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Showing posts from December, 2016

How a Poet Laureate Deepens the World

Naomi Beth Wakan became the Inaugural Poet Laureate of Nanaimo three years ago. Wise, educated and with undeniable charm she won over the cold hard politics of city folk in a neoliberal economy. She has managed to unite the practical with the arts, offering a deeper expression of humanity.

Among Naomi's achievements are a high school poetry competition, a Nanaimo Poetry Map and Poetry in Transit. “So many people have told me how they have enjoyed reading the poetry while on the buses, and that involved a new bunch of poets too,” said Wakan. “I love to see people coming out who weren’t actually part of the poetry scene before, having the confidence to join the poetry gang and see themselves published.”(reported by Rachel Stern, Nanaimo News Bulletin, December 28)

A hundred people attended the December celebration honouring Wakan’s contribution. Many supporters of the arts listened, wrote and read testimonials that day. 

The arts are rarely given a million dollars whereas wars are pu…

Where and How to Deal With Your Stuff

Hope you had a joyful holiday and now enjoy some peaceful rest time.

Wondering where to dispose of the unwanted stuff? David Suzuki foundation have a long list of where to go to recycle what you don't need now. Go here:

The Light

Ring the bells that still can ring Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.
Leonard Cohen, Anthem 

Bad Ass Muffins

1 cup oatmeal
1 cup gluten free flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup sliced almonds
10 chopped prunes
1 cup plain full fat yogurt
1/2 cup grape seed oil
2 eggs

Blend dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients and blend. Put 12 paper baking cups in a muffin pan. Drop muffin batter in the paper cups. Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes or longer if the tops need to brown more.

These do not rise a lot - they are heavy, solid and not too sweet. These are muffins with attitude - they are nutritious but won't win any baking contests.

Good for breakfast with a piece of cheese and fresh fruit.

And the word was Life

Let the ‘L’ gently come from the tongue
as it touches the upper gum of your tender mouth
let the ‘I’ fly lightly toward the fricative ‘F’
and let ‘E’ be the silent witness.
‘Life’. It’s easy to say.

Authentic and yet unassuming, non-judgmental.
It precedes ideology and makes every assumption
a conceit.

Say ‘Maisha’ like the mothers of Africa.
Say ‘Shxweli’ like the people of the river.
(from Infinite Power, Ekstasis 2016)

A Shift to Sustainable Peace and Common Security

Socialism and Capitalism

"The "American Dream" was all about class mobility." writes political economist and scientist, C. J. Polychroniou in the truth-out interview with Chomsky

If you were born poor you could study and work your way out of poverty, and with sustained effort could provide a better future for your children. You could find a home, buy a car and send a child to university. The city and town was based on those expectations. Jobs, malls, institutions, education - was built on the principle that we live in a civil society and a life without fear and anxiety - was attainable.

TV dramas were based also on a set of ethics around how to sustain the family, community and the work place. Then entertainments became more sensational - violence, sex, deal-making and power struggles became the meat of the story, where the winner was the one who had access to the most force.  The theme of ethics became pablum for the good old days. Societies where these programs became a steady diet put s…

The Snow is Quiet

It spreads itself over everything
one flake at a time
falls over any stem or twig
that rises above the earth
like an epiphany
the mind opening
saying "ah now I get it"

You knew it was coming
even though you didn't know when
but now it is here.

Millions of tiny flakes
weighing down the branches
that tree you always knew was there
but hadn't looked at for a long time
taking its presence for granted
suddenly illuminated with a mass.

I and Thou

Somewhere in Martin Buber's book "I and Thou" I remember the phrase - not necessarily in these words, but meaning "those who choose hate as a way out because they don't know what to do with their lives."

Now I confess I cannot find this quote although there are many by Buber or from people who write about his ideas.

I keep thinking of this phrase now that Donald Trump clearly directed his campaign through support from white supremacist, misogynist and an anti-immigrant demographic.

But what should "they" do with their lives when there are not enough jobs that will pay a living wage and will treat them with dignity?

