STOP FRACKING! GRAB THE GAVEL! Support Angela and Save the Susquehanna!

by Kevin

My environmental activist friends Jerry Lee Miller and Michelle Johnsen told me about how the young organic farmer Angela Nitchman stood up at a recent SRBC — Susquehanna River Basin Commission — meeting, yelled and grabbed their gavel out of desperation because they were voting to turn over millions of gallons of Susquehanna River water daily to the fracking industry. They will then pump the contaminated water deep into the Earth, polluting our ground water and farm lands. So I drew the poster above to help raise $1,600 for Angela’s defense fund. I went to the website just now and contributed a little money. It’s easy to do. Please donate what you can at www.indiegogo.com/whatgavel and read the story of Angela’s bravery in Jerry’s, Michelle’s and Angela’s own words below. Thanks!

LETTER FROM ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST & OUR FRIEND, JERRY LEE MILLER:

Dear Kevin & Robert

Angela Nitchman is a brave and good young woman. She sang a song at our open mic about 3 months ago; a song of gratitude for all that she’d been given. Yet Angela is actually in great need right now for standing up to the powerful on behalf of the Earth and the people and the Susquehanna River!
 
I’m asking you to join me in financially contributing to Angela Nitchman’s defense fund. Below is an explanation of Angela’s situation written by Michelle Johnsen. I’ll just say that I know and respect Angela for many reasons, having gotten to know her through Transition Lancaster and Occupy Lancaster. In her early 20s, Angela has both deep conviction and a willingness to work for what she believes in. She’s what I call a ‘front liner’.
 
Angela and the other concerned citizens who traveled to Wilkes Barre for the Susquehanna River Basin Commission meeting last December  unleashed something! When they stood up to the commission’s unconscionable blanket approval of water withdrawals from the Susquehanna, they derailed the process just enough. The subsequent rescheduling of the SRBC meeting to hear more public testimony bought us several months to organize resistance. Who knows what we will yet accomplish as a result?
 
As you may know, I’ve been traveling to Jersey Shore PA (near  Williamsport) where 30 plus families of Riverdale Mobile Home Park were evicted from their homes  as a direct result of the SRBC’s decisions. What’s happening there is tragic and outrageous on one level! Cruel and unjust! However, we have witnessed victories for a few of the residents (so far) which would not have been possible without the organizing efforts and the front line stand taken  by many of the citizens who were with Angela at Wilkes Barre. These front line activists are putting their bodies on the line. This is the depth of commitment it takes to win anything against overwhelming odds!
 
Even small victories stoke up the fires of motivation and provide the courage to keep  going while also giving us something to build upon. I plan to continue working with the Save Riverdale movement because it’s right and because I see much hope in it. I believe this movement would not be what it is without the ‘Wilkes Barre Uprising’.
 
Angela has been charged with a crime for picking up the SRBC gavel! I think we should all get ourselves a gavel to symbolize power to the people in this monumental fight we’re now in!  (I’m going out today to look for a gavel:-)  Why not?)
 
CAN YOU HELP ME HELP ANGELA? $25 would be GREAT! $50 would be twice as GREAT!! Thank you so much for caring! ( Contribute at www.indiegogo.com/whatgavel )
 
Yours in solidarity,
Jerry Lee Miller
 
STATEMENT OF EXPLANATION BY MICHELLE JOHNSEN (local activist and friend of Angela)
 
 Our friend and sister is in need of help!! Angela is an organic farmer from Lancaster, PA, whose love and respect for sustainable agriculture is matched only by her fierce spirit for protecting our environment, ecosystems, and in particular our beautiful rivers and waterways. This July, Angela will be on trial for disrupting a Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) meeting in December, and for removing the SRBC gavel from a table. Her legal fees have been estimated at $1,500, and we’re going to do everything we can to raise this money.
 
MANY of us here in Lancaster and across the globe (including Angela!) are passionately opposed to hydraulic fracturing of the earth’s Marcellus Shale for natural gas, or “fracking”. The gavel represents the power the SRBC yields over us and the Susquehanna River. At the meeting in question, the panel unanimously granted the fracking/natural gas drilling industry’s requests for new water withdrawals, despite the fact that 100% of the commentors were there to speak out against fracking. This means that MILLIONS of gallons of water PER DAY will be withdrawn from our beautiful river, our lifeblood, and will never be returned to the actual water cycle! The toxic waste water is then injected many miles below the earth’s surface, contaminating both soil and drinking water, harming both humans and wildlife. This toxic mix includes known cancer-causing chemical byproduct, benzene, among others. Fracking also contaminates the air we breathe and affects our already unstable climate. The protesters in attendance tried to explain that water, not natural gas, is essential to the survival of our species, but the SRBC chose to ignore them.
 
Angela feels her removal of the gavel was an act of desperation, a political, albeit feeble, gesture. In her own words, “As an organic farmer, I know firsthand how each of us depends on the health of our land and water for survival. I spoke up at this SRBC meeting, yes, I YELLED at the meeting, because I am under attack. My homeland is under attack. Our environment, our ecosystem, is being destroyed before our eyes. Because of this, it is not ‘unreasonable’ for me to react the way I did. What would be unreasonable would be for me to sit back and watch my livelihood disappear, watch as our water quality becomes non-existent. To be silent would be insane.”

Let’s put people over profits and take the power out of the gavel folks! Please consider a donation toward helping a wonderful community member, devoted local activist, and beautiful spirited human being. Angela stood up in the face of injustice and said NO YOU WILL NOT CONTINUE TO HARM THIS EARTH. She did what people often wish they could do- put herself on the line to protect this river and this earth, because fracking is WRONG and HARMFUL. This money will go solely toward legal defense for Angela, even if the entire amount is not raised. (CONTRIBUTE at: www.indiegogo.com/whatgavel )

This campaign is important to more people than just Angela. Fracking effects us ALL, and as we speak there are plans for a natural gas pipeline that would pass through parts of Lancaster County. This will cut through and destroy parts of PA’s dwindling forestry and cross the path of smaller waterways and streams, which will cause many of these to dry up and disappear. WE have to protect PA and all of earth from fracking!
 
KEVIN’S CONCLUDING STATEMENT:
 
Sometimes it is hard for those of us who are deeply concerned about preserving the Earth as a livable environment for future generations to know what to do about energy. We need some kind of energy to pursue our lives, and even some forms of wind and solar energy kill birds and turtles and affect the stability and peace of Nature. But hydraulic fracturing as a technique for extracting natural gas is a clear violation against our future well-being.
 
I spoke with a recently retired PA Environmental Protection Agency official who said that fracking sets off flashing red lights and screaming alarms for many of his colleagues and it never would have been approved during his tenure. It threatens our drinking water supply and soil. These are fundamental elements of nature that we must have to survive. The massive natural gas pipeline of which Michelle wrote above was recently installed less than a mile from Robert’s and my 12 acres here deep in the woods, crossing over our stream and cutting a huge barren gash — an environmental wildlife barrier — through these forests for miles and miles. Let’s stop hydraulic fracturing — the violent and poisonous extraction of natural gas from the Earth. Let’s save the water and soil for drinking and growing food. Let’s look at the least harmful alternatives for our future energy needs, and let’s protect the Earth.
 
