There Is a Gulf Between Foraging and Mining

There is a gulf between two attitudes and ways of working that can be described by looking at the distance between foraging and mining.

When we forage we gather what we need. We also limit our effort. If a spot is too resistant to our efforts; if what we’re after is scarce; we move on. There’s a mutuality at work here. Our effort is adjusted to improve its returns, but not in the way we might expect, coming from a mining culture. The harder it gets the more likely we are to move on, not double-down. What we own is our time, our energy; not a particular place.

What happens when we find easy pickings? This is where the foraging attitude is most markedly distinct from the mining mentality. We celebrate our good fortune. We take some, relishing how easy it is, for a while; and then, we move on. We don’t care to exploit the resource efficiently. We don’t maximize our returns. We celebrate a bounty and we respect it by moving on.

Try it. There are still remnants and temporary havens where we can find the opportunity. Wild berry-picking, for example. For me it’s been clamming….

How do you know when you are foraging versus carrying on with our habitual habits of mining? It’s simple. Do you feel light and attentive? Do you feel a compulsion and a narrowing of attention, a sense that you must work faster and make sure no one else can take what’s yours?

Foraging we embody interconnection and we don’t feel a burden arising from a paranoid suspicion that we will have to do without. The way a miner feels driven – by guilt or regulation – and resentful at having to leave anything of value behind. On the contrary we feel blessed. We feel filled by a gift. And, the funny thing about it is that it’s not the stuff we bring back that makes up the greatest part of that gift. It is the joy of dropping a burden and finding the moment.

At that moment when satiety strikes us and we find ourselves looking ahead and ready to move on; we discover that we are moving towards something not away. The miner can only see what he’s not yet taken and feels that someone or something is stealing it from him. Someone is, but no one other than himself. He is steeling his chance to live, replacing being here with an all-consuming hunger for more…. More anything, but never enough. Never enough to compensate for that loss of his own life.

We struggle – and the fact that it is a struggle and cannot be but a struggle is diagnostic of a futile and incoherent attitude – with trying to use the weapons of destruction as tools for righting what we consider an injustice. It doesn’t work. It cannot work. And, we know that, or at least we would if we came up for air once in a while. Compulsion can’t stand the cessation of self-induced urgency that makes its continuance possible.

The example of a forager – not in a book, or some ideal we might conjure up in our heads and use to beat ourselves up with – us, you, me foraging. Even if just for an hour. We see it. We feel it. We are there. No need to explain it. Nobody to convince, win-over, guilt-into, or regulate compliance from. We experience for our selves how we gain through accepting this attitude of foraging. The miner’s mentality’s rationalizations, projections, self-justifying victimization all fall away. They show themselves to be self-destructive lies.

But, it’s not enough to see one’s previous attitudes as destructive or based on lies. We have examples in our own pasts and in so many of those around us that such realizations when arrived at from within a state of despair can only drive us deeper into denial and farther away from accepting what we are at that point afraid is true.

Here again, foraging we find another way. And, this is perhaps our strongest heuristic: If we are not moving towards something we are going the wrong way.

Sure, moving towards the wrong thing takes us the wrong way; but when we feel that simply defining a mistake will lead us, or you, or them to correct that error we are tragically mistaken. We are acting out a compulsion as destructive as any other. We are only fueling the projections we wish to turn-off. We provide the justification for those we oppose to continue in their error while turning a blind-eye to our own.

No real change has ever come about as the result of a movement away from anything. They are always moves towards. This is as true for destructive changes as creative ones. Every monster is justified in his own eyes….

The other side of this heuristic brings us closer to the point: When we begin to recognize the joy in a moment we have found our selves.

We have found how we fit. That moment foraging when our joy in finding reaches a surfeit and turns of its own accord into looking ahead to find the next instead of getting trapped in a fixation of accumulation is when we discover our most valued compass. In this quiet and direct synchrony, a fluent and simple virtuosity of impulse action and reflection, we have a lesson in how things work outside the self-imposed, self-destructive prison of a nightmare rationality that binds us with the illusion that it is not only inescapable, but that there is nothing but the void of its projections, out there….

Is this the answer?

No…. At some point it should become clear that this is always the wrong question….

There is a gulf between foraging and mining. As a culture we have told the story of how we crossed it in one direction in a story that seeks to explain what was lost by projecting our anger and wrath onto a paternal deity. We have embraced the pain of loss as a deserved punishment. This story and its reflections have added a wall to that gulf, making a barrier seemingly impossible to cross. Explaining why our paralysis is seen as the only option.

How can we cross a gulf? When do we realize that adding walls to a gulf does nothing to make the task any easier?

Buoyancy carries us across a gulf. Whether the buoyancy of a craft taking us across water or a buoyancy of spirit that can takes us across this gulf of suffering and despair. Buoyancy and joy. Joy and buoyancy. It can be hard to distinguish between the two. There is no need….

Joy is the vessel and buoyancy its attribute. Together they turn a gulf into a journey.



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Published by Antonio Dias

My work is centered on attending to the intersection of perception and creativity. Complexity cannot be reduced to any given certainty. Learning is Central: Sharing our gifts, Working together, Teaching and learning in reciprocity. Entering into shared Inquiry, Maintaining these practices as a way of life. Let’s work together to build practices, strengthen dialogue, and discover and develop community. Let me know how we might work together.

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