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                       An Autobiographical Obituary

A fine, passionate, and well-articulated autobiographical obituary has been written.  It all but definitively reveals the true identity of the person whose nom de plume is Dr. Tiffany Twain. 

Since I prize my anonymity and seriously appreciate living a life out of controversy and the spotlight, this Obit will remain confidential. 

Besides, mystery is a powerful force, and may well prove to be a pivotal aspect of the discovery and promotion of the Earth Manifesto.  This would be very good.

My passionate philosophizing spirit has demanded self-expression in an outpouring of written observations that incorporate extensive reading and conversations and an evolving sense that our crazy world requires a revolutionary transformation toward a more ecologically sane and honestly sustainable future. 

Somewhere along the way, I recognized the high improbability of finding success in changing the world by publishing ideas in a personal Earth Manifesto, so I began a years-long effort to assemble germinating thoughts and ideas on an Internet website. 

Early on, I had decided to use Mark Twain’s fame and insightful perspectives and sense of humor as an inspiration to illuminate the world, together with the thoughts of other famous writers and artists and philosophers and thinkers.  Recognizing the profound and far-reaching malaise associated with the domination of societies worldwide by men, and the severe ecological and social mess they were making, it seemed appropriate to adopt a feminine perspective and nom de plume, Dr. Tiffany B. Twain.

I love my good fortune in life, and treasure my anonymity, so I have kept my writing activities largely secret from all I know. 


From my current Germinating file:

Note to self:  Make it funny, like Carla Zilbersmith did in her obituary!


Famous mythologist Joseph Campbell suggested to John Steinbeck that he make revisions to his 1930’s elemental story, To a God Unknown to ensure that it contained a sensual and visual quality.  Imagine this epistle commencing with a few paragraphs that are rich and evocative. 

Think of towering granitic peaks that vault into a deep blue sky above a picturesque alpine lake where a backpack tent is perched on a calm morning in the early summer.  Framing this scene are a number of puffy white cumulus clouds that are building into thunderclouds that will drop precipitation by mid-afternoon.  Lightening and thunder will flash and rumble across the alpine landscape.  At lower elevations to the west, a wide swath of evergreen forest covers the lower mountains above dry foothills, and beyond that, the Central Valley of California bakes in the summer heat.  Coastal ranges further west separate these ecosystems from the beautiful shores of the Pacific Ocean.

The genesis of the Earth Manifesto has its roots in a genial and voluble storyteller within me that generates a running commentary on life and the world and the societies in which we live.  My inner narrator is too reflective and gently compulsive to be able to do Transcendental Meditation, but it certainly does love to ponder the nature of Nature, of relationships and interrelationships, of beauty, of both noble aspirations and human follies, and of the sublime and the ridiculous. 

This voice within is sensitively tuned to ideas and understandings and feelings that are consistent with the greater good.  I am also alternatively highly sensitive to perceiving those things that are contrary to fairness and the common good. 

A complex network of competing interests within our selves and in our societies strives to find identity and meaning and purpose through a wide variety of behaviors and activities.  Because of our big brains and self-reflective natures and abilities to make inferences and deductions, our species is uniquely capable of making choices that actually strongly affect our destinies, either propitiously or adversely.

My brain absorbs inputs from daily life and digests them and makes observations about them.  This steady stream of inputs comes from personal relationships, conversations, books, various sources of the news, and from spontaneous perceptions that arise within my subconscious mind.  I strive to convey my convictions with an Apollonian detachment and as proper a sense of proportion as possible.  Humor and irony, being the soul of perspective, inform my understandings.

A triumvirate of concerns predominates in this associative complex of considerations:  peace and fairness and sustainable existence.  The über-context of feelings and judgments always seems to conclude that our most important priorities are dramatically different than what would be best for the common good. 

My convictions are passionately grounded in astute observations and open-minded perspectives and intuitive understandings.  Many people are passionate but blinded by dogma and spin and cherry-picked information, so they become inflexible in ways that are socially undesirable.  Foremost amongst these orthodox people are those who are extreme social conservatives, religious fundamentalists, apologists for the status quo, and corporate lobbyists.  These types of people seem to have a distinctly different worldview than mine.

Earth Manifesto writings have a strong emphasis on sensible and responsible protections of our home planet’s habitats and ecosystems.  Such perspectives are a natural evolution from the overriding issues of Mark Twain’s day when Gilded Age inequalities, robber baron injustices, monopoly abuses of power, and American imperialism were the primary socioeconomic and econopolitical concerns.  As an heir to Mark Twain’s acuity of observation and incisive wit, I feel strongly that in a reincarnation today he would be critically aware of these new overarching ecological exigencies in human affairs, along with the host of problems associated with them.  So the entire body of Earth Manifesto understandings is incorporated into this biography by reference. 

