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Essentials

How much of our lives and culture is made out of nothing much? Of stuff, whether practices, beliefs, or physical objects, that in hard times would prove valueless and be soon abandoned? How much of our so-called social progress depends on the breakdown and replacement of these artificially menaingful cultural components and artifacts, and avoidance of permanence, depth, durability, true value?

Think of the contents of the average dollar store, say during some holiday season or other. Count necessities and what’s the total?

Think of what’s in your house, those carefully selected items large and small that someone in the household deemed necessary to make a home. Unplug the power for a week, and what’s left? Are you still using the soap, but no longer the clothes washer? Using the wood stove instead of the toaster, the wooden spoon instead of the mixer, the sun and the sound of birdsong rather than the wakeup alarm? Those hand tools and the fishing tackle are looking pretty useful, along with those buckets, that wagon, quality shoes. No radio, no news feed, so you get together with the neighbors to make hay and conversation while the sun shines, and plan the garden. Are you walking down to the farm market for exercise and carrying stuff instead of going to the gym? Thinking about which building will serve as the local community hangout, and who will play the next dance?

What about the books in your library? Copies of ones you read in your youth in which you now see the flaws, works of reference no longer relevant mixed in with some which will always be useful? Cherished life-changing volumes that helped you to see, really see, showed you life, broke through your pain, your egotism, your fear? Field guides? Now they won’t last the next few decades in this damp climate, so what will you keep? Do you have personal stories, family histories, songs and poems committed to memory? The screens are all off, the invasions into your living room by purveyors of vehicle love and the next entertainment series silenced. What will you want now? What’s worth working for?

And what do you have in your person, and here is where it might get a little uncomfortable. But it shouldn’t, no, not at all. Because eve if your place in the global economy has disappeared, you have the DNA for all you need for the local scene, and you’re in that wonderful gene pool of the community that still, even after all that domestication, can work it on this earth, at least enough.

Who are the folks that make up your neighborhood? As the electricity grid decays, the gas runs out, the refugees arrive, who are the pillars of the community now? Not the department store CEO or the hedge fund manager? Not the real estate broker or bank manager, or even the famous local actor or football hero. There’s the bicycle mechanic, the farmer, the philosopher, the minders of children, the story tellers. The builders, teachers, caregivers, preachers, prophets, and poets. The mail carrier, the horseman, the herbalist and the healer. The hunter, the brewer, the worker of stone, of textiles. Hewers of wood and drawers of water. Wise elders and energetic youth.

And how was your holiday?

 

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No, you are not stuck, you are seething with possibilities

Why did you do what you did with your life so far? And what did you do, and how can you tell? By names of institutions, vocations, nations, creations, and human relations? Graduations, vacations, and research stations? Or do you take a more roundabout way, and recall a series of signposts only–the longings, desires, and meanderings of a lost or searching soul? Perhaps the same ones that ache still in you now? Was it more about achievement, or effort? And were you true to your heart and nature? Or was there always outside pressure (however well-meaning)? Did you end up somewhere, or were you guided? Do you sometimes want to go back and yet not back, forward–again, I mean anew? What are the catalysts of your present longing? What are the tabus?

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2014 in Personal Growth

 

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Could it be the beginning of the end, the revenge of Gaia, the end time for all God’s children?

Could it be the beginning of the end, the revenge of Gaia, the end time for all God’s children?

Through the mental, metaphysical philosophical fog, which comes and goes–not too heavy right now, but how would I know?–I’m seeing a pattern. Something about the dominant culture hurdling headlong into something, dragging almost everyone else with it, to the edge of a precipice, or to a suddenly downward slippery slope. And I’ve lost the words to say what’s wrong, lost the right or ability to speak about it to anyone around me. Everything seems to be moving too fast for me–the effect of three of my children hurdling through their teen years? And I feel I’ve missed my opportunity, maybe I should have done more inculcating, more world view training, more something, so they’d all really be somebody, and not just conform to some warm norm that won’t get them through the storm. Not that I’m really concerned that they won’t be free enough thinkers, but they are heavily marketed, and I hope they can see through and walk the narrow, rocky road that leads to life.

It’s not just about global climate change, water crisis, peak oil, species destruction, accelerated genetic contamination, overpopulation, mass migrations, though it’s all of those too. Maybe something about how so few of us are engaged in looking deeply into anything, there are so many glossy, high-def, shining, interactive mobile screens to surf us along gently, even without the thrill and certainly without the skill of real surfing. Shallow and distracted. Yet not minoring on depth in order to major on breadth, either, more like drift, distraction, dullness.

But that’s just the consumer end, because there are real individual folks behind it all, creating that code, driving those machines, inserting those genes. Surely they still have their wits about them, are capable of purpose, vision, idealism. But not like it used to be, when a few tycoons, geniuses, think tanks, mavericks would move in a new direction and change things forever. When it was just a matter of making sure enough of those powerful and influential people had our ear, or even better, had a heart of wisdom. Now culture molding, revolution, not to use the term breakthrough, comes through a kind of oozing, oily wave pushed by trillions of individual molecules way back who are just in a tide, and the push-pull could be the moon for how easily influenced it is. This kind of change has a life of its own. Maybe the driver is something along the lines of economic growth. And the voices raised against that drive have been pretty much ignored by the dominant culture since they started to squeak against it. Back in ’92 at UBC I heard David Suzuki call not only for reduction in growth, but reversal, or there would be severe consequences. I heard him again last year on CBC still saying the same thing. But there’s a disease that affects those who get into political office, or that they must have at least in some degree in order to win office in the first place, which is, believing that a nation’s economic growth is a mark of its success (not to say sustainability). No public official or other advertising-dependent entity would be caught dead saying publicly “Spend Less,” as does theĀ  Advent Conspiracy , as one of its four defining statements.

This oozing toward self destruction, sometimes slower but then more quickly as we are lulled into thinking we have reduced, reused, recycled enough, is of biblical proportions. Bringing on the judgment, instead of the Kingdom, after our thousands of years of respite, our second, no, third, chance. Maybe the whole slate has to be wiped out, and the remnant start all over again, just like those Mayans, those Aztecs who saw the looming collapse of their so-called golden ages, and crept off quietly into the jungle to rekindle an existence more harmonious with this world before they forgot how.

Tonight I’ll probably have that dream again–the one I used to have when I was twelve, about hurdling down the road in a car, with no one in the driver’s seat, and me in the back seat and not having the skills or position to do anything. Yet I try to climb over the seat, see if I can save us from crashing–there are other passengers, but they are silent and out of view. And I wake up sweating.

 

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