death / renewal | Ira Director

Anointment

I like the smells

and our body
juices mixing

anointing us

for springtime

Final Mercies

The Watcher at the gate
bares her breast
to suckle the corpse:

we do not kiss the dead
there is too much
intimacy
in death, and

the lines in our faces 
betray us

                    originally published in ARC 26 by the IAWE

Here it is Spring Again

I’ve written too many poems
in your name 

to tell of love dying 
as the earth renews itself, 

to wear as a badge 
a dried crow’s claw 
at my breast

©2022 Ira Director
All rights reserved


Ira Director…

…holds a BA in Philosophy from the USA and a Masters in English and Poetry fromBar-Ilan University. His poems have been seen in journals, e-zines and art exhibitions where they increasingly are integral to his paintings. In 2002 I instituted Poetry from Bar-Ilan a program for Bar-Ilan’s poets to read their works in public venues, and produced the annual program for 8 years. His integrated poetry and paintings, along with other artworks can be viewed at the website link below.

Website

Posted in General Interest, Meditation, Terri Stewart

The Invisible Spiral of Violence

What Christ Saw from the Cross
What Christ Saw from the Cross

Originally published June 20, 2013

I am away working with youth affected by incarceration this weekend. I recently read the below meditation and found it to be moving. I hope you will also find inspiration. Terri

From Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation
Center for Action and Contemplation

The Invisible Spiral of Violence

“If you cannot recognize evil on the level of what I call the world, then the flesh and the devil are inevitable consequences. They will soon be out of control, and everything is just trying to put out brush fires on already parched fields. The world or “the system” is the most hidden, the most disguised, and the most denied—but foundational—level of evil. It’s the way cultures, groups, institutions, and nations organize themselves to survive.

It is not “wrong” to survive, but for some reason group egocentricity is never seen as evil when you have only concentrated on individual egocentricity (“the flesh”). That is how our attention has been diverted from the whole spiral of violence. The “devil” then stands for all of the ways we legitimate, enforce, and justify our group egocentricity (most wars; idolization of wealth, power, and show; tyrannical governments; many penal systems; etc.), while not now calling it egocentricity, but necessity!

Once any social system exists, it has to maintain and assert itself at all cost. Things we do inside of that system are no longer seen as evil because “everyone is doing it.” That’s why North Koreans can march lockstep to a communist tyranny, and why American consumers can “shop till they drop” and make no moral connections whatsoever. You see now why most evil is hidden and denied, and why Jesus said, ‘Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.’ (Luke 23:34) We don’t.”

Shalom and Amen
Chaplain Terri

Illustration ~ photograph of opaque watercolor over graphite on gray-green woven paper circa 1886 by James Tissot (1836-1902) and released into the public domain.

RICHARD ROHR, OFM is a globally recognized ecumenical teacher bearing witness to the universal awakening within Christian mystical and the Perennial Tradition. He is a Franciscan priest of the New Mexico Province and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation. MORE

The foundational elements of The Perennial Tradition are: 1.) There is a Divine Reality underneath and inherent in the world of things. 2.) There is in the human soul a natural capacity, similarity, and longing for this Divine Reality. 3.) The final goal of existence is union with this Divine Reality.

terriTERRI STEWART is Into the Bardo’s  Sunday chaplain, senior content editor, and site co-administrator. She comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction with honors and is a rare United Methodist student in the Jesuit Honor Society, Alpha Sigma Nu. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual.

Her online presence is “Cloaked Monk.” This speaks to her grounding in contemplative arts and the need to live it out in the world. The cloak is the disguise of normalcy as she advocates for justice and peace. You can find her at www.cloakedmonk.com, www.twitter.com/cloakedmonk, and www.facebook.com/cloakedmonk.  To reach her for conversation, send a note to cloakedmonk@outlook.com

Posted in Spiritual Practice, Terri Stewart

The Invisible Spiral of Violence

What Christ Saw from the Cross
What Christ Saw from the Cross

I am away working with youth affected by incarceration this weekend. I recently read the below meditation and found it to be moving. I hope you will also find inspiration. Terri

From Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation
Center for Action and Contemplation

The Invisible Spiral of Violence

“If you cannot recognize evil on the level of what I call the world, then the flesh and the devil are inevitable consequences. They will soon be out of control, and everything is just trying to put out brush fires on already parched fields. The world or “the system” is the most hidden, the most disguised, and the most denied—but foundational—level of evil. It’s the way cultures, groups, institutions, and nations organize themselves to survive.

It is not “wrong” to survive, but for some reason group egocentricity is never seen as evil when you have only concentrated on individual egocentricity (“the flesh”). That is how our attention has been diverted from the whole spiral of violence. The “devil” then stands for all of the ways we legitimate, enforce, and justify our group egocentricity (most wars; idolization of wealth, power, and show; tyrannical governments; many penal systems; etc.), while not now calling it egocentricity, but necessity!

Once any social system exists, it has to maintain and assert itself at all cost. Things we do inside of that system are no longer seen as evil because “everyone is doing it.” That’s why North Koreans can march lockstep to a communist tyranny, and why American consumers can “shop till they drop” and make no moral connections whatsoever. You see now why most evil is hidden and denied, and why Jesus said, ‘Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.’ (Luke 23:34) We don’t.”

Shalom and Amen
Chaplain Terri

Illustration ~ photograph of opaque watercolor over graphite on gray-green woven paper circa 1886 by James Tissot (1836-1902) and released into the public domain.

RICHARD ROHR, OFM is a globally recognized ecumenical teacher bearing witness to the universal awakening within Christian mystical and the Perennial Tradition. He is a Franciscan priest of the New Mexico Province and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation. MORE

The foundational elements of The Perennial Tradition are: 1.) There is a Divine Reality underneath and inherent in the world of things. 2.) There is in the human soul a natural capacity, similarity, and longing for this Divine Reality. 3.) The final goal of existence is union with this Divine Reality.

terriTERRI STEWART is Into the Bardo’s  Sunday chaplain, senior content editor, and site co-administrator. She comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction with honors and is a rare United Methodist student in the Jesuit Honor Society, Alpha Sigma Nu. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual.

Her online presence is “Cloaked Monk.” This speaks to her grounding in contemplative arts and the need to live it out in the world. The cloak is the disguise of normalcy as she advocates for justice and peace. You can find her at www.cloakedmonk.com, www.twitter.com/cloakedmonk, and www.facebook.com/cloakedmonk.  To reach her for conversation, send a note to cloakedmonk@outlook.com

Posted in interNational Poetry Month, Poems/Poetry, poetry

Poems from Purpose | Gary Beck

Poems from Purpose, an unpublished poetry collection that calls attention to the horrors and beauties in this complex life…


Urban Entropy

The extremes of nature
shock city folk
unaccustomed to deluging rain,
suddenly vulnerable
weakend by mass comforts,
survival capabilities
in dire disasters
highly questionable.

Betrayed

The homeless sit
on crumbling sidewalks,
cardboard signs proclaiming need
disintegrated
from rain, snow,
being ignored
by almost everyone
almost as needy,
abandoned by the 1%
no longer concerned with
the suffering of the people,
the state of the nation.

Track Flower
Photograph ©2022 M.S. Evans

Usurpation

Since man first organized
into family units
one had to be above average
to advance in the clan, tribe,
early cities, city-states, nations,
all well established hierarchys
classified by rank, trade, wealth.

Thousands of years later
shortly after World War II,
returning U.S. soldiers
went to college on the G.I. Bill,
a free education
for seven million men
who jumped to middle class,
a social revolution
unprecedented
in human history.

Soldiers were usually discarded
when no longer needed,
for few had the skills
to make them desirable.
Then millions of graduates
went into the world
with valued professions
that produced wealth and comfort
only dreamed of in the past.

The legions of ex-warriors
unresentful of their treatment,
unlike many soldiers past,
took their places happily
as prosperous citizens
with little need to question
the practices of their rulers,
who successfully bought off
the makers of rebellions
blinded to the oppression
of oligarch exploiters
by the abundance
of goods and services.

©2022 Gary Beck
All rights reserved


Gary Beck…

…has spent most of his adult life as a theater director and worked as an art dealer when he couldn’t earn a living in the theater. He has also been a tennis pro, a ditch digger and a salvage diver. His original plays and translations of Moliere, Aristophanes and Sophocles have been produced Off Broadway. His poetry, fiction and essays have appeared in hundreds of literary magazines and his published books include 34 poetry collections, 14 novels, 3 short story collections, 1 collection of essays and 5 books of plays.


Quote from The Wasteland, T.S. Eliot

April in The BeZine Blog


Core Team

Editors


John Anstie

John is a British writer, poet and musician—a multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Singer, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer”. He has been a participant in the  d’Verse Poet’s Pub a player in New World Creative Union as well as a being a ‘spoken-voice’ participant in Roger Allen Baut’s excellent ‘Blue Sky Highway‘ radio broadcasts. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. He is also a member of The Poetry Society (UK).

Recent publications are anthologies resulting from online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. The first of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group (Petrichor Rising). The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson and The Gospel According to Poetry edited by T. Cole Jenkins.


Michael Dickel

A poet, fiction writer, & photographer, Michael’s writing, art, & photographs appear in print & online. His poetry has won international awards & been translated into several languages. His poetry has won international awards & been translated into several languages. His latest poetry collection, Nothing Remembers, came out from Finishing Line Press in September 2019 & received a Feathered Quill Book Award for Poetry.

He has a chapbook, Breakfast at the End of Capitalism (Locofo Chaps, 2017) and a full-length flash fiction collection, The Palm Reading after The Toad’s Garden (Is a Rose Press, 2016. Previous poetry books: War Surrounds Us, Midwest / Mid-East, & The World Behind It, Chaos…  He co-edited Voices Israel Volume 36 (2010) & was managing editor for arc-23 & arc-24. With producer / director David Fisher, he received an NEH grant to write a film script about Yiddish theatre. He is the former chair of the Israel Association of Writers in English.


Chrysty Hendrick

Of Reflections on Being, Healing, and Wandering was a weekly contributing writer for “Gratitude Fridays” at Beguine Again. Chrysty says, “I am a student of theology, people, and life. About a year ago, I decided to incorporate a public element to my private prayer life. I believe that prayer, at its best, can be ministry and expression as well as it’s traditional elements. I have learned from studies that gratitude is a window into the world as it could be. So I tweet a gratitude every day. Nothing grandiose. Just ordinary moments in an ordinary life with an extraordinary God. Feel free to follow me on Twitter @AuntChrysty if you would like to experience an instant of gratitude each busy blessed day.”


Corina Ravenscraft

Dragonkatet ~  Regarding the blog name, Dragon’s Dreams ~ The name comes from Corina’s love-affairs with both Dragons and Dreams (capital Ds). It’s another extension of who she is, a facet for expression; a place and way to reach other like-minded, creative individuals.

On her blog and in The BeZine, Corina posts a lot of poetry and images that fascinate or move her, because that’s her favorite way to view the world.

Corina posts about things important to her and the world in which we live. She  champions extra important political, societal and environmental issues, etc. Sometimes She waxes philosophical, because her blog is a place where she feels she always learns about herself, too, by interacting with some of the brightest minds, souls and hearts out there. It’s all about ‘connection(s)’ and I don’t mean “net-working” with people for personal gain, but rather, the expansion of the 4 L’s: Light, Love, Laughter, Learning.


Team Members

NAOMI BALTUCK, emerita, (Writing Between the Lines)~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller.  She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE.

Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV (her personal blog) as well as on The B Zine.

Naomi conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com.

Naomi says, “When not actually writing, I am researching the world with my long-suffering husband and our two kids, or outside editing my garden. My novel, The Keeper of the Crystal Spring (Viking Penguin), can be read in English, German, Spanish, and Italian. My storytelling anthology, Apples From Heaven, garnered four national awards, including the Anne Izard Storytellers’ Choice. I am currently working on a contemporary women’s novel.”


JAMES COWLES (Beguine Again) is a weekly contributing author to Beguin Again. Married to Diane for 32 years, no kids. I retired in 2010 after 30+ years as, at various times, an engineer, software developer, and software development manager with the Boeing Co. Diane works as a librarian at the Beacon Hill Branch of the Seattle Public Library system.

I have a master’s in math from Wichita State University, a master’s in physics as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow from Tulane, a master’s in English literature from Tufts by way of Harvard and, as a Council of Europe Fellow, Oxford (Exeter College … same Oxford college as JRR Tolkien), and a master’s in theology (MAPS) from Seattle Univ.

My main current interest is constitutional history and theories of constitutional interpretation (my area of specialization at Tufts / Harvard / Oxford was postmodernist / deconstructionist interpretation theory). I’m currently auditing a class in advanced constitutional law at the UW law school, and plan to audit another class on the First Amendment next quarter, plus take a Coursera non-credit course in “con law” from one of my heroes Prof. Akhil Amar at Yale Law early in ’14. I am a “born-again” skeptic / atheist / agnostic (depending on what I ate for breakfast on any given morning) and equally “born-again” progressive who believes that anchorman Will McAvoy’s rant against the Tea Party as the “American Taliban” in the first episode of “The Newsroom” — which, if you don’t watch, you should — was far too charitable to the Tea Party and an insult to the Taliban, who are much more enlightened than, e.g., Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann.

I believe that the “minimal state” as advocated in Robert Nozick’s “Anarchy, State, and Utopia” is a fine goal — but only for “minimal people”. I also believe the greatest threat to America’s tradition of ordered liberty under the US Constitution is the Christian fascism of the religious right, and the 2nd greatest danger to that tradition is the unintentional, in fact, almost knee-jerk, nurturing of Christian fascism on the part of progressives in the name of “tolerance” (see Sam Harris’s remarks on same early in “The End of Faith”). The latter group, especially, would do well to read John Milton’s great defense of freedom of speech and press, “Areopagitica”, with careful attention to what Milton says about the moral limits of tolerance.


JAMIE DEDES: Passed away in 2020. She was an accomplished Lebanese-American writer of fiction, nonfiction and poetry. She was a content editor, and blogger, the founding and managing editor of The BeZine, manager of its associated activities and curator of the The Poet by Day jamiededes.com, an info hub for writers meant to encourage outstanding but lesser-known poets, women and minority poets, outsider artists, and artists just finding their voices in maturity. The Poet by Day was dedicated to supporting freedom of artistic expression and human rights, as is The BeZine as we continue in her memory. See posts Remembering Jamie.


SUE DREAMWALKER, emerita, says, “I am just an ordinary woman, who stumbled across blogging  in 2007 and thought to use it to enlighten people a little, to share my thoughts through my writings, poem and art. Having gone through my own experiences of depression, a break-down, and dark days of despair back in the 90’s. My Health was also in shreds, I had Fibromyalgia, among other things, so I set about self healing, using affirmations, meditation and Qi Gong.. Beginning with Louise Hays, You Can Heal Your Life Book; I set about changing my life from one of working in textiles and training for 28 years, to becoming a Support Worker, working with adults with learning difficulties, such as Autism, Down Syndrome and Asperger’s , To Mental health Support enabling individuals to integrate back into the community. Which I did for 11 yrs prior to my retirement   I now   spend time helping my husband on our allotment plot, and growing our own food. Between looking after our granddaughter, I enjoy writing poetry, short stories for my own pleasure,  knitting, sewing, while learning to play the guitar ( Not very well ) but trying.


PRISCILLA GALASSO, emerita, (scillagrace.com), Contributing Editor of The BeZine, started her personal blog to mark the beginning of her fiftieth year. Born to summer and given a name that means ‘ancient’, her travel through seasons of time and landscape has inspired her to create visual and verbal souvenirs of her journey.  From personal exploration to designated wilderness areas, her discoveries inform and shape integrated engagement with our wonderful world.

Currently, Priscilla lives in Wisconsin. She considers herself a lifelong learner and educator. She works part time as the Administrative Assistant at Cedar Lakes Conservation Foundation and runs a business (Scholar & Poet Books, via eBay and ABE Books) with her partner, Steve.


