stuff

disconnect

Welcome to my little get-away.  Do you like it?  Before we settle in let’s toss some of the excess baggage.  There’s no room for those resentments about the past nor worries about tomorrow.  Get rid of that backpack of responsibilities weighing you down.  Settle in under my palm tree and let’s look just beyond the horizon.  It’s calling us, isn’t it?  Rest for the soul. 

You have probably noticed that there is not a house under my palm tree, not even a hut or tent.  Running water would be nice, but what use is a bathroom without a house?  There is no shed for excess belongings, no lawn mower, no shovels, no wheelbarrow.  No need for a storage unit across town in which to store all the stuff that won’t fit into the attic or cellar or garage.  Pretty sparse by American standards – actually downright spartan.

Stuff – it’s the American way.  More, more, more to satisfy an insatiable thirst for possessions that will prove to our friends and neighbors how successful we are and to ourselves that we are special.  Then, when we tire of our stuff, we throw it into the dumpster and immediately run to Wally World to buy more stuff.  Stuff, stuff, stuff.

As we ponder the horizon from under our palm tree, let’s consider what our greed and Madison Avenue’s advertising genius have done to us as a society.  The USA consumes an enormously disproportionate share of the earth’s resources to produce all the conveniences and goods we are accustomed to having.  One would think, therefore, that we are the most content, well-balanced, satisfied nation on the surface of the planet enjoying the most advanced living standard.  Really?

What went wrong?  We bought into capitalism’s promises of fulfillment and happiness hook, line, and sinker.  We were snookered by the rich cats living in opulence surrounded by all their stuff which, by the way, is much better than our stuff.  Oh no.  Not only did they lead us astray, they got away with the really good stuff and left us with the junk!

Head spinning yet?  Come back, back to our horizon, back to our palm tree, back to what is important – living in the now.  Surrender to the wisdom of the ancient mystics who told us that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enjoy a place of peace (heaven) while saddled with his stuff.

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So many of us have lived our lives placing unmerited value on the opinions of others while discrediting our personal truth and reality.  Breaking the shackles of people-pleasing requires honest self-appraisal, a healthy dose of self-esteem, and an enormous commitment to self-realization.

life-sustaining society

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So many of us have lived our lives placing unmerited value on the opinions of others while discrediting our personal truth and reality.  Breaking the shackles of people-pleasing requires honest self-appraisal, a healthy dose of self-esteem, and an enormous commitment to self-realization.  

pride8

“If there is to be a livable world for those who come after us, it will be because we have managed to make the transition from the Industrial Growth Society to a Life-Sustaining Society. . . . While the agricultural revolution took centuries and the Industrial revolution took generations, (the Great Turning) has to happen within a matter of years. It also has to be conscious—involving not only the political economy, but the habits, values and understandings that foster it.” —Joanna Macy – Pace e Bene

Can we do that?  We, who have been the most voracious consumers of this earth’s resources, who have built an empire on the backs of slave and immigrant labor, who have tilted the political process in favor of the corporate elite, who have widened the gulf between the prosperous and the poor, who have thumbed our noses at environmental consciousness….can we do that?  Not over the course of centuries or generations, but within a few years we must make our decisions.  Can we build a life-sustaining society which honors the entirety of creation?beard-beggar-face-35015

 

Reparations

broken hearted

reparations – Ta-Nehisi Coates

“What I’m talking about is more than recompense for past injustices—more than a handout, a payoff, hush money, or a reluctant bribe. What I’m talking about is a national reckoning that would lead to spiritual renewal. . . . Reparations would mean a revolution of American consciousness, a reconciling of our self-image as the great democratizer with the facts of our history.”

—Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Case for Reparations

Stunning words from Mr. Coates!  Finally, white power and white privilege accustomed to the old, distinctly American adage “money talks” is challenged to the crux of what African-Americans want.  They don’t want handouts, payoffs, hush money, or bribes.  They want white America to do a conscience check and transform the inner soul that makes us racist and bigoted.  What a challenge!  Can we do it?

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boys, men, toys

Those who know they have enough are truly wealthy – LAO TZU

The old cliché, “the only difference between men and boys is the size (and cost) of their toys,” rings soundly as I sit on my front porch watching traffic heading to the marina to launch into the Homosassa River and the Gulf the boats being pulled.  A few are modest older model pickup trucks pulling equally modest boats, but most are sleek, brand new powerful Fords and Chevys towing a mini-yacht that could house a small family in comfort.  Certainly they are a far cry from the sandbox trucks and bathtub boats we little boys enjoyed years ago while growing up.

