Fingerprints on water

Being asked the question, What do you do to make the world a better place?, or, What do you do to live up to your highest understanding of what is good and real?, the answer is… less.

I live in a small space without walls. There is neither clock nor calendar in there, no TV, no radio receiver, no washing machine, no stove; I own five electrical items only – a solar candle, a light bulb, a camera, a laptop, a tablet – and I am committed to not replace the latter three once they come beyond repair. I’m slowing down, inwardly and outwardly. I don’t own a motorized vehicle; I arranged my life in such a way as to be able to rely on my bicycle or walk for 99 out of 100 days. I stopped traveling for pleasure. I use a dry compost toilet. I wash myself and my laundry in a bucket; my daily water usage is around 30-40 liters max. I don’t eat meat. I don’t smoke, drink, or dope. I don’t phone. I reduced the consumption of music and movies and books and sweets and clothes. I wear my stuff for years and years, first for “proper” dressing, then for casual home use, after for gardening, and finally for rags with which to clean floors and vegetables. I live on little more than one Euro per day. I stopped buying stuff, with the exception of bread and some fruits which are not available from the farm, a toothbrush once in a while, some soap.

drawing by Wilhelm Busch (1832-1908)

The list of material items I have removed from my life goes on for much longer. I don’t want to bore you with it. I also think that this is not the most important part of my story of doing less. Sure, the less I consume the less I pollute. But then again, I’m aware that I’m just one man among billions of others – many of whom consume more than their purse allows them to. I also know Jevons’ Paradox, according to which saving resources only results in an overcompensation; somebody else will consume what I left untouched, and perhaps more than that. I am also aware that, compared to a tribal human, I own more things than I probably need. I certainly cannot carry everything at once. I still take flights twice a year, to visit my aging mother. I don’t believe in offsetting. I’ll just quit it once she’s gone. Let’s stay positive saying, there is room for future reduction, to a life like fingerprints on water.

On the plane of the immaterial I am cutting down on many things as well. I don’t protest, campaign, petition. The hectic activity, the anxious frenzy, the omnipresent noise and light and technological stink and the constant advertising and information-pushing begin to cause me nausea. I have downscaled my knowing, reasoning, judging, arguing. That makes it harder to write and talk, but then again, what is there to say that hasn’t already been told by somebody else? And can I really claim I’m right with what I say? Who is that Mewhich tends to inflate to epic proportions? I haven’t found the needle in my haystack of yet-to-be-discarded items with which to collapse the balloon-like person I think I am, but I sure have fun releasing some of its air through the vent. The smaller it gets the less ugly it becomes. 
 
Am I leaving my mark in this world by not leaving a mark when I leave,as a Texan musician put it in the late nineties? I believe I have done too much already to achieve this, and I don’t even know whether it’s desirable. Our very existence changes the world, for better or worse. So why don’t we go for the better? My goal is not about reducing everything to zero. It’s rather about chipping away that which is destructive, disturbing, disruptive, delusive; to find the right balance between being and becoming. Like most people in industrial civilization I weigh too heavy on the planet’s capacity to sustain life. That’s why my path leads downward, away from the apex of our culture, towards the foundations of existence.

Owning less goes straight against the paradigm of separation; consuming less is incompatible with the locust culture currently ruling the whole planet; and doing less, to me, is the confession that the complexity of the world is way beyond my understanding. I just don’t know what is good for everybody. I hardly know what is good for me. I’ve got an intuition, and I follow it. I don’t know where this ends but it feels good to trust that feeling, and I do not suffer from less stuff. There is no sacrifice, no loss, no self-denial. It’s rather the opposite – every gadget, every insurance, every untruthful relationship, every idea, every activity that fell away provided space and time for something much more valuable: the essence of it all, the unadulterated sensation of living, the meaning of being alive. Not that I got that to the fullest; as already shared, I still own things, thoughts, personae. Life is becoming more and more interesting though.

Now if you ask me whether I recommend my way to everybody, I say, Of course – not! My pathworks for my feet. What I (do not) do is a manifestation of myunderstanding. You need to follow yours. In fact, you have no choice but to do so. If anything you can only choose what you wish to understand. Maybe that’s a suitable point for starting the revolution, and maybe it starts with understanding less.

How to identify imperialistic thought (Yurugu series #2)

The Yurugu blog series attempts to uncover some of the myths the dominant culture is based upon. As we have a hard time seeing the things we take for granted the view from outside, through the eyes of a different culture, may help with discovering our biases and enable us to act more consciously.
Marimba Ani, the author of the book “Yurugu: An African-centered critique of European cultural thought and behavior”, is not involved in putting up the series and does not necessarily agree to its contents. The series is also not meant to present the book’s central thesis, or to agree one-hundred percent with it; rather the blogs are inspired by the deep thoughts Marimba Ani has put forward, and offer some of them for consideration.

[previous article]

With all the many groups of people and their many ideas on what it means to live a good life, it has become increasingly harder to tell who are the ones we would like to identify with, help along, and promote in their efforts to make this world a better place. With so many people lying through closed teeth, so many others pretending to be someone they are not, and with yet so many others not understanding the implications of their own words, how can we tell the real deal from fake and delusion?
The answer could be something like this: look out for the imperialist mindset.

Why is this important?

European rationalistic ideology has “created” a particular kind of person who can be expected to behave in certain characteristic ways. If the uniqueness to the culture is not understood, the positive possibilities of other cultures will get lost, and, whether consciously or not, this is a thoroughly Eurocentric objective. For this reason, we assume the particularity of the European form and therefore the need to explain its development, not as the result of some “universal” process, but by understanding its asili[cultural core] – a unique combination of factors that in circular relationship generate the personalities and ideological commitments that form the influencing matrix.

