Diagonal Wisdom

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Thursday, May 7, 2020. I landed the day shift part-time plumbing “associate” job at my night shift rate. Here’s to the power of high-quantity perpetual workplace churn: you want to change jobs, get a new job, work days, nights, do cart wheels? – no problem. Folks in these unskilled positions come and go so often it’s like Michigan weather: wait fifteen minutes and something will change. Gads, I’ve not even worked there a month. Even though it feels like a year. So be it, another week or so of these crazy hours and I’m on to the next adventure: Covid mask, social distancing, customer service and the full catastrophe.

Meanwhile, as usual, I can’t help but feel a pang of sorrow or longing or angst on behalf of being capable of succeeding at stuff like this fairly effortlessly while at the same time failing at everything I actually care about. Book sales? Authorpreneurship? Correspondence with my tribe? Any activity or interest or a sliver of feedback from anyone, anywhere, at all related to my writing and scholarship? Nah. Well, I did receive the book from T.S., whether it was delayed by way of the virus induced slow down or because T.S.’s style of penmanship makes the numeral “1”appear like a “7” (the post office had over-written my zip code to eliminate the ambiguity), who knows? It got here, no worries. Pioniere, Poeten, Professoren (Pioneers, Poets, Professors). Published 2004. And I’ve already enjoyed reading a few of the English-language essays. I’d like to think the German and Italian versions would inspire me to tackle learning something of those languages but, well, I doubt it, seeing as I have no flair for it. But many thanks, then, to T.S. for the generosity. Too bad I haven’t heard back from him. But I’ve frankly grown accustomed to a mostly one way correspondence from just about everybody, anywhere, anytime, anyway. So be it.

Letting the things that don’t work go and running with the things that do – this is such seemingly straightforward wisdom that it makes me crazy when I find it nearly impossible to implement. Getting a brainless cash part-time job works. Modifying my brainless cash part-time job works. Run with that, right? Accept it, surrender to it and quit complaining about life not measuring up. Except all I can think is how I’d give anything to just be able to do what I want to do and get paid for it. Everyone’s dream, I know. But some folks pull it off and I’m determined to be one of them. Before I die. Meanwhile, I ought to be patient, I suppose, and maintain some faith in my oracle if nothing else. Even if it may turn out to be merely an oracle. Which is to say merely an otherwise intangible, ineffable concoction of my longing, a waking dream, a psychological contrivance, a fantasy; a component of my personal mythology that remains ineffectual in terms of its effect upon the world of action. Such is faith, isn’t it? Belief in something that exists in your heart and heart-mind, something that feels more real than anything you can imagine; more real than anything in your whole life. It’s belief in things as they ought to be and the freedom to live and the experience of being properly alive; belief in things seeming as right as rain and knowing something is there that you can’t touch but that you can see with your mind’s eye. And experience in your heart as a power or a force or a damn parallel reality that slips in and out of this world like sunlight glinting upon a surface or heart stirring music or the keen sense of time and timelessness invoked by the flow a quiet river. It’s all realer than real in those moments. “One should be well advised,” suggests T.S., “to set up one’s mind like an antenna.”

We are now able to name the virtue of our mind which should govern that antenna. And, besides, we needn’t search for a term yet, as a most apt one already exists in this splendid expression coined by Roger Caillois: sagesse diagonal (diagonal wisdom).[1]

Diagonal wisdom. I would describe the term as a brilliantly concise, psychologically unburdened evocation of the experience I’ve been attempting to articulate and what, in the end, mythology offers.


[1] Tilo Schabert, “Introduction: The Eranos Experience,” Pioniere, Poeten, Professoren [Pioneers, Poets, Professors], editors Elisabetta Barone, Matthias Riedl, Alexandra Tischel (Hrsg.), (Würzburg: Königshausen & Neuman, 2004), 13-14.

DOP1 2012 VINTAGE POST: The following records the beginning of another of my entrepreneurial efforts, all speculative, having to do this time with somehow corralling ZCOB as a partner in a slaughter facility. It didn’t pan out but the idea, described probably more accurately as a predicament, remains relevant now, with the virus debacle having brought meat supply and processing into the news. It turns out that nothing much has changed except perhaps the low-wage workforce having shifted from one predominate nationality to another. Cargill is involved and the Trump has implemented some old war time authority to mandate continued production in the processing plants – it smacks somehow of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle but I won’t bog things down with the politics of food. Suffice it to say that none of it is within my control so it’s best to let it go. That, and I was surprised to see myself in March 2012 engaging the seminal The Hero With a Thousand Faces for the very first time – it seems to me I’ve been living with the wisdom of that book forever! Anyway….

New Gold Dream

Prouds:

Still Alive.

Paying down debt.

Still working at zmo, learning about zcob.

Trial shift at z-deli – learned a lot – shooting too low – felt good about saying “no.”

Following guides – pigs, ari, alchemist, j.c., canfield

Engaging vocations

Invited to C. Bacon III Street Fair – will be fun to cook h-cheese hoagies + faggots again.

Went to Meat dinner + movie and got the call to adventure.

VOG:

I’m finishing my home-cooked breakfast of waffles, eggs, bacon and maple syrup. The pigs are waking up, yawning, stretching and rising slowly from their piles of bedding in the barns. They make their way to the grassy pastures and passersby stop to look through the fencing at the contented animals. Some folks have the view of our pastures as part of their daily commute; others happen upon it on their way to somewhere else in the city; still others have made it a point to visit our facility in order to satisfy their curiosity. Regardless of why they’ve come, the pigs restore them in the way only animals can.

Our facility, though ostensibly concerned with slaughter, has much more to do in the world as part of that function. First and foremost, it will bring slaughter and meat “processing” into an honorable place in the community – one in which the highest potential in people and farm animals is demonstrated in ways commensurate with the ancient and life-affirming agreement between us. Our slaughter facilities incorporate the most humane methods of handling, stunning and slaughter that our research and design talents can create. The processes are customized at each stage to accommodate the idiosyncrasies of each species – the vision of our facility is to manage our animals through the slaughter process in a manner consistent with and respectful of their natures.

