Archive for the ‘Modern life is rubbish’ Category

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Still Going On About Parenting

July 17, 2010

Ran has a couple of links about parenting at the moment, the first in particular caused me to send a spluttering email his way and I thought I might use is as a basis for a blog post.

I really don’t think the first article is very good. Essentally, it examines the issue of parenting without ever mentioning the context (ie society) that we parent in. It also talks about ‘good’ parents without defining what a ‘good’ parent is. I’ll assume their definition is our society’s usual one (they use the word ‘consistant’ after all) in which case a large number of things a supposedly good parent does (leaving their baby to cry is just one) are actually bad for a child and might explain a few of the issues they are discussing.

Whether you agree with me about this depends a bit on whether you agree that we live in a messed-up society. If you do agree with me then it’s likely that you won’t be surprised that what our society considers to be  normal people are turning out ‘bad’ children.

Scientists may have an opinion on the state of our society but they never let it ‘interfere’ with their work. Yes that’s deliberate sarcasm -  scientists usually aren’t allowed to criticise society because that’s seen as ‘getting political’ or stepping outside their area of expertise. At the very least it’s opening a can of worms that most of them want to steer well clear of and so they are left with the options that the either parents are the cause or that the problem is inherant to the child – which they appear to oscillate between. For more about why scientists, pychiatrists and other professionals voluntarily shackle there minds like this I always reccommend the book Disciplined Minds.

The article completely fails to mention really obvious stuff too, like that children have different personalities and will react differently to the same parents. This fact is readily apparent to every parent with more than one child but is often overlooked by experts when they attempt to come up with their ‘perfect parenting model that will work on every child!’ (Yes, more sarcasm)

Nor does the article talk about the effect of modelling. Criticism of parents is especially tricky in our culture, if you succeed in showing a link between parenting and bad behaviour amongst children (especially without showing a societal link) you’re going to piss off a lot of parents. More insidious though is the unspoken power rule in our culture which states that you’re not allowed to criticise people above you in a hierarchy. I reccommend reading Derrick Jensen, who explains the rules of abusive cultures with great gusto, for more on this subject. These issues help explain why an absurd commment like; “We have racked our brains trying to figure why our son treats us this way” can go completely unchallanged in the article.

Alice Miller, in one of her books, has a case study of a murderous maniac  who liked to slice his vicitms up. His parents (and the parent’s friends) were also quoted making the same sort of comments. Alice Miller then showed exactly what the parents had in fact done to nudge their child in this direction and also tied it in to societal concepts of parenting. I should mention that the way she ties everything to societal concepts of parenting is quite alarming but well worth reading.

I see the dreaded ‘permissive’ word was used as well. The mother was basically accused of being permissive, which apparently is a big thing in the US. The problem I see is that what causes her to be ‘permissive’ is that she loves and has empathy for her children, and consequently doesn’t enjoy punishing them. It’s a credit to her that she has still reatained some empathy and it’s probably the reason that all her children didn’t turn out ‘bad’.

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I’m not sure how I feel about Ran’s next link. The article is discussing the supposed evolutionary causes of  empathy and to be honest I found the whole thing slightly disturbing. It took me a while to figure out why I was reacting this way but I think it’s got something to do with the way the theory of evolution has taken on an kind of religious status to a lot of people.

I sort of get the feeling that the author and scientists involved want to tie the concept of empathy into the theory of evolution in order to give it more validity. Perhaps in a world dominated by market values and the primacy of the ‘selfish actor’ there is some sense in this but the whole thing feels odd to me.

Maybe in the context of evolution theory it’s necessary to show how we have changed from our ancestors but even then they are comparing humans to modern apes (who surely must have evolved away from our common ancestor too). I also note that there are quite large behavioural differences between the various species they mention so I’m even more dubious about this.

All that aside though, I just don’t see the point.  Empathy is very real, and important,  in my life. I can readily observe it  happening all around me – and within me. I don’t need scientific evidence that it is real, nor do I even need to rationalise it’s use because it’s a very essential part of being human. Seriously though, how far have we fallen that we have people who see the necessity in rationalising empathy?

