Identity crisis

Self-indulgence is only one of many advantages associated with having a blog of my own. In a rare attempt to avoid drawing further attention to myself, I’ll not list the others. At least, not now.

As regular readers know by now, I’m a lifelong educator. In fact, the most common insult hurled my way by anonymous online commentators is “lifelong academic.”

Ouch. That hurts.

In the hallowed halls, ego is everything. Indeed, it’s difficult for me to imagine a profession that selects, to a greater extent than academia, for a huge ego. Shepherding a single refereed journal article through the process of publication builds more callus tissue than swinging a pick and shovel for two years. Multiply by dozens of articles, hundreds of public presentations, and a handful of books, and you can begin to understand why the average academic has an ego slightly larger than hell and half of Asia.

Thirty months into a new life devoid of regular interaction with inmates and honors students, I’m having the sort of identity crisis described by Dmitry Orlov in his excellent book, Reinventing Collapse. According to Orlov, middle-aged men — specifically those aged 45 to 55, nicely bracketing the age I departed the ivory tower (49) and my current age (51) — experienced the highest rate of mortality as the Soviet Union collapsed. The two most common causes: suicide and suicide by alcohol. I doubt I’ll go either route, but it’s easy to understand why Family Providers would experience suicidal depression when their ability to provide for their families slips away like a cat-burglar in the dead of night.

The issue of identity (i.e., ego) is far worse in the United States than the situation described by Orlov in the Soviet Union. As becomes apparent this time of year, when casual conversation is on the menu during every seasonal festivity, our identities are completely bundled with how we earn money. What do you think people mean when they ask, “What do you do?” In every case with which I’m familiar, they are inquiring how I earn money.

Knowing where the entire enterprise of generating cash is headed, I tell people I’m a sharecropper and organic gardener. Oh, and by the way, that right hand of mine, the one you just shook, milked two goats this morning. Then I ask people what they love.

I can suck the air out of room — any room, regardless of size or number of people present — in a matter of seconds.

I’m a sharecropper, organic gardener, and milker of goats, as well as a democrat, a republican, a liberal, a conservative, a radical, an idealist, a pragmatist, a teacher, a mentor, a scientist, a writer, a skeptic, a scholar, a cheese-maker, a son, a brother, a husband, a lover, and a human animal. I’m comfortable with my beliefs and personal philosophy. I’ve thought deeply about my tiny place in this enormous universe, and I’ve come to value humility over hubris. And still I’m having an identity crisis. A crisis of confidence. An ego-crushing moment. The longer the industrial economy lasts, the more my identify is pummeled, along with my hope for the living planet. Every day under the rule of Athena drives me further into despair. It’s as if my ego were a proxy for the planetary rate of extinction.

Considering the effort I’ve put into defining myself and my place in the universe, I can only imagine the difficulty ahead for the typical American drone. He values his imperial role and fails to recognize the empire for what it is. He gets his news from the television and affiliated media outlets and fails to recognize that form of propaganda for what it is. His sense of entitlement is exceeded only by his ignorance of the role nature plays in his survival. And yet, he’s ahead of me.

After all, unlike the American drone, I’m clueless about what to do. I’ve invested heavily in a reasonably sane set of living arrangements, only to have nature call me further down her path. I’m attempting to serve as a witness, and occasionally a warrior, as the living planet tries to survive the insults of industry. I’m trying to show another — hence, contrarian — way, for a world gone mad. And in return, I’m unappreciated as never before in memory (including even my final decade at the university as viewed through the lens of my dean and department head).

I recognize the necessity of total revolution, but I don’t yet see it. The wisdom of activist spiritual teacher Vimala Thakar surfaces in my mind: “In a time when the survival of the human race is in question, to continue with the status quo is to cooperate with insanity, to contribute to chaos. When darkness engulfs the spirit of the people, it is urgent for concerned people to awaken, to rise to revolution.”

Obviously, Thakar was an optimist. I love her inclusive approach. And although darkness has engulfed the spirit of the people, I fail to see the awakening at a scale relevant to the task at hand. Impatience grows within me.

With the exception of plunging into the wild or continuing to serve as an unappreciated model immersed in agrarian anarchy, my options are limited. I’m too old to die young, and it’s very late to start anew. Returning to the civilized life of an educator has limited appeal and prospects that are even more limited, considering the general perspective on my sanity (or lack thereof). And then there’s the moral imperative I feel, well expressed by social reformer and statesman Frederick Douglass: “I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence.”

Where does this lead? In my case, to utter confusion. As was recently pointed out to me by somebody a little older than me, and a lot a wiser, “in the end it doesn’t matter who you’re with if you can’t unlock the contents of your own skull.”

Which takes us right back to me and my self-indulgence. What to do, in the limited time left at my disposal? The temporal limitations come in two forms: (1) I’m too old to die young (and also too poor to start anew) and (2) the industrial era is nearing its end. Without fuel at the filling stations and water coming out the taps, paid positions at small, selective, liberal-arts colleges will be hard to come by (and meaningless). The day is coming far sooner than most people think. With luck, the forthcoming Lehman-on-steroids moment will make the decision on my behalf, and soon. If this latter statement reveals my cowardice, then it also indicates the extreme nature of my indecision.


This essay is permalinked at Island Breath and, stunningly, Energy Bulletin.

Comments 72

  • Yep….been going through this for over 6 years after closing our retail business and trying to operate from home, and shift into a new career closer to the ground…but I’m surrounded by a culture that tells me that all is OK and I’m the odd one out, the doomer, mr. negative/downer…then my ego closes me down and I go garden and the new ones at DGR ( and I feel some comrades are out there who understand.

    To wake up and start to become sane in an insane dominant culture will do the ID crisis on you, it comes bundled in the wake-the-fuck-up software…

    “It is no measure of health, to be well adjusted in a profoundly sick society” Krishnamurti

    Thanks for sharing Guy, and yes, we’re out here for ya M8!

