Saturday, March 31, 2012


I've recently been reading a lot about water. Namely, water politics, the use and misuse of water and the problems it's causing in the world. It started when, browsing the rather bare ecology section at the library, I happened across this book, When The Rivers Run Dry by Fred Pearce. This is a supurb book, I cannot recommend it enough; I blasted through it in about five hours, I was so engrossed... and it's not a small book. Pearce takes us on a worldwide tour of water issues facing the globe; being an egocentric American, I was naturally most interested in the parts on the Rio Grande and especially the Colorado River (despite these not being anywhere near the focus of the book).

Part of the interest here was that these rivers are the first I really learned of water crises or shortages, aside from vaguely knowing about thirsty kids in Africa. To know that these great rivers no longer reach the sea most years-- what an eye opener this was for me! I mean, it boggles the mind. The Colorado especially, with its enormous flow rates... I recently read this book about John Wesley Powell's incredible first boat trip down the Green and Colorado Rivers in 1869, and the way the author goes on about the sheer force of the unimaginably massive flow of water squeezed between sheer canyon walls and crashing over huge rapids-- and somehow all that water is almost completely gone by the time the river reaches the Mexican border! And then the Mexicans use what little remains, leaving the once rich Colorado River Delta a death zone.

One interesting non American water issue was what Pearce called the world's first water war: the Six Day War between Israel and its neighbors in 1967. Apparently, less than 3 years before the war, Israel completed a dam on the Jordan River just below the Sea of Galilee, capturing most of the flow and pumping it over the mountains and west into Israel's farms and faucets. The Kingdom of Jordan was left with next to nothing, aside from one tributary. The Dead Sea is truly dying now, and Israel continues to occupy lands for their water (the Golan Heights is where the Jordan originates, and the West Bank has 3 large aquifers, the water from which is still being stolen daily by Israeli settlers from the Palestinians). Water is truly a major flashpoint in the region, hampering peace to this day.

Another crazy thing is the issue with dams. Now, I'm a student of Edward Abbey, and therefore hate dams. I hated them before I read his books, but it's safe to say I hate them more thanks to him. And now, after reading Pearce's book, I hate them more than ever. Dams are almost always disastrous. Talking about the environmental effects hardly needs to be done, we all know the damage done to fisheries thanks to these giant plugs in their rivers, halting both the travel of fish and the drainage of pollution. Consider dams to be concrete arteriosclerosis blocking the lifeblood of the world. But here's one I never knew, or thought about. All the vegetation buried by a dam decays slowly, and anaerobically, producing large volumes of methane, a gas that is 8x more powerful a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. And it's not just the initial trees covered by the water, but the vegetation brought yearly by floods. Bad news.

End of the line for the Colorado River
Here's another one. Dams are often sold to the people as being built to prevent floods, as well as the benefits of hydropower and recreation. What do you need out of a dam/reservoir system to prevent a flood? An empty reservoir. What do you need to produce hydropower, and for the most recreation? A full reservoir. Ninety-nine percent of the time a flood is not imminent, and power is always needed, so the flood gates are kept shut and the water impounded. But what happens when, in a land that gets, say, 20 inches of rain a year, gets that much in two or three days? Well, the reservoir is already full, so the only way to prevent the total collapse of the dam is to open the floodgates wide open and let the water through. So, uh, how does this stop a flood, exactly? And this is if the spillways going at full bore is indeed enough to prevent the water from overtopping the dam, a pretty big if, depending on how full the reservoir was to start.

Dams also cost on average 50% more than they are budgeted for. Of course, in the end these books (I picked up two more books about water today) are largely about money, economics. I came across this line today in Every Drop For Sale: "People, as we've learned clearly by now, are driven more than anything by market forces, by the desire to improve their lives with commerce, transactions, robust economies, and profits." The author lends no support to this statement, it is blithely written, taken as blindingly obvious. In the author's defence, he does say a few pages back the "skewed attitude" adopted by some "environmentalists... that unless a price tag is placed on water, people won't value it enough to protect it...", clearly written as a critique of such a view.

