Monday, August 29, 2011

Keystone XL

When I first heard about Bill McKibben's zeal to be arrested, on behalf of the effort to prevent the Keystone XL pipeline, scheduled to run from the Alberta, Canada tar sands, to gulf coast oil refineries, I was dubious. I tend to look at Mckibben as a boomer environmentalist, the kind with pie-eyed, top-down notions of an eco-technic America for 300 million Americans, with readily available fossil fuels, as if more than a bare handful of Americans actually care about the particular source of the energy we burn. I imagined him and a few hundred others arrested, America yawning in the face of more immediate concerns, namely, the economy, Obama signing off on the permit because not to would be played like a treason against America and the death of jobs, adding another nail in the proverbial coffin of his presidency, cum 2012. And everyone would go home resigned to the next Environmental battle, ever more weary in the awareness that America is likely to burn every last fossil fuel it can, unto the very destruction of the biosphere, so as not to address what the end of fossil fuels actually means for our civilization.

The Alberta tar sands are a vast reserve, equivalent in volume at least to Saudi Arabia in it's prime. They are equally more vast a dirty business to extract, making generationally unrecoverable moonscapes potentially horizon to horizon, upriver of Lake Athabaska, the Great Slave, the Mackenzie River and the fragile arctic. The tar, turned into transportable oil by toxifying thousands of gallons of water for every barrel of oil, would then be transported across America's heartland, to the gulf coast, where it would be turned into gasoline, diesel, airline fuel et al, to be sold in the global marketplace, landing wherever it will fetch the highest price. Hardly contributing to a job anywhere in America, but certainly maintaining jobs on the gulf (and maybe a kind of army to protect the pipeline - plenty of warriors looking for jobs), and enriching a few who will then invest their ill-gotten gains globally, in the way of an American elite who are sacrificing America in the name of global market share.

Carl Pope, Chairman of the Sierra Club, had a nice assessment of this, in a recent blog post. He's another I tend to view through the lens of my assessment of the big time Environmental Organizations as better at paying staff than framing the argument. But his words clarified my notion of McKibben's zeal, and while I don't think the sacrifice will have much affect on Obama'a decision, I certainly admire it, even if it was only a few days in jail, though that few days being a clear sign from above, about where this is headed. The fact is, the work for the kind of eco-technic future people like to paint doesn't begin tomorrow as much as it did begin about 40 years ago, and then was effectively and widely abandoned in the advent of our zeal toward Empire and the Presidency of that man who is now a god, Ronald Reagan.

The idea that Obama will deny the permit is almost laughable. On what grounds? Saving the Earth? Yeah, good luck with that. Not only has he shown no willingness to take any stand on anything but quintessentially Liberal and increasingly, ideologically Conservative ideas, he has to face a loud and exceptionally influential segment for whom nothing about the Earth is as sacred as the right to transform it into garbage, which is what the bulk of the current economic model amounts to in the end. And even if he takes a stand, what does he have to give? Fourteen trillion dollars in debt; he'd have to tax the arrogance out of corporations, and everyone making more than a million dollars, to pay for that eco-technic future, and pay off the debt - which I'm all for by the way. But there isn't an idiot in Congress talking that kind of Americanism, and most Americans are too chicken-shit to make it happen (remember, it's in the cattle feed.)

I had one of those burgers today, with a friend who tolerates my oddities, and my relentlessness on certain things. I advised him to skill himself, as much as possible, with an appreciation for mastery. He and I share a dream of land and water flowing out of the ground and big gardens and grape and hops vines and fields and big woods, and guitar lessons and deer gutting, and other such pursuits. He's a kind of wizard, actually, and gets paid like one, about as useful as anyone I know, with a beautiful family. Just what a good community needs. He sees the way people are losing jobs that took them 25 years to earn, that won't be filled domestically, shipped permanently to foreign countries, until such time as Americans are willing to do the job for the same pay a Filipino is willing to accept. Filipinos, perhaps someday, burning a share of the Athabaskan tar sands, quickening the global decline toward economic and ecological ruin, or at the very least, more of this weird rule of quasi-global overlords, American mostly in name.

Right. Maybe I'm not such a great beer drinking companion, but I don't have many illusions left about where this whole operation is headed, this epic collapse that very likely awaits America, and the species Homo sapien sapien. But who can say what will come of it? I keep saying too, this universe is vastly more mysterious than we have been led to believe, and there's no saying we won't evolve - as if we aren't in this very moment, evolving.

Every morning in my back yard for a week now, the monarchs have been gathering. There is a five year old Liatris, a rough blazing star as tall as I am, that from morning till evening, has up to twenty or more monarchs feeding from it. There are Liatris, rough and otherwise, elsewhere in the yard and on the boulevard, but this one is visited by all the forty or more monarchs that are in my yard at any given time, because it has the advantage of being the healthiest, in the quietest spot. It puts into stark contrast Inspector Harold, who showed up again, shouting something at me with his first words, telling me to clean up my boulevard and clear the sidewalk, which is more like a walk through a woods and woodland edge, on a well traveled path. The first image in my head after he shouted at me before I even had a chance to acknowledge him, was my Brazilian ironwood sword; but I'm a civilized man, and I tried to have a conversation with him instead, but he walked away from me, to file another letter. That will be about a dozen, or twenty letters this year, from my friendly Inspections Department. There are people who want to come to my yard to film these butterflies, but that and the abundance my yard represents is lost to a few of my disaffected neighbors, who channel their ignorance into the inspections department who then take the opportunity to generate revenue, forcing poor Harold to have to deal with me.

