Wednesday, December 31, 2008

On the Internet the other day I came across mention of a study that found that the more spiritual a person is, the less active are his or her right parietal lobes--the area of the brain responsible for what the researchers called “Me-Definers”. Interesting, since spiritual seekers are generally recognized as being less ego-driven and more prone to selflessness.

This ties in with my thinking about Asperger’s syndrome. Certain areas of the brain may have evolved because ego was needed to help humanity evolve out of tribal unconscious fusion with reality. But as we evolve to our next phase, maybe we’ll rely less and less on those areas of the brain related to ego, Me-Definers, and the little self.

I like the statement in the long passage I quoted on the previous pages, “For it is likely that the ‘inner world’ of our Western psychological experience, like the supernatural heaven of Christian belief, originated in the loss of our ancestral reciprocity with the living landscape.” (David Abram)

The inner world, created by a “me” that hadn’t quite existed in tribal times developed concurrently with ego. Without ego--no inner world. Without a symbolic, representational inner world—no ego.

But I’m quite certain we’re on a path of evolution that will have us living with immediacy again. The symbolic inner world will recede in importance as we learn to experience what simply is, with awareness. I’ve noticed since I’ve lived in Snyder and really embraced simple living than my inner world is much quieter than it used to be. I never neurotically fret about the past or the future. I’m not constantly rehashing events or imagining more favorable scenarios. My mind is quite clean and mostly able to just be here now. I almost never get caught up in the petty dramas of the ego.

This stage of loosening your grip on the ego is, I believe, absolutely essential in learning how to merge with the larger reality. As long as you identify with the ego, your mind will constantly be chattering. All of those egoic mental constructs--mental pictures of the past, imagined scenarios, obsessions and stories we tell ourselves--they all obstruct our ability to experience reality.

This life here in Snyder has been such an incredible blessing. There has never been a more fruitful time in my life. I can’t totally be a hermit here, but it’s close enough for now. I get enough silence, solitude, and simplicity for me to be able to slip loose from the ego from time to time.

I’ve started reading a book by a child psychiatrist about the importance of emotions in cognitive functioning. I think he’s saying that no matter how “logical” we think we’re being, underlying every decision is an emotional ground. First we have an emotional response, built upon all of the other emotional responses we’ve had in our lifetimes. After the gut reaction (which may or not may not even register) we may run things through logical filters, to bolster our argument for course of action, but it’s the emotional response that’s primary.

Which of course makes me think about how our “logical” brain functions are ego and self generators, while emotion is just our immediate perception of reality.

Emotion is kind of like a sixth sense, or it integrates the other five. But it’s also two-way--you feel as a response to what is, but then you also radiate that feeling back out. Others can absorb what you radiate and the emotion or mood becomes contagious.

If you are free of ego, and experiencing reality clearly, your emotions will be congruent with what is. So if others encounter you, your emotional state can spread contagiously and you create harmony. Egolessness equals congruency, harmony and integrity. Why else do people feel so of uplifted in the presence of a spiritual master? Because his or her congruency with the larger reality is radiating out contagiously.

Where emotions are concerned, it’s almost like we are a group mind--like a flock of birds. A person who “lights up a room” walks in and we’re all suddenly cheerful. A person is angry or stressed and we all become stressed.

The problem is that our emotional states are usually a result of egoic desires, needs, frustrations and fulfillments. So, usually they aren’t in alignment with the larger reality. The evolved person, who has transcended the ego, can radiate what is.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I came across a great article on the Internet yesterday. I just skimmed it and I need to go back and read it in full, and probably copy down a lot of it. It’s on a site that hasn’t had new content added since 2002, so who knows how much longer the site will be maintained.

Anyway, there was some really powerful food for thought in the article. It was talking about shamans and how they relate to the world. In a nutshell, the author was saying these shamans aren’t accessing some mystical otherworld of spirits, as westerners imagine. They simply are expanding their awareness to encompass all of the elements of their ecosystem.

When something is out of balance in the environment a person will become ill. If the shaman simply heals that person, while the imbalance in the environment is permitted to persist, the illness will simply crop up again in someone else.

This is fascinating stuff. So the illness is simply an expression of the health of the place. It sounds so obvious, but who except shamans recognize that? They’re able to shift from their identity with the little self, into that larger state of consciousness--the bubble of reality around them—a larger self encompassing the totality of the environment.

Last night I was soaking in the tub and had things begin morphing again into objects with a Native American flavor. It occurred to me that these things I see are not exactly Native American in the sense that they only belong to certain tribes of people. I think these things I see are objects that represent the energy of this place. The fact that Native American people have made many of these things means that they were wonderfully attuned to the energy of the place and manifested what wanted to manifest here. Some of the things I see are totally natural objects though, already manifest in the land. My left hand often morphs into the wing of an eagle. I don’t know why, but I guess the spirit or energy of the eagle is particularly representative of this place.

Okay, I just went back online and pulled up the article I came across yesterday. It’s actually an excerpt from a book by David Abram called The Spell of the Sensuous. Now I have yet another book I need to get my hands on!

I’m going to quote it here, because I want to be able to refer back to it. The thing that I think he misses is that we are the larger environment. He understands that the shamans connect with the environment “out there”, but not really that they actually are the environment.

[The quote is too long to reprint here without permission. For now it can still be found online here. The part I quoted consisted of paragraphs 7 through 12.]

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Philosophically, where has the past year gotten me? The most important insight probably has to do with people and all life forms being an expression of place. I’m still working to deepen my understanding of it, but I can grasp it more tangibly than ever before.

What was it Vine Deloria, Jr. said? Something about the worldview of the red man being about place, whereas the white man’s worldview is consumed with time. The emanations of a particular place certainly would change over time, as global patterns changed and as a result of geologic and even human activity. But we should only concern ourselves with being here (wherever here happens to be) now. Now is always outside of time. Here is where we always are. Here may simply be another word for our identity. Even after death, as pure consciousness, even if that consciousness is diffused throughout the cosmos, it will always be right here, wherever we are.

This bowl of reality that surrounds me--this “here”--is me. I always have a bubble of “here” surrounding and creating me. I think my fuller self is that bubble--and maybe the bubble would expand as my awareness expanded.

