Information + Technology

Information

I just came back from a Vipassana meditation retreat. After unplugging completely from every element of my normal life for ten days, I’m staying at a quiet house in the outskirts of Boston allowing myself to selectively reintegrate into the flow of modern life. 

At the retreat we had no access to our devices, no entertainment, and nearly zero interpersonal interaction. We spent the entire day either eating, meditating, or walking circles around the small wooded path behind the center. 

Having that separation from all of the stimulation we normally encounter made it easier to meditate. Now coming back to the world of conversations, screens, and notifications, I find that as I sit down and try to clear my mind for meditation, there’s much more stuff bouncing around in my head. This mental clutter is easier to notice when you try to meditate but it’s bothersome at all times in less obvious ways.

At the root of the problem is the unconscious reactive nature of the human mind. Below the surface of our conscious thought processes we have endless “background processes” running which take whatever input we are experiencing and transform it into some new thought, impulse or action. In Vipassana meditation we use a technique of self observation to start de-programming these reactive mental patterns. We reflect on how by allowing our reactions to run away the natural result is that we experience strong feelings of attachment and aversion that reinforce these unconscious processes. 

After several days of doing this practice one does indeed begin to have a much stronger sense of mental clarity. Focus is achieved more easily during meditation and a deeper understanding of one’s patterns starts to naturally arise. Unresolved emotional memories from the past surface. In part this comes from the cultivation of a less reactive, more observant mind, but there is also another extremely important factor: the absence of any new information during the retreat.

Even the most reactive mind will become more still if the system of reactions and thoughts is not given any new input to feed off of. When I got back to the world outside of the meditation center it immediately became clear to me that we live in a world saturated with information and technology that makes it easier than ever to access it. This information provides the fuel that kick starts the old engine of unconscious mental processes. 

All of this is to say that when we learn something, watch something, have a conversation, read a piece of news, or even walk down a busy street, we are consuming information, and this information comes at a cost. Whatever content we take in will be bouncing around in the mind for hours or even days to come until we start consuming more to take its place. 

What becomes clear when meditating is that absolutely anything can become fuel for the thought engines of the mind to start running amok. While news, conversations, and media are obvious examples of information, food that we take into our body or even a single inhalation can grease the gears of the mental locomotive. The more emotional weight a piece of information carries, the more potential it has to echo in the mind. 

Seeing this clearly after being in retreat has made me want to change the way that I consume information to be more intentional. While there are many channels that information can come through - I focused on one, and below is an explanation of how I want to try to use technology different to keep myself further from the Internet’s information blast radius.


Technology

Technology is a vehicle for information addiction. This excessive exposure to new information ensures that more and more thoughts will be echoing around in the mind, triggering unconscious emotional complexes and preventing mental clarity.

At the same time, we want to use technology as a tool to help us achieve our goals, and in some cases we may want entertainment. To clean up our interaction with our devices it’s helpful to distinguish our intentions of use from the moment we turn on a device as belonging to one of these three categories:

(1) Create something, send something, write something, etc. (i.e. using technology to create an output)
(2) Retrieve information which is relevant and necessary to a current situation. (e.g. checking the address of an event you are going to, googling for instructions on how to complete a task, reading a text from a friend who is on the way)
(3) Discover information for entertainment or general learning (e.g. scrolling Facebook news feed, reading the New York Times, clicking through Wikipedia)

As you have probably experienced, a major issue with our technology interaction is that the three above purposes are often distractingly intermingled. We start off with an intention to do (1), then perhaps need to do (2) in order to complete it, and then suddenly we realize that we’ve been doing (3) for the past 10 minutes. Of course this is by design - the creators of our technology have a vested interest in pushing us down the funnel towards (3) where we are exposed and receptive to advertising.

So to begin with it is helpful to eliminate every vector for the introduction of (3) when you are trying to do (1) and (2). For me this meant disabling “news” from my phone’s home screen, turning off notifications for a large number of apps, and only having relevant windows / tabs open at a particular time to whatever my current task is. In addition special care should be taken when venturing into high risk zones like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Sometimes you need to visit these territories for (1) and (2), and you can use it as an opportunity to practice determination in sticking to your planned use.