To resolve all this we have to delve into the way we raise our kids (of course) and discuss the issue of whether empathy is learned or an innate characteristic. Again any parent with minimal observation skills, and a child that they show love to, will see empathy shown in very obvious ways. In fact I’ve observed empathy in very little babies as they react to a sibling who is crying  so you know I’m going to go for the innate characteristic option. The problem comes with common child rearing techniques that tend to destroy empathy (did I mention leaving a baby to cry already? What about the problem with excessive praise then?) and create adults with a poor ability to empathise.

It’s no surpirse then, if you’re unware of some important issues regarding child-rearing, that you would conclude that adults with poor empathy skills come about because they weren’t properly taught empathy during childhood. It also then follows that you’ll continue to make mistakes in attempting to address the issue.

Funnily enough I agree with the basic idea espoused in the article; that being raised by lots of adults is good for us, but the way they got there, with all the strange assumptions and blindspots that scientists have, makes me think that our agreement is no more than a happy coincidence. For a full-bodied rant from me about scientists and childhood empathy (amongst other things) I can reccomend my old post;  Stupid Stupid Stupid Scientists (an objective assessment of what they can teach us about raising kids). (Obviously been struggling with an excess of sarcasm for some time now)

To be sure parenting is a complex thing and very hard to do well but if we are unable to step outside of our societal assumptions and examine whether there might be something more to this problem we’re just going to go around in circles.

What I really think is that we should forget all these complications and just focus on trying to love our kids. It’s not easy for some of us because we’ve been trained to focus on all these big ideas but if we can ignore the distractions created by wondering if we’re being consistent enough (consistency is for machines) and just focus on our kids in the here and now we’ll stand a much better chance of turning out loving empathetic adults – and who knows, they may still like us at the end of the process.

I’m not saying it will be easy, we live in a very messed up culture and things will still go wrong – I believe that kids are born with a full capacity to love and show empathy and that our society is very adept at stripping them of that capacity but we need remember that no one ever did any harm by being loving

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The Love Shortage

May 14, 2010

Reading Ran’s comments (May13) about love and the seduction community has prompted the following to come rushing out of my brain:

People often say that if you’re willing to get something that you want, regardless of the cost or consequences to other people, that you are being childish or immature.  While it’s certainly true that lack of concern for others is something we see in children  I’m not so sure that ‘childish’ is the right label to put on it.  I think what we’re seeing is the behaviour of damaged people and that it is just more obvious in children because they lack the skills to disguise it.

I’ve watched my kids when they’re really little (before I’ve had too much influence on their lives and before they’ve learned that the world is not the abundant place that their genetic heritage says it is supposed to be)  and they can be incredibly generous and kind.  I’ve seen them simply give up food they’re eating to another child because they could see the other child was interested. In fact.  I’ve often seen the sorts of displays of empathy that child psychologists say can’t be learned until they have developed a lot further (the children that is, not the child psychologists. It’s possible that child pychologists will never develop that far).

I know a lot of people (who aren’t child pychologists) will agree with me that children do indeed have the ability to empathise from the moment they arrive but will still insist that they can also still get overwhelmed by the obsession with the need to get what they want and that they won’t be able to balance their wants with their empathy until they’re adults.

Whilst I agree that it is observably true that children struggle with this, I would suggest that this is not a child’s natural state.  Whilst we live in a wealthy society we also live in a world of shortages, (often contrived for financial purposes)  and I think this is so pervasive in our culture that children are confronted with it almost from the moment they are born. Whereas the children of the Yequanna (Continuum Concept link) are born into a world of abundance (and have been observed to be universally gentle and helpful little people) our children are born into a world of scarcity.

The most important scarcity is a scarcity of love whereby parents are just too tired and poorly-supported to properly meet the most emotional needs that all children have – and that’s even before they attempt to follow the advice of so-called experts and leave their baby alone to ‘cry it out’ every night.

For a while we can often meet a child’s need for love if we really try but then a second baby comes along and it truly becomes impossible.  I try very hard not to think about the changes in our oldest daughter that gradually occurred after our second child was born. These permanent and apparently irreversible changes result from the fact that my kids just don’t have enough parents (there are two of us in case your wondering).

Of course sibling rivalry can be avoided by only having one child but then parents will later be required to be a permanent playmate – and adults who truly have the energy for long periods of play are few and far between.

