Sunday, December 31, 2006

End Of Year Review...A Few Thoughts

I've had a good year and I feel sorrow that it is ending.

Big on my list for this year was starting this blog and entering the world of blogging. As the slogan on says, "55 million blogs...some of them have to be good," and it has been my good fortune to have come across a number of them already. I have started leaving comments on a number of blogs and in the coming year I hope to continue visiting people in my new neo-community. I hope that others also find my postings interesting and worthwhile.

OK, now here are some of my first thoughts from this past year. I'm happy to say that I've been implementing these and not just "jawing" about them - but there is much room for improvement. Yes, it's all about on-the-job training.

Most important preserve your health - walk, eat better food and minimize junk food, get enough sleep, manage your stress levels well

Know what you're eating

Turn off the TV

Work less at work

Love what is

Every day cultivate a sense of appreciation

Start each day with a walk followed by meditation

Stay present for longer periods of time

Be aware of the dance that in continuing and evolving around you

Choose joy

Use peace of mind as a compass reading

Appreciate the present abundance

Be aware of how most of the comforts of our society weaken us

Pay down all debt

Have a kitchen garden and grow as much as you can (this is way up on my list for next year - a totally new endeavor for me)

Accept uncertainty as a fact of life

It's all about energy

Nothing goes in a straight line for long

Consume less

With dependencies, proactively go through withdrawal

Develop mental toughness

Laugh more

Learn skills that will stand you well in arduous times

Be useful

Compass readings are generally more valuable for me than specifics

I will rush no more!

Happy New Year, and let's do our part to make the world a better place.


A Brief Comment On Sunning Yourself And Proprioception

For those of you who are interested in keeping your balance - literally - I added an additional brief comment in the posting on Seasonal Affective Disorder dated 11/26/06.

Beautiful sunny day here in Massachusetts. Go Pats!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

A Seemingly Quiet Pause

I haven't posted anything for several days partly because of the Holidays and, well frankly, I've been indulging in some laziness.

But there's a further reality here and that is that there is so much I want to express, and the topics are so important, that I am having difficulty choosing which ones to go with first.

A peek into the queue in my mind:

Reactions and thoughts about the video "the Future of Food." The implications for going towards an organic diet become more and more important. Kitchen gardens will similarly become more important for self-sustainability and health and well-being.

Questions about the peak debt and peak oil. Along this line I have been reading a blog: SuddenDebt and anyone who is thinking about the financial picture of the U.S. and the world would do well to take a look and give some thought to what is presented there. By the way, I left several comments on that site as: SimplyTim

Along the line of "waking up" and "elevator pitches" I have been wondering if large numbers of people are simply in trance states, and if that is accurate how that comes about and what people can do to come out of that state. (One definite hunch that I have is that television may be one of the major portals both into, and out of, those states.)

Stay tuned.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

"How do you think it's all going to play out?"

I went for a late lunch at Harry's Pastrami Shack on Route 9 in Westborough. I like going around 2:30 in the afternoon because my favorite booth is open and I don't have to feel like a hog sitting there all by myself because there are plenty of other places available.

Walking in, I notice a man who reminded me of Mr. Clean from the old commercial sitting at the table next to "my booth."

My "Mr. Clean!" got a smile in response.

My plan was to have some lunch and read a few pages of Dmitry Orlov's essay: Post-Soviet Lessons for a Post-American Century. I was in the part where he says that "an equally useful quality in a crisis is apathy," when my mind was being drawn to the conversation between Mr. Clean and a couple at the counter.

Counter Guy: "People complain about having to reset their clocks when there's a power outage. (On the TV they were talking about the storm in Denver) But it's much more serious when it's much more serious."

Mr. C: "Big changes in the weather."

Counter Guy: "the spring was worse with all that rain. I work for a pool company and we couldn't put in the pools. We were down $100,000 in receipts by July and there's no way you can regroup after that."

Later, and after Counter Guy leaves, I say, like out of the blue: "how do you think this will all play out?"

He looks at me and I say: "with the weather, the changes."

Mr. C: "Ya don't know. We haven't been there before."

I start talking about my previous posting about climate change and talk about Jim at Big Bear, California (he knew it instantly - I could see him 20 years ago growling up the mountain on a good old fashioned hog) and Laura in Sasketchewan. He listens attentively.