I still really need to get a hold of Ellsworth Huntington’s books. Edith Cobb’s book too. I think ultimately, although they seem to be about entirely different subjects, they point to the same thing. You can call it environmental determinism if you like, but I think it’s deeper than that. We’re getting down to consciousness here--Earth’s consciousness--and this is big stuff we’re talking about, difficult for puny human beings to understand.

I keep coming back to my image of the conflict that encircles the drought-stricken lands. In my mind I see it as a ring of red like what encircles a wound. I see it now as an organic process of the earth, and it makes me wonder what other human predicaments are actually not human-created at all, but expressions of the land. What about the artificial environment of the inner cities? Maybe they are so prone to violence there because nature has been obscured and an artificial desert created. Without an active, diverse ecosystem--where there’s only concrete, steel, bricks, heat, weeds, and limited animal life—wouldn’t that push on a person’s survival instincts? Where there are limited real resources--no food, except maybe what could be scrounged, expensively, at a convenience store, or in a fast food joint. No jobs. No hope. A dead ecosystem. Life and death struggles come out of such a place.

And what about the Middle East? In a book I’m reading now (Common Wealth: Economics for a Small Planet, by Jeffrey D. Sachs) the author mentioned the increasingly dire water situation the Israelis and Palestinians are facing. What we think is an entirely human-made conflict may actually be an expression of the land. I wonder what would happen if the Middle East were green, productive and had abundant water resources? How would humanity express itself there?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Minus 11.1° this morning. Last night there was ice on the cat door in such a way that it could still open to let a cat out, but wouldn’t open to let a cat back in. I was paranoid about having a cat stuck outside overnight and freezing to death and since the lock on the cat door broke off long ago, I had to trudge out in the cold (even though I had said nothing could make me leave the house) and scrounge up little boards and sticks to wedge against the outside of the door so no one could get out. The cats were all out of sorts and mad at me, but this morning when I defrosted the door with my hair dryer and took the wedges out no one showed the slightest interest in going outside!

So here it is, the Christmas season again. How I despise it! Call me a scrooge, but the crass materialism of it just gets to me! I think it would be much more significant if the holidays when giftless. At least, giftless in the material sense. What if you only gave love, compassion, cheerfulness, the gift of your time and good company, thoughtful gestures and selfless acts? Wouldn’t that be so much nicer? This whole season just grates on my nerves. I don’t understand how material gifts give any satisfaction even. I guess if they are functional items, things you really needed, they could be satisfying. But frivolous gifts, things given out of a sense of duty, what’s satisfying about that? There are so many advertisements on the radio for goofy gifts--I think it’s the jewelry ads that grate on my nerves the most. I guess I just don’t understand status items, period. Rather than giving satisfaction, wouldn’t they always leave you desiring something even a little better, a little more costly, a little more showy? Whatever it was, it seems like it would never be enough.

Materialism is such a vicious cycle. It creates a continuous feedback loop. I believe ego, materialism and a general sense of dissatisfaction go hand in hand and feed off of each other. There was a recent study that found a causal relationship between materialism and unhappiness--not just a correlation--and I believe it actually went both ways. Unhappiness led to increased materialism and increased materialism led to increased unhappiness.

I’m at a point now, having escaped the consumer culture to such a large degree, that so much of it strikes my ears as being really odd. It seems ludicrous that people buy into any of it (pardon the pun).

I want to start looking back over my year now, in order to start planning where I want to go next.

Materially I’m still paring down my life. I was able to sell off two of my three industrial sewing machines this year and finally claim the sewing room as my bedroom. I built a bed from wood John gave me from his old water bed frame, plus one of my headboard samples. For a mattress I used a slab of foam left over from my headboard venture, topped with my old memory-foam topper doubled over. It’s a very comfortable little bed.

The whole mattress industry has been one of my pet peeves. They over-engineer these mattresses and then sell them for outrageous prices. You shouldn’t have to spend $1000 or $1,200 or more for such a basic item. And the amount of excess in the materials--foam, fabric, metal and wood--is obscene. I always thought it was outrageous when I had my drapery business to go into these homes and see toddlers sleeping in their own queen-sized beds. What wasteful extravagance!

Anyway (sorry for that little tangent) another thing I got rid of this year was my computer printer. It went haywire, and I just decided I didn’t want to replace it. For one thing, I prefer to have the extra space. For another, I find I’m obviously not printing off reams of stuff like I used to. I waste less paper, have far fewer papers to file and keep organized, and I’m not buying expensive ink cartridges constantly. I figured when I have something I really need to print I can do it at the library for 10¢ per page. So far (and it’s been at least six months I think) I haven’t had to do that yet.

I’m thinking about giving John my drill press as a Christmas present. That thing sits in the middle of my bedroom, of all places (trust me there’s no better place to store it) getting in the way, and for as little as actually use it, it might find a better life at John’s place.

I made a rule that for every new thing that comes into the house, at least one thing has to go and preferably two things, since I’m still trying to downsize.

I discover there’s a fledgling Freecycle group now for Brush and Fort Morgan, so now I have a good way to get rid of useful stuff. I think after the holidays I’ll put my tubs of fabric scraps on there and see if I can find any takers. It would be nice to start clearing out the storm cellar.

There are a few other things in the house I still need to get rid of, either by selling or giving away. I want to get rid of the computer scanner and also my cordless phone (I went back to corded phones because of my concern about the health implications of wireless devices).

I had been debating for quite some time whether to trash my antique waterfall desk. It’s half stripped--I had intended to refinish it--and I don’t know when I’ll ever be able to finish the project. I can’t really do it at this place. It’s too dusty outside and the fumes would be too much in the house. But, I finally decided the desk is worth keeping. It was handcrafted, with dovetailed drawers, some of the rabbets were hand-cut, and it really has the potential to be quite beautiful when refinished. It does have it issues, too--the dovetails coming apart, the veneer chipped off or scratched in places, and a thin strip of molding that broke off and was lost. But I’ve learned I need to pay attention when I can feel even a smidgeon of resistance to a course of action, and this was one of them where I felt conflicted. So, I feel great now that I’ve recommitted to keeping this desk (which I’m writing on at this very moment).

I love the way the house is becoming less cluttered. The simplicity of it is very soothing and satisfying. I’m not all of the way to where I would like it, but I’ve made huge strides in that direction.

