Are We Really Fighting to Save the Planet?

Gaia

While so-called “climate deniers” are still being put down (this despite more and more people questioning the science behind global warming), it is apparent to me that much of the “debate” is not so much over the idea that our climate is changing, but rather over the effects our activities over the past 100 years or so have had on that change and whether or not the “solutions” as presented by climate change “believers” would really have any of the desired effects….or are simply money-making schemes by the leading proponents/movers behind the idea.

Ok…go ahead and roll your eyes.  Who am I but just another misled, fairly-conservative blogger?  I’m sure most people reading this who consider themselves climate change activists…or at least relayers of and proponents of the proposed “solutions” (carbon taxing, use of alternative sources of energy, etc.)… have at least heard of Derrick Jensen, also known as the “poet of the environmental movement” and author of “Deep Green Resistance.”  I don’t share all of his ideas–particularly his call for a total departure from our present industrial economy and a return of all humanity to land-based economies (as attractive as that sounds), nor his suggestion that Trump and all 62 million of his supporters value our current system more than nature–but he is an eloquent writer and has a way of cutting through a lot of B.S.

In his essay, “The Myths of Renewable Energy”, Jensen states:

   “It’s not just Trump and the 62 million Americans who voted for him who value the economic system more than they value the real world. The same is true for Democrats, Republicans, political leaders around the world, mainstream journalists and nearly all climate change activists. They all make very clear their priorities each and every day.

   Don’t believe me? Then ask yourself: What do all of their so-called solutions to global warming have in common?

   The answer is all of their solutions prioritize this way of life—industrialism, industrial civilization, capitalism, colonialism—over the needs of the natural world. All of their solutions accept this way of life as a given—as what must be preserved at all costs—and presume that the natural world must conform to the demands and harmful effects of this culture. So in real terms, whatever effort that’s going into stopping the harm from global warming is in all truth attempting to stop the harm to the economy, not the planet.

   They’re quite explicit about this. Read their own words. They call this “The Race to Save Civilization.” Or “Providing a Plan to Save Civilization.” Or “Mobilizing to Save Civilization.”

   I’ve watched the numbers of posts and ads put out by the many environmental groups increase dramatically over the past few years, calling for support (funding largely) in protecting various areas and species and warning of threats against our natural resources, parks, etc on the part of the government, industry, ranchers, etc.  I also noticed our last president setting aside enormous amounts of land (some of which contain large amounts of valuable resources) by giving them special designations which “protect them” while of giving the federal government policing powers over those lands.  I’ve also heard of various schemes like the one in which Diane Feinstein, D-Ca generated a lot of support for herself as a champion of the environmental movement by arranging the exchange of nearly two million acres of privately-owned, economically-worthless land in the Mojave Desert for the establishment of several new national monuments.  The story beneath the story though is that the desert land was owned by a company in which she and her husband are heavily-invested and it was exchanged for some extremely-valuable commercial property adjacent to a freeway.  Wow!…everyone wins!  Reading these, I have developed a fairly strong skepticism when it comes to the official story lines on these matters.  Jensen points out (in the same essay) another way concerned citizens and activists are often duped:

   “This brings us to another way we know we would rather kill the planet than end this way of life. Too much “environmentalism”—and especially climate activism—has by now been turned into a de facto lobbying arm for an industrial sector. It’s a pretty neat trick on the part of capitalism and capitalists: to turn very real concern over global warming into a mass movement, then use this mass movement to advance the aims of specific sectors of the industrial capitalist economy.

   If you ask many of the protesters within this mass movement why they’re protesting, they may tell you they’re trying to save the planet. But if you ask them what are their demands, they may respond that they want additional subsidies for the industrial solar, wind, hydro, and biomass sectors.

   That’s a hell of a PR/marketing coup. And I’m not blaming individual protestors. They’re not the problem. The problem is that this is what capitalism does. And the real problem is that solar and hydro help industry, not the real world. Do desert tortoises need solar-electricity-generation facilities built on what used to be their homes? Do coho salmon need dams built on the rivers that used to be their homes? How about Mekong catfish?

   To be clear, wild nature—from desert bighorn sheep to Michigan monkey flowers to Johnson’s seagrass—doesn’t benefit in the slightest from so-called alternative energies. Sure, in some cases these “alternative energies” emit less carbon than their oil and gas counterparts, but they still emit more carbon than if no facility were built, and they destroy more habitat than if none were built.

   This is part of what I mean when I say that the solutions are meant to protect—in this case, power—the economy rather than to protect wild nature.”

    Jensen goes on to discuss the environmental damage caused by so-called “renewable energy” development (which many climate activists ignore) and the faulty accounting done on such things as carbon emissions to make alternative sources of energy appear more environmentally- friendly than they are (while making inside investors millions of dollars) and finally issues a call for all of us to step up and fight for our planet.

