Tuesday, April 26, 2005
BTW for those of you who really want to know...Rowan chose the Dandelion, Beric chose the Stellar's Jay, Gareth picked Duck Duck...species yet to be determined. I decided not to go for the dragonfly and went back to my old friends the Snakes (and didn't Gareth and I see one the very next day...I have dreams of building an hibernaculum in the backyard...). Initially George picked Fleas and Ticks, which would have introduced an interesting level of moral complexity to the game...but he is now coming around to choosing either Praying Mantis, Crickets, or June Bug larva...which probably tells you more about George than you really wanted to know...
See you next week...unless I'm dying to blog about Open Space and Brian or Keira let me use their machine...
Sunday, April 24, 2005
The post was about a neighbourhood getting together to learn more about the ecosystem in which they lived, how it had been damaged and what it might take to start repairing and renaturalizing it. A worthy endeavour.
Dave recounts well the kind of resistance that we encounter when we try to make even minor concessions/accomodations to the other inhabitants of the biospere. Concern for property values. Judgement about beauty/ugliness. Loss of status. Which made me wonder yet again how we are ever going to get on with the work of saving the planet and ourselves.
I'm feeling the pressure...the pressure of someone who's airtank is showing three minutes and who is still one hundred feet down...not feeling any pain right now, but when those three minutes are up a whole lot of bad things are going to start happening.
I guess Dave was feeling kind of the same, because a day later he posted this interesting creative piece...
I think maybe we all just need to start thinking about consumer culture as an addiction...I mean a real addiction...like booze or drugs or smoking. What if we took it that seriously? What if we created warning labels...like the surgeon general puts on cigarette packs? Imagine a trip to the store...you reach for a chocolate bar and see the faces of children forced or sold into slave labour camps in Ivory Coast who picked the beans...You go to a fast-food restaurant and find the food wrappers covered with pictures of species driven to extinction because of clear-cutting in the Brazilian rainforest...you go to gas up and see pictures of oil spills in Alaska or of broken and bleeding bodies, casualties of (take your pick) the Gulf War, Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria....
I don't know...do you think we would take it seriously then? Do you think we would get it and start making some real efforts at change? Or would we just get more numb and start using them as trading cards?....
Friday, April 22, 2005
Two more wonderful offerings from Chris Corrigan at Parking Lot. The first is from a seminar he attended given by Dr. Martin Brokenleg. There are a lot of powerful ideas in these notes. Here is an excerpt that is resonating powerfully for me right now:
"People need four experiences to create strong spirit and these have been corrupted in Western mainstream society:
- Know you are significant. You can’t communicate this in words, only in experiences. In western culture we substitute individualism for significance.
- Know that we are competent. We substitute winning for competence.
- Know we are personally powerful. We substitute domination for power.
- Know our own goodness. We substitute affluence for goodness.
In First Nations cultures we capture these with Belonging, Mastery, Independence and Generosity."
Significance...well, if you've ever read any Roland Barthes you know how deep this word goes...originally from the Latin significantia "meaning, force, energy". As opposed to individual, again from the Latin, in- "not" + dividuus "divisible The question immediately arises in my mind...Not divisible by what? Or from what? This is an untenable proposition from any angle. No matter how you dice me...I am utterly divisible...I am frequently of at least two minds...I meditate...believe me..you ought to hear the outrageous racket that goes on in here... My individual atoms and their constituent gluons, muons, leptons and quarks are flowing in and out all the time...even my skeleton replaces itself frequently on a quantum level...A society based on in-divisible beings...hard, solid, single...kind of like billiard balls...oh. I see. Now I understand all the bruises...
Significance...meaning and energy. That sounds like something I can live for. Meaning is established in connection...with others, with world. Meaning is only possible when others matter--it grows from interdependence. And energy...energy flows from an inner spaciousness--a spaciousness that grows from a still centre--a centre that connects heart, soul and action. No-mind, to use the Zen phrase.
