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Showing posts from 2017

No. 5: Humour

5: humour - relieving stress through humility and being able to laugh at ourselves.
Humour directed towards our selves and our egos has saved us for centuries. The ancient Greeks and Romans staged dramas where the citizens were obliged to attend.

The Roman Empire at the height of its powers were mostly known for the gladiators and blood sport for entertainment. That is not humour. It's dehumanization. But they also gave us Commedia dell'arte which became Pantomime.

Humour that helps to relieve stress portrays characters we recognize as forms of ourselves, who make mistakes and stumble through to a happy or sad resolution.

Rick Mercer, Shaun Majumder, Cathy Jones, Mary Walsh are a few actors/writers who poke fun at us through recognizable stereotypes. Then there are the world renown comedians like Trevor Noah who really poke holes through current politics.
Humour is complex and many of our comedians are truly brilliant philosophers.

No. 4: Empathy

4. Empathy - not feeling sorry for, but recognizing when others suffer.

Empathy connects us with our kin. We feel sad when our loved ones are hurt. We notice the way the head is held, the tears or the silence. We feel panic when we don't know what to do to help especially when we depend on them for our survival. And when we are taught that we must overcome our feelings and "get on with life", that we are not entitled to express those feelings, where do we turn for comfort?

When someone focuses on hate what does it mean in terms of their own mental and emotional health. What has happened in their lifetime that they decide to join a group that defines itself by who they are against. What happens in the psyche of  a drug gang member who is sent out to kill someone? What happens to a young soldier who is taught how and when to kill a proscribed enemy?

What happens when a child grows to be a narcissistic psychopath, whose only sense of  worth is absorbed into games that  divide …

No. 3 Respect

3. respect - without this we are operating as lizards.

"The reptilian brain, the oldest of the three, controls the body's vital functions such as heart rate, breathing, body temperature and balance. Our reptilian brain includes the main structures found in a reptile's brain: the brainstem and the cerebellum. The reptilian brain is reliable but tends to be somewhat rigid and compulsive." The Brain. McGill University.

But for the grace of our ancestors we wouldn't have choices. We would be operating on compulsion. Respect for our selves also includes respect for life.  When that is dismissed ultimately what you have is death camps. People torturing others because they don't have a choice or they don't know what else to do.

"But if, argued Parfit, I can have reason to take care of my future self (by not drinking copious whisky, say, even if to do so is my greatest immediate desire), then I can also have reason to take care of other people, even if I now f…

No. 2 of a New Hierarchy of needs.

2. knowledge - in order to survive we must study what is true in nature and in our selves.

We need to know the plants that will nourish and the plants that poison. We need to know the actions that bring peace in our lives and the actions that create discomfort, fear, and pain.

Conversations to share knowledge, to teach facts, to share poetry and stories, to report on what is going on in the world are like nourishment. All creatures must have some basic knowledge. All generations need new stories.

Absolutes exist but if we never question or move beyond these absolutes we become afraid of thinking or reading or learning, in case we discover we don't know everything.

The fear that we don't know everything is what will make us willing robots for the political movements that demand we must obey and not think, and we are under threat of their control whenever we stop questioning.

A hierarchy of human resources

In a previous post titled Bothering the Future with our Past I look for a different kind of hierarchy than the one we seem to be under. This list has twelve resources that I think we need. Number 1 is below which I elaborate on.

1. Comfort - without this or the hope for this we shall go mad.

By comfort I don't simply mean a soft mattress for my bed. I mean moments where we don't have to be looking over our shoulder, where we can find warmth, food, a home. When people are unable to find comfort they are homeless, they are refugees wandering somewhere away from fear of being raped, killed, tortured, or dying of starvation.

Refugees are blamed for creating crises in places where others claim they don't belong. The endless arguments about who belongs, who should be allowed to enter and who should be sent away ignores the origin of the problem - that some are labelled as misfits, as other.  Centuries of conflict have created refugees or migrants. Which means even those who are …

Bothering the Future with our Past

"In 1926, Calvin Coolidge’s treasury secretary, Andrew Mellon, one of the world’s richest men, pushed through a massive tax cut that would substantially contribute to the causes of the Great Depression.” Robert S. McElvaine, The Great Depression: America 1929-1941.

The same is happening again this year in America as if the power elite fear losing their wealth and privilege when the reflective majority are engaged in the creation of their society.

