inspiration

To better understand our position as living beings in a living world

 

“An inspired collaboration between filmmakers Peter Mettler (The End of Time) and Emma Davie (I Am Breathing) and radical writer and philosopher David Abram (The Spell of the Sensuous), Becoming Animal is an urgent and immersive audiovisual quest, forging a path into the places where humans and animals meet, where we pique our senses to witness the so-called natural world—which in turn witnesses us, prompting us to reflect on the very essence of what it means to inhabit our animal bodies.”

Excerpts from an interview with the filmmakers,

“David’s writing is very poetic and descriptive, but in the cinema it is the images and sounds that do most of the work.”

…we describe “nature” as something fundamentally apart from ourselves. This is a central paradox that we were always aware of and engaged with throughout the process of making Becoming Animal. Although the film is partially about our urge to exist beyond our limited notion of self and other – to claim a more expanded sense of being that connects us sensorially to everything – there is also an additional aspect that even to think this realization is to already be one step removed from the immediacy of experience. So the perennial question of how the mind both liberates and limits is also present, and film, with its endless hall of mirrors, can reflect this. We hope the film exists in a space in which the cumulative effect of David’s ideas, woven into a cinematic journey, will start to create new links in the minds of the audience, resonating with their own deep questions about these themes.”

“It is a paradox to make a film about our senses and the connection to our surroundings, while also addressing how these technologies have changed our relationships to our surroundings. But that is exactly what we wanted to embrace, so that as one watches the film there is an awareness of the mediated nature of the experience of cinema itself. This is why at times you will hear the rustling, breathing animal (Peter) that holds the camera as he makes his way through the brush, and why you see the crew, cameras, and David – our “guide” – intermittently throughout. This layer provides a way to better understand what we are all going through, whether as filmmakers, tourists, or as a cultural audience.”

“We hope that the film addresses in some way what we have been calling a crisis of perception, exemplified by the fact that while our culture possesses more tools and knowledge than ever before, our understanding and awareness of the world remains quite limited. It seems that, in looking into the root of our problems, it’s also important to address how we actually see.”

“Empathy, awareness and reciprocity are qualities we hope Becoming Animal may evoke, to better understand our position as living beings in a living world.”

The Village & The Forest

“While persons brought up within literate culture often speak about the natural world, indigenous, oral peoples sometimes speak directly to that world, acknowledging certain animals, plants, and even landforms as expressive subjects with whom they might find themselves in conversation.”

David Abram


The Resistance of Poets

[N]obody is willing to invest money in poetry. But film will continue existing thanks to the resistance of…poets. You can be sure that cinema history is made of films that recreate the inner world of their artist, and not the movies we see today and...

“[N]obody is willing to invest money in poetry. But film will continue existing thanks to the resistance of…poets. You can be sure that cinema history is made of films that recreate the inner world of their artist, and not the movies we see today and that I hope will not continue to please the public for much longer. Since the beginning, cinema has been in a difficult situation. To make movies, you need money. To write poetry, all you need is some paper and pencil. I bow to those directors who keep trying, with what they have, to make their own movies. We have seen that these films have a specific, personal rhythm.”

Andrei Tarkovsky

(From the wondrous site created and curated by Edwin Adrian Nieves  –   A-BitterSweet-Life.)

 


The Daemon

I love to speak with Leonard
He’s a sportsman and a shepherd
He’s a lazy bastard
Living in a suit

But he does say what I tell him
Even though it isn’t welcome
He just doesn’t have the freedom
To refuse

He will speak these words of wisdom
Like a sage, a man of vision
Though he knows he’s really nothing
But the brief elaboration of a tube

Going home
Without my sorrow
Going home
Sometime tomorrow
Going home
To where it’s better
Than before

Going home
Without my burden
Going home
Behind the curtain

Going home
Without the costume
That I wore

He wants to write a love song
An anthem of forgiving
A manual for living with defeat

A cry above the suffering
A sacrifice recovering
But that isn’t what I need him
to complete

I want to make him certain
That he doesn’t have a burden
That he doesn’t need a vision
That he only has permission
To do my instant bidding
Which is to SAY what I have told him
To repeat

Going home…

I love to speak with Leonard
He’s a sportsman and a shepherd
He’s a lazy bastard
Living in a suit


On The Road With Thich Nhat Hanh

Two years ago, for the very first time, Thich Nhat Hanh’s monastics invited filmmakers Max Pugh and Marc J. Francis into their monasteries to witness their practice and the essence of their mindful living.

Filming in the depths of winter in their monastery in France, they also traveled on the road with Thich Nhat Hanh and his monastics to Europe and North America; capturing their journey from Vancouver to Mississippi, New York, Washington, San Diego and London.