And what have I have acquired in the past year? A water bath canner and some more canning jars, and the kitchen scale (it has been immensely useful). I bought one soaker hose for next year (I’ll need many more), but that’s about it for gardening stuff except a faucet adapter V-thingy, a sprayer attachment and some O-rings. I also bought a ten-piece deep socket set which I needed in order to take apart my one sewing machine. I honestly think that’s about all I acquired this year that wasn’t a consumable. Santa is bringing me a new set of sheets that he found on clearance in September. For now I’m down to just two top sheets, one of which has to serve as the bottom sheet. Oh, okay, I also bought three small Pyrex containers this year. And some clay pots (most were 25¢ clearance items). Okay, now I think that’s it. Well, except for the brush to clean the refrigerator coils.

I bought zero articles of clothing for myself and only a few pairs of jeans and a sweatshirt for Collin. But let’s not get me started on all the things I didn’t buy!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Yesterday it was 64° and I was out working in the yard without a jacket. Today I woke up and it was 6.4° and it dropped even further after that (to around 3°) before climbing up to a balmy 8° now at 2 pm. I so hate the cold! I’m bundled up to the hilt and you can’t make me leave the house for anything.

In a meditative state the other day it occurred to me that I won’t ever be able to embody my full human potential here in Colorado. I was seeing my earth meditation again--the way areas dry out and life flees and conflict ensues at the edges. I just don’t think arid regions contain as much active consciousness as more abundant places. They are dying places, not places of optimal health. Sure there are plants and animals who are adapted to such lands, but they are conservative creatures and will never be at the cusp of conscious evolution. Their expression will always be subdued in an arid land. I need to be in a rich, fertile, abundant place. My mind seeks its highest evolution. I need to be a part of a fertile environment in order to maximize my potential.

At the same time as I’m having these thoughts, can I really deny that this period of time in Snyder has been a fertile one? No, of course I can’t. But I just feel with such certainty that a much fuller expression of who I am could be found elsewhere, in a more abundant place. As I’ve said before, this is such a conservative, no frills place—both in nature and in the human community. There is a real lack of imagination and artistry here, no stepping out of the box, no wild exuberance. Just a plodding, tried-and-true, safe way of life.

The other day I saw a huge flocks of Canadian geese in the sky on my drive home and it just made my heart turn little cartwheels in ecstasy. As they rose and shifted directions I could really sense the group consciousness governing the flocks--how they acted as one emanation or expression of the land. They seemed almost magical--emissaries between earth and sky. Carrying out some vital function for the world.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

I’m slipping into my December/winter night/self-indulgent/meditative mode. I love to sit here with just the Christmas lights on (we don’t have a tree yet, but we’ve got the colored lights up on top of the shelf in the living room along with the fake pine garland and real pinecone garland) listening to relaxing music and burning incense.

There’s something about the smell of the incense the just transports me--to my childhood and to other times and places. There’s one piece of music in particular “Fragile Majesty” by Eric Tingstad and Nancy Rumble that never fails to bring up all sorts of images and memories. Combined with the woodsy incense--I see a cabin nestled in the pines, smell the wood smoke, feel the cold, crisp air. I ache for Pennsylvania. I’m bathed in grief and relive feelings of grief and sadness from my childhood.

And even though I don’t often experience sadness anymore in my life, I recognize sadness to have been a very core part of my experience in this lifetime, and very integral in shaping who I am. The feelings of sadness and beauty have always gone together--a luscious ache. I think I was born with too big of a memory. I retain so much of what went before and carry the ache from having lost it. So much natural beauty and rich cultural beauty has been lost. The world has been incredibly uglified in the past few generations.

I’m still toying with my new way of framing consciousness. When I’m driving especially, as I’ve mentioned, I ascend out of the ego. I was thinking last night as I was driving back in the dark after dropping Collin off with P in Roggen--maybe the reason I tend to hallucinate when I drive at night is because I so easily slip the bonds of ego. With no reference points at night it’s much easier to do that in the dark. There should be some sort of warning: do not operate heavy machinery without an ego. It’s definitely dangerous because there’s not exactly anyone at the wheel.

The neat thing is that I’m catching hold of the experience as a slip into and out of that other state. I suppose all of the times in my life when I’ve experienced past life memories I’ve slip the ego and ascended to something else. It’s neat now to be more conscious of it and to recognize the absence of a little self.

What would it be like to move through life as an expression of place rather than as an isolated dot? To ascend to an identity that encompasses the environment, the whole ecosystem, of which I am a part? Can you imagine the depths of integrity I would embody? An aware expression of this place--how cool would that be?

But that gets me back to one of my major challenges in this lifetime--how would a largely egoless being survive financially in these times? I think I struggle so much with earning money precisely because my bond to ego is so tenuous. In other times and places where there isn’t a cash-based society I would do fine. That’s why I think I’m so strongly pulled toward homesteading and achieving self-sufficiency. There would be no more struggle if I just didn’t have to participate in the cash economy. Egos know how to earn money. The more ego, the easier it is to participate in the economy.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

My newest dawning realization is how often I ascend out of my personality into some larger self that seems fused with the world around me. I notice it most often when I’m driving, especially crossing Wiggins hill, but it is happening everywhere. In those moments I don’t exist--not Melanie--not my personality. I think this has always happened. In fact, I suspect I spend a lot of time being more than ego and personality. I’m just becoming more aware of it.

That John Livingston essay, “Other Selves” gives me a nice way to frame what happens. To be in the personality is to downshift into a baser, grosser, clumsier way of being. Out of a larger identity we downshift into the most limited form. We really should be spending the least amount of our time as individual selves. Only in true survival situations--eat or be eaten--should individual self be necessary.

It would be neat if I could get to a point where I can be this larger self and at the same time also be actively engaged in the world. For now the shifts only take place when I’m alone or not interacting with anyone. To actually engage in the world of human interaction from that higher perspective--what would that be like? What would be possible in the realm of human affairs?

John Livingston speculates that perhaps individual self consciousness is our most primitive form of consciousness:

What is being suggested here is that individual self-consciousness has come to be held in such untouchable esteem within our cultural ideology that we have largely forgotten or ignored the likelihood that it is no more than the most basic, radical, and fundamental form of self-awareness. And it may be not only the most basic form, but in an evolutionary sense also the oldest and most primitive, to use the word much savored by the human chauvinist. I would suggest that this most elementary form of consciousness underlies more enriched and mature forms in much the same way as the ancient so-called reptilian brain is said to underlie more recently developed cortical material. If we must speak in progressive terms, as is the custom in evolutionary biology, then we could see a consciousness of group-as-self as something of a development.

