Posted in COVID-19/Pandemic, Essay

Dilema

Coronavirus has invaded our airspace at an incredible rate of infection using natural selection attacking the most vulnerable in our population first. Virtual prayers being sent to the heavens are asking for this demon to cease and that we be released from the clutches of this damnation plaguing our nation and the world.

Even before this pandemic as one of the coordinators of the House of Love Soup Kitchen/Pantry I’ve often wondered how long we would be able to keep going. Sustainability is a formidable issue. I think this because we the leaders are now senior citizens, some with underlying health issues. We’ve been truly blessed because our volunteers from the community with both the soup kitchen and the pantry are able bodied men and women. We have three primary leaders left that are all seniors that make up the planning committee and now we have the monster COVID 19 that has complicated matters further. One of our senior leaders succumbed to this deadly virus. She had underlying health issues and was living in an assisted living facility when the Coronavirus reared its ugly head and pounced. We are praying virtually three times a day now to keep ourselves in God’s perfect peace that surpasses all understanding and that we will be able to stand in the face of adversity.

Part of sustainability is having resources. The foodbank gives the pantry food for the community. Our main expense with the pantry is renting a U-Haul truck once a month, and taking care of the Orkin bill (pest control). The soup kitchen is not aligned with the foodbank because of certain modifications to the building that had to be made before we could join in with them as a partner consequently the soup kitchen does not get food from them. The food sources for the soup kitchen come from Seton Hall University which is part of the network of college recovery programs that are across the country. These programs have student volunteers recover leftover food from their cafeterias and then disperse it to various feeding programs in the community. This food otherwise would be thrown away. We also get donations from the Hilton Hotel in Short Hills New Jersey. As soon as COVID 19 exponentially multiplied in our area and New York City became the epi-center, and New Jersey as well was being infected at an alarming rate all the schools closed down, as well as some hotels; Newark imposed a curfew which was quickly followed by orders to shelter-in. The soup kitchen had to be temporarily closed but the pantry is still in operation.

Even though the soup kitchen had to temporarily close God has been good to us. In a way it’s good that the soup kitchen is not aligned with the food bank because we are a faith based organization. We have Bible study before our dinners but it is not mandatory for people to attend, and we also have prayer before we eat in which participation is not required. What I have found in my years at the soup kitchen is that most of our clients want to participate because many of them believe in God and are looking for consolation and comfort. Because of Federal regulations we cannot pray at the pantry, nor pass out tracts, nor engage in any kind of activity that might be perceived as infringing on our clients civil rights.

We enjoy having religious freedom at our soup kitchen though. Souls come seeking solace from a world that relentlessly beats them down. I can hear the voice of the community scribe reading from the Bible, I Peter 5:6-7 “Humble yourselves…Casting all your care upon him; for he cares for you.” Issues…issues…issues…I’m homeless…got no health insurance…need to go in a program…boyfriend abusing me…don’t have enough food for my children…tired of living in the shelter…and this was before COVID 19 that is now our reality.

In the midst of this pandemic from the depths of hell our country is being shaken to the very foundation of the sustainability upon which it was built capitalism being our economic system, and democracy our political system. The organization Feeding America has always been here as have foodbanks all across the country but now they have been thrown into the forefront because so many people have lost their jobs and now have no income. Millions and millions have filed for unemployment but for many the process is endless and they have not received compensation. On our last pantry day we serviced about 161 heads of households and the food bank on the same day had a drive through pantry where 5000 boxes of food were given away. This highlights the magnitude of the current problem of food insecurity in our country.

According to a New York Times article found at nytimes.com entitled Poor Americans Hit Hardest by job losses and amid lock downs…”thirty-six million people in the last two months have applied for unemployment; 39% of those who have lost their jobs make $40,000 a year or less as compared to 13% who make $100,000 a year or more.” According to the organization Feeding America prior to the pandemic about 37 million people were suffering from food insecurity, or having a hard time buying food with all the other bills to pay. One foodbank network reported that typically they service about 32,000 households weekly but since the unemployment crisis these numbers have increased by 26,000 people needing food assistance.

Many of the iniquities in our system are being exposed. Why have minorities and immigrants been hit the hardest? There is a direct correlation between health care or should I say the lack of adequate health care or no health care at all and our black and brown communities being ravaged by COVID 19. In the Washington Post an article entitled Democracy Dies in Darkness found at nypost.com states “As the novel Coronavirus sweeps across the United States it appears to be killing black Americans at a disproportionately high rate…” In a survey done by John Hopkins University and participating state health departments it was found that “counties that are majority black have three times the rate of infection and almost six times the rate of death as counties where white residents are in the majority.” The information was taken from a sampling of counties most of the states being in the east. It is a known health fact diabetes, blood pressure, and heart disease plague the black community. Once again these trends point directly to the inequities in our health system.

Perennials blooming yet in May we still have 32 degree days. Nature is gathering all her forces to take a leap of faith knowing that God is in control of all that is natural and beautiful on earth and in our universe. The brilliant colors splashed across the sky at the beginning of a new day announcing new beginnings…the strength found in the solid rock mountains of his creation weathering the storms of life…the tides of the ocean controlled by the moon, the sun, and gravity as human beings go about their lives daily. Yet now we have been stopped in our tracks, constantly having to wear masks, and sheltering-in has become an intricate part in saving our lives…at the same time as states announce plans to open up mustering up our forces and our courage as we are adapting to a new reality.

In February my concern was how much longer the leadership of the House of Love Soup Kitchen/Pantry would be able to sustain our program. But in walked COVID 19 and sustainability took on new dimensions and we became infused with God’s limitless energy as we witnessed the crushing financial blow overwhelming our community reminding us that we are the people of God… the senior citizen leadership…In my mind I can hear our community scribe reading Galatians 6:9 “And let us not to be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” As long as food insecurity exists in our community God will provide and make a way that even in these devastating times his light will continue to shine at the House of Love Soup Kitchn/Pantry located in Newark, NJ.

© 2020, Tamam Tracy Moncur

TAMAM TRACY MONCUR is currently is the Outreach Coordinator for the House of Love Soup Kitchen/Pantry located in Newark NJ. This is a community faith-based organization whose mission is to help individuals who are experiencing hardship due to life circumstances.  They partner with the NJ Foodbank, the Seton Hall Food Recovery Program, and the Short Hills Hilton Hotel to provide food to the community.

 

Posted in Essay

When Sexual Violence Goes Public

Well, the weather turned warm again, with a bit of rain; now the temperature is dropping slowly and there are hints of blue through the overcast. There are rumors of a snowstorm next week and more before Christmas. We shall see.

Here in North America we tend to forget how pervasive sexual violence is, and how retraumatizing public conversations about sexual abuse and harassment can be for victims of sexual crimes.

This was brought home to me again yesterday while speaking with a colleague in Boston. She works with severely traumatized individuals and spoke about her clients’ experiences of retraumatization due to the recent flood of sexual assault accusations against prominent men. We agreed the resulting, much-needed, public discussion about sexual assault has resulted in a cascade of memories and fear for our clients. This adds to the retraumatization caused by the behavior of government officials who seem Hell-bent on glamorizing sexual assault while destroying the social framework. We also agreed we are experiencing much increased anxiety as we try to understand how to provide some sense of safety to our clients and ourselves in an increasingly difficult social environment.

Not surprisingly, our culture’s focus on sexual assaults and intimidation by males has felt isolating for clients who were abused or harassed by women. Somehow we as a society appear to have once again lost sight of the uncomfortable fact that women can also be abusive. Perhaps there is less attention to assaults by women simply because abuse and harassment at the hands of women appears to be underreported in general. In addition, men, particularly, report experiencing more shame when speaking of being abused by women and are, thus, more reticent to report being assaulted.

The sad truth is that people of all genders are capable of harming others when given the opportunity. Further, such abuses become more frequent when openly, or tacitly, accepted by communities. I’m sure we will hear much more about sexual abuse by persons with power in the days to come. How we respond is crucial.

© 2017, Michael Watson, essay and photograph, All rights reserved

Posted in Environment/Deep Ecology/Climate Change, Essay, Nature

Indian Summer

After the frost, warmth returns. We are now in Indian Summer, that period between first frost and the true onset of winter. The name “Indian Summer” seems to be of contested origins. I was always told that the name came from the colonists’ observation that Native people intensified hunting and gathering during the quiet time leading up to winter. Subsistence practices in colder temperate climates require that as much food and wood be put away as possible before the freeze sets in, yet the simple fact that much food is perishable means that food must be stored as late in the season as possible. Indian summer is, therefore, one of the few uses of the term “Indian” that refers to our perseverance and foresight, rather than being derogatory.

As climate change accelerates, Indigenous people around the globe are speaking to the dramatic shifts in the seasonal round, and insisting that these changes portend hard times to come. Perhaps it is simple racism, or greed, or both, that stops so many from hearing the truth in the lived experience, and the vision, of those who live close to the land. Perhaps it is just the human condition to ignore that which threatens us but is not yet dramatically altering our lives.

In the Autumn, traditional people, and people of many cultures who live on and with the land, have traditionally worked together to secure the harvest and assure the well-being of one another and the community. We are indeed in Indian Summer, both here in New England, and around the planet. This time, rather than raging winter, we face an unprecedented time of climate upheaval for which there is, for many, no way to prepare. May we yet find a sense of community and work together to bring ourselves, and the world, back to balance.

© 2017, essay and photograph, Michael Watson (Dreaming the World), All rights reserved; Michael is a member of The BeZine core team

Posted in Essay, General Interest, Michael Dickel, Peace & Justice

Silence i — Warm Blanket of Silence

It was September in 1998 when I last visited this text, but I began writing it in 1988—an unlikely time for warm humid air in Minneapolis where I lived. Still, brought up by storm, bereft of beaches, warm ocean-born air covered me in that north-central city, the nearest seacoast thousands of miles away; I could smell that salt breeze left over from and carried here by hurricane Gilbert and his aftermath.And this is what I wrote in 1988 and revised (somewhat) 1998. Now, in 2016, I pulled it out, dusted it off, made some additional revisions and edits (including cutting about 15 pages out at the end) for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. I read the version of the following at Verses Against Violence 3, organized by Rachel Stomel in Jerusalem, on 24 November, 2016. I have made some edits to the version I read and added a bit more, to more clearly state my position at the end. Both the edits and what I added arose from the discussion after the reading in November.

