nature, rainbow, journey, road

Original Story - The Brothers

Once upon a time, a long time ago, in a place very much like this place in that it was indeed the same place; but, of course, a very long time ago; lived two brothers.

The brothers were the best of friends. They loved to play together and to help each other.

One day, the brothers played in the snow. The snow chilled them because of very cold polar air. They decided to find a way out of the cold, but to still stay inside. They would build a fort.

The boys got a shovel and began to pile the snow very high. As one would through on a scoop, the other would pack it down. In this way, they built up a tall pile that was well packed.

Then, they pushed dug into the pile. They dug on the bottom side, a little at a time, until a small cave formed. While too small for them, they continued digging, and using the removed snow to make the pile even higher.

Little by little, the pile grew taller, and the cave grew deeper. Soon, one of them could fit entirely into the cave. Later still, they both fit into the cave. They packed and smoothed the cave from the inside, to make sure that it was good enough to crawl into and to play around.
nature, rainbow, journey, road

QuiBids & Penny Auction Sites

Ponzi scheme, gambling addiction, the thrill of getting something for less than it costs.

I was just looking over a web site called QuiBids which claims that people have "won" iPads and other items for up to 90% off the retail price. These are new items.

Of course, this sounded fishy, as did the lack of details on the website's home page.

So, I looked into it a bit and found the following articles and feedback:

Tags: quibids, madbid, beezid,

Final conclusion: Avoid. 1. It takes a lot of time. 2. You will spend money. 3. You will probably spend more than via eBay or Amazon. 4. You will probably feel like you've been cheated when you play. 5. If you win, you might play more, and lose even more. 6. Do something else. :-)
nature, rainbow, journey, road


The sun sets,
The day fades,
The birds chirp,
The tires spin,
The cool spills,
The lights burn,
Summertime is here again.

Here we are. Right here. Right now. And not too far from here, there is someone else. How far must we go to find them.

How far to...
a person crying?
a person dying?
a person starving?
a person bleeding?
a family breaking?
a community aching?
a world shaking?

Sometimes, we think to ourselves, what should I do?

What should I do with my life?
What should I do tomorrow?
What should I do anytime?

There is no should.

Instead of "what should I do?", instead ask, "what will I do?"

What will you do with your life?
What will you do tomorrow?
What will you do anytime?

This is a choice. We decide what we will do, with a degree of freedom, which varies from person to person. While one person may be able to do many things, others may be very limited, so much that they may not even be able to move, or not even able to connect with others.

Seize the day.
Live life.
Imagine the possibilities, and then fly.
nature, rainbow, journey, road

The Direction of Life

Life has direction.

Life as a whole has direction.

Life of a species has direction.

Life of an organism, a single living individual, has direction.

Life of each living cell has direction.

The billions, of billions, of billions of atoms in each person, each of them has direction.

Each came from some where.

Each is going some where.

Each and every one has direction.

If one can imagine, for a moment, that one has choice, one can consider the selection of choices that one might take, and how each of those choices might impact the direction of life, species, organism, cell, atom.

What direction, what path, will maximize happiness? Maximize happiness of the organism, the species, the community of life on earth, and all the living cells in the world?
nature, rainbow, journey, road

Four Ways to Make a Living

There are four ways to make a living:

1. Be hired by someone to do what they need done, so they will give you money
2. Do something so people will give you money, primarily meaning starting a "business", taking on the risk that your good idea will be recognized and utilized (and rewarded) by others
3. Become "self-sufficient", as an individual or a family, and learn how to do take care of all of one's essential needs
4. Along with a community of people, work together to provide all of the community's needs

In school settings, only the first is taught. Students are taught skills so they can do what others want them to do, whatever that might be. As adults, they are taught to look for jobs, apply, interview, and if successful, to work hard, follow directions, and if they are successful at that, they will then get paid... which is the only feasible way for them to take care of their own basic needs of food, warmth, security, etc.

