When Sexual Violence Goes Public

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

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

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

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

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

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

Indian Summer

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

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

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

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

Rob’s Morning Glory …

 

“The harp at Nature’s advent strung

Has never ceased to play;

The song the stars of morning sung

Has never died away.”

The Worship of Nature by John Greenleaf Whittier

Posted in memory of Robert Rossell one of the three original Bardo Group members.

Nature’s Gifts

by

Robert Rossell, Ph.D.

This morning I had an amazing encounter.   After a sleepless night,  I woke up late and decided to go for my morning walk in the local nature preserve behind my house.   It was drizzling slightly— a very gentle spring rain.    I was deep in an intense internal reverie as I entered the park.  I looked up and found myself  looking at three deer slightly ahead of me on the trail.  I instinctively calmed myself and walked slowly forward.   They didn’t seem in any hurry to leave as they often do when I encounter deer in the preserve.  It may have helped that I caught one of them, a two year old buck, in the middle of “doing his business.”    He turned around and looked at me head-on but didn’t move because he wanted to finish.  The others, perhaps encouraged by his unwillingness to stop what he was doing, were in no hurry to leave either.  They just managed to  keep  themselves at a safe distance as I slowly moved forward.     Very slowly, I walked forward.  The buck kept me in his gaze but didn’t move.    I was able to get maybe within six or eight feet of him, almost within reach.   Finally he finished his business and slowly walked away from the trail, still keeping me in his gaze.

Then while walking further, I encountered a mother quail and ten teeny, teeny, babies  walking into the tall grass on the side of the trail.   It was like a cartoon, the last little straggler trying to negotiate and jump over strands of weed and grass, mother scolding/encouraging them all to come along.  The little chicks must have been no more than a day old, very small, very cute.

Then I arrived at a farm in the middle of the preserve.  The farm is for families with children—goats, pigs, chickens and ducks to enjoy, and a cow, named Luna.   I have become very fond of this cow over many trips to the farm–perhaps because of my bovine heart valve.   She knows me now and accepts my touch, and will occasionally give me a big affectionate lick. (I haven’t brought myself yet to lick her back).    Anyway, she has been away for a while so they can repair her paddock and I haven’t  been able to see her.    But to my great delight she was there this morning, nursing a  baby bull and calf.  Even while occupied with her nursing babies, she recognized me and let me give her a few scratches and nuzzles.

I felt so gifted this morning by Nature.   It was as if in the inscrutable wisdom of nature the Gods found a way of bringing me out of my funk and deep reverie and welcomed me into the world.   All of my efforts at self-care in a painful, sleepless, night had utterly failed me.   But somehow Nature’s magic managed to touch me and bring me out of my funk and  reverie.   It amazes me  that this happens over and over again in my life.  When I seem to most need it, Nature finds a way to touch me.    I am grateful. I am also grateful that I am still able to be touched!

© 2011, Rob Rossll, All rights reserved; photo credits – California Quail in Golden Gate Park courtesy of Mila Zinkova under GNU Free Documentation License; the duck is in public domain and courtesy of Arpingstone; cow courtesy of Mandie Lancaster, Public Domain Pictures.net.

 

Silence i — Warm Blanket of Silence

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Warm Blanket of Silence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ted Bowman 1988

(This is as far as the reading went.)

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

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

—Michael Dickel (Meta/Phor(e)/Play)

Soil Isn’t Sexy …. Neither Is War

A dirty argument for sustainability, social justice, and peace

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

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

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

Ignoring it could lead to our extinction.

Do I have your attention?


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

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

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

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

While dirt is not sexy, it is incredibly important.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

This influence includes fighting against environmental regulations.

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

dust-1-web
Out my apartment window

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

The storm of soil degradation could wipe us all out.


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

—Michael Dickel

Making Space for Conversation

dsc03772

From Contributing Editor, Michael Watson

A lovely late winter morning, the light clear and vibrant on the snow and trees. The day is warm for late February; this entire week will likely be far above normal in temperature, a condition that increasingly seems normative in itself.

Early Saturday morning a crew arrived to install solar panels on our roof. In spite of our best efforts our steep driveway was dangerously icy which resulted in a confab as to whether the work could proceed. Fortunately, the temperature was rapidly rising and the application of more ice-melt soon remedied the situation. Sometime in the next few days the panels will be connected to the grid and our home will begin to generate relatively clean electricity.

Over the weekend my Facebook feed was filled with the idea of resistance. After a month of resistance I’ve decided that even more important than resistance, which remains crucial, is vision. We’ve had many years of resistance by one party or the other here in the US, resistance that has only managed to create ever more division and the very real possibility of massive physical violence. (I imagine people on all sides might agree they have experienced a prolonged period of emotional and spiritual violence.)

Also on the weekend, I got around to reading about a new project from Howlround and SpiderWebShow. Howlround wrote:

Across the much-discussed border, we are exchanging letters; Letters from Canadians and letters from Americans. CdnTimes will publish letters from Americans to hear what it’s like on the ground, now, for theatre artists working in the United States. Meanwhile, HowlRound will be publishing letters from Canadians about what’s affecting our work now. Artists from both countries share warnings, worries, strategies of resistance, generosity, and advocacy—messages of solidarity. What can we learn from each other? —Adrienne Wong and Laurel Green, co-editors at SpiderWebShow’s CdnTimes.

I’ve been wondering how I might bring diverse voices together in this difficult time, and as I read the first letters I became increasingly excited, wondering how the inspiration inherent in that project might be joined with and amplified. I’m still curious. What might those of us who are working for a more equitable, caring, responsive world share with one another that would be useful and mutually supportive? How might I provide an accessible forum for the thoughts and concerns of a diverse group of fellow travelers? What might happen were the conversation to be global!

