Issue #36, February 2000

Wolf! . . . Wolf, Wolf!

I just thought I'd say it a few more times, and get it entirely out of my system (whoops . . . bad choice of terms - I think I want to forget about systems, for a long time to come). Late as it is, I would prefer to have had this nothing more than a bright and cheery Valentines Day hailing of a brand new century. I am really not into any Y2K post-mortem, because I'd like to leave that all behind, with little more than an acknowledgement that my concerns and warnings were overdrawn, even that I might have been overtaken by a touch of that crowd madness that has been called Millennium Fever (in its Y1K version).

But the reason this is so late in February is essentially because there is something to say about all that, and it has to be said before I can truly let go of the stuff and move on out into the landscape of a world that does, indeed, feel fresh and new.

First of all, I am not acknowledging any touch of millennium madness. We were all a part - whatever part we played - of a very extraordinary event that nobody seems able to understand. I'm not claiming that I do, only that I sense its true dimension on the basis mainly of how it turned out, and because I have long since broken free of the constraints of Western logic and rational analysis. I use those tools, but I haven't been chained to them for years.

The New Years Day dénouement of the great Y2K bubble took everyone by surprise -- and I mean everyone involved in the run-up, from whatever quarter of approach, from the most fear-ful to the most assuring. Absolutely no one expected the graceful and mellow crossover, worldwide, that we saw, like a well-rehearsed soft shoe dance routine. Continuing to monitor the various Y2K websites, over the weeks after it happened, I found it almost a morbid entertainment, to witness the twisting and squirming of self-appointed cognoscenti, as they tried to account, somehow, for the magic that took place.

It ran the full spread of back-pedaling postures, from face-saving reminders of "what I said back in July..." to finger-pointing and not so subtle blame-laying, to copping a mea culpa plea while swearing the best of intentions, to cheery resumés of the good things that came of it. But nary a one among them willing to go with the likelihood that something really - but, really - unexplainable had happened, and what that might mean, if so.

You might not know it, but there were many hundreds of documented failures around the globe - so it isn't as though anything like a certifiable miracle had happened. But the magic is that the world hardly skipped a heartbeat -- not with all the known-to-be-woefully-behind countries, or the admittedly negligent towns and counties around America, or the small business community that never did gear up for what had to be done. Trying to factor in these elements, which were never effectively disputed by those who could have known, is what has left folks at the center of the Y2K imbroglio in a state of intractable puzzlement, more than often registered as outright shock.

Yet, the part that puzzles me is that virtually none among them was willing to peg it on something beyond the rational. Many of the grassroots folks involved had long 'pedigrees' in the world of alternatives, going back to the 1960s, with undoubtedly extensive exposure to what I'll just call 'other ways of seeing things' -- yet, there wasn't as much as a guarded suggestion of such a possibility, among them. The closest, I think, was this strange formulation of what I'd call 'pre-enlightened uncertainty' from Roleigh Martin, a Y2K commentator who was generally capable of more clarity than this:

"Y2K was an amazing non-event where both sides were right to take the position they did because it caused the outcome that occurred. It's impossible to argue that doing it over differently would have caused the same outcome. One of history's weirdest things, if you ask me."

Is it a failure of nerve (i.e., a wary refusal to speak of such things, amongst an internet circle of rational people trying to cope with a real-world situation)? Or is it an actual inability to make the leap called for, when confronted by data that do not correlate in a rational way? If the former, it cheats everyone down the line, of the support that making such a leap could provide. But if the latter, it probably constitutes the largest remaining hurdle to our moving into a world mediated by another kind of thinking. Will it take another generation, yet . . . or two, or three, before we'll be up for that leap, on a culture-wide basis?

I ask the question as one for whom such a recognition, on a personal level, has resulted in a considerably more open, effective and satisfying life (albeit not by any typical measure). I don't have, thereby, any answers to Y2K that would clarify for the rational mind what took place, but I have a strong sense of it having been a 'response' to consciousness focused on a massive scale, and I can reference a precedent or two, in that regard. (I put 'response' in quotes, because I don't necessarily mean to imply any supra-human agent for what took place. Nothing other than consciousness, itself, as a formative cause, is really necessary.)

The precedent was the Berlin Wall coming down, and Russia's repudiation of Soviet fascism, in a bloodless power shift quite unheard of in such a system, not long after something we called a 'Harmonic Convergence' took place -- a worldwide, concentrated prayerful focus on Peace . . . an event that was promptly forgotten, and never associated with those subsequent developments!

An earlier precedent may have been our perilous, but successful, half-century passage through the nuclear standoff era, during which one bad move (like the Cuban missile crisis) might have sent the world up in cinders. I can point to no single event of focused consciousness in that period like the other, but the fact is, Western world consciousness was turning, during the '60s, in a massive influx of fresh insight, including influence from Buddhist and other Eastern wellsprings. Today, however, the standoff is spoken of as the proven effectiveness of M.A.D. (Mutually Assured Destruction), in a dangerously warped misreading of what really took place.

