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Colin's current philosophical framework (anarcho / neo primitivism, with an eye out for the integral), and its development

I've been influenced by John Zerzan, Derrick Jensen, Tom Elpel, Tom Brown, Dorothy Freed, and others writing about anarchoprimitivism/neoprimitive/simple ways of living. Here I share some thoughts and links to work that have encouraged me in my current path. I'm also aware of Ken Wilber, whose philosophy may suggest a different direction.

2003-12-09-1401: Fixed some spelling errors. This doc is out of date & incomplete... but I don't have immediate plans to make a new one.

Skip straight to the part on neo/anarchoprimitivism


Introduction / context

Scenario: I'm at the farm at the Inn at the ETC . It is 11:30 EDT. There's a mac here that it is easy to change the keyboardmap to dvorak. I've been gabbing with too many people. Philosophy is something I often gab about- particularly this kind. I wish to get that story down here, so I can feel it is out, So I can leave this computer, and return to solitude, silence and less sociability. I am beginning to understand why John Francis did not talk for years. It is not good to stay up late or spend this much time with the computer, but...

This could be also a story of my own development of my worldview.... It is also meant to be a collection of links to some influential and memorable authors and web pages. I have been absorbed in this kind of work and not taking advantage of opportunities to learn the history and the vegan and vegetarian way here. This would be a good place to explore the possibility of health, not following Sally Fallon....

The main ideas I have to share are these: anarchoprimitivism, integral philosophy, unschooling.

I've told the story in other places, but here it is once more:

It's now Sunday 08:30 EDT, and I'm back to give this a try again.

This is a document I've been thinking about writing since before July, 2003. For now I'll focus on getting it all out. As time goes on, I hope to refine this to something more readable and concise. The way writing works with me is that I write, let it sit, and then revise (If I'm trying to do a good job).

The theme is that philosophy or religion or any sort of thought structure that people use to organize their thoughts about past and future lives in a person. To tell the story of my philosophical framework is, for the most part, to tell my story. It goes like this, these are the highlights of what I've learned. I've tried to do this before....

Development of my worldview:

  1. Social Pressure doesn't always lead the right way -- when I was in 2nd and 3rd grade I decided to spend my recesses with a girl I loved (Kyle), instead of playing soccer. This story is told more here. I got flack for this of course.
  2. Idealizing Kyle and Monterey -- (off topic?) We left Monterey (and Kyle) at the end of my third grade. I ended up idealizing both, and wanting to return. Here is this story, though from a later point in life.
  3. Cars are bad, so is coffee, so are many things people do when they get older that they don't do when they are kids -- my parents had long given me the freedom to bike around on my own (when I was in 2nd and 3rd grade I had to tell them where I was going and when I'd be back). Eventually, I biked most everywhere (sometimes with commutes of up to an hour each way), though I used a car when I started working to save money to go to Maui, and to let me windsurf more. A small crash and the resulting hassle reminded me of what I had started to forget. My parents drove and drank coffee, so I could see they weren't good. This led to an eventual questioning of all things that "adults" do that children do not.
  4. Achieving a huge goal won't necessarily be as great as I thought it would be. -- For me, this was finally finishing Eagle Scout, something I'd been working for for a long time. But I felt little different than I had before.
  5. Why do people have children and / or get married? -- simply being a kid (with braces and allergies) and observing parents (especially my own) was enough to make me wonder this. Despite occasional lapses, I still have this question as my writing, yomonastic illustrates.
  6. Thoreau -- Reading Walden in 10th Grade... This book and Thoreau's example.
  7. Experiencing community and acceptance -- I felt comfortable and accepted in those days only really while working/hanging at bellehaven marina. I did not like high school much.
  8. Family support for less conventional plan / windsurfing is the meaning of life / West is best -- Related to #2, #4 and #6 I eventually discarded my childhood plan of going into the Naval Academy like my dad, and went to Maui to windsurf. My parents were helpful and supportive in this.
  9. 4 hours/day bread labor -- In Maui after the wind starts to slow down for the year (end of summer), I got lonely, I wished I had a grand project to do with myself, but thought of none. With help from Pilar, I returned to Monterey, and reacquainted myself with that place and, eventually with Kyle. In Maui, I believe, I first read Living the Good Life by Scott and Helen Nearing. That, and Walden, rooted in me the idea that I should never need to work more than 4 hours / day to provide for basic needs (bread labor). In essence, though I had been doing this in Maui already, with a job and simple living such that two 13-hr days / week could support me.
  10. Relationships are the meaning of life -- Still lonely, and believing relationships with others (especially and intimate relationship with a woman) were the meaning in life, not windsurfing, I decided to go to college, because that is where the kids my age were.
  11. I am right, the world is wrong -- having this viewpoint made me different from the suicidal protagonist that Daniel Quinn mentions in My Ishmael (Jeffrey - in real life, Paul Eppinger ). I knew I was the product of millions of years of evolution... if I did not love living, it wasn't something that was wrong with me but a problem due to the environment I lived in. The solution was to change the environment.
  12. Finding my people among 30,000 / essential loneliness -- At the University of Washington I was horribly lonely and adirectional for a long time but made good use of these feelings, and I had chosen the challenge. I succeeded in finding my people and having an excellent long-term intimate relationship with a woman. The story of this time is told here. One of Harry Browne's messages in How I found Freedom in an unfree world was helpful here: be yourself, advertise yourself, and you'll find others who value you as you.
  13. The built environment does not have to be this way -- a simple but huge realization while contemplating a curb in a Seattle suburb. Previously I thought the evil of the car was avoided by not using one. That evening I realized it was better avoided by not building for them (what would the world be like then?). Sometime later I found something so beautiful I was moved to tears: carfree.com
  14. The experience of meaning in life is having things to look forward to -- I had originally planned to study computer engineering (why go to college for something other than engineering?) But those weren't the questions that drew me. These papers were the result. See the experience of meaning in life from a psychological perspective. In addition I developed some conception of "the meaning of life" during this time. My exploration of optimal experience and the aesthetic experience were also significant developments. Life is about quality of experience, of which meaning in life/things to look forward to is a hugely important part.
  15. Feelings of attraction based on first impressions do not signal opportunity for quality long-term relationship -- What it says. I made a point of getting to know anyone I felt attracted to (similar to a crush, but not exactly), if they were willing ("Maybe we could talk more sometime?" or perhaps some more elegant suggestions: a walk, a meet, no movies or dinners for me (except a pot-luck dinner that I started)). In fact it is simple spending of time with people and familiarity that makes for quality long-term relationship, not love at first sight. But it is nice, and an accomplishment to feel capable of asking, and getting, emotionally (not physically) intimate quickly with people I've been interested in. ReEvaluation counseling is a process related to this, as is writing about formerly taboo stuff on a web site, as is crying out for all you're worth when you want help and love. For G-d's sake make noise! Tell her that you love her, even though you don't know her. Don't stand for less than the best experience you can have. The being group was definitely a basic part of this as are corroborating psychological research studies (proximity and familiarity are the strongest correlates of long term relationships, not first impressions... but that seems fairly evident). This is related to questioning the concept of true love, and also the value of the concept of a marriage rather than a friend or learning relationship. I admit it also feels a bit warped to be able to talk with and elicit from others intimately when hardly knowing them, and often never seeing them again (like a one-night stand but with emotions)... even so self-sharing/ intimacy with others is a strong correlate of psychological health :) Now I've moved on to realms where people aren't as cautious and fearful of physical intimacy, though I'm not yet so much one of those ("let's touch! lets share massage, let's hug!").
  16. Ask what is the least you can do to achieve the ends you desire, not how much -- From Masanobu Fukuoka's One straw revolution. I had become so aware that grand human intentions and projects so often led to grander problems (the U.S. urban environment being a prime example), hence a leaning away from the "green" and toward the libertarian. In addition this helped me to begin to get over what might fit into Ken Wilber's boomeritis category: the idea that I needed to do something grand and influential (to others) in my life. Instead, I needed to be clear about what I wanted in life (meaningful experience), and then ask what was the least I could do to experience that. Beware of exhortations to selflessness. It is not up to me to save any world but my own. Should everyone do the same, following the simplest way....
  17. An intimate relationship with a woman is not the meaning of life -- I realized that I, at least, could not be content in such a relationship without having a life-work or a life project that meant something to me, so I did not stay with Rebecca when she moved to Boston.
  18. Community, and finding a place and staying there and taking care of it is the meaning of life -- escaping from college, I began to look for that place, visiting ecovillages, Berkeley, Arcata, living with parents in Northern Virginia for a time, then Austin, TX, then returning to Monterey, CA.