Another risky moment occurs whenever we are using technology to accomplish (1) or (2) and then we either complete the task or become fatigued and need to take a break. In these moments the lull makes it incredibly tempting to switch over to (3).

For pauses that result from the completion of one task, a good to-do list practice will close the gap where temptation to switch to (3) would creep in. Having completed one task, you go to the to-do list to mark it as “done” at which point you also see your other tasks and have an opportunity to start a new one if you aren’t too tired.

On the other hand for a pause that comes from fatigue for example if you are writing a long essay (1) and just can’t think of the next sentence, one must recognize that the source of exhaustion is as much in the sustained use of the device as it is the work itself. While doing (3) might seem tempting as a way to take a break, it won’t be nearly as restorative as simply taking a couple minutes to discontinue your use of the device completely and look around, stretch, etc.

Of course there may come a time when we do just want to be entertained, to discover, or to learn. That is ok. We can do (3) sometimes. It will still introduce information which can echo in our minds and cause distraction, but when we do (3) intentionally and equanimously, it is far less dangerous. 

Indomitable Spirit

Since I started doing Taekwondo as a kid, I’ve had to memorize and repeat five terms that are considered the principles of the martial art. These five tenets are courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, and indomitable spirit. My mom used to always laugh when she would quiz me on these before my belt tests as a child, particularly the arcane sounding “Indomitable Spirit”.

Now I’m 30 years old and have returned to Taekwondo for the second time in my life after a long hiatus. I stopped for four years during high school to do team sports and again for six years after college when I was building my start-up. I am testing for my next belt and was asked to write an essay describing what "Indomitable Spirit" means to me.

The typical definition for "Indomitable Spirit" is that when things are challenging, you keep going. In that way this tenet is not much different from “Perseverance”. But I like to think that in the past 20 or so years of my life since I’ve had this oddly worded principle bouncing around my head, I’ve come to a more nuanced understanding of what it means to me.

My personal definition for "Indomitable Spirit" really is about spirit. In the stack of things that make up a human: a body, mind, heart, and spirit, the spirit is the deepest, and the one element of our self which is truly indomitable.

No matter what we do, our body will always be vulnerable to physical pain. The body can get sick, exhausted, or be confined against our will. We can’t guarantee that the body won’t be “dominated”. The mind is also vulnerable to doubt, stress, or compulsive thinking that can be beyond our control. And emotions can be overwhelming regardless of, or even because of, our attempts to control them.

The solution to the vulnerability of the body, mind, and heart is not to ignore physical and emotional pain. It is in fact to accept this discomfort fully knowing that deep within, it can’t overwhelm or dominate the deepest part of us - the spirit.

When we view the spirit as a sanctuary, it allows us to shift our attitudes towards the external causes of suffering. While one who allows their self to become identified with the pain they are going through might consider the suffering worthless torture, a practitioner of “Indomitable Spirit” sees these struggles as an opportunity to strengthen and refine the inner sanctuary of the spirit. 

For me this practice has grown hand in hand with my study of Taekwondo. In the course of training I’ve faced physical pain and exhaustion. When I’m able to separate myself from that pain, to know that while it impacts my body and mind, it can’t dominate my spirit, then I’m able to suffer much less even while pushing harder.

This practice starts simply with a belief, if we are willing to accept it, that our spirit, the innermost part of our self, is indomitable. 


filler words

Pantsy oodle mop trinket cloud hop
sky lime cherry hound pin prick
igloo slider ham salary 
court drizzle ankh
torte palace slash 
bananaza
several 
gyrate 
wand
arch.
Immunity Oscar. Gangrene Emmy
Witchita Slim and the bad Oyster
loop mound hip swamp watch
old drug wagon, pad whit
if unf ond orp elemus wh
inf unf orf elemusf
nf orf elemsfw
fnorelemsf
orlmsf
mfs
put him on drug watch
cannabis calculation
gram ounce master
him on drug watch
ink quill inmate
verse shank
sharpened
tooth ink
drug wh
drg wa
grawt
wat
tw
pwut im own drug wetch
knabbiss claculation
grum inch muster
own is drug wrch
krwill mate
shnack
tooth
ink
nk
o
o
o
Looking up from the clipboard, tethered ball point firmly gripped in his right hand, the psychiatrist met the warden’s gaze dead on. Without a twinge of emotion, he gave his recommendation, “Put him on drug watch,” He said. “And keep him away from the others for now.”

