Tell Me: What IS Environmental Justice?

The BeZine is currently open for submissions for the September 15 issue (September 10, submission deadline) that will focus on Environmental Justice, which is also the theme of our 100 Thousand Poets (and friends*) for Change virtual event on September 24. In order to propel the discussion into deeper focus from the outset, we invite and encourage contributing authors to ponder a few things about their perspective and their voice on this topic.

When we talk about Justice, it is sometimes assumed that people will agree on what is ‘the right thing to do’. However, as with anything else, our decision-making about Justice is influenced by our values, by the things that we deem ‘special’, ‘important’, or ‘sacred’. I propose that there are (at least) three categories of valued environments, or ‘Holy Ground’: Nature, Place and Community. Think about these three different arenas and how you see Justice being applied to them.

For example, if Community is your value, you may feel that Environmental Justice has to do with how people are impacted and how human activity creates change. If Place is your value, then questions about Justice probably will involve a particular area with borders of a physical or conceptual nature. It may be that feelings of injustice are felt in terms of ‘This, not That’ or ‘Us, not Them’ or in a desire to see a Place resist change. If Nature is your value, then you may see Justice in more fluid terms as the balance of resources between producers/consumers and prey/predator is in a state of constant flux with perhaps no ultimate goal.

So, as you sit down to write about Environmental Justice in your unique voice, identify your values. Perhaps use the lenses of Nature, Place and Community to focus. What is important to you? Why? How does it affect your decision-making? What factors impact this ‘sacred’ ground? How do different cultural models or systems impact your cherished home? What feelings arise in you – what empathy for Living Things or Living Habitats? What fears?

Thank you for spending time with these concepts and these questions. Your presence, your life energy, and your embodiment of love is a gift that we are privileged and honored to receive. Please, share your thoughts, your words and pictures with us!

  • What started as a poets’ event in 2011 now includes artists, photographers, musicians, drummers, mimes, dancers, arts lovers and other peacemakers. Neither the September issue of The BeZine nor the 100,000 Poets for Change (100TPC) virtual event to be held here on September 24 are restricted to poetry. Send Zine submissions to bardogroup@gmail.com no later than September 10.  For the 100TPC event, work can be shared in the comments section and via Mister Linkey.  Michael Dickel, 100TPC Master of Ceremonies, will provide direction for sharing in his blog post on the 24th.  All work will be archived here and at Standford University. Feel free also to post comments, work in progress and questions in the comments section here today.  

Priscilla Galasso and Steve Wiencek, editors

me & Steve

© 2016, prompt text and photograph, Priscilla Galasso and Steve Wiencek, All rights reserved.

RELATED:

LIFTING THE VEIL: Art Event to Support Tahirih Justice Center

13691078_10153724292802895_2417662814280239338_o

The Tahirih Justice Center stands alone as the only national, multi-city organization providing a broad range of direct legal services, policy advocacy, and training and education to protect immigrant women and girls fleeing violence. Come out and support some of New York’s most powerful artists as they perform to raise money for a worth cause. $10 suggested donation all going to the center. Thanks to Terri Muuss for sharing this with us. Lifting the Veil Facebook Page is HERE.

August 7 at 4 p.m. – 8 p.m. EDT at BrickHouse Bewery & Restaurant 67 W. Main Street, Patchogue, New York 11772.  

*****

a man, a woman, a stick

(1921)

the stick stood in the corner of the kitchen
a constant threat; stoking, as it was meant to,
chronic intimidation

he had a man’s right to deliver his blows
to vent his anger and his self-contempt
to cause suffering for the insufferable

someone had to make it up to him,
his loss-of-face to race, creed and poverty

for her part, eve’s daughter was ripe,
shamed by her intrinsic sinfulness,
worn by her constant pregnancies

her femininity: tired and task-bound,
guilt flowing freely, as all-consuming as lava

[relief, only in death]

and the seventh child was born to die
and the man was demanding his bread

she wrapped the girl in swaddling cloth,
placed her gently by the stove, and
while the newborn made busy with dying,
the woman prepared him his meal

© 2015, Jamie Dedes

Evolution and Capitalism: As Tarzan Said to Jane “It’s a Jungle Out There”

skepticBy this point in the 2016 presidential campaign, it has become something of a cliché to compare the candidacies of both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, and all the turmoil, often violent, surrounding the former’s campaign rallies, to the spawning of the monster in Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus. Progressives and people to the left side of the political spectrum sometimes joke that such comparisons actually insult Frankenstein’s monster. But by concentrating exclusively on Trump and Cruz and the perennial freak show of the lunatic right, the comparison misses the larger point that the real Frankenstein monster – the monster that ultimately gestated Trump, Cruz, the Great Recession, and their attendant pathologies– is contemporary capitalism itself. I emphasize contemporary capitalism deliberately, because the adjective “contemporary” is absolutely critical: the capitalism to which we have all-too-rapidly become accustomed is not capitalism as it existed in the few Administrations immediately following the Second World War. That capitalism – roughly speaking, the capitalism of the Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson years – was, comparatively speaking, a “kinder, gentler capitalism” than the system fortuitously denoted by the “c-word” today. To paraphrase an advertising slogan: This is not your parents’ capitalism.

600px-Boris_Karloff_as_Frankenstein's_monster

Now, before we go any farther and commit the criminal offense of misdemeanor sociology by over-idealizing what those years were like, I should back up a step or two and acknowledge that, no, the largesse of those supposed halcyon days by no means included everyone. Yes, the middle class was growing … but mostly the white, male, heterosexual middle class. Yes, home ownership was burgeoning … but mostly only for white, heterosexual families (and also in large measure because of the GI Bill to assist veterans, a measure a hard-right GOP Congress might well refuse to fund today, for fear of nurturing a “culture of dependency”). (The term “homosexual family” would have been considered as oxymoronic as “two-sided triangle”.) Yes, Dinah Shore sang her theme song – which I am old enough to remember – “See … the … U … SA in your Chev … ro-let … “ But you had to be able to afford a Chevy, which many people in that ostensible golden age of the American economy could not. This was also the time of the germinating civil rights movement; the schoolchild “duck-and-cover” time when we believed that the Nation could be annihilated in a half-hour – and when, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, it nearly was; when schools were segregated … as Gov. Orval Faubus vowed they always would be in Arkansas; when registering black people to vote could be, in some cases was, worth your life, etc., etc., etc. But, that said, the fact remains that for some Americans – by no means all, but for a number unprecedented in world history – the middle class was, not just growing, but thriving … so much so that, in our optimism, we even coined a phrase for the coming of Camelot and the Kennedy era: “the Soaring Sixties”. Remember that?

So what happened? I like to think of it in terms of an analogy with biological evolution. A Reader’s Digest-condensed version of biological evolution, basically the skeleton of Darwin’s original theory, the first edition of which was published in 1859, says that as changes occur in an organism’s phenotype via random mutations in its genotype, the environment acts on the resulting mutated organism to determine whether the organism lives or dies. (Darwin had only the crudest conception — something called “pangenesis,” long since discredited — of how mutations originate.) It’s like a vast, jaw-droppingly complex, planet-spanning figure-skating competition: organisms “skate” their “program”, mutations included, and the environment acts as the panel of judges, determining which organisms survive and which do not … survival being defined as the ability to survive long enough to reproduce and thus pass on the adaptation to their descendants. But as the environment changes over time, the “judging criteria” that determine the fate of each species likewise change: mutations that were once advantageous or neutral may become disadvantageous – the technical term is “maladaptive” – under the new environmental regime. Perhaps the classical example of this process is the meteor strike on the Yucatan Peninsula 65 million years ago, that resulted in basically a “nuclear winter” due to the debris thrown up by the impact reflecting sunlight back into space and thus cooling the planet. Dinosaurs, being huge lizards which had no ability to regulate their body temperature, and which had been around for over 150 million years, suddenly found themselves in the midst of a catastrophe. Because the earth became colder – and there were other changes because of the meteor – the evolutionary niche once occupied by cold-blooded dinosaurs came to be occupied by mammals, which do have the ability to regulate their body temperature independently of the environment. Result: the dinosaurs died off; mammals – including humans about 64 million-plus years later – survived.

