Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Fool On The Hill...

Click on photo to enlarge (at your own risk)
In 1964, when I was 18 years old, Bob Dylan recorded a delightfully silly song called ‘I Shall Be Free No. 10’. Toward the end of the song he sings, “I’m going to grow my hair down to my feet, so strange I’ll look like a walking mountain range”. Those words resonated in me for reasons I didn’t yet fully understand, but my own hair was already well on its way to mountain range status.

The senseless war in Viet Nam was raging into a full blown holocaust and Dylan had already written the timeless ‘Masters Of War’, ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’, ‘With God On Our Side’, and ‘The Times They Are A-Changin’.

Those were ominous days to be coming of age---air raid sirens blasted through our communities every month to test the Civil Defense system, while in school we practiced weekly drills in readiness for a nuclear attack, the threat of which was very nearly realized during the Cuban Missile Crisis. But, my generation was still full of hope and optimism, because the times were a-changin’ as the youth of a nation---founded upon dissent and protest---rose up to speak truth to power, exercising their rights to free speech and freedom of assembly.

After years of highly visible protest and strife, with the police and the National Guard battering and brutalizing thousands of their own citizens, public sentiment finally forced our withdrawal from Viet Nam. And later, when our once earth-shattering Peace and Love counter-culture proved to be less than durable, some of us, refusing to abandon what we felt were our civil obligations, tried to concentrate our efforts on the ever more obvious environmental problems the world was facing.

Millions of ordinary people, after reading Rachel Carson’s ‘Silent Spring’, also rose up in protest, and DDT was soon banned in the U.S. Only through outspoken public activism was our government pushed to create the ‘Environmental Protection Agency’, write the ‘Endangered Species Act’, and declare an ‘Earth Day’.

Again, the times were a-changin’, and people could hear their own voices ringing within their democracy.

I’ve heard it said many times that protest and dissent don’t accomplish anything, but in truth, throughout history, protest, dissent, war, and collapse are the only things that have ever brought about societal change. I’ll take protest and dissent over war or collapse any time.

Just a few examples of dissent that bore rewarding fruit: The Boston Tea Party; Women’s Suffrage; The Labor Movement; The Civil Rights Movement; Viet Nam War Protests; Environmental Activism, and even more recently; protests against The World Trade Organization and The World Bank (which brought the economically and socially discriminatory, and environmentally destructive tactics of these institutions of globalization into public light, forcing them to re-evaluate at least some of their policies).

Now, back to the long hair thing…

To have long hair in the early 1960s made a person different looking, and many of us soon realized that most people didn’t like those who were different. Overnight we became part of a persecuted minority group and gained great insight into prejudice, bigotry and racism.

I also found that I relished being different from people who preferred a neat and orderly world, where nature was groomed, trimmed and manicured into little squares to satisfy some arrogant need for control.

Over many years, through the writings of Alexander von Humboldt, Charles Darwin, Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, Edward Abbey, and so many others, I’ve rediscovered that we’re not separate from Nature, and that in us, also resides wilderness, partly organized and partly chaos.
I’ve found my humble place in nature and I’m comforted in life, knowing that in death also, will I remain always among the ever-evolving diversity of species and elements that comprise the whole of life, not only on earth, but all throughout the dynamic rocks, magnetism, and dust of the cosmos. Quite something to be part of I’d say.

I cherish wild nature, ragged, unkempt, and “red of tooth and claw”, and fully realize that only in wilderness and diversity is there any hope for much of a human future.

Yet we humans continue in our ignorance and greed to appropriate, transform, and homogenize the wild and natural world to accommodate the orderly systems required by Empire and global commerce.

I too am caught up in this destruction, dependent upon the underpinnings of an unsustainable yet unrepentant society, but I can still protest, with my words, my actions and my appearance. So, I choose to more resemble an old growth forest than a clear-cut wasteland.

Most of the people running the world today look completely unnatural to me, especially the men, with their faces scraped bald and their ties cinched up around their necks like the yoke of a beast of burden. But what can we expect? These people were all 'educated' in our public school system, which was adopted from the Prussian system designed to train soldiers and factory workers. It's a short leap from school to the shaved and shorn regimen of the military. Our people do what they've been taught to believe is right, but, as Buffy Saint Marie said in her classic anti-war song, ‘Universal Soldier’, “He’s the one who gives his body as a weapon of the war and without him all this killin’ can’t go on”.
Fortunately, I was incompatible with school and the military, and, unsurprisingly, I also look quite different from the acceptable norm.

A beardless man that I do admire, Aldo Leopold, the so-called 'father of modern conservation' (modern conservation has actually had many fathers, and mothers), said we should “think like a mountain”, which, in my opinion, requires being just what you are, and, like a mountain, I’m simply what I am. This hair grows here and it’s staying as long as it wants to. Much of my life I’ve resembled Bob Dylan’s wild & woolly “walking mountain range”, which suits me just fine.