The only thing that will come out of hate is a world of mute strangers competing with and afraid of the other.

Buber's main proposition is that we live in a dialogue with the world.  Either as I-and-It or I-and-Thou and that we find meaning through our relationships. I-and-Thou means I stand in relation to you as the meaning of  ou…

There is a rumour on Facebook

that if you don't agree with the commercial Christmas shopping - the malls, the canned music, the fake jolliness of retail - all you have to do is not buy gifts.  People think they cannot get away with this, but they can according to Liz James of Saskatoon - because they did it and survived. That's right folks these rebels simply informed their families that they would not be purchasing commercial gifts and did not want to receive any either.

Furthermore this family reported that you can organize Christmas on your own terms and you will not be jailed or even ostracized (usually).  This is radical. Christmas on your own terms! Who knew?

The Begat of Gratitude

To those who gave birth to my ancestors
who told me stories of the world
who showed me how to love it.

To all those who by accident and brief encounter
brought me to some truth I did not want to know.

To those who, not knowing my name
helped when I needed help
and who received mine when they needed it.

To those who by commitment of their will
have learned to write, sing, dance or paint
the message we most need to learn.

To all those who have the courage to put their skill
on the public stage to serve
as doctor, lawyer, minister, teacher, publisher,
scientist or social worker.

To those whose names I may never learn
who clean the office, drive the bus, do the laundry
pick the fruit and stack the shelves.

To those who have listened to another
when they needed to be heard.

To all who embrace their vulnerability
and who enter into compassion.

For you are the names and the faces
of my gratitude.

(from Infinite Power, Ekstasis 2016)

For those who find Christmas painful.

Some thoughts for those who cannot enjoy the season.  Those who are still grieving a lost one - my heart goes out to you as you bring out (or in) the tree and can't bring yourself to decorate it because the grief overwhelms you and instead of making you happy you are struck by how locked outside you are feeling, like the little match girl with your nose against the window.

Or how focusing on choosing gifts for others seems so superficial and shallow even though you always enjoyed it in the past.

Or, if you are living in poverty and you can't spend money you haven't got, on presents for the most vulnerable in your family - how it just makes your situation more acute, And the thing you can't ignore is that anger sitting there like a stubborn goat.

Or, you recall a past Christmas where there was trauma - a relative that assaulted you or someone you love. Or a relative that drank beyond their ability to know what they were doing and the rest of the family spend the day walkin…

Plan the next 30 years

What is happening today was possibly planned 30 years ago, by many, thinking in their own board rooms, how to achieve their best outcomes. Along the way these plans would be adjusted, changed, some would have failed, but some came through well.

In her post "Message From Meg", Meg Riley of the Church of the Larger Fellowship, suggested that we, the stakeholders in our society, ask ourselves some difficult questions, before we plan the next four years:

1. How will you take care of your body in hard times
2. How will you take care of your spirit in hard times?
3. Who are your people?
4. How will you resist oppression, your own and that of others?
5. What would be the worst thing you could imagine yourself doing in this time?

I think these questions are required after any election but the recent one in the US is devastating to many who have worked so hard for inclusive justice.

Her message looks deeply into each question and is worth reading and thinking about. For th…

Humanity at Hazard: The Etiology of War

This paper by John Alexie Crane, published in 2008,  (and posted on Episyllogism) asks "Human beings are extremely creative at making weapons and war, but persistently inept at achieving lasting peace. Why is this?"

Crane explains this well and there are two main points that I took from it. One is that we are animals with animal instincts but our culture denies it. And the second point is that groups are led by males who have a strong drive for power and control. These alpha males arouse a fighting spirit among other males such as "Make America Great Again!"

Alpha males, when they are aware and responsible create better groups but if they are immature and unaware, they can destroy and devastate their group.

