Saturday, November 30, 2019


So it starts with a one-celled blob that develops a nucleus.  All it knows is to go towards edibles and away from threats.  Some of what it eats are other blobs that keep their identity and become "inclusions."  This goes on until meiosis teaches how to make replicas that stagger, stutter, bind bits of other blobs in their protein-patterning, learn new things.  Evolve.

Once creatures get to the stage of having vertebra in a line to organize two sides, they are on their way to us.  Soon they were "your inner fish", then reptiles, and next mammals.  Each stage of development built on what came earlier, adding and subtracting as the situation allowed or demanded.  Then came primates and in maybe a hundred versions, the hominins.  This is a more fantastic and elaborate story than God making little people out of mud, but not that different.  We are humanoids because we came from humus, we are emergent from the earth we stand on.

But we have trouble with our operating manual.  That's a joke.  Jokes depend on consciousness of mismatch, inappropriateness, thinking blunders.  There is no operating manual.  We are like Navajo or Inuit encountering their first fire-driven internal combustion engines, carefully taking it all apart and saving the pieces, hoping we can put it back together.  When they do, they are masters.  But we're mostly still teenagers jumping in, cranking the music to blast, and driving off in all directions.

So mammals still have a lot of reptile instructions in them and humans still have more than ninety percent mammal directions for operation, but only a small percentage of humans is conscious.  We're very proud of our consciousness and use it to consider ourselves.  Still, more than ninety percent of what we think we know is wrong, often merely because we gave the parts and functions names based on what we used to know instead of what we know now.  It is hard to see new things before clearing the old convictions out of the way.  (See LeDoux.)

Another boundary is the difficulty of understanding how an MRI works if one's own tools are only hammer and pliers.  Defiantly, people are working hard to understand what it is an MRI or fMRI and other instruments tell us about ourselves.  

Human beings want to know about what is beyond our ability to know.  We know we have limits, we keep finding more of them, we don't know what we don't know and never will because humans are limited by their vulnerability, their existence in a world they can only access through the use of tiny electromagnetic codes in the aggregation of one-cells that are their bodies.  Humans only last a century, if that.  We seem to work by aggregating patterns in brain circuits derived from experience, which is an accumulation of sensory information, including some information about what the body is doing to function, though most of that is unconscious,

For a few centuries we've been distracted by the idea of a "brain in a bucket" as the primary identity, but now we know it is experience through time that makes us -- as much pushing against each body as each body pushing against the world.  It can have as many dysfunctions as any auto engine, from missing parts to lack of fuel.  

For those who worship computers and add them to cars, consider that one day I had an old car that misbehaved until a smart mechanic took a look.  "It's the computer," he said, and cut the connecting wire.  Then the car worked fine.  It was like cutting the prefrontal cortex of the brain, the part behind the forehead, a lobotomy, removal of that lobe.  Then the human is just a mammal again.  There is a body of literature about what that means.  Ask Tennessee Williams.  Ask a Kennedy.

We want to know about religious experience and God, access to what can't be known by any mammal means, unthinkable but felt by some.  If we run magnetism or electricity through certain parts of the brain, we feel it, or symptoms of it.  But we still don't know the meaning of the universe.

So if we're not scientists we resort to lots of stories: who did what, where they went, what they found, and what it did to them.  Many were destroyed.  Some went and hid.  Others fit into patterns offered by the rotation and tipping of the planet, the ceremonies of climate, the intimacy of another person who miraculously understands us, and the invention of new codes.  Not just those in science but also those of what we call, after ourselves, "humanities," meaning music, books, paintings, and opera.  That sort of thing.

Then there are the biological patterns of family, one person coming out of two other persons and being received into a little circle of people.  When this gets fucked up, there is great damage.  Sometimes great damage drives achievement and insight beyond what one circle knows.  Sometimes that circle is respectful and rewarding.  Sometimes the difference scares or offends them and they destroy that person.

We invent codes of communication and try to use them from one person or one culture to another, with enormous emotional effect that results in cathedrals and wars.  We have never found another kind of being that has bigger and more inclusive ideas than ours, but we imagine them in hopes that we can be like children again and let someone else do the hard and fatal effort of being alive on a planet.  When that doesn't happen, we destroy our sojourn as hominins, not the planet which goes on without us, forever changed.

Porges proposes that the third vagal autonomic nerve connects our brain to the "frame of expression" which is the face, the heart/lungs, and the voice.  This is an instrument of attachment and intimacy, of sharing that needs a new name beyond "empathy," because it is liminal, both sacred and plastic, a virtual kind of contact that not everyone can achieve.  This is the highest human skill we know right now. You could ask for the books for Christmas.