It's a plan that makes democracy seem ineffective against  the power of the established hierarchy. What is this hierarchy made of? Is it instinctive? Is it earned? Is it simply brute force? The "common sense" that no moral superiority can outshoot a gun. No sensitive insight can win over greed. No rationality can fight against fear. Or can it and if it does when does it happen?

Viktor Frankl wrote about man's search for meaning from his experience of the Nazi death camps. His conclusion was that people had a better cha…

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

Rituals of Pleasure

As I sit in my living room and work in my kitchen my thoughts are on how to bring pleasure to the ones I love.

Pleasure can remind me of who I am - a member of the human family whose health has been built on the discipline of others who cared about the quality of life. Those who studied to heal and educate, who were guided by love of life. Those who patiently cared for their children so they would be in touch with their humanity.

The desire for pleasure asks for my vigilance so that I don't create a life of conflict. I learned that conflict is not something you win because no matter what I do, it never makes me happy. Being an "expert" on who is to blame, who is wrong and who is right has never fixed anything for me, never brought satisfaction.

Pleasure is not smug, not a sense of superiority. I know pleasure is fleeting, so I look for whatever enables us all to find pleasure. What are the conditions that allow us to bring pleasure into the world? These make up a social…

Trafficking ideas and outrage

"Self-regulation works well in a commons – a resource controlled and managed by a community. But the streets are not a commons. They are a state asset, that is treated as a free for all. When the state owns a resource but won’t control it, the community has neither the right nor the power to regulate its use. All that is left is voluntarism. The efforts of those who try to defend the common good are undermined by free riders. Without regulation, the most selfish and anti-social people dominate." George Monbiot

What will it take to bring the world back into the hands and minds of humanity and away from the obsession with wealth and power?  

I am trying to offer a space for positive life-affirming ideas, but first we need to tackle the vomit of contempt rolling down the mountain from those who hold positions of influence but who have no interest in leadership.

We need to find a way to work together for the greater good.

Song of Light (glosa on Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah

I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
It goes like this

“Hallelujah,” Leonard Cohen 

If lust in moonlight defies the laws of day
look again for another clue, the King
or Satan but not the youthful body made
to incubate the seed and turn it into
another King. Love is the bringer of life
and the question lies in the way we award
each birth its sacred crown, its milk
and meat, its breath and water
required to live. What can we afford?
I’ve heard there was a secret chord.

Went bathing too in someone’s pool
in a pink bikini, new, and pale as innocence,
with a giggle of girls unaware
of longing, we shivered out of water
to hug the man who wrapped his towel
around us, his smile was warm and broad
ubiquitous as the sun and the skin’s pleasure
to tender and warm the pumping heart
sweet melodies come to fate’s sharp sword
that David played, and it pleased the Lord.

But is that nature’s fault or our weak link
in orga…

When a child is born

If we are privileged enough to live in a community that protects and values life, we come in contact with friends and relatives who have a new life to celebrate.

When I look at a new born I am in awe again with the beauty of it. The tiny hands and fingers, the flesh that looks almost transparent it is so delicate. I am taken away from the world of power, politics, strategy and cynicism.  And what I am looking at is a mystery in the flesh, a potential that hasn't revealed itself.

This new life could become a peace maker, a defender for justice, or a billionaire who spends his or her energy selling arms to terrorists.

This new life is going to be affected by the stories she or he hears, the varied ways his or her parents nurture whatever shines through in her personality. This new life will be diminished or held in care by the environment.

To think of all that could go right or wrong is overwhelming and brings me back to my own choices.

What is the meaning of the tree at Christmas?

Long before Christian times the Vikings adorned evergreen trees in winter, with pieces of food and clothes, small statues of the Gods, and carved runes to entice the tree spirits to come back in the spring.

"Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s consort, is usually credited with having introduced the Christmas tree into England in 1840. However, the honour of establishing this tradition in the United Kingdom rightfully belongs to ‘good Queen Charlotte’, the German wife of George III, who set up the first known English tree at Queen’s Lodge, Windsor, in December, 1800." History Today. First Christmas Tree 

In Canada the first use of an evergreen as a Christmas tree occurred in Sorel, Quebec in 1781.  Next recorded use was in Halifax in 1846. 
But what does it mean today?  What does it mean for me?
I think there is something deeper than the commercially store bought tree - real or manufactured.  The time of Christmas, the traditions of presents, sweets, and wine, shared with friend…

Just because the mind moves in spirals

it doesn’t mean there is no progress it depends on how far down the spiral goes the extent of our denial of our part and where we look for answers
when we accuse, when we judge, when we lift the other and by doing lift ourselves
and when we fall from the tree how we roll after gravity has had its way we are more complex than apples, 
and this is why the spiral is levitation—collective will whispering across the prairie, over the pines, across the ocean the argument between options before the flesh breaks open filling the rivers with blood
this is the light that opens the window to breathe beyond our own breath
our own anxieties.
(from Infinite Power, (Ekstasis 2016) Cover painting by Paul Grignon)

This space could be filled with

news about community newspapers closing, being funded by US hedge funds, racist groups growing in large numbers, women routinely sexually assaulted, harassed, sacked and dismissed, religions sold out to big business and  theology re-written to make profit a sacred duty, young children bullied into winning sports at any cost, homes no longer available to all but used as investment, wars created for the arms industry, wildlife dying all around us because of climate change, etc. etc. - but enough of that.

I don't believe that people are stupid and greedy - I believe that the system wants us to be greedy, stupid, selfish and cruel - but we don't have to be. That is if we have enough wealth to own or rent a home in a friendly neighbourhood, and enough food to eat.

Perhaps capitalism may get its due if we stop spending money on unnecessary things and focus on things that will help us build and support community.

Deliverology and the road to Hell

Andrew Nikiforuk delivered another insightful article on the Tyee, November 28. Now I confess I haven't read much about Deliverology  but I am familiar with narratives that organize reality into fragments of manageability.

Michael Barber is apparently the author of this 'technology' which began in the UK.

Writes Nikiforuk "Barber argues there are “five paradigms of system reform: trust and altruism; hierarchy and targets; choice and competition; devolution and transparency; privatization.”"

This is how the economy is placed in the centre of life. For many decades I was impressed with new ideas and technologies, seeking ways in which we could all agree to do the right thing. But no matter how smart we are or how squeaky the newspeak - things get worse, not better.

I have never managed to be altruistic enough to change the world - why is that? Because I packaged the world as a whole living construct with one design, one nature and one purpose. But one in which I and my…

Modesty: a strategy for responding to fanaticism

David Brooks writes "that the world is too complicated to fit into one political belief system" and this makes me feel better, as I know how fruitless arguments can be.  Even though the far right movement is toxic, compassion and empathy is the only way I can connect to the lost souls of an ideology that values money and power above life - and where people are left to struggle for whatever dignity they can scratch together.

Are arguments ever won without serious reflection on both sides?

The Purpose of Human Life

The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others. 

Albert Schweitzer.

It's About Whether We Should Care

"Personally, I’m happy to pay an extra 4.3 percent for my fast food burger if it means the person making it for me can afford to feed their own family. If you aren’t willing to fork over an extra 17 cents for a Big Mac, you’re a fundamentally different person than I am.

I’m perfectly content to pay taxes that go toward public schools, even though I’m childless and intend to stay that way, because all children deserve a quality, free education. If this seems unfair or unreasonable to you, we are never going to see eye to eye."  Kayla Chadwick, Huffington Post
What is it that makes some people so riled up about caring for others? Is it that they don't want to pay the extra "17 cents"? Or is it that they fear a fair and just society will remove the privilege they deny they have? 
What is it that makes us spend dollars on gifts we know may be thrown out soon after the wrap beneath the tree that will soon be on the curb waiting for pick up?
I remember a time when I…


I found this information on a website called The information here is by Nadra Kareem Nittle
"Kwanzaa [celebrated December 26 - January 1] is unaffiliated with a major religion. One of the newer American holidays, Kwanzaa originated in the turbulent 1960s to instill racial pride and unity in the black community ..."  “Kwanzaa was created out of the philosophy of Kawaida, which is a cultural nationalist philosophy that argues that the key challenge in black people’s [lives] is the challenge of culture, and that what Africans must do is to discover and bring forth the best of their culture, both ancient and current, and use it as a foundation to bring into being models of human excellence and possibilities to enrich and expand our lives.”

I have included this here because diversity enriches my imagination, people finding different ways to celebrate speaks of joy.

