Wednesday, December 04, 2013


Brian Kahn is a handsome, broad-shouldered lawyer married to a beautiful artist.  He runs an organization of inquiry and advocacy.   He’s from California, but I try not to hold it against him.  (I’m in Montana, but too far north in the state for him to visit.  Anyway not in winter.)  He has a weekly public radio interview show, which is archived online. You can listen to it by streaming Yellowstone Public Radio or by going to the archive. Here's the link:   

Last night’s program (Dec. 3) was about Montana kids defined as “crazy” when in fact it is their families who are insane if not in jail.  Brian interviewed two female clinical psych workers who constantly work to “wrap around” these families and get them operating again.  They say,  “We don’t push them away.  We pull them in close to talk to them, even if they kick us in the shins.  We want to know them.”  They try to avoid meds.

They presented a composite story of a young woman with all the “ten indicators” of psychosis and explained them.  (The list I found online has 11.  Same stuff.)  They do what is sometimes called “acting out.”  Often the kids will replicate what troubles them: assaults, forced sex, stealing, lying, fantasy, running away, destruction, drinking, drugs.

  • Feeling very sad or withdrawn for two or more weeks
  • Seriously trying to harm or kill yourself, or making plans to do so
  • Sudden overwhelming fear for no reason, sometimes with a racing heart or fast breathing
  • Involved in multiple fights, using a weapon, or wanting badly to hurt others
  • Severe, out- of-control behavior that can hurt yourself or others
  • Not eating, throwing up or using laxatives to make yourself lose weight
  • Intensive worries or fears that get in the way of daily activities
  • Extreme difficulty in concentrating or staying still that puts you in physical danger or causes school failure
  • Repeated use of drugs or alcohol
  • Severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships
  • Drastic changes in your behavior or personality
Sometimes I respond to Brian and he always acknowledges it.  This time I said:  “Our culture itself is abusive:  we require things that are not possible, we punish their failure with violence and confinement, we are all obsessed with sex defined as domination, and we wonder why marriages fail.  Money is the measure of all things.

“Who 'wraps around' a culture?  Religion?  Government?  Media?

“If Pope Francis can take it on, why can't we?   The planet may be turning.”

In response, Brian sent me a copy of  Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium on the Proclamation of the Gospel in Today's World (24 November 2013)  which has flipped the Catholic world on its ear with surprise and on its face with gratitude!   Pope Francis has captured the flag. 

I replied to Brian:

"Yes, I've been following Francis and the talk about him.  Because of having been a minister and because of being an alumni of the U of Chicago Divinity School, I'm on mailing lists that follow discussion of any and all new developments and the Pope has their full attention.

There are a few ways he needs to go even deeper, but he's certainly a powerful focus on the right issues."

The things I note below are crippling the Catholic (basically Roman) convictions.  They are far more important than who gets to be a priest (Just DO it -- you don’t have to be ordained -- and there are far more sexual orientations than male/female.)

1.  There are too many people.  We will HAVE to come to some kind of birth control.

2.  Institutions always put first their own self-perpetuation.  The only reason the Pope can talk like this is that the cardinals realize that without change the Catholics will die out -- already are except in the Southern Hemisphere. Denominations try to promote their specialness at the expense of others and by doing so, eventually devalue themselves --  indeed, the whole concept.

3.  Underneath all the dogma and talk and service to the least of these has to be an empowering connection to the nonverbal FELT sacredness of the world in all its sensory richness.  To put all the emphasis on something in "another world" where rewards are deferred until after death is a vulnerability.  To make a humongous humanoid the object of felt sacredness doesn't work for all of us.

This is the mammal that survived the dinosaurs.  That's a radio transmitter on it's neck.

Brian Kahn has clearly been thinking about evolution, but he is still seeing "survival of the fittest" in terms of power and domination.  He has forgotten the lesson of the mammal, which in its teeny furry long-nosed prey form ran between the toes of the dinosaurs and proved therefore more FIT for a new world.
At the same time that I’m talking to Brian via email, I’m talking to Helen Macdonald in Cambridge, England.  She is a professor there, a woman who flies hawks, and one of the finest writers I’ve ever read, believe me.

I was going back and forth with her on Twitter where she had posted the dismaying news that peregrine falcon populations in the north are being killed by unseasonable rain, which soaks the chicks and makes them hypothermic.  This is climate change diminishing habitat.  So I asked for examples of climate change expanding habitat, because climate change is habitat change writ large.

Then, since when I went out to feed the feral cats there was a V of traveling geese flying low over town, I proposed a little continuum:  the birds go from one habitat to another by going north/south;  the little mammals (pikas, marmots) adapt by going to higher or lower altitudes; the poor trees cannot migrate as individuals, but perhaps as one edge of forest contracts, another expands; and humans simply change the world to suit us at the expense of all the other habitats.  (Water is the most unmanageable factor in habitats as we notice with increasing desertification and rising seas.)  

Helen notes that an expanding hawk habitat is that of the city where the hawks live on the skyscrapers and eat park pigeons.  Then she says how she loves the cry of the wild geese,  so I posted this for her: .  She didn’t know it.   Too young.  Not a big hit in her circles.  But it’s key to mine since the day it was on the radio in 1950.  (I was eleven years old.) A great cure for depression, a clear clamor for moving on.  A vital use of the Internet to time travel.

Brian is operating out of a different paradigm than I am.  He believes in organizations, rule structures, exceptional and inspired individuals, rational argument.  He replies:   “SEEMS TO ME PART OF THIS IS GETTING LOST IN THE WEEDS OF PERSONAL VIEWS WHILE IN FRONT OF YOU IS A NEW, CLEAR, GLOBAL VOICE FOR ESSENTIAL -- AND I MEAN ESSENTIAL -- ECONOMIC SANITY.”  

It’s my challenge of what is “fitness” that is too weedy and personal for him.  His personal idea of success is opposite to mine, which is to have the freedom to be poor and write all day -- NO meetings!!  More of a bird-watcher approach.  I propose that what is endangered in one place is the “fittest” in another.  It may be that “psychotic” and delinquent kids who have been annealed in a family fire will be the ones who are tough and devious enough to create a culture that protects the hawk in the arctic as well as the child in the streets.   

The habitat of the human being is impalpable and ineffable and unpredictable.  It is here.  It is a song sung long ago but preserved in human hearts and technology.

Brian says:

I'm amazed you found that 10+-year old site.  It was created for a film and is obsolete, including the contact info.

In my view,  you have not accurately summarized what I believe in.  I don't remember if you've read my book, REAL COMMON SENSE -- it says what I believe. 

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