Through intimate interviews and observational filming, “Walk With Me – On The Road With Thich Nhat Hanh”, offers a rare insight into monastic life and the deeply personal reasons why Thich Nhat Hanh’s monks and nuns decided to leave their families and follow in his footsteps.

Honest and heart-warming, ‘Walk With Me’ touches on the universal themes of belonging, love, loss, hope and death; relevant for not just Thich Nhat Hanh’s monks and nuns but for us all.

This documentary is currently being shown at the Toronto International Film Festival. If distributors are found it should be released sometime in 2017.


“If you awaken in our time, you awaken with a sob”

 

In the video above, Chris Hedges and Tim DeChristopher discuss the deadly failure of the industrial world to confront the effects of climate change. The following is a brief excerpt from that conversation.

 

HEDGES: Let’s talk about grief. I feel it. I read the climate change reports, I have children. It fills me with despair. How do we cope with it?

DECHRISTOPHER: I think part of the way that we cope with it is admitting that we were always headed towards that path. That we were always going to die.

HEDGES: As a species?

DECHRISTOPHER: Well and as individuals as well. You know we like to have this progressive notion that we do these good things to make a better world at some point in the future and even if consciously it sort of falls short of a utopia or a sort of promised land in the future. It’s still sort of this outcome based value system, that’s based on things being okay in the end.

HEDGES: It’s the myth of progress.

DECHRISTOPHER: Yeah, but I think that’s also tied to a myth of immortality. That when we talk about some of the most honorable things that we can do. We use language like we saved someone’s life. But that person’s still going to die. Every person that we do something nice for is still going to die. So if it’s really outcome oriented then we’ve always been kind of deceiving ourselves with that value system.

Stephen Jenkinson confronts the language that we use in a death-phobic culture.  DeChristopher touches on it in the above comment regarding our myth of immortality. In the following short audio clip, Jenkinson explores the meaning of the word ‘hope’ and how it distracts and detours us from being present in this world, in our unique time in history.

On Grief and Climate Change


Rediscovering Deep and Beautiful Myths

 

Stephen Jenkinson writes,

 

“This breezy little tome I’ve written, Die Wise, was graced with a noble introduction by a denizen of England and of times gone by, name of Martin Shaw, with whom I was briefly reunited a week ago for a riotous night of elegy and lament worthy of the ages. (Keep a weather eye for a film record of that boisterous event, crafted by Ian McKenzie, that might see light later this winter.) In the spangled generosity of his Forward Mr. Shaw took me for a citizen of the Other World. And this was to my knowledge the first time I was recognized, the first time this drizzle of sorrow and love for life that is my claim for Orphan Wisdom was seen and called by name. This stirred my gratitude. I have gratitude for him personally and specifically, surely, but I’ve another gratitude that arrived in this slurry of anticipation and pause, one that rises in the departure lounge as I make my way back across the Atlantic, tracing the furrows ploughed centuries before when We Who Left, who could not afford to stay, parted ways so deeply with You Who Stayed, to become the great European fantasy of America. And Mr. Shaw wrote of we who left: “To us, when you left you became spirits. How does dying wise function when to we who stayed you are already dead?” This is surely the arche of sorrow and longing and the uprooting of the world in search of home that America has become. It is to this wonder that I am returning.”

 

Martin Shaw

“I have not a clue whether we humans will live for another 100 or 10,000 years.  We can’t be sure.  What matters to me is the fact we have fallen out of a very ancient love affair – a kind of dream tangle, with the earth itself.  If, through our own mess, that relationship is about to end, then we need to scatter as much beauty around us as we possibly can, to send a voice, to attempt some kind of repair.  I think of it as a kind of courting – a very old idea.”

“When we claim myth as nothing but a map of our inner-life we reduce it, make a prison of it in our rib-cage. We stay in a rather sad isolation, rather than the sophisticated awakening that we are frisky boars rolling in myths deep and nourishing mud. The delicate flecks of soil that lace the sides of our pen (that is the world) is the art we display from such a calorific experience.”

“I am saying that in a functioning culture, myth is the dwelling hut for the people, the goats, the gleaming little babies, the old ones crooked and crazy-wise, the heart-broken, the grand stretch of birch trees at the bottom of a Norfolk field. It contains it all. It’s not just a reductionist blue-print for a therapists handle on why you feel so blue.”

“This is not to deny the interior – much great art has been developed in its amplification. But at what cost? For many of us now, our inner-world has become more real than the real. So i praise the genius of psychology but i believe there is much gain in myth cutting loose from the corral of human allegory – these are wild horses we are encountering. They have much to disclose.”

