William Edelen: My Morning Meditations

The Contrary Minister

During the last 40 years that I have been writing essays, as well as being ordained in the Presbyterian and Congregational churches, many have asked me “do  you pray?” My answer has always been “not in the orthodox sense to a “cosmic bellhop, just waiting for me to ring”… but as “meditations” and “reflections”, yes. My morning meditations are on this MYSTERY beyond comprehension, this planet earth… the Cosmos, the Mystery of creation… and finally the Mystery of you… and me. The “ETERNAL LIGHT” as the source behind the creation.

Eternal light… to whose mind the past and the future meet in our eternal now… we seem to be the creatures of shifting time… to whom the past is soon forgotten… and from whom the future seems veiled……..

This day seems to be but a gleam of light between two nights of dark… between two mysteries which are yet ONE… we still sense, and we feel that we are more than we seem… that somehow in some way we are connected with and are a part of the eternal source…

Will Parrish: Drum Demo At Shasta Dam



For the Winnemem Wintu people of the McCloud River watershed (a mighty tributary of the Upper Sacramento River, formed by the southeastern drainage of Mt. Shasta and its stately foothills), the weapon of mass destruction that has wrought greatest harm on their culture is California’s largest dam: the Shasta Dam. This 602-foot-tall concrete plug on the Upper Sacramento River inundated 90% of the Winnemem’s ancestral territory upon its completion in 1945. Salmon, which have always been at the center of the Winnemem’s material and spiritual existence, were thereupon blocked from reaching their historic spawning grounds in the constipated waters upstream, contributing to a massive overall fish die-off in the Sacramento River and the San Francisco Bay Delta.

In the face of these hardships, the Winnemem continue to preserve their culture in every way they can: their language, religion, and traditional healing methods. In the meantime, they struggle to protect their remaining sacred sites and burial grounds from a seemingly interminable stream of threats and encroachments. With California in the throes of the worst drought since official recordkeeping began in the late-1870s, the greatest threat to the Winnemem’s remaining cultural strongholds now has renewed traction in the US Congress: proposed legislation to expand Shasta Reservoir, and thereby flood many of the Winnemem’s remaining ancestral lands.

Todd Walton: Curve Again

San Francisco Giants v Los Angeles Dodgers

Under The Table Books

Madison Bumgarner, the Giants’ formidable leftie known as Mad Bum or simply Bum, stands tall atop the mound on a cool Friday night in September—the famous San Francisco fog not yet manifest, a soft breeze blowing in from McCovey Cove, the yard packed with zealous fans, the Dodgers in town battling to keep the Giants from overtaking them in the division race—both teams destined for the playoffs.

Having put down the first nine Dodgers in order, five by strikeouts, Bum walks Dodger leadoff hitter Dee Gordon to start the fourth inning and thereby forfeits his chance to throw a perfect game. Prior to the walk, Bum’s control was superb, scary the word muttered by seven of the first nine Dodgers to face him.

Bum takes a deep breath and glances up at the sky. Why did I walk their leadoff man? Why do I so often walk the leadoff man when everything is going so well? Don’t think about it. Stay out of your head. Relax. Life goes on.

The way of the belt lasts lifetimes…


From The Guardian

The toxic effect of discipline – abuse, self-delusion or both – is that you almost have to move on. But we can never move on. Sometimes it stops because you move out. Or because you realize that if both of you don’t grow up, one of you is going to die. 

There are many possible reactions to reports that Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson beat two of his children. To return to the NFL’s obsession of ethics via optics, you could wonder why his teammates were dismissed from the Vikings after they were arrested, while until Wednesday morning Peterson was expected to play. You could even wonder why the Minnesota governor would call for Peterson’s suspension after, just a year ago, posing for a picture with a Vikings team owner who had been fined $85m for fraud for actions a judge labeled criminal racketeering.

But all those are abstractions – the NFL as hypocrisy, as undiluted power masquerading as moral strength, the normative state of the NFL at this point. Instead, if, like me, you are about to become a parent soon, and if, like me, you were disciplined physically as a child, you look at Adrian Peterson – the man who says “I disciplined my son the way I was disciplined as a child” – and you wonder the same thing:

Will I become that?

The Wheel Turns, the Boat Rocks, the Sea Rises — Change in a Time of Climate Change…


From Rebecca Solnit

There have undoubtedly been stable periods in human history, but you and your parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents never lived through one, and neither will any children or grandchildren you may have or come to have. Everything has been changing continuously, profoundly — from the role of women to the nature of agriculture. For the past couple of hundred years, change has been accelerating in both magnificent and nightmarish ways.

