by Steve Bivans
If you’ve read some of my stuff, you may have run across my life’s purpose…
‘To bring Shire-ness to the World, and Spring again to the Trees.’
“Ok, that’s awesome, but what the hell are you talking about?” You ask.
First off, “What does ‘Spring again in the Trees’ mean?”
Let me start at the beginning, well, technically at the end of a quote. It’s from a J.R.R. Tolkien speech given in 1958:
I look East, West, North, South, and I do not see Sauron; but I see that Saruman has many descendants. We Hobbits have against them no magic weapons. Yet, my gentle hobbits, I give you this toast: To the Hobbits. May they outlast the Sarumans and see spring again in the trees.
Spring to the Trees, means to help in some small way–and to inspire others to do small things as well–to clean up the pollution and mess that we have been dumping into our environment for centuries, so that Nature can function as it should, with minimum interference from Mankind. Yeah, it’s kind of tree-huggy, I know. But I love trees, and so did Tolkien, and hobbits, and Treebeard.
What is ‘Shire-ness’?
The Shire was the homeland of hobbits, in the books,
The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. It was a rural, farmscape surrounded by wild places, forests, streams and rivers. I am coining the noun, Shire-ness to describe an ideal living condition for humanity. Here’s my not-so-formal definition:
Shire-ness: n., a sustainable, free, and open, ‘hobbit-like’ way of living, rooted in Nature, cooperating as a community, with humanity, hospitality, and humor.
Am I suggesting that we all move ‘to the country’ and live in holes in the ground?
No, as idyllic as that sounds, it would in fact be disastrous, as one of the biggest problems facing the Earth, especially in developed countries like the U.S., is the loss of farmland to the suburbs. This must stop. But where will all 7 billion of us live? Answer, mostly in cities. We need to address population problems—a much larger subject that I won’t go into here—and to build UP, not OUT.
The idea of Shire-ness, is rooted IN Nature, in other words, it requires a different mind set about our place in the natural world; it doesn’t suggest we should all move into hobbit holes and out in the country. What it means is that we need to stop thinking of the Earth as simply OUR RESOURCE, to use as we will. It is not. That is an ancient myth birthed in the misty dawn of civilization; it is patently false, and is at the root of all our problems as a species.
What we need to do, in order to live in the Shire, is not to move to the sticks (the boonies, boondocks, hicksville, etc), but to bring the sticks, or Nature, into our minds. We need to change our story. We need to rewrite our thinking so that it states that we are PART of Nature, not Nature’s masters. We need to return to harmony with Nature and with each other, to become what humans were destined to be, builders of gardens and Shires, hobbits (if you will), not Masters over creatures great and small.
That’s what Shire-ness is, according to me, which is what really matters, right? I mean, this is MY life’s purpose, lol. Of course, feel free to steal it if you want, and I hope you will, even if you just chip off a bit of the edges, and incorporate it into your own.
The other words in the definition, you could look up in Websters, but I’lll define them in the context of my own perspective, to tell you what the words mean to ME, in the context of my Purpose.
This word gets thrown around a lot these days, but is rarely defined. I’m employing it to suggest a way of living within Nature, like mentioned above. Instead of a take, take, take mentality, we can begin thinking about how to close the loop on all our systems, to eliminate wastes—of all kinds—so that we stop polluting our environment and corrupting our systems of government. Waste of any kind is a sign of bad system design. In Nature’s design, everything returns to the system as a useable by-product; think of trees, leaves, forest floor mulch, soil, back to trees. Nature perpetuates itself in a closed loop. There is no waste, ever.
We, however, have produced shit-tons of waste, and are doing it as we speak, namely fossil fuel laden products, like plastics, which will never bio-degrade (though there are some wizard/scientists working on that). We need to cease making such things, and find other ways to make the same, or better products, with bio-degradable, sustainable materials. They exist already, and other wizard-scientists are working on new ones every day.
Free and Open:
This is the one that will get me in trouble with my conservative friends. “Nothing is Free, man!” they will say. To which I will say, “Yes, and fuckin’ no.” Sunlight is free, water should be—though that is almost locked up in the hands of Saruman too. When I say ‘free’, I’m not referring to some communistic, utopian idea of society, where everyone works to produce stuff for their neighbors on the assumption that their neighbors will do the same, and that everyone will put in equal effort and produce equally valuable contributions to the group. How awesome that would be, but it’s highly unlikely to ever work. It goes against human nature–though not as much as some would argue–and it falls apart under any scrutiny, or logic. Some people will just be lazy, or try to take advantage of the system, but not usually those at the bottom, contrary to what those same people would argue. (See Thanks for the New Yacht: the REAL Welfare Scams.)
No, free, in my definition, refers to freedom of person and mind, like in the Declaration of Independence. Everyone on Earth should have the right to own their own body, soul, and mind. Not everyone does, even in places where we claim it, like in the U.S. There are both actual slaves, and practical slaves in the so-called ‘free world.’ Millions of them, and their numbers are growing, especially the latter kind.
