November 30, 2019

It May Be Better Not To Have

The less I need, the better I feel. 

Right now I own less stuff than at any point in my adult life. And I feel great.

Poet Charles Bukowski felt that way, and I am sure monks feel that way, too. If you want to live as simply as possible, you may also know this feeling.

Henry David Thoreau said something along the lines that a perfectly prepared person could walk away from their village with nothing, and experience no problems.

It is a fortunate, and rare, person that could pull off such a feat (Peace Pilgrim comes to mind). But imagine the unlimited freedom one must feel in that unencumbered state.

This is something to remember during a time we are being arm-twisted to give gifts to everyone, whether they need anything or not. 

Here's a liberating thought - perhaps they would be better off without a gift. It is hard to fathom in an acquisitive culture, but it may be better not to have, than to have.

Sometimes when I am gifted something, my first sense is that it is a burden and responsibility that I would rather not have. I own something I may not need, my life is complicated, and my carefully nurtured simplicity has been thrown out of whack. 

Gift giving is a nice thought, and comes from a good place.  In the times such as we live in today, though, not gift giving might be even nicer. 

Not just today. It has always been this way. 

In this regard I give you Chinese Chan Master Ummon Zenji (862-949 CE). He would remind his students that: 

"however wonderful a thing is, it may be that it is better not to have it at all."

I end with my own Zen koan: 

What is the gift of no gift? 

And my answer (does a koan have an answer?): 

Freedom, simplicity, joy.

November 29, 2019

Fight Back - Observe Buy Nothing Day Today

Today is the designated day to fight back against obsessive consumerism, Buy Nothing Day. I highly recommend giving it a try.

Like me, you can fight back by not buying anything you don't need 365 days a year, or you can start small on this one day, then extend it from there.

The little guy in the picture has it right - he was not born an obsessive consumer. 

What does he want? 

Only what any unspoilt human being wants, like food, clothing, shelter, love, education, and total freedom from the evil manipulation of mentally ill money hoarders.

If I had kids, we would be out celebrating our freedom to buy absolutely nothing today. 

Just like advertisers say that you "have to get them young", we should be thinking about starting our little activists out while they still have some free brain left in their skulls.

None of us are consumers. We have been formed that way against our will.

Stand up today, buy nothing, and proclaim "I am a free person. I am not a puppet of the rich and powerful, and I will not obey their command to buy, Buy, BUY."

Today is for authentic living, free from the consumer world.

Have a good one.

November 27, 2019

Ethical Consumerism Is A Capitalist Fantasy

The term Ethical Consumerism is an oxymoron. It is a dream, a fantasy that business as usual types hope will extend current harmful ways of doing things. Don't be fooled by this industrial strength green washing.

In order to have ethical consumerism we would have to have an ethical supply chain. First there would have to be ethical resource extraction. Mining companies would no longer be able to hire thugs to murder indigenous activists blocking the mining sites that are destroying their livelihoods. 

Fomenting violent coups in order to mine resources such as lithium would definitely be out. 

Then there would need to be ethical manufacturing. If made ethical, companies would have to put people and the planet before shareholder interests, and the selfish motives of CEOs.

Retail interests would also have to act ethically. No more cooking the books, or fleecing workers to pad the bottom line.

At every stage corporations would have to do the ethical thing and take responsibility for any damage done while conducting their business. A study done showed that most, if not all, corporations would go bankrupt if they had to pay for the damage they do.

And what about marketing? Can you imagine ethical advertising? Neither can I. 

Advertisers wouldn't be able to lie anymore. Or manipulate us with things like "nudging" and neuromarketing manipulation. The entire industry would crumble when they could no longer manufacture desire through the use of nefarious methods of mind control.

The very greenwashing that brings us something as outlandish as ethical consumerism would become illegal. Greenwashing, and ethical consumerism would disappear into a void of lying blackness, never to be seen again.

Let us not forget the ethical banking system that would be needed to support all the other ethical endeavours. What would that even look like? No interest to be paid, or charged, because getting something without working for it is unethical.

Also, no more money laundering, or other dirty tricks. 

Wouldn't we also need an ethical tax regime? Large corporations and the uber wealthy would actually have to pay their fair share in such a system. 

And to guide it all, we would need ethical governance at the local, state, and federal levels. How is that going these days? Is propaganda ethical? Is jailing whistleblowers ethical? Is interfering in the business of other countries ethical? 

