Pedaling for Peace

On April 15, 2012 I started riding my bicycle cross-country from Jacksonville, Florida in voluntary support of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (NAPF) and the work of author and Peace Leadership Director for the NAPF, Paul K. Chappell. By July 4th, I had covered over 1300 miles to just west of Luling, Texas where a major mechanical failure brought this first stage of my cross-country journey to an end. After storing my bicycle and trailer with my aunt and uncle in Weatherford, Texas, I flew from Dallas to Santa Barbara, California to attend the NAPF First Annual Peace Leadership Summer Workshop. I then lived and worked in Santa Barbara for several more months before I returned to Jacksonville and sold off the rest of my possessions that I could to help fund a continuation of my journey. Starting June 8, 2013 and ending August 9, 2013, I rode from Weatherford, through 400 miles of the central Texas hill country, including Austin, Texas, back to Luling. It was at this point that a friend of mine invited me to work for a brief period in Pennsylvania before flying me back to Santa Barbara where I continued volunteering for the NAPF as well as for the Santa Barbara Bike Coalition. As of August 9th, 2014 I began"Stage III" of my cross-country adventure, this time heading south from Santa Barbara to San Diego and then east to El Paso, TX. It was there that illness, winter weather, and diminishing resources brought that leg of my journey to an end. After staying with another friend in Columbus, GA for several months, I moved "back home" to Kentucky to stay with my dad for a while and build a better "resource base" for future endeavors including review and further tracking and primitive survival skills training at Tom Brown, Jr's Tracker School , and a possible longer tour of the east coast, northern tier, and north west coast back down to Santa Barbara, CA.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Observations on the Ongoing but Currently Invisible Mass "Work-a-Round"

I just finished watching this interview with Chris Hedges: The Liberal Elite Has Betrayed the People They Claim to Defend with Paul Jay. There is another segment pending that is supposed to explain to people what they can do to ... make things better somehow, in spite of all of the challenges that Chris Hedges so clearly explains (both in this interview segment and the one just before it, America is a Tinderbox).

There is a lot of talk about "getting out of the box", stepping outside of the current system, and then somehow, in spite of all of the surveillance, etc., managing to create a massive and "threatening" movement that would finally get the elite to do what we want them to do.

So these are my thoughts right now:

Not unlike the views of people like Adam Kokesh, which I discussed in this recent blog we look to the history of change in societies across the globe, and we see revolutions, and violent revolutions, and mass uprisings, and then we see the aftermaths of all of that, shifts of power that end up being more or less successful, but only for another generation or so, until, the new holders of power become just like the old holders of power and the whole cycle starts again. And yet, it seems, as with Chris Hedges this kind of mass, organized, radical, (maybe even violent) force is the only way that anything in the world can be changed...based on Past History.

But, the past is not the same as the present. If anything, they did not have the internet back then! They did not have all kinds of other sources of ideas and information to build resilient and sustainable the end...might not be so vulnerable to the whims of the State or the elite and powerful, or any "future revolutionaries".

Where I think the movement is really happening is in people's back yards and in their front yards, and in urban neighborhoods that are building organic markets on the corners instead of another fast food joint or junk-food convenience store. And information about the successes of these stories are available on the internet for many more people to see and learn from and duplicate.

Chris Hedges remarks on how people are so strapped and so afraid to "lose their jobs" that they cannot form a cohesive force to fight for "workers rights". But, you know what, who really wants to be working for Wal-Mart anyway, when they could be working in a community garden instead?

If there is one thing my bike ride has taught me, it is what is Most Important to my life as a human being on this planet right now is food, water, clothing, shelter, simple transportation, a community of friends, and...the Internet which helps keep us all connected together.

What I have also seen, however, is how we as human beings, being the very creative creatures that we are, have elaborated so much on those "necessities" to the point where we actually have become somewhat confused about what is a "necessity" and what is a "luxury". And, the truth is, most of us can get by with a lot less should we ever have to.

And I see more and more people realizing that as well. This is what I am seeing as a very quiet "revolution" that the elite are actually forcing on us by their own greed. They are taking so much from so many that we are learning to live differently, we are learning to live without a lot of the stuff they've worked so hard to convince us we needed in the first place. We are doing "work-a-rounds".

Furthermore, once we realize that our true power lies in our ability to Survive anyway, to survive and even Thrive in spite of what they may slowly but surely take away from us, then what they had to offer, and the power they thought they held will be gone, very naturally, simply "sloughed off" like an old skin... No mass uprisings, no violent revolutions, no real "drama" necessary - would still result in a Massive Shift in Power.

In other words...a revolution without a "Revolution"....

Now That...That would be Truly Revolutionary!