This is a strange thing to come across in a book, for me at least. I've seen studies that show that after a certain level of affluence, money ceases to become a driving motivating factor. It's still there, of course, but, once people have attained what is considered (subconsciously) a normal, average way of living (or maybe just a bit above average), they stop being totally driven by money. Really, it is clear that very few people are totally driven by money, save for the money addicts comprising the 1%; most people are at least equally interested in love, children, their hobbies, their passions, and even their work for its own sake. Not to mention their spiritual beliefs and principles, which, at least here in America, is, at least in talk if not in practice, a central theme for millions.

So, do people only value things that have a price tag? I doubt this very much. I know I don't. People look at me crazy for my need for wilderness, because I walk away from decently paying jobs to go hike around in it for months at a time. But many people quit jobs for love, or because of their principles, or any number of things. I might be on the fringe because my passion is directed towards Nature, but only because of the object, the direction. The passion, one could say, values, are normal. Which is it crazier to value: money and luxury, or the human passions of love, spirituality, principles, and yeah, even nature?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Doomsday Preppers

Anyone ever seen that show Doomsday Preppers? At first I thought it would be pretty hokey, but I watched a few episodes last night and it wasn't filled with crazies like I though it would; not completely anyway. Of course, that may only speak to my own craziness, given that I agree with the general principles these people are after: being prepared, being self sufficient, getting off the grid and mostly independant of society.

The first guy featured, living in Phoenix, had converted his swimming pool into a fish pond and aquaculture garden. He covered it over into a sort of greenhouse, and keeps hundreds of tilapia in the deep end pool, the rest of it being drained and full of vegetables. The water in this system is recycled, and much of the process depends on duckweek, your typical pond scum, which is great for the fish and chickens, and not bad as a protein shake either. Urban homesteading, right up my alley.

The guy was worried about a coronal mass ejection he thinks will occur this year, and has for him and his wife and two kids, gas masks and suits, stored food, bug-out bags, evacuation plans, etc. Pretty well thought out. There were many other people featured, many with a slant on defending their home, family, and stores, including one guy who was a little off the deep end, with his spider holes and special ops background. One hippie from the 60's bought an old missle silo and turned it into a pretty nice home, but also with food and water stores, the original barbed wire fences, security cameras, and an automatic rifle in the closet.

Which brings me to the point. I watched these shows with interest, but also with a bit of disagreement. These people have little faith. That whole thing about look not to the morrow. But I'm not really talking about religious faith, but the faith that things will be all right. It's a lesson I've learned in my own life, a sort of trust in the universe. That sounds naive, and I can't really help that... it is what it is. So let me supplement that view.

Some of these families had almost a year's worth of food and water stored in their basement caches, all this gear, and so forth. I'm very much for preparedness and such forward thinking is not lost on me, but, what if the issue isn't a coronal mass ejection, a huge economic collapse, or a nuclear winter (and who the hell really wants to survive a nuclear winter anyways?) but something you haven't planned for? What if your survival depends on abandoning your stores, bugging out for somewhere else? It would be hard to leave such an investment of time and money behind. This is called inertia. It's like how we all sort of know building suburbs is ruining the country, but how can we abandon 60+ years of investment and development? Psychologically, that's hard.

Furthermore, these people storing canned foods and manufactured ammunition and all this stuff, they're not becoming independent at all. They depend fundamentally on society by doing that, they haven't learned the real skills of survival. Some of the folks were growing food, true, but only one guy the show featured really took it to its logical endpoint. This guy lived in rural Maine, eats (fresh) roadkill, makes and uses simple but effective hunting weapons (throwing sticks, hatchets, bows), and is teaching his kids real survival skills.

This is real independence. I mean, what are you going to do when your canned goods run out, or some roving gang steals them? Naturally that last point is why all the guns, and I'm not against having something put aside, nor am I against guns; but I think it would be better to throw your time and energy into learning skills than on hard assets like food, ammo, and so forth. Carry your survival cache in your head, and you're truly free.

The rest depends, yes, on faith. Faith and luck. No one knows what the future might bring, what kinds of problems will come up. The most prepared can die from the smallest oversight, while the naive massman might just make it through. You can't plan for everything, and in the end, you know what they say: "the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry." Or if you prefer the more modern take, "if you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans."

Flexibility, creativity, knowledge, and ability. These things are not widely developed these days, as people sleepwalk through their lives, doing their often menial jobs, watching TV, playing games on their iPhones, and generally not thinking about the big picture. We lock into a role and drift with it as long as possible, as long as the money is good and life is easy.

