Sunday, January 30, 2011

Conservation Chaos

Crew Chaos

We spent the summer and fall of '09 fighting the rednecks. 'Necks, we called them, and we were the 'neck-thrashers, closure crew, crew chaos, crew clusterfuck. We were building barriers, closing the illegal ATV trails threading through the degraded and abused Manti-La Sal National Forest. It's hard to stay fair and neutral when all summer you are faced with such a monumental task: spoiled forests and hillsides in so many places bisected by the ugly twin tracks of motorized recreation, a place where you can't take a walk across country for more than a mile literally anywhere without running into a trail, legal or otherwise, without finding beer cans and plastic wrappers. A place where even the huge Utah night is broken by the roar of engines, where only the coyote and the owl should be calling. The battle lines were drawn early, and sharply. 

Ruined "no vehicle" signs at
trailside. Note the ineffective
concrete settings
It was good work, though, challenging and refreshingly physical. Out in the beauty of the Wasatch Plateau, on the wildflower slopes and in among the aspen and spruce, we dug our holes, fought the buried and very plentiful rocks, and planted our posts. Fences rose like mushrooms that year. Miles of trail were brushed over with logs and debris. Our huge wall map grew tendrils of highlighted trails as the months went by, with one after another found and closed. We took pride in our work, though all along we doubted it as well, having long conversations about our effectiveness and worth, often slipping into feelings of futility. Rednecks, we knew, carry chainsaws and tow chains, and our wooden fences, even the ones lined with steel cable, could not withstand their determined efforts if put to the test. Brush can be avoided by going around, meaning the formation of another trail. Our work was good, but it was not enough. Our work was doomed.  
Joe's Valley
We labored in all parts of the Forest, but mostly in the Manti Division, and mostly up and down Joe's Valley, a great fault-block valley, also known as a graben, which cuts north-south through the heart of the Wasatch Plateau of central Utah. Manti is the most damaged division by far. We were up and down the main road all summer, as well as many of the motorized trails that follow most of the side canyons. We saw enough of the place to feel we knew it well. We saw where the mines had been, the timbering, the sheep and cattle and horses still pastured there, overgrazed slopes that had been recontoured with bulldozers to halt the runaway erosion, leaving vast stretches of strangely terraced land on many a mountainside. We saw the standing dead of the spruce forests, over 80% lost from spruce beetle attacks. This from decades of fire surpression leading to over-dense, weakened, aged stands; and though the foresters wouldn't admit it when I asked them, I suspect climate change as well. We saw the Forest fill with vacationers on the weekends and especially holidays, the campgrounds full, trailers parked everywhere, ATVs crusing the roads and trails.    

Wasatch Plateau
It was not a land that bespoke great health or abundant wildlife populations. On off hours and nights, I would sometimes simply stand outside in the presence of the mountains, soaking it in, for I loved where I was and was happy. But the feeling of the place was hardly what I would call truly wild. There was just no escaping the heavy hand of man and the utter accessibility, with trails up almost every canyon, roads along the valleys and ridgetops, especially the popular Skyline Drive, garbage everywhere, and plenty of sheep- and cow-bitten hillsides. Their trampling had pulverised the soil and resulted in a dense tangle of trails everywhere they grazed.

We heard there were elk present, but saw none until late in the year, and even then only a small herd of 6 or 7. Of mountain lion and bear we saw no sign, and came to doubt any respectable predator would linger long in such an impacted land. Locals spoke of bear sightings, up around Grassy Lake and sometimes descending the canyons out of the high country to the villages below. But it was hard to believe.

In addition to the conservation projects, the Utah Conservation Corps had us take a course in sustainability, that we might exercise our minds as well as our bodies, that we may build knowledge as well as trails and fences. In short, that we might be more than mere grunts. We were also to give a presentation from a list of topics to our crew, and I chose the wolf reintroduction controversy in Yellowstone and Idaho, a thing I was already interested in and a great supporter of. The world needs more predators.     

