The BeZine, August 2017, Vol. 3, Issue 11, Theatre

August 15, 2017

In the introduction to his translation of Beowulf, Seamus Haney comments that “as a work of art it lives in its own continuous present.” For me, theatre (whether in its broadest or narrowest sense) is very much the same. Theatre always encourages us to be in that continuous present. As an over-arching art form it can integrate every other form of human (and even animal) expression. It usually rewards our engagement and disdains our detachment. Even when a show runs for a thousand performances, it can never be quite as canned, as mass produced as many of our other entertainments. Human variability is on display every night.

More broadly, theatre tends to mean any place in which we think there is a scripted or specialized drama occurring. In that sense it often indicates that we’re seeing a performance driven by an agenda and perhaps designed to deceive. We criticize this as hypocrisy. In ancient Greece, a hypocrite was merely an actor, i.e. one who had made a judgment or assessment of a script when preparing to perform that script for others. At that time, it was also thought unworthy for actors to become politicians since actors were skilled at impersonation. We could not know their true selves.

In the context of our art, we would probably judge this as unfair. We’ve all had the experience of “donning the mask” or crafting a persona as a way of freeing ourselves. In expressing the lie, we hope to tell the truth.

I’m delighted to be Guest Editor this month. It coincides with a production that I’m currently in. This is an experimental production staged as immersive experience. We’re telling the story of a family in crisis (the passing of parents, dealing with aging and the end of life, and the break-up of relationships). We tell this story in a residence where small audience groups (a dozen to two dozen at a time) sit in the “living rooms” of the characters. This intimacy connects us with our audience. They do not participate in the sense of interacting with the actors. But, they are side-by-side with us as we make the journey, watching us, crying with us, laughing with us and even eating with us. Detachment is not an option. We join together in the continuous present.

This month’s pieces remind  us of these connections and touch on so many of the stages on which we act.

Priscilla Galasso speaks of her experience with theatre and its broad impact in her life. “Playing the muck of human behavior” as she says.

Charles W. Martin’s poetry talks passionately of life’s stage, reminding us that, yes, detachment is not an option.

Corina Ravenscraft gets to the root of why we should all spend time in “the seeing place.” It’s a broadside worth taking around when it comes time to fund arts in schools and communities.

Michael Watson recounts an early experience where his personal humiliation also reflected larger and deeper ones around him. He shows us how Playback Theatre is another powerful way to connect.

John Anstie recounts the life of his mother. In reading her story, I think on the many roles we are often forced to play and how we adopt certain personas to help us survive.

I feel that basic joy of theatre in Renee Espriu’s contribution. “The hills are alive…” means a little more to me now than it did before.

Jamie Dedes points us to theatrical entertainment with its golden moments and the theatre of life with it’s chaos and absurdity. [And, seriously, check out Fanny Brice’s physical comedy.]

John Sullivan’s four poems this month are, for me, intriguing and searching meditations on the self. They speak to who we are, the personas we have, the masks we wear, the music we sing. And, he’s allowed us to publish an excerpt from his new play, Hey Fritz, Looks Like You Lost It All Again in the Ghosting.

Naomi Baltuck’s discussion of Come From Away focuses right in on an essential aspect of our experiences both in life and in theatre. Specifically, I’m thinking about what it means to literally commune with strangers, whether it’s the characters in Come From Away or the audience who watches it.

Karen Fayeth shows how, no matter what size or shape the spectacle, there is something profound in the simplest of relationships. Say, between a boy and his horse. Because, whether we’re seeing animals at play or a play about animals we are moved.

In bringing together both her visual art and her poetry, Sonja Benskin Mesher has each explain the other. And, yet, each also enlarges the other and perhaps we see our own actions a little differently, too.

Of course, plays and poetics go hand-in-hand. Michael Dickel thoughtfully discusses how one arises from the other and the personal origins of both.

Paul Brookes’ poems read as very modern, but also touching on things quite old, such as shared rituals and the hypocrisy of actors (in the classical sense).

And, finally, there’s a last word from Denise Fletcher. I hope we’ve achieved a kind of success along the lines of what she describes.

Thank you to all who contributed this month and for letting me join the show. I’m having a wonderful time! I look forward to seeing where the story goes from here. And, to the last one who leaves the theatre, please turn on the ghost light.

Richard Lingua
Guest Editor

THEATRE

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.
  • To learn more about our core team members, please link HERE.

Photograph: Gargoyles as theatrical masks above a water basin. Mosaic, Roman artwork, 2nd century CE. The piece can be found at the Capitoline Museum in Rome, Palazzo dei Conservatori, first floor, hall of the Horti of Mæcenas. From the Baths of Decius on the Aventine Hill, Rome.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Priscilla Galasso

Charles W. Martin

Corina Ravenscraft

Michael Watson

John Anstie

Renee Espriu

Jamie Dedes

John Sullivan

Naomi Baltuck

Karen Fayeth

Sonja Benskin Mesher

Michael Dickel

Paul Brookes

Denise Fletcher


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

CONNECT WITH US

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

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swan lake

Today we feature one of Gretchen Del Rio’s beautiful Zen cats. Enjoy the visual and the Rumi quote below …

Gretchen Del Rio's Art Blog

watercolor aceo 10/2015 watercolor aceo 10/2015

‘In your light I learn how to love.
In your beauty, how to make poems.
You dance inside my chest where no-one sees you,
but sometimes I do, and that sight becomes this art.’…..rumi

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Millions for Prisoner Rights, March on Washington, Abolish Amendment 13






“And whoever saves a life it is as though he had saved the lives of all mankind” (5:32).

“Each [hu]man’s step forward is a step forward for all of [hu]mankind.” the great white* brotherhood

* “white” here is not a reference to race but to the Aura of White Light that surrounds the anointed ones, those who have arisen from every race, creed and walk of life to lead others to enlightenment.

– Jamie Dedes

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


CONNECT WITH US


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

Facebook, The Bardo Group Beguines

Twitter, The Bardo Group Beguines

Soil Isn’t Sexy …. Neither Is War

A dirty argument for sustainability, social justice, and peace

In the late 1980s, one of my guests on a community radio program I hosted came from a soil conservation group. She discussed the importance of soil—healthy, living soil, not chemically-supported but dead soil. She emphasized the importance of developing organic farming and turning back the trend of agribusiness mass farming that depleted soils and then added chemicals back to support the plants—but did nothing for the living soil.

She admitted that “talking about dirt isn’t sexy,” and that her group had a lot of work to do to get people’s attention. A friend of mine told me after the show, which he had listened to, that she was right. Dirt isn’t sexy.

Soil may not be sexy but treating it well could help solve climate change.

Ignoring it could lead to our extinction.

Do I have your attention?


Cracked soil by a village in Iran abandoned by farmers because water reserves ran dry due to overuse. Photograph: Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images
Cracked soil by a village in Iran abandoned by farmers because water reserves ran dry due to overuse. Photograph: Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images

Now, 30 years later, The Guardian has run an article about soil as “the best shot at cooling the planet.” In it, Jason Hickel discusses an overlooked, “… simpler, less glamorous solution…” to climate change:

“It has to do with soil…40% of agricultural soil is classed as ‘degraded’ or ‘seriously degraded.’ In fact, industrial farming has so damaged our soils that a third of the world’s farmland has been destroyed in the past four decades.”

Industrialized forestry and agricultural practices have largely depleted organic material from the soil. The organic materials give the soil life. They also lock in carbon dioxide—second only to the oceans in its ability to do so. Hickel writes that soil “holds four times more carbon than all the plants and trees in the world.”

While dirt is not sexy, it is incredibly important.

Hickel goes so far as to say the science about regenerating soil is exciting:

“Scientists and farmers around the world are pointing out that we can regenerate degraded soils by switching from intensive industrial farming to more ecological methods – not just organic fertiliser, but also no-tillage, composting, and crop rotation. Here’s the brilliant part: as the soils recover, they not only regain their capacity to hold CO2, they begin to actively pull additional CO2 out of the atmosphere.”


A few years after the radio show, the novelist Nurrudin Farrah and I listened to a National Public Radio program while driving somewhere in the Twin Cities. The man being interviewed spoke extensively about economic colonization of farming in “underdeveloped” countries. He argued that hunger and poverty in the “Third World” was not about a lack of capacity to produce food or other necessities, but about multi-national corporations paying for crops they could sell for maximum profits in the “Developed World” and a system that then sold the farmers food they could have grown instead.

Farrah, a “post-colonial” author exiled at the time from Somalia, turned to me and said, “This man knows what he’s talking about.” The “development” that the U.S. and Europe pushes is an economic colonization of the so-called “under-developed” countries, he explained. The process of “Globalization” serves to develop pipelines of resources to multinational corporations, to develop markets to sell back those resources in the form of those corporations’ products (the push for “open markets”)—and simultaneously to develop cheap-labor markets to do the processing.

It is all about profits, not about providing for the economic needs of the people living there. Or anywhere. It is not about developing the countries into stronger systems for their citizens. It is about taking. Depleting. Degrading. As we are doing with the soil.

Agribusinesses push large corporate farming (and de-forestation) in order to profit share-holders—they have little interest in food production or sustainability per se. Farmers around the world who could grow food for their families and neighbors are pushed to grow cash crops—sugar cane and pineapple are two prominent examples. Beef cattle are grown on deforested lands, with the meat going to developed countries’ groceries and restaurants, with the fast food industry a huge consumer. Cotton is a major crop in some Middle Eastern countries. Cotton fields do not produce food, and do not produce cotton for local clothing needs but for high-thread count sheets and other luxury items sold in other countries.

If the farmers want food and clothing, they need to buy it from other multinational corporations.

This story is well known. It is not unlike the trade triangle England set up between itself, its Caribbean colonies, and its North American colonies. It is run by capitalists now, not governments, but the capitalists often control the local governments. Increasingly, the capitalists influence and control the national governments globally, in both the “developed” and “developing” countries.

This influence includes fighting against environmental regulations.

The “regenerative” farming practices Hickel writes about will not be easy to implement, especially against the will of corporate interests. They could lead to more economic justice globally, deriving from local farmers producing agricultural products for local consumers. This change won’t come about without a fight, though.


