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The Panther

I learned new words today. I read an article by Judith Butler who used the word carceral, meaning “relating to prison.” It fits with systemic prejudices e.g., racism, where particular groups of people are imprisoned at a greater rate than their percentage of a society or country.

But, it includes how people are limited to a geographic space, so they do not come in contact with the elites. It extends injustice and oppression those groups and individuals experience. Paulo Freire argued this cuts across racial, gender, and linguistic lines and includes class distinction. People are trapped and imprisoned within a life that offers little hope for them and their children.

I am unsure Rainer Maria Rilke intended to make a political statement in The Panther, but it serves as an analogy to understand how another might experiences life in the midst of oppression. In not witness ing another’s disenfranchisement e.g., economic, political, educational, etc., I grow to think their plight is not real. But, bars, literal and figurative, become reality. As Rilke states “a great will stands stunned and numbed.”

The opposite of my indifference is love and serving, reaching out to give a hand to those who need help to cut the bars away that oppression has built around them. It is less about doing for them and more about valuing their lived-experiences in meaningful ways. Freire said to read the word, humans first read their world, bringing their understanding of living to formal education.

From seeing the bars, his seeing is so exhausted

that it no longer holds anything anymore.

To him the world is bars, a hundred thousand

bars, and behind the bars, nothing.

The lithe swinging of that rhythmical easy stride

which circles down to the tiniest hub

is like a dance of energy around a point

in which a great will stands stunned and numb.

Only at times the curtains of the pupil rise

without a second … then a shape enters,

slips through the tightened silence of the shoulders,

reaches the heart, and dies.

I love the blues. A sad thing about the genre is many women who were pioneers were not recorded as often as men. It is a treat to hear someone like Sister Rosetta Tharpe sing.

Being Alive

I originally wrote this on Bowen Island, attending an Art of Hosting retreat. It reminded me of the counter cultural nature of Parker Palmer’s writing and events focused on his work. It is about communicating and seeing others as fully human.

In today’s divided world, this seems countercultural. An essential element to hosting and dialogue is listening to others in respectful ways. It does not mean we agree with them. What it means is we are open and listen to hear how they experience living their life, guided by one’s conscience and sense of values that ground us. Values give each of us strength, anchoring us and letting us understand what is proper and improper.

When we invite people into conversation, listen deeply, and ask questions which shake our certainty about the world we turn inward and focus on what grounds us to respond to them and help heal a hurting world.

Perching pensively–

Holding pen tentatively;

Senses coming,

In the midst of nature’s beauty.

Awakening–

Becoming aware;

Listening deeply;

In the midst of sounds flowing.

Breeze caressing gently–

Sunlight bathing softly;

Basking in these moments,

Resting in peace.

A colleague took this picture of me on top of Cates Hill on Bowen Island as I wrote and they were gracious enough to share it with me. It is spectacular with water and land in the panoramic view.

One Thread

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.

Rhythms of Living

In the poem, The Uses of Not, Lao Tzu reminds me there is often an empty space that completes something and, for that matter, someone. A wheel needs spokes, a clay pot the hole in the clay to hold things, and rooms need doors and windows.

In life, I find myself trying to fill gaps and holes. When I am mindful, I recall to make something (w)hole it has gaps and holes embedded in it. The gaps and holes serve as spaces for energy to enter and exit. Without energy exchanges, I can grow stagnant and stale.

This poem was about the busyness of life. At times it seemed to overwhelm me when I taught. I tried to do more, rather than stepping back and finding space that served to heal and make me whole again.

Filling holes–

Plugging gaps–

Digging holes in water–

Seeking to be whole;

In the end, futile.

Remaining indivisible–

Complementing one another–

Completing one another–

Beauty reflecting one another;

Emerging in paradox.

Inviting, calling–

Opening life’s arms–

In its embrace–

Discovering loving space;

Living in life’s healing rhythms.

I opted for this video, as, despite the fact they are struggling, Tommy and Gina have each other. It is what makes them whole; that and living on a prayer.

Warrior’s Quest

Sometimes, I make sense of the life and the worl in paradox. With questions I can deepen conversations. I serve questions. Father Richard Rohr says  maturity leads us to stop chasing certainty. In this way, I seek eloquent questions without ready answers: and invite others into dialogue.

