Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Well, this is the last week of school before summer vacation. Another year has just managed to fly by. Last week we had a few tense moments at school. I was there for the academic awards assembly in the gymnasium, but there were tornadoes being spotted left and right, so for about fifteen minutes the kids were crammed down into the locker rooms and the adults crammed like sardines into the windowless music rooms, until the worst of the danger passed. From what I could gather later, the nearest tornado to touch down was about seven miles from us, near Dacono. Another seven miles or so further from Dacono (near Platteville) was where the big tornado formed that ended up causing so much destruction (and one fatality) in Windsor. It was a scary afternoon—with a nervewracking drive home under the most ominous (and constantly shifting) skies I have ever witnessed.

We’ve had bizarre weather lately, especially these storms coming from the east. It’s unnerving for some reason to see the clouds going the wrong way. You just don’t know what to expect. There have been tornadoes almost daily in the U.S. I guess it’s already the worst tornado season in over a decade and it’s still early.

I just finished reading a book about climate change. Very depressing stuff! It has me back to thinking we’re on the verge of extincting ourselves. But that’s OK. I imagine that throughout the universe, as sentience develops on various planets, it reaches this very critical and dangerous stage--the point at which ego is overly developed, before it can evolve to a stage of supraconscious awareness. I would venture to guess that on most worlds the transformation is unsuccessful. Beings self-destruct before they can transform. Ours will likely be one of them. But the experiment will keep going and eventually beings will make the transformation.

If we extinct ourselves here I think we will be reborn as souls on another planet. I don’t think we will lose what we have learned so far. The soul remembers. So eventually, somewhere, we may reach the next level of evolution.

The earth blossoms and dies, and life on other planets blossoms and dies. But energy and soul transforms.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I came across a different reference to Ellsworth Huntington in another library book—what an odd synchronicity! Two weeks ago I had never heard of him. Maybe this means I should look into his writings, but I’m sure since they were written in the early 1900s they’d be nearly impossible to find.

Monday, May 19, 2008

In browsing through a book I brought home from the library (In the Beat of a Heart: Life, Energy, and the Unity of Nature, John Whitfield), I came across an interesting paragraph in a subsection called “Job Opportunities”. It said nothing new--basically that we evolve to occupy niches--but it said it in a novel way, and it’s tickling something in my mind that I haven’t quite been able to reach.

In the Homage, Hutchinson suggested that one explanation for the number of different species lay in the range of possible biological professions and addresses. Belonging to a species is like having a job: it’s a specialized way of making a living, and an evolutionary choice that closes off other employment options. By becoming excellent at one way of life, through adaptation, animals and plants become inept at others. You would no more set a sheep to catch a rabbit than you would employ a plumber to cut your hair. Tropical orchids would struggle on the tundra. Cows are good at digesting grass, bad at ant eating; pangolins, vice versa. Species divide up resources, and each species can exploit some so well that it can monopolize them. But due to life’s ubiquitous trade-offs, the ability to hog some resources comes at the cost of being able to use all of them, leaving other jobs vacant. If all organisms use energy in the same way, maybe diversity reflects the number of different ways to get it.

There’s something there about the way we divide up resources--I’m not sure what it is. Somehow it helps me see the whole pattern, to see all of us as functioning parts of one organism. We each contribute some function, something that helps the organism as a whole remain healthy. We fill out the organism, our niches rubbing up against each other, creating a seamless whole, and a web of interconnectivity. To dissect any part of it is to wound the whole organism. Of course, the organism has a significant ability to self-heal; excise an occupant of one niche and something else will usually rush in to fill the void.

Now, the troubling thing is, we humans have removed ourselves from the earth’s ecosystems (as if such a thing is really possible)! What niches do we fill? Well, it seems like we’re trying to fill every niche. We want to be the predator of just about everything.

I like the author’s choice of the employment metaphor. Especially because I’ve been thinking about the issue of right livelihood for myself. Back in Pennsylvania I know that right livelihood could easily include either woodworking or writing (or both). The woodlands of Pennsylvania spawned me; it seems fitting that wood be the resource I monopolize (in a sustainable way of course). If I get into woodworking, I want to get most of the wood for my own land or reclaim it from old buildings. If I wrote I would want my publisher to source the paper from environmentally responsible mills (if such a thing exists)! Here in Colorado though I’m still all wishy-washy about what right livelihood would be for me.