JOSEPH HESCH (A Thing for Words)  is a writer and poet from Albany, New York. His work appears or is forthcoming in over a dozen venues, including Cossack Review, Frontier Tales Magazine, Pine Hills Review, the 2017 Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Anthology, as well as the anthologies Petrichor Rising and For the Love of Christmas. His poetry collections, “Penumbra: The Space Between” and “One Hundred Beats a Minute” are available on Amazon.com. He’s currently working on his first collection of stories, all based on his fascination with the American frontier, whether it’s upstate New York in the 17th and 18th Centuries or the Nebraska plains and Arizona deserts of the 19th. You can visit him at his blog A Thing for Words.  He can be found on Twitter at @JAHesch and his Amazon page is Joseph Hesch, Poet and Writer.


RUTH JEWELL (A Quiet Walk and Beguine Again) is a weekly contributing author and site administrator to Begine Again. Ruth Jewell recently received her Masters of Divinity from Seattle University, School of Theology and Ministry.  Ruth is currently in-care at Queen Anne Christian Church in preparation for possible ordination in the tradition of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). She is a board member and volunteer for the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition, which serves youth in criminal detention.

Ruth has a long personal history of contemplative spiritual practices, which have been instrumental in much of her own discernment process. She hopes to pass on her love of sitting with the Holy Spirit.


CHARLES W. MARTIN (Reading Between the Minds) earned his Ph.D. in Speech and Language Pathology with an emphasis in statistics. Throughout Charlie’s career, he maintained a devotion to the arts (literature/poetry, the theater, music and photography). Upon retirement in 2010, he turned his full attention to poetry and photography.

Charlie publishes a poem and a photographic art piece each day at Read Between the Minds, Poetry, Photograph and Random Thoughts of Life. He is noted as a poet of social conscience.  He has self-published a book of poetry collections entitled The Hawk Chronicles A Bea in Your Bonnet: First Sting, featuring the renown Aunt Bea. In The Hawk Chronicles, Charlie provides a personification of his resident hawk with poems and photos taken over a two-year period. Charlie’s joint venture, When Spirits Touch, Dual Poetry, a collaboration with River Urke, is available through Amazon as are all his books.


LILIANA NEGOI, emerita,  (Endless Journey and in Romanian curcubee în alb şi negru)  is the author of three published volumes of poetry in English, which is not her mother tongue but one that she came to love especially because of writing: Sands and Shadows, Footsteps on the San – tanka collection and The Hidden Well.  The last one can also be heard in audio version, read by the Lilliana herself on her SoundCloud site HERE.

Liliana is also the author of a novel, Solo-Chess, available for free reading HERE. Many of her creations, both poetry and prose, are published in various literary magazines.


LANA PHILLIPS (Beguine Again) is a writer who lives in one of the most beautiful places in the world, the mountains of North Carolina. Poverty is real here too. I see and live it every day.


DONNA PIERCE (Beguine Again) is a weekly contributing author for “Mindful Mondays” at Beguine Again.  Over the years, I’ve been a college textbook sales rep, a literacy education professor, a storeowner, a social service nonprofit founder, a stay-home mom, and the caregiver for my parents during the last few years of their lives.

My husband Larry and I recently celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary, and we have two daughters, one in college and one in high school. I engaged the spiritual practices of both Christianity and Buddhism, sometimes leaning more one way, sometimes the other. Christianity tends to guide my life in community, and Buddhism helps me live more easily with myself, though the reverse is true as well.


COLIN JON david STEWART is a transman who identifies as asexual.  He is nineteen and would like to study the intersection of gender and queer studies with regard to linguistics.  He is facinated with language and has written at leas a novel a year since he was thirteen years old.  His hobbies are staff, fire spinning, music and writing.


KENNEDY STEWART is a contributor and manager to the Twitter and Facebook versions @cloakedmonk and Facebook.com/CloakedMonk.


TERRI STEWART (Bequine Again* and The Bardo Group Beguines), resident Cannoness of The Bardo Group Beguines. I am a monk disguised as a passionate prophet. My true loves are God, family, and the creative arts. And maybe just a little bit of politics too.  I come from an eclectic background and consider myself to be grounded in contemplation and justice as embodied in the United Methodist tradition.

I am the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition, which serves youth affected by incarceration.

As a graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, I earned my Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction. I am a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual.

My online avatar is “Cloaked Monk.” This speaks to my grounding in contemplative practices and the need to live it out in the world. The cloak is the disguise of normalcy as I advocate for justice and peace. You can find me here or at http://www.twitter.com/cloakedmonk. To reach me for conversation, send a note to terri@cloakedmonk.com.

* Bequine Again is an interfaith effort offering spiritual support through inspirational posts, daily spiritual practice and prayer, and community. Beguine Again and The BeZine are affilated sites.


MICHAEL WATSON, M.A., Ph.D., LCMHC (Dreaming the World)  is a contributing editor to The BeZine, an essayist and a practitioner of the Shamanic arts, psychotherapist, educator and artist of Native American and European descent.

Michael lives and works in Burlington, Vermont, where he recently retired from his teaching position in undergraduate and graduate programs at Burlington College. He was once Dean of Students there.  He also had wonderful experiences teaching in India and Hong Kong, which are documented on his blog.  In childhood Michael had polio, an event that taught him much about challenge, struggle, isolation, and healing.


STEVE WIENCEK (forthelastwolverine) is “an iconoclast, Taoist, philosopher and mensch who promotes and celebrates language that opens up the world rather than language that pins it down. Get outside yourself. Be the joy in change and movement.”


Summer 2020

Ultimately, talking points preserve narratives seeking to keep the status quo or create a reality that aligns with the person’s ideology or personal needs.

Marshall Shepherd
3 Common Things In Race, Coronavirus And Climate Change Debates, Forbes, June 12 2020

We want to start this introduction to the SustainABILITY issue of The BeZine with a pause and breath.

Go ahead, breathe in deeply. This is both calming and symbolic of the interrelated crises of humanity at this time.

Three huge, potentially shattering issues loom large today, what commentator Elizabeth Sawin, Co-Director of the nonprofit Climate Interactive calls “three massive threats”:

Climate Change, COVID-19, Racism
a sustainABILITY pastiche


Climate Change

Climate change concerns the atmosphere and excessive carbon.

Breathe in again, deeply. Breathe out.

That exhalation, as you probably know, is CO2, carbon dioxide. We breathe the atmosphere.

And, as we pollute it, we poison our own breaths through industry, fossil fuels, factory farming, and other human activity. We poison the globe. And as climate change continues its charge ahead in leaps and bounds, it will be increasingly difficult for us to breathe, literally.

Climate Change hits much more than White areas in what Hop Hopkins (“Racism is Killing the Planet,” Sierra Club) calls the “Sacrifice Zones,” where White Supremacy’s “Disposable People” live. The 1% remain more secure and protected.

Have you tried to breathe when the temperatures go above body temperature (37C / 98.6F)? Imagine what it must be like for those locations that have had recent record-breaking temperatures of around 50C / 122F?

Where do you think waste is dumped? Where are polluting industries and power plants built? Who lives in areas that risk their health the most? Certainly not those with money, status, and power in societies.

How long can we continue this way? Are we able to find a path to sustain life on earth (human and otherwise)? That is the goal—sustainABILITY.


From Climate to Pandemic

What we should fear now is a perfect storm: a health, economic and mental health crisis. —Slavoj Zizek (Slavoj Zizek’s ‘Brutal, Dark’ Formula for Saving the World, Haaretz interview, 04 June 2020)

According to a 2015 study published in PNAS, a 30,000 year old virus was found in the permafrost of the Arctic, raising concern that rising temperatures could lead to the rise of deadly, archaic illnesses. —cited in Science Alert (Melting Glaciers Are Revealing Dead Bodies And Ancient Diseases, 23 March 2019).

The economic problems will compel those in power to take actions that before this crisis appeared to be radically leftist measures. Even conservatives are having to do things that run against their principles. —Slavoj Zizek (Slavoj Zizek’s ‘Brutal, Dark’ Formula for Saving the World, Haaretz interview, 04 June 2020)

Climate conditions are classified as top predictors of coronavirus illnesses (Dalziel et al., 2018) as wind speed, humidity, temperature and wind speed are critical in the transmission of infectious diseases (Yuan et al., 2006). Bull (1980) reported that pneumonia’s mortality rate is highly correlated with weather changes. —cited in Correlation between climate indicators and COVID-19 pandemic in New York, USA, (Science Direct 20 April 2020)

Higher temperatures and respiratory problems are also linked. One reason is because higher temperatures contribute to the build-up of harmful air pollutants. —U.S. CDC and American Public Health Association (Extreme Heat Can Affect our Health)


COVID-19

COVID-19 blocks our lungs. It literally stops us from breathing. Yes, also organ damage, including heart problems. But it stops our breath, in a world-wide pandemic. Like the global crisis of climate change will, eventually, stop our breath.

There will be more pandemics with continued Global Warming. There will be more disruption, economic loss, social unrest, and all of the things we have seen so far in this pandemic.

Will we avoid the next pandemic? Could a 30,000 year-old virus, or a 150 year-old virus revive to attack? If so, who will have our back? The government?

How will we be able to sustain human and other life on earth if we continue on this path? Will we build a sustainABLE future for our children, our grandchildren? Ourselves?

In the US, even the current CDC admits that COVID-19 has hit POC and Indigenous Peoples, especially African Americans, harder than White people. The 1% remain more secure and protected.


From Pandemic to Race

The effects of COVID-19 on the health of racial and ethnic minority groups is still emerging; however, current data suggest a disproportionate burden of illness and death among racial and ethnic minority groups. —US CDC (COVID-19 in Racial and Ethnic Minority Groups page last reviewed on by CDC June 4 2020)

Robert D. Bullard is a professor at Texas Southern University who has written for more than 30 years about the need to redress environmental racism. He welcomed the statements of support this week from the leaders of big environmental groups but he lamented that the vast amount of donor money still goes to white-led environmental groups.

“I’d like to see these groups start to embrace this whole concept of justice, fairness and equity,” he said. “Those statements need to be followed up with a concerted effort to address the underlying conditions that make for despair.”
—(Black Environmentalists Talk About Climate and Anti-Racism, NYTimes, June 2, 2020)

It’s essential to have anti-racism baked into the goals that even white-led organizations are pursuing because both political racism and environmental racism are drivers of our excess pollution and climate denialism. —Heather McGhee, senior fellow at Demos, a nonpartisan research and advocacy group, and the author of a forthcoming book called The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together (cited in Black Environmentalists Talk About Climate and Anti-Racism, NYTimes, June 2, 2020)

Police violence is an aspect of a broader pattern of structural violence, which the climate crisis is a manifestation of. Healing structural violence is actually in the best interest of all human beings. —Sam Grant, executive director of MN350.org, the Minnesota affiliate of the international climate activist group 350.org (cited in Black Environmentalists Talk About Climate and Anti-Racism, NYTimes, June 2, 2020)


Anti-Racism

Racism has come to the fore with the anti-racist, anti-police-brutality protests and riots since the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. His quoted last words, echoing those of Eric Garner (murdered by police in New York City six years ago): “I can’t breathe.” Protest signs and chants have repeated this phrase thousands of times since last month.

George Floyd, a Black man suspected of passing a counterfeit $20, was strangled by a police officer kneeling on his neck for nearly 9 minutes. Eric Garner, a Black man selling loose cigarettes, was strangled by police using a “choke hold.” The 1% remain totally secure and protected.

Structural, systemic racism is an integral part of our extraction economy, according to Hop Hopkins, writing for The Sierra Club. It keeps those in power in power by dividing us against each other—so that the 1% (or 3% or 5% or 10%) can keep in power and grow their wealth. It is built into not only the U.S, but Western Society.

Hopkins writes:

Devaluing Black and Indigenous people’s lives to build wealth for white communities isn’t new. White settlers began that project in the 15th century, when they arrived in North America. Most Native peoples of North America lived in regenerative relationships with the land; they were careful to take no more than the land could sustain. The settlers had another ethic: They sought to dominate and control. —Hop Hopkins (Sierra Club, Racism is Killing the Planet, June 8, 2020)


From “Three Massive Threats” to SustainABILITY

One of the most baffling things throughout the coronavirus pandemic is that even with a life-threatening global pandemic, sides emerged. At the beginning of the pandemic, I remember thinking that this threat to humanity would unify us and strengthen public trust in science. Boy was I wrong. The economic realities of the pandemic, cries of “just the flu”, and protests against social distancing policies tell a different and complex story. —Marshall Shepherd (3 Common Things In Race, Coronavirus And Climate Change Debates, Forbes, June 12 2020)

I wish I had all the answers, but I don’t. The answer is for all of us to figure out together.

All I know is that if climate change and environmental injustice are the result of a society that values some lives and not others, then none of us are safe from pollution until all of us are safe from pollution. Dirty air doesn’t stop at the county line, and carbon pollution doesn’t respect national borders. As long as we keep letting the polluters sacrifice Black and brown communities, we can’t protect our shared global climate. —Hop Hopkins (Sierra Club, Racism is Killing the Planet, June 8, 2020)

Today we face threemassive threats, and the only way to neutralize any one of them is to succeed at addressing all three at once.…

…we must as soon as possible – in our cities, states and nations – convene emergency task forces to tackle equity, the pandemic and climate change as an integrated whole.

These task forces will need expertise in climate, clean energy, equity, public health, epidemiology and people-centered economics. Each task force should include an additional kind of expertise: the life experience of those who are most impacted by inequity, climate change and COVID-19. Those who live with the impacts of multiple problems often have the most creative ideas about addressing them.

Time and money are in short supply. There isn’t enough of either to treat equity, climate change and the current pandemic as separate issues. A holistic, multisolving approach is an effective, cost-saving way to tackle the great challenges of our times. —Elizabeth Sawin (US News & World Report, Commentary, Why We Can’t Ignore the Link Between COVID-19, Climate Change and Inequity, April 1, 2020)


The June Theme of The BeZine: SustainABILITY

We can’t wait. The time to act is now.

We may want to say, “God save us.” But we have free will, so it is up to us to move forward and make the change, so that we are ABLE to sustain the earth.

Then, perhaps 100% of humans (and other life) would be more secure and protected.

—Michael Dickel, Co-Managing Editor

Much thanks to Michael Dickel for stunning and exhaustive editorial collaboration and technical innovations on this issue, to the whole of the Zine team for stalwart efforts and supports, to our readers and supporters who share our peaceable values, and to Margaret Shaw for the wonderful header-art gracing this edition of the Zine.

In the spirit of love (respect) and community and on behalf of The Bardo Group Beguines,

—Jamie Dedes, Founding Editor and Co-Managing Editor

Given the scope and magnitude of this sudden crisis [the COVID-19 pandemic], and the long shadow it will cast, can the world afford to pay attention to climate change and the broader sustainability agenda at this time? Our firm belief is that we simply cannot afford to do otherwise.

McKinsey & Co., April 7, 2020
Addressing climate change in a post-pandemic world

Table of Contents

Poetry

“Earth care, as it turns out, is really about self-care and other-care. What we design today impacts how we live tomorrow. For better or for worse, it impacts far into upcoming generations.”

—L.L. Barkat, Earth to Poetry: A 30-Days, 30-Poems Earth, Self, and Other Care Challenge

Dreaming—Poems, Mike Stone
Three Haikus, Irma Do
Cento, Eric Nicholson
A Walk in the Park, Eric Nicholson
Let Freedom Ring, An Anti-Deterministic Poem, Linda Chowen
Do We Need To?, Munia Khan
The Veggie Lady, Adrian Slonakar
One Sky, One Earth, Ambily Omanakuttan
Tread Softly, Irene Emanuel
Tomorrow’s Question, John R. Ehrenfeeld
creatures today, Connor Orrico
Nature We Failed, Wayne Russell
Three Poems, Shoko Cosmas
A Series of Haikus, Chris Northrop
rootes in solide erthe & 2 other poems, Dennis Formento
Côte-Nord, Candice O’Grady
Daylighting, Candice O’Grady
Migration, Candice O’Grady

Essays

“All the human and animal manure which the world wastes, if returned to the land, instead of being thrown into the sea, would suffice to nourish the world.”

—Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

World’s End or World Without End, Corina Ravenscraft
Clothing Production for a Sustainable Earth, John Anstie

Folktale

“The main thing, Ruby said, was not to get ahead of yourself. Go at a rhythm that could be sustained on and on. Do just as much as you could do and still be able to get up and do again tomorrow. No more, and no less.”

                     —Charles Frazier, Cold Mountain

In Your Hands, Margaret Read MacDonald

Fiction

“The environmental movement of the 21st century created a new path to sustainability for cities, the path of wilderness.”

        —Archimedes Muzenda,  Dystopia: How The Tyranny of Specialists Destroy African Cities

Accepting Adversity, A Fable, Anjum Wasim Dar
The Virus of Reason and Fear, A Fable, Anjum Wasim Dar
On a Palm Leaf, Allen Ashley
Soul Searching, Riley Simmons

Art / Photography

“In the end, the term ‘circularity’ may just be one way to make us aware that we need a more encompassing, integrated and restorative sustainability path that includes people as much as technology and nature.”

                                               —Michiel Schwarz  A Sustainist Lexicon

Imagined Futures, Images, Noelle Richard
Habitat Loss, Eric Nicholson

“..despite myriad differences in beliefs and value systems, people have the capacity to acknowledge that the one constant across the board is the Earth. Her health is our health. Her life is our life.”

                     —Heidi Barr, Woodland Manitou: To Be on Earth

News

Austrailia’s Failure to Protect Great Barrier Reef Prompts Demand for UN Action

Video

WE ARE NATURE, Considerations on the Antropocene

Sierra Club Op-Ed

Sierra Club Op-Ed: Racism is Killing the Planet

We need to stop thinking through a capitalist prism. I don’t agree with those who claim that now is no time for politics, that we should just mobilize to survive these dangers. No! Now is a great time for politics, because the world in its current form is disappearing. Scientists will just tell us, ‘If you want to play it safe, keep this level of quarantine,’ or whatever. But we have a political decision to make, and we are offered different options.

Slavoj Zizek
Haaretz interview, 04 June 2020
Slavoj Zizek’s ‘Brutal, Dark’ Formula for Saving the World


The BeZine: Be Inspired, Be Creative, Be Peace, Be 

Daily Spiritual Practice: Beguine Again, a community of Like-Minded People

Facebook

Twitter, The Bardo Group Beguines

SUBMISSIONS:

Read Info/Mission StatementSubmission Guidelines, and at least one issue before you submit. Updates on Calls for Submissions and other activities are posted on the Zine blog and The Poet by Day.



 

Posted in The BeZine, The BeZine Table of Contents

The BeZine, Vol. 7, Issue 2, June 2020, SustainABILITY

Ultimately, talking points preserve narratives seeking to keep the status quo or create a reality that aligns with the person’s ideology or personal needs.

Marshall Shepherd
3 Common Things In Race, Coronavirus And Climate Change Debates, Forbes, June 12 2020

We want to start this introduction to the SustainABILITY issue of The BeZine with a pause and breath.

Go ahead, breathe in deeply. This is both calming and symbolic of the interrelated crises of humanity at this time.

Three huge, potentially shattering issues loom large today, what commentator Elizabeth Sawin, Co-Director of the nonprofit Climate Interactive calls “three massive threats”:

Climate Change, COVID-19, Racism
a sustainABILITY pastiche


Climate Change

Climate change concerns the atmosphere and excessive carbon.

Breathe in again, deeply. Breathe out.

That exhalation, as you probably know, is CO2, carbon dioxide. We breathe the atmosphere.

And, as we pollute it, we poison our own breaths through industry, fossil fuels, factory farming, and other human activity. We poison the globe. And as climate change continues its charge ahead in leaps and bounds, it will be increasingly difficult for us to breathe, literally.

Climate Change hits much more than White areas in what Hop Hopkins (“Racism is Killing the Planet,” Sierra Club) calls the “Sacrifice Zones,” where White Supremacy’s “Disposable People” live. The 1% remain more secure and protected.

Have you tried to breathe when the temperatures go above body temperature (37C / 98.6F)? Imagine what it must be like for those locations that have had recent record-breaking temperatures of around 50C / 122F?

Where do you think waste is dumped? Where are polluting industries and power plants built? Who lives in areas that risk their health the most? Certainly not those with money, status, and power in societies.

How long can we continue this way? Are we able to find a path to sustain life on earth (human and otherwise)? That is the goal—sustainABILITY.


From Climate to Pandemic

What we should fear now is a perfect storm: a health, economic and mental health crisis. —Slavoj Zizek (Slavoj Zizek’s ‘Brutal, Dark’ Formula for Saving the World, Haaretz interview, 04 June 2020)

According to a 2015 study published in PNAS, a 30,000 year old virus was found in the permafrost of the Arctic, raising concern that rising temperatures could lead to the rise of deadly, archaic illnesses. —cited in Science Alert (Melting Glaciers Are Revealing Dead Bodies And Ancient Diseases, 23 March 2019).

The economic problems will compel those in power to take actions that before this crisis appeared to be radically leftist measures. Even conservatives are having to do things that run against their principles. —Slavoj Zizek (Slavoj Zizek’s ‘Brutal, Dark’ Formula for Saving the World, Haaretz interview, 04 June 2020)

Climate conditions are classified as top predictors of coronavirus illnesses (Dalziel et al., 2018) as wind speed, humidity, temperature and wind speed are critical in the transmission of infectious diseases (Yuan et al., 2006). Bull (1980) reported that pneumonia’s mortality rate is highly correlated with weather changes. —cited in Correlation between climate indicators and COVID-19 pandemic in New York, USA, (Science Direct 20 April 2020)

Higher temperatures and respiratory problems are also linked. One reason is because higher temperatures contribute to the build-up of harmful air pollutants. —U.S. CDC and American Public Health Association (Extreme Heat Can Affect our Health)


COVID-19

COVID-19 blocks our lungs. It literally stops us from breathing. Yes, also organ damage, including heart problems. But it stops our breath, in a world-wide pandemic. Like the global crisis of climate change will, eventually, stop our breath.

There will be more pandemics with continued Global Warming. There will be more disruption, economic loss, social unrest, and all of the things we have seen so far in this pandemic.

Will we avoid the next pandemic? Could a 30,000 year-old virus, or a 150 year-old virus revive to attack? If so, who will have our back? The government?

How will we be able to sustain human and other life on earth if we continue on this path? Will we build a sustainABLE future for our children, our grandchildren? Ourselves?

In the US, even the current CDC admits that COVID-19 has hit POC and Indigenous Peoples, especially African Americans, harder than White people. The 1% remain more secure and protected.


From Pandemic to Race

The effects of COVID-19 on the health of racial and ethnic minority groups is still emerging; however, current data suggest a disproportionate burden of illness and death among racial and ethnic minority groups. —US CDC (COVID-19 in Racial and Ethnic Minority Groups page last reviewed on by CDC June 4 2020)

Robert D. Bullard is a professor at Texas Southern University who has written for more than 30 years about the need to redress environmental racism. He welcomed the statements of support this week from the leaders of big environmental groups but he lamented that the vast amount of donor money still goes to white-led environmental groups.

“I’d like to see these groups start to embrace this whole concept of justice, fairness and equity,” he said. “Those statements need to be followed up with a concerted effort to address the underlying conditions that make for despair.”
—(Black Environmentalists Talk About Climate and Anti-Racism, NYTimes, June 2, 2020)

It’s essential to have anti-racism baked into the goals that even white-led organizations are pursuing because both political racism and environmental racism are drivers of our excess pollution and climate denialism. —Heather McGhee, senior fellow at Demos, a nonpartisan research and advocacy group, and the author of a forthcoming book called The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together (cited in Black Environmentalists Talk About Climate and Anti-Racism, NYTimes, June 2, 2020)

Police violence is an aspect of a broader pattern of structural violence, which the climate crisis is a manifestation of. Healing structural violence is actually in the best interest of all human beings. —Sam Grant, executive director of MN350.org, the Minnesota affiliate of the international climate activist group 350.org (cited in Black Environmentalists Talk About Climate and Anti-Racism, NYTimes, June 2, 2020)


Anti-Racism

Racism has come to the fore with the anti-racist, anti-police-brutality protests and riots since the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. His quoted last words, echoing those of Eric Garner (murdered by police in New York City six years ago): “I can’t breathe.” Protest signs and chants have repeated this phrase thousands of times since last month.

George Floyd, a Black man suspected of passing a counterfeit $20, was strangled by a police officer kneeling on his neck for nearly 9 minutes. Eric Garner, a Black man selling loose cigarettes, was strangled by police using a “choke hold.” The 1% remain totally secure and protected.

Structural, systemic racism is an integral part of our extraction economy, according to Hop Hopkins, writing for The Sierra Club. It keeps those in power in power by dividing us against each other—so that the 1% (or 3% or 5% or 10%) can keep in power and grow their wealth. It is built into not only the U.S, but Western Society.

Hopkins writes:

Devaluing Black and Indigenous people’s lives to build wealth for white communities isn’t new. White settlers began that project in the 15th century, when they arrived in North America. Most Native peoples of North America lived in regenerative relationships with the land; they were careful to take no more than the land could sustain. The settlers had another ethic: They sought to dominate and control. —Hop Hopkins (Sierra Club, Racism is Killing the Planet, June 8, 2020)


From “Three Massive Threats” to SustainABILITY

One of the most baffling things throughout the coronavirus pandemic is that even with a life-threatening global pandemic, sides emerged. At the beginning of the pandemic, I remember thinking that this threat to humanity would unify us and strengthen public trust in science. Boy was I wrong. The economic realities of the pandemic, cries of “just the flu”, and protests against social distancing policies tell a different and complex story. —Marshall Shepherd (3 Common Things In Race, Coronavirus And Climate Change Debates, Forbes, June 12 2020)

I wish I had all the answers, but I don’t. The answer is for all of us to figure out together.

All I know is that if climate change and environmental injustice are the result of a society that values some lives and not others, then none of us are safe from pollution until all of us are safe from pollution. Dirty air doesn’t stop at the county line, and carbon pollution doesn’t respect national borders. As long as we keep letting the polluters sacrifice Black and brown communities, we can’t protect our shared global climate. —Hop Hopkins (Sierra Club, Racism is Killing the Planet, June 8, 2020)

Today we face threemassive threats, and the only way to neutralize any one of them is to succeed at addressing all three at once.…

…we must as soon as possible – in our cities, states and nations – convene emergency task forces to tackle equity, the pandemic and climate change as an integrated whole.

These task forces will need expertise in climate, clean energy, equity, public health, epidemiology and people-centered economics. Each task force should include an additional kind of expertise: the life experience of those who are most impacted by inequity, climate change and COVID-19. Those who live with the impacts of multiple problems often have the most creative ideas about addressing them.

Time and money are in short supply. There isn’t enough of either to treat equity, climate change and the current pandemic as separate issues. A holistic, multisolving approach is an effective, cost-saving way to tackle the great challenges of our times. —Elizabeth Sawin (US News & World Report, Commentary, Why We Can’t Ignore the Link Between COVID-19, Climate Change and Inequity, April 1, 2020)


The June Theme of The BeZine: SustainABILITY

We can’t wait. The time to act is now.

We may want to say, “God save us.” But we have free will, so it is up to us to move forward and make the change, so that we are ABLE to sustain the earth.

Then, perhaps 100% of humans (and other life) would be more secure and protected.

—Michael Dickel, Co-Managing Editor

Much thanks to Michael Dickel for stunning and exhaustive editorial collaboration and technical innovations on this issue, to the whole of the Zine team for stalwart efforts and supports, to our readers and supporters who share our peaceable values, and to Margaret Shaw for the wonderful header-art gracing this edition of the Zine.

In the spirit of love (respect) and community and on behalf of The Bardo Group Beguines,

—Jamie Dedes, Founding Editor and Co-Managing Editor

Given the scope and magnitude of this sudden crisis [the COVID-19 pandemic], and the long shadow it will cast, can the world afford to pay attention to climate change and the broader sustainability agenda at this time? Our firm belief is that we simply cannot afford to do otherwise.

McKinsey & Co., April 7, 2020
Addressing climate change in a post-pandemic world

Table of Contents

Poetry

“Earth care, as it turns out, is really about self-care and other-care. What we design today impacts how we live tomorrow. For better or for worse, it impacts far into upcoming generations.”
L.L. Barkat
Earth to Poetry: A 30-Days, 30-Poems Earth, Self, and Other Care Challenge

Dreaming—Poems, Mike Stone
Three Haikus, Irma Do
Cento, Eric Nicholson
A Walk in the Park, Eric Nicholson
Let Freedom Ring, An Anti-Deterministic Poem, Linda Chowen
Do We Need To?, Munia Khan
The Veggie Lady, Adrian Slonakar
One Sky, One Earth, Ambily Omanakuttan
Tread Softly, Irene Emanuel
Tomorrow’s Question, John R. Ehrenfeeld
creatures today, Connor Orrico
Nature We Failed, Wayne Russell
Three Poems, Shoko Cosmas
A Series of Haikus, Chris Northrop
rootes in solide erthe & 2 other poems, Dennis Formento
Côte-Nord, Candice O’Grady
Daylighting, Candice O’Grady
Migration, Candice O’Grady

Essays

“All the human and animal manure which the world wastes, if returned to the land, instead of being thrown into the sea, would suffice to nourish the world.”
                     —Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

World’s End or World Without End, Corina Ravenscraft
Clothing Production for a Sustainable Earth, John Anstie

Folktale

“The main thing, Ruby said, was not to get ahead of yourself. Go at a rhythm that could be sustained on and on. Do just as much as you could do and still be able to get up and do again tomorrow. No more, and no less.”
                     —Charles Frazier, Cold Mountain

In Your Hands, Margaret Read MacDonald

Fiction

“The environmental movement of the 21st century created a new path to sustainability for cities, the path of wilderness.”
                     —Archimedes Muzenda,
                     Dystopia: How The Tyranny of Specialists Destroy African Cities

Accepting Adversity, A Fable, Anjum Wasim Dar
The Virus of Reason and Fear, A Fable, Anjum Wasim Dar
On a Palm Leaf, Allen Ashley
Soul Searching, Riley Simmons

Art / Photography

“In the end, the term ‘circularity’ may just be one way to make us aware that we need a more encompassing, integrated and restorative sustainability path that includes people as much as technology and nature.”
                                                   —Michiel Schwarz
                     
A Sustainist Lexicon

Imagined Futures, Images, Noelle Richard
Habitat Loss, Eric Nicholson

“..despite myriad differences in beliefs and value systems, people have the capacity to acknowledge that the one constant across the board is the Earth. Her health is our health. Her life is our life.”
                     —Heidi Barr, Woodland Manitou: To Be on Earth

News

Austrailia’s Failure to Protect Great Barrier Reef Prompts Demand for UN Action

Video

WE ARE NATURE, Considerations on the Antropocene

Sierra Club Op-Ed

Sierra Club Op-Ed: Racism is Killing the Planet

We need to stop thinking through a capitalist prism. I don’t agree with those who claim that now is no time for politics, that we should just mobilize to survive these dangers. No! Now is a great time for politics, because the world in its current form is disappearing. Scientists will just tell us, ‘If you want to play it safe, keep this level of quarantine,’ or whatever. But we have a political decision to make, and we are offered different options.

Slavoj Zizek
Haaretz interview, 04 June 2020
Slavoj Zizek’s ‘Brutal, Dark’ Formula for Saving the World


The BeZine: Be Inspired, Be Creative, Be Peace, Be 

Daily Spiritual Practice: Beguine Again, a community of Like-Minded People

Facebook

Twitter, The Bardo Group Beguines

SUBMISSIONS:

Read Info/Mission StatementSubmission Guidelines, and at least one issue before you submit. Updates on Calls for Submissions and other activities are posted on the Zine blog and The Poet by Day.



