Posted by: scintillatingspeck | December 12, 2011

Being with What Is.

I might as well have titled this post “all over the place” like my last post, because that’s how I still feel.  Instead, I’m choosing to Be with What Is, and to capitalize words to emphasize that this is No Small Matter.

Being with What Is means that I’m paying attention to the fact that I have a sweet, fluffy cat curled up next to me.  The wood stove is warming me.  Tom is tappity-tapping something on his laptop a few paces away.  Our progeny is asleep upstairs, no doubt with her golden locks arrayed on the pillow like a shimmering fountain.  We are full of local lamb-with-garlic and local spinach.  All is quiet.  Despite the temptation of two events tonight (game night at Owl and Raven, and a lecture called “Rebels in Paradise: Sketches of Northampton Abolitionists”) I decided I was too discombobulated to go out.  This was a wise choice, I think.

Part of what is so profoundly cathartic and healing about this blog is that writing makes me take stock, check in with myself, and then write whatever it is I need to see in front of my face.  There have been long stretches when I haven’t written here at all; writing felt too raw.  I was afraid to reveal myself.  I’m still afraid to reveal myself, but I’m getting clearer and clearer that when I write here, the writing is primarily for myself.  If others gain benefit, all the better, but it’s not the main focus.  And the idea that there are people out there sitting in judgment of me because of what I write here, well, that can’t be the main focus either.  It can’t.  When I allowed the fear of judgment to be the main focus, I was unable to write at all.  What good is that?  I’m also learning to let go of the fear of being boring; if someone reads this and is bored, well, geez, there’s only the whole rest of the Internet for them to look at.

Continuing to Be with What Is, I note that I’ve been feeling a great deal of anxiety and sadness.  It helps to know that this is a well-trodden road for the collapse-aware.  Who wouldn’t feel anxious and sad, knowing the path we’re on?  The latest fiasco with the finances of Europe is only a small manifestation of the systemic problems that surround us.  Meanwhile, fountains of methane, a greenhouse gas, are bubbling up out of the Arctic Ocean.  I will not continue listing all of the things to freak out about, not to be in denial, but because that information can be found elsewhere, and I need to reserve this time for my own response to it all.

Today I was struck by a juxtaposition of frames of reference.  Last night I was reading “A First-Hand Account of Long-Term SHTF Survival” by a man who survived civil war in Bosnia.  Then I was reading a book, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster by Rebecca Solnit.  How is it that in some difficult scenarios, people are ready to shoot each other, and in others, they are ready to risk their lives to save others?  What makes the difference?  I’m hoping that Solnit’s book will shed light on this question.  It seems that building trust between people in a community is possibly the single most important aspect of community resilience.  Even in the Bosnian example, where there was clearly an emphasis on having ammo at the ready and danger from neighbors all around, the writer emphasized that having friends and family was essential; that those who tried to go it alone ended up dead, no matter how much ammo they had.

Friends.  Is there anything more potent and beautiful in this world than friendship?  I include family in this.  Aren’t dear friends a sort of chosen family?  Who are we without friends?  Do humans make any sense as a species without friends?  The forces that drive us apart are diabolical indeed.  The culture of competition and domination, as pervasive as it is, erodes the basis for trust and friendship.  Of course, trust and friendship pop up anyway, like happy weeds growing through the sidewalk of Competition/Domination, but damn it, that concrete is thick.  It’s the concrete of the “industrial economy”, the system that tells us we must spend the vast majority of our waking hours in a state of separateness and numbness.  How many people get to connect with friends as often as they need?  How many people are getting the hugs, the understanding, the appreciation, the laughter they need?  How many other needs go unmet?  What gets in the way?  You know what gets in the way.  You and I could come up with quite a long list of what gets in the way.  And this behemoth Thing that’s in the way, if we bundle it all up into a Thing, needs to die, because it is killing everything in its path.

So I say, go forth and be with friends.  Be real with them, and make room for both laughter and weeping.  Revive the fine art of hanging out.  Was there ever so fine a thing?  If you work too hard to see any friends, quit your job.  If you study too hard to see any friends, quit school.  When you die, will you wish you had worked really hard, or spent time with those you care about?  Granted, this doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition, but it serves to illustrate a point.  Every day we’re alive is numbered.  See here, it’s December 12, 2011, and this is day #___ of your life.  That means you have ___ days left.  You know this is true.  So how are you going to spend the rest of your time?  I might add, that in addition to meeting your deep human needs for love and friendship, that you might consider spending time on addressing issues of justice and doing the right thing.

Well.  I didn’t actually set out to be dispensing advice like this.  Especially since I just said I was writing primarily for myself.  Go figure.  This is kind of fun, turning on like a faucet and seeing what comes pouring out.



  1. really love your blog, Jen. Feels really genuine, true and full of wisdom.

  2. I’m spending the week with an old friend. We’re reminiscing and reconnecting, and it’s wonderful.
    We were just talking about judgement and assumptions this morning.
    Keep blogging, Jen!

  3. You’re a light in my world, old friend.

  4. Glad to find your writing. Sounds like we have a lot in common, from wood stoves to musing on human resilience in times of trouble. I’m eager to find A Paradise Built In Hell and to keep up with your blog.

  5. You and I are kindred spirits. I notice this every time I click over to your aptly named blog. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    • Laura, kindred spirits indeed. I hope we can meet in person someday. Please let me know if you’re ever in New England. You and your family are welcome to stay with us.

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