CLIMATE CHANGE DENIERS IN SKIING

The following appeared as a letter to the editor in Powder Magazine last spring, in support of an article Porter Fox wrote in the online Powder Magazine at http://www.powder.com/stories/news/campaign-donations-link-ski-industry-leaders-climate-change-deniers

November 15, 2016
Bozeman, Montana

To the editor:

Re: Those who support deniers of human caused climate change.

The world of skiing is a microcosm of the larger world. I am one of those fortunate enough to have spent my life in this privileged, tiny, dependent on snow sphere. My gratitude for a life in skiing includes some awareness that all things are connected, no matter how large or small one’s world of experience and attention, and that each of us are responsible for how the world is faring. That is, our actions and thoughts matter.

Snow is the literal foundation of skiing and, as reservoir for the waters of spring and summer, the foundation of much larger spheres of life than are found in the corporate properties and offices of Vail Resorts, Jackson Hole, Mammoth Mountain, Squaw Valley, Sugarloaf and others. Human caused climate change is and has been and will continue to decimate the world’s environment and ecology, including the foundation of the world of skiing. It is a crisis of unprecedented danger to all life on Earth, and its menace will be immeasurably compounded for our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Skiers and other human beings who attempt to deny human caused climate change are absurd and shameful, and their futile attempts to deny reality are based on stupidity, ignorance or purposeful ignorance. Stupidity can sometimes be alleviated by experience. Ignorance can be cured by well-intentioned and thorough education. Purposeful ignorance—which afflicts those who are neither stupid nor ignorant but whose compassion, personal ethics and morality have been stunted and deformed into deception by greed, ideology, laziness or the illusion of disconnection from all things not serving their self-interest—can be coaxed into reality by honest, courageous journalism.

Thank you, Porter Fox and Powder Magazine, for being the first major skiing writer and publication to address this issue and shine some light on the dark deniers. Don’t stop now.

Sincerely,

Dick Dorworth

MERCHANTS OF DOUBT

The highest profile people in Washington, D.C., particularly those who (sometimes) inhabit the White House, constantly bring to mind the fine documentary film “Merchants of Doubt,” a story about how scientific misinformation makes its way into the media and then the minds of the general public. In some ways it is an old story, best summarized in the inimitable words of Deep Throat (Mark Felt), “Follow the money.” In other ways it is an entirely new story because the stakes and consequences of a public filled with scientific misinformation are unprecedented in all history.

A couple of years ago an opinion piece by the Denver Post Editorial Board caught my eye. It epitomizes Deep Throat’s wisdom. It begins: “One of the stock charges used by those who campaign to ban hydraulic fracturing in oil and gas drilling is that it endangers groundwater supplies. And yet the pile of studies largely refuting this fear-mongering keeps growing by the year.” One study mentioned refuting “this fear-mongering” was conducted by Colorado State University’s Warner College of Natural Resources. Yes, and, according to High Country News, Exxon Mobile in 2010 “…gave the university $5 million to study energy development impacts on western Colorado’s sage grouse, mule deer and other wildlife, spawning 20 new research contracts. Shell, BP and others have also recently poured millions of dollars into CSU’s research. Warner College is named for alum Ed Warner, who donated $30 million in 2005 after making a fortune pioneering hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which has opened hard-to-reach oil and gas reserves worldwide.”

A press release from Physicians for Social Responsibility at that time reads: “A partnership of prominent health organizations encompassing nationwide medical and public health experts and scientists released the third edition of their ‘Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking’ on Wednesday. The Compendium compiles and summarizes hundreds of peer-reviewed studies and other important findings on fracking, showing the significance and extent of the evidence demonstrating risks to public health, air and water quality, birth and infant health, the environment, and climate change.”

Who would you rather have as sources of scientific information about public health, Physicians for Social Responsibility or Exxon Mobil, Shell and BP? It seems obvious to me, but “Merchants of Doubt” is a stunning and disturbing documentary of the history and current practice of how public relation firms working for large businesses pervert truth and deceive the public for profit. “Merchants of Doubt” director Robert Kenner says, all of today’s “doubtmeisters” learned at the feet of the old masters from the Marlboro days.