I envision a gathering of folks in the arts, from around the world, where a conversation might be had about making art in this vexing time. I like the idea of letters as the are usually written, yet may contain photos and artwork. Letters can be thoughtful, personal, and engaging; they are by nature more than sound bites and talking points. Letters might also be created using video and integrating images, words, and sound. Hopefully the conversation would be inclusive, and those in education, the healing arts, and many other vocations would participate. If there is enough interest, I’ll put up a separate website to carry the conversation.

I invite you to share your preferred vision for the your life and the world, and how your work feeds that vision. You may leave your response here at The BeZine (I’ll read them) or on my site. My expectation is that write-ups here today would be thoughtful, personal, focused on your work, respectful of a wide range of views, and honoring the possibility of reconciliation and mutual care, far beyond North America. Please do let me know what you think of this idea, and whether you might be interested in participating in such a project. My hope is that should I go ahead with the project there would be letters from artists, and others, working in a wide range of disciplines and in many lands, and that conversations and collaborations might arise from the sharing.

© Michael Watson

Michael Watson
Michael Watson

MICHAEL WATSON, LCMHC (Dreaming the World) is a storyteller, artist, educator, Narrative therapist, polio survivor, Native/European, Ph.D., living in many worlds.

July 2016, Vol.2/Issue 10; Faith in Things Seen and Unseen

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite.
For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.
The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, William Blake

Faith! In the discussions here you won’t find consistent perspective or theology. You will find faith explored in its many manifestations, religious and otherwise. You’ll find it both shaken and unshakable and in things of the spirit, in nature and humanity, in intuition and in self and family. Unity here is not in things creedal but in the shared values of peace, sustainability and social justice and for many of us – implicitly – in ultimate salvation through artistic expression.

Unitarian Universalist Minister, Rev. Ben Meyers, starts us with an appeal to religions to give their prayers and vigils legs, to befriend one another into the groundswell of local social justice initiatives that ultimately help to inform and bolster global efforts toward equity, justice and peace.This couldn’t be more appropriate as The BeZine “went to press” amid news reports of yet more violence.

You will find our usual diversity represented: skepticism and atheism, the three Abrahamic traditions, shamanism, and the mystical perspectives of Buddhism, Hinduism and Sufism.

Our special selection of lead features and poems are by: shamanic practitioner and psychotherapist, Michael Watson; resident skeptic, James R. Cowles; the always engaging and level-headed analyst, Priscilla Galasso; the fallen altar boy, poet Joe Hesch; professional story-teller and photographer, Naomi Baltuck; our renaissance man in Sheffield, John Anstie; and university librarian, poet and artist, Corina Ravenscraft, on the ultimate triumph of the Universe.

Speaking from positions of their unshakable religious faith are: Algerian poet, Imen Benyoub, on the spiritual joys and family and community connection she finds in the holy tradition of Ramadan; Catholic Theologian, Fr. Daniel S Sormani, theology professor at Ateneo de Manila University, warmly writes about lessons learned from the homely life of the Blessed Virgin Mary; and our gentle Italian literary contributor, Mendes Biondo, tells of inspiration from the Bishop of Hippo Regius (current Annaba, Algeria), St. Augustine. Imen and Mendes are our two student contributors.

Two of our contributors allude to child sexual abuse but a third, Terri Muuss, addresses it head-on and in depth. These are experiences that may strengthen faith in self, though that doesn’t come without pain and work. Terri is featured this month in our popular “Getting to Know You” section.

Our July poetry collection covers matters spiritual, emotional and environmental with excerpts from published collections by Zine regulars: Matt Pasca, Terri Muuss, Myra Schneider, Silva Merjanian and Michael Dickel, contributing editor to The BeZine. With joy we welcome back two lights: German poet, photographer and educator, Dr. Aprilia Zank and English poet, Patricia Leighton.

New to our pages in this issue are:

  • Connie Spearing  who writes of finally “seeing” her Irish grandmother with the accidental discovery of her family’s history during and after World War 1.
  • Sandra Renew’s s poetry expresses her opinions on the state of the world. She wonders who sleeps at night? Who is lucky enough to live in safety and peace?
  • Anca Mihaela Bruma, citizen of world, educated in Rumania, is a poet who writes spiritual autobiography. Anca wanted to incorporate some lovely music and art into her posts. Due to copyrights in one case  (Dorina Costras’ art) and technical incompetence (mine) in the other, we are unable to share Dorina’s paintings or Anca’s soundcloud recordings. However you can view Dorina’s work HERE. You can listen to Anca on soundcloud HERE.

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One last word: DON’T FORGET TO SAVE THE DATE Saturday, 24 September 2016 is The BeZine’s 100,000 Poets for Change, an event which we host virtually.  This event is part of an  important annual arts initiative for global solidarity and peace, social justice and sustainability. Reader participation is invited and encouraged. This is a good time to share your work in the service of a worthy cause.  As is our tradition, all submissions will be archived here and at Standford University. Instructions for participation will be provided on our blog that day with Michael Dickel serving as Master of Ceremonies.  Between Michael and me, the event will run from morning in Israel to midnight in California. The theme this year is Environment/Environmental Justice. More detail HERE.