Competence from the Latin competere-to coincide, agree. The Old English form is dohtig -- doughty, which disappears from usage around the 17th century. Just before the Industrial Revolution...interesting hmmm? Ultimately the Old English root means, "to be of use". Which interestingly is my business model and motto... So that gives us, to be of use, to coincide, to agree...sounds like choosing competence is to choose to live a congruent life of benefit to others. Winning is such a fragile and temporary state in comparison...hard to define and producing a path marked by pain, unease, anxiety, dissatisfaction, fear, and isolation...oh. I see.
Power with or power over. That's the choice. Make it. I can't do this justice here. For a great treatment of it see Starhawk's "Truth or Dare".
Goodness or Affluence. Originally affluence meant flowing--as in plentiful flow...the gifts of fortune. Now it has become inextricably entwined with effluence...the garbage and waste of rampant consumer culture. Interestingly, the first use of affluence to mean "wealth" was in 1603. Hmmm. Goodness, as in worth, as in fitness, usefulness. To know in your soul that you are of worth is priceless. To know that the world is in some way better by your thoughts and actions is a path to happiness and fulfillment. To live in harmless loving connection or heart-and-soul-clogging greed...Our choice...
The second gem from Chris...
"Here is a powerful idea from Australian Aboriginal playwright Jack Davis about how to reconnect kids with nature:
It's quite simple...give us love of country whether white or black. Give every kid at school something to protect of our flora and fauna. "OK,you look after the beetles...the quokka, the ladybugs...that's your totem."
I love this idea. It has immense appeal on so many levels. I immediately started thinking...what animals would our family choose...One of my sons is named Rowan, so we could adopt the Rowan tree. Another son has Peregrin in his name, so we could adopt the Peregrine Falcon. But what about the rest of us...I know that when I ask I will get any number of suggestions...mostly dinosaurs if I'm not way off the mark. I thought at first that could pose a problem...Dinosaurs are already extinct and beyond our capacity to help or injure them...Then I thought again and maybe dinosaurs would be good to add to the mix. They could represent the spirit of the ancestors...lessons from history and pre-history. My personal favourite would be dragons. I know...I can't save them...but they can represent imagination, energy and strength, qualities we need to nurture too. I could adopt dragonflies...they've been around for about 300 million years...gotta be some lessons there!
I want to express my gratitude to Chris for making these ideas available to a wider audience. You take amazing notes!
I also want to express my gratitude to another benefactor. Over ten years ago, Celeste George, an indigenous woman, took time out of her own struggle to teach a group of us white folk about power and privilege and how we could unlearn racism. Her lessons went deep and I will be forever grateful to her for her generousity of spirit, courage and patience.
I have been amazed and humbled over and over again by the spirit of indigenous people. It brings to mind the quote by Martin Luther King Jr.
"To our most bitter opponents we say: ‘We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We shall meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will, and we shall continue to love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws, because noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.
Throw us in jail, and we shall still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and we shall still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our community at the midnight hour and beat us and leave us half dead, and we shall still love you.
But be ye assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. One day we shall win freedom, but not only for ourselves. We shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory.’"
Peace to you all,
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
Had my own little thinking walk today... I was humming with excitement about some good news and was floating around about six inches off the ground and feeling a bit jittery. Now, anybody who knows me well will tell you that this is not a common state for me. I am usually pretty well planted. Our dear friend John, who is embarking on a co-living experiment with us, took note and took action. "Go for a walk. You've got 15 minutes."
(For those of you who don't have three children under five...that's a LOT of time--and opportunities like this don't present themselves very often--oh the burgeoning joy of co-living! ) So off I went, so glad I live within steps of wild places. I came back to earth so literally. The minute my feet went from tarmac to soil. I felt all the jitters just drain away...
I am one of those people who gets sick in cities. About two weeks is the max I can handle--less if I have to eat restaurant food--that lasts about two days...