“I spoke to Peter Sparber, who was masterful at working for tobacco,” says Kenner. “He helped slow down legislation on a slow burning cigarette. He was able to convince people it was not cigarettes that cause house fires, it was couches. He was able to make a law that (requires) chemicals to be put in these couches. It turned out it didn’t prevent fires and it also caused cancer.” Sparber, who was interviewed for the film, told Kenner that if a person can successfully create doubt around tobacco products, they can do it with just about anything. He said, “You could take James Hansen, the leading climate scientist, and I could take a garbage man and I could get America to believe that the garbage man knows more about climate change than Hansen does.”

“Merchants of Doubt” will help the public differentiate between garbage and science. Don’t miss it.

Keep it in mind every time you watch/read about and/or listen to the high profile doubtmeisters of Washington—Donald, Sean, Mike, Betsy, Kellyanne, Jared, Reince, Rex, Jeff, Ryan, Scott and so many others—peddle garbage instead of cleaning it up.

kinds of winter

KINDS OF WINTER
by
Dave Olesen
Wilfrid Laurier University Press
$19.99

Dave Olesen is a thoughtful, articulate adventurer who closely notes the details of an extraordinary existence in which the mundane chores of daily life entail severe consequences for inattention, keeps track of his experiences and observations in journals which he turns into books to share with fortunate readers. His latest book “Kinds of Winter” is, to sum up, beautiful. Olesen lives with his wife and two children, forty three huskies and a ninety year old Danish sailboat on a remote homestead by Great Slave Lake next to the Hoarfrost River in Canada’s Northwest Territories where average winter nighttime temperatures are below -20F and there are five hours of daylight in December. He works as a bush pilot and guide and for 15 years was a competitive dog musher, finishing the grueling Iditarod Trail Sled dog Race eight times. That’s a long way from the small Illinois town where he grew up, but in 1987, armed with B.A. degree in Humanities and Northern Studies, fled to the north to pursue a life that inspired Gary Snyder to write of Olesen: “I salute this man and his passion, and his family for giving him space to explore it. An old Inupiaq Eskimo once said to me as I set out in a canoe on a September river, ‘Don’t have any adventures.’”
But the daily challenges of life at Olesen’s home are a backdrop and nutritious foundation for the kinds of winter he seeks and discovers when he and his teams of sled dogs really do go looking for adventure. He explains it thus: “Once a year for four consecutive winters I hooked up a team of dogs and set out on long trips away from our homeland, traveling toward one of the cardinal points of the compass: south in 2002, east in 2003, north in 2004, and finally west in 2005. Having gone out, I turned home again. It was as simple as that.” Yes, as simple as a man alone with his team of dogs going south for 155 miles, east 380 miles, north 210 miles and west 520 miles through the kinds of winter that keep the Northwest Territories sparsely populated.
The adventure alone makes “Kinds of Winter” worth the read, but Olesen is no chest-thumping conqueror of the extreme compiling a resume of achievement for the reader to admire. Olesen, like his literary/spiritual predecessors Muir, Thoreau, Leopold, Abbey and Snyder is reminding himself and the reader of Muir’s admonition: “Keep close to Nature’s heart…and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.”
Every human being can, with a bit of intentional effort and spirit of adventure, break clear away, once in awhile, and wash the spirit clean. But there are very few who do so who also have the literary skills and discipline combined with the human and environmental insight to realize and write: “Time. It is all nice and fuzzy that: ‘Go out in the wilderness and just let Time flow’ or ‘let Time have no meaning’ stuff, but in traveling between supply caches, or climbing a mountain, or paddling a long river in a short summer, Time takes on fundamental importance—it cannot be ignored. It is the approach of dusk at day’s end, the looming onset of winter in mid-September, the final sack of feed rationed out to a hungry team. Like it or not, folks, the clock is ticking, even ‘way out here’ in la-la land, Today, though, sitting just 75 miles from home, I am long on time. I can rest, and walk, and watch the day go by. Muir and Thoreau would be happy for me.”
We should all be happy for Dave Olesen who has the skills, discipline and insight to make every reader happy he and she took the time from the ticking clock to read “Kinds of Winter.”

