Posted in animals/animal welfare/interspecies connections, justice, Nature, Video

The Thing About Love …


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
Posted in justice, Terri Stewart

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.

Posted in Essay, General Interest, John Anstie, justice, Peace & Justice

Fortes Fortuna Adiuvat (Fortune Favours the Bold)

[This piece was started some months ago, before I wrote the poem Fortune, featured here on the Into The Bardo a few weeks ago. That poem and this piece focus on a common theme, which is, perhaps more than any other in my writing life, a constant thread of philosophical thought for me. This is that, however much we may be short on fortune, there is never cause to give up on our hopes and dreams, or more realistically, our ‘visualisation’ of what we want from this life.]


Picture, via Google Images and courtesy Canvas Art (
Picture, via Google Images and courtesy Canvas Art

Oh what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive!
(Sir Walter Scott, Marmion, Canto vi. Stanza 17.
Scottish author and novelist: 1771 to 1832).

Some days are better than others . . . 

The better ones allow me to indulge myself in my passions. I could have walked the dog and come back feeling refreshed, or have attended a rehearsal with the Waldershelf Singers and feel utterly uplifted, or complete a piece of prose or, better, a poem and feel a sense of release. On other days, I feel disillusioned, cynical, angry, like throttling public figures (politicians) to within an inch of telling them what a bunch of useless, self-interested, lying, cheating ne’er-do-wells they are! … which they are, almost to a man (and woman) …

Why is it that, once human beings attach themselves to an organisation, an establishment, a business, a company, a corporation, a religion, or they declare their political affiliations, somehow, they lose the ability to tell the truth, assuming their integrity would allow them to differentiate between the truth and a lie, in the first place. They become overly deferential, assume the organisation’s rules are right and, worst of all, become somewhat apathetic and are inclined to assume the ‘elders’, senior leaders of the organisation are right and therefore entitled to our undying respect.

This subjugation of self, a denial of the person that was borne into this world, through that infinitely variable process, driven at its lowest level by chemistry and physics, in turn determined by the relevant genetic ‘pool’ and nurtured by the geographic, economic, demographic, societal and political environments it is our fortune, or misfortune, to have grown up in, is undeniable. This denial of the uniquely wired ‘self’ and its particular talents and aptitudes, opinions and attitudes, and the ability to discern right from wrong, truth from the lie, and I mean the real truth, the kind that only you yourself will know deep inside, is almost guaranteed.

Does it have to be this way?

I think that I’ve come to hold this position rather late in life. Questioning authority is the stuff of rebellious youth, isn’t it? When we didn’t know any better, few had any time for the opinions of young people, anyway!

Is it so, because we are too shallow? … I don’t think so, not for everyone, anyway.

Is it because we are too lazy or unable to think for ourselves … almost certainly for some.

Is it because we have to earn a living? … inevitably a contributory factor.

Is it due to the fact that, as human beings, in spite of our incredible capacity for ingenuity, we are still very insecure; none of us are ever entirely in control of our lives and I mean NONE of us, given the uncertainties of our own health and particularly of the natural world and what Mother Earth herself can throw at us!  We therefore have to enwrap ourselves with a protective external blanket, woven by someone else’s dreams or designs, at one extreme by the premeditated manipulation of tyrannical leadership or, at another, simply by the desire to ensure the annual bonus, a generous pension, public honours, a knighthood … or simply the reassurance of knowing from where our next meal will come?

Is it because we are all limited in our capacity to take on too much information, store all the factors affecting any number of problems that face us each day; wrapped up in life’s complexity that sometimes threatens to overwhelm us, wouldn’t we prefer to take an easier option and permit others to make decisions for us, which acts as a perverse kind of freedom? Herein lies a major truth. But it’s not easy for managers and leaders either.

