Sunday, June 17, 2007

Thank you, Cristin

I'd like to share what my daughter, Cristin, wrote on her Father's Day card to me:

Dear Dad,

Wishing you a wonderful day, and a happy relaxing summer ahead. Enjoy each bike ride, walk, garden guru moment, and great book you embark upon, in the coming hazy, lazy days.

Thank you for a great year, and more great times ahead.



(can you hear the deep and appreciative breaths I am taking?)

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Just Say "No!" to More Stuff

There's that old bumper sticker which says: "He who dies with the most toys wins."

It used to be good for a quick chuckle and a sardonic smile. Now it's not worth spit.

I was building two 4-foot square wooden frames for my square foot gardening project several weeks ago. I'm not much of a handyman, but I know how to screw pieces of wood together. I had a drill and drilled 48 holes. That was the "easy" part - "easy" in the sense that little "labor" was involved and it "didn't take much time."

Then came the actual screwing of the screws. (I don't know how else to word that so it will have to just stay in the post.) The screws were about 2" long and 48 were involved. I knew I had a screw driver (powered by me) and I thought that it would be efficient if I had an electric screwdriver. A debate followed in my mind as to whether this was a good time to buy one - after all I would be able to use it to assemble the frame "in no time at all" not to mention how I could use it for all those other projects which are always around the corner. Or was this another invitation, an opportunity to do it simply and to not buy yet again another some-thing which will eventually be sold at a yard sale, but not until it has collected dust for several years.

It turned out, I am pleased to say, to be an easy choice. My pockets remained heavy, no gas used to go to the mall to buy the gizmo, no time "spent" traveling (traversing would be a better word) to and from, no throwing away of more plastic and cardboard and paper, no warranty form to fill out - oh, did it feel liberating.

I got down to the business of using the screwdriver. I knelt and stretched. I used my fingers, my wrist, my forearm, my elbow, my upper arm, and then switched arms. When I got uncomfortable I stopped for a few minutes.

My son Andrew stopped by and I said: "hey, you wanna give me a hand?"

He said: "Sure."

Actually he gave me two hands and we threw in some conversation to hold the whole thing together even better. He even lent me some back muscles to help carry the frames from the garage to the upper level of my back yard. (It's even sweeter when he stops by and looks at the tomato plants growing in the frames - more history-making than I had anticipated - try and buy that at the mall!)

We grow when we put mind and effort and concentration and ingenuity into figuring something out; when we put our own chosen effort into our actions. Ran was talking about that a while back in his entry of May 21-23. Eleutheros was also referencing it on his blog when he talked about the tyranny of the mind set of: "Git 'er done (quickly)."

I've known for decades that consumerism is destructive. It's a parasitic meme which repeats and replicates itself over and again. And like any good parasite it feeds on it's host without outright killing it. If it kills the host slowly all the better since it can itself survive longer. And what parasite would give a second thought as to how the host continues to pay and pay and pay. But as I was saying in my last post on "It's more than just putting on the brakes" the "not buying" is incomplete - it has to be coupled with the life and living that has a way of taking root in those other spaces

Yes, I'll just say "no thanks, but could you pass me a little more time and a lot more of no-things." It's really just fine with me, when it's time for me to pass on, if I don't have all those toys.

I guess I'm shifting towards a "keep it simpler" kind of guy.


From Wikipedia: "Cultural change necessarily involves resistance to change. The term Luddite has been resurrected from a previous era to describe one who distrusts or fears the inevitable changes brought about by new technology. The original Luddite revolt occurred in 1811, an action against the English Textile factories that displaced craftsmen in favor of machines. Today's Luddites continue to raise moral and ethical arguments against the excesses of modern technology to the extent that our inventions and our technical systems have evolved to control us rather than to serve us and to the extent that such leviathans can threaten our essential humanity."

And from : "Primitivism is the pursuit of ways of life running counter to the development of technology, its alienating antecedents, and the ensemble of changes wrought by both. This site is an exploration into primitivist theory, as well as various works that contribute to an understanding of the tendency."

Thursday, June 07, 2007

It's More Than Just Applying The Brakes

I've been thinking a lot about this whole process of taking time, not rushing, and my mantra: "I will rush no more!"

It occurs to me that imbedded in the statement is an invitation to slip into an alternate way of being. I am coming to the conclusion that it (my mantra) is like a skeleton key for a portal to a different way of being and experiencing. If you go too fast or if you are preoccupied and harried in your "going" then you will miss the portal and the opportunity. But if you go at the right pace and with a state of mindfulness, i.e., being in the moment without the flood of judgements and preferences and qualifications, then the passage presents itself and you can slip into it.

However, if the "not rushing" is coming from a place of just putting on the brakes, a having to slow down, in the sense that it's a rule or a mandate, rather than a preference and an active choice, then it loses all of its magical potential. A rough approximation would be having to slow down in traffic but being frustrated the whole time because the impulse is to continue speeding, for whatever reason. Perhaps the classic situation would be with a person who has what is called Type A behavior. A person with that is suffering from an ongoing sense of time urgency, and anything or anyone who impedes that urgency is seen as a source of frustration. In those situations the best outcome (and it's not good at all) is to just endure the impedence; no growth there.

Most of the time simply not rushing will have a positive effect in my experience (provided it's not simply applying brakes). But the further gain will come when there is a softening into the moment and opening of the gates of awareness without preference. Nice things happen then, or more properly, new things have a greater chance of happening under those conditions.

There is one further piece in all this and that is that if you bring all of the "old" into the place of freshness, then it will just contaminate that place.

But all is not lost if you mess it up because the potential of using the skeleton key for the portal is always there. It's always there for the taking or experiencing. Sometimes I think it's like there is a revolving door which is ever present. If you enter, you leave one place, you move around, and then you can get out and be in the different place. And of course, the revolving door goes in the other direction also.

I'm talking about a skill. A skill for living well. A skill for improving the sense of appreciation and wonder and curiosity.