Copyright 2012 by Steve Perrin.

The art of introspection is in watching what you pay attention to in engaging your sensory impressions. In becoming conscious of the streaming process of ongoing engagement itself, your mind shifts it’s focus from events assumed to take place outside of yourself to processes going on in your head, the true home of your awareness.

Abruptly, you become aware of elements of consciousness you may have missed before by underplaying them as if they could be taken for granted. By following your own mental engagements as they happen, you immediately see that feelings accompany them at every stage of their development. And not only feelings, but values, memories, expectancies, interpretations of sensory impressions, all leading to an understanding of what a given stage of engagement might mean in light of previous episodes of experience.

The thing to remember is that we make ourselves happen as we do; the root of our behavior is inside each one of us, not in the world. We are responsible for directing and shaping our personal attention, which in turn leads to awareness and subsequent action.

Consciousness is the panorama of what’s going on in our heads from moment to moment. Introspection is our personal visit to that panorama here and now.

Elements that can be depicted in that panorama include personal expectancies contributed by memory, sensory impressions (sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touches, aches, and bodily positions), interpretations of sensory impressions, values, positive and negative feelings, hopes, understanding of what’s going on, dreams, thoughts, imaginings, and so on. A lot is passing through our minds at any particular time, all available to scrutiny through personal introspection if we will but engage ourselves.

The reason we often play down all this mental activity (as if it weren’t taking place) may be that no one else can be aware of it because they’re so distracted by their own mental panorama that they seldom think to inquire how it’s going with us. So we tend to dismiss our own inner life as being trivial and unworthy of notice when, in fact, it’s the core of our existential being.

Introspection is all about acknowledging the unique mental life at the heart of our outward and physical presence in the world.

Copyright (C) 2012 by Steve Perrin

Introspection proceeds on two levels at once: it is the study of our conscious engagements, with the aim of inferring our unconscious motivations for entering into them in the first place.

Introspection directs subjective attention to experiences of interest in terms of: 1) their sensory qualities and relationships, 2) our subsequent interpretation of those sensory attributes, and 3) our aim of placing them within a field of understanding as a basis for taking appropriate action in the world.

Since our engagements are kinetic and ever changing, introspection opens subjective personal consciousness to the ongoing study and analysis required to achieve self-awareness through self-reflection. To understand why we do what we do, we must understand our inner selves, not the mysterious world with its cohort of relative strangers.

That is my thesis in writing this blog. To understand the world as we find it, we must look first at the near end of our active engagements with that world, then at the far end as revealed by the sensory impressions that world makes on us. It is the looping interaction between our behavior in the world and the subsequent impressions we get back that is the stuff of the unique, personal consciousness streaming through our respective heads.

The world we know is the world as we see it, not the world as it is. To improve the world we must improve our seeing of the world for which we are responsible.

If each of us does that, it follows that the world will become a better place for us all, not just the aggressive, militant, rich, and powerful.

That is why I engage in writing this blog.

How do you engage yourself these days? As ever, y’r friend, –Steve from planet Earth

Often, when I first wake up from a dream, I am unsure where I am. Eyes closed, I try to remember where I was when I went to bed. It makes all the difference how I am to relieve this fullness in my bladder. Eyes clouded with sleep, do I stand up and make two turns to the left into the bathroom, or do I climb down a ladder on my right, which will land me by the door so I can go outside to pee in the woods? Am I in Bar Harbor or Franklin? How am I to engage the world in meeting my needs? Which depends on setting off in one direction or the other.

Welcome to my world of streaming consciousness, to what I call my loop of engagement, which is always intentional in being keyed to this or that situation as it develops. Is this the day I am going to check on horseshoe crabs at high tide? Fly over the watershed? Go with my brother to the “dance floor” on Baker Island? Set my mooring in Muddy Cove? Print out recent posts to my blog to see where I’m headed? Give a talk? Shop? Make myself happen in some other way?

That’s what this blog is all about, using myself as a handy example of how we rely on consciousness in making ourselves happen in the world, starting first thing in the morning, going all day, and into our dreams at night when we can neither act nor perceive, but stay engaged nonetheless in periods of REM sleep.

The dream I awoke from this morning was one of my better ones. I flew to Australia where I found a kind of hostel to stay in. It was packed with diverse folks all easily relating to one another. A friendly lady told me I was to sleep in the library, which she said had a good many fans, and I took to be a good thing. No one else was there, but abruptly people streamed in and began laying out bedding on the floor. The place I had staked out got taken, so I found an empty spot and moved in. There was no conflict or competition; people simply got along together. It was crowded, but felt right. Upstairs, my son was taking a bath in an old iron tub, which drained through a groove into a hole in the floor. The man and wife who ran the hostel greeted each guest on the stairs, and even a baby who got my attention was delightfully keen and friendly.

Night and day, I am engaged, shifting from one scene or situation to another, always giving my full attention, always moving beyond myself into a new self emerging just ahead. That emergent self is who I am, kinetic, always on the go. Always trying to figure out where I am so I can take appropriate steps in reaching toward the next stage of my development, whatever it turns out to be, knowing full well that a set mind is sure death.

I am off on an island in Maine, having these thoughts.

My primary engagement is not with money, power, truth, god, or technology, but with the ways of my own mind, which I must get clear on before reaching out to the mind of anyone else.

If I can grasp how I pay attention to sensory impressions, how I come to understand those impressions, and act upon them as I do, then I will have no need to inflict my personal style of engagement on others through dogmatic repetition, oversimplification, intimidation, ridicule, sophistry, or other rhetorical tactics such as dominate so many social interactions in today’s world.

If I can free myself up to be me, then I can let you do the same for yourself, and together we can coexist side-by-side as unique selves among seven-billion others doing the same.

But as long as I am invested in your being who I need you to be, then I deny you the basic freedom of being yourself, and the entire human enterprise falls apart around me from my insisting that I can know you better than you know yourself.

Henceforth, you have no obligation to vote as I tell you, to buy what I want to sell you, to pray as I command you, to think as I taught you, or to perform as I would have you.

And vice versa.

We are as free as we make ourselves through self-study and -understanding.

If we don’t each make that effort, who are we to engage anyone else?

Copyright © 2012 by Steve Perrin

In my view, a good part of consciousness arises from comparison in the brain between expectations and what actually happens. If both are the same, it’s business as usual and there’s no need to pay special attention.

But if there’s a difference so that things happen otherwise than we expect—for better or worse—that’s when we are jolted into alert consciousness so we can pay special attention to what’s going on.

I offer this example from my conscious experience this week. My brother was visiting me from upstate New York. I showed him a photo album that our mother put together in the 1920s, and in it were three pictures of the “dance floor” on Baker Island made in 1923 when she was working as a geologist in Acadia National Park. The “dance floor” is a granite ledge on the outer shore of Baker that is swept by surf coming in from the Gulf of Maine, and the North Atlantic beyond that.

Standing on a slab of granite, notable Boston photographer Herbert W. Gleason stood in one of our mother’s old photographs of the shore of Baker Island. I recognized the dance floor right away from having been there twice before. I wondered if I could find the site where Gleason stood as it looks today. That set up the hope of making a comparison between how the granite ledge looked across a span of 89 years.

My brother had never been to Baker Island, and the photos sparked his interest. I told him there was a ranger-guided tour to the island, and he invited me to join him on such a tour the next day. As it turned out, it was the summer solstice with the temperature reaching 91 degrees Fahrenheit—a perfect day to be out on the water.

We saw loons, guillemots, cormorants, eiders, gulls, and a bald eagle, so the birding alone was sufficient reason to make the trip. But the island itself far surpassed that meager justification—signs of wildlife (deer, bear), lighthouse, cool woods and island breeze, and of course the dance floor swept by the sea.

Here’s some of what it looked like:

Slide6

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Slide1From memory, I couldn’t find the spot where Mr. Gleason had had his picture taken, but when we got back, I took out the album and studied the shot labeled, “Baker Island, Mr. Gleason & Mrs. Johnson 1923.

Slide7 I looked through the photos I’d taken of the dance floor to see if I could see anything similar. Crack in the floor. Slab of a certain height. Bend in the rock face. And then I saw it. The waves had moved the rocks around, but the bottom layer was almost exactly the same.

Slide8The crack was still there, the bend in the rock face, and a particular edge and stain on the upper surface of the stone.

