July 1, 2008

Not Sure How To Escape

Warning: This post will wander and meander and not end up anywhere satisfying. It represents the first few steps of a long journey I plan to take this year. If you are looking for answers, do not read on, but if you want to help me find my way or perhaps see if your journey follows a path similar to mine, please come join me and let’s see if we can’t move forward.

This daily writing session on the porch could develop into a habit. Half past six and shades of purple sunlight are hiding somewhere in the clouds, thick again, with the notion of a storm. My hair is still damp from the pool, where Kaia was beginning to actually swim. She pushes off from the wall and kicks and swings her arms till she gets back and clutches the concrete. People who see her are amazed that a child so small can be so comfortable in the water. I simply watch her tenacity and independence and hope that I have had something to do with it, but I know better. This is her personality. I understand her resolve; I share her blood after all. I just hope I can guide her to use it to find some comfort. I can see it in her eyes as she pleads, “Kaia do it!” that she too will take on the world, just as I have chosen to do. What can we do with our destinies but swim?

I can here a few birds chirp over the music, Sun Kil Moon Again…you wasted life, why wouldn’t you waste death? This lyric haunts me. Sitting here, I feel like I am right where I am supposed to be. I am nothing special, just a husband and father, a friend to some and a teacher to others. I am a son and that is all. Nothing feels wasted. So why do my confessions sound like a lies. Wasn’t there meant to be more?

You can tell a lot about a person’s mood by the books they choose to surround themselves with, and I have been reading some great books lately. Upon finishing each one, I want to sit and type out my new manifesto, but life, my own angst, and self-pity and have prevented me from doing so. I never seem to be ready to start the big recap, but now seems as good as a time as any to start understanding why I have been so disappointed with life lately. Perhaps I can use my books as a map. Here are the last six books I have read:

After reading Ishmael, the philosophy book, and now Earth Democracy, I think I have a good idea of where to begin. My feelings of grief are bigger than the events I have faced the last few months. Losing my job only magnify an overall sense of dissatisfaction with the bigger aspects of my life. I think that I am experiencing a more universal sense of discontent. I am starting to realize that while living in the desert is not the sole cause of my malaise, it has definitely enhanced the feeling of disconnection with nature. This sense of detachment from the earth is at the root of my issues. I do not think I am alone. I think humanity is suffering from prolonged separation from the organic world.

I think the majority of my political disagreements with the capitalist, imperialistic, patriarchal, globalized market economy is based on the fact that the new world order is so disconnected with the very things that bring me joy. (I hope to take inventory on what these things are in the coming weeks and months.) Reading Earth Democracy has really opened my eyes to the fact that the very foundations of humanity have been reduced to commodities. We are more and more often living in a world where all that has value are things that can be bought or sold. The market has overshadowed every aspect of our lives.

The politics of this book as well as Ishmael are more complicated than what I have laid out here in this post thus far, but my discontent basically boils down to the idea that for those of us living in the developed, western world, we are too far removed from the earth. For the most part, many of us have no idea where our food comes from, we are too far removed from the production and manufacturing of the very things we strive to accumulate, and we have abandoned the very aspects of what makes us human. (Again, I will explore these ideas in later posts)

We are no longer part of an ecosystem, and as organisms who should be functioning under the laws of nature, we suffer confusion when forced to live outside any explicable ecology. Our religions, governments, and economies have trained us to see the earth as a source of raw materials for our manipulation and consumption, rather than placing us in the middle of a web of life, where we belong. The more I study myself searching for the source of my own decline, the more I see this disconnect with life as the root cause. Further aggravating my sanity is the fact that I can see my daughter’s future being dictated by a close-minded drive toward growth and progress, rather than toward a reconnection with simpler human traits.

I feel trapped and hopeless. My own hypocrisy and shame weigh on me constantly to the point where I can no longer function as expected in the globalized economy, but I do not know how to function any other way, because I have been trained since childhood to be a consumer. I want to be more than a consumer. I want to create and share.

Recap main point:
Cause of my current dissatisfaction with life is due to a disattachment to nature and a sense of incarceration in a globalized economy fueled solely by the needs of a market economy based on progress measured only by growth. I want out of the market-based world. I want to place humanity over profit, cooperation over competition. Simply put, I want to realize my full human potential regardless of how I function relative to the market. But I don’t know how.

I am not advocating living off the grid, although I think that is something I would love to retry. I lived in a small two-room hut in Mozambique for two years with no electricity and running water, but as I am sure my wife would point out, I was not entirely happy there either. I spent a large amount of my time complaining about boredom and my desire to reconnect with the very material possession that I am deriding now. I am sure that people who champion the American Way will comment by saying that I am ungrateful for the very tools I cherish: Get rid of your iPod, why are you using a corporate machine like your Mac Book, etc…I don’t think this has to be an either/or topic. The knowledge that escape is not the answer either further aggravates my plight.

