gratitude

Appreciation = the magic

** A re-post, from November 2012. Still as true, in essence, as it was when I first wrote it (links have been updated).

A dear colleague/friend thanked me extravagantly the other day for who I am & what I do. I’m well aware that I’m a person who is much, much blessed. I have a lot of people in my life who love & appreciate me. I have meaningful work I love – & enjoy so much that I do it without pay!

But you see I am paid: I’m paid in appreciation. The work I’ve done for the past 20+ years (environmental activism & writing) is so engaging to me that I’ve done most of it without a paycheque (& yes, thankfully at times there have also been some paying gigs).

But all along the way, I’ve known that my efforts have always been (still are) much appreciated.

I think some sort of little (or actually big!) miracle happened for me along the way. In the wake of a huge personal life disaster 17 years ago, I took up the gratitude habit (being actively grateful for this, that & the other thing; many postings on this blog about that; many are listed here) – & I am regularly actively grateful for much, much indeed and, I am simultaneously much appreciated.

It’s magic! Or it sure seems that way to me…

None of this has anything whatsoever to do with the official “economy.” It operates outside that realm entirely. And as you can see, it’s a rather magical, circular phenomenon, hmmm?

Unfortunately, I do not have a magic wand at my disposal. I cannot make this work in anyone else’s life. You have to create or invoke it in your own life, yourself. It works from the in-side out, not the out-side in. It’s your own creation.

I don’t think it matters at all who you are, or what kind of work you do. For example, a woman just came by where I am sitting (at a coffee shop in a mall, the sort of place I love to hate) – to sweep up some stuff on the floor. And I thought “Yup. She too can do the gratitude thing, & be appreciated for what she does.” It will work for anyone! (If she had looked my way, she would have seen that I was smiling at her; even a smile can make you feel appreciated!)

The process merely requires sincerity & faithfulness. And practice. Lots of practice. Practice makes perfect!

So while I'm going to have to start earning some money soon (new life phase approacheth), I’ll keep right on being grateful, &, I suspect, feeling appreciated.

I sure do wish this magic for all of us on Planet Earth!!

Janet 

p.s. I've hung around with quite a few teachers in my life. Teachers (in Canada, anyway) are paid a pretty decent salary (well, not compared to bigshots in industry – but let’s face it, some of those dudes are a little overpaid…wouldn’t you say??). I’ve known a couple of teachers really well, & I know they were grateful for their salaries…but also that it felt especially wonderful when a student or colleague let them know they were appreciated. Paycheques are delightful, & they sure do help pay the bills & all that. But they are rather poor at conveying appreciation. We human beings need to feel appreciated. It’s very very important for our mental health!!

p.p.s. & needed. We want, & need, to be needed. At least I am pretty sure this is true...

‘Quote of the day’ with this post: “In our daily lives, we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but the gratefulness that makes us happy.” – Albert Clarke, quoted in Speak Peace in a World of Conflict – What You Say Next Will Change Your World, by Marshall B. Rosenberg. (more quotes & postings about gratitude here.)

Runner-up: “We can no longer have everything we want, but we can be more than we ever imagined.” – Howard Jerome, quoted in Life, Money & Illusion – Living on Earth as if we want to stay, by Mike Nickerson [italics added by me, for emphasis]  

Christmas Eve 2013: HUA Attack

<Dec. 24 & 25/13.>

Generally, I’m pretty good at diagnosing others as suffering from Head-Up-Arse disease (yes, please forgive me my occasional lapses of … decorum).

Today I realized I suffer from somewhat regular attacks of the syndrome myself.

Pretty much every Christmas, Easter & Thanksgiving, actually – with the Christmas season (that annual bumpy emotional roller coaster ride) the star of the show.

So, earlier today, I had a severe attack.

The world is of course, as ever, falling apart around our ears.

There are typhoons, ongoing nuclear disasters, ice storms for which large cities (like Toronto, Ontario, Canada) are ill-prepared – along with the “everyday” glaring (one might also say appalling & disgusting) income & social disparities/inequalities that we have apparently come to accept as a species, & as individuals (those of us who have accepted them, that is).

& then there are those of us who have our predictable little meltdowns at certain times of the year.

As I do.

It’s complicated, & I’m not even remotely interested in trying to “explain” it. So much of it is irrational, & how well can one rationally articulate the irrational? Philosophical question for the day. 

So, from time to time (fortunately relatively infrequently), I get downright self-absorbed about my (so-called) “troubles.”

Troubles that probably at least 90% of humanity would likely thank you for (given their own deeply deeply difficult circumstances). I need to get a grip … hmmmm?

A lot of  “negative” emotions run through me when I’m undergoing one of these HUA attacks.

  • Sadness
  • Self-pity
  • Envy
  • Regret

What came over me today, after realizing what an ass I am, is how humbling, really, these occasional attacks are.

They force me to sit up & take note of how gold-plated my life is (something I am normally quite adept at doing). I am genuinely blessed in a great many ways, & my problems, such as they are, are what you might call “small potatoes” compared to those of so very many HBs.

So when I catch myself in a full-blown HUA episode, I quickly become ashamed at how absurd I am, but then too, compassion wells up in me for those whose problems are so much bigger “potatoes” than my own. It’s good to have compassion for all of us – myself included! (Heck, I’m allowed to wallow a little, once in a while, no??  As Joanna Macy says, it is appropriate to “honour our pain,” & as Stephen Levine says, many of us have “unattended sorrows.”)

We are in many ways a rather sorry lot, we humans. (Or worse, even; bear in mind I’m an anti-nuclear activist. The word evil comes to mind often-ish; “sorry lot” really just doesn’t quite cover it. )

***

Anyway, so the next thing is, I wind up hearing CBC Radio doing a repeat of its Ontario Today call-in show on gratitude.

