Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Wanderers 2009.2.25

Micheal Sunanda is a guest this morning, though not our presenter. He's a character, has lots of stories. He slumdogs in a "one frequency dome" near Eugene, parked with a comfortably well off family who tolerates a "weirdo in the back" (they brought the dome in on the a flatbed, lifted it off with a fork lift -- typical family toyz).

Micheal has a telephone and flatscreen computer in this 8 foot "tent". He likes to steer discussions, including by boosting the discomfort level (he talks about smells a lot) -- OK in small doses. As his chauffeur, I'm suggesting he supplement his print media activities with a blog, plan to show him the ropes. Likewise, Jeff is suggesting Kym start a blog.


Micheal and I have done Internet radio together.

Glenn is introducing himself as someone who has lived "off the grid" sometimes, including for a ten year period. Like me, he's interested in "systems theory" (GST). Glenn has a background in cryptography.

Our presenter today is actually Kym Croft Miller, passionate about her writing, a kind and personable woman, someone who knows Buzz, and has been getting more media exposure recently, including on TV.

Her topic is Just Enough, part of the sustainability movement (more below).

She wants our introductions to include a moment or episode when we've been happy e.g. Jeff is happy about the some successful fund raising he's been doing for a friend whose infant needs a heart transplant.

My recent moment of happiness was having mom discharged from the hospital. Kym shared a German nurse's observation that USA hospitals make no sense, as good nutrition and sleep are essential to healing, yet in the Lower 48 it's all about bad food and waking people up every hour.

I'm hoping the new Foodhub service (Ecotrust) will begin to address the nutrition piece at least, by providing more organic bulk produce to large institutional buyers.

Kym described being at an elite private school auction where some teddy bear had just sold for $2.5K -- admittedly for a good cause. She got a strong hit of that "enough is never enough" aesthetic, a focus of Over the Hedge (a cartoon), an experience which sparked (catalyzed) her journey of self discovery.

Does wealth (in the sense of "money") "make you happy"? The faux lip service answer is "no" but the behavior says otherwise. "Affluenza" is the name of the disorder she's addressing (like an eating disorder).

Kym and her lucky guy husband tried a four day experiment in Hawaii, living luxuriously, to discover if it led to real happiness. The first day was the best, then it was down hill from there, back to ambient levels.

The next experiment was to stop buying most stuff for an entire year (Februrary 2003 - 2004). You had to be able to eat it or use it up completely, with the exception of batteries and light bulbs, in order to justify buying it.

In this scenario, the quality of life actually improved. The initial experience of a burden being lifted was quite powerful, buoying. Even the kids bought into it eventually, became more self-reliant around clothes-making and so on.

Servicing old stuff was OK -- accepting stuff from others was also OK (a kind of recycling). Getting stuff repaired is getting to be a lost art (her broken VCR story).

Kym recommends The Story of Stuff as a worthwhile web site.

What's somewhat different about Kym's message is her focus on happiness as a goal, not stultifying self-righteousness. What we've been talked into (living beyond our means, buying for the sake of buying) is not really a source of happiness. So how is motivational psychology so powerful that it gets people to sabotage their own pursuit of happiness in this way?

Wanderers generally agreed that brainwashing through television is what programs people to join the vast zombie army that tramples people to death at a Wal*Mart or whatever. A herd animal mindset takes over, uniform thinking, while the collective IQ takes a dive.

Whatever the causes, this is not a "way of life" worth defending. No one admires CEOs who flaunt "net worth" as a way of advertising their power and influence. That's in poor taste and ugly, gauche, plus we know they're not really creating life support in many cases i.e. there's no real power there, just Vaudevillian showmanship (Enron anyone?).

Here in the Silicon Forest, we're more egalitarian, less into flaunting. Sure I'm a high powered executive (one of many), a mover and a shaker (or Quaker), but it's institutional wealth I care about, not personal wealth so much. Like the Pauling House here (ISEPP's), or Multnomah Meeting. My bizmo fleets won't be my personal property either -- what a hassle that would be, like owning aircraft carriers (blech).

We're actually TV programmers and motivational psychologists around this table, so it's not like we're simply "at the effect" of all this brainwashing. Consider us masters of the communications arts, consummate media campaigners. So how shall we better use our skills? Kym is challenging us to think about that question.

Television has a brighter future I'm thinking, thanks to the Internet. We're becoming less dependent on "stuff pushing" (including drug pushing -- what USA TV is a lot about these days, including psychotropics, antidepressants etc. (ask your doctor)). "Educational TV" will be less of a joke maybe? Headline: ToonTown to teach FOSS (on an LCD near you -- might be a coffee shop?).

Of course I'm hoping a thinking atmosphere in coffee shops, purchasing geared in with charitable giving, will lead to a more participatory lifestyle aimed at creating life support, a different meaning for wealth than "money" which includes happiness as a side benefit. Fuller: work precessionally, as nature does. You'll start by giving profit maybe, but eventually you might donate your real time and energy, skills (once you have some).

Jim Buxton just walked in, another mountain man.

Obviously it comes down to role models. Where are the people who create life support without squandering? An effective recruiter is someone who walks the talk.

I mostly look outside the Lower 48 these days (Kym is from Alaska), given the intense resistance to intelligent programming -- although in Portland I'm finding some high caliber folks. Like CubeSpace is a great place to work (PKL rents space there -- that's Portland Knowledge Lab, formerly @ ActivSpace).