Wednesday, December 29, 2010

This Beloved Thing

The loving person is one who grasps non-relatively each thing they grasp. They do not think of inserting the experienced thing into relations to other things; at the moment of experience nothing else exists, nothing save this beloved thing, filling out the world and indistinguishably coinciding with it. Where you with agile fingers draw out the qualities common to all things and distribute them in ready-made categories, the loving person's dream-powerful and primally-awake heart beholds the non-common. This, the unique, is the bestowing shape, the self of the thing, that cannot be contained within the pure circle of world comprehensibility. What you extract and combine is always only the passivity of things. But their activity, their effective reality, reveals itself only to the loving person who knows them. And thus they know the world.
In the features of the beloved, whose self they realize, they discern the enigmatic countenance of the universe.

-Martin Buber

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

On Democracy, part II

I have recently started a Masters in something called Human Systems Intervention, which is too complicated to get into here (in this space, which is not really a physical space, but still represents and therefore IS space....uh....yeah....)

Anyhow, point being (for this moment, for the now-time) that I at first had no idea what the difference was between this program and say, Human Relations. Or psychology. And while they do indeed have much crossover, there are major differences between them all. Important differences. Differences which make the reason why I am studying what I am studying all the more obvious.....(to me....)

To highlight this, a website here devoted to Open Systems Theory, (OST) which was developed by Fred and Merreyln Emery. It is founded on the notion of creating environments that are democratic in nature. I will dive into more details soon. In the meanwhile, I find myself fascinated that my current interest in democracy (a reawakening in many ways) comes at the same time as my introduction to theories that not only talk about how people behave together in contexts, but how the contexts & structures themselves dictate in part, or guide, how that behaviour might look.

That democracy, or the notion of democracy as I understand it currently (and have been averse to for some time now) is somewhat paradoxical in the sense that the structures through which we try to achieve democratic realities in Western culture (parliament, representation by riding, etc) are not actually very democratic themselves. Which poses many questions that OST grapples with and offers some interesting solutions to....or at least, beginnings.....

But I am just starting out now, on my horse into the realm of this whole muck of a subject, so I know not much nor do I profess to be able to re-tell the tale in a fashion that speaks to its hearts and bones. With that disclaimer in mind, stay tuned....

Monday, October 25, 2010

On Democracy...

This is a new, old topic for me. I am agog and aghast at how I have kept the word at bay for years, similar to some of the other words in existence that I have held at more than an arm's distance. That I HAVE indeed, been pushing back on it, that as opposed to embracing and allowing democracy to integrate into my system, I have instead chosen to actively fight against what I thought would be a "small l", liberal suffocation. The radical bones in my body shook at the thought. And still, I admit, shake.

Meaning that while it's been such an integral part of how I feel about things, (this notion of democracy and what it means for myself as well as the other humans and beasts that populate this world), I have filtered it through a system of cynicism and paralysis that has rendered its fundamental heart helpless in offering the circulatory movement needed to keep it alive within me.

While these words need some distillation and clarity, perhaps, I want to simply begin vocalizing my coming home to a place I feared for quite a long time. And not without reason. As Malcolm X once said, democracy could be described as, "white nationalism"...and while he was referring to it (I believe) in relationship to his specific time and culture, to the way in which democracy was playing out around him (and I don't really feel like much has changed) I don't believe he was talking about its POTENTIAL, or what its heart-before-it-gets-cut-off pumps out.

The heart of democracy is something much more complex, inclusive, sustainable, difficult, tense. Hence the reason why it is so hard to even conceive of, let alone remotely begin to entangle myself in actively.

But it's starting to look like that's what I am indeed, supposed to do.....

More to follow.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Out of the mouths of a thousand birds...

Out of the Mouths of a Thousand Birds

Listen -
Listen more carefully to what is around you
Right now.

In my world
There are the bells from the clanks
Of the morning milk drums,

And a wagon wheel outside my window
Just hit a bump

Which turned into an ecstatic chorus
Of the Beloved's Name.

There is the Prayer Call
Rising up like the sun
Out of the mouths of a thousand birds.

There is an astonishing vastness
Of movement and Life

Emanating sound and light
From my folded hands

And my even quieter simple being and heart.

My dear,
Is it true that your mind
Is sometimes like a battering

Running all through the city,
Shouting so madly inside and out

About the ten thousand things
That do not matter?

