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Category Archives: Social Justice

The Prairie — The Good, Bad and Ludicrous

*This post inspired by Teacher As Transformer post I read today I needed passion, beauty, and ‘idling’ while I pretended to learn new things, today. I’ve spent too long on the ‘work I learned long ago how to do/improve upon’ in databases, websites, clean-up of outdated data…… compilation of reports, checklists, etc., to aide my […]

The Prairie — The Good, Bad and Ludicrous

TamrahJo was kind and referenced that my post inspired her. When I looked at her post several days ago, I was inspired. I love her line of needing passion, beauty, and “idling.’ The word idling captures so much of what we need in our lives. We need the time to just be in each ensuing moment.

On top of the wonderful poetry and prose that reads like poetry, TamrahJo shared beautiful pictures of nature just being, in this case prairie scenes. Sometimes,beauty lies just outside our door and is right there for us to revel in on a daily basis. Many years ago on a beautiful day, Kathy and I were getting ready for church and as I stepped outside something move nearby. I looked up and a cow moose stood about 15 feet from me. I held my hand up to signal for quiet, as Kathy stepped out, and we stood and watched this beautiful animal eat shoots from a willow tree, watching us as we watched her. We stood there for a few moments and went quietly to the car. The moose continued to do what it was doing, being a moose. I turned to Kathy and said. “That might have been church today.” We still went, but the beauty and majesty of that moment remained with me over the years.

We lived in that small town for two years and our oldest son was born while we were there. Living in an isolated, rural setting in a mountain valley served to slow me down. Years later, I would find the same process happening at Gonzaga University in the summers. It took a week or two to bring myself back into the moment, to just be. The campus is a lovely setting and I walked in the river valley and on other trails on a daily basis.

Sometimes, things happen in serendipitous ways. We went to a concert and the main act was terrible, but the opening act, Corb Lund, was terrfic. We have seen him several times since and have a couple of CD’s. This song has become an anthem for opposing opening up coal mines in the southwest corner of Alberta where Corb lives. It has beauitful imagery in this particular version and speaks to the need to think about the actions of today and how they might impact the future. The song speaks to how often we overlook the extraordinary of everyday life and what is outside our doors.

I leave you with a Wendell Berry poem: Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Be the Peace in Your World — Life as a Garden

With so much aggression and turmoil in this world, try and practice peace everyday in your world.  If you can’t smooth that frown away and replace it with a smile, at least try and keep your anger down the best you can. Hard to do when you are not having a good day and feeling […]

Be the Peace in Your World — Life as a Garden

I came across this post about a week ago, accidnently closed it, and could not remember where it was located. Michelle shares a post that points to what we need most in this world: love and peace. The third paragraph resonates with me. Nature depends on diversity and cooperation to succeed. Without those, it falls into disarray.

Thich Nhat Hanh writes beautifully about finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. We cannot have the extraordinary without the ordinary. We have to look deeper and understand there will always be mystery in what we are exploring.

I used phenomenology, specifically hermeneneutic phenomenology, in writing my disseration and it premised on mystery, making meaning, and a sense of wonder and awe as we explore particular phenomena. In many ways, each person is a phenomenologist as humans, by their nature, are meaning-making beings.

As a teacher, I used an activity called A Culture of Peace. In keeping with the Pema Chodron quote Michelle shared, I asked students for words and phrases to describe a culture of war and recorded answers on the board. It did not take long to exhaust the descriptions, usually no more than 10 minutes. I then asked them to desribe a culture of peace. The first time I used the activity, and it became a staple, I was left withy a sense of wonder how these junior high school students kept me moving for almost an hour filling up all the whiteboards. Even students who rarely shared, were excited. As we were borrowing someone’s classroom, we had to arbitrarily end the conversation and, as we walked back to our space, two young men commented they could have done that all day. The sense of wonder, joy, and fulfilment was palbable and extraordinary.

Several years ago, I used the same activity with an undergrad class of future teachers. It was surprised how unengaged and disinterested they were as a group. Perhaps, we become jaded in ways that are difficult to overcome, focused on end results and schedules rather than the joy of learning and sharing.

Below, is a picture of Mount Robson. We stop there on our trips to British Columbia and walk a bit. I am always left with a sense of wonder and, as we walk alongside the Robson River, I feel a sense of peace and gratitude for just being there.

I leave you with a quote from Gustavo Gutiérrez, a liberation theologist I am currently reading: “A gratuitous encounter is mysterious and draws us into itself.” Father Gutiérrez uses the word gratuitous to describe something we encounter, which is free and exists for it own sake for us to enjoy e.g., lilies of the field, a mountain, a loved one, etc. When I encounter the person, phenomena, event, etc. I am grateful for its existence.