This was a major concern of the people in Belize while I was there. Students were graduating from high school, but there were no jobs. There was nothing to do. The had no skills to make a living on their own. The students were upset. The parents were upset. And this is not just Belize, it is all around the world where schools teach the same sets of basic skills, but few, if any, practical skills for living and surviving, other than as part of the globalized industrial economy.
nature, rainbow, journey, road

What is money?

If you are looking for a better answer to the question, "What is money?", then you've come to the right place.

Rather than explaining what others say that money is, and then going into a back and forth about why it isn't really that, I'll just tell you what money actually is.

Money is a promise.

If you have some money, perhaps a dollar bill, then what you have is a promise from the people who live in your country to give you something in exchange for that promise.

Promises are pretty tough things to put a number on, and yet that is exactly what money is. For each different denomination, we have agreed to how big the promise is. A ten dollar bill is ten times the promise as a one dollar bill.

If we would like someone to give us something, then a ten dollar bill will get us ten times as much as a one dollar bill.

When you first received that dollar, it was a gift from someone. You may have received it for giving something to them; or perhaps because you will be giving something to them; or perhaps because they just wanted to give it without any apparent reason.

What we call work is when we give something to someone else, and then they give us a gift, and that gift is money, or more likely, credit. That credit is kept track of at a bank of some sort.

Promises. Money is promises. And, it has always been that way, even back thousands of years in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.

People like to get promises because, within a country, everyone agrees that when they are willing to give things, that they will accept promises (money or credit), in a certain amount, as a gift of equal value, which they can then give to someone else, in order to get something they would like.
nature, rainbow, journey, road

APSO USA 2011 - My Top Ten Take Aways

Top Best Things from My ASPO USA 2011 Participation

  1. Talking with Dr. William (Bill) Catton, author of the books Overshoot and Bottleneck, who happened to grow up in Manistee, Michigan, the same city that my dad's side of the family is from. I talked with Bill early in the morning on the second day (I guess it pays to rise early) and then again on camera that evening. Bill also delivered two very good talks on the first day, that were short and a pleasure to watch.

  2. Talking with Dennis Meadows, one of the authors of the book The Limits to Growth, which is another often referenced work. I talked with Dennis prior to the 2nd day afternoon session on investing. Dennis is developing a board game to help teach people the ideas of the Limits to Growth, and I'm hoping to obtain a copy in the new year, to try with friends.

  3. The session on the third day about vision, story, narrative, values and messaging. This was a circle session, the only one of the conference, and it offered a great opportunity for those present to share their understandings, not least of which were the contributions of Kurt Cobb and Chris Martenson.

  4. The journey to and from the conference was an adventure. I went car -> bus -> plane -> bus -> train -> walk -> backtrack -> walk -> to get there. On the way back it was: RUN! -> train -> RUN! -> train -> RUN! -> bus -> plane -> bus -> car -> to get home. The way home on the plane in the evening, the sky was clear, and I was able to see all of the lights from the cities, towns, cars, homes. This called back to one of the lectures which pointed out how energy comes in to the living organism via a network, and no matter the degree of magnification, this was pattern was the same.

  5. Interviewing people on camera, including Robert Rapier, Chris Martenson, John Michael Greer, and Mark Robinowicz. These interviews were fun and interesting, and something I look forward to sharing with others in the future. They were also a chance to get to know the people better, which is always nice.

  6. Catching up with friends and making new friends was great. I talked with a number of people, and shared space and the experience with the Quinn's (Tom, Susan, Megan), Albert Bates, KMO and Olga, Jan Lundberg, David Gard, Kurt Cobb, my friend Dawn Moncrief (who lives in DC), and a number of others.

  7. Hearing from some of the people who made interesting contributions, including Dmitry Orlov, Charlie Hall (funny guy), Jeff Rubin, Richard Heinberg, and a number of others, especially those that had contrary views that came out strongly.

  8. My visit to Occupy DC, and the chance to see the occupation camp, and to participate in the general assembly meeting, plus the chance to interview (audio) the facilitator of the meeting. An interesting decision, they do everything through committee structure, and all proposals must first achieve consensus within a committee before being presented to the floor.