My children are so clearly affected by sibling rivalvry they are permanently defended against each other and so scared of the possibility that they will miss out on something that they will fight each other for ownership of an object that had, until that moment, been lying in a corner for months gathering dust.

So yes, I believe that children have to be taught to be ‘childish’ but I also believe that most of us adults are still afflicted with this behaviour which, by conventional definition, we were supposed to automatically grow out of.

I don’t think  that all, or even very many, people learn to balance their desires against the needs of others as they grow into adulthood. Instead I think we just learn to disguise our selfish urges and to cloak them in respectable behaviour and mannerisms and that we are still, in part, ruled by the fact that our needs in childhood were never properly met.

To be ‘fair and balanced’ here, it is equally true that many adults do in fact turn themselves into self-less individuals but we should note firstly, how much effort is required for these individuals to acheive this and secondly, that the ones that are most successful are probably the same ones that came out of childhood with the least scars.

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Just to be clear, I’m not actually trying to prove a direct link between artificial scarcity and the seduction community. Mostly I’m saying that the effects of childhood turn us into people who will get what we want regardless of the effect it has on others and that this is a result of,  a) our empathy being closed down by modern parenting techniques and, b) a scarcity of love leaving us with a permanent feeling that if we see something we want then we better grab it – real quick – and by any means possible – and not let go.

Because our very survival is at stake.

Or, to summarise the summary,  selfish behaviour is not something we grow out of, it’s something we grow into,  and then learn to refine as we mature.

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I’m so right and you’re all wrong etc.

April 27, 2010

Via Dmitry Orlov, Ran has this comment on this blog “that when we map our systems of thought onto reality, we always crash and burn”  and I’m wondering if they haven’t stumbled onto something exceedingly important here. I’ve always had a nagging feeling that I shouldn’t get too carried away with my own theories about the world and have sarcastically called one of the categories on this blog ‘Big Ideas’. It’s a (possibly futile) attempt to stop my ego from leading me astray in regard to just how insightful I think I really am.

I talked about John Holt in my last post and I’ve just been reading a couple of brilliant little books by him; “How Children Fail” & “How Children Learn”. How Children Fail was his first book and is little more than a collection of notes he made while observing children in classrooms. Often no more than two pages long each piece starts with a description of something he had observed in a classroom followed by his thoughts on what might have caused the educational failure. It was a very humble thing for an educator to do, to just sit and observe children without trying to make them do anything and I found it absolutely riveting.

I was very surprised to be this gripped by a book again. It’s been 5 years since I last felt like this about a book (when I read my first anti-civ writing)  and since then I’ve got so overloaded with serious reading that I just can’t take any more – and indeed when I tried to read a 3rd John Holt book, in which he tries to lay out all his theories in a coherent manner, I was immediately turned off.

There’s a lot to be said for the observational style (that John Holt adopted in his first two books) which enables the reader to experience what the writer originally experienced, thereby gifting us the opportunity to draw our own conclusions rather then just relying on his.

I think that (possibly) by chance he was practicing what he was preaching because he says quite clearly in those two books that a major failing of schools is that they attempt to teach using symbols (language) rather than letting children have the real-life experiences that their brains are designed to learn from. This fact – that we can’t use symbols until we’re mastered the real life events they represent – is probably why so many adults I know think that even basic maths* is beyond them.

My hope is that the lessons I’ve learned from John Holt will stick with we far better than if he’d just told me what he thought those lessons should have been. And indeed, the experiences he has passed on to me can now combine with my other past experiences, giving me the chance to reach a whole bunch of conclusions that he never could have imagined possible – such as what’s coming out in the blog posting (I hope).

Other experiences that I’ve had that feed into this for me include recently reading two books on architectural theory, one of which carefully listed each theory in order of category and the other of which simply threw some case studies together and mentioned the theories in the text if they were relevant. Obviously having a mental picture of an entire house was far more useful for retaining information than the categorised system that the (same) author had gone to a lot of trouble to devise.

