readingI have been reading excerpts from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Journals. I am fascinated by the depth of education that was considered normal during his lifetime – at least for the small segment of the population who could consider university. I enjoyed the beauty of his prose and the depth of his thoughts for a few pages until I came across an entry that stated, “I am now nineteen years old…”

My god! When I was nineteen years old I was considering things along the lines of, “a ducky and a horsey,” compared to Emerson. I am now in my seventies and am an intelligent person, yet I am still barely literate in regards to the great ideas and themes that have guided humanity’s best minds; the writers, philosophers, statesmen, artists, poets, and spiritual teachers throughout the ages.

Lionel Trilling, in his, “The Liberal Imagination,” states: “In the nineteenth century, in this country as in Europe, literature underlay every activity of mind. The scientist, the philosopher, the historian, the theologian, the economist, the social theorist, and even the politician were required to command literary abilities which now would be thought irrelevant to their respective callings.”

A liberal society, it seems, is of necessity a literate society in the deepest sense of the word. In contrast, a society which communicates, forms opinions, and takes action based on tweets, memes, and emotionally laden sound-bites is not truly a democracy and cannot long endure.

As my culture grows more illiterate with every new technology of “communication,” I find myself wondering if the human species will lose all of the gains that brought us out of the dark ages. The advent of the printing press and the great strides toward universal education that it enabled caused a leap in the use of the Romance languages, including English. As vocabulary and depth of word usage increased, so did depth of human self-understanding and empathy for other humans. The more nuanced words became, the more nuanced our experience of emotions became. Poetry and literary language expressed subtle variations of feelings and senses. Reading increased our awareness of these subtleties and deepened our experience of life, love, and all the infinite varieties of human experience. We were no longer limited to the basic grunts of lust, fear, and hunger.

As emoticons and twitter shortcuts proliferate and dominate the interpersonal communication of so many, I fear we may be returning to a society of basic grunts and gestures. Nuance made possible by sophisticated language is dying out in interpersonal relationships and, more dangerously, in government. Some argue that social media is truly connecting us with each other, but I believe that such connection is by its very nature limiting us to the most basic and primitive experiences of humanity rather than opening us to ever deeper understandings of our relationships and our place in the Cosmos.

The recovery of literacy may be the most crucial ingredient in the transformation of our culture. I don’t know how it might come about, but certainly books will play an essential part; books in whatever form (though, of course, I prefer the tangible tactile experience of a real book). It will be necessary to re-learn how to immerse ourselves in reading, to gain the skill of following an idea or a story into its depths instead of continuing to skim along the surface; and to make our choices from this depth instead of from our instantly hooked fears and prejudices.

Ah well, I’m getting old and will certainly not witness the revolution. But I can’t help continuing to scatter what seeds remain in the knapsack of my spirit. Perhaps one or two might someday sprout and provide some little nurture to those who inhabit a new Earth and a new Society.

This Earth’s Indeed My Home

(Some doggerel verses written one morning – to the tune of the gospel folk song, “This World is Not My Home.”)




This Earth’s indeed my home, I’m not just passing through.

My treasures aren’t all stored somewhere beyond the blue.

They’re all around me here, they’re everywhere I roam.

And I’m thankful every day for this wonderful home.


Though its sure one day I’ll leave, and visit lands unknown,

I want to leave behind a clean and lovely home

for all who follow me and walk this precious land

and give to them a hope and an unseen helping hand.


When days seem dark and filled with ignorance and greed

We’re going to be together, planting different seed

that some day will sprout and grow into a world that’s green

and the Earth will be a home for our loveliest dreams.


We dream a home for all, every species, every kind,

and everywhere one looks, one will surely  find

a land that’s filled with peace and free from every strife,

where simple joys await for every form of life.


This Earth’s indeed my home, I’m not just passing through.

My treasures aren’t all stored somewhere beyond the blue.

They’re all around me here, they’re everywhere I roam.

And I’m thankful every day for this wonderful home.




choicesMillions of people are grappling with materialism and cultural overload and longing for a saner life. Two popular terms have emerged that speak to this longing – minimalism and simplicity. These terms are often used interchangeably, but I have noticed that, though similar, the words are not identical. I don’t want to get caught trying to make a clear-cut distinction between the two terms, but each term has a shade of meaning that is helpful for me.

Minimalism can refer to a certain quality of design or a minimal number of personal possessions. In design, minimalism values the use of empty space, whether in a painting or the decoration of a living area. A minimalist kitchen might be spacious but not necessarily simple, in that it may contain a large number of clean-design appliances – large refrigerator/freezers, dishwashers, trash compactors, and a plethora of utensils. On the other hand, a simple kitchen may contain a small stove, refrigerator and few utensils, yet be appear cluttered with photos, knickknacks, pot holders and the like.