To contribute to Angela’s defense fund go to www.indiegogo.com/whatgavel — Thanks!
 

The Power of Creative Expression

 By Kevin

Many of the men and women in my extended family were public speakers, ministers, and educators — teachers from grade school through graduate school. My role models were always speaking and writing in public about their beliefs, values and opinions. It was clear to me in childhood that they were both praised and persecuted for those activities, and sometimes that spilled over into my life as a “PK” (preacher’s kid.) When my dad was the pastor of a small Midwestern church, and we sold our old church building to the 2nd Baptist African-American congregation, causing them to move two blocks farther into the white neighborhood, my bicycle tires and basketball were slashed, and death threats were phoned in to the parsonage. When we built our new church using a lot of volunteer labor from the congregation, some vandals came the night before our first church service and threw molten tar all over the exterior brick walls and on the cross. I was about 13. As long as I live I will never forget my father in the pulpit that morning, setting aside his prepared sermon and delivering an incredibly powerful extemporaneous address entitled “Tar on the Cross,” in which he asserted that Christians who don’t have some tar thrown on their crosses are not really doing their jobs. To this day you can visit that church and see some tar on the cross out front.

As an artist and writer I have learned that public expressions of all kinds have consequences. Everyone thinks they are experts about art, and people feel compelled to render judgments ranging from rave reviews to condemnation. A few people offer astute analyses and critiques, while many others have no idea what they are talking about. I try to accept both praise and blame with equal objectivity. But I learned early in life that reviews can also have serious consequences. When I was a senior in high school one of the English teachers asked me to bring a painting to his class and talk about the creative process. A student complained that there were stylized nudes in the painting. The school board confiscated my painting and fired the teacher who had to leave town. On the other end of the spectrum, Robert and I were lauded, featured, and praised in the newspapers and in a fancy formal banquet for 125 of the most powerful and influential people in our nearby city, for our exhibit of 65 canvases during the opening months of the new library. So… It can go either way, and any individual who wants to engage in public expression in the arts, education, activism, politics, or other forums, has to be ready for whatever comes, from honor to persecution. One has to develop a thick skin.

Regardless of the specific reactions that occur, it is clear that creative expression carries real, mysterious power to change consciousness, life and society. The power of speech and art is every bit as great as the power of money and position. In fact, there is a strong case to be made that speech and art are much more powerful than money and position, because words, images, music, poetry, dance, philosophy, and spirituality endure through the ages, whereas money disappears and position is often forgotten almost immediately when a wealthy, influential person leaves the scene. But it is a different story when someone leaves behind a creative legacy that lasts for generations or longer.

It is only natural when confronted by an opportunity to speak, write, perform, or exhibit in full view of the world, that many people feel somewhat daunted by the implications of “going public.” It is very human to feel inadequate to the task. It is normal to experience stage fright, anxiety and fear. Sometimes, a certain degree of nervousness heightens one’s energy level and concentration. But, of course, too much anxiety can have an adverse impact on our ability to do a good job and say or show what needs to be said or shown. When making and sharing art, writing, music, dance and creative public expressions of all kinds, and when engaging in public discussion about them, it may be useful to keep some basic principles in mind to alleviate fear within ourselves and in others:

ALLEVIATING THE FEAR AROUND CREATIVE EXPRESSION

  1. Be compassionate toward your audience. People who engage in creative public expression are often moved to do so because they see a compelling vision of how things are today and how they will become in the future. Their pronouncements, art, writings and performances, therefore, often take on a rather prophetic quality, predicting significant changes in life as we know it. That can be frightening to large segments of the public who are quite happy with the way things are now and more than a little resistant to change. In fact, for them, the idea that the world might change in directions that are revealed by artists, authors, speakers and thinkers, is frankly terrifying. This is not a cause to refrain from creative public expression, but rather a reason to engage in it. Society requires visionaries who will define its needs and suggest alternative futures. However, in doing so, the compassionate speaker, writer or artist will hold some private empathy for the individual who reacts violently and negatively out of fear that reality as they know it may be crumbling and that they will not be able to survive the change and adapt to new forms and directions. It is kind and effective to acknowledge their anxiety and offer empathetic support.
  2. Learn how to harness your ego to useful purposes. The individual who even conceives of engaging in creative public expression has to have, of necessity, a big and healthy ego. Otherwise s/he would never consider opening herself / himself to the inevitable praise and blame, support and attack, success and failure, that come when one makes oneself vulnerable in all kinds of public expression. The successful writer, speaker and artist learns by trial and error that ego is both an asset and a liability. One must have a strong ego in order to believe that s/he has something worth sharing with the world, and to survive all manner of responses. But one must also learn how to suspend ego attachment to outcomes and do the art, the writing or the speaking for the joy of the process regardless of worldly success or failure. Moreover, it is essential to banish all thoughts of ego gratification and get completely out of the way while creating, or the result will be stilted, didactic, and lacking in authenticity. The expression is not about you… It comes through you. The creative individual practices, studies and prepares to become a receptive and open channel through which the expression flows. Authentic creativity requires its own intrinsic balance between intentionality and spontaneity, which are both destroyed by egoistic desires for success, notice, praise, power and monetary gain.
  3. Look at both praise and condemnation as two sides of the same coin. Human responses and behaviors are ever unreliable until anchored in Ultimate Love and Wisdom, and how many of us have achieved that lofty goal? So it is essential that the presenter of creative public expression must not take himself / herself too seriously, nor the praise or criticism that comes inevitably. In fact, it is wise to develop an internal attitude that receives both commendation and condemnation with equal skepticism, as one and the same thing. One is not better than the other, because they are both founded on flawed human likes and dislikes, based on both lowly and lofty motivations from fear and anger to understanding and wisdom. At one of my first one-man shows, over 40 years ago, I overheard a man say to his wife, “This artist is insane and should be committed to a mental institution!” I instantly thought “Eureka! I got to him.” I have always thought that the most devastating reaction is not rage or condemnation, but apathy. Lack of reaction means that the work had no impact. But the creative must become his/her own ultimate critic. It is only the authentic inner vision and voice that can finally render judgment regarding creative expression. Having said that, every creative seeks and finds trusted private critics to whom s/he turns for evaluation, advice and an objective opinion. We all get too close to our work and need that outside perspective from time to time. But the final decision belongs to the creative alone.
  4. Be courageous. Creative expression, especially if it is prophetic, can have very serious consequences as history attests in the tragic lives of scientists, artists, writers, performers and other creatives who have been imprisoned and even executed for their public expressions. For 20 years I wore a decorative T-shirt sporting the slogan “Art Can’t Hurt You!” Of course, that’s not true today. It’s an unrealized goal for the future. Today art can hurt you, the artist, and you, the audience, because we have not yet learned the art and science of civil discourse. So it is essential for the creative to be certain of his/her convictions and think through the specific expressions of those convictions thoroughly before going public with them. If the courage of conviction to withstand persecution in defense of a public creative expression is not there, then cultivate it! Go public when you are so full of the courage of your conviction that you cannot any longer repress its expression. Then you will be able to accept the assault of condemnation and commendation with equanimity anchored in the essence of your very identity.
  5. Accept your role as an educator and welcome attacks as “teachable moments.” Persecution is often rooted in ignorance. If the public presenter who is attacked can suspend ego and remain calm and objective, it is often possible to use that occasion to gently engage in a dialogue to educate and inform both the perpetrator of the attack and those who are watching, listening or reading. In this way we have an opportunity to educate the public not only about the specific subject at hand, but also about civil discourse in general. A few years ago Robert and I hosted a two-man art exhibit at our studios and grounds in the woods. One man complained to me that he simply could not comprehend Robert’s abstract expressionist paintings and he said that they looked like infantile scribblings to him. We happened to be standing by one of Robert’s paintings entitled “Wildfire.” I asked him whether he saw any connection between the title and the painting. It took him a little while, but eventually he said that the brush strokes looked like flames. I asked what he felt when he looked at those flame-like marks. “Hot!” he said. I asked if there was any sound, and he said that he could hear the crackling of a fire. Then I asked him where he was relative to this fire – what was his vantage point. Slowly his eyes opened very wide and he gasped, “I’m right in the middle of the fire looking up through the column of heat!… Now I’m going to have to go back and look at every single one of these paintings again. I have been missing the point.” Admittedly not every “teachable moment” dialogue ends up being quite that gratifying, but when we remain calm and make the effort, both parties walk away richer for it.
  6. Avoid strong emotion in public discourse and business. Put all the intensity of your passion into the private creative work. Then when expressing yourself in public, strive for a more neutral tone. Corporate experience has taught me that one can say almost anything if it is uttered in measured, professional tones, with a neutral expression, and without emotion. Strong public expressions of emotions such as grief, rage, or euphoria are almost always immediately discounted as being hysterical in some way. But when one says the very same words in a professional tone with a neutral manner, the very same ideas are received and considered. Rage, grief and euphoria are at the root of the concept, process and ultimate form or performance of many creative expressions. That is as it should be. The emotion belongs in the art. But when the time comes to talk about the art or creative work, dialogue is best served by cooler heads.
  7. Do your work thoroughly and with integrity. Work hard with an attitude of pure enjoyment. If any piece of work makes you feel dead inside, abandon it, for it is not an authentic part of you and you will not be able to stand by it. Do all the required research. Be disciplined in your creative output. Do it every day and do not work by default, but by intentional conviction and design. Be deliberate and mean it. When you work diligently with joy, self-discipline and rigor, opportunities to share your work in meaningful ways will simply materialize out of the ether. Even so, do not rely on magic, but be bold and make your opportunities for public sharing even while you produce the work. Bake the cake and invite the world to eat it with you. Too many would-be artists, writers and other creatives live in a fantasy world in which they imagine that some benefactor will discover them and coax them into creativity with support and money. That is not how it works. Do the work with excellence first, last and always, and then push yourself to go beyond what you believe to be your limits. The opportunities will emerge from the work, not visa versa. If all else fails, and everything overwhelms you, forget it. Just do the creative work! The rest will come.
  8. Never show works in progress to anyone except your most trusted advisors. Respect the difference between the very private and personal creative process as contrasted with public sharing and dialogue about your finished work. Do yourself a big favor and make it a rule to keep your work private while it is in gestation. The embryonic form of any creative effort is extremely vulnerable and can be severely damaged when exposed to external influences. Your personal creative acts from conceptualization through completion are as private and sacred as your love life or your spiritual practice. Do not discuss them or show them to anyone other than your long-term trusted creative counselors, and even then it may be wise to set boundaries regarding what kinds of reactions and comments you will entertain. Some creative projects involve highly collaborative phases. Be certain that your private preliminary creative concept and preparation work are completely finished and solid before opening the project to collaborators. Then consider any worthwhile changes that they recommend. Flexibility emerges from strength and conviction.
  9. Let your public art or statement marinate for a day or two before releasing it. It is smart to sleep on a creative public expression at least overnight before publishing it. I always find that I edit my initial statements and artworks considerably before publishing them. It’s like counting to ten. A little cooling off time and perspective are the better part of wisdom. I have sat on this very article for well over a month, because I knew it was not quite ready to hatch. Even after going public, be willing to suspend ego and make some improvements and changes or corrections when it becomes apparent to you that you can make the piece stronger by doing so.
  10. Honor and value your own work and the work of others. Creative work is a precious gift to the world, especially when it is shared in public. Such gifts must be nurtured if civilization is to thrive and grow. Cultivate an attitude of pure gratitude and respect for your own creativity and for the creativity of others around you. Thank and support anyone who is willing to take the risk of becoming vulnerable by presenting creative expressions to the world and inviting comment. Support and encourage your fellow creatives as you would like them to support and encourage you. They are not your competitors. They are your collaborators in the grand creative design.

To close the circle, let us return to the beginning and ask, “Where does the impulse for creative public expression come from and why does it happen at all?”  I can only respond with another question: Why do we feel moved by another human being to know and fall in love with them? As we live and move through the world, one of the most fundamental and natural human reactions to everything we experience around us is to attempt to “know” it with such a thorough understanding that we merge with it. As with the merger that takes place in some kinds of interpersonal love, this “knowing” leads to offspring – children, in the case of some couples, and art or other creative expressions when individuals attempt to achieve unity with All That Is. Just as it is natural and desirable for us to present our children to the world and to ask them to play a role in making it a better place, so it is right and proper for us to present our creative expressions to the public. We believe that the motivating desire behind our art, to overcome separation and merge with Creation, will in some small way inspire people to overcome their alienation from one another and from Nature. It is humanity’s fond hope that our children will find a way to save the world. Creative expressions are our children as well. We send them forth to lead their independent lives and do their work. And if we are lucky, sometimes, now and then, they make us proud of them, and we smile alone, privately.

