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... After many years as a scientist with the CSIRO Wildlife Survey Section and with the Tasmanian Inland Fisheries Department, I began to protest against the political and industrial systems I saw were killing us and the world around us.  But I soon decided that it was no good persisting with opposition that in the end achieved nothing.  I withdrew from society for two years; I did not want to oppose anything ever again and waste my time.  I wanted to come back only with something very positive, something that would allow us all to exist without the wholesale collapse of biological systems....

A paragraph from the Preface: "Introduction to Permaculture" by Bill Mollison (ISBN 0-908228-08-2)


A junior at UC Berkeley wrote:

My intended major was originally political science.  I thought that if I went into politics, I could help people; however, the more I learned about politics, the more I began to feel that there was something wrong with the basic assumptions of the whole modern project.  In my mind, I could understand the logic leading to such "laws" as anarchy and competition, but in heart I felt these to be false understandings of human nature.  To take these dogmatic ideas and project them into political laws, then to act upon them in wars which kill millions of people... I just felt sick at heart.  However, at the time I did not understand what could be done about it.  Furthermore, political science focused on the status quo, but did not help me to feel empowered about changing the future. 

PACS (Peace and Conflict Studies) does that.  I changed my major not so much as a conscious choice, but more so because after taking PACS 10, taught by J. Sanders, I knew that I couldn't possibly do anything else and sleep at night.  My family has always been wonderful, very supportive.  They have told me since I came to college, do something you believe in, do something you are passionate about.  I have been fortunate to have that support.  I feel that PACS is my passion, peace, and I also know that I am lucky to be able to study something which is not only intellectually and academically challenging, but also in accordance with my own moral principles.  It is like aikido (a Japanese defensive martial art); when everything is in a line, body, mind, spirit, there is no energy wasted.  If you are studying one thing, and feeling another, that would be draining of your energy (bold fond is mine).

When I was a political science student, I constantly had a vague sense of unease, as if something was wrong but I could not quite put my finger on it.  Now, I feel energized.  I look forward to my classes, and more importantly, I look forward to being with the people in my classes.  I feel that the students and professors are intelligent, good people, the kind of people I want to spend my time around.  Don’t get me wrong; we don’t all agree on everything.  It is just that we know how to disagree constructively.

Why do students choose a major that they will be unhappy with later?  I think that this problem is largely structural.  The university pressures you from day one to choose a major.  There are structural incentives to be declared, i.e. unit caps and priority registration, and many structural disincentives for changing.  The "system" makes it difficult to be undecided, or to change your mind.  Furthermore, the students who get into UC Berkeley are constantly told that they are special, the top 10 or 5 % of their class.  There is a lot of pressure to succeed, and success is measured in terms of $’s, not in terms of personal satisfaction, of contribution to greater society.  Basically, we are choosing our majors for the wrong reasons, so how then can we make a good choice?

It’s not hopeless though.  I think that it would help if people realize that life is a changeable process.  You don't have to be, indeed, are not, locked into a career which stems from you choice of a major, especially at the undergraduate level.  We are increasingly risk adverse as a student population.  In a time which calls for daring and courage, thoughtfulness and integrity, a lot of people just want to be safe.  Thomas Jefferson said,   “Those who trade their freedom for security deserve neither."  I think that is true.


In Bill Moyer’s documentary “SCIENCE FOR SALE?”  in Nov. 2002

Dr. Linda Logdberg with a Ph.D. in anatomy says she has quit ghostwriting because marketing executives - not scientists or researchers - were shaping what she wrote.  Today she teaches science to students… working longer hours for less money. LOGDBERG: What I mind is advertising that calls itself education.  And I became increasingly uncomfortable with providing content for that.


Yannis Chrysomallis (Yannis’s music)

At the age of 18, Yanni came to the U.S. to attend the University of Minnesota.  In 1976, after spending 3 and half years in college, he graduated with a major in psychology, but quickly dropped this as a career path.  He bought a suit, took a job as an employment counselor, and walked out after lunch on his first day.  Instead, he went back to his love of music, and at the age of 21, took up keyboards.  Around this time, he joined a Minneapolis-based rock band called Chameleon.  In his late 20's, the band released an all-synthesizer album.

He eventually moved to Hollywood with drummer Charlie Adams, who he met in Chameleon, and started recording his own compositions for the Private Music label.  In 1986 he released his first album, "Keys to Imagination."

Yanni's music uplifts, inspires and opens one's mind to invisible worlds of peace and harmony. We have truly grown to love his work.


Dear Andreas,

Here is my story - wow, this was more difficult to write than I thought it would be, but it really reinforced my belief that I made the right choice in leaving my previous career.  You know, sometimes it gets difficult living without a lot of money, but at least I am happy now, my conscience is clear, I am in love with a wonderful woman, and the quality of life here in Taos is great ! ! !

Thank you so much for this opportunity to express myself, and yes of course you can use my name in your book if you want.  It is a real pleasure and honor knowing someone like you who is so passionate about living a life devoted to finding peace in the world.  By the way, I loved the story from the junior at Berkeley - this person is an excellent writer.

