‘That Subtle Knot Which Makes Us Man’… Reflections On Embodiment

Revised Excerpt From The Recovery Of Ecstasy: Notebooks From Siberia

[A note to my readers: I have been asked on any number of occasions to say what we can do to find our way through this maze, this “long emergency.”  I am suspicious of any social or political action taken without there first being a transformation in our personal sense of being-in-the-world.  Additionally, one of our fellow travelers, Hasdrubal Barca, sent me an excellent series  that ended with the following call: “The only path forward is inward. Find yourself. Only then will you be able to find the others.”  In the spirit of the request, I offer this piece from my book,  The Recovery Of Ecstasy.  Our need to recover some feral memory trace of who we are is preeminent and may provide a framework for reconstituting society, albeit on a much smaller scale… a more human scale!  I hope you enjoy the excerpt.]

America embodies Western civilization’s decisive triumph over nature.  We perfected the techniques and technologies to domesticate every centimeter of our world, natural and social.  All feral, wild, or indigenous elements here, including the American Indian, have been conquered, dissected, and then carefully planned, plotted, or relocated; but so have “We, The People.”  Millennia before arriving on these shores, our earliest civilized forbearers had already forsaken the primal gifts of self-sufficiency and personal autonomy for the apparent safety and security afforded by obedience and conformity to emergent hierarchies of political power and social control.  America simply represented the apex in this process, culminating in a modern scientific spirit directed by specialists with an Enlightenment driven pursuit of progress, an unwavering belief in reason, historical causality, and the rule of law.

Progress junkies, Americans have become a nation of experts: specialization being the key to our rapid advancement and the speedy deployment of our cultural artifacts and ideologies around the globe.  This, of course, was the logical, i.e., historical, consequence of the division of labor, which saw its own ascendancy in the birth of agriculture, the founding of cities, and the invention of writing – an epochal transformation that took place between twelve and six thousand years ago.  With these events began the measured and deliberate march of domestication and fragmentation, a pyramiding of political control, our own enslavement, and a more or less irreparable tear in our autochthonous relations with Mother Earth.

While it is undeniable that the innovations wrought by specialization have made life more comfortable, providing the many “toys” and other distractions of modern existence, it has also cemented our alienation, and emptied uncultivated nature of any real significance.  Like my fellow Americans, I was raised to view such advancement as the path to a better, richer life.  Yet, while I filled up my life in this way, it did not mean that my life was full, but simply that I was in need of constant distraction to provide the illusion of fullness.

One consequence of such unabated progress was an indistinct sense of homelessness, of being forlorn and abandoned.  Like myself, so many of those around me had become anonymous, isolated individuals estranged from, and in conflict with, a fragmented, alienated world to which we were now only accidentally linked by recently forged ties of commercial and technical expediency.  The entire edifice with all its attendant scaffolding – art, entertainment, language, politics, religion, work – all had been erected effectively and convincingly, so as to maintain the illusion that I, that we, fundamentally belonged to this culture rather than to ourselves or to Nature.

Yet we could no sooner turn away from this modern civilized sanctuary and return to the wildness of unbridled nature than we could forget how to speak our native tongue.  Trying to go back to the forest, ab initio, was neither practical nor desirable for anyone raised and living in digital-America.  Besides, we had long since shattered the conditions for the possibility of such a journey.  The wild had been destroyed along with our own wildness, leaving behind only “tokens of nature” in its stead.  Given the contrasts I had experienced between our hyper-rational, overly-cultivated, novelty-driven outlook, and the more arcadian approaches that I found in Siberia, it seemed appropriate that my starting point might be lessons learned from those simpler lifeways of my civilized, but not yet fully westernized, friends and family on the Central Asian Steppe.

I now carried my estrangement as a resource, an opportunity, a fulcrum for liberation, not simply from a particular cultural system, but more importantly, from the straightjacket of modern civilization’s underlying and increasingly debilitating machinations.  I recognized this most palpably following my return from Russia.  If I were to find a way back home to some primal ground, it must be through resolutely owning my estrangement and, in so doing, recollecting that ahistorical moment still hidden beneath these historical trappings.

