Friday, April 17, 2009

Well I lied when I said I wouldn’t check out any more books!  I’m just utterly hopeless.  Yesterday at the library I saw that in the New Arrivals they had gotten in two books this week that I had seen referenced in recent days and was curious about.

The first one was by Malcolm Gladwell—called Outliers: The Story of Success.  It was a quick little read—I had it more than halfway devoured before I left the library and I finished the rest of it this morning once I got home. 

It provoked some new interesting thoughts which I will be exploring on my blog this weekend.  (I’ll fill you in once I write the blog—if I go into it right now I’m afraid I’ll lose the juice needed to turn it into a good blog entry.)

The thing I had heard about it though was that it talked about how people without exception need at least 10,000 hours of practice in a particular area of interest before they become a master.  It made me think about all of the hours I’ve put into reading and learning about global issues and (now) attempting to write about what I’m learning.  It would seem like I’m working towards some interesting level of mastery.  I have to be getting at least close to that 10,000 hour mark.  It’s just exciting to be reminded that an apprenticeship doesn’t go on forever.  At some point a critical mass of knowledge and understanding is reached and you can begin contributing your own body of wisdom on the subject.

I’m still reading a book about the evolution of language (the book I had allowed myself to keep reading) and the other new book I took out of the library was The New Case Against Immigration: Both Legal and Illegal.  As I mentioned last year when I read How Many Americans, I’ve never believed in borders, so I’m interested in seeing if this guy can make a compelling case for closing our borders.

But, really, after these two books I’m going to take a break from reading for a little while.  I need to take time to assimilate all of the ideas I’ve read recently and explore them through writing.

Except that…I forgot to mention one thing.  A few nights ago online I discovered that hundreds of thousands (if not maybe over a million) of public domain books have been digitized and are available free online.  Ellsworth Huntington’s early book (circa 1915) Civilization and Climate is available, but Mainsprings of Civilization was much later (the 1940’s I think) so it’s not available.  I started to read Civilization and Climate and have given myself permission to finish it too if I wish before the moratorium begins.  I’ve only gotten to page 17 but already his methodology seems crude and his underlying assumptions extremely racist.  I can see why environmental determinism got such a bad rap.  But I still want to plow through it and seek out any nuggets worth keeping.

Every Thursday after I drop Collin off at school in the morning I go get a cup of coffee at a Burger King right near the library and then sit there and read and write while I kill some time before the library opens at 10am.  Burger King is a great place for thinking (of all available options) because of its very un-hipness.  No one else is ever in there except this one guy who has the exact same schedule as me—he shows up at the same time and heads to the library from there.  It’s rare for more than one or two other people to drift through the doors while I’m there with my coffee, so it’s very quiet.

Anyway, while I was there yesterday I was free-writing about what the most recent spate of books is teaching me.  I’m going to include the notes here (because I’m too lazy tonight to clean them up and summarize them more coherently).  Beware all of the incomplete sentences and the way the ideas in the second half of the writing contradict the ideas in the first half—it was evolving as I wrote.

Here it is:

What has my reading binge this week taught me?  It taught me just how recently in the history of our species we have begun to move out of the mythic and unconscious into a rational, conscious awareness.  Still there are many vestiges of our magical thinking—witchcraft and sorcery in recent centuries in European cultures and still in many indigenous cultures today.

--address the need for us as a species to take a longer view.  We think we are these incredibly rational beings but in fact we’re still in a phase where there’s a huge overlap between magical and rational modes of being.  The rational mode of course isn’t superior, just different and fraught with its own set of problems.

Our rational brains make possible global solutions, but more often rationality is used to promote destructive self-interest.  Magical unconsciousness was about self-interest as well, or self-interest extended as far as the tribe but no farther.  Rationality needs to take us beyond self-interest, or at least extend it to global self-interest.  Altruism would be another word for global self-interest.

I need to examine myself to see how often I’m governed by potentially magical thinking versus rational thinking.  Is my experience of the energy of the land magical thinking, or is it something else?

How can I deny the truth of many intuitions?  Am I seeing and projecting connections that don’t exist?  For instance, my intuitions about J a few weeks back?  I dreamed repeatedly of her, had her pop repeatedly to mind, had a dream about N, only to find out that J had been in Phoenix that week and had revisited the place where she lived when N was born.  It would seem that intuitions are causally related to real events.  It can’t just be chance.  So where is the line drawn between magical perception and intuition?  Is superstition and magical thinking actually a crude, early version of rationality?

