HEADWATERS XX … Those are the Roman numerals for 20, and I’m proud to say I’ve made every one of these exciting conferences at Western State College in Gunnison. For years, Headwaters was the brainchild and pet project of the renowned George Sibley. He’s retired, but of course still involved. But he’s handed it off to others, and my good friend Randy Russell has been one of the unofficial sparkplugs of a group of us who’ve taken to calling ourselves the Headwater Elders. So, to push us towards helping define this year’s 20th anniversary conference this coming November, Randy asked us a deep question, as we prep to form this year’s program: What might the next prosperity look like, and how do we get there?” … My response is the next item.
PROSPERITY AHEAD? … Given the last 200 years of the American Empire, I think you can’t ask this question without understanding the matrix we’re embedded in – a British Colonial expression of representative democracy based on majority rule without proportional representation (DeTocqueville’s tyranny) and a capitalist economic system that is in the continuing octopus process of going global … That said, our “prosperity” in the U.S. has been built on exploiting domestic and foreign labor and resources, and maintaining dollar control of world financial institutions. Since WWII, this Pax Americana has led to untold affluence for the 50 states that are part of our “imperfect union,” as Pres. Obama so wisely calls it … Indeed, the extravagant, wasteful and luxurious way of life that we have established via Hollywood (and now YouTube and Facebook), visible to the rest of the world, has become the international standard of “prosperity.” But as we face the looming realities of Peak Oil and Global Climate Change and a host of other anthropomorphic changes to our planetary spaceship, prosperity is on the decline … And so, if the question is, will this prosperity return, I think not. Oh, perhaps for brief nostalgic flurries, but the direction of the world arc has changed … As the Hopi prophecy says (as I heard it direct from the mouths of Hopi elders Grandfather David and Thomas Banyacya, both passed on now into the spirit world), the path to the future splits, and we have a choice … In the 1999 New York Times obituary for Banyacya, his core message was explained – an endless quest for material wealth will destroy the balance of the world. This was the same message I received from my teacher and local mountain philosopher Dolores LaChapelle, and which she espoused in her magnum opus, Sacred Land Sacred Sex Rapture of the Deep (Finn Hill Arts, Silverton, 1988) … We can continue down the materialist path to the future and have our apocalyptic rendezvous with prophecy’s “gourd of ashes” – in which all our precious goods (and most of us) will be incinerated in a planetary potlatch … Or, we can try to find our way back to living in harmony with natural systems, as Banyacya demonstrated to the United Nations in 1992, when he sprinkled corn pollen on the podium before he spoke. As Gary Snyder offered us with his “Prayer for the Great Family.” And as LaChapelle illustrated with her Seven “Ways” to Human/Earth Bonding … This prosperity of the future will look very different from the world we’ve grown accustomed to. It could involve a new league of nations brokering international security for the world, or the devolution of nation-states into ecological provinces, or both. It could involve bioregional self-sufficiency and a much reduced environmental footprint for humans on the land. It could lead to lives of voluntary simplicity using less resources but having more intense ritual and artistic expressions. Or it could become an amalgam of high tech and high touch, as futurist John Naisbitt has preached, and the evolution of humans as future primitives – tech savvy folks with Paleolithic values, a la Freeman House … Or more likely, given the flip-flop, zig-zag path of human history and our species’ penchant for only changing a familiar course when we hit an iceberg, some strange unforeseen mixture of both paths, with small nuclear disasters pushing us in new ways to adopt some of the more daring social and political changes needed on a planetary scale … In her later years, Dolores was much taken to describing the current human situation as “hopeless.” And yet she lived and worked and wrote with hope and direction that we might yet choose the balanced path of harmony with this earth that birthed us. It is in that contradictory position – our heads telling us it’s all going to hell and our hearts refusing to give up – which we in the Headwaters Region find ourselves, and which any discussion of the next prosperity (and how we might get there) must first address.
MONTROSE HOSPITAL … One thing about that facility (which has been much maligned over the years and about which I have long knowledge – my first daughter having been born there in 1984), something that I feel obliged to mention after my brief angiogram experience a couple weeks back (okay, maybe two) … First, the food was superb! No, not good. Excellent! I mean, like it was better than most Uncompahgre Valley restaurants in quality – a Camprobber type entree. I was very impressed. I ate all of mine. I had trouble remembering I was in a hospital. The nurse said they had a chef on staff, and whoever that chef was, she/he was a very good one. I swear, I want to go to the Montrose Hospital for lunch the next time I’m in town ... Two, the staff was wonderful. The intake person walked us up to the surgery sight – no sketchy directions, no-good-luck-find-it-yourself option like we’ve come to expect from our pricey health care system. No, she walked us up to the right spot (it was confusing) and was cheerful about it. The prep nurse was even more wonderful. She put me completely at ease, made great jokes, told great stories, and I was sorry to get wheeled off for the cut & catheter procedure … In the surgery room everyone was friendly and explained everything. The doc (Dr. Paul Becker) was great – the kind of man you wish you could spend more time with (albeit not in an operating room). And afterwards, the male nurse was really solicitous and kind and by the time I got up to go, I felt like I’d had a vacation, not an operation … Drive up to St. Mary’s, if you want. I’m going to Montrose Hospital the next time I need some medical attention.
THE TALKING GOURD
It´s called a social networking phenomenon,
this desire to paste our faces
in cyberspace in the hope somebody finds us.
And here in the broader galaxy we plant
the ones we love in plots of earth
marked by numeric profiles
or we push them into the sun
hoping to disperse their energy
to the widest possible audience, praying
they´ll contact the webmaster
directly instead of being forced to point
and click for an eternity.