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Category Archives: Social Justice

FATHER CHARLES BRANDT… THE LAND AS SACRED COMMONS

~ the Brandt Series ~   Fr. Charles Brandt is a hermit monk from Vancouver Island, British Columbia, who recently celebrated 64 years of ordination. At 91 years of age, his gentle activism and…

Source: FATHER CHARLES BRANDT… THE LAND AS SACRED COMMONS

In a day and age of environmental concerns, I think a post from Bruce is appropriate. It is important to keep in mind that, with each economic choice we make, there are ecological choices and consequences, some more obvious than others.

Wendell Berry writes about economy from an etymological point of view. Economy from comes from the Greek oikos, meaning to manage one’s household and is about stewardship. If we think of ourselves as living outside the environment, being a good steward seems less important. If we choose to live in the environment, being a good steward is essential to the prosperity of the world and ourselves.

To me, it is not about economy over environment. How do we understand both as interconnected, and not separate? It is not an easy question, but questions of social justice, and the environment is one, are ever easy. Being mindful and living in the moment will help.

Temple of My Familiar (An Excerpt)

Alice Walker included this poem in her novel Temple of My Familiar. She speaks to the challenge we face when we wait for others to do what needs to be done. They, in turn, wait for us to what needs to be done. It is a vicious, not virtuous circle.

In living and leading, the and others call each of us to be mindful and attentive to the world and people. My first language is French. I am not very fluent as an adult, but how the language is used seems imprinted on me. Being mindful and attentive is living and leading in proper relationships.

I recall my mother saying “ce n’est pas propre.” It is not proper and not right (vrai) or correct (correcte). Proper is a way of comporting one’s self and is an ethical position. When I hear politicians and pseudo-politicans say they followed the letter of the law, that is about being right and correct, not proper.

Aristotle spoke about praxis as an ethical practice in living one’s life. Goodness in this sense was the goal of living without knowing what that meant. When I wait for another to do the proper thing, I am not doing the proper thing.

To the extent that it is possible,

You must live in the world today

As you wish everyone to live

In the world to come.

That can be your contribution.

Otherwise, the world you want

Will never be formed. Why?

Because you’re waiting for others to do

What you’re not doing;

And they are waiting for you,

And so on.

The Place Where We Are Right

Yehuda Amichai is an Israeli poet who was born in pre-war Germany. He described his poetry as non-ideological, but based in reality that includes politics.

I chose this poem, as it points out challenges we face when we think life is simple and others will deliver solutions for us. Jacques Rancière wrote that politics is not an all the time event. It arises occasionally and we must be mindful to recognize the need to act politically. Hannah Arendt contended living with others means we live in polis or community, suggesting a political reality always exists in life.

Living with others is political, but not every act is political. It is hard to live with others and be in community. Amichai suggested the trampled and hardened ground we share is unlikely go produce flowers . Yet, there is always something happening below the surface that we cannot see. Metaphoric moles we do not see dig up and plough our world. It is the whispers of what passed that way that provides compost for the communal soil.

Even in the barren, we find richness. Barry Lopez describes how even in the most desolate places something draws us and we are interested in what we do not see: the mystery of the place.

From the place where we are right
Flowers will never grow
In the spring.

The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.

But doubts and loves
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
Where the ruined
House once stood.

The Will for Reconciliation

Thomas Merton wrote many letters, essays, and poetry and seemed prescient about issues . Long before it was relevant, he spoke about challenges we might encounter in an increasingly technological and consumerist world.

I chose a passage from East & West. The Foreign Prefaces of Thomas Merton, and not a poem. He speaks about reconciling, coming together through forces including the power of love, understanding and compassion for one another, and being selfless as we coöperate in shared action.

Too often, humans understand the world in binaries: right or wrong, true or false, black or white, male or female, etc. Polticians and pseudo-politicians exploit binaries and divide us. They divide us based on race, skin colour, religion, gender, etc. When we fall victim to false narratives, we are incapable and unwilling to create, to build, and to forgive.

