November 29, 2020

The End of Black Friday Madness

2020 will go down as a year which ushered in many changes. One of those will be the end of experiencing Black Friday by being crushed at a building entrance by an excited mob of hyped up consumers in a madness of advertising-fueled desire and longing.

Retailers have been pushing consumers online almost since the internet was born. It is the endgame at the end of a long trend.

For a long time now they have dreamt of a time in the shiny antiseptic future where commerce could be conducted without having to interface with real, messy people.

They don't like you, just your money.

Today the only way a customer can be right is by shopping madly from home. Our digital devices have become portals to infinite shopping.

Everything is conducted in a digital environment controlled by ones, zeros, and algorithms. Meeting in physical space is so yesterday since now they want everyone to stay home, pandemic or not.

It is just less messy that way.

Soon, all the owners will have to see are more dollars in their bank accounts, not our sorry asses tainting their brick and mortar locations with unpredictable and unwanted things like expectations and emotions.

But at least you won't run the risk of ending up at the bottom of a pile of swarming bargin seekers. 

But you could still end up at the bottom of a pile of crushing debt.

The next step is saving money by quitting shopping for needless things altogether.

Like us, they do not support consumerism in any form, whether in person, or online.

We all look forward to the end of the consumer life, because the less you consume, the more you live.

November 26, 2020

The Great Gastsby - The American Nightmare

I have never read The Great American Novel, The Great Gatsby. However, after seeing the 2013 film version, the book has moved up my list.

What I didn't realize, is that the novel is a cautionary tale, not just a celebration of The Jazz Age. 

The author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, had spent time with the wealthy of 1920s New York City. What he witnessed became the basis for his novel, and it is not a glowing endorsement.

Like his first novel, This Side of Paradise, The Great Gatsby was about love and greed, including the love of greed, and someone who was greedy for a love lost.

Both novels made the author one of the great observers of the culture of wealth, extravagance and ambition that was born during the Roaring 20s, the last time income inequality was as great as it would be again 100 years later (humanity = slow learners). 

Rather than celebrate the riches, Fitzgerald warned his readers of the dangers of consumerism and materialism. He saw how The American Dream rapidly morphs into The American Nightmare.

One film critic said of the film version I watched:

"For all the gimmicks, flamboyant celebrations, and intrusive flourishes, it is loud and boisterous, but ultimately empty. 
Gazing at the spectacle, you can't help but think it will eventually all add up to something, but it never does."

That seems accurate for the most part in my experience. However, it describes more than the film. It also describes the world depicted in the film.

The job of desiring more stuff never ends, and is ultimately empty. 

You hope all that stuff will eventually add up to something, but it never does. 

The Great Gatsby highlights how a person can have every material possession, and still be unhappy. 

Ultimately it shows us that time and love are the most precious commodities in this life, and no amount of money will buy either one.

On a separate note, The Great Gatsby will go into the public domain as its copyright ends on January 1, 2021.


November 23, 2020

The Extinction of Experience

Civilization may be old, but the word itself has not gathered as much dust of time.

Adam Ferguson, in his 1767 Essay on the History of Civil Society, is the first to use the English word 'civilization'. 

In his essay he wrote, 

"Not only the individual advances from infancy to adulthood, but the species itself from rudeness to civilization." 

Civilization has been happening, but the rudeness doesn't seem to have diminished. 

One of the rudest things to have happened to what we call civilized peoples is our loss of connection to the natural world.

A lack of connection to Nature is not natural. Break that connection and you break everything.

Civilization, by definition, not only separates us from the natural world, but aims to dominate it, bending it to humanity's will. 

That, along with social stratification, as well as culturally programmed narratives of progress and supremacism, and my favourite, a ruling elite to boss everyone around, is what has made civilization great since it blew into the wilderness in the first Agricultural Revolution.

Since then we have been seeing the extinction of experience, a phrase coined decades ago, to describe our species growing disconnect from its relationship with the natural world. 

“As cities and metastasizing suburbs forsake their natural diversity, and their citizens grow more removed from personal contact with nature, awareness and appreciation retreat. 

This breeds apathy toward environmental concerns and, inevitably, further degradation of the common habitat. 

So it goes, on and on, the extinction of experience sucking the life from the land, the intimacy from our connections. 

People who don’t know don’t care. 