That’s half the story. A major effect of the economic displacement that this “development” has on the citizens of the country has been displacement of people.

More and more people move to urban centers, seeking income with which to pay their way into the system. There are increasing social and economic pressures as people press into the cities, increased competition that often fractures along ethnic, racial, and religious division. And increased armed conflict.

The other half of the story of the degradation of healthy soils is war. War results from it. War causes it. And right now, the world is at war.


Last year, almost to the day as I write this, the Middle East and North Africa choked on dust from September 6th to the 9th. An “unusual” storm disrupted normal living, even shutting down the Syrian air force. “The influx of dust triggered a rash of canceled flights, closed ports, and a suspension of daily activities for many people,” according to “Dust Storm,” an article on NASA’s Earth Observatory website.

The street where I live, Sept. 8, 2015
The street where I live, Sept. 8, 2015

People died. The pollution count for Jerusalem was 173 times normal, and the Environmental Protection Ministry in Israel advised everybody to stay inside, according to an article in The Times of Israel. Temperatures also rose to higher than normal, over 100 in Jerusalem in September.

dust-1-web
Out my apartment window

If you don’t know the Middle East, you might imagine that dust storms like this occur daily, weekly, or at least monthly. They don’t. Not like this. I’ve lived in Jerusalem almost ten years now, and I have experienced dust storms. None was this intense. And dust storms are more common in the Spring.

This 2015 storm was unusual for many reasons—scale, intensity, timing, and accompanying heat.

sept-8-storm-map-web
NASA Satellite image Sept. 8, 2015

And, as it turns out, its roots likely were in degraded farming lands related to both climate change and war. And all of this is instigating not only dust storms, but quite possibly the humanitarian crisis of the displaced refugees.


Six month before this particular storm, in March 2015, Craig Welch wrote Climate Change Helped Spark Syrian War, Study Says, for the National Geographic website. It opens with this paragraph, which should give us all pause:

“A severe drought, worsened by a warming climate, drove Syrian farmers to abandon their crops and flock to cities, helping trigger a civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people, according to a new study published Monday.”

The authors of the study from The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences recognize that many social and political factors contributed to the civil war, of course. However, they “compiled statistics showing that water shortages in the Fertile Crescent in Syria, Iraq, and Turkey killed livestock, drove up food prices, sickened children, and forced 1.5 million rural residents to the outskirts of Syria’s jam-packed cities—just as that country was exploding with immigrants from the Iraq war,” according to Welch.

The severity of the drought and other weather conditions, according to their data, was outside the normal variability of weather in the region.

The social and economic pressures of the urban influx caused by soil degradation likely related to climate change, was probably a major contributing factor to the conflict that has been going on for years now, displacing millions of refugees.

While there are limits to the study, and perhaps the civil war would have erupted had there been no drought—the fact remains that the drought, at the least, increased tensions and the numbers of refugees.

This complicates the arguments about whether the refugees are economic, political, or war refugees. Depending where they come from, they could be all three.

And the three are interwoven—from the economic system that encourages farming practices that degrade the soil, to climate change-drive droughts, to the political climate in the region, there are many lines of connection and interconnection.

The need for sustainability, social justice, and peace weaves throughout this story of soil.


NASA Satellite image Sept. 7, 2015
NASA Satellite image Sept. 7, 2015

Some called the September 6–9, 2015, sandstorm “unprecedented.” It was.

A month after the storm, Zafrir Rinat reported in Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, that “Israeli scientists this week confirmed that one factor behind the heavy dust storm that hit the Middle East recently is changes in the use of land in northern Iraq and Syria.”

Two factors were identified—a decrease in farming in Northern Syria, which had preceded even the recent drought, and “military activity, which has caused harm to the soil crust in Syria.” In other words, the already drought-hardened soil was further degraded by tanks, artillery, trucks, bombs pulverizing it.

Instruments recorded the largest dust particles for a storm in that twenty-year time period since they have been in use.

Winds picked up the violated soil. And as they moved along, a dust storm of unprecedented proportions hit the region.

The storm of soil degradation could wipe us all out.


This is not a sexy story. It is, though, an important one.

—Michael Dickel

isadora

It’s that time of month when we share something of Gretchen Del Rio’s healing art to ease the shadows that nip at our heals.

Gretchen Del Rio's Art Blog

watercolor aceo 11/2015 watercolor aceo 11/2015

‘Soft hearted people are not fools, they know what people did to them but they forgive again and again because they have beautiful hearts.’

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celestial fox

This month from Gretchen Del Rio … a Japanse myth, a wise fox on her way to enlightenment – be sure to link through to Gretchen’s site to view the narrative and short video.

Gretchen Del Rio's Art Blog

watercolor 6/2017

In Japanese mythology, a fox who lives long enough and gains a great deal of knowledge will reach an enlightened state, the Eastern sense of the ‘fox spirit’. 

I was exploring the spirit of the fox via google and discovered this song in which fox is presented as a kitsune or fox who is trying to reach heaven in the form of a shooting star. 

“To you my beloved to the land that lies beyond. Soaring through the heavens, she is moved to tears. I will fly out, I will dance in the night sky at the moment when this body disappears.”

So that’s what a shooting star is……. the Celestial Fox flying through the night sky.

purchase this painting

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Pondering The Premiere of the Post-Modern Political Paradigm

Today we bring you a special feature by James Cowles, our resident skeptic. You may or may not agree, but you will be forced to think. / J.D.

To a few of you, the following sentence will be like saying “Elvis has left the building”, i.e., old news. But to many others, it will be very much in the vein of “Main bites dog,” i.e., novel to the point of being revolutionary. Anyway, here goes … the European Enlightenment is now officially over.  “Over” as in “dead as last week’s oatmeal” or “as passé as disco fever and bell-bottom pants” or “As useless as invitations to Hillary Clinton’s inaugural ball”. (Yeah, I know … too soon … sorry … apologies!)  Probably many fewer of you are aware of the likely – not strictly certain, but this is the way to bet – replacement ideology:  (some form of) postmodernism.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but the operative word in the third sentence (beginning “Anyway, here goes … “) above is officially.  In academe, of course, places like Ivy League English and philosophy and the Frankfurt School, the European Enlightenment has been over for some time, supplanted by some species of postmodernism. Rather, what makes the end of the Enlightenment “officially official” is that, for the first time, it has actually determined the outcome of the election, at the level of retail popular politics, of senior executives in the very nations that originated and sustained the Enlightenment, and whose political and constitutional systems would be unimaginable without it.  You know … nations like the United States. We (meaning “all such nations”) are now not only post-industrial and post-Christian, both of which have been true for some time, but now, in addition, we are increasingly post-modern, even in terms of our “retail politics”. In the following, I will argue that, insofar as it is possible to talk about the “principles of post-modernism,” these principles undergird and underwrite that might accurately be described as a “para-fascist” ideology deeply inimical to the corresponding principles of the European Enlightenment.

“Waterfall” M. C. Escher

In many ways, making sense of post-modernism is like trying to make sense of an M. C. Escher drawing, most of which are “post-perspectival”. So the following will of necessity be only a superficial, hasty thumbnail sketch of three of the more important parameters that distinguish (what I believe to be) the coming post-Enlightenment / post-modern culture, because the following three were especially crucial to the election of Donald Trump as the Nation’s first post-Enlightenment / post-modern President. These factors also bid fair to be important elements in the burgeoning nationalist movements in Europe led by people like Nigel Farage in the UK, Marine LePen in France, and Viktor Orban in Hungary (whose rhetoric on the necessity of “ethnic homogeneity” eerily echoes similar sentiments by Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf). In future columns, I will describe the historical and ideological roots in more detail.  But for now …

o The Enlightenment conception of fact as a datum supported and confirmed, usually by multiple independent observers, by actual empirical evidence vs. the post-modern conception “fact” (in quotes) as an expression of what a community needs to be true in order to function

As an example of the latter, there is no evidence whatsoever that thousands of Muslims in New Jersey stood and cheered upon receiving news of the World Trade Center collapsing, nor is there any evidence that Ted Cruz’s father was implicated in the Kennedy assassination. Facts – as in “quantifiable data corroborated by empirically derived statistics” – indicate that, contrary to Trump’s assertion, the United States as a whole — local exceptions like Chicago notwithstanding — is experiencing an almost unprecedented period of law-compliance, not lawlessness.  Despite being corroborated by no fewer than sixteen agencies in the US intelligence community, Trump persists in manufacturing his own “fact” that Russia was not involved in the “cyber-jimmying” of his recent election to the Presidency.  Nor is there any indication – based on actual facts, in the “pre-post-modernist” / Enlightenment sense – that immigrants to the US are exceptionally crime prone, and some evidence indicating the opposite.

What runs as a common thread through all these allegations is that all such assertions involve, basically, articles of faith that Trump supporters, as a community, need to affirm in order to be a community. To be a Trump supporter is to be a member of what is, in all essentials, a fundamentalist religious cult. Given the sheer absence of evidence, affirming that thousands of Muslims cheered the fall of the Twin Towers is in no way essentially different from an observant Roman Catholic affirming that, with a duly ordained priest’s Words of Institution, the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus. Both are about equally contrary to empirical experience, are therefore matters of pure faith, yet both are required – “required” as in absolutely sine qua non — for membership in the community.  Ditto the Virgin Birth. Ditto the Resurrection. Ditto three million fraudulent votes. Ditto 47% unemployment. Religious sects have actually been practicing most of the principles of post-modernism for several centuries, at least 500 years in the case of Christianity. (More about this in the future, too.) Mass politics in established classical democracies is just now belatedly getting the hang of it.

