December 31, 2017

Snowshoeing To Winter Cabin

First I pass through an old hemlock forest of giant woody columns holding a roof of snow canopies.

I can't think of a better way to end the year than by going for my first snowshoe of the winter. There was also a mission I needed to complete - get a winter photo of a snow-covered cabin for our blog banner so I can observe the official change of seasons.

Going down.

The cabin is on a brook in a valley behind my home. Going down on snowshoes is much more forgiving than boots on the ground. It is puffy, floaty, slidey, fun. Sharp pokey things are covered - everything is child-proofed and one can go anywhere and do anything.

Next to weightlessness, this is the best possible liberation from the potentially dangerous effects of gravity and friction while hiking. It never fails to put a smile on my face.

Impossibly puffy puffiness of fresh powdery snow.

Jumping and sliding down the valley side to the brook does not take long. The water is a tranquil spot to enjoy the sound of moving water, be still for a few moments, and see the scene, while being seen by the scene in turn.

At moments like this, spirits merge.

The winter landscape feels like a Chinese watercolour painting.

After reaching the brook I move upstream toward the cabin, which is on the other side of the water. Soon, there it is, all tucked in.

What a get-away. No power. No phone. No billboards. No shopping. No fences. No Gates. I'm not even sure if there is a road to the cabin.

I wonder what it would be like to live here. Very, very simple. Challenging. A lot of hard work. A deep solitude and tranquility - total separation from the affairs of humanity (or "inhumanity").

I think about pulling a Henry David Thoreau, naming this spot "Walden, Too", and embarking on an extended retreat. Never mind extended, even one night out here would be magical. Imagine a week. A month. Or a year.

My reveries are interrupted by the fact that the fading light had faded further. I start back up the hill, avoiding groves of conifers because their snow-draped canopies make it even darker below them. There is more snow under the open canopies of deciduous forest, and there the snowshoeing is best.

Everything looks unfamiliar and new in a thick winter jacket, but my homing instinct is strong. I get to the edge of the forest and start across the field. I see my own "cabin" at the top of the slope.

My "cabin" - heat, light, food, clean drinking water, and Linda are inside. Almost there.

I feel fortunate, recharged, and ready for another orbit around the Sun on this beautiful planet. It is good to be riding with all of you.  

December 25, 2017

Only 364 Days

"Only 364 days till Christmas 2018. This shopping thing is exhausting."

December 21, 2017

Happy Winter Solstice

Today I took my ritual sunset hike in the woods behind my home. The chickadees say, "Hi".

Today is the day I have been dreading since June 21st, when I am usually out enjoying the longest day of the year. At that time of year I can leave the house for a hike any time up to 9:00 pm, and still be home before dark.

It is a time of photonic riches, but not for long. I savour them while they last. I am a solar powered group of cells soaking up Sun love.

From that summer day, bit by bit, the sun starts its long march to this day, winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. Photons, why have you forsaken us? All light is sacred this time of year - it is fleeting, fleeing. Pray that you will see even a bit of it.

Today I had to make sure to prepare for my ritual hike before 3:00 pm to avoid hiking home in fading light. Even at noon the light is weak and wanes fast. I have to hike at a rigorous pace, both to stay warm, and to beat the shadow rolling across the landscape towards me.

I stop at the brook and am immediately mesmerized by the sound of water gurgling and splashing to the sea, 4 km downstream from here. I have an urge to start a fire and stay all night in the woods. Instead, I say goodbye to the water spirits and start back up the valley.

Along the way I am mobbed by a group of black capped chickadees. One lands on a branch an arms length away from me, right at eye level. "We are the same, you and me", I tell the bird. I can see every feather in its fluffy little body. Its black eye looks back at me.

I am mesmerized again, or should I say enchanted? I can't feel where I end, and the forest, the water, the sky, and the bird begin. We are all part of a single body, the creation of The Great Photonic Being. We exist because it bathes us in its love.

The Sun is life.

"Keep on hiking." It's the responsible hiker voice in my head telling me to move on. I don't want  a peak experience to become a near death experience.

Once home, the dark descends with a thump, and thus begins another long winter night. And if we are lucky, it will be the beginning of a long winter nap as well.

Happy solstice to NBA readers and all of Planet Earth. May your New Solar Year be filled with lots of hearts and photons.

Thank you for being bright candles for Linda and me over the last year. We are fortunate to bathe in your warmth and brightness. It make us feel that Yule be ok, we'll be ok, and the world will be OK.


December 19, 2017

Dear Santa

Dear Santa,

We are sorry your mission has been hijacked by rank consumerism. You used to stand for something wholesome, giving the needy some of the things they would need throughout the new year. Now you are a symbol and excuse for conspicuous consumption. Your name has been sullied, and it saddens us.

In order to lighten your load, and ease you guilt for reinforcing the idea that material possessions are a real substitute for happiness, we are asking that you do not visit our homes this year. This includes future years also, unless we actually need something essential for sustaining and improving life.

And how many gifts fit that bill?

That is why you started giving in the first place - to help people with things they need. Today we confuse want with need, and your mental health hangs in the balance, as you are now complicit in environmental destruction and potential global collapse.

How can you Ho Ho Ho with a straight face when you are experiencing an existential crisis?

Worry not.

Many of us are working to see the day when your simple mission has been restored, gift-giving has returned from the stratosphere, your good name has been restored, and your elves can get that holiday you've been promising them since you kicked up your sweatshop assembly lines to 24/7/365.