Turning back as he left the room, “I’ll be here again in two weeks time,” and he shut the door. 

climate thoughts

the UN summit happen
people care about climate
amazon rainforest burns
backyard oak tree dies
Thunberg stirs feelings
people care about climate
peel the tinfoil off the
Chobani
rinse
“this goes in recycling”
wildfire season starts
a dog poop on the street
October second: ninety and muggy
October third: fifty and rainy
winter’s first chill
drizzle big apple
some im🍑ment
rosy cheek spank
香港 protests violently
us winners
won the hackathon
Thunberg is silent
clouds rumble 
in the distance
winter coming
people care about climate
you care about climate
I care
about frogs
trees
the experts disagree:
action?
inaction?
maybe pump
the coldness
of outer space
down clouds
and ozone
onto sweaty metropolitan
subway platform
jam pack
people care about climate
but disagree on how to care
how much, how often,
what’s possible and what’s
“just not gonna happen”
or is it
all brains churning
to solve climate
warming the world
like an overheating MacBook Pro
burning the leggings clad thighs
of some fit millennial
i’d probably
take too glances at
Waverly
on W 4th st.

walking in central park

Nadie me dijo
el dolor ascerbico del presente,
y cuando lo descubrí,
fue en un sueño
entre los dedos de mis pies,
bailando algo loco,
gritando su tristez
en disfraz de "un dia normal.”

I couldn't explain this in English
as I wrote the poem on my phone,
in stride, 
dodging tourists in Central Park,
not on mushrooms.

It was a little simile,
a beautiful stranger who
passes on the street:
you have to 
look back.

“I’ll take care of you,” the trees told me.
There were still horses then,
children
and yellow leaves.

“These are last fall’s leaves.” she said
And she said many other things as well.

When I started this poem I asked
"What would J.W. read?"
What wouldn't J.W. read?
J.W. is a halibut.
She is Billy Jean and
also she is not my lover.

Wandering poets,
brains all molten
at the pit of the wishing well.
Dip a bucket in me.
Dip a bucket:
my water 
is brine.

My water is brine because I held my tears
and her hand
all night
all those nights.
It took a
downwind whiff
of a 
more than two
port-o-potty row
to shake those finger tips loose.

There is fruit in my bag.
I just arrived at the reservoir
with its weird skyline.

I remember some questionable snot nosed kiss happened here.
He was too old.
She was too sick.

Are we trees or are we leaves?
We are leaves.
We are sweet skinned old bikini women,
shoulder straps down,
shiny and hot.

If there's anything other than drinking a bit
and walking the length of the park
poetry phone in hand,
tell me it!

There's fruit and a bottle of champagne in my backpack and no
I'm not making sangria.

Get your 2k a day from
someone else's sugar water.
This is purely recreational.

No I am not one of those
buff work out guys
running shirtless and lubed
around the Onassis.

But I am a poet with
two beers and a bottle in my pack
three peaches and a couple manzanas.
Everything is coming up
apples
this tarot reading.

If a dollar did not destroy us,
who are we?
I could retire to a bungalow
with a record player in West Berkeley,
could tear my clothes off
and somersault up
Central Park West.
But today: not.

Today I use the feet:
one then the other
and the thumbs:
tip-tap tip-tap.
My feet make the trudge sound.
Thumbs are making letters.
These letters
which by the way You
are writing
by reading them
and I am reading by
writing them,
and now You
can choose to stop.

Burning Man, Climate Change and Priceless Economics

(0) Preamble

I didn’t go to Burning Man this year. One reason is that I’m in the East Coast, feeling concerned about the health of our planet. I also wanted to use this week to write; to finish this piece just it in time for those coming back from the playa* to read as they dust off their existences and open up the screens of the default world*. This article is my way of participating in Burning Man 2019. 