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Now, come friends.  Read.  Nourish yourselves at our table …

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

EDITORIAL

The World in Vigil, by Rev. Ben Meyers

THEME: FAITH IN ALL THINGS SEEN and UNSEEN

Lead Features

Knowing, Michael Watson
Varieties of Faith – Rational and Religous, James R. Cowles
Faith Means Making Choices, Priscilla Galasso
A Perfect World, Naomi Baltuck
Falling But Willing, Joseph Hesch
The Pine Cone Project, John Anstie
Regarding Faith, Corina Ravenscraft

Essays

A Month of Light, Imen Benyoub
The Blessed Mother: She Reminds Me of Who I Am and Who I Should Be, Fr. Daniel S. Sormani, C.S.Sp.
A Little Story of Faith, Mendes Biondo
NOTIONS OF THE SACRED: Poetry as Spritual Practice, Jamie Dedes
The Grandmother I Didn’t See, Connie Spearing

Speculative Flash Fiction

Moshe’s House in Space, Michael Dickle

Poetry

Rhetoric Introspection, Anca Mihaela Bruma
Our Autumn Spring, Anca Mihaela Bruma
Hindsight, Anca Mihaela Bruma

Unidos en Cristo, a poem in English y en español, Jamie Dedes

Three Poems, Michael Dickel
En Gedi, Michael Dickel
Hybrid: Warm Hunger, Michael Dickel

Lost Behind Clouds in Skies of Blue, Joseph Hesch
Hang in There, Joseph Hesch

And the Village Still Sings for Taha Muhammad Ali, Patricia Leighton

Coverage, Silva Merjanian

Passing, Terri Muuss
What Heals, Terri Muuss

Tanyou (In Search of Quietude), Matt Pasca
Silence, Matt Pasca
Toll, Matt Pasca
When Joy Breaks, Matt Pasca

Bring all those who are led astray out of the desert, Sandra Renew

3 a.m., Myra Schneider

prayer for shadows, Aprilia Zank

GETTING TO KNOW YOU

Terri Muuss, Over Exposed

CONNECT WITH US

IMG_0234Beguine Again, Spiritual Community and Practice

Facebook, The Bardo Group Beguines

Twitter, The Bardo Group Beguines

Access to the biographies of our core team, contributing writers and guest writers is in the blogroll where you can also find links to archived issues of The BeZine (currently in the process of updating), our Mission Statement and Submission Guidelines.

Subsidizing Original Sin

skeptic

Skepticism is the chastity of the intellect, and it is shameful to surrender it too soon or to the first comer: there is nobility in preserving it coolly and proudly through long youth, until at last, in the ripeness of instinct and discretion, it can be safely exchanged for fidelity and happiness. — George Santayana

There are not many tenets of orthodox Christianity in which I still believe.  But one of the few such – it may well be the only one – to which,at least  in some cognate form, I still subscribe is the doctrine of Original Sin.  Yea and verily!  I even believe that Original Sin is inherited in being passed down from parent to child, very much in the tradition of St. Augustine.  (I do demur from Augustine’s conclusion that the heritability of sin renders sexual intercourse intrinsically immoral.) In fact, so fervent is my agreement that I even meet and embrace Philip Larkin, who wrote, in a poem called “This Be the Verse”, “Man hands on misery to man; / It deepens like an ocean shelf”.  In fact, in some cases the second half of that stanza is also sound advice:  “Get out as early as you can, / And don’t have any kids yourself”.  I will leave to others of more orthodox beliefs the task of unpacking the moral, metaphysical, and theological consequences.  In the more pragmatic spirit of substituting the proverbial ounce of prevention for a pound of cure, I will only suggest some measures that I believe would preveniently mitigate the consequences of sin.  My suggestions are quite the reverse of radical.  In fact, I appeal to the stodgily traditional practice of using the US tax code to encourage and to incentivize certain forms of behavior.

Original Sin by Michel Coxcie
Original Sin by Michel Coxcie

Well … OK … probably not that easy – a corollary of Murphy’s Law says “Everything is harder than you think” — but comparable! Especially when you consider the alternative.

As matters stand right now, the US tax code supports Original Sin by subsidizing parenthood indiscriminately. In 2013, for example, you can claim a $3,900 exemption for each dependent child.  Period.  No qualifications.  End of discussion.  Elvis has left the building.  All the child has to do for you to qualify for the exemption is to meet the criteria in the tax code for being a “dependent”.  (What are those criteria?  Don’t ask me.  I’m not a tax specialist.  As a tax accountant, I’m a great short-order cook!)  But the point is that, as long as your child meets the dependency qualifications in the US tax code, then you may take the exemption, even if your skills as a parent make Gilles de Rais look like the Walton kids’ folks.  At least partially because of one’s incompetent parenting, one’s child can turn out to be as warped as Dracula’s assistant, Renfield, and, especially when grown, can wreak as much havoc on the community as Dracula himself.  No matter.  You still can take the $3,900 tax break, which in such a case will then amount to a subsidy for sociopathy:  “Hand[ing] on misery to man” with a vengeance. Or, as St. Augustine might say, subsidizing Original Sin. Then, if, as we fervently hope, one’s child is apprehended by the police instead of pursuing her / his career as a real-life character out of a Criminal Minds episode, society – meaning you, me, and everyone else – will pay the price, which we hope will only be monetary, for whatever contribution was made to the situation by virtue of incompetent parenting. In extreme cases, a court might even declare the parents to be unfit, and the child might then become a token in the pinball machine known as “Foster Homes”.

May I make a suggestion?  Let’s do things differently!

