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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.

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.

Angry Young Poet

In keeping with Why Do I Write Poetry, the following poem is one I wrote many at about the same time. This is the third time I visited the poem in terms of writing and editing. Several years ago and while explaining the importance of teaching poetry, a student asked if I wrote poetry in junior high school and I responded, “Yes!”. He asked me to share with them. I found them in a small lock box I keep at home and shared several with the class. We talked about the context I wrote the poem in. Even in Canada, I lived in the shadow of the Vietnam conflict and struggled with what that meant.

Sam Intrator suggested teachers expose adolescent students complex, existential questions of life as they move through those formative years. I wrote my poems in 1969. It was a time when identity was increasingly rooted in a global nature of the world, not just immediate community and family. War entered homes via television. Increasingly, I discovered my voice through poetry, expressing an abhorrence to institutional and government sanctioned killing. What set me apart from my peers, was I took no sides. Each was equally wrong in my mind, advancing their ideological stance. My teacher, Mr. McKenzie, an innovative English teacher, encouraged us to discover our voices.

I shared the following poem with my students. We talked about how metaphors of war are used commonly in various institutions and how I found this as troubling as the violence and trauma of war. That feeling re-emerged over the past months with describing dealing with Covid-19 in war-like terms and the troubling events of the past weeks where purported leaders feel it is OK to speak about human beings, not citizens, as an enemy and objects to be manipulated for financial gain based on the basest forms of self-interests. It is worse than the war as it takes on invisible and pervasive forms. It is a form of Social Darwinism where the strong survive, trampling on those further down what is understood as a food chain premised on unfettered oppression of other humans, including various forms of systemic violence. Consider billionaires, in the Covid-19 crisis, gained while those in most need lose what little support they had.

I contrast this with Jacinda Ardern‘s message as the Prime Minister of New Zealand. In The Atlantic, Uri Friedman describes her as an empathetic leader. What emerged in reading the article was we de-serve better leadership, mindful, transforming, serving, etc. focusing on people as humans, not objects.

Students asked me to share poems and I did, with the context within which I wrote them. Parents, who were in the classroom each day, asked about my candour. I responded “I am not about changing minds. I try to change how each student thinks about the world, to see under the surface, reveal a sordid underbelly, and revel in the wonderfulness of human life.” This is a hopeful message, and the leadership we need is evident e.g. Jesus, Buddha, Muhammed, Mary Wollenstonecroft, Anne Frank, Maya Angelou, Soujouner Truth, Rosa Parks, etc.

Win or Lose: What Difference Does it Make?

A game–

Darwin misunderstood,

No great thing to win.

War and it language!

Bells ringing hollow,

Men, women, children gone!

Woe! vanquished losers and winners;

Humans, vanquished in every sense–

Thriving on dividing.

Resenting conquerors,

Rebuilding ruins–

On countless graves.

Morally rudderless,

Blaming the fallen,

Beggaring humans.

Homes on streets,

Hollowing souls–

What war brings?

Innocence dying–

Prryhric victories,

What war brings?

Comrades fallen,

Enemies vanquished–

Proving nothing.

Will we learn?

I pray

For human survival.

I leave you with the following video and song. We listened to Harry Belafonte, and I still do, with his uplifting and hopeful message. We are in this together, not against one another, with each other.

Keep Evil at Bay

via Keep Evil at Bay

Let me begin by saying, we do keep evil at bay by not acknowledging it and turning away if we do. Hannah Arendt referred to this as the “banality of evil” in  her book Eichmann in Jerseleum. Now, I have not read anywhere where Arendt deals with her relationship with Martin Heidegger, an anti-semite and member of the National Socialist Party during World War II.

As well, when we use the word mindfulness do we mean just being aware or do we bring with it the ethical water to purify our world, words, and acts. This is enriching in this wonderful post by Michele. She provides quotes to point us towards the ethics of a mindful life and and thoughts about how to keep evil at bay.

Ultimately, how do I choose to live and who I am? Is this the person I want to be? It does not mean perfection; far from it. It means I take time to ask who I am becoming and who I want to become.

As I read Michele’s post, it reminded me of the Cherokee story about two wolves that live in each of us and which one we choose to feed:

Two Wolves

I tell students we mistake values for beliefs. Values are what strengthen us. They emerge from each of our hearts and offer courage to do what is proper, not right as a binary choice. On the other hand, beliefs force me to create a world to fit those beliefs and defend it.

If I feed myself with Good, with qualities of joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, truth, compassion, and faith, I have strength and courage to stand up for what might make the world a better place in an indefinable way and, at the same time, not become attached to that thought so I cannot let go.

Nothing

Source: Nothing

This is a wonderful quote from Buddha. Our thoughts and emotions are fleeting and impermanent. When we accept them as such, we are able to let go and suffer less. To be present in each moment, mindful of ourselves and the world. is accepting ourselves as we are in that moment.

Hands…

Moving away from Nature …

I am presenting  something different..

There is no special teaching: The most ordinary things in our daily

Life hide…

Source: Hands…

Siram provides several wonderful pictures of hands and poetry with quotes from Buddha for each. Each one called me to be mindful and present to what happened in that image.

The images and words reminded me, even in the midst of a busy world, it is in silence between words and sounds that I find meaning. I find the extraordinary in the ordinary. Even the most familiar moments take on new meaning, filled with extra and overflowing meaning, when I pause and am present.

The Wisdom of Buddha

If you light a lamp for somebody,  it will also brighten your path. Buddha. It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.

When we show the way for others, we show the way for ourselves.

Source: The Wisdom of Buddha

The Buddha left many thoughts for us to explore and understand in our lives. The link to Lara and Tina‘s post shares several quotes and pictures, underscoring how love and care for others begins with love and care for ourselves.

When we are mindful and attentive to our self, we shine a light for others and we can be mindful and attentive to them.

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