Friday, December 19, 2008


Ever since I ran across this comment by John Trudell it has stuck with me.

Question: Is the writing a complete spiritual source for you?

Trudell's Answer: "I hadn't thought of it in those terms. But I just know it makes me feel better. What surprises me is people will say to me what they get out of these songs, they get this or they get that or it helped them in some kind of a way. It's always kind of a surprise to me because everything came out of desperation and confusion, ya know, it came out of all the turmoil. So if there's a positive effect for people, I'm really glad because it validates what I'm doing in many ways. But again it's not something I can sit down and say "Well, I set out to do this." In a way I set out to purge it out of me. Jackson called it "upheaval" one time. And in a way that's really true. It's like an upheaval and I'm just purging this stuff. When I first started writing, that's what it was. Realistically, when I first started it was a therapy. Not that it was a conscious therapy. I knew I had to write, you know, I had to do something. It was either write or kill or do something, and I thought, well writing is better."

This morning I'm full of upheaval. And there are times when I'm so full of upheaval that I have to purge it out of myself onto the pages of my notebook or the internet.

When I find myself in this place of upheaval I am glad about one thing: I don't blame this upheaval on myself anymore (Thank you Ishmael)It's not me, it's the god damn culture that I'm a part of. It's not changing fast enough for me. What I mean by that is friends, family, neighbors, and local writers very rarely talk about the problems we face as a culture. And that takes me back to R.D Laing's three rules of a dysfunctional family.

"I don't think there really is anything even remotely resembling academic freedom or freedom of discourse within the culture. I keep thinking about RD Laing's 3 rules of a dysfunctional family, which are also the 3 rules of a dysfunctional culture. Rule A is Don't. Rule A.1 is Rule A does not exist. Rule A.2 is Never discuss the existence or nonexistence of Rules A, A.1, or A.2. The way this plays out within an abusive family structure is that the members can talk about anything they want except for the violence they must pretend isn't happening. The way this plays out on the larger social scale is that we can talk about whatever we want--we can have whatever 'academic' or 'journalistic' 'freedom' we want--so long as we don't talk about the fact that this culture is based on systematic violence, and has been from the beginning. Anyone who's been paying any attention at all for the last 200 years knows that the United States is based on systematic violence. We live on land stolen from Indians. The economy runs on oil stolen from people the world over. The entire economy is based on conquest and theft. It's no wonder most of the people in the world hate the U.S. But of course we can't talk about that. Anyone who does talk about that and is noticed must be silenced as quickly as possible."

I told Annie this morning that we can unschool Daniel, work on becoming mortgage free, learn our local plants, eat local foods, and write letters to the editor. But, you know what? Our efforts may be fun, fullfilling and nourishing, but none if it does a damn bit of good if the people around us don't really give a shit. The culture will continue on it's path of ecological destruction. And this takes me back to this excerpt out of the same interview with John Trudell.

"For an individual to take responsibility, because the individual leads to the collective, for an individual to take responsibility, I think we should always tell ourselves the truth. We should never lie to ourselves. Some of the most dangerous lies are the lies of rationalization and justification. We should always tell ourselves the truth. We should always be real with ourselves, even if our truths are glorious or shameful. Even if it's things we do that we don't like doing, we should always be truthful to ourselves about what we're doing. Because if we cannot be real to ourselves, then we will not be real in the world. And that's just the way it is."

When do we plan on starting to tell the truth about what were doing here as a culture?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cold and Machines

Yesterday morning it was 25 below zero here in Northwestern Wisconsin. Our car didn't start. I cranked and cranked on it but it wouldn't fire. Pissed off, my dad and I finally towed it four miles down the road to his heated garage. A couple hours later I got it running and Annie was able to use it on the mail route in the afternoon (she is a part time rural route carrier for the U.S postal service).

But while I was sitting in the driver's seat of a car where the temperature inside the cab was well below zero, and being towed down the road in my pic-up being driven by my dad, I couldn't help but think about this quote by Chuang Tzu:

Whoever uses machines does all his work like a machine. He who does his work like a machine grows a heart like a machine, and he who carries the heart of a machine in his breast loses his simplicity. It is not that I do not know of such things; I am ashamed to use them.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Whitetail Doe

Last week I shot a whitetail doe during the Wisconsin nine day gun deer season. I couldn't help but feel gifted. I couldn't help but feel that the universe took notice of me, much like a gambler must feel when their pick wins the race. On the other hand, I couldn't help but feel sadness that she will not see another sunrise or enjoy her motherly duty of having her fawns around.

