I was out in the garden with my daughter, Paige, the other day. I noticed that she had spent quite a long time just sitting in one spot working on something. I didn’t go to see what she was doing, and after I had finished up my own mundane tasks, I went inside.
Later, she came inside and gave me this:
She had taken one type of leaf, which was long and strip-like, and used it to sew stitches in another type of leaf, which was broad and flat. It was such a thing of beauty. It was so organic and simple, and yet, also detailed. I was floored, but not really surprised, because this kind of thing is so much like Paige. She is always making very detailed creations. I couldn’t be more proud.
I still have this leaf, and I was reminded of it when I saw this video talk by Dan Barber at the TED Blog. In his talk, Dan Barber, a chef, talked about how he met a farmer from Spain who made foie gras without force-feeding his geese. Foie gras is the fatty liver of a goose, and it’s an extra-special, extra-tasty delicacy served by top chefs. The conventional way of making foie gras is to cram massive amounts of food down the gullet of a goose and to fatten it artificially. This talk was exciting to me, not because I love foie gras. I’ve actually never had it. I’m always curious about it, though, because I see it all the time on TV cooking shows. The talk was inspirational and exciting because it reminded me of how we can solve problems if we just slow down and listen to what the Earth is telling us.
Instead of force-feeding his geese, this Spanish farmer would let his geese fatten up naturally. Geese naturally want to gorge themselves in anticipation of Winter. The farmer would let the geese gorge themselves as they wished, and the geese would make their own livers fatty, naturally. He was also able to create foie gras with beautiful color and nuanced flavor just by providing, in the geese’s natural surroundings, wild plants that they could graze by choice. The farmer could impart salty and peppery tastes and golden color just by providing plants that had salty, peppery tastes and yellow pigment. You know the old saying, “You are what you eat?” The geese, and their livers, were what they ate. Not only that, the foie gras that this Spanish farmer made won an international competition, beating all the other foie gras produced by conventional methods. Taste and quality were not sacrificed.
It amazes me how much we can accomplish if we just slow down and listen to nature. Instead of demanding more, more, more and now, now, now, we can get what we need from nature by going at a slower pace and following its lead. Instead of mastering it, we can harmonize with it.
My daughter showed me that we can make beautiful things, not by taming what’s out there, but rather by working with it. Likewise, we can do marvels and solve complex problems not by introducing more artificiality and technology, but by finding the solutions that already exist in nature. We just have to slow down and find them. What a powerful lesson that my own nine-year old child taught me with a leaf.
Watch the awesome talk mentioned above right here: