Monday, December 31, 2007

Thanksgiving and Some of Dharma

November 22, 2007: Thanksgiving, for Robert
333 magnify
Thanksgiving and Some of the dharma

It is time for me to be, to fix our meal
I haven’t meditated; i shall now
I haven’t written; i have too
and i haven’t read
but a very little of Some of the Dharma by Jack Kerouac up to page 35.

His mother was a devout Catholic; his older brother, Gerard, died early. Kerouac loved him.

i so long for the glow of life
its sweet taste--

the world’s contempt of me
cuts into my heart
a stabbing wound that bleeds
no matter how i sing and joke and laugh
the world is unmoved and has nothing but disregard for me.
To the world i am a fool.

i want love, his mother’s kitchen (Kerouac’s), candles burning, oil cloth on the table
i want novenas and rosaries, i want holy water, the confessional screen
i want love, his friends, Cassady and Ginsberg
i want Mexico and California and New York City
i want love: safety, a night of stars, moving through the desert at night
i want love and memory
i want the glow of life; i want its sweet taste

i have a memory of safety, of moving through the desert at night,
a new Chevrolet, two tones of gray
and silver chrome
heading east in a star-filled darkness
bringing me here, to this moment
to prepare a meal,
to love. -- Mai Celia

In Some of the Dharma, (Viking-Penguin: NewYork, London; 1997; p.32) Jack Kerouac writes:

Verily, because beings, obstructed by delusions,
ensnared by cravings, now here, now there,
seeking ever fresh delight, therefore
it comes to ever fresh rebirth. --From MAJJIHIMA-NIKAYA

I am a student of Buddhism and very often feel lost in a vast continent of the unknown, Asia and its unfamiliar past, Tibet, China, India. As i read Some of the Dharma it is India with its long words and names from the Sanskrit, full of k's and y's, that spreads out upon its pages and Kerouac, in jeans, in the USA, in the fifties, small with short dark hair (at least he seems small) inhabits this huge ground (India) and the geography of its past , and visits teachers in caves and valleys, upon mountains and in books with loosened pages.

There is so much space in this book of his; its words like footprints left behind on soft earth,
like lines criss-crossing the universe where we wade through the stars. --Mai Celia

Saturday, December 22, 2007

reactionary stasists?

Hi everyone.

Just browsing this a.m. and found the following site with its review of a new book: The Future and Its Enemies.

Sounds to me as though the author has found a good derogatory label: reactionary stasists, for those of us who believe localization is a good thing. The site itself, Globaliztion Institute, is obviously in the pro-growth lemming pack leading the world over the cliff. Business as usual it seems.

Check it out:

Saturday, December 15, 2007

More deaths suspected in Myanmar

In keeping with my commitment to do more than I have been doing to work for human rights, I am posting the following link to a Reuters new story about Myanmar. Apparently, the United Nations' underestimated the number of deaths resulting from the government's response to the recent protests by monks and other activists in that country. Activistists who entered the country as tourists and met with in country activists, say the death toll is at least 70, more than double the UN's count of 31.

Myannmar or Burma is one of those undeveloped countries blessed (cursed?) with an abundant supply of our planet's most coveted natural resource, fossil fuel, mostly in the form of natural gas. Thailand, India and China all deal with the repressive military regime in Burma to gain access to those resources. Chevron Oil, the U.S.-based oil company whichemployed Condoleeza Rice before she joined the first Bush Administration as National Security chief, also has holdings in Burma and continues to work with the cruel regime and has been exempted from current restrictions on U.S. companies' dealings with the regime because its presence in Burma pre-dates the time parameters in the current restriction.

The regime could not exist without oil and gas revenues. The money is used to fund the extravagant lifestyles of the generals and their friends and to employ police and military personnel to enforce their grip on power in Burma.

The Chevron holdings in Burma were originally owned by Unocal. This is the company which recently settled with 15 Burmese peasants who brought a lawsuit against it for human rights violations and its complicity with the regime in forcing them to work on oil infrastructure projects for no or low pay and under conditions of extreme cruelty.

Milena Kaneva, a Bulgarian national working in Italy as a journalist, produced and directed a film about the lives of Burmese citizens and the court case against Unocal called Total Denial.
The film was released in 2006 and received a special prize for Human Rights from former Czech President Vaclav Havel during the One World Festival in Prague(March 2006).

I mention the lawsuit and Kaneva's film about it because they point up the linkages between world oil and gas consumption, oil and gas company (and stockholder) profits and our individual choices as consumers and citizens to human rights abuses in Burma.

The 17th Century English churchman and poet John Donne said in a sermon "no man is an island entire of itself" and this is true today. It has always been true; we are connected to all other beings. Acts that may seem invisible to us because they are behaviors encoded in our "lifestyle" are choices we make and our choices affect the lives of unseen others in distant places such as Burma. In his Meditation XVII Donne isn't writing about blame; he is writing about connection. It is said of England's Metaphysical poets, of which John Donne was one, that they were the last to write in a poetic language that reflected the union of feeling and reason. This severance of the mind and heart in English poetry was a sort of prophecy. We live in a world which pits our hearts and minds against each other, a world which has erased our connection to unseen others.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

I read the news today, take 2; the Eagles

When I got up this morning, my husband Jimmy had already “left the building.”
This is not unusual, he’s retired--yes, we’re old people--but he gets up at 5:30 every day. This morning, a Saturday, his appointed duties, after breakfast at Hardee’s, were going to the community “shred” day at the county recycling station and washing the car. He probably washed the car first because the car wash he uses is right down the road from the Hardee’s. He said there was a major delay at the shredding event so he was late getting back. (We have a shredder of our own for sensitive documents--those with social security and credit card numbers--which we want to throw away but when we have a lot we save them for community shred days.

So, I had the morning paper to myself; I didn’t bother finishing the crossword he’d started but went straight to the front page section. It’s the Tennessean from Nashville. The front page lead was the city’s agreement with the new owners’ of the Predators (Nashville’s ice hockey team).The upshot: “they’ll stay for awhile; but the fans better show up and make them some money.”

Inside there was news about the Hollywood writers’ strike--the writers’ union and the producers will restart negotiations. Also in the news were stories about the New York stage hands' strike and the nurses’ strike in West Virginia. There was a lengthy feature story on this including comments from a striker and a strike-breaker, and background information on the union tradition (mine workers) in the state.

These strike stories, the first union stories in years (decades maybe) to pierce the corporate media’s blockade against anything that might disturb the consumer society’s slumber, cheered me immensely. I exclude, of course, stories about the United Auto Worker's Union, which always serve to remind us that unions are on the way out thanks to the global economy and the cost of health care.

Then, my husband came home and after a few minutes, he started listening to the new Eagle’s CD. The Long Road from Eden. I was still reading the paper when ”I don’t want to hear anymore” with Timothy Schmit singing lead vocal came on. The song and the voice were so beautiful, we were both stopped in our tracks. We couldn’t find out who the lead was from the CD booklet so I rushed upstairs to find out via the internet. Then we found his picture in the booklet. We’ve seen the Eagles’ “Farewell Tour,” on tv a couple of times and the photo brought to mind scenes from the performance, first of Timothy with his long hair, then of all the others, different views of the performance. The concert is great, by the way.

Our attention thus gained we settled in for a real listening of this new album: beginning with the title song. The aforementioned booklet contained the lyrics of each song, so I just followed along: “Moon shining down through the palms, shadows moving on the sand, somebody whispering the 23rd Psalm, dusty rifle in his trembling hands, somebody trying to just stay alive, he got promises to keep, over the ocean in America, far away and fast asleep.” (Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Timothy B. Schmit, “Long Road Out of Eden.”)

The thing about the Eagles is 1.) the utter unity of the music and lyrics in their songs, and 2.) the utter unity of the songs and their singing of the songs and then 3.) the utter harmony of their voices in the singing of the songs and finally 4.) the way instrumental interludes flow in, between and around the singing, inseparable from but somehow framing the lyrics, deepening their meaning. This must have something to do with their having been working together for so many years.

Having said all that, all those union stories and this new CD with its little booklet of lyrics have had a profound effect on me, not unlike that of Ezekiel prophesying to the valley of bones. Striking unions and a popular singing group's album, packaged and sold by Walmart, are speaking to my broken, nearly apathetic little heart, about “the sorrows of empire” (to borrow Chalmers Johnson's book title) in the land of the free.

Just a few lines will show you what I mean. They're from “Business As Usual” written by Don Henley and Stewart Smith:

Monuments of arrogance; reach for the sky
Our better natures buried in the rubble
we’ve got the prettiest White House than money can buy,
sitting up there in than beltway bubble
And when “El Jefe” talks about our freedom
Here is what he really means:
Business as usual
How dirty we play
Business as usual
Don’t you get in the way
Makes you feel helpless
Makes you feel like a clown
Business as usual is breakin’ me down.

But you know these words by themselves , like other words in other songs, only hint at the revival that’s going on in this album. You have to hear this album (I’m sorry CD just doesn’t cut it with me; sounds too metallic, technical, electronic, too mechanical).

This revival of “our better natures,” comes from the group’s acknowledgment of what’s missing in our lives as Americans today. It deepens the meaning of the love songs which connect “let’s face the facts” tracks.

And what is missing in our lives today?

I’m not talking about nostalgia for the good old days, here.

What is missing is a connection to our better natures, replaced in some by a vile cynicism, in others by a shame-filled apathy. Worst of all this gaping emptiness has been glossed over by our own steadfast refusal to face the truth of how bad things really are, how twisted and ugly things have become under the reign of “business as usual.”

Truth can bring an awakening. And you know these guys are not young starry-eyed hippies "on the road." Not that those hippies were wrong, they were just young, too young to be listened to back then. We all were.

Monday, November 5, 2007

"I read the news today oh boy"

That line from the Beatles song, "A Day in the Life"
hits just the note for me.
(whose voice I'm not quite sure. Lennon's maybe. He wrote the words.)
it has a plaintive
tone. So "I read the news today oh boy"
in Nashville,
"Minuteman Leader Comes to Campuses: Aims to recruit border watchers"
Chris Simcox, president of Minuteman Border Watchers, will be speaking at Belmont University in Nashville and at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro. He was recruited by the Republican Clubs of each school.

The group Simcox heads encourages people to report ("turn in") the names of people who they suspect are illegal immigrants.

Why does this frighten me?

Oh, I don't know. Maybe for the same reason the phrase "home land" kind of scared me when we first started using it a while back after the towers fell.

Another line from another 60's song--
Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth" by Stephen Sills--
comes to mind:

"There's something happening here, what it is ain't exactly clear..."

The trouble is it's becoming clearer and clearer what's happening here in this our country and it is scary.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Campaign Iraq

Candidly stated, Operation Iraqi Freedom was a war designed to install a pro-U.S. puppet in Iraq, establish multiple U.S military bases before the onset of Peak Oil, and to reconvert Iraq back to petrodollars while hoping to thwart further OPEC momentum towards the euro as an alternative oil transaction currency. [1] In 2003 the global community witnessed a combination of petrodollar warfare and oil depletion warfare. The majority of the worlds governments especially the E.U., Russia and China - were not amused and neither are the U.S. soldiers who are currently stationed in Iraq. Excerpted from: The Real Reasons Why Iran Is the Next Target: The Emerging Euro-Denominated International Oil Marker by William Clark* Center for Research on Globalization; October 27, 2004

John Edwards did his fellow Democrats on the campaign trail no good when he criticized Congress for failing to end the war in Iraq. He failed the rest of us here in the USA by adding lots of heat and no light to the debate about the War in Iraq. The Democratic majorities in the House and the Senate are slim. Even with the help of a few Republicans, it's plain to see that anti-war legislation is not vet0-proof. Bush is still the Commander-in-Chief, and he is still in control.

But Edwards is not alone in being off-the-mark as far as analysis of the Iraq War is concerned. All presidential candidates and the entire Fourth Estate continue to ignore the huge elephant in the room which is the relationship of what geologists call Peak Oil to the U.S. policy in Iraq.

There has been a virtual media blackout in the American press when it comes to the proposed hydrocarbon law and the significance of its introduction within the Iraqi parliament, which is reportedly scheduled within the next few days.

"Victory in Iraq" is a phrase that is being used constantly with little attempt to explain what form such a victory may take. However, passage of the hydrocarbons law, which would essentially obligate Iraq to hand over control of its oil resources to Big Oil for the next 30 years would likely constitute such a victory in the eyes of the US political and industry leaders who pushed for the Iraq invasion in the first place. Excerpted from Searching for the Truth, "Petrodollars, al-Sadr and the Proposed Iraqi Hydrocarbon Law," January 8,2007.

Why is no one reflecting back to Vice President Cheney's top secret energy advisory meeting held not long after the U.S. Supreme Court gave the 2000 presidential election to the oil industry? Actually Project Censored is but where's the press? Where are the candidates?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Six years ago: 9/11

I was just about to park the car when National Public Radio interrupted its regular programming with a message that a plane had flown into one of the towers of the World Trade Center.