Friday, November 29, 2019


I'm  off my self-imposed rule of 1,000 words a day but not off topic.  If you want to keep up, I'm reading and digesting two essays in particular.  This is Joseph LeDoux's blog. He is doing direct research to help break down the 19th century assumptions that prescribe the terminology and assumptions about how humans operate that keep us confused and sometimes damaging.

The other one is from Aeon, by Stephen T. Asma. The title is "Imagination is such an ancient ability it might precede language."  Google should make it come up.

I tried reading a chapter from Barbara Hernstein Smith's newest book, but she has not escaped the  rigid histories except by labeling them.  She hasn't looked beyond.

We MUST look beyond to something like what Paul Tillich (who had a gift for phrases) called "The Ground of Being."  Otherwise there is no escape from our cage of thesis/antithesis/
hypothesis, an adversarial binary -- both of which we need to escape.

I'm high-lighting, making lists, looking up definitions, etc.  I recommend these practices.

Thursday, November 28, 2019


These are my mother's parents.  It was thought for a while they could get rich raising turkeys, esp. since Ethel already raised chickens and the work would be hers.  John traveled to do contract building.  They had four daughters. The oldest was my mother.  Her mother died of cancer before I can remember.  My mother lived to 89.  Not everyone dies young.


This is from the Finney side of the family, an album page made by a Finney cousin who does this for a business.  The little vignette at the top is a couple I met a few times when they were much older.  The oval at the top right is my grandmother and grandfather, their wedding photo.  

Then on the right side is a photo of cousins I never met. Below that is a WWII photo of three generations.  I am on my uncle Seth's knee.  He was a handsome bomber and cargo plane pilot.  Retired next to a golf course, soon felled by a stroke.  

The photo I value the most is the big one of Finneys.  The woman in the middle is Beulah Swan Finney Strachan.  Her first baby was premature and died in a little over two weeks.  The other, Mary, married very young and died in childbirth.  One of the boys died an alcoholic.  Families at a certain stage seem invulnerable.  None are.


Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Squanto, whose real name was Tisquantum, was the inventor of “tisquantum physics,” which premises that everything is relative, especially all one’s relatives, who are always around if there’s a feast but not so much in times of need.  (I’m kidding.)  He crossed the Atlantic four times without dying of a European disease which is better than usual.  He kept getting abducted by various Euros and at the end of his life was for sale for twenty pounds, which is about forty dollars today (unadjusted), which (also today) is about the price of a little boy on the world market.  I am not kidding.  Even the Great Falls Tribune admits it.  You could read all about it on that eminent source of information Wikipedia, although I have to admit that the Wikipedia is very weak on accurate Native American information since it’s mostly written by know-it-all youngish white men from the East Coast of America.

The clergy who sometimes owned Squanto assured him that Jesus loved him so long as he was obedient and they taught him English though few of them learned Patuxet.  (They still talk funny over there on the East Coast and in Europe.)  He lived to be thirty, acting as a peacemaker among tribes, and died rather mysteriously, possibly poisoned by Waupanoags but not with polonium.  (No one had an umbrella to poke him.)  At least he’s famous.

But I’m grateful not to be Squanto, not to be famous, and not to own an umbrella.  I’m grateful to be me, to be here, to have a lot of books and too many cats, but none of it was my doing, really.  It just happened.

I ran my limited knowledge of Squanto past the clerk at the gas station, who is actually an Amskapi Pikuni scholar.  He said he knew all about Squanto, so nevermind telling him anything, and anyway, there have only been two polonium deaths.  (I’m betting he doesn’t own an umbrella.)  We talked about a few other issues, too, like whether there is no word for goodbye in Blackfeet.  He says there is but it’s a bit of a circumlocution, like “not-hello.”  I really like this guy but I don’t buy much gas so I never get to talk to him as much as I want to.  He’s a type not much known or appreciated, but not unlike Squanto, except that he belongs to himself.

Yesterday a scholar referred to me another scholar’s question about a Sixties writer who won big prizes by writing a faux journal patronizing a local Amskapi Pikuni famous for being very old.  In those days it was very “cutting edge” to call the book about this old man “Piegan.”  (Some kids have been troubled because they thought it was the same as “pagan.”  Not.)  The writer, who is dead now, went mad, was confined for a while in Texas, then stumbled drunk through the streets of a minor city until he died.  Never wrote another book. He was a bad man in many ways.  When he came around, Bob Scriver locked himself in the shop and pretended he wasn’t there.  Yet people still think the book is reliable.  