Clearly, my commitment to clock time had itself been forged by some well-embedded cultural habits.  But this relatively modern convention did not quite square with my pre-reflective experience of being-in-the-world.  And the forgery committed by linear time had a shared heritage with various other cultural systems – literacy, science, and history – effectively concealing my connection with the world-as-lived by my body.  In order to recover and reclaim this primal bond, I had to allow the natural rhythms inscribed in and articulated through my sentient bodyand not the linear time of my socialized, civilized ego – to express themselves.

But how was I to displace this entrenched temporal prejudice?  I was no longer under the illusion that I was managing time; rather, time – linear, historical, clock time – had been managing me, my body, and my world.  Its metaphors, guiding how I lived, had fashioned an invisible controlling hand that seemed as inevitable as it was immutable.  It served as proxy, counterfeit though it might be, for a more fundamental, all but forgotten, sense of my being present in the world.  Once I decided that the solution was in stopping this future-directed hegemony, I was able to return – through my body, and the circadian rhythms of life in my body in the world – to a kairotic ground.

Feeling, perhaps for the first time since infancy, the corporeal basis of my sentient self, I realized how for so many years I had been guided by my sense of sight alone, by visualizing a future toward which I was heading.  Like the disembodied self of Enlightenment rationalism, which underlies our modern worldview, I had been ruled almost exclusively by seeing, that sense committed to looking ahead.  My other senses had become dulled, selective, and flat.  I was unaware of what was around me, focused instead on what was before me, in my line of sight…at some future goal that I now “had in view.”  The preponderance of these metaphors directing me was not a mere literary conceit; it was indicative of the restraints that historical consciousness had imposed upon me, on how I “saw” things, on my “worldview.”  It was all visual.

It seemed, furthermore, that if my world was culturally constituted, so must the organization of my sensorium be culturally ordered as well.  The sensoria, and their specific appetites, certainly seemed to have developed differently within different cultural frameworks.  Had I not already sampled this in Siberia with its idiosyncratic antipathies toward both time and space?  Was there not also a unique sensual organization of experience among my Siberian friends and family, reflective of such antipathies, with a higher premium on the senses other than sight?

While there was unquestionably a unique perceptual hierarchy in the West, grounded in linear time, with sight at the very top of the pyramid, I was no longer willing to let my own life be vision-driven.  I took my cue here from my wife, Anna, who was less concerned with diligently planning the future and more closely engaged in living a full and meaningful present – where scent, taste, and touch were more concretely and intimately involved.  And, like most of her countrymen, Anna seemed far more balanced tactilely, aurally, and visually than I had ever been or hoped to be.

Freeing myself from the hegemony of Father Time and his controlling historical vision, I became more attuned to the phases of Mother Earth, to the rhythms of moon and sun, not merely because I saw their rising and setting, their waxing and waning, but because I could hear the periodic sounds of nature associated with their coming and going.  I could literally feel variations in the air, temperature, and humidity, smell and even taste the alteration of seasons in a world that surrounded and engulfed me, and filled my senses with life, with being.

My sensorium restored, all my faculties were now more fully engaged.  No longer seeing in one dimension, the subjectivity of my body itself came into heightened relief.  I now recognized that the very presence of perceptible objects within my line of sight occurred only because I was not simply a gaze; I too was a material, tactile presence.  I could grasp the world physically as well as visually.

Spatiality emerged as my body felt itself within a world that reached out and received my flesh; my gestures betraying my body as a point of departure on the world, my openness to its presence, a crossing back over into elemental nature.  It was only the chimera of a scientific metaphysics, granting singular and privileged position to sight, that had created the impression of a purely objective world in the first place, as if viewed through a telescope and from a great distance.  But this impression did not correspond to what I now sensed, ecstatically, every day.

I now felt my body differently.  And it was this sense of embodiment, at the heart of my self-estrangement, my otherness, that was also the giver of new life, a life recollected in my return to its untamed ground, my body-as-subject and the world-as-lived by my body. [From, The Recovery of Ecstasy:Notebooks From Siberia, Sandy Krolick.]

63 Responses to ‘That Subtle Knot Which Makes Us Man’… Reflections On Embodiment

  1. Ray says:

    Visuals comprise the largest group, then Auditories, then Kinethetics. I was overwhelmingly Auditory, moderately Visual, and hardly Kinesthetic at all. Therein lay my problems…not acknowledging and feeling my feelings and emotions. I have worked on this for 6-8 months, and my life has changed radically for the better!

