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New Years Day


“Hope
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering ‘it will be happier’….”
Alfred Tennyson

My friend Peg posted that on FaceBook this morning and I found it an apt aphorism as we begin this new year.

It’s a handy tool, this made up concept of time and of its beginnings and endings.  We think we have a new year. A new month.  A new week.  A new day.  In reality, I think we swim in an eternal now and if quantum physicists are to be believed time truly is made up to help us organize things.

But on New Years day I’d prefer to think that each day IS a new beginning. That we DO get the chance to begin again (and again, and again and again….).

Dreams without an action plan are indulgences.

But action without purpose, meaning and direction is simply activity.

Really, we need both.

So much is outside our span of control – most of life, really.  So we can plan our intents, our methodologies. We can set goals and keep our eyes towards them.  But if we are unable to surf the vast tide of chaos – life – we’re likely to be constantly jarred.  Riding the El on old tracks with a full trainload at rush hour – this bumpy business of life.

That balance between focus and spontaneity – between “where I’m going” and “be here now”  – it all gets encapsulated in this holy holi-day.  Maybe you are like me – you at least write down some hopes, plans and dreams for the year to come.  And then – because it is a day out of ordinary time (a holi-day) you relax into the moment.  Laugh with friends.  Maybe go visiting. Watch football.  Eat and drink in ways you wouldn’t on “just a Tuesday”.

I’m reading a book on quantum physics now – “The Intention Experiment” by Lynne McTaggert.  Those physicists seem to be proving scientifically what my mother always said “you become what you think about.”  Our thoughts DO create physical reality.

So what shall we create in 2013, friends?  What are YOUR intentions – for your own dear self?  And for our great big beautiful world?

As always, I really want to know!

Great the New Year with open arms!

Great the New Year with open arms!

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Chase Bank has lost two BILLION dollars (or more) gambling.  They have fancy names for gambling.  Just like they use fancy names for corporate welfare.  We cut assistance to the poor and bail out rich bankers who give themselves big bonuses for tricking us.

I’m so curious about the somnolence of the American people.

I transferred my money out of the big banks into a credit union after the meltdown.  Yes, I getter better service, better rates and nicer people.  But my primary reason was to ‘vote with my feet’ – to say no to greed, to plutocracy and plundering.  I am appalled by the behavior, lack of ethics and robbery that all the big banks participate in.  I turned my anger into action and moved to a credit union – which supports the local community and is not for profit. 

I don’t understand why everyone hasn’t done this.

I also don’t understand why people are just putting up with being robbed by the rich, overall, but let’s save that for another day.

So I’m curious.  If you still have your money at a big bank, rather than at a community bank or (even better) a credit union, why?

And I’m also curious – have you watched the movie “Too Big to Fail”?  Have you read books about the financial meltdown?  Are you okay with being robbed – truly, personally robbed – as a taxpayer, shareholder (if you have mutual funds you are most likely involved in this mess)?  Really? 

We used to (about 30 years ago) have a democracy in this country.  One of the nice things about democracies is that you get to vote.  And one of the nice things about capitalism is that you get to vote with your feet. You express approval or disapproval in each store you visit (like Wal-Mart? Then you are saying yes to abusive labor projects and misanthropy), each institution you frequent and support.

If you have questions about making the switch from gambling, reckless, ethics-less Big Banks to community banks or credit unions I can both point you  to good resources and also tell you of my own experience.  For a starter, I have never paid one cent for an ATM nor have I had a hard time getting all the cash I seem to go through.  Just not an issue.  That was one of the things I thought about before I made the switch.

So now, over to you.  Mad about being robbed? Whatcha gonna do about it?

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Slaying shibboleths?


“A shibboleth is a custom, principle, or belief distinguishing a particular class or group of people, especially a long-standing one regarded as outmoded or no longer important.” – Wikipedia

I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon lately.  When I post articles on Facebook that challenge the drug industry I almost always get immediate feedback saying, essentially, ‘you’re wrong, drugs are helpful.’

