Revolutionary

What does it say of the concept revolutionary that it most often appears as a predicate nominative?

I am a … some other person is …

For one, that it is an idea very close to our identity. Who is this we, and whence comes our our? I will save that for another day.

Today I rebel. A Southern White Male, rebelling from work. A Friday Microrevolution, spent cutting the grass, catching up on laundry, and blogging. What does it say of me and us that it is revolutionary to take a day off work so that I can enjoy working? A different sort of work.

My mind, trained to be analytic and efficient, instinctively views the concept as a node in a conceptual schema in order to understand “what it means.” To see the perspectives from which I, with my ‘revolutionary’ identity, might understand this phenomenon. Not all perspectives are worth entertaining equally. The two that present themselves*most forcefully are that society is oppressing me and that I am a slave and that I truly am a rebel. But when I look across the railroad tracks, about half of those men don’t work at all. They are the real rebels. I work to pay taxes and they do this all day. Except they have a different audience. I write to myself and other bloggers who only read their own stuff. The folks across the tracks talk to one another. They wander around like the cats of Alapaha. They don’t even see the boundaries that direct those of us more properly disciplined.

Part of me would like to believe that I am rational, and that this action is supremely rational – weighing the costs and benefits of working versus doing this – and that I have made the rational decision – and that I am so fucking clever. Another part of me crushes that sissy and disdains reason and values will. I wanted to stay home, so I that’s what I did. I am no slave – not even a calculating, middle class one.

*Here I treat myself to an absurd delicacy. Heidegger’s mystical stupidity is so decadent that it is fun – the sort of fun had by slaves – and it tastes like skipping work to blog about skipping work.

Abraham and Isaac

Upon being asked, I recently explained to a student my path from religious belief to skepticism. The student sitting across my office desk reminded me so much of myself at that age. An earnest student, at least regarding those things that he takes to be most important: namely, god, belief, and faith.

I shared a number of stories, and I do not mind admitting that during the telling, there were mutually restrained tears welling up. The experience of the divine, whatever that means/is is powerful and emotional.

At one point, I explained I was so inspired by Solomon, from a very young age, that the consistent prayer from my youth to adulthood was always to was be granted the wisdom to do god’s will. This earnest prayer allowed me to search without great reservation for true understanding; to dig beyond the easy interpretations offered by preachers and others and to seek the more profound truth.

I explained also the experience of being a very poor but faithful tither. Over time, I came to realize the pastor and wife drove new cars and their three kids went to private school. There is of course something like a sect within Christianity that says God blesses his own. But any teenager who can read and think, who does more than superficially skim or allows others to tell him what to think will find in the Gospels that this was clearly not the message of Jesus. When he discussed blessings, he was not referring to new cars and big houses. This was a very successful church. I really became bothered, however, when I heard the church spent god knows how much money to rent out the civic center for a special Sunday service. I sincerely believed that god would rather my money be spent in ways that allowed me eat more than peanut butter, ramens, and eggs and to pay my bills than for the church to rent out the civic center to demonstrate to all how god had blessed this particular congregation.

One night, a guest “preacher” spoke. He was less a preacher than a salesman. He had his books on a small table on the edge of the stage. I was disgusted, and all I could think about was Jesus’s rebuke of the den of thieves, and how he turned over the tables of the money-changers who were defiling the temple. And sure enough, as if the Holy Spirit were there himself, during the sermon, the table somehow tottered over, and all the books and stuff came crashing down. The preacher-salesman took it in stride, but that was the last time I attended church as a believer.

I continued to believe, for a while, but I discontinued church-going. It was probably a year or so later that I sat down in a cafe near Stone Mountain that reminded me of New Orleans. It was my first coffee-house visit in the big city (of Atlanta: for those of us who grew up south of the gnat line, Atlanta begins in McDonough, circles over to just west of Athens, north into Cobb County, and west into Carrolton). I opened up the spiral bound selection of readings for my philosophy of religion class. It was the first class I was to take as a graduate student. I began reading Fear and Trembling. A few pages in, beginning with the story of Abraham and Isaac, my life changed. And I don’t say that flippantly. I really mean that my understanding of the world took a significant turn upon reading those twenty or fewer pages.

Kierkegaard told the story of a man who had become obsessed with Abraham, and who wished for nothing more than to be there with Abraham as he lifted his eyes to Mount Moriah; to understand what this man experienced when he left the donkeys behind and led his young and tender son, Isaac, up Mount Moriah to slit his throat and to burn his still warm and bleeding body on on alter built for that purpose. How did Abraham understand the immoral and barbaric call of God to, “take Isaac, your only son, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on a mountain that I will show you.”

The story is a famous one from the Bible. It is said to foreshadow the coming of Jesus and his death. And with this the barbarity of the story is usually glossed over. The story is usually interpreted to show that Abraham was a man of great faith. Kierkegaard told the story – four or five really short and powerful iterations of it – to make the point that faith is not as easy as those in his society (Denmark, 1843) would like to believe. Everyone, he suggested, claimed to be a believer, but few really attempted to understand.

Kierkegaard was very persuasive for me. I began to seriously doubt that God was a moral being. A few months later, reading Sartre, I would find a word for what Kierkegaard’s micro-stories induced: vertigo. At some point, I began to scour the Bible for accounts of people who stood up to God – who called him out on his immorality – to see how he responded. I still believed. I just wanted to understand. Maybe my regular prayer for wisdom meant that I understood something about morality, and god’s relation to it, that past thinkers missed. But by the time I left the cafe that day, I was convinced that if God asked me to do something like that, I would tell him No – and would accuse him of immorality. I will not kill a child – for any god; and even if I did, it would be for pragmatic rather than moral reasons (for example, because I believed that any god who would demand that I kill a child would have no problem causing that same child to suffer in order to punish me for my insubordination). And we all know the story of Job. What an asshole.

I was in a state of vertigo for some time. I don’t remember how long it took. But I do remember having coffee with a new student of philosophy, before I left Atlanta, who asked me how I lost my faith. I told her I didn’t know and that it happened over time, but the biggest influence was Kierkegaard’s reading of Abraham and Isaac.

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Dionysus, Dissolution, and Biodiversity

Of the definitions or manifestations of dionysus, I like best, “the god of ritual madness.” I sometimes see him in such states. More often than not as a totem of sorts rather than a goat: Grape vines woven together and bound like a fasces, but looser and winding; his face is a grape leaf, as are his hands. His extremities are vines that wind back into the fasces: a living fasces. This interests me for multiple reasons. These include the contradiction or tension between the fasces as strength in number and the dionysian as loss of self. The tension is resolved and more when understand that we lose ourselves in the collective. In the fasces, individual identity severely attenuated, if not completely lost. Another interesting oddity is that Dionysus exposed him as a plant god – and a disassembled one at that. Should we devise a name for this manifestation of Dionysus, or should we leave it unnamed?

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Despite his penchant for madness, once I asked him the meaning of life. Well, I didn’t ask him so much as I was just considering what would characterize a universally good person that would please all the gods, including the god of the plants. He spoke to me and said, “the good person is the one who increases biodiversity.” Of course he told me this after I had spent much of the day planting and watering. Both his attention to my actions and his approval of them make him a good god.

Dionysus stated that biodiversity requires loss of identity and that increased biodiversity requires ongoing and increasing loss of identity. No explanation was required.

Dissolutions occur at many levels, from the subatomic to the social and beyond. The human experience deals primarily with the individual and the social. Societies must be dissolved or change in order for new ones to form. Change = becoming = the “essence” of life. Normally, the people happy are happy or satisfied enough with the status quo, and there is no active revolution to join.  Ever present are the eternal world-despisers. You could join that club, but why would you? Active dissolution is perhaps most often experienced in the temporary loss of self through various forms of intoxication that begin to kill the self, but don’t quite get there. When we die, we return to the world (I no longer believe in an independent, everlasting soul). Intoxication takes us in that direction, but not all the way. Loss of self is a dissolution. It is a becoming. Becoming one with the world andDSCN1520 our multiple selves.

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Vetching

Vetching: to eradicate and/or harvest vetch.

It is the third week of April in Alapaha, Georgia, and the vetch is ready to harvest. I imagine very few people are able to identify vetch. I learned about it only recently – perhaps almost exactly two years after taking the picture below from the ditch of a canopy covered dirt road in the midst of an area that is, for perhaps a quarter of the year, a swamp. It now grows along our fence row – probably transported in from  free mulch acquired from the Tifton landfill, but maybe from birds.

Vetch is quite invasive, or said differently, successful, healthy, and well-adapted. Whatever the case, it has invaded our garden and planting areas.

A couple weekends ago, I was pulling vetch and florida betony and wondering why I was spending so much time on my hands and knees pulling healthy plants to replace with plants that won’t grow nearly so well: especially given that both betony and vetch are edible. I have eaten each and am still alive. I have also eaten poke weed raw and lived to tell about it, and I ate potatoes and did not get the plague.

Vetch, vicia, is related to peas and lentils. According to Zohary et al (2012), via Wikipedia, vetch was one of the first plants cultivated by humans – around 10,000 years ago, across Eurasia. In addition, it is also nitrogen fixing, and some varieties are important sources for pollinators. Knowing this did not make me feel better about pulling vetch.

I have since decided to stop removing the legume. I mow and harvest instead. The leaves and the raw seeds taste like English Peas. I have yet to cook the seeds because they are so tiny – about the size of mustard seeds. This is likely the reason we pull the vetch and then plant sweet peas. If the plant historians (would they be called evolutionary botanists?) are correct, human cultivation has, in fact, moved in this direction: over time, the larger-beaned varieties of vicia cultivated more regularly.  And so the practice of removing and replacing is then perhaps a matter of convenience and efficiency.

Contributors to wiki note that during famine, people have returned to eating vetch. Coming to understand these things is, as noted in other posts, an element of my apocalypse preparedness plan, which in turn, is part of my psychological wellness plan. I keep a small stock of staples, but I think it more interesting, cheaper, and would be more effective in the long-term to know what abundant and scarce local food sources hide in plain sight from most. This approach is also better aligned to my desire to live more intimately with nature. Of course all human creations are natural also. I suppose to live more intimately with nature might be something like nakedness. Culture puts clothes on nature that keep us from seeing the reality that lies beneath. To embrace nature when she and I are both clothed is great, but with less clothing is even better.

Curly Dock seems to be seeding the same time as the vetch. The leaves of the plant I have been tending have been present for some time – I would guess at least a year. It popped up in what is now my compost pile. The pile began as something of a hegel-culture garden experiment. The garden spot was not successful by common standards. The soil, I believe, was too thin, and perhaps all of the ashes I added from the fire pit messed up the soil’s acidity. I had one tomatillo that was enormous and incredibly productive. There was also a fennel and a couple bean plants that did alright. The dock showed up and remained – and I did not cut it down. It is enormous now, and I am harvesting the seeds and leaves as I harvest the vetch.

If a single image could represent the philosophy of change and cycle currently at the heart of Alapaha Paganism, it might be that of an opened vetch pod. The vetch plant is healthy and strong. It fixes its own nitrogen – in association with bacteria. It is not commercially produced, and when noticed at all, it’s history and use are neither recognized nor understood. It is a prolific, esoteric plant. Plus, and most importantly, the open seed pod looks like goat horns. If we subscribed to a different and older worldview, we might believe that Dionysus or one of his many related incarnations were associated with vetch – and that vetch was infused with the spirit of this god. Since it does not appear to be mind or state altering, as one might first assume of a plant associated with Dionysus, the spirituality of vetch must be found in other qualities. I don’t think I will try to pin that down immediately, but will abide with the plant a bit longer until its spirit presents itself.

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An attempt to create an Apocalyptic Narrative as Motivation

There is only one week left until the project is due.  You don’t want to do it.  You are tired of it, and you resent the fact that it is taking up so much of your time.  But it is clear that it is in your best interests to do it and to do it well.  What do you do?  Self-motivate.