Hafiz, too,
For many years beat his head in youth

And thought himself at a great distance,
Far from an armistice
With God.

But that is why this scarred old pilgrim
Has now become such a sweet rare vintage
Who weeps and sings for you.

O listen -
Listen more carefully
To what is inside of you right now.

In my world
All that remains is the wondrous call to
Dance and prayer

Rising up like a thousand suns
Out of the mouth of a
Single bird.


Friday, July 9, 2010

Bees in Brooklyn, NYC

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden
is pretty unbee-lievable.

Okay, I actually can't believe I just wrote that, but....I was there recently and maybe went a little camera crazy over the amazing bees I encountered.

It was also a good time to reflect upon the importance of bees to our food chain systems and the global ecosystem on so many levels.

Click on the link above to listen to an interesting podcast about just how essential bees are.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

It's been some time....

And then some more. But here I am again, and to start the ball rolling in this part of my world once more, a quote about leadership that I am reflecting on today from the amazing blog of Eve Poole:

The Archbishop of York has a lovely story about camels. There once was a Bedouin who had three sons and 17 camels. In his will he left half of his 17 camels to his elder son, one-third to his second son and one-ninth to his youngest son. When the father died, the children attempted to divide the camels according to their father’s will, and struggled to divide 17 camels into one-half, one-third and one-ninth. They went to consult a very wise old man, who said: ‘Simple. I will lend you my camel. It will be the 18th, and you can get what your father wanted you to have.’ Eureka! Half of 18 is nine, a third of 18 is six, and a ninth of 18 is two, making a total of 17. The sons divided up the camels, then the wise old man took his camel home. I think that a good way of describing the job of a leader is to use this 18th camel as an analogy, whereby the leader is essentially a catalyst to help complex things work out smoothly.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Pratt for strength

A friend and I were recently discussing whether art offers a service to others or not - specifically visual art, that is. For her, music has an inherent value that she takes for granted. Art, on the other hand, is something she hasn't been able to connect to nor see the necessity of in the same way.

I find it interesting that this seems to be true for many people I talk to. While I don't deny them their experience, it's so counter intuitive for me to imagine that art is anything but an extremely healing and consuming experience. What it offers to me is something so deep and meaningful. When it speaks to me, of course.

On that note, a painting by an artist who has done me a huge service through her body of work - Mary Pratt. For spring and light and calm and time alone.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Friday, March 5, 2010

Moon city transforms into moon plain

My walk home is against the backdrop of a clear sky with stars that lay across the moon like pearls. The air is cold, biting almost, and smacks me awake at this late hour.

It is now, with this moon and clear starry sky that I want to be in the country, trudging home to my cabin and fire. Amidst howl and rock and glint and steam.

So often I love the city and its diverse sentiments/sensations. So often I long for thee, wide plain'd landscape that beckons in the chill, crisp midnight air.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

5 things

The jasmine tree is blooming subtly. There is coffee to drink and the weather outside beckons me into its warm, comforting winds. Tsegue-Maryam Guebrou is playing the piano often of late, and Arthur Russell sings me to sleep. Candlelight always makes everything look so beautiful.

A billion and one reminders that need to play as little songs throughout my day reminding me of just how blessed I am.

Someone very dear to me once said to make sure to write down 5 wondrous things that happened at the end of each day, no matter how miserable and frustrated I might feel at the time. I have often been surprised since following his advice that the days where I have sensed the greatest unbalance have usually been the ones most ripe with offerings of joy.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The inhabitants of Bug-City

Art of well, insanity....

This van not only gets noticed in its native Toronto, but provides joy for countless tourists coming through the city as well....

Plastered with animals, princesses, clowns and toy figurines of all shapes and sizes, this toy-mobile drives through the streets of Toronto by day and straight into our hearts at night.

While I was taking photos of its splendor, (like countless folks before and after me no doubt) I imagined its owner coming out of a shop nearby to yell at me. How awesome would that be? You glue-gun millions of little creatures to your van and then get mad at anyone trying to share the spectacle of it all?

"Hey, buddy....what you think you're doing?"

Of course, this would only really work if said person was a carbon copy of Mark Mckinney's crazy cab driver from KITH....

