Thursday, June 30, 2011

How I Escaped from the Rat Race - An Introduction

I've alluded to this before, but I haven't talked about it in great depth. My life really doesn't look much like that of the typical American. I don't live anywhere near the proverbial "Rat Race" which most members of our society inhabit. I don't have a job. I haven't had one for 5 years now. I don't use an alarm clock, my time is my own, I refuse to wear uncomfortable clothing or shoes, and I basically have just decided that I am not playing the game.

Every time I allude to my unconventional lifestyle, people want to know how I manage it... how I "escaped". I've been trying to figure out how to write about this topic for some time now.  I didn't inherit a bunch of money or win the lottery, and I don't have anyone who supports me financially (CatMan and I don't actually live together - long story, but we're happy this way.)

The simple answer is that a) I never really got in to the rat race to the degree that most people have, and b) I just did it. But I realize neither of those answers helps much.

So I have started about a dozen posts trying to explain how I got here, and I generally get stuck pretty quickly. The problem is, for me the how of my "escape" is intrinsically connected to the why of it. I can't seem to write about one without bringing up the other, and I firmly believe that both are equally important.

So every time I start to craft a post, I end up trying to write an entire autobiography, which is just WAY more information than can be crammed into a few blog posts, and it's also probably more than most people want or need to know. But after mulling it over for several months now, I realize that what I really keep coming up with is a bunch of little stories, each of which tells some small portion of how and/or why I got to where I am.
My problem is that I keep thinking I need to weave all of the stories together into a coherent tapestry... and I'm just not there at the moment. "Not there" in the sense that the prospect seems a bit daunting, plus it also suggests that I have "made it" to some sort of existential destination, and I really don't view it that way.

SO! I've decided that instead of trying to present some grand unified picture or road map, I'm just gonna tell my stories and let you link them together (or not) in whatever way does or doesn't make sense for you.

I'd love to be able to create some sort of step by step system that others could easily follow, but I think that in truth, everybody needs to find their own path out of the jungle.

So stay tuned! Many a story will be forthcoming in the near future!

For the next post in this series click here.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Environmentalism as Millenarian Movement?

When I was in college, one of my many majors was sociology/anthropology. It didn't last long... actually none of them did, and I ended up being a music major by default. But I digress...

Anyhow, back in my SO-AN days (as the department was called) I spent a semester studying millenarian movements. While many people relate the term millenarianism to the Christian belief in the second coming of Christ (which is technically called Millenialism), there are many examples of millenarian movements in indiginous cultures. They generally happen after one culture has been overtaken by another, and the folks on the losing side are struggling to deal with their situation. Usually they are characterized by a belief that the world has been somehow corrupted and a major societal transformation is on the horizon, which will bring the world into a new state of harmony and purification. Some classic examples are the Cargo Cults of Melanesia and the Native American Ghost Dance Movement.

Other examples include the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Shakers, The Heaven's Gate Cult and the Branch Davidians. My professor held the somewhat controversial belief that the hippie movement of the 1960's was also a millenarian movement. We spent a bunch of time analyzing the Joni Mitchell song "Woodstock" for millenarian traits (it was a fun class.) I always liked the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young version better, but YouTube wouldn't let me embed it for some reason. So here's the original:

So it dawned on me the other day as I was cruising the blogosphere, that the green movement really does have a great deal in common with these other movements. Hmmmmm... I certainly believe that the world has been corrupted, and would like to think that a big change is in the works. Now I've never thought of myself as someone who would get swept up in a crazy cult, but it is an interesting thought...

What do you think?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Irony on the Evening News

I watched the CBS news last night. I have to admit, I don't really consider the network news to be actual journalism, it's more like a glitzy presentation of the headlines from the AP wire. Have you ever noticed that with the exception of a few "human interest" stories, all three networks report the exact same stories? Sometimes it's almost verbatim!

Anyhow, last night there was a very ironic juxtaposition between one of the AP wire stories and a human interest piece that CBS had produced. It was so ironic, in fact that it almost had me yelling at the television set again.

