Words to Live By: Nelson Mandela

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.” -Nelson Mandela

This is not a new quote.  It has spread through the internet on countless blogs, and likely used by teachers, therapists, and commencement speakers to the point of exhaustion.  But like many deeply insightful but overused statements of wisdom from world leaders, the significance of Nelson’s words did not strike me until reading them in this particular moment in this particular essay, in this particular place and time in my life, an era of personal rediscovery and personal re-empowerment.  As I ground myself in my own strength and self respect, these words are perfect for contemplation and meditation.  I want them to sink into my skeleton, to infiltrate my metacognition, to infuse my realigned priorities.

Let us hold our darkness but embrace and live from our light.

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I suppose I should suck it up and become a writer after all.

So let’s say one had reason for a midsummer day’s trip to the library, because one had a couple of items on hold and one just finished another wonderful novel by the fabulous Marion Zimmer Bradley, and one is craving more fantasy.  Why did is that woman no longer alive, btw???  Amazing female fantasy writers who re-envision foundational mythologies should be immortal.

Digression aside, said individual, upon perusal of the fantasy/sci fi section of her local library, finds that not only are a mere 1/10 of the books in this already small section written by women, but NEARLY ALL of those 10% are something along the line of paranormal detective romances.  Yuck.  (no offense to those that like this genre; to each their own).  So our brave lover of literature to do?

1. She-hulk SMASH!

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2. Become the writer she’s always wanted to be and create the things she wants to read.  Not that there aren’t fantastic current and past female fantasy/sci fi writers out there, but the ratio is still HORRIBLE.

So lady friends and other wonderful, chronically underrepresented people: be critical of our culture and then CREATE THE WORLD YOU WANT TO SEE.

Happy one-week-until-the-election.

Yes, it’s Halloween.  But I’m increasingly unable to avoid my attention being drawn to the impending election, in spite of it being my favorite holiday today and my birthday in less than two weeks.  So here’s what’s on my mind:

If you’re a Minnesotan, vote no.

Then vote no again.

For g-d’s sake, don’t vote for Mittens.

And do your homework, there are lots of other more local elections that matter.  If you’re Minnesotan, check out our local paper’s resource for all the elections in your area.

A beautiful insight on a constant conflict.

As with most individuals in the world, I have a number of internal worldview conflicts.  One amongst them, however, rises to the top of both my meaningful conversations and my quiet musings: should I stay in the city to do change work that may affect a greater number of people while recognizing I only have so much control over my own sustainability/simplicity because of the urban systems in place, or do I move to a rural intentional community where I might have a smaller scope of change impact but can live very sustainably, creatively, and off the grid?

One of the main arguments against the latter is that it often can be seen as running away from ‘real life’ (whatever that is).  Which is why I so greatly appreciated this piece from the Twin Oaks website.  I just might have to consider attending their conference over Labor Day weekend to learn more…

 

Right Now I’m Reading: Sacred Economics

Sacred EconomicsAnother brief interlude from my Internal Audit posts, but a necessary one because this book is deeply changing my worldview, my ideas on what is possible.  Charles Eisenstein, author of Sacred Economics, writes of the story of money, the mythology we’ve created over time of value, growth, and currency, and how we can move into a more positive, sustainable, and loving future with a renewed idea of money.  And he has the book under a Creative Commons license to boot!

I should say that I generally despise money.  Words like financial, stock, market, currency, make me queasy.  My life and path and purpose have always seemed to be in nearly direct opposition to money as a force of change and decision, to unchecked growth as a dominant paradigm.  But Charles’ vision for a world of sacred money- a return to the idea of gift, to eliminating externalities and the disconnect of corporations and businesses from cultural and ecological realities and a false sense of scarcity- is truly helping me view money in a new way.

“Part of a sacred money supply will be ‘backed’ by those things of which we are collective stewards.  Here is one way it could work: first, we reach a collective, politically mediated agreement on the right amount of nature to turn toward human purposes: how much of the produce of the sea, how much of the soil, the water; how much of the capacity of the atmosphere to absorb and transform waste; how much of the land’s ability to recover from the scars of mineral extraction; how much of the gift of fossil fuels, metal ores, and other wealth; how much of nature’s quiet to give over to machine noises; how much of the dark night sky to give to city lights.  These decisions often require scientific understanding, but just as often they embody value judgments.  Both contribute to our collective agreement on how much natural capital to consume.”