When you read this, the bombs may be falling still, or falling again; or a temporary lull may have been ordered, or a ceasefire may be in effect. This peace-around the corner, while children, invalids, and old people are blown into mass graves, has been the latest, most visible testimony to the power now handled by a few men—which begins to seem like the power of nature, to bring famine, plague, or cyclone and take it away again at will.

“The bombings, for example, if they have anything to teach us, must be understood in the light of something closer to home, both more private and painful, and more general and endemic, than institutions, class, racial oppression, the hubris of the Pentagon, or the ruthlessness of a right-wing administration: the bombings are so wholly sadistic, gratuitous and demonic that they can finally be seen, if we care to see them, for what they are: acts of concrete sexual violence, an expression of the congruence of violence and sex in the masculine psyche.”

—Adrienne Rich, “Vietnam and Sexual Violence,” a column for APR, first published in 1973

“…it’s time for men to start having programs about rape. It won’t stop until men learn that the victims aren’t responsible.”

—Irene Greene, director of the U of Minnesota Sexual Violence Program
in an interview with Doug Grow.]

 

The Warm Blanket of Silence

It is a comforting warm atmosphere, and that it should bear with it the responsibility for the death of hundreds and the devastation of fragile third world economies, responsibility for the spawning of floods and tornadoes, dumfounds me at this distance. The air around me is a comfortable blanket, secure and cozy, cuddling me into gentle submission, into ignoring the terrible violence that spawned it, that delivered it to my doorstep along with the bananas and the coffee and the economic well-being that are part of my privileged existence. How do I set my comfort aside and grapple with the need for others’ relief, for a fair-weather change? So easy to retreat, to retreat to the warm blanket, to snuggle against the supposed truth: I am not the perpetrator of those violent deeds. For I am not a violent man, myself.

So it is with the storm, the raging blast of destruction and domination that is U.S. foreign policy, especially in the what we once called the “Third World,” now (in 2016) also the Middle East. That storm accounts for the cozy climate of the privileged in the U.S. (and I own that I was, while living there, and still am, as an ex-pat, one of those privileged). Thousands of deaths, devastation of economies, the spawning of the floods of war and the tornadoes of insurrection and destabilization all account for the stolen ocean breezes. And if I feel as helpless against the hurricane of foreign policy as I do against Gilbert, that same comfortable blanket beckons me: I am not the perpetrator of these violent deeds. For I myself am not a violent man.

If not perpetrator, then collaborator, if not in the destruction wrought by the storm, then in the destructive forces let loose when men beat women, when parents beat children, when men beat other men, when men rape women, when men use violence, oppression and sexual power to coerce those around them into submission. And if it seems that I have leapt hugely into an abyss from foreign policy to domestic, personal, and sexual violence (are these different?), then it is because I am looking for the beginnings of our national imperialism in the place it seems to me things begin: at home. If acts of violence in foreign affairs are not acts of sexual violence, as Adrienne Rich suggests they are, and I by no means believe that they are not, then the same indifference and silence towards the raping, beating, and emotional violence that plagues our own sisters, mothers, lovers, colleagues, brothers, and ourselves allows for our silence and indifference about how our nation conducts its foreign affairs. We may not perpetrate the violence, but we collaborate with it when we remain silent: Even if we are not, ourselves, violent men.

Collaborate? With silence. Silence is collaboration, the great hushed whisper that approves by not calling out, by not naming the violence of person against person, by looking the other way. Too long men have ignored the violence, or viewed it as the victim’s problem, or, when forced to acknowledge the truth, tried to suppress the violence in patriarchal fashion with laws, jails, and punishments (more often than not punishment for other suppressed members of society more than for those in power), rather than treating the roots, looking to the core of the matter.

“Such inhumanity will not cease, I believe, until men, in groups of men, say “no more.” Until the Jaycees, Rotary, American Legion, male sports groups, and the like begin to discuss rape in their meetings and begin to give a loud prohibition to sexual abuse of women rape will not stop.”

—Ted Bowman
quoting himself from a letter to the editor
of the Minneapolis Star and Tribune, December 30, 1983.

Part of the problem is that many men do not see wife and child beating as a men’s issue. Here I generalize, for some activist men indeed do (singer, songwriter, activist Geoff Morgan, for instance, or witness quotes above), and no sweeping statements should be made about men, women, or any group of people. Traditionally, however, men do not seem to have dealt with this issue except as an issue of the victim—a woman’s or child’s issue, or if a men’s issue, a men’s issue based on their own victimization, as in child abuse. Rarely have men confronted the issue as an issue of their own suppression of others, or of their own fears or inability to be whole. An issue of their own rage and explosiveness. We often ignore the fact that we can be violent men.

I know I have viewed this as a “women’s issue,” I know my friends have, I know that some of the concerned men I met with in Minneapolis have all ignored men’s responsibility, to greater and lesser extent, while wanting to acknowledge our “sensitivity.” In failing to acknowledge our potential for violence, we continue the oppression. It is when we deny our own anger, often at ourselves or other men, that we become most likely to blow up with rage at others, also.

But, I am not a violent man. And I do not beat or rape women. Why should I consider this my problem?

Because men are the most common perpetrators of this violence, and men ought to consider solutions that will stop other men from violating other human beings. (I speak hear of male abusers because I wish to arouse men to action to stop sanctioning this abuse with our silence—what I say may apply to women abusers as well.)

We should stop being silent and start taking responsibility, stop saying that this only effects the victims and recognize the effects throughout society and culture, stop subscribing to the patriarchal code of silence that allows the male, even requires the male, to dominate and control those around him, and start working with each other to end family and personal violence. If we want accusations like Rich’s to be untrue, (that violence and sexuality are one for men), we have to speak out and say that it is untrue for us and unacceptable in those around us. We have to act according to these words. We must disentangle them in our own psyches and lives and acts. We must, as men, face our own violence, turn our own sexuality from oppression to eroticism (not to be mistaken for pornography) and spirituality (not to be mistaken for patriarchal indoctrination), from desire for self-gratification to tenderness for the Other.

(skipping about 15 pages to coda at end of original essay)

The first step for any change in attitudes we have and perpetuate about gender, sexuality, and violence begins in the mirror. I must face up to my own capacity for abuse, my own tendency to authoritarianism: my own reluctance to feel, to trust, to be vulnerable, to love (and be loved). I must face myself in my worst aspect to create my best. If this has been, up to now, a social commentary and proposal, it is now a call to all men, and to myself, to begin the act of change within each of us. I ask no one to give up manhood. On the contrary, I ask each man reading this to embrace his own manhood, and to recognise that this manhood is not the violent, competitive, truncated beast that is so often reflected in our culture and our self-images.

I am not a storm, unleashed by nature, not a furious distemper whipping and whirling through the world. I am not corrosion, destruction, death and war. I am not powerless in the face of my actions, hopeless or helpless. Although I could be all of those things. I am not Hurricane Gilbert run amuck, nor Gilbert merely placated, worn down by feminism, politics, my mother, my lover, or my therapist. I am a man choosing to change that which I can. I have missed opportunities in the past, and these missed opportunities are scars that run deep into my psyche: I watched one man die violently where I might have made a difference had I not been silent. I experienced the sudden death of my father with an incomplete relationship because the silence between us—despite all of our words—had grown too big, was broached too late. I have attacked myself, despised myself at times, and lashed out at others.

I may be hunter, and warrior, which means I have the capacity for destructive and abusive violence, and also the capacity for sustaining power and strength. I am also lover and parent, which some may take to mean that I could control and possess a (male or female) vessel in an attempt to fill my needs, but for me means that I can form a tender, erotic, spiritual, and emotional alliance which truly satisfies. I am human, which means I have the power to repress and deny the reality of my emotions, and also that I have the power to experience, survive, and grow in the world by knowing my deepest feelings. I am parent, which means that I can continue the cycle of destruction and violence that I have inherited, and also that I can be open to growth and change. I live in the world, which means that I can strive for dominion, and also that I can strive to form a spiritual community not only with my fellow humans (male and female), but with nature itself. Change begins at home, the choices are mine.

If I do not wish to suffocate under a warm blanket of storm blown silence, I will have to own the destruction that the silence protects. If I own the destruction, I take responsibility for the violence, and then I can change. If I change, I empower myself. I can complete myself. I can choose life, spirit, love, nature. I am not, by inheritance from my father or otherwise, beast; but human being by inheritance of my mother and my father, together. And I will try to be.

“While I have yearned for leadership from persons and groups more influential than I, I also know that the burden of responsibility lies on my shoulders. Consciousness-raising doesn’t cut it! It is time to talk with my sons, brothers, and male friends and yours also. Will you join me in speaking to your male acquaintances? Can we make a difference? I think so! Let’s do it!”

Ted Bowman 1988

(This is as far as the reading went.)

I have brought this essay back for what I imagine are, to the readers of The BeZine, obvious reasons—an unrepentant “pussy-grabber” has been elected to the office of President of the United States. As a man, I renew my decades-long commitment to stand against such violence and abuse, to resist the “locker-room” excuses and all violence, but most certainly violence against women and children. One thing I take heart in, though, is that what I have witnessed at the Verses against Violence reading this year and in the past—people speaking out, women (mostly) and men resisting the violence embedded in our society and breaking silence. The outcry about the orange-man’s grabbing statement, while it did not stop him being elected, was loud and clear. In 1988, I suspect his comments would not have been a subject in the media. I suspect, but who can know for sure, that the media of that time would have shrugged their shoulders and themselves said, “locker-room talk.” In 1998… possibly not much better. Things are not where they should be, they are not where I want them to be, but at least there was a shout of “NO!”

