Celebration

by Jack Adam Weber

Celebration can have many connotations. Most often, though, celebration conjures images of excitement and explosive fun. American holidays fit this description. Our holidays largely lack spiritual context and meaning, save for expressing our love to one another and sharing good times. The former is left to the purview of religious holidays, which don’t fare much better. We are missing the sacred in our celebrations, which would honor the things and experiences for which we are truly grateful, that truly fulfill us and give us life, with more respect, as if we were truly grateful. Which collectively we may really not be.

Sacred celebration not only leaves us feeling more whole, but renews us and does no to little damage to everything that celebration touches. In some way, we feel better after sacred celebration, even if “better” is simply to acknowledge what is true — true about ourselves and about the world today, the next year, and hopefully longer. Grief and despair, decline and decay, can also be celebrated, as central to the cycle of fertility in both soma and psyche, in our relationship with nature. These are, in fact, already celebrations.

When we celebrate what is sublimely beautiful, gifted, and enchanting, gross expression is often not needed. In fact, such appreciation requires a good dose of quiet so as to be consolidated in us, sacredly and quietly abided by, not dispersed in gross outward expression. I am not saying we have to be monks, but we would do well to be more monk-like, in almost all we do.

Celebrations that cause damage not only to ourselves but to the world around us, that have little heart, and merely serve as more diversion and drama, are emblematic of our footprint on Earth. They are part of the problem. Ironically, it is on the holidays (at least American ones) that humanity collectively increases pollution on the planet. A return of the sacred to our days, and especially, ironically enough, to our celebrations would go far towards restitution.

Our short-term celebrations bear the same signature as our short-term pleasures, short-term consumption habits, short-term environmental policies, and short-mindedness. Just as we need new consumer models that ensure durability, we need celebrations that profoundly shift our focus, habits, and our effects on what surrounds us. Last night, on New Year’s Eve, amid the noise, I imagined the body of Nature cringing in disgust, as if saying, “Ugh, there go those humans again hurting my ears and polluting my veins, as if every non-holiday were not enough!”

I grow more convinced that celebrating major holidays by way of reckless banter and superficial fun is a way not only to demonstrate our lack of appreciation, but to avoid appreciating what we have, ironically enough. Many of us feel awkward in social contexts trying to find meaning and genuinely express ourselves in frivolous environments. This is why we have the sacred settings of circles, ritual, and long pauses between meaningful words uttered in such places. We feel awkward at holiday parties, especially if we want a meaningful experience, so getting drunk helps assuage the discomfort, as another form of anesthetizing ourselves from a sober reckoning of much more.

Many of us pass through holidays with excitement, anxiety, stress, and a secret desire to return to return to “ordinary life.” We party, entertain, and then can barely function the next day. What if we celebrated in a way that gave us something to make the rest of our days truly better? This would introduce a new pattern, a new signature to our ordinary days, which suffer mediocrity in the shadow of the pumped-up grandeur of holidays. This too is part of the problem.

I am convinced that humanity needs to stop partying and start appreciating if it wants any chance to survive into the future, and most definitely in a way that is worth living. I am convinced that humans need to have so much superficial fun because we don’t feel fulfilled, that we are not grateful for the gift of life. I think our celebrations are another form of consumerism driving our planet and ourselves into the ground, if only through our neglect to use such opportunities to sanctify our lives in a context of comprehensive wellness.

We have driven Nature to the brink in an utterly disgusting display of projected self-hatred. This desperate situation has created the imminent extinction of our species. There is nothing “fun” about this. Yet sacred celebration, as ceremony, can accommodate this grim reality as the ceremony of embracing darkness and life’s failing side. Like decline and decay, sadness, loss, and remorse also are celebrations in their own right. A fertile exploration and sharing of these emotions, along with their attendant revelations and wisdom, is possible largely only in sacred contexts.

Just because we are in the doghouse does not mean that we can’t be also be happy, excited, impassioned, excited, and joyous. We just have to make sure that we don’t use these feeling states to puff ourselves up into denial. We can, I assure you, be fully conscious of our plight and still find great, if not greater, meaning, purpose, and passion in our lives. Many don’t have healthy relationships with pain, and we unrealistically imagine that if we were to fully embrace our hurts and griefs, personal and collective, we could not also lead passionate, meaningful, connected lives. Indeed, the opposite is true; embracing darkness engenders a depth, passion, and belonging that we could not experience without them. They are integral to our joy and a meaningful life, even (and again, especially) in times of greatest despair.

A sober, grounded passion for life welcomes an acknowledgement of what we have done to the planet. Such sacred celebration is permeated by great humility, remorse, introspection, and heartfelt resolve. I think it’s time our president call an emergency Martial Law for holidays in which they would all be marshaled toward acknowledging environmental collapse and human folly!

When most of our holidays include extroverted displays of extravagance, noise, and the production of trash no matter what the state of the world, what are we really celebrating? Life? People toss around notions of celebration as if to not join the party were a sin (sin’s original meaning is “to miss the mark”); I imagine they are uncomfortable with their own relationship to holiday and celebration. To me, it is a sin to blindly participate and not speak out. If we truly appreciate life, it seems there would simply be less need to announce it so loudly and desecrate what supports our very lives.

The tradition of New Year’s resolutions is a worthy sacred function of the holiday. Yet these resolutions mostly fall unconscious to the priority of partying and superficial socializing. If we cared enough, we would consider our resolutions after a good night’s sleep, or during sleep in our dreams, not tanked out on too much food, stimulation, and distraction.

It is taboo to be against fun. But fun comes in different flavors. I, for one, am nourished and vitalized by honesty, care, depth, sacred space, laughter, absurdity, genuine conversation, exercising my creative imagination, the awe and beauty of nature, and healing. I celebrate by experiencing them. In the spirit of sane absurdity I often celebrate the holidays paradoxically — I don’t celebrate them, not literally anyway. I abstain from celebrating as way of commemorating every other day, committing to make sure I celebrate their message every day of the year. I don’t expect you to have my kind of fun, but I do hope you will consider whether the fun you have is truly fun for you, and if your brand of fun enlivens or injures the world around you. And if your fun desecrates others and the environment, then I encourage you to consider what sort of fun doesn’t do this, if you can celebrate this way, and if not, then at least be conscious of why not.

I think we need to start having a lot more of a very different kind of fun on the planet and spend a lot less time being frivolous, unless you are a child. Sacred fun is embodied, has persistence, recycles and conserves, uplifts in an enduring fashion, leaves us truly renewed and has vision and respect for the future. At the very least it does no harm. We need to rekindle the fun of watching the simple fireworks of nature and let that overflow our hearts and instill in us a relationship with the quiet, with the ordinary. For, it is the ordinary that is suffering so desperately all around us. Most of our major holidays have pagan, earth-centered origins. Yet, ironically, the sacred beauty of nature usually goes unnoticed by us, especially on these holidays.

We wish each other well and for a healthy new year; this also serves a sacred function. But perhaps we could spend some time on New Year’s Eve reflecting and sifting through what we do with our time and energy and resolve to make changes, which might include a commitment to keep checking in with ourselves and supportive others to stay on track. Yet this sort of discipline we loathe and reject, as we reject most discipline that does not serve our immediate gratification hunger. Can we then be mature enough to act responsibly by rooting our issues with commitment and discipline, especially as it affects our environment?

It seems that the more we need to celebrate externally and superficially the fewer emotional-spiritual resources we might actually have. And the more we celebrate outwardly, the more we inwardly stand to lose. Our collective dearth of internal resources mirrors the resources we plunder externally. Our excessive partying and meaningless social distractions serve to further impoverish us and the planet.

With the world in collapse, it is my prayer that more and more of us, if only as a last gesture of honor and humility, commit to celebrating in ways that remedy a fraction of the sacred wound we have collectively inflicted on the planet … and that these celebrations be every day.

Graphic courtesy of Tom Sager, tomsager.org
Graphic courtesy of Tom Sager, tomsager.org

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Jack Adam Weber is a licensed acupuncturist, Chinese herbalist, author, organic farmer, celebrated poet, and an activist for Earth-centered spirituality. He is currently at work on his next collection of poems for personal and planetary transformation. His books, artwork, and provocative poems can be found at his website PoeticHealing.com. He is also on Facebook.

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McPherson’s latest essay for The Good Men Project was posted 3 January 2014. It’s here.

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Please limit yourself to two posts daily. Additional comments are welcome at the NBL Forum.

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Please join me in supporting our friend OzMan as he literally walks away. Click here for more information.

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The Next Step: Living Courageously in a World of Transition, a 14-day seminar, 12-25 March 2014, Izabal, Guatemala, Central America.

The Next Step: Living Courageously in a World of Transition, a 7-day seminar, 24-31 May 2014, Moho Creek, Belize, Central America.

The Next Step: Living Courageously in a World of Transition, a 14-day seminar, 12-25 June 2014, Izabal, Guatemala, Central America.

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Going Dark is available from the publisher here, from Amazon here, from Amazon on Kindle here, from Barnes & Noble on Nook here, and as a Google e-book here. Going Dark was reviewed by Carolyn Baker at Speaking Truth to Power and by several readers at Amazon. An excerpt follows.

As Arundhati Roy wrote in her 2001 book, Power Politics: “The trouble is that once you see it, you can’t unsee it. And once you’ve seen it, keeping quiet, saying nothing, becomes as political an act as speaking out. There’s no innocence. Either way, you’re accountable.”

I saw it, and I recognized my accountability. Even though I was doing exceptional work, and doing it well, I was participating in an immoral system. For me, it was time to let go because I could no longer both participate in the system and look at the face in the mirror. I could no longer expose the dark underbelly of civilization and live at the apex of empire. By this time, I had come to recognize that my generation’s legacy—the curse my generation leaves behind—is a world depleted of resources, ruined by Empire, and ruled by fascism masquerading as democracy.

Comments 74

  • General Ripper has sent off his nuclear armed bombers to zap the commie scumbags in their freakin beda, as a celebration of the essence of pure water & our precious bodily fluids.

    And Lionel Mandrake woefully wails to General Jack D. Ripper;

    “Jack, for Chrissake Jack.”

  • ‘..the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars’ Kerouac

  • I don’t think I ever “celebrated” anything, looking back on it. I never understood the big deal over dates and anniversaries. A day is just a day, generally speaking. I enjoyed the cheerful decorations of Christmas in the past, but now they just seem mocking.

    Expressions of “celebration” are expressions of surplus energy. We go along with them because it’s comfortable and fun to go along with what everyone else is doing. You also have to consider that “superficial socializing” is probably very complex, communicating relative status within the hive. When you opt out of whatever the mainstream is “celebrating”, you paint a target on yourself (weak, loser, probably broke).

    I gave away all my Christmas decorations this year, except for a string of lights for the front of the house so we don’t look like Grinches. They’re “green” (LED) lights, lol!


    This article struck me for obvious reasons:

    New Year’s Eve Tests Endurance”
    Crowds jammed New York’s Times Square on Tuesday to ring in 2014, braving bone-chilling cold and ultra-tight security in expectation of seeing Miley Cyrus, a final countdown from a U.S. Supreme Court justice and the drop of the shimmering crystal ball.

    The gathering of horn-tooting, hat-wearing humanity that filled the Crossroads of the World was part celebration, part endurance sport because post-9/11 security measures force spectators into pens at least 12 hours in advance, with no food, no warmth and no place to go to the bathroom.

    “We’ve got adult diapers. We’re wearing them right now,” said 14-year-old Amber Woods, who came with friends from the New York City suburbs to experience the event for the first time.

    30 years ago, I had a boyfriend whose dad got free Broadway tickets for some reason unknown to me. We’d go to NYC around New Year’s and see three or four shows. After the New Year’s eve show let out, we’d just hang around Times Square to experience the exuberance, but it was never anything out of hand—you could go anywhere freely.

    Now, what’s interesting about all this, and the reason I bring it up, is that *the more horrible the experience gets* (police, being penned in) *the more people are seeking it out*!! Just to “endure” it becomes the point of the exercise. You can see the same thing happening with the crowds who sleep outside Wal*Mart on Thanksgiving. There’s something happening on a level beyond individual logic.

