End of the lie

by Aleigha, high-school student by day and radical dreamer by night

“… and I can’t take it anymore, Aleigha. That’s why I’m leaving. I’m taking what I can carry on my back and my wife and I’m leaving.”

I think this is the first time he’s addressed me by name. There’s a sense of urgency in his voice that I’ve never heard there before; the weariness and loneliness of a big dreamer. My name suddenly sounds important — heroic even. Full of potential. The name of a hero in an epic novel or history book. Important. Powerful.


This is one of those moments isn’t it? The kind that will define you. That shows you how your life could look, if you would dare grow the ovaries to chase something else. One of the moments you can’t back down from.

Mike goes on. He’s really serious. He’s leaving his teaching career to become an organic gardener. He talks about peak oil, WWOOFing, his wife, couch surfing, anthropocentrism and freedom. This is one of those moments. And even though he only talks about how these things have impacted his life, I know that soon, I’ll be as crazy as he is. This is my first lesson in what is said best in a book called Endgame: “You can have the greatest excuse in the world, or you can have the world.” The man in front of me has chosen the former. And me? I’m getting awfully tired of excuses.

This is the first time in my life where a lifestyle in union with the earth seems like a realistic possibility. It is not, however, the first time I’ve considered such a life.

I’ve been a little strange my entire life. To use my father’s words, (and what better way to describe oneself than with the words of thine own creator?) I’ve always a bit of a “hippie.” Not that I was out protesting against big oil at the age of three, but there are dozens of tiny memories of me, hinting at the far left ideologist I would become. Watching Captain Planet, a show about Gaia the environmental super hero and eco-terrorists fighting against companies polluting the planet. Day dreaming of being an anthropologist — although I didn’t know the word yet — taken in by the tribe she was studying. My first crush and I discussing the horrors of animal abuse during free time in our second grade classroom. My third-grade teacher telling our class that oil was a fossil fuel, explaining that it means that it will eventually run out. Being hopelessly confused about my church being on the side against gay marriage when I was no older than eight or nine. I didn’t talk about these little moments, nor did I bother to explore them too deeply. They were just thoughts, a small part of me no more significant than my love for Disney shows.

And then came high school. Second semester of freshmen year, I would meet Mr. Lance Huffman. He was teaching my Advanced Freshman English class, had an excellent speaking voice and loved to use it. I thought he was the smartest person in the world. He talked about social justice, white privilege, Columbine, the Holocaust, the singularity, and he even occasionally talked about English. Above all things, he taught me to question everything. I never spoke in his class, honestly I found his wisdom a bit intimidating, but he changed me for the better. Put the passing thoughts of my childhood on a more direct course.

Sophomore year I joined our campus’s unity program. My thoughts on the first meeting were literally “I hope they talk about the stuff Huffman used to rant about.” They did. I was still quiet, observing, but I loved every moment.

The club I was in was responsible for a camp called Unitown. It was literally indescribable. I was forced to confront the world as what it was: Terrible and wonderful and complicated. I allowed the movement of social justice to swallow me whole. I met some of the most amazing people I ever have during those few days. One was a speaker named Calvin Terrell, the camp director who would touch my heart in a way no one else has ever come close to. Sabre, a person who would force me to get over the few bits of remaining Homophobia. But the two that are most relevant to this essay are Mike (we called the teachers by their first names at camp) and Yordano.

So we find ourselves again in our hook. I am a fifteen-year-old questioning my belief in a Christian god — or at least pretending to question my belief in a Christian god. I go to the one adult I know who is an atheist and ask his opinion on the matter –or rather look to him to tell me that it is okay to use my mind in matters of faith.

Enter Yordano. I share with him the adult’s plans, and we relish in the glorious dream of freedom. Over the past year and some months, this young man has become one of the most important in my life. My anam cara, a soul friend capable of awakening the fullness and wonder within me. The adult may have handed me the map to the Rabbit Hole, but Yordano holds me up in Wonderland. Helping me explore this new world as vicariously as a child. Keeping me from imploding on the days where I find my core to be a vacuum, sucking in all of the world pain and certain doom until it begins to suck at my own edges.

The summer between sophomore and junior year and into junior year, I begin to read more than I ever have in my life. Quinn mostly. Ishmael, My Ishmael, The Story of B. Some less radical books on religion, and my first love, social justice.

I find myself in a bit of a slump. The world is a dark and scary place. Our culture is toxic. My family is uninterested in what I have to say on the matter and the only person who’s on my level is two hundred miles away. I’m back in the classroom — I talk now — and I have the adult to combat the feeling of isolation. It helps but it’s not enough.

If I do not find direction soon, I will self destruct. So I look harder than I ever have before and stumble upon something wonderful: Bali’s Green School. I cry at the beauty of the idea, and decide that this is the path I want to take. Until then, college, WWOOFing and a normal teaching career, until I can get away joining the staff in Bali, or somewhere else, at a school for children raised to live in communion with the earth.

It’s a wonderful dream.

But still, I struggle. I am the child of a culture driven by a tendency toward destruction, as is everyone I know and love. I try hating it. I try loving it. I try escaping it. Nothing works. For now, I am stuck here. Here, in this paradox of soft new cloths on a baby, and the enslavement of young women for the sake of affordability. Here in the place between promise of the open road, and the threat of a world inhabitable for my children. Here between the gas tank and the gun.


I love my life. I hate the way I’m living it.

I lay beneath a tree. I do not know its name, so I cannot share it with you. I can tell you though that it is magnificent. I listen as the wind rustles through the leaves. A very beautiful man once told me that this means the tree was whispering.

“Do not deny me, Cousin” I can almost hear. Cousin, if you go back far enough we share a great grandparent somewhere, a simpler plant that would later evolve in one direction toward treedom and animal life in another. “Use me as needed, shelter, paper, company, but do not deny me. Do not deny my right to live upon this earth beside you, Cousin.”

I feel a crawling on my feet. Apparently I am close to some ants. I see this as my cue to stop bothering them. I flick the few that have begun to crawl on me off, remove my sandals and run. Barefoot. Feeling the earth beneath me and wishing it were an accidental clearing rather than a golf course. For now though, it’ll have to do.

I love my life. It’s time to start living better.


This essay is permalinked at Island Breath.

Comments 104

  • Wow…I have plenty to learn. Thank you for sharing all the pain and joy of the dilemma within in many of us. This time the student has taught the teacher…again.

  • “The Gene” made them do it….made them stupid…. made them do wrong things over and over again and, yes, feel good about all of it.

    ‎The Gene is responsible for pathological arrogance, malignant narcissism, extreme foolhardiness and immoral cleverness. It looks like The Gene is responsible for all irresponsible behavior, too.

    The Gene is responsible for human selfishness. Now that is a good one! The Gene is also responsible for ‘the bridge to nowhere’. HA!

  • Thanks for the thoughtful essay. Everything is a teacher, to the extent that one is qualified as a student: the preparatory work can vary. Much of the knowledge about the environment in “primitive” tribes was gained by “students” whose preparatory work evolved pari passu with the knowledge and deep insights over millenia. So much of that has disappeared that could have eased the imminent regression from present conditions.

    The understanding of human nature that has been innate to the species and manifest in the interactions of individuals has been obscured and opacified with the changes imposed by agriculture and industrialism. It will have to be reacquired at some cost.

    I lay beneath a tree. I do not know its name, so I cannot share it with you.

    What Tree is That? Online Edition

  • Very nice post. Well done. Your writing belies your age.

    One alternative perhaps you have not considered – at least not in the above post. What if you don’t finish college? And what if you do, but can’t get a job due to a crashing economy? What can you do now that litigates such a scenario?

    Are there skills you might learn now that will benefit you when Collapse has you in its grasp? WWOOFing seems a reasonable start for a young person like yourself. I wouldn’t count on getting to Bali unless you can do it in the next couple years.

    It would be good to see more of you on this site. You seem intelligent, sensitive and open to new paths.

    Fifteen….good God!…Was I ever fifteen? Surely not! I’ve always been an old fart.

  • What if you don’t finish college?

    From my perspective, one should focus on what would be valuable post-collapse, whether or not one finishes college. It would have to be something where the knowledge and skills acquired can be applied in a relatively low-tech situation.