When a farmer sends us their animals, they can be certain that the butchered meat exemplifies the results of their hard work and the happy lives of the animals. Customers can taste the difference. The appearance and cooking performance of the meat is radically different than intensively raised product. The USDA is continually amazed at the level of professionalism and innovation that we demonstrate – our facilities are immaculately clean and efficient and serve as models of employee satisfaction and loyalty. The jobs are challenging, but personnel are rotated through many different job functions, from farming to butchering, including retail café-market sales if they so choose in order to relieve them from possible burn-out and stress that may be inherent in the more slaughter-intensive positions. In this way, our employees reflect pride in their work and enjoy a quality of life that engenders the give-back to us of their life-long support and loyalty.

We strengthen the natural connectedness we all have to animals and of course farm animals in particular. The connection is nothing new – our facility is simply restoring the best parts of the past and through establishing our slaughter facility in plain site within the bounds of the city, within the friendly confines of this community, we have taken our place within the circle of life.

Others benefit through their regard of the care and honesty with which we do our work. The community is proud of us and of what we do – we have taken our humble place amongst all the other commerce and activities taking place here. If someone were to assume that we were in the business of killing and death, they would be very wrong. We demonstrate a reverence for life that lifts the hearts of everyone who visits us and talks with us about what we do.

But back to the beginning of our day: the pigs are up! More pigs are arriving this morning! Soon our employees will herd the animals from the field through the humane handling area (designed according to the protocols of Temple Grandin). The animals will enter the “kill floor” unknowingly and in the presence of great care and respect. They have spent the night resting from their transportation from their farms to our facility. The kill floor is designed to help the pigs remain at ease – care is taken to minimize noise and strangeness. They proceed along their path with pigs from their own herd – this comforts them as they make their way through the unknown environment quickly and quietly. They are herded in small groups of five or six animals into the CO2 chamber by handlers that are well-trained in humane handling and that have the skill and authority to do what needs to be done, including stopping the process, to ensure that the animals’ last moments are as natural to them as can be – that care and kindness from humans and the proximity of their own kind are their last experiences.

Employees are likewise cared for in this potentially stressful and difficult environment. Continuous exposure to any particular aspect of the handling, stunning, and processing procedures is eliminated – employees are continually rotated through each job in the facility that relates to their aptitudes and interest and leadership are actively monitoring the condition (mental and physical) of our employees.

The hogs in lairage have spent a quiet, restful night in their accommodations, amongst their own kin with food and water and access to their dedicated pastures. We’ll round them up this morning and guide them into the handling area (designed per Temple Grandin’s plans and protocols) – it’s their last trip so to say and we will make sure it’s not unpleasant and that we abide by the agreement we’ve made with these animals. They give their short lives to us unknowingly and it’s our responsibility to honor that gift with humane farming, handling and slaughter. The agreement is carried through butchering and the preparation of our food. Each pig matters and each life is important.

There are several deliveries of animals scheduled for today from the various local farms that surround our small facility. Our slaughterhouse is known nationwide as the finest example of humane handling and slaughter – our fees are reasonable for the farmers and allow us to operate sustainably. Some of the finest animals enter our facility, are treated with the utmost care and respect and produce some of the finest meat available – the flavor and texture of the pork, beef and lamb that leaves our facility is widely recognized as incomparable. We accept only the most carefully and humanely raised animals for slaughter and butchering and we therefore have a responsibility to honor the hard work of our customer-farmers.

We’re proud to operate a small but well-stocked retail meat market as part of our butchering facility. Folks enjoy coffee, tea and a very simple and straightforward selection of pastries made with butter and lard. You might find a delicious apple & pear tart with a butter & lard crust or a savory meat pie cooked to perfection or frozen raw and ready to bake in your home kitchen. Our customers visit often to enjoy the bright, charming space. Once or twice per month, we offer banquet-style event dinners that focus on the meat that we’re so proud of producing from the fantastic animals brought to us by our farmer customers.

Our facility is proud to be a well-respected fixture in the surrounding communities. Our efforts have fundamentally changed the historical perception of slaughterhouses – we are not shunned, ignored and outcast to the margins of the community which we serve, instead, we’re a thriving example of a life-giving, caring, sustainable member of the food chain. Other businesses are happy to locate near us and strive to demonstrate our same community-building jazzy vibe and fulfilling work environment. People who work for us are pursuing their own vocations – learning, growing and self-actualizing. They may work for us for thirty years or just a college semester, but their tenure with us changes their lives for the better.

My work days are spent fully engaged in the day-to-day challenges of any small business, the complexities of technology, regulatory compliance and customer service, and the joyful simplicities of pasture-raised farm animal life. I work as many hours a day as I see fit – usually forty hours a week minimum. I travel the world researching slaughterhouses, the slaughter business, farm animal welfare, food production and traditional, heritage food sales. I also stay home a lot and simply enjoy great food, our customers and employees and the great culture of cooperation and accomplishment that our hh biz provides us. I have the financial means and free time to engage my other vocations: cooking, writing, walking, audiophiling and phycomythologizing – it’s an artful life that I wouldn’t trade for anything. Angie finds purpose and pride in our business as she sees fit and it helps afford her the means to engage her own vocations. We are living large, jazzy, high-energy and artfully happy lives- the days fly by but we cherish them too and we take time to live in the moment.

So there’s the vog that I was inspired to create after the omen-loaded week that just passed. From Angie’s face-to-face with a Temple Grandin billboard in the Denver airport, to our American Meat film and dinner experience, it seems that we are being called to an adventure. Maybe. I find it almost impossible to ignore all the biophycomythological “inputs” that are occurring and if this isn’t a call to adventure, then I guess I’m finally losing my fucking mind for good; all my study, research, writing and self-work will have been for nothing, and there’s no fucking hope at all for me in this life. I’m trying like hell to discard my plans, to resist the inertia of habits which attempt to pull me off course and sabotage my personal myth; I’m trying like hell to relax into greatness, go for what I want in life, be who I am and otherwise experience the life that is waiting for me.

