Hunter Dahlberg recommended Skye to participate here. They know each other through the blacksmith trade and we ended up meeting in Skye's workshop, marking the second blacksmith shop I’ve had the honor to visit during this project. I so love sitting in somebody's environment with them, surrounded by what they know. I don't know if that is a trait I've always had or one that I've developed throughout the course of this project, but I’m thankful for it either way. It was so fun to chat with Skye in a big industrial space. And I loved hearing her honesty. I don't know if it's why Hunter recommended her, but they definitely share that quality. I cherish authentic conversation and knowing where someone stands on an issue. I especially cherish that when the conversation has back and forth and both people can really hear each other and provide a little room for mind changing. Huge thanks to Skye for allowing that to happen today.
SK: I'm Skye Kimel and I don't describe myself. If I can avoid it, I will. For work, I own a fabrication shop with my brother. That's all I've got.
ACT: What concerns you about the state of the world and humanity? What affects you personally? And what inspires you to do something about it?
SK: So many things affect me. Well, kind of, because I think I have two parts where I just go through day-to-day life and just take care of it and then go home and come back. But then, I don't watch the news at all anymore because I just get so sad about it. So, I don't know when people have been killed. I don't know when we're killing other people. I don't know what Trump is saying. I don't know any of these things unless somebody tells me. I did just hear about this hurricane coming today, but that's because my husband told me. But when I do know about the stuff, I just get sad. It makes me sad that the world is an unfriendly place. That it's hard to get by in. That people are unhappy. That people are not always nice. And I'm not always... combative and reactive and it's an uncomfortable place to be in. If I spend any time thinking about it, it makes me uncomfortable. So, I don't really think about it that much.
I think it's a disconnect. It feels like there's nothing that I can do about it besides just trying to live my own life with integrity. Because if I know about what's happening in the world, if I'm really well-informed and understand all of it, I can't change it. I vote. And I've written at least ten letters to Donald Trump - I don't think he cares. But I don't write every week to my congressman - I should. But you feel like you can't change anything. I don't think it's policies that are problem, really. I don't think it's the politicians, necessarily. We have this whole culture that something's wrong with. And I don't know how to fix it. So, I feel like watching all that stuff makes me sad, but it doesn't change anything if I know in detail. I already know that it's no good. I mean, I'm informed about things that I care about. I care about the permit system that they're doing for the Cascade Lakes Highway. And I pay attention to the things that affect me personally, but other than that, it's just so big. And I can't solve it. You know? I don't know how to make kids stop killing kids...
ACT: What do people mean to you, individual to individual, as you make your way through your daily routines?
SK: I have a hard time with strangers in general. Obviously people that I love, I love forever, but it's hard for me to let new people in. I guess. Kind of. I don't know if that's even true. I value relationships with people on a one-on-one basis. In larger groups, I get introverted and uncomfortable. So, I tend to stay on the periphery of things. I just kind of hang out on the edges. But I like your project a lot because I think people have such interesting stories to tell. If you talk to somebody, it's very hard to dislike 'em. If you know their story... you just don't know what people have been through. You don't know why they're doing the things they're doing. I think those interactions, when I can stop to take the time to have them, are very valuable. It's hard to remember.
ACT: Do you have some sense of connection to others, just being part of the same species?
SK: I think that's really the only thing that you can say for sure - I am a member of the human species. And I live in Oregon; I'm an Oregonian. But there's a disconnect... there's so many of us. It's really hard when you have a population of - I don't even know how many billions of people are there are on the planet. It's really big to think like that. But it's really helpful when you do have those moments, when you can think of yourself in this whole world community as part of an entire world ecosystem that needs to stay alive for us to stay alive. It's a really helpful outlook, but it's really hard to maintain, in day-to-day life, that connectivity. Because you gotta go to work. I think that there's something to that. I could go to any country and make a friend with a person and find common ground anywhere. Without language. It happens.
ACT: Let's say that community is our relationships with each other and the world we live in. What does our seeming inability to consider all needs mean to you? What does it mean that it seems as though we just can't sort it out?
