I sold a scythe to a Dane called Dennis today. Here is he, practicing on the verge by queens park. Check out his quality knitwear…
I sometimes get opportunities like this which I regard as one offs, a nice bit of cash in my pocket, and don’t really think about them again. But if I am trying to become a designer, I need to reflect on how this happened, what I have learned from it and how I could make it happen again.
So, how did it happen? Well, my friend and scything mentor (I have a lot of mentors…) Simon Fairlie who runs the Scythe Shop was contacted by Dennis who obviously told him he was going to be in Brighton. He knows that I live here and that when I bought a set of teaching scythes earlier this year, I also bought some extra ones to sell. He thought it would be better for everyone if Dennis bought off me, rather than him. So that’s how this particular sale came about.
But then I need to take a step back and think about how I know Simon. I know Simon through helping on scythe courses with Brighton Permaculture Trust. Then I went to Monkton Wyld and did a two week scything ‘apprenticeship’ – helping him make hay in return for scything tuition and a reduced rate on the teachers course. If I am honest, it wasn’t just scything that I wanted to know about when I did the short apprenticeship – it was Simon too. He is a fascinating person. He’s been a fisherman in Alaska, a stone mason, the ‘livestock’ man at Tinkers Bubble and now he’s a scythe importer, a journalist and a writer. Wanting to get to know him was definitely part of wanting to do the apprenticeship. I have spent a lot of time in the last few years finding people who I think are totally cool, helping them with their projects and making friends with them. I have spent a lot of time nurturing beneficial connections. It has meant that my friendship circle has moved from being just people of my own age in Brighton, to knowing doctors, poets, foresters, artists and retired soldiers. It’s made my life 1000% more diverse.
Some of my friends in Brighton have accused me of ‘networking’ – making connections in order to get something from them. It is rare though that I benefit in the way that I did today from these connections – i.e. make a bit of money from them. Mostly the benefits that I get from these connections are just the chance to be around them, do some of the things that they do, learn about how they have chosen to be resolutely themselves. That’s another reason I have nurtured these connections, I wanted role models and – if I am lucky – mentors too. What my accusitory Brighton friends don’t know is that our friendships didn’t grow as accidentally as they imagine they did. I set out to be friends with them too. Friendships are too important to leave to chance.
I feel like I have gone OT (off-topic) there, veering from ‘how did I happen to make some money today’ to ‘how I make friends’ but actually there’s an important point here – the interconnectedness of everything, man… A sectioned off life – with work and colleagues in one box and leisure and friendships in another – is a strange 20th and 21st century phenomenon. This boxing off is not condusive to opportunity, whether it be financial or otherwise.
Bear with me for a second whilst I reach for a second into my past and polish off some of the knowledge that I gained when I was doing my MA (in Modern and Contemporary, Literature, Culture and Thought) – making more beneficial connections here… Two of my favourite ‘critical theorists’ were Deleauze and Guattari who came up with the idea of the rhizome (actually, they nicked it from nature). A rhizome describes a system that ‘allows for multiple, non-hierarchical entry and exit points in data representation and interpretation. In A Thousand Plateaus, they oppose it to an arborescent conception of knowledge, which works with dualist categories and binary choices. A rhizome works with planar and trans-species connections, while an arborescent model works with vertical and linear connections.’
Once that’s translated into penetrable language that normal people use, it’s actually an idea that’s pretty important to permaculture. The rhizome (think bindweed roots for example) is a network – connections can be made at many points and between many points. This blog is a rhizome. You’re looking at this page, but at any moment you could click on one of the links that I have given you and be transported to the scythe shop, for example, or the Guardian website and from there you could go somewhere else and from that somewhere else you could, possibly end up back here. In contrast, my action learning pathway could be described as arborescent (tree-like, fact fans). A tree tends to follow a pattern – a trunk supports large branches which support smaller branches. It’s more directed, you go in one direction, the branches don’t tend to form connections with other branches. With my ALP, this is what I want. I’m terrible for starting a million projects all at once. In order to see these projects through to the end, I need the destination and focus that this arborescent pathway give me.
So, to bring this back to the point, how do I use what I learnt today to design a system that means I obtain more of a yield? I don’t know yet. But I do know that it’s about knowledge management – how knowledge flows. Simon knows that I have a few scythes to sell, and he passed this knowledge on. But the question is, how do I let more people know that I have scythes to sell – without the need to go through Simon. This is sounding more and more like working out a marketing strategy, which leads me to wonder what a Permaculture business plan would look like. We’ll see, I guess.
N.B. The title of this post refers to the sentence in EM Forster’s ‘Howard’s End’ – rather than any of the adverts or tv programmes you might be thinking of… But then again, it’s all connected!