Archive for the ‘earth wisdom’ Tag

Deconspiracizing & Druidry   Leave a comment

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through the branches, opening doors

Depending on where you lurk on the Net, you may have run across this passage:

Be sure the patient remains completely fixated on politics. Arguments, political gossip, and obsessing on the faults of people they have never met serves as an excellent distraction from advancing in personal virtue, character, and the things the patient can control. Make sure to keep the patient in a constant state of angst, frustration, and general disdain towards the rest of the human race in order to avoid any kind of charity or inner peace from further developing. Ensure the patient continues to believe that the problem is “out there” in the “broken system” rather than recognizing there is a problem with himself.

Keep up the good work,
Uncle Screwtape

“Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis ~1942

One of my cousins posted this recently on Facebook.

Also depending on your alertness and your familiarity with Lewis and his works, you may or may not have additionally spotted the following caveat. “Screwtape’s ‘fixated on politics’ quote”, notes Joshua Dance, “is not by C.S. Lewis. You and I may like the idea, but proceed with caution.”

How perfect for my purpose here: to use a wrongly-attributed quotation in the process of desconspiracizing ourselves. What ideas do we like, and how cautious are we — can we be — should we be — with them as we proceed?

And does this piece of wisdom still retain any value, once we uncouple it from its famous but misidentified source?

If you think it does, I invite you to keep reading. (If not, here’s the new-as-of-June trailer for Voldemort — Origins Of The Heir, a fan-film.)

Human liking for conspiracy theories is by almost all accounts wonderfully unbiased in its spread. Liberal, Conservative, Libertarian, Communist, Anarchist — whatever colors I fly on my mast, I’m just as susceptible to a theory that fits my prejudices as the next person. No one’s immune. In my book that qualifies as a “problem with myself”. Fortunately, remedies exist. Maybe not cures, but remedies.

Here, after a completely unscientific search, are seven news links [ Paul RatnerThe Independent | The Telegraph | Time | The Guardian| Conspiracies.net6 True Conspiracy Theories ] to some of the most popular conspiracy theories out there in the English-speaking world. (Those of you with a foot in other linguistic and cultural communities have your own favorites that you know far better than I.)

And if you’d like just one of many available pages pointing out the logical fallacies underpinning conspiracy thinking, here’s an example that offers 13 fallacies.

My main goal in this post? I want to remind myself most of all, and any of you so inclined, to  continue the work needed to minimize the effect of conspiracy thinking. Secondarily, I want to refresh my understanding of ways of thinking and doing — like Druidry — that can “distract me from the distractions”.

Two things I’ve learned over decades to treasure and nourish in myself and my dear ones more than anything else: what I choose to attend to, and how I choose to attend to it. In other words, attention and attitude.

We know how valuable our attention is because advertisers and politicians work so hard to get it and hold on to it. Our attitude matters just as much: everyone wants to tell us how to feel, rather than letting us discover that on our own.

Once someone has my attention hooked, and my attitude in their pocket, they own me.

So here’s one of my triads for action:

1) Love what I can see, touch and talk to most often — daily is ideal. This includes family, friends, trees, pets, the garden, ancestors, my community, and the people I meet. “I bless you in the name of what you love most deeply” is a silent prayer I can offer for everyone I meet. An even briefer version: “Bless this day and those I serve”. (I also find it’s very useful in stopping me from mechanical reactions for or against, from forming pointless opinions based on superficial details like age, weight, dress, gender, etc. — or for cutting me off in traffic, or tailing me much too closely. So I “repeat as needed”: “I bless you in the name of what you love most deeply”.)

2) Whatever time and energy I can give, work so that it will benefit others as much as myself. This blog is one of those things. My years in teaching, and in holding open discussions on spiritual topics in our local library, are a couple of others. A chance conversation in a shop or store that acknowledges another’s humanity and dignity can be a profound service to others. I don’t try to be selfless; I try to enlarge my sense of who is part of the Self. Because I’m  still learning, whenever necessary, I start small.

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backyard willow on wash-day

3) Thank everyone and everything that helped me do the first two things. Gratitude may be too simple for our complex and suspicious age, but, I notice, it never goes out of style. Again, it may be silent just as often as something to express. Yes, this can be a dangerous age to live and be generous in. But I find a wise kindness works well.

