Thursday, November 29, 2012

is it this easy?

It seemed to happen suddenly--changes in the habits of humanity, the kind of mass transformation that cannot be legislated or enforced.  Enough were dreaming of taking the next fork in the road map of reality that it seamlessly shifted into being.  No longer were we occupying street corners and anonymous parks, but our own lives.  The election was forgotten, as was the super bowl, facebook, shopping, and other distracting numbing agents.  Erroneously or gratuitously, 2012 had been noted and predicted as the end, a legend which scared those who had forgotten the observed pattern of the world:  a beginning following every end.  Increasing numbers were excited about the hole in the veil of reality, peeking through and stepping into a way of life that we thought made more sense.

Our dreams unfolded a path of awareness.  We were shaken free of the worldview in which we had been raised, the water we swam through in our daily lives.  We welcomed our perceptions as original, and did not meet each stimuli with a pre-programmed reaction, such as “good” or “bad”.  We began to notice and feel the biological life around us, and felt ourselves drawn into it, melding with it.  We noticed how sun feels on our faces, and also the glow of our screens.  We felt taken into conversations with our friends.  We laughed, a lot.  We began to create, to caress ourselves--our mindbodies--welcoming them to life.  We enjoyed anew what we had forgotten could ever exist.

We sort of remembered a time already traveled, when people adamantly rebelled against the powers of violence in an effort to free themselves.  We felt the chains of subjugation which could not be allied with our concepts of freedom, feelings innate in the mere substance of being human.  (Anytime, especially in a democracy, a government violently erases an attempt to change it--especially an open effort to disperse power--we know it’s gotten out of hand.  If we as citizens allow our government to maim or suppress on our behalf, we  are also suppressing and maiming a basic essence of a concept we value in the word civilized.)

We realized waving a flag and voting for the lesser of evils was a pointless exercise when compared with the mass torture and death of biological life on this planet (the unfortunate result of our indulgent consumption and our government‘s effort to consolidate control of power and wealth.)  We realized our science was as much a religion as any other crackpot worldview.  The notion of progress as something to hold in esteem was laughable, if the mess we had yet to clean up didn’t sober us out of our head-shaking embarrassment.  In short, we grew up.  We took responsibility in ourselves, and also felt giddy with the freedom that action brings.  No more nanny state—welfare or socialism (the way most poor people survive in the moneyed world); instead we felt care and community.  We forgot about ipods, and remembered what it felt to lie under warm sun in a grassy field in the spring.

There’s a lot said about dreamers in our society.  The movie “Waking Life” studies that subject in a variety of ways and attempts to knock you off your rocker.  John Lennon also said some words.  Freud attempted to explain every dream, daydream or nightdream, as sexual repression.  (No doubt, a lot of people were and are repressed, including, I imagine, Freud.)   Lucid dreaming is a studied art, an ability to explore the dream world as a conscious spirit, unbounded by “known” physical restraints--gravity being a popular one, and my personal favorite (since I am afraid of heights), breathing underwater.

The dreamworld can appear to us as a parallel world, one in which we find ourselves without limits or boundaries more often than in waking life.  It can also act as a guide, both in providing symbols for us to interpret (the interpretation being the key component in that it provides us an opportunity to make connections in a personal meaningful sense), and offering us an example of what it means to disregard the “known” physical restraints of our waking world.

Our waking world is a description we’ve been raised with since birth.  We enter this world as beings without discrimination, though our knowledge is stored in our bodies; our civilized society calls this knowledge our instincts.  Moment after moment, we are brought further into the waking world, constructed as reality by those who are enacting dreams of the current inertia.  Our reality tunnels give meaning to the events that happen and the symbols that pervade our consciousness.  These arbitrary meanings (one example, marijuana is “bad” in Christianity while another drug, alcohol, is a sacrament) reinforce the narrowness of our reality tunnels.  Anything that happens outside of our reality tunnels is not perceived as happening, is “bad”, or is explained away.

And yet, a whole world may exist outside our realm of explanation.  If we never look for it, we may never find it.  And perhaps we don’t even need to look for it.  Perhaps if we open ourselves up to the possibility that it already exists, we will notice it as soon as we open our eyes.  A time of upheaval can be viewed with fear, because our steady recognizable easily predictable lives are shaken.  But it can also be viewed with hope and gladness, because this world is in need of real change; our collective rut is not only stale and decaying, but also taking down most of the biological life on our planet as we chant the mantra “faster!  more!!”