I don't know how long this sort of thing has been going on, on a worldwide scale. But my guess is that it's a very recent development, simply because the communication facilities required to collectivize consciousness on such a scale are a very recent development on the world scene. The continuing 'invisibility' of it, however, as a function of nature, is not because of our insufficient exposure, but because we consistently fail to recognize those effects. And in that failure, we lose an exceedingly powerful support, in both our social and our personal processes of change.

Look, I was a rationalist, through and through, when I 'dropped out' from the world wherein my quite capable logic earned my income. It was not something I was about to abandon, out of any frivolous impulse. But in leaving my life's rut, I encountered a series of 'fantastic breaks' that eventually - in their persistent occurrence and outrageous, odds-defying 'coincidence' - eventually demanded of me a willingness to consider that they did not fall into the category of rationally evolved events. Their origin lay somewhere outside that order of explanation. If I had not been willing to accept this recognition, and begin to re-order my life under it, I couldn't have successfully navigated the risky effort to reshape my world. So it is not insignificant!

It's my sense that this is precisely the kind of situation we now face, as a society and culture with rationalist ways that have led us into deeper waters than we can easily navigate. Our navigational tools keep taking us further into a morass of intensifying issues - political, environmental, and technological - and the clear question is: for how much longer, are we to trust them?

Nature, consciousness, and the recent millennial occasion have presented us with the cue of an alternative - one that is not easy for us to understand. But this very difficulty is only representative of the morass from which we try to evaluate the event. It challenges us, however, to do some conceptual venturing. And it can only begin on a personal basis, where each of us lives.

In summary, then, here are these thousands of folks around the country, and many abroad, whose alternative visions for a better world - perhaps dormant for twenty years, perhaps not - stirred them to mobilize in a grassroots response to a common threat, and discover in that cause a sense of personal renewal, as well as the power inherent in making a difference in their world. And the big event turns out to be a spectacular display of consciousness 'doing its thing,' in a fashion so magnificent as to leave no doubt of its magical potency. But instead of celebrating the occasion, they massively (and ridiculously) fail to see the Millennial Gift that was bestowed.

Reality did a shift, on cue, before our very eyes and for all the world to see . . . but we, poor mortals entwined in rationalist ways, to the point of discounting the very thing we yearn for and witness, elect instead to remain stuck in our mud, locked in our old minds, even as we proclaim a faith in the new. If Y2K was a non-event, it is only because we met the wrong challenge.

But that's okay. I'm neither surprised nor dismayed by this failure. I've been around for well over a half-century, and have seen both the suddenness and the gradualness of change: how it suddenly shocks the world into awareness, but only gradually comes to be accepted as real. What we so recently came through was the sudden event. Now it will take awhile for the gradual realization. A little patience is all that's required, for things are moving right along.

Old! . . . Old, Old!

If "Wolf" has been my chicken-little call for the past year and a half, I've cried "Old Age" for at least ten times as long, so I doubt if it makes much registration any longer. But the current miserable fact is, I have slowed down incredibly, and can't seem to keep an intended pace for anything I'm doing, these days.

It's partly an actual slowdown, which has been creeping up on me for years. But more of it, these days, seems to be an inconstant focus -- sort of like browsing the web, where trails of association take you off into some far hinterland before you ever get done what you began with. And then there comes the difficulty of remembering what you began with!

This issue of Ripening Seasons demonstrates it as well as anything. I'd be embarrassed to say how many times and ways I've begun the writing of it, only to lose the track of a theme, or come back to it and wonder how I ever thought it was any good. I think I'm beginning to understand what retirement was originally all about -- the poor soul just couldn't continue hacking it.

Retirement, in any normal usage of the term, was never a prospect for me; but what actually seems to be happening is that parts of my life, my world, my habit-ual pursuits and concerns, lose their old hold on me. Sometimes with remarkable suddenness, but more usually it takes awhile to dawn on me that I just don't care, anymore, about something or other that once grabbed me.

Maybe I'm particularly aware of this, right now, because I'm just entering a new 7-year cycle. On the most recent parallel occasion (1993), I left my schooling and overseas adventure years behind after a rugged year of resettlement blues; and in 1986, I embarked on the full northwest resettlement experience after a year of tumultuous dislocation. It helps to know one's cyclic relationship to the world of events with such precision, believe me.

Each of those beginnings was preceded by a terribly irresolute, unstable year of transition, which is pretty much what last year was like, for me. And each presented me with a freshly open horizon that offered no clue of what lay ahead -- but, instead, preoccupied me with a writing project, while the future proceeded to shape itself. I have no massive writing project, this year, but I have an equivalent in the insistent urge to get back to the long-neglected work on my Web site.

There are cues of another sort, too: the sense of certain activities having grown 'stale' for me -- things that continue more as habit, than from any of the joy or drive that once energized my pursuit of them. These can cling tenaciously, even fostering some reformulation in order to accommodate their further continuity. It isn't always a negative thing, in that respect, either -- it kept my Black Bart series going, through several such reformulations, after the initial impulse and rationale had faded, for 12 years - nearly two full cycles. And while I'm a bit loathe to admit it, at this point, it was a waning interest in personal correspondence that largely provoked the development of these Ripening Seasons.

