Sunday, September 26, 2010

I'm home, for the first time this week. I arrived home last night at about ten, after another enjoyable experience at Patrick's Cabaret. Stayed up until midnight working on the House Playlist for Monster Halloween, adding songs I collected from the Central Hennepin County Library, more African beats with an emphasis on Mali, Middle Eastern etcetera and a bit of Latin jazz.

As soon as I laid down to bed I heard the sound of metal on metal, outside the back door. I walked into the kitchen and looked out the window. There was a man, kneeling next to the back step, sorting through my garden tools. I opened the door and he took off running. Smartly, he didn't try to take a tool with him, or I would have run him down.

Robin Hood stole from the rich to give to the poor. In America, mostly, we have the rich and poor stealing from the poor to keep for themselves. This is called free-market economics and the ethic of Every Man For Himself. It is the ideal, even as it is immoral and reprehensible. I expect a lot more of it, as our Empire continues a long, downward slide into social disintegration. I'm sure we Americans are in no way ready for that. Ready or not, it's coming.

If he wanted my damn shovel, I would have borrowed it to him. And shown him how to use it. Established a relationship. Maybe help him connect to the rhythms of the Earth.

Reconnecting to the rhythms of the Earth is essential in this new Age, as existential dilemmas pile up, as a consequence of our species disconnection. Here in America, there is a movement afoot, an attempt to awaken. It is a movement toward sustainability, or the long-term viability of the social organism we call culture, in the face of very real, impending energy constraints. An attempt to otherwise prevent us from slipping into another kind of dark age.

In the sustainability movement, which is to say, those people who are aware the Age of Oil is coming to an end and are trying to prepare for it, there seem to be three camps. One, which I will attribute to Alex Steffen at, has a deep and abiding faith that technology will save us from this debacle, with minimum impact to our standard of living. The second, which I will attribute to Rob Hopkins and the Transition Town movement,, and the belief that community organization will prepare us for the unthinkable. The third approach is that of skills, as they manifest in the individual, which I will attribute to John Michael Greer, at

Lately, Alex Steffen has been taking swipes at Rob Hopkins, Rob Hopkins at John Michael Greer, and John Michael Greer at Rob Hopkins and Alex Steffen. Such is the tendency of movements, as leaders gain followers and fight for turf, for influence. Ironically, they are all right, insofar as they are trying to prepare for the reality that in the next few decades, everything we understand as normality is going to be undone, and we will be faced with energy shortages we have no first-hand reference for. Steffen is thinking on the Macro-social level, Hopkins on the local-social, and Greer at the Micro-Individual. All levels are essential, if we are to resurrect this grand experiment that was to be America; and a few other levels/perspectives besides.

Basically, the sustainability movement is trying to introduce into social consciousness the laws of ecology, which we have entirely ignored for most of the last few thousand years, which has led to 7 billion extant Homo sapien sapien, wars at every corner, collapsing ecosystems, the weakening of the individual and the collapse of community. I would like to add to the conversation a reverence for the Earth, a kind of cosmic consciousness that considers the whole of the Universe to be sacred, which is to say, every last thing is sacred, including humans, even if we have lost our way, acting badly much of the time, stealing shovels, issuing municipal citations unnecessarily and manipulating global financial markets, without any regard for the consequences except insofar as they seem to benefit ourselves in the short term.

What I'm suggesting is, the sustainability movement, the whole species in fact, is doomed, if we do not resurrect in ourselves a reverence, for ourselves, in relationship to the spiral nature of things, from galaxies to gardens to DNA. That we are as much children of our parents as we are children of the Earth and children of the Sun, should be a foundational premise from which all decisions arise, a prism through which we view the world and each other. Everyone is a unique, astonishing and utterly beautiful manifestation of the Spirit, a divine being, a child of the Earth, a child of the Sun, Homo sapien sapien, sacred. Even when we are acting badly, even when we are disconnected, even as we establish hierarchies that allow for the wholly unnatural aggrandizement of certain individuals above all others, a social structure that allows all of us to plunder the Earth out of all proportion to necessity.

Interestingly, this condemnation order from the city brings me right back to where I was. I had given up on the idea of making this house and this land a model of sustainability, a model of right relationship to the rhythms of the Earth. I was ready to give it up and wander the world with my stave, swords and deer horns. Maybe I still will. But maybe I'll build a cistern or two to hold about ten thousand gallons of water, so whoever lives in this house does not have to pay the City or anyone else a dollar, for the right to water, the most abundant substance on Earth. I would like to finish that project while I am still paying on the $3100 bill for a stop box I never needed. That three thousand dollars could have been spent to get this house off city water. Which seems a far more viable long-term, sustainable solution than a vast underground water distribution system prone to constant failure and cost-prohibitive prepare, in an economy that is weak and will grow weaker, even as the infrastructure, from water lines to roads to the electrical power grid, continually degrades.

And as far as the whole sustainability movement is concerned, in respect to the energy constraints of the next several decades, I'm inclined to think community is viable only if every individual in the community has useful knowledge and skills - namely, how to build, fix and grow things. And the maturity to recognize the coming Age as a time of healing.

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