Then there was yesterday’s experience, after reading this Noam Chomsky  article I perused the comments section which turned out to be dominated by people accusing Chomsky of various crimes most of which were that he didn’t hold to the exact same ideology that the commenter did. The irony of course is that a mainstream person would see no discernable difference between Chomsky’s stated views and those of his attackers but to the attackers those differences in emphasis (of how powerful people use the world to their own ends) were of supreme importance. I left a scathing comment about how the need for ideological purity was destroying our unity and left (In all honesty I should admit that I only read about a fifth of the comments before it all became too much for me).

Why I bring this experience to the table is that I think schools are producing a bunch of people who are adept at symbol manipulation and not much else. They are rewarded for their abilities and encouraged to dwell in an intellectual world. They also learn by implication that their ability to manipulate abstractions means that they are a higher class of citizen and that they are usually always right – and lets face it, once a person becomes proficient at acquiring grades, and so long as they keep away from other life experiences (or devalue their importance), they do keep keep hearing that they are right where it matters most.

If we receive this message all through childhood and in to early adulthood it’s unlikely that we’ll ever lose the feeling of infallibility that most of us have. We then come across a theory of how the world works (e.g. Anarchism, Primitivism, Deep Christian Theology), tinker with it a bit, decide it holds all the answers and attempt to convert everyone to our way of thinking. All the while not noticing that a) while the world is going to hell in a hand basket we’re busy fighting amongst ourselves about minor ideological differences and that b) the real reason for our disagreements have more to do with our own personal issues than anything the abstractions we disagree on

Of course, that’s just my brief theory, it won’t map to the world perfectly either . The problems amongst leftists/activists/primitivists/anarchists etc that I refer to above can also be attributed to issues discussed in the Unabomber Manifesto, ironically enough another theory propounded by someone who thought he had all the answers and therefore the right to bring them to the world’s attention at any cost.

* Not a typo, that’s how we say ‘math’ down here.

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Mis-spent Youth

April 6, 2010

I’ve been reading some of John Holt’s early books on childhood education and something he said has been on my mind this morning. He says that schools attempt to conduct learning though symbols (i.e. spoken or written language) rather than tangible experience, and because of that most children won’t fully understand what they’ve learned – if indeed they are able to understand or learn anything at all.

This is an issue worthy of several blog postings in itself but right now I’m wondering about how it fits into the whole issue of alienation in our society. I always thought that much of the damage done by schools was caused by children being taught to rely on authority to do their thinking for them instead of developing their own judgement. Certainly this must contribute to alienation and disconnection as people stop listening to their own inner voice but thanks to John Holt’s analysis of this kind of learning I can see that a childhood being taught first to manipulate symbols and then being further taught about the world via those symbols (as opposed to the tangible experience we are supposed to have) can only serve to disconnect us further from reality.  Talk about a mis-spent youth

Modern man has disappeared inside his own head says Ursula Le Guin (or he’s disappeared up his own %#&$^ as they’d say around here). Those that become successful at learning via symbols go on to successful careers manipulating them, all the while losing touch with the people around them (especially those on the lower rungs of society that aren’t good at manipulating symbols such as cleaners, labourers, rubbish collectors and their own children). Those that are really successful at manipulating symbols but forget how to operate in the real world go on to be university lecturers and lose touch with reality altogether.

Of course symbols are essential for communicating but the key, according to John Holt, is that we need to learn about things via real experiences and then move on to manipulating their symbols and any theories that may come from them. By rewarding those that learn to manipulate symbols disconnected from reality and giving them great power in our culture……well…. just look around you to see the results of that.

I realise that by saying this I’m probably insulting most of the people who are likely to read this (as well as myself) but really are we intellectuals as smart as we think we are? The people who fail to operate in the world of symbols from an early enough age tend to conclude (well, they get told) that they must be stupid and give up thinking altogether so it’s not like there’s anything much to compare ourselves to.

* Not entirely sure I got the Le Guin quote word perfect there but I’m sure you know what I mean.

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Whole Foods

October 31, 2008

In the last few years every time I’ve had a cold it’s knocked me down flat – and the kids bring home a lot of colds. Even working in a job where I can cope easily with a cold, all I was really doing was postponing the recovery period until the weekend. For a variety of reasons revolving around health I recently embarked on a diet composed of whole foods. It’s not easy to be 100% with this, all the time (and I haven’t tried) but most days of the week I do manage to eat only whole foods.