Since this guy used our shop phone to call his editor, always claiming to reverse the charges though I don’t think he ever did (this was before calling cards), I stuck my ears out to see what I could learn.  Mostly what I learned was that his editor (in those days people had editors instead of agents and the publisher paid them instead of the writer paying them) was demanding that he write things more like what people expected to know about Indians.  He had a tendency to write about himself in self-flattering ways, though the book opens with him forcing open a window and climbing into the old man's the empty house, on grounds that they were expecting him and would want him to do that.  I think they were trying to do the same thing Bob did, but forgot to lock that particular window.  Anyway, this semi-scholar wanted to know where this author’s papers were.  As if he HAD papers and as if a drunken madman would put them in a safe place.

Anyway, the point is that a white man forcing himself into the lives of tribal people -- whether or not they are expected -- is no longer a viable concept.  Even book editors sort of realize that.  But then what about my book, “Heartbreak Butte,” about the two years I spent teaching there?   (It’s online. )  What about my Blackfeet name and what about my teasing of the gas station cashier?

The other day I got an email asking for contact with a renegade anthropologist who was also around here in the Sixties.  This inquiry came from Cornwall, England, where the anthro (uncredentialed) grew up with the inquirer, who had some connections with Sioux country, entirely honorable, and assumed that his renegade friend was the same.  Not.  The renegade had become an artifact dealer/stealer and spent time incarcerated for it.  He even stole from white people.  Bob should have locked the door.

On the way to Darrell Kipp’s funeral mass, I stopped in at the Blackfeet Community College library which has come a looooong way, baby.  Most recently, they just finished cataloguing the acquisition of an outstanding collection of books about Indians that was given them by Bob Doerk, a deceased Air Force lieutenant colonel, who then became a banker, and, in addition, a Lewis and Clark and fur trapper aficionado, which led him into an admiration of the Amskapi Pikuni (Blackfeet).  He was tall, intelligent, patient, and capable of managing a dignified interface with the tribe itself.  It’s a huge collection of books, all of them significant and timely.  Not enough of them by Blackfeet themselves.  It takes more time to build authors than it does to build structures.  

Bob Doerk

Doerk was one of the most faithful attenders at Darrell Kipp’s and Rosalyn LaPier’s August Piegan Institute seminars.  He was always interested, comprehending, and diplomatic.  That was better than myself, who holds grudges, pays off old offenses, and pins people to the wall -- which defeated the purpose of the seminars.  The seminars were supposed to dissolve some of the local animosity and urge appreciation.  Doerk was in line with that goal.  His library was a valuable gift since a book these days (including the one I wrote about Bob Scriver) often sells for about forty dollars, or as much as a small trafficked boy, who would be a lot more trouble but a worthy recipient of care and affection.

Some people on Thanksgiving will express gratitude for living in a civilized country, for being good religious folk, for having a nice income and owning in a pleasant house, for living in an advanced technological world where one can visit with a man who is in Cornwall and have a scholarly discussion with a gas station attendant.  I don’t think about turkeys much.  I think about that little boy quite a lot.  And also the seven-year-old grandfather of Darrell Kipp who escaped a winter massacre with only his life but made Darrell possible as well as all the boys and girls inspired by Piegan Institute.  It’s not some romantic fantasy -- it’s reality.  Well, at least as real as I can manage today.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019


Today I was going to tackle the subject of "dark" as in "black" as a metaphor that creeps around in our mental systems with sly reverals.  And here it is, "doin' it", because out every window and clogging the southside screens (which is unusual) is white.  If you've ever been caught on an unfamiliar road in a whiteout, you'll know that it's just as blinding as total darkness.

One terrifying instance was a little group of UU's returning from some event in Butte, returning to Helena.  We were caught on a mountain road.  The driver was Suzanne Dougherty who only had one eye. I was in the back righthand seat where the drop-off down the cliff was feet away.  My job was to give a report, something like Mark Twain, about how far from the edge of the pavement the car was traveling.  The person on the other side had the door open and was looking down, trying to keep track of the yellow center line.  

When it got worse, the only man -- not necessarily the most robust of us -- carried a flashlight and walked ahead of us, using his feet to sense was was underfoot, hoping it wouldn't be slick black ice.  We were all calm.  We were all focused.  We were all together.  I guess that's my homily for the day.

This storm is as bad as forecasted and I no longer feel like a ninny for going into a food panic and filling my storage with food.  I'll eat the frozen stuff first, in case the storm brings down the powerlines.  The gas is working now, but not quite warm enough with wind sucking the heat out of every weak spot and window crack.  I'm wearing only three shirts but one has a quilted lining and one is fleece.  The bottom one is a thin turtleneck from a company called "Heattech" which claims it "makes heat."  This seems to be as true as the weather forecast.  It IS warm.  The not-so-little kittens were watching on their elbows from next to the electric heater, so I fixed a nice box with a soft lap robe next to the heat.  They wrestled in it for a while, then went back to their former curl next to it.

The most interesting metaphors and tropes are always the ones that are outside the box because they are reversible -- dark black can mean evil or it can mean sophistication or it can mean both at once like a little dress at a Manhattan cocktail party.  Same with white.  

