March 30, 2016

Smartest Animals

Crows are very smart, not to mention beautiful.

I remember when I first started fishing, my grandpa told me fish didn't feel any pain. That isn't what it looked like when I had a fish on the ground in front of me.

Now we know better. Fish feel pain. I don't fish any more, but am glad that I can in case the grocery stores quit stocking food, or if that food gets too expensive to eat. Until that time I am happy to see fish swimming free in the water. Unmolested (I do not do torture and release either).

Fish do feel pain, and are smart. Other smart creatures on Earth include the following (in order of intelligence).
  1. Chimps
  2. Dolphins
  3. Elephants
  4. Cephalopods (octopi, squids and cuttlefish)
  5. Crows
  6. Squirrels
  7. Pigs
  8. Dogs
  9. Cats
  10. Humans
Just kidding about the "in order of intelligence" part, but I wasn't sure where exactly homo sapiens sapiens fit on the list of Earth's most intelligent.

Do other creatures kill each other for no reason? Do they soil their own nests? Are they threatening life as we know it on this planet?

I do know that the more I learn about nature, the less intelligent we seem in comparison.




March 28, 2016

Reduce Waste In One Easy Step

The results of our cultural addiction to buying more than we need can be found in trucks like these.


What are the easiest ways to reduce waste? I asked my search engine that question to see what kinds of things would be suggested. I can think of one very easy way, perhaps even the best way. But it was missing from most of the information that I checked out.

There were definitely some very good suggestions. The following were some of the ways that were suggested to reduce waste on the sites I looked at:
  • Buy items made of recycled content, and use and reuse them as much as you can.
  • Buy in bulk.
  • Buy things with less packaging.
  • Buy rechargeable batteries.
  • Buy a hybrid car.
  • Buy for durability, not disposability.
  • Buy used.
You can see what these all have in common. Buying, buying, buying. What if we dramatically reduced how much we buy?

Altering our buying habits can help, but reducing how much we buy is a more effective strategy. Preventing waste production, rather than reduction through the production and purchasing of slightly different, "greener" things is the way to go.

Taking the prevention route has many advantages.
  • Reduces the need for procuring new raw materials. Mining and resource extraction to meet consumer demand is degrading ecosystems everywhere.
  • Saves energy, and therefore reduces green house gases.
  • Helps save the environment for future generations. Our kids and grandkids are going to have to live somewhere. 
  • Reduces the amount of money you have to spend. Maybe you can work less. Or save more.
  • Cuts the amount of waste recycled or sent to landfills and incinerators.
  • Ensures that the things you do have will be used to their fullest extent.

Waste reduction in one easy step. Stop buying so much stuff. How hard can that be?

March 26, 2016

Spring Is A Time To Celebrate Life

The millions of species of life on Earth are all part of a sacred spiral that binds us all.


Billions of people around the world are celebrating life this week. Whether you are celebrating Eostre, the Great Mother Goddess, or Easter, Passover, or Spring Equinox, it is all about rejoicing in the exuberance of life.

Life is something that has been woefully cheapened these days. Human beings are disturbingly expendable, and many thousands are sacrificed every week at the altar to the military-industrial complex and the lust for power, money and glory. 

How we treat non-human life is regrettably worse. We are nasty to each other, and we are deadly to the life forms that are either tasty, or that get in the way of our plans and ambitions. Billions and billions of Earth's creatures are slaughtered every year to feed humans.

How can one celebrate life and do it justice, while engaging in its destruction at the same time? Those fluffy yellow balls of chicks are cute, but many more like them are going to be debeaked, warehoused, then killed after short lives stuffed in cages while we steal their eggs.

Unless they are males in which case they are "quickly macerated" shortly after birth. Not exactly an image you want to think about on the first day of Spring.

Like us, chickens and cows and pigs and turkeys and fish just want to live and be free. Like us, they are sentient, and that should give us pause. Spring is a good time to think on that idea a bit.

In an article called "After 2,500 Studies, It's Time to Declare Animal Sentience Proven", cognitive ethologist Mark Bekoff writes,

"The animals will be grateful and warmly thank us for paying attention to the science of animal sentience. When we listen to our hearts, we are recognizing how much we know about what other animals are feeling and that we owe it to them to protect them however we can."

Whether the animal in question is a human or a dog or cat or fish or cow, let us reflect on how we are treating the life around us, and how we are protecting it. All life is sacred, and all life just wants to live.

Just like us.

Listen to your heart. Celebrate Life.

Happy Spring.


