Finding paradise


Just between you and me, this is no paradise! Photo: Michael Sliwa.

Don Henley’s empathetic voice in the Eagles song Last Resort warns that if “you call someplace paradise, kiss it goodbye.” So I’m very careful when choosing words to describe my current location here in Italy.

Sure, it’s breathtaking, and the people here love the land. But that’s certainly not new. The people I’ve met have been kind, gracious, and very generous. They love the land. They’re artists, intellectuals, and former government employees. They love the land.

They are college students, executive coaches, and former employees of Goldman Sachs and yes, even they love the land.

What’s love got to do with it?

But love is not enough anymore. I’m sure there were colonists and western settlers that loved the land as well. The environmentalists and conservationists also loved and continue to love the land. The problem is I think I love the land.

It’s the midnight hour, folks. It has been for sometime. As I sit here on my iPad (no loss of irony on me) writing about love, land, and Eagles’ songs, I have to wonder what it is I’m actually doing?

Actually, what are we doing? We in the climate change, peak oil, and Transition world are all shouting about the approaching cliff but still the train cruises onward. So preppers prep, occupiers occupy, Transitioners transition and we all love the land.

How much do I love the land?

I love it enough to fly all the way to Europe so I can still have a grid tied life. I cherish it so much that I still pay taxes to the industrial machine. I care for it so deeply that I still can’t survive without fossil fuels. Finally my unwavering respect is revealed in my choice to avoid anything violent or illegal in defense of it. Hell, I don’t even have the courage or motivation to protest the blatant killing that’s going on and being led by the”greatest nation on Earth.”

Instead I’ll just share some article on Facebook and continue to complain from the sidelines.

As far as the rest of nature is concerned I’m an outsider, a poser trying to fit in where I clearly have not earned my stripes. I’m moving towards the exit of empire, but I should be running — and wreaking havoc along the way.

Shoulda, woulda, coulda

Many of our lives have fallen into this realm of what we should do. As my friend Calvin Terrell likes to point out “people are ‘shouldin all over the place. ”

Maybe that’s the problem with our current living arrangement. We know what should be done but instead we continue to chase the elusive carrot of so-called progress.

Keep it like a secret

So I’d like to start by apologizing to the land in a real effort that I can one day come to love it like so many that we have ignored, marginalized, or slaughtered. I’ve not been living up to the agreement of living within my means like so many before me have done. Countless cultures and generations have followed this agreement. Other species live by this agreement. I haven’t.

I want to love the land. I want to learn about what the land needs from me, if anything. I want to live by the agreement. This small valley in Italy has shown me it may actually still be possible. I’m just afraid to call it paradise.

–Michael and Karen Sliwa, Transition Voice

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  1. Auntiegrav says

    Try to give more to the land than you take from it. The less you buy, the less you will have to make up for in the relationship. If you love something, set it free. In the case of the land, you need to set it free from the burdens of your parking lots, runways, landfills, and mining operations that find the resources to create the money (through human activities) for everything we buy.
    Is there justification to these computers we use for communication of these ideas? The land will decide in the long run, not us, but we have to respect the decision WILL happen, and behave as though we care about the outcome.
    If you want Change, keep it in your pocket.

  2. mikesosebee says

    Mike I also love the land.

    Last week I wrapped shooting for the film “Somewhere In New Mexico Before The End Of Time” in Mt. Shasta CA. last week. My Carbon footprint for this film is massive. Sherry Ackerman hosted us there for 5 days at her Hermitage. She loves the land and works tirelessly to reduce her footprint and she also loves the land. After I was done I drove to Boise and I was biking around there for a few days visiting friends and family (they love the land but they also love industrial life) On the day I was heading south I got news that my cousin Geary from Atlanta had been killed in a motorcycle accident. He loved the land.

    I drove south to Vegas and grabbed a flight to Atlanta for five days for the funeral. Flying has become a thoroughly unpleasant experience. I look out the window and see ten’s of thousands of square miles of mono-culture. I gritted my teeth for 2 hours They have GMO corn in Tallahassee that goes from 6 inches to 6 feet in 6 weeks. Truly frightening! A stark contrast to staying at Sherry Ackerman’s Hermitage in Lake Shasta and Atlanta GA.

    I hadn’t seen my family in GA for almost 8 years so I was shocked to see how unhealthy everyone was. Over half of them are dying of cancer or diabetes. They dragged me into the Olive Garden one night and you could have turned out the lights and the sparks from the knives and forks would have illuminated the room. Atlanta is almost as horrible as Los Angeles (but not quite). I couldn’t talk to the people there about what I’m doing. They would not get it and it would anger them and I didn’t have the courage to break taboos. I showed a preview to my sweet cousin Stephanie and it freaked her out. I nostagically visited the old neighborhood in Jonesboro, GA. I lived there until I was 7 and I went back repeatedly as a child. It was so idyllic back then. Now it’s plastered with super-centers, fast food drive-ins, gas-marts and Wal-marts. That was what I was thinking about when I used Bob Crumb’s “Short History Of America” in the last preview with Mary Burton Risley. I see the world changing: For The Worse!

    Then I get to Las Vegas Int’l airport and they’ve spent over 3 billion dollars in federal money on a useless airport expansion. We are driving over the cliff at the speed of sound. It’s 105 degrees in Denver, Forest fires that won’t stop burning and no-one’s frightened of Global Warming? JH Kunstler’s right. We’re too impressed with our “technology”. He calls it “techno-narcisism”. And BTW Kuntsler also loves the land.

    My high carbon trip convinced me that if any of us make it to the end of this century it won’t be the people in the cities. Most of the people are so over-fed and out of shape it’s shocking. Here’s another thing I believe with all of my heart. Regardless of whether it makes any difference behaving ethically is important. Being a good example is important. You and your beautiful wife Karen model high ethics and it matters. Thanks for your post!

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