Category Archives: Philosophy

The Antipreneurial Spirit

(As inspired by this AdBusters article )

So what is an antipreneur? Pretty much the opposite of an entrepreneur, or at least what that word has come to mean nowadays. I would like to nominate “entrepreneur” as Most Obnoxious Overused Word of 2016 (runners up include “selfie”and “disrupt”.) The original definition is someone who starts a business with the intention to grow it as much as possible, and assumes most of the risk. Nowadays, though, there’s many ways around assuming risk when starting a business, if you are in the right place with the right connections. And judging by the recent actions of self-described “entrepreneurs”, such as jacking up the price of a drug sold by their pharmaceutical company 1000%, leaving some who depended on it to lie unable to afford it, to misclassifying employees as “independent contractors” in order to avoid minimum wage laws, overtime laws, giving benefits, and overhead costs….”entrepreneur” has come to mean “smug, narcissistic scum of the earth who only sees things for their monetary value, and will stoop to literally anything to make a buck.”

I knew and worked with a couple people for a while who were possessed by the entrepreneurial spirit; much of the time they talked about the monetary value, potential or actual, of the things around them; about things they had owned, bought, and sold in their lives, and the costs involved in each; and about how to make more money. They also talked about getting in a lot of fights, or having things stolen from them. I may own nothing of value, I said to them, but at least I can sleep easily at night. They were otherwise great people, hard workers, etc. but I could definitely see how being all twisted up around the almighty dollar was bringing them all kinds of trouble.

It seems like the Entreprenurial Spirit possesses a special sight that enables it to see everything in terms of its monetary value. I, on the other hand, don’t really have this second sight, which is why I’ll probably never be what our society calls “successful.” I definitely see things in terms of their usefulness, but it’s a usefulness that’s totally detached from any concept of money (which is, after all, just one big joke that everyone’s in on). For example, a whole morning spent doing nothing more than lying under a tree staring up through the branches at the clouds may not get me any closer to Fame and Fortune(tm) but it’s certainly valuable; it makes me happy and well-rested. The Antipreneurial Spirit sees and thinks in a way that’s chaotic, organic, squishy, wild, crazy, and beautiful. The Entrepreneurial Spirit seeks to quanitfy and control everything. Its secret fear of death, the ultimate loss of control, causes it to latch onto acquiring the biggest pile of things or the most power. Unfortunately, this is just the kind of thinking that is destroying our planet, draining its natural resources, and throwing everything out of balance-the lack of any ability to say “ok, stop here, this is enough”, the belief that infinite growth is not only possible but desirable. But anyone with sense knows that infinite growth is impossible-eventually we run out of planet to consume. And if the ideas of the antipreneurs can’t stand up to the future, it will eat both the past and the present.

 

The Vogons from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy are the most believable villains ever

Wow, a short post!

Pictured below: the ugly face of the faceless bureaucracy.

vogons

Vogons: They don’t care about you or your values, they just want to demolish your planet to build a hyperspace expressway.

In most science fiction or fantasy epics, the central conflict is a nice satisfying definitive struggle between good and evil. And usually, the forces of evil are driven by a passionate hatred of everything the good stands for. The bad guys come in with guns blazing, ready for a fight, and our heroes must struggle to defeat them. And sometimes they even conveniently explain their nefarious plans! But if you’ve ever watched or read Hitchhiker’s Guide, you’ll know the Vogons aren’t like that. They just. Don’t. Care. They love bureaucracy and paperwork, and to them the protagonists are not enemies but merely an inconvenience. They don’t even get a chance to fight; the planet is just destroyed instantly to make way for a hyperspace expressway. You wanted to do something about that? Well, the papers were on file on some other planet for several centuries, you should have gone there, gotten the papers, and gone through the proper procedures to prevent it. You didn’t know? Well, too bad, that’s just the way things are.

