My Soapbox

1. The Internet
2. Mark's Off Road
3. Parenting
4. Adulthood
5. Relationships
6. Love
7. Charity
8. Reflections on Life
9. Environment
10. Science
11. Religion
12. Business
13. The Desert

Soapbox Intro: Hi, my name is Mark Algazy, the man behind Mark's Off Road. For more than 20 years now, I have answered countless inquiries about the inner workings of landcruisers for many satisfied customers. And I have answered a great many other inquiries as well.After 52 years, I figure a man is bound to have opinions about a lot more than just Landcruisers. I have often set to work on a 'my great novel' only to turn towards another interest before a single chapter is finished. While I don't know if I will ever finish even one of these novels [most are compilations of essays] I figure my next best shot is my own little piece of the Internet. The irony of this shall become immediately evident, as my first entry is on my own reluctant relationship with the Internet.
I sincerely hope that at least one thing I put on this page disturbs you enough to stop and think, 'why does this disturb me'? I credit many good books for putting forth ideas that repulse me and force me to stop and think 'Well I certainly don't believe this; this just begs the question 'what DO I believe' and forces me to take the time to think about it. My wife likens these objectionable ideas to the annoying grains of sand that cause the oyster to make a pearl

1. The Internet.

As a frame of reference, I have to start off by telling you that as of March 2003, I was certain that I would NEVER become involved with the Internet. I didn't think it was worth the time, effort and expense to set up a website for the type of people I believed surfed the net. Based on rumors and innuendo [always a good source of information!] I believed that the net was inhabited by bottom feeders, the guys that had nothing better to do with their days than hunt down the rock bottom deals on whatever. This is not the clientele I was interested in advertising to, much less catering to.

Fast forward a year and a half to the fall of 2004 and I had DSL at home, a well-established account on Ebay, a website, and a regular presence on two Landcruiser bulletin boards. The journey was and is not an easy one for a retro-grouch like me. Essentially, I am a mechanical, 'carbureted' man in an electronic, 'fuel injected' world. I would rather talk at the counter or on the phone, than on a bulletin board. I have made new friends on the Internet who prefer this form of communication, so I struggle, day by day, with how much time and energy I will relinquish to the computer. [The fact that 'relinquish' was the first word that came to mind hints at the continuing underlying resistance I have]

I have not published any e-mail links to my website because I DO NOT WANT to spend even more time answering tech questions from strangers than I do now. Half the guys that call me on the phone have already heard my infamous response "Ask the shop that sold you the part!" Sometimes the nature of business is adversarial, and it gets tiring being wary of overly-inquisitive customers. As I have said elsewhere on the website, I don't consider it part of my job to make it easier for people to shop elsewhere. After 20 years, I can tell you that all that jive about everyone being a potential future customer is bullsh-t. But by the same token, I LOVE helping MY customers!

In contrast, when I go to the bulletin boards, I go to hang out and shoot the shit with my new friends who are as hopelessly addicted to Landcruisers as I am. I didn't register my username anywhere as Mark's Off Road because it isn't my intention to be on duty 24-7. On the BBS, I have the choice to respond OR NOT RESPOND to any given thread, because the questions are posed to the community, not to me individually. I have actually found that, for the most part, the bulletin boards are a superior means for disseminating information.

One of the things that is REALLY cool about the BBS is that I can answer a question in context. A lot of my opinions are based on how larger things inter-relate, and I prefer to give an answer that makes sense in the big picture. One of the things I hear over and over again from the new customers I have attracted thru the internet is how they understand and appreciate my philosophy, not just my information. What I have to offer, and how I offer it, are all part of a seamless web that is me. That is why, for instance, I don't offer to sell things I wouldn't install.

Another thing that is cool about the BBS over the telephone is that I don’t have to worry about the customer forgetting or misinterpreting what I may have said on the phone. Sometimes a conversation can cover a lot of ground in a hurry, and it can be hard to keep track of all the info. With the Internet and the bbs, they can go back, 24/7 and re-read it, mull it over some more.