Harold nor his employers can dim for long my joy about the butterfly, or the first heavenly blue morning glory to bloom this year, five of them, with many more to come soon. It's been a long wait, as the more aggressive uncle ott's with their smaller purple, red and pink flowers, have been gradually taking over much of the yard for most of the last half of the summer, as they always do; once I see them blooming, I lose me zeal for pulling them out. There are asters and golden rod blooming in the yard and on the boulevard. In short, many of the vegetables have peaked and are drying up, at the same time my yard is about to burst with color, on-going until the frost. It's wild, and I love it. Because the more crazy the world gets, the more clear I become about what I love.

As for that god-damned pipeline, any act toward it that isn't about preventing it, is an act of tyranny, and a threat to America.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Mask

What really is anxiety, but the beginning of a deeper ability to feel?

I thought this a few days ago, as I was biking to work, suddenly uncertain, shaking slightly. It was a Saturday late-morning, beautifully summer-like; the path to work passing through Minnehaha Falls Park, people everywhere, and I just puffed. When I puff I tend to focus on feeling, in the landscape of the immediate, or I wander into the vast and unlimited landscape of ideas. Biking, I tend to do both. That day, there being so many people around, on the bike path walking and biking, people crossing the path, the path crossing the street, that suburban-looking woman in that giant automobile clearly not accustomed to looking for bicycles, parents with their kiddie-carts, with their inevitably joyfully swerving kids, that old couple who bike every so often, but rarely, and not really aware of anyone else, the driven-to-get-there getting there as fast and efficient as possible, the ladies chattering, walking side by side, each in a lane. On a snake-like strip of asphalt eight feet wide - weekend August traffic on the road on one side, park patron traffic enjoying-the-day on the other.

It was strange, the uncertainty, the shivering. I haven't felt like that in some time. I tend to wander through life saying and doing what I feel called to do - there being a time when I was incapable of feeling. I've let go of a lot since then, the last four years. These days, I look joyward to dancing in the street. Plants make me smile. On that same Minnehaha Falls path this morning, I sang most of the way to work, pulling forty pounds of tools in my $3 garage sale score, kid-carriage trailer, to begin the assembly of Monster Halloween-Minnesota. Women are much less defensive toward me when I pull a kid-carriage, I've noticed.

I'm also Creative Director for HD Masks. Check us out. I wrote most of the copy on the website. It's a work in progress, so don't be too critical. It came on-line just in time for the birth of HD Masks, our first foray into event marketing, for the St Paul Saints, at Midway Stadium in St Paul. The Saints are owned in part by Bill Murray. Their President is Mike Veeck, the son of the Hall of Famer Bill Veeck, renowned in the baseball world for his marketing antics, once releasing a piglet on a major league field, for fans to chase down. Saints Management conceived of Gary Busey night, Aug 23, just because and maybe as an attempt to lure Gary Busey to the stadium. Keith, one of the Managing Directors of HD Masks, being the entrepreneurialist he is, happened to find out about three weeks ago. We found a suitable image. We made an arrangement with the Saints. We made 1700 Gary Busey masks, fifteen hundred of which were handed out at the gate. We had a table outside where we displayed our custom masks. Then we handed out 200 masks in one section and took pictures. You can see the pics on our Facebook page. More to come.

At first, outside the stadium at the gate, I wore the Alien mask. After a beer I wore the chimpanzee. That one made me dance, and chase the kids around. That was fun. Most people wouldn't look at me, dancing there by our table; those that did often couldn't tell that I was looking at them. I danced to acknowledge that I was, helped by an impromptu folky bluegrass band. The courageous ones smiled. When it was time to hand out the 200 masks to the one section, I put on the orange afro.

In the Latin, mask is persona. So, to say that we are persons, is like saying we wear a mask. To wear a mask is to explore the multitudiousness of the self. It can be, to let go, if one is willing. To wear a mask is like a shape-sifting, opening to feeling.

I didn't say much with the orange afro on. I just sort of bounced, with a kind of joyful swagger, dancing slightly to music no one else could hear. I planned to say plenty: "Are there any Saints Fans in this House! What? I thought Saints fans were super fans? Is that all you got? Are there any Saints fans in this house!? Hey, how many of you are growing tomatoes? Yeah? Nice. I've got about one hundred tomato plants. I thought, I'd plant that many and I wouldn't have to worry about them. I thought I'd be canning three hours a day. I've got about as many tomatoes as I had last year with ten plants. Where was I? Oh yeah. HD Masks. We do event planning, like tonight's Gary Busey night. We have custom masks - animals, icons, colors. You can even upload your own image! Yeah! Show up at the reunion, looking like you did when you graduated. Show up to work looking like the boss? Uh-huh. I'm sure you sure you've got some ideas. One last question: Are there any Gary Busey's in this house?"

