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death

I’m grateful to my dog for making me walk every day. I was grateful to him yesterday for our walk in the woods. Of course, he doesn’t make me do anything. It’s through my respect for our relationship that I uphold my responsibility to get him exercise. He enjoys walking in the woods and so do I, but it’s unlikely that I would take the time to do it as often as I do if it weren’t for him.  Walking in the woods is good for me, body, mind and soul, so the relationship serves me.

The other day I was listening to an interview with a fellow who goes by the name of Dan Suelo, who renounced the use of money  in 2000. I heard him say that he seeks to emulate the way nature operates. Fruit trees give their fruit freely, without demanding reward, living in the faith that their needs will be provided for.  I feel that my relationship with my dog is an example of this kind of symbiosis.

It’s more complicated, of course.

I ate a grass-fed hamburger last night. As I ate I contemplated my relationship to the animal whose life was ended for my sake. As a minimum, I thought, I ought to witness the killing of the animal. I thought about the moment of its death, the moment when the metal spike enters its brain under controlled circumstances in which it has no reason to be fearful, That seems to be a graceful passage. It occurs to me that to return the gift, I ought to be willing to surrender my own life with the same grace.

I am old. If there’s anything we can point to as evidence of so-called “progress” it would be our increased life-span. There could be some benefits to living longer, the capacity to accumulate and refine wisdom in a single lifetime, and it might be worthwhile to contemplate whether that has an advantage over the transmission of wisdom through books and other technologies, and through the collective unconscious. It is certain, though, that the cost has been and continues to be great. We are indubitably jeopardizing the habitability of our planet for the sake of this progress, and at my age it seems that I ought to be willing to surrender the balance of my years to mother earth and my grandchildren and the generations beyond.

I would like to continue to live my life in the relative ease that I enjoy. Not that my life isn’t full of the stress of maintaining a livelihood on a daily basis. Still, there are plenty of moments of relaxation, of enjoyment. Complacency. There is no legitimate justification for not being engaged every moment in a meaningful, passionate, fully committed attempt to live in harmony with the earth, nature, my fellow beings. I suppose I can only say what that means to me.

First of all, it means extricating myself from what Weber described as the “web of capitalism”.

I went to a local used bookstore yesterday. I gave the woman my debit card and she asked me to enter my PIN, but I told her that I wanted to process it as a credit. She said that they didn’t accept credit transactions on debit cards because the fees are too high. I didn’t know that. I use my debit card as a credit card to avoid the $2.50 transaction fee that the bank charges me if I use it as a debit card. I handed her a regular credit card and learned that any cards that offer cash back or other perks are also more expensive for the merchants. It’s outrageous enough that banks charge fees for the mere use of credit cards, on top of the interest and other fees they charge people who use them.

I hardly use cash anymore. Going to the bank to get cash is inconvenient, and I would have to keep enough on me to cover unanticipated purchases. Using a credit card I get a record of all my expenses, which I rely on for budgeting and for tax-related record keeping. Otherwise I’d have to keep a log and then spend time transcribing that log into my financial software, time I might otherwise spend writing a letter to my congressperson, or going to a rally, or getting information about an issue, or exercising, which would help improve my health, thus depriving the medical and pharmaceutical industries of a portion of their profits, undoubtedly causing some of my neighbors to lose their job,  reducing the tax revenue available for schools, water safety, garbage collection, etc. in my neighborhood, which influences the local council to allow commercial development of more land, competing for their business with tax and other incentives, which, in the end, barely increase the wealth of the community, while it increases the pressure on the local infrastructure, including roads, which causes me to spend more time in traffic, further diminishing my opportunity to escape the centrifugal force of a culture spiraling into self-destruction.

There are people who have managed to escape this life-sucking death spiral. I’m thinking of intentional communities. People have a strong reaction to the prospect of living in the ways that suggest, communally. Yet that is the central, crucial issue of our survival. How do we live together? It’s a question that we’ve been avoiding. In fact, much of the use of wealth and the motivation for generating it is to avoid these issues.

Sarah The Healer

Sarah Palin is going to turn out to be good for the country. Her galvanization of those people susceptible to her appeal to their base instincts has drawn them into a concentrated mass that will make it easier to purge their infection of the mainstream.