Furthermore, analogous remarks would apply to all authoritarian political and ideological personality cults centered on, e.g., Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Mussolini, with religious equivalents ranging from the Shabbetai Tzvi in the 17th century to Joseph Smith in the 19th to Aum Shinrikyo in the 20th. (The breathtaking devotion of followers of Chairman Mao to Mao’s Thoughts – the little red book everyone carried during the Cultural Revolution – is in no essential way different from the corresponding devotion of fundamentalist Christians for the text of the [usually King James] Bible.) All require a radical sacrifice of the critical faculty and its replacement with the ostensibly a priori true ideology of the group, as defined by its leader. The differences are so trivial as to be beside the point – and all are the diametric opposite of the valorization of the critical intellect characteristic of the Enlightenment. We may reasonably expect the senior leadership of the Trump organization to declare The Art of the Deal literal holy writ.

o The post-modern conception of morality as an “infinitely fungible” and indefinitely negotiable parameter of a community vs. the Enlightenment conception of human beings as embodying a certain ontology – call it “human nature” — respect for the integrity of which is encoded in universally applicable moral principles

I mean fungible in the sense of “one is just as good as another, depending on the end-in-view, hence interchangeable”. For example, I have owned several houses and pieces of real estate in my life, and while I liked all of them for various reasons, all were “fungible” in the sense of being equally subject to sale or exchange, given the exigencies of the moment.  My wife and I liked our house in Wichita, KS, but when we decided to move to Boston so I could go to graduate school, we sold it because the house was less important than the end-in-view (going to grad school). The house / real estate was fungible as a token of exchange.

Franklin Graham
Jerry Falwell, Jr.

Trump’s sexual and commercial escapades have conclusively proven just how similarly fungible conservative Christian, especially evangelical, moral codes are.  No doubt under many circumstances, self-proclaimed arbiters of public morals like Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell, Jr., would condemn men who grabbed women by their genitals and defrauded middle-aged people out of their savings. But when the end-in-view is renewed access to the Oval Office, their version of Christian morality proved eminently fungible, and they were eager to trade in their morality for political leverage. Evangelical morality turned out to be just a rather more genteel form of harlotry. The only difference turned out to be that evangelical-Christian bordellos displayed a Cross out front.

Again, as with virtually all things post-modern, as it was with facts, so it is with morality:  the needs of the community are paramount, even in terms of right and wrong.  The ultimate criterion, with any moral principle, is the principle’s utility for defining and sustaining the community. I find this especially troubling.  If the needs of the community – what the community perceives that it needs in order to be a community – is the supreme defining parameter of permissible vs. impermissible conduct, then, if a given Muslim community decides that, in order to be a community, it must practice, say, female genital mutilation or allow husbands to beat their wives (neither of which is a teaching of qur’anic Islam as I understand it) … well … pubescent girls will be mutilated and wives will be beaten.

By contrast, and as James Madison argued in characterizing the Constitution as a guarantee of the rights of the minority, the Enlightenment idea was that even the needs of the community must often be held as secondary to certain human rights at the individual level. So the community’s felt need for segregated schools vs. “equal protection” of the law, the community’s revulsion at certain religious beliefs vs. the individual’s right of “free exercise”, the community’s disagreement with certain unpopular opinions vs. an individual’s right to free speech, etc., etc., etc.  (Mr. Spock’s Star Trek maxim that “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” is pristinely, quintessentially post-modern. That distant rumbling sound you hear is James Madison turning over in his grave!) The post-modernist “needs of the community” criterion basically amounts to underwriting mob rule.  What renders this principle acceptable to conservative Christians is that, with Donald Trump in the White House, evangelical Christians may reasonably hope to be the mob. With that change, the moral calculus changes accordingly from one that is recognizably Christian to one that is explicitly post-modern.

The post-modernist idea of the preeminence of the needs of the community is not at the end of the path to, e.g., Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will , but it is headed in that direction. If the post-modernist criterion of the needs of the community is to be the final arbiter of morality, both public and private, then it is not clear — to me, anyway — what stands in the way of a 21st-century version of half-million-strong torchlight parades in Nuremberg, c. 1935.

o The post-modernist conception of science as merely one more “meta-narrative” among many others vs. the Enlightenment conception of science as ascertaining objective truth about the Universe-as-such

This is one we should have — and could have — seen coming, at least those of us who have read, say, the late Jean-Francois Lyotard, who did the most (in, e.g., The Postmodern Condition) to popularize the term, and the late Michel Foucault.  In a nutshell, a “meta-narrative” is a “story about stories”, i.e., an overarching story that validates a given culture’s “sub-stories” that, collectively, lend coherence and some kind of unity to a culture. The Christian meta-narrative unified and made rational the political hierarchy of the Middle Ages whereby the liege lord, like God, was at the top of the pyramid. The Christian meta-narrative even rationalized the horror of the Black Death in the middle 1300s:  God was punishing the human race for its history of infidelity and immorality. Etc., etc.., etc. Under the umbrella of the Christian meta-narrative, history, politics, and morality — and even deviations from those norms — all made sense.

The Christian meta-narrative gave way in the 1500s to the science meta-narrative — the world as a system governed by natural laws discoverable by reason and empirical investigation, and even useful in improving the physical circumstances of life — that has been dominant ever since, at least up until the advent of the post-modernist world-view. (This is how I conceive the contrast between Lyotard’s conception of discourse-as-story vs. discourse-as-science in Condition.) I say we should have seen this coming because we saw early symptoms, even in the popular culture, of the breakdown of the strictly scientific meta-narrative, followed by its replacement among many people by what can only be termed some form of “magical thinking”. (That, in a nutshell, is a good hip-pocket description of New Age culture. Ann Druyan, the late Carl Sagan’s widow, had some trenchant comments about magical thinking when she appeared on Bill Maher’s Real Time a few years ago, and said that a dismaying number of people are convinced that it is possible to effect change in the world just by sitting down, thinking about it, and “sending out good thoughts”.) Perhaps the most recent example is all the kerfuffle about the implications of the Mayan “Long Count” Calendar predicting a dire alignment of planets and the sun with the center of the Milky Way Galaxy that, for all manner of half-baked and misunderstood pseudo-scientific reasons, portended some kind of apocalyptic, perhaps even physical, upheaval on a cosmic scale. Which never happened, of course. But never mind. People still believe Jesus could return a week from next Thursday … and have been saying so for 2000 years.

Jean-Francois Lyotard
Michel Foucault

The difference is that now the post-modernist critique of meta-narratives, hitherto restricted to academic debates in classrooms and proseminar courses – several of which I have facilitated — has escaped from the magic lamp and become a genie that may render impossible meaningful action to mitigate the exhaustively corroborated reality of climate change, to name perhaps the most obvious example. The rational, “pre-post-modern”, Enlightenment-centric response would be that, you are quite welcome to your New Age superstitions, as long as they don’t leave Miami underwater. But that’s just me, still benighted by being caught in the “pre-post-modern” Enlightenment Weltanschauung. The much more contemporary attitude would seem to be the belief, on the part of Trump and his devotees, that the gradual increase in the mean ambient global temperature, even supposing it to be real, is due to China indiscriminately dumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere … which, to fit the data, would have to have been happening since, at the very least, quite early in the 18th century. But there I go again. And that is just one example. If you don’t like that one, pick another. A good alternative might be the imaginary link between vaccinations and autism. But again, the question should be “What does the community need?” Certainly not a belief, however well-grounded, in anthropogenic climate change! As the mandarins of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry often told me back in “The Day”,”There goes Jim again, being too left-brained!”

This is one of those rare occasions when academic philosophy — e.g., Lyotard and Foucault — bids fair to destroy one of the cornerstones of Western civilization:  in this case, its characteristic and hard-earned virtuosity with science, and therefore technology. (The last such occasion was Marx / Engels and Marxism.) So, in terms of practical consequences, if a given community — never mind which one — needs to believe that vaccinations cause autism, should that community be allowed to forego vaccinating its kids — who presumably don’t have a choice — thereby penalizing the pro-vaccination community by turning the non-vaccinated kids into tiny biological weapons of mass destruction? Good post-modernist practice, sustained by Lyotard, Foucault, and their arguments of “meta-narrative as instrumentality of oppression,” would presumably argue “Not only ‘Yes’, but ‘Hell yes’.” Thus the slow-motion suicide of Western civilization proceeds apace.

Well … is there nothing we can do? Is there no longer a place for the values, beliefs, and principles of the European Enlightenment? My answer is “Yes but … ” During the early 1940s, there was also a place for the population of London during the German blitzkrieg:  the tunnels and caverns of the London Underground. If we propose to remain a technological civilization, there must be a place — and not just in “science proper,” science in the narrowly technical sense — for the principles of the European Enlightenment. But, at least for a while, that place will not be above ground culturally. The Enlightenment must henceforth be practiced sub rosa, in a clandestine discursive space of intellectual Tube tunnels where it will be safe.

Where might that be?  Funny you should ask …

It is quite possible to critique the Enlightenment as at least implicitly biased in terms of race, culture, and class.  The Enlightenment, like all things human, suffered from its own imperfections. For example, many of the heirs of the Enlightenment among the American Founders were member of the aristocracy (though even the American aristocracy were little more than upper middle class, compared to their British counterparts), were racists and therefore usually slave owners (Washington, Madison, and Jefferson) or former slave owners (Franklin), and most believed in a form of Euro-centric cultural bias.  However, subsequent history shows that the architects of the Enlightenment were these things, not because of the Enlightenment, but despite it, and that their descendants addressed these issues, not by repudiating the principles of the European Enlightenment, but by getting better at practicing those principles. To cite just one example, the ongoing civil rights movement in the United States originates, not from a disavowal of the principles of the Enlightenment, as embodied in the US Constitution, but by implementing those principles more radically and consistently, as with the application of the “equal protection” clause of the 14th Amendment. The flaws of the Enlightenment argue for more of the Enlightenment, not less. When practiced with uncompromising consistency, the principles of the Enlightenment are all self-correcting. Rather like science.

Treaty of Westphalia, 1648

Hence the begged question:  what can we do to “ride out” the current disillusionment with the principles of (classical!) liberal small-“r”-republican and small-“d”-democratic politics, and the concomitant belief in principles like free inquiry, a secular / religion-neutral public square, respect for rational and evidence-based reasoning, equality before the law, and freedom of expression?  The short answer is that the latter-day London Underground I mentioned earlier is us ourselves.  (In fact, before you read any farther in this article, I urgently recommend you read David Brooks’ superlative New York Times column on just this issue.)

