Monday, September 28, 2009

Slowly, Cheerfully, Lovingly

Ladies and gentlemen, this is not an emergency. Let me repeat, this is not an emergency.

Yes, we are poisoning the earth, destroying the ecosystem, exploiting each other, and squandering precious and scarce resources. Yes, we need to make drastic changes. But there is no urgency.

Urgency is what got us into this mess. We cannot anxiously and frantically make our way out of it.

Think about it. If we want other people to change, how will we approach them? Would you listen to a panicked person screeching about doom and telling you it will happen unless you do something? How does that compare with listening to a quiet and calm person, someone you respect, carefully suggesting changes that you could make that would make a difference?

You may argue that it's too late to have a reasoned approach. Maybe it's too late altogether. Again, if you are in a car that has already gone off the cliff, will shrieking and yelling make a difference? If you can't do anything else, maybe you should enjoy the view.

I don't know where we are, what the total picture is. What I know is that if we are going to create social change, we have to do it in such a way that people will find it attractive.

We need to listen to others. Hear their fears. Be calm, patient, and forgiving. Calm, patient, and forgiving--of everyone, including ourselves. We need to be cheerful and loving. Cheerful and loving and insist, quietly, that things need to change.

Quote of the Day: "There are those who are trying to set fire to the world,
We are in danger.
There is time only to work slowly,
There is no time not to love." - Deena Metzger

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Today is the Autumn Equinox, the beginning of fall and the time of the harvest. It's a good time to look at what I have accomplished over the past year and where I may be going from here.

I've certainly done a bit in this blog, from covering what I believe (my posts last fall on SECS, CDIP, and SLoBIND), to an overview of US history, to my last five months of posts on our real needs. I've also published a zine from my first three months of posts on this blog and I'm working on a second issue of it. (More about that shortly.)

In my personal life I've made some important connections which I am hoping will lead to me creating a simple, sustainable community next year. I've been reading, thinking, talking with people (and listening to them). I've joined climate change and transition groups, a time trade circle and an urban homesteader's group, and taken workshops in Loving-Kindness Meditation and Urban Permaculture. I tried to grow greens in our garden, with very meager results--but it has been a learning and I plan to keep going.

And I am feeling this is time to make some changes. I am burnt from the zealous posting I have done and want to take time to do other things. So, one decision is to take the month of October off--that's right, I won't do any posts in October--and return in November with a very laid back posting schedule; ie, post when I feel like it, the way most folks with a blog do. I do have a bunch of things that I want to post about, but they are only lightly connected and they will come out as I see fit. I'm planning just one more post for this month--one that I feel strongly about and I hope will set a more relaxed tone for this blog.

Instead of blogging, I want to devote more time to other pursuits: including building and maintaining my connections with people that are important to me, and developing new relationships, and focusing on building community and supporting social change.

I am also running behind on publishing the second issue of Bodhisattva Revolutionaries and Social Alchemists (my zine) which will cover my posts from last fall with a couple of additional chapters, which may turn into posts at some point. I am entitling this issue, "What I Believe." I had said that I'd publish it by today but I am nowhere near ready. My new publishing date is the end of October/beginning of November (Samhain by the pagan calendar). I think this is doable and I expect it will be ready then. If you want to order in advance, send a check (made out to Spirit Movers Enterprises) for $2.50 (which includes postage) to MoonRaven, c/o Spirit Movers Enterprises, 50 Churchill Ave., #320, Cambridge, MA 02140. You can also order the first issue the same way for the same price (or both for $5.00).

Okay. Enough about me. In this season of fullness, what will you harvest? And where do you go from here?

Quote of the Day: "As Lammas was the celebration of the first harvest, the Autumnal Equinox marks the time of the waning Sun, when food is harvested and stored for the coming of Winter, and seeds and grain are gathered for future generations of crops." - Pauline Campanelli

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Our Needs: One Last Look

On 9/2/08 I published a post on 'The Hierachy of Needs' and on 9/4/08 I published a post on 'What We Need and Don't Need'. In a sense, this series grew out of those posts. I began on 5/4/09 with a post entitled 'Looking at Needs'. I listed forty-three different needs and now have published a post about each of them.

In retrospect, I think I may have missed a few. Clothing comes to mind--no matter what you might think about a clothing-optional lifestyle, you can't survive in the winter (at least here in New England) without clothes--unless you never left your house! I probably missed a few others. (Feel free to let me know if you find something I didn't cover.)