    Advanced degrees in early Greek literature, astrophysics, electronic engineering, neurophysiology or such will offer little opportunity for realization of their full potential; basic degrees in plant physiology, metallurgy, civil engineering, etc. may provide valuable skill sets for the post-collapse setting.

  • Reading this post, gave me an idea. This is going to be the really short version, cause we have stuff to do, but why can’t we use NBL as an organizing point to do something with these kids that really want to learn, and figure things out. What would happen if we were to organize a summer where a kid or pair of kids would travel from NBL’r to NBL’r. Stay at each spot for a week, and then move on to the next NBL’r. The kid would come out of the experience with knowledge you can’t learn from a book. A woofer is stuck in the same place for a long time and how much pulling weeds and turning compost. Kathy for chickens, Randy for working with horses, we have greenhouse, seed starting, forest gardening. I could see this as we could each get someone for a week, and then on they go to the next destination, they would have to blog about all they learned. From our stanpoint to get one of these kids at the end of the journey, and learn from them would be amazing, kind of like amabassadors of the bottle neck. The beauty of the system is that you have them for 5 days if you don’t like them or they don’t like you then it’s not a whole summer. If you get along really well, then perhaps you could do something longer term as others have discussed here.

  • Kathy and Randy, I didn’t meant to volunteer you for something, it was just examples.

  • Fifteen….good God!…Was I ever fifteen?
    Those who are lucky enough (not all are!) get one chance at it. Once used up, it is gone, although I wish I had a second chance at selected years, particularly fourteen.

  • Powerfully written.

    I do agree with the others who question your decision to go to college – if you are in England, or another such country that heavily subsidizes education, that is one thing, but if you are in North America, it is something else entirely to come out of four years of ‘education’ eyeball deep in debt, and try to make a start in the world. There are other ways to learn. Now, I say this as someone who did go to university, and does not regret the experience at all, but I also put off a lot of things because of my debt, and have now missed out entirely on some experiences.

    Best of luck on whatever path you choose to walk!

  • Magnificent.

    Do not stop listening to the trees.

  • I feel like I should clarify, I’m 17 not 15. I met Mike when I was 15 and that’s when I started to really explore the idea of WWOOFing. That was toward the end of my sophomore year. Throughout last summer and most of junior year is when I did most of my research. Now I’m 17 and still learning.

    I’ve gone back and forth with the college plans. Right now, it looks like I will be attending a university. Bali is more of a wild dream, but if the infrastructure hangs on long enough I would like to try to perhaps get started on education reform in the states. Perhaps organize a green school copy cat somewhere stateside. Perhaps that’s equally unrealistic, but I need to feel as if I’m perpetuating the message. I know I won’t change most of the people I come in contact with, but a=I may change a few hearts. This plan is highly tentative though. Like I said, I’m 17. I can’t decide what kind of peanut butter to buy most days. I may try WWOOFing full time for a few years, I may stick with the plan I’ve mentioned, I might do something else. Hell, I might wake up tomorrow and decide I want to become a marine (I highly doubt that though).

    Thank you everyone for the kind comments :) and Robin for the website!

  • Ed, I would think someone would learn more by doing a summer internship at a CSA. Google “summer intern csa” and a bunch of opportunities come up.

    When I work in the garden, I seldom ever go out knowing what I am going to do. I just walk around and see something that needs doing and do it. Its not a highly task oriented way of working and I have no clue how to teach it. But it works for me.

    As for chickens, the tasks keep changing all the time. One week, depending on time of year, might have nothing more to do than toss out scratch.

    Thus I think a summer long stay with a family that is growing food for sale and livestock would make more sense. Cheaper too than running around the country using up fossil fuel.

    As for me, surely Ed you have noticed what a cranky old woman I am. I would hate for anyone to have to work and learn from me for a week. :)

  • Aleigha,You Are Not Alone

    I talk to many people;young,old rich,poor,white, educated,uneducated

    Mexican,Black,ect.Everyone I talk to says our society is bad.One of my favorite lines,which I use in reply to those who tell
    me one more horror story,is “we live in a decadent society”.The replies I get back go something like this,”Frank,you don’t know the half of it”.

    It’s evident that the feeling of unease,that there is something very wrong in our society,is universal.

    It would not take much to convince these souls that they should change direction in their lives.Many already have.Many more will do so.Be their
    teacher.Be their inspiration.

    Do get to Bali.The areas where the Green Schools are located are bucolic and beautiful.

    Double D

  • Aleigha, you are a wonderful writer – you help restore my hope and faith in the young. Thank you for sharing your story.

  • Well sister, where the thinking of people like Jensen and Quinn fails is in their acceptance of the fallacy of “a lifestyle in union with the earth.” This is meaningless religious thinking. You will be in union with the earth soon enough, when you are dead and buried and the worms are devouring your corpse. In the meantime, life is by its very nature an act of violence against nature, an assertion of your will over the world, a violation of cosmic equilibrium. Taken to its logical conclusion, a believer in “a lifestyle in union with the earth” must conclude that life itself should not exist.

    Until every so-called hippie, primitivist or leftist fanatic understands this at the deepest philosophical level, they will be promoting fallacies that have no basis whatsoever in this universe. This kind of thinking is a suicidal memetic mutation which evolution itself will inevitably extinguish.

    A better way to think about these “doomer” issues is to realize that strife and struggle are baked in to the planetary pie; they are the fundamental facts of our existence which have driven life upward from microbes to mammals to cybernetic civilization. You simply cannot wish them away, though if for some reason this reality is too much for you, can do what many here apparently advocate and wish yourself away.

  • Suicidal Memetic Mutation….god I love their music! Thanks for the “shout out” StM.

  • Sean the Mystic or Cosmist or Death Star Dude or whatever- normally your comments can be ignored on the basis of their lack of any grounding in reality, but since you are admonishing a 17 year old who writes beautifully and has the courage to question everything in their world, I thought I’d retort to your last reply. You should not take this to mean that your last post has a basis in reality. I think it is utter bullshit. This retort is for the benefit of everyone reading your drivel.

    If you believe that life is an act of violence against “Nature” (leaving aside for the moment what you mean by Nature) you are making a choice to believe that. This is just one view among many possible ideas about the nature of being. To say that an organism is incapable of living in union with the environment in which it was produced is the true fallacy. It would seem likely that the opposite is true, otherwise, why would it be produced? Organisms adapt to their environments and establish equilibrium in them. Struggle, strife, suffering, violence, are all part of existence to be sure, but to claim them as the ontological ground for your distorted, masculinized, hyper-anthropocentric worldview is positively ridiculous. Human beings have lived in concert with their environments for the preponderance of our time here on Earth as a species, i.e. sustainably, i.e. “a lifestyle in union with the Earth.” The cosmos does not allow for any violation of equilibrium. All is included. It is a process, not a static state in which all change and balancing are concluded.

    You may live a life where you feel that your existence is the “assertion of will” over “Nature”. Not everyone feels that way. And please tell me, how did your “will” bring you into this world? How did you assert yourself at your birth? Do plants and microbes also assert their will in order to come into being?

    Aleigha, loved it. Rock on.

  • Robin,

    You are right to suggest that the pursuit of certain academic subjects will have more or less relevance post collapse. But be careful which subjects you’re willing to toss aside. Greek literature, for instance,holds within itself the seeds of democracy and the life of the free mind.

    “And are you not ashamed, Socrates, of a course of life which is likely to bring you to an untimely end?” To him I may fairly answer, “There you are mistaken: a man who is good for anything ought not to calculate the chance of living or dying; he ought to only to consider whether he is doing right or wrong.”

  • I’m just trying to decondition a young person from a kind of religious thinking that young people are often susceptible to. My contrarian posts here are an exression of my philosophy, which is that the world is adversarial at its core.

    Sorry, but I simply don’t buy your claim that human beings have ever “lived in concert with their environments,” ever! Where did you get that crazy idea?? We have been exterminating life and attacking nature from day one, but now we’re just a lot more efficient at it. If I do nothing here at my home but gaze at my navel (an activity I happen to enjoy), the plants and animals fairly quickly overrun my house and start taking everything I have — I have no choice but to assert my will and fight back. So people really need to let go of this crazy romantic notion that there is some peaceful equilibrium with the biosphere. There never has been such a state and there never will be, unless the biosphere is totally wiped out!