The point of this piece is to explain why your burn matters in terms of the global climate situation. No, I’m not here to make you feel guilty for having one of the best weeks of your life. I’m here to discuss why it matters that you went, why it matters that you loved it, and to invite you on an intellectual journey to understand how your experience can contribute to the healing of Earth. 

Throughout this journey, I’ll appeal to your felt senses by depicting scenes and moments you may relate to, to show how Burning Man is not only a social experiment, but a portal into a future way of being. I’ll venture to explain why life according to the Ten Principles* can feel fuller than life in the default world, and how this is relevant to the Climate Crisis.

If you’ve never been to Burning Man or something like it, I’ll do my best to show you what these spacetimes feel like. I’m adding footnotes to any terminology that’s Burner-specific* with the goal that even my grandfather, when he reads this (which I know he will, thanks Granddaddy!) will understand the piece. Storytelling sections will be in italics, so if you are only interested in the philosophical meat you can skip them. 

Ultimately I want to highlight the unique gift you have been given in attending the Burn: the delicious felt experience of existing in an alternative society built on priceless economics. I do this to challenge each of us to imagine how we can start to bring that futuristic way of being into the present; to leverage this felt-sense in navigating towards a more sustainable future.


(1) In the Deepest Darkness, the Brightest Light

In the dead of the Nevada night, a truck rumbled down a small dirt road. It’s lonely headlamps illuminated the occasional shrub. Finally the truck rolled past the last little patch of grass, and the road began to flatten into a cracked powdery surface devoid of all life. 

Turning a corner, seemingly out of nowhere, thousands of red lights appeared in the distance. These were countless vehicles, lined up as far as the eye could see in the absolute middle of nowhere, hemmed in on every side by swirling dusty darkness.

The two young men in the truck waited eagerly for about eight hours as the line of vehicles crawled forward before arriving at a massive gate. A woman in a cowboy hat told them to get out and roll around on the chalky ground. “You’re not virgins anymore,” she said, hammering a large gong. They both looked as if they had jumped in a bag of flour. 

The truck rumbled on past the gate until a new light emerged — the entire horizon, glittering, flashing and sparkling in every imaginable neon color. The next moment they were within the city. Giant glowing insects rolled up along side the truck and revelers twisted flaming hula hoops as work crews hammered away, building art pieces that stretched towards the milky moon. It was a new world for the two young men — an entirely new flavor of experience. 

Over the next week they worked, built, played, danced, shared, cooked, and thrived, falling deeply in love with the priceless spacetime of the playa. 


(2) What We Feel is What We Know

Burning Man uses a set of rules called the Ten Principles. By collectively agreeing to live according to these principles for one week, participants create a spacetime in which priceless economics replace the money based socio-economic system of our default world. If you’ve fallen in love with Burning Man, not for its grand hedonic spectacles but simply for soul-filling sensation of working, playing, and surviving according to the Ten Principles, then you have understood the beauty of priceless economics. 

Many people will point out that the priceless environment on the playa is a fantasy. That is true in the sense that the material goods which make survival there possible are imported from the consumerist default world beyond the trash fence*. And yes, going to Burning Man does entail a hefty carbon cost, from the countless last minute Amazon Prime orders to the millions of mile-gallons it takes to shlep a city to the middle of a remote desert. While these activities are unsustainable and planet-warming, viewing the Burn as a sunk cost is defeatist and unhelpful. Rather we must view the expenditures as opening a portal into the future that we can learn from. 

Our current model of industrial capitalism is unsustainable, so it by definition cannot be the future. The future must feel different, it will be composed of a different flavor of spacetime. If we let it, the Burning Man experience can give us a taste of existing within a possible futuristic spacetime governed by priceless economics. 

To understand priceless economics, it’s helpful to examine the effects our existing model of currency based economics has on our way of life. While we feel the inefficiencies of the currency economy every day, we have become so used to these pains as to become numb. It is only when this oppressive paradigm dissolves in a spacetime like Burning Man that we have a point of reference with which to contrast our currency-based existence. 

While the economics that prevail within Burning Man are indeed a type of fantasy, our use of currency in the default world enables a fantasy that is harder to recognize and therefore far more dangerous. This is the illusion is that we are paying the full price for the goods we purchase. In fact, the price we pay only covers the capital costs of a good. It ignores the time/effort (human cost) and global temperature impact (ecosystemic cost) that went into producing the good. 

