A True Thing

There are times when the walls start to close in on me. When that happens, I reach out for a true thing. Something that pushes the walls back out and that makes a way in my spirit.

This week I read two remarkable books by two remarkable people. True is not a word I use a lot. These two books are true. Their authors are way makers.

Deep Survival

The first was Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why, by Laurence Gonzales (W.W. Norton & Company @2006). Click here to order from FTW.

Gonzales is a contributing editor for National Geographic who has spent a lifetime personally pursuing and studying wilderness and survival experiences – skydiving, aeronautics, rock climbing, wilderness training and motorcycle racing among them. Inspired by his father’s survival of a 27,000 feet fall after his airplane was shot down during WWII, Gonzales asks the question, ‘why do some people live and some die?’ What are the characteristics and behavior of the people who endure under conditions of extraordinary stress?

Quite remarkably, Gonzales takes us all the way into the heart of the matter. He takes our minds there, he takes our heart there and he takes our spirits there. This is a book that resonates through and through. Though my wilderness survival experience was an urban one, everything Gonzales says about what it takes to make it is true – urban, suburban, rural or wilderness.

Many Americans have been living in a day-to-day process in which – as our political options and powers diminish – our consumer options and powers increase, albeit these powers are probably temporary as well. We have become remarkably spoiled and “baby-fied.” At the same time, the quality of our food, water and air are diminishing in a manner that results in much less physical strength and stamina. As we weaken, we are consuming extraordinary amounts of popular culture that is designed to denigrate our intellect and humanity. We have become a people without the characteristics of those who survive the stress we now face. This was very much weighing on my spirit when I turned to Deep Survival looking for some answers. Our lack of spiritual, mental and physical preparedness is a matter of great concern for me – and one of the reasons why I believe it is so important to “come clean.” Deep Survival helped me come to terms with those concerns – reminding me once again of the importance of focusing on what I can do.

If you read Deep Survival, read it slowly and carefully. Take the time to feel it. Take the time to contemplate the application of a lifetime of Gonzales’ learning in your life. It is rare that a book can communicate intelligence that can save your life. Deep Survival has that potential. The last words of the Buddha were said to be, “Go work out your own salvation with diligence.” Gonzales puts meat on that bone.


The second book was 1996, by Gloria Naylor (Third World Press @2005).

Naylor is a real favorite of mine. Her previous book The Women of Brewster Place (Penguin @1983) is on my list of best lifetime fiction. So when a member of the Solari Action Network forwarded me a message that Naylor had been interviewed about her new book describing her experience as a target of a covert operation similar to the one I had experienced, I was amazed (click here for interview). When the book arrived yesterday, I stopped everything and read it.

Naylor’s book is what she describes as a “conflation” — a combination of fiction genre and non-fiction genre. It is a brilliant way of dealing with the subject. Indeed, it is a practical, economic way of helping readers understand these situations from the various points of view of those involved. It makes clear some of the dark turns our culture has taken with new technology.

Naylor does an outstanding job of describing some of the types of people, tools and operations involved in domestic covert operations -– including the pleasure that some enjoy from terrorizing and destroying peoples lives. It’s a new form of hunting, a 21st century sport.

To this day, why this happened to Naylor remains a mystery. She does not explore the events at that time that might cause the National Security infrastructure to want to keep a leading Afro-American writer preoccupied.

For example, there is no mention of the extraordinary efforts to discredit Gary Webb and his 1996 story Dark Alliance from entering the mainstream consciousness (click here for details). Nor is there mention of the history of the development of non-lethal weapons by the military and the efforts to integrate that technology into domestic enforcement in the 1990s. My theory is that many situations at this time developed from the need for prototyping the application of this technology and the desire of the government contractors and vendors involved to generate business.

There is no mention of the extraordinary number of middle and upper middle class people who were targeted and assasinated during that period. I remember sitting in a cafe at DuPont Circle in Washington with our in house counsel at that time. Sam Smith at the Progressive Review, a block away, had been compiling lists of all the people around the Clinton’s that had been murdered under suspicious circumstances and he had broken a detailed story about the professional hit of a White House intern at Starbucks, not far away. We talked about the young female INS attorney who had disappeared, last seen in the DuPont Circle area. We talked about the subpoenas the cafe bookstore had recieved — for a time the waiters and waitresses wore yellow T shirts that said “I’ve been subpoened.” And how our company, Hamilton Securities, which had been right across the street had been invaded and shut down. My house three blocks away had been the site of ongoing harrassement, break in and surviellance. (See The Swat List: Audits, Investigations, Inquiries, Leaks Conflicts of Interest, Harrassment and Surveillance and Anatomy of a Swat from a Lawyer’s Perspective.) This tiny neighborhood was exploding with covert operations and deaths — yet the media was silent other than Sam and a brave few.

You can not help but wonder what would happen if all the people who had experience with or investigated these happenings came together to put their different pieces of the jigsaw puzzle in place. Naylor does not discuss this, her book remains true to the scope that is her greatness. She is the master of the intimate within the day to day life of a person, a family, a neighborhood. She leaves the world of global politics, black budget operations and economic warfare for another forum.

The tactics that are used to target one person have extraordinary parallel to the tactics that are used to track and manipulate whole populations. Therefore, Naylor’s successes at surviving her targeting have invaluable lessons for us all. She takes the lessons of Deep Survival and moves them into a new type of wilderness — where the predators are human, the enemy is intimate and the tactics include the most invisible and invasive — into your computer, your phone, your airwaves and your mind.

Naylor has worked out her salvation with diligence and written a book that tells the tale. It is an act of enormous courage. Beautifully written, it is a work of art. 1996 is a true thing — one that will also save lives.

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