March 24, 2016

The 7 Stages Of Simple Living


The seven stages of simple living.

Change is hard, especially when we are talking about lifestyle changes. The term implies a change in the way you live your life. Could anything be more all-encompassing? No wonder people are often hesitant, and perhaps even scared, of making such changes.

Even when the changes are made voluntarily, and the person is fairly confident the changes will lead to better things, it can mean working through some or all of the seven stages of simple living.


1. SHOCK/DENIAL

Shock provides emotional protection from being overwhelmed all at once. You will probably react to  the end of consumerism in your life with numbed disbelief.

You may deny the reality of having to end this way of life at some level, in order to avoid the pain.  "I don't need to live simply right now. I can stop shopping whenever I want."


2. PAIN & GUILT

As the shock of not buying anything wears off, it can be replaced with the feeling of unbelievable pain. It is important that you experience the pain fully, and not hide it, avoid it or escape from it by shopping for things you don't need.

You may have guilty feelings or remorse over wasting time acquiring stuff and party-mentionable, yet questionable, experiences. Life feels chaotic and scary during this phase. What will you do if not work and spend, work and spend? "This makes me feel bad. If we are what we buy, who am I if I don't buy anything?"


3. ANGER & BARGAINING

Your frustration gives way to anger, and you may lash out and lay unwarranted blame for your pursuit of happiness through materialism. "Those damn advertisers made me do it. It was the glossy magazine's slick ads. I hate them."

You may rail against fate, questioning, "Why me? Why can't I just be jaded and not care?" You may also try to bargain in vain with the powers that be for a way out of your despair. "I will never shop recreationally again if you just let me keep my job."


4. DEPRESSION, REFLECTION, LONELINESS

Just when you think you should be getting on with your happy simple life, a period of sad reflection may overtake you. This is a normal stage of leaving conspicuous consumption behind, so do not be "talked out of it" by well-meaning consumers or sales people.

Encouragement to buy your way out of your situation is not helpful to you during this stage of simple living.

During this time, you finally realize the loss of your previous high environmental footprint lifestyle, and you may feel like you miss it. You may isolate yourself on purpose, reflect on things you used to buy and places you went, and focus on purchase-filled memories of the past. "It may have been expensive, damaging to the environment, and bad for my soul, but it sure was fun."

You may sense feelings of emptiness or despair. "Where is this all going?" But hang in there, things are getting better.


5. THE UPWARD TURN

As you start to adjust to a simple life of real freedom and fulfillment, things become calmer and more organized. As your possessions and busyness lessen your loneliness begins to lift. You find others who are living like you are, and connect with them for support and mutual assistance. "I feel better, and am happier than I have been for a long time."


6. RECONSTRUCTION

As your lifestyle becomes more simple and functional, your mind starts working again, and you find yourself seeking realistic solutions to problems posed by a life without buying stuff. You will start to work on practical and financial problems as you adapt to your new way of living.

You are reconstructing yourself and your life without consumerism, and it is not an easy task. But it is a worthwhile one. "I am challenged and engaged by my new simple lifestyle."


7. ACCEPTANCE & HOPE

During this, the last of the seven stages in this life transition model, you learn to accept and deal with the reality of your situation. Acceptance does not necessarily mean instant happiness. Given the pain and turmoil you may have experienced, it may be a while before you return to the carefree, untroubled YOU that existed before consumerism took hold of your life.

But in simplicity, you are moving forward.

You will start to feel hopeful about the future and start to plan all manner of free, simple and beautiful things now that you have more time. Eventually, you will be able to think about your previous shopping life without pain and see it for the failed experiment in happiness that it was.

You will once again anticipate good times as you adapt to your new post-consumer life. You find joy again in the experience of living, except now it is peaceful, authentic and self-directed. "Hey, this works!"


Congratulations, you have made it through the 7 stages of simple living. Things are looking up for you, the planet, and everything that lives on it.

March 21, 2016

Spring



“The first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another. The difference between them is sometimes as great as a month.”

- Henry Van Dyke


“No matter how bad a state of mind you may get into, if you keep strong and hold out, eventually the floating clouds must vanish and the withering wind must cease.”

― Dōgen


Time for a walk in the world outside
And a look at who I am
Originally I had no cares
And I am seeking nothing special
Even for my guests I have nothing
To offer except these white stones
And this clear spring water.

- Zen poem

March 18, 2016

Double Chocolate Avocado Brownies

Avocado with their healthier fats replace butter in this recipe.