After I read Chögyam Trungpa‘s Shambhala:The Path of the Sacred Warrior, I realized a warrior combats his/her own self-ignorance, moving towards being a human with a brave mind and ethical impulse. I cannot attain these qualities, but they are always worth questing towards and they do not come without struggle. Shunryu Suzuki and Thomas Merton used the analogy of a meadow to explore how we each can meditate, contemplate, and pray.

Warrior’s quest;

Resting in paradox–

Seemingly incompatible;

Space inviting space,

Forming spacious meadow.

Deepening dialogue;

Lacking pre-formed answers–

Questioning with eloquences;

Remaining open,

Experiencing wonder.

Lightening load;

Being grateful for gifts–

Even suffering,

Serving the journey;

The questing.

Emerging path;

Readying to step–

Understanding it is meant,

Fulfilling its rightness;

Knowing only it is unknown.

The warrior’s quest is much like standing at the base of a mountain. It is exhilirating and creates a sense of wonder: What is there on that mountain? On the other sides? I took this picture of Mount Robson on one of our many trips to visit family and friends.

A Child Sits

Several years ago, during a family discussion about war, my mother asked me where I stood on war. I am opposed to war on the grounds: “Thou shall not kill!” This edict underpins Abrahamic traditions guiding Judeo-Christian and Islamic faiths. It is a central premise is central to the universal Golden Rule.  Who suffers? Inevitably, it is the weakest, the most vulnerable.

I used an activity with students to demonstrate the difference between cultures of war and peace. I asked for words to describe a culture of war. Usually, the list was short; maybe 10-12 words and phrases. When I asked for words to describe a culture of peace, the list was long and students did not struggle to find new words. The conversation often went for an hour or so.

Despite this, we struggle to find peace. In today’s high tech world, we no longer need to be physically present to attack. It can be done via computer commands ordering pilotless aircraft and rockets launched from distance.

 

Child sitting–

Unable to shed tears;

Shivering–

Cold, wet,

Fragile, weak;

Hungering for reprieve.

Despairing amidst carnage–

Seeking refuge;

Finding only chaos–

From distant places,

Raining down hell;

From heavens that should protect.

School yard bullies–

Feigning courage;

Kicking those already down–

Seeing no human face,

No suffering,

Lacking care, compassion.

Humans seeking true courage–

Begging, imploring;

Returning to good senses–

Leaving behind,

Wanton, senseless,

Violence, death!

I chose this video, because it shows the outcomes of zero-sum situations and how we fool ourselves there has to be winners and losers.

A Place; A Space

Over the last few years, I have increasingly exlored how we use language. For example, we use the word organization as a noun for places where we work, learn, and play. It grows static and lifeless Yet, its root, organ, suggests life and interacting with one another. John Dewey and Ivan Illich referred to interacting and communicating as intercourse. This suggests we engage in intimacy and love as we communicate with one another.

As well, an organ, as a musical instrument, needs a human touch. At our best, we organize, work, and learn, through a common purpose, like in a jazz ensemble, and what calls each of us in some meanfinful way. In a neo-liberal and neo-conservative world, organizing, working, and learning fall short of the common good (common weal) and what calls each of us to feel fufilled, perhaps self-actualized.

Out of this reflecting emerged the following poem.

This place–

This space–

Welcoming–

Beckoning.

When cold, aloof–

As a frigid lover–

Pushing us away;

Denying intimacy.

As an anxious lover–

Frantically clinging;

Giving no room to breath.

As a capricious lover–

Now here;

Now gone.

At its best–

Fully alive;

Not on life support!

Exuding hearty warmth–

Healthy, vibrant;

Touching in human ways.

Gentle lover embracing–

Inviting and holding close;

Letting us breath.

A place–

A space–

Wanting to be.

A place–

A space–

Calling, giving voice.

Sharing–

Drawing us each closer;

To our common humanity.

Yesterday, I heard the following song by Mavis Staples. It reminded me, regardless of how things are going, there are always high notes in life.

How Do I Listen?

