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Grief and the Praise of Life

(h/t Carolyn Baker)


 

“The crucible of making human beings is death. Every culture that is worth a damn knows that.
It is not success. It’s not growth. It’s not happiness. It’s death. That’s the cradle of your love of life, the fact that it ends.”

 

 

 

“Grief is not a feeling. Grief is a skill. And the twin of grief as a skill of life is the skill of being able to praise or love life which means wherever you find one authentically done, the other is very close at hand -  grief and the praise of life, side by side.”

 

 

(from the website) Griefwalker is a lyrical, poetic portrait of Stephen Jenkinson’s work with dying people. Filmed over a twelve year period, Griefwalker shows Jenkinson in teaching sessions with doctors and nurses, in counseling sessions with dying people and their families, and in meditative and often frank exchanges with the film’s director while paddling a birch bark canoe about the origins and consequences of his ideas for how we live and die.

A few of the themes appearing in the film: Where does our culture’s death phobia come from? Is there such a thing as good dying? How is it that grief could be a skill instead of an affliction? Who are the dead to us? How can seeing your life’s end be the beginning of your deep love of being alive?

Stephen Jenkinson has appeared at scores of screenings of Griefwalker across Canada and the U.S. The discussion periods which follow routinely go on for hours. It seems the film detonates a strong desire among people to talk about their experiences of death and grief, and especially to be heard by others.

Griefwalker is available for viewing on Netflix.

 

Seven Habits of the Happy Introvert: Living in the World of Yin

anelegantmystery:

this is the key phrase for me in Margaret’s post – “Because we live in a world dominated by extroverts, we often feel guilty for not fitting in, for not behaving in the ways others expect us to. Think of the lone salmon fighting its way upstream. This is how it often feels for the introvert, striving to find his/her way back to the Source, fighting against the expectations of the collective. But the salmon can only do what is in its nature (see blog on Life of Pi), as can the introvert. The salmon might disappoint the schools of herring that want him to join the fun of swimming and dancing together, but there is no point in the salmon feeling guilty. In fact, guilt can ravage the soul of the introvert, tearing the flesh off his back. As long as your actions are not damaging someone else, you must do what you need to do without guilt and without shame, and honour the calling that carries you forward towards your true home.”

Originally posted on Margaret Mikkelborg:

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Notice I didn’t say the “successful” introvert. Self-help books abound on how to be successful: The 10 Habits of a Successful Leader, Seven Ways to be an Effective Leader, The 8 Habits of the Self-Made Rich, How to be a Success and Achieve Abundance: 8 Steps to Achieve Your Goals, etc. Frankly,these titles just make me feel tired. It recently occurred to me that all of these type of self-help books are geared towards extroverts and achieving success in the outer world. What about introverts? For most of us, just having and retaining an okay presence in that world takes up a great deal of our resources. So this blog is for the introverts.

The outer world that dominates western civilization is very yang or masculine in its orientation. We live in a culture that values power, control, domination over the other, war, one-upmanship, aggression, competition, status, speed, technology and…

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When the world gets turned upside down

Dogs teach us to use magic

(h/t Terri Windling)

 

Thinking outside the box – Making the gift economy work

Photo by Lindsey Byrnes

 

“One thing I’ve learned for sure, even though it’s something I’ve been told all my life by my mentors: All beings seek liberation. Even if they don’t know it, they do. They’re like sunflowers aching to the sky. When you start looking at the street and the marketplace and all human beings that way, everything starts to make more sense.”

- Amanda Palmer

(h/t Dave Pollard)

Amanda Palmer of Dresden Dolls fame shows how she courageously sidesteps the patterned behavior of how to make it in this world. As structures collapse and implode and become obsolete, how do people interact and engage with each other in new and vibrant ways. Palmer has created avenues of trust and interchange with people around the globe who are fans of her music.  How can each of us encourage and create our own gift economies? How will will that translate into a new language for us to navigate with as we try to map our way into an unknown future?

In this interview with Richard Bartlett, she elaborates a little more on the ups and downs of what she presents in this TED talk.

 

Adam Purple and the Garden of Eden

anelegantmystery:

I had never heard of Adam Purple and his garden. What a great story posted by Sebastain K!
(read more about it at the Youtube link – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-VfBvdzgQxY)

Originally posted on Painted arrow path :

In 1975, on the crime-ridden Lower East Side, Adam Purple started a garden behind his tenement home. By 1986, The Garden of Eden was world famous and had grown to 15,000 square feet. For Adam – a social activist, philosopher, artist, and revolutionary – the Garden was the medium of his political and artistic expression. It was razed by the city in 1986 after a protracted court battle. This film documents the creation of this artwork and its ultimate destruction.