And I sincerely do not begrudge their showy big-boy toys.  But, I also do not understand how some of us grew up to be content with the small toys in life while others were driven to bigger, better, shinier and more powerful.  Driving 18-wheeler coast to coast and north to south during the 1990s into 2009, we encountered frequently a fellow trucker keying up on his CB radio with a harsh crackle and a booming “Breaker, breaker 19.  Anybody got a copy on this here radio-o-o-o-o.  C’mon back-k-k-k”

Undoubtedly, folks two states away had a copy on this driver’s echoing master-blaster CB radio.  It was annoying and totally worthless for anything other than a showy display of strength and power.  My driving partner, a man not known to mince words, would reply, “yeah hand, we have a copy on your radio and we’re so glad you’ve finally found a big toy to compensate for your other small equipment.”

Worked every time.  Spitting and fuming just momentarily that radio then went silent.  That usually happened; however there were times when a profanity laced, violence threatening discussion ensued about equipment size as boys and men will often do.

It’s all about ego, isn’t it?  If the poor man with a shabby little rowboat feels less worthy than the man towing his $250,000 yacht with an $80,000 pickup truck, then that poor man has an ego problem.  If the rich man with the big toys feels better than the man with a little rowboat, then he also has an ego problem, doesn’t he?

A healthy ego along with balanced self-esteem teach us that blessings are not dependent upon wealth or possessions.  Your toys, no matter how large or expensive, are no better than my little dinghy with oars.  What is important is the level of self-worth your toys give to you or detract from me.  Simplicity is all about mind-set and priorities.  Even more, it is about living joyously day-to-day this mystery called life and disallowing the external forces of consumerism and consumption to call the shots. 🙏

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shop ’til you drop

“A world without weapons, without McMansions in sprawling suburbs, without mountains of unnecessary packaging, without giant mechanized monofarms, without energy-hogging big-box stores, without electronic billboards, without endless piles of throw-away junk, without the overconsumption of consumer goods no one really needs is not an impoverished world. I disagree with those environmentalists who say we are going to have to make do with less. In fact, we are going to make do with more: more beauty, more community, more fulfillment, more art, more music, and material objects that are fewer in number but superior in utility and aesthetics. . . .”CHARLES EISENSTEIN

“Black Friday” – the one day of the year when retailers realize a joyous financial profit on their books or a sad red bottom line to present to their stockholders.  We have been bombarded since before Halloween with ads for everything from two brand new vehicles (his and hers) in the driveway to watches that tell you what gender your baby will be to beer that will make you the most interesting man in the world.

Seriously, how many of us can afford one slightly used car let alone ‘his and hers’ brand new, expensive, bells and whistles-loaded marvels of the automotive industry?  Where are these people who can actually afford what Madison Avenue is pitching?  I believe these ads to be nothing more than a conspiracy by the powers of capitalism to make most of us feel inadequate and wanting.

“Oh, Lord, what a failure I am because I cannot buy that new cell phone for $800 nor afford a contractual plan that costs $150 per month.  I must be lower than tub scum and certainly not as worthy as the Joneses next door.”

So, what do we do?  Beginning Thanksgiving night before the turkey has settled and the dishes washed, we shop til we drop.  We pack the car with friends or kids or spouses and head for the nearest WalMart or to the high-end stores at the mall or to the box stores littering our streets at every corner to acquire “stuff” that will probably be stored away or thrown out before black Friday arrives next year – to the attic or to the landfill.  And, to add insult to injury, we have racked up credit card debt that thrills the card-holding companies in downtown Manhattan charging usury rates for the money which we don’t really have obliging us to spend the rest of next year paying back.  Whew!  Wasn’t that fun?

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How about something different this year?  In this capitalistic economy running amok, first of all shop locally – support your neighbors and community members by choosing thoughtful gifts that will be around long enough to become vintage or at least remembered.  Forget about those silly stocking stuffers packed with stupid, useless trinkets.  Fill the sock with lottery tickets.  In most states, the money goes to worthy causes like education or senior citizens and your gift recipient will remember you for eternity if he/she wins big.