This explanation is all the more compelling since Europeans represent an extreme minority culture. It is the realization that Europe is in fact a culture in which imperial domination of others does indeed become a “comprehensive world-view” that is important. This is unique in the world and the characteristics (themes) of European culture – its “rationalism,” violence, and lack of spirituality – are not merely isolated pathologies; rather these characteristics are linked to each other in a developmental matrix (asili) that is itself “pathological” in the context of human societies.

(Marimba Ani: Yurugu. An African-centered critique of European cultural thought and behavior, 1994, p392)

While the drive for power permeates all of European-based thought, philosophy, and religion its presence, in most people, goes unnoticed by its carriers. In any case, apart from rather rare displays of unmasked power tripping, it hides behind a shroud of idealism, altruism, alleged necessity, or “universal” values such as humanism, humanitarianism, equality, freedom and democracy.

Nevertheless, there are quite a few signs by which the imperialist mindset can be identified in somebody’s speech or behaviour, one of which is againstness, which results in kind of a war mentality. When you notice someone pointingtheir rhetoric against evil politicians andmad scientists, professing to be Anti-this orAnti-that, concludingthat a certain group of people or certain circumstances were the cause of all evil and need to be singled out and fought against, exterminated even, you may already be on to recognizing the imperialist mindset’s workings.

Saito Musashi-bo Benkei,
the Buddhist warrior monk
But be careful: there is also such a thing as legitimate, productive criticism, a legitimate form of liberating rebellion, and the spirit of the consciousness warrior as described by Joanna Macy and others. Today, I will not go into describing what they are about. Instead, I want to point out in relatively simple terms how to identify the imperialist mindset. Here we go:

1) Differentiation
As a first step, the imperialist mindset is looking for differences in opinion, clothing, preferences, size, religion, or anything else people (and other beings)may differ in. There is no problem with this in itself. People do have different skin colour, accents, opinions, possessions, etc. The imperialist mindset is actuallydifferent from everyother mindset, and any serious analysis must point this out. Yet people also have many things in common; basically we are the same, or even one. And this is what the imperialist mindset denies when it takes the next three steps, which are almost always veiled in moral statements or rational argument:

2) Separation and Othering

In the second step, the imperialist mindset seeks to separate itself from the ‘Other’, claiming to not be (like)that, and to overemphasize differences to the degree where differencesovershadow any common ground onemight have with the ‘Other’.

3) Devaluation

In a third step, the imperialist mindset devalues the ‘Other’, makes it a less-than-human object, seeking not only to compare its ownvalues with those ofothers, but to devalue and negate the latter. So we could also talk about objectification and dehumanization.

4) Crusading
As the ‘Other’ has become something bad, a less than human object, there is morally no problem with trying to control, oppress, or extinguish it. The ‘Other’ can now be fought against by all means available, from ridiculing to verbal character assassination, to torture, to literal slaughtering of its body.
Daniele Ganser. Photo: Ingo Wösner
Daniele Ganser, a Swiss historian and peace researcher, describes the process in three steps only, “Teilen – Abwerten – Töten,”(Divide, Devalue, Kill) when he talks about how governments, with the help of mainstream media, convince us of the necessity of warfare against “terrorists”, “dictators”, and other evil-doers of the day. In short, this is Ancient Rome’s two-step programme divide et impera, but I found it important to indicate that its first necessary step is differentiation, that differentiation is also a necessary step for us in evaluating a situation, and that it can have a positive effect when diversity inspires us to create a new synthesis of pathways and views.
Were I to say, To liberate our communities from imperialist rule (the enemy without), and our minds from imperialist thought (the enemy within), we must destroy Elitist agency, you should by now be able to identify such a statement as speaking from an imperialist mindset. This is what we need to become conscious about. What we seek is not elimination, but deep understanding that inspires us to act from a different place. Marimba Ani who could be described as a warrior for decolonization and African self-determination says about that place:

While one functions pragmatically within a profane reality, that “reality” is never thought to be the essence of meaning. In spiritual conceptions there is always a striving for the experience of a deeper reality that joins all being. Learning is the movement from superficial difference to essential sameness (Na’im Akbar). This “sameness” is spirit; beyond and ontologically prior to matter. It is the basis for human value. One’s spirituality involves the attempt to live and structure one’s life on national, communal, and personal level in accordance with universal spiritual principles. (Yurugu, p368; emphasis mine)

 [next article]

P.S., Bébé Vundermann has written a companion article titled, A Yurugu Mirror & the Role of Consciousness Warriors for our Time, which I recommend reading.

Decolonizing the mind (Yurugu series pt.1)

The Yurugu blog series attempts to uncover some of the myths the dominant culture is based upon. As we have a hard time seeing the things we take for granted the view from outside, through the eyes of a different culture, may help with discovering our biases and enable us to act more consciously.
Marimba Ani, the author of the book “Yurugu: An African-centered critique of European cultural thought and behavior”, is not involved in putting up the series and does not necessarily agree to its contents. The series is also not meant to present the book’s central thesis, or to agree one-hundred percent with it; rather the blogs are inspired by the deep thoughts Marimba Ani has put forward, and offer some of them for consideration.

*****

In view of the many difficulties the human species faces these days, and looking back at ten thousand years of oppression, social disparity, suffering, warfare, and environmental destruction that fill our history books and news media, what sticks out is the utter inability to tackle any single one of those issues. One should think that, with all that ingenuity we ascribe to the human mind, we’d be able to make things better, overall, and that we would never allow ourselves to step to the very precipice, have a discussion about whether it’s there or not, and politely urge each other to go ahead. Yet that is exactly what is going on; and what’s more, it happens despite loud warnings. Season’s greetings from Katowice.