Added to this we have a copy of Nourishing Traditions in the house now and Karen, who is a keen cook (just as well because I’m not) has been dipping into it on a daily basis. We’ve been eating broths and a variety of fermented foods, including a crazy relish thing I like, which seems to have two quite different tastes within it. We’ve also been eating sourdough bread regularly and using unprocessed sea salt and sugar substitute rapadura in place of the usual stuff. Because I was eating only whole foods and Karen liked the look of what I was eating, she decided to try it to. There have been a number of interesting results.

The first thing we noticed (after someone gave me a commericially made cake a week into the diet change) was that my problem with blocked sinuses has mostly gone away. It used to be that when the air was cold or it dropped a couple of degrees as it does in the late afternoon, my nose would block up and I’d sound like I had a cold – which I hated. Sometimes in desperation I would turn on a heater and breath in the warm air just to get rid of it.

The next thing we noticed was that Karen, who normally gets a lot of headaches, had stopped getting them. Again we only realised this one day when she ate some white bread and immediately got a headache. She tested it one more time with some pasta before concluding that headaches were a powerful enough motivating force to put her off refined flour for a long time. Recently I also realised I was getting less headaches than normal. Anyway here’s what Walt Stoll has to say about the issue*.

The National Research Council recommended daily allowance of refined carbohydrates (CHO) is zero.

Until 300 years ago, refined CHO did not exist. The human body has had no time to evolve a way to cope with this substance. For the past five million years, whenever we took CHO into our bodies, all the vitamins, minerals, enzymes, proteins, etc. present in the living food were eaten with the CHO. Now when we eat refnined CHO, our bodies must immediately provide the vitamins, minerals, proteins, enzymes etc. that manufacturing has removed, in order to digest it. This means we must create a definciency in our bodies of the essential substances – the opposite of nutrion: the more we eat the less nutrition we have.

Refined CHO causes more stress to humans than all the other nutritional stressors put together.

More details on the process behind this available here, and I will add that the fermentation process we are putting our wheat through when we make our sourdough bread deals with the problem of phytates. Phytates are a substance present in wheat and when not fermented (pre-digested) bind with minerals in the stomach thereby preventing them from being taken into the body and further enhancing the nutrition starved state of most everyone in our culture.

We have also read a book on Metabolic Typing, I seem to be a ‘mixed’ type and already eating roughly what I need but Karen has shown that she needs to eat more protein, especially in the morning, and as a consequence now has more energy in the first half of the day – especially when compared to how she was when eating fruit for breakfast.

The latest and best improvement we have found though is in my resistance to colds. As I said at the start I have been incredibly vulnerable to them in the last few years but a month back when one of the kids brought a cold home I discovered that I could keep it at bay simply by getting a good nights sleep – this was a turn for the better! Eventually I got a bad nights sleep and caught the cold but even then the symptoms were so minor as to be almost non existant. Then, a week ago another cold arrived in the house and I caught it before I knew it was around. I woke up one morning feeling rough and thought, “oh well, that’s it I’ve got a proper cold this time” but by mid morning I was completely unaware of any symptoms again and had a great day. The next day started the same way and the day after that it was all over. The worst I could say through the whole experience was that I felt slightly tired.

This is such a stunning reversal of my life over the last few years I can hardly believe it. I’m not sure what improvements we were really expecting but there have been a number of pleasant – and substantial – surprises.

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I can’t recommend Nourishing Traditions highly enough. I wasn’t prepared to make a change in my diet unless it could be done with a minimum of fuss.  If I found myself craving any kind of food I knew I would be wasting my time as the use of will-power is never a long term solution. Luckily this book provides healthy substitutes for every food group – including the all important, cakes and delicious slices group.

*This is from a wellness protocol PDF on the askwaltstollmd.com site, the exact URL of which I can’t seem to locate anymore, I have a copy  if anyone is intersted though.

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Socialisation

October 24, 2008

I just wanted to pick up on the comments on Ran’s blog about schooling and socialisation because ever since we started telling people we were unschooling our children (often we just say homeschooling so as not to frighten them) the single most common objection we receive is;

“But what about you’re child’s socialistion?”.

After several irritating years of this it suddenly dawned on me that no one had ever said;

“But what about your child’s education”!!!