THE ALCHEMY OF ACTION

Foreward
By
Dick Dorworth

The premise of this book and the larger issues it encompasses are common to every human being, not just the climbers, skiers and other high level athletes you will meet in its pages. It is crucial to an appreciation of “The Alchemy of Action” to hold in mind that just as every person is different from every other in obvious ways, they are much more alike and have much more in common in ways both palpable and, at first glance, invisible. This includes similarities and differences in culture, time and place, which are often enough examined and discussed in the popular media, and our common human metabolism, which is not.
I mention this because this book grew out of a particular place in climbing and a specific American time and culture in which that place (Yosemite) was a high-pressure, free-form, colorful laboratory for the experiments of the culture, the rebellions of the time and the expansion of consciousness of its lab rats. The time was the late 1960s and early 1970s and the turned-on, tuned-in, dropped-out culture was counter to the mainstream, rebelling against, among other things, Viet Nam and the American mentality and values that allowed it. Consciousness altering drugs—LSD, peyote, marijuana, psilocybin and others were an intrinsic aspect of that culture, and several (not all) of the finest rock climbers of that time were icons and leaders in the process of both expanding consciousness and raising climbing standards.
One of them was Doug Robinson, who was/is prone to pay more attention to the on-going experiments of his own person than most, and whose tenacity and curiosity as a researcher, philosophizer’s breadth of thought and literary skills have delivered to the fortunate reader “The Alchemy of Action.” This book has been a lifetime of the author’s in the making. As a young teen-age distance runner Robinson noted a shift in his perceptions, a different clarity of thought and, of course, a physical heightened awareness during and just after long runs in the hills around Los Gatos, California where he grew up. Later he came to climbing and noticed similar alterations in his being. And then came the 60s and the cultural changes and the drugs and the (sometimes) purposeful exploration of consciousness, which had nothing to do with climbing. Or, at least, so he thought for awhile.
By 1969 he was confident enough that the act of climbing could and did alter consciousness that he wrote the seminal essay “The Climber as Visionary.” It was published in Ascent and caused a stir in the climbing community for suggesting that “There is an interesting relationship between the climber-visionary and his counterpart in the neighboring subculture of psychedelic drug users” and that climbing and its attendant fear “…produces a chemical climate in the body that is conducive to visionary experience.” And the climbing literature from John Muir to Yvon Chouinard to Ueli Steck is filled with beautiful descriptions of that experience.
Doug Robinson knew he was on to something meaningful and little explored. He spent the next 40 years—along with climbing, guiding, writing, raising children, continuing his own laboratory experiments with various drugs and expanding consciousness and the other demands of responsible citizens of planet Earth—investigating that something which he describes as: “…effort plus a degree of fear shifts yours brain in the direction of seeing more sharply, more clearly. And feeling more deeply. It does that by shifting the dynamic balance of hormones in your head. And then, transforming some of them. The upshot is a change in metabolism that becomes literally psychedelic.”
Human metabolism is too complex to be described in a few words or an entire book, and “The Alchemy of Action” is certainly not the final word, but it is an invaluable step, a beautiful and important addition to the literature of human consciousness. As one of the lab rats of Yosemite in the ‘60s and ‘70s and a member in good standing of the counter-culture of the time (as well as being a long-time friend of Doug’s and presented in the book as an example of its premise) I immediately identified with it and am grateful to him for a better understanding of consciousness (they are not the same thing). It has been nearly 30 years since I became aware that I didn’t need psychedelics in order to expand my consciousness and center both mind and being, and I quit using them. I also quit using alcohol which is certainly a mind-altering substance but, so far as I have been able to determine, has never produced clarity of thought or expansion of consciousness among its many users. Au contraire.
Doug Robinson was the right person in he right time to take the experiences and lessons of Yosemite in the ’60s and ‘70s and turn them into a metabolic exploration of a state of being common to all people that has been described as ‘flow,’ ’the zone,’ ‘peak performance,’ ‘self-awareness’ and the like. “The Alchemy of Action” is a metabolic guide to that state, and, as Doug writes, “We’re all metabolic voyagers, every day.”