It’s difficult. Angie has her own struggles and mine seem to remain close to the surface even during days in which I seem to make great biophycomythological strides. But after last night at the RH where we spent the dinner engaging in good food and animal farming conversation with Alex Y’s wife and her friend (a cook, writer and homemaker) along with some after-dinner time with Alex himself, who seemed too tired to be anything but relaxed, it just seemed like we were doing something right, even if it was just being good zcob customers. Maybe that’s all we are in the end; maybe that’s all we’re supposed to be. But the American Meat movie seemed to speak to me and the discussion panel afterwards furthered that connection. At one point a question from the audience was asked about slaughter, which had only a very minor role in the movie, and the director answered that he didn’t know much about that aspect of the food chain. HELLO!

There were several scenes involving chicken slaughter (Joel Salatin-style) using sheet-metal “cones” in which the chicken is placed head-down in the device – their body fills the cone and their head dangles from the open end. They don’t struggle to escape and they don’t seem frightened. Joel describes the process in his book You Can Farm but it’s simply a way to immobilize the chicken and allow for a worker to quickly make an incision at their neck, severing the important arteries – they bleed to death. But it happens quickly and quietly without the animal “vocalizing” or otherwise indicating stress or struggle. Slaughter scenes involving larger animals were left out of the film and it’s understandable – slaughter of pigs, cows, lambs, goats, etc. is more difficult to watch, especially when you haven’t seen the procedure and may not have any knowledge of the technical details. Context is very important and the proper amount of time and information should be provided in any film that attempts to cover the issue. I felt almost compelled to speak up and say that I knew something about slaughter, which is interesting because obviously it wasn’t the time or place for continued discussion on the subject, but that I felt such a compulsion indicates to me that there’s where the bliss is – there’s the passion and interest and natural connection. I felt both vulnerable and at home in the topic and amongst the folks at the restaurant and in the theater. It’s all about stuff that I’m inherently interested in and for whatever reason these folks, their ideas, the issues and the opportunities seem to be literally placing themselves at my “feet” so to say awaiting my response and engagement. How can I ignore these inputs and demands – this mythic “call?” If this isn’t life placing a biophycomythological “call” to me then really, at this point in my struggle, I don’t know how to recognize a call at all and never fucking will. It’s not making life any easier – we still need a better place to live, more money and a future that’s not so fucking cloudy and mysterious, but pigs remain in the mix – they won’t go away and in fact they seem to keep coming back for our attention. So what else to do besides acknowledge whatever it is that’s going on, if only here within the dop?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012. I enter days and dates, if anyone is interested, because marking time in this journal provides me with a sense of progress and forward motion. If I didn’t include some days and dates, then to me this whole project would start to seem unwieldy – there wouldn’t be any reference or resting points so to say that demonstrate how a biophycomythological journey – a hero journey – plays out day-to-day. Time is very important not least of all when we’re talking about personal transformation. I keep returning to Ari’s reference that any important new endeavor will require two to three years to reach equilibrium, and then of course several years after that to get good and then to go for greatness. Those are just the facts of life – skipping steps and “saving” time are only going to happen in the exceptional case and even then I’d be skeptical about any lasting change that doesn’t follow this rough timeline.

Yesterday I sent an email to Paul Saginaw (why the fuck not?) asking whether “rebuilding small-scale meat processing” (to borrow part of the title of the 2009 Food & Water Watch article) had been proposed as a new biz idea within zcob or whether there was any interest in pursuing it. What’s funny to me is how most folks, including of course leaders, are all the same regarding any procedures or etiquette they think they’ve set up. In this case it was Paul himself who went to great lengths I thought, at the first “town hall” meeting for Aubrey during her bid for co-managing partnership, to describe the “process” of new business proposals for zcob. He said folks should begin with him so that he can get a feel for the idea and the level of experience the person has or doesn’t have – zcob obviously needs to know what level of support will be required. Only then would the process move on to Ari, who would evaluate the financial viability angle. At least that’s what I heard him say. So I started with Paul regarding my humane slaughter idea and he replied simply that Alex Y. is the person to talk to about that because “Alex really wants to see this happen.” Okay Paul, but I asked you because you said you were the man. It felt like a little bit of a brush-off, but maybe it wasn’t. What it does do is help keep me un-attached. If in fact Alex gives me the brush-off, then I really know that zcob is something I need to move away from regarding my vocations – if they aren’t interested for whatever reason in what I have to offer, then I’m moving on. I’m learning that I really don’t enjoy forcing things onto people or organizations that I don’t know very well and may only have an outsider’s perspective on. They may in fact be exactly like I perceive them to be or then again, not. If not, then trying to make something into what it’s not is futile and counter-productive. It fucks up everybody else’s biophycomythology besides wrecking my own – I’ve learned this painful lesson as hopefully communicated well enough here already. In the end, whatever small progress one makes when driving relentlessly towards something that is resisting you isn’t worth it. The energy equation applies as soon as you feel an imbalance – if I put forth energy and it isn’t returned at the same or even a higher level then fuck it – it’s not up to me to pour more energy into it. You either get it or you don’t – me trying to convince you is a bullshit waste of time. I’ve never had a problem with my energy level – I have plenty. It’s the resistance part of the equation where I typically struggle. I encounter resistance from others and I make one of two mistakes: 1) I continue to ratchet up my energy in an effort to overcome their resistance or 2) I quit too early. But don’t tell me it’s easy to do otherwise.

Quitting too early means you didn’t recognize the decreasing level of resistance – you were making progress delivering your message but you couldn’t see it. Maybe you were too busy busting your ass to make it happen and ran out of fucking money, like I did with HH. Or energy. Or you allowed yourself to get discouraged by somebody else’s input, their personality or what have you. How do you know when resistance to your ideas is decreasing, holding steady or in fact increasing? Good fucking question – it’s damn difficult to figure out when you’re asses-and-elbows so to speak in the process. It’s not like you have time to take surveys and walk around asking people for their opinion about what you’re doing – that just dilutes your message anyway and you’ll risk so-called death-by-committee.