Contrary to the impression we might receive from those in stations so elevated, it may act as some comfort to those who aren’t to know that the higher up the ladder of success we go, in whatever field of human endeavour, the more insecure we get. Why, you ask? It is because we have our limits, all of us, and some of us are more limited than others; that is our birthright, given the variable abilities, with which we are endowed, the tactics and strategies we have learned and been taught to cope; it is the way we are wired. The higher up the ladder of success all this leads us, the stronger becomes our inclination, consciously and unconsciously, to hang on to whatever we’ve got; the more inclined we become to develop further selfish strategies to aid this survival process. That’s what it is to be human, well, at least to be an animal. Being human does, nevertheless, endow us with an extra ability: high intellect and, with it, a great responsibility and, yet, this tendency, this seemingly irresistible force, does inevitably lead to greed.

So what happens!

We get our heads down and graft, manoeuvre, wheel and deal, whatever it takes to gain influence, fame, attention, success, with whatever vanity or hope or need that has the greatest hold on our hearts, minds … and stomachs.

At some future moment in time, we then find ourselves, well, what’s the best word to describe it … trapped, yes trapped by our ambitions, needs, material greed, more than by hopes and dreams.

I should say something about dreams. Before you think I’m about to crush them, I’m not. As one who writes poetry and pieces of prose like this, I find dreams are just as important as the ambitions of a professional footballer I know, who learned, early on in his journey through that precarious profession, that visualising your goals (figuratively as well as literally in his case), that is imagining yourself scoring the goal, over and over again, is a truly powerful and effective way of motivating yourself to feel better about your abilities and potential. This is, for me, an unexpected way in which to feed the creative imagination; such is the process that leads to the products of human ingenuity as well as understanding and success. But, a word of warning about dreams! They can also be manipulative! They can be induced and ‘used’ by others to manipulate control over lives – take advertising, particularly on the television, as one example!  We need to learn how to distinguish good from bad dreams, your own from other people’s dreams, just as we should be able to tell the difference between good and evil.

Now, I’m not necessarily talking about conspiracy theories here, about demons and evil people, who sit in back rooms and scheme to overthrow regimes or gain control of whole populations. No, I’m talking, for the moment at least, about the demons inside our heads; the ones that lead us to the point of paranoia, the fear of not being ‘successful’, wearing the right ‘fashion’, living in the right district, driving the right car, appearing in all the right ‘places’, doing what’s apparently ‘right’ in society … tricky concept this, but I’ll try to explain my thinking.

If you were to ask a child of five or six to tell you their dreams of how to make the world a better place, wouldn’t they give you magical answers, which involve the charm of fairy tale characters and imaginative, not to say unusual (and, sadly, unlikely) conclusions to their stories?

If you were to pose that same question to a child in their mid ‘teens, wouldn’t their answer be tainted with a little more realism, perhaps even a touch of hopeless, hormonal cynicism, whilst still retaining some of that childhood naiveté, a lack of what we grown-ups would call wisdom?

If you were to ask a grown up poet or a philosopher, I think their answer would come out in one of several subtle ways, but one thing is for sure, any poet, with integrity, that I know, would try to address all of the issues that confront us head on, in an honest way. This is perhaps because they rarely make a living from their writings and, therefore have no vested (financial) interest in it, other than for the integrity of their material and perhaps for a bit of recognition!

Even Poets …

Yes, even poets and philosophers have to live and pay their ‘rent’. So, somewhere along the path of life, we have to align ourselves with an organisation or two, toe the line and obey the rules. We most certainly should obey the law and, if we don’t agree with it, don’t break it, lobby to change it! There is nothing wrong with toeing the line, provided there is a fair share of integrity within the organisation; provided that we don’t lose sight of our own personal integrity, justice, beliefs, values and, above all else, what we know, deep down inside, makes each of us unique individuals, our identity.

For those, who are born with a genetic code that, given the right environment, encouragement and education, predestines them to a life of leadership and possibly even greatness, let us not forget that for those of us, who remain, whilst we may not have had the good fortune of the same faculties and opportunities, we do nevertheless represent the vast majority of the population of the world. So, if we do still have a vote in what can reasonably be described as a democracy, then we must use it or lose it! If we have the ability to write, we should do it! We must make our mark upon the paper, make our feelings, our values and beliefs known. Whilst we still have the freedom to do so, we have the ability to depose those in power who do conspire to deceive us, who have been corrupted by their privilege and who would continue to weald the power they have from such privilege for self interest. Otherwise we get what we deserve. If that happens to be a comfortable life that we’ve achieved by subordinating our own integrity, it is our choice, but, from where I am now in my life, I know that I would sooner follow and trust someone who refused to allow themselves to be trapped by the material rewards of compromising complicity, than one who, in the fullness of time, would be racked with regret, that they didn’t follow their conscience and their dream of a better life … a better world.