 

Posted in Environment/Deep Ecology/Climate Change, General Interest

“Partnering With Nature” Exhibition To Be Presented at the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Annual Meeting

spiral artworkDepartment of Seaweed: Living Archive, 2018–ongoing; Julia Lohmann (German, b. 1977), Violaine Buet (French, b. 1977) and Jon Lister (New Zealander, b. 1977); Seaweed and rattan; Dimensions variable; Photo: Pierre-Yves Dinasquet, Department of Seaweed.


Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum has announced that a special exhibition, “Partnering with Nature,” will be on view at the World Economic Forum’s 50th Annual Meeting, Jan. 21 through Jan. 24 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland. Drawing from the “Nature—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial” exhibition originally organized by Cooper Hewitt and Cube design museum, this adaptation is a collaboration between the Smithsonian and the World Economic Forum (WEF). This is the fourth year that the Smithsonian and the WEF have collaborated on bringing an exhibition to the Annual Meeting in Davos. Installed in the Congress Centre, the exhibition will be offered alongside panels, workshops and other sessions organized by the WEF that address the ecological crisis and the Forum’s major focus on sustainability.

“A global platform for design, Cooper Hewitt is delighted to once again collaborate with the World Economic Forum and highlight the power of design to address the most significant environmental issues of our time,” said Caroline Baumann, director of the museum. “Through this powerful, interactive exhibition, Cooper Hewitt will invite leaders to rethink our relationship to nature and jumpstart the dialogue on sustainability practices on an international scale.”

Four installations will encourage participants to play with natural elements, learn about the symbiotic relationships in nature and be inspired to imagine a more cohesive approach to working with nature.

The works on view include:

  • Department of Seaweed Prototyping Workshop, 2019–20. Founded by Julia Lohmann in 2013, the Department of Seaweed brings together experts in design, science and craft to experiment with the fabrication processes and material properties of seaweed and explore possible applications of this plentiful and renewable resource. For the installation at Davos, Lohmann will create a seaweed structure, Hidaka-Ohmu, and have available living seaweed and a display of hanging, dried seaweed to show the materials used in the craft process. Participants will work with seaweed in a workshop with Lohmann’s team.
  • Tree of 40 Fruit, 2008–ongoing. Artist Sam Van Aken collapses an orchard of fruit trees into a single tree using centuries-old grafting techniques. Van Aken worked with Fructus, the Swiss Association for the Protection of Fruit Heritage, to identify, collect and graft 40 apple varieties onto a 6-year-old tree. The varieties originated, are historically grown, or are important commercial varieties in Switzerland. Van Aken maps the tree grafts with hand-drawn sketches that are color-coded to each blossom’s season. Participants will be invited to try bench grafting—a technique where scionwood is grafted to root systems to create new trees.
  • Totomoxtle, 2017–ongoing. Totomoxtle means “corn husk” in the Nahuatl language and refers to the brilliantly colored veneers made from native Mexican corn by designer Fernando Laposse. Since 2017, Laposse has collaborated with farmers, agronomists and scientists to reintroduce native varieties of corn that were decimated by industrial farming. The initiative has led to local job growth, a resurgence of craft and food traditions, and restoration of indigenous farming practices. Participants will join in the completion of a mosaic.
  • Algae Platform, 2019–20. Developed by Atelier Luma, a think-tank, workshop and space for research, production and learning, the Algae Platform investigates the potential of algae as an alternative material to plastic with many possible applications in the architecture and design field. Algae is a globally renewable resource that is found in natural, urban and industrial landscapes, and can be 3-D printed into vessels and extruded into filaments for textiles.

Related programming includes presentations by the designers in the Hub, followed by hands-on workshops. On Jan. 21, the designers from the Algae Platform and the Department of Seaweed will share the creative process of turning unwanted natural materials into art and everyday objects. On Jan. 23, the artists behind the Tree of 40 Fruit and Totomoxtle will discuss what ancient agricultural techniques can teach people about caring for the land. Additional programming during the series includes a Design by Nature session, Jan. 24, featuring Baumann in conversation with Netherlands-based artist and innovator Daan Roosegaarde who explores breakthrough ideas that bring nature and humans together in a sustainable way.

About Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Cooper Hewitt is America’s design museum. Inclusive, innovative and experimental, the museum’s dynamic exhibitions, education programs, master’s program, publications and online resources inspire, educate and empower people through design. An integral part of the Smithsonian Institution—the world’s largest museum, education and research complex—Cooper Hewitt is located on New York City’s Museum Mile in the historic, landmark Carnegie Mansion. Steward of one of the world’s most diverse and comprehensive design collections—over 210,000 objects that range from an ancient Egyptian faience cup dating to about 1100 BC to contemporary 3-D-printed objects and digital code—Cooper Hewitt welcomes everyone to discover the importance of design and its power to change the world. Cooper Hewitt knits digital into experiences to enhance ideas, extend reach beyond museum walls and enable greater access, personalization, experimentation and connection. The museum is fully accessible.

For more information, visit www.cooperhewitt.org or follow @cooperhewitt on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

About The World Economic Forum

The World Economic Forum engages the foremost political, business, cultural and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas. The World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting brings together over 3,000 participants from governments, international organizations, business, civil society, media and culture from all over the world. The theme of the 50th annual meeting in Davos is Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World.

Four Poems by John Sullivan

Our Moments Clang

against each other,
clang & clang & fume
against the goad,
against the pain.
We shake it on up,
we boogie hard, like
end-a’-daze angels,
we boogie down
blind, all night long
despite the looming:
there’s always places
to go, places for being,
there’s always work
songs for singing
& our hearts, too,
need brave music,
as our moments clang
against each other,
clang & clang & fume
down any road, dressed
up to kill, stained
blood-red, always-
always ringing
in our ears.
Wounded shadows
of our singing

Angel of the Landfill

Origin is what this new angel seeks,
clawing through garbage for the
essence of what-hovers-over, the
germ-line of all storms.

Describing nothing, doing only
that action – playing strict to her
life, as chosen, maybe
just ordained.

She stops flat, frozen, smells
reek all around, rubs the faded
nubs just below her shoulders,
and asks the sky:

What have I traded my feet for?
Why?

Bird of Paradise

A Sufi, wigged and stiff inside
his unbroken dream, wakes up one
night and screams: Hey, we’re all
stuck inside this same fat dream.
See?

The world is a chest, we’re
locked down inside. See:
the lid is shut, it’s so dark,
and we give ourselves over
to scuffle, and to tears.
We allow: Go Crazy.

But if we give it over, instead,
to: “be notorious,” to swim against
that hard-chaw stream of plasma
wind whooshing off the sun, to go
peek-a-boo behind the moon, to
scream with joy inside the mad whorl

of a wild-wild river, if we unfurl before
the lid cracks, make a wing grow,
then another, if we groove the way
our first heart works its own pulse,
and same way shatter the grain of
the groove with the hammer of a

prayer of our own attention,
then: when death lifts the lid,
the ones with wings accelerate
and strobe, blow past this Zion
for, yet, at least, another Zion.
See?

The ones without wings stay
locked inside the chest.

First Contact?

point of first contact: a parking garage, well-lit,
clean-to-the-core, so much unlike home, a shiny
zone of creature comforts for whole congregations
of Porsche, BMW, Lexus, Tesla, turbo-this / turbo-that,
(perhaps) an occasional Lamborghini, and more

we don’t belong here but still must slog
through this terra incognita toward
our own low-slung, dogtown car-car.

then, we all hear it: plain and easy roll of rubber wheels
on concrete surface, smooth as frosting – closer
yet, it gets, that sound, until – mirabile dictu! –
it’s on us (perhaps): an R2D2-looking free-range droid
in patrol mode turns a corner, moves on from us
in parallel to us -like an invitation (perhaps) to play
or what?

and so, game on: I approach the droid

ignoring my cobbers and my own
internal self-improvement tape: “don’t you mess” –
I hear it say – “too much with what you do not know.”

the droid stops, its servos whir, its top
gently pivots on its middle

did I snag on a trip wire, tip off its perimeter defense net:
or what?

it moves closer to me, closer yet, then stops, again,
and stands right there: stolid, immobile, inward-looking,
or seeming-so, at least, (perhaps) even scheming-so?

Brother Droid – so I’m calling you –
or are you, indeed, my Sister?
Or both of you, together, all-at-once (perhaps)?
Or even something more I haven’t yet imagined?

Based on a Mullah Nasruddin Sufi tale

© 2019, John Sullivan 

JOHN SULLIVAN was an American College Theatre Festival Playwriting regional finalist, received the ‘Jack Kerouac Literary Prize,’ ‘Writers Voice: New Voices of the West’ award, AZ Arts Fellowships (Poetry & Playwriting), Artists Studio Center Fellowship, WESTAF Fellowship, was a featured playwright at Denver’s Changing Scene Summer Play (Changing Scene Theatre), and an Eco-Arts Performance Fellow from Earth Matters On Stage / University of Oregon. He was Artistic/Producing Director of Theater Degree Zero, and directed the Augusto Boal / Theatre of the Oppressed focused applied theatre wing at Seattle Public Theater. 

His work has been published in a variety of print and online venues including: Hayden’s Ferry Review, Black Bear Review, Argy-Bargy, Prose Kitchen, California Quarterly, The Lucid Stone, Oddball, OVS, Scarlet Leaf Review, Steel Toe Review, Squawk Back, Razor: a Literary Magazine, The BeZinePudding Magazine, Birds Piled LooselyMadness Muse PressHarbinger Asylum, Anti-Heroin ChicTumblewords: Writers Reading the West. John’s latest book, Bye-Bye No Fly Zone,has just been published by Weasel Press (Houston TX).

Posted in 100,000 Poets, Musicians, Artists and Activists for Change, 100TPC

Proposed 100,000 Poets for Change World Conference in Salerno, Italy – 2020

“Would you be interested in going to Salerno, Italy for a 100 Thousand Poets for Change World Conference if we held another gathering at the end of May in 2020? 4 days, workshops, party, reception, tours, poetry readings, tour Pompeii, Amalfi boat cruise…” Michael Rothenberg, 100,000 Poets for Change (100TPC) cofounder



In June of 2015, poets and other artists from all over the globe gathered in Salerno, Italy for their first 100,000 Poets for Change (100TPC) World Conference organized by 100TPC Cofounders Michael Rothenberg and Terri Carrión.  Michael is putting out feelers to see how much interest there would be in a another gathering to be held in 2020.  If this appeals to you, you can connect with Michael Rothenberg on Facebook HERE. Honestly, if I were able to travel, I’d be there faster than that fabled New York minute.

In 2015, I asked Michael Dickel (Meta/ Phor(e) /Play) who attended the first conference to pull together a report for The BeZine.  We’ve included it here. I think it might help you get a better idea of what to expect.  The report is below the following info on Michael Rothenberg, Terri Carrión, and 100TPC.

– Jamie Dedes

Photo courtesy of Giaros under CC BY-SA 3.0 license.


c Michael Rothenberg, Big Bridge Publishing

Michael Rothenberg is an American poet, songwriter, editor, and active environmentalist. Born inMiami Beach, Florida, Rothenberg received his Bachelor of Arts in English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Afterward, he moved to California in 1976, where he began “Shelldance Orchid Gardens”, an orchid and bromeliad nursery. In 2016, Rothenberg moved to Tallahassee, Florida. In 1993 he received his MA in Poetics at New College of California. In 1989, Rothenberg and artist Nancy Davis began Big Bridge Press, a fine print literary press, publishing works by Jim Harrison, Joanne Kyger, Allen Ginsberg, Philip Whalen and others. Rothenberg is editor of Big Bridge, a webzine of poetry. Rothenberg is also co-editor and co-founder of Jack Magazine.

Terri Carrion, Big Bridge Publishing

Terri Carrión earned her MFA at Florida International University in Miami, where she taught Freshman English and Creative Writing, edited and designed the graduate literary magazine Gulfstream, taught poetry to High School docents at the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami and started a reading series at the local Luna Star Café. In her final semester at FIU, she was Program Director for the Study Abroad Program, Creative Writing in Dublin, Ireland.poetry, fiction, non-fiction and photography has been published in many print magazines as well as online, including The Cream City Review, Hanging Loose, Pearl, Penumbra, Exquisite Corpse, Mangrove, Kick Ass Review, Exquisite Corpse, Jack, Mipoesia, Dead Drunk Dublin, and Physik Garden among others, including the recent anthology, Continent of Light. Her chapbook “Lazy Tongue” was published by D Press in the summer of 2007. A collaborative poem with Michael Rothenberg, “Cartographic Anomaly” was published in the anthology, Saints of Hysteria, A Half-Century of Collaborative American Poetry. Her most recent project is a collaboration with F.R Lavandeira and Loreto Riveiro on a trilingual Galician Anthology, (from Galician to Spanish to English)

“100 Thousand Poets for Change, or 100TPC, is an international grassroots educational organization focusing on the arts, especially poetry, music, and the literary arts. It was founded in 2011 by Michael Rothenberg and Terri Carrion, and focuses on a worldwide event each September.” Wikipedia MORE


MICHAEL DICKEL’S REPORT ON THE 2015 CONFERENCE

Salerno, il mio amore

100TPC World Conference Banner
100TPC World Conference Banner

Santa Sofia Complex, Salerno, Italy
Santa Sofia Complex, Salerno, Italy

Inside the Santa Sofia Complex
Inside the Santa Sofia Complex

June 3, 2015, the afternoon after I arrived in Salerno, Italy, I found my way up to the Santa Sofia Complex, an old church on a square with a fountain.The first 100-Thousand Poets for Change (100TPC) World Conference would begin with an opening reception in the evening. In the complex, I met Terri Carrion, one of the co-founders of 100TPC and co-organizer of the conference. She told me that her partner, Michael Rothenberg, was around the corner at a cafe meeting one of the writers who had just arrived from Macedonia.

Poets gathered at tables in a cafe, Salerno, Italy, 100TPC World Conference
Poets gathered at tables in a cafe, Salerno, Italy, 100TPC World Conference

After helping Terri and Valeriano Forté, a Salerno poet and 100TPC organizer, assemble some tables in our meeting room, I wandered down to the cafe. Several poets gathered at tables in excited conversation. Michael was with Mitko Gogov, the poet from Macedonia. Others were from the U.S., Mexico, Hungary, Germany (via the U.S. and Rome), Greece, Malaysia, and France. And this was just the beginning. All of the people at the cafe then I now count among new-found friends, along with many more that I met during the following week.

Aqueduct Salerno, Italy
Aqueduct
Salerno, Italy

Imagine, if you can, more than 80 poets from all over the world—every continent, 33 countries. Imagine poets from every generation, spoken-word artists, poets with books or no book, all come together to share the spirit of poet-activists, as 100TPC organizers. Now imagine us all talking about poetry, about arts and activism, women’s issues, oral versus print traditions, and organizing—with interpreters translating into Italian and English. That’s how our four conference days were (mostly) spent.

Alfonso Gatto Poem Detail from mural in Salerno
Alfonso Gatto Poem
Detail from mural in Salerno

Those were scheduled topics. Another one came up—artists’ international mobility. Several poets had their visa requests turned down by their home countries or Italy. So we rejoiced when three poets from Egypt finally received their visas at the last minute and arrived during the conference. Some who could not make it joined us virtually by posting to social media. For the next conference, we plan to be more prepared for this issue, and to have both advice and, if we can raise them, funds to assist people.

View of Salerno
View of Salerno

The days tended to serious dialogue on sustainability, peace and justice. The evenings (and a couple of afternoons) overflowed with poetry. Each evening, several poets read as “scheduled” readers, usually after dinner. Then came the open mic—which ranged from raucous readings to a quiet “campfire” around candles to a poetry walk from the complex to the sea. The open mic that I co-hosted with a poet living in Malaysia and a Ghanian poet was in a restaurant, the last reading of the conference.

