we built ourselves out of undoing

An 11-year-old confessional to trimming our better selves down to fit in society’s boxes, with the revisions from its shared stewing in live performance environments.

* * *

if you’re dreaming of a river, let your heart flow.
if you’re dreaming of holy ground, remove your shoes.
if you’re dreaming of the mountains, be still a while:

still is how you’ll find me in my slow ruin of pride,
dear sun on your own high heaven,
within my towers of ambitious service
hands out to you and fingers laced
to sculpt the vision of me as i would be
had i befriended rather than enshrined you.

how is it that we, living as old stone towers
have come to be in this place, wrapped listing
in the arms of trees and clothed in ivy which runs
starking us naked by evening,
carried in our crevices into dawn,

and what is night to us that we should
reflect light from our skin, hollowing out
a lee for it to cling to on the inside?

oh sun, for too long I did not keep your memory as i said i would:
because promises were really mysteries and now
of the two of us only you still seem young,
and still i’m confessing my ridiculous works,
our misconstrued needs, my unnecessary ambitions;
and still i’m reaching up

dear sun, what did you ever need from me?
your wheel has turned countless times since
and i find you whispering will be will be will be
as if the goodbye was never heard,
and somehow in dismissal you shine the same
on a slow circumscription of doubts cracking me open
though i can still speak to you of dreams
as if they are worlds wearing their insides out.
to summon my shoulds would require blotting you out

if you dream of the sun, build no walls.  let it in.
let it in.
let it

i dreamt i would build here, as if building was shaking
loose bricks from older edifices for them to grow
from the dirt in spontaneous regeneration and
i dreamt that solidity was a matter of time in
trial and error’s meandering rows in hope or animation

and i am nodding, shaking dust off made of us
ground to power and clinging to our souls
on the roundabout; yes, i confess turned my head
and put my brow to the work of mighty distractions
i put you far away to understand what was near;
gone is not really gone until you’ve turned away

it’s as if with reason i built my temple from dead things

stones are not seeds and too few temples
are made of living trees, so sun,
though unlike my companions you cannot feed me,
i am putting my heart outside and gazing back again
with them and nodding and whispering back, yes,

will be will be will be

yet still we are just old stone towers
listing in the arms of trees, pressed close
to companions who know you better, dear sun,
whose arms brace and bow me in a slow baptism of
light and years, and erode my achievements and
plow the ground slowly under this temple
which does not stand to reason,

i’ll list into these cracks of light so far that
my temple may finally crumble down the hillsides
and in a dance of debris
break into the empty fields below.
dear sun, in a blessed defeat of pride,
i’ll know i’ll meet you, there, in
a state of

will be,

cracked, bathed in the world and wholly ruined,

still holy.

(c) 2004, Daniel Rollings


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Post rock, if it can be called such, is a genre I deeply love.  It sounds like incredibly epic soundtrack, and it’s relatively common to inject large monologues into the music instead of sung or spoken words.  This reverses the comparison:  it is music that opens a door for a story to unfold in heartful contemplation.  Sometimes the music sharply expresses a feeling about what the speaker says; other times, it just lets you feel it for yourself, all your reactions to complicated or crazy or odd words and stories.

This account of a sailor and his fellows on a whaling ship suddenly valuing one small life stirs some questions, doesn’t it?

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2012/05/27 · 9:41 pm

Terra Preta

One of the most fascinating topics that’s come up in my permaculture class is terra preta soil, one of the most fascinating examples of humanity prospering by enriching life instead of stripping it.

Here’s the usual story of the Amazon:  like most tropical forests, very little of its nutrient reserve is actually in the soil; rather it is in the actual living organisms.  There’s no cold winter causing the leaves to drop and nutrients to go into reserve as in temperate climates, which can build deep soil that stands up to European-style sedentary plowing.  Instead, if anything dies, its nutrients are released and quickly consumed by fungi and put right back into the cycle.  Our interaction with it has been largely to slash and burn it for agriculture, and when the ash disperses, nearly all of the nutrients that were there are gone forever, leaving a desert.  This is happening more and more, especially for growing more soy and biofuel: the biological equivalent of burning the house down to stay warm.