Balancing Spiritual and Moral Imperatives — “The Good Life”

By Kevin

Grandma called it “The Good Life” – praying and meditating and singing hymns (she used to whistle to “save her voice for the choir”) while working her tail off, whether that meant ironing and house cleaning, or making quilts, or visiting people who were ill or depressed, or stepping into the pulpit to preach the sermon the very Sunday after my beloved grandfather died. It was Valentine’s Day and Grandpa had given Grandma a golden heart locket at breakfast, before they both went out to perform a funeral service as part of their pastoral duties. They always considered it to be a two-person ministry. At the graveside, he threw a handful of dirt into the void, lifted his eyes to Heaven, and said, “Earth to earth and dust to dust… Father into Thy hands we commend this spirit.” And he dropped dead to the ground with a massive heart attack. Until she died at 103, when Grandma spoke of the death of her “Beloved,” she said, “I was sitting right there, just a few feet away when he fell. I rushed to his side and said into his ear, ‘Don’t worry, Honey, everything is going to be all right…’ and it has been…” They both lived profoundly good lives, full of love and wisdom and daily prayer and meditation, balanced by very hard work and acts of selfless kindness and goodness despite their own heavy sorrows – the gold standard for “The Good Life.”

So I understood from a very early age that as much as I might long to devote my life to utter hedonism on one hand, or spiritual and mystical contemplation on Ultimate Love, Wisdom, Peace, Bliss, Beauty, Integrity and Union, on the other hand, inhabiting a physical body comes with very real responsibilities to act and “do good works” in the world. Sometimes those can be as simple as sweeping the floor and doing the dishes. Sometimes they involve profoundly complex social and political interaction. Thank God they can be as fun as dressing up like a clown and playing a slide whistle, or as fulfilling as brushing paint onto a canvas. But I continue to believe that it is equally important to balance action and “good works” with praying, meditating, singing, chanting and dancing for miracles of growth, in our own consciousness and the world’s. And, of course, a healthy dose of hedonism is only natural and right, if one is to enjoy this life. But the older I get the more crystal clear it becomes that balancing spiritual and moral imperatives is the key to living “The Good Life.”

While meditation upon Spirit has become an entirely private matter for me and many others, quite apart from “organized religion,” which I now consider to be an oxymoron, the moral imperative to act in the world has become so profound that it forces many of us out of our comfort zones and toward visible activism. Thank goodness the peace of meditation in the woods balances out the stress of acting in the world, because the stakes could not be higher. Today’s moral imperative to act is nothing less than a life and death matter for all of us. Consider this quote from James Hansen, the Director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, in his May 10, 2012 New York Times Op Ed, “Game Over for the Climate:”

“Canada’s tar sands, deposits of sand saturated with bitumen, contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history. If we were to fully exploit this new oil source, and continue to burn our conventional oil, gas and coal supplies, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eventually would reach levels higher than in the Pliocene era, more than 2.5 million years ago, when sea level was at least 50 feet higher than it is now. That level of heat-trapping gases would assure that the disintegration of the ice sheets would accelerate out of control. Sea levels would rise and destroy coastal cities. Global temperatures would become intolerable. Twenty to 50 percent of the planet’s species would be driven to extinction. Civilization would be at risk.”

Hansen laments that President Obama was quoted in a recent “Rolling Stones” interview as having said that Canada will exploit the oil in its vast oil sands reserves “regardless of what we do,” and he ends his Op Ed article with a vision of moral judgment against us by future generations, if we do not act to arrest and reverse Global Climate Change immediately:

“Every major national science academy in the world has reported that global warming is real, caused mostly by humans, and requires urgent action. The cost of acting goes far higher the longer we wait — we can’t wait any longer to avoid the worst and be judged immoral by coming generations.”

The 71-year-old internationally known climatologist and activist for the fight against Global Climate Change is both revered and hated in today’s utterly polarized world, in which so many people choose to ignore the urgent warnings of 98% of the world’s scientists and 100% of the national academies of science, in favor of sticking their heads in the tar sands. It is clear that those of us who believe in science must accept the moral imperative of taking action to support James Hansen and all of the activists who are raising the alarm about the dire impending consequences of Global Climate Change. This is a THE moral and ethical issue our time for people of conscience who believe in responsible stewardship of the Earth and who wish to save as many species as possible from extinction, including our own. A more profound challenge than this fundamental immediate threat to our survival has never confronted the human race before. We must persuade President Obama to use his power and authority to stop the Keystone Pipeline and the Canadian oil sands development. We must make the case loudly and clearly through political and social involvement and all kinds of action that it is time to break our addiction to fossil fuels and develop clean alternative energy sources now. Go to http://350.org and click on “End Fossil Fuel Subsidies” to support the Bernie Sanders/ Keith Ellison bill to do just that. This falls into the category of “good works” and it just happens to be a matter of life and death. So DO it!

Beyond taking whatever actions we can think of to save the planet as a habitat that will support life, if you happen to believe in the unseen world of Spirit and know how to pray, meditate, chant, dance, sing or whistle your way to communion with the Infinite, now would be a good time to humbly and sincerely ask for a miracle of growth in our own individual consciousness and that of the entire world. We must work as hard as we can and then pray and meditate for enlightenment and miracles, so that our efforts to act in service to the moral imperatives in this world might be guided by the Love and Wisdom and Peace of Spirit. If we can do this, then we will be living “The Good Life” regardless of the outcomes, and “…it will be all right.” Now… let’s spend some hedonistic time outside, enjoying this incredibly beautiful Earth and expressing gratitude for its existence, while we still can.

MIRACLE — A Sense of Community

Dear Paul,

You know me… I’m an old hermit artist living deep in the woods, content to enjoy life communing with the wildflowers, trees, squirrels, bunnies, birds, fish and frogs. My chief failing as a human being must be that I don’t have a very high regard for my own species. I like the rest of the animal kingdom much better than Homo sapiens. In fact, I’d have to admit that I am brutally critical of my own kind. I find humanity so disappointing that I have largely withdrawn from social structures to commune with Nature. People can be so mean, selfish, brutal and stupid, engaging fully in denial and projection to rationalize their narrow-minded, self-centered goals and activities. And now the human race seems determined to so thoroughly spoil the miraculous gift of this planetary environment that it will no longer support life. It gives me no pleasure to admit my biases against society. I know the fault is more within me than in everyone else. I have a very long way to go to achieve even a modicum of social tolerance, let alone a first step toward Unconditional Love, which I am convinced is essential to self-realization.

 

Above: “Leonard Says That Some Things in Life Are Serious, But Everything Is Funny!”      4 x 4 ft reverse painting on clear vinyl by Kevin, circa 1990 

So, it was with no small degree of misgiving that I approached this past weekend’s public First Friday and ArtWalk events in our art gallery downtown, featuring a gathering Saturday from 1 to 5 pm, called “Connect the Dots – Extreme Weather and Climate Change,” which was happening all over the world. For months I had been puzzling over how to talk about this subject in polite society, because it is so damn terminal and tragic that people run away screaming whenever the topic is raised. Very slowly it dawned on me that the impending apocalypse is not without humor – or at least it must be approached, in part, with humor, or nobody will survive it. You will remember that abstract painting I did so many years ago, entitled “Leonard Says That Some Things in Life Are Serious, But Everything Is Funny!” You helped me analyze the raucously colorful, almost clownish painting, and we realized that there was a car crash, a child’s coffin, bureaucratic papers, and rigid dogmatism in the composition, but also a golden bridge crossing over into the Heart of the Universe. This is like that. I awoke Friday morning realizing that I would have to attend the next day’s event dressed as a clown and make a total fool of myself. I had transformed myself into the clown, Pretty Pretty Snowflake, several years ago to attend a Halloween party, and was surprised by the effect Snowflake had on the gathering. I realized that it was time to resurrect Pretty Pretty Snowflake and press him into service as “the climate change clown.” I was scared, but someone had to play the Fool at this funeral, and all signs pointed to me… obviously.