Another thing that sticks out is that non-European cultures do not join in the activities of Western oppositional movements. There was no Summer of Love in Beijing, no nuclear-disarmament protests in Tunis, no Occupy campaign in Lagos, and, as far as I can see, no Yellow Vests in Rio. Uprisings concerned with environmental issues or social inequality seem to revolve around completely different faces, problems, and ideas. When it comes to “global” and “universal” in terms of humanness, values, needs, or rules, so-called developing countries seem to belong to another universe altogether.

That critical voices from Caucasian-dominated regions of the world, such as Europe, North America, Latin America, or Australia seem to effect change neither in any of their home countries nor in “underdeveloped” nations, is a systemic failure that is rarely noticed, and if so, it is rationalized by tactical or strategic mistakes its proponents had made.

What goes wrong here, though, may be explained in relatively simple terms: the protesters themselves nurse a bias in their mind; they act from assumptions, and they promote notions that are deeply rooted in the very culture they profess to criticize. In the case of European civilization, which is a tremendously aggressive culture with a long history of imperialism towards and colonization of other peoples, we need to literally decolonize our minds before we can hope to make any progress with changing our societies. That, at least, is the motif underlying the following number of blogs which explore European thought and behaviour (whereas by Europe we mean all cultures based on the Babylonian-Greek-Roman-Frankonian-Anglo-American-Globalized industrial civilization, including big towns and cities in all countries the world over).

African nightmare; basic photo: NASA (pd)

In the intentional commune where I live, an international township in India founded on principles of a (Westernized) Indian philosopher, the surrounding local population complains about endemic racism, neo-colonialism, and a general untrustworthiness of the white residents of the township. They, the natives, say they don’t feel taken for serious, talks don’t happen at eye level, and that they are being cheated and blackmailed on a regular basis. All this happens against the backdrop of cultural exchange, educational, and empowerment programs emanating from that township. Clearly, the self-image of our township’s residents and our neighbours’ view on us are differing tremendously.

As someone who does his best to translate good intentions into tangible action I feel hurt by the accusation of being a colonizer. In the literal sense – the Latin root means, farmer, settler –indeed, I am a colonist But does that mean I am bringing back imperial rule to India? Originally, I didn’t think so.

Looking back at how I have run my life, the things I have believed in, the fights I have picked up, and foremost my basic assumptions back then – well, in short – yes, I need mental decolonization.

In order to criticize one’s own culture one has to be able to see it in its totality, which means, one has to take a step back, outside of it’s cage walls, to be able to compare its metaphysical foundation and practical implications with those of other cultures. In the very rare cases where decolonization successfully happened without foreign intervention – think of the Gnostics, or Meister Eckhart – it came about by means of mysticism; knowledge emerged from the doorway of not-knowing. As clarity of mind is so completely impaired by our culture’s scientific materialism, technological utilitarianism, and unbridled egoism, I don’t see this path being pursuable by any number of truth-seekers right now. What I’d rather try here, through a series of articles, is to have sources speak whose view is less biased by European thought than, say, Kant, Skinner, Fresco, or even Mumford. As much as the latter – and others like them – may have contributed to breaking the juggernaut’s shell, by fueling the rebelliousness of younger generations, as much did they contribute to the proliferation of certain values which had, and still have, devastating effects both on other cultures and people’s world view within our own culture.

Information does not suffice to activate the energies needed for change, but it is a useful if not necessary part of change nontheless; useful maybe for some of us willing to having a look inside, to see the concepts impairing our vision and the emotions suppressed by the mental structure Freud “discovered” (invented).

With all that in mind I’ll start with a series of articles based on quotes from a book that philosopher and anthropologist MarimbaAni, otherwise known as professor emeritus of African studies at Hunter College, New York, Dona Richards has written: Yurugu. An African-centered critique of European cultural thought and behavior (1994). Not only does Yurugu provide a refreshingly clear – as well as shocking – insight into the origins, history, philosophy and functioning of today’s Europeanized world; it is also a rich source of literature for further studies on African and European cultures. In her introduction, the author writes,

This study of Europe is an intentionally aggressive polemic. It is an assault on the European paradigm; a repudiation of its essence. It is initiated with the intention of contributing to the process of demystification necessary for those of us who would liberate ourselves from European intellectual imperialism. Europe’s political domination of Africa and much of the “non-European” world has been accompanied by relentless cultural and psychological rape and by devastating economic exploitation. But what has compelled me to write this book is the conviction that beneath this deadly onslaught lies a stultifying intellectual mystification that prevents Europe’s political victims from thinking in a manner that would lead to authentic self-determination. Intellectual decolonization is a prerequisite for the creation of successful political decolonization and cultural reconstruction strategies. (Yurugu, p1)

As we begin to see that decolonization is necessary for our developing a truly life-endorsing culture, the question arises in which ways European civilization does actually shape our reality, and then, using that insight, how to end its spell on our lives. In the coming weeks, we’ll explore specific aspects of all that – science, technology, love, art, morals, freedom, and change, among others – and we’ll have a look at our culture’s innate weaknesses. While for non-European cultures it will be hard to regain their cultural sovereignty, the self-decolonization of their European counterparts – us – will be immensely more demanding, because we have no tradition to support our effort and to fall back into.

