Category Archives: rambling

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” — Ecclesiastes 3:1

It’s the first of March.

The dawn of spring has already begun to break winter’s dark night.  The sky in the east grows lighter; a pale glow giving shape and depth and life to the quiet and dark world.

Beneath the snow, the colours of the day ahead still sleep, quiet and cold, waiting for their moment to rise and shine.

And I miss writing.

My life is full, of course – perhaps even too full.  It’s always full, because I love to feel productive even more than I hate to feel idle.  But I love to write, and I miss it, and life is too short and too dreary to sacrifice creative expression at the  expense of ‘productivity’ (whatever that means).

So,  as the small tree stretches and yawns with the forthcoming of spring and the time to bud, to bloom, and to grow, I see the time as ripe for rebirth, renewal, and growth.

I recently learned that a tree grows from the inside out, effectively replacing its core each year, and pushing the past year(s) away.  I love the idea of growth from the inside out.  Certainly the past influences the path into the future, as old experiences limit the tree’s capacity to grow as it otherwise might.  But the present is not built upon the past.  It is instead built from the seed of life, and creates the reality in which the past comes to be defined. It seems a shame that we are socialized to see ourselves as products of our past, rather than definers of it.

Spring is almost here: a season for new beginnings.  I’m excited to write again.

Peace and love.

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“Though force can protect in emergency, only justice, fairness, consideration and cooperation can finally lead men to the dawn of eternal peace.” — Dwight Eisenhower

From: http://www.bspcn.com/2010/03/23/no-to-socialism/

This morning I was awoken by my alarm clock, powered by electricity generated by the public power monopoly regulated by the US Department of Energy. I then took a shower in the clean water provided by the municipal water utility. After that, I turned on the TV to one of the FCC regulated channels to see what the National Weather Service of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration determined the weather was going to be like using satellites designed, built, and launched by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. I watch this while eating my breakfast of US Department of Agriculture inspected food and taking the drugs which have been determined as safe by the Food and Drug Administration.

At the appropriate time as regulated by the US Congress, and kept accurate by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the US Naval Observatory, I get into my National Highway Traffic Safety Administration approved automobile and set out to work on the roads built by the local, state, and federal Departments of Transportation, possibly stopping to purchase additional fuel of a quality level determined by the Environmental Protection Agency, using legal tender issued by the Federal Reserve Bank. On the way out the door, I deposit any mail I have to be sent out via the US Postal Service and drop the kids off at the public school.

After work, I drive my NHTSA car back home on DOT roads, to a house which has not burned down in my absence because of the state and local building codes and Fire Marshal’s inspection, and which has not been plundered of all its valuables thanks to the local police department.

I then log on to the internet which was developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration and post of FreeRepublic.com and Fox News forums about how SOCIALISM in medicine is BAD because the government can’t do anything right.”

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“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

In 2008, I spent the holy month of Ramadan in coastal Tanzania, in a region saturated with Muslims.

Though it was not without its inconveniences, I quite enjoyed the experience.  As I became close with a handful of those who fasted to celebrate the holy month, I naturally developed an admiration for their dedication and their faith.

I said then that I too would celebrate Ramadan someday.  This year, with no real routine holding me down, I have decided to carpe mense, so to speak.

In truth, I think my fasting is more Lent-ish than Muslim, but I quite honestly don’t think God cares.  Muslims who fast simply do not consume anything at all, even water, from dawn until dusk, while dedicating a significant(er) amount of time to prayer.  I don’t see the whole ‘dawn-to-dusk’ bit as being particularly applicable to me at this time, but I do feel that I have been far too indulgent for far too long.  As such, I have decided to forgo most of my favorite treats (read: drugs and “drugs”) for 30 days, partly to throw a little extra respect towards God and partly to re-appreciate many of the things I take for granted.  Primarily though, I hope to re-establish some semblance of my formerly formidable self-control, which has become increasingly flaccid over the past few years.  Someday I will do Ramadan properly, but this seems a whole lot more applicable at the moment.

