OH, MAMA, LET’S TALK DIRTY

8 05 2016

It’s Mother’s Day. I’ve broadcast and published on many a Mother’s Day over the eleven-year history of this show and blog, and generally I haven’t had much to say about it, but I think it’s time.

juliawardhoweMothers’ Day has become a “Hallmark Holiday,” an excuse for companies to induce us to spend money we wouldn’t ordinarily spend. Its actual origins are far more noble than that, as most of you probably know. It began as a reconciliation effort after the Civil War, and then was picked up by abolitionist and women’s suffrage activist Julia Ward Howe, who, in a famous proclamation, called for an international congress of women for the purpose of creating lasting peace. We can only guess what Ms. Howe, who wrote

Disarm, Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.
Blood does not wipe our dishonor nor violence indicate possession.

would think of the woman likely to be our next President, who has made her reputation in part by being at least as fervent a hawk as any man in our government. But that’s not what I’m going to talk about tonight. This is the Deep Green perspective, and I’m here to talk about our relationship with the Mother of us all, the Earth.treemomma

To do that, I want to start by talking dirty. You know what that means. When we talk about sex or defecation, we are “talking dirty.” But why, when we call something “dirty,” does it have such negative connotations?  Even “a dirty look,” or a “dirty deal,” or “the dirt on somebody,” while they may not have sexual or scatological implications, refer to looks, deals, and information that is not praiseworthy.

But–we are made of dirt. “Human” and “humus,” a fancy name for  dirt that’s chock full of living micro-organisms, are etymologically related, as are the Hebrew words Adam and adamah. Adam, of course, is the legendary first human. “Adamah” means earth. In archaic Europe and in Palestine alike, our prehistoric ancestors understood that “dust we are, and unto dust we return.” It seems to me that we could use a lot more of that humbling–another “earth word”–influence these days. While there is a certain admirable bravado in, “I’m going to live forever, or die trying,” decline and death are part of the natural arc of our existence. In my Deep Green opinion, it’s more appropriate to accept this and strive to surf that arc as gracefully and lovingly as possible, than to go down in flames on a mad scientist quest for vastly extended youth and longevity. Besides, the planet could get awfully crowded with very old people if we start extending our lives. The economy might love the extravagant consumers that such an aged population would constitute, but the planet needs us to cycle back through the dirt like everything else that lives.

We are made of dirt. Every atom and molecule in us could exist and not be “alive,” but somehow, when they are merged into our bodies, these tiny flecks of dirt, liquid, and gas become “alive.” This may be a common phenomenon–astronomers now estimate that one in five, maybe more, stars have a roughly Earth-sized planet in their habitable zone, meaning that there could be between ten and forty billion other planets out there that could be kind of like this one. That’s a lot of very interesting potential, but the nearest such planet we’ve found is twelve light-years away, which means that, unless or until we either launch an internally terraformed asteroid colony on a multigenerational cruise, or learn how to create, direct, and step through wormholes, we’re not likely to find out. Across the universe, we may not be so unusual, but for all practical purposes, there’s nobody here but us, and nowhere else to go, so we’d better figure out how to keep this planet livable.

And why haven’t any of our neighbors come calling? I think we’re in the process of finding that out for ourselves. It looks to me as though intelligent species on small planets with limited resources–which, as far as we can tell, is the only place a species like us might evolve–have to walk a couple of fine lines. One is between being merely clever and genuinely wise–in order to survive for very long, the species must be clever enough to learn how to work with what its planet offers, and yet wise enough not to use up those gifts in a blaze of thoughtless exploitation. Considering the speed with which we have depleted what our planet has offered us, we may well be failing that test. If we pull ourselves together quickly enough to prevent our near-term extinction due to global warming at this late date, the generations of us that are to come, and even any future species that might supplant us, will have to make do with a planet bereft of easily extracted metals and fossil fuels. Perhaps it will be better that way. Read the rest of this entry »





DOING

3 04 2016

This is a chapter from Charles Eisenstein’s book, “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible.” You can read the whole chapter here, and buy the book here. Please consider supporting Mr. Eisenstein’s work by buying the book!