Think it can't happen here?
Lastly, I must mention cities. Cities to me feel like they'd be death traps should a sudden collapse come. They already roil with barely surpressed rage and desperation, the more so the larger the city. Who knows which way it would be directed in a catastrophe; I like to believe that in general, people would be good to each other and help one another out, but eventually, hunger and thirst will make people do terrible things. And with the general lack of real communities, again, the more so in the big cities, but also in the small towns, it might end up feeling like it's every man for himself. That's where you get your apocolyptic Hollywood flicks from.

Like, take grocery stores: they don't keep a lot of food in stock, thanks to "just in time deliveries" from far off places. The shelves could be emptied quickly by those who get their early. After that, what is a New Yorker, or Chicagoan, or Angelino to do? Try to trap the few remaining squirrels and songbirds? Doubtful. They're going to first try to grab what supplies they can, but generally you'll see people heading for the hills. Yet, how many will even know what to do once they get there? Think of the people living in Phoenix, there's no resources there, especially water, the most frightening limiting factor of all.

Personally, I doubt we're going to see a sudden catastrophe like many on this show predict or at least plan for. I think the system will fall, but will fall slowly, crumbling bit by bit. The bigger they are, the harder they fall, but also slower, because there will be many small, if insufficient supports and "solutions" to slow the descent.

But of course, you never know.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Keeping Clean

Cym's recent post on garbage made me remember something I've thought about before: it's weird how humans are the only "neat" creatures. Like, if you leave a dog in a house with plenty of food and water, he'll trash it in no time. He just can't imagine caring about protecting "things," keeping them neat, because for animals, things don't matter (they do know enough not to shit where they sleep, though). Humans go to all these lengths to clean and keep neat and tidy and not damage things. When company comes over, we clean extra hard, to impress them.

But we live in our house, and don't feel like we live in the public sphere. We live in the house, so we keep it neat. But no one feels any ownership in public. That's the city's problem, not mine. The government's. It's like Thoreau spoke of about voting, that weakest mode of civic involvement. Here, we pay our taxes, and therefore the job of keeping the park neat is dumped into the lap of the city council or whatever. Most people probably go their whole lives without even thinking about the issue, it's completely off the radar. Like sewage, water treatment, garbage collection; someone else does that, not my problem, I pay my taxes and fees, and that's enough.

But what happens if no one's paying attention. You  know, who guards the guards, who watches the watchers? We turn the responsibilities over to others and forget about it, but what if they don't do their job? Will they do their job, 100%, if they aren't monitored? Or will they take our money, do a half assed job, good enough to remain under the radar, but not really what we're paying them for? This, incidentally, is why regulations are needed, but of course, again, it still falls to the citizens to ensure the regulators aren't corrupt or negligent. The buck stops here, with the people. You and me, friend.

But we've been duped into a false divide: that between private land and public land. We take care of our homes and yards (in theory); most people don't live in trash and filth if they can avoid it (as for the ones that do, that is something I just don't understand at all). But that is because it's ours. We own it, and know the responsibility falls only to us; no one's going to come clean it up if we don't. But we now don't think of public land as ours, we think of it as the government's. When the money is tight, your state may shut down parks, bar entry. I've written in to newspapers and to politicians about this in the past; who the fuck are they to keep me out of land that is in part owned by me? Let them take their rangers and fee collectors out, but I'm still going in, facilities or not. But they say I can't, it's closed. Most people don't bat an eye at such a thing, because to them, isn't the people's park, it's government property.

What a frightening disconnect, that public land isn't even thought of as being partially ours anymore! What it means is that we no longer feel we have a stake in the government, it is a foreign entity divorced entirely from our control. We go about our little lives, as battered by city, state and federal laws as peasants of old were, as if it were as out of our hands as the weather. So fully trapped in this system of living hand to mouth, mounting debts in the form of mortgages and car loans that most people are too busy working all day, then trying to just freakin relax in the evening, that we can't be bothered to even think about it. Not to mention raising kids, which is a further diversion (if surely a worthwhile one).

Of course, as I've often thought with regard to the Pro Life anti abortion issue, what kind of world are we raising these kids to live in? The way I see it, things are going to eventually get so bad that people will be forced to act. Sad to say, but there's a lot of guns in this country, and a people who are still spoonfed and still fully believe in the ideals of freedom and liberty, even though in practice they don't live it. I know that if people really knew what was going on with the Federal Reserve and the money system, the bailouts, the deal with the IRS, and the total sellout of our government, the Second American Revolution would start... tomorrow. The handwringing and economic despair we feel right now would turn quickly into rage. It's an ugly future that we seem to be hurrying into.