What’s interesting about this is that it doesn’t map to the point of the articles.  If I only posted “drugs are BAD – do not take them ever” articles this response would make sense.

Here’s two recent examples.

  1. ADHD Drugs lose effectiveness over time.  (I don’t think this was the EXACT article I posted about on Facebook, but I believe the one I had linked to this one).  The point of the article was that these drugs, effective at first, lose efficacy over time, and, given their side-effects, may be a bad choice because of that.  I got very negative feedback on this from people saying “these drugs helped me” or “these drugs helped my kids” — when the point was never “they don’t help” but they stop being effective
  2. Cocktail of popular drugs may cloud brain.  The point of this article was that people, most especially the elderly, can have brain fog:  “Called anticholinergics, the drugs block the action of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, sometimes as a direct action, but often as a side effect. Acetylcholine is a chemical messenger with a range of functions in the body, memory production and cognitive function among them.”  It went on to say that these anticholinergics are present in a wide variety of very common drugs and over the counter medications and the danger isn’t in taking one such medication, but from multiple medications.  In posting the article I wrote “think that’s why I’m relatively healthy – I take no prescriptions and virtually no over the counter – NOT taking drugs keeps me healthy, imho.  Have a read – what do YOU think?”  One of my friends responded that ‘some medications can save lives.’

I have strong opinions (have you noticed) and I have a passionate interest in health and in politics.  I would assume my political postings could annoy people as much as my health postings, but they never generate the firestorm that my health-related postings do.

I recognize that while my “anti-Big-Pharma” stance is partially based simply on the facts, it is clouded by emotion in that I feel that doctors and their drugs were major contributors to my mother’s lifelong health issues and ultimate death.  My family, by the way, probably does not agree with me on that – but that’s how I feel.

So I’m sure the emotional tinge to my postings probably does not help in my message.

But I think there’s more to it.

It seems to me that this ‘drug/no-drug’ issue is part of the big shift that’s happening now.  It’s my belief that the old order is beginning to die away and those attached to it are not happy about it.

It has also struck me at times that people don’t read the article in question – and I get that.  I know I have done that too – put in my two cents without reading the entire article in question.  I’m going to change that – I’m not going to allow myself to add my two cents about something without having first read/listened to/watched the item in question.

I’m doing some self-examination as well on my own openness to new ideas.  I really AM passionate about health, and it is my belief that I’m open to the debunking of theories I’ve espoused when I see new evidence that proves my beliefs wrong.  I’m after good health, a long and healthy and happy life – if my outdated beliefs are preventing that, I change them.  That’s at least how I see it – I’ll follow-up with my close friends to see what their opinion is.

How about you?  What role do YOU think drugs should have in health care?  Primary?  Part of an overall regime?  Used only as a last resort?

What triggers you and why (as in my anger at Big Pharma and where it came from)?

And what sacred cows are you loathe to examine or get rid of?

Not just with health either – I really want to know about the shibboleths in YOUR life!

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Awhile back I wrote a sneak preview of the book I was reading – Tom Friedman &  Michael Mandelbaum’s “That Used to Be Us:  How America Fell Behind in the World it Invented and How We Can Come Back.”   I promised – then, and again in yesterday’s post, that I would write more about this important book.

Today I’ll write a bit about what Friedman & Mandelbaum presented as how we got here.  The temptation is vast to write about everything I underlined – there are SO many important ideas in this book.   But if you wanted to read all the ‘sound bites’ I”m guessing you’d just buy the book (and you know, you should! it’s important!).

Here’s a few of the things I garnered about how we went from being the victors of World War II and loved throughout much of the world, to being – well, you know where we’re at now, and it’s not pretty.