Speak Your Truth — LIVING IN THIS MOMENT

“Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.”― Franz Kafka How often have we told people what they want to hear, rather than speak our truth? During the process of writing my second book, there […]

Speak Your Truth — LIVING IN THIS MOMENT

Karen writes about how challenging it is to speak one’s truth. We often conflate truth with opinion. Truth is about how we each experience a particular phenomenon. It always stands in relationship to others and how they experience that phenomenon. Truth comes from the Germanic word tröth, which is taking a solemn pledge or undertaking. We enter into a relationship with someone and/or something e.g., marriage vows. Each peson comes to understand the meaning of the relationship and the pledge slightly differently.

We live in a world which is sometimes referred to as post-truth.. In my view, this just moral relativism dressed up differently and allows people to ignore the humanity of others who may disagree with them or are different than them. It becomes easy to say whatever we want to and claim we are being cancelled when someone disagrees. When used in this manner, truth becomes irrelevant and a buzz word.

Truth has taken on greater importance with the recent findings of unmarked graves at or close to residential schools for Indigenous children who were taken from their families and communities. Canada has a Truth and Reconciliation report related to the way Indienous peoples and communities were mistreated and that is a gentle word to describe the process. This includes the residential schools set up by the government and run by several christian demoninations. It is important to note truth comes before reconciliation. It is acknowledging the wrongs of the past, which is essential to reconciling, making whole and healing.

The reports logo is based on the 7 sacred teachings found in some form in North American Indigenous cultures: Truth, Humility, Honesty, Wisdom, Respect, Courage and Love. Although these teachings form the basis for North American Indigenous traditions and dialogue, one can find them, in some form, in other spiritiual teachings. They should form the ground on which we enter into relationships with others, the world, and what we hold sacred.

What draws me to Mary Oliver‘s poetry is the humility she invokes in questions she asks in certain poems. My favourite is The Summer Day where she concludes her questions with “what is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Truth is preceded by humility and accepting their will always be questions we cannot answer. Truth needs the other sacred teachings as life opens up with questions we cannot answer and full grasp.

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean–
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down —
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

An Expression of Gratitude —

“Keeping your body healthy is an expression of gratitude to the whole cosmos- the trees, the clouds, everything.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

An Expression of Gratitude —

Espirational provides short posts that are often accompanied by lovely images. This quote from Thich Nhat Hanh relates to my post, Deep, the other day. It was Bela‘s post I shared and expanded on a bit.

If we think of Earth and Nature as living bodies, we can expand this quote about health as an expression of gratitude to encompass more than just each of us individuals and human bodies. In moments of gratitude, we should ask who benefits from pillaging the Earth and Nature? We can also ask who is most harmed?

Currently, I am reading a book by Gustavo Gutiérrez and Paul Farmer. Father Gutiérrez is a pioneers of Liberation Theology and Paul Farmer is a medical doctor and medical anthropologist who helped found Partners in Health. Part of the reading is to write about leadership, education, and how hope can inform each of us as we emerge from COVID-19, if we actually do.

I hoped a crisis of this magnitude, plus the social and racial justice reckonings, might be a time to (re)imagine and (trans)form leadership and education. I am unsure this is what will happen, as the agenda of the very wealthy does not seek a “preferential option for the poor” and those most in need, inlcuding Gaia and Mother Nature. Yes, there is talk, but most of that is empty words and political theatre, posturing and peformativity for one’s constituents. It takes peope filled with courage and hope to stand up and say we need something different.

My hope rests in the next generation, the young people who are already making a mark. I hope they do not become disenchanged and discouraged. In this vein, I leave you with the following quote, attributed to Tasunke Witko (Crazy Horse) days before he was killed.

Upon suffering beyond suffering:

The Red Nation shall rise again and it shall be a blessing for a sick world; a world filled with broken promises, selfishness and separations; a world longing for light again.

I see a time of Seven Generations when all the colors of mankind will gather under the Sacred Tree of Life and the whole Earth will become one circle again.

In that day, there will be those among the Lakota who will carry knowledge and understanding of unity among all living things and the young white ones will come to those of my people and ask for this wisdom.

I salute the light within your eyes where the whole Universe dwells. For when you are at that center within you and I am that place within me, we shall be one.

Deep

When I saw this post several weeks ago, Mary Oliver’s name got my attention. I have followed Bela for several years and her poetry reminds me of Mary Oliver and her poetry.

Nature surrounds us, engufls us, yet many humans act as if we are separate from Nature and have command over it. What the last few years should show us is we do not control Nature. As I watch the increase in catastrophic weather events and the pandemic we are in midst of, I better understand how taking care of nature takes care of the human family.