THE GOD OF SKIING

The God of Skiing by Peter Kray is a reverent, ribald, realistic mixture of fact, fiction and fantasy about what some refer to as the sport of skiing but which high priests and devoted acolytes alike know as a way of life. Peter Kray is a beautiful, insightful and devoted writer, and what I can’t resist thinking of as The Book of Kray is among the very best books about the spirit and practice of skiing as a way of life ever written.
At this writing, just days after two U.S.S.A. developmental team members were killed in an avalanche in Soelden, Austria it struck me that Kray wrote the introduction to the book in Soelden in 2013 and concludes it thus: “In order to tell what’s true, I made up a couple of things. But only to balance out what I’m still afraid of telling. And I present the events as much by year as I do by season, which means you can call it a novel if that makes it easier to understand. Or a documentary. Or skiing’s double album. It is the celebration of a sport made of cold and clouds and the anticipation that the white water will come to wash us clean again. It’s the explanation of why Tack Strau told the reporter in Alaska, “Skiing is made of gravity and speed. It’s dying all the time.”
Yes, and being born all the time in many forms, including literature as good as “The God of Skiing.” Those of a certain age and familiar with a certain time and place of skiing who know about Fritz Stammberger will be drawn to the book simply because a photo of Fritz is on the cover. Those who don’t know of Stammberger will stop to look because the photo and the title fit together as perfectly as the line only you can see through the trees on the best powder day of the season.
Yes, skiing is a way of life made of the freedoms to be found in gravity and speed and the skills acquired playing with them in the snow and cold and mountains in which we live. Kray’s book includes his time in Jackson Hole at the base of the Grand Tetons (which in French means big nipples but in the vernacular describes what they are attached to). In that time he met Bill Briggs, the first to ski from the summit of the Grand Teton, about which he writes, “Once you have seen those peaks, the photographic evidence of Bill Briggs’ epic ski descent down the face of the Grand Teton in 1971 looks like a nude, a weather bleached church on a moon-bathed hill. His thin ski tracks down the peak are the black and white prototype of something bare and yet to be seen, as stark and unimaginable as a lunar landing, as if they were the footprints in the sand of a man trying to sprint off the edge of the world.”
But even the most hard ass skier can only ski 5 or 6 hours a day and “The God of Skiing” does not leave out the remaining 18 or 19 hours. For instance, of “The Stewardess” he writes, “In the morning I could watch her perfect round ass in the lightbulb above the loft like a poor man’s mirror. Everything was beautiful and round about her—her blonde bangs, brown eyes and perfect boobs—like Bambi in the fields with the sweet smell of flowers. Like I was a big Texas cowboy drilling for oil.”
In the section titled “The Grievous Angel,” Kray writes, ‘Gravity’s the only thing that matters,’ Tack said…….’The sky is all in your mind…..It’s just an illusion to create a feeling of distance—an imaginary barrier.’
“After the third joint it didn’t matter. My hands finally stopped shaking and I could marvel at the energy and electricity and how his blue eyes burned like twin planets seen from space, ablaze and unexplored.”
That gives you an idea. “The God of Skiing” is a must read for all skiers. You can find it here for $13.95: http://www.mirabooksmart.com/The-God-of-Skiing_p_584.html

SIERRA STARLIGHT: The astrophotography of Tony Rowell

Until recently astrophotography was a word I don’t remember hearing or reading and if I had it vanished into the vast depths of unconsciousness like a shooting star. Too bad for me. There is in astrophotography astonishing beauty and subtle and sheer reminders of the connections between all things in the universe. When I read and viewed “Sierra Starlight,” the fine book of astrophotography by Tony Rowell I was treated to some of the best of that beauty as well as moving reminders of those connections, in this case some of them personal.
Tony’s father, Galen Rowell, one of the world’s finest mountain/outdoor/adventure photographers, was a close friend and I knew and liked Tony as a bright, energetic boy and young man but never maintained an adult connection. After Galen was killed in a plane crash in 2002 Tony and I had no contact. I heard he was pursuing photography but didn’t follow his career. When I learned Tony had published a book with such an intriguing title for one like me who has spent much of his life in the Sierra (some of it with Galen) I decided to catch up on Tony’s calling. I ordered his book.
It blew my mind.
Astrophotography, according to Wikipedia, “…is a large sub-discipline in amateur astronomy where it is usually used to record aesthetically pleasing images, rather than for scientific research, with a whole range of equipment and techniques dedicated to the activity.” The whole range of equipment and techniques is as complex and demanding as the images they produce are intriguing and nourishing, and the discipline is not for the impatient, inattentive, unadventurous or fragile. Almost every image of astrophotography is taken with a long exposure which accumulates the small amount of light photons that reach the earth from distant stars. Urban areas as well as some not so urban ones produce light pollution (thus the Dark Sky Ordinances of the towns of the Wood River Valley where I live) which makes seeing or photographing the night time sky a sullied experience.
The Sierra Nevada Mountains of California and Nevada (also known as Sierra Nevadas and Sierra) is a pristine environment for Tony Rowell’s work. He has written, “I joke with my friends that I’m putting in 9-5 days but my hours are 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.” I have spent countless days and nights in those mountains, including many hours of inspiring, nourishing, healing contemplation of its nighttime stars, but “Sierra Starlight” showed me a completely new dimension and perspective of some of my favorite places, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, Mammoth Mountain and Mono Lake, among others.
The foreword is written by Kenneth Brower and includes, “Malcolm Margolin, our publisher, is smitten by Tony’s astrophotography, seeing it as a new way of looking at the Sierra. So it is, and yet at the same time it is very old. If there is nothing new under the sun, then there is also nothing new under the stars.” I, too, am smitten, and if there is nothing new under the stars we are all still learning (we hope) and in addition to Rowell’s images I learned two new words, astrophotography and moonbow.
Check them out.