  • Cowgirl Apocalypse Haiku #102

    Wolf Valhalla home-
    coming, while children plant seeds
    of toxic karma.

  • @ ulvfugl: …for the innocent in Idaho. I’m still haunted by the old conservationist public service announcements, aired on the newfangled color tv of my childhood: gruesome images of wolves and coyotes hung like strings of brook trout on ranchers’ fences and barns. The public outcry eventually led to protections for wolves. How times have changed and become utterly FUBAR :-(.

    Fascinating article about the Ikpeng. Ant/wasp haiku to come…

  • Really hate that word “sacred”. We are a species of mammal with a tremendous ability to adapt and consume. We have adapted and consumed ourselves into overshoot and soon, oblivion. It is how species are programmed. It just is what it is. And if anything is sacred, it is all sacred. It’s all one experience, undivided. No one is guilty, no one is not guilty. No one is special, no one is not special. Nothing is sacred, nothing is not sacred. It all just is as it is.

  • Love and Rage..

    Carved ivory elephants may already outnumber living elephants, which are being slaughtered at the unsustainable rate of 35,000 per year.
    I was choking back tears by the end of my interview with Andrea Turkalo.
    Turkalo, who works for the Wildlife Conservation Society, is one of the founding members of the Elephant Listening Project, which is documenting elephants’ ability to communicate, often using low-frequency sounds below the threshold of human hearing. She is conducting her fieldwork at Dzanga Bai, an idyllic clearing in the Dzanga-Ndoki National Park in the Central African Republic (CAR) where elephants come to drink the mineral-rich waters and wallow in the mud.

    http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/20972-elephants-pushed-toward-extinction-as-terrorist-groups-bankrolled-with-ivory-trade-to-us-and-china

  • Good look at what we do to celebrate. We cling to traditions formed when we were far fewer and far less adept at destroying our surroundings. More appropriate ways to mark our holidays would be social things like trash pick-up, trail work, mine restoration. Solitary celebration can be educating oneself, gardening, hiking, visiting the lonely. Or just thinking about how to live better or more sustainably. I like to stay up and watch the moon and stars on important calendar days.

  • Celebration is the revelry associated with communal event to engender positive vibes and thereby promote communal cohesion. This works in communities, which cohere through horizontal voluntary, non-coerced interactions, and in which transactions may be a minor part. It is quite another matter in societies, which are bound together by vertical transactions, enforced by a hierarchy through the threat of coercive violence, and with few or no non-transactional interactions.

    When celebration is usurped by society, it morphs from an interaction into a transaction. An event on a financial report. How much can be transacted, and how profitably?

    Incidentally, the Julian New Year is just that: the Julian New Year. The Aryan New Year, on the Spring Equinox, is still observed in Iran and several Central Asian republics. The traditional onset of the monsoon season is the beginning of the New Year in Bengal and other parts of the Indian subcontinent, and is also the Sikh New Year’s Day. And the Eastern Orthodox Church Christmas is tomorrow (January 7).

  • Sacred ritual, spiritual or secular, is important and creates cohesion, as Robin Datta mentioned. It also creates memories which are even more cohesive than any single tradition or celebration. I much appreciate the perspective of communal celebrations versus societal celebrations, thanks for that Robin.

    I have long ceased to be a Christian, incidentally, an Eastern Orthodox Christian, and raised my children without religion although I embraced Paganism, a tradition more about the cycles of nature. Yet we still celebrated christmas with a tree and the gifts, and of course the kids always were given the factual historical explanations of who St Nick and St Basil were, and what the tree symbolized (hint, it rhymes with Jesus) for the Druids. We celebrate the solstice, we even light a Menorah to honor their 1/4 Jewish blood. And this year, like all the others, we welcomed in the new year with champagne, an oath and a hope that 2014 won’t suck as badly as 2013 did.
    Of course, we here on NBL know it will suck worse. 😉

    We turned the ball-drop on at the last second as per our usual tradition, watched briefly the throngs of humanity in the NYC cold, patted ourselves on the back for knowing better than to be part of that insanity, turned off the TV once more and turned our own music back on and had our own teen inspired festival at home with a couple close friends and lots of chocolate… LOTS of chocolate.
    It’s what we have and what we know, and what we love and how we’ve built memories.
    The worst ever New Year was spent on a party boat at the recommendation of two dear friends. We couldn’t get off that floating vomit canoe fast enough. But we remember the hilarity of it and that brings my ex and me together.

    But every year I honor the Cross Quarter Equinox festival of Brighid, Fael o Brighid, or Imbolc, or Candlemass, or St Brigid’s Day. This is a personal celebration I started alone back in 1993 when I discovered Brighid and this incredible ancient holiday. An Irish fire goddess who represented healing, the hearth, protection of the environment, guardian of sacred healing waters, mourner of dead soldiers, patroness of poetry and music, lady of the forge and the green mantle, a woman so bold a feminist as to ask St Patrick’s hand in marriage. This was my kind of a Goddess!
    In 2003 I traveled to Kildare, Ireland to meet the people who had, unbeknownst to me, rekindled her flame in 1993! I visited one of her sacred wells and there a young oak was decorated with ribbons that would collect the healing dew of her special night. The people would come the next day to collect them and use them through the year to heal minor ailments.
    This is quite a sacred celebration and one I was honored to partake in.
    The night before, on February 1st, we gathered near the well in a large circle and sang songs (that I did not know!), we then followed a trail of peat lit lanterns (soup cans) to the sacred well and we made offerings of oak leaves, or other personal items to be left in any location we felt that called to us.
    The next day we met at St Brigid’s Church, where we each placed another offering on the fire pit and a piece of peat to lite. The same pit that had been extinguished 500 years ago. Then we took a bus ride to the Curragh where two lovely story tellers told us tales of the ancient Brighid and of the land of the sacredness of the people’s needs, and of how the ancient priestess protected the land for the people by claiming it as theirs and not the local king’s (this entailed a magic cape trick, hence lady of the mantle). We walked a labyrinth to a peace pole, and we traveled to a sacred lake that was being threatened by highway construction. At the lake we heard about a Japanese scientist who was trying to prove water could be healed by blessing it, and we oohhed and ahhhed over the photos of beautiful crystalized water. We heard of a group of peace activists walking that day to the nearby airforce base to protest Bush’s intention to invade Iraq. Then we collected reeds on the banks to make our fire crosses with, while a lovely man played his tin flute and small children danced on the banks.
    I filmed this trip and made a short documentary of it because I knew no one would believe that Christians would celebrate such a Pagan style of festival. Only in Ireland.
    It’s on Youtube. If anyone would like to see it message me and I’ll share the link.

    This February 1st and 2nd I will be celebrating again with friends. New memories will be made to honor our humanity, our fragility, and the Earth.

  • THE MIS-TAKING OF AMERICA

    America was not infinite; it only seemed that way to early European explorers, conquerors, and settlers for whom the size of the known world had suddenly doubled and the quantity of effectively unclaimed resources increased by far more than that. This sudden immeasurable and unearned abundance, it is clear, authorized a new set of cultural practices that would not have been deemed appropriate by a people confronted by visible boundaries and limits. But I am less concerned with past crimes than I am with the beliefs and expectations that lead us into the future. The stories we continue to tell ourselves about the discovery of America, its conquest and settling, the Enlightened awakening from an age of unreason are similar to those that helped develop and profoundly shaped a new way of thinking about the world whose main contours are still in place today. The remaining question is how deep beyond these specific practices and habits of consumption does the false image of the infinite run? Our way of life is clearly not sustainable; but what if our way of perceiving reality–our fundamental political, economic, even scientific categories—were also inalterably deformed by the false image of an infinite land? Is philosophical Liberalism compatible with a finite planet and a way of life designed to live on it? How fundamental are the changes we must make in order to recast the American way of life to fit on a finite, increasingly crowded, planet?

    In his one and only full book, Notes on Virginia, Thomas Jefferson provide clear evidence to the first point, that American cultural practices were shaped by this terrible misconception of limitlessness, even if its most destructive and inescapable consequences might come home to roost only decades, even centuries later. In a brief aside in Notes on Virginia, Jefferson contrasts European and American farming practices. Unlike European agriculture, which he admits is more intensive and careful in its approach, the character of American agriculture is formed by the fact that a parcel stripped of its fertility can be abandoned for another: “The indifferent state of that [careful agricultural practices] among us does not proceed from want of knowledge merely; it is from our having such quantities of land to waste as we please. In Europe the object is to make the most of their land, labour being abundant; here it is to make the most of our labour, land being abundant.” This is an astonishing admission by Jefferson; and it is indicative of a remarkable culturally-, or perhaps geographically-conditioned lack of foresight, the apparent unimportance of the question: how much land we might really “waste as we please?” The same lack of foresight appears in most discussions over energy and the environment today, even as we can calculate their finite nature with considerable accuracy. Ours is a history of a certain kind of success enabled by a particular kind of miscalculation.

    Am I making too much of an off-handed remark, a moment of hyperbole buried in an otherwise dry and rather boring recitation of fact and figures about the commonwealth of Virginia? I don’t think so and for a number of reasons significant to our topic. Jefferson’s statement about the wasting of land and the constant push westward to find new land was not an obscure sentiment, but was the basic policy and practice of Southern planters. George Washington’s description of plantation management was similar:

    “a piece of land is cut down,” its forests stripped away, so that it can then be “kept under constant cultivation, first in tobacco and then in Indian corn (two very exhausting plants), until it will yield scarcely anything (quoted in Kennedy 17). At that point, it would be abandoned in favor of new land obtained at the ever-receding frontier. As historian Robert Kennedy shows in his book, Mr. Jefferson’s Lost Cause: Land, Farmers, Slavery, and the Louisiana Purchase, the life of colonial planters was far more mobile and unsettled than the image of old southern families would suggest: “the evidence of local records in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi indicates that the average planter family moved at least twice in a generation,” while the wealthiest planters engaged in ramped land speculation across the western frontier. The result, as Kennedy argues, was “a migrant agricultural capitalism with results deadly to humans and to the land itself.” “As the practice of working soil to death and slaves to exhaustion was repeated over and over again, the desolating army of King Cotton moved on a broad front across the South, drawing people away from home and leaving blighted hopes behind. By 1847, the first cotton lands planted in Georgia were already exhausted; the number of white farmers in Wilkes County fell by half in twenty years” (21, 14, 21-2). This practice was made possible by the low price of abundant land. As Jefferson remarked, “we can buy an acre of new land cheaper than we can manure an old one” (12).

    This cycle of careless over-use, destruction, and self-displacement was repeated most rapidly by the wealthiest Southern Planters with huge land holdings and thousands of slaves, all of whom were focused on commodity crops such as tobacco and cotton. But these wasteful practices, and an accompanying ideology of short-term profit, can be seen throughout the American experience, from the first fur traders to the fracking industry today. In a chapter entitled “The Economics of Extinction,” in her beautiful Reflections from Bullough’s Pond, Diana Muir tells of the pre-colonial trade in beaver pelts, a trade driven by European fashion, the debt held by many early European settlers, and by the precarious and constant need to hold a surplus against the vicissitudes of life in a foreign land where, as Muir puts it, the Europeans, like us, believed that “one could never pile up too many goods” (11). Between around 1630 and 1675 all the beavers in New England were turned into coats and hats, hunted into extinction.

    The loss of beaver however did not spell only the end of a lucrative trade, but the dying of an entire ecosystem that was responsible for the initial abundance experienced by the first settlers, as well as the entire way of life for the Native Americans. The beaver pond, after all, provides habitat for hundreds of species as well as an entire microscopic universe. As Muir describes it, the dead leaves that fall into the stagnant waters of a dammed stream creates algae, which in turn produces “food for the tiny creatures that feed the small fish that feed big fish that feed the majestic osprey. . . . Sedge, moss, arrowhead, pickerelweed, water milfoil—every plant between the ferns far up the bank and the duckweed floating on open water is home to some animal or its young, a necessary food for some growing thing” (6). But the loss of the beaver, nature’s greatest architect and landscaper, has an even greater geographical and hydrological impact upon the land, and in a way that directly affects an agricultural people. A beaver dam is a wonder of water management, moderating “the seasonal extremes of rainfall, trapping the rains of April to release them in slow, even seepage through the hot, dry days of summer and early fall” (6).

