ASKING INCONVENIENT QUESTIONS

14 07 2019

As long-time readers of this blog know, I ran for an at-large seat on the Metro Nashville Council in 2015, mostly in an effort to publicize the long-term concerns I express. I received a couple of thousand votes and came in second to last. I said I’d be back, but when this election cycle came around, I didn’t file papers to run, for several reasons. First, somebody asked me to run last time, and nobody asked this time. Second, as I ran last time and got a better understanding of what was involved, it seemed that, if I ran again, I would have to run with the pledge that I would hire somebody as a legal consultant to help me translate my somewhat radical proposals into Legalese, the language in which our governments do business. From there, I concluded that it would be more efficient, and more credible to the voting public, if I, or the “we” that constitutes the local Green Party, simply found a lawyer who shared my/our values, and offered to help her or his campaign. And that’s as far as that got.

A few weeks ago, after attending a Mayoral candidates’ forum in which my concerns for Nashville’s long-term stability were not addressed, I wrote the following letter to all four major Mayoral candidates, and to the ten at-large council candidates I think have the best chance of winning. Here’s what I wrote:

Dear Candidate:

I ran for at-large Metro Council in the last election. For a variety of reasons, I’m not in the race this time, but I still have the concerns I ran on four years ago, and I am still writing my blog and doing my radio show, and that is why I am writing you now. I would like to hear from you about “my issues,” and I would like to share your response (and comment on it) as my next radio show/blog post, which will air/be published in mid-July, so I am also asking your permission to publish your response. If I need to do any editing/condensing, I will share my proposed edit with you, to make sure that I have preserved your intentions. Here’s what I’m asking:

The way I see it, Nashville is currently enjoying an extraordinarily prosperous period, especially compared to a great many other cities in this country, and regions of the world. However, the same crises that have overtaken them loom over us—a runaway climate crisis, an increasingly fragile national economy, and the rapidly approaching exhaustion of many of the material resources our civilization depends on, from fossil fuels to rare earth metals to fish, forests, fertile soil, and clean water. To what extent do these factors inform your political agenda?

To what extent do you share my concerns? What do you think the city should, could, or is likely to do in response to them?

Thank you for your time and attention.

No mayoral candidate wrote me back, although Facebook Messenger informed me that John Ray Clemmons opened my letter–at 7:30 in the morning. I hope that some day we will find out that it served as a wake up call for him.

I did better with the council races, with six responses to ten letters sent. Three of the candidates who didn’t respond are the ones who are generally identified as Republicans, although technically Metro Council races are non-partisan. The fourth non-responder was Gicola Lane, one of the organizers behind the initiative that established a Police Review Board here in Nashville.

I can understand why a political candidate would be inclined to handle my questions very gingerly. Al Gore nailed it when he called climate change “an inconvenient truth.” It’s easy to see human history as an increasingly rapid spiral into greater wealth and technological complexity. By and large, people don’t want to imagine that things might move some other way– a spiral of decreasing resources, complexity, and expectations. As Bill Clinton is rumoured to have said, “Nobody ever got elected by promising the American people less.” When Winston Churchill told the British people, “I have nothing to offer but blood, sweat, toil, and tears,” he wasn’t running for office, he had just been elected, and the Germans were taking over Europe and saturation-bombing Britain as a prelude to invasion.

It’s difficult to get people to see that we are in a “blood, sweat, toil, and tears” situation with climate change. Instead of an invading army, we are threatened by the way our own actions are skewing the planet’s climate into a “normal” that is far less human-friendly than the climate in which we have evolved as a species. So far, for most Americans, that change is nibbling at daily life, rather than devouring it wholesale, and so, for most of us in America, and especially here in Nashville, it is possible to live as if nothing has changed or is going to change. City election issues can be restricted to budgets and taxes,  infrastructure, zoning, education, policing, and similar daily life issues. These mundane issues offer almost infinite details to keep us occupied and keep us from looking at the longer-term questions I have been asking. When our community governments do address these questions, they will tend to do so in the context of the short-term, daily-life issues they are used to dealing with. With that in mind, let’s go through the responses I received, with some commentary from me, and then I will suggest a few things the city could do that would tend to steer the city, just as it is, into an entity that is better prepared to deal with the financial and material shortages and extreme weather events that we are likely to see in the mid-term future. Read the rest of this entry »





AN APPRECIATION OF NATURAL/CO-OPERATIVE BIRTH CONTROL

5 05 2019

opening music: The Clash Lovers’ Rock

May Day, Beltane, is almost here. It’s the height of the mating season, so it seems like a good time to talk about green sex–and when I say “green sex,” I’m not talking about inexperienced people getting it on. I’m talking about the ecology, and psychology, of our reproductive urge.

