May 31, 2016

"Everything Is Fine" Culture Jam

The following is from one of my favourite magazines, Adbusters.

"Last week we challenged you to create widespread cognitive dissonance around the world by putting our Everything Is Fine, Keep Shopping poster up in malls everywhere.

Cognitive dissonance is a high tension state between two opposing beliefs. It works like a pie in the face, first inducing confusion, then anger, and finally an intense desire to correct the imbalance — to recover the consonance that has been lost.

It’s an incredibly transformative force . . . a way to get people to reconsider what they hold dear and what they take for granted . . . the jolt that gets people to rethink their life choices.

Cognitive dissonance feels like low level grass roots fun, but it could be a way to kickstart a world revolution: we ambush people, first in malls, then in gasoline stations, then in supermarkets and all over the physical and mental environments . . . we inject radical ideas into people’s heads and set the tone for a new world order to come.

Culture Jammers have always messed with consumer culture, and that’s what we are doing with this latest jam. Already posters have gone up in malls and schools around the world. Let’s keep the dissonance going for another week. Print the poster, put it up somewhere and share it with your friends. Check out some of our other spoofs... – or create your own. And send us pictures of your jams and let us know how it feels."

for the wild,

Team Adbusters

Read more at: Adbusters

Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Adbusters is a not-for-profit magazine fighting back against the hostile takeover of our psychological, physical and cultural environments by commercial forces.

May 30, 2016

It's All A Pyramid/Ponzi Scheme

Everything is a pyramid scheme these days. Operations that funnel all the wealth to the top, while those at the bottom that are doing all the heavy lifting watch as their quality of life goes down, down, down. I refuse to participate, and always have.

Being this way has created a lot of stress, mostly for other people who don't understand where I am coming from. I understand that when you are soaking in it, deconstructing the intricacies can be difficult. As my good friend Doug once said, "Why can't they see it?"

Indeed, why can't they? Viable alternatives, such as cooperatives, are well known, but largely unused. No one wants to miss out on possibly getting to the top of the scheme, any scheme. Why risk going for a more equal world when you might become one of those that is more equal than everyone else?

But how many actually make it to the top? And once there, how do you deal with the loss of your compassion? Your integrity? Your very humanity?

As always, be careful of what you wish for. It's a pyramid scheme. It's not, you say? Then it's probably a closely related scam known as the ponzi scheme. Because that's how we roll here at the end of capitalism.

May 26, 2016

Simple Living Conversion Moments

Have you had an experience that changed your mind totally and completely about how you live your life? A moment of insight in which what was previously shrouded and fuzzy becomes clearly focused?

You could call such moments 'conversion experiences', and I know from my own experience, that they can be very powerful. After you wonder, "How did I not see this before?" You are a new person.

Such moments are usually associated with religion, but this concept of radical change can be applied to many things, perhaps to learning in general.  I am particularly interested in examples in which such moments lead a person away from participation in a consumer lifestyle toward a more simple life.

To suddenly change one’s mind changes how everything looks. It is a voluntarily shift in the basic beliefs upon which one's life is understood. The fact that such abrupt and total transformations are possible is very encouraging. There may be hope for us yet.

But such conversions are not always supernovas of change. Often they are tiny fireflies of energy that push us in a particular direction. Everyone has the capacity for both, if you are open to such things and allow them to work their magic.

One such moment that I have personally experienced is hard to label as a total and sudden change, or something more gradual. All I know is that at the time it felt like a probe directly to my brain. It happened a couple of decades ago, and I still think of it today.

I had been canoeing and fishing with Linda on a pristine mountain lake in the Rockies. While on the water I caught a large silver-sided rainbow trout. Later we were transferring our canoe, gear, and my catch back to our van.

We were standing by our vehicle. I was putting the fish into our cooler when a man walked up, staring at the big trout. I looked up at him.

"You killed that beautiful fish", he said.

Then just as quickly as he had appeared he moved on, leaving me to ponder his statement. Fishing has never been the same since.

While I didn't feel an immediate change, that one brief moment in time came to transform how I feel about fishing, consuming fish, and ultimately about life itself. Call it a conversion moment, or an ah-ha experience, but whatever it is, I see these moments as opportunities to alter life for the better.

They are little gifts from the Universe.

Have you had a simple living conversion moment that has resonated with you, and that you just can't forget?

May 24, 2016

Off The Clock

What time is it? Almost sunset.

I enjoy being off the clock. I find the relentless division of my moments into hours, minutes, seconds and microseconds to be arbitrary and over-rated. Not to mention a killer of the unfettered life where things happen when they happen, and not a moment before. Or after.

Our time obsession is too linear for me. Every micro-moment is measured and packaged, and it is only ever going in one unimaginative direction. It is too all-encompassing and limiting, this tyranny of the tick tock.

While we count our seconds, the years recede in the review mirror with increasing rapidity. Where did the time go? I wasn't paying attention. I was busy. I forgot.

My dislike of this relentless manipulation of time is also physical. Wrist watches cause my skin to burn due to a sensitivity to nickel, which is used in watch backs. I have therefore never worn a watch longer than a short while, before my epidermis rises up in temporal tingling.

I am also psychically allergic to calendars, day timers, and alarm clocks. I'm not big on schedules, either.

In our culture we perseverate on the past while simultaneously racing into the future. But the present is when things are happening. We lose a lot by being too busy to notice. A lesson can be learned from other cultures, such as a traditional tribe in the Amazon rain forest that has no concept of time at all. For them everything is all right now.

The take away? Enjoy the moment. Now. And now. And now...

"For fast acting relief, try slowing down."

- Lily Tomlin

May 20, 2016

Inequality Kills

It is a race now. A race to see what does us in first. To see what brings us chaos and completion.

Will it be climate change that forces our hand? Or will inequality blow us apart first? Or will Monsanto kill us before that? Or war?

Living simply, generously and compassionately could help, but it is not a very popular solution.

I wonder - will I have the luxury of passing away peacefully in my sleep due to old age some day, or will some other human-caused gong show cause my early demise?

Who knew the end times would be so exciting? I am sure there are people right now betting on the eventual outcome of this experiment we call life on planet earth. They might think they can enjoy their profits before the whole thing finishes off with a mighty fizzle.

It is a race. A race to the end. It will not be televised. Many won't even know it is coming, even though for many others it will not be a surprise.

May 18, 2016

Soddy Simplicity

A friend of mine was traveling through the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, and came across an example of pioneer-style earth shelter home made out of sod. For me it represents a Thoreauian simplicity rarely seen in Canada today.

On the treeless prairies, sod was often the only building material at hand for providing newly arrived families with shelter.

Such houses were affectionately known as "soddies", and while they presented some challenging living conditions, they also provided benefits not seen in modern homes built with newer technology.

They certainly speak to the ingenuity and creativity of the builders, as well as showing us something about how early settlers made do with what they had where they were at. A soddy is simplicity in action.

Sod bricks were cut from the grassy prairies to construct these dwellings. About 3000 sod bricks were required to complete a 16 X 20 foot house. Usually the whole family would participate, as muscle power, not specialized knowledge, was the most important ingredient.

Each sod brick weighed about 50 pounds, and was laid so that the bricks would grow together and strengthen the structure.

The example shown in these pictures was built as a project commemorating the simplicity and temerity of the tough prairie settlers. Today it is about 30 years old, and provides tourists with a glimpse of the often harsh life on the North American prairies in the late 1800s. There are similar examples in the US and other parts of the Canadian plains.

An original sod home, over 100 years old, still stands in another Saskatchewan location. The older house was built in 1909 and was continuously occupied until 2006. Today it is a designated historical site.

For most families the sod home was a temporary structure, replaced with a wood or brick dwelling as soon as enough resources were gathered together. Continuing to live in a sod home, rather than shifting to a less efficient, more comfortable wood frame or brick home, became a source of shame and symbol of poverty.

However, sod homes have many good qualities not replicated in newer homes. Sod houses have a great thermal mass, so they maintain an even indoor air temperature despite extreme summer heat and winter cold. They were more energy efficient than the houses that replaced them.

Because of the sheer mass of these homes, they are extremely quiet inside. Noisy neighbours or highways, if you had any neighbours or highways back then, wouldn't have been a problem. I imagine these crude dwellings were a tranquil and welcome refuge while summer thunder storms or winter blizzards were raging outside.

The soddy simplicity of these homes represents a world view that we have left behind in favour of more impressive, but less green building methods. Such homes can not be built by the average citizen, and usually always entail going into deep debt.

The simple building technology of sod homes is considered sustainable as these homes use local supplies that are abundant and organic. Such harmonious practicality is rarely seen in more modern homes, unless we are talking about rammed earth houses (an ancient technology), which share many positive qualities with sod construction.

Rammed-earth structures last indefinitely and can be built for less than the cost of standard wood frame houses. A sod home could be built for next to nothing, and properly constructed, could easily provide a lifetime of affordable and quirky shelter.

Some settlers liked sod house life, others not as much. I'm sure Henry David would approve of these diminutive dwellings. I wouldn't mind giving them a try myself.

Note: Thank you to my friend Adele Comstock for taking note of this special little sod house while traveling the seemingly featureless Canadian prairies.

May 16, 2016


Metamorphosis II, M.C. Escher

Monarch butterflies are among the most amazing and beautiful creatures in the known universe. And probably in the unknown parts, too. Right now our metamorphosizing mentors are struggling.

The recent story of the monarch's plight is a story of resilience. With numbers dwindling, and their life-sustaining milkweed plant becoming rarer due to agriculture and urban expansion, they are still hanging in there.

This spring the butterfly's winter range in Mexico was hit with some late, unseasonably cold weather which froze many of them to the trees they were roosting upon. As I was reading about them on the weekend, before I could feel down about it, I read what a monarch researcher said about the incident.

"This is what nature gives you, and this is what you have to work with," she said.

"It's not at all disheartening. They manage to bounce back...,"  the researcher continued. "You're going to see these natural year-to-year variations in almost anything. Monarchs are remarkably resilient."

That was the take-away from the article. Monarchs are remarkably resilient. But it does't stop there. Nature is remarkably resilient. And we are part of nature.

These delicate creatures have so much to teach us. Are we not also beautiful? Can we not also metamorphosize and change ourselves completely from one form to another? And are we not able to overcome seemingly impossible odds?

I personally know people who have overcome monumental challenges. Cancer. Sickness. Disability. Abuse. Death. Abandonment. Modernity. Debt. Consumerism. Spiritual dehydration. It all pales in comparison to our resolve to carry on.

It is not at all disheartening. Rather, it is an opportunity for growth and change. When put to the test, we overcome.

Our efforts transform our character, our condition, and our function. Like an egg turning into a caterpillar, which turns into a chrysalis, and then finally in a burst of magic, into a beautiful butterfly.

The monarchs need a whole bunch more milkweed in their habitat in order to survive. I think about what humanity needs more of in order to survive. To thrive and turn into our final fully functional form.

What is our milkweed? Where has it gone, what has replaced it, and how do we get it back?

May 13, 2016


Acetaminophen is one of the most used drugs in the world. It might be one of the most abused drugs, too. People pop pain pills by the handful. Many people die every year from over the counter pain medication. Even taken as recommended, acetaminophen can have adverse affects.

Research participants in a recent study viewed 40 photographs. Those who took the pain relieving drug rated all 40 photographs less extreme than those who took the placebo. The highs were not as high, the lows not as low.

“People who took the pain reliever didn’t appear to know they were reacting differently,” the study leaders said. “Most people probably weren’t aware of how their emotions may be impacted when they take acetaminophen."

As alt. country queen Lucinda Williams sings in her song "Joy", "You took my joy, I want it back."

I knew over the counter medicines had some serious drawbacks, but I didn't know dulling down life was one of them. Even more reason to continue my own personal study.

For the past year I have been experimenting with non-steroidal pain relievers. I was used to taking them without hesitation, mostly for headaches. Then I began to learn more about these seemingly innocuous little pills. My project was to see if I could live without them.

I have been pleased with the results.

Now when I get a headache, going to the pill bottle is down on the list of things to do, a last resort. The first thing I do is try to pinpoint the cause of the pain. I find it is usually associated with the following conditions:

  • lack of sleep
  • not enough to eat
  • stress
  • dehydration

Instead of reaching for the pill bottle, I address the underlying condition that I have self-diagnoseed. As a result I have cut my own pill popping by almost 100%. 

Natural remedies that work for my headaches are:

  • time - most headaches go away on their own
  • ensuring I am well fed and hydrated
  • relaxing/napping
  • massaging shoulders and neck
  • stretching/yoga

Medical health practitioners agree that caution is warranted.

“Overuse of the medication can harm your liver. I recommend that if you can tolerate mild pain for a short time, it may be better to live with it rather than immediately try to eliminate the problem." - Dr. Paul Ringel

Pain is no fun. But neither are complications from treating pain, like losing your joy.

Thinking of pharmacuitical alternatives to acetaminophen? They have potential negative side effects as well. Try to treat naturally, and return to fun as soon as you can without having to worry about your liver. Or death.

Having said that, sometimes headaches can be caused by serious conditions. If your headache persists, or worsens, even with treatment, it is probably best to consult your care provider post haste.

May 11, 2016

Happy Cows Are Living Cows

This is humane treatment of animals.
When a popular restaurant chain, started in the Canadian province of Alberta, decided not to source their beef there, they said it was because it wasn't certified as humane. But surely they know that there is no such thing as "humane meat", certified or not.

Well there is, actually. It is the meat that is alive, and stays alive. How can killing something ever be humane? Something that would rather live ends up dead either way.

There is a butcher somewhere called The Happy Cow. Isn't a happy cow one that is running wild and free, munching on grass and roaming at will? Isn't a happy cow a living cow being scratched by a human? 

There are many reasons not to eat meat, including fish. For me the greatest concern is the part surrounding killing things. I am not into that. But when you add how massively inefficient the whole process is, plus the health results of eating meat, it makes less and less sense.

Some people say that humans "have to" eat meat. Like to stay alive. Obviously this is not a true statement. Paul McCartney, dedicated vegetarian since 1975, is giving energetic 3 hour concerts at 73 years of age as we speak.

You might like meat, but no one needs meat.

If one believes that vegetarian diets are bland or boring, they have never tried dishes from India. Traveling there introduced Linda and I to the tasty tastiness of India's meatless cuisine. When we got home we decided that we did not want to, or need to, eat meat. 

I would be lying if I said I do not miss some meats. First of all, meat is easy. It is a fast hit of protein. Most of us in the West only know meat based diets, so it is not surprising leaving meat behind is so difficult. But once the transition takes place, you may wonder why there is all the fuss about meat.

Second, meat is tasty. Funny that the meats I crave every once in a while, are the worst ones for your health. Bacon, sausage, and smoked meats are yummy. So yummy. They are also linked to cancer. Thinking about that adds to my armour that defends me from Big Meat. 

Plus I have learned to make vegetarian dishes that are every bit as tasty and satisfying as any meat dishes that I used to make.

The humane thing to do is let life live. Yes, we need to eat something, but why not eat a diet that minimizes the taking of life, and maximizes on enhancing our health and the health of the planet?

We, the Earth and the cows, will be happier for making the change.

May 9, 2016

System Change Not Climate Change

Economy or environment? That isn't even a choice. What we should be asking is, "System change or status quo?"

If we go with status quo,  ego will continue to prevail over altruism. Hierarchies will continue to push our cooperatives, and centralized profit extraction will overshadow shared abundance. But not for long.

The old ways are crumbling all around us; the evidence is everywhere in plain sight. People are mobilizing in response.

A critical mass is forming. We are seeing an increasing pressure for system change that can not be ignored. The pace is picking up, which is good because there is some urgency. There is a lot to be done and not much time.

Everything needs to be built from the ground up. All of it. The whole of civilization. We will renegotiate the underlying guiding principles and power structures that used to work for us, but are no longer functioning.

Fundamental changes will help us form a new way. A saner, more gentle world will prevail.

Solidarity will replace selfishness.

Cooperation will replace competition.

People and the planet will come before profits.

This is the time for big shifts in thinking about how we do everything. We can't continue doing the same thing and hope for different results. We tried a civilization marked by bigger, faster and more complicated. It got us to where we are now.

How about a system based on keeping things smaller, slower and more simple? It is worth a try.

May 7, 2016

Anti-Shopping Advice From The Trenches

My post on oniomania, or compulsive shopping, is one of NBA's most read. It is also one of those posts that has elicited numerous interesting comments, including from readers with a diagnosed addiction to shopping. Those comments contain excellent strategies for dealing with the impulse to shop beyond what is needed.

Since that applies to most people and most shopping done in consumer-oriented cultures, this anti-shopping advice is helpful to us all in quelling the strong impulse toward wanting MORE.

First let us consider some of the reasons for shopping for things we do not need as expressed by NBA readers.

  • Loneliness
  • Depression
  • Desire to “look good”.
  • Deprivation early in life.
  • Working a lot.
  • Feeling isolated
  • Advertising.
  • A sense of competition - trying to "keep up".
  • Feeling unloved.

Following are some of the strategies that have helped or motivated readers to deal with their urges to shop.

  • Run out of room to store things.
  • Run out of money and/or credit.
  • Recognize you are not alone, and that many others experience the same shopping compulsion.
  • Share your situation with loved ones. Let them help.
  • Dedicate yourself to a hobby or project.
  • Spend time with friends.
  • Cut up your credit card(s).
  • Develop a positive addiction such as regular exercise.
  • Be content with what you already have.
  • Recognize and eliminate your "triggers" that lead to urges to shop.
  • Seek the help of someone who understands the consequences of compulsive shopping.

It is hard to say NO to shopping while crawling through the trenches of consumerism. There is a lot of pressure to buy, buy, buy.

But a better way is possible. You will find a lot of support here.

May 6, 2016

Our Beds Are Burning

An 86,000 hectare wildfire raging in record high temperatures burns the Alberta oil sands town of Fort McMurray. Over one thousand homes burned to the ground. Almost 100,000 people evacuated and probably not returning any time in the near future.

Is there a message here for us?

"How do we sleep when our beds are burning?", asked the band Midnight Oil. In Fort Mac they are literally burning. Something is going on, although it is too complex to say exactly what. Of course, theories abound. Some are more blamey than others.

Some people are saying it is karma for helping produce some of the largest concentrations of greenhouse gases in the country. Their compassion chip might be disengaged mentioning this while so many are in so much pain, but again I ask myself what the take away from this apocalyptic disaster is going to be.

What is the lesson here? Is there one? I don't know.

If it is karma, it is karma that anyone that uses fossil fuels to drive their cars, or heat their homes, or provide them with electricity must share equally. Our beds may not be burning, but they are definitely smouldering.

If it is karma, it is karma for all of us, not just those working the oil sands while trying to provide for their families.

Thankfully, most people do have their compassion chip engaged by viewing the horror of what is going on up north. Folks are coming together to help out with basic needs, ease the pain, and help those affected rebuild their lives.

There are many, many helpers showing us a better way of responding to this tragedy that we have all created. Soon though, we should probably take a look at what this awful event is trying to tell us. All of us.

Or maybe it is just a forest fire of catastrophic proportions.

May 4, 2016

Live And Let Live

I don't promote stuff on my blog, and I wouldn't buy one for myself, but when I saw this innovative bug catcher I loved the idea, and how it might represent a larger picture where we are beginning to honour all life.

I like this idea so much that I tried to find out who invented it. I didn't find out who the inventor was, but I am sure she was a Jain. If not, it must have at least been someone that knows it is better to live and let live.

A Jain's goal is to live a life of harmlessness. Practicing non-violence, Jains will sweep the ground ahead of them so they do not step on any living things. A covering over the mouth and nose insures that no bugs are inhaled. They don't eat left overs because there is an increased chance of microorganisms growing in the food, which they don't want to harm.

Jains also practice living responsibly. There are no gods or spiritual beings that will save humans from themselves.

There are other ways of catching and releasing crawly things in your home, but this one is pretty neat. It is a vast improvement over grabbing a rolled up newspaper, or spraying poison.

It's a Jain-approved bug relocation device.

May 2, 2016

Most Efficient Dishwasher Ever

In recent years the appliance industry has greenwashed their dishwashers quite successfully. It is now commonly understood that a human could never do dishes as efficiently as that magical mechanical servant under your counter. I am skeptical. 

But then, I am a fan of hand washing my dishes. It is one of my simple pleasures.

I don't want to ever be too busy to do dishes, or to cook my own food, or grow a garden, or write a letter, or simply do nothing. Maybe dishwashers make us feel more stressed, rather than less, in that they give us more time to do things less healthy and stress-relieving as a good session of hand washing dishes.

While I may use more water than an ultra-efficient dishwasher (or do I?), I do not use any additional electricity in the washing or the drying. 

Another irritant for me is the noise dishwashers make. Doosh, doosh, doosh, doosh,, whirr... How am I supposed to hear the birds singing, or wind blowing with all that mechanically malevolent mumbo jumbo?

Today's dishwashers sure have cleaned up their reputation as energy hogs. Now they are the green way to go, so if you don't have time, or don't like to hand wash, you can use your under counter dishwasher without guilt. 

I'm still skeptical. I think the most efficient dishwasher ever is the one you don't use. Super efficient and green, just like hand washing. 

That is why my dishwasher is more of a closet than a mechanical kitchen "aide". It is very efficient in keeping the clutter off my counter tops.