  2. Disaffected says:

    I remember in my youth visiting my Grandparents’ farm in central Nebraska every summer for up to a month at a time, where the day’s activities were dictated simply by sunlight (sun comes up, time to get up, sun goes down, time to go to bed, early day tomorrow). My grandmother had only recently given in to the idea of having a television in the house (she called the devil’s instrument until the day she died in 1991), but needless to say, it didn’t get much use except for holidays. When visiting the many farm neighbors, I was always struck by how vigorous, physically fit, and independent the kids were, as I was a pudgy little runt even then. Invariably, when it came time to go home to the city, I didn’t want to go and would be depressed for a week or so afterward.

    Now, of course, my grandparents are long since gone and so is the family farm, passing first to my uncle for a short time, and then, inevitably, to the corporate interests who have moved the people off the land into indentured servitude in the cities “working for the man.” My uncle is now in his mid-60s and recently had triple bi-pass surgery, narrowly escaping his final curtain call. He’s spent his life working – somewhat reluctantly and resentfully – for a major farm implement manufacturer for a fraction of what he’s worth doing database programming and general systems analyst type work, a mere shell of the young man who was so vigorous growing up on a working family farm.

    Little did I know then, I was witnessing a truly transformational period in US history, where our very spirits were being crushed by the corporate assembly line in favor of a “comfortable existence” in the cities. We’re all domesticated now; declawed, neutered, and house broken. Dogs with no bark OR bite, performing cheap tricks for treats.

    Cue ‘the Floyd

    So, so you think you can tell Heaven from Hell,
    blue skies from pain.
    Can you tell a green field from a cold steel rail?
    A smile from a veil?
    Do you think you can tell?
    And did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts?
    Hot ashes for trees?
    Hot air for a cool breeze?
    Cold comfort for change?
    And did you exchange a walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?
    How I wish, how I wish you were here.
    We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year,
    Running over the same old ground.
    What have you found? The same old fears.
    Wish you were here.

    Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here

    • Disaffected says:

      I remember when I first bought and listened to the Wish You Were Here album back in the early 70’s. Like nearly everyone else I knew, we had all gotten on the Floyd bandwagon after the release of Dark Side of the Moon, mostly due to the awesome guitar licks, but also for all the anti-establishment rhetoric, which for most of us teenagers was merely an idle affectation we were able to indulge in due to a life of middle-class privilege and idle time.

      The song Wish You Were Here was obviously, like all of the Floyd’s work, catchy in a musical sense, but I really liked its defiant tone as well, chalking it up as a stern rebuke from an “enlightened” young son to his old-fashioned and out of touch father. Now, having grown older and only a little bit wiser, I realize just how young and truly thoughtless I was all those years ago.

      The song is obviously a warning from an elder self, who, having accepted all the trade-offs detailed in the song and experienced the soul extinguishing consequences, is lamenting his plight to his younger self in the decidedly wistful manner of those who have lived long and made regretful choices along the way.

      I wonder if such a feeling won’t be the new normal in the coming years, especially as time runs out on the baby boomers and their grand illusions of immortality and American hyper-imperialism.

  3. John Bollig says:

    Sandy, DA and others,

    My girlfriend’s family has had the same experience that you described of frustration. They were a farming family until very recently and only settled into town living in the 1990’s. I have only admiration for the rural lifestyle and its life based on the farming values. My only hope is that I can return to their lifestyle. The total destruction of the rural life was a result of manipulated low grain prices, generous subsidies to multinationals to promote removal of farmers from the land and a constant media destruction of rural values. Population policies and the forclosure crisis that spawned the AAM in the 1980’s further depopulated vast areas of the midwest. My family has not been in agriculture for at least 3 generations and has no real idea how to raise crops. My sisters think that bread comes from a supermarket not from wheat. Hopefully, the trend stops with my future decision to move back to a rural area and grow a large garden and learn how to raise chickens. I don’t like the idea of killing the chickens for food but I guess I will have to learn to do it and to avoid eating supermarket chickens and eggs. My prayer is that I will be able to feed myself and my dear girlfriend in the future. The only way that we will survive the crisis is to learn and learn quickly.

  4. Hasdrubal Barca says:

    Thank you, Sandy. Excellent post. Inward is where to look for long-term solutions to our predictament. Your ideas have me hooked.