Acting to preserve the principles of the European Enlightenment in the shelter of our own intellects and moral consciences is a many-splendored undertaking, involving action on several different fronts.

o Learn

One of the more obvious areas where the Enlightenment project is being challenged today is in the area of science.  The post-modern challenge to the Enlightenment incorporates a certain skepticism about science, the scientific method, the epistemological foundations of science, and consequently the utility  of science as a means of ascertaining true knowledge about the external world.  Post-modernist critiques of science are often written by people – Lyotard, Foucault, et al., come to mind immediately – whose attainments in other fields are undisputed, but whose knowledge of science, and scientific methodology affords them just enough knowledge to be dangerous.  One thinks, in particular, of science skepticism based on the belief that ancient myths and belief  systems, and contemporary spirituality, are just as revelatory of the Universe as empirical science. So learning involves:

“Vitruvian Man” Leonardo Da Vinci

—  Familiarizing oneself with contemporary findings in the sciences, especially biology and physics.

This does not mean becoming a biologist or a physicist, but it does involve cultivating a degree of working-knowledge-level familiarity that enables one to penetrate the superficially attractive but shallow façade of contemporary pseudo-sciences like intelligent design, creationism, and the supposed “proofs” in quantum physics of the existence of God.

— Developing a working knowledge, not of particular sciences, but of the scientific method itself, and the role of data and methodology.  For example, one often hears it alleged that science requires “just as much faith” as religion. Like many other skeptical arguments, this is just true enough to be dangerously misleading.  There is a sense in which science presupposes a certain type of faith, but any attempt to equate the two dies the death of a thousand qualifications, and it is only an unfortunate accident of language that the same word “faith” is used to connote both. Learn and develop an ability to discuss the differences.

— For Americans, one of the most useful elements of learning would be a close and sustained study of how the principles of the European Enlightenment became instantiated, first, in the Declaration of Independence, and later in the US Constitution, including the Bill of Rights. In particular, pay special attention to both “religion” clauses of the First Amendment about the equality of all religious traditions before the civil law, and how such a principle decisively disposes of arguments to the effect that the United States is a “Christian nation” in any sense but the purely cultural. Such a consideration is especially pertinent in light of the “needs of the community” criterion for truth often prevalent in post-modernist writings.

o Contribute

William Herschel’s telescope

There are many worthy causes that are dedicated to upholding various aspects of the Enlightenment consensus.  The following are suggestions only, intended to give you some idea of where one’s monetary contributions could be expected to maximize “bang for the buck”:

— Scientific organizations like the Keck Telescope Foundation

— One’s university and / or various particular departments therein (e.g., my wife and I contribute to my old Oxford University college, Exeter)

— Organizations dedicated to the defense and preservation of the founding principles of various Enlightenment-grounded values and practices like free speech / press, due process, etc., e.g., the American Civil Liberties Union, People for the American Way, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the National Constitution Center, and the Center for the First Amendment

— One’s local museums, symphony orchestras, and arts organizations as practitioners of First Amendment liberties

o Listen

I have found that one of the most effective ways of catching the overall “flavor” of the European Enlightenment, and catching it on an intuitive and affective level in a way that transcends words and “logo-centric” discourse, is through music.  The music of Enlightenment composers – Bach, Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart, Handel, Telemann … the pantheon goes on … – is, by turns and often simultaneously, elegant, reasoned, passionate, playful, yet always disciplined in a way that flows out of the music itself rather than being imposed extraneously from without.  Listen to the gracefully galloping first movement of Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3 in G.  Listen to Franz Josef Haydn’s matchlessly graceful String Quartet in F-Major. (The third movement alone could well serve as a kind of “theme music” for the entire European Enlightenment.)  The hallmark of virtually all the music of the Enlightenment is grace and freedom within the bounds of an intrinsic discipline that does not constrict, but rather liberates … in other words, the diametric opposite of the characteristically post-modern hostility toward all forms of discipline as putative instruments of oppression.

o Read

“The Milkmaid” Johannes Vermeer

Rather than compile a reading list, which would probably stretch for the length of a dozen ‘Zine articles, I will mention a few books, and recommend that those of you who want to do “deep dives” into the history and ideology of the Enlightenment read these books, and then sample the sources, both primary and secondary, in the footnotes and bibliographies.

From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 to the Present: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life by Jacques Barzun

Barzun’s book can serve admirably as a kind of Baedecker guide-book to the European Enlightenment, both in the British Isles and on the Continent.  Its bibliography is exhaustive and a comprehensive reading of it would be exhausting.

In terms of the Enlightenment roots of the US Constitution and of American constitutionalism, there are none better than:

America’s Constitution: A Biography by Akhil Reed Amar, Sterling Professor of Law, Yale

The Bill of Rights:  Creation and Reconstruction also by Amar

The latter is especially useful in terms of assessing how the “equal protection” clause of the 14th Amendment affected the interpretation of the Constitution “proper” and the Bill of Rights

—  The Invisible Constitution (Inalienable Rights) by Prof. Laurence Tribe of Harvard Law

A very instructive, but eminently readable, treatment of 10th Amendment un-enumerated rights

Proofreading text on an early printing press

On Reading the Constitution also by Prof. Tribe

Very useful “how-to” book on how to read – and not read – the Constitution

Desperately Seeking Certainty: The Misguided Quest for Constitutional Foundations by Daniel A. Farber and Suzanna Sherry

The most sheerly entertaining book on constitutional theory – three words I never thought to find in the same sentence – I have ever read, in which interpretation theory is developed in parallel with a recipe for latkes.  Please.  Just read it.

The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution by Bernard Bailyn

For my money, the masterpiece of them all in terms of the Enlightenment, especially English / Scottish Enlightenment, roots of the American Revolution and Constitution

A Primer on Postmodernism by Stanley J. Grenz, Pioneer McDonald Professor of Baptist Heritage, Theology, and Ethics at Carey Theological College and Profess at Regent College in Vancouver, BC

For sheer clarity of exposition of an intrinsically murky subject, Prof. Grenz’s book cannot be beaten.  The last few chapters are written from a conservative evangelical standpoint, from which those not like-minded may demur, but that does not alter the clarity of the preceding text.

Basically, anything by Prof. Jurgen Habermas of the Frankfurt School

But choose your text carefully.  Habermas is widely – and justly — regarded as the greatest European philosopher since Immanuel Kant, and his texts are about as dense and impenetrable as those of his intellectual predecessor. Habermas is a voice in the wilderness in terms of his withering critiques of post-modernism, especially those written by his Frankfurt School Colleagues Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer.  Good luck with this! When I first encountered the Frankfurt School, I had a full head of hair and weighed 50 pounds less.

o Challenge

Prof. Jurgen Habermas

People who defend the Enlightenment project have to be much more assertive, often aggressively so. This is an unaccustomed stance, because, up until approximately the middle of the 20th century, this consensus was essentially unchallenged. The Enlightenment premises of modernism seemed inscribed into reality like the value of pi.  But now we have to learn to:

— Defend the value of science and the integrity of the scientific method by learning – to cite a few of the more pertinent examples – what the theory of evolution through natural selection really says (Hint:  it does not say “humans came from monkeys” or that “evolution is random”)

— The United States is a “Christian nation” only in a purely cultural sense, not as a matter of law

— Goedel’s Incompleteness Theorem is a double-edged sword:  it cuts both ways.   Asserting, as globally true, that verbal and written texts are subject to endless interpretation is itself an example of an attempt to “universalize” a text, and therefore – according to Goedel’s Theorem – render the text contradictory.  Like any other universe of discourse, post-modern ideology is valid – at most – only locally, not as a universal principle.

Karl Marx began The Communist Manifesto with the statement “A spectre is haunting Europe — the spectre of communism”. My equivalent is “A spectre is haunting the West – the spectre of post-modernist nihilism”. Once contained within the biosafety-level-4 laboratories of English and philosophy departments of the academic world, the virus of post-modernism has escaped into the political ecosystem, with results that are most evident in the election of Donald Trump in the US – the first completely post-modern American President — but that are also afflicting the European nations that nurtured the Enlightenment and the constitutional socio-political order it engendered.  (What a stinging historical irony that the nation that produced Adolf Hitler is also the same nation whose Chancellor, Angela Merkel, is the modern-day Leonidas defending the Thermopylae of the West against the assault of the post-modern Persians.) If the heritage of the Enlightenment is to be preserved, along with the constitutional, latitudinarian, rights-centric socio-political order it engendered, it will be up to the beneficiaries of that order – us – to do so.  No one else will.  No one else can.

James R. Cowles

Image credits:

Jean-Francois Lyotard … Bracha L. Ettinger …  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic
Michel Foucault … Photographer unknown … Public domain
Collatz fractal … Originator unknown … Public domain
“Metanarrative” quote … David Bentley Hart … Public domain
Franklin Graham … “Cornstalker” … Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International
Jerry Falwell, Jr. … Liberty University … Public domain
Escher waterfall … M. C. Escher … Fair use
“The Milkmaid” … Johannes Vermeer … Public domain
“Flat earth” engraving …  Camille Flammarion … Public domain
“Vitruvian Man” … Leonardo DaVinci … Public domain
William Herschel’s telescope … Artist unknown … Public domain
Johann Gutenberg reviewing a press proof … Artist unknown … Public domain
Treaty of Westphalia, 1648 … Photographer unknown … Public domain
Jurgen Habermas … Wolfram Hake … CC-BY-SA-3.0

The BeZine, June 2017, Vol. 3, Issue 9


June 15, 2017

The environmental  challenges are complex, an understatement I know.

