Quillwood Podcast

QP17: Living Undaunted in a Changing World, with Carolyn Baker

August 11, 2022 Eric Garza Season 1 Episode 17
Quillwood Podcast
QP17: Living Undaunted in a Changing World, with Carolyn Baker
Show Notes Transcript

Carolyn Baker is a writer and educator who most recently authored the book Undaunted: Living Fiercely into Climate Meltdown in an Authoritarian World. She and Eric talk about the meaning of undanted, living fiercely in an increasingly autocratic world, seeing today's converging crises as a rite of passage, learning lessons from our ordeal, and living with uncertainty, among other things.


  • 00:00 - 02:44 — Episode introduction
  • 02:44 - 09:59 — The quality and value of being undaunted
  • 09:59 - 17:26 — Living fiercely and an increasingly autocratic world
  • 17:26 - 30:11 — Seeing today's converging crises as a rite of passage
  • 30:11 - 33:05 — Learning the lessons from our ordeal
  • 33:05 - 44:47 — Reflections on certainty and not giving up
  • 44:47 - 46:34 — Episode wrap-up

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Eric Garza: Welcome to the Quillwood Podcast, a show dedicated to helping you learn to navigate today's changing world. I am your host, Eric Garza.

Today's episode features a conversation I recorded with Carolyn Baker. She has written many books, but her most recent—which we spend most of our time talking about—is Undaunted: Living Fiercely into Climate Meltdown in an Authoritarian World. Find Carolyn on the web at carolynbaker.net. Sign up for her Daily News Digest on her website too if you are interested in getting curated news articles in your email each day. We talk in our conversation about her book, and about seeing today's converging crises as a rite of passage, among other things.

Before I share that conversation, know that Quillwood Podcast is brought to you by Quillwood Academy. Through Quillwood Academy I offer a wide array of online educational events and programs. Registration is currently open for a reading group on the book Reality Blind: Integrating the System Science Underpinning our Collective Futures, by Nate Hagens and DJ White. That group is looking to be a pretty solid one. I've got some signups, and I'm expecting quite a few more. Carolyn Baker and I are planning on offering a study group around her book Undaunted. Expect the registration to open in late August—we're working on all the details now—and the event will begin in September. You can learn more about and sign up for Quillwood events at quillwood.org. Look under the Offerings menu and go to the Events page. You can also sign up for Quillwood Academy's newsletter on the website too, and I encourage you to do that. 

If you want to support the Quillwood Podcast there are a few ways you can do this. First is to leave a five-star review for this and other episodes you have enjoyed. Good reviews help episodes rise in search rankings and make it easier for folks to find them. Second is to subscribe to the podcast so you don't miss episodes. And finally, share episodes with folks who you think might benefit from listening, especially on social media.

With all of that out of the way. I hope you enjoy this episode I recorded with Carolyn Baker. 

Eric: Carolyn Baker. Welcome to the Quillwood Podcast. How are you doing this afternoon?

Carolyn Baker: I'm doing great. It's very hot where I am. But thank you for having me. I'm looking forward to our conversation.

Eric: And you are in Colorado these days.

Carolyn: I am, yes. Boulder Colorado.

Eric: Fair enough. So you recently came out—I think it was officially published in May of this year—with your most recent book, titled Undaunted. I read it and I loved it, and that is the impetus for you and I choosing to record this episode. I thought a good place for us to start is to explore why undaunted right now?

Carolyn: Sure, absolutely. There were a lot of words that I could have chosen for the main title, but I chose undaunted, which is a word that can be easily misinterpreted to mean invincible or implacable, or incapable of being extinguished or made extinct. In reality, it just means simply not intimidated or discouraged by difficulty, danger or disappointment. And I think more accurately, it means indomitable, steadfast, undeterred, audacious, courageous, undismayed or unfaltering. Those would be some synonyms for the word.