I too often forget that my life will come to an end just as the deer's did a few days ago.

Out of all the mixed feelings and thoughts about this hunting experience, I know I come out of it feeling more alive than usual. There is something to be said about that.

I love deer hunting.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Reading Stories

More reflection on the Kamana program.

Since I was first introduced to The Tracker, almost twenty years ago now, I've always wondered why I have spent more time reading stories written by humans than reading the stories made by animals on the landscape. Well, I ran across this post with that question in mind. This excerpt from it explains it well:

One reason for this is that these stories are composed of languages that are new and unfamiliar to me.

Written English is what I grew up with. I was a precocious reader, and a voracious one. Literacy has been my source of story and identity for a long time. Whatever activity I explore, I accompany it by reading a book about it. And there’s no shortage of books about spirituality, magic, primitive skills, tracking, fighting.

But maybe I’m too locked into English. This is human language, after all, and seeking stories in human language keeps me trapped in the human world, keeps me in a hall of mirrors where I’m just trying to find another human who has come up with a story for me. It keeps me blocked off from other sources of story.

This is the dilemma, though: that, having been locked into human language for so long, I’m illiterate in other forms. I can’t read the language of the birds or animal tracks or plant growth. I can’t read the clouds or the wind or the seasons. And, being unable to read them, they aren’t meaningful to me in a direct way.

So I end up relying on other people’s descriptions. When I read Tom Brown, Jr.’s The Tracker, like many other people, I was captivated by the stories he could tell about nature. When I took his Standard class, one morning, simply in passing, he told a story about the tracks he saw that morning, about the raccoons that had rummaged in the garbage and the coyote that had stopped on the ridge and then ran away because he saw someone. What I wanted, above all, was to experience that kind of meaning, to read the world the way I could read a book.

The problem, though, as many a linguist will tell you, is that languages are best learned when you’re young. When you’re older, it takes a lot more effort to become fluent. It’s taken me many hours of practice to begin to be fluent in pulse diagnosis, and it’s at least related to my chosen profession. Certainly there are people who haven’t had the opportunity in childhood but have now developed a passion for tracking and have become very good at it. But I don’t want to have to be passionate about something in order to extract meaning from it. I want that meaning to be easy as me picking up a book. But it’s not, and won’t be without plenty of practice. And practice requires motivation, and motivation requires, well, a reason, a purpose, a Myth.

Does it all lead back to stories and myth?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Wisconsin Deer Hunting and Competition

This morning I listened to Joy Cardin's call-in radio show about deer hunting in the state of Wisconsin. One of the issues that was brought up during the show was that there are to many deer in the state, so hunters need to shoot more deer to bring the numbers down. The part of the show that caught my attention was Frank's (He was from Portage, WI) call at about 45 or so minutes into the hour long program. What I heard Frank saying in his comment is that part of the problem is that we're not letting the natural predators like wolves, bear, and cougars do their job of consuming deer because we have taken over their territories, therefore bringing their numbers down so they can't make an impact on the deer herd. He also mentioned that we keep taking from the land and its inhabitants, and we have been doing this since we decided to take the land from the Native Americans that lived here.

I was disappointed with Keith Warnke's response to Frank. Keith is a Big Game Specialist who works for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The main reason why is that he didn't mention our total dependence on agriculture to produce our food. And most importantly, because of this dependence on agriculture we are breaking The Biological Law of Limited Competition. The law simply states:

You may compete to the full extent of your capabilities, but you may not hunt down your competitors or destroy their food or deny them access to food. Lions and hyenas will kill competitors opportunistically (as will other creatures, like baboons), but the law as stated holds true: they do not HUNT their competitors the way they hunt their prey. That is, they'll kill a competitor if they come across one (especially in conflict over food when food is scarce), but in the absence of a competitor, they won't go looking for one to kill. Such behavior would be evolutionarily unstable. (See THE SELFISH GENE by R. Dawkins.) As a strategy, it just doesn't pay off to use your time and energy hunting competitors that you DON'T eat (and that will fight back to the death) instead of using your time and energy to hunt prey that you DO eat. It's not a matter of ethics, it's a matter of calories.*

Spraying pesticides on fields, killing wolves because they kill whitetail deer, shooting deer because they eat our corn, are all examples of killing our competitors because we don't want them to have our food. That's breaking the Law of Limited Competition. The problem is that over time a species will go extinct from breaking this law. Experts and citizens alike, I think, really need to start talking about this more.

