my short essays
sw 1 part 1
It's January 27. I've been busy the last couple of weeks trying to become enlightened before this civilization collapses. I'm not joking. I chose the word apocalypse to title this section because it covers both consciousness-changes and world-changes: my dictionary and my bible both define "apocalypse" as a revelation or vision, and say nothing directly about the end of the world; they're lagging behind the popular definition which seems to be: the sudden end of the world as we know it, or sudden catastrophic and overwhelming changes in the world, typically imagined as somewhat metaphysical, as happening around the year 2000, and as conforming to prophecy, especially the book of Revelations.
I'm getting myself used to the idea that in the next 15 years, before the end of the Mayan calendar on the winter solstice of 2012, a third to nine tenths of the people in the world will die in wars, plagues, famines, and natural disasters, and what we call civilization will mostly fall apart. Excuse me, but I find this idea exciting and liberating. When I empathize with other people, I empathize with their freedom, not with their prosperity or security or living and dying. When people are killed to stop them from being free, that bothers me a lot, but the thought of all my friends and family dying in the pole shift doesn't bother me nearly as much as the thought that the world will keep staying the same for the rest of my life.
But isn't the world changing faster than ever? No! Think of what all the futurists and end-of-the-worldists predicted for 1998 back in 1958 or 1978. Instead we've still got the same damn world, except power is tighter, and we have the internet, which is mostly used as just a safe, shallow substitute for real talking and real sex. I think the world is more cautious, more lifeless, and more controlled than it has ever been. In the old days you could run off and join a traveling show, or the gypsies. Imagine if someone came into your city now, and set up a tent in a park, and put on a play or told fortunes. Someone worried about their property values would call the cops, who would throw all the people in jail and confiscate their stuff.
In most other cultures and places and times, you could wander with few possessions, and strangers would take you in and feed you, or at least give you a few days of work. Some cultures would even respect you. Now nobody will take you in but institutional, profit-driven shelters, or jails.
In ancient Rome, there were groups of "monks," basically people with non-dominant religions or cultures, who would go off in the country and live their own way. Do you know what the Roman Empire, the authoritarian military state that invaded and enslaved Europe and the Mediterranean, did about the "monks"? Nothing. They didn't even have to pay taxes. The USA firebombs their buildings and shoots them as they run out of the flames, as the Philadelphia police did to MOVE and the AFT did to the monks outside Waco.
People who say we're living in a time of unprecedented catastrophes have not even looked at the past. The Black Plague killed a third of Europe; nothing this century has come close. Earthquakes and tsunamis in other centuries have killed hundreds of thousands. I don't know about famines or wars, but I suspect that old ones killed larger proportions of populations than recent ones, if not more people. Even World War II was fifty years ago. Other centuries even had brighter comets than us.
What is unprecedented about our time is the number of people in prison, the gap between rich and poor, and I think, the range and depth of control of the dominant powers.
I'm afraid there's going to be no end of this world. I'm afraid they're going to keep finding ways to keep the life-crushing machine running, and in a few hundred years this world will have no plants, animals, or human spirit left alive, only a few trillion human-shaped drugged zombies, fed by chemicals made with energy from solar panels that cover the earth's surface. I don't call that world a change. I call it this world getting irrevocably stuck where it is.
"People do not go to hell after death. The designers and builders of hell are human beings. The designs and buildings are almost completed. It is becoming difficult to add more hell."
"This is a time of unprecedented growth."
—The President of the yeast cells, about a minute after the bread went into the oven.
"You can't save everyone, so you've got to save yourself."
I like the Tamo-san quote because it's so optimistic. What if people have barely practiced starting to build hell? What if we're only now opening the limitless frontiers of potential hell? What if, two hundred years from now, this world of 1998 seems like a paradise because there are still wild trees and people still routinely go outside and people touch each other with their actual skin and pavements are so primitive that grass still comes up through cracks. People still do exciting dangerous things like drive in those old rumbling metal "cars," and you can still get sick or wounded, and how your kids turn out is a total surprise. There are still old empty houses and secret places and open windows and broken things and different countries and kings and outlaws and tribes of pygmies and wild horses and freight trains and bee stings and thunderstorms and power failures and open fires and dirt roads and isolated beaches where the waves have not been harnessed for energy but crash wastefully on the shore. People still spit and bleed and throw up and have sex and give birth and eat actual plants and animals. You can still get lost in the woods, or caught in the rain, or lose everything.
There's nothing I can imagine worse than utopia. Utopia is Hell. From now on, every time I see a utopian vision, I'm going to imagine it being accidentally demolished by Beavis and Butt-head.
But my mission, every way I look at it, is to break down the insane caution, the lifeless efficiency, the pinpoint perspective, the omnipotent detached control, and the seamless pavement of my own personality. To the extent that all that breaks down in the world, I have to break it down in myself to survive; to the extent that all that remains in the world, I have to break it down in myself to be happy.
So the last few weeks I've been doing all kinds of enlightenment chores: tedious relaxation exercises; putting away my glasses and trying to heal my 20-400 or so vision with the Bates method; two seven-mile round trip walks to my P.O. box, possible only through very difficult focus on my body and breathing; finding and massaging and stretching all the permanently sore spots in my muscles; and relentlessly nagging myself to focus on the boring sense experience of the moment instead of all the fun stuff in my head.
If you're in a wrestling hold—and I feel like I'm in the biggest one ever—a strategy is to go really hard in one direction, and then suddenly really hard in the other direction. So sometimes, as I'm doing now, I'll suspect that anything that seems like unpleasant work must be the wrong path, and I'll rebel against all the good-for-you crap and spend hours in writing or some other fantasy world, and make blueberry muffins three meals in a row, and let my shoulders stay tense if they want to. So what if I spend most of my time playing over stuff in my head that has already happened or will never happen? That's what I like to do, dammit, and I'll ride what I like to do straight into the foam of the coming tsunami and 600 more obsessive, indulgent lives in a lower plane of existence. Can you tell that I was raised Catholic and read a lot of New Age stuff? Anyway, inevitably I squirm back in the other direction, because not only has the way I've been living not got me enlightened, it hasn't got me any sex or money.
