Category Archives: meaning

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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living for god

you may (or may not) remember when a couple of months back, a young woman boarded the bus i take daily to work, and proceeded to give her testimony about her relationship with jesus christ. at the time, i thought it was touching, especially because at the end of her spiel, she prayed for the bus passengers. even though i no longer believe as she does, i appreciated her sincerity, and as we got off at the same stop, i thanked her for her prayer.

fast forward to this morning’s bus ride. after the bus pulled up to the stop she was at, this same young woman handed out religious tracts to each person getting off. (the stop happened to be at a church ministry that provides free breakfasts every morning, and there are a number of regular riders who get off here daily for that reason). i thought, ‘uh oh, here we go again…,’ and yes, after she paid her fare, she passed out tracts to those of us remaining on the bus… except to me, but only because i politely refused. and then she proceeded to deliver a little sermonette about living for god.

i only caught bits and pieces of what she was saying, because i was trying to listen to a podcast on gnosticism (would this be called irony?). however, the gist of it was the usual ‘if you’re not living for god, you’re going to hell’. and, on one level, i can appreciate what she was saying, because i’ve been in that place. i’ve been where i earnestly believed that anyone who had not accepted jesus christ as their personal lord and savior was going to hell. therefore, i believed that people like gandhi and mother teresa were in hell because they were not born-again christians, but someone like jeffrey dahmer was in heaven, even after the horrible things he did, because reportedly he had accepted christ into his heart before being murdered in prison. forgive me, y’all, but this is rather fucked up theology. a person such as gandhi, whose life was dedicated to the betterment of humanity, is currently being tormented by demons for all eternity because he chose not to believe that the jewish version of a myth was a series of historical events? seriously? and you do realize that christianity really is little more than the jewish adaptation of myths revolving around various sun gods (and related goddesses, who are strangely missing in the christianized version) dating centuries before the time jesus was said to have walked the earth. the major difference between the christianized version and earlier versions is that, due to various power plays between political factions at that time, people were convinced (basically by the sword) that this jesus character was real. (and i mean no disrespect when i say ‘jesus character’.)

if there is anyone reading this who has known me for many years, but not had any real interaction with me, you are probably rather shocked at this point. a number of you know that i spent (or as i like to say, wasted) many years believing and living this. jesus was my life. i lived in what you might call a christian ghetto: i worked full-time in a christian bookstore, was deeply involved in a church (or two), all my social interaction was with other born-again christians, and i was afraid (i didn’t realize it at the time, but it all boiled down to fear) to scarcely listen to anything that wasn’t ccm (contemporary christian music) or even drink something as innocent as a watered down wine cooler.

what gradually but ultimately changed things for me first was developing close friendships with people who didn’t have such a narrow view of what it meant to love god, people who helped me to see that what i was really doing was ‘churchianity’. also, after moving away from columbia in 2000, i read a book that removed the foundation from under my feet, ‘why christianity must change or die’ by bishop john shelby spong. actually the first time i tried to read it, it made me so angry, i couldn’t finish it. i couldn’t believe this so-called bishop was saying all these ‘untrue’ things about what i had staked my life on. for some reason though, a few months later i tried it again, and got angry again, but for a different reason. this time i was pissed because i realized that i had been lied to for pretty much all my life. however, the unanswerable question was, whom should i be pissed at? i couldn’t be mad at the people who taught me this stuff, because they were only teaching me what they had been taught, and what their teachers had been taught. and it seemed pretty pointless to get mad at an institution. i remember right after finishing the book, i said to god, aloud, ‘all i want to know is the truth.’ and i swear, i heard a voice in my head say, ‘now we can begin.’ and my life has not been the same.

i’ve been through a lot spiritually, and religion-wise, between then and now. (spirituality and religion are not the same thing; trust me.) i’ve studied various world religions, some more deeply than others to be sure, but i’ve noticed they’re all basically pointing at the same thing. the problem with most religion is that people get hung up on the thing doing the pointing instead of paying attention to the ‘object’ (for lack of a better word) being pointed at. (not gonna use the finger pointing at the moon quote here, not gonna do it…) a couple of people who have met me in the last few years have accused me of being an atheist, just so i can ‘get away with’ doing whatever i want. nobody gets away with anything, but that’s a whole ‘nuther piece of writing. i’m not an atheist because i don’t believe the bible literally anymore. (actually i’m not an atheist, period.) my belief about the bible, and, by extension, about jesus, is that although the bible is true, it is far from being factual. it, along with other religious texts, is a collection of stories about the human condition, about how to (and how not to) treat others, and about ways to find deeper meaning in life. and that deeper meaning does not consist of literally believing that a man born of a virgin was sent from heaven to die for your sins so you don’t have to. that’s what my problem is with the young woman on the bus this morning. i know where her head is at, because i’ve been there. but she’s got to get outside her own head somehow, and see the bigger picture. she, and all of us, can embrace the experiences that brought her to this point in her life, but she needs to know that there’s more to this life than keeping people out of a literal hell.

maybe this life here on earth would be a little bit less hell-ish if we stopped to realize that there are as many ways to live for god as there are people on this planet.