Light and Shadow Along a Salerno Street
Light and Shadow
Along a Salerno Street

Street Art, Salerno
Street Art, Salerno

And what of Salerno? Salerno won our hearts—an old city with a castle overlooking it that once was ruled by a warrior-princess; the home of Alfonso Gatto, an Italian poet whose poetry appears in murals by contemporary artists all over the town via the Alfonso Gatto Foundation (a sponsor of the conference); a town nestled between mountains of alleyways, stone walls, beautiful squares and the sea; a song of bells, sea gulls, swallows; a haven for street artists and poets.

Arch and Tree Salerno, Italy
Arch and Tree
Salerno, Italy

The night following the end of the conference, many of us still in Salerno took over most of a small restaurant around the corner from the Santa Sofia Complex. Not wanting to let go of our transformative week of amazing global poetry, we began an impromptu reading, some reading from books of others, some reading our own work. A couple from the town, not part of our conference, sat at one of the tables listening, and then the man asked if he might read some of his work in Neapolitan. He recited his work, then line by line he read the Italian with someone translating into English. Poets attract poets.

So, in two years, we plan to return. Writer-artist-activists reading this, perhaps you’d like to join us?

Looking out the door Santa Sofia Complex
Looking out the door
Santa Sofia Complex

– Michael Dickel

© 2015, article and photographs, Michael Dickel, All rights reserved


Michael Dickel (c) 2018, Photo credit Zaki Qutteineh

MICHAEL DICKEL a poet, fiction writer, and photographer, has taught at various colleges and universities in Israel and the United States. Dickel’s writing, art, and photographs appear in print and online. His poetry has won international awards and been translated into several languages. His chapbook, Breakfast at the End of Capitalism came out from Locofo Chaps in 2017. Is a Rose Press released his most recent full-length book (flash fiction), The Palm Reading after The Toad’s Garden, in 2016. Previous books: War Surrounds Us, Midwest / Mid-East, and The World Behind It, Chaos… He co-edited Voices Israel Volume 36(2010). He was managing editor for arc-23 and arc-24. With producer / director David Fisher, he received an NEH grant to write a film script about Yiddish theatre. He is the former chair of the Israel Association of Writers in English. Meta/ Phor(e) /Play is Michael’s blogZine. Michael on Social Media: Twitter| FaceBook Page | Instagram | Academia

Posted in The BeZine, The BeZine Table of Contents

THE BeZINE, JUNE 2018, Vol. 5, Issue 2, Theme: Sustainability / Sub-theme: Readers and Writers Speak Out on Abuse


June 15, 2018

“Having the right priorities in a wrong world will humble you with a journey that only love can sustain.”  Bryant McGill, Simple Reminders: Inspiration for Living Your Best Life

As I sorted through the sustainability submissions for this issue, I was struck by two things: a preponderance of both love and sadness. The love with which so many of us – I’d like to think most of us – have for this planet, its natural beauties, and its voluptuous generosities and a sadness for the issues we largely lay at the feet of unenlightened, irresponsible corporate and government policies. The former combined with our willingness to speak up and speak out gives me hope that we will overcome the profound challenges of our day. We have after all the power to unite our voices, vote with our dollars, and refuse to play the games.

You’ll find here this quarter a collection of works on nature and the environment that encourages and admonishes, that makes love to the earth and its natural beauties, that shares frustrations and anger, and that heartens us with its very breath of awareness.

Special thanks to team member, Priscilla Galasso, for our lovely cover photo this quarter.

We’ve also included a profoundly moving collection of work on abuse, mainly domestic. This section is published in response to reader requests, and together the collection affirms courage and provides confirmation, insight and information. We are honored to have England’s Emergency Poet, Deborah Alma, introduce this section. Deborah is the editor of #MeToo, rallying against sexual assault and harassment, a women’s poetry anthology.

We welcome contributions from all over the world and know that you will appreciate the work of our new guest contributors (writers, photographers, and artists) this month as well as old friends and our core team members. Please support them with your “likes” and comments. This year in October we plan to nominate writers (guests, not team members) for Pushcart, so do please leave notes to let us know your faves. Thank you! 

In closing, once again I share this quotation (as I did in the last edition of The BeZine) from L.R. Knots. It seems to encapsulate the best rallying cry for our times.

“Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world.
All things break. And all things can be mended.
Not with time, as they say, but with intention.
So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally.
The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.”
—Author and counselor, L.R. Knost

In the spirit of peace, love (respect), and community
and on behalf of The Bardo Group Bequines,
Jamie Dedes
Founding and Managing Editor, The BeZine

TABLE OF CONTENTS


How to read this issue of THE BeZINE:You can read each piece individually by clicking the links in the Table of Contents.
To learn more about our guests contributors, please link HERE.
To learn more about our core team members, please link HERE.


NATURE and SUSTAINABILITY


SPECIAL FEATURE

What Fossil Fuels and Factor Farms Have in Common / Hint: They’re both issues of environmental injustice, Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch and Food and Water Action, Originally published in Yes! Magazine

BeATTITUDES

Crossing the Great Divide, John Anstie
Shkinah III: My beloved whispers in my ear, Michael Dickel
Insatiable =/= Sustaintable, Corina Ravenscraft
Sustain What?, Steve Wiencek

POETRY and ART/PHOTOGRAPHY

Hypocrite DespOILer, Gary W. Bowers
Earthquake and devastation, Michael Dickel
Multiplying Media, four poems, Michael Dickel
Gertrude’s Poem, Michael Dickel
Sustainability Should Be Our Creed, Mark Andrew Heathcote
When NASA Finishes Mining & Carbon Footprint, Zoë Sîobhan Howarth-Lowe
Clear the Brush, Ursula Jacobs
Climate Changes, Patricia Leighton
Life Eternal, Patricia Leighton
Gifts to the Poet’s Newborn Child, Patricia Leighton
Species Sustainability, Carolyn O’Connell
Evil Ones, Eliza Segiet


ABUSE and HOPE


We all know the wisdom around why it is so important to speak up about any form of abuse; the reasons are many and various. But often our abusers are close to us, members of our own family or community, and so speaking out is a great act of bravery. It may be difficult because we may also carry feelings of guilt, responsibility or shame. But if we can overcome such strong reasons to be silent, we are hugely empowered; we are made stronger by facing our fears.

It can also help to turn the abuse into a narrative that distances us from the pain in each retelling; an act that helps us to understand, to process and then to move beyond it; and in an act of alchemy to turn it into the piece of art that is the poem; that gives us gold out of the dirt. We ourselves as writer are transformed by it, and for those who come after as readers, the work can hold out its hand from those who have been there before, who have worked something out for us.

To read the stories and poetry of those who have been abused can also act as a warning or a flag that says ‘Yes this IS abuse. Take care! This is how I made myself safe or sane again.’

– Deborah Alma, Poet and Editor


#MeToo Anthology, The Back Story, Deborah Alma, poems by Sheila Jacob, Jane Commane, and Roberta Beary, and an introduction to Persephone’s Daughters
Hell Prefers Unaware, Susie Clevenger
Never Had a Chance, Isadora de la Vega
a man, a woman and a stick, Jamie Dedes
Closed Doors to Hotel Rooms, Michael Dickel
When Sexual Harassment Goes Public, Michael Watson

SPECIAL FEATURE

Wild Women in Art, Poetry and Community featuring Gretchen Del Rio’s Art and Victoria Bennett’s “The Howl or How Wild Women Press Came to Be”

EXCEPT WHERE OTHERWISE NOTED,
ALL WORKS IN “THE BEZINE” ©2018 BY THE AUTHOR / CREATOR


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Dictators and Desperados … Delegation and Democracy

Photo: Jamie Dedes
Photo: Jamie Dedes

This article is an edited version of one I wrote six years ago about those who are marginalised in the world; but, more specifically, it was about the plight of Greece and its people as well as those of other EEC countries, particularly Italy, Spain and Portugal, who were facing a similar, albeit not quite so serious a plight; not forgetting that it wasn’t so long ago that the Republic of Ireland was plunged into economic gloom and bust! But is there any reason why we should not begin to worry about the core countries of Europe, Germany, France and the UK, particularly in the face of Brexit?

Who can foretell.

This has a lot to do not only with entrepreneurs, adventurers and leaders; people who stick their necks on the block for civilisation, to solve great human challenges, resolve seemingly irresolvable issues, achieve the impossible, lift us from darkness and create order out of chaos; but it also has to do with how they rise to preeminence, how they deal with it; and how they fall… or rather when the powerful effects of wealth and fame can turn them into bullies and control-freaks! Or cause them to ally themselves with people of such character, in order to retain control and grow their wealth!

I once recounted the lesson I learned from an inspiring geography teacher – that “the solution to the problems of the world lies in harmony with the distribution of raw materials”; very relevant to this debate, but I just remembered another memorable fact he taught us: about the rise and fall of civilisations, of empires. We in the ‘West’, notably in Britain, whose Empire once painted much of the world’s map pink, are now in the declining phase of civilisation. So too other European powers as well as the USA. All are desperate to keep a hold on their access to the World’s ‘vital’ raw materials, against the rising powers … the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China), some of whose resources may well lend truth to my geography teacher’s insight.

Watch this space!

Never more was there a need for significant enlightenment, and leadership, in World politics and economics, than right now.

From: ‘Notable Quotes’ hand carved code

The trouble with any kind of ‘progress’, howsoever forged by great minds; the inherent fault built into the human condition is that even for those, who have the greatest integrity, may be the most philanthropic and have the highest motives at the outset, it seems to me that we are programmed to fail; that very few human beings are perfect or capable of resisting the drug of wealth and power, which always turns so called ‘progress’ into a commercial crusade of self interest. And this will be true at whatever level of society, be it political, religious, commercial, military or social; global, national or local. I can think of few exceptions.

And so it is …

Whether you are the billionaire owner of a multi-national corporation, general manager of a medium sized company or Chair of the committee at your local Club. That deeply rooted human survival instinct to get more and more of it with the inevitability of its desire for supremacy, driven by the desire to rise above the rest, to eliminate challengers, is ever present. Competition is healthy. Yes, I agree. But what is happening to political democracy, to which, I think, the same rules apply as to the world of invention, trade and commerce? They big get bigger on the backs of the small; those in power constantly assay to eliminate their main rivals, sometimes with the help of small minorities.

Let me say this about myself …

In every walk of both my working and social life, I thought I’d seen it all. Democratic team players and delegators at one pole; control freaks and extreme control freaks – or bullies and dictators at the other. In between, a whole array of personality types that bridge the spectrum of humanity, each one of which is a unique representation of its genes and environment. There are other spectra that cross this one; one of them is what I’d call the ‘lucky-unlucky’ spectrum. So much depends on where, when and to whom you were born, as to where you might get to in life.

Ah, but …

I know, you could give me any number of examples of people born into lowly circumstances, who subsequently clawed their way to success and wealth, using what God-given intelligence they had along with hard work and prudent risk management – most likely with a bit of luck every now and again.

From: ‘Notable Quotes’ hand carved code

These are exceptional – and maybe exceptionally lucky – people. However, I am talking about the general majority of populations, the ordinary hard working people, like me, who are not wired in such a way. We are not all born equal; that is, with the same wiring, brains and intelligence – the X-Factor if you like – to enable that kind of success. If we were all born with equal brains into equal environments, with equal opportunities, then, I ask, what would the world be like?

For the world to change; for there to be an alteration to a fairer distribution of its assets; to enfranchise people and give them a sense of ‘ownership’ and therefore responsibility, there will firstly have to be a seed change in the attitude to ‘human rights’.

What does this mean?

What is a human being, from birth onwards, entitled to? What are their rights? How much of their privilege, or lack of it, of their inherited wealth, or lack of it, are they entitled to? How much can they reasonably ‘earn’ by merit; how can we define ‘merit’. Is a Premiership footballer a one hundred and fifty or two hundred times ‘better’ player than a professional footballer in National League 2; but not just as a player, as a human being too? I say not; it is marketing and merchandising that achieves this disparity. Is the CEO of a huge multi national company as many times better, harder working and dedicated human being, manager, director, creative organiser, motivator.. as his salary bears in multiples of that of the lowest paid in society? I suspect the answer is no! How often is the CEO and highest paid management of companies of such stature born into poverty? And when they do rise from lowly backgrounds, how much of the way they were wired at birth influenced their ability to achieve such high office. Not an easy question to answer, but I still suspect it is ultimately greed, along with creative marketing (and accounting) that is at the root of this disparity and the primary fuel of all ambition when they get to a certain level.

We will always need exceptional individuals, the best and most talented people, to be leaders; to rise and take the greatest responsibilities in the world. But if the posts they fill and the motivations that drive them end up being self-serving; if they are only to generate as much personal wealth for themselves as possible, then where is the justice in that? We all of us need to try our hardest to be the best we can be, given our environment, genetic heritage and opportunities, and there should always be recognition of endeavour.

If materialism and consumerism aren’t going to go away any time soon, how do you motivate the majority of people to be the best they can be, when the best they are likely to achieve is to become some kind of slave to their corporate masters, as well as becoming a slave to debt! As the gap between the rich and poor keeps on widening, so too will the aspirations of these individuals become strained to breaking point, in mind as well as purse. At the moment, particularly in the age of materialism – and maybe for the duration of human existence on earth – this seems to be because they become increasingly driven by material greed. We would all like to be rich, but some of us, including me, would prefer not to have to be a slave to another master; prefer not to break our banks as well as our minds.

From: ‘Notable Quotes’ hand carved code

All of this has been grist to the mill of political debate over the years: socialism vs capitalism; the market economy vs the (perhaps more difficult but not impossible to finance) caring and equitable welfare society. Or perhaps, more achievable, a combination of both?

Ah, but you see …

I hear voices retort, but it’s about perceived market value, merchandising, image, branding … but this is utter bullsh**. These are purely the tools of consumerism, the means of wealth creation, to worship at the alter of the great God, ‘profit’, at the expense of the consumers and tax-payers! These are all pointless jobs! Be human, try to get a handle on an alternative reality, because, unless you are amongst the top 1% of the world’s rich – and if you were, you wouldn’t be reading this – then you have the same motives as the rest of us. We all aspire to be better off, but, beware of being a sycophant; allying and associating yourself with a grouping you are unlikely to join in reality, but merely aspire to be associated with. You may be very capable and able to articulate the arguments of the ‘successful’ wealthy, but you won’t get rich by association, unless you are extremely lucky. The rich never get rich by giving their money away. In fact, they – certainly the super-rich – never get rich by investing their own money.

From: ‘Notable Quotes’ hand carved code

Woah, steady on!

To some, this may sound a bit radical. Be that as it may, but I certainly wasn’t born a radical and I’m not particularly radical now! In fact I was born into the traditional aspiring, privately educated middle class and was brought up always to believe in taking personal responsibility for my actions and achievements and not blaming someone else for my woes.

However, there comes a time when one’s perspective changes as a result of experience; observations of injustice and a sensitivity to the enormous inequality in the world and, perhaps most important, an ability to think more clearly about what is really important about our lives on this earth, plays its part in moulding a new perspective. So it has with me.

We all need desperately to think, think and think again, in spite of the temptation to say “what on earth can I do” and then bury our heads in the sand, which I have been tempted to do from time to time.

Without thought and subsequent conviction and, most important of all, a commitment to vote at every democratically devised opportunity that develops as a result of careful thought and research, our democracy will ebb away. At the time of writing this original essay, it was already looking like it was doing so on the fringes of Europe in the cradle of European civilisation and democracy, Greece, which, in 2011, had been plunged into huge economic crisis following the collapse of the world’s financial sector in 2009. We know there were economic and somewhat sinister forces at work there that were not altogether altruistic and this is what brought me to write this in the first place.

If you wish to see the full text of this original article, including a piece, apparently about widespread corruption in that country, that was circulating at the time, along with an alternative view given to me by a Greek friend, then you will find it here.

Briefly it poured some light on what is now commonly referred to as ‘fake news’; also know as misinformation, which might have resulted genuinely from being misinformed and too eager to air such ‘knowledge’ or as unadulterated propaganda! In the case of the widely circulated email, referred to in my original article, it was, I prefer to think, the former. Six years on, the trials of Greece have faded from media front pages, even if the troubles, for the majority of its population, have not.