 

 

A society continually emphasizing victory and progress is out of touch with myth. Myths emphasis on descent is erotic – it is the longing of the apple to fall from the quivering branch and be cradled in the dark arms of the soil. Gravity is a secondary issue. It is really the business of desire. I think our access to so many facts is causing us to be in a permanent state of hallucination. We are societally tripping. We have the facts but where on earth has the story gone?”

“Myths demand full occupancy of the lived experience. Which includes the myriad difficulties and slow-drip struggles that eventually carve out those rare and ordinary creatures we call elders. It requires a full, creative declaration of attachment to the world. That declaration, hewn into language, growing, loving, learning, music – is part of awareness of the impossible debt of gratitude we have for being here at all. The very sensation of the debt is a wonderful grounding in being a full human being.”

 

 


John Trudell

 

 

 

“See, when they got off the boat, they didn’t recognize us. They said who are you and we said we’re the people, we’re the human beings. And they said, oh, Indians, because they didn’t recognize what it was to be a human being.

I’m a human being, this is the name of my tribe. This is the name of my people. But I’m a human being.

But then the predatory mentality shows up and starts calling us Indians and committing genocide against us as a vehicle of erasing the memory of being a human being. So they used war textbooks, history books, and when film came along, they used film.

You go in our own communities, how many of us are fighting to protect our identity of being an Indian. And 600 years ago, that word Indian, that sound was NEVER made on this hemisphere. That sound, that noise, was never ever made, ever. We’re trying to protect that as an identity, see, so it affects all of us. It’s reached the point evolutionarily speaking, we’re starting to not recognize ourselves as human beings.

We’re too busy trying to protect the idea of a Native American or an Indian, but we’re not Indians and we’re not Native Americans. We’re older than both concepts. We’re the people. We’re the human beings.”

 

John Trudell (1946 – 2015)


Die Wise

“Everything that has a beginning has an end, Neo.”

(The Matrix)

A friend of mine that I hadn’t seen for several years died suddenly I found out recently. He was younger than me and in good health.  The news was a shock and it brought back memories of him and I suddenly realized how much I missed him, how much he meant to me back when we worked together.

I don’t think death is something we think about until someone close to us has died or is close to dying from an illness. It is not till then that time and mortality and the existential questions of life seem to be of some importance, at least for most people (I presume).

For Stephen Jenkinson however, death has become his life’s work.

“Apprenticed to a master storyteller, he has worked extensively with dying people and their families, is former program director in a major Canadian hospital, former assistant professor in a prominent Canadian medical school, consultant to palliative care and hospice organizations and educator and advocate in the helping professions”

Jenkinson who is the subject of a feature length documentary , ‘Griefwalker’ has written a new book called ‘Die Wise – A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul’.  In this book he

“places death at the center of the page and asks us to behold it in all its painful beauty. Die Wise teaches the skills of dying, skills that have to be learned in the course of living deeply and well…Dying well, Jenkinson writes, is a right and responsibility of everyone. It is a moral, political, and spiritual obligation each person owes their ancestors and their heirs. It is not a lifestyle option. It is a birthright and a debt. Die Wise dreams such a dream, and plots such an uprising. How we die, how we care for dying people, and how we carry our dead: this work makes our village life, or breaks it.”

 

Griefwalker the documentary referred to earlier has been available to view on Netflix’ streaming service for some time now but recently has been removed. However there are a few websites that are showing it still and it is embedded below. I highly recommend it for anyone who is dealing with the death of a loved one or family member or who is grieving the decline of the health of the planet. This film contains the beginnings of wisdom for us as individuals and as a culture in the west who has lost its connection with its ancestral heritage.

“Orphans are not people who have no parents: they are people who don’t know their parents, who cannot go to them. Ours is a culture built upon the ruthless foundation of mass migration, but it is more so now a culture of people unable to say who their people are. In that way we are, relentlessly, orphans. Being an orphan culture does not mean that we have no wisdom. But wisdom is being confused in our time with information. Wisdom is an achievement, hard earned and faithfully paid for; it’s not a possession.

Not knowing where you are from is not the same thing as being from nowhere, but it does mean that there is work of all kinds to be done. It could be that the only way for successful refugees to make a culture from their flight is to first be faithful witnesses to what their ancestry now asks of them, instead of what it might have fated them to be. Our culture, if a culture it can be called, or all those things we have instead of a culture, has come to a time of savage despair, it seems. We surround ourselves with generations of the debris of refugeehood, to fill the hollow of orphanhood. We have become a danger to ourselves, and a menace to all who will come after us and to the world. We abandon our dead to make our way, and we are mostly singular people. We might now be the twilight of our ancestors’ dream.