  • We won the Cold War, which opened the door for globalization.  But we had been so focused on “beating the communists” that we didn’t get that winning created a new set of opportunities/problems.  Honestly, til I read this book it hadn’t occurred to me that we had ‘won’, or that winning the Cold War was a root cause of globalization – opening the doors to further trade
  • Redistricting is a major root cause of our current totally polarized political paralysis. In order to differentiate candidates each party presents people at the total extremes of their position (Republicans, conservative; Democrats, liberal/progressive).  Most people in America on both sides are more centrist than the candidates presented.
  • There are four major challenges facing us, which, if unattended to, will make our current malaise look like the golden days.  We have thus far chosen to largely ignore them, greatly to our peril. These big four issues  to address are:
  1. How to adapt to globalization
  2. How to adjust to the Information Technology (IT) revolution
  3. How to cope with the large and soaring budget deficits, stemming from the growing demands on government on every level
  4. How to manage a world of both rising energy consumption and rising climate threats

If you’ve read any of Friedman’s other books (The World is Flat and Hot, Flat and Crowded are two that I’ve read), you know that he makes a point, provides evidence from his research and reading, and then tells stories to further drive it home.  This book too is filled with example after example of where  we took a wrong turn and what it is costing us.

As with Hot, Flat and Crowded, the first half of the book – outlining the problem – could almost drive you to despair with points like:

  • “The bursting of the housing bubble wiped out a whole swath of low-skilled blue-collar jobs (many of the people who were building the houses) just when the intensification of globalization wiped out a whole swath of low- and mid-level white-collar jobs (many of the people who were buying the houses).
  • While American fourth graders compete well internationally on academic tests, high school kids are WAY behind the rest of the western world – below countries like Korea, Estonia, Slovenia, Poland – in fact, on the chart Friedman provided we were significantly below average in Math and below average in reading and science.  With all respect to Eastern Europe – really?  We’re behind Slovenia? 
  • “At precisely the moment when we need more education to bring the bottom up to the average and the American average up to the global peaks, our students are spending more time texting and gaming and less time than ever studying and doing homework.”
  • “The largest factor in high systemic unemployment is a failure in our schools and workforce to recognize that we have entered into a “free agent” era of labor.”
  • “To put it bluntly, in the first decade of the twenty-first century, America declared war on both math and physics.”
  • “In sum, national, state and local economic and fiscal policies, over the last two decades added up to a bipartisan flight from prudence, common sense, and reality that has created an enormous challenge for the United States.” (he goes on with examples of craziness from both Democrats and Republicans).

Speaking of which, my favorite line in the entire book is this one:

“The Democrats were cowardly, and the Republicans were crazy.”

I’ll write another blog entry next week on part two – some of their innovative suggestions. 

I think this book is really important.  We are most assuredly standing at a turning point.  Washington is ineffectual beyond belief, sitting back while mega-corporations amp up their global destructiveness.  Anyone over 40 can easily see how far America has tumbled from its former glory – Friedman and Mandelbaum help to explain how that happened.  And, as we’ll cover next, what to do about it.

Have you read “That Used to be Us”?  What did you think?  And/or – what is YOUR take on how we fell so far from glory?

 

 

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Tuesdays are Ideas Day here at Taking it to the Streets

I promised you more about Tom Friedman’s new book That Used to be Us.  And since I wrote that post I’ve finished one book by Paul Hawken (The Ecology of Commerce) and am half way through another one (Blessed Unrest).  I have so many ideas I want to share with you from what I’m reading.

But, listen.  Something’s going on in America.  It’s big.  To quote earthquake forecasters and fishermen – “This could be the Big One.” 

Back in the hot month of August in Chicago in 1968, when I was 19, long before the Internet, or Facebook or Twitter, young people got the vibe that something was going on.  Come to Grant Park.  The whole world is watching.  I really thought the revolution we had all talked about was truly at hand.  That the America we dreamed about was right around the corner.  That war was over and we would Give Peace a Chance.

