It’s October time — and though Halloween is, undoubtedly, the first holiday on people’s minds, Harvest Festival comes first. If you, too, were blessed with a quintessentially British primary school education, it’s a time highly reminiscent of decorating your own scarecrows, belting out “Cauliflowers fluffy and cabbages green” accompanied by an out-of-tune piano, and scrabbling around the back of the cupboards for a rogue tin of baked beans to take into the donation bank in the school hall.
The time of harvest and of ‘reaping what you sow’, a cultural cornerstone that harkens back to the more rural days in which anyone and everyone had to plant, grow, and cultivate for their own earthly sustenance. In these prior epochs, where rain, in its excesses or lackings, dictated your chances of survival — and, for this reason, where it is quite frankly amazing that anyone could survive in St Andrews — one’s dependence on external factors, entirely outside of their personal control, was highlighted all the more starkly.
If anything can be said for the centuries of human progress — however much we have genuinely made is probably up for debate — that have distanced us from these seemingly tougher times, it is that we have concertedly tried to alloy ourselves against the pernicious impersonal forces that used to make life almost literally unsurvivable. With regards to rain, we’ve developed the brolly, stronger rooves, marquees, intricate systems of filtration, even stadium covers to ensure that Wimbledon and Wembley can host any game at any time in any weather. With regards to sustenance, we’ve developed the £2.75 library meal deal, £9.50 burger and a pint at Aikman’s, and the microwaveable Rustler ‘burger’ (quite what it is I am yet to establish, and exceedingly uneager to try). We humans aren’t too shabby, and some might even dare to call us ingenuitive.
Yet, there remain so many life-bound vicissitudes against which we have not yet built our ramparts. How many forces afflict us on a daily basis for which we have no remedy and against which no means of defence? Often outwith our control because they are the actions of others towards us — deceit, miscommunication, disregarding promises, and slander — it appears that by design these experiences are uncircumventable aspects of life, and perhaps that’s because we have all done our regrettable bit in making them a part thereof.
Invariably, at least in regards to treating other people, you might be more likely to hear this phenomenon referred to as ‘karma’ (most likely by your favourite pastel-highlighter-wielding, Co-star devoted, Art history studying girlfriend). Less agriculturally-oriented, the Hindu and Buddhist principle remains entirely the same — you get what you give. At aforementioned quintessentially British primary school, there was one lesson that stuck out more than any other — to leave every being, environment, and object in a better state than you found it.
Given this recognition, surely as uncontroversial as the primacy of a cold pint on a Friday afternoon, two lessons present themselves for our betterment: firstly, that bold, brave, and unabashed journalistic freedoms — which oppose themselves so strongly to the corruption, misinformation, and mischaracterisation that thrive in the modern media — are vital, and ought to be valued by all. Secondly, that, at harvest time, as we reap what we have sown — of which the majority may be good, but of which some shall necessarily not be our best grain — we spare a little compassion for others who, for rain or hail, have drawn the considerably worse lot that so easily could have been our own.