But the Saints were down 9-1, in the bottom of the third inning. The air was heavy and hot. It was a pain-in-the-ass getting there; three miles out of my way because urban planner is an oxymoron when you're on a bike, and Google Maps has the stadium on the wrong side of Snelling Ave, which is a damn big deal when you're on a bike, and a pedal even fell off. Someone else was supposed to address the crowd. No one gave me permission. All I ended up saying was, "Thanks, Saints Fans!" And they let go into applause, eager for anything to applause to. I spent the rest of the night, berating myself for not speaking up, pretty certain I wasn't worth the title Creative Director, pretty sure I'd lost the second coolest job I ever had, next to manager of Monster Halloween. But then, the owners of Monster Halloween-MN and HD Masks are the same, and it has been made fairly clear that I am of value. What value? Who can really say?

It is such a strange place I have come to, never more sure of where I am, at the same time...

For the more intrepid of my readers I offer this. It's an extraordinary example of stringing words together well, sloppy in a few sentences but show-stopping, so to speak. It stuck with me for days, and I can't quite see where I stand in relation to it. I've been so busy with Monster Halloween the last few days I haven't had time to reconcile it. I'm not sure how I could. Thrown for a loop, is the phrase that fits. I find myself suspicious, at the same time I can't really find myself disagreeing with any of his important points. Anyway, it certainly is a strange time in which we are living. Wide open. An excellent time to be doing a bit of shape-shifting, testing the boundaries of the self.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Haunted House

I was incredulous, this past Monday, with the Dow up and the financial pundits and media claiming it was a good sign, the news of increased economic activity in the form of mergers of major corporations. If any merger has ever resulted in more jobs, feel free to let me know. As if this isn't going to mean the elimination of "redundancies", and the throwing off and shutting down of otherwise profitable subsidiaries, which is otherwise called "people losing their jobs." Oh, and that Texan, last weekend in the announcement of his decision to run for the Presidency, saying that the debt was the theft of our children's future, as if widespread hydro-fracturing across Texas and elsewhere in America, to export natural gas, is not taking away the freedom of children like my niece and nephew to stay warm in future winters. And then Warren Buffet and that guy from Starbucks, remembering history and the course of Empires, reminding the rich that money insulates no one in the event of widespread social breakdown. And then the clips from Fox News I just saw, in excerpts of an episode of The John Stewart Show, the viciousness and the violent justification, the loud declarations of "class warfare" "parasites" and "the moocher class".

The same week of my first major harvest this year. I put away about eight pints of cherry juice from my wild cherry tree; you can see the cherries in the background of the pictures I published of me in my helmet, a couple of posts ago. I froze the juice. I'm hoping it will be a nice treat and healing too, this coming winter when I'm feeling down. It joins, in the freezer, the black and red raspberries, the wild and cultivar strawberries, about half a freezer full, meager as a winter supply, but I won't think so in the depth of February when it's -22. I gathered bags full of three different kinds of carrots, a colander full of Kohl rabi, and enough tomatoes, cukes and jalapeƱos to make a few days worth of a raw, simply tasty summer soup. Everything is late this year, after the sunless spring and that hideously hot early summer. The weather has settled into a kind of comfortable warmth, with occasional heavy rains - both curiosities in August. Good for the veggies though. The rattlesnake snap beans are on their second abundant crop this summer, two or three meals a day, about five weeks worth this summer so far. I've decided, they're my favorite bean. Which is important to know, because beans cross-pollinate, and that's a problem if you don't have access to a hundred and one different seed varieties in stores and on the Internet.

I wanted to show you pictures, but my new, fancy Canon camera, the updated version of the one that had the lens problem I wrote about earlier this year, has a lens problem. The first camera's lens wouldn't extend and quit taking pictures, this one extended but the lens won't go back in, and it won't take pictures. I'm pretty sure I took less pictures with this updated more expensive version, in less time. Best Buy gave it to me in return for the first broken one and twenty dollars. I pondered for a moment - will they try to blame me? But I'm pretty sure they'll just want to exchange it for another.

My sister's brand new T-Mobile smart-phone has a blank screen. More signs of capitalism feeding on itself, in this age of increasingly scarce resources and increasingly high executive and shareholder expectations. I wonder what the people at my old place of employment think about their vendors making trash? What's that going to do to the bottom line? But then, increasingly fewer people have the resources to purchase the shit anyway.