Wildflower meadow
It was a bitter thing, knowing that the wolves were gone from these lands, and most of the rest of the country as well, even where it was supposedly still wilderness. The spirit of the mountains was gone, along with the grizzlies, only existing where they do now because we allow it or because we put them there. There are coyotes yet; we'd heard enough of them to know. But there was a certain hollowness to be felt if one took the time. Miles and miles of National Forest and mountains, but it felt tame as any farmyard. Which is what it had become, really; trees for the cutting, meadows for cattle and sheep pasture. Add to that the constant four wheeler traffic, the noise, and the fumes. This is no wildernesss, it's hardly a National Forest; more like an amusement park. Land of many uses, indeed, but what about the uses the elk might have for it, or the mountain lion, or the bear?

It was on one of our last fence-builds of the year, in among a mixed stand of aspen and ponderosa pine, when I had wandered a short distance down the trail, looking for a suitable choke-point at which to build our barrier. Glancing down at the needle-strewn ground at the edge of a small clearing, I saw fresh tracks in the soft mud. Bear tracks, and big ones. They led off into the grass-floored aspen woods standing adjacent, leading up and over a rise and out of sight. I called the crew over to look at and admire the signature of a wild brother, and fought hard the urge to follow wherever they might lead.

No, I had to stay. We had 'necks to stop.

*(click all pictures for larger images)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Socialism, Health Insurance, and Eating the Rich

Talking with my sister about the health care reform, we often come to the same split between our positions: I see it as an imperitive to take care of the least among us, a moral issue, while she, a very hard worker, is repelled by "all the people soaking the system" and hates to think of her tax dollars as helping such lazy bums. She works in the medical industry, as a front desk receptionist, so she says she sees a lot of this sort of fraud. I don't disagree that it happens.

Here's the thing. First, in America we have a very individualistic mindset, we idolize the frontiersman, the cowboy, the self made man. That was fine mindset when you were the only settlement for dozens of miles and had to do it on your own. But this is out of date: the frontier closed in 1890. We live in stable communities now, there are no Indian raids, we aren't battling to tame a wild land. And let's get one thing straight: no one is a self made man, that is a myth. Rags to riches, yes, but no one does it alone. If nothing else, such advancements are made possible by the society a person finds himself surrounded by. We use the public roads and bridges, the public schools, public libraries, the public police and fire departments, and of course legal frameworks, and a general culture that supports the entrepeneurial idea. One uses other people's capital, often, and/or the labor of others to do the work. Which isn't to discount the person's hard work, but let's have some perspective.

This is why I feel that the rich need to be taxed heavily, and provide for those whose labor actually provides their wealth. They (the rich) benefit most from this society, and thus owe the most. They can best afford it as well. Yes, they may have a much higher percentage of their income taxed away, but their living standard will still remain very high, they won't be lacking anything, will still live in great luxury. What is the difference between making 10 million and 20 million, as far as actual living standard goes? Nothing. You might buy a few less sports cars or a somewhat smaller mansion, or fewer mansions than before. Big fucking deal. Why are we expected to cry over this tragic loss? Get it together, people. You're still successful, and no one's "deincentivizing" it.

But some really do call this punishing success. I don't know. Only if money is your only measure of that, and only if you consider success being wealthy in a society that's rotting at the bottom. Do doctors go into medicine to make money, or because they want to help cure diseases and help others? Of course it's bound to be both. But then, the real problem isn't doctors who are reasonably wealthy, but the super rich, who just play financial games with inherited wealth. But either way, we must ask ourselves: at what point is enough enough? At what point does "success" turn into "theft" and "the rape of the lower classes"? This is a question that we as a society need to answer for ourselves. Or shall we just keep letting all the capital flow towards the few? I like what nationally syndicated talk show host Peter Werbe says: Eat the rich! (because they're eating the rest of us).

What I always end up getting around to is the question of morality. Chasing after the money dream has it's place, but it can't, in a compassionate society, be the end all. It is immoral for a tiny percentage of people suck all the wealth towards themselves, using the labor of the poor to benefit themselves, mangling the legal and financial system to their benefit, only to then leave everyone else out in the cold. If I break my arm or need an emergency apendectomy, I'm in debt up to my ass. Yet isn't the right to recieve medical care rather basic? Why should an accident or emergency turn me into a slave to some insurance company?

