A specter haunts the New Age community of self-proclaimed healers, gurus, yogis, crystal peddlers, body workers, and indigo babies. That specter is QAnon, a movement that defies description, but turns people into Trump supporters. Yes, the dark secret is out… even the “conscious wellness community” members are susceptible. OMG! So what do the “wellness influencers” do to defend their ranks from such alarming contagion?

Eventually, Ms. Corn and other concerned wellness influencers decided to fight back. On Sunday, they posted a “wellness community statement” accusing QAnon of “taking advantage of our conscious community with videos and social media steeped with bizarre theories, mind control and misinformation.”

You’d think that taking advantage of “our conscious community” belongs to New Agers alone! The gall some people have! (It turns out some soiled chickens are coming home to roost.)

Ms. Corn said that the wellness community’s emphasis on truth-seeking and self-improvement makes it particularly vulnerable to a conspiracy theory like QAnon, which is all about sowing distrust in mainstream authorities under the guise of “doing your own research.”

There are positive aspects of this particular community, but truth-seeking is a can of worms Ms. Corn would be better off leaving in the shadows. And distrust in “mainstream authorities”? Since when has that become a sin? Ms. Corn’s community has been spreading it since the beginning. And often rightly so. Isn’t there something strange going on when the supporters of an alternative lifestyle suddenly come out marching on behalf of the “mainstream authorities?”

“They’re using the same music we might use in meditation classes,” Ms. Corn said. “It does things to the body, it makes you more available and open.”

Including one’s wallet, I take it?

“I’m afraid that well-meaning folks who don’t understand the complexity of this misinformation will be seduced” by QAnon, she said. “They’re rolling out the yoga mat right now, and it scares me.

Another scare piece on QAnon. Yawn. But no, this is actually news. The tinfoil hat brigade has noticed they have competition! The same people who have fattened for decades on the gullibility of suckers who flocked to channelers of the Pleiadians, fake cancer cures, the Secret (riiiight), and the latest “herbal” or “magical fruit” remedy that was never researched but sure got the full Madison Avenue treatment.

I am a part of the alternative medicine community, and know these folks well. They are the same ones who promote Essiac tea for the cure of cancer. It costs pennies to make, sells at 35 dollars a pint, and all it’s got to back it up are a few vague stories. These same people who never prevailed upon the (massively wealthy) supplement industry to run clinical trials for at least some of the expensive and heavily hyped products they offer. These same people who fed the guru syndrome. These same people who never found it in their own interest to teach those who flocked to them to tell bullshit from the real thing are now complaining their followers are falling for yet another scheme (with profits being routed elsewhere, cough). I can hear the world’s tiniest violin playing in the background.

Where was your outrage when Ida Rolf and her masses of charlatans were snowing people under? Where was your outrage when Hilda Clark abused desperate patients via her pretend cure-alls, including a horrible shack of a “clinic” south of the border? Where was it when self-proclaimed gurus like Rajneesh (later rebranded as Oshi) and the likes of Muktananda were abusing power, money entrusted them, and the children of their acolytes? And I won’t even go into the scandals at Naropa or the “integral” community. Tell you what, “wellness” bullshiteers. What goes around comes around. You reap what you’ve sown.

Take the beam out of your own eye before yammering on about a sliver in the eye of your neighbor. Then you can finally set out on the path of the light workers. But not before then.


For a more detailed “treatment” of the QAnon phenomenon from the “yogi perspective,” see

Red Pill Overlap

Red Pill 2

A large pinch of salt advised.

When the color revolutions began, I got pulled in. Followed a Tunisian blogger, and later, spent a night eagerly catching the tweets from Tahrir Square in Egypt. Man, did I get fooled! I owe Ukraine a debt for waking me in several ways to the profound malevolence of the Spectacle. Not just a show to distract and confuse, you understand… I now see it a psychopathic sleight of hand, aiming to harm.

I began to follow the Ukrainian Maidan out of boredom, over Christmas 2013. Things were going well for both the demonstrators and the regime; I figured that the peaceful protesters would get some concessions and Yanukovich would opt for reinforcing his ties to Russia as more profitable for the country. Was I ever wrong! I went back into Earthaven and stopped following politics. When I reemerged, Maidan had turned into a putch, Yanuk had fled the country, snipers had killed over 100 people both protesters and police, and the country took a pronounced turn for the worse. Huh? When flight MH-17 was shot down, I combed the news for an explanation. Only later did I come to understand that we’ll never know who did it and why, and that the Dutch, who were entrusted with the oversight of the investigation have long since ceased to be the staid paragons of trustworthiness they once appeared to be. That’s when my world changed.

