“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Turning Nihilist

Long time correspondent Nick Guetti (hi Nick! I owe you an email!) writes: 

I just had a long FB conversation with an old friend of mine: permaculture teacher, ecofeminist, grassroots organizer. Or she was, years ago. She's gone nihilist. Completely burned out. "Maybe you should ask yourself if the world is asking to be saved." She thinks taking action and responsibility is all about ego and it doesn't really matter. Everything she said is like a textbook example of what you've said/written about the apocalyptic, happy, hypermasculine deep ecology failing to sustain people through reality.


amanda vox said...

whenever I start to feel nihilistic I go back to Chogyam Trungpa´s ´genuine heart of sadness´ text. Which is here:
and is great.

Nick Guetti said...

It's one of the saddest things I've ever heard. I'm not going to drop her name, but she's a well-known author and iconoclast of the permaculture country club. She wrote the most inspiring book (other than maybe Holmgren's "Beyond Sustainability") to come out of that whole social phenomenon. Now she just wants to retreat and play her music...at which I wish her the best, of course. But I went through that withdrawn phase when I was very young; it's much harder when you're older.

Anonymous said...

or maybe Pascal's Wager rearranged to apply to the Earth--that it's worth the fight because even if it's all over, the fight was meaningful and in the name of something good and bigger than yourself

Heather Jo Flores said...

for the record, I am not a nihilist, nor am I burnt out, I just don't agree with the hero-complex that most activists seem to have. I believe that the most radical thing a person can do is to truly enjoy their life, to embrace an ecological existence without feeling the need to judge others against it. "be the change..." or whatever...And Nick please don't quote me without my permission, I don't appreciate it. Thanks, Heather Jo Flores

Heather Jo Flores said...

For the record, I am not nihilist, nor am I burnt out. Quite the opposite actually: I am happier and more effective than I have ever been. I was simply trying to explain to Nick (who is not an old friend, but rather, someone who approached me via facebook and whom I have never met) that I don't agree with the hero-complex that most activists seem to embrace. Instead, I think it is important to be humble, calm, and joyful when approaching the changes we need to make as a culture, and to make those changes in our own lives and bodies before preaching them to others. I don't believe that anybody has a right to judge and condemn another person, and the moral high ground on which most activist-types seem to reside, quite frankly, reeks of tyranny and ignorance.

And Nick, please don't quote me again, out of context and without my permission. Thanks, Heather Jo Flores, author of Food Not Lawns

Nick Guetti said...

While admitting my mistake in causing offense (which I already did to Heather earlier), for myself I really have to protest the inaccuracy of the accusation. It's not a quote if you don't mention a name. I didn't mention her name and never would have. I absolutely never intended that the post should reach her view, in which case neither she nor anyone who would recognize her would have known anything about it.

Heather knows, but does not remember having met, me. We lived in Eugene at the same time and were friends, albeit not particularly close. I was 20 or so and looked VERY different. She was very active in that town and I would probably have forgotten me too, so much ado about that.

Heather does not include in her response the things she said in our conversation which, as is my privilege, I interpreted as I saw clear and then talked about it with people I know. My interpretation of those comments is my own, and I don't necessarily know (or particularly care) how others would interpret it. It's a sort of free country. I didn't name names.

Heather Jo Flores said...

whoops I thought the first comment didn't post corerectly and rewrote it, with embellishments and now I look like a redundant dork. Anyway, Nick and whoever else is concerned: I am not sad at all about my decision to get off the moral high ground and focus on the day-to-day reality of living a good life. I did my tour of duty as an activist, and playing music is in no way a retreat. In fact, musicians have changed the world far more often than activists ever have. Best wishes to all, Heather

Nick Guetti said...

I'd like a chance to respond to the charges of misquoting, etc. Thanks for fairness in moderation.

In all honesty, I won't pretend to be speaking to Heather, as she has requested "no further exchange" between us (before posting the two responses above), which I at least will respect as law. The mistake that led to the previous heated exchange was mine and I have apologized for it directly to her.

Heather does not include, above, any of the conversation that led me to believe what I wrote in my initial comment, and if I got the wrong impression, I at least don't find it at all hard to forgive myself. This comment was made without identifying Heather by name and was never intended for the eyes of herself or anyone acquainted with her; it reached her attention by way of a "fat-finger" type mistake, and her identity as the subject of the comment would never have been known by anyone until she made it known. Under the circumstances, and since I am not able to respond directly to her on FB anymore, her playing to the gallery here on Tim's blog is quite unfair and disproportionate to any offense I committed. I'd call it cowardly, though I hope not genuinely dishonest.

Her statement that she did not know me or that we were never friends except on FB is simply an error, and I would like this understood as the statement gives a very wrong impression of the situation. This is really not meant to be embarrassing, but I met and was friendly (albeit not particularly close; still, we were friends) with her in Eugene many years ago; she simply does not remember me. I had much more (and longer) hair and in other ways looked quite different, and I probably would not remember me either if I was her at this point. Still, it is a salient point I'd like to clear up.