Mort Mather Author Writer Organic Farmer Philosopher Thinker Restauranteur

How to improve your life and save the world.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Scientific study reveals happiness is contagious.

When waxing philosophical it is a great treat to have a new scientific study verify my own anecdotal findings. A large study published in the British Medical Journal concludes: “People’s happiness depends on the happiness of others with whom they are connected. This provides further justification for seeing happiness, like health, as a collective phenomenon.”

They say that happiness has three degrees of separation. In other words when you are happy your friends’ friends’ friends will benefit by becoming happier. If you have read the excerpts from my book at you have seen at least one example of how this works in improving your own life. If enough people get onto this, we will save the world perhaps even sooner than I think.

Don’t wait for someone else’s happiness to wash over you. Generate some happy waves of your own. Before the BMJ study that would have sounded trite but now it is scientifically proven effective.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Garden questions answered

If you have a question on growing vegetables organically, I’d be happy to answer it to the best of my ability. I’d appreciate it if you checked the columns I already have on line by clicking on the link to the right, Mort’s Organic Garden Columns. I’m also interested in answering philosophical questions and if you are interested in reading the rest of the book in its current draft, email me at mort @ I may rescind this offer come spring when I start getting busy in the garden again.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Thinking empathetically

My half acre of organic vegetables for the restaurant is keeping me away from the keyboard but it is also a great place to think. Perhaps I am credited with a “green thumb” because I think emphatically about plants in my garden.

If I were a plant, would I like to have heavy feet tramping on the soil right over my roots? Observing weeds I have come to the conclusion that Mother Nature does not like to see bare ground. She has developed weeds that have no problem being walked upon. Weeds reach bare ground through the air as seeds are blow about, on the ground as grasses like crab grass and ivies creep in and even underground as witch grass invades. With this observation I am able to counter with some seeds of my own like buckwheat that will cover the ground and shade out other weeds. I also take the hint and try to keep the ground covered with my own planting or a mulch like grass clippings or straw.

Empathetic thinking is really useful in just about all of life’s pursuits. When I was trying to raise millions of dollars to save Laudholm Farm I found it invaluable to try to understand as well as possible the minds of the people I was asking for money. When writing a grant proposal my final activity was to put it in the envelope and then go to another place in my office. I would sit down and think about the person who was going to receive my proposal and then I would open the envelope and pretend to be them.

Just imagine how easy life would be if we could read other people’s minds. Attempting to do that is really what empathetic thinking is. The more we practice it the better we get and the better we get the easier life becomes.

Friday, April 4, 2008

My Heaven

The notion of heaven and hell was created, I believe, to provide a carrot and a stick motivation for living a good life. I find Heaven, as most who believe in it have described it, totally unappealing so I thought up a description that does work for me. My Heaven is much like earth with all of the beauty but not what one might call perfect. There would still be nasty weather events. There would still be conservatives and liberals. There would still be a wide variety of beliefs that guided people differently. There would still be pain and suffering. However, there would not be polluted air or water and there would not be a great disparity between classes of people but these changes would have been realized because of the one simple difference between life on Earth and in Heaven. In Heaven everyone loves everyone.

Before my mother died she related an experience in which her mind took her to a place where all her friends were. She positively glowed when she thought of this place so I have invented my own place like that. I envision a party with a room full of my friends, all people who love me. At this party there is an Earth game in which any of us can strap ourselves in for an Earth experience. We are born, live our life and die. Meanwhile, back at the party, my friends can watch and they can enter the game to mess with me just to make the game more interesting.

When I’m in the garden chasing cucumber beetles I think of my friends messing with me. A group of them decided to be cucumber beetles and play hide and seek. It’s a fun thought that turns the job of beetle control into a game for me. Back at the party my friends might be marveling at my ability to take pleasure in the job.

It is with this attitude that I approach my feelings toward someone like President Bush. Hating him would hurt me. I know that. When I realized that he was raising my hackles, I tried to tune him out, unsuccessfully. When I thought about “the party on the other side” and that he is a friend who is just trying to mess with me my hatred was lifted.

My thought was of dieing and going back to the party. My friends cheer at the good game I just had. There is much hugging and high-fiving. Across the room is Dubya with a big grin. His right arm is raised and he is pointing his index finger at me. We high-five and hug. “Gotcha! Ol buddy,” he says. “Yeah, you sonofabitch, you got me.”

This image of a loving Dubya as a close friend brings a smile to my face. He presented me with some challenges. I have chosen happiness as my goal in life. He disrupted my happiness. If there were no challenges, life would be a pretty dull game.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Two worlds

The questions I explore here will be answered from the belief that love is the only thing that can truly save the world—both worlds. Two worlds, you ask? Yes.

The world we first think of is what we know of the world, the physical planet, space in the earth’s atmosphere, the political and belief oriented spheres we live in. In this world we may be thinking that it needs to be saved from environmental degradation, from terrorists, from economic collapse, from poverty or immigrants or killer bees. How can love save this world? The short answer is that it will take a long time, longer than anyone alive today will live to see but that shouldn’t be a reason to ignore the potential.

The second world is one that can be saved within your lifetime. It is the world that is very close to you. It is what you see and hear and feel and taste—the world of your senses. It is your world. There may not even be another world. You may be the only person in existence. You are certainly the only person experiencing your world. Even if you and I stood next to each other we would be in different worlds. Consider us standing side by side looking at a cylindrical oatmeal box a couple of feet away. We do not see the same thing.

If we stand side by side and look at something far away, say the moon, don’t we see the same thing then? In the context of the first example, yes, physically what we are looking at is the same but we are using different instruments. Our bodies are genetically different and they have been through different histories. We don’t even know for sure that what we are seeing is the same color as the other person sees through his or her eyes. Whatever it is you see, hear, taste, feel, smell and otherwise perceive it is your world, the world you live in every waking moment.

If you feel hatred for anyone, a relative or neighbor, the President or Osama bin Ladin, I invite you to check out for yourself just how that hatred makes you feel. Let’s say every time you hear President Bush on the radio or television it makes you angry. That can’t feel good. Why not improve your world by simply avoiding listening to him? Just tune out. Don’t listen to the news or anything else where you are likely to hear him. Never mind any arguments you might have that not listening to the President would not be a good idea. We are only talking about your world and you can make your world better by tuning in to your world and taking actions that will improve the way YOU feel. Nobody else. There may not even be anybody else. There is certainly nobody else living in your world.

There is a way to listen to the President (in this example) without getting angry. That is the love part and I’ll be exploring that further in the future.