Swing low, sweet war machine – and let me out!

Last night’s descent dream: I was on a plane, heading to Idaho. Looking out the window, I saw water. Green-black waves. Not that far below. I figured the plane had malfunctioned, lost altitude. The pilot made an announcement indicating he had a backup plan. The plane reached land, and glided briefly over a scrubby grassy area before touching down on a gravel drive. I got out, and started home on foot (though I knew home was many, many miles away). A bit later, I encountered a family playing croquet. They remarked on the strangeness of my presence, but didn’t seem to mind my traversing their yard, or interrupting their game. I walked on.

In the dream, I was neither attached to the destination I was flying to nor upset about having to get out and walk. In fact, I relished the prospect of adventuring through unfamiliar territory. I did not care how long my journey might take.

What is industrial civilization’s destination? What do I see as my destination, within it?

Let’s say we take the rosiest possible view of the war machine. Where’s it headed? Toward equal rights (guaranteed by a world government), perpetual Internet access, and abundant petroleum products for all. All humans, that is. Non-humans don’t want the Internet or petroleum products, and wouldn’t know what to do with rights, since they neither spend money nor hold jobs.

Where does that leave me? Well, I could be a wildly successful cyborg-cum-author who writes brilliantly about the nuances of rights and the Internet, using petroleum products.

Yup, I’d rather get out and walk.

The Dream of Descent

Last night I dreamed about descent – again. This time I was in a cylindrical elevator, with six other people (three adults and three children, none recognizable from real life), on a high floor of a steel-glass tower. I knew we had enemies within the building, whom we’d had to elude to reach the elevator, who might yet prevent us from reaching ground and getting out. Yes, the doors were closed – we were safe for the moment – but it was a long way down.

In other dreams, I’ve descended – or considered doing so – by way of a staircase, a rope ladder, a flat-bottomed wooden boat dropping from a rock face into a lake. Just yesterday, I realized that the metaphor of descent, which has us tumbling from the cultural peak we’ve supposedly reached to the depths of dearth and violence, is both inapt and coercive. Inapt because a sky-high whiz-bang quotient (yes, we’ve got that!) does not imply (and usually militates against) profound wisdom, witness, humility, and respect. Coercive because who wants to take a great fall, and wind up shattered? Better cling to that height for dear life!

Yet I still dream in this metaphor. I still fear descent.

I need a new story.

Here’s an idea: Replace descent with recovery.

We’re sick. We’re addicted (to whiz-bang). We feed our war machine with one hand while slapping it (squawking, “Stop that!”) with the other. We hack at the web of life (or, more often, have others do the hacking for us, out of sight) in perverse pursuit of what we need, or think we need, to stay alive.

It’s true, recovery can be painful. Jolting. Even scary. But, for the most part, it beats staying sick.

Excerpt from Mating in Captivity – Chapter 1: Interview

[Update: My Kickstarter campaign to fund publication of Mating in Captivity: A Memoir ended April 10, 2017. However, until further notice, I am still willing to honor all reward levels listed on Kickstarter. If you would like to pledge directly, you may do so here, using your PayPal account or a card. Any additional funds raised will be used to promote the book, throw a launch party, expand the initial print run, and/or defray the costs of a book tour.]

I began spinning a fantasy about Zendik mating the night I arrived.

Cross-legged on the living room floor, a metal bowl nestled in my lap, I watched a short, round woman with buoyant ringlets burst in from the kitchen, bowl in hand. Another woman called to her, across the room: “Are you having a date tonight?”

Between them lay a sea of Zendiks; maybe two-thirds of the Farm’s sixty-plus members filled every chair, couch, and patch of rug. The lemon scent of Murphy’s Oil fused with the glow of standing lamps to bathe us in resinous incandescence.

Forks clanged against stainless steel. Chatter rolled past me like delicate thunder. Continue reading

War Machines Make War. Not Butterflies.

[I wrote this post on November 23, 2016 – three months ago.]

Did we really think we could build a war machine that would not make war on us?

It is heartbreaking to hear the reports from Standing Rock, from the undeclared war on the water, the land, their human protectors. And I wonder: Haven’t similar scenes been unfolding in other countries, and in American inner cities, at the behest of our war machine, for decades (at least)?