I would like to be a guest on Wisconsin Public Radio talking about this and other ideas brought up in Daniel Quinn's work. Perhaps there needs to be an organization started in the state that focuses on those ideas. Anybody out there with any ideas? In the ten years I have been listening to WPR I have not heard a guest voice the B Attitudes, but I have heard callers like Frank touch on them.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Kamana Reflection

It's been almost four years since I signed up for the Kamana program. There is four levels to it, and for some who are really dedicated it can take just over a year to complete. I'm over half way through it and not particularily proud of it. I told myself that after we moved into our cordwood house I was going to start visiting my sit spot again. Well, we've been living in here for almost a month and I haven't visited it yet. So I've been thinking a lot about why I'm stuck in this program. I figure if I can help build a house from scratch and remain debt free (except for a few credit card bills) I should be able to complete this program.

Last week I asked what the definition of vision was. I quoted Daniel Quinn out of Beyond Civilization trying to come to some kind of understanding what this invisible thing we call vision is. I find myself going back to the section about vision in Beyond Civilization trying to understand why I'm having a hard time finishing this program.

Every year, without fail, we outlaw more things, catch more people doing them, and put more of them in jail. The outlawed behavior never goes away, because, directly or indirectly, it's supported by the strong, invisible, unrelenting force called vision. This explains why police officers are much more likely to take up crime than criminals are to take up law enforcement. It's called "going with the flow." pg.17

Like the police officers in Quinn's example, perhaps I'm going more with the flow of our culture at this point in time. There really is no external reward (Like getting paid to do it.) for doing what is required in the Kamana program. To put it simply, the program doesn't pay the bills. This makes me wonder how much different this Kamana journey would be for me if I got paid for my time doing it?

Thursday, November 13, 2008


"Up to the twentieth century, "reality" was everything humans could touch, smell, see, and hear. Since the initial publication of the chart of the electromagnetic spectrum ... humans have learned that what they can touch, smell, see, and hear is less than one-millionth of reality. Ninety-nine percent of all that is going to affect our tomorrows is being developed by humans using instruments and working in ranges of reality that are nonhumanly sensible." Buckminster Fuller

Thursday, November 06, 2008

What is Vision?

This question has been on my mind since reading Daniel Quinn's Beyond Civilization almost a decade ago. I know there are visions in mission statements and personal visions and so on, but I don't think I've fully grasped what vision means. Here is the excerpt out of BC that I keep going back to when I think about vision:

Vision is like Gravity

Vision is to culture what gravity is to matter. When you see a ball roll off a table and fall to the floor, you should think, "Gravity is at work here." When you see a culture make its appearance and spread outward in all directions until it takes over the entire world, you should think, "Vision is at work here."
When you see a small group of people begin behaving in a special way that subsequently spreads across an entire continent, you should think, "Vision is at work here." If I tell you that the small group I have in mind were followers of a first-century preacher named Paul and that the continent was Europe, you'll know the vision was Christianity.
Dozens or perhaps even hundreds of books have investigated the reasons for Christianity's success, but not one of them was written before the nineteenth century. Before that nineteenth century it seemed to everyone that Christianity no more needed reasons to succeed than gravity does. It was bound to succeed. Its success was sponsored by destiny.
For exactly the same reason, no one has ever written a book investigating the reasons for the success of the Industrial Revolution. It's perfectly obvious to us that the Industrial Revolution was bound to succeed. It could no more have failed than a ball rolling off a table could fall toward the ceiling.
That's the power of vision.

I'm looking for personal definitions of vision or what other authors have said about vision. Any help would be appreciated.

Thank you.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Ancestral Memory

"Why should one feel it to be intolerable unless one had some kind of ancestral memory that things had once been different?" - George Orwell, 1984

Friday, October 10, 2008

Accepting Pain

“Any pain is bearable if it’s part of a story.” Isak Dinesen

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Pushing Boundries

I’m frustrated.

I have been following Ran Prieur’s posts about money and the economy. They’re amazing. A few thoughts come to mind after reading them: Most people never have or never will learn about this in or out of school, or if they do they will never see the value in it. As Ran says:

Specifically, I don't expect one in ten economists to agree that interest causes inflation, because interest is to economists as water is to fish. Because of their training, they are simply unable to imagine a world without it.

Another thing that I hear Ran saying is that the whole idea of borrowing money and being expected to pay back more than what you borrowed is one of the main problems with our economic system.