I don't think I missed very many needs however, and my point is, this is what we need to focus on. As I mentioned in my last post, there are a lot of so-called 'needs' that the capitalist advertising world wants you to believe that you have (from you 'need' this new deodorant to you 'need' a new car or wardrobe or mcmansion). These are what I was talking about when I wrote about 'What We... Don't Need' last September.

So, the question is: how can we pull ourselves out of a system that creates artificial 'pseudo-needs' and how can we meet, not only our own real needs, but everyone's real needs? This is what I am talking about when I say I am *Offering Some Tools for Creating a World that Works for Everyone *. A world that works for everyone is a world that meets everyone's needs. I hope that my outline of what those needs are will be helpful trying to figure out how to meet them.

Quote of the Day: "What they are all somehow attempting is to break through... the cycles of destruction and despair in order to imagine, remember and create ways of living that correspond to our deepest needs." - Helen Forsey

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


In a sense, it's fitting that Freedom is the last need on this list, because in many ways it is a summation of many of the other needs on this list. As someone pointed out, there is freedom from and freedom to. Many of my earliest posts in this series could be looked at as freedoms from. My posts on water, food, and shelter were also posts on freedom from thirst, hunger, and homelessness. My posts in June about 'Protection from...' could also be seen as 'Freedom from...' My recent posts on Nature, Spirituality, Challenges, Creativity, and Identity, could be seen as posts on 'Freedom to...' posts. Freedom to find our place in nature, explore our spiritual connection, take on challenges, be creative, and be more of who we are.

Freedom may be last on this list but it is first in the minds of many people, both on the right (Libertarians) and the left (from Liberals, who share more than the initial 'liber'--Latin for freedom--with Libertarians, to Anarchists, who were once known as Libertarian Socialists). I certainly think that freedom is a need, and one that I am aware many people have died for. Liberation (there's that 'liber' prefix again) struggles have been fought around the world. The struggle of the civil rights movement was awash in cries for freedom from the Freedom Rides in 1961 to the Freedom March in 1966 to the simple chant "Freedom Now" and the song, "Oh, Freedom". But Audre Lorde reminds us "Not to believe that freedom can belong to any one group of us without the others also being free." Or as the slogan goes, "No one is free while others are oppressed." (Which I found attributed to both Martin Luther King and Albert Einstein.) Freedom is something we all need to achieve together.

But it gets confused with individual freedom. Milton and Rose Friedman entitled their book on the 'Free Market' system, Free to Choose, which I referred to as 'Free to Exploit'. It's not freedom if it takes away from the needs of anyone else. It isn't freedom if it hurts or hinders another person. It's not freedom if it restricts the freedom of another.

Personally, I believe that if we focused on meeting everyone's basic needs (as I've outline in this series) and paid no attention to advertising's 'created needs', we would feel very free indeed.

Alberto Abadie, "Poverty, Political Freedom, and the Roots of Terrorism"--A paper which shows (among other things) that countries with a 'moderate' level of freedom are more prone to terrorism than countries with either a great deal of freedom or very little freedom
Francis Moore Lappé and Joseph Collins, Food First--Contains a chapter on 'Food Versus Freedom' where they demolish the myth that feeding everyone would mean a restriction on freedom; the essence of this chapter is also repeated in the authors' book, World Hunger: Twelve Myths
Libertarian Socialism--An explanation about what Libertarian Socialism is along with how it differs from both 'Libertarians' and authoritarian socialism
A S Neill, Freedom, Not License!--This was the book that got me thinking about the differences between real freedom and things that harm others

Quote of the Day: "Freedom is like air, you breathe it in and never think of it until it runs out." - Anonymous

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Identity is about who we are. Wikipedia, in trying to pin down Identity, uses terms like "whatever makes an entity definable and recognizable" and "an individual's comprehension of him or herself as a discrete, separate entity". It's about what makes us unique, what makes us, us.

In one sense we all have multiple identities. I am Moonraven when I am on this blog, but otherwise I'm not. I am male, white, middle-aged, middle-class, able-bodied, cis-gendered, bisexual, polyamorous, vegan, pagan, a bicyclist, an avid composter, a beginning gardener, and a dedicated communitarian. These are all identities that I have, but they aren't me. Identity can also refer to the essential core of who you are, your 'self' so to speak.