Adding examples of more "revolutionary movements" here (feel free to share your links with me via Facebook):

Tiny Houses

Living Economies

Restorative Justice

This Is Lateral Power video with Jeremy Rifkin

Overlooked Historical Non-Violent Movements including early American Colonial "work-a-rounds"

Dylan Ratigan - from Power Talking the Talk to Power Walking the Walk

Sweden Runs out of Garbage

Stories of Hope... from Dylan Ratigan

Friday, July 19, 2013

What Happens When You "Just Do It"?

Just Do It!

So the Nike slogan says.

As I have been "just doing it" over the last couple of years; i.e. jumping in, working things out, learning as I go, with my current cross-country bicycle journey, I have come to better understand how important that is. Granted, there is a bit of a quantum leap to be made from the idea to the action, and I appreciate how hard that can be sometimes, but, nevertheless, at some point, if you're clear on what it is you want to do, or attempt, at some point you "Just Do It!" and the most valuable part of the experience will come from everything you will learn In the Process of "Just [Doing] It!"

When I entered upon this journey, I did bring some skills to bear:

1) Being able to navigate a bicycle safely on the roads, something I learned to do in my late teens and through bicycle commuting well into my 30's after that. I also had some skills in maintaining and repairing bicycles as I worked in several bike shops over the years.

2) I know how to sew. I started sewing when I was seven years old and I worked for three different industrial sewing manufacturing companies between my late 20's and early 30's. As it turns out, I actually utilized those skills significantly in either creating my own gear, like my tent, or reinforcing the gear I had, or in making various bags and pouches to organize and store all of my gear...

...not to mention sewing many sets of "Bell's Baggy Bottoms" (and matching head-bands...) that are designed especially for riding a bicycle (or for relaxing or sleeping comfortably off of the bicycle).

3) I understand how to eat in a nutritionally efficient and cost effective way - as necessary (meaning, when I am on the road, I am more than happy to also eat pretty much whatever my hosts put in front of me, or the very rare restaurant or "fast food" meal). My "Food Basics" series of blogs goes into much more detail about my general diet preferences and practices.

4) Educational Background - I spent my last five years of college education attending the University of Maryland University College taking most of my classes on-line. I chose this university in part because it put a Heavy Emphasis on research writing; i.e. we had to do one or more research writing projects in every class. As I wanted to strengthen my own writing skills in this area, I was glad to have the added pressure from Having to do so regularly in an academic environment. Furthermore, especially in my last year, I "bulked up" on my Government, International Relations, and Political Science classes ending with an Introduction to Constitutional Law. This was in addition to a full "Social Science" curriculum including everything from Anthropology to Neuroscience. In other words, I had the background to integrate everything else that I was later to learn from the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and from Paul K. Chappell.

5) Written and Verbal Communication Skills:

a) Journaling - In addition to the writing work I completed while in college, I have been "journaling" for over two decades now, which, I must say, has been probably one of The Most Important things I have done to develop my own "self-awareness". I consider it a form of "active meditation" in that not only does the process help me to become much more aware of my thoughts, the physical exercise of Writing Them Down almost always results in additional insights and understanding, especially if I am struggling with a particular experience, relationship, concept, or feeling.

b) Public Speaking - I participated as a member of Toastmasters International, a public speaking club, for seven years, which gave me multiple opportunities to practice not only my public speaking skills, but also my leadership skills as I acted as Vice President of Education for my club for most of those seven years.

c) Marketing and Sales Copywriting - Just prior to the end of my enlistment in the U.S. Navy, I attended two multi-day, professional seminars where I was introduced to various principles and techniques for sales copy-writing, website related development, and "search engine optimization". Unfortunately, I did not get to put all of the information I received to immediate use, and so I see this as one of the "weak spots" in my skill set. Nevertheless, I still have all of the instructional materials and when I have the time and opportunity to Focus More on those skills in particular, I am confident that I can improve.

d) General Writing Skills - Besides being a highschool student of the indominatable "Ivy Hawkins" (who, by the way, also taught my Mother when She was in highschool), I had the opportunity to attend a two day seminar at the National Institutes of Health conducted by Duke Rhetoric Professor George Gopen. The focus was on "Writing from the Reader's Perspective". Although I do not edit my writing here with a fine-tooth comb, in future writing, I will be putting much more of what I learned to good use. If you are interested in some of the basics of what George Gopen teaches, you can find more in this article: "The Science of Scientific Writing". (And don't let the title distract you too much, the principles apply well beyond the fields of science.)

e) Computer Literacy and Networking - Again, I would say I'm doing "okay" in this area, but there is definitely room for improvement. As I think I have mentioned already elsewhere in this blog, I've struggled just to get pictures to load on this "Blogger" platform using my iPad. And I certainly have not excelled in developing videos, etc., etc. So, again, given more time and focus, I'm sure I could develop those skills further.