(this post is an adaptation of a note i posted on facebook earlier today.)

speaking with authority

‘it is not enough these days to simply question authority; you got to speak with it too.’

i love this video/poem! i think that the way people speak is symptomatic of much of what is wrong with this culture. if we want to be taken seriously, to be serious catalysts for change (and it doesn’t matter what needs changing), we need to learn to speak with conviction and to stand behind what we believe to be true, even if it’s not the popular thing. myself included.

it’s f’n day 10 of nablopomo

…and even though i’ve had a lame post here and there this month, i think working on the discipline to write something daily has been a good thing.

anyhoo, last night i saw the funniest video, a talk by the controversial hindu spiritual guru, osho. this talk was about the word ‘fuck’, which happens to be one of my favorite words in the english language. (seriously.) its versatility knows no bounds (just ask george carlin). and in this video, osho gives his listeners some examples of that versatility.

the bag of flesh known as gail

where to begin, where to begin… i’ve been reading jed mckenna and his first two books (spiritual enlightenment: the damnedest thing and spiritually incorrect enlightenment) have proven to be nothing less than a major mindfuck. i’m anxiously waiting for the third (spiritual warfare) to arrive, which is supposed to be about waking up within what mckenna calls ‘the dream’.

before reading his books, i had already been realizing that life is pretty much a dream and trying to figure out how to be a more active participant within the dream instead of just letting it ‘happen’, or to live more lucidly, as it were. and then i come across mckenna’s words and now realize that the only thing that matters about the dream is that i wake up from it. however, the hard part about this realization is that this thing called *i* is also a dream. i’ve come to terms with life being a dream, but *me* being a dream? that means i don’t exist. there is no me. it’s all a construct: my thoughts, dreams, memories, preferences, opinions, the books on my bookshelf, the clothes i wear, all meant to make me seem *special*, *unique*, *important*, and i’m none of those things. i’m not. the only thing i am is full of shit. just like the rest of humanity. but humanity is not my concern at this moment, or maybe it is in that i can’t deal with most members of it right now. even friends and family are hard for me to spend large chunks of time with. i think i probably have one friend, and an online acquaintance, who would be most likely to understand what i’m getting at here, that i can talk to somewhat about what this is like. otherwise, most everyone else i know (and don’t know, for that matter) is thoroughly ensconced in the dream and think it’s absolutely real and they and their thoughts and beliefs are absolutely real and that even i, the bag of flesh known as gail, am absolutely real. and they are wrong.
so, at this point, *i* am still just a part of the dream. and if i figure out who the fuck this *i* is, i wake up. (i feel like i should have the who playing in the background: ‘tell me, who the fuck are you?’) so who am i? i don’t know anymore. i mean, i was born in 1965 under circumstances i’m not even fully aware of. my supposed father, the man whose name is on my birth certificate, was in bed with another woman the night i was born because he was so upset about his wife giving birth to another man’s child. growing up, i knew something was wrong because he and i never bonded (or rarely even spoke to one another) and i had no physical resemblance to him or anyone on his side of the family. still, i spent most of my life up until my 30s, believing that he was my biological father, because i had no tangible reason to believe any differently. i was told otherwise by my mother’s two best and oldest friends only because my mother was thought to be on her deathbed at the time. however, she did get better, then passed away a little more than a year later, but never did ‘fess up; even when talking to her through my psychic last year, she still didn’t confess to it on the other side of the grave. so i don’t know anything about my biological father, other than his name and what he did for a living. this means that even on the most basic, rudimentary level, i have no way of knowing fully what this bag of flesh descended from. and it just doesn’t seem fair, but it is what it is. however, if i don’t know this, what else don’t i know???
what i do know (or thought i knew), on this plane anyway, is that i was considered a highly intelligent child, having skipped a grade in school; i have an addiction to carbohydrates and sugar that i fight daily; i get a lot of compliments about my hair; i think certain forms of anarchy would be ideal; i’m bisexual; i’ve traveled to some interesting places, but have only been outside the united states for something less than 18 hours; i’m lonely but prefer being alone most of the time although physical companionship would be nice at times; i think i’m pretty smart but also feel like a fraud much of the time… i could go on and on with the trivia, but is any of it true? i, i, i…. who is this *i* that has interesting hair, who is bisexual, who has done some limited travel? fuck. i’m… can i even write a sentence without using *i*???