423px-Charles_Darwin_photograph_by_Herbert_Rose_Barraud,_1881_2
Charles Darwin

OK … now back to capitalism … Societies – in particular, societies’ economies and the underlying technological infrastructure – evolve, too. And the process is intriguingly similar to biological evolution in response to a changing environment. The “figure skating competition” here, however, is between forms of socio-economic organization – what Marx called “the mode of production” – and the overall technological environment in which production takes place – what Marx called “the means of production”, with the “mode” playing the part of the skater and the “means” playing the part of the judges. (Again, the same caution: this is a Reader’s Digest-condensed synopsis.) Conservatives spill ‘way, ‘way too much ink pooh-pooh-ing Marx’s theory of the materialist dialectic of history – by which, Marx says at one point, he “stood Hegel on his [Hegel’s] head” – and ‘way, ‘way too little ink acknowledging the keen insights that, despite the undisputed oversimplifications of Marxist theory, lie at the heart of Marx’s basic paradigm. An example might clarify matters. In the Middle Ages, the production of goods was carried on according to what we today would call a “cottage industry” paradigm. A wainwright – a carriage-maker – would typically start with raw materials, fabricate the various parts of the carriage, put those parts together into higher- and higher-level assemblies, and finally put those assemblies together into a finished carriage – and, in the process, maintain exclusive control over the entire manufacturing process from start to finish, “touching” the entire carriage at each stage as it was being built. Working with the wainwright would be some young men – always men – who would serve apprenticeships as “wainwrights-in-training”. Furthermore, a master craftsman usually developed a close personal relationship with his apprentices, journeymen, etc., and the group often even lived together. As the “junior wainwrights” were trained, the supervising craftsman and the local wainwright guild would observe their progress and together determine what stage each trainee / “intern” was at: apprentice, journeyman, etc., all the way up to master craftsman – at which point the once-apprentice could become an independent craftsman in his own right, authorized to hire his own apprentices and teach them, whereupon the cycle would repeat.

483px-Karl_Marx
Karl Marx

Then came the factory movement from the middle 1700s on, the reasons of which are too complex to even synopsize here. Suffice to say that the factory movement eventuated from advances in technology that enabled the manufacturing process to be broken down into rather naturally occurring, small, easily identifiable, discrete stages, each of which could be physically isolated from the other inside an immense building – called a “manufactory,” later abbreviated to just “factory” – where a given worker, or more likely a cadre of several dozen workers, performed the same discrete sub-task, and passed the results on to other cadres of workers who would perform subsequent sub-tasks. In Marxist language, the “means” of production underwent a tectonic change. Now, instead of working on an entire product, each worker in the factory dealt with only a small, discrete task, and often had no idea how that one discrete task fit into the manufacture of the end-product. Furthermore, the idea of craftsmanship became quaint … then ceased to have any meaning altogether: there is no sense of craftsmanship in the fabrication of a mere “sub-widget”. Over time, and a rather historically brief time, at that, workers became mere fungible ciphers: if worker A and worker B fabricate the same type of widget X, then they are interchangeable; and given the simplicity of the discrete tasks, either can be trained to fabricate widget Y. The workers became strangers to the end-product, and, unlike a century before, strangers to one another. In Marxist language, the “mode” of production underwent a tectonic change. Our hypothetical wainwright building a carriage from start to finish with the help of his apprentices and journeymen became as obsolete as the post-meteor dinosaurs – and for essentially the same reason: the craftsman, like the dinosaur, was adapted to an obsolete environment. In the brave new world of the factory environment, mere physical dexterity – the ability to rapidly build sub-widgets – will win out over craftsmanship every time.

But the crowning humiliation came when the factory movement, leveraging advancing technology, gradually substituted machines for human workers altogether. In some meaningful sense, human beings became quite literally worthless in many contexts. What supplanted the value of workers was the value of capital, i.e., the money necessary to buy land and equipment, build factories, buy raw materials, and in general “jump start” the entire manufacturing enterprise. The cost associated with the workers themselves was relatively minimal: defined as the minimum wage necessary to enable a worker to subsist and to reproduce, so as to engender other workers to feed into the system. (The factory movement routinely employed children whose age was expressed in single digits.) Because workers could not afford the costs of transportation to and from their jobs, this also meant that workers had to move from the countryside, where most of the “cottage industry” work had been done prior to the factory movement, into great cities where they could be close to their jobs, usually congregating into vast, vast slums whose appalling misery has been so well documented in the novels of Charles Dickens, giving rise to scenes of human degradation that bear comparison only to conurbations of nightmare like today’s Mogadishu. It is this “para-Hegelian” dialectic between “means” and “mode” that drove the evolution of history, argued Marx. No wonder Romantic poets of the late 1700s and early 1800s like William Blake wrote of “the dark, satanic mills of Wolverhampton” and of the hellish filth-scapes of Whitechapel and the East End. No wonder the Luddite sect, with its hostility to any and all forms of technology, became increasingly popular. No wonder French workers, for fear of being displaced by machines, threw their wooden shoes (sabot, in French) into the cogs and gears of the machines … thus coining the word “sabotage”. As it is in biology, so also it is in socio-economics: evolution does not forgive.

dark-satanic-mills

So in many ways, the London of Charles Dickens is the tangible embodiment and vindication of Karl Marx: the means of production – factories leveraging technology so as to use human workers, if at all, only as flesh-and-blood machines – and the mode of production – wage-slavery intensified to a lyrical pitch through the massive urbanization of labor. All in the service of Capital. Now multiply the single example of London by all the great cities of Europe – their name is “Legion,” for they are many – and the sense of moral crisis becomes almost tangible. Two questions end up being begged: (1) how the hell did matters come to such a pass back then? and (2) why is the present so much like the past to such an unsettling extent? I would suggest that at least the outlines of an answer begin to emerge if we consider two factors we usually do not associate with each other: biological evolution and the European Enlightenment.

It’s important to remember a critical fact about the evolution of our species:  it’s about survival. Or, to be strictly precise, evolution is about surviving long enough to reproduce. Furthermore, given the short life-spans (on geologically and cosmically significant time-scales) of our species, homo sapiens sapiens, the type of survival toward which evolution is biased is short-term survival. Evolution — evolution alone and unaided by human intentions — is “concerned” with the long-fanged beast hiding behind that rock over there, not the long-fanged beast hiding behind other rocks elsewhere farther away. Evolution certainly has long-term consequences, but these are worked out in billions upon billions of particular, discrete, short-term instances. In an odd kind of way, evolution is like that verse in II Corinthians 6:2:  “Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation”.  For evolution, now — or perhaps 5 minutes or perhaps an hour from now — is all that counts.  An organism that dies right now never reproduces, and thus falls out of the evolutionary stream.

human-evolution

As paradoxical as it may sound, given the time-scales involved, evolution is actually the ultimate in short-term thinking.  So we should not be surprised that humans are biased, down to the deepest sub-basement of our neuroanatomy, toward similar short-term thinking. We are evolutionarily predisposed to think in terms of the next 5 minutes or 5 hours. That is the consequence of the way the human brain evolved. Evolution tends to be very parsimonious:  it throws almost nothing away. (Most of the DNA in the human genome is so-called “junk” DNA:  perhaps functional, even vital, at one time, it has since been superseded and no longer “does anything” — but was never discarded.) So as the brain evolved from reptiles to mammals to primates, the earlier parts of the brain were, not discarded, but built upon, rather like a medieval castle or manor house. “Evolution” and “efficiency” both start with the letter “e”, but the similarity ends there. (The conservative parsimony of biological evolution, by the way, poses a sticky problem for advocates of intelligent design:  whatever Designer exists must have a severe hoarding fetish if S/He preserves so much “junk”.) Those archaic parts of the brain — less accurately but more descriptively called the “reptile brain” — are collectively called the “limbic system”, and include structures like the amygdala that do primitive, “fight or flight” processing of the emotions that demand instantaneous, reflexive, very-short-term responses, i.e. responses, like dropping a match when it burns your finger-tips, that do not require conscious thinking. Comparatively primitive structures like the amygdala reflect evolution’s “assessment” that stopping to think can sometimes be fatal — and therefore maladaptive

What does all this have to do with capitalism, both old and new? Well, if you stop to reflect on the fact that, at least in capitalist economies, the economic system is an arrestingly faithful analog of a biosphere, complete with “nature red in tooth and claw” survival for competition, the answer should be obvious. Because of the emphasis on competition and survival in the marketplace, the evolution that occurs in capitalist economies is no more predisposed to long-term thinking than the evolution that occurs in biospheres. The natural and “naive” tendency of all capitalist economies is to concentrate on today’s profit and tomorrow’s or next quarter’s bottom line, and if that means the growth of slums, the pollution of the natural environment, and social pathologies that can only be restrained and contained by the application of brute force, then … well …the Devil take the hindmost.

capitalism_by_graffitiwatcher

But the limbic system was not the only part of the brain to evolve.  Human beings also developed a cerebral cortex — the part of the brain that, loosely and qualitatively speaking, deals with abstract thought and therefore, most importantly, with long-term planning. With only an amygdala and its associated structures, human beings would still be capable of pursuing their self-interest. But only with a cerebral cortex are we capable of pursuing our enlightened self-interest. But like any powerful instrument — a car, a computer, a nuclear reactor, etc. — there is the issue of learning how to use it.  Much of human history could be written in terms of the two-steps-forward-one-step-back process of humans learning how to use the cerebral cortex. And we are still very much in the process of learning how to use it. One of the most critical, make-or-break steps in Westerners’ learning how to use this awesomely powerful instrument was the European Enlightenment that began in the middle 1600s and that continues today. Much of human history between the fall of Rome and the end of the 30 Years War in 1648 consisted of religious zealotry placed at the service of the amygdala and the limbic system.  But because of the rediscovery of the classical world, the efflorescence of science, and in consequence a renewed confidence in the powers of the autonomous human intellect and rationality, Europeans gradually — it was a very near thing — discovered how to agree to disagree and live with their differences instead of slaughtering one another over them.