Yes, let’s count our blessings for our full bellies and warm hands and feet (at least those of us lucky enough to experience this reality), and all the other good things we have.  And let’s allow ourselves the chance to see and feel what makes absolutely no sense.  Let’s be open to our perceptions without judgment,and be honest with ourselves in all aspects of our lives.  Why should we make ourselves do anything we hate for any reason?  Why can’t we make decisions, keeping in mind the awareness of the wake we leave behind?  We can think about what we really want to happen in our daily lives and in our greater world, and allow ourselves the power to be fully human and responsible for ourselves, enjoying the freedom this fulfillment brings.

We may find ourselves luminous beings, connected again with the light of the universe.  We may find ourselves enacting lives worth the effort of living.  We may find that this has seamlessly become our reality, because we have made it so, dreaming it into existence.

Monday, November 26, 2012


In birth, transition is the hardest part. It's when the body switches gears, from opening up to pushing out new life. It's the most painful, the most intense, the part where you wonder if this difficult craziness is ever going to end. It's the part when you're most likely to lose your mind, completely let go, and surrender to the unknown of what comes next.

If you've never given birth, transition can be intimidating. It's an adventure through virgin territory.

We find ourselves in 2012. It's another political year, so blah blah blah say the media with reminders of the constant expectation that we participate. Honestly, I don't know a lot of people who are excited about the prospect of voting this year, no matter their political beliefs. It seems election years are times when zealots become most vocal, which seemingly forces numbers of people into voting when they otherwise wouldn't, legitimizing the political system that is merely symbolic of choice.

So, vote or not. Whatever. Whether you do or not, some rich guy representing corporate interests is going to be elected. There will be lots of drama for several more years resulting in a government operation that is largely languid, except that it will shift money from you to corporations and slowly erode yet more rights you may have taken for granted as yours, merely for the sole reason that you are an autonomous human being. Oh, and it will kill lots of people residing in countries that contain resources we need. So, yeah, vote or not. Whatever.

In the meantime, let's converse. What in our wildest dreams would a society that reflects our values look like; how would it function? Is there anything we can do, yes, today and tomorrow and next week, to make some small part of that fantasy a reality? How do your vision and my vision overlap? What projects can we endeavor to undertake together, making more of our alternate realities visible for those also looking for a way out?

How do people withdraw their actions from a culture of death (work)? How do we begin to heal the damage to life on this planet, including ourselves?

Our imaginations are powerful things and can lead us down paths we never imagined. During transition, we take a minute to reach down and find something more powerful than ourselves, in ourselves, that gives us the strength to push over the precipice of what feels impossible. We let go of the limitations we formerly claimed. We find ways of coping and thriving.

How do we design a society with human desires as the foundation? How do we as a human society reward creativity and altruism? How do we begin to practice democracy on a personal level? What does being civilized mean to us, and how important is it that we live up to our ideals? Can we exist without hypocrisy?

What does it mean to be present and fully engaged in what we do with our daily lives? How do we occupy ourselves and our communities? What kind of care can we give each other? Can we build up alternative paradigms that value human contribution while the old withers from disuse? Can we give each other what we need? How? What other questions do we ask ourselves?

At the point new life begins to emerge, a burning sensation is felt. This is the body opening up and stretching more than ever before, more than is thought possible. The urge to push forth something new is unmistakable and irresistible. With relief, we relinquish what we have nurtured within ourselves for so long. We give birth to new life, and in turn, are ourselves reborn. We will never again be the same. We learn, we adapt, we cry, we love. We appreciate with such intensity it hurts. We have made it through transition, and we are on the other side of what comes next.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

What Comes Next

In the cracks of capitalism's retreat, we plant the seeds of What Comes Next. We share resources, skills, time, and care. I'm not about to name this blind elephant, but there are parts I can feel and describe. Certainly terms like mutual aid and community come to mind.

After a natural disaster, when the hierarchy we take for granted abruptly breaks down and suddenly no one is in control, we as individual people remember and do what comes naturally:  we share, both blessings and burdens. We remember the essence of being human, given the disruption of the daily rut.