So yeah, the things I will not be consuming from August 12 to September 12 include, in order of expected difficulty:

1.  Marijuana

2.  Coffee

3.  Chocolate

4.  Coca-cola, Iced Tea, Etc.

5.  Alcohol

6.  Thoughts of a specific human being who, in the words of Emerson, is a “delicious torment”

7.  Meat … though this has less to do with fasting and more to do with a desire to stop killing living creatures unnecessarily, and I figured a month would be more reachable than a flat-out commitment to vegetarianism.

Really, the most difficult thing is the one I failed to mention, but we won’t get into that here.  😉

I’m three days in, and I’ve already tripped once, but felt sufficiently guilty for failing in my commitment to God that I figure I have that one licked.  I’m curious to learn which turns out to be the most difficult.  Regardless, so far I feel great!  🙂

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“What you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing; it also depends on what kind of a person you are” — C.S. Lewis

Saskatoon is a very green city.

I was watching a TED talk a few weeks ago.  The speaker showed a picture of a stop sign that he figured was largely unnecessary.  He advocated for the implementation of a ‘common-sense’ sign (“Take-turns”)– a cross between a yield sign and a stop sign.  He calculated the cost of the unnecessary stoppage in terms of time and energy wasted, and it was really quite high.  I forget the exact dollar amount, but it high enough that I said “whoa, that’s really high.”  One could even say I was ‘surprised’ by just how much money is exhausted into nothingness, and all just for one little stop sign.  (Note: $112,000/year)

Anyway, like I was saying, Saskatoon is a very green city.  At times it’s even difficult to find the city among all the green space.  Every major road seems to have 5 to 25 meters of grass on either side of it, every neighbourhood has a park or three, there are preserved wetlands and sort-of-old-growth forest all over the place, and even a bunch of agricultural fields right in the middle of the city, blooming with the university’s educational and research crops.  Being virtually devoid of any buildings taller than three stories, one can look out over the city of 200,000 souls at the right time of year and see (almost) nothing but the deep, serene green of tree tops.  It’s quite beautiful really – an environmentalist’s wet dream.

Except for when you actually think about it.  The thing about all that green space is that it has forced the city to sprawl outwards, so instead of pristine natural wetlands surrounding the city, echoing with the music of migrating birds, one finds cookie-cutter suburban sub-divisions, interspersed with man-made creeks/drainage-ditches, and neatly-planted rows of manicured forest tucked between highways and overpasses  – man-made ecology at its’ finest.  Let’s be serious though, if we dedicated all that space to “real nature,” then all that money spent on the zoo (“The Saskatoon Forestry Farm”) would just be wasted, right?  I quite like that name: “The Forestry Farm.”  I always thought that a ‘farm’ was what happened when the ‘forestry’ was chopped down, but apparently tourism is on par with God and Narnia for generating paradoxical, magical worlds.  I think the Forestry Farm should feature little smiling, animatronic deer, driving little smiling animatronic tractors, with a celebrity voice-over telling the story of the savage, virgin land, before colonialists saved it by enslaving the deer at gun-point, stealing their land, and forcing them to chop down the trees and work the fields to ‘capitalize’ on the resource wealth.  Sorry, I’m being silly again.  We would never treat deer like that.  Natives, perhaps.  After all, there were so many red-skins just lazing about harmoniously, and all that work would probably make the deer meat stringy and tough.

But I digress.  The other great benefit of cramming so much “nature-space” everywhere in this city is that it means everything is farther away, so driving anywhere takes longer.  Now, I don’t have the foggiest idea what kind of energy costs we are talking about here, but I’m pretty sure that the single stop-sign I referred to above tallied over $100,000, a couple gas-cents at a time.  I’m not sure what the fuel cost of the millions of extra kilometres the citizens of this city collectively endure in the name of green space every year, but I’m pretty sure it’s not contributing to lower carbon emissions.  Then again, it might, right?  That’s what green things do, after-all, is turn the CO’s into O’s.  Which is why I think it’s such a good thing that we have all that extra grass to mow with gas powered lawn-mowers.  Ah, the sublime delicacy of life’s eternal balancing act.

It’s not that I don’t like green space.  Really, I think we should up and abandon all the non-green space, and go live in caves and tree-houses.  Until that dream becomes a reality though, I will enjoy the continuing laughable failure of good intentions, and the human animals amazing capacity for short-sightedness.  Like cell phones made from recycled plastic – where the miniscule amount of ‘not-wasted’ plastic offers full moral compensation for the Congolese children’s blood, which ‘was-wasted,’ in order to extract cheap coltan so the phone can do all that crazy ‘new-phone’ shit.  Hahaha … funny, right?  Sounds like old C.S. and his Narnia talk again.