It would be literally impossible to overestimate the importance of this discovery. The fact that Europe, with all its faults, is not a late-Bronze-Age wasteland today is because, over time, the principles of the Enlightenment — tolerance of differences, the concept of inalienable human rights, the unique value of human beings, the idea that governments and economies should work for human beings instead of the other way around, that it is legitimate to circumscribe the behavior of the few for the good of the many, etc., etc., etc. — came to dominate the culture in terms of its rhetoric … and gradually in terms of its behavior.  Anyone who watches the news or even reads a newsmagazine occasionally or peeks at internet blogs now and again will be convinced that there is still an enormous amount of work to do to put these principles into practice.  But even a casual acquaintance with history will reveal that we have come a long way. As Dr. King once said, quoting an old slave hymn, “We ain’t what we ought to be, and we ain’t what we gonna be, but thank God we ain’t what was”.

renaissance-the-school-of-athens-classic-art-paitings-raphael-painter-rafael-philosophers-hd-wallpapers

So what conservatives miss in their critique of government “meddling” in the economy, e.g., their oft-avowed (though never fulfilled) pledge to abolish the EPA and like agencies, etc., is that the whole sweep of human civilization since humans descended from the trees and emigrated from east-central Africa has been to escape from, to transcend, Nature, and to temper and moderate Nature’s brutality, not to slavishly replicate it in our social and economic relations. “Nature red in tooth and claw” is fine if you are the “apex predator” who benefits from such an arrangement, so it is no accident that the farther up the affluence scale you go, the more intense becomes the hostility to government regulation:  if the game is already rigged in your favor, you will naturally be reluctant to change the rules of the game. But one of the benefits of the Enlightenment was a renewed confidence in humans’ ability to critique such arrangements and to perform tasks of autonomous moral reasoning, and thus establish a rational basis for altruism, for care for the weak, for the support of the disadvantaged — and thus to hedge about the otherwise-unrestrained cut-throat competition in the capitalist jungle with limits that ensure human life, human survival, and human dignity — values of which pure and unadulterated Nature is ignorant. Hence the abolitionist movement in 1850s England. Hence efforts to alleviate the suffering of the workers in the slums of London.  Hence the abolition of poor houses and debtors’ prisons. All were examples of “big government meddling,” and yet all were rooted in the Enlightenment-backed consensus that, while human beings emerged and originated from Nature, we are not bound to take up permanent residence there.

Capitalism can be and has been — and very often still is — a good and healthy and liberating thing. But capitalism is morally defensible only as long as, and to the extent that, human beings are in charge of capital for the good of the entire human community … never vice versa.

– James R. Cowles

© 2016, All rights reserved

Image credits:

“Rationality”:  public domain
“Capitalism is crisis” graffito: Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0
“Frankenstein” head: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International
“Evolution” image: public domain
Karl Marx: public domain
Darwin photo: public domain
“Industrial mill”: COPYRIGHT © OLGA HARMSEN
“The School of Athens”: public domain

 

Help for Compromised Citizens of the World

I thought it would be nice if we all had a list of charitable organizations that assist refugees and others living in compromised situations to easily share on our Facebook Pages and our blogs and so forth. I took some time to gather the info. Nonetheless, I’m sure I’ve left some worthy organizations out. If anyone knows of an organization that should be included, please leave it in the comments section and I’ll keep track for an update sometime in the future. Meanwhile, you can also check on a charity’s performance record at: Charity Navigator. So if inclined please do download this and feel free to share anywhere you feel it’s warranted, maybe even on employee, union and/or church affiliated sites. J.D.

IMG_7406 (2)

 

MLK’s Legacy … in his footsteps

2016015699419aee083by Rev. Ben Meyers, Unitarian Universalists of San Mateo (UUSM), CA

This past Saturday (January 16), in the North Central Neighborhood of San Mateo, the children in the county school system gathered at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center to listen and support the poets, essayists, and artists who participated in this year’s (the 31st annual) event. Afterward, everyone was invited to gather at UUSM, to celebrate the children and to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. and his legacy with activities, music and buffet.

In most communities across the country, the practice of inviting school-age children to ponder King’s legacy and its impact on the American culture and society is fast becoming a standard practice and tradition. This year’s MLK contest topic encourages an exploration of other leaders who were influenced by King’s message of hope, unity, enfranchisement, and peace. It is right that the “next” generation engage in the continuance of King’s impact because we live in a time when those ideas are daily challenged by continued despair, disparity, and violence. We can yet ask, “Where do we go from here?”

FullSizeRender-1As we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birth today, let this be a time when, along with paying our respects to the memory of King’s life and his historic legacy, we raise our consciences from our “moments of comfort and convenience” and ask ourselves in ways never before, “Where are we standing among the current challenges and controversies that yet plague our communities, thwarting our dreams of equality and shredding the network of mutuality of which Dr. King spoke so eloquently?” It is time to know where, or even if, we stand for justice and equity and peace.

If we do not like the answer to our inquiry, let us have the courage and the audacity to move ourselves from our comfort and complacency to a place more inconveniently situated, and stand tall.

© Rev. Ben Meyers, all rights reserved

The BeZine, 15 Dec. 2015, Vol. 2, Issue 3 (Waging Peace and The Hero’s Journey)

15 December 2015

When we planned this issue we planned to focus on “The Hero’s Journey.” We have done that, but events this past month also led to a spontaneous eleventh-hour addition,  a special section, Waging Peace. Thank you to Rabbi Gershon Steinberg-Caudill, Rev. Ben Meyers, Father Daniel Sormani, C.S. Sp., Sophia Ali-Khan, the Unitarian Universalists of the San Francisco Bay/Peninsula, Michael Dickel, the Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi and to Carla Prater, the assistant director of Buddhist Global Relief for her help.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Unitarian Universalist clerics of the San Francisco Bay/Peninsula share their open letter  – With Faith in Love Beyond All Beliefs – encouraging the support of Muslims in our communities.

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

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

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

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

Michael Dickel‘s poem Mosquitoes (excerpt from his chapbook, War Surrounds Us) is included. The poem starts out with Israelis and Palestinians crossing the artificial lines that divide to offer one another condolences on the deaths of their children.  This is a favored poem of mine, especially so because The Bardo Group Bequines was formed to – in effect – cross boarders. Our mission statement is HERE. Michael spins the poem on to show how we are manipulated by the propaganda machine. Michael Dickel, Father Dan and Bkikkhu Bodhi are of a mind on this.

We’ve included a short video presentation on the seven steps to peace developed by peace activist, Rabbi Marc Gopin. Director of the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution (CRDC) and co-owner of MEJDI, “a peace tourism business that embraces the multiple narratives of indigenous peoples.”

The Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi is Buddhist monk in the Theravada tradition, an author and teacher. He is the founder of Buddhist Global Relief.  With permission, we offer his 2015 talk given at the New Year’s Interfaith Prayer Service, Chuang Yen Monastery. In the same spirit as Rabbi SteinBerg Cadhill and Rev. Ben Meyer, Bhikkhu Bodhi says:

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

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

So here we are attempting to untie the ropes that bind us …  certainly a hero’s journey … unchosen as hero’s journeys often are. Under our themed section, we explore the journey in its many manifestations – in its parts and in it’s whole – with features, fiction, memoir, and poems by John Anstie, James Cawles, Michael Dickel, Priscilla Galasso, Joseph Hesch, Charlie Martin, Corina Ravenscraft and Terri Stewart. Under “more light” – we can always use that, eh? – we have photo-stories from Naomi Baltuck, a poem from Brain Crandall and an essay from Michael Watson.

