Thursday, July 17, 2014

Muscle over Mind

Daemon: benevolent or benign nature spirits, beings of the same nature as both mortals and gods, similar to ghosts,chthonic heroes, spirit guides.

Greetings folks! I'm still here but haven't written anything in a while or been doing much in the way of online connecting generally. In fact I've been busy doing other things, mainly digging.

My days at the moment tend to involve digging out about half a ton of soil from the basement of our house, carrying it by bucket to a trailer and then driving it to our woodland where I unload it to build up various earthworks on the land, including a terrace for a polytunnel, a retaining wall for a large pond and another terrace. I then spend a couple of hours hacking up clay and rocks with a pick axe to deepen said pond and then return home to pick children up from school, make dinner and make sure they do their homework.

Usually, by the time they are in bed, I'm too shattered to do anything other than read.

I lost my part-time Danish translation job a couple of months back, which was what was keeping us afloat financially. As a direct result of this I found myself considering the unwelcome prospect of having to rejoin the so-called 'real world' and applying for a job at a newspaper. After much rationalisation I decided to go for it. On the day of the interview, which was for a chief reporter position, I found myself unable to don the required suit. I haven't worn my suit for many a year (it only sees light at funerals) and so instead I wore a casual shirt and jeans. It felt more comfortable. At the interview, which took place in a fairly large office in Truro, I found myself putting on the old act and talking in the acronyms and codewords that must necessarily accompany any discussion of journalism/marketing in the internet age (PPC campaigns, click-through ratios, Adwords etc), how to make stories 'viral' and how to drive traffic to sites via 'social media marketing'. As I waffled on I saw my daemon rise above me and stand there with his arms crossed, shaking his head slowly in disapproval at the sad spectacle before him. When I got home I felt sick.

Later that day the editor called to say that I didn't get the job. Something about me not having the requisite legal training meaning I would be a liability to the business if they employed me (I had pleaded that 'common sense' had always worked in the past, but these days it is not a valid excuse). When I'd finished whooping for joy I came to the sober realisation that this was the real thing: I was unemployable. I had applied for a number of menial jobs too, but was turned down for being 'too educated'. So this was it: make or break with my wits alone.

And that's why I've decided to go 'all in' with being a mushroom-growing, wood coppicing, herb-producing, permaculture-practicing, charcoal-burning woodlander.

Luckily for us my wife had managed to get a job as a community care worker at about the same time as I lost my job. It's one of those touted new jobs where you have no rights and get screwed at every level (she has worked 19 hours out of the last 24 for minimum wage and she has to pay the company money if she quits within the first year).

So what it all means is that I'm now the house-husband/manual labourer and that I've given myself a couple of years working flat-out at the woodland to try and make a business of it. I do get some government support, so it's quite an easy deal really, and we still manage to live lives on the level of, say, a lesser Egyptian pharaoh—on about a third of the average national wage for the UK. We also have a lot of fruit and veg growing, so food is nutritious and fresh from the back yard.

So please forgive the silence for a while. I have had a number of writing ideas gestating in my mind as I've been working. I was lucky enough to bag John Michael Greer to myself for an evening when he was over visiting the UK last month and discussed a few ideas over pints of bitter in a Glastonbury beer garden. So, I have a number of science fiction stories ready for writing this winter, with the first 'taster' one being published in 'Beyond Oil 3' (which you can read a draught of here). Before then I'll be aiming to finish my 'peak oil' book which has been on the back burner for a while.

This last one is going to include a lot of stuff that I have been reading recently in terms of Gaian thinking and perceptions. It's what my daemon says I should be doing with my time instead of playing at being a hack-drone in a corporate war zone.

So, that's it for now. The weather is hot and sultry here and they say it will hail golf balls tomorrow. Happy days.

p.s. I apologise for not responding to comments on my last post.

p.p.s. That's not me in the picture at the top.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I deleted for an edit.

    Jason, good to see back on your blog. I understand your absence for I too must live in the real world. Don't take being unemployable too hard, most of us are unemployable now and it really does not reflect on you.

    Only perfect employees are wanted and having an independent spirit is now intimidating to interviewers and a liability. Be careful. When you feel that daemon rise and you know you are going to go home sick remember you need a job. Get through it and try and figure out what the interviewer wants. If you don't impress them you're gone, but if you impress them too much you're gone that way too.

    Getting employed is an irrational tribal ritual that is disgusting to participate in at best. When there are few to no jobs; it's brutal. You can't let the disappointments affect how you feel about yourself.

    I wish I could take my own advice.

    1. K-dog, I'm more than happy with my unemployable status. If truth be told, I do have a small job, cleaning a holiday home in a beautiful location on Saturdays with my wife. Last week, looking out of the upstairs window while wiping the floor, I saw a whale surface just beyond the beach.

      You are, of course, right about the perfect employee thing. My dad always warned me that I would end up 'on the scrapheap' because of my lack of drive to succeed in the world of business. Turns out he was right, although he didn't realise how profitable the recycling business could be.