Several year ago, I watched a PBS show about a branch of neuroscience called Contemplative Mindfulness. Rudolph Tanzi is central in this work which grew out of research by Richard Davidson, Ellen Langer, and Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Mindful practices have been with us for centuries and informed Jesus’, the Buddha’s and Mohammed’s teachings. Mindful listening begins with me listening to the other, moves outward, and is eloquently described by Hafiz, a Sufi poet. Mindful listening requires humility those teachers emulated in lived practice as the servant as leader.

In a world that seems filled with ego and narcissim, listening to the other is essential to healing the world and each human. I am re-reading Ivan Illich and authors who use his work. His best known book is Deschooling Society, which was originally titled The Dawn of Epimethean Man and Other Essays. The title was changed by the publisher, something Illich regretted later.

Illich was a priest and his writing, including about education, was informed by The Parable of the Good Samaritan. His understanding was we do not get to choose who are neighbours are. Instead, others we encounter depend on us to listen and demonstrate compassion, dropping our ego in the process. It also fits with Epimetheus who was more comfortable with uncertainty than his more famous sibling, Prometheus.

Encountering the stranger as neighbour comes both with reward and risk. The words hospitality and hostile are linked etymologically.

How

Do I

Listen to others?

As if everyone were my Master

Speaking to me

His

Cherished

Last

Words.

Here is a Mary Oliver reading I Happened To Be Standing and an inteview with her. You have to wait until the end to get to the listening aspect. Being mindful weaves its way through the poem.

Gettin’ My Mojo Back

I looked at this poem a month ago and decided not to post it. As I listened to music today, a song came on called Getting My Mojo Back and felt it was time to post it.

I wrote this during a retreat on Bainsbridge Island based on the work of Parker Palmer. It was at a time I was wrestling with staying in teaching due to the politics. I felt I was not giving it my all and lacked confidence in my teaching.

During the retreat, I reflected and had candid conversations with others and concluded it was time to control what I could control. Interestingly, it was in the conversations with others that I had to choose to be all in really came to the forefront. I went back to my classroom, spent another 5 years teaching, and giving it my all.

I think, when we lose confidence, we do not realize it. It sneaks up on us, rather than being a cataclysmic shift. Recovering confidence is similar. It is done in small steps and realizing we are not alone in the moment.

I had to realize anger was born out of fear and loss. Once I acknowledged this, I was at ease with letting go and moving forward.

It just happens–

Letting go;

Speaking without anger–

Embracing one’s sadness;

For what is lost.

Staring into an abyss–

Sitting with unformed questions;

Terrifying darkness–

Sensing incompleteness,

Feeling uncertainty.

Taking stock–

Looking inwards;

Accepting extended hands–

Discarding baggage

Moving towards a place of light.

Mojo gaining momentum–

Emerging at its pace;

Creating healing space–

Living one’s own truth;

Living in each moment’s question.

I attended a John Lee Hooker concert in 1972 or 1973. I grew up listening to jazz, gospel, folk, and blues with traditional country, early rock and roll. I took it for granted that I attended a John Lee concert until an American, who shared a love for the blues, told me he never did. African-American performers toured in Canada on a regular basis at a time they did not have that same ease of movement in their own country.

When I used Langston Hughes’ poetry in my teaching, I remembered he wrote from a different understanding of what America was. This was an outgrowth of an awareness of my privilege as a white Canadian male.

Canadian Thanksgiving

It is Canadian Thanksgiving today. Instead of Thanksgiving being a once a year day with underlying commercial interests, it raised questions about being full of thanks for each ensuing moment. What if I were grateful and thankful each day-each moment? This is impossible. What I need to do is hold the thought at the forefront and perhaps it elevates the thankfulness I experience.

We began with a dinner last night with our oldest son and his partner. He headed out to an out-of-town job today. Tonight, we celebrate with our youngest. He worked last night, so was unavailable.

Gratitude and thankfulness–

Turning to beloved;

Embracing one another;

Celebrating what held sacred.

In each moment–

Experiencing the extraordinary;

Revealing itself in the ordinary;

Sensing it is there.

Harvesting bounties–

Sharing common weal;

Valuing de-monetized wealth;

Feeling blessed.

I took this of Kathy standing on a rock above Rearguard Falls on the Fraser River in Mount Robson Provincial Park. I am thankful for the time we spend together and Nature.

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