(From the publisher)
“Barbara Ehrenreich is one of the most important thinkers of our time. Educated as a scientist, she is an author, journalist, activist, and advocate for social justice. In LIVING WITH A WILD GOD, she recounts her quest-beginning in childhood-to find “the Truth” about the universe and everything else: What’s really going on? Why are we here? In middle age, she rediscovered the journal she had kept during her tumultuous adolescence, which records an event so strange, so cataclysmic, that she had never, in all the intervening years, written or spoken about it to anyone. It was the kind of event that people call a “mystical experience”-and, to a steadfast atheist and rationalist, nothing less than shattering.”
The following is an excerpt from her interview with Terry Gross on the radio show, Fresh Air -
EHRENREICH: I got on a very poorly planned skiing trip with my little brother, who was 13, and a high school friend, and for some reason spent the night in the car in Lone Pine, California, a very little town at that time, and I got up that morning, went out of the car, the others were asleep, and started wandering around the streets of Lone Pine, and something happened.
It was – the only words I can put to it after all these years are that the world flamed into life. Everything was alive. It was like there was a feeling of an encounter with something living, not something God-like, not something loving, not something benevolent, but something beyond any of those kinds of categories, beyond any human categories.
And this lasted – I don’t know how many minutes this lasted in its full intensity. We went on from Lone Pine – for inexplicable to me reasons we went into Death Valley and spent the afternoon wandering around in Death Valley, which was on the way to L.A. And the experience continued there in the desert, though not quite as intensely.
GROSS: Let me read something else that you write about in your book. You write that if you had described it, what would you have said, that I had been savaged by a flock of invisible angels, lifted up in a glorious flutter of iridescent feathers, then mauled, emptied of all intent and purpose and pretty much left for dead. I mean it sounds, you know, both beautiful and violent, like you were mauled. That’s a very physical word to use.
EHRENREICH: Uh-huh. You know, if you read accounts of other people’s mystical experiences, and I only did that in the last couple – decade or so, both religious people and nonbelievers, I find that that sense of a violent encounter is also there. Among one of the most religious would be St. Teresa of Avila, and she certainly describes a loving God, whom she very much adores. She was of course writing for her – the Inquisitors.
But she also describes it as a violent kind of encounter, and what she sometimes felt like, that she had been just ground down to her bones by what happened. Or to take a more secular example, Philip K. Dick, the science fiction writer, the American science fiction writer, had a mystical experience that he wrote quite a bit about, and he said it was less like feeling enlightened by the Buddha or something than it was a little bit like being mugged.
…In the months that followed that experience in Lone Pine, I went back and forth. I had seen something, I had seen something amazing, it was an encounter, to finally deciding, no, this was a psychiatric episode. I’m a rational person. I have no rational way, other rational way of explaining this. It has to do with some kind of biochemical imbalances, some kind of messed up neuronal circuitry, and I decided that that’s how I was going to leave it.
I was never going to tell anybody about this because I didn’t want to, didn’t know how to, and on top of that I was just going to go on with my life and try to forget about it. So that was my solution for many years.
GROSS: When was the last time you had an experience like the ones you described that you could interpret as mystical or as a symptom of a psychiatric disorder or somewhere between the two?
EHRENREICH: Well, I no longer interpret them as symptoms of a psychiatric disorder. That’s what happened as I evolved from a, say, from my late teens into my 60s, is turning this over and over in my head, learning a whole lot of other things – for example, about the many, many people who have had what look like very similar experiences.
I decided I’m going to go with being sane, that I encountered something. It’s something that a lot of people encounter, all sorts of people. And I want to understand better what that is, what happens to us when we have these experiences and what, if anything, we are running into.
GROSS: What are some of your theories?
EHRENREICH: Well, I give speculations at the end of the book. You know, it helped that in the intervening years here I spent a great deal of time learning about religion and learning, for example, about the varieties of religion that preceded, and many survived, well into the age of monotheism.
And, you know, there’s almost no creature that hasn’t been a deity for some sort of people somewhere on Earth at some time: animals, animals/human figures – these deities generally are not good. That idea of a good deity tends to go with monotheism, or at least Zoroastrianism.
So there was apparently a lot of experiencing the world as alive in a way that we do not see it now. If you think of animism, it’s called a religion, I think that’s actually an odd name for it, but it’s considered the most, quote, primitive religion. But what it is is people seeing the world as a living presence, every part of it, and that rings true with my experience.