  • Big Ag pollutes our waterways and groundwater, air and soil. Some wetlands, rivers and their tributaries can no longer sustain life. Much pastureland is befouled with pesticides, animal waste, phosphates and nitrates and other toxic residue from unsustainable farming practices.
  • Sudan Relief Fund, World Food Program, Oxfam, Catholic Relief Fund, Buddhist Global Relief, the World Food Program and many other organizations are working to mitigate widespread  hunger, which is a problem of economic injustice as well as environmental degradation and environmental injustice.
  • Drought and resulting famine are devastating the Sudan, the West Upper Nile and Yemen.
  • In many areas of the world, access to potable water is sorely lacking.
  • Lack of access to clean water is exacerbated by a want of toilets for some 4.2 billion people, which has a  huge impact on public health.  The result of poor hygiene and sanitation is Dysentery, Typhoid, Cholera, Hepatitis A and death-dealing Diarrhea. More people die of diarrhea in Third World counties than of AIDs.

Our problems are pressing and complex and are made the more difficult as we struggle under a cloud of skepticism and division and the discouraging weight of a Doomsday Clock that was moved forward in January to two-and-a-half minutes to midnight in response to Trump’s election.  That’s the closest we’ve been to midnight since 1953.

Access to potable water may be the most pressing of our challenges.

“The world runs on water. Clean, reliable water supplies are vital for industry, agriculture, and energy production. Every community and ecosystem on Earth depends on water for sanitation, hygiene, and daily survival.

“Yet the world’s water systems face formidable threats. More than a billion people currently live in water-scarce regions, and as many as 3.5 billion could experience water scarcity by 2025. Increasing pollution degrades freshwater and coastal aquatic ecosystems. And climate change is poised to shift precipitation patterns and speed glacial melt, altering water supplies and intensifying floods and drought.”  World Resources Institute

The good news is that there are many working conscientiously to raise awareness and funds. Some of our readers and contributors are among them. There are good people offering time and expertise, sometimes putting their own lives and livelihoods  in danger.

This month our core team and guest writers have chosen to focus largely on water, but they also address the need to respect science (Naomi Baltuck) and the need to acknowledge that war is a danger to the environment in general as well as a cause of human hunger. (Michael Dickel). If the Syrian Civil War were to stop right this second, one wonders how long – how many years, perhaps decades – it would take to make that country’s land farmable again.

Michael Watson, Carolyn O’Connell and Joe Hesch touch their experiences of farms before industrial farming.  Priscilla Galasso, John Anstie, Paul Brooks, Marieta Maglas and Rob Cullen speak to us of water.  Corina Ravenscraft and Sonja Benskin Mesher remind us of the element of greed – as does John – and Sonja points to gratitude.  Enough is truly enough.  Charlie Martin’s poems are poignant, making us think about how sad it would be if we lost it all.  Liliana Negoi brings a quiet and practical appreciation of nature.  Phillip Stevens paints the earth in all her delicacy and need for tender husbandry.

Thanks to our core team members for stellar, thoughtful work as always: John Anstie, Michael Watson and Michael Dickel, Priscilla Galasso and Corina Ravenscraft, Charles Martin, Liliana Negoi, Naomi Baltuck and Joe Hesch.

Welcome back to Paul Brooks, Phillip Stephens and Sonja Benskin Mesher and a warm welcome to Marieta Maglas and Rob Cullen, new to our pages.

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,
Jamie Dedes, Founding and Managing Editor

Photo credit: A Mongolian Gazelle, victim of drought, Gobi Desert 2009 courtesy of Mark Heard under CC BY 2.0


TABLE OF CONTENTS

How to read this issue of THE BEZINE:

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

SPECIAL

Children call on world leaders to save the ocean, World Oceans Day

BeATTITUDES

Walking With Water, Rob Cullen
Water Wishes, Priscilla Galasso
Our Albatross Is Greed, But We’re Not Sunk Yet, Corina Ravenscraft
Close to My Heart, Michael Watson

 POEMS

Let the Rains Fall, John Anstie

The Value of Water, Paul Brookes
WET KILL, Paul Brookes
What Use Poetry When It Floods, Paul Brookes

Hybrid: Warm Hunger, Michael Dickel

Water, Ralph Waldo Emerson

Don’t Blink, Joseph Hesch

The Desert, Marieta Maglas

Postponed Awareness, Charles W. Martin
off course evolution, Charles W. Martin
death by committee, Charles W. Martin

#what more do you expect, Sonja Benskin Mesher

prints, Liliana Negoi
growth, Liliana Negoi
what remains after the tree, Liliana Negoi

Remember the Farm, Carolyn O’Connell

Guerilla Gardening, Phillip Stephens
Resurrection Restoration, Phillip Stephens

PHOTO/ESSAY

That Was Then, This Is Now, Naomi Baltuck

MORE LIGHT

For My Children, Rob Cullen


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


CONNECT WITH US


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Call to register and prepare for 100TPC global event & Last call for submissions to the June issue of “The BeZine”



Notice from founders Michael Rothenberg and Terri Carion ~

Dear Friends of 100 Thousand Poets for Change,

It is that time of year again when we begin to sign up organizers and events for the next Global 100 Thousand Poets for Change Day–September 30, 2017. Please let me know if you will be organizing in your town.

Also, as you know, 100 Thousand Poets for Change is a non-profit 501 (c) 3 and we need your donations to keep this movement going strong.

We would be grateful if you would take a moment to make a donation through Paypal at 100 Thousand Poets for Change Donation Link at http://100tpc.org/?page_id=14104 or send a check donation to 100 TPC, Box 2724, Tallahassee, FL 32304, USA.

We need your support so that we can continue to provide a global platform for poets and artists to speak about peace, justice, sustainability, and community.

Now more than ever! Show your support!

Sincerely,

Michael and Terri

100 Thousand Poets for Change

100TPC.org

The BeZine will host a 100,000 Poets for Change virtual event. Poets are welcome to contribute from anywhere in the world and we encourage disabled poets to participate, especially those who are homebound.  Michael Dickel (Meta / Phor(e) / Play) takes the lead.



Deadline for the June issue is tomorrow (June 10th) at midnight PST.

THE BeZINE submissions for the June 2017 issues (theme: Environmental Justice/Climate Change: Farming and Access to Water) should be in by June 10th latest.  Publication date is June 15th. Poetry, essays, fiction and creative nonfiction, art and photography, music (videos), and whatever lends itself to online presentation is welcome for consideration. Please check out a few issues first and the Intro./Mission Statement and Submission Guidelines. No demographic restrictions.

The theme for the July issue is Prison Culture, Restorative Justice. The deadline is July 10th at midnight PST. Terri Stewart (Beguine Again) takes the lead.

qilin of the yellow emperor

A beatifully rendered unicorn by American artist, Gretchen Del Rio.

Gretchen Del Rio's Art Blog

watercolor 5/2017

So…does the unicorn exist now or ever? Perhaps whatever we can imagine with the mind does exist.  

Long before the pearly white unicorn of European lore, a one-horned, magical animal was said to roam the Eastern world: the Asian unicorn. First mentioned in written stories around 2700 BC, this unicorn is described as a creature of great power and wisdom. Always benevolent, it avoids fighting at all costs and walks so softly it will not crush a blade of grass. And no one but the very pure of heart should ever see it.

purchase this painting

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The BeZine, May 2017, Honesty & Transparency, The Post-truth (Post-factual Politices) Era

May 15, 2017

Due to technical problems, this issue didn’t get distributed to those who subscribe by email. J.D.


“In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”
—George Orwell

This is an extraordinary time; a time when post-truth culture is thriving in Russia, China, America, Australia, Britian, India, Japan and Turkey. This political climate is founded and furthered by appeals to emotion and on conclusions based on ignorance of and resistance to hard science and well-documented history. A perhaps unprecedented level of bombast replaces common sense, honesty and sincere promise creating a climate that rests on disinformation, intimidation and divide-and-conquer as its primary weapons of control. This all combines to undermine rule of law, free speech and free media. We have administrations evolving in the spirit of Orwell’s 1984 where diplomacy and statesmanship have devolved into manipulative spins calculated to influence the gullible and solidify the power of would-be autharitarians.

With the mixed blessing of social networking citizens seem unable – or perhaps unwilling – to distinguish lies from truth and fact from fallacy. President Obama is described as “obsessed” with this problem (hyperreality) and the mixed ecosystem of professional journalism and social network reportage in which “everything is true and nothing is true.”

“In an age where there’s so much active misinformation, and it’s packaged very well, and it looks the same when you see it on a Facebook page or you turn on your television, where some over-zealousness on the part of a US official is equated with constant and severe repression elsewhere, if everything seems to be the same and no distinctions are made, then we won’t know what to protect…If we can’t discriminate between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have problems.”
—Barak Obama

We’ve decided this month to address the challenges that face our countries and the world. We’ve addressed these in essay and poetry, sometimes head-on and sometimes by a thread. Though perspectives and solutions may differ to some degree, there is clear agreement that the concerns are real as is the need to “resist.”

A last note: Thanks to Michael Dickel for further technical refinements to make this zine more accessible and readily readable. Thanks also to the members of our core team, to our guest contributors and to our readers for continued support, encouragement and the pleasures of our shared values.

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

“Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. ”
― George Orwell

For this issue of The BeZine

  • Click HERE to read the entire magazine by scrolling (includes the intro above) and
  • To learn more about our guests contributors, please link HERE.

Waging the Peace


In December 2015 world events led to a spontaneous eleventh hour special section – Waging the Peace –  in The BeZine.. This seems a propitious moment to bring to the fore once again those ideas, ideals and experiences shared by Rabbi Gershon Steinberg-Caudill, Rev. Ben Meyers, Father Daniel Sormani, C.S. Sp., Sophia Ali-Khan, Israeli-American poet Michael Dickel, and the Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi. Thanks to all of them and to Carla Prater, the assistant director of Buddhist Global Relief for their contributions to this collection and their assistance. The links to the features in Waging Peace are included below the following introduction.

Rabbi SteinBerg-Caudill (the Interfaith Rabbi) is a Jewish teacher who espouses a Jewish Spirituality and Universalist teaching for the future brotherhood of all people. When I contacted him about this effort he reminded me of what surely should be foremost in our minds and hearts:

“The Hebrew word for PEACE – שלום – does not imply a lack of strife. It implies instead WHOLENESS, COMPLETION. If one is in a state of peace, he can still be whole in a time of chaos.”