As far as the personality of this place--it’s dry as opposed to Pennsylvania’s lush abundance. Therefore life forms here seem to be much more reserved in their self-expression. The Pennsylvania land is sensuous; here the land seems more interested in practicalities. In Pennsylvania the people may be poor, but their yards and properties always seem to be meticulously and beautifully maintained. Here, people are poor and trashy--letting weeds and junk take over. In Pennsylvania people seem to be more crafty and artsy and innovative. Here people are conservative and don’t take risks or try new things very easily. I think a drought-prone area will always foster conservatism. It just isn’t safe to expend energy on anything but the tried-and-true. The positive thing about here is the slower tempo--it let’s me get in touch with larger cycles of time. Things change very slowly here, whereas in Pennsylvania change is visible. To see how the forest is reclaiming Mr. Miller’s farm each time I go home is amazing!

So in a dry, dusty, flat, conservative place, what could I give birth to? You have big sky and big weather here. Maybe it’s a place for big ideas and seeing big pictures? But how do I actually make a living from that? Whatever I find to do here, I’m sure it won’t be showy. It’ll have to be understated yet tenacious. And it’ll need to have some practical application--it can’t simply be a bunch of lofty ideas.

Oh, the other thing about this place--it’s a grounded place. Compared to Boulder especially, which was so flighty and air-headed (albeit in a spiritual way).

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I read another interesting essay in Rooted in the Land. It was by a guy named John A. Livingston. He wrote about the flight behavior of flocks of birds, and the coordinated behavior of schools of fish and other groups of animals, and suggested that there’s a higher level of consciousness than mere self-consciousness. In fact he used the term ‘downshifting’ or ‘downgrading’ to indicate how we enter that state of being. I loved the way he implied that self-consciousness is a very base state of being. It’s mostly engaged to deal with issues of brute survival. He suggested that there’s individual self-consciousness, group consciousness, even interspecies consciousness.

Well, of course there is! I used to regularly experience group consciousness when I went to the Dances. Each week there was always a unique group mood or personality. It superseded the individual--we became one unit or organism. Also with the cats at home I often feel this fusion, as if we’re part of the same phenomenon. As if we share the same mind or the same…something.

Here are a few little quotes from the essay “Other Selves”:

If all of the individual beings in a community share that total, greater consciousness, it is not unlikely that they may see individuals of their own and of co-participating species not as ‘others’ but as simultaneous coexistences or coexpressions of that place, perhaps as extensions of themselves.

…Awareness of self as individual, self as (same-species) group, self as (many-species) community inheres in all of us animals. The major differences in this respect between ourselves and the healthily integrated bears, monkeys, and coyotes is that our cherished individualism, celebrated at the expense of other (shared) selves, has left us stalled at an immature stage of social development. They remain whole. They know in their bones and viscera that they belong. We are taught that we do not.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

So Ellsworth Huntington had a piece of the puzzle that Jared Diamond (in Guns, Germs, and Steel) left out. I guess in a roundabout way Diamond addressed climate when he talked about east-west versus north-south axes, but he never directly addressed it. Of course the personality of the land is shaped by its climate! Of course the human civilization that arises in a locale represents the confluence of land and sky influences. Of course each one of us individually is made from our environment--we are local phenomenon created by local conditions.

What the implications of our increasing rootlessness are, I’m not entirely sure, but it can’t be healthy. True health can only come from being part of our ecosystems again--full participants in the world that birthed us.

I’m getting close to another insight now. Sometimes it’s just a sentence or two here and a sentence or two there in different books I’m reading that triggers some new association. I think I’ve told you before about my favorite definition of genius: simply a keen ability to make novel associations. All learning is really about making connections you’ve never made before. Again it brings me back to the image of the matrix--everything is already here, already intricately interconnected; we are merely becoming aware of the connections. Learning (and genius) is simply making novel associations.

In one book I read (Rooted in the Land--a collection of essays by various people) there was an essay called “Coming into the Foodshed” by Jack Kloppenburg, Jr; John Hendrickson; and G. W. Stevenson. The following paragraph lodged somewhere in the recesses of my brain:

We understand the foodshed to be a sociogeographic space--human activity embedded in the natural integument of a particular place. That human activity is necessarily constrained in various ways by the characteristics of the place in question. Ignoring those natural constraints or overriding them with technology is one of the besetting sins of the global food system, the ecological destructiveness of which is now unambiguously apparent even to its apologists. In the foodshed, natural conditions would be taken not as an obstacle to be overcome but as a measure of limits to be respected.