Yet when we argue for change, notably changing our ways in response to climate change, we’re arguing against people who claim we’re disrupting a stable system.  They insist that we’re rocking the boat unnecessarily.

I say: rock that boat. It’s a lifeboat; maybe the people in it will wake up and start rowing. Those who think they’re hanging onto a stable order are actually clinging to the wreckage of the old order, a ship already sinking, that we need to leave behind.

The Slaver’s Objectivity…


From Jacobin Magazine

Their latest review was no fluke — the Economist will always find the master’s viewpoint more “objective,” regardless of the evidence provided…

The Economist’s controversial review of Edward Baptist’s new book ends on a feverish crescendo of denial about the fundamentals of American slavery: that slaves were slaves and masters, masters — with all the brutality, coercion, and punishment that relationship entails.

Accordingly, the publication has retracted the piece and issued an apology, but the loss of credibility will probably be lasting. The irony is that their indictment of Baptist’s exhaustive book decries its lack of objectivity. To this end, tucked away in the last paragraphs of the review is a surprising and somewhat obscure reference to Hugh Thomas’s 1997 book, The Slave Trade.

I’ve had the misfortune of getting to know Hugh Thomas’s book quite well. For my empirical work testing Eric Williams’ hypothesis that the Atlantic slave trade spurred capitalist development in Europe, I turned to Thomas to delve into the mind of slave traders, to understand their motivations and choices.

Gene Logsdon: Trivia That May Not Be So Trivial


The Contrary Farmer

Almost every day I observe something on our homestead that is quite remarkable in a humble sort of way. I think maybe I should write about it but then  the big news of the day comes flooding in and I almost feel guilty that I find joy in these little things around me. I should be all hitched up in the nervous regions about how the world is falling apart.  But I am going to ignore the world’s apparent disintegration today for what could be more important events in the long run.

Trivia No. 1: We store potatoes over winter in a plastic bin sunk in the hillside of the backyard. Maybe three inches and the lid stick out above the ground. I went out to clean out the few old wrinkled spuds left over from last year to make way for the new crop. I was taken aback to find a potato plant, about six inches tall, growing out of the lid. Impossible. Carefully lifting the lid, I found a long potato vine had grown up from an old potato under the remnants of straw (we store the potatoes with alternate layers of straw) in the bottom of the bin. Somehow it spotted a hint of light above (can potato eyes see??), climbed up the side wall and squeezed through the edge of the lid and upwards into the sun. I was totally mystified, because the lip of the box is rounded and the lid fits down over that lip, watertight and, I thought, light tight. But then I remembered. I had drilled tiny holes around the edge of the box to allow for a bit of air circulation. That vine had snaked its way up to one of those holes, perhaps the only one that emitted light, and squirmed through. You can imagine what luck I’d have if I deliberately tried to grow potatoes that way.

The drought is destroying California’s organic dairy farms…


From Grist

“Roll down your window for a second and tell me what you smell,” Rosie Burroughs instructs me. It’s early March and I’m in the passenger seat of her gigantic white Ford pickup truck, bouncing down a narrow, potholed dirt road on her farm in the rolling hills just east of Turlock, Calif. Her husband, Ward is sitting in the driver’s seat.

The Burroughs’ 4,000 acres of sweeping organic grasslands, which practically rest under the shadow of Yosemite’s Half Dome, are a pastoral dream. On the Saturday afternoon of my visit, a storm was brewing over the purplish mountains, sending gusts of pink petals from their neighboring almond orchards across the landscape.

I opened the window, gazing at a herd of cattle grazing not more than ten feet away from our car, half expecting the acrid stench of manure and animal common on larger factory farms to assault my nostrils. But I couldn’t smell anything, save for the faint scent of damp earth and rain brewing on the horizon. Rosie leaned back in her seat, content.

Ward, Rosie, and their three grown children operate California Cloverleaf Farms and Full Circle Dairy, two organic dairies milking 500 cows each, in addition to a pasture-raised chicken operation and organic olive and almond orchards. In 2004, they joined Organic Valley — the largest organic, farmer-owned co-op in the nation with sales topping over $900 million annually — and began shipping their milk to grocery stores across the country.

Naomi Klein: the hypocrisy behind the big business climate change battle…

Naomi Klein

From The Guardian

Richard Branson has pledged $3bn to fight climate change, and delivered just $230m. Naomi Klein looks at the ‘greenwashing’ of big business and its effects – on the planet, and our own bodies

I denied climate change for longer than I care to admit. I knew it was happening, sure. But I stayed pretty hazy on the details and only skimmed most news stories. I told myself the science was too complicated and the environmentalists were dealing with it. And I continued to behave as if there was nothing wrong with the shiny card in my wallet attesting to my “elite” frequent-flyer status.