This brings me back to my earlier assertion that what will really bring about change in our direction is not campaigning and protesting for sweeping government environmental policies while continuing to live as we have most of our lives, but rather a thorough examination of our individual daily choices, purchases and habits leading to ideas about what YOU can do to cut down on energy use (including fossil fuels), to reduce the need for unlimited tapping of our resources– to minimize your own impact on our planet.  Thomas Friedman suggested in his book “Hot, Flat and Crowded” that our energy needs could be reduced by a full 33% simply by increasing the efficiency of our entire system….right down to the individual.  Fight and scream and march as you need to, but in the end, saving the planet really comes down to you.

 

 

 

 

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A Few More Words on Climate Change

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I’m a reasonable person, fairly discerning, observant and not overly skeptical…though I am learning to question much of what I hear these days.  I’m not a “climate denier”, but I am nervous about how the world is dealing with the issue.  I see and hear a lot of concern about global warming, even the national budget statement uses alarming language like “street flooding as oceans rise”, “longer, more intense fire seasons”, “more radical weather”, “droughts”, etc.  I also see and read a lot about people who dare to question the “general consensus on climate change” being ground into dirt by media, corporations and even our government for asking reasonable questions.  Even more alarming is reading comments about killing “climate deniers”, imprisoning them or, at the very least, not allowing them to hold public office.  What happened to the First Amendment?  Why is debate on this issue being not only discouraged, but aggressively suppressed?  Why have “gag orders” been placed on many of our weather experts?   If this is such a critical issue to all of us, shouldn’t EVERYONE be in on the discussion and every viewpoint heard? Shouldn’t we be able to hear all sides…especially since this is a situation that no one alive has ever experienced?  I read and see the same “data” and reports that all of you do.  It’s clear things are changing, but then we’ve always known we live in a dynamic universe where there are very few constants.  I wonder why the huge push just now.  As George Carlin stated in his monologue, “Save the planet”, the earth has existed for millions of years;  the industrial age began less than 200 years ago;  do we REALLY think we have tipped the scales permanently in that little bit of time?  WE might be on the way out (via nuclear war or killing each other off with biological warfare, etc), but the earth has survived a lot worse than us and will probably shake us off like a bad case of fleas and continue on just fine without us.

Ok…George wasn’t a scientist, or even a great statesman;  he did, however, have some common sense….and the ability to point out very clearly when we were straying away from it!  Yes…things are changing; we DO need to prepare ourselves…for anything;  it’s simply practical to make some changes in the way we live and operate…and view the world and it’s resources.  Fossil fuel use pollutes our air and water and affects all of us and all other species on the planet;  there ARE better alternatives.  Chemical dependence IS also polluting our water, air and food as well as messing up most of our natural systems.  We DO generate WAY too much garbage and waste way too many resources in unnecessary packaging, etc.  We (at least in the west) DO live largely at levels beyond which our own environments can support and our demands DO have direct effects on those in poorer countries where labor (and life) is apparently cheaper.  But is alarming our children in schools by teaching them that we are destroying the earth just as many of us were terrified by having to go thru pointless drills in event of a possible nuclear attack during the cold war REALLY the way to change our direction?   Wouldn’t it be better to simply teach them respect…for themselves and everyone and everything around them…and how every choice we make has an impact on the world around us?  Is our government funneling huge amounts of our tax dollars (well over 20 billion/year and rising) into “climate change activities” REALLY the way to help mitigate the damage and prepare us for a more radical future that is predicted to come?  Is trying to force ANYTHING ever effective for long….especially when it comes to citizen participation?

I think we are all being played.  I think there are a select few pockets being lined as a result of the “war on global warming” just as there are in keeping us in a perpetual state of war on foreign soils.  This is a huge, self-perpetuating system that collects our tax dollars and directs them to the same few over and over and over, with just enough trickling down,and enough fear being continually created to keep the system going.  Despite promises of corrupt politicians, the poor keep getting poorer, the streets fill with more and more homeless, the news is filled with more and more atrocities committed by desperate people all over the world, it is getting harder and harder for everyone except for a relatively small group of elitists to exist and we keep buying into the story.

I think the way to REALLY change things begins with me…and you.  First of all, we need to realize we are being played….and refuse to join in….refuse to be manipulated through fear.  Then we need to realize that little changes in our collective daily choices and methods will be much more effective in terms of affecting the climate than any government-sponsored program that will eventually fizzle with the monies in a few chosen pockets.  I’m talking about simple things here!  I was researching on energy use just prior to the issuance of Bush’s last stimulus package and found out that if every house in the country were to replace just one incandescent light bulb with an energy-efficient one, it would amount to the same carbon reduction as removing something like 200,000 cars from the road.