In the meantime, inequality in the world, between the richest and the poorest, is still worsening. This fact is not questionable. More and more of the world’s resources lies in the hands of fewer and fewer super-rich individuals. This is a frightening prospect, because it threatens the roots of democracy. We should, therefore continue to take to the pen and the paper and social media; whatever peaceful means are at our disposal to share, debate, lobby and shout from every hilltop … AND, above all, exercise our democratic rights by voting at every opportunity; exercise our electoral rights… whilst we still have them!

Finally, we should spare a thought and a prayer for the poorest people of the world, as well as those in Greece, a majority of whose population is probably amongst the poorest in Europe, for whom it may already be too late; whose freedoms have already been eroded. Take a closer look at who in that country (and elsewhere) has profited from all this, because you can be sure there are a few who have… enormously … on the backs of the many.

Post Script …

I would also like to take this opportunity at this time of year to remember those whose lives have been forever affected by war.

(Original article was first published in ‘Forty-Two‘ in December 2011)

© 2011, John Anstie

Music Beyond Belief: an exploraton of the relationship between personal faith and musical composition


Musical notation from a Catholic Missal, c. 1310–1320 * This beautiful Missal made from parchment originates from East Anglia. It is considered a very important manuscript as it is one of the earliest examples of a Missal of an English source. Sarum Missals were books produced by the Church during the Middle Ages for celebrating Mass throughout the year – uncopyrighted/CC0



“Any discussion of modernity’s mainstream in music would be incomplete without a serious reflection on the spiritual values, belief and practice in composer’s minds.” – James Macmillan (2013)

Western music throughout its history has undoubtedly been shaped enormously by religious and/or philosophical beliefs. One can only vaguely attempt to imagine the plethora of alternative courses of development which may have unfolded if it were not for the original patronage of the church and the influence this had, particularly in terms of the composition and performance of music. The last two centuries however saw a change in the way religion is perceived and practiced in many parts of the world and this had an inevitable effect on music. As part of a lecture held at the University of Notre Dame in September 2013, the Scottish composer James MacMillan highlighted some very important points about how faith and music have co-existed in the past and furthermore how they are allied now. He states that ‘there are some forms of art where the connections with the numinous are more difficult to discern than others. In the case of music, there seems to be a veritable umbilical link with the sacred.’ He goes on to say that ’composers have always responded to society’s need for spiritual and religious feeling’ and examples of this attitude can be seen from Bach to Stockhausen, from Lutheran Chorales to Sternklang (Park Music), 1971. The former were essential to the churchgoer’s daily experience in prayer and ritual, whilst the latter had a similar impact on the public wherever Sternklang was performed in attempting to lift their spirits into a realm above our own. This evidently affirms the ‘umbilical’ link furthermore.

Stockhausen said that ‘a creative person is always most excited when something happens that he cannot explain, something mysterious or miraculous.’ And similarly Michael Tippett with his remark that ‘it is a great responsibility: to try to transfigure the everyday by a touch of the everlasting.’ Macmillan in his lecture poses the question ’can a religious artist still be understood and affirmed in our own time?’ The answer to this is not as simple as yes or no but just as important is the notion of non-belief, realism or atheism and how composers who fall into this category fit in on the spectrum of philosophy in music composition and performance. A similar question could be asked of composers who base their reasoning on science and a more skeptical view of the world around them as inspiration for composition. Are their ideas valid and as fruitful as those inspired by faith?

Kenan Malik in an article entitled What Is Sacred About Sacred Music? explores notions of how transcendence itself can be defined by humans as physical and social beings. For religious believers, the sacred of course is that which is associated with divinity and holiness, but as shown below it can have a meaning beyond divinity:

Transcendence does not, however, necessarily have to be understood in a religious fashion; that is solely in relation to some concept of the divine. It is rather a recognition that our humanness is invested not simply in our existence as individuals or as physical beings, but also in our collective existence as social beings and in our ability to rise above our individual physical selves and to see ourselves as part of a larger project, to project onto the world, and onto human life, a meaning or purpose that exists only because we as human beings create it.

Turning to the question of composers’ personal beliefs and how it may or may not affect the music they compose, it is certainly true that what composers do and indeed that which they create is not necessarily what they believe. Composers have to make a living and keep their ‘head above water’ and even with the wealth of material and knowledge available to musicologists at the present time the option to know the true thoughts and beliefs of composers from the early centuries in matters of faith cannot be readily available. Much of the information pertaining to these artists’ real personal beliefs have to remain shrouded in the realm of speculation. The most accurate piece of information would most likely be their confidential diaries and not letters that could contain bias towards certain ideas for reasons of personal circumstance. This applies much more to composers from the centuries past and less so to artists closer to the present day who could be vocal about their beliefs and, with the advent of new technologies, in the cases of living composers, still are.

The more interesting strand to emerge from this line of enquiry however is how a composer’s personal belief or faith feeds into the compositional process and the musical product thereafter, if at all. One could be argued that the key question to be asked is whether or not an artist whose convictions are so deeply rooted within themselves could possibly have produced the same music without their beliefs that they hold so dearly. Kevin Malone is an academic lecturer and composer at the University of Manchester. He refers to himself as a ‘realist’ and refutes the more common label of ‘atheism’ because of its tendency to ‘suggest there is theism in the first place’ which is an interesting idea in and of itself. In 2016 his new work Mysterious 44 was given its world premiere at the University, an opera that used the well-known Mark Twain story as its basis. In the story three young boys learn to read and thus begin to think for themselves, which angers a village priest and leads to consequences. The opera has a cast of fifteen live singers They interact with two invisible characters, video animation and a surround-sound electronic score. The ‘Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science’ funded the production of the opera twice and a voice recording of Richard Dawkins himself begins the opera with a reading from the Mark Twain text.

It is clear from this that religious texts and philosophical ideas nevertheless provide strong catalysts and even entire frameworks for composers who are not believers themselves. The twentieth century in particular has seen a wide range of composers from varying stylistic inclinations choose to write music which references the rich teachings and legacy of doctrinal liturgy, whether it is performed in actual services or not is irrelevant. As well as this composers have used a large amount of symbolism from faith as material, as did Kevin Malone in his opera where he comments that ‘just as religious composers may use tri-partite structures to symbolize what they see as a trinity of spirits, I too use some numerical devices.’ He also suggests that the use of structures relating to numbers are ‘composer’s conceits’ and nothing more:

Mysterious 44 is an entertainment. Good entertainment should also be educational and not just ear and eye titillation. By writing Mysterious 44 I strive to promote clear and individual thinking, self-determination and hopefully an expanded use of the musical arts to not beguile listeners into perpetuating group thinking but to stimulate the natural curiosity for truth of which each of us is capable.

The example below (Ex. 1) from earlier in the canon (Richard Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra) shows a use of all the 12 pitches to represent science, which was written in response to Friedrich Nietzsche’s (1844-1900) ideas which would contend the ideas of Stockhausen in particular and suggest instead that our physical reality is all that exists and all that we are able to know. It becomes more difficult to associate musical composition and performance with a reach to the beyond as Stockhausen would with this model in mind. Again, here we can see that this manipulation of pitches in order to make a personal statement about the progress of science is a composer’s conceit and the effect is only achieved successfully because the music in itself is so sublime.

Ex.1 … 22532270_10155226487244195_1026719851_o

One of the most influential composers and atheists of the twentieth century, chose to use part of the liturgical doctrine in a composition which brought about an entirely new style of composition in the middle of the 1960s.

György Sándor Ligeti was born on 28th May 1923 in a small town of only five thousand inhabitants which is now Transylvania. Despite not having any particular religious upbringing as a child, the young Ligeti had an interesting fantasy life and a strong grasp of the world around him simultaneously. He invented his own utopian society called Kylwiria in which there would be no suffering or death, and even created a whole new language for such a place also. These sorts of fantasies of course are very common amongst young children but Ligeti was an exception in that they persisted into his teens and the ideas which had formed in his mind from this cemented themselves into kernels of artistic vision which would go on to inspire even some of the last pieces he composed in his last years. Interestingly one of Ligeti’s first attempts at composition at the age of sixteen was a large symphony in A minor based on elements from Also Sprach Zarathustra which he worked on over two summers in a cemetery near to his home. As previously noted Ligeti was not a practicing Jew and became Jewish ‘only through persecution’ at the hands of the Nazi regime in World War II. His family suffered horrendously as the hands of the same forces, with his father and brother both being murdered in the concentration camps. For many years he believed his mother had died too in Auschwitz, but her medical training saved her as she was skilled as a doctor in the camp. Throughout much of this time Ligeti ‘stayed alive by coincidence.’ He fled Hungary in 1956 and began a new life in the West, earning his place as one of the key figures of the new musical establishment alongside those such as Boulez and Stockhausen.

In a radio interview broadcast on July 2006 with John Tusa (the managing director of the Barbican Centre at the time), Ligeti discussed in great detail various aspects of both his socio-political and religious beliefs. Ligeti was described as being ‘the great atheist composer’ by Tusa and this poses further questions on Ligeti’s personal relationship or lack thereof with the mysterious and miraculous, which Stockhausen refers to. It seems to suggest that in conversation with his colleagues both publicly and privately, he may have been very open about his lack of any true religious conviction of one kind or another. Thomas May (a contributing writer to the San Francisco symphony’s program book) explains that ‘Ligeti had developed an immunity to all ideologies’, and a strong case can be made that his lack of adherence to any of the major monotheistic religions is not surprising, having suffered both directly and indirectly at the hands of two severe dictatorships from the beginning of the twentieth century. Ligeti’s father was certainly considered to be ‘an atheist and socialist’and whether these characteristics would have been passed on without the tragedies in his life is of course unknowable but does branch outward into an interesting line of enquiry. Ligeti taught his students to be non-believers but at the same time he was fully aware that a certain naivety was necessary as a creative artist and particularly as a composer. This idea was most likely one of the key components of the elevation of Messiaen in Ligeti’s admiration, whose faith permeated into all areas of his life and not just the art of his music.

One of the pinnacles of the composer’s achievements which gained him international status in the avant-garde circles was his Requiem, a prime example of the textural style of his early output begun in the spring of 1963 and completed in January 1965. It is also a fine example of how religious themes and ideas can be used and translated into a secular non-doctrinal context as compositional material. Interestingly Ligeti chose to set the Lux Aeterna as a separate piece slightly later in 1966. Only a year after the completion of the Requiem, the text and the sound world was still clearly fresh in his mind. The requiem as a form of composition has had a long and rich history in the canon of Western classical music. James Macmillan emphasises that as time has passed and the relationship between sacred music and its intended specific use in liturgical services has changed, ‘the liturgical forms have found their place in the concert halls of today’ and the Requiem is certainly no exception to this observation. The Ligeti requiem is intended to be a concert work and as he explains:

My Requiem is not liturgical. I am not Catholic, I am of Jewish origin, but I do not follow any religion. I took the text of the requiem for its image of the anguish, the fear of the end of the world.’

Paul Griffiths refers to this piece as ‘the most overwhelmingly impressive product of Ligeti’s cluster style’ and the effect on the listener is certainly warranted a similar description. As the composer himself said, his work is principally inspired by and revolves around the day of judgements and a primeval fear of the end of the world. It is essential a funeral mass for the whole of humanity, a personal statement about death which does not rely on its creator being a practicing believer of Catholicism or indeed any belief system to be able to relate to it.

The instrumentation of the orchestra at the start of the work reflects Ligeti’s natural instinct for extremes in the exploration of texture and timbre. It is scored for trombones, bass trombone, horns, contrabassoon bass tuba, contrabass clarinet, double bassoon, bass clarinet and double basses. For much of the piece Ligeti splits the chorus into four-part groupings of sopranos, altos, tenors and basses. Using this twenty-part texture to weave dense patterns of what Ligeti liked to call ‘micro-polyphony’. The clustered, harsh brass tones combined with the urgency of the vocal line both within solos and in unison throughout the piece provide the perfect response to the liturgical text. It has an overriding sense of desperation and helplessness which is inherent in the Dies Irae text. This piece is most certainly one of the finest examples of a religious work by a non-believer to have entered the repertoire so far.

Attitudes towards music and religious belief/philosophy have certainly changed dramatically over time as has been shown. A deep sense of religious conviction merely serves as a vehicle by which he/she is able to express him/herself. Performers and indeed listeners may benefit in some way from knowing the inspiration and/ compositional processes behind the music. However a composer in the most general sense is a creator who concerns him or herself with the sound as the building block materials of their art. The priority of any composer first and foremost therefore should be the creation of sound. Just as Ligeti was adamant that ‘the experience of terror does not lead to the creation of art’, nor necessarily does a personal experience of the divine for that matter.

Extra-musical inspiration is essential in the composition of music, whilst the relevance and transparency of the personal motivation of the composer within a piece itself is limiting and questionable at best. Although impossible to prove of course, it could be argued that Ligeti (because of the strong commitments to his new and particular musical language at the time in the 1960’s) would have written a similar Requiem if he had been a Catholic for instance. Similarly, a case could be made that Stockhausen’s experiments for most of his life in the electronic studio in Cologne would have been undertaken without his inclinations towards the mystic and otherworldly domains. Experimentation with sounds is the key factor here which draws composers to creating their work. Music as an art form is not a language although it can be treated as one in a variety of ways. Its syntax is that of a young child who can speak few words but is able to express an indeterminate amount more depending on the perceptiveness of the listener. Personal faith and music therefore are inextricably linked to varying degrees in the minds of composer, performer and listener.

© 2016 – essay – Joseph Alen Shaw
(All rights reserved)

Bibliography

Books:
Duchesneau, Louise, György Ligeti: Of Foreign Lands and Strange Sounds
Griffiths, Paul, György Ligeti. London: Robson Books, 1983
Harvey, Jonathan, Music and Inspiration, London: Faber and Faber, 1999
Stienitz, Richard, György Ligeti: Music of the Imagination, London: Faber and Faber, 2003
Toop, Richard, György Ligeti, London: Phaidon, 1999

Websites:
Macmillan, James, Conversations with Composers,  (accessed on 02/04/2016)
Mallick, Kenan, what is sacred about sacred music?, (accessed on 02/04/2016)
May, Thomas, Ligeti: Lux aeterna (accessed on 02/04/2016)
Sabbe, Hermanna, Conversation with Ligeti (1978), (accessed on 02/04/2016)
Tusa, John, Interview with Ligeti

Scores:
Ligeti, György. Requiem, for SMez soli, 2 choruses and orchestra. Folio score, London: Peters, 1965