Monday, January 25, 2010

A good reminder, part III

Not always able to FEEL this, but having done so in the past is a good enough, great enough, best enough reminder that I will indeed again or perhaps, even more-so, will myself to in the present:

...great joy, overflowing joy, as if the land and woods and spring were all praising God through me. The sense of angelic transparency of everything, and of pure, simple, and total light. The word that comes closest to pointing to it is simple. It was all simple. But a simplicity to which one seems to aspire, only seldom to attain. A simplicity, that is, that has and says everything just because it is simple.

-Thomas Merton, January 6th, 1965

Saturday, January 23, 2010

These gentle words

Found surrounded by a cluster of phrases less-than-so, but still. 12 together discovered today amidst the clatter of the external world, newspaper-surrounded-by-bodies-and-coffee-shop, reminding me of the deep excitement felt within that comes from engaging with all things quiet:

The animals humans fear are the ones that need love the most.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Presenting my spirit animal...

ha ha. yes. yes, the title I know. But actually true. I give you the nudibranch....

On grieving

and not sure how to do it
or who to do it with and how to even articulate needing to,
how to do it
or who to do it with (repeat)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

And of things that happen on trains...

My friend Miriam who is awesome-awesome-awesome and I happily found ourselves on the same train recently, and also happily found ourselves wanting to play a game of cards. We had none, so we happily made them from very thin sheets of paper. This may or may not have been unbelievably frustrating to the folks around us who wanted a bit of peace and quiet....

The gem of the pack in my mind is her Queen of Hearts who I re-named the CakeMan and gave special powers to during our games, as really, CakeMan would definitely have abilities that go beyond what a typical Queen of Hearts would have, no?

Here then, are photos of her dearness and our insane excuse for a deck of cards.

Visuals, of late. Winter space.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


I've recently been asked by a fascinating acquaintance to facilitate the upcoming discussion of the
University of the Streets Cafe around Beginnings.

For those who are interested and don't know what the University of the Streets program is all about, it's basically a classroom-away-from-a-classroom, minus the teacher and (potentially) all things academic. So maybe not so much like a classroom at all, actually. Picture an informal gathering of people who are all interested in jammin' on a certain topic together, and you have a fairly concrete idea of what I am talking about here.

When I was first approached to engage with the notion of beginnings, I felt a little pitter patter in my rib-cage, and yet didn't know quite why. Said friend who had initially contacted me mentioned how hard he finds beginnings to be. He touched on grappling with the slothfulness and inaction within to get into 'doing stuff'. Questions arose around how we find stuff to do, or why trips away from home feel so gut-wrenchingly overwhelming? Why do we feel weird about telling someone we have a crush on them? Etc...

And at first, these were the questions I found myself interested in too, and they certainly are worthwhile to think about. How do inertia, fear, indecisiveness all play into my ability to take risks and keep going? I thought about focusing on this active component of beginnings, the part where the train starts getting pushed down the tracks, the pen bleeds onto paper, the dreaded but exciting phone call is made.

Because in a way, I feel like that's where many people I know are stuck. Myself included in heaps of ways. The overwhelming concern around being rejected, or of looking foolish, or of being wrong equals resting on the laurels of the places-I'm-comfortable-but-don't-really-want-to-be.

Yet at the same time, this is also one arena that I have had plenty of experience in. For better or worse, I am someone who tends to be risky in certain ways - be it by making the first move, emailing a stranger, asking for a job I am completely unqualified for, chipping away at the stone wall first.

So my relationship to beginnings is very particular to this component of my little narrative over here. And while I am electrified at the ways these impulses and actions have made me feel alive and truly, truly humble at times, through years of initiation I have begun to look at beginnings as more of a serious responsibility towards my own desires, expectations and needs in relation to the creatures that surround me.

This perhaps is slightly unclear. What I mean is that what we often see as beginnings are often more a middle-piece, or end, to a process of deliberation and decision making concerning a beginning. Consider TS Eliot's musings on the subject:

What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.

Or, a visual analogy - when a seed is planted, it is not evident as a THING persay, or anything at all except to the person who did the planting. After a certain amount of necessary care-taking (watering, monitoring, patience) the seed pushes through soil to appear as a plant, a living creature, a being. Suddenly its existence is known not only to its gardener but also to anyone else who should happen to run into it. Due to this physical manifestation it achieves a type of validity of existence that it couldn't possibly have appreciated prior to this time.

In many ways, beginnings are very similar to this plant. If asked when a plant becomes a living thing, it would be very understandable to consider it as such when it breaks ground. But, in reality, in its gestation period, it is as much alive as it is when 2 feet tall, surrounded by wild birds. Beginnings aren't really manifested when I-ask-you-out or on the first-day-of-the-job, but when they first appear in my mind as possibilities, and then I choose to care for them or not.