If I focus more on my attitude and attention, I can diminish the moments of “angst, frustration, and general disdain towards the rest of the human race in order to avoid any kind of charity or inner peace from further developing”.

The more I experience the inherent joy in using my attitude and attention skilfully, the more I find myself energized to keep on practicing with them. These are some of the truest things Druidry has helped me discover.

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Truth, Sturdy Tree   Leave a comment

In English (and other Germanic languages) there’s a cluster of words related etymologically in “deep time” and beginning with tr-: true, troth, trust, tree. The meanings they convey branch outward — the metaphor is no accident — in other European languages, with similar connected meanings. In some Indo-European languages it’s specifically the oak that’s the quintessential tree, its hard wood most reliably “true”, able to hold its shape, resist warp and rot, or honor the gods like the oaks at the Greek oracle at Dodona, sacred to Zeus. Druids aspire to be “people of the trees”.

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It’s no surprise then that speakers of these languages tend to think of truth in similar terms. Languages offer such networks of related meanings, idioms and imagery that shape and direct our thoughts and our cultures in both subtle and pervasive ways. The resource of words, like any resource, can be spent well or ill. We can draw on it to nourish and enrich human lives, or abuse it to twist, enervate, and destroy. We are, as older culture put it, only as good as our word.

In the archaic “troth, betroth, plight one’s troth”, we encounter truth in another sense, as a promise, something time will help fulfill, yes, but primarily a human action dependent on fidelity and effort. To betroth is to promise “by one’s truth“. Here, truth doesn’t just happen. It’s an outcome of a commitment. We enact truth. We say of something that it “holds true” — it meets the tests of time and other forces colliding with it. If this intrigues you, start a list of other expressions like it, and work with it in meditation.

So we have two related senses of truth: a quality often inherent in experience, and a human way of perceiving, choosing and acting. But in both cases, when something is true, it exhibits a quality similar to a good carpenter’s labor — the pieces fit, align, work together harmoniously, possessing strength and beauty and utility. Hence our sense of truth as something that is often beautiful as well. English idiom also gives us the lovely image of things that “ring true”. Truth, then, also “sounds right”. While a true thing may not exhibit all these qualities every time, it frequently does in surprising ways.

So I offer this as another subject for meditation: in how many ways does a truth appeal to the senses and offer its qualities through numerous images and metaphors in making itself  accessible to human consciousness?

I’m always looking for techniques, for strategies and methods. My pragmatic streak longs for good ways to do things. (That’s not to say my lazy and selfish streaks don’t play their parts all too well. What’s new there? We all deal with limits worth exploring and working with creatively.)

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These two related senses of truth offer what I’m looking for in the form of three challenge-questions I can ask: (1) Does my experience of a person, thing, idea or course of action offer these qualities of harmony, fit, rightness, alignment? (2) If I enact a commitment in my own life based on these qualities as indications of its truth, do I achieve results with similar qualities? (3) Does a possibly true thing “hold true”? That is, do its qualities persist over time?

Apply these observations at will to your own choices, commitments, beliefs and the actions of others. Do they hold true for you?

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Images: Wisdom Tree; Tree World.

 

Changing It Up For Real   4 comments

Rather than emigrating to Canada or some other country when the candidate you don’t want wins anyway, consider a more radical change. Why not remain in your native land, but opt out of as many systems, expectations, structures, economies, etc. as possible that exist for others’ benefit but perhaps not yours?

Harder, you say? Less practical? I’m far less interested in the malcontent who talks of relocating to Canada and much more engaged by anyone who actually makes a change with less talk and more action.

Consider Yury …

What would it actually require to do what he’s done?

Of course, in the scant two plus minutes of the video, we don’t get anything like a clear picture of Yury’s resources and choices. We do get a romanticized picture of independence and self-reliance. What else has Yury opted to do without, in order to make his change?

Like Thoreau’s accounting of his expenses early on in Walden, let’s suss out a rough estimate of what a comparable transformation would require while remaining in the States. Readers who live in other countries know better than I how to translate expenses and possibilities to their own circumstances.

We learn Yury opted out of a professional life as a lawyer five years back. Presumably unlike many law students in the States, he doesn’t have massive loans to repay. Probably he was even able to save a modest amount in order to launch himself into his new life.