Part Two of Thom Hartmann’s conversation with Guy McPherson
Whether you agree with McPherson’s assessment or not, his perspective is that we have a limited time to live – which is true – even if you live to a ripe old age of 100, time goes by so quickly. As one gets older this becomes more and more apparent. Guy’s advice is to live a life of excellence, to be here now, to do no harm, to treat each other and the living planet with more kindness and decency than we are doing now with the time we have left.
Part one of this conversation which took place a few days before the second interview can be seen below
Alaskan-based composer John Luther Adams has made nature the subject of his compositions for nearly four decades. Become Ocean was inspired by the oceans of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest and immerses the audience in an organic and constantly evolving sound world that reflects the natural environment with an orchestral technique that is deeply original and unique to Adams. Adams explains: “My music has led me beyond landscape painting with tones into the larger territory of ‘sonic geography’ – a region that lies somewhere between place and culture, between human imagination and the world around us. My music is going inexorably from being about place to becoming place.” The score includes a message from the composer, which reads, “Life on this earth emerged from the sea. As the polar ice melts and sea level rises, we humans face the prospect that once again we may quite literally become ocean.” Regarding the world premiere of Adams’ work, The New Yorker wrote, “It may be the loveliest apocalypse in musical history.”
Reposted from The Work That Reconnects Network founded by Joanna Macy
“Truly the blessed gods have proclaimed a most beautiful secret: death comes not as a curse but as a blessing to men.”
– Ancient Greek Epitaph from Eleusis
The pace of climate change continues to accelerate, and it now appears inevitable that the Great Anthropocentric Extinction currently unfolding will include the end of life as we know it. Characterizing this ‘Great Dying’ as equivalent to a terminal diagnosis for the human race, and assuming an ecopsychological perspective that sees a close relationship between planetary health and mental health, the author applies the stages of grief to this Great Dying, exploring connections retroactively and prospectively between societal mental health trends in the U.S., our awareness of the severity of the threat we pose to the planet, and the stages of grieving the loss of life, and questions the role mental health professionals should play in this context. Looking ahead from this same perspective, the author asks if it is possible to alleviate the pain and suffering that will be associated with the widespread extinctions, mass mortality, and forced migrations that are anticipated by scientific experts as a result of climate disruptions, beginning with the idea of what a “good death” would look like in relation to the end of life as we know it, applying principles from hospice and palliative care. Finally, he offers a hopeful vision that, with an expanding planetary hospice movement and appropriate containing myths, it might be possible to re-cast this Great Dying as a difficult, but spiritually progressive, death/rebirth experience for homo sapiens. Download Planetary Hospice.pdf (430KB).
Zhiwa Woodbury is a long time dharma practitioner, hospice provider, and environmental attorney. He presently serves residents at Zen Hospice Project and is teaching Buddhist Theories of Self, Mind & Nature while completing an M.A. in East/West Psychology at California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. He can be reached at email@example.com
“In this universe, we process time, linearly. Forward. But outside of our space-time, from what would be a fourth-dimensional perspective, time wouldn’t exist. And from that vantage, could we attain it? We’d see, our space-time would look flattened. Like a single sculpture with matter in a superposition of every place it ever occupied. Our sentience just cycling through our lives like carts on a track. See, everything outside our dimension, that’s eternity. Eternity looking down at us. Now, to us, it’s a sphere. But to them, its a circle….” – Rustin Cohle in True Detective
“From the dusty mesa, her looming shadow grows
Hidden in the branches of the poison creosote.
She twines her spines up slowly towards the boiling sun,
And when I touched her skin, my fingers ran with blood.
In the hushing dusk, under a swollen silver moon,
I came walking with the wind to watch the cactus bloom.
A strange hunger haunted me; the looming shadows danced.
I fell down to the thorny brush and felt a trembling hand.
When the last light warms the rocks and the rattlesnakes unfold,
Mountain cats will come to drag away your bones.
And rise with me forever across the silent sand,
And the stars will be your eyes and the wind will be my hands.”
‘Far from any Road’ – The Handsome Family
“Be a gardener and these are your cactus flowers.
Be a farmer and these are your fields.
And as you look at your thorny branches and as you run over your fields you can take pride in the work that you have done and know that it is yours.
As a musician I have spent years working on lyrics, themes and stories.
I’ve worked on the melody, the rhythm and fitting it all closely together.
I’ve been gathering the instruments and recording and mixing with the idea of presenting this 1 song to the listener.
Now all gigs and various movements are posted on YouTube without any discretion, and without anyone asking if it is all right with you to paste your face all over the world. In general there is no fighting city hall, but I will post some of my own songs now with the idea that these are the original thought out recordings the way I meant for people to hear them.
The pictures are from Armenia.”
- Mark Olson.