  • It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad world, Guy. You already know my thoughts so I’ll leave it to others to fill this space.

  • Guy, as usual a thought-provoking essay. Take it from a old rooster, haste is not necessary. Nature has a way of showing you the road to take in time. In the meantime I would suggest…well…doing nothing different. Be at peace. Relax. Garden. Milk goats. Build things. Teach. Share your life with those of us on the same path and who take some measure of inspiration from you.

    On a personal note, after all these years, you still seem to be a young man grasping for the meaning and purpose of your existence.

    Take the fear of failure out of your life – one day at a time, one moment at a time. And while you are doing that…milk the goats.

  • The admonition against looking back is well grounded: Lot’s wife became a pillar of salt, and was niether here nor there. There is no question that the comforts of civilization are far and away more appealing than the sweat of one’s brow from the physical considerations. Likewise the hunter-gatherer lifestyle may be more appealing from a moral perspective.

    One has to recognize these as valid perceptions. But perceptions may be regarded as tools, like any gardening implement: while the latter aid in performing action, the former aid in deciding what action is to be performed. Attachment to the perceptions (or for that matter, to the implements) is a potential source of sorrow and suffering, because birth is fatal.

  • Hi Guy,

    I don’t know if this is helpful, but I think you should remember that you are not alone in your struggle. There are a lot of us who feel we are living in an insane society and who are busy trying to figure out the best way to respond. These are no simple answers, but we have to keep at it. I hope we have a chance to visit again some time.

  • Sorry, Guy. I’m no good at reading between the lines or picking up on the subtle nuances of intellectual banter and I don’t know your personal circumstances well enough to offer advice. Even if I did, I’m loath to give it. I’m really quite jealous of what you have achieved. The grass is always greener, I suppose.

    Months ago we talked about western civilization coming to an abrupt end. Well, for good or bad – we’re still here. I sympathize with your frustration but all I can really do is wish you the best.

  • Guy, I only know you through your writing and a couple of exchanges, but really, you don’t seem to know when you’re well off. For someone prepared to die for other species you sound very emotionally self-focused.

    “…I’m unappreciated as never before in memory (including even my final decade at the university as viewed through the lens of my dean and department head).” That reads like self-pity, especially given all the people who follow your work and are now trying to give you advice and be supportive; and as though you are still nursing grievances from your former life, while simultaneously musing on trying to return to something similar (I won’t atempt to analyze that apparent contradiction).

    It seems you never really left your old life. Maybe that’s what this talk of nature calling you is about – a desire to remove yourself one degree further from old bitternesses.

    You might spare a thought for those haven’t made your semi-escape from industrial civilization, and who can’t help imagining what fate awaits them and their families when those taps run dry. You’re not married, are you? If you were you might not have the luxury of this degree of indecision.

    Maybe I’m reading you all wrong, and if so I apologize (I know you can be touchy); but if only for the sake of those who to some degree draw encouragement from what you’re doing, and perhaps even live vicariously through you to some degree, I recommend staying put.

    Your own first thoughts – identity crisis combined with ego – seem from where I sit the most likely origin of your latest pieces, which I think many will find disturbing. Time – if there is still enough of it left – may ameliorate these feelings.

    Blessed are the cheese-makers.

  • Guy, I feel your pain more than you know. As we’re the same age, I suspect it’s a common theme among our group (as you note in your essay).

    I wonder if the inhabitants of this city felt the same way as it all came down around them?

    The above story is also a wonderful rebuttal to those who think that our advanced civilization is indestructible. It’s happened to humans before . . .

  • Guy, I went through a heart and soul wrenching time after leaving Haiti. I had already discarded God but was forced to see that good and evil, right and wrong were hazy. Saving a child’s life seemed so good, yet in a country so poor and damaged it seemed both bad for the country and bad for the child even, for the life they were saved into was not likely to be very good. There was one child though. She was not underfed but was sick with an illness that created large boils on her body. While being treated she held her legs up tight because of the boils on her knees. After she got better I found that when I got her up she had constrictions and could not straighten her legs. So I worked with her every day to help the legs stretch out and before I left she could walk again. Somehow that was a good that seemed unambiguously good to me. I have no idea how my life would look laid out next to others – would I be counted to have lived well? Would I come up short. I don’t know and I don’t think it matters, but it warms me to remember that little girl walking again. It was a gift for both of us.

    That story may or may not make sense or speak to you in any way. But I guess I want to say, there is often no judge worse than our own self. Laying down the internal ruler with which we judge ourselves and just holding on to the moments when we know something good came out of our actions is perhaps the best way to live with ourselves.

    You have offered a place here at NBL for those of us who by seeing become alone, to find others who also see and thus be less alone.

    PS I am now reading your book “Walking away…” and I just thought you might like to know I count steps too….

  • Go visit the Native American Church.

    Ego problem solved.


  • Thanks for sharing the thoughts Guy. And for having NBL as a refuge for the sane in a world gone mad.

    It’s probably of little consolation but several years ago I began to say to people that I had been born on the wrong planet. Then I conjectured I had been born 3,000 or 5,000 years too late (Southern England in the Iron Age would have probably suited reasonably me well). I have spent most of my life jumping off one ‘sinking lily pad and onto the next’. (I left Britian in 1974, following the miners strike and the three day week).

    Now I know the reason we are in this mess: in western societies psychotic sociopaths rise to the top or are put there. And they spend most of their time devising methods to keep the ‘proles’ misinformed or uninformed.

    None of us have answers for these extraordinary times. We can only continue to tell the truth to the tiny minority who will listen and ‘brace for impact’, since it is very clear that the current ‘game’ cannot continue for more than another couple of years.

  • Now I know the reason we are in this mess: in western societies psychotic sociopaths rise to the top or are put there. And they spend most of their time devising methods to keep the ‘proles’ misinformed or uninformed.

    As long as the pie was growing, even the poor fellow who had the smallest slice saw his slice growing.

