14 Responses

  1. Joe Kozlina says:

    Well Adam, Good to hear you face the facts of the predicament we are all in. We have known for the past 60 or so years we were killing this planet and ourselves For the past 30 or so years we have been smothered with unbridled optimism instead of a good measure of realism. The later may have saved us from the tipping points we have already started. I know most would not take this kind of stance and speak of the true state of our planet but I have been a realist since I was 8years old. It is necessary. I am now 65 and have seen this planet go from a lush green marvel to the state it has now become. Burning, flooding and drought extremes.
    Thanks for a good dose of realism. You write well.

  2. Raymond P. Budnick says:

    Very well written story!
    You took my mixed emotions of our present predicament of our culture and ecological crisis and blended them with a clarity needed. I wrote this passage many years ago, and more than ever, it now seems fitting to your article and the greater introspection and questions it presents:

    “Children we must turn and face the cold. To learn anew, the ways of the old.”

  3. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “At what point in the ecological unravelling do we turn to one another and say “The world is turned upside down”? ”

    “I am wondering what it looks like to turn and face the past in a time of cascading ecological and social troubles.”

    > Y’all read the story in yesterday’s New York Times about the arctic possibly losing all of its summer sea ice within ten years? It says here, “This milestone of climate change could materialize even if nations manage to curb greenhouse gas emissions more decisively than they are currently doing.” In other words the Arctic sea ice will be gone in ten years. The story continues: “The latest research suggests that, where Arctic sea ice is concerned, only steep, sharp emissions cuts might be able (stress “might be able” ….optimism) to reverse the effects of the warming already underway.”

    I heard the same twenty-five years ago, this fore-warning of things to come regards global warming, all of which has been bearing it’s costly, ugly fruit. Bill McKibben was saying such back then, Al Gore….remember him? The fanatical, far-right talking heads wouldn’t let up on him for years and years, painted him as the devil’s advocate for talking-up all of that nonsense ‘global warming.’ Their base (the fanatical far-right) went along with it hook, line and sinker, raised their cain, waved their flags, lashed out at the wicked liberals for trying to scare us with such nonsense. Sound familiar?

    Nothing has changed, except there are different tales being told to lead us in other directions. It seems the Tory pundits have lowered their tone on this matter as I hardly hear the first word regards the same anymore. Amnesia! There are more urgent matters let us move on….abortion, walls, immigrants, Hunter Biden, crooked Hillary, fake news! When we do not rise to truths and science, then a glacier disappearing in our own backyards is an optical illusion; things which are real lack significance. I have become acutely aware of a strange silence from a segment of this society who not long ago were shouting out, “It’s all a liberal hoax” “Al Gore is a phony” etc., etc. Selective overlooking!

    • Adam Wilson says:

      Greetings Charlie,
      I am afraid that you may have misread my piece. I wrote in there, “I am suggesting that looking directly at Medusa has the consequence of turning our hearts to stone, and turning our vitriol against either ourselves or our unenlightened neighbors, or both simultaneously. Let’s see if we can interrupt that pattern.”

      And, “There were people who lived in this very place just a few generations ago whose ecological footprint was almost unmeasurably small compared to ours today. And it seems we would rather cover the world in solar panels than imagine that there is anything worth remembering about the ways that they knew how to live.”

      Please count me out of the political food fight. It seems to me there is a whole lot of work to do that doesn’t require finding someone to blame.

      Respectfully, Adam

  4. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “the oldest among us could still be holding a few memories that might serve as clues to the living culture that Wendell describes, the one that ‘assures that the necessary restraints are observed, that the necessary work is done, and that it is done well.’ The work that might keep our hearts from turning to stone as the world burns.”

    “We should seek the intercourse of superior minds. Not that we should depend on those; for our own activity and effort are essential to our progress. But we should rouse, and inform, and stimulate our own minds by frequent contact and intercourse with those whose minds are superior to our own. Especially may we have communion with the great, the wise, and the good of every age, in books, where their voices echo to us down through the stillness of ages. Here it is that we may hold converse with the mightiest minds of the past……our companions; giving us their most precious thoughts–pouring their very souls into ours– making us the daily associates of the noblest, and wisest, and best, that earth has ever seen. By the habit of well-directed reading we may shut out the present bustling world; and, as a touch by the resurrection, may wake up from our book-shelves, the dead of every age, and gather them to our companionship and instruction.”