I'm deeply suspicious of the popular concept of "enlightenment"—and also "wisdom." You act sort of tired, and you feel no strong emotions, and you don't offend anybody, and you just go along with whatever happens. That sounds like the ideal behavior of a zombie slave worker. I just read a thing on brainwashing techniques and I'm wondering if I should do any more fasting or breathing exercises. I'm wondering if the whole New Age "higher" consciousness, that the human race has an amazing Buy Now opportunity to pass into, is just a mass brainwashing trap of metaphysical intelligences with selfish motives.
In the book Mass Dreams of the Future, a new age guy hypnotizes people and they see the post-apocalypse population settling into three groups: people in outer space, who are often murdered in political conflicts, new age people in boring techno-communes where they don't even eat real food, and people living in caves. I'll take the caves, where I'll try to keep the other cave people from becoming the cattle of the "higher" people, the way we're the cattle of the survivors from the last civilization.
I accept that "Atlantis" corresponds to a real pre-ancient civilization that was at least as advanced as this one, but in different technologies, and that the global flood myth corresponds to a real global flood that destroyed that civilization. I also think they were just as advanced as us in evil. I think the surviving Atlantean Elders, or whoever, who built the pyramids and jump-started our own little cycle of civilization, are not benevolent teachers guiding us barbarians back to utopia; I think it was like the end of Dr. Strangelove, where the people who don't get bombed back to the stone age are the insane soulless idiots that you find at the top of every power structure. I think these pre-ancient war-room power geeks took their surviving technology and used it to set themselves up as sky-father "gods"—Ra and Jehovah and Zeus—over growing populations of oblivious primitives. What would you do if you found a tribe that had never seen our technology, and you could put a TV set among them, and sit up in the hills with a transmitter? Tell them to bring you gold and virgins?
Maybe at first. But then you would have to give your tribe bits of technology, to keep them from being enslaved by the neighboring tribe that's controlled by someone else with a transmitter. And you both know that if you tell your tribes too much, they'll figure out your scam and you'll be nothing. Maybe you'll make alliances with other controllers and standardize to one god. Or maybe you'll side with the people, and give them knowledge to get them free of the gods, and the gods will have their people violently suppress outbreaks of this knowledge.
So I think that the whole history of this civilization has been directed by occult powers, but I don't think these powers are omnipotent, or that everything that happens is something they planned. People who think that are still worshipping them. I think the controlling powers are weak and insulated, hyper-rational and spiritless, desperately improvising clumsy responses to the inspired, unpredictable moves of mere human beings. People like Tesla and Wilhelm Reich spring up out of nowhere and come this close to toppling the whole pyramid.
In Isaac Asimov's classic Foundation trilogy, the bean-counting dystopian heroes calculate that the galaxy is about to fall into a "dark age"—that is, an age when, in the absence of controlling powers, people can live the way they want and everything's more fun and interesting. So the heroes set up a secret foundation to more quickly steer the galaxy back into the stifling grasp of the pale, calculator-punching hands of their technocrat ilk. But then history deviates from their computer model—there's an anomaly, an exceptional person they call the Mule, who threatens to ruin their plans. So they go find him and kill him.
I fantasize about starting a reverse foundation, to preserve chaos through the coming sterile "golden age," and shorten the time before the next "dark age" when we can live our own happy lives in straw huts instead of being slaves in the building of stone monuments for the ages. But then I figure, I don't have to: the whole wide Universe is that foundation, a bottomless ocean of "chaos"—that is, complexity—eternally, patiently, wearing and cracking the stone blacks that enclose every smaller world.
Cooking. Back at the beginning I mentioned sourdough starter as an ingredient, but I didn't say how to make it. You mix flour and water into a thick goop in a big jar, set it open on a shelf, and living yeast will fall into it out of the air and multiply, and it will get bubbly and sour. That's it! Maintaining and using sourdough is harder. Think of a little yeast civilization, eating the bountiful sugars in the flour and expanding—but then it exhausts all its resources, and there's a giant yeast famine. Six billion yeast cells are reduced to a few million, barely living off the last traces of food. At this moment the sourdough is not useful to us Watchers, and if we let it go untended a little longer, other animals will take it over and we'll have to throw it out.
When I'm using sourdough every day—taking sourdough out and putting flour and water in—I can just keep it on a shelf and there's always a thriving, bubble-forming yeast empire ready to go into the next meal. When I'm using it less often I put it in the refrigerator, where change is very slow, like in ancient China, and I have to plan using it, and take some out and feed it flour and water and put it somewhere warm. This is called making a "sponge."
I use whole wheat pastry flour, also called whole "white wheat" flour, because it's best for soda-leavened foods like pancakes and muffins. Except, because of the yeast bubbles, you need a lot less soda. For waffles, you can actually just pour a good sponge straight on to the waffle iron, with no other ingredients. Remember that stirring hurts the bubbles.
For bread, I mix a little starter—in any condition—with water and higher-gluten whole wheat bread flour (whole "red wheat" flour) to make a sponge. Then I knead in white flour, raise it once, and bake it. Of course, there are limitless refinements and complications. I'm sure that the master bread makers know how to manipulate the yeast civilization (They call it a "culture"—same thing, really.) so that it swings into each new stage of its development at the moment of its greatest momentum, until it meets its apocalyptic destiny in the over, never having guessed that it's just being formed for its waste products.
Language. Words I used to get confused with each other when I was a kid:
* Anonymous / Unanimous
* Haiti / Hades
* Typhoon / Tycoon
* (hurricane) Agnes / (Spiro) Agnew (This was on the East Coast in the early 70s)
* Cassock/Cossack/Hassock/Hossack (One is a Russian horseman, one is a footrest, one is a long cloak, and one is not actually a word.) *and...
Armageddon, technically, is a particular end-of-the-world battle, probably best matching the battle a few years from now when the Arab countries use the next generation of weapons to try again to destroy Israel. Popularly, of course, it means the end of the world in general. And Agamemnon was a Trojan War guy, and a famous Greek play. If I remember right, the play is about people waiting years for Agamemnon to come, and whether they think he's coming or not coming, and what these beliefs make them do.
