Sunday, May 27, 2012

Revolution is Necessary

Many students of history have witnessed the fact that the more things change the more things remain the same. Revolutions come and go. The servants overthrow the masters and then become the masters themselves, sometimes behaving no better than their predecessors. Look long enough and hard enough and we may come to the conclusion that the sages have come to. The real revolution has to take place in the human heart.

And no doubt they have it right. But stasis in the world of externals is not an option. The "sacred revolutionary" understands this. Change is a constant. Revolution is necessary to human society. As long as oppression of anyone anywhere at any time is occurring, revolution is a necessity. No other force can bring about the alteration of injustice. And humanity will always seek justice as long as there is a humanity. It's hardwired into our DNA. The destruction of the established order is a foregone conclusion once the established order has abandoned the principles that make human life a dignified, fulfilling experience for everyone.

If history tells us that every revolution that has come before has resulted in the re-establishment of another status quo, this will not deter us. Do we bath once in life and then decide to bath no more because we'll just get dirty again? It may not be the next revolution or the one after. But the quest for an arrangement which serves the truth that we are all connected on this planet, that we are all our brothers and sisters keepers, compels us to revolt.

For many of us the connection extends beyond the human family. We see all life on our planet under siege by the forces of a commercially driven civilization that ignores the sacred and holds allegiance only to the profane. The abolition of human slavery must spread to the abolition of the enslavement of the environment. No longer can convenience and comfort come at the price of suffering for humans, animals, and the natural world.

And what about that oft cited need for the revolution in the human heart? We can see it now as coincidental with revolutions in technology, economics, politics, and agriculture. It's happening now, all around us. We can turn a blind eye to it or we can embrace it. Either way we are a part of it.

Monday, May 21, 2012

What Does "Healthy" Mean Anyway?

The so-called health care debate reveals some pernicious and redundant tendencies in American society. Much todo is made about the insurance companies that reap 33 cents of every "health care dollar" for themselves while denying coverage and denying claims. The USA has the most expensive health care system in the world we are told (and some say the best) and yet we rank #35 in the overall health of our citizens. Progressives want a "single payer plan" while others shudder at the idea of a government run plan even as they sign up for medicare.

But is this really health care? What the brouhaha is really all about is medical expenses. Or more precisely the medical expenses largely incurred as a result of living in modern industrial society, i.e. , car crash injuries, chemical exposures, cancers, obesity, lung diseases, liver and kidney diseases, brain damage, and the largest category of course which is mental illness. In other words, the treatments which require extensive and expensive intervention through drugs, surgeries, and the services of health care professionals are actually the fallout from living in our dysfunctional and unsustainable society.

What if we decided to limit our participation in this madness? Or better yet to create a new society? What if everyone simply refused to pay their premiums, resigned from their employer's plan, or otherwise disengaged from giving the insurance companies any money? What if every medical fee was negotiated one-to-one between doctor and patient? What if entire neighborhoods got together and hired a physician keeping her/him on retainer? Fact is, there is a plethora of re-inventions we could choose from that would probably not be perfect but certainly an improvement over the status quo.

The big re-invention would be those modifications to life-style that could so improve the health of the people as to make medical treatments a rarity. Recognizing  that the human being is an amalgam of physical, psychological, and spiritual energies that require balance and equilibrium in order to function properly is what the alternative health movement is all about. One treatment for smoking is for instance not a patch, a pill, hypnosis, or any kind of outside intervention other than a lesson in yogic breathing. A full 90% of our health issues could be effectively addressed, if not entirely cured, through yoga. Even a pared down simple form of meditation called Transcendental Meditation has been shown to significantly reduce hospitalizations for heart, lung, liver, kidney, pancreatic and nervous system disorders. All for ten minutes a day!

Being strong physically and spiritually is what is going to get us through the coming hard times. We have a lot of work to do and we'll need a solid practice of self-healing if we're going to make it.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Ancient Practices and Future Realities

We live in a society that uses 10 calories of petroleum to produce 1 calorie of food. We face a future with depleted oil supplies. And we continue to drive to fast food stores. Our comfortable lifestyles are slowly getting more and more uncomfortable, but we continue on like it really isn't happening. Cognitive dissonance is so over-rated.

I read somewhere that a frog dropped in hot water will jump out immediately, whereas a frog placed in a pan of slowly heating water will remain until boiled alive. I don't know if that is true and I have no desire to torture frogs to find out. But it is a rather apt analogy for our current civilization.

I live in upstate New York. A recent study revealed that if all available farm land in the state was utilized 67% of the population would eat. The other 33% would starve if the necessary food stuffs were not imported.