Rev. Meyers of the Unitarian Universalists of San Mateo also counsels inner peace with his You are the promise … the one … the hope. Rev. Meyers says:

“I understand and often share the ‘urge of urgency’ over the peacefulness of peace. But this I also know: We live at the intersection of action and reflection.”

Father Sormani, a Spiritan priest who has lived and worked in Algeria and Dubai and is now teaching theology at Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines, asks What Have We Done that People Can Pick-up Weapons and Kill. Father Dan says:

“We have become our own worst enemy. Whenever we separate the world into ‘them’ and ‘us’, whenever we accept blind generalizations and cease to see a unique individual before us, whenever we forget we are all victims of carefully orchestrated deceit and deception for wealth and power, the force of darkness wins. Bullets will never win this struggle, only the heart and mind will.”

Lest you missed Sofia Ali-Khan‘s letter, Dear Non-Muslim Allies, which made the rounds on Facebook and was also picked up by some mainstream media, we’ve included it here.

We’ve also included a video recitation of Tunisian poet Anis Chouchéne‘s profoundly moving poem against racism and fanaticism. Chouchène speaks directly to radical Islam  … but I think you’ll agree that he ultimately speaks to the fear in all of us.

“Peace we keep an eye on/while it packs its bags/to abandon our lands, little by little …”

Chouchène concludes as Father Dan does, that we must be able to see the individual.

Michael Dickel‘s poem Mosquitoes (excerpt from his chapbook, War Surrounds Us – Is a Rose Press 2015), is featured. The poem starts out with Israelis and Palestinians crossing the artificial lines that divide to offer one another condolences on the deaths of their children.  This is a favored poem of mine, especially so because when I initiated The Bardo Group (now The Bardo Group Beguines) in 2011, I had in mind virtual crossing of boarders through the arts. (Our mission statement is HERE.) Michael’s poem demonstrates how we are manipulated by the propaganda machine.

We’ve included a short video presentation on the seven steps to peace developed by peace activist, Rabbi Marc Gopin. Director of the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution (CRDC).

The Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi is Buddhist monk in the Theravada tradition, an author and teacher. He is the founder of Buddhist Global Relief.  With permission, we offer the 2015 talk he gave at the New Year’s Interfaith Prayer Service, Chuang Yen Monastery. Bhikkhu Bodhi says:

“Real peace is not simply the absence of violent conflict but a state of harmony: harmony between people; harmony between humanity and nature; and harmony within ourselves. Without harmony, the seeds of conflict and violence will always be ready to sprout.

Bhikku Bodhi goes on to analyze the obstacles to achieving world peace, the prerequisites of peace, and the means to realizing these goals.

On behalf of The Bardo Group Beguines and in the spirit of love and community,

Jamie Dedes,
Founding and Managing Editor of The BeZine.

Waging The Peace
An Interfaith Exploration

You are the promise . . . the one . . . the hope, Rev. Ben Meyers

What Have We Done That People Can Pick Up Weapons and Kill?, Fr. Daniel Sormani, C.S.Sp.

Dear Non-Muslim Allies,  Sofia Ali-Khan

Peace Be Upon You, شوشان – سلام عليكم, Anis Chouchène

Mosquitoes, American-Israeli poet, Michael Dickel, Jewish

Peace Steps: One Man’s Journey Into the Heart of His Enemies, Rabbi Mark Gopin

Waging Peace, Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi, Buddhist teacher

mystic dreamer

Tomorrow we begin a new month and a month without sharing something of Gretchen Del Rio’s would just not be a good month. Gretchen Del Rio dedicated this painting to the Native American flautist Carlos Nakai. If you’ve never encountered his work, you’ve really missed something. The esteem in which he is held is well earned.

Gretchen Del Rio's Art Blog

watercolor 3/2017  8 x 10

I am dedicating this painting to honor the healing flute music of Carlos Nakai.  When I was 3 years old a groundbreaking surgery was performed on my left hand and ring finger to remove a bone tumor. The innovative operation was very successful but not much hope was given that I would ever use my ring finger again. I was just so fortunate that the finger was saved. So when I was about 6 years old and I wished to learn to play the flute I was repeatedly discouraged and told that it would be impossible for me to learn because of my stunted and immobile finger. Since I kept pleading  to try, a teacher was found and a silver flute supplied. I practiced and practiced and by the time I was 10 I won a music contest playing the flute that everyone said that I…

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HEADS-UP SHEFFIELD and surrounding area: John Rutter’s “Requiem” coming to your area

“The chamber choir, for which I sing, along with two other local choirs (Stannington Mixed and Thurgoland Community Choir) and the talented Inyerface Arts musicians and soloists, are performing John Rutter’s Requiem as the core of a concert on Saturday, 27th May at the magnificent Victoria Hall in Sheffield. It would be very much appreciated it if you were able to share this amongst your friends, who might enjoy an amazing choral experience … Thank you.” John Anstie (My Poetry Library), is a singer, musician, poet and a member of The BeZine core team.

April 2017, Vol. 3, Issue 7, Celebrating interNational Poetry Month

April 15, 2017

Poetry Month means that we have arrived at

…the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain. (T. S. Eliot, The Wasteland)

One of the most famous poems “about” poetry, Marianne Moore‘s poem, “Poetry.” It famously begins with

I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond
all this fiddle.

However, she goes on in the very next lines to say

Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one
discovers that there is in
it after all, a place for the genuine.

There is much that is genuine in this April issue of The BeZine, which celebrates Poetry Month globally with our celebration of interNational Poetry Month. We are proud to present a wide variety of poets and poetry from all over the world. We have 45 posts of poetry (many with more than one poem), an essay, and one short story. This issue of The BeZine is an anthology!

Over the years, questions of poetry’s health, suggestions of its “death,” and concerns over who, if anybody, might be reading it, continue to swirl around in various articles, essays, and round tables. While many of the debates one might encounter in this bubbling broth come from a perspective of poetry’s decline, it seems to me that the reasons that such questions arise come from two primary sources.

One is an anxiety about how society values what we do, as poets or readers of poetry. It seems that the writers from this vein often worry that, in fact, society does not value poetry—as recorded in statistics about readership or as suggested by some other perceived decline in attention to it. The other vein, in my view, is a more healthy concern with what poetry is and what we are doing when we “do” poetry (read, write, critique).

This past year, a lot of words spilled onto the screen and page regarding Bob Dylan receiving the Nobel Prize—is a song writer a poet? Of course, poetry comes from song, so a song writer is a poet. Is poetry still song, then, or has it gone “beyond”? These articles and essays seem to flow from both of the sources I’ve suggested: anxiety and reflection. If our modest zine is any indication, poetry thrives throughout the world.

While the anxieties and reflections continue—and they are not new, witness the 1919 date of Marianne Moore’s poem—poets continue to write, and readers continue to read. You are reading this, so you are evidence of readers who have an interest in poetry. Whether there are more or fewer readers in any year or decade might fluctuate, or the methods of measuring them might change. However, as there are poets, there are those who read poetry. And listen to it—as in spoken word and slam.

Billy Collins opens his essay, The Vehicle of Language, suggesting that a problem with the reception of poetry is how poetry is taught:

For any teacher of poetry with the slightest interest in reducing the often high-pitched level of student anxiety, one step would be to substitute for the nagging and ultimately pointless question, “What does this poem mean?” the more manageable question “Where does this poem go?” Tracking the ways a poem moves from beginning to end puts the emphasis on the poem’s tendency to travel imaginatively and thus to carry the reader in the vehicle of its language.

In principle, I agree that the emphasis should be on where poetry goes, how it plays with language—not on decoding “meaning.” The same approach could be applied to the concerns expressed about poetry. The concerns need not be about where poetry is as measured against expectations of its current quality, akin to the “meaning” anxiety of its teaching.

Although some express an anxiety about the “quality” of online poetry or spoken word or even “today’s” written word, we would do well to reflect instead on where poetry is going, for us as readers and writers—where we as writers of it want to go with our poetry, and where we as readers of it want poetry to go to be most satisfying.

Poetry invites us to take an imaginative journey: from the flatness of practical language into the rhythms and sound systems of poetic speech. (Billy Collins, The Vehicle of Language)

It is our hope that you will read the poetry here with an appreciation for poetry’s “place for the genuine,” and find satisfaction in the depth and breadth presented here. Whether or not you will have “a perfect contempt for it” as you read, we leave up to you…

Michael Dickel
Contributing Editor


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Celebrating interNational Poetry Month

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.

Poetry

April Fool, Iulia Gherghei
Barricades and Beds, Aditi Angiras
The Burgundy Madonna, Patricia Leighton
Common Ground, Dorothy Long Parma
dancing toward infinity, Jamie Dedes
Don’t Let Fall Go – sonnet, Liliana Negoi
Donatella D’Angelo | unpublished poems 2016
Dreaming of Children, Renee Espiru
A few from the vaults …, Corina Ravenscraft
Four Poems by Reuben Woolley
Full Buck Moon and other poems by Lisa Ashley
gary lundy’s poetics | 5 prose poems
A geography of memories | Reshmi Dutt-Ballerstadt
Grandmother, Dorothy Long Parma
having found a stone in my shoe …, Charles W Martin
healing hands …, Charles W Martin
Kali, Gayle Walters Rose
Kinga Fabó | 3 Hungarian Poems in Translation
Lead Boots, David Ratcliffe
levels, Liliana Negoi
luke 10:25-37…, Charles W Martin
Melissa Houghton | 3 Poems
Michael Rothenberg and Mitko Gogov
Ms. Weary’s Blues, Jamie Dedes
not with a bang but a whimper, three poems, Jamie Dedes,
One of My Tomorrows, John Anstie
patriarichal wounds…, Charles W Martin
Poetry and Prayer, Phillip T Stephens
PTSD Children, Charles W Martin
Rachel Heimowitz | Three Poems from Israel
the red coat, Sonja Benskin Mesher
Science Fiction, Phillip T. Stephens
Socks | Michael Dickel
Spring in my Sundays, Iulia Gherghei
Standing Post: Trees in Practice, Gayle Walters Rose
Teaching Poetry | Michael Dickel
Terri Muuss | and the word was
The Marks Remain, David Ratcliffe
Three Poems by Paul Brookes
Three Poems by Phillip Larrea
Three Poems from Albanian | Faruk Buzhala
To Our Broken Sandals, Mendes Biondo
To the Frog at the Door, Jamie Dedes
Two Poems by Denise Fletcher
Valérie Déus | 3 Poems

BeAttitude

Look Upon My Works, Ye Mighty, Naomi Baltuck

Short Story

Whispers on an April Morning Breeze, Joseph Hesch


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


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The Poet as Witness: “War Surrounds Us,” an interview with Contributing Editor, Michael Dickel

5182N5cYeEL._SX355_BO1,204,203,200_“That some of those labelled as enemies
have crossed the lines to offer condolences
at the mourning tents; that the mourning
families spoke to each other as parents
and cried on each others’ shoulders;
that we cried for the children who died
on both sides of the divide; that the
war began anyway; that hope must
still remain with those who cross
borders, ignore false lines and divisions;
that children should be allowed to live;
that we must cry for all children who die”

– Michael Dickel, (Mosquitos) War Surrounds Us

Note: We did this interview some years ago. I’m posting it today so that readers who don’t know Michael may learn a bit about him. At some point tomorrow, we’ll hit the publish button for the April issue of The BeZine, dedicated to poetry.  Michael is the lead editor for this issue.  / J.D.

