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I'll Shut Up -Right After This

The best laid plans

We're talking about the 100 year old Nazarene church here, — doing a story. Sadie was going to this church when Calvin Coolidge was — president, she says, and the congregation had to rotate being near the — pot-bellied stove. That was on 4th and C, where the Unitarian-Universalist — church is now.

The pastor, Jim, pulls out the history. It all got started — in the first years of the 20th century, when some people set up a soup — mission for the poor and homeless about where Geppetto's is now. The history — mentions "persecution" for that. Why, I ask. Well, it's the NIMBY (not — in my backyard) thing, kind of like what goes on now about the homeless, — I learn.

We laugh. One of those human nature things, isn't it? — Later, I'm on a story, talking with John Fields, a longtime builder here, — and we get off on Ashland growth and housing prices, him saying the Natural — History Museum opened up the controversy in the late 80s, with most people — saying they wanted to keep the town livable and affordable - and another — such attraction would send it off where it has now gone, into being not — so much a town as an investment vehicle. One where, if you're in the investing — class, you can live in your investment.

Money goes where it's comfortable, he says. Well, it's — comfortable here. Back in the mid-eighties, he notes, there were two or — three permits issued a year for new houses. Now it's 400 to 500, he says. — The prices of these are $400,000 to $500,000 and aren't for people who — can work here, so a huge majority of people are being displaced.

You can't control growth, but only direct it - and on — the larger scale, it will reach a point of stopping itself and going into — die-back, which is how ecology works, he says.

It's a lovely Saturday in the park, with the first flowers — coming out, a day of happiness, nay, ecstasy, by the creek and she says — look at that lovely old couple, holding hands. "So touching to see that — in old age," she says. Then we see another old couple holding hands. And — another. Y'know, she finally says, I don't see any young people holding — hands. We realize, oh, this is what you get with non-affordable housing — - people, as Fields pointed out, rolling over assets from California, — hedging inflation and gaining 20 to 30 percent a year on their investment. — Now, that's touching.

What kind of culture does this create? Well, it's certainly — older, whiter and richer, but, as Fields observes, in a candid and courageous — assessment, hundreds of people are moving here, all very lovely, pleasant — folks, intelligent, liberal people with few problems in their lives, people — locked into their own points of view instead of living around real suffering — and having to come up with solutions. It's our generation and we want — to see a reflection of ourselves, rather than give to the community. It's — our right to consume and have bigger homes and cars, he says, rather than — create a national health plan.

I'm in Central Point listening to social services managers — tell a panel of four local legislators how, with massive budget cuts, — they've had to "thin the soup." Great new metaphor, isn't it? The mental — health boss from Jo County says he's thrown the meat and potatoes out — of the soup and it's just water now.

Our town's legislators, Sen. Bates and Rep. Buckley are — broadly hinting that, in a show of supporting local control, a good thing, — they are going to set up block grants, so instead of the state giving — ample slices to each agency, the county will get a smaller pie - and local — social services managers can do the painful slicing. This also takes the — heat off the elected people. They're just handing over a pie, made small — by a society privatizing compassion.

One sunny afternoon, in her new home by Ashland Creek, — I'm interviewing the famous consciousness author-teacher Gangaji for a — magazine story and she says our society has been in a 50-year cocoon of — illusion and we may think, after 9/11, that our times have become the — worst of times, but this is the way things have always been - the aggressive, — primate acquisitiveness and violence, leading to a quickening, an exit — from denial and discovery of the truth.

What is the truth? It's what was here before thought and — will be here after it - that we are awareness, consciousness, love - and — the divine.

She smiles. The development of the brain has been very — useful, she says, but at a certain point, it's counterproductive. We're — ruining our nest and killing ourselves and the shock of that will be a — catalyst to knowing we are not these thoughts and this body, but what's — under that, love.

We leave, walking out into the sun. She's right, of course. — It's all in the Infinite Plan, isn't it?

is an Ashland writer and counselor at jdarling@jeffnet.org