As capitalism fails more people, What Comes Next becomes more real and defined. Do we walk away from a promise that capitalism cannot possibly fulfill? We are. We are doing it in 7 billion plus ways, minus a small number of those firmly clinging to the top of the pyramid.

What Comes Next is already here. It is what fills the gaps capitalism leaves behind in its slash and burn adventure through our present moment. It is growing food, sharing, reclaiming the waste stream as a resource, rediscovering manual skills, making friends and having a great time, and countless other ways. As capitalism burns through people and the earth beneath their feet, increasing numbers of us are creatively reacting to capitalism's obsolescence.

I like the thought of billions of people asking themselves what makes sense in their daily lives, and trying it out--7 billion people taking their minds away from destruction (whether unintentional or deliberate--"Hey man, I gotta pay my rent!"), and putting their thoughts and energy toward making a life, letting go of the hold of the promise of capitalism. It's a veil, it seems, this idea that money is a good way to live, and the way out of this prison is ...what? There are infinite answers, as we each pump out feedback in our reaction to coping with the lack of access to money and what it means--protection, basically, from the legal system --"Our basic needs have been turned into private property, and in our culture, private property is always violently defended."

We are each, in our small ways, adding white noise to the cacophony of KYRIARCHY SUCKS. The power they (the 1%, the elites, etc.) hold over us (the 99%, the masses, etc.) is an illusion. This power does not exist.  Yes, isolated pockets of demonstrators can be taken to jail, sometimes even beaten and shot. But we the masses are free. There are no slaves in the landscape of consciousness.  It is here we plant our feet, push down our roots, break out of the shell we thought to contain ourselves, and push forth into new life.  We have no idea what awaits us.

Capitalism contracts, and what seeps up through the cracks but pioneer weeds, growing in the harshest conditions, creating an environment for flourishing, for reproducing fecundity? This is why I can't help but be an optimist. There are no if onlies. The world is changing rapidly, and our adaptations cycle into the feedback loop, creating yet more rapid change. Hold on to your seats folks! What a fantastic time to be human!

Gardens spring up in the wastelands of corporate retreat. We ask ourselves, “What makes sense, given the reality of what I observe with all my senses?” Being honest with ourselves becomes a map for this new unknown territory, the inevitable What Comes Next.

“The future exists. First in imagination, then in will, then in reality.” --Barbara Max Hubbard

Saturday, November 24, 2012

dreaming of a man, part two

Peter changed his route home so he could pass by the park and the tree. He started leaving work early so he could spend a bit of time with the tree and still get home in time for dinner. It appeared that people took it for granted that the park had always been there. He overheard someone talking about the flower planting that had been made in the park last year. And when he looked up information on the bank, it apparently never had existed.

The next weekend, Peter took his kids to the park. They played while he communed. He saw a woman look at him quizzically. He felt a bit embarrassed, but nodded his head at her. She came closer. "Have you been coming to this park a long time?" she asked.

"Uh, no, not really. But I really like this tree," he replied.

She looked at him with an awkward expression. "I used to work at a bank here, but obviously, this tree has been here a long time. I just can't figure out what's going on. I'm starting to feel ... kind of crazy. I haven't been back here in a long time, but for some reason, I came by here on the bus the other day, and I saw this tree. I saw this tree..." she said as she trailed off. She looked as though she were going to cry.

"I remember the bank too," Peter said, tentatively. He did not like going up the path of crazy talk, but felt for this woman, who was obviously having a rough time of it.

"But this tree," she said.

"Sometimes, I think, there can be more than one reality that exists at a time." When Peter offered that up, the woman's head snapped from looking at the canopy of the tree to stare fiercely into his eyes. "What did you say?" she demanded.

 Peter took a breath. "I think there can be more than one reality that exists at a time. I don't know if you've read any books by science fiction author Philip K. Dick, but he wrote that he saw the landscape of Rome and the landscape of Southern California overlapping. I don't know how it works, but it seems like it can be possible, especially when you are experiencing it yourself."

The woman shook her head. "I'm not the only one, then," she muttered to herself. "Are you a dreamer?" she asked Peter.