So, let’s shake the blanket of silence off of our shoulders. Let’s do what we must, do what we can. Let’s not accept in complacency what this presidency likely will bring.

—Michael Dickel (Meta/Phor(e)/Play)

Posted in Environment/Deep Ecology/Climate Change, Essay, justice

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

Posted in 000 Poets, Artists and Activists for Change, Essay, General Interest, John Anstie, meditative, Mortality, Musicians, poem, Poems/Poetry, poetry

Politics, Treachery and… a Rose – Part 2

If you read part 1, then you will have become aware of certain things: my sometimes rather glum outlook on life and (more particularly) the photographs, which don’t seem to fit the subject. Here is another, hopefully more palatable side of me as well as an explanation of the photographs …

View from The Cary Inn, Babbacombe ... and the Roses
View from The Cary Inn, Babbacombe … and the roses

My wife and I had taken a holiday break in Torquay and, during an overcast, but warm summer’s day, we included a very special Birthday lunch for my wife – gifted and arranged by our daughter and her husband – on the ‘Captain’s Table at The Cary Arms, (‘Inn on The Beach’) at Babbacombe in Devon. In a moment, as we sat relaxing digesting our meal, the simplest, most natural thing happened, which most, including myself, would normally have brushed off, quite literally, and forgotten within seconds. However, on this occasion for some reason, it sowed a seed, which, along with several subsequent prompts, including from other blogs that I read, germinated a series of thoughts that resulted in this blog post … and a poem.

One of several menus at the Carey Arms ... this the most amusing one!
One of several menus at the Carey Arms … this is the most amusing!

It was a small petal – a deep vermilion rose petal – that arrived from somewhere and landed on the left hand sleeve of my folded arms. For a moment, I just looked at it, admired it for what it really was and allowed my thoughts to focus, for some reason known only to my right brain, on what had happened in the human world during the short life of the rose from which it had come. What war, human misery and treachery had occurred in that short time; but also what good had been done; what valiant efforts to keep the peace in war-torn countries of the world; what individual moments of heroism and courage had been demonstrated by a soldier, activist, newshound, medic or aid worker somewhere out there in this dangerous world.

The terraced borders at The Cary Arms are very well tended, including plenty of roses, all of which were in full bloom that warm June day. My thoughts on this event incubated for a short period, after which, early one Saturday morning, they evolved into this poem – a Shakespearean sonnet – entitled … well what else could I call it, but “Rose Petal“..?

This poem is invested with so much that is significant to me; I hope also to you.

Rose Petal

You came to me from rose vermilion red;
so rude and flushed with health you seemed to be.
I was surprised when I discerned instead
your disposition was no longer free;
that, whilst you were so moist and soft, I then
with sadness realised your life was spent;
that you had chosen me for your amen
between your zenith and your final rent.

What price for love you had to pay, and stain
upon your beauteous journey through short life,
so full of human tragedy and pain;
so savaged by our ugliness and strife.

And yet, you gift us your perfume unkempt
and beauty, which our hideousness preempts.

(This was one of seven of John’s poems, which were published by Aquillrelle in the anthology “Petrichor Rising” in August 2013)

Essay and poem © 2011 John Anstie

Photographs © 2011 John Anstie

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This post is a part of our participation in 100,000 Poets – and Musicians, Artists and Activists –  for Change. Details HERE. Our theme is Peace and Justice.We invite you to participate in this global event by linking in your work with ours. We’ll be collecting all the links in a commemorative page shortly after we close this project on October 3. You may use Mister Linky below or include your link in the comments section. Thank you! John_in_Pose_Half_Face3

JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British writer and poet, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Singer, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer”. He has participated in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union as well as a being a ‘spoken-voice’ participant in Roger Allen Baut’s excellent ‘Blue Sky Highway‘ radio broadcasts. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. He is also a member of The Poetry Society (UK).

*****

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51w-rH34dTL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_John has also been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Risingin 2013. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.

 

Posted in 000 Poets, Artists and Activists for Change, Essay, General Interest, John Anstie, justice, Meditation, Mortality, Musicians, Peace & Justice, poem, Poems/Poetry, poetry

Politics, Treachery and… a Rose – Part 1

[Current world events have conspired to remind me recently about a post that I wrote over three years ago. My experience to date, at that time, had demonstrated to me that I don’t have complete control over the processes that steer me through life. Nobody does, however much we would like to think we do. It is also apposite that the worrying and sinister developments in talks between the European Union and the USA about what is called the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) have rather vindicated the concerns that I expressed three years ago. It may also be appropriate to mention that the theme of this essay just happens to align, I think quite well, with Corina’s last piece – “Wilful Ignorance and Some Food for Thought” as well as Jamie’s “Earthlings, Making The Compassionate Connection” ].

Since my retirement, I’ve had more time not only to reflect but also review, research and interrogate life’s processes and relate them to what’s going on ‘out there’. I’ve woken up and opened my eyes. I admit, from time to time, that I’ve allowed my mind to become infected by pessimistic thoughts, which have conspired to worsen my mood, with a concomitant fear for the futures of my children and grandchildren in a world with an increasing population, increasing greed for its limited resources, self-interest, political and corporate corruption, treachery and tyranny!

In my less cynical moments, I like to call this ‘life’s rich tapestry’ and all the more interesting for it. So not all is bad; there is still hope.

Babbacombe and the Carey Arms from Oddicombe (© 2011 John Anstie)
Babbacombe and the Carey Arms from Oddicombe (© 2011 John Anstie)

We are all self-interested, to a greater or lesser degree; we are all selfish and greedy from time to time; and, given the opportunity, I dare say there are many of us, who would be tempted to take advantage of privilege and power, if we had it in sufficient measure! I hope that I would not be one of these, but how can I say so with certainty? It is only the truly arrogant, who are unable to see how fragile and vulnerable we all are! But it takes a certain type of personality to be capable of merciless and ruthless exploitation and treachery; to be bereft of conscience – I am reminded of the ‘Morlocks’ in H G Wells’ chilling vision of the world in “The Time Machine“, published late in the 19th Century.

These personalities display all the characteristics of damaged minds that can exploit beyond a simple local selfish motive; even beyond a desire to build and run a large, successful organisation – be it commercial, charitable or social one. I’m talking here of international, corporate power mongering; a desire to exploit and control whole populations, with the end game being investment solely in the interests of a minority elite. It has happened throughout the history of the human race. It continues today, but that doesn’t make it right.

In the face of all this, it is sometimes encouraging to know that there are still some very courageous, inspiring as well as philosophically and intellectually ennobled people in the world, people with huge integrity as well as faith, who are capable of giving us great strength as well as hope for the future of humanity. They come in all shapes and sizes and you find them in the most unexpected places, not least amongst some of the free spirits that are to be found here in ‘Blogosphere’. They can be anybody, from wealthy philanthropists like the social thinker and reformer, John Ruskin, on the one hand, to the totally charitable, nay saintly, who dedicate their lives to the cause of the underprivileged, to help the truly needy of the world, whose selfish human motive seems to have been subordinated and whose spiritual conscience transcends all that is material; here I think of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

The Captain's Table nearby poetic inspiration...
The Captain’s Table nearby poetic inspiration…

Whilst we each fight our own battles to survive and thrive, to overcome whatever obstacles there may be in our competition for the world’s resources, as well as our own sanity, I am constantly reminded that there is also a vast array, a rich vein of powerful and beautiful natural phenomena that have the unquenchable capacity to ennoble our own minds, to elevate our spirits. I am speaking of the natural world; the flora, fauna and insectoids, some of which existed long before homo sapiens marched onto the scene with our unique set of biological characteristics that have enabled us to rule, dominate and change all that we see. But – and I say this with some trepidation, because I know it is controversial in some quarters – we are still animals; animals with an extraordinary ability for creative and innovative endeavour, but animals nonetheless. Look what happens, as we turn on our television screens almost every day, when law and order breaks down or when people get hungry or angry [evidence the London Riots in 2011], and tell me human beings are only capable of civilised behaviour… the fact that we are, well, hopefully a vast majority of us, capable of civilised behaviour, listening to your conscience and, above all, giving air to our compassion, is a cause for optimism; a cause for us never, and I mean never to give up the fight to maintain democracy and intelligently to vanquish those who represent the worst side of human nature (ibid) and the greatest threat to our freedoms.

Although the natural world cannot help us directly in this quest, it is in this vein that I come to the crux. Something occurred to me that I would not normally have expected, not even given my ability for creative thought. This … happening … somehow focussed my attention and led me, in that moment, to become intensely mindful.

This experience will be revealed in Part 2:

https://thebezine.com/2014/09/30/politics-treachery-and-a-rose-part-2/.

Essay (© 2014) and photographs (© 2011) John Anstie

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This post is a part of our participation in 100,000 Poets – and Musicians, Artists and Activists –  for Change. Details HERE. Our theme is Peace and Justice.We invite you to participate in this global event by linking in your work with ours. We’ll be collecting all the links in a commemorative page shortly after we close this project on October 3. You may use Mister Linky below or include your link in the comments section. Thank you!

John_in_Pose_Half_Face3

JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British writer and poet, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Singer, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer”. He has participated in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union as well as a being a ‘spoken-voice’ participant in Roger Allen Baut’s excellent ‘Blue Sky Highway‘ radio broadcasts. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. He is also a member of The Poetry Society (UK).

*****

product_thumbnail-3.php

51w-rH34dTL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_John has also been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.

 

Posted in Essay, Photography/Photographer, Terri Stewart

Entering the Sacred Space of Peacefulness

For 100,000 Poets for Change: A Movement for Peace and Sustainability. Please link in your own work! The info on this is below the photo/quote. Thank you!