I agree with Thomas Szasz, "...the self is not something one finds, it is something one creates." George Bernard Shaw said something similar, "Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself." Our identities are not a given but something we make of ourselves.

Unfortunately, some people make themselves into 'Characters', sometimes almost caricatures, in order to stand out. We should think about who we want to become. If we are creating ourselves, we should think about what we are creating.

We need to be able to become who we want to be. The need is for us each to claim our own identity. But we also need to be responsible for making our identity something that benefits more than ourselves. There is work that needs to be done. How can you be the best person to do what you need to do?

(And, in the end, as the Buddhists say, we need to be able to let go of our identities and just be.)

Eric Olson, "Personal Identity"--A philosophical survey of the concept of identity from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Carl Rogers and Barry Stevens, Person to Person--Barry Stevens talks about her life and her reactions to papers by Carl Rogers and others; the subtitle is 'The Problem of Being Human' and the book explores the issue of what it means to be a person
Self: The Prime Mover--A page of thoughts and definitions around the idea of the self
Sunada, "If there is no self, then who’s sitting here?"--Meditations on the Buddhist concept of 'No Self'; becoming who you are by letting go of your identity...

Quote of the Day: "The one person the world seems hell-bent on my not living with is me." - Barry Stevens

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Where would we be without creativity? Although creativity is important in the arts, it's also essential in problem solving and political strategy. We will need it if we want to accomplish any real social change.

It seems like a simple thing but creativity (as Wikipedia points out) has been studied by several branches of psychology, by people from philosophy, history, economics, design research, business, and management among other perspectives. Creativity is about flexibility, it's about new ways of seeing things.

Creativity is also something, as Richard Heinberg points out, that we have in abundance and isn't going away. (See my post on 'Peak Everything' from 7/20/08. And note, he doesn't actually say 'creativity'--he says 'ingenuity' and 'artistry'--but that sounds like creativity to me.)

Creativity can be a skill that you learn and practice. It can be a way of looking at the world and anything that comes up. And it truly is something we need more of--particularly as we are creating a simpler, more sustainable society.

Karen Kersting, "What exactly is creativity?"--An article that summarizes some of what has been learned from a psychological perspective
Karl Paulnack Welcome Address--My friend Susan (aka ethicalsusan) told me about this and it's wonderful; an explanation of the importance and essential survival value of music and the arts
Kendra Van Wagner, "How to Boost Your Creativity"--The subtitle says it all: '20 Tips from Psychology for Boosting Creativity'

I'm going to take the opportunity to list my four favorite books on writing as a creative endeavor, which I regard as a right brain (brainstorming, letting it all flow out)/left brain (editing, ruthlessly cleaning it all up) activity. My two favorite right brain books are Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down The Bones and Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird. My two favorite left brain books are Theodore Cheney, Getting the Words Right and Noah Lukeman, The First Five Pages.

Quote of the Day: "Creativity comes from trust. Trust your instincts. And never hope more than you work." - Rita Mae Brown

Monday, September 7, 2009


We all need rest and relaxation, and sleep, and connections with nature, and spiritual connections, but we also need challenges--something to work toward or against, something to stretch ourselves with.

This is related to the concept of 'eustress', a stress that enhances our functioning.

As far as I am concerned, living simply and sustainably (not to mention equally and communally) are enough challenges for those of us trying to do it, that I don't think we need much more. But let's challenge ourselves to really do it.

Crunchy Chicken--A very popular blog that always has challenges; currently she is promoting what she calls her 'Cloth Wipe Challenge', where she's challenging readers to use cloths instead of toilet paper...
No Impact Man--Writer Colin Beavan challenged himself and his family to live off-the-grid, eating locally, and producing no waste for a year (in the middle of NYC!), and they did; on his new website, The No Impact Project, Beavan challenges visitors to do it for a week
Riot 4 Austerity--I blogged about this on 9/28/08 (the post is called 'Riot!'); the 'riot' has been over for over a year but I think it was a great challenge; check out their FAQs for more info

Quote of the Day: "A happy life consists not in the absence, but in the mastery of hardships." - Helen Keller

Friday, September 4, 2009

Spiritual Connections

Another deep need is to connect to something beyond us. I am calling this the need for spiritual connection.

Here it gets tricky. Spirituality means different things to different people. I'm a believer in spiritual diversity and in supporting people who believe very different things. I believe that each person has to find their own spiritual path--and our paths can be very different from each other. I also believe that this means that even atheists, agnostics, and secular humanists have spiritual needs and a spiritual path--and that path is often right in front of them. Often they can't see it because the word 'spiritual' gets in the way.