Through the study of the asili, the utamawazoand the utamarohoof our culture – concepts Marimba Ani has introduced into modern African cultural anthropology – we will see that nothing less than total dissolution, transformation, or metamorphosis of Western civilization can result from a successful decolonization of the minds of its citizens. Yet it is not our goal to glamorize or even appropriate African traditions, but to learn from their views, and to find related concepts that make sense in the context of our new communities.

The blogs of this series can also not replace the study of the book it is based upon. While reading, keep in mind that this is neither a retelling nor a critique of Yurugu but a search for who we, members of the globalized industrial civilization of the early 21st century, are. Perhaps that can help with actualizing our deeper humanity – the being beneath the cultural mask.

[read next]

Groundhog day

Have you ever had the feeling that every word said leads you one step further away from the truth?

photo by Land Between the Lakes KY/TN, CC 2.0 by-sa 2015

Have you ever got the impression that you — and with you, all of mankind — are already trillions of miles away from it? Like, flying away on a wave to the edge of the Universe, at the speed of light, with no chance of ever returning in the same way you came here?

Have you ever seen so clearly that every single concept you held dear in your mind, thinking it was true — actually every concept that anyone ever has ever conceived of — has been nothing else but a trap, keeping us stuck in that ever-expanding wave of nonsense we call reason?
And still, there was nothing you could have done about it, other than abandoning it?

Ah, welcome to my world.
The ever-recurring question of the meaning of communication, it has me again. And I wonder what will become of the words I have uttered, the essays I have scribbled, the books I have written… maybe I sell them for what they are: entertaining hullaballoo.

The Yoga of Reconnection

This is the transcript of my second interview with Wolfgang Werminghausen, for his podcast Faster Than Expected, episode 20, which has been published last night. Smaller corrections have been made to clarify the core message and to give a more pleasant reading.
Originally, the conversation was supposed to happen as part of the 19th FTE podcast with Kevin Hester co-hosting but was postponed due to technical problems.
FTE: I want to talk with Jürgen about living with animals. Since some years Jürgen is living in India in the small town Auroville. There he is working as a farmer and librarian. We had a talk in the 16th episode of the Faster Than Expected podcast.
How does working as a farmer and living with goats and other animals change your life?
Me: Hi Wolfgang, thanks for the opportunity to throw a few words into the conversation. I really appreciate that.
I’d like to add that it’s an organic farm within a spiritual commune, which is not at all comparable to industrial agriculture. I think that organic farming and industrial agriculture are actually two very different activities that only can be seen on the same level if you think both of them are about keeping animals or planting food crops. Apart from that, they got nothing in common. Our animals are part of the family, which means we have a symbiotic relationship, not the kind of exploit-then-throw away situation of a typical cowcentration camp.
On a physical level my work is of course completely different from anything I ever did within my life as a wage slave or as a self-employed retailer. It sort of reconnected me with the realm of true life, basic needs, eye-to-eye interaction and so on; these elements in our lives have been largely lost. I can say that because I am currently going through the experience of regaining them, finding them again in my life, and finding a place for them in my life.
The work takes some discipline, the kind I expect Kevin to know closely, because as much as you sometimes would like to leave the boat – to jump ship – you can’t. Kevin has physical barriers in the way; there is a vast ocean all around, and I have emotional barriers which I cannot cross.
FTE: Like a lifeboat.
Me: Yes. You got to be there, day by day, event by event, whatever happens. It’s three o’clock in the night and I hear some of the animals shouting in some sort of distress, eg. there is a predator in the cage or someone stepped on their toe. Whatever it is, I go there and look. I can’t say, “It’s night time, I want to sleep and my working hours are long past.”
And it’s a very direct thing: There is no space for electronic gadgets, or complex ideas. Another element that is also important from that perspective is: We use to throw money at a problem, like, something is missing and you go into the shop to buy what we need. That’s not possible in this case. You can’t throw money at a problem an animal has, or at a problem you have with an animal, and make the animal behave as you want it to. Meeting their needs, that’stheir currency, and to become aware of what the need of the moment might be I have to be with them, meaning, I have to be with them very often, repeatedly, and also mentally I have to be prepared to be present with them to understand what’s up. By that practice I learn their expressions, the signing, the body language, and communicate with them. Though it’s not like the twitch of one eye means the word so-and-so, and the blinking of the other eye means, I’m hungry. It’s not as direct as human language, rather some intuitive kind of communication. It’s not coherently the same all the time. The same sign may mean something different in a different context. Understanding is a matter of intuition, I think. By being together with the animals they learn what I am up to. Do I understand them? Am I ready to meet their need? Or am I rejecting it?
I am entering into a mutual relationship with them which means, I acknowledge them as people, as characters, as unique personalities. It’s not all that complicated and you could compare it to instances when people understand each other without words. Everybody has them. You have a friend, a partner… you don’t need to speak but you know what the other person is thinking or what they want to do. Like in a good rock band, the guitarist and the drummer know exactly their timing. We like to refer to this as „magic moments“, but that’s really just because spoken and written language has so removed us from our original state of consciousness and from the things that truly matter. Ok, in a way it’s “magic” because it’s not rational, but it’s not special in the sense of being a rare thing. You could have it every day.
So I highly recommend people to consciously enter into close relationships with someone whose psyche is not fucked up by civilized thinking and by thinking in linguistic terms. We find those very rarely. When are you able to get in contact with a wild person – with a tribal human? It’s hard to find them anywhere. So the only people left that are sort of unspoilt are animals who are available to us for that purpose.
If you let yourself – just for a minute – feel the sorrows of another being you get an understanding of the heaviness of the burden that’s hanging from the world’s neck, this civilized madness which is to me a mental disorder, a derangement even. I don’t know how else to get rid of this. It’s something no shrink can ever heal. To me, the way out of this madness is to reconnect through beings that are less impaired by it.
The fate of the biosphere is depending on us because we are the dominant species – or rather, the dominant culture, because it’s not humans as such, it’s our culture, civilization, that’s fucking up the planet, and therefore we do have a responsibility for the wellbeing of everyone else: plants, animals, ourselves of course, for the pain, the suffering, and the survival of everyone else in this world, just like we do have a responsibility for our children and our pets, or to phrase it in another way, we have a responsibility for the captive children and the animals that we domesticate for civilized use; that’s what we do to our own species even.
FTE: Thank you very much for your touching and impressive words. In Western industrial agriculture animals are a product kind of thing. Is there a different way to view animals in India?
Blister beetle devouring an ocra flower
Me: Yes, certainly. There is this funny story told by Arnold Stadler, about a calves extermination program that an agricultural minister of the German Green party has set up to curb an outbreak of BSE. I think it happened in 2001, I’m not sure. 400 000 cow babies were to be culled, meaning, killed for health issues; potential health issues even, to stop an epidemic, and most of those cow babies were not actually sick. In India, there were people and organizations who thought about how to save those animals from their pointless death. Like there is civil war in some foreign country and we think about how we could help these people. The Indians were thinking about how to help these animals that we were mindlessly killing.
To understand the Indian way of seeing animals one may look into Karma. Karma means that the depth of your insights gained throughout your lifetime and the extent at which you are putting those into practice define the situation into which you are going to be reborn. For Indians, life does not end with death; it doesn’t start with birth either. It’s an endless cycle in which we come back again and again, and that can be as a demon, a god, an animal of some kind, or as a human.
That means that animals are regarded as relatives. It expresses in language, when, in Tamil, we call a young female animal ‘paapa’, younger sister and a young male animal ‘thambi’, younger brother.
Indian philosophy has it that physical pain is a normal, natural phenomenon. Our nerve endings help us sense the world, see the world, hear the world. The same nerve that can feel the texture of a book or a peace of clothing can also feel pain which is just an increase in intensity of the same impression. Pain happens to everyone and it cannot be avoided. So it does not matter much if we beat a cow or keep a calf from having its milk and make it feel hungry, because this pain is a natural thing. Our duty in our karma as living beings is to understand this and to surrender to the necessity of pain. To understand this necessity and surrender to it means that you do your yoga.
If we don’t do our yoga, if we don’t understand, we suffer psychologically. Suffering and pain are different. The suffering is in your own responsibility. You cannot avoid pain but you can avoid suffering by understanding the necessity of pain. And as long as we suffer we cannot leave the wheel of rebirth. We are caught in the world of pain.
But as all life is also yoga, ie. the search for the Divine, Ultimate Consciousness, God – however you want to call it – and therefore we must not interrupt this search by cutting a life short. Sure, you can do it anyway but it has an impact on your karma. That’s why people on one hand have no problem with heavily beating a cow while on the other hand making efforts to saving its life, no matter how miserable that life is.
[To repeat a story given in my last blog here:] Just a few days ago I came to the house of my Tamil sister where two hibiscus bushes are standing in front of the door which were a gift from one of our friends. The flowers were full of blister beetles which were eating the flowers. I said, “Look!” by just pointing at them. She replied: “What shall I do? They are hungry and they need to eat. We can’t just go around and kill everyone.” This illustrates their view on animals, encompassing both the domestic and the wild animals. This is of course going away the more India gets industrialized but it is still present within the countryfolk.
FTE: I see. We can learn very much from the Indian attitude towards animals and towards life. Thanks for your insightful words and the metaphors; now I imagine you with a goat rock band in a lifeboat[both chuckle]with your brothers and sisters. Thank you very much for this talk.