Also this week, the Halloween store started in earnest. I can actually peddle the Minnehaha and West River bike paths, from within a few blocks of my house, seven miles, to within three blocks of my new place of employment, at the old Minneapolis Florist Supply. Two stories with a big basement, it's not ideal by industry standards, but I think it's perfect. It used to be full of flowers! It hasn't had a tenant in a long time, except a band that just got kicked out of what has to be one of the coolest band practice spaces in Minneapolis. The ownership of the business next-door owns the building. They bought it in 2006 for $1.8 million - way too much - with the intention of tearing it down (it is an inconspicuous, uninsulated rectangle, built in 1919, with most of the windows blocked up), to add a parking lot to their otherwise cramped locale. The city stepped in (after the purchase) and said if they do tear it down, it has to be turned into green-space. Not, a parking lot with a rain garden. Green-space. Minneapolis has miles and miles of green space that serves little other purpose than employing union lawn mowers. I'd prefer sheep, cattle and chicken herders, and garden tenders; the city government won't even allow community gardens on public land. These neighbors, our landlords, pay about $220,000 a year in property taxes. No one has been willing to fill the space without a million dollar build-out. That is a hard pill to swallow.

For us though, the building is perfect. Grungy, but great. A stream of Vikings fans flows by every game day, and streams of zombies will stumble by on the night of the Zombie Pub Crawl, taking place right across the Washington Ave bridge on 35W, right next to the 35W bridge that collapsed in 2007. They just dedicated that monument. Someone came that very night and stole the metal letters for salvage.

It's going to be a wild ride. We are quad-rangulated, so to speak, between Uptown, downtown, the Seward neighborhood and the University of Minnesota. I think it will be about twice as crazy as it was last fall, in Uptown, on Hennepin Ave. You can see the building from the light-rail. I'm looking Joyward to putting on the orange afro, the wacky jacket and the golden shoes Stephan gave me. It's going to be so much fun. I have the two coolest jobs ever (more on the other job, in the next post). I'm hoping to hire the staff to make it the coolest Halloween store in the Midwest. I'm not technically the job creator, but I'm the one who picks the staff. Look for the add on Craigslist. Or drop in. You just have to know how to have fun - and you have to like people.

I'm an unlikely retail Halloween manager, insofar as I don't buy much but craft booze, bud, coffee and good food. The whole notion of consumer stuff seems to me a kind of insanity, thoroughly disconnected from the consequences to biological systems; but then, if we stop buying stuff, what then? I had a vision tonight of our antique basement. It's perfect for a haunted house. I would put a 1970's TV at the bottom of the stairs, playing excerpts on a reel, of Jimmy Carters "Crisis of Confidence" speech that helped cost him the election, warning us that if we didn't take the reality of fossil fuels seriously America would be doomed. There's an old furnace behind the stairs that looks like it was once fed whole sections of trees, which I'd put a guy in a suit feeding a guy in coveralls into. In the first stall I'd put Reagan, parroting the word "freedom, freedom, freedom" with a cadre of stern faced suits standing behind the oval office desk he is perched on, holding strings attached to his back. Stalls each for GHWB and Clinton, both smugly assuring us that credit is money, that an endless exchange of 1's and 0's can replace the real economy, as if it wasn't really a practice of de-skilling and a continued weakening of America to grow a global hegemony of supra-national elite. Then PGWB doing a little diddy about a crusade and tax cuts paying for wars, on a house which people are being dragged out of by Sheriff deputies. And then Obama, Bernanke and Geithner, looking cock-sure, sitting on stumps around a bonfire in the woods, all of them in suits, the be-sooted ghosts of Henry Paulson, Alan Greenspan, Robert Rubin and Larry Summers hovering behind them. Then a stall with Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry hovering together, smiling hand-in-hand, leaning over a manger cradling the four horseman of the apocalypse and the whore of Babylon, on a burning pile of bibles, and tea partiers and brown and gay people. And then, into the very back of the basement, where I'd make a long dark winding hallway, with a row on each wall of young men and women in wheelchairs, missing various body parts, and otherwise scarred and disfigured. The wheel chairs are actually there, a hundred or more of them. (Free storage for a hospice.) I'd invite real vets to sit there, if they wanted to.

At the end, an exit, a stair that's really like a ladder for an old farmhouse cellar, built for one at a time, leading to a little hole in the floor behind where our front desk will be. The most disturbing haunted house in Minneapolis.

We wouldn't sell a thing.

And then what kind of manager would I be? How then could I provide jobs for 35 good people? How then could I help my friends who gave me this job when no one else was offering and I didn't have any money, finally make a return on their three year investment, a nice auspicious financial burst leading into the birth of their mask company? How then could I put myself in a position to start paying the mortgage on this house I am living in, this land I am living on, the mortgage my father has been paying since the collapse of 2008?

No, I will not make such a statement in this place of business. This will instead be a place where people can come and enjoy themselves, in this twilight of the only Empire any of us have ever known. Where people can come and maybe explore the multitudinous nature of the self, if they want to. Or just buy a monkey suit - which may be more healing than you know.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Homo sapien sapien

There are 183 living species of primates; there have been about 6000 total, the last 65 million years. The genus Homo is said to have been around for about 4-8 million years. Which is an astoundingly short period of time, when you consider mammals have been around for about 300 million years, and life on Earth about 3.5 billion years.

