Surely you have noticed. I can’t be the only one.

There is a campaign afoot, and has been going on for some time, to make life unnecessarily unpleasant. Life is hard on its own, of course. And people can be greedy and stupid. But there are people out there beavering away to make life definitely and pointedly worse, in full awareness of the fact and getting paid for it. Let me count the ways. A few.

Plastic packages cannot be opened without special tools. For meat, you often need at least a sturdy large pair of scissors. For tools, for example, scissors begin to fail and wire cutters come in handy. But to pull the tool from the cut package, you need pliers.

Calling some clinic or store brings you into a maze of pushing this and that button; it is near impossible to find a live person. I imagine some bureaucrat feeling particularly victorious if the system is designed so that after spending considerable time in the thicket of “press this” and “press that” the voicemail  hangs up on you. But first forcing you to listen to dozens of messages from malevolent voices telling you endlessly your call is important to them.

Our ears have become unprotected public property into which any commercial ear-thief feels free to pour one ad or infomercial after another. Hospitals are particularly brazen in this regard, especially considering that often the people calling are already not feeling so well. And what used to be somewhat bearable muzak has become mind-numbing computer-generated noise which is becoming progressively uglier and creepier.

I have begun to taper down my use of benzodiazepines. When I showed at the pharmacy, I was told that the two separate dosages of temazepam, making tapering possible, are rather expensive. I was surprised: temazepam is generic and the 30 mg caps have cost me about 30 dollars a month. Now, the 22.5 + 7.5 mg cost me over $250. I was told they did not know why, and to “call corporate.” You know how that call went. I’ll never have that miserable hour of my life back. In addition, I was told that my lorazepam could not be dispensed, because I picked up my supply (of 7 pills) too recently. Now, I picked up both lorazepam and temazepam at the same time, so why did they give me one and not the other? Ah, but bullying customers is so much fun, making up new rules as you go, and the less sense they make, the better. After all, there is no responsibility and the clerk knows nothing. Better call corporate. [You might as well bang your head against the wall.]

When I traveled the big roads from Florida to Colorado, I noticed that driving had become a white-knuckle affair because in many places the noise strips on the side of the road have encroached into driving space. In fact, Texas has signs at its borders that the roads there are much better, “please move here.” Well, they are a bit better, but not by much. And as I went, I followed a crew that was making them worse as I drove – I actually caught up with the road crew somewhere north of Ft. Worth. But Louisiana was the worst. I amused myself while driving trying to figure out the logic behind the system. I actually got out of the truck and followed the marks on the side of the road that showed how the “screech strips” moved progressively closer and closer to the white paint, in many places moving even past it. It made driving hell. Have the road bureaucrats subscribed to a fanatical anti-car philosophy intending to make driving as miserable as possible? If you do that, more people will stay home or ride a bike? Or trying to make truckers particularly out of sorts, wanting to quit to make room for robots? It’s not for safety – if it were, the strips could have stayed by the middle of the shoulder where they used to be. When I got to Colorado, they had not hit my area yet. But they did a few weeks later. A great deal of fast money has been poured into this project.

There is a new and frantically advertised shop near Dallas called Buccee’s. And indeed people were being bussed there in droves to shop in a creepy store that has done everything so that people interact only with things and machines, never other people. They have not succeeded altogether but are working on it. When you gather your food, you find there is no place to sit, or even to stand at a counter. And canvas chairs being advertised at the exit have signs on them yelling: “Don’t sit on me!” Apparently things have a right to consideration but people don’t. “Come to Buccee’s where things are treated like people and people like things!” Hm. A store that has “social distancing” already built into the design, long before covid. Isn’t that interesting.

Waiting to shed some of the dust of the road, I walked awhile around the vast parking lot and noticed that strange buildings were being landscaped right up from the store. I kept looking at them, trying to figure out why they seemed so peculiar. Then I knew. Each unit was two and a half metal shipping containers glued together and made to resemble a living space. This is the future of America our corporate masters are already making a reality. Turning everything into crap, and turning people into isolated ciphers that matter not a whit. As though modern architecture already did not turn cities depressing as it is. Now we go quite a few notches cheaper, unhealthier and uglier still.

The roads around Dallas-Ft Worth have been a nightmare for years. But as someone who has traveled them several times going north, I was non-plussed to find that the branch-offs toward Wichita Falls (and they are a maze) have basically had their markers either removed, or left so weather-beaten as being nearly invisible. I drove in sheer terror of losing my way until well out of the city, when finally the road began to be clearly marked again. And miracle of miracles, for a few miles before getting to Amarillo, the screech strips moved more toward the center of the shoulder. I cheered. I don’t doubt the screech enforcers have gotten there in the meantime.

At my stay at a corporate chain motel in north Texas, I first encountered corporate food. Much, much worse than “fast food.” It was right inedible. Fake eggs with fake sausage with fake buns. Yum! The other day, after many years, I resorted to Starbucks. And guess what? Instead of a cheese danish, I got corp-crap. A thin tasteless slab of dough smeared with something that never got closer to cheese than the cheesecake next to it on display. It certainly did not taste like cheese, although it probably had “natural cheese flavoring” made in the lab added. But hey, the lab did not care. They don’t have to.

Where is Lily Tomlin when you need her? And I haven’t even gotten to covid.

We don’t care. We don’t have to. We are the _____ company.

[My apologies to Dmitry Orlov for posting excerpts from behind a paywall. How else to respond?]

This difference [between Soviet and American collapse], I have come to realize, hinges on a civilizational difference between the former USSR and the latter USA. It turns out to be, of all things, about love. What I mean by it is something along the lines of unconditional devotion, compulsion or surrender to a force greater than oneself, and the object of this love is what one treasures as the ultimate value, source of pride and sense of self.

Both Russians and Americans are endowed with such love, but they love different things. Russians love something they call Ródina (always capitalized). Although it can be translated as motherland, fatherland, native land, etc., these are all mistranslations because Russia is too big to be called a land. The Ródina does not belong to anyone; one belongs to it; or, rather, it belongs in one’s heart.

This superethnic entity within its vast geographic domain that is the object of the Russians’ love cannot be analyzed in terms of politics, economics, sociology or religion. It is just as meaningful, or meaningless, to analyze it in terms of footpaths, forests, heads of wheat, ants and moths. Ródina simply is, like the sun and the moon, and one’s love for it cannot be undermined by political upheavals, societal dysfunction, economic collapse or any other calamity. Nor is this love considered optional: inculcating “love of Ródina” is an explicit, stated function of Russian public education.

The Ródina phenomenon explains why after the financial, commercial and political collapse of the USSR Russia was able to arrest and reverse the process at social collapse, never ran much danger of cultural collapse, and has been able to claw everything back and then some. It is because Ródina has nothing whatsoever to do with finance, commerce or politics. Its place is in the heart, and no vicissitudes of fortune can dislodge it.

Here, Dmitry is a bit too pro-Russian in his exposition. Many of those ethnic groups bitterly resisted russification, and the fact that he quotes a poem in a language with only a few hundred speakers left tells a lot. Nevertheless, each country (just like a family) needs to have a unification principle, and the Russian Federation has it. It’s got its unifying language, it’s got its unifying values, it’s got its painful and glorious history finally free from the shackles of censorship, it’s got a sense of commonality, all of us in this together. Rodina serves as key social glue.

