Mark Morey returns to the podcast this week, for a deep dive into Cultural Capital, one of the more intangible and less understood (though no less important!) of the 8 Forms Of Capital. readers may remember Mark from his front-line reporting for us of the situation in Standing Rock as the confrontation there with the government first escalated.

Cultural capital is rooted in society’s values and traditions. Sadly, over the past few generations in the West, we have departed from the time-honored (and honed) customs and rituals of our ancestors, and adopted a much more “it’s all about me” approach to life.

The result, argues Morey, is a populace left isolated an unfulfilled. Those age-old traditions and rites of passage developed for a reason. They gave our lives meaning, as well as instructed us on how to live.

Is there a way to recover some of that lost wisdom and sense of “fit” in life? Yes, Morey believes. And there’s much the world’s indigenous cultures can teach us:


Chris Martenson:  Welcome to this Peak Prosperity podcast. I am your host Chris Martenson, of course and it is March 2, 2017. Culture. We talk about the eight forms of capital. And cultural capital is the one we kind of give a little, kind of we throw our hands up, shrug our shoulders in the book “Prosper” because we say it’s the one that is the hardest to influence. It takes lifetimes. We often say that if you don’t like the culture you’re in, maybe you should consider moving to one that you like because that is easier, by far.

But, today we’re going to be talking with somebody who actively seeks to create culture, is seeking to modify it. He said I can look at this, I can look at how indigenous cultures have done this. I can look at how we’re doing it; I can see some big gaps in how we’re going about this. So, we’re actually very excitingly talking with somebody I happen to know very well, Mark Morey. He’s the person who started the Vermont Wilderness School that you’ve heard me talk about, that my kids went to, which some of you would have thought, “Oh that sounds great. Kids in the woods, they learned how to make rope with their hands and fashioned debris shelters” – those were the activities. But, what was running under that just stealthily and ingeniously created the most beautiful children, my own and others that I’ve seen was a new cultural blueprint, which is actually sort of an old cultural blueprint. There are ways that humans are designed to be. It’s in our DNA. And a lot of our current culture right now runs across that.

The number of people who come to our seminars or who interact with us at the website who say I hate my job. I am not fulfilled. I wish I was leading a different life. How can you be this unfulfilled? This is peak easiness for humans. It’s never been easier to live, work, get across the world. I can click a couple buttons and be in Hong Kong tomorrow, if I want; it’s amazing. And yet the levels of dissatisfaction are off the charts. So, with that Mark, welcome to the program.

Mark Morey:  Thanks, Chris. Yeah it’s good to talk with you about this. It’s a topic that lies in the unseen. And maybe that’s why you know, I’ve become a specialist in this, if you could call that as I think maybe because some of my twisted upbringing I’ve learned to bring the invisible to the visible. You know, to make the unknown known, and translate that. So, sometimes that’s called being an artist; maybe it’s called being a magician. But it tends to be a lifelong skill I guess I have; and really my interest is in trying to find the code underneath dissatisfaction. Because I think that it’s not part of our human history where we’re at today. I think we’re in a bit of an experiment

Chris Martenson:  Let’s talk about that experiment for a bit. Is it – you also go out and carefully observe where we are, how humans seem to be relating their experience of being alive. Is it unfair for me to sort of characterize that there’s a deep dissatisfaction running? So, by the statistics I’ve heard it said that in the United States at least, this is true elsewhere. That we are the most over medicated, overweight, unhappy, unfulfilled, when we take surveys we report being isolated. We’ve never been more connected or more alone at the same time. Is this fair?

Mark Morey:  Yeah I’d agree with all that. And I would say I was learning about that 20 years ago; so it’s not even like the 2000’s are emerging. This goes way back, and I think probably the really upset people who were wanting to create culture revolution in the 60’s and 70’s felt that even from the mechanisms of the 50’s and those kind of McCarthy Era things. But, yeah I remember reading a book called – I forget what it’s called, but it was about studying the pharmaceutical industry. And how the largest emerging market was the zero to three year old range. How disturbing is that? Or, just how children can recognize 200-300 logos from corporations before they can identify five or six species outside. So, we are in some deep programming that we don’t even realize how far in we are. That can explain some dissatisfaction.

And the overweight obesity thing is disturbing, too, because you know, that has all these psychological effects besides being incapable. I – you know one of the sayings I like to say is that my work is to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. And so this image that we’re raising the most unhealthy, softest, weakest children that probably humanity has ever seen in this country. They are just incapable, unresilient, low on the grit scale. I mean the fact that we talk about grit now – there’s books on grit, books on perseverance.

Chris Martenson:  I only made it to page three.

Mark Morey:  Yeah I didn’t have that will to get through it. There’s this guy over in Scotland who grew up on an island and I met him because I was running one of these courses on creating culture again. And looking at the blueprint of how human beings have done this. So, I brought that work to Europe and then specifically Scotland where my ancestors are from, which is another story. And I coached the local people that you want to go and look for people who are like old stock cultural people, who are a little bit pushed off to the margin.

