9 09 2018

I passed my 70th birthday last month. There was no party. Nobody sent me a card, though lots of people posted on my Facebook page, and nobody gave me any presents, which is OK, because I have no lack of the kinds of things people usually give as birthday gifts. But if somebody had inquired as to what I’d like for my birthday, here’s what I would have told them.

I’d like for a significant portion (as in, “enough to change the direction we’re heading”) of the humans on this planet, all over the planet and at all levels of age and society, to have, as they say, “a turning about in the deepest seat of consciousness” that causes them/us (I’m a willing candidate for such a turning. Some people would even say I’m badly in need of it!) to real-ize that we’re all in this together, that it’s inappropriate for a few to have so much when so many have so little, that we need to shut down all fossil fuel extraction and use, including plastic and fertilizer manufacture, as well as all uranium extraction and use, immediately, and just deal with the difficulties that will arise from that. Whatever they may be, they will be far less difficult than what we will encounter, and already are, by staying on the fossil fuel-nuclear energy path. Yes, we won’t have all the marvellous toys we have become so used to—but we, our children, our grandchildren, and our great-grandchildren (I’ve got two) will have at least the possibility of a livable planet. That beats extinction, toys firmly in hand and foot on the gas, any day, at least in my book.

I’d like to see all human enterprises—communities and businesses alike–managed democratically, by the input of those involved in them— workers, customers, residents. No more domination, either by patriarchs or capitalists. (Is there a difference?)

And, while I’m asking for big things, I’d like to see the seven billion humans on this planet split among ten different alternate Earths. I think that a 90% cut in the human population would return us to a relatively stable ecosystem. We are seriously overgrazing this planet, with quite predictable results, just as our ancestors’ goats overgrazed the Mediterranean basin and the Middle East, turning them from “The Garden of Eden” into scrubby desert and near-desert. I think 700 million people with a societal awareness that “we’re all in it together,” including the non-human members of our ecosystem, would be smart enough to not overgrow their/our habitat.

I know that splitting us off onto ten alternate Earths sounds awfully magical, but it’s the only compassionate way I can think of to get our population back to sane numbers as fast as it needs to happen without invoking either horrid calamities or an untenable culture with ten very old people for every young one. On the other hand, we could navigate a generation of full-time elder care more easily than we could violate the known laws of physics.

That’s what I would like for my birthday, in order to rest easy through whatever time I have left on this planet.

Hey, you’re saying, your birthday is about YOU—what do you want for yourself?

I could just act altruistic and say that, in spite of my own extraordinarily cushy situation, I have a hard time feeling content when I know there are so many legitimately unhappy people on the planet,so I don’t “need” anything for myself, but yeah, there are some things I’d like for myself.

I’d like to have more time to play music. My musical chops have been deteriorating for years, first due to fascination with the internet, and then, after our house fire, from the need to prioritize survival and rebuilding. I’m on the net so much largely out of concern for the state of the planet—as I said, it’s hard to be at ease when so many are so un-easy and dis-eased.

I’d like to be in a band with some good friends, to play my songs and other songs that I enjoy playing. I’m graced with a weekly drum circle that is its own kind of magic—we refer to it as “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting”–and the spontaneity of that gathering is something I would not want to sacrifice for the discipline of learning songs, and learning, as a band, to jam on those songs. I’d like for those musical friends, and all my non-musical friends, to live in the same neighborhood, so that we could walk to each other’s houses and the store where we find what we can’t produce for ourselves, so we’d see each other casually and often, and not just on arranged occasions. I’d like my kids and grandkids to be among those neighbors. I had a solid dose of that in the two decades I spent on The Farm, and I have hungered for it ever since.

I’d also like plenty of time to write—not just songs, but the story of my life, especially my years on The Farm, and a couple or three science-fiction novels that I started a while back and have never found time to return to. Plus, I’d like plenty of time to garden and work on all the various homesteading and construction projects that are under way or need to happen around here, and from which I derive so much satisfaction.

It occurs to me that a 70-year old asking for lots of time is not likely to get more than a couple of decades. Ah, well…..

I’d also like to travel a lot—to go back out west, and to delve into the wild places left here in Tennessee and elsewhere on the East Coast. I’d like to go abroad, by sailing ship if possible, and commune with the Pyrenees, the Alps, the Carpathians,the Caucasus (hey, I’m Caucasian—back to my roots!) the mountains of Norway, and the wild northern and western coasts of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, as well as more exotic locations like the Himalayas, the mountains of Japan, Korea and the Kamchatka Peninsula, and Australia, New Zealand, and  Central and South America. As a kid, I fantasized about visiting the islands in the Arctic Ocean, from Sptizbergen to Nova Zemalaya to Greenland, and though they ain’t what they used to be, I’d still love to walk those wild shores. And, I’d like to do all that travelling without creating a massive “carbon footprint.” Sailing ships and dirigibles, eh? Oh yeah–the southern reaches, too–the Falklands/Malvinas, Patagonia, and I’ve long yearned to visit the most remote land mass on the planet, the Kerguellen Islands.

But I’d like to not travel, too. I’d like to spend more time on my meditation cushion. Seventy is certainly not too young to be picking up the pace on studying for Final Exams, y’know?

If there are going to be continuing injustices, I’d like to be able to not just show up and walk the line with a sign, but help educate and organize to change things.

And I’d like to be more available to spend time with my wife Cindy, who has been kind enough to persist in relating with me, even though she realized early on that I am guy whose attention is split in multiple directions.

So maybe, as long as I’m asking for the miracle of ten alternate Earths, I should go ahead and ask to be eight people, since I’ve just listed eight different directions I’d love to full-steam-ahead into.

So, if You can help me out with any of that, I would be deeply appreciative.

Thanks for “listening.”

music: Eliza Gilkyson, “Through the Looking Glass




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