Feeling a little crappy before a hike, but that’s cool

Of course hiking isn’t all mountain top experiences or epic Facebook photo-ops. If you hike regularly enough, much of it can start to feel pretty ordinary, actually, like my hike last weekend, where I woke up in an out-of-sorts mood. It was one of those moods where the trajectory of one’s life just feels off track, yet upon further examination there’s really no particular reason to feel that way.

In the past, this melancholic frame of mind might really throw me off, leading to a variety of interrogations: perhaps I’ve not got my shit together in life, or maybe I haven’t been meditating enough, or perhaps I’m in hte wrong place, doing the wrong thing, and on and on, trying to locate what’s wrong or what’s off.

I don’t really take my feelings very seriously anymore. Does that sound drastic? I don’t know, maybe it is, but the mind and the heart are a bit crazy and seem to me to be so very random so much of the time. Frankly, it’s hard for me to take it all too seriously these days.

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Alaskan high

For my most recent weekly hike, I went on my most usual route, which is up to the Bonanza Mine, but as I approached, I could see two figures silhouetted at the top. I kept hiking, but it was clear that they were making themselves comfortable, nesting up in the clouds. Not wanting to share the spot with anyone else — I’m fiercely protective of my personal space when out on a solo hike — I decided to try another ridge line, and, lucky me, it affords me some new views.

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Earth’s sixth mass extinction event under way, scientists warn | The Guardian

I’ve long said that climate change is important but that we’ve got even bigger problems, what researchers are now calling ‘biological annihilation’, a term from a recent study that reveals that we have lost billions of populations of animals in recent decades. It all boils down to human overconsumption.

Wildlife is dying out due to habitat destruction, overhunting, toxic pollution, invasion by alien species and climate change. But the ultimate cause of all of these factors is “human overpopulation and continued population growth, and overconsumption, especially by the rich.”

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Burning Man just moved one step closer to becoming a religion

Yesterday (December 6) the festival’s co-founder Larry Harvey made clear that Burning Man is now closer to becoming a religion than ever before. In a blogpost, he announced that the 2017 theme would be “Radical Ritual,” writing that “beyond the dogmas, creeds, and metaphysical ideas of religion, there is immediate experience. It is from this primal world that living faith arises. In 2017, we will invite participants to create interactive rites, ritual processions, elaborate images, shrines, icons, temples, and visions.”

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What is wrong with white people?

Over the last few years, I’ve watched the revival of racial animosity in America, I’ve watched yet another incarnation of the KKK, and I’ve watched white Americans everywhere froth with xenophobia as they talk about taking their country back, and on reflection, I can’t help but wonder if it’s we white people that are the inferior race. I’d like to think that all races are equal, etc., and I’d like to believe in the whole color blind thing, but white people just seem really messed up……Then I saw this video by comedian Louis CK, and an interesting possibility emerges: maybe white people are really just aliens from another planet who don’t belong here. That would explain a lot.

Amidst the abuse of the protesters, it’s heartening to see veterns self-deploying to Standing Rock. As these events unfold, however, I am reminded that it takes a lot of violence to sustain our way of life. Usually the troops and police officers are fighting on the side of the wealthy and powerful, geared up to the teeth to beat back anyone who stands in the way of “progress.” Our ever-expanding economy must be sustained by heavy energy use. Few question whether or not we need the economy to continue to expand, so we just keep building pipelines that will leak, we keep drilling offshore, we keep pouring poisons into the ground to frack up the shale, and we keep blowing off the tops of the Appalachian Mountains to get at every last bit of coal, even when this means destroying our beautiful, green landscapes and leaching toxins into rivers and creeks. This is the price we all agree to pay, to live as we do, though we often do not acknowledge it. After all, most of us don’t have to live with a pipeline in our backyard.

http://abc13.com/news/veterans-stand-for-standing-rock/1625443/

Loaded Words: On writing and revolution

An article, Loaded Words, from a writer and activist who has been very influential to me, Derrick Jensen. One of Derrick’s most quoted and most controversial lines: “Every morning when I wake up I ask myself whether I should write, or blow up a dam.” (see Actions Speak Lounder than Words, 1998, and/or Derrick’s book, A Language Older than Words, a book very influential to me, personally) Read more

Smokey lake on a brisk Alaskan fall morning

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Coldest morning of our camping trip in the Kenai. The weather has been good to us, despite how late it is in the season. By Alaskan standards, snow can fly at any time in October, so we were pushing it to try to squeeze in one more week, but the weather has been fantastic. I’ve have been in McCarthy since March — not even so much as a trip to Glennallen (the closest town, four hours away) in the last seven months — so it’s been enriching to me to get out and explore! This pic is from a campsite in the Kenai Wildlife Preserve, Kelly Lake, where we were the only campers. Fog in the early morning makes the lake look smokey and mysterious.

Vanlife

Taking a few days to tour the Kenai Peninsula. The weather has been amazing, especially here in Homer, where the bright sunny beaches make me feel like I’m already back in California. This is the view from our campsite in Homer (out the back of our rented mini-van), where we can see the Pacific Ocean spread out before us in a campground we have all to ourselves.

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#vanlife

Well, this explains a lot…

Just started a fascinating nonfiction book, Sapeins: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. It’s a sweeping and epic tome, but it’s highly readable, even entertaining at times, if you have the kind of sense of humor that allows you to roll your eyes and chuckle at your own species.