Then yesterday I started a biography on Aldo Leopold (Aldo Leopold’s Odyssey: Rediscovering the Author of the Sand County Almanac, by Julianne Lutz Newton) and I read this paragraph:

Leopold listened in the night air to the quiet rustle of leaves and the rippling waters. Here was a river that had not yet witnessed the American ideal of progress in action--the ideas, as Leopold later expressed it, ‘that every river needs more people, and all people need more inventions’ and that ‘the good life depends on the indefinite extension of this chain of logic.’ What did the ‘good’ in good life mean, Leopold wondered. And where did human inventiveness and power cross the line between positive creativity and destructiveness? Progress to most Americans was defined in a way quite different from the vision slowly developing and gathering cohesion in Leopold’s mind.

From these two paragraphs I’m turning over some ideas pertaining to: “human activity embedded in the natural integument of a particular place”; limits; and creativity.

At this adolescent stage of our human evolution we don’t respect or even seem to recognize limits. As separate, egoic individuals, we don’t recognize our embeddedness. We’ve become conscious of self but not yet of Self. We don’t yet comprehend our greater identity as a pattern in the greater matrix. We don’t even recognize ourselves as part of the pattern of our local ecosystem. If we did we would honor limits.

How does creativity bear on this? Creativity has always been quite a puzzle to me. Why as humans do we have such an insatiable need to create? Why are we constantly converting nature into “stuff”--taking, taking, taking along the way? But I’m trying to look now at creativity as a natural phenomenon; human creativity as a process of the matrix. Stuff blossoms in the same way as people, plants, animals, and weather blossom forth from the matrix. The problem with human creativity is simply that we aren’t yet aware enough to honor the limits of our ecosystems or the matrix.

As the foodshed article implied, limits are not obstacles to be overcome. Limits create the framework in each ecosystem for the blossoming of unique creations. What unique forms of expression might blossom from the matrix here through me? Honorable creativity is truly a product of the land and sky.

This helps me look at right livelihood more clearly. Simply manufacturing stuff to meet demand in a particular consumer markets does not respect the matrix or its limits. In order for me to find right livelihood, I must attune to my local ecosystem and try to figure out what wants to be birthed through me in this place (while honoring its limits).

Now this doesn’t answer my question about rootlessness. Here in Colorado I’m an invasive Pennsylvanian weed seed. I’m not a natural product of this ecosystem. Can I in my un-naturalized condition here positively contribute to this ecosystem?

In talking about my homesickness for Pennsylvania, I’ve described it as the place where I can most be who I meant to be in this lifetime. My understanding of that truth continues to deepen. That ecosystem birthed me. That’s where I’m in my most natural state and where I can function optimally.

But, being that I’m here, for at least another six years, how do I attune with and interact with this ecosystem? I don’t know yet, but I suspect that my “haunting” by the Native American spirits is a product of this ecosystem. I don’t think that I necessarily would’ve had that experience in Pennsylvania. Maybe all of the insights I’ve had in the past year are blossoming from this unique part of the matrix. Definitely there’s been a deepening of my thought processes since I moved out here from Boulder county three years ago. This area is more supportive for me than suburbia was, for sure. The suburbs were so unbalanced, and even with all of the destructive agricultural practices around here this feels like a healthier place.

Friday, May 9, 2008

I keep trying to reason my way through this weather puzzle, even though I know what I’m getting at can’t be arrived at through rational means. But maybe my reasoning will get me closer to the insight.

So, just as the earth is literally a part of us (since we eat it through the food we consume), the atmosphere is a part of us because we breathe it in. But the atmosphere isn’t the weather per se--so we don’t really take the weather into us. The atmosphere (and its weather) is a matrix we move through. On a microcosmic scale, as we move we create subtle winds and currents, our body heat rises, we contribute gases to the atmosphere; in a sense, doesn’t that make us subtle weather-makers?

If all 6.6 billion of us gathered in one place, would our collective body heat and off-gassing create measurable weather? I think quite possibly yes. Metropolises change weather patterns--couldn’t human bodies do the same thing on a noticeable scale?

