Category Archives: earth

review: derrick jensen’s ‘dreams’ and ‘a language older than words’

back in mid-july i wrote that i would soon have a review of derrick jensen’s latest book, dreams. however, somewhere along the way, i got a bit distracted by what is probably his best-known work, a language older than words. i first read language back in 2003, and i remembered that it had had something of an effect on my worldview. i remembered that he basically showed that the sexual and child abuse that he had suffered growing up was not dissimilar to the way our culture is treating the planet. however, with so many words and books and thoughts between then and now, i felt that, after completing dreams, it was time to go back to the work that first introduced me to his writing.

so i’m just going to say first off that i’m of the opinion that dreams is basically a rehashing of language. honestly, all of his books seem to be a rehashing of each other. however, this is definitely not a bad thing, at least in his case! what he writes is simply the truth: industrial civilization is incompatible with life on this planet and needs to be stopped. each of his books just focuses on different aspects of the destruction we are taking part in (whether we do so intentionally or knowingly, or not). a section of page 262 in language seems to me to be the point of what he’s trying to get across in all of the books he’s written over the years:

We need to learn from egalitarian religious and especially extant indigenous groups that the emphasis of our society must be on process: not on the creation of things and the accumulation of monetary or political power, but on the acknowledgement and maintenance of relationships, on both personal and grand scales.

that’s it, pure and simple. dreams focuses on the acknowledgment and maintenance of relationships between humans and what jensen calls ‘other sides’. part of the way the other sides attempt to communicate with us is through dreams while we sleep, but there are other ways, subtle and not-so-much, that other beings (for lack of a better word) try to get through to us humans. however, most of the time we write these things off as coincidence or flukes or as products of our imagination. or, we view these communications as being evil, because of some old testament verses that basically write off any extra-biblical communiques of this sort as being forbidden and of the devil. anyway, jensen’s main message in dreams is that these other sides are more than willing to help humanity bring down civilization (and that it’s going to happen regardless, whether or not humans choose to participate or just ‘let it happen’, as we so often do).

personally, what he wrote in dreams about this topic fully resonates with me. i’ve kept a dream journal off and on for a number of years, and can clearly see where some ‘other’ has been guiding me, giving me messages about what i should and shouldn’t be doing, or about my motivations, blatant and subconscious. and even outside of dreaming, from time to time i’ll get ‘a feeling’ about something, or do something that i initially find inexplicable, but eventually it makes sense why whatever event happened the way it did. for example, the morning of march 11, 2011, i woke up with a feeling of deep dread in my chest. the thought ‘something really bad is happening right now’ went through my head, and i lay there in bed, really scared. eventually i fell back asleep, but upon waking up later that morning, of course the first news i heard was of the massive earthquake and tsunami in japan. (actually, a local news station is the alarm on my clock radio, and what i woke up to was the announcement of a tsunami warning for hawaii.) the worst was (and still may be) yet to come, with the meltdown of the fukushima nuclear reactors. we still don’t know the full effects of this, effects likely made worse due to the attempted (and continued) suppression of information by japanese (and world) officials regarding this event. i’ve heard that every person in the northern hemisphere has been exposed to radiation from the fukushima event (sorry, can’t currently find a link to back this up, but will continue to look). who knows what long term effects this will have on our health? so, yeah, ‘something really bad’ happened that morning, and i was told about it by some mysterious other as it happened on the other side of the world.

dreams is an amazing book, and should be read by everyone, although admittedly if you’re not open to the idea of there being reality beyond what is seen with the human eye, you’re gonna think it’s all bullshit. however, while dreams should be read by everyone, i believe that a language older than words must be read by everyone. i think (and, as much as i understood what i was reading, i didn’t get this back in 2003) that this is the most important book i have ever read. and it’s not even for the abuse angle, which of course is important. i just think language has the ability to remind people of what’s important, of why we’re here, of what the point is. and what is the point, according to jensen (from page 150 of language)?