You can still drop by for cookies and milk if you need a break.

Happy Solstice,

Your Friends at NBA

December 17, 2017

In Winter Enjoy

Sun's rays hitting Mughenge in my kitchen, about an hour before sunset.

"In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy."

"Where man is not nature is barren."

- William Blake (1757-1827)

December 15, 2017

Rise Above Consumemas

Creating art from found natural objects can be a meaningful new Winter Solstice ritual that costs nothing.

Is there any Christmas left in Christmas? It is more like Consumemas now. It is all about the presents, the loot, the haul, the stuff. Shopping, wrapping, unwrapping, throwing away - same futile cycle with the same futile results. Within a few days all that remains is the debt and damage. 

It is no wonder many people find this madness to be depressing and demoralizing. But we can rise above Consumemas, and reclaim this special time of year for our own. It truly is an event worth celebrating, as humans have for millennia, before Christmas, or Consumemas, ever existed.

And while gift giving may be involved, it does not have to be all about the gifts. Indeed, gifts are not a required part of enjoying this time of year. While the social pressures are great, many are breaking free from the burden of mandatory (and often mindless) gift giving. 

Those with experience have found that involving a group of people in the discussion surrounding radically changing winter celebration traditions can be fruitful and liberating. Often they find that they aren't the only ones wondering how they can stop others from buying them things they don't want, or need. 

I got the following email reminder from Adbusters concerning #BuyNothingXmas:

"The malls are full of anxious sweat. The throngs are out and about for the final shopping "rush", hunting the aisles with a tense urgency that's inimical to the spirit of giving. But another Christmas is possible. Another way of being is possible. 
Reclaiming the ritual of this magical season – consciously and deliberately – is a radical, emancipatory choice. Since manufacturing and consumption are responsible for more than half of the global carbon dioxide emissions, choosing to buy nothing this Xmas may give Gaia some much needed relief. 
And if you still need to be convinced to consume less – consider that if we heat up just 4 degrees more, we will witness a total and irreversible collapse of human civilization. We're killing ourselves – but even as the denial about global warming is slowly breaking over us, we still choose – sheeplike – to join the madness in the malls. 
Consumerism is the opiate of the masses. Without significant rituals, we clamour to participate in the only ones we have, like the Christmas shopping binge, driven by our desire for meaning – of which our culture is devoid. 
#BuyNothingXmas gets to the heart of this matter. 
As the much awaited solstice arrives and Christmas nears, can you find the strength to break the addiction, to wake up from the nightmare ... will you be brave enough to plant the seed of a new way of being? Make your life a demonstration, a defiance, a piece of art, a heroic journey. 
Start this Christmas – dare to gather your friends and family together and vow to do it differently this year."

There are many meaningful ways to celebrate at this time of year. Conspicuous consumption does not have to be one of them.

“Creating a new tradition that brings more peace and heart to your holidays could also bring you closer to family and friends. 
Sharing a ritual founded on love of nature, on respect for the always renewing cycles of life, and on faith in the future has a way of bringing out the best in people.”

- Deena Wade

December 13, 2017

Winter Meditations

We have had our first significant snowfall of the year, although warming temperatures and rain in the forecast will see it disappear today. Chances are we won't have enough snow for winter activities until January, which is about the time it gets cold enough for the snow to stick around for longer periods.

That means we probably won't have the raw material to build a SnowHenge for a December 21 bonfire celebration. But it looks like it would be a fun way to accentuate any Winter Solstice celebration.

There are many ways creative folks have built Stonehenge replicas, ranging from scale models that accurately align with the cosmos, to designs like the one above which are only suggestive of the original.

Imagine the ambiance of having your very own SnowHenge. I'm thinking one would look great in my front yard. And like a sand mandala, impermanence would be its defining quality. I wonder, if I built one, would Druids come (before it melted)?

Psychologist David Fontana tell us that the symbolic nature of such structures can help us "access progressively deeper levels of the unconscious, ultimately assisting the meditator to experience a mystical sense of oneness with the ultimate unity from which the cosmos in all its manifold forms arises.”
Snow mandala by Simon Beck

It is my hope that we can all experience the "mystical sense of oneness with the ultimate unity" of the cosmos in the new year.

We shouldn't look for these peak experiences in stores. Or in a box under the tree. They can't be ordered online, at any price.

Better to build a SnowHenge in the yard or park. Or a snow mandala. Or just go for a walk in nature.

I'm looking forward to winter, the most meditative of seasons. Stay warm, Northern Hemisphereians.

December 11, 2017

The Darkness Before The Light

We are entering dark times. Today we slide into the shadiest week of the year (in the northern hemisphere), leading up to that most monumental and hopeful day on the calendar, the December 21st event of Winter Solstice.

Up till then the Sun appears to be marching relentlessly to the dark side, and us, powerless to stop its trajectory. That sounds like a familiar theme these days. And then, we see at Solstice that our life-supporting energy source is not going to abandon us permanently. It is a time of rebirth and renewal.

Things are dark in human affairs as well. But we can be assured that reason and compassion are similarly not gone for good, despite what we see around us. The light will return.

Mayan prophesies predicted this long ago, and even took the time and effort to etch their message in stone for the benefit of those of us who would be around past the 2012 turning point. According to the Long Count Mayan calendar, Solstice 2012 marked the end of one civilization and the beginning of another.

It predicts a spiritual transition towards a new consciousness, and while it may not get much press coverage, such a transition has been taking place, quietly, relentlessly, here and there in pockets of awareness the world over.