The line that stood out for me in Bela’s poem was “human encroachment into nesting areas, refusual to admit error in bulldozing sacred spaces for profit.” Not only did the poem remind me of Mary Oliver and her poetry, it reminded me of John Prine and his song Paradise.

As Mary Oliver says in the following poem and Bela signals in her poem, humans have a place in the family of things. To think otherwise is foolhardy.

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.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

I leave you with John Prine’s words about bulldozing mountain tops to find those last seams of coal, all for profit.

OUR ONLY WORLD

I came across this post by Bruce on Earth Day, but have been busy attending and presenting at two conferences and completing work with student teachers. My delay provided me with room to reflect on what Earth Day means, raising questions for me about its meaning. Quite often, we relegate one day a year to celebrate a particular event and, once done, we relegate it do a shelf for another year. I think Earth Day is treated that way.

What Bruce’s reminds me of is the daily wonders I experience when I consider Earth Day an ongoing event. In this particular post, he draws on Wendell Berry who is an elegant voice on the concept of caring for the nest we share with each other. In his writing, Wendell Berry reminds me ecology and economy come from the Greek oikos, meaning household. My mother used to say “Even pigs do not poop where they live, eat, and sleep?”

Humans are not separate from nature. We are an integral part of nature and how we treat nature, including one another, speaks to who we are as part of nature. Do we exploit nature for 364 days without any consideration for tomorrow? Or, do we conserve its beauty and while over its worth and common good? I think a word that is often overlooked is prudent. Do we live within our means? Do we care for our household with prudence and care?

I understand the political notions of conversativism and progressivism as a false dichotomy. What does it mean to converse? What do we want to conserve? When we progress, what do we throw out? Both sides, if it can understood as sides, do little to conserve. In fact, I contend that, if we solved our environmental issues, the people who stand on opposite sides would be unhappy. They would be left with nothing to argue about and unable to point accusatory fingers at one another.

The post concludes with: “Only the present good is good. It is the presence of good – good work, good thoughts, good acts, good places – by which we know that the present does not have to be a nightmare of the future. ‘The kingdom of God is at hand’ because, if not at hand, it is nowhere.” In a Judeo-Christian biblical narrative and despite what many claim, we were left to be stewards of nature, to care for it, and allow it to flourish so we might flourish. This is not unique to the Judeo-Christian traditions. There are teachings attributed to The Buddha that speak to how we should treat animals. This includes their habitat, food source, water source, etc. and is not simply the treatment of pets and livestock. As well, Indigenous people share an understanding of the interconnectedness of nature and the universe.

I leave with you three quotes and I found many others.

Religion is what binds us together. It is not a set a beliefs, but faith in a community to do what is proper and share with one another.
Indifference is the opposite of love.
Share words and acts of grattitude and love for Nature.

What is that weird, tingling feeling? Could it possibly be … hope? — Live & Learn

But then the sun came out where I live this week, and I was alive again. Dunno if you’ve noticed this, but it’s been the longest year since records began, and the timing of lockdown restrictions easing this week coinciding with warm weather in parts of England – which the press was more than happy […]

What is that weird, tingling feeling? Could it possibly be … hope? — Live & Learn

I don’t recall when I began following David‘s blog, but it has been a number of years. He shares wonderful daily posts and this one is no exception. He shares a part of a newspaper article with us about how we might be feeling as the light seems to become increasingly larger at the end of COVID tunnel. Of course, it could be a train hurtling down on us, so we must not let our guards down.

Hope is a recurring theme in my writing, publishing, and the publishing I hope to do as I move forward. It is grounded in reality . COVID-19 sharpened my awareness of challenges others face and made me realize there are taken-for-granted challenges. For example, how we treat our elderly, BIPOC humans, sexual and gender minorities, etc. are real challenges. How do we help lift up others in times of need? How do we help infuse hope in the lives of others?

Hope is essential to our dreams. Despite this, what we each dream for is not guaranteed. There is a realistic side to hope that suggests to get to the other side or the end of the tunnel we each need to be resilient. Like passion, which includes suffering for what and who we love, hope has an element of potential failure and suffering. Passion moves to compassion when we share the suffering of others and accept their lives and experiences are different than those we experienced. Hope has a similar collective feel to it. We find hope in community, what we have in common with one another, which is our humanity, how we communicate the common and disparate features of our lives, and how we live in communion with each other.