It is obvious that while our individual efforts may seem meaningless, multiply them by 100, a 1,000 or many thousands and you begin to see the power in individual choice.  Here is just a tiny list of things we can all do that will add up to REAL carbon reduction:

1) LED bulbs have come down in price and are much safer than the cfls that were being pushed a few years ago….start replacing some bulbs if you haven’t done so!  And while you’re saving on electricity, turn off your computers, phones, TVs and other electronic devices for an extra hour or so/day to begin with.  There’s a whole world outside to rediscover!

2) Drive less and bicycle more! It’s good for the planet AND you in so many ways!  Some simple planning/organizing can eliminate a lot of those quick trips to town.  If you have mass transit available, use it while it’s still an option…before the traffic in your city becomes completely gridlocked as it often does in some cities around the world.

3) Start now growing at least some of your own food! Anyone, anywhere can do this!…even if it’s only sprouting or small-container gardening.  This is addictive since home-grown food is so much better-tasting than commercially-produced goods and the process of growing it is great for the soul!  Soon you will be amazed at how much you can produce on your own…even in a small space like a windowsill or patio.

4) When you do buy, try to buy locally. This not only promotes local businesses and enhances community relationships, but saves on huge amounts of transportation and fuel costs and generally will land you better quality food picked when it should be rather than when it needs to be to survive weeks of shipping time.  If you don’t have a local farmer to buy from, a farmer’s market, start a community farm/garden!

5)  Buy less processed/packaged foods. Not only does this save on transportation costs, natural resources and landfill space, NOT choosing these types of foods (many of which contain GMO products) will, collectively help eliminate the need for GMO labeling, discourage the use of pesticides and herbicides and lead to higher-quality foods for all of us.

6)  If you are building, be conservative with the size. You will not only save money at every stage of construction and future maintenance, but also cut down on transportation of materials AND give yourself many, many more hours of freedom from maintenance, etc.

7)  If you are in a community, consider sharing costs of purchase and maintenance on lawn mowers and other power tools. It can be a little convenient, but will help you get to know your neighbors, greatly reduce (collectively) transportation costs, landfill needs, etc.

8)  As permaculturists know, our dumping carbon into the atmosphere for years has been an investment in our future to a very real degree. Planting the right plants and trees in the right combinations and in the right places can provide us with almost everything we need to survive….materials for shelter, fuel, clothing, food and clean water…all produced from carbon removed from the air around us.  This is one of the most practical and sustainable (if the two can be separated!) ways of living there is.  If you’ve not heard of Permaculture, there are many great resources on the subject online and in your libraries.  Get going!…this is the way of the future!

This list could go on much longer but I don’t want to spoil your fun in finding the many more ways you can become independent, make life easier and more enjoyable for yourself AND help save the planet at the same time.  Some really amazing things about all of these suggestions that we often forget is that they are all very legal, they are all good for you in terms of health and finances, they are all good for the health of your community, they are all beneficial in terms reducing our carbon output and the negative effects of our wants and needs on poorer countries, they ALL encourage local jobs, they ALL encourage involvement with your community and they ALL increase our independence and our resiliency!   This will in turn decrease our dependence on government and make us better able to handle any kind of emergency that may arise whether it is the result of global warming, war or some other catastrophe.  As a side benefit, it could also decrease our need to work and increase our playful, creative time!  What are we waiting for?!!!  I’ve never been a boy scout, but I admire their motto:  “Be prepared!”   If we all start now becoming as independent as possible, we will soon be well-prepared to meet any kind of emergency that might come up and will greatly-reduce our stress levels in the meantime.  To quote another motto;  “Just do it!”

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A Collective Moment of Silence

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I’ve written quite a lot in recent years about the benefits of stopping the mind (not thinking) for even a few moments on a regular basis.  With a very interesting (and important) U.S. presidential election looming and large numbers of citizens stressing over the potential outcome as well as worrying about the many other issues facing us at this moment, I can think of no better time for us to collectively turn off our TVs and other electronic devices for just a few moments and simultaneously stop thinking, meditate on peace, sit silently or however you want to participate.

You might wonder what possible good this would do at an apparently critical time like this when we “should” be trying to think of solutions, campaigning for our preferred candidate, posting our opinions on social media, marching against violence….”doing something!”  It is very likely the BEST thing we could do at this point and will probably do more to stimulate creative thinking and bring peace to this country (and to each of us individually) than anything else we could do.