  • You are conflating “living in concert with their environments” with “living without killing.” The world is both adversarial and cooperative. I see no reason to believe it is one or the other. Such is the trap of duality.

    Read my post again. I think you missed the nuance. And you did not answer my questions regarding will.

  • “Do not deny me, Cousin” I can almost hear. Cousin, if you go back far enough we share a great grandparent somewhere, a simpler plant that would later evolve in one direction toward treedom and animal life in another. “Use me as needed, shelter, paper, company, but do not deny me. Do not deny my right to live upon this earth beside you, Cousin.”

    My point, stated much more poetically by Aleigha. Beautiful.

  • Sean the Mystic,
    I understand where your coming from in your arguement. I want to address your assertian that “A better way to think about these “doomer” issues is to realize that strife and struggle are baked in to the planetary pie; they are the fundamental facts of our existence which have driven life upward from microbes to mammals to cybernetic civilization”. I can’t say I disagree completely with you, if you look at our species, the most unique trait and the most usefull that we posses is our ability to make our enviornment adapt to us. However, the same trait that has brought us to the top of the foodchain, may now be the product of our demise. By “in union with the earth” I meant that i want to have a relationship with my planet. That I want to be able to take what I need from it, and that I want to gaurentee that it will be able to give back, not only to me, but to the generations that will come later. Our species cannot destroy the planet and expect to live on it. I want there to be balance.

    This may not be the best arguement to use, since you’ve made your opinion on Jensen clear, but this is the best thing I can come up with to explain what I believe my responsibily to my planet and my species is. He says that if one is to consume a resource, then that person then becomes resposible for making sure that resource lasts. If I fish for salmon, I need to make sure that I leave enough so that there are fish to catch tomorrow. If you get greedy and decide that every day of this year should be a feast, you set yourself up to spend the next year without food.

    Thanks for sharing your disagreement though. I would rather have someone make me explore my decisons fully than someone afraid to crush my childish hope.

    Pickle, thanks for backing me up and for your compliment.

    Priviledged, be nice.

  • Seriously, great band…or band name.

  • Aleigha, ignore the Sean Cosmist dude. He raves and rants and never quite goes away.

    Thank you for your eloquent story. How do you figure you will live differently?

  • Vera, I’m still getting that worked out. Right now, WWOOFing is the first step. I eventually want to work my wat up to have my own place (or a place with some of my like-minded friends), but the problem there is that I need to find I real job so I can afford startup costs (assuming that by the time I know what I’m doing, the infrastructure is still intact enough to require such things).

  • Kathy you might hate it, but they might just love it. Learning from a CSA? It’s not the same focus as NBL. I know alot of good people that have large CSA’s, up to 1,000 members. They keep buying larger and larger machinery. I don’t think that is sustainable, nor what we are all about.

    Sorry Sean, I’m not letting go of my crazy romantic notion. In those rare instances when it happens, there is nothing else like it. Probably sticking with your navel is best.

    DD, I hope you are correct about the areas where The Green School is located. I spent alot of time in Bali in the early 80’s, mostly in Kuta and Sanur when the roads were still cobblestones and you could get magic mushrooms on your pizza, but did get up into the mountains, and they were splendid. My kids were just back from visiting their mother who runs a high end travel agency in Kuta. Looking at the pictures, well to say we fucked that place up is an understatement. It’s a bad version of Ocean City, MD.

    Aleigha, Native Americans considered every action that they took, from the standpoint of the next 6 generations. Get The Way of the Human Being, I think you will enjoy it.

  • pickle, I don’t really understand the relevance of whether or not birth is an act of will. I’m just looking at the big picture and trying to explain why we shouldn’t despair or get hysterical about the prospect of “doom”. Doom is creative as well as destructive. We’re only here because an asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs; civilization arose from climate changes; new civilizations and technologies emerge from the ruins of the old ones all the time. What looks like apocalypse is often the birth pangs of something better.

    Another way to look at it is, great stories like Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, or historical dramas like World War II are interesting precisely because there were powerful, evil adversaries like Sauron, Darth Vader and Hitler. Without them, how interesting would stories about hobbits in the Shire or Luke Skywalker on Tatooine be? James Lovelock said something similar about global warming, that just like World War II was a big adventure once it got started, climate change is going to be fun! The point being, a perfectly balanced way of life is not only impossible, but it would be incredibly dull! So I welcome “doom” as an opportunity for heroism in a world that is all too lacking in great challenges.

    If you think it’s been all downhill since we left hunter-gatherer tribes, I don’t know what to say except, why stop there? Why not conclude that it’s been all downhill since the emergence of life on Earth, or since the Big Bang? I choose to believe that this process is taking us somewhere more interesting than where we’ve been, but I agree that it will probably be a rough ride. But a rough ride is probably exactly what we need!

  • Ed and all – here is one CSA farmer who I would recommend as a place to intern. I have met him and visited his farm. Harvey Harmon – a very genuine farmer and human being. http://www.stewardsoftheland.org/harvey.html

  • Its not a highly task oriented way of working and I have no clue how to teach it.

    Reminds one of what they say about medicine: those who can, practice; those who can’t, teach. 

    life is by its very nature an act of violence against nature, an assertion of your will over the world

    Intellection, dualist: rooted in the concept and perception of a separate “self”.

     If one has perused “The Mind of Clover”, one may recollect that in the final chapter it is pointed out that clover has no mind: it just grows and does all the things that are perfectly appropriate for clover. An enlightened person also does what is perfectly appropriate for a person, like clover guided by a mind. That mind functions in every way perfectly appropriate for a mind but without a sense of selfness and volition: the resultant axtion is known also as “non-volitional action” or “action fallen into”. Before enlightenment, chopping wood, carrying water: after enlightenment, chopping wood, carrying water. 

    a violation of cosmic equilibrium

    Into the Cool: Energy Flow, Thermodynamics and Life; with due acknowledgement that credit for  first mention on this blog goes to someone else, lest they take umbrage again. 

    a believer in “a lifestyle in union with the earth” must conclude that life itself should not exist.

    A belief in “a lifestyle in union with the earth” is superfluous when one has awareness of (beyond simple acknowledgement) of interdependent co-origination. 

    a suicidal memetic mutation

    The Great Death, “enlightenment” – the cessation of the sense of a separate self – the most difficult, and once accomplished, retrospectively the easiest “suicide”, was all but overlooked in the last blog post.

    “And are you not ashamed, Socrates, of a course of life which is likely to bring you to an untimely end?”

    An English translation, as far as I can tell. Was it translated by the commenter?

    world is adversarial at its core.

    Once again, dualist intellection. 

     I’m just looking at the big picture

    From outside it. The better option is to be a part of the big picture. 

    a perfectly balanced way of life is not only impossible, but it would be incredibly dull!

    Depends on one’s view of perfection. Every perceived imperfection is but a part of the whole. And the whole is neither perfect nor imperfect, unless conceptually reduced to less than a whole and then measured against something else in a greater whole. 

    Titillation is an antidote to ameliorate the disorder called incredible dullness. As tolerance to this antidote builds up, one seeks  to live in interesting times, creating them when necessary when. There is no dullness to those without the blinders.

  • Sean,
    Wow. That is a very interesting way of looking at the world. Dark, but interesting. It’s true that time of pain produce the most beautiful stories, works of art, etc., because we’ve evolved to work better under pressure.
    That doesn’t mean I think we should persue the future without caution. It’s some scary shit. I feel as if we should try to avoid as much pain as possible, because it’s only a good thing in hindsight. And no, there’s not such a thing as “perfect balace” but there is such a thing as sustainablitly. We are not within that realm.
    I’m a little confused though. I’m assuming you take a pretty egocentric view on morals when it comes to your duty to your fellow man and animal. Do you think that there is nothing immoral about how far we have pushed the planet? Do you believe that the system is going to collapse? Do you believe that it should? Or do you have some sort of alternative vision/hope?

  • Pentagon: “Budget cuts could force a return to the draft”


    According to Stars and Stripes, July 14, 2011 http://www.stripes.com/news/cartwright-budget-cuts-could-force-a-return-to-the-draft-1.149228, the Pentagon is considering reintroducing the draft as a cost cutting measure.

    I sincerely hope the US returns to the draft.