Sixty miles outside of Moscow, he’s obviously rural. How much land does he own? Does he raise most of his own food? How near is the nearest town? Can he walk to a general store or market for things he can’t grow? Solar panels on the roof power lights and a computer, but not much else. He apparently cooks and heats with wood. We’re told a generator tides him over for the few months each year when the sun isn’t enough.

How does he wash clothes? Is he still covered by a state health care system, or has he opted out of that too, living as most of humanity has until the last few generations? No car? Public transport nearby — even a bus — would definitely help.

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I’m going to use Maine as a starting point, because land taxes are quite high in Vermont where I live. In New Hampshire, there’s no income tax, but various other taxes take a larger bite. Live in a scenic NH area with appealing vistas and you pay a “view tax”. Maine has fewer services, but someone like Yury isn’t looking for such things anyway.

So here’s my accounting:

1 — Property: .5 to 5 acres of land (I used Maine Listings): $3-10,000.

With careful shopping, the land may come with a well and/or septic in place. Composting toilets and rain collection systems can provide other options. A few miles from a town of a few thousand people will generally give you reasonable access to supplies, at least during the summer months, when hiking or biking with backpacks is relatively easy. A friendly neighbor you trade with — occasional transport to and from town in exchange for vegetables, firewood, yard work, etc. — can also make such an arrangement more doable.

Rental or leasing would allow for less expensive options for property and for the next item — taxes.

2 — Annual taxes: $100-1000

This depends of course on many variables — property size, township, distance from town, structures in place and added, etc. If you’re supporting yourself with any sort of service or product — eggs, firewood, craft items, seasonal labor — the figure rises.

3 — House/other structure(s): $1000-10,000+

Yury’s underground house is straw, clay and wood, with some sort of insulating and waterproofing membrane. Building aboveground lets more light in, alleviates many waterproofing issues, but increases heating needs. Earth-berming is a powerful compromise — imagine a house with only south-facing windows — all other sides are bermed. A sod roof of a foot or more of earth is cheap and effective insulation.

Earthwood Building School run by Rob and Jaki Roy in West Chazy in northern New York has links and images to give you a range of ideas. (Rob, here’s some free advertising!) What you’re willing to do for yourself, and your minimum requirements, your “without-which-not” list, can shift the price quite dramatically up or down. Sweat equity also makes an immense difference here. Do you need perfect, or serviceable?

Add to this a chicken coop, wood storage, gardening equipment, perennial plantings as needed, etc.

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4 — Annual living expenses: $2000-10,000+

Ivan McBeth, whom I’ve mentioned previously on this blog, lived with his wife Fearn for many years until his passing last year on about $8000 a year on their 40-acre property in northern Vermont. Much of his income derived from running Druidry workshops and building megalithic structures on site for clients.

Again, it might be possible to pare the lower end of that $2000 still further, especially with barter. Everyone has their necessities.

5 — “Future Fund”: ?

If you plan at all for the future, old age, emergencies, or a desire to change your life once again after a 1, 5 or 20 year experiment, a modest nest egg of any amount can help smooth the way.

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deltadepartOr you decide instead to relocate to another country.  More expensive, very likely. Learning another language, living in a different climate, with different lifestyles, social norms, history, national trajectory and attitudes towards foreigners, and Americans in particular, will all play their part in your experience.

So does any of this whet your appetite, or discourage you?

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Images: earth shelters; airplane.

Bill Mollison, Permaculturist: 1928-2016   2 comments

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It’s the fate of too many worthy people to receive attention at their deaths that would have served everyone better had it flourished while they were still alive. Fortunately, this needn’t be the case with Bill Mollison, father of the permaculture movement, simply because his ideas most definitely live on after his passing.

I’ll confess upfront: I know only a little about Mollison and permaculture. So let’s allow him to speak for himself, as he amply can. You can read a transcript here of a 2005 interview with Mollison that appeared in Green Living magazine. There Scott London, the interviewer, summarizes Mollison’s achievement quite succinctly in a short introduction:

Permaculture — from permanent and agriculture — is an integrated design philosophy that encompasses gardening, architecture, horticulture, ecology, even money management and community design. The basic approach is to create sustainable systems that provide for their own needs and recycle their waste.

Mollison developed permaculture after spending decades in the rainforests and deserts of Australia studying ecosystems. He observed that plants naturally group themselves in mutually beneficial communities. He used this idea to develop a different approach to agriculture and community design, one that seeks to place the right elements together so they sustain and support each other.

