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Building an Earthship

The Preston’s home on fire

Hunter and Samantha Preston lost their home and a dear friend in a fire at their home in June of 2012, in Fort Myers, Florida. They are newlyweds with a small child and couldn’t afford insurance, so they lost everything. Their goal is to rebuild their home as an ‘Earthship‘, a sustainable home. They formed a campaign on Indigogo, which you can read about here.

Unfortunately, their campaign has stalled out and they are still far from their goal with only a few weeks left. If they succeed, not only will they again have a family home, one that is sustainable and a wonderful model for the rest of us, but they also intend to use it as the headquarters for their non-profit business, SLIE (Sustainable Living and Interconnected Education) which will teach urban dwellers in their area about gaining better control of their food chain.

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(A mindfulness meditation exercise. Get comfortable, and begin).

Shh! Close your eyes again, and now wake up slowly. Imagine.

It is the hour before the dawn. There are a few birds chirping.

You hear a car drive by, but only one, and its very quiet, as if it is trying not to wake you.

Someone has brewed coffee. You smile, knowing it will still be hot when you get up.

But not yet. 

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The Essential Thanksgiving


Turkey, despite all rumors to the contrary, is not essential to Thanksgiving, even in the US. Blasphemy, right? Thanksgiving is a harvest festival, and of course the fruits of harvest are important to the festival, but it is more than that. The essential Thanksgiving doesn’t require particular foods or table settings, but these ideals. 

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This little video has a catchy tune and an important message: Don’t do dumb stuff that will kill you.

For many years, an unofficial competition has raged, the Darwin Awards. At the link you will find over 400 documented cases of ‘What the f*ck was he/she thinking” for which we will never know the answer because the person died.

There’s a tendency to a great deal of schadenfreude in these cases, and to some extent, rightly so. When a person has spent his life fighting helmet laws and dies from a head injury after a car wreck it’s funny, right?

Except that it’s not. And deep down we know it, and that’s why we laugh. To err is human. “Man is the animal that laughs at himself” as Valentine Michael Smith said (via Robert Heinlein). And we laugh at ourselves because it hurts so bad. So yeah. Sometimes we abandon compassion, for a moment, because the ultimate human moment is to laugh at death, and the many, many ways we bring it on.

And then, we get back to shared joy and shared pain. We continue to try to improve our lives and the lives of others around us. We abandon judgment and embrace compassion. We seek knowledge. And still, we get it wrong. To err is human, remember?

As Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) said:

Easier To Fool

Mark Twain (from Facebook meme, originally from an image in public domain)

People believe a lot of untrue things, sometimes as many (to misquote the White Queen) as three before breakfast.

I’m sometimes guilty of that myself. But my challenge for myself, over the next several years, is to use my compassion and my ability to write to help people distinguish between useful knowledge and ‘knowledge’ that causes problems for people by preventing them from investigating further, which is perhaps one of the best definitions of truth.

The Darwin Awards (film)

The Darwin Awards (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Back to the Darwin awards. There are lots of dumb ways to die. We invent more every day. It’s entirely possible that you or I might succumb to one of those. More importantly, however, there are a lot of dumb ways to live, ways that hurt us and the people around us, and we don’t have a nifty internet meme to identify them  and point and laugh.

Maybe instead we shoule be looking for ways to teach, to share, and to help people, rather than laughing and judging. So yeah, go ahead and laugh. The video, especially, is adorable. And then…

Maybe its time to start identifying ways to live better, and to keep on spreading joy until there’s no room for the sort of fear and hate that keep infecting the world. Or as Lennon said, ‘Give peace a chance’.

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Visualizing mindfulness (366/194 July 12, 2012)

Visualizing mindfulness (366/194 July 12, 2012) (Photo credit: ConnectIrmeli)

What is ‘everyday mindfulness’ and why do it?

Mindfulness is the state of simply being, in the present, with all of your attention in the present.  It is compatible with any spiritual or religious belief, or lack thereof. It’s both simple and difficult, and it has been found by numerous studies to be useful in a variety of situations, including easing chronic pain, depression and anxiety. It doesn’t (necessarily) involve any special equipment, can be done (nearly) anywhere. 

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Disarm Anger

Angry Sphynx (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why disarm anger and not just walk away or react angrily yourself? Because most of the time, not only does it help the angry person, it helps you and the people you care about as well. You develop a skill that is useful at home, at work, and even in random public places.

You know the scene: The boss screams, the co-worker curses, the customer threatens, the sister, the uncle, the brother in law, the spouse, and the parent blame. You want to grit your teeth and find something better to do or get ready to do battle. And yet, if you take the time to disarm the anger, you’ll have a better outcome, and you know it.

I’m going to let you in on a a little secret. All of those angry people are in pain. Most of them are in the pain of fear or anxiety (which is like fear but on steroids and constant), and quite a few are in actual physical pain. And pain nearly always (though not always immediately) responds to kindness.

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A drop of water frozen by flash
Image via Wikipedia
I used to have a little quote pinned to my cork board at work that said something to the effect that constant activity is the Western idea of laziness. It is impossible for some of us to do nothing. In the interest of not perpetuating a stereotype, I’m making clear that this isn’t true for all Westerners – but for some of us it can be very true.

I literally cannot ‘just’ watch television. I can barely stand to watch movies in the theater, and then only because I consume far too many calories in the process of giving my hands something to do. I can read for hours on end, but only if I completely still my environment – the opposite of how I cope with ‘doing nothing’ in many other situations.

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Tizian 093Image via Wikipedia
It’s easy to find ‘rape art’ in the rape culture

(trigger warning for rape and sexual assault discussion)

Rapists are not faceless strangers.