 

And that’s how it is with most of the opposition we face in life. We can’t just go in and kick ass until our problems are solved, because we’re up against a vast, faceless, passionless bureaucracy, a monolith of That’s Just How It Is. Your “enemies” don’t hate you, they just simply don’t care. Whether it’s the insurance company jerking you around about coverage or jacking up your rate for some obscure reason, a job prospect that says they want to interview you and then never calls back to schedule an interview, or a car buyer who promises you cash in hand then backs out and hangs up when you call them, life is full of such struggles. It’s frustrating and unsatisfying to deal with them. You can’t MAKE someone care. The only way you can fight apathy is by simply not caring yourself, and moving on to better things, and that’s the struggle I have every day.

What is dignity (and do I have any anymore?)

I recognize that I’ve been a wicked, naughty blogger and haven’t posted anything in quite a while. Lucky for you, not only am I posting once again, but I’m also going to explain in this very post why I haven’t been posting anything.

I’ve been doing way too much navel-gazing lately, way more than is healthy, and I’ve been thinking over one thing in particular: what is dignity, and do I have any of it? Does spending a large amount of time being pretty undignified make me someone with no dignity? I guess that’s a little like the age-old question of whether doing bad things makes you a bad person. I fall somewhat into the school of thought that says doing bad things makes you a bad person. After all, if, for example, you incite a massive genocide thinking it will improve the society you live in, you still are evil, even though you did it with the best intentions. But this definition can be slippery too. There should definitely be a consideration of motives when we try to decide whether something or someone is good or bad. Dignity is kind of similar, and brings up similar questions; lately, I feel like I’ve been losing mine, and I wonder if I had any to begin with.

Dignity, according to the dictionary, has several definitions: 1. “the state or quality of being worthy of honor and respect,” 2. “a composed or serious manner or style”,  and 3. “a sense of pride in oneself, or self-respect.” All three of these definitions are something I want to live my life by (maybe 2 less so…) but lately I seem to be falling down on all counts. And it all centers around my behavior regarding the love of my life, and the fact that he broke my heart.

2 years ago, I met the love of my life inexplicably through an ad I posted on Craigslist. I had just broken up with my first boyfriend ever, and having no experience outside a very serious and somewhat stifling relationship with a man over twice my age, I decided to try and experience more of what the world had to offer in that department. So I posted an ad on Craigslist personals looking for “a casual hookup” (Yup, directly contrary to Definition 2!) As we shall see, what resulted was much more than A Casual Hookup but still much less than an official relationship. Anyway, out of the 400+ spammy, scammy, poorly spelled, and occasionally scary responses I received, one really stood out: one guy claiming that he was also a baker, but was probably too old for me, and just wanted to talk. So we started talking, and found out we had a lot in common. We agreed to meet up at the bakery where he worked. He then offered to show me his house, located on a huge historic property where he was caretaker. He later said he had just planned to show me around the property and send me home with a lecture about not meeting strangers from the internet, but conveniently enough, the house happened to contain a big soft bed, and Sex Happened (as it tends to in such situations) without a lot of forethought on the part of both parties. After, we sat around listening to the fireworks being set off at Tanglewood, a few miles away. So you could say literal fireworks went off when we met. Pyrotechnic displays of patriotism aside, I was basically hooked from Day 1. Whenever I was around him, I got really, really, really stupid. Like a bunny rabbit caught raiding the lettuce patch, I was so transfixed by my obsession with, uh…tasty lettuce, that when the proverbial lettuce farmer came along and discovered me munching, all I could do was sit there shaking, awaiting my fate, too dumb to run while I could. We saw each other on and off for about a year and a half, punctuated by epic arguments (he wanted to be left alone, I felt rejected, etc.) until finally the day came when I was expelled from the lettuce patch for good, my little bunny rabbit spine snapped, my little rabbit heart broken. He said there was no way anything could happen between us again, and then a month later he announced he was back together with the woman he had a relationship with before he met me. “I’m lucky that she gave me a second chance,” he said. “She’s the love of my life-don’t try to compare yourself to her, because what I had with you is NOTHING like what I have with her.” This is where I proceeded to lose my little remaining dignity. Have you ever heard the expression “being floored” by something? I was quite literally floored by my loss. I would spend hours crawling around on the floor sobbing loudly whenever I had the house to myself, crawling into corners and trying to disappear. I went on epic benders, getting stoned half the day and drunk the other half, saying about two words to an actual human being. I cut myself and tried to pass off the angry red lines as gardening injuries. The worst was the emails and texts I would send to him, begging for a second chance, beating myself up over what happened, saying I would do anything, ANYTHING, for him to change my mind, saying I wished I could die and come back as Her, the Girlfriend (Official Version).

