All the wood that I had available to process has been processed into firewood. More is down the hill; it will have to wait until the bridge is completed.
I still have two piles of brush to burn before I leave, and two pine trees that need to be bucked up. Currently, I am staging all pine in logs for later use as outdoor firewood or as kindling for the wood stoves in the house.
Nina has completed the kitchen design (a remarkably sane design - much better than I would have done), and we have resolved most remaining issues regarding home design overall. My feeling is, we will be on short-final for a completed plan by the end of the month, and I will be up here in November arranging for the construction loan, completing the bridge, and scheduling excavation for the basement.
Cold now at night - frost on the ground. Had to add a second poncho liner to the one I was already using to reinforce my sleeping bag. Will have to bring a heavier sleeping bag for winter use. Wood stove heats the inside nicely, but as the Abode is not insulated, the heat flees rapidly. I get about a three hour burn from a full charge of wood, meaning I need to refuel the fire through the night, or else hunker down and stay warm in my bag.
I harvested the remaining apples from the tree - they're not much to look at, small and with blotchy skin, but they are some of the best-tasting apples I have ever eaten, even if I only get a bite or two from each.
As to the stream.
Lacking the will to engage myself in the project in which I should be engaged - terracing the yard and hauling stone from the creek to build walls - I turned my attention to the creek itself. The creek I am referring to in this case is not the major one - Hemlock Creek - it is a feeder draw to the south of the home site, smaller and steeper, with a lower flow.
So, to avoid confusion, I will refer to this unnamed creek as the stream in the draw.
It is a pleasant place, the draw - it runs nearly the full width of the property, and in fact begins well above (northwest of) the property line, farther up the hill. Where it enters the property, the slopes to either side are steep, with well defined hilltops to both the south and north.
From where it enters, it falls a good 150' of vertical elevation to Hemlock Creek, below. Along its fall, the banks tend to steepness, except in a couple of locations where meander has formed oxbows and multiple channels. Numerous trees have fallen across its course from time to time, and have become mossy and rotted, with ferns interspersed, mossy rocks and limbs accenting its path.
The water trickles merrily in its course - I've not seen it dry, ever - over a rocky bed comprising small stone down to the size of gravel and smaller, with larger stones and rocks abundant.
On this point I must pause, and mention that some years ago Nina and I stayed in our time share in Gatlinburg, in a stream-side room where the master suite was a loft, and the stream audible. We fell in love with the atmosphere, and determined, when we began our search for land, to at least try and obtain property with running water.
In this, we have been fortunate.
At night it is remarkably quiet out here. The traffic that races along Creek Road, breaking the stillness with each passing vehicle, ceases; silence falls, save for the wind, the frogs, the coyotes, and in the distance, the trickle-trackle of Hemlock creek.
'Tis not always so. When Hemlock is low, it is vanishingly difficult to hear it. The stream does not vary so much in its level as Hemlock, and, moreover, it is about the same distance from the house, with the advantage that once the house is complete, the deck opening off of our second-story loft master suite will be poised to observe and hear the stream falling on its way.
Inasmuch as water will always make its own path, it is not the case that water may not be encouraged towards nor dissuaded from certain paths by clever mimicry of nature.
For example, nature creates waterfalls. Some are splendid displays of energy, foamy and white, falling so far and so quickly that the falling water, engaging the air, disperses into droplets and rivulets. Some are more modest, a mere trickle over an inch of space, the sound a tickling gurgle as contrasted with the throaty roar of a cataract.
For my purposes, something in between is desired: a series of falls and rushes that, collectively, add their music to the night silence in sufficient levels that a during a quiet set on the loft deck, perhaps over an evening's slow fire's crackle, their chanting becomes easily audible.
Now, making a stream noisier is not to say we are disturbing its natural state. Streams may be quiet or noisy all on their own, and the encouragement of one quality over another provokes no indictment of motive. In making the stream more noisy, I am only making this particular stream more of what it already is.
Such it is with men. All humans have various aspects to themselves: good or ill tempered, passive or aggressive, anxious or relaxed. And as I have mentioned before, the goal of each living thing is to become the best possible self it can, that it may thus achieve its greatest harmony with its environment.
So, in the same manner that I shape the stream with my hands, I shape myself. In much the same manner as I look at the stream, I look at myself, considering where I might improve matters, and move toward greater harmony.
Perhaps I am noisy, and wish I were quieter, or more taciturn and shy, wishing I were vocal and outgoing. I wish to shape myself, to do my very best to become that Self which experiences the greatest possible measure of well-being.
As I begin to shape myself, I note that I can also manipulate my environment: I can control what and who are around me, and when and where. Not completely, but in a free country, to a large extent. I note that some environments generate more feelings of well being than do others. I begin to analyze the sorts of environments that generate well-being.