    As may be recalled, the uS was the world’s largest petroleum extractor and exporter “once upon a time”. Petroleum extraction came to its peak in the uS in 1970, and world per capita energy use had its peak in 1978. As a result, in more recent times the pie has been shrinking globally. It was mitigated somewhat in the uS by the deft acquisition of some of the Third World’s share, and the exchange of fiat currency for Black Gold from the OPEC.

    But when the pie shrinks in a hierarchical system, those at the top of the pecking order get to peck first. This may expose their true colors as psychopats/sociopaths, but only so because the rest feel the bite.

  • Googled “Native American Church” and ran into this:

    Message from the Hopi Elders

    Reminds one of the last words of the Buddha: “Be a light unto yourselves and a lamp unto others”.

  • Guy,

    No disrespect.

    You seem a bit like the top student who has finished his homework, read the text to the end, and is fidgeting and asking what can I do for extra credit. To you the collapse is behind schedule. You were figuring that by now something would have happened that would direct you to many other things that would need to be done. Try to relax and enjoy the lull. If we are correct, the lull can end in a moment.
    I think and hope that the earth has more resilience than us and will have as they say, “a walk off home run.”

  • You’re thinking of looking for a job? Things must be bad. I’ll see your Vimala Thakar and raise you Swami Vrhka Baba:

    7. The worst of us are good citizens.

    35. Those who do not worship trees and mountains are already dead.

    59. Our culture’s obsession with success ensures our failure- and the Sixth Extinction.

    72. The creator of Anti-Memes: doomed to failure!

    129. Refusal to be employed is the only true Religious Vocation now possible.

    143. The one good thing about being ashamed of being human is that I care nothing for what humans think of me.

    162. One of the myriad things that humans do not understand is that the need to control is beyond Nature’s ken and contempt.

    204. Those who are true to themselves the false call ‘failures’.

    302. The more freedom you have, the lonelier you get.

  • guy, perhaps it’s a case of the kettle calling the pot black here perhaps to agree with the sentiment that this essay reveals a bit of unattractive self pity.

    u mentioned the word ‘drone’. curious to find it’s precise definition, i looked it up and found that for much of my adult life it applied to me, something i’m ashamed of. it’s rather a disparaging term imo, akin to ‘loser’, one who lacks ability/respect in our status/class culture.

    perhaps now that u’ve lost, or discarded the perks and rewards of american academia, u feel yourself slip-sliding into the category of a drone, a common laborer, a ‘nobody’, so naturally it’s a blow to the ego. and perhaps u feel a bit foolish with the timing of your decision, as the dramatic collapse u foresee as imminent is taking longer than u expected. personally i think it may be years further yet, but that’s besides the point.

    u’re in a part of the world, new mexico, where access to peyote might not be very hard. perhaps u should take ae’s advice and explore it’s possibility to expand your consciousness further, putting these personal concerns in perspective, taming that ego.

    as usual, a thoughtful essay, and many thoughtful responses, imo.

  • Ego trips aside, here is some useful information for those who like warm food!

  • Reading between the lines a bit, maybe, it (and video) sounds like longing for someone who can share the daily ups and downs, dreams and losses. If you’ve ever once had a partner, it’s hard to “go it alone”, especially when you’re bucking everything America thinks it wants. I second whoever said that patience and paying attention will allow the next step to come into view. Sometimes the next step isn’t ready yet.

  • I would like to add another vote for seeking an encounter with an ancient plant teacher. By far the most profound experience of my life was with one and my ego has never been the same since.

    I cannot recommend it highly enough.

  • Guy: Thank you for a from-the-heart essay, one that articulates the stakes, and raises them.

    As for self-indulgence, it’s not a sin. It’s hard not to see ourselves as the center of the universe, considering our perspective on it.

  • Wendy;

    Mad World – the best version hands-down. I think it is very appropriate for the thread. Guy, you are not alone.


  • Guy,

    What Could you possibly go-native?

    I could see you doing some kind of field work living for extended periods with natives on the fringe of the industrial world. Learning their crafts, medicines etc.

    I’m not sure what organizations or universities, etc might have programs but I’m sure your experiences at the Mud Hut would demonstrate your credibility – you know meek living, and you seek it. Some people go live with gorillas, or grizzly bears, you could live with humans who know how to live with both the above.

    It would be a different twist on Walking Away from Empire. And you could chronicle the effects of decline from afar, as well as the effects on whatever local natives you might live among.

    I know there are many japanese people who lived in with obscure natives in India and elsewhere in S. E. Asia for a number of years, learned unusual skills for making cloth, paints, pottery, etc. You would have a blast.

    We have to do what all the other animals are trying to do to – just adapt as best we can until the industrial world goes to its natural death. Some Birds of Prey live within the industrial ecosystem. Many rodents do. They do not ask about morality, they make due.

    The Ashaninka, A Threatened Way of Life

  • [My thoughts to the article are at best tangental, anywho …]

    The words ego and fear seem quite synonymous to me these days.

    There is a far more arduous journey than that of the wandering and pennyless nomad. It is a journey fraught with danger. Worse, it can slaughter your soul. We make the journey whether we like it or not; knowing how all human journeys must end.

    It is a freedom journey. The terrain in front of you is always unkown, and we are always vaguely aware of unseen pitfalls. The biggest pitfalls are the fears you never know you held. Each newly discovered fear has the potential to destroy you. Quite often it seems easy to go around the fear, but one can never quite shake off the conviction that avoiding the fears only leads one into a cul de sac; and the fears compound themselves with interest. Avoidance is a trap.

    The only strategy seems to be to confront the fears. Confrontation equals a step towards liberation. Confrontation, i.e. paying attention, is a skill; a skill of creating clarity for the mind and body. The first step of confrontation is acknowledgement and respect. Fear is often a useful feeling. It is not evil nor does it have malevolent intent. It is has no intention. We do.