There are many aspects about preparing for TEOTWAKI that make it fun.  I won’t discuss them all here, but a few are that because it is not really here, the actions become a form of play rather than work.  It is not something we have to do; it is something we choose to do.  It is not something our bosses or spouses are trying to get us to do.  We are doing it because we want to.  It is fun, but it is also productive.  Those of us who have acquired that WASP work ethic described by Max Weber feel good about being productive and feel guilty about too much pleasure that is not task/future oriented.  It makes us happy to be able to have fun and be productive at the same time.  Weber also recognized that the rationalization process that is central to making us feel this way, when socialized, tends to demystify and instrumentalize the world.  It makes us sad and neurotic.  There are multiple answers.  These include escaping to the wilderness.  This can be done permanently (Ted Kaczynski) or escaping to the literal woods often or escaping vicariously through video games, television, and social media.  The point is that we are not robots.  We are much more like our lazy cats who, as they age, do nothing but eat, nap, watch the world go by, and ask to be petted.  And there are many humans (the poorest and the children of the richest) who do little more than this.

The apocalypse is but one of many escape stories we tell ourselves.  We get to pretend it is important without really being important.  There are no real and immediate consequences.  (True believers will prophesy otherwise – but how long must we wait for Jesus and/or the Apocalypse?)  Thinking about the apocalypse, then, makes for a fun escape that also allows us to pretend we are doing something useful and meaningful.  It’s kind of like going on a mission trip or participating in disaster-spectator-service vacations – for those who see the other for what it is.

But to the point, because I don’t get paid to blog, but I do get paid to finish this project that I am putting off: can we use the apocalypse narrative to help us accomplish tasks in the real world?  Can I re-frame the work and make it fun by imagining that if I don’t get this thing done, the world will end?  Or, closer to Prepping thinking, if I don’t plan ahead, when the moment of truth comes, will I be able to save my family and self from a disaster that is World-Historical in meaning and importance?  Or, might trying to do this fail or diminish the effectiveness of the apocalyptic narrative elsewhere in my life – and leave me no other options but despair or running off to the woods?

When put this way, it seems worth the risk.  Better to burn out than fade away, yes?  But in reality, it seems to fall flat.  It seems that, though I try, cannot associate this task with apocalypse preparation.   Why?  — In part this must be due to the end of the apocalypse.  What happens after the apocalypse?  We don’t have to go to work anymore.  If we survive this one great catastrophe (and 75% of the world does not), we will be able to spend our time gardening and fishing.  We long for that one event that we can succeed at that will make the rest of the world easier.  But it is clear that a project to appease the bureaucracy is not the equivalent.  It is in fact the reason why we create the apocalypse – to free ourselves from these tasks that we know have immediate instrumental value but that in the grand scheme of things are completely pointless.  They give bureaucrats something to do.  So, I guess I need to just get to work and then garden on the weekend.

 

Fabulous Cyclical Binary

Today has the potential to be a fabulous day. Humans are fortunate.  At most, every 24 hours we can imagine that today is going to be a better day.  It allows each day to potentially be a fabulous day.  Each morning that life is good we may say today has the potential to be a fabulous day.  Imagine how different we would be if the earth did not revolve around the sun.  It is clear that we would not be anything like human at all – in the way that we think at least.  I’m not speaking of the formal, abstract thought; I mean the basic instincts that have been with us since long before we were human.  How important night and day is for all terrestrial animals!  It is surely one of the most primal binaries – long preexisting purely conceptual binaries and likely, I think, to have developed far earlier than sense of self.  This is primal and is deeply encoded in our bodies and therefore minds.

It seems likely that on a world with no rotation, ‘hope’ would be more dire, something great and deep and cataclysmic.  On earth, hope is easy because change is easy.  Perhaps its no wonder that for many Critical Theorists and other politico-religiously-minded people, historical change is a concept that developed historically in association with the light-dark binary.   The concept of change presupposed and transcended the light-dark binary.  The space between light and dark is change: where they come together and dissipate into a momentary fusion of the two while at the same time shifting from one form to the next – in a regular procession, day after day, after day.  Every generation of human that has ever existed has experienced and has been formed in reference to this binary and to the transitional period between it.