Prior to Columbus the natives at various sites of the Amazon were creating, via pyrolytic processes still mysterious to us, a black and highly bioactive soil; this is terra preta, and it is still highly sought after.  Its nutrient value is high, its CO2 sequestration is high, and it purportedly regenerates itself at up to 1cm a year under the right conditions.  It’s likely that the way the Amazon rain forest spread across savannahs was by the natives spreading this soil – the exact opposite of what we’re doing now.

Scientists are still researching how this soil was made, how to recreate it, and together with other research into pyrolysis techniques as a tool of both supplying carbon-neutral heat energy and regenerating soil, this is one of our biggest opportunities to reverse the destructive paradigm we’re in.  Links!


There is a strong case to be made now that the extent of the pre-European Amazon rain forest was a product of human activity, quite possibly intentionally.  Isn’t it fascinating that on one side of the Atlantic, humanity turned a fertile grassland into the Sahara and the deserts of the Middle East, and on the other side, a large population lived by helping the rain forest grow?  Totally opposite legacies.

Quoth wikipedia:  “One focus of these researchers is the prospect that if biochar becomes widely used for soil improvement, it will involve globally significant amounts of carbon sequestration, remediating global warming.”

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Advice for the process of deconverting from fundamentalism

An ex-fundie atheist made a comment about deprogramming themselves from indoctrination and on how helpful atheist community could be, and this got me to speak up:

Atheists often don’t congregate as such, because the feature of atheism is one of release to the rest of life, as I see it. Dan Barker on a related stream of thought made a point I like:

“Truth does not demand belief. Scientists do not join hands every Sunday, singing, yes, gravity is real! I will have faith! I will be strong! I believe in my heart that what goes up, up, up must come down, down, down. Amen! If they did, we would think they were pretty insecure about it.”

I very much sympathize with you and your description of deprogramming yourself from the indoctrination. It isn’t easy! Please allow me to try to provide you with a little ex-fundie atheist supportive community in the remainder of this paragraph. Just keep asking yourself questions. Catch the jargon you heard as a kid and break it down. Treat a knee-jerk response as an opportunity to do something new. Read the rhetoric of fundamentalists from other religions and the discourse of freethinkers – both of these things will sensitize you to the manipulations of zealotry and allow you to break free. Clear yourself of judgement and interpretations and try to experience things as is. Above all, feel free to be yourself! Few people need a doctrinal yoke to be kind, decent people. Sin, let alone original sin, is a term you can now trim to size. Guilt can fade now. You are free.

Truth is, I myself feel better for having written that, for articulating the single most positive, liberating thought process of my life.

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How I prefer to address climate change skeptics

We are on the receiving end of a huge amount of politics and PR, and if one were to plot the ownership of major media venues they’d find they are one and the same with all the big companies that represent the status quo. Even terms like “embedded” or “in bed with” mean nothing; they are one and the same. You will not find a clear picture there.

The media will not sufficiently question how coal can ever be clean with a price tag we can still swallow.

They will not ask what we’re really paying for a gallon of gas, in terms of oil spills and their lasting damage, in terms of subsidizing its consumption through an expensive and inefficient road system, in foreign and military policy structured around keeping the oil flowing in the most profitable way. A consumer will pay for an Amtrak ticket up front with very little in taxation on the side, while the real cost of our current model remains obscured.

They will not question the basic energy waste inherent in accelerating a ton or two of metal to 70 miles per hour between traffic jams to transport a single commuter to work on a daily basis, whether that metal is a Hummer or a Prius. Amtrak will continue to be talked of in terms of its expensive waste without a level comparison to the status quo.

They will not accurately tally the consequences of burning hundreds of millions of years worth of sequestered carbon in the span of a century or two, and how that compares to the natural fluctuations in our earth’s climate, or talk about what happened in the past when natural fluctuations approached a speed or scale of our present impact on the planet. The closest natural parallel to what we’re doing came when volcanoes burned up huge coal reserves in Siberia at the end of the Permian. Actually here’s a link or two for starters.