Yes people will take advantage, there's always going to be corruption and "soaking the system." But the sun shines on the just and the unjust alike, the rain falls on the fields of the industrious and the lazy. Is it right to not help the majority because a minority "ruin it for everyone"? I argue that it isn't. The rich can still be wealthy, they can still be comfortable. But not when it's at the expense of a basic standard of living for everyone. That is intolerable to a reasonable, compassionate person. 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Reading List

Some fantastic books I've read recently and greatly recommend:

Deep Survival: Who lives, Who Dies, and Why
by Laurence Gonzales
An insightful look into the psychology of survival situations, with plenty of anecdotes and real-life scenarios, from the author's own life and from others (mostly others). A very well written, readable book, which might have been a tad dry or dull in the hands of a lesser writer; it utterly fascinated me, with many very inspiring sections (the end for me has been very powerful, very gripping for nonfiction). He also quotes the Tao Te Ching often, which pleased me, as well as having a general Zen approach to survival. Not that the book is overtly spiritual by any means, but there is this undertone of philosophical insight. His two rules of life (written with his daughter when she was a small child): 1, be here now, and 2, everything takes 8 times longer to do than you think it will. Read it for the tales of survival if nothing else.

When you're done, go watch the documentary "Touching the Void" about Joe Simpson's amazing survival on an Andean mountain alone with a broken leg. This is talked about in this book but the film is powerful. Simpson himself has a book of the same name which I have yet to read.

Faith, Madness and Spontaneous Human Combustion
by Gerald N. Callahan
Found this in a used book store's tiny science section, bought it because the title captivated me. For a Ph.D and a scientist, he's a phenomenal writer; much like Loren Eiseley was, if you're familiar with him (if not, check out The Unexpected Universe). This book deals a lot with the immune system (it's subtitle is "What Immunology Can Teach Us About Self-perception"), which according to the author is the part of our biology that defines the self; but being about selfhood, it goes back and forth between science/medicine and psychology and philosophy. Almost poetic throughout and in many places incredibly profound, this book of essays (which run together along a common theme) blew my mind more than once. A great blend of science, philosophy and simple, honest humanness. Read it.

Good Omens
by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchet
A hilarious story concerning the unlikely alliance of a demon and an angel to avert the Apocalypse. Hilarious if you enjoy witty, dry British humor, as I do. In adition to the comedy there are some serious issues being made clear, as good comedy often does. I liked the parts about "not needing to test everything to failure" and "hell has all the good music" but it's full of thoughtful though not overt commentary on the religion issue. Very interesting plot too. Definitely recommended.

by Carl Sagan
Carl Sagan's only novel, it's a tale of radio contact with an alien message, told through the eyes of Ellie Arroway, the lead scientist of the SETI project that first recieves the message. Beyond being a well written novel, it delves into questions of religion, politics and social mores given the perspective of alien life and a growing planetary understanding. Just a lot of cool ideas in this book. But it stands on its own as a novel, too.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


Weird. Everyone's breathing.

I was at the store the other day, weighing the cost differences in toothbrush brands, and became aware of my breath. The next moment, I looked up, and it occurred to me that everyone else was breathing too. It suddenly seemed so weird, a whole store full of us with our bodies moving in and out, slowly throbbing like, like... maggots or something. Sorry for the disgusting image, that's not really what I'm going for. But, it was just weird.

Sometimes the most basic and ordinary things can really strike you as strange and amazing. I suppose this is wonder. Everyone around me, oscillating like an ocean against a beach, in, out, in, out, silently back and forth and almost totally unaware of it.

We're all just a lot of walking air. Air playing against the water composing our bodies, making waves, mingling and floating as rafts of foam and spray.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Made some changes on the template, then decided I was sick of dealing with it and went back with what works; it's not worth the mental effort to me, so I'm back to the original. It feels too dark to me, but oh well.