About 1.5 million years ago, certain ape species began to grow a considerably bigger brain. There's an idea that this was caused, in part, by the consumption of psychotropic mushrooms, which is only an idea but a very compelling one. Only about 200,000 years ago, we evolved into this smooth skinned, mostly hairless, big brained, thin skulled, lithe but weak-limbed master of tool making. We weren't conceptually more advanced than our fellow apes, those first 160,000 years. Until about 40,000 years ago, and the birth of what some have called the Logos, when we began to build exponentially on the understanding of who we are, and where, and how.

I think psychotropic plants definitely had something to do with this "great leap" into the esoteric and abstract. Curiously, at the same time we were going through this transformation, there were extant Homo neanderthalis, a very close cousin, stouter, considerably advanced, but also less adept at the making of tools. They disappeared, we are told, about 28,000 years ago. The implication being, that we killed them off. It's ideas like this that add to the idea supposedly supported by evolutionary theory, that competition is the rule, when in fact it is a rare exception. There are thousands of species living on and in your body right now, that you would not be healthy or alive without. Species, with whom Homo sapien sapien is not in competition with but in communion.

Alone then, after Neanderthal, Homo sapien, the most advanced of the apes, began to settle into a life of community and spiritual communion with the world. We domesticated both plants and animals, and our numbers increased. We built. We made maps of the stars. We made maps of the world.

It is entirely possible, I suggest without evidence, that Neanderthal became extinct 26,000 years ago, approximately. And not because we killed them off, but because of some unknown environmental factor. Because, about 13,000 years ago, there was a great deluge. The hypothesis, called Crust Displacement, suggests that the massive glaciers covering Europe and North America in the last ice age, threw the Earth out of balance, until the centrifugal force increased and the entire crust shifted at once in a moment, floating as it does on what is essentially a liquid. There is actually reason to believe that we evolved a lot more than we are told we did, in those intervening years between the end of Neanderthal, and the deluge. We supposedly didn't know what the land mass of Antarctica looked like, until the 1970's and our invention of magnetic resonating equipment that allowed us to look through the ice. But there are five-hundred year-old maps that are copies of far older maps that tell us exactly what the Antarctic land mass looks like. We aren't supposed to have known the continent existed until 1820. Antarctica is supposed to have been under a thick sheet of ice far longer than Hominid has existed.

26,000 years also happens to be the length of the precession of the equinox. Looking to the eastern skyline just before sunrise on the spring (vernal) equinox, you will see the constellation Pisces. Before too long, people will see the constellation Aquarius. 25,920 years from now, Pisces will return to the place where it was on the morning of the last equinox.

The past 13,000 years, we have steadily recovered from that deluge, we began to write (again?), we built cities, we became ever more clever in the art of exploitation, the last 5,000 years at least, having been one long story of masculine dominator's and the many dominated. Empires arising, every one before this one falling. And now we are coming to the end of the cycle. And all the world is in turmoil.

I have been using the word divine; is this a divine universe? It certainly is mysterious. Quantum physics is like a lynch-pin, re-injecting a sense of profound mysteriousness into the world, that Science had been helping the tyrants of the world divest of any meaning. Religion long ago took the divine and placed it somewhere we cant measure. Science, not being able to measure this divine that is somewhere else unmeasurable, says it doesn't exist. It's curious that this Logos that is our language, has made us aware of our place in the universe, at the same time it has separated us from it.

Really, is Science or Religion more responsible for this place we have come to, in this time of the holiness of economic progress, when we are transforming the resources of the Earth into garbage, as if there are no limits, as if we have no responsibility to the Earth? The argument has been made that if we didn't treat the Earth like a garbage dump we wouldn't have evolved into the technologically adept creature we are; if we aren't exploiting everything the way we do, we would be living in trees and caves. Which is fundamentalist garbage, as if we can't be technological beings with a concern for the biological systems on which all life on Earth depends, in cooperation with all the species of the Earth, as if everything matters.

I keep going to this place, like, I don't know what world you're living in, but the one I live in is divine. Something like the way I saw the world when I was a child, as if everything is alive with energy and there is no separation. I still have to live in the world, and that's not always easy with so many people running around as if they are separate from everything around them. With me, stumbling about much of the time, in the culturally-imposed and accepted restrictions that have twisted my body into misalignment.

But I have been cultivating balance, wholeness and healing, and I have every reason to believe that the energy emanating outward from me returns to me. When I returned to this house and started this blog, I had eighty dollars in cash and no credit. I've been down to my last dollar the last three years more times than I've had sex by a factor of about five. But, I'm manager again of Monster Halloween-Minnesota, which I think is going to be the coolest Halloween store in the Midwest; and, I'm now Creative Director for HD Masks, manufacturing and selling High Definition, digital-image masks for promotional and personal use. I didn't see that coming. My friends and family are healthy, strong, beautiful and abundant. Which is in direct contrast to most of what seems to be going on in the world; the prognosis for me and those closest to me seems exceptionally positive.

I mean, really, do you think the volatility in the weather and the markets is unrelated? Is not most of the world volatile, right now, politically and environmentally? Do you really think biological systems are somehow separate, that we do not influence the environment, and the environment does not influence us? As if all is not energy at its core?