I have always considered the earth my third parent. I don't mean this in any new-age kind of way. As a child I grew up in nature, spent most of my days exploring her infinite variety and beauty...learning her ways and lessons--respecting her power. My year was a constellation of buddings, bloomings and foldings. I knew the progression of spring flowers...where to find the fiddleheads, the first blood root, violet and mayapple, where the jack-in-the-pulpit grew and the ladyslipper...where the snakes first emerged to sun and glide on the still pools, watched the litters of fox grow up and the groundhog pups, when to gather puffballs for frying and wild grapes for juice and jelly, where the wild cucumber vine would be twining...where the crayfish lurked and when the suckers ran...and endless days lying stretched out on the ground feeling the pulse of the planet run through me...hearing her voice in my veins...I knew her as a physical and spiritual presence. The land where I came from is a huge part of who I am. Losing that land has cut me adrift in so many ways.
I have made what peace I can with it. And I know that a lot of my adult searching is to reconnect once again to a place in that deep and essential way...like breathing.
As I walked back down the greenway, the sun was backlighting the leaves of the maples making them glow, and the hundreds of little flying creatures bobbed and wove about like a host of fairies--pale silver lights dancing spring in once more.
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
The lines I was reciting were from Cynewulf's Crist:
Eálá Earendel engla beorhtast
Ofer middangeard monnum sended.
Hail Earendel brightest of angels,
Over Middle Earth sent to men.
These are the lines that inspired Tolkien to write Lord of the Rings and played a role in the choosing of one of my son's middle names.
The other snippet I know is Caedmon's Hymn--probably the oldest known English poem:
Nu scilun herga hefenricæs uard
metudæs mehti and his modgithanc
uerc uuldurfadur sue he uundra gihuæs
eci dryctin or astelidæ.
he ærist scop ældu barnum
hefen to hrofæ halig sceppend
tha middingard moncynn&ealig;s uard
eci dryctin æfter tiadæ
firum foldu frea allmehtig
Now let me praise the keeper of Heaven's kingdom,
The might of the Creator, and his thought,
The work of the Father of glory, how each of wonders
The Eternal Lord established in the beginning.
He first created for the sons of men
Heaven as a roof, the holy Creator,
Then Middle-earth the keeper of mankind,
The Eternal Lord, afterwards made,
The earth for men, the Almighty Lord.
There is a beautiful modern sung rendition of it here and a spoken version here (the Sarah Higley version is better).
Monday, April 18, 2005
I had the blessing of another wonderful conversation with Chris Corrigan.
I am grateful the weather has finally turned mild and sunny in this most wonderful corner of the world. (I do love the gentle 'soft' days of rain as the Irish say...but, reptile that I am (Year of the Snake and all) I do crave the sun. ;))
I am grateful that my children are healthy and that I got to stand in the doorway and watch them luxuriate in the golden beams coming through window--stretching like cats--and remember what it felt like to do that. Do you remember that feeling?
I am grateful for the technology that is letting me connect to a remarkable community of people--and to experience for the first time what it feels like to be understood. Belonging is an exquisite feeling.
I am grateful for the community of friends and family who surround me daily with their love and support and who gift me with the opportunity to love and support them.
I am grateful for the circumstances (as painful as they were) that allowed me to start down a path of work that I love, that excites, challenges and renews me.
Alongside all of this...
I am reading Chellis Glendinning's book "Off The Map: An expedition deep into Empire and the Global Economy". She dives down into the depths of colonialism/imperialism and looks at it from the colonizer's perspective. In her own words:
"I am here to speak about the journeys of those of us who are riding in the coach...I am here to talk about the relentless mappings that isolate us from our own humanity. I am here to talk about empire.
"...the problem of locating ourselves is a problem caused by trauma and dislocation: in our case, millenia-old dislocations of sight and care that are impressed upon us as children, that are validated by the daily ways of our world, that we carry like secret burdens every day of our lives. When called upon to locate our place on the map of empire, we immediately spill over with all the reasons why not to locate ourselves on the map. It would hurt, we protest. The iron-heavy veils are too ponderous to lift. The histories are too long forgotten to excavate, the confessions too excruciating to make, the revelations too disembodied to draw forth.