So first up we have an uplifting human interest story about how Dallas/Fort Worth is beating the recession. What's going on, you might ask? Well, it turns out that the headquarters of a large video game company is located there and they can't hire people fast enough. I guess the American economy will be saved by Doom?

Then we cut straight to a piece about the alarming rise in obesity among American children.

And they drew absolutely no connection between the two stories. I couldn't believe it. I mean, I was shouting at the television set... "Hello?!? Does anybody see a connection here?"

It's mind boggling. I don't know how the newscaster could do it with a straight face. Perhaps the main qualification for news anchor these days is the ability to take text from teleprompter to mouth without ever going through the brain?

Anyhow, if you'd like to witness the atrocity for yourself, here'a a video of the newscast. I couldn't find a clip of the stories in question, but they start at about 12 minutes and 25 seconds. Enjoy.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Did Somebody Lose a Cat?

Hello World! I am filled with deep and profound things to say, but I fear I haven't had the energy of late.

Sooooo, for the moment I'll just leave you with this picture. I'm sure that it's been PhotoShopped but isn't it adorable?

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Mythical Land of "Done"

A while back I wrote a post entitled The Art of Doing Less. Some of the comments on that post got me thinking that perhaps I had given it the wrong title, and really it should have been called "The Art of Getting Less Done". This post is the result of all that rattling around in my brain.

There used to be a commercial for some sort of dish washing detergent that went something like this:
As a woman is putting away the last dish, a voice says "You know that feeling when the dishes are finally done..." Then we cut to a dream scene where blissful music is playing and the woman is jumping for joy in a rapturous frenzy exclaiming, "Free! Free! I'm Free!!!!" Just then the music comes to a screeching halt and she is jolted back to reality as a kid hands her another dirty plate. "OK, well.... kinda free." she says with a shrug.

It's sooooo true, isn't it? Sometimes I feel like that commercial is a metaphor for my entire life.

We live in a society that puts an inordinate weight on the idea of "getting things done." We want to be finished, to cross things off of our "to-do" lists, to have a string of accomplishments that we can claim. It's like our value as human beings is measured in achievements achieved, feats finished and deeds done.

But when you really stop and think about it, where is this mythical land of "Done?" I think that on some level we all carry around in our heads some sort of crazy idea that a time will come when we'll be all finished, and then we can spend the rest of our lives sitting around in lavish tubs drinking champagne and eating bon bons.

But the truth is there will always be one more dish to clean, one more meal to cook, one more garden to weed, clothes to mend, furniture to dust, and on and on and on.

So we're caught in a trap. Because at the same time that we're all running hither an yon in a doomed quest for El Dorado, or Excalibur, or Happily Ever After (pick your metaphor) our society teaches us to abhor the actual doing of anything!

I mean, think about it. We're constantly bombarded with messages that say "Buy our product so you can get quickly past the horrible doing of XYZ, and get on to the meaningful part of being done." We don't go to school to engulf ourselves in the experience of learning, we do it to "get a degree." We buy pre-packaged food so we can skip arduous step of cooking. We study "time management" and "productivity" and we all become experts at "multitasking" so we can quick hurry and cross more things off of our lists. We surround ourselves with lawnmowers and weed whackers and automobiles and countless home appliances all in a doomed effort to get us to some destination quicker, easier or somehow better.

But where does it all leave us? In my opinion it leaves us empty. On some level we expect the everything should be accomplished now (or preferably yesterday), so we feel like failures before we even begin. We run ever faster, and it seems like there is just never enough time. But in our frenzy to get everything done, it seems we have forgotten that our life is really comprised of the doing.

The Buddhists have a saying that goes something like this:
Before enlightenment: haul water, chop wood. After enlightenment: haul water, chop wood.
Now I would never hold myself up as a paragon of Buddhist thought or mindful living. God knows I struggle with the hurry monster and the desire to "accomplish". But the more I can slow myself down, the more I really experience my life. And the more I do that, the more joyful I become. Doing the dishes is actually quite enjoyable when you're really experiencing the doing of it rather than standing behind yourself with a whip trying to make yourself do it faster.

