Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Poetry of Gary Snyder and Radical Revolution

Editorial Prologue:  Yeah, yeah, I know regular readers of this blog might recall I wanted future posts to be more visually oriented.  But sometimes I'm inspired to just write.  When one of my closest friends left southern California for greener pastures about a year and a half ago, he left behind a collection of Gary Snyder poems titled No Nature.  I finally got around to reading it recently and loved it.  Two poems in particular I found especially inspiring as I felt they reflected my feelings on the conundrum of human existence within the confines of that paradigm we call civilization.  So I put fingers to the keyboard and cooked this blog entry up.  I'm not sure if this blog entry really lends itself to a visual component, but if you really want to see Robert Paulsen give a poetry reading, by all means hit me up in the comments section.  If I can get at least three comments in favor of a poetry reading, I'll film it and edit the post to put the video in!

The Poetry of Gary Snyder and Radical Revolution

Full Definition of radical
1 :  of, relating to, or proceeding from a root: as
a (1) :  of or growing from the root of a plant <radical tubers> (2) :  growing from the base of a stem, from a rootlike stem, or from a stem that does not rise above the ground <radical leaves>
b :  of, relating to, or constituting a linguistic root
c :  of or relating to a mathematical root
d :  designed to remove the root of a disease or all diseased and potentially diseased tissue <radical surgery> <radical mastectomy>

TOMORROW'S SONG by Gary Snyder

The USA slowly lost its mandate
in the middle and later twentieth century
it never gave the mountains and rivers,
              trees and animals,
                       a vote.
all the people turned away from it
            myths die; even continents are impermanent

     Turtle Island returned.
     my friend broke open a dried coyote-scat
     removed a ground squirrel tooth
     pierced it, hung it
     from the gold ring
     in his ear.

We look to the future with pleasure
we need no fossil fuel
get power within
grow strong on less.

Grasp the tools and move in rhythm side by side
     flash gleams of wit and silent knowledge
                            eye to eye
sit still like cats or snakes or stones
     as whole and holding as
                            the blue black sky.
gentle and innocent as wolves
                            as tricky as a prince.

At work and in our place:

     in the service
     of the wilderness
     of life
     of death
     of the Mother's breasts!

War, politics, economics, energy.  These are all concepts intrinsic to human civilization.  War is the continuation of politics by other means, politics is the continuation of economics by other means, economics is the continuation of energy by other means.  While the concept of energy may not originate with human civilization, it is intrinsic and in contrast with the other three continuations of it, energy alone is separate from humanity as a part of nature.  Try as we might to show how sophisticated we are with our ever expanding technological advances, we can't escape the fact that we are a part of nature and disregarding the significance of this not only has repercussions on the natural world around us, but also on the very civilization so many in vanity try to place above the natural world.

If there is one concept intrinsic to human civilization that connects energy to its most direct continuation, economics, it is money.  As with technology in general, it is a concept that many of its most ardent advocates like to pretend is divorced from the natural world; that all the currency manipulation, derivatives and speculators rise above such terrestrial inconveniences as natural resources.  But our monetary system is predicated on infinite growth.  And you cannot have infinite growth on a finite planet.  This is an important concept to grasp if you really care about a real revolution in human civilization that is truly radical, if you define radical as mentioned above, proceeding from a root

We must get to the root of what truly ails us.  Every symptom of the sickness ailing society, income inequality, student debt, global warming, famine, you name it - all borne out of the same root problem: human civilization uses a monetary system predicated on infinite growth on a finite planet.  A metastasizing malignant cancer on our seven billion strong and growing human body that is destined for destruction - all we have to do is maintain business as usual to watch this prognosis play out.  Unless you change the way money works, you change nothing.  It's easy to get confused and think the answer to this problem lies in how we distribute money.  Capitalism doesn't work so try socialism.  Socialism doesn't work so try communism.  Communism doesn't work so try capitalism.  A shell game solving some symptoms, exacerbating others.