This turns out to be JUST what I need to put a final end to the HUA episode. A shot in the arm, totally. It reminds me of my posting ‘Gratitude, Remembered’; even a regular practitioner of gratitude can forget sometimes…hmmm?

***

No doubt I’ll suffer future episodes of HUA at some point, being merely human. A human bean just like all of us. Merely another “bozo on the bus,” hmmm?

Life is a challenging business, dear Reader. Especially when one is paying full attention to the madness that is raging & seemingly ramping ever upward all around us. This Wendell Berry quotation springs to mind:

“You can describe the predicament that we’re in as an emergency, and your trial is to learn to be patient in an emergency.” (Wendell Berry)

Off for a walk!

Janet

‘Quote of the day’ with this post: “In our daily lives, we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but the gratefulness that makes us happy.” – Albert Clarke, quoted in Speak Peace in a World of Conflict – What You Say Next Will Change Your World, by Marshall B. Rosenberg

A few bonus others:

“It may be that the satisfaction I need depends on my going away, so that when I’ve gone and come back, I’ll find it at home.” – Rumi, “In Baghdad, Dreaming of Cairo: In Cairo, Dreaming of Baghdad”

“I know what the greatest cure is: it is to give up, to relinquish, to surrender, so that our little hearts may beat in unison with the great heart of the world.” – Henry Miller

“The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature.” – Joseph Campbell

“Do not follow where the path may lead...go instead where there is no path, and leave a trail.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882)

“He then learns that in going down into the secrets of his own mind he has descended into the secrets of all minds.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“What lies behind us and what lies ahead are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson [more Emerson quotes]

Appreciation = the magic

A dear colleague/friend thanked me extravagantly the other day for who I am & what I do. I’m well aware that I’m a person who is much, much blessed. I have a lot of people in my life who love & appreciate me. I have meaningful work I love – & enjoy so much that I do it without pay!

But you see I am paid: I’m paid in appreciation. The work I’ve done for the past 20+ years (environmental activism & writing) is so engaging to me that I’ve done most of it without a paycheque (& yes, thankfully at times there have also been some paying gigs).

But all along the way, I’ve known that my efforts have always been (still are) much appreciated.

I think some sort of little (or actually big!) miracle happened for me along the way. In the wake of a huge personal life disaster 17 years ago, I took up the gratitude habit (being actively grateful for this, that & the other thing; many postings on this blog about that; many are listed here) – & I am regularly actively grateful for much, much indeed and, I am simultaneously much appreciated.

It’s magic! Or it sure seems that way to me…

None of this has anything whatsoever to do with the official “economy.” It operates outside that realm entirely. And as you can see, it’s a rather magical, circular phenomenon, hmmm?

Unfortunately, I do not have a magic wand at my disposal. I cannot make this work in anyone else’s life. You have to create or invoke it in your own life, yourself. It works from the in-side out, not the out-side in. It’s your own creation.

I don’t think it matters at all who you are, or what kind of work you do. For example, a woman just came by where I am sitting (at a coffee shop in a mall, the sort of place I love to hate) – to sweep up some stuff on the floor. And I thought “Yup. She too can do the gratitude thing, & be appreciated for what she does.” It will work for anyone! (If she had looked my way, she would have seen that I was smiling at her; even a smile can make you feel appreciated!)

The process merely requires sincerity & faithfulness. And practice. Lots of practice. Practice makes perfect!

So while I'm going to have to start earning some money soon (new life phase approacheth), I’ll keep right on being grateful, &, I suspect, feeling appreciated.

I sure do wish this magic for all of us on Planet Earth!!

Janet 

p.s. I've hung around with quite a few teachers in my life. Teachers (in Canada, anyway) are paid a pretty decent salary (well, not compared to bigshots in industry – but let’s face it, some of those dudes are a little overpaid…wouldn’t you say??). I’ve known a couple of teachers really well, & I know they were grateful for their salaries…but also that it felt especially wonderful when a student or colleague let them know they were appreciated. Paycheques are delightful, & they sure do help pay the bills & all that. But they are rather poor at conveying appreciation. We human beings need to feel appreciated. It’s very very important for our mental health!!

p.p.s. & needed. We want, & need, to be needed. At least I am pretty sure this is true...

‘Quote of the day’ with this post: “In our daily lives, we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but the gratefulness that makes us happy.” – Albert Clarke, quoted in Speak Peace in a World of Conflict – What You Say Next Will Change Your World, by Marshall B. Rosenberg. (more quotes & postings about gratitude here.).

Runner-up: “We can no longer have everything we want, but we can be more than we ever imagined.” – Howard Jerome, quoted in Life, Money & Illusion – Living on Earth as if we want to stay, by Mike Nickerson [italics added by me, for emphasis]  

Gratitude – 1 more

I’ve probably written more postings about gratitude than on any other topic. I know – I’m a broken record!? But here I sit on a rock outcropping overlooking the Ottawa River at what is perhaps my very favourite place on the planet. A stunningly beautiful beach – utterly unspoiled, mostly un-peopled most of the time, even – & across the river are hills & trees-trees-trees…& more sandy beaches.

It’s to die for!!  

I no longer live within easy walking/biking/driving distance of this gorgeous spot (as I did at one time), & am only visiting in the area for a short while.

And, right now, feeling very very grateful.

I’ve been connected to this river my whole life, really. Well, ever since I was two, anyway. Grew up way, way downriver, east of Ottawa, west of Montreal. Then, later, had a close relationship with a cottage that was upriver from Ottawa.

