As a teenager and young adult, I was never interested in hot rod cars, loud speakers, getting wasted, or hanging out at the mall with a pack of friends and doing nothing. Instead, I had a passion for botany, wilderness survival, sustainable living, and getting into politics and changing the world.
Physically, I spent most of my youth identifying flowers, hiking and camping, and practicing my survival skills. Mentally, I was seriously distracted by a nonstop inner dialogue about pertinent social, economic, and environmental issues. I developed an early appreciation for holistic thinking and the idea that there was a win-win-win solution to every problem – we didn’t have to give up jobs to save the environment, we didn’t have to sacrifice quality of life to live sustainably. Although the media always seemed to frame issues as this-against-that, I found that there were typically third alternatives – options that would enable us to build a clean and green society, one that made people both richer and freer.
I hiked miles and miles through the mountains, exploring my backyard, while processing ideas such as low-cost, high efficiency house construction, sustainable farming practices, launching green businesses, holistic management, foreign policy, reducing the national deficit, designing more fuel-efficient cars, biogas plants and swamp filters for treating city sewage, revamping the educational system, and on and on…
I wanted to change the world, but I was just a kid with a lot of big ideas and no credentials. If anyone were to ever listen to me, first I needed to walk the talk and demonstrate that living green was indeed the path to prosperity. But to do that, I needed a partner.
It is an interesting contradiction to have the absolute confidence that I could change the world, while on the other hand, being too shy and socially awkward to walk through the halls at high school. If the weather permitted, I walked from class to class around the outside of the building. At lunch, I sat at a table for other social misfits who had nowhere else to sit, and there met my first love. Being a holistic thinker, I believed that any relationship could be made to work; I just needed a partner who believed in me.
Together, we built an epic story. We walked across Montana, then returned home, got married, bought land, moved into a tent, and built the house of our dreams on a shoestring budget. We avoided the mortgage trap and the job trap, not by earning a lot of money, but by avoiding the need for it in the first place. Although we were poor by any reasonable standards, we had few expenses, so we went on exciting wilderness adventures, and we installed a photovoltaic system to produce all of our electricity from sunshine. It wasn’t that difficult to do.
Along the way, we started a family, I wrote books and produced videos, taught survival skills, built my own publishing company, bought a business and started a bookstore, and founded the nonprofit Jefferson River Canoe Trail. I built houses, testing out energy-efficient design concepts and alternative methods and materials. I bought a diesel truck and attempted producing my own biodiesel from waste French fry grease from restaurants. I launched our fledgling Green University® LLC and began to explore an alternative approach to higher education, mentoring young people in sustainable living and green business development.
The inner dialogue never shut off in my head, and I never wavered in my belief that I could change the world. I built up a resume that, while sparse in some areas, was at least minimally adequate to launch a political career and run for governor of Montana. The one thing I still needed was the support of my partner.
From the beginning, my marriage was predicated on the belief that there was a win-win solution to any issue. No two people will agree on everything, yet there is always a workable solution if both parties are willing to consider all the alternatives. That belief held my marriage together for nearly twenty-one years despite our differences.
I wanted to change the world. I felt compelled to help create a sustainable civilization for the next generation. My wife wanted to raise our family and live our lives. I wanted a public life. She didn’t want anyone to know we existed. I wanted to pounce on her and play and wrestle. She wanted me to sit still and talk. I had to sit on the opposite end of the couch. On the one hand, we got along great as friends, we seldom fought, and we were together 24/7 for most of our marriage. And yet, we never resolved our differences, and we never bridged the emotional divide between us.
My marriage was sustainable as long as I believed we could ultimately resolve our differences. It just took me twenty-one years to admit defeat. I experienced the last three of those years as a string of chronic panic attacks at the prospect of ending my marriage, breaking up our family, and losing everything I had ever believed in, worked for, and in a sense, campaigned for.
As I start over with a new life and a new relationship, I find myself optimistic at times, but also greatly shaken. Emotionally, losing everything shook me to rubble. I lack the inner confidence I always had – that I could change the world, that I could learn or do whatever was necessary to accomplish that mission, even stretching far beyond my otherwise quiet and introverted self.
Challenges that once seemed easy, now often seem insurmountable. Rebuilding my personal life, my enterprises, and my resume often seems like too much work and too much trouble, and I don’t presently have the emotional spine necessary to endure a political life. More than anything, my outlook is darker, as for the first time in my life, I have acknowledged that some problems have no winnable solutions.
By any reasonable measure, I could be immensely successful if I would just focus on any one topic and make a career out of it as most normal people do. I am sufficiently well-versed in at least a dozen different subject areas, any one of which could become a full-time career. And yet, there is nothing that I am willing to give up, and so I find myself stumbling along, scattered in so many different directions that sometimes I feel ineffective at accomplishing anything.
More than anything, there is still that inexorable pull to keep flowing in the same direction that I always have. Working to make a difference in the world is the only vision I have known since childhood. It is this big dream of changing the world that inspires me, and nothing less seems worth working for. Trying to look at the bright side, losing my marriage has at least made me a little more human, and I can better relate to other people and their circumstances.
I don’t know if I will ever run for governor, but at least I may run for a local house or senate seat and see what happens. In the meantime, I have started this blog to begin articulating my resume and vision – if not for the reader, than at least for myself as part of the process of getting back on my feet and starting over. Or, maybe I am just getting eccentric at an early age, and I can spend the rest of my life pretending to be governor.
If you like what you see on my websites, and want to be part of it, then please ask away. Being introverted and solitary by nature, I have often tried to do it all myself – everything from writing or filming, editing and formatting, publishing, marketing, and often packing and shipping my own books and videos, to handwriting all of my own HTML, to designing and building my own solar water heaters and developing new construction techniques. I have tried to be an institution unto myself, seriously understaffed and underfunded for the scale of the projects I undertake. Thus, I am seeking partners who want to make a difference in the world, anyone who thinks we might have even one thing in common and wants to work together to make it happen. Drop me a note. Let’s see where it goes. [Read More…]