Phew. This is getting really wordy. I could go on, but perhaps I will save the rest for the discussion. Needless to say, I am not suggesting that the breaking-through-soil is easy, or that it's not a truly important action to collectively muse upon. But I do allude to the point that perhaps a deeper challenge is to know what beginnings to give water and time to, and what ones to let go. That's where a responsibility for mindfulness of self and others comes into play. More on the subject live in a month's time!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

One good thing about getting older

Not that there's only one. Many, many, many, birds in the sky doing that sweeping motion together for some mysterious reason, maybe mid-afternoon group exercises, maybe a strange hommage to their god with the big beak.

That said, there's one in particular that I am thinking of now (great thing about getting older, not bird). When I was younger and milk spilt and heart ached I recall feeling totally confused and angry about how things around me just kept on keeping on. It was unbelievable to me that the world could keep on turning despite my frustration and pain. Things should indeed slow down or altogether stop, cars run out of gas, cats run out of me-ow....

Now as I am getting older, I feel this reaction completely shifting. Suddenly what I found dishearteningly cold as a youth, (the ability for things to keep going) I find ravishingly comforting as a slightly-older individual.

That the heart can pang in one but the sun still rise for all. It reminds me of not only a responsibility of the earth to keep behaving in ways I can relate to and appreciate, but also of my responsibility to it to respond in turn by remembering the sun really and truly doesn't revolve around me. I do not experience the bumps and bruises I live through in a vacuum, but amidst others with their own pains and joys and ducks and tree-tops and fountain heads.

And oh the joyous awareness of other-than-self in this way. To the magic of the mundane then, this is dedicated, that despite the fact that I might constantly overlook it I shall never truly forget it nevertheless.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

What Arthur Russell meant to tell me

was that I think right now is a time to be fallow, to a degree. This is very, very hard for me even though I'd be the first to suggest the same for you, if needed.

The discomfort of waiting or of being open and aware without action. I suppose for some, like anything (hand-gliding, nose-putting, returning-to-sender) this is easier-accomplished than for others. Yet buzzing, foraging, rummaging has been, for eons now, as much a part of my natural instinct (perhaps) as it has been a solidified component of my concept of self by the culture I am surrounded by.

There are so many quiet voices within that I know I need to listen to, and don't. Watch your field and wait for it to regenerate. Don't think too much but ask it whispered questions, about what it wants to be next. The health of a greater balance is held within these types of actions, or un-actions. Non-actions.

The same for the body - what does it really need, what do I offer it? So often, although I dread admitting this, my brain ignores what so many other areas of my whole-self say in order to do what is immediately pleasing.

The same, too, then for the spirit, in terms of being still. Waiting. Or observing. Being open to the world in order for the things that aren't necessarily immediately pleasing, but that are most definitely necessary, to present themselves.

A visual metaphor - sometimes I am expected to act in the play, or stage manage, be part of the direct action and therefore focus on the specifics contained within. At other times, best to sit in the audience (as an active member, mind you) and really take everything in. Watch. Listen. At the end, stay behind instead of getting up to go to the next immediacy. Maybe fall asleep in the aisle.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Time Away

I'm taking time away to dream
I'm taking time out to clean up my room
and when I clean up, my room will gleam
because dreams aren't as unreal as they seem.

I'm taking time away to dream, I'm taking time out.

Put my records in their covers and then
I'll put the albums back into their place
and I'll sweep up this morning and when
I look at the clock, I see it says ten.

I'm taking time away to dream, I'm taking time out.

Well I just can't be sure any more, I just can't be sure.
No, I just can't be sure any more, I just can't be sure.

I'll pick up my pants even though
I might wear them, wear them today;
smooth out my covers on my bed so,
after I wash them I've got some place to go.

I'm taking time away to dream, I'm taking time out.

Well I just can't be sure any more,
I just can't be sure.
No, I just can't be sure any more,
I just can't be sure.

I'm taking time away to dream,
I'm taking time out to clean up my room,
and when I clean up, my room will gleam,
because dreams aren't as unreal as they sweem.

I'm taking time away to dream, I'm taking time out

Arthur Russell

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Anxiousness and anticipation...

Of the things/people that go up stairs in the evenings.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

If only it were that simple.