  • The dreadful confusion and misery of the robotic homo sapien superficial life. Entertainments like education, religion, spiritual and all of the superstition paralyze the senses of its natural intelligence.

    Thinking can only percieve fragments, it is limited in capacity to see the totality of consciousness. The whole Freudian psychological analytical world, psycho-therapeutic unconscious and conscious division.

    Thinking only continues its own illusion, creaton of time, confusion, conflict and the rest of it.

    So may it be.

    S may it be.

  • Thinking can only percieve fragments, it is limited in capacity to see the totality of consciousness

    It is not an object to be seen or perceived in any way. It is even beyond subject, antecedent to the differentiation of perceiver, perceiving and perceived. That antecedence again is a projection to conform to the timespace limitations of this universe.

  • The USA doesn’t need the draft to fill slots in its global naked agreession military machine. The jobless “recovery” does that quite nicely on its own.

  • Victor,

    Reading “Stars and Stripes” will rot your brain. I know it did mine.

    Michael Irving

  • Who cries out their outrageous and unsustainable demands that the status quo be maintained at any cost, come what may for the children?

    Who keeps watch over the garish, fun-filled destruction of the world we borrow from the children without so much as whispering (much less speaking out loudly and clearly) about necessary changes toward sustainability?

    The children’s future is our red-headed stepchild, I suppose.

  • I sincerely hope the US returns to the draft.

    Amen to that. A draft Army retains its loyalties to the populace from which it is plucked: it does not have to acquiesce in the mischief foisted upon the people by the state. 

  • Aleigha,

    I thoroughly enjoyed your essay. So refreshing to hear from one your age. I notice that so often, the comments on NBL, mine included, tend to be quite fatalistic. It’s true that it’s hard not to be fatalistic sometimes when you’re aware of the truth, but that’s one of the beauties of youth: the ability to still see possibility and opportunity in spite of the darkness all around. It may not be founded in reality, but it doesn’t matter. I really believe that if we are to survive the bottleneck as a species (whether or not that’s desirable is a whole other discussion), we will have to have those who can dream the impossible and not be afraid to attempt it. That is the specialty of youth. Thanks for taking the time to share with us.

  • There is a very good chance that returning to the draft will also stop, or at least slow down, our thirst for waging war. It’s one thing to “support the troops” when it’s someone else’s son (or daughter). But when it’s your child who was on his way to medical school, or about to get married, or just starting a promising career, etc., then it’s a whole other matter entirely.

  • Sean

    ” In the meantime, life is by its very nature an act of violence against nature, an assertion of your will over the world, a violation of cosmic equilibrium.”

    You are so full of shit. You need remedial biology. Sorry if that sounds harsh but sometimes we need a whack up-side the head before we hurt someone (“but…but…I didn’t know ?!?!?”).

  • Aleigha, to echo Vera, Sean the Mystic also has the following blogs, The Cosmist, Comics Cosmos http://comicscosmos.blogspot.com/ The Doomer Report, The Singultarian, Other Gods, Omega League. He is not to be taken seriously. He often spouts different views from those previously held, sometimes under the same name, sometimes under one of his other names.

  • Sean

    ” In the meantime, life is by its very nature an act of violence against nature, an assertion of your will over the world, a violation of cosmic equilibrium.”

    You are so full of shit. You need remedial biology. Sorry if that sounds harsh but sometimes we need a whack up-side the head before we hurt someone (sean:”but…but…I didn’t know ?!?!? –
    Mother Nature, “Shhhhhh…ignorance of the Laws is no excuse, sorry, nothin’ personal” (she has way too many eyes and ears)).

  • Sean

    If you spin a color wheel what “color” do you see?

    If you stop the color wheel and stare only at the red, what do you see?

    Which color is violence, which love, which hope, etc ????

  • http://www.thestreet.com/story/11186657/1/us-downgraded-to-near-junk-by-weiss.html?cm_ven=GOOGLEN

    The new “C-minus” rating translates roughly to investment-grade ratings of “BBB-” at Standard & Poor’s and “Baa3” at Moody’s, both of which are one notch above junk status.

    The looming debt ceiling deadline in Congress and tortuous negotiations with President Obama, “not to mention the complete lack of any plan to address the nation’s obscene debt levels,” led to the rating action, according to Weiss Ratings senior financial analyst Gavin Magor.

    “Weiss Ratings made it clear that the only reason that the US was rated as high as a ‘C,’ two notches above junk, was that it had the complete confidence of the markets. This is no longer the case. Even Moody’s has warned the US this week that it may consider a downgrade,” Magor told TheStreet.

    Speaking of the debt ceiling debate, Magor said “the U.S. has debt and deficit problems whether or not the debt ceiling is raised. The excessive borrowing levels must be addressed urgently and until then the US cannot justify a ‘AAA’ rating [from the Standard & Poor’s], or frankly, anything close to that.”

  • navid, I don’t see how a whack upside the head would do anything but confirm what I said about the nature of life. Is is the Jain who try not to do any violence to any life forms? Noble idea, but have you seen the pictures of the rats overrunning their temples? My understanding of biology (which admittedly is based mostly on personal observation, not academic study) is that we kill countless microorganisms with every breath we take, and of course you can’t survive long without devouring formerly living things, so I stand by my claim.

  • You’re still conflating the two issues I mentioned before. You just don’t get it.

  • Ed

    Re: Kuta,Bali

    I agree with you about Kuta,it’s bad now.I had the misfortune to stay at
    Nusa Dua,which is way overcrowded also.However the Green School appeares to
    be in the more native area north of Denpasar,away from the tourist areas.

    Double D

  • Aleigha, thanks for the great, heart-felt writing. Your English teacher should be proud!

    You’re welcome to WWOOF with us if you find yourself drawn to British Columbia. Contact me through our website if you are interested.

    We are trying to form a bright spot in the gloom. Although I appreciate those who fight against the wrongs in the world, we prefer to work for the rights in the world.

  • Actually, Kathy, the Doomer Report has had some rather good pieces. Too bad the Cosmist can’t quite keep his sanity in other writings… ;-)

    Aleigha, do not put much faith in further schooling. Unless you go to some professional school teaching particular skills (e.g. doctoring) it’s highly overrated, and given today’s prices, not really worth it. Be a lifelong learner instead, and you’ll do better.

    As for places to intern at, may I recommend Possibility Alliance in Missouri? They seem to have a good grip on how to help people who are starting projects via crowdsourcing. Besides, they are an Amish-like farm that teaches self-reliance skills without asking an arm and a leg.

    Here’s to your adventure! :-)

  • I came across this video today and immediately thought about this piece and the conversation here. Not wild. Not domesticated. The space in between or something else. Whatever the case, the presence of a functioning food chain/ecosystem co-evolving within a system of human agroforestry is to me, an example of humans living more closely in concert with their environments. And is exquisitely beautiful too.


  • Jan Vera and Pickle,
    Thanks for the recomendations :) I’ll look into theese places, and if I like what I see, I’ll make contact sooner to my departure date.

  • nice video pickle, thanks.

  • Vera, I have no doubt that sometimes Sean/Cosmist/Singulatarian/Doomer/Comic Cosmist writes some decent stuff, although I am not going to wade through his stuff to fin out. But those are all roles he takes on. We all take on roles in life. For example when one takes on the role of parent sometimes the role overtakes the person. When someone becomes a politician I think it is inevitable that the role overtake the person. But Sean’s role playing has it seems to me more of the playing in it. I suspect he is playing with us. Looking for someone new on the site to trap into futile arguments. Many of us just ignore him most of the time.

  • Sean,

    “My understanding of biology (which admittedly is based mostly on personal observation, not academic study””

    You do not need the formal ($$$) academic study, there are plenty of good sources for self-education.

    Just an FYI – you are looking through one eye, or have tunnel vision, however you want to say it. Violence is an integral part of life, but it is one part only – one sliver of the ying/yang sphere.

    If that is all you are looking for that is all you will see (it is always there and always will be there for you to visit, of fixate upon). But then you are wearing blinders, deliberately or by mistake. You will have a very narrow and misshapen view of life.

    About the microorganisms – you also Feed billions of them with every breath you take. Your body is an ecosystem for them, and you could not live without them. Mutualism vs parasitism … etc

    If you are so busy looking for violence you are overlooking the rest of the cycles, the many other mechanisms at work.