In this case, I feel really good because I think I have the energy equation right. The energy I’m putting forth feels appropriate to me and in line with my intuition. So if the world is not receptive to my new push, then it indicates to me that it isn’t meant to be. Intuitively I don’t feel the drive to establish a local humane slaughter facility on my own, using all my own energy, experience and financial inputs. If zcob has some energy, experience and finances to contribute, then maybe I can make some real progress. It’s like the zcob Creamery – John Loomis started the whole fucking thing on his own, before zcob, and ultimately the business failed before being brought back to life – resuscitated – with the help of zcob whom he apparently reached out to. I can identify with that. It’s not “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” because zcob is not a company that swallows up or otherwise “buys out” the competition. They just consider ideas of partnership with folks who are driven to be in business. I’ve written enough about this I think – time to let it go – because when I hear back from Alex (he may have already responded via email) it will likely be with “Thanks, but no thanks.” What comes of it, who knows? I know I’m not going to start at the bottom being a grunt, I’m done offering that service to anyone in zcob. I have skills that go way beyond what their entry-level jobs have to offer. It’s a waste of my life to keep starting at the fucking beginning unless it’s my beginning. Working for the man and slogging through entry-level jobs in the desperate hope that you’ll one day get promoted is something that I’ve wasted a lot of time doing. I’m looking for my vocation, not to support somebody else’s vocation. I’m coming to the conclusion that the only team I’m good for is a team of my own.

Here’s my email to Alex:

Alex, it was nice to meet Kelly and Allison at RH and to speak with you again briefly before you made your fine appearance on the film panel, good job! I was redirected to you from Paul Saginaw – I had started with him because he had mentioned being the point-man for biz ideas. I don’t expect you to remember exchanging an email or two with me a ‘couple years ago prior to the first Camp Bacon – I’d forwarded some info to Ari regarding farm animal welfare which included a reference to a 2009 article by Food & Water Watch entitled “Where’s the Beef? Rebuilding Small-Scale Meat Processing Infrastructure.” I’ve retained an interest in transportation, handling, stunning and slaughter and I’ve toured Niman’s Sioux Center & Sioux City facilities courtesy of a good word put in by Paul Willis after I visited his farm. This is all to say that I’ve got more than a passing interest in the subject.

Mobile or on-farm slaughter is something I know you’re interested in for obvious reasons. If you’ve also considered establishing a local small-scale facility and have researched the viability at all (within or outside of zcob) then we’ve some things in common. The issues involve local, state and federal government, USDA-FSIS, public perception, potential market, low margins and probably about $3M, etc. to get started as you may know. There’s an industrial site for sale in Ypsilanti near Corner Brewery that always makes me think of what could be done there for example. Anyway, maybe you’re happily going down your own road with it, and then again maybe you’d be interested in some help or just discussion. Either way, please consider this an offer of both at your discretion, no pressure, we just might share some vision. Thanks, Keith Ewing.

Should Alex not be interested in my help or ideas, then I’m good with just being interested in farm animal welfare and humane slaughter on the side so to say. A strategically sound vision for a small-scale slaughterhouse will involve other people’s money besides my own – it’s a different kind of project than my boot-strap food cart where the investment, profits and losses are all my own. It doesn’t scare me at all – at this point in my life I think I’ve finally grasped that going for the brass ring means just getting started and doing it versus wondering and questioning everything. If it takes other people’s money, that doesn’t make it a bad idea. It allows for the development of the idea first and foremost. Getting people on board and willing to risk their own money is a skill set that I don’t know that I have – something tells me I don’t – but I may surprise myself with my abilities if I can just connect with something I believe in.

This stuff I try on for size is just that; I test to see if the world responds in a way that seems commensurate to my efforts. If yes, then we move forward; if no, then I move on to something else and just keep that area of interest personal versus public. Anything to keep me jazzed about life is how I’m starting to look at it. When the bliss cuts off, try to find it again. It does cut off I’m here to tell you but I also know you can find it again. The disappointment lasts awhile when you don’t get the response you want from life, but it fucking passes if you keep chugging, keep doing the work (in my case: vocations & kundalini) – you will experience positive change and forward movement in spite of the pain. I just have to try to remember that the pain should not be debilitating or blocking me – it has to be enriching, energizing and improving me. An example would be the difference between the pain of rejection I experience when working for somebody else versus working for myself. If my h-cheese gets kicked to the curb of life, then so be it – the awesome lessons and biophycomythological progress I’ve made is worth the pain. If however I’m suffering while working for somebody else in a job that is not suited to me, then that’s pain that diminishes me, restricts me and halts my progress – it feels like hell and does me no good. Good physical pain is going to the gym and training with weights or doing aerobics. Bad physical pain is an injury or unrewarding labor. Biophycomythologically, bad pain limits and diminishes you – you feel like you’re in the wrong place in life – you can’t find answers and your energy is not returned. Good biophycomythological pain is that striving to grow and the self-reflection and self-knowledge that you have to work through but that takes you farther. It’s gotta have some joy; joylessness is a warning one ignores at precipitous risk. It’s gotta spark your heart.

So, returning to the topic of zcob, which I’ve been struggling to find my way in lately, I’ll just continue to take a step forward, testing the waters, remaining as unattached as I can, and see what energy I get back from them if any. If it’s not the energy I’m looking for, if it doesn’t have any joy in it for me, then fuck it. Move on. As fucking crazy as I think it seems sometimes to keep “changing horses,” knocking on doors, getting no answer or the wrong answer, wasting time looking for the holy grail that may not exist, going back over the same ground, trying again, it just is what it is for me; I should try not to see the time as wasted. I just have to accept myself fully and completely and this is the hard part when you do have folks that give a shit about you. Failure can be more difficult to watch than to experience. And you shouldn’t disparage those that stick around as less worthy than the generally uninterested fucks out there that we all tend to want to please and who in the end couldn’t give a shit about us. I checked email when I got home from zmo and Alex had replied:

“Hi Keith,

I’m very interested and willing to discuss it with you. I’ve given the subject a fair bit of thought. When might you be able to meet up?”

