Texts that point towards a different way of being on this planet.

I believe the market-capitalist system I live within is fundamentally flawed and is leading to planetary destruction and a great deal of human, plant and animal misery.1 I wonder if there is a better way. I want to imagine it can be replaced with something, it just isn’t clear what that something might be or whether replacement is even possible, given that a great deal of wealth and power has been accumulated through it. I have come across a number of texts that point to a different way. I don’t know if this different is viable or even interconnectable across the texts, but I would like to explore it and see what comes of it.

The texts I have found informative and inspiring to date are:

  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig
  • Buddhist Economics, E. F. Schumacher
  • Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer
  • Moby Dick, Herman Melville (?)

I will add more texts as I go.

My next step, when I am finished with current reading, will be to re-read these texts… where this inquiry goes from there will be determined by what I find/rediscover in the Texts.



  1. I am aware that many people claim that overall, the world is a less violent and easier place to make ones way in. That the overall condition of humanity has improved markedly during the unfolding of this market-capitalist system. I am aware that I lack, at present, sufficient knowledge and understanding of how this might or might not be true and that I will need to investigate more to determine whether this premise is true or false. Intuitively I believe it is true, but evidence for or against it must be gathered and weighed. [return]

Ignore Xi Jinping’s Deceptions. China Is Struggling, Therese Shaheen, National Review, December 20, 2021…

… this is a long and interesting article that makes the case that China is not as strong as one might get the impression it is through American news media… it made its case thoroughly and if that case is correct, it makes the China-US tensions seem less worrisome assuming a world where the US and Europe are united in containment efforts…

Buddhist Economics

… this is a profound essay that i come back to again and again… it makes so much sense… please excuse it’s antiquated approach to gender roles which are a product of the time in which it was written:

The Buddhist point of view takes the function of work to be at least threefold: to give man a chance to utilise and develop his faculties; to enable him to overcome his ego-centredness by joining with other people in a common task; and to bring forth the goods and services needed for a becoming existence. Again, the consequences that flow from this view are endless. To organise work in such a manner that it becomes meaningless, boring, stultifying, or nerve-racking for the worker would be little short of criminal; it would indicate a greater concern with goods than with people, an evil lack of compassion and a soul-destroying degree of attachment to the most primitive side of this worldly existence. Equally, to strive for leisure as an alternative to work would be considered a complete misunderstanding of one of the basic truths of human existence, namely that work and leisure are complementary parts of the same living process and cannot be separated without destroying the joy of work and the bliss of leisure.1

… i think about the work i currently pursue, and i will call it work even though it doesn’t produce an income which it doesn’t need to do… i read, write and make pictures daily, and that is rewarding to me… i also enjoy setting it down and spending time with H and the dogs, cooking and sharing nice meals… i am in a perfect place with very good balance between work and leisure…

It is clear, therefore, that Buddhist economics must be very different from the economics of modern materialism, since the Buddhist sees the essence of civilisation not in a multiplication of wants but in the purification of human character. Character, at the same time, is formed primarily by a man’s work. And work, properly conducted in conditions of human dignity and freedom, blesses those who do it and equally their products.2

… and this:

From the point of view of Buddhist economics, therefore, production from local resources for local needs is the most rational way of economic life, while dependence on imports from afar and the consequent need to produce for export to unknown and distant peoples is highly uneconomic and justifiable only in exceptional cases and on a small scale.3

… are there exceptions?… aren’t there things better produced in large factories?… like smartphones, automobiles, computers, etc.?… don’t these things work better and interconnect better with a more unified system of production?… what we are left with then is a system where some (most?) things are produced and distributed locally and others are mass produced and distributed nationally and globally… factories will increasingly be automated, not requiring human labor… local production will be centered on handcrafting, on local labor…

… and this:

Just as a modern European economist would not consider it a great achievement if all European art treasures were sold to America at attractive prices, so the Buddhist economist would insist that a population basing its economic life on non-renewable fuels is living parasitically, on capital instead of income. Such a way of life could have no permanence and could therefore be justified only as a purely temporary expedient. As the world’s resources of non-renewable fuels—coal, oil, and natural gas—are exceedingly unevenly distributed over the globe and undoubtedly limited in quantity, it is clear that their exploitation at an ever-increasing rate is an act of violence against nature which must almost inevitably lead to violence between men.4


