A few years ago my wife Marilyn suggested to me that I should write down personal observations that might be useful to others. Her suggestion was important to me, because passing “the Marilyn test” is something I depend on prior to sending articles for publication, including this Farm and Ranch Life column.
When Marilyn recommended that I write about cogently considered observations, I chose this opportunity to share a few thoughts that I hope others find useful.
- Agriculture is a noble and essential occupation, a profoundly spiritual way of life.
- Thomas Jefferson said, “Those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God.” Indeed, agrarian pursuits are life-sustaining and necessarily bring farmers into contact with the Supreme Being through cultivating the land.
- When agricultural practices are guided by respect for all food producers and consumers as equally deserving, and our environment as a resource to be protected by all for future generations, these practices bestow purpose and promise to agricultural producers and to the entire world.
These observations led me to think more deeply about why people farm.
- All humans have a basic urge to produce essentials for life and to protect the land and other resources needed to produce food, shelter, and fuels; this is the agrarian imperative theory.
- An agrarian imperative impels people to acquire and defend chosen territories, as well as to signify them with legal descriptions, fences, signs, and such personal markers as placing pictures of family in workplace offices; humans are similar in this respect to other species that mark their territories with vocal calls, scent deposits, and sometimes with hoof and claw scratches.
- Farmers who are the most successful carry out their agrarian drive by exhibiting tolerance to severe adversity, relying on their own judgments when stressed, working alone, and taking uncommon risks they deem necessary at the time.
- These same characteristics can also jeopardize usually successful farmers when they cling so desperately to their territories and resources that they become devastated to the point of self-sacrifice if loss of their farming operation is threatened; they tend to place their hopes on desperate ventures, and to reject behavioral health assistance and advice even when needed, leading to isolation and despair.
- The term "behavioral health" is more accurate and acceptable than the term "mental health" when describing emotional well-being, and not just for farmers.
There are guidelines to resolving desperation when farming, as well as in life; they apply to all people.
- Form a team of trusted advisors who can provide expertise that we lack personally; learn how to manage our behavioral health as one of the few factors we can control; understand that there is a higher purpose than being successful, which is survival in order to assist our successors.
- The optimal strategy for adaptation to profound losses is turning unwanted experiences into learning opportunities for ourselves and others.
- Humility is to accept with grace what we don’t want to face.
- Core beliefs sustain us during turmoil, which makes them key to survival and self-acceptance.
- The journey shapes us more than the outcome.
- Faith in God gives us hope, enables us to love ourselves and others, and inspires our recognition that we have a higher purpose for which to strive.
- Many have said, “What I think of me is more important than what others think of me.” I agree.
How the greater good happens.
- Selflessness is the path to fulfillment in our lives.
- Sacrifices, not personal accomplishments and self-importance, lead to self-acceptance and dignity.
- Joy follows when we help others.
- Happiness is fleeting but joy lasts.
- Letting go of our desires frees us up to make better choices about what is important.
- Working together achieves better outcomes than individuals working separately.
- Truth is not easily attained. Truth accrues slowly as scientific evidence, logic, and history verify explanations, or don’t verify the many hypotheses and explanations that are proposed.
- Recognizing that personal perceptions and beliefs can be wrong is essential toward achieving truth.
A few other observations:
- We can often feel the presence of God through nudges, if we strive to recognize them. The nudges often aren’t what we want to happen, but they are opportunities to make ourselves better persons and to find peace through acceptance of “Not my will, but Thine.”
- Not recognizing and responding to gentler nudges leads to harsher lessons that may “knock us off our bearings,” but which can guide us to changing our lives and understanding a higher purpose than gratifying ourselves.
- We can learn something from everyone if we ask the right questions.
- Apologies for false accusations are the most difficult to make, and essential.
- There is joy in authentic apologies for both the receiver and the giver.
Enough. I have refined these observations dozens of times to say what I mean, and still they aren’t fully correct. Like me, and life in general, they are “works in progress.”
Please send me your feedback and recommendations.
Mike Rosmann is a Harlan, Iowa, psychologist and farmer. To contact Rosmann, visit: www.agbehavioralhealth.com.