What if the point of life has nothing to do with the creation of an ever-expanding region of control? What if the point is not to keep at bay all those people, beings, objects, and emotions that we so needlessly fear? What if the point instead is to let go of that control? What if the point of life, the primary reason for existence, is to lie naked with your lover in a shady grove of trees? What if the point is to taste each other’s sweat and feel the delicate pressure of finger on chest, thigh on thigh, lip on cheek? What if the point is to stop, then, in your slow movements together, and listen to birdsong, to watch dragonflies hover, to look at your lover’s face, then up at the undersides of leaves moving into your movement, to bring trees, wind, grass, dragonflies into your family and in so doing abandon any attempt to control them? What if the point all along has been to get along, to relate, and experience things on their own terms? What if the point is to feel joy when joyous, love when loving, anger when angry, thoughtful when full of thought? What if the point from the beginning has been to simply be?(emphasis mine)

read both books, and other books by jensen as well. i just started walking on water: reading, writing, and revolution, his views on the educational system in this country, and plan to reread the culture of make-believe after that (plus i’m also in the middle of reading his work with aric mcbay and lierre keith, deep green resistance). however, if you are only going to read one book of his, hands down it should be a language older than words. if nothing else, it will remind you of what you deep down already know. it’s dark reading at times, but who says beauty always has to be about sweetness and light?

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dying and living and sleeping and waking

i feel as if my soul is dying a slow painful death and taking my body down with it. or vice versa. either way, i’m dying a slow painful death, or at least it feels that way monday through friday, from approximately 8am to 430pm.

i remember about a year ago, i was so happy to have gotten this position with my current employer. this current position started out paying more than what i earned at the last library i worked at, plus i thought it would build on the foundation i had created at the other job.  and truthfully, in some ways it has. i have learned a lot at this job, especially in areas of web development, and the intricacies of interlibrary loan and copyright law. this knowledge is something i may be able to take with me wherever i go next. (and i am going, somewhere, but that will be the subject of another post.)

and yet, today my work consisted of comparing a printed out list with the contents of a database. basically, this is bullshit work, as far as i’m concerned. much of the work i do in this position is bullshit work. i spend most of my days moving bytes of ‘info’ from one computer to another, in an ‘industry’ i’m feeling less and less respect for with each day that goes by.

there is so much real work to be done in the world, and i’m feeling as though my soul and mind are wasting away. just today i finished reading derrick jensen’s dreams, which is an amazing, amazing book,  and has made one hell of an impression on my psyche. one thing this book has inadvertently done is made glaringly obvious to me all the ways in which my job, and current way of life, are 1. bullshit,  2. pointless, and 3. evil. yes, evil. the building i work in is located next to, and affiliated with, a vivisection lab. plus, there’s this whole morality, or lack of, in the medical-pharmaceutical industry, a morality that revolves around little more than making money. it seems the purpose of the medical-pharmaceutical industry is not to get people healthy, but to keep them sick yet somewhat functional, and dependent on the industry. sadly, the work i do in an academic medical library supports this paradigm.

meanwhile, this country is literally on the verge of financial collapse, and this planet is on the verge of a far worse collapse. if it isn’t too late, i want to do something about the latter, at least in my little corner of the world, but am not doing a damn thing, other than going to and from my little cubicle every day like a good little serf. other than the plants in my cubicle, the closest i am to nature most work days is the contact made with all the paper i waste (although we do recycle – what good little stewards of the planet we are), paper that used to be in a forest somewhere. as of now, i’m still contributing to the problem (if you could call the planet dying simply a ‘problem’), and i want to do something different from that. i want something where i’m giving back instead of calling myself environmentally conscious while working a job that is in conflict with my soul, just so i don’t have to worry so much about keeping a roof over my head and sallie mae off my back. dreams has touched off an awakening in me where i want to work towards what is important and real. and these are all things i’ve thought about before, but jensen’s book about intangibles has shown me what is real and necessary and urgent. i won’t go into all that now because i do plan to write a fitting review of dreams sometime in the next couple of weeks. for now,  i’ll just say that this book is something of a catalyst for me and the upcoming changes i’m planning to make in my life. yes, i’ve known all along that collapse is imminent, and even if it isn’t ‘imminent’, it is going to happen probably in my lifetime (which i guess would make it somewhat imminent), and sooner would be better than later. it’s helped me to realize that maybe now is the time for me to extricate myself from this system, which i am in the slow process of doing. (also, more thoughts on this extrication in future posts.)

are you happy with the work you do (whether it’s paid or unpaid)? are you contributing to the demise of this planet or to the demise of civilization? (those ideas are opposites, believe it or not.) whom do you serve, Life or Death?

review of ‘zeitgeist: moving forward’

over the weekend i watched the third in the series of zeitgeist documentaries, zeitgeist: moving forward. i ‘enjoyed’ (well as much as one can ‘enjoy’ movies telling us why we’re fucked in the ways that we are) the first two movies, although i found myself disagreeing with the solution first presented in zeitgeist: addendum: a resource-based economy, as demonstrated in the venus project. it just seemed too utopian in its vision and much too dependent on technology.