Special Announcement

Last week we unveiled our new community website thanks to long and hard work by Terri Stewart and generous funding by the Pacific Northwest United Methodist Church.  You can read all about it HERE. You can visit it HERE.  Please enjoy but also be patient, the tech gremlins are still at work. This site is set-up (both design and intention) to facilitate more participation with and among readers.

On behalf of The Bardo Group Beguines and in the spirit of love and community, Jamie Dedes, Managing Editor

Thanks to poet and artist K.A. Brice (Mirror Obscura) for our fabulous December header.

Table of Contents with Links

Waging Peace
An Interfaith Exploration

You are the promise . . . the one . . . the hope, Rev. Ben Meyers, Unitarian Universalist cleric

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

With Faith In Love Beyond All Beliefs, an open letter, Unitarian Universalist clerics

Dear Non-Muslim Allies,  Sofia Ali-Khan, Muslim activist for understanding

Peace Be Upon You, شوشان – سلام عليكم, Tunisian poet, Anis Chouchène, Muslim

Mosquitoes, American-Israeli poet, Michael Dickel, Jewish

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

Waging Peace, Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi, Buddhist

December’s Theme
The Hero’s Journey

When a Hero Needs a Hero

I think I need a hero, Colin Stewart

Lead Pieces

Mankind: The Modern Mystery and Myth, Priscilla Galasso
The Hero’s Journey and the Void Within: Poetics for Change, Michael Dickel
Hero Worship, a poem, Michael Dickel
Sailing with Ulysses, James R. Cowles

Fiction

Who Cries for Icarus?, Joseph Hesch

Poetry

Courage, Joseph Hesch
local heroes, Charles W. Martin
~ Lifted ~, Corina Ravenscraft
~ Epic Everyday ~, Corina Ravenscraft
Heroes Seldom Wear Capes, Terri Stewart

Memoir/Family History

The Major, a poem, John Anstie
Real Heroes, Part 1, John Anstie
Real Heroes, Part 2, John Anstie

More Light

Photostories

Pondering, Naomi Baltuck
The Same Boat, Naomi Baltuck

Poetry

Let the Children Come, Brian Crandall
A Dream Walker Hands You The Door, Michael Dickel

Essay

We’re Still Here, Michael Watson

Further Connections

Our Community Site: Beguine Again

Brief Biographies of Core Team and Contributors

For updates and inspiration “Like” us on Facebook, The Bardo Group Beguines

Track our Tweets at The Bardo Group Beguines

MISSION STATEMENT

Back Issues Archive
October/November 2014, First Issue
December 2014, Preparation
January 2015, The Divine Feminine
February 2015, Abundance/Lack of Abundance
March 2015, Renewal
April 2015, interNational Poetry Month
May 2015, Storytelling
June 2015, Diversity
July 2015, Imagination and the Critical Spirit
August 2015, Music
September 2015, Poverty (100TPC)
100,000 Poets for Change, 2015 Event
October 2015, Visual Arts (First Anniversary Issue)
The BeZine, Volume 2, Issue 1, Nov. 2015 (At-risk Youth)

Giving Thanks: An Invitation to Awareness

A Vegan Gratitude Day Dinner, Leek and Bean Cassoulet
A Vegan Gratitude Day Dinner, Leek and Bean Cassoulet, keeping it kind
For Gratitude Day in 2010, Awyn (Jottings) wrote the piece posted below. It has remained with me since then and I asked Awyn for permission to publish it here. Awyn and I met thanks to Sam Hamill’s Poets Against War initiative to which we both contributed. She included two of my anti-war poems in “Salamander Cove,”  her poetry magazine, where I was honored to keep company with such lights as Sherman Alexie and Robert Peake. Wow! The magazine was paused in 2012 but is expected back this December. Awyn (Annie Wyndham) is a former human rights worker and an accomplished poet and writer of conscience. Her poems have appeared in Burlington Poetry Review and Spoonful (Cambridge’s Stone Soup poetry venue). You can sample her poetry on her blog. J.D.

Here’s Awyn:

Happy Thanksgiving! — to all those who celebrate this special holiday.

Last year on Thanksgiving, I itemized all the things for which I was thankful. Here it is that time again, one year later and that still all holds true but no special dinner has been planned. Canada celebrated its Thanksgiving Day in October and it’s nowhere near as big a holiday here as it is in the U.S.

In the U.S., for many Thanksgiving means not only a big family dinner but watching the annual parade or football game on TV, big sales on Black Friday the day after, and the horrendous traffic back for those who came in from out of town. All part of the tradition.

We have plenty of big, sit-down dinners here with my mate’s family, but my fondly remembered American Thanksgivings are now a thing of the past. I don’t know any Americans here, my mate’s not that crazy about pumpkin pie, and I’m a vegetarian, so there’d be no turkey. Turkey is traditional but I’ve had many an untraditional version, with calamari or tofu or soup.  It was still a thanks-giving.  My kids are hundreds of miles away and none of us can afford to visit at this time. Hence no big family Thanksgiving get-together celebration this year. We will share our good wishes over the telephone. As for spectator parade-watching or sports broadcasts or Black Friday shopping, none of that interests me. In that, I guess you could say I’m untraditional. Pumpkin pie, however, is non-negotiable. You absolutely cannot have Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie. It just doesn’t compute.

The most interesting Thanksgiving I ever heard about was from the wife of a former colleague who volunteered at a local soup kitchen. She told me that one Thanksgiving, to raise awareness of all the people who were starving in the world, some organization whose name I can no longer remember invited people to attend a big sit-down Thanksgiving dinner, for $15 per person, proceeds to go towards world hunger.

When you arrived, you were asked to pick your entry ticket out of a box. There were three kinds of tickets.

If you got a green ticket, you would be served the full dinner, with all the trimmings–and be allowed seconds on desert.

If you got a yellow ticket, you would be served what starving people in third-world countries sometimes get to eat–a child-sized helping of rice or thin, watery soup–and nothing else.

And if you got a white ticket–you’d get nothing at all.

So imagine you’re at this banquet and you get the full meal, with all the trimmings, and you’re sitting next to someone who got nothing. Would you turn and give half of what you have to that person? What if you’re one of the unlucky ones who got the thin, watery soup? Or worse, the empty plate. Would you quietly sip your water and listen to your stomach growl, hoping the people next to you might offer to give you some of theirs?

I’m sure a lot of sharing went around, probably immediately, after the initial surprise (and perhaps discomfort) wore off. Giving money to a charity, for which you get a sit-down dinner, is one thing; being invited to dinner and served an empty plate and having it suddenly sink in what real deprivation is like, is quite another. (Well, the invitation did say the theme was Awareness.)  But how uncomfortable to have to sit in front of an empty plate all evening long while others are eating. That glass of water can only go so far.

I went without  lunch yesterday–not by choice.  I simply forgot.  I was working on something and the hours flew and I suddenly realized it was getting dark outside and all I’d had to eat the whole day long was a cup of coffee at 6 a.m.  My stomach began reminding me it hadn’t been fed.  Loudly.  No problem.  I could open my refrigerator or reach for something in the cupboard and solve the problem, instantly.

But what if I couldn’t?  What if, for whatever reason,there was none to be had and no more food would be forthcoming for another day. Another two days. Maybe even a whole week. How would I deal with that?  Certainly, after a day or two, lack of food would make me woozy, lightheaded … lethargic, even.   I’d probably lose weight.  Temporarily fasting is one thing. Starvation, however, is quite another.

73577339_078c9d9d1b

I think that’s what the organizers of that unusual Thanksgiving dinner wanted to convey–that life is not fair.  Some of us get to sit down every evening to a good meal, Every Single Night.  Some can only afford to buy food meant for animals.  Some get somebody else‘s leftovers, fished out of a trash can.  And some get nothing at all.

So many things to be thankful for this holiday.   Awareness–however received–is one of them.

© 2010, essay, Annie Wyndham, All rights reserved; cassoulet photograph courtesy of SarahJane Veganheathen via Flickr under CC A – SA 2.0 generic license; little girl courtesy of Filipe Moreira via Flickr under CC A-SA 2.0 generic license; the sketch that says it all is Awyn’s

Sabbath and Syria

by Terri Stewart (Beguine Again)

“Faith is not the clinging to a shrine but an endless pilgrimage of the heart.”
~Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Trevor Hudson, in his book A Mile in My Shoes, describes living daily life as living daily pilgrimage into the suffering of others. Life as a daily pilgrimage includes:

  • Being present,
  • Listening, and
  • Noticing

I was thinking of this as I was pondering the great tragedy that is taking place in Syria. Bodies are washing up on the shores of the Mediterranean of little children and families fleeing. It is simply horrifying. An excellent explanation of what is happening is here.