I have learned a lot about the few things I know, and don't mind sharing quite a bit of it under the right circumstances. People that might be more than what I will politely refer to as 'forward' with me on the phone or a private e-mail will usually take a moment or two to consider the form and substance of a question on the board, because they know more than one person will read what they have to say, and that asshats don't get very far.

I don’t know if this will make any more sense, but I kind of look at the computer like my house. Not my shop, but my home. At home, I am free to turn on the TV, look out the window, or go outside. Sometimes friends come to visit. The one thing I don’t look forward to is solicitors knocking on the door. I don’t have a Mark’s Off Road sign outside my house, and do not wish to.

So if you should run into me on Ebay, a bulletin board, or a chat room, keep in mind that I don't have a computer at work, so when I'm talking to you, I've put the Mark's Off Road Hat away for the day. I'm on MY time, and while business never seems to be too far away, it's my choice whether or not to put the hat back on. And some days are just better than others. I am no different from you in that respect. If I come off as less than profession, then so be it! I gave up the suit and tie career 23 years ago.

As far as things like Facebook and Twitter go, all I can say is this: My life is already so very, very full that it would be like standing at the buffet just heaping on more food than I know I could consume. Why?


I have occasionally been accused of being less than professional in conducting the business of Mark’s Off Road, and that’s quite all right by me. When I had the chance to sum it up on my ‘about me’ page on Ebay, I wrote something to the effect that I work just hard enough at my shop to convince my family that I am not just goofing off when I leave the house in the morning.

Mark’s Off Road manages to get my bills paid, but it will probably never be a financial success as long as I am running it, because I will never dedicate the level of energy and commitment to it that it requires. I am still troubled by the images I have of my workaholic father, and all the aspects of life he turned away from to achieve and maintain financial success. In our modern parlance we now refer to this as 'opportunity cost.'

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA [non-replicable circumstances][the excellent accident of our birthright]

My Dad

I will eventually have to make a separate page for this one, because I have a LOT of stories to tell about my Dad. He was, and always will be my hero. He was my closest friend and the best man at my wedding. He passed away in 1999 from cancer. He never made it to high school, yet he was one of the smartest men I ever met. I learned SO MUCH from him, it gives me great pleasure to share what I can remember.

One of the most incredible things my father told me about was something called passion. One day he said to me, “ Mark, very few people in this life will get to do something they have a true passion for.” I of course naturally asked, ‘How do you know when you have a passion for something?’ His response: “You will know it if it happens.”

Of course I persisted. “How will I know?” He said, “When you have a passion for something, you cannot escape it. When you wake up in the morning, it is the first thing you think about. When you fall asleep at night, you fall asleep thinking about it. As you are going about your day, eating, screwing, going to the bathroom, etc, it just keeps popping into your head. You cannot avoid it.” I thought he was a little crazy and unusually vulgar in his description, but I did not forget what he said.

In my first year of graduate school, I got bit hard by the Landcruiser bug. I called up my dad and told him he was right. I just couldn’t stop thinking about landcruisers. So we agreed that if I still felt that way when I finished my program, he would support my decision to try and make a living working with Landcruisers.

In the years since I learned that this thing called passion really exists. I have shared my father’s words about it with hundreds of people. I have met less than a handful that have it, but many who know of it only as the distant memory of a dream. For this one pearl of wisdom, and the support to pursue it, I will be eternally grateful.


One of the most important thing I learned about parenting actually came from a very unlikely source: a TV sitcom! In the episode, the TV father said, It is a parent‘s job to set the boundaries, and it is the children‘s job to negotiate to change them. Beyond this, I have a whole separate essay that is circulating amongst close relatives on family values and the roles of parents, children, and siblings.