But sooner or later, the 'waning interests' have to be faced and dealt with, lest they perennially drag the poor, devoted soul consigned to their repetitive indulgence into a backwater of self-imposed stagnation. Our culture has 'haloed' the notion that success is measured by permanence, and thereby suckered many people into the tied-down agony of lifelong commitments - or, alternatively, to stressfully high levels of guilt for not having followed through on such promises.

I know, very well, what my stagnating habits are . . . but I don't yet want to put any of them on the line of fire. Maybe I'll somehow get to those library books I keep renewing but never find the time to read . . . maybe I'll yet catch up on all my backlogged personal mail, or maybe no one will notice if I start fresh with the next batch. And that's the way it goes, my past lingering furtively into my future, crowding for every inch of ledge space it can cling to.

Ordinarily, by this time of year, I've caught sight of the year's powering influence. But so far, I haven't see it . . . unless it happens to be the appearance of a standout piece of software that Joy impulsively ordered for the two of us, and that turns out to be mine alone, because of connection problems with her computer. I intended to get it myself, eventually, but her sudden impulse brought it into my world during the sprouting time -- a particularly potent moment of the year's passage.

It's an IBM microphone system called ViaVoice, that can be 'taught' to convert dictation, with all its personal nuances and particularized vocabulary, into computer text - and my early use of it gives every promise that it can do all that is claimed for it. I watch my spoken words come up on the screen with a surprisingly high degree of accuracy.

At least 90% of what I want to put up on the web site has yet to be entered into the computer, and most of it is in a form that cannot be readily scanned: hand-written and mimeographed, or typed with a heavy overlay of corrections. So this is a real windfall for my project, promising to significantly reduce the work and time required of me. It is the first such software to emerge for the Mac, and to see it come along at this particular moment, preceded by the 'seeding' of my iMac purchase, late last year, is an exquisitely good omen.

So if I'm seeing this as the start of a new cycle for me, and even talking about a waning interest in personal correspondence, where does this situate Ripening Seasons, which has been so central a feature of my cycle just ended? I hardly need reference the circumstance that I so recently 'sheared off' a substantial slice of the mailing list, and said that I'd not expect any more financial support from the remaining readership, nor even correspondence any more frequent than once each year. Clearly, this question has been somewhere in mind, during last year's turbulence.

While it is hard to be sure of anything, at such a fluid moment in the course of changing times, let me give you what assurance of continuity I can: Ripening Seasons means a lot to me as a vehicle for remaining in touch, and as the single active venue I've got, for what I choose to write. In that latter capacity, it also promises to be the bridge of a sustaining continuity on the web site, itself. What I mean, is that I don't want a static web site, once I get my past writing up on it. Life is a continuing stage for reflection and understanding, and I hope to be writing my last such piece in the week of my death, not sooner.

But how long this continuity will continue to go out through the Post Office is something I'm a lot less sure about. Needless to say, that is where all of its costs are, and most of the work outside of the writing, itself. It's not a major concern of mine, at the moment, and I don't know that it will ever be - and I, furthermore, enjoy the physical art of layout and composition, even though I don't put much imagination into it, these days. But the world is becoming web-focused at an incredible rate, and other factors (in that regard) may yet come into the picture.

I do foresee content and subject matter changes, in that I want to turn more toward personal reminiscence and lifetime review. My polemic days are pretty much behind me. I've little to offer that isn't being said by countless others, from far more effective speaking platforms than this little personal vehicle of mine. I do, however, have an offbeat perspective on the world - with experience to back it up - that is entirely my own, and best presented in terms of my own life. Social commentary is implicit in my kind of personal reflection, however, and having come awarely through two-thirds of a century of significant social change, its impact on me could hardly escape notice in anything I write, of those years.

I intend a topical approach, modeled on what I did in R/S #32 with Me and the Automobile. I can see a continuing series of 'Me-and-' reflections taking shape, as I get into it, hopefully as illuminating for you as they are sure to be for me. But they may not be coming out at a six-per-year frequency, which is the pace I've maintained for the past few years.

The one thing that still concerns me, however, is running out of time, for what I want to get done. I'm encouraged by the fact that two of my mother's siblings are living into their eighties, but I am also acutely aware of a gradual deterioration in my own faculties . . . so that longevity - such as it may be (and could it even be known in advance) - is no guarantee, in itself, of a continuing productive capability.

The turning of the millennium, however, could not have come at a better time in my life, for it establishes the strongest sort of boundary line. Along with the enhanced computer capability I now have, and the provision for an ongoing web site (which is now at my disposal, by the way - just waiting for material to be 'poured in'), it situates me at a positive starting-point for exactly what I want to be doing with the remainder of my time.

I hope this doesn't come across as too great an absorption with morbidity. For me, it is simply taking a realistic look at where I find myself, at this moment in time. But I grant a very necessary respect to friends who 'outrank' me, on this score, and apparently give not a damn for any of the obstacles that I worry over. Like Bill Kaysing, a few years senior to me, who is even now courting new love in his life, in Las Vegas; and Ray Redel, who swore he'd try skiing at 80 . . . and has done it!

Carry On, guys! Go ahead and put me to shame . . . I love it!


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