Yup… This is me as “Pretty Pretty Snowflake,” the climate change clown, standing in front of Robert’s paintings in our art gallery. Now… I’m fat… but I’m not THIS fat. Pretty Pretty Snowflake has expanded upon my natural amplitude with a strategically placed pillow in the front and in the back. One lady visiting our gallery kept saying “You have a BIG butt!” I thanked her profusely for the compliment and assured her that she did too.

Claudia, Susan, Pretty Pretty Snowflake, and Jerry, our great emcee and event organizer

For over a year now we have been inviting regional musicians, poets, dancers and performers into our art gallery every Third Friday for “Open Mic Music and Poetry Night.” A very high caliber of musicians and poets accepted our invitation and we have been getting to know them for a year. (It takes me a very long time to trust people.) At our “Connect the Dots – Extreme Weather and Climate Change” event on Saturday, all of these performers were so kind, accepting and tolerant of Pretty Pretty Snowflake, the annoying climate change clown. There was a wonderful half-hour dance workshop, and Zita, the leader, allowed me to muck things up for the first dance, perhaps to break the ice. Jerry, our fantastic emcee and organizer of the entire event, tolerated my heckling and even allowed me to play the slide whistle when his Streetbeets group performed. Their 85-year-old drummer, Paul, had the most touching response to my clowning. Every time he encountered me alone, he bowed and pranamed to me in an attitude of deep respect. On one such occasion he complimented me, “You are SO talented! You do so many things so well…” I cut him off with my clown voice, “And I’m PRETTY, too!” He bowed, pranamed, and walked away laughing. Other performers allowed me to dance and make irreverent comments as they attempted to underscore the urgency of the climate change emergency by entertaining the crowd in the gallery courtyard. I was increasingly moved by the message and the human tone of the event.

Streetbeets: (L-R) Paul, Jerry, & Marty. Jerry organized, and emceed the event while undergoing and recovering from double cataract surgery!

Above: Snowflake with folksinger/ guitarist Brian who opened the event.

Brian, a wonderful folk musician and guitarist, embraced me and could not stop laughing. Tim and Claudia and Susan laughed at me with wonder and appreciation in their eyes. Dave, a great flute-maker, guitarist and singer spent a long time talking to me after the event, even while I was transitioning slowly from Pretty Pretty Snowflake the annoying, but apparently lovable climate change clown, back to my normal grumpy, curmudgeonly personality as Kevin the misanthrope. While I was still speaking as a clown, I told him about how Robert and I had given a home to our new little doggy, Wardell, after someone threw him out of a car into a busy intersection. Dave had tears in his eyes as we talked about how doggies are actually “dog-people,” and how all animals have distinctly unique personalities when you get to know them. Dave showed me a photo of a huge painting his wife had made of her spirit guide, and it simply blew my red and white striped socks off! Gorgeous! He invited Robert and me to his talking group on his country property near us in a few weeks. We are going to go. He hosts sweat lodges and music events there and makes flutes, and studies the ways of the Native Americans.

 

Dave and Tim are such fine musicians and great guys. They closed the show. 

In the days leading up to the “Connect the Dots” event, I had made some 30 “dot” paintings on cardboard and canvas, to decorate the trees and grounds. These dots were between 18” and 30” in diameter. They were flowers, ferns or leaves, and all of them sported slogans, like “The Earth is Our Mother… And She’s Having Hot Flashes!” or “Carbon Emissions Are Death Farts! Stop Carbon Farts!” or “Are We Out of Our Frackin’ Minds? Stop Fracking Now!” I had been planning to just stack them up afterward and save them for another event some day, but the afternoon had changed me. I installed the entire set of dots in our art gallery as a display in the two main rooms. I was ready to engage – both with the cause and with these very fine people that I’d been holding off at an arm’s length for a year. Something about our “Connect the Dots” event connected me to them finally. Their love, kindness, intelligence, talent and tolerance burned a hole right through my armor, and they got into my heart. I trust them. I told Robert on the drive back home to the woods that I feel like we have found a community. After living for a very long time without a tribe, we have found our people. He agreed.

These are just some of the people who participated in “Connect the Dots — Extreme Weather and Climate Change” at our gallery, May 5th, 2012. The event was held in many locations around the world

Now, I don’t want you to worry… You will not see much of a change in me, if any. I’m not going to suddenly become a wild-eyed groupie or something. I am still the same grumpy old curmudgeonly hermit artist hiding in the woods. But now I know that there are some genuinely kind, reasonable, creative, intelligent souls living nearby, and that on some level we are a spiritual community of like-minded people. That’s a miracle… to me anyway. I never expected it. And there is another rather compelling development: There must be something to this “Connect the Dots” concept, because I feel a new sense of Hope. It’s not about connecting the dots of facts or information. It’s about connecting the people. Somehow, when a spiritual community of like-minded people achieves critical mass, mental miracles occur, and the result is a new feeling of Hope that we can make a difference. Today I am aware of a growing new belief that miracles can happen and we might be able to save the planet as a home for humanity and all life. I actually believe it might be possible. Anyway, we have to go for it – our house is on fire! What do we have to lose? Everybody grab a bucket and start dousing the flames! I was awake half of the night seeing paintings on the screen of my mind – big new rapid image paintings about Nature, Earth, and the Miracle of Spiritual Community. I have not been awakened by a show of new paintings going through my head for many months. This is very good. Miracles can happen. As your grandmother used to say, “See… God is good!”

Love, – Kevin

Americans LOVE Guns SO Much!

By Kevin

(About the illustration: Do you remember playing “cops and robbers” or “cowboys and Indians” as a kid with toy guns, and yelling “BANG! Yer Dead!” as I do? I often think that grown-up folks with their guns are still acting out those childhood games and fantasies, but when you look into their faces, they no longer look like cute little kids. They look deranged, obsessed and insane. That’s what I tried to capture in my drawing below. -k)

 

Americans LOVE guns SO much… What’s up with THAT?! Well… Why wouldn’t we? They’ve worked awfully well for us so far. As invading Europeans in search of a new home, we managed to kill off most of the Native Americans, push them off their own property and take over their nation because we had guns and they didn’t. We enslaved Africans and forced them to abide by our will and do our work at gunpoint. We “tamed the Wild, Wild West” with our guns, appropriating a huge part of Mexico as our own. Earlier we succeeded in violently securing our independence from England because the Brits insisted on lining up in bright red coats, presenting themselves as targets, while we hid in the bushes with our guns and picked them off. They were sitting ducks. Less than a century later we massacred each other in one of the bloodiest civil wars in human history, but we managed to keep the union together. Lately I’ve been wondering if we might have been better off putting our guns away, saving all those precious lives and allowing the Confederacy and the Union to separate into two nations, roughly defined by today’s red and blue states. But that’s a topic for another day.