SECOND SUNS: A Book About Vision

Everyone reading this who has had cataract surgery appreciates the second chance at vision that surgery provided, and they as well as readers with the good fortune of good eyesight cherish the opportunity to see goodness in the world. That’s one of several reasons why “Second Suns,” a book by David Oliver Relin is a nourishing read for everyone who endeavors to see the world more clearly. The world as it is, with more than seven billion imperfect humans struggling to survive on a planet that cannot and a human community that will not sustain them (us) in dignity, equality and good health, is a better and more inspiring place because of David Relin and the two central men of this story, Sanduk Ruit and Geoffrey Tabin.
Ruit was born into poverty in a remote mountain village of Nepal, a week’s walk away from the nearest school. Ruit’s obvious intelligence as a young boy inspired his family to arrange for him to be schooled in India, an education they could not afford without help and that began with an arduous 15 day walk with his father from his village to be left alone in a foreign land. He chose medicine as a field of study because of three siblings whose early deaths could have been prevented with access to medical care in developed countries, and within a few years of becoming an ophthalmologist Ruit had revolutionized cataract surgery in the poorest countries on earth.
Tabin, an American, is Professor of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences at the Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah. He graduated from Yale where he was captain and a star player on the tennis team, earned a Masters in Philosophy at Oxford and received his MD from Harvard. He is a well known and highly accomplished climber and the 4th person to have climbed the seven summits, the highest points on each continent, including, of course, Everest. He dropped out of medical school several times to go on climbing expeditions and somehow managed to get back in, and, according to Relin, “…tended to dance along the border of socially acceptable behavior.” He once recited an obscene poem to a group of medical school students, and his life experience, culture, personality, athleticism, opportunities and private life are as different from Ruit’s as, say, Kathmandu is from Cambridge.
Still, the two of them managed to team up (Ruit as mentor, Tabin as acolyte) to change and redefine the meaning and possibilities of modern medicine in the undeveloped countries of the world. Nepal, one of the world’s poorest countries has one of its highest rates of cataracts, and since Ruit opened the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology in Kathmandu in 1994 nearly 200,000 (mostly) destitute Nepalese have had their eyesight restored. Ruit and Tabin have trained hundreds of ophthalmologists and established centers in India, China, Tibet, Bhutan and Africa and thereby restored sight (and hope, smiles and life itself) to hundreds of thousands of people.
“Second Suns” informs, inspires and resonates for several reasons at multiple levels, including the examples of two doctors and the writer who tells their story of living according to the human ethic of how much they are able to contribute to the world rather than the material standard of how much they can extract from it.

NOBODY HOME

This alone from “Nobody Home: writing, Buddhism, and living in places” by Gary Snyder in conversation with Julia Martin is worth the price of the book and the pleasure of the read:

“Snyder: Part of the actualization of Buddhist ethics is, in a sense, to be a deep ecologist. The actualization of Buddhist insights gives us a Buddhist economics not based on greed but on need, an ethic of adequacy but simplicity, a valuation of personal insight and personal experience over possessions. What I like most about Buddhism really is its fearlessness. So much of what warps people is fear of death and fear of impermanence. So much of what we do is simply strategies to try and hold back death, trying to buy time with material things. So at its best Buddhism provides people with a way of seeing their own frailty: you need less in the way of material objects and fortresses around yourself.”