My own life is developing as a combination of the two: simple minimalism. That is, I feel freer and happier when I own only a few things and when those things are simple and basic. However, in a technological society there are crossover decisions to be made. For now, a good cell phone feels minimal and simple, though the technological web to which it is attached is complex and fragile. The same for my laptop computer – it’s a small, easy to use, well designed, older Apple. It feels necessary, simple, and minimal. Someone else may see it quite differently. In many other areas Nancy and I are leaning away from complex technology. We wash dishes by hand, use pour-over coffee filters rather than a coffee machine, heat with wood when we can, eat mainly plant-based whole foods, and try to buy and use hand-crafted items such as utensils when possible.

Since our living space will be quite small in the future, we are beginning to look for ways to sell, donate, or recycle most of our furniture, clothing, and possessions. We like a sense of openness and, even though space will be minimal, we hope to keep it clean and let it have an uncluttered feel. Also, the entire world of nature is opening up to us with its magnificent spaciousness and we hope to spend much of our time outdoors. Nancy is even working on developing an outdoor shaded studio for her bookbinding and repair.

In making these choices we can’t rely on rules that say one thing is minimalist and simple and some other thing is not. We are learning to make our choices based on more fundamental qualities. Will this choice support our basic commitment to the healing of the Earth? Will this choice bring us closer to nature or move us a step away? Will this choice give us deep pleasure and communion with each other? We try to take plenty of time in making these choices, avoiding impulse buying and seeking to discern what the energies and motivations beneath the choices might be.

The choices we make today may be reconsidered in the future, but each choice will always be, to the best of our ability, a choice for freedom, simplicity, and joy and for the healing of the Earth we all call home.

Inch by Inch


As I walk and hike along the forest and mountain trails, I spend some time singing aloud the song that has become my anthem – The Garden Song, written by Dave Mallett and performed by various artists over the past forty years. I learned it from Pete Seeger, who performs it in the above link. I sang it over and over this morning as I took a relaxed hour of walking on one of my favorite trails and reflected on the meaning it has taken on for me.

Inch by inch, row by row, going to make my garden grow. Going to mulch it deep and low, make a piece of fertile ground. Inch by inch, row by row, Someone bless these seeds I sow. Someone warm them from below ’till the rain comes tumblin’ down.

The primary garden I am planting and nurturing is my inner garden. The deep mulching is going on within the neural pathways of my brain, preparing that long dormant network for the cultivation of a new way of living. In a good Taoist way, I look to, “Someone,” for help rather than naming the Divine, thus limiting Its work.

Pulling weeds and picking stones, we are made of dreams and bones. Feel the need to grow my own ’cause the time is close at hand. Grain for grain, sun and rain, find your way in nature’s chain, tune my body and my brain to the music from the land.

Weeds and stones abound – fears, habits, outworn beliefs, doubts, assumptions, and cultural edifices all have inhibited natural growth to the point of near barrenness. But the “time is close at hand” – personally and globally there is very little time left to plant and grow a new vision for a new Earth. I ask that the natural flow of the Tao will re-tune me, body and soul, to the “music from the land.”

Plant your rows, straight and long. Temper them with prayer and song. Mother Earth will keep you strong, if you give her love and care. Old crow watching hungrily, from his perch in yonder tree, in my garden I’m as free as that feathered thief up there.

I seek and trust a new relationship with the Earth – actually not so much a relationship, for that implies a degree of separation – but a new sense of being a part of the Whole Earth, playing my role as a human being in an appropriate manner. This is where my strength truly resides. The old crow might be my conditioned mind, waiting to steal new seeds that threaten “the way I’ve always done it.” But that feathered thief is not going to rob me of my freedom and joy.

Inch by inch, row by row, going to make my garden grow. Going to mulch it deep and low, make a piece of fertile fertile ground. Inch by inch, row by row, Someone bless these seeds I sow. Someone warm them from below ’till the rain comes tumblin’ down.

Inch by inch.

New seeds.

Can’t grow a new garden with the old seeds.

Inch by inch.

What to do With Outrage

My outrage meter has been pegged for more than a year now. Actually it is busted beyond repair so I have difficulty filtering “news” of a governmental and economic system that I no longer acknowledge as representing my own soul and spirit. So, the question arises, what am I to do with this swirling mass of insane and dysfunctional energy that engulfs us all?

Here are some strategies that have arisen in my own life that I try to follow as Nancy and I continue our journey into freedom, simplicity, and joy.

Disconnect from media

This is an essential step but one in which we each have to find our own parameters. I don’t have a television and I do not check any internet news. I know how to check for essential information – where the fires are, what the weather might be, how my community is faring, etc. Whatever approach to media you choose to use, I do recommend that it involve a fairly rigorous abstention. It is too easy to get pulled back in to the morass of news that is enervating and not actionable. Facebook posts are the slippery slope for me and I have to do a lot of “unfollowing” in order to keep my balance.