    It may take many meetings with a particular fear to understand its manifestations and implications. There is no negotiation. It has to be handled. It has to be set within one’s personal circumstance and harnassed for what it provides in personal understanding of our peculiar endeavours. By not trying to conquer it, you alleviate its impact and it eventually shrinks into just an episode along a meandering path. It becomes a companion. Maybe not a desireable companion, but a companion who nonetheless provides valuable knowledge.

    A human need never take a physical step in their lives, yet, they will fulfill this journey. There is no success nor failure at the end of the journey; only the meaning that one finds and plays with during the journey.

    Given the scale and sheer effort required to complete a journey of awareness requiring great skills of knowledge and practice, it kind of makes any physical journey seem rather, um, mundane. It’s certainly not a journey that feeds the ego. This journey, if given time and sympathy, seems to expose the ego for its insignificance.

    [Personally, I’m leaving the self sufficiency journey behind me in the new year and moving back to a city. To be sure, I’ll keep growing things; mending things; and living frugally. I never quite got the hang of living in a city, so a bit of practice is required. It’ll be a challenge. In the meantime I can again connect with more like minded people whereas I have virtually no contact in the country. And, who knows, maybe I’ll go back to the country with renewed intent.

    Given the scale of the global problems all of our own making, the physical journey doesn’t seem as important anymore. As a ‘glass half empty’ person, I’m rather happily optimistic these days – come what may.]

  • On the journey through life, the journey itself is the goal. The purpose of life is to be found within oneSelf, the center not only of one’s own universe, but also of all universes. To the lit lamp there is no darkness, no matter where it finds itself: it not only lights its surroundings, but like a teacher, can transfer its flame to anything from another lamp to a conflagration. While fear lies in the realm of the darkness, prudence lies in the realm of light. The Light of the Self cannot be “attained”; It is Its own Awareness. When one has cognizance of it, one is also aware that it is one’s own Awareness, an Awareness that has always been, existing outside the limitations of time and space.

  • Guy, you wrote in a previous essay “A primary point I made in every course I taught: It’s always more difficult to do the right thing than to do the wrong thing. In fact, you can usually tell the right direction simply by the difficulty of the choices you face.” I thought at the time that was too simple but chose not to address it. I have been searching for examples and have found plenty in which the right thing to do was easier or the right and wrong were both as difficult. Mostly I came up with somewhat artificial choices but this morning I thought of a personal example. When I divorced my teenage sons stayed with their father. I felt at sea, my motherly instincts unable to function as they had. I had been interested in learning about Hospice so I decided to become a hospice volunteer. Because of early experiences in nursing homes and perhaps something innate in me, I did not view death as scary, but rather as often a relief from suffering. I enjoyed my time with each of the patients I volunteered with and found their deaths a time to rejoice, even if I would miss them. Others often told me they couldn’t do this, it would be too hard. For me it was easy and was a gift to myself. For people who would find it too hard it would not be the right choice. How could a volunteer who themselves feared death be any help at all to someone facing death.

    My right choice was easy and rewarding for me and would have been hard for others and would have been the wrong choice for them and any patients they volunteered with.

    I do not think that the difficulty of a personal choice is the ultimate guideline for choosing. The right choice can be the one that feels so good, feels so right, that any difficulty in taking it is erased by joy.

  • Guy, I don’t see self-indulgence here, just raw personal honesty which I value very highly. Yes, the ego feels stricken and damaged. It’s not comfortable. Confusion reigns. This indicates someone who is genuinely grappling with the real dilemma at hand and it is the only way to a real breakthrough.

    Posing as someone who has actual “knowledge” to impart to others, though, may be self-indulgence, in my view.

    “I’m unappreciated as never before in memory…” Needing the approval of others is “normal”, I guess, but it seems to me it’s a serious impediment to living authentically.
    I’ve known people whose well-crafted social identities have brought them rewards in terms of career, prestige and affluence but the cost has been prohibitive. Not knowing what they really believe or value or who they really are, their whole persona becomes an attempt to win admiration.
    I’d say ego is a useless encumbrance, best abandoned.

    Rough paraphrase of J. Krishnamurti:
    Being appreciated by an insane society is no indication of personal success.

    Cheers. :-)

  • 302. The more freedom you have, the lonelier you get.
    So that’s what’s been happening…..

    Guy, maybe you already know about Life, Inc. by Douglas Rushkoff. I just found it and found it very useful for putting in a single picture a lot of things that have been bothering me. Try it.

  • You can’t go home again…

    Someone here once said that Collapse happens to each of us first, individually. Are you finding that Collapse has happened to you, while not yet to civilization as a whole? I have also read that when it does, one progresses through the stages of grief (varying from person to person). Guy, are you in one of those stages?

  • Fed Once-Secret Loan Crisis Data Compiled by Bloomberg Released to Public: “Bloomberg News today released spreadsheets showing daily borrowing totals for 407 banks and companies that tapped Federal Reserve emergency programs during the 2007 to 2009 financial crisis. It’s the first time such data have been publicly available in this form.”

  • Happy Holidays all……….
    Iran navy starts 10-day wargame in Strait of Hormuz

    TEHRAN | Sat Dec 24, 2011 3:51am EST
    (Reuters) – Iran began 10 days of naval exercises in the Strait of Hormuz on Saturday, raising concern about a possible closure of the world’s most strategic oil transit channel in the event of any outbreak of military conflict between Tehran and the West.

    The military drill, dubbed “Velayat-e 90,” comes as the tension between the West and Iran is escalating over the Islamic state’s nuclear program.

    Some analysts and diplomats believe the Islamic Republic could try to block the strait in the event of any war with the West over suspicions it is seeking atom bombs. Iran’s arch-foes Israel and the United States have not ruled out military action if diplomacy and sanctions fail to rein in Iran’s nuclear work.

    Iran says it wants nuclear energy only for peaceful ends.