Certain forces of human darkness can slow human evolution - or are we going backwards at this point? - but they can't stop it. Most of us choose light. Many of us are lighting candles. Or starting bonfires.

The Mayans told us that humanity must eventually choose between disappearing as a species that threatens to destroy the planet, or evolve towards integration with the planet, and everything else.

I know what my choice is.

Evo Morales, the President of Bolivia at the 67th session of the UN General Assembly explained the special significance of Solstice 2012:

"The scientists know very well that this marks the end of an anthropocentric life and the beginning of a bio-centric life. 
It is the end of hatred and the beginning of love, the end of lies and beginning of truth. 
It is the end of sadness and the beginning of happiness, it is the end of division and the beginning of unity, and this is a theme to be developed.”

That makes a nice list of lightness for the new year. Put it in your daytimer, or calendar, or on your fridge.

Bring on the light.

Things To Do in 2018

1) Honour the Earth and all life. 

2) End hatred/promote love.

3) Steer lies toward truth.

4) Comfort sadness, be the source of happiness.

5) End division/focus on unity.

Note: no need to wait until the new year to start.

December 8, 2017

You Can't Buy Love... But You Can Sell With It

It makes the world go round. Newborns fail to thrive without it. And you can't buy it. But you can sell with it. It is love.

In the brave new world of marketing manipulation, advertisers are pushing their crap with sex, as usual, but now they are also exploiting love. Perhaps consumers have caught on to "sex sells" advertising, and aren't consummating as many purchases as when the act was still novel.

Love is the final frontier for getting you to buy more everything.

One of the worst advertisements I have heard recently states that what makes a particular manufacturer's car, is love.

"Really? Love?" I think, "not steel, glass, rubber, lots of plastic, and the energy of thousands of workers along the supply chain?" It makes me want to throw up, or at least throw my hands up, every time I hear it.

Where is the love? In the glove box? Are the tires filled with love? Does it run on love? Are more expensive models made with more love than cheaper models (or are the cheaper ones made with "like").

If there is any love involved in capitalism and marketing, it is the love of money and profit above all else. But they don't say that. It is all about the loving relationship that they manipulate us into through propaganda, lies, deceit, and all that brain chemistry poking and prodding.

What if ads could only give factual information about products, instead of hacking into our emotional treasure chests and subconscious?

The problem advertisers would have with that is their teams of sell-out psychologists, neurologists and brain researchers know that just giving people the facts doesn't work well enough to satisfy the big brands. They know they have to manipulate their victims emotionally in order to maximize profit.

A Canadian brain researcher says, “The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action while reason leads to conclusions.”

The heart is impulsive, while the brain is analytical. Sellers want us to be impulsive. They don't want us using our brains, because they fear that the conclusions we would arrive at are:

1) I don't need that, or
2) I can't afford that, or
3) That product causes great harm to the environment, or
4) so many other conclusions that would lead us to reduce our consumption.

Wrap your brain around that as the consumer frenzy reaches its peak over the next few weeks. Defy the advertisers - use your heart AND your brain when making purchase decisions.

"To buy, or not to buy", is the question they never want us to ask ourselves.

December 6, 2017

Garden Fairies

I chose the best bulbs from last year's crop to plant for next year's crop.

On December 1st I stood in my garden and pushed a shovel into the soft, rich soil. "How late is too late to plant garlic in the fall?" I wondered as I dug. It didn't really matter - my garlic was going in.

Being only one crop into my garlic growing experience means that I have much to learn. My research leads me to believe that garlic goes into the ground after the first few frosts of the fall, but before the ground freezes.

Once planted, the bulbs like several weeks of non-frozen soil in order to get root growth started. However, if it gets too warm, the greens may sprout, and you don't want that to happen till spring.

Since moving from the west coast to the east coast three years ago, we have been learning about the climate of our new home. For optimum gardening, knowledge of the local climate is crucial. We live in a 7a zone here, same as where we lived on Vancouver Island.

Grandparent garlic.
That means that planting my garlic December 1 (we planted our first crop in October last year) means that we could be four to five weeks from colder weather, snow, and frozen garden soil.

It all comes down to actual experience of putting things in soil and seeing what happens. So that is what I did. If you don't plant, you will for sure not get any garlic.

It seems that my late season efforts were sanctioned by two tiny garden fairies that joined my garlic planting party. While I was plunking garlic cloves into the dark soil, two tiny specks of flying life forms hovered at my side.

I guess they might have been insects, and if they were, they are insects I have never seen before. They were etherial, with teeny bluish wings, and a small body that was luminescent, glowing brightly with white light.

I thought I might need to rub my eyes and take a second look as the two of them flew near me and my garlic, but then they seemed to disappeared into the mildness of the day.

Wow. Did I just see that? Beautiful late fall day. Soft, workable soil. My own cloves going in the ground. And garden fairies. Or were those garlic fairies? I am not sure if they are specialists, or generalists.

So much to like at that moment, I breathed deeply and felt life's magic flowing, vibrating, and shimmering all around me.

"... there is no way for mere gardeners to know what garden fairies look like. 
We live in a dimension called the garden dimension. Only a small handful of people have ever spent enough time in a garden to actually see into this dimension. 
And even when they do see into this garden dimension, they have no idea they are seeing garden fairies." 
- excerpt from The Garden Fairie Journal

I covered the cloves with 2 to 3 inches of soil, levelled the surface, and tucked in the thirty plants for the winter. Then I went inside to tell Linda that the garlic was in, and that the event was supervised by fairies. She asked if they looked like the tooth fairy that she saw as a child.