    2. Here's to being on the scrapheap! Every attempt I've made to get on the corporate bandwagon has been soul-destroying. Every time I've got off and done what's really fulfilling, I've felt like I'm really alive. Sure, paying the bills becomes more of an issue - but, overall, the trade-off is worth it.

    3. Here's to being truly alive rather than a wage slave (raises glass of cheap wine)!

  3. Its amazing how our our self image has been manipulated to believe we must have gainful employment to have self respect, though of course we all need cash to survive. Glad your daemon has not fallen for it though Jason. You obviously have a deep inner sense that you and your family can make it on your own so good on you and here's wishing you every success.

    K-Dog I've experienced the same pain and though I mostly got past it 5 years ago and make enough from being self employed to get by I still occasionally wake up thinking I ought to get a job. That's even though I don't consciously want or need one. I guess for reasons of deep conditioning we crave the pseudo certainty of secure income employment brings.

    and Jason I have faith the Archdruid gave sound advice and following it will not do you any harm so good luck to you mate.

    1. Phil - there's a book I read a while back called 'Selling the Work Ethic' by Sharon Beder, which deals with this idea about having ;gainful employment'. Still, like you, I occasionally wake up and think 'what the hell am I doing?' - but I gather this is just a rational reaction to taking the path less trodden, so try not let it freak me out too much.

      As for the Archdruid: it was great to meet up with him and shoot the breeze. He's a very amenable chap with, to quote Douglas Adams, a brain the size of a planet ... i.e. the perfect drinking companion. Pity I couldn't make it to the seminar in London, but this was a great consolation prize.

  4. Sometimes it amazes me how our lives parallel. I had to seek employment myself recently. Ironically enough, given my past (other than honorable discharge from the USN for preferring not to any longer) I'm now employed by a 69 year old retired army Sergeant Major battling mother nature for $15 an hour (under the table of course). He has a conventional landscaping business. I need to blog about it myself as I, like you, have been silent online this summer. The irony is on many levels. Here I am doing my level best to permaculture up the world, going for the PDC in August, trying to get a business called Ancient Earth Design off the ground, and yet still I must equip myself with a weed eater and ride a lawn mower to make ends meet. I've thought about titling my next blog "Why Does a Druid Ride a Lawn Mower."

    The day after my first day working with the Sergeant Major I caught a horrible case of diarrhea (which never happens to me). For two days it was every 20 minutes on the toilet. I'm still exhausted and recovering from it. I have no idea why. I wonder if it's just my Daemon pissed off at me for doing the opposite of permaculture.

    Thanks for the copy of Communities That Abide BTW. It's next in line. Currently I'm reading Camelot and The Vision of Albion by Geoffrey Ashe as well as Dreaming the Divine by Scott Cunningham.

    1. I have a good friend who is trained as a horticulturist. He went down this path because he loves plants. So what does he have to do for a living? Mowing grass and killing wildflowers with a strimmer, as well as cutting down healthy trees and administering specially designed poison to kill worms on golf courses. I think it has all got too much for him as he is quitting it to practice full-time permaculture.

      It seems that these days, for most jobs, you just end up making things worse for the biosphere and all life within it. The only sensible option is to opt out. Here's a quote from a book I have just read - the most startlingly mind-expanding book I have read in many years - 'Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm' by Stephen Buhner:

      "That is what people do who follow a deep inner sense that there is something they must do. It is a mark of those who follow their hearts, who follow their natural interests. There is something inside them calling them to a particular place, a particular kind of study, knowledge and awareness. Those that follow that inner urging, who find and never let go of golden threads, are the ones who change everything."

    2. For more info on this, see (or hear):

    3. Thanks for the link. Right at the start there's a real gem - that there is more information and communication out there in the universe than we normally have access to and that the our brains and nervous systems function to limit our intake of information so we don't get overwhelmed.
      I have long suspected that there is way more information out there than we normally have access to. The trick is to listen. It is worth our while to sit on a stump or rock or at the base of a tree in a forest of wood and let our busy minds be quiet and just listen to what the world around us has to tell us. This sitting and listening is not easy of course. Our minds generate noise to block out the message. But with some practice, we can learn to hear what the world around us wants to tell us.
      A number of years ago we met a Chippewa medicine woman on a remote island in lake Michigan. Later I found her quoted in a book on mushrooms as saying that she would use the fly agaric whenever she needed to make serious decisions. I suspect in light of Buhner's perspective on the brain that the use of plants is not so much to create visions but to temporarily keep the brain from blocking information that is out there but is normally inaccessible to us.
      As for making a living by means other than a job, given that jobs are gradually but inexorably disappearing, making a living by other means might feel harsh but may be a blessing since most of us will get there sooner or later anyway. Was it Orlov who advised us to collapse early and beat the rush?
      I have been jobless for thirteen years now and had three opportunities to get a job, one I tried for but didn't get and two I could have had but didn't accept because they would have thrown me off what I perceived to be my intended space-time trajectory. I think the old saw about having to suffer for our art applies. Feed the soul or feed the pocketbook, which will it be? For a while, my wife worked and produced an income to keep the two of us afloat. Now we are coasting on my social security and what savings we have plus my meager earnings from occasional boat building activities.
      Our neighbors with jobs live in a world of expensive restaurant dinners and extravagant beauty treatments. We live in a world of home cooked meals and backyard mid-afternoon meals washed down with cheap wine while we enjoy the beauty of our garden. Low-status entertainments for us. But as far as we can tell, the wave of the future.