    When settlers first arrived, Muir notes, New England was home to tens of thousands of beaver ponds. As important as the slow release of water, moreover, was the way millions of gallons were held behind the dams, creating a constant seepage into the ground. The result: a “reservoir of ground water so abundant that it burst in ever-flowing springs [even] on the beach,” a ground water source necessary to all “the abundance of every kind [that] impressed the first Europeans to reach these shores, abundance of strawberries in the fields and of deer in the woods, abundance of trees, and an astonishing abundance of fresh, clear water” (7). The beaver gone, the forests felled, the ground turned into fast-eroding fields, this became the hardscrabble New England that we know today. But it scarcely mattered to the European settlers; rivers could be turned into industrial mills and new land could be acquired further west, with little cost to this new economics of extinction that had great and varied abundance to churn through. Recalling Huber and Mills, the logic of the wealth retrieving machines of these new white Americans advanced much faster than the abundance retreated—over the decades, they closed in on the receding horizon.

    If this economics of extinction was made possible by the cheap supply of land and the cheapness with which the lives of its inhabitants were treated, how was it justified? Most individual participants in any destructive form of commerce keep their noses down and, for the most part, are just trying to make a living or compete with their neighbors, or live up to some status-filled ideal; for them, no justification beyond immediate gain is required. But a “big picture thinker” with epic ambitions like Jefferson, one who was designing a new way of life, would require something more. This is where the notion of the infinite or the limitless scale of the Americas comes in, a notion that appears repeatedly throughout Jefferson’s work and, more significantly, informs the sort of expansionary policy that Jefferson inaugurated and that has become one of the few political solutions that has proved successful decade after decade ever since Jefferson’s purchase of the Louisiana Territory: when in doubt, expand and grow, a policy that has evolved from Westward expansion and Indian removal, to foreign conquest and economic imperialism. All of these expansionary solutions have been similarly cloaked with self-congratulatory stories of manifest destiny, American exceptionalism, an American Empire of Liberty or Beacon of Hope, a seven-billion member global middle class powered by Windows, and, most improbably, the myth that there are no limits to growth. This has also provides the model for categorical disregard of ecological limits that much of the world has adopted.

    It is true that Jefferson is often presented as the patron saint of American homestead agriculture, the spokesman for the virtuous and modest aspiration that American citizens might bind themselves to a piece of land which they would nurture and husband, while engaging in informed participation in the difficult task of self-government. Jefferson clearly favored this agricultural model over the more commercially and financially-minded manufacture or trade promoted by Alexander Hamilton and John Adams, with whom Jefferson battled over the identity America might assume. In a famous letter to John Jay, Jefferson writes: “Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, and they are tied to their country, and wedded to its liberty and interest by the most lasting bonds.” In order for the audacious American experiment in self-rule to work, the nation would need to be bound together by people also bound to the earth, or so Jefferson professed. While the image was modest, the ambition was immense and the arc of simple virtue reached towards the infinite: an Empire of Liberty.

    This tension between a modest virtue and a grand ambition is illustrated in the same letter to Jay: the stay at home virtues of the yeoman farmer, tied to the land and a local community is also a sort of tool or device to be used in a far more ambitious dream in which “most valuable citizens,” whose way of living Jefferson would never have accepted for himself, appear as pawns in a policy of expansion and growth that did not develop any strategies, in the end, to limit itself. “We have now lands enough to employ an infinite number of people in their cultivation. As long therefore as they can find employment in this line, I would not convert them into mariners, artisans or anything else. But our citizens will find employment in this line till their numbers, & of course their productions, become too great for the demand both internal & foreign. This is not the case as yet, & probably will not be for a considerable time.”

    Our first clue to this broader motive comes in the very question that Jefferson is addressing: the paternalistic one that asks, how should we put our new citizens to work? What occupation might best serve the political needs of the nation? But beyond the social engineering, as people on the right would refer to this today, the answer exemplifies a common Jeffersonian assumption buried in his similar response to other political questions, many of which employed for political advantage the seemingly unlimited space of the American continent. That we could waste as much land as we please makes the virtues of being tied to the land and the liberty of the nation optional and, like everything else, disposable. “We have now lands enough to employ an infinite number of people in their cultivation.” Was there really room for an infinite number of farmers? Is Jefferson serious? While he may have admitted that it wasn’t really infinite, only infinite for all practical purposes, here and elsewhere he nevertheless proceeds as if it were truly infinite or that any distant limits need not be a concern of his. The only foreseeable limits that Jefferson can even imagine are established not by land constraints, but by limits to the demand of agricultural products.

    It is also interesting to consider these words in light of the post-Keynesian economic theory of Krugman and Reich, in which economic problems are generally presumed to be ones of demand rather than supply, and in the light of our multi-billion dollar advertising and marketing industry, whose main function is to address problems of demand by goading us into wanting and needing more. If there is a limit to how many farmers Jefferson thought the United States might support, it is not land. It is instead demand for their products, food, but also fiber and tobacco. This belief in infinite land pops up repeatedly in Jefferson’s writings and speeches. We have seen the way Jefferson has made some sort of truce with the wasteful techniques of agriculture in Notes on Virginia, assenting to the sacrifice of soil and “lasting bonds,” alike, to some principle of productivity or profit, and a corresponding inability to anticipate how long it might take to waste all our land. The same sort of indifference to the quickening power of exponential growth appears in his first Inaugural Address, where Jefferson predicts that this “chosen country” would have “room enough for our descendants to the thousandth and thousandth generation.” This, we might note, is more than ten times the generations there had been since the birth of Christ. We should also note that in the same address Jefferson spoke favorably on the exponential population expansion that the young nation was experiencing: “you will perceive that the increase in numbers during the last 10 years, proceeding in geometric ratio, promises a duplication in little more than 22 years.” This growth is viewed with nothing but optimistic pride: “we contemplate this rapid growth and the prospect it holds up to us, not with a view to the injuries it may enable us to do others in some future day, but to the settlement of the extensive country still remaining vacant within our limits to the multiplication of men susceptible of happiness, educated in the love of order, habituated to self-government, and valuing its blessings above all price.”

    Jefferson’s comments on agriculture can be slightly, and perhaps purposefully, confusing. The wealthy planters who received the benefit of most of Jefferson’s policies do not share the ethic of the family farm. Likewise, it is disingenuous to suggest that labor was not plentiful in the new world, where millions of slaves toiled and were necessary to this economics of extinction. In the above mentioned Mr. Jefferson’s Lost Cause, Robert Kennedy argues that in addition to the better-known divide between Jefferson’s agrarianism and Hamilton’s commerce and industry, agriculture had two distinct strains of its own. One of these, represented by the Yeoman farmer of the sort written about to John Jay, was the kind of farming Jefferson favored, at least in principle and within his soaring approbations. In contrast, was the slave-based, commodity-centered, Southern plantation, a clear precursor to today’s industrial agriculture. While Jefferson despised the slavery upon which the plantation system was built, and was eventually to mourn the devastation to the land that it wrought, he nevertheless suited his policies around the needs of the wealthy planter and at the expense of the yeoman farmer. The Louisiana Purchase and the spread of slavery westward was the most significant example of this, but the same sacrifice of his ideal pervaded a much broader series of decisions, all of which are well-documented by Kennedy. An Empire of Liberty founded on the virtues of the cultivators of the earth was the “lost cause” referred to in Kennedy’s title.

    The yeoman farmer was less dependent on the money economy and foreign markets. Small family farms were far more self-sufficient and, because they were less capital-intensive, were not as ready or as able to uproot themselves even for the cheap land at the frontier. In Jefferson’s day it was already apparent that the small and diversified farmer, often laboring without slaves, provided what we would today call as more “sustainable” model. They would manure an acre of land rather than abandon it for another. This model of agriculture and its attendant virtues is significant to our broader understanding of Liberalism and America, and our attempt to find a path towards a sustainable future. As Kennedy would tell it, American history is a struggle between these two competing strains of freedom and democracy, a struggle that tore at Jefferson himself. Kennedy argues that the struggle between the free, independent, and ecologically minded family farm, on the one hand, and the more exploitative and destructive plantation, on the other, often hung in a close balance. It could have gone either way. He is particularly critical of Jefferson, who for a variety of personal and political reasons, never had quite the courage necessary to defend his ideals. In this way, Kennedy believes Jefferson could have possibly prevented the growth of slavery, the underdevelopment of the South, and even the civil war.

    Kennedy’s thesis also suggests that Liberalism contains within it a sustainable strain based on lower levels of consumption and waste, and an economy tied more closely to an ecology. This view would in some sense cast doubt on my thesis that Liberalism is inherently expansionary and inherently anti-ecological. My primary response is: good! All the better if Liberalism and Enlightenment reason have the seeds of a sustainable rebirth buried within them. My goal is not to overthrow the principles of the Liberal Enlightenment just for the fun of it, but to articulate ways in which our Liberal Expectations, as they have evolved, might be reformed to fit into a finite planet. The future prospects of my two year old twin sons become all the more better if, indeed, we can retrace our steps and take some other fork in the road. They will care not a bit whether they inherit an inhabitable planet with an intact society that is Liberal, Post-Liberal, or something with an altogether different label. I am more than happy to welcome those parts of our tradition and our reigning political ideology that accept limits to consumption, that don’t value growth for growth’s sake, or believe that every problem will be solved with more technology and a step further from the soil and the land.

    In any event, a number of questions still remain even if we except Kennedy’s thesis: why, most significantly, has our tradition of the yeoman farmer given way time and time again to the powers of expansion and growth? What forces or internal logic has transformed our family farmers into an industrial agricultural complex, our tradesmen and artisans into assembly line workers, our store-owners into cogs in a big-box machine, our local bankers and accountants into Wall Street masters of the universe, the good earthy folk of the North East and the Mid-West into iPad-punching account executives, marketers, and global salespeople? We have, I will argue, designed all our life supporting systems—our food, our trade, our manufacturing, our waste disposal, even our political elections—as if the world were limitless, our resources and dumps infinite. Was there ever really anything else? Did ecology ever stand a chance in the face of so profitable an economy of extinction?

    It is of course satisfying to think it did, especially if we can find a villain to blame. Kennedy’s description follows the pattern we saw in our discussion of partisan warfare: the forces of destruction are thus isolated into a particular group. In this case, the Southern, slave-owning plantation owners provide a welcome target for educated, progressive, northern middle-class people. They, we can happily say, were the problem. Those values, not ours, are unsustainable. But one need not look very far to see that Jefferson’s yeoman farmer may have just been a somewhat slower version of the Southern Planter. While Kennedy emphasizes several times that the Yeoman model was successfully instituted in the North East, and areas north of the Ohio River, the marks they may have left on the terrain have long since been plowed under. A state like Wisconsin or Illinois was, at one time, the seat of diverse agriculture and then for a time the center of grain production. But wheat will deplete the soil quickly and thus the wheat belt was forced west, leaving Wisconsin to Dairy pastures. The only thing that has allowed states like Iowa or Kansas to remain in grain production was the introduction of chemical fertilizers, which have temporarily obscured the complete destruction of its soils.

    Perhaps, to answer the questions posed above, like absolute power, unlimited space corrupts. Or perhaps the scales of judgment and reason cannot be balanced except against a background of limits and finitude. The illusion infinite space, like infinite energy or resources, at the very least lets one off a number of ethical hooks and solves all sorts of practical problems: without limits “and” replaces “either/or” and governing becomes the far easier project of adding benefit to benefit. Expansion helps fill the coffers; free land, like today’s tax cuts or stimulus checks, stills unrest. A bigger pie means less struggle over the relative size of one’s piece. One must believe that there is infinite land or develop some economic fantasy about a permanently growing dematerialized knowledge economy in order for this sort of “solution” not to look like you are just kicking the can down the road. Which is more or less what Jefferson did with regards to slavery, where we can see a similar sort of tension between short-term gain and the deeper principles necessary to a democratic nation. The immediate economic gain of a slave economy provided exports of sugar, cotton, and tobacco that a young cash-starved and highly indebted nation needed. For even as Jefferson believed that slavery would destroy the national soul, the lure of fantastic gain from wasted land and lives was too much for his virtue or his reason or some other part of him that was not as strong as we retrospectively might have liked. But as long as there were no visible limits, the day of reckoning could be postponed. This “problem” would have to be solved, but only later. We may scorn Jefferson’s views on slavery and remain unforgiving towards his obvious historical cultural and racial bias. But do we not tell a similar sort of story about our tremendous waste and destruction of the planet? Yes, someone needs to do something. But not yet, not until we fix the economy or make sure everyone has good internet access, or a job free from manual labor. Part of the work of reworking our political and economic beliefs and expectations involves the tricky task of separating various threads from our history.

