Aquaponic Gardening

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Well it seems like I’ve been having the same/similar conversation here in the village with a lot of folks lately that goes something like this…


“Gee Vlad how did you know dot…dot…dot…”


“Well, I read it in a good book/study on the topic” (and if applicable, tried it out to see for myself).


“Ooh, I don’t have time to read”!


“Do you watch T.V”


“Yeah, who doesn’t”?


            “Well, if you have time to watch T.V, then you have time to read a book/study/try things yourself”.


“What, you mean you can’t afford a television set”?


“No, I have one of those flat screened metre wide deals, and I have an antenna…I just refuse to connect the two”.


Very strange looks then ensue. Particularly when I tell people that I don’t have a Facebook account, it’s as if I said that I don’t breathe oxygen. 


It is just amazing how much more time one gains (even while holding a job, job type job) just by not turning the T.V on, (not even for The Simpsons) and not picking up a newspaper. I would highly recommend it to anyone willing to listen.


Any of you guys who know me, know that jobs are another gripe of mine (a much harder usurper of Life to get rid of compared to television). I mean even the good complex problem solving ones (jobs) have a useful shelf life (in terms of you learning much new) of about three years before it just becomes about commanding a higher pay blablabla…

Which is fine, if that is what your value system dictates is “important” for you to do.

But it seems like a really big trade off…


Here is something by the CimethInc. Ex-Workers Collective that I may or may not have been a part of for the last 15 years or so. It’s pretty old, and some of it may be dated in terms of where (years) I'm at in life, but I still feel the sentiments are very valid. Some of you may enjoy this. How or if it may relate to your Aquaponics adventure is for you to figure out :)   .................. That is, if you can find the time to read it...

Reconsidering 'work' and 'leisure time'......

Did you ever wonder why your parents used to act so disoriented when it came to ‘leisure’ activities? Why they start one little hobby, and either fail to follow through with it or become pathologically obsessed with it... even though it doesn't seem to have anything to do with their lives? Maybe they seek to lose themselves in gardening or following the exploits of some basketball team. Maybe your father buys all sorts of fancy tools (the kind of tools many men his age have), but only uses them for a few days before setting them aside—and then buys a lot of skiing equipment the next month. Or perhaps they just spend their time trying figure out how to pay off the debt they owe for that wide screen television they spend the rest of their time watching.

And—have they ever been honest with you about their jobs? Do they enjoy them? Is their work the most fulfilling thing they could be doing, are they able to achieve every goal they always wanted to? Do they feel heroic or proud every day as they return home—or are they exhausted? Do they turn that wide screen television on as soon as they come in the door? Do they have the energy to do anything else?

Did you ever wonder if there might be a better way for them, for you?

What is 'Work' Like?

Because of 'division of labor', most jobs today consist of doing very specific tasks, over and over, with very little variety. If you are a dishwasher, you wash dishes: you don't get to interact with people or solve complicated problems very often, and you never get to leave the dishroom to run around in the sunlight. If you are a real estate agent, you never use your hands to make anything, and you spend most of your time thinking about market value and selling points. Even jobs that include a certain amount of variety can only remain interesting and challenging up to a point: for we work forty hours a week on average, and at least five out of the seven days. That's a lot of our lives to spend working. Work is the first thing we do on most of the days of our lives, and we don't get to do anything else until we've been at work for quite a while. When we spend most of our time and energy working on one task, or even ten different tasks, eventually we will feel bored and desperate for variety... even if we are conditioned not to realize this.

On top of this, because of the spread of large businesses and the consequent decrease in self-employment and small businesses, most of us do not have much voice in what our responsibilities at work will be. It is hard to start your own business or even find a friend or neighbor to work for. We often must get a job to survive in which we follow the instructions of a manager who probably doesn't have much more control over his job than we have over ours. Since we don't get to decide what we are doing, chances are that we will feel alienated from our work, disinterested in the quality of our labor; we may even feel that the projects we are working upon are unimportant.

Indeed it is easy to feel that most of the jobs available today are unimportant—for in a certain sense, many of them are. In a purely capitalist economy, the jobs that are available will be determined by which products are in the most demand; and often the products that are in demand (military technology, fast food, Pepsi, fashionable clothes) are not products that really make people happy. It's easy to feel like all your labor is wasted when the products you work so hard to sell just to survive seem to do nothing for the people you sell them to. How many people really are cheered up by the soggy french fries at McDonalds? Would they perhaps be happier eating a meal prepared by a friend of theirs or a chef they knew who owned his own cafe?

In short, "work" as we know it tends to make us unhappy because we do so much of it, because it is so repetitive, because we don't get to choose what we do, and because what we are doing is often not in the best interest of our fellow human beings.

What is Leisure Time Like?

We come home from these jobs exhausted from having invested all our time and energy in a project we may not have even been free to choose, and what we need most is to recover. We are emotionally and physically worn out, and nothing seems more natural than to sit down quietly for a while and watch television or read the daily paper, while we try to gather our strength for the next day's labor. Perhaps we try to leave behind our exhaustion and frustration by concentrating on some hobby or another; but as we are not very used to directing ourselves in the workplace during the day, we often don't know what we really want to do when we are free at home. Certainly some company or another will have some suggestions for us, whether we receive them from advertising or watching our neighbors; but chances are that this company has their profits in mind at least as much as our satisfaction, and we may discover that playing miniature golf is strangely unfulfilling.

Similarly, of course, we don't have much time or energy left over from work to consider our situation or participate in any rewarding activity which requires much time and energy. We don't like to think too much about whether we enjoy our jobs or our lives—besides, that might be depressing, and what can we do if we don't enjoy them, anyway? We don't have the energy left to enjoy art or music or books that are really challenging; we need our music to be soothing, our art nonthreatening, our books merely entertaining.