I suspect that the "end of the world" is going to be about the same thing. Some people, expecting nothing, are going to keep building their houses on sandy cliffs, and buying stock, and eating animals fed with the flesh of their own species. And some people, expecting everything, are going to go live off the land in Canada, and build underground shelters, and store up food. And whatever really happens is going to make at least one group, and maybe both, look like idiots.
It is now March 4, 1998. I just haven't felt like writing in here. My writing work has all been on a giant comment letter to the USDA about how, specifically, the proposed national organic standards are a weapon designed by industrial agribusiness to destroy organic farming. This is just one little battle in what I see as the Apocalypse: the war for the Earth between, on one side, mechanistic, objective, control-from-above thinking and its human slaves, and on the other side, all the life in the Universe. Of course, on the scale of the Universe, the Universe can't lose. But maybe, on the scale of the Earth, I will go to prison for growing illegal vegetables after Monsanto gets the World Trade Organization to ban all plant life except the genetically-engineered plants on which it holds patents, all unpatented plants being declared noxious weeds that threaten the technological micromanagement of the Earth's surface, without which the human population of eleven trillion people would collapse. Of course, ten trillion of us are in prison, doing whatever work cannot yet be done by machines, or drugged into oblivion, our organs awaiting transplanting into the ruling originals from whom we were cloned.
Anyway, things are happening. I hope the Universe is not cruelly teasing me again, but after thirty years of examining, tinkering with, and occasionally pounding on my life, it seems to be finally starting to come loose! For one thing, after a couple years of paying attention to my body, I'm starting to get a pleasant physical feeling around my heart. I suspect it's just what a healthy organism feels in its whole body all the time, but industrialized humans are so unhealthy that we only get it in our sex organs when we're sexually excited.
Also, I'm starting to have dreams that predict trivial things that happen in the next day or two. Once in college I dreamed of a weird tiny dog and then saw a weird tiny dog, and I got all wide-eyed and hyped up the way beginners do about "psychic" stuff. Now I probably wouldn't even count something that vague. Now "does this stuff work?" is beneath my notice. I stopped using Tarot cards precisely because I understood that they were working, and they were not a game anymore but a crutch, or a source of coercion.
Think hard! If Tarot cards truly predict, and truly coerce, then you are the one with the magic powers. For years I've heard "You create your own reality," or "Careful what you wish for because you might get it." But I wasn't careful because I never got anything I wished for. Now I'm getting careful. There are layers and layers of wishing, and I'm starting to be conscious of more powerful layers. Or, I'm finding hidden wishes that contradict the surface wishes, and I'm turning one to serve the other. I'm only starting to do this, and it's terrifying! A Philip K. Dick character philosophizes that you don't get what you most want, but you also don't get what you most fear. Obviously, they're two sides of the same coin, and your other option is to get both. You get the coin not by pulling on the head side, but by ceasing to push away the tail side. Then you don't have to pull.
But the wishes and fears that shape reality are buried in the same dirt as the artifacts of shame that I've been hiding for my whole life. I've been digging for almost three years and I still keep finding bigger ones. Want to see some? I didn't think so. Instead:
I Come Out
* No, I'm not gay, but my sexuality is not simple. My eyes enjoy male beauty and sometimes there's some affection. My whole life there have been guys, in real life or on the screen, who I just felt good being around or looking at. When I was a kid I was into Dick Van Dyke, and around the time of Point Break I had to go see every Keanu Reeves movie. I'm not sure whether even to count it as sexuality. But I don't remember any natural sexual attraction to the bodies of men or women. I remember, around age 13, training my sex drive to like the female body. Before then, what my sex drive liked—though I never fully faced it because sex is shameful—was a quality of female emotion, or the whole emotional area around lust, selfishness, desperation, humiliation and intense aliveness.
* I've done a few really bad things in my life. At a party in high school, when the lights went out, I touched a girl twice when I knew she didn't want me to, because at that time I thought of other people purely as objects. Once in the Idaho wilderness I balanced a bunch of rocks on a railroad track, avoiding full consciousness that it could seriously damage or even derail the next train. In grade school I identified a kid with even lower social status than me, and spent a couple months getting my friends to hate him and being mean to him. In sixth grade there was a kid I didn't like, and once when he was running full speed down the hall, I tripped him. I was visiting some cousins, and we all went to a creek with bb guns, and we shot a frog about fifty times. I felt terrible, but I didn't have the courage to stop them, and I thought by shooting it I could kill it faster and end its suffering. When I crashed my car, the other driver did run a stop sign right in front of me, but I was also speeding, and I didn't tell anyone. In fact, that was the one time in my life when I drove for fun at what seemed a dangerous speed... I can't think of anything else specific. I suspect I'm relatively innocent. But on the whole, I don't care very much about other people, and I have trouble thinking of ten of them whose deaths would bother me. With a few exceptions (honesty, freedom, willful cruelty) I have no feeling for right and wrong, and I obey social and moral rules out of habit, or intellect, or fear of punishment. It feels OK to me when people rob banks or kill bad people for money.
* I am totally excited by the thought of the fall of industrial civilization. OK—when I think about it for more than ten seconds, I don't like the starvation and murder that would follow a hard fall. But, say, a stock market crash would be wonderful, even though it would wipe out my potential inheritance, and not really touch the super-rich. What I really want is for people to gently stop blowing their breath into the big systems, which will then settle to the ground, until even the people who think they're the leaders give up, and the first become last. I want to see faces of people at the very moment when they understand that the money and status systems in which they've invested their lives are all an empty scam, or a funny joke on them. And they laugh and start over.