"...if we are to become fully human, to embark upon these liftings and these excavations, these confessions and these revelations, is to lay the ground for meeting the other people of this Earth and together, at last, to join in charting a future for us all."
Chellis writes with gentleness punctuated by moments of stunning pain. She is writing about my people. The daily fodder of Empire that not only consumes everything in its view, but also its own.
My grandmother is old enough to remember (fondly) being "in service". My father remembers losing his father at a young age to the poisons that were a daily part of his job--and the legacy of bleak poverty that his death left.
As I read of the daily horrors that industrialization/empire birthed, I experience deep pain. It is the pain, and the threadlike path of that pain, that I have been following in my pursuit of the deep roots of colonialism in my own psyche.
So I am grateful to that pain. And as Pema Chodron advises, I am leaning into it. I am grateful to Chellis Glendinning for helping me to feel it and for pushing the darkness back ahead of me.
Sunday, April 17, 2005
I have been reading about conversation and Open Space Technology and the Inviting Organization and Chaordic Organizations. The role of chaos continues to be a topic of intense interest as it relates to all of these ideas, so it is not too surprising, I guess, that I should think back to my old love affair with Eris and the Discordians.
A quick google had me jumping up and down for joy, because not only is the entire text of the Principia now easily accessible for me to torment all my friends with, but there is new material! In the introduction to the 5th edition (I have a dog-eared 4th edition), Kerry Thornley writes:
"An imposition of order creates a chaos deficit, which compounds until it is paid off (by enduring all the outstanding chaos)."
I was excited to read this, because my thinking earlier in the day was following these lines...
In attempting to understand how Open Space Technology works, there are a number of pre-conditions whose presence seems important to its success (also in biological systems) (see the User's non-guide to follow this thinking better) Two of which are high levels of diversity and high levels of complexity--qualities that tend to push systems towards chaos. Combined with this is the idea that the more chaos existing in a system's initial conditions, the higher the order of organization/information/function that emerges. In thinking about why OST works, I began to wonder if it has to do with injecting more chaos into the system...functioning to disrupt/free up existing connections/bonds so that new forms/ways of working/being can emerge. Kerry Thornley's comment seems to support the utililty of this possibility, by linking a deficit of chaos to stasis/stuckness within organizations. This deficit is harmful to the life of the organization as it must ultimately be balanced one way or another--exploding/imploding in unpleasant ways (War) or engaging/inviting (OS practices).
Anyway...still grappling with the basics here, but it sure is fun!
"I tell you: One must still have chaos in one to give birth to a dancing star." Nietzsche
Saturday, April 16, 2005
I wish I had a digital camera so I could give you pictures...instead I will give you one of my favourite poems by Ryokan.
First Days of Spring
First days of spring--the sky
is bright blue, the sun huge and warm.
Everything's turning green.
Carrying my monk's bowl, I walk to the village
to beg for my daily meal.
The children spot me at the temple gate
and happily crowd around,
dragging at my arms till I stop.
I put my bowl on a white rock,
hang my bag on a branch.
First we braid grasses and play tug-of-war,
then we take turns singing and keeping a kick-ball
in the air:
I kick the ball and they sing, they kick and I sing.
Time is forgotten, the hours fly.
People passing by point at me and laugh:
"Why are you acting like such a fool?"
I nod my head and don't answer.
I could say something, but why?
Do you know what's in my heart?
From the beginning of time: just this! just this!