Turning now to the United States, what is the quintessential love interest of the American? The US is a nation of immigrants (a cliché, that, but true) who didn’t come there to form a harmonious superethnos with Native Americans and join them in their love of their native land. Most people came in hopes of claiming a piece of that land and striking it rich, or at least of having a chance to do their own thing. They came to colonize, to exploit and to profit. In America, possession and ownership are everything. An American’s first and last love is… money.

I think one need not be an American to see how grossly unfair and inaccurate this is. People came here originally to be free from gross oppression, from serfdom, from religious persecution, and later from communist dictatorships. Many fled utter destitution, as in the Irish famine, but not with the view of striking it rich. Coming as indentured servant was not a ticket to “making it.” Leaving one’s kith and kin network far behind is not exactly the recipe for a good life. But America gave them hope for bread, for children surviving and perhaps thriving, and for living in a political system less heartless and more “of and for the people” than the brutal systems they were leaving.

American culture and society are nice-to-haves and have largely fallen by the wayside. Culture has mostly been replaced by various commercial offerings while history—though very short and often shameful, still a vital component of culture—is being actively erased by toppling public statues. American society is so internally conflicted that people insist on being armed to the teeth and are notorious for shooting each other at the slightest provocation. Politics it is a toxic stew of mutual recriminations across a partisan divide so vast that it often looks like a low-intensity civil war. Commerce has been relegated to multinational corporations that have no specific interest in the US except as a source of consumers and of free money, and it is currently cratering, with consumer demand plummeting and retail chains collapsing. Once there are no more profits to be made, the multinationals will simply leave.

American history is indeed short, but no more shameful than Russian history. While here the colonists, later Americans, wiped out several million natives, bought extra territory from France and Russia, and stole a piece of Mexico, Russia killed over hundred million in various gulags under the czars and then the communists, as well as unknown numbers of Siberian natives, and stole a chunk of Poland, Finland, and Czechoslovakia. America had slavery, Russia had brutal serfdom. What’s the point of historical shaming? Nobody’s deep history is angelic.

But then there is a magic realm where everything is magically fine: finance. In spite of everything else being in dire straits, the stock market is doing well and banks remain solvent thanks to the Federal Reserve’s miraculous printing press. An ever-greater portion of the economy is being engulfed by an already bloated financial realm which specializes in generating, then hiding, bad debt. A large proportion of corporations are zombies addicted to free money with which to prop up their share prices by buying back shares. Meanwhile, a large proportion of the population is facing destitution.

True enough. I traveled recently across much of the country when moving, and what I saw in “small town America” was shocking. I have done this trip a number of times over the years, therefore I could compare. Americans are suffering, and their overuse of opioids should surprise no one. Opioids make suffering bearable. Until the government cracks down and you have to buy them on the street.

Love of money above all else neatly explains why the US is collapsing in the opposite of the canonical order, with finance—which should be the first pillar to collapse—perversely the only one to remain intact (for now).

I don’t personally know anyone whose love of money is their key value. Sure enough, many people immigrated here over the years to “strike it rich” as Dmitry says, but isn’t that true of Russia in its expansion period? The Russians went out to plunder the hinterlands. And now many former Russians are migrating back because Putin is giving away land, and they hope to do better there than elsewhere. (That free land was formerly inhabited.)

When I came here, I saw a country held together by common language, by pride in its history of victoriously shedding the shackles of colonial exploitation by the British monarchy, and a love for the pioneering political system the Founders put together, hoping, of course, that it would be improved over the years and provided the tools. Perhaps it was also the former ability of immigrants to form ethnic enclaves, and so to feel at home in the New World. There were the Chinatowns, and Slovenian or Italian towns, an Irish later Jewish Brooklyn, and Czech Chicago. And Black Detroit or Harlem. That gave America at least a flavor of the superethnicity that Dmitry speaks of. And small town America provided the agricultural backbone.

But that began to unravel from the mid-60s on. The Cubans fleeing to Florida refused to learn English and were given citizenship anyway. I had to prove my command of English in the citizenship proceedings, but they did not. And “English only” began to be attacked politically by people who either did not understand social glues or were in the business of destroying them. Equality before the law suffered even as important racial issues were finally being addressed. Affirmative Action defied the principle, but people shrugged it off. Now we have gotten to a place in some cities where the homeless and the insane are given special rights to behavior that would land me or you in jail, pronto. Corporate shuffling broke up communities. And small towns and small farmers began to be destroyed by targeted campaigns that go on to this day.

America’s first love has never been money, though doing better than one’s parents was a source of optimism. America’s love and pride has been its political system, the first in the world that built into its Constitution free speech, freedom of belief, equality before the law and equality of opportunity, rule of law, peaceful succession of power, and balance of powers as ideals to strive for. That is why the Independence Day is America’s most important holiday. Rightly so. Perhaps we should all celebrate it by reading once again that amazing and brilliant document, the Declaration of Independence.

The Founders toyed with ideas to build in economic democracy but lost their gumption. The first Pennsylvania constitution tried to blaze that trail. Later, Andrew Jackson fought the banksters and won. But they crept in by the back doors. That issue festers like an open wound, and transnational corporate takeover has made it all worse. This is not only America’s problem. Capitalism works better than socialism in providing needed goods, but it has a fatal flaw: it depends on overproduction and a world without limits.

Orlov is right – in the model followed here in the U.S., collapse is engineered by those who want to destroy the culture and morale first. Perhaps they are testing this particular approach on us, before they get to work on Russia. And most of the elites (those who love money and power best of all and don’t give a damn about America or the people on Main Street) are supporting the destroyers.

Rodina, 1967

When I moved to Colorado, I needed a new doctor to prescribe the two benzodiazepines I take for sleep. I had developed serious insomnia, was bounced around by a doctor who refused to prescribe anything that worked for me in the past, and after wasting a year with useless prescriptions, referred me to a pill shrink. This man was willing to prescribe benzos, but not at the dose I needed. I had to show up every month for a new prescription, he got paid for 3 minutes of work. He asked: what month is it today? Who is the president? Here is your new scrip. That went on for some time… and I still had insomnia. I had meanwhile found a psychologist to help with my PTSD, and he recommended a sleep clinic that had helped him. I went through the sleep study, happy I did not have sleep apnea, and eventually ended up with the two benzos I take at night.

When coming to another state, I contacted a clinic in the area who agreed to help as long as I do psychological therapy with them as well. However, “prescribers” do not have the kind of DEA license my doc had in Florida, so I have to report monthly and chase various people after the prescription. I went through about 5 hours of intake with various people, and now it turns out that I have to go through a “reevaluation” of our treatment plan every three months with my psychologist though completely unnecessary. And when I called for the refill of my benzos as instructed by the psychiatric “prescriber” I was told I must consult with him first. About what? I am about to taper off my dose with the new prescription, we had agreed on the protocol, and there is yet nothing to report. But I must see the nurse and then the psychiatrist next week anyway. Someone’s rule. Plus, to add insult to injury, this clinic will force me to piss into a cup to prove I am actually taking the benzos and not reselling them on the street! I am guilty until proven innocent by my urine. And several people get paid every month for something that took one visit every 6 months to a sleep clinic in Florida.

But when I was talking to the psychiatrist during my intake, something nice happened. He listened with care to my long-ago traumatic ordeal with eventually diagnosed pancreatitis, and how I was treated like a drug addict during that three-month misery and extreme pain. He wondered that I still had recourse to mainstream medicine after such experiences. I laughed. It took away that old sting. I told him I survived so far by judicious combination of mainstream medicine and alternatives. Now, that is no longer true.