The old fishing village people whose culture is dying away. And you know, they found one and they brought him to the art of mentoring. And this guy was archaic. He had a charisma and a power to him that was rough as the North Atlantic. That’s what it felt like. He was not rude, but in your face and just demonstratively passionate. And he told us this long story about mentoring because that’s what the course is called “The Art of Mentoring”. He said, “I thought a lot about this, you know why is it called the Art of Mentoring? Why do we even need a word called mentoring”? When I grew up there was no word called mentoring. I grew up in a village where people depended on each other or we died; so you had to learn how to row a boat. And you know people took you under their wing because that young guy was going to be catching fish for you later when you were old. That’s the way the world worked at that time. So, you’d find somebody to apprentice under and they’d take you under their wing and go out fishing, you’d come back and this was a village where you literally walked from the dock back home, no cars. And you passed your fish out to the people on the way back home; fresh fish, here it is. Here’s the catch of the day, and you did it again the next morning. Then you got your needs met from the other people. Like fairy tale level. And then he goes on to tell the story of his mentor, who was the best rower in the village because he had no legs.

Chris Martenson:  No legs.

Mark Morey:  Yeah. He had no legs and he was – he had to use his arms right for everything. And he was so intense with me when I was rowing my boat – “No little left, little right, use the other one, this one, that one”. And he said “I loved that man for the integrity that he had and the purpose that he had and how he was able to express that to another person.” That he was useful in that environment. And everybody knew that.

And then he goes on to talk about how one day there was the rough seas and he got tossed overboard. And because he didn’t have legs he couldn’t keep himself up in the water, and he scratched his fingernails down the side of the boat and they saw the claw marks on the wood. And they dragged him to shore later on, you know and the village wept and came together and cried. He just was like screaming at us like with this kind of passion that we have a life to live with each other, no matter who we are. And he just – you could really feel the edge of life and death that he lived on. That he wouldn’t trade it for the world, but he was sad to see people letting those things go, becoming isolated, having to learn about the word “mentoring.” Having had to learn about the word “connection” because it’s gone.

Chris Martenson:  Right.

Mark Morey:  So that was a lot of what his theory was about, both telling how it was and mourning that it was going right before his eyes.

Chris Martenson:  I can relate to that and it said that if you learn a second language before the age of 13, roughly, you can pick it up fairly accent less. But after that you’re always going to have an accent. I think about my grandmother who came to this country who was 18, from Finland. I mean my goodness she – hard to understand her when she was 70, right? Still had that thick Finnish accent, right? So perhaps some of the mourning that this gentleman is experiencing is that if we think we’re going to just suddenly develop mentoring and connection later because it seems like a good idea, maybe if we haven’t actually sort of natively learned that and absorbed that by the time we’re 13, we’ll speak it. But we’re always going to kind of have that accent. Like his deep knowing of that might be something I don’t experience because I never – I’m too old for that in essence.

I mean this is in large measure why you started the Vermont Wilderness School and said we’ve got to start with the kids. We got to start there.

Mark Morey:  The key is regenerative. If we want to go back to – I like that you’re naming that, because I think one of the issues – I was just talking to John Young about this the other day. That when people get involved in Nature connection and cultural mentoring, from where they’re standing they think they know what they’re doing. They think they know what they’re learning about, but the gap is so wide. I guess you could maybe use a metaphor of like a martial arts studio or you have the grand master and the new student. And the new student pretty much knows like he’s hot shit. He’s been there a year and he pretty much knows everything he needs to know. And I think we’ve seen that in other cases. But, culture is like that, too, and if we don’t know what we don’t know the gap is tremendous from how our ancestors lived and what our potential is in being human.

Chris Martenson:  Well let’s talk about then again before we narrow in this stuff. I was interviewing Sebastian Junger and he wrote the book The Perfect Storm and he had another one out called Tribe. And Tribe was about, he was an embedded war correspondent, original hard ass sort of like never went to the military himself. Spent more time in hot action front line stuff reporting about it, that kind of guy. He spent a lot of time in Afghanistan, did all the unit embedding and then came back and was disturbed enough by the statistic of 22 veterans a day committing suicide, that he said “I have to understand this.” So, he went in with an idea – he said I went in with a complete idea, and the idea was that I was going to discover that these people have PTSD, they saw like friends being blown apart, and that there was no support system for them, and they get home and so they kill themselves.