Also, if anyone's interested, I've opened a new blog, Moccasin's PCT Hike, which is going to be where I post to while I'm out there hiking (such is the plan, anyways). Not going to be much activity there until April, though the occasional preparation post will go up in the meantime.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

For the Wind

Better a bent back than a bent neck. Tired though the body becomes, truly, the spirit suffers more. Better the glint of morning sunlight on the pine needles, seen only at a certain angle on the rocky mountain ridge, than the glimmer of gold and diamonds in eyes lit by greed alone. Though the hills be ruins of greater peaks gone before, still we go to them, for the rock still remembers its strength, the water still follows the path toward what is low, and thus finds greatness in the sea. Up and down the mountains lead us, and muscles remember their iron in the walking. Better a struggle uphill. Better knees sore from the downhill trudge that is coming than from idle kneeling in the thrall and flicker of candles and fluorescent lights, hidden from the sun that pours itself out and out, for all. Who can have patience for love meted out little by little, for wisdom locked away? To the highest meadows we shall roam, to the eternal span of unfenced plains, to the ocean that washes every shore the same. For there the breeze blows its perfect freedom, open to all who care to raise a sail to borrow of that endless wealth that refuses to be held, like water streaming from the clench of a fist. We flow like that, we go to where the Earth is speaking, we are not returning, we are for the wind.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Ka Boom

So, I was bored the other day. In my web surfing I came across the E = mc2 equation. Thought I'd try to calculate the energy present in my body, with the help of Wikipedia's equivalents. I came out with 1,219,029.493474 kilotons of TNT. This is equal to over 67,723 of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima (15-18 kilotons), 58,049 of Nagasaki (25 kilotons), or about 24 times the size of the Tsar Bomba (50 megatons), the largest atomic detonation ever. All that in a couple of cubic meters of flesh. If every atom of mine dissolved their energies all at once, I'd light up like the sun.

Use the force, Luke

Naturally the conversion isn't perfect, and I read that it doesn't quite work that way, but more or less that's about the length of it. No matter what, I have the power of the sun in my make up, I am truly a being of light. For what is matter, what is solidness, but vast energies moving very very fast in a very very tight space? Like the solid disc of a moving fan, which you cannot throw an egg through, there's nothing solid there at all, just movement, just pure energy.

Like a little tale I read once, about a man and an angel walking along. Together they pass through an area of fog, then they encounter a log across the path. The man goes over, the angel walks through it. When the man asks how, the angel says he did it in the same way the man went through the fog: by being denser than it. That is to say, having more energy. You can see that if the egg was moving fast enough (i.e., had enough energy) it could be thrown through the fan. Like how old fighter planes shot bullets through the propeller, timing and speed.

Zing! Whoosh!
Anyways, in the end it's all vibration. I said a few cubic meters of flesh; but really if all the "matter" of my body were collected into a purely dense piece, it'd still be invisible. An atom the size of a football stadium would have a nucleus the size of a football and electrons the size of grains of sand out in the nosebleeds. As physicists develop ever "sharper" "knives" (atom smashers), they will find tinier and tinier "bits" and this could continue forever, there's no ultimate bedrock of matter. You can't get via division to anything that is indivisible. No matter how small the number, you can always divide it again. Matter is a vibration of something we know not what.

What is this world in which we live?

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Good Life

It struck me today, that I am living a great life. I've made the right choices. I'm in a good position, I'm doing good things. Often I regret not finishing college, often I lament my unemployment and lack of direction. But just now, it finally became real to me, that this is not a problem. If I hadn't dropped out and spun my wheels for a couple years, I never would have hiked the Appalachian Trail. I never would have met all the awesome people out there, and in jobs and adventures since. I never would have seen the amazing places that I have.

Spring in Idaho
A great deal of the personal growth and positivity in my life, I'd say, sprung from my AT experience. I put myself out there, into the world alone, with no familiar supports, not even a familiar city lifestyle somewhere, just going with a sort of faith in the universe. And it worked out. In fact, it worked so well that I sometimes say to myself, half jokingly, that the AT ruined my life. It lifted me out of a life of settling for less, of just getting by, of being okay with being unhappy; it showed me for the first time what happiness is. I cannot walk away from this revelation.

Here's an exerpt from the end of this great book I'm reading, Deep Survival.

Not long ago, when I was flying the aerobatics constest circuit, a friend of mine, Jan Jones, was going about her ordinary business. She had started with the International Aerobatics Club at about the same time I did. Jan was an otherwise fairly ordinary person: she went the the grocery store, took a shower every morning, watched TV, did laundry. ... Then one day she took off, crashed her Pitts, and died. People talked gravely about the unnecessary risks she'd taken. But another friend of mine was doing the same everyday errands and activities but not flying, not taking the risks. In fact, she lived an extremely quiet life. Then one day she felt ill and went to the doctor and a few weeks later was dead from glioblastoma. Survivors know, whether they are conscious of it or not, that to live at all is to fly upside down (640 people died in 1999 while choking on food; 320 drowned in the bath tub). You're already flying upside down. You might as well turn on the smoke and have some fun.