And what was the worst part? Certainly not the pain I went through. The worst part was the brief glimpses of objective reality I had, where I could see I was blowing the whole thing way out of proportion and airing my dirty laundry in front of my friends, family and co-workers, some of whom had expressed respect and admiration of me. Worse than getting my heart broken was allowing my dignity to slip away. I was falling down on all three definitions of dignity, but the worst was the third: I could see my ridiculous behavior that even my loved ones couldn’t-the drinking, the cutting, the crying and sniveling-and lost all respect for myself.

Maybe that’s a bigger part of what the trailer is: trying to regain some of my lost dignity by building something new, something I can respect myself for. It’s also a reminder of the most fundamental truth about dignity: if I can’t respect myself, then who can respect me? Thinking of my accomplishments on the trailer project helps me hold on to my dignity in times when I can feel it slipping away. I can respect the Lia who built her own bed and cabinetry, not the one who rolls around on the floor in 3-day unwashed clothes holding a half empty bottle of Jack and weeping and moping over her ex-whateverthehellhewas. I remind myself that dignity is just a transient state of being, that both are the same person, and that I should just try to hang on to my dignity and not give up if I lose it for a little while.

 

Plus, I can’t write while I’m hating myself.

 

Thanks for reading! Sorry this seems super off topic, I promise you’ll get more trailer stuff soon. I’m working on a solar water heater right now, will try to get some pictures but no promises. I’ll at least post build details on that.

A Lone Woman Wandering In The Woods

Where’s all the other mountain mamas?

Seriously. In a survey of through-hikers on the Appalachian Trail, only 23% were female. When I worked on a trail crew in Vermont, there was only two other women besides me on my 9-person crew (one was the awesome crew leader…) and I noticed a similar imbalance on the other crews from the conservation corps. When I tagged along on a class backpacking trip from my former high school as a chaperone, I noticed an even more dramatic gender distribution: I was the only woman on the trip! And earlier this year, I was talking with my aunt about my interest in taking some classes at a primitive skills school, only to be startled when she told me that the instructors have a reputation for trying to put the moves on any young, attractive female students that come their way. Great-that’s really comforting.

So where’s all the other women exploring the great outdoors? I know there’s more of us out there, but we’re few and far between, or so it seems. It’s not as if we can’t do it. Before the walling off of the world and the rise of civilization, as humanity spread to all corners of the earth, women survived in the same harsh conditions and endured the same dangers that men did-and sometimes carrying a baby on their back or in their belly, too. Many mystical traditions see nature as female, and women by extension as having some sort of mysterious connection with nature. As women are so closely associated and involved with the creation and nurturing of life (even for those of you who can’t have children or don’t want to-there’s some ancient deep part of your consciousness that knows) we also have a deeper concept of our mortality and the fragility of life. Nature is very cyclical and death and life are closely intertwined. Because of its ability to create, destroy, then re-create in cycles, nature is associated with female-ness. I could agree with this; I feel pulled along by the mysterious cycles and currents of the natural world.  Yes, Nature is a mother, but she can be one mean mama.