Pete inhaled sharply. He had no idea how to answer that question. He looked over at his kids, talking with a man and petting his two hyperactive dogs on leashes. They were having a good time, and he was glad he had brought them here, instead of their mom taking them shopping at the mall. He was totally not expecting this conversation, though.

"I...I." He sighed. "I don't know how to answer that. I dream or I don't dream, I'm not sure."

"Did you dream the tree here?" Her voice was insistent. He was not going to be let off with easy vague answers, nor did he care to be. He had never before met anyone with whom he could possibly have this conversation.

"I did," he answered. "I remembered it from another time. I found it here, I knew it was here, but there was this bank too. Somehow, I--I can't explain it. I just thought about the tree, I felt it embracing me and I embracing it, and when I opened my eyes, the bank was gone, and the tree was here."

"Have you done this before?" Her voice was just as insistent, urgent.

"No, at least not that I have realized," he answered.

"How did you remember it? What do you mean you remembered it from another time?"

This was it, the moment he anticipated and dreaded, since Jimmy Malloy in 4th grade. He had sworn never to tell anyone about his dual life, and yet, this was the time to tell it. It seemed like his whole life had been leading up to this moment.

"This is going to sound crazy," he prefaced. He turned his head away from her piercing eyes. "I am an analyst. I have a nice office with a window. I have a big nicely decorated house in the burbs that I share with my wife and those two wonderful kids," he gestured to his kids, now playing ball with the hyperactive beagles. "And when I go to sleep at night, I wake up in a different time. It's 1877, and I am a hand on a cattle ranch. I live out my day there, and when I go to sleep at night, I wake up here."

He looked up at her, and was surprised to see that her expression had not changed. She wasn't laughing at him or looking at him like he was crazy. She didn't appear about to beat him up either. "It seems to be the same physical place, but obviously, things are a lot different. The trees have been my way of connecting the two places. I found a familiar tree in a park downtown a few weeks ago, a tree I knew from my other life. And for some reason, I was compelled to find this one. When I couldn't find it, I imagined finding it, and then this park appeared. I can't make any sense of it, but I can't deny what happened."

 There was an awkward silence as her rapid fire questioning ceased. He took a chance, "Do you know what's happening or why?"

She looked at him thoughtfully. "I can't say I know any more than you do. But I am paying enough attention that I know when a bank disappears."

"Do you dream?" he asked.

She also sighed. "I...don't know how to answer that either." She searched his face, and felt herself take a leap of faith. "I think I dream, but not of the past. I dream of the future. It doesn't feel as real and certain as you seem to be of your dreaming. It's more like I get glimpses and feelings that are quite real, but I don't think I'm solidly there yet. I mean, I think it's the future. It seems kind of like the past, but they talk of this time as the past."

"What's the future like?"

She blinked her eyes and shook her head. "Well, it's a future. Who knows if it's the future?" He nodded. "Life is different, for sure," she continued. "Capitalism collapsed, but surely that is no surprise. Governments collapsed soon after, and people dealt with it in varying ways. There's not a lot of communication, so you mainly just hear rumors of what's happening outside the bioregion. Some places are still run with force, but.... People--I don't know how to describe it exactly--People regained their personal power, and now there's not power enough for governments to hold and rule them. They simply cannot muster the force necessary to coerce everyone. People mostly organized themselves into communities and are doing the best they can. It can be hard, but at the same time, it's a lot of fun. People seem less entranced than they do now. Does that make any sense?"

Peter nodded his head, "It makes a lot of sense. I have always thought that if people knew what they were giving up to be American and middle-class, they might think twice about it. But it seems like they give up, as you said, their personal power, without thinking twice about it. And when they give up their personal power, all hell breaks loose." He nodded his head toward the street traffic, ever massive on a Saturday afternoon.

The woman nodded in agreement. "I will say that when 7 billion people put their minds toward living in the community of life, and put their hands and energy into remaking the biological landscape, it seems as though miracles occur."

He looked up at her as he sat on the bench under the cottonwood of his dreams. "There's hope then?"