Winner of the “Neighborhood Award” at the Lower East Side Film Festival

Also on Vimeo:

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The World Needs You

 

 

 

 

The Juilliard School’s 109th Commencement Speech ~ Joyce DiDonato

There are a few more hard-earned truths – as I have come to know them – that have arisen on my personal odyssey as a singer and at first glance, they may seem like harbingers of bad news, but I invite you to shift your thinking just a bit (or perhaps even radically) – you guys are artists, so thankfully you’re already brilliant at thinking outside the conventional box! I offer these four little observations as tools to perhaps help you as you go forward, enabling you to empower yourselves from the very core of your being, so that when the challenges of this artistic life catapult and hurl themselves directly and unapologetically into your heart and soul – which they will do, repeatedly – you will have some devices at your disposal to return to, to help you find your center again, so that your voice, your art and your SOUL will not be derailed, but you will instead find the strength to make yourself heard, and seen, and FELT. Then you will have the power to transform yourselves, to transform others, and, indeed, to transform the world.

My first observation:

You will never make it. That’s the bad news, but the “shift” I invite you to make is to see it as fabulous, outstanding news, for I don’t believe there is actually an “it”. “It” doesn’t exist for an Artist. One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, right here, right now, in this single, solitary, monumental moment in your life– is to decide, without apology, to commit to the JOURNEY, and not to the outcome. The outcome will almost always fall short of your expectations, and if you’re chasing that elusive, often deceptive goal, you’re likely in for a very tough road, for there will always be that one note that could have soared more freely, the one line reading that could have been just that much more truthful, that third arabesque which could have been slightly more extended, that one adagio which could have been just a touch more magical. There will always be more freedom to acquire and more truth to uncover. As an artist, you will never arrive at a fixed destination. THIS is the glory and the reward of striving to master your craft and embarking on the path of curiosity and imagination, while being tireless in your pursuit of something greater than yourself.

A second truth:

The work will never end. This may sound dreadfully daunting – especially today when you are finally getting out of here!!!! But what I have found is that when things become overwhelming – which they will, repeatedly ~ whether it’s via unexpected, rapid success or as heart-wrenching, devastating failure ~ the way back to your center is simply to RETURN TO THE WORK. Often times it will be the only thing that makes sense. And it is there where you will find solace and truth. At the keyboard, at the barre, with your bow in hand, articulating your arpeggios ~ always return to your home base and trust that you will find your way again via the music, the pulse, the speech, the rhythm. Be patient, but know that it will always be there for you – even if in some moments you lack the will to be there for it. All it asks is that you show up, fully present as you did when you first discovered the magic of your own artistic world when you were young. Bring that innocent, childlike sense of wonder to your craft, and do whatever you need to find that truth again. It will continually teach you how to be present, how to be alive, and how to let go. Therein lies not only your artistic freedom, but your personal freedom as well!

Perhaps my favorite truth:

It’s not about you. This can be a particularly hard, and humbling lesson to face – and it’s one I’ve had to continue to learn at every stage of my own journey – but this is a freeing and empowering truth. You may not yet realize it, but you haven’t signed up for a life of glory and adulation (although that MAY well come, and I wish with every fiber of my being, that it WILL come in the right form for every single one of you – however, that is not your destination, for glory is always transitory and will surely disappear just as fleetingly and arbitrarily as it arrived.) The truth is, you have signed up for a life of service by going into the Arts. And the life-altering results of that service in other people’s lives will NEVER disappear as fame unquestionably will. You are here to serve the words, the director, the melody, the author, the chord progression, the choreographer ~ but above all and most importantly, with every breath, step, and stroke of the keyboard, you are here to serve humanity.

You, as alumni of the 109th graduating class of The Juilliard School are now servants to the ear that needs quiet solace, and the eye that needs the consolation of beauty, servants to the mind that needs desperate repose or pointed inquiry, to the heart that needs invitation to flight or silent understanding, and to the soul that needs safe landing, or fearless, relentless enlightenment. You are a servant to the sick one who needs healing through the beauty and peace of the symphony you will compose through blood-shot eyes and sleepless nights. You are an attendant to the lost one who needs saving through the comforting, probing words you will conjure up from the ether, as well as from your own heroic moments of strife and triumph. You are a steward to the closed and blocked one who needs to feel that vital, electric, joyful pulse of life that eludes them as they witness you stop time as you pirouette and jettè across the stage on your tired legs and bleeding toes. You are a vessel to the angry and confused one who needs a protected place to release their rage as they watch your eyes on the screen silently weep in pain as you relive your own private hell. You are a servant to the eager, naïve, optimistic ones who will come behind you with wide eyes and wild dreams, reminding you of yourself, as you teach and shape and mold them, even though you may be plagued with haunting doubts yourself, just as your teachers likely were – and you will reach out to them and generously invite them to soar and thrive, because we are called to share this thing called Art.