An orphan wisdom might be the only culture-making thing we can rightly, honorably or faithfully claim. There is immense grief in knowing this well and going towards it anyway. That grief could be our way of working now, our labor. It could be our beauty, too.”

 

Griefwalker (link to the film below)

https://www.fandor.com/films/griefwalker/player

 

 

 


A Legacy of Kindness

 

 

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I am revisiting this post as there is a new video of the work Connections has been doing with a youngster who was featured in their newsletter about three years ago.
Andrea Baldwin and her volunteers do incredible work like this on a daily basis. I just wanted to bring attention to this again.

Watch this incredible and moving video here :

https://youtu.be/jjxfOzH8p7M

An Elegant Mystery

A movement began in the middle of the 20th century with a couple of brothers, Tom and Bill Dorrance (pictured here with Ray Hunt). Considered the founders of a new way of working with horses, called Natural Horsemanship, they promoted an alternative to what had been the traditional way of ‘breaking’, training and molding a horse to the rider’s will. Instead they used a more gentle approach using the natural intelligence of the animal. Tom Dorrance said, “The thing you are trying to help the horse do is to use his own mind. You are trying to present something and then let him figure out how to get there.” Some folks referred to them as horse whisperers. In a 1999 obituary in the New York times for Bill Torrance, Verlyn Klinkenborg wrote, “There is no such thing as a horse whisperer. There never has been and never will be. The…

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‘Engaging the psyche on its own terms’

The problem with ‘mainstream’ culture’s conformism and lack of innovation is not the fact that it makes life uninteresting. It is the fact that it endangers life itself.”

(Joshua Ramey)

 

I love this book, Reclaiming Art in the Age of Artifice by J.F. Martel. His goal is to start a conversation about the true nature of the transformative power that is characteristic of great art. I know it has sparked my own internal musings about the subject. The following post contains examples of what I believe are incredible works of art that were chosen out of thousands of possible examples. I’m sure everyone can think of many more that are important to them. There are so many!
Most of the following excerpts are from the preface to Martel’s book. I encourage anyone who is an artist or who loves and is inspired by art to purchase his book here or at your local independent bookstore. I believe it is an important and timely call to explore the possibilities of depth in an age when we are so easily hypnotized, manipulated and ultimately destroyed by the shimmering, shallow, unimaginative mirage of modern life.

 

(William Blake)

 “Every great artistic work is a quiet apocalypse. It tears off the veil of ego, replacing old impressions with new ones that are at once inexorably alien and profoundly meaningful.”

(Vincent van Gogh)

“Great works of art have a unique capacity to arrest the discursive mind, raising it to a level of reality that is more expansive than the egoic dimension we ordinarily inhabit. In this sense, art is the transfiguration of the world.”

(Henri Matisse)

“What could be more superfluous than art in the face of the authoritarian turn in contemporary politics, the systematic devastation of the biosphere, the ever-widening economic gap, or the rising tide of anxiety and mental illness? The objection is valid so long as we continue to see art as simply a source of entertainment or a platform for ‘self-expression.'”

(Wassily Kandinsky)

“Art, however is more than that. It deals in consciousness itself, the stuff dreams are made of.” 

(Pablo Picasso)

“Art is the only truly effective means we have of engaging, in a communal context, the psyche on its own terms.” 

(Leo Kenney)

“My argument is that by rethinking art in that light we can reorient ourselves individually and collectively toward alternative modalities of being, setting the stage for what Daniel Pinchbeck calls a new mythological consciousness able to resolve issues ‘through symbol and image, without need of rational explanation.'”

(Georgia Okeefe)

“Art breaks down the barriers that normally stand between the physical and the psychic, between your soul and the soul of others.”

(Jackson Pollack)

“Through art alone are we able to emerge from ourselves, to know what another person sees of a universe which is not the same as our own and of which, without art, the landscapes would remain as unknown to us as those that may exist on the moon.” – Marcel Proust

(Mark Rothko)

[For Proust] “Art is a meeting place in which human beings commune at a level that ordinary language and sign systems do not allow. Without art, connection at this deeper level is impossible.”

(Helen Frankenthaler)

“This is a troubling idea to consider in a time when aesthetic forces ranging from sensationalistic news spectacles to manipulative viral marketing seem bent on achieving a very different end.”

(Agnes Martin)

“The all consuming razzle-dazzle of sound and light with which we are bombarded does not draw us into the secret universe of another consciousness.”

(Morris Graves)

“On the contrary, it fools us into taking as self-evident a picture of life that in reality belongs to nobody, effectively producing an artificial space wherein the market and the state can thrive as though they were inextricable parts of the cosmos rather than the mutable accidents of history that they are.”

