12 January

Mike, Kelly, Alicia, Thursday Night At The Bog. Mother Spider.

by Jon Katz
Web of Warmth

We have come to love the Bog, we go there at least  once a week, Thursdays are usually the nights I take Kelly’s photograph. There are different vibes at different times at the Bog. Sometimes it is frantic, sometimes edgy, sometimes – like tonight – quiet and warm. Kelly is always at the epicenter, she is the grounding point, she is herself no matter what is swirling around her.

If it’s too chaotic she’ll warn us and we can come back later and split. I asked her tonight if she minded my taking her photos – I want to make sure – and she said it was fine, don’t worry about it. At first the regulars were puzzled by my picture taking, now they kid me and her and tonight, Mike and Alicia, who were sitting at the bar, said they’d love to be in the photo, it was fine with Kelly, fine with me.

It’s actually good to see Kelly at the bar, she is the Mother Spider in the Web of Warmth. I love  how the people at the Bog have joined into the spirit of the photos, she has many more friends than I will ever have. And they are happy for her to get some recognition, some nights the sense of warmth and community at the Bog is powerful and infectious. It gives much hope.

Thanks to Kelly again, and to Mike and Alicia for a neat portrait of friendship and community.

12 January

Baking Lessons: Learning Anew

by Jon Katz
Something New

In addition to running the Round House Cafe, Scott is also a master baker, he bakes bread and pies and dough for pizza. I went to the bakery to visit him today, and he offered to teach me how to roll and prepare the dough used for pizza. Scott is a demanding teacher, and I am struggling a bit to figure out just how to tighten the dough balls, it sounds easy but is not, and Scott is demanding.

Perhaps because I had so much trouble in school, I relish learning new things in life. Scott is going to give me regular baking lessons there is something grounding and satisfying about it. Scott and Lisa are still trying to figure out how hey can keep their care in our community, they have several options they are considering now.

I loved preparing the dough, but it is hard and demanding work. It is always a gift to learn something new, that is the way to keep the mind open. I’m eager to learn baking.

12 January

Ghost Farm, Bedlam Farm

by Jon Katz
Bedlam Farm In The Mist

I was driving towards the farm when I saw this thick white mist suddenly descend and shroud the farm and the pasture. I turned off on a nearby road to get some distance and had my camera. I love this perspective on the farm,sometimes the ghosts do come out – there are many – and gave me a new and beautiful way to see the farm.

12 January

Left Behind: Visa Photo: Passage To India

by Jon Katz
Visa Photo

Maria is applying for her visa to India today, she needs a photo of her against a white background. I was happy to take it. The trip is becoming very real, we are talking about it more and more. She has a tour guide book about India, we have been trawling through You Tube and seeing some helpful videos. Soon, she will do some dry run packing, she has her shots and airline tickets.

We are both excited, perhaps getting a bit nervous. I am preparing for my time alone on the farm, the weather it the only thing that might challenge me. She is already talking about re-painting the interior of the house, I can just imagine.

Some people are already inviting me to dinner, but I don’t think I need that, they can invite us to dinner when she returns and hear about the trip if she wishes. I am good at feeding myself, and am practiced at being alone. Voluntary loneliness is different from the real kind, her trip will go by in a flash. I think it will alter her life in some ways.

12 January

Beyond Donald Trump: Pivot To Productivity

by Jon Katz
Pivot To Productivity

This post is about a revelation I had lately – especially after yesterday’s now fabled press conference – about pivoting from argument and lament into productivity, that is, converting frustration and confusion into something meaningful and good.  That is nourishing and fruitful.

Something is almost never to be found on Facebook or on CNN or Fox News or comes from a politician’s press conference.

First, I owe it to the people reading this to declare myself, you have the right to know where I am coming from. I hope Donald Trump is a successful president, he is my president soon, and I respect that, I like to think of myself as a patriot.

I am not a faithful follower of either major political party, I do not subscribe to the so-called left or the so-called right, each takes turns gaining power, failing to enact change, and breaking its promises to the people who wait and wait for equality, safety and opportunity.

I love my country and I hope the people who have put their trust in yet another corporate politician are not betrayed once more, as I believe they will inevitably be, and would have been no matter who won.

Our true and invisible leaders, in my mind, are not Presidents but the leaders of corporations who have taken over our culture, books and movies, newspapers and television stations, state and federal legislators, judges and justices, mass media and political institutions. They set our political agenda and our foreign policy, pay for our political campaigns.

They are accountable and answerable to no one, they live and work in the dark, there is no light on them.

There was a coup, right under our noses, and we vote for it again every four years.

The people with the most money have the power, and they will not use it to make the changes most of us really want. I believe that anyone who denies this or fails to see it is blinded, and will have their dreams shattered, again and again. The idea of the left and the right exists, and are permitted to exist,  I believe, to persuade people that they are free and have choices. We buy into it because we are given no other choice and know no other way.