The river keeps calling me back! Sort of mysterious, really. 

But I’m digressing utterly from what I set out to say. It’s really just a quick thought I wanted to express. Merely an opinion. Strongly-held…but merely an opinion.

***

I think the mess our species is now in – a mess we’re in utterly up to our eyeballs & near-drowning in, by now – can be laid at the feet of a very simple (but profound) phenomenon.

I believe we ceased as human beings at some point (debatable when, but does it really matter at this juncture?) to be grateful – deeply, deeply reverent & grateful – for the stunningly beautiful, abundant planet that is our home.

We began taking it “for granted.” Abused & polluted it (& ourselves) with greed & violence & a deep lack of proper care & regard.

Some of us have lost relationships to the very same phenomenon, really.

A failure to celebrate & be grateful to & for each other.

Too much taking things/circumstances/people for granted.

I think we all want an abundant & fulfilling life, don’t we? I wish we would all of us, every single one of us, consider taking up a simple but miraculous & transformational habit.

Active, mindful gratitude.

I’m not going to tell you how to do it – I’ve already written about that elsewhere (all related postings are listed here, & there is a how-to posting on the list).

I can almost guarantee you that a faithful effort at this will change your life.

Gratitude is actually magical.

But don’t take my word for it…try it out for yourself!

It won’t cost you a penny – & it will very likely end up making you rich!

Janet

p.s. although wealth, as I’ve learned along the way, actually has nothing whatsoever to do with money

‘Quote of the day with this post: “Abundance is not something we acquire. It’s something we tune into.” Wayne Dyer (more gratitude quotations here)

 

Gratitude, Remembered

<April 7/12> So, I’ve been down in a pretty boggy swamp of despond, lately (my last few blog postings attest to that), but today I’m feeling human again.

Thankfully!

The world is STILL going to hell in a handbasket – that hasn’t changed, & I’ve had several alerts this past week or so regarding the situation in Fukushima being so impossibly precarious that the entire world has every reason to feel very, very sobered indeed… (Eek - this just in also).

But you know? Life is just lots more enjoyable when I don’t focus all the time all the time all the time on all the awful stuff.

  • The sun is shining today
  • A good friend sent me a cheery e-mail message (she knows all about the Fukushima stuff, better than I do, even, she is paying attention & more than paying attention) but we both take our joy from small blessings, hmmm?
  • Someone left an affirming comment on my blog (thank you thank you thank you!!  ) & funnily enough it was about all the gratitude postings. How timely, when I needed to be reminded of my own slightly messianic role in promoting gratitude! (which I had admittedly actually kind of forgotten about & needed to be reminded of )
  • When I was dumping out my paper recycling a teeny piece of paper with this quotation spilled out of the pile: “Abundance is not something we acquire. It’s something we tune into.” Wayne Dyer & this is true, it’s true, it’s true…
  • I’m going to be seeing a # of people I care about a whole bunch in the next couple of days
  • I had a good walk in the sunshine this morning early, & I made myself laugh inside when I came up with the idea of a new club called A*sholes Anonymous when I saw (more like smelled) a truck idling on the way back that I had seen 10 minutes before on my way up, & it’s not even winter anymore, Dude, so what is your deal?? AA. Yup. 
  • People on this GO train are smiling & being friendly (& just by pointedly turning & looking out the window when we were going by beautiful Lake Ontario, which everyone else was just ignoring, I caused one person to look out & notice its beauty too; so yay!!)

& of course the big trick about gratitude is that you focus on the good stuff, not the awful stuff. You focus on what you have, not what you don’t have (or have lost, & trust me, I’ve been down both those rabbit holes plenty enough myself) & when you work at this day after day, week after week, month after month, your list becomes very long indeed. Practice makes perfect!

(I’ve written about gratitude about a zillion times – all the postings are listed/linked here, & there are some pretty fine quotations about gratitude here)

Anne Lamott is one of my very favourite writers, & even though she & I are not really on the same page when it comes to religion, we are on the same page about something I am pretty sure I recall her saying once about prayer.

I think what she said (now I’m going to have to go & look it up, & I will, I will!) is that prayer is fine & good & worthwhile even if all you ever “pray” is “please please please” & “thank you thank you thank you.”(1)(2)

& I say “Thank you thank you thank you” a lot.

& the more I “do my thing” in the world (my “thing” happens to be environmental activism & writing), the more I am appreciated. & somebody has apparently said something to the effect that what we appreciate, appreciates (as in, grows in value, I guess?) Gotta check out this book & will report back soon….

So hey, world.

Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you

Me  

p.s. I think one of the biggest “poisons” many of us have ingested – as individuals & as a species, even – is the “taking for granted” disease. I’ve seen relationships wither up & die as a result of this simple but fatal disease – & I see things on our planet doing much the same thing. Check out the quotations on gratitude here & you’ll get an idea of what I mean, I think. We have failed abysmally to appreciate our incredibly beautiful, incredibly generous, incredibly abundant Earth & oh, dear me, we are certainly now reaping what we have sown …

p.p.s. gratitude, like virtue, is truly its own reward. (I want to say “no shit,” but that might sound rude & I don’t want to be too rude. So let’s just say “It really really is.”)


 

(1) A lot of years ago I discovered that you don’t even have to be a “believer” to pray. My own beliefs have changed a lot over the years & I needn't go into all that here. But it’s true that prayer does not have to be the sole preserve of believers…

(2) Sure enough I was wrong about Anne Lamott's prayer thoughts from Traveling Mercies - Some Thoughts on Faith (awesome awesome book, as are all of her others!!). It was "Help me, help me, help me" & "Thank you, thank you, thank you." But I was pretty close....