On Sunday, being without a car that had overheated, I unpacked my old kick scooter, rode it on gravel and fell. I split my eyebrow; nothing alarming, but I bled like a stuck pig. So after I returned to our village, I consulted the neighbors at the café. One of them was an ex-medic, told me to put pressure on the wound, and said it would be good to wash it out and close. It was not a deep gash, but it needed a tad of help. I wondered if we had a medic nearby who could help me with dressing the wound. She called 911, our fire chief drove down the main street without traffic and without lights with the siren blazing, and when he got to me, informed me that he did not have the powers to dress even tiny wounds. Some bureaucrat somewhere decided that this small chore that I could do in a pinch myself, had to be attended to by an ER doctor half an hour away. I thought the whole thing was utterly stupid, and said so. The medic in the end convinced me to go to the hospital.

In the hospital, I was attended by a doctor whose mind was elsewhere. He ordered an unnecessary ct scan, then reopened the wound, washed it out, and despite profuse bleeding, offered either glue or steri-strips. I chose steri-strips, thinking I needed a couple of stitches, but feeling intimidated. So steri-strips were applied in a fashion that irritated my eyelid, and prevented me from applying pressure on the wound for fear of dislodging them. I bled for an hour. I have no idea if I will come out of this silly ordeal with a face gone askew. I do know, however, that my friendly coexistence of mainstream care with “kitchen medicine” as well as alternatives, is over. Mainstream demands that the doctor be in charge. No thanks. I will not again surrender my decision-making powers to a doctor, a nurse or a medic, as long as I am conscious. Rules first, money second, and patient a weak third. And common sense out the window. A dangerous combination.

But Moloch was fed.

Trust and let go. Climb staircases, open doors, explore paths, fly over landscapes.
— instructions given to patients at the NYU psilocybin trial

After looking into a good way of dying in my recent post, I had a sort of an epiphany. It seemed that thinking what it would be like to have a good last year of life (say), propelled me directly into considering how I wanted to spend my elder years. For a time, I became something of a pest to my friends and my psychologist, as they worried about my “obsession with death.” I tried to explain it was nothing like that… but… it seems that talking about one’s last years (be they 15, or 30, or hey, maybe the Grim Reaper is heading my way already) is one of the remaining taboos.

One thing that jolted me was the realization that if I truly aimed for “a good death” on my own terms, I needed to prepare well in advance. Just about everything I want, from shallow graves or sky burials, to plentiful pain killers, to the right dose for departure (& don’t you dare call it suicide!), and to the intriguing entheogens that ease the anxiety — if not outright horror — that surrounds death and dying, is illegal or at the far edge of possibility. Unless I acquire new skills and connect with people who are in the position to provide these things, now, I will be out of luck.

And then I thought… you know, this is kinda fun. Thinking of ways to make one’s last months on earth good… led me directly to thinking of ways to make my last x years on earth good. Nobody knows the day nor the hour. May as well have a path, or at least a guiding star. How about seeing one’s elder years in the expectation of enhanced well-being? Yes, one’s body begins to wizen, but the brain grows more complex and more open to new ways of seeing reality — if  provided with stimulation from daring new experiences, meditation or prayer, “smart foods,” and plenty of wrongthink! And since such brains are apt to be more creative, I may be able to figure out how to deal with the inevitable health issues not through the usual wheelbarrowful of pills that doctors push on older folks, but through herbs, supplements, body-aware movement, and an approach to life that takes me back to living boldly, living ALIVE, suffused with meaning.

So I took off running. I sold my place, moved to the edge of wilderness in Colorado. I am preparing to leave on an adventure of a lifetime. Bucket list? No, I am not ill. This is before you need a bucket list. I am going to climb again (both trees and rocks), ski again, thrill to danger again. Live in incredibly wild places, with wolves, bears, cougars, wisent and rivers full of fish. Spend lots of time with people and critters I love. Sing everyday. Contrive to get snowbound in a winter wonderland where you have to dig tunnels to get to the woodshed. Wander off on psychedelic adventures and fly off cliffs in lucid dreams. I have found an experienced herbalist who will take my (actually considerable but scattered) knowledge to the next level. I am particularly keen to learn to work with plants considered poisonous, as I had begun with my poke root hit-and-miss dosing. (Did you know that the infamous hemlock that killed Socrates is actually an excellent pain killer? It’s all in the dose. Even water will kill you if you drink too much of it.) I will find ways that suffuse the aging body with pleasure again, ways that heal old wounds and spark the feeling of youthful spunk. After decades of struggling with insomnia, I’ll learn to sleep like a cat.

A door at hands’ reach beckons into communion not only with other humans and with one’s inner self, but also with soil, critters, plants and fungi, and the universe itself. Babylon has none of these. Earthly paradise has all of them.

I will jump into all sorts of scary “crucial conversations” with gusto. Communism forced me into exile, and I am not about to live out my life seeing it creep back as a new form of totality, without throwing some sand in the gears of the neo-marxist machine. This time, that totality is fueled by politically correct bullies and sourpusses who have forgotten what free speech means, or how many people gave their lives so they themselves could say what they mean, and mean what they say, and nobody comes for them in the middle of the night as a consequence. It looks like the free speech barricades need manning again, as they do every second or third generation.

I will defy the laws that stand between me and empathogens so that my remaining PTSD, and severe stresses yet to come, can be negotiated with grace. A new book’s popped up written by a woman whose severe depression of many years became drug-resistant. She enrolled in a month-long experiment with LSD microdosing and her world changed. Now she is out there rabble-rousing, working hard to bring LSD back as legal medicine. After reading Michael Pollan’s description of the ongoing trials using psilocybin to ease people dying of cancer at the NYU hospital, I had to ask myself… why wait for a mystical experience that takes away the fear of death for when I have one foot firmly wedged in the grave? Why not now?! Then I am covered whenever and wherever death comes for me. 🐺

 

 

 

 

I used to long for a community of kindred spirits gathered together in one small, remote, lovely place. When I tried it, I discovered there is a reason such places don’t work “as advertised” — or more fairly, fail to satisfy the pilgrims’ longing. You cannot force community, you cannot create a box of ideals and then try to fit assorted humans into it like Cinderella’s sisters’ feet into her slipper. And if the container is tight, essential truths can no longer be told and the feedback loop falls apart.

Organic communities cannot be planned. They evolve in the midst of Babylon, here and there in the cracks. As Jesus said, the divine kingdom is among us, and within. It’s reachable, here and now. Once a person learns to recognize and ally with cooperators and to avoid defectors (to use the language of Game Theory), the world shifts and aligns itself along the lines of magical bonds. The decisive factor is the quality of the bonds, not the place. When a small place delineates what is possible, the pool of potentially compatible people shrinks significantly.

Most historical and current communities didn’t and don’t work well. I know only of one cluster that ran smoothly and took care of its members well. They were known as the Shakers. They lived in gorgeous places, created beauty for which they are remembered to this day, ran well-oiled farms that fed all the members and earned cash selling medicinal herbs. The living standards compared to those of the day were high, and leadership included women. Yet, the communities died out and the remains have been turned into tourist attractions. Why? No, it was not lack of sex (and therefore children). Most people joined after they had a family, and in any case, the Shakers took in orphans. They never lacked newcomers. But after the Civil War, the young people did not stay. Partly, they were drawn to the cities and their freedom, and partly, I think, the container got too tight. People chafe when their lives are too circumscribed. The Shakers, once known for their weird, noisy and ecstatic dances instituted decorum. Rules and order, rather than creative joy, weighed too heavy on one side of the scales.