in moving forward, the idea of a resource based economy seems to have been kicked up a notch from addendum. but here’s the thing: the film is absolutely right in what it says about human nature and about how the monetary system will basically be the root of our demise. the first two films were right on in unmasking religion, christianity in particular, as a tool of control, as well as in the questions asked about 9/11, and in its explanation of how the federal reserve system works, to our detriment. the creators of this film series have nailed our society’s problems on the head, and then some. it’s the solution presented where these films are lacking, in my opinion. and i’m not one to necessarily present better alternatives; i’m not that smart. i think ultimately  solutions will work themselves out, out of necessity, as we cross various bridges. whether or not the solutions humanity comes up with will be enough to save ourselves remains to be seen. but, i think the energy that has obviously gone into the thinking about the venus project has been wasted, because this solution is only viable to someone who grew up on and believed what he saw on the jetsons. this well-meaning energy needs to go instead into planning for the future based on the way things are now, not working with a clean slate, which is pretty much the premise behind solutions presented in the film. (the earth exists with the same number of resources currently in existence, but i’m not sure about the number of people or what happened to the cities and/or countries currently in existence.)

in moving forward, jacque fresco, the mastermind behind these ideas, suggests building cities with different rings, or zones, designed for various activities. one of my questions is, what happens to the cities that exist now? are we going to raze all currently standing cities so these perfectly round cities with populations of 50,000-ish can be built? and each of these cities has an agricultural belt, where the city’s food (presumably vegetables?) will be grown in high rise one-acre gardens. with these gardens ringing the city, providing the city’s food needs, supposedly you wouldn’t have to go outside the city to get food ever again. if everyone in the city is a vegetarian, that is. a vegetarian diet is not an ideal diet, no matter what its pundits say. so, are you going to raise livestock in these high-rise towers? that would take factory farming to a whole new level (no pun intended). and it seems that some sort of artificial lighting would be needed in a high rise farm, because all sides cannot be optimally oriented towards the sun, which means some sort of power source would be needed. maybe it would be solar, maybe not, but solar energy requires extraction of resources as well (for panels). the devil is in the details.

additionally, this example of a resource-based economy is much too dependent on technology. it is suggested in the film that computers be used to globally monitor resources (the global monitoring thing kinda smells like big brother to me), so that resources can be shipped to where they are in short supply anywhere on the planet. but when the grid goes down, computers (and ipads and e-readers and smartphones and that big flat-screen telly, etc.) are going to be pretty useless, except maybe for use as doorstops or paperweights. and driverless cars, and trains that can get from china to new york city in an hour – it’s all basically wishful thinking bullshit. it seems there are more pressing needs than getting from point a to point b in the shortest amount of time, just because you can. (plus, what about the idea that it’s really all supposed to be about the journey, not just arrival at the destination?)

this utopian fantasy of fresco’s is still based on extracting resources from the earth on a massive scale. however, just because you have the ability to keep track of a resource and where you think it needs to go doesn’t mean the resource is available to be used to begin with. the fact is that any solution to the problems the people of this planet face (once the world economy collapses/the grid goes down) will have to deal with people learning how to do things for themselves, by hand, locally, and not dependent on a system whose home base may be on the other side of the planet. this means learning how to do things like growing and raising food, sewing and mending, even bartering and trading skills. besides, we don’t really have the time to wait for dr. fresco to build these magical cities that will solve all our problems for us with the push of a button, while we currently continue to grow more distant from one another, even with the world at our fingertips via the internet. we have to solve our own problems: ‘we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.’ and i fear that we may even be too late on that front, but no matter, there are some of us who see what’s going on and realize that we need to do what we can, while we can.

so, overall, i do support the zeitgeist franchise, in that it is waking people up and getting us to at least think about taking control of our own destinies. but i wish it would leave it at that, or at least offer realistic suggestions on how to do so, without proposing another system of control (which i think is rather ironic since much of the content of these films is about exposing the control world systems have on us). honestly i didn’t watch the last 45 minutes of moving forward (which is nearly 3 hours long), because my thought was that the solutions offered were pretty much non-workable. maybe i’m too quick to judge, who knows, but it seems to me that with converging global crises a very real matter, we just don’t have the time for this fantasy foolishness. we have work to do.

but all i wanted was a little (okay, maybe not-so-little) orgasm

(orgasm… there’s that word again)

a couple of days i read the most wonderful posting on the reality sandwich website. joan of art, the author of this particular entry titled ‘sustainable love’, meanders through a number of topics: sex and gender roles, anal sex, her dysfunctional childhood, her relationship with her deceased father, what it means to love gaia, and other wild stuff, and beautifully ties it all together, while allowing each reader to take from it what he or she needs.

