community can eventually affect some, many, or even all of the communities.
The idea of listening to political pundits argue about who-said-what-about-who, especially for international and national events or individuals, is generally a waste of time and energy as far as change is concerned just as it would be for a farmer to dump his seed onto the ground without any care about planting it properly.
Richard Proenneke did not worry about the state of the US Military or the country when he build his cabin. Agafia Lykova was not attempting to fight the USSR when she went to live in her home. However, both did incredible things with what little they had, and they left a record and work that has helped and inspired many.
It is likely that in the next decade there is going to be a major war in Europe based on trends that are well-documented and have been actively building for decades, and in some cases centuries. They are likely not going to be stopped, and if an individual does participate in many of the political actions or events, he will likely be used as a stooge for the wealthy and powerful to his ultimate detriment for the profit of said wealthy individuals.
The wise man would eschew such frivolous actions, not caring about what feelings the words of such provocateurs and their supporters may arouse within him, because the mind must rule the senses and appetites, not the opposite. He cannot stop a war from coming, or men from fighting if they really want to.
What he can do, is go to his yard, pick up a pickaxe, and till the earth from the sweat of his brow. He can then go and say his prayers before God, thanking Him for His mercy and love before returning to work on either the land or another project. He can raise a family and do so righteously. He can develop his intellect with his body in skills that benefit him, even financially so. There is no limit to what he can do in so far as his ability to innovate and dream, and he is limited by time and energy.
The time to prepare is now, lest one be found unprepared.