A good oxymoron is black and white and red all over, like an embarrassed zebra.  The people who study early languages claim that the first three colors are always black, white and red.  ln fact, the Browning school colors are red and black.  White is a non-color.  Is there any school with white as one of their colors?  Some groups consider blue and green to be the same color.  

There is so much wind that some roofs are blowing clear and it is cold enough that leaks are sealed by ice.  I'm grateful for this.  The roads are closed, if not by authorities then by vehicles slid sideways across the lanes.  I'm grateful I'm not driving in this.  For the exciting story of my heroic trip delivering bronzes to the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, you will need to get my book, "Bronze Inside and Out."  If your library doesn't have it on the shelves, you can ask about Interlibrary Loan.  Or just buy it online.

I have inches of downloaded articles to read.  I'm going to stop writing and go read them.  Maybe I'll come back in a while.  I need more black coffee.  

Tuesday, November 26, 2019


It was obvious that about now there would be too many people and the fossil fuel rackets would be ending.  But I don't think anyone expected that we would be locked in the same dynamics that caused war when I was coming to consciousness in the Forties.  

"The Holodomor was a famine in Soviet Ukraine in 1932 and 1933 that killed millions of Ukrainians. It is also known as the Terror-Famine and Famine-Genocide in Ukraine, and sometimes referred to as the Great Famine or the Ukrainian Genocide of 1932–33." (Wikipedia)  I don't think anyone understood that the unforeseen consequences would be the peopling of the Canadian prairie with very tough survivors and the remainder who found a way to stay there would fight to the death to keep Ukraine independent.

I don't think anyone thought much about how similar the wheat prairie and the corn midwest are to the Russian Ukraine.  Thinkers were preoccupied by the Irish potato famine which also sent a diaspora to North America which was the origin of potatoes in the first place. 

Today's tensions are different in some ways.  Instead of tanks we have predator drones so that rich nations can kill at will without dying themselves.  Even the poor nations can now mail-order small drones that can carry weapons.  The Internet and near-universal access to computers means everyone with a smart phone can watch.  (Easy to get those gizmos if you just steal instead of buying -- and that also applies to a way to recharge batteries.)  

The contraceptive pill makes a huge difference but it turns out that the most effective contraceptive is economic hardship.  We've been bombarded with sexual stimulation so much that behavior is more and more extreme, less and less governed, so that recently a survey indicated that most people think kinks and violence are a natural part of "vanilla" sex.  Also, to support a family takes two people, neither of which has the energy or time to "raise" kids, much less wonder what heights they are "raising" them to.  Without morality, which we don't like because it means nasty stigma for the immoral, blackmail doesn't work very well anymore.  So -- he's done time, so he doesn't bother to marry his women, so he's gay.  Who cares?

The stigma restraints to some behaviors like taking sexual advantage of children, or swindling to get money, or lying to escape consequences, are weakened to such an extent that only the old-fashioned are vulnerable to blackmail.  Very rich people only shrug if the media reveals they are pedophiles, in league with criminals, faking their educations.  The rest of us do, too, because we want to be like rich people.  Our favorite means is living on credit.  Education is so expensive that professionals must be in debt for their whole lives.  (And they're obligated to dress well.)  People know to not get attached to honor or allegiance.  it can provoke attacks, destruction.  Evade hostages by not caring about anyone else.

The consequences we can see coming are unbelievable:  an extinction of much of life, the sixth one we know about but we weren't part of the others.  A climate so different that we may not be able to live in it,  though we created it with a zillion little needs and desires.  The loss of major ecologically-underlain religions that responded to a world we thought was real, so similarly to the lives we now see are temporary.  The losses call into question the very reality of our food, shelter, and water, esp. water.

Science has been our alternative to religion and even in some cases governance, but now that it is a story of limits, esp. human thought limits, we don't like it so much anymore.  Nations and their borders have been a source of control and identity, but now they are so often breached or irrelevant that people escape them and leave behind their sense of who they are.  Money dominates everything, and yet money is not anything -- it's a pretence, a convention.  When they say money is moved to some secret place, nothing really moves.  No gold bars, no pieces of silver -- just records.  If the records are destroyed, the money goes with the lists and sums, no longer attributed to anyone.

The tension between the group -- the small one that begins with attachment  between two people or maybe a small cluster and grows until it is a continental movement -- and the individual whose interests might be served or smashed by the group is not greater or lesser than it used to be, but rather more confused.  What justifies terrorism that destroys innocents?  What justifies the destruction necessary for finding and killing the terrorist leaders, individuals who claim to stand for their community?

