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”





WHAT I’D LIKE FOR MY BIRTHDAY

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? Read the rest of this entry »





STARTING THE REVOLUTION WITH….GOURMET HOT CHICKEN?

12 08 2018

My attention was attracted by a headline in a recent Nashville Scene:

H*t Chicken Sh**t Addresses Gentrification in North Nashville

The event, which I’m not sure how to pronounce—“Hot Chicken Shoot”? “Hit Chicken Shi..”….well, never mind–was an effort by Nigerian-American gourmet chef Tunde Wey to call together some movers and shakers to not merely discuss gentrification over a “gentrification priced” $55 dinner, but to actually start funding a community land trust that will “allow residents to buy affordable homes while the land is owned by a non-profit in the community.”

I think this is really good news. I’ve been one of those beating the drum for community land trusts as a way to address gentrification  and was happy to see it featured so prominently at the Co-op Nashville conference a few years back. Recently I’ve been wondering what happened to all the positive energy that was generated at that gathering, so it was very sweet to get an answer without even having to go look.

I wish Tunde Wey and his friends every success in this venture. I hope to send some money  their way, and I hope you will, too. But, being a “deep green perspective” kind of guy, I also have some further thoughts about this project, and that’s what I want to share with you.

This story kind of reminds me of the peace activist slogan “”It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the air force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.” Here in Nashville, we just went through a massive campaign to pass additional taxes for a public transit system that was widely, and correctly, perceived as a tool for further gentrification of the city. “I’ve already got developers calling me about property (along the proposed light rail route)” one advocate of the plan said, on camera.  (Oops!) This plan was defeated, largely by those who realized it was going to gentrify them right out of town. Something that does seem to be going through, on the other hand, is a “major-league soccer stadium” that will undoubtedly raise property values in its neighborhood, which happens to be one of the remaining pockets of affordable housing. The good news is that the soccer stadium plan is structured to listen and respond to input from the surrounding community. The relevant part of this story, however, is that Metro Nashville is issuing $275M in bonds to pay for the project, with the expectation that the stadium will do well enough financially to pay that back.

Read the rest of this entry »





SEX, TRANSIT, GLORIA NASHVILLE

11 03 2018

Before I heard the recent news, I was planning to write a story that examined the proposal to create a rail-centered mass transit system in Nashville. When I heard about Mayor Barry’s resignation and guilty plea on the national news (“a rising star in the Democratic Party,” they called her), I decided that I would be remiss not to comment on a situation that reveals so much about our country’s politics, and human nature in general. So, sex first, then transit.

Let’s  begin with the adultery aspect. I see two somewhat opposing dynamics here. On one hand, in order for people to be fully intimate with each other, honesty is essential. The number of people involved in that intimacy doesn’t necessarily matter, as long as they all agree on the same ground rules and are wiling to work through whatever emotional baggage those ground rules may bring to light. For most people, most of the time, the basic ground rule is, “You and me, baby. Two’s company, three’s a crowd.”

On the other hand, enough people have broken their promise of dyadic exclusivity so that we, as a society, should have figured out by now that we’re not necessarily wired that way. Read the rest of this entry »








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