Happy Hanukkah

Hanukkah  is "aJewish holidaycommemorating the rededication of theHoly Temple(theSecond Temple) inJerusalemat the time of theMaccabean Revoltagainst theSeleucid Empire. Hanukkah is observed for eight nights and days, starting on the 25th day ofKislevaccording to theHebrew calendar, which may occur at any time from late November to late December in theGregorian calendar. It is also known as theFestival of Lightsand theFeast of Dedication."

Too Much With Us

Long after Wordsworth lay down in his grave, gave up his world to the worms and moist earth for an eternal lament, the world is no longer with us.
Nature has been sold to the pipeline as though the Christ will hang from his cross even when earth falls into its fiery core.
Too many innocent burned at the stake tortured in schools, broken in factories where the economy is managed by hyenas using whips and lies.
We are not the world any more but talking ants stripping leaves, melting ice with fire
turning the verdant forests into desert.
(from Infinite Power, Ekstasis 2016)

Good, Better, Best

If you're looking for ideas on ethical gifts - here are a few that are more likely to produce gratitude for the coming year.

A membership gift for the future - The Leap Manifesto. A future of responsible policies, government and business leaders who are working beyond the next budget or election.News outlets that write as though humanity is important - National Observersubscription to a Socially responsible think tank - Canadian Centre for Policy AlternativesGroups working for and educating the public on the Environment - Suzuki FoundationBooks about living well - The Art of Power by Thich Nhat HanhGifts made by small crafts businesses - Indian Summer Leather PursesSpa treatments - Hale Aloha Wellness SpaPaintings created by artists that are still alive - Mindy Joseph PaintingsBooks of poetry by poets who are not dead - Anima Canadensis , Flightpaths, Hush, The Way of Tanka and others. Buy fair trade goods and treats, food that is nutritious, music that is inspiring, gift certific…

The Heart Will Not Be Managed

That is what they told me as I strolled through their territory. They said you can cut us all down but our roots will find a way over or under other roots. They say look at how we shield the thinnest branches and the softest leaves without telling how or where to grow. We house birds of all kinds no matter how they live or what they believe. We don’t ask for love from mice or loyalty from snakes. We have not created by-laws here, demanding that neighbours sign before entering. We don’t judge. When something invades our sky and we cannot reach the light we grow in a different direction. They ask me to look at my own ancestors for the proof, put your gears in reverse and look at where you came from as you ventured slowly out of the ocean with new found legs looking for something to eat. Then look at the first mother and the first father how they laughed and how they cried never questioning the authenticity of their tears. Look at you they say. Look at how you survived your first breath, learned how to walk, …

What is on your Holiday Gift List?

"The promise of economic growth is that the poor can live like the rich and the rich can live like the oligarchs. But already we are bursting through the physical limits of the planet that sustains us. Climate breakdown, soil loss, the collapse of habitats and species, the sea of plastic, insectageddon: all are driven by rising consumption. The promise of private luxury for everyone cannot be met: neither the physical nor the ecological space exists."  taken from "Too right it's Black Friday: our relentless consumption is trashing the planet." by George Monbiot.

So what would you really like for Christmas?What would you like for your grandchildren or the planet?

What I would like is leadership that has integrity, that refuses to trivialize relationships between us and the environment.  We are turning our world into a dollar store.

Haiku: Frog in Pond by Basho

Old pond frog jumped in  sound of water. Translated by Lafcadio Hearn

A Found Haiku - sort of

Please conserve water do not feed the deer pick up after your dog
(found on Salt Spring Island)

This is more an instruction than a haiku. To attempt to make this more poetic would make it less urgent. 
Tomorrow there will be a haiku by Basho that may give you some idea of what a haiku sounds like.

What Can We Have Faith In?

Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.
Martin Luther King Jr. BrainyQuote

This is what is asked of us. That there are no guarantees of a map, no guarantees we shall survive, no guarantees of anything.  We have created a construct in which to live. Some of it really helps some of us, while others are trapped. Sometimes things turn out well and sometimes they don't.

Most of those who suffer did not ask for it.  Most of us suffer.

I have faith that I can find a way through the day even though I don't know everything. I have faith that compassion is a way that works for me. I have faith that I am not alone.  

We are not good or evil, but some have been damaged beyond repair.



Kissing the Earth

“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.”

― Thich Nhat HanhPeace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life