Changing course

How straight has the course of your life been?

During my life I’ve changed course many times. Sometimes a change was forced upon me, sometimes a voluntary change. Sometimes both.

I grew up on farms and in small towns in rural Iowa. I hadn’t lived in any cities prior to moving to Indianapolis in 1971. That was a culture shock. I had a tough time seeing how many cars there were and could see and smell the auto exhaust (prior to catalytic converters). I had a Spiritual vision of my beloved Rocky Mountains hidden in clouds of exhaust. That vision played a huge role in the rest of my life.

In one way you might say my vision was wrong. The Rocky Mountains have not, yet, been hidden by smog. Although they are engulfed with greenhouse gases.

In the late sixties we traveled to California. As we approached Los Angeles, our eyes began to water, and we coughed a lot. We were told we would get used to it. And the mountains and hills around Los Angeles were veiled in auto exhaust.

I’d always had objections to people owning personal automobiles. Why own a complex machine that sits idle most of the time? Vast amounts of land became covered by highways. Those in large cities routinely sat in traffic for a long time each day. All the traffic and parking infrastructure, and police. Interstate highways cut through the middle of communities. Little or no mass transit was being created.

I’d also always been interested in science. I learned how fossil fuels were formed, how long that took. And, most importantly, that meant fossil fuel sources needed to be protected, because they were not renewable. Our profligate waste of fossil fuels was energy stolen from future generations.

When I first moved to Indianapolis, it was to join the Friends Volunteer Service Mission (VSM). There, wages from one year of working were saved to support yourself to do service work in that neighborhood the second year. So, there was no money for a car. At the end of those two years, I tried to avoid having a car. But the Metro city bus schedule did not always extend to the hours I was working, nor always run in the neighborhoods I lived in. When someone in the neighborhood offered to sell me his used car for $50, I bought it.

Necessary Evil?

But all this weighed on me spiritually. I knew it was not right to have a fossil fuel-based society/economy. And yet, I began to think having a car was a “necessary evil”, as so many people told me. But how could “evil” be “right”?

After a few years, my car was involved in a traffic accident. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but the car was totaled.

I clearly remember a Spiritual leading, telling me that this was an opportunity to find an alternative to a necessary evil. I had put a lot of prayer and thinking into my discomfort in having a car all during the time I had one.

I had been making some changes that made this look possible now. I moved nearer downtown, since that is where the Medical Center where I was doing research was located. I had to be within walking or running distance of work in case the bus schedule changed. Or more commonly, to get to work on the weekends when the bus schedule was scaled back.

I also made sure a laundromat and grocery store were within walking distance. I had been learning how to shop in a way that I could carry everything home.


My grandmother, Lorene Standing, said the will of God is often revealed in a series of small steps. The above is an illustration of that. With the pieces now in place, I wondered if the accident provided a new opportunity to try to live without a car. I remember a feeling of unease, whether I could really do this. At the same time, there was a much greater awareness that this might be the time. If not, I feared I would fall into the trap of owning a car. There was the fallback possibility, to get a car if this experiment didn’t work out.

Many adventures resulted from making the decision to give up a car. It lifted the burden of the spiritual weight of having a car. It showed me and others that having a car was not a necessary evil. A witness.

Just because you can’t make a difficult choice at one point in your life, doesn’t mean the opportunity won’t come around again.

Changing Course

At the beginning I said sometimes change is forced upon us, sometimes a voluntary choice, sometimes both. Perhaps what we thought was forced upon us was actually a spiritual leading. If that is true, shouldn’t we be paying more attention to the Spirit in our lives?

How did we get here?

I often reflect upon how I don’t know what I’ll end up writing on any given day. I thought I’d be writing about a Zoom meeting I attended that was hosted by Climate Mobilization, an organization that has been going through changes in their approach to call attention to our climate emergencies. I’ve been following their work for years.

Tuesday night was an introduction to Climate Mobilization’s change of course that I’ll be writing more about. I was fascinated to see the emergence of a national/international plan to prepare for climate survival. And to see the pieces that have been coming together for me over the past five years are the same that Climate Mobilization has been going through.

You can see these points in the diagram below.

  • Emphasis on working locally
  • Mutual Aid
  • Indigenous sovereignty
  • Abolition
  • Prefigurative solutions
  • Healing
    • Emotional
    • Spiritual
    • Physical
    • Transformative Mutual Aid Practices (T-MAPs)

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