Be

25 Oct
October Sky

October Sky

Be

Dance the one; sing into life

Beautiful, bright notes

Gentler, simpler, wiser – be

*********

In Hindi, the words Vasudhaiva Kutumbam mean “Earth Family,” the democracy of all life.

(Quoted from Vandana Shiva’s Restoring the Earth in David Suzuki’s 1997 book, The Sacred Balance.) I thought of using Earth Family as a title for the poem, but reduced it to “Be.” For more on Vandana Shiva see the end of this post.

How to live? How to be?

I wrote lines one and three of the above haiku on a plane, after making notes on Suzuki’s book. The sky just before sunset on October 18th was spectacular looking West in the late afternoon from the Caribbean Airlines plane bringing us back from a family funeral.

By flying return to Trinidad, about 4055 km (2535 miles) one way, the two of us together “caused” about  5 tonnes of carbon dioxide to be released into the atmosphere. 2.5 tonnes each. That’s enough CO2 to grow about 23, 500 tonnes of potatoes – if that helps you understand the impact that modern travel has on global warming and highlight the difficult ethical choices which, if not faced right now, will produce  much global suffering in the not too distant future. It will take some fortunate gardener working for a long while to turn that amount of gas into potatoes. These CO2 numbers are based on information from www.deliveringdata.com.

Something about turning 70 today makes me reflect more intensely on big issues.Thinking about the world I’m leaving for my grandchildren – not that I’m planning to resign anytime soon…

As promised, I have done more thinking about Décroissance. It is definitely going to be a while as I grow in awareness and commitment. But here goes:

Continue reading

Loopy, Contagious Feedback

23 Oct

Cannot help thinking that tumors like ISIS are symptoms that have erupted from a  much broader illness that has invaded the body of Mother Earth, whose nation-state “organs” are competing with each other for the scarcities: energy (nutrition), and water. That is, methinks, what these wars are really about and the cyclical feedback provided by each organ’s response amplifies the “other” instead of starving it.

 Hatred for the drone-wielding US and the fundamentalist swaggerer Harper breeds this sort of horror. Nobel laureate, Malala Yousafzai, has experienced both sides of this terror and has the courage to speak truth to power. More bombs and beheadings are not going to help in the long run.

Recently it came to me that the 2003 self-sacrifice of Rachel Corrie, killed by an armoured Israeli IDF bulldozer when she stood between it and a Palestinian home in Rafah, Gaza, and the twisted radicalized killers we see now here and in the Middle East are yin/yang symptoms of the same, fundamental, compulsive, societal psychopathy.

One destructive (perhaps irresistible?) response directed heroically inward, one outward. Both are cellular actors in extreme moral agony.

Saint Francis – Waaay Back Then

12 Oct
St. Francis Window at St. Anthony of Padua Parish Church - Brampton, Ontario

St. Francis Window at St. Anthony of Padua Parish Church – Brampton, Ontario

Canticle of Brother Sun

Saint Francis of Assisi

1224

Most high, all powerful, all good Lord!
All praise is Yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing.

To You, alone, Most High, do they belong.
No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your name.

Be praised, my Lord, through all Your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and You give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of You, Most High, he bears the likeness.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;
in the heavens You have made them bright, precious and beautiful.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
and clouds and storms, and all the weather,
through which You give Your creatures sustenance.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Water;
she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom You brighten the night.
He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth,
who feeds us and rules us,
and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.

Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of You;
through those who endure sickness and trial.

Happy those who endure in peace,
for by You, Most High, they will be crowned.

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Bodily Death,
from whose embrace no living person can escape.
Happy those she finds doing Your most holy will.
The second death can do no harm to them.

Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks,
and serve Him with great humility.

*********

Even a non-theist like me can appreciate the essential insight and thanks in this poem from the thirteenth century by the one whom I consider to be the first environmentalist – and a fellow Camino Santiago pilgrim!  I left the stanza on Bodily Death in (save for one line) because, religious or not,  we should all care about how we live while we are sharing this place and prepare for a departure eased – made joyful, even – by the sense that we have cared about our “Brothers” and “Sisters” on whom we depend and who, in turn, depend on our faithfulness to all life.

I found it (while looking for something else for a future blog) in my well-thumbed, autographed, copy of David Suzuki’s great 1997 book written with Amanda McConnell, The Sacred Balance.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone.

 

La Mouvement Décroissance

10 Oct

Unsustainable is a word that must explode, not creep, into our everyday vocabulary. Our economies, as they currently are measured, cannot continue to grow.

I chose décroissance over degrowth for the title because the French word hints at the verb décroireto disbelieve. This is important because, for the concept, it is necessary for one to disbelieve in the current capitalist model that demands growth as its life blood. On both sides of the Atlantic, those who pretend to lead in the great drama of politics extol economic growth as the basis of national success and happiness. Growth is measured by an outdated parameter called Gross Domestic Product, a measure that does not care how the jobs and productivity are created. The classic example of its failure is that, from the aspect of GDP, the Exxon-Valdez oil spill off the Alaska coast in 1989 was a “success.”

David Suzuki, who, based on a 2004 CBC poll, is considered the 5th greatest Canadian ever and, by a process of biotic elimination, the greatest living Canadian, has, since the 1980’s, been a high-profile advocate for reducing our impact on the environment. Thanks to Suzuki and other caring thinkers, many now kind of “get” the fact that we in “The West” pamper ourselves by using up precious resources in obscene amounts to provide very special goods and services. We consume too much of everything (energy, minerals, meat, fish, forests, chemicals, drugs and yes, even health care) and have grown to believe that these relative luxuries are things to which we in the West are entitled.This “entitled” feeling battles with the growing guilt and, if we are honest about it, usually wins.