 

Gratitude for Grumps

I’ve already written quite a lot about gratitude on this blog. If you go here, you’ll see what I mean.

But I think there may be some tough customers who think they can’t do gratitude. I maintain that gratitude is for everyone, & everyone includes grumps.

So, okay, grumps, unless you are irrevocably wedded to your eternal grumpiness (& I guess some of you are!), read on. You have nothing to lose but your endless grumps, defeatism, lack of joy, frequent frowns, bad moods, wet blanket-ness, black cloud contribution to everyone around you…&… I guess I could go on, but I won’t!

& trust me! Your family, friends, lovers, colleagues, partners, fellow students, neighbours, siblings, children, supermarket checkout ladies – etc. etc. etc. – will be DEE-lighted to notice that your grumpiness got lost or misplaced somewhere along the way.

Now, here’s the funny thing, Reader. I got this far drafting this item back on Oct. 27th, & then got swept away by life & other blog postings, & never got back to this. Until today, Dec. 2nd. & you know what? Truth is, I’ve been feeling a little on the grumpy side myself lately. Fairly unusual for cheery old me, but I think this time of year can be challenging even for those of us who are almost perennially cheery. It’s December, hmm? The days of increasing erosion of sunshine & earlier & earlier arrival of darkness. The days leading up to Christmas, a big material & emotional blow-out for so many of us. In short, a challenging season for a very great many of us. I have long found this season a tough one.

Also, I’m just “getting” that some of us have a person or situation in our lives (or a whole big load of ancient crud we schlep around with us that seems to do major spillover into our daily dealings with people) that we permit to throw a black cloud over our little world – & we use it as a reason (maybe more like an excuse?) for being pretty grumpy, pretty routinely.

I have a very, very dear friend who basically conveyed to me yesterday a message more or less this: why be miserable every Thursday only for the however many hours involved in the weekly task of … bleah bleah bleah, details not important…when I can be miserable about it ALL day – & maybe even let the misery seep into the day before & the day after too?

Ah…how we all sometimes resist happiness or joy, hmmm? And I am spotting this particularly right now because I’ve been doing the same darn thing myself. Guilty!

And now I must admit the truth about this blog posting. If someone really is completely & utterly wedded to her/his deep & eternal grumpiness (for now), blessings on us all, there may in fact be nothing we can do. If you are stuck living with a BG (big grump), I feel for you. Can’t be a lot of fun living with Ms. or Mr. Grump.

& here now, for my own apparently currently necessary reminding, are a few words about gratitude – an attitude I have found literally transformative in my own wee life. Janet: heed thy own wisdom!!

Or, hmmm, maybe I’ll just spend 10 minutes or so re-reading my own old essays about gratitude.

Starting with this one, & then working my way up & down the list until I feel some sort of “click” of recognition or inspiration that will get me off my own butt, December grumpiness-wise.

Janet

P.S. We are also blessed – & perhaps more inclined away from grumpiness – if we feel appreciated. And if we are in regular contact with people who love us. I feel very grateful for that, too. I do feel loved, & appreciated, on a regular basis. Living alone can, I know from experience, be quite challenging in these regards. Folks who live alone might want to consider doing some volunteer work on a regular basis. It will almost certainly make them feel better about themselves, & in my experience, I always-always-always get as least as much out of volunteer gigs as I put in – usually, actually, a whole heckuva lot more!!

'Quote of the day' w. this post: “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.” – Arundhati Roy

Thanksgiving Paradox

Thanksgiving weekend is sure a mixed bag, emotional complexity-wise…for a lot of us... isn't it?? (Christmas too, of course).

It’s Thanksgiving weekend in Canada (we celebrate it much earlier than the Americans do).

Families get together on this weekend & cook a turkey (if they are meat-eaters) & eat mashed potatoes & squash & pumpkin pie. It’s tradition! There is usually a lot of food – & often a lot of people – involved.

This was true for me for many, many years of my life. Decades. Divorce changed all that. I have a tendency to get a little “Oh poor me”-ish most Thanksgiving weekends. (Yes, it’s quite tiresome – even to me!)

The irony or paradox is this: many people apparently don’t really enjoy Thanksgiving weekend – either ‘cos they have to do a shitload of work, cooking & baking & cleaning, &/or they resent “hosting” the extended family year after year, or their children don’t spend enough time with them, or they hate having to spend time with weird Uncle Bill or Aunt Frieda or… are you getting my drift??

There appears to be an almost infinite # of ways to dread & fail to enjoy Thanksgiving weekend.

Me, I feel a little hard done by because I am no longer an integral member of a large & happy conglomeration of people (more or less) related by blood – & I often get that “left out” feeling. (Last year I wrote about this under the blog posting title ‘Not wanted on the voyage’ )

Yet I think some of my friends envy me because I don’t have to work my butt off, entertain relatives I could quite frankly live nicely without, thank you very much, & I actually have the freedom to enjoy long walks or bike rides, some much-appreciated solitude, & usually still manage to be invited to a lovely gathering of one conglomeration of people or another, to boot!!

Since I’m pretty good at practicing gratitude on a regular basis, I’m actively grateful for a great many things indeed. Maybe I’ll always be a little sorry I’m not part of a semi-tight & semi-decent & semi-normal (whatever that is) “family” – but I am grateful that I seldom have to hang out with folks who really bug me in a big way – & I’m also (now that I think of it) grateful that Thanksgiving only comes around once a year!! Its emotional freight is a little on the exhausting side…you know??

Janet

p.s. The post ‘Card Therapy or Families: It’s All Relative' covers some ground about all of us & our … dysfunctional families – in this very, very, very dysfunctional world of ours.