What use are the careful studies of how things work if we don't teach the little kids what they need to know to be effective citizens?  If Sesame Street is teaching them to count and be happy, who is teaching them about voting and the Constitution?  What use is the Rule of Law if people see that it is easily redefined, evaded and ignored, as kids learn in school when their parents can intimidate superintendents?

If everyone is writing and memorializing their own lives, but no one is reading because it's not about them, what are books for?  Print exists under glass because it is ephemeral.  A lot of it is about misery anyway.

All this stuff is true.  The best reaction is to laugh.  All this effort and change, but here we are back again with Putin trying to be Stalin so he can starve the Ukrainians into submission while the real action is quietly on the prairies where coastal people never go, just fly over.  The infrastructure was never really completed -- the potholes abide, the electricity has blips, fires are fought by neighbors, and people went to school together.  College is for learning to fix diesel engines so the trucks keep rolling.  

We know that to build a good fire you need as much air as wood.  We know you gotta find a way to survive until the sun comes out and the wind dies down.  If you can get to the local cafĂ©, there will be coffee and neighbors.  Don't make fun of small towns.

Monday, November 25, 2019


Normalizing and re-normalizing have nothing to do with "normal."  They are the most common kind of morality:  looking around to see what everyone else is doing.  It can be positive -- littering and smoking have been quite changed.  Or it can be negative, esp. when it's not something concrete and actual but rather a protocol like doing business.  I could quickly give you fifty examples of "cheating" that have become normal.  Like little omissions on taxes.  Like calling in sick when you aren't.

The most obvious changing norm has been sex, which was clearly fertility based morality and therefore vulnerable to an effective birth control method.  One of the most gut-level rules of fertility is a product of the European practice of inheritance, which treats a genetic descendent of a powerful person as an extension of that person and the woman who produces that descendent as livestock, her children as a crop.  

This has impact on the state-owned and religion-endorsed idea of marriage.  The reason "same sex" marriage between men is objected to is that they don't produce children.  Same sex marriage between women or sex outside marriage produces children who can't be attributed to a specific man.  Marriage among three people is too ambiguous about which is an extension and which is livestock, an asset or extention.

The impact of these assumptions is felt, but the fact that they are arbitrary is not often realized, because sexual matters are veiled in two ways: by romantic notions about attachment and by a kind of anti-romance which is formally "crime" defined by governments or evil defined by religious theory. (Educated Westerners love binary thought as worked out by Greek theory.)

As we are seeing, political dynamics are very much like sexual norms and entwined with them.  The effect of going to democracy, thus eliminating patriarchy as the godhead of kings and tyrants, has been as disruptive as birth control -- we might call it "succession control."  One class works hard to go back to the old way.

But fertility norms are also key to the nature of biological families, the production and attachment/identification of babies being one of the basic structures of society.  Happily, bonding happens that is not fertility-based.  

This is notoriously true of mafia "families" who develop a system of obligation, secrecy, and benefits.  This is inversely related to government functions: if the state is strong, mafia alternative is weak and vice versa.  In the case of the present USA, the state has gone to a new morality, that of wealth, which has allowed a minority to hoard basics like shelter and even justice, excluding huge categories of people.  This has made mafia strong enough to infiltrate government.  Maybe the proof that we've abandoned fertility is the foolishness of the leader's children and the lack of them in many cases.  

Sex is present as a perq of wealth.  Those who cling to the old ways must resort to criminalizing abortion and even more ridiculous stigma or criminal laws, all imposed on women.  We have not tried to use male castration to create a separate class, as we do with livestock.  

This could be treated as a sub-category of presentation. The following is from Wikipedia.  (You know, of course, that classically a "blog" is a web blog, a record of reading websites.)

"Normalization, or social normalization, is the process through which ideas and behaviors that may fall outside of social norms come to be regarded as "normal". In sociological theory, normalization appears in two forms.
First, the concept of normalization is found in the work of Michel Foucault, especially Discipline and Punish, in the context of his account of disciplinary power. As Foucault used the term, normalization involved the construction of an idealized norm of conduct – for example, the way a proper soldier ideally should stand, march, present arms, and so on, as defined in minute detail – and then rewarding or punishing individuals for respectively conforming to or deviating from this ideal. In Foucault's account, normalization was one of an ensemble of tactics for exerting the maximum social control with the minimum expenditure of force, which Foucault calls "disciplinary power". Disciplinary power emerged over the course of the 19th century, came to be used extensively in military barracks, hospitals, asylums, schools, factories, offices, and so on, and hence became a crucial aspect of social structure in modern societies."

