ECO-Tours only purchases trees and dirt to plant them in...

Friday, October 25, 2013

Festival of the Dead

Many cultures honor their dead upon the moon of last harvest, the reaper is ever-present, but the influence of death subsumes the whole environment at this time (in the Northern Hemisphere) please pardon my out of step calendar to anyone living below the equator, likewise for readers in the tropics. Near the halfway point between the tropics and the arctic, my experience of days is noticeably shorter now than just a few weeks ago, hours have been lost in both the early hours and the late afternoons in ways that affect the rest of the day profoundly.

In preparing for the coming winter, there have been many more tasks to do in ever-dwindling amounts of time. This evolutionary as well as ecological experiences lead humans to consider our own mortality and that of our progenitors that date back across ages. The current boom in genealogy has reintroduced the family tree to many families that had all but forgotten their ancestry, at least for my family, anything back before great grandmothers and great grand fathers, had become a bit sketchy. Before coming to America. Those parts of our family were nearly reduced to a flag that currently flies over that country. Even the lifestyle and livelihood of great-grandparents was glossed over for the young. I hope that more of us have deeper understanding of our ancestry than that in the future, I think that part of the desperation and isolation that many feel are based on the fact that their continuity of the ages is not part of the awareness of many people. When we begin to honor the eternal calendar, we can do the same processes and participate in the same activities as the vast majority of the Earth's population have done since the beginning of time.

If we are lucky enough to be granted life, how we use that life can honor their efforts by adopting some of the ancient tools and techniques, the ones that worked for them that are still important today as well as discovering some of the ingenious processes that allowed them to give us life, we can work to change many of the things that have not worked so well in the very recent past. Being out of touch with the ancestors, or any of our loved ones that have passed the veil can be scary, but when we learn to take a our place in the chain of ancestry, we can rediscover a sublime power that is absent in many of our lives. The relations in my own family tree go back to India, Western Europe and Scandinavia (as far as I know). Each of these cultural groups have native populations that were subdued by forces unleashed upon them from afar. Their very existence threatened by raiders, missionaries, kings and marauders. Ironically, they all eventually landed in The USA, where the native people experienced the same things at their hands.

When we learn to respect the sacrifices and commitments that were made on out behalf, it can help teach us valuable lessons. Not only can we see through the current haze of what seem to be a million pressing issues into the very roots of our species survival. Gatherings at this time can serve to reconnect us with who we really are by investigating a bit about where we come from and honor the fact that each of us are presented an open page upon which to write our own stories. Many of the pagans I know observe this as the New Year celebration, entering into new commitments for the good of our community, pledging to re-open our hearts to the needs and desires of others and the eternal urge to leave something for those who we will eventually leave behind. With luck, we can also let things pass that refuse to serve, kill off that part of ourselves that is not contributing to our own good and plant seeds of hope under the dark earth.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Difference Between Map And Territory

For centuries military leaders have known the important difference between map and territory. During the ages of far flung exploits, it was said that he who held the best maps would win the war. As each of our ECO-Tours unfolds, we urge our guests to traverse on or many of tens of thousands of "backwater", dead ends, rooms at the back of the hall, or whatever form of "territory" we happen to come upon. Some forget that our own neural network holds billions of synapses, each devoted to, determined by and reveling in either abundance or lack of specific necessities of life within their very specific ecotones, ready and willing, perhaps uniquely able, to support a particular form of life, or not inside our organism. The electrical storm that constitutes our awareness is necessarily limited because our mapping techniques will always misrepresent the reality of the territory. The end game of ecological awareness is not so much to win a war, or exploit the territory in a traditional sense, it is to evolve our species into a more benign presence on the planet, to become facile and adept at providing the "best" life, for the most organisms, at the least cost.

Each place I lived, in one way or another, was at the back of a dead end road, The places that were the center of my world, inhabited by billions of external as well as internal wonders, abundant and lush, were pretty much at the least noticeable places on the map. In fact, even when I lived along major thoroughfares, my "place" blended so seamlessly with the landscape as to become invisible. Those who know me are aware that I like to be noticed, but not in the way many do. If I can help someone to step out of the mundane, get caught perhaps a little off balance, I feel that my work is done. I do not stick up like a trip hazard as some lazy buffoons might, but rather, I like to intellectually rise up out of the ordinary to say something worth considering, twisting a phrase so vigorously as to wring deeper meaning from it. "My way", is to describe territory that may, as yet, have remained unexplored. I explore beyond my own maps and encourage others to do the same.

Plunging into territory, especially the unexplored kind) requires a deep and abiding knowledge that you bring, in your bag of tricks, a creative approach to problem solving. Neighbors have affectionately referred to me as Macgyver, after the guy who jury rigs a girl's doll baby into an IED in one episode. When there is a conundrum they cannot imagine solving, they give me a call ant usually, through a series of levers and fulcrums, we get it done. Exploring physical "reality" is only one sort of region to explore, we are embedded in a matrix of territories so vast that to hold onto or describe only one tricks us into thinking that we are paying attention. No. To pay attention to any one thing, we must ignore all else. We have spiritual, mental and emotional realities that each constitute infinitely vast territory. Millions of us study discreet aspects of one, or a few of these regions, but the maps they are able to bring us are limited by their own unique experiences and vocabulary. Whether we acknowledge it or not, the more fully we define our specific "spot", the further we must push it from all else that exists.