It's true that the payment of interest is now only a minor part of the growing money supply, but he misses the deeper issue: without the idea of interest, the custom that borrowers pay back more than they borrowed, banks would have no incentive to loan money, and banks as we know them would not even exist.

Can you imagine a world without banks?

I picked up my local newspaper yesterday. I rarely ever do this because I don’t have much time to read, and when I do have the time to read I’m either reading books or reading articles like Ran’s on the internet. But what I fantasized about before picking up the paper was seeing an article in the Readers Opinion column talking about alternative money systems like demurrage currency and the Brakteaten money system. After all, those money systems appeal to someone imagining a money system that is not driven by the idea of interest. To my mind, using those money systems would be one of many practical solutions to the economic and other problems we are facing.

Well, I didn’t notice any mention of the demurrage currency or the Brakteaten money system. Perhaps a lack of imagination is the problem. Maybe there was no mention of this because those alternative money systems are still blind spots to most of us, perhaps we need to shine more light on them.

That last thought leads me to an image of John Trudell in Trudell: The Movie sitting in a chair talking about how amongst us there is just not much clear and coherent thought about the problems we are facing. He’s right. In my day-to-day life outside of the internet no one really talks about the problems we are facing, and if they do the conversation doesn't last long. If we’re not going to talk about them we’re surely not going to think about them.

That's why I'm frustrated. I know a better world is possible but we're not close to yet.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Porcupines and Shadow Souls

The words conservation and ecology, as we use them in the Western sense, don't exactly fit what Indian people did or do with the land. It was their livelihood, which depended on reciprocity. Thus, the trees were not seen as trees, they were also seen as relatives. The trees are relatives and other species are relatives and they watched you all the time. It was a forest that looked at you to see how you were handling the remains of plants and animals."

"An animals shadow soul is alive for a long time after an animal is killed, and it watches how you treat the remains.
Dennis Martinez, pg. 93 Original Instructions

Ever since reading A Language Older Than Words I have moved close to fifty dead animals off from the roads near my house. The other day was no exception. This time it was the biggest porcupine I had ever seen.

Cory (My sister's husband),Tyler (My nephew) approached it. As we did Cory said, "Oh, that has been lying their since I went to work this morning." Cory has to leave for work well before the sun rises. As we stood there the sun was starting to set.

Looking at it I could see that it's quills were spread down the road roughly 25 feet. One side of its body was scraped clean from being drug underneath a car. It was severely bloated. Flies were swarming around it.

It was going about its day and got in the way of a car and lost its life.

I scooped it up and moved it out of the way of progress. I layed it to rest in a hazelnut thicket and faced it west. Its body will be able to decay and return to the earth with dignity. When the time comes I hope my body is treated the same way.


It's been months since I wrote that above. Looking back at what I wrote and the experience of moving the porcupine off the road reminds me of something Derrick Jensen said over at his discussion list. He said that in a documentary he was watching about serial killers there was a FBI agent describing that a serial killer has as much consideration for their victims as we do a piece of tissue paper.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Mythology and School

For the past week or so, I've been reading through Daniel Quinn's essays over at the Ishmael Community. Mainly because a friend of mine asked me what essays he should pass on to a friend of his. What usually happens when I go back and read Quinn's work I learn something new. This time a paragraph about mythology from an interview he did in August of 2000 jumped out at me.

Mythology arises among people spontaneously--and only spontaneously. The UFO-invasion mythology of the last half century has sprung up in response to the "invasion" into our lives of sciences and technologies that seem increasingly "alien" to us. In the fifties, the growth of Soviet military power terrified us, and UFO mythology responded with endless stories of combat encounters with militarily superior UFOs. As the Soviet threat faded and health care became increasingly depersonalized and incomprehensible, UFO mythology began to concentrate on abduction stories about people being taken into spaceship hospitals for mysterious and painful tests they didn’t want or understand, administered by medical scientists who were oblivious or indifferent to the suffering of their "patients." As incomprehensible genetic manipulation by human scientists began to loom as a threat, UFO mythology began to assign convoluted genetic motives to UFO abductors. (You ask if we should "do away" with mythology, but you can no more do away with mythology than you can do away with anxiety or hope.)

And you can’t create "new" mythology by fiat. You can, however, expose mythology AS mythology, which is the task I’ve undertaken in my books.

The above paragraph has got me thinking about the mythologies that we use to justify sending our kids to school. Quinn mentions those myths HERE.