Entering into a peaceful world requires one thing – a peaceful person. Me, to be exact. Or you. But each of us individually must travel the Via de Paz, the Way of Peace. I would like to invite you to literally walk the Via de Paz (or roll or stroll or whatever works for you).

Set your intention by saying, “I am here. I am present. I am going to walk the way of peace.” Breathe deeply, a few sustainable breaths, until your body is ready to go forward.

Now move and notice. As you begin to move, notice how your body feels. What are your senses telling you about your immediate experience of the world?

Now notice things outside yourself. Connect your senses to all that is outside of yourself. Notice what you are hearing, smelling, seeing, feeling. With each step, become aware of all that you can take in. Simply experience it. Leave judgment outside of the Via de Paz.

Experience unity by acknowledging life in its many forms.

Close your experience by returning to yourself and offering, “I am here. I am present. I am the way of peace.” Breathe deep, sustaining breaths, until you are settled and still. Offer respect and peace to the world in whatever way suits you. Perhaps Shalom, Salaam, Peace, Namaste, or Aloha!

peaceflower2

 

 

PEACE AND JUSTICE is our theme for the next seven days as we participate in a global event 100,000 Poets for Change

Please link in your own work here by using Mister Linky (just click on it) or by leaving your link in the comments section below. One of us will visit you then and we also plan to collect all the links shared with us to create a special commemorative page on this blog. You are welcome to share your work by linking in on any day or days during this event. Thank you! Let’s reimagine the world together. Our art has power …

Shalom,

territerrisignoffblog

 

Posted in Environment/Deep Ecology/Climate Change, Essay, General Interest, Michael Watson

Dreaming

Autumn_BerriesPosted this evening in solidarity with The People’s Climate Mobilization, Sept. 20/21 a Global Day of Action

This week folks around the world will gather to call for real and pervasive action to address climate change. This post honors all who hold the vision of a just, kind, and healed world.

The weather has turned damp and chilly, with the temperature only in the mid-fifties. A couple of days ago the first Titmouse of the season landed on the garden fence and looked into our window with that classic  “Why is the feeder empty?” look. Fall has certainly arrived!

A few nights ago I dreamt about prophesy. In my dreams I longed to heal the world, to stop our country’s headlong dash towards Darkness. Then, near the time I awoke, my vision turned inward and I saw my own inner suffering and turmoil. In the dream I was shown that I have limited influence on the larger world, but I might have great influence in my inner domain.

The Dream world spoke of prophesy, the ancient teachings that speak of the fall of the colonial world. The power of those who favor wealth over kindness, self over community, is rising, a great Darkness that threatens to engulf the world. With their ascent, we witness sharp increases in poverty, racism, and misogyny, and a growing disdain for the young, old, and those with disabilities. Many of the young people I meet speak of a profound sense of desperation and a deep fear for the their future.

These things arise because we have failed to address the wrongs of the past and the challenges of the present. As a result, the violence of our country’s past haunts our collective consciousness and shapes our social world. The European project in the Americas and the South Pacific was one of slavery and genocide as avenues to wealth, and the oppression of the many for the economic gain of a few continues to be the centerpiece of our social order.

I grew up in evangelical churches, places where prophesy was alive. These were not wealthy mega-congregations. Rather they were the refuges of working class men and women, often new immigrants from farm to city. Their faith was immediate, as was their walk with the Creator as they understood Her/Him. In those small churches prophesy was lived experience.

Native American history, the great expanse of it, cutting across many hundreds of tribes and languages, and thousands of years, speaks to the power and truth of prophesy. The great seers were given visions of that which was to come, from the everyday to the earth shattering. Visions still come to The People. Often these visions are shared by our Medicine people and elders, although all to frequently the larger culture refuses to listen.

Still, the Creator speaks to all who will hear, encouraging us to be kind to ourselves and one another, to strengthen our communities, and work with Pachamama to heal our world. This healing is as much about the suffering in or hearts and spirits as that of the natural and social worlds. The tugging or breaking of our hearts in the presence of pain, ours and that of others, is the voice of the Creator, and the call of prophesy.

Prophetic vision may be vast or intimate, and addresses the condition of our internal or external worlds; in the end, perhaps there is no difference. Our realms of individual influence may be small, yet we can do our best to care for those whose lives we touch, including ourselves. We may keep in mind the awareness that vision that lacks compassion leads to tyranny while true kindness heals self and other, and we can allow that knowledge to guide our actions. Is that not the purpose of prophesy, to change and guide? May we each grow more kind, and more skillful at listening to the prophetic voice within us.

Post Script: This morning I attended service at our local UU church, in part because Jennie was singing in the choir, and because the congregation was gathering to bless the 100 or so members who are going to the Climate March in NYC next weekend. (The congregation is only 500 strong!) The minister reminded us that prophesy is action in the face of great odds, and that action takes courage and a soft heart. She then reflected on the place of joy in Dark times, on the necessity of a glad heart. It was good to gather with others who care deeply for the world, and  who put that caring into action.

May those who travel to NYC for The March, and all who do their best to heal the deep wounds of our world, find joy, companionship, and renewed hope.

– Michael Watson

© 2014, essay and photographs, Michael Watson, All rights reserved

michael drumMICHAEL WATSON, M.A., Ph.D., LCMHC (Dreaming the World) ~ is a contributing editor to Into the Bardo, an essayist and a practitioner of the Shamanic arts, psychotherapist, educator and artist of Native American and European descent. He lives and works in Burlington, Vermont, where he teaches in undergraduate and graduate programs at Burlington College,. He was once Dean of Students there. Recently Michael has been teaching in India and Hong Kong. His experiences are documented on his blog. In childhood he had polio, an event that taught him much about challenge, struggle, isolation, and healing.

Posted in Essay, find yourself, General Interest, grief, Guest Writer, memoir, Mental Health

The Black Book

These were my mother’s words, written by her hand, words describing her loneliness, her longing for her new husband. What I was reading felt so private, so sacred, but it was also about me, my story, mine. I closed it quickly, feeling shame, and put it back in the box of photos my mother had handed me – the photos of my great-grandparents and grandparents and parents as children that she was going to throw away if I didn’t want them. She had incurable cancer and was cleaning out closets, or maybe her life. When I left a few days later, the box of photos was in the back of the car sans the small black journal.

fs_717690-e1407185075778Cecilia and Radney grew up in the same southeast corner of town, if we consider 17 and 18 grown up. She lived a block from the railroad where her father worked as a boiler maker’s helper in the roundhouse. This was the Polish neighborhood where she attended St. Stanislaus Catholic church with masses in Latin and Polish, and went to the Catholic school. He lived on the outskirts of town, on the few acres his father farmed, along with being an inspection supervisor at Motor Shaft. Radney played football at the public high school he attended. His family didn’t go to church, until this incident led his mother to religion at the Baptist church.

They met at the soda fountain at Johnson’s Drug Store. Cecilia worked there after she graduated from 8th grade, as high as Catholic education went for girls of her station in their town in 1940. She scooped ice cream behind the counter and Radney would stop there to have a soda on his long walk home from high school. It seems she (being a normal 17 year old girl) wanted love, and he (being a normal 16 year old boy) wanted sex. She fell in love and he got lucky. Sometime in adulthood I realized that they got married in February and I was born in August. He dropped out of high school so he could support his new family but was drafted into the army soon after I was born. We moved into to her parent’s home, then his parent’s home.

fs_717682-e1407185429741I don’t know anything about their wedding. When I would ask about her growing up years, my mother would get a strange look on her face, as if to ask why I would expect her to think about things that happened so long ago. Maybe her mind wouldn’t let her reach back into those years, maybe she thought it irrelevant. I knitted together a piece of detail from here and a piece of detail from there; not from stories they could have told, but public facts, printed on things like birth certificates and marriage licenses. Maybe that is why I longed to read what was written in that black book, to examine the personal side and analyze how it happened to me.

The family never talked about that year but it must have been a tough one. In 1943 a 17 year old Catholic girl didn’t date a 16 year old non-Catholic boy. Everyone knew Catholics were to marry Catholics. And to get pregnant and have to get married was unthinkable. Neighbors whispered and counted on their fingers. Oh, the shame that was heaped upon them. My chest tightens when I think about the conversations that took place when my grandparents were told, and when siblings found out. Did the Polish speaking parents and the English speaking parents meet to discuss options? Who planned the wedding and what was it like? Did they really love each other; did either feel trapped?

============

At some point I learned shame. They didn’t sit me down and teach it to me; I learned it through osmosis. Shame was so much a part of my being that I couldn’t name it until some thirty years later. People said I was a shy child, but shame can look like shyness when worn by a child. Those who know shame understand the hung head and the hiding behind trees instead of joining in the play. They didn’t know they were teaching me shame. My grandmas and aunts and cousins taught me their love as I lived among them, and my parents taught me their shame. For the first half of my life, the shame was stronger than the love.

They were good enough parents, they worked hard to provide for us and we had fun times as I was growing up. But early on when I was four and my father returned from the army and my mother became pregnant again, it tore open some wound in him. He took it out on us. If she wouldn’t have gotten pregnant, if I wouldn’t have been born, he wouldn’t have been trapped. I heard the screaming and hateful words; I felt the bruised and bloody body. He did unspeakable things and it was my fault. I learned to hang my head and hide, so no one would see my shame.

===============

Have you noticed when we carry something, like shame, for a long time, it becomes how we think about ourselves? We are what it is. I remember when I realized my name didn’t have to be Shame. It wasn’t a light bulb going off, but a gradual reprogramming in how my neurons fire. I began to realize that I wasn’t responsible for my own conception. Everyone else knew it and I knew other people weren’t able to conceive themselves, but I had to realize it about myself. It wasn’t my fault I was conceived. It wasn’t my shame so I could come out of hiding.