Here’s a quote I thought was worth passing on:

Genus Homo’s position in the food chain was, until quite recently, solidly in the middle. For millions of years, humans hunted smaller creatures and gathered what they could, all the while being huned by larger predators. It was only 400,000 years ago that several species of man began to hunt large game on a regular basis, and only in the last 100,000 years — with the rise of Homo sapiens — that man jumped to the top of the food chain.
That spectacular leap from the middle to the top had enormous consequences. Other animals at the top of the pyramid, such as lions and sharks, evolved into that position very gradually, over millions of years. This enabled the ecosystem to develop checks and balances that prevent lions and sharks from wreaking too much havoc. As lions became deadlier, so gazelles evolved to run faster, hyenas to cooperate better, and rhinoceroses to be more bad-tempered. In contrast, humankind ascended to the top so quickly that the ecosystem was not given time to adjust. Moreover, humans themselves failed to adjust. Most top predators of the planet are majestic creatures. Millions of years of dominion have filled them with self-confidence. Sapiens by contrast is more like a banana republic dictator. Having so recently been one of the underdogs of the savannah, we are full of fears and anxieties over our position, which makes us doubly cruel and dangerous. Many historical calamities, from deadly wars to ecological catastrophes, have resulted from this over-hasty jump. (pages 11-12)

 

 

Leanness into their souls

I’m spending the winter in the Santa Cruz Mountains, south of the big San Francisco Bay area. I hide in the big redwoods. I hide from the city.

I went on a walk in the redwoods just yesterday. It’s easily one of my favorite activities, and good trails aren’t far. The trees are enormous, rising maybe a hundred feet or more, I’d say, towering above, making me feel a similar smallness that I experience when I look up at high rise buildings in the city. I often find myself smiling, the best kind of smile, spontaneous and unconscious, when my neck is craned, straining to take it all in, the spires ascending and forming a wild and sacred cathedral. Read more

Pope Francis: The Cry of the Earth

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Bill McKibben has written a short response to the Pope’s encyclical on climate change, the environment, and economics. For most of us, what the Pope says is more or less obviously true, but as McKibben notes, few people in power are willing to truly take it on. Here are a few of McKibben’s thoughts on the Pope:

“…he’s [the Pope] brought the full weight of the spiritual order to bear on the global threat posed by climate change, and in so doing joined its power with the scientific order. Stephen Jay Gould had the idea that these two spheres were “non-overlapping magisteria,” but in this case he appears to have been wrong. Pope Francis draws heavily on science—sections of the encyclical are very nearly wonky, with accurate and sensible discussions of everything from genetic modification to aquifer depletion—but he goes beyond science as well. Science by itself has proven empirically impotent to force action on this greatest of crises; now, at last, someone with authority is explaining precisely why it matters that we’re overheating the planet.

“It matters in the first place, says Francis, because of its effect on the poorest among us, which is to say on most of the population of the earth. The encyclical is saturated with concern for the most vulnerable—those who, often in underdeveloped countries, are breathing carcinogenic air, or are being forced from their land by spreading deserts and rampant agribusiness. This comes as no surprise, for concern—rhetorical and practical—for those at the bottom of the heap has been the hallmark of his papacy from the start. “A true ecological approach,” he writes, “always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”…..

“But the heart of the encyclical is less an account of environmental or social destruction than a remarkable attack on the way our world runs: on the “rapidification” of modern life, on the way that economic growth and technology trump all other concerns, on a culture that can waste billions of people. These are neither liberal nor conservative themes, and they are not new for popes: what is new is that the ecological crisis makes them inescapable. Continual economic and technological development may have long been isolating, deadening, spiritually unfulfilling—but it has swept all before it anyway, despite theological protest, because it has delivered the goods. But now, the rapidly rising temperature (and new data also released Thursday showed we’ve just lived through the hottest May since record-keeping began) gives the criticism bite. Our way of life literally doesn’t work. It’s breaking the planet. Given the severity of the situation, Francis writes, we can finally leave behind the modern myth of unlimited material progress. A fragile world, entrusted by God to human care, challenges us to devise intelligent ways of directing, developing, and limiting our power.…..”

Amen.

via Pope Francis: The Cry of the Earth by Bill McKibben | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books.

Five Things Christianity Can Learn From Buddhism – Christian Piatt | Sojourners

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Interesting article written by a Christian whose encounter with Buddhism actually softened him to religion, leading him back to Christianity. That’s a similar story  to my own.

Quote: “The notion of dominionism falsely teaches within some Christian circles that the planet is ours to use as we please. And some even go so far as to suggest that anything we can do to help hasten the end-times gets us that much closer to heralding God’s kingdom on earth.

Buddhism, however, teaches simplicity, humility and intentional care for all of creation. Practices of mindfulness and humility help us loosen our grasp on personal desire and avail ourselves to the excesses and insensitivity of our habits. When we regain a healthier sense of our own places within a much larger, very delicate ecosystem, we not only treat our surroundings with more care; we treat ourselves with greater care as well.”

http://sojo.net/blogs/2015/04/16/five-things-christianity-can-learn-buddhism

Photo is mine, from my recent trip to the Nizina River, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.