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“Don’t worry about a thing, ’cause every little thing is gonna be alright.” — Bob Marley

Have you ever noticed that our culture has something of a perverse pre-occupation with “catching-up” with this or that?

I know I do.  Over the past few months, I have often lamented the reality that this little ranting forum of mine had faded into oblivion.  I often told myself that I would re-engage, so to speak, and quite a few times opened up this “new-post” page which I am this very moment filling with gibberish.

I never made it though, until now I guess, and even now I have a fair way to travel before I click that little “publish” button and spring my gibberish on an unexpecting world.  One of the main reasons I never made it was this crazy idea I had of “getting caught up.”  That is, afterall, what these words you are reading are doing, aren’t they?  Getting caught up?  The thought of “getting-caught-up” can be daunting, don’t you think?

I live what must be the most transient existence of anyone I know, and still I find my life saturated with things to “keep-up-with.”  E-mails, Facebook messages, personal finances, professional development, relationships with friends and family strewn across the globe, educational progress, and on and on and on …

It’s all a bit silly though, isn’t it.  I mean, what am I trying to “catch-up” to?  Who am I trying to “keep-up” with?

The answer to both questions seems to be some imaginary present/future satisfied version of myself, which raises the perfectly reasonable questions of: a) how is it possible for person to catch up with themselves and b) how is it possible for person to ever reach the future?

It seems that as soon as I “catch-up” with one thing, I have fallen behind with something else.  What’s worse, if I do finally manage to “get-ahead” in a single aspect, the process of getting ahead almost inevitably creates an entirely new life-element which I must then worry about “keeping-up” with, on top of everything else.

Is it possible to “catch-up” with everything, and if it were, how long could one remain “caught-up” before somewhere, something, needed attention?  The whole thing seems a lot like a trap to me: a perpetual state of “being behind,” of “need-to-dos” and ultimately of incompletion.

I suppose one could compare it to caring for a home.  Lots of things require constant attention: the lawn needs to be mowed, the floors need to be swept, the dishes need to be done.  Some things require a bit less frequent care: dusting, cleaning the bathroom, emptying the fridge.  Some things a bit less still: cleaning the floors, pruning the trees.  Some things can be ignored, but for those few weekends of every year that are dedicated entirely to keeping all neglected things working and clean.

For the sake of argument, let’s say a person dedicated a month of their life to “catching up” with their home.  How long would they remain “caught-up”?  Would they ever, for a single instant, actually be “caught up”?  And if they did manage to get caught up, and stay caught up, with their home, what would happen to the many other elements of their life?

Of course, as one becomes ‘successful,’ that little old house won’t do anymore, so it’s time to get a nicer and bigger house, which inevitably will have more things to clean keep working.  With the newer house comes the newer car, which also requires a little more attention.  The better job takes up more time too.  Maybe there is a boat, or a cottage, or whatever.  And the growing family is definitely in need of constant care as well.  With this, we enter into an entirely different, but equally futile, form of “keeping-up,” – that is, with the imaginary others, with whose life-progress we are apparently to be compared.  (though it strikes me as I re-read this, that perhaps nobody is ever actually trying to keep up with others, but that the attempt is, in truth, an effort to “keep-up” with how they would like to be seen/thought of by “the Jones’.” – that is, keeping their public image up with what they would like their public image to be.)

So now we must not only keep up with everyone else, who are trying equally hard to keep up with us, but we must also keep up with an imaginary, ideal-future version of ourself.  Doesn’t this seem totally insane to anybody else?

It almost seems as though we have come to collectively define success as one’s capacity to juggle the most balls – that is, to be perpetually unsatisfied with as many things as possible at one time.  And that’s not even taking into account the moment after that, and the moment after that.

If I am trying to “catch-up” to the point in time and space at which I wish I could, in this moment in space and time, be located, would it not be infinitely simpler to just re-define the place I wish I could be as the place that I currently am located?  In other words: to simply choose to be satisfied right now.

