28 May 2010

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: The Self Sufficient Life + lots of news

Essay + News from Ceit, Pilar and Miguel

Dear Friends,
This Sunday we are discussing The Self Sufficient Life. In my short
essay I include a link to a video report which prompted Ceit to suggest
the topic.
I have also been asked to forward you information about a new play in
English, the German film festival and the American langauge Academy. And
don't forget that Miguel is still looking for a place to organise his
Maths tertulia; please sent me any suggestions.
So to keep a long email short
Take care and see you Sunday


(details about the tertulia at the end)

--- Ceit ---
Hi Lawrence,
This is the link to the Festival de Cine Alemán: http://www.cine-aleman.com/
I'm disappointed to see no classic film this year. Maybe there were
issues with rights, or with the orchestra.
This is a video from the New York Times about a pair of agriculturalists
in New York state. It's what got me thinking about the self-sufficient
life, and why it's such a desirable goal for so many people, even though
most people don't make any serious attempt to reach it:
Have a good week

--- Pilar ---
Hi Lawrence, this is the information about the play. I think that some
of you can be interested and you can forward to the rest of the
philosophy group.
I highly recommend you a new play, hopefully very funny and good fun,
all about the trials and tribulations of moving to a new country to
teach English (something I think a few people of the philosophy tertulia
can all relate to). Should be really good and it would be amazing if you
could come along and see what you think!!
It started on Friday 21st and then its on again this weekend (Friday
28th and Saturday 29th). Below is a more eloquent blurb about it that
was in the In Madrid magazine. Also, there's info on how to get tickets.

A little Learning
It's about time someone wrote an English-language comedy about English
teachers in Spain. Debuting at La Madrilera in Malasaña this month, this
new work by Madrid-based British playwright Matthew Randle follows
Harry, an English teacher and a minor celebrity on the teaching circuit
in Madrid who lands a job on an English-language TV channel. On the
night of his 30th birthday, Harry ends up in jail, having
unintentionally incited a political controversy while on television.
Meanwhile, he must deal with Hannah, his best friend and fellow teacher
who suffers panic attacks, and Carl, his conceited, womanising flatmate.
A story of language barriers, fame and romance, A Little Learning shows
how teaching English can become so much more than simply a way of
getting by.
La Madrilera, C/Don Felipe, 9 (Metro: Tribunal). Tickets
(alittlelearning@hotmail.co.uk) €4. 21-22 May and 28-29 May, 9.30pm.
It's important to send the email and I recommend you to arrive at 9.00
pm (21:00h) in order to get a good seat because your ticket doesn't have
a number seat.
About Filmoteca Film.
I'm going to watch on thursday at 21.45 Anatomy of a murder. I think
that Marga and Diana are going with me. If anyone wants to come are invited.
Please check the film at
http://www.mcu.es/cine/docs/MC/FE/PrograDore/PrograDore77.pdf for more
See you
--- Miguel ---
Hi Law,
I've seen that they're opening near my place a new venue of The American
Language Academy. I've talked to the Programmes Director about
Philomadrid and the English teachers that meet there, he said they are
open to teachers' applications, and to contact them at:

The self sufficient life
Ceit sent me the link* to the video report at the New York Times that
prompted her to suggest this Sunday's topic. "Going Green and Off the
Grid" is a report on how a couple try to live off the land and not be
too depend on money.
The real issue of the self sufficient life is maybe an old problem in a
modern context, at least in the context of the US. In the past we could
have described this problem as dropping out (from society), flower
power, recluse , and maybe even turning into a hermit or hermitess. What
Jo and her partner, Sam, are trying to do is not new or revolutionary,
but maybe a harder challenge than ever in today's society.
Even Jo and Sam recognise that they really cannot totally live outside
the social and economic structure of today's life. They still need a
phone and still have to pay for the fuel for the car. And Sam certainly
recognises that there limits to their life style. For example, he admits
that he has no health cover if he became seriously ill such as having
Today, we recognise that not having health cover is a serious drawback
in modern life; it's like having a super complex car without access to a
mechanic. But thanks to modern journalistic style, The New York Times
did not include a time line for the report so we really do not know
whether the report was done a thousand years ago or this morning. and
that maybe reason has prevailed in the US and normal people now have
access to a health survive when they need it and not whether they can
pay for it.
Nevertheless, one of the problems with trying to have a self sufficient
life is that one can only do these things within the confines of the
times. Today, it is more difficult to find an isolated spot, if only
because there are 8 billion of us. So in terms of physical self
sufficiency, aka the hunter gatherer life style, the options and
opportunities are quite limited. Of course, one can always find a desert
island or a corner in a jungle where no one will disturb you.
But the question is whether by self sufficient life we mean still living
within our society or really and literally dropping out from society.
Really dropping out would, in my opinion, mean simply change the ways
and means we eventually meet our end. Dying from a snake bite instead of
cardiac failure. However, trying to be self sufficient within society
means that we adopt a different strategy to survive within society.
Trading stress and social comfort for tranquillity and relaxed life. One
is an end-strategy, and the other is a means-strategy.
At a deeper level, what the topic hints at is how long can a biological
system, that functions within a "society", survive independent of that
society? To use a more graphic analogy, how long can a fish live out of
There is of course a difference between being self sufficient in the
same way that a fox or an albatross are self sufficient and a human
being who is born in a Western country. One of the problems with being
born in a Western country is that we have a concept of property (land
rights) rights. Animals, it is true, have territories bit it also true
that the way to get a territory is to kick out the present incumbent.
Although, some legal jurisdictions give the impression that humans can
practice this form of obtaining property (land rights) rights in general
it is not advisable.
Whether we like it or not, biological systems need access to physical
land to extract resources to keep the biological system going. And as we
know from economics, that resources are scarce, and from physics, that
we need to expend energy to create energy, being self sufficient means
that we cannot really take advantage of economies of scale and division
of labour. What I mean is that for every plot of land we might have
access to, there will always be others who need the land or the fruits
of that land. And if we are to harvest the resources of that land for
our use we need to first put energy into the land to get the resources
out; dig holes, hunt animals and so on. And although these fundamental
principles might not be perfect principles, they do seem to govern most
of our daily life.
Joe and Sam earn money to pay for basic bills by trading a few cows,
sell vegetables and a earn some income from rural tourists. If Sam had
to pay for a cancer operation he would probably have to have a farm with
quite a few thousand heads of cows to afford it. A cancer operation
represents a large source of energy that has to be converted from an
other resource: thus cows of land have to be converted into hundreds of
thousands of collars in the bank. Two people without some dependence on
society are probably not going achieve that. QED
Of course, some people do live in an ideal world where they can have
their creature comforts and the self sufficient life at the same time;
these are usually know as multi millionaires or even billionaires. But
this, I would say, is equal to buying a pseudo self sufficient life and
not really living the hardcore self sufficient life.
But just because the self sufficient life requires a great deal of
generous semantic interpretation to fit with reality, it does not mean
that we do not have a cause to want the self sufficient life.
That stress was one of the reasons why Jo dropped out of her
professorship teaching journalism, is a hint of why we would want to
trade the safety of society to the whims of the wild. Of course, stress
is a very decisive factor to what happens in our life. But isn't stress
a form of pain that requires our attention and directs our actions? And
stress, I would say, leads, first and foremost, more to neurological
pain rather than muscular pain.
Maybe, after all, the self sufficient life, is not an issue of where can
we get our next dozen potatoes for our chips in the evening, but rather
how can the brain protect itself from the modern invaders of the brain:
e.g. financial consultants, self centred bosses, vindictive colleagues,
cantankerous shop assistants, flashy advertisements, and so on and so
Seen from this point of view, maybe trying to lead a self sufficient
life from a plot of land is much harder than trying to lead a self
sufficient life by trying to exclude all the bulls.hit of society.
Take care

*Going Green and Off the Grid
The New York Times's Adam B. Ellick visits a former college professor
who now lives and works on an organic farm that produces its own power
and, for the most part, avoids the whims of the wider economy.
+++++++++MEETING DETAILS+++++++++
SUNDAY 6.00pm – 8.30pm at Molly Malone's Pub, probably downstairs----
-Email: philomadrid@yahoo.co.uk
-Yahoo group >> philomadridgroup-subscribe@yahoogroups.co.uk <
-Old essays: www.geocities.com/philomadrid
- Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com/
photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/photosphilo
tel 606081813
-metro: Bilbao : buses: 21, 149, 147

Tertulia with Ignacio and friends: Every Thursday, from 19:30 to 21h, at
Moore's Irish Pub, c/ Barceló 1 (metro Tribunal).

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: The Self Sufficient
Life + lots of news

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