On Turning 72: 7 Important Life Lessons Learned

Jed and CarlinI turn 72 on December 21st and I’ve been reflecting on this time of life, what’s in store for our future, and some of the important life-lessons I’ve learned over the years. This is a picture of Carlin and me at our local Willits, Kinetic Carnivale.  It’s nice to be with the woman I love as we move into this next quarter of our lives.

After spending 25 years living on Shimmins Ridge, above Bloody Run Creek, off the grid, ten miles north of Willits, we sold our house and land this year to a nice young couple who are ready to take over where we left off. We bought a house in town and have enjoyed settling into the life of our community. As I reflect back on these years I’d like to offer a few of the life-lessons learned.

  1. Being with a loving partner is a gift, a joy, and requires the willingness to go way deep.

Carlin and I are approaching our 36th anniversary together. When we first met, the odds were against us. We each had been married twice before. But we had vowed to work on ourselves to better understand what it took to have a successful marriage. We had learned a lot by the time we met, but we’ve learned a whole lot more since we’ve been together.

We’ve had to go ever deeper into our own past, deal with our emotional wounds and be willing to care for ourselves and each other even when the times were tough. Sometimes the tough times can last for years and there were times we wondered whether we would make it. We’re still going deeper and learning more about life, love, and pursuit of the great mystery.

  1. Incompatibility is grounds for a real marriage, not a divorce.

In both our previous marriages we hit a point where it seemed we were with wrong person. We’re just incompatible, we had thought. Now we realize that incompatibility can be the basis for real love. When we get together we inevitably project our hopes, dreams, and needs on our partner. We can’t really see “them” because we’re blinded by the projections of our own needs. When they don’t live up to who we thought they were, we get upset and want out.

We’ve come to see that incompatibility is actually the third stage of a great marriage. I write about this in my forthcoming book, The Enlightened Marriage: The 5 Transformative Stages of Relationships and Why the Best is Still to Come. Incompatibility offers an additional opportunity to heal old wounds from our childhood. We were wounded in our most intimate relationships and we can be healed in love with a loving partner.

  1. Learning to love yourself means being alone with the one you love.

Being in a loving relationship is a great gift of joy, but all of us must spend time alone. The times when we’re not in a relationship with someone else can be spent in an obsessive search for a partner or in an equally obsessive protective mode to keep us safe from being hurt again. We must realize that we are never alone. There is a loving presence that holds us and cares for us. We can call that loving presence, God, Goddess, the Spirit That Moves Through All Things, or our own Loving Soul Presence.

Learn to glory in the life-enhancing time of being with yourself learning to love ever more grandly.

  1. Deal with your mental illnesses or they will kill you.

You can often judge the importance of an issue by how afraid the society is to talk about it. We can talk about heart disease, breast cancer, and diabetes, but we shy away from talking about depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and alcoholism. In our minds we think that physical illnesses are “real” and worthy of help and treatment, but mental illnesses are a matter of will power and we should be able to handle them on our own.

Even though there is a lot more attention focused on mental illness these days, there is still a great deal of stigma attached. We still have an emotional resistance to dealing with “mental” problems than with “physical” problems. But the physical and mental are not separate worlds. I’ve had to deal with depression throughout my life. Carlin has had to deal with mental rumination and with her family history of alcoholism. We all know people who haven’t dealt with their mental problems. Truly, I’ve learned that we’d best deal with them, or we may be killed by them.

  1. We are facing the end of civilization as we know it and that’s a good thing.

Our human ancestors have lived on planet earth for at least 2 million years. With the advent of dominator cultures with an attitude that the earth’s resource were there for humans to exploit, we embarked on a journey that can only end in our own destruction. In 1995 I had a vision in a sweat lodge ceremony that showed the sinking of the Ship of Civilization and the forming of life-boat communities embarking on a journey towards a more sustainable world.

Rob Watson, CEO and Chief Scientist of the EcoTech International Group, who Pulitizer-Prize winning author Tom Friedman calls one of the best environmental minds in America, captured what I saw in the vision. “People don’t seem to realize it that it is not like we’re on the Titanic and we have to avoid the iceberg. We’ve already hit the iceberg.  The water is rushing in down below.  But some people just don’t want to leave the dance floor; others don’t want to give up on the buffet.  But if we don’t make the hard choices, nature will make them for us.”