Lovely Tennessee "snow"
I've always thought this way. Death has always been in my mind, teaching its lesson. I don't know anything about an afterlife and am content to let the issue lie. "One life at a time," as Thoreau said on his deathbed, refusing to convert. I could have 40 years left... or 40 seconds. Knowledge of death is a gift, for if one really embraces it, one relaxes and can laugh. Life isn't serious, it's a passing thing. The problems I have now won't mean a thing next year, let alone in 100 years. And it sure won't matter that I didn't have a stable career to exist in, unhappy but safe.

So dammit, I'm going to go hike the Pacific Crest Trail, I'm going to go work for room and board on some organic farms, I'm going to write and write and write and never cease in my unorthodoxy. So far so good.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Over the last two days, I've found two old poems I'd written on scraps of paper and stashed away in books. For me, this is like finding money hidden in the pocket of a coat I haven't worn in months. Naturally I'm a fan of my own writing, but after having forgotten about a poem, I can look back and read it with fascination, as if it was someone else's, and be amazed how good it is. Sometimes this is most true for the unrefined scraps, as the raw power of the moment of writing still lingers. It's kind of fun.

Here's the more comprehensible of the two (the other, so out of my usual style I am amazed that it was I who wrote it, is so surreal it hardly makes sense, yet somehow I like it). Not claiming anything amazing here, but anyways, here ya go.

return is the movement of the Tao ~ TTC40

Sitting by the Great Sea,
one cannot help
but to think,

for ideas roll in like the waves,
inexorable, inevitable,
throwing light
from their curled surfaces.

But that clear element
does not remain, but rolls
back into the depths
from which it came,

leaving little more
than damp sand
and maybe some remnant foam.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Operating System

Cultures act like operating systems. A baby is born ready to have one "programmed" to his mind, through assimilation. But it leaves an individual with a certain way of percieving the world, perhaps unalterable. Perception of colors is not constant across cultures, as far as how we divide up the color spectrum. And more deeply still, the world to a medieval individuual would have literally looked and felt completely different. Theirs was a spirit centered world, it was at base a spiritual place. For us, it is material (no matter what religion we may profess). Who knows what differences there are between that subjective experience and ours? It is impossible to know or even understand. We are trapped in our cultural framework.

Perhaps going crazy is like shedding the culture, but it seems that insanity is more about having a culture of one. You're still trapped within a framework, however skewed it is from "normal." Perhaps enlightenment is the true shedding. I can't speak on that personally, but it seems like a possibility. Maybe it's not possible to do. Without an operating system, maybe nothing makes any sense; probably we would create our own if not exposed to a culture, raised by wolves or what have you.

But even so, why must we be tied to it? My main issue, as I spoke about previously with regard to "seeing the gorilla" is that it seems we percieve things in such a narrow way. We are trained to focus on certain things, and taught to ignore others. Perhaps this explains the paranormal; it's just stuff we're ignoring in our constructs and is thus unexplainable.

I'm interested in removing the filter. I assume this is what's meant my mind expansion. To use the equivalent of "splatter vision" used in tracking, where you integrate peripheral vision into sight, seeing the whole field of vision rather than just the focal center. I heard Don Juan (through the writings of Carlos Castenada) thought that this is actually the only route to higher or unified consciousness (I don't remember his term for it). Don't know about that, but it makes sense in a way. Isn't meditation about taking the focus off the thoughts and being aware of the whole experience? Isn't that the same sort of thing as splatter vision?

The really interesting thing to me is just that: the whole experience. Of course, we are limited by our bodies, by our senses; to truly experience what is real in totality is probably beyond us, while we live. The human eye can only see certain wavelengths, for example. Like culture itself, we choose some things, and thus cannot include others.