The need for schooling is bolstered by two well-entrenched pieces of cultural mythology. The first and most pernicious of these is that children will not learn unless they're compelled to--in school. It is part of the mythology of childhood itself that children hate learning and will avoid it at all costs. Of course, anyone who has had a child knows what an absurd lie this is. From infancy onward, children are the most fantastic learners in the world. If they grow up in a family in which four languages are spoken, they will be speaking four languages by the time they're three or four years old--without a day of schooling, just by hanging around the members of their family, because they desperately want to be able to do the things they do.

That's the first myth. After reading that paragraph I can't help but think about the fact that I spent the majority of my time as a child sitting in a classroom bored out of my skull. And the crazy thing is that almost all of the adults around me said that I needed school, and if didn't go I would be dumb. But notice that I said almost all of the adults.

My Grandpa didn't believe this, he said most of the teachers were educated idiots. I don't know if I necessarily agreed with him than or now, but his opinions about the idea of schooling and the people that ran it was a lifeline for me. There weren't many adults out there that I knew talking like this, so naturally I had to think about it. And now that I think of it, he threw me a couple of lifelines throughout my life that I would like to write about sometime.

Back to the second myth:

One final argument people advance to support the idea that children need all the schooling we give them is that there is vastly more material to be learned today than there was in prehistoric times or even a century ago. Well, there is of course vastly more material that can be learned, but we all know perfectly well that it isn't being taught in grades K to twelve. Whole vast new fields of knowledge exist today--things no one even heard of a century ago: astrophysics, biochemistry, paleobiology, aeronautics, particle physics, ethology, cytopathology, neurophysiology--I could list them for hours. But are these the things that we have jammed into the K-12 curriculum because everyone needs to know them? Certainly not. The idea is absurd. The idea that children need to be schooled for a long time because there is so much that can be learned is absurd. If the citizen's education were to be extended to include everything that can be learned, it wouldn't run to grade twelve, it would run to grade twelve thousand, and no one would be able to graduate in a single lifetime.

There are the two myths that we use to justify sending our kids off to school for the majority of their childhood.

Right now I'm thinking those two schooling myths were spontaneously created because we live in an industrial society. In the world of work children are capable of doing a lot of the jobs, but the jobs just aren't there for them to do. So the role that school plays in this industrial society is that of a holding pen, for the most part. Those two myths are what we use to keep them there. And over time children actually start to believe those myths themselves, they actually believe they can't learn without school.

Friday, September 05, 2008

A Sense of Urgency

I wonder if the words below, that came from this interview, make people feel like that undermining the very foundations of our civilization is doable and rewarding?

Many people can get behind the idea of a cataclysmic revolution that will reduce civilization to a smoking ruin overnight, and many others can get behind the idea of a day-long festival of prayer and meditation that will make civilization melt away into nothing like the Wicked Witch of the West. But the idea of undermining civilization's foundations and sapping its titanic strength incrementally as a rewarding, lifelong process is a bit of a shocker.

My high school physics teacher, when talking about mass, said that if you should ever confront a locomotive creeping down the tracks at an inch a second, your intuition will tell you that you can stop it easily just by sticking our your hand. But, even though it's traveling only an inch a second, your intuition is wrong, because its enormous mass will keep on moving forward as if you weren't even there. This is the way it is with our civilization. It has the momentum of two hundred human generations behind it. Its crushing forward movement isn't going to be stopped in a moment, but every hand pressed against it reduces its momentum infinitesimally--and the more hands that are applied to the task, the sooner it will be stopped in its tracks.

Monday, September 01, 2008


Human beings will be happier, not when they cure cancer or get to Mars or eliminate racial prejudice or flush Lake Erie but when they find ways to inhabit primitive communities again. That's my utopia. Kurt Vonnegut

Friday, August 29, 2008

Arguing and Mythology

"It’s pointless to argue with mythology. Once upon a time, the people of your culture believed that man’s home was the center of the universe. Man was the reason the universe had been created in the first place, so it made sense that his home should be its capital. The followers of Copernicus didn’t argue with this. They didn’t point at people and say, ‘You’re wrong’. They pointed at the heavens and said, ‘Look at what’s actually there.’”-(Quinn, Ishmael, p 83)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Two Authors Two Visions

Recently, over at The Ishmael Community Guestbook, John Kurmann posed this question about one aspect of Derrick Jensen's work to Daniel Quinn:

Post# 15601

This post is addressed to Daniel Quinn:

I first heard about Derrick Jensen's work through a recommendation you made on your reading list several years ago for his book A Language Older Than Words. I thought Language was a deeply moving and beautiful book--still do--and I also admired his next book, The Culture of Make Believe, though its subject was so dark as to make it far from enjoyable for me.