My generation blew it – and really, I think Pat Robertson was right – it was that event, more than anything else that caused America and the Left to break up.  If you ask me, we had the right ideas, but the wrong way of delivering the message.

We live in perilous times.  As I’ll tell you when I write more about That Used to Be Us (I promise! soon!), we are facing huge forces that so easily could crush us all – environmental peril, unchecked corporate greed and control, a crumbling infrastructure, economic meltdown.  We have failed to address the issues that are most important (quoting Friedman here):  globalization, the IT revolution, chronic deficits,  and our pattern of excessive energy consumption.

And the economic practices that were put into momentum with Ronald Reagan have coupled with unprecedented corporate greed to create a true plutocracy.

I work right now as an IT contractor at a large bank, right across the street from the Chicago Federal Reserve.  For the past three weeks a growing number of activists are outside my door into work as part of the now global Occupy Wall Street movement.  At first they reminded me of us – I saw a young man in pajama pants with his homemade sign and long scraggly hair and thought “oh, boy, your message is WAY too important to be diluted by looking like someone who the bankers and Fox news (who are out almost every day on my street) can dismiss.

But lately it’s a much broader mix.  Elders (yes! even older than me!), union workers, and many people holding signs that say things like “Yes, I have a job and I am here on my lunch hour so you can keep yours.”

I can feel it.  I can smell it.  It is coursing through my veins.  This time “could be the big one.”

A few years back my brother lent me a university course on CD on Plato’s Republic. I had not read any Plato other than The Symposium (which I greatly enjoyed) and I have to say I was shocked at how radical he was.  One thing that really stood out to me was his clear laying out of the succession of styles of government.  He said that what follows a plutocracy (a government by, of, and for the rich – ie., America) is violent revolution, then democracy.

I want our democracy back.  I smell the revolution coming.  I just hope it isn’t violent.  Because when I see the signs (not in Chicago, but in pictures of New York) saying “Eat the Rich” – well, you’d be dining on some people I love. And, really, some of you might think that ***I*** look like a hefty appetizer.  I don’t think that’s what we need.

But a change?  A way to get America back from the repeal of Glass-Steagle and from Citizens United (which firmly sealed the deal on making it an official Plutocracy)?  yes, we need that.

And as we chant in front of the Federal Reserve:

“The people

United.

Can never be defeated.”

We ARE the 99%.  People – join me. It is time to WAKE UP.  Now.  Act!

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Did you see the movie “What the Bleep do We Know?” by chance?  It’s one of my favorite movies.  It’s about quantum physics and is mostly some “talking heads” – physicists, mystics and the life.  Oh, there’s a little story line to illustrate the principles, but to me the best parts were the very surprising ideas being presented.

My favorite quantum physicist (not a phrase you hear every day!) was Fred Alan Wolf.  After seeing the movie,  I bought a book he wrote called Dr. Quantum’s Little Book of Big Ideas – which has a comic-book like cover.  So I thought it would be, you know, like Quantum Physics for TOTALLY Clueless Dummies.

Yowser!  It was hard.  Not because it was written in a convoluted way – he’s a good writer. But because the ideas are so hard for me to take in.  Me and most other Newtonians, I suspect. 

Then I figured that a book calledThe Spiritual Universe:  One Physicist’s Vision of Spirit, Soul, Matter and Self might be more my cup of tea.  And I was correct.  Oh, the quantum physics part was still mind-boggling.  But since I read a fair amount on spirituality, at least THAT language was one I could comprehend.  I could kind of cobble together what he was saying, aided greatly by his fun sense of humor and the fact that, like me, he throws in old song lyrics to make his point (I like that part).