My place in the world became brighter and lighter, but my relationship with my parents is still murky. I gave up the anger at being hurt and not being protected, and I had a relationship with both until they died. But something is still missing. We couldn’t talk about it so I never heard their remorse or told them I forgave them. When I was leaving after my last two visits with my dying mother, when we both knew it could be the last visit, my mother stared deep within my eyes for several minutes. I waited for her to ask what she needed to know; I wanted to tell her I forgave her for what happened. I was stuck between wanting resolution, but also fearful that the memories of the incidents were so deeply buried in her that I would be opening a Pandora’s box when she was dying and I was leaving. I hugged her and told her she had been a good mother. She said she hoped so.

===================

fs_1111456How complex our minds are, that balance adult concerns on top of childhood memories and decisions. When I thought like a child, I believed my parents loved me because they told me so. But I also learned to fear love. I remember being at Grandma’s Baptist Sunday School when I was maybe 5. We were lined up in two rows and were led in singing “Jesus loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so. I am weak and he is strong…” I couldn’t sing it; I was mute. If my parent could love me and hurt me, I didn’t want any part of accepting the love of the even stronger Jesus.

After my mother’s death, I asked her husband if he knew where the black diary would be. He looked hard and wasn’t able to find it. She must have burned her words. I was heartbroken because I was hoping to know her better and maybe learn that she really did want me and love me. I was hoping her words would help me in my mental exercises of sorting out childhood decisions using my adult reasoning.

I was on my own to figure it out, but that is okay. I don’t feel bitterness toward my parents because I believe they loved me as best they could. But I have also decided I don’t need to let them define if I am loveable. I know who I am and know I belong at the table.

© 2014, text and all photographs, Patricia Bailey, All rights reserved

Sun Road 287PATRICIA BAILEY (A New Day: Living Life Almost Gracefully) ~ I retired from doing things I loved; teaching university students, directing a university major that was growing and meeting the learning needs of both traditional age and returning students, and helping people heal as a mental health therapist. In retirement I have found new and renewed activities that I love; photography, blogging, traveling, and quilting. It is important for me to have a purpose for my living, and my photography and blogging fulfill my need to touch and enrich the lives of others in a way that is healing and to help people grow and develop. Along the way I am drawing on the knowledge gained from getting a Masters in Social Work and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. I am also continuing to learn about myself as I am writing and about the world as I view it through my lens. You can visit my blog at http://imissmetoo.me/

Posted in Essay, Spiritual Practice, Terri Stewart

Climate Care as a Spiritual Practice

Caring for all that is can be an overwhelming job! If I think of the things within my control and trying to do the best I can, maybe I can do it in bite-size chunks. After all, I will never be able to invent some magical thing that converts pollution to life-giving energy. But I can compost!

Call on the animals to teach you; the birds that sail through the air are not afraid to tell you the truth. Engage the earth in conversation; it’s happy to share what it knows. Even the fish of the sea are wise enough to explain it to you. In fact, which part of creation isn’t aware, which doesn’t know the Eternal’s hand has done this? His hand cradles the life of every creature on the face of the earth; His breath fills the nostrils of humans everywhere. Job 12:7-10, The Voice-A Storyteller’s Bible

Climate-care, earth-care, creation-care, creature-care, caring is a deeply spiritual practice. How we approach the other starts with our interior orientation. If we practice expansive spirituality, we will be filled with gratitude, mindfulness, and joy. If not, we will be led to a diminished experience.

I wonder how we could reconnect, simply, through ritual, to creation? Perhaps a mini-ritual?

1. Set your sacred space

What are you trying to connect to? Earth? Cosmos? Stars? Bunnies? Create an easy environment where you can let your gaze gently rest on a photo, object, or even the real thing!

2. Set your intention

What do you need at this moment? For example, “I am here to connect to the earth in a way that honors the createdness of us all.”

3. The body of the ritual

Combining your intention with a ritualized act. For example, if you were sitting outside on a lawn chair, offering honor to the cosmos during the day, you could gradually look around honoring each creation you see. “Blades of grass, I honor you. Cedar trees, I honor you. Beloved cat, I honor you!”

4. Closing ritual

A signifier that it is finished. Perhaps, if you were outside in the grass, you could bring a handful of grass seeds to add to the growth. Then you could sprinkle the grass seeds in all directions, offering life. 

Be creative! This framework for ritual was created by my friend, Deborah Globus. Her avatar is LaPadre. She’s awesome!

This week is leading up to the People’s Climate March which occurs on Saturday. Perhaps those who cannot join in a march, can do a simple ritual offering healing and love to creation.

Shalom and Amen!

by Terri Stewart
by Terri Stewart

terrisignoffblog

Posted in Essay, Photography/Photographer, Terri Stewart

Sacred Space in Joy

 

 

When I look at this photo of my oldest son (who is now 21–yikes!), I cannot help but feel pure joy! His joy is so strong that it overlaps out of the photo frame, across time, and into my heart. This tells a story of being present, being fearless, and being immersed.

Being present to the experience allows us to put away all the “what ifs” and “I shoulds.” Leaving the past behind (what if I had…) and leaving the present in the future (I should do…). Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to stay present to what is happening right now. What is happening right now? I hear the rushing wind through the open window of cars rushing along a distant road, the scrape-scrape-scrape of yardwork, indecipherable young voices traveling along buoyant air waves…

Being fearless lets us experience new things, but it also gives us the courage to express ourselves. What you can’t tell about this photo is that this is the waters of the Puget Sound. And the average water temp is 50-55 degrees. In other words, it is cold-a** water!  But he is present to the experience and it enables him to let his emotions travel across his entire body! To me, the photo screams joy! Exhilaration! And he doesn’t care if everyone knows it. What feelings need to be expressed that require courage? I have been having real bouts of depression lately. I think it is important that people outside my inner circle know that.

Being immersed in the experience removes the possibility of detachment. Maybe it is just me, but it seems that there is a way to be present, feel your own feelings, but to be detached from All That Is. Detached from creation. Detached from one another. It is almost a selfish experience of religious ecstasy. Now, bear with me for a moment. I have had religious ecstatic experiences. In a certain theological mindset, the experience is all about me & the divine experience.  It leads nowhere. To no outside experience of love and service. Then, when the experience abates, there is a seeking out of the next divine experience. Almost like an addiction. Over and over, seeking ecstasy. But there are three parties in the cosmos. Me, All That Is, and You. You is a lot of things.

  • People
  • You
  • Creation

And all that is in it and outside of it. If we are attached to one another, we will step in to stop injustice. We will work, together, towards a better future, realizing joy in the here in now. In Christian tradition, it is called the Kingdom of God. It is important to me to reach out to the lost, the least, and the lonely. Especially those in the LGBTQ community that have been harmed by religious tradition. It is important to me to also reach out to the least among us that have been affected by incarceration, especially young people whose histories are not yet fully written.

What would our lives be like if we stayed present, fearless, and immersed? Better yet, what would the world be like?

by Terri Stewart
by Terri Stewart

Shalom and Amen!

terrisignoffblog

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Posted in Environment/Deep Ecology/Climate Change, Essay, General Interest, Michael Watson, Nature

In Wilderness Is the Preservation of the World

Tidal-Marsh I came of age with Eliot Porter. Not literally of course. Rather, my adolescence and young adulthood were accompanied by his books and photos. He taught me how to look. Even now, his photographs influence my writing and visual work.

A few weeks ago we were in Downeast Maine, north of Bar Harbor. Every few days we drove south, down Penobscot County way. Eliot Porter spent much time in the Penobscot region, as well as out West. Out West, his photos were panoramic. Downeast, they were more intimate, capturing a brook, leaf, or pod of berries. If memory serves me, his iconic book and homage to Thoreau, In Wilderness is the Preservation of the Earth, drew heavily from his Penobscot experience.

People tend to think of wilderness as vast tracks of untouched ecosystems. Yet in ourWater_Striders time, there are few such places. Climate change and other forms of pollution reach the farthermost corners of the earth. Here, in North America, fossil fuel mining takes place in the midst of former wildlands. Our population has grown so large that we fill the back country with people on many weekends.

The elders taught me to treasure wilderness, and to remember there is another wilderness, the one that lies within each of us. Those vast spaces can be imposing, even terrible, in their beauty and harshness. I was taught there is another danger in focusing on the wilderness inside us: we may ignore the needs of the Planet that supports us, and the innumerable beings that accompany us. To successfully journey into wilderness requires forethought and balance.

For many, the inner wilderness seems most inaccessible, even dangerous. There are daemons within, and sea monsters, waiting to devour us. As shamans everywhere have long known, there is also the ever present threat of madness. Yet there is also the promise of renewal.

Mossy_LogShamans journey into this wilderness to seek aid for others, to return souls to their owners, and to accompany the dead to the other world. They travel for visions of the future, to learn where game will be tomorrow, and to correct imbalances in the world, imbalances most often created by people. Sometimes shamans travel and fail to return home; this is a always a risk.

When Europeans arrived in the Americas, they brought imbalance to our people in the form of illness, alcohol, and social chaos. Faced with this, the shamans and Medicine people sought cures in the inner and the everyday worlds. They were resourceful and connected to the spirits of things, and were often successful in finding ways to heal those afflicted. Yet, eventually, the sheer volume on illness overwhelmed many of our cultures, killing great numbers of healers as they cared for others. Much knowledge was lost in those dark days.

Downeast, Eliot Porter focused on the small, the everyday. He reminded us that wilderness is a matter P1080565of scale and attention, that we can find wilderness wherever we are. We can, in turn, look closely at the minutia of the world around us, journey deep into the forest, or turn inward. Sometimes we do all these, simultaneously. Such moments form a sort of vision quest.

Eliot Porter taught me that as we look through the camera’s lens, we sharpen our attention, and open to the magic of the unexpected. Perhaps, for just a moment, we discover ourselves reflected in the world around us, and are returned to primal wholeness and balance. In such moments we may know that we are the salmon swimming home to reproduce and die, the leaves settling into the litter, preparing to nurture the next generation, or the eagle that flies above the world, capturing visions of wholeness. Then we may understand that wilderness is indeed the preservation of the world, and of the soul.