In his more recent work, though, Jensen has expressed his conviction that "[t]his culture will not undergo any sort of voluntary transformation to a sane and sustainable way of living" (quoting from Endgame). Based on that assumption, he's argued that the very best those who love the world can do is to try to bring civilization down as soon as possible in a sort of planned demolition, like taking down a condemned building. While I don't agree with Jensen and see no reason to think you do based on my understanding of your work, my impression is that many people with an earnest desire to save the world have read books by both of you and would likely be interested in reading your reaction to his clarion call for us to "bring it all down."

Here was Daniel Quinn's response:

In ISHMAEL (pages 105-110) I dubbed our civilization "the Taker Thunderbolt," a badly designed aircraft that began in free fall and is still in free fall--in the air but not in flight. Nowadays, Ishmael says, "Everyone is looking down, and it's obvious that the ground is rushing up toward you--and rushing up faster every year. Basic ecological and planetary systems are being impacted by the Taker Thunderbolt, and that impact increases in intensity every year. Basic, irreplaceable resources are being devoured every year--and they're being devoured more greedily every year. Whole species are disappearing as a result of your encroachment--and they're disappearing in greater numbers every year. Pessimists--or it may be that they're realists--look down and say, 'Well, the crash may be twenty years off or maybe as much as fifty years off. Actually it could happen anytime. There's no way to be sure.' But of course there are optimists as well, who say, 'We must have faith in our craft. After all, it has brought us this far in safety. What's ahead isn't doom, it's just a little hump that we can clear if we all just pedal a little harder. Then we'll soar into a glorious, endless future, and the Taker Thunderbolt will take us to the stars and we'll conquer the universe itself.' But your craft isn't going to save you. Quite the contrary, it's your craft that's carrying you toward catastrophe. Five billion of you pedaling away--or ten billion or twenty billion--can't make it fly. It's been in free fall from the beginning, and that fall is about to end."

Derrick Jensen sees as clearly as I do the disastrous impact the Taker Thunderbolt is having on our planet. It is at this point that our visions diverge. I would like to avert the crash if at all possible by making the "passengers" of the Thunderbolt understand WHY the Thunderbolt can't stay in the air–and never could have. I want them to understand this for two reasons: first, to get them working on making the Thunderbolt airworthy, and second, if they can't do that–if the Thunderbolt crashes–to make sure they understand that they must not just BUILD IT AGAIN. Jensen merely wants to accelerate the crash. My point is that, if that crash were to occur tomorrow, the people of the world would, I believe, immediately begin rebuilding the Thunderbolt, putting themselves in a position to repeat the catastrophe once again someday in the future. As I say, I would like to avert the catastrophe; but if that's not possible, I would like time to make as many people as possible understand WHY it happened and that we must not just start doing it all over again. Jensen puts his faith in destroying civilization; I put mine in changing minds.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

What We Say and What We Do

Here are two quotes that I think sum up the difference between how we civilized folks live our lives compared to how people from indigenous cultures live their lives.

“Religion is in reality of living. Our religion is not what we profess or what we say or what we proclaim. Our religion is what we do, what we desire, what we seek, what we dream about, what we fantasize, what we think, all these things, 24-hours a day. One’s religion then is ones life and not merely the ideal of life, but the life that’s actually lived.” Jack Forbes

"Our moral syntax has no predicate. Hence we speak of doing good, good for its own sake, or evil. We convert each to a pure substantive, beyond experience, abstract. That is what [anthropologist] Paul Radin meant when he observed that the subject (or object) to which love, remorse, sorrow, may be directed is regarded as secondary in our civilization. All have the rank of virtues as such: they are manifestations of God's if not of Man's way. But among primitives . . . the converse holds. Morality is behavior, values are not detached, not substantives; the good, the true, the beautiful or rather, the ideas of these things, do not exist. Therefore, one does not fall in love, one loves another; and that is an intricately learned experience, as hate, in a certain sense, also is." Stanley Diamond

Sunday, August 03, 2008

The Golden Thread

In the evenings we usually go for a big ride. Sometimes only for a mile or less, and sometimes up to five miles. Lately, while on the ride, I have been finding myself identifying wildflowers along the roadside. The beauty of the flowers is hard to resist. I bet you I've learned well over fifteen plant names in the past two weeks. Plants that I've walked and driven by hundreds of times but paid no attention to.