How many other concepts and physical attributes have deep roots in this experience – and are merely this year’s growth on top of the roots?  The menstrual cycle, easily.  It seems far more reasonable to believe that the human female cycle is informed by the lunar cycle than to believe that it is not – both conceptually and physically.  Including and beyond these examples of evolutionary instincts informed by the light/dark binary would be those developed in relation to the seasons.  The experience of seasons shares the same source with the experience of night and day: the earth’s cyclical relation to the sun.  Note that ‘cycle’ presupposes enough stasis to presuppose the identity of at least two things.  The promise of spring eases the cold winters of the north and the promise of fall makes South Georgia summers bearable.  And today has the potential to be a fabulous day.

Namaste

“I bow to the Divine in you.”

What a noble sentiment.  Each of us is divine: or, at least we share in the divinity that is present in all things.  You, me, the car salesman, the criminal, the child, the elderly, the priest, the mother, the farmer.  We are all of divine origin if the world has a creator.  And even if the world does not.

Even if the world was, as I believe, born, rather than created, each of us are facets of this world.  We are not the purpose of this world.  We are not at the center of it.  We are not the goal or the end.  But we are special.  We are conscious of ourselves and of the world.  This allows/causes us to live in ways different than other lifeforms.  In a blink of the cosmic eye, humans will arrive on the scene and be gone.  But that does not diminish our perfection.  The transitory nature of our individual and collective existence only makes us more precious.

I tell myself that I would like to maintain an awareness of this fact, but that is hard to do.  Random drivers, coworkers, even family members often act in ways that do not embody what most of us regard as divine.  They are selfish, lazy, cruel, and a host of other coarse qualities.  But it would be Pollyannish of us to fail to recognize that these are qualities common in nature and even in conceptions of God.  The Monotheistic God of the Levant was as coarse a God as the Pagan gods – and at least the Pagan gods laughed.

But I digress.  I bow to the divine in you.  In so doing, I also acknowledge the ordinary and unreified in you.  And so, Namaste is a nice first step to the broader noble view expressed in Amor Fati and perhaps better expressed in Amor Mundi.

You are the world and nothing more.  Though much less.  If there is a morality, it must be that we are grateful for the bounty of the world.  That is, if we are indeed grateful. The simple truth is that some are privileged, and others live less divine lives.  This is why I believe suicide can be noble – and why suicide prevention hotlines are stupid.  If someone’s life is not good, they should be allowed the dignity of ending it in noble acknowledgement of this.  I have no intention to live beyond dignity and self-sufficiency.  I am far too divine for that.  I am privileged.

Kraut Day

Marcus Cato wrote of cabbage in On Agriculture that it “surpasses all other vegetables. It may be eaten either cooked or raw; if you eat it raw, dip it into vinegar. It promotes digestion marvellously and is an excellent laxative, and the urine is wholesome for everything. If you wish to drink deep at a banquet and to enjoy your dinner, eat as much raw cabbage as you wish, seasoned with vinegar, before dinner, and likewise after dinner eat some half a dozen leaves; it will make you feel as if you had not dined, and you can drink as much as you please.”

He also said that “if you save the urine of a person who eats cabbage habitually, heat it, and bathe the patient in it, he will be healed quickly; this remedy has been tested. Also, if babies are bathed in this urine they will never be weakly; those whose eyes are not very clear will see better if they are bathed in this urine; and pain in the head or neck will be relieved if the heated urine is applied.  If a woman will warm the privates with this urine, they will never become diseased. The method is as follows: when you have heated it in a pan, place under a chair whose seat has been pierced. Let the woman sit on it, cover her, and throw garments around her.”

So, smart people understand that cabbage is awesome.  Appropriately, I would say, the cabbage we eat today did not exist during the Roman Era, or even during the Middle Ages.  A rabbit-holish web quest will show that what Cato called cabbage was a plant more akin to collards or kale (colewort – with cole slaw meaning a salad made of cole, or to use the longer name: collard).