A currency that ignores the human costs of a good is structurally guaranteed to degrade humanity and create inequality. A currency that ignores the ecosystemic costs of a good is structurally guaranteed to degrade the Earth and increase the global temperature. 

Today’s global economic system accepts these compromises so that we might pay a “cheaper” price for goods, adding fluidity to commerce while unwittingly opting us into social and ecological debt with every purchase we make. 


(3) Immediacy of Work

It’s not just goods that are devalued by our use of money in capitalist economics, but also our work. We are not the beneficiaries of our work. We work for someone else, for something else, and this work is only “for us” in the sense that we are given some money in exchange for doing it. Furthermore, our work generally is not seen and valued directly by those in our community.

In this way, money contributes to a story of separation, facilitating detachment between workers, their community, and the products of their labor. The consumer of the work is also not as able to appreciate the labor because the money price they paid for it acts as a buffer to appreciation of the human effort that went into the work. The result of this inefficiency is that many in our society become depressed and feel unseen, in part because their money-based work is isolating and unappreciated. 

Money also facilitates the ability of external interests to become involved in and profit from local financial transactions through lending, investment, and trading. At every step of the economic system where currency is involved, the end result is that value is hijacked from the local level by large corporations and the global financial system, leaving less of the value of goods and labor within the dense local networks where they were created. 

Of course working for money has downsides, but what is the viable alternative? It seems like a paradox that to work without being paid could be more rewarding, but those who experience priceless labor immediately recognize it as so. In a context like Burning Man we feel magnetically drawn towards work. The fundamental human need to be helpful and appreciated are the only motivation we need to roll up our sleeves. While Burning Man nearly guarantees we’ll have this felt revelation, a trip to the playa is by no means necessary to experience the feeling of priceless work. Other examples can be seen in the operation of certain temples, organ exchange networks, Vipassana retreats, platforms (ie: Wikipedia), civil movements and volunteer-run organizations. In all of these cases, a set of social agreements in a buffered context create functional local economies.


(4) Just Came for Build

Build week* of 2015 was one long battle against high winds and furious dust storms. Rae came out for that week to help build her camp’s infrastructure. She spent her first two days helping her camp erect a large finicky dome structure. 

On the third day the winds were particularly fierce. She describes a moment when the entire structure began to bow under immense pressure. It was on the verge of collapse when suddenly a man from a nearby camp appeared through the dust with a knife. He began slashing holes in the canvas walls of the structure, cutting certain lines, allowing the wind to flow through and easing the tension on the structure.

In the end their dome stood, thanks to this random act of engineering by someone none of them knew.

Rae describes these few days as having been her most meaningful Burning Man moments: simply living in the extreme conditions of the playa, building, working, and collaborating. 


(5) Money is Hot

We’ve seen that a priceless system like the one at Burning Man can lead to greater fulfillment through more immediate realization of the value of goods and labor. It’s a beautiful experiment, but why does it matter?

Our global capitalist economic system is destroying the Earth. Take for example, the current situation in the Amazon, where recent forest fires have garnered international attention. From the perspective of the cattle ranchers who are starting these fires, the land is more lucrative when it is not covered in jungle. They can use the cleared land to raise animals and grow crops that will allow them to better provide for their families. Their forest-burning may appear violent, but they are no more responsible than we would be in making the decision to take a job that requires frequent cross-country flights. The rancher’s participation in a globalized system in which holding currency is the only means of security, stability, and utility all but guarantees that sooner or later, they will make the decision to turn forestlands into farmlands, to degrade native ecosystems and replace them with economically productive agricultural  space.

There might be ways to reconfigure capitalism so that it heats the Earth less: drawing energy from renewable sources or taxing carbon emissions. While these changes are critical, and can slow the process of global warming, they cannot bring us to a place of truly healing the Earth. The incentives of the money system are fundamentally misaligned with that goal. Because of this, if we are serious about course correcting, we must explore entirely different ways of being such as those offered by priceless economics. 