Shop as if the earth’s ecosystem depends on us for survival because it does.  We don’t need more plastic with a 1000 year lifespan in landfills and the oceans.  We don’t need more aerosol products to pollute the atmosphere.  We certainly don’t need another squeaking, squawking, tear-producing doll that little Missy will throw in the closet the day after Christmas.  When we shop let’s think everlasting, meaningful.  Let’s imagine that item we are about to buy gracing someone’s life for years to come.  And let’s get over the idea that a silly gift is more appreciated than our time given in selflessness to others.  Time is an extremely precious commodity as valuable as diamonds or gold.

We have been fed a crock of nonsense.  There is no scarcity.  There is no deficiency.  There is no reason to hoard or enter wars for the earth’s resources.  When we turn our backs on the demands of out-of-control consumerism foisted on us by rampant capitalism, we will see the real beauty of our world in art, in music, in thriving neighborhoods, in nature, in enchantment, in the diversity of cultures, and in necessary goods that enhance our lives.  There is no shortage when we escape the ‘shop til you drop’ mantra.

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NAOMI KLEIN – capitalism

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photo by PIXABAY

NAOMI KLEIN, “NO IS NOT ENOUGH” “With unleashed white supremacy and misogyny, with the world teetering on the edge of ecological collapse, with the very last vestiges of the public sphere set to be devoured by capital, it’s clear that we need to do more than draw a line in the sand and say ‘no more.’ Yes, we need to do that and we need to chart a credible and inspiring path to a different future. And that future . . . has to be somewhere we have never been before.”

We know, we all know that the violence, hatred, greed and intolerance in today’s world cannot be sustained.  Most of us also know that the destruction of the earth’s resources for financial gain cannot be sustained.  We must transcend to a place where polar bears and rain forests are more esteemed than stock portfolios and asset holdings.  The consequences of ignoring the pleas of nature will be dire.  Do you hear Mother Earth screaming?  No, she’s not calling to us for assistance; rather, the scream is at us for being so stupid and self-indulged.  She knows the earth will recover and flourish – we, homo-sapiens, will not.

Mike Pompeo, our Secretary of State, referred to the melting polar ice cap as ” a wonderful economic opportunity for international trade…..West to Asia shipping routes across the ice free Artic would cut shipping times by 2 to 3 weeks.”  Perhaps Mike would be ecstatic with the prospect of Atlanta, Georgia, becoming a major Atlantic seaport after the waters have risen to cover the entire eastern seaboard.  Charleston and Savannah will have gone the route of ancient fabled Atlantis.  That’s right, Mike.  Who needs polar bears?

Naomi Klein, in her book, is speaking to unfettered capitalism, the kind that doesn’t value polar bears and rainforests.  But, run-away capitalism relies on all of us playing the game of consumerism.  It’s a relatively new game plan that did not exist generations ago when the wood cook stove was an heirloom handed from generation to generation or the wooden furniture was truly made of wood and lasted for centuries.  My grandmother’s first encounter with “throw-away” was a roll of paper towels.  She washed out the sheets and hung them behind the stove to dry.  😍

We can beat the capitalists at their own game.  Don’t buy their products and the money flow reverses.  When the bottom line for stockholders declines, management and ownership will need to change the game.  It’s not at all complicated.  My grandparents mastered consumerism out of necessity.  The family car was not replaced until the wheels no longer turned.  The old Frigidaire refrigerator in the kitchen was not replaced just because it did not have the latest gadgets and dials.  It served faithfully for 30 years with a freezer that served up hundreds of gallons of home made ice cream.  Designer clothes for school were not purchased every year because we all wore clothes without fancy name tags until they had no wear left in them.  Our shirts were JC Penney hand-me-downs.  We learned how to conserve natural resources because we had a deep reverence for the earth.  Too simplistic, you say?  Just learn to say no to the incessant flow of advertising on your media screens and half the battle is won.

Of course the consequences of allowing the corporate world to rape the earth are huge.  But, so are we.  Collectively, we have a voice bigger than anything that comes off Madison Avenue or Wall Street.  Each one of us can decide today to put off that new phone or flat screen.  We can choose to have a vegetarian dinner tonight instead of beef raised on land that once was a rain forest.  We can wear that same old pair of sneakers for another year.  Grandma and Grandpa will be proud of us.  The polar bears will love us.

chief seattle

“This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth.  All things are connected like the blood that unites us all.  Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand of it.  Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”  TREATY ORATION 1854 CHIEF SEATTLE