I'm a pacifist, a vegetarian, and childfree by choice. I am concerned about abrupt climate change, overpopulation, sustainable economics, the Sixth Mass Extinction of animal species, human rights, and US military imperialism.
I am about as non-materialistic as a person can be in the United States. Twice in one week, earlier this year, people made comments concerning my possible orientation towards Buddhism. One person who studied at Naropa said that I am more Buddhist than any Buddhist she knows. Another person said that there is a strong Buddhist monk aspect to my personality. I do, in fact, know the sound of one hand clapping, and I understand that if a man talks alone in the forest, he is still wrong. Yet, I don't chant or meditate; and I never took a vow of celibacy.
I've been known to give a variety of different answers when asked my religion. On one personal ad, I listed my religion as "Aphrodite worshipper." I would typically identify myself as a humanist atheist. However, I am a legally ordained minister of the Church of Spiritual Humanism. (Free online, lifetime ordination.) I am also an officially canonized Saint of the Universal Life Church. In fact, I am Saint Gary, the Patron Saint of Provocative Quotations and Incorrect Song Lyrics. For example, Denis Diderot wrote: "Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest."
Sometimes as I walk alone through the wilderness, speaking wrongly as a man is wont to do, I get little bits of song stuck in my head. Like this one:
Jeremiah made a stir fry. He flavored it with soy sauce. He threw in some chunks of tofu; and topped it off with soy nuts. SOY to the world! SOY -- to all the boys and girls! SOY to the piggies on the factory farms! And SOY to you and me!
Once when I was I college student, I took one of those job aptitude tests that is supposed to match your personality to your ideal career options. I came up with two choices: clown or mine inspector. I can be quite silly or quite serious, so that result made sense to me. I considered combining the two choices to become a clown who inspects mines. Or maybe a mime inspector. A mime is a terrible thing to waste.
For my job, I work for a friend's business promoting local cultural, artistic, and community events in Denver. I have never dressed up as a clown for work, nor have I ever inspected any mines. However, I have on occasion done promotional assignments while dressed as a vampire, a werewolf, a pirate, a rubber duck, a penguin, a polar bear, a rat, a toy maker, a railroad conductor, and an inflatable cell phone. For a while, I had an assignment dancing around as the Money Monkey for Jammin' 92.5 Radio, and sometimes I get to dress up as the "Blue Bear" mascot for Denver tourism to pose for pictures with people at conventions.
I spent my deformative years failing to grow up in New Jersey, but I have mostly recovered from the experience. My parents retired to Tucson along with three of my five siblings, so Tucson is where I go to visit my family now.
I left my car in a one hour parking zone when I took off for a five month thru hike of the Appalachian Trail. Now I get around by foot, bicycle or public transportation. I sometimes go for longer bicycle rides and I enjoy hiking, backpacking and mountaineering.
In 2007, I became the 16th person to finish climbing all of the 637 Colorado mountains over 13,000 feet.
In 2008, I thru hiked the 2,180 mile Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine.
In 2009, I backpacked the 480 mile Colorado Trail.
In 2011, I thru hiked the 2,660 mile Pacific Crest Trail.
In the spring of 2013, I thru hiked the 800 mile Arizona Trail.
In September 2013, I finished backpacking the 3,100 mile long Continental Divide Trail. I hiked sections on this trail in 2009, 2010, 2012, and 2013. This also marked my completion of the "Triple Crown" of long distance walking in the United States which includes the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails as well as the Continental Divide Trail.
From November 2013 to January 2014, I walked more than 1,600 kilometers around New Zealand, mostly on the Te Araroa Trail.
I might pop off for a bit of a walk again sometime in the future. As Noel Coward wrote: "I enjoy long walks, especially when they are taken by people who annoy me."
I have had a life of adventure and freedom, but my life has also become very unconventional.
1984 and Animal Farm by George Orwell
Fighting for Hope by Petra Kelly
Green Politics by Charlene Spretnak and Fritjof Capra
Ecotopia and Ecotopia Emerging by Ernest Callenbach
America 2014: An Orwellian Tale by "Dawn Blair"
Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Long distance backpackers will quickly point out to people who mention this book that it is not about thru hiking. It is Cheryl Strayed's story of personal transformation. She only hiked about two fifths of the Pacific Crest Trail. She was woefully unprepared, skipped the difficult parts, and complained about how difficult the easy parts were. Likewise, A Walk In The Woods by Bill Bryson is an amusing account of hiking on the Appalachian Trail, but Bryson only sampled about one fifth of the Appalachian Trail.
Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist by Dan Barker (revised edition retitled as Godless). A former fundamentalist minister tells the humorous, charming story of how he became an atheist.
The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins demonstrates from a scientific perspective that there are no such things as gods.
Ethics Without God by philosopher Kai Nielsen explains why morality can logically only be based on reason or sentiment, and not on power or authority. Morality has no connection to gods.
The Born Again Skeptic's Guide to the Bible by Ruth Green is a companion reader to the Bible, focusing on absurdities, atrocities, and contradictions in the Bible.
Woe to the Women: The Bible Tells Me So by Annie Laurie Gaylor explores the misogynist nature of Christianity.
The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Last Chance to See, and Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams
Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein.
I enjoy Harry Turtledove's alternative history science fiction novels like the "Worldwar" series which starts with an alien invasion during the middle of World War Two.
I have read and enjoyed all of Dan Brown's novels. His latest book "Inferno" was not his best writing, but I appreciated seeing a best selling novel that reflected my views on human overpopulation.
Movies: Plastic Bag, Selma, Kumare, V for Vendetta, King of Hearts, Pleasantville, Groundhog Day, Avatar, Spiderman I and II, Galaxy Quest, Jumanji, Man of the Year.
Shows: Haven, Doctor Who, Walking Dead, Lost, Dexter, Once Upon a Time, Being Human, Falling Skies, Stargate SG-1. I almost never watch television as it's being broadcast, but I will go to the library to check out seasons of television shows on DVD.
Music: Celtic, folk, classic rock, bluegrass, reggae, world music, satirical music like Weird Al Yankovic or Tom Lehrer. I like Phil Ochs' protest songs.
Food: Anything vegetarian. I like to go to all-you-can-eat buffets. I like Ethiopian, Indian, Thai, and Italian food.
For one of the basic profile matching questions, I answered that I "drink socially." I can and sometimes do drink socially, but I find that I no longer really care for alcohol and could easily be a teetotaler.
I confess that when I was younger, I would frequently do the hokey-pokey, but I turned myself around.
I spend a lot of time thinking about frogs.
The Boiling Frog Party occupies a dark green corner of my warped imagination: http://www.facebook.com/BoilingFrogParty
As a wise frog once sang, "It's not easy being Green." The Boiling Frog Party is a political organization that seeks to unite amphibious citizens of the world who would prefer to have the thermostat turned down slightly on the global hot tub that we all share, before we all croak. Boiling Frog Party members are concerned about global warming, stovetop warming, amphibian rights, preservation of endangered species, water pollution, conservation of wetlands and other natural habitats, human overpopulation, and the disturbing habit of Peruvian street vendors sticking frogs in blenders. We demand a global ban on French restaurants serving frog legs.
The Boiling Frog Party: because there's more to life than just freezing toads. Come on in. The water's fine!
I also think about storks. If the theory of human sexual reproduction is taught in public schools, I firmly believe that schools should give equal time to the equally plausible theory that human babies are delivered by storks. There is at least as much empirical evidence for the existence of storks as there is for the existence of human sexuality. If storks did not exist, then how could you explain where pickles come from?
I wonder what sort of future prospective parents see for the children they have storks deliver to them in the 21st Century. The average American life expectancy is about 76 years for men and 80 years for women. Do parents expect children born today to live long, healthy, happy lives?
Woody Allen once said that “more than any time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness, the other to total extinction. Let us pray that we have the wisdom to choose correctly.”
Our reliance upon fossil fuels has allowed human impact to overshoot the long-term carrying capacity of our environment. Recent studies by NASA and MIT show we are rapidly approaching a perfect storm of converging ecological catastrophes.
Life on Earth exists within a narrow range of ecological parameters. We are rapidly unsetting those boundaries. Despite the fact that snow still falls in the winter, climate change is happening now as a result of human industrial activity, setting in motion a chain of self-reinforcing feedback loops that will be irreversible on a human scale time frame. Once the ice caps melt and release massive amounts of methane, it will be "game over" for most life on Earth. Climate change researcher Guy McPherson has projected that our current course will lead to the extinction of the human race by 2040. I hope we can reschedule; I have other plans for that year.
Petrochemical agriculture threatens our health, food security and the environment. The livestock industry contributes to global warming, land degradation and air and water pollution. Hydraulic fracturing presents a critical threat to our water supply. The Earth is now experiencing the Sixth Mass Extinction of animal species due to habitat destruction caused by human overpopulation and over-consumption. The worldwide population of vertebrate species has declined by 52 percent since 1970.