    Good luck to you anyway – or ” wishing you many future helpful and happy accidents”

  • Kathy — Yeah, he does seem to take on personas. He is looking for people to engage… yet, it seems like trolling also. In this forum, anyways.

    On the Orion forum, there were always people dropping in from some list of the fans of disembodied future “human” beings living in hard drives or something. I don’t know why they did not try to find a more congenial forum…

  • There is an answer that is wholesomely correct towards Aleigha’s fragments of life. It is an awareness that brings about total understanding instantly, timeless and effortless.

    It is the only solution to our coming catastrophe of humanity. It does not cost a thing, it does not belong to anyone and can only be lived. It is a different type of intelligence, a live dynamic experience of infinite energy. And it is already happening.


    May all beings be happy.

  • Navid, all that is called knowledge is not taught but self learned by those whom found Dharma.

    Dharma is a mere word to describe this state of being.
    What is observed is then theorized, regulated by laws of speculation and enforced among our suffering specie.

    But is beyond thinking, beyond knowledge, after all of mankind’s self-proclaimed wisdom of technology, it is all just a grain of sand in the universe of Dharma.

    What has man learned by primitive resonance of energy boasted as technology?

    So may it be.

  • It is a different type of intelligence, a live dynamic experience of infinite energy.

    The link provided is to a site that is exclusive, requiring “membership”: those who build such walls and dwell behind them fall far short of the teachings of the Buddha. The “Dharma” as understood by such cults does not touch the richness and variety of it’s connotations in the Sanskritic traditions. One would be well advised to steer clear of the confines of such exclusivism. 

    Intelligence, even of “a different type” is within the realm of cognition, based on the differentiation of experiencer, experiencing and the experience. Both Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism seek an awareness that precedes that differentiation. 

  • Robin Datta,
    This group is not exclusive to Buddhist, I do not promote any religion, dharma is beyond measurement of thinking.

    Please see our guideline, we abide in dharma.

    8 Morals or Asta Shil
    1. Do not discriminate against human beings on the basis of their
    caste, religion, gender, color etc.
    2. Do not humiliate the DHARMA by making comparisons of superior
    and inferior.
    3. Do not accept philosophical doctrines or principles that are
    4. Do not discriminate among nations by thinking of and treating
    them as enemies and friends.
    5. Give up the attempt to convert virtue into vice and vice into
    virtue and avoid exaggerating, blaming and belittling others.
    6. Never practice the TEN NON-VIRTUOUS ACTIONS or other sinful
    7. Practice morality, concentration and wisdom, and dedicate your
    life to serve the nation and society.
    8. Attain the perfect Enlightenment, or, liberation for oneself and
    other beings.

    Ten Non-Virtuous Actions

    Bodily Actions
    (1) Killing
    (2) Stealing
    (3) Sexual Misconduct

    Verbal Actions
    (4) Lying
    (5) Divisive Speech
    (6) Abusive Speech
    (7) Idle Speech

    Mental Actions
    (8) Covetousness
    (9) Harmful Intent
    (10) Holding Wrong Views

  • 1. Do not discriminate against human beings on the basis of theircaste, religion, gender, color etc.

    But it is quite okay to discriminate on the basis of “membership” and to maintain a barricade against non-members:

    “Ram Bomuon – Dharma Sangha

    “You cannot view the group’s content or participate in the group because you are not currently a member.  Members must be approved before joining.”

    “You must be a member of this group to read its archive.”

    More power to y’all!

  • This is not my group, I am only a member wishing to help liberate suffering of all human beings. I have nothing to gain or lose.

    It’s a Google group, anyone can join freely. I am not the moderator.

    Ram Bomuon – Dharma Sangha is a young man from Nepali that has completed 6 years of continuous meditation, and living on prana alone and attaining pure dharma state of being.

    But the discussions are focused only on dharma, the cessation of all conflicts such as those that you are portraying.

    May all being be happy.

  • Attain the perfect Enlightenment, or, liberation for oneself and other beings

    Two variations of Hui-Neng’s verse:

    Originally Bodhi has no tree,
    The bright mirror has no stand.
    Originally there is not a single thing:
    Where can dust alight?

    There is no Bodhi-tree,
    Nor stand of a mirror bright.
    Since all is Void,
    Where can the dust alight?

  • This is not my group, I am only a member

    Membership in such a group speaks for itself.

  • Victor says:
    “I sincerely hope the US returns to the draft.”
    would he like to explain hisw reasoning?

  • Beyond knowledge is a state of being with infinite energy, it is a mind that is complete and free of reaction. Thinking is a movement of measurement, creating time and emotions such as prejudice.

    Dharma is an empty mind without any movement, the womb that receives infinite energy and the stage of mutation, the renewal eternal youth.

  • This is awesome. Robin and njon can keep each other going for days. It’s like a real-time koan as it evolves. KATSU! both of you.

  • pickle, It’s the essences of the male and female elements in operation. The male is generally aggressive, violent, dominating and the female is the quiet and gentleness.

  • Meanwhile the planet continues to deteriorate – even meat industry people can’t ignore it – from Meat and Poultry:
    “KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Tornados, floods, drought, wildfires…as people around the world shake their heads in disbelief at the natural disasters continuing to unfold in the United States, everybody is wondering…what’s causing this havoc?

    “This year’s weather thus far is most certainly unusual,” says David Salmon, meteorologist and president of commodity weather consultation business, Weather Derivatives, Belton, Mo. “The expanse of the extremes as well as the values, and the sharp contrast in extremes [wet/dry] make this year stand out from any other years.” ”
    full article at

  • I read the BBC article about the last undocking of a space shuttle from the International Space Station. It filled me with a sharp sadness (no, not the dull melancholy kind). I think, for me, it heralded, as much as anything has, the end of Empire. I remember sitting up all night in a neighbor’s home in Germany to watch the moon landing live on TV. I was amazed and proud that we, as a people, could have done such a thing, and what a crowning achievement it was for mankind. I was in the Army then, and filled with shit up to my eyeballs, so I admit that nationalism was a big part of the prideful feeling. Now here we are ‘one giant part man’s history but one small period in the history of man’ away from the original landing and already the US has given up its ability to send men into space. Now we Americans will have to beg for a ride from the Russians (nearly a failed state less than 20 years ago) or from commercial carriers. “Commercial carriers,” that’s what they call airlines and Greyhound buses. The end of Empire indeed, and I should be rejoicing in that, I guess, but instead there’s this feeling of sadness.

    Michael Irving

  • This civilization has been nice to those in the first world, but it has rested on the back of the third world. While we were achieving impressive ends, people all over Central and South America have been disappeared, tortured, and impoverished. I feel no sense of sadness at all about the end of the worst empire in history. Worst not because Americans are worse people, just worst because we had more power to do evil.

    While we were spending $20 billion to land on the moon https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_program#Program_costs_and_cancellation United Fruit was oppressing human beings south of our border to give us cheap bananas.

  • Not sad about the shuttle at all. Feeling relief. Time to lay that expensive conceit to rest.

    Those efforts are needed here on Earth, not on pie-in-the-sky human conquest of space. Shame we bought that bull in the first place way back when.

  • Martin

    RE: The draft

    I think it would be a good idea to re-establish it for a couple reasons. During the Vietnam War, the anti-war movement was so effective because most everyone had a stake in it – a brother, father, or son who could be conscripted at the will of the state. Today the US relies upon a totally volunteer army to do its imperial dirty work – wars and intimidation through threats of war. If wars are fought by volunteers, it becomes an almost invisible process to the people who have little stake in those wars. Americans have trouble remembering their government is engaged in wars today.

    A draft would make it very real to the people. A draft would bring back a real anti-war movement.


  • Victor, unfortunately you are right. The only way to get people really upset about our wars is to force them, or their sons and daughters into the military. I wish it were different. I read this the other day. The men and women who signed up rather than being drafted are apparently treated just about the same when they get home.

    “* More than 3,000 cities and counties reported 75,609 homeless veterans on a single night in January 2009. Fifty-seven percent were in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program while the remaining 43 percent were “unsheltered” – out on the streets.

    Veterans represent approximately 12 percent of the homeless counted during that time period, the report says, although veterans are only 10 percent of the adult population.

    According to HUD, over 1.6 million people were homeless in 2009.

