When I was in first grade, I found myself falling in love with Annie Freestone. As a six year-old, it was new territory. I knew that I didn’t feel towards her like I did my parents or siblings. I was excited to see her and hear her voice and watch her. It was better than playing with the boys or eating ice cream. So it must’ve been love.
In the midst of my admiration for Annie, I learned to love watching her. I watched her in class and on the playground. She was a goddess to me. One afternoon at recess, I was solicited by a friend of hers to join in a clandestine game of kissing tag, beyond the view of the watchful eyes of any adults. I feared the idea of being kissed by anyone but Annie. But the prospect of her kiss was too enticing to not play the odds.
I soon found myself being hotly pursued by the girl of my dreams. She smiled and beamed with joy. She laughed and gave me chase. Driven in part by a competitive desire to win, and in part by fear of actually sharing the intimacy of a kiss with Annie, I ran until she gave up. I never played coy and feigned being the captor, so as to allow a kiss.
It would seem that this pattern of running from intimacy has repeated well into my adult life. And while I’ve had satisfying dating experiences, and others still that have taught me a great deal, the story of running from love has been played out repeatedly by one side or the other in my relationships.
But this year has been different. I’ve found moments where I’ve felt the same discomfort at being intimate that I felt as a six year-old and could never articulate until recently. But in dating Kate, I have found a proverbial Annie Freestone whom I have begun to allow moments of catching me in our ongoing game of kissing tag.
It had been my intent during the month of December to slowly put together an episode using clips from conversations with a few homeless men to address the issue of homelessness. However, the vision for that episode was quickly changed as I joined many of you in witnessing through media the events going on in Syria. Now, I know the video below has caused some partisan arguments, but when my sister and I were hanging out in December and came across this, the human element of it struck me to the core.
After seeing that and reflecting on the dark side of humanity a bit with my sister and with myself, I felt it was important to extend the subject of this episode to address the idea of remembering the downtrodden among us and in distant places.
As you listen to the podcast, I spend time quoting from news stories about the war in Syria and refugee camps. There are also a few thoughts from a first hand observer who spent time in Greece this last year, working with refugees. The latter part of the episode transitions to hearing from a few homeless men in the U.S. and hearing about how they got to where they are, what life looks like as a homeless person and what they want in life.
You can listen to the embedded media below for the podcast, or find it on iTunes or SoundCloud, just look for episode 12.
I truly hope that when ever we individually and collectively confront human tragedy in our own countries or through media that we spend time reflecting on why those people are in a position of being downtrodden. I hope that reflection brings compassion and in that compassion, I hope we find ourselves moved to action.
The letter written to the BBC about conditions in Aleppo that was read in the podcast can be found here.
The Nick Miller article in the Sydney Morning Herald, also read in the podcast can be found here.
The episode image includes an image taken from the below tweet in addition to photos I personally took.
In this episode we talk about what happened recently in Eastern Aleppo, Syria and the human effects of war. We also talk about refugees and contemplate the issue of remembering the downtrodden after their difficulties leave the headlines. We also bring the idea of remembering the downtrodden home to the United States as we hear clips of conversations with three homeless men.
Music from this episode included:
The song Fanfarl by Titus 12. Music by the artist can be found at the below site
While I was in Montana, I had one of my favorite experiences of my travels. Dave from a previous episode connected me with a few friends of his in Montana that were setting up their river camp for hosting a few students that they would be teaching some primitive skills to. A man named Barnes was who I got in contact with and as we exchanged texts and a couple brief phone calls, he determined they were comfortable with having me come and spend a night or two with them.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I camp, but I’m no mountain man, like what these folks sounded like to me. Barnes indicated that he wouldn’t be around when I arrived, but the others in camp were aware of me coming, so I could just settle in when I got there. Figuring I’d be out of cell phone service, I had written down a few directions to get me to the location. I got there without issue and pulled into the property. A great earth lodge was near the entrance. Driving down the dirt road a bit, there were two men out in a pasture, kicking a soccer ball at a makeshift wooden goal. I got out of my car and they looked at me and without a word kicked the ball in my direction. We made introductions and I got comfortable with Neil and Chris as we kicked a soccer ball around.
After a while, Neil decided throwing a frisbee around might be a little more low-key than soccer. So he ran and got his frisbee while I went to my car and changed into some shorts. We converged at the other end of the pasture that had been our playing field. A brown mound that had been at a distance earlier was now close enough for me to notice it was a rotting dear carcass. It seemed quite natural to them. The circle of life happening around them.
We tossed the frisbee a bit and then Neil joked that we ought to throw dried cow and horse manure at the frisbee as it glided through the air, to test our accuracy. Then somehow, we found ourselves actually throwing dried manure at the frisbee. The real challenge ended up being the task of catching the frisbee while dodging the flying manure. I joked that this seemed like a natural alternative to using meth, as there were a multitude of anti-meth billboards throughout Montana.
Soon Barnes arrived with another friend and we all converged, along with Chris’s partner, Bartle, on their hangout hut/kitchen. We ate and gathered around their wood burning stove, and started to chat. Often I find there can be some reluctance on the part of those that I record. But these good folks just carried on as usual. They talked about themselves, some for my benefit, but we joked and laughed and just enjoyed each other.
As we chatted, Barnes opened up and I was struck by how profoundly authentic he is. There is nothing contrived about who he is. He lives as he wants to. He is educated and chooses to live a somewhat isolated life in Montana and understands that life is a process and he’s learning just like everyone else. The beautiful thing in the whole experience was that he didn’t take himself too seriously. None of them did.