At best, ethical consumerism would lead to the end of consumerism. And along the way it might take down capitalism and the state, too. There is nothing ethical or logical about the greed, waste, corruption, and selfishness of our current system. 

Let them fail in a creative destruction the likes of which the world has never seen. That would be a welcome outcome. 

Anything less is a fantastical dream, because current ways can not go on for much longer.

So, what colour would you like your dragon?

Top ten least ethical companies (as voted for by "Ethical Consumer" readers):

  • Nestle
  • Monsanto
  • Amazon
  • Shell
  • Tesco
  • Barclays
  • Exxon
  • Wal Mart
  • Coca Cola
  • Primark 

November 26, 2019

We Are A Carless Household

One of these trailers would be nice for getting groceries.

This week our household becomes part of the exclusive group of households that have gone carless. We seem to be in good company. Car free lifestyles are becoming increasingly popular.

After 100 years of trying to get into cars, fatigued drivers are now trying to get out of their cars. 

For an example close to home, I only had to talk to my brother. I texted to tell him of my new experiment in car free living. He texted back that his family has been car free for a year. What?

Number one - that's awesome. Number two - I really must text my brother more often.

Millennials have been famously nonchalant about private vehicle ownership, much to the disappointment of the auto industry. About double the number of this generation do not own cars compared to the general population.

That same car industry has spent billions to convince us (and lawmakers) that their products are indispensable. 

Many today disagree, and it is not just the more recent generations. Many boomers are downsizing cars right out of their lives, and finding that they don't miss them. 

While the number of car free households in North America is still small (about 10%), that number is growing every year.

It is not only people going car free. Cities are getting into the act as well.

Many cities around the world are creating car free spaces, where people don't have to breathe smog, listen to all the racket, or feel that their lives are constantly threatened by inattentive drivers.

Around the world planners are working toward making at least the city centres free of automobiles. They want to reduce congestion, improve air quality, and increase the quality of life for the people in those areas.

What if, contrary to a century of advertising, freedom is not to be found in owning a car, but in NOT owning a car? 

That is what we want to find out. And if we avoid spewing tons of CO2 into the atmosphere while we're at it, so much the better.

As of now, we are a carless household, and we are excited to see what happens. 

Can we survive without a car? Will we come crawling back to the car industry, begging for our mobility back?

Or will we find liberation, and never return?

November 24, 2019

Awakening To Better Things

In the year 1200, Zen Master Dogen spoke about what he termed the Eight Awakenings. What he had to say is still relevant 800 years later.

The Eight Awakenings 

1. Have few desires.

2. Know when enough is enough.

3. Enjoy serenity and solitude.

4. Give diligent effort.

5. Uphold mindfulness.

6. Practice meditation.

7. Cultivate wisdom.

8. Steer clear of hollow discussions. 

I am imagining, and working diligently toward, a global awakening. It starts with personal awakening, which is somehow more difficult. First change yourself, then change the world.

Perhaps it will begin when we practice awakening number 8 at Thanksgiving supper.

Imagine an awakened mind. Imagine an awakened world.

What we think about the most is what we become.

I'm thinking about being better. Doing better. Creating better.

My affirmation today is:

Humanity is awakening to better things.

November 19, 2019

Extreme Gardening

Have you ever planted garlic late? Really late? What happened?

I went to the garden with a shovel yesterday morning, hoping to dig some carrots and potatoes. I also wanted to see what our late-planted garlic was doing.

Once at the garden I raised my shovel to take my first dig. Expecting a solid "chunk" sound, I instead heard a resounding "ting". 

The ground was frozen.

While I have chopped carrots out of frozen ground in the past (they were perfectly fine), it is not an activity I cherish. I stood down, and went back inside.

This year our garden got off to a slow start. We weren't even sure if we would plant a garden, thinking that we might move to our own place before harvest. With our house hunt progressing slowly, we decided to do a quick plant late June.

Anticipating a possible move, we did not plant garlic last fall. So we engaged in an experiment to see what would happen if we planted a very late crop. We hoped for a warm fall to extend the growing season.

While it has been generally warmish so far, we have had nights of frost and below freezing temperatures, interspersed by days of rain. Our kale, and the garlic, responded to cold by wilting, but both toughed it out and bounced right back as it warmed up.

The garlic is still small, and it never did put up scapes, an indication of the time to harvest the bulbs. We remain hopeful.

I pulled one a week ago to see what was going on underground. The bottom looked more like a leek than a garlic bulb. I plunked it back in the ground.