What really is the basis for all our neuroses, but either a lack, or excess, or hyperactivity of feeling? Have you ever seen birds or fish in a flock or a school, turn together at the same time? Do you suppose, that this is not more or less what we are doing, on this strange march toward ecological oblivion? Emergent behavior, is what one commenter on this blog, Justin, calls it, each of us like a bee in a hive contributing to the structure of civilization, without any one of us able to create the civilization ourselves. He is trying to imagine a life no longer in service to that collective construct that is destroying the world. I am simply imagining a life in service.

If this universe is in fact divine, then I am like some kind of filter through which energy flows. My contention is, there is an abundance of energy available in this time of radical transformation, any of us might access, to pursue whatever we feel called to do. And if I am in fact divine, then there can be no purpose greater than what emerges from inside me; which I filter with what I hold to be the truth of this world.

No truly rational being could think at this point that Homo sapien sapien, (the name of which with the extra sapien is a kind of conceit of this last 13,000 year cycle - but I still like saying it), is not headed for some kind of apocalyptic end similar to that of Neanderthal, or the supposed civilization of Atlantis. From the perspective of the alchemist, the most fertile time is the darkest albedo, the dark night of the soul. If you haven't gone there yet, I suggest you find a way to fabricate it, because those who do not know themselves are going to have a very difficult time in the times ahead. If you don't know who you are, you can't know why you are here.

It also happens that the sun can be found in a near direct line with the center of the galaxy, which also occurs on a 26,000 year cycle. I'm inclined to think, there are energies abundant, and I am like a tuning fork and a fount, resonating energy as clear as I know how, as clear as I am able. And Enlightenment, whatever that is, is like the clear tuning call of the divine, emanating out from the core of oneself. A kind of deep resonating immersion in and devotion to the physical in which I reside, on this curious, mysterious, profound journey through time.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Divine Universe?

[WARNING: You may need a special helmet for this one.]

I bought a bike helmet the other day. It reminds me of my hockey helmet when I was a kid. Hockey is an expensive sport: ice-time fees, new equipment every few years, regular out of town trips often overnight, etc. My parents indulged me; and yet, though we had more money than most, every time the style in helmets changed, my teammates all had new helmets, and I still wore the same one, of a boxy, antique European design, well used when we bought it when I was just learning to skate, a style I don't think I ever saw on another Minnesota hockey player's head. It was adjustable, and I never did outgrow it, exchanging it only in high school when I was issued one like everybody else had. I remember that being a relief, though my new helmet was not nearly so safe, and wearing it, I cut my chin requiring stitches a half-dozen times. It didn't occur to me that there was something very cool about my old helmet, nobody else having one like it, that it was made to last; anymore than I was aware of the global consequences of the middle-class consumer lifestyle that made my hockey playing possible, or that hockey helmets are derived from fossil fuels, or that you can make plastic helmets that don't toxify the biosphere.

I haven't been wearing a helmet, biking around the city. I rationalized that I didn't need one, because wearing one wouldn't make me any more aware. I never have worn one, even biking around the neighborhood when I was a kid. I even went over the handlebars a few times. Personally, I think television is more dangerous than city bike riding. But a few recent local incidents have reminded me of the fragility of the human head, and I take all information coming at me as a potential sign.

I recently found a helmet I liked, bright fluorescent green, but I didn't want to spend the $60. The helmet I did buy cost me twenty-five cents. The guy who sold it to me said his teenage daughter was embarrassed to ride with him because of it. It may not be cool from a mainstream, pop-cultural perspective, and it's not likely as safe as the spendier one, but it cost me a quarter dollar, and it's more protection than I had.

I felt like I needed a helmet this week, prowling around HuffPost, commenting on various blogs and articles, participating, as I like to think, in civil discourse, and otherwise trying to generate interest in this blog. I particularly needed it, after commenting on a blog post about the origin of spirituality, by the writer and neuro-scientist Michael Graziano, suggesting that spirituality arises out of the internal chemistry related to social intelligence, the emotions that arise out of our interaction with others. In other words, spirituality having a purely physical origin - and so being delusional, insofar as it supposes the existence of some inherent meaning beyond the physical (that last part is me extrapolating from Graziano's argument.)

For suggesting in my comment that Science has become something like a Religion, I was upbraided with language like this, by an anonymous fellow commenter, gunnerfan5:

How often is this piece of utter idiocy going to be repeated by people who do not have a clue about science? There is nothing of religion in science. It's a method of enquiry [sic], nothing more. The fact you have a computer shows how dependent you are on the products of that method but you use it to carp and whine about the intellectual processes which gave it to you.
This comment of yours is SO stupid and ignorant I am astonished that anyone could write it.

HuffPost didn't publish it, though I did have the opportunity to reply that I was not hiding behind an assumed name. That didn't stop him from saying quite a bit more about me, much of which was published. He was not alone, several others replying to my comment, not much of it positive, hardly a word of it actually apprehending my actual point. I think I have a right to expect critical thinking and the ability to apprehend an argument, especially from those who claim to be versed in the scientific method. But then, we don't really teach critical thinking in America. Nor do we value it. More, we like to take a single word or sentence and extrapolate from it whatever we want, condemning the whole, secure in our righteousness, slowly closing ourselves off to a world of ideas.