    From: Self-Cultivation by Tryon Edwards 1844

  5. louis curth says:

    There is a wonderful quality within your narratives, Adam, that I bet a lot of older Almanack readers relate to because so many of us have at least one foot in the door of fond memories of rural and open spaces.

    Growing up, I watched so many of the outdoor places that I loved, just disappear to the unrelenting march of “progress”. Like others, I found sanctuary in the Adirondacks, and got a job that would let me live and raise a family here. My good fortune was enabled thanks to the vision and hard work of the many conservationists who fought – and continue to fight – to preserve this remnant of America’s vast wild and open spaces for all of us now and in the future. Thanks to them, Adirondack tranquility remains a wonderful antidote to the excesses of our system which sadly is built upon relentless growth.

    Wendell Wilkie suggests that memories of the oldest among us might help us “assure necessary restraints are observed, that the necessary work is done, and that it is done well.” As you note, this work might indeed “keep our hearts from turning to stone as the world burns”. You ask a valid question; “At what point does feeling good amount to truancy?”

    I wish I could see more evidence that those among us who have the means to influence the future in positive ways have gotten beyond the feeling good part of your question…

    At what point does feeling good amount to truancy?

  6. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “Children we must turn and face the cold. To learn anew, the ways of the old.”

    “the ways of the old!” There’s a lot to be said in these five words. To cite one mere example regards this theme “the ways of the old” I find reference to an old piece of literature in my collection titled “The American Journal Of The Medical Sciences Vol. XXV Philadelphia 1839” The descriptions & definitions within this aged volume are such like I’ve never read anywhere else modern-wise. ‘Just amazing’ I say! While doing research on this publication, I came upon something in reference to the accounts within which I found striking, a representation of my own thoughts, but which I couldn’t have said better:

    “It’s amazing that there’s been little descriptive improvement on these original articles. We know more on the molecular level than they did, but as far as actual description goes, no one has done any better…This shows how clever and precise our ancestors were and their keen powers of observation.”

    From: A history of the publication–The American Journal of the Medical Sciences by Nathaniel Chapman (established in 1820) Wikipedia

    • louis curth says:

      Sorry that I misattributed Wendell Berry’s thoughtful words to the long gone Republican presidential hopeful Wendell Wilkie. A senior distraction is my best excuse.

  7. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Adam Wilson says: “Please count me out of the political food fight. It seems to me there is a whole lot of work to do that doesn’t require finding someone to blame.”

    Greetings to you also Adam. I respect your neutrality first and foremost. My immediate thoughts, and reply, to your response to my missive would be, “you’re misreading me.”  I have a tendency, when being stirred by something I read, to undergo a chemical reaction which sparks in me an urge to let loose the first things which come over my ever-questing mind. So when I read “in a time of cascading ecological and social troubles.” the sparks flew and I immediately began to let loose.

    My thoughts, while writing what I wrote, were far removed from the intent of a ‘political food fight’ as you say. What I say is actuality Adam, and while I find it commendable that you, and others, seek the zen path, I would hope that you would respect and appreciate that not all of us will choose that route to express the very things which are of concern to you also. We should do whatever it takes to not only keep our hearts, but also the world, from turning to stone, or rubble if you will! We’re at a precipice Adam. We do have a lot of work, which began way before 1980 the year you were born. We’ve made small steps along the way sure, but we always seem to have the urge to go backwards a few more steps only having to begin anew to make up for lost ground. We’re contrarians is what we are. How much longer can this go on?

    I have a wonderful friend named Tad whose thinking reminds me of yours. Recently we had a chat and talked about similar things as we are all feeling a transformation taking shape. I suppose my thinking would be considered gloomy to some, and while we’re both realists, his thinking is more towards upbeat which I truly appreciate, trust me! When I said to him that “it is good to be aware evil lurks, and to keep one’s guard up” he responded with, “Yes, but when we are not giving energy to it, it becomes powerless.”  I like his thinking, but I like mine too as there is never ‘more than enough’ to go around, especially when our hearts are in the right place and there’s work that needs be done!

    What Joe Kozlina said struck me: “For the past 30 or so years we have been smothered with unbridled optimism instead of a good measure of realism.”

    There is a reasoned value to this statement Adam. Speaking the truth is not the same as ‘finding someone to blame.’ I’m glad you are out there trust me when I say, and I would like to think that you would appreciate me being out there also as, after all, we’re counterparts…..I’m in opposition to lampricide too!