    * During the 12 months of 2009, an estimated 136,000 veterans – about 1 in every 168 veterans – spent at least one night in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program.”

  • Not much noticed in 2010 but this from Munich Re (per wiki it is one of the world’s leading reinsurers)
    Full story at http://www.munichre.com/en/media_relations/company_news/2010/2010-08-05_company_news.aspx

    Munich Re has been analysing natural hazards and natural hazard losses for more than 35 years. For this purpose, Munich Re has set up the most comprehensive natural catastrophe database in the world, which currently comprises more than 28,000 events. It documents major events from 1950 onwards, all claims-related events from 1980 onwards, and the effects of natural catastrophes on individual economies, the insurance sector and the population.
    “Climate change cannot be identified from individual events but our figures, backed by verifiable changes in meteorological data, indicate a trend towards an increase in extreme weather events that can only be fully explained by climate change.”

    “The current state of knowledge leaves no doubt about the existence of anthropogenic climate change. Whether the current weather extremes are caused or intensified by climate change is uncertain, but there is considerable evidence indicating that climate change is involved at least to some extent.”

  • http://www.energybulletin.net/stories/2011-07-18/galactic-scale-energy
    On the implications of continued growth – a rather interesting read :)

  • KATSU! both of you.

    Could I have an order of fries with that? Supresized? 

  • Nice guest post. I suspect we all have our own awakening stories, but it’s more poignant when it comes from someone just entering adulthood rather than those of us in the middle or even nearing the end of life. If I knew then (when I was 17) that I know now (I’m 48), I suspect my options and decisions would have been quite different. Although I never wanted or expected to be a world-beater, that is nonetheless the most common aspiration, typically measured by one’s financial worth.

    What will prove most valuable in the coming years is a crapshoot, I fear, as instability and anarchy will deliver random and unpredictable dilemmas immune to best laid plans. That’s not an excuse for not taking steps; it’s merely my personal expectation that it won’t matter much in the end. The forces arrayed against us as individuals are too powerful. I’m a fatalist, which is probably not the best perspective from which to offer advice. Our guest writer doesn’t appear to be asking for advice, though. Rather, she’s telling her story, which is essentially being situation between a rock and a hard place, one foot inside the circle of industrial civilization while her heart longs to leave it behind. Working out solutions almost sounds exciting, and perhaps if I weren’t already so entangled in industrial civ I’d follow my heart into the wilderness, too. I suppose maybe it helps to have nothing to lose.

  • A volunteer Army has its loyalties channeled to a narrow group, the chain of command. A stioation that could emabl a military takeover, in which the Commander-in-Chief is President. A draft Army has its loyalties to it’s roots in the society at large, forcing accuntabity in actions at the highest levels. Upto this point in time, the President is Commander-in-Chief.

  • With heartfelt appreciation to Aleigha for the deeply thoughtful essay, I’ve posted a new essay by the inimitable John Rember

  • Aleigha is an amazing young lady. She is light years ahead of most 17 year olds(and I should add adults as well) and sees the world with a perspective that’s complex like the times we live in. Being resilient will carry Aleigha through the peaks and valleys that come with being aware of our plight. It’s sad that she has to carry this load at such a young age. When I was 17 I thought the world and myself were invinsible…maybe that’s what got us here?

  • Kathy/Vera,

    You are both right of course, and I understand the politically incorrectness of my response to it. Sometimes, and this is the point, I (probably not you, but me) am really saddened by opportunities squandered. It is hard to believe but four decades ago it seemed that things were turning and soon, as the song said, “the world will be a better place, for you and me.” You will say I was naive of course, as so many young people were, and perhaps easily manipulated. You could make that claim for me today, too. Back then, it seemed that joining the Peace Corps was not a bad choice, or working for civil rights, or any number of other liberal causes. It seemed that being drafted was not a bad thing either, but rather a duty, one our fathers had accepted, and a responsibility of citizenship. Currently we lament that many of today’s youth (certainly not Aleigha) are not paying attention. So it was with me then. I did not question enough. I was not critical or cynical enough. I knew things were wrong, but also that wrongs were being mended. I thought that we Americans, who had been given so much simply by being born in the right place and time, would become a force for good in the world and would be willing to share our bounty. The manned space program was a symbol of our capabilities as a nation. It seemed to signal that we had reached a level where anything was possible if we only put our minds to it. We turned our minds instead to greed, and war, and the destruction of the planet. Now we have begun to reap the whirlwind. The manned space program is simply one more brick from the collapsing wall of empire. My sadness was not for the foundering space program, but rather for the squandered opportunities.

    You, Kathy, are no less guilty than I, for keeping the jackboot of American Empire firmly on the backs of the third world. Either of us could have left at any time, renounced our allegiance (evident in our choices), and joined the struggle against “the worst empire in history.”

    Vera, for many, the “expensive conceit” could also have been characterized as dreaming big. It was a task we set ourselves, not unlike our efforts in World War II, or rebuilding Europe; a heroic effort meant to help other peoples. Or conversely, it was a self-serving aggrandizement, not unlike our efforts in World War II, or the rebuilding of Europe; meant to line our pockets and expand our reach as the dominant power in the world. Perhaps it was both, or neither. You choose how the history should be read.

    Michael Irving

  • njon, re. your 10 commandments list of prohibitions, u need to be more precise about some things like the ban on killing. is this meant to include a ban on killing to save oneself from being killed? is it meant to include other species, and if not, why not? not very scientific to place human life on a special pedestal given the scientifically established fact that all earth life shares similar dna and the same origin, making all species related. the past couple of days i’ve killed several flies, one or 2 ants, and maybe a couple of mosquitos looking to gorge on my tasty blood. i’ve probably killed several more insects unwittingly in going about my daily business. then there’s our immune systems, fighting infections, the body’s natural defense mechanism against microscopic pathogens, our miniature distant cousins. if we don’t kill them, they’ll kill us, it’s as simple as that.

    the prohibition that caught my eye most is the one against ‘holding wrong views’. that one’s a surreal hoot! could a prohibition possibly be any more vague/arbitrary, or more susceptible to manipulation by ruthless authoritarian charismatics? it’s a near perfect manifestation of cult-like thought or non-thought, extreme dogmatism, imo.

    being on/outside the fringe of conventional thought/’wisdom’ in this world attracts similarly fringed sheople with less scientific/skeptical minds. such minds abound, do they not?

    Membership in such a group speaks for itself. -r. datta, referring to njon’s membership in this cultish online group.

    robin, i think i detect a good deal more emotion in your recent comments, perhaps a good thing in your case. or perhaps not, for it’s near impossible for emotions not to be negative in one of great intellect and rationality in a world culture tragically dominated by dogmatic ignorance and irrationality. i suspect recent sharp criticism directed at u has upset u uncharacteristically.

    ‘Could I have an order of fries with that? Supresized? -robin again

    sarcasm and humor too. robin’s getting loose.

    ‘I love my life. I hate the way I’m living it.’ -aleigha

    unusual name: aleigha. anyway, i relate. i hate the way i live mostly, but feel i have little choice. we didn’t ask to be born into this insane asylum. we could kill ourselves, as was the topic of the last thread, or try to make the best of a difficult/impossible? situation. i suspect u harbor similarly ambivalent feelings. good luck with it. it’ll be hard in the face of collapse. u have the great misfortune of having to deal with this soon in your young life. older farts like me at least got to live most of our lives in a fool’s paradise of cornucopian dreams/delusions, in a world of unsustainable exponential expansion of human population and wealth. going from the space age of my childhood back to the stone age of your elderhood? surreal.

  • TVT,

    “Old farts…in a fool’s paradise…” That would be me, too. From the top of the pinnacle of civilization everything, in every direction, looks downhill. There are no good answers to our questions, “What the fuck?” and, “Now what?”