I agree that individual self-awareness is probably the most primitive kind of consciousness, but Livingston doesn’t acknowledge that before individual consciousness there was a fusion with the group and with the environment that existed, only it was purely unconscious. To fuse with the larger environment as conscious beings is a new thing and probably we humans are one of the first species to attain that (not that we’ve attained it yet in any collective sense). But we’ve been fused with the larger environment before.

What could be the benefits of being consciously fused? I guess it would be impossible to harm the environment—you’d be able to sense clearly and actually, rather than metaphorically, how you were harming yourself in the process. But beyond that, who would you become? What would human activity and human culture look like?

I suppose there wouldn’t be too many large acts of disturbance, such as wars and exploiting resources. We’d live locally, of course, and practice some form of permaculture--probably a more advanced form than now exists. There would be much more harmony both human-to-human and between humans and the natural world. We would work with the natural order, instead of fighting against it.

It’d be kind of like when foreign bacteria became an integral part of the human body, necessary for its healthy functioning. We would finally become fully integrated into the healthy functioning of Gaia. We would have settled into our proper global niche.

Now this gets me back to thinking--mightn’t all these people with Asperger-type characteristics be those at the cusp of this evolution? We’re able to shift more fluidly to that larger state of awareness. We’re not identified with the group, which is a vestigial form of tribal unconsciousness.

Geez--now that reminds me I have research I want to do on Aspergers. There are so many lines of thought I need to follow up on.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Usually I feel a sense of dread or mild depression at the prospect of winter and the cold, bleak days ahead, with nothing to look forward to, nothing to enjoy.

But growing my own food has gotten me back in touch with the cycles of the seasons--in a way that lets me appreciate them. I love the way various vegetables act like bridges. They keep me engaged with the seasons. It’s late October and my chard is still going strong. I still need to harvest a ton of it and freeze it today or tomorrow because I know it can’t last much longer. It’s been going strong for five months now. Plus there’s still the fall beets and carrots in the ground, plus a few straggling peas the frost hasn’t managed to kill yet. In the house I’ve got a half dozen butternut squashes left, and still some watermelon, cantaloupe and zucchini in the fridge. I’ve got rosemary, catnip and basil growing on the kitchen windowsill and today or tomorrow I’m going to get some sprigs of lavender from John’s to try to get to root over the winter. Also, there’s a small bunch of parsley growing in the garden and I might try to take a small division from that to grow indoors over the winter. Yesterday I ordered some garlic bulbs online. It wasn’t clear if they were sold out or not. I’ll have to wait to hear back. They said to order early (mid-September) because they sell out quickly. But hopefully they still have something in stock. And when/if those bulbs arrive I’ll have another gardening task to do that will help keep me engaged with the seasons and the land.

If I have the money to spare I’d like to order some asparagus and strawberry crowns for next year. Of course I won’t get a crop from either of them until the following year, so it would be an investment and I would be operating under the assumption that I’m staying put here for awhile.

Already I’m beginning to plan for next year. There’s still plenty to do over the winter. I’d like to build an open shelf unit to put in the south-facing living room window. That’ll become my dedicated seed-starting place.

If I can afford it (and the landlord allows it) I’d like to build a henhouse and run next year and get a few chickens. Some other things I could work on over the winter: building crates for root-cellaring, building drying racks and a compost sifter, assembling a compost-tea bucket with aerators, building a cold frame. I saw some neat tomato cages in a book. They had painted wood frames with wire panels stapled on. It would be nice to build some of those some time. And some bean tripods.

I was on some cooking forums online the other day and people kept mentioning things like buying an expensive bunch of chard at Whole Foods, or buying some sprigs of basil or other herbs, and for the first time it all sounded rather odd to me. We go to some centralized place in the community to buy expensive food that’s mostly been trucked in from some other place. It seems so unnatural and contrived. I want to nurture my own food, to watch it grow, to pick it at the peak of perfection and be able to enjoy it immediately, if I wish. It seems so much simpler that way.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Well, I don’t think I’ve mentioned it, but the US economy is self-destructing. Considering it was a house of cards built on shifting sands, is it any wonder? I’m just waiting for the full-scale panic to hit. Yesterday the market dropped 700 points, which is the largest drop since the depression. It only takes a very few people to start a panicked, snowballing run to pull their money out. Then look out--things are going to get crazy. Life as we know it will be drastically changed.

The best thing I can be doing is what I’ve been doing--becoming more and more self-sufficient. Next year I’ll grow a bigger garden and maybe get some laying chickens if the landlord allows. My worry is surviving this winter if it all goes to pot. I really need to get a pressure canner and a lot more jars. I don’t have a whole lot from the garden I can can, but I could do a lot of jars of beans and soups. I should be able to root cellar the butternut squash and also makes soup from it. I still need to make some pickled beets and pickled zucchini.

I’ve never had any money in the market, and frankly I don’t believe in it. I know I sound like a crusty, out-of-touch old timer. But at least I’m not stuffing wads of cash under my mattress. For one thing, most publicly-traded companies do not operate ethically--so why would I loan money to fund something I find morally objectionable? The fact that I might eventually profit from their actions would make me just as culpable. Even the so-called “socially responsible” companies are problematic because a lot of what they produce just isn’t necessary and their existence inevitably takes a toll on the environment. Patagonia, the yuppie outdoor gear and clothing company, is just one example.

I don’t believe in retirement accounts. The only retirement account I fund is my health and adaptability. If I maintain my health and I have skills in all areas of self-sufficiency, what more would I possibly need in my retirement years? The only things I need to fund between now and then would be a piece of land, a small shelter and whatever tools and supplies would be necessary to be self-sufficient. None of that requires vast savings or bank financing. As much as possible I want to limit my involvement in national and global economies. A homestead economy is the level of magnitude I’m comfortable with, with some excursions into the local economy.

As far as health goes, I intend to maintain it as best as possible through diet, exercise, fresh air, sunshine, herbal remedies and alternative treatment. As much as possible I will stay away from the medical establishment, since it isn’t concerned with healing anymore, rather it’s only concern is profit.