The book is filled with (to me) astonishing ideas:

– There is ONE soul
– Souls are real, bodies and the separate self? Not so much!
– Our thoughts and ideas really DO create the world
– “The mind exists everywhere, yet what you feel to be your solitary mind is an illusion no more real than a drop of water claiming uniqueness from the ocean that lies before it.”
– Time is very much an illusion – the future is shaping the present as much as the past is
– “Past performance does not reflect future possibility” (to paraphrase the investment portfolios) – literally ANYTHING ***IS*** possible
– “Desire, through our powers of observation, actually modifies and alters the course of the physical world, causing things to occur that would not normally occur if they were not desired.”

Really, I could write a blog post about each chapter – the book is densely filled with deep ideas the application of which is pretty amazing. 

He also provides a lot of corroboration of his ideas – from Plato to the Qabalah, to other physicists and even the Tarot.  Whilst quantum physics IS new, the ideas of which it is comprised are not all new.  And I have to say – the more I read the more I’m astonished by the trio I call the “SPA guys” – Socrates, Plato and Aristotle – they were truly amazing thinkers – much of Western thought stands on the foundation they laid.

What I came away with from this book was that my thoughts really do create my reality (or, as we say in the Unity church “Thoughts held in mind produce after their kind”).  That (to quote the Beatles in “I Am the Walrus”) “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.”  So once again I am walking down the street in Chicago on my way to work thinking “that person is really me and I’m really him and we aren’t really separate people.”  Or “I have created this annoying co-worker.”  Or “100 degrees outside in Chicago is made up and God is real.” (honestly?  the 100 degrees feels very real).

When I was young I asked my mechanically brilliant brother George to explain internal combustion engines to me.  After about the third time (“and the pistons do WHAT?”) he said “Diane, you are never going to understand this.  Believe that it works, get in your car and turn the key and quit worrying about it.”

In hopes for a different answer this time I bought George a copy of this book.  Here’s hoping I can get even clearer on the swirling mass of atoms and Dirac seas and how World-soul is real but this arm with kitten scratches on it is made up.  George, I’m counting on you!

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It’s Ideas Day here at Taking it to the Streets

A 264 page Socratic dialogue about saving the earth and the teacher is a gorilla?  And Diane says “Read it!”  – say, what?

My local Borders store is one of the ones they closed so I was in there trying to nab some bargains.  I wanted to reread Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse and found I had given my copy away – so that’s what I was after.  The young man who showed me where they hid fiction there said he had always wanted to read Hesse.  I told him Hesse is PERFECT for young people and that his best book, by far, is Siddhartha.  So we struck up an easy camraderie around books.  I had worked in a bookstore when I was in my 20s and somedays I still AM that person, albeit cleverly disguised as an aging hippie.

So the young man told me about HIS favorite book, Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn.  that’s when he told me the gorilla part, apologetically, as, I suppose, I should be with you.  He told me that that really doesn’t get in the way and that the book was really fantastic and inspired him still.  On his enthusiasm alone, I bought the book and this past week I read it.  And wow! I’m glad I did.

I asked the other day on Facebook if “Socratic, didactic” was a redundant phrase and my friend Sean and I came to the same conclusion – a work that is Socratic is, perforce, didactic.  But one could have a work that is didactic, but not Socratic.  This book is both.  The back cover uses the beginning of the story as a hook:  “Teacher seeks pupil.  Must have an earnest desire to save the world.  Apply in person.”

And earnest is a good word to use in regard to this whole book.  Both Ishmael and the unnamed hero are earnest, each in their way.  And Daniel Quinn surely is.  Since I too am earnest about saving the world from the perils created by our modern way of life, this suits me fine, but others may find the preachiness and earnestness too much.

Besides tieing in with my interest in sustainability and the importance of simple living, the book also hit a chord with my philosophical bent.  It touched on some ideas about the Bible that I must say have never ever crossed my mind. Since I want you to read this book and for me those ideas were the most surprising parts of the reading experience, I’m not going to say more, other than it has really given me some new viewpoints.

As one who believes that we are all one and by WE, I don’t just mean white humans living in North America and Western, but all humans, animals and plants (I do limit my ‘all onenness” to sentient beings, so maybe that is my little prejudice), this book rang very true.  I guess that’s why a gorilla is involved – as a spokesperson for all that humankind is so blithely, unthinkingly destroying. 