To be undaunted does not mean that one will never feel discouraged or feel like giving up. It doesn't even mean that one will survive. It just means to hold this intention—and I'll be saying more in our interview about holding things—but to hold this intention of "I'm going forth with this. I'm not running away from this reality. I'm not giving up on it. I'm not going to take myself out because of it. There's work for me to do." In the words of Stephen Jenkinson, in these horrible times, we can either accept them as an affliction or as an assignment. And that's really what this book is about.

Eric: So accepting them as an assignment.

Carolyn: Yeah.

Eric: And it's a big assignment right now.

Carolyn: It's the biggest ever.

Eric: Well, I always hesitate to say things like that, but it is a biggie, certainly in my lifetime. 

Carolyn: Yes.

Eric: You talk about all kinds of particulars. You talk about peak oil, you talk about climate change, you talk about other things as well. Are there particular experiences that you've had that inspired you to write Undaunted now? You've been writing books that tackle the subject of collapse for a long time. So why Undaunted now?

Carolyn: Well, I think because of the severity of our predicament, the place that we've come to now, where more and more people are realizing that there's no "solution", that we're not going to solve this problem. People are more inclined to understand our situation as a predicament, which is not something that's solvable, but something that can only be responded to. And so my question is, then, how do we respond to this predicament? If we can't solve it, if it's too late for a lot of things—and I believe it is—then how do we proceed? Do we take ourselves out? Do we crawl in a hole? Do we use myriad forms of escape to not deal with it? Or do we face this with an attitude of fierceness and intention going forward? How do we live undaunted in the face of climate catastrophe, in a world that's becoming increasingly autocratic. This is an arduous task, even on a very good day.

Eric: Yeah. And on the topic of climate change, I was—I haven't read this book yet, but a friend of mine finished reading it recently and strongly recommended it to me—and I don't have the title on the tip of my tongue but I'll put a link to it in the show notes for folks who want to follow up—it was written by a pair of physicists who are very well immersed in the field of global warming and they basically make the case that the last X number of 100 years, maybe even further back in history, has basically made it so that the climate has a trajectory that is going to follow probably for the next 1000 years and there isn't a whole lot we can actually do to change what that next 1000 years is going to be like. And I was inspired to bring that up because it very much speaks to the distinction that you made between a problem that can be solved, and a predicament that needs to be responded to. There are plenty of people—because it's a palatable idea—who are trying to make the case that we can reverse global warming as long as we do such and such a thing in the next 6 or 8 or 10 or 12 years. But for those who care to read what the actual subject matter experts are writing, it's becoming increasingly clear that that's probably not true. And if we're going to deal with the predicament in a useful way we have to be willing to respond to it as opposed to drinking ourselves silly every night, or... Binging on Netflix once in a while, I'm not dissing that, but you can't do that all the time as an escape.

Carolyn: Now, there's no form of escape. I was trained as a psychotherapist, and I believe in the unconscious mind, and I believe in the collective unconscious mind. And I believe, and have experienced, that whether or not we realize something is going on with implications as big as climate change for the planet, whether or not we think about it or read about it, it's affecting us. Obviously, it's affecting us with the temperatures, but it's affecting us on an unconscious level, so that we know there's something really wrong and that we're looking at the possibility—the likelihood—of extinction, and knowing that on some very deep level is going to affect us. And we will binge on Netflix all the time, or drink ourselves silly, or commit suicide, or walk through the garden of hopium and believing that there's something we can do to fix this, or we'll take the path that I'm inviting us to take in the book, Undaunted.

Eric: And and to return to that, you mentioned living fiercely. That is the next piece I would like to look at. You bring that up over and over and over again in the book in a very beautiful, and I would say bold way. So let's talk about what it means to you to live fiercely.

Carolyn: To live undaunted in the face of climate catastrophe, and in a world that's becoming increasingly autocratic, is an arduous task even on a good day, and to live fiercely in such an environment may even sound preposterous. But fierceness doesn't mean being barbarous or rageful, or cruel. Rather it means to live passionately, to demand excellence, and to live inclusively, honestly and authentically. And equally significant, it means to live into, not away from, or not in spite of what feels overwhelming. Living into means knowing that one's future and the future of the planet, we know what it's likely to be, yet intentionally we choose to live passionately into a scenario that's unprecedented and terrifying for most human beings.