    In his magnificent portrait of the United States, The Unsettling of America, Wendell Berry observes that “one of the peculiarities of the white race’s presence in America is how little intention has been applied to it.” America was of course discovered, and its inhabitants misnamed, in the course of a ill-navigated search for a short route to India; despite this fundamental and originary disorientation–or perhaps because of it–the continent was, Berry points out, thereafter “laid open in an orgy of goldseeking” whose object of desire was “always somewhere further on.” This combination of misplaced intentions and spatial bewilderment marked the beginning of a restless settling and unsettling characteristic of our culture, to treaties brokered only long enough to be betrayed, to trails of broken bodies and broken spirits and the demeaning of life and work upon which the unstoppable push westward was beaten and eventually paved. From the first days plunder to the present, Berry argues, we the inhabitants of the Americas have continued to “displace ourselves. . . with the same mixture of fantasy and avarice” (3) that Columbus and Cortez first combined with such explosive results. Jefferson is of special interest to this story precisely because he is not entirely given over to this fantasy and avarice, but is concerned about the virtues necessary for peaceful democratic self-rule. Jefferson was no conquistador. Peace and independence ranked far higher in his scheme than sudden riches. And yet he cannot resist what Berry refers to as this tendency to displace ourselves and what I would refer to as the mist-taking of America, both of which cannot be fully dissociated from the disorientating experience of an incomprehensibly large space at the edge of which Christopher Columbus ran aground.

    Contrary to popular legend, Columbus did not believe the Earth was flat. That myth was brokered by Washington Irving in an attempt to make pre-modern Europeans appear irremediably stupid and ourselves, in contrast, impeachably advanced. But Columbus did believe the Earth to be significantly smaller than it is and, because of a simple, almost comic, transcription error, insisted that the 19,000 mile westward trip from Europe to Asia was more like 2,000. Had he not run aground when he did, on an unmapped land, Columbus and his men would have soon starved to death as they drifted off into obscurity. Until his death, nevertheless, Columbus maintained that with his landing in the “East Indies” he had indeed found passage to the edge of Asia. But given the overriding purposes of the day, it scarcely mattered which hemisphere Columbus had stumbled upon, and his staggering geographical disorientation did nothing to diminish his jubilation, nor inhibit the ensuing orgy of plunder or the grandeur of the fantasy and avarice with which he carried it out. His initial impression of the first Native Americans he encountered was how their open friendliness and thus how easy they would be to slay or enslave, both of which he promptly set out to prove. In his first report to his sponsors in the Spanish Court, Columbus likewise promised them “as much gold as they need. . . and as many slaves as they ask.” The mortality rate in the Islands Columbus visited approached 90% in many cases. Although we don’t like to think about it too much, we, middle-class Americans, are the beneficiaries of this mistaking of America, and it is only by turning away from the details of his three eventual rampages through the Caribbean and the coast of Central America that Columbus remains a celebrated hero in the United States.

    In this way did Columbus begin a process which I would call the mis-taking of America: where cognitive, accounting, or navigational errors actually leads to a great and successful plundering, where “Indians” are either removed or made invisible according to a philosophy based on a distinction between civilization and savagery; where civilization attempts to wash itself clean in a state of nature, which it then proceeds to clear, mine, and develop into oblivion; where the political and spiritual renewal that an empty frontier promises is used to justify the emptying of that frontier of its native inhabitants so that it might be reworked according to European ideals of property, cultivation, and advancement, often by slaves kidnapped from Africa—with the whole charade of avarice held together with high-sounding philosophical and scientific fantasy. Thus do cognitive and error and moral blindness feed off of each other and thus do they create a disorientation and moral unmooring–one which can be seen most vividly today in our relationship to energy and the environment.

    I am not of course the first to depict the particular moral and political development of the United States in terms of the vast space of the Americas. This honor likely goes to historian Frederick Jackson Turner and his late nineteenth century “Frontier Thesis,” according to which our national development was best explained by our history of westward expansion. Turner’s overriding purpose was to explain the uniqueness of the “American character,” especially in comparison to the European one, which was at the time mired in conflict. My question, of course, is quite different in that it asks “how is it that we, the most enlightened and technologically advanced people, are unable to see where our current trajectory will take us?” But the role of a vast and bountiful space takes center-stage in both approaches. While for most nations, according to Turner, “development has occurred in a limited area,” America has developed through its continued expansion into an open frontier: “Up to our own day American history has been in a large degree the history of the colonization of the Great West. The existence of an area of free land, its continuous recession, and the advance of American settlement westward, explains American development” (The Frontier in American History 1). More specifically, as the frontier line advanced, Jackson proposes, settlers were continually confronted with primitive, even savage conditions, and the newly cast civilization was repeatedly forced its forge itself anew out of the wilderness: “this perennial rebirth, this fluidity of American life, this expansion westward with its new opportunities, its continuous touch with the simplicity of primitive society, furnish the forces dominating American character” (2).

    Turner, of course, remains oblivious to the peoples and the cultures who did in fact inhabit a frontier that was neither free nor open. His is a history most clearly written from the standpoint of the conqueror. Armed with Enlightenment principles such as the “state of nature” in which human civilization would be laid bare and cleansed of its sediment so that it might enjoy perennial rebirth, Turner provides one more example of the mis-taking of America. The American character, according to Turner, is marked by:

    a coarseness and strength combined with acuteness and inquisitiveness; that practical, inventive turn of mind, quick to find expedients; that masterful grasp of material things, lacking in the artistic but powerful to effect great ends; that restless, nervous energy; that dominant individualism, working for good and for evil, and withal that buoyancy and exuberance which comes with freedom–these are traits of the frontier, or traits called out elsewhere because of the existence of the frontier. Since the days when the fleet of Columbus sailed into the waters of the New World, America has been another name for opportunity, and the people of the United States have taken their tone from the incessant expansion which has not only been open but has even been forced upon them.

    Not adequately characterized, here, is a blinding arrogance that is shared by Turner, an inability to understand who, at this meeting point between “savagery and civilization,” the real savages were. The terrible “expedients” that these restless heroes were so quick to find need to be named, the “great ends” need to be defined. For these were a people who had tools and weapons of great power, and beguiling trinkets; they carried devastating disease, were unmoored by exuberance and opportunism, and were animated by new beliefs that released them from any sense of bounded limits. They were smart, no doubt, and quick. But they were not wise. They knew how to conquer and exploit, but it is unclear they ever learned how to settle.

    In discussing the “unsettling of America,” Wendell Berry suggests that “the first principle of the exploitative mind is to divide and conquer. And surely there has never been a people more ominously and painfully divided that we are—both against each other and within ourselves (11). The roots of this divide—which, in contrast to Turner, Berry believes to be the most significant product of our restless advance against a settled frontier–of course lie in our history: in a history where we have been competing with each other and the earth at the expense of both. In contrast to the illusion of infinity provided by the immense stretch of land embedded in our modern picture of the world, Berry looks to the divine as a source of wholeness that might heal these divisions. But “we can make ourselves whole only by accepting our partiality, by living within our limits, by being human—not by trying to be gods” (95).

    To this I would only add that the lure of infinite reason becomes insensible to that reason’s limits. As Alasdair MacIntyre reminds us, “reason is calculative; it can assess truths of fact and mathematical relations but nothing more. In the realm of practice therefore it can speak only of means. About ends it must be silent” (After Virtue 54). But our reason and logic has been ruthlessly self-assertive. In the age of infinite reason, and upon the land where it was unleashed, our ends, unguided by anything else, are given to the aggressive impulses of expansion—bigger, faster, more, and yet more still. Liberalism, at least as it has evolved so far, might be described of as a system where the ends—the values and goals that guide our practices—are a reflection only of the calculating and opportunistic means we have mistaken with truth itself: expansion, because we have cleared the space for it; wealth, because it makes everyone wealthy; growth, because it permits future growth; competition, because it keeps us competitive; freedom, because it prevents any hindrance to our aims, whatever they might be.

    Transition Milwaukee

  • I guess the traditional/ritual paraphenalia associated with celebrating the astronomical solstice/equinox ‘quarters’ of the year and such was predicated on a somewhat stable climate- what becomes of your celebration if all the fruits and flowers that have been fruiting and flowering at that season since anyone can remember have been forced to change their timetable?

  • I’m right with you Jack. Here’s what I did for Xmas: http://theoverthinker.org/im-not-a-grinch-but-i-dont-do-christmas/ and New Year: http://theoverthinker.org/da-bucket-list/

    I’m past caring what other people think of my preference and habits – my version of partying like it’s 1999 is to take into account that we may well see another year (as we did in 2000 – and that 1999 millenium party was crap anyway…), so let’s try and make it one that causes as little harm and suffering as possible while we wait for the curtain to fall 😉

  • Jack
    I could not disagree with what you say. You hit the nail in the head when it comes to question our typical practice of “celebrating” so many things.
    To celebrate has become a kind of painful act, because the question about what are we celebrating, what for and (mainly) why, has an answer that makes no sense to me.
    In essence “just because”, or the typical, “it has been done ever since”.
    About New Year celebration, while I was watching the fireworks (had to), couldn’t avoid thinking about what Guy McPherson has said so many times. Every new year of my life has been worse than the previous. So, if 2014 will be worse than 2013, what are we celebrating?

  • The celebration that most sums up the USA is the Black Friday Shopping Riot. Thanksgiving and Christmas pale in comparison.

    I enjoy the winter holidays because cold weather means I have a fine excuse to do what I do year round: as little as possible.

  • Cowgirl Apocalypse Haiku #103

    Gray whale twins, conjoined-
    a first. World Heritage Site
    meets Fukushima.

  • @ JohnD

    Really hate that word “sacred”. We are a species of mammal with a tremendous ability to adapt and consume. We have adapted and consumed ourselves into overshoot and soon, oblivion. It is how species are programmed. It just is what it is. And if anything is sacred, it is all sacred. It’s all one experience, undivided. No one is guilty, no one is not guilty. No one is special, no one is not special. Nothing is sacred, nothing is not sacred. It all just is as it is.

    Excellent point.

    ‘Sacred’ defined as dedicated to God or some religious purpose. So we have areas, so defined, and days, and times, so defined, and when you step over the boundary, suddenly, it’s non-sacred, which is utterly absurd.

    Trouble is this all goes back a long way, for us in the West, mostly to Descartes, and the expedient political decision to divide reality up into a material domain and a spiritual domain, and give the material domain to the proto-scientists and the spiritual domain to the Church.

    And we’re stuck with that heritage. The scientific materialists deny that there can be any such thing as ‘sacred’ or ‘spiritual’ and so we can happily trash the planet and transform everything in any way we want, because it’s all just ‘stuff’.

    And the religions have almost all become totally lost and corrupt and have no idea what ‘holy’ or ‘sacred’ or ‘spiritual’ actually mean, they cling to dogma and rituals and institutional power hierarchies.

    So for anyone who feels the need for some authentic sense of enchantment and sanctity, or who feels that the Earth itself, as a whole, is sacred, or who finds spiritual meaning in the natural world without the mediation of religion, or who finds scientific materialism and established religions sterile and and inadequate, then there’s all the alternative stuff, where it is also easy to get disillusioned and lost, of course…

    As far as I am concerned, what’s NOT sacred ? If you can’t celebrate everything, in this very moment, then you don’t understand. This, here, now. That’s all you’ve got. That’s all that you will ever have. And some day, some time, it will all vanish. Forever. You will never know any of it again.