The two ways to look at the world that we are offered – the left and the right –  are both perfectly acceptable to corporate and political interests. Neither idea threatens them in any way, or advocates challenging them in any real way. In the reign of the left and the right, 40 per cent of all the wealth in America is in the hands of a single family, 90 per cent in the hands of one per cent of the people. Corporations need have no fear of Democrats or Republicans.

We are thus manipulated by our politicians and media into thinking we have choices. Into believing a ruthless billionaire real estate developer who is also a conspiracy theorist will take power away from giant corporations and give it back to working class people, as Karl Marx advocated. Really?

We have no choices, in fact.

True revolutions do not come out of this hoary and dysfunctional political system – and yes, it is rigged all around –  they come only when the revolutions occurs inside of us, not outside. Social scientist Alex Carey writes that the 20th century has been characterized by three developments of great political significance: the growth of democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate media and propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy.

Our media, from which most of us develop our political views and ideas, is now almost completely in the hands of corporate interests, which have absolutely no stake  in the kind of social revolution so many people, on the left and right, are demanding. Corporations have everything to lose from real change apart from tax breaks, nothing to gain.

The concentration of corporate ownership of mass media is nearly complete, and is increasing.

As Noam Chomsky has written, “those who occupy managerial positions in the media, or gain status within them as commentators, belong to the same privileged elites, and might be expected to share the perceptions, aspirations, and attitudes of their associates, reflecting their own class interests as well.  Journalists entering the system are unlikely to make their way unless they conform to these ideological pressures, generally by internalizing their values. It is not easy to say one thing and believe another, and those who conform will tend to be weeded out by familiar mechanisms.”

I will take our corporate media more seriously when one of those suddenly discovered and left -behind factory workers in Michigan gets to run a government agency or is given a commentator’s seat on CNN or Fox News, or a column in the New York Times. I assure you that Noam Chomsky, to me the most brilliant political thinker of my lifetime, will never get a seat at that table. He speaks much too much truth.

So what is my purpose in writing this? I see and read and hear so many people being drawn into this ugly and destructive matrix of self-pity, anger and complaint, if you go on Facebook or Twitter – I don’t often do that it, I can’t stand to do it  – it will hit you in the face. This week persuaded me to pivot, a popular new word in our cultural life.

I see no purpose in arguing, complaining, railing or lamenting the next four years. I want more out of life than that.

For one thing, I want to see what actually happens rather than drown in what might happen. For another, I wish our new President well, nobody gains if he fails. Maria, a supporter of Hillary Clinton,  told me this morning that she will bless Donald Trump every day and hope he succeeds, she does not wish to go on that other path any more than I do.

Ann, a thoughtful psychiatrist with whom i  correspond from time to time, wrote me about a post yesterday, she said she was struggling with this idea of how to be grounded and healthy and help her patients during what is sure to be a turbulent and challenging time. What  I wrote yesterday was that Donald Trump and his campaign of polarization and division must not take over my head over the next four years. That would be a profound defeat for me and everything I stand for.

I didn’t work this hard and come this far for that. I just won’t do it.

Ann agreed.

“I don’t want the whole craziness that is the current political climate to take up so much space in my consciousness,” Ann wrote.”My patients, especially the anxious and depressed ones are preoccupied with this as well. You are right. We need to unplug and focus elsewhere; otherwise it’s just spinning your wheels with no productive resolution.”

Railing on Facebook day after day or stewing over corporate media’s idea of news accomplishes nothing, obsessing over every press conference, appointment, policy change is a corrosive and damaging way to live. I can’t think of a quicker way to shrink my mind and rot my brain. Wheel spinning is no better for the human mind than for a tire.

The question I ask is now, “what do I agree with?,” but “what are my values” and how can I live through them? It is not about what he does, it is about what I do. Argument and obsession accomplish nothing that is productive or good.

For me, pitting to productivity isn’t about being sappy or Pollyanna’ish. I see reality pretty clearly.  It mean I don’t need to rail about the new reality every day, on Facebook or anywhere else. We live in a democracy, or at least we think we do, and everybody gets their turn.

Donald Trump does not share my values, but that doesn’t mean I can’t promote my values or keep them.

Rather than being angry, I will be mentoring some refugee families, writing my books, publishing my blog, taking photos,  caring for my friends and for my animals. Rather than argue, I will take Red to the Mansion, and Maria and I will work to encourage people whenever we can and are welcome. I will seek to commit small acts of kindness and empathy in my every day life, and give the poor and helpless hope whenever I can.

I believe others, an evolving Army Of Good, will do the same.

Chomsky writes that if we want to stop terrorism, we should stop participating in it. I would add that if you want to practice tolerance, be tolerant. If you want to not be attacked or diminished, do not attack or diminish others. If you want to advance a set of values, then practice your values, do not denigrate the values and wishes of others. If you believe in freedom of expression, then most of all support the expression you despise.

Optimism and hope are an ideology for me, a strategy for building a better world, and creating a better future. Unless I believe that people are good and that the future can be better, then I will never take any responsibility for making it so. Wringing my hands will not do that.

And that is precisely what I am responsible for, not the world of Donald Trump. I would like one day to be a good man.

It is not about what others do, it is about what I do.


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