* There's some stuff I like about Hitler. Hold on! Obviously, he was an evil dictator who knowingly made commands that directly caused the deaths of tens of millions of people. Also, he was an exceptionally unpleasant person, a bullying idiotic know-it-all with no sense of humor. But here's what I would like about an imaginary person who didn't do all that but was otherwise the same: He was enormously, um, successful, without ever having a real job or working hard. All he did was play. As dictator, he spent most of his time giving pompous rants to his sycophantic cronies hours into the night, or riding around the countryside, or sitting on the floor of his office drawing fantastically monolithic architectural diagrams, or rereading the disturbingly cruel teenage-level adventure books of Karl May, or watching films he had made of tortures in the camps. Also, he personally designed the Nazi flag, which, if it did not represent a genocidal, war-making police state—admit it—would look really cool. Also, I like to think that everything that happens is somehow good from a wider perspective. Holocaust means "holy fire" and I like the story that Hitler's murders were like a controlled burn in a forest to stop a much bigger fire. Controlled? Yes! From Dunkirk, where he let the British army get away, to his declaration of war on the USA, Hitler made decisions explainable only by the idea that he half-consciously wanted Germany to be destroyed. I imagine an alternate history, where the enormous stored-up destructive energy that Hitler released would be released more rationally by a different genocidal police state, which would conquer Europe and the Mediterranean, make peace with the USSR and the USA, and still be there today, quietly killing a million or two a year in the camps. In the 30s the USA was already mostly controlled by Nazi-sympathizing industrial leaders who would have loved to make peace with Hitler if he would have let them. Also, before Hitler, eugenics, the idea that the elite should control human breeding, was very popular among the elite. But by taking genetically-based control from above straight to its logical conclusion, Hitler made it unfashionable for the next fifty years. Now, of course, with genetic engineering, it's fashionable again. But maybe it's too late.
* I unequivocally take the side of nature against "human" management of nature for "human" good. I put human in quotes because really we're part of nature, and those who side with the management have misplaced their humanity. My instincts on this issue are strong and sure and hard to capture in rational terms. If an organism escapes "human" control—even if it's a non-native species destroying an ecosystem, even if it was genetically engineered—and it spreads chaos, I am ecstatic. If someone puts down a path to keep people off the grass, and people go off the path and kill grass, I love it. I also love it if grass cracks the path, or cracks anything. Pigeons and squirrels live in the walls of my house, and I am on their side. Feral cats are heroic. I am excited that bacteria are getting resistance to antibiotics. Scientists are breeding and engineering immunity to herbicides into crop plants, so industrial farms can spray whole fields with poison and kill (initially) only the weeds. But weeds are picking up this immunity, and potentially spawning new races of weeds, called "Superweeds," that cannot be killed by industrial chemicals. This is the most wonderful thing I have ever heard.
It's March 17. Since the last entry, I fasted 5 days on nothing but raw, fresh organic juices and water. I was aiming for 7 days, but in ever fasting story I ever heard, the person got an amazing euphoric energy on the fourth or fifth day, and I just felt as sick, hungry, empty, and weak as ever, so I broke it. Now I'm eating a mostly raw, mostly soaked/sprouted, all plant diet, but I still don't have much appetite, and I'm 20 pounds underweight. I have no sympathy for fat people trying to lose weight. All you have to do is stop eating concentrated sweeteners and processed fats. I understand addiction and the challenge of discipline—I'm addicted to running words through my head. A hundred times a day I catch myself with my muscles tensed up, my breath held, and my head wandering in words. Try stopping words from appearing in your head and you'll understand why I think it's absurd that people can't stop themselves from getting in their cars, driving to a supermarket or restaurant, cruising for ten minutes for a close parking space to avoid walking, picking out food full of fat and sugar, paying for it, reaching their hands out, putting it in their mouths, and swallowing it.
Why did I fast if I'm underweight? Because since digestion problems forced me to give up giant meals and cheese 3 years ago, I've been losing weight, losing energy, and cooking and eating harder and harder, pushing food against the ever-tightening walls of my digestion. Don't tell me it's "only" psychological, because I know what you don't: that all "physical" crises, and I mean all, even broken legs, have an emotional basis or an emotional deeper meaning, and the ones that are more purely emotional, or harder to grasp or explain with mechanistic objective thinking, are the ones that are most important, interesting, and difficult. Heart attacks and viruses are the kindergarten of disease; it's the people with chronic fatigue syndrome and multiple chemical sensitivity who are heroically pioneering the health of the future.
How to Save the World
Dominant books about population and ecology are totally missing the point. The other day I saw one—recent and highly praised—that still said you can help by turning lights off in your house. No. Turning lights off hurts the world. Your electricity comes from burning fuels, or damming rivers, or splitting atoms. Using any of this electricity ruins the Earth. Using less of it only enables a greater number of people to live more in darkness while the world is ruined the same amount. At best, personal conservation only contributes to making a tool in political arguments: If everyone used half as many resources, the resource industries would just double the prices, keep "developing" nature at the same pace, and find ways to waste the surplus; but then at least we could say, look, you're wasting, or look, consumption is down, and maybe these arguments would help us overcome the politicians and scientists and bureaucrats paid from the profits of the resource industries, and get the machine slowed down.
I might start calling liberals "we-shoulds," because that's what I hear them say, as predictable as the call of a bullfrog: we should, we should, we should—or worse, "we have to." By "we," of course, they mean "you first." Maybe all political cultures have these people. But if you follow the shoulds of the ecology liberals, they turn out not even to be liberals, but perfect conservatives: By "save the world," they mean preserve this world, pretty much the way it is now, for all time.
They want to stop new technologies, but keep the ones they have. They want to stop cutting down forests, but they don't want to let any farmland go back to forest. They want to keep hospitals and schools and transportation and manufacturing and business and government as we know them in the industrialized world, build the same systems in the rest of the world, and polish away all the rough edges and differences until you can tell one part of the world from another only by the decorative lifeless trappings of the different dead cultures that industrial society exterminated. And they want to make it all possible, and sustainable, through numb efficiency and puritanical self-sacrifice and the perfect control of an educated elite. I've made it sound bad, but they're already making it sound good: solar-powered computer-steered cars that never crash, and voluntary conservation of resources, and decisions made by ecologists for the good of all; every person in the world has health care and education and comfort and security, and all the traditional cultures are preserved.
Isn't that what I want? No! I want creation and destruction and chaos and danger and surprise and loss and suffering and mystery and violence and dirt and magic. And so do you. Think of the books or movies or stories you have loved the most. I'm thinking especially of what you loved as a kid or teenager, what, looking back on it, makes your heart leap. What kinds of worlds were those? Comfortable utopias? Or gritty, extravagant fantasy worlds? And if that's what you love in fiction, what's stopping you from creating it in your real life, except some stuffy voice telling you it's impossible or unrealistic? There is nothing in all creation less real than that voice.