Eric: You brought up the word autocratic, and you brought that up earlier. I'm always accustomed—certainly this is true for my involvement in this sort of topic, since I got into it back around 2003, or 2004—I'm accustomed to thinking about these predicaments as being of environmental in their source. Climate change, peak oil, biodiversity loss, mass extinctions... I had never—and I'm embarrassed to say this, now that I think about it—I had never really thought of human organization or the types of human organization that people might choose or gravitate towards, as the same level of a predicament as climate change and peak oil and other things. You bring it up over and over again in your book about the risks of autocracy, and they're written plain as day on the news, in the United States and in a lot of other places. I feel like seeing this as not just an environmental threat, but also a distinctively human threat, to me, makes it a whole new level of real.

Carolyn: Yeah, absolutely. And this desire on the part of corporations and very wealthy individuals around the world for more control and less democracy has only exacerbated our climate predicament. Democracy is messy. It takes time. It takes a lot of work. And when all you're interested in is making money and having power and control, it's really inconvenient. So autocracy, or the tendency toward autocracy, has really exacerbated the climate situation. And it will only make it worse going forward because as we've seen this last week, we've got this one Senator, Joe Manchin, who's owned by the coal industry, and he doesn't want to do anything about climate change. He barely acknowledges it. And so as our predicament gets worse, autocracy is going to exacerbate that because all it's interested in is power. It's not interested in the environment. It's not interested in how many people or species are dying because of pollution, and fossil fuels, and so on. And so the two kind of travel together.

And here's the thing: some people would say—some people we know, that we love and care about—would say, Hey, we're in collapse, and that's the only show in town. That's all that's going on. Don't worry about political parties. Don't worry about making things better on the ground. We're up here at 35,000 feet, and we got to see that the whole thing, big picture, is collapsing. And I couldn't agree more. AND there's stuff happening on the ground that's really important. I am just as interested in what's happening on the ground as I am in what's happening at 35,000 feet, because—call me crazy—I would like to see this collapse unravel in a way that is less brutal to people, and all species, and the earth, then to just linger at 35,000 feet and not give a damn about what's going on on the ground that's really grotesque. Yeah, so that's where I'm at. I'm holding both factually, the big picture and the smaller picture.

Eric: Yeah. And in some of the circles that you and I both both travel in, I feel like there is a tendency for some people, especially people who have advanced degrees, to use that 35,000 foot view as their escape room.

Carolyn: Yeah, yeah.

Eric: They will retreat from everything that's happening on the ground, even when it's happening in front of their house and to people that they care about, they will use that 35,000 foot view as a way to escape from what's going on rather than using it to inform what they should be doing in their local communities to minimize harm.

Carolyn: Absolutely. I couldn't agree more, Eric.

Eric: I'm totally on the same page with you with respect to a desire to understand what's going on, and a desire to use whatever understanding I can gather to minimize harm. That's the way that I sell it. A lot of harm is possible. Some of it's going to happen, I can't stop it. But there will be things that I can stop, there'll be things that I can do to reduce suffering, and I'll give it my best shot.

Carolyn: Minimize harm. Those are two of my favorite words, these days. I think it's really important that we that we hold on to those two words, even as we look at the big picture.

Eric: Yeah. And just thinking about all of the different things that are wrapped up in what we're going through right now, as I would say, almost a global society—obviously it looks very different in different parts of the world, and I'm most familiar with what it looks like here in the United States—but you've used this, and you write about this in Undaunted, and I thought this was a really useful way to portray this, you write about this as something of a rite of passage. I would love for you to elaborate on that a bit if you feel inspired to do that.