‘Quote of the day’: “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. It turns problems into gifts, failures into successes, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. It can turn an existence into a real life, and disconnected situations into important and beneficial lessons. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie, in The Language of Letting Go. (more quotations on gratitude here)

 

Heroes

<May 31/11.>

Been thinking about heroes lately. I guess we all need heroes, eh?

We all need people we can look up to...right?

Actually, we’re pretty much wired to “look up” from the moment we’re born. Our parents are our first heroes. They’re our very gods & goddesses ... from Day 1! (I guess that’s why the mistakes they make & our resulting neuroses/psychoses are so stubborn & lifelong, usually. To transcend or transmute them takes work...a heck of a lot of effort & energy & determination & guts & work. No wonder not all of us are up to it!)

Well.

What I really want to muse on here is men & their (apparent) need to be heroic.

I do believe men want to be seen as (at least somewhat) heroic to their womenfolk. And that this is utterly natural.

We human beings evolved for a very different world than this one, hmmm? In the old, old, really old days (from today’s vantage point, although not so very long ago, in geological terms), men were the brave hunters, in our tribal gathering/hunting days. (Maybe women have always been considered somewhat ... heroic or special? ... for our life-giving & nurturing qualities?? Perhaps. Except, of course, when we haven’t been. But I digress.)

Okay. So, I think our men want/need to be heroes.

It doesn’t always work out so well...does it?

I muse on my own relationships with men – & the kind of relationship I still aspire to. The men I’ve loved have been heroic to me – in one major, pivotal way or another. I’ve witnessed the disaster that can result when someone goes crashing off his (or presumably her) pedestal. I’ve also seen how even continued & sincere love, admiration & respect can only take you so far. When they run smack dab into a man’s deep & persistent self-loathing (or a woman’s, as the case may be), it might as well be a lead barrier. Some things even love can’t penetrate...apparently.

No one ever said life was simple, did they??

(& btw, I believe men do have a need to be perceived as heroes, & if we women who love our men treat them with cavalier disregard, or even contempt – as I see some women doing – we can hardly be surprised if their spirits more or less shrivel up. Patriarchy has damaged women for thousands of years. Fact. Turning it around & behaving as though two wrongs are suddenly, miraculously going to make a right, is not going to paint any prettier a picture…hmmm?)

Well. So. Men need to be heroes.

What do women need?

To be beautiful? Rich? Brilliant? Accomplished? Admired?

Well, maybe. Maybe those are some of the things some women need (or think they need).

Mostly, I think what women REALLY want & need, is...

To talk (& be heard).

Talk & talk & talk & talk & then, talk some more.

Since a lot of men seem to be wired to ACT – & even somewhat frequently, perhaps, to act without thoughtfully considering the consequences of their actions (what I refer to as the Ready- FIRE!!-Aim syndrome) you’d think that the marriage of women & men (or female & male qualities) would be one made in heaven, wouldn’t you?

An idea dawns.

People start talking about it.

Discussing it. Weighing the pros & cons.

Conversation… & lots of it.

Then, when lots of good thinking & discussion have taken place... Action!

Wouldn’t it be amazing if we humans had always properly valued the unique strengths & contributions of both sexes??

And given simple conversation its rightful due?

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh…

Janet

p.s. on Oct. 26th, so, 4 months later... I keep musing on things, & the other day I came up with this little addition. Dunno if it's true or not...you decide! Men want to be heroes. Women want to serve. Hmmm. Maybe what we want is not so very very different...

p.p.s. For an utterly hilarious poke at the way women & men think & talk to one another (& utterly, utterly, utterly fail to communicate), DO read the brilliant Dave Barry essay here

p.p.p.s. Odd coincidence, if you want to call it that.  I wrote down these thoughts about heroism early in the day, & then later in the day watched the documentary film ‘The Battle of Chernobyl.’ Although I’d heard of the Chernobyl “liquidators,” I’d had no idea how many of them there were, or where they came from, or the scope of the work they did, post-Chernobyl accident 25 years ago (April 26, 1986). Now, speaking of heroism... those men were heroes. (You can watch the film on-line here. And I highly recommend that you do, in this post-Fukushima world we now inhabit. I won’t lie & tell you it’s an easy film to watch. It isn’t. But I’d consider watching it anyway. If it does nothing else for us, & does not motivate us into taking any kind of action, at the very least it will surely make those of us who live where there has not been a nuclear accident (yet) feel actively grateful for that fact. And the more gratitude we feel, the better – in my books, anyway!)

‘Quote of the Day’ with this post: “What we need now is heroes – millions of them. Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul.” – Paul Watson

Runners-up: “Driven by the forces of love, the fragments of the world seek each other, so that the world may come into being. Love alone is capable of uniting living beings in such a way as to complete and fulfill them, for it alone takes them and joins them by what is deepest in themselves.” – P. Teilhard de Chardin (1881 – 1955)

“It is not genius, nor glory, nor love that reflects the greatness of the human soul; it is kindness.” – Henri-Dominique Lacordaire

“A lot of people are waiting for Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi to come back – but they are gone. We are it. It is up to us. It is up to you.” ~ Marian Wright Edelman

 

Courses I’d Like to See in 2011 / Part I: A - K

This is just for laughs. It was first sparked on a walk in the woods the week before Christmas (ah, those walks, eh??), & when I started to actually write it, all manner of ideas bubbled up. Of course, this is the season for wistful nostalgia, over-the-top desires, & the need to review the year that has just passed & contemplate the next with … boundless, naïve hopes/optimism. Here goes!