It would be wrong of me, however, to leave you with my totally cynical outlook, without mentioning that, thank God, there are some remarkable people in this world, who, at and on all sorts of levels, do remarkable work on behalf of their fellow human beings. Whether they be local community charity workers and volunteers, international aid workers or the likes of the inspired Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s Missionaries of Charity foundation, they are all driven, by some degree of selflessness, to improve the lot of the less fortunate and I have nothing but admiration for them.

If there is a moral to my tale, this long and rambling piece of prose, it is that I believe life can become much less complex, when we stop trying to satisfy someone else, when we discover the very best in ourselves. However unfair, unjust or unreasonably difficult life seems to be sometimes, we should never allow ourselves to give in to the pessimism that results from a state of despair at the world, to roll over on our backs with our legs in the air! We must never believe that someone else, whether it be a single person or a large faceless organisation, either has control over us or is beyond control by the voting, lobbying, plural us. For writers and poets in particular, as long as we can breath and weald a pen, we can do something, however small, and collectively we are able to make a difference, even if we don’t feel we can hop on the next flight to Africa, we musn’t allow ourselves to believe that we can’t still bring something to the table from our own unique armoury of intellectual skills. We can, above all, in our own way, be winners. It takes courage to step out of the crowd, but courage comes in many colours, one of which is being true to your innermost convictions. Fortune really can favour the bold.

[If you don’t already read it, you could do worse than by starting to read poetry now. Good poetry should open the eyes that are shut, elevate the spirit that is depressed and enrich the soul that is impoverished. Good poetry is the highest form of literature, which should tell us the way it is and feed us with deep insights that we would otherwise not experience; and I mean insights and creative thought that will enable change, not only in your own life, but also others.]

– John Anstie

© 2013, essay and (below) portrait and cover art, John Anstie, All rights reserved

John_in_Pose_Half_Face3JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British poet and writer, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, Engineer and general all-round good egg.” This he tells us with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Add grace and humor to the list.

John participates in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union. He’s been blogging since 2011. John is also an active member of The Poetry Society (UK). He says of his work, “Much of my writing and my poetry focuses on the future and the important part that our children, and the way we treat them, play in this. It also spans a diversity of life’s experiences, some moving war poetry and particularly observations of life for a modern generation.

product_thumbnail.phpAlso a member of Grass Roots Poetry Group John steered their anthology,  Petrichor* Rising,  into publication. It is now in print and available for purchase.  “Petrichor Rising takes you on a journey that exposes you to the full spectrum of emotions, from barely concealed despair to hope, from love to sorrow, with a clear appreciation of nature’s value and humanity’s shortcomings. It rides a roller-coaster that moves you to consider many of life’s challenges from a different perspective, as all good poetry should. It is at once haunting, yet shocking, with aching nostalgia alongside enchanting stories of dragons. It gives you optimism and hope tinged with shadows of doubt. It writes about places never seen and humanity’s uncaring nature, in prosodic social commentaries and observations of the minutest details of life, mood, atmosphere and romance. It contains clever writing that brings you close to the edge of society, still capable of moving you, but not pulling any punches. It has poetry with a universal appeal covering subjects as varied as the loss of a cat or a harrowing account of the 7/7 London bombings, poetry that focuses on the roots of all that makes us respond to life and long for something better.”

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

Posted in Essay, General Interest, Jamie Dedes, justice, Nature

The Wiyot of Eel River

I was at the Redwood Shores library the other day. They had a small display on the Ohlone Tribe. It made me think again of the Wiyot. They live in my dreams. Their name is pronounced Wee-yhot and it means Eel River. That was their home.

