Jonathan provides short, insightful quotes with complementary images. This particular post brings to mind Thich Nhat Hanh’s book No Mud, No Lotus.
Without the mud, there can be no lotus. Too often, we try to avoid the mud and challenges in life. The mud can help ground us in those moments as we take time to rest and reflect. Laozi offers this advice in to deal with life’s challenges: “Do you have the patience to wait/Till your mud settles and the water is clear?/Can you remain unmoving/Till the right action arises by itself?”
Too often, the busyness of life sweeps us away in the rush of its current instead of pausing in the midst of the storm to regain our footing and following the example of nature. There is a universal quality in remaining grounded in the present. Matthew 6:28 reminds us “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
Even the most pressing issues of our time require us to think about what we can do in our little corner of the universe each day, each moment. We should each remember, if we do what we can in our corner of the universe, we are interconnected or, as Thich Nhat Hanh might say, inter-are with each other.
According to Buddha Be patient. You’ll know when it’s time for you to wake up and move ahead. i fell backi lost my trackas my chin sagsand my eyes go blacki want all my senses back *** a day or so ago South Thompson River Valley, July 2021
I have followed Hedy for some time, enjoying her quotes from The Buddha and accompanying photography and poetry. She playfully entitled her about page Nearly Me and describes what it means to be a Sloppy Buddhist. We are always becoming, partially able to follow Buddhist precepts in the process of becoming, and incomplete in how we are to be defined.
The post reminded me of poem, Imperfection by Elizabeth Carlson, in Teaching with Fire (Edited by Sam Intrator and Megan Scribner). The poem was written as Elizabeth Carlson who died at a young age. Perhaps it was that experience, which allowed her to grow to love her imperfections. Despite the sadness, there is a playfulness in the poem e.g., learning to purr as she lays under her cat.
I am falling in love with my imperfections The way I never get the sink really clean, forget to check my oil, lose my car in parking lots, miss appointments I have written down, am just a little late.
I am learning to love the small bumps on my face the big bump of my nose, my hairless scalp, chipped nail polish, toes that overlap. Learning to love the open-ended mystery of not knowing why
I am learning to fail to make lists, use my time wisely, read the books I should.
Instead I practice inconsistency, irrationality, forgetfulness.
Probably I should hang my clothes neatly in the closet all the shirts together, then the pants, send Christmas cards, or better yet a letter telling of my perfect family.
But I’d rather waste time listening to the rain, or lying underneath my cat learning to purr.
I used to fill every moment with something I could cross off later.
Perfect was the laundry done and folded all my papers graded the whole truth and nothing but
Now the empty mind is what I seek the formless shape the strange off center sometimes fictional me.
The quote Hedy used was one about being patient and realizing we will each understand when it is time to wake up and move ahead. She shared some images from nature and they reminded me of the passage from Mattew 6:28-29: “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow, they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” Nature understands the process of patience and just being, waiting to awaken and move forward at the right time. Too often, we do not show ourselves the patience we need to grow and be ready to move forward.
I leave you with the following video by Seasick Steve. That is his his stage name and that and the song share a sense of playfulness in them, too.
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,
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.
I began to think about what I might post today and, as a good fortune would have it, Eddie’s post showed up and answered my question.
Eddie shares a lovely quote from Chief Seattle about humankind’s interconnectedness with the web of life. We have not woven the web, but a thread in it, binding and connecting us to one another and to the universe.
Hannah Arendt wrote about how our actions, including speech, transcend the time and space we currently inhabit. This is particularly the case for teachers. We are connected and bound to a future we cannot predict, that is far more complex and larger than the immediate environment we inhabit, which is incredibly complex and large.
A word spoken in haste to a student, a parent, a colleague has the potential to resonate in ways we cannot anticipate, regardless of profession or role in someone’s life. How we each treat our local environment has considerable impact on those downstream in terms of time and place. Cutting down old growth forests has more than an immediate impact. It resonates for generations. As humans, we have free will to act and speak in responsible ways. How we do these things has great meaning about who we each are as a human.
This video echoes Chief Seattle’s message of interconnectedness and how, in recognizing that point, we find our way to the peace train arriving from the darkness. Yussuf Islam (Cat Stevens) has received several awards for his work in the area of peace.
I began to write this poem after a long and tiring week. Sometimes, when I step back from the visceral nature of my emotions, postive and negative, I find a kernel to prompt writing, thinking, and acting.
Too often, I find myself talking when I should be listening. This includes listening to me, and, more importantly, listening to those whose stories are silenced in unjust ways. I think those two forms of listening go hand-in-hand. Not listening to others is often a product of being so busy with the noise of my own life. When I listen from the heart, I hear words anew.
Rich stories silenced–
Seeking just spaces,
Sharing and healing;
To speak freely.
