One in the mind. One on the plate.

Our consciousness developed while food and environment were synonymous.

We did the same thing to ourselves that we do to animals on the farm. We built social structures between us and our food. And we’re only given access in amounts appropriate to how much we do. Now. We earn our living.

My point is, these are not the conditions consciousness developed in. That little ineffable something missing from life, well, its a long story.

We used to have so many stories along with every meal.
Every meal was a vast narrative. A novel.
And in that way, we consumed two meals at once.

One in the mind, and one on the plate.

That Germ

When you plant a seed, nothing happens. When it comes time for that end of the year test, one of the questions is what happens when you plant a seed, nothing is the correct answer.

Except, it isn’t. Every farmer knows what work patience does that they can’t. Now if only we followed farmers as often as political science majors. We’d think on timelines, we’d question our initial bias, we’d work with systems far more powerful than we will ever be, more powerful than any machine. Still, nothing like a seed.

You want to talk about life after death? You want to talk about transfiguration, or transubstantiation. Don’t talk to me. Talk to a tomato seed. Barely a little flaky kernel to the naked eye. Unending possibility, fruit, food, and life to the earth. But if you sat in a classroom and studied it, you’d think nothing of it. If you had never planted one in a well-destroyed field, and come back to it, for no reason other than sheer, titanic, monumental faith, you would pass the test. You would select the option ‘nothing’. And you would fit in so fine with humankind, and live in constant conflict with the planet.

What is truth? Better question. What is truth without patience?
If only I knew. I’d do just one thing with that germ.

I’d share it.
With you.

What Freedom Means

Freedom will never mean the right to take freedom away from others. That really is the only restriction. Though it really isn’t a restriction. So much as it is a crucial ingredient that being free can not be achieved without. In a free society, what can be rightfully disallowed, except for all those actions that prevent the freedoms of other society members. Free speech is one thing, but if the intent is to diminish or even exclude the voice of another, it is in fact diminishing the free speech of the speaker. You can target, toss, aim your intentions at harming one particular grouping of citizens, but there is no argument that your impositions should not boomerang back around and harm your own freedoms as well. There isn’t. You want to pay your way stealing from your neighbors, what is your argument that anyone in the world shouldn’t steal from you? No matter the words you use, it doesn’t exist. Murder. Violence. These are self nullifying actions. Even if there were no justice system, no state of incarceration, no intention of governmental vengeance. Do we think our communities would allow one member to, at whim, end the life of another member? The Justice system was not invented to create justice. But fear. Consequence. And revenge.

We don’t need a justice system, any more than any one of us needs another head attached to our own body. For the human being in and of itself is a system of justice.

We need to educate all people that restricting the rights and freedoms of any person, regardless of race, gender, identity, any other qualifier that does not actually negate or even diminish someone’s humanity, or rights of citizenship, is an act of war. Acts of war do not always take place within the context war. Often, they come before. And this discrimination is a war act, even if one hundred years happen between the action and the full fallout. It is possible to be prejudiced, but still respect the object of your prejudice’s autonomy. In fact, this respect will affect you quite fruitfully. For you see, that is the one saving grace of capitalism. Of any economy. Or ecosystem. We can argue all day the reasons you do not like rattlesnakes, but any adventurer worth their salt knows there would be seriously detrimental consequences for all of us if we restricted, or removed them entirely from an environment.

My point is not to teach the dull and redundant wrongness of thinking people who are different from you are bad, or not worthy of the same rights as you. I am arguing that diminishing the rights of people you don’t like hurts the economy, and has all kinds of negative effects even for the practitioners of hate. Of racism. And judgement. Dressed up justice.

Racism is detrimental to the racist and the race. It really is, for lack of a better word in any regard, a stupid ethos. I wonder why southerners were nervous, hesitant to trust, and insulatory, leading up to the Civil War. Could it be because their economy was built on the backs of human beings who had every right and justification for absolutely hating the humans they were working, cooking, making beds, laboring for in every form imaginable. Slavery was stupid. It made slave owners finicky, quick to violent reaction, and prone to isolationism, which led, in relatively short order, to the most costly war that has ever taken place on American soil.

Denying the rights of same sex couples, legitimizing slander and distrust against transgender people, decrying immigrants as criminals, dismissing women as too emotional or incapable of political leadership. Denying anyone rights of participation in the system that organizes their access to the basic necessities of survival and sustained life. Is dumb.

The conversations we have around these groups of people have changed over the past few decades, but not because we’ve grown enlightened, or more open minded, or softened. But because inclusive policies, attitudes and systems, lead to more commerce, stronger, diversified economies, and a higher educated, more affluent and experienced population.

Unarguably.
We are better people.
When we are better to people.