    For those who may be interested, I read the following four part essay on Perception and Reality last week over at Zerohedge. The author is a self-described amateur but I think he did a good job laying out a complex subject in an understandable way (at least for novices such as myself). I think the topic is a good backdrop with what Sandy is discussing here.

    I linked to part four of the series, but one can follow the links back to the Part I, II, and III in the introductory paragraph.

    Perception, Inception and the Trojan Horse Money Meme, Chapter Four of Four

    I liked how Pink Floyd captured the essence of Time in our lives:

    Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
    You fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way
    Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
    Waiting for someone or something to show you the way

    Tired of lying in the sunshine
    Staying home to watch the rain
    And you are young and life is long
    And there is time to kill today
    And then one day you find
    Ten years have got behind you
    No one told you when to run
    You missed the starting gun

    And you run, and you run to catch up with the sun, but it’s sinking
    Racing around to come up behind you again
    The sun is the same in a relative way, but you’re older
    Shorter of breath and one day closer to death

    Every year is getting shorter
    Never seem to find the time
    Plans that either come to nought
    Or half a page of scribbled lines
    Hanging on in quiet desparation is the English way
    The time is gone
    The song is over
    Thought I’d something more to say

    Home, home again
    I like to be here when I can
    When I come home cold and tired
    It’s good to warm my bones beside the fire
    Far away across the field
    The tolling of the iron bell
    Calls the faithful to their knees
    To hear the softly spoken magic spells

    • Disaffected says:

      RE: Pink Floyd,

      Amazing how some could be some so wise at such a tender age. Roger Waters was a genius, although time was certainly not kind to him either. In the end the band degenerated into mindless squabbling over rights to the name and who was the rightful heir to the “legacy,” even though time had, for the most part, passed them all by by then. We’re all fools in the end…

    • kulturcritic says:

      Truer words were never sung, HB!!

  5. There are two blog posts I like to read, one is this and the other is Mr. Kunstlers´.
    This week I see here:
    “The only path forward is inward. Find yourself. Only then will you be able to find the others.”
    And on Mr. Kunstlers´ the story of Dominque Strauss-Kahn.
    What if looking into yourself you find out that there is nothing?
    I mean, nothing of what you were looking for.
    What if you find out that this special intelligent animal, is, in spite of all his intelligence, still just an animal?
    What if this “longing for a reunion with Nature”, is the journey to our inner self, to our simple, natural, stupid animal humanity?
    I personally have no problem with it.
    I like to see myself as the descendent of a hairy gorilla instead of a stupid Eve and Adam.
    What if our need to go back to our roots is just the need to be honest, to see the simple naked truth, the reality that nobody is a saint and everybody is in one way or another “victim“ of his human nature?

    • Malthus says:

      I finished reading “The recovery of ecstasy” and was going to make a comment about population numbers and overdeveloped nations and then I read you post. Very good questions. Especially “What if looking into yourself you find out that there is nothing?” Nothing would be a first step to naturalism as far as what we were before agriculture. As you know agriculture has allowed us to overpopulate and over develop. We spent a million years as hunter gatherers and evolved an awareness of nature and ourselves that we have lost. The answer of why we lost it is really weird but true. When we were nomads hunting and gathering we were alive with the search for novelty as all organisms are. When we settled into towns, cities, governments, chronic stress and numerous psychological problems we still seek novelty. Thats what kept us outside ourselves and a part of the planet. But instead of the novelty of whats over the hill or if the moon will come up we have turned to human made novelty. Read change, and entertainment and television and the internet and all the other absolutely unnecessary products we keep throwing at ourselves just to keep the feeling of novelty going. Its in our DNA. Maybe even over the cliff which is not sounding all that novel now but perhaps a certainty. This theory of novelty needs to be explored and what it has done to our species. Or rather what we have done to ourselves. Perhaps Sandy can add to this or tell me I am full of it. Which could be the case as is said that we are cosmic apparatuses for the transformation of food. Some fun.

    • kulturcritic says:

      A victim of “human nature”; or of struggling against the constraints of civilized pathologies. I prefer to believe it is the later, not the former, PB!

      • Malthus says:

        Interesting term “civilized pathologies.” Which we have to take responsibility for circling back to “human nature,” and the constant pursuit of novelty.