Finally, we might ask, while we can see how the money system is structured to degrade Earth, how can priceless economics perform better? In a priceless system creating and consuming value locally is highly incentivized, requiring less transport costs. Less physical goods are available to consume and more emphasis is placed on self expression and even work itself to generate joy and meaning in life. Because there’s no incentive to overproduce in order to accumulate money, a priceless economy encourages the production of only what is needed.

Ultimately moving to a priceless economy means embracing a simpler way of life, but it does so in a way that can theoretically improve our felt quality of life. It aligns a healing of what is sick in our society with a healing of the Earth we inhabit.

While a better life with less material comforts may seem unthinkable to many, those who have experienced Burning Man or other priceless economic spacetimes know it is possible. That is why we must become leaders in navigating humanity towards sustainability. This is why it matters that you went. This is why it matters that you loved it. 


(6) Bringing the Future Now

I got to Prospect Park in Brooklyn around 6pm on Saturday. Near the entrance I found a group of my friends clustered up having a picnic. As the sun set we were about to head to dinner when someone in our group proposed, “Should we go to the Burn?” Prospect Burn was happening somewhere deeper in the park, timed to coincide with the night of man burn* that was happening thousands of miles away from us in Nevada.

Not exactly sure what to expect, everyone agreed to check out the Burn before dinner. As soon as we agreed to go to the Burn the feeling in our group began to change. We started walking into the woods and darkness enclosed us. We walked down the path shining our cell phone lights and dancing as we bumped music from a portable speaker. After about a mile of dark urban wilderness, we saw a little cluster of lights in the distance. 

The first thing that struck us about Prospect Burn was its tiny size – just a few dozen people clustered around in a park. But there were some large piece of art, and people wearing glowing lights. I immediately felt a sense of having entered a new flavor of spacetime. I was quickly split off from my friends, helping a man named “Party Bear” deconstruct a pop up shade canopy. 

All around us people were practicing decommodification, gifting, immediacy. For many of my picnic friends this was the first time they had experienced any kind of Burn. Wandering around the tiny but secluded area of the park, striking up conversations with strangers and participating in collective art experiences, I forgot for a moment that I was not in Black Rock City. 



Acknowledgements: 

I want to thank Vienna Looi for her enlightened conceptions of priceless economics, which formed the primary inspiration for this piece. I also want to mention that I recently read “Climate: A New Story” by Charles Eisenstein and that book was also relevant to my thinking in creating this. 


Glossary:

The Burn - Another word for Burning Man.

Playa - The playa is the name used to describe the area of Black Rock Desert where Burning Man takes place.

Default World - Burners use the term default world to refer to the regular world outside of Burning Man. 

Burners - Attendees of Burning Man.

Trash Fence - This is a large plastic fence that wraps around the entire Burning Man event for purposes of keeping trash from blowing away into the playa. Everything within the trash fence is Burning Man.

Build Week - The week before Burning Man officially opens its gates to attendees, many Burners are already on the playa helping to build the infrastructure that will make the event possible.

Man Burn - The large event on Saturday night of the Burn in which the eponymous Man is actually burned. 



can we call this a poem?

I can tell you are hurting and I am sorry, I know that this situation is stressful and worrying. I can also see 
how seeing my posts would be 
concerning if it felt to you 
like I was bum rocket ski hi dive financial 
Mercury pluot garment reduction 
elephunk Mesmer hot garbage campaign 
linked fire twat 
was unprotected 
no cleft nudge handiman absolute capital frank cheese emblem 
creative matchstick uncanny looking glass defrillbulator hostel comet 
slinging after "I don't know, I don't know. I don't know, I don't know." 
He got evacuated.
The island went silent.
A woman hung from ropes 
illuminated by the round red 
siren light of a coast guard ship.
Tangible metrics: nobody died,
caught or contracted aid's virus,
lost another chunk of sanity,
fell in love.

that moment when in the middle of writing, drowsiness strikes, the head droops, and the pen keeps moving