From talking amongst friends, and with homeschoolers on-line, it appears that this a pretty universal experience for all of us.

There’s a mad absurdity about this situation but I also think there is something deeper – people happily, and immediately, concede that school is not that great a place to learn because (I suspect) that at a subconscious level they completely understand the main purpose of school based socialisation. They’ve internalised the values of the domination system and move immediately to defend it.

The absurdity has hidden depths too. The meaning of the word socialisation obviously has to do with a child learning social skills but there are no specific classes on socialisation at schools, and even more bonkers children spend their time almost exclusively with people of their own age who couldn’t possibly teach them how to socilaise because they are at a similar level (Not to mention the issue raised on Ran’s forum about socialisation being repressed for most of the day).

It goes deeper though: In New Zealand homeschoolers have to submit to being reviewed by the education ministry in the same way that schools do and we recently heard from an unschooling parent who said that the reviewer asked a few question’s about their child’s socialisation. First of all this is not part of the New Zealand Curriculum or the curriculum document that the parent’s submitted to the MOE when they applied for a homeschooling exemption (so the reviewer had no right to ask about it). But when they told him that that child regularly plays with a large number of neighbourhood children on a daily basis the reviewer said that it didn’t really count!

He was only satisified that the child was getting proper socialisation when they said it went to more formalised events like soccer practice – despite the obvious fact (or maybe because of it) that child to child interaction is completely mediated by a dominant adult.

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Also: Ran ended his piece with this comment;

…it’s almost impossible to come out of the schooling system with both high intellect and high social intelligence

and I would add that it is the ones who come out with low social intelligence who end up having more power and the most say in how our society functions.

Whic of course is the system working exactly as it’s supposed to

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Soil & Health

May 24, 2008

I heard of the connection between soil and health along time ago but as usual it’s taken a while for the full impact to sink in. The lack of minerals and nutrients in our soil is probably one of the most important issues we face and undoubtably the major cause of our health problems – I suspect it also has a lot to do with our dental problems since ‘re-minrealisation’ is an important part of tooth natural maintenance but I haven’t yet found someone who will make the whole connection for me.

Anyway, I reccomend this article for a quick overview:

Another major area where mineral deficiency manifests itself, in addition to poor health and immune system support, is obesity. Similar to the cats and dogs one sees eating grass when they instinctively know they are either deficient in vitamins and minerals or need extra ones to combat an illness or infection, I believe that the human body also sends such instinctive signals at times that it is missing vital nutrients, but we no longer recognize what it is our bodies are telling us and where to find what we need to silence the signals.

Such confused signals often lead to cravings, and so we eat and eat to try to satisfy them, but what we really crave is missing nutrition.

The biggest problem that I can see is that converting farmland to organic may not be enough – we may need to be more proactive to get minerals and nutrients back in the ground.

Anyway, the author promises further installments regarding this issue but Dan has mentioned that the rebuilding of soil can be done through a proces called bioremediation.

At the bottom of that article you’ll find a link to this article by the same author which gets even more specific about the problem

…we often hear that certain foods contain a certain amount of vitamins and minerals. This is especially true in fruits, vegetables, and other produce, but very few people understand the truth about this information, which is that most of the published values about this nutritional content are not correct. This is especially true among minerals, and that’s the point of this story.

Most of the produce you buy in a grocery store does not have anything close to the mineral profile it is supposed to have according to nutritional textbooks. This is because minerals are not manufactured by plants, whereas vitamins and phytonutrients are. When plants create such nutrients, they synthesize them through chemical and energetic processes that can only be called miraculous. But as capable as they are, plants do not create minerals. Minerals have to be absorbed through the soil, and if they are not present in the soil, then the plant’s roots cannot take them up

At the end the author suggests we buy concentrated sea water, dilute it and sprinkle it on the garden to replace minreals, but I’m wondering, can’t we just go to the beach with a bucket and get some for free?

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Civilisation v Aaron

April 18, 2008

What I’d really like is to break out of the hold civilisation has over me. It’s a hold put there in my childhood by the school system. Unfortunately for me my father was a school principal in that system so I got ‘schooled’ at home as well.