6) Tracking and Primitive Survival Skills - In May of 2011, I attended two weeks of training in Primitive Survival Skills through Tom Brown Jr's Tracker School. It was Really Intense and loaded with useful information. Although I have not been forced into a primitive survival situation during my travels thus far, there is something to be said for having more confidence on the road - should that ever be the case.

7) Self-Discipline - I feel I need to give credit where credit is due and I owe a lot of credit to my eight years in the U.S. Navy for helping to strengthen my self-discipline and "will power". Knowing what I know now about the development of the Frontal Cortex in the first 25 years of life, and how learning more self-discipline during those years is critical to being able to practice it later in life, I really wish I had joined the military in my early 20's rather than in my early 30's as I suspect some areas of discipline might be more "second nature" to me now than they are. Nevertheless, I will continue to do the best I can in spite of what I feel now as a deficit in development of that part of my brain and one that I do not know that I can further develop or recover at this point in my life. (Questions regarding further development or recovery are ones I hope to pose at some point to Human Behavioral Biologist and Stanford Professor Robert Sapolsky.)

So these are the skills and abilities I brought to the table when it came time for me to "Just Do It!" And I have learned more along the way as I have been "Just Doing It!" I have refined my equipment load and maintenance. I have made some progress in utilizing internet networking, etc., but again, I can feel my weaknesses there.

And there is something else that is coming into play that may surprise some of my readers: In actuality...I'm a closet introvert! I honestly do not "enjoy" attracting attention to myself, although, in order to spread the message I feel needs to be spread, and in order to continue to fund this journey that I am on, I have to draw at least some attention to myself, and I have to at least let people know what my needs are so that they can support my journey if they so choose. Otherwise, the journey comes to an end - or - another "interruption" while I figure out some other way to make it work practically and financially. (For more info on this please check-out my "Please and Thank You" page.)

The last advantage/benefit from "Just Doing It" is that with each person I talk to, with each challenging argument, with each question, I have more opportunities to Practice Communicating and to let the ideas and answers come in that unique synergistic way that almost invariably results from that kind of Relating Directly With Other People. And although my internet and marketing skills may be weak, they have become stronger with my efforts thus far, and I have certainly had more ideas about how to approach marketing and fundraising even if I haven't had the wherewithall to follow through on all of them.

As I have explained to many people along this journey, I feel all of my skills and abilities, both the developed and undeveloped ones, are being called upon for me to do what I am doing right now, and it is definitely some of The Most Satisfying and Meaningful Work I have ever done in my well as the most challenging! Nevertheless, I am doing what I feel "I" can do, because of the skills and abilities I have. Not everyone can do exactly what I am doing in exactly this way, but I sincerely feel that everyone is called upon to do What they CAN Do as well these days, to help make the world a better place for now and for the future of humankind and all other beings on this planet.

After "Just Doing It!" again for this past spring and summer, I may have to take another break, and "Just do..." something else for a while to re-build my energy and resources. In other words, "The Plan" is still in flux - as it has always been - and I will keep everyone updated as the details solidify.

In the mean time, I once again Thank Everyone who continues to support my efforts and the Cause of Peace! And if you are not "Just Doing It!" yourself in some way in your own life, then, maybe it is time you did?!

Friday, July 12, 2013

June 23-July 7 Including a "Reality Check" Side-Track

So it's been about two weeks now since I posted my last blog - in the "travel log" format. And, I've been thinking, I need to keep doing that for the benefit of those who are following the physical journey I am on right now. I will still take a moment here to acknowledge my hosts over the last few stops:

Brent, Christy and their neighbors and friends in Clifton, Texas

Andy, Lisa and their children in Woodway, Texas

Mother Neff State Park, near Moody, Texas

And Wayne and Ann in Belton, Texas

And Sherry and Miss Kitty and Roger the Bearded Dragon Lizard in Georgetown, Texas:

I am Very Grateful to all of these people who have been so supportive of my efforts thus far. Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!

In between, there were more hills, more heat, more long stretches of open roads and landscapes, (and cows and horses), picnic areas and much sought after shady spots, a Really Scary transit of the Waco Lake bridge (sorry, too scary for pictures), and a not so scary transit of a much more welcoming bridge over Belton Lake. In fact, "Bell County" was Very Good to Me! That's where the chip-and-seal stopped and the smooth pavement began and I was Oh, So Grateful for that transition (not to mention my hosts' saltwater swimming pool waiting for me to cool off in as soon as I arrived!)