I also started a list for my children of the things I wanted to pass on to my children. The first was a simple sheet of paper with three thoughts. The first two are what I call the Two Great Questions from which everything else emanates; the third is a father’s fondest hope for his children 1. Where did we come from? 2. Why are we here? 3. The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love an be loved in return.

The second list exists as a mismarked text document in a computer that died about 10 years ago. Reconstructing that list has been slow. I know what the first two things on the list were, because I reproduced them on my quotes page: The most important lesson we have to learn is humility. The second most important lesson we have to learn is discretion. [side note: my wife thinks I should use more discretion in my posts on this page. I think that if I expose my foolishness, it can only make me more humble!]


Adulthood Part 1 [I originally wrote this to my son the morning after watching him graduate from high school, which was as much a turning point for me-as he is my youngest child-as it was for him]

Good Morning! Welcome to the first day of the REST OF YOUR LIFE! I hope yesterday was a good day for you. I had planned to write this last night, but as usual, time ran away and now I have lost some of the thoughts I wanted to share with you. I will do my best to remember.

As the world stretches out before you, you have more choices now than you have ever had before. And more consequences. There will be many choices that call loudly, and many temptations. Many people, myself included, will be watching and listening to what happens next. Remember that all of your friends are in the same boat as you metaphorically, as far as high school ending and the road ahead. So while they may speak with conviction about thier choices, they are all pretenders to their roles, armed with dialogue, but with no experience. Their choices are not yours.

Today is as good as any to judge how you will engage life. Will you rise early, and with energy, or slowly, thinking that your day has started with some deficit? Will your first thoughts be of doing something productive, or something fun? Will you make an effort to sort out your affairs, or look for entertainment? Will you take action on a long term plan, or heed the call for the pleasure of the moment?

If you face each of these questions, you will have chosen the chaos that confronts Neo [of THE MATRIX] when he chooses the pill that lets him see reality. Reality is the lifelong struggle to achieve balance out of the stream of choices that confront us daily. The balance is to accept enough responsibility to feel that we have considered the future, while not sacrificing fun to the point that we lose sight of why we take on responsibilities in the first place. Put another way, balance is learning how to enjoy life every day without deferring responsibility to the point that you seal the fate of your future as one who is shaped by events rather than one who shapes them.

I believe that the choices you make in the next few weeks will be reflective of an attitude that will stay with you for the rest of your life. Consider well and wisely my son, my prince of potential. Your father

5. RELATIONSHIPS. As I see it, once you cut through all the superficial baggage that comes with it, men and women are looking for the same basic two things in a relationship: someone to have some fun with and not feel vulnerable to. I have seen many relationships in which one partner chooses another who is ‘dangerous’ sacrificing vulnerability in favor of fun. And I have seen many relationships [my parents was one of them] in which fun was sacrificed in favor of a partner with whom they felt less vulnerable. Obviously, the best relationships are going to have both. And a few will get past vulnerability to a measure of security that is a reflection of love.

As anecdotal evidence of the first element, I give you Jack Nicholson’s line from ‘As Good As It Gets’: “If you make her laugh, you’ve got a life. As evidence of the second, I present dialogue from the remake of ‘Ocean’s 11’ George Clooney’s character asks Julia Roberts, who plays his ex-wife if her new boyfriend makes her laugh. Her response: “No, but he doesn’t make me cry.”

6. LOVE. Now that I am in my fifties, and have been in a loving relationship with my wife for 30 years, I can better distinguish what love means to me at 52 than I could at 20,25, or 30. Now I can say that what I thought was love at 18 was infatuation. The rush and the flush, the high that too many people are disappointed doesn’t stay in a relationship, makes them jump from partner to partner, looking for another fix. Time for another story.

I had a rare glimpse back into my own adolescence a few years ago when my teenaged son brought one of his girlfriends home. As I was working on the computer in the den, I could hear them in the living room, and I heard the sound of her laughter and I smiled a knowing smile to myself.