This leads me to one conclusion. A local food production system isn't just a good idea. It's a necessity. When I go to the farmers market here in Glens Falls I'm engaging in a practice that's as old as human society. I trade wampum for food. It's also a trip into the future, our future. I hope you're living it now and not waiting for a famine in the mid-west to teach you to support local agriculture.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Once I lived in Maine

A few decades ago a man lived in the woods in an economically declining area of Maine. He found an old abandoned house on a place called Appleton Ridge and with his few possessions he moved in. The next day he went around knocking on doors to find out who owned the house. He was directed to a trailer wrapped in plastic that sat on a barren patch of ground along the paved road west of Liberty. The man who owned the house was Willis Ladd. When the stranger asked Willis if he would sell the house, Willis said,"$500.00, and it comes with five acres and a sweet water well that's always high and cool even in the hot of summer." The stranger counted out 25 twenties and handed them to Willis. "It's yours," said Willis as he scratched something on the deed and handed it to the stranger.

The house was in the middle of a vast forest of second growth trees that had sprung up since the abandonment of farming in that region some ninety years ago. The population had shrunk to a minuscule size as children had grown up and gone to the city leaving the old people to carry on. The animals had returned and marten, fox, fisher, otter, deer, rabbit, grouse and pheasant roamed the woods. And black bear.

As was his custom in the evening, the stranger read by the light of a kerosene lamp. He was sitting on an old crate with the open book turned toward the light when suddenly the door to the house burst open. A large black bear stuck its head in. Before the man could move the bear shuffled into the room and stood up towering over him. The man did not move.

The bear lowered itself and proceeded past the man into the kitchen. Following its nose the bear tore the kitchen apart eating every scrap of food available. The man edged away from the scene and climbed the narrow staircase to the loft where he kept a rifle. He loaded the gun and stood quietly gaining control of his breath, slowly inhaling and exhaling. He heard the bear rampaging around below for a while and then it became quiet. The bear was gone.

The next day he fixed the door which had been torn from its hinges and set a bar across it.

Several days later a hunting party from New Jersey passed the man's house. "We're looking for black bear,"one of the men called out to the stranger, "Seen any around here?"
"Not around here," replied the stranger, "Been decades since bear roamed these woods."
The hunters gathered around their four wheel drive vehicle, conversed briefly, then left.
The bear and her two cubs watched from a thicket in the woods.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Day the Music Died

I saw a copy of Rolling Stone Magazine yesterday. It's interesting that this magazine was originally a child of the sixties, an advocate of the counter-culture, and a voice for revolution. It's since become an organ for the broadcast of conspicuous consumption and a kind of moving wax museum of that fossilized version of music known as Rock and Roll. It's pop cultural emphasis makes it, not withstanding the occasional revelations of investigative journalists, a perfect example of how our civilization can co-opt just about anything that opposes it.

Rock and Roll is now an institution. It has no relevance at all to revolution although it's quick enough to don the attire of revolution, do the posturing, and charge $75 a ticket. And that last part ($75per) has lots of people still putting their faith in it.

If we look at the changes in music that occurred between 1930 and 1970 we can trace how revolutionary zeal emerged out of pop culture. For the period from 1970 - 2012 we can see that the idea of revolution has been hollowed out and given a hall of fame in the mid-west, almost like a cemetery plot where the ghouls dance the night away. We can also see a great deal of innovation going on in the period before 1970. And since then? Other than a few Baroque masterpieces like Pink Floyd's "The Wall", the forms have become so tired and vapid that even that muddled outreach from the ghetto known as rap can't give it a pulse. Teenage music played by middle aged hipsters. And today's teenagers find a voice in pre-1970's music, but no voice of their own. At least not a voice with the form and substance needed to survive the quicksands of loudness, self-indulgence, and bad lyrics.

So why we might ask does anyone continue to bother with such a moribund art form? Too many of us are not living in the Present. Too many of us have grown attached to the idea of fun and rock and roll while failing to notice that the world has moved on. Our attachment to the past offers us no clue on how to deal with the present and the future. Rock and Roll has long since sold out, but it's kept a finger on the snooze button for a lot of us.

Rock used to be about innovation and revolution. Really.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Weight-loss Celebrities in an Addictive Society