Intriguing!  The influential ideas of the humorous visionary Mark Twain have had a powerful cultural effect on our nation and the world.  The Earth Manifesto takes advantage of Mark Twain’s ideas and evolving understandings and scientific insights to emphasize modern progressive perspectives and a more feminine worldview in order to try to transform our world by making it more receptive to principles of fairness and peaceable coexistence and collaborative undertakings and sustainable human activities. 


A new feminist revolution would arguably be one of the best ways for us to commit our societies to developing positive and propitious compromises between competing interests and to staunch the impulses toward war over limited resources and differing religious faiths. 

In Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck is perplexed with the moral quandary of his helping a slave to escape as they journey down the Mississippi River on a raft.  His conscience tells him he should turn Jim in to the authorities, but another part of him says that Jim is one of the best friends he has ever had, and he even thinks that maybe slavery ain’t a fair institution. 



Tom Sawyer would have said, “I reckon we should devise a real razzmatazz plan, and heck, if it doesn’t work out, we can always absquatulate and light out for the territories.” 

Huck Finn, desperate to get out of a tight spot, would have said, “Tom, can’t we just go with a simple plan that would have the best chance of succeeding?  The territories are getting’ pretty crowded these days, and the complexification of matters by politicians and lawyers is calamitating the country.”

Tom, of course, would have replied, “All the real adventurers go with fancy plans, so it’s hardly worth doing if it’s just going to be simple and fair and effective!”


One of the best things about Ken Burns' documentary, Mark Twain, was its timing.  It appeared just before September 11, 2001, precisely when we most needed wisdom about who we are and what we stand for, and nobody gave us a better going over than Twain.  He railed against imperialism, and racism, and conformity.  He also celebrated the better angels of our nature:  our orneriness, our independence, our "Huckness," if you will.

Mark Twain had a reputation as an unconventional thinker who irreverently seemed to enjoy exposing hypocrites.  He loved to play billiards and the card game “Hearts”, and seems to have been much better than most people at remaining a fun-loving boy into his old age.


  “The trouble with resisting temptation is that you may not get another chance!”

                                                                                                               --- Edwin Chapin


I remember a cogent sensation of having seen myself in a reflection of a large window of a lighted room where friends of mine were socializing in the background.  What, I thought, do I really know about any one of these people?  Who, for that matter, am I?


John Steinbeck debated many of his formative ideas with biologist-philosopher Ed Ricketts and a small cohort of friends at Ricketts’ Pacific Biological Laboratory in Monterey, California during the early 1930’s.  One of these friends was the great mythologist Joseph Campbell.  Their avid reading and inquisitive nature and intense curiosity played out in a larger context of their appreciation of bohemian attitudes toward life and meaning and identity.  They strived to make the obscure more comprehensible and cultivated visionary ideas and embraced live-and-let-live philosophies.   

This seems to me to be an admirable way to regard the world.  I have a strong respect for the progressive, irreverent, freewheeling ideas that they all passionately discussed, as epitomized in Steinbeck’s book The Log of the Sea of Cortez.  My enjoyment of this story was a principal inspiration for me to record my own philosophical exploration of provocative ideas during a catamaran excursion on the Sea of Cortez with a group of good friends in March 2008.  Check it out in Part Three of the Earth Manifesto!  It is titled Tall Tales, Provocative Parables, Luminous Clarity, and Evocative Truths: A Modern Log from the Sea of Cortez.

“We gals sought a luminous clarity of seeing that was commensurate with the starkly vivid clarity of the dry Baja skies.  We strived for a rich and evocative and holistic and compassionate clarity of perception and thought, but predictably, being members of the two-legged paradox that is humankind -- and perhaps particularly for the subset of human beings that are female -- we found a bit of anxiety in the confirmation that what Steinbeck described as “the tragic miracle of consciousness” is always filled with uncertainties.  Awareness is, by its very nature, both burden and glory, pain and pleasure, unsatisfying and fulfilling, mortifying and sublime, and it is inevitably book-ended by the individual birth and death of every conscious entity.”


The Three Fates were the three goddesses of Greek mythology:  Lachesis, who measured the thread of life and guarded what had been;  Clotho, who spins the web of life and guarded what is;  and Atropos, who cut the thread of life and determined the manner and timing of each person’s death, and thus oversaw what is yet to come. 

A wide variety of tragically mortifying indignities will almost inevitably be involved in the process of aging and dying for each and every one of us.  This will be true unless we die young, or suddenly, which are eventualities that aren’t exactly all that appealing!