    What is it ? Nobody has the slightest idea.

    Isn’t that the weirdest thing ?

    You all talk and think and say stuff. But, ultimately, you do not know anything.

    As McKenna said. Little mouth noises.

    I mean, what we have, from science, from language, is a description, a long list of labels. Like bar codes. So if I tell you ‘can of beans’ you know I mean ‘can of beans’ and you can fetch ‘can of beans’.

    So we’ve stuck a label on everything out there.

    But that doesn’t EXPLAIN any of it !

    Doesn’t tell us WHAT it is, or WHY it is.

    You’d think, given that, that we might be suitably awe struck and kinda timorous and cautious and humble in how we dealt with this incredible experience…

    But we treat it with contempt, don’t we ? We’ve turned the place into a toxic trash pile, and we’re making it worse as fast as we can…

    I notice you start off with the biological paradigm, that we are a species of mammal. I share that view. We needed Darwin, to rid us of the previous conceit, that we were some exalted ‘chosed by God’ strutting about in our Victorian suits dominating everything. Unfortunately, that still hasn’t sunk in.

    But then what ? The Social Darwinist Capitalist Materialists moved in and took over.

    Personally, having been through the Deep Ecology and T. Mckenna and many other phases, I’ve come out to a different, and I must say, rather lonely, view. We simply have no idea AT ALL what we are. None of the theories and paradigms make any sense to me any more. We are not what we think, (or thought), we are.

    I wish I could frame this in a more intelligible fashion.

    I don’t mean the techno-utopian, tranhumanist, Kurzweillian, Venus Project, stuff. I think that’s all delusional bullshit. I just mean that the biological evolutionary explanation in its classical form does not contain ‘me’, as an individual. There is more to it.
    I don’t go with Kling and his aliens, I think that is nonsense, I don’t go with the occult forces stuff, but I’m totally awed by what I have learned re chi over the last year, which defies the laws of physics and medicine as I understood them, and also this is very interesting, the paradigm we have had for our evolution has been wrong :

    I have been advocating that the morphological differences observed within fossils typically ascribed to Homo sapiens (the so-called modern humans) and the Neanderthals fall within the variation observable in a single species.

    It was not surprising to find that Neanderthals and modern humans interbred, a clear expectation of the biological species concept.

    But most people were surprised with that particular discovery, as indeed they were with the fifth skull and many other recent discoveries, for example the “Hobbit” from the Indonesian island of Flores.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-25559172

  • Interesting read, but as usual, I spend more time reading the replies — I can’t be the only one!

    Our Christmas was spent getting as close to our son, his wife, and their tiny new baby — already 5 months old! — as we could. Just can’t get enough of them, since they live far away for the next 18 months. Presents and tinsel and ribbon don’t matter on this emotional scale. My wife and I gave only presents we made by hand, but we have little control over the consumerism of our relatives.

    New Year’s celebration was a sort of locavore pot-luck dinner held here at home, and a small bonfire to clean up a few dead trees not used in our hugelkultur beds. New Year’s eve day featured a hike up the mountain behind the house, and smelling fresh air, identifying a few animal tracks, enjoying a friend’s visit, and a nice view. The following day — high temp of +4F — featured a spectacular short hike on a new trail and taking in the view out over the White Mountains of New Hampshire on a clear, crisp day — will become a regular haunt, for sure!

    RE: “Sacred”: I throw out all the religious nonsense, and simply interpret this as what is sacred to me, to us, to you, for example. Still, the word comes with serious baggage.

    @Lydia: you wrote: “Expressions of “celebration” are expressions of surplus energy.” That’s a more harsh tone — or maybe just a wider brush than I can gladly accept. I think it is true of the typical Times Square/Casey Kasem sort of cultural vomit (I’d rather drive a spike through my head!), but doesn’t seem to cover a personal, at best even mindful, celebration of the beauty of nature. Yes, indeed, it uses human energy which could be directed elsewhere, but maybe the type of surplus Bill Mollison envisioned as a requirement of a stable community — like taking extra food to a neighbor in need.

    @ Pauline: Sure hope you can post the YouTube link — I for one would like to see it.

    @ FriedrichKling: Lots and lots and LOTS (OK — way too much) interesting stuff, but not sure all your facts are tight. You wrote:

    The beaver gone, the forests felled, the ground turned into fast-eroding fields, this became the hardscrabble New England that we know today.

    Have you been to New England lately? Humans certainly did screw it up badly (and some of that perhaps irreparably), and “hardscrabble” is not a bad likeness, but we have lots and lots of Beavers, as well as Beaver dams and swamps all over the place. Not so much in Chicopee, Worcester, or Bridgeport, I suppose, but ME, NH, & VT and the Berkshires are a pretty damn soggy place!

    In any event, a very happy new year to all on NBL, even if we can’t agree on what “happy” or “good” mean all the time. I’ll suggest good health, love of friends & family, safe water, and a successful garden. If you take issue with these, just go away!

  • I cannot so easily dispense with the special dimension of the sacred. The numinous aura of some spiritual experiences flood me with awe and gratitude at Realities so far above my ordinary experience. I really wonder if there is anyone who does not hold some occasions, some persons in a special place in their hearts. Those of us who seek through various practices to draw nearer to the dimensions of enhanced truth and beauty, will often prepare ourselves inwardly to be open to and fully appreciate our communion with the highest aims of our hearts. It is unfortunate that some of us have encountered false and hurtful uses of the concept of the sacred, and have been henceforth negative to anything that smacks of that word. I entertained such a negative stance for many years myself, but feel fortunate to have found a positive value hidden within a term that I had rejected.

    Knowing that some commenting here have expressed sometimes a critical attitude towards Carolyn Baker’s ideas, I will nevertheless share this link to her recent thoughts on the role of the sacred in activism. http://www.carolynbaker.net/2013/12/30/why-activism-needs-the-sacred-by-carolyn-baker/

  • @ mike k

    It’s only a problem for you because you allow yourself to be filled with the not-sacred, the not-numinous, the not-awesome. It’s your own mind that causes your own difficulty and then your own mind complains about it. How silly. You want to have up, but you don’t want to have down. You want to have left, but you don’t want right. You want hot but you don’t want cold. Always something to grumble about. Without secular, no sacred, without sacred, no secular. It’s all rubbish. Go beyond the Opposites, and suddenly you’re released from this nonsense. It just IS, and it is FANTASTIC. Miraculous beyond measure. All you do is fucking complain and put obstacles in the way.

  • I do hold that, as a practical means to personal resilience (and for other good reasons), a vegan diet is best. But to step aside from controversy for a moment, I’m looking at a leftover chicken carcass in a way that is informed by this article, and the one on listening.

    The choice meat had all been sliced away. Now it was time to pick off the rest hidden under bone and cartilage. With fingers washed, I began digging into the stubbornly adhered white meat.

    Then my thoughts turned to the article on listening. What would happen if I listened to the carcass? Soon, I began to perceive the carcass as something that filled up the entire space in my mind. That brought on other ideas. Having read “The Poetics of Space,” I grasped that the poetic self creates an entirely different reality from the mechanical self. The chicken was now important in a way that I could never previously have conceived. I saw that I was now celebrating it as part of the divine. Very creative decisions about how to prepare it came as if by magic–they tend to whenever one sits still and simply waits for a designated amount of time.

    The meal went well, and I felt as if I’d treated the chicken with the reverence s/he deserved, while being in turn recognized and rewarded. There was listening and there was celebration.

  • @Ulvfugl – “Go beyond the Opposites, and suddenly you’re released from this nonsense. It just IS, and it is FANTASTIC. Miraculous beyond measure.”

    Amazing. You seem to recommend that I enter a wonderful state of consciousness beyond all problems, efforts, studies, practices, whatever. But that state does not interest me. I want to be in a state of concerns, problems, efforts to help others, work on my own defects of character, egoism, etc. I would really like to be able to save all beings from suffering. I wouldn’t really be of much use for that if I was just blissed out all the time thinking how wonderful it is that millions are being tortured and dying, and I am blessedly beyond concern with all of that.

    Thanks for your effort to help me, Ulvfugl – but as you can see, I am beyond your help. I guess I’ll just have to struggle on without the amazing realization that you seem to say you are living….

  • My comment did not print.

  • THE MIS-TAKING OF AMERICA

    That was a great essay by Erik Lindberg. Of course, the point which seems to escape most doomers is that the elite are well aware that the 500 yo credit growth model has failed.

    Well, actually, it has simply reached its terminus. But, of course, anyone with an IQ above 2 std deviations could easily map the various projections and game play the resulting outcomes. So, one can expostulate on our malformed institutions and the resulting crises, but the smart n’ savvy are already onto the next grift(s).

    Question for all NBL, WAF & LE readers: if the growth model is dead, if organic (ie demand driven) credit is static, if excess energy consumption (the very basis of IC) has peaked, how does one go about continuing to be a ‘master of the universe’?

    Is it to found in doomsteading? Or the development of local communities and personal skills? Or, could it possibly be linked to the same post-Roman events that drove the development of local city-states, and the abandonment of highly expensive & difficult to maintain/guard/protect transportation, communication & trade routes?

    Think, doomers, think! You’ve been put onto a false trail. You’ve only got a limited number of years left. Don’t you want to spend them finally being proven right, and benefiting from the relative advantage of possessing more insight & knowledge?

  • @F Kling:

    “Perhaps, to answer the questions posed above, like absolute power, unlimited space corrupts-”

    “Space is limited”… in twenty-seven paragraphs. I like your sense of irony. I think you may have just broke the record hereabouts for taking up space? No wonder my last post took half a day to appear…

    Seriously though, a good read, (as far as I got) … Thanks.

  • @Doomer Support – I use google chrome anonymous, and am registered. And yet my posts are not printed unless they are brief notes saying I am not being printed. How come? What should I do differently?

  • Friedrich, please… an excerpt and a link will suffice.

    Interesting essay. I gagged on “my two year old twin sons”, though.
    Raises the even-sadder and sicker spectre of IVF.

  • Mike k, not that you’ll see this, but I am experiencing the same thing. I thought registration was supposed to cure the issue of posts getting caught up in spam. If I bug the new admin. team with PMs my comment shows up a half-a-day later.

  • @BVinVT, I wasn’t trying to be harsh, just realistic. Ancient celebrations featured natural rhythms and phenomena because we hadn’t invented the level of modern artificial distractions, to be sure. But I was also thinking of potlatches and so forth, the ceremonies talked about in “The Gift” where people we might regard as primitive—or otherwise different—make things *expressly to be destroyed* despite their relatively straitened circumstances. Celebration comes out of that luxury, I think. If I were starving to death, I’m not sure how much I would be celebrating the sun or the Milky Way or what-have-you.

    Btw, did you get my email about the meetup with Judith Haran on Thursday? If you are interested we are leaving Randolph at 9am and picking up another NBL’er near W. Lebanon around 10. It will be interesting to meet some other uber-doomers face to face.

  • ooh, now my comment to BV showed up right away, but I wrote a previous one to F. Kling.

  • Since all my illusions regarding the future departed with the onset of NTE, I’ve found myself taking refuge in the illusions of others and having a fine time in spite of it all. My holidays started on the 12th with a four day trip to Chitown with four other couples to eat sausages and drink beer and hot spiced wine with the guys, while the gals shoped for Xmas trinkets at the Kriskringel Mart in Daley Plaza, snow and all!

    My wife found six new “poopers” for our pooper tree (one of five trees in our house!) “Pooper” is short for pooparootinmandylein, which is what my mom called the Xmas tree ornaments fashioned like the red toped mushrooms with white spots from the Black Forest. Pooparootinmandylein is supposed to translate into, little man of the forest, or some such.

    Anyways, our wonderful Xmas couldn’t have been more pooperific! 😉

    Speaking of mushrooms, the 1/5 broadcast by Mike Ruppert features a discussion about Terrance Mackenna. It’s quite fascinating! According to T.M., mankind is approaching the end of time and will evolve into something new. Hope at last? Apparently not for all. I highly recommend this listen, and am interested in your comments.