Recordings:
Ligeti, György. Works, for orchestra. Selection. Compact disc , The Ligeti project IV, Hamburg: Teldec, 2003, 8573 88263-2

~~~~~~~

Joseph Shaw – composer, bass guitarist and arranger:

Joseph Shaw is a composer, performer and arranger based in Sheffield. He has had music performed and/or recorded in the UK and across Europe by ensembles including the Aber:ri Duo, Absolution Saxophone Quartet, Angeli Che Cantano, BBC Singers, Deventer Wind Quintet, Fox Valley Voices, Inyerface Arts, Jabeliah Saxophone Quartet, Manchester Camerata, Psappha, Meraki Duo, RNCM Brand New Orchestra, RNCM Contemporary Music Society, the RNCM New Music Ensemble, Sheffield Music Academy Chamber Orchestra

Joe Shaw Bio Pic
Joseph Alen Shaw

As a bass guitarist, he has been active on the music scene in Sheffield for over a decade and continues to perform with several bands as well as freelancing regularly for school productions and recording sessions.

Joseph holds a Bachelor with Honours degree from the Royal Northern College of Music, where he studied under the tutelage of Dr Larry Goves.

Theater Lessons

What has Theater taught me? Ego indulgence and humility. Confidence and neurosis. Teamwork and competition. Empathy and retreat. Deception and honesty. The story of humanity in a microcosm. My story.

When I was a little kid, I learned that I could entertain and amuse my parents and my older sisters and get positive attention. As the youngest of four daughters, I was eager to exercise this talent to my advantage whenever my ego felt bereft. This helped me compensate for having fewer general skills and powers than my seniors. I couldn’t win at games or read or figure or run better than the rest, but I could sing and mime and look cute. I also was the only blonde, which helped.

When I was in second grade, I was very good at reading aloud “with expression”. I remember (and still have a written report about) my behavior when the class did a Reader’s Theater story about a snake. I told the teacher that I had a toy snake the class could use…provided that I got to read the lead role. Mrs. Richie declined my offer.

When I was in third grade, Miss White selected me to play Captain Hook in the musical Peter Pan. I was stunned. “I’m not a boy!” I protested. She told me privately that she thought I’d do a better job than any of the boys in the class. She could tell that I was a ham and would take risks to win attention and applause. And I did. In the final week of rehearsal, she gave me a monologue, a poem in rhyme that she would put into a particular scene if I could memorize it. I worked on it very hard. In the final performance, though, I skipped it altogether because I forgot where it was supposed to be inserted. To this day, I can rattle it off by heart. “Methinks I hear a spark, a gleam, a glimmer of a plan….”

The pirate theme lives on in my legacy.

When I was in seventh grade, I was double-cast as the lead in our pre-Bicentennial musical. I was the Spirit of ’75 for two performances (why the Music teacher and the Home Ec teacher chose this theme a year early is anyone’s guess). So was Kevin Bry. Yes, I played a man. Again. I vividly remember being in performance and feeling sort of bored with the dialogue the teachers had written to link together the songs the school chorus had rehearsed. So I decided to overact. “The sun still rises in the East….doesn’t it????!!” The audience roared. I think they were pretty bored, too.

When I was in High School, I took real Drama classes. I learned to dance, and I gained some confidence singing solos in the Concert Choir and the Jazz Choir. I became a lot more aware of my own vulnerability, too. I will never forget the Talent Show in my Junior year. I was in a leotard and character shoes, posed and ready to dance when the curtain went up. I was listening for our taped music to begin. And I heard nothing…until the audience started to howl and whistle. Suddenly, I felt naked and taunted. Then the music started, and I couldn’t concentrate on it. I was humiliated. My father and mother and boyfriend (who became my husband) were in the audience, hearing those students jeering at me. We all went out for ice cream afterward, and they tried to convince me that the performance wasn’t bad and the audience wasn’t being critical, but I just wanted to block the whole thing out of my memory forever. Obviously, I haven’t.

When I was in college, I was a Music major with Voice Performance as my Senior thesis. I auditioned for a part in a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta as a Junior. I hate auditions. I tend to choke when I know that someone is out there in those dark seats judging me. I am awesome in rehearsal – prepared, alert, willing and tireless. I was working hard, getting better at performance in my Master Classes and feeling more and more that my teachers and colleagues were actually rooting for me. But not at an audition. I was nervous, my mouth was dry, and my voice wavered. I could see my choir teacher in the house, talking with the casting director. I am sure that Prof. Lamkin was telling him that I was a very good soprano despite my weak scale runs in Mabel’s aria. I managed to land a part in the chorus.

That’s me, third lady on the left.

After graduating Phi Beta Kappa with my B.A. in Music, I auditioned for the Los Angeles Master Chorale. Worst audition EVER! Oh well. I found out that I was already pregnant. Got the role of Mother at age 22…and 24…and 26…and 28, and stayed off the stage for years. Meanwhile, my husband performed all over the country with a competitive Barbershop quartet and once at Carnegie Hall with the Robert Shaw Chorale Workshop. My children were on stage quite a bit, too. I was their coach. They were in all the school concerts and plays, took dance and music classes, and I watched and cheered and videotaped my heart out.

Then some neighbors invited me to help them start a Community Theater. I was tired of being in the background. I stepped up, and brought my oldest daughter with me. The next summer, I brought three of my children, my husband, and my mother-in-law as rehearsal accompanist. The next summer, it was just me, and my husband told me that he wouldn’t be able to solo parent while I was at rehearsal after this. Meanwhile, he was performing with the Chicago Master Singers and rehearsing every week. A few years later, my youngest daughter started taking theater classes with a group called CYT. The next summer, they did a community theater production, and I auditioned again and got cast. My oldest daughter played in the pit band. One of the performances was on my birthday, and the director brought me out on stage for the audience to sing for me during intermission. * shucks, folks! *

I ended up working for CYT and becoming their Operations Supervisor full time. In addition, I taught Voice classes and Musical Theater classes and Show Choir classes to kids aged 8-18 after work. All of my children and my husband participated at some point in the seven years I was employed there. I watched kids grow up in the theater, auditioning three times a year, growing in confidence and artistry, and questioning their identity every time.

“Who am I, anyway? Am I my résumé? That is a picture of a person I don’t know.” A Chorus Line 

Accessing emotions, improvising with another person’s energy – initiation, response, vulnerability, defense. Mime, mimicry, mannerisms, artifice and accents. Playing in the muck of human behavior. This is Theater. It can be devastating and edifying. You can lose yourself and find yourself or never know the difference.

I wonder if I should regret raising up a bunch of performers and encouraging them in this charade or if I should be proud to have modeled survival in the arena. I don’t know. It’s complex. We’re complex. And maybe that’s the entire lesson.

© 2017, words and photographs, Priscilla Galasso

The seeing place . . .

It’s dim, but not quite too dark to see where you’re going. Small bulbs cast just enough light to barely distinguish faces and furniture. The smells of cut lumber, wood oil and paint mingle with makeup and sometimes musty costumes, coming together in a heady miasma of nervous sweat and dreams of success. The dull rumble of the audience murmurs from the other side of the thick, velvet curtain. It immediately electrifies the air with expectations. The cast take their places, everything is set and the bulbs in back suddenly go out. The curtain opens, the lights and sounds come up, the watchers hush and…the show begins!

***

I come by my love of the stage honestly; my mom’s creativity and extensive acting experience in her college troupe of players translated to prize-winning Halloween costumes for me and my brother when we were kids. By the time I was twelve, we had been to see several local productions of shows like Annie, A Christmas Carol and The Music Man. In high school, I became stage manager for the drama club and even had a bit part in The Miracle Worker. I painted numerous sets, gel backgrounds for the lights and found a niche in the camaraderie of the actors and the long nights of set building and rehearsals, the productions and cast parties (and the inevitable “after”-cast-party parties!). The lessons I learned then have been carried with me throughout my life and helped shape me into a better person.

To an outsider, someone who has never experienced or been a part of the theater world, there might be a lack of understanding of why it’s important. It’s a sad, unfortunate truth that when education budgets get tight, the Arts (including theater) programs are the first to be cut. So here are just a few reasons why theater in particular should be saved and considered vital to educational curricula everywhere:

* Theater courses build self-confidence. I’d hazard a guess and say that most people don’t like public speaking. They get jitters, get nervous, have panic or anxiety attacks because they’re afraid they will mess up and people will laugh or judge. However, it becomes a lot easier when you can take on a persona, or be “someone else” up in front of people, who won’t recognize you because of costumes, makeup or a different voice. It helps to take the pressure off, because if you mess up as a “character”, well, it’s not really you, is it? So it doesn’t matter as much. When you’ve succeeded “in character” once, it gets easier to do it again the next time. Success builds on itself, and so does self-confidence. Kids who are exposed to drama classes early in life learn to believe in their abilities (even when they’re nervous or anxious) and this can mean they become adult leaders in the boardroom, or the main presenter in the marketing meeting.

* Theater improves memory, speech and listening skills. Students of the dramatic arts are taught several, key things that they need in order to do well on stage. Of course memory gets exercised by repeatedly learning lines and movements, or keeping track of various props in different scenes. Whether it’s breathing techniques to steady nerves, voice projection to speak from the diaphragm or listening closely for a certain sound, a “cue” (spoken or otherwise), these are all things that students routinely practice to become good at the craft. It also means that they can use these skills off-stage and in other real-life situations.

* Theater challenges imagination and creativity, promotes quick-thinking. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen actors flub or drop lines! The best of them immediately improvised and somehow made it to the next cue without missing a beat. The worst of them froze until another cast member covered for them somehow (via speech or actions) and got them back on track. There are definitely times in drama class and on stage when you have to be able to think on your feet, and I’m sure there are dozens of real-life areas where this ability comes in handy.

* Theater fosters teamwork. In the end, it encourages everyone to work together as a team. From the director and cast all the way down to the stage hands, the set and design team, the lighting and sound crews, everyone has a part to play. On opening night, the production becomes this beautiful, polished creation born of the efforts of everyone involved. It becomes a shining example of the power of teamwork, and we all know how important that is in life.

From the Greeks all the way through today, it’s obvious that theater is indeed “the seeing place”. What you “see” in it depends on the lens with which you view it, and whether or not you’ve ever been exposed to it in life or developed an opinion about it. Sure, we can continue to cut drama courses from education, but why would anyone choose to? A life well-lived is about so much more than business, money or S.T.E.M. subjects. Those give us solidarity in society and enrich our minds. The Arts, including Theater, nourish our hearts and souls. And that, is just as important.

© 2017, Corina Ravenscraft

Poetics Performance

Brechtian Knots Performing a Poetics of Constructed Memory

My relationship with performance provides a complex series of braided knots as I reflect on it and try to untangle its influences in my life and creative work. While the make-believe of child’s play and the various attempts to “show” myself to adults as a child certainly root this tangle, my first recollection of a formal role goes back to Kindergarten.

In some drama acted by 5 year-olds, I had a short spoken part. The performance was scheduled during the class hours, at a time when most families where I lived had only one parent working (the father, of course). I recollect tears and devastation when my mother, a teacher herself, explained to me the morning of the performance that she would not be there. She had asked a neighbor lady, who watched me after the half-day class, to come instead. I was not happy.

The ending was Hollywood (or at least Hallmark), however—when I was on the stage, ready to read my lines, I saw my mother in a seat, not the neighbor. Apparently her principal had offered to take her class so she could come. How stereotypical is that ending?

Commissar Strolovitch

My next memory really begins the tale I want to tell, though, one of politics and drama. In 1966–1967, I was in sixth grade, and it was the Cold War era. Our class play, chosen no-doubt by our good teacher, was pure anti-Soviet propaganda. My role? Commissar Strolovitch, of the Supreme Soviet Union. I was, of course, the bad guy. The plot unfolded a simple line of propaganda—students in the Soviet Union could not choose their own destinies, the State dictated them. And, horror of horrors, this was done on the basis of an exam.

Near the end of the play, I stomped on stage in military rigor, wearing an old Civil Air Patrol coat and leather riding boots, saluted, and declared that the hero of the play had failed the test and would go to work on a farm, or something like that. Maybe it was a farm. Someone else, who wanted to work on a farm or whatever it was (my memory is not precise on this) would go to university. After all, this is what the exam results determined. No choice for the poor individuals caught up in this Communist trap.

The students wore old Boy Scout shirts and red kerchiefs, young Communists all. Now, I see the irony of the fact that the Civil Air Patrol and the Boy Scouts were U.S. proto-military youth groups whose apparel were being used to critique the proto-militaristic U.S.S.R.

During dress rehearsal, or maybe it was even the performance in front of our parents (scheduled in the evening, both of my parents attended), the back wall of the “classroom,” painted brown paper held between some boards, fell backwards. Our teacher declared (in my reconstruction, but something like this): “How realistic. They Communists build so poorly, their buildings literally fall apart around them.” We all laughed. Those Commies.

I grew up in an almost-all white suburb of Chicago. I had not yet heard of Cabrini-Green, the most notorious (but not the only) Chicago public housing project. The Projects of Chicago, LA, New York, and other cities, were notorious for poor construction, inadequate public services and maintenance, and breeding grounds for despair and violence. I doubt that my sixth grade teacher new much about them at the time, other than perhaps that white people didn’t live or go to them, if that much.

These realities of U.S. life were across racial lines, and at this time, only two years since the signing of the Civil Rights Act, still largely ignored. The Watts Rebellion (also called the Watts Riots) of 1965 were considered a “Negro problem.” The Detroit Rebellion (also referred to as Riots) lay in the summer ahead, as did those in Newark, New York, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Tampa—159 U.S. cities, total in the “long hot summer” of 1967 (according to Wikipedia). Other uprisings by the “uppity Negros” also lay ahead, after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., in the spring of 1968.

At the time I also had not yet, of course, heard Noam Chomsky speak or read his writing on such things as mass media or how governments tend to point to other governments and say—hey, those guys do this and that which is really nasty to its citizens and the world, but not us, we’re different. Of course, he says it more elegantly and I’m oversimplifying from global impressions, but his point is that if a government says all of the “bad” governments use these strategies for staying in power, likely that government does it, too.

I will return to this political theme in the story, but first, a bit of Shakespeare and The Bible, followed by a ballet.

Lord of the Court

My next formal performance was actually in a theatre auditorium, albeit in my high school. I was an extra, one of the lords in Theseus’ court. I wore a tuxedo for the first time. I walked around and spoke quietly to others, but without lines—we just populated the court behind the actual characters of the story, as needed. I was white, privileged, and even in my essentially supernumerary position, I got to wear a tuxedo. After all, I lived in white (upper) middle class suburbia. Upper is parenthesized, because my family was middle class, hence we lived in the development houses, not the nicer houses in the older part of town where executives who commuted to Chicago lived. Still, I benefitted from a good education and got to wear that tux in a high school described (because of its architecture) as “the castle on the hill,” and its football team called “The Hilltoppers.”

Shortly after this time, I started playing guitar and listening to folk music, sixties music (hey, it was 1969), singer song-writers, and, influentially, protest music. Actually, I had been listening to the music for years, as all three of my older brothers played guitar (we all still play) and brought home records and copies of Sing Out! I was still beginning to play guitar.

So it should be no surprise that my early attempts to play in local “coffeehouses” geared to youth (and run in such places as church basements) proved less than successful. Someone threw peanuts at me one night. Another night, possibly unrelated to my playing, a black-leather jacketed wannabe motorcycle gang member tried to kick me in the chest, but I stepped back just in time so that he only grazed me. (I actually think it was because I was a “hippie” and he thought he should attack me for it).

I still play music, but people now occasionally ask me to do it, and no one throws peanuts. Or tries to kick me. Well, not usually, anyway.

Spotlighting Job

Job suffered, in the Archibald Macleish play, J.B., as a result of a bet between Zuss (Zeus) and Nickles (Old Nick) playing God and Satan in a circus tent. History, Science, and Religion come to offer conflicting comfort to J.B. after Zuss / God destroys his life. Unlike the Biblical story, J.B. rejects both God and Satan and finds comfort in human companionship. This time, I took a role back stage, setting up lights and running the light board—dramatizing the performing actors below (the board was up above the stage). I was still in high school, but had by now moved to a middle class suburb of Minneapolis. It was a good school, too. I mostly remember wanting to date another student who was also working on lights. And a great cast party after opening night.

Scheherhezade

As a boy, I had a Bowdlerized copy of A Thousand and One Arabian Nights. Much was missing, including, at least in my recollection of it, the framing story of Scheherhezade and the reason she was telling the stories. It just had the stories, watered down. In my first year out of high school, I learned of the much spicier frame for those stories of a Sultan, his unfaithful favorite wife (did he really have a harem?), and his distrust of all future lovers to the point of killing them after their first night of marriage, so they couldn’t cheat on him.