Whatever the case, Saturday was Kraut day.  It is unseasonably warm for February – after a rather cool winter – and something seems to be getting the cabbage.  So I composted the bad ones, harvested the good ones, and made Kraut.  Alex made the first batch – and his first batch ever – even though he has never eaten it.  I believe, however, that preparing Kraut, jellies, etc. makes us enjoy the food a little more – and be happier about eating it even if it doesn’t taste great.  The act of preparing our own food gives us a different perspective on eating.  Kraut

Neoliberalism and Separatism

Many of my waking and sleeping thoughts seem to involve growth and efficient action.  This is neither good nor bad.  Neoliberalism is neither good nor bad.  ‘Neoliberalism’ is merely a concept used most often today to demonize the existing society and facilitate the transfer of power from the traditional Protestant view of society to a different one – and, more importantly, to transfer power from those who held/hold this view to a different group.

But more than this, it must be the instinct of a people in perpetual diaspora to weaken the culture of the dominant host.  History suggests that to remain a distinct group, a people must be guided by priestly legislators who canonize moral principles that simultaneously promote internal cohesion and separation from the host.  This morality must claim that the group’s norms are sanctioned by the one true God, Reason, or History and that those of the host society are perpetually evil.  To the extent that the host society differs from the self-separating group, it must be bad.

This makes the case of neoliberalism rather strange.  Neoliberalism is the very sort of ends-neutral policy that would allow separatist groups to flourish.  It is when the host civilization strongly legislates religious belief and morality that separatist groups cannot live in harmony with the host.  We may look to Colonial New England and the Middle Colonies for an historical example.

It would seem that people from separatist subcultures would be most likely to support a neoliberal social organization.  It seems natural that Conservatives would criticize Neoliberalism, and it seems counter-intuitive, that most of the critique of Neoliberalism is forwarded by individuals who identify as Critical Theorists – since Critical Theory has a deep association with the very Jewish, Frankfurt School.  This is odd.  I will have to develop the idea in a later post, but the answer seems to me lie in the historical evolution of the system on in two ways: (1) the Traditional Power base comes to view Liberalism as The Tradition and (2) those groups that criticize neoliberalism while wanting to remain distinct (a) recognize that the host group is so solidly liberal in its institutions and disposition that the risk of harsh oppression based on difference is minimal, and/or (b) that the instinct to criticize is stronger than the fear of conservative backlash, and/or (c) one or more of the separatists groups (believe they) are now the primary power broker.  Once the outside groups takes power, they come to believe they are in a position to suppress value-neutral ends and to legislate their own morality.

So the first step must be open borders: both physical and intellectual for the host (but rather closed borders for the diaspora group).  A corequisite step that might occur during or after, is the development of a neoliberal state that allows the separatists to participate while remaining separate: to first be tolerated and then to be accepted as equals.  To move from tolerance of their difference through acceptance of their difference as equal, a further step is required: an inversion.  The moralizing priestly group must successfully convince the host that its own separatist moral system is to be preferred over the traditional neoliberalism.  Without force (and perhaps even with) this process of transvaulation, as Nietzsche called it, does not happen quickly.  The historical study I am presently undertaking will shed light on these different ways.

Recently, in the West, the process has involved differential evaluation, whereby the identity of the demonized traditional source of power is made as small as possible in order to maximize allies in this resistance against neoliberal oppression and support for social justice.  The approach has worked to some degree because, although demonized as oppressors, a sufficient number of the dominant population instinctively value liberty over exclusion and moralizing.  A liberal spirit makes the traditional power-brokers in our society susceptible to this backdoor, soft-power coup.  Societies without this liberal tradition (those in Asia, for example) see the development of this process far clearer than most within the liberal societies do – and will better avoid it.

This is a dangerous game for separatist groups, however. For the last few thousand years, history has indeed been punctuated by these often rather swift backlashes and reversals.  The names of the groups involved might change, but the general process will recur because Nature likes pushing the envelope.

 

A Genealogy of Daydreaming as a Method of Amor Vitae

I drive more than I would like.  I rarely listen to the radio.  Who can bear radio news, radio personalities, radio commercials, or even radio music for more than a few minutes?  If NPR played classical music during commute times, or if there was a religious station that played Bach and Handel- inspired music, I might listen more.  On long drives, I often listen to an audiobook.  Much day-to-day driving, however, is spent telling myself stories.  I discovered, probably about a year ago, that my first and second most popular stories had almost become the same story.