This idea that freedom is something our governments grant for us, let’s just say, history tells a different story. Justice is not found in finally providing full rights to everyone who once had them denied. It is found in asking who has benefited from lying that this expensive system could ever equal out and make freedom accessible for all of us. Studying what the reality of justice and being free has meant for them, and measuring it against the people who have the very least amount of social, fiscal and opportunistic freedoms. What do those people who benefited have in common, and what about the people who haven’t.

Asking the humans who built the system this way to change it is ludicrous. Asinine. If any politician came out publicly and said rattlesnakes aren’t all bad, and also deserve a right to live in the woods, would risk their bid for reelection, simply based on the lack of popularity of rattlesnakes. Representation in place of authentic democracy, is a stupid, biased, and verifiably unsuccessful method. People who hate snakes will be overrun by rats. People who think the color of their skin nullifies their sins are in for a rude awakening on that inevitable day when they are no longer in any way awake.

Do we want to build a functional society that provides freedom for all people in it?

If we do, it is actually much easier than what we are already trying.

Freedom. Free access to the resources required to sustain life. Free. Absent of cost, required payment, or taxation.

They are very simple and inexpensive, words like justice and freedom. The systems that truly protect them will be simple too. And if they aren’t, that is not on accident. It never is.
But fear is a powerful drug.

If I had never been in the woods, I too might believe it was full of snakes.
If I had never been to the city, I might not understand why it is full with rats.

Freedom has nothing to do with good and bad.

It is easier than that.

Freedom is a reference to cost.
And right now, sustaining human life, costs a lot.
It is an industry.
It will never make us for free.

Government is not a good source for finding justice.
Because if it ever really attempted true justice,
the government would be indicted long before the rest of us.

By the shovelful

A letter to friends. First things first. Snow.

There really is no clearer demonstration of how rare it is to call something beautiful
that isn’t also dangerous. One of those unique instances nowadays
that’s impossible to argue with. I mean, look up. It’s that same cluttered,
pupil-shrinking prism for all of us. Weather.
And we fall under it.
What does that tell us?
The tilt of our wonderfully imperfect earth. The pull of the moon, pulled like a rib
from the belly of our world. The storied soil we work on and eat from and take on
yet cry and bemoan any opportunity or demand to give back. Which is inevitable.

It disrespects the dead to fear death this much.

That’s what winter is for. Every year, for a month, or a few, our planet tries to bury us.
Freeze us out. Toughen us up. Shed old leaves and dream and make plans for spring
staring longingly into fires as we listen for kettles to whistle
more eager than dogs do for dinner bells.

Wheels are not really ideal for snow.

Clothing becomes a form of shelter. As much home as one can carry worn like armor.
It can be the difference between a good day and that one day. Extra gloves. Dry socks.
Nature Valley bar. Lukewarm coffee.
It really is the little things that separate being outdoors from hell on earth.
Come equipped. Be stubborn about it. Dress in layers. Prepare for change.

A good nickname for winter. Change. Different.
Roll with the punches off a rolling earth.
Be buried up in ice and frozen rain and dig a way out.
By the shovelful. Claw with bare hands if you have to.

Show up.

A pretty titanic lesson that’s been working on me over the past year.
Which events of life am I truly willing to let deter me. Cold? Rain? Snow?
Were these elements not in the forecast when I set my plans. My intentions.
Yes. Of course they were.
These seasons have been forecast for millennia.
Put your boots on and play in them. Shovel out the drive and go adventuring.
Leave some tracks in something that was pristine when you first got there.
Perfect. Clean. And powder. Like paper. Put a story in it.
The greatest form of flattery is imitation.
So show winter it is not the only one of us who is willing to change.

Say to the earth, this is how I roll.
I, like you, stop for nothing.

The Algebra of Human Emotion

Language is not reality. No more than one plus one equals two. I used to always argue this back when I was in school. To the truly left brained minds, it was a lot of fun. But one. Does not exist. One. Is a living, breathing, intangible reference. Always. To something else.

The point is, one what? What is a one without a what? An object. One flock of thirty geese plus one flock of fifty five geese and one confused pigeon, does not equal two flocks. One plus one is a highly inadequate equation to measure these, and most of life’s sordid, overlapping, seemingly never ending botherations.

Even for humans. One plus one is far more likely to equal a Brian than it is to add up to two. And then the question changes from what to who. Until so many stories entangle and we need to use a different sort of math to sort them out.

Storytelling. Literature. Language.
Is not reality.
So much as it is
the algebra of human emotion.

Farm. Or be Farmed

The farmer kills chickens when he is hungry, and Japanese beetles,
when they are too, clipping his corn. The farmer still does it.
Crushing shiny bodies between finger and thumb. Red guts.
Wiped on long wagging green tongues. But the beetles keep on.
Out around twelve, more toward dusk. Man has a husk. Armor.
Which can be pierced, eaten into, through.
And chickens, beetles, they do too.

I suppose the farmer feels bitten. Harmed.
And this is why he ends them all. Big or small.