I am personally going with my gut here, but there is considerable evidence that this is an effective exercise.  In the past 40 years or so, a number of studies have been conducted using relatively small groups of persons trained in Transcendental Meditation meditating collectively on peace to reduce violence and generally improve the quality of life in areas like Jerusalem, Beirut and Nicaragua.  The website of the World Peace Group states;

“The effect [of the group meditation] is spontaneous, immediate and systematic. Furthermore it does not rely on any form of social, political or diplomatic interaction between the meditating group and the effected community. The influence is created by just a small group of these meditators equivalent to a tiny fraction of the number in the rest of the population.

This powerful and invisible effect has been documented dozens of times in fifty research studies (Watch video) and is now known as the Super Radiance effect.”

While the World Peace Group proposes to use groups of trained meditators to bring about world peace, I would like to suggest a less formal approach…at least with regard to our current national situation.  For the next 20 days or so (at least), let us all stop for 5 minutes at 5:30 pm Pacific Time/8:30 Eastern  each day and focus on peace.  I mean stop thinking, stop composing responses to those with whom you disagree, turn off radios, phones, ipads, computers and TVs and just focus on peace…on the word, the feeling, etc.  The idea may be a bit scary for you, but this can be accomplished even if you’re driving or engaged in other activities not requiring thought.  It might surprise you, but not thinking does not turn off your awareness.  Doing so while driving may actually improve your safety as much as turning off your radio or phone or other source of continuous noise.

If you’ve never exercised the “off switch to your mind”, I guarantee your mind will wander.  Just accept this and don’t fight it or force anything.  As soon as you notice your mind once again running from thought to thought as normal, gently swing your focus back to peace.  If you have trouble focusing on a word or feeling, focus on your breath….on how the air feels as it passes through your nostrils on inhalation, on your chest filling, the pause at the end of the breath and then the feeling of the air moving back through your nostrils.  Be patient with yourself and be as persistent as you would be learning any other new practice.

Does this sound absurd to you?  It is certainly an approach most of us are not used to, but what harm can come of it?  Has all our screaming and arguing and judging and name calling and stress done anything except escalate issues and cause us to lose sleep?  I challenge all of you reading this to join me and to pass this on to everyone else you know, encouraging them to join in….beginning tonight, just before our third and final presidential debate.  Let’s see if we can get things rolling by encouraging a peaceful and productive debate that gives us a real look at our two main candidates and what they stand for.  What easier way to be involved is there than this?  I think you may be pleasantly surprised at the effects.

What? :  Stop thinking, meditate/focus on peace or just sit silently for 5 minutes (or longer)

When?:   Each day at 5:30 pm Pacific time/8:30 Eastern beginning today, 10/19/2016

Why?:  To help bring peace, understanding and cooperation back to this country and our leaders (to begin with)….and to relieve excess personal stress you might be experiencing.

Together we can do this!  Please join me!

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Canoeing

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I woke up this morning thinking about my experiences whitewater canoeing in Alaska and, as usual, my thoughts moved into how those experiences relate to life. Although I’ve often thought of “normal life” and the processes and stress we often go through while making decisions and getting things set up “just right” for ourselves as “paddling upstream”, I’m not sure that’s always accurate.

I attended my first “poetry jam” last night. I was really impressed with the word talent displayed and the courage it takes to get up and read some of your heart’s most personal expressions in front of an audience, but was also struck by the pain and suffering revealed in many of the pieces. I’m sensing now that life might be more like hurling down a wild stretch of river with two entities in the boat that don’t communicate well.

On one of my early trips, I experienced this with my then-wife…an Irish/Italian girl who had operated independently for quite some time before we became canoe partners. In tandem paddling, it’s common practice for the person in the stern (back of the boat) to make directional decisions and call out commands to the person in the bow. When the boat is in fast water and racing toward a rock, it’s very easy for the bow person to anticipate a command and draw left or right before a command is given. This works ok with a team that is used to paddling together and is “like-minded”, but not so well with two strong-minded people who tend to think independently! The object in whitewater canoeing is , of course, to find a safe “line” through rough waters, to negotiate the obstacles and pitfalls keeping the bow pointed roughly downstream. When the bow moves right and the stern to the left as the boat approaches a rock, the result is typically exciting; unwrapping the boat from around the rock, or worse yet, dragging the boat to shore, dumping all the water out of it and trying to dry out yourselves and all your gear however, is not….and often leads to words flying about at levels exceeding the noise of the rushing water.  Otherwise-very-enjoyable trips can turn into unhappy, frustrating or even painful experiences.

As we hurl along on this often-bumpy ride we call “life”, there are also two entities attempting to direct our route that don’t always communicate well—our hearts and our minds. Our minds are right in front, busily taking in all the dangers directly ahead and often reacting out of fear, not waiting for directions from our heart. The results are…well…often exciting, as we have all experienced.

