What you control

Erik cited a Terence McKenna quote deep in his last post on bacon. It’s a good one, and deserves more attention so I’m giving it this space.

If Erik and I have a single message to offer, it is that you can’t control the world, but you can control your life. There’s plenty in this world to be outraged over, or worried about, but those feelings don’t get you anywhere. What you have to do is tend your own garden: Your body, mind and soul. Your family. Your kitchen. Your yard. Your neighborhood. See to those things. In making those things better, you do make the world better. At the very least you’ve improved your own life. Or, perhaps, you might be one of the many pebbles that makes an avalanche.

And here is McKenna saying something similiar in his inimitable style:

“We have to create culture, don’t watch TV, don’t read magazines, don’t even listen to NPR. Create your own roadshow. The nexus of space and time where you are now is the most immediate sector of your universe, and if you’re worrying about Michael Jackson or Bill Clinton or somebody else, then you are disempowered, you’re giving it all away to icons, icons which are maintained by an electronic media so that you want to dress like X or have lips like Y. This is shit-brained, this kind of thinking. That is all cultural diversion, and what is real is you and your friends and your associations, your highs, your orgasms, your hopes, your plans, your fears. And we are told ‘no’, we’re unimportant, we’re peripheral. ‘Get a degree, get a job, get a this, get a that.’ And then you’re a player, you don’t want to even play in that game. You want to reclaim your mind and get it out of the hands of the cultural engineers who want to turn you into a half-baked moron consuming all this trash that’s being manufactured out of the bones of a dying world.” –Terence McKenna

(I’m sorry I don’t know where this quote comes from–but I snatched it from Goodreads.)

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  1. This is refreshing. It’s so easy to get sucked in to “cultural diversions”. On the one hand, all I can control is my own tiny (in the grand scheme) sphere of influence. But on the other hand, the world is a conglomeration of collective spheres of influence. Imagine if all of us were truly present in our communities? Powerful!

  2. I’m glad I finally found your blog! I hope I have time to read back everything you have posted. Maybe it will give us some ideas out here in the Woods.

  3. Thanks for the McKenna links, ya’ll

    @Meg: Exactly. Powerful. I like what you say: “present in our our communities.” That’s exactly it.

    We all just have to have faith as individuals that there are others like us, and use that to support our own resolve. It’s all about transformation.

  4. Thank you. Those are the thoughts, because it makes for better lives – happier yourself, and a positive influence – why I write on “The Ecology of Happiness” (at http://www.beyond-eco.org and on http://www.facebook.com/ecohappy).
    We are so caught up in diversions, and despair over the state of the world only makes them more appealing, we don’t even realize what makes us happy – or would make us happy, if only we got up from in front of the screen, consuming, and got up to create, do, be active!

  5. I love this quote. Thanks for posting it. Our television hasn’t worked in almost a year. I know how to fix it but I really don’t miss the racket all that much. I think my teenager is better off without it, too. Of course, everyone else thinks I’m nuts.

  6. First off, fantastic website. Thanks for the inspiration. As to the quote, as much as I like the spirit of it, I do think there’s a downside to demonizing culture, because it opens the door to negativity and judgment, which will rot us from the inside much faster than culture. In my experience, the us/them divide has very little pay off. Do, don’t judge. I strive for that—hard as hell to achieve. In fact, that imperative I just issued? It’s judgment. *[email protected]! See, it’s hard. Point is, right living is relative. HD Thoreau had an incredibly low opinion of his 19th-century countrymen—New England farmers, the ultimate DIY homesteaders, the ultimate do’ers! His criticism? Too industrious.

  7. Thank you for the quote. You’ve made me an instant Terence McKenna fan! Isn’t this what we who read and write blogs like this are ultimately striving for? Unplugging as it were from “mainstream” cultural diversions and recreating an honest culture all our own.

  8. @ Anoymous, I think you read this quote wrong and miss understood Thoreau… Thoreau had nothing but good to say about people that did for themselves… this was a major them of Walden… why pay some one to do for you what you should learn to do yourself… And Mckenna was not demonizing culture, but the lack of culture… the quote refers to it being a negative if one lets marketers and salesmen define “culture” for us… by definition, culture is the passing on of relevant knowledge and skill… once again i feel anonymous got this 180 degrees out… correct me if im wrong…

  9. In a blog which brings me constant inspiration this may be the single most important post ever.
    Your simple clear thoughts express the spirit of what I am trying to get out into the world.
    Every time I speak, or post, or have a conversation about why I do what I do in my own backyard my message is: Change the things within reach and eventually you can influence the entire world.
    Thank you Kelly for laying it out there so clearly.

  10. I’ve read this quote several times now recently, and I am left puzzled by it and the above reactions to it. How is reading a blog different from reading a magazine or listening to radio or connecting with one another by any of the many means we have devised to share our ideas? If anything, I believe we must find our place in our intimate surroundings and in our vast modern world. It is only by daily, delicate, sometimes difficult acts of discernment that we can make choices that benefit our immediate community and those anonymous multitudes living lives just as real and important as our own. I am especially concerned these days that we, as American citizens, are not more involved in decisions made in our names, precisely because we give over our power to the very corporate “cultural engineers” who seek to distract us with their “diversions” or overwhelm us with despair.
    Has anyone read Chris Hedges’ on American culture? (e.g., Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Illusion, among other fine books.) He examines the problem of our culture of diversion. His critique is disturbing and sobering. No doubt, we are clearly up against it. But in response to the question, “What should we do?” posed to him at a lecture recently, he replied, “Do the good and let it go.” This feels more authentic, rational and workable than the snippet of Terence McKenna referenced above. And the reason I read blogs written by people I do not know is because I look for ways to ‘do the good.’ I am grateful to folks like you who share their journeys. And I will look further at Terence McKenna, but find him, at first blush, guilty of sloppy drama.

  11. @ Greta… i think you also misunderstood Mckenna’s quote… He is not saying close your eyes… He is saying, in the words of Chris Hedges, “do the good and let it go.” Culture by definition is doing the good… Pop culture on the other hand is engineered to produce consumers. There is a HUGE difference…Mckenna is a proponent of authentic culture… if you do not see that you are misreading a man who loved and wanted the best for mankind…

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