But to consider what the world looks like in every wavelength all at once... Reality must "look" far different from our experience of it. To think of it is enough to blow your mind.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Gorilla Suit of the World

"Get milk, bread, beans, potatoes..."
Some might wonder why I meditate. Actually I doubt anyone cares, but here goes. Beyond peace of mind and the usual spiritual aspirations and ideals, or maybe directly in line with them, consider the following:

Once, in a psychology class, we watched a short video as a sort of experiment. There were 6 people, 3 in white and 3 in black, all tossing basketballs back and forth among their respectively colored teams, weaving around each other, mixed in, passing the balls. We were told to count how many times the white team passed their ball among themselves. At the end, the professor asked us if we noticed anything strange, and although a reasonable portion of the class had, they couldn't quite name what it was. The rest of us, myself included, didn't notice anything. There were also a couple kids who knew what the deal was, because they hadn't been counting. He replayed the video, and in the middle of it a man in a gorilla suit walks through the group, stops in the middle to beat his chest at the camera, then walks out again.

Imagine the vast quantity of experience we are missing because we're so lost in our little mental movies! Who knows what's passing us by, every second? Yes, I want peace of mind, and I'm interested in so-called enlightenment, but mainly, I just want to see what's really there. I'd hate to miss out on something good. This is why I'm attracted to Zen, psychology, philosophy, science, and the like.  

Ooga booga!
I don't really think of myself as a spiritual person. I don't feel like I'm coming at all this from that direction, not really, (though I suppose it all gets at the same thing). I operate on an experimental basis, meditating in a more practical mindset.

What I mean is, it's not about belief or anything. I just want to be one of the kids who isn't doing the counting. Someone who sees the gorilla.

Friday, January 7, 2011

System Fail

Is it too late to change course?

Everyone is worried about the economy. I say fuck the economy. Let the whole thing collapse and take the whole cultural system, the military-industrial-media complex down with it. The only reservation I can find in myself about it is the suffering and human misery that such a collapse will bring with it. But since our population only continues to grow, to wish for it to fall now rather than later (as fall it certainly shall) is an act of mercy. Because the growth economy is coming to an end. We've put most of the even marginal land into cultivation, we're losing topsoil, we've mined the earth of the easy-to-access minerals; the ocean is running out of fish, oil production is peaking (oil, which underlays the entire convulsion of growth). We're out of room. Are we going to colonize space? Ha! Proponents of this don't understand exponential growth and its implications. It can't happen soon enough for us. The limits will be reached in our lifetime.

Stop and think: what do we really need an economy for anyways? Well, for jobs of course, so we can earn money to buy food, water, shelter, heat. The essentials of life. Yet why does no one ask why these essentials have been turned into commodities? Why does no one wonder why these are not human rights (like the air we breathe) but are instead things we are required to labor for? Why are they withheld to the point of starvation, homelessness, and maybe freezing to death in an alley, if we haven't the means to procure them?

I say, fuck this economy, fuck this system. It's no good for us. We can do better. Go outside and plant a garden. Dig up that useless lawn. This is the most revolutionary thing you can do. The energy of life is meant to be free, ask any plant. Ask any animal for that matter. A cat does no work, it just walks around until it finds a mouse (and sleeps the rest of the time). A crow does no work, it just flies around until it finds a corpse. A cow does no work, just puts it's head down and eats. Only man... no, only civilized man must toil for his food, which he himself has locked away from himself. And it has been locked up, since the first chieftain built a silo to hold his tribesmen's grain and realized the power this gave him.

I'm not telling you to go out and stone your grocery store manager, or to rampage with pitchforks and torches against the president, the Congress, the bankers, or any of that. No; I'm saying plant a garden. I'm saying collect rainwater or dig a well. I'm saying buy used clothing, or make your own, trade for it where you can, leave the money society at every chance. Don't use more natural gas for your home heating, put on a sweater. Bike, don't drive; better yet, walk. Wean yourself away from this inhuman system. I'm not urging this over global warming, or corporate greed, or any of that. Those are effects, not causes. Mainly I'm talking about mitigating the looming disaster. When the system falls, will we have another ready to turn to?

You say gardening is still work? Yes, agriculture requires some labor input. But you're laboring anyways, why not be working at something worthwhile, sustainable, out under the open sky, and under your own control. Why should grain prices in Mexico affect your grocery bill? Why should cotton prices in Asia mean you pay more for a shirt? Why should a people's revolt in Nigeria or a war in Palestine mean it costs more for you to get to work? Grow your own food, live your own life, local scale, human scale. It's empowering. There's a reason the sickle was one of the symbols of communism, screwed up as the Soviet system became, or was from the start.