So maybe the problem is money itself.  Maybe the problem is that the way money is currently constituted - fiat currency, fractional reserves, compound interest - is intrinsically a Ponzi scheme.  Money is debt when it is predicated on an infinite growth system.  That's regardless of whether your standard is pegged to gold, silver or the almighty buck.  So how do we make the root of our monetary system more aligned with the natural world?  Maybe the answer is to change the way money is currently constituted so that instead of being predicated on debt, it is predicated on energy.  Specify and detail exactly how energy is utilized in our society; both the energy found in natural resources and the human energy of our labor.  To insure the replacement of the Infinite Growth paradigm with sustainability, insist on renewable natural resource usage and re-localize economic allocations to sustain human energy and prioritize fair labor practices.

This new system will address all the symptoms that ail us.  Until, like every other continuation of energy in the past, human beings find a way to corrupt that system.

So maybe the root problem is the continuation itself.  When did human beings first abandon their direct connection with the natural world of energy in favor of developing that civilized continuation we call economics?  I believe this occurred with the advent of agriculture.  We've been on a collision course with our own extinction ever since.  Not because agriculture itself is inherently environmentally corrosive, but because of the human greed that made agriculture inherently totalitarian as described by Daniel Quinn: "it all belongs to us: everything; every bit of it and we can do with it what we want."

So maybe if we abandon our continuations, i.e. civilization, we'll get a truly radical revolution that addresses the real root problem: greed.

Not that that will solve all our problems.  We're only human.


The country surrounds the city
The back country surrounds the country

"From the masses to the masses" the most
Revolutionary consciousness is to be found
Among the most ruthlessly exploited classes:
Animals, trees, water, air, grasses

We must pass through the stage of the
"Dictatorship of the Unconscious" before we can
Hope for the withering-away of the states
And finally arrive at true Communionism.

If the capitalists and imperialists
          are the exploiters, the masses are the workers.
                    and the party
                    is the communist.

If civilization
          is the exploiter, the masses is nature.
                    and the party
                    is the poets.

If the abstract rational intellect
          is the exploiter, the masses is the unconscious.
                    and the party
                    is the yogins.

comes out of the seed-syllables of mantras.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Our Road Trip to the Columbia Icefield, Yellowstone and Beyond

We've taken a lot of road trips over the years, but this May my wife and I decided to take what we called the "mother of all road trips."  We've traveled over the past decade through the western part of the United States; usually our road trips lasted anywhere from a weekend to a whole week and the most miles we ever drove probably added up to 1,500 miles round trip.  This trip lasted two weeks, extended beyond U.S. borders into Canada, and added up to 2,596 miles round trip!

We started early Saturday morning May 7 driving up the I-5 to southern Oregon to spend some time with my relatives.  I was able to spend Mother's Day with my mother as well as my 98 year old grandmother, who had recently taken a bad fall but was still able to see us in the hospital.  Then we headed up to northern Oregon in Tigard, which we used as a base for exploring the wineries of the Willamette Valley.  We tasted a number of great wines and saw some spectacular views of the area.

Continuing north on the I-5, we stopped off in Seattle and took an elevator to the observation deck of the Space Needle.  It was my first time visiting the iconic structure featured prominently in the classic 1974 conspiracy thriller The Parallax View, which I wrote about in a previous blog post.  Then we enjoyed a wonderful seafood meal at Ivar's Acres of Clams.  Their deep fried salmon and their salmon chowder was hot, savory and absolutely delicious.

We kept going north, leaving the United States (making sure we had our passports and our courage; the border guard was tough as nails) and heading into Canada to spend the night in Vancouver.  After viewing the city and mountainous horizon from the Vancouver Lookout Tower, we drove up Transcontinental Highway 1 on our way to Kamloops.  While the city of Kamloops was situated in a beautiful valley and we had a wonderful dinner at their local diner Harold's Family Restaurant (absolutely the best french fries ever - I'm not kidding - extra super crunchy on the outside, not overly salted, soft hot potato inside - and the kicker - served with a side of thick hearty brown gravy.  Must try!) Kamloops was just a one night stopover on our way to what for me was the ultimate destination, Canmore.