In the interest of fairness, let’s acknowledge up front that, yes, of course, quality of parenting, while important, is only one factor among many others in the kind of person a kid turns out to be.  Yes, of course:  children make their own choices, and even good parents can have children that go tragically wrong. Yes, of course:  children are human beings, not programmable automatons. Yes, of course:  if you want an iron-clad guarantee, go buy a lawn mower from Sears. That said, however, why not structure the tax code to encourage, not parenting as such, not parenting per se — but good parenting? How could we do this?  Well, we know many of the factors that make for competent parenting.  We don’t know literally everything, of course. We also don’t know literally everything that makes a good professional football player, either. But the NFL draft proceeds apace nonetheless.  Instead of encouraging parenthood promiscuously via the “shotgun” approach of giving $3,900 to everyone whose reproductive plumbing worked as advertised, as the current practice is, we should be as persnickety about encouraging parenting as NBA teams are in selecting athletic talent.  We should subsidize incompetence in neither one.

435px-Form_1040,_2005
IRS Form 1040

First of all, please be assured that I do not — I say again: I do not — propose to limit the number of kids as a matter of law.  So also be assured that you can have as many kids as you want.  However, there will be two salient changes to the tax laws pertaining thereto:

Step 1:  On as nuts-and-bolts-practical a level as possible, develop a curriculum on competent parenting in consultation with the best child psychologists, developmental psychologists, parents themselves, etc., etc. in the relevant fields.

Step 2:  Once this curriculum has been developed and appropriately vetted and implemented, change the tax code so that:

Step 2a:  You may only claim the dependent-child exemption if you can authenticate having successfully completed — just once, not once per child — the curriculum.

Step 2b:  If you do not complete the curriculum, not only may you not claim the dependent-child exemption, but your tax liability will be increased by, say, 1 percent for each dependent child, probably subject to some sliding-scale algorithm that takes into account adjusted gross income.

1280px-Schoolgirls_in_Bamozai
Schoolgirls in Bamozai

Admittedly, this is only abstract training, and as Dostoyevsky’s “Underground Man” said, to know what is right is not to do what is right.  So it would probably be desirable to incorporate some type of parental counseling component into the curriculum. In any case, this scheme has two purposes:  (1) to shift more of the cost of inept parenting from society as a whole to the parents themselves, and (2) to do so preveniently, before the need arises.  Statistically and particular counter-examples notwithstanding, quality of parenting does make a significant difference.  The difference is that, at present, the social costs of incompetent parenting are incurred after the fact and by the community as a whole. I only propose to use the tax code in such a way as to (a) encourage people to be good or better parents by providing some type of training, and (b) to shift to the parents themselves the future costs of poor parenting by making the parents who do not elect such training pay in advance of need instead of the community as a whole after the damage has already been done.

Yes, of course, there are holes in the plan. Yes, of course, there are details to be worked out. This is a brief blog post, not a comprehensive policy white paper for the Brookings Institution or the Institute for Policy Studies or the Guttmacher Institute. I take it as axiomatic that, if parenting by the seat of one’s pants had immediate or short-term and significant pocketbook consequences to people who undertake the responsibility of raising kids, then greater care and thought would go into the decision of whether to have kids, and, if the decision was “Yes”, how to proceed.  To paraphrase Dr. Johnson, “The sight of a 1040 form focuses the mind wonderfully”. And to quote George F. Will verbatim, “You always get more of what you subsidize”. Simple justice — never mind theology — demands that we use the tax code, not to subsidize Original Sin and the dialectic described in the Larkin poem, but to mitigate it. Of course, we’ll never do it.  But we should.

James R. Cowles

1280px-Schoolgirls_in_Bamozai — Public domain (Capt. John Severns, U.S. Air Force – Own work)

435px-Form_1040,_2005 — Public domain (US government tax form)

Original_Sin_Michel_Coxcie — Public domain (artist:  Michiel Coxie [1499–1592], picture courtesy of: www.fineart-china.com, present location: Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna)

 

Non-State Terror Attacks January 1, 2013–November 14, 2015

Using a Wikipedia list, even with all of its faults, provides a sobering view of terror in the world. The countries listed below were the sites of at least one and often several terror attacks in the last (almost) three years. Some of those attacks resulted only in injuries, most caused one or more death—victims and / or perpetrators. Many attacks killed dozens of people. A few, one-hundred of more. Not all of the perpetrators are from Islamic groups—many come from other “political, religious, or ideological” motivations. According to the Wikipedia site, the list of attacks that I used to find the countries:

…is a list of non-state terrorist incidents that have not been carried out by a state or its forces (see state terrorism and state-sponsored terrorism). Assassinations are listed at List of assassinated people.

Definitions of terrorism vary, so incidents listed here are restricted to those that:

              • are not approved by the legitimate authority of a recognized state
              • are illegally perpetrated against people or property
              • are done to further political, religious, or ideological objectives

Comments on the Wikipedia listing indicate that it is incomplete and may be biased. Still, I found 56 countries on the list for the three years I looked at, and I remembered the larger attacks from news reports. If it is incomplete, there could be more countries. If it is biased, there could be other countries, as well.

This list should give us all pause—not only for our world, but for the children growing up exposed to this global level of war. This is their normal world. They are at risk on so many levels. As adults, we must stop and remember the children. And we must find just solutions to the underlying causes of this violence that literally reaches every corner of the earth.