But again, participating in weather-making is not the same thing as being the weather. I think the insight has something to do with the emanation of life forms and weather from the earth. They’re part of the same phenomenon. Conditions were right for me to blossom out here in America for a number of decades before I’ll eventually fade, other conditions allow weather patterns to blossom briefly and fade. Is all I’m getting at simply the ephemeral nature of physical reality? That’s hardly a new insight! But no, that’s not what I’m getting it. Maybe matrix is a good word to describe all of the emanations of the earth, all life forms, and all patterns that arise. The atmosphere and its weather I move through (as well as the earth I move upon) is always touching me. We’re always linked and so as emanations, aren’t we really one? There’s no stepping out of the matrix, no opting out. We’re always contributing to it, making exchanges with parts of it. Just as the cells in our body constantly make exchanges. I am one with the weather (and everything else).

It’s funny how I’m being taught lessons with no teachers. Last spring I mentioned wanting to learn how to resonate with the vibration of the whole earth. I think that’s what I’m slowly being taught to do. There’s something lurking here in this insight about me being a global pattern (or part of one). More than anything I feel this intuition--this deep interconnectivity. There is such a sensuousness and fluidity when I allow myself to merge with the weather around me. To allow myself to feel, deeply in my body, this larger identity is incredible.

I don’t know exactly why weather is the focus of this insight, but it seems really important. I think there will be a lot here for me to learn. For now I’ll just stay receptive and see what happens.

Hm. Between the last paragraph and this one I found a book at the library that’s about the connection between human health and climate and weather. A few pages in I read this:

In the early 1900s, American geographer Ellsworth Huntington published his book, Civilization and Climate. Huntington believed that the way that human progress ebbed and surged forward in waves was the result of an interaction between climate, quality of people and culture. His beliefs culminated in his own magnum opus Mainsprings of Civilization, which contended (based on his own extensive studies of various populations across the US) that our intellectual and physical vigour depended to a large extent on being exposed to a climatic optima where temperature and humidity were concerned. Taking a worldwide view, he believed that place was more influential than race when it came to differences between cultures.

Under the Weather: How the Weather and Climate Affect Our Health, Pat Thomas, 2004

Thursday, May 8, 2008

I have no idea why I keep coming back to my vision of the man calling up the weather. It seems irrelevant, yet I keep coming back to it, keep feeling like I’m getting closer to something really important.

Today it’s been this recognition that the weather and myself are one and the same thing. Can I explain that yet? Not really. It has something to do with my imagery of the earth’s patterns (from a few months back)--the way we emanate from the land in almost the same way as the weather. We’re natural phenomena that blossom when conditions are right and die back when they’re not, just as weather “blossoms” when conditions are right. But how can I be saying we’re the same thing? Aren’t I just saying we’re two different phenomenon the earth produces? No, I know what I mean is that we’re the same--it’s just that the words that could explain it are still eluding me. What is the man doing when he calls up the weather? He’s not controlling it. He’s not an agent acting on it. Somehow he is it. I’ll have to leave it at that for now—it’s just too tenuous for me to fully grasp.

Then the other connection I’ve made goes back to Amy Chua’s book on free-market democracy. I was thinking about the way in which we’re no longer participants in our local ecosystems, and it dawned on me that Chua’s market-dominant minorities are exactly like nonnative, invasive weed seeds. Once they leave the culture they were hatched in and “invade” a new country, all checks and balances are gone. They grow rampant in the foreign soil because the foreign soil didn’t co-evolve with the newcomer, and couldn’t evolve defenses to it. The same is true now for corporations who have globalized—they are evil weed seeds that native populations can’t defend themselves against.

I’m an invasive weed seed here in America, but I’m at least a tenth or eleventh generation weed seed, so maybe I’m starting to become naturalized to the conditions here. Funny how newcomers can become naturalized citizens just by taking a little pen and paper test. I think the actual process is just a bit more involved than that.

Eventually, if newcomers stay put they do become naturalized, and checks and balances evolve. But the dangerous stage is while they’re still foreign, invasive, and unnaturalized.

So, what about corporations which are run from afar? With no real soul, can they ever become naturalized? They can’t co-evolve, or not easily, at any rate. Won’t they always be in the invasive weed seed category, always be destructive interlopers? How can we control invasive species such as corporations so as to minimize their damage?

It’s funny, the clouds today have been exactly like the clouds in my vision. I sure wish I could grab hold of this insight completely.