Sadly, stories unheard,
Of being oppressed;
Shunted to the margins.
Listening with heart–
Leaning into stories,
With grace and humility,
Hearing for the first time.
Am I ready to act?
But, without doing;
I listen to the blues, gospel, and jazz most of my life. When it comes to the blues, gospel, and jazz music I am aware of the privilege I experience and do not take it for granted. As a Canadian, I attended concerts, because African-American performers came to Canada. They had access to venues I could attend here that they did not have in their own country.
Today, I heard Mavis Staples (on her latest album) singing and it resonated. For real and just change to emerge, I must be willing to listen and change the things I can. When I listen to the blues and gospel music, particularlyperformed by African-American women, there is an undercurrent for meaningful and just change in the world.
I am unsure the title fits the poem , but I left it as is. This was a hard poem to write as I delved into something I am not 100% confident with and that is quantum spirituality. As a quantum physicist writing from a feminist perspective, Karen Barad writes about entanglement. In short, we are entangled with one another, with non-sentient beings, and the inanimate of the Universe. This involves moral responsiblities in relating to those other beings and things, without even knowing what it is and how we are related to each of them.
Medicine wheels are part of many First Nations’ cultures. They connect people to Nature and reflect our interdependence with Nature and each other. They signal the need for harmony in lives and ground us with and in our world. In my understanding, they have quantum aspects to them as we are entangled in ways that suggest we are always seeking harmony in hopeful ways. What a medicine wheel asks us is to acknowledge interdependence, something those who wield levers are woefully reluctant to do. Instead, humans become resources and chattel in making profits in a zero sum game.
After my post In Seeming Chaos, Hope, I wondered about the current state of world affairs e.g. political crises, health crisis, economic crisis, etc. They are entangled with each other. I cannot simply wish one away and the others remain. Moreover, they existed before COVID-19. We did not see them easily. A lack of access to health care was in place for many people before the pandemic. We warehoused elderly people (the not-so nice term is aging people) as has become our custom in the advanced world e.g. schools.
I began to look for a spiritual connection with quantum physics and entanglement and found it. What was interesting was I have been reading about the connections for years in the writings of The Dalai Lama and Fritoj Capra. (The link is to an article where both are referenced.) What Karen Barad does is presents a detailed case for it from a scientific and feminist perspective. I think the feminine perspective is essential, as I consider bell hooks, Mary Belenky, Riane Eisler, etc. to understand how we move away from what Eisler termed a dominator, patriarchal world based on binaries and assigning a number to one that incorporates a participatory, matriarchal world. In this world, Belenky refers to intuitive, feminine, and I would argue, indigenous ways of knowing and wisdom based on the quality of living we each experience. These are impossible to quantify. However, we can describe them in poetic language. What if we had leaders like Jacinda Ardern and Angela Merkel instead of people who pass themselves off as leaders and fall far short of leading?
Basking in Brother Sun’s warmth–
Healing (in)spiriting waters–
(In)haling sweet air–
Homing in on what’s proper,
Resting in one’s responsibilities.
In relating to the Universe–
While standing in Nature–
When Supporting other beings–
Discovering hope(ful) ways.
Intuiting as quantum beings–
Accepting unfelt entanglement–
Hearing unheard voices–
“Crossing love’s hearth.”
Speaking truth to power.
I took the picture on Bowen Island and began to write the poem.
Sunday night, I stayed up late. I stayed up until 10:00, which is late for me. As a result, I listened to a radio show I don’t normally get a chance to, The Road Home, on CKUA. I like the show, because the host, Bob Chelmick, plays eclectic music, reads poetry, and uses readings of poetry.
It appears we share a love of Mary Oliver and Wendell Berry‘s poetry with him, as he often highlights their poetry. On Sunday, the host had a reading by Wendell Berry of Manifesto: The Mad Liberation Front. There is too much in this poem for me to do justice to unpacking it. It speaks to the moment we are experiencing. How we got here is by taking shortcuts and ignoring the inequities in those shortcuts. We sacrifice community, certainty, and care for one another for quick profit, the ready made, and a lack of mystery in our lives.
I remember reading this poem for the first time and realizing how much we sacrifice for the “good life,” instead of appreciating what we have in our daily lives.
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.
The health crisis reveals gaps in ,many forms of equity: gender, race, ethnicity, class, etc. The environmental crisis is doing the same thing as fires rage out of control. I love the last line: practice resurrenction. Rise up and live life in meaningful and ethical ways.
Although it is often referred to as the African-American National Anthem, I think Lift Every Voice and Sing speaks to what we need in today’s world. We need to join voices and hands to enact our words in concrete ways and make the world a better place.