She smiled. "I presume so, though people tell me I'm crazy to be optimistic about the future. It seems we humans have always had very powerful imaginations, and we seem to have forgotten that. We have trapped ourselves with our cleverness and cunning, and even forgotten that we used to be free, not having to toil for corporations, for a culture of death, in exchange for access to our basic needs like food and shelter. Humanity has become entranced to the point that we forget we're living in a prison of our own making. I like to think more people are waking up and making choices." She laughed, "More people are waking up and dreaming!"

"I like to think that things can be different," Peter said.

"Things are always different. We live in this moment of now, an ever changing now. You changed a bank into a park. If you do that every week, what is this city going to look like in a year? What if a dozen people or a hundred people are doing this without our realizing it? As capitalism fails more of the populace and the Empire has to forcibly exert more control over holding it together, it just falls apart faster. People are forced to meet their needs in ways that capitalism no longer can. Capitalism isn't keeping its promises anymore. As people meet their needs in new ingenious ways, there is less reliance on capitalism to do so. Really, there is nothing capitalism can do anymore to prop itself up forever. It's decaying before our eyes. It's a story whose ending has come. Thankfully, there are more stories, 7 billion stories plus, to enact. We create what comes next simply by meeting our needs in our daily lives as capitalism disappears."

 "It's 2012," said Peter. "That's supposed to be the end of the world, right? Is that what happened?"

The woman smiled again. "It's just the moment. 2012 is just a good a time as any, don't you think?"

Peter smiled. "My name is Peter, and I am glad to have met you today." He held out his hand to shake.

"Peter--that means rock, the foundation. I'm glad to have met you as well, Peter. I'm Myra."

They shook hands under the tree imagined into existence, remembered into existence. The beauty that life can be remains imprinted in our biological make up. We are the biological landscape, as much as any mountain, river, wind, or tree. We can remember.

Friday, November 23, 2012

dreaming of a man, part one

"Tell us another one, Petey!" 

Petey looked up at the raging stars overhead and took a deep breath. "In the future, this whole valley will be covered with houses, some costing millions of dollars."

"How much is a million dollars, Petey?"

"That's one thousand $1000 bills," replied Petey, amongst whistles of disbelief. "The houses won't be like the little cabins we have now. They'll have 10 or 12 rooms, and maybe just one or two people will live there. Not only that, but they'll be heated in the winter, without coal or wood, and air conditioned in the summer. Air conditioning is when cold air blows out of a vent in the floor, so even if you'd be sweating bullets outside, you can come inside and become chilly enough to put on a jacket."

Laughter erupted. "Tell us about the carriages again." Pete told his cohorts about the roads and the cars that would fill them, so many cars that they'd jam up and be unable to move forward in traffic. He told them about gasoline and how much it costs and how it was extracted.

It was like this a lot of nights. Sometimes there would be more interesting things to talk about, especially if one of them was courting a woman, but there just wasn't a lot going on in the high plains. After a day of cattle ranching, the hands would gather round the outdoor fire, eat their supper, and talk. Invariably, Petey would be requested to tell his tales. Petey was sure no one believed him when he talked about cities and cars and all that the technological future would bring, but at least it was entertaining.

It was pitch black in the windowless bunkhouse when sleepytime approached. Petey watched the bits of light from his eyeballs dance around for a bit, and just a moment later, he was waking up, refreshed as though he'd been asleep all night. He stretched out in his luxurious king-sized bed. His wife slept only on satin sheets, and he thanked her peculiarities every morning. He switched off his alarm and hopped into the shower, as hot as hot could get. He pulled on his suit, grabbed his coffee and a nutrition bar, and hopped into his car for the long morning commute. He switched on the radio to hear the pundits endlessly arguing the benefits of one narrow viewpoint over another.

Peter had been doing this his whole life--switching from one life to another in his dreams. He wasn't sure if he was a 21st century man dreaming of life in the old times, or a 19th century man dreaming of himself in the future. Both lives seemed equally real to him. He hadn't told anyone about it, except Jimmy Malone in the 4th grade, who promptly beat him up. It sounded crazy, so whatever. He just lived his life. He knew he was sane no matter how crazy it seemed.