As always with Snyder, there is more. Born in 1930 he was a founding father of the “Beat Generation,” a cultural/literary movement of the 1950s with an outsized influence on the consciousness of America. It was never large in numbers, but its early members included Jack Kerouac, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, Lucien Carr, John Clellon Holmes, Neal Cassidy, Gregory Corso and William Burroughs, while later adherents included Richard Brautigan and Ken Kesey. The Beats viewed the accepted mores of the establishment as constrictive to the human spirit, destructive to social equality and a sell-out of the best of humanity. Whether or not one embraced (I did and do) or rejected it (many did and do), the message of the Beat Generation lives on, nowhere moreso than in the work and life of its last standing founding father whose book Turtle Island earned the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1975.
This latest book began in 1984 when a young South African graduate student, Julia Martin, wrote Snyder a letter with questions about his writings. She writes, “It started as an intellectual exchange and became an exploration of practice. As a young person living in a society demarcated by the paranoid logic of apartheid, it was refreshing to meet the spaciousness of Gary’s way of seeing. His delight in wildness…the truly radical realization that things are not things but process, nodes in the jeweled net… a tendency to walk out of the narrow prison of dualistic thought.” Nobody Home is a compilation of some of their correspondence and interviews of nearly 30 years and shows, among other things, how the beat of the Beats is still keeping time. From opposite sides of the world they illuminate the connectedness of all things, times, places and people‑‑‑apartheid and a valuation of personal insight and personal experience over possessions, Snyder’s comment to Julia that “…you can hope that your country never becomes a superpower because that’s a huge drag” and the book’s closing lines from HH Dalai Lama, “Compassion, love, and forgiveness, however, are not luxuries. They are fundamental for our survival.”
The Beats go on.

 

DESKTOP REMINDERS

Every person is well-served by continuous reminders of the consistent and larger story within the various and variable smaller stories that we all tell and hear. Such ethical/intellectual prompts help keep the story rooted in reality and the story teller entrenched in the awareness that humans have always lived by stories and that those stories help shape the world. On the tiny desk in my office on which I write are three such reminders, two poems and a platform. Their size and significance are too large for this small space, but I encourage the reader to track them down for contemplation and, if inspired, action.
The first plank in The Deep Ecology Platform reads, “The well-being and flourishing of human and nonhuman life on Earth have value in themselves (synonyms: inherent worth; intrinsic value; inherent value). These values are independent of the usefulness of the nonhuman world for human purposes.”
Thich Nhat Hanh’s poem, “Please call Me By My True Name” includes,
“I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons
to Uganda.”
And in “…Not Man Apart…” Robinson Jeffers writes,
“In the white of the fire…how can I express the excellence
…I have found, that has no color but clearness;”
These are reminders that everything is connected in the natural (real) world, that the material well-being of the ‘developed’ nations is built upon the poverty of what the Cold War termed “Third World Countries” but modern PC labels “Less Developed Countries,” and that the task of the story teller is to continue to express life’s inexpressible excellence that has no color but clearness.
My desktop reminders are not random.
Deep Ecology is a term (and now a foundation) introduced in 1973 by Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess to differentiate between two different but not necessarily incompatible forms of environmentalism—deep ecology, which involves deep questioning, addresses root causes and calls for changes in basic values and practices of industrial civilization’s “business as usual,” and shallow ecology (think Sierra Club), which favors short term often technological fixes to the earth’s human caused environmental crises. That is, the shallow environmentalism of recycling, fuel efficient automobiles, organic farming and other worthy practices are beneficial but do not go far enough or sufficiently include values independent of the usefulness of the nonhuman world for human purposes.
Thich Nhat Hanh is likely the best known Buddhist alive besides HH Dalai Lama. He was born in Viet Nam in 1926 and now lives in France. He is a Zen master, writer and poet and a world leader in peace activism. When war came to his native country he founded the engaged Buddhism movement which encouraged both laymen and monks to apply the personal insights of meditation practice to the larger social, political, environmental and economic and injustice issues of the world. Martin Luther King called him “An Apostle of peace and nonviolence.” Thich Nhat Hanh is a constant reminder that we are all connected to and part of both the starving child in Africa and the profiteering merchant of deadly weapons which, in turn, are connected to each other.
Robinson Jeffers is one of America’s great poets and was rightfully recognized as such during the 1920s and 30s, including being on the cover of “Time” magazine in 1932. He was always controversial and expanded both the form and content of American literature in the tradition of Walt Whitman. He studied medicine, forestry and literature and graduated from college at the age of 18 by which time he had determined that poetry was his passion. Jeffers developed a philosophy which he termed “inhumanism.” He explained it as “…a shifting of emphasis from man to not man; the rejection of human solipsism and recognition of the transhuman magnificence… It offers a reasonable detachment as a rule of conduct, instead of love, hate and envy.” His work fell out of favor in the popular media during the 1940s in large part because of his opposition to America’s entry into WWII. One of his books included a publisher’s warning about the potentially “unpatriotic” poems found inside. In 1965, three years after Jeffers died, the Sierra Club, at the time under David Brower, published a book of photos of the Big Sur coast interspersed with Jeffers’ poetry. The book’s title “Not Man Apart” is from these Jeffers lines:
“…the greatest beauty is organic wholeness
the wholeness of life and things.
the divine beauty of the universe.
Love that, not man apart from that…”
That’s the best reminder of all.