Me: Thank you for having me on the show!

P.S.
Karma is, of course, a way more complex topic than described here, and the ramifications of inflicting pain and causing sufferings on others must not be neglected, but killing weighs heavy on the karmic balance sheet.
With all the generalizations made here, I must amend that, for anything you may say about India, the exact opposite is true as well. Its culture is enormously rich and diverse; as a civilization, it is almost as old as the Western cultural lineage. Indians’ basic assumptions on the nature of existence and therefore on the proper way of treating the living planet, as fundamentally different as they are from Western views, are certainly not perfect but at least they keep the door open for each individual life to improve its situation. With the influx of Western ideas and technologies, though, this culture is developing into one of the most explosive population bombs the world has seen.
 
 Sheila Chandra: Lament of McCrimmon/Song of the Banshee

Cow days

I go to sleep at shortly after seven, no videos watched these days, no music heard, not even a book read. I haven’t read books in quite some time, which is hilarious, knowing how much of a book person – a librarian, a translator, a writer even – I, my ego personality, am… was… Or am I still? Things at the library have come to a halt with the mess-up of a programmer who didn’t deliver what he had promised, and I couldn’t care less. The book I currently translate starts to annoy me, and I can’t tell why. And the book I am about to write bores me before it really took off.
This, too, shall pass, I guess. I don’t mind these things too much. They tend to come and go in waves, though I suspect some of it is here to stay.

Me, I am here to stay in the farm. Before I sleep – and immediately after I wake up, and also all through the day – I listen to the birds and crickets, to the toads and the dog packs, the thunder and rain, the occasional firecrackers on somebody’s birthday or on one of the many festivals scattered all across the calendar like in medieval Europe. Just now it has been Diwali, also known als Deepavali, the Indian festival of lights. Not so many lights here in Tamil Nadu, rather aircrackers the size of bombshells. No kidding. Don’t go anywhere on Diwali. Children put the damn things in the middle of the road or in a hollow tree trunk by the side and light them just before you are passing by. If your Karma is tied to the tree both of you are going to pass. Just pass. Not by.

