Sunday, September 25, 2011

Occupying Main Street

It is evident that across our nation, people are frustrated and angry. Democrat or Republican—it makes nary a difference which corporate puppet is elected. Our nation will continually be at war to make money off far-away natural resources. In these hard times of the Great Recession, the rich continue to get richer, and it’s no surprise where that wealth has trickled up from. Many people are out of jobs and unable to find work. They are losing their homes and gathering impossible debt. They are figuring out how to cope as they no longer have access to the money economy.

The protests in Egypt earlier this year were more widely reported in mainstream American news than the protests on Wall Street. It is a challenge to find news reporting on what is going on in my own country, and I imagine if I was not seeking it out, I may never know that people were protesting on my behalf. They call themselves the 99%--those who can’t afford lobbyists, who don’t have influence in politics. They are the unemployed, often over-educated—those who listened to talk of the American dream, pursued it vigorously, and found it dissipated once they arrived prepared and ready on the scene. They are often young, wondering why no one bothered to fix the broken system they are inheriting. (I should note, I am nearly 40, and I’ve wondered the same thing the last 20 years.)

It comes as no surprise that our government is heavily influenced by those who hold the purse strings. We all know this. It comes as no surprise that our media is heavily influenced by those who hold the purse strings. We all know this. Does it surprise us that a handful of tea party protests are heavily covered in the media while a massive peoples’ demonstration in the heart of the beast is largely ignored? It’s disgusting, but no surprise.

We look at those who profit from the actions of corporations—those who continue to benefit. It seems they feel themselves invincible, and that is an incredible weakness and shortcoming. Traditionally, when revolution is imminent, those in power capitulate in order not to lose total control. The New Deal is a good example. In the 1930s, the Wobblies and the anarchists were growing in numbers, as were the poor and unemployed. Massive protests encouraged lawmakers to parcel out funds to provide jobs and food in order to quell uprising. Our nation can no longer afford that route, as the tea partiers constantly remind us.

What can our government do? They have merely the illusion of control, as we find out, the more of us that step up and speak out. There is not enough in the way of resources to control us all. As more of us drift away from our brainwashing/upbringing as Patriotic Americans(tm), we find ourselves more aware of our actual circumstances. We find ourselves operating in an economy based on what we have in abundance—our time and our willingness to share what we have. This is the basis of the economy of the community.

We stop listening to the rules and regulations of the corporate government that benefits from controlling our actions with the threat of violence (whether this violence is mace in the eyes during a peaceful protest, or an eviction from a home we could afford if only access to the money economy—jobs—were available) and instead listen to our consciences. There is a large number of surplus homes as the numbers of homeless swell. Any person with a bit of common sense can hook together this supply and demand conundrum that those on Wall Street can’t seem to figure out. This is a mere drop in the bucket of common sense measures that our government can’t seem to grasp. (Whoever started buying up debt because debt is an asset deserves a $100 billion bonus, heh.)

We demand honesty from those in our circles of interaction, especially from ourselves. Our way of life is disintegrating in front of our eyes. We welcome this, knowing that this crisis will give birth to something more meaningful. As we look around what was formerly the most wealthy nation in the world, and see utter poverty while also seeing those who benefit from the control of corporations sipping champagne and smirking while protected by the public police, something is stirred deep within us.

I do indeed consider myself a patriotic American, though not in the way of throwing more money after unjust wars and standing up for the rights of corporations to throw money at politicians because that’s all free speech means anymore. I have always rooted for the underdog, and to me, that is what America is about. We ourselves are freedom fighters, throwing off our blinders and blazing trails anew. This opportunity arises on occasion, and the invitation is extended to us. We can see through the illusion of control, and disregard it. We can find out for ourselves what freedom means—not relying on tea partiers to define it for us. We can take it upon ourselves to develop the responsibility to each other that makes our near-useless government completely so. We find security in our freedom and responsibility to each other—way more than Social Security could ever give us. We can realize what it is like to have our nation for, by, and of us, not for, by and of those who benefit from corporate profits.

Yes, I’m a revolution cheerleader, and I’m not the only one. I am eight months pregnant ,and it is my hope my child will be born free and raised in a new paradigm. I am doing what I can to enable this to happen, and I invite you to join me and the other 99% in reclaiming ourselves and our country, creating together lives worth the effort of living. We may not have much in the way of money, but we have each other, and that is enough.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

How to not smoke when you thoroughly enjoy tobacco

I love tobacco, but I decided from the beginning that I was more of an autonomous human than could be dominated by her. With that mindset, cutting back and quitting can be fun: strength training for your will. When you get a craving, acknowledge that you have it without wallowing in guilt or any other emotion that arises. If it's really intense, drink some water and go for a run. If you have to stay away from other people when they try and smoke, that's fine for a while but eventually one learns to deal no problem.