I don’t mean to imply that we’re all schizophrenic. Just as we are all one with everyone and everything around us, our bodies, minds and hearts (soul/Self/essential self) are also one entity….different parts of the whole. The mind, however, left to run wild, can act much like a cancer cell—also part of the body, but operating at odds with it…to the detriment of whole. It “forgets” its connection with the rest of our being, carrying on as if it were completely independent and with little or no regard for the body and the heart. Left unchecked, the mind, like a cancerous tumor, can bring an end to the whole on which it depends.

Our hearts connect us to our source, and their directions are infallible…they are the perfect stern person. However, the “voices” of our hearts and bodies are very quiet–in fact don’t even use language, and it is very easy for the mind to miss their signals over the typical roar of thoughts rushing through it. Our goal in life is to first learn to hear those directions and then to faithfully follow them. If we suffer…find ourselves lodged against a rock or capsized… it is our mind that is behind it, not our heart. When we quiet the mind so that we can hear our heart’s signals…our intuitions…and we follow those directions, we begin to operate as we were designed to…one unit being carried effortlessly downstream, maneuvering flawlessly around all the rocks, sweepers and other dangers than may come along.

Looking back, my former wife and I would have benefited greatly from practicing in calm waters before taking on more challenging runs. In much the same way, it is beneficial for each of us to practice listening in quietness before we enter the chaos of normal life. A quiet location is helpful, but in order to hear our heart, it is also necessary to quiet the mind.

This seems at first to be an impossibility since most of us have gone our entire lives with our minds operating like independent bowmen…never realizing that, just as our electronic devices do, they have an “off switch.” Like my laptop, the mind is a tool that picks up wireless signals from outside itself, gathers information and stores it, facilitates communication and carries on many maintenance functions without me even being aware. It is an amazing tool, but it is not the whole of me….or even in charge!

I also had occasion years ago to solo canoe. This requires some repositioning, but is entirely workable. Interestingly, it involves operating from the center….without a bowman. When we are “centered”, or operating from the heart with a quiet mind, it is also a “very workable” situation…often a preferable one! Without the bowman obscuring our view, we are actually more aware of what is going on around us and ahead of us.

There are times and places for both methods, but whether you’re in a position to tandem paddle or solo, it’s important to practice…daily. There are many methods of quieting the mind; find one that suits you and work with it, but be patient as it takes time to overcome life-long habits! Start out somewhere quiet, hone your skills and then carry them with you when you enter faster waters. I guarantee you’ll have a much more pleasant ride!

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Fall Bliss

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How does one express bliss in words?  A perfect Fall day (Equinox in fact) bobbing gently on the clearest, bluest water one can imagine, a light breeze blowing in your face, the sun warm on your arms and legs, a great group of new friends around you and an overwhelming sense that all is exactly as it should be comes close I think.  If you weave into that the underlying excitement surrounding this special moment in time…this, the brink or midst of the greatest evolutionary leap mankind has made…and one of the most rapid changes experienced since meteors created an artificial winter leading to the ice age…words fall short.  One can only breathe, sense the rising of consciousness in all of us and enjoy the experience!

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A Wooden Spoon

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I’ve had a pretty easy life, really.   Unlike the more affluent, I was born with a wooden spoon in my mouth–the capacity and the aptitude for work and an upbringing which placed a high value on it. Beyond skinny legs, a strong back, brown eyes, thick hair and a fair sense of humor, my inheritance is negligible, but that spoon…as it always has, continues to serve me well.

The epitaph on my father’s headstone reads, “Rock-solid, light-hearted”…a brief, but fairly apt description of a man who stepped into the harness early, provided for a family of seven as a millworker doing the same repetitious work his entire career with never more than two weeks off a year and retired with very little savings but never lost his sense of humor. I knew many people of his generation who lived similar lives and I have a lot of respect for this kind of sticktoitiveness, but vowed early on to never let myself “get stuck” in this kind of situation.

Seeing so many people like my father reach “retirement age” without the good health to enjoy it…or worse, simply not being able to stop and relax, I also vowed at an early age to not wait till I was retirement age to enjoy life!

I’ve always worked of course, but without children to feed and not being particularly concerned about a comfortable retirement, I have never been forced to cling to a job I didn’t care for. I’ve moved from place to place and job to job collecting an array of experience that spooks potential employers and makes resume writing a several-day chore, but gives me a fair number of options when I arrive in a new location.