Let our symbol be the shovel up-raised. Let us build our communities, based on friendliness and sustainability, not money and the cancer of the growth economy. All your cucumbers came ripe at the same time? Eat what you can, pickle a bunch, and give away the rest to your neighbors. Let our revolution be the only meaningful one this world has ever seen: out of the soul-sucking economy based on things and towards a culture and lifestyle based on benefiting people.

This is our only safety net as the collapse rushes towards us. We must stop chasing after the wind in the form of Ipods, hi-def TVs, sports cars, 4000 sqft homes, and designer clothes. We must stop listening to the news, to the politicians, to the fear-mongers that pervade our lives. Terrorism is not the threat. The crumbling economy is not the threat. We are the threat, we are the problem; but because of that, we can be the solution. But not in the same old "solutions" of the past. We are here, at this time in history, and we are here to do something truly new. It begins with your garden.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

On Fighting the System

I see what my problem is. Thank you coffee shops and caffeinated bursts of free thought. It's all about the scale of things. We watch the news, and see terrible problems. We incorporate these problems into our lives, yet we have no power in the sphere of our living to do a damn thing about them; not unless we are hardcore activists, politicians, or involved within the field of a specific reported problem. Generally we donate a bit of money, or sign a petition, to make ourselves feel better, but it's largely ineffectual.

So, there is is. It sounds defeatist: "well, it's too big for me, what can I do? Guess I'll give up." But it's true for most of us, and there's nothing wrong with being real about it. Think how much energy it takes just to get by in life. Most of our lives are on the edge chaos, we can hardly manage them (exaggeration alert). It's good to be involved, but man, to take the weight of global warming, destructive farming practices, pollitical corruption and the swing toward fascism, religious hate, ethnic hate, racial hate, strip mining, clear cuts, and all the rest upon our shoulders... well, there's a reason they call us liberals "bleeding hearts." We must revel in agony, consoling ourselves that at least we feel bad about the genocide in Darfur, though we don't and can't actually do anything about it.

It's silly. Why waste all our energy and emotion on what we can have little or no effect on? I think it's better to focus our energies right where we are, in the scale of our lives. That may include donating money to a club or organization you favor, or being involved in other ways, true; I'm not saying it can't. But I'm all about localism, of "think globally act locally," but I mean really do it. Don't think about the huge global issues then mope around despairing over it. Kick in the TV, cancel the newspaper delivery, and just live your life well. Put your energy to work where it will do the most good: right here. Live at the human scale.

You can't fight tanks by throwing rocks at them. What you can do is take you attention elsewhere, live as if the tanks weren't there, kill them by ignoring them. Armed revolution would likely be a disaster: winning, we'd probably do no better, but we'd probably be crushed mercilessly. But what evil corporation can survive a sustained boycott? What government can survive once deemed irrelevant? The power that sustains these great systems comes from you and me, and nowhere else. And if we break from the trance of the supra-human scale, turn our backs permanantly and return to a focus on what's really here before us, and work simply to improve that, well, the whole will improve as a matter of course.

I mean that. There is no "whole," no such thing as a "nation," "state," "corporation," or "government" -- have you ever actually seen one? Of course not, they are imaginary mental constructs; over in reality, where I want to live, there are only individuals living their lives, via individual decisions. For example, there are no "vegetarians," there's just this person who isn't eating meat at this specific meal. The labels are useful shorthand, but to believe they are actually real is what has gotten us into this mess.

So alright, keep a finger on the pulse of events, but only one finger. Just live better. Starve the beast. Make choices to further your exit from the system. Bring this nightmare vision of globalism back to earth. It only exists in your mind, so stop giving it any mental attention. I believe this is the only peaceful route, and difficult; the beast will fight it like a starving lion. But eventually it will die, if we stay strong.

Eat, drink, and be merry

My other problem has been that I've been far too serious. I've lost my sense of humor about life. I must remember Death and it's great lesson: this too shall pass. Death, transience, allows us to relax in life. Not to disregard the suffering of others, but it puts things in perspective. This is, after all, a passing dream. What good does it do to live in despair the whole way through, over things beyond our control?

