Reflections on my Seventieth Birthday
www.brianoleary.com, January 27, 2010
Eeh-gods, I’m seventy. How did that happen? These are some of my reflections as I enter true elderhood.
First, I apologize to anyone writing me with some excellent questions and requests that remain unanswered because of the sheer volume of emails coming in. Meredith and I also confess to being old-fashioned by not embracing the latest in computers, communications and marketing bells and whistles in Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, or this or that software, cell phone, Wi-Fi, Blackberry, maintaining mailing lists, etc. And I almost always trusted the business world but never really “got ahead” as an entrepreneur before we moved to Ecuador. I trusted others in marketing and promotion too much. So, mostly these days, I’ve been doing my own thing, with the understanding support of Meredith and many others to whom I’m grateful, and sometimes I may act aloof and unsocial as I work toward my goals.
In other words, I am a creature primarly of the 20th century sometimes kicking and screaming into the 21st century. As a new elder, I can now understand the point of Marshall McLuhan’s prescient remark that “the medium is the message.” But for me, the message is the message, although in today’s tower of babel, it’s often difficult to spread the word now that we here in remote nature are largely cut off from state-of-the-art media and business practices. In this world of competition, distraction and consumerism, I constantly ask myself, which tail is wagging my dog today? What is the larger context for what we’re doing?
I defiantly search for deeper meanings behind why the suffering of human suicide and genocide can go on in the presence of possibilities such as free energy and the power of consciousness, healing, meditation and the positive intention of bonded groups. Mr. Obama has obviously not (yet anyway) come anywhere near heeding my plea posted on www.brianoleary.info a year ago, when I had still expressed hope that he would lead us into a world of systemic change. He seems to have taken the opposite path, no doubt under the secretly-delivered duress and direction of the powers-that-be who ever more consolidate their own hegemony at the expense of nature and everyone else. Yet our programs for 2010 will reflect a determination to persevere in our work unabated, pouring on all the coals---unless or until the music stops. Meanwhile, there is always hope. We live our precious lives one day at a time, with gratitude for our health, the beautiful surroundings, and the good guests who come here---and fulfilling our purpose to support Mother Earth.
I’ve always sought solutions to our challenges outside the box, for example, my childhood desire to go to the Moon or Mars (which I would have accomplished with a slight re-scripting of history). Now my passion is to save the rainforest from exploitation by means of responsibly-managed radical innovation. I seek to replace our sense of value towards those things that will truly serve us, for example clean energy and pure and abundant water. Most of my academic colleagues don’t agree, and so I’ve been the recipient of varied evaluations of who I am or who I appear to be—for instance, “Brian, don’t be so open-minded your brains spill out,” or “Brian is an iconoclast with a checkered career.” So, yes, the first half of my life was focused on exploring outer space as a visionary in mainstream settings, and the second half of my life brought me back to Earth and its precious environment, always seeking answers beyond conventional thinking and implementing these answers in unconventional ways.
Regarding my seventieth, I have a lot of reflections. Thirty, forty and fifty were frivolous occasions but sixty and seventy were more philosophical with some offbeat attempts at sattvic satire thrown in, such as pig puppet theatre. I recall that at thirty, I acted out transforming myself from being a long-haired hippie to a be-suited, martini-swilling Member of Society, symbolic of my new responsibilities as an adult with a career and young family. My fortieth was spent in a snowbound Appalachian Mountain Club cabin in New Hampshire drinking Mother Goldstein, Silver Satin and Thunderbird wine with buddies. My fiftieth was a large semi-surprise party with many friends and a live birthday pig sporting balloons rented for the occasion. My sixtieth was celebrated at an ashram with a ceremony in the Hindu tradition of going out into the world to teach—something I continue to do to this day.