Since they were not a large enough bloc to deliver victory, Republicans will no longer feel they have to sink to hate-mongering for survival. Most of them will be glad to be rid ot the stench and turn their attention to leading those people out of the swamp and back into a more healthy engagement with the isssues.

Republicans will finally be free of the yoke of “values” issues, which, at best, forced them into hypocritical positions, pitting government against individual rights. As polling from The Barna Group has shown, the “Christian Right” is not a monolithic bloc, with support steadily evening out between the candidates.

In the most important way, the vitriol of the clot of low-information, surly Palin supporters, mistakenly referred to as the “Republican base” by slothful press, is the true legacy of GW Bush. For the moment I’m going to allow myself to believe that he did us a service by bringing the toxins of our society to the surface, so they can be isolated and the body politic healed.

This perspective gives me a pathway to a peaceful attitude toward my adversaries. I’m reminded of the Viet Nam days when the blue collar folks were riled into violent anger toward hippies and peaceniks. When the truth started to come out and right-wing stalwarts changed their positions, the hard-hats started smoking dope and growing long hair.

Obama – Snap it up

On Stephanapolous yesterday, watching your circumlocution to avoid agreeing that the surge was a success was like watching the swirl of your candidacy being flushed down the toilet. Here is the snappy answer: Calling the surge a success is like giving up ten runs in the fourth inning and using most of your pitching staff to get three outs and calling that a good inning. It’s not a success. You just got out of the inning. The game is a long way from being over and your using up all your strength before Afghanistan, the real threat, gets dealt with.
You, Obama, were against the surge because you have a very different strategy for dealing with the situation. Obviously, this president doesn’t have the skill to implement a more effective policy. Does that mean you just let him do what he wants? No. You have to keep raising your voice to show that there are more effective alternatives in the hope that enough people will get the message and things can change. That’s what I mean by effecting change. Not changing course when the wind changes direction, as when Senator McCain was against the surge before he was in favor of it. Just because you’ve gotten out of bad situation that you got us into is no occasion to be smug and self-congratulatory. The situation is still a mess, largely because of the enormous incompetence, corruption and arrogance that John McCain, for all his self-touted high-mindedness, does not seem to have had a problem with all these years. He’s no longer even troubled by the fact that America is now authorized to torture.
The violence in Iraq has subsided for the moment. No one knows what that means for the future and the work going forward requires skill and intelligence that this administration, with John McCain’s full support, has demonstrated time and again that they lack. Meanwhile, the real threat from Al Qaeda in Afghanistan is growing and we are less capable of addressing that threat. So by distracting us in Iraq, has Al  Qaeda outwitted this administration and John McCain? As I said, this is no time to be self-congratulatory about the surge working. This is not the time for another “Mission Accomplished” moment.  It may seem to be working, but unless the gains are skillfully consolidated and a new strategy that includes engagement of the whole region is implemented, this success, too can go for naught.
What is success in Iraq, anyway? We were told that free elections meant success, then that a stable government meant success, and meanwhile, permanent bases are being erected and long term military arrangements are being made that seem to have little to do with the political conditions in Iraq. What is the tangible measurable result by which this administration and John McCain will deem this Iraqi adventure a success? Is it a safely working oil pipeline? Is Iraq really part of Bush and McCain’s energy policy?
Get with the program Barack. You’re fading into the mediocrity of ambivalence.

The Temerity of Hope

Hope is great when you’re preaching to the faithful, but when you get out there amongst the real America you had better portray yourself as a far different kind of candidate. We could choose to believe that Americans have their better angels and that they can be appealed to take a chance on an honest and articulate person who has demonstrated a commitment to the less fortunate and the less-privileged; who has demonstrated a political acumen that has embarrassed and befuddled his opponent in the past few months; who represents a new generation and a decisive break from what almost everyone agrees has been a disastrous eight years; and that such a person has a good chance of defeating a corrupt, doddering con-man. I can see how this would be too audacious to hope for. Besides, Americans would be confused at the prospect of not having to hold their noses when they go to the polls. There is a winning formula in politics: raise expectations during the primaries, then lower them during the election, then do whatever the hell you want after you’re elected.