They will not accurately portray the possibilities of renewable energy and will recycle decades-old concern about the cost-effectiveness of solar and wind energy, and act as if we don’t yet have the technology to completely consign fossil fuels to obsolescence as an energy source. It’s hard to keep a single hand on the till if just anyone can put thin-film solar panels up with some mirrors, or get electricity for a dollar per watt with a panel full of windbelts. The options on the table offer them a major part, yes, but they lose their monopoly.

They will not accurately balance the facts that yes, our sun is in a state of surprisingly minimal activity, and yes, we are seeing some surprising temperatures at the low end in an increasingly erratic and energetic weather system, and that we are at a point where we should be seeing another ice age presently. All of those are true to the best of my knowledge. We have put greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere in sufficient quantity as to disrupt all of that. The high end of the natural cycles will be all the more unkind to us with our current altered atmosphere.

They will, instead, put nice green labels on merchandise to buy under the present scheme of boom-or-bust consumption. They’ll tell you to buy a hybrid or change your bulb or in some other way spend as much money as you can on an incremental, insignificant change, and count on a marketplace full of this to deliver.

They will speak of regulations and pollution caps in terms of freedom when the loss of freedom, health, and life looms as a result of unregulated actions largely on the part of the big business whose bullhorn they are on.

Here’s how it breaks down, as I see it:

Big Oil and Big Coal know the jig is up at some point, but they are not going to willingly foot their share of the bill for restructuring our society so as not to include them. Shell’s own CEO goes on the record as sounding the alarm on climate change – nominally. This is where we get into greenwashing, and if you look at the ads and web presence of every purveyor of fossil fuels, they’re busy trying to make the most of tweaking efficiency here, putting up solar panels on a building there, scrubbing emissions somewhere, and playing upon the idea of cleaner emissions in 2030 without any idea of what sequestering carbon on a large scale looks like, or if it is even feasible.

If you look at the 60 minutes clip, just watch how that coal company CEO talks. He candidly admits all of the urgency of climate change. He clearly articulates that we need to change. He does not deny that even as he says all of this, he’s busy commissioning new coal plants for cheap (read environmental deficit spending) electricity – he can’t! He’s going to keep doing what makes money as long as he can, and expect the taxpayer to buy his company out of business, which effectively holds us and the rest of the biosphere hostage. He is a businessman, not a humanitarian.

Okay, how does this add up? Let’s play what if.

What if climate change is real? What business is going to voluntarily put itself out of business in favor of a totally new model? Why aren’t these hugely profitable companies doing more? Why would they want to? Better to stall for time, blow smoke, and make government foot the bill while hanging on to your profits, if you’re avaricious and soul-dead enough to.

What if climate change is a hoax or unrelated to human doings? Why even bother to talk about it or greenwash your company in expensive ad campaigns then? It’s not like government isn’t already around big business’ finger as the recent bailouts will show. They don’t need an excuse to take more power than they’ve got. Scientists don’t run climate models for profit or greed; that’d be measly competition.

So, we have to be aware of the big picture, and sensitized to the way that much noise will be made of cherry-picked incidents and blurbs like the above article in an attempt to actively skew our public discourse for the ongoing profits of the large and centralized companies that fancy themselves too big to fail.

Believe me, if someone wants to put money ahead of sound thinking, they don’t go into climate science.  They start by getting an MBA.

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The Take – when workers in economic free-fall took over the factories

Here’s an interesting link to an article on The Take, a documentary on how in 2001 laid-off and desperate workers in the midst of that country’s economic and social upheaval commandeered the idle factories they used to work in, and made them productive once more. This kind of thing has arguably had a role in that country’s recovery from an economic pickle even worse than what we’ve got.

Another more legal redistribution of wealth to the workers is exemplified by Kerala’s land to the tiller movement.

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