(Kenneth Callahan)

“We are in danger today of losing the capacity to distinguish between artistic creation as Proust defined it and the aesthetic creativity that goes into a commercial jingle, a new car design, or a hollow summer blockbuster.”

(Frida Kahlo)

“If our confusion suits the reigning political and economic regime just fine, it is because it stands as proof that the operation to supplant the dream-space of soul and psyche with a fully controllable interface is going according to plan.”

(Remedios Varo)

“There is a sense in which art is a cultural contrivance and a sense in which art is a natural phenomenon. Art is a contrivance so far as we limit our conception of it to the things and activities the culture labels as artistic.” (This and the remaining quotes are excerpts from Martel’s Notes Towards An Interpretive Method)

(Francis Bacon)

“Art is a natural phenomenon in that it is the expression of non-human forces in the human world.”

(H.R. Giger)

“Concretely, it inheres in the creation of symbols, that is, crystallizations of psychic energy emerging from the imaginal depths of Nature.”

(Alex Grey)

“Symbols are signs, but signs pointing us to the unknown, perhaps unknowable aspects of reality. They call us to the dark expanses that extend infinitely on every side of the small castellated island that is the human world.”

 

(Anselm Kiefer)

“If no interpretation of a symbol is ever complete, it is because a symbol’s potential meanings are never exhausted. In fact symbols don’t “mean” anything at all. Rather, they provoke the spontaneous creation of meaning in us.”

(Ernst Fuchs)

“Only art can express the symbolic, and symbols don’t occur outside of art. One possible definition of art is: any activity by which symbols are brought into the world.”

(Andy Kehoe)

“The moment a symbol is extracted from its originating aesthetic substance in order to be “explained,” it becomes an ordinary sign.”

(Kathleen Lolley)

“The work of art that is interpreted without regard for the ineffable power of the symbols it contains turns into an allegory—that is, a cultural artifact rather than a natural force. It thereby loses its connection with the depths.”

(Holly Roberts)

“The symbol is a concrete cosmic force,” Gilles Deleuze wrote. “It is a dynamic process that enlarges, deepens, and expands sensible consciousness; it is an ever increasing becoming-conscious, as opposed to the closing of the moral consciousness upon a fixed allegorical idea.”

(Jeanie Tomanek)

“Met on its own ground, the work of art as vector of symbols is an inexhaustible producer of meaning. Invariably, the work reveals more than its creator ever intended and more than any interpreter can fathom.”

(Meinrad Craighead)

“The artist doesn’t inject meaning into the work of art any more than the interpreter extracts meaning from it. Rather, the work of art by its nature asks us to create its meaning(s), and there are worse definitions of culture than “the act of creating meaning.””

(Philip Rubinov Jacobson)


“When a person begins to live with their ‘genius’ they begin to be truly wyyrrdd”*

(*According to Michael Meade, one of the meanings of the welsh Wyyrrdd is to have one foot in both worlds)

“The genius wants activity. It is connected to the stars. It is connected to a spark and it wants to burn and it wants to create and it has gifts to give. You have a name that is inside you and the stars know your name and even if you are lost in this world if you remember your connection to the stars, to the dance of this cosmos, you can find yourself.”

 

Michael Meade is attempting to reintroduce the idea of the ‘genius’ to our contemporary world. Through his organization, the Mozaic Multicultural Foundation, he has started the Genius Project.

Michael Meade –

“We’re in the time of tragic stories. The background for this consideration of genius is really the rattling of culture and the disruption of the world. We don’t just have one problem. We have pretty much every problem we could imagine and we have it all at the same time.”

From the website –

“The context for Mosaic’s Genius Project is our modern world, full of uncertainty, in which we are subject to threats coming from both nature and culture. As climate change and social meltdowns threaten the stability of modern life, we live in a world that borders on chaos.”

“The issue is not whether someone “is a genius,” for genius is a given, something naturally given to each of us as part of the inner project of one’s life. Inner genius is something originally given to each of us in order that we each find a way to give something meaningful and valuable back to the world.”

“Genius has the root meaning of “the spirit that is already there.” As such it points to the inner uniqueness and natural giftedness that enters the world with each person born. When seen as a cohering thread in each life, inner genius serves to weave together a person’s innate talents and abilities while also revealing one’s purpose in life. If people are to find creative ways of living together and healing both culture and nature, the awakening of individual genius may be the deepest and most imaginative way to approach the seemingly impossible tasks that face contemporary cultures.”