A great many of us engage in this kind of denial. We look for a split second and then we look away. Or maybe we do really look, but then we forget. We engage in this odd form of on-again-off-again ecological amnesia for perfectly rational reasons. We deny because we fear that letting in the full reality of this crisis will change everything.

Angry Letters to the One Member of Congress Who Voted Against the War on Terror…

Barbara Lee was the lone dissenter in the post-9/11 vote authorizing military force. Many called her a traitor. But her constituents shared her concerns—and history has vindicated them.

OAKLAND, Calif.—The people here were out of step with America.

In the hours after the attacks of September 11, 2001, they were angry at the terrorists who flew planes into the Pentagon and World Trade Center. They wanted the attackers brought to justice. They mourned the victims, cheered the firefighters, felt united in sorrow with their countrymen, and dreaded more attacks. But in Berkeley, Oakland, and Alameda, the ultra-liberal, historically anti-war East Bay communities, a significant bloc also feared how their country would react. They didn’t trust the instincts of George W. Bush or the public that elected him.

The mistrust was mutual.

Censorship and What Freedom of Speech Really Means: Comedian Bill Hicks’s Brilliant Letter to a Priest…


From Brain Pickings

“‘Freedom of speech’ means you support the right of people to say exactly those ideas which you do not agree with.”

In early June of 1993, several months before cancer took his life at the age of thirty-two, beloved comedian Bill Hicks received a letter from a priest, bemoaning the “blasphemous” content in Hicks’s live television special Revelations and reprimanding British broadcaster Channel 4 for having put it on the air. Writing a mere eight days before his fatal pancreatic cancer diagnosis — a young man still oblivious to his imminent tragic fate — Hicks decided to respond to the missive personally, in what became one of the most lucid and beautiful defenses of the freedom of speech ever articulated, on par with Voltaire’s piercing admonition about censorship and Madeleine L’Engle’s timeless words on the subject.

What Leaving My Religion Did for Me…


From Godless In Dixie

People often ask me if my life is better now that I’ve left my religion.  My honest answer is that it’s a mixed bag. On the negative side, I have to say that the reactions of people who liked me better when I still had faith have been at times very strong.  I usually become a target for re-evangelism for a while, but they eventually learn to quit pushing me after they realize that I’ve heard everything they have to say about this a thousand times.  Most people probably just decide I’m being stubborn and/or that the Devil’s got me under a spell; but while the pushing may stop, the disappointment lingers on.  Some do their best to keep a lid on that, which I appreciate, but you can still hear it in their voices and that can hurt. If you crave the approval of people, and if you live where I live, I wouldn’t recommend atheism for you.

William Edelen:  A spiritual union – mountain and desert 


The Contrary Minister

In the Coachella Valley, where I live, there exists what could be one of the most powerful energy fields on the planet, with Mt. San Jacinto at near 11,000 feet hovering over, protecting, watching, loving the desert of the eternal valley called Coachella, the result of an ancient lake that covered the entire valley and long ago receded to the ocean.

The sun, like a jealous lover, hovers over the desert in a protective manner, unique and unknown to rain forests and the endless waters of the ocean.

The desert reduces everything to essentials, to the basics of whitened bone. The desert, perhaps more than any other place on earth, speaks of silence, simplicity and solitude. The desert calls to men and women who being wasted away by the stress, confusion and anxieties of city life, yearn for a spiritual retreat, an escape from the demon time, the clock and the calendar that that so enslave us.

All great spiritual traditions began, from a desert or a mountain, with the vision quest of one lone, single individual who, in solitude and silence, saw through the veil of the superficial into those realms and dimensions of reality that were of the timeless and eternal.

Todd Walton: Stealing

Giants Mendo Hardware

Under The Table Books

Angel Pagan, the switch-hitting leadoff batter for the Giants, one of the swiftest outfielders in the game, takes a short lead off first base and tries to ignore his inner dialogue about base stealing while keeping his focus on the pitcher. Angel has reached first base with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning by beating out a slow roller to third. The Giants are trailing the Padres one to nothing. This would be, as everyone in the ballpark knows, the ideal time for Angel to steal a bag and get into scoring position. However, despite his blazing speed, Angel has had little success as a stealer of bases.