Be well my friend, and warmest regards to Barbara and the girls,


My Career Change

I originally decided to study chemistry while attending junior college because it was a subject that I did well in, and science was interesting to me.  As I pursued my degree I got involved in chemical oceanography and environmental chemistry.  I spent a semester working as a marine science technician at Scripp’s Institute of Oceanography for upper graduate credit and fell in love with going out to sea to collect seawater samples and do shipboard measurements for various seawater nutrients.  After that I got a part-time job working as a chemist with the Naval Oceans System Center in San Diego while still a graduate student at San Diego State University.  Here I was doing what I thought was environmental chemistry: we were developing various methods for measuring trace metals of environmental concern in seawater.  Again I got a taste for field chemistry with a couple of field sampling trips, one to Alaska and the other to Hawaii.  What I found out at one point in my work was that the navy was really interested in trace metal measurement techniques that might enhance their ability to detect submarines while at sea.  When I heard this I thought nothing of it really.  But some time later I realized that what I thought was measurements for pollutants of environmental concern may have actually been guided by military concerns.  I had to wonder if the funding would have been available to measure oceanic pollution if there had not been some kind of military directive behind it.

After I graduated from college I worked at a couple of private firms that did environmental chemistry work for 15+ years.  I originally went into the field of environmental chemistry with the intention of making some kind of a difference in the world.  I thought that by looking at environmental pollution and perhaps contributing to finding ways to cleaning up the messes we were making around the world that this would make a difference.  And early on in my career I still felt pretty good about this.  However, when I went to work for Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) as a contractor for two years in their environmental testing division I really became disillusioned.  Here it seemed that no one really cared much about the environment, but instead it seemed to me that the scientists were only interested in keeping their little projects funded and keeping their jobs.  I had seen this attitude at my other jobs, but not to the extent that it occurred here.  And it was difficult to get funding to do the environmental testing at the Lab.  I wondered if the folks doing weapons development work had the same problems with funding that we had in the environmental section.

I justified my working at this weapons development lab by thinking that I was helping the environment and doing some good, but in reality I just never felt good about working at LANL.  The longer I worked here the more disenchanted I became, not only with the environmental chemistry field but also with the direction my life and career were going in.  I didn’t really see any hope of making the difference I thought I could make in the world when I was younger.  It seemed that environmental chemistry had become a chase for funding and an attitude of let’s just do our jobs, get our paychecks and not ‘rock the boat’.

Interestingly enough, at this time in my life an incredible opportunity arose.  By some miracle of fate it was looking possible that I was going to be able to take off from work for an extended period and travel.  The details of how this all came together really aren’t relevant to this story, but this opportunity did come at a time in my life when I really felt ready for a big change.  So I quit my job at LANL and made an around the world trip that took about a year to complete.  After I returned home I considered the possibility of returning to work at LANL, and I even went so far as to talk with them about returning to my old position.  But in retrospect I was so happy that it didn’t work out for me there.

I decided to do something I really loved, something I had a real passion for in my life.  I decided to get into food and cooking, and as a sidelight I also studied computers, another of my primary interests.  I went to the local community college and got a certificate in culinary arts, and in the process learned web site design.  I was so excited about getting into a new field of work, but little did I realize what a change was in store for me as a person.  I got a job working in the delicatessen of a large natural foods store, and in the process of interacting with so many people it really opened me up as a person.  I was always rather shy and introverted, but now I was out talking to people everyday, and between this new job and my travel experiences I felt like a whole new person.

Another great thing that happened right after I got my culinary arts certificate was I spent a summer on the Greek Island of Patmos working at a friend’s restaurant.  This was a real dream come true.  Even though the workdays were long and hard, this experience turned out to be one of the best summers I ever had.  And it would not have been possible if I hadn’t made a change in my life.

I also started a web site design company with a friend of mine.  Even though this is a technically challenging field of work to be in, the design aspect of this has allowed my creativity to blossom further.

I am only making a fraction of the money I was making before as a chemist, but I am much happier than I was then.  I am currently working in the Bed & Breakfast industry as an Innkeeper, and I am still doing web site design work.  I get the best of both worlds now: I am technically challenged with my computer work, and I am constantly interacting with people and meeting travelers from around the world with my hospitality work.

I think many people select their major based either on what they think their family expects of them or where they think they can make the most money.  I don’t think happiness or quality of life is usually considered in this decision.  And young people are pushed into making this decision at an early point in their lives, perhaps before they are really ready to do so.  I don’t think many of us know ourselves well enough when we are young, and so I think we often make this decision based not on what we want but on outside pressures.  And I don’t think we always realize that we can change our minds.  We all change as our lives progress, our needs, our wants, and our desires, so why not our career direction?  All it takes is the courage to pursue our dreams.



"Michael Nagler"

Wed, 15 Jan 2003

My first career path was to have taken me to psychiatry, but I was too disinterested in the large amounts of irrelevant material I had to memorize in medical school and too strongly drawn back to my first love, literature and in particular Ancient Greek poetry.