Until recently I did not know you could use avocado to replace butter in a baking recipe. When I saw the following recipe I had two avocados in the fridge that needed to be eaten, so it was perfect. I tried it out for the first time.

Avocados have fewer calories than the same amount of butter, mayonnaise, sour cream, peanut butter, almond butter, olive oil, coconut oil. An added bonus is they are nutrient-rich, containing over 20 vitamins and minerals.

I substituted whole wheat flower for the coconut flower, and the brownies still turned out alright. We used banana so the finished product has a slight banana taste, but we don't mind that.

I like that the brownies call for maple syrup (something made in my very own back yard), rather than refined cane sugar. Our brownies were not overly sweet, but we don't mind that either.


Double Chocolate Avocado Brownies  - inspired by this recipe.

1 large avocado
1/2 cup mashed banana or unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup Nova Scotia maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup unsweetened organic fair trade cocoa powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup chocolate chips


Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 and grease an 8x8” baking dish.
  2. Mash avocado, banana, maple syrup, and vanilla in a large bowl. Whisk in eggs. Add coconut flour, cocoa powder, sea salt, and baking soda until combined.
  3. Pour mixture into the greased baking dish and sprinkle chocolate chips on top. 
  4. Bake for about 25 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven, allow to cool (if you can wait), and enjoy!

Nutrients per brownie: Calories: 150; Total Fat: 5.2g Saturated Fat: 1.1g; Cholesterol: 60mg; Carbohydrate: 22.3g; Dietary Fiber: 4.9g; Sugars: 13.4g; Protein: 4.3g

March 16, 2016

We Are Destroying Earth


Sure is hard, difficult and uncomfortable to be paying attention these days. You can ignore all the bad news if you wish, but the only way to make it go away permanently is to pay attention, then do something about it.

Thankfully, there are many good people that ARE doing something about it, including many of the readers of this blog and blogs like it. But we need more people. Way more. A critical mass of people that are pissed off and that won't take this crap any more.

The following is from Annarky's Blog, a place I visit daily.

"It is now obvious that the corporate world, is destroying the planet. Ground water is contaminated, rivers are polluted, oceans and seas are poisoned, glaciers are melting, forests are stripped bare. Natural habitats disappear under a carpet of tarmac and industrial constructions, more and more species become extinct. All this is done for profit to benefit the few. If we continue as we are doing, it is only a matter of time before the species responsible for this insane destruction of our planet will join the ever growing list of extinct species. 
Where does the state stand in all this? Take a glance around and it becomes obvious. Where resistance to this killing of the planet grows and gets in the way of corporate profit, the state apparatus, as the corporate world's hit squad, moves in and attempts to crush that resistance to the corporate greed and insanity."

Read more at: http://radicalglasgowblog.blogspot.ca, and thank you for paying attention and taking action. While no one can do everything, everyone can do something.






March 14, 2016

My To Don't Do List

The problem with To Do Lists.

“My to-do list is so long that it doesn't have an end; it has an event horizon.“
- Craig Bruce

Do people still keep Job Jars in the kitchen, perpetually filled with scraps of paper that itemize things that must be done? I don't know, but I am sure that the To Do List is still in popular use.

There is no lack of things to do, and we like to keep track of all of them. We maintain day timers with each day's square stuffed with important items that must be done (including weekends). We might have so many To Do lists that we need a master list of those lists.

If you are trying to downshift to a less busy life there is nothing like making a To Don't Do list. When making such a list for the first time let yourself go - if you think it, write it down regardless of how "silly" or "impossible" it may seem. Brainstorming is fun.

There will always be people that will try to get you to do things. They will use you, abuse you, and accuse you, if you say NO and won't play their game. It is important to protect yourself from this onslaught. It is important to "resist much, obey little".

A To Don't Do List can help you "re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book", and "dismiss whatever insults your own soul".

I have taken Walt Whitman's advice because I want my very flesh to be a great poem. So here is my collection of things I have dismissed after a few decades of re-examination.


To Don't Do List 

1. Buy stuff I don't need.
2. Go places I don't need to go.
3. Try to keep up with others in an endless competition.
4. Work for someone else more than I need to.
5. Look to a product or someone else to solve my problems.
6. Clutter my home with needless things.
7. Try to please other people.
8. Hold a grudge.
9. Spend time around people who bring me down.
10. Worry about anything.


It is easier and more satisfying to not do things that are harmful to you. There is no shortage of them, so you have lots to choose from. What is on your To Don't Do List?


