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





DESTINY

10 03 2019

This is the chapter of Charles Eisenstein’s 2013 book, “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible.” You can read it for free here

 

There are no facts. There are only stories.

—Whiteman (Nigerian shaman, quoted by Adebayo Akomolafe)

I speak of the more beautiful world our hearts tell us is possible, because our minds, steeped in the logic of Separation, so often tell us it is not. Even as we begin to accept a new logic of interbeing, still the old doubt lingers on. That is because intellectual beliefs are just an outcropping of a whole state of being. This book has explored various facets of that state of being: the habits associated with it, the wounds bound up in it, the stories that reinforce it, and the social institutions that reflect and sustain those stories. Change on all these levels is necessary in order for any one of us, and therefore all of us, to inhabit a more beautiful world.

Because this world is not possible from within the Story of Separation, it will take a miracle (by the definition of the chapter “Miracle”) to get there; in other words, we can get there only through the methods, actions, and causal principles of a new story, a new understanding of self, life, and world. By the same token, the despair that says, “We can’t make it” illuminates the deficiency of the methods, actions, and causal principles we equate with the practical and possible…..

the rest of the chapter





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





INDIGENOUS PEOPLES’ DAY

14 10 2018
     Last Monday was “indigenous Peoples’ Day,” still celebrated in some quarters as “Columbus Day.” In my quarter, I sat quietly on my porch that morning and did my best to reach out to the spirits of the beings, human and non-human, whom us Europeans destroyed by disease, murdered, hunted to extinction, and dispossessed in order to seize this continent. I opened my mind to the whole ecosystem they danced in, and the cultural forms in which they danced, in harmony, for tens of thousands of years before we, far cleverer and far less wise, showed up. I sincerely hope the few hundred years of our rude interruption turns out to be a small blip in a long era of peace and harmony, although the extent of our violation is so great that, when this ecosystem returns to a normal level of stasis, it is likely to be a very different stasis than the one that has prevailed here since the end of the last glacial epoch.
     After a while, my quiet time  was punctuated with multiple volleys of distant, but distinct, gunfire. We live about a mile from Nashville’s municipal shooting range, so I am used to this, and always feel grateful that, whatever the fantasies in the heads of the shooters may be, I do not need to be concerned that the shots indicate any immediate danger to anyone, including me. A great many of the world’s inhabitants do not have the luxury of staying relaxed when they hear gunfire. This particular morning, it occurred to me that the shooters, who do not normally turn out on Monday mornings–weekends are more common–were there because it was a national holiday, and that it was quite likely that to most of them, this was not “Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” but “Columbus Day.” To me, it seemed that discharging firearms was an appropriate way to celebrate the life of the man who initiated the genocide of all the ancient, but firearm-free, cultures of North and South America.
     I let those thoughts go, and just kept sitting, contentedly wrapped in the trees, the birds, and the unusually warm October morning. After a while, there had were more shots. “A metaphor, perhaps?” I wondered.
      Then  the roar of a low-flying jet swelled into prominence. It occurred to me that airplanes are the modern equivalent of the sailing ships of Columbus’s various invasion fleets. Like the galleons of old, wherever airplanes go, they bring destructive, bland, corporate culture with them. Those who impose air travel bulldoze vast swathes of the natural world to create airports. Their construction, and the fuel they burn, are inseparable from corporate culture. Airplane culture is part of the problem, not part of the solution, and this reinforced my recurring thought that I can not, in good conscience, travel by air again.
     Full disclosure: the last time I flew, it was to visit family temporarily in Costa Rica, nearly 20 years ago, and that was  only after confirming that I could not book passage on a freighter from the Gulf Coast to Limon, Costa  Rica’s gulf port, which ships a great many of America’s bananas. Freighters, in any case, burn bunker oil, one of the most polluting fossil fuels.
      I kept sitting, the noise of the plane rapidly faded into the distance, and I was once again alone with my four-legged and winged neighbors and the spirits that, against all scientific evidence, I keep sensing in the world around me.
     Maybe what happened to me this morning was a message from the embodied spirits who once inhabited this valley, and the non-embodied spirits that persist here. Maybe they were telling me to hold steady, do what I can, and not be distracted by gunfire or airplanes or those who produce them. This is a time for combining clear vision, strong intention, courage, fearlessness, and, most important of all, it seems, patience. The foolish fog that has enveloped us will pass, and pass faster the less we lose our focus and contribute to the confusion.
     Mother Earth will return to a steady state. If we help Her, that steady state will likely include us. If we do not work in harmony with Her, She will cast us off in favor of whoever will, even if She has to go back to jellyfish and cockroaches and start over again from there. The choice is ours.
 







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