I like to chew cinnamon sticks for the flavor, they're soooo dank. Some people prefer licorice roots. Cinnamon's kind of an upper, and licorice is for mellowing out. They are both healthy and can be ingested in large quantity, so I suggest BOTH to you. You can find both at a health food store, or your preferred online distributor.

Actually SMOKING when you don't want to give in to tobacco is another option. You can wild harvest and smoke these herbs. There's nothing with nicotine that's typically grown around here except tobacco. They taste good without being so poisonous, and some of them are actually supposed to be good for you.

Mullein/Verbascum thapsus
This is a great herb to smoke as you quit tobacco, because it will help your lungs heal and feel strong. Dry the leaves and flowers in the sun, crumble it up, and smoke it out of a glass pipe. You can find it growing in a lot of places. Primarily dry places next to paths and railroads.

"Indian Tobacco" Lobelia inflata
Amazing because it has the same feel on the tongue and throat and lungs as you smoke it. It also has lobeline in it, so you get a bit of a buzz without any of the addiction.

People will put catnip, spearmint and licorice in there for more flavor. If you want to get frisky with another human, damiana is a good smoking herb too.

Another good thing to help is this part of yoga that is about breath control. Part of the appeal of smoking for a lot of people is taking deep breaths- this will help you do it. I particularly enjoy the Nadi Shodhana.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

what does a holy guardian angel look like? a mouthpiece for your ideals

If you could have an emissary to the source of existence, to keep you linked up while you were sober and before you became an adept, would it matter what it looked like? I'm talking about the holy guardian angel from Hermetic Kabbalah, yes; but the use of a daemon, a guiding spirit, is not restricted to the initiatic line that has brought us to this. So yes it's appearance matters, and its character- but only to you, unless people could be said to derive meaning from the art you produce under its direction.

I thought for a long time that my HGA's appearing clearly different, and separate from everything else, because it is such a special thing that it would have to be above the rest of it? Sacred and profane, you know? This, however, was a misguided assumption. I could have guessed! I'm a mystic- I don't turn off my high vibrations deliberately, and I work to re-attune them efficiently when I fall off my horse. The overblown thirst for novelty is another possible source of misconception, god bless it.

I was hands off on this one. I desired for the spirit helper to just appear to me, as it seemed that developmentally I am ready for it but too busy to write a big ritual- and besides, I wanted to give it room to make an entrance as it would, once I put it out there that I was in the market. It did show up, then, just like that, and in in the most meaningful context it could: while I was doing impassioned work that had the force of my idealism behind it.

I was sitting at the library. It was about 3:30 AM, and I was enthralled with a lab report that had all my enthusiasm pouring into it. It was a demonstration of the "stream continuity concept", basically just that something that happens upstream happens downstream, too. The amount of dissolved oxygen, organic sediments and creatures at any given point in the stream are a result of what was happening in the direction from whence the water flows. Playing in streams is what I remember most clearly from my childhood experiences in nature. The fun there made me connect as much with nature as I did human culture, if not more. So besides being fascinating to me, and possibly assisting in job prospects as a stream quality monitor, the subject of the studying was near and dear to my heart from childhood.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a little angel flitting around. It was clearly in my imagination, and very high up: visible as someone on the other end of a soccer field. They were wearing robes (sometimes they seem to be orange and green in my memory, and at other times blues and reds and purples), and had big strong wings. It did some lazy, looping laps above my head. I smiled at it, wondered if the prescribed amount of adderal I had taken was helping to coax the critter down, and it flew back above the range of my vision.

The next time I heard from it was during meditation, two months later. I was at a Vipassana retreat, and after the dross emotional had burned away in the furnace of focus- just attending to the spot on my upper lip where breath passes over as it exits the nostrils- it started speaking to me. I was so unusually quiet, that the tathagatagarbha spoke up clearly about what I could do that would be worth stopping the sitting for.

It is difficult for me to write to an abstract audience, for some reason. I will just quote what I told my friend the other day about what I heard:

"Over winter break, I decided to grow mushrooms during a marathon meditation sesh with a Goenka Vipassana school. Theravedan Buddhism is cool, but it's pretty outdated and rough if you ask me. Still, I have to say that the visions of mushroom growing- really inspired ideas, like I had an artistic angel sitting in my brainstem, tossing paper airplane notes to my frontal cortex- were worth the suffering. My idea is to chip these damn bush honeysuckles that grow all around Cincinnati, OH. Coppice them, and put their chips in swales on the less steep parts of the steep, slippy hillsides- and grow oyster mushrooms in the chips! That way, when it rains they'll be sure to flush, and as they devour their substrate, I can just keep adding chips at the end of the ditch. At the end, organic matter will have been worked into the hillside as terraces, and I can plant persimmons and hardy pecans. Yum. Permaculture!"