What is the extinction of the condor to a child who has never known a wren?”

- Robert Pyle

This broken trust has had lasting negative effects on both the Earth, and on humanity. If left unchecked, the condition will be fatal for both.

The human family badly needs a new model. It will look a lot like the old model, when humans still lived intimately with Nature in a mutually beneficial relationship. 

The first step is exposing one's self to natural environments as much as possible, whether in the yard, the park, the garden, or the wilderness. 

Photographs, videos, and windows that look out on a natural landscapes, can all help the brain receive many of the benefits of physically being in nature.

We ARE nature and we need to experience it at regular intervals, and redevelop that relationship, if we are to maintain the health of our species.

Otherwise the extinction of experience will be the extinction of our race.

November 19, 2020


I am not a fan of the acronym "KISS", which we all know stands for "Keep It Simple Stupid". 

It is probably because I am as against insults as I am for simplicity. 

But the message is good. 

Life is complicated already, so why make it more complicated than it needs to be? We should always remember to keep things as simple as we can. 

Case in point is my experience with can openers. 

For years we used a Swiss Army knife to open cans. There is no more simple way to open a can that I am aware of, except maybe hitting it with a boulder. But that would be messy.

One day, someone took pity on us, and gifted us a "proper" can opener.

The new can opener was heavy, sturdy, and shiny. It felt good in the hand, and it opened cans in a hurry. It was very convenient. It was "better" in every way.

Until it stopped working.

Not that the can opener was that complicated, but compared to the  can opener attachment of the knife, it was. It had vulnerable moving parts, which meant more to go wrong.

I tried fixing it, but failed. I tried again. And failed again.

I set the opener aside, unsure of what to do with it. Metal recycling? Melt it down and make a hammer, or an anchor? 

Or how about a Dadaist art piece from the kitchen rather than the bathroom? Duchamp would approve.

Now we are back to using the same Swiss Army knife that we opened cans with before Big Can Opener came into our lives. It works just fine, and will continue to do so indefinitely.

The Can Opener Incident was a good reminder to KISS, if I liked to use that acronym. 

Alternatively, I can be reminded to "SSSS", which is not as catchy to say (unless you are a ssssnake), but is just as effective in practice, and without the insultment.

"Simplify, Simplify, Simplify, Simplify."

This is always good advise when it comes to can openers... and everything else.


November 16, 2020

Homegrown Stevia

Stevia is a herb that we grew this year for the first time. Imagine our surprise when we saw it advertised at our local greenhouse last spring. This sugar substitute is native to South America. 

Ours probably would have done better without the drought we had this summer, but we were still able to harvest a good amount of leaves despite it wilting a couple of times.

After harvest we dried the plant in the garage, a couple of weeks was still not enough to dry it for crushing. We do not have a dehydrator, so put it in a low oven for a few brief minutes.

That did the trick. 

I put the crispy leaves into our mortar and crushed them to a fine, green powder, just like the kind we have bought in the past.

There seems to be some question regarding the healthfulness of the highly processed white stevia powder that is more commonly found in stores. 

Many of those also have questionable additives, and the white stevia stuff is very expensive. 

We stopped buying it. 

We like the green kind that is not processed beyond drying and crushing. 100% pure leaf, and still many times sweeter than sugar. 

We have also bought it in the past, but it is still pretty expensive, and we would much rather grow it ourselves if we can.

And we can, as it turns out.

We will start the winter with enough homegrown stevia powder to replace several cups of sugar in things like our chia tea, cornbread, and other baked goods. 

It could also be sprinkled on a bowl of oats. I wonder if we could grow those, too?

Maybe next year's garden, which was formally started when we planted our garlic last weekend.

Oats, or no oats, we will definitely be growing stevia again.

November 13, 2020

World Kindness Day

When we respond to the world with loving kindness it is a radical act, a rebellious choice to be gentle. 

Loving kindness forgives.

Loving kindness apologizes, says, "I was wrong. I'm sorry".

Loving kindness cares for Nature.

Loving kindness is compassionate and cooperative.

Loving kindness promotes peace and healing.

Loving kindness responds to all living beings with warmth, empathy and respect.

Loving kindness is active listening.

Loving kindness is patient, caring, and understanding. 

Loving kindness is open-hearted, non-reactive, and non-judgemental.