On HuffPost, my words are rarely received so viciously as when I dare to suggest that Science is something more than simply a method. More than a method of inquiry, it is also a framework for looking at the world, which is reinforced by our limitless desire for a better life and our insatiability for consumer goods. Scientific materialism, grounded in evolutionary theory, excludes any sense of the divine nature of being. Removing any sense of the divine, it opens the door to the exploitation of anything, at any time, for any reason. It does this because it has supposed itself to be a counterpoint to Religion, and not merely a method of inquiry into physical processes. It has come to suppose itself the arbiter of all understanding, blind to the reality that scientific materialists fall into the same traps of orthodoxy that ensnare the religious, or the ways in which scientific materialism is a kissing cousin to the capitalistic pursuits that are driving the biosphere to the edge of ecological oblivion.

Consider that one can not really suggest evolutionary theory has serious flaws, without being cast as a raging fundamentalist in service to a violent God; one cannot reason with such absolute thinking. Within evolutionary theory there are inexplicably radical transformations in the appearance of life at various evolutionary stages, some creatures seeming to arise without precedent. That the DNA molecule and its seeming code could have arisen out of any primordial ooze accidentally, for no reason, strains the boundaries of the absurd. But none of this prevents many scientific materialists from acting as if even the mention of the word divine is a sign of profound mental illness demanding heavy doses of pharmaceuticals, and preferably restraints.

To be fair, the abuse I've taken on HuffPost isn't like being burned at the stake. I don't expect the children of Science to stoop to the kinds of evil the children of Religion have been capable of. Religions, just about one and all, preceded Science in the divesting from the world any sense of the divine, placing the divine in some nether world unreachable, until such time as death - accessible so long as you have done all you have been told to do, including even the slaughter of innocents. Religion not having much to do with the divine, really, but more a temporally derived system of social organization reinforcing hierarchy, or the right of the few to rule over the many.

Science, as a method, is indeed responsible for much of the good that has come in the evolution of civilization, lifting us out of the darkness of religious rule. It has helped awaken us to our place in the Universe. Science is deeply important to our continued evolution on this planet.

As a paradigm to align ones world view, it is limited however. It is subject to both the vagaries of hubris and greed. It has blind spots miles wide. If I say the universal vehicle is consciousness, Science can say nothing, because from a material perspective, it is a statement without meaning. If I say the universe is divine, and you are of the universe, then you are divine, science loses its capital (as does religion), and can only proclaim that it does not know, or that I am simply wrong. And while my only evidence is myself, I can only otherwise offer, that as everyone is divine, then all that has been said and done by humanity is available to us as a guide, to be used in the exploration of that immeasurable infinite inside. Which is as scary for a scientist as anybody else. Though really when you think about it, if I am in fact divine, the point would be to be as clear as possible, as a medium for the flow of energy. The process of opening up isn't always pleasant though. Which is a massive understatement. Though it is equally an understatement to say how much better one feels the more freely energy flows.

I don't know what Science has to say about what, if anything, is emanating out from the center of the galaxy, but I feel something like love. And humor. Like it's being amplified by the sun, and so there's an abundance of new energy available to each of us, right now. To choose to open oneself to the divine is a choice we all have. Few of us know we have that choice, and if we do we tend to think we have to follow a path someone else has defined. As if the only way to express energy is to filter it through some widely accepted, though tired, restrictive, limiting channel. From the perspective that the universe is divine, then the only path that can be yours is the one that leads to and from the internal life. Only you can know the man or woman you wish to be. Only you can truly know who you are and why you are here.

Of course, from most perspectives, that's just crazy talk. But I don't write for those who are afraid of the infinite, or for those who wish to dominate others, or be dominated. I write for the courageous ones who are willing to look inside, so as to look clearly at the world outside, to be clear in this world. And never have times called for a greater need to get clear within oneself, in relation to the biosphere and the culture, in the midst of a profoundly mysterious universe.

And really, saying the Universe is divine doesn't in any way negate the notion that spirituality arises out of the physical, as Graziano suggests. It simply means that the physical out of which the spiritual arises, is in itself divine. Which opens up the physical to infinite possibilities.

Anyway, I've got a helmet now, to protect me on my travels in this crazy world. I was thinking I might paint it copper, maybe stick some hawk or turkey feathers in it. Though I don't invest much energy in standing out for the sake of standing out. I'm fine too, just looking like an idiot who needs a special helmet. Such judgments being for those who do not know themselves.




Tuesday, August 2, 2011

End Times?

It's funny to hear the word compromise, bandied about the nation's media by our leaders. From one angle, I guess you could call it that. The cuts do include cuts to the military, ostensibly, but that will really only mean a cut in middle-class jobs, a further drop in economic activity. But then, many elements in the Tea Party are fine with these cuts. So really, it can't be a compromise if a small, radical faction of the government comes to the table with demands, with the threat of forcing an Empirical default, and then it's only from these demands the compromise is made. That this makes these self-described Patriots, and the GOP, and the whole Government really, appear like shill sycophants in service to a global elite, seems lost on them. I expect they will continue similar tactics straight through Dec 23, hammering holiday retail sales and otherwise scaring the hell out of markets, in the midst of what may be a new dip into economic contraction, unleashing $1.5 Trillion in new cuts to domestic programs on a desperately weakened economy.