In the mid-eighties, for about a year-and-half, we lived near the Eel River in Humboldt County, an area about 200 miles north of San Francisco. It’s stunning and peaceful with dense redwood forests, wild rivers, and creeks that run dry in the summer and overflow in the winter. If you live in a rural area or grew up in one, you might take such things for granted. Having lived in cities all my life, it was magical to me. In the midst of that feral earth, in the stillness of leafy green days and velvet blue nights, it was easy for me to imagine the first peoples as they might have lived there in other times.

I fancied I could see them tending fires, boiling and drying acorns and then grinding them for flour, bathing in the river, raising their children, and hunting, gathering, and enjoying sacred ceremonies and tribal celebrations. I knew the same ancient sky-scrapping sequoias that watched over us had watched over them.

Our place was just short of four acres and rich with sequoia, madrone, oak, and some forty fruit trees. Blue jays flew in to feed in the morning and the quail marched down to visit at nightfall. Hawks and hummingbirds put on air shows. Rosemary thrived unattended. There was a beautiful lush 100-year-old rosebush. There were wild roses too. They gave us rose hips for cough syrup. Witches Broom lined our creek side with bright yellow. There were cascades of Japanese quince, which provided ample housing for the hummingbirds. Queen Ann’s lace* danced in the wind like ladies dressed for a ball. When they went to seed I collected the seeds for use in cooking. They have a taste somewhere between a carrot and caraway seed. The great bursts of blackberry bushes were a visual and edible delight.

I gathered fresh fruit almost every morning and every morning I thought of the people who preceded me more than a century ago and who picked berries there just like me. I did some research and found out that our property was once inhabited by the Wiyot peoples whose numbers were almost decimated in a genocide.

“Eureka newspapers of the time exulted at the night massacres conducted by the “good citizens of the area”. Good haul of Diggers and Tribe Exterminated! were 2 headlines from the Humboldt Times. Those who thought differently about it were shut up by force. Newspaper publisher and short story writer Bret Harte called it “cowardly butchery of sleeping women and children” — then had to flee ahead of a lynch mob that smashed his printing presses.” MORE [Wiyot Tribal Council Page]

* WARNING: If you are tempted to gather the seeds from Queen Ann’s lace, think twice. I didn’t know it at the time but it is hard to distinguish them from hemlock, which is poisonous. 

© 2012, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved
Photo credit ~ Eel River by Jan Kronsell and released into the worldwide public domain.

Photo on 2012-09-19 at 20.00JAMIE DEDES ~ My worldly tags are poet and writer. For the past five years I’ve blogged at The Poet by Day,the journey in poem, formerly titled Musing by Moonlight.  Through the gift of poetry (mine and that of others), I enter sacred space.

Posted in Essay, General Interest, justice, Terri Stewart

Moral Courage

This is a re-blog of my very first blog post ever from 2008! I have edited it a tiny bit.

Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality of those who seek to change a world which yields most painfully to change. Robert F. Kennedy, in a speech in Capetown, South Africa, June 6, 1966. (Source: Wikiquote )

What are our sources of moral courage? I can tell you that I find moral outrage easy, but where does moral courage come from? Relying on my Methodist heritage, The Wesleyan Quadrilateral would have us examine scripture, tradition, reason, and experience in making deliberations. What does this tell me?

What does scripture say?

In Hebrew Scriptures and in Christian Scriptures, we are taught to care for the alien, orphan, widow, and poor among us. In the story of the adulterous woman (John 8:1-11), we see a Jesus that stands between the accusers and the marginalized. This is what Christians are called to do. Take action in the face of injustice and stop pain from happening. Jesus teaches us repeatedly that we are to extend our hands to the hungry, the poor, the marginalized, and those outside of authority. This continues from the Jewish traditions. In Hebrew Scripture, we are told in Micah 6:8 that we are to “do justice, love kindness, and to walk humbly” with God (NRSV). These teachings can be encapsulated in the single commandment “love your neighbor as yourself” (Gal 5:14). Leviticus 19:34 tells us that our neighbor is the alien among us. Christ tells us that our neighbor is people outside of the power structure that he ministers too—the bleeding woman, the blind, the demon-possessed, or the widow. Those are the neighbors Jesus stands with.

What does tradition say?