You see, our life's work will never be finished until our lives are over. The land of "done" is really the land of "dead". And if your whole life is spent trying to get somewhere, you're missing the boat, because there is nowhere to get... life is about experiencing what you are doing right here, right now, because that's the only thing that is truly real.

I'll be reminding myself of this next time I'm faced with a kitchen overflowing with dirty dishes...

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Revisionist History: The Palin & Simple Truth

Unless you've had your head firmly embedded underneath a rather thick and insulating cabbage leaf, you've no doubt heard Sarah Palin's telling of the story of Paul Revere. Just in case you missed it, here's the video:

OK... to tell the truth, this didn't really surprise me. I actually find this sort of ignorance of actual facts to be quite typical of people who wrap themselves in the flag and preach "more patriotic than thou".

But wait... it gets weirder. Not content to admit that she's a total Phuck Up who couldn't pass a third grade history exam, she goes on to defend her comments, asserting that her version of events is what really happened:

OK... still not terribly surprised. I believe that woman is genetically incapable of admitting wrong so really, this was to be expected.

But it started to get stranger from there. Shortly after this all broke, Palin's supporters started editing the Wikipedia page on Paul Revere to reflect Palin's bastardization of history. Now, I suppose that in some Stephen Colbert-ish sense this might just be considered a funny prank. The thing is, I don't think those people think it's a prank. I think they actually believe that the history books are all wrong and Palin is right... simply because she says so.

But even crazy Palin supporters trying to re-write history isn't really all that surprising... I mean they are Palin supporters after.

No... the thing about this story that really got to me happened last night. I was watching the NBC Nightly News when this story came up. Here's the thing... the mainstream media is starting to shy away from the obvious headline of "Hey - Sarah Palin's an idiot" and instead we're getting something more like "Gee - people are supporting Palin's version of history, isn't this all so interesting, I guess everything's in the eye of the beholder after all." Here's the clip...

OK... Are you kidding me? No, seriously, are you F-in' kidding me?!?! In what universe does this woman deserve to be taken with any shred of seriousness? What's going on here? Is NBC afraid that they might piss off their corporate overlords by having the audacity to report the actual truth in a straightforward manner? I mean... for Phuck's sake... what we're now reporting on is the "debate" over which version of history is correct.

Debate?!?!?! What Debate?!?! THIS ISN'T A DEBATE!!! These are facts... you know, like reality, truth, things that actually happened.

I'm really starting to feel like we're through the looking glass on this one. It's like everybody seems to feel entitled to their own set of facts these days. Don't like the reality? No problem! Just create your own!

It all reminds me of this 2004 quote from Karl Rove:

We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.
The hubris is just mind boggling. Have we really and truly descended this far?  On some level it's funny, but on another it's just downright horrifying. I mean if people can be convinced that 2 plus 2 equals 5 just because Sarah Palin or Karl Rove says so, what else will they believe?

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Down with Plastic Clam Shells!!!

I just read the most hopeful article in the New York Times. Apparently high oil prices are finally getting product manufacturers to rethink those horrific plastic clam shell packages.

Woo Hoo!!! I have long held out hope that rising oil prices would finally force some changes upon the corporatocracy and it appears that the dollar is mightier than the plastic clam shell after all!

The article says that many of the ubiquitous and environmentally disastrous plastic clam shells are being phased out in favor of cardboard, or paper packaging. Some LED light bulbs are even gonna start coming in cardboard boxes so maybe I'll actually be able to buy one! I've written several somewhat pointed emails to the manufacturers of these bulbs pointing out the contradiction of marketing a product designed to be good for the environment in an over-sized, non-recyclable plastic box.  There was great rejoicing!!

The news isn't all good though. Some manufacturers are replacing them with a product known as Natralock, which is basically a paperboard backing laminated with plastic with a clear plastic blister or bubble where the product itself sits.

The company claims that its product is largely recyclable saying "All you have to do is separate the thermoform blister from the Natralock paperboard and toss the paperboard into your recycling bin." Hmmm... not sure how easy it will be to remove plastic laminate from paperboard, so that's a claim that I'll believe when I see it. But any way you slice it, it's less plastic than the clam shell which is a good thing.

So next time you fill up your tank, swallow hard and then give thanks for the higher prices!