Thursday, April 19, 2007

In Praise Of A Man Who Bought Time For Others

The man is Liviu Librescu. He was an Israeli engineering professor who taught at Virginia Tech. He was a survivor of the Holocaust. He knew how important life is. He knew the worst.

And he used his body and his life and his energy to thwart the expression of evil so others could escape and live. He blocked the door to buy time for others.

I salute you, Sir. May your spirit live on.

Shame On NBC

I walked into a coffee shop this morning and was assaulted again by the face on that terrorist posing as a Rambo Wannabe. Two different posturings in two different newspapers, both first page and above the fold.

I turned away, not wanting to feed energy into the icon of rage and hatred. But I came back because there was something else there. In the upper left corner was a small rectangular box with "NBC News" printed within.

Well, I suppose NBC would say that it was their picture and therefore they are protecting their property and in essence putting their mark on the photos. (I don't know the legal niceties about all this and frankly I don't care at this point.) Where my mind goes, however, is to the brazen marketing of NBC. They have become willing victims of Marketing 101 which says: "Put your brand wherever you can so you get more visibility and better market positioning." In that way it makes no difference if they are branding beautiful or grotesque.

Come to think of it, maybe shame isn't what NBC should experience. Maybe NBC should be tatooed with those photos. Let everyone associate that logo with that face of violence.

When videotapes of the horror are mailed to Al Jezeera, do they put an Al Jezeera logo on "their" photos? If so, a pox on them also.

This is just a short rant, because any more would put energy into memorializing the unknown posing as a wannabe and I don't want to do that.

As I walked out I turned the newspaper over.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Some Thoughts On The Good Life

To my way of thinking, rushing around is antithetical to living the good life. But what would it look like if the rushing wasn't there? Would it be like a perpetual vacation to a plush resort in the Carribean or on a Greek Island? Would money be a concern? Would it be easier or harder than you have now?

So one question comes up as to what that rushing is all about and is there anyone "out there" who has really come to terms with the pursuit of money and who has also found a way to live "the good life?"

A few months ago I was introduced to the writings of one such couple, Helen and Scott Nearing and one of their books is appropriately named: The Good Life: Helen and Scott Nearing's Sixty Years of Self-Sufficient Living. The edition I have also contains another of their books, equally appropriately named: Continuing The Good Life. I'm still reading the book in a leisurely manner and am in no rush to finish it since it keeps feeding me wonderful thoughts and images and possibilities.

The book was originally published in 1954, the year I entered high school. Their formal journey began at the height of the Great Depression. They left their professional life in the New York Area at a time when "society was gripped by depression and unemployment, falling a prey to fascism, and on the verge of another world-wide military free-for-all; and entered a preindustrial, rural community" by buying a run-down farm in the Green Mountains of southern Vermont.

By way of their intent, they "thought of the venture as a personal search for a simple, satisfying life on the land, to be devoted to mutual aid and harmlessness, with an ample margin of leisure in which to do personally constructive and creative work.

They started with a set of goals (they were very focused), a timetable, a willingness to get their hands dirty, and the wish to not be consumed by "things." But what really caught my attention was their attitude towards money and food and time and not going into debt.

They had a series of rules or guidelines. One was that they grew as much of their own food as possible. They were vegetarians so that made that task somewhat easier. When they had enough food for themselves and for the non-growing season (remember it's Vermont where they start their adventure) they would give away the food. They take delight in talking about how they had bountiful crops from their pole bean plants and they would fill baskets full of fresh beans and go into town and offer them to people for free. People tended to be hesitant to accept them, but when they found out that there were no strings attached they did, and were appreciative.

They were entrepreneurs in the sense that when they ran into a problem, they would look for a way to solve it and would, in a sense, start a business. For example, when they were building one of their stone homes they had difficulty negotiating a steep and oftentimes muddy road. So they bought a piece of property which a neighbor had no use for (and thought was useless) and started pulling out gravel from the property, sold some of it to the town for road repairs, bought a truck to move the gravel to pave their own road and then when that was finished, sold the property to another resident in the area at essentially the same price they bought it for. There's a lot more to that story which gives glimpses into their character and how they were clear that they were not trying to make any money at anyone else's expense. I would say they were living the principle of: "win-win or no deal."

Their work schedule was equally interesting. They worked 3 hours a day. I'm not sure about Saturday but I do know that they took Sunday "off." You read it right! Three hours a day. Period. It was their choice if they worked the 3 hours in the morning or the afternoon, and it could vary according to weather, or whim. They took three hours each day to read or write or walk or talk, or whatever, but no work during that time.

In their book they talk about how they had frequent visitors. The rule was the same for their guests. Everyone worked for 3 hours. One of the problems they ran into was the "city folk" wanted to continue working once they got into it. But the Nearings would insist on the house rules - 3 hours per day, and that's it.

Their built their sheds and houses, gardened, gathered wood, had a sauna, collected maple syrup, etc.

There was one other particularly important and fascinating practise they followed. They kept close financial records (they actually kept careful records of all their endeavors) and they estimated how much actual money they would need to live their lives for that year, and when they had enough food, and enough money for expenses for the year, they stopped working for the rest of the year.