It's a weird culture. Self-indulgence is so common that anyone who can break the habit becomes a minor celebrity. Weight-loss is a huge (no pun intended) phenomenon. Someone spends years deeply immersed in a cycle of food addiction. Remarks about "fat people" are taken as personal insults and anyone who makes them is lacking compassion. Never mind that the subject of this comment may have an issue with regards to self-respect. The fault now lies with the commenter for being insensitive. Internal problems are externalized. Obese people are the victims of a readily available supply of fattening foods. The purveyors of these foods are responsible not the consumers. If they make their children fat by feeding them these foods, again, the purveyors are responsible.
And so if someone escapes this cycle of disavowal and victimization the path to celebrity-hood is opened wide. That may be because for every story of an obese person losing 200 pounds,  a million stories of heart disease and diabetes are reported as statistics. And while I applaud anyone who wakes up to the responsibility of taking care of his/her body my concern here is the million. For if we make one in a million a celebrity for doing what the entire million should be doing anyway haven't we really made the exception that proves the rule. The celebrity's story is dramatic. It's "inspirational". It speaks to everyone telling us that we can all do it. And it's utterly false.
For the million struggling with weight issues there's another million who are not. None of them will ever become celebrities for recovering from obesity because none of them are obese. They won't get any recognition for doing what it is incumbent on every human being to do, i.e. take care of the gift we've been given. Only if that gift has been despoiled and brought to the brink of ruination does the story become noteworthy. And it goes without saying that only a very few of those stories can ever occur or how else will our celebrities remain special. They must be kept in that special class of people who have "turned their lives around" by exchanging one set of compulsive-obsessive behaviors for another. And on a subliminal level everyone, the obese and the thin, knows the truth. The causes of our obsessions and addictions can never be addressed by changing the window dressing. The tail doesn't wag the dog.
Frankly, I'm unimpressed with these tales of miraculous turnarounds. All I see is people cashing in on doing what they should have been doing all along anyway. Something, incidentally, that a lot of us have done every day for most of our lives. Am I to be accused of being insensitive for not hanging on every word of someone's weight-loss tale because I know of so many other much more compelling stories of loss and grief, and triumph and joy? Stories that don't start out with massive amounts of self-indulgence. I believe it may be better to establish a culture in which the crucial question is asked; Why does self-indulgence get the better of so many people? Why is addiction such a prevalent phenomenon in our society?
I see addiction as the illusion of separation. Whether it manifests as obesity or heroin use (or greed for money) is of no consequence. Except to note here that were half our population addicted to heroin, drug addicts might be getting more compassion than they currently do. Once we've convinced ourselves that we are separate our choices become our own and we can proceed to make them under the guise of victims. And as victims we need not worry about accountability. We are exonerated from addressing how our choices feed into the greater connections of our lives. We "manage" quite well in some cases, but in the end the devil will get his due. The real heart of the matter is to know the true self. And while there are huge numbers of life coaches out there who say they will help us do that the real work can only be done by us. Our spiritual connections to each other, indeed to everything, can't be understood and grasped by focusing on our how our bodies look to ourselves and others. Our cult of "attractiveness" isn't going to help us solve the enormous problems humanity faces. The luxury of not doing the real work that life on this planet requires is no longer affordable.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Simple Preparation for Post-civilization Society

The moon has a lot of people behaving crazily. But the most prevalent phenomenon is that mixture of anxiety and depression that's affecting so many. These are strange times. It's like we're all awaiting the arrival of an alien spaceship or Jesus or the end of civilization. I'm for the end of civilization scenario myself. While I think blowing up dams and power plants is a good idea, I'm really more of an armchair civilization destroyer than someone who is committed to doing the real work of saving the planet. After all, here I am typing on a computer.
I know I'm not the only one who senses the changes in the vibrational tone of this world we live on. This is 2012. This is what the "Great Change" looks like. On the surface everything seems copasetic but there's this seething caldron of energy that has been tipped over the planet. Before very long we'll see more striking evidence of climate change. We'll also see a reckoning for the looter class that has been stealing on such a grand scale. And while I say that blood will flow I also know that history isn't always on the side of the fair and the good. I do know that our chances of survival in a post-civilization society will be hugely predicated on how many friends we have and how well we get along with people. So as the world goes crazy it's important to remember to keep a smile on your face and a sharp eye out for the next person you can call friend.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Eating Meat and Mental Illness

At least one in four people in the US is experiencing some kind of mental illness, i.e. depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, etc.. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if the number were actually much higher.
We are what we eat. And what is the USA eating? Largely it's factory farm veggies with diminished nutritional value and meat. Lots and lots of meat. Hundreds of millions of chickens, pigs, and cattle fed the ground up bodies of other chickens, pigs, and cattle. That's how we got Mad Cow Disease. But I'm willing to bet we're getting even more.
These animals aren't living happy lives. And that is an understatement. Mother sows having their infants pulled away and left to gnaw on the bars of cages too narrow to turn around in. Have you ever smelled a hog farm? Imagine 20,000 hogs raised in an indoor facility of wall-to-wall hogs with a lagoon of hog waste right outside that drains into the local creek. It's Dante's inferno brought to the animal world.
Years ago I worked on a chicken factory. Tiny cages, big chickens. I also worked for a mid-western farmer who fattened cattle with corn and di-ethylstilbestrol, the female growth hormone (a known cancer-causing agent) outlawed but still in prominent use throughout the meat industry.  The animals have more of an idea of what's going on than most people realize. They know they're in a tortuous prison awaiting a death sentence. And their suffering is real.
Neuro-science has established that memories aren't just stored in the brain. In fact, our memories are stored in the tissues of our bodies. It would follow then that the nervous systems of animals are the same.
The implications here are obvious. Eating the slaughtered remains of animals that have known suffering their entire lives is nothing short of ingesting that suffering on a cellular level.
Now I'm sure there are numerous reasons for the suffering of the American people. It's a neurotic, materialistic, compassionless society we inhabit. But it's blatantly obvious that this kind of suffering is neither necessary for nutritional nor health reasons. We don't need to eat meat to survive. We can enjoy vegan and vegetarian cuisine. And in the process many of us will discover amazing capacities within ourselves. And that can only lead to a better world for ourselves and the animals we share it with.