whatever. i’m trying to write something that i know absolutely without a doubt to be true, and i am finding that damn near impossible to do. to me, whatever is true is that which is not fleeting and cannot be destroyed. everything about me, everything in my life is fleeting; hell, life itself is fleeting. let’s say i live to 80; that’s a mere drop of mist in the bucket of time. my thoughts only last moment to moment; my body will eventually stop functioning and be turned to ash which i hope will be used as compost on flowers with a limited lifespan themselves; all this crap here in my apartment will be given to goodwill or stashed in the back of some relative’s closet or end up in a landfill or maybe burn in a fire or in some other way be dispersed amidst the dream when I’m gone (?!); my beliefs – well we have seen how my beliefs have changed radically over the past decade. ten years ago i was a wage slave in a christian bookstore, and now look at me, derisively denouncing pretty much any form of religion or belief. (wonderful, and imho, true piece of writing by julie, mckenna’s ‘student’ in spiritually incorrect enlightenment, page 256: ‘What is Christianity but a two-bit protection racket? Good cop/bad cop. The son, our blessed savior, saving us from what? From his psychotic freakshow father who’s hellbent on burning us alive forever. What kind of twisted fuck thinks this stuff up? What kind of pathetic slob falls for it? My kind. Me. I did.’ me too, julie. who woulda thunk it?) there is nothing about me that is real, yet i have this attachment to it all as if my life depends on it. maybe that’s because my life, at least as a part of the dream, does depend on me hanging on to the fantasy. and, while it’s had its moments, it hasn’t even been a very pleasant fantasy overall. wouldn’t i have chosen things differently if i knew early on that this was just a dream? maybe, maybe not, who the fuck knows?
what i know to be true at the moment of this writing is the only thing about me that is true, that cannot be destroyed, is my awareness, which i’ve had from before i was born until now; which, in reality i had before i was conceived and will continue to have long after this body stops working. everything else is just part of the construct. and i guess my job in all this is to rid myself of my emotional attachment to the construct and embrace the only thing i know to be true. my ego must destroy itself. if i choose to accept this mission, this is going to be sooo hard. being at this point so very much sucks, because right now i feel like i can’t go back to the way i was even a month ago, but going forward will be a nightmare, if i choose to detach from all this nonreality and pursue ‘enlightenment’. but it only makes sense that i do so, how can i knowingly hang onto a delusion??? i mean, detaching to this degree is a scary thing. how am i supposed to maintain relationships? what about being a part of a healthy, loving romantic relationship, which I still have hopes for (talk about a fantasy!)? how is this even possible if i’m on this quest to weed out falsehood from my life, falsehood being defined as anything that is not 100% true? how am i supposed to show up at work every morning, let alone move to california and continue my education, if everything and everyone i see rubs me the wrong way even on a good day because of ignorance? how can i listen to the dramas my family and friends role play in daily, when i know they are not real, it’s all just a big fucking sometimes tedious play? similarly with politics, it’s all just more drama that affects a larger cross-section of participants in the play. maybe one day i’ll be detached enough to look on it all with a sense of amusement, but right now it’s just painful, because it all seems so meaningless and a waste of time, and yet i’ve got 44 years invested in it.
so, this is going to be ugly, but i have to work it out somehow. i don’t even know why it has to be worked out, but it’s something like a compulsion, i suppose. and let’s say that, okay, eventually i am face to face with reality and have weeded out all that is not true – i am this enlightened creature with the interesting hair. what does that even matter, as opposed to me living out my life the way it is now, like everyone else is doing? one key notion in spiritually incorrect enlightenment is that the point of enlightenment is to realize that there really is no point. geez, talk about meaningless and a waste of time. yet deliberately allowing myself to be a part of a delusional world is not really an option. and i realize that, should all go well physically, i’ll be on this planet another 40 or so years moving around amidst the dream, but i hope to develop the ability not to take it seriously and not to look askance at those who do. (please hurry up and get here, spiritual warfare, for some suggestions on how this might happen…) in the meantime, well, here we go… …don’t take anything personally that i might write from here on out; it’s really not you, it’s me… and i know that most people who have read this far are probably thinking i’ve gone off the deep end. maybe i have.