Sunday, December 28, 2008

15 Things I Learned in 2008*

  1. I don't always want what I think I want. For some reason I keep learning this one over and over.
  2. Buying a house is like renting a house. You just have a different landlord.
  3. Even with a reel mower I don't like mowing the yard in August.
  4. Traveling by train could be awesome. I hear it's awesome elsewhere. The Amtrak from Flagstaff, Arizona to St. Louis? Meh.
  5. Gas at four dollars a gallon will still get me where I need to go. Turns out I need to go to far fewer places than I thought I did.
  6. I'm a lazy gardener.
  7. Scottsdale, Arizona, has an amazing Art Walk.
  8. You can make a great tomato sauce by roasting canned tomatoes with onions, garlic, olive oil and basil. Toss everything in a glass baking dish. Be generous with the olive oil. Leave it uncovered. Put it in the oven at 300 degrees or so. Give it a couple hours. Stir it once in awhile. Puree it in a blender when it's done. Delicious.
  9. Meeting cool people -- online and in real life -- is one of the best things about unschooling.
  10. It's also one of the best things about blogging.
  11. I miss working in community radio.
  12. Sometimes problems are so intrinsic, or so intransigent, they're not problems anymore, they're just facts.
  13. Sometimes I'm the problem.
  14. Sometimes there is no problem, just a set of mind-forg'd manacles.
  15. Whoopie cushions make outstanding Christmas gifts.
* with a tip of the winter-weather sock cap to the awesome Communicatrix, who posts her list of 100 (!!) such things at the end of each year, and has been doing it since 2004, and puts my meager attempt to shame...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

On the Longest Night

The world needs you to go where you want to go and be who you are meant to be.

The world needs you to shine as you were born to shine.

The world needs you as you stumble and fall, it needs you as you rise up, it needs your hands to hold on tight, it needs you to let go.

The world needs your laughter and your power and your grief.

On the longest night of the year, the world needs you to be the light.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


In The Original Affluent Society, anthropologist Marshall Sahlins proposed that members of hunter-gatherer cultures worked far less than members of our own culture, making their living in only three to five hours a day. The rest of their time was leisure. Hours upon hours of farting around.

Can you imagine being that free?

What would happen if making your living took only a few hours a day instead of 40, 50, 60 hours a week? What if you could earn enough money to live well in only three to five hours? What would you do with the rest of your time?

What would enough money look like? Would it be twice as much as you have?

Can you imagine it being half as much?

Or less?

I'm wondering these things as I read the dire forecasts for our economy, resonant with the drumbeat of retail woes and massive job layoffs. The latest figures for unemployment are unnerving. How can there be so many people without jobs when there is so much important work to be done?

Do you feel the disconnect? We're trained to make money and spend money. Everything depends on it. But the cat is out of the bag, the secret's revealed, the emperor is buck-naked. Our capacity to earn money is largely beyond our control, and our ability to spend is problematic. Shopping itself has become a moral issue. We know we can't continue to consume the planet, but what happens when we stop consuming? Our economy falls to pieces.

Well, sooner or later the economy has to fall to pieces. It's inevitable. Nature bats last.

Still, there is plenty of shopping going on this holiday season. Parking lots around town are full. Maybe we can't help ourselves. Maybe it's vestigial, a leftover from those hunter-gatherer days. We're born to glean, drawn to shiny.

I just wonder how we'll take to the paleolithic work day, once nature has her ups.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig wrote something to the effect that the Buddha can be found in the workings of a motorcycle as surely as on the mountaintop.

By the same logic, is the Buddha present in the guts of my dvd player? Can the Buddha be found in a cluster bomb? In a land mine?

Is the skyscraper as natural as the beehive?

The guts of my dvd player are unlovely, but I've seen the guts of deer spread out on the highway, and they are not particularly lovely, either.

What makes something holy? Is this a quantum question, the answer residing as much in the observer as in the thing observed?

What does it mean to be broken? Are we broken? Are we in need of redemption? And why does salvation, if needed, come not in this life -- where it might actually be useful -- but only after one is dead? Of what use is that?

We have a new dvd player. The old one is now salvage. Copper wire, resistors, circuit boards. Ashes to ashes.