A few months back, one of my favorite news reporters/commentators, Eleanor Goldfield, did a story  attacking the Trump administration’s decision to only give women advice on natural birth control, rather than providing condoms, birth control pills, or IUDs. In the process, she also attacked natural birth control itself.  (I prefer to call it “co-operative birth control” for reasons I’ll go into later.)

First of all, I don’t think it’s appropriate to impose natural birth control on women/couples, any more than it’s appropriate for somebody else to interfere in a woman’s decision about whether to carry a pregnancy to term. Not only is it wrong for the state/church to do that, but hey—people who are forced into a behavior they don’t freely adopt, whether it’s birth control or an exercise program, are not going to practice it as carefully as those who embark on such a course of action voluntarily.s However, as a man who was voluntarily involved in the practice of natural birth control for fifteen years in my first marriage and the ten “fertile years” of my second marriage, I had to speak up on behalf of the natural method. What follows is a revised and expanded version of the comment I made on her video.

Although it has been criticized as ineffective, natural birth control can be quite precise. Vaginal mucous changes around ovulation, morphing from a consistency that tends to keep sperm out to a consistency that tends to pull it in, and this is easy to check. Between that and three minutes with a thermometer first thing in the morning, which allows a woman to know when her fertile time of the month is about to start, it’s not difficult for a woman to know if she’s fertile. The thermometer is the only purchase necessary to practice natural birth control. As someone who does his best not to be a “consumer,” having a birth control method that does not involve the frequent purchase of industrially created products is a big plus. My first wife and I practiced this as our sole form of birth control for thirteen years with only one unintended pregnancy, two years in, due to cyclical disruption while travelling. One unintended pregnancy in over twenty years is, I think, a pretty good ‘batting average.” Read the rest of this entry »





INITIATION

5 05 2019

This is the final chapter of “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible,” by charles Eisenstein. The book is available on line here. Please consider supporting Charles’ visionary, transformative work by purchasing this book, or another of his works.

A man sets out to draw the world. As the years go by, he peoples a space with images of provinces, kingdoms, mountains, bays, ships, islands, fishes, rooms, instruments, stars, horses, and individuals. A short time before he dies, he discovers that the patient labyrinth of lines traces the lineaments of his own face.

―Jorge Luis Borges

But will we make it? If, as in so many other questions, evidence and reason alone are insufficient to determine a belief, then how will we answer that question—especially when the answer implicates everything else, even our basic stories of self and world. I offered an answer earlier: to choose the story you will stand in.

How to choose? What will you believe, given how easily reason, logic, and evidence are conscripted to the service of a story? Here is an alternative: Choose the story that best embodies who you really are, who you wish to be, and who you are in fact becoming.

Behind the fog of helplessness of the question “Will we make it?” is a gateway to our power to choose and to create. Because written on its threshold is another question, the real question: “Who am I?”…….

initiation

music: REM “You Are The Everything

Eliza Gilkyson “Lifelines”

Rumors of the Big Wave “The Only Green World





THERE’S A NEW VAMPIRE IN TOWN

9 12 2018

A lot of people don’t realize that there are vampires in Nashville, even though those vampires are, in a fairly substantial way, responsible for the fact that our city is “The ‘it’ city,” while other  metropolises our size, such as Detroit, El Paso, Memphis, and Oklahoma City, are more like “she-it cities.” That’s because our local vampires have learned to turn the blood they suck into money, and spread that blood/money around town in the process of consuming it.. The new vampire has a different MO, however. He sucks metaphorical blood, which morphs into money just as easily as the red, sticky kind.

Gee…speaking of vampires, I am writing this around the death and funeral of former US President George H.W. Bush, whose father derived a good deal of his wealth from the blood of the young men of Europe and America, as well as the blood of European Jews, Gypsies, radicals, gay people, and anyone else who did not fit in with Hitler’s vision of “The Master Race.” The newly dead Bush’s father, Prescott Bush, was one of the chief financiers of Adolph Hitler and his drive to Make Germany Great Again. Without Prescott’s backing, the Wehrmacht, the Luftwaffe, and all those death camps might not have happened. Bush senior paid no price for this. He went on to become a U.S. Senator. His son became head of US intelligence, then Vice President and President, and his grandson, too, became President. All have shown by their actions that they possess (or is it “are possessed by”?) the ruthless selfishness that is the hallmark of all vampires,

I’ll mention, but don’t even have time to talk much about, how Prescott Bush was also part of the cabal of Wall Street bankers who plotted to overthrow the government of US President Franklin Roosevelt. Bush wasn’t prosecuted for that, either, nor were any of the other plotters. Perhaps the fact that they had names were Harriman, Mellon, Rockefeller, to mention a few, gave them a stay out of jail card.