Thursday, April 14, 2005
Reading the book has made me think more about what makes me really happy. I love making things with my hands--sewing my own clothes, making jewellery, crafts, decorating with natural and found objects, painting, fixing stuff, landscaping--and these are exactly the things I am starting to pay other people to do--because I don't have time anymore. This also made me think of Kelee Katillac and her book "House of Belief" (Kelee's Site seems to be down for reno's, but I've include the link anyway.). In the book, she promotes the idea of a "hand-made life" and encourages her readers and clients to not only include their own values and beliefs in the design and decoration of their homes, but to also make as many of the items as possible. Her philosophy grows from the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 1800/early 1900's. A quote from William Henry Channing, 1898, sums it up:
"To live content with small means. To seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion. To be worthy not respectable, and wealthy not rich. To listen to stars and birds and babes and sages with an open heart. To study hard, think quietly, act frankly, talk gently, await occasions. Never hurry.In a word, to let the spiritual, the unbidden and the unconscious rise up through the common. This is my symphony."
And I guess this links back to my chat with K. Louise and the necessity of balancing mind, spirit and body--grounding theory in practices of wholeness, connection, and simplicity. The concept of practice has been ghosting around with me for the past two months. I am looking at everything through the lens of practice--for if we do not have the skills, the ways/means/competencies for living the way we long to, how can we achieve it? Simply defining problems or even approaches is now inadequate. We need practitioners. And we need to create cultures of practice that support, teach, and promote the skills for living peacefully and sanely on a finite earth. I guess it's what Buddhists call the sangha--the community of practice...
A quote from Deena Metzger has been repeating itself in my head for the past couple of weeks:
"The world is on fire.
We are in danger.
There is only time to move slowly.
There is only time to love."
I think this may capture the essence of our current challenge. All our conditioning tells us we must move faster, more efficiently, work harder, do more with less. But that is the way of war culture...it is an inner violence...the internalized oppressor. The way of peace is about slowing, deepening, opening. We need to support each other in learning to release our addictions to scarcity, fear, consumption, defendedness...even self...to support each other in healing and recovery from war culture--in the transformation to nonviolent/peace culture.
For those who don't have the good fortune to have access to K. Louise's book, (Transforming Abuse, contact me if you would like access to the author's secret stash of last available copies.), I want to excerpt a small section:
"...I know there is a way of seeing, speaking and acting too long held in check. For myself, its recovery is a process of regaining a politic that does not refuse the poetic--seometimes defined as soul; sometimes as many systems working together, or synergy; sometimea as a celebration of diversity, pluralism or our interconnectedness; and sometimes, simply as harmless love.
"Binary or dualistic logic sees the world in either/or terms: good or bad, strong or weak. Especially through the development of machanized and scientific approaches to life, it has distilled human experience and voice into separate, compartmentalized units. Qualities that are considered male or female (such as assertiveness vs. co-operation) are polarized, the male given higher rank. When binary thinking places the differences between people within a paradigm for human relations of supremacy and subordination, the result is alienation and violence. Most of all I see this causes the human heart to harden or become machine-like--making it difficult for the heart to open and respond to suffering, unable to see and respect self as a changeable, exploratory and vulnerable being. Such a heart resists healing. We have been taught instead to guard our hearts and voices with an inner police state, an internal government based on dictatorship, strategy and tyranny. We live with a rigid, ungiving heart, a false democracy of self and language. We have been given life-depleting defence systems of many kinds to guard our lives, all sorts of arsenals to reproduce on an emotional level of existence a consciousness of warfare.
"A non-binary logic is one that refuses to follow that which splits our body from our soul. ...It is the logic of the open heart--not the way of opposition or alienation...but the way of interdependence. It is what Buddhist thought describes in the doctrine of paticca samuppada as dependent co-arising or deep relationship with the world through awareness of mutual causality. It os about love that is not born out of commerce or control but of relatedness, responsibility and respect.