"Second, normalization process theory is a middle-range theory used mainly in medical sociology and science and technology studies to provide a framework for understanding the social processes by which new ways of thinking, working and organizing become routinely incorporated in everyday work. Normalization process theory has its roots in empirical studies of technological innovation in healthcare, and especially in the evaluation of complex interventions"

These two definitions are opposed to each other, one dependent on preserving the old ways in spite of a world constantly being changed by technologies, and the other is the technology itself working to change society.  This is not necessarily happy when one thinks of something like the Chinese governments determination to forcibly brain wash minorities in camps.  But try thinking of it in terms of trans-national corporations using advertising and social platforms to create demand for their products, or at least cover for their motives and practises.  They propose a certain age and attraction associated with the practices they want.

The discipline that studies the second definition is still very new and is said here to come out of healthcare, which is more focused on death than birth, but also interested in prevention.  The newly born and the about-to-die are vulnerable populations which survive happily only when the social structure provides something like families to value them.  "Interventions" can quickly become "oppressions."

It is vital for group survival to preserve abnormalities in terms of individuals and groups.  One of the advantages of "freedom" is to allow them to develop and thrive because they are the source of growing edges, the innovations that may save us all in the future.  It is also an advantage of the "dark," the secrets and hiddenness that preserve them,

Sunday, November 24, 2019


Terraforming refers to the theoretical ability to reach an unpopulated planet and change it so that it's like Earth -- at least what we think Earth is like, which depends on where you're from: the Amazon or the Sahara.  But humans on a space ship are likely to insist on a planet that is uniform and like what they know, which is mechanical and technical.  No one thinks of "terriforming" the crew to fit the planet.  But given a bit of time, the space ship will redesign the crew to fit its own design.

DNA is not a bar code.  Bar codes arise from a mercantile set of mind which values inventory and sales prices more than life itself, which is always changing.  Control freak humans would rather change the world than change themselves, even grow.  They often operate on the basis of "brands," packaging, sources, profit, treating abstract concepts as though they were "realities."  Even more problematic, they constantly recreate what they escaped in the past, even though they didn't like it in the first place.  People move to the SW to escape hay fever, and then plant the very same growth that makes them sneeze.

Our policies at the Mexican border -- separating children from families, trying toddlers in court for the crime of being in the wrong place, "adopting" brown children, and holding people in concentration camps -- are creating a tomorrow of relentless hatred and disruption.  Christianity has been guilty of insisting on conformity, the same uniformity, when we know that humans and other living things are infinitely various on many levels as documented by "omics," meaning all the intricate networks of reciprocating relationships that are active in a body, not just the  genome and epigenome.

At the same time, the behavior of long-time politicians has taken inexplicable and contradictory turns -- documented by video as never possible before -- so impossible to account for that people even doubt bribes and threats explain the reversal, instead beginning to suggest the equivalent of something in the water, drugging or infecting.

The following links are to life-preserving forces among people.  They are alive, growing and effective.  But we don't see much about them on Twitter.  Yet they are becoming the equivalent of "religion" with various institutions and networks.  People talk about "the Green New Deal."  That's only part of it.  To quote Ausubel's speech:  "Instead what’s rising up is the return of the repressed. Everyone who has been othered, marginalized and deleted. The poor. Working people. Women. People of color. Indigenous Peoples. Immigrants. LGBTQ people. Young people. The last shall be first after all."  The whole planet will flip. We hope.

Following is a series of links to people who are terriforming the way humans participate in the earth because they are part of it.  They say "caretaking" but that's not quite right.  They are joining it, part of it, being in it and therefore being changed as much as changing.  (I include the whole address in case the link gets broken somehow.)

When Alcatraz was occupied, Vicki Santana, Blackfeet early lawyer, was there.  Saturday, November 23, 2019

My own progression has not been through commitment to one community of humans, though there are several specific groups that I've been part of and have been part of me.  Some tried to claim me as theirs alone but my drive has been down deep through all groups to the bedrock, the existential level that underlies all human life and even on through the bedrock.  I've said geology is next to theology.  There is no god.  There is a planet and the surface on which we live plus its molten heart.  I see them as holy.

This last link is to Terry Tempest Williams and it is an essay rather than a video talk, which is fitting because it's about a writing class.  Wyoming is a little tougher than Montana, arguably, but this is closer to the way I'm thinking.  I  work alone; I don't leave the house.  My experience now is mostly secondhand and remembered.  I say,  "I alone escaped to tell you."

These people are demonstrating another thing  I say sometimes:  "Witness and testify."  In this case it is the Pronghorns who must witness, even as they stand dying, caught in barbed wire.  It is the writers who must testify about what it's like to terrorform Earth into a murdering pit for the sake of profit.  I'll end this a bit short.  Go read this essay.  And at the Winter Equinox, listen to the Paul Winter Consort in the Cathedral of St.John the Divine (PBS if you can't travel there), and think of the Council of the Pronghorn.