Hope and its relationship with resilience remind me of the Zen proverb: Fall down seven times, get up eight. How do I compose myself as I get up each time? Is it with grace, compassion, and kindness or do I lash out at others? I find Emily Dickinson and Langston Hughes‘ poems meaningful in days like these, so I share them again.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

Mother to Son

Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
Bare.
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now—
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Ode to Joy~ —

Signs of spring. A jolt of joy! Blossoms cheer, weary hearts. Ode to Joy, hope and faith. Cheers to you and Happy Spring~

Ode to Joy~ —

I am back. I took a sabbatical of sorts from the blog, as I only checked in on comments and to follow up through the reader. It has been a busy time supervising student teachers, attending online events, presenting at online events, writing, getting published, and life in general. I am unsure how active I will be. I hope to be posting 2-3 times a week and maybe write some new poetry.

I return with a share from Cindy who takes wonderful pictures of nature close to home in the Holler and further afield. The images remind me we are entering the time of the year where life comes alive after its dormant period, Yes, things do remain in a state of flux with weather. Despite the uncertainty, it is a time to rejoice and search out the joy and beauty located wherever we look in nature.

Cindy shared a video of musicians playing Beethoven’s 9th Symphony as a virtual ensemble. Artists of all forms find ways to lead us in the most challenging times and COVID-19 is no exception. I am grateful we have wonderful artists who take the lead in meaningful ways.

It has been hard this past year for each of us with less social interaction. An emerging area of interest for me is the role virtual communities can and will play in our lives moving forward. It is what I presesnted on this past weekend and am fleshing out an article for submission. People surprised me with their response to what I talked about. I see hope and joy in sharing online. It brings me together, often with people I have not met and likely will never meet.

Common is the root word of community, communicate, and communion. What do we have in common that brings us together, besides our grievances and grief? In short, what gives each of us joy? How do we experience communicating what we receive from others and share with others? How has listening to others changed in this brave new world? Communion goes beyond the religious concept, speaking to a level of intimacy. How do we reveal who we are in a virtual world? Virtual and virtue share etymological roots, speaking to our character in these communities.

I leave you with a video from Mavis Staples. How do we get it together and bring joy into our lives as a collective and community?

Merry Christmas

It has been a couple of weeks since I posted and offer this poem.

Today, I read a short piece written by Parker Palmer that reminds me the miracle of Christmas is in the incarnation of God in human form. His essay reminds me of how, as a child growing up in Northern Alberta, Christmas provided a sense of wonder I could not explain and try not to as a rational adult.

Parker also posted on Facebook an event he experienced last year in Nogales Mexico at a house for asylum seekers. Asylum seekers is another way of saying they were seeking refuge. He points out Jesus was likely a person of colour. I take it one step further and point out he was a Jew and born into that faith. His birth was an ecunemical event, not a Christian one.

Carpenter guiding the way,

Expectant mother riding,

Backs straight; heads held high–

Donkey serving as regal carriage.

Seeking refuge from the night–

Giving birth in a stable,

Swathed and cradled in a manger,

Beasts welcoming the child.

Showering gifts upon us–

Returning each year,

Lighting the way–

Only asking, “Can you open your hearts?”

Source of strength,

Our turn to humbly receive gifts,

Restocking spirits,

Rejuvenating souls.

Kathy and I enjoyed Canadian Indigenous singer and actor Tom Jackson. Most years, he tours at this time of year and helps food banks. In the midst of Covid, we each have to find ways to share with those in need.

He does a lovely rendition of Huron Carole, which I share below. Again, this points to an ecunemical nature of Christmas, Christ’s Mass, echoing Parker’s remembrance of “the story, the music, the candlelight, the scent of pine, the silent night, the warm presence of family and friends.” For me, it was also the food and opening a present on Christmas Eve. The food included traditional French-Canadian tourtière (meat pie), which Kathy and I continue to share with our children and grandchildren.

A Prayer for our Times

Val shared a wonderful poem by Danna Faulds and I could not resist sharing it. Although the title suggests a prayer for our times might be specific to these times, this poem has a timeless quality to it.

What COVID-19 revealed was the challenges we face in our times. The inequities and injustices have existed for some time. The depth of those inequities and injustices were what were and are revealed.

I liken the market system as a multi-level sales scheme with most of us running around trying to make ends meet and many people simply left behind. A handful of people benefit and many simply continue to run on the spot with little chance of gaining ground.

What the neo-liberal and neo-conservative policy makers. politicians, and corporate chieftains count on is we are remain driven by self-interests, as opposed to what others may need. Who has benefited most from these times?

I could not find this poem on a video, but Danna Faulds’ poetry contains qualities of common weal, pluralism, reconciliation, love for one another, and healing to make us whole in complex times. I chose this poem as it speaks to the human condition we all live through and our need for one another.

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