    Michael Irving

  • Privileged: I learned from the best :)

    Michael Irving/ TVT,
    It’s terrifying. Huffman (my English/History teacher I mentioned) has often told me that we live in the most interesting generation thus far. It sounds exciting, but is oh so terrifying.
    Also, I think if you really look at my generation, most of us do live in a nostalgic ‘fools paradise’. I’m not an old fart, but until recently I never had any reason to believe that I couldn’t become everything I wanted. I’ve been told how full of potential I was since I started school, put into all AP and adv classes for whatever subject they were offered in and did fairly well in them with little effort for the most part. I was supposed to go to college, study psychology or anthropology, get a high paying stimulating job and publish at least one book. So much potential. But that won’t happen in the world we face. It’s not too crushing to me, I’ve lived the kind of life that teaches you to be happy with whatever may come, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I had at least some pang of sadness at the thought. Less sadness as I come to terms with the idea that the falling of the empire that promised me the American dream will, in the long run, benefit the world in more ways than my individual success would, but still sadness.
    And TVT, I like my unusual name (it’s pronounced uh-lee-uh by the way some people have problems with it). It fits my unusual self.

  • Aleigha,

    Late to chime in, but I, too, am amazed by the grace of your writing and the utter lack of awkwardness of your self consciousness (i.e, the way you are conscious of yourself). As someone who works with many freshmen and experiences much joy but mostly frustration in their abilities and desires to think and communicate, I was doubly pleased after reading your essay.

    But enough praise! What about your future, young lady? :-)

    With my educator hat on, I have to admit that a college education may not be worth it these days. But a thought struck me last night — have you ever looked into a program at a college that lets you design your own course of study? (I know Will Shortz, the crossword guy did that at Indiana U). Maybe you could create a Doomer Studies/21st Century Real World Skills curriculum? There have been many discussions on NBL about what we think people need to know in the future — what if you got college credit?

    Maybe this a crazy idea — why pay college tuition to learn these things — but if you are going to college anyway…..

    I would warn you away from college completely but as a selfish thought, I think you would be a good influence on your peers.

  • Marianne, a child who has wasted (largely wasted) 12 years of life in a corral for kids, endlessly sitting, endlessly listening, endlessly catering to puffed up “experts” who hold power over them, do they need encouragement to waste more of it?

    There is life to be lived! No life lasts forever…

  • Michael, if only “dreaming big” had meant choices that would have been good for the Earth… When there was all that talk about the peace dividend 20 years ago, I thought… ok, let’s do it, finally! A big effort to make the planet a good place… well, I was still naive then…

    What the space program did was divert people’s attention from planet-side to futile notions of space conquest… no need to worry about overpopulation, we’ll be living on Alpha Centauri! No need to worry about the waste and depletion of resources, limitless space will provide! Such bull, and yet so many people believed in, even in the 70s…

  • vera, i second both your sentiments expressed above. the older i get the more i see formal education as a tool of empire to indoctrinate youth. it works in tandem with the law to segregate youth from ‘subversive’ influences. and the space program is/was human hubris on steroids.

    ‘on the days where I find my core to be a vacuum, sucking in all of the world pain and certain doom until it begins to suck at my own edges.’ -aleigha

    i’ve spent the past few hours immersed in the music and individual stories of the immensely successful american horn-based band chicago. here’s a video for u when u feel down. i don’t know why these guys never became as famous as the beatles, they were probably more talented. u can’t listen to this and not feel good:


    ‘Here, in this paradox of soft new cloths on a baby, and the enslavement of young women for the sake of affordability.’ -aleigha

    what was that??? an intriguing but exceedingly vague assertion crying out for either embellishment, or editing out of your essay.

    ‘until recently I never had any reason to believe that I couldn’t become everything I wanted. I’ve been told how full of potential I was since I started school, put into all AP and adv classes for whatever subject they were offered in and did fairly well in them with little effort for the most part. I was supposed to go to college, study psychology or anthropology, get a high paying stimulating job and publish at least one book. So much potential. But that won’t happen in the world we face. It’s not too crushing to me, I’ve lived the kind of life that teaches you to be happy with whatever may come, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I had at least some pang of sadness at the thought. Less sadness as I come to terms with the idea that the falling of the empire that promised me the American dream will, in the long run, benefit the world in more ways than my individual success would, but still sadness.’ -aleigha in comment just above.

    i think most sheople see their dreams get crushed one way or another before long. only thing to do is be philosophical and try to develop newer more surrealistic dreams to fit your present surreality. sounds as if u’re on the right path.

  • Marianne,
    That’s a great idea! I’ll look into that. And, of course, thank you so much for the compliment.
    Although I highly disagree with the way the school system works, I don’t feel that I have wasted my time at all and I don’t think it is wrong to encourage me to pursue my education. School worked for me. I was lucky, I was naturally predisposed to work well in the academic setting and I had teachers who managed to effectively help me develop my critical thinking skills. The two men I talk about most in this essay, would not be a part of my life had I not spent the last eleven years in school.
    We don’t live in a culture with one set of ideals or morals or what-have-yous, I feel like being educated in the way that I was allowed me to have a much broader understanding of the world around me and who I could become. The problem that a traditional (as in tribal not as in mainstream America) education, is that it prepares us to function best within our own clan. This would be great, if our clan was the group we were most concerned with functioning in, but sadly that’s not the case.

    Now, that’s not to say I disagree with parents who homeschool or even unschool. Some parents are completely capable of teaching their children what they need to know and probably do it way better than the schools can. I just know that that is not the situation I had available to me.

    I plan of furthering my education in an academic setting, because that’s how I learn best, I enjoy it, and I see it as a good way to meet like-minded and unlike-minded people, who will further my understanding of my place in the world.

    This is a vague summary of ideas that have been floating around my head for quite a while. If you have any questions, confusions, or counter arguments I’ll be glad to elaborate as well as I can, although that may not be very well because I’m still organizing my opinions on this one.

    Thanks for the music. For me, a good book or a good song are better appreciated than any thing else. The quote you took from my essay was an reference to sweatshops.

  • Well, Aleigha, if you want to sit in classes some more, years on end, by all means. I enjoyed some of it myself. I just think that the earth needs people that are connected to it, rather than books and words.

    Also, unschooling is not about having parents that are capable to teach their own. That’s home schooling. Unschooling is about the child learning within life, not within school. And children are quite capable of it.

    I don’t think it’s fair to contrast what I am saying with “encouraging you to pursue your education.” I am all for your continuing and lifelong education. I am just questioning whether pursuing it in the schooling system is not a one of those “decreasing marginal utility” situations?

    As for meeting a variety of people, there are many types who have essential knowledge for the future whom you will never find in that setting. In any case, what do you expect to get from more school? And will your parents (or you) have to go into massive debt to make this possible?

  • Aleigha,

    I was going to comment on the general flow of whether or not you should continue your education, however, everything I was thinking of saying you just said in your last comment to Vera. One small added note: The education system is bad for people in so many ways, both for students and educators, but it does have its positives, too. Your comment about ‘home schooling’ training you for a life within your tribe is spot on. While some parents may educate their children wonderfully, many are poor-to-horrible educators and the children suffer greatly from the experience; they are stunted and have a very limited vision of what is possible, constrained by the limits of only one (their parent’s) provincial viewpoint. Even if all your teachers were only mediocre, you would still have been expanded by a much broader range of experience, and there is always the chance of lucking out (as it seems you have) and hooking up with someone exceptional. More than pouring knowledge into your brain, an exceptional educator will open your mind in ways that allow you to ask questions about the world. Asking questions will lead you to the ideas of others and soon you become your own teacher, directing your own investigations into the world. If you ever get a chance visit the Library of Congress and look at the Thomas Jefferson collection, donated as a start-up at the Library’s birth. The size of Jefferson’s personal library, the range of subject matter, the number of languages he read, will all take your breath away. As President Kennedy noted at a dinner honoring Nobel Prize winners, “I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.” Jefferson never stopped learning. It sounds like you are following the same course.

    Michael Irving

  • Vera,
    Sorry if I wasn’t so detailed in part of my response. I was talking about the parents role in unschooling to the extent of them being willing to fully allow their children to pursue their interests. I know a lot of parents who discourage certain interests in their children. Although, I believe a parent who is unschooling in the first place is already ready to let their own desires be surpassed by their children.

    I do plan on furthering my education outside the school setting. Right now, the plan is WWOOFing in the summers school during the rest of the year. That way I’ll be able to meet the people I won’t meet in school and the ones I will.