    You can find Mr. Rupperts, The Lifeboat Hour, HERE. Go to 1/5 broadcast (most recent).

    http://lifeboathour.podbean.com/

  • Let me try posting this response to U. again.

    @Ulvfugl – “Go beyond the Opposites, and suddenly you’re released from this nonsense. It just IS, and it is FANTASTIC. Miraculous beyond measure.”

    Amazing. You seem to recommend that I enter a wonderful state of consciousness beyond all problems, efforts, studies, practices, whatever. But that state does not interest me. I want to be in a state of concerns, problems, efforts to help others, work on my own defects of character, egoism, etc. I would really like to be able to save all beings from suffering. I wouldn’t really be of much use for that if I was just blissed out all the time thinking how wonderful it is that millions are being tortured and dying, and I am blessedly beyond concern with all of that.

    Thanks for your effort to help me, Ulvfugl – but as you can see, I am beyond your help. I guess I’ll just have to struggle on without the amazing realization that you seem to say you are living….

  • It’s a two bourbon Twilight at least. 😀

    Old & In The Way – Midnight Moonlight (1973)

    Back in the day the music was the message and the message was in the music. Turn it up!

  • ‘Happy’ new planet revolution to all, as we now start tilting into the sun again here in the northern hemisphere. Celebrate. Say goodbye to all that was known and counted on and taken for granted regarding weather, crops, and fellow creatures. Say hello to the Unknown.

    @Kirk- Interesting that you would have a tree dedicated to amanita – the very essence of the spirit of winter solstice ….

    “The sacred mushroom was the red and white amanita muscaria mushroom, also known as “fly agaric.”
    Most of the major elements of the modern Christmas celebration, such as Santa Claus, Christmas trees, magical reindeer and the giving of gifts, are originally based upon the traditions surrounding the harvest and consumption of these most sacred mushrooms.

    These ancient peoples, including the Lapps of modern-day Finland, and the Koyak tribes of the central Russian steppes, believed in the idea of a World Tree. The World Tree was seen as a kind of cosmic axis, onto which the planes of the universe are fixed. The roots of the World Tree stretch down into the underworld, its trunk is the “middle earth” of everyday existence, and its branches reach upwards into the heavenly realm.

    The North Star was also considered sacred, since all other stars in the sky revolved around its fixed point. They associated this “Pole Star” with the World Tree and the central axis of the universe. The top of the World Tree touched the North Star, and the spirit of the shaman would climb the metaphorical tree, thereby passing into the realm of the gods. This is the true meaning of the star on top of the modern Christmas tree, and also the reason that the super-shaman Santa makes his home at the North Pole.
    The amanita muscaria mushrooms grow only under certain types of trees, mostly firs and evergreens. The mushroom caps are the fruit of the larger mycelium beneath the soil which exists in a symbiotic relationship with the roots of the tree. To ancient people, these mushrooms were literally “the fruit of the tree.”

    Ancient peoples were amazed at how these magical mushrooms sprang from the earth without any visible seed. They considered this “virgin birth” to have been the result of the morning dew, which was seen as the semen of the deity. The silver tinsel we drape onto our modern Christmas tree represents this divine fluid.

    The active ingredients of the amanita mushrooms are not metabolized by the body, and so they remain active in the urine. In fact, it is safer to drink the urine of one who has consumed the mushrooms than to eat the mushrooms directly, as many of the toxic compounds are processed and eliminated on the first pass through the body.
    It was common practice among ancient people to recycle the potent effects of the mushroom by drinking each other’s urine. The amanita’s ingredients can remain potent even after six passes through the human body. Some scholars argue that this is the origin of the phrase “to get pissed,” as this urine-drinking activity preceded alcohol by thousands of years….”

    http://www.cannabisculture.com/articles/3136.html

  • Fukushima, something dated mid december.
    But interesting.
    The movie “The beach” gets closer

    http://www.youtube.com HEI4XinYmHc

  • @ mike k

    Amazing. You seem to recommend that I enter a wonderful state of consciousness beyond all problems, efforts, studies, practices, whatever. But that state does not interest me. I want to be in a state of concerns, problems, efforts to help others, work on my own defects of character, egoism, etc. I would really like to be able to save all beings from suffering. I wouldn’t really be of much use for that if I was just blissed out all the time thinking how wonderful it is that millions are being tortured and dying, and I am blessedly beyond concern with all of that.

    Yes, mike k, I already know you are a vain self-indulgent egotist.

    How can you ever help anyone else when you can’t even help yourself ?

    And yet you say you work helping people ?

    Did I mention anything about being ‘blissed out’ ? Of course I didn’t. But you, in your ignorance and laziness make your assumptions, to avoid the effort, so you can remain where you are. Same old shit.

    You’re not the slightest BIT concerned about the millions being tortured and dying, you’re only concerned with mike k and his glimpses of the fucking numinous, and his endless ‘spiritual quest’, which has been and still is and will probably always be, a constant excuse for avoiding EVER actually getting there. Which is always right here and now.

    I don’t care, mike, only I get sick of your comments complaining about how HARD it is, and how you are struggling to find the truth and all that bullshit.

    Just like Datta who can ‘attest that he once had an experience’.

  • Wren, thank you for the very interesting information. I think, that if I could get ahold of one of those yummy looking mushrooms, I might just nibble a little bit off the edges.

    And dig the picture of Santa in a pooper hat! Just a’flyin along!

  • About a year ago, I reached stage 5 of Paul Chefurka’s “Ladder of Awareness”

    Awareness that the predicament encompasses all aspects of life.

    “This includes everything we do, how we do it, our relationships with each other, as well as our treatment of the rest of the biosphere and the physical planet. With this realization, the floodgates open, and no problem is exempt from consideration or acceptance. The very concept of a “Solution” is seen through, and cast aside as a waste of effort.”

    http://www.paulchefurka.ca/LadderOfAwareness.html

    In that year, like most Doomers/Realists, I have been on an emotional roller coaster, but lately I try to contemplate just one question. I ask myself, would you rather not have been born? Long before my Doomer days there were many times I wished I never was born. Like when I was in the depths of my addictions (late 1990’s) or last year when I did 6 months of chemo therapy to pay the piper (Hep-c, beat it, Hooray for science). Also, my mid-forties body is so broken down from neglect and sports and work injuries that I experience pain, of varying degrees, every waking moment. And I have to strap a machine to my face every night or I will very quickly go insane or just not wake up ever again. Although, there are many more unfortunate things I have had to deal with and there will be many more to come, I do not regret being born. I have had more advantages than most people who ever lived, are living or who are about to be born. I have never been able to get the images of the famine victims from 1980’s Ethiopia out of my head. The thing is the kids and their parents had NO choices, none. Nobody had anything and there was not even a dumpster to dive. In Canada the poverty level is around $25k per year and I’ve been way below it for 4 years now. I’m still fat, never go hungry let alone starve, still have health care, got my old lap top & internet and a library card(for leisure), plus a couple hours a week volunteering at the local homeless shelter (for meaning). It’s funny because friends and family feel sorry for me because I am so poor (I use to be a tradesman & make middle class money) and cannot do much physically anymore, yet except for the physical part, I’m mostly alright. Weirdly enough the inevitable horrors to come have redefined reality for me. So maybe being born in the wealthy west, as imperfect, fucked up and guilt ridden as it is, should be worthy of some form of celebration. Not in the traditional sense, but rather as Guy, Dawkins and many others suggest. A celebration of Gratitude that we got to live at all.

  • The Grim Reaper,Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,NTHE,myself & the rest of homeboys in the posse have locked homo sapiens in the trunk of an old jalopy. We’ve managed to push it close to the edge of a cliff but there is an incline and we can’t seem to finish the task. I thought I would ask if anyone would like to help. If we are successful the Grim Reaper said we will have to jump or he will be happy to give us some assistance.

    Here’s my theme song again. As some of us children of the 60s would say,”Turn it up!”

    “Well, I can’t be bothered with sorrow
    And I can’t be bothered with hate, no, no
    I’m using up the time but feeling fine, every day”

  • ‘shrooms: dooooood, I tried some a that once; hard to find now.

    back to reality for a second:

    http://www.dailyimpact.net/2014/01/07/brazil-from-happy-days-to-apocalypse-pretty-soon/

    Brazil: From Happy Days to Apocalypse Pretty Soon

    Here’s what they were saying about Brazil six years ago: it was entering a new oil bonanza, it was going to be bigger than Saudi Arabia, it was going to enjoy energy independence, all the graphs of oil production were going straight up, through the roof, to the moon, Alice. It’s oil reserves were 50 billion…no, 100 billion…wait, 240 billion barrels. (How do you sing “Happy Days are Here Again” in Portuguese?)

    Sound familiar? Sound like what the same folks are saying about the United States today? Funny how they’re not singing about feliz dias in Brazil any more. How did things work out for them down there?

    Not good, according to a long piece in the Washington Post yesterday. Oil production is flat or falling; Imports of gasoline, sold to the public below cost to prevent inflation (and revolution) are climbing; the state oil company, Petrobras, is debt-ridden and has lost one-third of its value on the stock market; the second-largest oil company, OGX, declared bankruptcy in October.

    The euphoria was based on the “discovery” of vast new oil “reserves.” (In Portuguese, the root words from which “discovery” and “reserves” are derived also translate as “a vague hope there’s something down there.” This is also true of Arabic and English, as spoken in the oil patch.)

    The newly discovered Brazilian “reserves” were under a mile and a half of water, plus two miles of rock, and another mile and a half of salt. Drilling into this oil and getting it to market would require the most expensive and difficult corporate project in the world, at an estimated cost of $237 billion. Still, as Brazil’s president declared at the time of the “discoveries,” it seemed Brazil had won the lottery.

    They must have misplaced the winning ticket.

    Explanations abound for the sad state of the Brazilian bonanza. A favorite: onerous government regulation of Petrobras. For example, Petrobras is required to build its drilling platforms, ships and heavy equipment in Brazil, which has created jobs but has not guaranteed that the jobs will be done well, efficiently or on time. Losses on gasoline imports have cost the company $20 billion since 2006. Brighter prospects in America have lured away flighty investors. And there is some truth to all these excuses.

    But the real problem is dry wells. For all its titanic struggles, massive spending and relentless optimism, Petrobras is managing to wring a paltry 300,000 barrels of oil per day from its vast undersea “reserves.” In 2008 OGX raised more than $4 billion dollars, in Brazil’s largest ever initial public offering of stock, for drilling in the deep blue sea. It went bankrupt last year because the wells it drilled didn’t hit oil.

    Thank goodness we live in a country that is entering a new oil bonanza, that is going to be bigger than Saudi Arabia, that is going to enjoy energy independence, where all the graphs of oil production are going straight up, through the roof, to the moon, Alice.

    Wait. This song sounds familiar…..

    The songs the oil industry and its sycophants sing to attract investors, to get their people elected and re-elected, to distract us from impending disaster, are not true. What is true is this: the world is running perilously short of petroleum, without which it cannot function; recovering the remnants, whether by deep water drilling or deep rock fracking, is going to be ever more expensive, difficult and dangerous (see “Deepwater Horizon”).

    In the oil business, feliz dias are gone forever, and not just in Brazil.

    okay, back to the cool stuff – please keep it coming! Great posts, Denise (timely whale haiku), Wren, ulvfugl, Kirk H (what do you think about us evolving further – ie. into what, spirit perhaps?), Friedrich – what a dissertation!, many more comments above – thanks for the great ideas and links everyone.

    TR, ogardener – yeah! I made the same comment (the message of the older music in the lyrics) to my wife this past weekend!

