“Just because everyone can’t do everything, doesn’t mean somebody shouldn’t do something.”
These are powerful words taken from Joel Salatin, a revolutionary farmer and speaker who travels all over the world advocating for a more self-sustaining and historically normal approach to our food and our planet.
They are also taken from the book my father and I have elected to read—he and I, two members of the World’s Smallest Book Club—each week we slog through a chapter or two, then meet over the phone to discuss the week’s gleanings.
Salatin does this extra thing—especially for egg-heads like me and my Pa, who would be just as content to debate the hell out of a subject and then let it glisten forever in the abstract, unmarred by any stain of pragmatism or implementation. He gives his readers homework.
Whether he’s talking about proper use of land or livestock, water usage, herbivores, or urban farming, at the end of each well-written and thoroughly researched (and embodied) chapter, he provides tools for the trade. The reader, then, may begin to take those first faltering steps down the path to normalcy, self-sufficiency, and the like.
And it rings a bell loudly in my brain.
As someone who operates with a head full of lofty ideas and grand imaginings, it is oftentimes exceedingly difficult to put one foot in front of the other, no matter the cause. In my head, bells ring, trumpets sound, I bang a tiny tambourine. A symphony plays out. Looking at my ill-shaped instrument, I often bemoan: how does one make music with such a thing?
The answer inevitably comes through the steady rhythm of life’s daily pulse: By doing it. Start banging that drum, damn it. It may not sound like the footfall of angels, nor the cacophony of beauty that’s looping round and round on instant replay (but only for you—unheard, unsung, unknown by the ever-waking world).
So many things to occupy a life, and indeed this world, in the fashion in which we dream—so many systems in place, of government, media, big business. All conspiring to keep us ever-marching to a prescribed beat of a zombie, meat-head drummer from some awful ’80s hair band.
The song played so loud, the soundtrack looping for so long, we forget. We forget that we helped write these notes. We began to hum this tainted melody once upon a time, before the tune got permanently lodged in our brains to exclusion of all other music and sound.
We can write the notes anew, even if we don’t yet know the tune. I’ve got a hankering for a moving opening lyric, and I bet we could muster up a solid refrain. The bridge we’ll build when we get there.
I get overwhelmed by the brokenness of the world. Indeed, it is the brokenness of myself as well. How many grand things I would like to do. Pull a Ghandi and “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
And I can’t do it all today. No one of us can. And there’s the trick—there’s the beauty of this thing.
Without an orchestra assembled in our basements, we simply begin by doing what we can–a sprinkle of change here, a snippet of revolution there. It sounds like rain and it sounds like footfalls and humming.
I grab my drum. You take your ill-strung fiddle out of storage and we start to play. Maybe invite the kids from down the way with a cow bell or two. My neighbor’s got some spoons, a harp and a cuppa’ sugar to boot.Let’s roll.
What is the sound of the many, hundreds of thousands of some-ones doing something? Something vital. Something real. Something precious and compassionate, brave, ingenious and grand.
Of us all, minute little someones conspiring each day to do that something, a burning beauty waits to be born into the world. And us their patient, humble midwives, conspiring to create an anthem of change, drowning out the dirge.
Start humming. Let’s make up the words as we go along. I have a feeling that within the sounds of a million someones, therein lies the song.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Melissa Horton/ Editor: Catherine Monkman