the river

Posted on March 25, 2014


We are being swept down a river we call life. We think that “The River” is not only the way it is but also it is the way life should be. Culture dictates how we spend our money; what we eat, how we dress, what we drive, where we live, why we live. And with the decisions we make on where we spend our money, we unconsciously support “The River”. But what is this river that we simply call life, without question? And what dictates the direction that “The River” takes us?


“Humanity has been sleeping — and still sleeps — lulled within the narrowly confining joys of its closed loves.” (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, theologian and scientist)

“The lust for comfort murders the passion of the soul, and then walks grinning in the funeral.” (Kahlil Gibran)

When a specific dogma or way of thinking becomes the default thinking for a person then we have a clear example of the power of automatic downloads from culture… conditioning as Jiddu Krishnamurti describes it so often.

This refers to all areas of culture that is not carried out intentionally;

  • military industrial complex,
  • political industrial complex,
  • religious industrial complex,
  • medical industrial complex,
  • pharmaceutical industrial complex,
  • educational industrial complex,
  • food industrial complex,
  • clothing industrial complex,
  • fashion industrial complex,
  • sports industrial complex,
  • health and beauty industrial complex,
  • and all of the other areas where we substitute identity with “things” that we identify with.

Those that do not know who they are have a great need to identify with something and so, as my facebook friend Rajiv so clearly described, “Dogma at its core is perhaps just loyalty… to the community” from which we draw our identity. This is quite backwards, drawing identity from a random external source.

Some may say that there is a conspiracy against the people to manipulate us into participating in the industrial complex. But actually, we do not need to be manipulated. We just do what culture does. Why??? Because culture is us! We create the culture that in turn sweeps us down the river. Why??? Because we the people seem to want this. Or maybe, we just haven’t considered an alternative. Maybe we get so caught up and entrapped in the little worlds that we create that we don’t realize that we have created them. But what about this power of thoughtless creation? What if Creator thoughtlessly created this world? We would have sheer chaos. But isn’t that what we have now?

We eat food loaded with chemicals, shipped from afar that destroys creation… and destroys our bodies.

We create demand for fancy clothes, produced through child labor, and shipped from afar… wasting natural resources needlessly.

We participate in the industrial complex automatically, making the rich richer and the poor poorer.


We build houses thoughtlessly creating urban sprawl that keeps us dependent and addicted to the use of fossil fuels.

By our choices we make certain people rich and others poor and then continue to create policies and make purchasing decisions that increase the gap more and more every year.

I think mindlessness is a form of chaos, a trap created by our own thoughtlessness, as we unconsciously flow with the current of the day.

What if mindful, intentional living became the default where, from within, we draw our identity and purpose and then create community with those that resonate deeply with who we are and why we are here. AND what if we were also to seek out those that think differently and cultivate connection, companionship, and community with them in order to broaden our perspectives and challenge our own cultural conditioning. BUT, of course, mindful living demands mindfulness, intentional living requires intention; and both of these come from great discipline and effort; something very difficult for a culture that worships comfort, security, and certainty.

“We’ve all learned things that limit us as human beings, whether from well-intentioned parents, teachers, clergy, or others. Passed down through generations, even centuries, much of conditioningthis destructive cultural learning is so ingrained in our lives that we are no longer conscious of it. In one of his routines, comedian Buddy Hackett, raised on his mother’s rich cooking, claimed that he never realized it was possible to leave the table without feeling heartburn until he was in the army. In the same way, pain engendered by damaging cultural conditioning is such an integral part of our lives that we can no longer distinguish its presence. It takes tremendous energy and awareness to recognize this destructive learning and to transform it into thoughts and behaviors that are of value and of service to life.” (Marshall Rozenberg, Nonviolent Communication: a Language of Life)

Since moving to the farm, Sandhill CSA, with a wonderful family of Quakers, I am seeing in a whole new way the meaning of “intentional living”.

Last weekend we attended the Quaker Quarterly Meeting in Kalamazoo together. One of the workshops was called Mindful Eating. We began by mapping out the meaning of Mindful Eating on an easel pad. We filled that large sheet of paper with so many various dimensions.

What we eat, how we eat, and the source of our eating impacts so many areas of living:

  • integrity (do I live what I say I believe?),

  • healthy living (why do I eat so many chemicals without thought?),

  • environment (why is making someone rich more important than being good stewards of the earth?),

  • supporting local struggling businesses (rather than feeding the big box industrial complex),

  • health of the animals (caged animals produce stress and violence among creatures that releases all kinds of chemicals and creates illnesses in the body of the animal that alters the meat that we eat),

  • so we inject more chemical (antibiotics) into that meat we are going to eat so that we can “get them to market” and make the money (without regard to the health impact on us),

  • how we slaughter an animal also impacts the stress on the animal (fear chemicals are sent throughout the meat of the animal that we in turn eat)… and on and on and on. And this is only intentional living related to the meat we eat. What about the chemicals used on vegetables, fruit, grains, and herbs to keep them healthy and “get them to market”, again elevating money above health and sustainability?

Is this just a matter of choice and lifestyle or are there deeper issues of the soul, like integrity in questions here?

What makes intentional community so hard? What makes intentional living and mindful eating so hard? What are the deep seated matters of the soul that we tend to avoid?

Living differently, more sustainably, is a matter of thinking differently, being mindful. But this requires a deep seated letting go. It means a willingness to loose our grip on what is familiar and comfortable. We all live our lives according to our habits and habits are hard to break. They give us security and certainty. They give our lives structure and order. They mitigate the seemingly ‘emptiness’ of mystery and uncertainty; those things that we fear so greatly. We seem to need to cover our fear with more habits and thoughtless living rather than facing the fears and uncertainties necessary to form new habits of living. But why would we do the work it takes to create new habits that are mindful, abundant, sustainable, and meaningful? That would take rising up from The River and turning on it, facing it, saying “no more!”, and taking one step at a time in the right direction, against the current. Each step would bring us closer to what we want. Each step might bring us closer to new habits of intentional living. Why would we want to do something like letting go when we are so good at holding on, grasping at dust in the wind, ending up with a mouthful of dirt?

“We have to create culture, don’t watch TV, don’t read magazines, don’t even listen to NPR. Create your own roadshow. The nexus of space and time where you are now is the most immediate sector of your universe, and if you’re worrying about Michael Jackson or Bill Clinton or somebody else, then you are disempowered; you’re giving it all away to icons, icons which are maintained by an electronic media so that you want to dress like X or have lips like Y. This is shit-brained, this kind of thinking. That is all cultural diversion, and what is real is you and your friends and your associations, your highs, your orgasms, your hopes, your plans, your fears. And we are told ‘no’, we’re unimportant, we’re peripheral. ‘Get a degree, get a job, get a this, get a that.’ And then you’re a player; you don’t want to even play in that game. You want to reclaim your mind and get it out of the hands of the cultural engineers who want to turn you into a half-baked moron consuming all this trash that’s being manufactured out of the bones of a dying world.” (Terrance McKenna)

Centuries of conditioning

“For centuries we have been conditioned by nationality, caste, class, tradition, religion, language, education, literature, art, custom, convention, propaganda of all kinds, economic pressure, the food we eat, the climate we live in, our family, our friends, our experiences—every influence you can think of—and, therefore, our responses to every problem are conditioned. Are you aware that you are conditioned? That is the first thing to ask yourself, not how to be free of your conditioning. You may never be free of it, and if you say, “I must be free of it”, you may fall into another trap of another form of conditioning. So are you aware that you are conditioned?” (Krishnamurti, Freedom from the Known, p 25)