Be

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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 “Be”

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Saint Francis – Waaay Back Then

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

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 “La Mouvement Décroissance”

Revisiting Our Oily Assumptions

David Suzuki’s insightful piece says that rail vs pipeline is the wrong question.

He focuses on real, simple, economic questions and asks rather, “Why?” or, at least, “Why Now.”

He includes links to support his point and allow the reader to read more if he/she wishes.

He stays away from the issue of dishonouring our promises made to our First Nations and the poisoning of their water, air, soil and people because, I assume, the arguments he makes stand strongly on their own.

Winning the political battle will not be easy without the involvement and courageous resistance of our First Nations, however, as FN lawyer, Pamela Palmater has argued strongly. I have summarized her position, and the full-blown attempt by Stephen Harper to wipe out their culture, here.

Same Pot, Different Glazing

Jug found at Madinat Al Zahra, near Córdova, capital of Andalusía during the Golden Age
Jug found at Madinat Al Zahra, near Córdova, capital of Andalusía during the Golden Age

My professor of chemistry at Loyola College in Montreal pegged me as a late bloomer back in 1965. Yep. He got that right. I am rather slow to catch on to some things. For instance, the following question avoided my awareness for years:

How can a religion whose most dedicated souls strap 8-year-olds for not doing their homework be taken seriously as a sign of God’s grace?
Gotta be a few screws loose somewhere. I was lucky. All that happened to me was that I got whacked hard across the backside by my Grade One teacher for innocently sitting on my heels while practising kneeling at the communion rail, strapped by the Christian Brothers beginning in Grade Three, lifted off my feet and smashed against the lockers outside my Grade Nine classroom, and propositioned cleverly, but unsuccessfully, by the religious principal in my senior year. There were other offences, but these stand out. So how was I lucky? Continue reading “Same Pot, Different Glazing”

As Geopolitical Luck Would Have It

Note 1: This blog is republished under a new title from my old site. It is from April, 2010 but bears repeating. The opinions remain mine and the authors’ truths are timeless.

Note 2: Here is a link to a January 9th, 2013 Guardian review of Jared Diamond’s latest book, The World Until Yesterday by none other than Wade Davis. It is quite enlightening. Wade Davis makes the important criticism that there is still a sense in Diamond’s eloquently humane, but anthropologically naive, work that the fundamental paradigm of the superiority of the European worldview is alive and well. Diamond  simply believes that the West can benefit from tweaking derived from insight contributed by an appreciation of the way in which indigenous cultures relate to the unity of all living things on the Earth. Davis, on the other hand, recognizes that the apparently primitive indigenous approaches to understanding and to life are equally valid ways of living and that European  peoples need to recognize this if we are to survive. Only a new appreciation of the complete validity and worth of indigenous worldviews will take us where we hope to go: alive into the next century.

OK. Back to the original post:

I don’t know exactly when I bought the paperback version of Jared Diamond’s great book, Guns, Germs, and Steel, published in 1997 or 1999 (those Copyright notes are confusing), but it was possibly as early as 2004. I soon got distracted (saw something shiny, maybe) and put it down, probably somewhere around page 100. I finally finished it yesterday, all the way to the end of the 2003 afterward – page 440, after several other shiny objects interfered. My friend, Bill, called me a while back and mentioned being impressed by it, which reminded me that I owned it. I was impressed with the fact that Bill seems to have plowed through it at what seems to me like Mach 2, but why should anything he does surprise me? He seems to be able to do so many things energetically (and well), often with brilliantly funny self-effacement. Anyway, after working my way to page 200, I became obsessively determined to finish it and must have raced through the second half in less than two months!

You might have gathered that it’s not an easy read. The Da Vinci Code it is not! But Diamond is one of three authors concerned with the people and other living things on this Planet that are worth taking out your highlighter (if your memory is as short as mine) and plowing through. Continue reading “As Geopolitical Luck Would Have It”

Endangered Human Faculties

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The famous 12-cornered stone in Cuzco

Photo credit: David Stanley

The slide I personally took, in 1967, of this brilliant, iconic piece of masonry disappeared in 1972 when my wife, Anita, and I  moved from England to Canada, where I was born. Eighty choice slides from my two month South America trip somehow didn’t come with us or in our separately-shipped trunks. But that’s another story.

My topic is not about lost slides; it’s about lost ways of thinking, speaking, listening and doing. There is as much, likely more, human creativity, intelligence and “spirituality” in this one stone from the wall of Inca Roca than  in the bloated speeches of today’s politicians and works of some popular writers.

Manual dexterity is, today, disrespected. Those artisans who work with their hands in our first world are losing their jobs to robots, offshore workers and offshore workers running offshore robots.

Continue reading “Endangered Human Faculties”