Scheherhezade tells him a story on their wedding night, and he asks for another. She starts, but stops just when it gets interesting (the original cliff hanger?), falling asleep. He spares her—she continues to tell her stories, interrupting them by falling asleep at a crucial point. He continues to spare her, for 1,001 nights, then realizes he doesn’t want to kill her.

I had another supernumerary role—a soldier in the Nijinsky ballet for Rimsky-Korsakov (Russians, both), Scheherhezade. There was a harem orgy, with the Golden Slave and the favorite wife of the Shah. It was all a trap of course, as the Shah had told his wives he was going on a hunting trip, when in fact he was trying to prove to his advisor (brother?) that his wives were faithful. They weren’t, hence the orgy.

In something of a return to my sixth grade role of Commissar Strolovitch, I came on stage marching like a soldier in the midst of this orgy, at the climactic moment, as it were—an orgasm of military presence. The director wanted us to appear almost like wooden soldiers, so I did. I even got to be the lead soldier, killing the Golden Slave. I also continued with backstage work, this time with sets and canvas that is stretched, tacked to the floor, and coated with rosin, for the dancers.

This was at a professional auditorium, for a semi-professional ballet company, and it was reviewed in the local newspapers. The review that I remember loved the ballet, except for the soldiers, who were too wooden. As I was wooden in response to the director’s wishes, I figured, “good boy, you did what you were supposed to do.” That’s part of the story of my privilege. I get to excuse criticism if I was following orders.

The whole framework of the story, of the sexism, masters, slaves, women owned and their live threatened by men—this only came to my consciousness later. This despite growing up in an abusive and violent home. It wasn’t until I started working with runaways, a few years later, then in crisis intervention and suicide prevention, for about a decade, before I started to recognize how much men’s violence—itself a performance of toxic masculinity—impacted women’s lives.

The “exotic erotic other” (Edward Said‘s term, which I did not at the time know—like the words of Chomsky or the troubling erasure of U.S. realities from a propagandistic education before it) of the Middle Eastern foreigner and its Colonial view, as projected by the ballet, seemed to me to be entertainment, merely the art of dance, at the time.

Some theory

I began to study theatre more seriously in the Spring term of that same year, although perhaps my chronology becomes suspicious at this point, as my memory can’t recall which year I was actually in Scheherhezade, only which year I started to study theatre in university. Actually, I studied the ballet Petruschka in my first-term Humanities course, and I think that may have coincided with performing in Scheherhezade. Or, perhaps, the ballet came the next year.

In the Spring of my first year, though, I enrolled in a study abroad program offered by my university, in London. The courses I was eligible to take, as a first-year student, were Shakespeare’s plays. The professor was a drama professor from the English Department of my university.

The courses I was not allowed to take, but benefited from anyway, were in contemporary British drama. All of the students could attend the plays at the Young Vic Theatre. We saw John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger, Harold Pinter’s Old Times, and others by these and other (white, male) playwrights. A lot of Osborne showed at the Young Vic, as I recall. I don’t blame the professor for the lack of diversity of the playwrights—the course was contemporary British drama, and it was only a few years into the 1970s, and he arranged group tickets at the Young Vic, a “hotbed” of contemporary British drama at the time. What was not white and male likely wasn’t very visible.

However, the playwrights did open my eyes to other ways of seeing plays. And the professor interested me enough to continue studying with him for several courses in drama, after we returned to our home campus. In the course of those studies, I learned about Bertolt Brecht and Luigi Pirandello, and somehow without realizing it, started becoming post-modern. Brecht influenced my thinking about performance, drama, and literature a lot. I risk oversimplification, but I point in particular to notions of disrupting the smooth viewing experience of “getting lost” in the play, so that the audience “finds” that they are witnessing a production, a constructed reality, in a world of social and political realities. Brecht resisted escapism and entertainment. He early on introduced “multi-media” to do some of this disruption, as well.

Since these introductions, I have gone further—in performance (studying improvisational music and performance with well-known musicians, for example), in theory (in this account, Genet, French Feminism, post-modern novels, literary theory, language poetry, and more remain in the future). Still, this part that I have conveyed of the knotted memories, reflections, paths of my relationship to what I call performance remains a formative base of my poetics.

In my poetry, I try to disrupt the reader, to get the reader to take a skeptical stance toward the text, the constructions, my own flawed perception as the builder of the text, to find social and political inconvenient truths—all while still exploring language and sound as music (dissonant and consonant) to entice the reader to move forward, play, and dance with the words and possibilities of meaning, even if imprecise or even false.

Conclusions, such as they are

Through this Brechtian lens I have offered here: a fallen backdrop, Boy Scout and Civil Air Patrol uniforms, riding boots, Cabrini-Green, the 1960s racial rebellions by African-Americans; a tuxedo-clad supernumerary lord in a Greek myth’s court; suffering on the basis of a bet in a circus tent (bet is also the second letter of the Hebrew aleph-bet, or alphabet, in the Greek); and a Middle-Eastern orgy story where the threatening (golden) male slave is killed by yours truly—a white, American, Jewish poet, living in Israel—and itself frames and motivates a woman’s need to offer exciting tales to her husband in his, not their, bed, just to stay alive.

All of this might be taken as a cracked and broken metaphor for the destructiveness of what we now call toxic masculinity. Or, as the psychologist Alfred Adler is supposed to have said (or written on the blackboard) after his lectures—then again, the case might be completely different.

In the end, this text itself is a performance of my activist poetics. Beware of how it constructs others, but even more so, beware of how it constructs me. Zeus (Zuss) is no hero. I am (not) a performer. This text is (not) performance, thus performs an illusion / delusion / lesion (that is, rupture).

My (better) poems perform disruptive communication (I claim) that cannot always be understood or interpreted (I explain). In reality (“What is reality? Brouhaha…“), the poems may work against interpretation, also the title of an influential book from my past that, like much that shapes this essay, comes later than the performances discussed in it. My better performances pull the audience in and then shakes water all over them, like a wet dog, hoping to wake myself up or dry the audience off. I have yet to really achieve such a performance, I simply imagine it to happen. However, the audience gets wet (or wetter) nevertheless, covered in imaginary spray. And I have yet to dry off.

  ©Michael Dickel
August 2017

Posted in The BeZine, The BeZine Table of Contents

The BeZine, July 2017, Vol 3, Issue 10, Prison Culture, Restorative Justice

July 15, 2017

This month’s publication focuses on Restorative Justice. This is a topic that is dear to me. I am the Director of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition. I have been working with incarcerated folks and those touched by incarceration since 2003. I have seen the ripples of harm that have come. There is harm to the victim, of course. But there is also harm to the person who committed the harmful act, harm to their families, and harm to the communities that encircle all of these people.

Restorative Justice is an en vogue term. Everyone wants it but we don’t know much about how to do it. Most of us look backwards at the ancient ways of first peoples such as the Māori people of New Zealand or the Tagish and Tlingit First Nation people of the Yukon. We lift their practices and bring it forward into a defined court case.

This somewhat misses the point.

The circling process that the first peoples used far pre-dates the term restorative justice. At the same time, restorative justice has become a term to be used by the justice system. And so we create another circling process that is set aside for the courts, jails, and prisons to use.

Circling or Peacemaking Circles, the process given to us by the ancients, is to be used everywhere and with anything: healing, sentencing, discernment. And it involves the entire community. The entire circle of ripples affected by an act. It is a big process. And that’s why we relegate it to the justice system.

Because if we don’t relegate it to the work of the justice system, that means we will have to change and do better. The first principle of the circle: You can only change yourself. As long as we make restorative justice the property of the courts, we don’t have to change. We don’t have to be more welcoming, giving, or inclusive. We don’t have to mentor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked. But I have news! Great news of good tidings! Restorative justice, Peacemaking Circles, is, as the ancients say, the wisdom of the universe. It belongs to no one person and is there for all for the healing and transformation—not of the world, but of each one of us.

This issue about Restorative Justice and new forays into restoration is explored by our core team and guest writers. Each brings their own wisdom to the topic.

Writing on aspects of justice and restorative justice are: Myself, James Cowles, and Chris Hoke. Justice oriented creative writers are Lisa Ashley, Carolyn O’Connell, Paul Brookes, Rob Cullen, Charles W. Martin, Marieta Maglas, Sonja Benskin Mesher, Paul Brookes, Jamie Dedes and a short stories by Joseph Hesch, Lisa Ashley and Rachel Barton. Gail Stone offers a video that speaks to her faith and hope in restorative justice. I have also offered a moderated discussion that I led regarding zero incarceration for youth. Denise Fletcher teaches us how to put together Comfort Kit Baskets for the incarcerated.

We hope this issue will give you pleasure even as it provokes you. Leave your likes and comments behind. As readers you are as import to the The BeZine project, values and goals as are our contributors. Your commentary is welcome and encourages our writers. As always, we offer the work of emerging, mid-career and polished pros, all talented and all with ideas and ideals worth reading and thinking about.

In the spirit of peace, love (respect) and community and on behalf of The Bardo Group Beguines,

Terri Stewart, Guest Editor

TABLE OF CONTENTS

How to read this issue of THE BEZINE:

  • Click HERE to read the entire magazine by scrolling, or
  • You can read each piece individually by clicking the links below.
  • To learn more about our guests contributors, please link HERE.

BeAttitudes

Do You Hear What I Hear?, Terri Stewart
Justice the New Old Way, Terri Stewart
Hearing Voice Underground, Chris Hoke
Refuge, Reconciliation, Recidivism, James R. Cowles
Of Pirates and Emperors, Jamie Dedes
Comfort Kits, Denise Fletcher

Videos

Hope and Faith in Restorative Justice, Gail Stone
Zero Incarceration for Youth, Terri Stewart

Music

Room at the Table, Terri Stewart

Short Stories

I Can Trust You, A True Story, Lisa Ashley
Walking Along the Edge, Rachel Barton
Comin’, Joseph Hesch

Poetry

A Child’s Touch, Lisa Ashley
Full Buck Moon, Lisa Ashley

(ANGERONA) Sunstead, Paul Brookes
Prisoner, Paul Brookes

The Boy in the Park, Rob Cullen

Oscar Wilde in Prison, Marieta Maglas

Restorative Justice for Sale, Charles W. Martin
before it began … , Charles W. Martin
teach a man to fish …, Charles W. Martin

#what more do you expect, Sonja Benskin Mesher
.verdict., Sonja Benskin Mesher

Confrontation, Carolyn O’Conner
Sacrificial Lambs, Carolyn O’Conner


Except where otherwise noted,
ALL works in The BeZine ©2017 by the author / creator


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Interview of Priscilla Galasso

unnamed-5JAMIE: I think you started with us in 2012, not long after initiating your blog, scillagrace. Your life at that time was very much in transition and you had quite specific goals for yourself and your blog. Where do you find yourself after the passage of almost four years?

PRISCILLA: My blog began as a sort of online journal of self-discovery. I had been widowed in 2008 and began a new relationship within the year. By 2011, my four children had moved out of the suburban home I’d kept for 19 years, and I moved in with Steve. I took more than a year off from any kind of employment as I worked through my grief in writing, reading, walking and talking with Steve. My goal in this transition was to learn to live gracefully, to face and accept life as it is. Now, four years later, I find myself still practicing that way of life, but with far fewer tears and fears. I feel more compassion, understanding and respect for myself and more eagerness to engage with the broader world.

JAMIE:You write the most remarkable essays, always well-considered. Logical! Always perfectly edited. What in life – education, teachers, friends, inclination – prepared you for this? I know you don’t do it for a living at this time, but writing certainly appears to be a natural endeavor for you, a kind of home-place.

PRISCILLA: I have to say that my writing style was probably most influenced by my parents. My father was a Harvard man of science, math, and letters and became an educational project director for SRA (a subsidiary of IBM before McGraw/Hill bought it out) and a technical writer for IBM. He helped develop national standardized tests for high school students and volunteered as a computer tutor later on. He was on a minor mission to teach young people how to think and write clearly. My mother was a Radcliffe English major and the volunteer editor of church newsletters and such. They probably had a critical hand in everything I wrote for school. When I was 15, I fell in love with the man who became my husband, and suddenly, I wrote poems and love letters in alarming abundance…and didn’t show them to my parents. I am still far more confident in prose and essay than in poetry and fiction, but learning to value my emotions and communicate them with greater facility and expression has become increasingly important to me. I am a sort of “recovering perfectionist” who is learning to love her feelings.

JAMIE: Since we are concerned in this issue with parents and parenting: I know that your parents – especially your mom – were quite accomplished. How did they encourage your moral and intellectual grown? How did you in turn foster good qualities in your children?

PRISCILLA: Moral and intellectual growth can be encouraged from the top down and from the bottom up. I have learned, however, that the “top down” style can lead to resentment and rebellion in spirited children! I was a compliant kind of kid, eager to please my parents because I was afraid of them to some degree. They espoused some rigorous moral and intellectual standards, and I did my best to meet them. As this was my model, I attempted to repeat it in the next generation. I discovered that neither my 3 daughters nor my son was interested in being that compliant, especially as teenagers! So, I have modified my approach. My mother is my enduring inspiration for “bottom up” encouragement and growth. She lives her values – positively, joyously, and with diminishing criticism and anxiety as she ages. This is much easier once your children aren’t living with you, though. I find that celebrating how we are maturing as equals is a lot more rewarding than policing behavior! Their good qualities continue to emerge and develop, as do most people’s, and my estimation of a “good quality” also is evolving. I had pride in the fact that they were quite accomplished as children, but now I know that they were not at ease with themselves and they developed some serious anxieties. My hope now is not that they will be “successful” in conventional ways. I hope that they will be happy, at peace, and continually growing in awareness and responsibility.

JAMIE: Over the past few years, you’ve been to several wilderness events and you are a great supporter of wilderness protections. What is/are you major concern/s and what are you doing to address your concern/s?

PRISCILLA: My major concerns for the health of the planet and its inhabitants revolve around the attitudes of human beings. We are way too arrogant and detached from the rest of the tree of Life, in my opinion. We have a penchant for “doing things” in the world instead of granting autonomy to other creatures and natural systems. We impose our will without compassion or understanding far too often. And this is especially dangerous because there are more of us than ever, demanding more resources for our growing technology. Our domination is reaching critical proportions; I don’t believe it can be absorbed much longer. This is why I think it’s of paramount importance that we preserve and protect wild land, places where we are not dominant, where we are merely visitors, places that can teach us humility.
What am I doing to address this? Trying to live an ethic of humility and harmony with the rest of the world and communicate that at every opportunity. So far this includes visiting wilderness areas, working for a conservation foundation, making political choices that support the environmental movement and becoming more mindful of habit and practice – like what I eat, what I buy and what I throw away. Steve and I are also operating a used book store online that is his only source of income, so we are in the salvage and recycling business. Steve is also researching a book on wilderness management philosophy and operation and developing his own blog, http://www.forthelastwolverine.com. This is sort of the way we are “parenting” together: modeling our values and putting our energy and resources into projects that can effect the future. But we may be poised at the brink of some radical changes in how the planet responds to our footprints, and we need to be ready to act differently!

JAMIE: You’ve had to deal with a lot of grief: the premature death of your relatively young husband and the tragically early death of your sister in a car accident. What have you learned about dealing with grief?

PRISCILLA: I am learning about suffering from the Buddhist perspective now. It’s a vastly different vantage point than the Western one. When my sister and I were in that car accident, I was not yet 17. Grief was something I wanted to “fix”. I wanted a remedy as quickly as possible. I was raised in a devoutly Christian family, and I plunged myself deeper into that doctrine. It was about having an answer, undoing the spell, reversing the consequences. My sister was in heaven; her death was somehow made “okay” at the end of the story. By the time I was 45, I’d been studying and teaching that story at higher and higher levels, but I was still afraid of death. My husband died at the age of 47. My life changed overnight, and I was terrified. The Christian story was played out in epic pageantry at his funeral, but I still had fears, anxiety, and suffering that I needed to deal with in real life. When I met Steve, he began to tell me about Buddhist philosophy and consciousness. It looks at grief and suffering head on. There’s no “fix”, no story. It’s part of the fabric of life: painful things happen. There’s no aberration; nothing’s gone horribly wrong. You have experiences, and you think about them, but you can decide how to think about them. It was like a veil lifted then. I had been told all my life what was the “right” thing to think, and it all had to do with that story. And now I realize it is just that, a story I decided to believe. So, I made a new decision to try to think in a different way. I think about suffering and grief as part of being alive. I’m not singled out in it or exempt from it. It just is what it is. A lot of added anxiety has unraveled since I started making conscious decisions about how to think. I have befriended grief and life, in a way. Grief has taught me that I practice attachment and aversion: I loved my husband fiercely and hated the idea of living without him. That kind of thinking caused me a lot of suffering. So now I try to practice appreciation and awareness. I still love my husband and appreciate the time I spent with him, and I know that life is lived in the moment and death is inevitable.

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