Discipline the mind and the imagination

The main reason for media disconnect is to protect the creative quality of the mind, which is a fantastic tool for change and healing, but which is so vulnerable and easily contaminated. This quality has been hijacked in our society and twisted into material striving, distracting pursuits, and dystopian imaginings. Disciplining the imagination requires us to constantly keep in mind a utopian rather than dystopian image of the future Earth. What we imagine will ultimately be what comes to pass, not in some magical fairy-tale way, but as the rational and logical outgrowth of how our energy focuses and manifests. What remains constantly in our mind is what we will ultimately put our energy into.

I’m imagining a future, say seven generations from now, in which permaculture ecology will be the standard practice. I’m imaging a future in which simplicity will be the practical guide to happiness. I’m imagining a future of smaller communities, inter-generational and inter-racial. I’m imagining a future where “jobs” have been replaced by “work” that fulfills talents and nurtures the community. I’m imagining a future of small appropriate houses and vehicles. I’m imagining a future in which each community consciously decides what kind of technology they will use. (See The Amish)

Make no mistake, imagination is powerful and it has too long been manipulated by fear and insatiable desire, all for the benefit of the very few. It is time to reclaim it for its rightful purpose, but it won’t be easy. Watch each day how your imagination gets pulled into fearful future scenarios. We’re not playing Pollyanna here. We’re disciplining the most creative weapon in our arsenal.

Stop participating

There are countless ways of staying under the radar of institutions that oppress. In as much as possible, purchase only what you actually need from sources you believe to be healthy. Limit your housing needs to an appropriate size. Educate your children in the realities of global needs. Connect both yourself and your children to the Earth in as many ways as possible. Leave any job in which you feel you are compromising your ethics and beliefs. Learn to live joyfully on a very little, and you will become one of the little “termites” whose actions will eventually cause the whole rotten house to collapse under its own weight. These things will not be easy. They will be very difficult and sacrificial, but we must remember that we are talking about an actual resistance movement here, not some do-good casual effort. Read about the WWII resistance movements in Holland and France and find a new perspective on the importance of our choices. They were resisting the Fascist occupation of their country. Our country may appear heading toward Fascism right now, but that is a limited perspective. In the gaze of history we are resisting the destruction of the Earth Itself and that resistance will be needed long after Trump is gone.

Limit protest

Protest is an unskillful use of outrage. It dissipates the energy and always produces a counter-protest, mobilizing the forces of hatred and ignorance. Protest should be a very limited tool, used rarely and with great skill so that it brings together a large mass of people and makes them ready for a specific course of action. Otherwise it is a waste of outrage.

Focus on Joy Above All Else!

Without the joy that the freedom of simple resistance can bring, we merely continue to support the forces of fear. Without a deep and abiding joy in the wonder of the Earth, we simply keep playing the “ain’t it awful” game. Playing that game is exactly what has brought the chaos. The more joy we learn to cultivate in the ordinary and beautiful, the more hope we bring to those around us and ultimately to the world itself. My anthem has become a song I learned decades ago from Pete Seeger. It was written by Dave Mallett in the mid-70s. I sing it every time I walk and hike in the forests and mountains. I highly recommend it.  The Garden Song.


Archetypes of Simplicity – Thoreau

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”  from “Walden” by H.D. Thoreau

Simplicity isn’t simple, of course. If it were we would all be living a life of freedom and joy because we all have a deep longing for such a life, even if it is firmly buried under layers of conditioned beliefs. Out of that deep reservoir of longing occasionally arise exemplars, archetypes if you will, to remind us that we are living lives of unnatural melancholy.

Henry David Thoreau is the first name that springs to the American mind when the subject of simplicity arises. Idolized by some, pooh-poohed by others, he remains the archetype for a simple life, a natural life, a life lived as one with one’s wild surroundings. His oft-quoted words about, “quiet desperation,” should not be taken as a condemnation but as a call to arms. His two year experiment at Walden was undertaken to prove to himself that life need not be desperate at all. Indeed it can be quite free and joyful when lived with simplicity in harmony with nature.

“I wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute freedom and wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil — to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member of society. I wish to make an extreme statement, if so I may make an emphatic one, for there are enough champions of civilization: the minister and the school committee and every one of you will take care of that.”  From “Walking” by H.D. Thoreau


“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to confront only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”   from “Walden”

Our own “Walden” is beginning to take shape but its material form is still quite a few months away. We are gathering, as did Thoreau, the necessary tools and materials. Unlike Thoreau who was schooled in self-reliance and knew how to build a house, we are completely unschooled in the intricacies of a nomadic trailer life. We have lots of learning ahead and a great deal of personal growth will be necessary in order to so radically change our way of living. The above quote from Thoreau has become a guiding principle for our journey.