  9. Hearing Wes Jackson's talk on soil depletion including the history of soil of North America, and his work to develop a way to re-enrich the soils, and put carbon back into Earth. This was a very fine talk, apparently similar to the talk he normally gives, but very good none-the-less.

  10. Lending a hand with the event a bit by helping as the time keeper during some of the sessions. It seems like a small role, but it is actually surprisingly helpful, plus I received a nice thank you from the event supervisor Greg Geier, which was very nice. I also enjoyed meeting the staff members of ASPO, Jan and Ray.

The more things I think about it, the more things I took away from the event, but these were the top ten to pop into my mind. If I was to think about this again after a period of time, I might say that there were entirely different things.

I do believe that the experiences, and the connections (which are themselves experiences) are the best things from any conference.

I am so much looking forward to this weeks Local Future conference, which will give much more opportunity to do this as well.
nature, rainbow, journey, road

What is going on with the economy?

The trick to understanding the economy is visualizing how the money flows in the economy. You can divide the people any way you like, but I tend to divide them into about eight groups:

1. the people,
2. the businesses,
3. the banks,
4. the federal government
5. foreign countries
6. the rich
7. the oil owners
8. the states and local governments

If the flow of money towards, or away from, any one of these entities changes, then it will impact the economy.

At the moment, we have several issues.One is that the flow towards the people has slowed. This leads to less sales for the businesses and corporations, and all government entities, and even the foreign countries.

This led to the government lowering lending standards in order to increase the flow towards the people via the banks. This increased the flow from the banks, to the people and businesses, and even the state and local governments; but of course, it also created a great deal of debt, and a future flow TOWARDS the banks, and away from all other sectors of the economy.

Complicating things is that the oil owners, and the global oil market, is subject to peak oil, which really is any change from "normal" in the oil production. Clearly, with Deep Water Horizon, we see that it is very difficult to get oil, and there are not many favorable places left; so there was a switch from increasing oil supply, to a stagnant oil supply. This switch led to higher prices (and the resultant speculative exaggeration) which drew money away from everyone, and towards the oil owners.

Another complication is that the US has created "free trade" agreements to outsource jobs. This decreases the flow to the people (meaning the domestic people) and increased the flow out of the country. Last week, three more of these devil deals were made, which leads to perhaps a short term change in the flow of money, but at a cost of environmental degradation, and the slowing of the flow towards the older, and "advancing" free trade countries.

The federal government response to slowing, after the banks did there bit, is to spend money into the economy directly, or via "mail drops" like tax return checks, such as Bush did twice during his years. This though, increased the public debt, and if it goes towards speculative home and real estate (or other purchases) then nothing is added to the economy.

And, another complication, that top most tax rate, which used to be over 90% for the billionaires, has been whittled down over the years to only 35% or some ridiculously low number. This slows the flow from the rich to the federal government, and puts the rich in a position to speculate with huge impacts, or to spend money out of the economy on foreign goods, or in general, to just put to much control of the flow into the hands of too few.

Back to the banks, when the increase in loan volume began to slow, then the flow from the banks to the rest of the economy decreased, and this led to a slowing of spending, and as we've seen, to an actual reversal of flow. Now money flows to the banks, not from the banks, as more is being paid towards them in debt servicing, then being paid out in expenses and new loans.

Backing out a bit, we see that the entire system is inherently unstable. It has to be monitored with utmost vigilance by those in control, and those in control are the people, of course, but really the mass of the people, the general populace, that is willing to assemble, and force the government to keep the flow of cash in such a way as to ensure full employment, and long term stability.

Of course, our schools do not teach this, and this is perhaps the largest failing of schools.

Now we see the results. As if addressing the oil situation (since the oil is literally the life blood of the global economy) wasn't enough, now we have the issues of income and wealth disparity, a huge trade gap, privatized banks drawing huge quantities of funds out of the economy, an unwillingness of the people to spend directly into the economy as true investment from the federal government, and a pinch on the people, the state and local governments, and businesses leading to insane policy choices that will only serve to exacerbate the situation.