Mollison’s sensibilities and actions have won him many fans among Druid-y types. (For a splendid Druid blog and blogger walking the talk, which you might enjoy if you don’t already know of it and her, visit The Druid’s Garden.)

Still largely unknown outside of his native Australia, Mollison’s ideas have impacted agricultural practices. As London notes:

Scott London: A reviewer once described your teachings as “seditious.”

Bill Mollison: Yes, it was very perceptive. I teach self-reliance, the world’s most subversive practice. I teach people how to grow their own food, which is shockingly subversive. So, yes, it’s seditious. But it’s peaceful sedition.

So many bellwethers, prophets, forerunners we’ve ignored to our cost. For as Mollison notes in the course of the interview,

In the early 1970s, it dawned on me that no one had ever applied design to agriculture. When I realized it, the hairs went up on the back of my neck. It was so strange. We’d had agriculture for 7,000 years, and we’d been losing for 7,000 years — everything was turning into desert. So I wondered, can we build systems that obey ecological principles? We know what they are, we just never apply them. Ecologists never apply good ecology to their gardens. Architects never understand the transmission of heat in buildings. And physicists live in houses with demented energy systems. It’s curious that we never apply what we know to how we actually live.

Applying what we know to how we live: if we seek a clear life goal, a sane and humane practice, and a justification and outline for a spiritual path, that’s an excellent place to start.

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[Updated 7 Oct 2016]

Images: Bill Mollison.

For an instructive contrast (to say no more right now), consider the words of Adam Smith (1723-1790), which might well have appeared just yesterday, unchanged, in the Times or Guardian or Wall Street Journal:

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Stone Wisdom   2 comments

With camera in coat pocket and a muddy 3-mile walk ahead, I set out to see what a Saturday afternoon in the 40s might have to show. I started to write “teach,” and that may be accurate, but as human instructors discover, to say “I taught them but they didn’t learn it” is problematic at best.

I call this stone wisdom because it is a teaching of the north, of the earth, of winter, of this day which is all these things. It is a day of thaw, which I will take for my divination. Thaw what is frozen, so the lessons may enter, so I can move with what they teach.

One thing I’ve learned in the class of this life is that I really need to pay attention, to bring all I am to the moment. That’s a gift to the teacher, as well as myself, that richly repays any cost.

But “all I am” isn’t always easy. It includes idiosyncrasies, personal associations, weaknesses, quirks and curiosities, a whole range of human flotsam and jetsam. Keep anything away, and I under-represent myself. I come away shortchanged, denied because I have also denied something. Without it the exchange can’t or won’t or just doesn’t resolve into completion. But attend long enough, and the moment begins to sift out all that isn’t needful, until insight is possible. How long I let that go on depends on me.

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“Growing where you’re planted” can be hard work, depending on where you are. Friends who stand with you can help ease it, make it possible.

 

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“a world of made is not a world of born” — e e cummings. They feel and behave and interact differently. It can be a peculiar human study how to bring these closer.

 

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Everything leaves some kind of track. Not all deserve following. Look both forward and backward.

 

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“Private” only begins when someone else notices.

 

The Flow of things may well take you across lines and boundaries. Watch as you cross them, but follow the Flow. Let its gravity draw you.

The Flow of things may well take you across lines and boundaries. Watch as you cross them, but follow the Flow. Let its energy draw you.

 

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Triads are everywhere, and are never private. Is Cerberus, the 3-headed hound of Hell, lurking about? Not all teachers are easy ones, but all teach.

 

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Lying around waiting for something to happen? “Practice resurrection,” like Wendell Berry says.

Tracking the Formless   Leave a comment

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Rabbit tracks in early morning snow by our garage

All around me, the formless. Everywhere I look, the track of some local thing I mistake for itself only, when it’s also a sign of the Mystery. In the end, it can feel like all is sign, one “it,” then another and another, each ceaselessly signifying the whole, each the center of Mystery, because each points to itself but also beyond and back again.

Everything’s in motion, no final self to stop and reckon with. Not just one thing becoming another, but everything becoming everything else. People age almost before our eyes, and a year that seemed long may turn and whisk itself into the past. Snow, sun, wind, tides — the hands of Spirit always reshaping the world. Already we edge closer to the third decade of the 21st century. Everywhere I see the mark of one thing passing into others, leaving spoor and benediction for those to follow who will.