There is much psychology that is bunk pseudoscience.  Freud served the social purpose of something like a mystico-tragic poet from a foreign land telling, in this case, post-Romantic psychological realism fiction.  And many of the foundational theories used in Educational Psychology are founded more on presumption and desire than science (Erickson, Maslow, Kohlberg).  Even the work of Jung, who I am most fond of, and whose ideas led me to study psychology, is loaded with junk.  But, like all of us, he worked with what was available.  One idea that I originally dismissed as psychological box-making, but have since readopted as a helpful description (rather than an objective reality) is the notion of temperament.  From the Four-Square matrix of temperament, I identify myself as a task-oriented introvert.  This helps explain, I believe, how my two driving stories became one, and how recognizing this was beneficial.

For many years now, my primary day dream has been the apocalypse day dream.  It evolved over time, but I have had it, in one form or another, since I was a child.  As my mind races back through the evolution of this practice, it only takes a few seconds to create a whole story.  Immediately prior to its present form was the drive-dreaming of grad school years – mid twenties – when I was an anarchist getting a master’s degree in philosophy: the stories often involved me escaping from the police or prison after being wrongly accused of something.  I kept what is now called commonly called a bug-out bag in the trunk of the Corsica.  This was before such preparatory stashes acquired their current name and popularity.  My mid-90s version was simpler than those of today.  It sleeping bag, gasoline, fishing equipment, and usually a shot-gun.  But now that I think about it, it was perfectly adequate for a broke grad student / country boy living in Georgia.

I think the practice was at that time partially inspired by Eric Rudolph.  While I believe Rudolph’s political actions were retarded and misguided, I felt a strong respect, and even admiration, for a man who had the ability to hide in the mountains and outwit the most powerful government in the world.  I still do, even though he has since been caught and is serving a life term in prison.  For a while, I thought about writing a book about him because I found him so interesting: he dropped out of school in the 9th grade, was kicked out of the military for marijuana use, and lived with his mother in a Christian Identity camp as a teenager.  I never met the man, but I feel like I know him (or his type) well: intelligent, driven, miseducated by those who look hard for meaning but begin with a flawed foundation.  At least some of the Christian Identity folks remind me of many academic Critical Theorists: they sense something deeply wrong in their conceptual schema, but rather than (attempt to) abandon the framework, they dig in, so to speak.  They “make it work” by making the system even more convoluted – adding additional cocentric circles – and claim that the larger society is deluded in some way and just don’t understand.

Prior to grad school, Eric Rudoph, and an intensive study of social and political philosophy, there were the propaganda movies of the mid to late 1980s.  Red Dawn, Top Gun, and Rambo provided examples of militant opposition to overwhelming (and unjust) force.  I wasn’t in the boy scouts, and as a family we didn’t go hiking and such, but there was no need.  I lived on a 140 acre farm, a substantial portion of which was swamp and woodland, and spent a considerable amount of time “at the pond.”  About 35 miles south was (and is) an Air Force base, and so it was not uncommon to hear and see military jets, sometimes flying pretty low,  over the farm, at the very time I was out survivaling with my fishing gear, Rambo knife, and hungry dog.  It was almost instinctual to hide from the planes, check their markings, and imagine how to proceed if they dropped paratroopers.  Before I was 16, I had multiple plans of defense against these and similarly likely eventualities.  And, even then, the goal wasn’t survival so much as effective and honorable resistance.

Going back even further, there was a child who, I think, was unusually religious.  The part of the Bible that interested me most were the stories of the coming apocalypse.  I knew they could be found in Revelation and Daniel.  I listened intensely when the topic came up.  Most of the old folks said they believed that Jesus would return to save the good people before the calamities began.  Others thought even Christians would have to endure.  I tended toward the latter: if God would make his own son die on a cross, would destroy 99.999% of the world in a flood, would kill all the Egyptian first born, demand genocide of the Canaanites, demand that Abraham be willing to kill his son, kick Adam and Eve out of the garden and curse all of their descendants because they ate a piece of fruit, allow all of Job’s family to be murdered in order to win a bet, and so forth, he was not going to allow believers to forego the time of Tribulations.  He just wasn’t that kind of God.  And since it had been 2000 years since Jesus said of the coming apocalypse, “this generation shall not pass until all these things are fulfilled,” hard times were way overdue and preparations were advisable.