When this first started I was surprised, but then I decided to just go with it. And throughout this process there has been this voice inside my head saying: you've got to check out The Lost Language of Plants, you've got to check out the The Lost Language of Plants. I let it be. I'm reading another book anyway. Then this interview with the author made its way into my email inbox.

This paragraph out of the interview caught my attention:

I never have been happy in a box. Life is not a box (nor a box of cherries either). Life is some living thing that all of us are involved in. So, I dive in to whatever captures my attention. I immerse myself in it, learn to think through that field of knowledge. I have a sense of the book that is calling to me to be written. There is a feel to truth and I follow that feeling, what the poet William Stafford called the golden thread that all writers must follow for their work to be real. That thread, that feeling, leads to everything I study, often through processes that are not linear and that defy rational explanation. I just happen to stop to get gas at this gas station rather than that one and someone there just happens to drop a book in front of me that just happens to be related to what I am immersed in at that moment. I always know something about the topic I am going into but what I know and what is ultimately true are often different. I always learn as I go. Following golden threads is the most interesting kind of education I am aware of. There are no discipline boundaries with golden threads, interrelated data streams from diverse fields are the norm.

I will be checking out the The Lost Language of Plants soon

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Meditation in the Morning

This morning before going out to work on the cordwood house, I chose to turn on the computer and meditate. Whenever I think of meditation or hear it mentioned, I picture a person sitting cross-legged humming for hours on end. Well, not no more. Kurt Vonnegut has offered us a different perspective on what it means to meditate.

"Literature is holy to me […] Meditation is holy to me, for I believe that all the secrets of existence and non existence are somewhere in our heads - or in other people's heads.

And I believe that reading and writing are the most nourishing forms of meditation anyone has so far found.

By reading the writings of the most interesting minds in history, we meditate with our own minds and theirs as well.

This to me is a miracle."
Kurt Vonnegut

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Tribal Life

I pulled the Daniel Quinn quote off from Shiny New Keychain.

"Tribal life is not in fact perfect, idyllic, noble, or wonderful, but wherever it’s found intact, it’s found to be working well -— as well as the life of lizards, raccoons, geese, or beetles —- with the result that the members of the tribe are not generally enraged, rebellious, desperate, stressed-out borderline psychotics being torn apart by crime, hatred, and violence. What anthropologists find is that tribal peoples, far from being nobler, sweeter, or wiser than us, are as capable as we are of being mean, unkind, short-sighted, selfish, insensitive, stubborn, and short-tempered. The tribal life doesn’t turn people into saints; it enables ordinary people to make a living together with a minimum of stress year after year, generation after generation.” (Daniel Quinn, Beyond Civilization, p. 61).

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Internet Inspiration

A few months back Filip had mentioned that my blog had inspired him to start a new blog. It's called: The World Is As You Dream It. It's full of great writing, wisdom and stunning photographs that were taken by him. I highly recommend checking it out.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Power and Writing

Writing was one of the original mysteries of civilization, and it reduced the complexities of experience to the written word. Moreover, writing provides the ruling classes with an ideological instrument of incalculable power. The word of God becomes an invincible law, mediated by priests; therefore, respond the Iroquois, confronting the European: "Scripture was written by the Devil." With the advent of writing, symbols became explicit; they lost a certain richness. Man's word was no longer an endless exploration of reality, but a sign that could be used against him.... For writing splits consciousness in two ways--it becomes more authoratative than talking, thus degrading the meaning of speech and eroding oral tradition; and it makes it possible to use words for the political manipulation and control of others. Written signs supplant memory; an official, fixed, and permanent version of events can be made. If it is written, in early civilizations, it is bound to be true. In Search of the Primitive, Pg. 4

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Culture Change

Most often, change, atleast on a social level, occurs the way Max Planck described it: "A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it." Years ago I read Oswald Spengler's Decline of the West. It's a long book, from which I really remember only one image. I think Spengler pleased at which one. A culture is like a plant growing in a particular soil. When the soil is exhausted--presuming a closed system (i.e., the soil isn't being replenished)--the plant dies. Cultures--or atleast historical (as opposed to cyclical) cultures--are the same. The Roman empire exhausted its possibilities (both physical, in terms of resources , and psychic or spiritual), then hung on decadent--I mean this in its deeper sense of decaying, although the meaning having to do with debauchery works, too--for a thousand years. Other empires are the same. The British Empire. The American Empire. Civilization itself has continued to grow by expanding the zone from which it takes resources. The plant has gotten pretty big, but at the cost of a lot of dead soil.