It is not that the mercenaries in North Dakota are doing anything out of the ordinary; it is just that they are doing it here. And, in my world, personal connections to people at Standing Rock are far more common than personal connections to those dying in our nation’s murderous raids overseas.

What parts of industrial civilization do you love? To what lengths will you go to defend it? What horrors will you have to witness, or endure, before you understand that carnage is not an anomaly for industrial civilization, a spot that will come out in the wash – before you see that this is what it does?

Eons ago, someone posted a want ad: Seeking a story that will destroy life, while buying off most humans with dreams or illusions of affluence. Required: Sense of urgency, demonstrated record of abuse, working smartphone. Wrap a rock with your application and hurl it at the nearest peaceful being. Bonus points if you score a kill.

Industrial civilization rushed to answer the ad. Pick me! Pick me! It said (though no one else applied). And set about accomplishing precisely the mission it was made for.

How do tanks travel from A to B? How do mercenaries mass at the pleasure of their corporate masters? How do tear gas cannisters, water cannons, rubber bullets, metal bullets, riot gear, get made? None of this could happen without money, mining, highways. Without the systems, the stories, the warfrastructure we use – for supposedly peaceful purposes – every day.

In Engine Summer, by John Crowley, Earth’s women have banded together, in the wake of a devastating industrial disaster, to destroy all the technology that intertwined to make such a disaster possible. In a sense, they have returned the genie to the bottle, and hidden the bottle where no one will ever find it. The few remaining humans marvel at concrete, plastic, and the like – objects they’ve lost the key for. They call these objects “angel-made.”

There is awe in this term; there is wonder. Yet no one in the story (as far as I can recall) wishes to find the bottle, or let the genie out. They know what industrial civilization has cost them. And so I ask myself: What’s my investment? What of industrial civilization, inseparable from everyday carnage, am I attached to? What would I mourn, if it were gone?

So much I would not mourn: jobs, phones, dollars, clocks. Recorded sound. Asphalt. Yet I hold on, as if I have aught to gain. As if I’ll receive my gleaming reward, slick with blood – someday.

Beyond Bounded Choice

Let’s talk about bounded choice.

Years ago, on my way out of Zendik, I read a book of that title (subtitle: True Believers and Charismatic Cults). The author, Janja Lalich, had become a sociologist, specializing in cultic studies, after ten years in a political cult that dissolved when the followers lost faith in the leader. In the book, she draws on her own experience, as well as her research into other groups (Heaven’s Gate, in particular) to show that cult members are neither stupid nor mindless, that they do think and choose for themselves – it’s just that great swaths have been removed from their field of possibility. So they operate within an extremely narrow range.

This last election, and its aftermath, have confirmed for me that yes, industrial civilization is a cult, and yes, its true believers experience, and act from, a condition of bounded choice.

The range of options was already dismally slim, before the campaigning began; it excluded (for example) a shift to bio-regional governance, an overhaul of a constitution designed to smooth the transmogrification of a continent into cash, and meaningful participation by a party opposing corporate rule. Then Bernie – who threatened to expand the view at least a few degrees – was shoved off the stage, and the pressure (in my world) to fall into lockstep behind Hillary intensified to the point of suffocation. Two choices remained: Back Her, or be responsible for bringing on the apocalypse.

Never mind that She too is a creature of the technosphere, which can’t help but chomp sovereignty, joy, leisure, and other requirements for health and well-being, with every beat of its frigid heart.

Anyone who insists you have only two choices is lying, and/or terrified you’ll peek behind door number three (or door number infinity), and/or hoping to stave off further abuse from a person or entity she or he does not yet recognize as an abuser.

Now, post-election, some are calling for a Love Revolution – sounds good to me! But, for the most part, the range of response seems cramped: Protest. Call or email your corporate stooges – I mean, elected officials. Rage against Chief Tweet-Tweet’s latest appointment. Boycott X department store. Take your money out of Y bank. Maybe that’s because pretty much every suggestion for “action” comes to us by way of the technosphere, which, despite its seeming omnipresence, represents a mere blip in the field holding all the many ways of knowing. What do the trees say? The insects? The fungi? How about the water? The soil? Our ancestors? How about our own souls – have we paused to consult them lately? How about our bodies, our inner teachers, our deep wisdom, revealed to us through sacred mirrors?