So when I heard of the color revolution in Belarus this August, I was primed. Now, Belarus is not a place I know. I’d only vaguely heard that the Soviet system lived on in Belarus after independence, and that it had been heavily affected by the fallout from Chernobyl, many years ago. So I began to look for information close to the ground. The Saker has published a number of thoughtful pieces on Belarus, and I found a nonpolitical blog by a Belarus teacher — she reports on the desertification of agricultural land in her home region caused by local party people who thought cutting down windbreaks was a capital idea. Then I found a blog of a man who lives next to Belarus and reports on Ukraine and the Baltic states often. He occasionally posts on the situation in Belarus from fairly direct experience.

Belarus is noted for lack of mineral resources, and relies for its economy on the industry of its citizens and tourism, as well as heavy support from Russia, with whom it formed at independence a union of a looser sort. It is key in the sense that gas and oil from Russia is transported across it to the rest of Europe. President Lukashenko is managing the country along a latter-day version of the Soviet system. A number of freedoms are lacking. About 80% of the country’s assets are owned by the state.

It is understandable that there would be simmering discontent there. But a color revolution?! After the plunder of Ukraine?! Surely the people there know better, having watched what happened to the neighbors? Well, it’s more complicated than that. Apart from Tunisia, where the uprising was spontaneous and unexpected, a color revolution seems to be a very specific tool. It is a sneaky way to bring a country down, absent the possibility of an outright war of occupation.

Various non-profits supported by money from the West are established. Key people are trained in disruptive strategies that repeat from country to country. Propaganda against the current regime starts in earnest – X must go! Democracy must come in! Crowds of the disaffected are gathered through often misleading slogans. If successful, the state resources are privatized, bought for pennies on the dollar, thriving enterprises are taken over by new foreign owners who rob them from within, leaving a husk that eventually collapses. I figure the “effective managers” coming from the West get a bonus for eliminating what could be unpleasant competition. The country turns into a colony, to one extent or another. State gold reserve disappears. A country that once could feed its population largely from local farms turns into one where cheap food from elsewhere can be dumped. That’s the rough outline.

I am not a fan of Lukashenko. Nor am I a fan of Soviet relics. But at the same time, I am really really not a fan of bringing down functional countries. Do we need another Libya, another Ukraine? Fortunately, it seems so far that the country will hold. Perhaps it’s because, by now, everybody and their brother knows the color revolution pattern. Including Lukashenko and Putin. Luka tried to play it both ways, lured by western promises, but woke in time. He asked Putin for help, brought in supportive personnel from Russia, stopped the police brutality after a couple of days of regime panic, and is slowly steering the country toward stability. The demonstrations have not stopped yet but seem to be losing steam, organizers have been arrested or have fled, and foreign news outlets have resorted to lies.

What do the protesters want? I saw one small home-made sign that said, GOD EXISTS. I imagine that the people there want to be able to believe as they choose, and obligatory “scientific atheism” and other politically correct views stick in their craw. They’d want to travel more freely. They’d want to speak more freely and participate in governance. They’d want relief from the heavy-handed local apparatchiks. They’d want more of an entrepreneurial spirit. But not in exchange for ruining their comprehensive safety net and their economic and cultural self-determination, such as it is, at least such as it is.

What do MSM tell us? They say that the people object to the ruination of their safety net and increasing neo-liberalism. Huh? That’s what they’d get if they threw open the gates. They repeat the brutality of the first two days as though it’s ongoing. They cry that one of the top people openly organizing a “transition of power” (just after an election that did not go their way!) has been arrested. They denounce the elections. The elections, well, they are Soviet-like, but nobody cared all those 30 years. Why now?

Could one reason be the fact that Lukashenko refused to crack down and impose covid-related measures demanded by the WHO, along with a contingent loan from the IMF? Belarus, like South Dakota and Sweden, remains normal in the age of covid. Deaths are a minor blip on the radar (pop. 9.5 million, covid deaths 691, end of August). Nobody is wearing masks or distances. Life goes on as usual. Not a bad move for a country that would have been economically devastated by a shutdown and an unpayable loan.