Slide2The landward edge of the slab had broken off since 1923, and the smaller pieces had been well scrambled—but I recognized it as the same site. My brother was eating lunch very close to where Mr. Gleason had stood 89 years ago! The dance floor had changed, but it was still the same place. My mind matched up the two images because that’s what minds do when you put consciousness to work.

Another day, another miracle.

That’s my word for today. Thanks for stopping by. I remain as ever, y’r friend, –Steve

Copyright © 2012 by Steve Perrin

    • This is the rain that feeds
    • the reservoir that fills
    • the basin that drains
    • through the green that breeds
    • the bugs that flit
    • over the lake that holds
    • the creatures that thrive
    • with the trout that spawned
    • the fish that Jack caught.

I have watersheds on the brain this morning because I made a photo flight for Friends of Taunton Bay over the watershed a couple of days ago, and have since been working on a PowerPoint to show land use in the area. Over the past 25 years, I have come to see watersheds as one of nature’s basic organizing principles for distributing water from high ground to low around the earth.

Watersheds are water receiving, storing, and distributing systems. Powered by gravity and sunlight, they support organic growth from mountain ridges to valley wetlands and streams. Watersheds are natural basins of life. Without them, we wouldn’t be here, up on two legs, looking around—or more likely, sitting on our butts, facing into a digitized display. Either way, whether we know it or not, we are personally engaged with the watersheds that support us every day of our lives. Since I am into loops of engagement, I am into watersheds, too.

Plants are the food-producing organs of a watershed. They rise out of wetness held in the soil to reach for carbon dioxide in the air and a share of the sun’s radiant energy. Combining water, carbon, and sunlight, they make carbohydrates, the starches and sugars that feed the Earth.

Animals are parts of a watershed too, like bubbles leaping from its surface to float freely on their own, but dependent on it all the while for food, water, shelter. In a very real sense we are mobile parts of a watershed, up on two legs or all fours, flowing not by gravity but by our own locomotion, ranging throughout our green basin of soil and water, turning wet land into a homeland. I see us as extensions of such homelands, products of their damp soil.

Here’s a photographic sampling of what my home watershed looks like from 1,500 feet in the air.

Hancock ShorelandBloxton MeadowMorrison HeathOld Meadow Springer Creek Rond IslandAquifer-E. FranklinSand Pit-CemeteryDonnell PondFox PondFlooded QuarriesSteve   Pilot Randy We are all 70 percent water, so if we know where that water comes from, we don’t hesitate to watch over and protect it as the source of ourselves. That is, if we are savvy and engaged. If we’re not, then we’re apt to get a homeland as sorry and mismanaged as the ones many of us find ourselves in today. Being fully engaged with the true source of our livelihoods—not the human economy but the natural world of planet Earth—is proof that the chief reason we are conscious is to be able to fend for ourselves. If we foolishly delegate that responsibility to others, then we place our survival in their hands, whether competent or incompetent.

We are so distracted by techno-commercialism these days, by endless wars and economic troubles, and by seeking entertainment to escape from those wars and troubles, we rarely take the time to perform our most fundamental job of watching out for ourselves. Our attention captured by clamoring others who distract us, we forget to watch where we’re going. With results to be headlined in future news bulletins of media that have taken over for our own eyes and ears.

We do well to remember that everything we do, including living on this Earth, is a watershed function. And then to follow through by engaging and truly occupying the source of our good fortune.

That’s my thought for the day. As ever, I remain vigilantly, y’r friend and brother, –Steve

Copyright © 2012 by Steve Perrin

I am a creature of the territory I inhabit that provides me with what I need to be me—that is, to be familiar to myself as a particular character walking the world stage. The furnishings of my apartment include three computers, 170 notebooks containing the remnants of projects I have worked on, five books I have written, the food I eat three times a day, a bed to sleep on, clothes to wear, and so on. Without the territory I truck around with me everywhere I go, I would not be me. I am master of all I survey; without that survey—without my special props—I would cease to exist as myself.

When I think of the options I have for becoming someone other than my current self, I am overwhelmed by the possible identities I could take on if I wore different clothes, worked on different projects, had different files on my computers, spoke a different language, listened to different music, read different books than those I have read in the past thirty years. I could make myself anew by stepping outside my conventional, habit-driven life so ruled by the possessions I have accrued over those years of living precisely as I have lived for so long.