A week or so later, I took my son out for one of our father-son nights. While we were walking, I asked him if he remembered the anti-drug program the police had sponsored in his grade school. The look he gave me said ‘Oh no. Not another one of those lame lectures from your parents about drugs’

So I asked him if he remembered what the definition of a drug was. Since he didn’t know where I was going with the questioning, he just shrugged. For the purpose of making my point, I said that drugs don’t directly affect the body as much as they cause a reaction in the brain that releases a higher than normal amount of the body’s own chemicals. One of them is called endorphins. Now that he was thoroughly lost,[as you may well be too] I made my point. I had forgotten how intoxicating the effect of a young girl’s laughter is to a young man. He smiled at me, and in that moment, I knew that a gap had been bridged, and that we understood something about each other.

At this point, I can also distinguish love from passion and sexual intimacy. The passion in my marriage is very strong, and has intensified in the last few years . Ironically, this came about because of a period of heightened vulnerability, followed by a stronger sense of security, which intensified our love, which in turn intensified our passion and intimacy in an environment of trust. Still, I know there is a difference.

In this stage of love [I now feel safer in assuming that there will be more] the love I feel is closer to an agape love. I love being able to look over at my wife, and see past the day to day stuff we are forced to deal with, and see the child in her eyes that is still alive and know that I can help protect. I love being able to look at her face and begin to sense what she will look like in 20 years from now, and know that she will age gracefully because of our circumstances.

I have the good fortune to play volleyball once a week with a group of seniors aged from 60 to 80 or so. While they are sometimes frustrated with their current physical circumstances, I love watching them have fun, laughing, letting go of what may be prim or proper, and just being like children. I can see the looks of glee and mischief in their eyes and playing across their faces. In those moments, they are children released, and it is a beautiful thing. This is love too. Love is discovering something beautiful that you want to share, nourish and protect. You can love almost anything. Or anyone.

7. CHARITY. One of the greatest lessons I learned from my father was the difference between a hand-up and a hand-out. Kind of like that old give a man a fish thing. Time and time again I watched my father go to the wall for people who were trying to make things work the right way, rather than playing the victim game. In my experience, when someone with a victim mentality needs money, the lack of money is not the real problem, just a symptom.

I recently realized that when I recieve money for my services, it is actually no more than a weak proxy for what I am really after, but one that supports my commitment to be a father and the head of a household. What I find harder to get, and therefore try even harder to give, is a kind word of recognition and a helping hand. I have already experienced the powerful positive energy firsthand that this generates. This is the gift that I most love to pay forward.

My father tried to explain this to me to, but he was not a man of many words. I know that where he is now, he is smiling that I have found the words for him.

8.REFLECTIONS ON LIFE. Something I do every year or two. I basically take stock of where I am in the circle game [see Joni Mitchell's song of the same name. Sometimes they are dated so I know how old I was when I wrote them. Sometimes not.

(2/8/00) Did our elders have a master plan for their lives. Or was it all just a lucky game? Luck brings opportunity to the door. Synchronicity puts you at the door ready to open it.
A man said ‘let’s go for a ride’. We’ll have some fun. Share a few laughs, call it a life. And a woman went. Love. Marriage. A child. A house. Another. Fourty years later, the life becomes a legacy.
As the elders slip away, I begin to broaden my own search for others who may have travelled the path that I am on, for direction. All I find are people caught up in the petty scramble of the hard-scrabble existence. Too busy rowing the boat to wonder where it’s going, why they’re rowing, who’s steering, or if the boat they’re in is even seaworthy!
Everyone we put faith in falls short of the mark. Another human, another set of revolving, unresolved conflicts, worldly aspirations, sexual tensions, intellectual rationalizations.
And yet, if we succeed in preserving our own, eternally hopeful inner child, we also preserve that child’s instinct for reaching out towards the tantalizing fire of another, a source of both pleasure and pain.


