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The Common Sense Died in Phoenix

In 2001 I drove 11,000 miles of American road in my Honda hoping to learn something about myself and this world. City after city I saw what is now commonplace, the commodification of culture and place, a homogenization process that left Boston, Boulder and Houston looking remarkably alike.

Last week I popped into the Phoenix Scottsdale area and experienced the maturation of this process, an entire city built after the invention of the strip mall. Few things existed outside of one. The city boundary marks the start of a world that requires unusual behavior and odd senses, acculturated knowledge with no root in wisdom. Not nature made it requires knowledge that is learned, mimicked, taught, and never intuited as it contains no life. the man made city sprawl is entirely dependent on humanity: landscapers, builders of all variety, cashiers, cops, accountants, hairdressers etc., ad infinitum, busy themselves to support the prop.

Luckily I was staying with lovely people, good friends who showed me some gems, things to enjoy while in the maze like the campus swimming pool. We enjoyed a lovely hike on a little mountain that touched the city's edge. But for my sensitive consciousness this city was tough to bear. I experienced genuine shock every day, like when I found a store in a mall called Its Sugar. The sign may as well have read "Get Cancer Here." I found a shop that proudly boasted it's sole purpose, to develop your image. You can be a brand.

So why is all this a problem? Live and let live, right? Simple. When we hitch ourselves to what is not real we miss the real and even destroy it along with ourselves. What is real is what is living. You can notice the real because it needs no prop to hold it up like the mall with its hundreds of workers making sure the lights go on, the water drains, and the gas heaters ignite. The cost for the prop, be it mall-sized or city-scale, is life itself. Built out of the real, made from what had been self generating until we threw it out of balance by way of our pillaging, the prop is flimsy. It can't support us. We support it. It has a nature of depletion and a rhythm of pillaging. The real has a nature of nourishment and a rhythm of savoring. Hint hint. Once lost in the artificial, common sense wilts and goes away and people do strange things. For example, when the prop causes harm: cancer, diabetes, depression and the like, rather than change the prop, we make pills to help ourselves adapt to it, a behavior that indicates that the common sense is gone.

Remarkably this entire stunt is also the prison of it's inhabitants who work their lives away to hold it up even though the prop does not belong to them. It belongs to 1% of the population who hardly participate in it. The workers return the money they earn working for the prop by buying the goods they need from the prop, things that had been free in their natural form, before they were contorted into products at the cost of life.

What to do? As I type this I know that Dubai is working on the largest air conditioned mall in the world and China is gearing up to produce even more smog so that every household can have its share of cheap consumer goods. But still there is something to do. We can reconnect to what is real and connect back to common sense. It is our only guide, the only sense that can map a way out, our tap root. Separate from life we are marooned and we will die. We're dying now. Connected to life and we are the recipients of all of life's knowledge, bounty, and support. We thrive. There is still time to choose, maybe.

It is time for radical measures. Quit the job that asks you to compromise what you know to be right. Better yet, refuse to work at all. Take your life back and give your time finding an authentic way to contribute to something that is a match for your view of this world. Say no to what sucks and say it loud. There is so much that sucks! See where radical decisions lead you. You don't know where you'll end up if you've never tried them out. You may be surprised. Trust something larger than the mall. Trust life. Do whatever it takes. What you need to do is probably something no one has done yet as few things that have been done have worked. The scale of the next important change will be individual as well as large. Prepare to stand by what you do. Support everyone who seems to be doing the same. Find them. Find your common ground. Find your common sense. Oh yeah and have fun. Purpose certainly beats working in a cubicle.

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