Partly I think it’s because our view of nature has changed. In a way, even perceiving nature as something separate and removed from us is a great change from when it was simply…home, mother, whatever-an entity that could both give and take, create and destroy. Now nature is seen as an adversary, something to be conquered rather than feared, respected, thanked for our daily existence. And conquering is not thought of as something women do. There’s also a pervasive stereotype of the lone wolf isolated badass woodsman type. I seem to see this a lot in the backpacking/nomadic/bushcraft community. Guys just want to play caveman and grow a beard and get some nature-related tattoos and stomp around in the woods feeling all badass. Not that there’s anything wrong with that in itself. But for those of us with neither the capacity for beard-growing or lone wolfiness can feel a little put off and feel like we don’t have what it takes to survive in the great outdoors. Also, on the whole solitude thing: humans are not solitary animals. In fact, in modern studies of hunter-gatherer groups living in remote areas, people tended to value companionship and cooperation, and formed close social bonds with their small group. There’s many reasons for this, not the least of which is that an extra set of eyes and ears helps alert you to dangers you might not otherwise notice, and a second pair of hands helps deal with danger when it arises. And human contact and human voices are essential for the health of the mind and emotions, just as good clean food and water are essential for the health of the body. In fact, it’s good to take your friends and family into the wild with you; you will develop a closer connection sharing space and time and conversation with them uninterrupted by the noise of industrial civilization (which is good for many things, like the invention of antibiotics and hot showers, but not conducive to deep social bonding.)

There’s also a message that women get fed from a very young age, whether unintentionally or intentionally: You are weak, you are especially vulnerable, you should not go out on your own somewhere. The world is out to get you and exploit your weaknesses, you should be very much afraid and ever vigilant because you’re a woman! Eventually your gender can start to feel like a liability or something. But don’t listen; channel the spirit of your ancient ancient ancestresses. Get outside. Have fun. If you’re really concerned, bring a friend, as mentioned before: an extra set of eyes, ears, and hands.

 

Fellow mountain mamas, I’ll see you on the other side of the hill!

The Imaginary House-Builder


 

Are you having trouble picturing yourself building a tiny house? But you still desperately, desperately want to? Do have absolutely no construction skills to speak of? I mean, maybe you know which end of a hammer to hold, and which end to smash your thumb with, but that’s about it? Well, less than four months ago, I was in the same boat as you, and now I have a house-trailer sitting in my dad’s yard, ready to move. The trick to not letting the crazy scale and complexity of the project scare you, is to cut it down to size.

I don’t mean to make it even smaller-tiny houses are tiny enough to begin with; I mean breaking it down into small, manageable segments. And then picture yourself doing each thing. Yes, some things will be new to you, and you’ll have to learn. You’re going to have to learn some basic electrical wiring, very basic plumbing (possibly), joinery/cabinetmaking, installing insulation, painting, installing flooring, installing windows, heating and ventilation…and that’s just the start. But if you break it down into small segments, it’s less scary and more doable. That’s the trick here: you’ll never be able to do anything if you think you can’t. When I was working on a trail crew, I discovered that if I tried to lift a heavy log while thinking of how heavy it was and thinking that I was weak, my arms tired in seconds; but if I thought, I’ll give it my best try and see what happens, I found I had extra reserves of strength I had been holding back-plenty to lift the log into position.

Can you imagine yourself building a whole tiny house?

Probably not.

But can you imagine yourself buying a trailer to build it on/in? Yeah, probably (unless you’re completely out of cash.)  Can you imagine yourself reading books about construction? Can you imagine yourself building walls? A roof? Insulating the walls? If these individual steps seem too much for you, break it down ever further into each individual task, from measuring to cutting to attaching pieces together. Remember, this (or any project) will take time, so be patient with yourself. And read, read, read! There are plenty of books on carpentry, basic plumbing and electrical stuff, wood heat, composting toilets, rainwater catchment systems, etc. etc. at your library. Reading up on what you’re going to do is sometimes better than sorting through a whole bunch of search results. It also helps you break down the steps of what you’ll have to do and what order it should be done in. If I can do it, so can you!

Good luck.

Of Love and Power Tools

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Just recently, I checked out a book on carpentry at my local library. (It outlines everything from basics to how to frame a house, the part I’m interested in. Written by this guy, it’s an excellent read-I highly recommend it.) Anyway, I started absently flipping through it during a lull in the lunch rush at work. I turned to the safety section and expected the standard, stern lecture on being constantly vigilant on the job and having no excuse for ignoring safety procedures. Instead, I read this: “humans simply cannot be plugged in like power saws and run all day long. Besides a body, you also have a heart and mind that need protection…most of my workplace injuries have occurred when I went to work with a battered heart.”