But I see the seventieth as coming into true elderhood. On the one hand, some of my most fervent wishes in this lifetime have been to establish and fulfill a destiny of service to the world. I am glad that I can now review a life mostly well-lived and a legacy to leave to younger others. On the other hand, I often feel sad about a deteriorating and unsustainable environment and, sometimes I lament an aging physical body to match it. I especially feel sad about how humans have gone so far off track. It seems that if we want to make a difference in the world, we will have to confront our individual and collective dark sides. The malevolence of the powers-that-be and their suppressions of new paradigm possibilities are unpleasant but necessary to face. I feel a rush and giddiness of foreboding that we may need to enter a deep darkness before we can emerge into the light, and I sense many others feel this too. So the best I can do is to observe, acknowledge, and, if necessary, encounter that darkness, while I continue to work with the light, to continue learning and teaching for as long as I’m in this body. No retirement condos or golfing for this kid.
One thing that I’ve learned in this long lifetime is that life just doesn’t happen to us. Whatever you think or don’t think will happen in 2012 or whenever, we won’t experience it all by simply watching it happen in a passive awe or wonder or fear or boredom. We are not only spectators: We are all co-creators of our future if we so choose to participate. Otherwise we all really face a grim future. So at Montesueños my experiential educator friend of thirty years, Terry Tillman and I will be co-facilitating a workshop, Transforming the Dreamer on March 19-23. This resident retreat intensive is designed to evoke action for participants to become responsible transformational agents for the Earth.
The magic of Montesueños unfolds but the daily activities and exchanges are not mere happenstance. They are greater, more organized by a higher consciousness than I or we could have done by ourselves. Life seems to be a balance between letting it happen and taking actions--cooperating with a higher purpose that is sometimes elusive to our ego-selves. In my experience, a corollary is that, while the emotions of daily life wax and wane, as always, the deeper feelings come up in dreams. They are dramatic and might be a preview to the “other side” toward which I inevitably head. I go to bed early at night, around 8, read until 9, dozing off to my other vivid astral life, as if I were in both places moving back and forth between them in a daily rhythm. My Dreamtime has become increasingly important, not just to interpret but to experience.
It is becoming closer to the time for me to pass on the dream of a healed Earth to trusted others younger than myself. My legacy is not only the co-creation of Montesueños. It is taking action on a higher purpose to enact true sustainability on the planet I’ll be departing one day in the not-too-distant future. My seventieth is a segue to larger, more focused actions to achieve a sustainable abundance while I’m still alive and breathing. I feel more urgency to do that than ever before.
When I recently spoke at the University of Loja (in Ecuador), I said to the students that they will need to take up some of the work I’m talking about, that it’s my legacy and their heritage. I also said that a 20-year-old now would be my age in the year 2060. What kind of world will those of us left behind and newly born experience in 2060? The choices ahead will be a co-creation among ourselves and with Mother Nature.
To that end, my seventieth celebration literally kicks off the foundation of an Ecuador Initiative and Innovation Alliance to create “innovation sanctuaries” for inventors and creative others to develop truly clean technologies that could replace the dirty extraction of nonrenewable resources (e.g., oil, gold, copper, wood, water, unsustainable agriculture, etc.). In this way, Ecuador and other nations could become economically viable while leaving the indigenous peoples and bio-diverse rainforests, highlands and wetlands alone. That is the dream which has barely begun, and it will be for others to carry out the work in future decades.
But time to shift our gears is running short. To help speed up the process of change we are feeling, I have just accepted an invitation to serve as Official Director of Ecuador Affairs for the United Nations Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Organization, effective immediately. I take this position not only as an honor but as an opportunity to take part in a new level of access and education of the great possibilities that lie ahead by transitioning to an renewable energy society both here in Ecuador and worldwide.
So I want to stick around and look after my health as long as possible. In support of this, I stopped drinking alcohol more than a year ago. This and other behavior changes serve me well. It couldn’t be any other way, really. I hope what Meredith and I have created here will go a long way in founding efforts to change the paradigm, for this has been the purpose closest to our hearts.