"We can't go back to some earlier age." "Those people's actual daily lives were terrible." These arguments do not apply. I want to go forward to a world made of all the best parts of history, memory, and imagination. Excuse me, but I'm aiming for a world very much like The Lord of the Rings.
Can I do that? Oh, I'm doing it already, by turning down that bank job, by selling most of my things, by taking apart my dependence on technology, by learning gardening and cooking and wild food identification, by broadly studying esoteric knowledge, by developing intuition and other extra-rational skills, and by writing to seduce others to join me. I make mistakes and wander in dead ends, but I persist; and I intend, in this lifetime, to live in the country or the wilderness, to cross a continent on foot, and to do things with my mind and body that 20th century science does not even want to hear about.
What do you want to do? As Roald Dahl has Willy Wonka say, "We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of the dreams." Do you want a world like Star Trek? We can work it out so we both get what we want. We can even give the eco-industrial utopians an island somewhere, were they don't have to look at us. Actually, I think we already did, and I'm marooned here, trying to get back home.
* The End of Nature. I just skimmed this in a bookstore. It's written in the dominant style of this time for "quality" general-interest non-fiction, where the author pretends to be a disinterested observer very slow to understand and accept new ideas. But I love the book's idea, and I copied it straight into here: There are two views of nature. The evil view sees it as a lifeless machine to be manipulated—ominpotently micromanaged if possible—for the benefit of the culture that holds this view. The good view sees it as supremely valuable on its own terms, independent of its value to some vain little civilization.
* The Psychopathic God, by Robert G.L. Waite. A brilliant, fascinating psychological biography of Adolf Hitler. See also Alice Miller's For Your Own Good, and if you can find it, I'm sure Psychohistory founder Lloyd deMause has written some great stuff on this angle.
* The Millennium Book of Prophecy, by John Hogue. A dense, bottomless, physically beautiful book covering a mind-blowing universe of potential apocalypses, including (it says) 777 quotations from about a hundred mystical and prophetic sources.
* Far Out Adventures, a giant book of the first nine issues of World Explorer magazine. W.E. explores a world where dinosaurs and crypto-hominids survive, and grow more common as you go back in history, and where people and civilizations have been routinely traveling and trading all over the world for thousands of years. I love the idea that we live in an already old world full of the buried artifacts of human and unknown people: Egyptian coins in Australia, Phoenician mooring stones on the great lakes, Roman swords in Arizona, races of giants, buried in full armor, and more, without limit, waiting to be found.
Changing My Life
I've been having dreams about adventure through headlong action, and opportunities lost in endless delay by choosing to turn around and go back for something. So I'm settling everything that might tempt me to go back. I've written three full-length screenplays; the second one was 90 pages and took hundreds of hours of work; the other day I discovered that it sucked, that I could write a new one from nothing more easily and pleasantly than I could fix it. So I deleted it. It's gone. Yesterday (3-31) I got the first screenplay, which I love, into acceptable shape. I'm trying to live as if every time I leave the house I might never come back.
My dreams, omens, and intuitions—and fantasies—are sending obvious messages, but that doesn't mean the messages are honest or helpful. Maybe they're just echoing an unhealthy part of my consciousness. I wonder if "aliens" and angels and demons and ascended masters and psychedelic drug entities, and dreams and occult readings and prophecies, are just intrusions into this world from simpler, more symbolic worlds, trying to influence this more important, more complex world the same way lobbyists and activists from simple interests and ideologies try to influence the political system. So I won't see a pole shift or a genetically-engineered plague or famine or a war of secret Tesla weapons topple industrial society and bring on a low-tech dark/golden age any more than I'll see some tiny political group gain sudden total control of the government. Even in the Russian revolution, where a tiny political group did gain sudden control, the daily lives of the people droned on with hardly a change except more of them were violently killed. The "fall" of Rome was so slow that you wouldn't notice a difference in one human lifetime unless you were looking closely.
Change in my life has been like the hour hand of a small clock: I can see that it has moved, but I can never see it moving; or it's been like the tide coming in: a wave comes up higher than any previous wave, but the next 20 waves are smaller, and they all slip back into the ocean—then another high wave, and it slips back.
Things fall into place, and out, and in. Just since I mentioned Lord of the Rings in here, two unrelated people have used Tolkien references to describe the elaborate straw and wood houses being built up near Bellingham by a guy named Sun Ray and his friends. I know two people in that movement who told me I can visit. I'm not stupid. I'm going this month. It's April 1st. I found out all at once today that the guy I'm subletting for is coming back in June, and I can stay free at my sister's house all summer while she's in Europe. In the fall, if I'm still in Seattle, I can probably get on as a live-in nanny with friends whose whole big yard is an organic garden. Since I mentioned walking across a continent, I met people who are bicycling to D.C. in May for the organic standards issue. I've been invited to visit a friend in an anarchist collective in Oakland. A few times I fantasized that Zachary Lyons of Boycott Quarterly would quit and I could take over—now he's quitting and open to someone else taking over. I'm passing that up. I've been exploring the local political activism scene and it feels narrow-focused and meaningless. The waves of the rising tide say "out of the city, out of the city." And they say "more primitive" and they come faster. In '91 I traveled the country driving my own car. In '94 and '95, carless, I caught rides with friends. In '97 I hitchhiked and rode buses.
I recognize that I'm really lucky. Probably even my health problems and absurdly unlikely romantic failures will turn out to be part of my good luck. Maybe it's self-made: I've been investing for years in the openness of my options and now I'm wallowing in opportunity. I could probably go live up in Rivendell or down in Anarchopolis is I wanted to, or if they're not right, I can stay in Seattle as long as I want, rent-free, possession-free, coiled to spring out at any moment.
My defining limit is Zeno's bank account: the lower it gets, the slower I spend it; but as these options close, I open others: I will no longer pay real rent, but I'm opening myself to living in a friend's garage, or in a commune with punks or hippies, or on the beach in Hawaii; I won't buy real transportation, but I've cultivated ride board luck, and practiced hitchhiking and bike repair; just from passion for simplicity and independence, I've learned to work with raw foods, and bathe with a washcloth and any running water.
