Art by Richard Quinn
Art by Richard Quinn
Since I’ve never really talked to anyone about this type of experience, I’m not sure if thing only certain rare people have or common by another name. Throughout my life there are certain dreams or experiences that are so deep they leave an indelible mark, or psychic signpost whose timelessness continues to influence in distinctly conscious ways how I see the world. One of these is from 1989 when I was living in Cupertino, California. At that time I lived just a few blocks from DeAnza College and right across from Memorial Park. The headquarters of Apple Computer was just around the corner. I worked there as did most of my neighbors. I spent many summers as a youth growing up in this area (Los Altos) and to this day the memory of this part of the Bay Area has a fond place in my heart. It saddens me to think how much things have changed since then, with most of the orchards now replaced with housing tracts and strip malls.
I could spend hours reciting the delights this area held, but one of my favorites was a truly unique bookstore called A Clean Well Lighted Place For Books, nestled within the intricately complex and simple but eloquently designed Oaks Shopping Center, right of Stevens Creek Blvd. Describing this little treasure of a bookstore could never do it justice. It’s the kind of place that only exists in pleasant dreams, but then when you’re there it takes on a magic all it’s own. Firstly the entire layout consisted of dozens of nooks and cranny’s of shelves, chairs and couches. There was almost no open area except by the purchasing desk where you could look up to the second floor. Looking up you would see small outlying balconies, book shelves, and numerous skylights where sunlight warmly embraced you wherever you happened to cocoon yourself with a good book. I would spend hours here absorbing the ambiance, the beautiful music, and novel delights coming off the pages of the myriad books and magazines. It was here at the tender age of eleven I first discovered fully my affection for science, science fiction, and trippy new ago books on consciousness exploration. The store had only been open a couple of years then.
After getting caught up in my imagination I would then ride my bicycle across to Memorial Park and sit on the wide open grass with my new book or magazine and trip fantastic about human potential and our journey into the future. I have continued to have the occasional dream which takes place in the dream equivalent of this area.
For reference this was just a few blocks from the Apple Headquarters – which was a lot smaller then. I remember one summer, my dad and I were driving by Apple and a pirate flag was flying. I remember him saying, “damn hippies”. I thought it was cool, and it was a few more years before I knew what that was all about.
When I found myself living back in this area as a working adult in Silicon Valley, I made a point of going to A Clean Well Lighted Place for Books whenever I could. The last time I was there was in early 1997. When I worked at Apple I went their frequently. It was with sadness that this bookstore closed a few months later.
Like a persistent memory, I decided to google it today, and found two stories about it. The first is a writeup at the decision to close the store in 1997, and the below a story of recollecting the feeling of loss at the changes Oaks Center had gone through just three years later in 2000:
As a child, I remember the thrill of riding my bicycle to the Oaks Shopping Center for the first time. Many great weekend afternoons were spent riding to the Center, catching a movie, buying ice cream, taking a pass through the bookstore and perhaps riding around Memorial Park.
Many of us in Cupertino share similar fond memories of time spent at The Oaks Shopping Center with family, friends and loved ones. Imagine how many first dates, anniversaries or birthdays were spent at the movies or in one of the restaurants at the Oaks Center. Sometimes going to the Oaks Shopping Center feels like coming home again.
Like many long-time Cupertino residents, I was saddened when the Oaks Shopping Center and the community said good-bye to the bookstore A Clean Well Lighted Place for Books in 1997. The recent City discussions surrounding the possible closure of the Oaks Center movie theater to make way for a grocery store has brought back many of these feelings. It has also raised a larger issue of concern about Cupertino losing some of it’s unique history and the character that makes this such a great place to call home.
The Oaks Shopping Center is one of the core symbols or locations that demonstrate Cupertino’s unique character. Though a place of commerce, its style and architecture does not match the all too prevalent strip malls along Stevens Creek Boulevard. The Oaks Shopping Center is one of Cupertino’s few “town squares.”
Observing the debate surrounding the proposed grocery store at this location and the potential forced closing of the movie theater, many Cupertino residents stood up at recent government meetings to express their concerns, fears and anger over the proposed transition.
It is not surprising that the landlord of the Oaks Center keeps an eye peeled for ways to generate revenue. Though many have embraced the center over the years, it has not been a financial success as evidenced by the closing of such center favorites as the bookstore, Cafe Quinn, Blue Chip Cookies and other small businesses.