    “The enforcement of the decision to close of the Strait of Hormuz is certainly within Iran’s armed forces’ capability, but such a decision should be made by the country’s top authorities,” Iranian Navy commander Habibollah Sayyari was quoted as saying by the semi-official ILNA labor news agency.
    Rest at:

  • And a happy new year

    Warning To the People of Earth – Part 1

  • Warning To the People of Earth – Part 2

  • Thanks, KathyC, for the links to “Warning To the People of Earth”. A good review of one of the many perspectives to the imminent paradigm shift to be forced upon humanity.

  • Ciao Guy,

    It’s been a while, but I have been dropping in on your blog from time to time. It’s early Christmas morning here in Montreal and I remember that you and I are the same age and that there is probably precious little that either of us can do to change the course of our world. Like most people who read what you write I can see the slow motion train wreck of our civilization and I worry about my two children, not so much about myself. At 51 I’ve lived a long life, but they are still young, 14 and 8, and so I try to understand what is happening and to raise them so that they’ll be able to cope with these ongoing changes and be good people and love others. It’s not much but “nel mio piccolo” (in my own small way) it’s my contribution to this planet.

    Un abrazo fuerte,

  • I come from a hypercapitalist Catholic family. One of my grandma’s eight kids is lesbian and Buddhist, and the woman she would marry (if the hatemongers didn’t keep passing these vile Constitutional amendments) is an ordained Dharma teacher. So, last night at Christmas dinner I got to hang out with a Dharma teacher and talk about the destructive power of narrative– the stories we get stuck in and suffer from identifying with– and she recommended the practice of asking seemingly absurd questions.

    Am I a sharecropper? Am I an organic farmer? Am I a son? Am I a brother? She said, for her, the most comfortable space to reside in right now is “I don’t know.”

    For me, just hearing that allowed for a subtle bit of release. It’s all transient, and whatever “I” decide, this crazy fucked up world is going to continue to roll along and us with it.

    BTW I really like your blog and reading it makes me feel more human and have more faith in humans. So, thank you and Merry Christmas– here’s a poem:

    Goodtime Jesus

    Jesus got up one day a little later than usual. He had been dream-
    ing so deep there was nothing left in his head. What was it?
    A nightmare, dead bodies walking all around him, eyes rolled
    back, skin falling off. But he wasn’t afraid of that. It was a beau-
    tiful day. How ’bout some coffee? Don’t mind if I do. Take a little
    ride on my donkey, I love that donkey. Hell, I love everybody.

    James Tate

  • Cheerful holiday news
    “Denial To The SWIFT Degree – How In Europe, Even Admission Of A “Plan B” Is Equivalent To Failure
    Submitted by Tyler Durden on 12/25/2011 15:27 -0500

    CDS European Central Bank Fail Financial Services Authority Greece Nomura Portugal SWIFT Too Big To Fail

    While we have long known that the drachma, and recently the lira, have seen significant “when issued” interest by institutional clients desiring to hedge their currency collapse exposure, and thus early markets by various trading desks, little did we realize just how destabilizing this fact to the system would be, at least according to SWIFT. According to the WSJ, this organization, best known for making an abrupt appearance any time one wishes to do a wire transfer, then promptly disappearing until the next such instance, ended up promptly shutting down any Plan B optionality when “at least two global banks took steps to install back-up technology systems that could handle trades in old European currencies like drachmas, escudos and lire… quickly found, is not so easy in a financial world that is trying to both exhibit confidence in the ailing euro and—just in case—plan for its possible demise. Technology managers at the banks contacted Swift, the Belgium-based consortium that manages the network used in financial transactions, said people familiar with the matter. The banks wanted Swift’s technology support and the currency codes that would be necessary to set up the backup systems.” And got promptly rejected: “Swift declined to provide some information for such contingency planning, including whether old codes could be used in the system, said the people familiar with the matter.” The reason is that in Europe, the mere admission that Plan B is a possibility, apparently set off a chain of events that makes Plan B an inevitability: “…officials there feared that releasing the information could fuel further doubts and instability in the euro zone.”

    And so Europe is left to fend on its own, with the mere mention of the possibility of failure being completely ignored, as the mere contemplation of failure is not only no longer an option, but apparently an outright admission of defeat. Needless to say, the fact that European banks have no way to hedge anything any more, CDS trading having been killed, thank you ISDA, and now supervisory bodies themselves telling banks to not even consider Plan B, is enough reason why the LTRO will be an abysmal failure.

    Because one does not need to be a rocket scientist to realize that when everyone is telling you that even Plan B is improper, then it is all too clear there is absolutely no Plan Whatever.”
    rest at

  • More cheerful holiday news

    SAN ANTONIO | Tue Dec 20, 2011 4:27pm EST

    (Reuters) – The massive drought that has dried out Texas over the past year has
    killed as many as half a billion trees, according to new estimates from the Texas Forest Service.

    “In 2011, Texas experienced an exceptional drought, prolonged high winds, and record-setting temperatures,” Forest Service Sustainable Forestry chief Burl Carraway told Reuters on Tuesday. “Together, those conditions took a severe toll on trees across the state.”

    He said that between 100 million and 500 million trees were lost. That figure does not include trees killed in wildfires that have scorched an estimated 4 million acres in Texas since the beginning of 2011. A massive wildfire in Bastrop, east of Austin in September that destroyed 1,600 homes, is blamed for killing 1.5 million trees.

    The tree loss is in both urban and rural areas and represents as much as 10 percent of all the trees in the state, Carraway said.

    “This is a generational event,” Barry Ward, executive director of the nonprofit Trees for Houston, which supports forestry efforts, told Reuters on Tuesday. “Mature trees take 20 or 30 years to re-grow. This will make an aesthetic difference for decades to come.”

    I would postulate that the difference will go far beyond aesthetic.