The apocalypse dream has deep roots then.  I have kept it with me all these years – so much so that it has helped constitute me.  I am it, to some degree, and I enjoy planning to overcome cosmic or world-historical calamities.  Over time, the cause of apocalypse changed from God, to the Government, to a variety of different causes, each with its own set of circumstances.  When the Prepper movement started up following Y2K and really heating up around 2012, I was ahead of the curve, and encountered the movement with both engagement and dismissal.  It was immediately clear that many of the participants were using the idea of prepping as an outlet for their Consumerism.  The goal of prepping was (and perhaps remains) to buy a lot of gadgets that you will likely never use and food you will likely never eat.  Thus manifest, this is yet another example criticizing society or one’s larger group while retaining the very ideas and practices that ‘should’ be abandoned.  It is strange how we (whoever we are) seem to have an instinctual need to grasp on to some metanarrative.  I think that is what Jung was trying to get at with his archetypes.  The evolutionary study of this would be fascinating.

Whatever the case, many seem to share a fascination with being prepared for an apocalyptic event, and I have spent many many hours of driving, cutting grass, running, sitting by the fire … thinking about this.   An outline of the genealogy of this recurring thought experiment is provided above.  Although the practice and process itself has deep roots, equally interesting, I think, is the question of what the outcome of such events would be.  If I was terrified of such an event or found it odious, it seems likely that I would not be able to think about it so often without becoming neurotic and moving to the woods like Ted Kaczinsky, Jesus, Mohammad, John Smith, Thoreau, Siddhartha, or countless other nonfamous crazy people.  Instead, I keep a job (a really good one, relatively speaking), a home, and a family (somewhat nontraditionally, but that’s not mostly because of me, nor am I bothered by it).  So, it seems my preoccupation with apocalypse is neither neurotic or sociopathic.

The second day dream is the “what would I do with 10 million dollars” variety.  The amount of money is a placeholder for what would I do if money were irrelevant.  I think most all adults have done this at some point.  I realized at some point that, oddly, these two fantasies (SHTF & $$) were very similar.  In both cases, the result would be a life closer to nature – infinitely less commuting to work; more walking in the woods, more sitting by the fire, more gardening, more fishing, more being outside.  Strangely enough, in this thought experiment, after the initial purchases for family (I don’t really keep close, non-family friends; who has time for that?) and a few things for myself, I largely remove myself from the Capitalist system, if we want to call it that – knowing that consumerism long predates capitalism as usually defined.

Because I need to do some work today, even though it is Sunday, I need to wrap this up.   A benefit of coming to realize that both of these seemingly opposite hypotheticals led to very similar alternate realities was to understand that this is what I have wanted for most of my life. (Surely if I had it, I would then dream of something else to make it more perfect – because perfection cannot endure duration.)   Realizing this led me to add an extra instrumental value to daydreaming.  Instead of an end – something to do that I enjoy, it also became a means for getting what I want out of life – by thinking more explicitly about what makes me happy and what sort of life I would like to live.

I recently came across a term, that presently slips my mind, that seems to capture this process of efficiently maximizing pleasure by making one’s means become ends and vice versa.  The idea is reflected in the phrase “do what you enjoy, and enjoy what you do.”  This method of living attempts to combine Zen with the more active Amor Fati, or as Kat prefers, Amor Mundi, to create Amor Vitae: to love life – or, more precisely, to love living one’s life and doing it well.  Done effectively, this synthesizes means and ends and gives rise to a unified method of living.   One example of this is daydreaming: using daydreams as means to understanding what one enjoys and why.  For me, this includes thinking about I would live without existing constraints – in different situations.   I not only get to enjoy the daydreaming, but the I get to analyze the the shared facets of those daydreams (which I also enjoy) and then try to incorporate those recurring actions into my actual life.  This has led me to set aside time to do those things I would do if only I had the time and resources.