I am a self-made man because I have built up this specific collection of stuff I carry on my back. Because I have done what I’ve done and dreamed what I’ve dreamed. Do dreams make the man, or does man make the dreams? Looking in the mirror, I find that I resemble a sort of great ape. How do great apes get to be great apes and live the lives that they do?

My thoughts about great apes stem from a film I saw years back among those shown at the Banff Film Festival when it circulated to the Grand Theater in Ellsworth, Maine. Clever photographers and ethologists had gained access to a band of mountain gorillas in Eastern Congo by acting submissively so not to threaten the alpha male who dominated one particular harem with its females, children, and fringe of restless adolescents. I still count that film as one of the most telling documentaries I have seen in my life because it told not only about one band of gorillas, but because it spoke to me in a language I could recognize as being about humans as great apes.

The silverback ruled his band through domination and threat of violent retribution for wayward behavior. As the alpha male, he surrounded himself with lesser (weaker) beings—females and children. His job was to make sure that those children were his children. Domestic bliss lasted as long as the band was subservient to his wishes.

When adolescent males were old enough to be potential rivals to the old silverback, he drove them into the surrounding bush, where they hung around, torn between a yen for freedom and the prospect of immediate comfort and sexual gratification within the home band. Growing up within the band, they knew the rules. So they grew cagey, figuring how they might beat the old man at his game through playful deception and submission. Their tricks seldom worked, so in the end they wandered deeper into the forest on the chance they might affiliate with a band ruled by a weaker patriarch where they might have a chance at alphadom themselves.

The alpha male gorilla ruled not only by sexual domination but by leading his harem to food. A well-fed harem is a happy harem, and a happy harem is a complacent harem. I can’t recall what happened to adolescent female gorillas, but I believe they were absorbed into the existing social structure maintained by their male parent and tolerated by their respective female parents in exchange for domestic tranquility.

In practical terms, old alpha saw his wives as his “possessions” in that he could engage with them and not with females in other bands of gorillas. The food he provided was also “his” in that he found it and did what he wanted to with it—that is, keep his band groomed, well-fed, and happy. Which made him happy. Shooing his own male children away also made him happy because he no longer had to deal with them as potential rivals to his comfortable alphadom.

The mountain gorilla film made clear that alpha had his place, his wives had their places, his children theirs, and his male descendents theirs—which was to go away. Everything was clear and aboveboard, even the shenanigans of the youthful males, which were essential to their making the transition from sexual immaturity to learning how to take responsibility for supporting a band of their own. Owner-ship is the essence of a well-run social order, that is, being clear on who engages with whom, and how they are to manage their interactions.

Our nation was founded by young innovators who were kept down in their homelands because theirs was not the tradition of their elders. Like so many adolescent apes, they escaped into the hinterlands with hopes of becoming themselves by joining bands of like-minded individuals where they could find peace in a new brand of conformity. That is what my Huguenot ancestors sought in moving from France, to Holland, to England, then to colonies on this side of the Atlantic.

The Banff Festival film provided a glimpse into the history of our own culture where that same dynamic is still evident. Who were Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Jeff Bezos but young males feeling the bite of competition with their elders entrenched in the status quo? Instead of going off into the woods in search of their fortune, they went into their garages where they built systems that would leapfrog over the existing order, giving them a shot at an alphadom never dreamt of. What is Facebook but a non-threatening way of hooking up with desirable mates and companions? Bezos single-handedly destroyed the august publishing industry that held budding authors at bay. What is the Occupy Movement but unwelcome youth becoming a force in the world by confronting those who have locked down the positions they want to occupy on their own?

Alphadom, not cash, is the issue. Money merely stands for whatever possessions and territory we desire. It is a wherewithal, not the end in itself. Money is a new home, a trip abroad, a girlfriend, eating out, having a bed to sleep in. Money is influence, position, and security. Money is the power to survive in today’s world as who you want to be within your chosen mythology.