In memoriam a black rectangle vertical next to the list of countries
In Memoriam
Non-State Terror Attacks:
Jan 1, 
2013–Nov 14, 2015

  1. Afghanistan
  2. Algeria
  3. Australia
  4. Bahrain
  5. Bangladesh
  6. Belgium
  7. Bosnia and Herzegovina
  8. Cameroon
  9. Canada
  10. Central African Republic
  11. Chad
  12. China
  13. Columbia
  14. Denmark
  15. Djibouti
  16. Egypt
  17. Ethiopia
  18. France
  19. Germany
  20. India
  21. Indonesia
  22. Iraq
  23. Israel
  24. Italy
  25. Japan
  26. Kenya
  27. Kosovo
  28. Kuwait
  29. Lebanon
  30. Libya
  31. Macedonia
  32. Madagascar
  33. Malaysia
  34. Mali
  35. Mozambique
  36. Niger
  37. Nigeria
  38. Norway
  39. Northern Ireland
  40. Pakistan
  41. Philippines
  42. Russia
  43. Saudi Arabia
  44. Somalia
  45. South Korea
  46. South Sudan
  47. Syria
  48. Tanzania
  49. Thailand
  50. Tunisia
  51. Tunisia
  52. Turkey
  53. Ukraine
  54. United Kingdom
  55. United States
  56. Yemen

Source
From Americans Against Islamaphobia
http://on.fb.me/1kVA7zP%5B/caption%5D

A Chance for Peace …

DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER (1890-1969)

34TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES

In office 1953 -1961

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed … “ Dwight D. Eisenhower

Note: I wrote this piece on December 13, 2011 after I learned of the first 100,000 Poets for Change (100TPC). Seemed appropriate to pull it out, dust it off and share it once again since our theme for this year for 100TPC is “poverty.” 

The quote above is from Eisenhower’s speech, A Chance for Peace, delivered in 1953 three months after he took office and on the occasion of the death of Joseph Stalin, Premier of the Soviet Union (1941 to 1953). The “just peace” that the world hoped for in 1945 at the end of World War II had not materialized. While the Korean War was coming to a close, the Cold War-era military conflicts in Indochina (Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia) were slowly escalating. The United States would have advisory troops in Vietnam in 1954. The armed conflict in that region of the world would continue long past Eisenhower’s administration with U.S. involvement escalating in the 1960s and continuing until the Fall of Saigon in 1975.

Since the end of the Second World War and the Korean War, violent conflict continues unabated with thirteen wars (defined as 1,000 or more deaths per year) currently, including the War in Afghanistan and the Yemeni and Syrian uprisings of 2011. Smaller scale conflicts resulting in fewer than 1,000 deaths per year have been rife and in 2011 include the Sudan-SPLM-N conflict, the Yemeni al-Qaeda crackdown, and the 2011 clashes in Southern Sudan. (And now in 2015, we have to add among the world’s many current conflicts the war in Syria, which is displacing more people than any war since WWII. According to an recent and comprehensive article, How Syrians Are Dying (worth your attention) in The New York Times, 200,000 have been killed over the past four-and-a-half years.)

Genocides didn’t end either. We’ve had eight genocides since the Holocaust of WWII, including that which is ongoing in Palestine. The number of rebel groups is now over one-hundred, which probably errs on the light side. Conflicts rise from economic and social instability and what amounts to vigilante “justice,” most of which could be addressed if our governments invested in butter, not guns; if they included rather than marginalized; if they listened and responded rather than disenfranchised.

Even in 1953, Eisenhower pointed out that war isn’t sustainable:

This world in arms is not spending money alone.

It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities.

It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals.

It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement.

We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat.

We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.

If governments don’t recognize that Earth and her people cannot be sustained by war, many of their citizens do. One modern peaceful protest for a sustainable world is of interest to all of us who read, write, and love both poetry and peace. It is 100 Thousand Poets for Change, which held its first world-wide rally on September 24, 2011 with 700 events in 550 cities representing 95 participating countries united to support peaceful environmental, social, and political change.

Poets, writers, artists, musicians, and photographers the world over demonstrated in solidarity. The next global event is scheduled for September 29, 2012. Throughout the year small, local events are delivered at a various venues. By invitation, 100 Thousand Poets for Change was at the Sharjah (an Arab Emirate) International Book Fair, which ran through November 27.  Mujeeb Jaihoon reports,

“From time immemorial, poetry has built better bridges between people than those with bricks and stones. And these bridges do not get old or obsolete…” (Change Is Born in the Womb of Poetry)

In A Chance for Peace Eisenhower pointed out,

“No people on earth can be held, as a people, to be an enemy, for all humanity shares the common hunger for peace and fellowship and justice.”

We do hunger, individually and collectively. Perhaps our chance for peace starts with you and me. Poem on …

… and join us this year at The BeZine blog on 26 September 2015 and add your voice to ours for our (yours and mine) 100TPC, poets and friends virtual event for a peaceful, sustainable and just world.  

© 2011, essay, Jamie Dedes All rights reserved; The photograph of Eisenhower is in the public domain.

“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.

The BeZine, June 2015, Vol.1, Issue 8 – Table of Contents with Links

June 15, 2015

 DIVERSITY/INCLUSION

The evolution will be poemed, painted, photographed, documented, blogged, set to music and told in story.

The evolution will be delivered by a rainbow of human beings, everyday sort of folk ….  

The evolution will not be televised.

There are people for whom the arts exists almost exclusively as an aid to social change, to political discourse– not as some sort of didacticism – but as a discussion, a wake up call, a way of approaching some truth, finding some meaning, encouraging resolution. Many of us here number among them. All of us hope for kind, just and rational social change.

We write and dream about an inclusive appreciation of diversity that will promote a world without war, a world that respects all sentient life, all humans no matter their race or national origin, religion or lack thereof, economic or social status, mental or physical disability, age or sex, or sexual preference or gender orientation. We dream of a humanity that recognizes itself as an element of the natural environment not something apart from and over it.