I continue to spend a great deal of time dealing with the issue of our stewardship of this planet. Perhaps it is because of my religious upbringing, but every discussion about our responsibilities comes back to a discussion about divine origins. I think that many environmental discussions serve as surrogates for religous ones in venues where people cannot deal with religious discussions on a rational,civilized basis. Mind you, the heated rhetoric of many environmental discussions isn't much calmer. Here are a few of my early thoughts.

At times, I wonder if the whole environmental movement inexorably leads away from God and towards existentialism.

In Judeo-Christian tradition, there is no doubt that the world is anthrocentric. Though in a theoretical sense we should have respect for all of God’s creations, The Bible presents man as God’s crown of creation. Man is alternately depicted as bending nature to his will and/or having the divine right to do so. Questions of wisdom aside, intelligence apparently separates us from the rest of the kingdom.

The underlying premise of the environmental movement is that man’s unchecked excesses will lay waste to the planet and that man’s inclination to subvert, dominate, subordinate, (reminds me of Kurt Cobain singing ‘We can have some more, Nature is a whore’) use and abuse natural resources to his advantage must be checked at least by nature’s ability to replicate ( a philosophy known as sustained yield.) What this implies is that man’s needs must be subservient to nature. We must take her pulse to make sure we don’t take out more than either we put in, or take it out faster than it can be replaced. If this means that rainforests shall not be cleared, first for building lumber, then for farming fields and housing tracts, then the preservation of nature collides headlong with man’s basic needs for food, clothing and shelter for our overpopulated race.

Through the back door of environmental awareness, we move from being the crown of creation to being one among many equally glorious creations,with no inherent right to dominate [i.e. ecocentric]

. **(consider whether there is a middle ground here e.g. wise use, which recognizes our right as also a responsibility). At some theoretical point, whose existence is a current topic of debate, if there are more people than food, clothing and shelter, and those necessities cannot be provided without exceeding nature’s sustainable yield, true adherence to an environmental credo would call for leaving the excess population to suffer hunger, starvation, illness and death. This translates roughly into something I have since learned is sometimes referred to as social Darwinism.

We seem duty bound by our religious beliefs in the sanctity of man to help these people stay alive rather than implicitly acquiescing in their deaths. Yet we would be hypocritically raising the imbalance of the scales with nature’s sustainable yield by doing so.

However, if we do turn our backs, we also acquiesce in the survival of the fittest, along with the element of chance. We thereby eliminate as illusory the boundary between mankind and the rest of nature, making the anthrocentrism of The Bible a myth!

By this time, you’re probably saying to yourself that all of this is just hypothetical; we can solve both problems (or avaoid deciding what we believe) by just eliminating overpopulation. Avoiding the religious side of this idea for just a moment, I still think that it is an even more improbable hypothetical than mine.
Anthropologists and sociologists have acknowledged a primacy to procreation that cannot be ignored. As our race increases its focus on capitalism and external measures of rewards, the underclasses of the world turn to procreation for their sole means of self-validation. “Take away the possibility of meaningful work and economic success, and the only thing left to them, in biological terms, is reproductive success.” --Mary Batten, quoted in the L.A.Times, October 27, 1993, Section F

Turning to the religious irony here, pro life advocates rightly point to The Bible as the source for the sanctity of human life. In Man alone amongst creation, God married heaven and earth by breathing the heavenly breath of life into the earthen form of Adam. Yet is these same scriptures that seal our fate. If we may not tamper with birth or death (and I’m not suggesting we should) overpopulation and a Darwinian non-theological survival of the fittest is the logical, eventual consequence.

Either way the words of Cliff Robertson’s character Charlie “A perfectly purposeless process of societal suicide” come to mind.


Science amuses me. In it’s relentless pursuit of pushing the boundaries of what is knowable, it struggles with it’s own circular relationship with faith. Virtually everything that is currently ‘known’ or developed by science was first imagined as a possibility by someone. The progress of science is fueled by imagination.