while i certainly can’t relate on every level presented here, one section in particular set off bells in my head:

Intimacy, honesty, personal responsibility, self-knowledge, love, cooperation, and the mutual respect for boundaries are paramount if we stand a chance at achieving sustainable love. Too much karma is exchanged during sexual intercourse to warrant continued casual sex without a solid basis of friendship an acceptable meme for conscious beings unless one doesn’t mind unintentionally swallowing someone’s etheric load. Who wants to be carrying around someone’s karmic burden when you just wanted an innocent orgasm?

and she goes on: “We have bigger tasks to focus on than getting caught-up in sticky erotic entanglements that don’t have the bigger picture of our life paths in mind” (emphasis mine). amen. i mean, i read that and i was like damn, this is what i had been doing with the sgc for the better part of the year, and it probably only stopped being erotic (despite the fact that i really didn’t like him as a person) because it turned briefly into a legal entanglement. during this time, well, yes, i accomplished what i needed to as far as work, school, etc., but there was always some overriding bullshit drama going on with him, either that, or we had just had incredible sex so he could get away with murder within a certain time frame afterwards. then again, the reason the sex was so good was because most everything else was so terrible between us. we could get along like normal people for awhile, then one person would say something to set the other off (or he’d ask me for money), and the bullshit would begin anew. the sex was a release of the tension and anger that was constantly simmering between us, although i guess i shouldn’t speak for him. i mean, he did have his anger issues, but i think they had to do with women in general and not me in particular – i was a stand-in for all the women who had previously ‘done him wrong.’ still, i wasn’t innocent: i remember once noticing a long scratch mark on his back, and thinking, ‘wow i did that… i hope it hurt.’ what is that based on if not anger?

but i digress… this entry by joan is marvelous. it will become a part of my canon of life manifestos (not that this collection actually exists… yet). the reason for this is not only because of what is mentioned in previous paragraphs, but what she has written toward the end. she is writing of love and relationships and how oftentimes we feel it is our job in a relationship to somehow ‘save’ the other person, but really, while our love may act as a catalyst for that person to save him or herself, that person is the only one who can actually do it. and then, she just blows me away with this:

If our liberation resides in non-attachment to ALL areas of life, we must at least entertain the notion that the things and people we hold most precious in life – including our Earth – are the things we must let go of in order to be truly free.

the letting go of attachments to people makes sense to me, because i’m going through that now with my own family, although it’s not by my choice. however, letting go of the idea that we are the ones who are supposed to save the earth, hmmm, well, that’s hard because basically the earth is our home; we have nowhere else to go. it’s almost like the ultimate codependent relationship in that regard. but you know, basically, humanity has torn our home up, and the earth is saying ‘enuf is enuf, y’all gotz ta go.’ honestly, i don’t know how humanity will end up in the big picture; i certainly don’t think we’ll survive with the numbers that we have going on now. however, my point here is that earth’s agenda is beyond humanity’s agenda, and she is going to do whatever it takes for her to be well, even if it means most (or even all) of the human race ends up going extinct. the individual human body is a microcosm of the planet, and if you realize that the body is constantly doing what it can to keep itself in a healthy state no matter what is done to it, well, why wouldn’t the planet be the same? (read the world without us by alan weisman for perfect illustrations of this.) there comes a point when the body says enough is enough and shuts down until it is well again (or it dies…). the earth, as a sentient being in her own right, certainly can, and, if pushed as she is being pushed now, will ‘shut down’ as well, although i certainly don’t know what that will look like. i do think we are getting a foreshadowing of that now though, not just physically, but culturally and socially as well.

i write all that just to point out that true love for the earth will allow her to do what she needs to do, just as in when ending a relationship, love allows each party to do what he or she needs to do to take care of one’s self. yes, we should do all the proper ‘green’ things, like recycling, riding our bikes and using public transportation when possible, for starters, and making our views on environmental degradation known to those in power (although i still think we are most likely to just get lip service in return). it is our responsibility to take care of our home to the best of our ability (and also to experience pleasure in what she offers us to the best of our ability). however, we need to let go of any expectations about the outcome of our actions. we need to ‘do the right thing’, and knowing that we have done that, just go with the flow of whatever happens. i love, and will end with this quote of joan’s: “If we really do love the Earth, let the love for her bounty and beauty be the guiding force in saving her and not selfish anthrocentricism and survivalism.”