You almost certainly have at least one person in your personal circle who fits the definition of ‘rapist’. If you are a young man, that likelihood goes up close enough to certainty that I’m not sure you could slide a hair through the difference. In fact, you almost certainly know several people who have committed rape in your larger circle of acquaintances, regardless of who you are.

Here is a little fable that illustrates how many rapists are in the world – how normal, and every day, and every where they are. It is based on the common idea that women are responsible for preventing rape and punishing their rapists, and commits a reducio ad absurdium to underscore the point of exactly who is responsible for stopping them.

When someone tells me that rape would ‘go away’ if women would just arm themselves and shoot their rapists, I ‘entertain’ myself with imagining the world, national and local news reports on the day when suddenly every woman in the world obtains a weapon and succeeds in killing every person who ever sexually assaulted her. For the sake of this fantasy, lets imagine perfect justice – no one is killed that doesn’t deserve it, and no one escapes justice. If a rapist’s victim is already dead, your deity of choice steps in and finishes the job instead.

Rape of the negro girl, Christian van Couwenbe...Image via Wikipedia
More ‘rape art’ showing how acceptable it is

Sixteen percent of men will admit to committing acts that are legally rape if the word ‘rape’ is not used. Roughly one in three or four women (and one in ten men) are raped in their lifetimes. So the actual percent of male rapists in the world is somewhere between 16% and 33% of men depending on how many are repeat offenders and which rape victimization rate is more accurate (this numbers are notoriously difficult to pin down).

Let’s split the difference and say a quarter of all men are rapists, and include the much more rare female rapist in this statistic. (This is, of course, an arbitrary number, for illustration purposes only, and because it’s a nice ‘normal’ fraction). This means that approximately 1/8 of the world population dies on this day, mostly men, but enough women to be easily noticed.

Men (and women) from all walks of life. Politicians. Soldiers. Students. Police officers. Construction Workers. Salespersons. Business managers. Clerks. Religious leaders. Homeless people. Drug dealers. Doctors. Nurses. Fathers. Sons. Brothers. Mothers. Daughters. Sisters. Not a profession in the world is not impacted. Not a single community. Very few families.

Big holes in lives. Roughly one of four of the men you know, and some women too, suddenly gone. Is this an unqualified good, that the rapists of gone, regardless of whether or not it’s just? What do you do with all the people who shot them? Children, teens, adults, seniors. For some of them, the rape is years or decades in the past. For others, it happened as or a minute before the shooting.

Firenze enlevement des sabinesImage via Wikipedia
Rape is so acceptable we decorate our buildings with it.

They live under hundreds of different local law systems. Most of them will be arrested for pre-meditated murder. In some parts of the world, they will be subject to more immediate ‘justice’. So there are more deaths. Nearly a third of the women in the world are suddenly flooding jails.

I wonder how many children now have no adult to look after them? Someone needs to, but even after calling in the ‘relative brigade’, social services throughout the world will be stretched to the limit to provide emergency care.

Between the rapists who have been killed and the survivors who are now facing (at the least) an inquiry and (quite possibly) immediate lethal consquences or long prison sentences, a large percentage of the productive adults in the world are now out of commission. How do you think that would affect businesses?

So that’s the Rambo fantasy, pulled apart for the immediate consequences, and condensed down to a one day, all at a time event. Effective? No. Just? No. Does it improve the lives of those who have been raped? No.

It suffers from the idea that prevention begins at the act of rape, not in the culture, not in the raising of boys to be men or girls to be women, but at the point where a sexual predator identifies you as prey. It assumes that predators simply exist and cannot be controlled or contained, and that you, as a potential prey, are responsible to prevent your own victimization.

Wouldn’t it be just a wee bit better if, instead of holding women (and children, and men) who are being raped responsible for fighting off their attackers, we as a society hold rapists responsible for not raping? That we build a culture where rape is truly unacceptable, under all circumstances?

Don’t rape a woman who you have married, or who said no to your proposal.

Don’t rape a woman who has had too much to drink or to drug.

Don’t rape a child or elder or disabled person in your care.

Don’t rape a woman because her skirt is too short (or too long).

Don’t rape a woman because she is too meek (or too bold).

Don’t rape a man because he is too feminine (or too macho).

Don’t rape a woman because she danced with you.

Don’t rape a woman because she refused to dance with you.

If you see a friend, or a brother, or a parent, or a sister or a co-worker working to isolate someone, or get them drunk, or push their boundaries, stop them. Stop them and tell them in no uncertain terms that what they are doing is wrong, and if they follow through, it is rape. Tell them that if they won’t control their behavior, you will call the police.

If you are the victim of sexual assault, do what you have to do to survive, whether that is to surrender or to fight back, and seek help as soon as it is safe to do so – and do not blame yourself, or second guess yourself, or listen to those who will tell you it is your fault. It is not your fault. The only thing certain in a rape situation is that a rapist is involved. And no matter what, that is not your fault.

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Cover via Amazon

Gretchen Rubin has the enviable ability to make her readers want to know her personally. This has been demonstrated both through her blog and her book, The Happiness Project.
I’ve been wanting to read this book since I heard of it a couple of months ago, and once I picked it up and started reading, I was very glad I had.
daisies by countryboy1949 at flickr
The Happiness Project reads almost more as a memoir than a self-help book, which I think is part of its charm. It gives you an intimate portrait of Rubin’s attempts to find deeper and broader happiness within the context of her life, and her ongoing and daily struggles with integrating what she was learning.
Rubin tells a story early in the book about getting a terrible review from a reviewer and, even though she (privately) took it very personally, she composed herself and wrote a calm email in response, thanking him for his feedback. She talks both about how difficult it was to take that step and how wonderful it felt when she did it (and doubly wonderful when she got a gracious response).

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