The blogger I follow heard in MSM news that in Vitebsk, there were demonstrations and “gestapo-like” arrests. Since he lives near enough, he drove there. He found a group of couple dozen people on the far edge of town with signs and a woman dressed in voluminous white (good photo contrast, apparently). No bystanders, nobody else joining in. Eventually, the police arrived, and told the people to disperse. They did. It was a photo-op, after all.

Then there was a woman in the middle of the town collecting signatures for recalling local politicians. In full view, by the cathedral, near the police patrol. Not many signatures, but she did get herself arrested, and walks away between two policemen smirking victoriously. Another photo-op.

In this topsy turvy world, communist Belarus lives normally, while in shut down, democratic Victoria, Australia they are arresting people and confiscating their phones and computers for so much as mentioning compulsory-mask protests on the interwebs. Strange, is it not? I am rooting for a system I once fled, and on principle oppose. Because there are worse things that can come to a small naïve country. Like wolves in sheep’s clothing.

 

I have done a bit of research into ways of having a good death when Death already stands over your shoulder. First I want to make clear what I am not speaking about.

  1. Physician-assisted suicide. This is a nasty can of worms and invites abuse by people who already wreak a fair amount of harm on their patients. Overriding their oath, already known often in the breach, to “do no harm,” seems like a particularly bad idea. I DO NOT support any such legislation, or any such action. It has turned into the slippery slope that had been predicted when Kevorkian went on a media rampage, with a depressed teenager in Holland recently put to death like an unwanted dog. Horrible, unthinkable, criminal.
  2. I DO NOT support suicide. The suicide of unhappy, often depressed or PTSD-affected soldiers and others, is an awful thing to do to self, which CAN heal, to those who love the person, and the whole world which has lost the potential love and other gifts this person may have conferred. I support a society that views suicide as a wrong against the universe-given self, and a tragedy all around. Life is an improbable gift; a good society recognizes it and does everything to help people treasure it.
  3. There are some people (viz below) who speak of “self-deliverance” which sort of mixes everything together, including lethal injections by doctors. Weirdly enough, when you search online for self-deliverance, most links that come up are about deliverance from demons. As well they might, the way pro-euthanasia groups have behaved, and the kind of legislation they have at times pushed for.

I speak of a self-chosen departure when natural departure is imminent, and continued existence is virtually certain to entail profound suffering. Some people may indeed choose the natural way, even if it means hospitals and ICUs. But generally, we do not wish it on other people; we recoil in horror, reading of or observing the suffering natural death often enough entails. We do not wish it on animals either, whether a beloved pet, or a wounded deer on the side of the road. There is no spiritual benefit by choosing more suffering over less.

In my foray into dying proper, I have obtained a rather well-known book Final Exit (third revised edition) by Derek Humphry. It is a disappointment, and I do not recommend it. It does have some useful things to say, and I will quickly summarize them. His advice is to discuss your wishes with your loved ones, to write them down, best in a document called Advanced Directive (Living Will and Power of Attorney for Health Care), that letters be written to loved ones, and to study carefully the options before you well before you need them. So far so good.

I want to add that I do not see a legal prescription of drugs that can (if so chosen) be used to hasten one’s departure, as doctor-assisted suicide. The doctor need not know. When I was dying of cancer, opiates were prescribed to me freely, and that is how it should be. Only the drug war stands in the way of people having access to the drugs they need, for whatever reason. I am opposed to treating adults like children who cannot be trusted to make their own decisions. Oh, on alcohol and tobacco, the biggest killers, free access to adults, and in the time of covid, an essential business! But opiates for people in pain? Let’s crack down! Let them buy it off the street and perish! Sigh. Another story.

So back to Final Exit. The foreword, and actually, most of the book is shameless propaganda for euthanasia, and I will not use that word again, except as in veterinary practice.

When it comes to self-hastened death, there are various options. Humphry dwells a lot on techniques that are fast and certain, in his opinion, as though prolonged sleep from which a person may wake is anathema. He discusses many suboptimal options, like cyanide poisoning and self-injecting oneself with a large amount of air. Not a good way to die, apparently, though fast. He also spends a whole chapter on more bizarre ways to die, via ovens, intentional freezing to death, household cleaners, large doses of aspirin, and poisonous plants. There is a chapter on death by starvation. Another on carbon monoxide poisoning in a car. A detailed and creepy chapter on putting a plastic bag over one’s head and taking some sleeping pills. Ugh. There is a thoughtful chapter on “when” and a strange chapter on dying along with your partner. Another one has a checklist of all to do just before.