I saw a fairly ironic or at least somewhat puzzling site today in the metro. As I haven't taken public transport or been near any University campuses for some time, I had all-but-forgotten the folks who stand with literature and signs lambasting the evil American government for this, that and the other atrocity. They are always, always extroverted and usually quite grouchy. I am sure I am related to them somehow.

Now, most of the time on a basic level I agree with what they shout about. I don't exactly have fond memories of George Bush, and I don't think that the majority of actions democratic nations take on a governmental level make sense for just about anyone. If I sound simplistic here, well, perhaps that's part of the point I am trying to make. The generalizations strewn about in that sentence I just penned look like nuanced, ambiguous references in comparison to the wholly black-and-white accusations the folks with these slogans muster up.

Which brings me to today. A sign blasting the periphery of my left eye showing Obama with a Hitler moustache with the words, "Obama's Changed" across the top. I only assumed this was in direct reference to his new 14-countries (and counting) screening agenda currently available at all American airports. While I totally agree with the fundamentals of what they're saying, (that the policy is hugely racist and highly, offensively problematic) I am so bewildered at their delivery of said state-of-mind.

Has Obama actually changed? Is he now effectively Hitler, a ridiculous and rather insulting comparison (and not just to Obama)? Or is he someone who perhaps is a bit more nuanced than folks had dared to imagine? Could he be in fact, human, and not the perfect solution to all of North America's (and the globe's) woes around the ludicrous actions and ideas coming out of our parlimentary systems?

In saying this, I do not take the anti-responsibility shampoo in my bathroom and give the man a good washing. People need to be human and this means being in part, imperfect, yet also accountable. I just think that we all saw this coming from a mile away and tried to fight it. I know I did. There is something so wondrous in believing that change can come from an almost mythical hero. Hopeful or wishful thinking is not necessarily a bad thing. We had a type of hope at the time he came into office, however, that was likely inflated and bound to disappoint. Barack Obama, the pefect president, best friend, man to marry, woman to date, child to rear.

To hope is in some ways to plough on, so good on everyone for having a bit of that magic left in the heart. But when heartache comes, don't go running to blame the image you've created in your mind of a person or place or life that doesn't actually exist.

What I mean to say is that more often than not the external world doesn't change, but we (be it our bodies, thoughts, viewpoints, or understandings of) do.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The song remains the same...but somehow sounds different

I just finished a really amazing and somehow expansive, (at least for my little noggin') book on ancient egypt. Aptly titled The Egyptian, by Finnish writer Mika Waltari, it's a fictionalized story of the incredible journeys of a doctor during the reign of Pharaoh Akhenaten at the end-(ish) of the New Kingdom. What that means in terms of timeline is that Ancient Egypt still had hundreds of years to go as a hugely influential and powerful realm, but was on its way out.

The book itself was written at the tail end of the second world word, an interesting fact in and of itself due to the history of Finland in relation to its surroundings at the time. Both the writer and his subject matter were wrapped up in distinctively intense and turbulent environments. Perhaps this is why Waltari chose Ancient Egypt to study - the difference between a civilization that endured for 3,000 years and the strange global village? entity? smear? that is experienced now is so vast that maybe he was able to find a much-needed escape penning the tale he did.

And the tale is one worth paying attention to, not only because Pharaoh Akhenaten was a fascinating character who pushed gender boundaries and spiritual concerns further than we might ever comprehend standing on this side of history. For me, it was the position I had on the other bank of the creek of time, the crack that opens into another world, that was the most enriching.

For years I have waited to become passionate about the history of things from a broader perspective than a basic understanding of art and music in Western Europe. Here, then, in this book, is my gateway. I have always been overwhelmed by the shape of things, and how despite thousands and thousands of years, so much remains the same. Suddenly, simultaneously, I want to know more of the details of the sameness of things. It's clear that ego and lust and greed and joy and love and pain and oxen and shovels and sheep and your brother all effect the outcome of each day, year, group of folks. But the Egyptian brought me sensually closer to the specifics of these generalizations for certain people - the linen, the smell of myrrh, the difficulties of practicing medicine during wars with chariots...

And similar to how I might respond to a slap in the face by a mostly-friendly stranger, I feel awoken. The trickle of human history and how it trails to the life I understand. A deeper sense of where the spill is coming in and in turn how to describe it to those around me, or just my own lone-some self. Collections of stories for the basins of water surrounding us.