And he said what shocked him was that half, 11 of those people who were committing suicide each day were veterans, hadn’t ever seen action at all. So, now he’s curious and now I’ve got to start digging. And the result to get to the end of this was he found that these people were describing that when they were over embedded in their units, even if they didn’t see action, there was a sense of comradery, belonging, cohesion that was important. And then their tour is up and they get dropped off at the – you literally get off an airplane and you’re at the Paramus Airport or Newark or San Jose and that’s it. Like there’s no welcoming committee. There’s nobody saying let us help you understand what that experience was; you just toss back into a culture that is so vacant of meaning that some people come back to that and say “I’d rather not even be here at all.” How damning of an indictment of our culture is that?

Mark Morey:  Yeah. My partner Chris that works with veterans who are right on the edge and she’s done a lot of work. Her father was a combat veteran in Vietnam. And she gives me statistics like it costs like a million dollars to create a combat warrior, a million dollars of training and expenses and tools and all this. And what they spend after they leave the military is zero. It’s not $10,000 per guy. It’s not $100,000; it’s zero.

Chris Martenson:  Well no, the ribbons that we tie around the trees to show our support for the troops, those cost like what $.25?

Mark Morey:  The veterans don’t get –

Chris Martenson:  Oh they don’t get that? You’re right, still zero. I have the bumper sticker, have I not done enough?

Mark Morey:  Yeah, I hear you. So, even though we’re talking about obviously the layer of complexity of being in the military and what the military is doing, there’s this aspect of bonding that takes place. This unconscious community, cultural things or maybe it is conscious. I’m sure they’re pretty intentional psychologically about what makes people trust each other. You know, stripping identity, right? And having codes and values and chance and songs and duress with each other. That’s all stuff that I’ve done with kids.

Chris Martenson:  I totally get it. So, this is all just by way of painting and saying look, here’s some data that suggests whether it’s veteran suicides or obesity or psychoactive drug use, that collectively say if we were Martians tasked with coming down and decided whether we were going to rebuild the culture exactly as is or maybe tweak it – we might come down and say this isn’t ideal. We could fix a few things here. So, there’s plenty of evidence. That’s the first thing I want people to sort of come away with is that sense of we don’t have to be this way, but we fall into this way because we haven’t consciously chosen this, this is why culture is the hardest thing to talk about. It’s like fish to water. You’re surrounded by it. As Daniel Quinn said, mother culture whispers to us so seductively we can’t even hear it, right?

So, we’re surrounded by it but then we get these pieces of data that say maybe we could do something better. So, let’s flip this entirely around. One thing I was really taken by a long time ago, that stuck with me was you describing what you discovered and what is known about going to how indigenous cultures, whether these are Kung bushmen or Inuit or Aborigines. Totally different people, different environments, different races all sort of triangulating and saying “no, no we’re all humans and here is the human blueprint.” If we were going to be these Martians to rebuild this, what are those common building blocks that the Indigenous people had that maybe we don’t?

Mark Morey:  Yeah, that’s a huge subject. And we can include our ancestors, right? I think that’s an important part of the conversation that it’s not us and them. A lot of people get stuck there when we start going on this path back, so to speak. That all of our ancestors were indigenous somewhere at some point. And we’ve taken different paths; and you know, some of us have kept certain threads in our family lineages, like food, traditions for example, for hunters, singers, artists. And so you know, in looking – John Young is basically what I would call the bundle rapper. You put all these things in a bundle and –

Chris Martenson:  And so for people who don’t know who John Young is, quick description?

Mark Morey:  John Young founded the Wilderness Awareness School and now he and I cofounded the 8 Shields Institute together. And is a naturalist and author What the Robin Knows.  And has basically spent his whole life on this subject of reconnecting people to nature, mostly because of his childhood, having a mentor who brought him into deep awareness of the natural world way behind his peers, community and professors at college. So, he realized there’s a lot of work to do in that area and it’s profoundly empowering and fun, and spiritually meaningful. So, he sees nature connection, as do I, as the pathway for rebooting culture. All right, so what are some elements of –

Chris Martenson:  What are these attributes that we may have had and lost but the indigenous cultures can remind us of?

Mark Morey:  Yeah, well, there’s so many. So, I guess I was talking a little bit about him that one of the things he did was he looked at a lot of indigenous cultures that had powerful nature connection and said what other culture elements did they have going on to create that? Because they didn’t have classrooms, so what is their cultural classroom? We use school, but that’s you know only 150 years old or so, right? So what did culture do to educate people before that? And it was all on the fly of actual real time living. So, storytelling was the main teaching tool for human beings. And you can find that in lots and lots of cultures, if not every one. And I mean storytelling like that was the mechanism for information.

Chris Martenson:  That was the library?

Mark Morey:  That was the library and then the people who were telling those stories were the librarians, otherwise known as the elders. And that’s a whole huge subject of how do you have an elder? How do you create an elder, how do you find an elder? And that is a lifelong pursuit of inquiry and knowledge of place and knowledge of culture. So, they are the internet, right? They are the library. There was no other books and so you get this direct human transmission about large scale things, small scale things and then they adjust them for you personally, about what your next step is.