This week looks like it will be warm, so we will leave the garlic to mature some more. It could continue to be warm through December, if we are lucky.

Regardless, I have read that garlic is good to use at almost any stage of growth. 

I just have to make sure that when I go to harvest I hear "chunk" instead of "ting, ting, ting".

That's extreme gardening.

November 16, 2019

Boxes Of Shit For Sale

I don't usually do guest posts or re-posts, but in this case I couldn't help myself. The following post, "Avoid The Epidemic", is from Annarky's Blog, which is one of my daily reads. 

This post works on NBA nicely, I think you'll agree, and will make sense for those readers that will celebrate the upcoming season with a focus on love rather than things. 

Avoid The Epidemic

"It's coming down the tracks at full steam ahead, the over-consumption juggernaut. You are facing an epidemic  of over indulgence, you will be infected by the splurge of the hurry-panic virus, spread by advertising agencies attempting to switching your brain to 'Oh Gee, I must get in first before I miss all those wonderful boxes of shit'. 
Retailers will be sitting staring at their accounts, have they cleaned up enough to buy that new luxury yacht? 
Of course you could be rational and say I don't need any more shit, I'll just settle for having a great time with family and friends. 
Yes it is Christmas, they sell it as a time of good will, but they also tell you that you can't have good will without heaping on the debt and rampaging through the various stores grabbing never to be missed crap. Your friends will love you more if you will only spend lots of money on them. 
       Retailers refer to this time of year as the "golden quarter", this when they have to drag you apathetic lethargic shoppers through their doors, get you enthusiastic about shiny things, latest models, coloured boxes, that will bring eternal happiness, for a few moments. You can worry about the debt later on. 
       Let's make this a happy with family and friends Christmas, a shop free Christmas, a debt free Christmas, and have a laugh at the demented millionaire shareholders left with that mountain of shiny boxes of shit, the miles of tinsel, and all those latest models that will declared out of date by June or July. 
It is not too late or too soon to shut your eyes and ears to the advertisers blitz of jazzed up corny adverts. Let them do the spending while we can laugh our way through this good will season.

What a gift it is to wake up to the manipulation (not to mention the desperation) of those that have co-opted for profit, our celebration of nature and good will, while intentionally destroying both. 

Let's laugh, and dream, together.

November 12, 2019

Peace and Serenity

This feels like the right thing. A bike ride to top up our food supplies
 for the coming storm.

“When you do the right thing, you get the feeling of peace and serenity associated with it. Do it again and again.” 

- Roy T. Bennett

Today I rode to the food store for a small order of items. It was a balmy +13 degrees Celsius, but also overcast, moist, and blustery. 

At one point I almost got blown off my bike. Instead of being afraid, or angry, I was exhilarated, challenged.

I returned home feeling victorious. 

This feels like the right thing: A bou-kale of yummy, organic, and
free greens from the garden.

Now, close to midnight, the temperature is falling and the rain has turned to snow. It is so quiet that I am sure I can hear the flakes falling.

Tomorrow will be below freezing all day, and the snow will continue. We will be snug in our nest, with everything we need.

But back to now. What about the kale in the garden? It will freeze. I feel some urgency to go out and save it, although when it warms up, the kale could bounce back yet another time.

I don't want to wait, so open the door and go out into dark whiteness. Or is it white darkness? 

The kale is gathering snow, and the full moon behind the clouds is making everything glow. 

I invite the kale to come in with me. It accepts my offer, and shakes off its white mantle. Together we make bundles of hearty leaves. 

I give a bunch to our neighbours next door, and present a beautiful bou-kale to Linda. She loves it even more than if it was roses.

Finally, doing something else that feels right, I go to bed, satisfied and spent.

For fast acting relief in dark times, do things that feel right. Do them again and again. 

Then step back.

Peace and serenity are sure to follow, just as winter follows fall, and good health follows the eating of things you have grown and gathered yourself.

This is what we will wake up to in the morning.

November 10, 2019

Rural Facial Recognition

"I see you, I recognize you, I remember you. I will tell my community about you. Be kind."

One thing I don't miss about the big city are the cameras pointed everywhere. Add facial recognition software, and we are talking about another level of technological intrusion. 

So much for the right to anonymity. 

Anonymity plays a key role in safeguarding freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of privacy. It is also not conducive to good mental health to feel constantly surveilled by both Big Brother and Big Business.

There are no surveillance cameras out here in rural Nova Scotia. But there is a form of facial recognition going on. I am talking about our neighbourhood crows, and their amazing ability to remember a person's face for life.