** Activism/Action: Its Own Reward! Course material will cover topics such as “Apathy is not the answer” (but then, what the heck was the question???). “Actions speak louder than words”: ancient truism (always fully grasped by male members of the species; much less so by the female, apparently...) to be fully explored. The fact that males sometimes (often??) seem to go off half-cocked will be related to the modern phenomenon of “Ready…FIRE!!!!!.......Aim.”Instructor will pose the philosophical questions: Should men do less & talk more? Should women do more, & talk less?? (Or maybe, should we all just go & live on different planets???)

** Adaptation/Flexibility: Will Take You Everywhere! Charles Darwin’s assertion “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the one most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change” to be fully explored & substantiated. Guest speakers will discuss exciting current research. (This course closely related to 'You CAN Teach an Old Dog New Tricks.')

** Bathroom Dilemmas: Why must the average North American bathroom contain 654 personal care products?? [I made this # up, btw. Just sounded good to me at the time...] Especially when most of these PCPs contain numerous (frequently carcinogenic) toxic ingredients? Getting off the PCP treadmill. (Provocative question: do humans actually need to use anything other than a fingernail to remove ear wax??) Learn creative ways to de-toxify your bathroom (bonus: you will save money, too!!).

** Bullshit Defying 101: How to detect – & counter – egregious bullshit-spewing of all kinds, in all manner of locations, & amongst all categories of human beings. Learn to spot – & call! – the B.S. spewed by parents, children, relatives, friends, bureaucrats, corporate spokespersons, etc. etc. Prerequisite for Bullshit 501 & graduate-level Bullshit Defying. Closely related to all Elephant-Rassling courses (see below).

** Cognitive Dissonance 101: Purely optional course, & not for the faint of heart. Learn to detect the stench of cognitive dissonance, which is palpable & disturbing to those with noses already attuned to it. It is, unfortunately, also virtually ubiquitous. Particularly in evidence at all public hearings of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission or CNSC (an organization whose very name reeks not just of cognitive dissonance, but also of oxymoron-hood. Nuclear safety???) Examples of cognitive dissonance in all your favourite major life, planet & people-destroying industries (think advertising world. Banking industry. Chemical industry. Lead industry. Insurance industry. Pharmaceutical industry. Etc. etc.) Arduous course material; suitable only for those with considerable intestinal fortitude.

** Corporate Life Survival Skills: Eek. Anyone actually able to pass this course is unavailable to teach it. Instructor search underway! This course closely related to Bullshit 501 & Cognitive Dissonance 101. Learn such tricks as how to sell anything to anyone; how to bullshit anyone (especially yourself!!); how to use fancy jargon so as to make yourself sound (& feel) terribly important, & also skills in being deliberately obscure (prerequisite for Obfuscation 501). Ah…. 2 new instructors have just been located! A disgruntled former insurance industry executive has stepped forward, having finally stepped down in disgust from the corporate treadmill. Also, a former nuclear insider who says he has finally had it “up to here” with corporate bullshit, lies & more cognitive dissonance than any person of above-average intelligence can reasonably be expected to tolerate.

** Cultural Relativity. Essential learning about how to render the world’s war machine obsolete. Anthropologist Wade Davis contends “The world in which you were born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you: they are unique manifestations of the human spirit.” His book The Wayfinders – Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World will be the text for the course. A poster with this quotation & the book both available through Syracuse Cultural Workers.

** Dancing Courses!!

  • Dancing with Denial – see Denial Defying, below.
  • Dancing with Bullshit (closely related to Bullshit Defying & Cognitive Dissonance; see above)
  • Dancing with the more-more-more disease among friends, employers, family members, oneself…etc. Some women (& other humans) are never satisfied no matter how much they have or how much you do for them. Explore possible reasons for this extremely irritating phenomenon, & learn strategies for rassling with it.

** Denial Defying: Learn how to face, learn about, & tell the truth. Graduate-level course for Helping to Change the World (& ourselves, too!)

** Elephant-Rassling 101, 201, 301, 401, 501: Graduate-level courses also available! Instructor (that would be yours truly) still struggling with Elephant-Rassling 101A, prerequisite course for ER 101. Related courses: Bullshit Defying 101, Cognitive Dissonance 101, Denial Defying & Walking on Eggs. Many new instructors needed!! Curriculum that never quits…

** Enough! a concept apparently foreign to most members of modern western “civilization.” Curriculum involves a brief review of human history in the so-called “civilized” world, with philosophical exploration into the likely origins of “modern” humans’ inability to grasp the concept of “enough.” Buddhist insights to be explored. Students will be asked to wrestle with such questions as, What is enough? Is it possible to have “enough”? Is it possible to have “too much??” When do we have enough? Are we enough? Do I have enough? Am I enough??

** Everything isn’t all about ME!! Course curriculum may shock & horrify; best to arrive at first class with a comforting prop of some description – either pharmaceutical in nature, or perhaps simply an old favourite stuffed toy. Introductory essay found here.

** Fear 101: How our “civilization” (using the term loosely) inculcates fear in young humans in a myriad of ways so effectively that most wind up living their lives running in circles like rodents on treadmills, never even looking up long enough to observe that there is an entirely (& quite awesome) life to live out beyond the bars of the cage (the door to which is actually not even closed, although most don’t look around long enough to notice this startling fact!).

** Fear-Defying 501: Strategies for climbing down off the treadmill. Closely related to Following Your Bliss (see below). Other useful courses: Bullshit Defying, Cognitive Dissonance, Gratitude.

** Fitting In; Standing Out: Knowing when to do which & how to achieve some kind of uneasy equilibrium while engaged in this delicate (& apparently life-long) balancing act.