From an adolescent’s point of view, what is growing up but a figment from mythology? It is something you dream and scheme about, but nothing you can own. It is always beyond reach, in the clutches of others who are older than you. As you grow older, they grow older, always maintaining their lead. So adolescence is the time to develop new ideas where you can be alpha on your own terms, and force your elders to approach you for favors or grant grudging praise. That tremendously forceful realization is the impetus behind revolution, innovation, and social change. Beware the power of those you render helpless because they need dignity and self-respect as much as you do to survive and get ahead. That is, to become alphas in their own right.

Which is as true for alpha females as it is for alpha males. Alphadom means you can make it on your own terms, taking your family and friends along with you. Every political, industrial, corporate, or religious leader is an alpha amid his or her alpha cohort whom he or she serves. Alphadom is a way of life based on being king or queen of the mountain. The dignity of being a judge on the Supreme Court or a single mom stems from being on top, whether you want to be there or not, and facing into that challenge where everything depends on you.

Alphadom is the hidden flaw in democracy, because we all strive to become our own boss, putting down others in the process of creating a system based on inequality—as gorilla wives and children are not the equal of alpha. To achieve alphadom, Jeff Bezos eliminates bookstores, publishers, agents, and anyone who might rival or impede his personal mythology of being the alpha of all alphas. Not just in publishing but in selling any goods the public desires.

As long as there are sellers and buyers, owners and workers, inequality will rule. Democracy is a mass myth clung to by underlings as they work their way into positions of power. Our “representatives” in Congress are Exhibit A of what happens when they attain positions of absolute power, discover what those positions actually cost, and switch their allegiance from the power of the people to the power of me and those who fund and support me.

The formula was worked out by great apes long ago. If they didn’t discover it, they put their energy into perfecting it. We have evolved to believe that survival depends on being selected by our environments, but there is no doubt that we use the system to make sure we have a good chance of surviving in light of our personal mythology. Alphadom and democracy go together as complementary strategies of survival. Yes, we are born equal, but I’m going to make sure I’m more equal than the next guy. Look around and tell me that’s not what you see.

Great ape power is not the power of the people. It is a balance between individual lusts for power and security against a tolerance for not fulfilling that lust as of yet. Hence our talk about growth, of being in the pipeline, as adolescents are engaged in the process of becoming grand silverbacks in their own right. We forget that society is a process at our peril. Everything is up for grabs all the time. What you count on today will be gone tomorrow. All you can do is heed your personal values at each moment, and do your best to achieve them, in the process seeing yourself getting worn down.

At least that way you stand for something, even though you know you’ll never achieve it in this or any other life. Or if you do bring your myth into being, you know it will be only temporary, and others’ myths will succeed yours.

So it goes, this life of us great apes. We make ourselves happen as best we can, as everyone around us is doing in their own way. The resulting amalgam is what we call civilization, to which there exists no solution. The wise among us work hard and enjoy the fray.

That’s it for today. I remain y’r fellow great ape, –Steve

(Copyright © 2012 by Steve Perrin

Does a printing press know what it is printing? Does a projector know what it is showing? Does a sewing machine know what it is stitching? Does a computer know what it is computing? Does a brain know what it is thinking?

In each case I would say, no. Brains are an organic apparatus for doing a job, but that doesn’t mean they know what that job is. Brains are necessary, certainly, to getting a job—any job—done, but just as presses require ink and paper, and projectors require light sources and film, brains require patterned sensory stimulation in a context or situation in order to do whatever it is they do.

What is it, exactly, that brains do? They enable pattern recognition through comparison of sensory impressions against patterns fixed in memory, and use the degree of recognition to govern behavior within situations constructed on the spot from whatever clues are available.

The autonomic nervous system works below the threshold of awareness in performing its job of regulating bodily functions. The rote, habitual, or ideological nervous system works like a kind of automatic pilot programmed to recognize and respond to particular sensory events and situations. The conscious nervous system adapts behavior to sensory impressions, understandings, feelings, values, and memories as interpreted in light of the current situation as intuitively construed.

So it is that we make ourselves happen in the world in a variety of ways: unconsciously, consciously but almost automatically, or consciously and inventively to suit a given occasion as we can best make it out.

All the while, we are creatures of the cultures we are embedded in, and perform dutifully (or in reaction against) what we have learned in those settings. We are duly indoctrinated (calibrated) by our birth-family culture, community culture, school culture, work culture, sex and reproductive culture, political culture, arts culture, military culture, mythological (and theological) culture, and so on. We often do unto our neighbors as we have been done unto in the past.

