Tuesday, June 28, 2011

One sided equation

Yesterday I went on one of the most beautiful bike rides of my life. From Olympia to Brooklyn. I got off the beaten path and onto a road that wound through the hills of the area. Eventually the road turned to dirt and it started going up.

I need to take a step back and describe Brooklyn. For decades I have driven to my grandparents house and gone the long way around this massive void where there is nothing. Actually, there isn't 'nothing', that is where Brooklyn is. It just seems that while there are three roads that lead to Brooklyn, only one of them is paved. And the paved road doesn't go toward my grandparents' house. I had always seen the signs to Brooklyn, but never thought much about it since they seem to lead to nowhere. As I'm thinking of riding my bike to my grandparents' house, I found a shortcut through Brooklyn. It just seems that it takes a bunch of logging roads through Brooklyn. Yesterday I went to see how bad the logging roads were.

Pretty soon I'm going to move onto the point that I want to make. On the logging road to Brooklyn, there are no telephone poles, no road signs and only the occasional white post to indicate where the side of the road is. Not only that, but there was virtually no litter. Over the 11 miles to Brooklyn, I found one empty bottle of brake fluid. I'm glad that I wasn't on the road while the logging truck with no brakes was there.

I came to a couple of overlooks and I could look out over miles and miles of hills and not see a single power line, cell tower or anything that appears to be man made. Well, there didn't seem to be anything man made except for vast expanses of clear cuts. Come to think of it, the only reason there were overlooks was because I was in the middle of an area that had recently been clear cut.

I got to thinking about how I found the great beauty in being away from the pollution created by man, but I hardly noticed the devastation in the clear cuts. Looking out over the hills of trees at different stages of growth (or destruction) looked like rolling hills in the Midwest that grow corn and soybeans. You could see the outline of crops being harvested and it made the Midwest seem so small.

As I rode along, I thought of things that are similar to my recognition of the beauty while overlooking the devastation of the clear cut. I thought of finances of most American families. Most people focus on making more money. If we aren't happy or if we don't have everything that you want, it is because we don't make enough money. We look at making more money as the solution. Like on my bike ride, I was originally just looking at the lack of pollution, most people in their finances only look at their lack of resources.

When you take a step back, you can see that maybe it's not all about making money, but rather being content with what you have or changing what you buy (or don't buy) so that you don't have to make as much money. Despite the fact that there were very few things that I saw that looked like pollution, pollution also appeared in the form of things that men tore down. Despite the fact that people are feeling the crunch, they could buy less instead of making more. There is more than one side to each equation, make sure that you see them.

Monday, June 13, 2011


I have read a couple of books recently that have made me think a lot. The first book I read was about a group of eco-terrorists that started by pulling up survey stakes and ended up blowing up bridges and trying to blow up a major dam. It was interesting that I could easily relate with the characters at the beginning of the book, and I could see how the characters kept getting pulled in to more and more serious crimes. Don't get me wrong, I will never blow up bridges or dams, no matter how bad they may be for the environment, but I could see how well intentioned people could end up there. ( I should point out that this was a work of fiction)

The other book that I am currently reading is about religious extremism. The book talks of well intentioned believers who find some odd teachings that they take to an extreme. After a series of events the people in the book become more extreme until God tells them to kill people. And they do. It is unbelievably disturbing how people who truly feel like they are doing what is right can end up killing innocent people. I'm a good person. I believe in God. I don't believe that God would tell kill someone, but the commonalities that I have with this guy disturb me. (Unfortunately this was a true story.)

In reading these stories I think of extremist and the opposite of extremism. I figure the average Joe who goes to work every day, does his job and dreams of things that he will never have the courage to try is the opposite of extreme. Sure, there are people who chase their dreams without being dangerous extremists, but the dangerous extremists were following their true beliefs with passion. When people find those motivational quotes that they like to read, they tend to encourage people to 'think outside the box' and follow their dreams. I like those quotes. I want to follow my dreams and they aren't traditional. I would love to live on a farm without electricity growing my own food and working side by side with my children and wife. I would love to go without owning a car. I am willing to give up a lot of traditional comforts in order to pursue various dreams that I have, whether it's simply a dream to be closer to family or if it is the right time to start a farm without electricity.

I like to think of myself as a logical person and when I take a step back, my ideals seem a lot more extreme than where the 'extremists' started. Does that mean that I should make my dreams closer to mainstream? Do I need to attend a job and not ask questions? I don't think that is the case. Maybe the difference is that I can live my ideals without breaking the law. The extremists all broke the law well before they started injuring people or blowing stuff up. So as long as I don't break the law I'm fine.

That is a nice thought, but I still don't like it. Some of my greatest heroes broke the law. Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Rosa Parks. They broke the law for the betterment of the world. My goal is not to break the law, but my ideal in life is to improve the world in whatever small way I can and historically that has often involved breaking the law.

My ultimate goal in life is to not live like everyone else. I want to make a difference. The worst way to do that is to live like everyone else. In order to make a big difference, you have to live a big life. You have to be extreme like MLK, Gandhi and Jesus himself. And you need to somehow make sure that you don't end up in the wrong kind of extremist group.

And I have another job interview on Friday. Unfortunately, there are many other jobs that I want more than I want that one. On some levels I'm afraid of being offered a job that I don't really want because I might take it.

And soon I'm going to start reading my next book about Buddhist monks. That way I can contemplate peace and love rather than extremists that end up doing bad things.

Monday, June 6, 2011


Last weekend we spent a lot of time attending the Mother Earth News Fair. It made me come alive. I loved being around people interested in community and putting community and nature before the rushed lifestyle that most people follow. I have really struggled to bond with people and really get to know them. On a little community garden tour I felt like I really made friends. People who were interested in the same things that interest me. People whose friends I'm interested in getting to know. I loved being in that community and the impact that those people are trying to make in the world. I want to be a part of that.

And so my job search continues. I've had some job interviews, but no job offers. I took a class that has qualified me for a slightly different line of jobs and I'm excited about an upcoming interview. At the same time, there is something missing. The jobs I've interviewed for are things that interest me, things that I'm trained in and things that I can do well at. They just aren't things that I'm REALLY passionate about. The problem is that those things that I'm REALLY passionate about are things that I don't have any experience doing and the jobs associated with them don't pay all that well. (and I'm not in an especially lucrative field anyway).

One thing that I've discovered in the last several months of being out of work is that it really doesn't take that much money to get by. Sure, we are parasites to my Sister and Brother-in-Law, but if this were not available, there are other opportunities around for free utilities, but it would drastically reduce my opportunities for real jobs. The point is that I dream of being a part of a community and doing what I am passionate about and I think that my family could thrive on less money if we do things differently... If we do things different than most people, but more similar to what we are doing now.

No matter what I do, I'm really looking forward to spending time with others who have the same passions as I do. I have let my insecurities keep me out of that group for too long (I feel that I just don't know enough about those topics, and I hate feeling like the dumb guy in the group), I will get involved no matter what kind of job I get. But ideally, I would really like to work in my areas of passion. I am positive that I would put more into a job and make a bigger difference in a job that I'm passionate about than one that I was educated to perform.

I'm really excited about my job interview later this week because it has benefits, but it is three 10 hour days instead of a full work week. That would give me time to do both pursue my passions and do something that I was educated to do. When I step back and take a look at my situation, I'm really excited that I haven't found a job yet because it forces me to pursue my passions and it disappoints me that I've been looking primarily where my education lies... It's time to pursue my dreams and let the education stuff slide a little. That's exciting.