This includes mammals, birds, reptiles and fish.
Meanwhile, the Earth’s human population has grown from one billion in 1804 to two billion in 1927, three billion in 1960 and more than seven billion today.
Overpopulation is a product of the number of people multiplied by their per capita consumption and waste production.
The World Wildlife Foundation’s “Living Planet Report” estimates that human ecological impact now exceeds the Earth’s carrying capacity by 50 percent. If the average person on Earth consumed as much as the average American, the Earth could not support more than one and a half billion people. A recent study by MIT on the limits of growth concluded that if we continue on the path of business as usual, that the global economy will collapse and the Earth’s human population will start to die off by 2030.
I find it amazing that people who live in a society that is technologically advanced enough to split the atom and manufacture Pop-Tarts can still be so primitive and ignorant that they pretend to believe in ridiculous Bronze Age fairy tales. I don't suffer from the delusion that "a cosmic Jewish Zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree."
If, as Jules Feiffer has said: "Christ died for our sins. Dare we make his martyrdom meaningless by not committing them?"
We live in an age where pretty much the entire repository of human knowledge is instantly accessible to us on laptop computers, which we use primarily to look at cute cat photos.
Religion, politics, patriotism, militarism, racism, perpetual growth within a finite ecosystem, the imaginary "war on terror," and so forth. It's all such a load of rubbish. At least nobody could be gullible enough to believe that a small band of terrorists armed with box-cutters and led by a kidney dialysis patient hiding in a cave in Afghanistan could outmaneuver the most powerful and invasive military intelligence establishment the world has ever known, to hijack three commercial airliners, with pilots who aren't competent to fly crop dusters successfully executing a steep-angled 270 degree spiral descent to crash one airliner into the most securely defended building on the planet, and crashing two others into two steel framed skyscrapers, causing the massive explosive of those skyscrapers along with the total implosion of a third steel framed skyscraper in the style of a classic controlled demolition that would normally take weeks to set up. Jet fuel doesn't burn hot enough to melt steel beams.
I think a lot about breakfast cereal.
Here is a fictional short story that I recently wrote about cereal. (I also have a recent, very serious account that I wrote about my unsuccessful attempts to pursue polyamorous relationships, and how that impacted my life.):
Confessions of a Cereal Monogamist
In theory, I consider polycerealism to be a philosophical ideal. I would prefer not to make an exclusive commitment to just one brand of breakfast cereal. There is nothing that brings more joy to my Life than curling up in bed and spooning with a delicious bowl of cereal. Yet, I value my freedom. I would like to be able to share this joy with a variety of different cereals. I enjoy experiencing different flavors and I feel that no one breakfast cereal can provide all of the essential vitamins and minerals that I desire in Life.
Nevertheless, whatever my philosophical preferences might be, my actual breakfast food experience in life has more often been characterized by cereal monogamy. I would totally fall in love with one particular cereal, and crave nothing more than to be alone in private with that cereal. But after a while, I would start to get bored with always eating the same breakfast, and I would start looking around for other cereals. I might encounter some new cereal at the supermarket one day, and find myself irresistibly attracted to this new cereal’s flashy, colorful packaging. I would check it out and impulsively take it home with me, thinking, oh, this will just be a fun one-morning stand. I would tell myself that it’s just a little fling; there’s nothing serious going on here.
But that first tasty rendezvous would arouse a “new breakfast energy.” I just wanted more and more of the new cereal, and I would find myself less and less interested in the old cereal to which I had previously been committed. For a while, I might alternate between the two cereals. I might even try having both cereals together at the same time. But before long, I would form a new commitment to the new cereal and simply leave the old cereal on the shelf. This pattern would repeat itself time and again.
Some cerealphiles practice cereal monogamy as a deliberate lifestyle choice. For those who might be unfamiliar with the term, Urban Dictionary contributor Grinning Cat defines cereal monogamy: “The custom or practice of eating only one type of cereal at a time. Cereal monogamists view the casual alternation of cereals, or worse, mixing different cereals in the same bowl, to be simply wrong.” Grinning Cat goes on to provide this example of cereal monogamy: “I eat Cheerios for breakfast. I eat only Cheerios; no other cereals. Cheerios are the greatest thing since sliced bananas! Wait – I’m out of Cheerios… time to get more cereal… I eat Frosted Flakes for breakfast. No other cereals; just Frosted Flakes.”