We may be inspired by personal experience like Colin Stewart – our youngest ever contributor – who bravely articulates his experience of being bullied and marginalized in school in No Child Is Safe. Michael Watson, a therapist, a Native American shaman and a polio victim brings us  Still Here: Meditations on Disabilism and Lara/Trace Writes About Residential Schools, those schools established ” to save the person by removing the Indian.”

For some people the impetus is the direct experience of war, which is the ultimate expression of hate and exclusion. Silva Merjanian gifts us with an essay this month, As with any war …  Silva grew up in a war-torn Beirut. And, new to us is Michael Dickel, an American-Israeli who offers three poems from his new book War Surrounds Us.

Priscilla Galasso, whose appreciation for nature has birthed so many wonderful essays here, askes us to consider the diversity in nature, worthy of nurture and celebration not for ourselves but for its very isness in her essay Diversity and Car(ry)ing Capacity — Spiritual Lessons from Nature. 

The love of our children is a sure motivation to write about and work for respect and inclusion. We see this in Naomi Baltuck’s touching Mine (yours, ours), the second of our two lead features.

The muse is inspired by empathy and ideals, observation and proximity. Terri Stewart gives us one of our lead pieces this month, a moving poem, Created to Be Included. Sharon Frye shows a tender understanding of a Vietnamese refugee in her poem At Model Nails. This is the first time Sharon’s work is included here, but her poetry has found a home in many other publications including The Galway Review, The Portuguese journal, “O Equador das Coisas,” Mad Swirl, and The Blue Max Review (Ireland).

Sometimes the lives and work of  people who lived at other times and/or other places resonates for us. Roses and Their Homilies is an homage to Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz, the stellar poet of 17th Century New Spain. The clerical authority of her day simply could not put  her intellect together with her womanhood. Tragically for her and for us, this caused her to give up her writing five years before her death.

Each month the core team picks a theme.  We don’t dictate the slant.  We give everyone free rein. It’s always a surprise to see how the theme is addressed, who will hammer the theme dead on and who will address it obliquely. This month, when all the work was read, sorted and organized, most of us chose to “celebrate” diversity by illustrating just how slow and insufficient are the reforms and just how resistant humanity can be to inclusion. There is some deeply passionate work here.

I can’t help but think that the justice so many of us seek is rooted in transforming values. Hence, it is more evolutionary than revolutionary. Perhaps it is most evident in our blogosphere and social networking, in the heart-born prose and poems of simple folk like you and me with nary a politician or corporatist among us.

Perhaps the true evolution – the one that will foster permanent transformation – is a bottom-up thing, more likely to be blogged than broadcast, rising from homespun poetry and outsider art – sometimes rudimentary and awkward, but always quiet and true and slow like a secret whispered from one person to the next. It is something stewing even as we write, paint, make music, read and encourage one another. There is bone and muscle in what we do. Individually we have small “audiences.” Collectively we speak to enormous and geographically diverse populations.

I think I hear keyboards clicking and bare feet marching. Or perhaps poetic fancy has caught my spirit tonight and all is dream …I hope not. Write on … Read on … and be the peace …

So let some impact from my words echo resonance 
lend impulse to the bright looming dawn

Dennis Brutus (1924-2009), South African poet, journalist, activist and educator

In the spirit of peace, love and community,
Jamie Dedes

TABLE OF CONTENTS WITH LINKS

Diversity/Inclusion

Lead Features

Created To Be Included, Terri Stewart
Mine (yours, ours), Naomi Baltuck

LGBT

Darkness,  Colin Jon david Stewart
No Child Is Safe, Terri Stewart and Colin Jon david Stewart

Nature

Diversity and Car(ry)ing Capacity, Priscilla Galasso
Putting the “Action” in Activism, Corina Ravenscraft
The Clearest Way to the Universe, James Cowles

Native American

Lara/Trace Writes About Residential Schools, Michael Watson

Disabled

Still Here: Writing Against Disablism, Michael Watson

Refugee

At Model Nails, Sharon Frye

War/Conflict

Again, Michael Dickel
Musical Meditations, Michael Dickel
The Roses, Michael Dickel
As with any war …, Silva Merjanian
Borrowed Sugar, Silva Merjanian

Women

Roses and Their Homilies, Jamie Dedes

General Interest

Essay

British Bulldogs, Great Speeches … and poetry, John Anstie

Poetry

Rooftop Icarus, Joeseph Hesch
Prelude, Voice Aquiver, Sharon Frye
Growth Ring, Sharon Frye
Time Lapse, Liliana Negoi
for us, Liliana Negoi
dancing toward infinity, Jamie Dedes

Photo Stories

An Open Book, Naomi Baltuck
If Not for His Wife, Naomi Baltuck

OUR FABULOUS HEADER PHOTOGRAPH THIS MONTH IS THE WORK OF TERRI STEWART UNDER CC (BY-NC) LICENSE.