So what has it all been about? I look at my contemporaries who have stuck around home and raised families and are now enjoying taking their grandchildren skiing at the lake on hot summer weekends or traveling about the country in comfortable RVs and I sometimes wonder if I slipped up somewhere. I don’t have kids or grandkids, I don’t own anything that won’t fit in my 15 year-old truck, I have minimal funds put away and while my friends are juggling their retirement portfolios and browsing winter getaway options, I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up!

I jumped off the “gravy train” a while back leaving a comfortable, good-paying county position to take up a new career in property caretaking. It wasn’t that I was tired of the job I had…in fact I was enjoying the position and the place I lived at the time…nor was it even that I was tired of working; it was more a matter of feeling that full-time work was getting in the way of what I was really meant to do. Property caretaking was simply a means of sustaining myself and keeping a roof over my head while retaining enough free time to pursue matters more important than padding my retirement or keeping up the payments on a bunch of stuff I don’t need.

It’s been 2 ½ years now since I took that leap. I still haven’t figured out exactly what those important matters I am supposed to pursue are, but the mists around Avalon are beginning to clear. I am beginning to understand that all my experiences so far have been preparing me for what lies ahead. I have no idea where I might be led, but my new model could be Mother Theresa or Nelson Mandela or Jimmy Carter…or any of those who realize that life isn’t simply a long, laborious uphill climb with an airy downhill glide near the end as a reward. The reward is here now…available to all of us, regardless of age, income level or past experience. The reward is Love. It is something we can only experience when we step back, get out of the way and let it flow through us. It is what we can only experience through serving others. It is our whole purpose.

In the introduction to “A Return to Love”, Marianne Williamson states, “Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we have learned here.” Fear is responsible for everything we find uncomfortable or dissatisfying…or evil. Love (God) is in each of us; fear is what obscures it. Take away fear and anything is possible….cleaning up our oceans, ending poverty and even world peace!

Nearly 50 years after helping conduct Sunday evening services for a few people off the street wanting a hot meal and a place to sleep at a mission in Salem, Oregon, and me wondering why I was there, I am finally beginning to understand why I was uncomfortable. I was afraid of those people. I was not offering them what they wanted but merely playing a part in a play they had to sit through before they could eat. A homeless person recently expressed the frustration I saw in those eyes years ago, “I’ve probably accepted Jesus as my savior 50 times and I’m still on the street!” I didn’t love them, I wasn’t really helping them…I couldn’t even see them beyond the dirty clothes and the smell of alcohol!

Since we all–even the most unconscious/evil/psychotic among us—have Love hidden somewhere inside us, we recognize it when we sense it being expressed and move toward it like children migrating to a warm stove on a cold winter morning. None of us really need to be told anything—even how to find God/Love, but we all need to feel love occasionally so we are reminded how it feels. Exposed to just the right amount of it, we begin once again to radiate it ourselves as we did before we learned fear. It expresses itself as an urge to serve, and if we respond to that urge, like the trickle through a pinhole in a dam it gradually erodes the fear built up inside us and we become the free-flowing conduits of Love we were born to be. Beyond this, there is nothing more that we need…although a good wooden spoon is a handy thing to have.

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Traveling in the Moment

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On the eve of my departure on yet another cross-country adventure, and while musing over my decision to make the trip without a set plan or map, I am reminded of another shorter trip where a spur-of-the-moment decision and a last-minute left turn set the course of my life for the next 23 years.

 

I was still young, I think Jimmy was still in office (see Peacemaking with Jimmy), I was driving the same car I’d made the trip home from Maine in, and oddly, I had just stopped to visit the same pretty redhead I’d come home to Oregon to reunite with earlier…and she still wasn’t waiting.

 

In that case too, I was just headed in a general direction with a fairly clear destination in mind, but in no particular rush to get there.  I was on a highway winding through a dense pine forest when I passed a sign bearing the name of a small town I had only visited once in my short life and which was the home of a number of relatives I hadn’t seen in some time.  One word on a sign in the middle of nowhere and I might just as well have said, “Beam me north, Scotty!”  I stopped in Paisley for a quick visit and ended up spending the night. The next day I had Easter dinner with my cousin’s family and spent another night with them.  One thing led to another and before I knew it, I’d been living there and working for 6 months.  In that time, I met my first wife who had already applied for several positions in Alaska.  Before the year was out, she got a job offer in S.E. Alaska and north we went….where I stayed for the better part of 22 years.

 

I dawdled a bit too long over the above paragraphs and had to get on the road before finishing the post. It’s fitting however, that I complete this now by adding the experiences of my first day on the road.