All of these flavors of scarcity share a common root, a kind of existential scarcity for which I cannot find a name. It is a scarcity of being, the feeling “I am not enough” or “There is not enough life.” Born of the cutoff of our extended selves that inter-exist with the rest of the universe, it never lets us rest. It is a consequence of our alienation, our abandonment to a dead, purposeless universe of force and mass, a universe in which we can never feel at home, a universe in which we are never held by an intelligence greater than our own, never part of an unfolding purpose. Even more than the scarcity of time or money, it is this existential unease that drives the will to consume and control.

The primary habit that arises from it is the habit of always doing. Here and now is never enough. You might protest that most people in the Western world spend vast amounts of time doing nothing productive at all, watching TV and playing video games, but these are displacements of doing, and not nondoing.

I am not saying that it is bad to do. I am saying that there is a time to do, and a time not to do, and that when we are slave to the habit of doing we are unable to distinguish between them. As I mentioned earlier, the time to do is when you know what to do. When you don’t know what to do, and act anyway, you are probably acting out of habit…..

music: Indigo Girls, “Let It Be Me

Sheila Chandra, “La Sagesse

Jenifer Berezan, “ReTurning” (excerpt)





WHEN I DREAM OF A PLANET IN RECOVERY, by DERRICK JENSEN

12 03 2016

This prose poem by Derrick Jensen, which appeared in the most recent issue of Yes! Magazine, seems to me like the perfect sequel to my post on speciesism. I would like to thank Mr. Jensen for graciously giving his permission for me to read it on the air and publish it here.

In the time after, the buffalo come home. At first only a few, shaking snow off their shoulders as they pass from mountain to plain. Big bulls sweep away snowpack from the soft grass beneath; big cows attend to and protect their young. The young themselves delight, like the young everywhere, in the newness of everything they see, smell, taste, touch, and feel.

Wolves follow the buffalo, as do mallards, gadwalls, blue-winged teal, northern shovelers, northern pintails, redheads, canvasbacks, and tundra swans. Prairie dogs come home, bringing with them the rain, and bringing with them ferrets, foxes, hawks, eagles, snakes, and badgers. With all of these come meadowlarks and red-winged blackbirds. With all of these come the tall and short grasses. With these come the prairies.

In the time after, the salmon come home, swimming over broken dams to forests that have never forgotten the feeling of millions of fish turning their rivers black and roiling, filling the rivers so full that sunlight does not reach the bottom of even shallow streams. In the time after, the forests remember a feeling they’ve never forgotten, of embracing these fish that are as much a part of these forests as are cedars and spruce and bobcats and bears.

In the time after, the beavers come home, bringing with them caddisflies and dragonflies, bringing with them ponds and pools and wetlands, bringing home frogs, newts, and fish. Beavers build and build, and restore and restore, working hard to unmake the damage that was done, and to remake forests and rivers and streams and marshes into what they once were, into what they need to be, into what they will be again..

In the time after, plants save the world.

In the time after, the oceans are filled with fish, with forests of kelp and communities of coral. In the time after, the air is full with the steamy breath of whales, and the shores are laden with the hard shells and patient, ageless eyes of sea turtles. Seals haul out on sea ice, and polar bears hunt them.seaturtle

In the time after, buffalo bring back prairies by being buffalo, and prairies bring back buffalo by being prairies. Salmon bring back forests by being salmon, and forests bring back salmon by being forests. Cell by cell, leaf by leaf, limb by limb, prairie and forest and marsh and ocean; they bring the carbon home, burying it in the ground, holding it in their bodies. They do what they have done before and what they will do again.

The time after is a time of magic. Not the magic of parlor tricks, not the magic of smoke and mirrors, distractions that point one’s attention away from the real action. No, this magic is the real action. This magic is the embodied intelligence of the world and its members. This magic is the rough skin of sharks without which they would not swim so fast, so powerfully. This magic is the long tongues of butterflies and the flowers that welcome them. This magic is the brilliance of fruits and berries  that grow to be eaten by those that then distribute their seeds along with the nutrients necessary for new growth. This magic is the work of fungi that join trees and mammals and bacteria to create a forest. This magic is the billions of beings in a handful of soil. This magic is the billions of beings that live inside you, that make it possible for you to live.