That’s exactly the energy return I was looking for and so now the next step: I meet with Alex and see if we share a vision or the parts of our visions. Whatever comes of it will be great because at the very least I now know someone with an interest at least similar to mine regarding slaughter. I like this because I’m happy with the idea being whatever it’s meant to be – large or small, a new business or just a new insight into what’s going on in another person’s mind about this issue. The ideas can expand and contract almost infinitely – I don’t demand anything from them – I have no expectations, just an interest. Whether it’s a passion or a vocation isn’t important yet – I don’t fully understand what it is and I’m content to just let it be.

I’m going to meet with Alex this Saturday. I want to see how far along he is with his ideas of what can be done and whether there’s an opportunity for me to help move the concept forward. Maybe he’s like me and is only in the vision phase. Maybe he’s somewhere in the middle. He’s a successful businessman, responsible for a large and very busy restaurant with lots of employees. I’m a failed small businessman who’s still learning to express my true passions. I have many skills that can help me to express those passions. I want to see this idea come to be. I like this because whatever happens, I’m contributing energy to something I’m interested in. I don’t need to own it, although something in me says that, as always, I should drive much of it. There’s much to learn and do if we were to take this idea anywhere. As always, there’s a long list of reasons why it would never work and why it can’t happen. It’s that way with almost everything worth doing. The difference with this adventure is that it’s more directly and completely connected to all of my interests than food service. Nobody needs another restaurant or another food cart. We do need local small-scale humane slaughter. Combining a passion with a need gives us a shot at sustainability as a business. Others have failed, and the odds of success on my own are slim – I could spend the rest of my life stumbling through the process only to end up at the end with another spent dream. That could still happen but maybe ZCoB is the entity that can help fill in some experience gaps and provide some resources, in the same way they support their other start-ups.

This is how great things happen – you just start and keep going. I’m excited to be re-connecting with all that passion and work I put into the farm animal welfare stuff two years ago – that’s the stuff that had called me back to life so to say after getting fired – it was some sort of call that I answered and I’ve felt like I’ve been trying to keep that alive – keep the welfare of the pigs alive – in my work. The food cart had its place and provided the opportunity to “go pro” in the food biz and to give me some street credibility in a business that requires it. However, I let that food cart distract me for too long from my true potential; like Angie said, “We’re not in the food cart business, we’re in the pork business.” Maybe a slaughter facility that focuses on pork, like Siouxpreme in Iowa isn’t right for this area – maybe we need to look at a larger multi-species facility, but maybe not. Maybe two smaller facilities – one for pork and one for beef could be a way to begin. I’m already brainstorming. I’m looking forward, with no expectations and a reminder to myself to try some un-attachment, to this Saturday’s meeting. Everything starts somewhere.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012. This is the first day of spring in this leap year. It’s been a few days since my meeting with Alex Y. and there are no revelations to report. Which is probably a good thing because slow change, if this is indeed a change, can be lasting change – a bunch of dirt-flinging drama is not what this next step needs. I’m not plunging headlong into this idea. It just exists. I know I could start and operate the finest example of a humane slaughter facility in the world. I’m not so sure about the money part – either for start-up or for sustainability, but I’m also not sweating it. It’s going to take help from the outside world – much more than starting and running a food cart or h-cheese biz ever did. But if that’s what it takes to engage a dream, then I’m up for some collaboration. Making something happen while effectively “managing myself” (to borrow a term from Ari) is what the vocational pilgrimage is all about I think. Being futuristic and strategic lends itself to start-ups. My other strengths – input, intellection and learner – will help keep me implement things and to hold fast to the integrity of my ideas. I can see how it should be and that means I’m tough on compromise – I must be convinced to compromise and sometimes I can’t be. I think that’s good. The integrity of this potential project must remain sparklingly clear – it’s about a slaughter facility that exemplifies the handling and stunning philosophies of Temple Grandin and strives to improve upon them. The facility will bring slaughter and meat “processing” into an honorable place in the community – one in which the highest potential in people and farm animals are demonstrated and honored in ways commensurate with the ancient and life-affirming agreement between us.

Not a day goes by lately it seems that I don’t run into some psychological “trigger” that sends me into a biophycomythological tailspin and results in a degree of anxiety that makes me want to run from this crazy forest adventurous – to get the fuck out and back to familiar territory – a place where maybe I’m not biophycomythologically actualized but where I feel more at home. Which goes to show that I still think home might be somewhere I used to be either geographically or career-wise or whatever. I don’t like where things are at or where they seem like they’re going. It’s not pleasant to work through this stuff. It seems to me that for the last several years now, all I do is cycle continuously through almost a manic/depressive condition where one moment, or minute, or day or week I’m up and jazzed at the possibilities of life and what I’m learning about myself and how I fit in the world and the next it’s just an embarrassing, humiliating and frustrating slog to keep it together so to say.