 

We are connected to the cosmos, to this world and to each other by the very fact that we are all made of the same star dust. We are also connected to a deep ancestral and mythological lineage that continues to speak to us of the wisdom that lies within. The challenge to stand simultaneously in the world of the imagination as well as the everyday world we live in is great. Mass culture is one of our enemies. As Meade reminds,

 

“One of the problems with mass culture is that it is automatically against the individual. The individual means the undivided person. It means the one who found what was supposed to be found inside them and learned how to live it and therefore they are not divided within themselves. They are not divided from their soul and they are not divided from their own genius, but they are living with it. Mass culture cannot foster that. It cannot support it. It tends to go against it. It is always an upstream swim to become a real person but in a mass culture you are swimming against ocean waves.”

 

The encouragement that Meade offers in the face of this and other challenges is the fact that with the mythology of the genius, each of us is answering a call that came with us into this life we were born into. This calling is a unique answer to the question of ‘what do I have to offer to the world?’ Listen below as he tries to open a window into this idea for each of us to explore.

 

 

 


A Burning House

 

(from the publisher)  “Martin Luther King, Jr. died in one of the most shocking assassinations the world has known, but little is remembered about the life he led in his final year. Smiley recounts the final 365 days of King’s life, revealing the minister’s trials and tribulations—denunciations by the press, rejection from the president, dismissal by the country’s black middle class and militants, assaults on his character, ideology, and political tactics, to name a few—all of which he had to rise above in order to lead and address the racism, poverty, and militarism that threatened to destroy our democracy.”

 

In an excerpt from his book, Smiley recounts part of King’s speech at the Riverside Church in April 1967 – one year to the day before he was assassinated. A speech he argues that signed King’s death warrant and revealed the path he was already on, the path of what he calls ‘his dark and difficult days.’

 

“He quickly links the war—indeed, the very forces of militarism—to racism and poverty. Blacks are fighting and dying at almost twice their proportion of the population. He points to the “cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together at the same schools.” He speaks about the rioters who, in answer to his plea for nonviolence, question America’s own unchecked violence in Vietnam.”

“Their questions hit home,” he says, “and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today—my own government.”

“The greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.”

“The phrase will send shock waves through the media.”

 

Listen below as Tavis Smiley paints a picture of the last year of Martin Luther King Jr’s life, how his dream in 1963 has become in 67 a nightmare. How he was demonized before his death, the emotional and physical price he paid, and how he was deified and his message sanitized after his death. And how he uses King’s example of how to take on the difficult and painful responsibility and challenge of being a truth-teller in today’s world.

 

 

 


Joanna Macy – Rilke and the Dance of Despair

 

(Still from the film ‘The Wisdom to Survive’)

 

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.”   – Rilke

 

The following are excerpts from an interview Joanna Macy did with Krista Tippett on her radio show ‘On Being’  where she discussed her life’s work, her love of the poet Rilke and the implications of this moment in history.

 

“I realized that we were, through technology, having consequences with our decisions — our decisions had consequences or a karma, as we could say, that reached into geological time. And that what in industry and government choices that we make under pressure for profit or bureaucratic whatever, that we are making choices that will affect whether beings thousands of generations from now will be able to be born sound of mind and body.”

 

 

“…grief, if you are afraid of it and pave it over, clamp down, you shut down. And the kind of apathy and closed-down denial, our difficulty in looking at what we’re doing to our world stems not from callous indifference or ignorance so much as it stems from fear of pain. That was a big learning for me as I was organizing around nuclear power and around at the time of Three Mile Island catastrophe and around Chernobyl.”

“Then as I saw it, it relates to everything. It relates to what’s in our food and it relates to the clear-cuts of our forests. It relates to the contamination of our rivers and oceans. So that became actually perhaps the most pivotal point in, I don’t know, the landscape of my life, that dance with despair, to see how we are called to not run from the discomfort and not run from the grief or the feelings of outrage or even fear and that, if we can be fearless, to be with our pain, it turns. It doesn’t stay static. It only doesn’t change if we refuse to look at it. But when we look at it, when we take it in our hands, when we can just be with it and keep breathing, then it turns. It turns to reveal its other face, and the other face of our pain for the world is our love for the world, our absolutely inseparable connectedness with all life.”

 

(photographer unknown)

 

“I’m ready to see. I’m not insisting that we be brimming with hope. It’s OK not to be optimistic. Buddhist teachings say, you know, feeling that you have to maintain hope can wear you out, so just be present.”

“The biggest gift you can give is to be absolutely present, and when you’re worrying about whether you’re hopeful or hopeless or pessimistic or optimistic, who cares? The main thing is that you’re showing up, that you’re here and that you’re finding ever more capacity to love this world because it will not be healed without that. That was what is going to unleash our intelligence and our ingenuity and our solidarity for the healing of our world.”