I'm not too sure about fairy nomenclature, but I predict a bumper crop of garlic next summer.

“Stop automatically discounting modes of experience that most human beings have treated as just as valid as the material senses, start paying attention to all the ways in which natural processes behave like subjects rather than objects, and you’ll find yourself stepping into a living world—or, more to the point, realizing that you’ve been in a living world all along.”
- John Michael Greer

December 4, 2017

"Happiness" by Steve Cutts

Steve Cutts is one of my favourite illustrator/animators, and not only because of his artwork. Mostly, I like him because his artwork focuses on the excesses of modern society. And there is so much excess to excoriate.

He used to work for the dark side, doing animations for evil corporations like a certain sugary water beverage maker, a high tech firm making semi-disposable electronics, and one of the biggest car makers in the world.

Then he broke free of all that, and became a freelancer doing his own thing. Since then he has been stripping the curtain back from our sick system to show the reality of our madness.

One of his first short film was "MAN", in which Cutts says he explores our relationship with the natural world. It is not a pretty picture, but should be a wake up call.

In 2016/2017 he did two music videos for the singer Moby. Both, he says, highlight "consumerism, greed, corruption and ultimately our self-destructiveness". Readers of this blog will have an awareness of all those things.

Of his new animation (the short film above), Cutts states, "The story is of a rodent's unrelenting quest for happiness and fulfillment."

Warning - some scenes are disturbingly similar to humans' pursuit of the same, and may elicit a sense of the uncanny in certain viewers.

December 1, 2017

What Would Jesus Buy?

Depiction of Jesus from India as "True Teacher".

Now that the drooling peddlers of stuff are reminding everyone that there are only so many days until the celebration of the birth of Jesus (yes, that is what Christmas is really about), it is time for me to give my own annual reminder about Buy Nothing Christmas.

I have to wonder, would Buy Nothing Christmas get the Jesus seal of approval? Or would he want us to go into debt buying each other things we don't need? In his name?

I have to wonder, "What would Jesus buy?"

When you have understanding, wisdom, insight, purity, integrity and love, what else do you need? He would want nothing, would buy nothing. Except maybe for people to stop misrepresenting him in predatory consumeristic ways.

If Jesus were here today, I imagine he would be tolerantly miffed by our materialist ways, and would go about patiently re-teaching us the shortcomings of living a purely material-based life. However, I imagine he would forgive us with mercy and compassion, a couple of other things we obviously have not learned yet, Christians and non-Christians alike.

The gifts that Jesus and all other enlightened beings give humanity, are the lessons that lead to us to being free from greed, developing true friendship with all creatures, doing our duty regardless of consequences, being devoted to the Universe and each other, and practicing mindful concentration in order to rise above banal materialist lifestyles.

You can't buy such worthy gifts anywhere, despite what advertisers claim.

The true spirit of Christmas will not be found in any store. For that, we need to look within ourselves.

November 29, 2017

Welcome To NBA And The Post-Consumer Age

This isn't a blog - its an on-line support group for people who have broke free from the clutches of the Cult of Consumerism, and those who have been affected by this cult bent on ecocide for fun and profit.

You will not be shamed, belittled, or put down here for longing for, and living, a post-consumer existence. What you will find is support for your quest to live a simpler life with less stuff, and more living.

"Welcome. Please come in, sit down, state your name, and if you are comfortable, share your post-consumer story/ideas with us. You are in a safe space here."

On this blog can be found a group of post-consumers learning to de-materialize. Call it de-programming, or in this case deconsumerizing. We are supporting each other through the process of unlearning being a passive vessel for corporations to fill with superfluous goods, services and entertainments.

Generally, NBA readers/support group members are activating their own agenda rather than the oppressive and limiting "work-buy-repeat-die" script laid out for us at birth. We are reclaiming our freedom to choose simple lives that are easier on us and the Earth.

Together we are helping create Charles Eisenstein’s “world where our human gifts go toward the benefit of all, and where our daily activities contribute to the healing of the biosphere and the well-being of other people.”

How did we get to our current state of consumer madness? How did the cult attract so many devotees to its dark halls? A piece I found in the Adbuster web site chronicles our brief trajectory that has brought us to the brink of global collapse:

“We were high on the thrill of early capitalism. We loved the cars, the airplanes, the endless aisles of mega marts teeming with mass-produced goodies. We loved the validation that each new purchase brought. 
And then came the technology: the flat screens, MacBooks, iPhones and XBoxes. Every technological breakthrough made us feel more connected, more human, and more whole. 
But then the economy collapsed and we began to tumble… suddenly we weren’t so sure anymore. The line between necessity and luxury - once blurred beyond distinction - came into sudden, violent focus. 
What pleasure is there in a 50-inch plasma TV if you don’t have a wall to hang it on? What joy does a brand new automobile bring if climate change looms large on the horizon? 
The wisdom of credit, and the attendant practice of living well beyond our means, suddenly hit home. 
And now, as belts tighten and paradigms crumble, we are beginning to hear the first whispers of a post-consumer era… the dawning of a post-materialist age.”

We are certainly hearing the whispers (and yells, shouts, pleads, and rants) of a post-consumer era on this blog over the past (almost) 10 years.  I like to think of NBA as a partial record of the dawning of the post-consumer age that we all know must come soon. Or sooner.