I read recently that the average 18-65 year old takes eleven different prescription drugs per year, and people over 65 take twenty-eight different prescriptions! Doctors have mainly turned into drug pushers. You would think there might somewhere be a spark of the desire to heal, hiding inside of these so-called physicians, but it must be hidden deeply. Shoving chemical after chemical into a body is not healing! Meanwhile the pharmaceutical companies reap obscene profits while making people sicker, and slickly convincing them they need even more drugs! And in a number of cases the parent company of the pharmaceutical companies also owns agrochemical and industrial chemical companies. So they poison the food, the land and the air and then when we sicken from it all they further poison our bodies with their drugs, all the while reaping unimaginable profits.

I read an article the other day that said that organic food will soon be less expensive than conventionally grown food. With fuel prices only going up and the dollar weakening, plus yields going down in the abused conventional fields--yeah, the day is surely coming. In so many ways we’re reaching our day of reckoning. We will have to make things right again, or we’re just not going to survive.

This massive government bailout worries me because it’s all a sham. It will look like something’s been done, but the same debt exists. We’re not choosing a new paradigm. We’re not examining the whole pretense of financing with money you don’t have. An economy that runs on wishes is a farce. They want to push this bailout so that lenders will loosen their guidelines for loans and credit lines for the little guy, so the economy can keep humming along. In other words letting people buy with only a wish. That’s what caused the problem in first place. People wishing their way into gargantuan palaces. Instead of wishing their way into palaces, they should’ve bought their way into humble shacks.

But let’s pass this measure so we can loosen credit again and let the people make more irresponsible decisions. They want to pass it to regain a sense of normalcy, but that old normalcy was totally dysfunctional and untenable in the first place. They want to protect their political careers and this move will allow the fa├žade of normalcy to reappear hopefully long enough to get them reelected. But it will be temporary. We can put off the day of reckoning, but not for long. Our economy is a total farce. We require a new paradigm.

I hear all of these people worrying that they might lose their entire life savings. And I think, this could be a good thing. It’s only money! So you lose something that was never real in the first place. Once you get over that, you might finally see that human capital and environmental capital are the only real kinds of capital anyway--and if we are good stewards of that capital it’s all any of us need. At least the possibility is here for people to break out of this misbegotten paradigm. The surest way would be to let consequences unfold naturally with the inevitable greater depression that would follow. Am I heartless for wishing a depression on us? What would a depression be but a true reckoning of our wealth? A true reckoning is what we need. The GDP is not the measure of our wealth. It’s not what we’re producing. The measure of our wealth has got to be any profits left after all costs of production have been accounted for. Including environmental costs.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

All at once I’m encountering a slew of writers who address the importance of place. Here is a great quote I read yesterday by Barry Lopez in Crossing Open Ground:

The second landscape I think of is an exterior one, a kind of projection within a person of a part of the exterior landscape. Relationships in the exterior landscape include those that are named and discernible, such as the nitrogen cycle, or a vertical sequence of Ordovician limestone, and others that are uncodified or ineffable, such as winter light falling on a particular kind of granite, or the effect of humidity on the frequency of a blackpoll warbler’s burst of song. That these relationships have purpose and order, however inscrutable they may seem to us, is a tenet of evolution. Similarly, the speculations, intuitions, and formal ideas we refer to as ‘mind’ are a set of relationships in the interior landscape with purpose and order; some of these are obvious, many impenetrability subtle. The shape and character of these relationships in a person’s thinking, I believe, are deeply influenced by where on this earth one goes, what one touches, the patterns one observes in nature-the intricate history of one’s life in the land, even a life in the city, where wind, the chirping of birds, the line of a falling leaf, are known. These thoughts are arranged, further, according to the thread of one’s moral, intellectual, and spiritual development. The interior landscape responds to the character and subtlety of an exterior landscape; the shape of the individual mind is affected by land as it is by genes.

And aren’t genes just a codified form of our relationship to the land?

Another thing Lopez wrote about was also interesting. He noted that the brightest children are fascinated by metaphor. This ties together with Edith Cobb’s ideas about genius and landscape--we use metaphor to internalize the land--and also with the idea that geniuses are better able to make novel associations. Associations are practically synonymous with metaphor. (What molecule was it that was intuited by the image or dream of a snake eating its tail--benzene?)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

In one of Paul Shepard’s essays he talks about the research of a woman named Edith Cobb. She believed that the external terrain of childhood forms a model for internal cognitive development.

Perhaps the most remarkable document on childhood in this century is Edith Cobb’s Ecology of Imagination in Childhood. Surveying the lives of geniuses, she noticed a common thread—the return in moments of creative meditation to the place of childhood in imagination or sometimes physically, a trip that helped toward a solution to a problem. The original meaning of the term genius loci referred to a unique sacred power. What was it, Cobb asked, about the original experience that made it useful to the psyche in a recapitulated travel across the juvenile home range; in what sense was it an organizing force?

She concluded that the adult faith and intuition that order permeates the cosmos, that no bit of data or bizarre idea was truly disparate, that searching would be rewarded, extends from the singular imprint of an intensely inhabited space about thirty-five acres at a crucial time of life. Played through, the child’s transit, time and again, locked this literal, objective reality into an unforgettable screen, through which other, novel objects of the mind would be envisioned by the questing adult as though they were details of a landscape. Just as the mnemonist studied for thirty years by A.R. Luria ‘placed’ images for later retrieval along a path in the mind’s eye, at some less conscious level a holding ground is absorbed. The juvenile home range is a tiny universe, whose trees, rabbits, culverts, and fences probably register some kind of metaphorical series whose branching, skittering fleetness, subterranean connecting, and boundary-marking function in relation to a speculative field of half-formed and elusive ideas follows a paradigmatic system of relationships. An anatomical model for this unlikely neural representation of place is seen in the fundus of the eyes of vertebrates, where the colored oil droplets in the cells of the retina, differing according to the frequencies of light in different parts of the visual field, form an eerie landscape that can be seen with an ophthalmoscope. Edith Cobb’s own genius has given us insight into the primordial meaning of coherence as a function of a specific, tangible, ecology, swallowed by the nine-year-old in repeated excursions.

What excites me about this line of thought is the possibility that part of our minds exists outside of us, in the landscape. While it seems that Cobb was saying we build up internal neural networks in childhood that replicate the external environment, to me it almost seems like our neural networks extend out from us into the environment. It is as though the whole earth were brain, or mind. I find it especially interesting that Cobb found geniuses to frequently use landscape as a means of gaining knowledge or insight. They’re tapping into the larger mind we’re all part of. I’ve said before, I believe that tapping into our full human potential means tapping into our larger identities--identities that extend out beyond the boundaries of our skin.