REMINDERS FROM YOKO

During the winter of 1963-64 I worked as a bartender/pizza cook at the Sun Valley’s employees bar in the Quonset hut behind the Challenger Inn that later became the laundry. Called the Holiday Hut, it had a full service bar, pizza, ping pong tables, sofas and a television and was in business to discourage off duty Sun Valley employees from hanging around the guest bars in the lodge and inn. My old friend and boss, the wonderful Ned Bell, had set me up with this job that included room and board, a lift pass, some spending money and enough time to ski and train at the gentle levels required to recover from recent surgery and sickness.
Thanks in part to Ned it was an enjoyable, unusually relaxed winter and period in my personal life, a vacation from the concentration of competitive skiing, allowing room and energy for the contemplation of larger issues. And it was a strange and unsettling time in American culture when such issues encouraged contemplation, reassessment and personal connection to and responsibility for them. Just a few months before, President John Kennedy had been assassinated. A year earlier, George Wallace’s inaugural address as Governor of Alabama included, “…segregation now; segregation tomorrow; segregation forever!” Six months after Wallace’s shameful (and shameless) racist polemic, Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial. And the obscene disaster that a few months later would become known as the Viet Nam War was already underway under the radar but being felt and heard like the distant thunder of an imminent shift in and expansion of the consciousness of the unsettled American culture.
A milestone in my own awareness of and participation in that shift and expansion happened in the Holiday Hut one February 1964 night, the 9th to be precise.
Usually the Holiday Hut had about 10—15 customers doing the things young people do in such places after work, but early that evening the place unexpectedly filled up. I had never been so busy making pizzas, serving drinks and trying to keep customers happy. I asked someone what was going on and was properly chastised for being clueless. The Beatles were appearing on the Ed Sullivan show that night and the Holiday Hut had the available TV. Since I had been out of the country for most of the previous year I didn’t even know who the Beatles were.
I, along with 73 million other people who watched Ed’s show that night, soon found out.
And the Beatles were more than fine musicians and pop stars. They embodied, inspired and gave literal voice to both shift and expansion in the culture’s consciousness, at least for those not too mired to shift or/and too tight to expand. The Beatles were the right people in the right place in the right time to be the literal and musical voice of an era. It was an era of change for many, but even many of those who couldn’t embrace, for instance, peace and love as a mantra for social organization or getting America out of Viet Nam as a political goal, incorporated the Beatles music into their lives. The Beatles’ personal and professional lives were part of the cultural fabric, not because they were celebrities but because they were the public face of shifts in perspective and thinking of a significant part of the culture. The lyrics of their songs were studied and oft repeated. “All You Need is Love,” “Good Day, Sunshine, “Let It Be” and, later, “Imagine” made far more sense for all people than, say the systems analysis thinking of people like Robert McNamara who orchestrated the Viet Nam War and for whom some people were more disposable than others. I mean, anyone with half or less a brain knows that Gandhi is a better role model than Attila.
So, even though life moved on and the Beatles broke up and went separate ways the music and the message lived on. Even when John Lennon joined Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy and thousands of lesser known oblations to the gods of America’s gun culture the music of the Beatles endures with lyrics like:

“But if you want money for people with minds that hate
All I can tell you is brother you have to wait”

And then just the other day a book called “Acorn” by Yoko Ono, Lennon’s widow, showed up. She calls it a book of ‘conceptual instructions’ and notes, “I’m riding a time machine that’s going back to the good old ways. Great!”
Among Yoko’s instructions:

“Mend an object
When you go through the process of mending
You mend something inside your soul as well.”

and
“Take your pants off

before you fight.”
The beat goes on.