Buch_Berries

– Michael Watson

© 2014, essay and photographs, Michael Watson, All rights reserved

michael drumMICHAEL WATSON, M.A., Ph.D., LCMHC (Dreaming the World) ~ is a contributing editor to Into the Bardo, an essayist and a practitioner of the Shamanic arts, psychotherapist, educator and artist of Native American and European descent. He lives and works in Burlington, Vermont, where he teaches in undergraduate and graduate programs at Burlington College,. He was once Dean of Students there. Recently Michael has been teaching in India and Hong Kong. His experiences are documented on his blog. In childhood he had polio, an event that taught him much about challenge, struggle, isolation, and healing.

Posted in Corina L. Ravenscraft, Environment/Deep Ecology/Climate Change, Essay, General Interest, Nature

Putting the “Action” in “Activism”

It’s Wilderness Awareness Week at The Bardo and scillagrace is heading up lots of amazing posts about the planet to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act being signed into law in the U. S.

Image borrowed from https://www.facebook.com/workingwithoneness Carving by Bruno Torfs ©
Image borrowed from https://www.facebook.com/workingwithoneness Carving by Bruno Torfs ©

As technological civilization diminishes the biotic diversity of the earth, language itself is diminished. As there are fewer and fewer songbirds in the air, due to the destruction of their forests and wetlands, human speech loses more and more of its evocative power. For when we no longer hear the voices of warbler and wren, our own speaking can no longer be nourished by their cadences. As the splashing speech of the rivers is silenced by more and more dams, as we drive more and more of the land’s wild voices into the oblivion of extinction, our own languages become increasingly impoverished and weightless, progressively emptied of their earthly resonance.” ~ David Abram

I wanted to write a brilliant piece of poetry for this event, but my efforts kept coming out with a negative bent, so I decided to instead make this post a mish-mash of things. It can be really hard to try and stay positive and find hope in the face of so much apathy in the world, with so many corporations hell-bent on destroying the planet just to make a profit. It can be terribly disheartening as a champion for the environment when you look at the way the odds are stacked against us, and how very much work there is to do.

On the other hand, it means that there are plenty of opportunities for all of us to find something to DO. Find an environmental cause that speaks to you, personally, whether it’s saving the rainforests, trying to keep trash out of our oceans or making sure that more tar sands pipelines don’t get built. The thing about activism is that it requires action. If you can’t be part of a climate march (Like the one coming up in NYC on 9/21/14), if you can’t get out and pick up litter in the parks, there are still lots of things you can do to help. The important thing is “action”. Whether your action is donating time, money, ideas, space, spreading the word via social media or blogging about it, taking pictures…however you choose to do it, just find a way to get involved. The more people we have taking action, the more our efforts can create a ripple effect that can move mountains (or save them from mountain-top strip mining, as the case may be).

Image borrowed from piecefit.com
Image borrowed from piecefit.com

Here’s a list of the Top 100 Environmental Websites to get you started. From animals rights, to deforestation, to environmentally friendly energy solutions, to recycling, to ocean protection to whatever else you can think of regarding the environment and wilderness, your cause is out there…you just have to find it. 😉 Speaking of which, here’s a handy, dandy test to help you figure out your Environmental Worldview , which is defined as “collective beliefs and values that give people a sense of how the world works, their role in the environment, and right and wrong behavior toward the environment. Environmental worldviews dictate how we interact with nature and our attitude toward how we use the natural resources it contains.” ~ Source

 

Image borrowed from http://indulgy.com
Image borrowed from http://indulgy.com

In closing, I’d like to leave you with a video by one of my favorite celebrity environmental activists, Woody Harrelson.

– Corina Ravenscraft

effecd1bf289d498b5944e37d8f4ee6fdragonkatet (Dragon’s Dreams) ~  Regarding the blog name, Dragon’s Dreams ~ The name comes from my love-affairs with both Dragons and Dreams (capital Ds). It’s another extension of who I am, a facet for expression; a place and way to reach other like-minded, creative individuals. I post a lot of poetry and images that fascinate or move me, because that’s my favorite way to view the world. I post about things important to me and the world in which we live, try to champion extra important political, societal and environmental issues, etc. Sometimes I wax philosophical, because it’s also a place where I always seem to learn about myself, too, by interacting with some of the brightest minds, souls and hearts out there. It’s all about ‘connection(s)’ and I don’t mean “net-working” with people for personal gain, but rather, the expansion of the 4 L’s: Light, Love, Laughter, Learning.

Posted in Essay, Photo Essay, Photo Story, Photography/Photographer, Spiritual Practice, Story Telling, Terri Stewart

Sacred Space in the Fault Zone

During the week of August 31 – September 6, The Bardo Group will post essays, photos and poems on Wilderness to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act being signed into law in the U. S.  More information is at the end of this post-scroll down!

Throughout religious history, wilderness has been associated with sacred space. Mt. Zion, Mt. Tabor, Mt. Olympus, the wilderness outside Jerusalem, Heart Butte, Sacred Bear Butte, and the list goes on. Sacred places which attract people questing for beauty and for a glimpse into something beyond us. All over the world, people religious live in the wilderness–the Celtic “thin places.” Places where the realm between what is and what could be seem unified in a spiritual wild-zone. Thin places offer the potential for transformation. I’d like to invite you to travel into the wilderness of “The Earthquake Trail” with me and Colin (my son).

1-earthquaketrailThe Earthquake Trail is north of San Francisco and goes directly over the San Andreas fault. We went there after my son had surgery and had his post-surgery “clearance” checkup. This surgery was necessary for Colin to continue his path to a transformed, fulfilled, abundant life. It seems appropriate that we visit a place where sudden transformation has and will occur. And as the sign so appropriately points out, “Prepare yourself for the uncertainty of walking in the fault zone.

2It seems to me, that is what the wilderness experience is about. Confronting uncertainty and coming through it with a greater appreciation for the faults that lie within ourselves…and with others. But most importantly, recognizing the power that our faults have when they rage out of control and the beauty they hold when they illustrate our uniqueness.

4There is life in the fault zone. New life of grains, older life of majestic trees, even dried moss hanging on lifelessly-for now-waiting to be reborn during the moist days ahead. And most majestically, the California Condor–a bird rebounding from extinction in the wild. Life is abundant here, in the fault zone.

10Prickly thistles adding color and leaves hanging in the balance–proving even the most uncomfortable plant can provide beauty and buoyancy.

5But no matter where we are, there comes a point when we have to make a choice. Do we stay here? Or do we go deeper? Will we cross the bridge? Ford the stream?

6Once we cross, as before, there are boundaries. Places that are “in” and are “out.” Boundaries can be places of support and beauty as we grow and become comfortable with our faults.

7But our boundaries are not always healthy. Sometimes they need to be reset. Transformation happens in an upsetting of power that tumbles our soul pell-mell through the wilderness. What used to be a contiguous, easy, fence breaks and a new boundary is set. Opening up space for abundant love.

9
This fence was moved from “here” to “there” during an earthquake. It used to be one, straight fence.

And this happens within the wilderness and ancient trees that dwarf our understanding of life. But always stretching it upward and onward.

11Inviting us to further journey along the path.

12Following the inspiration that calls to us. No matter which way the wind blows. Finding sacred space in the fault zone.

13
Weathervane at the Earthquake Zone Visitor’s Center

Shalom and Amen!

terri

 

 

Simulcast at http://www.BeguineAgain.com

You are encouraged to add your voice to ours on this site via Mister Linky or by sharing a link to your work in the comments section of any post that week.  Although this is an U.S. event, we recognize that there are places all over the world that are still wild and that are protected by naturalists, scientists, governments and concerned citizens. Hence, we invite participation from everywhere. We think it would be a good thing for us to share information and insights about the world’s many wild places though poems, essays, photographs, music and videos. Please mark your calendars and plan to join us.  

 

terrisignoffblog

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Essay, find yourself, Liliana Negoi, Meditation, meditative, Mortality

On perfection

146439I was gazing at a darn moth the other day, bumping its head against an old mattress, testing the resistance of the now worn-out and arguably colored satin to the heaviness of its evanescence, when it just hit me: we are just a bunch of pathetic liars. We pretend to be so preoccupied with achieving perfection, we lie to each other and to ourselves that this is what we want, that this is our ultimate aim and goal and that this should be the official target of any sane human being. We build our whole lives around the obsession of becoming “perfect”. But to claim this while being aware that we cannot achieve perfection because first of all we don’t even know what perfection is, is the biggest proof of hypocrisy of all. Because, in the end, what IS perfection?

To find perfection we would need to establish a set of rules that would define perfection, a set of rules that would be unanimously accepted by all the people living in this world, a set of rules that would leave no room for misinterpretation or anything else. But do you realize what an enormous task that would be? Because then you’d have to define perfection for each and every notion. Just imagine this: how should the perfect human being be like? How should the perfect piano sound like? How should the perfect tiramisu taste like? How concentrated should the perfect mint tea be? Gosh…my head is already spinning.

Of course, there will always be the branch of the religious ones, who will say that “we are not perfect, God is”. Aye, maybe. To those I will only say one thing – if God is perfect, and God created us “in his own image”, shouldn’t that make us perfect, at least from the image point of view? (And this makes me think – what a wide array would be covered just by the perfect image of a human being…)

But it’s easy to lay on (a) God’s head the burden of some ambiguous invention birthed by our fear that otherwise our presence here might actually be just an accident – a purposeless accident.

The reason why we pretend this is that this way our lives would appear to have a reason, that search for perfection would provide us with a necessary and sufficient reason for us to BE here, to LIVE. It would give us the excuse for the mistakes we are making, because that way we could always claim that those mistakes are merely the steps of the stair we climb towards our ultimate goal – “perfecting” ourselves. We invented the concept of “perfect” so that we may have an excuse for when we are not happy – “life is not perfect”. We invented the concept of “perfect” to justify our fear to simply live.