  • well, my first comment hasn’t appeared (I’m beginning to doubt that the site is “fixed” and suggest it needs more work and “tweaking”)

    Let’s try again with another one.

    http://theextinctionprotocol.wordpress.com/2014/01/07/plutonium-from-nuclear-tests-lingers-in-the-atmosphere/

    Plutonium from nuclear tests lingers in the Atmosphere

    January 7, 2014 – ENVIRONMENT – Particles of radioactive plutonium from nuclear testing have remained high in the stratosphere for more than 50 years, and volcanic eruptions such as Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 can bring those particles into the lower atmosphere, researchers report January 7 in Nature Communications. They caution, however, that the concentrations of particles in the lower atmosphere are small and do not threaten human health. Between 1945 and 1998, nations around the world tested nuclear weapons underground, underwater and high in the atmosphere. The atmospheric tests, conducted in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s—along with the burn-up of a plutonium-powered SNAP-9A satellite in 1964—created radioactive debris that became attached to particles in the air, called aerosols. In the troposphere—the lowest part of the atmosphere extending from the ground to about 17 to 20 kilometers up—these particles washed out within weeks to months. But a combination of factors, such as the barrier-like tropopause, keep the particles in the stratosphere (the next layer up, extending to about 50 kilometers) for longer. But how long? Studies done in the 1960s and 1970s, in which aerosols were sampled with aircraft and balloons, showed that most radioactive particles lingered in the stratosphere for about one to four years. Larger particles, those in the range of one to 10 micrometers settled even faster, last only weeks to months in the stratosphere. (The particles didn’t just disappear; they moved down into the troposphere during interruptions in the tropopause that allow mixing between the troposphere and stratosphere, events that happen most often in spring.)

    [concludes with the usual “it’s okay, nobody will be harmed” bullshit]

    “Our results show that significant fractions of radioactive aerosols…remain in the stratosphere for timescales of the order of several decades,” the researchers write. As for how the radioactive plutonium likely ended up in the volcano’s ash plume, here’s what the researchers propose: The eruption caused thousands of tons of molten rock to come into contact with ice. That interaction created a huge explosion that threw steam and particles into the air, pushing fine-grained ash and gases such as sulfur dioxide into the lower regions of the stratosphere. The ash and sulfur particles picked up plutonium and cesium from the stratosphere and brought the radioactive elements down into the troposphere. “The strong volcanic eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano has redistributed anthropogenic radionuclides [radioactive particles from human activities] in the lower atmosphere,” the researchers write. It’s not enough radioactivity for people to worry about—someone born after the tests were done isn’t going to get cancer from plutonium particles in the stratosphere. But it may be enough to help scientists who study the movement of particles through the atmosphere because the radioactive particles act like markers of how air circulates.

  • @Ulvfugl – It is apparent that your knowledge of aikido, or other spiritual paths is very superficial. Your attempts to pick a fight with me are unsuccessful. I like you in spite of your nasty side. You are an intelligent, informed, caring person – that is when Dr. Jekyll is in charge. I have nothing to offer Mr. Hyde; he is your concern or not, as you choose. If he chooses to rant abusive nonsense at me, as he undoubtedly will, I can do nothing to alter that.

    And BTW I am not stigmatizing you as mentally impaired or anything of that sort. We are all multiples like that. The merest self-observation reveals that we lack the unity within ourselves that we sometimes imagine ourselves to possess. The fact that I am also like that, and have my own Mr. Hyde’s and others in me, enables me to cut others some slack in that regard.

    I do work with others (not on others) to try to deal with the less healthy and sociable aspects of ourselves, so I would not try to reason with you about your manifestations. That would be fruitless, and I am not attempting to judge you or change you in any way. I just choose to share with you, because I like you, and have learned some things from you. So splutter and fume at me as you will, it will not cause me to be angry at you or dismiss you. Besides, it’s too much fun to have a character like you in my portion of the great drama of life!

  • ■ A new monk shows up at a monastery where the monks spend their time making copies of ancient books. The new monk goes to the basement of the monastery saying he wants to make copies of the originals rather than of others’ copies so as to avoid duplicating errors they might have made. Several hours later the monks, wondering where their new friend is, find him crying in the basement. They ask him what is wrong and he says “the word is CELEBRATE, not CELIBATE!”

    I first heard this maybe more than 10 years ago in conjunction with the general theme of “copying errors” or mutations in biology.
    Mark Pagel, professor of biological sciences, University of Reading

    ■ A blowfly goes into a bar and asks: “Is that stool taken?”

  • Good to see U has a new antagonist!

    Just sitting on this runaway train, staring out the window.

    If you live in the USA and you pay taxes, you are funding the machine that is killing us all. I am as guilty as the next guy. At least I never had children – that’s about all I can say for myself.

    I am not part of the resistance, I am not even “green.” I bought a $30 Christmas Tree, it sat in the living room, nicely decorated, and now it’s out on the street – but at least a recycle company will pick it up and mulch it…

    The Voluntary Extinction Movement
    Thou shalt not procreate.

    The Church of Euthanasia
    Save the Planet, kill yourself.

  • @ mike k

    Your attempts to pick a fight with me are unsuccessful.

    Hahaha, I’m not attempting to pick a fight with you, I’m expressing my contempt for your pomposity, your cowardice, your vanity, your ignorance and egotism, same as I do for R D, you both set yourselves up as ‘spiritual authorities’ and make declarations and proclamations, but when it comes down to it, you’re both useless.

    You use your ‘quest’ as an excuse to avoid and evade the actual responsibility and humility of BEING holy and in a numinous state of grace, you’re always going to be telling other people about the wonderful jewel, aren’t you, and how they can find it if they really want to… forever. Until you’re dead. And then it’s too late, and you’ll have missed your opportunity to HAVE the wonderful jewel, and to actually GIVE the wonderful jewel to others.

    You completely failed, betrayed, those dragonflies. You are a disgrace.

    And Datta is just the same. Putting himself on a pedestal. If he actually CARED, he’d explain to people in a manner they could comprehend and understand, and be useful to them. But that’s not the name of the game, is it. The game is to appear very wise and be a mysterious oriental mystic with superior insight into the I and the not-I, etc, so others can nod their heads and think ‘That sounds impressive’ even though it’s meaningless bullshit and helps nobody.

    The pair of you deserve each other.

  • @Friedrick Kling

    Hi. You did a great job in your references to the settlement of the place we now call “America” but there are even more important books on the settlement of the “New World” that you might want to add.

    You have written about the English influence – English is the language we speak, but other nations have influenced the American character.

    Start with a history of the Scots in America. Even better, start with a history of Scotland and especially the “Highland Clearances” from 1717 – 1775. Because the English landowners realized that sheep and their wool made more money that the “Cottager” farmers, the Scots (who had lived there from times imnemorial ) were forced off the land

    Where did they go? Many were settled in Northern Ireland. It was the British hope that the Protestant Scots would overcome the Catholic Irish. That problem persists to t his very day. In those years, however more than 200,000 Scots settled in America. They were a bitter people, looking for a fight and the British established little settlements where they could fight and kill the Native Americans, clear the land, then be forced off that very land to move ever onward, to the west, where children, grandchildren & further generations would continue the practice of unending war, clearing the land and eliminating the natives so that farmers and the peaceful world of agriculture could cultivate the virgin soil. Read a good book about the history of the Scots.

    You also have not mentioned the Germans. They started the Civil War. You probably know most of the history of the year 1848 – the year of the failed rebellions. There was one in Wurtenberg (now a part of Germany.)
    You might also include a part of Ohio – Cincinnati in particular. Cincinnati – which sits peaceably on the Ohio river. So close to the Kentucky shore where slaves toiled –
    The Wurtenbergers were appalled. Why didn’t the citizens of Cincinnati do something to end this outrage? So they began to do what they could. Which lead to Harriet Beecher Stowe and “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” Among thousands of other writings that finally stirred a nation to wake up and end the nightmare.

    Another note about the Germans. They could farm the fert4ile land of the Midwest better than any other group of people. Crops flourished. Canals were built to carry the produce to eastern Atlantic seaports. The “Heartland” today is filled with German names of people and towns Those Germans were either Catholic or Lutheran . Later they were joined by people from Norway, Sweden, Denmark. These are the farmers of America’s breadbasket. Today, there is concern about water. If water is diminished, crops will fail, animals starve & soon people will die of hunger.

    A note about the Spanish. Very few of them were “Conquistadors.” Most were foot soldiers who married Native women, settled down & established farms (which failed, too dry, what produced was the “Ranchero” with its boney cattle) More important – the beginning of “La Raza” In Mexico City the Spanish established the first hospital for natives and the first schools (all run by the Catholic Church.) A really good book about all this is “La Capital” translated into English., a history of Mexico City. – also the site of the fist printing press in the Americas.

  • Cowgirl Apocalypse Haiku #101

    On hands and knees- near
    Spider, who lives in a lodge
    beneath the water.

  • Mr. Hyde is rather predictable. He is especially reactive to any mention of truth, love, friendship, beauty, etc. He will find some way to attack anyone who as much as mentions such things, and offer his own cockamamie ideas instead. In terms of Eric Berne’s game players, Mr. Hyde is an enemy collector. Having a great inner store of anger and resentment, he seeks someone or something to express all that upon. Then he can feel justified and proud of himself for “unmasking the imposter and giving him his comeuppance”. All of this he does in complete unconsciousness, and with a total unwillingness to look into himself and see what this unowned part of himself is doing in his name. It is truly ludicrous how such a one can curse and revile someone, and feel proud and in the right while doing so. More than that he will assert that his is the voice of a far superior truth and wisdom than the one whom he freely reviles and abuses. In the end Mr. Hyde seeks the affirmation of others for having dealt with the scoundrel who dared to question his unquestionable authority in matters of truth, life, spirituality, and whatever.

    Thank goodness I did not buy a front row seat for all this foolishness, but rather find myself more or less comfortably ensconced towards the back of the theater. I suppose there is some sort of weird distinction in being chosen by someone’s Mr. Hyde as the target du jour, but to be truthful it can also be rather tiresome…

    It is interesting that Mr. H has also chosen Robin D. to beat up on. I guess Robin’s mention of his interests in Upanishadic wisdom triggers Hyde’s perception that HE alone must have the last word on spiritual matters.

    Let me conclude by saying that I have no more to say to Mr. Hyde. I am still open to share and learn with Ulvfugl, who is much better than his dark companion.

    PS – I strongly recommend this edition of Stevenson’s classic. The various historic commentators testify to its place in the gradual nineteenth century awakening to the dark side resident in all of us… https://www.amazon.com/Strange-Jekyll-Norton-Critical-Editions/dp/0393974650/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1389201228&sr=1-1&keywords=dr+jekyll+and+mr+hyde+by+robert+louis+stevenson

  • Dear Queenie,

    please tell me more about the Wuerttembergers’ involvement with starting your Civil War. You imply that they were a German immigrant community (from Wuerttemberg) in Ohio appalled at what was happening South of them. Did I read that right? Could you maybe point me to some links about that history? As a German (now a British subject) I’d be very interested. I know quite a bit about the history of the German farming communities in your country, also in Texas, where old people still speak a kind of German which a modern German speaker like me can understand). I’m always amazed to see how many American surnames are German or simplified versions of German names. Anything you can recommend online or in book form, I’d be grateful.

    Thanks and keep warm

  • @ mike k

    Hahaha, what a load of patronising bullshit.

    That’s the big difference between us. For me there is no Jekyll and Hyde, I am one, there is no I and Not-I, I am one, there is no secular and sacred, I am one, there is no nirvana to be sought and samsara to be transcended, they are identical.

    It is you who are stuck in the crap of ‘striving to be a better person’, ‘following the path’, all the cliched garbage and nonsense about having had a numinous experience.

    Look, pal, either you’re in a state of grace, here and now, and you know it, or you’re not. The future doesn’t exist, the past has gone forever. Whatever anybody else said, the Buddha, Gandhi, Jesus, Aurubindo, doesn’t count for a can of beans unless you’ve checked it out yourself and know first hand.

    If someone speaks with great honesty and sincerity, here, and GENUINE love, generosity, kindness, I’m the first to compliment them. Once upon a time this was a secular zone. You and Datta want to plug your snake oil, I’m entitled to say, ‘Heck is this isn’t even real genuine fake snake oil..’ Gimme some TRUTH !

  • Tim Minchin really likes Christmas. A Southern Hemisphere Christmas where relatives gather to drink White Wine in The Sun. I know all about baking hot Christmases with crickets stridulating outside while you tuck in to your pudding with brandy butter. It’s totally nuts.