    4. For me, encountering Buhner and his books(s) feels like moving to another level. The seeming reality that plants, insects, animals and even bacteria possess unique and complex intelligences that we *can* understand if we have the ability to listen is both exciting and unnerving - and it goes against everything we have been taught by our culture. He goes into some detail about techniques for opening the doors of perception wider, and has a useful section at the end about protecting your psyche from what you might encounter (i.e. avoiding having your mind blown).

      A while back I used to regularly eat magic mushrooms, and have had more than a few trips on acid. I wonder if this contributed to my inability to, as Buhner puts it, live in a very narrowly defined definition of reality for which we have not evolved (the reason so many people are depressed).

      Anyway, I'm planning a think-walk next month, which I'll be writing about. I'm planning on walking back into uncivilization in Scandinavia.

      As for eating in expensive restaurants - I just can't do it any more, even if I could afford it (unless someone else is paying for it)! The idea of spending a week's worth of our food budget on a single meal (which I could probably make just as well at home) brings me out in a cold sweat. Here's to home-cooked meals washed down with cheap wine!

  5. Very interesting, Jason. Stephen Buhner's approach reminds me of Bill Plotkin's "Soulcraft". Plotkin's UK equivalent is the excellent Patrick Harpur (but naturally, with less emphasis on wilderness). Buhner, though, was wrong about a coming Ice Age (and how!), and perhaps he's wrong about his Carl Sagan-like idea that we're here to put bacteria on other planets. More likely, judging by our behaviour, we're here to release locked-up, fossilized carbon for later Gaian evolution.

    1. I must confess that I didn't know Buhner had predicted an ice age. With regards to sending bacteria into deep space on the various space vessels we have flung out there, I have to say that I found this to be an intriguing idea. Who is using whom: are bacteria giving us a relatively easy ride (while the antibiotics still work) to allow us to build them spaceships?

      Anyway, Buhner goes on to say how bacteria routinely escapes the Earth system by way of meteor strikes, and riding thermal currents, so one wonders why they might need a space ship in the first place!

      I will check out Bill Plotkin - the name of the book rings a bell. Thanks. Will also look at Patrick Harpur.

  6. Hi Jason. I think blogger ate my last comment! It does that when it is hungry.

    Anyway, congratulations for the massive adventure you have embarked on. Just for your interest, I reckon courses are where the money is at showing people how to do basic things, which they should know and probably feel guilty about not knowing. Non fiction writing is also a good earner too. Cheers. Chris

    1. Hi Chris - are you sure you comment wasn't on an earlier post? One came through on the post I called 'Bland and White Swan'.

      As for money ... I'm embarking on learning the basics of mycology and am slowly reading up on the wealth of literature made available by such great tutors as Paul Stamets. The climate I live in is perfect for fungus cultivation, and I have all the raw materials for growing (i.e. wood). As a further money earner I'm leaning to brew sacred beers. Yep, you read that right. These are basically quick-brew beers and other alcoholic beverages brewed from herbs, tree bark and leaves, and various other naturally occurring organic ingredients.

      Both of these things I expect to be able to sell at local farmers markets and restaurants, but I'm not under any illusions that I'll be able to earn much from them in terms of money. So, yes, you are probably right: courses can earn far more money.

      And if my fiction and non-fiction takes off then I'll still do all of the above.

    2. Hi Jason. No doubt about it that you are correct. I've seen a talk by Paul Stamets when he visited Australia and the guy is the real deal - albeit with a fungal derived hat, which appeared to be mildly combustible. Sacred brewing is an interesting choice too and I'd be very interested to hear about how that goes. Good stuff. I brew here too so am always interested in other options. There was a book on that subject, but I can't recall now, wasn't there? Children's fiction is a lucrative feed trough Down Under too. Cheers. Chris

    3. Hi Jason. Paul Stamets is an outstanding source of hands on info. I'd be interested to hear how your mushroom adventures progress. They grow here prolifically throughout the year with the exception of summer when it is too dry for them. There are also white truffles here. The unfortunate thing is that no one knows what species are edible and I'm not game to find out as the cost is too high for a mistake. There is a book on sacred beers too, which sounds fascinating. I hope you keep us all updated on your adventures. Cheers. Chris

  7. Late to the party, but congratulations on being demoted from wage rat to 'unemployable'. My own lack of 'career' occasionally stresses me out, and then I have to remind myself that I have a productive ethic as opposed to a work ethic. I look forward to reading more about your new adventures.


I'll try to reply to comments as time permits.