  • it’s not easy being a crazy cassandra, spiritual misfit/outlaw, alienated marginalized ‘freak’, imo. it’s not easy bearing (mostly) silent witness to this tragicomic world of ecocidal mania, either. it’s not easy anticipating collapse, when it’s more than an idea, when u have the empathy and compassion to care about future generations. who knows, some day far into the future if we don’t become extinct near term, the trauma of this event shall forge a new spirituality/culture more to our (excuse the presumption of speaking for others?!) liking, allowing sheople to once again become people, anarchic, open, tolerant of harmless behavior of all sorts, and most importantly, open to love. not repressed by dogma that shame, terrorize, and shackle the spirit.

    i have difficulty seeing beyond the horror of the present to such a ‘utopian’ future. it dampens my desire to stick my neck out like guy and a few others are now doing out of sheer desperation. i wonder if this is because they can see beyond the horror of war/corruption/greed/dogmatic delusion/depravity which presently reign supreme?

    some sheople proudly proclaim their fealty to ‘jesus christ’. i think most here boast of a contrarian devotion to nature/’gaia’. to living to be happy in the present and careful for the future of our descendents. striving for a wisdom to create a ‘utopia’ here on earth, rather than having faith of attaining it in some fanciful ‘heaven’ beyond the grave for faithfully serving ‘THE LORD’.

    ho ho ho, merry christmas!

  • All I know is that I just watched a 42 year old man throw an all out temper tantrum because his fantasy football pick lost…
    Welcome to my r/l community.

    Thank you all for being.
    (Especially Guy for hosting =)

  • The prior link was from the iPhone and was formatted for the iPhone. Here is the link from the PC:
    Ho, Ho, Ho Merry Christmas!

  • Thanks Robin for the additional links to Rees’ work.
    And for the Urban Dictionary definitions – I would add one – “ho” what some may do to obtain food post collapse.

  • Just finished reading One Second after. Kathy, thanks for the suggestion. Robin, thanks for the link to the book. I thought the book was not too well written, nor was it entirely realistic. Discovering that Newt Gingrich was one of the author’s friends and provided an introduction to the book didn’t exactly cheer me on to read it either….but I managed to overlook that with some effort and carried on. Having to fight through all the passages exhibiting the undying hubris of American exceptionalism and patriotism, still there was an underlying message for all of us about the possible impact of a widespread collapse in society, in this case as a result of an EMP produced over American soil. Unfortunately, being an American book, it predictably centred around war and its best written parts rested upon a detailed description of battle, and its weakest around the impact upon society. And whilst there was an acknowledgement of the possible impact of EMP upon American life, he did not take the opportunity to bring out the dangers of a breakdown of a globalised civilisation, choosing instead to warn people about not preparing for EMP. He had an excellent opportunity to point out the dangers of global collapse, but missed that in favour of a fear-instilling warming on the dangers of the nation not preparing for EMP.

    I got the impression that the author, whilst a firm believer in the lessons that history brings to us, yet was rather narrow in the selection of that history, concentrating more upon the history of warfare, especially that during the American Revolution and the Civil War – not about ecological history or the history of population overshoot. He knew a lot about guns and battle, though.

    I found it interesting that he rather naively suggested that because the Mid-West was the centre of food production in the states that more people in those areas would survive because they had the harvest available to bring in. No mention was made as to just how they were going to bring in this harvest, or distribute it among themselves, or process it into final food products. It also suggested that because a large portion of the military was stationed overseas at the time, that they would be capable of returning home and establishing the means to save the people and re-constitute government, albeit a small portion of the people and only a portion of the government. No mention was made of how they might finance their own return to the States, or how they would meet their supply needs as they did so or how they would meet their supply needs upon reaching the shores of their destroyed homeland. And it was interesting that all the same bogeymen were still playing the part of the bad guys – Iraq, Iran, North Korea, China (who actually invaded the West Coast of America on the presumption of ‘offering aid’) -though he made an attempt at political correctness in not naming the specific enemy responsible for the carnage. It was proudly declared that Iran and North Korea lay in smouldering ruins as the result of a nuclear retaliation by the US military.

    Overall, a relatively entertaining read (lots of American action and shooting) – but not near dark enough.

  • O, Damn Ye Wall St. Gentlemen

  • Victor “Overall, a relatively entertaining read (lots of American action and shooting) – but not near dark enough.”

    I agree with your all your well thought out comments and criticisms of One Second After and especially the one above. But it is useful in presenting some of the problems that will face folks – whether suddenly by grid collapse, or slowly by piecemeal collapse.

  • Just when you thought the country could not get any nuttier,

    Laughing and crying at the same time.

    …and the Salamander pops up again.

  • Guy, I feel your pain.

    We’ve been struggling at this for nearly six years, and all we seem to attract are crazy and short-sighted people. People who would rather spend a good sunny day indoors, debating how many hours of service we should put in. (Perhaps including meeting time as official hours of service was a mistake.) People who, without asking or notifying, plough up all the root crops before they’re harvested, then gather up the damaged potatoes and beets and take them home to eat, because you can’t sell root crops that have been cut in half by a plough. (Perhaps letting that diagnosed manic-depressive drive a tractor was a mistake.)

    And yet, what is there left but detachment from outcome? If you can feed yourself while teaching someone else, is it such a bad thing that collapse is not happening as quickly as you thought?

    Look around. Pick a direction. Pick up one foot. Put it in that direction. Lather, rinse, repeat. Life is a journey, not a destination.

    Humanity will go out with a whimper, not with a bang. Prepare for either, but count on neither.

  • Jan, I see that some of the folks that visited or came to stay for a while at the several communities I lived in have migrated up your way – gave up on the community idea. When folks have experienced real hunger, they will be more willing to work hard and pay attention to people who know something about farming. Right now too many are still playing at the “alternative lifestyle”.

  • “(Perhaps letting that diagnosed manic-depressive drive a tractor was a mistake.)”

    Thank you Jan for the best belly laugh of the season ; )

    I have been lying to myself for years, thinking that as things get worse, friends and relatives will change for the better and we can work together… and then I read your story.

    Guy, your sentence ” positions at small, selective, liberal-arts colleges will be hard to come by (and meaningless)” is accurate. See Jan’s post one how they like to spend their time (they love their paid meetings where plans come to naught or half-a-page of scribbled lines).