Since those early times, we Americans have gunned our way through WWI, WWII (which we won with the big “nuclear gun,”) Korea, The Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and we have emerged as the world’s only military superpower. We may not have the most robust or expansive economy any longer, but as God is our witness, we are Number One in guns! But we are not just “Top Gun.” We spend nine or ten times more on defense than our nearest competitors. Considering our crushing national debt I can’t help wondering if it wouldn’t be okay for us to spend just three or five times more than the next most militarized nation. Do we really have to spend ten times more? Is it honestly necessary to have enormous bases all over the world and to police the planet, jumping into wars at the drop of a hat, sometimes on false pretenses as we did in Iraq? I realize that guns, arms and ego have made us the warlords of the world, but aren’t we going just a little bit overboard?

Here at home it seems like everyone has guns now. Certainly that is true in the back woods where Robert and I live. Lots of folks in these parts display Confederate flags on their cars and houses. There are militia groups around, and the KKK is rumored to be pretty strong in this area, nicknamed “Li’l Alabama.” Forget liberals! There aren’t even any moderate Republicans. Tea Party Republicans who believe in government enough to vote are the “liberals” here. Many people want the government to go away. I guess they must assume that law and order would be upheld by our guns when government disappears. The mob with guns will rule. All these anti-government anarchists have always seemed so idealistically naïve to me. They never consider the possibility that without government, society would devolve into medieval feudalism and survival of the fittest – the “fittest” being those with the most and biggest guns. They don’t seem to think they could ever become the victims of a mob with guns. Robert and I have to be extremely cautious in these woods. We would never display a Democratic yard sign or put an Obama bumper sticker on one of our trucks. People would drive by on our dirt road and shoot their guns at such signs. In the city just 30 miles away, friends and acquaintances know that we are a couple. But out here in “Li’l Alabama” I am known as “Old Uncle Kevin” and Robert is my “nephew.” If we lived openly, some people would want to use “Second Amendment Remedies” against us.

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” To my mind, this is clearly designed to ensure that military forces can be organized and “well-regulated,” please note, in order to defend the State, which obviously refers to the country. But I will acknowledge that “State” could be construed as one state among the United States as well. Either way, it seems to me that “well-regulated Militia” are very thoroughly covered by The National Guard, The Naval Militia, the state militia forces, and the various branches of the U.S.military.

Everyone I know owns guns, except for a few close friends and my parents and their friends. Until last week I had never heard one of them argue that they own guns in order to help form “a well-regulated Militia,” in case the existing militia might not suffice. Last week Robert met a very nice 70-year-old man and his “lady friend,” as he calls her, who eventually bought two of Robert’s 4 ft x 6 ft abstract expressionist paintings for their large home in an exclusive gated community. The man is an avid gun collector and spends most of his free time shooting guns and making his own ammunition. One of the reasons why he eventually purchased two of Robert’s most stunning canvases is that Robert was able to discuss guns and ammunition with him. They bonded over guns. Lots of people do, and then they practice shooting at targets or innocent animals as recreation.

Some people in our region are so poor that they really do need to hunt to feed their families, and I absolutely do not begrudge them that right. I would do it too, if I had hungry children and no other way to feed them. Still, I’m awfully glad that the local authorities closed and barricaded our dirt road leading into the game land, because hunters used to drive by at 5 mph with rifles pointing out of their truck windows and into our property. The beginning of deer season used to sound like a war, with rifle fire every 30 seconds and men in orange swarming over our private land. Now they have gone elsewhere, leaving us in peace, thank goodness, because they don’t like to hike into the killing fields. But the art collector told Robert that he and his son were deeply involved in collecting and shooting guns and creating their own bullets so that they would be ready in case it became necessary to form a militia – the Constitutional justification for bearing arms.

Robert served in the U.S. Marine Corps for eight years, all over the world and earned four rifle expert medals for excellent marksmanship. He knows how to handle guns and rifles, and he has three of them. He hardly ever brings them out, but they are here. Although my dear father was raised in a pacifist family, he served with the Merchant Marines in WWII because he felt strongly that even pacifists had to oppose and stop Hitler. Dad’s position seems utterly defensible to me, and I might have made the same decision had I been alive in WWII. But I didn’t serve in the military. Hitler had been vanquished long before I registered as a conscientious objector in the draft, and then drew a very high number in the lottery. I have never fired a gun. I feel uncomfortable just holding one. Robert says at least I need to learn how to hold a gun properly, so that I could bluff my way through a threatening situation if necessary. Maybe so, but it always seemed to me that standing unarmed and naked in front of an aggressor would be a more effective way to ward off an attack. But of course, that’s what Mahatma Gandhi did, and he was eventually shot to death, wearing only a loin cloth and shawl. He was clearly not armed – a scrawny little man with nothing but Peace, Justice and God on his mind. But I guess that seemed threatening to a lot of people. As he fell, the humble spiritual giant died raising his fingers in the sign of peace to all and forgiveness for his executioner.

The beloved Mahatma was gunned down a year before I was born. But in my lifetime, there has been so much gun violence in America that it sometimes looks like anarchy already. President John Kennedy was killed, and then Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. President Reagan was shot and barely survived. John Lennon was gunned down. Gabby Giffords nearly died in a mass murder over a year ago, and now the nation is inflamed over the shooting of Treyvon Martin by “neighborhood watchman” George Zimmerman. And these are only a few of the most celebrated assassinations and murders. The sheer volume of gun violence that takes place every day across this nation is tragic, senseless, and mind-boggling. In my own neighborhood, a state game warden and father of three was shot to death at point-blank range when he confronted a hunter for using illegal methods. Still the gun lobbies push for legalizing all forms of weaponry and magazine clips and armaments that could only be used to inflict mass human casualties. This is insane. I don’t feel more confident because everyone has guns. I don’t feel safer having them in my own home. I don’t rest easier knowing that so many nations possess nuclear arms and my country has more than anybody else. Why do we believe that the way to solve problems is to overpower and kill people? Isn’t this a very serious flaw in human nature? Wouldn’t a truly mature intelligent race solve conflicts in a nonviolent manner? Wouldn’t a wise and civilized people moderate their drive for power and learn to negotiate, compromise, and live and let live? In the glowing light of The Golden Rule doesn’t violence look ridiculous and unworkable? By the way… The Golden Rule is “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” NOT “Do unto others as they do unto you.”