Together we are forging ahead, supporting each other, and creating "the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible".

Join our support group for ex-members of the Cult of Consumerism, or those affected by consumerism. Come on it, there is room for everyone.

Welcome to NBA, and the post-consumer age.

November 27, 2017

Cyber What?

Nice no-traffic riding on rails to trails system by our home.

Cyber what? How about a cyber break? Nature is about the most opposite thing to the online world I can think of, and therefore it can be used as an effective antidote.

I like to give myself a nice dose of pure analog Nature on a regular basis. Today a bicycle ride was my activity of choice.

This ride takes me 5 km from home, downhill on the paved road, all the way to salt water. There I sit in the weakening fall sun and watch a duck on the water. From there I backtrack about 2 km, then turn off on a short section of gravel road that leads to a rails to trails system.

Sun setting over the countryside, way too soon. Pedal a bit faster.

Once on the old rail bed I ride about 5 km through extensive quiet forests back toward home. That leads to 3 km of gravel road that returns me back to the paved road, arriving at my house from the opposite direction that I left 2 hours earlier.

While I was out, I hugged a big, old tree in a cemetery near tide water. It was magnificent. For some people, this does not compute.

It does for me.

How to document a tree hug: 1) pick out tree, 2) set camera for 10 second timer, and 3) run...

I feel the textured, cool bark. The wind whooshes through the bulging biceps of huge limbs. The trunk trembling is not noticeable, unless you give your hug a good, long time. I'm not thinking of any cyber-silliness.

Almost there: 4) begin to spread arms, 5) slow down, don't get hurt...

Keeping my ear to this stately, stable life form, three times my age, I listen to what it has to teach me. It knows about patience, and being rooted in its community for the long haul.

It knows about resilience, cooperation and connectedness.

6) ahhhh, squeeze, 7) pause, 8) feel connected, 9) don't forget camera.

Thank you for being my solid and real inspiration in this space, at this time.

I love your reality, tree.

November 24, 2017

It's Buy Nothing Day - Celebrate By Not Buying Anything

Buy Nothing Day is November 24th in N. America, the 25th everywhere else.

What if they threw a big Buy Everything Day Party (because that is what Black Friday really is) and nobody came? Wouldn't that send a beautiful message?

Linda posed a good question this morning. "How many people buy things they actually need on Black Friday?"

Worse than spending money to buy things you don't need is borrowing money to buy things you don't need. As it turns out, Canadians are the most indebted shoppers on Planet Consumerism.

When N. American wages stopped increasing with rising productivity in the 1970s, consumers didn't scale back their material lifestyles. Tragically, instead of seizing this as an opportunity for Earth-sizing consumption, dedicated shoppers decided instead to borrow money to continue conspicuous consumption.

And in the end what do you get? A big headache/heartache of Buyers' Remorse Syndrome. But we have short memories, and by the time the next BF rolls around we look forward to it as if it is a pleasant opportunity to buy more little plastic castles.

"They say goldfish have no memory
I guess their lives are much like mine
And the little plastic castle
Is a surprise every time
And it's hard to say if they're happy
But they don't seem much to mind."

- Ani Difranco, Little Plastic Castles

November 22, 2017

Gratitude and Thankfulness

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

“Thankfulness creates gratitude which generates contentment that causes peace.”
- Todd Stocker

The secret to finding the simple life that appeals you is tapping into the spirit of gratitude and thankfulness. It is this spirit which allows one to appreciate what they have instead of longing for what they might have.

Thankfulness leads to contentment, one thing advertisers and neuro-marketing manipulators do not want you to feel. Ever. They need you to be constantly craving.

They begrudgingly give it up for Thanksgiving, but follow it up with Black Friday, the most surreal shopping event of the year. “Ok, enough of the gratitude, take your desire, lust and acquisitiveness off pause and let's get back to shopping.”

“Sometimes we spend so much time and energy thinking about where we want to go that we don't notice where we happen to be.”
- Dan Gutman

So we have supper with the family, give thanks for our good fortune to be living in the land of everything for everybody all the time, then spend the night camping out on a sidewalk so we can be the first to grab a deal on the lust-have material trinket of the year.

Be thankful you have fists, because you might have to use them to break the store doors down, or beat a competing consumer for the last item on the shelf.

What if, when Thanksgiving ended, you decided not to re-engage your infinite desire for more? What if you decided you had enough, and no amount of more could possibly improve your quality of life?What if you decided that living to work and shop was the problem, and chose instead to be perpetually grateful for the most precious of things in life?

What if you decided to be content with what you already have? More? No thank-you.

“Be thankful for your allotment in an imperfect world.  Though better circumstances can be imagined, far worse are nearer misses than you probably care to realize.”
- Richelle E. Goodrich

I am thankful to be alive, healthy, and experience love in my life. I am grateful to have enough to eat, a warm, dry place to rest my head, and clothes to keep me warm and covered. I am content with a minimal level of material possessions, and appreciate how they actively support the things I love to do with my time.

If you can cultivate a daily, moment to moment appreciation for the gifts the Universe has bestowed up you and your life, you are on your way to creating a simple, intentional life that allows the best possible outcomes for you, the human family, and all life on Earth.

November 20, 2017

Human Responsibilities

Just because something is legal doesn't make it moral. And not everything illegal is immoral.

The crusade to convince humanity to embrace responsibilities and obligations is thousands of years old. It hasn't taken yet, but perhaps we are closer to universal acceptance than ever before.