Quackenbush, the Padres relief pitcher, a hefty right-hander with a decent pickoff move, hates throwing to first because it messes with his mechanics. Angel knows of Quackenbush’s aversion to throwing to first because Roberto Kelly, the Giants’ first base coach, just reminded Angel of said aversion while Angel was taking off his batting gloves after safely reaching first. Thus informed, Angel widens his lead, though not enough to tempt the reluctant Quackenbush.

About Todd Walton…


From Todd’s website here

Todd was born in San Francisco on October 17, 1949 at 6:33 AM. He began his career as an entertainer at the age of six, performing original songs, stories, and imitations of silly adults for friends, siblings, and classmates. A thespian and athlete in high school, Todd attended UC Santa Cruz from 1967-69 before abandoning academia to see what he could see.

Having made his living as a musician and landscaper, Todd sold his first short story in 1975 to Cosmopolitan magazine. In 1978, Doubleday published Todd’s critically acclaimed novel Inside Moves. A movie of Inside Moves, with a script by Barry Levinson and directed by Richard Donner, was made in 1980 (and recently released on DVD after thirty years in cold storage.) An interview with Todd is included on the DVD of Inside Moves. Disclaimer: Todd does not make a dime from the DVD of Inside Moves, which we feel is wrong.

Will Parrish: Business as Usual For California Water Hogs



The year 2013 was California’s driest on record. The first six months of 2014 were the hottest half-year on record. Reservoirs are drying up. Groundwater basins are diminishing at an alarming rate. Yet, the water demands of the state’s gargantuan agribusiness empire, its sprawling metropolises, and its extractive industries (such as, increasingly, fracking) have largely continued to grow this year.

We’ll start with California’s most lucrative legally-sanctioned crop: almonds. California produces roughly 82% of the world’s almonds. Demand for the nut is fast-growing in China and India. San Joaquin Valley growers are rushing to convert from cotton and other annual row crops to the increasingly profitable tree crop.

Unfortunately, almonds generally use much more water than the crops they replace. In Westlands Water District, the state’s biggest irrigation district (centered near Fresno), an average acre of almonds commands 1.3 million gallons of water per year, on average, as compared to roughly half that in the case of cotton. Agriculture in California, with its lack of summer rain, already uses about 80% of the state’s developed water supply. Almonds alone use 10%.

Once Again, There’s Pressure to Cancel an Ayaan Hirsi Ali Event, but Yale’s Buckley Program Isn’t Budging…


From The Friendly Atheist

Earlier this year, Brandeis University announced that it would be awarding honorary degrees to five notable figures, including atheist Ayaan Hirsi Ali for her advocacy of women’s rights around the world:

Hirsi Ali, in her bestselling books Infidel and Nomad, made no secret of the fact that Islam, as interpreted by militants, extremists, and even (in some cases) casual believers, was not only untrue but harmful to the world. Between female genital mutilation, honor killings, the idea of martyrdom, and the murder of her friend Theo van Gogh, you could understand why she would courageously put her own life on the line to speak out against the horrors of the faith. In her mind, the problem wasn’t radical Islam. It was Islam, period. That’s why she was very blunt in a 2007 interview about her goal of trying to defeat Islam because she didn’t believe the “religion of peace” was capable of being saved in its current form. Almost immediately after the announcement of her honorary degree, Muslim groups began to protest her selection.

Sleepwalking Toward Armageddon…

ISIL takes Turkey govt. hostage: Terrorists raises flag at Turkish border

From Sam Harris

In his speech responding to the horrific murder of journalist James Foley by a British jihadist, President Obama delivered the following rebuke (using an alternate name for ISIS):

ISIL speaks for no religion… and no faith teaches people to massacre innocents. No just God would stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day. ISIL has no ideology of any value to human beings. Their ideology is bankrupt…. we will do everything that we can to protect our people and the timeless values that we stand for. May God bless and keep Jim’s memory. And may God bless the United States of America.

In his subsequent remarks outlining a strategy to defeat ISIS, the President declared:

Now let’s make two things clear: ISIL is not Islamic. No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim…. ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way…. May God bless our troops, and may God bless the United States of America.

As an atheist, I cannot help wondering when this scrim of pretense and delusion will be finally burned away—either by the clear light of reason or by a surfeit of horror meted out to innocents by the parties of God. Which will come first, flying cars and vacations to Mars, or a simple acknowledgment that beliefs guide behavior and that certain religious ideas—jihad, martyrdom, blasphemy, apostasy—reliably lead to oppression and murder? It may be true that no faith teaches people to massacre innocentsexactly—but innocence, as the President surely knows, is in the eye of the beholder. Are apostates “innocent”? Blasphemers? Polytheists? Islam has the answer, and the answer is “no.”


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