BIOS WITH LINKS TO OTHER WORKS BY OUR CORE TEAM AND GUEST WRITERS

FOR UPDATES AND INSPIRATION “LIKE” OUR FACEBOOK PAGE, THE BARDO GROUP/BEGUINE AGAIN

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

Creating Sacred Space by Honoring the Earth

Today is the People’s Climate March. All across the globe, people are gathering, praying, chanting, and yes! marching! in the hopes that the world’s leaders will hear the call to create safe and sane policies that will ensure the future of the earth. Protecting the earth/cosmos through concern about the changing climate is sacred. It is my contention that to enter sacred space is to enter healing space

Sacred: late 14c., past participle adjective from obsolete verb sacrento make holy” (c.1200)

Holy: Old English halig “holy, consecrated, sacred, godly,” from Proto-Germanic *hailaga- (cognates: Old Norse heilagr, Old Frisian helich “holy,” Old Saxon helag, Middle Dutch helich, Old High German heilag, German heilig, Gothic hailags “holy”). Adopted at conversion for Latin sanctus.  Primary (pre-Christian) meaning is not possible to determine, but probably it was “that must be preserved whole or intact, that cannot be transgressed or violated,” and connected with Old English hal (see health) and Old High German heilhealth, happiness, good luck

I would like to share a reading from John Cobb, a Process Theologian:

from Is It Too Late?  by John B. Cobb, Jr.
It is the belief in this Spirit, the giver of life and love, that is the basis of hope. In spite of all the destructive forces we let loose against life on this planet, the Spirit of Life is at work in ever new and unforeseeable ways, countering and circumventing the obstacles we put in its path. In spite of my strong tendencies to complacency and despair, I experience the Spirit in myself as calling forth the realistic hope apart from which there is no hope, and I am confident that what I find in myself is occurring in others also.

Since what makes for life and love and hope is not simply the decision of one individual or another, but a Spirit that moves us all, I do not have to suppose that my own efforts are of great consequence in order to believe them to be worthwhile. I can recognize that they may even be futile or misdirected and still persist in them as long as no clearer light is given, for I see what I do as part of something much greater, something in which all persons participate to whatever extent they sensitively respond to the insights and opportunities that come their way. Belief in the Spirit is belief that I am not alone, that in working for life and love in hope, I am working with something much greater than myself, that there are possibilities for the future that cannot be simply projected out of the past, that even my mistakes and failures may be woven into a healing pattern of which I am not now aware.

Belief in the Spirit is no ground for complacency. There is no guarantee that people will respond to the Spirit’s prompting in sufficient numbers and with sufficient sensitivity to begin the healing of the planet. But there is the possibility. The future can be different from the past. Therefore there is hope. Where there is life, there is hope.

Today, my hope for you is that you will have hope. Hope in a sacred, healing space that encompasses not just you. Not just your neighbor. But the entire planet and planets! All beings and non-beings. All life and even non-life — even rocks. And with that thought, I will share this photo of church signs (it is an urban myth thanks to the online church sign maker, but it makes me smile every time!)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Shalom,

terri

terrisignoffblog

Climate Care as a Spiritual Practice

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

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

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

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

1. Set your sacred space

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

2. Set your intention

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

3. The body of the ritual

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

4. Closing ritual

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

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

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

Shalom and Amen!

by Terri Stewart
by Terri Stewart

terrisignoffblog

Putting the “Action” in “Activism”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

– Corina Ravenscraft

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

Enthusiasm and Optimism vs Entropy … Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

 

Perfection and Creation

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

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

have-no-fear-of-perfection Salvador Dali

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * * * * * *

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.

Sacred Space in our Bodies

A few weeks ago, I started exploring finding sacred space in our bodies. I took a brief look at the need for sacred space because of the large influence of Western Christianity on our society and the world.

The upshot is that Western Christianity, whether we are Christian or not, has exerted a large influence on the social constructs of the world. This influence has taught that our bodies are to be reviled! Part of the process of reclaiming our bodies as sacred space has been to examine the historical underpinnings and how it is lived out in modern advertising and culture today. From the dualism of Plato to the rejection of sexuality by Augustine and the shaming of our bodies, we have and are experiencing a crisis of embodiment.

When we do not experience our own embodiment, we can divorce ourselves from hurting others. This is most tragically being lived out on the world stage in the crisis between Israel and Palestine. One most tragic headline is the kidnapping of three Israeli teens. These teens, kidnapped and killed, were mere tools on the world-stage. Because their lives, their bodies, did not matter. The work of Liberation Theologians and Philosophers is needed now more than ever to release us from thinking our own bodies and the bodies of others are less than worthwhile. It is tragic.

What is the solution? Unfortunately, the only way to experience our own bodies as sacred is to do interior work that can be difficult. Sociologist Brené Brown describes this problem as one of shame. We live in shame of ourselves and it then extends to others and leads to lives of scarcity rather than abundance. The interior work that we have to do to overcome shame is in three parts: (1) mindfulness, (2) joy, and (3) gratitude. It’s that easy. (Just joking!)

I would call it “being present.” You must remain present to the now in order to experience mindfulness, joy, and full gratitude. When we pop out of being present and drop into either looking too far into the past or too far into the future, we will lose it. Can you remember that moment of pure joy, maybe looking at something beautiful – a sunset, a child, a loved one, a flower – and then you start thinking of the “what ifs?” By losing being present, joy is lost, gratitude is lost, mindfulness is lost. We become lost and then the other becomes lost. By remaining present, our interior lives are expanded outwards to overflowing! Our bodies become sacred and other bodies become sacred. All of life, in every part of the cosmos, becomes sacred.

That is the Kingdom of Love made manifest! And remember, you are beautiful!

terrisignoffblog

Sacred Space in All That Is

I am not quite done with the reading I wanted to do to create the final posting in the series of Sacred Space in the body, so I am going to share this recent post I wrote over at BeguineAgain.com.

…I was, I AM, I will always be…

Really, that’s the definition of the Holy Name that G*d passes on to Moses. This infinitive form of the verb “to be,” makes me think of even more! Reaching my fingers back through time and forward to the future.