In the time before, the world was resilient, beautiful, and strong. It happened through the magic of blood flowing through capillaries, and the magic of tiny seeds turning into giant redwoods, and the magic of long relationships between rivers and mountains, and the magic of complex dances between all members of natural communities. It took life and death, and the gifts of the dead, forfeited to the living, to make the world strong.

In the time after, this is understood.

In the time after, there is sorrow for those who did not make it: passenger pigeons, great auks, dodos, striped rocksnails, Charles Island tortoises, Steller’s sea cows, Darling Downs hopping mice, Guam flying foxes, Saudi gazelle, sea mink, Caspian tigers, quaggas, laughing owls, St. Helena olives, Cape Verde giant skinks, silver trout, Galapagos amaranths.

dodo-110302

But in those humans and non-humans who survive, there is another feeling, emerging from below and beyond and around and through this sorrow. In the time after, those still alive begin to feel something almost none have felt before, something that everything felt long, long ago. What those who come in the time after feel is a sense of realistic optimism, a sense that things will turn out all right, a sense that life, which so desperately wants to continue, will endure, will thrive.

We, living now, in the time before, have choices. We can remember what it is to be animals on this planet and remember and understand what it is to live and die such that our lives and deaths help make the world stronger. We can live and die such that we make possible a time after where life flourishes, where buffalo can come home, and the same for salmon and prairie dogs and prairies and forests and carbon and rivers and mountains.

music: George Winston, “Before Barbed Wire” and “Frangenti





FROM PARIS TO NASHVILLE

9 01 2016

In December, the 21st “Council of Parties” to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change took place in Paris. Almost everybody seemed to understand that we are in “no more fooling around” territory, with some notable exceptions, like, f’rinstance, India and Saudi Arabia. Ironically, these are two of the countries with the most to lose from further climate change–like, their inhabitability.  Even so, it has become common knowledge that climate change denialism has largely been, um, fuelled by oil companiesbig-oil-the-new-big-tobacco-29081 who did the research in the 70’s and 80’s and, like the tobacco companies before them, realized that their product was lethal, and who nonetheless chose to elevate their short-term bottom line over the long-term survival of not just their customers, as with the tobacco companies, but of the human race, along with most other species on the planet. I could be snide and sneer about the oxymoronic quality of the phrase “corporate ethics,” but it’s not just corporations that prioritize reaping short-term benefits over preventing long-term threats.  It’s a fairly common human trait, it turns out, and one that is plaguing our efforts to stop doing things that release more carbon and accelerate climate change, and to start doing things that will capture carbon and reverse our ever more tightly spiralling spin into planetary oblivion. In order to reverse climate change, we must reverse our own conditioned responses.  The outer depends on the inner, as always.

Read the rest of this entry »





THE PARTY OF PSYCHOSIS, THE PARTY OF NEUROSIS, AND THE GREEN ALTERNATIVE

1 11 2015

First, a short news article from Democracy Now:

…in New Hampshire, an intruder armed with a hatchet was caught inside a Planned Parenthood clinic early Wednesday morning after smashing computers, furniture, plumbing fixtures, medical equipment, windows and walls. The Claremont clinic, which provides a range of services, but not abortions, was spray-painted with the word “murderer” earlier this month.

The perpetrator turned out to be a teenager.  In Israel, the police routinely shoot Palestinian teenagers who act like that.  They call them “terrorists.” So….sure, the vandalism in New Hampshire was just plain stupid, but isn’t it also “terrorism”? And, if it’s ” terrorism,” shouldn’t those who incited it be prosecuted along with the perp? I’m looking at you, Republicans andFaux News.

Planned Parenthood has not done anything illegal or unethical, but it has been condemned in the court of right-wing opinion, and legislatures across the country are effectively vandalizing the organization by cutting off state funding, eliminating a whole spectrum of health care services for low-income women.

They claim they’re doing this in the name of “Christianity,”a religion whose holy book says:

Read the rest of this entry »





ORTHODOXY

1 11 2015

This is a chapter from Charles Eisenstein’s book, “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible.” It can be read on line for free, but please consider buying a copy to support his work.

That is at bottom the only courage that is demanded of us: to have courage for the most strange, the most singular and the most inexplicable that we may encounter. That mankind has in this sense been cowardly has done life endless harm; the experiences that are called “visions,” the whole so-called “spirit-world,” death, all those things that are so closely akin to us, have by daily parrying been so crowded out of life that the senses with which we could have grasped them are atrophied.