I know when I tell people about you ever wish you had an elder or a mentor or a teacher they just – all that longing just unpacks. When we talk about meaningfulness or –

Chris Martenson:  Yeah want to be seen is what that boils down to.

Mark Morey:  Yeah and relevant. You know it’s not just a stranger seeing us, it’s somebody who says “Hey you’re part of the fabric, and I know the fabric”. I’ve got the map of this place and this is how it looks. Holy cow. And so you know, the other cultural elements that are super common are things like deep belonging to place. And, you know, stages of initiation into that world view; so, you know, human development is supposed to have nature connection all along the way. And there’s sophisticated ways that cultures do that at zero, three, five, nine, 11, 13, 21, 40, 75 – it’s just an ongoing non-stop relationship with the natural world through those human development stages. So, whereas at three while you’re learning to collect food, basically, and stay alive and learn about all the hazards, at 45 you’re questing for a new vision, because you’ve spiritually turned a corner and you’re back out there again on a whole other level.

Adolescent initiation in nature is totally common around the world, that we have to shift our identity from being egoic to being part of the collective and that’s a several year, if not five year or 10 year process, depending on what culture you’re from. But, it always begins with some kind of separation into the natural world; think about that. We’re going to help create our culture and one of the necessary transitions that all humans go through, it’s a doorway is alone in the natural world. That’s like we would think maybe college is that. If you’re going to make it out into the world, if you’re going to be part of the society, you’re going to have to go to a good school. They would never say you have to be alone in the woods for days on end fasting. And coming back for something, with something, but there’s an expectation that there’s something that happens there, a bonding. And so that’s a huge process.

And what does that do for us in the long run in terms of keeping health and wellness and relationship to ourselves in the natural world, is that everybody has basically got their own direct responsibility to it. It’s not a concept.

There’s lots of things like greeting customs. This is – cultures have elaborate ways of meeting another and what happens during that process that – I remember reading about one. It came out of a conversation with a guy who was like Aldous Huxley, his nephew or something like this. So, he was like a British anthropologist guy. And he was in the Amazon and they were talking about how to make contact with these tribes and going through territories and he described this ritual and I was like oh my God, this is a greeting custom. Because I have about 64 of these, what would you call them, like frameworks, right? That are in general, so respect for elders would be one, awareness of the four directions, deep belong into place. You know initiation in nature and this one is called greeting customs. And so, the guys you know coming into the territory and knocks on a hollow tree and then hangs out there. And won’t cross until the other people come and it could be half a day, whole day, day and a half. And you can’t violate that. But once you do, the person comes and they start telling the story of what their journey was. This is where it begins.

And it’s not about transaction of why are you here or what’s going to happen when you come, or what do I know about you, you know? It’s like they start telling their story. And the other person repeated it back what it is they said, verbatim. And I said “Wow that’s kind of weird, what’s that like?” So, I started experimenting, so let’s try that. So, I drove over to my friend’s house today and you say –

Chris Martenson:  Tell me about that.

Mark Morey:  No you actually repeat verbatim –

Chris Martenson:  Oh, I have to do this verbatim?

Mark Morey:  So, I drove over to my friend’s house the other day.

Chris Martenson:  So, I drove over to my friend’s house the other day.

Mark Morey:  And there was this weird thing happened at the mailbox.

Chris Martenson:  And there was this weird thing happened at the mailbox.

Mark Morey:  As I squeaked open the thing and pulled in the letters into my hand.

Chris Martenson:  As I squeaked open the thing and pulled the letters into my hand.

Mark Morey:  This spider bit me.

Chris Martenson:  This spider bit me.

Mark Morey:  So, where are you right now as you’re with me?

Chris Martenson:  I just got a spider bite.

Mark Morey:  Right? You’re so with me. I thought, wow that’s genius. We don’t even know about that. Where is that technique? I’m not analyzing you, I’m not judging you, I’m not trying to figure you out. It’s like I’ve become bonded with you through that story. I live it with you.

Chris Martenson:  Interesting.

Mark Morey:  Yeah, so what is the purpose of that? We’re building a kind of bond together that we can go on a journey together before actually entering into the village.

Chris Martenson:  Right, just as a quick aside, when I was down in Peru, very different culture. I noticed it right away. Of course, it’s got a lot of indigenous people with indigenous stock. Very clearly – but the whole culture was so different from anything I’d experienced and there were clear obvious signs. One to me was that all the people after I gave a talk they wanted to take their picture and the women would come right up and put their bodies right up against. Which, in New England would have been a marriage proposal. But this was – they were just very physical.