It's complex, but we can understand it, and if we understand it, then we can figure out ways to fix it, or more likely, to replace it.
nature, rainbow, journey, road

Where were you when?

Where were you when?

When everything was changing?

Where were you?

What were you doing?

I can imagine being asked that. Perhaps you can also imagine being asked that. The question may come in 30 years time, or 20 years time, or 10 years time or less.

Where were you?

I want to be able to answer that I was right there, doing my best to ensure the best outcome.

I want to be able to say that I did something unique, something different, something that only I could do; so that others could do unique things, different things, things that only they could do.

Where were you?

I was here, thinking about you, and about me, and about the future, and about the world. I was here. I am still here.

Changing times we are living in.

We can hear it.

We can see it.

We can smell it.

We can taste it.

We can feel it, in so many ways, that changes are happening, and more changes are afoot.

Today, it is "the occupation" or "Occupy Wall Street", and tomorrow it may be much more: a social change? a turning point? a revolution?

It is a sign of the times.

Here we are, at such a unique time in the story of Earth, where this one single species, and this one particular culture out of this one particular species has come to dominate, or perhaps over-run the surface of the Earth. Releasing carbon back into the air. Ripping and tearing at the land. Decimating the oceans. Doing so many horrible, almost unspeakable things.

Here we are.

We are part of the great machine of civilization.

And yet, like any machine, or more precisely, like any living thing; things are changing.

Oil, the blood energy of this civilization is failing, little by little, and we can see it, as the circulation no longer flows freely to the extremities, and we wonder... how much longer will it flow to us? how much longer will it flow to me?

AND promises.

Yes, promises, big, and small, and gargantuan, and minuscule, and in size beyond the limits of the imagination; promises are out there, in the forms of money, and credit, and debt.

This system of promises, mind you, promises fade in real life, as they are simply thoughts about the future, and all thoughts fade; and yet this civilization has a system of promises that does not fade, that is not rational, likely, or possible, and which must, eventually, fail, one way or another.

Few seem to get it.

Few seem to look at energy and promises as two things, one real and one fleeting, that are conspiring against this great machine.

Those looking at money, don't see debt.

Those looking at debt, don't see money.

Those looking at both, don't see their foundation in promise.

Those see this forget that promises depend on the energy to keep those promises possible into the future.

Stock and flow.

Stock and flow.

Money is like the global water cycle.

Rain falls around the world, at different times, in differing amounts. Then it pools; and it flows; and it pools; and it flows; and some evaporates; and some is absorbed; and some makes it back to the oceans and evaporates; or cycles down.

And this is how it is with money.

It too flows, and stocks, and flows.

It flows from the people (who make the promises), to other people, to the businesses, to the people, to the state, to the people, to the government, to the corporations, to the people, to the oil extractors, to the people, to the rich, to the people, and around, and around, and around. We could visualize it in our minds as an organism, and the money (or the credit) that flows is like the blood; or we could visualize the global water cycle, and the money flows, and stocks, like the water in the world.

And, perhaps something different, is that the money and the energy flow in the opposite directions.

The money for the energy, for the oil, for the gasoline, flows from the people, to the corporation, to the oil producers, to the banks, and around, and around.... while the energy, the oil, flows from the oil producers, to the corporations, to the people, and the buisnesses, and the governments, and the rich.

Two flows, moving in opposite directions.

Is this where the analogy between the flow of money, or energy, and the water cycle, or the blood inside your body, breaks down?

In our bodies, are there signals that tell our bodies where to direct the blood (the energy) that keeps all of our cells healthy?

But, it is not this simple, is it, because these are not the only two stock and flows that are going on.

There is also the debt. The debt that comes, either public or private, when money or credit are issued into the flow.

The public debt has ballooned, and this has altered the flow of money. Instead of flowing towards the people, the money is flowing towards the banks. And as the oil supply fails to grow as it had been growing, so too money flows more towards the oil producers, and less towards the people. And of course, all the others respond to this in the way that they know how, given their knowledge and understanding of economics, politics, and personal desire.