The angel or whatever wasn't telling me anything I wasn't already desperate to hear- it just came up from deeper than I am used to coherent thoughts coming from, and it was charged with such ecstatic excitement that it sticks with me, even after that gnarly meditation retreat was over.

Emile Durkheim said that totems, gods of tribes, are living symbols of everything that the tribe stands for- our ideals. Let us assume that Durkheim is right- God serves as the embodiment of a culture's ideals, and is imbued with enough of the groups moral authority to act upon the command. So, when the little voice inside says "do this, don't do that", then you believe it- even if it's exactly what the rest of the culture says you should do, it is the internalized voice that you HAVE to listen to.

But what about the totem of someone who is a culture of one? You have to make your own god, period, we all do- sometimes people try and Xerox from the Bible, or some sutra, and say its theirs. But they didn't write it! You god has to be more than you are, and of the best of you- it has to be open ended enough to pipe through innovative thoughts, like these, but coherent and discrete enough to be credible for you to act on your intuition. I'm making meaning up as I go along, with the best praxis I can glean from diverse groups that have pieces but not the whole of what I am to embody.

I'll post pics of the shrooms once that happens. In the meantime, my brother Ben and I are in the brainstorming stages of establishing a homebase in Athens for post graduation. Read about it as it unfolds, here

BTW, I am calling my HGA Raphael. THE Raphael is alleged to be a healer, and the personal guide and guardian of Tobit from tradition who normally is the Semitic angel that lives in the Sun. Also, supposedly he is watching over and tending to the tree of life in Paradise. Maybe I can bum some seeds? :) The name just came to me, though. Sometimes words just pop into my empty mind like that. I stopped discarding them when I realized they might be significant, back at Mountain Gardens in '07. Belief in Fortune is a reality I've created for myself. Believing life matters because I have agency and direction, the path opens up ahead of me as I cultivate insight and act on it.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Ran Prieur: For any system to control you, it must...

Don here. Sorry to be lame and just copy someone else's work. Rare weekend of full-time net access. Catching up on some stuff.

Ripped straight from the archives of Ran Prieur: April 12, 2010.

I've been thinking more about Anne's provocatively pessimistic statement (in this post) that without any tech crash, just a financial crash will have us all standing in line for coal mining jobs. If we ask why, we open a deep hole that leads to the enclosure movement, massacres of Indians, and every repressive system in history.

For any system to control you, it must stand between your work and your food. I know there are other needs like shelter and water and warmth, but in most regions, food is the big one. In a forager hunter tribe, or a family of subsistence farmers, your work directly creates your food. You might be poor, but you're free. In industrial civilization, you probably have a job that has nothing to do with producing food, where if you challenge your superiors, you'll be fired, and no longer receive the tokens that are required for food and shelter. You might be surrounded by dazzling technology and comfort, but you are owned.

Now, if this system collapses, you're free but you're hungry; your need for food, and your ability to work, are like two poles of a battery. If you can't connect them yourself, you need something to connect them for you, a social machine that can use your work and give you food. This could be a nice community farm, a crime gang, or a new complex domination system that's worse than the old one.

I'd like to imagine a new complex system that is much better. We can tell wonderful stories about a gift economy information utopia, but at some point we have to ask: where does the food come from? Is it grown by slaves? Suppose it's grown by free people -- and I don't mean free in the watered-down American sense, but economically free, where they could easily not work for anyone but themselves, but they choose to grow extra food because they get something in exchange. What do they get? Lots of money? Which they then use to hire farm workers who are not economically free? And then, when the people who do the actual work want to own the means of production, they have a revolution? We've been through that, and I fear we're going to keep going through it again and again.

I can see only one way to have a non-repressive society of any size. Every person has to have the ability, whether or not they use it, to connect their work (or the work of their close friends and family) directly to their food (and also shelter). And on top of that foundation, if we want universities and airplanes and computers, those functions are bought by autonomous food producers with surplus food.

I touched on this a few years ago in a post on Malthus: "How can we have a dense population center that does not grow all its own food, but does not deplete the land that its food comes from? The answer is simple: the people in the city must not own the land, or otherwise control it." An unsustainable city owns the farmers around it, and a sustainable city is owned by the farmers around it. So the question is not, "What do we give the farmers to make them feed us?" It's, "What non-food jobs do we farmers want to create?"