This post was meant to be a sort of brainstorm. I apologize for the disorganized tangential flow of it. It’s just that I have had a lot on my mind, and I wanted to start sifting through some of it. Any advice on which direction it should go? How do you deal with living in a world based on greed and profit?

Here are a few ideas that I am mulling over and would like to explore further in the coming weeks:

The direction that the IMF, World Bank, WTO and the capitalistic world order, led by the USA, are headed is a suicidal unsustainable path, and one that I want to disconnect from as much as possible. The more I read about a future where corporations make all the rules, the more I realize how vital it is that we, all of humanity, begin to take the power back. This action must be more than boycotting Nike for sweatshop violations. The world is up for auction and our most important resources are being privatized and sold to a handful of corporations. Our food and more importantly our agricultural seeds have already been sold to Monsanto, medicines to Pfizer, water to Bechtel, fuels to Exxon, media, government, security all of it sold off to corporations who only place value on returns on capital on their investments. This is not some Orwellian future. This is happening right now. We are losing our world; actually we have already lost most of it.

I want out, but I am not sure how to escape.

I am trying to find a middle ground between living in the jungle and being some American dupe living in a subdivision, or worse working for an American Oil Company in the Middle East, yes my life is a constant contradiction and yes even I am baffled at times by my hypocrisy. I hope my honesty makes my words palatable. But in the words of Ben Harper, “I have see enough to know I have seen too much.” Now what do I do? What do you do? Let us work together to make this a place where my daughter can realize her full potential as a beautiful human soul, not just another statistic on an investment report.

To be continued…


  1. Chris Hajek12:53 AM

    Jabiz I have been in this very boat for some time now. I believe that there is a way to live that can encompass the positive virtues of our modern world but still be connected to nature, community and humanity. There are people everywhere trying to do just that. One of the coolest things I have discovered is Permaculture. The greatest thing about it is there is no right or wrong way to do it and can be done full scale, small scale on a large parcel of land or in the heart of a city. Other folks such as Paul Stamets, William McDonough, Paul Hawken (and many of the people interviewed in the 11th hour) fill me with such positive images of what our future could be like. I find it hard to keep that positivity but have resolved to just start with myself and make the changes there. If I can't be the change I'd like to see in the world, how can I expect the world to change?

  2. Hi. I've been an occiasional visitor since a year or two ago when I foun dyou via the Self-Portrait Challenge. I haven't checked in on your blog in quite some time, so it's interesting to find myself reading a post that speaks so directly to a place I visited on my metaphorical journey a few years ago.

    Looking through your "recently read" list, I joked to myself, "Well there's your problem!" Daniel Quinn will do that to you ;) And don't even think about reading Derrick Jensen. He will definitely just make you think more of the same thoughts. I can't say for sure that I've figured out anything really useful since then, but I seem happier. There are really two essential things that my path led me to, and so I put them out there in case your path eventually leads you somewhere similar.

    First was the realization that there are a WHOLE LOT of people out there who get it. I don't know what your community is like, but i felt very isolated, and like I was the only one who realized how fucked up things are. Discovering folks like Urban Scout (www.urbanscout.com) and Hobostripper (www.hobostripper.com) and lots of others gave me some sense that there are people out there trying to make sense of "living in two worlds" -- the one where you want to escape civilization, and the one where you can't imagine living without your laptop and your iPod. There's a lot of people in that boat, including me.

    The other was Wilderness Awareness School. (www.wildernessawareness.org) I've been working for them for a few years, and their ethic is so amazingly mind-blowing and deceptively simple that I can't really express it. Check out their website. Maybe it will speak to you.

    And I'm always open to conversation, if it seems helpful.


  3. SoulCradler1:29 PM


    It seems to me that you feel that living in the desert is a time of exile, an impermanent state from which you will eventually move on. Remember all of life is like this, and much of the time we wish for or romanticise what we feel we lack. I have read a lot recently about Tibetan people living in exile, so the comment about the 'middle road' is highly relevant here.

    On the flip side is the necessary transition which our personal lives and indeed the world economic system must go through to get to the next stage. Reading eco-philosophy can be very challenging, well, it is for me, as I do so in a room, in a house built from inefficient materials (rented), and every aspect of my inhabitance here is connected to the grid or to the system (Green Power discounted).

    I wonder even about the purpose of my profession, and whether I am too close to the system, but too afraid to move beyond it yet.

    In my daily life I try to live by my principles, and accept that I am in a great position of privilege. I try to be mindful of my consumption, yet I am harnessed by consumerism also. I make plans for the future and see it in a positive light. On the flip side I make excuses for my inaction and become overwhelmed by the bigness of it all.

    I guess the only real consolation is that there are like-minded people out there, and hopefully together we'll all be better prepared in unity.

    This comment is starting to rival your post in its meanderings, but stay in touch.