Why did I leave Earthaven? I never finished that story, did I?

Pet wars!

I came to Earthaven with two kitties, after carefully arranging with my neighborhood for the permission. I knew Earthaven was not pet friendly, but I was assured that neighborhoods had autonomy in such matters. The situation turned strange as soon as arrived. What had been presented to me as a pet-free neighborhood turned out to have two cats living on its edges while people looked away. These kitties were not happy about my cats, and Earthaveners were quick to blame me for drawing strange cats out of the woods by my porch bowl.

After considerable effort and time, I found that one of them belonged to a long time member who basically let her live there, scrounging, for a year and a half, while he went back to town. The other cat had been abandoned by a former ag volunteer, and had lived off the wildlife in the area for over 3 years. I found homes for both of them.

Nevertheless, I was accused of breaking the rules; the person who had assured me my two cats were ok profusely apologized to the community and threw me under the bus. A special meeting was converged where people felt free to tell me that people who love companion animals have psychological problems, and pets ought to be composted. The only other animal lover at EH was attacked concurrently, because her dog “was not really a working dog.” (She was, and a well-trained one.) A long-time member, the woman left the community soon after.

In the end, I agreed not to leave cat food outside. It was winter, and doable. But by May, endless processions of ants would be marching into my shack again and making my life impossible. I knew then and there that my days at Earthaven were numbered.

Boundaries

Earthaveners had major issues regarding healthy boundaries. People being verbally abusive in meetings were suffered in silence or counterattacked. Even the considerably skilled facilitation failed to clear the toxic fumes. And the problems caused by members who created huge messes on their allotted land — basically leaving collections of aging building materials, unfinished crumbling structures, and assorted heaps of trash — were never successfully addressed.

It’s not that boundaries were not set; people did not seem to have the ability — or the courage? — to defend them against habitual trespassers. Too many topics were swept under the rug. Perhaps because of this, the biweekly meetings were unpleasant to endure, and ignored by most of the younger people.

Lack of kindred souls

Paradoxically, I made my best connections outside the community, among people who lived near Earthaven but were not bound by it. But I came there with the express purpose to live in, not outside, the community, and experience it in depth. And I felt that there were a fair number of folks that were flat-out uncongenial. People were afraid to trust, and to say openly what was on their minds. So in the end, the magic of close connection rarely ever happened.

Trashed

It did not help that my shack looked directly into the community dump. It had been created to get rid of cardboard boxes, and degenerated into an eye sore which was not only ruining my view and annoying visitors, but also polluting the adjacent creek. In my subsequent visit, I discovered another such dump, more out of sight, and heard of yet another one. The people who disposed of their boxes this way were not required to strip them of plastic tape and labels. The whole issue was strange, because of all the things you can do to behave ecologically, cutting up cardboard boxes seems like a minor nuisance. Particularly since Earthaven had injudiciously invested in a wasteful wood furnace to heat its Council Hall that was consuming the surrounding woods at an alarming rate. The cardboard could have contributed much needed fuel. Apparently, and unannounced to the outside world, certain influential members of the community never bought into the eco part.

Earthaven, when I arrived, was in the middle of a paranoid episode that had been called their worst summer by one of my acquaintances there. A younger member had turned psychopathic, terrorized his neighbors, got into trouble with the law, and occasioned a prolonged period of angst in a community that had always been skirting the law one way or another (mostly, it must be stressed, in ignorance or experimental disregard of building codes and evolving laws about shared communities, and straddling two counties each with different requirements). But this was much more serious. The episode resulted in the formation of a safety committee that followed the individual’s activities and acted as liaison with the police, the psychiatric institution evaluating him, and his family; he eventually left Earthaven, got in trouble in other places, and committed suicide a year later.

As I had no idea for quite some time what was really going on around me, why meetings were being canceled, why people seemed so upset and so loath to converse, why newbies were left to shift for themselves, my sense of being unwelcome and alone was fairly intense. It was unfortunate that my sojourn was so ill timed and so weighed down by a tragedy in the making.

I did like a number of things about Earthaven, of course. The woods and creeks were a delight. I loved working with natural plasters, repairing walls at the Council Hall. It was good to hang out with the neighbors at the weekly cookouts. Often, the visitors to Earthaven turned out to be interesting people eager to swap experiences. I loved walking the forest paths with my cats and praying at the confluence of the creeks in a forest garden appreciated by visitors and members alike. I was drawn to the seasonal Celtic rituals. Perhaps my best memories harken back to night walks illuminated by fireflies, running into random neighbors, and stopping for spontaneous conversations. Earthaven, after all, is a true neighborhood, and I treasured being a part of it.

When I fled Earthaven at the end of that hard winter, well before the ant season, I went back to Colorado, and was suddenly surrounded by warm friends who were not afraid to speak what was on their mind, and openly enjoyed having me in their midst again. I felt then that I had to leave my village at the foot of the Rockies to rediscover it, and to recognize it as the somewhat remote and certainly lovely place, though well within Babylon, but one with true friends.

Sometimes, you have to leave home to find it.

 

Hello again. While I went through various personal crises, we fell into the time of cholera. Er, I mean, kung flu. Er, I mean virus COVID-19. Ugh. So, being an herbalist, I devised a protocol for myself that I have used preventively. A number of plants are anti-viral, including poke berries. I used what was to hand: lemon balm and elderberry. Elderberry comes with immune-strengthening zinc in candy-like lozenges, and lemon balm comes as a tea. I not only drank a fair amount of this tea, but I also inhaled it. I took the pot with strong lemon balm tea that was boiled and let sit 5 minutes, then I sat down over the pot with a towel over my head, breathing in the hot vapor. Adjusting the towel permits one to regulate the heat.

In addition, I took vitamin D3, and exposed myself to sun every day, and eventually got tested for D. My levels are normal, but some years back I was deficient. In sunny Colorado. One never knows until they run the test. I also put in a good supply of colloidal silver in case I got ill. I did not. And I used 3% hydrogen peroxide as disinfectant, as I have for years. Cheap and safe. Comes in a spray bottle too.

I learned inhalation from my grandmother, who also believed in sweating illnesses out. Apparently, some viruses are vulnerable to heat, and her methods worked. Frankly, it never made sense to me to focus on vaccines when it comes to fast-mutating viruses like the flu and cold. By the time midwinter arrives, the virus has mutated. Why all the hoopla each year with the vaccines?

Anyway, when COVID-19 came, I appreciated the greater emphasis on public hygiene. Other than that, a lot of what’s in the news seems untrustworthy. Even the stats, it turns out, are being messed with. Pathetic. Our body politic is infected by liars.