Angie and I were at Molly Steven’s zcob Bake class and then her RH dinner the next night. She might be a fairly reluctant guide, though she enjoys teaching. She’s very talented and also as moody and full of conflicts as me it seems, which just shows that there are folks out there like you and me and it just helps to be around them – I guess there’s many forms of guidance – sometimes it comes in the form of understanding or even just lack of criticism or judgment. Maybe also they’re the “helpers” that Campbell refers to in a hero journey. Of course I made sure to have to endure (and make others endure) another uncomfortable and embarrassing public display of awkwardness. I’ll tell it here because at this point, after so many fucking failures like this, it’s become down right comical. I should note that I was determined to stay out of “trouble” that night. I wanted to just enjoy the dinner, maybe touch base with Ari or not – he’s not always at these events – and just get some practice being “normal” in public while in the presence of my guides and helpers. I wanted to demonstrate to myself at least that I might indeed be getting my “feet under me.” Anyway, it wasn’t to be. Molly was talking and Angie mentioned that we’d been the first (according to Molly) to sell her new book when we had it displayed prior to its release at our food cart. Gads, the food cart – it just keeps getting me in trouble somehow. Molly couldn’t here Angie and then when Angie tried to explain what she was talking about, it became apparent that Molly didn’t remember shit about the email she exchanged with me, no big deal, but then Molly walks up and hands the microphone to me. You can imagine that I didn’t do well. Taken by surprise, but “game” to try my best I instantly rambled, stumbled and otherwise fucked up, yet again, any opportunity to charismatic and well-spoken. The microphone, which I’ve I’m not a complete stranger to, was such that you had to hold it right up to your mouth or whatever – who cares? The room isn’t big enough to need a microphone, but whatever, there it was in my hand.” Oh, and of course we’re sitting with E from zingtrain who was part of the panel that I humiliated myself on several weeks ago. And, of course Maggie B. is sitting behind me. So I made sure to reinforce my complete incompetence as a speaker. A babbling idiot so that Ari tells me to speak into the mike – total har – and Molly rushes over to grab the mic back.

Whatever happens to me when I have to somehow “speak” to a group that I don’t know, I haven’t managed to figure out. I can handle the heartache of it personally but I hate that I make other folks so uncomfortable. I’m really not interested in talking about myself. There’s probably just a short list of my foibles that are shared with others of my uncomfortable-in-their-own-skin ilk that training and coaching could “fix” but to me, I’m not interested in exploring. I don’t have a strength, talent, skill or even a competence in public speaking; neither do I have an interest in it. I don’t particularly like being lectured to for any length of time. The whole scenario gets on my nerves most of the time and there you have the recipe for disaster when I do it myself. Ugh, I’m done talking about it except to say that if I laugh at it and let it sort of be what it is, which is just something I’m almost comically unsuited for, it makes me feel better. I suck at it. So what? I’m working through a lot of personal shit and I’d like to see someone shed their biophycomythological skin and make it pretty to others. There, now I’m getting defensive. Also hilarious. It’s all a test I think. It all speaks to how bad I want to be who I am – I’m willing to look like an awkward idiot, a shit-head and to unintentionally make others uncomfortable if it means that maybe someday I might be able to get to the water. Maybe someday I can let all this shit go and quit trying to achieve and just be.

The Hero with a Thousand Faces is a book I’m only just now reading. The delay may seem odd given my interest in Campbell’s work, but it’s simply the case that for the past three years I’ve been working my way back and forth through Pathways to Bliss, the elegantly edited collection of his lectures, published by the JCF in 2004 which, as the extended title suggests, is concerned specifically with Mythology and Personal Transformation. The videos available on Netflix, along with the recently released film Finding Joe, have kept me plenty busy with Campbell. But now I feel prepared to extend my interest to the comparative mythology explorations in Hero, widely considered of course to be Campbell’s seminal work. So far, the book is everything I hoped for: rigorous and expansive yet never pedantic or ostentatious. It bristles with the lucid energy of his new ideas – the mono-myth; the hero journey – while expressing an artful reverence for the beauty and timelessness of the many original myths he references. I suppose it’s about time I quoted from it. Campbell asks, “What, now, is the result of the miraculous passage and return?” His answer includes passages from the Bhagavad Gita (italics):

“The goal of the myth is to dispel the need for such life ignorance by effecting a reconciliation of the individual consciousness with the universal will. And this is effected through a realization of the true relationship of the passing phenomena of time to the imperishable life that lives and dies in all.

Even as a person casts off worn-out clothes and puts on others that are new, so the embodied Self casts off worn-out bodies and enters into others that are new. Weapons cut It not; fire burns It not; water wets It not; the wind does not wither It. This Self cannot be cut nor burnt nor wetted nor withered. Eternal, all pervading, unchanging, immovable, the Self is the same forever.

“Man in the world of action loses his centering in the principle of eternity if he is anxious for the outcome of his deeds, but resting them and their fruits on the knees of the Living God he is released by them, as by a sacrifice, from the bondages of the sea of death. Do without attachment the work you have to do…. Surrender all action to Me, with mind intent on the Self, freeing yourself from longing and selfishness, fight – unperturbed by grief”.[1]

Sunday, March 25, 2012. I’d like to believe that I can surrender, that I can free myself from longing and selfishness and fight, unperturbed by grief. I like to read the quotes that appear above. I like to believe that I can understand the words. I’m comforted and fascinated by the potential for happiness in them; of the potential to be, as Campbell writes, free to live. Yet I don’t know the words completely. How can one work within their master passions without attachment? It’s not being un-attached to your work rather, it’s being un-attached to the outcome of the work – un-attached to the outcome of your “deeds.” You do the work for its own sake. The Self? How can one free oneself from selfishness yet have a “mind on the Self?” What is the difference between “self” and “Self?” It has to do with the so-called higher versus lower versions of what the Self is. Maybe the Self is what remains when the self in all of us eventually dies? I’m just thinking out loud, trying to assimilate the whole of what he’s expressing. I need to understand it as fully as I can because my heart is drawn to the grace and peace of it.

I want to open my heart and keep it open. I want to overcome the temptation to be angry and frustrated at the world’s indifference. I want to overcome the anxiousness, longing and selfishness within me that, just as Campbell describes, is concerned with the outcome of my deeds. I’m aware that it’s in the action, not the outcome. Maybe my own frustration is still just feeling like I haven’t discovered the work I need to do, of still not knowing, after all this biophycomythological “work,” what my work is. My six vocations remain on my Mandala. Are they work? Is my work just the work I do on myself? Can that be sufficient? Is it legitimate? Or is it just being lazy or discouraged or cowardly? What is my work? I’m just going to keep asking myself until I discover a new answer or accept the “answers” I may be refusing. It might be that I’ve indeed found my work but that I won’t allow myself to accept it. Again. I keep thinking that I’ll reach a tipping point past which I won’t fall back again. It may not be that I get over the ridge – it may be just a constant uphill fight. Is enlightenment supposed to be easy or difficult? Both?