He tells me about how there was "flowering going on, on the north side of PJ Rhodadendruns; 6 months early."

He then goes on talking about the melting arctic ice shelf and how that's all fresh water and how it will upset the current (that circulates from the North Atlantic to the Gulf of Mexico and then up the Eastern seaboard of the States.)

You really have to wonder how this is all going to play out.

For my part I liked how I got into the conversation with the elevator pitch of "how do you think this is all going to play out."

His comment of "ya don't know, we haven't been there before" is incisively spot-on

The other thing I took away from this conversation was how easy it actually turned out to be to "get at" what was going on beneath the surface with the right question.

He offered his hand, we shook and I left.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Needed: A Few Good Elevator Pitches for Global Warming

Here in the northeast the weather is just lovely. Mid-50's today and the Patriots won. What more could you want for the week before Christmas?

On the other hand, all this continuing and truly unseasonable weather is further evidence of a basic planet wide system which is moving further and further "out of whack."

I started Friday by reading a "rant" by Jim at his blog. It's probably not a good idea to starting off my posting with a suggestion that you go and read his post, but that's exactly what I'm going to do. Go now; it's the posting for 12/15/06. While there also read the comments section. Especially the entries from Arcolaura, and mine under the name of SimplyTim. Oh, and by the way, don't forget to come back here for the rest of my post.

Now, where to go with all this. I tested the waters with several people over the past few days. The form of the brief conversations was:

"Beautiful day."

"Yes. But so unseasonable."

"I'll take it anyway. Rather this than snow."

I would put in a few comments, for example, "I wonder if this is what they mean by Climate Change," or "It reminds me of Al Gore's movie - 'An Inconvenient Truth,'" or "Changes are happening."

Well the truth is that I thought those last three comments but didn't give voice to them. Why? Why not say it? Why is it that with so many people who have concern about global warming that they are hesitant to bring those concerns up for discussion? I point the finger at myself as much as anyone else, maybe more so.

The simple truth is that the people I mentioned it to clearly weren't interested in going any further with a serious discussion, at least at that time. (In some of my previous posts I easily went into what could be called an elevator pitch by saying that I had recently taken a "vow...I will rush no more." In those instances, the conversation went from there easily. Why not with this topic? Maybe it's because with rushing almost everyone can identify with it and have multiple examples in their mind. With the weather, with climate, it's too abstract. Maybe that's the real problem here in terms of mobilizing people towards action, towards outrage.)

With one person I said after a pause: "the change is coming."

He said: "Yes."

I had the distinct impression that he was just saying that winter will get here eventually. But there was a question in my mind as to whether he saw what I was saying in a much larger picture but didn't want to get into it.

And that's where I am wondering what some good "elevator pitches" would be. People in business and politics and activists do it all the time. Why are there so many others who are so reluctant to get the message down pat and practise it so that it can bring the conversation a few steps further. I would love to hear what some of your thoughts are.

Arcolaura said that she tends not to come up with quick responses while some others can. My sense is that there was so much depth and perception in her comments that it would be hard to spontaneously come up with them on the spot. That depth requires time and mulling over. However, her ideas perhaps could be shunted back to some of the spinmeisters to polish "pitches" which can break through, or invite more discussion; not just of the presence of changes, but of the implications and also what can or should be done.

Some other thoughts:

1. On NBC nightly news tonight there was an "in-depth report on global warming." I didn't time it, but they think 120 to 180 seconds is sufficient for an in-depth analysis. I won't even say it - yes, I will, are they for real?

There was a "chilling" reference to a new report that it is now thought that all of the ice in the arctic may be gone by 2040. I want to say: "WOW!" But the reality is that I don't know what that really means. I can imagine that it is big but what does it really mean? Maybe that's part of the problem with taking the discussion further with lots of people. The implications for most people are unclear. And with that lack of clarity, it's easier to keep doing business as usual.

A few moments later one of the scientists put it well: "It's what we don't know (about the implications of continued global warming) that concerns me. What are the surprises waiting for us?" Well said. There was a report in the paper yesterday about how they can't find any more dolphins in the Yangtze river. The end of a species, they wondered. I'm sorry, I can't relate to that. Maybe I have this gigantic blind spot but what does that really mean to me? I know it's important but there's that blind spot again - it's like I can't just see over the horizon. Maybe that's where the spinmeisters need to help out with scripts that will move conversations and me as well.

