Bare Bones Biology 116 – Wendy Johnson Workshop

Bare Bones Biology 107 through today, 116, are about communication. Different kinds of communication. And of course we didn’t scratch the surface. Communications has become an entire discipline. I know someone with a PhD in the subject. But there’s nothing new about the simple point of this series of blogs — that all communications are real, but they are useful to us in different ways, as we grow own personal future or, more importantly in the long view as we try to resolve the biological illness that faces our ecosystem.
We know we cannot survive without the ecosystem. Therefore, picking out whatever we like to believe, or whatever communication stirs our emotions, or whatever we wish were true — and working very, very hard for it – or going with the flow because that’s normal human behavior – none of those approaches to communication will resolve our current biological dilemma. What we mostly need is good information and good discussion. Sometimes a good place to look for these is in a workshop setting.

I recently attended a workshop about the four elements with Wendy Johnson (author of “Gardening At the Dragon’s Gate,” Bantam Dell), at Upaya Zen Center (

The workshop experience merged our awareness of our human values, emotions and needs with the mother-nurture of nature as we examined each of the four elements that are organized by Buddhism as: earth, water, fire and air (and space). We all know that these are the fruits of the ecosystem, that we cannot do without them, that our behaviors influence their availability, and that I have also been talking about these issues from my perspective of our physical survival needs. It was a joy to experience Wendy’s beautiful rendition of the same issues, blending the physical survival needs with our human emotional needs and a practical approach, learning through gardening, that goes beyond either perspective.

We really could resolve our biological dilemma, if we would only reach that one step beyond the science and beyond the emotions and use our inborn compassionate nature, and our recognition that the problem at its roots is biological, as an incentive to study the fact-based needs of the ecosystem – and find a way to give the mother life what it needs that is different from what we need – for it and for ourselves and our future. We have everything to do that — except the will. The facts are available and so are the technologies. The compassionate will, however, is being drowned in a sea of fear, hostility, short-sighted self-interest and false propaganda.

Here is Wendy’s better vision.

“I love to make the connection between the outer waters of the world and the inner waters that do compose us. Three-fifths of water of our bodies is carried inside our cells, and then another two/fifths outside as blood plasma, cerebro-spinal fluid and intestinal tract fluid. So we are walking bags of water. We can feel that. Especially in a dry place. Those of us from the Bay Area, from Portland, Oregon, where water animates the air. We have to search for the resonance that is our human inheritance.

“And every day, every day, three percent of the water in our bodies is replenished with new molecules. Water from the deep abyss of the ocean, I was thinking this morning we are replenished, not only with fresh water, but from water that is in the huge hydrologic cycle, coming up fresh, and that water includes water from the depths of the Gulf of Mexico, water mixed with the ancient fire of oil, water from rain on the tall grass prairie, and from the ancient forests. Actually, we measure water, in the woods, we measure water by how much stored fog and vapor. In the ancient redwoods, now whittled down to 2.5 percent of their original size. How much water they give back, so stepping into the redwood forest, I remember years ago with Thich Nhat Hanh (, he said: ‘We step into a Sangha of water and life.’ You can feel it, stepping onto that ground, water vapor breathing with the trees. So, three percent of our bodies are always refreshed by the upwelling and the sinking down, by the rhythm of water.

“And yet water shortage, water depletion, the so-called resource, I hate to even use that word in connection with water, the so-called resourcefulness of water is already one of the greatest challenges we are facing.”
For more of this and the remaining elements, check out Wendy’s podcasts part one and part two at Upaya Or for air, surely you remember Bare Bones Biology 093 was also pretty good, and the same general interdependence relationship is also true of energy (fire) and earth. I recommend you listen to Wendy’s podcasts of this workshop, parts one and two, and I also highly recommend her dharma talk of the previous week.

During this workshop, we went down to the little Santa Fe River to put our feet in the water and wonder what it would feel like without water.

