Cultivation or Rootlessness?
The great mistake of those who made laws for the Indians was their failure to understand that in order to civilize a people, one must first persuade then to settle in one place, and this cannot happen unless they cultivate the soil. Alexis de Tocqueville; Democracy in America; p. 378
Tocqueville’s point here is both very incisive and very relevant today. Being fashioned by God from the earth, man’s existence and development are bound up in the earth. Building a culture begins in cultivation. It is interesting that Websters 1828 Dictionary posits essentially synonymous definitions for the words culture and cultivate. To be sure, culture will extend far beyond agriculture, but it can never leave it behind. The necessary habits of agricultural living provide the proper state of mind for culture to grow: 1) intelligent forethought 2) deferring returns on investments until the future (i.e. putting off immediate desires) and 3) acceptance that man, for all his attainments, depends upon the providences of God from one day to the next. To begin the work of cultivation is to reestablish man’s vital connection to the soil, a connection which sustains life by increasing amounts as man invests skillful and caring labor. Such a work sets in motion all the wheels of genuine cultural attainment. The modern slide into restlessness and rootlessness is the opposite of cultivation.
Just as the hunter/gatherer Indians of North America were displaced by the cultured Europeans, so too will modern vagrants be unsettled in the face of true culture. As man’s heart becomes restless it tends to give in to immediate wants and desires. The gentle patience of cultivated living gone, barbarism returns. Man, as a creature, cannot escape that he is fashioned from the soil, will return to the soil, and receives his providence from the soil. He is called to be a husband and master over it. Those who do not show a godly loyalty and care for the soil in which God has rooted them will find that it manifests little care or loyalty toward them. Civilization hangs in the balance.