—Rilke

The convergence of spirituality and activism mirrors a broader reunion of spirit and matter, in which we understand the two realms as one. This is different from the claim of science to have explained away any phenomenon we might call spiritual. More than a reduction of spirit to matter, it is an elevation of matter to spirit.

This reunion is still incomplete. There are still many political activists who will be appalled at this book’s reference to phenomena that they label as “scientifically unproven” or causal principles they label as unscientific. They do not realize that scientific orthodoxy is cut from the same cloth and serves the same ends as the rest of our dominant institutions. It contributes to the maintenance of the Story of Separation just as much as economics, politics, or organized religion……

read the rest here

…..There has probably been something in this chapter to tweak nearly everyone. When things fall apart, we look for a redoubt, some familiar institution that we can rely on as a repository of goodness and truth. In this age, there is none: not science, not education, not medicine, not academia. Even our spirituality, as we have seen, is rife with the thought forms of Separation.

It is quite natural to react defensively to the falling apart of the world, to cling to it all the more tightly. If you react emotionally to my aspersions on one of your sacred cows, it probably means that something beyond mere opinion is threatened. Perhaps you disagree with me about the efficacy of acupuncture or the authenticity of crop circles. Is it just an intellectual disagreement, or are you a little bit angry? What emotionally tinged judgments accompany the disagreement? That I am a simpleminded dupe? That I am ignorant of basic science? That I have neglected to examine contrary evidence that would spoil my wishful thinking? That my beliefs are outrageous, contemptible, or shameful? Do you justify the contempt with reasoning like “These beliefs give people false hope and distract them from solutions that might actually work”? If so, is that really why you are mad, or is it something else? I have found that when I react emotionally to an idea that contradicts my beliefs, usually it is because it threatens my story of the world or my story of self, creating a kind of existential unease. I feel a sense of violation.

None of this is to imply that if you respond emotionally to my unconventional statements, you are proved wrong and I am proved right. All it implies is that your rejection has little to do with evidence or logic. Evidence and logic are tools we use to justify and flesh out our beliefs, but we are deceiving ourselves to think that they are the source of our beliefs. I will return to this idea, because it is crucial to understanding the process of belief change as well; and clearly, for our world to have a chance of surviving, a lot of beliefs are going to have to change.

 

music: Material, “Into the 7th House” (sorry, not available on line!)





NOT THE REVOLUTION WE HAD IN MIND…SO FAR

13 09 2015

I came of age in the 1960’s.  I was brought up Jewish, in a synagogue whose Rabbi was an enthusiastic supporter of the civil rights movement, travelled to the South on several occasions in solidarity with Rev. Martin Luther King, and asked probing questions about segregation and racism in our home community, Dayton, Ohio.  While this dismayed some members of the congregation, it was fine with my mother, and we used to go to “interfaith retreats” where we would spend the weekend mixing it up with people–mostly Christian, many African-American–who were similarly interested in a cross-cultural experience.  I joined a local civil rights group, the Dayton Alliance for Racial Equality, and did door-to-door canvassing for them in Dayton’s African-American ghetto, as we freely called it.  This was not a neighborhood of towering, run-down tenements.  Homes were mostly single-family, mostly small, and often a little threadbare.  In those days–the early to mid sixties–somebody was usually home during the day.  There was no air conditioning, so I often found myself knocking on a screen door as I looked through it  into the family’s living room.  I had been brought up comfortably middle-class, but through this exposure I began to understand poverty.

The people I worked with, or, rather, for, were in their 20’s and 30’s, and pretty much all African-American. DARE was a small group, with a half-dozen to a dozen regular members, which, I learned in the course of writing this, did not excuse us from FBI surveillance.  We all had a tremendous admiration for Rev. Martin Luther King, whom we humorously but reverentially referred to as “Maximum Leader.” I lost touch with DARE when I graduated from high school and went off to college, and I’ve often wondered if they followed Rev. King’s lead through his final year, marked by his famous speech at Riverside Church in New York, where he took his crusade for civil rights to a whole new dimension, saying:

….the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” [applause] Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments. I am convinced that if we are to get on to the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin [applause], we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see than an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.

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