Cobb talked about geniuses who returned to the landscape of their childhood. This implies that they left that land at some point. But what if you stayed put? What might be possible in a lifetime of building up internal and external neural networks? Of enlarging the self, extending more and more deeply into the environment? Until we become rooted in the land once again I don’t think it will be possible to reach our full human potential.

Shepard, in a related essay, mentioned that the classical definition of genius was “the spirit of place”. It’s by tapping into the spirit of place, the larger mind, that we can achieve “personal” genius. All knowledge is out there. None of it is personal. It simply waits to be located. When I’ve said “Place holds potential”, I mean that very literally. There’s a very visceral way I’m sensing that place holds unique knowledge. We become who we are by our unique interactions with the land. We can’t become the same person in a different locale. We don’t gain the same knowledge.

These days the line between nature and nurture have blurred for me. It’s all one seamless experience of responding to nature. I think I can begin to see the next phase of our evolution. Instead of consuming matter in the childish way that we do, we will begin to convert matter into spirit. By knowing the land we will expand Mind and eventually begin to know who we are--Gaia. And once we recognize ourselves to be this entity, Gaia, then maybe we will shed the idea that Gaia is an isolated dot in the universe, and begin to extend our identity and mind out into the cosmos. Eventually we will recognize that we have always been the Mind of God.

But if we can just reach Gaia-Mind, that would be hugely transformative. Our human potential could begin to unfold and it surely wouldn’t be tied to consumption. We would stop trying to make the ego look bigger. Instead we would grow our Mind.

I think we would regain a more fluid way of being and perceiving, as in our primordial days only with deep conscious awareness. The egoic, rational brain which is so clumsy and a hindrance, could recede in importance. Direct experience would again be primary.

I’ve often found the rational brain gets in the way. I hate the fact that I always have maps in my head; always have a name for the place I’m in or the place I’m going. I don’t want a representation of place. It interferes with my ability to know a place. I have enough “past life memories” to remember the older, more fluid and direct way of experiencing. The rational mind, while so important for building consciousness, really dumbs down reality.

Intuitive, fluid, spiritual beings--that’s our destiny if we don’t kill ourselves off first.

I’ve been trying to encourage a more fluid way of being to take hold in me. For one thing, since reading the Temple Grandin book, I’ve been trying not to censor my imagery. I’m becoming aware just how ever-present my imagery is. It is always flashing up, probably in every moment, if I was just aware enough. My “haunting” may just have been me moving into that more fluid way of seeing. There are layers of reality here, always. I want to get a handle on what I’m seeing, why certain imagery wants to be connected with certain thoughts, actions, or places.

One example (I know this sounds bizarre and psychotic but I think there’s legitimate knowledge here): lately when I look in the mirror I see a flash of an image overlaying my reflection. It’s a bird, probably an eagle, but maybe a hawk, with its wings outstretched in flight.

I’ve also had tons of past life images arising as I read and write and think. I see the land before all this manic human destructiveness and development took place and it makes me so said.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

My computer crashed yesterday. Is always seems to happen when I’m counting on it most--I need to be able to place these kittens on craigslist. I’m not sure what I’m going to do about it yet. I could just order a new power supply, but that doesn’t address the underlying cause of why I keep blowing through power supplies. I could get it really fixed, but I’d have to borrow money to do that. Or I could borrow money to get an inexpensive laptop and worry about getting this computer fix when I have more money. It’s such a nuisance.

The book I couldn’t think of the other day is Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of our Ancestors, by Nicholas Wade. I may need to get my own copy of it at some point, because there’s a lot food for thought in it.

I’m reading several books at once now. One is a small book by the Chickasaw writer, Linda Hogan, called Dwellings: A Spiritual History of the Living World. It is written very beautifully. In “All My Relations” she described her participation in a sweat lodge ceremony. The healing comes from reconnecting and becoming one again with all of creation. That’s what all healing really is, isn’t it, becoming whole in the deepest, widest way possible. She says:

We speak. We sing. We swallow water and breathe smoke. By the end of the ceremony, it is as if skin contains land and birds. The places within us have become filled. As inside the enclosure of the lodge, the animals and ancestors move into the human body, into skin and blood. The land merges with us. The stones come to dwell inside the person. Gold rolling hills take up residence, their tall grasses blowing. The red light of canyons is there. The black skies of night that wheel above our heads come to live inside the skull. We who easily grow apart from the world are returned to the great store of life all around us, and there is the deepest sense of being at home here in this intimate kinship. There is no real aloneness. There is solitude and the nurturing silence that is relationship with ourselves, but even then we are part of something larger.

In another essay, “A Different Yield” she says, “In American Indian traditions, healers are often called interpreters because they are the ones who are able to hear the world and pass its wisdom along. They are the ones who return to the heart of creation.”

Also in the same essay she writes about myth:

An essential part of myth is that it allows for our return to the creation, to a mythic time. It allows us to hear the world new again. Octavio Paz has written that in older oral traditions an object and its name were not separated. One equaled the other. To speak of corn, for instance, was to place the corn before a person’s very eyes and ears. It was in mythic time that there was no abyss between the word and the thing it named, but he adds that ‘as soon as man acquired consciousness of himself, he broke away from the natural world and made himself another world inside himself.’

I find it interesting that Paz implies that language came first, then came consciousness. My rational brain would think just the opposite: a conscious being would begin naming things, creating more separation, inserting words and symbols between itself and direct experience. But I think I can intuit it his way, especially when I think about the myths that say that the first languages were song. Fused with the natural world, singing an object would fuse you with it momentarily, you would take up its identity and comprehend it in its totality. A completely different concept than what we call “language comprehension” today. It was a way of feeling different energies, attuning to different natures. Perhaps beginning to feel discreteness through song, using language as another sense, we began for the first time to grasp our own discreteness.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Now that Collin’s back in school and I’m able to get the library again, I’m back in the groove of devouring books. I read a fascinating book on human evolution (the title is eluding me at the moment). Since the sequencing of the human genome was completed five years ago they’re gaining all sorts of fascinating corroboration for such things as when we first left Africa, how many of us left (maybe just a single tribe of about 150),where we went from there, who various modern cultures descend from, when various groups split off from one another, and on and on. I loved that the book wasn’t afraid to imply there are racial differences even in such hot button issues as intelligence. Jews, for instance, are statistically more intelligent. The author believes this can likely be attributed to the fact that for 800 years in Europe Jews were forbidden from participating in certain occupations, such as agriculture, and largely worked in finance and trade. This required higher-level mental functioning and so they eventually evolved higher IQ’s. The author’s point was that evolution is ongoing in humans and happens with relative speed and results from our interactions with the unique environment we find ourselves in.