There is a better way to be in balance with the community of life and we will find it or we will die.

  1. We have an opportunity now to create Civilization 2.

In his book, Beyond Civilization: Humanity’s Next Great Adventure, Daniel Quinn says there is life beyond what we know as civilization. If we look at the mainstream media we see two visions of the future. One says that things are wonderful and getting better. The other shows a world of pain, violence, hunger, and great economic imbalances that support the excesses of the 1% (or increasingly the 1/10 of 1%) and the expense of the 99.9%.

But that is beginning to change. Millions of people all over the world have decided it’s useless to fight against the excesses of Civilization 1. A better choice is to simply and quietly create Civilization 2. If you’re reading this I hope you’ll consider joining us.

  1. Terrorism is a term Civ 1 uses to frighten us. The truth is we are all in this together and will survive together, or not at all.

People who know me either see me as the supreme pessimist or a crazy optimist. My men’s group will tell you I talk a lot about the coming crash and the demise of civilization. Others will tell you that I seem unusually upbeat and happy most of the time. I would tell you that I’m really a pessimistic optimist. I do see the end of an old civilization. I see evidence of its demise all around me: Global climate instability, loss of fresh water and soil to grow food, and increased rage and violence in the world.

I also see people joining together to create a different way of life that is based on true respect for all creation. Humans are a relatively new species on planet earth. We are going through significant growing pains. It isn’t clear whether we will be one of the species that survives for a long period of time or will be one that comes in blaze of glory and leaves in a flash.

I do know that there is a lot of fear in the world, which is understandable given the enormity of the changes we are experiencing. We can no longer afford to see other humans as “other” and to want to kill “them” in order to save “us.” We must learn that it is a great privilege to be alive and be able to live on this unique and wonderful planet. I hope we learn to deeply appreciate what we’ve been given and to learn to transform our fear to love and understanding, especially with those that drive us crazy (I’m working hard not to hate Donald Trump, to see him as a fellow human trying to do the best he can with the wounds he was dealt). Who are you working hard not to hate?

Join me on Twitter for an ongoing conversation: @MenAliveNow

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  1. Greetings Brother Jed, Thanks for being a clear and grounded voice in the midst of the rising chaos! I agree with all that you have shared and know that we are experiencing the Age of Aquarius because of the ever increasing rise of consciousness amongst more and more of us.

    Blessings of the season to you, Carlin and your families! AHO!


    • Grant,

      Great good wishes to you as well, my friend. May we continue to spread the truth about love, life, and the pursuit of a sustainable lifestyle that works for all.

  2. Jed

    I can help you with the Donald and the everyday American conservative’s attraction to his in your face style. You have to understand about 30% of Americans have been supporting the Republican Party to represent their view of American life. Over the past 8-10 years those people have accepted the vote but went to Washington and became a part of the beltway elite. Most people eventually when lied to enough reach a point of no return, it has been clear that the ruling class has taken for granted the American voter on both sides of the isle. So the Donald and Bernie have identified this disgust of the ruling elite and government in general and they have presented a straight forward different idea based on the the fact that the way things are in Washington are so bad that anyone could do it better. This is a revolution, a civil war just without bullets. So here is something that explains what many Americans believe in their hearts:
    “If you want to explain the current American political system, or climate, a majority of the American people are appalled at what is being done to their country, to our country. A sizable majority of the American people did not vote for any of this that is happening. They don’t support it. They never have supported it. They never wanted it.
    They are angry, they are appalled, and they are scared at what is happening, at what is being done to their country. Their health care system is being blown up. The immigration system is failing. The country is being swarmed with people who many don’t even think are interested in becoming Americans. A majority of the people in this country are suspicious of the motives of those who support open borders and amnesty, and are seeking to empower and enrich themselves while endangering the country.

    We have a president who has openly admitted in various ways that he doesn’t believe in the greatness of this country nor its exceptionalism, and he doesn’t believe that we deserve half of the greatness that has happened here. A majority of the American people want no part of this. A majority of the American people are livid, appalled, angry, whatever you want to say, over what they witness every day, and their frustration is amplified and multiplied because in Washington, DC, they can’t find any representation for what they believe.