I wrote this as I was making decisions about continuing to teach. There had been considerable upheaval as new administrators arrived and left, families left, and a friend and colleague retired. I found myself constantly in the midst of a storm with little or no control in how things might move forward. At a retreat in Oakland, I spent considerable time reflecting and journaling about the issue at hand, so this was not intended to be a poem and it took a year to write itself.
What I wrote was a summary of the past year and the struggle to ways to create in my teaching and be more present to my students. What I lacked was confidence in who I was and what I was enacting as a teacher, the performativity and improvisation essential to my teaching. I planned a lot in my teaching, but the depth of planning allowed me to improvise in ways that a lack of planning could not.
In The Book of Joy, The Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu discuss how loss and fear lead to anger. What is important is during challenging times to try to be aware of what gives us meaning and hope in life. Although I would love to teach and be part of educating the next generation of teachers, I find it easier to accept that is not happening, focusing energies on writing and teaching in a new way. If the situation arose to teach and educate the next generation of teachers, I would consider it. What it is not doing is defining who I am and my life.
Speaking with love–
Accepting the lost.
Sitting with questions,
Accepting uncertainty, incompleteness–
Feeling humbling hope.
Accepting extended hands,
Living my truth;
Questing in each moment.
I took this picture in Arizona in March. It was the last of five I took. Each day, as I walked back, the cactus had bloomed one or two more flowers. The cactus and its flowers exist just to be a cactus and its flowers, beautifying the world. They remind me, even in harsh conditions, plants and animals flourish in their time.
As I was writing, Curtis Mayfield’s Move On Up played. It is appropriate. As we face challenges, we move on up and achieve, albeit an unpredictable, something.
I realize this welcoming of September is a couple of days late.
When I walk in the river valley at this time of the year, the changes in nature become noticeable. Before I notice the colours changing, I smell the decay as leaves fall. This is noticeable if it rains, which it has been for the last week or so. It cools the evenings and nights, accelerating the pace of change.
The decay is a necessary part of nature. It is part of the cycle of birth, life, harvest, and rest essential to health. Parker Palmer writes beautifully about this in several places. Nature reminds us we need to prepare for rest in a meaningful way, gathering our whole self in the process. It is about eloquent questions. What have I birthed and nurtured during the spring and summer months that I harvest to help sustain me in the winter months? How am I letting my Spring and Summer ready me for Autumn and Winter?
Part of educating for hope is “reading the world” in hopeful while living “in dynamic interrelationships” with others (Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, p. 102). This means opening the world to eloquent questions without presupposed answers and without the threat of violence of any form. I used the quote in a recent book chapter I co-authored with a colleague from North Carolina. The book is to be published in late 2020 or early 2021. What does it mean to live in a world full of hope; a hope(ful) world.
My first day back from the retreat I posted about in Welcoming Differences and Gentle Rain I noticed the students were subdued. In the afternoon, I was alone, which was unusual. Without an adult and teaching three grades, it could be demanding. Other times, it provided interesting moments, and this turned into one of those moments.
I had contacted a substitute teacher I had used several years before and who was available again after completing a long term assignment for an ill teacher. As we talked about what was bothering me, the students told me they had not enjoyed the teacher. I was surprised, as he had seemed a good fit before. I asked for an example and they told me he had told them their conversation was inappropriate. This was unusual, as the students in this group were well-behaved and respectful. I asked them what the conversation was about and they told me, while completing some Science, one student asked “Do pigs have udders?” Apparently, this became a hotly debated topic and it was brought up again today.
I laughed. For me, it was funny and pointed to an irrevocable human truth: curiosity about the world we live in and eloquent questions leading to exploring the world and learning about it. We had serious fun as we talked about what udders were and their role in feeding offspring. I even phone Kathy, who was raised on a farm, and asked he. She was not sure, but thought it was a structural thing and pigs probably did not have it. We left it as an open question.
Not presupposing answers;
What does this mean?
Is it true?
Querying and questing;
Seeking to fill gaps;
Not with certitude;
New questions emerging.
With passing years,
Recalling that moment,
Appreciating simple, provocative question–
Do pigs have udders?
As best as we can learn, they do and it was fun trying to figure it out. Adolescent children ask the darnedest things. Laughter is an antidote for difficult moments. Something I learned as a student teacher was a safe classroom allows children, youth, and probably adults to ask provocative questions with no preconceived answers. In the polarized world we live in, we have lost that assurance of safety and are reluctant to ask questions needing answers.
I will save you looking up the answer on the Internet. Pigs do not have udders. Udders are a reference to mammary glands on certain mammals and it has to do with their structure. I read a version of this poem for a group at a retreat in Wisconsin. As I finished, adults wanted to know the answer. I said I didn’t know and someone looked it up on the spot.
I don’t have a picture of a pig. Here is one of a bear I took in Waterton Lakes National Park. Bear and pigs are related, so it was as close as I could get.