We hear a lot about human rights these days, as we should. They are critical to sharing this world in harmony and with peace for all. What you don't hear much about, are human responsibilities. But freedoms and rights in the absence of responsibilities and obligations is a dangerous state of affairs.

We have many lists of critical human responsibilities, for every major religion has one of its own. They are all very similar.

“I truly believe there is a common ethic running through all the world’s major religions. The basic values, the ethical standards, needed for a peaceful society, are shared.” 
- Malcolm Fraser, Prime Minister of Australia (1975-1983)

Mahatma Gandhi crafted his own non-religious list, his Seven Social Sins.

There are also the Seven Deadly Sins, and Seven Principal Virtues that may be more familiar to many than Gandhi's list.

We have a responsibility and obligation to adopt acceptable standards of behaviour.

More recently, The InterAction Council, a group of former heads of states, brainstormed a Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities to go along with the UN adoption in 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I have summarized the document below.

"The InterAction Council has been working to draft a set of human ethical standards since 1987. But its work builds on the wisdom of religious leaders and sages down the ages who have warned that freedom without acceptance of responsibility can destroy the freedom itself, whereas when rights and responsibilities are balanced, then freedom is enhanced and a better world can be created."

Each of us has the responsibility and obligation to:

- Treat all people in a humane way.

- Strive for the dignity and self-esteem of all others.

- Promote good and avoid evil in all things.

- Accept a responsibility to each other, to families and communities, races, nations, and religions in a spirit of solidarity.

- To put into practice the motto: "Do unto others, as you would want them to do to you."

- Act in peaceful, non-violent ways, and respect all life.

- Protect the air, water and soil of Earth for the sake of present and future life.

- Solve disputes between states, groups or individuals without violence.

- Promote sustainable development globally in order to assure dignity, freedom, security and justice for all people.

- Ensure that economic and political power is not handled as an instrument of domination, but used responsibly in accordance with justice and for the advancement of all humanity.

- Codes of ethics should reflect the priority of general standards such as those of truthfulness and fairness.

All together we have a "Handbook For Living Together On Earth". We know what to do, and have known for a long, long time. What are we waiting for?

We may be approaching a time when we finally adopt a Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities, and use it to be better people, and therefore form a better world. I see a golden opportunity, and hope that each of us chooses to seize it.

Let us build on our advancements over the decades, centuries, and millennia. We have the potential to create a wonderful balance between the rights we enjoy and the responsibilities and obligations we have to each other, and the planet.

Is there any other endeavour more worth doing?

November 18, 2017

Ring The Bells That Still Can Ring

Things appear grim these days, globally speaking. But that should not overshadow all the good that can be enjoyed in the time we have remaining, however long that may be. Lots is broken, but lots is still working.

Yesterday Linda and I were viewing Leonard Cohen performing his song "Anthem". As we listened, I thought of how gracefully Cohen aged, and how his experience allowed him to view the world in a more Zen-like manner. He wasn't fighting life (or death), but going with the flow.

When he said,

“Ring the bells that still can ring 
Forget your perfect offering 
There is a crack in everything 
That's how the light gets in.”,

he reminded us not to fall into despair. Just because we can't do everything, doesn't mean we shouldn't do something. We can't wait for perfect solutions before we act.

Cursing the darkness is not the answer. When we choose Earth-friendly lifestyles we are lighting candles, and every photon helps.We can do what we can do, and use what works.

Simple living is a set of bells that still can ring, loud and clear. Their peal cuts through the void. No change, no peal.

November 16, 2017

How Many Scientists Does It Take?

How many scientists does it take to screw in a light bulb? One to screw it in, and another 14,999 to convince us it is actually screwed in.

Like a scientist, the way I can tell if my light bulb is screwed in properly is to look at the results. When I flick the switch, does it  light up? If yes, screwed in. If no, not screwed in.

Speaking of screwed, look at capitalism. Or consumerism. Or the patriarchy. Or war. Democracy, extractive resource industries... the list goes on and on. Look at the results.

Do we like the world we have created? Are things functioning smoothly? How is the health of the atmosphere? The oceans? Is there an absence of poverty, homelessness, and war?

Are global citizens happy and mentally robust? Is there income equity and equality? Is racism increasing, or decreasing? Are we getting smarter? Are we evolving into the best we can be?

Do we respect life? All life? Is it precious, and if so, is that reflected in our behaviour? Do we live in healthy, loving and compassionate communities?

It only takes one person to see that things are not going as well as they could. The results of business as usual are grim to say the least. So scientists are again warning us of the consequences of keeping on doing what we have been doing. Is anybody listening?

If so, are they changing their behaviour in order to move from being the problem to being the solution?

Essentially, the 15,000 scientist said (again):

Dear Human Family,  
Our current ways of doing things have been hurtling us toward the brink for decades. There have been warnings for hundreds of years. In 1992 we issued our own warning. 
Since then humanity has failed to make sufficient progress in solving environmental challenges, and alarmingly, most of them are getting worse. 
Now, in addition to deforestation, pollution, habitat loss, overpopulation and overconsumption, climate mayhem threatens our very existence. 
If we don't act soon there'll be catastrophic biodiversity loss and untold amounts of human misery. Our planet may develop conditions that are not conducive to life, including humanity.
Time is running out. 
We are still here, and we are still warning you of the dangers of your ways, and the dangerous denial you are immersed in. Join us. Help us. Help yourselves.