This was surprising and refreshing; I’ve never heard anyone talk like that in my 5 years of workplace experience. But it’s so true. I work as a cook, and have reached the level of skill where I don’t often get cuts or burns. But this spring, I had the final chance with the love of my life and royally screwed up. I can track our growing apart by my gradually healing burn scars: this batch are from when he said he never wanted to see me again, these ones are from when he told me he was back with his old girlfriend, and this cut is from when he wished me a happy birthday and I couldn’t think straight all day. I remember crying in the kitchen during the worst of it, my co-workers staring as if they had never seen anyone cry before, unsure what to do about it. Thankfully they were understanding when I sent out the enchiladas to the wrong table, but I’ve worked with and for many people who think that a human CAN just be left running all day like a power saw. I’ve done it all: the 15-hour days, the sleep-deprived commutes, the “flexible” schedule that you discover has flexibility for the boss’s schedule but not yours. And let me tell you, you’re better off working 30 hours a week calm, happy, and mentally present, than working 70 hours a week while miserable and spaced out. (There have even been studies confirming this!) So if you’re working on a project yourself, whether it’s (relatively) big-like a tiny house-or small-like knitting a sweater-follow your instincts. If you’re heartbroken, angry, or anxious, don’t force yourself to work, unless you think doing something will help you clear your head. Take care of your heart and mind, as well as your body. Try meditation (I say this, I should be doing it too!) Take on a big project in small, manageable parts. And if you are in a managerial position or own a business, be attentive to people’s moods and make sure they feel safe discussing personal concerns (within reason obviously!) ultimately you will be better off for it.

With A Little Help From My Friends

Ok, I keep saying I built my own house-on some levels that’s true, but on others levels it’s pure unmitigated bullshit. Yes, I built my own house-but there’s no way I could have gotten anywhere near done without the help of many wonderful people, in big and small ways, intentional or unintentional.

First, there was the guy who sold me the trailer. Bob and his wife agreed to drive 2 hours out of their way to deliver the trailer they sold me; I never would have been able to get it otherwise, because my current vehicle can’t tow so much as a skateboard. Then there was my father, who generously let me take up a big chunk of driveway parking the trailer, and an even bigger chunk of basement space with the construction materials that accumulated during the building process. He also offered invaluable help in other ways, from helping remove the original wall panels to letting me use his table saw to prep many feet of flooring (yes, I still have all 10 fingers.) Without being able to use his tools and space, I never would have gotten anywhere. Then there’s Melody, the woman who was generously giving away a room worth of recyclable wood flooring for free (see my previous post about the trailer’s floor.) My friend Tommy helped me finish the floor, spending 6 hours on a sunny March day crawling around the floor sanding off the old finish. He’s also been an invaluable companion on other missions, from Home Depot trips to junkyard excursions. He even took one for the team when a 10′ piece of ABS pipe I bought to make a solar water heater put a crack in the windshield of his Civic. (We were in the drive-through at Taco Bell, so his sour mood was soothed by cheesy tacos, and insurance did cover it.) Then there’s my stepdad, who came over with his Sawzall and cut 2 holes in my trailer, for a window and a skylight. I could go on all day; there’s numerous other people who have offered me advice, inspiration, building tips, encouragement, travel suggestions, and moral support. They are restaurant regulars, friends, hardware store staff, family, former co-workers, random strangers-and even my family’s dog (that’s the moral support). Anyway, my point is, it takes a village to raise a house. In America, we like to celebrate the “self made” person, who made their way in life with no help. Unfortunately, I think this has led to a culture where people reject help unnecessarily, don’t offer help when they could, and can’t accept that any big project inevitably is a group effort, whether or not that is easy to see. There is no shame in accepting help when it is offered; be happy that you have people around who would like to see you become successful. Don’t be afraid to take the hand that is extended to you. Just always remember to give credit to those who have helped you become successful, and remember that one good turn deserves another!