  1. Schumacher, E. F., Buddhist Economics [return]
  2. Ibid [return]
  3. Ibid [return]
  4. Ibid [return]

The Journals of Denton Welch

The day is messy. I’ve done some writing, but things are sloppy. I am a melting jelly. It seems that my happiness only comes from being a monk; and when I am not a monk, therefore I cannot be happy.1

… how well i know that sentiment… i get up in the wee hours of the morning precisely because i need my monk time…

… DW mentions arum lilies which i look up… they are the same as calla lilies…

Why is it all so clear-cut the factories are a threat to a lone human being and green fields an invitation? We seem to be very frightened of our own contrivances and to call them ugly, evil, almost at once. We take what comes from them, hating their faces and breathings all the time. Biscuits please, but a biscuit factory is nearly as evil as a bomb factory to one’s heart. I do not mean just ugly visually, I mean wicked atmosphere. The threat the torture-chamber has.2

… when i was in college, i worked in a Ford factory near where i lived… a formative experience for lots of reasons… i don’t know that i felt about factories the way DW does, but i get what he drives at… and when i think about the degree to which i now purchase things made locally, in small workrooms, on farms, hand crafted… i think, couldn’t be a network of local economies and small workshops?… Small Is Beautiful E. F. Schumacher wrote… he championed local economies that provided work that was good for the soul… and Buddhist Economics… Schumacher’s advice to socialists:

Socialists should insist on using the nationalized industries not simply to out-capitalise the capitalists – an attempt in which they may or may not succeed – but to evolve a more democratic and dignified system of industrial administration, a more humane employment of machinery, and a more intelligent utilization of the fruits of human ingenuity and effort. If they can do this, they have the future in their hands. If they cannot, they have nothing to offer that is worthy of the sweat of free-born men.

… is this not what the Biden/Harris administration is trying to do?… ok, we are not nationalizing industries, but we are attempting to bolster the working class and middle class and make their participation in the economy more rewarding and less harrowing for them… which will lead to greater productivity?…


  1. The Journals of Denton Welch, p 271 [return]
  2. Ibid, p276 [return]

An article on inflationary pressures

… in the back of my mind i have been thinking what the article argues… that the flood of money washing through the population has led to higher prices, or dollars that are worth less… the article says it was predictable, though also says there are other factors at work… it bemoans government intervention due to the pandemic, but really, some action on the part of the government was necessary in my humble opinion…

… i wonder about the new hard infrastructure bill spending and the soft infrastructure bill spending should it be passed…

… i worry that the escalating price of goods will dominate the psyches of people, rather than the demonstrable, but less viscerally felt, improvements in their general condition… new and repaired bridges and roads won’t be noticeable for some time to come… a lot of it not till after the current administration has expired… hopefully more employment and better wages will happen quickly to improve the mood of the public…

… i have commented to H that i haven’t perceived a significant escalation in prices in our grocery buying (which i am largely in charge of)… but maybe i have, and because we are resourced, i haven’t noticed it as much… i have been writing down what we spend so i suppose i could go to the data and see…

… my theory has been that we buy from the high end sources where prices are already high, so maybe prices don’t need to escalate as much there?…

… Reason.com is libertarian in orientation, is a strong supporter of unfettered free markets and a strong proponent of minimal to non-existent regulation of the market… i would expect them to blame the Biden/Harris administration more than the set of conditions brought on by the pandemic, which were inherited… i wonder what The Economist will have to say about this issue…

And in the Department of Hopeful… the Great American Quit

a lengthy article in Mother Jones (leans pretty liberal) about the (comparatively) vast numbers of people quitting… i find it a very hopeful sign that labor is on the move… that labor is beginning to reject deplorable wages and working conditions… i don’t think we have a very humane economy… so many things are wrong with it… similar things were going on in the 20’s and 30’s of the last century… we are either at a moment of rebalancing or one of great descent for the majority of the people…