Loving kindness is self care.

Loving kindness is a regular schedule of sitting down quietly for a time by yourself.

Loving kindness transforms fear and hopelessness into fearlessness and joy.

Happy World Kindness Day.

"May you be filled with loving kindness.

May you be well.

May you be peaceful and at ease.

May you be happy."

November 9, 2020

We Survived The Storm

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. 
But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. 
That’s what this storm’s all about.” 

Haruki Murakami

We made it. The storm is over, and we survived (or at least, most of us did).

Now, another storm is on the horizon. 

Be assured that when that storm hits, we will not be the same people we were the last time. 

We will be stronger. We will be better prepared. We will know the benefits of working through adversity, and we will know that history is slowly bending in our direction.

When the next storm hits, and it is currently fomenting, frothing, and flying towards us, we will be more loving and cooperative in our efforts to build the better world we all know is possible.

Eventually, we will be the storm that washes away all that ails our planet. 

Like after a fresh, cleansing rain, all will be revitalized.

We survived the storm. 

Now we rest, and prepare for the next entirely predictable conflagration, ready to face its wrath as new and improved agents of change. 


November 6, 2020

Less Shopping, More Navel Gazing

In a consumer world the good stuff is always "out there", always somewhere other than where you are. 

Society focuses more on external things, so it can be difficult to turn your attention to the beauties of a home life, or the benefits of tuning in to your own mind.

Conversely, anything that makes it easier for you to "get out there" is encouraged, regardless of its impact. 

The only thing that matters is that you get out of the house to where all the good stuff is happening, then spend freely once you get there.

Just like the good stuff is always outside of your home, it is also outside of your head. 

Even if we stay home, they pipe in endless entertainments to make sure our minds are preoccupied. 

Being in your head is NOT recommended, and often ridiculed to make sure you don't try it for yourself, regardless of the liberation that is sure to result if you stick with it long enough.

The pressure is to keep us busy buying, while downplaying the beauty and satisfaction of a rich home and inner life not centred around expensive extrinsic rewards.

Intrinsic rewards abound in living a local life of simplicity and quiet contemplation. 

They include:

 experiencing the joy of learning
  •  letting your creativity flow
  •  satisfaction of overcoming challenges
  •  a sense of connection to other people/the world
  •  identifying with a meaningful purpose
  •  increased confidence
With each passing day it becomes more obvious - the world needs way less going out and shopping, and way more staying in and navel gazing.


November 4, 2020

Hysterical Strength, And A Good Scream

Hysterical strength - it's a thing, and we are going to need some moving forward. A good group scream would help, too.

Hysterical strength is the "mom lifts car off baby effect", but it applies to anyone that needs to draw up a moment of serious strength to complete a task. 

Chances are, when calling upon this reservoir of unbounded strength, one would also use a vocalization, a scream, to get the job done. 

Cars are heavy, after all.

Sometimes when I am transferring with Linda I have to muster a brief moment of extraordinary strength to get the job done, even though she is not nearly as heavy as a car.

Every once in a while I scream. Sometimes I scream a swear.

You could call it hysterical, I guess. But I look at the results - so far every transfer we have done together has been successful. 

No one has gotten hurt, and no one has ended up on the floor. Or stuck on the toilet.

Linda asked me about my choice of word that I call on to muster my super powers. It was time to experiment with some new ones.

I tried screaming "love". 

It didn't work. 

I tried "fart", a four letter word closer to the one I usually use. 

It didn't work, either. It has to be the right four letters, because words are magic.

This all made me think about the martial arts scream known as Kiai, or "breath". The short, sharp scream is for "compressing and delivering an instant release of stored energy."

The Kiai is also good to let out your anger, if you have any. A good scream releases negative toxins from your soul, as well as gets work done.

I do not know the results of the US election as I write this, but I don't think it matters much. 

Either way, we are going to have to push our elected governments to listen to the electorate. We will still have to be in the streets, will still have to struggle to create a world that works for everybody everywhere.

This task is huge and ongoing, and we will have to muster up a good dose of hysterical strength to lift the weight of 6000 years of oppression off of us.

It is good to know that when under duress we can tap in to a special strength powered by love and courage, and perform heroic feats.

A good scream can't hurt, either, in order to focus our energy on the goal, and tap into our storehouse of power.