Peter was a senior analyst for a successful company, with a window office near the top of the building, and two secretaries. He was well respected and well liked, pretty unusual for a business executive, but it wasn't in his nature to be cut-throat. He rose to the top (or near it) because he was a really darn good analyst. At the end of his work day, he made the long commute home and arrived just in time for dinner. Lorraine, their cook, always made delicious meals. He sat down at the table with his wife and two lovely children and caught up on their day. His wife was an avid tennis player and flower gardener. His kids were growing up, now ages 8 and 11. The oldest wanted to be a fashion designer and the youngest a fireman.

He put his kids to bed each night with a story. His wife was suprised he wanted to take on bedtime, but really, it was about the only time he ever saw them. And he loved his kids. "Tell us about the stars, papa!" He told them about the Milky Way, so bright it seemed you could reach up and take a drink. He told them about the plains so quiet you could hear the wind rustling the grass. "What did the water taste like?" His youngest always seemed to ask this question, as he was sensitive to tastes. "The water tasted like nothing, and it was clean and cold and quenched your thirst, no matter how long it had been since you last drank."

The kids were kissed and tucked and the lights turned off. Peter switched on his alarm clock and cuddled up with his wife on their satin sheets. Soon enough he drifted off and woke up to the sound of Cookie, beating on a pan. "Up with you lazyhead layabouts! Time for grub! Get a move on!" And so began the morning on the cattle ranch, physically hard and demanding work, but work he enjoyed no less than analyzing.

In fact, with all the amenities and physical comforts of modern life, he really couldn't say he enjoyed it more. There was something about working his body, about experiencing cold and heat, about being actually hungry when he sat down to a meal, about drinking cold water from a spring, about seeing countless stars at night--he felt a freedom in this daily life that he didn't get sitting behind a desk or a windshield. Peter wondered if ever someone had tasted beef freshly butchered if they'd ever eat modern factory meat again. He wondered if anyone saw the stars in all their glory if they would not smash every street light they could. He wondered if people used their bodies to meet their daily needs if they would ever submit to sitting behind a desk. If not for his kids, and yes, hot showers, he preferred his old time life. It made him feel alive.

And still, it didn't get boring. When he was younger, his life was not so purposeful. Often, he was having a wild and crazy time in one life while he was buried in routine in the other. But now he had a routine in both lives, and he was okay with it. He knew at some point, he'd get bored and would have to switch things up, but for now, he got a lot out of the experience of both lives. He felt he was living quite fully in the moment, and that awareness made him feel alive.


The big cottonwood was by far the largest tree around. Trees didn't really get very big here, even when they got old and even when they were creekside, but this one must have tapped an underground reservoir of water. It was huge. Petey sat down under it and rested, a rare treat for a cattle man on the plains. He stared up into its canopy where the blue sky didn't peek through. It felt so very alive to him.

Petey imagined himself hugging the tree like he hugged his wife, with an appreciation that he was alive at this moment. He felt the tree hugging back. He felt energy flowing through him, down through the ground, back up through his body, up through the canopy and to the stars above, and back through his body again. Pete didn't consider himself a hoogey moogey kind of person, but he had made a commitment to himself long ago to be honest about what he experienced and felt, and he could deny these feelings of connection no more than he could deny his double life.

It was coming back from a lunch meeting that Peter noticed the cottonwood. He crossed the heavy street traffic and stared at it in amazement. He had worked two blocks from this park for the last 20 years, but had never walked through it. As he got closer, he realized it was indeed the same tree, ever so much older, but definitely the same tree. He said hello and imagined himself hugging the tree. He was sure he looked crazy, but yes, in his designer suit he looked up into the canopy of the tree and cried as it hugged him back. Never before had there been a connection between his two lives. He began taking his lunches out of the office and sitting under the tree. It wasn't as easy to visit the tree as a cattle man, but he did as often as he could. He felt that, for some reason, this tree and this time were important. This connection had been made, and he rested on this thought to see what might come of it.


It was after taking his kids out to see the stars and being able to count them--yes, there were 23 visible stars in the city sky that night--that Peter got thoroughly fed up with civilization. He felt if people understood what they were giving up to be physically comfortable, for the short-term, that they would choose differently. It wasn't just not being able to see the immensity of the stars. People were trashing the living biosphere that supported humanity! And yet, he drove to work each day, analyzing what decisions needed to be made in order to keep his business successful, i.e., making shit tons of money. He drove his car just like the rest of them. And he knew better.