Jerusalem, Summer 2014: Michael Dickel and his family including Moshe (3 years when the interview was conducted, now 6) and Naomi (1 year at the time of the interview, now 4) hear the air raid sirens, find safety in shelters, and don’t find relief during vacation travels.  In a country smaller than New Jersey, there is no escaping the grumbling wars that encircle. So Michael did what writers and poets do. He bore witness. He picked up his pen and recorded thoughts, feelings, sounds, fears, colors, events and concerns in poetry. The result is his third collection of poems, a chapbook, War Surrounds Us.

While some use poetry to galvanize war, Michael’s poetry is a cry for peace. He watched the provocations between Israel and Hamas that resulted in war in 2014 and he illustrates the insanity.

            And the retaliation
Continues, reptilian and cold,
retaliation the perpetrator
of all massacres.

Though the poems change their pacing and structure, they present a cohesive logical and emotional flow, one that takes you blood and bone into the heart of Michael’s experience as a human being, a poet, a Jew, a father and husband. He touches the humanity in all of us with his record of the tension between summer outings and death tolls, life as usual and the omnipresence of war.  Both thumbs up on this one. Bravo, Michael.

– Jamie Dedes

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MY INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL DICKEL:

Jamie: Putting together a poetry collection and ordering the work in a way that enhances the meaning and clarity of poems included is not easy. One of the first things to strike me about the collection as a whole is how it flows, so well in fact that it reads almost like one long poem. I found that quality contributed to the work’s readability. How did you work out the order? Was it consciously ordered or did it arise organically out of the experience of the war?

Michael: I’m very gratified that you noticed this about my book. I hadn’t thought of it quite in that sense, of being one poem, but I like that it reads that way. The sense of a book holding together, a collection of poems having some coherence, is important to me. I don’t think my first book achieved this very well, although it has some flow poem to poem. The whole is not focused, though. My second book has a sense of motion and narrative, from the Midwest where I grew up to arriving and living in Israel, and now being part of the Mid-East. However, War Surrounds Us, my third book, finally has a sense of focus that the other two did not.

Unfortunately, I probably can’t take too much credit for that coherence. Even more unfortunate, a real war raged in Gaza, with rockets also hitting the Jerusalem area, not that far from where I live. As we know now, thousands died, most apparently civilians, many children. Just across the border to the Northeast, diagonally opposite of Gaza, a much larger scale conflict burned and still burns through Syria—with even larger death tolls and even more atrocities over a longer time. These wars had, and still have, a huge impact on me and my family.

During last summer, the summer of 2014, this reality of war surrounding us had all of my attention. And it came out in my writing as obsession with the war, my family, the dissonance between living everyday life and the reality of death and destruction a missile’s throw away. So the topic filled my poems those months, as it did my thoughts. And the poems emerged as events unfolded over time, so a sort of narrative wove into them—not a plot, mind you, not exactly, anyway.

This gives a chronological structure to the book. However, not all of the poems appear in the order I wrote them. I did move some around, seeing connections in a theme or image—if it did not jar the sense of the underlying chronology of the war. Some of the events in our life could move around, and I did move some poems to places where I thought they fit better. I also revised the poems, reading from beginning to end several times, trying to smooth out the flow. A few of the poems I actually wrote or started before this phase of the ongoing conflict broke out—but where they also fit into a pattern, I included them. In the end, I moved and revised intuitively, following my own sense of flow and connection. I’m glad that it seems to have worked for you, as a reader, too.

Jamie: What is the place of the poet and poetry in war? Can poetry, art and literature move us to peace? How and why?

Michael: This is a difficult question. Historically, one place of poets was to call the soldiers to war, to rile them up and denounce the enemy. There is a famous poem from the Hebrew Scriptures. Balaam is called by Balak to curse Jacob and his army. The story sets a talking donkey who sees an angel with a sword and other obstacles in his way, but long story short, he arrives and raises his voice. He is the poet who is supposed to curse the enemy. Instead, he begins, “How beautiful your tents, O Jacob…” and recites a poem that is now part of the Jewish liturgy. This is not necessarily a peace poem, but it shows words and their power to curse of bless. I think the place of the poet is to bless and, rather than curse, to witness with clear sight.

There is a long history of poet as witness and observer. Czeslaw Milosz in The Witness of Poetry and Carolyn Forché, following him, in her books Against Forgetting: Twentieth Century Poetry of Witness and Poetry of Witness, which goes back to the 16th Century, argue that the poet’s role is to observe and bear witness to the world—to the darkness, the atrocities, genocide, war… Forché quotes Bertolt Brecht: “In these dark times, will there also be singing? / Yes, there will be singing. / About the dark times.” I think that is what we do as poets. That’s what I hope that War Surrounds Us does at its best, albeit as much a witnessing of my own family and context as of the Other. Then, as feminist theory has taught me, the personal is political, the political personal.

A1oKsOxRrJL._UY200_Can art and literature move us to peace? I don’t know. I hope it can move us to see more clearly, to feel more acutely, and to embrace our humanity and the humanity of others. Perhaps that will move us toward peace. There is so much to do, and it is as the rabbinic wisdom says about healing creation: it may not be ours to see the work completed, but that does not free us from the responsibility to do the work. As poets, we make a contribution. I hope the songs about the dark times will also be blessings for us all.

Jamie: Tell us about your life as a poet. When did you start and how did you pursue the path? How do you carve out time for it in a life that includes work, children and community responsibilities. You live on a kibbutz, I think.

Michael: Well, starting at the end, no, I don’t live on a kibbutz, I live in Jerusalem (the pre-1967 side of the Green Line). I do teach English at a college that was started by the Kibbutz Movement as a teacher’s college in the 1960s, now Kibbutzim College of Education, Arts and Technology. That appears in my email signature and confuses some people outside of Israel, who think I teach as part of living at a kibbutz. I’m actually more like adjunct faculty, but no one at the college works directly for a kibbutz as far as I know, and the college is open to anybody who qualifies.

While I only have a short day, from when the kids of my current family go to pre-school until I pick them up, I also usually only teach part-time. Some semesters I teach full-time or even more, but usually not. And, many of my courses in the past couple of years have been online, meeting only a few times during the semester. This helps.

My wife works full-time in high tech, which allows us to survive on my irregular, adjunct pay. She also has some flexibility, which allows her to usually be free to pick up the kids as needed around my teaching schedule, and we have on occasion hired someone to help with the kids so I could teach, not so much for my writing. But that has allowed writing time on other days.

Mostly, I write during those few hours when the kids are at pre-school, after the kids have gone to bed, or even later, after my wife has also gone to bed. If I’m working on a deadline or a large project, such as some of the freelance work I do for film production companies, I write after my wife gets home from work even if the kids are still awake. Usually, though, I write when I find time, and I find time when I don’t have other obligations.

Perhaps of relevance to this book, the writing took over. I was late in getting papers back to students and delayed other obligations and deadlines, even canceling a couple of other projects—although it was not just the writing, but the whole experience of the war, dealing with it and wanting to be very present with my children. As the poems relate, we went to the Galilee, in the North, for a month, a vacation we have taken before. Last summer, though, it had extra urgency because of the war. Unfortunately, during an outing picking apples in the Golan Heights, we heard artillery across the border in Syria, and that’s when I wrote the title poem of the book, “War Surrounds Us.”

The summer before, on that same month-long getaway, I wrote a lot of flash fiction, which makes up most of my next book, which should come out by the end of the year (The Palm Reading after The Toad’s Garden came out December 2016, rather than 2015). I wrote during both summers when the kids were napping or after their bedtime, mostly. The place we stay in, a friend’s house (he travels every summer), has a lovely courtyard, and after the children went to bed, Aviva and I would sit out in it, usually with a glass of wine. She would read or work online and I would write on my laptop into the night. It was lovely and romantic.

I have to say that I almost don’t remember a time when I didn’t write poetry or stories. I recall trying to stop on a few occasions, either to work in some other aspect of my life, or when I did a different kind of writing, such as for my dissertation (which devolved into creative writing for more than half of it). But really, going back into my early years, I wrote stories or poems of some sort—influenced I suppose by A. A. Milne, Sol Silverstein, Kenneth Grahame and, later, Mark Twain and even Shakespeare. I had books of Roman and Greek myths, the Lambs’ bowdlerized Shakespeare for children, and some Arthurian tales as a child, not to mention shelves of Golden Books. Later, I read Madeleine L’Engle and a lot of science fiction. And everything I read made me also want to write.

I owe the earliest of my poems that I can remember to exercises from grade school teachers, one in 3rd grade, maybe 4th, the other in 6th grade. However, I’m sure that I wrote stories and possibly “poems” earlier. My first sense that I could become a poet arrived via a junior high school teacher, who encouraged me to submit some poetry to a school contest. I tied for first place.