    The people they vote for are not representing them, are not standing up for them, are not pushing back against all this. There are some individual people who are, and they happen to be leading the presidential primary. The establishment’s preferred favorite candidate, Jeb Bush, is at 3% here, 4% over there, 5% over there. Not a factor.

    The establishment refuses to learn from this, they refuse to see the reality or the handwriting on the wall. The American people feel like no matter where they turn this country is being governed against their will. Fear and anger are two very key motivators. The American people, a majority of the American people see their children’s and their grandchildren’s future being frittered away, spent away, whittled away. They haven’t voted for any of it. They haven’t supported any of it.

    This fear, this angry attitude they have is not rooted in bigotry or racism or hatred or anything of the sort. It is rooted in love. A vast majority of the American people dearly love this country. They understand what American exceptionalism is, and they are proud of it. They love the fact that this is the greatest country ever in the history of humanity, and they want it preserved, and they want it to be even bigger and better. And they don’t see anybody in Washington engaged in making that happen, nor even talking about it.

    Instead, they look to Washington and they see the country being undermined.

    They see their children’s futures being undermined. They look at the American pop culture and they see perversion rearing its head each and every day. No matter what they turn on, television, the Internet, radio, it doesn’t matter. Perversion and depravity are rewarded! And they’re scared. It’s a very key component, and a majority of the American people don’t see anyone with any moral authority. There is no leadership they respect, and that’s not good. The American people want great leaders. The American people want people they think are really, really good at what they do.

    They want people leading them who they believe love the country as they do, want the same things for the country they do, want the same things for their children that they want for their children. They don’t see that reflected at all in the leadership of this country right now. It scares them and angers them. They don’t need the LA Times to tell them that middle-class families are no longer in the majority. They know that that’s the case; they are the middle class. They see themselves losing ground, and they know exactly why.

    They have the education, the experience, and the knowledge sufficient enough to tell them that all of this is happening because of the policies of Washington, DC, over the last 10 years. They don’t want any more of it.

    It really isn’t hard to understand why the American people, a majority of them, are angry and want what is happening at present to stop, a government that tells them the unemployment rate is only 5% when they know 94 million Americans are not even working. When they know that their work hours are being cut back so that their companies don’t have to provide them health care. They are worn out hearing about income inequality, how the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer and the gap between them is getting greater. Then they look at Washington and they see Washington is in bed with the uber-wealthy. Even the Democrat Party.

    Members of the American middle class do not even feel represented. They don’t even feel stood up for. They don’t sense themselves being spoken for, they’re very much aware, or they very deeply believe that they have not been dealt with honestly for the last number of years. And they clearly don’t trust the current leadership of this country, whom they most likely see as doing great damage. None of this is hard to understand, but everything the people in the Washington establishment haven’t the slightest clue.

    One of two things. They either do understand all this and just don’t care and feel powerless to do anything about it, or else they genuinely are clueless and really do not understand how a majority of the American people live today. Great leadership understands the hopes, the dreams, and the fears of the people they lead. Leaders are invested in great responsibility. Great leaders engender this by virtue of the power and force of their personality and their moral character, and none of this the people of this country see in Washington, DC, at the moment. And so they’re doing whatever they can. They’ve voted, they have done, in their estimation, as much as they can to demonstrate their desires, their wishes, their preferences.

    They have behaved properly, according to the political guidelines and laws of the country. And they just don’t trust their leadership anymore and feel betrayed by it. They don’t trust the media, and haven’t for a long time. They’re sick and tired of being told they are the problem. They’re sick and tired of being every day labeled something because of their love for country, because of what they believe. They’re sick and tired of being told they’re racists or they’re bigots or they’re homophobes or Islamophobes, you name it, when none of that is applicable. What they are is patriots, and they’re wondering why there are so few patriots in leadership today.

    None of this is hard to understand. None of it’s hard to see. It’s there every day. And yet the establishment, the ruling class, whatever you want to call ’em, Washington, New York, Boston, the whole corridor, the media don’t see, everything’s hunky-dory, everything’s fine, everything’s great, everything’s cool. Meanwhile, the Iranians are getting a nuclear weapon, terrorism is on the rise, domestic terrorism is a greater possibility day in and day out. The American people are fully aware the people responsible for it are being coddled and protected and encouraged by their own leadership. It doesn’t make any sense to them.

    Sent from my iPhone