It is on the ground of something better and higher than politics that we discover we do good for each other. Thomas Merton’s message was not naïve. Love and mercy are the foundation, but not the solution to political problems.

“It is true, political problems are not solved by love and mercy. But the world of politics is not the only world, and unless political decisions rest on a foundation of something better and higher than politics, they can never do any real good for men. When a country has to be rebuilt after war, the passions and energies of war [and a divisive election] are no longer enough. There must be a new force, the power of love, the power of understanding and human compassion, the strength of selflessness and coöperation, and the creative dynamism of the will to live and to build, and the will to forgive. The will for reconciliation.”

Logos

Mary Oliver is a poet I turn to when I am searching. Since the American election I have searched and am trying to make meaning of the outcomes. I am not American so it is easy to think my vote and voice do not matter, but they do.

I have never voted for a conservative politician or message, but I am as conservative as I am a progressive, perhaps more so. John Dewey wrote we create sects around progressivism and conservativism as if they are cleaved off from each other.

The essential element is to preserve/converse what we value and what gives us life , discarding what is harmful to people and the world. Hans-Georg Gadamer suggested more tradition remains than is replaced and much it is taken-for-granted.

What is often taken-for-granted helps us navigate our personal worlds in the form of “legitimate prejudices.” When we encounter some one and some things that are different, Gadamer argued it opens us up to dialogue and eloquent questions that have no fixed answers.

What I am certain of is in the dialogue and eloquent questions there is no room for misogyny, racism, and xenophobia that further divide us. Logos is how we use words and reason as an ethical response to others who appear in our lives for some reason, which was the underlying message in Rumi’s The Guest House.

Mary Oliver offers a message about civil discourse that includes love we express through our words and the reasons we share those words with others. It is a message that comes to us from Jesus who gave his life as an act of unconditional love. When we say the right (in French it is proper which has to do with comportment) words, the wine expands.

Why worry about the loaves and fishes?
If you say the right words, the wine expands.
If you say them with love
and the felt ferocity of that love
and the felt necessity of that love,
the fish explode into many.
Imagine him, speaking,
and don’t worry about what is reality,
or what is plain, or what is mysterious.
If you were there, it was all those things.
If you can imagine it, it is all those things.
Eat, drink, be happy.
Accept the miracle.
Accept, too, each spoken word
spoken with love.

dig in.

“find your place on the planet. dig in, and take responsibility from there.” ― gary snyder

Source: dig in.

I enjoy Gary Snyder‘s poetry and essays, which has a Zen-like view of humans and their relationship with the world. It does not exist out there as if some mysterious wilderness we travel to. Instead, the objective and subjective worlds speak to each other through our senses.

In arguing we do not live outside of the objective world, John Dewey contended humans “live in community in virtue of the things they have in common.” My view is the community includes all sentient and non-sentient beings.

When we think of ourselves as living in community with all beings, animate and inanimate, we find our place in the world, dig in, and assume responsiblity for that piece of the world and our actions.

When we think, speak, and act responsibly, we become leaders who act as stewards, serving future generations in concrete and ethical ways. We grow mindful and attentive to a world we inhabit intimately and communicate with it on a moment-to-moment basis. It is real, existing inside and outside of us simultaneously.

Imperatives

What imperatives do we set for ourselves in living? I find this question reading this poem. When we take in the world and as Kathleen Norris suggests drink of it, we elevate the ordinary to the extraordinary.

With a Zen-like quality, Gary Snyder reminds us that “Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.” Nature is a place we belong and share with others, living and non-living. We do not despoil nature and it remains sacred.

When we experienced sharing the world, we discover ways to reach out, love, forgive, and ask forgiveness. When we mind and care for the world, perhaps we share wealth and pass through the eye of a needle into Heaven.

Look at the birds
Consider the lilies
Drink ye all of it
Ask
Seek
Knock
Enter by the narrow gate
Do not be anxious
Judge not; do not give dogs what is holy
Go: be it done for you
Do not be afraid
Maiden, arise
Young man, I say, arise
Stretch out your hand
Stand up, be still
Rise, let us be going…
Love
Forgive
Remember me

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