Now I'm going to shift to My Mission: To Promote Peace and Cool Heads!

During my stops I have been able to keep up with what has been "going on in the world" mostly from the posts I see from my friends on Facebook. And, as it turns out, I have friends from across the political spectrum so I get a pretty broad range of perspectives on most of what is "making the news", from the overthrow of Morsi in Egypt with a combined public and military force, to the fact that Obama just signed a new Executive Order that appears to give the President and the Federal Government the authority to control all communications systems in times of emergency.

And then, there's Adam Kokesh, loading a shot-gun near the Capital Building in Washington, D.C. (And people wonder why the President and all of his men think they might NEED control of all of our communications systems at some point in the future!)

I would offer that there has been no greater time in our history as a country when the call for the voices of Non-Violent resolutions to our problems need to be heard.

People like Adam Kokesh and his ilk have a very myopic view of our revolutionary past. In fact, I am guessing that many people have failed to make the connection between small revolutionary movements that were successful in their day because they had the Support of Other Powerful militaries. For instance, the American Revolutionary War was won in part because of the support we received From the French, who were a Powerful Military in their own right and had grudges of their own against the British. This is something I've learned from reading Paul K. Chappell's book, The Art of Waging Peace.

So who's backing the revolutionaries or potential revolutionaries in THIS country? Or "might" back them at some point in the future? Even if there are Al-Qaeda based supporters (who, of course, would also love to see this country decline into civil war), even THEY are Not That Powerful! They can do a lot of damage, but they could never win a "war" with the U.S.

Folks, we are NOT living in the days of our Forefathers! Has anyone noticed that, for the most part, there are no major conflicts in Europe anymore. Yes, there's some angst over who owes whom what, but nobody's in the business of massing armies against one another. Frankly, the Germans are too busy building solar panels!

And as far as the shift of power in Egypt and what brought millions of people into the streets: No Electricity! And yes, deprive the people of this country of their Oh, So Precious electricity for long-enough and we would all be in the streets as well - but do you really think that is going to happen here any time soon?

My point is some people, like Adam Kokesh, might be looking for "history to repeat itself" and for there to be a "Final American Revolution" here, but there are so many other factors involved in this day and age that, practically speaking, history CANNOT "repeat itself". And if anything, we'd just be doing the same WRONG, VIOLENT thing over again and expecting Different Results then what we have already ended up with now, over 200 years from the "Original American Revolution". If That revolution was So Great, then how have we still managed to end up, presumably, right back where we started from? Think about that.

Something else I learned from reading Paul K. Chappell's books: When two countries "face off" against one another, unlike animals in the wild, there is Nowhere to Run once the "warning aggression" or "posturing" starts. Most animals of the same species, in the wild, will figure out "Who's the Boss" simply through warning aggression and then the one who realizes it is "Not the Boss" runs away. But you get people confined within bordered countries or territories and once the "posturing", once the "warning aggression" starts, there is nowhere to run-away from it. In this case, it is like two lions in a cage and warning aggression almost always leads to direct and violent confrontation.

Consequently, anyone who is currently threatening our government with violence is POSTURING! And the fact that we are seeing more and more reports of police shootings and use of extreme force in situations that do not seem to call for it, and when we see the President(s), signing executive orders that give them more power "in cases of emergency", that is "posturing" as well. And there is a very good chance all of this "posturing" will escalate if those who are wiser do not step up and make clear what the potentially devastating consequences could be.

Again, We Are Not Living In the Time of Our Forefathers! The present may look similar to what it looked like in the past, but it is Not exactly the same. We have Other Means at our disposal, other ways that we can approach our conflicts and resolve our problems and communicate more effectively with one another and We Need to Take Full Advantage of Those. And, as I have been doing through this whole journey thus far, I would HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend to Everyone, if you have not gotten a copy of Paul K. Chappell's book, The Art of Waging Peace", then Please, for the sake of this country and your loved ones, Buy a Copy and Read It. And then stand up to anyone you may know that thinks the only way we can resolve our current problems in this country is through violence, because, they Are Wrong, and if they continue to pursue that course, they and many, many other people will end up being Wrong and DEAD!

And that is why I am suffering the heat, and struggling up the hills, and communicating wherever I can because I Get That! And I would hate to see any of my family, any of my old friends, or new friends, or their children, or their relatives or their friends Dead for No Good Reason! We made some progress with our Revolutionary War, but more progress was made towards the protection of human rights Non-Violently AFTER the war then were made because of it. And that is something else I have been reminded of by reading Paul K. Chappell's books. So, I ask again, that all of my readers and friends do the same.

Thank You!