About 6 years ago, when I first started working at the juvenile detention center, I was playing cards with some boys in the detention center. As we played games, the boys were sharing their stories. One of the boys happened to be from Syria. He left Syria and moved to the states after seeing his parents murdered in front of him. He came here to live with his auntie. He could barely read or write. He was in detention for violent behavior. Imagine that. He had anger issues. I thought it was horrifying then. It seems it just keeps on getting worse.

Trevor Hudson would have us travel into the suffering as a pilgrim, not as a voyeur or as a consumer, but as a sacred journey. Being present to pain. Listening to their stories without imposing outside values. And noticing. Noticing who they are. Sometimes that is the most sacred gift of all. I think on that day years ago, for that young man from Syria, that is what he longed for. Simply to be noticed.

Maybe this Sabbath day we can take a moment and be present to those who suffer near us. Take a pilgrimage with them–a sacred journey into the heart.

Shalom,

terri

pilgrimage of the heart

100,000 Poets (and other artisits and friends) for Change, 2015: over 500 events scheduled around the globe

IMG_1250

These are busy days for Michael Rothenberg and Terri Carrion who founded 100,000 Poets for Change.  Michael announced yesterday that 500 events are now scheduled for September 26, 2015, the fifth anniversary of this global initiative for change; that is, for peace and sustainability.

For those who are just catching up with us100 Thousand Poets for Change, or 100TPC, is an international grassroots educational organization focusing on the arts, especially poetry, music, and the literary arts. It was founded in 2011 by Michael Rothenberg and Terri Carrion and is centered on a world-wide event each September. This past June the first World Conference on 100TPC was held in Salerno, Italy.

There are also several offshoots cropping up: 100,000 Photographers for Change, 100,000 Drummers for Change … and so on. A little searching on Facebook and you’ll find them, though the umbrella for all,  100TPC, does include a range of artistic specialties and friends of the arts and is not limited to poets and poetry.

We – that is The Bardo Group and Beguine Again, publishers of The BeZine are hosting a virtual event and you are all invited to attend and add links to your own relevent work.  The links will be collected and published in a Page on The BeZine site and also archived at 100TPC. Michael Dickel (Fragments of Michael Dickel) of The Bardo Group is the lead for this event. Michael is also the organizer of an event scheduled in Israel this October.  You can contact him via his blog or message him on Facebook if you have an interest in participating there.

Meanwhile, here is an introduction to the visionary founders of 100TPC, Michael Rothenberg and Terri Carrion:

MICHAEL ROTHENBERG was born in Miami Beach, Florida in 1951, and has been living in the San Francisco Bay Area for the past 37 years. Currently Michael is living and creating among the redwoods.

Michael is co-founder of Shelldance Orchid Gardens in Pacifica, which is dedicated to the cultivation of orchids and bromeliads. He is a poet, painter, songwriter, and editor of Big Bridge Press and Big Bridge, a webzine of poetry and everything else.

In 2011 he and Terri Carrion co-founded the global poetry movement 100 Thousand Poets for Change. His songs have appeared in Hollywood Pictures’ Shadowhunter and Black Day, Blue Night, and most recently, TriStar Pictures’ Outside Ozona. Other songs have been recorded on CDs including: Bob Malone’s The Darkest Part of The Night (Caught Up in Christmas) and Bob Malone (Raydaddy’s Blues), Difficult Woman by Renee Geyer, Global Blues Deficit by Cody Palance, The Woodys by The Woodys, and Schell Game by Johnny Lee Schell.

Michael’s poetry books and broadsides are archived at the University of Francisco, and are held in the Special Collection libraries of Brown University, Claremont Colleges, University of Kansas, the New York Public Library, UC-Berkeley, UC-Davis, and UC-Santa Cruz.

His most recent collection of poems is Indefinite Detention: A Dog Story (Ekstasis Editions 2013) and Murder (Paper Press, 2013) My Youth As A Train published by Foothills Publishing in September 2010.

TERRI CARRION was conceived in Venezuela and born in New York to a Galician mother and Cuban father. She grew up in Los Angeles where she spent her youth skateboarding and slam-dancing.

Terri Carrion earned her MFA at Florida International University in Miami, where she taught Freshman English and Creative Writing, edited and designed the graduate literary magazine Gulfstream, taught poetry to High School docents at the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami and started a reading series at the local Luna Star Café. In her final semester at FIU, she was Program Director for the Study Abroad Program, Creative Writing in Dublin, Ireland.

Her poetry, fiction, non-fiction and photography has been published in many print magazines as well as online, including The Cream City Review, Hanging Loose, Pearl, Penumbra, Exquisite Corpse, Mangrove, Kick Ass Review, Jack, Mipoesia, Dead Drunk Dublin, and Physik Garden among others.

Her collaborative poem with Michael Rothenberg, Cartographic Anomaly was published in the anthology, Saints of Hysteria, A Half-Century of Collaborative American Poetry and her chapbook Lazy Tongue was published by D Press in the summer of 2007.

Terri’s most recent projects includes collaborating on a trilingual Galician Anthology, (from Galician to Spanish to English) and co-editing an online selection of the bi-lingual anthology of Venezuelan women writers, Profiles of Night, both to appear in late August, on BigBridge.org., for which she is assistant editor and art designer. Currently, she is learning how to play the accordion. Terri Carrion lives under the redwoods and above the Russian River in Guerneville, Ca. with her partner in crime Michael Rothenberg, and her dogs Chiqui and Ziggy.

The Poet as Witness: “War Surrounds Us,” an interview with American-Israeli Poet, Michael Dickel

Editors note: The theme for our September issue is poverty. It is part of our 100,000 Poets (and other artists and friends) for Change event (change being peace and sustainability) to be held here as a virtual event on 26 September 2015. Michael Dickel takes the lead on this project and the September issue. Here’s an opportunity to get to know him better. Michael’s vision: “… hope must/ still remain with those who cross/ borders, ignore false lines and divisions/” is consistent with the mission of Bequine Again and The Bardo Group, publishers of The BeZine.  The September issue will post on the 15th. J.D.

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

– Michael Dickel, (Mosquitos) War Surrounds Us

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

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

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

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

– Jamie Dedes

Poems from War Surrounds Us:
Again
Musical Meditations
The Roses

TLV1 Interview and Poetry Reading

813UAJBTpUL._UX250_

MY INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL DICKEL:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_1250

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

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

For this year, I am working with two other organizations—the Lindberg Peace Foundation, which has held annual Poetry for Peace events. This year will be the 40th anniversary (yartzheit, in Hebrew) of Miriam Lindberg’s tragic death at the age of 18. She wrote poetry, was a peace activist, and also an environmental activist. Her mother was a poet and professor, and passed away a few years ago. Joining us in planning the Jerusalem event will be the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development. Their mission as I understand it is to develop interfaith leadership for common goals related to eco-justice that would also provide a model for solving the Middle East conflicts.

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

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

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

Be the peace.

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

Conversations on Poverty and Homelessness (Part 2)~ The BeZine, 100,000 Poets for Change

On our 2015 Facebook Page for 100,000 Poets for Change, we’ve been discussing poverty and homelessness.  I’m sharing some of the conversation there.  If you’d like to join us on Facebook, please let us know.  All are welcome. For the September 2015 issue of The BeZine, we’ll be exploring poverty and on September 26, we’ll hold our virtual event and we invite reader participation.  Instructions will be in our blog that day.  Links to everyone’s work will be collected and posted as a Page and also incorporated into a PDF that will be archived at 100,000 Poets (writers, artists, photographers, musicians and friends) for Change; i.e., peace and sustainability. 

image

This conversation was started on our The BeZine 100TPC 2015 Facebook Group Page by Michael Dickel (Fragments of Michael Dickel):

It’s only a little more than a month until 100 Thousand Poets for Change—Fifth Anniversary—26 September! Time to start some provocations…

Just to get us thinking abou the Poverty Theme next month—this was posted in a FB group, “Philosophy,” a while back but just appeared in my timeline.

The question I have is, does the standing man reach into his pocket because of empathy? Does he see that the beggar could be him? Or is it narcissism, that he sees an extension of himself (rather than seeing the person himself as separate)? Is he only giving b/c it is another version of himself (white male)? Would he reach into his pocket if he saw the Other?