When we wish to share our territory, rather than just maps, we face a very simple, yet unanswerable question, is the "other" seeing what we are seeing, or more importantly, are they experiencing the same experience? In most cases we must avail ourselves with the uncomfortable knowledge that they, in fact, are not. Perhaps it is the relationship that I have had to develop with the autist in me, that leads me to want to keep a hammer, roofing nails and a sign in my car that says FOUND CAT, so that I might post the next flattened mass of fur that I see along my ever changing route. By adding a specific texture to experience, we might hope that others will not necessarily become aware of our existence, but to question their own place and if they truly know where they are coming from. Virtually everyone you ever meet will have mapped out their understandings and relationships with everything from the word fish, to a pitcher, to just about every complex concept with which they have become aware. Only a handful have jumped headlong into the territory to see what else lies behind the mere perception, gone to the furthest back recesses of hidden wonder, examined what could be found, out of reach of even the most detailed maps, to come to realize that none of it can be seen by another.

My sister is one of these explorers. As a pathologist, she peers more deeply into the wonder of cellular structures than all but a handful of people worldwide. What she could describe would fill an encyclopedia, if only with microscopic awarenesses. The territory of fecundity, the infinitely abundant nature of the universe cannot be harnessed by language, but it exists. Through a series of intellectual forays, conundrums, interactions and re-births, I have come to "know" in ways that are hard to define, that the territory must always take precedence over the maps we draw of "her". What we plant, even to the extent of ideas will only grow in a nurturing environment that can provide the resources necessary for that "seed" to bear fruit. This is why we always begin ECO-Tours with a ritual and put them to bed with one as well. Transformation can only occur when we sanctify the territory and look past all of our maps.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

March Against Monsanto? What?

I have had a terrible time amongst my friends who are within a movement, or sub-culture, of the ecologically aware. I don't want to participate in a group called S.T.O.P. (the Stop Toxics Organizing Project) I would rather participate in S.T.A.R.T. (Stop Toxics, Organize Recycling Today!) Even that falls a little flat because one of the terms is still pretty "anti". We have a real problem, that is for sure, but relinquishing our impetus to do good to an oppositional stance that comes with being against anything, is squandering too precious and important a feeling to angst and dissolution. The last thing we need is a war against any other damned thing and that is how virtually every not-for-profit organization, every non- governmental organization (non-GMO) every do-gooder affiliation on the planet takes on the "problems" that they perceive worth of their effort.

Imagine a world where we could say, instead of marching in the streets against something, say what we are for. I'm all about participating in a rally, For a sustainable ecosystem, to empower citizens to know how to eat good food, I would march for miles carrying a banner for respecting Mother Earth, for treating my neighbors with dignity and respect, or for a more humane food system. Launching into a fight against anything strikes me as being counter productive. All wars have the unfortunate effect of making the lives of vast numbers of people extremely miserable. Perhaps we should consider well the collateral damage when we begin to feel justified in our warlike behavior.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Resource Management

As much as I hate the term "human resources", it is well to remember that the folks winning the current class war regard us all as such. Just as the marauding "pioneers" swept over the "new world", they are in search of gold and have found virtually everything on the planet to be available to them. In days of old, wealth was measured in tillable acres, or numbers of ships, the number of slaves at ones disposal or the most able to give, as evidenced by the potlach ceremony of many tribal cultures. Perhaps nothing has changed but the scale.
I was raised understanding that managing resources was a matter of course. In our household of three, the resources available to us was limited. With $82.50 each month coming in from "child support", my value as well as that of my sister were set, by the court. $41.25 each, to be exact. In 1968 dollars, it may have been a fair amount, but I remember rent being one hundred and usually the phone bill was another hundred, so the way I looked at it, the house we lived in and the communications device hanging on the wall were both "valued" twice as much as I was. Trying to assign value to resources when your life is worth less than a telephone can be tough, but for me it was enlightening.
It is our use characteristic that determines true worth and value, not anything intrinsic in what we use. For example, If I had a years supply of gasoline, stored in my garage, I might not think twice about driving more, because I would be insulated from the price shock of having to buy more, at least for a while. This is similar to the way that industrialists discount the value of clean air and water when they choose to pollute. If they can be assured that someone else will pay, they can dump whatever they want wherever they want. If they were to be threatened by the stench or effluent, they can afford to move further away, where it is still nice. Many who live on the lower end of the income spectrum know the real truth behind the concept of robbing Peter to pay Paul, because we live with a complex of competing needs and have little wealth (resources) to throw at them. In this respect, my poverty stricken youth taught me very well how to conserve resources.
To this day, I feel wealthy when I have a new shirt or a new pair of shoes, even if they come from the second-hand shop. I know the difference between an investment and frivolity.
My work through ECO-Tours has cost but several thousand dollars. Tens of thousands of dollars worth of labor have also flowed through our organization, but each one of them was given freely by people who wished to make the world around them a little better. There are those who seek to put a price on carbon sequestration, flood control, climate stabilization or aesthetic values. Those who donate both cash and hours to our cause care little about the "value" of these things in dollars, they only know that the world is better off when we contribute to it, rather than stripping the landscape and Mother Earth of her trees, or turn babbling brooks to ditches.
The time has come to ask "What can I do to sustain life into the future?" Managing our own resources as if the Earth and her people mattered. We have certainly lost the class war, do we really need to be reminded of where the oligarchs are headed? Following their schemes has only one result, more pollution, poverty, pain, dislocation and sickness. When we realize that their game will forever leave us with less, we can finally get down to the business of taking back what rightfully belongs to us. Perhaps first and foremost of the resources they like to capitalize upon is our time. Spending that single resource carefully has the power to transform society, the economy, the planet itself and to make the future liveable.