In fact, we come to associate having to expend effort and do things with our work, and associate relaxing and not doing anything with leisure time. So, because many of us don't like our jobs, we tend to associate having to do things with being unhappy, while happiness, as far as we ever know it, means... not doing anything. We never act for ourselves, because we spend our whole days acting for other people, and we think that acting and working hard always leads to unhappiness; our idea of happiness is not having to act, being on permanent vacation.

And this is ultimately why so many of us are so unhappy: because happiness is not doing nothing, happiness is acting creatively, doing things, working hard on things you care about. Happiness is becoming an excellent long-distance runner, falling in love, cooking an original recipe for people you care about, building a bookshelf, writing a song. There is no happiness to be found in merely lying on a couch—happiness is something that we must pursue. We are not unhappy because we have to do things, we are unhappy because all the things we do are things we don't care about. And because our jobs exhaust us and mislead us about what we want, they are the source of much of our unhappiness.

What is the Solution?

You don't have to work at those jobs, you know. It is possible to get by without all the Pepsi, all the expensive clothes, the wide screen television and the expensive interior decorating that all those paychecks go to pay for. You can try to start your own business doing something you care about (although this still involves the danger of having too little variety in your work), or you can try to find a job in today's marketplace (good luck!) that you actually enjoy... and that leaves you enough time and energy to do other things in your life that you also enjoy. The most important thing is to arrange your life so that you are doing things because you want to do them, not because they are profitable—otherwise, no matter how much money you make, you will be selling your happiness for money. Remember that the less money you spend, the less you will have to worry about getting money in the first place... and the less you will have to work at those dehumanizing jobs. Learn to use all your 'free' time, not to vegetate or spend money on entertainment, but to create things and accomplish things—things that no one would pay you to make or do, but that make your life (and perhaps the lives of others) better anyway.

Some will argue that the system we live within would break down if we all were to walk away from our jobs—so much the better. Haven't we built enough automobiles, enough shopping malls, enough televisions and golf clubs ? Wouldn't we all be better off if there was a shortage of fast food and a surplus of unique home-cooked meals? If playing music is more rewarding than working in an assembly line, why do we have so few good bands and so many transistor radios? Of course a 'work-free' world is a dream we will probably never see come true; but as always, the challenge is to make this dream a part of your world, as much as you can—to liberate yourself from the chains of mindless consumerism and mind-melting employment and live a more meaningful life.

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Comment by Jim Hall on August 13, 2012 at 2:59pm
Less is more and more is less. Funny how easy it seems to accumulate more and then become a prisoner or slave to routines and stuff, while it seems nearly impossible to get rid of the baggage and break the routines. I was recently watching a houseless person that was locked into a routine around a park and pretty much a prisoner and slave to an old shopping cart filled to overflowing with things he had collected. I thought about how different, yet basically the same our life is. Well, back to getting rid of "stuff" and find some new routines.
Comment by Chris Carr on August 2, 2012 at 10:49am

You really are an inspiring individual Vlad. Knowing that there are others who feel as I do reminds me that I am doing the right thing in pursuing life as you describe. I have been one of those TV watching Pepsi drinkers because all my life, all those that I care about have told me that is what happiness and security is. Well now as I am turning 30 I see that sometimes, they are all wrong and I can no longer be convinced otherwise.  Making the transition isn't an easy one though and I know I couldn't do it if i didn't have that someone special who feels the same as I do about it. It has taken time to get rid of most of my possessions so far, and still more loose ends to tie up this year before I can comfortably pull the plug on the corporate job and finish the transition. I feel like that day couldn't come soon enough.

It hasn't been a waste up until now though. I have learned a heck of a lot and experienced many great things I wouldn't have been able to otherwise. I feel very fortunate to have experienced what I have so far, and fortunate that I have realized what I really want out of life at a relatively young age. 

Comment by Kenneth J Roche' on August 1, 2012 at 8:15pm

Well said, well said!!!!    I have been very fortunate to learn in my youth that if you make your vocation your vacation then you never work a day in your life. This does not mean that it is easy or unchallenging, but the reverse. I thrive on challenge and variety! I will be 49 yrs old this month and looking back I have collected an impressive skill set from self employement to auto mechanic to plastic manufacturing to hairdessing in Aspen to attending college in my 40's when I recieved my B.S. to getting my Doctorate in my early 50's. It has not been easy by any means, but I would not change a thing in this journey I call a life. I have been debt free all my life and will die that way. I making spending decisions on a couple criteria. Is it what I need or what I want? And did people(s) suffer in the making of the product I wish to purchase. This may be a bit of a philisophical approach, but karma is like gravity, you do not have to believe in it for it to have an affect on you.  I have not visisted a fast food franchise in over 30 years. Not because it is crap food (it is), but because of all the garbage that industry generates. I have never walked into a Walmart because everyday low low prices = child/sweatshop/slave labor.

  Well that is my 2 cents  (and more heheheh)!  Your comments resonated with me, again well said!

Comment by Sylvia Bernstein on August 1, 2012 at 6:31pm

Wow, Vlad...quite a treatis! I completely agree, and would like to share one of my favorite sayings with you...

The master in the art of living draws no distinction between her labor and her leisure, her mind and her body, her work and her play, her education and her recreation. She hardly knows which.

She simply pursues her vision of excellence through whatever she is doing and leaves it to others to determine whether she is working or playing. To herself, she is always doing both.

Michael Scott Karpovich 
(pronoun gender changed just because I can. )

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