Well, as states and countries begin to reopen, and people worry about the virus coming back in the fall, I happened to come across a recipe that anybody who begins to show symptoms or wants to be proactive can use at home. It is being passed around by group emails in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. What follows is my translation of this letter received by a Czech couple who run an alternative medicine website. For some reason, the pdf file in which they published the letter is nearly unfindable in Czech, and completely unfindable in English. I have therefore decided to translate the letter from its Czech translation. I contacted the folks who run the site but they were unable to link to the original – they claim the doctor (who I assume is Russian) who wrote it sent it as an old-fashioned letter. Without further ado, here it is:

To virologists and people of the planet:

At present, the minds of people the world over are full of the COVID 19 pandemic. People aren’t fully alive, they live in fear. They fear that they’ll catch the viral newcomer and die. Where are the great discoveries of the 21st century, dear virologists, that can protect people from this disaster? Certainly, your accomplishments are hard to praise. It is said that you have enabled clinicians to test for the presence of the virus in the pharynx. There is a race on regarding the number of tests performed. But why test? Yes, the test will show if a person is indeed infected by the coronavirus, And then? You don’t know how to cure it; there is no medication or a vaccine, and it is not known when such will become available. And while the vaccine is being readied, a new mutant will appear, for which the vaccine will not be applicable. And you will be helpless while the virus within the patient moves from the pharynx without obstacles to the lower airways, to the lung cells, causing pneumonia and lung cell necrosis.

But the pandemic will burn itself out one way or another, at the price of millions of lives. Then suddenly a second, fifth, tenth “wave”? Again a pandemic, again quarantines, thus permanent damage to world economy, and people without work, hungry, etc.

The great Einstein once said: “The real inventions are made by ignoramuses.” I am an ignoramus in virology. But I have been directly involved with medicine. I am Gennady Vasilyevich Yudin, MD, a transplant specialist, and the recipient of a USSR merit award. I headed two medical departments at a medical school for 30 years. I have thousands of former students. And I began to feel shame that I, a researcher and professor, cannot help my once students, now doctors, who are dying along with their patients. I decided to open up what remains of my old man’s brain, and came up with an article “Mode of prevention and treatment of coronaviral illness in its early stage by destroying the virus in nasopharynx via high temperature.” Because I am cognizant of patents, I have formulated the discovery for publication. That’s the scientific way. [The letter does not show whether or where this article was published, or how a patent would apply. Something may have been lost in the original translation.]

The virus is new. Medical literature is entirely lacking; therefore, I used facts located on the internet. COVID 19 is an RNK molecule covered by a lipid (fatty) membrane. It is killed by 60-degree heat [Celsius] in 10 minutes. It infiltrates the human organism during the first 4-6 days through the air via tiny droplets. The viruses are then found in oral saliva and the phlegm of the pharynx from where samples are taken for diagnostic testing. While breathing in, the viruses travel downward through the airways and into alveolar cells which they need for continued survival. This then leads to lung inflammation and later to lung necrosis. I suggest killing and inactivating viruses, before they reach lung cells, by the application of 80-90 degree heat, while dissolving their lipid membrane by soda [sodium bicarbonate].

The procedure is as follows. An infectious disease physician, who is in contact all day with patients infected by COVID 19, comes home, washes his hands with good soap, then pours 1 liter of tap water into the teamaker, adds 1 tablespoon of baking soda, and brings the solution to a boil. Then the doctor leans over the pot, breathing the hot vapor in through the nose and the mouth for 15 minutes. It is clear that this procedure is accessible to anyone, inactivating all viruses that managed to enter the mouth and the pharynx. The soda dissolves the lipid membrane of the virus, and the hot vapor cooks the naked viruses in the saliva and phlegm. If doubt remains, the procedure can be repeated without causing the human organism any harm. My confessor Father Vadim underwent this procedure and found it actually pleasant.

During the night of 16th and 17th of March this year, when the news about the pandemic was just beginning to spread, I woke with a heavy chest, unable to take a deep breath. In the morning I dressed and headed for the pharmacy (about 500 meters). I was so winded that I had to stop about five times, there and back. This was accompanied by a dry, difficult cough. There was no runny nose, elevated temperature or headache. When I came home, I did not hesitate and applied the familiar soda inhalation, repeating it in the afternoon and at night. My condition was by then distinctly improved. The next day, I repeated the inhalation three times. That night, the symptoms disappeared and I could forget all about the unpleasantness.

Why did I apply this procedure so readily? In our village, Orlovshchina, it was common to treat cold-related illnesses of children and adults by such inhalation, using potato water instead. Later my illiterate grandmother Pasha learned the soda method from the family where she was a servant, and it became our family tradition, by now more than a hundred years old. Later, when I began to think it through, I realized that I must have been infected with COVID 19 which I cured by repeated inhalations of hot water and soda vapor in the very early stage of the illness, feeling back to normal after 2 days. As a confirmation, I can offer the case of my retired niece, who turned to me for advice when she experienced similar symptoms, and she also became well after two days. Of course, two anecdotes are no proof, but I remain deeply convinced that it makes sense to prevent the disease before the symptoms even appear. I understand the beneficial influence of baking soda.

Because there is no analogy to my method, I cannot compare it with other approaches to cure. Therefore, I will immediately go to enumerating the expected benefits: 1. The method definitely prevents coronavirus illness by inactivation brought about by higher temperatures of mouth and pharynx. 2. The method is science-based, inexpensive, simple, and can be applied by anyone in the home. 3. The method provides a future perspective, because it is likely to kill each mutant, if it’s analogous to COVID 19. 4. The world will not be threatened by repeated waves of this illness, because with such broadly applied prevention the problem of COVID 19 will be solved.

I appeal to all people of the world! When you receive this information, do not delay and inhale hot water and soda vapor for 15 minutes. Repeat if needed. I ask for no money. I would have to pass such money on to the Soviet government which gave me the great fortune to meet, during half a century, some of the most beautiful, talented, smart, well-read, noble, spiritual, communicative, cheerful and well-organized students of IGMI-IvGMA [school acronyms]! The university celebrates 90 years this year. To this university I dedicate my discovery. I wish good health to all!

May 1, 2020 in Ivanovo, professor G. Yudin, translated May 15th by Libuše Bělousová


Whew. That was longer that I thought. I have no idea if this Dr. Yudin actually exists, but it seems to me a reasonable, simple, and well-worth-trying method regardless of who thought it up. (If anyone knows which university the letter refers to, I would be happy to correct the text.) It would be nice to stop worrying about the flu and move on to better things. So pass it on.

Now, I am off to inhale. Cheers.


Postscript: I began to wonder if the doctor meant leaning over a boiling pot. I discovered that this is impossible to endure. He must have meant leaning over the pot with a towel over one’s head, as I was taught to do. I have done this twice so far. I am not sure how hot the vapor really is, but I would guess at least 60 degrees Celsius for sure. I put the covered pot between my legs on a towel as I sit in a chair, take the cover off, and throw a towel over my head. As the pot cools, one needs to bend further down, and tuck in the towel more tightly. (Caution: hang onto the pot handle so it does not spill hot water out. And take care not to drop towel edges into the hot water.)

I have to say that even though I have not been ill, my breathing becomes easier after the procedure and my chronic postnasal drip eases off. I wish I had one of those oxygen meters nurses put on your finger while they are taking your blood pressure. I am curious if it clears the lungs and enables the body to absorb oxygen more readily.