I think the exhausted soil metaphor works for individuals, too: they don't generally change until they've exhausted the possibilities of their previous way of being. Endgame, pg. 89

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Fight Club Quotes

I'm going to post some quotes below from the book Fight Club. I have a few favorites. Here is one of them:

Tyler Durden: Man, I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who've ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need. We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war... our Great Depression is our lives. We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off.

I'm 33 years old. And I would consider myself a part of this generation. My generation is really really pissed off if you haven't noticed. But, I think most of us don't really know at what.


Narrator: People are always asking me if I know Tyler Durden.


Tyler Durden: All the ways you wish you could be, that's me. I look like you wanna look, I fuck like you wanna fuck, I am smart, capable, and most importantly, I am free in all the ways that you are not. Narrator: Marla just answer the question. Did we ever have sex.


Marla Singer: Ok. You fuck me, then snub me. You love me, you hate me. You show me a sensitive side, then you turn into a total asshole. Is this a pretty accurate description of our relationship, Tyler?
Narrator: Wait. What did you just call me?
Marla Singer: Tyler. Tyler Durden. Tyler Durden, you crazy fuck!


Narrator: Tyler, what the fuck is going on here?
Tyler Durden: I ask you for one thing, one simple thing.Narrator: Why do people think that I'm you? Answer me!
Tyler Durden: Sit.
Narrator: Now answer me, why do people think that I'm you.
Tyler Durden: I think you know.
Narrator: No, I don't.
Tyler Durden: Yes, you do. Why would anyone possibly confuse you with me?
Narrator: Uh... I... I don't know.[Random flashbacks]
Tyler Durden: You got it.
Narrator: No.
Tyler Durden: Say it.
Narrator: Because...
Tyler Durden: Say it.
Narrator: Because we're the same person.
Tyler Durden: That's right.


Tyler Durden: We're consumers. We are by-products of a lifestyle obsession. Murder, crime, poverty, these things don't concern me. What concerns me are celebrity magazines, television with 500 channels, some guy's name on my underwear. Rogaine, Viagra, Olestra.
Narrator: Martha Stewart.
Tyler Durden: Fuck Martha Stewart. Martha's polishing the brass on the Titanic. It's all going down, man. So fuck off with your sofa units and Strinne green stripe patterns, I say never be complete, I say stop being perfect, I say let... lets evolve, let the chips fall where they may.


Tyler Durden: The things you own end up owning you.


Tyler Durden: It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything.


Tyler Durden: You have to know the answer to this question! If you died right now, how would you feel about your life?
Narrator: I don't know, I wouldn't feel anything good about my life, is that what you want to hear me say? Fine. Come on!
Tyler Durden: Not good enough.


Tyler Durden: You're not your job. You're not how much money you have in the bank. You're not the car you drive. You're not the contents of your wallet. You're not your fucking khakis. You're the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world.


Tyler Durden: Listen up, maggots. You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You're the same decaying organic matter as everything else.


Tyler Durden: Sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken.


Tyler Durden: Did you know if you mixed equal parts of gasoline and frozen orange juice concentrate you can make napalm?
Narrator:No. I did not know that. Is that true?
Tyler Durden: That's right; one can make all kinds of explosives using simple household items...
Narrator: Really?
Tyler Durden: If one were so inclined.


Narrator: We have front row seats for this theater of mass destruction. The demolition committee of Project Mayhem wrapped the foundation columns of a dozen buildings with blasting gelatin. In two minutes, primary charges will blow base charges and a few square blocks will be reduced to smoldering rubble. I know this... because Tyler knows this.


Tyler Durden: It's getting exciting now, 2 and 1/2. Think of everything we've accomplished, man. Out these windows, we will view the collapse of financial history. One step closer to economic equilibrium.


Tyler Durden: In the world I see - you are stalking elk through the damp canyon forests around the ruins of Rockefeller Center. You'll wear leather clothes that will last you the rest of your life. You'll climb the wrist-thick kudzu vines that wrap the Sears Tower. And when you look down, you'll see tiny figures pounding corn, laying strips of venison on the empty car pool lane of some abandoned superhighway.
Narrator: On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Republic of Lakotah

If you own land in the Republic of Lakotah ( The states of: Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska) it looks like you will be recieving a notice in the mail to attend a public meeting real soon.