The great love of my life was Cracklin’ Oat Bran. I just couldn’t get enough of it. I felt deeply committed to Cracklin’ Oat Bran. We were life partners for seven years. I thought we would be together forever. I was addicted to “Crack,” as I affectionately called my one true cereal love.
But money became an issue, as it so often does in long term relationships. With my modest income, I came to feel that I just couldn’t afford Crack. Crack was taking too much of a toll on my Life. So I started looking around for something cheap and easy. For a while, I even started to turn Trix, just so I could get some different cereal on the side.
Then I found generic raisin bran. I started sneaking around to hook up with generic raisin bran. Over and over again. It was a fun, simple, and passionate “no spoons attached” relationship. Meanwhile, Cracklin’ Oat Bran and I grew more distant. Eventually we parted ways entirely.
I was happy with generic raisin bran for a while, but then I started getting tired of its lack of sophistication. I wanted to try something new. I began to develop… particular tastes… that generic raisin bran just couldn’t or wouldn’t satisfy. Then one day I met a new cereal that was all too willing to satisfy my cravings. Some might say that my connection with Honey Smacks was disturbing, perhaps even abusive, but it was fully consensual. We had a signed contract. We even had a safe word in case our activities went too far. The things we did together… I could really Dig ‘Em.
As I grew older, my passion for the wilder side of the cereal scene subsided. My tastes became more “vanilla,” so I moved on from Honey Smacks. I started talking with Rice Krispies. I enjoyed the straightforward communication we shared. We had a staple relationship for several years. Then one day, my partner caught me in bed, eating another cereal, and demanded to know what I was doing. I said “Nut n’ Honey.” After that, our relationship just went Snap, Crackle, and Pop!
I felt traumatized by the explosive end of our relationship, and deeply ashamed of myself. For weeks, I had nightmares haunted by Boo Berry, Count Chocula, and Franken Berry. My cereal love life went through a long dry spell. I became lactose intolerant, living a bland, entirely milkless existence. I had meaningless encounters with generic cereals in poorly lit grocery store aisles. I would fist these cereals straight from their boxes to my mouth, with no lubrication. I didn’t even use a bowl.
Then I discovered non-dairy beverages. Soy milk. Rice milk. Almond milk. Coconut milk. Even cashew milk. This exploration of toying with different beverages brought the excitement back into my cereal love life. I came out of the pantry closet, admitting to my friends and family that I felt drawn to polycerealism. I looked for new ways to get my Kix. I sowed my Wild Oats. I had a primary relationship with Quaker Oatmeal Squares while I maintained secondary relationships with Cheerios and Oatmeal Crisp. I became a cereal slut. I sought more varieties of cereal. I went granola. Sometimes I would Go Lean. I found Hidden Treasures. I was always after me Lucky Charms. They were magically delicious.
I lived the polycerealist dream. It was fun… for a while. I enjoyed Life. I went for the Total package. I had a good time with many different cereals, yet I found that I didn’t really have a deep, meaningful connection with any of them. I felt like I was living a lie by pursuing polycerealism. I missed Cracklin’ Oat Bran, but my life with Crack had ended up a big, soggy mess. I knew there would be no going back.
During my period of exploring alternative breakfast beverages, I learned that I had a strong preference for chocolate. I simply loved chocolate. Once I tried chocolate, I never went back. I settled down with chocolate almond milk as my breakfast beverage of choice. I would only eat my cereal with chocolate almond milk; no other beverages. Just chocolate almond milk. I wondered what it would be like with a chocolate cereal.
Then one night out on a local tour of cereal bars, I encountered a deliciously irresistible cereal. Truly ‘the one.” I just went cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs! I went home with Cocoa Puffs that night, and we’ve been together ever since. Now I only eat Cocoa Puffs. There is no other cereal for me.
Oh no! The grocery store is out of Cocoa Puffs, but they have Double Chocolate Krave. Wow, that looks yummy!
Sometimes I go to a clothing optional laundromat just to watch the empty driers spin round and round.
Or like Emo Philips, "I go from stool to stool in singles bars hoping to get lucky, but there's never any gum under any of them."
Other times, I spend my Friday nights spinning gold into straw.
A typical Saturday might consist of doing laundry, eating honey vanilla frozen Greek yogurt for breakfast, attending an Ethiopian coffee ceremony, listening to live guitar performances, pugil stick fighting, chicken dancing, doing the hokey pokey, and having a rather large drunk man fall down on me in the street.
"Besides spitting molten foodstuffs at me, what else do you do for fun?" (line from one of Spongebob Squarepants' associates)
If you can lead me into Temptation, because I couldn't find it on Mapquest.