Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Walking Away

The world is in a mess, yet what is offered to us--at least the priviledged ones in developed countries--is a garden of consumer delights. Maybe the TVs and junk food and luxury items from around the world and computers and McMansions and SUVs, etc, etc, etc, will distract us from noticing all the pain and suffering around us, as well as the fact that we are making the earth unlivable and we are running out of the fossil fuels that make it all possible. (See What We Need and Don't Need, 9/4/08, as well as Peak Everything, 7/20/08.)

But even those who notice feel caught by this society. What else can we do? We can organize protests, we can try to fix the worst of the stuff, we can try to destroy this oppressive society, we can try to create a revolution.

Or another possibility is that we could just walk away from all this. I have seen this suggested by John Michael Greer (see A Magical Way of Thinking, 8/3/08, and The Archdruid Report, 8/5/08), by Daniel Quinn (see Beyond Civilization, 1/3/11), and by David Korten (I hope in the future to write a post on his book, The Great Turning). Just don't participate in this society. Create something new, something to replace it, something that doesn't use as many resources and something that doesn't exploit people. Something small and local. Something simple, egalitarian, communal, and sustainable. (See Interconnections, 10/8/08.)

Walk away from all we don't like about this society. Walk away from corporate capitalism, patriarchy, white privilege, and that garden of consumer delights. Walk toward a new world--not knowing exactly what it will be like but believing we can create it. Walk away, deciding we want a world that works for everyone, and that's what we are walking toward.

Ursula Le Guin wrote a short story, "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas", in which she imagined an urban paradise, which she called a 'city of happiness', where all seems wonderful, utopian--but the happiness is maintained by torturing one small child in a basement somewhere, and every inhabitant of the city learns of this as they come of age. Most, somehow, rationalize this as important for the well-being of everyone else, but the story ends by focusing on the few who can't. Some of these just get up and walk out Omelas, this 'city of happiness.'

Quote of the Day: "They leave Omelas, they walk ahead into the darkness, and they do not come back. The place they go towards is a place even less imaginable to most of us than the city of happiness. I cannot describe it at all. It is possible that it does not exist. But they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas." - Ursula K. Le Guin

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Three Small Blogs

Austan, from AUSTANSPACE, recently gifted me (and two other bloggers) with the Liebster Blog Award.

The award goes to three blogs with less than 300 followers. The honor of having gotten it goes with the duty of honoring three more small blogs. One of the first blogs I would have honored with it is AUSTANSPACE--but, obviously, that's already been done.

I don't have the time to research to find out which other blogs have already been given this award, so I may be giving this to a blog which has already gotten it in the past, but I am going to simply pick out three favorite small blogs.

And here's my three honorees:

The first is SoapBox Tech. I think Jerry is doing some amazing things out there and I would love to join him in doing some of it but since I'm in New England (USA) and he is in Alberta (Canada)--several thousand miles away--I am glad that he's documenting it in his blog so we can all learn from it. I also enjoy his rants.

Then there is Michaelann Land. Michaelann is a social justice warrior, someone who has spent her life fighting against poverty, exploitation, oppression, and destruction of the environment, and still manages to have the occasional post about theoretical physics.

Finally, there is The Wheeling Traveller. Blues has not written much in the blog yet, but what's there is a deep exploration of the pain of disability. This is a perspective that many of us need to learn. Blues, consider this a nudge toward writing more.

Quote of the Day: "There are beautiful wild forces within us. Let them turn the mills inside and fill the sacks that feed even heaven." - Francis of Assisi

Friday, August 12, 2011


I've written several posts on Permaculture. (Permaculture, 7/22/08, and Permaculture Principles, 12/24/09, and one entitled Attitude, 8/31/10.) The word Permaculture is a combination of the words Permanent and Agriculture, or sometimes Permanent and Culture. I think the intent of the word 'permanent' is to imply sustainable.

But the definition I found online for permanent (from Merriam-Webster) was: "continuing or enduring without fundamental or marked change". The trick is that nothing continues without at least some marked change.

I've blogged also on impermanence. (See Impermanence, 7/9/10, and Death, Decay, and Impermanence, 11/1/10.) While this is a basic Buddhist concept, the truth of it quickly becomes apparent to anyone who pays attention. Everything changes, everything is in flux, very little endures without changing.

Everything is also connected, also in relationship to everything else, and also changing everything else. It's all a grand and glorious dance.

To me this all relates to systems thinking. I think of Permaculture as just another way of looking at systems theory--in the same way I think of complexity science, ecology, ecofeminism, etc, as other ways of looking at systems theory. (See my post on Systems, 12/14/09, for more on this.)

The problem with talking about systems is that systems is a noun (a plural noun) and nouns seem static, fixed. Nouns are usually "used to name a person, animal, place, thing," or an "abstract idea." (From an online definition provided by the University of Ottawa.) To me a noun is a snapshot of something--an instant picture that doesn't change in our minds.

I have a snapshot in my room of myself carrying a four year old girl on my shoulders. It's a cute picture--the problem is that neither of us look like that anymore. She's now a twenty-one year old woman and my hair has fallen out since and my beard is now snow white. Everything changes. Everything changes and systems are always changing, always in flux. As I said, it's a dance.

Buckminister Fuller said, "I am not a thing — a noun. I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process..." As far as I'm concerned, systems are definitely verbs, changing, evolving, processing, unfolding, systeming. Everything is connected, everything is in relationship, everything is moving, everything is unfolding, everything is changing, and nothing is permanent. The trick is to relax and enjoy the ride.

Quote of the Day: "The process nature of reality became clear--its continual flow, the radical impermanence of all things, with no element or entity aloof from change. ... All the factors of our lives subsist, therefore, in a web of mutual causality. ...things do not produce each other or make each other happen, as in a linear causality; they help each other by providing occasion or locus or context, and in doing so, they in turn are affected. There is a mutuality here, a reciprocal dynamic. Power inheres not in any entity, but in the relationship between entities." - Joanna Macy

Monday, August 1, 2011

Watching the Process Unfold

For the last two months I have been living in this quirky, interesting building, trying to be patient. Finding housemates has been a slow process and even slower has been the waiting for them to actually live here.

One person did move in and I also found a sublet for the summer to cover the rent and to have people around until others were ready to move in. Both are folks that needed a lot of time to themselves and so until recently, I have not been seeing much of either. Recently, I have been connecting with my new long-term housemate and, as of today, two more of my housemates are scheduled to move in.

We have been conducting group interviews while looking for our last housemate and this has been a good process for us. In the process of telling our stories to the people we are interviewing we have been learning about each other.

This is all such a wild gamble. I don't really know any of these people and we have no systems in place--not even how we make decisions, let alone whether we do meetings or food sharing or how we manage chores. My anxiety has occasionally been really up, wondering whether this all has been a big mistake.

I put a sign up in my room that says "I can relax and see what unfolds". Doing it, however, is another matter.

My goal is to really listen to and learn about each of these precious people, each of whom bring something to the house, each of whom have hidden gifts that will only appear as we begin to trust one another. Community will emerge as the connections slowly happen. I just need to be patient.

Quote of the Day: "The aspiration to communicate with another person--to be able to listen and speak from the heart--is what changes our old stuck patterns." - Pema Chödrön