Carolyn: Always. I have a whole chapter in the book on that topic. I was trained in Jungian psychology, and I was always very impressed with how Jung traveled around to a lot of indigenous cultures in his day and observed, to the extent that they would allow him, the rite of passage. And talked with elders about that, and what is that, exactly. There's no one way that it's done. Every culture does it differently. Essentially it is a ceremony that happens around the age of puberty, that a young person is pretty much prepared for throughout their childhood. They know that they're going to have this rite of passage, and the elders, and their own families, prepare them for this psychologically, and in lots of ways. What it involves is pretty much taking the young person out into the wilderness, out into nature somewhere, and asking them to undergo or engage with some kind of ordeal. The purpose of this is not machismo, in the case of a man, but rather to help them become a more fully-formed, whole, adult. And this involves some suffering. It involves encountering things that they're very scared of, tasks that may seem absolutely impossible, that require them to psychologically reach down within themselves, and find resources and strengths that they did not know that they had, that could only be brought forth by an ordeal. And then they go back into the community and are celebrated and honored. And this allows them to more mindfully take their place in the community as an adult, to oversee and support the younger people, the older people, everyone around them in the community.

Jung talked about how there are these literal initiations in indigenous cultures. In our cultures that don't have these rites of passage, we have more symbolic initiations. We might be going through a divorce, we might be dealing with a terminal illness, we might be dealing with a loss of job or a loss of home, some kind of loss in our lives. And just as the young person out there in the wilderness is dealing physically with this ordeal, is doing that our work, is to go within, by way of these initiations that are happening to us symbolically, and get the message that the initiation is trying to give us, which involves looking deeply within ourselves.

This morning I had the opportunity, I was watching a news program and W. Kamau Bell was on with another woman who—he's African American, she's not African American—and they were talking about their new book called Do the Work. It's basically an anti racist activity book, and it's all about what kind of work do I have to do as an inherently racist person to not be racist anymore, or to at least fight racism? Well, Undaunted is kind of a book like that. It helps us do the work that helps us navigate seemingly impossible situations.

And it isn't about physical survival, this rite of passage, because it's possible that none of us will survive. In the early days of collapse, we had this saying: Evolve or die. And today, as I sit with that, I tend to say: Evolve and die, because we're all going to, and preparation for our physical death is as much a part of the work as living fiercely. In fact, fierce living requires, as Stephen Jenkinson says, dying wisely. And I talked about that in the book. So almost everything we're experiencing right now is part of our rite of passage. And one of the essential tasks of the person experiencing an indigenous initiation ritual, for example, is to bear witness to everything. And I mean, everything. It's called holding the tension of the opposites, which is a Jungian term, or just holding the tension of all that we're going through. That means holding the beauty, the joy, the gratitude, the creativity, and the love, alongside all of the horror.

I produce, and have produced every day for 15 years, pretty much every day, a newsletter called The Daily News Digest that also has in it an inspiration section. At the top of each edition, I have a banner that says, bearing witness to the light and the dark, or bearing witness to the darkness and the light. And then at the end of the news, I have an inspiration section. So my Daily News Digest embodies what I'm talking about here, being able to hold the whole picture. We as Westerners, we've got to get this tension of the opposite thing. We've just we got to get that down in our consciousness. Which is hard for civilized people in the modern world. We've been fed a steady diet of duality from birth. We've been fed separation, division, either or, this or that. And one of the things that I think is overwhelming people as civilization collapses is that most people lack the capacity to hold the tension of the opposites. And so this is why it's so important to accept the reality of collapse and live your life with collapse on your mind, while at the same time reveling in beauty, joy, gratefulness, creativity, fun, and caring and being cared for.

And as we look at indigenous cultures and history, we see that even as native peoples in North America were being overrun by white people, sometimes even approaching starvation—and certainly were witnessing widespread death among their people—they were still able to love and laugh and create, and care for each other. And they were able to find meaning in the world and in their existence. Their worldview was embedded in nature, and nature is not dualistic. Nature is not either, or. It's all about both, and.