Health vs. Health Care

It’s about health, not health care. The distinction between these viewpoints tells you everything you need to know about the dysfunction of modern life. It illustrates the conceptual divide between the old and what I had hoped was going to be, the “new politics”.
Health care is the system of keeping workers ambulatory enough to go to work most days, where, for the most part, they contribute to the creation of the very conditions that are making them sick. As long as lost productivity plus the lost fecundity of the earth is less than the profits of industry, the cost benefit of raping the planet is indisputable. Of course, the dazzling advancements in technology have enabled us to vastly increase per capita productivity, so we can afford to keep more people sicker, longer, and at greater profit.
It is not easy to maintain this balance. Enormous intellectual power and ingenuity is applied to the invention of new diseases, convincing people they have those diseases and educating medical professionals to treat those diseases. Notice that I use the word “treat”, not “cure”. Curing illness undermines profitability, so it’s an outcome that should only be pursued with caution. Cures should only be effected to the degree necessary to maintain a sufficient level of credibility with the general public. The rule of thumb is that if a condition will heal on its own, offer a cure. Otherwise, don’t mess with the cash flow of a long-term chronic condition. Fortunately, the industry is powerful enough to amass intellectual power for public relations, which relieves the requirement to actually demonstrate medical efficacy. Continue reading Health vs. Health Care

the delicacy of the body

The delicacy of the body is masked by its robustness. The body can survive under some pretty harsh conditions. If we are used to more favorable conditions, we will notice the deprivation, otherwise, whatever conditions we’re accustomed to will be normal. When we talk about the environment of the body, the biggest factor is nutrition.
The brain, being the most delicate organ of the body, is the most sensitive to its environment. Our collective failure to make use of most of the power of our brains is legendary. What if that is largely due to nutrition? Continue reading the delicacy of the body

Privacy?

The human body has been described by biologists as a colony of individual organisms living in concert like a hive of bees or a colony of ants. We hardly detect the individuality of those organisms, the cells, microbes and tissues that we know collectively as our body. In the same way we can say that a hive of bees is a singular entity. Everything that the individual bees do is for the purpose of maintaining the viability of the hive. That is no different than the individual organisms within our bodies, despite their wildly different forms and functions, all integrated into one system.

Isn’t it conceivable that from a higher level, all of humanity is a single being comprised of a wide variety of individuals? What do the concepts of individuality and privacy look like from this perspective?

Certainly there is individual expression in the cells and organisms of our body. What constrains that individuality so that the actions of some do not impair or imperil the lives of others, or are they in fact,  so constrained? Is there any rough competition going on within the body?

What about privacy? What is the purpose of privacy? Intimacy requires privacy. Intimacy is a private experience. Is it necessarily so, or is it that at this point in our evolution we require certain circumstances to feel safe and supported enough to expose parts of our inner terrain that would otherwise make us too vulnerable? Is the trajectory of evolution to enable us to experience intimacy with each other more readily and more constantly? I say that it is.

The common implication of individualism in our American culture is that anyone can do whatever they want whenever the hell they want to. It seems that the caveat “as long as you don’t hurt anyone else” was added, reluctantly, later, as we ran out of frontier and started rubbing up against each other more closely. In that caveat is the crux of the matter.

In that caveat is the recognition that we are intimately connected to each other. Our social and civil morality is based on its Interpretation.

What’s funny?

I don’t know what’s funny anymore. The fun has gone out of irony. “No Child Left Behind” was funny. “Mission Accomplished” w/codpiece was funny. But World War III has not been funny since the seventies. Global Warming isn’t funny anymore, especially now that it’s replacing tanning salons as the “natural” way to stay brown year-round. I have to admit that the Supreme Court is still pretty funny. I love the costumes. Continue reading What’s funny?

The Free Market Delusion

The delusional idea of a free-market economy has to rank among the most insidious canards foisted upon humanity,

First of all, the only thing that happens when the power of elites is unfettered is that they get richer at the expense of everyone else. That was sort of the principle behind the Magna Carta, not to mention the Boston Tea Party, if you’ll recall.

Second of all, the notion of a “friction-free economy” is as plausible as, let us say, purely procreative sexuality. The influence of governance on the economy can be isolated and constrained in just about the same degree that desire is satisfied by conception. Continue reading The Free Market Delusion