Maybe intuition and direct perception is a ground—a true mode of perception.  And maybe our crude early experiences with rationality were to try to layer meaning onto intuition and direct perception.  So, magical thinking is beginning to play with meaning and to try to attribute cause and effect to events.  As we began to separate out from the events and places we were immersed in, to become conscious we became aware of everything that was “Other” and needed to make sense of that.  Our myths and superstitions were precursors to science and other modes of “rationality”.

Magical thinking is actually rational thinking, it just may not be accurate thinking, but then again scientific thought is frequently inaccurate, too.  What we’ve been up to with all these modes of “rational” thought is to try to make sense of what is.  Magical thinking wouldn’t be possible if we were still unconscious.  We need to have separated out from the matrix into discrete dots of awareness in order to have magical thinking or scientific thinking at all.

What are we evolving towards?  Direct conscious awareness. Simple, direct knowing of what is.  Expressing what is—being and knowing.  Will the making of meaning be necessary anymore?  Will metaphor be necessary?  Probably not.  Or maybe it will.  It’s hard to imagine a world without metaphor—no poetry, no art, no innovation.  Metaphor, I guess, is the language of manifestation.

I need to expand on this line of thinking, plus there are other insights hovering about from this latest group of books and I need to capture those insights before they melt away.

Discovering Civilization and Climate online this week was a good thing because it let me see clearly how rational thinking has been evolving. His crude scientific methodology seems to fall somewhere between magical thinking and modern scientific approaches. He doesn’t seem to be aware of the biases and faulty assumptions underlying his work, which makes it very similar to the faulty logic of superstition, myth, and magical thinking. But he’s also being methodical, and sincerely trying to eliminate bias (which is impossible to do when the biases are still unconscious). Even present day science is blind to what’s unconscious. I’m sure today we have just as many inaccurate perceptions underlying our methodologies—and we won’t be able to see them until we evolve past those inaccuracies. We need to enter a different paradigm before we can see clearly the inherent inaccuracies and “magical thinking” in this paradigm.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

So the earth excreted life—countless globules of earth—and once excreted, life could become conscious of itself because there were now points of reference.  Self and Other came to be.  We globules of land became aware, but at the same time, only aware of our separateness.  All of this has happened in the blink of an eye.  Now we’re at the point—self-aware and conscious and awake enough—to recognize that we’re not separate at all.  Once we fully awaken to our total, unified identity we will be able to act congruently with the land.  We’ve gone through a period of chaos as billions of us groggily awakened and said, Huh?  What?  Who am I?  Where am I? and groped about and made a mess of things while we tried to get our bearings.  Now we’re sloughing off the grogginess, and beginning to get it.  Oh, I’m just a node of Gaia, connected to all other nodes.  Part of a web I am utterly dependent upon for my existence.

I’ve been on another reading binge lately, which is very bad because I really need to be writing instead.  Once I finish the book I’m currently reading I’m not going to let myself check anything out of the library for awhile.

But regardless, as usual all of these books are triggering fascinating lines of thought.  It always seems like all of the various topics have a way of converging in my mind—leading to interesting insights and clues that you wouldn’t get to without the juxtaposition of so many ideas at once.  It’s a neat kind of synergy.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The concept of Gaia—the earth as a conscious entity—keeps strengthening in my mind.  This morning a most obvious thought hit me with renewed relevance, as if it were some novel insight.  That was that the land literally birthed us.  As earth, the young rock, began to awaken, she began birthing life, excreting lifeforms from her body.  Humanity was excreted like everything else.  In my mind I view the evolution of life at high speed and I can see the molecules of earth organizing themselves, forming cells and simple organisms, being excreted onto the surface of the earth to act (somewhat) autonomously, evolving into more and more complex and diverse forms—some rooting down, some moving freely.  We humans are walking, mobile globules of land.

All of those overused phrases come to mind again, those metaphors that aren’t metaphors—earth as our source, earth as Mother, being one with the land….

Interesting how the land wanted to make parts of herself mobile.  All of us creepy-crawly parts of the land increase the ways that the earth can dance with herself, experience manifestation.  We can interact with the rooted things, the stationary things, and the other creepy-crawlies.

But we are ultimately just cells of the land, not independent at all.  I can’t quite find the right metaphor, actually.  Are we cells of the land, neurons of the land, holograms of the land, blossoms of the land?

I intuit that to be fully human we can’t be cut off from the land.  I understand that knowledge and wisdom reside in the land, come from the land.  Where else could knowledge reside?  Without the land, if I were a disembodied spirit, floating in the ether, there would be literally nothing to know.

This gets back to Jung’s “Answer to Job”.  Before God created a physical world he could not know himself.  Only by physically manifesting could there be reference points and knowledge.  Everything physical is God referencing different parts and aspects of himself.