But Americans LOVE guns SO much, and we will not give them up. Too many people truly feel that the more guns and nuclear warheads we have the safer we will be. So what can we do? I don’t have the answers, but I am certain that destroying government and turning law and order over to an armed mob is not the way to go. Quite the contrary, it seems to me that those of us who believe that the future must not be defined by guns, murder, weapons of mass destruction and war cannot stop resisting the tendency to arm the world. We must support gun control laws and regulation, nuclear arms treaties, and negotiated settlements instead of wars. We must promote constant reduction in numbers of guns and armaments. If we steadily move toward a wiser, more mature and civilized approach to power and conflict, there will be a brighter future for the human race.

Our Founders had it right with their first impulse in the Declaration of Independence, when they wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” No one but God has the right to take a life. We should melt our guns down into plowshares and learn the subtler arts and pleasures of Peace. When humanity fully matures, we will truly know how to afford everyone their unalienable rights to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. We will solve our local problems, our national conflicts and even our children’s hunger and our own drive for power without using guns.

WE HAD NO WINTER AND SPRING IS A MONTH EARLY…What Does This Mean?

Kevin painted the 2 ft x 4 ft oil landscape above in late summer, 1969, sitting in a field near where he lives now. In 2012, 43 years later, the same landscape will look like this by May.

We Are Enjoying a Very Early Spring

I just returned home from a business trip to Minnesota, March 12 – 15, 2012, where the high temperature on March 14 was near 80 degrees F. My colleagues and I ate dinner outdoors on an unheated patio near Minneapolis, in our shirt sleeves. We stayed outside long after dark, and were quite comfortable. Before that trip Robert and I slept in our new woodland cottage, under construction in snow country, with the windows open all night on March 10 and again last night, March 19. All of our apple, peach, pear and nectarine trees burst into bloom on St. Patrick’s Day, last Saturday. The daffodils and star and classic magnolia trees were in full bloom simultaneously by March 15, whereas they usually bloom weeks apart and a month later. We saw a forsythia bush in full bloom in the last week of February, and we were both amazed to see hundreds of daffodils in glorious flower on our way to our art gallery March 2. Today, March 20, thousands of tree frogs have begun their gloriously beautiful trilling around our pond. We have never before heard them until the end of April, and they are often silent until May. We are enjoying this early spring immensely, of course… It is exquisitely beautiful, and it is an apparent luxury to welcome spring at least a month early — probably a bit earlier, actually.

However, Our Enjoyment Is Mitigated by Some Real Concerns:

  • What does this radical departure from the normal rhythms, timing and balance of nature mean? Will we have 115 or 120 degree days in August? Will the US electrical grid be able to withstand that stress? Will there be gigantic killer tornadoes and hurricanes this summer? The insect population is booming now. What will it be like in a few months? What will that mean for the crops and the food supply?
  • How will such a warm winter affect the melting and seismic instability of Greenland and the polar ice caps? Could they break up and cause sea levels to rise suddenly and dramatically? Will the frozen methane beds in the seas be released?
  • What does it mean that we had no winter in 2012 and our pond never froze over? Our koi did not bury themselves in the mud and sleep with their hearts beating only once a minute. They were swimming around and eating throughout the winter that did not come. Some plants that should have frozen survived the winter. What are the implications? At what point will the plankton base of the food chain be affected?
  • Will there be consequences immediately or will they come later? Have we already passed the tipping point? Is it too late to reverse Global Climate Change? If so, is there any hope that geo-engineering can save life on earth?
  • What will it take for people to start consciously thinking and talking about Global Climate Change and taking action? Will we have to suffer a string of horrific disasters in which millions might die before we all start to acknowledge the gravity of Global Climate Change and its implications for all life on Earth?

Some People Seem Worried about Global Climate Change

Occasionally now one sees some concerned looks on people’s faces – even network TV weather forecasters – when there is talk of our very early spring after such a mild winter. But almost nobody talks about what it means. That has become unfashionable and passé along with Al Gore and his award-winning film, “An Inconvenient Truth.” (Now is a good time to review that.) Most people where I live are simply delighted with all of this. Fully two-thirds of the population in my state do not believe in Global Climate Change caused by human activity. They apparently think that the world’s scientists are engaged in a gigantic conspiracy to deceive them… to what purpose I cannot begin to imagine. My neighbors are very happy that we had no winter and that spring is 4 to 6 weeks early. They hope it will be this way forever. I wish it could be so. I fervently wish we could stop the climate change merry-go-round at this point, but, of course there will be no arresting the momentum now.

Is There Still Hope? What Can We Do?  

Many climatologists’ interpretations of the data suggest that there may still be some time left before the buildup of greenhouse gasses reaches the point of no return and exponential warming, but the entire population of the planet would have to act decisively to take advantage of the remaining small window of opportunity. Other scientists are working on risky experimental geo-engineering strategies to cool the planet. Current unusual weather suggests that major climate-related events may be upon us sooner than many had predicted. I feel fortunate to have lived such a long and full life already. We must all feel very sorry for the young people, the children and all the innocent plants and animals. Previous generations and older people like me have failed them. In our greed and zeal for “progress” and profit we carelessly and tragically allowed ourselves to despoil our home planet, never questioning where we would live when it could no longer support us. I apologize most humbly to the younger generations on behalf of us older folks and our ancestors for squandering their birthright, and I sincerely pray that they will somehow find within themselves the innovative genius to correct our errors and save the Earth for future generations of humans to live more wisely than we have. Meanwhile, let us all savor and enjoy every precious moment of this very early and beautiful spring on our amazing planet.

— Kevin

THE TYRANNY OF AMERICAN OPTIMISM

Relentless Dogmatic Positivism

vs.

Critical Thinking, Realism, Affirmation and Action

By Kevin

A Personal Rant

The title for this essay is also the name of the illustration – “The Tyranny of American Optimism.” I cannot take credit for the phrase. I don’t know who first said it. I heard it at a time when I was suffering from this peculiarly American drive to suppress rational discrimination and realism in favor of relentless dogmatic positivism. Some family members, friends and work associates were criticizing me for what they saw as my pessimistic views about the world and human behavior – perspectives that I felt were rational and realistic. They were, and still are, uncomfortable when anyone talks about Global Climate Change, or the theft of U.S.elections, or when someone warns of impending economic collapse due to unsustainable financial practices.

There is a tendency toward Orwellian mind control in American society, attitudes and business. We are attempting to spread our thought policing methods of relentless dogmatic positivism throughout the world along with McDonald’s and Starbuck’s. Orwell’s “1984” is especially evident in corporate America. Enron was allowed to bankrupt its investors and defraud the business community and the world without anyone questioning its corrupt ways. Wall Street got away with selling disastrous credit default swaps and poisoned derivatives to us, very nearly pushing the world into global depression, and nobody asked how these impossibly complicated financial instruments really worked. Despite our very close call with total financial collapse since the economic house of cards fell down in mid-September, 2008, we are still hearing demands for total deregulation of the financial industry. Many people even now want to blindly trust the greediest among us with our future. Shouldn’t we stop for a minute and rethink our reckless ways?