Located right outside of Banff National Park, Canmore is surrounded by Alberta's Rocky Mountains.  The drive from Kamloops to Canmore was an exercise in escalating exhalations.  With each curve of the road, our jaws dropped further as each stunning snow-capped peak would be replaced by a different one, perhaps larger, or more jagged, but each an awe-inducing spectacle.  There were other spectacles of nature to view besides mountains: at one point I had to slow from 120 kilometers per hour to zero for a few minutes to allow a young grizzly bear to pass across the highway.  Arriving in Canmore Friday May 13, we ate at their local diner Craig's Way Station where I had a great Canadian burger for dinner, then bought sandwiches at Tim Horton's to go for lunch the next day.  We tried to go to bed at 10pm, but were amazed to look outside to see the sun hadn't set yet!

The next day, Saturday May 14, is what I consider to be the pinnacle of our trip, the Columbia Icefield.  We drove three hours through Banff National Park crossing over into Jasper National Park, a drive even more spectacular than the previous day - each side of the road crowned with towering peaks stuffed with ancient glaciers - including crystal clear lakes and all different kinds of wildlife such as rams that we had to slow to allow them to cross the road.  At the Columbia Icefield, we could see the mighty Athabasca Glacier and how global warming had reduced its size over the last century.  It was there that I decided to shoot a video segment for American Judas to demonstrate the difference.

We continued in a specially designed truck to drive us onto the Athabasca Glacier.  There we walked on the glacier, which produced an especially bright glare for which I fortunately remembered to wear sunscreen lotion.  There was a flowing stream of water and we both drank a cup of glacier water.  There is no other water on earth that compares to glacier water.  It is simply the cleanest, clearest, coldest water on earth!  We hadn't planned on doing this on what would have been the 73rd birthday of my father - it was one of those serendipitous synchronicities of fate - but remembering how he traveled to 55 countries in his lifetime, it seemed like the perfect moment to honor him.

From there, it was on to Yellowstone!  We stayed in Gardiner, Montana near the Roosevelt Arch at the northern entrance.  We made good on our game plan to reach Old Faithful Inn first thing in the morning, then backtrack on the same road in the afternoon to see what we missed.  That meant getting front row seats for the 9:30am eruption of Old Faithful geyser!  Then we explored the Upper Geyser Basin, encountering many geysers, pools and buffalo.  After that, we drove to Fountain Paint Pot and Mammoth Hot Springs before heading back to Gardiner for dinner at the Two Bit Saloon.

In many ways this was the most rigorously scheduled of any of our road trips - some of our daily drives lasted over 10 hours and chewed up over 700 miles from one destination to the next - so we researched as many nitty-gritty details as possible to know where the next gas stop (at the cheapest price) was, where the next meal (sometimes stuffed in a freezer bag) could be munched and what points of interest might be observable along the way.  But sometimes my wife and I would learn something new upon reaching our destination of something not on the itinerary that we just had to check out.

That was what happened on the last leg of the trip in Las Vegas.  While staying at the El Cortez downtown, we read about a brand new land art installation just outside of Vegas at Jean Dry Lake.  It's called Seven Magic Mountains and this creation by artist Ugo Rondinone consists of seven stacks of enormous multi-colored totems.  Seeing such a bright playful exhibit amidst such a stark dry atmosphere was the kind of experience my wife and I yearn for as travelers.

This was really a transformative trip for us.  Shooting and watching so much video, like the one from Columbia Icefield I posted above, made me realize the power of images and how I would like to create more video-oriented posts for American Judas both here and on my new Youtube channel.  But there were so many other great adventures my wife and I experienced outside the scope of what I usually explore here that we've decided to create our own separate blog!  I'm very excited about this joint venture and hope that you will check it out along with all the great pictures and videos we're posting!

Our new blog is:

Please subscribe to our Youtube channel and be sure to check us out on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.  We hope to update our blog and Youtube channel once a week, while I'll still try to stick to once a month entries here.  I'll still try to find new things to write about (shouldn't be too difficult with all the crazy things happening in the world today) but I also hope to revisit previous entries by updating them with Youtube videos that will add a new dimension.  Stay tuned!