The timing is good for me.  I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my impact on the world and have noticed that I’ve been loathe to cut across lawns to get where I’m going, not wishing to tread unecessarily on the grass.  Even I find that odd and a bit too precious, but it has been a strong internal dictum this spring.  So I listen.

Though this super easy to read novel and Judith Schor’s academically-tinged Plenitude would seem to not have much in common, I think they both evince a “middle way”.  I think the Conservative reply to Progressives call for change in response to environmental meltdown is that we’ll all be living in caves like Osama bin Laden – a world with not only no Starbucks or Internet but maybe not even houses or food or jobs – “it will be awful!”

And the Progressives say “Ya, just drive your Hummers and watch the whole world turn into one huge earthquake-tsunami-Gulf Oil spill…” – oh, wait. We have that now.

But both Plenitude and Ishmael say we CAN have a saner life for the whole planet without living like monks.  Unless it’s the kind of monks who have gardens, raise chickens and bees and hang out with friends and chant and sing.  Oh, that sounds like the life I’m moving towards! 

So I have to say, I found the gorilla part a bit too precious, really I did.  I think it would have amused me more when I was the hippie bookseller, not the aging hippie talking to the cool-dude bookseller.  But  the points Quinn makes are valid, it’s well-presented, and very thought-provoking.

And hey, if you’re WAY into it, he’s got a whole online community happening.

And I think Ishmael was right – we’re running out of time.  So have a read, think about the world you are helping to sustain and the role you want to play in it.  Definitely a thought-provoking book!

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It’s Ideas Day here at Taking it to the Streets

I promised you more about Judith Schor’s thought-provoking book, “Plenitude” and though a day later than I had hoped, here I am.

The book’s premise is that we’ve turned a corner economically and ecologically (not in a good way) and we need to find a new way of being if we are to survive.  As the book jacket proclaims “Our usual way back to growth – a debt-financed consumer boom – is no long an option our households, or planet, can afford.  Responding to our current moment, Plentitude argues that through a major shift to new sources of wealth, green technologies and different ways of living, individuals and the country as a whole can actually be better off and more economically secure.  Sustainability is at its core, but it not a paradigm of sacrifice.”

As regular readers of this blog know, I embrace many of the principles of Buddhism, with one that particularly appeals being “the Middle Way”.  As someone very prone to black and white thinking, it’s nice for me to always remember that there is a third way. This book presents just such a sensible solution.

The first part of the book outlines in a manner both academically dry (why ARE economists so very dry?) and simultaneously enormously alarming that the sky is indeed falling.  It’s filled with charts and numbers and footnotes about all the things those who stand to gain by what Schor calls the BAU economy (Business As Usual) don’t want you to think about.  What we’re doing is NOT sustainable.  Not even close.  This bus is headed off a cliff and picking up speed fast.

Just when you are beyond the “oh, shit!” moment she switches gears and in Chapter Four, “Living Rich on a Troubled Planet” begins to lay out her plenitude plan: “It is time to reclaim hours, build skills, invest in people, save more and perfect the art of self-provisioning.”

If you read the types of blogs and books that I do – on simple living, minimalism, sustainability, economics – these themes are familiar.  What’s unique is that Schor, a former Econ professor at Harvard, now at Boston College, has a clear understanding of the laws of economics, economic history – and she has a very broad worldview.  Her reasoning seems very sound and her argument is compelling:

BAU is not going to work (or, as Bruce Springsteen puts it “they say these jobs are going, boy, and they ain’t coming back, to my home town….”).  The alternatives presented (pretend that it will work and thus accelerate the apocalypse OR living a life that feels penitential in it’s ‘hair shirt’ denial) are unappealing.  But there is this third way of plenitude. And we can all do it. And we can start now.