What also occurs in this space of moneyless relative scarcity, where basic needs are met, but luxuries are unlikely and can’t be purchased, is that we begin to prance around openly swaggling our poonzi-kooks
nothing more than a bunch of grieving nooziclerks 
or else a grammut of petulant mulberry thivs. 
Twirling our juggy buttumps loose wit old hamsmear kajingus, 
the funk within, without the place was muggy and damp, 
not doing his school work. 
fragments and pieces 
of it here and there. 
grim child clutching the hell and handle out a judas wrench - pencil, 
the perfect maelstrom contengecy 
in my arch and lardint cool respunktive geranium ass worldview, 
dusk in the Dorset highlands,
mammal calamity, 
hung punks heaving into lucky-loo’s, 
devil swiff, devil sniff, 
CHI FAN at the devil’s ZHUOZI, 
comming back to the red penicil, 
he was waiting there, waiting in a window for me, a young son, the protagonist of my film, rocking his torso in half sleep, as though caressed by some underworld god. 

The poem I want to write is bigger than your head: and round. 
Maybe inscribed inner ring of the hula hoop, cylindrical infinity hazard. 
Oops we put the “O” in hoola hoop. 
Oops we activated the ungsteen blooper infinity problem. 
Right now your eyes stay closed, ok, dear finger?  

I had my squirming oily parameters DOS’ed. 
Finger in the Amazon. 
No he wasn’t. 
No he wasn’t the man we who though was he or n’t. 
So yeah. Plam B is food, gone a little “ham ways”. 
Holy cow. 
we ate, 
the holy, holy cow. 
Holy cow, we what meat we ate. 
The Holy Cow. 
Yes We Did. 

So this is my dumn boem, and it isn’t “about anything”
it’s a rumbling rant through the pillin’ hilltops of everglade glen canyon.
Sweet me! 

fun

for the love of:
the good old fun of luck, 
the love of fun, 
the life of fun, 
the good old brand of fun, 
the happy fun, 
the funnest of fun times, 
the fun you want to have, 
or the fun fun fun for everyone that fun never left behind!

On "Climate: A New Story"

In the past few months I have been trying to ask myself, “what truly motivates you?” and “what cause would you be willing to make major sacrifices for?” One compelling answer for me is the beauty of the natural world.

Human activities are overwhelmingly pushing the planet in a direction where that natural beauty is being destroyed. As a human I am participating in that destruction. This does not feel ok to me. I feel motivated to take action that makes me healing force for the natural world. I would be willing to make sacrifices for this. 

But how? In such a large, complicated world, how can one orient themselves and their actions in such a way as to know, as best as possible, that what they are doing does in fact have a positive impact? 

In my quest to answer these questions I picked up the book “Climate: A New Story” by Charles Eisenstein, which was recommended to me by a friend. 

Eisenstein’s book offers, as the title suggests, a “new story” on the situation of ecological destruction and climate change. I found his perspective very motivating, and I’ll spend most of this piece summarizing or reflecting on points he made in the book.

Before I discuss the “new story” however, I’d like to mention the current story from which Eisenstein seeks to draw a contrast. A simplified version is this: Industrial humanity has an addiction to energy. In our quest for energy, we do things (such as burning fossil fuels) that release carbon into the atmosphere. This causes the planet to get hotter, which creates a vicious cycle of increasing heat. At the higher temperatures, forests dry up, sea levels rise, ecosystems fail, and increasingly, survival becomes difficult for humans, too. 

This story reduces the problem of an unhealthy planet into a single number that allows us to feel like we can quantify, offset, and eventually control the quality of the environment. The simplification is useful in that it allows all of us to pull together at a time of extreme urgency around global warming. By some estimates there may be only 2-3 years before an inflection point in warming makes it essentially impossible to come back to today's temperature baseline. 

Indeed, many have signed on to this story and are doing what they can to reduce atmospheric carbon and cool the planet. Yet there are many others for whom this current narrative has yet to convince them to change course. There are many reasons for this. It could be that they feel alienated by the divisive politics that surround climate change, that they are too overwhelmed by the scope of the problem to feel like any one human's actions can have an impact, or simply that they feel it is already too late.

I never want to think of Earth as a lost cause. Even if we do reach a point where cooling to pre-industrial levels is all but impossible, there will always be something that we can do as individuals to improve the quality of the ecosystems that surround us. As such, while our current narrative offers a clear short term directive to address climate, I find myself wondering if there is another approach which could offer a framework for meaningful action in a future where the global temperature situation may feel hopelessly out of control.