I hope to live a long and healthy life – so far so good!  And then to die in dignity.  My Advance Health Care Directive has been completed, in case any “death panels” want to know the details. 

   “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

                                                                                --- Mark Twain

The ultimate final dignity is dignity in dying.  How can we move our society toward committing to initiatives that allow people greater dignity in life, and in death?


   “The personal life deeply lived always expands into truths beyond itself.”

                                                                                                            --- Anais Nin


Imagine embracing a faith that not only satisfies the exalted aspects of our spiritual selves but also the more grounded aspects of our souls.

“Buddhism answers this description.  If there is any religion that could cope with modern scientific needs it would be Buddhism.  If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed.”

                                                                                                             --- Albert Einstein


Thoughts and opinions germinate mysteriously in my mind, and then bubble forth, sometimes half-baked and sometimes fully-formed like the Greek goddess Athena who was born by springing forth fully grown from Zeus’ forehead.  Athena, curiously, was the goddess of wisdom and strategy and war and just causes, and the helper of heroes.  Perhaps good ideas, well conceived, are the most valuable of things to spring forth in our consciousness.


And Then It Happened

And then, at that moment, a great-horned owl hooted anomalously from the branches of a nearby old oak tree just as a hummingbird seeking sustenance happened to find the intricate yellow petals within red sepals of the particular Crimson Columbine I had been regarding a moment earlier.  Naturalists would identify this plant as Aquilegia formosa, which is Latin for ‘beautiful eagle-shaped petals’.  The hummingbird, hungrily acting it its own self-interest to obtain nectar from the flower, as nature would have it incidentally fulfilled the mutualistic evolutionary purpose of pollinating the columbine.  The pollen at the tips of the columbine’s long protruding yellow stamens adhered to the bird, and was likely to be transferred later to the reproductive male pistil of another nearby columbine flower.  As this scene unfolded, the shadow of a black Turkey Vulture gliding in thermals overhead passed by, as if a sign that patience and grace and curiosity would be rewarded with interesting developments.

I picture an enlightened being alertly perceiving the moment, like the Buddha, relaxed and thinking nothing, appreciating the warmth of the sunshine and the marvelous beauty of a colorful columbine growing on a verdant Springtime hillside, knowing that existence is a wonder beyond fathoming.  Existence, such a philosopher might provisionally conclude, is a wonder best comprehended through holistic awareness and mindful appreciation and full acceptance of ephemerality and transcendence and uncertainty and sublimity and spiritual essence.


I personally find a wisdom tradition like Buddhism to be much more personally valuable and socially desirable than dogmatic and orthodox religions, which can be turgid with doctrine and self-righteousness, closed-mindedness, prejudice, intolerance, and catechisms of certainty in what are really suspiciously mythological conceptions of reality and history. 



 Joni Mitchell’s ‘Both Sides Now’:

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s cloud illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all

But now old friends are acting strange
They shake their heads, they say I’ve changed
Well something’s lost, but something’s gained
In living every day

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all



"Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow

  Creeps in this petty pace from day to day

   To the last syllable of recorded time

    And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

     The way to dusty death.  Out, out, brief candle!

      Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player

       That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

        And then is heard no more.  It is a tale

         Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury

          Signifying nothing."

                               --- Macbeth, Act 5, Shakespeare


   “Be here now.  Be someplace else later.  Is that so complicated?”
                                                                                     --- Sayings of a Jewish Buddhist

“Breathe in.  Breathe out.  Breathe in.  Breathe out.  Forget this and attaining enlightenment will be the least of your problems.”


   “I’m all for everything!”

                   --- ‘Industrial Tony’, January 15, 2009


      “If you think it’s everyone else … it’s probably just you!”

                                                                   --- Is It Just Me?, an indie film


It’s curious, and curiouser.  There seems to be an imperious Red Queen in each and every one of us, like the one in the recent 3-D film version of Alice in Wonderland.  This Red Queen compels us to act in domineering ways with an almost hormonal urgency.  Deep down, however, this drive may principally be a cry out for recognition and respect, and it may be a means of attempting to find compensation for feelings of insecurity.  Helena Bonham Carter plays the role of the Red Queen in this film, commanding obedience and perversely acting as if she is propelled to puerilely throw obstacles in the path she is trodding with those she loves, as if turmoil in important interpersonal relationships is a necessity rather than an unfortunate outcome.  Surely there must be a pill for this – one that makes us larger and emotionally more intelligent rather than smaller and more foolish!

            “Me ineptum.”  (Latin for “Silly me.”)


In a moment that resembled a religious experience, only more honestly perceptive and authentic, the reverb in my brain sang out with a feeling that resembled a nautical expression of goodwill:

      “May you have fair winds and following seas!”