Bitsy and I went back again last week and splashed about while the children swung on the tire. But two days later there was no more water in the little Santa Fe river. Only a place in the bottom of the channel where some animal had tried to dig for it.
Bare Bones Biology 116 – Wendy Johnson Workshop
KEOS-FM, 89.1, Bryan, Texas
For a podcast of this radio spot, click here
Or go to

Recommended References and Trackbacks:
Upaya Zen Center,
Wendy Johnson, Gardening at the Dragon’s Gate
Bare Bones Biology 107-115 and 093
Thich Nhat

Let’s Fight for (whatever you want)

1. You can’t build anything positive by fighting against anything.
That is what Ghandi and the Dalai Lama and Karen Armstrong, and a number of other people are trying to get us to hear.

This is clear in all religions. Dhamapadha translated by Eknath Easwaran (I changed love and I changed hate because I have figured out that at least the Buddhists I know don’t understand what these words mean, relative to what the texts teach:

“For hostility can never put an end to hostility;
Only compassion can; this is an unalterable law.”

And the Bible — Faith Hope and Charity (changed later to love), what is the greatest of these?

2. That was the mistake of the Obama supporters. They assumed that we could “change” our culture by fighting for change.

Fighting can not change our culture because the basic root of our culture IS fighting. Unless we can change that basic root, there is no point getting all het up about wars to end all war, war against (whatever you don’t want).

3. Indeed, the corposystem is built on the worst of our human values — however — it is a terrible mistake to try to destroy the corposystem as an act of hostility.

a. The result will be dreadful suffering of the innocent; these young hero wannabes have no idea what will happen if the corposystem suddenly collapses — or possibly they WANT chaos and armageddon. Quite a few people do. like Bush2 and Osama, two of a kind, had apparently that same goal in their heads. I do not chose fighting as my heritage. If that is what I wanted — I already have it and I would be out there fighting, rather than sitting here trying to grow something positive.

b. The corposystem is going to crash all of its own accord anyway. There is no way a construct based on infinite growth can survive anyhow, so that strikes me as just another excuse to find something to fight about. Or they are so brainwashed by the system — that’s how systems
perpetuate themselves. They raise up people who can’t think of any other way to accomplish something than to do the thing they cry out against. They know something is wrong, but they don’t know anything else.

(That’s how I won my case, in part. People in power can only think of one thing. You can carry on
behind their backs and they never notice it because they don’t view it as power. The only kind of power that exists for them is the one kind of power that they understand.) That’s why my blog is about POWER to succeed.

Not power to destroy.

The only way we can change the corposystem is to save the rule of law and change it. If we the people don’t want to do that, then we can. If we can’t, then we can’t, and we should not be wasting our energy trying to do something negative that we can’t do when we can do something that will bring positive change to the future. It’s part of succeeding to not try to do something you can’t do. Now my guess is that the people who are promoting hostility ARE succeeding at THEIR goal. Which is to be heroes. I don’t care whether or not they get to be heroes, and if I waste my time trying to help them to be heroes, I am not contributing to a more positive future.

We have only one arena of power, and that is to the future. We are now on a knife-edge balance and I don’t have any idea which way it will go, but I know what side I’m putting my weight on. We can either grow a future of violence or grow some changes. Given that we are not yet suffering physically, that means we have all the more obligation to evaluate all our behaviors according to the facts on the ground (not according to what we WANT) and whether our actions arelikely to cause more suffering in the future or less suffering in the future. As the suffering is coming in any case, I believe we have a major responsibility to the future to address right now the behaviors that are and will cause more suffering in the future.

Fighting anything will only make matters worse in the future. We can’t stop the fighting unless we grow a world that is not overpopulated, but we don’t have to make up things to fight about that are also consuming more of the resources that the earth has not enough of.

As for low-energy lightbulbs — that sort of thing is a feelgood boondoggle. We don’t have to fall for all that. The main thing it does is sell lightbulbs. When I have one that burns out I’ll replace it with a better one, but that won’t solve anything. When there are more people on the earth than the resources of the earth — no matter what you buy or do is using resources and therefore is harmful in some way. To believe otherwise is exactly what the corposystem wants you to do. We can not compensate for overpopulation or corporate overgrowth by making more things to sell; we can’t compensate for it by fighting anything. The corposystem is making most of its money already by generating fights and responding to disasters that wouldn’t be disasters if we had enough land to fit all the people in reasonable healthy places. Running around fighting will only feed their maw and nourish our egos, when our best contribution would be to stay home and help to grow a positive and compassionate lifestyle for the future of the ecosystem.