 

(photographer unknown)

 

“Now something else is going on too, which is the great unraveling under the pressure of the destruction caused by the industrial growth society. And the awesome thing about the moment that you and I share is that we don’t know which is going to win out.”

“How is the story going to end? And that seems almost orchestrated to bring forth from us the biggest moral strength, courage, and creativity. I feel because when things are this unstable, a person’s determination, how they choose to invest their energy and their heart and mind can have much more effect on the larger picture than we’re accustomed to think. So I find it a very exciting time to be alive, if somewhat wearing emotionally.”


Capturing the Imagination

From Rima Staines and Tom Hirons comes this invitation to help them realize their dream and in the process perhaps an invitation to kickstart our own dream if we haven’t realized it already.

 

“Hedgespoken is our dream – we’ve thought long and hard about how best we want to live our lives, how to do what we love doing in a way that serves our communities and fulfills our dreams of living close to the land in a creative, sustainable way. Hedgespoken is our best shot, our way of taking our skills and our love of story, of art and magic, and living in a way that means we’re using all of that, all the time. And, it’s our promise, to ourselves and to our children, that we will refuse to live half-lives. Hedgespoken is a gamble – to live on the road is to embrace uncertainty and certain kinds of insecurity, after all – but it’s a gamble that we have to take, because we dreamed this in the week that we first met and we knew then that we had to find a way to make it real. With your help, we’re getting there, in Hedgespoken style, living lives that are full, not empty, nor half-lived or hollow – with your help, we’re already creating something beautiful, allowing something of the magical world to be born.”

Sketch By Rima Staines

“Hedgespoken is our attempt to try and live our dream right here and now in this life, fully and heartily and with all the colours available to us. It matters because of the flame that burns in all of us to really live our dreams, despite all those voices – inside and outside – telling us that that’s not possible. It matters because by sharing soul-nourishing arts with others in this way, we are re-weaving a tribe of those who yearn for this old magic that feels at once delightfully strange and very familiar. It matters because sitting under the stars by firelight together is a fundamentally old and human thing to do, and because when we sit there in the woodsmoke and owlsong and crackle of darkness, we Remember…”

Photo by Andy Letcher

 


Lovingkindness Meditation

 

 


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.

 


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.

 


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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Follow your Dream

 

 

“My greatest failure in life came when I lost the ability to believe in my own dreams. It had taken a year and a half to return to Yosemite after enduring one of my most heartbreaking experiences. In an unexpected twist of fate I regained the courage to try again after seeing the world through a child’s eyes. Since the release of the Silver & Light film we have accomplished more than we ever thought possible. We could have never made it this far without the support of people like you.”

 

 

 

“In the process of preparing the time machine, I had no idea this would become one of the most extraordinary journeys to date. It would propel me into the future where I meet Chase Jarvis, one of the greatest photographers of all time. It would then send me back in time to meet with my old friend, Peter Line, the best snowboarder of this era.
All of a sudden I found myself in the present, making a picture of Ishmael Butler from the Diggable Planets. I had travelled the way you would in a dream, taking me backward into the future. A future where you paint with silver and light.”

 

 

Visit Ian Ruhter’s website here

Watch more videos here

 


Planetary Hospice: Rebirthing Planet Earth by Zhiwa Woodbury

Reposted from The Work That Reconnects Network founded by Joanna Macy

 

planetary_hospice-300x300

(Artist unknown)

“Truly the blessed gods have proclaimed a most beautiful secret: death comes not as a curse but as a blessing to men.”
– Ancient Greek Epitaph from Eleusis

Abstract

The pace of climate change continues to accelerate, and it now appears inevitable that the Great Anthropocentric Extinction currently unfolding will include the end of life as we know it. Characterizing this ‘Great Dying’ as equivalent to a terminal diagnosis for the human race, and assuming an ecopsychological perspective that sees a close relationship between planetary health and mental health, the author applies the stages of grief to this Great Dying, exploring connections retroactively and prospectively between societal mental health trends in the U.S., our awareness of the severity of the threat we pose to the planet, and the stages of grieving the loss of life, and questions the role mental health professionals should play in this context. Looking ahead from this same perspective, the author asks if it is possible to alleviate the pain and suffering that will be associated with the widespread extinctions, mass mortality, and forced migrations that are anticipated by scientific experts as a result of climate disruptions, beginning with the idea of what a “good death” would look like in relation to the end of life as we know it, applying principles from hospice and palliative care. Finally, he offers a hopeful vision that, with an expanding planetary hospice movement and appropriate containing myths, it might be possible to re-cast this Great Dying as a difficult, but spiritually progressive, death/rebirth experience for homo sapiens. Download  Planetary Hospice.pdf (430KB).