So, I started writing forever ago. By the time of the junior high contest, I had read e e cummings, Emily Dickinson, some Whitman. By 9th grade, I discovered the Beats through a recording of Ginsberg reading “Kaddish” and other poems. Hearing him read the poems, then reading them myself, changed everything.

Alongside this development, one of my brothers brought Dylan records home that I listened to. All three of my brothers, with my parents’ tacit approval, played folk music and protest music in the form of songs of Woody Guthrie; The Weavers; Joan Baez; Peter, Paul and Mary; in addition to Dylan. These influenced both my writing and my world view. The same year that I came across Ginsberg’s work, I was involved in anti-war activity in my high school. That spring, four students were shot at Kent State. In another way, that changed everything, too.

Writing, activism, and politics, for me have always been interwoven. I also heard that year about “The Woman’s Movement,” which today we call Feminism. Later, much later, I would read and take to heart the idea of the personal being political, the body being political. I think my poems, even the most personal, always have a political and theoretical lens. And the most philosophical or political or theoretical, also have a personal lens. I don’t think that we can help but do that, but I try to be aware of the various lenses, of using their different foci deliberately as part of my craft. I’m not sure that is the current trend, and much of my work doesn’t fit well in spoken word or slam settings (some of it fits). However, this is my poetry and poetics—and they arise from a specific cultural context, the complexity of which I could not begin to convey in less than a lifetime of writing.

My development from those awakening moments looked like this: I read. I wrote. I shared my work with other people who wrote. Sometimes I talked with others about writing. My first degree in college was in psychology, not English, because I naively thought that psych would help me understand the human condition and that English would “ruin” – suppress – my writing voice. However, I took a lot of literature courses and my study abroad term focused entirely on literature.

After college, I had a career as a counselor working with runaways, with street teens, with children undergoing in-patient psych evaluations, and in a crisis intervention and suicide prevention center—a career that taught me a lot about politics, gender, race, and justice. I continued to write, often about some of the most disturbing realities that I encountered, but not well.

I had been out of college nearly a decade when I took some courses in creative writing at the University of Minnesota, at the suggestion of some friends in a writing group who had also taken some. One of the professors encouraged me to apply to the Creative Writing Program, where I was accepted. The acceptance was a poignant moment—I was out of state at my father’s burial. My now ex-wife remained back with our then 2 year-old daughter. She saw the letter in the mail, so called and read it to me. It was also my 32nd birthday. So many emotions all at the same time. Mostly, I remember wishing I could have told my father—from when he first heard that I’d applied, every phone call we had included his asking if I had heard yet if I had been accepted. It was the most direct way he had of saying he was proud.

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Jamie: Tell us a little about 100,000 Poets for Change (100TPC) in Israel and how people can get in touch with you if they want to participate this year. Are you able to manage a mix of Arabs and Jews?

Michael: The thing about 100TPC is that it’s pretty loose, as an organization, and very anarchic in governance. Which is to say, I’m not sure there is something I could call 100TPC in Israel. There’s a wonderful poet in Haifa who does some events, I don’t think every year. She is very active in peace activism and poetry. There’s an Israeli mentor of mine, Karen Alkalay-Gut, who has organized 100TPC events in Tel Aviv since the first year. For the past two years, I organized a poetry reading in Jerusalem. The first one was small, a few people I knew and cajoled into reading. The second one was much larger, over 25 poets. We had one Arab writer, who writes in English, at the second reading. Her poetry is powerful and personal, written as an Arab woman, a mother, and an Israeli. An Arab musician was going to join us, but he had a conflict arise with a paying gig. It is difficult to manage the practical, political, and social barriers, but people do it here. I am just learning a bit how to do this now.

For this year (2015), I am working with two other organizations—the Lindberg Peace Foundation, which has held annual Poetry for Peace events. This year will be the 40th anniversary (yartzheit, in Hebrew) of Miriam Lindberg’s tragic death at the age of 18. She wrote poetry, was a peace activist, and also an environmental activist. Her mother was a poet and professor, and passed away a few years ago. Joining us in planning the Jerusalem event will be the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development. Their mission as I understand it is to develop interfaith leadership for common goals related to eco-justice that would also provide a model for solving the Middle East conflicts. (In the end, the collaborations did not work as planned in 2015, but there were three poetry events with some connection to 100TPC.)

The Jerusalem events won’t be the same date as the national event (26 September)—our dates will be 15–16 October, to honor the 40th anniversary of Miriam Lindberg’s death. Dorit Weissman, a Hebrew-language poet and playwright, also has become part of 100TPC this year, and she and I are having a smaller reading on 8 October with other poets.

We are just setting up a Facebook page for organizing with the three groups, 100TPC, the foundation, and the center. People could look for me on FB and send me a chat message there to be in touch. I hope that we will have the events posted on FB in the next few weeks, but we are still working on the details. The devil is always in the details, as the saying goes.

Michael will host The BeZine‘s virtual 100TPC this 26 September 2015.

Poems from War Surrounds Us:
Again
Musical Meditations
The Roses

TLV1 Interview and Poetry Reading on YouTube

Be the peace.

© 2015, book review, Jamie Dedes (The Poet by Day), All rights reserved; words, poetry, photographs of Michael, Michael Dickel, All rights reserved; cover illustration, The Evolution of Music, by Jerry Ingeman, All rights reserved

FOR POETRY MONTH: Meaning and Pleasure … featuring Michael Dickel and Myra Schneider

It’s great to get a poem or story published. It’s about income and getting read and for some it’s validation as well. These are all important (even vital), but I was reminded recently that our poetry and other writing is about so much more.

In the introduction to the March issue of The BeZine, themed Science in Culture, Politics and ReligionContributing Editor Michael Dickel wrote:

American-Israeli Poet, Michael Dickel

“The title of David Cooper’s book on Kabbalah invites us to re-think the Creator as Creating: God is a Verb. While I don’t want to equate science to God in a religious sense, I want to borrow this re-conception. Science is creative, creating, if you will, knowledge of the world. Science is a verb.”

 

Jamie Dedes

A friend of mine came to visit and glowed when she told me she’d read Michael’s introduction. God is a Verb and Science is a verb popped out at her. Something she’d been struggling with suddenly fell into place. Other company arrived and I wasn’t able to get further explanation. I’m pleased but not surprise with her reaction to Michael’s piece. It demonstrates the power of words to bring joy, clarification and healing.

My own recent experience: a few people commenting or emailing me saying my post here – not with a bang but a whimper – helped release needed tears.

On another occasion in woman in Scotland wrote to say she’d read my poem – Wabi Sabi – to her wabi sabi group.  They found it inspiring. Wow! While I do need my payments, it’s this sort of thing – this human connection – that is satisfying right down to the marrow of my bones.

Poetry is also important as an entry point into sacred space for both artist and audience.  This is motivation for everyone to practice their art, whether professionally or as amateur, which is not a pejorative. I’m sure many of you – if not all of you – know what I mean.  There’s a shift that happens. Sometimes it feels more like channeling than writing. The experience is illuminating, healing and peaceful. An unexpected insight often arrives just when you need it.

Our job as poets and writers goes even further: we bear witness, we give voice to the voiceless, and we observe and commemorate.

English Poet Myra Schneider at her 80th Birthday celebration and the launch of her 12th collection

Myra Schneider said in an interview HERE, that “I believe the role of the poet is to reflect on human experience and the world we live in and to articulate it for oneself and others. Many people who suffer a loss or go through a trauma feel a need for poetry to give voice to their grief and to support them through a difficult time. When an atrocity is committed poems are a potent way of expressing shock and anger, also of bearing witness. I think that the poet can write forcefully, using a different approach from a journalist, about subjects such as climate change, violence, abuse and mental illness and that this is meaningful to others. I very much believe too that poetry is a way of celebrating life. I think it deserves a central place in our world.”

So, as we celebrate poetry this month, be sure to give yourself time to read and write … for the sake of your spirit and for the rest of us too.

Please join us at The BeZine on April 15th for our special interNational poetry issue. Michael Dickel is the lead editor.

© Each of the personal photographs belongs to the poet pictured, all rights reserved.

– Jamie Dedes (The Poet by Day)

Keeper of the Secrets, Gretchen wisdom

‘Raven’s lesson is to walk without fear even if the way is not clear…trust your intuition to guide you.’ As it is with all original people history is recorded through verbal stories. I love the tales from Native American culture because they add to the spirit and mystery of the animals that I […]

via keeper of the secrets — Gretchen Del Rio’s Art Blog

100,000 Poets for Change, 2017 Global Poetry Collaboration

In honor of National Poetry Writing Month, we’re invited to create a shared poem and try to get as many different nations and poets involved as possible. Link HERE.

How do you participate? Read a few of the most recent additions to the poem, and add a few lines as you are inspired.

Word limit: 5 to 10 lines

Let’s create a global poem of unity.

POEMO COMPARTIDO MUNDIALMENTE

Dirrecciones

En honor al mes de la escritura nacional de la poesía, creemos un poema compartido, y tratemos de conseguir como muchas naciones diferentes y poetas implicados como sea posible.

¿Cómo participa?

Lea algunas de las adiciones más recientes al poema, y ​​añada algunas líneas mientras se inspira.

Límite de palabra:

5 a 10 líneas

Creemos un poema global de unidad

GLOBALEMENT PARTAGÉ Poemo

MODE

En l’honneur du mois de l’écriture nationale de la poésie, nous avons partagé un poème, et essayer d’obtenir autant de nations différentes et des poètes impliqués que possible.

Comment participer?

Lisez quelques-uns des plus récents ajouts au poème, et ajouter quelques lignes tout en respirant.

Limite de mots:

5 à 10 lignes

Laissez-nous créer une unité de poème

Let;s go poets ❤

Vamenos poetas

Allons-y poetes ❤

All languages welcome

CHINESE – ENGLISH – ARABIC -SPANISH – FRENCH – PORTUGUESE

HINDI – MALAY – RUSSIAN – JAPANESE – URDU – SWAHILI – PERSIAN