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd tow'rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a wrack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
The Tempest Act 4, scene 1, 148–158
And didn't someone once say laughter is the soundtrack of the revolution? Laughter is immeasureable, truly a power. Yes, it's hard to find a balance between being concerned, as we are when we hear tragic things, and having a good time, laughing and enjoying life. Keep in mind, wallowing in despair doesn't help the ones wrapped up in the tragedies; they don't need our pity and our tears. What might help is to stop feeding into the system that brings such tragedy to their distant shores. You can only act where you are. I think this guy has the right idea, showing us what can be done, at the human scale:

Monday, January 3, 2011

On the wrongness


Was at my sister's and brother's-in-law for the New Year's Eve, watching some news before dinner. We had several emotional discussions about weighty subjects: the health care bill, economic systems, Constitutional rights (cops were being given licence to demand blood samples without consent for drunk drivers), the class divide, etc.

How depressing the world is. Everywhere I look, things are moving in the wrong direction. Chasing more fossil fuel fantasies, more war and imperialist foreign policy, more trampling of the Constitution in the name of security (read: fear), more favoring of business and wealth over the good of the people or the nation as a whole, more pollution and environmental wreckage, ever more hypnosis by iPhones and technology. They're pushing this new phone really hard, on every other commercial. The trance of distraction our society is in totally precludes any meaningful resistance, or God help us, revolution against the wrongness.

I don't know how to keep positive anymore. I don't watch or read the news but I know it's happening, it hangs in the very air. I don't see any positive outcomes. We're speeding towards a nightmare, a cliff with the various names of neo-Fascism, Climate Change, Mass Extinction, Cultural Collapse, Die Off. I just want to run off to the mountains while everything falls to pieces. Let the idiotic masses have their shiny techno-dreams and neon hallucinations. Even the people who care don't do anything against it-- and most don't care. There's no help for us anymore. There's no hope.

At least I'm going to take a bit of a break from the internets. In honor of the new year, so to speak. I need to reset my mind, return myself to some thinking about choices I need to make in my life. I have to break this techno-trance which I hate so much but have been slipping into. I need to reassess what's important, what's meaningful, and how I'm going to get by in this madness we call American Civilization.

What does it mean for the blog? Dunno. I'll still be writing, so I may end up posting. We'll see.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Wanting Wisdom

Heard on NPR today something about genetic counceling, testing for diseases and such. This for some reason bothers me quite a bit. I don't like all the doors our new technology is opening. If you've seen the movie Gattaca, you know what I'm talking about. If we humans acted responsibly, no worries, I'd welcome it all. But we don't. We act like assholes at the first opportunity, grabbing for power and wealth and control and ruining everything. You think having genetic knowledge won't play into that? Knowledge is power, after all.

What I was mainly thinking about, though, was the saying "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing." We know so little so far. We act like we've unlocked the book of life, but we haven't. DNA is powerful, yes, and is a fascinating area of study; but we have such an oversimplified understanding of it. To me, DNA works as a whole, like a body: you can't say any one organ system is more important than another, they are all necessary. So to reduce all life to one molecule? Ridiculous!

Same with reducing disease to this gene or that; it's foolish and dangerous. As if just because you have this one segment of DNA, you're fated for a certain disease. It leaves out the "nurture" side of the "debate," though I'm sure it's great for pharmeceutical profits. Besides, if you go looking for problems, you'll find them. I'm sure we all have DNA riddled with errors, mutations, and potential for disease. But the system is self-correcting; many of those mutations never find expression. Thank you immune system-- patient, heal thyself!
Science cooks a city,
well done, of course
My fear is this: we've hardly opened the field of genetics, and already we're tinkering away with the foundation of life itself. Where has the virtue of wisdom gone? Like nuclear bombs; the moment we had them, we used them, incinerating hundreds of thousands of innocents. They didn't know, when they threw the switch, if the chain reaction would overtake and swallow the universe. And they fucking did it anyways.

You wonder why I fear our new technologies? They amplify our power far beyond our control, our restraint, our wisdom. We are the sorcerer's apprentice. But instead of a workshop, we're ruining the world.