Secondly, I realized after doing the translation that the doctor is really telling us all to do this at least once or twice because by now, many people are likely to be asymptomatic carriers. What’s to lose?

baking soda

In 1995, still trying to get pregnant, I was diagnosed with cancer of the immune system. It was a moment that changed my life. I can still feel echoes of that shock. I still remember my first oncologist, trying to push chemo on me, and when I asked for information about the substances he was recommending, his nurse rummaged through dusty closets and came up with nothing. I found a way out of despair by learning all I could to save my life. Crucially, I learned that Non-Hodgkin’s B-cell lymphoma comes in three varieties, slow-growing, intermediate, and fast growing. The fast ones are often curable, but rare. The slow ones are best not to treat right away (that first oncologist was a greedy liar), respond well to chemo initially, but eventually they’ll turn intermediate and kill you. Median survival? 7-9 years. Ugh. One thing I hold against conventional medicine is that it’s so damn depressing, the way it presents information to patients.

I spent several years studying both the conventional side — finding more hopeful stats — (thank you Fox Chase Cancer Center for making your library so patient friendly!), and the alternative side. The alternative side is good at giving people hope and pluck. I spent some time experimenting with various concoctions they recommended. And while sifting the dross from the potential gold which included talking to other lymphoma patients who also had the gumption to experiment, I found two alternative treatments that merited an “A” on my scale. One wasn’t of use in lymphoma, which is usually disseminated (metastasized) by definition. That was hyperthermia (which has since made limited inroads into conventional cancer treatment). The other one was Coley’s Toxins. I wrote one of the first well-researched internet articles on the toxins. Coley’s Toxins had been blacklisted by the American Cancer Society for many years as a quack treatment, and are not conventionally available to this day. They are cheap to make, and unpatentable.

My approach, recommended by my next oncologist, was to do “watchful waiting” until the disease progressed. When it did, I availed myself of the various toxic drips they give to cancer patients. By that time, they were accompanied by monoclonal antibodies — bioengineered thingies that run through the immune system, gobble up B-cells, and improve the chemo’s effectiveness. I also did a rare treatment that gave me a year of remission called Bexxar. But then, in ’07, the lymphoma speeded up (underwent cellular transformation) and tried to kill me. I got hit by very harsh chemo. Spent that summer doing treatments, transfusions, and Neulasta injections, weak as a new-born chick, wondering if my hair would ever grow back.

And then came the worst day of my life, when the oncologist (who was just out fishing for warm bodies for his transplant program) told me in about 3 minutes that the chemo did not work much, to go home, and talk to the hospice. A clinical trial? “Too late,” he says! He also had the temerity to push “palliative chemo” on me which he admitted on further questioning would probably destroy my kidneys and what little remained of my bone marrow. I fantasize every Halloween about going out in a sheet to haunt this SOB.

Grieved terribly for couple of weeks, and then got really mad. I started calling cancer centers from coast to coast looking for a clinical trial. Was offered various heavy-hitting chemos that would have killed me. Was turned down by a private trial which would have ruined me financially. Then my caregiver drove me to two cancer centers on the off-chance they might have something. The second one paid off. I was accepted into a Danish clinical trial for a new antibody that has since been approved — but not for my kind of lymphoma. Life is full of ironies. And it so happened that I found the only humane oncologist of my entire career as a cancer patient. He looked me in the eye (tumors visibly sticking out of my belly and groin) and he said, “I will never give up on you.” And he kept his promise. Thank you, doctor Myint!

So… I went through the clinical trial for two months. It helped some. More importantly, it gave me the strength to go to Mexico and begin treatment with the toxins. The trial also bound me to be ct scanned every three months for two years, so my recovery is extremely well documented. Four months after I began the toxin treatment, my ct scan showed “massive shrinkage” of all the masses in my belly! What a day! The doc who removed my kidney stent remarked that such a thing almost never happened in his career as a urologist (the cancer had been pressing on my ureter).

It turns out that my internet article on the toxins had been noticed by a Canadian executive who was researching immune therapies for cancer. So inspired was he that he actually went to the Library of Congress to pore over doctor Coley’s notes from the early 20th century, and then built a lab to replicate his process. He wrote to me to tell me the toxins are about to be manufactured to modern standards, but I lost the letter. When I “was dying” I remembered his name, we talked, and after looking around, I went for treatment at the CHIPSA hospital in Tijuana, where they taught me how to inject myself with this substance via diabetic needles. Maybe the hardest thing I have ever done. It makes you ghastly ill for a day or two, the injection site is very painful for a week, and you have to do it three times a week. Argh! Horrible. My caregiver read me Quinn’s Ishmael when I lay there waiting for the effects to begin, to take my mind off the feverish horror to come. As I understand it, the toxins jolt the immune system into action, into recognizing the cancer cells for the threat they are, and killing them.

I got through by faith and stubbornness: I kept repeating to myself that this stuff works, and I’ll just keep on doing it no matter what. And so I did, for 3 years, and it did work. Thank you, Cameron Wookey, Don MacAdam, and Gar Hildebrand– the crew that helped me do this heroic thing. I could not have done it without you. And to the CHIPSA hospital, which in its reopened form is providing treatment and hope to lots of patients, and recently held a big all-paid celebration for us survivors.

William Coley, M.D., with heartfelt gratitude

I have been in full remission for 9 years now. And recently I have begun to think of myself as a person who no longer has lymphoma, though the lit insists low-grade follicular lymphoma is incurable. Early on, someone told me, when you have cancer, you have to throw every book at it. That’s what I did. And I learned so much I knew when to say no to more chemo, and take the road less traveled by. And it’s made all the difference.

 

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

— Dylan Thomas

I have witnessed only two deaths. They were not good. My mother was whisked off against her wishes to die in a hospital and to be subject to an unnecessary autopsy she had been strongly against. We all gathered ’round to witness her struggle, her laborious gasping for yet another breath. I did not have a sense that giving her extra oxygen through her nostrils eased her passing. (This had been the sole reason my father chose to remove her from our home where she wished to die. Dying people have difficulties breathing. Duh.)

I described the recent death of my father in the previous post. It was a horrible experience for me, and infinitely more horrible for him. I would not wish it on my worst enemy. Trusting the system, or for those with caring children, trusting that they will somehow manage to give you the good death we all deep down hope for… is foolish. The only person I know who had a good death was my grandmother. Still well, she dozed off one afternoon while her daughter, my aunt, was puttering in the kitchen nearby. And then she was gone. A lucky woman. But one can hardly bet on such luck.

Those experiences jolted me into a close examination of my own wishes and eventual options. I wrote a while back about ecologically sane disposal of the body. Since then, my final choice has become clear. I walk away. If a few of my remains are found — and I would be delighted to become food for one of the noble beasts, cougars or vultures if in America, and jackals or bears if in Europe — then I want them wrapped in a simple shroud, placed in a shallow grave lined with compost, with an apple tree planted over me. This of course goes against many laws in many places, but discreet action on private land remains a viable option everywhere. (There is yet another way, much simpler. Swimming out into the ocean. But I’d rather grow into an apple than a jellyfish.:)

Or perhaps by then there will be orchard cemeteries, and if I should have the misfortune to die in bed, that too would be lovely, my body nurturing a fruit tree the living could come and enjoy. And for a funeral? A simple horse-drawn cart, with a brass band playing the songs that sent generations of my ancestors to the next world, that would be the cherry on top.

I struggled mightily with the proper disposal of the dead, but it turns out that’s a simple problem. What about the dying itself? That’s where the real complexities enter in, and that’s where this insane world we live in makes things really difficult for those who would rather skip the usual: institutionalization, prolonged misery with one’s faculties radically diminished and one’s self-determination gone, often dying amidst strangers.

