Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Money-making is the life force of corporations. It is their one and only reason for existence, at least in the structure of capitalism that we function under. I just had to rent a truck through Budget Rental ... I'm not happy about it, but I need a one-way rental and only the large companies offer this. Just for kicks I clicked on their "Moving Tips" section, and this caught my eye:

"Buy quality boxes and moving supplies. Don’t pack your valuable possessions in used, dirty boxes. Invest some of the savings from doing the job yourself into doing the job right. Visit your local Budget Truck Rental location or buy some new, high-quality moving boxes and supplies on-line now and have them shipped right to your door."

Are they making this wasteful suggestion of buying new boxes rather than re-using old ones because they care about your move going well and your possessions being safe? No. They're suggesting it because they want to make money. Observe the psychology at work in their statements: they imply that you are entitled to new, clean moving supplies, flatter you by reminding you how thrifty you are by "doing it yourself," and rope you in with the convenience of on-line ordering and home delivery. This is just one small example, but if you open your eyes to the bombardment of messages like this, you will begin to see why as a society we have adopted this unhealthy attitude of "deserving" new things at the expense of valuable resources. Listen to these messages with a critical ear, and you will begin to disengage from the programming to which we've been subjected since birth.

"The world owes us nothing. We owe each other the world."
-- Ani DiFranco

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


I copied the paragraph below from gristmill ... a great environmental blog on

It has an excellent summary of the climate change / global warming issue, which is the biggest threat to the planet's survival, along with (and caused by) overpopulation.

There are links throughout the paragraph to specific evidence of climate change. Research it for yourself and share it with someone who wonders what all the talk is about.

[W]e are reaching the point where we can see that we are starting to make massive, probably irreversible, changes to our climate. The glaciers are in full retreat almost everywhere, the Arctic is melting (with total melting of the summer sea ice possible, though not certain, as early as 2020), the permafrost is melting, and releasing large amounts of methane, which is a very powerful global warming gas, while in the last thirty years, droughts have doubled due to warming, hurricanes are much more intense all over the globe, and are showing up in places they never did before in recorded history. Scientists have been projecting changes in ocean circulation, and lo-and-behold, they are starting to show up, including changes to the North Atlantic Circulation, although major change here was previously thought unlikely this century. There is some possibility of changes in deepwater circulation destabilizing methane hydrates in the ocean, particularly in South East Asian deeps. Oh, and the Greenland ice sheet is now melting much faster than climatologists expected, and the West Antarctic ice sheet is starting to collapse, though again, this was previously thought unlikely. Also paleoclimatological studies have made it clear that in the past the climate abruptly flipped between modes, sometimes with dramatic change in as little as three years. And we are making rapid changes in carbon dioxide, known to be critically important in regulating the temperature of this sensitive climatic system for a century now.

The Art of the Commonplace

I will get back to more practical solutions and issues at some point, but currently I am getting a much-needed boost in motivation from The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry. Berry is an author from Henry County, Kentucky, who chose amid a successful career in New York to return to the native land of his family and live an agrarian lifestyle in harmony with the natural environment.

Agrarian: (from
  1. Relating to or concerning the land and its ownership, cultivation, and tenure.
    1. Relating to agricultural or rural matters.
    2. Intended to further agricultural interests: agrarian lobbyists.

From what I have read so far he acknowledges the destructive habits of modern humans (in contrast, the Native Americans and other groups subsisted for tens of thousands of years with zero impact on the environment). Berry takes responsibility for his own part in it, and remains an activist by example. He writes with a painful and beautiful honesty about the disappearing landscape and its suffering at our greedy hands, but also with a joyous reverence at the bounty of the Earth.