And then I noticed the restaurants I went to, no TV’s in any of them. And they had this language – sort of paste to the whole experience, you know? And on and on and there was something I didn’t quite get and I come home and a friend of mine, a good friend of mine who is from Ecuador, she said – and this was completely just a random comment came up and suddenly it all crystallized for me. She said, “In my culture, when you walk into a room, there could be 100 people at a party and you can’t stop until you’ve greeted every single person.” It’s a full expectation. Like everybody in the room is tracking, oh new person, they’re going to greet me soon, right?

So, thinking about that, the culture I come from it’s totally common to go into a crowded situation and say hi to three people or five, or not touch everybody in the room. But in another culture the greeting custom is so different, what would that be like? How different would that sense of togetherness, belonging, lack of isolation –

Mark Morey:  Forced connection, talk to people they don’t like. I’m sure there’s people they don’t like.

Chris Martenson:  Exactly.

Mark Morey:  They have to go and do the greeting, have touched their hand. Probably – there’s a term called “peace making” and it’s important to mention here because I think the purpose of why cultural elements co-evolve with people in a society is for the purpose of health and wellness, peace and happiness. I think that is their purpose ultimately. And so peace making is the proactive aspect of building connection. It’s not conflict resolution after the fact. So, if you think of it that way, this greeting custom you’re talking about is a form of peace making.

Chris Martenson:  And so when you say peacemaking, what do you mean?

Mark Morey:  That their approaches for bonding and establishing connection with yourself and other people in the natural world ongoing proactively, like exercise.

Chris Martenson:  Where does that come from? Which culture are we drawing from here?

Mark Morey:  Well, specifically this is coming from the Hotin Asoni, peacemaking. But, if we use the term as a lens into why greeting customs, you know that’s a form of peace making; so we can think of it as a concept too. And the classic greeting custom in the Hotin Asoni that we learned through Jake Swamp, who is a Mohawk Chief, is gratitude. Is before – they called it the words before all else, so you know it’s a greeting custom. It’s the first thing that happens and they’re a huge theme of their culture is governance. And you know, I like to think that different kind of tribal societies have different medicines or different gifts, specialties in a way. Like Hawaiians are different – that you know they actually mentored and coached the founding fathers you know to develop democracy here in the United States. Most people don’t know that.

Chris Martenson:  Which is a super-important story and the Mohawks were part of the Iroquois Confederacy, which was a Confederacy of what seven?

Mark Morey:  Six.

Chris Martenson:  Six nations.

Mark Morey:  Originally five.

Chris Martenson:  Five, but they were warring for hundreds of years, like really badly, terribly, skirmishing, killing each other, doing all kinds of stuff and then one person was born into one of those cultures and is identified as the man who happened to be a man who went forward and brought these principles forward that stitched together these warring nations into a single unified whole. And they had hundreds of years of experience with that.

Mark Morey:  Yeah.

Chris Martenson:  And then shared that with the founding fathers who baked a lot of that into our Constitution.

Mark Morey:  Yes.

Chris Martenson:  Not all of it unfortunately.

Mark Morey:  Yeah, but even the term “We the people” is – that’s how their Constitution starts. You know, so you can think that sounds very native, doesn’t it? “We the people”, we are the people, we the people. They didn’t make that up. And so, yeah, there’s so much to say about all of that but it shows us that early indigenous social technologies are the basis for how people survived here when they came here. I really feel there’s a deep reciprocity that we owe and should be paying attention to with indigenous people here on this continent. And going forward there’s probably a ton more things that we’ve cast off, thinking we were superior, right? If we go back to this story for example here and learning about gratitude, well look at what they offer to the colonists, and then what did they get in return, right?

So, gratitude, they call this the Thanksgiving address and they start with the earth and go up to the sky in that way. And they have things that say at each of these levels. So, they will do this before any important governmental meeting. Any time the chiefs get together and have an important decision to make they will first start with the words before all else, which I love because what happens in that address is they see how they are interdependent with the natural world. All the ways in which our spirit is lifted by the sound of birds in the morning, how the clean water that we drink nourishes us and heals us. And how all the plants are the source of our medicine even today, Western Medicine is sourced from plants. And of course, the people, all the ways in which people contribute to us every day that we don’t even know are helping us to be alive.

So, that helps shift consciousness, and so they have this consciousness shifting activity and then they go into deliberating what’s best for the people. I love that.

Chris Martenson:  Right, what a great way to start. I’m reminded probably a little orthogonally, but there was this great piece and Brene Brown does all this work on vulnerability. And so she does all this research, and she was asking people – there was something about the thing that prevents us from really connecting and being full of joy, is what she calls impending joy; where people have the sense that if they open themselves up they’ll just get hurt, right? So, they don’t open up that way they can’t get hurt, right? So it’s this catch 22 piece and gratitude is a way around that and the interesting part that caught me was that she said when they did the research and they asked the question like “So your mother died. She died suddenly and you didn’t have a chance. And if you could what do you miss most”? And they were expecting them to say “If we could just have one more walk down grand canyon at the best sunset ever”, like some big grandiose moment. And people all reported that what they missed was “If I could just – my mother was a shitty texter. If I could get just one more goofy text from here where she doesn’t quite get it.” It was the little moments that they were missing the most.