I realize that the Oaks Shopping Center lacks the one anchor tenant needed to support the financial investment in this prime business location. However, isn’t the heritage and history of Cupertino equally valuable, deserving of protection?
Why couldn’t both the proposed grocery store and movie theater coexist? Unfortunately, there are plenty of empty store fronts in the center. Shifting the plans to accommodate the theater and the grocery store could be beneficial to both the landlord, store owners and the community. This will give the Oaks Center the anchor tenant it requires to draw patrons, which will trickle in to businesses coming back to the center with the theater remaining open, as well.
As a result, local government will also benefit from the increased sales tax dollars generated from an economically booming Oaks Shopping Center.
Cupertino is the gateway to Silicon Valley. It was Cupertino residents who helped build the Information Superhighway and this community continues to be one of the most sought after areas to live in in the United States. We have the best schools, a top-notch community college and a character that make this place unique. Thinking about the Cupertino we want for our children ought to be at the forefront of this debate.
Bringing a grocery store to the Oaks Center is an idea with merit, but let’s not sacrifice the movie theater in the process. We should protect the things that are unique and fun about Cupertino, and our heritage at the Oaks is part of that. We deserve better than reducing our community to a cookie-cutter town like many suburbs in Southern California with one main street, no bookstores, no movie theaters, fast-food joints and a few gas stations. We deserve much better, and we should protect the things that make this community a great place to call home. One step in this process is to find a compromise at the Oaks Center by bringing the grocery store in while protecting the movie theater at the same time.
So I’m not alone after all in having this defining experience.
Below are some pictures I found:
Funny how the very first picture I find on the net is of Ray Bradbury. Three years earlier in 1986, when I was still a student at University of Arizona, Ray Bradbury came to talk there. I managed to “get” a media pass which gave me special access to Ray before his talk. I, along with about a dozen other people, got to spend a couple of hours with Ray in a private conference room and ask as many questions as we wanted of Ray. It was fun to be able to talk with him personally – a couple of things I remember from that encounter – he lived in Tucson when he was in elementary school in the late 1920s, and he wrote R is for Rocket in 9 days!
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air. . . .
Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or ever eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
Below is a beautiful poem written by a 10 year old named Robert Chan, who is the Shasta Bioregion (California) Prize Winner in Poetry for Elementary Schools.
I am the ragged obsidian solar flare
that flies in the bright red sky.
I am the steaming hot spiky crimson
seaweed that soars by my
glowing star hands.
I am the atom floating
in the DNA strip
giggling in the brown nucleus,
shining bright smiles the plant cell,
floating in red orange fluid,
dancing happily in the narrow
parallel segment vein,
sprinting across the American seaweed,
opening a door to the earth,
spinning in the singing solar system,
twisting in silky ways,
jogging by the Milky Way,
and trying to circle the dark red universe.
Source: River Of Words.
What if the world embodied its highest potential? What would it look like? As the structures of modern society crumble, this video contemplates a set of unexamined assumptions that form the very basis of our civilization. In this beautifully shot 25-minute film, it asks us to reflect on the state of the world and ourselves–and to listen more closely to what is being asked of us at this time of unprecedented global transformation.
Via Karma Tube.
Once every so often I discover a new voice and kindred spirit who shares my own perspective yet articulates it in new and refreshing ways. Yesterday Kartott (I don’t know her real name) became known to me by following me on twitter. I followed her back and started reading her new blog. It’s great stuff and features a lot of her artwork.
From her first entry:
What are we? How have we come to be here on this planet? Are we living a life as fully conscious beings? I suspect not. What are visions, dreams, things seen that ought not to be seen? Do we conjure such things as ghosts, aliens, fairies out of deep genetic memory? Or are they glimpses of a broader reality?
Of late, I have been exploring a number of alternate realties: ufos, ghosts, psychedelic phenomena. All seem to be pointing to some undercurrent of reality that we can barely tip our toe into. We mostly deny it, put it down to “imagination” or simple fantasy. We even deny our own directly experienced phenomena, shutting the door to a wider world. This seems driven by a larger culture intent on squashing all things mysterious, unknown or unknowable. We believe that because such experiences are beyond measure and simple human reasoning, they must therefore not real. Yet they all seem to point to a more fully realized consciousness, a kind of multi-dimensional existence. Our everyday brain seems divorced from this, almost as if there is a wall in place between our everyday functioning mind and our visioning, dreaming consciousness.