My work is not at zmo. How could it be? It’s so fucking unfulfilling. It’s too simple; too limiting. Even if I bring good energy, it’s still just a low-paying, slog through somebody else’s dream. It’s somebody else’s path. Yet it’s all that I have right now to use to get to where I want to be, which is within my own work. If that makes any sense.

Thursday March 29, 2012. I thankfully was not scheduled at zmo. I need the time off for both my mind and my body. Especially my hands – they are very sore from the checking and packing operations at zmo. I guess I’m getting old – maybe a younger man wouldn’t suffer these aches and pains. But after four days at zmo, training at the gym with weights yesterday and then using a chef’s knife to prepare dinner tonight, it seemed like my hands were yelling at me to stop. In fact I noticed tonight that the middle finger of my right hand, which hurts the worst of all my fingers was swollen, as if I’d jammed it. I need to listen to my body. I don’t work at zmo until next week and I’m determined to restore my hand back to health. Kundalini, walking, resting, engaging in my other vocations are all ways to help my body, so that’s what I’ll do.

As of today, we have found a new place to live! 3459 Plymouth Road on the northeast corner of A2. It’s an apartment, originally built as a condominium during the market crash, that lines up very well with our vog entitled “our new home spring 2012.” To borrow from Jack Canfield, Angie and I stuck determinedly to “choosing the yellow folder” so to say; to go after the great instead of just the good or just what we can get. It’s been difficult to keep from sliding into a victim mindset. But we’ve been metaphorically “scrubbing floors” like Emma G. advises when times are hard and at least this week we’ve finally seen some results, though we know that being anxious for the outcome of our deeds, to paraphrase Campbell, is not productive. This condo is much more our style and I’m happy that it has a west-facing exposure and is located in the area of town that I intuitively had wanted to move to: the northeast. Everything seemed to be keeping us from almost all of what we really wanted and when we made the offer to buy the condo on the south side of town, I went along but with intuitive misgivings – something didn’t seem right. We agreed to not get too attached to the idea and to not get caught up in going back-and-forth on price over something that did not meet all our requirements. Yet we were willing to compromise because our lease at 1433 is up next month and even with a month-by-month extension through June, it seemed like a time-crunch to find a new place or risk having to stay here another year. Ugh. But we were fortunate that the condo purchase offer was not accepted. We agreed then to accept our current living conditions while refocusing on what we really wanted – a space and place that was suited to us. We would run it out until the last day, looking for and working towards the described in our vog until the world denied us for another year.

Angie had worked very hard for months and months, diligently searching the internet for new places and using our old realtor Steve – a great guy – to help us. She had come up with so few options and when she found something, the places were already taken. Super frustrating – it seemed like the world was against us and we had to remind ourselves to follow Ari’s writing and not allow ourselves to think like victims – we were choosing our destiny. We scrubbed biophycomythological floors and used all our tools including “changing the goalie” or changing the “R” in canfield’s E + R = O equation. Angie turned the search over to me because she’d reached the point of frustration – it had become a burden to her. So although she’s much more skilled at computer searching and in fact finds the process interesting and I hate it, we decided to shake things up. After all, as we agreed, spaces and places were my area of expertise. Then, as so often seems to happens when you stop fighting for something, the world seems to give it to you. That is to say that after a few days of me dicking around, we struck gold. And it was nothing I did so much as what I didn’t do. I didn’t put my heart and soul into the search, I just walked down to our realtor – the one that is leasing us this 1433 house and asked to speak to an agent. After some dud searches, we got one from Dave that Angie had seen before, but not acted on because the condos were farther outside of downtown and rentals. But we checked them this time and we liked the one we saw. After some crazy back and forth because the tenant wouldn’t move unless we bought all her fucking stuff – she wanted seven grand for it, absurd bitch – we got a different place in the same complex. 3439 Plymouth Road. I don’t like any address with the word “Plymouth” in it, but I’m not bitching because the place seems cool and appropriate and fits with our vog. It’s also great that we’ll be able to move in two weeks! So goodbye 1433 – no hard feelings but it hasn’t been the best fit but after a year of ups and downs. This is a great relief and joy to be literally moving on and it really hasn’t sunk in yet – this past year has been filled with so many large and small compromises, frustrations and disappointments as we tried to go for greatness.

Which brings me to the next good thing. At least I think it’s a good thing (it gets my nut spinning but also causes anxiety): I checked my hh email yesterday and lo and behold there’s a “New Order!” note on the subject line and it’s from the h-cheese online-order section of the website that I so clumsily set up and that nobody has ever used. Except somebody actually used it. And the somebody was Frank C. – a zcob bakehouse co-managing partner!! Unbelievable. On one hand, I wondered why he’d be interested and I was full of trepidation to give him one of the terrines I had frozen – my confidence is pretty much shot in terms of what other folks think about my h-cheese. On the other hand, I was jazzed that he was indeed interested and that he might actually like it. I know he’s recently been to Hungary (with Amy E. and Ari) researching the dishes and baked goods they want to focus on for the Bakehouse and that there they actually had an h-cheese. So maybe it’s just personal curiosity on behalf of Frank C. though I don’t know why he would’ve been interested now. In any case, it’s not in my control, it’s still fun to think that somebody gives a shit.

What I would really like to happen is that Frank liked it enough to say it was good. Sometimes I think I’m the only one who thinks my h-cheese is worth selling. As the days go by, I have less and less interest in continuing hh. It’s only natural that the dream dies as less energy is put into it but I find it odd that every time I take a step further away from it, there seems to be a customer inquiry or a letter from the USDA – some omen-like occurrence that makes me question whether hh has reached the vanishing point. I’m questioning everything again and even working at zmo doesn’t necessarily seem connected to any vision of greatness for my future. As I told Ari, I make the mistake of allowing my time to be consumed by skills – working for somebody else – versus committing to my passions. It doesn’t matter if I’m working for a good company like zcob or not, if it’s not engaging me completely, then it’s just a job and in this case a very poorly paid one at that.