“A lot of us think we're invincible... but we have to start putting ourselves on the to-do list.”
- Giuliana Rancic 




March 11, 2016

Wi-Fi Free Zone




Our Wi-Fi took a hit last summer. Lightning struck very close to our home with a near-simultaneous crack of the thunder beings. When the maelstrom passed it smelled like ozone, and our Wi-Fi was Wi-Fried. Permanently.

That storm did us a favour, making the decision to go Wi-Fi free for us. It was a decision we should have made sooner. Instead of buying a new wireless router we went back to a wired connection and carried on as if nothing happened. We don't miss it.

With all the wireless devices in our lives one would think that the radiation responsible for the transfer of data would be safe. One would be wrong. There is ample evidence to show that wireless radiation is not good for human health. Especially children. Plants, too.

While there is a mountain of data showing radiation to be harmful, one of the most interesting and grass roots efforts was conducted by a group of inquisitive junior high school students. The group of girls tested to see how radiation affected plant growth. After 12 days the plants placed near a wireless router were either stunted or dead.

Wi-Fi radiation has been shown to be associated with a long list of negative health outcomes including:

- increase risk of cancer
- stresses the adrenals
- breaks down the blood-brain-barrier
- cells less able to absorb nutrients
- headaches, insomnia, fatigue

Some say that Wi-Fi radiation is the asbestos of the 21st century. Other say it is nothing to worry about since the whole thing is based on bad science. I am just glad that the storm last summer made the decision for us.

Even though we are all soaking in wireless radiation, it can't hurt to minimize our exposure. Wi-Fi in the home is convenient, but it is hardly critical.

Protect Yourself

- use speaker phone instead of holding your cellphone to your skull
- keep your cell phone turned off except when using it
- turn off Wi-Fi routers when not in use, especially at night
- distance matters, so try to put a little (or a lot) of distance between you and any radiation-emitting devices.
- keep any electrical device at least 6 feet away from your head while in bed
- unplug electrical devices when not in use, a power bar can make this easier and can shut off multiple things at one time
- spend time in wilderness areas free of cell towers and Wi-Fi zones
- take a regular holiday from wireless devices




March 9, 2016

Simple Living - Not Just About Possessions


Society is overwhelmed by the relentless drive of consumerism. For as long as I can remember I have been drawn to a completely different way of life.

While it may be new to many modern humans, the “less is more” philosophy of living is ancient and has been in continual practice since time immemorial.

Whether you call it ‘voluntary simplicity or ‘simple living’, it is a lifestyle choice that trades the endless accumulation of things for the happiness and contentment that can be found through personal development, fulfillment and just being.

I have always tried to keep my possessions limited to what I need to get by. Camping and wilderness backpacking taught me to get by on little. I love the challenge of living well with less.

The older I get the righter my choice turns out to be. I will be 55 on my birthday this year, and I have fewer possessions now than at any time since moving out on my own after high school. I have no regrets about not being 'more successful', and feel unprecedented levels of happiness and satisfaction.

But this way of life is not only about possessions. There is no standard list of things you need to live simply. But it is pretty easy to establish a list of things you don’t need. It would include a lot of what is offered in any consumer obsessed society.

Simple living is mostly about finding meaning in life far beyond the stuff we own. It is about finding depth and meaning in every moment.

For me, simple living is freedom, wanting less, and honouring my priorities in peaceful, less complex surroundings. I can conceive of nothing that can veer me from my commitment to this path.





March 7, 2016

The Zen Road To Affluence

Affluence can be easy when wants are limited.

There are two possible courses to affluence. Wants may be easily satisfied either by producing much, or desiring little. For most of human history we have achieved affluence not by producing much, but by following a different more sustainable and effective method.

The Zen road to affluence states that human material wants are finite and few, while the means for satisfying those needs is relatively unchanging, but on the whole work well.

By adopting the Zen strategy one can enjoy an unparalleled material plenty - even with a low standard of living. Hunter-gatherer societies, past and present, have provided relative affluence while expending the least amount of energy per capita of any human society. How do they do it? By limiting their wants.

This is a far cry from our present system that sees human wants as infinite, and therefore difficult to provide for. In such a system we have to work harder and longer to produce more, all the while consuming ever more energy to do so.

In the Zen approach there is enough for everyone, and cooperation is possible. Our current system is based on infinite wants, and therefore introduces the idea of scarcity - there will never be enough to fulfill everyone's desire. Therefore you must compete for the available resources to satisfy wants, resulting in huge disparities.

I favour the hunter-gatherer/Zen approach. I would rather limit my wants and have a life than slave away endlessly to provide for my unlimited material desires. When wants are few, attainment is easy. When wants are many, attainment is difficult with frustration and unhappiness being the probable results.

The Zen way is a path that leads to liking what you get, not getting what you like. It is about acceptance of a simple life with few possessions rather than wanting what you think you deserve, or what you think everyone else has.

Philosopher Laurens van der Post illustrated these points when describing the Bushmen of the Kalahari:

"This matter of presents gave us many an anxious moment. We were humiliated by the realisation of how little there was we could give to the Bushmen. Almost everything seemed likely to make life more difficult for them by adding to the litter and weight of their daily round. 
They themselves had practically no possessions: a loin strap, a skin blanket and a leather satchel. There was nothing that they could not assemble in one minute, wrap up in their blankets and carry on their shoulders for a journey of a thousand miles. They had no sense of possession." 

"Imagine a world", John Lennon implored us, "with no possessions." He wondered if we could even think of it, let alone make it happen. He probably knew that we all used to live in such a way, and if this history hadn't been destroyed, we would remember exactly where we came from, and to where we need to return.

I'm back on the Zen road to affluence. Check your wants at the door, and climb aboard. There is room for everyone.


March 5, 2016

Beam Me Up Off Planet War



Beam me up. Now. Please.

I just finished reading a book by war correspondent Chris Hedges called War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning. It should be required reading for anyone that thinks violence and war are solutions for any problem.

While I do fantasize about being a Zen forest hermit from time to time, I am no misanthropist. I love people. All people.

But if aliens are observing our planet they must think we are nuts. Violent nuts. It must look like Planet War, or Planet Waste. Any species more intelligent than an amoeba would high tail it at the speed of light away from this burning orb. War is Hell, and that is no exaggeration.

The author's eye-witness stories didn't do much for my opinion of our species. It was difficult reading, and it will probably haunt me for the rest of my life. It was shocking to someone who lived such a peaceful existence.

Hedges must have PTSD. I know I do after reading his contribution to the flaming heap of anti-war literature. But I am not holding my breath for an enlightened alien abduction, and I am sure I would get lonely all alone in a hut in the forest (give me a year and come and check on me).

I think that humanity can be that species that attains a non-violent state. How alien would that be on a planet where war is waged continuously? I am sure it can be done.

The author of this book and I agree on how to achieve non-violence, and indeed it seems like the only answer. That answer is love. We need more love than anything else. Never mind more stuff, that is why we have war in the first place. We need more love.

Lots and lots of love. It's free - we should be spreading that stuff around. It is the antidote to hate.

I am sure lots of perfectly nice aliens would feel comfortable beaming down to Planet Love.

March 2, 2016

Consume Like No One's Watching





Yesterday I had a little solo jam session and sang like no one was listening. I got lost in it. Accompanying myself on guitar I belted out tune after tune like I never have before. The music flowed, bliss followed. It was liberating.

My experience made me think of a popular quote that recommends we do things as if no one was around, relieved of all potential negative social pressures. It made me wonder how people would do things differently if unafraid of being bludgeoned by the hammer of groupthink.

What if we did everything like no one was watching? Would we dress differently? Would we go to work less? Be creative more? Would we travel as much? Would we consume less?

A recent study shows how seeing the "visible assets" (stuff) of others can affect our own consumption habits. Unsurprisingly, conspicuous consumption can be contagious. Once infected, one feels great social pressure to consume, even if a huge debt load and bankruptcy is the result.

The research showed that people feel compelled to increase their own spending when they see physical evidence of exorbitant spending by neighbours with newly acquired wealth. Rather than looking on their neighbours situation as a precautionary tale, we try to "keep up". For a variety of reasons, that is harder to do these days.

Never mind the Jones', most people today are finding it challenge enough to keep up with the Simpsons. But liberation and bliss are only one decision away, and that decision is to consume like no one is watching.

What Jones'? They aren't real, but subtle and not-so-subtle consumer arm twisting definitely is, from grade school to the adults in your very neighbourhood.

Be forewarned - the pressure is massive and opting out of the material competition has always been difficult. In 1899 Thorstein Veblen, American economist and sociologist, stated in The Theory of The Leisure Class that “the failure to consume in due quantity and quality becomes a mark of inferiority and demerit. This applies particularly to food, drinks, narcotics, shelter and feasting”.

Conversely, the rewards are great.  Liberate yourself like no one's watching.








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