  • “Such words as ‘death’ and ‘suffering’ and ‘eternity’ are best forgotten. We have to become as simple and wordless as the growing corn or falling rain.” ~ Etty Hillesum

    As others have said here: it’s in the doing. I think I might be similar to you in that I have a tendency to over-think things.

    I’m going to remember your question of “What do you love?” next time someone asks me the dreaded “What do you do?”

  • Thanks to all of you. We are in an RV park outside of Jacksonville working our way back north after camping in Southern Florida for a week.
    Some of it was wonderful, and some of it was sooo depressing.
    Guy don’t go on the road. We were in some pretty rural areas on some long hikes, and I couldn’t find much that I recognized, maybe some bee balm or sunchokes, some wild grapes, but nothing like we have come to understand in NY state. I just don’t think you can pull up stakes and survive. Also, I had no idea you had only been at the mud hut for 2 years. We are entering our 6th year, and maybe have it figured out. You jump back and forth between the mud hat and the “civilized world” over that 2 years. This was my longest time away from the farm, and I’m counting the hours to get back there. Visited both my Dad and brother in law, both eternal optimists, and they have completely changed their tune in the last year. The wheels are off, and the optimists are finally seeing it.
    16-17 hours we’ll be back on the farm. Why anyone would ever think of leaving what you have just doesn’t make sense.

    Missed solstice, Christmas, and a bunch of other stuff, so leave it at you guys/gals are great.

  • Thank you, Jan Steinman. Your last entry really moved me. If I worked on your farm, I would not plow the spuds too early… I promise! ###careful### you might look into the mirror someday and see that manic/depressive staring back. Good help is so hard to find…

  • Hey Guy,

    Might I suggest that you are fighting the social conditioning of our culture. Every time the tension rises instead of fighting it, follow it, see where it leads, and then pull it out by the roots.

    None of us can find our way until we leave the path.

  • This is my analysis from your article but it may be wrong [I am nobody to advise a person like you so don’t take this as a sermon from me, it is just my thinking]:

    You thought that the path you have taken will help remove the ignorance of those who were with you on the previous path [and are still there] but it hasn’t [yet] hence you are frustrated and it hurts your ego which has enjoyed success in the past, however you defined it then. So what is needed is examination of (a) why you are failing to awaken those you think should awaken after seeing you do what you are doing (b) whether your expectation of the result in the time frame is realistic and (c) whether you have actually awakened fully yourself.

    For (a), it could be that you went on the path only because that is what makes sense for survival in future and not out of a higher purpose. Part of the reason why environmental activism fails to inspire more people is because while the truth is told with the seriousness it deserves, the alternatives are not shown as the path of happiness and satisfaction even with sacrifice of material comforts. The spiritual/non-material dimension which is where one needs to turn to for happiness when the material world is collapsing, is often shunned [I am no exception]. When collapse is made a celebration of the extinction of darkness and illumination of new consciousness, then it becomes acceptable, as the fear due to material collapse diminishes. It also automatically brings people together, it unites people of very opposite ideologies, basically everyone rises to a higher purpose. Those of whom you are trying to change are observing your state, and if they see that you are not enjoying your path, they are unlikely to emulate it. This is basic human nature [“look he is so happy, I think we should do the same”]. If people are going on this path because it only involves sacrifice for survival and there is no perception of higher purpose [e.g preserving life for future generations, which requires sacrifice], then they are unlikely to take this path until when it is absolutely necessary for survival [which may be too late]. If people are choosing the path because of a higher moral imperative than their own survival i.e “it is the right thing to do”, “it is very satisfying” or “it is the path to happiness”, then they will see the light. You may have been enjoying the path but you need to not let that be diminished by the sadness coming from the non-awakening of others who have been observing you.

    For (b), it is worth noting that the magnitude of the problem is orders higher than anything you have encountered in your previous career, so you need copious amounts of patience. It may not happen even in your lifetime, but you will need to live with the satisfaction that you tried [without trying, there cannot even be the possibility of success]. And your ego will drive you to do more and more to awaken others so do more activism, get involved more in occupy movements while living the lifestyle you are living.

    For (c), only you know if this is true, that you are raising the questions and my analsis of (a) may indicate that perhaps you haven’t fully awakened, and if so, this is normal, you are on a journey like many others and should be easy on yourself, you are already inspiring many others that may not have registered as part of a survey stat that gets published in an academic paper.

  • Off topic
    UPDATE 1-Iran warns could stop oil flow if sanctions -IRNA
    Tue Dec 27, 2011 9:44am EST

    Dec 27 (Reuters) – Iran’s first vice-president warned on Tuesday that the flow of crude will be stopped from the crucial Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf if foreign sanctions are imposed on its oil exports, the country’s official news agency reported.

    “If they (the West) impose sanctions on Iran’s oil exports, then even one drop of oil cannot flow from the Strait of Hormuz,” IRNA quoted Mohammad Reza Rahimi as saying.

    About a third of all sea-borne oil was shipped through the Strait in 2009, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), and U.S. warships patrol the area to ensure safe passage.

    Tensions over Iran’s nuclear programme have increased since the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported on Nov. 8 that Tehran appears to have worked on designing a nuclear bomb and may still be pursuing research to that end. Iran strongly denies this and says it is developing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

    Iran has warned it will respond to any attack by hitting Israel and U.S. interests in the Gulf, and analysts say one way to retaliate would be to close the Strait of Hormuz.

    Most of the crude exported from Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Iraq – together with nearly all the liquefied natural gas from lead exporter Qatar – must slip through a 4-mile (6.4 km) wide shipping channel between Oman and Iran. (Writing by Ramin Mostafavi, editing by Jane Baird)

  • I never thought I’d hear myself say this, about anyone, but perhaps you need an other-half :)

    (Disclaimer: I’d make a crap farmer’s wife: no stamina!)

  • Kathy, re: Iran threats. Notice that oil is up almost $2.00 today. Obviously traders are taking the threat seriously.