Peter sat down under the tree and thought some more. What could he do? He was just one person. "Dream," his mind answered. Or the tree answered. Or the universe answered. And yet, dreaming was something he never did. As soon as he fell asleep, he woke up in a different reality. Of course, he had entertained the possibility that he was always dreaming, just going from one dream life to another. But things were too orderly and predictable, too concrete in either life to be a dream. He was never able to fly, no matter how hard he tried. Dream? How could he do that?

Petey imagined himself embracing several other trees, all the biggest ones he could find on the plains. He tried to figure out their placement on the physical landscape so that he could find them in his modern life. It was difficult when one landscape was filled with natural landmarks like trees, streams, and such, and the other was a grid of streets with concrete and glass monuments.

One tree, another cottonwood, caught his eye in particular. It wasn't nearly as old or as big as the other, but it was--how could he define it? It was special for some reaon. It appealed to him; he resonated with it, and when Petey became Peter, he took off one weekend to try to find it. It was ridiculous trying to match the physical landscape in that part of the city, as there were no parks, and no trees had been alive for more than a couple of decades. He walked around and around, and still couldn't figure it out. If only he could manage to bring his gps to his old time life!

Finally, he stopped and stood still. Instead of looking with his eyes, he tried feeling with his body. He walked on the concrete, intensely aware of the ground buzzing beneath his feet. He stopped in front of a bank. This was the place. He looked up at the towering edifice in disgust. He preferred the tree over this monument of planetary destruction. He closed his eyes and felt. Yes, even with all the time that had passed, he could still feel the tree. Peter imagined hugging the tree and felt it hugging back; he felt it intensely, as much as he did in his old time life.

When Peter opened his eyes, he could barely believe what he saw. The bank was gone and there, yes there in front of him, stood the tree. He could swear it was smiling. It was much older and bigger, and the lot whereupon had formerly stood the bank was now a park. He sat on a bench under the tree. This felt right. This felt like it had always been here, even though he was positive a few moments prior a bank had dominated the scenery.

Peter had made it a cornerstone in his life to always have a foot firmly planted in reality when crazy things happened to him. In his life, he had to do this, or he would have given himself to insanity long ago. Had there really been a bank there? Yes, he remembered it and the disgust it evoked in him. Was there really a park now? Yes, he was sitting in it. Did he somehow change reality? It would seem so, wouldn't it? Was he dreaming? He had no idea how to answer that question of himself.

Tune in tomorrow to read the rousing conclusion! 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

on being thankful

"But I mean, how--how exactly did it happen?" Jeremiah was pretty sure Old Pete was the oldest person he knew, and it seemed if anyone could answer his endless queries of the past, it should be Old Pete. Rumor had it, Old Pete was in the thick of it back in the day.

"There is no exactly. It just happened. Let me explain capitalism to you, Jeremiah, because I know you've no idea really how it was. Capitalism worked on a promise: you work hard, you live well. That's why people worked 40-60-80 hours a week," Old Pete chuckled as Jeremiah's jaw dropped, "doing things they'd never do if they weren't paid to do it. People took that money and bought things from stores. It wasn't like how it is when Peddler John comes through. There were these huge warehouses full of stuff, all kinds of stuff, as much stuff as you'd ever want and then some. You took that money and you bought stuff with it."

"But when would someone have time to play with all that stuff if they were working that much?" asked Jeremiah.

"Yes, that is a good point, one of the many contradictions of capitalism. Also, where you lived and what you ate depended on how much money you made and spent. If you had a lot of money, you lived in a very large house and ate good quality food."

"But what if you didn't work hard and make a lot of money?"

"Yes, that's another contradiction of capitalism. Like I said, there was this promise of capitalism, but the thing was, a lot of people worked really hard, and didn't earn much money. In fact, the more physically demanding the job, often the less money you made. So, if you worked in the fields harvesting, or you stood on a concrete floor all day in a factory, chances are you earned not very much money. But if you sat around all day in a fancy temperature controlled office, chances are you earned a lot of money. Yeah, doesn't make much sense, I know.