It seemed as though the announcer's grasp of the situation grew within the seconds of my hearing. First... it wasn't yet clear what had happened... then... it apparently was not an accident...

I saw a fellow worker as I was about to enter the Target store where we both worked. I said something to him about what I had heard; he just stared at me; he hadn't heard anything.

Upstairs in the breakroom the television was on. A bunch of us watched it for a long time before we went to work on the sales floor. It was the first time we, and the rest of the world with us, saw those images--now all too familiar--of New Yorkers running down a street, fleeing a monster cloud of smoke and debris, and a plane, silhouetted against the sky, serenely crashing into the first tower. Then, the second plane into the second tower. Mixed with the surreal images was the audio, news people announcing that a third plane had plowed into the Pentagon.

I was dazed when I left the break room. The rescuers were coming; the New York firemen would enter the buildings.

I kept thinking of the first attack on the World Trade Center-- the bombing. I remembered seeing people on stretchers carried out to the street, and people with bloody faces walking out to the street, some with help, some without. There was pavement in those scenes. And sidewalks. This was so very different. It was worse and I knew it was worse. I knew the upper floors were lost. But thinking of the first attack was my mind's way of limiting the destruction.

I went to work in the cosmetics section, my area. I was emotionally numb but the work was routine; it kept me busy. I was putting things back where they belonged--bottles of foundation, nail polish, packages of mascara, lipsticks.

My co-workers were always telling me they couldn't stand to do my job; it required too much attention to detail; it would be mind-numbing for them. But I liked it. I liked putting things in order; on some level it was comforting, it gave me a sense of peace. I was in control.

After a while I decided to take a break; I could find out more about what was going on. As I walked up the main aisle towards the break room, I saw one of my friends hurrying toward me.

"The first tower just collapsed," she told me.

I don't remember too much after that; I went upstairs and watched TV. I watched the second tower collapse.

I went back to work. There, alone in the cosmetics area, I felt somehow stripped; everything was different. I felt an immense wave of grief--the personal grief of hundreds of thousands of people--looming in the near distance, soon to break upon me, my country, the world. I felt helpless. Worse, I felt useless.

It's been six years: the war in Iraq began and continues, then, the Tsunami, then, Katrina...

All those years I've been mourning; I've kept on living, gone through the motions of living. I've found patches of hope, experienced the joy of having friends, loved my husband and my daughter. But I still felt helpless; I still felt useless.

I still do. But I am beginning to understand.

This is a loss too great for revenge to heal.

The order that satisfied has been shattered.

The lives of too many loved ones have been lost

Things can't be put back where they belong.

We have lost our world.

Can we find a new one?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The Glue of Friendship

After my friend watched "The llth Hour" trailer on YouTube, she e-mailed me that "yeah, she had been noticing things" but she had other concerns and that it was hard for her to prioritize. For some reason my immediate response was to tell her about my mother's "glue of friendship quote."

When I was a young woman and my mother was alive she would write letters to me. Sometimes she would enclose newspaper clippings, little sayings and things. Once she sent me about three pages from one of those little yellow "legal" pads filled with sayings she had copied down. One of my favorites was, "Good things are not cheap. Cheap things are not good." The glue of friendship saying was attributed to Woodrow Wilson and it went like this:

The glue of friendship is the only thing that will hold this world together.

So you may ask, what has this saying to do with setting priorities in this world today? Well, this is how I see it... sort of:

So many "issues" demand our attention, let alone commitment--Global warming is one which demands mine. Another one is the plight of "the four indigenous peoples" of the Sierra Nevada mountains of Colombia. Another is health care in the U.S. Another is Darfur. These and others are important to me.

But sometimes our issues can dehumanize us in that we tend to "write off" those who don't share our view of things. A true friendship can be the antidote to this.

My friend and I have different priorities; we disagree about some things.
But because she is my friend and I love and respect her, I will listen to her and care about her opinions. I'm pretty sure it's the same with her.

Unfortunately, a lot of TV "pundits" demonstrate the unfriendly model of discourse by displaying contempt for those who don't agree with them. Some bloggers do this, too. Not a good strategy for the human race.

More and more I am thinking that attending to friendship is a very important strategy in solving world problems such as global warming. This is especially true when it comes to friends who are not members of groups with which we identify, who don't share our priorities.

Don't get the idea that I've been good at this kind of thing. But I want to be. And I am learning. Touching base with an old friend via the worldwide web was a lesson.--Artemisa's Granddaughter