What’s Positive about Positive Thinking?

There is a lot that is positive about positive thinking. In order to be spiritually and psychologically and physically healthy one must lead an affirmative life. That is to say, we need to envision, affirm, and focus with gratitude upon what is good in life – Spirit, Love, Wisdom, Hope, Creativity, Vitality, Prosperity – all the goodness within and around us. No practical person would ever suggest, however, that positive thinking means closing our eyes to the greedy, destructive and negative forces also arrayed around us. If we did that we would not be able to prepare and defend ourselves against dangerous elements at work in the world. How do we protect our children against predators? We tell them about bad people who might try to lure them away with candy and promises of fun. We describe what can happen and ask our children to confront these unfortunate realities so that they will not fall victim to them. We have to do the same thing for ourselves as adults. We need to face potential negative outcomes, plan for them and then invent strategies to avoid and overcome them. Even while we face our worst fears we must work hard and enthusiastically to achieve our highest hopes. Ignoring potential adversity is like sending a naïve child into the woods unprepared to identify and respond to the wolves lurking there.

The Dangers of Relentless Dogmatic Positivism

Several years ago I had the privilege of serving as an instructor in an international business training seminar. At one point in our discussion I happened to mention to these business women and men from other parts of the world that in their dealings with the USA they would encounter “the tyranny of American optimism.” I explained that it was characterized by zero tolerance for questioning the current strategies, raising concerns about the business climate or practices, any form of skepticism, and any tendency to prefer autonomy and independent thought over team spirit and group activity. They all thanked me warmly for opening up that topic, admitting that they had often spoken to one another about this peculiarly American business psychology which they simply could not comprehend. They questioned me closely about it: How could it be in any way practical to require positive group thinking to the exclusion of sensible empirical analysis? How do you identify and solve problems if you are not permitted to acknowledge them? What has happened to the American spirit of individualism and freedom of expression? Why is critical thinking and evaluation now viewed as negativity in the USA?

Why, indeed? I have thought about their questions for years. Only a few beginning ideas have occurred to me about why Americans seem hell-bent on abandoning individualism, freedom of expression and personal discrimination and critical thought. I suspect it begins with our Puritan roots. We have a founding tendency toward rigid authoritarian religious dogma that shuns questioning, doubt and intellectual rigor. We tend to mistrust open-minded thinkers and intellectuals. In recent decades there has been a return to those tendencies with the powerful resurgence of right wing fundamentalism in the USA. Many Americans will admit that they like to have all their questions about how to live and think answered for them by religion. They do not want to have to struggle with doubt and questions and problem-solving. They want simple formulaic answers and they wholeheartedly embrace philosophical and religious systems that offer clear recipes for living a good life without having to think or analyze the world around them.

Simplistic dogmatic positivism is tragically dangerous in today’s world which is facing the potential extinction of the human race and other life forms as the earth becomes uninhabitable over the next 100 years due to Global Climate Change caused by human folly. There are other very dangerous and serious socio-political conflicts and problems like nuclear proliferation, terrorism, overpopulation, poverty, hunger, and potential pandemics as well. But humanity will not have the luxury of solving those problems if we don’t first save ourselves from extinction due to Global Climate Change. And yet a large portion of our population believes that all the scientists and climatologists sounding the alarm about global warming are just fear-mongers engaged in a conspiracy to destroy our economy. What possible motivation could they have to commit such a crime? All the experts agree that we are in dire trouble and must act urgently now to reverse Global Climate Change, but our attitude of relentless, simplistic dogmatic positivism keeps us in denial. While we pretend not to notice and insist that everything is fine, both polar ice caps are rapidly melting as is theGreenlandand all the glaciers. Eventually frozen methane beds in the sea floor could be released, causing exponentially accelerated warming. The oceanic base of the food chain may be disrupted, and the Gulf Stream could be altered, throwing Europe into a new ice age. Nevertheless, we ignore all the signs. I am writing this on Feb 27 in snow country, but it is 58 degrees outside and my spring flowers are coming up. Meanwhile, mega-storms spawned in warmer oceans have already devastated the gulf coast, and gigantic tornados are terrorizing American towns. And the games have only just begun. How long can humanity remain in “positive denial?” Wouldn’t it be better to face facts and take serious steps to save ourselves now?

Living a Considered Life and Taking Action

Five years ago, just weeks before the real estate bubble burst, Robert and I sold our big beautiful 5-bedroom, 3-bathroom house in the suburbs where we had lived for over nine years. We bought eleven wooded acres in the wilderness with a half-acre stocked pond, a stream and many springs. We paid off our debts with the proceeds, and we have no mortgage now. We are rebuilding a crumbling old trailer house to transform it into our painting and sculpture studios and woodshop, while improving and adding onto the little hunting cabin that has become our new home. We’re halfway off the grid, but some day we’d love to become totally energy independent. We hope to grow and can our own food. We want to learn centuries of living skills from our Amish and Mennonite farmer neighbors. We have much work to do and a lot to learn, and we are more enthused about it every day.

Some of our friends think we are insane. What we are doing threatens their commitment to the “American Dream.” We were role models. We had achieved that “dream” even though much of it was a nightmare for us, and now we have turned our backs on it in a fit of negativity some people think. How could we refuse to have credit card debts and a huge mortgage and car payments? How could we walk away from a show home that had been featured in local papers and on pond and garden tours? How could we refuse to pretend that that the world is fine, and face financial and environmental crises unprepared, in panic and horror as many people apparently prefer to do? We will just have to allow people to think us mad, for we choose to face obvious realities now and prepare as best we can, rather than to bury our heads in the sands of relentless dogmatic positivism. Meanwhile, we are very excited about our new woodland life. We love it! We do not agree that it is foolish or pessimistic to read the handwriting on the wall and respond with appropriate life changes aimed at survival for as long as possible with the highest quality of life we can create.

A life anchored in Spirit, positive affirmation and gratitude does NOT require that one must become a dogmatically optimistic automaton with one’s head in the sand. We can all live very positive, creative lives without giving up independent critical thought and analysis leading to creative problem solving and strategic planning. A considered life is still the best life. It is not enough just to decide what one wants, visualize it, think positively and wish for it to come true. Childhood words are “need, wish,” and “want.” Adults say, “I will do this” and “I will not do that,” or “I am willing to do this” and “I am not willing to do that.” It is very natural for children to engage in a great deal of magical thinking. Mature adults observe the world critically, analyze the conditions relative to their own needs and desires, and creatively solve problems and invent strategies for achieving their goals. Yes… that process involves a lot of painful confrontation of inconvenient truths, difficult soul-searching and doubt, and long hours of analyzing potential scenarios and solutions. But the alternative is living by default and blindly suffering the consequences. Living a considered life is often hard work, but the result is a rewarding sense of critical understanding, the guidance of inner conviction, and a sense of profound personal meaning in life.