The Importance of Land

The Importance of Land

The following is an excerpt from Letter to Anwei (working replacement title for “Transgenerational Ethics”):

Historically, families and clans were tied to particular places. Rights to land[1] were traditionally claimed by virtue of having lived there a long time, which could be demonstrated by a clear history of use—”mixing one’s labor with the land”—or by having ancestors buried there. Both reasons convey a kind of value in the form of connection with the Anwei: the latter allows us to commune with our ancestors and to regularly remember them when we see their burial plots. It keeps them in our minds. The fact that they were often buried far away from the living areas (for hygiene and safety reasons) meant their graves sometimes doubled as boundary-markers, making them guardians of the land itself, even in death.

The value invested in the land also facilitated connection with ancestors and descendants, as the nature of your grandfathers could be felt in their creations. If a particular ancestor of yours had built a house or a water-mill, then you might be able to get a feeling of who those ancestors were through the quality of their construction. While repairing a stone-wall once used to keep sheep inside, the thought might cross your mind: “my great-great-grandfather built this wall.” As you become more proficient in masonry yourself, the peculiarities of the workmanship will become more apparent to you, and you will know your ancestors better as a result of taking on the same skills as they did, through the artifacts on the land they left behind.

Of course, this is not necessarily limited to land. Humans have always created artifacts that can be taken with them, and a knife, a piece of jewelry, a well-made coat, or an ornate quilt can all convey the same connective feeling as something more geographically fixed like a cottage or a dock. But there is also a feeling from the environment itself; nature in one place, untarnished by human hands. The Anwei is the product of interaction between humans and their environment, and when we leave the environment our ancestors were shaped by, we also leave part of them behind as well. This is not to say that you should move back to the steppe of Ukraine, where your Indo-European ancestors came from[2]. But you should not move away from the home of your parents and grand-parents lightly. You won’t “find yourself” elsewhere in the world, among foreign cultures and peoples, and the economic opportunities are rarely worth the damage done to the continuity of the Anwei, which can sometimes be permanent. Many Americans struggle with this, as a result of constant movement and intermarriage with unlike groups for no reason other than convenience and loneliness—loneliness which could have been avoided by maintaining connection with their own families and tribes. As a result, they look, think, and speak in a manner completely alien to any of their biological ancestors, with no realistic possibility of connection or that sense of belonging attained through aligning yourself with the Anwei[3].

In short, living in the land of your ancestors and truly coming to understand it and be at home with it is one important and powerful way of bringing yourself closer to the Anwei, and reaping the rewards of its connection.

[1] It may be claimed that rights to land are determined by force, rather than moral justifications. But force is traditionally a tool of enforcing existing norms, not the mechanism for creating them. An equal or inferior power will often instigate violence with a superior one if a moral norm has been violated, which speaks to the primacy of the norm, rather than the primacy of force alone.

[2] Anthony, David. The Horse, The Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World. Princeton, NJ. Princeton University Press, 2007. Print.

[3] This is not an absolute argument against intergroup relationships, but an admonition not to do so lightly and thoughtlessly, without consideration of the cost such a merging can impose upon your children.

If all goes well, Letter to Anwei should be up and published on Amazon by the end of the month. Keep an eye out for it here.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. I think this topic has incredible depth & importance in the modern age.

    Although I think everybody understands this on a primal, subconscious level, it’s much easier to understand when put it in words – and for that I sincerely thank you. What you touch on could perhaps explain why it is such a crime to place the elderly in old-folks-homes, despite the undeniable convenience it entails. Sure, the modern family who moves every 5 years (often upgrading to a needlessly larger house every time) feels this is a no-brainer. They get specialized help, can socialize with others their age, and the adult children are free to pursue their 80-hour workweek careers.
    But the spiritual crime is robbing them of their connection to the past – to the anwei perhaps? I remember that, in the 5 years before she passed, my great-grandmother would talk more and more about the home she lived in when she had raised her children, which she had moved out of 25 years before. Mind you, she had lived in a close-knit home with several great-grandchildren (myself included) within walking distance in the 20 years following until she was finally placed in an old-folks-home. Yet still, an important part of her soul remained in the home she had been a wife & mother in.

    It’s one of those “God is Dead” things – modern people (including me) can’t imagine the comfort people took in religious spirituality in the pre-secularized worldview. Just as I can’t comprehend the true sense of belonging and connection to a place that someone has, being born in, grown up in, had children in, grown old in and eventually dies within a confined geographical location – having myself lived in 13 different places at the age of 21. Then magnify whatever connection the aforementioned example has by the number of ancestral generations had been there before him. Powerful stuff.

    1. I appreciate the kind words. 13 places in 21 years is truly extraordinary… and I thought I’d moved around a fair bit just from being a long-haul trucker!

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