There are several issues that need thinking out, well prior to one’s actual need. Pain medications in an age of moral panics about certain drugs. Reliable lethal doses and access. And then, the most difficult one of them all: how to handle the fear and existential dread that falls upon those whose mortality suddenly ceases to be, um, theoretical. When I was told twelve years ago that I was dying, I was not only grief-stricken, and maddened by the rude and callous way the doctor handled the situation, but I also suffered from the realization that I was completely unprepared for… well, for what I am now calling the good death. I did have the time. I had no resources. I called the Hemlock Society for advice. They told me that the hospice folks leave plenty of morphine behind as they care for you. This is, I suspect, no longer true. Well. As it turned out, I used the time the doctor opined should be taken up to set my affairs in order to save my life instead. But that is another story, and another post.

So I was given a second chance for a rethink. While I believe that suicide is profoundly wrong for reasons too numerous to mention, the idea offers itself that to slightly speed the scythe that is already swooping down… calling it suicide seems a misnomer. It’s more of the last act of exercising the gift of choosing we were given at our birth as human beings. Many dying people refuse to eat — and nobody calls it suicide. (But really, isn’t starving to death, well, a somewhat sub-optimal way to go? Just sayin’….) If it is a kindness to ease the suffering of animals, why must humans endure the worst, at the mercy of often unmerciful happenstance? And being childless, I cannot console myself with idyllic pictures of a loving family gathering to say their goodbyes. It seems to me that when one’s life is done, and all that remains is waiting for the grim end, the kindest thing for all concerned is to make those last months as grimless and meaningful as possible.

I have been reading Michael Pollan’s latest: How to Change Your Mind. It follows his adventures with certain currently-forbidden substances (all hallucinogens, in his case) that he missed out on as a young man. One of the things the book describes are the scientific experiments, quite well corroborated, that demonstrate how the existential dread of dying can be substantially eased or eliminated by guided psychedelic experiences, enabling the person to make a spiritual turning that reframes the death that is coming. I remember when a dear friend was slowly dying of recurrent ovarian cancer — her last year spent being abused by one failing chemo after another, then the cold announcement from the doctor, and then the endless waiting… waiting… waiting… lying in front of television, resentful of the cruel blow of fate, and of death tarrying so. Bitter, too, against the Catholic faith she felt had let her down. She could have used help. But we were clueless.

Why not, instead, refuse heroic measures that swell the GDP with their false “palliative” promises and opt for experiences that bring one’s last days full circle into the meaning of it all, in the largest possible sense? This intimation of meaning which we can only guess at, but which is, experientially, within reach? For me, roaming the wildish lands and communing with critters (human and non) I have loved all my life would come first. And second, I would wish to have available to me all the substances given to us by God-Cosmos-Gaia exactly for the purpose of easing our pain, experiencing parting pleasures, expressing the love we feel without the usual restraint, seeing the meaning of our life with fresh eyes, and finding strength to face the beckoning transformation with grace.

Which leads me off on an exploration.

  • What are the best ways to deal with the pain that often accompanies one’s last months– and which, in its infinite unwisdom, this culture stigmatizes and prohibits — allowing you to walk into the proverbial hills despite your bad back and your bum ankle or the cancer gnawing at your insides? When my mother was dying, my father — being in the cancer research business — pulled some strings to obtain for her what in those days was the most effective way to deal with severe pain. This Brompton’s Cocktail (then commonly available behind the Iron Curtain) was made up of morphine, cocaine, heroin and alcohol. It is still illegal today. The mix was adjusted to the needs of the patient — he or she could choose to be more or less alert, more or less social. Why do we put up with a medical system that puts politics above patients’ needs?!
  • What is the best way to speed the scythe as you can walk no more, and wait in the hills for the blessed scavengers to transform your death into new life? The internet is vague about the dosage (maybe 300 mg of morphine might be enough; but what about a person whose previous months had included plenty of pain medication?). We need expert guides who can advise. And we need doctors who will allow us to build up a cache for when the day comes, well in advance. I think I will mix mine into creme brulee…
  • And finally, what is the best way to use those divine substances that grant us the mercy and vision that in normal consciousness would likely be unreachable? The peace beyond understanding. The rightness of Being. The rightness of Death. The hope for another adventure awaiting in the beyond. The deep gladness that one’s death serves life. A whole new gestalt in which the universe opens its arms to you and welcomes you home. This, as I understand it, the new generation of psychedelic researchers are focusing on. But they need not stop there! How about drugs given not to quell pain, but to suffuse with pleasure a body that no longer can do it on its own? What about pills or herbs that would bring happy, vivid dreams? What about hypnosis that would help the person relive the most meaningful days of their life?

If I am granted the foresight and the knowledge that the time has come, I will walk away into the wilderness to offer my body to the living. That too will require preparation and scouting out, depending on the season and my strength. I suspect it will take more than just putting on a backpack and heading west into the Rockies, as I had naively imagined. Maybe an old cabin might come in handy. After all, it could be winter. The very last adventure of this earthly life ought to be grand, don’t you think?

And when I am gone, the friends I have left behind will shield their eyes when a vulture or a raven flies overhead, and wonder if I am flying along.

annies home: Turkey Vulture

 

 

 

A few years back, there went by a news story about an event in Holland. Apparently, the Dutch have decided to… is there a good way to say this?… to kill their elderly. The human being in question — a lady with Alzheimer’s — apparently had her wits about her when the doctor tried to administer the lethal injection and fought back with alacrity. Then, the doctor asked the family members to hold her down. Then, he put her down like a sick dog. I was shocked. I remember being glad that this sort of thing does not go on in America.

I took care of my aged father for several years. He was relatively well, though his mind was sometimes better and sometimes worse. Living with him was very trying, because — and this was a lifelong pattern with him — he was a personality disordered man. I will not describe the scenes that sometimes went on between us. I will just mention that I had a dear friend nearby who regularly rescued me and let me stay there while my father raged and carried on. The last year of his life he suffered a fall, but recovered well, and his ct scans showed a healthy 91-year-old.

One evening, my father was unusually talkative. We discussed his future, and whether he would be willing to give assisted living a try. I was surprised and glad, because he rarely talked to me, and because we carried on a good discussion without his use of hearing aids. A hopeful sign, I thought! We went to bed agreeing to speak more on the morrow.

I woke at 5 am with him banging on my door, yelling, incoherent. I opened — a mistake — and when he lunged against me, trying to keep the door open, he broke my arm. I called the cops who quieted him down. Then I went to ER. When I came home and prepared my father’s breakfast and pills, he began to stalk me, telling me he wanted me out this instant. After giving him the pills, I locked myself in the bedroom. All was quiet for a few hours, then the yelling and banging on my door began. The door shook in its frame.

I called the cops again. They spent about three hours here, trying to calm him down, getting abused in turn. My father even struggled with them physically — I don’t know where he found the energy. I confessed to them I was worried that he was going to try to poison me, and they advised me to keep all my own food in the bedroom, which seemed an insane piece of advice. Is this how I should live? Eventually, they realized that he was past any signposts of sanity, called the medics, slapped the Baker Act on him (“dangerous to self and others”) and took him to the hospital, where my father tried to kick and hit personnel. They gave him some anti-psychotics that made him worse. Eventually, with great difficulty, they found him a bed in a psychiatric institution.

