An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of August 15, 2004
Issued from the woods just south of Natchez, Misssissippi, USA

FINE-TUNING THE MIDDLE PATH

Regularly I refer to the Middle Path, that Golden Mean of Living I aspire to between the extremes practiced by our consumption-oriented society, and pure back-to-natureism. For example, I do without air conditioning, concerned about the environmental destruction caused by mining the coal burned in power-generating stations, yet I use a computer and the Internet.

Newsletter subscriber Arjus in Holland writes pointing out that in real life it can be hard to figure out where the Middle Path is.

For example, right now the US electorate appears split right down the middle, half of us on the right of "average," and half of us on the left. Over the years our leadership more or less alternates between conservatives and liberals, so, are US policies and the lifestyles of our citizens in the long run averaging out to be following the Middle Path?

To answer that question you must choose a criterion for defining the Middle Path. For me the Middle Path is the direction taken that carries life farthest into the future. In other words, it is based on sustainability.

Thinking of the Middle Path like that, and seeing with my own eyes the effects of mining, clearcutting, prodigious use of pesticides, and all the other unsustainable practices required to maintain our level of consumption of goods -- I judge us to be a nation of extremists, departing in almost every way from the Middle Path.

This week I heard from Mournlight someplace in Cyberspace who told me how she was finding her own Middle Path. "I have a job I love most of the time... [It] provides me with the income necessary to pay for a piece of property which I dearly love, and which provides me great comfort." And she goes on to describe her stream, blackberry picking, and the Chuck-will's-widows calling at night. Most of the time she doesn't use air conditioning, and her house furniture is mostly stuff that's been thrown away by other people.

Hillary on the Gulf Coast uses fans and a water-filled livestock watering-tank for sitting in instead of air conditioning. In my book, every bead of sweat on that man's forehead has more value in a spiritual sense than a hundred SUV-driving fundamentalists' prayers.

I also heard from Mac up in Missouri who lives in an "earth contact house" that during cold months is heated by burning about a cord of wood a year. He also has a "sunroom greenhouse."

Mac used a nice phrase referring to the readers of this Newsletter: "Community of spirit." I like that. I think that much of the spirit uniting us is based on the fact that we tend to be folks trying in our own ways to identify and follow the Middle Path -- to do the best with what we have, while keeping in mind the impacts of our behaviors on all others, and Life on Earth itself.

Hearing from Mournlight, Hillary and Mac this week just tickled me a lot.

By the way, if you're curious about what an "earth contact house" is, there's information about them at www.undergroundhomes.com/home.html