From GENE LOGSDON
Some of the latest thinking on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (just getting those letters all out in correct order is enough to give me ADHD) argues that the condition is not really a bodily or mental affliction but a natural state for some people, especially children. Being fidgety, having a short attention span, not being able to concentrate for long on anything in particular— these traits are more or less brought on by the over-regulated, prescriptive world we live in. That sounds plausible to me. But then the learned scientists who are arguing this way go into examples (“A Natural Fix For A.D.H.D.” by Richard A. Friedman in the New York Times, Nov. 2, 2014). They suggest that ADHD people would be right at home in a hunting and gathering society, like in Paleolithic times, when daily life shifted rapidly from one exciting, dangerous situation to another. It was not until humans settled into the boring routine of sedentary agriculture that such people became estranged and out of touch with the rest of society and started suffering from what would later be diagnosed as ADHD.
Once more farming is depicted as boring. After a lifetime of being subjected to this kind of stereotypical thinking, I know I should just ignore it. Anybody who has had the least bit of experience in agriculture knows it is one of the most exciting ways in the world to lose your money or your life. But when the stereotypical thinking comes from places like the Weill Cornell Medical College, I must protest.
Before I even get into whether farming is boring or not, the article quoted above has it all wrong about hunting and gathering too, in my opinion. Since none of us lived in Paleolithic times, we can say anything we feel like saying and get away with it but I have done my share of hunting and gathering and take strong exception to the article’s claim that “a short attention span was useful to hunter-gatherers.” Quite the opposite. A successful hunter must wait quiet and patiently in a tree stand, or a blind or on a stump in the woods sometimes for hours to get a crack at his or her quarry. The real problem with hunting today is that there are too many ADHD type hunters out there, tearing up and down the back roads in pickups, hooting and hollering and blasting away at wild animals in wild abandon, scaring their quarry into the next county.
Compared to sitting in an office making stereotypical remarks about mankind, farming is breathtakingly exciting. I grant that there are days when you might spend hours in a tractor cab, listening to talk show rant or gabbing on your cell phone while the tractor drives itself. But the second you quit paying attention to what’s going on, or almost slumber off to sleep in boredom, bells and whistles are likely to start clamoring away, indicating a loose belt or a broken pin or a plugged up auger or the embarrassing fact that you just plowed half way through the township road bordering your field. If anything, ADHD-afflicted people should by all means get into farming. They will succeed like no other personality can, except maybe those who have an uncontrollable urge to gamble.
Every day on the farm is full of gut-wrenching situations. Farmers live with one eye on market reports streaming across the computer screen and the other on the sky, scanning for either fair weather or foul. He or she must be ready at all times to click a button that might mean losing or gaining a hundred thousand dollars or so on the grain and livestock markets. And the tension never ends. Used to be there would be time in winter for a little relaxation. But the government keeps making regulations in all seasons and the connivers keep finding ways to get around the regulations, so one must be ever vigilant and ready to outwit both. What farmers yearn for more than anything is a month or two of boredom every year. Or medicine that would make sure that they are never cured of their ADHD.