And this is where the system began to play me. I was, of course, a babe in the woods, and as the situation unfolded, I spent my days on the phone, trying to figure out what to do from one day to the next. And I toured many institutions that take in the aged. My father’s insurance would have paid 100% of the costs of him being in the mental hospital. But after zonking him hard with several different anti-psychotics, they claimed he was just fine now (after a week!) and I should make other arrangements. I had him transferred to assisted living — a very nice place as such places go. They did not tell me he had developed bed sores. (My father refused to move while he was there, making them believe that he could not — so I can’t really say it was all their poor care that brought those sores about.)

Was he well? Of course not. He shrieked all the way down from the hospital to the assisted living home. When there, my father — who you remember “could not move at all” in the hospital, started running around the assisted living place, barging into people’s rooms, and that even without his usual walker. He created such an upheaval that I was required to pay for round the clock aides to keep an eye on him. Eventually, we were able to ease off, and the home made arrangements with neighboring “memory care” unit (that’s where the Alzheimer’s people are) to take him during the day. He was also further dosed with anti-psychotics which nobody seemed to be able to adjust so that the crazies would stop but he could function.

Well, in the end, that arrangement fell apart, and he went back to the local hospital. There he lay zonked out of his mind, his sores getting worse, while they were trying to figure out what to do with him. There was some sort of an appeal to the state that took several weeks to resolve. Meanwhile, I was looking for a memory care place for him — and was lucky to find out near me, a small one that was run by a church, and people had individual attention. When the state declined the appeal, the church facility took him in. I was so glad then, full of hope that they would be able to get him off the drugs and back to being alive. It looked that way at first.

Then I ran into insurance problems. If my father had straight Medicare, the facility’s doctors and rehab people could look after him. But he had one of those HMO plans that demand the patient goes to certain doctors only. My BC/BS advisor went on vacation, the replacement was not able to get me either a competent doctor or a rehab person, and my father’s muscles went rapidly into permanent atrophy. When he came there, he was coherent, and was able to get up and have lunch at the common table. Within days, he was shrieking his head off, back on the nasty drugs, alone in his room. I came twice a day to check on him. He could still talk to me. I asked him if he was hungry or thirsty. He said no. Then he said: “I am afraid.” My father… whom I’ve never known to be afraid of anyone. That was the last thing he said.

The next day, as I was coming in, the director called me and told me I should talk to the hospice. This too was a shock. That day my father had refused all food (he actually crushed the spoon they were using to feed him some yogurt) and his message was clear. I was up till midnight making the arrangements, late Friday night.

The hospice got him a special soft bed, and took excellent care of his bed sores. They also got an attendant to be with him 24 hours a day. They made sure he was getting some water to wet his mouth, and eventually began to rub liquid morphine around his gums (though in my opinion, it took them excruciatingly long to get around to it).

My father died 6 days after the hospice took over. In three months, he went from a healthy albeit intermittently demented person to a corpse.

I came out of this ordeal with a case of PTSD, a frozen shoulder, and a lot of questions. I am writing this post to warn others. There were three problems with his care. 1) The anti-psychotics ruined his health. 2) The advice I was given was of the sort designed to “draw down” his assets (such a nice official phrase, eh?). He could have stayed in the psych unit until they stabilized him, at no cost to us. Instead, they lied to me. The assisted living home was motivated to go along with the lie, because they stood to profit by his monthly rent. And in the end, even the church place should have advised me that it looked like my father needed hospice, not moving to yet another institution. More money for them. (They did tell me, but after he had been moved, while assuring me it looked like they were wrong.) And 3), when I begged people to calm my father with opiates (which would have given him constipation but would not have turned him into a zombie) rather than zombifying anti-psychotics, they refused. Only the hospice can administer the opiates, they said. I had nowhere to turn.

So this is the way we kill the troublesome aged in America. The quiet ones — and I saw many during my sojourn through the institutions — lie in their chairs in front of the TV day in, day out, year in, year out. The hospice, btw, was free and excellent. Apparently, it is important in the United States to pour unlimited money into the dying. Why?

Loose wreath design | Didsbury Flower Lounge | Didsbury ...

The divine kingdom is among you/within you. Luke 17:21

Much water under the bridge since I last wrote. But maybe it’s been worth the wait. I am close to sensing the shape of my life to come. Here’s a sketch… perhaps even a scrap of a map to be of use to other pilgrims.

How to leave Babylon? I don’t have a youth’s lifetime before me. It is time to walk the escape routes I have so far discovered. I am sure there are other passageways still, obscured by brambles, thorns and piles of concrete, for others to squeeze through. I hear that Dmitry Orlov is back in the bosom of Mother Russia, living in the back country and building his dream houseboat that sails. Thousands of pioneers are flocking to eastern reaches of Siberia where Vladimir Putin opened the last planetary chance for homesteading on the cheap. But you must either know Russian, or receive special permission, as have the 15,000 Boer farmers from South Africa. I am fated to remain closer to Babylon than they, but stubbornly not of it. It’s a path anyone can follow, not only hardy young adventurers.

I wrote a while back that to leave domination is to leave Babylon. In order to do this, one has to begin opening spaces between people that allow for power sharing. So somebody asked, what exactly is power sharing? This is so far my best answer: it’s leaving one-upmanship games behind, and opening up spaces where people can share thoughts openly and without undue aggression, exert influence without manipulation, and dare to tell the truth. It’s keeping competition within limits so it doesn’t ride roughshod over cooperation. None of this is easy. All of it takes courage. But every skill learned, embodied and acted upon is another step on the way out.

Here are the words I am speaking into being:

Find your land of beauty where you are meant to sing praises of creation and enlarge the chances of life. Feed the soil. Grow the soil. Rewild. No matter how small a place, help it bring forth a richer, more abundant lifeweb than there was before. And rewild your own spirit by being in the NOW, a lot.

Open up more and more power-sharing spaces between you and other human beings. Some for a few minutes, some for a lifetime. Open up the realm where souls connect. That is the new frontier — explore it together. Such relationships, rich in attention and trust, wield magic and restorative power of their own. Such relationships are the embers of another way of being with each other, waiting to be stoked into flame.

Inviting enchantment in is also a reality changing experience. Knock, and it shall be opened. Turn until you align just right, and you shall find yourself in the valley of love and delight, as the Shakers knew. Live your life within and out of the generative process, imitating Mother Nature. “Unplanning,” as it’s been known on this blog. Life proceeds like a bud opening.

And finally, tell the truth. Untruth corrupts the soul and the body politic, and one form of corruption feeds the other. Truth reweaves the torn structure of the living world. After all, in Paradise, everyone speaks the truth. That’s what makes it Paradise.

I walk away from the world of dead and dying soils into the world where soil is being brought back to life and abundance. I walk away from the spectacle world of fake news, misdirection, manipulation, power hoarding, chronic lies, and bullshit piled so high they’ll need Hercules to clean it out lest it all fall on them… and into the world where people simply and honorably tell each other the truth as best they know it. I walk away from arid atheism, materialism and consumerism, ossified religions and totalitarian ideological temptations into a world re-enchanted by those who dare to make the leap of faith, who rise in rebellion against reason gone rogue, who are ready to call on ancestral forces through prayer and ritual to guide us on our way. I walk away from anomie, anonymity, cynicism and shallowness into a world where relationships open up magical spaces of attention and trust. I walk away from a world of plans and goals gone awry, into a world that lets the future unfold from the goodness of the present moment.

And look; there is the door.