Let me run that by you again: Prescott Bush knew full well what the Nazis were doing, had no problem financing them, and in fact tried to do the same thing here, and his son became the President of the United States, and now we are being asked to mourn that son’s death, even though it is clear from his record that the main lesson he learned from his father was to hide his sympathy for the notion of a master race that is entitled to ruthlessly assert itself, but nonetheless pursue the fascist program. Somewhere, Adolph Hitler is laughing his ass off.

But I digress. I was talking about local vampires, and about the new vampire in town.

Read the rest of this entry »





TRUTH

25 11 2018

This is the first half, more or less, of Chapter 33  of Charles Eisenstein’s book, “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible.” You can read it, or buy it (please!) here.

Ordinarily, it is through no mere act of will that we stand in the Story of Interbeing. It is a long process of healing the wounds of Separation, changing its habits, and discovering unexpected realms of reunion. Sometimes sudden and sometimes gradual, sometimes by hard work and sometimes by grace, sometimes like a birth and sometimes like a death, sometimes painful and sometimes glorious, it is a profound process of metamorphosis. We must keep that in mind as we work as agents of the transition in stories in other people and society generally.

The question “What story shall I stand in?” brings us to an apparent paradox. Part of the “new story” is a kind of meta-awareness of story itself. Are we attempting to enter a new story, or are we attempting to stand outside story altogether? Postmodernists would say that it is impossible ever to stand outside story; as Derrida put it, “There is no such thing as outside-the-text.” They would say that there is no truth or reality outside our social constructions. I don’t agree with this position, though I think at its historical moment it offered a salutary antidote to the pretensions of scientism and rationalism, which purported to offer a royal road to truth. We human beings are meaning-makers, map-makers, exchanging one map for the next and wandering within it as if it were not a map but the territory. Postmodernism liberated us from that trap by questioning whether there even is a territory. A slippery question indeed, given that even the words “there is” are fraught with Cartesian assumptions about the nature of reality; in other words, they themselves are part of a map…….

////Each time that happens (and it can happen as many times as there are variations on the theme of Separation), we enter the sacred space I have mentioned, the space between stories. We might think we can enter it on purpose, without loss or breakdown, perhaps through prayer, meditation, or solitude in nature. Maybe so, but what brought you to such a practice? Unless you were raised in it, something probably happened to eject you from the normal world in which this isn’t something people do.

Besides, one way that spiritual practice works is to bring about the unraveling of old beliefs and self-image—the Story of Self and World. This unraveling is a kind of collapse, a kind of loss, even a kind of death. Whether the journey into the space between stories happens via a practice, a divorce, an illness, or a near-death experience, we are all on the same journey.

music: John Lennon, “Working Class Hero”

 

Dechen Shak-Dagsay – Shi Wae Lam Kyoed (Shi De) (Prayer for non-violence, respect, and tolerance among all beings)

SECOND HALF

Just as our civilization is in a transition between stories, so also are many of us individually. When we look at the various stories we tell ourselves about our lives, certain patterns become apparent, and it may be possible to discern in these patterns two (or possibly more) dominant themes. One might represent the “old story” of one’s life, and the other the “new story.” The first is often associated with various wounds one is born into or has grown into as a member of this culture. The second story represents where one is going, and is consistent with the healing of these wounds.

Here is a process called “What’s true?” that is designed, first, to bring resident stories that lurk invisibly inside us into our field of awareness so as to depotentiate them, and second, through the mantra “What’s true?” to bring the story-bearer into the space between stories, the space where truth is available. The process originated in a retreat I co-led with the marvelous social inventor Bill Kauth in 2010, and has evolved considerably since then. I will present here a fairly original version of it that the reader can adapt to her own teaching and practice…..