Your body and hair do not need soap. Everyone knows shampooing your pet every day will ruin its skin and hair. Are we animals, or robots? Even your hands do not need soap, unless they've been in high-technologically-refined mineral or vegetable oil, or animal fat. Even olives are inedible without medium-tech processing.
What about germs? Soap doesn't kill germs—it only cuts grease. And only a physically degraded society worries about germs. They're just other kinds of life, filling the life-vacuums we make in our bodies. If you're healthy and filled with life, microorganisms don't bother you.
There are two kinds of medicine. The ancient Greeks had two worlds for them which I don't care to memorize. I'm sure that in every culture, as it tipped into the abyss we're now all in, both kinds of medicine existed. One kind keeps us healthy by feeding and sustaining the life energy that we're all made of. But as social forms evolved that were not compatible with free and vigorous human life, so medicine evolved from feeding life into dealing death: using poisons and violence to kill the extra-human life that tries to go in where our own human life has been killed. The symbol of the new Greek death medicine was a poisonous animal coiled around a violent weapon, a symbol still used today by a medicine that has evolved far beyond simple poisons to complex and expensive poisons that make their makers and dealers that much richer and more powerful. It's a good thing for them, because doctors can't go on strike—they used to, until people started noticing that the death rates always went down.
Does anyone else think it's bizarre that people enduring medical treatment are said to have "courage"? People with the same conditions who do not go through the medical system are not said to have courage, are they? This is because medical subjects, like soldiers, are participants in the enduring ancient ritual of human sacrifice. They've even brought back the part where the high priest rips out the victim's still-living organs to be given to the elite.
I have some sympathy with the anti-abortion people. A "partial birth abortion" is where a typically high-caste woman lets the medical system use tricky technology to turn her fetus around and pull out the body but not the head—so the legal system doesn't call it human—and kill it; this woman is heaped with loving concern by the liberal establishment. "Infanticide" is where a typically lower-caste woman, all on her own and without technology, just gives birth and kills it; this woman is vilified and jailed. I don't think there's any difference to the fetus/baby, and to me the only difference is that the infanticide woman shows more strength, courage, and independence.
I don't think abortion or even infanticide is the same as murder. I think there's an undifferentiated spectrum all the way from the intention to have a child through conception, fetal development, birth, and the potential development of the baby into a creature that can think for itself and live its own life. Actually, I reject the whole concept of "murder" as distinct from non-murder killing, and human as distinct from non-human. Drawing that line is just like drawing a line between white enough and not white enough to join a country club.
Even if first trimester abortion is no worse than killing a wart with salicylic acid, it's still killing. It's still death medicine. So what's my answer? Make abortion illegal? Of course not! Making something "illegal," and using police and prisons to violently enforce that law, is death politics. I don't want even chemotherapy to be illegal. I want people to just choose not to use it, and choose to live so there is never a reason to use it. I want a steady transition away from killing and toward life-building, and part of that transition is the transition away from hating, and toward understanding, the people in situations that lead them to still choose killing. I don't need you to make that transition; I need to.
I Love Industrial Society
This document's attack on every kind of "progress" is just a fun simplification to balance all the dominant arguments in favor of such progress. An honest examination of recorded history and dug up prehistory reveals a complexity of goods and evils, crossed by a complexity of cultures, that no human mind can grasp, but from which any scribe can pick out the language for any simple argument.
My arguments are probably grounded in my childhood: hanging out all day with my mom, who gave me plenty of freedom and support, feeling vaguely frightened of my dad, who mostly lived in some outside world and argued with my mom when he was home, and then, suddenly, being forced out into that world myself, to be controlled, threatened, abused and ignored, again and again, day after day, for years and years, all in a context of centralization and uniformity and increasing intellectual sophistication and emotional repression justified by "nice"-ness.
I expect that my opponents, who describe brutal tribes civilized by enlightened rational thinkers, grew up in such hellish homes that they found the educational system to be a haven of freedom and love. When they answer my primitive fantasies with "We can't go back to that," they mean "I won't go back to my terrible family," and when I condemn their sterile utopias, I mean "I won't go to school anymore."
Maybe my association doesn't hold up. I actually like the physical ornaments of industrial society, the giant buildings and jet planes and freeways and flashing colored lights. Maybe we can still have all that while leaving our vigorous, playful children free to become vigorous, playful adults, instead of turning them all into fear-addled zombies.
I love technology if it's redefined as a new wild tentacle of Life. My leftist friends will be aghast to learn that I think genetic experimentation is really cool. I just oppose genetic engineering as far as it's part of a plan to replace complex bottom-up nature with simple top-down control. I pray it runs amok. I would love nothing more than to see the day when winged, tool-making rats swoop down to carry off my photosynthetic-furred, egg-laying rabbits to the stone city of the dark elves to trade for the crystals that charge the water that feeds the phosphorescent mycelia that light their city of earthen tunnels, above which the same mycelia fruit mushrooms in the spring, which the rats trade to the goat people in their mountain castles, who use them to dream to the blue world of the number people and get instruction on the organic supercomputer they're building in the core of the mountain that...
What am I doing writing this damned pinhead philosophical tract for a hundred people when I could write fiction in genres read by tens of millions?
Bottom line: All the hell of the last few thousand (or more) years is like in a fairy tale, where you open a forbidden door or box, and it leads to all kinds of interesting sufferings and challenges, but if you don't open it there's no story, and in the end it always takes you somewhere better.
The Organic War
I've spent 50 or 100 hours on the "organic" standards issue, and it's brought me that much closer to burning out my addiction to politics. The money concentration interests have bought the government fair and square, and my energy is best put elsewhere.
Specifically, they have written a proposed national rule that permits genetic engineering, irradiation, and sludge fertilization as distractions or bargaining chips, so they can take them out of the final rule, sneak them in later, and meanwhile tell the big media, which they have also bought, to declare victory for organic activists. But the final rule will let giant irresponsible businesses get away with almost anything under the USDA Organic label, and price smaller responsible farms out of the supermarkets, if those farms can even afford certification under the fee structure. Also the labeling rules will try to prohibit any declaration of a product's ecological advantages other than the USDA label.
