31 August 2007


Webster's Dictionary defines "possession" as "domination by something (as an evil spirit, a passion, or an idea)". I would add to that list, "or things".

The more "things" you own, the less your life is yours. You don't own "things"; "things" own you. Remember the last time you moved. Did you see a boxful of "things" that you hadn't opened since the last move and think, "Hmmm. Why do I still have these?" Then, did you go ahead and move that box anyway? Yep; everyone does it.

Why are houses so large? As George Carlin said, they are to hold all our "stuff". Look at the Mongolian nomads with their yurts. They are able to dismantle their house, pack up all their stuff on a small cart to be pulled by a horse, and can move on to somewhere else. The Gypsies are the same way: everything they need is in their vardo (the Gypsy word for "wagon", often pulled behind a horse or nowadays a truck). And ask these people if they are happy. You will be answered with a smile, an affirmative response, and often some sort of treat, dinner, or tea. These people have very little in the way of "things", and they have everything. They have love, happiness, the stars over their heads, and the ground under their feet. They eat well, raise their children well, see amazing places, and do amazing things. They are fulfilled, even with few possessions.

Maybe I've mis-spoken. I said, "even with", as if the normal state is to have big piles af "stuff". It's not! The normal state — the state from which we are born and into which we die — has nothing. We are born naked, and as people say, "you can't take it with you". We come into life empty-handed and leave the same way. Therefore, the "natural state of man" with regards to "things" is to have nothing whatsoever.

So, why do we all have so much shit? I'm not only talking about physical "things", either, but anything that can possess us, including ideas. Sometimes possession is acceptable or even desirable. Most of the time it isn't.

30 August 2007

Proximity breeds difficulty

Why do people spend incredible amounts of energy on the inhuman atrocities in Darfur, yet completely ignore issues closer to home, or even in their own minds? "Fix that, over there!", they yell, holding up a protest sign and sending a few bucks to some charity. Yet, when confronted with the disaster which is American politics, or local homelessness, or local food banks needing money, they ignore them or even get angry that they exist.

The closer the problem, the more difficult the solution. It's like steering a car. If you are on a highway that lightly curves to one side, it's fine. Yet, if you were going 55 miles per hour in a residential street and then had to navigate a 90-degree turn immediately, it's a lot of effort.

So, how can one ever solve any "proximal issues"? Slowly, and over time. If you reduce the speed of the car, you can make that 90-degree turn safely. In the meantime, you'll also see the surrounding houses, children playing, or the park past which you are driving. You get more from slowing down than just a solution; you get life.

Slow down. Solve issues closer to yourself, your home, and your community. If we all did this, all the problems — including huge, "distant" problems like Darfur — would be solved, as everything is local to somebody.

29 August 2007


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Top executives at major businesses last year made as much money in one day of work on the job as the average worker made over the entire year, according to a report released on Wednesday. (from Yahoo.com)

How does severe economic inequality affect for a society? Let's see:

  • Inequality reduces trust. (study)
  • Inequality increases crime. (news article)
  • Inequality increases poverty, which itself has myriad effects (greater dependence on government assistance, more crime, malnourishment, etc.)
  • Inequality reduces educational opportunities for the poorer.
Those are just a few things, with a couple of references (for more information, Google something like "effects of economic inequality"). As you can see, every single one of the societal effects are negative. Who benefits? The rich, of course. Yet, they have their own issues.

So, why do people propagate inequality?
Hmmm...an empty list. I can't think of any good reasons. Can you?

18 August 2007

Social and Individual Control

This is a bit rambling. Expect that from some of my posts.

I don't like the fact that society insists on controlling the individual. So, in my life, I've tried to discover how societal control works, and how to steer myself away from it. Of course, all societies must exert some influence over the individual or else the society cannot function. And I'm not "a rebel for rebellion's sake" like many teenagers; I just have viewpoints which differ from the surrounding society.

I see two types of responses to societal control: voluntary and involuntary. A voluntary response is an agreement with the ideas, goals, and methods of the society, and one acting upon those items via one's own will. Yet, I don't believe one can often do that in a complex society such as that in the United States. Instead, we are driven down a path like cattle, into the involuntary response. "Go to school, work, have kids, buy a house, die" is the path, and it is expected that one will follow it without argument. Well, I won't.

There are many studies and sociologists who say that the maximum effective size of a coherent human community is less than 200 people. Two hundred people! Can you imagine living in such a small town? No, most of us cannot, as we've lived in cities filled with tens and hundreds of thousands of people. A town of a couple hundred folks seems quaint and out of touch. Western societal models don't function well in such small groups, either. Yet, our brains have developed to work in a small tribal environment like that, not in a seething mass of humanity like our cities.

How does one fix this situation, then? Well, I guess it depends on the society and the individual. The United States isn't known for being too heavy-handed compared to the Soviet Union, Albania, North Korea, or China; we don't regularly grab people off the streets for disagreeing with the party line and toss them into prison. Yet, in the U.S. there is massive peer pressure to conform, and that can sometimes be worse than prison. Families insist that children go to college, or follow a certain career, and ostracize them when they don't comply. Employers expect that the worker's entire life revolves around their job, and they react when it doesn't, often by sanctions such as firing the employee (hence, removing their livelihood).

There are multiple kinds of sanctions that can be used. The strongest ones work on the most basic parts of the human psyche: fear, food, reproduction, housing, and community. When an employer threatens to fire someone, what they are really doing is threatening their ability to eat, clothe themselves, and house themselves; they may also be threatening the employee's family by extension. The fears concerning the loss of life are deep in the human brain, and they are mostly unconscious, hence they are extremely effective in controlling a person. Frankly, I believe that such manipulation should be illegal, but it is not.

My approach is to realize that I have ultimate control over my own survival. For example, if I am fired from a job, I can still find food (hunting, fishing, gathering, dumpster diving, begging, eating with friends, etc.). In this manner, I take power away from society and reclaim it for myself. I may still decide to work with society towards various goals, but I always remember that they cannot force me to change my approach.

A Quote About Science and Magick

    "Instead of opposing magic and science, it would be better to compare them as two parallel modes of acquiring knowledge. Their theoretical and practical results differ in value (as science is certainly more successful than magic from this point of view, although magic foreshadows science in that it also sometimes works). But both science and magic require the same sort of mental operations, which differ not so much in kind as in the different types of phenomena to which they are applied.

    These relations are a consequence of the objective conditions in which magic and scientific knowledge appeared. The history of the latter is short enough for us to know a good deal about it. But the fact that modern science dates back only a few centuries raises a problem which ethnologiests have not yet sufficiently pondered. The Neolithic Paradox would be a suitable name for it."

    --Claude Levi-Strauss, from his book "The Savage Mind", excerpted in "Shamans Through Time: 500 Years On the Path To Knowledge" edited by Narby and Huxley.

15 August 2007


People really get stuck in ideas and ruts. People who live in cosmopolitan cities think almost everyone else does, too, and they think, "Yeah, some people live in the country, don't they? What do they DO?!?!" Those in the country are the same: "Yeah, there's a big city over there, and so many people live there I could never know them all. None of them have gardens. How do they eat?!?!"

Ruts, ruts, ruts. Why does the human brain allow ruts? Is it a survival instinct that helps one to get somewhere comfortable and "dig in" for the long term? I don't know, but I'm not really a fan of them. Either that, or the part of my brain that helps one get and stay in ruts is profoundly broken or missing completely.