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Tired of “too big to fail”? Tired of the US government’s eagerness to spend billions of public dollars to bail out the very institutions that brought the global economy to the brink of ruin? Tired of record profits (Goldman Sachs) and massive CEO bonuses (just about every big money bank) in the midst of the Great Recession? Tired of letting the big boys use your money to get themselves rich through speculative shenanigans and investment in globalized enterprises that destroy both the biosphere and human communities? Tired of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer?

Then stop giving them your money!  Continue reading

Burning Man

burning man 2008 Imagine an empty canvas, white and dusty, that stretches for miles and miles across an arid desert. There is nothing on it – no object, no water, no plant, tree, bush, animal. Nothing. Just a vast expanse. Then imagine tens of thousands of people converging with the intention to turn this canvas into a living work of art. They build a city. They live, love, and laugh together for a week or so. Then they tear the city down and leave. When the last of them has gone, there is nothing left. No trace. Not a scrap. The canvas is swept clean, returned to its natural state, pristine and empty.

Imagine you are one of those people. There are no rules about how you must behave or express yourself. For an entire week, you can be and do whatever you want. There are no rules, but there are ten principles informing the life of the community: Radical Inclusion, Gifting, Decommodification, Radical Self-Reliance, Radical Self-Expression, Communal Effort, Civic Responsibility, Leaving No Trace, Participation, and Immediacy. You are given the freedom to express yourself without hindrance, repression, or fear. From that freedom emerges the brilliant spark of your creative individuality; the greatest contribution you could make to the communal fire.

The city functions as a gift-economy. Nothing is bought or sold (save ice and coffee), nothing bartered. Anything you might need, you bring. It’s the desert. Hot as hell in the day, freezing at night. Massive sandstorms arise without warning. No water. No stores. Just you, your open mind and heart, your furry pants, whatever else you brought, ten principles, and tens of thousands of other people.

A large man, made of wood, presides over the city. On the eve of the final day together, the entire community gathers, and they light the man on fire. There are no rules as to what this means.

What emerges on this tabula rase, in the harsh desert, under these conditions? What strange and wonderful forms, living or otherwise? What kind of art is painted by a community of 48,000 people, each expressing their individuality to the fullest, on this blank desert canvas?

I’m going to find out.

It’s called Burning Man, and it happens every year at the end of August in the Black Rock Desert, 120 miles north of Reno, Nevada. I’m going this year for the first time, with a couple good friends who are seasoned burners. We start skipping down the yellow brick road in a few short days…

Check out the Burning Man website. Look at the videos on YouTube. And stay tuned. I don’t REALLY know what I’m getting myself into, but I think it’s going to be good!


The Ten Principles of Burning Man

Radical Inclusion
Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community.

Burning Man is devoted to acts of gift giving. The value of a gift is unconditional. Gifting does not contemplate a return or an exchange for something of equal value.

In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation. We resist the substitution of consumption for participatory experience.

Radical Self-reliance
Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources.

Radical Self-expression
Radical self-expression arises from the unique gifts of the individual. No one other than the individual or a collaborating group can determine its content. It is offered as a gift to others. In this spirit, the giver should respect the rights and liberties of the recipient.

Communal Effort
Our community values creative cooperation and collaboration. We strive to produce, promote and protect social networks, public spaces, works of art, and methods of communication that support such interaction.

Civic Responsibility
We value civil society. Community members who organize events should assume responsibility for public welfare and endeavor to communicate civic responsibilities to participants. They must also assume responsibility for conducting events in accordance with local, state and federal laws.

Leaving No Trace
Our community respects the environment. We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves and endeavor, whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them.

Our community is committed to a radically participatory ethic. We believe that transformative change, whether in the individual or in society, can occur only through the medium of deeply personal participation. We achieve being through doing. Everyone is invited to work. Everyone is invited to play. We make the world real through actions that open the heart.

Immediate experience is, in many ways, the most important touchstone of value in our culture. We seek to overcome barriers that stand between us and a recognition of our inner selves, the reality of those around us, participation in society, and contact with a natural world exceeding human powers. No idea can substitute for this experience

The Orienting Question(s)

Ely, Minnesota –I’ve been working through a book called How to Find the Work You Love by Laurence G. Boldt. It’s a great book, emphasizing the pursuit of a life that integrates work and meaning. He quotes Aristotle: “Where your talents and the needs of the world cross, there lies your vocation.” This simple sentence, Boldt says, tells you everything you need to know to find the work you love.

There are some exercises. One of the first is to formulate an orienting question that you can use to help shape your search for meaningful work. This should be a question that gets to the center of your own personal values, the heart of meaning. What are you looking for, really?

I’ve decided to post my Orienting Question(s) and the response I initially wrote (really a further elaboration of the question rather than an answer), because it brings up a lot of the issues I’ve been thinking and writing about lately. It’s a reflection of my own thought processes, an internal debate. It wasn’t really intended for an external audience. But here you go, anyway. Good Luck.

The Orienting Question(s):

  • How can I be most useful?
  • What am I willing to commit my life to?
  • What could I do with my remaining time, given my current lack of experience, limited capital, and personal emotional/mental limitations, to develop a calling that most effectively addresses the need for global sustainability, justice, and an equitable future for all people?
  • What could I do that would be of most benefit to all sentient beings?

Continue reading

Blessed Unrest


“There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the other.”
– Martha Graham to Agnes de Mille, Dance to the Piper

“How is one to live a moral and compassionate existence when one is fully aware of the blood, the horror inherent in life, when one finds darkness not only in one’s culture but within oneself? If there is a stage at which an individual life becomes truly adult, it must be when one grasps the irony in its unfolding and accepts responsibility for a life lived in the midst of such paradox. One must live in the middle of contradiction, because if all contradictions were eliminated at once life would collapse. There are simply no answers to some of the great pressing questions. You continue to live them out, making your life a worthy expression of leaning into the light.”
– Barry Lopez, Artic Dreams

Things converge for me, in the fall. Before the darkness sets in, there is a deep stirring. An energy filled with awe, wonder, interest, anticipation fills my chest, and at the same time I’m drawn into retreat, to spend time with thoughts and books, to witness the expansion of vision in humility and gratitude. It’s weird. What had seemed like so much disorder, confusion, and randomness starts to draw together into a more coherent whole, into themes and directions, meaning and purpose. The unseen hand that has been guiding me becomes more visible. Surprise!

This is what’s happening now. I am in the midst of a dual process. On one hand, I want to try to articulate some of the ideas born of my international travels, my personal mental/emotions struggles, and my life-long pursuit of meaning and truth. Two large themes emerge. One: The current, historically unprecedented condition, threat, and potential of humanity in the context of the evolution of life on this planet. Two: World spirituality. I am in the curious position of feeling as though I have seen enough, read enough, thought enough, wrestled enough with all of this – and experienced enough of the meaning of grace- that I actually have something to say. My “State of the World” posts so far have been the first furtive, bumbling attempts to convey some of this. There is a lot more, hopefully more coherent and articulate, to come.

On the other hand, I am trying to figure out what to do with my life. This, I believe, will only come about by working through the first part of the process. My question is simple: What can I do with my life that will be of the most benefit to sentient beings? What would be the most effective, life-giving use of my energies?

This is a new and different world, a fast-changing world. Both the problems and the potential solutions are being formed in an arena with no historical precedent. Where do I find the wisdom required to navigate the unknown, to acquire the long vision necessary to work for change that is actually, in the end, more beneficial than harmful?