I used to tell my colleague Marc, in our cut-throat corporate culture “act or be acted upon!” and I think of that now.  Schor’s first dictum – time wealth – is another way of looking at underemployment and unemployment.  She argues that working less not only makes for happier people, but frees up time to do the other things she suggests:  improve your “social capital” (non economists might use the words “friendships”), “self-provision” (i.e., gasp! cook your own meals, fix your own house, maybe grow your own food).

But this isn’t the hippie back-to-the-land movement of my era.  It’s back-to-the-land marries technogeek as I said in my last post.  As she says “Self-providing is great, but it needs advanced technology to be liberating.”

I like how she advocates a quilt approach (my words, not hers) to life – a bit of a mainstream job, patched to a bit of self-provisioning, patched to a bit of an entrepreneurial enterprise. 

She also takes on big banks (I love that about her!) and argues that by having more small enterprise and less debt, we can self-fund and not have to be backed into a corner by “too big to fail” (and i might add, seemingly too big to jail, though not if I ran the joint).

In her discussions of social connections and sustainability she touches on cohousing, near and dear to my heart.

In fact, this whole book seemed to codify and give academic credence to a way of life many of us are already embracing.  I remember back in the insane 80s and 90s I had a few colleagues from My Fancy Corporate Job over to my wee hippie house.  Seeing my tiny house, my old, modest car and knowing my “rank” at work I could see their heads spinning (“where DOES her money go? Up her nose? Is she just DUMB?”).  I am grateful for my wise father from whom I learned so much about money and life for helping give me a headstart.

Like so much of life, I think if people try to force-fit life to go back to BAU Economics there will be a lot of stress and negative emotions – a sense of lack, of unfairness, of missing out.

That’s so not how I see it.  I agree with Schor when she says that the time from 1980-2008 was the true aberration.  A lot of what she proposes would not have seemed innovative or radical to my grandparents – much of it was the norm WAY back in the day.  Think of it as a return to sanity but with better coffee and the Internet – I mean, really? That sounds delightful to me.

She questions the economic “physophilia” (Love of growth – ah, these academics – where DO they come up with these things!) and cites all sorts of writers and thinkers to say “this is NOT a given, folks, that growth is good.”

The whole book was thought-provoking, but Chapter Four “Living Rich on a Troubled Planet” is, I think the best.  I’m already plotting how I can move more quickly into my OWN life of plenitude.  So maybe not back to my grandma’s time, but “going back to the ways of my youth, I’m gonna go back and be how I want to be” (Jethro Tull) – hang out with friends, live simply, do things on our own.  Be our own bankers.  But with good coffee. And the Internet.  I’m there! — You?

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Mondays are Physical Day here at Taking it to the Streets

And while Tuesdays are Idea day, and thus the day you usually get book reviews from me, I can justify starting my comments today on Judith Schor’s intriguing book, Plenitude: the New Economics of True Wealth.

Because one of the ideas that really jumped out at me in this engrossing book, presenting a “third way” solution to the double-whammy situation we’ve gotten ourselves into (economic meltdown coupled with environmental crisis) is that of so-called “fab labs.”  Have you heard of these?  I think I first did in something I was reading about improving life in third world countries, but Schor presents fab labs (fabrication laboratories) as part of her multi-valenced approach to solving this economy-ecology conundrum.

A ‘fab lab’ is “an advanced machine that follow sets of digital commands to manipulate and form raw materials to produce actual objects.  One type is rapid prototyping machines, which engage in a kind of three-dimensional copying process.  The machine is programmed to produce a certain object, the required materials are added, and it begins to create.  Humans add the steps the machine can’t handle.  Scrap plastic is a common input for a fabber, but they also handle metal, wood, and other materials.” (p. 121)

Is that cool or what?!