This is long, but well worth watching

Maybe that's what it will take. But maybe it can be averted if we didn't simply simmer in our anger and powerlessness and remember that we do have power. Public land is public, and hey, guess what, you and I are the public! That's my park, that's your library, that's our government! We can do more than vote, than pay our taxes. We can remember that we are more than just a Republic, but also a Democracy. Yes, we have representative government, but in the end-- power to the people.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Down The Road

Down the road and no one's home,
willows stalk the ditches' foam,
saplings spring and grasses sing
where deer in twilight meadows roam.

Down the road a coyote sings,
moonlight glints on owls' wings,
windows dark stare blank and mark
a land where only bear are kings.

Down the road the forests close.
Broken fences decompose.
'Round its stones, past crumbled homes
and bones the river, laughing, flows.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Grow Ops and Special Ops

What is this, freakin' Vietnam? Oh, it's California...

Happened onto this show on the National Geographic Channel about marijuana growing in California's backwoods. It was just the last couple minutes, but what I saw was rather disturbing. Here was this drug agent (what agency I don't know), all decked out in his digital camo, face painted, gun strapped on, and I'm thinking, well Jesus Christ, if you go and militarize it, of course these growers are going to fight back. Criminalize a thing, and you only create criminals. Turn it into an all out war, and you get soldiers. Seen this way, the cartels, and even the smaller independent growers, are easy to understand, with all their armed guards and serious weaponry.

Why not relax the grip a bit? Look at tobacco: more addictive than heroin, but Philip Morris isn't having gun battles in the streets with R. J. Reynolds, smokers aren't mugging old ladies in the street to get their fix. They grow tobacco right out in the open in the fertile fields of the Upper South, and there's no gun running, no paramilitary agents lurking in the bushes with an M-16 and night vision goggles, nor any doing recon from their helicopters. And I've never heard of anyone decapitated by a tobacco cartel.

So my first instinct on seeing this asshole ranger was to sympathize with the growers. I don't like the violence, I don't like them trashing national/state forests and parks, don't like the chemicals they use out there, the garbage they leave, the danger they might pose to the random, innocent bushwhacker (me!). But they're just growing a freakin' plant! So people can smoke the dead flower and feel different. Why is this a crime? Why not let them down from the hills, out from the basement, and into legitimacy?

Especially with the way we fetishize freedom here in America. Now, all people love freedom, but here in the US you can't turn on the TV without hearing the idea hammered on over and over. Then, we go and tell people what they may and may not consume, and how they may and may not perceive reality. Outlawing states of consciousness, absurd! And to throw them in prison for it, taking away that all important freedom, well, it's easy to see why people would fight back. Especially with the cruel and unusual punishment that prison actually represents: prison rape is no secret. Think about it: ingesting an plant is now enough to get you thrown into a state sanctioned Roman wilderness of pain and humiliation. What a nightmare.

So, I say legalize it. I'm very libertarian on drug issues. And by the way, the comparison with tobacco is not a perfect one, and thank god for that. Tobacco is ruled by huge companies making lots of money on a plant that is finicky and hard to grow. Much like alcohol, which requires a lengthy process for most of it. But Cannabis is easy to grow; they don't call it "weed" for nothing. Legalized, we wouldn't even have to deal with sketchy-ass corporations and their big money control over government. You throw some seeds in the garden, and you're good to go. All you need to know is when to harvest and how to dry it; pretty easy stuff, I'm sure. Yeah, there'd be companies selling it, since not everyone can or will grow it, but still, I doubt there'd ever be a Philip Morris of marijuana.

This is all not to even mention the diverse applications for hemp, nor the medical aspects, which are interesting and worthy but which I don't feel like going into right now :)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Responsibility of Sex

This post is a reply to comments made on the previous post.

Who is supposed to be more responsible when it comes to sex, men, or women? Of course it takes two to tango, and it absolutely shouldn't all fall on the woman. Baroness said a man having sex without a condom is like a loaded gun. Not entirely untrue.