From David Suzuki's hand to mine...

From David Suzuki’s hand to mine…

Continue reading

Surrender

28 Sep
This kept calling until I surrendered

These kept calling until I shared my morning coffee with them.

 Morning through bedroom window

Tree and sun say, “Come.

Be present in reflection.”

I enjoy my back yard often looking at the migrating birds, but only occasionally do I go out and be present to it. Mowing the lawn or pulling weeds out from between patio stones represent the lion’s share of my back yard activity. I promised myself to get out there and enjoy.

The above sugar maple tree is now the best tree in the yard. It seems to be recovering nicely from the ice storm damage and happy to be out from under the ash.

After an early treadmill and tai chi session I made coffee and a usual light breakfast. I forgot about the back yard, but the autumn-coloured maple and spectacular sky stubbornly appeared again reflected in our glass-topped breakfast nook table as I sat reading and sipping. I couldn’t resist this second beckoning.

Barefoot, I went down the deck stairs and set out a very old redwood chair on the cool, dewy lawn. We slowly lost a 40 foot white ash tree to the invasive Emerald Ash Borer. Sadly, we had the ash removed last fall. I sat on the space where the ash once stood, enjoying the lovely, eclectic gardens that Anita has created and nurtured since we moved here in 1985.

I finished Helen Oyeyemi’s wonderful book, The Opposite House, in that chair. This book has contributed much to my sense of interconnectedness. Having appreciated interconnectedness for a long time, this morning I felt it with profound emotion. I could even smell the remains of the tree beneath me – or at least the fungus that was gently consuming its roots. It said “I am not all gone, just changed, and you are not alone.”

A bee checked out my coffee mug on the arm of the chair. I relaxed, grateful, in its company. I swatted no mosquitoes and, surprisingly, they did not take advantage.

Love of Home and Books With Stained Pages

27 Sep

This is daydreaming and not really a book review, but I’m now reading Helen Oyeyemi and scanning Naomi Klein’s latest tome now and I just listened to a podcast interview of the Peruvian-born novelist, Daniel Alarcon, in which there was considerable discussion of the violence and corruption in Peru between the early 1980’s and early 1990’s (Shining Path and repressive regimes being the major killers). His parents are physicians who sought opportunity in the US early on before the “troubles.” Alarcon writes (in English) figuratively about Peru – and the US also comes under the umbrella of his allegory.

Back to the books:

First: The Opposite House by Helen Oyeyemi. With interruptions. It has been slow to get into. It is a library borrowing that has evidence of more than one spill of brownish liquid. Notes are helpful because I do not retain character names and details easily. Never have, but it gets worse as I approach my 70th birthday. It is about two related characters:

1. A young woman living in London named Maja whose father, a university prof,  left Cuba under Fidel Castro, having apparently (it’s complex, and I’m not finished) become tired of the thought police looking over his shoulder. Her mother, a Santero born also in Cuba with a long ancestral lineage from Nigeria’s  Yoruba-centred Santeria religion, frustrates her husband with her altar and devotions that he considers superstitious. Maja likes to sing and her observations are becoming quite wonderful.

2. The second character is a Yoruban goddess, Yemaya (Aya) who lives in a magical “Opposite House” that has one door in Lagos and one in London. I’m currently two thirds through this book and loving it. I can understand the stained pages – evidence of a book that cannot be put down even while eating…  or a cookbook… in both cases loved. Maybe I will seek out similarly abused books deliberately in the future. I’m reminded of a fabulous song that made #1 in 1944 called You Always Hurt The One You Love by the Mills Brothers.

Second: This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein. This 2014 book I’ve just begun. I’m familiar with many issues in it, so I’m just scanning quickly and highlighting names and key words here and there. Klein’s conscientious footnotes cover almost 60 pages. A great reference for any activist. Continue reading

For The Record, Mr. Harper

25 Sep
G-20 Protests in Toronto June 2010 with the (peaceful but formidable)  Council of Canadians

G-20 Protests in Toronto June 2010 with the (peaceful but formidable) Council of Canadians

My letter (below) to PM Stephen Harper on CETA, one of many up and coming trade deals that he’s trying to lock us into.

And here’s the link, if you want to send your own letter to your premier and the PM via the Council of Canadians, my favourite NGO…

Dear Prime Minister,

The Canadian public and MP’s, whom we have elected to do in Parliament what you, Mr. Harper, repeatedly do in secret, have also been kept in the dark about what is in the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and several other international trade agreements under your private purview.

Just so you, sir, know that there are many of us who understand that you are trying to deliver Canada, via as many trade deals as possible, into the hands of the very rich and powerful interests that wish to extract every resource in this great land at great harm to the biosphere on which we humans, among other living species, ultimately depend.

It then will not matter whether your government is defeated in the next election. The threat of more punitive lawsuits, such as those enabled under NAFTA Chapter 11, will render any Canadian government of any flavour powerless against this insidious type of borderless hegemony that commodifies and enslaves all, sparing none.

I write this in urgency, and considerable despair, for my grandchildren – and yours – simply because I must.

Sincerely,

Robert Turcotte

cc Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario

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