When I say ‘Open’, I’m referring to the movement for ‘open source’ resources. This is the way many products were produced in the past, but increasingly, the world has moved to the idea that products, ideas, and governments need to be secret. It is a hoarding mentality based on the idea of proprietary ownership. Our world has become too complex as a result, and expensive.
Such closed mentality benefits the large corporations, but not the consumer or society. We need to start producing goods and services that are ‘open’ in nature. In other words, instead of locking up the insides of your cell phone, the software that you use, the shadowy workings of our governments, they need to be transparent. It’s okay to own a patent, but the formula should be open for other people to use, not for free necessarily, but open in such a way that others can improve upon it, make off-shoot products from it, or in the case of government, allow the direct participation of society, and to simplify the system so that people can understand what governments are up to. If you want to read more on the open source idea, check out Robert David Steele’s book, The Open Source Everything: Transparency, Truth and Trust. Click on the link, it will take you to my full review. Great book, by a former head of the U.S. military intelligence community.
Cooperating as Community:
Seems simple, and it kind of is. Basically this refers to the human ability to work together in a group to achieve prosperity for the whole of the group, not in dog-eat-dog competition. Healthy, friendly competition is good for society, but not if the participants are flouting the rules of Shire-ness. In other words, you can compete, yes, but it has to be in a spirit of working for the greater good of society, not just for your own greed and gain. Wealth and prosperity are good things, greed never is. It is rooted in fear. I’ll write more on that later.
If you want a more in depth look at what I mean by ‘cooperating’, read Rachel Botsman’s book, What’s Mine is Yours: the Rise of Collaborative Consumption or Lisa Gansky’s, The Mesh. Basically, I’m talking about modern people/hobbits, working together, sharing resources, ideas, expertise, in a way that benefits everyone, not just a few Sarumans at the top. What’s amazing, is that if those Sarumans, or corporate heads, just thought about it for a bit, cooperation is actually good business, which is the message in both Botsman’s and Gansky’s books, as well as one of the messages in Steele’s book too. It’s also my message to you. Cooperation and capitalism aren’t mutually exclusive things. They just aren’t.
If you really want to know what I mean by hobbit-like, then you simply must read J.R.R. Tolkien’s books, or at a minimum, watch Peter Jackson’s movie renditions. But for me, hobbit-like is summed up in the words, humanity, hospitality, and humor.
When I say ‘humanity’, I’m referring to all it’s definitions. It includes the idea of community, the species of homo sapiens sapiens, but mostly the idea that despite what differences we might have, we are all basically the same. We want the same core things, at least in this lifetime. We want to feel free to express ourselves. We want to be free from fear—though we pretty much never are. We want our fair share of resources. Yes, there are those among us who seem to want more than their share of all of that, and to dominate the rest of us. True. But they are working on faulty assumptions about the way the world ‘is.’ Their stories are screwed up. They could rewrite their stories, just as we all should, but many of them will not. That doesn’t change the fact that deep down, they want the same things, even if they’ve forgotten it.
Hospitality refers to our innate ability to show compassion and generosity to our fellow human beings, and to all living things. We do it all the time, especially in times of extreme crises. We tend to forget our differences and remember our shared humanity, and that comes out in an outpouring of hospitality. We take in our neighbors, feed them, clothe them, and house them. This is an appeal to all of us to remember this, more often, and not just in times of crisis.
Ahhhh Humor. Without a sense of humor, you might as well eat a shotgun blast, and you probably will–metaphorically at least–because you’re already dead. We need to stop taking ourselves so damned seriously. I’m guilty as hell of doing that, but I’m also known for joking and laughing, sometimes at my own absurdities, like ‘being pissed off that I’m pissed off,’ for instance. Yeah, I do that. Sue me.
By humor, I also mean our natural bent for socializing, which is linked to hospitality as well. Most of us love to spend time talking with other people, sharing food and drink, and good times. Indeed, if not for humor and hospitality, I would argue that humans have no place on this Earth anyway. It is possibly our greatest contribution, maybe our only real one. Most of us have managed to do this with a small group of family and friends, but I’m suggesting that we need to include our neighborhoods, our Shires too. We can’t socialize with everyone on Earth, not all at once anyway, but we can extend our social networks—and I don’t just mean Facebook—to include those people living around us, not just people we agree with, or think we have something in common with. We have something in common with every human on Earth, and with all the living creatures upon it.
“Ok,” you say, “But how do you propose to accomplish ‘bringing Shire-ness to the World’?” If you want an answer to that, then you’ll have to read my book when it comes out! I could sure use your help bringing that to fruition. Please consider clicking on the Kickstarter link below, and contributing to the campaign, and then sharing it with your friends. Thanks!