Not since Starhawk’s The Fifth Sacred Thing have I been this inspired by a vision that both accurately diagnoses the problems of the present and creates a plausible path for the future.  I want to share this book with my father, a bank examiner for the FDIC, with my college friends, with my grandparents who grew up on farms in the rural Midwest, with cynical colleagues and visionary comrades.  It is so empowering to know there are others out there, changemakers, writers, economists, who can see a way forward.

So what do we do?

It is entirely possible to spend an inordinate amount of time completely in the abstract, preaching to the choir about one’s perspective without ever really coming down to find some answer, any answer, to the ultimate question that plagues every social, cultural, and environmental issue:
So what do we do?

This past weekend began with a marvelous gathering of friends around tea and the ideas of Wendell Berry, one of my all time favorite authors, largely due to his unique blend of utter practicality and deeply rooted philosophy.  The group managed to stay somewhere near the topic nearly all of the evening, only minorly distracted by the lavender shortbread and homebrew brought by attendees.  We shared favorite Wendell quotes (“Only by restoring the broken connections can we be healed.  Connection is health.”), passionately articulated our frustrations with innumerable systems and cultural norms (ie. garage culture, financial viability as an end all be all), and felt pleasantly challenged yet validated all around.  But the question continually surfaced:
So what do we do?

It’s all well and good to philosophize and commiserate, and I would argue the latter in particular is entirely necessary to both blow off steam and continually flesh out what it is one is truly passionate about and concerned with.  But until practical solutions for building a world different and dare I say greatly improved upon the one we so readily criticize, we are merely venting to one another.

So now what do we do?

I in no way claim to have any all inclusive answer to this all important query.  But here’s what I did with the remainder of my weekend that I think at least begins to create a world that is more holistic, more community-minded, more sustainable, and filled with more of the things that my circles and I are craving.

Ben and I spent all of Saturday riding around to various social gatherings on our tandem.  We built wheels while enjoying homebrew, stopped by our favorite local microbrewery, visited his previous community house to take part in their potluck, and then spent a couple of hours at a folk sing along before heading home, chilly and sleepy with full hearts and heads.

Today I read several more chapters of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle while cooking up homemade wheat tortillas for vegan enchiladas (above), the ingredients of which were nearly all local, aside from salt, spices, olive oil, and kale.  I walked down to our nearby park in the slowly fading sun, stopping en route to jot down a poem of noticings.

So what do we do?

Move more.  Consume less.  Sing.  Cook.  Bike and walk.  Pay attention.

There are days and moments when I feel as though I succeed at this almost extravagantly, and the ensuing connection to my friends, my food, my world is gorgeous.  And there are many more moments and days when I lose sight, get stressed, grasp so tightly to a desire for control that I cannot for the life of me remember that my soul wants simplicity, wants connection, needs the now and here and not the constructions that I fabricate.  So what do we do?  Question, live, and love.

Positive Practices for Changing the World (and Your Life Too!)

I ended the work day yesterday by reading a few articles from Yes! Magazine, and would highly suggest the practice; Yes! is a perfect panacea for a day of drudgery, for the repetitive and downtrodden daily routine it is all to easy to fall into.  Positive yet not blindly idealistic, Yes! brought back my ‘this is what I’m supposed to be doing with my life’ fervor, particularly with this fabulous list of 31 Ways to Jump Start the Local Economy.

This list was affirming not only of my view of how the world and economy should really work, but because it lists several ‘how tos’ that I was surprised to realize my friends and family already pursue!

4. Pay off debts. Try life without credit cards. (even though so many people say it’s impossible)
12. Form a dinner club and hold a weekly potluck, or trade off cooking and hosting. (we don’t do weekly yet, but do host monthly potlucks)
23. Start a local currency or time dollar program to help link needs and offerings, those with time and those starved for time. (props to my mother for starting a Time Bank in Naperville!)

In addition to Yes!’s fabulous list of building community and the local economy, a fellow potluck attendee this past week had a marvelous ‘simplifying and clarifying one’s life practice’:
Write down everything you do for a week and divide the various tasks and endeavors into a ‘more’ and ‘less’ list for the future.

Through observation and intentionality we can live a life of joy.