Imagination is in turn fueled by intuition, which is our own internal sense of the universe and the universal. This same intuition supports our ability to have faith, which is the belief in things which cannot be proven. Two supposedly dogmatic opposites emanating from the same source. A source of consternation for adherents, amusement to me. At the other end, scientists reluctantly accept the idea that a universal but as-yet unknown force exists that will fill in and unify all the blanks in their theories. Is this faith?


I could easily write a whole book about religion. I have written many essays on the subject. I don’t know how far I will get with posting them here. I will post things as time permits, in an order that may or may not make sense, because it’s just too important not to.

Last week [Dec 2004] I made a trip to a new warehouse that I wanted to open an account at. The trip was over an hour away, and when I arrived I was told that I could not speak to ANYONE without an appointment. Well, my first thought was ‘How arrogant’ Then I looked around the waiting room and noted that there were religious magazines and a Bible on the table, which had a calming effect. So I took a deep breath, and resolved to give it a second chance.

My point is, in a global economy, you often wonder where your dollars are going, and it made me more comfortable to know that this company was not afraid to put their religious convictions literally on the table, regardless of whether I agreed with them. I am not a Bible banger, but I am also not afraid to present my beliefs in this, a very non-confrontational setting so that you may learn something about the beliefs of one faulted man. If this influences your purchasing decisions, one way or the other, then I have succeeded.

To start at the beginning, I was raised in a religious household, where weekly prayer observances were the norm. As a teenager, my religious training intensified, along with a nagging sense that something was amiss. There was a disconnect between what I was reading and what I was seeing. When I read Matthew, Chapter 6, I had my first epiphany. The admonition against praying in public places resonated deep within me, and I walked away from my faith. I decided at that point that I would have to embark on my own quest, which continues to this day. I believe embracing a religion is much easier than taking on a search for spiritual meaning.

In my late teens/early twenties I wrote my first working thesis about religion and my location in the search for spiritual meaning. This is an excerpt: ********************************************************************** It is each person’s responsibility to find their own religion, their way of relating to that part of their mind that accepts the concept that something beyond mere biology breathed a life spark into their fetus.

Organized religion is always just the beginning, a stepping stone among many. Wisdom is acquired in many ways and many places. Every time you read something for the first time and your mind says ‘I knew that‘, you feel a certain pleasure that someone else found the words for your previously wordless thoughts. This is why Richard Bach wrote in “Illusions“ that learning is remembering what we already know. Without the words to store it in your conscious mind, the thoughts were only intuition. But when you read them, you find those words are right, are true.

When you find those words in the writing of an organized religion, you feel a certain peace of mind in knowing that the other members of that religion may share these thoughts.

But the human intuitive mind is not bound by the covers of a single book. Eventually everyone, somewhere, at sometime, will read something and say ‘I knew that’ to a thought that outside the realm of the organized religion they are close to. This is when it is important to remember that the boundaries of all organized religions must remain set in stoneÖso you can stand on them to reach for something higher.

Too many people want to change the boundaries of what an organized religion encompasses, make the stone higher so to speak, so the reach isn‘t so far, so they don‘t feel the precariousness of a baby trying to take it‘s first step. However, I believe that once your mind says ‘I knew that‘, you have no choice but to accept the thought, regardless of the consequences to your relationship with an organized religion, or spend the rest of your life denying your intuition.*********************************************

As Pete Townshend said in ‘I’m Free’ “It’s been told many times before, messiah’s pointed to the door, but no one had the guts to leave the temple.” Walking away from an organized religion, the way will not be easy or well marked. Abiding principles do not mark the path we take, but the boundaries we will not cross. When you are ready to have an intimate conversation with God, there is a good chance it will not be in a house of worship.