I’m starting another book, Traces of an Omnivore, by Paul Shepard. I read his book The Others not too long ago. I’ve just been skimming through this one a bit and found some interesting parts about the importance of place. I may have to do some deeper digging into his writings. According to the guy who wrote the intro, most of Paul Shepard’s works are out of print. (Why is it that these writers whose ideas feel so pertinent to me are always out of print?) Nobody talks about the importance of place these days.

I’ll write more about this over the weekend. It’s all stirring up a lot of thoughts, but I’ll be better able to write and reflect on it from home (I’m in a parking lot at the moment).

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I had a chance to do some poking around online on the subject of Asperger’s syndrome. It gets more and more interesting. I’m becoming convinced that I have it based on the descriptions I’ve read. I also took an online test that said it was very likely I have it.

I don’t believe it’s a disorder though and I resent the medicalizing of personality. To not conform with the norm is, I believe, a very good thing. One website pondered what the world would look like if all of the Aspies (that’s what they’re called) through the ages never existed. So many of our great inventors and visionary thinkers are suspected of having had Asperger’s syndrome. Another website suggested that if the world were populated by Aspies there would probably be no war. It’s all such fascinating stuff. Aspies aren’t oriented to the group. Without group identification there’s little room for conflict.

I’m beginning to think this is an evolutionary adaptation, preparing us for a new age--a new, post-consumer, post-ego, internal locus of control, adult age. It seems to be an extension of the individuation process. We went from unconscious and tribal to conscious, egoic, isolated dots. Maybe supraconsciousness involves the final severing of our tribal identities, which as egoic beings we still carry with us. Much of the conflict in our world comes from our vestigial tribal needs-- to belong to a group, to fear the “Other”, “us” being better than “them”, there being safety in following the herd and conforming.

To still be identifying with the group is the true dysfunction. To me it seems like we’re evolving to be little gods. When we were unconscious and fully tribal, we were fused with the Divine but unaware. Then we separated from the Divine and could see it personified “out there”. Now we’re coming full circle. We individuate, separate from the group, and eventually become enlightened enough so we can see we’re not separate at all. We return to a sense of oneness, but it is so different from the tribal concept of oneness. I can be the individual, the dot, and I can also be the collective. The tribal stuff now seems like a clumsy and misguided stage but of course it was necessary. It was our infancy and the glimmer of memory we carry from those times does contain TRUTH. But it is only in our enlightenment that we can fully grasp that truth.

To not identify with the group of course does not mean that we’re antisocial. I care deeply, probably too deeply, for humanity and I also care deeply for individuals. But from where I’m at with my semi-supraconscious vision I have what appears to others to be too much detachment and aloofness. It looks as if I’m cold and uncaring, when the truth is I have an extremely high degree of caring. It’s just not bogged down by the egoic need to belong.

I’m struck by the foreshadowing in my dream last month about my eye and ear problems. A big aspect of Asperger’s syndrome is problems with sensory processing. I figured out yesterday that my difficulties with night driving are probably a result of the syndrome. I have a tendency to hallucinate when driving at night and I think it’s because my mind has a hard time processing what I’m seeing. It can’t figure out what a dark shadow by the side of the road is so it starts filling in details. I end up seeing it as a black bear that’s about the lumber out into my path. I see Pennsylvania hills when I drive on flat I-76 at night. I see the road curving one way until I get right on top of that spot and then I can see it curves the other way.

My mystical, visionary side probably also results from the syndrome. My mind is so visual, and fluidly makes visual associations. Like Temple Grandin with animals, I have a fluid visual way of seeing reality that totally bypasses logical, rational thought. This is an incredible gift!

In her book she kept mentioning how autistics have trouble with accessing or using their frontal lobes. I suspect the frontal lobes are tied to our egoic phase of evolution, our separating phase. The fact that there’s a problem accessing the frontal lobes is not necessarily a problem in my eyes. Maybe they’ve been just a crutch, something we temporarily needed. Maybe as supraconscious beings who live much more fluidly they won’t be so vital.

There’s so much food for thought here. I’m so excited by all of this!

Oh-- back to the dream--it’s funny that I was so bothered when the doctor implied my problems were psychological. I find it appalling that there are people who believe those with Asperger’s syndrome need to be cured. Severe autism that is being unnaturally induced by whatever, be it vaccines, chemical exposure, radiation--who knows--that warrants a search for a cure (or more likely a means of prevention). But try to cure Aspies! That would be unconscionable.

Well, I have a lot more research and thinking to do on this.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I’ve been having a crazy time of it here for the past week and a half. When I woke up on Saturday the 16th, Little was missing. This was disastrous in itself, but made all the worse by the fact that she left behind six kittens who weren’t eating solid food yet. By late in the afternoon I had to run out to the store to buy bottles and kitten formula because the babies were starving and distraught.

The first couple of days were very distressing and exhausting. There was a learning curve with the bottles and I worried that they weren’t getting enough to eat or were getting dehydrated. And I was distressed about Little. With no body to bury there’s no easy closure. Was she locked in someone’s shed somewhere, frantically trying to get back to her babies?

Anyway, things have been gradually settling down as we get into a routine and the kittens start to eat some solid foods. I’m not making up quite as many bottles now. They’re almost five weeks old now, so I could just force the issue, but since they’ve already endured one trauma, I’ll let them continue to have the bottle a little bit still.

My main theory about what happened to Little is that an owl got her. Two mornings after she vanished, when Collin and I pulled out of the driveway at 6 am, we saw a great horned owl sweep down out of a tree towards a cat on the street, but with our car coming it flew right back up into the tree. A few days earlier I had heard an owl in the night and thought it was neat since you don’t often hear owls in town. And I had seen a strange animal dropping in the yard (with fur in it) that may have come from an owl flying over.