Bodhi the villain
Someone from the Farmers’ group has come to write a whitepaper, a collection of asset data. The group wants to make an assessment of the situation after an arbitration has torn the plot into tiny bits. It is to show to the Council what has come of their cronyistic decision, for all (nothing) it’s worth. The conflict has been announced ended because we have gone through all the motions that make it technically so. The fact remains that forced conflict resolution is a fine recipe for perpetuating the dispute into eternity. Speaking of Diwali, our lovely neighbours caught one of our cows trespassing into their untended plot which they call their farm. They took the poor thing and were about to throw it out the gate onto the main road where it would likely have been hit by a bus or otherwise lost. We caught the guy just in time to save the cow from getting sacrificed to their hate of us, and him from earning himself rebirth as a dung beetle. The cow alone is worth more Rupees than their veggies make in a whole year. The milk she’s giving within a year doubles that value. And by the way, she’s a family member, as far as I’m concerned. But I know what would have happened: the Council would have scolded us for making them do it, and the Farmers’ group would have scolded us for letting it happen. The Council calls this a commune of the good-willed, our neighbours call it holistic permaculture. Me, I have no words for it any longer. The civil and basic human rights situation is worse than you’d expect. The repressive democracies of the West at least keep a thin coat of legality. In this town “at the service of truth” there is no such thing. Those who shape the rules are also judges andappellate instance, and if you want to get anywhere you better make friends with them.
Events like these have me think there is no reason to believe there will ever come a time when people change their ways. Have I changed, since I woke up? Has my writing changed anybody or anything in thirteen years of pondering, ruminating, considering, pleading? Ain’t I just another Obama, a hypocrite, a talker, a make-believe?
There are two new maadu (cows) and their kutti (calves) in the farm. The one born on 10th August is a healthy red-furred male, 78cm chest circumference; the one born on 7th October had an infection of the navel which we cured with natural remedies; it is a sand-coloured girl and I call it Kuttiwutti, which is silly, of course, but that’s the way I feel when I’m near her. She takes the treatment like a man and then continues to chew on her thoughts – or dwells in meditation, whichever it is that keeps her as calm as she seems. The kutti stay with the aadu (goats) in their new, beautiful, airy thatched range. One of them, Marie – short for Marianne, because she was born on 14th of July, but the Tamils have trouble pronouncing that – thinks herself to be aadu. She likes to huddle with the goats during the cold nights and goes grazing with them into the forest during the hot days.
We’ve had twice as much rains since July than in ordinary years. The weather here on the twelth parallel north of the Equator felt almost Central European. Now that the Northeast monsoon is traditionally expected to fill the tanks and aquifers it becomes dryer again, though. Climate change? Aw, gimme a break.
It is two months since I… did what? Reduced internet time? Well, sort of. The new balance I was looking for, between browsing and farming, between dwelling in virtual reality and living real virtues, resulted in an almost complete withdrawal from the web. I sometimes look at facebook and skim through the headlines of the first few pages coming up; I find nothing new, just more of the same madness that runs the world these days, and the denial of it. Rarely do I feel the urge to comment, never does it inspire me to write an essay of my own. It’s not that I suddenly look down upon what seemed so interesting and important just a few weeks ago. The thing is rather, human communication has become increasingly void of meaning – not necessarily by its content, although I have to say that, in terms of real needs (i.e. survival), we communicate a lot of non-sense. The problem is on the side of the receiver. There is simply nobody there to communicate with. All brains are stuffed with concepts, words, ideas, plans; no way to get through to anyone, everyone is entangled in their own spider webs. It’s true for my closest friends, it’s true for combatants on the climate front, it’s true for everyone else. And this is not to complain about a fault that anybody were to blame for. Humans just do what they understand and they understand just as much as they already do. No help shoving words into their ears, or truths down their throats; though it sometimes makes me mad. Why cant they… why can’t we… ?!
Forget it. I don’t even know what I’m asking of them… us… the world… who?
just being unique
The mixed chickens we have bought to revive the poultry farm are developing fine. There are Australian chickens, Indian chickens, all kinds of crossbreeds, Guinea fowl, a turkey lady named Aïshe, black chickens – feathers, cockscomb, toes, eggshells and all – and some ducks. The ducks, who have recently laid their first egg, and one or two more every night since, roam the place together with the Guineas and Aïshe (whom I also call Schlachtschiff, i.e. German for battleship, for her size and gravity), eating dropped cow food, grass, herbs, frogs, insects, and invertebrates from the mud puddles around the cowshed. It makes for happy poultry; very visibly they are enormously alive. And the eggs taste phantastic, though not much different from chicken eggs. Three weeks ago we discovered the nest of a cetti kuruvi, a bush warbler, woven between the stalks of a cowgrass bush. Four tiny red eggs lay inside, each no more than one centimeter long. We didn’t fry them, although we wondered whether warblers like to eat the kambu millets that are growing in the field right next to its nest. Just a few days ago we went to see what’s become of the new bird family. Three hungry orange-coloured beaks gave deep insight into the interiors of warbler chicks. I’d never exchange views like this for the rupees in crop loss which might disappear into those beaks. None of us would. And yes, warblers are insectivore; they don’t eat millets, but parrots and other birds do. Certain insects do. The principle of do-no-harm remains. Pointing out some blister beetles on her hibiscus bush to my Tamil sister, she replied, Yes, I saw it, but what can I do? They are hungry, and we can’t just go around and kill everybody.
Watching the animals closely, repeatedly, and for extended amounts of time (of which I have plenty since I dropped out of the rat race) I notice that it’s true what Daniel Quinn said in one of his books, The Story of B. I didn’t notice it before he said it and I would likely have not believed it anyway, but each animal, from bacteria to mites to beetles and lions, is unique; not in the sense of the kind of separate individuals civilized humans think themselves to be, but in their body shapes, their movements, their general behaviour, their personality, and their preferences. No two of them are alike! None of them is disposable. They are also intelligent, no doubt. Our farm animals have the kind of skills you need to survive as a cow, a goat, a chicken, and they are streetwise. They are loving if you let them, and they make good use of their relationships, asking favours here and there: Scratch my forehead, say the cows by turning their head towards me; Scratch me between the horns, indicate the goats in the same way. Want fresh water, quack the ducks bobbing their heads; What’s that in your hand?, ask the chickens by their focussing on it, and Marie comes to greet me when I enter the goat place. She looks me straight in the eyes. I notice the beautiful lashes on hers, and the fine hair along the rim of her ears. It’s not like they have nothing to offer in return. Did I really sell bovine body parts to dog owners once? Yuck!
Humanimal communication usually works better for me than trying to meet my allegedly sapient conspecifics. It’s free of civilized ballast, therefore it’s rarely getting complicated, it’s usually straightforward in exchange of signing, and it speaks the language of stick and carrot. Part of the dialogue is deciding which one it will be. They are not always playing nice. I am not always in a patient mood. Like in all families there’s disagreements and excitement. Yet in the end we come together, no matter what. By living on the same land and feeding each other we have become the same flesh, the same blood; and by loving each other we became one soul.
Try that on facebook.

