An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of September 29, 2008
Written in Sabacché and issued from a
ciber in nearby Tekit, Yucatán, MÉXICO

SHORTWAVE STATIC

Shortwave programming is a shadow of what it used to be. The programs that for many years connected me with my own world when I camped in isolated tropical places no longer can be heard here. Radio Canada simply stopped transmitting. When the Bush administration assumed power, highly respected Voice of America was savaged, much of its funding being diverted into anti- Castro propaganda transmitted by Radio Martí in Miami. Worst of all, this spring the BBC stopped beaming signals to this part of the world. Shortwave received here now consists mostly of powerful religious programming from the US, and Radio Martí transmitting hardcore propaganda on many frequencies, most of them noisily and effectively jammed by the Cubans.

However, my little receiver is a good one, and the other day I found a BBC signal being beamed from London to Africa. I must be receiving the signal off the side of the antenna. The signal is weak, fades in and out, often is obliterated by lightning-caused static, and I hear much more than I want about Africa, but at least I can hear real news again.

The news the last couple of weeks has been largely about the world economic crises. Never before has such money and power changed hands so fast, they say, talking about America's wealth and influence falling into the hands of Asians. At dusk with mosquitoes incrusting my netting I lie in the darkness of my little casita trying to pick words out of the static, fascinated by it all, wondering how my family and friends up north are affected.

In economics they like to think of money as like energy in Nature. Both money and energy flow from user to user, both can be saved, wasted or invested, and both keep life going. However, money is not like energy because Nature's energy has a constant value, can be measured and counted out precisely in calories, ergs or whatever, while money’s value is inconstant. Money's value is nothing more than what humans say it is, and humans are liable to say anything, anytime.

If what I'm gleaning through all the static is correct -- that a new age has begun, that US society now will be reshuffled and reconstituted -- then a lot of people are about to lose their old ways of living.

In the past, when I've lost something big -- the family farm, my parents, my marriage, my professional life -- somehow I always saw those changes as invitations to simplify, to try to do more with less, and, more than anything, to shift my main focus away from the ephemeral, human-made world, toward the eternal world of Nature.

Nature teaches that simple, inexpensive, healthy living is a joy. I learned that by accident. I didn't discover it through wisdom, but rather because one personal disaster after another led me into it. I simplified, cut back spending, exercised and ate nutritious foods grudgingly, but now I see that those changes put me on the proper path.

So, through the static of my limited powers of expression, here is today's signal I'm sending to you there in the North:

Accept this challenge as a gift -- as an invitation to simplify, to grow lean again, and tougher than before. And notice that nothing has changed with regard to your liberty to think, to reflect, and feel. And birds still sing, green plants still photosynthesize, crickets still chime, and, really, the most beautiful and meaningful parts of life haven’t changed at all. Facebook Icon.