On discovering in Spring a previously unseen patch of bluebells covering the forest floor, Berry says:

"... the sense ... came suddenly to me then that the world is blessed beyond my understanding, more abundantly than I will ever know. What lives are still ahead of me here to be discovered and exulted in, tomorrow, or in twenty years? What wonder will be found here on the morning after my death? Though as a man I inherit great evils and the possibility of great loss and suffering, I know that my life is blessed and graced by the yearly flowering of the bluebells. How perfect they are! In their presence I am humble and joyful. If I were given all the learning and all the methods of my race I could not make one of them, or even imagine one. Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. It is the privilege and the labor of the apprentice of creation to come with his imagination into the unimaginable, and with his speech into the unspeakable."

What struck me deeply about the above was the reminder that while we humans possess wonderful qualities and the very powerful gift of consciousness, we could never create the absolute perfection and splendor of one flower, or tree, or insect, or rain cloud. We could never put together a system as miraculous as the changing of the seasons, or a seed that lies dormant and is awakened by the mix of light and water, or an animal that takes only what it needs for survival and keeps the balance of an ecosystem, returning the elements of its body to the soil for nourishment.

We have thrust our very shallow intentions upon this very perfect world. I think I can say we didn't mean to, or at least for myself, I didn't ask to be born into this age of usurption and an unbalanced relationship to the world. But, I am opening my eyes and making my consciousness shift public. I'm learning what I can.

"We have lived by the assumption that what is good for us would be good for the world. And this has been based on the even flimsier assumption that we could know with any certainty what was good even for us. We have fulfilled the danger of this by making our personal pride and greed the standard of our behavior toward the world -- to the incalculable disadvantage of the world and every living thing in it. And now, perhaps very close to too late, our great error has become clear. It is not only our own creativity -- our own capacity for life -- that is stifled by our arrogant assumption; the creation itself is stifled.

We have been wrong. We must change our lives, so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption that what is good for the world will be good for us. And that requires that we make the effort to know the world and to learn what is good for it. We must learn to cooperate in its processes, and to yield to its limits. But even more important, we must learn to acknowledge that the creation is full of mystery; we will never entirely understand it. We must abandon arrogance and stand in awe. We must recover the sense of the majesty of creation, and the ability to be worshipful in its presence. For I do not doubt that it is only on the condition of humility and reverence before the world that our species will be able to remain in it."

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


I know some people will be looking for a Bass/Nature Camp entry on this blog. It has been hard to imagine how to wrap words around such an experience. At first I felt I didn't know how to talk about it, yet found that it's all I was talking about.

If you'd like to see pictures on the website of our week at camp, take a look here.

Next week I will speak in my brother's Jazz Workshop about my experience. Hopefully for those students, I might inspire just a glimpse of what was awakened in me at camp.

Here are words that come to mind when I think of it:
letting go

The primary experience I took away from camp, and which will remain with me in some way throughout my lifetime as a musician, is one of being connected to music itself. There is only one way to produce the music that comes through my fingers, my voice, my heart, my hands ... and that is to open up and let it out. There is so much fear that keeps us from expression. Technique, theory, memorization, muscle memory ... they are all wonderful tools, but they only help to shape what is truly beautiful and pure, and that is the wonderful musical uniqueness that springs from every person. I have something to say musically, and only I can say it. You have something to say too, whether you want to call it music, or some other kind of art, or just the way you move or speak or make your way through your ordinary day.

There is only one song, and we are all playing it. If you could expand yourself into a being which wrapped around the entire Earth, you would hear the most magical, bizarre, harmonious, dissonant, ever-changing, beautiful piece of music. It is made up of all of us and all the other roaming creatures, as well as the wind, the oceans, the mountains, falling leaves, shifting continents, flowers wilting, seeds stretching roots through the soil.

Do you get it?

All this has reinforced so deeply in me the need to save this place. Though I've become self-absorbed and I've drifted from my purpose, I'm also aware and forgiving of my humanity and I am getting back on track.

Again and again my circumstances are reminding me to ask what is important.

What is important to you? And how much do you really need to derive joy from this life? Can you have joy and peace without causing destruction?