 

 

Zhiwa Woodbury is a long time dharma practitioner, hospice provider, and environmental attorney.  He presently serves residents at Zen Hospice Project and is teaching Buddhist Theories of Self, Mind & Nature while completing an M.A. in East/West Psychology at California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco.  He can be reached at zhiwa.woodbury@gmail.com

 

 

 


Gabor Mate’ – What does it mean to be a healthy human being in this modern world?

“We are all hungry ghosts in this society, we all have this emptiness and so many of us are trying to fill that emptiness from the outside and the addiction is all about trying to fill that emptiness from the outside.”

A renowned speaker, and bestselling author, Dr. Gabor Maté is highly sought after for his expertise on a range of topics including addiction, stress and childhood development.

Rather than offering quick-fix solutions to these complex issues, Dr. Maté weaves together scientific research, case histories, and his own insights and experience to present a broad perspective that enlightens and empowers people to promote their own healing and that of those around them.

For twelve years Dr. Maté worked in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside with patients challenged by hard-core drug addiction, mental illness and HIV, including at Vancouver’s Supervised Injection Site. With over 20 years of family practice and palliative care experience and extensive knowledge of the latest findings of leading-edge research, Dr. Maté is a sought-after speaker and teacher, regularly addressing health professionals, educators, and lay audiences throughout North America.

As an author, Dr. Maté has written several bestselling books including the award-winning In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction; When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress; and Scattered Minds: A New Look at the Origins and Healing of Attention Deficit Disorder, and co-authored Hold on to Your Kids. His works have been published internationally in twenty languages.


 

Capitalism Makes us Crazy: Dr Gabor Maté on Illness & Addiction

“In this society we have a massive emotional shutdown. And you can see it in the increasing violence in the culture. You can see it in the increasing violence in the media culture. That gory movies have to be more and more gory. Sports have to be more violent. People now have to beat each other to a pulp on television. Because we are so emotionally shut down that it takes more and more to titillate us and the sex has to be more and more objectified and more and more salacious really because what used to excite people decades ago is no longer sufficient. Why? Because we are shutting down and why we are shutting down because we are hurt so much. And the more we shut down the more we need external sources of stimulation to make us feel anything at all.”


Wounda’s Journey

This amazing video documents the story of Wounda, one of the more than 160 chimpanzees living at the Jane Goodall Institute’s Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center in the Republic of Congo.

Thanks to the expert care provided at Tchimpounga, Wounda overcame significant adversity and illness and was recently relocated to Tchindzoulou Island, one of three islands that are part of the newly expanded sanctuary. Dr. Jane Goodall was on hand to witness Wounda’s emotional release, and now you can too.

Disclaimer: Please note, that Dr. Goodall and the Jane Goodall Institute do not endorse handling or interfering with wild chimpanzees.

The Jane Goodall Institute’s (JGI) Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center is a haven for rescued orphan chimpanzees. Originally built to accommodate 30 chimpanzees, Tchimpounga now cares for over 160 … and that number is growing. To ensure that we will never have to turn away a rescued chimpanzee, JGI is expanding Tchimpounga to include three islands: Tchindzoulou, Tchibebe and Ngombe.

Due to the illegal commercial bushmeat trade, more and more sick and injured orphaned chimpanzees are being brought to JGI’s Tchimpounga sanctuary. JGI never wants to turn away a chimpanzee who need our help, but to do that we need to expand Tchimpounga, which currently cares for over five times the amount of chimpanzees the sanctuary was originally built to hold. This has created a crowded and unsafe situation for both chimps and JGI staff.

The expansion of the Tchimpounga sanctuary to the islands will serve two vital purposes. Firstly, by freeing up much needed space at the current sanctuary site by moving older chimpanzees to these islands, JGI will be able to continue accepting more rescued chimpanzees into the sanctuary, giving these chimps a second chance at a happy life. Secondly, the new island habitats will give Tchimpounga’s chimpanzees much more room to play, learn, and explore in a safe, more natural environment.

Expanding Tchimpounga to these three islands will ensure that JGI can continue accepting orphaned chimpanzees brought to the sanctuary. Having a safe place to send rescued chimpanzees makes it easier for law-enforcement to uphold laws against trafficking chimpanzees. Also, by living in this more natural environment, chimpanzees practice the skills they need to survive in the wild. This will make it easier for JGI to perhaps one day reintroduce these chimpanzees back into the wild.


A Valentine

Spend an hour with Bill Murray