SK: Sometimes I think that the real problem is just that there's too many people. So then you're vying for resources that are limited that wouldn't be if there was only 10,000 people on the Earth. Any species, any animal trying to live, is trying to garner resources. And so when you put seven point whatever billion together, they're fighting over resources. I mean, that's what all of our wars are mostly about - is resource acquisition and land. And that's why people are mad about people coming here [to Bend] because they've taken a limited resource and that makes the prices go up. And it just makes people angry. And I think that's world wide. We can pretend that it's about religion and all that other stuff, but I think it's really about limited resources. I don't know. Is it just the fight or flight and that's just what we've evolved to be because the primary thing that everybody cares about is themself first and foremost? And there's nothing wrong with that because your job is to stay alive, biologically. I think we just get confused about what you need to stay alive. So you think it's all those things and then that just leads to the resources. You know, we don't want people to move here because we want our space. And it's the same everywhere, I think.
ACT: I wonder about the scarcity issue/topic/label. I think it's pretty widely accepted that there actually isn't much of a scarcity issue but rather an allocation of resources issue. It seems like what is happening is an intent to make it seem like there's a scarcity issue through advertising or marketing or packaging. And then that does something to us; that affects our brains in a different way. I don't feel scarcity in our hatred of other people because of any number of differences. Where does that come from?
SK: Immigration is a really easy version of this. They're coming here and they're taking our jobs. I don't think you want to do that job. I'm just guessing. I don't want to do them. Which is also just so crazy because you're just saying that somebody that just wants to work and help their family is somehow attacking you? I hadn't really thought about that - that the resources are probably there - but there's something that's happening - and I don't know who does it - but there's definitely this perception that people are taking what you might want.
Is that all just rhetoric that they use? Maybe it's all just fear? I don't know. In my case, I'm afraid people are gonna move here and I'm gonna be run out of my home or whatever? Or afraid people are gonna move here and you might lose your job, which may or may not be connected to that at all? Or you're afraid that people across the world are gonna harm you so you act a certain way and support certain things because you're afraid? I don't feel like I'm afraid of things like that. I don't feel like anybody's out to get me. I don't feel like anybody's out to harm me.
ACT: I'm afraid of losing a game I don't want to play. I think it's mostly chaos out there. I see a lot of people pursuing whatever with madness. And I don't want to be involved. But I'm not independently wealthy - I'm bound to the system in various ways. So, I have to be in it, but I don't like the game, and I don't like the rules of the game, and I don't like the people playing the game. It is fear. For me, it might come out in contempt or a disdain for opulence or for hoarding or whatever, but it's not making me want to be a terrorist or harm someone else.
SK: Now that you say it like that, I'm afraid that I'm not gonna be able to ever go out in the woods and not see a person - that it's just gonna get too crowded. I'm afraid of that. But people respond differently to different things. So, then you have people that respond in anger to their fear - with hate or anger towards somebody else because of what they're afraid of happening. And then those people talk to other people that have those same fears. And then they become these groups of people. And then it becomes this movement. I think anger and hatred are louder than contempt. They're just talking louder. And so then you get this perception that the whole world is like that or just so many people are like that. And then that just breeds more contempt and a gentler anger. But I think fear is a big problem. I think people are afraid of all sorts of things.
ACT: Do you think we will accept responsibility and work towards change for the better? A lot of people wish it was better. They wish there was more harmony, more unity, more love, more compassion, more empathy, more togetherness, a stronger sense of community. But it's up to us. So, will we do it?
SK: I feel like I'm pretty optimistic. I feel like I have to be. Because otherwise it's just so sad if you don't have some sort of optimism about the future. I've got nephews and I want them to thrive in the world. I want people to thrive in the world. To hope for that is important because otherwise it's just too hard for me to be the other way. I have this theory that it is already better. Think! We have done such horrible things. People would go to public executions and cheer and take their children to watch somebody be killed. Now, at least, we have to do it in secret more. But I don't think anybody would stand for somebody being beheaded in downtown Bend and I certainly don't think anybody would cheer for it. I think it would be a really disturbing thing. That's just a really gruesome example. There's still atrocities and people still do terrible things and groups do terrible things and governments do terrible things, but overall, I think we're less tolerant of it. At least here they have to be a little more secretive about it than they used to have to be.