So I left medical school (not that they wanted me around any more!) at age 21 (gad!) and eventually wound my way to a successful PhD program in comparative literature at UCB, where I was hired to teach upon its completion, half in Classics and half in CL.  It was as sweet as a career in this world can be, but just as it began I met my spiritual teacher, Sri Eknath Easwaran. This is the fall of 1966, and I am fresh from my disappointments with the Free Speech Movement and my first really bitter encounters with how frustrating life on this planet can be.  Everything else is shaped by that meeting.

There being no need to leave my job (Sri Easwaran did not encourage dropouts; in fact he sent dozens of them back 'in'), I stuck with it, being more and more disenchanted with scholarship, until I became completely disenchanted with anything that did not directly address the crying needs of our time, which I see as primarily spiritual and then political.  At the same time, an undreamt of disaster was befalling the world: Western Civilization collapsed.  I am not being sarcastic: the collapse of the humanities was a disaster on the scale of the sack of Byzantium (by the crusaders or the Saracens, take your choice) if not worse, as only the future will show.  For me personally, it dissolved any link I still felt -- or rather any obligation I still felt -- to teaching literature.

I had already founded the Peace & Conflict Studies Program.  So, in 1991, I jumped at the chance to take early retirement (and turned my back on money).  This left me with the part of the job I was coming to love more and more, teaching, and free from the part I had long since given up on, involving myself in and hopefully helping to reform the disastrous fall of the University from an educational institution to a for-profit corporation.

There I now sit, developing my three marginal courses (nonviolence, meditation, the meaning of life) under the radar of academic officialdom -- for the time being.

At the same time, I have been involved in retreats and workshops which the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation has been offering the general public since 1986.  As that program grows (recently adding retreats in Europe, for example), my involvement grows with it, and at some point in the future I may make yet a second shift from even the private world of meaning I've created at UCB to full-time meditation teaching (backed, needless to say, with even more full-time meditation practicing) and part-time peace development. 

It was not always a smooth process, but I have certainly been luckier than many people of wise intention and good heart whom I've been privileged to know over these many years.  I thank God and my teacher every day that I have found my path.

Michael Nagler (you can use it!)



January 20, 2003

Changing my career after 20 years

When I was young, I knew that I wanted to have a career that involved creativity rather than secretarial type of work.  It was many years before I had the courage to follow my dreams of having a career that I would love.

When I was in high school, I knew that I wanted a job that created or built things but this was not a popular notion in my house.  My parents were young when they had me, which is why I believe they discouraged me from pursuing anything other than what they knew to be a normal job.  I felt that they thought that my idea of a job was meant for people unlike myself and that I should not disappoint myself by pursuing a career other than a typical secretarial type of position, which they felt I would be able to safely obtain and thus support myself. 

I moved out of my parent’s house after obtaining a job that would support me while going to community college at night.  Going to school at night was the only way that I could do what I wanted even though my parents were satisfied with the job that I had.  I paid for community college myself because I felt that if my parents had anything to do with it, they would have me take classes that did not interest me.

Many years later I got a certificate in landscape horticulture and a two-year degree in landscape horticulture.  I had been at the same job with low pay and no future for about 17 years before I applied at UCD to pursue a four-year degree in landscape architecture.   I had to send in an application to UCD as well as send a portfolio to the department of landscape architecture.  I received the approval letter from UCD to attend the school and then I had to wait to see if I was accepted in the landscape architecture program.  I was thrilled and scared to death when I received the approval letter from the landscape architecture department.  Now I had to confront my parents.  It was not possible with my income that I could afford school on my own or qualify for any grants and I was in enough debt without adding school loans.  After convincing my parents to help pay, which was cause enough for a lot of stress, then I had to convince my employer to work out a special work schedule around my school hours.  This was not done where I worked.  My employer agreed (I think because she also was trying to get her four-year degree) to let me work unusual hours around school.  I now was working full time and going to school full time, which meant very little sleep, but I was pursuing what I wanted to do.  So I persevered somehow for three years. 

Shortly before graduation, I got word of a possible job for the summer as an intern with Michael Glassman and Associates, which was in Sacramento near where I lived.   The job was not set in stone, just a possibility that Michael Glassman might be wanting an intern for the summer.  I had an interview with one of the partners and it went well.  She offered me an intern position with no money.  I accepted and cried all the way back to my office where I currently worked.  I knew that in order for me to do an internship for Michael Glassman (which I wanted to do), I would have to yet again convince my employer to let me work an unusual schedule.  Somehow they agreed to this even though it was not in their best interest. 

After two months of working two jobs with one paying, there was a change in the staff at Michael Glassman and Associates office.  One of the designers had decided to go to Europe for the summer (the trip ended up being a whole year), which meant that there was a full time position open.  I got the position.  This new position changed my title from intern to senior associate after two months.  So after 20 years at the job that I had had since high school, I quit and never looked back. 

The work that I do now is something that I had wanted to do since I was in high school.  I am not sure that I would be as satisfied with my job if I had done it any other way, but I will never know.  I am more financially independent with my current chosen profession than my previous job, and I have more job satisfaction. The clients’ landscapes that I have worked on while at Michael Glassman and Associates have been on television and in the newspaper.  This makes all the work of pursuing my goal to change my career to one that I have always wanted worth the effort.