During the 43 years that I’ve had hair on my face, imagine the number of mined and manufactured razor blades I haven’t consumed and sent to landfills, the pile of shaving cream cans, the bottles of after-shave lotion, or the electric razors, and the electricity, or batteries, required by those contraptions.

Moreover, long beards do seem to have a function beyond ones preference of fashion, naturalism, or political statement. When working in the hot sun, as sweat runs down your face into the beard, any slight breeze will cool you down under the same evaporative principle as a swamp cooler works.
By the way, I also find women more attractive when they, like my beautiful wife Peggy, have all their lovely body hair in place.

While I’m comfortable with my place in nature, I haven't often been comfortable with the direction of my species and our 'culture'. My long-haired Hippie friends and I rejected the homogenized white-bread subdivided tract-house culture we were raised in, finding refuge in sleepy canyons on the outskirts, switching to natural whole-grains and organically grown foods, much of it from our own gardens. We had our babies by natural childbirth, breast-feeding them in stark contrast to the saddle-blocks, forceps, latex nipples and bottle-fed formulas of our own infancies. And we took to the streets in protest of war, racism and environmental destruction. Many of us still do.

I’m proud of those achievements, and yes, I do revel in my unconventional, obstinate eccentricity, but I don’t often walk around quite so fanciful. My daughter Jamie fixed me up for that photo a couple of years ago.

So, there you have it, my post-peace-blackout rant!
But I’m not through with you yet...

In the days to come I plan on posting pictures and articles from long past, and quite current, protests and actions I’ve been involved with, and if you want me to shut up, then use your own voice and actions to stop this war, rescue democracy, and effect change toward environmental sustainability.

Or this old fool may post even uglier pictures!!!

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Blogger I_Wonder said...

Welcome back! You speak a language I understand. Living in peace in a sustainable way with self-reliance, respect for others and a love for the natural world and a feeling of being an integral part of or at oneness with nature makes life good. I can ask for nothing more. I'm thankful for your words and your example.

8:34 PM  
Blogger sushil yadav said...

The link between Mind and Social / Environmental-Issues.

The fast-paced, consumerist lifestyle of Industrial Society is causing exponential rise in psychological problems besides destroying the environment. All issues are interlinked. Our Minds cannot be peaceful when attention-spans are down to nanoseconds, microseconds and milliseconds. Our Minds cannot be peaceful if we destroy Nature.

Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment.

Subject : In a fast society slow emotions become extinct.
Subject : A thinking mind cannot feel.
Subject : Scientific/ Industrial/ Financial thinking destroys the planet.
Subject : Environment can never be saved as long as cities exist.

Emotion is what we experience during gaps in our thinking.

If there are no gaps there is no emotion.

Today people are thinking all the time and are mistaking thought (words/ language) for emotion.

When society switches-over from physical work (agriculture) to mental work (scientific/ industrial/ financial/ fast visuals/ fast words ) the speed of thinking keeps on accelerating and the gaps between thinking go on decreasing.

There comes a time when there are almost no gaps.

People become incapable of experiencing/ tolerating gaps.

Emotion ends.

Man becomes machine.

A society that speeds up mentally experiences every mental slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.

A ( travelling )society that speeds up physically experiences every physical slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.

A society that entertains itself daily experiences every non-entertaining moment as Depression / Anxiety.





To read the complete article please follow either of these links :




9:47 PM  
Blogger T. Beth said...

Love the wild beard and hat!

I've been reading about Edward O. Wilson's Biophilia Hypothesis for a class, and your post brought it back to mind. I wish that I could spend more time in nature and less time in the busy city because I feel so much better when I do.

10:58 PM  
Blogger Madcap said...

Moreover, long beards do seem to have a function...

Yes, they're for women to run their fingers through and ... uh....etc... ;-)

Jim!!! You're back, dear man!!! Blessings to you and Peggy, I missed you extreeeemely.

Think like a mountain, exactly that. It's not all about tomorrow; it's about next year, next decade, next generation, next century. I've been thinking about that a lot lately, and I think it's the fear of death that binds us so much in the moment, and makes us so careless about the future. "Eat and drink (take all you can), for tomorrow we may die".

5:01 AM  
Blogger Shadowmoss said...

I am puzzeled by your month of silence. For a man who understands so well the power of voice, how can silencing that voice for so long be a sign of 'respect'? Some geek friends of mine have a domain named SilenceIsDefeat and that is more what I thought of as you were silent for so long. Not defeat, really, but that taking your voice out of the discourse seemed to be the opposite of what you usually stand for.

I do understand the 'moment of silence' to show respect for the passing of people and events. But a moment only. The world needs voices like yours to be speaking.