  19. Experienceart is art where one's medium is one's own experience. -- I finally finished the papers , The experience of meaning in life from a psychological perspective and The effect of participation in... I realized though, that most people went through life just fine without so much ratiocination. Humans didn't need to read my papers to find out how to experience meaning, they just needed to listen to how they felt (generally). I read Christopher Alexander's Notes on the synthesis of form, and played with ideas of "life design" or of developing a design process that could be applied to life. In the end I decided that what an artist did was the best metaphor for this basic process that most people did just fine. Experienceart is art where one's medium is one's own experience.
  20. Working with computers lets the time fly by, it is an escape -- I was still not successful at loving living, but if I did computer work, time passed quickly and painlessly. I took my first full-time job doing software Q/A.
  21. I cannot work full-time, but what would I do with more time? -- That job left little time for anything other than work, exercise, and occasional shopping. I yearned to have my mind back to myself again, but what would I do? I came up with the idea for experienceart.org. I got them to let me work part-time, and began work on that project.
  22. Dance -- Working alone with computers by myself wasn't doing it for me. After contemplation and questioning I decided to begin dance, and my life was changed. More here I got a recumbent bicycle for the long flat beautiful biketrail ride to some of my classes.
  23. I don't want to stay in Monterey and be a Software Developer -- but what did I want to do. I didn't know, but after an awesome visit to New York City in January 2001, I found a way out by going to teach English in Italy. After checking out places in Europe to live (by bicycle), I decided to return to New York City, 2001-08-16.
  24. Unschooling -- I finally found a decent part-time job, and a cheap place to live in a good location, and began taking dance classes again. I wanted to do more than dance though-- so I gave myself time to see what I did. First I wrote and worked on experienceart.org. For a time I thought I wanted to get a PhD in Sociology. But ended up reading George Ritter and Ken Wilber instead. I spent time with friends (more than I'd ever had before, or since college). As time went on, though I got more restless and that brings me to what I wrote last night. Teenage Liberation Handbook, NBTSC , Sudbury Valley and Summerhill are all good to know about.
  25. The greatest influence to conform to an external ideal in my life was my desire for relationship with another -- I realized I tried to be civilized because I wanted long-term relationships with women, and I thought that was how I had to be for that to happen. But left to myself, I'd rather not be civilized. I started to explore what that meant.
  26. My choice of where to focus my attention is the most basic freedom I have. -- (offtopic: from Howard Bloom's Global Brain, every life is a hypothesis...), g-d as attention. The billboards, advertising, and people of NYC. The most sacred choice I have is where I focus my attention. Steven Gaskin of the farm had a similar awareness.
  27. Thought-change during masturbation -- Some time before this it had occurred to me that while I might wish for a girlfriend and sex, if I masturbated, this feeling went away. I also remember a Dan Savage column where he mentioned how much better matched homosexuals are than heterosexuals in terms of working together for mutual orgasm. I am capable of coming quite quickly, as are many men, yet that is not the case for many women. In any event, it became striking to me how much my mind and focus and desire changed from pre- to post- orgasm, as I paid more attention. If I were to use intercourse with another as a vehicle for powerful experience, it would take me a fair amount of practice and working together to do a good job of it. I also felt and experienced one aspect of intercourse to be playing in that pre-orgasm experience for as long as possible. Contrast this awareness with a story I wrote as a 9th grader , wondering why society had not built in an outlet for intense adolescent sexual desire. Contrast this also with my time with Rebecca, where i did want sex, sex, and more sex, incredibly often, and (you may think this heartless), she suggested masturbation. My insatiable desire, at that time, was partly due to an emptiness, I think. In New York City, with Sara, I finally felt that I was no longer a slave to my sex drive. There, it seemed, I could use it, or not... perhaps I had been not eating enough meat for too long. It was nice. In any event, sexual desire, and sex itself, are close to being in that category of things adults do that children do not (though I loved girls back then, sex was not at the forefront of my consciousness-- that was an intense love), and are primary reasons for things like marriage and having children. This aspect of myself, being like a biological automaton, while I understand I wouldn't be here with out it, fascinates me, and I'm not certain what role my physical attraction to women, and in some ways, to men, should have in my life. On occasion you hear the expression "better than sex" in reference to an extreme sport (windsurfing, for example). For me, one thing that worked in that category was dance class: beautiful women, beautiful movement, intense music, intense highs, and since no (sexual) orgasm, I was always in the pre-orgasm experience state. "Dance is about sex" is right on, or at least not far off.
  28. Integral Transformative Practice (ITP) -- The greatest lesson I took from Ken Wilber, besides his example of unschooling himself, was that everyone should have a personal practice. One starting point he recommended was ITP. I read the book, and eventually bought the book, and eventually found someone to do it with. (I also had a weights and swimming practice). I eventually decided that the focus on personal change was fundamentally socially conservative, so I added three affirmations for social change:
    • there will be no cars
    • the human population of the world is not increasing
    • people do things because they want to not because they have to
  29. The tribe of crow -- in My Ishmael Daniel Quinn names the tribe of crow, and says that it is perfectly understandable to not see any place you desire in the predominant system, it's perfectly understandable to prefer to be homeless. What a revelation! And thanks to an example of an older (40) activist at the NYC Ishmael meetup, who had lived for years on less than $7,000, and who had no health insurance (that is mother culture whispering in your ear), and who spent his time working on what he most wanted to (rainforest action network? his name is Tim) , now I'm here. I began to reacquaint myself with primitive skills (Tom Brown, Tom Elpel, Larry Dean Olson), and to take trips (in January), to practice these skills and to get some idea of whether I did really want to just walk off into the wilderness.
  30. Often, the people we have the most to learn from are those who have the least to say -- This from the book: encounters with Chinese hermits and doesn't need much explanation. Why are most of the messages that reach me through media and through others reaching me? "If they can tell you what the Dao is, it is not the Dao," and this fits in well with the concept of experienceart, and of meaning in life presented here (maybe?). And with Progoff
  31. If the U.S. Taxpayers can mindlessly support a massive army for destructive ends, why can't the rest of us be an army for the things we believe are good? -- I got accepted to go to the carbusters' Towards carfree cities III conference made me realize I did not want to come back. I was also influenced by the dreamers David Ceaser and Gus Yates to dream bigger myself, and started a discussion list for the discussion of this dream. I had also had a personal change affirmation of being some place warmer, probably on an ecovillage, by November, 2003. By the time the conference had come around, I had given notice at my job, planned to be homeless in NYC for two weeks after my return (finishing up at my job), and pared my remaining NYC possessions to a few xerox boxes full of stuff. On April 7, I left NYC by bicycle, and began riding to my parents' house near Washington, DC, USA. The realization that the U.S. is far from the ideal of a democracy was also a part of this.
  32. All aspects of civilization (time, number, language, ritual, religion, dance) are symptoms of our disconnection from nature -- Keeping my eye out for ecovillages south, I came across the ecovillage belize project that was in part based on the work of Derrick Jensen and John Zerzan, who I read in learning more about the project. The concept of the project was different than any I'd heard of before: to go and live in the jungle using only materials that came from the land lived on. I also looked for and found other examples of similar efforts. Here is a list of links I found good to read:

    What this means to me is that I could go off and live like an aborigine in an isolated forest and be perfectly content for the rest of my days. As ridiculous as this seems, the more I try it, the more valid this seems. Where the "neo" gets added to "primitive" is that I don't know how to live indefinitely as an aborigine, nor do I have a community that readily supports such a lifestyle. Furthermore, were I successful at living as a primitive, (1) I would still be subject to encroachment from civilization, and (2) I would be aware that there are many others still trapped in civilization, and I believe I wouldn't be able to be entirely blissful knowing the misery of their situation. Another aspect of being a "neoprimitive" is being able to learn from both modern technology and other primitive cultures around the world, and there are certain hazards faced by living primitively in a modern world that would not be encountered by true primitives. The complexities surrounding malaria are but one example (see the 2003 state of the world report, and the caske2000 expedition's article on the same).

    That provocative idea is in direct contrast to Ken Wilber's concept of the "pre-trans fallacy" which in short is people mistaking the primitive's union with nature with the transcendental experience of "higher" states of consciousness. Obviously, attempting neo-primitivism, I'm not sure how far I'll be able to run with this concept, but I'll give it a try for a while. I'm certainly happy about what people are doing on ecovillages, but for now I'll be working on expressing in life the concept of "economad." More information about this experiment can be found on Colin's Travelogs and the Sea kayaking research page.

    Interestingly, at least two of the members of Earthaven (Sean and Farmer) were well-versed in Ken Wilber. They point out that globalization that eradicates villages and village cultures is not integral...

    On my list is to read more of John Muir.

  33. How to eat: learning from Sally Fallon & Frank Cook -- I'm still learning how to eat. And how to eat as a neoprimitive is something I'm only just beginning to explore. In the past I've really valued from the Newstart Cookbook (vegan, whole foods eaten whole). But now I've been happy to spend time at Earthaven and find among the "greenies" a turn to growing and eating animals and animal products. Sally Fallon , emphasizes learning from traditional diets which were designed around a lack of refrigeration, and other conditions more like the primitive than the modern lifestyle. Frank Cook has walked across both California and South Carolina and developed an approach to eating that worked for those trips involving a lot of wild plants, and fruits, and nuts. It also possible to interpret my draw to the neoprimitive life way as a failure to find a way of eating that I'm happy with in modern society: I tend to love to eat, and unless I have many dance classes or am not able to buy all the food I want, I often eat too much. Who knows. We'll see. Interestingly, I'm now at the farm, home of a more vegan/vegetarian and soy-based diet that Sally Fallon has dedicated her life to changing... I bet if I looked I could find healthy children raised by vegan parents? But I've been so happy to be released from feeling that cholesterol and animal fat were sure and slow killers.

So, that is where I am right now! If I find more, and I'm able to update this, I will do so.

Colin Leath <>    

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