I don’t ask these questions to be cynical, but because I think the cartoon suggests all of this and possibly more. Who do we see when we see poverty? Who do we help? Who do we wonder why they are not “making something” of their lives (as one commenter on the posted photo said he would ask “himself”—the beggar self—in this situation)?

Jamie asked me to take the lead for the poverty-100TPC page, if I understood correctly, so consider this a first provocation. I hope to put out a couple of more in the next couple of weeks.

Are they prompts? Inspiration? Irritants? I like the idea of provoking thoughts, creativity, ideas. So I call them provocations. Mainly, just use what generates something for you, ignore the rest or all if you’ve got your own excitement rolling.

– Michael Dickel

Some of the discussion that resulted from Michael’s prompt follows:

“Would he reach into his pocket if he saw the Other?” Heartbreaking that we even have to ask. And we know the artist’s perspective, he is not seeing the other.” Terri Stewart (Beguine Again)

“I’d like to think in the spiritual sense he’s seeing himself but that is wishful thinking, eh? Jamie Dedes (The Poet by Day)

“The ‘but for the grace of God, go I’ response. Maybe. I was more cynical…I was seeing the ego. Ego demands giving to look good. Ugh. I’ve been doing justice work too long.” Terri Stewart

“I think the cartoon suggest all of this—the empathy of “there but for the Grace of God” likely the intent of the artist. The ego the reflection in the mirror, and possibly also intent? Who knows, I guess about intent… and that sense of I will help those like me. And what about those not like me? Terri Stewart

The drawing is provocative. And privileged. And as such, regardless of intent, draws attention to our own privilege, those like me anyway, white male, sitting at my expensive computer writing on FaceBook, drinking good coffee, and not worrying about where my next meal will come from, just whether I can afford to install central AC.” Michael Dickel

What are YOUR thoughts? Please feel free to share them below.

The August issue of The BeZine will be published online on August 15. The theme for August is music.

Conversations on Poverty and Homelessness (Part 1) – The BeZine, 100,000 Poets for Change

On our 2015 Facebook Page for 100,000 Poets for Change, we’ve been discussing poverty and homelessness.  I’m sharing some of the conversation here.  If you’d like to join us on Facebook, please let us know.  All are welcome. For the September 2015 issue of The BeZine, we’ll be exploring poverty and on September 26, we’ll hold our virtual event and we invite reader participation.  Instructions will be in our blog that day.  Links to everyone’s work will be collected and posted as a Page and also incorporated into a PDF that will be archived at 100,000 Poets (writers, artists, photographers, musicians and friends) for Change; i.e., peace and sustainability. 

This portion of the discussion was begun by Terri Stewart (Beguine Again) with this video:

Among the responses:

Michael Dickel (Fragments of Michael Dickel):

“If you want change, let me throw it at you as hard as I can at your dirty face…”

Let me throw justice at you, let it hit your face
and wake us up. Let me throw opportunity at you,
let it hit your face and give us a chance.
Let me throw change at you, change in the world,
change creating justice and freedom,
change creating opportunity, real change
for all. Let me throw democracy at you, let it
hit us in the face so hard that it cracks open
and spills out into the land, everywhere, change—
real democracy, real hope, real opportunity.
Let me throw change and the stinking, rotten
carcass of consumer capitalism and greed at
those so privileged and shallow as to think white
teeth are more important than your humanity.
And then, god help me, let me find love
and compassion to throw as hard as I can
into our faces, into our lives, into the hearts
of us all, of us all standing here watching
in voyeuristic pleasures of despair.

– Michael Dickel

Corina Ravenscraft (Dragon’s Dreams):

“I want to shake all of those people who wrote those mean things and ask them what happened to their compassion? I want to ask them if their judgment makes them feel better about themselves and what they would do if they ever found themselves in such dire circumstances.”

John Anstie (My Poetry Library):

“Yes indeed, Corina, maybe no compassion, but where also is their insight?”

Please share YOUR thoughts below. Thank you!

The August issue of The BeZine will be published online on August 15.  The theme for August is music. 

“Popular Sovereignty” and Marriage Equality

Editor’s Note:  Coming on the heals of the U.S. Supreme Court decision on Obergefell v. Hodges stating that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, we present James Cowles’ “Popular Sovereignty” and Marriage Equality essay. It is reblogged here from Beguine Again.  James Cowles is a newer member of Core Team.  His poetry was shared in past issues of The BeZine. Welcome James! 

skepticOne of the more enlightened-sounding proposals aimed at resolving the question of marriage equality for sexual-orientation minorities is to allow each State in the Nation to decide the issue, either with a vote of the State legislature via initiative and referendum, where the State constitution permits such, or to allow each individual State’s legislature to decide the issue. This alternative appeals to the “democracy instinct” that is pretty much encoded into the Nation’s political DNA. But this perception is deceptive. We have seen this movie before, and its deeper implications are anything but friendly toward individual rights. The first time we saw the “let-the-States-decide” movie was in 1858 with the Lincoln-Douglas debates. All that is different, 1858 vs. now, is the specific matter at issue: slavery then vs. marriage equality now. But what was really at issue in both instances was much deeper, going to the “ontology” of human personhood.

Lincoln&Douglas

In 1858, the year after the infamous Dred Scott v. Sandford decision of the Roger Brook Taney Supreme Court, Stephen Douglas, senior Senator from Illinois, and Abraham Lincoln, former one-term representative from that State, as part of their respective Senate campaigns, undertook an epic series of debates up and down the length and breadth of Illinois, each challenging the other on his solution to the burning slavery question that would finally eventuate in the Civil War. (In those days before the 17th Amendment, Senators were appointed by the State legislatures.  Sen. Douglas won. Mr. Lincoln lost. But Mr. Lincoln would go on to be elected President in 1860. South Carolina would secede from the Union a month later.) Sen. Douglas repeated his often-advocated proposal of “popular sovereignty”: let each State decide for itself whether that State will be slave or free. As Mr. Lincoln was quick to point out, Sen. Douglas’s proposal had already been ruled unconstitutional the previous year by the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott opinion. Thus “popular sovereignty” died a-borning. To understand the reasons for this, I refer you to the Dred Scott decision itself. Looming at least equally large at the time was the fact that the Taney Court, on the way to its decision, also declared unconstitutional the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Compromise of 1850, both of which had the effect of quarantining slavery within States where slavery was already legal. With Dred Scott, the Taney Court “breached containment” and set the slavery virus loose in the Union as a whole.

taney
Chief Justice Roger Brook Taney

Dred Scott has been vilified now for 158 years as the judicial equivalent of Pearl Harbor: “a date which will live in infamy”. Or maybe the 9/11 attacks. Justly so, in an obvious sense. Two years after Dred Scott, in 1859, John Brown would stage his abortive assault on the Federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry; the Nation, both North and South, would quail before the prospect of a slave rebellion; Brown’s trial and execution would only succeed in making him a martyr and rendering the Civil War, already almost a certitude, literally inevitable. (“Things fall apart, the center cannot hold; / Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world” — William Butler Yeats, “The Second Coming”.) But if we take a step or two back and look at Dred Scott dispassionately, to the extent that is possible, what becomes clear is the question beneath the question.

599b07c1fb80457dec83acf8f133c238bb208353
Dred Scott

In that sense and to that extent, the decision of the Taney Court did the Nation a service in clarifying, if only in retrospect, what was really at stake. If Douglas’s proposal of “popular sovereignty” had been adopted and implemented, and if each State had voted on whether to be slave or free, what would the State really have been voting on? The State would have been voting on, not only the legal status of slavery within its borders, in fact, least of all on that, but on whether or not the “ontological” character of human beings – some human beings, anyway – was such that human beings were the kind of thing that could be owned. The real question at issue is whether or not slaves are human beings with human rights. The Court said “No”, of course, asserting that “[African slaves are] beings [note: not “human beings” but just “beings” – JRC] of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect”. Mr. Lincoln’s critique of “popular sovereignty,” which predates by several years his debates with Sen. Douglas, is predicated on his revulsion for placing slavery and freedom on an equal moral plane as Coke-or-Pepsi alternatives meriting equal consideration. In a speech in Peoria, IL, 1854, he asserted that “there can be [no] MORAL RIGHT in the enslaving of one man by another.” (all-caps in original) In the last analysis, Sen. Douglas’s proposal to settle the slavery issue by “popular sovereignty” is just as much a negation of the human-ness of the slave as the Dred Scott decision itself. To subject human-ness to majority vote is to deny the existence of the very thing you are voting on. If slaves are human beings, there is nothing to vote on. Conversely, to insist on voting on whether a certain group has human rights is to deny the human-ness of that group. (In Kitchen v. Herbert, the decision that struck down Utah’s gay-marriage ban, the US Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit said “The protection and exercise of fundamental rights are not matters for opinion polls or the ballot box”.) Human beings have human rights. To affirm one is to affirm the other; to deny one is to deny the other. Period. End of discussion.