And so what I hear you saying is in this gratitude, like we’re taking things for granted that life is actually happening in all of the little moments in all the times. This is a way to reconnect with the sacredness of all time, all moments. Not the big ones, not the birth of my son, the graduation of my daughter, but those things that we call big milestones. The magic of life is happening right now.

Mark Morey:  Yeah.

Chris Martenson:  And gratitude is a way for me to connect to right now.

Mark Morey:  Yep, that’s part of it. We – in the nature programs with the children we introduced the Thanksgiving address and we always basically did an inventory of what’s happening right now, the moment. So, as we went through the water and the birds and the trees and the animals and the plants, it would be basically trying to imagine deeply into what’s happening right now what we couldn’t see and what we could see. And so how are we thankful for this wind that’s coming through today, you know that’s blowing things around and you know the snow bank here in front of my house that I have to step over. And my car that’s in the driveway, and of course it’s maple syrup season, and I got to sit by the fire last night. And how I loved that saved my life at the end of every winter. I’m originally tied to tapping the trees.

So, yeah being present to what’s actually happening is a powerful form of what would you say, like builds empathy and gratitude and appreciation. I mean that’s probably the building blocks of having a meaningful life, right? It opens you up, softens you –

Chris Martenson:  Yeah. Some of the big missing elements here that I detect certainly in my own life, and you mention it earlier. That idea of what happens when you ask people what would it be like to have the mentor you always want, you always knew you wanted. And that opening that comes, that longing with the grief under there, right? Because there’s some part of me that says this should have been happening. This is a should, I can feel it. That’s supposed to be there.

Mark Morey:  Yeah, it’s not your fault.

Chris Martenson:  Right, so I want to get to this part of the conversation then which is to say okay were people listening to this and myself as well, on the edge of my seat here. So, here we are, this is the reality of the culture we’re in. And everybody who connects with my work is of the mind that this is – things are changing really, really rapidly and maybe not for the better. There’s absolutely an unsustainable trajectory that we’re on yet we’re all on it. So, here we are caught in this avalanche. And the question is how do we go about – what is it that we can do to build our own cultural and social capital in a way, given this is where we live? What are the practices?

Mark Morey:  Well, I was thinking about this before you came over, what would be a good prescription without – I mean my personal story is so specific about what I did when I look back on it. But, you know one simple way of looking at it is you have yourself to work with, and then the next ring out, which would be maybe your  family or whoever is most close to you, and then the next ring out from that, which might be your geographic community. And if you think about those three things as nested with each other then if you’re doing some kind of personal connection where bring your closest family into it with you. And then that group can do something in the community to effect the connection and the community. And maybe it’s an assumption I’m making, but you should look at connection in general; so how can I connect with myself? And so that might look like what’s my purpose? What are my specialties? What are my gifts that I came into the world with? What is my – well, what are my challenges as a way of connecting with yourself, too, right?

I might have some parts of myself that are buried that I don’t like. That’s actually really important form of connection that brings me into more wholeness. Like maybe what had that joy get put aside, you know, there might be some grief there. So, connecting with my sadness is a powerful thing to do that brings you into more wholeness. And I think it also helps you relate to other people better. So, that’s all work around you and connection. And then the next ring out is connecting with immediate people around you who’s your closest group that you’re working with?

And I know people feel a lot of isolation and I’ve offered this before to other people and sometimes I go straight to despair because they’re like I’m totally alone. And so they’re like I’m ground zero, how do I do that? And I say “Well you know I think in the past culture used to take care of this for us,”having to greet everybody in the room, having to show up for ceremonies, having to show up to pick food with each other or whatever. And so now we do programs and all the creative programs that are out there, I believe are a substitute for what culture used to do for us, which is important, I think to look at, so yeah go take some programs. Go hang out with people in programs, go find you know people who are teaching things there, creating connection at the program. But know that what you’re wanting to do is to take that and move it into your life, out of the program. That’s the ultimate goal. Sometimes people get stuck in program to program to program, because they love how it feels. But then they go through the cycle of despair on Monday morning, like where are all those people? I loved the people. “You’re my tribe. Let me get your phone number, we’ll stay in touch.” But they’re from Kentucky and they flew to the conference center or whatever.

So, that’s a little suggestions, right? But if you have a family, whatever you’re doing to connect with yourself I would try to stack functions and bring them all along with you. So, people say how do I get my children to enjoy being outside more? I’m really worried about it; as a kid I did stuff like that and I just see them playing inside with computers and you know, other toys and things. Why don’t you go outside? Oh, I don’t want to, I don’t feel like it. And I know statistically that’s bad. I do the research; so what can you tell me to help them go outside? I said, “Well you’re not going to like this but the most powerful influence in your child’s life is you.”