…..To discover such an incubator might take time. Someone recently exiting a conventional worldview may feel alone in her rejection of it. New beliefs well up within her, that she recognizes as ancient friends, intuitions from childhood, but without an articulation of those beliefs by someone else, those beliefs cannot stabilize. This again is why it is so important to have preachers to the choir so that she can hear the choir’s loud singing. Sometimes one receives a totally new piece of the Story of Interbeing that no one has articulated yet, for which there is not yet a preacher nor a choir. But even then there are kindred spirits awaiting, more and more of us, as the new story reaches critical mass.

That is happening in our time. True, the institutions built on Separation appear bigger and stronger than ever, but their foundation has crumbled. Fewer and fewer people really believe in the reigning ideologies of our system and their assignation of value, meaning, and importance. Whole organizations adopt policies that, in private, not a single one of their members agrees with. To use a hackneyed analogy, a mere month before the Berlin Wall was dismantled, no serious observer predicted such a thing could happen anytime soon. Look how powerful the Stasi is! But the substructure of people’s perceptions had been long eroding.

And so is ours. I just said the new story is reaching critical mass. But has it reached it? Will it reach it? Perhaps not quite yet. Perhaps it is just at a tipping point, a moment of equipoise. Perhaps it needs just the weight of one more person taking one more step into interbeing to swing the balance. Perhaps that person is you.

music: Pointer Sisters, “Yes We Can

Space Cadet and the Acid Test Set “The Plum Pudding Song”

Afro-Celt Sound System: “Further In Time





LAUGHINGSTOCK NATION

14 10 2018

Recently, our President addressed The United Nations, and something unprecedented  took place. When he said,

 “My administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country.”

That usually solemn body broke out in laughter.

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Several commentators that I read were aghast, enraged that our country has been brought so low that our President is laughed at by other world leaders.

Not me. I’m glad it finally happened, and I hope it’s not the only time. I wish the world had started laughing at America’s pretensions a long time ago.

I wish that, when Colin Powell falsely asserted that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, he had been laughed at. I wish the UN had laughed at George Bush for supporting those lies, instead of acquiescing and giving the US permission to invade Iraq and Afghanistan on the ludicrous pretext that a bunch of Saudis hijacked airplanes and flew them into buildings in the US. I wish the UN had laughed at Bush’s “Axis of Evil” speech. I wish French and British diplomats had laughed at the US when this country put them up to the UN resolution that was wrongly used to justify intervention in that country’s US-incited civil war, which plunged Libya from being, as Iraq once was, one of the wealthier, more stable countries in the region into being a failed state and a gateway for African refugees seeking to escape to Europe. Not that African refugees don’t need a safe haven. Read the rest of this entry »





MIRACLE

14 10 2018

sunraThis is a chapter from Charles Eisenstein”s 2013 book, “The More Beautiful world Our Hearts Know Is Possible.” You can find it here.

“We have tried everything possible and none of it has worked. Now we must try the impossible”  —Sun Ra

Working on the level of story has two dimensions. First is to disrupt the old, which says, “What you thought was real is just an illusion.” Second is to offer a new, which says, “The possible, and the real, are much grander than you knew.” The first, we experience as crisis and breakdown. The second, we experience as miraculous. That’s what a miracle is: not the intercession of an external divinity in worldly affairs that violates the laws of physics, but something that is impossible from within an old Story of the World and possible from a new one.

Because a miracle is (by this definition) impossible from where we stand today, we cannot force the universe to produce one. It is beyond our understanding of cause and effect. We can, however, give the experience of miracle to another person. To the extent we stand in a new story, we all have the power to be miracle-workers. Like Chris, we all have the power to perform acts that violate the old Story of the World.

A miracle is an invitation to a larger reality. Maybe I am more stubborn than most, but it typically takes repeated miracles for me to accept the invitation they hold. The perceptions of separation—for example, linear causality and rational self-interest—are embedded deep within my cells, for I am a product of that age.

At age twenty-one I arrived in Taiwan, uncomfortable in my own culture, in which I felt like an alien, but wedded still to many aspects of its defining stories. True, thanks to my somewhat leftist political upbringing I was cognizant of the bankruptcy of the mythology of progress and economic globalism, but I accepted without question the Scientific Method as the royal road to truth, and believed that science as an institution had arrived at a fairly complete general understanding of how the universe worked. I was, after all, a Yale graduate, trained in mathematics and analytic philosophy. It wasn’t long, though, before my story of the world came under assault. I had experiences with Chinese medicine and qigong that were impervious to my best efforts to explain away……..

Music: Jerry Garcia band, “Waiting for a Miracle”








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