The debt, it too flows, as odd as that may seem. Sliced and diced into pieces and morsels; stocked here, and shot in a rapid flow over there, and so strange it is, but it does grow, and does grow, and this public debt it does grow.

But as the money to the people, the flow to the people, as that fails, and the debt burden grows, clearly, much of the debt will not be serviced in a way to keep people in their homes, and their cars, and in their lives.

And more promises.

Promises of "this is yours", whatever that really means.

The illusion of control over property, whatever THAT really means.

And the property stocks and flows as well, doesn't it? Moving from the public, to the private, and from the people, to the rich; and from the rich to the corporation, and the ownership stocks, and flows, and while I can barely visualize it, it is all part of this great machine, isn't it?

Where were you?

First of all, I was here.

I was trying to wrap my head around it.

I was trying to understand it.

I was trying to share what I thought I'd figured out. Because I know, perhaps better than most, that this life of mine is brief, and fragile, and a single sleeping person could end it on the freeway tomorrow, or in any other ways, knowable and unknowable to me.

And the occupation, and the Occupy Wall Street, and the people who just are angry because what they thought was going to be their life, well, it is not, and it is all changing in ways that they don't understand, and that they were never expecting.


There is a future.

It is a better future, for everyone.

And no, I am not thinking of something "beyond", but rather of something that we can indeed achieve, together, for our people, and for all of life.

There is a positive future out there.

Yes, it will be local, because we are quickly burning the oil, and it will run down much more quickly than it ran up.

Yes, it will be different, because we have changed the world. Or I should say, this great machine has changed the world. Or, perhaps, simply, that the world has changed. And, there is a different climate. And, the surface of the land, and of life, is now different.

But there is a positive future ahead; and a future I look forward to attaining, and am daily working to achieve, in advance of the great change.

Where was I?

I hope, one day, I can look back and can say, "I was there, and we were on the precipice, and the ridge was razor thin, but we saw the realistic destination, and we recognized in ourselves a way forwards, utilizing all of our strength, and our intelligence, and our emotion, and we each did something unique, that only each of us could do, and behold, here we are, and life is better than we ever imagined it could be; and I was there, and now you are here together with me."
nature, rainbow, journey, road

Daniel Quinn, Ishmael, Saving the World, and Moving Beyond Civilization

Today, I finished reading the fourth Daniel Quinn book of this summer. I started with Ishmael, followed a couple weeks later by My Ishmael, then Beyond Civilization, and wrapping up with Providence. He has other works, most notably The Story of B, which is quite good, but this may be it for me for this reading season.

For anyone who doesn't know of Quinn's work, I'll provide a general overview.

Quinn spent about a decade working on the first book, Ishmael, which won a half a million dollar prize for offering up significant new ideas. His interest was in the way the world works, how things came to be this way, why it is that this civilization is eating the world, and why history, as taught in school, ignores millions of years of human experience.

Quinn explains that the culture of civilization is different and unique. The cultural stories include things such as:

* There is only one right way to live.
* The world was made for us.
* We were made to dominate and subdue the world.
* Civilization is the best possible future for humans.
* We are flawed, and so we will always fail.

Our culture, he explains, is easy to identify. Anytime one sees that the food is under lock and key, that is our culture. More specifically, our culture grows most of our own food, and then quickly locks it away, and then pretty much everyone has to do something required (or desired) by civilization in order to have access to food. This was distinctly different from all other cultures in that they did not lock up food, and due to that, tended to be much more egalitarian, since there was very little need for specialization.

Quinn talks about education, and how in all other cultures, the adults simply have the children with them all the time, and so the children learn everything that there is to know from hands-on experience, at the point in time that it interests them.

Quinn contrasts this with this civilization's system of schooling, where children as young as 5-years old are basically locked inside little rooms for a good part of the day, with mostly other children, and with few adults, and are presented with things to learn that they are not necessarily interested in, and that, in many cases, are irrelevant to anyone's lives. In fact, he points out, that the schooling system itself has to resist improvement in preparing people to be cogs in the great machine of civilization, otherwise, the grandparents and parents of those children would be out of work, as the more well educated children entered the workforce. Thus, one function of schools is to keep children out of the workforce, and then allow them to trickle in at a rate so that they can take up whatever jobs are unable to be filled by the current workforce, or are basically undesirable jobs.