In the Methodist tradition, John Wesley spoke out against many issues facing his generation. This included human rights, slavery, prison reform, labor rights, and education reform. Methodists also have the Social Principles and the Book of Resolutions to guide thoughts and deliberations in our present day. Wesley emphasized shaping public policies that would ensure equal and fair education for all children.

What does experience say?

It is very difficult to quantify experience across the board, but if I just examine one system, the education system, we know, through social sciences and the statistics they bring us, that poverty is the single most important factor in education. Poverty riddled areas simply do not have access to a great education system. And unfortunately, for many minority ethnicities in the U.S., poverty riddled areas are disproportionately filled with them. Why would that be? A good source for thought is this YouTube video from Tim Wise–

And we know that poverty is a world wide problem as the recent collapse of the factory in Bangladesh illustrates. The women who were lost there are typically impoverished, but they were considered the lucky ones. They were one step above abject poverty and simply impoverished. The literacy rate is 59%. Poverty and lack of education go hand-in-hand.

Bereaved mothers hold up pictures of their daughters who died in the factory collapse, but whose remains have yet to be identified. Photograph: Jason Burke for the Guardian

There is much to be outraged about. Let us find moral courage.

What does reason say?

Is it reasonable to expect there to be poverty in the world? Is it reasonable to expect there to be violence in the world? Is it reasonable that we hurt each other by action and inaction? I would say no. Jesus does say that the poor will always be with us (Matt 26:11), but that is after he has said that the world will be judged by its treatment of the poor, the hurting, and the hopeless (Matt 25:31-46). Why would Jesus say this bit about the poor being with us always? Perhaps he knew that the entirety of believers would not follow his command to visit the imprisoned, feed the hungry, and to clothe the naked. What would it look like if all of our faith communities fought against poverty by directly participating in feeding, clothing, and visiting? That is why it is unreasonable–we hurt each other by our actions and inactions because we are not doing the simple things that Jesus told us. It is unreasonable. Reasonably, we know that if we had a global will, hunger would be eradicated. God would be so pleased, I believe, to see all children fed.

And last, with these sources of moral courage available to us, what do we do with it? Issues in the world today are so complex and systems are so vast that it seems a hopeless exercise. We must remember that we are not called to fix the whole world, but we are called to be faithful. Be faithful and to keep moving forward one step at a time. Maybe even one meal at a time.

(c) 2013 post, Terri Stewart, all rights reserved

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

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

Posted in justice, Peace & Justice, Poems/Poetry, Spiritual Practice, Terri Stewart


I met Perpetua today.
Ready to die, to sacrifice all.
For the sake of a child.

Her child clinging.
Unaware of the rising trauma.
Taken away to a forsaken father.

“Renounce Christianity and you will be saved!
Your child returned to you.
Your home restored to wholeness.”

Perpetua does not flinch.
She steps forward.
Recanting the family.

Soldiers rise on their toes.
Readying for battle.
A jumping of the broomstick.

Divorcing the family that once enslaved.
She calmly faces each one.
Taking punishment for freedom.

© 2009, Terri Stewart

This was written to honor the courage and strength of a young woman who is being jumped-out of a gang.  She is doing it for her child and for God.  Perpetua was an early Christian martyr who, while imprisoned, kept her child with her for a time.  She was imprisoned for the sake of her belief in the Christ-child.  This young woman is being jumped-out for the sake of her child. We know of Perpetua because she was educated enough to keep a diary. There are fragments of this diary in existence today. She stayed with her child in prison until she was done nursing him. At that time, he was taken away from her and given to her family to raise.

Gangs and the fear they create are a scourge and it breaks my heart.  If we could lift people out of poverty and the resultant system failures (failure of healthcare, failure of education) these kids, who join gangs by the age of 7 or 8, might have a shot at turning life around.  In the long run, it is much cheaper to educate someone than it is to imprison them.  In the US, there are approximately 800,000 gang members. El Salvador has at least 50,000 while Mexico is at 100,000 at least. There are about 90,000 in Japan and over 160,000 in China. Italy has at least 25,000. (Source: Wikipedia).  This is a world-wide problem with real, heart-breaking consequences.

© 2013, post, Terri Stewart, All rights reserved

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

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