** Following Your Bliss: Based on the Joseph Campbell wisdom “When you follow your bliss...doors will open where you would not have thought there would be doors & where there wouldn’t be a door for anyone else.” Guest speakers will testify to dramatic & inspiring personal experiences. Instructor will provide seductive proof that “following your bliss” can lead to frequent attacks of feeling positively full-to-bursting (or F2B).

** Friendship 101 – 501: Prerequisite courses for Living Life Fully (& JOYfully), a graduate-level course open only to those who have grabbed onto gratitude (with both hands), learned to follow their bliss (at least to some degree), wrestle often & semi-successfully with elephants, & defy fear & bullshit (at least some of the time).

** Global Economy: Learning the “down” side of the global economy. Explore the proposition: Global economy means never having to say you’re sorry! Or responsible. Or that you care about anyone, anywhere – except maybe yourself, your stock portfolio, & your immediate family. Screw the environment “over there,” & social justice concerns “over there” too, &, well… heck, here too! Who really gives a damn about petty stuff like that??? After all, “He who dies with the most toys, wins,” right??

** Hard Truths: Too numerous to list here in mere brief course outline. Course will cover both the personal & the political. Just take the plunge & sign up for the course! If you have the balls, that is…

** Ideas: How to have fewer of them, more of them, maybe none at all?? Learning that most of what human beings obsess over, go crazy over, kill over, etc. etc., is actually just mental noise taking place inside the head!! Learn to laugh at your own thoughts, not to let them overpower you, & especially not to let them make you do mean things to other people. (Lao Tzu said: “As soon as you have made a thought, laugh at it.” Eckhart Tolle says “The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it,” presumably paraphrasing Epictetus, who said “Men are not troubled by things themselves, but by their thoughts about them.) Required reading: Tolle’s book A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose. His earlier book The Power of Now recommended as excellent supplementary material, as is This is It – The Nature of Oneness, by Jan Kersschot. Instructor will also point out that "All emotions are preceded by thought" & that "We can control our emotions by controlling our thoughts." Highly important insight!! [from Healing Journey Workbook - An Active Response to the Crisis of Cancer]

** Judging Not: Simultaneous curriculum for those dancing with denial, rassling with elephants, learning to walk on eggs (semi-skillfully, one hopes, although this is lifelong curriculum, apparently), practicing compassion, rassling with the possibly imminent breakdown of “civilization” (using latter term loosely) & who are also studying concurrently ‘Owning Our Own Power,’ ‘Poignancy 301,’ ‘Paralyzing Pissy-ness’ & ‘Nullifying Neurosis.’

** Knowing When (& How) To:

  • Shut up
  • Speak up
  • Dive in
  • Show up
  • Wait
  • Stay out of the way
  • Run for cover
  • Read a mindless novel
  • Go for a walk (or canoe trip)
  • Go away for a few days
  • Hide
  • Breathe
  • Take a break
  • Ask for a hug
  • Go & visit a friend…
  • Work your ass off.

This is a post-post-post-graduate level course for those who have passed all the other courses listed here and/or who are simply bloody determined to keep “flying by the seat of y/our pants” & “fakin’ it ‘till we/you make it” (another essential course for all humans) & fully prepared to step in it up to their/our eyeballs when we/they:

  • Make the wrong call
  • Blow it
  • Love someone too much / too little
  • Tell the Truth / Don't Tell the Truth
  • Try too hard
  • Don’t try hard enough
  • Screw up
  • Hope for too much (or too little)
  • Put up with too much (or too little)
  • Give in too soon (or too late)
  • Care too much (or too little).

Many more course offerings in the posting Courses I’d Like to See in 2011M - W!!

 

Privilege & Responsibility

I have always lived a life of great privilege. I was born in a beautiful & safe country (Canada) to a reasonably well-off family, with a big house on a pretty lake. I've never known serious hunger, nor ever had to agonize over where I would lay my head at night. Nor ever had to worry on these accounts on my children’s behalf…

Yes, there have been a few nasty lumps & bumps along the way – but basically, anyone with even partial vision can clearly see it’s a life of considerable privilege.

“With great privilege comes great responsibility.” “From those to whom much has been given, much is expected.”

So I have often heard said.

All this privilege I enjoy & have always enjoyed is grace, pure & simple. I didn’t “earn” it. I’m not somehow magically “entitled” to it.

It’s grace. A gift.

When we are given a gift, we give thanks, right?

Gratitude is a rather marvellous, circular phenomenon. When we practice it faithfully (whatever our personal circumstances & spiritual views & practices), our lives seem to magically open up. Joy becomes a reliable companion.

We want to “give back.” We want to “pay our dues.”

Might it be true that with great privilege comes great responsibility?

Brilliant & articulate Irish poet/philosopher John O’Donohue said, “We are privileged, and the duty of privilege is absolute integrity.”

Hmm. I wonder. Can this be true?

Janet

p.s. Ages ago now, I posted an essay called “Everything is all about ME, right?” The “Everything is all about ME” Kool-Aid most of us have swallowed in this crazy, consumptive culture of ours is doing exactly what poisoned Kool-Aid always does. It’s killing us! (But we can choose to stop drinking the Kool-Aid, right??)

p.p.s. At the Network of Spiritual Progressives (NSP) conference I attended in Washington in June [2010], one of the many awesome speakers was Sister Joan Chittister, who spoke at length about compassion. She described our culture as being afflicted with “pathological individualism.” This is another way of describing what I refer to as the “Everything is all about ME” ethic. (Or, when I am being a wee bit less polite, the terminal "heads-up-our-own-arses” disease.)

 

My Religion

<June 18/10>

On my very lovely walk this morning (beautiful day!) along the boardwalk (in the Beaches area of Toronto, Ontario, Canada), I articulated the key tenets of what I guess you might call my “religion.”