Do something!?

I don’t know how those among you with 100+, let alone 1000+ Facebook contacts are handling the incoming stream of headlines, comments, images, and buttons to click on; I guess by ignoring all but a few posts from a handful of people. That’s at least the mode I switched to a while ago even if it doesn’t make sense. I cannot see a point in amassing all you folks and your potential contributions in the first place. Apart from my personal acquaintances, the majority of my contacts may have added me based on their own interest in my work. I wonder, though, whether that’s a healthy relationship given that I cannot give most of your utterances similar attention, if any. Think about it.

Photo by Wikimedia user Colin

There were a few things to say about abrupt climate change, the decline of the biosphere, and the demise of the human species, and maybe those were the subjects that attracted you. For most part, from my perspective, it’s ’nuff said. I am feeling very much like standing on the brink of cutting the web completely. The flood of incoming news is so numbing that more of it simply doesn’t help with anything. During the last year I have been diving into a sea of information and disinformation on climate change and the related social and political issues. I became more active on Facebook, translated fiction and non-fiction, watched scores of reports, essays, documents, and movies daily and have revived my blog after years of abstinence. Found a few new acquaintances, some only recently, who I really love listening to, and learned a lot both about the world and myself. Great thing, and really worth the time; infact, it was a phase that I needed to go through.

But the mosaic of externalities is more or less complete; additional details fail to improve understanding. And while I am sitting here drowning in facts, opinions and fiction, sharing great writing, and churning out essays myself the real-life dimension all word processing needs to lead back to passes me by, hour by hour by hour. It’s mesmerizing, just like trying to earn money in the hopes it would help me liberating myself from having to earn money was mesmerizing back then, before I simply broke the spell and abandoned the rat race. I suggest you try that as well.
Life is about living. And I don’t mean the kind of living most people advise me to pursue, like indulging in music, marriage, parties, consumption and other “harmless” distractions. There is a human community around me. There are the farm animals and trees who I love to be with. There are the very few – also very precious – close online friends who deserve attention. There is the path of awakening.
And though the latter can lead anywhere, even through the midst of consuming yellow press articles, I have clear indication that mine has something to do with giving more attention to eye-to eye relationships and observing that-which-is-alive-in-me.
With less time for spending on the web, The Empire Express, naturally, will appear less often. If you feel you found an article worth featuring, let me know somehow. Essays of my own making will continue to get published, probably at a little less frequent rate. Use the “follow” button here or on Facebook to stay up to date on new blog posts.
What I’m trying to say in so many words is, there’ll be way less signs of my presence around, especially on Facebook, but this is not an absolute good-bye; it is the beginning of finding a new balance among the many things that make up a life fully lived.
Wolfgang Werminghausen and me have been touching some of what that encompasses in the 16th episode of his podcast Faster Than Expected.

Maa, Geißle ; __ ;

It has been a long Monday that started with the passing of you, my precious goat kid. There is so much that I would like to say, but words fail to describe what I feel for you. Your sweet presence is no more around us, your smell, your touch, your cry, your sight. How can such a tiny creature leave such a gaping hole amidst adult goats and milk cows? I was out of station when you were born, missing the first four weeks of your life, yet we became close within next to no time. You used to walk up to me when I entered the gate and I would lift you to my shoulder to show you the world from above. When the herd left you behind while foraging I used to call you, crowing, ‘Maa, Geißle!’More often than not you were too confused to locate us, though sometimes you hopped and leapt joyfully in our direction – so beautiful!
Remember when your mom, Brownie, was sick last week? I took her to my home to look after her and you would refuse to sleep in, standing by her side all night long. On Saturday night I had you on my lap when you were afraid of the fireworks they lit for the Kali festival, though soon enough you would stop trembling and join the herd again, and on Sunday we spent the day together on the pasture. Monday morning at five your cry woke me up. I hurried to you and found you on the ground, weak and cold. I took you in my arms where you died less than two hours later, at the sound of one of the last songs played at the festival, praising the love of amma. I couldn’t stop crying all day; I felt so lost when the veterinary arrived who was supposed to examine you the day before; and your funeral, with the family kneeling around that tiny grave in the pasture where we used to sit – it just broke my heart.
That last, pleading look of yours follows me everywhere. I ask myself what I could have done to save your life, but I know that all things must pass, so I am very glad we made the best of every single day you had been given to live. One hundred years or just eleven weeks, it would always have seemed rather short. I surrender to fate, and I do miss you so horribly. If grief is any measure for it, our love was one of a kind. Thank you so much for this marvellous time together.
Maa, Geißle, maa! Come back as a flower.