Here’s the clipisode with Barnes. You can also find it on iTunes and SoundCloud. Be sure to scroll down, because there’s a bonus clipisode.
The bonus below is the group chatting about dumpster diving. I was interested to get onto the subject, because when we first converged in their hangout hut, Neil went to a corner and walked back with a handful of unwrapped chocolate and handed it to me while he sucked on a bit of chocolate himself. I happily partook, being a man with an ever-present sweet-tooth. As I savored this delightful chocolate, the discussion illuminated the fact that the chocolate had been found in a dumpster, during a dumpstering adventure. I would’ve felt sick, but for the fact that I felt like the chocolate was vetted, as they were eating it too. Neil proudly displayed the large sack of reject chocolate after the revelation it was from a dumpster.
My time with these wild folks was sublime. Seldom have I felt like I was in the presence of such authentic people. And that authenticity made it feel so natural that it barely seemed weird to throw manure and eat chocolate from a dumpster.
This is a sort of bonus clipisode to go with the previous one—Episode 10 Barnes Clips. In this clipisode, some of the folks at River Camp with Barnes talk about strategies and experiences in dumpster diving. The subject got readdressed after the host, Kyle Wheeler, had been given some chocolate they found during one of their dumpster diving ventures.
In this episode Barnes starts off by demonstrating a 6 out of 10 burp. He gives a few thoughts on his life going from growing up in North Carolina to being a man dedicated to living a simpler life in Montana. He shows a flare for being passionate about his feelings, but shows a humor for life. He expresses a love for connecting to people that enjoy the lifestyle he does and an aliveness that he finds in living out in the open, all while being able to jokingly uphold Dale Earnhardt Jr. as an example of success without education.
Travel and meeting new people has been a remarkable journey for me. Truly I see a reflection of myself in the people I meet and talk to. A theme that often manifests itself as I talk to people is that we as humans are wounded. There is a pain that most of us carry. There is a longing that emerges in most my conversations. There is a desire to connect and a frustration that occupies the same ground as a deep hope that we can be better connected. I often find myself thinking about this desire to connect and I am in awe as I see that same desire painted by the conversations I have with others.
And so with that emerges the question: what are we doing about that need to change something? What are we doing to heal our souls and reconnect to one another? As I traveled through Sandpoint, Idaho, I got to meet Dave. He and his wife have been on a journey of getting back to the basics. Former vegetarians and then vegans, they started to explore what Dave noted some call primitive skills. They started to learn about plants and seeds, animals and more. They learned how to find, harvest, and preserve food. They have been working to minimize their impact on the earth and more than that, live in sync with the earth as they feel—and I feel—we are meant to live. There is a spiritual element to all of this. Dave shared a journal entry about this awakening and beautifully suggested that we could, “sow the ancient seed, long lying dormant waiting for the living water to spring forth.”
In sharing Dave’s story and thoughts, I want to make sure that those who listen and read this podcast and blog understand that I’m not here to impose any specific view. However, if any of us feel like there is something more to life than what we are getting from it, I hope you’ll hear the beauty of Dave’s awakening that he shares. To me, his thoughts are sacred. His awakening is ours. It is for us, as his human brothers and sisters. His path is a call to each of us to travel the path to our own individual awakenings.
For those listening to the clipisode, you can use the embedded media below, or check out Ep9 on SoundCloud or iTunes.
I’ve transcribed Dave’s reading of his journal entry that he shared, for those that would like a written version. It gave me chills! Here’s the transcription:
We have forgotten how to be human. Like other animals that humans domesticate and corrupt and who no longer act according to nature. We no longer act according to our best interest in terms of health, mental well-being, social connection, nature connection or evolution. We think we are evolving as a species, somehow improving, bettering ourselves. But I think we have taken a fork in the road, left the good path and are lost wandering in the wilderness. Not the wilderness of nature, which would be good for us, and probably help heal almost all our sicknesses, but the wilderness of the soul.
We took the bait, fell right into the trap rather jumped in with both feet. The industrial revolution it was called, and that it was. A revolution that rot decay, sickness of mind, pollution of body and the earth. With promises of a better life we were lured from our birthright, our forest home. We lost our connection to the sacred, becoming stagnant pools isolated from the regenerating stream. The promise was always more time to enjoy your life, the idea of leisure time being the highest and best to be gained. Little knowing that we would so miss the work of our own hands. That in creating, providing, harvesting, hunting, weaving, carving, tanning and countless other expressions is the tapestry of life. Web of connection to place, one’s self, to nature, to one another, a belonging that we all long for. We lost the medicine of the wheel and wander, now lost inside our own minds, bearing grievous wounds which we know not how to heal, we wound one another.
The container is shattered, the shards, brittle fragments of a lost art. The once eternal cedar now hewn and fallen. And yet, seeds a thousand years old taken from the Hopi dwellings sprouted anew. Can we find the path back, turn our backs on the now all too obvious lies of mother culture, returning to our true mother, leaving the patriarchal father to find our birthright of old? It is not enough that some of us return, though all things start small and with time become the sequoias of majesty. There must be a great turning. What person knows at the beginning what will grow out of the seed they plant? Sow the ancient seed, long lying dormant waiting for the living water to spring forth. Sow it in your heart, sow it in your mind, sow it in your body, sow it in your soul.
May we all find our way back to our individual living waters. Drink up. Be renewed. Let’s connect and live.