It doesn't matter. The people who know will keep growing and buying according to their own high standards, and talking about it, if possible within the system (for example with an alternate label), and if necessary outside the system, or outside the law. In the worst reasonable future, we'll just have to grow our own food or know and trust the people who do, which is better anyway. Even in a worse unreasonable future, we can grow secret vegetable gardens the way people now grow hemp. It will never be as bad as Rome under Constantine, where people caught not eating meat had molten lead poured down their throats.
All Politics Is Fascism and All Government Is Anarchy
By "anarchy" I mean there's no law and anyone can do anything they choose. And we can. I can use violence and threats to persuade some people to obey me, and then we can threaten still more people to obey us, and so on, until we have a giant structure of fear-based obedience called a "society" or a "government" or a "country." But underneath it all it's still anarchy. A "law" is just a firmly-stuck social habit such that, if you make certain choices, people will try to attack or imprison or kill you. But you're still free to make those choices.
By "politics" I mean trying to wield government, to get a hand on the Big Stick and use laws—that is, police and prison guards—to...
Why am I being so negative? Can't social systems be built out of cooperation and empathy and passion? They can, and they are. If you look long enough at any structure of life, you'll find links of love and links of fear. I focus on the fear because I've lived my life in fear.
Thought Is the Residue of Emotion
I've never done anything in the school of job universes except out of fear of the consequences of not doing it. Sometimes I mix some love in with the fear, but the nail that sticks up gets hammered down: by switching my major in college from lifeless computer engineering to somewhat interesting english lit and philosophy, I switched my job future from computer millionaire to office boy; three times I became passionate about a project and let go a little, and Steve Taubenek gave me a 4.0, but an unnamed famous author and a no-name history TA gave me my lowest grades in college; even in my zine writing, the very bits that come out of my deepest passions are uncannily nailed by negative reviews.
I'm not complaining—I'm bragging about what I've made it through, and mapping the foundation of my ideology that traces the architecture of this world down columns of fear.
Just since I mentioned Lloyd de Mause, I've been reading his History of Childhood, and another layer of scales have fallen off my eyes—a few thousand more and maybe I'll stop stumbling around this dark place. What we see as the most psychotic attitudes about children and the most horrific abuses were, in the past, the accepted attitudes and practices through which all normal children were raised. And the farther back you look, the worse it gets.
It's 10 April 98. I'm up at the Sun Ray School near Sedro-Wooley. I was saying that emotional structure from our earliest years shape history, intellectual ideology, and my life. I'll get nowhere arguing evidence or even philosophy of the "paranormal" against people who felt bored or abused by magic, and excited or freed by mechanistic science, when I felt the other way around. Even knowing the channels I'm in, it's hard to climb out. My program is: find out the letter of the law, hatefully obey it, never pretend to believe in it, get out from under it, and knock it down. That's what I learned in school. I used it to try to meet women, be healthy, be happy, everything. People told me to relax and have fun and all I knew how to do was turn relaxation and fun into rules that I was supposed to follow. Multiplying my suffering, other people's ideas of fun were different from mine—I've endured hundreds of hours at annoying, tedious parties and shows turning their fun into my chore. Gradually I learned to stand up for myself: I'd rather stay home and that's OK! Once after days of badgering myself to relax, I had a revelation and said "I don't fucking have to relax!"
So is the rule "It doesn't matter what you do, as long as you do what you feel like?" No! I don't have to do what I feel like. I don't have to do what makes me happy. Is the rule "no rules"? No! I can make rules if I want to.
I was just climbing down a ladder after putting straw on a roof, and I thought, there is a perspective from which all this enlightenment crap of this age is no more serious than climbing down a ladder. All the gurus and masters and "teachers" are giving explicit instructions about which hand moves with which foot, and keep your arm tense here, and relax your calf muscle here—but all that's just for personalities that want to be explicitly instructed. We're all going down the damn ladder. If you do it with Reiki and Dynamic Meditation it's just because you like Reiki and Dynamic Meditation, or else you're making a mistake. You can make a mistake if you want to!
If I see another Chakra diagram I'm going to throw up. I abused myself with food puritanism for most of March, because I wanted to, and now I want to stuff myself with waffles with canned peaches and french toast with molasses all day. Yeah! The meditation geeks say you must meditate with no expectations, but why else would you do their awful little exercises except because you want something back? What they really mean is, do the thing that you will do without expectations, and hey, that's meditation! I can't wait to get back home and do my second batch of waffles at midnight meditation.
The John Hogue book I cited tells the story of a rat in a cage, with two levers, one that gives it sexual pleasure, and one that gives it food. The spiritually undisciplined rat chooses sexual pleasure again and again until it starves and dies. Shame! We noble human luminous beings must be more evolved than the lowly rat, and forsake baser pleasures for our higher needs. Control your breathing, you loser! I say, look at the wider picture, you new ager. The rat has been put in a cage by cruel scientists. Hitting the food lever would only encourage their evil experiment. But the rat knows what most humans do not know, and could learn from it: how to be itself. Empathic scientists will adjust the rat's world to fit its honest ratness and make it happy. If they're not empathic, it's better to dive headlong out of that cage to the next world than stick around to contribute its discipline to the development of bigger patterns of cruelty.
The Universe contains cruelty. Are we rats in a super-cage? Are our Higher Powers flawed super-scientists, and our Higher Laws—physics, karma—the mechanisms of their twisted experiments? I'm sure that the whole wide Universe is "good"—that is, Consciousness works itself out to maximize good feelings. So what's "evil"? Are we in a bad-feeling backwater of a good-feeling river? Swim a little more, and you'll get out of it and be happy forever. Madness! What if it's just like this all the way into infinity? This is it. Happiness is living in it. The most tortured rat can find happiness, right there, but toward the inside. Evil is whatever you make yourself unhappy by not accepting.