To begin with, Eisenstein questions whether the current carbon-centric narrative for climate action has us rowing in the right direction at all. Consider the following thought experiment, in which Eisenstein hopes to show why optimizing for carbon or temperature reduction alone may not be our best foot forward as environmentalists:

Imagine a future in which technology continues to improve, and as it does, we are able to apply a technology solution to every process that is contributing to climate change. We build a spread floating nano-cells that harvest energy while making the atmosphere more reflective, embrace lab grown meats, and create giant filters that suck the carbon out of the atmosphere. As a result, we solve the climate crisis in that Earth’s temperature normalizes and we can go on with business as usual. 

The world I described above could be one in which every single tree has been replaced with a more efficient CO2 to O2 conversion device; where no inch of grassland is left uncovered by solar panels; where the only extant animal species are humans, dogs, and brainless lab-chickens. While these extremes feel unlikely, this example pointed out for me that our current model for healing the environment isn’t structurally guaranteed to do so.

So what is the alternative? Eisenstein suggests that to find that answer, we might go back to what originally motivated us to care in the first place. For me, it’s a love of forests. I grew up in the Oakland Hills, surrounded by majestic live oaks and towering pines. Now, 20 years after I first moved to the region, the changes are noticeable. The hills are drier, there are less insects, the salamanders have gone, and many of the live oaks that give the city its name are dead and brown, including two in my backyard.

I loved those trees, I cried when I realized they were dying. I felt an almost irrational zeal when I considered what I’d be willing to do, what I’d be willing to sacrifice, to save just those two trees. 

In Eisenstein’s new story, we are invited to partake in ecological healing at the level where it evokes the strongest feelings for us. Rather than looking at the dying oaks behind my house and thinking “the oaks are dying because of global climate change, I’ll make a donation to carbon offsets in their honor” and moving on, I’m asked to actually go into the forest, to look at the dying trees, to feel the earth, to ask what that particular patch of nature wants, and to take action to make a positive change.

While these may seem like small actions, they teach a skill that I, and other humans, need to learn if we want to begin to heal the Earth. To understand the land around us, to care for it, and to help it recover on a local level. 

Eisenstein cites impressive examples of regenerative agriculture - farms that have found ways not only to maintain but increase yields per acre while simultaneously restoring the beauty and balance to the local ecosystem and sequestering carbon in rebuilt topsoil deposits. Among these are Brown’s Ranch in North Dakota and Ernst Gotsch’s farm in Brazil. 

It’s possible to work the land in a way that is productive for human consumption needs and healing to the Earth, but there is a caveat: this type of farming requires many more human labor hours than conventional industrial farming. In order for this to work, a much larger segment of the population would need to live and work on the land. As Eisenstein puts it: “figuratively and literally, we need to go back to the land.” 

This would be a massive restructure of our society. Eisenstein gives examples of changes in policy and our monetary system that could incentivize and enable it, such as negative interest and UBI. Viewing the climate crisis as an inevitable symptom of broken socioeconomic structure, he acknowledges “the necessity of that change reaching to the level of money.” 

Making these changes would allow more humans to assume roles as boots-on-the-ground stewards of Earth’s ecosystems. As challenging as it might seem to achieve, this is a destination for the future role of humans on the Earth that I feel good about orienting myself towards. On a personal level, the next steps towards that destination feel clear. Understanding this perspective allowed me to shift my thinking from “humans are bad: the Earth would be better without us” to “humans can be good:  Earth now needs our acts to heal and thrive.”

In conclusion, I came away from my reading of Eisenstein’s book feeling newly humbled to the challenges facing our planet, and how inappropriately oriented our society is to address them. I also felt inspired about the possibilities of what we can do and be as Earth-loving humans. While I still feel that resolving carbon-related warming needs to be the primary compass directing near term action, Climate made me feel motivated to address environmental issues closest to home for me, to the level of simply maintaining my own garden or the woods around my house. If I want to take a step beyond that, I’m excited by the idea of practicing and promoting regenerative agriculture, with the hope that human by human, acre by acre, we have the potential to heal the Earth from the ground up.