Then I am already caught up.  And I don’t need to worry about all the things I need to catch-up with.

Then I can spend my time right now doing whatever I want to do, right now.

Considering I have only a finite handful of hours to live/enjoy on this earth, and they are disappearing rapidly and constantly, doesn’t spending my time doing what I want seem to be a much more practical way of living than striving eternally after some future that is impossible to reach now, and is becoming more impossible to reach the more I pursue it?

Of course, this is all crazy talk.  Our so-called civilized world has sorted itself out in such a way that, in order to be normal and sensible, a person must weigh themselves down with concerns, and run always to keep from falling behind.  To do otherwise would be partly lazy, partly pathetic, partly useless and entirely unproductive.  These are adjectives which our society does not place a high value upon.  Certainly such people are not ideal employees, desirable mates, or good people to loan money to.

Then again, if a human being were to look at two doors, one labelled “Successful and Productive” and the other labelled “Satisfied and Happy,” which door would be the more sensible choice for a human being to make?

Which choice would you make?

“Incomplete” or “Unproductive”

“Imaginary Future” or “Real Present”

?

For me personally, I can say that the process of simplifying my life continues to be rewarding in a very human way.  I can say that my increasing refusal to feel obligated to “keep-up” with many of my former pre-occupations has engendered a profound joy in the activities I do choose to take part in, no matter how mundane.  I can say that, being patient with time itself, and focusing my energy on only those things that fit most harmoniously with my humanity in any given moment, regardless of outside or perceived internal obligations, has revealed to me an entirely new, more genuine, more fulfilling and more powerful, side to myself and my potential.  Best of all, in exploring that potential – not professional potential, but human potential – I feel peaceful, and unhurried, and experience great joy in each small part of the whole, regardless of where it may lead.

Then again, I’m an unemployed and homeless, formerly “successful” 27-year old, living primarily  on the couches, and generosity, of family and friends.

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“Ready or not, here I come, you can’t hide. I’m gonna find you, and make you want me.” — Lauryn Hill

“The potential for rescue at this time of crisis is neither luck, coincidence, nor wishful thinking.  Armed with a more sophisticated understanding of how change occurs, we know that the very forces that have brought us to planetary brinksmanship carry in them the seeds of renewal.  The current disequilibrium – personal and social – foreshadows a new kind of society.  Roles, relationships, institutions, and old ideas are being re-examined, re-formulated, re-designed.

For the first time in history, humankind has come upon the control panel of change – an understanding of how transformation occurs.  We are living in the change of change, the time in which we can intentionally align ourselves with nature for rapid remaking of ourselves and our collapsing institutions.

The [new] paradigm sees humankind embedded in nature.  It promotes the autonomous individual in a decentralized society.  It sees us as stewards of all our resources, inner and outer.  It says that we are not victims, not pawns, not limited by conditions or conditioning.  Heirs to evolutionary riches, we are capable of imagination, invention and experiences we have only glimpsed.

Human nature is neither good nor bad but open to continuous transformation and transcendence.  It has only to discover itself.  The new perspective respects the ecology of everything: birth, death, learning, health, family, work, science, spirituality, the arts, the community, relationships, politics.”

Marilyn Ferguson in The Aquarian Conspiracy (1980)

I found these words quoted in an anthology of astounding quality called “Peace: A Dream Unfolding,” which was published in 1985, and deals primarily with averting the threat of nuclear war.  I have read this passage perhaps two dozen times over the past couple days, and am constantly surprised by how accurate, and prophetic, her words remain, 30-years on.

In recent weeks, I have frequently heard parallels drawn between breakthroughs in the early days of nuclear science, and Craig Venter’s recent successful synthesis of artificial life.  While many of the parallels involve the scope of the respective achievements in human and academic terms, many also express concern at what terrors such an understanding may unleash upon our world.  Though history has so far shown (knock, knock) the intense fear of a nuclear holocaust to be mostly unfounded, I must admit that I am afraid of what might be lurking in this newest box of Pandora’s.  I lack the knowledge of bio-chemistry to really qualify my fears, but I know that human beings have definitely proven themselves willing, time and again, to utilize science to enact great horrors on one another in the name of progress, profits and power.  With modern man sitting as we now do, more than ever before, at the “control panel of change,” I am worried about who is doing the driving.  The internet has certainly added an immense amount of weight to the power of “the autonomous individual in a decentralized society,” but this true-democratic dream has so far shown little reformative value, except perhaps in identifying pop-culture’s next teen heartthrob, or marginally-witty-catch-phrase.

