The Secret to a Peaceful House

Grandfather, Photo Ethnography, Raymond, CA, Photo by Ad Keltner

The carpenter I hired to help me restore an old farmhouse had just finished a rough first day on the job. A flat tire made him lose an hour of work, his electric saw quit, and now his ancient pickup truck refused to start. While I drove him home, he sat in stony silence.

On arriving, he invited me in to meet his family. As we walked toward the front door, he paused briefly at a small tree, touching the tips of the branches with both hands.

When opening the door he underwent an amazing transformation. His tanned face was wreathed in smiles and he hugged his two small children and gave his wife a kiss.

Afterward he walked me to the car. We passed the tree and my curiosity got the better of me. I asked him about what I had seen him do earlier.

"Oh, that's my trouble tree," he replied." I know I can't help having troubles on the job, but one thing's for sure, troubles don't belong in the house with my wife and the children. So I just hang them on the tree every night when I come home. Then in the morning I pick them up again."

He paused. "Funny thing is," he smiled, "when I come out in the morning to pick 'em up, there ain't nearly as many as I remember hanging up the night before."

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Human Destiny | Noam Chomsky's Challenge

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 01:52 AM EDT, 31 October 2011

There are many voices within the global and American landscape that continually challenge us to peek behind the veil, to question authority, and practice free thought.

In past decades,  authors, philosophers and even filmmakers provided the impetus for us to dig deeper beneath the surface.  Movies like Fahrenheit 451Soylent Green, Animal Farm and 1984 are but four examples of an entire genre of intellectual activism that seems increasingly on the decline.

Ray Bradbury, Richard Fleischer, and George Orwell are the epitome of visionaries whose prophetic voices warned society of the perils a mid-20th Century society would face should it recklessly continue its pursuit of manufactured pleasures and myopic fiefdoms.

Today, Michael Moore, Eric Schlosser and Al Gore through their films  "Capitalism: A Love Story," "Food Nation," and "An Inconvenient Truth," risk the wrath of the system by unveiling the truth of the "man behind the mirror."  Truth is available in every age at all times if we but have a desire to hear and the fortitude to change our corner of the world.

At first glance it would seem that the gods of materialism, distraction and avarice have successfully vanquished our society.  It was cunningly accomplished with our tacit complicity because we willingly yoked ourselves to the technology designed to anesthetized us. We are 24x7 plugged into the system, living vicariously through handhelds, tablets and laptops, we are more in touch but less connected.

We complain about starvation in the break room but can't summon the energy after leaving work to volunteer or participate in some form of activism that would demonstrate our genuine concern.  We complain about the disparity between the wealthy and the poor but given a choice between donating half or even a quarter of a paycheck to help the poor or upgrade our vehicle to the latest model, we routinely choose the latter.

We have bought into the system with eyes wide open.  We know we are the hamster on the wheel, we joke about being the cog in the wheel, but deep down we believe if we run fast enough and row hard enough, we will somehow dislodge ourselves from the system and retroactively become its architect.

We are ghosts in the machine and we equate our invisibility with powerlessness, when in truth it is exactly the opposite. Though we cannot architect a system that is constructed and humming on high, we can rearchitect our function within the system.  In this era of increased apathy, powerlessness, and somnambulism, it is crucial to remain vigilant and engaged.

Revolutions are effected by individuals with the fortitude and desire to improve not only their lives but those of the society in which they live. The first step for us is to continue to challenge and question all forms of propaganda manufactured by the triumvirate of Globalization, Corporatocracy and Democracy.

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