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Peril And Promise

Duane Elgin On Simplicity And Humanity’s Future

If the universe is dead at its foundations, then it is rational to turn to material pleasures to protect us from life’s pains. On the other hand, if the universe is a living system, then it makes sense to get rid of undue complexity, live more simply.

Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

A Simpler Than Average Life

In 1984, I relocated from a snug but ever-pricier Telegraph Hill apartment with an East Bay view to a haphazardly renovated octogenarian farmhouse in the upper Midwest. The proximate cause of my move to this lovely surround was a guy named Phil whom I’d met that spring at the First North American Bioregional Congress. Phil was a bioregional organizer, co-op activist, and hippie carpenter. Like a lot of North Woods counterculturalists, he still upheld the values of material simplicity, respect for ecology, and community despite the fact that it was the 1980s. What’s more, he had a very attractive body politic. Like the fruit on the maverick apple trees around this countryside, Phil was ruddy, tangy, and free. He lived with his good friend Rob in the aforementioned farmhouse, known locally as the Hovel. Not long after Phil and I met and fell madly in love, I visited him for a long Fourth of July weekend. Smitten by both the man and his home, when the hint was dropped that I might come and abide awhile, I could hardly wait to move in.

Remodeling The Hovel

I dig another nailhead out of the old siding with the cat’s-paw, slip a crowbar around it, and then draw the 16d sinker out. The squawk of the nail letting go jangles my nerves. If an unwelcome memory wanted to announce itself with a noise, the cry of a rusty nail would do the job.

Stigmata

Ten years ago, before my mental illness, I saw a story on 20/20 about a girl in Texas who had stigmata. They brought her to an auditorium so the true believers could see the blood drip from her palms, and she walked carefully up to the stage, wearing her long, shiny black hair neat and straight like the schoolgirl she was. And no one to wipe the blood away, or put her hands up to their face and hold them there, or run her hands under cold water until the bleeding stopped. She dreamed of crosses while other girls told secrets and drank milkshakes. And no one told her not to think of such things, that there was no God, no Jesus in heaven, no law that said she had to be good. I wanted to tell her, Live a little.

Bathifying

I am a bath mystic. You can also be one. Read this and decide if bath mysticism intrigues you.

Fiction

Hospital Attack Wounds 3

Midnight in Buffalo and you’re slumped on a stool at McGlennon’s, nursing a pint of Labatt’s Blue. Nothing much has changed here. The bartender looks up from his paperback and scowls at your glass: you’re not drinking fast enough. The muted tv above the bar flashes tonight’s baseball scores.

Readers Write

The Kitchen Table

Every day when I came home from school, my mother was sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee and a cigarette. I never knew what to expect — she could be quite moody — but we often had long talks, sometimes with laughter, other times with anger or sadness or disappointment. And always with coffee and cigarettes.

Personal Stories By Our Readers ▸
Sy Safransky's Notebook

August 2002

I stayed up late watching a mediocre movie I’d seen before. I ate, though I wasn’t hungry. This was my escape from loneliness — the refrigerator comforting me with sweets, Hollywood comforting me with the sweet milk of pretending.

Musings From Our Founder ▸
Quotations

Sunbeams

If people are highly successful in their professions they lose their senses. Sight goes. They have no time to look at pictures. Sound goes. They have no time to listen to music. Speech goes. They have no time for conversation. They lose their sense of proportion — the relations between one thing and another. Humanity goes.

Virginia Woolf

More Quotations ▸
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