Saturday, November 23, 2019


This is a critique of my notion that what I'm proposing is a new developing "religion" that has a different idea of what is sacred and what are rights.  The seed of this idea has been around ever since some renegade insisted on doing things his own way, resisting the group.  But now it is given a new power because of the realization that human limits imposed by what we can sense and what we can make into the individual brain patterns each person makes into "reality" from his or her experience.  

SCIENCE can be considered one way of approaching what actually exists in much the same way as "religion", but says all truth is provisional.  We cannot predict what we will discover next and how it will change our picture of the world.  Yet this is what "religions" propose, because even high Buddhism has some kind of operating premise that it recommends to humans. 
This quote is from the recent article linked.  

The critique is sometimes framed as "solipsism" or "narcissism" or "being in a bubble."  This version brings in "market worship and cultural deconstruction."  Yet he wants to bring people together and ground them in their communities through labor unions.  This assumes a boxed kind of reality depending on employers and employees. 

Prometheus was a kind of Pre-Jesus who gave humans control of fire and all the benefits from its use.  For that act, he was hardly "unmoored."  Instead he was chained to a rock while an eagle perpetually ate his liver.  Maybe that's the state of modern America.  But metaphors have limits, even the catchy ones we use to defend what we want to do anyway, like save ourselves and not our enemies.

Alongside the political thrashing that keeps making holes in our lives, a competing disaster tries for our attention, one that cannot be affected by individuals.  Planetary climate disaster is interfering with our ability to produce food, an ability is that is so distant from many people as to be invisible.  Not only are drought, storm, floods, uncontrollable fire, disease, and high temperatures preventing crops and livestock, but also the people who have the expertise and desire to know how to farm are being destroyed.  This economic disaster undercuts infrastructure and compensation -- it is too widespread to save millions of people.  In the past the world's population has been cut in half.  In the future there may be a much smaller percentage surviving, if any. 

Skyscrapers will be of no use. Fish will more important than hydroelectric dams.  The first thing to fail may be our power grid and our satellite web.  No one so far has even been able to provide dependable voting machines.  Forming local institutions and protecting local identities must take second place.  A new "religion" must be planetary.

We thought GPS and NatSav had replaced maps, but then the magnetic north pole moved (it's done that repeatedly, which we forgot) and everything had to be recalibrated.  We know the importance of safe water for humans but whole populations, including American indigenous reserves, have none.  The planet, indeed "reality", does not respond to desire or tragedy or any human moral and emotional context.  The universe does not care about any particular life form or that mode of creation.  It simply exists and we can adapt to it or die.

Blood Quantum Entanglement posting on Twitter says:  "Reminder that electric vehicles run off your extant grid.  Which means Teslas arent fed by Energon cubes or Tesseract energy. They're coal-powered in a really inefficient, roundabout manner."  Not enough.  Not enough.

"This is a case of what Professor Thomas-Homer Dixon, University Research Chair in the University of Waterloo’s Faculty of Environment, describes as “synchronous failure”—when multiple, interconnected stressors amplify over time before triggering self-reinforcing feedback loops which result in them all failing at the same time. In his book, "The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity and the Renewal of Civilization," he explains how the resulting convergence of crises overwhelms disparate political, economic and administrative functions, which are not designed for such complex events."

Some of the elements of the "perfect storm" are too new to be properly understood, like radioactivity or super germs or human dynamics like selling addictions with lollipop flavors.  The perfect storm is too complex and unpredicted to be addressed by individuals but every individual could help think about it, or even make preparations -- which will not be bomb shelters.  A host of dystopic films have shown us how much we will depend on other people.

Not nearly enough attention has been paid to Porges' understanding that we are hopefully evolving towards understanding each other.  I mean, other people have spoken of the ideal and made an attempt to describe what is shared and yet unique, but no one pointed out the mechanism of human empathy in terms of neural function, actual physical interaction that underlies the virtual unity of all humans through straightforward regard.

It begins to be clear that people are at different stages of evolution: some have not even understood that what they know about the world is limited.  They believe that their own "axis mundi" is the universal and that everyone would like to be them, in fact, is simply a failed version of them.  They assume that like the people who developed the theory of "homesteading", all land is interchangeable, measurable and fertile.  But it isn't.  

The food that is the basis of survival is different in different places and sometimes simply not there. Ask Lewis and Clark who nearly starved to death when crossing the Rocky Mountain cordillera, more complex and wide than they could have suspected.  They had run out of the Peoples who had sustained them everywhere else. 

Darkness engulfs the planet for half of every revolution of the planet.  As we enter a period of intolerable heat and sun-energy driven storm, night might be the only relief and renewal we get.  The symbolisms of the past may swap places. We may become eager to see sundown.