Dad always gets a raw deal in these pages so in the interests of fairness I should mention the strong likelihood that he is also behind my ability to stray from mainstream thinking. He always used the term ‘different’ as a compliment when describing other people and he also never sat back and let life push him around which made for a good role-model for taking charge of my life.

But back to the topic. Through whatever means available (exactly what they are doesn’t matter – only the result does) I was thoroughly domesticated. Adults always commented what a quiet and good little boy I was. My teachers always liked me and believed me to be mature because I always did what they asked. I lived for those moments of praise, which I became so good at getting and I very rarely got into trouble, so good was I at reading the minds of my teachers.

The irony is that I forgot how to read my own mind (and body).

To do something like this takes a lot of self control and I can see and sense it still in my body where it is now a near permanent feature. My shoulders are always held up high and my whole upper body is kind of rigid. I’m don’t stand out because most guys are like this but try watching one of us dance – almost nothing is happening with the upper body and only the legs are moving.

The intercostal muscles (between my ribs) are permanently stressed. Until a chiropractor friend showed me what was happening I used to get these muscle freak-outs where every time I tried to take a breath one particular intercostal muscle would give me a lot of pain – this would only last a few seconds or maybe minutes but basically I couldn’t take a proper breath until it had passed. Now I know just to rub the muscle and it relaxes.

So I don’t have to worry about that but still have the problem that if I get too tired or stressed I find it hard to get a full breath. If I focus on breathing deeply into my stomach I can sometimes get it back to normal. Unfortunately with a busy family life I often have to wait for the weekend before I can properly relax. I think what happens to me is that when the going gets tough I ignore everything else, hold on tight and just focus on the issue at hand until it is complete – and it’s the holding on tight so that other issues don’t crowd into my mental space that does it.

This is the physical issue that bugs me the most. Although there are a few others, the other problem with this is that having muscles that are permanently held tight steals a lot of my energy. I have, I think, three friends about my age who were never properly broken in as children and they are very high energy people, they have a great deal of charisma and are usually at the centre of any social activity. Perhaps not all of us are meant to be like this but I think quite a lot more are (certainly more than 3 of the people I know) and I suspect I am supposed to be this way too – I have shown the odd sign of it in the past but only when my energy levels are high and also when my confidence is up.

Speaking of confidence, the effect of being a good hunter/gatherer of praise when you’re a child is that you have no inner confidence because your self-belief comes entirely from the outside. You guys know all this of course but it has always meant that social situations are always potentially stressful for me (unless I’m with old friends). Because I’m naturally gregarious I like to be in social situations but once I’m there each interaction becomes crucial to my self-esteem. (This is less of a problem now that I’m a bit older but I suspect it’s come as a result of my rise through the social hierarchy meaning I don’t have to value the opinions of as many people any more).

Because my self esteem was always on the line I would always be second guessing myself in social situations and rarely at ease. I was of course hopeless around girls and frankly it’s a minor miracle that Karen and I ever got together. I’m even surprised she was interested. Maybe because I was 26 and getting good at my job I must have been finally starting to build a degree of internal confidence and wouldn’t have been exuding the usual desperate and dateless thing I had going back then.

The other place where the need for external validation was a problem was at work where I was totally at the mercy of my employers. In fact any situation where I was in awe of someone or they had even the slightest element of control over my life and I would become nervous and defensive. With one boss in particular I remember feeling worried whenever he was in the building (which was incredibly stressful). The scary thing about this is that although that was seven years ago and I’ve started a family and a business since then I’ve found now that I’m in a job again the problem has re-emerged – and this despite the fact that the job is way easy and the boss is a good friend of mine.

And those are just the side effects!

The actual point of me being like this is that I’m supposed to be a good servant of civilisation. Otherwise known as being a good professional. I’m supposed to be good at sacrificing everything that’s important to me as a person so that I can serve the machine better – and I’m supposed to do it without trying to rebel. Here again my father’s influence; even though I was often cautious in social situations I didn’t lack the thoughtfulness to question my role in society or the courage to leave it so I guess I wasn’t properly broken in either – they broke me at the emotional and body level but they didn’t get my mind.

The weird thing, which I just realised today, is that I make these decisions in my mind and then set about implementing them like a good professional, which is to say with total disregard for my own needs. It’s very confusing for the kids I’m sure, I give and give and then all of a sudden when I’ve got no energy left I suddenly flip over into being a grumpy old man.

