One of the simplest solutions to a complex problem was proposed by a Japanese farmer called Masanobu Fukuoka. Fukuoka’s ideas came about in a very interesting way. He asked a question “Can nature grow crops?” and then went about answering this question by engaging with farming in new ways. In other words he used farming as a means of thinking through activity.
Fukuoka’s primary innovation was to solve problems by reduction. So where conventional farming would take the problem of x by introducing y, Fukuoka would ask the question, “what am I doing to create x” and once he’d worked this out he’d simply stop doing x and things would usually improve.
My favourite thinkers do this. FM Alexander is more famous for helping musicians play better than Fukuoka.
Alexander famously solved his performance problem by using a process which he called inhibition. His problem was that every time he gave a performance he lost his voice. Doing things (suggested by doctors and vocal coaches and and) didn’t help. So he went another route. He started with observing himself while he performed, because he reasoned that if he lost his voice every time he performed it was probably something he was doing when performing that created the problem. This may not sound like a genius observation, but how many people actually come to this conclusion and then act on it? Mostly we look for solutions without understanding the nature of the problem. Like when we have a sore back, or a cold…do we ask how we got there, or do we take a pill?
So after a long time in front of the mirror Alexander realised that every time he thought of speaking he pulled his neck back. And he realised, after long observation and experimentation, that the only solution was to stop doing this. Simple solution, but with far reaching results. You can read about what he did in his many books.
Similarly, Fukuoka realised that if you stopped ploughing, adding pesticides, digging, etc etc…you ended up with far better results than if you did a million things to improve farming. And Maria Montessori realised that if you stop making timetables and plans and putting children into desks and stopped rewarding them and punishing them etc you liberated their desire to learn, their natural concentration etc etc.
So when I talked about the idea of just playing last week, I was getting to this idea: what would we have to stop doing in order to experience a natural state of playing?