Well, as I said earlier, we have seen this movie before. Now we are seeing it again. Now the issue is not the “ontological” character of slaves, but the “ontological” character of sexual-orientation minorities. In particular, the question now is whether such minorities have a right to marry. At least, that is the “surface” question, corresponding to the choice Sen. Douglas proposed putting before the States. Now, before I go any farther, I want to reaffirm the all-important dual character of marriage: marriage as a civil contract, and marriage as a religious ordinance / sacrament. My remarks are confined entirely to the former aspect of marriage, i.e., marriage as a contract in civil law not essentially different from, say, a contract with Verizon for cell-phone service or with Bank of America for a mortgage loan. Within that context, we may ask “Is the right to enter into a (civil) contract a human right?” That question we can resoundingly answer “Not only ‘Yes’, but ‘Hell yes’”. In fact, during the opening years of the 20th century – the Lochner era – the Supreme Court’s “hell-yes” answer was so strong that very little progress could be made until the New Deal in terms of ameliorating employees’ working conditions: employees had entered into a contract with their employer that was so iron-clad that even Federal courts felt bound by constitutional prohibitions forbidding impairment of contracts. We are no longer in the “Lochner era”, of course, but the right to enter into contracts is still strong – be the contract a mortgage or a marriage …

… unless you are a sexual orientation minority …

equality

In that case, some argue that an act of the legislature or the electorate … anyway, some kind of vote … is necessary. And even then, only with regard to the specific type of civil contract known as “marriage”. No one argues that a vote is necessary to “give” sexual-orientation minorities the right to contract with Verizon for cell-phone service. No one argues that a vote is necessary to “give” sexual-orientation minorities the right to get a mortgage. No one argues that a vote is necessary to “give” sexual-orientation minorities the right to contract with a gardening service to mow, mulch, and fertilize their lawns. Those are all civil contracts. But when you mention the civil contract known as “marriage”, suddenly some people are not willing to grant that right without some kind of prior plebiscitary permission. Why? I can think of two possible reasons:

o Marriage is a religious ceremony / sacrament nor normally granted to gay / lesbian people

But in that case, the State is clearly overstepping its “establishment”-clause boundaries by presuming to grant gay / lesbian people permission to participate in a religious activity. One may as well envision the State having a voice in whether a Catholic priest can celebrate Mass or whether a Buddhist sensei can chant the Diamond Sutra.  But I think a more likely reason is …

o Gay / Lesbian / LGBTQIA people are not … well … not … well … not “like us” … any more than black slaves were “like us” in Sen. Douglas’s mind in 1858, and so require permission to exercise what the rest of us – those who are “like us” – consider a human birthright: the right to contract (civil) marriage

 In other words, to be brutally honest, gay / lesbian / LGBTQIA people are not … quite … human and so need their human-ness, and therefore their human rights, legislatively validated. At least, that seems to be the subtext of the 21st-century version of the “popular sovereignty” argument.  Which, as in the case of black slaves in the 1850s, means those rights do not exist because their presumptive possessors are not … quite … fully human. Indeed, that is the “question-behind-the-question” in both cases: are slaves and LGBTQIA people fully human? Furthermore, as it was with slaves and “popular sovereignty”, so it is with sexual-orientation minorities: the ostensible necessity of voting in order to validate rights annihilates those rights. The act of voting vitiates that which is voted on.

The Declaration of Independence asserts that human rights are “unalienable”: we cannot give our rights away. Nor can we “give” them to others. They are not ours to give. And if we try to give them to others, we only prove that we do not believe in them.

– James R. Cowles

© 2015, essay, James R. Cowles, All rights reserved; photographs are in the public domain.

A Mote of Dust Suspended in a Sunbeam

Carl Sagan (1934-1996)

American astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, author and popularizer of natural and space science

CARL SAGAN was the David Duncan Professor of Astronomy and Space Sciences and Director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University. He played a leading role in the American space program since its inception. He was a consultant and adviser to NASA since the 1950’s, briefed the Apollo astronauts before their flights to the Moon, and was an experimenter on theMariner, Viking, Voyager, and Galileoexpeditions to the planets. He helped solve the mysteries of the high temperatures of Venus (answer: massive greenhouse effect), the seasonal changes on Mars (answer: windblown dust), and the reddish haze of Titan (answer: complex organic molecules). MORE [The Carl Sagan Portal

Video posted to YouTube by CarlSaganPortal.

Earth as seen from Apollo 17.

“A mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam . . . ” Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan portrait courtesy of the Carl Sagan Planetary Society and in the Public Domain; Earth photo courtesy of NASA

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!

__________________________________

~ The Other Refugees ~

Soldier and Kitten by JustUs09 @ Photobucket.com

~ The Other Refugees ~

He huddled under the wreckage and rubble,

That used to be his home.

His people had fled.

Still others, were dead.

So he waited, shaking, alone.

*

She searched the dust-filled, ruined lots,

For food for her newborn young.

They needed to eat.

So she scoured every street.

But of sustenance, there was none.

*

Both were pitiful victims of war,

Forgotten, while the dropped bombs fell.

Their families were gone.

Yet, they still struggled on.

In the burning, abandoned hell.

*

It wasn’t their fault they had nowhere to go.

They’d been born with fur, not skin.

No more soft voices, or gentle pats,

Both wondered,

If they’d ever be happy again.

*

Then came the strangers with kind, loving care.

They brought food and they sheltered lost pets.

They didn’t have much,

But they shared what they had,

While the rest of society forgets…

*

There are more than people who suffer in war.

Animals can be refugees, too.

Let us stop and remember

Each four-legged family member.

There’s still plenty of helping to do.

~ C.L.R. ~ © 2014

Image borrowed from takepart.com
Image borrowed from takepart.com

I came across this article the other day, as I was trying to decide what my offering would be for The Bardo 100,000 Poets For Change topic “Peace and Justice”. It struck me that there are so many animals who get forgotten in the chaos of war, and I knew that I had found my subject.

Of course it’s the people who get the attention and aid when they escape war-zones, and it’s important that we continue to help those human victims who need it. But. But there is a large segment of the population of refugees who get forgotten in the shuffle. In our haste to help the humans, the poor animals who are hurt or left behind are often overlooked. It’s sad, as is most everything about war, but it is an unfortunate truth.

The good news is that there ARE organizations who focus on helping displaced and injured animals affected by the ravages of war. The selfless people who run many of these shelters risk their own lives to help the animals left behind. If you are so inclined, the next time that you think about donating time or money to the victims of war, please consider one of these efforts. The cause is noble and just as worthy, and you will be helping someone who needs you, maybe more than you can imagine.

Animals Without Limits

Harmony Fund

Animals Lebanon

Nowzad

SPCA International

 

 

– Corina Ravenscraft

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!

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.

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.

 

Prayer as Action for Peace

Editorial note: This was originally written by Terri Stewart for Saturday, September 7, 2013, in response to a call for worldwide prayer and fasting to focus on peace in Syria. With all that is going on in the Middle East and given the Ukraine crises, the many conflicts in Africa and the deaths and dislocations resulting from drug wars in Central and South America, this seems a good time to post it again in the spirit of peace, love and community …

I have seen many things happening–prayer vigils, personal meditation practices, marches, and communications with elected officials. We decided to offer a Labyrinth Walk for Peace at Bothell UMC in Bothell, WA in the morning. I gathered inter-faith prayers, we walked, prayed, and focused on bringing peace to the world. What follows is prayers and photos from that journey that became deeply personal for each attendant. There was a certain transition that occurred for me as I took in my surroundings and noticed Farmer Brown’s Garden. I began to see, literally, a connection between peacefulness and being fed. You will see.

