“The value of a village? I’ll have to think about that, because for me I can not imagine any other life than village life, so consequently it is very hard for me to see the value of village life. It is like if you asked me, “What’s the value of love for a couple?” And I think, well I don’t know. Any city I see is for me a nonsense. I can love the people, like in New York. I loved New York because there was a big humanness in New York, but at the same time, from the beginning for me the city is a nonsense, it’s absurd. It’s like a big octopus with suckers pumping the countryside around. A city has no life of itself. If the trucks that bring the vegetables and the food to the city stop for only two days, the city would collapse, die. If you cut the electricity, if you cut . . the city is a completely artificial life. A village can live and live and live for hundreds of years if you cut all those things because it’s on the Mother Earth, on the living Earth, and because the number of people is small and all that. I mean, a village, with all its mistakes and jealousy is a natural self that breathes and has a pulse. It might be sick in some places, but its alive. For me, the big thing is that a city is unreal. Of course, there are humans, so we love it. We’ll go there, but the city is biologically unreal, it doesn’t live of itself, it has no life of itself. Everything you touch in a city is dead. It does not evolve, it’s paving, it’s stones. There is no life in a city of itself, therefore it’s hard for me to say what is good in a village, because the only life I see as possible for human beings is a village life.

A hamlet life, or village life, or community life is a life where you know every one of the people you live around. I think that when the village becomes so big that you don’t know everyone who lives around, you must stop the growth. I think everything you must reach with your hands and with your feet, like within a stroll of half an hour, for example. The world is at the tip of our finger. When it stops being reachable by the tip of our finger, it becomes monstrous, it escapes us.

What is good in a village is hard for me to say in that way. I really see that it is the only possible life, is village life. I see very much like Gandhi visualized it, a world of decentralized village democracies. That is the way he called it, or a gentle anarchy he called it. I see very much that the best way to be interdependent with our heart and the best way to feel we are one is to first be very independent with our basic needs. If, for example, I am too much depending on you for my clothes or for my food or for my fuel, it would be very hard to have really clean relations at the level of the heart. Maybe I have a truth to say to you. “Eh, Robert, I think that’s not right with you.” Your attitudes or whatever. I won’t say it because you’re furnishing me with the wood. I won’t dare to say to you the truth that you need as a friend, because you might take it bad and you might not give me wood anymore. Therefore, hypocrisy comes very quickly if we are too dependent on the material level. We need to be self- sufficient, like decentralized village democracies, as much as possible. When I say village, I mean a real village, not a residential village. I mean a village where there are gardens, goats, cows, a little dairy – a village like a community we see today. To be as much, as much, as much as possible self-sufficient on all the basic levels of clothes, shelter, warming, fuel, building is the best way to have the best possible relation with the next village because our relation is really coming from the heart. It is like people who married for money, or who married to get a bigger estate. It is very hard to keep the love pure in that way, but if you are marrying someone who has nothing to give you, you have nothing to give her materially, it’s just love. I believe very much that the best way to clear up our relationships all over the planet is self-sufficiency.

I don’t see self-sufficiency as a kind of isolation. For me it is not the opposite of communication. It is the best way to start clear on our communication, because our communication must be coming from the heart. We go to the next village for a feast, or we go to the next village because we want to see other people who are a bit different from us. We don’t go there because we are going to please them so that in return we are going to get this or that. All over the world the economy is based on that. The planet has become such a place of lies, and hypocrisy, and a wrong vibration between people and countries. So I see the village as being very independent economically.

Another aspect I will say about that thing is a more spiritual aspect. For example, why a village should be self- sufficient, or why we, in our little farm, homestead, should be. We were really striving, working hard on that idea that here is the place we are going to depend on; to have our cultural life, our spiritual life, our material life, our food, everything, because that’s more spiritual. For me it is as important. I don’t speak about the economic factor. Oh [changing his mind], very quickly, we did not want imported products or oranges. We bought no products from other countries, especially not at all from poor countries, but not even from other countries, because we know that when you get oranges, for example, from Morocco in France, it’s the cheapest fruit, because in Morocco people are starving. They are paid less than nothing to pick the oranges, and where they pick the oranges, they can not grow their own vegetables. And if some people try to grow their vegetables, they are put in jail. It happens the same in Honduras and El Salvador with the bananas, so we must stop eating those things clearly and simply, because it means suffering and it means unrighteousness in other parts of the world.

But the other aspect of it is also that for me importing things is like saying to God, “Hey, your world is not well done. We have not enough vitamin C here, we need oranges.” And it’s not true. He will tell you, “No, you have enough. Look, you have wild rose hips here, or you have this or that.” We saw that in our place where we lived in Norway. The balance of nature was perfect. You could grow, and you could pick in the wild, and you could fish, and you could find everything that the body needs, for shelter, for everything. So using things that are around you is a kind of way to say to the great spirit, “Hey, it’s perfect. Look, I have everything I need here.” That’s the best way to express your total gratefulness towards the creator who made the world perfect, in every place it’s perfect. Eskimos might eat only meat and seal fat and clothe themselves with seal skins. It’s perfect for them. Any place has all it needs for keeping a human alive, and not only alive, but happy and everything, so self- sufficiency is a way to express your contentment, your satisfaction. Dependency is a way to express your dissatisfaction, and your everlasting discontent – you are never satisfied. You want an orange, you want bananas, you want coffee, you want this. It doesn’t grow here, but you want it. It’s a way to say, we have not enough. It’s like if we are in a house together and I am always running away. It’s like if you are married with a woman, and are always going to sleep some nights with another woman, because you are not in love with the first woman. It’s a bit what we do when we are not satisfied with what we are. The earth is a woman, is a beautiful queen. Around here we have everything we need, and we will express our satisfaction and contentment by developing all our senses and exploring around and seeing that around is everything we need, to transform it into food, into art, into beauty, into shelter – everything is here.

So therefore, it comes back to the big wisdom and knowledge of the tradition. To see that, I had to take my bag on my back and go to see people who know that. All over Europe, in some places of Germany, some places of Scotland, especially the mountainous parts, some places of Spain, Italy, or Morocco, or Norway, there are people who have built their houses only with the local wood. Where all food and recipes are made only with the things that grow around. In Norway, the basic food was potatoes, bread, fish, and milk, which is only about four things, some berries, but from those things, thousands, hundreds of different kinds of bread, recipes, hundreds of ways of making milk, you know, preparing milk. You are not going to run after exotic things, but see how you can use in depth all the local things. It is the same in the way to honor stone and wood. You are not going to learn it from the world today. You open a recipe book, you are sure half of the products are from India, from Africa, some are local. We have no more that sense of integrity of things being here. So you have to go to the places where the tradition still exist to learn that wisdom and that kind of good way to use the local things.

from Village Life – Reflections by a French multicultural explorer : An interview with Francois Monnet, by Robert Gilman