Eric: One of the ways that I've heard people talk about rites of passage—and this is not strictly Jungian—but one of them is that there's certain characteristics that children have that they need to let go of, and the rite of passage, the ordeal is basically there because it forces them to let go of those childhood entitlements and all kinds of other things, and, effectively, to let that part of them that's deeply tied and interwoven with those characteristics to die. And then the part that is left after that ritual death is what goes on to blossom into an adult, and is welcomed into the community as such. You brought up Stephen Jenkinson a couple of times. He's written Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul, and a lot of good wisdom in there about death and dying. And it also seems to me that what is happening in the world right now is demanding that we, as individuals, learn to die in a very different way. I think there's a lot of entitlements that go along with living in an affluent world, and all the particular ways that a lot of people meet their needs in modern society, that we need to be able to let go of. And we need to be able to let go of those in a dignified and compassionate manner, and be ready to change things up. So there are aspects of us—and I include me in that us—that we need to learn how to let die.

Carolyn: Yes, absolutely. I couldn't agree more. And I'm not a practicing Buddhist, but I love the Buddhist philosophy. In Buddhist philosophy, and in mystical Christian tradition, there's a lot of talk about how we have this sacred, whole, intact self that is at our core, but we're all born with an ego. We have to have an ego in order to survive, in order to just navigate in the world. We need that ego. It's not a bad thing. However, what happens, particularly in Western culture, is that the ego outgrows everything else. The ego tends to become much larger than it needs to be. And it begins to want to run the show, and does run the show, I think, in most people's lives. So the journey of enlightenment or evolution or the spiritual path in Buddhism, and some other traditions, is the reduction of that ego, which I would say goes along with those childhood traits that need to die in the rite of passage so that the deeper self, the sacred self, can enlarge, and not be inhibited by the ego. And we can become more of who we truly are.

That, I believe, is our mission in life. That's why we're here. And as we navigate collapse, there are two questions I'm constantly posing, which is in doing this inner work in preparation for the unraveling, and as we go through it, there are two questions that I ask us to constantly live with. One is, who do I want to be? And the other is, what did I come here to do? And in order to live with those questions and answer them with clarity, commitment, courage and compassion, we need to do the work of preparing emotionally and spiritually for doing so. At the end of every chapter I have practices. And it's, in many ways, a workbook. Like to do the workbook that I was talking about earlier, that is about helping us navigate the seemingly impossible. It isn't about physical survival, because it's possible that none of us will. We're going to evolve and die. So living with these questions, living as if they are the most important questions in our lives. Who do I want to be? And what did I come here to do?

Eric: Hearing you speak, and remembering some of those questions, reminds me of a video that I first saw, I think it was released in late 2021 but I saw it earlier this year, by Lyla June Johnston, who's someone I've interviewed as a podcast guest and she's also a musician, singer, songwriter, activist, and she's Diné. Navajo is what the US government recognizes them as, but that is not their word for themselves. And the interview that I'm thinking of, she was talking about how many different indigenous communities have gone through cycles of collapse before. This was even before the arrival of the Europeans. And one of the lessons that oftentimes gets passed down through oral histories is that, yes, when you overshoot the local area's carrying capacity and get pushed into that collapse cycle, it's horrible. And that is when humanity will be presented with a lot of different lessons that it needs to learn and digest and be ready to carry on to people when the next growth phase begins, because they're going to need to keep those lessons close, even when things get better.

And so it seems to me that that becomes very relevant right now, for us. And I don't think that you articulated it that way exactly, but when you write about Who do we want to be? Who do we need to be? It seems like that question overlaps a lot of what Lyla June was talking about. I'll put a link to that video in the show notes for people that want to watch that. It's really good. I show that to a lot of my university students, when I teach classes. But yeah, that question of Who do we want to be?

Carolyn: I'm not familiar with her or the video, but I just wanted to say that those two questions, Who do I want to be? and What did I come here to do? are really connected. Because if I'm just sitting around and trying to escape collapse, I'm not going to do anything. Or I might choose a cause or tasks that are really irrelevant, constantly beating my head against the wall to wake people up to climate change, to make changes, things that it's too late to change. I see a lot of that among climate activists. So Who I want to be and what I come here to do, is very connected. And if you answer one, you're going to have to answer the other.