I'm sure it helped that they didn't have any children. I have my doubts that they carried any insurance. They were clearly healthy - he died at 100. That's a story in itself. And they travelled when they wanted and they had earned their yearly quotas of food and money. To my knowledge, and this is equally significant, they carried no debt.

I have always found it helpful and valuable to meet someone or read about someone who is actually doing something that others talk about but never seem to actually get around to doing. Thoreau talked about it and lived it for a year or so and thankfully wrote about it for all of us to enjoy and dream and wonder about, but the Nearings actually did it and showed how they did it and left their footprints in words so others, if they chose, could also set out on a similar path.

Do you think it could be done in this age? Would you welcome the opportunity? Would you be able to handle the hard work and the slower pace? Would you feel good about yourself if you didn't buy as much as you buy? Or travel on a whim? Could you tolerate the apprehension of not having money set aside for "retirement?" Would you need to have more put away for a rainy day? And perhaps most importantly do you think that you would have to move away from where you are now and move "out there" somewhere? So many questions.

For some further thoughts on Homesteading you can find a brief thread on the Forum at

I would love to hear anyone else's thoughts or experiences around this topic.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Of Dreams And Birds

(Prewords: Over the past 3 weeks I have written several drafts (variously titled: Gradual Change; Reversing Reversals; Depression as Ground Fog; Some Thoughts on Peace of Mind and Restlessness) for blog entries but have held back on posting them. The topics are in themselves worthy and may eventually be published. But it's like something was holding me back. I was waiting for something that was more spontaneous, something with a bit more "oomph" feeling to it. I think it was also related to not wanting to "have to" get another entry up.)

I've been very active in the nightime dream department in the past several weeks. It may be related to coming out of that stormy place I was in a few posts back and, in my mind now, it may be connected to a series of posts by Proxima (entries dated 3/23, 3/24, and 3/27/07) about dreams. I also had a person ask me about what I thought about dreams a few weeks back and that may have stirred the pot somewhat.

Bird Dream #1: (Three weeks ago) I'm driving along minding my own business and a big black bird flies into my car and perches directly on top of my head. I'm aware that there is not much room up there for the bird so I scrunch my head down into my shoulders to create more space for it. Initially there was some fear but then it was mostly just trying to create space for "the addition." It could have been a crow or a raven.

Bird Dream #2: (Last night) I'm walking up into a mountain range. I am then aware of a very large flock of birds swirling above me. They do their aerial dance gracefully. I am then in a more forested area and there, on a low lying branch, is a great snowy white owl. No movement; just perched there.

The dreams had things happening before and after the appearance of the birds, but those two birds is what stands out in my mind. Each one on its own would have pulled my attention, but the two of them, even though separated by approximately 3 weeks of external time, really caught my attention.

Hmmm...why birds? One while driving, and one while walking - an issue of movement? One jet black and the other pure white. One moved and the other is stationary. As they say, it just gets "curiouser and curiouser."


Some further context of what's going on in my life recently:

1. I've been thinking again about psychotherapy and healing. We tend to organize our lives around extensive habit-clusters. If those habit-clusters are working well for us then it is often best to leave well-enough alone. If, however, they are persistent and seem to work against our best interests, then it may be a good idea to find a strategy to shift away from them and towards a better and more wholesome habit-cluster "seed." The task then would be to put energy into that new "seed" and let that expand and develop through latency towards its own potentials.

That process has much to recommend it and it goes towards the idea of healing - the process of making whole again by dealing with the original imbalances either directly or through changing the down-the-road-consequences by offering workable alternatives. But there is a further sense of healing which in a sense takes us out of the drivers seat and opens us to input from outside. In that sense, there is an opening, a cultivation of the sense of receptivity coupled with a seeing what is as clearly as possible - without the filters. In that way, we are still in the drivers seat but there is a another source of input from "on top."

2. I have been reminded in the past several weeks of something I have been aware of previously, namely, that information is being "presented" to me often. By this, I mean that I'll be just doing my thing, whatever that is that day, and something will catch my awareness: I'll hear a quote, hear a story, see a picture, have a flash of partial insight, etc. Then later in the day I will be working with someone, or talking with someone, and they will say something which gives me an opportunity to relate the earlier experience.

It's like I'm presented with a key (the information) and it takes a while for the lock (the situation in the conversation which is a puzzler) which responds to the key to make its appearance. It's very curious, but sometimes it's as if it's an only-to-be-used-one-time key. When I see these connections, then it gives me more motivation to stay aware to what is being presented and to not press for any interpretation. At those times my only effort is to set the intent to be receptive and to see / hear clearly. This process feels "non-linear" and is just available "for the picking." It appears to me as a larger process and contains a certain wonder. It invites a "deepening" rather than a "doing" but they are both there.

3. After I was up this morning I scribbled the following 2 comments based on the dreams:

A. Accept that it's all inside - the positive and the negative - and then choose your directions and intents and expressions.

B. The way we organize our history is in the service of "the winner" ... (it's not just with world history) ... the ego - it's mostly fiction - one way (of many possibilities) - just what is happening - period.