"Together," writes Crane, "we must develop a social order rooted in the reality of human nature rather than in denial and delusion, a social order that will make survival possible. Otherwise, this promising human experiment that has come so far …

The Source of Addiction

"Through the generosity and courage of their sharing, I saw that the sources of addiction do not originate in the substances people use but in the trauma they endured. In fact, the self-medications my patients employed were an understandable response to a set of unnatural circumstances, namely the historical trauma inflicted on First Nations throughout Canadian history, and up to the present. " Gabor Mate, First Nations Health Authority.
It's time for us to realize how we might be saved by our First Nations teachings.  They are teaching us that abusive power is toxic, and as we see our leadership becoming more ineffective in dealing with the toxicity of oil pipelines and tankers, seemingly unable to choose a clean future, we will be imprisoned in the residential school of economic tyrants.

Sacred Masculine and Sacred Feminine

“Human strengths such as willpower, compassion, and the seeking of freedom are kept alive when people are inspired by love and there is a blending of feminine and masculine qualities. Those who live deeply in love with the fullness of life are capable of fighting for what they care for with all that they have.” Arkan Lushwala, The Time of the Black Jaguar.
Where is the sacred masculine in the economy? Where is the sacred feminine in the neoliberal market? Where is the blending of willpower, compassion and the respect for life, human and all other, on the stock market or GDP? Where is the trail to our future?

When the world keeps telling you they have all the power and you have none

Remember where that voice is coming from.  Is it your family, your spouse, your company, the ad agencies, the government, the bank, or your mind?  Who keeps giving you the message that you have no choice or that we have no choice?

Once you've figured that out, ask that voice what a super-hero would do, or a genius? Ask Nelson Mandela what he would do.  What would your grandmother do?

Take notes. Write down all the other voices along with their answers.  Put the notes away and come back to them later.

Going over those answers - are there any that you are capable of doing. You don't have to do anything you don't think you can do.  Not now anyway.  There may come a time when you really have no choice and there is no time to weigh up the costs, but now you can ask yourself what you can do.

At the very least, this exercise is one of privilege, and it can help us feel compassion for those whose only option is a dangerous trip on the sea or perish beneath the bullets and bombs.

Saints Among Us

You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver is a saint who prescribes self-compassion. Yes there are saints living among us today. There are people who are compassionate and who have made compassion part of their daily to-do list. They are not run off their feet trying to fix everything but are listening and seeing the sentient beings around them.

When they see things that are not right they think about how they can open the door to make it easier for us to care for those who suffer. The saints are working in medicine, healing, communications and community groups. They are journalists in war torn countries. They are advocates for those who are in prison because they protest oil pipelines to keep their water clean for drinking. They are lawyers who will defend those who have no money to pay for legal services.

Saints today are…

Conversations for a Kinder World

As public relations expert and former David Suzuki Foundation board chair James Hoggan writes in I'm Right and You're an Idiot, "polluted public discourse is an enormous obstacle to change." How, he asks, do we "create the space for higher quality public debates where passionate opposition and science shape constructive, mind-changing conversations"? David Suzuki Foundation.

But we don't have to keep replaying the right-wing end-game propaganda.  Right now there are many websites, blogs, institutions who have done the work and who write to inform rather than obsfiscate.  All we have to do is get off our diet of sensationalist drama, forget the gossip, and spend more time reading the stuff that will give you information.  It means more attention to words and ideas but with practice we could restore our attention spans.

Here are some links that are kinder:

I'm Right and You're an Idiot 

David Suzuki Foundation 

Logical Fallacies

Charter for Compassion…

Three Dimensional World

One way to understand the system is to see how it got here. When did it begin? Division of labour? Industrial revolution? Class systems? Who created it? Was it us - masses? The landowners? The aristocracy? Wealthy merchants? Religion?

At what point did the system become the thing we must serve or die? Must we serve it?

With each century our system becomes more complex with layers and cracks from various interests and now we call it capitalism, democracy, the machine, fascism, globalization, the economy.

Are our minds and hearts becoming more marginalized by the algorithms of finance? We fear we are disposable.

This is not an easy idea to digest.  A gut reaction is to seek revolution, war, hatred, punishment. But not against the most powerful. Against those with the least political power.