Friday, November 22, 2019


In all the onslaught of life today, there are two points of relationship.  One is attachment, whom or what do you care about.  The other is presentation, who you say you are, your "role".  This bit of thought is about how a change in "religion" from "Christian" to whatever it is we can believe in, now that science challenges the old three-level world with new technology perceiving a nearly unbelievable world.  The shift is so deep that it's hard to think about, much less believe.  Who are we now?  It's about preservation.

"Self-presentation is behavior that attempts to convey some information about oneself or some image of oneself to other people. It denotes a class of motivations in human behavior. These motivations are in part stable dispositions of individuals but they depend on situational factors to elicit them."  (Baumeister, Springer)

"Goffman puts forth a theory of social interaction that he refers to as the dramaturgical model of social life. According to Goffman, social interaction may be likened to a theater, and people in everyday life to actors on a stage, each playing a variety of roles."  (

Prosperity-based morality, which took strong hold among Americans after WWII because of the belief that we had won and therefore were best/strongest/deserving, has split presentation into two streams.  One is concern to present oneself in a way that would please people with power, so a person can get ahead.  But the other is "authenticity" and opposition to any pretence, meant to build trust for people whose achievement depends on being believed and respected, regardless of income.  

The split between how one presents and the motives for doing it introduces separation between motives and appearance.  People may at heart be quite different than the way they appear.  People are capable of creating "containers" in their identities that limit and defend what they share with certain others.  This is similar to the idea of "dissociation" into several identities.  We always do this somewhat, presenting different aspects of ourselves.  One of the early splits is between the way a child is at home and the way the child behaves at school.

But also, particularly in this time period, teachers and parents want their children to be "great," achievers, money-makers, who can pull the whole family into higher status and more money.  The adult urge children on, sometimes pressuring them so much as to break and deform them. Non-conforming or defiant children might be ejected.  Families can fall apart.

Christian religious institutions of the time supported several national cultural ideas that were relevant to war and are still alive fifty years later, esp among old white men, conservatives.  One is the idea of the Great Man, someone of such superior and prevailing intelligence and strength that women esp. love and support him, while men try to be like him, a military general or his underground version, the Godfather.  The other is the "cult" identified by Philip Wylie as that of the adored and adoring mother, who becomes the faithful and healing wife .  These were constructs, interlocking.  For many decades I believed them absolutely  and in this small town, they still pattern life.  If the patterns work, they are believed to create prosperity as described in many obituaries of long-time survivors.

In a new vision of the structure of the world, scientifically based on the complex interactions of infinitesimal bits of energy and molecules, we fear that the old intensity of families created by passion and dedication, idealism and sacrifice as modeled in the Bible, will fall away and leave us in social quicksand.  it's the same fear that predicted if God were not real and able to tell us what is right or wrong, then the evil of the world will have no restraints and people will do anything they please, no matter how evil.  

But God has been "dead" for quite a while and most people still fail to steal, use violence, cheat each other.  Because the needed order of society demands that.  Ironically, it is the people who claim their virtue lies in their bankbook, who also claim to love their Mommies and that their Fathers are Great Men, who disregard the rules of order, replacing them with sentiment.

Coming to Browning as a teacher, I attached to a Great Man instead of becoming a Magic Mother to students.  I left the mother trope, I thought, only to be challenged by a motherless family who badly needed skills I didn't have, and rivalry with a Great Man's cherishing mother.  I thought I was riding shotgun on a stagecoach to success.  Not.

So then I was an animal control officer, a lone peace maker, who became attached to a new trail boss.  Jumping out of that, I went for holding the reins of a religious community and found I didn't like it.  Now I just want to find a new religious trope to understand.  I'm doing that now.

The Sixties for almost everyone was a presentation, a performance, a melodrama.  We were dancing on the edge of the precipice but that's the way the reservation was -- still is.  "Indians" have always been understood as presentations with little concern from outsiders for their interior life.  The theatre department students were dramatic, risking, watching themselves live, but because they were mostly white university students, their interior lives were a preoccupying engine of control and creation.  When I was out in a uniform, that was the only aspect seen when I showed up in a yard.  

The UU congregations called for performance at the highest level of all, both for oneself and others, but seminary education gave me new powerful tools. Others are also struggling with these issues.  For instance, the anthropologists:
"This is a conference wrestling with how to do what is best for everyone everywhere."  Climate is and has always been one of the keys to survival.

Chris Barker and Sarah Kendsior have been sharp commentators on the disintegrating political world under these pressures.   Kendzior remarks: 
"The worst thing about the Dark Ages was that people insisted they were actually in an Age of Light."

Barker replies:  "It's like we've found ourselves in a modern Dark Age, ironically ushered in by blinding, infinite information at our fingertips."  It feels highly personal, this matter of survival.

A song, "Quantum Tangle" pulls in love, a form of attachment even in the dark when presentation might fail.