        • kulturcritic says:

          Malthus… I am trying to follow your very truncated line of thought here… having trouble. Can you expand on it. In my view civilization’s pathologies are precisely that, a long dead-end mistake. But, I do not see humans as constantly seeking novelty. I see the pursuit of novelty tied to a conception of unilinear time, with a receding horizon that constantly beckons one forward. sandy

          • Malthus says:

            I wish I had time to go further into this and will probably have more time next week. Good question but am not sure truncated would be the word. Perhaps disambiguation. I know generally novelty is tied to time by some and I say it is outside of time and subjective so I am going to quote Wikipedia as far as their definition of novelty which is “Novelty (derived from Latin word novus for “new”) is the quality of being new. Although it may be said to have an objective dimension (e.g. a new style of art coming into being, such asabstract art or impressionism) it essentially exists in the subjective perceptions of individuals.
            It also refers to something novel; that which is striking, original or unusual. Now think about why we left Africa and spread out. Looking for a better life in the sense of more opportunities or looking for something new, novel? I will get back with you as soon as possible probably by email. Thanks for working with me and taking the time to point out confusing points of my thesis.

    • StrayCat says:

      Well, we still are just animals, and the religious vanity that has claimed our separateness and specialness has also skewed our time sense from cycles of the Earth and the years of our families and friends into some ragged twisted quest for the future, either retirement, or heaven, or a place of power. Plato claimed that our existence is a faint reflection of the Perfect forms. The bible tells us we are born with sin, and points to our very animality and who we are as proof of this sinful state. I’m afraid that many look within, just a peek, mind you, and fine, as Sartre may have said, inauthenticity, a construct jammed into our consciousness before we could defend ourselves. Our difficulty with reuniting with nature, in part, seems to be because we have been taught to abhor nature, be fearful of the deep forest and the open water. We seem to be able to wonder at the cut flower in a vase, yet cringe from the flowers in the wild, in their place, which should be our place too. However, I take issue with the use of “stupid” either for other animals or for us. Our cats are crafty planners and hunters, who play us like a fiddle when they want something. They have a sense of past and future, and long memories. I am thankful that they have not gotten religion and that they give affection freely, even after being given their flea baths.

  6. schwerpunkt says:

    The “find yourself” thingy always sounds “hippie-dippie” to talk about. However, I had an experience where I lived in the woods for about a year…. where I was working as a professional. It was not a total tune in drop out, but allowed me to re-set myself personally as well as see how we (westerners and those we inspire to consume) to totally alienate ourselves from the natural world. To go from sleeping by the fire in a stone hut to waking to the birds and the deer, and then plugging into the office with all the ieverthing…. we all may not have the ability to delve into the woods as such, however, I don’t read the words “find yourself then others” in the same way….

    • kulturcritic says:

      Folks, I did not mean for the “find yourself” quote to refer us to some trivial psycho-social self-help strategy aimed at aging baby-boomer, et. al. Rather, it was intended to get at the primitive process of return and recollection – recovering what we had forgotten at the very origins of our climb up the ladder of industrial civilization. I am suggesting that there is a feral memory trace still viscerally present within each of us that connects us to the natural world (whatever is left of it). We can sense this hidden connection in times of great alienation or cultural disequilibrium. And, if we are lucky, it thrusts us back into our bodies, where our senses and the ‘earthly sensuous’ meet in that intertwining of the world-as-lived-by-the-body. This is the foundation of any sustainable move to a renewed appreciation of the world on the far side of collapse. IMHO

      • Yes, Sandy..until we accept that we are a part of the world, not a part from it we will be as rootless plants always gasping for nurture which never comes. Ive always enjoyed pointing out to people that Buddha only realized enlightenment when he accepted he was in and of the world, with a body and everything that means and implies. Delving into the tribal traditions, one finds the theme that we are just another part of the world, a current in the river, though not the river itself. Many of these same ways of living speak of circles and spirals as well as many directions, besides modern cultures “arrow of time”

        • kulturcritic says:

          Marlena, you are right, it seems to me. Unless we recover that sense of the wild, the feral, which is essential to us and the core of our intertwining with the rest of nature, then we will remain lost on the timeline of history that leads nowhere. Yet, the enticements of this culture are so strong that breaking away requires a superhuman act of will. And, if one has such will power, it is hard to derail it from its current course.

  7. Tom says:

    Great post & inciteful comments!