More and more I’m beginning to think we have to conceptualize the earth as our mind.  And beyond that we have to conceptualize her as our body too.  We can’t think or know or act without her.  And we’re not just travelers on spaceship earth—like astronauts.  The earth isn’t some hulking lifeless contraption we’re using.  Earth is a pulsing, living, conscious entity of which we are an organ (cell, neuron, blossom,…).

To be fully human we have to tap into our larger mind—the Earth.  It makes the Edith Cobb thesis all the more tantalizing—genius depends upon the Earth.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

I built my compost sifter yesterday and got a year’s worth of compost sifted.  I probably should have waited a little while longer to let the pile dry out more.  I’m sure I could have sifted out quite a bit more if it had been drier.  But I got a really big pile of the most beautiful compost (although very puny in comparison with the pile of cow manure).  It smelled so delicious and it was so soothing to just stand there and rhythmically rub and shake and thump the compost through.  Ah, to have my hands in dirt again!

Last week I took The Spell of the Sensuous out of the library again.  There’s just so much food for thought in there, you can’t digest it all in one reading.  I want to revisit the whole section about how language and knowledge are inextricably woven into the landscape for many indigenous tribes.  There seems to be something very important in this.  Inner and outer worlds have always been unified—to indigenous tribes this is obvious, in the modern world it’s been forgotten.

…to members of a non-writing culture, places are never just passive settings.  Remember that in oral cultures the human eyes and ears have not yet shifted their synaesthetic participation from the animate surroundings to the written word.  Particular mountains, canyons, streams, boulder-strewn fields, or groves of trees have not yet lost the expressive potency and dynamism with which they spontaneously present themselves to the senses.  A particular place in the land is never, for an oral culture, just a passive or inert setting for the human events that occur there.  It is an active participant in those occurrences.  Indeed, by virtue of its underlying and enveloping presence, the place may even be felt to be the source, the primary power that expresses itself through the various events that unfold there.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

John delivered a great big pile of poop to me yesterday.  Now I need to get busy and get the new garden beds dug.  I also bought seed potatoes yesterday and I need to cut them up and let them dry so I can get them in the ground.  The garlic has sprouted and I’ve got a bag of red onion sets I need to plant, and peas that need to go in.  Collin and I started the tomatoes and peppers on Sunday.  And I’ve been potting up Collin’s herbs into larger containers—chives, parsley, basil, and oregano.  I bought a small roll of hardware cloth so I can make a sifter for the compost—I’ll try to get to that today.  Spring’s finally here—hooray!  (Although it’s been cold and snowy for the past few weeks.  Today it’s supposed to get into the 60’s finally.)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Sorry about yesterday’s entry.  I thought I was going to have enough time to write, but it didn’t work out that way. But definitely—until the land begins to speak through you, you haven’t yet become naturalized to a place.

I’m beginning to fear that I’m becoming naturalized here.  The reason I fear it is because I’ve so desperately needed to get back to my beloved Pennsylvania, but if I fall in love with the land here, I may never make it back.  It’s really weird what’s happening to me.  I know I sort of described it two entries ago, but I feel like I need to delve into it a bit more.  On Friday, Collin and I took a long way home, just to explore some territory we hadn’t explored before.  At Hudson, instead of continuing on I-76, we took highway 52 from there to Wiggins.  If I-76 is the hypotenuse of a right triangle, then highway 52 makes up the two legs—it travels east and then makes a 90 degree turn to the north.  Anyway, it was quite a pretty drive, and at one point this wild little hill appeared, with some old relic of farm machinery sitting on it and the remnants of a homestead on the flat ground below.  I don’t know what happened, but some switch seemed to flip inside of me and I was transported back in time to the 1800s.  It was like none of the modernized farms surrounding it existed—like everything modern had been completely blotted out.  I saw (and felt) through different eyes, a different reality.  It was a total immersion in the feeling-sense of a different era and lifetime.  Impossible to describe, but what a profound ache it left in my heart.  We’ve all but obliterated that way of life and deprived ourselves of that way of experiencing the land.

All weekend long that place had me in its grip.  I kept fantasizing about it—what it would be like to live there in a crude little house, to be intimately fused with the energy of that spot.  Lately, it’s been this cloying need to have my bare feet on the ground—so much so that I’ve been imagining these simple houses with dirt floors.  Dirt floors and just a small lip of stone at the doorway separating the inside dirt from the outside dirt.  Just a lip to keep the puddles outside if it rains.  I picture myself with my bare feet on that dirt, connected at all times to the earth.  I have such a desperate hunger for that kind of connectedness.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

In one of my blog entries I began to explore how one becomes naturalized to a place.  I think I’ve come up with a way to measure that.  How do you know when you’ve finally become naturalized?  When the land begins to speak through you.