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. Continue reading

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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.” Continue reading

Derrick Jensen and Charles Eisenstein Fistfight in Heaven

I have just read Charles Eisenstein’s freshly published essay, Standing Rock: A Change of Heart. This is fortuitous, since I’d been wanting to write about how it feels to be immersed in Derrick Jensen’s perspective versus how it feels to be immersed in Charles Eisenstein’s.

Reading A Language Older Than Words a few weeks ago (followed by What We Leave Behind), I noticed ghosts rising up, between the lines – whose voice does this voice remind me of? Oh yes, I realized – Jensen’s writing style echoes Eisenstein’s. Both take a measured approach to potentially inflammatory material; both logically, methodically build a fully furnished conceptual structure in which a reader could choose to live. Both marry clarity with eloquence; both work (I am guessing) extremely hard to avoid being misunderstood.

Yet the results – the conceptual houses, and how it feels to inhabit them – could not be more different. Continue reading

I Heart “the Environment”

The phrase “the environment” makes me gag. Why?

Here’s a puppet example: “Let’s cover a million square miles of desert with solar panels! It’ll help the environment.” What’s wrong with this picture?

First, the picture frames “the environment” as optional. We can “help” it or not – we choose. And “helping” doesn’t involve radical rediscovery of who we are, or deep reassessment of how we live – it means (can mean) implementing yet another industrial megaproject that fits in with business (monetization of the commons) as usual. Continue reading

“Development” as Home-icide: Cover Your Eyes

I’ve been reading Derrick Jensen’s semi-memoir, A Language Older Than Words. In a chapter called “Seeking a Third Way,” he describes making a comment at a public meeting that breaks “the basic commandment of our culture: Thou shalt pretend there is nothing wrong.” Later, in “The Goal Is the Process,” he ponders what to name the people responsible for destroying the forest near his home, so they can build houses. His dictionary, he says, “defines develop as to cause to become gradually fuller, larger, better” – which is not what happens when a thriving – albeit non-human – community is replaced with a monocrop of petro-cement apartment blocks. I too have struggled with this question; when I dare, I replace “develop” with “monetize” – knowing I’m breaking the social consensus, yet loath to let the easier, falser word constrict my throat. Continue reading

It Takes a Village to Raise a Dictator

I am hearing fears of fascism, in relation to the election of Tronald Dump. (Don’t you love a good spoonerism? Me, too!) Some seem to believe that he can destroy (what’s left of) our liberty all by himself. But: Fascism requires foot soldiers. Like, lots of them. Where will they come from? Will President Dump hire Russian mercenaries? Start a cloning program (as the South does in The Fifth Sacred Thing) to produce androids without family or empathy? Not likely. Chances are, if he wants to assume dictatorial powers, he’ll need to rely on millions of reg’lar ’muricans. People just like – I mean, not at all like – you and me. Continue reading

The First Step Is Admitting Civilization Is the Problem

It’s Wednesday morning – our first in our new apartment. I’ve found the morning sunshine; it’s right where I’d been planning – am still planning – to put my desk. I am grateful for this sunshine. It is simple, it is sweet. It’s a thing I discount, when I stare at my screen and plot how I’ll make it in industrial civilization.

Reading liberal responses to Trump’s election, I keep feeling this visceral no. No, you’re not going deep enough. No, I won’t help you cling to your delusions. No, the carnage did not abate under Obama, and would proceed apace even if millions of petition signers were to get the electoral college to break rank for Hillary. Continue reading