Perfection may exist, but too many of us are so obsessed with the abstract notion that they fail to truly open their eyes and see the world as it is. Because in this world, in this dimension, the real perfection is simply whatever brings you happiness and peace in the “now”. From my point of view, “perfection” is by no means related to “flawless”. And what we don’t see, is that “perfection” is also not related to “everlasting”. Perfection is relative, and it’s adjustable to all of us. We can stretch it and contract it to fit whatever we may need “now”. It’s not rigid. That’s the beauty of it. We don’t have to find perfection, or to achieve it – it is already here, within us, around us. We just have to WANT to touch it and feel it as it is. Wake up, people! Each of you already has a grain of perfection in your life – don’t be afraid to see it! It begins with “love”.

As for the “absolute perfection”…who needs absolutes in a world governed by relativity? 🙂

 

The photo used here was taken from http://www.morguefile.com. The essay belongs to Liliana Negoi.

IMG_7667LILIANA NEGOI  (Endless Journey and in Romanian curcubee în alb şi negru) ~ is a member of our core team on Into the Bardo. She is the author of three published volumes of poetry in English, which is not her mother tongue but one that she came to love especially because of writing: Sands and Shadows, Footsteps on the San – tanka collection and The Hidden Well.  The last one can also be heard in audio version, read by the author herself on her SoundCloud site HERE.  She is also the author of a novel, Solo-Chess, available for free reading HERE. Many of her creations, both poetry and prose, have been published in various literary magazines.

Posted in Essay, Film/Documentaries/Reviews, General Interest, John Anstie, Nature

Enthusiasm and Optimism vs Entropy … Part 2

As the title of this post suggests, as referred to in Part 1 of this essay, it is not only about entropy and thermodynamics, but is also about enthusiasm for and optimism about life. It is, therefore, about human endeavour, from the smallest and least significant to the most admirable and life changing endeavours ever achieved by the human race. Whatever your accomplishments, however great or small they are, or however great or small a part you play in greater achievements, they still represent progress in both time and towards order and, according to Newton’s second law of physics, this tells us that matter can neither be created nor destroyed; it can only be converted from one form to another. Therefore, each breath we draw, each word we speak, each action we take, is never lost; it remains as a small quantum of energy, an echo of which will exist forever, somewhere in the cosmos.

I just love the mere thought of this concept, let alone that it could actually be true.

The other principle put forth by astrophysicists, which seems to be irrefutable, is that time is irreversible. Professor Cox referred to this as the arrow of time, always pointing and moving in one direction, never going back. He does give lip service to the possibility that this cannot be said to be true with absolute certainty, but that it is extremely unlikely or, in statistical terminology, there is a very low probability that time will reverse. So it must also be with human enterprise, in whatever field of endeavour it may be, there is need for us to accept that we will always move forwards, never backwards; onwards and, preferably, upwards in our understanding of life, our world and the universe. Otherwise, there is a tendency toward disorder, mentally, physically and maybe spiritually too. We can read about the past, we can look at pictures of it and we can learn from it, but we live for the future.

Trying to persuade a teenager to tidy their bedroom is impossible without a carrot; and even then it is still difficult. Maybe they could be persuaded by the thought of ‘black dwarves’ imploding and evaporating into nothingness as a consequence of not keeping their bedrooms in order and halting the ‘tendency toward disorder’. May be, may be not! But our every move, motivation and impulse is driven by the march of time as well as this tendency in our everyday lives – let alone what is happening in the world at large – toward disorder, whether that disorder has natural or man-made causes. But I don’t think we should feel any less relaxed about the march of time than we would otherwise feel. On the contrary, I suggest, as a result of this thesis, this comparison with the enormity of the universe, that, provided we can get our minds round the huge timescales, we should allow its perspective to comfort us: that there is no panic or rush. As much as we can sometimes enjoy the moment, life is really a journey into the future. Technically, we cannot stand still; we have to accept that even standing still and enjoying the moment is, still, moving and progressing into the future. It is deeply ingrained in our being.

So, I suppose it depends on whether we are an optimist or a pessimist, an enthusiast or less eager, as to whether we find it easier or harder to push the outside of the envelope and re-order the disorder in our lives. But push we must. There is an enduring lesson that I take from this particular perspective. When I compare the huge amount of time that will have elapsed between the beginning and ending of the universe to the minuscule timescale of our own existence on Earth, our own small little part of the world, which is an even smaller (by a trillion, trillion, trillion, etc orders of magnitude) than the great big cosmos, then the feeling I am left with is that we have plenty of time. Did you know that, since our forebears first evolved on our earth, in Africa about two and a half million years ago, our own solar system has revolved around the galaxy (the ‘Milky Way’) by only one percent of a complete orbit of the galaxy; and the galaxy itself is only one of billions in the universe. So, hey, if things didn’t quite go to plan today, whatever; “am I bovvered’ as Catherine Tate would say!

I’m not sure to whom the quotation is attributed, but Professor Brian Cox, in the process of concluding the first episode, said that “Life is the means by which the cosmos understands itself.” Obvious on one level, but extraordinarily significant on another. There might be other, similar life in another solar system in our own galaxy or in another galaxy farther away, but we are unlikely to find out if they do exist. We truly cannot know even the probability of the human race co-existing along with another civilisation, somewhere else in the universe, because – as Vlad, The Astrophysicist tells us – the enormous distances and time scale that the universe represents, make this probability extremely low. This being the case – in spite of an imperfect world, which sometimes seems to be broken – perhaps we should stop trying to escape from our Mother Earth, stop trying to dream the impossible (or improbable) dream, and start trying to fix what we have broken; stop breaking what we have left.

Copyright 2012 John Anstie
Supermoon over Torquay [Copyright 2012 John Anstie]

To be the remarkable, intellectual, innovative and industrious animals that we are, where we are right now, is still very special and continues to give me hope that we can reverse the destruction of our very small part of the universe, that is our Mother Earth.  I hope that, in spite of sometimes awesome uncertainty and the depressing way in which some members of the human race behave towards her (not forgetting the entropy, of course), you will agree that we do still have the capability to meet our future together on this planet with optimism and enthusiasm?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

John_in_Pose_Half_Face3

JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British writer and poet, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Singer, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer”. He has participated in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union as well as a being a ‘spoken-voice’ participant in Roger Allen Baut’s excellent ‘Blue Sky Highway‘ radio broadcasts. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. He is also a member of The Poetry Society (UK).

*****

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51w-rH34dTL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_John has also been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.

 

Posted in Essay, John Anstie

Enthusiasm and Optimism vs Entropy … Part 1

In the wee small hours of one morning, three years ago, I had one of those elusive moments of clarity; in fact, one of those moments so aptly described by Kona Macphee on the introduction of her excellent blog site in December 2010. Apart from the lack of sleep, this was a consequence of watching a documentary about the universe – always guaranteed to stir my brain into action – combined with thinking, as I am wont to do with my recently discovered propensity for getting in touch with my literate side, about the human condition, our general outlook on life and how we deal with it; pessimism and a lack of eagerness on the one hand; optimism and enthusiasm on the other. It is a perspective, in other words, but one that fills me, not only with hope, but also with wonder, especially when you view that perspective in the dramatic light of the universe. This essay seems also to tie my thoughts in rather well with those, recently published on Terri Stewart’s excellent and stimulating ‘Begin Again‘ blog, of J R Cowles in his mind-blowing essay on Schroedinger’s Cat.

Copyright 2012 John Anstie
Moon in Blue over Whitwell Moor [Copyright 2012 John Anstie]

I am talking about BBC2 television’s documentary, the ‘Wonders of the Universe’. Episode one was shown in March 2011. It is presented by Professor Brian Cox, who somehow manages to demonstrate, well, at least convince us, that, just as the universe had its beginning – the so-called ‘Big Bang’ – about 13.7 Billion years ago, so it is predicted that it will have an ending, albeit rather a long time hence! He concluded this, the first episode, with an extraordinary perspective on time and of how we can come to terms, not only with how long the universe has existed already (ibid) but also with the mind-boggling amount of time it has left to exist – before all matter contracts into ‘Black Dwarves’, which then dissolve into non-matter; suffice to say there was an awesome count of zero’s on the end of the number he quoted (trillion, trillion, trillion several times, in years!). Then, as if to dash our hopes to fears of the nearness of the end of the world, presenting this documentary, as he does, with an element of drama that would lightly grace the screening of a roller-caster Hollywood thriller at your local cinema, he then explained that life in the universe, that is effectively our life here on earth, was represented by an extremely small fraction (with an awesome number of zero’s on the bottom line this time) of a percent of that total time. But worry not, dear readers, because we still have an estimated one billion (thousand million) years to go before our own sun begins to die, by expanding and enveloping the planets in our solar system!

So, in spite, or rather, because of the awesome scale of all of this, there is a great deal of optimism that should be felt as a result, but not necessarily for the most obvious reasons. I know some people have great difficulty coming to terms with the results of scientific research into the evolution of the cosmos, and some I know actually cannot accept the concepts (I refer you again to Schroedinger’s Cat and the overarching principle that nothing is ever absolutely one hundred percent certain), which relate to its make up and that are propounded by scientists, that seem to deny that the universe, or at least the earth, had a genesis and was therefore created. These alternative views need to be respected; I would go on to propose that the two views are not actually mutually exclusive, but this discussion will have to wait for another time.