Eric: One of the things I acknowledged early on in the interview was that you've been writing books on this general topic for a long time. The first one that I found out about was Navigating the Coming Chaos. That may or may not have been your first book...

Carolyn: It wasn't. That was 2011. The first one I actually wrote when I lived in Vermont, which was Sacred Demise: Walking the Spiritual Path of Industrial Civilization's Collapse.

Eric: Okay. And I read that one, but I didn't learn about that one until after I read Navigating the Coming Chaos. So I had the order of those two mixed up. But I bring that up because you've been at this a long time, and I've known many people who got into it back in the early to mid 2000s and then burned themselves out and disappeared, and I don't even know what they're doing these days. One of the questions that I had, a couple of questions that I have is, what are some of the things that keep you going, and allow you to keep doing this without burning yourself out? And another question, which might be related to that one is, thinking back to how you got into this and how you approached this topic back when you wrote Sacred Demise, and later Navigating the Coming Chaos, if you could write a letter to your younger self, what kind of advice would you give yourself, as you embarked on this more than a decade long journey?

Carolyn: These are excellent questions. Well, let me just throw out the one question that leapt out at me. There are several in your questioning. How do I keep going? One of the things that as I look back on this journey of looking at collapse and writing the books that I've written, doing the interviews like these, so many more than I can even count, is I wish to some extent that I would not have had as much certainty as I've had. In the beginning I think lots of us who engaged with collapse were absolutely certain. Okay, it's going to happen by this time, and that's it, and this is what we got to do. We were pretty closed—I speak for myself—I was pretty closed minded about it. I could not have imagined back in 2009, when I first started writing Sacred Demise, that we would have lasted this long. But here we are.

I had a lot of certainty, like a lot of other people did. And I wish that I had been more open to possibilities at that point. And today, I'm open to possibilities. If somebody says to me, when is this going to happen, and what's it going to look like? And are all humans going to become extinct? My first answer is, I don't know. I don't know exactly when, or how this unraveling is going to take place. I have some images, some thoughts about it. Are all humans going to become extinct? I don't know. It's likely. But I don't know that for sure. There might be pockets of individuals, surviving human beings here and there. If there are I would love to talk with them about how they've been changed by their experience. I'd love to hear that. But I don't know. And I believe that the more we can take this attitude of, I feel very strongly that this is happening but I don't know how it's going to unfold exactly, I think the more centered and grounded and useful we will be in the world as this all unfolds. There was probably more to your question. What did I eliminate there?

Eric: That was the first piece of it is, How would you have done things differently, or, again, a letter to your younger self. The other piece of it was what keeps you going?

Carolyn: What keeps me going is a lot of acceptance of what is happening. I don't like it. Acceptance doesn't mean that you like something. But this is what I see happening. And all the things that I've been writing about, you've been talking about, all these other folks have been writing about for all these years, they're happening. This vision is coming true, in a sense, like a fairy tale. It's actually not a fairy tale anymore. And so, okay, this is happening. And I'm still here. And who do I want to be? Who do I want to be today? And what did I come here to do? And so waking up every day with those questions, having lots of support in my life, being able to interact with, like we're doing right now, people who get it. And people who have come to me and said, I read your book, what do you think about this? And maybe I'd like to have some coaching sessions with you. All of that has been very inspiring. Plus, I play, okay. I play. I do binge on Netflix once in a while. I like to have a good time. And I play with my dog. I'm five minutes from being up in the wilderness in the middle of the National Forest. And I'm very fortunate in that regard. So with a lot of balance, a lot of self care, a lot of external support. That keeps me going, and I hope it will for a long time.