Farm or be farmed.

Animals

Back of the throat, out through a double barrel twelve gauge nose.
Hoof smacks hard earth. And drags. Once. Twice. Three times.
Then open eyes, contact and hold. Horses. Undulation always.

Curious little tickle of a sound. Cracked opened mouth.
Pupils flat lining. Sweet feed pining.
Unhelpless hapless little mammals.
Goats. Have you heard, a herd?

Pushed around light as a plaything by one.
Whipped hard like a little boy’s baby doll.
Like you were one of them?

Another reason I love animals. No rhetorical questions.
Rhetorical anything. No rhetoric alone. Flat teeth
stained mustard roots. Bow brown. Wet chin.
Ankle thin. And thick headed.

Where there are a lot, you call them livestock.
When there are a few, you call them ‘hey you’.
Old goat. Old horsey coarse. Ye sheep.
Not something you own, but something you keep.
Live stock. Mute slave. Sit high up on a saddle
like steak stacked up on a dinner plate.

But need is need.
Regardless the animal.
Never mind the breed.

And we do, so much, and so money.
For what is a farmer now, except for fences?
And that is the ticket, isn’t it?
To answering rhetoricals.

The fallacy of believing you can own a living thing.
Simply because you keep it in a pen.

There is no freedom on either side of the fence.

Voiceless

Their eyes speak volumes.
Eyelashes turned up way too loud.
Milky white bleeds over onto the pupil.
That is how you know he can’t see you.
That. And the way his ears follow you across the room.
Which. When there’s animals in it. Is called a barn.

Little ones three to a stall.
No matter how small.
One of them
has to be
biggest.

What a perk. They let you eat first. She leaves two other pails just for us.
An orange and white tabby tearing at a frozen bird some other thing tried to eat yesterday. Reindeers wore their antlers bare. And I didn’t know, they don’t need so much water.
Because reindeer eat snow. And geese hiss like snakes. And donkeys crow.
The music mules make makes me believe this animal understands sympathy. And guilt.

The low. The rising raspy bellow. The arched head bowed down.
Salt peppered hay speckled crown. Makes me want to feed him again.

He knows this.

You know, it really isn’t voiceless.
Just because I don’t speak the language.

But when we listen through our eyes
we always strike some understanding.

Apes with big brains and too much time on their hands.

We’re sticking out sideways on a salty rock with dry patches shifting like rashes from so much tectonic scratching. Everyday we move menial amounts of dirt, and waste, and value, and paperwork, and then we go home tired, pretending there’s no tomorrow until tomorrow is honking beside the bed at six in the morning. It’s not nothing. And yet, it’s also not the something we imagined it would be.

It’s just apes with big brains and too much time on their hands, with a highly developed imitative faculty, building termite mounds and anthills, while failing to cite their sources.

We’ve invented nothing. We’ve failed at conquering our own backyards, let alone any frontiers. We are infants, evolutionarily speaking. We’re bees. Who forgot all the scavenging we’ve been doing for fifteen thousand years. We believe we’re actually shitting out honey.

We’re surprised.
Every time.
We remember why
we’re the only apes
that live in hives.

Unmistakably Living

I am hypnotized by blue skies. I am cold beer at noon. I am fire, and in the other hand, I am ice. Somehow, I am holding the two together. And neither is reduced by the presence of the other one. I am scared by my own happiness. To possess a thing so precious. As a smile. I am afraid of what it speaks. To others. Who will believe contentment makes me weak. Drunk. Perceptible. And I am. But I don’t want them to know I am.

Flowers that bloomed and wilted in fields never witnessed by the feet of men or women.
I am the best water you have ever tasted. Pouring from a permanent spring in the mountains. Every drop. Wasted.

Sometimes when I eat good food, I taste my neighbor’s hunger soon after. Call it guilt. In my gut. There are some essentials I don’t want, unless my neighbor has them also. But if my neighbor wants what is mine in spite of my need. I will be war. I am the answer to that ancient prayer, something something or other about how we treat one another. It is not axiom.
It is not advice. It is basic, universal, physical and primeval law.

This entire experience we call life has one clear singular inarguable purpose. Balance.
It doesn’t make sense if it was meant to be all good and this is what it is. And sitting where I am right now, though I know it will change somehow, I can not tolerate the thought it is all bad. Even if it’s just me. This child. That dog. Sitting in this little well insulated box on the edge of a great glacial lake. Enjoying the long awaited sun. This scene means the universe can’t be all bad. Or all wrong.

I farm the fabric of the existence. I am the great great great grandchild of two polar opposites. Inexorably attracted. We are all what happened when they finally banged together. We’re the universe’s passion child. We don’t make sense. Because we’re screaming at the top of our lungs love babies. Illegitimate children. And yet, here we are, unmistakably living.

I know I am.