Entering Sacred Space

prayers-for-peace-3

Sufi Prayer for Peace

Send Thy peace, O Lord, which is perfect and everlasting, that our souls may radiate peace.
Send Thy peace, O Lord, that we may think, act,
and speak harmoniously.
Send Thy peace, O Lord, that we may be contented
and thankful for Thy bountiful gifts.
Send Thy peace, O Lord, that amidst our worldly strife we may enjoy thy bliss.
Send Thy peace, O Lord, that we may endure all,
tolerate all in the thought of thy grace and mercy.
Send Thy peace, O Lord, that our lives may become a
divine vision, and in Thy light all darkness may vanish.
Send Thy peace, O Lord, our Father and Mother,
that we Thy children on earth may all unite in one family.
– Sufi Prayer

The Journey Begins

prayers-for-peace-6

An Islamic Prayer for Peace

In the Name of Allah, the beneficent, the merciful: Praise be to the Lord of the Universe
who has created us and made us into tribes and nations that we may know each other,
not that we may despise each other.

If the enemy incline towards peace, do thou also incline towards peace, and trust in God,
for the Lord is one that hears and knows all things.
And the servants of God Most Gracious are those who walk on the Earth in humility,
and when we address them, we say, “Peace.”
– U.N. Day of Prayer for World Peace 2

Walking Together in Ubuntu

prayers-for-peace-5

A Hindu Prayer for Peace

Supreme Lord, let there be peace in the sky and in the atmosphere.
Let there be peace in the plant world and in the forests.
Let the cosmic powers be peaceful.
Let the Brahman, the true essence and source of life, be peaceful.
Let there be undiluted and fulfilling peace everywhere.
– The Atharva Veda

All Are Invited to Be Fed

prayers-for-peace-1

Cheyenne Prayer for Peace

Let us know peace.
For as long as the moon shall rise,
For as long as the rivers shall flow,
For as long as the sun shall shine,
For as long as the grass shall grow,
Let us know peace.
– Cheyenne Prayer

Feeding the World in Spirit and Deed
Farmer Brown’s Garden at Bothell UMC

prayers-for-peace-7

A Jewish Prayer for Peace

Grant us peace. Your most precious gift,
O Eternal Source of Peace, and give us the will to proclaim its message to all the peoples of the earth.
Bless our country, that it may always be a stronghold of peace, and its advocate among the nations.
May contentment reign within its borders, health and happiness within its homes.
Strengthen the bonds of friendship among the inhabitants of all lands.
And may the love of Your name hallow every home and every heart.
Blessed is the Eternal God, the source of Peace.
– From The Gates of Prayer: The New Union Prayer Book, by the Central Conferences of American Rabbis

Growing Spiritually and Growing Food

prayers-for-peace-9

Buddhist Prayer for Loving Kindness

May all beings be peaceful.
May all beings be happy.
May all beings be safe.
May all beings awaken to
the light of their true nature.
May all beings be free.
– Metta Prayer

Loving Kindness through Loving Care

prayers-for-peace-8

A Christian Prayer for Peace

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.
But I say to you that hear, love your enemies; do good to those who hate you;
bless those who curse you; pray for those who abuse you.
To those who strike you on the cheek, offer the other also;
and from those who take away your cloak, do not withhold your coat as well.
Give to everyone who begs from you, and of those who take away your goods,
do not ask them again. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
– U.N. Day of Prayer for World Peace 2

Becoming the Light Unto the World

prayers-for-peace-10

A Non Traditional Prayer for World Peace

Spirit of Life and Love, be present with all who are suffering terribly from violence.
Lift up the hearts of those who fear. And inspire courage among the peacemakers.
Be present with political leaders, ensuring a retreat from violence
and a procession towards the peace table.
Guide the hands of all those who are caring for the injured, the hungry and the grieving.
And, open our own hearts to compassion.
Remind us of our complicity and responsibility.
And lead us towards generous engagement—always towards a vision of peace.
–Adapted from the Unitarian Universalist Tradition

Shalom and Amen,

Terri

© 2013, post and photos, Terri Stewart, All rights reserved

terriREV. TERRI STEWART is Bardo’s Sunday chaplain, senior content editor, and site co-administrator. She comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual. (The 2014 issue just released!)

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

May 28th is Amnesty International Day

If you’re reading this right now, chances are good that you have heard the phrase, “First-World Problem”. I find myself thinking this phrase more than I would like, but I count myself damned lucky that I’m even aware of what it means.

When you live in a country as rich as America, it’s easy to take things for granted and forget that so many other places in the world lack basic, human rights. When you read the words “human rights” what comes to mind? Food? Shelter? Clean water? Freedom? Living life without fear for one’s safety? It can be difficult to empathize with those who do not have these things, if you, yourself, have always had them.

May 28th is “Amnesty International Day” and it’s a chance for you to help those in other places throughout the world who are being starved, tortured, oppressed, or who may have no shelter, no access to clean water, no one to speak up for them, and worst of all, no hope.

Image borrowed from amnesty.org
Image borrowed from amnesty.org

“Amnesty International Day recognizes the need to protect human rights around the world. The Amnesty International organization strives to accomplish these goals by providing awareness and recognition of the issues. They work to publicize local and regional problems, and to arouse citizens, governments and politicians to action.

Celebrate Amnesty International Day by:

  • Learning more about human rights issues

  • Becoming active in human rights causes

  • Writing your politician on human rights issues

  • Making a donation” ~ Source

This post isn’t meant to guilt trip you into donating anything, be it time, money or effort. It’s not a late-night infomercial showing you pitiful images of children who are little more than walking skeletons due to malnourishment. (As a side note: isn’t it telling that such infomercials are not on prime time television where so many more people would/could see them, but instead they are in late night spots where they won’t get the attention they need? Why do you suppose that is?)

Amnesty International logo from Amnesty.org
Amnesty International logo from Amnesty.org

I simply would like you to take a moment to think about what human rights you cherish the most and then find a way to help bring that right to a complete stranger. There are, unfortunately, countless human rights violations happening all over the globe. On the bright side, that means that there are countless opportunities to help. You can sign petitions, write letters, make phone calls, get involved in your local community. Or you can join movements like Amnesty International, and while the day is “Amnesty International Day”, nothing says you can’t join other worthwhile organizations who also strive to speak up for human rights. In fact, here is a quite comprehensive list of Human Rights Organizations, all in one place.

“Many organizations around the world dedicate their efforts to protecting human rights and ending human rights abuses. Major human rights organizations maintain extensive websites documenting violations and calling for remedial action, both at a governmental and grass-roots level. Public support and condemnation of abuses is important to their success, as human rights organizations are most effective when their calls for reform are backed by strong public advocacy.” ~ http://www.humanrights.com

Remember this:

“If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep … you are richer than 75% of this world.

If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace … you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.

If you woke up this morning with more health than illness … you are more blessed than the million who will not survive this week.

If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation… you are ahead of 500 million people in the world.

If you can attend a church or synagogue meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death … you are more blessed than three billion people in the world.

If your parents are still alive and still married … you are very rare, even in the United States.

If you hold up your head with a smile on your face and are truly thankful … you are blessed because the majority can, but most do not.

If you can hold someone’s hand, hug them or even touch them on the shoulder … you are blessed because you can offer a healing touch.

If you can read this message, you just received a double blessing in that someone was thinking of you, and furthermore, you are more blessed than over two billion people in the world that cannot read at all.

Image from http://dailywordsofencouragement.com
Image from http://dailywordsofencouragement.com

~ © Corina L. Ravenscraft 2014 ~

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.

The Thing About Love …

1235299_420196981434754_1007045779_n

We humans labor under the conceit that we are the only animals that grieve and have an impluse to be protective. Similar outcomes as those described above resulted from experiments performed on rats. See our feature The Rate Race by J.D. Galleger.

On the upside: Monkey Trek: A Rescue … Smile! 🙂 It’s about love …

– compiled by Jamie Dedes

Sunny Sunday: Moving to Action

This piece is from Rev. Terri Stewart’s blog, “Clocked Monk.” It’s an acknowledgement of someone who is involved in doing some rather controversial work regarding civil rights and the justice system. J.D.

Beguine Again

Where is your light today? What is inspiring you? Transforming you? What is allowing you to be love to the world?

“I will remember this word,” he said. “Shenanigans. It is a good word.”
― John Flanagan, The Emperor of Nihon-Ja

Today, I would like to introduce shenanigator, Professor Dean Spade.

Professor Spade teaches law at Seattle University. However, his shenanigator honors comes from his focus on how the justice system impacts the LGBTQ* community. He founded the Sylvia Rivera Law Project which is a “civil rights organization focusing on equality for gender non-conforming people. Built organization from initial fellowship project to eight staff in four years, won several precedent-setting lawsuits, represented hundreds of clients, and performed dozens of training seminars for government organizations, community service providers, schools, and local organizations.”

Additionally, he continues to advocate for the abolition of jails and prisons at all levels. He serves his professional community and continues…

View original post 192 more words