, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Author: ulvfugl

Over at Nature Bats Last, my favourite virtual park bench to watch the virtual pigeons, the talk is of hospice. Life is a terminal disease.

I suppose there’s not a lot of difference between hospice and death row.
Degrees of freedom. How big is your prison cell ?

What’s the company like ? Do you get any choice ? What about the visitors ? Are they friends, priests, nurses, jailers, torturers ?

I have to say, for a man of my disposition, my own cell, here, is perfection.

Long ago and far away, in another lifetime, I did a course in kitchen design.
I found it fascinating and enjoyed it very much. Efficient use of work space. Sink. Work top. Storage. Things you use most often, nearest.

Later, I discovered Permaculture. Much the same idea, really, but working with the natural physical environment.

Design your prison cell. Oh, but you cannot, because you have no freedom to choose, because it’s not yours, you don’t own it… Ha !

That’s a problem isn’t it. Property and ownership. On a crowded island, a crowded continent, a crowded planet.

“The first person who, having enclosed a plot of land, took it into his head to say this is mine and found people simple enough to believe him was the true founder of civil society. What crimes, wars, murders, what miseries and horrors would the human race have been spared, had some one pulled up the stakes or filled in the ditch and cried out to his fellow men: “Do not listen to this imposter. You are lost if you forget that the fruits of the earth belong to all and the earth to no one!”
Jean-Jacques RousseauThe Social Contract and The Discourses

Freedom to choose. Property. These barriers that we collide with when we desire to design our lives, the space between birth and death.

Used to be, long ago, you could just walk off into the desert, or into the forest, or into the mountains, and get away from it all, and find a place where you could settle yourself down and be undisturbed. But that’s not so easy anymore, at least, not where I live, and then what do you eat ?

When I was 20 I had a vision, with my wife, to find a ruin, some abandoned old farm in the mountains, where I could set up some home and make an anarchist commune. I found a couple with two kids, beatniks, about 15 years older; they were right into the idea. We had a good try but it didn’t work out.
We learned some of the reasons why it is hard to succeed.

Took me a lot of trying and a lot of failing to get what I got. The perfect prison cell.

People think I’m crazy. They are right. Depends what you mean by ‘crazy’, of course. You have to be crazy. You see, most people try things, twice or ten times, and fail, and give up, and say it’s impossible. But some things aren’t like that. You have to try 999 times and fail every time. And then the 1000th time, you make it. And only a crazy person discovers that, because everybody who wasn’t crazy gave up long ago.

But, you see, it really might be impossible. What if you have to try all your life to find that it was impossible ??

That’s circus people. They have to be crazy. Special sort of ambition to do something really peculiar. I knew some once. Not a proper circus, a really silly circus. All they had was a lama, and a sheep and a goat. And the guy could walk along a tightrope. A low one, about six foot off the ground. But if you can do it, doesn’t really matter about the height. It’s about the falling off.

So they were determined to have a circus for a livelihood. With one fucking lama that they decorated. And a sheep and a goat that they trained to go around in circles in a tent. And the guy walked along the tightrope. And twenty people would pay and wonder why these crazy people were doing this.

Point is, they were designing their own lives. They were AMAZING. You just wanted to help them because they were crazy. The crazy was contagious. In a good way. Two girls were identical twins, impossible to tell which was which; that was crazy in itself.

So, you find a place. Like designing a kitchen, the sleeping place is the centre. Or maybe, if you’re into Bodhidharma, your meditation place. Then comes the things you use and need most often, nearest. Then, like a spider in the middle of its web, you need strands that connect out into the world.

People are very different. Depends upon what your personality is like, what your desires are, what you require to be satisfied. Design the structure around you; design yourself to fit the structure. Build in the right habits, the rituals, the efficient and effective functioning. Remember, its death row. Nobody gets out alive. What’s worth caring about, what’s not ? Music !

I have a field which I’ve left for the grass to grow long. This is so it can be a refuge for the linnets. They are just small brownish song birds. They are somewhat endangered but not dramatically so; average little birds, so to speak, nothing spectacular or flamboyant, not the ‘most’ anything; finch family, thought to originate some time in the Middle Miocene, 10 to 20 million years ago. From what I gather, skeletons of these small song birds are rarely well-preserved in the fossil record, so it’s a patchy picture and much is guesswork.

The linnets are some of the company I have here, in my cell on death row.




In 1963, someone called Robert F. Stroud died. He had spent 54 years in solitary confinement in a prison cell. It states on the cover of the book he wrote that no man in the history of the world spent more time alone. I don’t know if his record has been broken since then. America seems so perverse and sadistic these days, it wouldn’t surprise me.

Anyway, Stroud spent his time researching bird diseases and became one of the world’s greatest bird pathologists. See. You’ve got to be crazy. He couldn’t design his cell at all. It was not his property. He had no freedom. But he could design himself. He wrote this incredible book Stroud’s Digest on the Diseases of Birds. Made a life for himself. Didn’t let the fuckers destroy him.
I think most people have got more options, bigger cells.

If you look at the previous mass extinction events, a few species made it through. My thinking is, try to save something for as long as possible.
Could be the linnets, this time. Who knows ? Nobody else seems to care.
But it’s just my version of the crazy circus…

Birds are much smarter than most people realise or appreciate:

“Birds appear to offer, in their behavior, neurophysiology, and neuroanatomy a striking case of parallel evolution of consciousness. Evidence of near human-like levels of consciousness has been most dramatically observed in African grey parrots. Mammalian and avian emotional networks and cognitive microcircuitries appear to be far more homologous than previously thought. Moreover, certain species of birds have been found to exhibit neural sleep patterns similar to those of mammals, including REM sleep and, as was demonstrated in zebra finches, neurophysiological patterns, previously thought to require a mammalian neocortex. Magpies in particular have been shown to exhibit striking similarities to humans, great apes, dolphins, and elephants in studies of mirror self-recognition.”

So, as far as I am concerned, on any sane scale of values, those circus people and the linnets are worth more than all the wankers on Wall Street and in the City of London put together. Because when it really comes down to it, freedom has, as Stroud discovered, to do with what’s inside you, not what’s outside.

Be realistic. Demand the impossible. Insist that you get it.