15,000 Concerned Scientists 
P.S. Please heed our waring this time, and adopt new, more Earth friendly ways of living.  For example, use less fossil fuel transportation, enjoy a plant based diet, adopt 100% organic methods of agriculture, protect our last remaining wild places, consume less, have fewer children, and help build a more equitable, stable, and sustainable planet. Also, please end the infinite economic growth model - it's killing everything.
Or die. 
Thank you for listening. This time. Please don't make us do this again. 

November 13, 2017

Ecotopia Revisited

In Ernest Callenbach's semi-utopian 1975 novel Ecotopia, advertising is strictly regulated. Ads can only give factual information about products. No psychological warfare arm twisting victims into buying things they don't need in the name of profit in this sustainable society.

I could love this book for that alone, but it has so much more to offer. It serves up a working model of what-could-be, an alternative to our current race to extinction. It has answers for the person looking at what consumer capitalism has done to our planet, and asks "what can I do?"

In 1981 he wrote a prequel called Ecotopia Emerging, in which he describes how society began to be changed from one in which "Toxic contamination of air, water, and food has become intolerable. Nuclear meltdowns threaten. Military spending burdens the economy. Politicians squabble over outdated agendas while the country declines."

Hmm, sounds familiar. Ecotopia Emerging is on my reading list, but it feels like I am living it every day. This is our reality. Will we evolve to a sustainable, cooperative society in time?

Callenbach returned his component parts to the Earth in 2012, but his legacy carries on in millions of readers and admirers. Many people are already living Ecotopia lifestyles, and it is only a matter of time before everyone else will be forced by necessity to adopt one-planet living.

A document was found on the computer of Callenbach after his death. In it he addresses his audience to open the essay.

"To all brothers and sisters who hold the dream in their hearts of a future world in which humans and all other beings live in harmony and mutual support -- a world of sustainability, stability, and confidence. A world something like the one I described, so long ago, in Ecotopia and Ecotopia Emerging."

Hey! He's talking to us.

Toward the end of the piece he writes,

"Since I wrote Ecotopia, I have become less confident of humans' political ability to act on commonsense, shared values. Our era has become one of spectacular polarization, with folly multiplying on every hand.

That is the way empires crumble: they are taken over by looter elites, who sooner or later cause collapse. But then new games become possible, and with luck Ecotopia might be among them."

Again, sounds eerily familiar. But as he points out, when things break down, new possibilities emerge, and we should therefore seize the day and make sure that all economies move toward sustainability as soon as possible.

"Let us embrace decay, for it is the source of all new life and growth."

We can all help manifest a better world through our behaviours, habits, and expectations. Ecotopians are building an alternative to the madness - a sustainable society in which all living things benefit mutually.

"So it behooves me here to gather together some thoughts and attitudes that may prove useful in the dark times we are facing: a century or more of exceedingly difficult times. 
How will those who survive manage it? What can we teach our friends, our children, our communities? 
Although we may not be capable of changing history, how can we equip ourselves to survive it?"

 Read the rest of Ernest Callenbach's last essay at "Common Dreams".

November 10, 2017

Writing Re-Use, Not Refuse

What do you do with a couple of pencil nubs too short to hold, and the plastic centre of a roll of dental floss?

When I taught elementary school I discovered that some students (usually boys) are obsessed with using pencils until you can't see them any more.

They would wrap their little fingers around tiny nubs of heavily used pencils, and scratch out their school work. Of course, that work took several times longer than if they had a more extended version of a pencil, and the writing they produced was often illegible.

However, I admired how committed they were to using the pencil, the whole pencil. They loved the challenge.

I decided to challenge myself to see if I could improve on their methods.

You create a functioning pencil.

It so happened that I was also hanging on to the plastic centre of a roll of dental floss. I enjoy finding uses for things that most people don't think twice about before throwing them in the garbage. It must be the little person in me.

I trimmed the ends of the pencil nubs so that they fit in either end of the plastic tube. Voila! A functional pencil utilizing materials rescued from a trip to the landfill. My design also encourages precision - no eraser. Pure business at both ends.

It works! Easy to hold, and uses the pencil nubs till there is nubbin left.

So much of what gets classified as refuse can be re-used, repurposed, and through that, respected. Just think like a kid - "You can't throw that out!" - and take it from there.

November 8, 2017

Roughing It In The Woods

Last stop and resting place for this school bus conversion that I found while out for a bike ride in the woods.
It had a wood stove, gas range, counter tops, kitchen sink, two bunk beds, and tables to seat eight.
Landscaping provided by Mother Nature.

One reason I enjoy a stripped down lifestyle is because it is more like roughing it. I like roughing it, and always have. Tenting, living out of a van, cabin or shelter all bring one closer to living harmoniously in, and with, Nature.

There are lessons to be learned here, not all of them comfortable or easy.

Life is not suppose to be perpetually easy and luxurious. Nor is it in our DNA to live in chronic speediness and complexity. Civilization and its marketing branch, consumer culture, makes us soft, dependent, and unprepared to deal with change.

It makes us depressed and dumbed down.

Our bellies, our morals and our minds, all suffer from a morbid slackness, barely held together by thick leather belts of excuses and justifications. Lulled by the easy life, we come to lack intellectual curiosity.

We have been stupefied by stuff. Stifled by silliness. Stultified by the system.

Living simply in a consumer culture is a form of "roughing it". Like other forms of closer-to-nature living, it helps us appreciate what we have, is more physical and healthful, and fosters skills of independence and resilience.