Couple that with the declaration in the book of Genesis,

Let us make humans in our own image! Male AND female G*d created them

Lawrence T. Richardson expanded a bit on this. Instead of our traditional understanding that would be more of male OR female, G*d created them, it is male AND female. He is a transgender, queer-identified pastor, someone who has been created both male and female and claims both. Pastor Richardson talks of transgender people being the epitome of G*d since they are both male AND female rather than either/or. Now, I don’t really agree that there is a hierarchy of being most made in the image of G*d, but I do agree that the great I AM is embodied in all people.

One of the things I love about physics is the discussion of matter in regular plain-old Newtonian physics. Matter is neither created nor destroyed. Therefore, the dust that we experience has always been, is, and will always be. The things we breathe and touch that make us sneeze fits, have always been, are, and will always be. We are all connected through earthly and cosmic stardust (to dip into Carl Sagan’s language a bit). We, through our connection to the divine and through our connection to physical matter have always been, are, and will always be.

How can I not feel holiness, sacredness, the divine if we are not all connected?

stardust shimmers

ten thousand light years ago

birthing new life

It is at moments when I reflect on all that was, is, and shall be, that I feel fully connected and grounded in the Sacred Space in All That Is.

from the Hubble Telescope Infrared Horsehead Nebulae
from the Hubble Telescope
Infrared Horsehead Nebulae

Shalom and Amen,

Terri

Originally published at http://www.BeguineAgain.com

Photograph from the Hubble Telescope, Creative Commons License

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REV. TERRI 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. 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 terri@cloakedmonk.com

Sacred Space in Men’s Bodies

Four weeks ago (plus one week off), I started exploring finding sacred space in our bodies. I took a brief look at the need for sacred space because of the large influence of Western Christianity on our society and the world. Additionally, the groundwork was laid for a holistic view of our bodies as sexual beings and the unity of being.

Part I, here

Part II, here

Part III here

Today, the images, poems, and points address the issue of men and body liberation. The team who created this, myself, Denise Ritthaler, and Bjorn Peterson, used scripture, quotes, images, factoids, and music to make the point for healing our body image and considering our bodies sacred space. I am additionally adding an update of men and shame from Brené Brown.

  • Each subset of males see’s their body as either limiting or freeing. Either an asset or a liability.
  • Disappointment or embarrassment with body image is not talked about.
  • Men objectify others (esp. women) in the very ways they hope that they themselves are not objectified.
  • Men disguise their bodies (weights, tattoos, fashion)

Two examples come to us from Saul Williams and Brett Dennen. Mr. Williams talks about the inescapability of the realities that are attached to black, male bodies (explicit) while Mr. Dennen addresses the shame and guilt attached to the privilege of being Western-European-American and male.

WARNING: EXPLICIT: Saul WIlliams

Brett Dennen

In both cases, the artist laments the body as that which separates him from larger community and peace. The body is either used to marginalize or is a symbol of appropriation and bodily harm. The body is mournful, life-stealing, and restrictive.

Sociologist and author Brené Brown, PhD, offers this list of shame that men experience: (page 91-92, “Daring Greatly,” an abbreviated version of the list is below)

  • Shame is failure.
  • Shame is being wrong. Not doing it wrong, but being wrong.
  • Shame is a sense of being defective.
  • Shame happens when people think you’re soft.
  • Revealing any weakness is shaming.
  • Showing fear is shameful.
  • Shame is being seen as “the guy you can shove up against the lockers.”
  • [Men’s]worst fear is being criticized or ridiculed–either one of these is extremely shaming.

But the body is sacred!
Kelly Brown Douglass: Divine incarnation affirms the holiness of all bodies.
Sally McFague: Spirit and Matter are intrinsically related.
Mayra Rivera: God’s transcendence in our embodiment “summons” us to a new ethic.
Galatians 5:2 “Do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

Again, what’s theology got to do with it?

  • Body/Spirit dualism allows objectification (Kelly Brown Douglas)
  • Objectification leads to disembodiment in the sense of our body as unholy other
  • When we are disembodied, we can no longer connect to creation (Sally McFague)
  • When we are disembodied, we can no longer connect to the other (Mayra Rivera)
  • When we are disembodied, we can no longer connect to the other within our self (extrapolated from Mayra Rivera)
  • We can neither connect to immanence nor transcendence

Without immanence (experiencing our bodies) or
transcendence (experiencing the other),
we lose our sense of sacred
.

And we become a befuddled mess. I hope that by experiencing the beauty and wisdom of our bodies presented here and in the other presentations, you will rebel against popular imagery and embrace the holistic sense of the life cycle.

Can I get an Amen?

Next week, I will look at this for one more week focusing on the good news that comes to us from the sources of spirituality and sociology. More Brené Brown! This next piece hasn’t been written, but I have ideas! Can you help me out by offering my the body-positive messages and quotes you receive from your spiritual paths and traditions?

References are here.

Shalom,

Terri

P.S. From Brené Brown on women and shame (I wish I had read this book before I started this series rather than in the middle of it!) (From pages 85-86,”Daring Greatly,” abbreviated version)

  • Look perfect. Do perfect. Be perfect. Anything less is shaming.
  • Being judged by our mothers.
  • Being exposed–the flawed parts that you want to hide from everyone are revealed.
  • No matter what you achieve, what you’ve come from and survived will always keep you from feeling like you’re good enough.
  • Even though everyone knows there is no way to do it all, everyone still expects it. Shame is when you can’t pull off looking like it’s under control.
  • Never enough at home. Never enough at work. Never enough in bed. Never enough with my parents. Shame is never enough.
  • No seat at the cool table. The pretty girls are laughing.

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