  • Guy,

    I just read your Identity Crisis post and felt compelled to drop you a personal note, as I find myself in a very similar situation. I am a son and brother of ‘ivory tower acedemics’ so I am very familiar with that world. I am also recently retired after a 32 year career in aerospace, helping design and build kerosene guzzling rocket-ship personal transportation for the very wealthy.

    My life these days is dominated by pick-axe, shovel, chain saw, tractor, log chain, mud, blood, shit, predators, parasites, sore joints & muscles, and a half dozen contusions on any given day. On the rewards side there is fresh home grown food, local fish & venison, a nice warm wood stove, and … goat cheese!

    How did I get here? I didn’t set out with a survivalist mind set. As long as I can remember I always wanted to own some land and more or less ‘live out in the woods’. The opportunity to start down that path came in 1994 when I discovered how inexpensive rural property was in southeast Kansas (Chautauqua County). I acquired a badly overgrown and neglected 160 acre tract (for $52K) that had not been lived on since 1946, and it has really been a labor of passion ever since. In the early years I was still pretty well wrapped around the career axle, the economy was booming, and the ranch here was a really nice place to escape to from the high stress rat-race existence in Wichita. While I had always been aware of earth history, geology, biology, ecosystems, energy, the history of technology and such, it is only in the last dozen or so that I have threaded together the historical components of economics, politics, petroleum, industry and warfare and realize, almost with horror, the dreadful trajectory the larger industrialized world is on, and the decreasing odds of a happy ending. Being out here in the boonies now is starting to look like a pretty good idea.

    And yet there is an underlying and pervasive sense of melancholy. I have to attribute this to what I consider one of the fundamental truths about the human experience. ‘The price of wisdom is the loss of innocence’. If you choose to go through life paying attention and learning at every opportunity, you discover that in addition to a continuously increasing level of awareness, it is a continuous process of loss-of-innocence and disillusionment. Such is life.

    At 32 months now out of the career ‘prison’, that part of my life is rapidly vanishing in the rear view mirror. It was a good run in the glory days, but Cessna Aircraft Co is now a dismal, gutted, downsized, outsourced corporate subsidiary shell of what it once was. I really do feel for my former colleagues who remain. As for my Identity, I try not to dwell on that too much. In this sparsely populated and largely uneducated region I am mostly seen as an eccentric outsider. No peers here. I really am powerless to alter the ‘industrial trajectory’ of the greater world, so it is an imperative of psychological survival to reduce the expectations of what I can affect. Where I am encouraged is the recent arrival of ‘homesteader’ types in the area. These are young folks, 25-35, with small children who are serious about disengaging from the dysfunctional techno-media hype world, and getting back to basics. They are realizing it is a lot of hard, dull, repetitive low tech grunt work but so far are not discouraged. The little kids, unaware of their ‘deprivation’, are happy, healthy, and very good natured. A real inspiration. I will do what I can to encourage, mentor, and assist these folks, and if my efforts enable them to succeed in their mission, I will die happy.


  • Guy, thanks, it looks like collapse is progressing quickly! Good news indeed. However your chance for helping it along is fast disappearing. Why not relax, drink some goat milk, and just watch the dominoes fall.

  • No Time Left to Adapt to Melting Glaciers
    By Stephen Leahy *

    UXBRIDGE, Canada, Dec 27, 2011 (Tierramérica) – The water supplied by the glaciers of the Cordillera Blanca, vital to a huge region of northwest Peru, is decreasing 20 years sooner than expected, according to a new study.

    Water flows from the region’s melting glaciers have already peaked and are in decline, Michel Baraer, a glaciologist at Canada’s McGill University, told Tierramérica. This is happening 20 to 30 years earlier than forecasted.
    Rest at

  • Last night I watched CNBC for the first time in 5 years. No wonder a lot of people have a difficult time grasping our true situation. On the same day where Sears/Kmart announced absolutely horrible results for the holiday season (down 6-8% YOY) with their stock falling off a cliff, the talk on CNBC was that 9 retail stocks are at their all time highs. One of their call ins was a person inquiring how to invest for the coming collapse. The snickers, and far superior looks from the moderaters as they replied that a collapse is not coming but you can invest so that you win as others THINK a collapse is coming.
    Yesterday I saw a 60 ft RV pulling a pickup truck with a golf cart in the truck. We are so screwed.

  • If people haven’t read it the link below is to a lecture by William Rees entitled “Are Humans Unsustainable By Nature?”

    Also, a great book I recently read is Wolf Totem by Jiang Jong. It provides a superlative insight into how much wisdom we have lost.



  • Heheheh. . . forgot the link:

    They say the mind is the first thing to go. . .

  • Everywhere we look there are virtual mountains of evidence to be found of the clever manipulation of human intellect by ‘the brightest and best’, usually for the purpose of securing selfish interests. Self-proclaimed masters of the universe, their many highly educated sycophants and absurdly enriched minions are established experts at ignoring ‘reality’ when it serves their pragmatic desires. The step that makes it possible for human beings with feet of clay to subordinate personal interests so as to see what is before their eyes, is not an easy one. All of us get use to seeing the world in certain ways, according to what is logically contrived, politically correct, economically expedient, socially agreeable, religiously tolerable, culturally prescribed and ubiquitously shared through the mass media. Most of the time popular ways of viewing the world are sufficiently reality-oriented. But occasionally advances in science disturb even the most widely held and consensually validated understandings with regard to the way the world we inhabit works as well as about the placement of the human species within the natural order of living things. Perhaps we are witnesses to such a scientific advance, or maybe not. Whatever the case, whatever the ‘reality’ of human population dynamics, let us make sure that the NBL community is not simply and plainly just one more academic bastion of intellectual cowardice. When the subject is human population dynamics, it seems to me that there are currently enough “ivory towers”, professional societies and international organizations whose members favor intellectual dishonesty, hysterical blindness, willful deafness and elective mutism.

  • A new essay is up, courtesy of John Duffy. It’s here.