Well, the “good” options are as follows:

  • Drug overdose (he favors barbiturates, particularly Nembutal, not opiates, and briefly mentions a few others, less suitable)
  • Inert gases (e.g. helium)

And that’s it. The reason he does not like opiates is that the killing dose for one person may not kill another, they’d wake up, and could end up in a psychiatric ward. Or the last sleep may last many hours (apparently that is counted as an inconvenience in his world). As I had mentioned, he seems rather obsessed about doing it quickly. To my mind, doing it slowly makes more sense, as long as I make sure I don’t end up in the psychiatric ward.

Apparently, his more recent book, only available online as an ebook, goes into greater detail on how to kill yourself with helium. Yes, a plastic bag over your head is part of it, you should practice beforehand, and it takes about 30 minutes to die. And if you should be found and rescued, expect brain damage and paralysis. I think I’ll pass.

My own take: barbiturates are quite difficult to obtain (even in Mexico, he notes), as they have been replaced by benzodiazepines as the prescription drugs for sleep and anxiety. He never comments on what one feels with barbiturate overdose, only that the taste is horrible and best washed down by a stiff drink. In fact, the pills are so nasty that antiemetics should be taken prior. Yay. Oh and if you should perchance wake from an uncertain dose, you may be kidney-damaged. Or you may stay awake and take days to die. I am sitting here scratching my head. Compared to a slow dreamy passing via an approximate dose of poppy derivatives? They are relatively easy to obtain, store well for a long time, taste fine, you’ll enjoy the feeling as you drift away, and if you should wake after all, all you need to worry about is constipation. End of story.

I wonder what Derrick Jensen is doing these days. Western civilization is being destroyed, but it’s not about helping the salmon. The people out vandalizing, hating on our inheritance, felling statues of anyone and everyone that come to hand, craven politicians presiding over the ruin of America’s cities, allowing crime to escalate, encouraging the homeless and the insane to camp on the sidewalks where shit and used needles mix with the garbage… these are not people hoping and willing to go without ready electricity so that salmon might live. The civilization they are destroying is not the one Derrick used to criticize so evocatively.

There are two very different ways of thinking about civilization. On one hand, it’s the one begun in Mesopotamia – the predatory culture centered on cities and relying on plundering the hinterlands, evolving better and better technologies, but using them too often to subjugate neighbors and destroy the wilds. But there is another kind of civilization much, much older, and the very first large settlements still show its evidence. Being civilized also means being civil. Knowing how to be civil. How to show restraint and fairness, and aim for balance of power. Having the skills to solve conflicts peacefully, to create economies that cycle rather than grow obsessively and endlessly, being courteous, respecting women (and men as well), paying attention to the widow and the orphan as the biblical prophets put it. It means talking out disagreements. It means thinking things through for the good of the community. It means altruistic punishment, being willing to stick one’s neck out to penalize behavior that spreads waves of harm through human settlements and destroys the work of ancestors without remorse. It means thinking of the seventh generation. It means the Golden Rule.

That kind of civilization emerged in our tribal days. When the Iroquois Confederacy came to be, what was it but a great civilized invention? When a form of governance was invented that brought peace among tribes caught up in endless wars, wasn’t that civilized? When the matrons had significant control over the chiefs, and both sexes shared power, though in different ways, wasn’t that civilized? When the Eskimos learned to watch their Big Men supercarefully, being willing to even risk one’s own life in challenging such a person if they got out of hand, wasn’t that civilized? On the other hand, when Cahokia descended into mass human sacrifice, later followed on that path by the Aztecs and preceded by the later Sumerians, that was descent into barbarism, wasn’t it, despite their fancy pyramids that remain to this day.