What would be a good example of a sound bite or an elevator pitch which captures one's attention, and seems to stop opposition? Well, when vice president Cheney said: "the American way of life is non-negotiable," it seemed that all discussion stopped for a while. That's powerful. It had the effect, I think, of stopping alternative thinking and by default, let things go on as usual.

Thankfully the discussion didn't stop in my mind and just possibly it didn't in the minds of many others. It takes time to look at that and to see behind the words and the rhetoric. Could it be that in the recent elections that is what the electorate was saying, that the non-negotiability of it all, and the raw power which is used to maintain that position is inherently wrong. Following that logic, the majority of the people didn't really know what has to be done, but they knew that a change had to take place, and they voiced that with their individual votes.

A lot of maybe's here, but maybe that's why the collective "we" don't take the real discussion further, why we don't make a collective decision to slow down, to change direction, because the vice-president was right, that there is a part of us which doesn't want to change. We'd collectively rather rush forward towards maintaining so nothing is lost. But remember, there is the other side in that same collective mind which knows it has to change...but the path, the route, the actions are not as collectively clear. Maybe my elevator pitch to that when combined to global warming is: "I wonder if global warming gives a hoot about the non-negotiable American way of life?"

In a somewhat disjointed way, I keep thinking about that frog in the movie, An Inconvenient Truth; if the heat keeps going up very slowly he doesn't do anything. He doesn't jump until it's a reflex - is that what we're talking about here? It will take a surprise, a threat to not the American way of life, but to the safety of the planet to then change? The nation know that we are collectively taking in too many calories, and yet look at the obesity rates. Now change oil for calories and wonder what would get the "collective" to change. The mind-set which is perpetuating the current direction is monumental and pervasive. The change will have to come from within. It will be a simple awareness, perhaps captured by the clarity of an elevator pitch which is so direct, so stealthy in it's clarity, that it leads vast numbers to shift direction in one way that will make a difference. Then legislation will help the mind-set to move in a direction, not the other way around.

2. As far as I can tell the government has been doing nothing substantive to deal effectively with this problem. Individual politicians appear "green" and will posture this way and that way, but as a whole, the government is deadlocked as usual. I'm basically a pretty conservative guy, but really, the political process on this matter is a joke. Yes, I know how that is a terrible overgeneralization but that's just how I see it. The bigger joke is, I suspect, most people know it, just like most people know that we are witnessing climate changes, but don't know how to move the process forward, for real. What we need is a good "meme" which in it's simplicity changes everything in a positive direction, at least with to the question of global warming.

3. A step in the right direction would be to do what the province of Quebec did, change the speed limit to 60 miles per hour. AND enforce it! Not with giving a ticket if you go 5 miles over the limit, but if you go 1 mile over the limit. My solution would be not to give a financially crippling ticket, just a modest ticket, but take a long time to give it. And then do it again 3 miles down the road, and repeat the process over and again. That would work. It wouldn't solve the whole problem but it would be a step in the right direction.

4. Remember that the basic rule of storms is that they continue until the original imbalance which created them is resolved. If CO2 is one of the major culprits, and we keep producing more and more CO2, and ...

5. A good piece of news may help. I went to two stores today looking for a copy of Al Gore's movie: An Inconvenient Truth, and both stores were sold out.

Addendum: 12/18/06 - My elevator pitch is: "I will rush no more! " Here's why that is so sweet: with that the emphasis is off global warming, and yet it's related. Everyone can identify with the natural balancing which is contained in the mantra, it gets underneath the usual counterarguments. And since rushing is essential to the perpetuation of the life style which we have all been inducted into, to change that piece, from within, one individual at a time, the possibility of "viral marketing" is very real.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Sitting in Traffic

A few days ago I hopped in my car and went out for a sandwich. It was 2 in the afternoon and the weather was just great. I only had 2 blocks to go, and one traffic light. It should be no problem, but guess again.

Getting through that traffic light took 3 light cycles. No problem for me since I was in no rush. I let one woman enter traffic from the right, got a smile from her and an angry honk from the man in the car behind me. No problem for me because I was in no rush and it still took another light cycle before I was at the light. I wonder if my doing some neck rotations while sitting there got him even more angry - he thinking that I might miss a possibility to "move like lightening" if the 15 cars in front of me should somehow magically disappear. The poor sucker, doesn't he know that time pressure kills - slowly?