In his book, A Walk In The Woods, author Bill Byrson talks about hiking and camping in a way that describes my experiences roughing it rather well.

"Life takes on a neat simplicity, too. Time ceases to have any meaning. When it is dark, you go to bed, and when it is light again you get up, and everything in between is just in between. It’s quite wonderful, really. 
You have no engagements, commitments, obligations, or duties; no special ambitions and only the smallest, least complicated of wants; you exist in a tranquil tedium, serenely beyond the reach of exasperation, “far removed from the seats of strife,” as the early explorer and botanist William Bartram put it."

I have always enjoyed the feeling I get while hiking, camping, and living on the road. Liked it so much, that it became the model for the rest of my life. I want to feel tranquil and content when I go out into the woods. But I also want to feel that way at home.

I want to feel that sweetness all the time. It is quite wonderful.

November 6, 2017

Consumerism And Violence

As we mourn the victims of another horrendous incident, this time in Texas, we look possible explanations for such violence. While there are several possible reasons for our violence-plagued modern times, one  potential source of sickness usually overlooked is capitalist consumerism.

  • Consumerism . . . promotes structural violence.
  • Structural violence was present in many forms . . . [including] increasing consumerism.
  • Consumerism . . . causes a remarkable increase of structural and interpersonal violence.
  • Consumerism [is one of the] important factors in the creation of violence and oppression.
  • There are other forms of subtle violence that we need to recognize and address including the violence of consumerism.
  • Consumerism is . . . directly responsible for violence, the root causes of which are greed, hatred and delusion. [Being] unaware of this structural violence [means we] are responsible for violent conflicts everywhere.
  • Consumerism . . . contributes significantly to violence among individuals, groups and nations.
  • As long as consumerism is worshipped in the world, there will always be war and violence.
  • Consumerism is the root cause of violence in America.
  • It is universally recognized that . . . consumption problems cause countless violence.

The quotes above come from peace and social justice literature. I found them in a paper by Dr. Sue McGregor called Consumerism as a Source of Structural Violence. I was pleased to see that she works in a university right here in Nova Scotia, Canada, in the Peace and Conflict Studies Program.

In the coming days you will hear many reasons why mass shootings are becoming commonplace, and life is becoming more violent. Cue the usual talking heads blaming just about everything. Mental illness. Too many guns. Not enough guns. Progressives.

As usual there will be a lot of finger pointing and things to blame, except the fact that our very way of life is a root cause of much oppression and violence. Or the fact that our consumer society, as it exists, would cease to be if we eliminated the systemic oppression and violence against people and the planet that are required to keep it going. 

We also probably won't hear much about the connection of mass shootings to white male privilege and domestic violence. Chances are, also, that no one in mainstream circles will suggest that some of the solutions to eliminating global oppression and violence are eliminating consumerism, inequality and state sponsored killing (war). 

None of those things are good for profits of Evil Corp. Inc. (or Evil Government Inc.), but let us not forget our own complicity as consumers, as enablers of the violence perpetuated on our behalf. We can't pretend we aren't players in the misery.

So, sorry Texas, Las Vegas, sweat shop workers, homeless, working poor, women and people of colour... we should know by now, what it is that we do, and that it connects us all to the misery occurring in our global community.

It is time to stop supporting the violence. Living simple, cooperative, and compassionate lives can help a great deal.

November 3, 2017

Not Buying Anything - Still Legal

"This isn't about your stealing anything. It's about your not buying anything."

The system makes it very difficult to not buy anything, but it is still legal. They can't actually force us to be consumers.

Capitalist interests have pretty much wrapped it all up - you have to pay for everything. Some cities have even made it illegal to sleep outdoors, meaning you are going to have to pay someone to get off the street. What if you can't afford what they are asking?

Pay to sleep. Pay to eat. Pay to drink water. Pay to move. Pay to stand here. Pay to park there. They are always making it easier to buy and pay for things. Pay up, be imprisoned, or die. Pay more while you make less. Sick and tired, you try to break free.

Harvesting rainwater is illegal. Governments use satellite imagery to find, and tax, your backyard garden. Building codes make it impossible to build your own tiny home. When you are down to living in your car, you find it is illegal to sleep in your parked vehicle in many locations.

However, resistance is not futile. People in hyper-consumer systems have lived successfully without money all together. It is a full time job to resist so actively. The payoff is not being complicit in the sickness that is making our planet terminally ill.

Consumerism, and the ecocide that it is causing, is what should be illegal. It is clearly immoral to try to kill Mother Nature, and this heinous violent crime has billions of victims. Perhaps this crowded planet should have new laws concerning taking more than ones fair share of Earth's gifts.

Imagine if security staff thanked you for not buying anything on your way out of the store.

October 31, 2017

Snapping Turtle Nest

Ever since seeing my first Snapping Turtle in July two years ago, I have wanted to see a Snapping Turtle nest. This year, while on an October hike in the woods, I got my wish.

At first I was not sure what I was seeing. My eye was drawn by white bits on the trail. Upon closer inspection, they turned out to be creamy white ping-pong sized shell remains, exactly as described in my online research of these large turtles.

Sure enough, close by was the nest, the hatchling hole. It was in a well-drained, south facing site, perfect for incubating 25-30 turtle eggs.

Next October, or perhaps in the spring if a nest overwinters, I hope to see the event as it is occurring. What a sight to see a new generation starting out, the individuals of which could live 40 years in these woods.

Go little turtles, Go!