On the other hand, as pregnancy by nature does affect women and men differently; maybe she doesn't bear more responsibility, but she owes it to herself to be more careful. Like it or not, the woman is stuck carrying the baby, and nursing it afterwards, while sex holds no such physical implications for a man, who can (irresponsibly) sow his oats all over the place. As humans we must move beyond mere physicality and biology, but we are still animals, and those millions of years of evolution are still strong in us. Especially with the way sex has been so much diminished and debased into an often purely physical act (due in part, ironically enough, to widespread contraception).

Is the responsibility perfectly equal, or even, as Cym once said, slanted towards the man who "got her that way" meaning pregnant? The loaded gun theory. I'm not so sure. Men are only half the equation, they don't "get" a woman pregnant, because there's more than sperm involved. There's the egg. The language reflects the fact that we didn't know about the egg for a long time, thinking it was the life force in the man's semen, but now we know that he isn't planting something in an empty vessel, they are joining their respective gametes together.

So unless it was a rape, which is akin to shooting someone, it is AT BEST equal responsibility. In a way, consensual sex without birth control is more like her playing Russian roulette with her uterus and his "gun." I would argue that women, being affected far more substantially by unprotected sex (not taking into account STDs), might bear more responsibility. Like, with monogamous animals, they don't mate until a strong pair bond is established, because it takes two to raise the offspring. Everyone knows sex causes babies, at least sometimes, so the fact that casual sex exists is pretty freaking stupid on both sides; it only makes sense because birth control exists. Babies are not easy to raise, if they were, this and abortion would not be an issue. Isn't this why men historically protected daughters' and sisters' virtue, and why women used to deny sex until marriage (theoretically) or at least a good while into the relationship, to be sure the guy will stick around? Now we have contraception, so women have more freedom, but only if she uses it or demand he use it, otherwise we're back the the old days, which is stupid.

That's probably going to piss all the women off who read this, but I'm coming at this from a practical, not ideal, angle. Just like when I said people are going to have sex; preach abstinence all you want, but ignoring the reality is causing some major problems. Like the way the Catholic Church won't distribute condoms in Africa, where there's an AIDS epidemic going on, amid a culture that, like it or not, encourages the men to have sex with multiple partners. Ideals are great, but not when they cause suffering.

I'm NOT saying things are how it should be-- the African cultural trait, the irresponsible men (though not all of us!)-- but that's how it is, at least for now. Work to change all that, yes, work to get men to accept their due responsibility for sex and pregnancy, to help there be less pressure and emotional coercion on women, especially young women, to have sex in order to feel loved by their pushy boyfriend... but in the meantime we have to work with what is. That seems the enlightened, Taoist thing to do, at least to me. I favor this sort of two pronged approach.

By the way, when you do return to the issue of STDs, which I wasn't really talking about in the main issue of this post (only when I mentioned the AIDS crisis), then there is absolutely more responsibility on the man to wear a condom.

Lastly, Baroness, you wrote "People like to eat too, but if we put the same kind of "moral" efforts into sexuality as we are beginning to with health-based nutrition, maybe things would be better. Celibacy is sort of like veganism...maybe you SHOULDN'T have so much sex." Unfortunately, your food analogy fails, because celibacy is akin to fasting. Eating healthier is akin to having sex using birth control. No one's going without, they're just doing it intelligently. And there's been centuries of moral efforts on controlling sex, some very violent and repressive, and it just plain doesn't work.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Socialized Contraception

Thinking about all this business about contraceptives and health care and the righty-tighties not wanting their tax money going to helping people screw more, an old essay popped into my head-- John Donne's Meditation XVII. It's a famous work, which I'm sure you have all heard of, inasmuch as you have read the following lines:

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee. Neither can we call this a begging of misery, or a borrowing of misery, as though we were not miserable enough of ourselves, but must fetch in more from the next house, in taking upon us the misery of our neighbours.

Donne was talking about hearing the death tolls from a church ringing out over the land, while he lay sick with his own serious illness. Certainly he wasn't talking about socialism. But then, aren't we all equally sick with the illnesses and ailments of our society? How we deplore abortion, yet refuse to do anything about it besides try to ban the procedures, or try and guilt women into not doing it, calling them sinners, whores, sluts, hellbound. Clearly contraceptives are the first and best way to prevent abortions. No fertilization, no problem.