You are also serving one other person: yourself. You are serving the relentless, passionate, fevered force within you that longs to grow and expand and feel and connect and create; that part of you that craves a way to express raw elation and passion, and to make manifest hard-core blissful rapture and – PLEASE, I beg of you, never forget this – FUN! Don’t ever abandon that intoxicating sense of FUN in your ART. Thought that, you are serving your truth. My hope for you is that you will let that truth guide you in every moment of your journey. If you can find that, you have everything. That’s why “making it” is, in the end, utterly insignificant. LIVING it, BREATHING it, SERVING it … that’s where your joy will lie.

I want to share with you a quick email from a soldier on the front lines of our Arts: an elementary/middle school teacher from Salt Lake City, Ms. Audrey Hill, who is fighting the great fight! She brought her students to the recent HD telecast of “La Cenerentola”, and wrote the following note to me:

“One of my boys … a 5th grader… wrote in his review this morning that one of his favorite parts (besides the spaghetti food-fight scene) was where at the end you were singing about getting revenge, and how he really liked that your revenge was going to be forgiveness.   This boy was new to our school this year, has a beautiful singing voice, and has been teased a lot. I have seen him getting more and more angry as the year was coming to a close and today it seemed like all that had disappeared.  It was very moving for me to experience.”

* That’s exactly who you are serving as you now go out into the world. How lucky are you?!??!

Ah, so OK, I lied … I think this may be my favorite truth:

The world needs you. Now, the world may not exactly realize it, but wow, does it need you. It is yearning, starving, dying for you and your healing offer of service through your Art. We need you to help us understand that which is bigger than ourselves, so that we can stop feeling so small, so isolated, so helpless that, in our fear, we stop contributing that which is unique to us: that distinct, rare, individual quality which the world is desperately crying out for and eagerly awaiting. We need you to remind us what unbridled, unfiltered, childlike exuberance feels like, so we remember, without apology or disclaimer, to laugh, to play, to FLY and to stop taking EVERYTHING so damn seriously. We need you to remind us what empathy is by taking us deep into the hearts of those who are, God forbid, different than us – so that we can recapture the hope of not only living in peace with each other, but THRIVING together in a vibrant way where each of us grows in wonder and joy. We need you to make us feel an integral PART of a shared existence through the communal, universal, forgiving language of music, of dance, of poetry and Art – so that we never lose sight of the fact that we are all in this together and that we are all deserving of a life that overflows with immense possibility, improbable beauty and relentless truth.

What an honor it is to share in this day with you – savor every single moment of it – and then fly out of this building, armed with the knowledge that YOU make a difference, that your art is NECESSARY, and that the world is eagerly awaiting to hear what YOU have to say. Go on, make us laugh, cry, dance, FEEL, unite, and believe in the incredible power of humanity to overcome anything!

 

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“The true gravity of crisis we call modern life”

Joanna Macy Portrait by Robert Shetterly

Dahr Jamail writes in his article, ‘On Staying Sane in a Suicidal Culture’ of meeting Joanna Macy -  Buddhist scholar, Eco-Philosopher and activist. Over tea she opened a door that began a process that allowed him to express the emotions he was carrying from his work as a journalist covering the Iraq war. He later attended a workshop led my Macy during which she said,

“The most radical thing any of us can do at this time is to be fully present to what is happening in the world.”

He then related,

“For me, the price of admission into that present was allowing my heart to break. But then I saw how despair transforms, in the face of overwhelming social and ecological crises, into clarity of vision, then into constructive, collaborative action.”

Jamail’s article explores Joanna Macy’s ‘The Work that Reconnects’ and how her project allows one to see the world with clear eyes, walking the middle path between destruction and rebirth.

“Never before in history has humankind found itself amidst such a convergence of crises: runaway ACD [anthropogenic climate disruption], the global economy in chronic crisis, deepening militarism and surveillance, and a growing lack of food and water as the global population continues to explode.

While a great percentage of the population remains unaware that upward of 200 species are being made extinct each day, even greater numbers of people are ignorant to the very real possibility that humans may well be included in that number some day, whether it be from global thermonuclear war or runaway ACD.

Hence, Macy believes nothing short of a radical shift in consciousness is mandatory.

“What I’m witnessing is that this uncertainty is a great liberating gift to the psyche and the spirit,” she said. “It’s walking the razor’s edge of the sacred moment where you don’t know, you can’t count on, and comfort yourself with any sure hope. All you can know is your allegiance to life and your intention to serve it in this moment that we are given. In that sense, this radical uncertainty liberates your creativity and courage.”

Read Dahr Jamail’s  article here.

 

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