Not only can these intelligent birds recognize a face, they can also pass that information on to their whole crow community. 

"Kevin J. McGowan, an ornithologist at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology who has trapped and banded crows in upstate New York for 20 years, said he was regularly followed by birds who have benefited from his handouts of peanuts — and harassed by others he has trapped in the past." -MICHELLE NIJHUIS

For the past few years I have been feeding a local family of crows peanuts, but only during the harshest months of the year. We have developed a routine in which we don't see each other all summer and fall, but as soon as the weather gets cold, they come back. 

They are coming back now, affirming that another cycle around the sun is descending into cold and darkness. I meet it with equal parts of dread and excitement. 

Now that we have had our first snowfall (it's gone already), the crows are doing the slow fly by, looking in our windows. They are looking for me and my bucket of nuts.

I am happy to see them back. The crows and I will ride out the winter together. They will teach me about their "fiery mixture of intelligence, tenacity, and spirit", and me and my face will feed them.

That is the kind of facial recognition I don't mind. 

November 4, 2019

The NBA DIY Weather Centre

Current conditions: moderate southwest wind, no precipitation,
mix of sun and cloud.

Although Bob Dylan reaffirmed that you don't need a weatherman to tell which way the wind is blowing, I am still seduced by high-tech home weather stations.  There are basic models available that I could hook up to my computer. 

But then I would have to buy something. Something that I don't need.

So how to set up the NBA Weather Centre with what I already have on hand?

Well, I already have bean poles, and I found a nice white ribbon in my Resource Drawer Of All Things Potentially Useful One Day (which is like a very small general store or curio warehouse).

Right there I had everything I needed. I tied the ribbon near the top of one of my tallest bean poles. I used two others to brace it against the coming winter storms. 


Here is how it works.

Wind Speed

- when the ribbon hangs straight down, it is calm.

- when the ribbon is moving, it is windy. It points away from the prevailing wind. 

- relative wind speed can be assessed by the angle of the moving ribbon. The closer to horizontal, the faster the wind speed. If the poles blow down, batten the hatches.


- if the ribbon is dry, there has been no recent precipitation

- if the ribbon is wet, it is either currently raining, or has rained in the past 24 hours. 

In addition, real time observations can be made outside (or from our windows) to supplement the data from our not buying anything, low tech meteorological instrument. 

A modification I will make is to add to the pole some gratitude/intention flags made out of scrap material, thus converting the apparatus into the NBA Weather and Gratitude/Intention Centre.

We will be able to assess the weather, spread/attract good vibes, and create an even more sacred space all at the same time.

November 1, 2019

Ho, Ho, Hold On To Your Money This Holiday Season

Marketers unleashing Steroid Santa on already stuffed consumers.

Retailers warn us that although it is only the beginning of November, "the December holiday rush is just around the corner". 

It's even late - one of their surveys showed that "by September around 50% of consumers have already started looking for items on their friends’ and family’s wish lists".

The message is clear, "Hurry up and start buying shit already!!!"

The holiday season is important for merchants, some of which experience 30% of the year's sales during this annual frenzy. Each year they look forward to the start of the spending spree, and each year we oblige, usually by spending more per capita than the year previous. 

Retailers love that. So do banks, credit card companies, and advertising agencies. Especially advertisers, because retailers will spend billions on aggressive holiday arm twisting of consumers.

Here is one view of the feeding frenzy from the feeder's perspective:

"The critical mass experienced in the economy during the holiday season puts a ton of pressure on advertisers. 
As they attempt to reach distracted consumers with what they have to offer, they must complete with the nonstop seduction of storefronts and smartphones and every screen and speaker in-between. 
There’s no question that its a clamorous time of year, and consumers’ reactions run the gamut from eager to engage, to completely over it."

A "ton of pressure on advertisers"! If there is pressure on them, imagine the pressure they put on consumers. That is their job, after all. 

"Buy, buy, buy." Tis the season of over-the-top consumption in order to elevate one's status and appearance of success. Get with the program, folks, or we will cram it down your throats.

Where are you on the "gamut from eager to engage, to completely over it"?

For my family, it will be yet another joyous, restive, peaceful (and inexpensive) #BuyNothingChristmas, because we are so over it. We couldn't be more over it.

This year, like last, we will ho, ho, hold on to our money, and enjoy the season while remaining debt-free.

That is the best gift of all.

May peace be with you as you rise above it all during this potentially clamorous season.