Little was such an awesome cat. I really miss her. I think maybe it was just her time to go though. I was going to have her spayed this fall, once the kittens were weaned (even though technically she isn’t my cat), but I couldn’t help thinking she might turn into a very depressed and miserable cat once she was fixed. Motherhood gave her life such incredible purpose. She was a fierce protector and an incredible provider. (I’ll never forget the whole episode with the mice earlier in the summer; for several weeks before she got too pregnant with this litter she was bringing multiple mice home nightly for her last litter…into the house, alive, of course.) I had a hard time picturing Little as a contented house cat.

This whole experience of living in a town overrun by unneutered cats has been eye-opening. Of course the cat issues here are a real problem, especially when you have people who put food out for the cats (like the old guy across the alley) but take no further responsibility for them, such as having them neutered or taking them to the vet when they’re injured or ill. So the food encourages a bigger population, but the crowding leads to vicious fighting and terrible injuries among the toms, and disease is the main way population is kept in check. It’s not good.

But, I’ve come to believe, neither is the unnatural lives we force our house cats to lead, particularly the strictly indoor ones. To take away their ability to reproduce (which of course is necessary if we’re to keep them as pets) takes away the primary purpose and meaning in their lives. (Imagine if most of us humans were spayed or neutered before puberty!) It robs them of a major component of their natural selves. And indoor cats are so often left alone, without the company of others of their own kind. To have had the opportunity to see a cat colony in action has been really something! The relationships and pecking orders, the fathers playing with their offspring--all of it is so beautiful to watch. It makes me sad for the house cats (Khatru) who never got to experience that. I’ll never forget when we first moved here and I let Greta outside. After a while I went looking for her and found her in the dappled shade in the backyard, lounging very amiably with two other very elderly cats. For all those years I’d deprived her of true community with her own kind (well, I guess Khatru counts for something) and finally she got to enjoy it. And sunshine--indoor cats miss out on the healthful benefits of sunshine. And getting to supplement their diet with grasses and herbs and grasshoppers and mice.

I’m now at the point of thinking it’s irresponsible to have pet cats (and it’s also irresponsible to feed feral ones). In a book I read recently, The World Without Us (Alan Weisman), the author suggested that of all the domesticated animals on earth, the cat is the only one who would be likely to survive if humans were gone. The best solution is probably to let all cats return to their wild state.

But then I think about co-evolution and how all the cats I’ve known seem to relish their association with humans. With Little I often got the feeling that she recognized us as partners in kitten-rearing, like co-parents. And it certainly was a great arrangement for her to rear her kittens in the shelter of my house and get fed delicious treats all the time.

In The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan talked about how perhaps corn and potatoes use humans to help propagate themselves, and the same may be true for cats. It may be a strategic move to associate themselves with humans.

I guess I don’t really know what I believe now. I used to rigidly believe the whole responsible pet ownership spiel: spay or neuter and keep the cat safely indoors. Now at least I understand the issues isn’t black and white. Yes, spayed and neutered and kept indoors makes sense for us, but we play God when we do that and I’m not sure that’s entirely right.

It has been so gratifying to witness the natural lives of cats here. I’m so glad I’ve had the chance to do that.

Besides being consumed by cat issues lately, the other thing I’ve been thinking a lot about is, of all things, autism. We’ve had a huge increase in cases of autism and vaccines are strongly suspected to be a prime cause, especially in a lot of severe cases.

But what I’m interested in now are the milder cases and the more high-functioning cases, especially those with Asperger’s syndrome. I’ll admit I know next to nothing about this. I’m just starting to focus on for the first time.

The thing that got my attention was a woman on the comment board on an alternative health website I frequent. She often participates and her comments are fascinating because she has autism. Something she said recently jolted me because it made me think maybe I have a very mild version of autism!

There are certain things that really fit. My sensitivity to sound for one thing. My relative insensitivity to pain compared to other people’s. My highly visual nature. And language--this is interesting. I’m extremely verbal and can often express myself very eloquently in one-on-one situations, but in groups of more than a few people it has often felt to me like a switch literally switches off and I can barely speak. The other time that happened (and the most dramatic time of all) was when I was in labor. I was rendered almost mute. It felt like my access to language almost shut down. Trying to find words was like swimming through some murky world.

See this is so interesting because it’s all about framing. Until now I’ve chosen to consider myself highly-sensitive, which to me has a sort of positive spin to it. To switch to a label such as autism, a disorder or syndrome gives it all a very negative spin. There’s the implication of being deficient, of something being wrong. I don’t like that concept.

One website listed all of these famous accomplished people, like Einstein, who are now suspected of having been autistic. I think that kind of labeling is detrimental. To label highly accomplished people as having a disorder; that seems off-base. They may differ from the norm, but whats to say the norm is an optimal state? The fact that these highly accomplished people accomplished what they did, doesn’t that indicate some sort of higher functioning over the “normal” people who accomplished no great things?

At the library last week I took out a book by an autistic woman, Temple Grandin. Her autism led her to some profound insights into animal behavior. It’s all so interesting. Basically she sees autistic people as being somewhere between animals and “normal” people, perceptually, cognitively, emotionally.

There’s a lot of food for thought here. Someone on the comment board on the website suggested maybe autism is some sort of evolutionary adaptation. For the profoundly autistic, I would have to say no way. But, hm, this sets me off thinking about the higher functioning cases as it pertains to our current global predicament. Maybe their ability to “see” almost more primordially or holistically is an advantage. Maybe they have really valuable gifts that will help us transition into a sustainable world. I need to spend more time exploring this. It’s awfully interesting stuff.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Collin goes back to school tomorrow already! I don’t know how that can be possible. So it will be my crazy life of commuting back and forth all the time again. It seems so ridiculous.

We’re getting a slight drizzle as I sit here now and I was just thinking about how much I love the smell of damp earth—I was thinking damp Pennsylvanian earth, since it has such richness—not damp Coloradan earth. But then I remembered something. At John’s the summer, pulling weeds after a rain, you could just smell ocean. It was so strong coming up from the sandy soil. I often forget this was once a shallow sea, yet the sea lives on here and is part of the energy of this place. I get stuck in my impressions of this place as always having been arid. I dislike the dryness so much. And yet sea is part of the personality of this place too—an ancient part yet still so strongly held here I’m able to smell it, to breathe that old identity in, right here in this time.