Out of the three core subjects, Maths, Physics and Chemistry, I always remember enjoying physics most of all. It was perhaps the more visible nature of most of its disciplines, that appealed; understanding the principles of heat, light, sound, electricity, magnetism, gravity, force, energy and all the experiments that were done to test and prove the theories. During the latter stages of my further scientific and engineering education, I also had to study that branch of physics, which was known as thermodynamics. I found this subject very tedious, but on reflection this was mainly due to the horrible mathematics that were inevitably required to define and measure its principles; and maths wasn’t my favourite discipline! The one principle, or rather variable, which is in fact fundamental to the second law of thermodynamics, which I have always retained in my memory, is ‘entropy’. Ent-what? I hear you ask! Well, the description of entropy I was taught is that it is a measure of the “tendency toward disorder”.

Brian Cox introduced entropy by going to a disused diamond mine in the desert of Southern Namibia, which was abandoned over fifty years ago, the remains of which is a picture of decaying buildings, which are in the process of gradually being taken over by the desert’s sand and dissolving into nature. He illustrated the principle of entropy by comparing a simple pile of sand with a sand castle, which he made in a good old square shaped seaside sand bucket. The former, pile of sand, he described as having “maximum entropy” because there were an almost infinite number of ways it could be re-ordered without significantly changing its shape or structure. In other words, it was very ‘disordered’. The shaped sand castle, on the other hand, with its flat sides and four little corner castellations, had a very defined and specific shape and structure; it was very ‘ordered’. The second law of thermodynamics basically states that the quality of matter deteriorates gradually over time; likewise, usable energy, which is inevitably used for productivity, growth and repair, is converted into unusable energy; hence the tendency toward disorder. So too the sand castle, left to the natural forces of the desert, over (a relatively short) time, it will revert to a pile of sand.

You may well by now be asking what I am getting at! You may be shouting at your screen: “get to the point”! This assumes, of course, that you haven’t already given up on me! Well, there is most certainly a point, which I will tell you in Part 2.

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John_in_Pose_Half_Face3

JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British writer and poet, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Singer, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer”. He has participated in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union as well as a being a ‘spoken-voice’ participant in Roger Allen Baut’s excellent ‘Blue Sky Highway‘ radio broadcasts. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. He is also a member of The Poetry Society (UK).

*****

product_thumbnail-3.php

51w-rH34dTL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_John has also been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.

 

Posted in Essay, Terri Stewart

Sacred Space in Perfection

perfection memeRecently, I read dragonkatet’s piece on “Perfection and Creation.” This got me to ruminating on the nature of perfection. In the United Methodist Church, clergy wannabe’s are required to answer the question, “Are you going on to perfection in this lifetime?” And the expected answer is “yes!”

I had heard a rumor in seminary by Dr. Jack Olive that perhaps our understanding of perfection is different than the understanding that early theologians and philosophers had. And that John Wesley turned to Eastern Orthodox wisdom in an effort to better understand perfection. That appealed to me because perfection seems so unattainable. What if there is a different way?

Corina got me thinking about all of this again! Is perfection unattainable? Is perfection only attributable to the Divine? What is up with this kind of pressure we put on ourselves? And as with everything, the truth is that our understanding has drastically changed over time. Which leaves us free to define perfection in a way that leads to greater life.

The Greek concept is where it all begins for western cultures. That word was “teleos.” In many cases, this word is understood to be completeness rather than the common understanding of perfection—“without flaw.”

perfectionchocolateAristotle defines three meanings of perfection:

  1. That which is complete.
  2. That which is so good that nothing can be found better.
  3. That which has attained its purpose.

aquinasquoteThomas Aquinas goes on to give perfection a dual-fold meaning: That which is perfect in itself (its substance) and when it perfectly suits its purpose.

Other philosophers and theologians have defined perfection to be:

  • Endless
  • The greatest
  • Existence

Plato and Parmenides thought that the world was perfect. That it had perfect shape and motion (spherical/circular). The world is perfect, God is not. Attributing perfection, an intellectual concept of humanity, to the Divine, was a heresy.

However, later came the pantheist Stoics who attributed perfection to the Divine. Why? Because the Divine was equivalent with the world. Here, we are just one short step away from the modern idea that only the Divine is perfect and that we all suffer from an inability to be complete in our own bodies and to find and fulfill our purpose. Eventually, Aristotle’s First Cause and Christianity’s Creator became comingled in theology. Although perfection was still not attributed to the Divine as perfection was believed to be finite.

In the 9th century, philosopher Paschasius Radbertus said that “Everything is the more perfect, the more it resembles God.” But still, God was not perfect because of the finiteness ascribed to the concept of perfection. It is Rene Descartes who introduces perfection as applied to the Divine as he introduces the “perfections of God.” However, Descartes also states that “existence itself is perfection.” They may just have been going through a confusion of perfections!

The concept of perfection has undergone great changes throughout human history. “Nothing in the world is perfect”, to “Everything is perfect”; and from “Perfection is not an attribute of God”, to “Perfection is an attribute of God.” (Tatarkiewicz, “Ontological and Theological Perfection,” Dialetics and Humanism, vol. VIII, no. 1 (winter 1981), p. 192.)

perfectionPerhaps it is time to render a definition of perfection that lifts us up and allows us to achieve completeness and fulfill our purpose. In Christianity, we often go back to “The Greatest Commandment.” That is “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.” We then focus on the loving God part and then sometimes the loving your neighbor part but totally neglect the implied love yourself part. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” When we love ourselves, we can achieve completeness, find and fulfill a purpose! Artists gotta art. Preachers gotta preach. Poets gotta poem. Architects gotta design. Caretakers gotta care. And so on. Of course, within all of this is the tension between what we want and what we have. There are limits and sometimes part of loving is setting aside the dream and doing the chore. But that is still part of purpose. And it is still part of perfection.

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, totally subscribes to the “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself” approach to perfection. He writes,

O grant that nothing in my soul
May dwell, but thy pure love alone!
O may thy love possess me whole,
My joy, my treasure, and my crown !
Strange fires far from my heart remove;
My every act, word, thought, be love!

I never heard that any one objected to this. And indeed who can object? Is not this the language, not only of every believer, but of every one that is truly awakened? But what have I wrote, to this day, which is either stronger or plainer?
John Wesley, A Plain Account of Christian Perfection

easypeasy2Perfection is living life in such a way that “every act, word, thought, be love!” Easy peasy.

Perhaps living a life where everything is derived from love is not so easy. But it is something that I can ascribe to, and with practice, grow into. So perhaps perfection is the process that leads to a complete life fulfilled in acts of love–love that leads to justice, mercy, and humility.

So mote it be!

Shalom,

Terri

Simultaneously published at www.BeguineAgain.com

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Posted in Art, Corina L. Ravenscraft, Essay, find yourself, General Interest

Perfection and Creation

We have a saying in my family, “Nothing to it, but to do it.” It’s meant to be a motivator, a call to action, and can be applied in many different situations. When it comes to the craft of creating, however, sometimes that motivation of knowing that “it needs to be done, so get to it”, isn’t enough. Some of us want to wait for the perfect time or inspiration in order to begin. Others of us start, only to become frustrated with how our efforts are proceeding.

john cleese quoteIt can be hard to create (whether it’s visual arts like painting or photography, or writing poetry, or coming up with a few bars for a new song) if/when you wait for the perfect inspiration to hit you or if you keep revising something in the quest for the perfect color, the perfect frame, word or note, etc.

have-no-fear-of-perfection Salvador Dali

Perfection is an illusion, anyway. But there are a couple of different schools of thought when it comes to applying “perfection” to the creation of one’s art. Some people feel that seeking perfection can lead to trying harder and ending up with something as close as you can get to perfect.Vince Lombardi perfection

Others think that it can demoralize a person to the point of giving up (or not starting at all, which is worse).

perfection quote Margaret Atwood5154-if-you-look-for-perfection-youll-never-be-content Leo TolstoyBoth approaches have their merits, and while both points of view can lead to success, I think they take very different types of people to make them work. Some people work better under pressure than others. Some enjoy more of a challenge than others do.

Quotation-Oscar-Wilde-practice-perfectionWhich camp describes you? Does the search for perfection in your craft motivate you? Do you find that striving to reach your personal best leads to success in your creative endeavors? Or do you feel that all that pressure tends to backfire and leads to being paralyzed with inaction? Do revisions make you shudder? Do you “edit” as you go?

Regardless of which attitude toward “perfection” that you have, it’s important to realize that the true meaning of the word only belongs to the Divine. We may come close. In fact, finding peace and acceptance of ourselves as part of the Divine is necessary, realizing that we are perfect, exactly as we are. Can/Will you apply that same perspective to your art?

It may seem as if I am advocating the acceptance of ‘mediocrity’. I am not. By all means, aim for the moon, you may at least hit the stars! But also realize that everyone probably has a different idea of ‘perfection’, and, barring editors, publishers and the like, you have to be able to stop at a point in the creation and decide when it’s done, or when it’s “good enough”.

Quotation-Michelangelo-shadow-work-perfectionIn the end, the matter of whether our creation(s) have achieved “perfection” is completely up to us. Only the artist knows and can decide when something is done, and whether or not it’s done to the satisfaction of the creator. Remember: YOU, as the artist/creator are the only one you have to satisfy. Maybe in many cases, “good enough” IS perfect.  😉

Perfection-Quotes-Ring-the-bells-that-still-can-ring Leonard Cohen

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effecd1bf289d498b5944e37d8f4ee6fAbout dragonkatet Regarding the blog name, Dragon’s Dreams ~ The name comes from my love-affairs with both Dragons and Dreams (capital Ds). It’s another extension of who I am, a facet for expression; a place and way to reach other like-minded, creative individuals. I post a lot of poetry and images that fascinate or move me, because that’s my favorite way to view the world. I post about things important to me and the world in which we live, try to champion extra important political, societal and environmental issues, etc. Sometimes I wax philosophical, because it’s also a place where I always seem to learn about myself, too, by interacting with some of the brightest minds, souls and hearts out there. It’s all about ‘connection(s)’ and I don’t mean “net-working” with people for personal gain, but rather, the expansion of the 4 L’s: Light, Love, Laughter, Learning.