    I mentioned in my original essay that I want to get into education and perpetuate the message there if possible. Hopefully eventually participating in some sort of Green School like the one in Bali, in not the same one. You can’t get into education unless you’ve taken your professional education so far. If that’s not what the future has in store for me, and I recognize the chances that it’s not, then at least I hope I take enough philosophy and psychology (my intended school requires these when going for an education degree) classes to better understand my own mind and enough English classes to help improve my writing. I also believe studying in anthropology (I plan to minor in it) with an emphasis on tribal anthropology may teach me a few things about living with the earth.

    Money is an issue I’m still trying to work out. But I’m looking for scholarships.

  • Aleigha, as far as I know there are three ways to become a teacher. One is to go to ed school. The other is to get a degree in what truly inspires you, and then either teach at a private school or get public school certification when needed. The third is to become someone who has done in the world what they are aiming to teach, and then either gets a private job or public school certification. I think only the last one avoids the trap of “teaching as regurgitation.”

    Ed schools are typically, though not always perhaps, the enclaves of people who really are not very able generally, and so they have gone into education. If you want to teach kids math, become a mathematician. Then apprentice with a gifted, inspired teacher. If you want to teach kids writing, become a writer… as you seem already on the way.

    The trouble with teaching… and I wish someone had discussed this with me years ago (I was a teacher for a couple of years once) is that schools are generally horribly conservative institutions (conservative in the bad sense of the word) which are under a lot of pressure to come off as fairly conventional, making no waves, no trouble for the prevailing points of view. In other words, they are bastions of the status quo. They have to be, in order to get the funds to run.

    There are very occasional exceptions, as Summerhill once was. — More than that… they are at the very heart of institutionalizing and bureaucratizing people. Is that the paradigm you want to further?

    You sound pretty radical to me. If so, schools are not likely to be environments where you will flourish. Just my five cents. :-)

  • my additional 2 cents, and a good book to go along with the earlier song, is DUMBING US DOWN, by john taylor gatto, a former n.y. state teacher of the year. this is a scathing denunciation of public schooling, and quite a provocative and brief read. written about 20 years ago, u should be able to get it via your public library. (of course, this pertains to high school and below, not ‘higher’ ed.)

  • i thought of another book passage in a similar vein by an author u’re familiar with, daniel quinn. his autobio titled PROVIDENCE is another surreally good book. as i recall, around pages 120-125 there’s a passage in which quinn gives his views on optimal education (community based and informal, vs. institutional/formal).

  • I’ll try to get a hold of both of those.

    I want to point out something that might seem contradict myself (to quote Whitman “I am large, I contain multitudes”) I do agree that a community based and informal education is the best thing a child can have. I also believe that a life in a tribal/community culture is the best setting a child can grow up in. The problem is that at this point in this culture it’s not practical. Not that anything in our culture is practical.

    I know how conservative the schools are, therein lies my fear and my aspiration. I want to change the system, but I don’t want to get stuck within it and only further my frustration with the world I live in.

    I’m lost. Here’s a great talk about where I want to go and what I want to do. The problem is getting there.


  • and this one too. This is about the green school I like to talk about.
    I literally cry when I watch this one. So beautiful.


  • Aleigha, I second Terry’s recommend. Gatto is fabulous, and I believe he published more recently something like “the underground history of education.”

    I listened to the two talks… and here are my thoughts, swirling in my head (at a risk of being a naysayer — I am trying to provide a variety of points of view, the kind your school counselor will never give you).
    The first talk was good, we need to go beyond reforms. Well, ok, but how?

    The Green School must be a lovely place for all those rich kids whose parents can spring for the fees. So are most rich-kid schools. But if you read through the various comments, another picture emerges. The man who did the talk is a businessman. It was PR for the school. He is shrewd, he wanted its greenness to distinguish his school in the marketplace, and to draw idealistic young people from afar to teach there. He is making a bundle, running his own construction company, and selling land for the rich ex-pats to settle on near the school. One of the comments said that the school is not thought of well amongst international school educators in terms of quality.

    But of most concern to me is… how does he treat the teachers? Does he pay them a living wage? Do they have any job security? There was only one past teacher who spoke up, and said that the owner fired them all after a year because he wanted British curriculum. Usually, it is true that private school pay is lousy and so are the benefits.

    The thing you gotta remember is, teachers are not in the business to do right by the kids. They are in the business of pleasing admins and owners. If they forget that — like the talented teacher in Dead Poets Society — they get sacked.

    The other thing is… shrewd people around the world understand the seductiveness of the green meme, and use it unscrupulously, in self promoting ways. I recommend always finding other people who have taught at the school or are still there, and getting the real scoop. Don’t get taken in by pretty speeches and websites.

    And, lastly, please don’t try to change the system. It chews people like you up and spits them out. Just look at all the eager beaver reformers of the past 40 years. All the hope and passion and good intentions, down the drain. The system thrives on people thinking it can be reformed! But if you look into its roots, you will find that it was never designed to do right by the kids. It was designed to keep urchins off the streets, and to crank out standardized serfs. And it’s still at it today. Now just because you’ve been luckier than most does not mean that this is not true by and large.

    Horace Mann, one of the founders of the American school system, made inspiring speeches about how the schools were to be a boon for democracy — but look deeper, and you will realize he had no such intentions. Yet people today still repeat his canards. What is more undemocratic than a school? But people trained in schools where they have no say are then inured to workplaces where they have no say. Argh. I could go on… I trust you will decide well for yourself eventually. Dreaming is good… but keep on exploring, keep on looking under the surface.

  • first, aleigha, a critique of your featured essay up top. i felt it needed a bit of editing/re-focusing and a good deal more embellishment. u mention several individuals who have inspired/transformed u with great enthusiasm, but then u leave me hanging by including virtually no details as to why or how. then there’s this:

    ‘until I can get away joining the staff in Bali, or somewhere else, at a school for children raised to live in communion with the earth.

    It’s a wonderful dream.’

    imo, this should have been much more emphasized, and u definitely should have included the link to the john hardy talk in your original essay. u need to paint a more complete picture of what’s most important. it doesn’t suffice to merely assert: ‘it’s a wonderful dream’. u have to show something about it that makes it so wonderful, to better connect with your readers and create empathy/understanding for/of your point of view.

    i give this essay a relatively low grade for the reasons above and more. i’m frankly puzzled why u didn’t want to share this wonderful dream of yours more fully with us. it’s certainly worth sharing imo. it impressed the hell out of me. that’s one remarkable story, this green school u stumbled upon. i’m very glad u belatedly provided a link to it, for i like to help fund such outstandingly worthy causes in my humble manner. i may have to watch the video again just to be sure, but the first overwhelming impression is deep empathy for this dream, and profound respect for those responsible and involved in creating it.

    i suspect money stands in the way of this dream u feel must be suspended for now, which may account for why u failed to elaborate more on it? afraid of coming across as asking/appealing for help in this regard? if so, why? isn’t your dream worthy?

    i think it is, if u’re surreally called to educate youth. this is another thing your essay lacked: any explanation/elaboration on why exactly u feel called to this profession, if indeed this is the case. i think u stated in your essay your main passion is social justice (it ranks high with me too). this raises the question of whether teaching is truly your calling.

    if u can convince me it is your calling i’d probably be inclined to try to help u fulfill this dream, for as i’ve already stated, i’m greatly inclined to empathize with it, and to try to help make it happen. i’m thankful to u for bringing it finally to my attention, and much more favorably/profoundly impressed by u as a result. i wouldn’t be surprised if i’m not the only one who feels this way either.

    u have to let your light shine more and achieve greater focus imo if u wish to fulfill this dream. do not postpone it if possible, for the more u do so, the further along will collapse have progressed, and doors which may previously have been open may shut permanently.

    ‘But still, I struggle. I am the child of a culture driven by a tendency toward destruction’

    life sure is complicated! to have such a wonderful dream in light of what’s happening in the world and likely to happen in the future… u have to know, and apparently do, that such dreams are subject to being crushed at any time. it may not be a question of whether but when the collapse of civilization makes all such dreams obsolete. however, this knowledge can serve to make it more poignant/urgent and perhaps thus satisfying to pursue.

  • i just read vera’s most recent post which was submitted while i was still in the process of composing my own just submitted. i must say i think all of vera’s points are very well made and serve as a good counterweight to rampant idealism. don’t get me wrong, i’m not suggesting abandoning your dreams/idealism, but it’s important to not get too swept away (as i am prone to do). u definitely need to do your ‘homework’ before making such a major commitment.