    The simple routine of planting, weeding, cultivating – tending to a garden does wonders for me. It’s quiet, i hear the birds & insects, see the worms and ants doing their parts (and reflect on “myself” in the same way as i’m sweating away) , feel the earth with my hands, feel the sun and the breeze while i’m concentrating on whatever task, and let all my thoughts, after acknowledging them, just flow by. My dog lays in the grass snoozing and i’ll stop now and then and lay by him, looking up at the passing clouds to rest a minute. After a bit, i’ll continue – naturally getting hungry and thirsty in the process. When i’m satisfied that i’ve done enough for today, i’ll go in to a nice salad, a light dinner with a couple glasses of water, maybe some tea a bit later while i’m reading before bed. It feels good, i’m getting some exercise and the “rewards” (this year: tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumber, carrots, beans and watermelon) come later – in due time.

    Thanks for putting down your thoughts everyone – i enjoy reading your many interesting comments, musings and perceptions on our trip around the sun (and i also was into and got to see Pink Floyd from the 17th row in Philadelphia many years ago with friends).

  8. Jethro Bodine says:

    I came back here after spending the day moving the cows to new pasture, their heads to the ground doing what they do best; converting the Sun’s energy in the form of grass, into meat.

    It is heartening to hear people speak respectfully of an agrarian lifestyle after what seems like a lifetime of listening to people make banjo spanking, cousin humping comments about the people who put the food on their plate and to find that hard scrabble farmers aren’t the only ones who listen to Floyd for the lyrics as well as the trippy guitar riffs.

    Yes, we are all headed, inexorably back toward a world made by hand whether by design or intention and you can see it manifest itself in the way people now think and speak about what has value in this world. I don’t believe that we will be able to save much of the way things have been, but there are other, better things ahead I believe.

    Last night we brought in a weak lamb that was not going to make it and it died not long after we washed it and fed it some milk and we buried it this morning, not because we had to, but because we are still human. I think most of us are…

  9. Rocco says:

    I find it funny that folks who believe that if you return to nature; then you must give up rational thought and evidence based medicine. My Grand mother from the old country would laugh at the non sense that fluoride, vaccines are not needed. She would tell us about the good old days of “natural medicine” and how a variety of bugs and other aliments would wipe down a town or a certain population. We can go back to a more natural, less filled with Walmart junk life. We can re connect with local farming, and neighbors, and walk, ride bikes, eat healthier,and still keep evidence based medicine, and rational thoughts. Please read http://www.childrenshealthcare.org ( CHILD) stories from parents who tried by “god, or natural cure”.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Rocco – Thanks for weighing in. I don’t think it is necessary or possible to give up rational thought; nor do I think we can return to some paradise lost. But, I believe a hyper-rationality has supplanted (and dismissed) all other modes of access to our world, and we witness it daily. Certainly there are great benefits (as well as unintended side-effects) associated with modern medicine. But I would certainly like to have many of those options available to me, as my body continues to age. Yet, there is a price to be paid for such luxuries. And don’t fool yourself about it. Please stay with us and let’s hear more from you.

      • Straycat says:

        You have hit a core concern here. Yes, rational thought is always with us, but we lessen its usefulness and scope when we ignore the smells of nature, of our own bodied. We grab instead of touch. We emote, with our cerebrum instead of feel. Thank you for this post, it puts some important thing in perspective for me.

  10. Bill Williams says:

    Thasnks John Schrader for sending this post . I enjoyed the poetry and the daily logs that show the good work of man and I feel that nothing is more full filling than a good work done at any level and yes we who feel the past know of the spirit and feel the soul of the better past life . We have been taken away from the fire side chats and the breakfast tables where things that are needed to be past down are taught and now mostly lost, but I rear the spirits of the past calling us to know and feel and live the essence of man and I wish I could share then with folks that are touched by the many forms of this knowldge. Perhaps I will see mor of this ffom this web sit.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Thanks, Bill for your thoughts. And it is not just the campfire that we’ve been dragged away from, but the community that arises around that. Please come by again and let us hear your thoughts.

  11. John Bollig says:

    Sandy, DA and Jethro.

    My experiences have led me to believe that we have been programmed to view rural life as backward and to extoll the city life. Who does this benefit ? The enslavers, that’s who. The one reason why multinationals hate rural people is that living off of the land gives those people a level of control over their lives. Multinationals have no national loyalities. They have no concern over what state they control or what population is under their thumb. The natural scope of this effort is to suck the excess natural resources out of an area and to leave it ruined. Ask North Carolina about the mines and ask Kentucky residents about removal of whole mountaintops to recover coal.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Ask India, ask the Amazon, ask…..