[FYI - I'm adding some of my own reflections in here as well, so this is not all word-for-word from Quinn.]

To save the world, Quinn suggests that we need to abandon civilization, since it is clearly a failed cultural model, that is leading to the destruction of not only the earth, but of the our very ability to survive here... basically making earth uninhabitable for humans. To abandon civilization does not necessarily mean to separate from it immediately, and all at once, but to do as much as we can, and to invite others along, and to work together as equals to make a living, as much as possible, beyond civilization.

Quinn doesn't spell this out in great detail, primarily, he says, because it is an impossible task, just like if we were the inventor of the first bicycle, and were attempting to imagine what it would look like in the distant future. How would we know what technology, machining, etc. would be available? How would we know to think about a bike chain? Or spokes? Or petals? Or equal sized wheels? Etc. Basically, since we are not yet in the future, beyond civilization, we can not really imagine it, and really, what we can imagine is only really the first step towards this better future.

What are some of the take away messages?

* There is no one right way to live.
* There is something BETTER waiting for us.
* We need to present this better story so that people have something to aspire to; rather than giving something up.
* We belong to the world. (Not the other way around.)

What does all of this mean to me?

Well, it means that the future is likely to be very different from what most people imagine, and even different from how I imagine it.

When I am alone, outside my home, I think about the future beyond civilization, and how I might be standing in the exact same spot, living in the exact same house, but that things would be very different.

I would be making my living a different way, probably as one member of a group of people that were making their living together; making a living meaning obtaining food and all the essentials of existence together.

Would I be doing this with family, or friends, or neighbors, or "my people" (those that see think of the world in the same way as me)? I don't know.

When thinking of how to save the world, I think of how we need to continue to have programs to hold the line against the onslaught of civilization. We need the Sea Shepherds and the Rain Forest Action Networks and all of the non-profits, organizations, and programs that are protecting things from extinction, destruction, pollution, devastation, etc. We also need people to be moving beyond civilization, so that civilization itself diminishes in its ability to chew up the world. And, I can understand those, such as perhaps some of the readers of Derrick Jensen, that would act in such a way to hinder or sabotage the great machine.

More practically, when thinking of what I'm going to do with my life, I am trying to keep these ideas in mind. For example, with my 4-year old son, we are already talking, due to his curiosity and just seeing things happen in the world, about life and death, and how we are part of the world, and how we came from the world, and will return to the world, and are all here together, and are all successful since "behold, we are here".

I'm also thinking of how to help people to save the earth, and of course, the great biodiversity, and prevent mass extinction, and ensure the survival of as many species, especially our own, which, once succeeding, will have the ability to provide a model, if and when other species evolve into a similar level of intellect as our own. How do I help these people? Is sharing some visions of the future useful? Is getting them together in one place, so that they can connect, and share, and learn, and work together towards a brighter future, is that useful? What is it that I am specially able to do to advance this social evolution? What is my path of "biggest bang for the buck"?

So, there you go. A bit of a summary of some of Quinn's main themes and thoughts, and some of my personal reflections.

Of all the books I've read, I think that Ishmael has had the greatest resonance with my life. It may not have resulted in as major of a change as reading Animal Liberation, not yet anyway, but I never really needed to re-read Animal Liberation to become vegan again. For Quinn's books, I want to reread them so that I can remember, and re-examine the stories that I am living, as a part of this culture in this civilization, and which stories I aspire to be living. Each time, I feel that I'm moving closer to harmony with that which I already believe and feel about life.

So, for anyone who has not read Ishmael, I do recommend it, and once done, if one is hungry for more, do continue with Quinn's other works, which complement and expand in Ishmael in any number of ways. Perhaps you will find, as I did, why these ideas are some of the most influential that you'll encounter.

Enjoy, and good luck on your journey.