We keep reading different books that say the same things because it is our job to find words that have meaning to us, and to keep finding them again, because we are a nation of amnesiacs. The bigger challenge is in finding out if we are prepared for what we find. In trial advocacy, we are taught that a lawyer never asks a question they don’t already know the answer to. But in setting out on a journey in search of meaning, you must decide if you are willing to go wherever the ideas may lead. You can only spend so much effort on the futile task of reducing all the wondrous things you read (or write) to Bible parallels so that you can feel safe in the deluded completeness of one faith.

Life is SUPPOSED to be full of things that renew your faith. New things, dynamic things that speak to you in ways a 2000 year old book cannot.

During our thirties, my wife and I had thousands of discussions about religion and the different faiths we had been exposed to in our childhoods. Gradually we were able to boil down our conflicted experiences to this essential dilemma: the disconnect between religion and spirituality. In our shared experience, religion was all about ritual, which is fine for giving you a programmed response to dealing with the daily affairs of life, but leaves you wanting for a connectedness to the Creator, which for us defines spirituality.

So what do I believe? I believe, as far as religion (as opposed to spirituality) that it is all a self-serving fiction.

In the beginning...we lived just like the other animals. Our needs were simple: food, rest, sex, play and hanging around, just being here now. We were connected to everything, and everything was connected to us. We moved from place to place, following the food sources in their season. Of course with our opposing thumbs, we were obviously destined for greater things! We made tools to assist in the hunting, gathering, preparing and storing of food. We made clothes to help with intemperate weather and increase our range of travel. And it was good...for us.

And then came agriculture, the great opportunity to take control of our destiny by increasing the odds of a stable food supply, and the primary catalyst for groups to become communities, and communities to become society. The stable occupation of dedicated places hastened not only the development of society, but the opportunities and the need for language. Anthropologists have ascribed a special name to the place where they believe this fundamental shift occurred: The Fertile Crescent.

Those who were born into what was essentially a new world order were curious as to how it all happened. Nobody was really sure. And so the stories started.

Now if you were going sit down to write a story that makes order out of something that might otherwise be considered or construed as chaos or happenstance, you would need to counter it with something concrete, reassuring, something like destiny. It would have to be a story that confirmed the right of people to live exactly the way they were living at that point in time.

Premise#1: Rather than just proclaiming that we humans are at the apex of everything, which sounds so self-serving, we need a story in which someone or something else PUT us in this position. Then the suspicion of self-aggrandizement slowly becomes fainter. And the more omnipotent the bestower of this amazing gift, the more credible the seat of this power. Hence one of the catalysts for not only the creation of a god, but of one whose power was rivaled only by the baldness of the arrogance to our fiction.

(Note)There are some social anthropologists that believe that agriculture itself provided the basis for creating God. The premise here is that in discovering how to increase the food supply, death by starvation was no longer an innate part of living, a 'fact of life'. This power over life ignited contemplation of a type that would lead to creation of a creator as an aspect of Terror Management Theory (TMT).

Premise #2. To the increasingly obvious likelihood that our new totalitarian means of existence would allow us to multiply at the expense of other species,we would need a story that also backed up our right to do this. "Go forth, be fruitful and multiply" sounds like a command from someone with a higher pay grade; let's use it!

Authors like Daniel Quinn have provided us with illustrations of the struggle that ensued between those who embraced this new sense of place, and those who continued to wander. The literal fruits of labor were now the PRODUCT of a few, not the bounty of all. The Earth began to be conscripted into this new campaign, a campaign which would eventually engulf what we euphemistically refer to as the 'modern' world. The life and death conflict between the hunter/ gatherers and the agriculturalists was immortalized in a tale many of us know as the story of Cain and Abel. The result: we of the 'modern' world take as a 'given' that we are all descendants of the agriculturalists.

If you look at the way we have consumed the resources of this planet ever since, it is obvious that all our species-wide choices are predicated on these two premises. No one in charge of maintaining order in society questions this. Why? Because, regardless of the 'face' you put on a religion, it is the fount of the order we created, and the underpinnings of society itself. Without a god-given right to conscript and communally appropriate whatever we need, there is no need to commune. And without a need to commune, it is impossible to impose order.