I imagine some of you think this sounds completely appalling and others are thinking ‘actually that’s just like me and nearly everyone I know’ and it’s quite normal.

I guess it’s both.

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Possession

March 23, 2008

I thought I’d done quite well in abandoning the materialist mindset, I don’t want for flash cars, electronic goods or plush lounge suites, nor do I desire nick nacks and concrete ornaments for the garden. However I still have one weakness in this area and it pretty much cancels out the gains I have made everywhere else.

It’s very relevant at the moment too. We’d like to buy some land but the desire to own a beautiful piece of land or one with an awesome view is kind of overwhelming. I do want to feel excited or inspired by the place we eventually buy but like everyone else I keep wanting what is out of my grasp.

Anyway, Ran has pointed out the Moneyless World blog and whileI was checking out an old post I found this paragraph which really hit the nail on the head for me.

I find that beauty is overwhelming & disheartening if I am in the wrong mind – the mind that wants to possess. Then my new Mind realizes beauty is neither created nor destroyed, but eternally goes from one form to another, and only beauty’s forms vanish, like flowers! This is when I realize that Heaven is ever at hand. But the greed mind, the mind that wants to possess & capture in picture frames, thinks that the forms are it. So the greed mind grieves when the forms pass.

The degree to which this guy has abandoned our culture makes my own attempts feel decidedly amatuerish. It’s true that we have our own path to follow but the perspective he has on our culture really shows through in the philosophy he produces. It reminds me of a quote I posted recently from Bill Mollison

I can easily teach people to be gardeners, and from them, once they know how to garden, you’ll get a philosopher. But I could never teach people to be philosophers – and if I did, you could never make a gardener out of them.

I’ve never been in danger of paying much attention to a university-taught philospher but this really does ram home how much we can learn from people who feed their mind with real-life experiences.

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Work

March 8, 2008

Over the last three months I’ve been working for a friend of mine at his hardware store in Raglan. The store is a lot smaller than the big boxes found in larger towns and cities so there’s plenty of variety in the work but all the same I’m amazed at how much I’m enjoying it.

I guessed in advance that I would enjoy parts of it because a large part of the job involves chatting to people but I’ve also discovered a few other things that make this type of work far superior to working in an office.

As I said, chatting to customers is part of the job, but (and this seems really obvious in hindsight) if you’re doing physical work you can actually have a conversation while you do the work – who knew?

The work I used to do in an office used the same part of the brain that you need for holding a conversation which meant that any chatting was done on stolen time. That this has been a revelatory experience for me is a sign of how effective the propaganda pointing me to ‘professional work’ was.

Something I was sure would happen (and it has) is that I’d sleep better. When you do physical work, you get tired and rest but when you do mental work you get tired and lie awake all night trying to make your brain slow down. Also when you do physical work, you get fit whereas when you do mental work you just get tired and lie awake all night trying to…

So I’m sleeping better, I’m having more fun, I’m interacting with people which I enjoy, I’m out in the fresh air and I’m getting fit. These are all things the professional classes pay to do outside of work – usually at gyms, nightclubs and shopping centres – hell I can even go shopping at this job too!

This last week I’ve had a cold but I thought I’d go to work and see how I coped – again I was amazed. If I’d gone to work in an office I would have begun to feel worse and worse until my head was ready to implode but in a job where you get plenty of fresh air and your body is moving you hardly notice a mild illness. All I did was have some benign tablets to help keep my nose clear (which never used to make any difference when I was sitting at a desk) and avoided really tiring physical work. I’d always met a lot of builders who kept working when they had colds and I thought they were real hard-men but now I know their secret – it’s easy when you’re on the move and getting fresh air.

To be fair the pay is crap and this creates other pressures that we’re really struggling with, plus the kids don’t like me being out of the house for so long during the day and it takes a lot of work to collect them again when I get home but for the moment it’s nice to have a job that I actually enjoy. I can’t remember the last time that happened.

And I know some of you are thinking ‘well duh! That’s obvious’ but just remember I was subjected to some pretty powerful propaganda for most of my childhood. Mind you even I’m amazed at just how ignorant I was of these simple facts of life.

 

 

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