    • Disaffected says:

      Ahh… but the coal is “clean” now, don’t ya know? And fracking for natural gas has never been “proven” to cause groundwater contamination. Hell, since I’m on a roll here, global warming is still just an unproven scientific “theory,” as is evolution. The corporate boys are wise to one overwhelming fact. All they have to do is plant a seed of doubt and they win. Besides the fact that most Americans are ignorant scientifically, these are all scary facts that no one wants to believe in anyway, given an even remotely plausible alternative.

      Make no doubt about it, the corporate boys are winning the war of words, and they’ll continue to do so until the bitter end. Their message will always be sweeter and they’re far better at delivering it. And at some point we’ll reach the proverbial tipping point anyway, where the changes will be locked in. At that point the mantra will become, “What’s the point? Might as well get my share while there’s still some left.” In fact, I’ve already heard that statement from some I know.

      • kulturcritic says:

        DA – I thought we already hit that tipping point. Whether or not, it seems to me there is no exit for the culture as a whole; and I think John Bollig is already looking for a few of the chairs that are still left before the music stops.

        • Disaffected says:


          Actually, I think we have as well. Welcome to the “doom and gloom” club!

          I’m merely parroting the current “party line,” which has it that there’s still some time left to make a decision. In fact, we’ve already made our decision (and continue to make it every day), and the inevitable results are accruing as we speak.

          Life boats are indeed appropriate at this point, although I’m quite sure we don’t have enough to go around. Oh well, death is not a tragedy, merely part of the cycle of life*. No matter the circumstances.

          The only guarantee we had coming in was that someday we would go out again. We forget that at our peril.


          *I’ve often imagined a story (fictional, or at least, “imaginative,” obviously) based on the remembrances of the dead of their own deaths. Or, something like I expect to hear and tell after meeting my own fate. Wow! What a story!

          • kulturcritic says:

            You are a sick man!! my friend *as he smiles sheepishly*; welcome to the club!!

            • Disaffected says:

              I’m re-watching HBO’s excellent series Six Feet Under these days. Although it at times devolves into soap opera, it’s still the best series ever developed at honestly dealing with life issues running the gamut from birth to death. And the series finale, especially the last 6 minutes or so, should be archived for posterity. HBO, unlike just about everything they’ve done since, really nailed this one.

        • StrayCat says:

          Good luck to John. I think that the chairs left have only three legs, and are left for bait for the unwary. No Exit, huh? An existential dilemma, maybe?

  12. Jethro Bodine says:

    Today I fed the lambs, milked a goat, collected eggs from under a rock overhang- the chickens are free range and we know exactly where they prefer to lay their eggs, in nests of maple leaves- built a new manger for the cows from lumber we produce on the property, planted fifty flats or so of various greens for a second crop, walked around with the animals in a light rain, filleted and wrapped trout for the freezer and took some time to go to the post office and the bank. A couple of our customers came by to buy syrup and a ham- cash of course- and we exchanged small talk about the weather and the irony of DSK being arrested for a substantially smaller incidence of rapine than is his usual.

    As I write this I can see the lower pasture greening up and the line of rail fence that surrounds the top garden almost disappearing in the mist and I wonder if the big boys ensconced in their mirrored pied a terres in the metropolises of our Empire really have it better than I do.

    Just kidding, I now they don’t.

    You are right, however that agrarian lifestyles have for some time now been ridiculed and shat upon in order to either embarrass or frighten away anyone who would dare to embrace such a lifestyle, for in doing so we turn our backs on the fakey world of the internationalists for things that are bigger than them, more powerful, and deeply rewarding…

    • Disaffected says:

      Coincidentally, or not, I milked a MS Excel spreadsheet dry of all its worth several times over today.

      For what it’s worth, I’m a minor genius at MS Excel and its associated VBA programming language. Lotta good that’s gonna do in the coming years, as the power down of civilization progresses.

      Regardless, I’m looking forward to the challenge – or not. Insert something here about “the good they do die young,” or similar.


  13. Disaffected says:


    It’s funny that many of the NY City power brokers choose to live/commute in/from rural Connecticut and/or upstate NY. Of course, that’s little more than an affectation of genuineness at this point. No doubt the “commodification” of “country living.” PERFECT for ‘Homes & Gardens’ and ‘Country Living’!