 

I carried out my plan of traveling spontaneously for most of the day, shooting under the first freeway I came to and heading due west on a state highway, then turning onto a lessor road to angle a bit more northward.  As I made that very first turn (this one a right-hander), there on a sign staring me in the face was the same name I mentioned above…”Paisley.” Wow!  I’m still not sure what to make of that!  I’d been a bit sad about leaving Florida again, but consoled myself by saying I would be back someday.  Is it possible though that this trip is leading to another major life change that will keep me away for 20 years?  Of course it is!  Did that turn being a right-hander instead of a left mean that I’m going back somehow rather than forward?  I doubt it since we can never go back except in our minds, but it is interesting in light of the fact I am returning to the region I was raised in.  There is no way we can know for sure what’s around the corner for us, but that’s ok! We’re in good hands..and if we’re watchful, there are plenty of signs for us to follow.  There’s really nothing to do but get out of the way, buckle up and enjoy the ride!…and maybe take a few snapshots along the way.

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Peacemaking with Jimmy

Jimmy

 

I first registered to vote in Ft. Fairfield, Maine. I won’t say how long ago that was, but I voted for a peanut farmer who turned out to not be the most exciting president we’ve ever had, but continues to be a really great statesman and peacemaker. My vote was every bit as good of investment as was the S&K socket set I bought in nearby Presque Isle before I left Maine.  The socket set too is still serving well, although I’ve had the ratchet rebuilt once.

 

All of that is beside the point, really.  The story I started out to tell was the one about leaving northern Maine not long after the elections with a dependable, fuel-efficient car, but only $135 to my name, no credit cards and a very limited number of contacts outside of Oregon and Maine.  I had few tools aside from the shiny new socket set, a few clothes, 80 pounds of some of Maine’s finest potatoes in the trunk and a picture in my wallet of a pretty redhead who was waiting anxiously for me to get home to Oregon…I thought.  I didn’t eat much on that trip, but incredibly, I drove 4500 miles (I thought the girl could wait a couple of extra days) on that $135 and had a little left over when I arrived!  I have a few pictures from that trip, and even fewer memories, the girl hadn’t waited for me after all and a cold night somewhere along the way (it WAS Dec.!) froze the potatoes I’d hoped to share with family and friends, but it was an experience that set the tone for the rest of my life…a lesson in faith…although at that age, my faith was fairly blind! I guess it might have been more aptly referred to as “blissful ignorance!”

 

Jimmy Carter is still with us and I am still feeling blissful, but as I ready myself to head across our country once again…now the 6th time…with a less fuel-efficient vehicle, more tools, a bike, a bunch of tropical shirts, slightly more cash, $90 of credit left on my card, and no girls other than my mother waiting, I am a little less ignorant…I think.

 

Like Jimmy, I realize the world is full of turmoil and unconsciousness and I am trying to focus on what I can do to encourage peace.  My faith is no longer blind and my bliss comes not from ignorance but from the realization that the peace we all seek in right here, inside me…inside all of us.  It is our natural state!  And I know now that if we let go, get out of the way and focus on what we can do to improve the world around us, all things we need will come to us.

 

Sure, I have moments when I wonder how far I might get on the funds I have and thoughts of breaking down or getting stranded with my pile of tools and too many tropical shirts in the middle of a late spring snowstorm somewhere…but I realize too that these are only thoughts that I can choose to entertain or just laugh at and let go. I am not completely hurling myself out there without a few safety measures in place, but I am very conscious of the fact that we can never stock up enough ammunition, food, water, or money to bring real peace or security, and that our egos can go on piling up supplies and taking precautions forever and never be satisfied or secure.

 

At some point, we all must realize the only real security we have is within us.  It’s not in the stuff we gather about us, it’s not in armies, it’s not in wealth, it’s not in tools, it’s not in the pretty girls we carry pictures of in our wallets…it’s not even in learning to live sustainably!  Real security, and the peace that accompanies it, comes through learning to live in this moment, the only one we ever have, and accepting whatever form it takes…through being present.  It comes through letting go of our identification/obsession with the mind and finding the stillness that lies beyond.  In that stillness is all we will ever need….all the peace, all the bliss, all the security, all the love.  When we tap into it, problems–even the very large ones–tend to fade away.

 

I suspect Jimmy knows this. He travels the world arranging peace conferences and organizing agreements and talking politics because that’s what great statesmen do, but that’s all surface stuff.  If you stop thinking about it and sense the love and kindness that emanate from him, I think you’ll see that he carries peace with him and, like John Chapman whose interest was in apples, he plants seeds wherever he goes…and that is how we will bring peace and security to our world. He may not have been the most flamboyant president, but he’s a great leader.  I’m glad I voted for him.