Chris Martenson:  I know where you’re going with this.

Mark Morey:  Exactly. So I remember telling this to a guy and he got upset with me. He’s like “I did not want to hear that. I’m a busy entrepreneur. I don’t want to be spending time outside”. I’m like “Well there you have it.” A lot of this stuff is not efficient. A lot of connecting with yourself and others in nature and building culture is not efficient according to our modern world. It’s uncomfortable to slow down. It’s a radical act to slow down. And the other general piece of advice, which is disturbing, is you’re not going to be able to make this fit in the economy. That really bothers a lot of people, and that’s one thing I looked – when I look back at my life a lot of the things that I did that bring me immense joy and created lots of culture and community and meaningful for other people was not economically successful. And people say, well you can do both. You can always have both. But at some point I’m going to show up for somebody because I think about a teenager who was having a hard time with their parents and I’ve been building a relationship with them in a program, right? But at some point it’s not a program anymore. And I’m going to spend some time with them, a week, once a week for a month, a whole summer and invite them to come live with me. I’m going to take them on a trip with me and I’m going to get to know them during this transition; I’m not getting paid for that. I can’t find a way to get paid for that; so why would I do it?

Well, if I died tomorrow I’d say that was a meaningful week for me. And I can see the joy that it’s bringing this young person, because that’s the human blueprint. Adults are supposed to be showing up for teenagers. They’re not supposed to figure this out on their own. Or, aging people who become isolated, so you know there’s an elder up the street from me named Eva, and it’s funny because when I came to this community I was looking for people to connect around community events and they’re like “Well the person who knows everybody around here is Eva, but she is really difficult person,” you know? “She is really challenging”. And I got this warning about Eva, but she knows everybody and I was like “Okay”. It was about a year later that I finally met her and I was like she’s amazing. I love her. And I think why they don’t like her is she speaks the truth.

Chris Martenson:  Ouch.

Mark Morey:  She is a pistol. She’s like Mae West meets like Joan Macy meets – she’s sharp and smart and funny and talks a mile a minute and like can see you in like five seconds and I love everything about her. And she has humongous common sense around people and social capital. In fact, she doesn’t even make any money. She has no financial resources at all, I think, and yet every time I go over there she’s moving goods. She’s got like “Here take this, go open my refrigerator. There’s a huge chicken in there, take that with you”. I’m like “I can’t take your chicken.” “I’m going to have another one tomorrow, so take that please. And here, this cutting board. A guy made this in a wheelchair and I bought 10 of them from him, so take this cutting board and think of him. He’s from Sweet Wood Craft, you know”? “These socks, I can’t use these socks anymore”; I go, “They’re brand new” and she goes “I can only use them when they’re fresh because I have these heel spurs and they’re really extra thick padding, so take them.” She’s crazy.

So, I’m like now I can’t go over there without bringing her something. So, I bring her maple syrup, but I bring them in like 10 little jars instead of like a big gallon or something, because I know she’s just going to start moving it, right? So there’s that, right? But I know that she’s really attuned. So, for example my daughter has a new boyfriend. And I’m like, well, you should come over and we’ll sit by the maple syrup fire together, we’ll stoke the fire. And we’ve been doing that since she was like “Oh that sounds great.”  Introduce them to my dad through maple syrup –

Chris Martenson:  There we go –

Mark Morey:  I go you know what would be really great, we should stop by Eva’s when you come. And I have introduced her to Eva multiple times throughout her childhood and many elders before that; so she’s kind of got the drill. But she’s probably different that way. You know like you ruin your kids with really weird habits. You don’t realize until you’re in college and try to explain to your friends that you have this weird habit. And no, we don’t do that. So, spending time with elders and listening to their stories and knowing how to respect and bring them good questions is something she’s been raised with. So, when I suggested that, I think it just floated by her like “Oh yeah that’s a good idea.”

Chris Martenson:  You’re running this other script, right?

Mark Morey:  So we get there and I get in the door first and I’m like “Oh Eva, Lucy is bringing her friend here – her new boyfriend so you should check him out.”

Chris Martenson:  You’re counting on Eva’s scanning function here?

Mark Morey:  I don’t even have to. All I had to say was “You should check him out and she’s like “Okay”, “Oh honey how are you? Hug me”, always hug on the side heart to heart. “Oh you’re so big, how are you doing”? “So, who do we have here”? With the formal handshake you know. She’s like “What’s your name, what’s your last name, what are your parents’ names”? “Oh yeah, I know who they are.” And then she starts telling him everything about his parents that he didn’t know. And he’s like “Wow this is really crazy; what a coincidence.” I’m like no, not a coincidence. So then you sit down on the couch and she starts telling him “I know about your family. I know this about your family, that about your family and I respect this girl very, very much. So, you need to know that I’m watching you. Do you do anything active in the community? What do you do”? “What kind of things do you do in the community that stands up for people?”