"Descartes and all the other great colonizers of land, psyche, the cosmos, of race and women have shown us their fear of the unknown, out of which has developed conquests of catastrophic destruction including an insane attempt to conquer time and life itself. The sickness of conquest is a patriarchal mindset that shows us, terribly, where we need to go. We need to build an ethic of living that is decolonized, which refuses exploitative ownership and control of any kind. We need to approach the unknown places, the foreign places in ourselves and our culture with a willingness to bring safety, understanding and healing. We need to find a way of seeing and hearing and speaking that does not dispossess a person of their reality, feelings, words or dreams."
Does this resonate with you? I know in my life I keep spiralling into this understanding of the legacy of war culture--of how it alters my internal landscape without my permission. This spiral has taken me deeper than than before...I am still shaken by how deep the cult of colonialism is sunk into my psyche. I have not found the bottom yet--but at least I am swimming into it with determination, power and some good tools this time. And with a hope I have not had before--at the same time I am seeking a positive core--beginning the project of creating a culture and practice of nonviolence for myself, my family, my community--that feels equal to the task of replacing the old.
I have been thinking--because I encounter a lot of resistance and censure when I talk about my newly radicalized state--no big surprize I suppose--that if we want to live an exceptional or extraordinary life, we must make exceptional and extraordinary choices and act on them. Ordinary choices, ordinary risks, ordinary actions--just produce more of the same...nothing new or...extraordinary...
So, for the few brave souls interested in the extraordinay, the radical, the simple...
I guess this post has also spiralled around too...so I'll circle it back to the beginning again by ending with some links to a few good resources from Radical Simplicity...
The Global Living Project
Anybody interested in joining in the simplicity challenge, the intentional community design, or the culture creation projects?
"There is a place
between dreaming and living,
a third way.
Monday, April 11, 2005
Had a wonderful chat with K. Louise Schmidt today. (See previous post...)Have an update on her book, "Transforming Abuse: Nonviolent resistance and recovery"--there is a small secret stash of copies available. If you would like one, email me or leave a comment and I will hook you up with one.
We talked about so many good things. About evil being the absence of love; about the importance of balancing mind, body and spirit; about being called in our work; about colonialism, how deep it runs, how much work there is to be done, how we are so often still stuck in reactivity let alone recovery; about the necessity of dreams; about there not being time to wait for governments to lead us--how we need to take individual responsibility and action; about the need to find the positive core; about establishing healing centres and schools; about the importance of spirituality in education; about culture creation, co-intelligence and conscious evolution....and so much more!
I will write more soon. Promise. G'night for now...
PS: One of my four-year-olds said to me this morning, "I love you Mommy. You are the best Mommy." He paused then added, "I made a good choice." How cool is that?!
Sunday, April 03, 2005
Maybe that's what the Cain and Abel story is really all about. An ancient collective memory of that ultimate pre-historic betrayal when one member of the happy proto-human collective reasoned out, while scraping the hide off the latest Mammoth kill, that hey, these tool things work out pretty good against animals. My other proto-humans are a lot smaller/slower/blunter than most of the things I kill. Maybe if I bashed a few of them about I wouldn't have to do so much of the washing up. Pick up jaw bone of wild proto-ass cunningly decked out with the lastest in pressure-flaked technology and start wailing on the bro's. A new cave bear robe and a fine helping of roasted Mammoth testes later, our new despot experiences some remorse. Maybe he shouldn't have pounded his relatives around like that--they were family after all...but what about those hairy low brow guys they'd seen sneaking through the bushes just over the ridge? A few beneficent pats on the bruises and they take the whole show on the road. A million-and-a-half years or so later...take a look around...see anything familiar???
Okay, I've had my fun, and I probably need to start getting more sleep--but it has seemed to me for a long time, that as a species we have largely removed ourselves from the normal processes of evolutionary selection and adaptation. Our evolution seems to be mostly about cultural practices, beliefs, systems, thoughts--memes. So does this imply that cultural diversity is as essential as genetic diversity to our survival as a species? If yes, then we need to direct far greater resources and attention to preserving it....(Somebody has probably written a thesis or a book on culture creation and conscious evolution, but it's new to me...if anyone knows of a good link or two, please let me know...)