I notice another thing, too: as my environment changes, and feelings of harmony increase, there is a corresponding change in my Self, and the things I feel I need to do in order to pursue greatest harmony change. Because I have become more tuned to my Self and my environment, I can now begin to consider my Self and my environment as part of a whole. I note the feedback - as my environment changes, causing greater peace, I become more at-peace, and choose to adjust my environment again, which further changes me, and so forth.
When I first begin to do this, I tend to review possible environments and attempt to place my Self within them. In this, I review all extant and accessible environments and attempt to enter the one that more clearly seems to offer the opportunity of increased harmony.
As I find my Self in ever-more harmonious environments, I begin to understand that I have the power to contribute to my environment, and in so doing, alter it. Moreover, I find that some alterations of my environment provoke greater well-being than other alterations. Finally, I discover that included in my alterations of my environment is a measurable change in the states of other Entities, attributable to my efforts.
Now, in addition to selecting particular environments, I can refine the selected environment, and, if other Entities contribute to that environment, I can influence those other Entities.
Next, I determine that there are a number of Environments, or Spheres of Comprehension, in which I am a participant: Spiritual, Physical, Intellectual, Rational, Emotional, Sexual, and Natural. The sum of these spheres comprise the World, where World is meant to mean an Entity's understanding of the totality of all existence and experience as apprehended by the individual Entity in question. Each of these Spheres is in conflict with the others, seeking to dominate the dialogue, to relegate the remaining Spheres to the Id, while itself assuming the role of Ego.
I experiment, and find I can deliberately influence the amount of influence each sphere has over my Self, and, perhaps more importantly, I can select environments where one or more sphere holds more or less power over the others.
For example, if I am a gambler, and wish not to be so, I may instead choose church and thus reinforce spirituality over emotion as a defining characteristic. In order to be most successful, the Self determines to leave Las Vegas and become a monk in some remote location. Emotion and greed hold less sway in a spiritual environment that they do in an the emotionally charged environment of a casino.
If I were this gambler, and I did as described, I would likely find, from all reports, that my need for gambling had gone. By immersing my Self in an environment where spirituality was more powerful than emotion (a change in environment), I would have become more spiritual. Being now more spiritual (a change in Self) I would now be less prone to emotion.
I might now choose to re-immerse my Self in the world of gambling. Having mastered spirituality as an alternative personal framework, I am no longer tempted. I selected my environment, which altered my Self, which now willingly re-enters the Emotional environment changed. Instead of tempted, I am now enraged and determined. My World has changed. The Spiritual Self determines in turn to change the emotional environment of Las Vegas - to affect the environment, by changing the rules to prevent the exploitation of the emotionally weak, and thus indirectly influence other Beings currently in that environment.
The Self seeks elected office.
The foregoing is but an example.
The larger point is that I now understand several things:
- In some environments, I feel more harmony than I do in others;
- I have some power to select my environments;
- By selecting my environment, I provoke changes in my Self;
- Sometimes, these changes in my Self provoke me to try and change my environment;
- If successful, I change my environment to one in which I feel more well-being;
- In turn, I provoke further changes in my Self, which then provoke changes in my understanding of my World;
- As time passes and wisdom accrues, I understand that Self and my World are one;
- And; feedback between my Self and my World occurs;
- I contemplate, and understand that my environment is equally trying to influence me;
- I conclude that greatest harmony will be achieved when I and my environment are at equilibrium;
- I seek equilibrium with my environment;
- My environment seeks equilibrium with me;
- To achieve equilibrium is to enter the Environment of the Natural and experience maximum Harmony.
To reach this state requires that our engagement with each and all of the other Environments is at a peak, the highest peak possible in each particular environment, seeking harmony with the Self as it experiences all other Environments and sums them to the World.
The ultimate experience of Self, then, is to be in complete Harmony with one's World.
It is important to note at this point, that, while abstract, the concepts offered so far have acknowledged no value judgments. A priori the maximal states of being for some Entities will invoke the damage or destruction of other Entities. It cannot be otherwise where chemical Entities must consume and assimilate other chemical entities in order to ensure continued Existence.
The compelling conclusion then arises: one cannot experience maximal states of being without invoking conflict, where conflict is understood to be a reordering of one's environment against the 'wishes' of other participants.
It is impossible to avoid conflict: I wish to eat, that I may continue as an Entity; the corn I consume ceases to be an Entity, and becomes part of my Entity. Understanding that conflict is unavoidable, and seeking greatest harmony, I seek not only to diminish the level of conflict I experience, but also to mitigate its effects.