Take, for example, Obamacare. In my world, repealing it is heresy – how will X number of people access health insurance, and techno-medical care, without it? The bounded choices are: Fight for Obamacare, or suffer from lack of access to allopathic medicine. Okay, now how about let’s widen the field to include a few more options: Quit subsidizing the production of edible food-like substances (by paying “farmers” to monocrop, by destroying beings of all kinds in the name of “cheap” oil, by building and maintaining highways plied by long-haul trucks). Redesign human communities for local trade, and walking. Restore sovereignty to localities, which won’t necessarily be willing to surrender their “resources” (aka living webs) to the highest bidder. Revive our millennia-old relationship with plants as medicine. Reject wireless internet, with its EMFs and push towards isolation. Close schools and prisons, and replace jobs with mutualistic community-based contribution, so we can relax and move at a pace we choose. Replace house-boxes with commonly held farms, woods, and gathering places, capable of providing all the social nourishment we need. Quit subsidizing, and legitimizing, psychopathic (corporate) polluters. Begin to create the possibility of real, glowing, exuberant health – imagine that!

Can you?

Meet Me in the Meadow of Miracles

Imagination is a muscle. It strengthens with use.

This coming Saturday, my dear friend Deborah and I will be leading a workshop called Building Imaginal Bridges here at Earthaven Ecovillage, in Black Mountain, North Carolina. Earthaven is just down the road from the old Zendik Farm, where I first encountered “imagine” as a future-forming verb.

At Zendik, we believed that we could spark change by envisioning our “imajia” world, our “imajia” selves; we called our utopia “Ecolibrium,” short for “ecological equilibrium.” While there, I read descriptions by Wulf (one of Zendik’s co-founders) of Ecolibrium, wrote about it myself, tape-recorded a conversation with a friend in which we tried to render our future visions in sensual detail. From Wulf’s writing, I recall the idea of diverting the military to eco-restoration, and the idea of the “simpleton system” – an approach to tools, machines, and devices dictating that all of them should be understandable, and repairable, at least by a village craftsperson, if not by every user; in my own writing, I tried to re-form myself as the perfect Zendik, and the world as a place where everyone lived as I believed we did – in total honesty and cooperation, with respect for each other’s genius, joyously pursuing work we loved. Sometimes I mentioned specifics – advertising would disappear, attempts to lie would cause skull explosions, there’d be “lots of singing, lots of music—color in sound, as in sight. Many distinct tones and trills and voices. Laughter and weeping. Goats bleating. Birds warbling and cats squawking and babies caterwauling.” In our tape-recorded conversation, my friend and I imagined a web of villages, each with its own cast of growers, gatherers, makers, its own art, music, food, clothing, stories – walk a mile or two down the path and find a different culture.

Despite the etheric electric fence around my mind, at Zendik, I did catch a glimpse of the power and wonder of imagining, with as much precision as I could, how life might be a generation hence, what shape my own life might one day take. After Zendik, as my imaginal field expanded to include any idea or source that appealed to me, as I claimed freedom to write and speak freely, I began to notice that dreams drawn from my inklings and yearnings, then seeded in word and speech, sometimes came true.

Here’s the thing, fellowbeings: We are called, now, to do far more than proofread, or edit, or even revise our collective story – we are called to reimagine it. We can do this, if we strengthen our imaginal muscles by using them, if we bust through our current story’s etheric electric fence to the meadow, just beyond it, where miracles sprout like wildflowers.

Thirteen years ago, in Chico, California, the man who inscribed the curvy purple “W” on my arm told me that only when he was able to see a plan in action did it wind up being realized. In a culture beyond fixing – but ripe for rebirth – it is our responsibility, and could be our joy, to practice seeing – with all three eyes – the worlds, the lives, the webs that make our hearts sing.

Come to Earthaven – where “village” is a verb – and build imaginal bridges with us. Stone by stone. Pebble by pebble. Grain by grain of sand.

#Imagine.