  14. John Bollig says:

    Sandy, DA and Others,

    What has really bugged me in the past has been a trend in the media to paint those of us who are getting real as right or left wing kooks. What I have is a question for you all, perhaps Jethro can answer this one, but it is directed toward all. How much land is going to be needed to raise most of your food for survival. Many of my mennonite freinds have told me that they wouldn’t go for anything less than 20 to 40 acres of bottom land by a river that can be used as a irrigation source. Note that these family units are quite large and have draft animals to do teh plowing etc etc. Some of the more progressive traditional farmers have asked me why I am so intent on buying a plot of land when I have no farming background. They were pleased to hear that I want to try to become self sufficent as possible. Two of them told me that they are willing to take it to their church meeting and see what help they can provide us. All of the farmers that we talked to realize our situation and have been more than willing to step forward to give us advice and support. It is good to know that good people exist in this world. We are also aware of the evil in this world however and are very cautious about money, food and land. The mennonites are great role models to follow when it comes to farming and values. They were very kind people who from my observations, worked very hard at their work and had these farms for many generations. Think we found some support and no questions asked mentorship from these fine men and women. If we can scrape enough money together, we will have a plot of land, a house and it will be by a river or stream. I know that the learning curve will be steep and we will go thru tough times, however we have a solid plan and we will try the best that we can to survive. I have no intention of just lying down and dying when the time comes. I will fight and fight until the end, trying to give my gf a decent life and to ensure her survival. The only reason why I am so willing to go to extraordinary lengths to prepare is to give her a fighting chance. Many people have pooh poohed our efforts to get educated and to work saying ” take it easy , live off the system “. We can’t afford that kind of thinking. We can’t afford to be lazy or complacent. History will not be kind to those who are not prepared to deal with the tidal wave.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Obviously, food production will be a major issue, and because we have fairly well committed ourselves to farming, even if it is at the hand-plow level, so be it. But, I would also recommend you find a plot with a forest nearby; the river will provide a fishing place. There will be mushrooms, berries and small critters in the forest than can augment the farming bit; of course a few chickens and a goat or cow could also be handy, given our predilection for domestication. But, I do think 20-40 acres is way too much, John. You may want to find a plot with a good natural deep water table that can be tapped as well… no pun intended.

    • Disaffected says:

      Beware the floodplains as well John. With Global Weirding comes starker weather swings and more and greater floods and droughts.

      I’m not sure how soon your imagined future is going to get here, but you’re certainly right to be taking care of all this now while there’s (hopefully) a fair amount of time left.

    • Disaffected says:

      By the way John, your comments on the Mennonites are well taken. I know they’ve been ridiculed in modern media culture (what would you expect?)*, but if things play out like we think they will, I expect a lot of desperate people in the future are going to be rethinking their opinions.

      *Although, I have to admit, I found this Weird Al Yankovic video mildly humorous when it first came out: Amish Paradise

    • StrayCat says:

      As gto the media painting us as kooks, let them have at it, they are nothing. It is when we are labeled as atheists or enemies of the state, thats when I begin to worry about my financial and physical well being.

  15. Jethro Bodine says:

    John Bollig, I would recommend M G Kains “Five Acres And Independence”, “The Good Life” by Helen and Scott Nearing and john Seymour’s “The Self Sufficient Life and How to Live It”.

    Great resources.

  16. John Bollig says:

    Thanks Jethro,

    As far as the amount of land is concerned, I was going by the suggestion of the mennonite farmers that farm in the area. 40 acres is what is a considered enough to raise crops in dryland comditions. The land I have scouted out is river bed land and also has a well and house on it. One corner is high enough to be above the flood plain. The house and the well are in the corner, also a blacktop rural road goes past the house and it is only 1.5 miles away from a town of 3500 people. I don’t forsee any major issues with the soil because the local agricultural agent lives down the road. His crops look great and they are all organic. He has already set up a meeting with us and he fully understands our situation.

  17. Disaffected says:

    Link to HBO’s Six Feet Under final episode final montage:


  18. Disaffected says:

    By the way, I’m guessing if you’re still here you didn’t get “raptured.” Welcome to the rest of us, Christian nut-bags – aka “fundamentalists.” LOL! What a bunch of TOTAL rubes!

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