In mitigating the effects of my actions on other Entities; and, in mitigating the effects of my actions on the various Environments where such effects prove deleterious to other Entities; and, in so doing, remaining mindful of the Natural Drive to improve my Self to the maximal degree possible, I reach the unfortunate conclusion that if I am to prosper, others must suffer.
It matters not if the other is corn or a clam or a coworker. Life itself is the harvesting of Other Entity's resources - often their very components - for one's own benefit, often irrespective of the fact that the other 'wishes' it not so.
But then I realize that my understanding of 'suffering' is biased by my existence in both the Emotional and Physical Environments. It is influenced by my existence in other spheres as well: the Intellectual and Rational. Does corn "suffer" when eaten? Not unless the eating threatens the existence of 'corn' on this planet, assuming that an ear of corn does not it Self suffer when eaten.
To the contrary, it seems that since corn benefits by virtue of being edible, reproducible, and fecund, it has prospered at the expense of other grasses less adaptable. Thus, my exploitation of corn is not immoral; it benefits us both. I enjoy continued being, and gain the opportunity to reproduce; the corn would have ceased to be regardless, and yet gets the opportunity to reproduce, supported by the efforts of humans. In point of fact, many, many other Entities suffer as a result of the partnership between man and corn.
Finally, I note that the corn is incapable of knowing itself as "Self".
I can now conclude the following:
- Some Entities, if exploited, do not "suffer" in a conscious sense;
- The level of direct suffering experienced when suffering by an Entity occurs is directly proportional to the level of self-awareness experienced by that Entity and the number of Spheres in which the Entity can be said to participate;
- It is moral to structure one's environment such that the maximal state of being possible to each Entity present in one's World preserves, as much as possible, and with weight to each Sphere given in order of ascending significance, the various Rights of each Entity as represented by the Seven Spheres of Comprehension: the Physical (existence is permitted); the Sexual (right to reproduce); Emotional (the right to feel); the Spiritual (the right to experience something greater than oneself); The Intellectual (the right to form Questions and Hypotheses); the Rational (the right to reason to a conclusion as proof in the absence of physical proof); and, the Natural (the right to achieve maximal well-being through harmony with the World)
- The greatest Harm is to harm Natural Beings;
- The next greatest Harm is to harm Rational beings;
- The next greatest Harm is to harm Sentient beings;
- The next greatest Harm is to harm Spiritual beings;
- The next greatest Harm is to harm Emotional beings;
- The next greatest Harm is to harm Sexually reproductive beings;
- The least greatest harm is to destroy an entity that participates solely in the Physical Sphere, if such destruction does not directly or indirectly threaten the well-being of other Entities.
The key is the minimization of Harm.
I would also note that the Premises of Harm do not apply in matters of self-defense. If defending oneself from harm, the only obligation is to win. One has a right to exist, and if other Entities threaten one's existence, one has the right to resist by virtue of participation in the Physical Sphere.
Whether fighting off a predatory animal, a public consensus at odds with one's demonstrably harmless beliefs or activities, a repressive legislature or court, a virus or mold or bacteria; one is fighting for the right to exist as an individual.
Now, making a stream noisier is not to say we are needlessly disturbing its natural state. Streams may be quiet or noisy all on their own, and the encouragement of one quality over another provokes no indictment of motive. In making the stream more noisy, I am only making this particular stream more of what it already is.
I am thus not 'damaging' the stream when reshaping it; at most I am 'damaging' the Entities that participate in the Physical and Sexual Spheres (insects, mammals, invertebrates, certain plants) which comprise the delineation of the micro-ecosystem.
However, in reshaping the stream I am doing nothing more than any of the other participants. I merely do it with conscious intent, planning, and on a grander scale than most of the other participants. Undoubtedly, certain organisms will benefit from the disruption of the environment even as others suffer. This is the nature of life.
Since I will be more content, I will have performed the essential task of life: to be more of what it already is. In my case, re-shaping the stream provides a greater sense of well being. Other creatures who are part of the stream's ecology seek to do the same thing; the fact that their efforts are less immediately visible in no way alters the fact each and every entity participating in the ecology of the stream is attempting to invoke changes to make its Existence more harmonious with its Environment.
Why should I, as one Entity among many Entities competing in the stream, be held to any different standard?
Of course, the goal is Harmony with one's environment. Random disenfranchisement of other Entities' rights is thoughtless and pointless; I strive to adjust both the environment and my Self, ever conscious of my impact on the environment and on other Entities.
I may in fact do Harm. It is in fact unavoidable that I do Harm if I am to continue to exist. The goal then becomes to effect the changes necessary for self actualization while committing as little Harm as possible.
As the stream becomes noisier, I find that I do as well, which is only to say that in altering my environment to better suit me, I become more of what I already am, and thus proceed another step on the path to maximal well-being.