Then she went on to tell them the most amazing story in the 60’s as a lesbian, open lesbian in Vermont. She joined the volunteer fire department, which is like – imagine those guys.

Chris Martenson:  Right.

Mark Morey:  And the whole point of the story is she wasn’t going to take shit from them. And she was going to introduce them to a real person, instead of a stereotype. So, she is hardcore like that, and she got them to love them.

Chris Martenson:  I’m just in awe that you outsourced the dad function. You got her to do all your hard work of probing this young man.

Mark Morey:  It was way better, actually. It was way better, because you know I said to her better you than me. Because she knew his family. I don’t know his family. She knew his family and she knew the history of his parents’ divorce, and their remarriage and the work they do in the world. And so, she just had to fill in a few more questions. Whereas for me I was like at ground zero who this guy is and had all the other complications of being the dad; so, I got to just enjoy all that. And then came over after wards and like wow that was really intense. Like how was that for you? And she was like “She’s really cool.”

Chris Martenson:  You learned a few things about his family; so it was all good.

Mark Morey:  Exactly. No he thought that was really amazing, because she’s just sharp. She doesn’t overdo it. But I guess the point of the story is like you know this is a relationship that I took time to build. There was no economy in this for me. And she teaches me all the time about who she is and how she makes social capital work. And she is wise beyond belief. Her life is extremely meaningful, extremely meaningful and she makes zero money. You know how she bought her house? She went to the bank, she said “I would like to buy this house in Putney” – it’s right in the middle of everything. “And I need $20,000” and they’re like “Well you’re going to have to have this much money in order to buy the house”. And she said, “Well, if I had that much money I wouldn’t need to come to you, now would I?” So she’s like, to get the loan, right? So she’s like “Forget it.” So she went to the community and she asked for $5.00 and $10.00 from every single person there that she could until she raised $20,000 and bought that house with cash.

Chris Martenson:  Okay.

Mark Morey:  And she said, from now on I owe the community everything; so that’s what I do. That’s my job, I give back to the community; they bought my house for me. That was 35 years ago, and she’s still doing it. I think that’s a pretty good return on investment.

Chris Martenson:  Absolutely.

Mark Morey:  For $5.00.

Chris Martenson:  Best $5.00 ever.

Mark Morey:  She’s done crazy things where she just volunteered to go around to all the disabled elders in the community and bring them kindling for their wood stoves. Because they were throwing it out over here at the wood shop, so she just figured that out. Lots of things like that.

Anyway so I think that people get fearful around money as their sole survival safety mechanism. And if you can crack that open, which is what I’m attempting to do here, you can reach a lot of these needs that you’re describing as somehow over here, and economy is over here. I should be happy I have all this money. The United States is one of the wealthiest places, but we’re really miserable. In fact, that whole gross happiness scale, what do they call that? The happiness index is inversely related to wealth. And so, up to like $75,000.00 or something in this economy, where we can basic needs met. That – try to put a crack in that and spend time doing things that bring you joy and bring other people joy. And build trust with people through experience. It’s a kind of investment.

So, I was able to call on that in a moment’s notice with Eva because of five years of relationship building with her, you know, which was great along the way. But for me that was beyond important for me that that happened. I had never had that moment with a boyfriend of my daughter before; it was great. So, there’s lots of other stories like that.

Chris Martenson:  We’re going to draw this to a close. This is part one and part two we’re going to discuss this – all of these elements in much greater detail and go further beyond. So, as we draw to a close here in part one, Mark, tell people how they can follow you more closely, your website and whatever is going on that they should know about?

Mark Morey:  Okay so my primary website is, which stands for institute for natural learning. And there you’ll see links to my We are Nature Rising Project, or you can go straight there, And the business work, which is a connected So they’re all generally under this institute for natural learning house, which is about really – I’m starting to organize it around three terms that interact with each other, nature, culture and leadership. And so the leadership aspect is this aspect of self-development that I am an ongoing human developing, right? And I think that’s my definition of being a leader. And being involved in the change. Culture is everything we’re talking about today, right? This whole context of being aware of how do we decouple from nature and how do we get back into relationship with things and how do we keep an eye on that over 20 year times. And then nature of course, which is our original who we are as human beings; we’re a species, right? Nature and all the biological, psychological, social, ecological benefits of being intimately interrelated with it. So, those three things can enter the business world, the educational world, community life, family life. And kind of a systems level you know, of what we’re experiencing.

Chris Martenson:  All right. Well thank you so much for your time today; it’s been a real pleasure.

Mark Morey:  Awesome, yeah I really enjoyed it.


Teaser photo credit: By flickr user wili hybrid –, CC BY 2.0,