We are not taking in “information” all the while, but patterns of energy in the form of sensory stimulation which we interpret (give meaning to) in light of situations we believe ourselves to be in at the time, or structure according to prior experience. Our brains alone are not up to regulating our behavior. It takes experience established in the past. It takes an autonomic nervous system to keep us going under a variety of conditions. It takes acculturation to possible ways we might respond. And it takes the raw energy impinging on our senses at any given moment, stimulation that we interpret as best we can under the circumstances—all taken together generating behavior more-or-less appropriate to the situations we find ourselves or judge ourselves to be in.

The sensory space in which we are conscious is a synthesis of a great many dimensions, which include expectancies, sensory impressions, feelings, values, prior experiences, interpretations, understandings, skills (including language), judgments, decisions, projects and relationships, all leading to action more-or-less appropriate to our sense of the situation we are in, and apart from us, to our physical and energy-rich surroundings.

And so it goes, this life we are living. Yes, it takes a brain to coordinate our experience, but also the environs and cultures in which we live, the energy our sensory receptors/transducers receive, our physical bodies, our history of comparable occasions, as well as those alongside us who share in our current predicament. Which together constitute the mythology by which we act. Not the information, not the facts, not the background, not the history—the mythology that informs our synthesis at the time so we make what we judge to be a fitting response.

Mythology is our rationale for living as we do. For being true and proper members of our families and cultures. For being upstanding citizens of nations, true believers of one faith or another, exemplars for others to follow, correct thinkers, members of the proper political party, wise and experienced beings who claim to know what is good not only for ourselves but for others as well. With our neighbors of various persuasions treating us likewise.

All the while, we are playing out the roles we learned as children in our formative years within our families and communities—prankster, nurse, defender, finder of misplaced objects, lover, master, servant, helpless child, Mister Fixit, dancer, princess, troublemaker—acting in ways that got us the attention we wanted then, and we have been looking for ever since.

We make ourselves happen in the world as we invented ourselves in the beginning days of our personal infancy and youth. Had we been born to the family next door, or even in a different slot in the birth order within our own family, we would have turned out very differently. If only father hadn’t been away at the war, or at work. If only mother hadn’t had other children to care for. If only we had lived across town, or in a different culture. If only, if only. That’s how we excuse ourselves for being the fallible, raw, subdued, or aggressive creatures we know ourselves to be.

My interest is in who we are as revealed by how we act, not who we might have been under different circumstances. And by the tools and props we use to stay familiar to ourselves. Humphrey Bogart needed fedora hats, cigarettes, bow ties, leather jackets, trench coats, a scowl, and Lauren Bacall to be the person he wanted to play in his mythology. Barak Obama needs to come across as the wise decider who has considered every option in coming up with a plan of action fair to all. Republicans come across as barking dogs warning of threats to the mythological homeland they have sworn to defend. The whole Republican primary has been a tournament between rival mythologies dressed for public consumption by that great abstraction, “the American people.”

Religion comes down to being a tax-exempt mythology or mystery play some believe in but no one understands. Imagine Joseph Ratzinger (a.k.a. Pope Benedict XVI) without his miter, robes, rituals, holy writ, and Curia—without all the mythological dressing that makes him appear larger than life—and he would turn out every bit as fallible as the rest of us. At base, being Pope is a living based on the illusion and pretense of a costume drama as if he were some manner of extraterrestrial being.

All of us are playing roles we picked up in childhood, and have come to believe in. Which, because it dimly remembers, our brain makes possible, so through practice we get good at recreating the illusion that we are who we claim to be. Every day, through standardized rituals, props, recitations, and actions, we live out our mythologies as if they were reality itself.

Under the cloak of mythology lie the energy patterns we interpret in accord with our fears and desires. The neurons in our brains know nothing of this imaginative superstructure we build on the substrate they provide, abetted by the substrate provided by the energetic material world that feeds our senses. Together, brain and ambient energy build a fantasy life based on our mythology of choice and personal experience.