But life becomes brutal when we convince ourselves that we can build a just system on hate. We lose touch with our problem solving abilities. However the answer to this problem is the mind and heart th…

Ban Ki-Moon on saving our planet

Saving our planet, lifting people out of poverty, advancing economic growth... these are one and the same fight. We must connect the dots between climate change, water scarcity, energy shortages, global health, food security and women's empowerment. Solutions to one problem must be solutions for all.

Ban Ki-Moon.

Doing the right thing

What does that mean - to 'do the right thing?' The 'thing' we need to do generally is something life changing – affecting us personally – or the lives of others in close relationships with us. Or, it involves a broader social & political decision that will effect the entire planet – in the spirit of Hawking's warning: “[Humanity is facing] a number of [real and existential] threats to our survival from nuclear war, catastrophic global warming, and genetically engineered viruses.” Perhaps the right thing that needs to be done will consist of the sum total of all of the smaller 'right thing' decisions of people like us – decisions which taken together and across the entire planet could really effect world change.

Russell McNeil, PhD (Physics)
Presented November 20, 2016 at First Unitarian Fellowship of Nanaimo

What Does Money Mean To You?

What do you think of when you have money? Is it food or fun or security? Is it something that belongs to someone else which keeps you from doing what you want to do? Is it something you need? Is it what keeps you outside of community? Is it power?  Does it reward you with love?

What is the minimum you need for life to be worth living?

Soup is Magic

There is something magical about soup. You just have to get a sauce pan out, fry up a few veggies, add meat or legumes, water, herbs, spices and simmer until ready. You don't need a recipe. Use your favourite things to make soup. Taste it and add whatever you think it needs. It is your soup after all. No-one besides you is an expert on your soup.

You can share it with someone else. Someone who doesn't or cannot make soup. The most effective way to serve soup is to invite them over to your place.  If you cannot do that you can put some in a tub and take it to them.

Emerging Community

Community is not just about organizing people, it is about gathering with others for the greater good of all. Most of the community we experience is unplanned. You might go for a walk and meet a neighbour with her dog coming towards you. You might smile when her dog barks and stop as it runs towards you letting him know it's okay for him to greet you. You might bend down and let the dog smell your hand and talk to it gently, musically. His eyes will look at you and his tail will wag if he's happy to meet you. He may be thinking "Oh dear, there's a person without a dog - she must be lonely all by herself". Or he may be thinking "What's that smell - must investigate". You won't know just what he is thinking but his energy and enthusiasm will greet you and you'll know you have been addressed.

This is mostly how community works - without planning and with some trust.

Community planning is good too, but when we begin to rely on someone else to m…

From the San Franciso Board of Supervisors (Bay Times November 24)

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors recently passed a resolution, introduced by Board President London Breed, in response to the election of Donald Trump. The resolution reads as follows: WHEREAS, On November 8, 2016, Donald Trump was elected to become the 45th President of the United States; now, therefore, be it RESOLVED, That no matter the threats made by President-elect Trump, San Francisco will remain a Sanctuary City. We will not turn our back on the men and women from other countries who help make this city great, and who represent over one third of our population. This is the Golden Gate—we build bridges, not walls;  There are ten other resolutions which can be found on the San Francisco Bay Times website here regarding women's rights, LGBTQ rights, Religious Freedom, Black Lives Matter, climate change, universal health care, internationalism, will remain a Transit First city, nor bullied by t…

The Mind Heart Calendar Begins Today

By some accident or roll of the dice you are here.  Full of soft flesh, muscle and frantic nerves. You may be desperately trying to save the world by caring for others, working for security, researching climate change, fighting for the environment, but no matter how many questions you may have or how many nights you have lost sleep, it seems the bad guys keep winning.

The system is set up to convince you that this is the only way our world can work and no-one can break it. Controlling the world is easy if you have all the weapons. It's a lot easier to brag about the wars you have won than to control the future.

If the system can convince us that we are powerless and there is nothing we can do, we follow others and become robotic servants rather than thinking, skillful, ethical beings.

But we have achieved language, music, science. Hate will only choose who and when to kill. Life is so much more complex and rewarding than the will to control.

The only thing we can do is love life.…