Glad you are back.

6:59 AM  
Blogger dragonfly183 said...

welcome back jim. I missed ya ;)

7:34 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Cheering, clapping, fingers-in-the-mouth whistling, stamping feet, throwing hat in the air - welcome back! And I'm glad to hear your more optimistic take on environmentalism. For me it promises a welcome counterpoint to my own gloomy essay series just getting underway. Looking forward to the view from the mountain...

8:23 AM  
Anonymous jules said...

Welcome back. I admire you and your lovely wife and all that you stand for and do in this world. Please keep up your writing. I've missed you also.

9:40 AM  
Anonymous vickie said...

Man, I am SO with you, yet you are so far ahead of me in your actions! But I am seriously working on it! Welcome back, good people!

10:09 AM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

I'm glad to see you back!
My 7 year old son decided to grow his hair long a couple of years ago and it's funny the response it gets from people. Most don't even bother looking past the hair and instantly assume "girl". When they find out he's a boy, the next assumption is "hippies". I think people have gotten lazy and want to be able to categorize someone with a passing glance.
Oh well, it helps us separate the wheat from the chaff!

10:11 AM  
Blogger Brad said...

Jim, you ain't no fool. Glad you took some time to think...

Socialism, hypnotism, patriotism, materialism.
Fools making laws for the breaking of jaws
And the sound of the keys as they clink

-B. Dylan

11:12 AM  
Blogger clairesgarden said...

glad to read your words today.
is there a photograph of your 18yr old self for comparison purposes?

11:41 AM  
Blogger roger said...

right on (as we said back in the day) my furry freak brother. keep the faith. we are everywhere.

okay. cliche overload. thanks for such a strong, clear statement. i am buoyed by your optimism.

8:03 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

i wonder-

You give me too much credit, we speak much the same language I believe. How are things off the grid? Always nice to hear from you.

sushil ydav-

Thanks for your insightful thought-provoking post.

t. beth-

I very much admire the work you do at firefly forest and you must be spending a fairly good amount of time out in nature to get all those beautiful photos of yours. By the way I absolutely love the shots of the bats at your hummingbird feeder. I put up a bat house in the spring but no occupants yet, I understand it can take a few years for them to move in. Thanks for dropping by...


I've missed you very much too even though I must admit that I enjoyed being away from the computer for a month. I read six great books during the month and soon I will be starting a little project that is destined for your mailbox.


It was my hope that people might view that last post several times as they came to see what we were up to and wonder what we were doing during the silence in contemplation of peace. I took the time for introspection about my place in a world of perpetual war and recharged my batteries. Activism has been a life-long occupation with me, but, like everything else, true activism begins at home. Sometimes I feel like my words are important but only if my actions are aligned with them. Thanks for your honesty and your kind words.


Thanks, and I've missed you too, I'll be dropping by to see what you've been up to.


I spent a good part of the time I would usually be at the computer reading books and recharging. The optimism probably stems from a couple of examples Jared Diamond gives in 'Collapse' on societies that survived where others failed because they met the challenge and changed their destructive practices. I'm looking forward to your "gloomy" essays, you have a good mind and I'm always interested what you have to say.


Thank you...


He's staring early that lad of yours, he doesn't happen to be left-handed too does he. ;~)


great Dylan quote my friend, but yes, I'm a fool, just like the rest of us. I can't wait to see what happens with 'Sagebrush Way'!
It was really good talking with you yesterday and Peggy & I are really excited about your family's big move!


There are very few pictures of me from that era, nobody I knew could afford a camera, but I do have one I was going to e-mail you but I did't see an e-mail link. I doubt if it's of enough interest to post here though. If you'd like me to send it to you you could e-mail me through the blog and leave me an address.

8:06 AM  
Blogger robin andrea said...

Welcome back from your month-long silence. Such a beautiful post. Like-minded and like-hearted people recognize a brother. Yes, protest and dissent are our tools of choice for changing the world. I am so glad that we are on the same side, jim.

8:14 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

roger & robin-

You guys must've been commenting just as I posted my last reply...

And, it is great to come across brothers and sisters, like minded souls, and I know'em when I see'em.

A great day to the both of you!

8:25 AM  
Blogger birsen58 said...

Welcome back Jim and Peggy. Very happy to hear again from you.

The beard and the hat looks very nice :)

4:25 PM  
Anonymous Birsen Şahin said...

The last message was sent by me. Due to you've upgrated to beta, I've some problems by placing comments

6:05 AM  
Blogger clairesgarden said...

I thought I had an e-mail link, but maybe not, I'll check it.
but I think you should post it, or I'll post it for you!

10:53 AM  
Blogger clairesgarden said...

photos arrived, sure you've hardly changed a bit!

11:02 AM  

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