Eric: As you are used to speaking, I'm reminded of—I'm not doing this right now, I would say mainly because of the pandemic—but for a very long time I trained in martial arts, a number of different martial systems. And one of the gentlemen that I trained with, we had a two person training group, and we were both very experienced by then and so we did some crazy stuff with each other, including training with sharp knives and sharp swords and things like that. And one of the lessons that I took away from that, we spent a number of months really focusing on knife fighting. It was an interest of his, and I went along for the ride. One of the things that he said, over and over again, as we were playing with that set of skills is that if you get dragged into a knife fight, most likely you're gonna get cut. You see movies where you got the guy who's expert, and does all the things and multiple attackers and everyone else gets dead, and he walks away without a scratch. Not remotely realistic. If you get into a knife fight, if you get dragged into a knife fight, you're gonna get cut. And so an important thing to win a knife fight is to not let the fact that you've gotten cut cause you to freeze and give up. He encapsulated that teaching in one of the short teaching phrases that he would use sometimes when we were sparring: I've got cut. I'm not dead yet. Keep going. I've gotten cut. I'm not dead yet, keep going. And it seems like that is very relevant, even to the general theme of your book of Undaunted, is that I'm not invincible. I'm gonna get cut. If all kinds of crazy stuff happens, I could go hungry, I could go thirsty, I could get shot, I could catch some terrible disease. But if I'm not dead yet, I can keep going. I can minimize harm. I can minimize suffering, reduce suffering for people. So, yeah, I just wanted to toss that out there. It came to mind.

Carolyn: Oh, yeah. Thank you for that, because that is so true. And that is certainly how I live. I'm in a fire zone here. We haven't had any major fires this summer. Thank God, I hope we don't. But we had a horrible fire on December 30 of last year, 10 miles away from me, that wiped out over 1,000 houses, and a couple of people died. I'm really vulnerable. That could happen here, any time. I don't have a plan. I got a Go Bag and some stuff in my car, but I don't have a plan about where I can go if I'm burned out. I checked out some places that I don't really want to live in. So I'll just have to see what happens. But even then, I'll probably keep going. That would certainly be my intention.

Eric: I would certainly be happy to try to make a space for you in Vermont, if he ever felt like coming back East.

Carolyn: I was there for a while, for about a year. And that could happen again. But at the moment, I have no plan.

Eric: That's fair. That's totally fair.

Carolyn: I appreciate that very much, Eric.

Eric: And I'm also reminded, when you were talking about how you tell people you don't know, and how you have a lot less certainty about certain things. I wouldn't call myself a Buddhist. I'm not a Buddhist. But for a number of years, starting around 1999 and going into the early 2000s, I was actively training in Zen. I don't even know if I was really a Buddhist back then. I just wanted the particular community, and having people around me who taught me how to develop my mind. And it was the Qwan Um School of Zen, which is a very regimented Korean system. The head teacher was an exile from North Korea and settled in Rhode Island, where the main temple had been for a long time, and proceeded to start teaching Zen. He didn't know English very well, so relied on these very short, choppy phrases to teach. Hi English was just very poor. And one of the short, choppy phrases he would often use is, Only don't know. Not remotely grammatically correct, but you hear that and you can get a sense for what he's trying to get. Step back from this certainty for a second, and what does that get you? Hearing that teaching phrase has had a lingering effect on my life, generally for the better, although not always. Only don't know.

Carolyn: That's good.

Eric: I see that we're getting close to time, and I wonder if you have any final thoughts that you want to add before we wrap up?

Carolyn: Well, I just want to say that I undaunted is, in my opinion, the most, the most important book I've ever written. I don't know if I'm going to write any more books about collapse. I might. But I really invite you to read undaunted and not read it as something that oh boy, I'm gonna learn a lot. But as a manual, as a workbook for navigating our future and our presence and do the work, please do the work. And thank you, Eric, for this time with you. I always enjoy our time together. And I really look forward to seeing the finished product of this interview.

Eric: Thanks for listening to this episode of the Quillwood Podcast. It is brought to you by Quillwood Academy, which you can find on the web at quillwood.org. Check out the Reality Blind Reading Group under Offerings and on the Events page. It is open for registration now. Sign up for Quillwood's newsletters so you can learn when the UndauntedStudy Group that I am organizing with Carolyn Baker opens for registration.

This is Eric Garza signing off from this episode of the Quillwood Podcast. Until next time, walk softly and take good care.