By Gerald Hausman
Bokeelia, FL, USA
Does anyone remember the 60s poet Richard Brautigan? One of my favorite books of Brautigan's was Please Plant This Book! The book's pages were packets of seeds, with poems printed on each one.
Brautigan's idea, the proliferation of green, was a good one. And it goes back to Johnny Appleseed. The blessing is that Brautigan and Appleseed were working for free, for the good of the earth.
Ideas used to be free, and for the public good.
Inventions were ideas, and they were free too.
Thomas Edison saw his light bulb as more than a gimmick to gull people out of pocket money. He viewed it as an illumination in perpetuity, not a thing you paid for by the month.
My cousin had one of the original Edison bulbs. It was going on a hundred when it finally winked out.
Edison had other ideas about free - and freedom. The rights of the individual man, bird, animal and fish.
We live near his old Florida homestead on the Caloosahatchie River and we still hear old timers talk about the way Edison liked to fish - minus a hook. Maybe it's just a myth, but it's a nice concept - the fish were free not to get caught and the fisherman was free not to catch anything. What was he doing then? Meditating, I've been told.
We ought to do more of that. It, too, is still free.
Maybe that's one good thing about these years of crummy economy. We've all had to re-think things. We've all done a bit of meditating on what we value most.
Speaking of which, my neighbor just fixed the alternator on my truck and when I tried to pay him he shook his head. "Free," he said.
A man from the telephone company fixed our line the other day, and tore up the list of charges. "What's that music playing?" he asked.
I told him it was Stephen Marley.
He liked the CD so much I gave it to him.
"You like the Beatles?" he asked.
He told me to come outside with him. The inside of his van looked like a music store from the 1960s. "I collect stuff," he said modestly. "I have some early Beatles no one's heard before."
"Where'd you get that?"
"From one of them." And he gave me what appeared to be an early version of The White Album.
I asked him if he'd ever read Richard Brautigan's Please Plant This Book! "I've heard of it," he said. "You have one?"
"I planted mine."
So - what if things weren't so expensive? What if some things were free and people swapped their skills and plumbers didn't charge $75.00 for changing a washer? Maybe I'm making some people mad by suggesting this, but, what if, what if we weren't so damn greedy?
There would be a lot more planting and harvesting of good ideas, and no one would be the richer or the poorer for it.