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One (or, A Trip Through the Park)

Pricklypearblossom

I am a beautiful yellow blossom

perched atop a prickly cactus

 

I am an Osprey hovering high above the waves

watching with sharp eyes for the flash of my next meal,

 

I am a pelican skimming the water with my breast feathers

as I glide effortlessly along the waves,

 

I am a gull hanging close to a beach picnic

hoping for some dropped morsel,

 

I am a jellyfish washed up on the sand

waiting for the next tide to free me

 

I am a tortoise coming out of my burrow

feeling the sun on my shell as I nibble my breakfast,

tortoise

 

I am a lizard sunning myself on a post

enjoying the warmth and watching for passing insects

lizard

 

I am a mockingbird sitting in a tree

singing my heart out to no one in particular

 

I am an Oystercatcher resting at waters edge

surrounded by a large, mixed crowd

 

I am a temporary swell

rolling, rolling slowly toward the shore

 

I am a billowing cumulous cloud

drifting silently across an endless blue sky

 

I am an old weathered boardwalk

winding gently through a tropical jungle

boardwalk

 

I am an agile young surfer

racing along the face of a wave and spinning

 

I am the watcher observing the scene

and the scene being watched

 

I am a writer sitting at my desk

I am the words I await

 

I am solitary but not separate

I am alone but have endless companions

 

I have little in the way of possessions

but am overwhelmed with abundance

 

My cupboards are nearly bare

but all my needs and desires are met

 

My mind cries in loneliness

but my heart overflows

 

My thoughts often divide

but my soul knows…

 

There is only One.

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Moving Away From the Stove

Jackbystove3

I grew up in Oregon on the western slopes of the Cascade Mountains which is a fairly-cool, rainy region. We heated the house solely with wood using a nice “heatilator” type of stove which had a sheet metal shell spaced away from and surrounding the cast iron firebox. The shell seldom got uncomfortably hot and a fan in the back constantly moved warm air across the firebox toward the front of the stove, making it very nice to sidle up to. As the family grew and my father divided the house into more and more isolated rooms, the heat didn’t always make it to all corners, even with the fan pushing it. Mom would always start a fire when she first got up to fix Dad’s breakfast, and my preferred practice on cool winter mornings was to jump out of bed and run out to stand in front of stove in my underwear, enjoying the breakfast smells and warming up until Mom shooed me back into my room to get dressed for school. On lazy, rainy Saturdays or when I was home sick, I would often sit in a chair in front of the stove, prop my feet up on the shell and read…sometimes for hours at a time. My butt would fall asleep and I would occasionally have to stand up for a while. I would lean against the front or, once I was tall enough, hitch one leg and one cheek up on the top of the stove, half sitting on it, and read in that position. Eventually though, I would have to move away…sometimes at my mother’s insistence, sometimes being displaced by a sibling wanting the warm spot. Despite how good of book I was reading at the time, and even with my mind lingering on the pages, it always felt good to get away from the heat and engage in something different for a while.

 

While walking my rented dog this morning and relishing the feeling of the Florida heat and humidity enveloping me like a comfortable fleece blanket, I realized again that it is time for me to move away from the stove; time to get out and engage the world.  Writing, which may have been one reason for coming back to the warmth of Florida just as reading was a good reason to sidle up to the stove, is becoming a habit I will carry with me now,  and we all need balance in our lives…physical challenges as well as mental and spiritual ones.  I have indulged myself long enough.

 

It also occurred to me that we all have a tendency to hug the stove in some respect or another. We find a place or a person or a situation we are comfortable with and we sidle up and settle in…often sitting there long after our butt has gone asleep and it’s obvious we need change. Inertia builds up, our butts grow numb and we become so engrossed in the story we’re in, it’s tough to break out of it.

 

Stagnant water slowly evaporates; pools and ponds gradually fill up with algae and weeds and other materials blown in, eventually becoming nothing more than fertile areas for plant growth…dirt.
Flowing water can also pick up all kinds of material—desireable and otherwise–but either breaks it up against the rocks it flows over, mixes it with oxygen to neutralize it or deposits it along the outside of some slow curve. Running water tends to be pure water. Movement reduces the evaporation rate, and rather than dispersing into individual molecules, streams meld into one another to become larger streams, then rivers and eventually they all join together once again in the oceans they came from.

 

Obviously not everyone is in a position to hit the road, and that’s okay since travel isn’t required for us to leave our comfort zones.  It’s important to remember that change is good.  In the long run all water returns to the source, and plants need the fertile soil that water collects and leaves in low places. There is a place and a purpose for everything; a time to be still and a time to be active, but if you feel moved to do something different, or the universe seems to be pushing you in a new direction, don’t resist! It’s probably time to get the circulation flowing again. Even if it looks stormy out, get your butt off the stove and get out there! You’ll be glad you did. (Hmmmm…I think I’ve heard my mother say that a time or two!)

 

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