There are many accounts of the early contacts with American Indians, before things fell apart into mutual acrimony, hatred, and massacre, of the Indians being more “Christian” than the newly arrived Europeans. More charitable, more thoughtful in their community debates and governance, admirably eloquent, and living in such ways that freedom – to speak one’s thoughts, to follow one’s dreams, to explore and to enjoy life – was promoted. They even had ways to turn captured enemies into friends and relations by adoption. So many rather “barbarian” settlers longing for something better ran away to the Indians that laws had to be passed to stanch the flow. And Indians raised among the whites mostly went back to the tribal ways whenever they could. Among the “savages” a person could live better and freer than in the joyless Calvinist villages of the former Europeans. It is said that the stubborn leaning away from monarchy that worked its way among the Colonists like hidden mycelium until it came to fruit in the American Revolution was fed by acquaintance with, and inspiration by, the Indian ways.

The destruction of the West follows a different pattern. Rioters and vandals are celebrated and excused, criminals are elevated to martyrdom, people who refuse to say black is white and red is blue are hounded and “cancelled” – their livelihoods ruined, their lives turned into a nightmare as the mob pursues them. The center no longer holds. What is unlawful is allowed, even encouraged, and what is lawful is ridiculed or punished. Fakery proliferates and psychopathic behavior thrives. Bizarrely, civility is attacked as white privilege. Truth is spat upon as insults and lies proliferate like viruses. None of these self-designated “revolutionaries” would survive in a widespread lower technology and energy, and high civility civilization that Jensen (and many a doomer) wants. Wiser, more civil civ could have grown out the voracious caterpillar of capitalism that has brought unimagined wealth to common people all around the world, but that option is being foreclosed upon before our eyes.

It takes no skill to throw a rock through a store window. It takes a lot of skill to make even simple glass. Such a civil civilization would require a high level of skills, not only for securing food, local safety, and mostly lower-tech comforts, but also for cooperative problem-solving and non-violent communication. Both are needed for survival once the high tech fabric that covers us all begins to shred. Both could help the salmon.

Sometimes I wonder if the chaos will bring forth another Hitler, just as the chaos and misery of the Weimar Republic brought forth the one we knew not so long ago, and his minions. If the psychopathic chaos-makers wanted to help one rise, this is one effective way. But on the other hand, there is always the quiet terror of Orwell’s 1984. Sneaky drugs, fancy machines, ear on the phone, endless and pointless blather everywhere, ignorance of history, reckless destruction of cultural and political inheritance, endless sloganeering, totality in a 21st century garb, where people are muzzled by masks everywhere for the rest of their lives and never connect with another human being in public, ever again. Groupthink is holy. Free speech is hate speech. Perversion is righteous. Pedophilia is just another lifestyle choice. Und Arbeit macht frei.

And the salmon continue to die.

And the salmon continue to die.

One of the recent books that captivated me was Michael Pollan’s How to change your mind. There are plenty of reviews out there, and this will not be a review. It’s more of a critique – not of him, but of the paradigm into which psychedelics have fallen. The book is recommended: a well written, relatively sober compendium of history, current research, and the author’s excursions into tripping with several substances.

The book is specifically about psychedelics, mostly magic mushrooms and LSD. These substances are non-addictive (some call them anti-addictive since they have been used to cure addictions), they quit working if used often, and are among the safest drugs out there, medicinal or not.

Psychedelics are used in modest, “esthetic” doses, and in heavy doses, which can lead to temporary ego disappearance and to mystical and healing experiences, as well as scary “bad trips” and poor decision-making. They have been of late used in microdoses (1/10th of the usual dose) to boost creativity and counter depression.

Pollan dwells mostly on the positives, and to simplify his long argument, these are as follows:

  • The experience can open up a crack in the edifice of materialist rationality
  • It offers the possibility of a mystical experience with greater ease than other methods like fasting or deep meditation
  • People who experience the ego-less state are inclined to think of consciousness as a property of the universe (rather than of brains), which tends to undermine secularism; mysticism might be an antidote to fundamentalism
  • Psychedelics can boost creativity and problem-solving capacity
  • They can help people overcome the fear of death, and change the experience of dying for the better
  • They can send a person or a culture down a new path that turns out positive
  • They can provide an active eucharist for a religion (e.g. União do Vegetal (UDV))
  • The radical suggestibility they occasion can, in the right hands and guided by firm ethical boundaries, lead to alleviation or cure of a variety of problems that plague humans, from stuttering to alcoholism
  • Coming out of the more profound version of the experience often allows the user to see the world “as if newly created” and caught up in the NOW
  • Pollan also suggests that they would “heal humankind” but fails to provide evidence (viz negatives).