Even more controversial is that I don't believe that belief in such things as God, heaven, reincarnation, the Goddess, magic, etc, are necessary to have a spiritual connection--although I am not denying the central importance of each of these things for different people. The truth is, I have trouble believing in any of these things (I sometimes refer to myself as 'belief challenged') and yet I can see a spiritual path for myself. My friend, ethicalsusan, who is affiliated with the Ethical Society Without Walls, dislikes being called a nonbeliever. She points out she believes in many things, including people, relationships, and the need for doing good in the world.

I once heard Stephen Levine speak. At one point someone asked him how he defined spirituality. His definition has stayed with me. He simply said, "...openness to the unknown." This is close to my way of approaching spirituality. This is what I've felt gazing at the night sky and realizing how small I was in a universe full of mystery.

I want to be clear that I am not challenging anyone's spiritual beliefs. Just because I don't believe in something doesn't mean that's what's true. I respect each person's beliefs. You could be right; I could be wrong. I am simply trying to find my own way the best that I can.

And that is what I am encouraging each of us to do. We all have needs for spiritual connection. I hope that we can support one another in finding our own path.

Since I believe in the need for spiritual diversity, an inclusive list of spiritual resources could fill pages and pages. I am going to briefly list my own sources of spiritual influence. I invite you to mention yours.

Sourcebooks: the Bible, the Tao Te Ching, The Teachings of the Compassionate Buddha, and Zen Flesh, Zen Bones

Writers that have influenced me over the years: Thomas Merton, Teilhard de Chardin, Joyce Rupp, Martin Buber, Idries Shah, Ram Dass, Stephen Levine, Pema Chödrön, Starhawk, T Thorn Coyle, and Luisah Teish

Quote of the Day: "...spirituality is an intrinsic dimension of human consciousness... the Greek concept of pneuma meant breath or spirit or soul, and spirit comes from the Latin root for 'to breathe'. From one perspective, we realize that we need food, shelter, and clothing; from another that some sort of relationship among people, animals, and the Earth is necessary; from another that we must determine our identity as creatures not only of our immediate habitat but of the world or the universe..." - Charlene Spretnak

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Connecting with Nature

One of the most healing, relaxing, recuperative things we can do is to connect with nature. There is a real need for us, particularly those of us in the city, to find ways of connecting with the earth around us.

It might be as simple as looking out a window at the trees swaying in the breeze. It might be a walk through a woodland trail, with no sight of human habitation around. It might be watching a mountain stream, laughing as it flows over rocks and stones. It might be gazing at the great ocean as it surges over the shore, and seeing how it extends to the horizon and beyond as the sea goes on and on and on. Or it could be lying in a meadow at night, staring up at the stars, and realizing how small this huge earth is in the infinity of space. (I will talk more about this experience in my next post.)

It doesn't matter. For each of us there is a need, beyond our connections to each other, to be connected to nature and the earth itself. In the machinations of this society it is easy to forget that we come from the earth and return to the earth, that this very earth supports us--even if it's buried under asphalt and concrete and linoleum and glass and steel.

This is truly returning to our roots and each one of us needs to see that we are a part of nature and not apart from nature. We need to feel that connection because that connection will heal us--and we can't be whole without it.

Tom Brown, Tom Brown's Field Guide to Living with the Earth--It seems a bit hokey in parts but the introduction and first chapter ('Earthmind') talk clearly about our need to be part of the earth around us
Chellis Glendinning, My Name is Chellis & I'm in Recovery from Western Civilization--I talked at length about this book in my post of 12/26/08, One with Nature 1: Recovery
Starhawk, The Earth Path--I've mentioned this book in a number of my early posts in this segment but it is a clear call to connect with nature along with some steps for doing so; I wrote about The Earth Path in my post of 12/28/08, One with Nature 2: The Path
Henry Thoreau, Walden--A friend of mine told me that her avid love of nature began with reading Thoreau in high school; a 'Thoreauvian' noted that this book influenced the national park system, the hippie revolution, the environmental movement, and the wilderness movement among many other things

Quote of the Day: "...we are not separate from nature but in fact are nature. ... For we are part of the living earth, and to connect with her is to connect with the deepest parts of ourselves." - Starhawk