I just can’t see a future within zcob for me. What the fuck could I possibly do there? Staring a new biz with them (like the slaughterhouse idea) in a co-managing partner role doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. I haven’t set up a meeting with Ari and I haven’t been able to invest myself in the vog for it. That tells me that I should let it ride – any commitment must be a wholehearted one. There are plenty of examples of folks who sort of back into careers and even businesses – a need arises, they happen to have a skill, the timing is right, they get sucked in and then you’re immersed in this adventure. I just need to feel confident that it’s not somebody else’s adventure. Like Ari says in his “Managing Yourself” essay, “It means that you’re going after living your dream life, not somebody else’s fantasy that slowly took over your own life.”

April 8, 2012. A good weekend. We had great weather on Saturday to hike to Ypsilanti and back – the fifteen or so mile round trip to Corner Brewery to watch, on a “snowy” vintage Sony CRT television, the last wings game of the regular season. I needed the walk to burn out some tension, frustration and anxiety. The sun, the mellow atmosphere at Corner, the good beer and ultimately the good physical fatigue combined for the perfect kind of day for us – a true classic urban trek that burned us out and put us in the mindful walking state that you reach only when you’ve had a long day of sun and physical activity.

The day before was good too – I went to another zcob tasting at the loft and I was glad that Ari showed up because I had been inspired to write up what I called a “viz-ness” plan – something that captured my zingerman’s slaughter & butchery idea. Once I got going, I really enjoyed putting it together and found myself motivated to really put myself into it and then get it printed and bound at a copy center down the street. It ended up costing me more than double what I had planned, but I’m proud of it and it makes me feel good to have put my best foot forward. It’s still not a formal slog – I didn’t want it to be a stuffy suit-jacket professional piece of bullshit. I wanted to just communicate my vision and ideas in a heartfelt way that felt right to me and to not take the wind out of my dreams by getting either too concerned with format and structure or even content. As I emailed ari, I’d rather write something up that he could read and then we’d have something to talk about later if he was still interested. Since neither one of us are the best one-on-one communicators face-to-face, it made sense to me to do it this way and I’m glad I did. I didn’t agonize over it – I just whipped it together, but not haphazardly either. It’s a good start for discussion and to generate interest or to generate non-interest – a thanks-but-no-thanks is fine. What I’ve written up is what I want to talk about and if Ari and zcob don’t want to move forward, that’s o.k. because I feel like the package I put together said what I wanted to say. Anything less formal and professional would’ve seemed, to me, too half-ass and half-baked and therefore almost destined to generate indifference. If I’m not into it, then nobody else will be either. I ended up motivating myself to use Ari’s “entrepreneurship in all directions” technique where you sell it to people – make it worth their while to pay attention and to be interested. In the end, it just felt like me doing, unattached, the work I have to do (to paraphrase Campbell and the Bhaghavad Gita).

Sometimes I think writing about this stuff is just fucking stupid – who would be interested? This journaling probably is just that and it might be destined for the dust bin, but for now, writing about my experiences and thoughts is helping me to move forward. Again, I guess it’s the work that I have to do and just doing it versus agonizing over it or desiring some outcome is exactly what Campbell is writing about.

Ari wanted to know when I wanted to meet with him about the plan and we agreed that we’d talk sometime after he gets back from Atlanta this coming week. I think it’s a compelling vision. I think it could be a good fit within zcob. I also think it’s just as legitimate that Ari sees it as something for somebody else and passes on the concept. My gut tells me that he’ll respect it and probably ask that I pursue more info on some details and see how far we get along without committing to it. That’s what I’d do. I’m not convinced I want to pursue it either and that doubt initially stopped me from putting the package together. But then I realized that I won’t be completely convinced that I want to move forward with this or not because I don’t have enough information. I need data and I also need “buy in” and help from “stakeholders.” As I wrote to Ari, this isn’t something I’m going to pursue on my own – if he’s not interested, then either am I – the project is far too big to be driven to realization on my own. That’s a good thing I think because it gives me distance from it – it’s not like the food cart which was so small and personal where all the risk and effort was mine (and Angie’s). This is a vision that will engage the world’s help from the beginning and therefore my role is not determined – it could grow or decrease or otherwise change along the way – I don’t need to own it so to say. I’m more interested in simply seeing the idea realized regardless of the specifics of my own contribution. For once maybe I can be involved in something, have ownership and authority to implement, but in the way that is best for me and the project at the same time.

If there were a heaven, then for me it would be a kitchen – a home kitchen. There would be coffee in the morning. Eggs. Something for which maple syrup would be required: waffles, pancakes or French toast. I prefer a tall tender waffle, a big pad of butter melting into the depth and breadth of its expansive grid. Occasionally, some pork: bacon, a sausage or a slice of ham. Orange juice in a very small glass. Toast with butter and a smear of a bright and fresh-tasting marmalade. More coffee.

For lunch, which may take place in the middle of a long walk, it would be simple yet hearty – salami, cheese, crusty bread and honey. A tin of shiny, fat sardines for the toasted buttered bread would be a worthwhile extravagance. Beer or wine, again in small straight-sided glasses, would further define the “architecture of the afternoon.”[2] Coffee, (reheated from the morning’s brew is fine) or an espresso will brighten the prospects of the rest of the day’s activities.

Dinner is the aroma that has surrounded the house and makes the neighbors as hungry as we are. A braise in a colorful enameled cast iron pot. A very slow roast. Meat. Root vegetables. Stock: chicken or beef. On rare occasions: fish. Braised or roasted. En papiotte is fussy, but if we had some delicate fillets…. Dark chocolate at the end, which if we’re lucky, will go well with the wine.


[1] Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, 3rd ed., (Novato: New World Library, 2008), 205-206.

[2] Thanks to Mo Frechette of Zingerman’s Mail Order for the word “architecture” used in this way.