While I was waiting for my sandwich I watched all the traffic on the major roadway. It was endless. I felt there was some insight which wanted to happen. What came to me was that it would have made much more sense to have walked rather than ridden. My feet, eyes, heart, muscles, my everything would have had more enjoyment had I walked. The problem, and it is a problem, is that even for short distances it is as if we don't even consider using the doggies for transportation any more.

It must surely be a conditioning thing. The hidden expectation is that if we ride, we will be more comfortable. We will save time. We will be protected from "the elements." We will be seen by others riding in a powerful, sexy, well polished car which is not impeded by traffic, and if perchance we stop at a traffic light a stunningly beautiful or handsome member of the opposite sex will admire us. Oh my, what a crock of baloney!

In this instance, for a short "trip," I was comfortable in my car, but not more comfortable than if I had had a leisurely walk. I didn't save any time. And like I wanted to be separated from a beautiful day?

I think it's a conditioning thing and as with all conditioning, it becomes habit and one of the prime characteristics of habit is that, after a while, it is automatic and does not require thinking to intervene. It gives a certain speed and efficiency, but at what cost? At the cost of being alive and conscious and, yes, free. We think we are free because of our cars. There is some truth to that. But on the other hand, what I observe is that most people are captive to their daily "trips." Where is the freedom in that?

I am not yet ready to be car-free, but I do wonder about what it would be like if my wife and I shifted from 2 cars to one. Perhaps 1 car and a bike. Perhaps this spring. Yes, that will be good and it will bring me a step closer towards a further goal I have of being "cage free and free to roam." Why should the chickens have all the fun?

(Addendum - 12/12/06) Another beautiful day today with just a touch of chill in the air. Walked for my sandwich today. Smiled all the way!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

New CategorIes for Blogs I Regularly Read

I have begun switching and adding blog categories on the right side of my blog.

Addition #1: Blogs About Lives of Conscious Simplification.

Addition #2: Contemplating BIG Changes.

From time to time I will add more based on relevance, quality of content and the reality that they have been "presented" to me and have earned a space in my mind.

The addition to #2 today is Dmitry Orlov's blog. His material is simply outstanding and I suspect I will be drawing from it in future posts.

Addendum: 12/9/ "presented to me" I mean that they seemed to come to my attention without any effort on my part. For some time now I have somewhat trained myself to pay attention to these, shall I say, events, or comings together of readiness and opportunity / information. Another such event was in the dream which I partly related in my first entry when I started this blog.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

"What if, just what if..." Scenarios

I've been thinking about putting up some "what if" scenarios on my blog as a way of stimulating thinking and discussion about how things could change, sometimes almost in an eyeblink, and what the impact of those changes would be for individuals and also for large groups, even societies. In doing this I walk a fine line because I don't want to produce unnecessary anxiety in those who are prone to excess anxiety. Yet, this type of "exercise" may sharpen our appreciation for the abundance we presently have, and also to recognize the fragility of this complex system when a pivotal piece of the whole is no longer available, or is jeopardized.

The first topic comes from a presentation made by Dmitry Orlov and entitled: Closing the Collapse Gap. In it he discusses the collapse of the Russian empire at the end of the cold war, and then makes a general statement that one of the lessons of history is that empires come and empires go. They all go, and some of them collapse fairly rapidly. The collapse of the Russian empire was a clear case in point.

He then asks an interesting question: "what lessons could the United States learn from the Russian collapse?" He explores that question through a "compare and contrast" process. In walking you through a series of slides he draws some conclusions which are disquieting to say the least.

Let me take just one of his observations. He says that the suffering experienced by the Russian people was terrible. No doubt about that. But he also says that as bad as it was, it in a sense was made easier because of several factors. For example, he says that they had no expectation that the Russian government would come to their rescue. They never had that expectation based on decades of experience. After the collapse they experienced terrible despair and apathy and confusion but they knew they would have to deal with it on their own. There was to be no "methadone" for them in that crisis; it was a "cold turkey" withdrawal. By contrast, he observes that in the U.S. there is a pervasive sense of entitlement and also a belief that the government will come to the rescue of the country, no matter how big the crisis or disaster. He questions that possibility given a sudden collapse and as a result feels that the suffering would be even more profound here.