There is a good deal about the Tea Party I admire. I like that they are focused on personal responsibility, the argument that our dependence on Government has not been entirely healthy. I believe it would be a good thing for Americans to visit for themselves the topic of responsibility, in all its manifold meaning. Of course, Tea Partiers seem not to have any sense of responsibility to the Earth, or even to anyone who doesn't look and sound more or less exactly like a Tea Partier. Which I take to mean a devotion to Christ, and support for policies that are hard on the poor and easy on the rich. I suspect they would prevent us from protecting ourselves from polluters, and financial and business predators, while they would use the government to destroy the lives of Americans who choose to put certain things into, or take certain things out of themselves. Government as an evil, except as a tool of punishing, dominating self-righteousness.

Actually, the President has been saying it - one of the things about this debate we don't seem to want to address. We are still in the hangover of our worship of these men. All through the eighties and nineties and into the new millennium, we practically genuflected at their feet, making gods of them (can anybody say Greenspan), the way money seemed to be falling from the sky. Then came the revelation of 2008, of the epic malfeasance of self-interested efficiency freaks, a long ugly recession, and the growing realization there is nothing particularly sustainable about the path we are on as a nation. And still we can't find the strength to demand a modest increase in their taxes, to help the nation climb out of debt - the nation in which they base their global corporations and banks. 'We already give so much', they seem to be saying (because they are otherwise saying nothing), though they are wealthier than any people in the history of humanity, and growing ever wealthier. (Their minions are saying if we tax the wealthiest a little more, they will take themselves and their interests overseas. But they won't. And good riddance if they do.)

At the same time, I seem to intuit in the arguments of Nobel prize winner Paul Krugman, Robert Reich and many on the Left, a willingness to borrow another few trillion on top of the deficit, many trillion over several years, to make for eighteen or twenty or twenty-five trillion in debt. I don't sense much appetite in America for that. Liberals in general seem blind to the ways in which Government has failed, facilitating a sense of entitlement in some, in Unions and Industry and Finance, at the expense of the health and well being of people and the economy. Liberals and Conservatives together, as example, seem blind to the way in which our food production system is unhealthy for the land, water, bugs, birds and people, which leads to the Health Care Industry being the healthiest sector of the economy, all of it being very lucrative for an increasingly small number of players.

Exactly who is protecting us from the 80,000+ chemicals manufactured in America?

Meanwhile, the ever increasing demand world-wide in fossil fuels, that great unspoken, and the blithe and widely held denial, that "we'll just move on to the next energy supply," as someone replied to my comment, on HuffPost - that extracting every last fossil fuel in an epic rush toward Empirical collapse is a bad idea. He finished with, "Your logic doesn't make sense." My defense of my logic and my critique of his was censored by HuffPost, though they later allowed me to point out that his argument, that fossil fuels have not been detrimental to life, was purely anthropocentric, and not even very accurate in that, our food production system being one oh-so-glaring example. (I later found that HuffPost went back and published the comment they had at first denied. In a piece by Raymond J Learsy.)

And the spectre of a Michele Bachmann Presidency. Can anyone say, "Armageddon?" One last purely manufactured drama, a self-prophesying apocalyptic nightmare worse than anyone can imagine?

My grapes have been besieged by a plague of Japanese beetles. A small, invasive, iridescent beetle, they are skeletizing the leaves, eating all the material in between the veins. All they do is eat and hump; I've found up to ten pairs coupling, on one leaf. I'm killing 50-100 a day, crushing them or dropping them into a glass of soapy water. I've seen fences covered with grape vines and Virginia creeper, almost wholly defoliated. They eat rose leaves too. A friend of mine told me he has found emerald ash borers all over his yard. They showed up in Minnesota only a year or two ago. Goodbye, ash trees. The lake I grew up on is newly infested with zebra mussels. Thanks, global capitalism. Nice legacy. (I know this flies in the face of mainstream thinking, that global economics hasn't been incredibly great for humanity, but these Japanese beetles, ash borers and zebra mussels are going to be around a lot longer than Health Care, or the middle-class, as we know it.)

My father tells me Lake Carlos is currently higher than he has ever seen it. Lake Nokomis, near where I live, is higher than it has been all year, in August, and it's been uncharacteristically high since spring. There is an excess of water everywhere in the Midwest, and on the West Coast; while it is exceedingly dry in much of the South and Southwest. 2011, from my perspective here in Minneapolis, has been respectively, the coldest winter, the coolest and cloudiest spring, and the steamiest, hottest summer, I remember. Everything is extreme. Bi-polar weather patterns? A bi-polar people? A bi-polar nation, shifting radically back and forth between ever increasing extremes?

If it's not the End Times, it sure feels like it.