Psychedelics at one time caused a moral panic in America, and I am still trying to understand the basis of the negative perception of these experiences among conservative folks that seems little affected by changed understanding and new research. Rod Dreher, a well-known conservative blogger, got attacked by his readership for doing a friendly review of Pollan’s book. I believe that if conservatives dared to venture into the psychedelic world, they could positively affect its cultural context, as well as add invaluable insights and language not linked to the left counterculture.

Now to list the negatives, as I understand them so far.

  • Psychedelics can trigger psychosis in vulnerable individuals, esp. where psychosis runs in families
  • The mystical experience they often occasion can lead to ego inflation and messianic complexes (like “healing humankind”:-); as well as a dubious sense of certainty
  • And can foster a feeling of invulnerability in turn leading to injury or death (admittedly rarely)
  • Temporary dissolution of the ego can be very frightening
  • They can lead to bad trips esp. in situations where set and setting has not been attended to, and users lack psychological/spiritual skills to deal with scary imagery and threatening entities
  • The experience of “unity consciousness” can mislead people into black and white thinking, seeing “separation” as undesirable and the self as prison
  • Radical suggestibility makes the individual wide open to manipulation and propaganda, and insufficient attention has been paid to this in the guidelines for sitters and users
  • Psychedelics have been closely linked to left-oriented counterculture and there is palpable lack of steadying (or just different) input from conservative journeyers and sitters, rebalancing the expectations and reporting of experiences
  • New Age music, altars, and promotion of syncretism has accompanied many settings (which amounts to propaganda and misuse of suggestible openness)
  • They can send a person or a culture down a new path that turns out to be negative, a dead-end street (viz Timothy Leary)
  • They frustratingly lead users to sentimental platitudes

There are two things that bothered me the most. The first is the lack of emphasis on dealing with radical suggestibility. Pollan makes much of the guidelines that have been developed by underground sitters who run psychedelic retreats. And they are indeed essential. But too little attention has been paid to the ethical boundaries of people who find themselves in the position to influence the experience of psychedelic journeyers. What sort of a thing will it do to your inner being to have to listen to New Age music for hours on end? Pollan calls it spa music, yet submits to it without demur. Even when it leads him to “places” he very much dislikes.

The second thing that struck me was the marked lack of spiritual anchoring that results in people accepting sets and settings that abound in New Age artifacts, music, prayer, and symbolism. Pollan admits that he does not have a clue about religion or spirituality, and so he allows himself to be led like a sheep to slaughter. Maybe the ethical guidelines could notice this vulnerability and address it? Just maybe? Since he has no idea how to pray or to make his own altar, he has others with axes to grind do it all for him. Should people diving into deep suggestibility get pushed into other people’s spiritual frameworks? A good idea he stresses is spending time after the experience unwrapping what happened. But is it really helpful to have it done under circumstances of more New Age ideation? There is a moment when his sitter tries to insist that Pollan’s hyperventilation-caused A-fib episode was really a “heart opening.” Pollan rejects that one in no uncertain terms, but there are other examples in the book that could use closer attention.

And finally, I would like it noted that in my view, the people who watch over psychonauts to keep them safe are not Guides, as they call themselves. The guides are the fungi, not the humans, and I find this self-designation presumptuous and inaccurate. “Sitters” is the more common, accurate and quite down-to-earth designation, though, naturally, less ego-inflating.

Don’t get me wrong. A measure of self-inflation is a key survival skill. If we steadily focused on naked reality in its gory glory and our own fragility and mortality and the given hardships of life on this planet, who’d want to carry on? Psychedelics can lift a person up. But even when you get yanked up by a fungal helium balloon, be here now. I am intending to let the fungal wisdom guide me, not my wildly rebounding ego. 🙂

Why am I telling you this? Because I have never taken a heroic dose of a psychedelic, and when I do, I want to do it my way. My guidelines, my rules, my own set and setting. I’ll make it public so that we can all compare notes. I think I’ll skip the music and use the eye shades only intermittently. I’d rather hear the birds or watch the snow falling… Many too many years ago, my magic mushroom experiences (of the modest kind) were always interactive, in the company of other journeyers; on two occasions a sitter was present as well. They were accompanied by visuals of shimmering transparent latticework and Southwestern Indian geometric patterns. Everything in the world seemed hilarious and I was four years old again. But this time, I will go deeper. Stay tuned.

 

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.