An interesting aspect to this (from my admittedly scant observation): people who traverse this consciousness divide seem to possess a high degree of creativity. A large proportion are artists, writers, musicians, or are generally creative in other aspects of their lives. Many express interest in spiritual or deep intuitive connections. Some meditate. Apart from the creative process itself (or perhaps as a part of it), I wonder if this points to a necessary admission of imagination as a fundamental key to the door in the wall.
It is not often I share a personal story on this blog. In the last 8 years I have experienced a great deal of tragedy. In this time I lost my house and all of my belongings to a house fire. I lost my father two months later to a rapid onset of pancreatic cancer. In 2006 I experienced a series of tragedies and unfortunate events. As part of this ongoing stress I contracted a very painful, serious and for many months, undiagnosed illness, which among other things resulted in having my gallbladder being removed in December. This didn’t fix the problem, but it was their best guess at the time. Did I mention pain? Yes, chronic pain that completely debilitated me, resulting in a total loss of income, and a half-dozen visits to the emergency room bent over in total agony. I am only now recovering, thanks in part to adopting a very healthy diet and lifestyle, and a exercising a profound level of acceptance and love for myself and those around me.
The story below is for those who need to hear that profound personal transformation is possible for anyone, right now if you are willing to open your heart.
I came across this story a few weeks ago in a book I was reading while deeply detoxing in a far-infrared sauna at my local acupuncturist’s office. It touched me so deeply, that I wept quietly but deeply amidst the profuse and cleansing sweat while in the sauna. The story is from The New Holistic Health Handbook, and it’s a passage from a chapter by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross titled, Death Does Not Exist.
Like many people I believe the current crisis is a wake-up call for humanity. However, unlike many of the voices dominating the discussion lately, I have come to some very different conclusions.
The dirty little secret behind many environmental movements and their followers is a deep wish to see large segments of the human population die off. This way the the Earth can restore itself from the overpopulated human civilization that has drained it. Ideally, these same loyal econauts see themselves as inheriting this New Earth paradise after all the unworthy people have died off. If you think I’m making this up or exaggerating, just ask them. One prominent “visionary” (who shall go nameless) said if people don’t get with the program, they will be turned into mulch. Being an environmentalist myself, I’m not accusing all of them, just many of the louder voices currently dominating the conversation. You’ll hear all sorts of scenarios of doom, gloom, and even glee that when it’s all over, the Earth will have maybe at most a billion inhabitants left (if we’re lucky) by the end of the 21st Century.
They are right about one thing – given our current level of dirty technology, population growth and rates of resource extraction, the human game of continual growth and material abundance cannot continue much longer without a severe environmental backlash from simple resource constraints. You can’t extract what’s no longer there. In other words, unless we find a way to magically transform our society through advanced nanotechnology into one that is 100% regenerative, large segments of the population will die off from a lack of resources necessary to feed, house and clothe them.
The honest truth is advanced nano-enabled regenerative technology is still a distant dream, and until it’s realized, we can’t count on it. Instead we must solve our problems now using tools already available or that can be built without requiring unforseen breakthroughs.
Clearly as long as we continue doing business within a fragile planetary ecosystem, pretty much everything we do needs to change, adapt, ephermalize, regenerate. I just hope that along with these changes, we don’t loose site of the bigger impetus which this all points – which is to continue onward, upward, outward off the planet and become a space faring species.
This is the first time in our planets evolution such a possibility is upon us. Given what’s at stake (massive ecological, economic and population collapse), it’s now or never that a strong push for space development must be made. Those talking about peak civilization and mandatory de-industrialization are a depressing, anti-evolutionary lot.
I think when real-world constraints start culling the population, radical evolutionary pressures upward will re-exert themselves. I’ve never known people to go quietly in the night, especially when bigger, better alternatives present themselves.
My fellow Lifeboat adviser Brian Wang is actively working on some very radical space propulsion designs which could reduce orbital launch costs to less than $1/Kg without the need for any new technological advances.
When billions of lives are at stake from a lack of biosphere support capacity, space migration is by far the saner choice, especially when many if not most industrial processes can be taken off world.
This way everyone wins. The more radical elements in the environmental movement can celebrate as all the industrialized processes they hate so much move wholesale offworld. The Earth, through tender stewardship by those choosing to stay behind, can be ushered back into a veritable garden of Eden without it requiring any devolution or death of the human species.