I practice multiple and more frequent mini-revolutions of happiness, where I just choose to see everything as another angle of Consciousness having fun. I mean everything. Toxic waste and Stalin and AIDS. What are you afraid of? I'm afraid that by accepting and loving corporate-industrial culture, I'll discover that I've wasted my life resisting it, that I really want a high-status job and a luxury car and to be like everyone else. So what if I do? Fun beats everything. Even my "wasted" time and my shame are parts of my fun.
At different times in my life I've loved almost everything: cars and construction work and TV and big business and mean people and expensive clothing and junk food, weeds and killing weeds, spending and hoarding, building and knocking down. Now I'm bringing these loves out of storage to furnish my consciousness.
This Sun Ray place gives my utopian visions a healthy kick in the ass. You can just have everything, and use everything. They bring mountain stream water through high-tech plastic pipes to ordinary hot water heaters and sinks. They have computers, telephones, electricity, gas cooking stoves, iron wood-burning heating ovens, fireplaces, propane, and fully equipped kitchens and bathrooms. They have straw-roofed buildings full of industrial tools. They build houses out of straw bales, mud, clay, rocks, bricks, logs from the woods, commercial timber, fiberglass, plastic domes, stained glass, whatever they want. Ray's about to get hundreds of empty cardboard apple boxes to stack like bricks and cover with clay for walls. The rest of the natural building movement is going small and modest, or geometrical and uniform; Ray's going grandiose and chaotic and magnificent. He wants to build a seven story pagoda. Even the small buildings are works of art that you can live inside.
I just almost moved out here—I could learn house building and walk in the woods and flourish on good physical work and living air and water. But it would cost me almost $2000 extra, just for five months, when I can live almost free in Seattle and still visit here a lot. Or...
One of the guys here is with a group that's buying land right now in northeast Washington.
Now it's Easter Sunday. I'm back in Seattle. I want to buy that land. I can get an acre for $1800 now, or for $4500 over time. My style is to pay less and pay sooner, and take the risk that the group will make all its payments to the seller (bank) and not forfeit the whole land. Does anyone manage money like I do? I walk around with $50 cash, spending only a few dollars a day on the most economical groceries; I have thousands in savings but I'll hitchhike before I'll pay $70 for a bus ticket; but I'll risk have my fortune on people and projects that I believe in, or that excite me.
I'm relieved I didn't move up there—the physical dimension is wide and beautiful, but the social dimension is as narrow as any group house in the city, except without the city. Obviously, living on my acre in nowhere would be even narrower. Or would it?
The trained mind thinks of primitive living as a more "pure"/"simple"/narrow competitor to technological living, that you have to shrink down into, or go back to. The creative mind can think of it as another dimension, or opportunity. I'm only now thinking creatively: With that land, I can go make more garden that I could ever cultivate; I can go build, well, anything that I can build; I'll have a place that I can go at any moment, for any length of time, free; and I can also live in Seattle, or in some urban or rural collective, or travel.
"What about food and water?" "Won't your money run out?" "Hey, you don't even have a car!" I'm seeing one more angle of the power of Love: By working from it, by doing what I love, those objections, instead of discouraging obstacles, are adventurous challenges that only make the whole vision more exciting.
It's April 19. I just spent two days up on the land. I was so ready to buy, and so in love with the vision of picking my own piece of land and digging and building, that it took me a day to accept the observation that every detail was wrong: The land is too high, it's mostly north slopes, there's no drinkable water on it, and given all that, it's really expensive; building laws, though weakly enforced, do not permit natural houses or composting toilets; no one has even checked zoning laws, or done a title search, or tested for radon or other poisons; the buyers didn't really choose this land because it felt right, or because of easy financing—they think they did, but really they chose it because it's next to their friends' land; the people are overenthusiastic and unfocused, they're already arguing, and they're not going to stay together for the 10 or 15 years it would take to pay for this land.
Most important, they're just not people I would choose as my friends outside this context. If they were, I might join them, because they're not really making a mistake, but going on a beautiful suicide mission, riding blindfolded passion off the edge of the world. But I took that trip already, when I owned a coffee shop in '95.
I decided to hold my itch, and scratch it on my land with my people. It's April 20, and already, in the last paragraph, I got a call from a friend who heard I'm looking for land and might join me.
Like most people, I've spent most of my life trying to be what I'm not: a thought solider defending dominant knowledge against expansion, an engineer, an obedient student, a literary author, a caricature holy man, an arational wild spirit, a raw food vegan, a postapocalyptic adventurer, a traveler, a technology-hating hermit, a lefty activist, a partier, a hippie, a new ager. I'm not "a" or "an" anything. All of these, even the worst, are boxes that I can take stuff out of without moving into, and without trying to seal off my Big Boxes: abstract rational thought, imagination, strategy, the English language, the accumulation and distribution of knowledge and skills, and the cooking and eating of loads of grains, fruits, and nuts. And long unstructured time, and sleep, and people I really like, and dangerous new stuff.
I may discover otherwise, but I think I can use country living to build myself more total box space, and I'm going to keep trying. I may discover that I want to live this whole life in Seattle, a ten minute walk from food stores and bookstores and libraries and streets full of people I've never seen.
I'm always inventing little exercises and mind tricks to try to figure out how to live my life. Every time, I think I have The Answer, but like doses of a drug, each answer lasts a shorter time before I have to think of the next one. I just came up with the most disturbing one ever: a full life review, driven by breathing, with one breath for each year. I found out that the hell of junior high school was the peak of my life, that ever since ninth grade, I've been getting steadily more pinched and empty and fearful and isolated. I don't know how to stop. Oh sure—let go, open up, love other people. But I'm still seeing those as strategies or rules in the Live A Good Life board game, in the box of which I am trapped. I don't know how to get out.
Or maybe, seeing the box is being out.
It's May 8, morning. Sleepless, I took a long walk as the sky got light. Every time I emerge into any world, "real" or not, that's alive and complex and different enough, I look back and the world I describe in this magazine has become a thinly entertaining diversion. So I'm going to close with this quote from a Leonard Cohen song, even though (or because) I've seen that the world is not a classroom that teaches us lessons, or a science lab that learns from us, or even a playground. It's this.
Oh teachers, are my lessons done?
I cannot do another one.
They laughed and laughed and said, well child,
Are your lessons done?