And then she went on to write a group who is doing this at a place called “Factor e Farm” – “dedicated to building the ‘world’s first self-replicating, self-sufficient, open source, decentralized, high-appropriate-tech resilient permaculture ecovillage.'”  Whoa! I’m in idea nirvana land!  Here’s a Wiki page about Factor e Farm and here’s their Blog.

So on this soybean field outside Kansas City they’re just cranking out the machines they need to create a “self-sufficient, completely sustainable community requiring minimal financial capital.”

Later on in the book she talks about how the rise of Big Banks is one of the factors that led to our recent meltdown.  So what if we built an economy ourselves and left the bankers out of it?  I love that idea!

There are so many innovative and thought provoking ideas in this book, but the more detailed look at these fab labs and the possibilities inherent in their use was particularly unique for me.  My friend’s husband is a chemist and he knew exactly what I was talking about – referring to them as 3D printers (which I just googled and yes, I see that IS what they are sometimes called).

You’ll be hearing more about Plentitude from me, but as you lounge around waiting, pop over to the blog  .

I’m really getting lately, that the “back to the land” “doing it for ourselves” movement that my gen aspired to “back in the day” is getting married to the technogeek culture that I now love and what a lovely baby they are going to have – a wonderful world of PLENITUDE for us all. Stay tuned for more. And read this book!

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What are we, really?


Sundays are Spirituality day here at Taking it to the Streets

“What are we, really?” That was the thought in my head tonight as I left a wonderful Jim Malcolm House Concert at the home of my new friend Amy Dixon-Kolar.  The crisp spring air, tinged with woodsmoke in Amy’s bucolic neighborhood was more evocative of autumn than a herald of spring on the way.  The wooded landscape, cool funky houses, smoke and darkening sky rooted me here in the Midwest that is so much my home.

But the previous three hours had taken me to a different home of the soul – the Celtic Isles.  I’d not heard of Jim or his music, just knew my new friend, an accomplished musician in her own right, had told me I’d love him and that he was Scottish.

Turns out, I am too.  Though I didn’t know that til a day in October, 1997 when I was pushing 50 years old.  Our mom, Jerrie GLASGOW Scholten, had always told us quite proudly that she was “100% Irish”.  When we brought up that her maiden name was the same as the capital city of SCOTLAND she just blithely brushed that aside with some very convincing blarney about her people emigrating during the Potato Famine and having heard that the Irish were discriminated against decided to pass themselves off as Scotsmen.  Nope, 100% Irish, she would most defiantly add.

So the weekend of her funeral Dad gave me Mom’s watch, gave our youngest sister her scrapbook from when she & Dad were first married, and gave our sister Jean Mom’s genealogy papers.

And there, in her own handwriting, was information about our Scottish heritage.

It was a bit of  a surprise.

I was thinking of that tonight, as I enjoyed Jim’s great music, much of it traditional Scottish folksongs.  But what was interesting to me was when he played a song “Flowers of Edinburgh” that was based on an Irish tune.  As he began to play, I could just about hear imaginary fiddles flying.

My very visceral response was like an embodied “that’s ROOTS music” salute.

So perhaps too, my Mama with her “100% Irish” – maybe she was simply “telling the truth without being so boringly literal” as she used to say to me.

All of which made me think about consciousness and identity.  Who ARE we?  We think we know – but I wonder.  Why do some parts of our ancestral lineage speak so strongly and clearly to us, and others seemingly not at all.  Why do some places just always feel like home.  And why do some places really NOT feel like home, even if they are? (my mother hated her hometown of Chadron, Nebraska calling it “a Godforsaken, treeless plain”).

When I first had quantum physics explained to me (and trust me, these explanations have to be at about a third grade level) I said to my best friend Sue “Wait?  So I’m just a mass of swirling atoms?  I’m not solid or ‘real’? – with some great alarm.

Now the swirling atoms seem pretty substantial. 

So I’ll leave us to ponder another guy from the British Isles.  One I come back to often, who here speaks through his character Prospero:

“Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d tow’rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.” – William Shakespeare

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