For the purposes of this posting I am neither agreeing nor disagreeing with him. I am wondering out loud in the shape of "what if, just what if...?" For me, it fits in with James Kunstler's thesis elaborated in his book: The Long Emergency. It also heightens my desire to develop realistic self-sustaining practices and to develop connections with like minded people, to be a part of developing neo-communities. Finally it motivates me to continue to reduce my debt level, and to seriously cultivate a life of conscious simplification and non-overconsumption as a strategy for positioning myself for coming through difficult times. And if those difficult times don't come (in my lifetime,) then I will still have enormously enriched the quality of my life and the life of my family and community.

I encourage you to look at his presentation. I feel I can almost guaranty it will rivet your attention for an hour.

Let's see what discussion / comments come from his observations.

Addendum: 1/16/07...In the text above I said that for the purposes of this posting I was neither agreeing nor disagreeing with Mr. Orlov. The rest of the story is that it is my considered opinion that he is bringing our attention appropriately to pivotal issues which deserve our It is my opinion that hard times they be a'comin. I'll be writing more about this.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Societal "Know How" and Memory

I have been thinking about the implications of "peak oil," climate turbulence, quality of life and how to shift from living life on a cultural treadmill of running to just stay "caught up." Then I started thinking about some practical steps to increase my sense of self-sustainability. That led me to a startling conclusion. I realized that I have no cultural knowledge of how to grow any - ANY - of my own food. None, zero, zippo, nada!

I've put down some grass seed and a year ago I threw some clover seeds on my lawn. I was jokingly saying that I was going in the direction of biodiversity. I suspect I did that also because it reminded me of my good friend Gil who died last year; he had clover all over instead of grass.

But it also got me thinking that if I can throw down some seeds and let them do the work on their own and then enjoy seeing them grow and spread, then maybe, just maybe I could do something similar with a vegetable garden. Bright guy that I am (at least in my own mind) I figured that it can't be all that hard and that made it easy for me to keep coming back to it in my mind. Then I started asking people if they had gardens or if they grew any of their own vegetables and I sat back and watched their faces breighten if they did. I would ask questions like how big an area would you need for potatoes, have you ever considered asparagus, which herbs do you grow, how do you keep chipmunks from eating the roots, etc., etc. With every answer I received I filed it away in my mind and my "possibility mind" said maybe, just maybe I could do it.

Sounds funny doesn't it. I'm a fairly accomplished person. Clearly well educated in an academic and professional way. But the simple step of taking this step towards growing my own food seems so big by comparison. I guess that's why I'm saying that we are at risk of losing cultural awareness of how to do these things which are SO basic.

My parents didn't teach me how to grow vegetables. I never saw them do anything like that. Maybe that's where the broken connection was made even more broken. If I can learn to do this maybe then I can pass my new found knowledge on to my children and to others. It will show that it is possible. Of course I know it is possible, yet it seems like such a big step. The image that comes to mind is that of a rock formation on the Maine Coast (Nubble Point) where I saw a child hesitating to step from one part of the rock to the other even though they were separated by only a foot. The problem was that the child was looking down into that foot-wide divide which was many feet deep. The cross-over is easy - once you've done it. Before that it's surprisingly more troublesome. The knowledge that it really is not that big of a deal makes it more difficult rather than easier until you take that step.

On a slightly different note I came across a reference of a seed depository which Norway is establishing to ensure that our world does not lose the diversity of seeds which our planet already has. What are they thinking of which leads them to do this?

Cultural memory will not be found in the supermarket. Seeds once lost in the Amazon may well be lost forever if it were not for what the Norwegians are doing. Gardening is just gardening until no one remembers how to do it. Then we would be in deep compost.

By the way, I have found the book called: All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew and also the website to be invaluable. They have taken me many steps forward in having a plan laid all out for me for putting a garden in my back yard this spring. I will wait and at the same time I can't wait.

By the way #2, if YOU have this knowledge, pass it on to several others. Don't wait. You may take it for granted but take it from this guy who has never had a green thumb that it is important to share your hard earned know how with others.

Seed Depository Reference: