Whenever you receive your copy or purchase the December issue of Mother Earth News magazine, you'll see my smiling John Henry on the front cover. Some of you may not know that I do a column in each issue titled "The Pitchfork Pulpit."
This year marks the 50 anniversary of the magazine, launched in 1969. I was 12 years old, but I can assure you the magazine was iconic around our house. In this issue I write about my memories and perceptions regarding MEN over these 50 years. You'll enjoy reading it, I hope.
In today's post, though, I want to share the deep satisfaction and honor that such prominence plays. As a teenager I literally devoured MEN; its content fired my imagination as I met, through its pages, the leaders and idea-fountains of the early back-to-the-land movement. I realize today what a privilege I had growing up in a household that valued practical information about self reliance, homesteading, garden season extension, alternative everything.
MEN was ahead of its time. The "O" word had been invented by J.I. Rodale, yes, but it certainly was not in common usage. If you said the word compost, people would crinkle up their noses and wonder what you were talking about. John Shuttleworth and his cohorts nestled in Black Mountain, North Carolina cranked out information that dared to question every orthodoxy of the day.
As a teenager, growing up on this verbal diet gave me a foundation of alternative thinking and the courage to question every orthodoxy. The formative stuff our young people see and read, the material we expose them to, the conversations we launch in those early years truly do set them up for lifetime direction. I don't think, at that time, I ever imagined that one day I would be on the cover of the magazine. That's pretty heady stuff. But if your child, today, said "some day I want to be on the cover of Mother Earth News," would you be proud?
The fact that our family had no TV so I spent entertainment time pouring over plans for hoop houses, cheap structures, gardening techniques and landscape stewardship fed my information tank and imagination capacity. Parents routinely ask me what they can do to get their children to accept the kinds of beliefs people like me espouse. Beliefs that what we eat really matters. That every solution doesn't have to come from the government. That our activity should create more natural resource commons in our landscape and community. That veganism destroys the brain and Walt Disney plagued us with Bambi that morphed into my cat is your cow is my uncle is a chicken.
How do we inculcate true personal responsibility, can-do-ism and thoughtfulness in the next generation? Not from playing Angry Birds and Candy Crush all day, I can tell you that. Or watching sit-coms and feasting on People magazine and celebrity culture. Not by being outrageous in dress or actions.
I think our children take seriously what we take seriously. If what we take most seriously is making sure they get to play on the soccer team or get invited to birthday parties, then probably our kids will take that most seriously too. If we obsess over them never being laughed at or jeered or emotionally pushed, they'll obsess over it. But if we devote ourselves to connecting the dots between our food provenance and our landscape health and that you need to do things that are noble, sacred and healing first and foremost and that questioning orthodoxy is one of the best activities in which we can engage, then we'll have some different-minded kids.
Young people grow up thinking what their minds feed on during the formative years. I'm grateful beyond words that I grew up in a household that created a habitat to feed my mind earth-changing and earth-challenging ideas. I don't suck this stuff today out of my thumb; it comes from immersion in a cause for a long, long time. And growing up in an authentic home with personal responsibility
paramount. No victims. No "if those people would just." No, it's me, what am I doing, how am I living, how am I influencing others.
So what are you kids into?