We have to accept, of course, that people ARE going to have sex. It's what humans do: we walk upright, speak symbolic languages, make tools, and have a lot of sex. No amount of moral finger wagging is going to stop it. So, with that out of the way, we can move on to other points, like how family planning gives more benefits and a brighter future to the children you do have, children you want and are prepared for (such as you can be prepared for parenthood). There are issues of women's health as well, which I am not qualified or informed enough to speak for; I understand, however, that the Pill has uses beyond contraception, such as preventing ovarain cysts.

In the wider context of what this debate is really about-- that being, are we or are we not willing to use public money towards curing certain social problems-- Donne makes his point quite explicit. We are all connected; what harms one harms all. We aren't begging or borrowing misery from elswehere, because there is no elsewhere; the misery is already ours. And it can be flipped: what helps one helps all. Help a family have only as many children as it wants and can afford (financially, emotionally, etc), and you will reduce welfare costs, crime goes down, the populace sees an uptick in educational levels, and so on. Or health care, for gods sake! Provide universal, public option health care, and you automatically improve your entire country's future, because people aren't floundering in debt to hospitals, people can get preventative or early care for ailments before they explode into major problems requiring surgery, radiation, all the invasive care that costs so much. Prices would probably fall, at that, and over time fewer people would be on disability, instead being productive (tax-paying) workers.

Look, if it seemed like the Invisible Hand were ever going to reach down to help the little guy (who makes up a huge chunk of the country, mind you), I'd be the biggest cheerleader for free market capitalism you ever saw. But I see millions falling through the cracks out of this selfish and false idea of individuals existing somehow apart from the community, who demand they get what's theirs and not be forced to help others. That might have worked as a pioneer, living alone on the harsh and empty prairie, but that shit don't fly no more. We already socialize roads, police, fire departments and education because we can see the obvious social good. But with a little thought, the social good of things like socialized health care, contraception and more is just as apparent.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


“Thirty years ago, before I had studied Zen, I saw mountains as mountains and rivers as rivers. And then later, when I had more intimate knowledge, I came to see mountains not as mountains and rivers not as rivers. But now that I have attained the substance, I again see mountains as mountains, and rivers as rivers.”

I've posted on this before, true. But here's another simple way to think about this Zen saying. I read today in Rebecca Solnit's book Wanderlust: A History of Walking, that in Japan, mountaineering was thought of not so much as getting to the top of something, but to the center, like walking a labyrinth. The center of a mandala.

So. From a distance, from the valley, the mountain is a familiar thing, background, scenery, so familiar as to be ignored. The mountain? the villager says; What am I, blind? Of course I know the mountain, it's right over there, see it every day, no big deal. Thoreau said that "to the traveller, a mountain outline varies with every step, and it has an infinite number of profiles, though absolutely one form," which is best observed from afar.

But maybe you decide to go up it, to take the journey. Setting foot upon the slope, the mountain is no longer the mountain. You cannot see it, not the whole thing, not the greater shape; the old parameters are gone, vanished into the thinning air. You see Thoreau's "infinite number of profiles," fragments, rocks at your feet, the trees around you, the trail a little ahead, but not very far, because it bends out of view. The old idea of the mountain no longer applies.

Then you reach the top; the wind tugs at you, the sun bright in the massive blue sky. Now you see that the mountain is not, in fact, best known from afar. You see what the mountain is: not some distant peaked thing, a lot of rock thrusting up out of the plain, a familiar landmark in the townspeople's minds... but something else entirely. Something utterly wild, something I cannot speak of, something only someone who has been on top of a mountain can know; especially, and maybe only, a someone who has walked that vertical walk, moved over the rock under his own power, felt the stab of stone under his soles, drinking hard and deep the mountain-scented air, sweat the good sweat, fought the good fight, the fight against gravity and laziness, to finally break past the tree line, over the final rise, at last to glory in the endless all-around view.

The mountain is now truly the mountain, as object and subject merge as one peak experience. The distant object is gone; the mountain itself is hardly there at all anymore. The center of the mandala.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

I Am Just Crazy Enough

Standing where the lunatic moonlight begins,
near enough to finger-tip touch
but looking towards the raven-wood,
wild forest of feathered dreams--

         I am over the edge. Long distance eyes
         remember the horizon's line, a long, sideways
         doorway into something bigger than before.