20.12.2016 – 27.2.2017

Love. Serve. Give. Help.

With regard to yesterday’s sharing of an article that had a somewhat alarmist title (lol), people might think that I got a bit whiny recently: all this talk about grieving and crying and heartbreaking loss of life – isn’t it making me feel just horribly sick? Are things really all that bad… and even if so, do I need to take other people’s hope that somehow in some way everything is going to turn out quite fine? Life’s still grand, isn’t it?

Well, yes, life is great, absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. I love being alive, I love having fun and laughing at silly pictures of little creatures trying to eat a treat three times their size, or just walking the dog through a snowstorm and enjoy it – and I can honestly do so because at the same time I am aware of the evanescence of it all.

Looking at everything that’s coming up internally does not open up Pandora’s box, it provides clarity on motivations and drives. Crying for one thing does not mean I cannot laugh about another; being sad has nothing to do with depressiveness, grief is not identical to despair.

Yes, things look different from how I put them; they are way worse than the descriptions from my blog. By acknowledging the severity of the situation, letting it get through to me, and by consciously working my way through the response I come out not only heartbroken but deeply in love with the world. It is from this place that I receive the urge to act and the direction to work towards. Often this encompasses little things like listening to somebody’s story, spending extra time with a disquieted animal, pondering the aptness of my behaviour or writing an essay like the one you are reading right now – all of which is so not world-shattering on a grand scale because it is not directly restructuring society. Yet these little things are all about the root causes: the blatant uncaring dissociation from the living world in and around us, and the mute conformity to an omnicidal system that tells us being angry about the uglification of our lives is ‘bad’.

I am beyond hope because the situation is beyond hope.
To me, sitting there hoping is a greenwashed version of despair; I’d be waiting for a savior who will never come, instead of going out there myself, getting connected to others, helping them cope, and living the way I’d better had lived from day one.

Yesterday I listened to another brilliant episode of ‘Extinction Radio‘ where I found vibrant encouragement for living with passion. Isn’t it funny? Extinction Radio, and one Andrew Harvey has got the perfect words handy for all of us fragile beings who feel overwhelmed by the multitude of destructive forces of the machine:
„Don’t despair! Love, serve, give, help!“

Muscat intermission

[A note taken during a four-hour wait in transit]
Every time I traverse a city I wonder why anyone would live amidst all this clutter, garbage, noise, stench, crowdedness, and hectic activity. To call it an eyesore was an understatement. To me, it seems like ugliness manifest, an attack against all of my senses. Well, you can hardly avoid those endless sprawls of buildings, adverts, vehicles and their unpleasant byproducts when you travel afar. Large airports don’t grow in the middle of untouched wilderness…

Ok, I’m a misfit.
You know you are a misfit when, after three hours of flight, you are greeting the hardy grasses and shrubs at Muscat airport as your fellow beings while your plane passes them by on taxiing to a terminal. I wanted to pull the emergency break – where is it??? – smash a window and jump out of the cabin right there to go touch some of those islands of life inhabiting this desert of silicates and asphalt.
Everything about air travels is, of course, artificial, and it painfully feels like this to me. Worst of it all are the terminals with their a/c air, their weird lighting and their shiny surfaces, all glass, steel, aluminum and plastic; I always imagine being an insect on a life-repellent surface, not welcome, every move eyed suspiciously. I should have counted the checkpoints; probably a two-digit figure already, and I still have to absolve the second leg of my journey.

Yes, I went by my own choice. I chose to apply all those tech resources that I so fiercely reject. Such are the lives of hypocrites – and each and everyone of those who have been born into this bloody hell so proudly calling itself a civilization and who hate the guts of it. In having been born to this time and age of all-encompassing madness we, the misfits, had no choice; we only have the freedom to reduce mother culture’s grip on us a weeny bit, and to tear its phoney, fraudulent myths to shreds with every word we speak:

the goverment fraud, the military fraud, the science fraud, the technology fraud, the God fraud, the money fraud, the human-superiority fraud, the separation fraud, the control fraud.

Just watch the December 2016 CNN presentation on the sixth mass extinction to see a few things that are wrong with our culture – at least this much has been acknowledged by mainstream culture, as it is impossible to hide it any longer from public awareness – only to take the heat out of it by pretending our predicament was still manageable without having to change our lifestyle:

 “experts say we have the solutions we need.”

 Hilariously stumbling closer to truth, the author added,

“What we don’t have is time.”

That’s right. Time has been running out decades ago. Which is not to say we shouldn’t do all the things the CNN presentation proposes; only that the situation is far beyond technological fixes. Action has to be part of our living for what we love, a pursuit of excellence without attachment to a specific outcome. Letting go of control over a situation opens the gateway for “miracles”, which are, rationally spoken, unexpected solutions, unaffected of improvement for the worse. Short of a miracle, as I see things, we are in for the eradication of life on Earth by the hands of civilization. Not fighting it will make a difference, but whether we care.