"A lot of people worked hard, but even in the good times, there were not enough jobs as there were people who needed homes and food. The government then put an awful lot of people in jail. Here we were in the Land of the Free--that's what they called it--and we had something like a quarter of the world's inmate population. Even with all those people in prison, there weren't enough jobs to go around. And then hard times hit. People were forced out of their homes at gunpoint, even though they had nowhere to go, and no one was going to live in those homes anyway. And then harder times hit. It got to where people who had never before in their lives known hunger or what it was like to be cold first got to experience it. It was scary for a lot of people.

"The reason I'm telling you all this backstory, Jeremiah, is so that you understand. You know what hungry people do? They learn to forage and grow food. They also share. You know what cold people do? They learn how to build shelters, or appropriate empty ones. You know what scared people do? They make friendships for social insurance. Every time capitalism failed to provide what it promised, people made do and figured out other ways to meet their needs. Each person doing this in their daily life built up alternatives to capitalism. It wasn't so much that we defeated capitalism, but that capitalism ran its course, and because it was a short-sighted affair--imagine an economy based on infinite resource extraction--it failed to live up to its promises. It was inevitable. We didn't cause its failure; we just built up with our common sense something that kept us going when the food ran out and the weather got wacky."

Jeremiah sat and reflected on this. He had heard stories, so many stories of heroic deeds and close calls, specifically about Old Pete. He felt like Old Pete was keeping something from him. "What about the time you took out that dam?"

Old Pete smiled. That had felt so good. "The dam was a hindrance to the flow of life. Everyone knew that, from the salmon who needed to spawn to the bears that ate them, and on and on. We did it slowly, so we didn't hurt anyone. No explosives."

"What about when you single-handedly captured a whole fleet of freight trucks?" Jeremiah asked indignantly.

"Oh, that story has gotten blown out of proportion. It was really a matter of timing, and the kids driving those trucks wanted to be on our side anyway. I told them we had a plate set for them at our table, and they were all for it."

"But wasn't there something big that happened that really pushed it over the edge? My mom says that one year everyone was working at jobs and shopping and being distracted by screens, and the next year, no one was doing that anymore. How did it happen so fast?"

"We became craftpersons in time. We changed our way of thinking. We started dreaming of something different, and suddenly, it shifted into being, like it had been there all the time, but we were so distracted we hadn't noticed. Once it became real, it was easier for others to take part and share in what it meant to live a life worth our efforts. It was easier to realize we had lived in prison and not necessarily known it. Even a gilded cage is death to one locked inside it. Once we started living differently, our minds and bodies changed. I don't think we realized what we had been doing to ourselves, though if we had bothered to look at the environment we lived in, it was obvious.

"There is this thing, Jeremiah, that we had forgotten. It was humanity. We, for some reason unbeknownst to us, had made ourselves into machines. But we're not machines, we're humans. We merely needed to extend our imaginations beyond what had been tried before. Our imaginations are unlimited, and if we can think it, we can create it. For some reason, we had forgotten that. But you know, Jeremiah, what it means to use your imagination?"

"Of course I know."

"Yeah, you do. But there weren't a lot of people then who did, and when we remembered that, the world changed, as your mom said, practically overnight. It was a miracle, and we're thankful for it."

"Why do you think people remembered when they did?" asked Jeremiah.

"Well, I don't really know, but if I had to guess, I'd say it's because it was better than giving up hope. It's a hard thing, Jeremiah, to look into your baby's eyes and realize you just brought another slave into the world for the Empire. Enough mamas and papas were tired of that. Believing in something else, and making it real, that was worth the effort. It was worth trying new and different things, and even as we were told nothing would be as great as this unfulfilled promise of capitalism, unfolding before our eyes was another story. We became open to being honest with ourselves, and accepting our own truths. We each have our own ways of doing things, our own beliefs, but the idea that there was something better than capitalism was universal. And in no time, we had proven to ourselves that our hunches were correct. Capitalism and the forces that purported to enforce it disappeared, and this--" Old Pete swept his hand to the distance where the apple orchard buzzed with bees, where children waded in the creek to escape the early spring heat, where people were outside chopping greens and cooking stew, mending fences, planting gardens, talking and laughing--"all of this--all of this just plain old but so very endearing life was waiting to spring into being. We planted the seeds in the cracks of capitalism, and we reaped what we sowed. We're so thankful, so thankful."