I am waiting for the echoes of the old life
to finally fade away, like countless stars
and streetlamps in the monolithic dawn;
the hobby-life, the little works and little loves

         passing off into something truly bright,
         knowing also, when it comes,
         one must answer the light with light.

Saturday, March 3, 2012


The following was going to be a reply to Cym's recent post, but it got rather long and turned into a blog post, so here it is.

I am constantly running up against stuff that irritates me, stupidness, ignorance, all the minor complaints of a given day. Like, last week, I was installing a bathroom light, and to attach the lamp body to the wall plate, there was a screw coming from the back of the wall plate, through the lamp body; you put an acorn nut on the end to secure the lamp that way. Well, the screw was too long, so the nut would bottom out before it pressed against the lamp body. But the hole in the wall plate wasn't threaded, was too big for that girth of screw. So there was no way to back the screw out a bit, meaning the whole thing leans forward, and there's not a damn thing you can do. Yet the thing was a higher end light. WTF? You just throw your hands up at this kind of idiotic design. Someone gets paid a lot of money to make this stupid shit.

But, I've learned to live in the moment, or maybe always have. Some people will get home in the evening and call up their friends and go through their whole day, the good and the bad, but I find that hard to do, because most of it just slides right off my brain. Ask me how my day went, and you'll likely get monosyllables as a reply; the day tends to register more as a general feeling. Only the bigger stuff sticks (like that light, which required some creative thought, plus a weekend trip to a hardware store). Most of it just doesn't seem worth talking about, and I have to really stop to think about the specifics. The day sort of just vanishes for me.

The next step up is political stuff. I could bitch all day about a ton of different issues, I have opinions on most of it, but mostly don't feel like going to the effort, and mostly don't think about it until I am spurred to by reading or hearing something stupid. Maybe if I had a wider audience, and felt like it might have purpose, but mostly it's just crap you gotta live with. It doesn't add much to anything. Like the old joke, when someone asks how you are, and you say, "can't complain," and they say, laughing, "and no one would listen if you did, right?" I try not to waste my breath (or typing) on gripes, and as well try to not do so internally, in my own mind.

I think this puts me on the right track. Irritation is normal, I think, but to stew on it is unenlightened. Maybe if we could let things go quickly, we'd be happier. I know I've long internalized, such as I'm able as a fallible human being, the way Siddhartha in Herman Hesse's novel of the same name, could "wait." Patience was one of his skills, being an advanced meditator, and though I'm not one of those, I abide by the phrase of "it will pass." I may have a brief "outburst" (mentally at least), but like a summer storm, it doesn't last long. I'm not sure if this is an inborn trait or something I've learned, I suspect some of both.

Of course, if we all let things flow by in the stream of time, didn't hold onto our gripes, we'd probably have a hell of a lot less to talk about. After all, the easiest thing to talk about is the problem, the moment's bitch about this or that. I've long noticed that such griping is much of what people talk about at work, and often enough at home too. And of course, some problems do merit holding onto, things that demand justice and action. And as Jack Johnson sang in a favorite lyric of mine, "we are only what we hate." Interesting that we seem to be defined as much by what we find repellant as by what we like (of course, in a dualistic world, it goes both ways).

Controversy, angst, confusion, sadness, and irritation really do inspire words, whereas happiness, pleasure, and bliss do not. Baroness wrote in a comment that the most poignant poetry comes from doubt and disappointment, the best stories are of conflict and loss. You couldn't write a book about nirvana or heaven, but of hell? One need only look to Milton and Dante, right? Of course, there is also some amazing ecstatic poetry, but to be honest, there are far fewer poems that I've read that really move me to joy, compared to how many of the more somber ones have moved me to real feelings of sadness and pain. This is far less true for music, but, music being a category unto itself, and non-verbal, the point remains.

Maybe it's because words are divisions, and joy is more a feeling of connection. You don't really want to separate yourself from the moment to stand back and describe it, because you immediately lose the joy, right? In fact, in many ways, endlessly talking or writing about a problem or political issue or whatever, is a great way to avoid really dealing with it, really doing anything about it. It's easy to sit back and pop off about global warming, the 1%, political corruption, the hungry, the poor, the million different things a bleeding heart liberal like me can feel concerned about, but what it really achieves is a distancing, an objectivization, a rationalization... but not action.