Now here's the rub. Many, in their quietest moments, have heard their own inner voice question why things don't add up. With no less sleight of hand than a political charlatan going nudge nudge wink wink, we as a species have globally adopted a posture that as one of its underpinnings the tenet that in as much as we are moving earnestly to conserve our resources, that we have maintained the right to consume them at rates we know in our hearts are lethal to our own future. Nobody wants to say the charade is over, because the charade is the last thing that seperates us from anarchy.

What we have collectively built here in a handful of centuries is an unsustainable house of cards.

Now we are afraid of everything, including ourselves. Our own inner voice reminds us that we are disconnected. Governments manipulate that fear as a means to maintain control

And we are nostalgic over our own antiques, those things that represent an earlier time in our culture, a 'simpler' time when people were more 'connected', had a greater sense of community. And why do we think this? Because our subconscious minds never stop doing the math that tells us the current paradigm, despite all its technological improvements, not only doesn't add up, but doesn't add up as well in qualitative respects as our perception of this earlier time. We just feel like we're moving further away from something we can't quite put our finger on.

12.BUSINESS [insert the thin veneer here]

[excerpted from a discussion on WalMart] those lower prices on the shelf don't just reflect the poor wages and the predatory practices [some refer to as comp-ing] but how predatory corporations beat up on manufacturers to get the best price. Please note this is NOT WalMart specific; I have seen this happen in the off-road world MANY times over the last 25 years.

It starts off with a simple enough request: if we buy twice as much, can we get a discount. Seems reasonable enough. Then they triple, maybe quadruple their orders. Manufacturer starts to see black and invests in more equipment, raw materials, etc. Then vendor says they're gonna have to halve or quarter their order unless they can get another price break. So the manufacturer has a dilemma.

Once the predator vendor has squeezed the manufacturer for all the price concessions they can get, then they start playing the credit game. "We're gonna have to hold off ordering anything for a while because money is tight, unless you can give us 30 days". Mfgr thinks 'Hmmm, they're our bread and butter account now. What the heck? Gradually 30 days becomes 60, then 90. I have seen predatory vendors press for AND GET 120 days. Mfgrs who have to deal with seasonal and spot shortages in raw materials [and the price hikes that go with them] eventually end up behind on their own payments to material suppliers.

Other tactics include:

1. forcing on the manufacturer a right to return unsold products for full credit up to 6 months after purchase [which cuts off the cash flow needed to keep their own raw material suppliers happy]

2. forced co-op advertising [manufacturers end up paying for vendors ads for fear that if they don't, their competitors will] [and who do you think creates and enforces that insidious fear]

3. Making manufacturer pay for shelf space in the store [common supermarket practice]

Some people say this is just Econ101 for the 21st Century. Maybe so, but then again, maybe not. Everybody can choose to make a stand somewhere, sometime. WalMart did not create predatory business practices. IMO what concerns more people about WalMart is the sheer visibility and presence that WalMart worked to create, a presence that insinuates a MASSIVE amount of money. From there it's mathematical. Money equals power. Power has a tendency to corrupt. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

13. The Desert.

I spend a lot of time camping, hiking and exploring the California deserts. I find the desert spiritually energizing, and am often inspired to write about it. 'Arriving in Olancha' and 'The Gift In The Rocks' are but two examples. Here are some other random thoughts inspired by the desert.

Remember, God made Nature first. Maybe a little rougher in hew, but in some ways closer to God's own rough essence. Passion over precision.

Living in the desert, with all its starkness, devoid of man's edifice, you are left with no choice but to eventually stare down this rough passion. If precision and edifice are your cornerstones, the desert will leave you unsettled. But if passion has a place near your heart, the desert will nurture and inflame it.