PHOTO (and video) ESSAY: From “control” to “express yourself,” or: “Outer space is the only place to hide.”

As I read through John Michael Greer’s latest archdruid essay, which discusses how both the U.S. and the EU view “compromise” as capitulation by the Other (or as Putin reported to have said, “Washington doesn’t want partners, it wants vassals”) —

The Delusion of Control

— and how this haughty, superior attitude drives other nations away and guarantees that U.S./NATO policies fail. Moreover, Greer argues, that same delusion drives most people in their view towards Earth, which they view as separate from them. Earth’s value is as “real estate,” there for the taking; humans have dominion, and she’d better just “take it.” No recognition, in any relationship, whether that be with other humans or Nature herself, that indeed, the other party has his or her own needs which, unless they are recognized and taken into account, will result in the exact opposite of what is intended.

John Michael Greer thinks he knows why, and I think he’s right. It’s because, he says, we still insist on viewing Nature (and any extension of the Other) as a machine, separate from ourselves. And thus mechanical, predictable, rather than organic, alive, and, I’ll add, ultimately mysterious, not subject to the religion of science’s goal of complete (reductionist) description, analysis, and control. In other words, there’s always more to comprehend, because everything keeps growing, changing, dying, mutating, operating on diversifying levels, with more complexities and subtleties than we can ever imagine, much less wrestle to the proverbial or virtual ground. Anyone who’s ever been “in a relationship” with a lover realizes this, sooner or later. Or at least some do! I personally, learned this late. Control for me, was all important, throughout my tenure as a person who identified as “female” with men. Luckily, I did learn — eventually! Here’s an essay from eight years ago on my evolutionary process . What an revelatory journey! So grateful.

A Discourse on Love

Meanwhile, at the “ripe old” age of 72, I’m now on to community projects, and the delusion of control operates here too, of course, since no matter what we do, no matter what kinds of “stuff” we are focusing on and moving around, it’s still all just an excuse for relationships; i.e., the lessons in life are always those of relationship, allowing everyone to have their say, their unique expression, their intrinsic value. Including, by the way, our relationship with own bodies! —which remember, are part of Nature, and which themselves are usually, unfortunately, also treated like machines that we (our minds, that is) can “fix,” given the right pills or cuts or starvation diets, or sweaty “exercise” on big machines in gyms.

All of which brings me to today’s topic. “The Tunnel Park Project,” (as part of Healing our Borders project) which I wrote about in January, 2015, six months ago. That larger project has since been divided into three phases, the first of which, for spring 2015, was to apply for a grant from the city to design, make and place five signs that identify the borders of our Green Acres Neighborhood. After two full months of working with various municipal bureaucracies, the grant application was successful. Podmate Katarina and her cohorts are now working with the artist on sign design.

Meanwhile, the “tunnel” itself remains as a part of the larger project that we decided to begin now, this summer, in guerrilla fashion.


Above: a photo of the tunnel, with the “widened bypass” road above, linking Green Acres with the Park Ridge neighborhood to the east. (The tunnel is two short blocks from my house.)

Not much to look at, I agree. Nor is it obvious that the road above the tunnel is actually four lanes wide, with a concrete median down the middle. Ugly. We fought the widening of that two-lane highway, unsuccessfully. INDOT, (I imagine with the support of both Indiana University and the local Chamber of Commerce), bullied its way forward, despite opposition from the city of Bloomington and neighborhoods on both sides of the road in question. That pedestrian and bike tunnel, plus six-foot sidewalks on both sides of the road, were the only concessions that the city of Bloomington received from INDOT in the widening process. I’ll never forget the first act of that monstrous project: to bulldoze hundreds of magnificent trees.

Okay, so here we are, or were, mostly unable to CONTROL what happened then and how it denuded the east border of our neighborhood. But we can respond. How? By aiming to heal, especially this border, over time. And to do so creatively, imaginatively. Here’s the video Katarina took back in January, while we walked with city officials and permaculturist Keith Johnson through the tunnel. Notice the graffitti on both sides.

Since then we’ve been thinking and dreaming about the tunnel. Watching the graffitti evolve and devolve, wishing for whoever the (probably) teens are who scratch up the tunnel in the dead of night to offer more “elevated,” “advanced,” “artistic,” not to mention authentic communication.

We know of one young Green Acres family that walks down to the tunnel to hear their voices echo inside it. And that made us think, “Hey, how about concerts in the tunnel!” Farfetched? Not sure.

At one point someone put two framed paintings on the walls, one at either end of the tunnel, squished them on with what looked like tar. I clapped and rejoiced to see what appeared to be an advance in the level of human interaction with the tunnel. But the traffic vibration must have loosened them, because a month later, when I walked through again, the paintings were both on the ground, carefully propped up against the wall. Then they disappeared.

About two weeks ago, the city (I think it was the city, though they have no official jurisdiction over the tunnel) painted over (again) all the graffiti (you can see the grey paint on the outside walls of the tunnel taken then above). Aha! Once again, time to start over! Maybe now’s our chance for our planned, meaningful guerrilla action?

I told Katarina about it, and she marched right on over to the Sherwin Williams paint store nearby to purchase some chalk paint and a roller for a message on one of the walls. I wish I had taken a picture of her message then, when it was fresh, and nothing had yet been painted around it. These photos are from a week later, and if you compare them to the video above, you can see that there has been an elevation in the aesthetic and the level of communication, and even the atmosphere of the graffitti! Not because we tried to “control” the situation, but because Katarina used a sweet, friendly, tone to invite whoever likes to write on the walls, and even some who have not yet done so, to go for it! Here’s some photos, starting with Katarina’s invitation:


Notice both the chalked heart around the message, vs. the small, chalked, purple “shut up!” below.

Within a day or two, somebody had corrected her spelling . . .


That’s half of puppy Shadow showing . . .






And so very different from the first graffiti the city painted over, a large, nasty, stupid, typical “FUCK YOU!” on one of the outside walls. — But even then, there were clues that this would not be the direction of the future: within a week or two, someone had added an “R” to “YOU” as in “FUCK YOUR _____” (I’m not sure what, can’t remember, but anyway it wasn’t so inyourface as the original scrawl).

At the very least, the tunnel walls are gaining interest, and there appears to be the beginnings of real communication and artistry. I look forward to my next morning walk with Puppy Shadow through OUR tunnel.

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2 Responses to PHOTO (and video) ESSAY: From “control” to “express yourself,” or: “Outer space is the only place to hide.”

  1. laurabruno says:

    That was a great idea to get the chalkboard paint. It reminds me of the bathrooms in Madison’s Willy St. Co-Op, where they have the same sort of messaging — political, uplifiting, sad, whatever, and then it gets periodically erased.

    I think I mentioned that when I lived in Hyde Park, Chicago in 2010, they had tunnels to the Lake Park, and these were done in mosaics with occasional mirror pieces. It looked lovely, sparkly, and filled the entire tunnel with interesting designs, light, and the occasional reflection of the people walking past a mirrored tile. People used to spontaneously give jazz concerts in the tunnels, especially during summer, and the saxophone sounds would echo all around the park and nearby streets. It was one of my favorite parts of Hyde Park!

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