She does seem to have been right about a lot of things, though.  Just as our technology is constantly redefining our relationship with change, allowing us, quite literally, to “intentionally align [or re-align] ourselves with nature” so too has our history armed us with a more sophisticated understanding of how change occurs.  The forces of technology and globalization have placed the future of our planet, and our species, in our hands as never before, but they have also provided us with access to information and education unfathomable to the thousands of generations which came before us.  As we are handed the most important and complex stewardship in human history, the great question of our generation, may be: ‘have we been paying attention?’.

I suppose the book of life, like any other, can be read only one page at a time, and only time will reveal what the next chapter holds, or how many will follow.  Though our generation has proven itself highly capable of ignorance and apathy, the “seeds of renewal” articulated by Ms. Ferguson three decades ago have borne beautiful fruit as well.  Our “roles, relationships, institutions and [especially] old ideas” have undoubtedly been “re-examined, re-formulated and re-designed” and while resource exploitation, human suffering, and geo-political inequality remain rampant, much of our population lives in a world that is significantly more equitable and more just than it was in 1980. The promise of expanded “imagination, invention and experience,” has bloomed perpetually, for better or worse, in the “rapid remaking of ourselves and our collapsing institutions,” and new perspectives on practically every element we’re aware of are re-imagined daily into the newer, newest and newest-er frontiers of thought.

“Human nature is neither good nor bad but open to continuous transformation and transcendence.  It has only to discover itself.”  As a new, exciting and dangerous era in bio-technology dawns, will our ecological wisdom and imagination be up to the task of finally transforming and transcending the persistent disequilibrium in our personal and social world, or will tomorrow’s new society be just another genetically modified strawberry – bigger, brighter and longer lasting, but born bereft of nature and nutrients, in the womb of a test-tube, so that some short-sighted white guy can buy a bigger car to overcompensate for his undersized stem.  We most certainly are the heirs to vast evolutionary and intellectual riches.  Then again, so were the Mayans.

“In the past, it was possible to destroy a village, a town, a region, even a country.  Now it is the whole planet that has come under threat.  This fact should fully compel everyone to face a basic moral consideration; from now on, it is only through a conscious choice and then deliberate policy that humanity can survive.”  Pope John Paul II was standing in Hiroshima when he issued this warning.  Now it is the biological foundations of the life itself that have come under threat.  Will we make the conscious choices necessary to sustain the essence of our humanity, or will we follow the cloned lemmings of desire into the great Petri-dish of ‘I-wish-I-could-be-like…?’  Whatever the answer may be, I’m sure it will be found on reality TV.

Ancient of Days (1794) by William Blake

Ancient of Days by William Blake

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“Unless a life is lived for others, it is not worthwhile” — Mother Teresa

200,000 people died from the effects of Haiti’s earthquake.

The world came through, raising billions of dollars.

200,000 children die every 8 days because of preventable causes related to poverty.

200,000 children died in the 8 days prior to the earthquake.  Did you hear about them?

200,000 children died in the 8 days after the earthquake.  Does anyone know their names?

Today and tomorrow and the next day, impoverished children will die in the tens of thousands.  We can save them too.  Maybe not all at once, but in time.  We could save many all at once.

All we need to do is decide that they are worthwhile.  Then we just make a few small sacrifices.  Millions of human lives for small sacrifices.  We can do it, too.  All we need to do is decide that they are worthwhile.

But we don’t.  Instead, we want what we want.  We get what we want, instead.  Newer and nicer and cheaper are worthwhile.  Distraction is worthwhile.  Maybe if we pretend it’s not there, it will go away.  Many things are worthwhile.

They die.  Little kids.  Millions and millions of little kids. 25,000 today.  25,000 tomorrow.  25,000 the next day.  25,000 the next day.  25,000 the next day. Etc.

Oh well.

I wonder if God judges us by the things we consider worthwhile?

worthwhile

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