So I feel like - what is it Martin Luther King, the arc of justice is long. I don't know the saying. [Skye later wrote to tell me the quote and it turns out in can originally be attributed to Theodore Parker and later paraphrased by MLK - I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.] But basically, there is that want to be better. And I think that people won't stand for things that they used to not only stand for but be really supportive of. If you look at history, I feel like maybe it's getting better.
ACT: Do you think it comes down to an individual having a personal experience with something in order for them to make that positive change? Or are we tending towards a general betterment?
SK: I think we're tending towards it. I feel like Donald Trump is a setback, but I think in some ways his rhetoric and horrible things he says is kind of good because it puts it out there where people are like, No. We don't want to do that. We don't want to treat people like that. We don't want to see this stuff happen. It brings a lot of these things up to the forefront so that even if you don't have to experience it directly because you're a middle class white male that doesn't have those experiences, you can see other people having them and see that that's hurtful and sad and not want to think those things anymore - instead of just not wanting to say them. Before Trump, it felt like things were on their way out - racial slurs and homophobia. People didn't voice their opinions as much. It's more an opening because they just felt like they just couldn't think that because it just wasn't right. But now they're like, Oh, maybe I don't think that. Maybe I just didn't explore it and I just have these tendencies to believe these things because my grandfather believed 'em and my dad believed 'em. But now instead of just being told, You can't say that anymore 'cause it's not PC, now they're like, Maybe I don't feel like that. That's what I'm hopeful for, anyway.
ACT: Do you have a sense of purpose?
SK: No. I never had a sense of purpose. At all. I've never set goals for anything. Things happen and I do them - whatever comes my way. I don't think I've ever said I'm gonna do this and achieved it. I'm not a goal-setter. I don't feel purpose-driven.
I like to enjoy whatever connections I have and whatever experiences I have. And I like to try new things. But I don't feel anybody has a plan for me. At all. I don't think the universe cares what I'm doing even a tiny bit. That's not to say I don't feel responsibility. I feel guilty if I'm rude to somebody. I want to be the best person that I can be. I definitely fail at it all the time and I feel guilty when I fail at it. I don't feel driven to do anything... which sounds really terrible when you say it out loud. I've never even thought about it. I've never asked anybody that question. Now I'm really curious.
ACT: I've often heard it said that people are doing the best they can with the awareness that they have at any given moment. I disagree with that and, generally speaking, I think we can always all be doing better than we do. Is awareness the issue?
SK: One of my earlier theories was I just thought people are generally good and they sometimes make bad decisions. But, all in all, they're probably not bad people. And then it started to fall apart rapidly because I think that there are some pretty bad people. But I think that conversation we had about the choice... that everybody starts out neutral... I think that every single one is a choice. You can choose all day, every day, every moment to do something that is kinder and more compassionate or assholish. And we make both of them all the time. I try to be polite and kind to people, but I fail all the time. I mean, every day, all day long - it seems like. But just being aware that you have that choice, that you're not just inherently bad or inherently good, is empowering. And it also makes you think about whether you want to be better or you want to be worse.
So, maybe people that go and shoot up the schools don't realize that they have this choice in them. They're not told that they have a choice, every single day, for every single thing. Maybe we're not told that. I don't know. I don't remember being raised. And I don't have kids so I don't know what people tell children. But if you're not aware that you have these choices - you can choose to be polite or you can choose to be rude or you can choose to cut someone off in traffic, you can choose to not. You can choose to shoot someone. You can choose to not do it. Nobody's making you do anything, but yourself.
It's really hard to stop and think about what you're doing. If a client comes in and they're difficult, if I'm able to just stop for half a second to just think It's okay. Just move forward. Do your job. You don't have to take it personally. You don't have to get upset about it. You don't have to react to it. then it's easier for me. And it's a better interaction for both of us in the end. So, some of it is positive rewards for positive behavior. You get it. You get rewarded for that behavior, but it's really hard to stop for that second and realize that if you lash out in anger or whatever that you're not gonna get those same rewards. That you're gonna then, if you're me, you're gonna spiral into feeling guilty 'cause you lost your temper or whatever. Which is so much less pleasant than, Pause. I think it's hard to do and I don't know if everybody knows that they can do that. I don't ask people that.