Our conscious selves arise from the engagement between our individual brains and the energies in our physical surroundings. We earnestly believe we live in the real world, but it is a world of our own making and construal, i.e. a mythology. We are the people who developed the atomic bomb to save the world from destruction; who armed the mujahadin, then fought against them; went to war against the Vietnamese and the Iraqis for reasons we invented; who think it OK for us to send armed drones over other lands, but will be outraged when they return the favor; who cover the losses of scheming banks who brought those losses on themselves; who think the sky is blue in itself, leaves are green, blood is red.

Which brings me to the question of how great ape descendants manage to think and act like this, topic of my next blog.

From my myth to yours, I remain y’r friend, –Steve

Copyright © 2012 by Steve Perrin

What we mean by news is usually bad news. The jolt wakes us to consciousness and we pay attention to yet more problems in the universe. The Quaker Institute for the Future is looking for ways to turn much of today’s bad news into good news by proposing a slate of social actions we can take to return our planet to a sustainable habitat for all forms of life.

In the meantime, a lot of good is happening on its own, though it doesn’t make the headlines. My poppies are blooming, for instance, and I’m the only one who knows or cares. So I thought I’d spread the word in honor of Earth’s persistence in the face of our more publicized onslaught of neglect. I need a breather from the suffocating miasma of bad news that we have turned into a commodity for so long.

blog-1blog-2blog-3blog-4blog-5blog-6 blog-7blog-8blog-9 blog-10 blog-11My engagement with this particular patch of poppies helps keep me going during the daily media bombardment of terrifying news. To address the bad stuff, I need daily shots of the good stuff. If I look for it, it’s always there under my nose.

No, I’m not in denial—the good news doesn’t make the bad go away. More accurately, it cleans my perceptual intake so I see what’s going on in the world in proper perspective. We have to pay attention to everything going on around us, but not so that we get jaded or cynical. That last photo is no downer if you can remember the hundreds of seeds in that pod. As long as there are seeds, soil, sunlight, and water, there is hope.

If the former Yugoslavia could survive Marshall Tito by undergoing a complete metamorphosis, one way or another, Syria can outlive Assad.

As ever, y’r friend, –Steve

Copyright © 2012 by Steve Perrin

Life of whom or what? Life of the Quaker Institute for the Future summer seminar 2012 held at College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine. In particular, signs of that life on one day, Friday, June 8, 2012. I witnessed that life because I was there with my brand-new Panasonic Lumix ZS15 digital camera.

Ed Snyder’s was the only presentation on that day. His topic was: “How to move forward from the current system of material consumption to no-growth and environmental sustainability while providing equity and a decent life for all.” No, not very catchy, but the talk focused on the issues that brought everyone into that particular room every day this past week—from California, Texas, Utah, Louisiana, Kentucky, Maine, New Brunswick, Canada and, via Skype, Montreal.

Here’s what it looked like, in the order I took the photos:

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Location—College of the Atlantic campus, Bar Harbor: (back row) Steve, Jim, Leonard; (middle row) Ed, Laura, Charlie, Keith, Shelley, Phil; (front row) Barry, Gray. (Not shown) David in Montreal.

As to what was happening in those shots: Ed was giving his presentation on the demise of life on planet Earth; the rest of us were trying to keep up with him. Ed’s talk was a description of possible courses we’ve not taken so far. Those routes (in Ed’s own words) involve “nonviolence, cooperation, community, and bottom-up decision making with emphasis on quality of life rather than continuing consumption of goods.” The course we’ve been heading is a dark and dangerous one, pointing us toward reefs, shoal waters, and the end of the world as we know it.

The beauty of this day in the life of the seminar came in contemplating the ten stages of the journey Ed laid out before us in terms of projects and cooperative engagements we could undertake to get ourselves back on the less traveled route to a sustainable Earth. The task was daunting but doable. We were being offered a plan, and in that plan, stage by stage, we found hope.

This was exactly why we’d gathered in Bar Harbor, so each of us would give a presentation from a different perspective that, collectively, would lay out the sequence of navigational skills we’d need to correct our course. Ed, master helmsman that he is, was giving us the tools we’d need to do the job.

This is my fifth blog based on the seminar. One more to go. This day was too intense to put into words, so I offer pictures instead. You should have been there.

As ever, I remain y’r vigilant friend, –Steve