Some thoughts a couple days late…
After a day and a half of economics, calculating energy inputs and outputs, and accessing food security in terms of these odd counting units, as well as studying the commodities market, I officially (announcing it in the form of this blog) decided I don’t like numbers. They are constricting, they lie, and they ignore any power of the spiritual involved in eating swiss chard and bread. But stopping at “not liking them” is a form of defeat. How can we think about numbers so they are constructive?
Numbers isolate aspects of a study, ignoring holistic thought. Human ecology is the study of interconnectedness, the way I have come to think since studying at COA. I find it hard to integrate numbers into concepts if I feel like I can’t trust them. As one of our speakers said “not all the solutions are in one place”. What if we recontexualized the importance of numbers? Instead of seeing them as the reason, they instead can form around reason. Help us understand reason.
Numbers make things seem static in time and space, as if they never change. That they are the only answer. But is there really a right and a wrong? Lady Gaga wasn’t talking about a game of love when she wrote “Poker Face”. She is singing about the commodities market. The cards are splayed out with a variety of hands to play, whether that hand is played based on value or only for paper money, there are many ways to play it. Through charts we are lead to believe that numbers are proof of something. But right and wrong are not a numerical value. They are a human value. How can we use numbers so they work with the human nature of change and shifting views instead of against it?
My last questioning surrounds this idea of the spiritual. There is no number that can determine and communicate the beauty that is shared over the breaking of bread. The falling numbers or protein percentage can’t really tell the taste of the final loaf. A bakers hand kneads and breathes life into the flour, and is assisted with these numbers the miller tells them. The spirit of a loaf of bread can not be added up, the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts. When it comes to grain on our plate in the form of a loaf, it is a balancing act of magic and logic. Numbers can only play a part.
Long story short, in some of these classes lately I have struggled hard not to just throw my hands up and go frolic in the fields of clover and wild grasses outside and dream of homemade pesto. We have one thing to thank the numbers for, they make us question our idealism and ethics. If it weren’t for the existing market, and the fear of applying all the conventional market to the organic one, we would have nothing to change. Though scary they may be, these constricting, devoid of emotion, falsities make us angry and we can replace through constructive conversations about how, really, we can enact change. So lets ask questions, demand answers, and thank the numbers.