    • Adam Wilson says:

      Cheers to you for this bit of grace. I feel the rage boiling over on the regular, as you’ve said. The rupture and the abandonment of the necessary culture work began generations before my time, and I’ve done my fair share of cursing those older than I, the ones handing me the reins to a massive shit-show. I come from big-hearted, deeply well-intentioned liberal stock, and I’ve seen the unwillingness in that religion to consider the restraint that Berry invokes, hence the likelihood of covering the world in solar panels. Perhaps the emotion you rightly sensed in my response to your message longs only to deepen into the kind of grief that has the courage to work for possibilities that are now mostly foreclosed upon, possibilities that will not benefit those alive today in the least, to take less and give more. I have offered the following phrase to describe what elderhood could look like in our time: a willingness to speak as if what is happening is really happening. In other times, perhaps elders may have been able to proceed as if what was happening was really happening. This capacity seems mostly unavailable within the extractive confines of modernity. I find sorrow to be deeply animating, setting the alarm clock for well before dawn. Many thanks to you for the invitation to consider, to circle around the fire and share a few stores. It is a marvelous thing to be alive at such a time. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. With care, Adam

  8. Lorraine Duvall says:

    As always, your writing is inspirational. I’m reminded of the words of the spiritual teacher John Philip Newell in his book “Sacred Earth, Sacred Soul: Celtic wisdom for reawakening to what our souls know and healing the world.” We are excited that Newell will lead a retreat in the Adirondacks this summer, specifically July 14 and 15. He calls us to see the sacred in all things, and to discover our potential to heal the world. For more details of this weekend see https://www.eventleaf.com/e/JPNewell_KeeneValley
    It would be great to see you there.

  9. louis curth says:

    Charlie’s reply goes to the heart of Adam’s question about truancy. To wit: “We should do whatever it takes to not only keep our hearts, but also the world, from turning to stone, or rubble.”

    For those of us who enjoy the precious freedoms bestowed upon us under the rubric of government of the people, by the people and for the people, it should be pretty obvious that we are exceedingly truant!

    I suggest that democracy is in fact already turning into rubble under a rising tide of intolerance and hatred. Unscrupulous people are intentionally spreading lies, encouraging violence, and engaging in money driven political corruption, and the safeguards put in place to protect our democracy are faltering.

    Our two party system, depends on political leaders who are willing to work together to achieve beneficial results for those most in need of help and protection. Instead of working together and leading with the courage to stand up for what is right, we are met with silence and cowardice from too many of those who took an oath to protect and defend our constitution.

    All the while, far too many of the rest of us simply turn away and do nothing.
    Such is the legacy of Truancy!

  10. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Adam Wilson says: “Charlie, Cheers to you for this bit of grace.”

    The more I know the less I know Adam! I have more questions than I do answers. I am just a mere, curious traveler passing through time and space, very much aware of the brief time I have here on Earth. Being aware of this, of my limited time, is what motivates me so far goes the manners in which I conduct myself, in-person or through whatever mediums, including by way of verbal or written communications, which I am not always pro at imperfect who is me. In most all of my actions, my motivations are steered by a deep concern for the future of this living planet and those children yet to be, or our futurity; which leads to the query, “what can I do to make the world a better place?”, which is kin to what you say “to take less and give more.”

    It is about spirituality too, about inner harmony, balance, peace…..within me. In other words I want to be the best person I can be before the great gig in the sky comes to take me away. I feel I shouldn’t say that but I will leave it in this communication besides, because I really mean it! To think if we all thought like this, to be in this mental space, not that I wish for everyone to be like me heaven forbid!

    Words on a page do not define wholly who any of us are, though we can get a good feel by a general summary of what he or she has said, a little bit can convey so much. This, only if biases are removed and rationality is set-in. I say these things so as to justify whenever it is a future communication from me goes out of plumb and I am taken the wrong way, imperfect who is me. I do thank you for being out there I will say, and I do agree with you when you say: “It is a marvelous thing to be alive at such a time. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.” I will add to this though, that if I could snap my fingers and, on a whim, be immersed in any era I choose to be in, that era would be late 1700’s up to before the Civil War.

  11. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Louis! Thank you for putting it straight! Some of us see the big picture; others….they seemingly will never get it, or they will get it when it is way past time they should have got it! History is replete with examples regarding the same!

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