I stalk Spirit in its many guises. Just when I think I’ve cornered it, something slips past uncommonly like a bird or feathered thing. Its pinions brush my cheeks. But when I meditate, when I remember to let go of catching anything, it comes to nestle in my lap. I feel its breathing stir my hair, and unexpected warmth sends a shiver down my spine. Remember, the voiceless thing says in my ears. Remember. Witness.

Fighting Daily Black Magic   6 comments

With a dramatic title like that, this post really has to deliver! But all I mean by it are the usually small ways we destroy, unmake, sabotage, undermine and discourage … ourselves.

Successful psychic attacks by others are remarkably rare. Those we work against ourselves are all too common. I can’t. I shouldn’t. I don’t. I won’t. And of course, let’s not discount the low-level psychic garbage of much contemporary media, with its insistence that it knows better than we do what the truth is about the world, its prospects, our futures in it, the roots of our safety and happiness, and so on. You can almost feel “know, dare, will, be silent” seeping out of you and spinning down the drain. “If it bleeds, it leads” may sell advertising space and draw viewers and readers, but it’s less than optimal energy to nourish ourselves with, to try to live on.

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One of Best Buy’s holiday logos

The solution isn’t merely to surround ourselves with a silver shield, though that’s often a good starting visualization. Whatever comes at you that you don’t want or need reflects off and away. Such a technique works well in traffic, in public places with a stew of emotions, like airports, bus stations — and any Black Friday shopping you’re daredevil enough to attempt. You can read the mindset already in place with advertising from sources like Best Buy and AARP that proclaim “Win the Holidays.” Can we make this season any more stressful?! Yes, but we don’t have to. This too is a choice we make.

And the desire I’ve witnessed in myself and many others from time to time, to retreat, withdraw, barricade the gates, is all too hobbit-like in its naivete.  “The wide world is all about you,” Gandalf reminds Frodo. “You can fence yourselves in, but you cannot for ever fence it out.” The Survivalist mentality is understandable, but wrong-headed. What to do?

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elemental laundry magic — water, earth, air, fire

Sometimes the best magic there is to practice a simple shift of attention. Instead of someone else controlling what I will think and image and focus on, I can choose, if I wish. We all surrender this power of choice much too often, and daily. Does any advertizer, for instance, really have my best interests at heart?! But love purifies the market of the heart.

One of the most soothing of day-to-day tasks for me is laundry, especially when I can hang it outdoors and it comes in later, dry and sun-spiced — for free.

Laundry?, you say, more than a little outraged, perhaps. Consider the sly admonition of the Tao Te Ching, chap. 8:

The highest good is like water. Water gives life to the ten thousand things and does not strive. It flows in places men reject and so is like the Tao. In dwelling, be close to the land. In meditation, go deep in the heart. In dealing with others, be gentle and kind. In speech, be true. In ruling, be just. In business, be competent. In action, watch the timing. No fight: No blame.

We reject what can be most helpful, because it is simple. It doesn’t appeal to our vanity, to our sense that our problems must be large and important, because we are, so we may dismiss it.

Some of these recent sunny November days have seen our backyard with laundry magic at work, bowing in a cool breeze. But even the drying racks near the woodstove work their own charm. Elemental powers, I have summoned you, and you have served me well. I thank you for your gifts of earth, water, air and fire. Both the laundry basket and my heart come away lighter, cleaner. Hail, and farewell.

taozengardenSuch daily magic has more power than we suspect. I smile even as I write about this, and you may too, scoffing at my innocence or simple-mindedness. But in fact simplicity can be another most potent magic. The clear, simple task, with its attainable objective, is one key to using energy well. Breaking down more complex challenges into simpler tasks is good practice, as any successful efficiency expert, organizational consultant, psychologist, trainer, businessperson, housekeeper — and magician — knows.

When we reclaim such small spaces for ourselves, we witness small successes. Of such small successes and satisfactions is a good day built, and then a week, a month, a life. I don’t need to “win” any holiday. The spaces for love and celebration are always open for us, gifts we can then give to ourselves and each other, possibilities to reclaim in the small but cumulative and thereby powerful ways that magic usually works. To end on a final Tolkienian note and paraphrase Gildor Inglorion’s words to Frodo, “Joy (like courage) is found in unlikely places.”

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IMAGES: Best Buy “Win the Holiday“; stones in garden.

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