    By the way, Lidia, if you want to celebrate the Milky Way you’re living in the wrong hemisphere. 🙂

  • @mike k: “that state does not interest me. I want…” Have to agree with U. here, mike. Try again!

    @pat, hope you didn’t use tinsel, that’s all…

    @u, re. mr. k.. lol!

    @Queenie, interesting stuff, to be sure. That piece was not written by Mr. Kling, though. It’s one of his epic cut-and-paste jobs.

  • @Queenie
    I was very interested to read your comment about German Americans and know quite a bit, though nor so much about the connection of the immigrants from Wuerttemberg to Ohio etc. I knew that after the failed revolution in the German principalities in 1848/49, many of the democrats had to flee and came to America to be welcomed there. Many fought on the Union side, I knew that too but I’d love to know more. Can you recommend some books or online sources for me? I’d be very grateful.

    @ Ulfvugl
    Thanks for taking on the genuine fake snake oil salesmen. You can be bothered and you do it well!

    Please everybody, let’s make this a secular site again and let’s not be so competitive.

    @Lidia
    Thanks for pointing out Kling’s cut-and-paste job. I’ve never checked but it doesn’t surprise me. That’s what aliens do, I think, because original human thought is indeed alien to them. What did they do before the internet?

  • new album coming out (I know nothing about it, but the title’s interesting)

    http://search.yahoo.com/search;_ylt=AvXyht35RGd8ec4mmG1BQsWbvZx4?fr=yfp-t-900-1-s&toggle=1&cop=mss&ei=UTF-8&p=let's%20go%20extinct

    Fanfarlo – New album February 2014: Let’s Go Extinct – trailer
    (53 sec)

  • @ apneaman

    Chefurka’s 5 stages…

    http://www.paulchefurka.ca/LadderOfAwareness.html

    It’s good to include everyone in some stage or other. And that he ends with an inclusive message.

    I could subscribe to some portion of all 5 stages, I suppose. I don’t see the stages as all that neatly separated. And while I identify most with the “inner” state of stage 5, I see being in the “outer” state as well, providing that resulting activities are based on what the inner state determines.
    ——–

    The cold spell, while terribly uncomfortable, seems to buy a little time, providing more short-term moisture than I expected, and also discouraging summer bugs, some of whom are hanging on in spite of everything.

    So what does one do with a short-term, unexpected assist? Make the best of it, I would say. Dog helps those who help themselves. Some of the time, anyhow.

  • @Sabine

    “The Cincinnati Germans in the civil War” by Gustav Tafel Edited & translated by Don Heinrich Tolzmann. Milford OH Little Miami publishing co.2010. 198 pages $16.95

    This includes the first translation which was originally published in 1901

    Professor Tolzmann has published more infomation on Cincinnati Germans & their history – You can look him up on the internet.

  • @ ulvfugl – thanks for the amanita link!

    @ Tom
    “Wren, ulvfugl, Kirk H (what do you think about us evolving further – i.e.. into what, spirit perhaps?)…”
    We, as a species, will not evolve further, but maybe some part of who we are, spirit, mycelia – the nervous system of the planet – will survive and grow into some new and unknown body. In this way our evolution could continue, since we share the same roots as all other life forms here. Again it brings into question who we are and what drives our behavior? The codyceps fungus invades an insect body, and controls the insect’s behavior to benefit itself. The infected ant is compelled to climb high before the tiny mushroom sprouts from its head to release its spores.

    A few years ago I was a lotus farmer. What a pleasure it was to be in my pond, hip waders, suspenders, digging tubers, collecting seed. The huge flowers seemed almost mammalian, producing their own heat from within to attract pollinators. This heat was the driver of an intense and lovely fragrance that would fill the air and posses the mind. I felt compelled to grow them… yet another way for the lotus to spread and replicate! The bees loved them too, and were producing new variants as well as lotus honey. The seed are thought to be viable for up to 2000 years, a nice thought for the distant future. (500 year old lotus seed found in a dry lakebed in China, subjected to intense dry heat and radiation, sprouted and grew. )

  • Tom asks, (what do you think about us evolving further – ie. into what, spirit perhaps?),

    That’s a great question, Tom. I try to find clues to the answer that don’t involve the need to believe in mumbo jumbo. Secular, science based clues is what I like. I’ve found the most solid clues in listening to physicists like Brian Swimme. He, for one, claims that the evolution of life was built into the Big Bang, and proposes a consciousness within nature. One example he uses to illustrate this guiding hand is the fact that if the universe expanded “a millionth of a millionth of a percent faster or slower, then stars, galaxies or the elements would not have formed. In fact, the universe would have fizzled out either way, never would have happened.

    I’m barely into MacKenna, but the clues he presents are tantalizing. He speaks of a force that called us out of the animal state in order to evolve into ‘gods’. He associates evolution with words like “transition” and “moving into hyperspace”. Particle theory and quantum physics are involved. All very brainy and way above me. I get glimpses of a Big Picture, though. I’d like to learn more. But, like I say, I’ve only scratched the surface via Mike Rupperts last broadcast on The Lifeboat Hour. I’m looking forward to next Sunday’s broadcast which has more about MacKenna.

    It seems to me that there may be a real possibility of us transforming into spirit. I read somewhere that we are already like 99.9999999 percent empty space as it is. Could an individual be catalyzed by an unknown force into pure energy and retain consciousness? Why not? Supposedly if the nucleus of an atom was, say, the size of a golf ball, the electrons that surround it would be some huge factor away, like ten miles, more or less.

    Anyway, what reality has in store for us, I don’t know. But it’s interesting to ponder. For some reason it’s impossible for me to just “believe” that NTE will be the end of all of us forever. Though we will have all died, will something of us go on to add to the mix that will someday evolve into the ultimate something or other? I’ll keep plodding along picking up clues because it’s interesting, I like it. But, if we do just hit a wall at NTE and that’s all there is, than that’s OK too.

  • It is important in any cold snap in the US — or anywhere for that matter — to see what’s going on elsewhere: http://au.ibtimes.com/articles/533236/20140107/severe-fire-warnings-bushfires-australia-heat-wave.htm

    The heat wave in Australia is being blamed for killing over 100,000 bats as well.

  • The last candle burns as the last humans celebrate… the last candle burning. Frivolous as the last light burns smoky low, flip flop careless as forgotten flower petals swirling in the wind. I try again to seduce nature… to extend my weakening embrace… She loves me, She loves me not. The petals fall. Cut off from the nurturing root. Trapped in the artificial built environment, seeking some kind of cozy for the last moments, warming hands over the last flickering flame, inside a box well removed… far outside… far beyond the entirety of the alien external world… where nature’s last stand falters, but not to my serenade. The petals fall, pulled off one by one. Ring around the rosy. Pockets full of posies. The people all stare into cold screens filled with cold type and cold colors that cannot be touched or tasted or licked. Cannot be sniffed for a telltale scent of life. The dog wisely ignores the mirage and ponders the sanity of his humans celebrating the dying ember without a thought of what happens next. Ashes, ashes… A cold shiver creeps up from my gnawing empty belly, my trembling hands reach but feel nothing out there in the cold darkness. All fall down… Feeling almost nothing inside that resembles the warmth of love. The flame extinguishes. The loudest silence I ever heard. Then… not knowing I was ever here at all.

  • Normally the giant rotating disc of frigid cold arctic air (and accompanying weather patterns) is ‘ring-fenced’ in the upper latitudes by the Jetstream. The OK corral of weather buffers.

    As the Jetstream has started to wobble and meander and destabilize due to the decreasing temperature spread between the Arctic and the Equator due to global climate warming, the Giant Disc of Cold Arctic Air is literally sliding off the north pole en mass and dipping way down into Horse Latitudes.

    The North Pole cold air, spinning like a decelerating top, has fallen off the top of the earth like a really big cheap Toupée of the hot head of a bald man.

    Hence the confusion among the washed and unwashed masses.

    Global warming >>> = Global climate change.

    The morons shrieking about how cold it is are mental cripples unable to grasp the sheer raw horror of the current ‘cold wave’ as a sign of the death of the vitally protective quality of a health Jetstream.

    Friends in parts of New England told me it when from sub-zero to almost 50*F then back to sub-zero in a two day span.

    What do you think that does to hibernating flora and fauna?

  • Guy, Doomer Support or RE,

    I noticed that when going to the Climate Change Summary from the link on the home page the current version of the piece is dated from Dec 20.

    When I go to the Summary from the Forum the current summary is dated January 8th. Until a few days ago the version from the home page link was the version from January.

    Was just wondering why this is occurring?

  • “The morons shrieking about how cold it is are mental cripples unable to grasp the sheer raw horror of the current ‘cold wave’ as a sign of the death of the vitally protective quality of a health Jetstream.

    Friends in parts of New England told me it when from sub-zero to almost 50*F then back to sub-zero in a two day span.

    What do you think that does to hibernating flora and fauna?”

    Yes. It’s a true horror. I see what’s happening in Australia too. Where I am, the cold has persisted for the past 6 weeks or so. Ice still on the ground hasn’t melted in all that time. We know that such cold spells will vanish as warming increases over all.

    If such cold snaps provide a small, very temporary respite for one region of the planet, people there would be foolish not to make the best of it while it lasts.

  • @Roger Ellis

    An excellent description of what’s happening climatologically with your use of the metaphor. New England is about to experience another warm up to around 50° F. from temperatures below 0° F. in another day or so with heavy rain expected over the weekend. The Weather Channel ®™ could use an Edward Snowden spilling the beans on prime time tv.

    Keeping Score

    The War on the Planet

    The truth shall make you flee.

  • With thanks to Jack Adam Weber for his contribution, I’ve posted a new essay. It’s the initial contribution by Jason Frank, and it’s here.

  • Ogardner

    I wondered if you have checked out Sales’ book on emancipation. “Emancipation Tragedy,” or something similar. The daily stream of new revelations leaves one spinning.

  • The Voluntary Extinction Movement
    Thou shalt not procreate.

    I knew that there was a reason I was mad at my parents.

  • uy, Doomer Support or RE,

    I noticed that when going to the Climate Change Summary from the link on the home page the current version of the piece is dated from Dec 20.

    When I go to the Summary from the Forum the current summary is dated January 8th. Until a few days ago the version from the home page link was the version from January.

    Did you look at it from a different device, another computer or tablet? You may have the pages cache’d locally. I know that’s happened to guy at least once.

    I checked the dates on both the forum and the link from the home page, both currently say the 9th.

  • @Doomer Support – I use google chrome anonymous, and am registered. And yet my posts are not printed unless they are brief notes saying I am not being printed. How come? What should I do differently?

    Been busy at work so this had to wait until the weekend. I’m implementing a different anti-spam program to see if it will help, one that is supposed to “learn”. Now we have users logged in, that should work better.

    A lot of the comments that disappeared were lost in spam filters, swallowed up by the hundred of spams Guy was receiving each day. it seems minimal now.

    I’ll be watching the comments and playing with the spam filters over the weekend.

  • I just checked out Wikipedia for info on “Sickness Unto Death.” It’s such a catchy title that I’ve forever had it on the tip of the tongue without knowing what the author meant.

    “This sickness unto death is what Kierkegaard calls despair. According to Kierkegaard, an individual is “in despair” if he does not align himself with God or God’s plan for the self. In this way he loses his self, which Kierkegaard defines as the “relation’s relating itself to itself in the relation.” Kierkegaard defines humanity as the tension between the “finite and infinite”, and the “possible and the necessary”, and is identifiable with the dialectical balancing act between these opposing features, the relation. While humans are inherently reflective and self-conscious beings, to become a true self one must not only be conscious of the self but also be conscious of being aligned with a higher purpose, viz God’s plan for the Self. When one either denies this Self or the power that creates and sustains this Self, one is in despair.”

    What I was hoping it meant was that sickness was as good as it gets, that our species is, by its nature, terminally ill. Seeing us that way seems to simplify our issues by getting rid of illusions and false expectations. But, by itself, it wouldn’t signify one way or another how long we could hang on. Seems to me the more we can recognize the problem, and give up hope for anything different, the longer we can hang on. NTE does offer a finite perspective, however.