They are:

  • Gratitude
  • Walking
  • Community
  • Service
  • Solitude / silence
  • Music [added later; see P.S.]

I could elaborate on each of these, of course. Walking also takes in Nature, love of the Earth, & maybe canoeing, kayaking, swimming & snowshoeing… Community takes in love, family, conversation, smiling, friendliness & friendship. Gratitude takes in joy & leads to a happy spirit. Service takes in activism & caring & doing (which also lead to a happy spirit!). Solitude & silence are things I cannot exist without & sometimes wonder whether others might benefit from a wee bit more of…

& music!! Well – music sometimes catapults me straight from practically comatose, down at the bottom of a Very Deep Pit (or even a not-all-that-deep-but-still-definitely-in-a-pit-pit) into outright exhilaration!!

Janet

p.s. couple weeks later, on July 1st: I’ve been doing this odd nomadic gig lately. Some of the time I’m living out in the boonies, sometimes I’m in the small city of Pembroke, Ontario (up river from Canada’s capital city, Ottawa, & down river from leaking “legacy” pollution at the Chalk River nuclear facility; Gee – sure makes me feel better to know the pollution there is “legacy” as opposed to new…or, hmm…..does it??, & home to (notice I am not saying proud home: many of us here are not merely not proud but frankly appalled about) SRB Technologies, a tritium-emitting local business that has just outrageously been issued a 5-year license by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (boy are they un-aptly named!?!?!? Ought to be more like the Canadian Nuclear Danger Commission); check out the Tritium Awareness Project Web site to learn “the truth about tritium”…)

And some of the time I hang out in Toronto, Canada’s largest city & kind of an all-around pretty fun place...

Well.

On my long walk in Pembroke this morning, I observed, as I have on other occasions, how church-y this town is. It has a quite extraordinary number of churches. Off the charts, really!

Not sure what that’s all about, but the limitations of “organized” religion seem more & more apparent to me as the years go by.

I’ve written elsewhere about what I see as the problem with religion.

What sprang to mind this morning as I noticed Pembroke’s considerable churchy-ness is the sort of somewhere-else-ness of most religious teachings. “Heaven” is somewhere else. “Divinity” is somewhere/someone else. “Salvation” is some other time. “Holy” is other places or people.

Me, I’m convinced all these things are right here, right now, always.

Hmmm. In ‘Pulling Down the Pedestals’ & ‘I’m not OK – YOU’re OK’ I’ve written about our tendency as individuals to see others as…better ... more whole…than one is oneself. I don’t think this attitude & the dominance of religion & its “God/holiness/sacredness is somewhere else” message is a coincidence, exactly…

Certainly Eckhart Tolle’s thoughts about presence, & about the pain body (& everything else he talks about!) resonate hugely for me. (I’ve written about ET in a few blog postings Ducks Unlimited’, ‘Pain Bodies on Parade or Oh, To be a duck’ & ‘Flap your wings’, among others…)

Dear friend Lynn has just given me a copy of the book This is It – The Nature of Oneness – Interviews with Teachers of Non-Duality, including Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now, by Jan Kersschot.

That phrase “This is it!” resonated for me right away.

All is here right here, right now, in this moment & it is plenty!

The heck, I say, with the fear & poverty mentality we’ve been so immersed & drenched in for so long.

This is It!

p.p.s. weeks later, on July 24th: It became necessary to add that 6th item – music – to the list the other evening when, under the great spirits & energy-enhancing influence of some lovely, sing-y, dance-y, cheerful tunes, I got hours & hours of useful work done, instead of succumbing to the temptation to veg out in front of a movie. Music sure can be magical!! (Pat Conroy said, “Without music, life is a journey through a desert,” and isn't it true??)

p.p.p.s. 'My Religion, take 2' (from a couple years later).

You Made My Day! / We ARE the Change…

Another Toronto walking morning…

Yesterday I told a Telus customer service rep he’d made my day – because he had! Details not important (just cell phone administrivia) – but he really helped simplify my cell phone life for me, so out of my mouth popped the words “You made my day!” Later it occurred to me I might have made his day too, just by being so grateful to him, & saying so.

Then I was on a TTC (Toronto Transportation Commission) bus with a really helpful driver, & I missed my opportunity to thank him for being a good guy (his generous gesture was actually to another passenger, & I was down near the far end of the bus & exited out the rear door) – but I thought it would probably have cheered up everyone on the bus if I’d told him “Hey, Buddy – that was really nice of you!”

I think we humans are, at bottom, rather simple, really. We all want to feel – & beappreciated – don’t you think? When we feel appreciated, we can then more readily notice & celebrate other people’s goodness. A lovely, un-vicious circle.

On this morning’s walk I was passing through a schoolyard where a long cement wall has been painted with a bright, colourful mural that says, “We are the change” – & I just loved seeing that. Gandhi, of course, memorably said, “We must be the change we wish to see in the world” – & evidently these young students are being taught that they are the change.

As are we all!!

It’s a complex & pretty seriously mixed-up world (feel free to nominate me for an Understatement of the Year award, hmm?) – but happily, some things are really quite simple. And as that self-declared “old fart” Kurt Vonnegut would say, “If that isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”(1)

Janet

'Quote of the day' w. this post: Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.” – Sign on church billboard [the sign was quoting Melody Beattie, as I learned later...]

 


(1) I love ALL of Kurt Vonnegut’s books; have been a fan of this amazing writer since the early 1970’s. The one I re-read most recently is Timequake. Vonnegut is brilliant & memorable, funny & wise, & you could sure do worse than pick up one of his books!!

 

New Rules (or, if I ran the world…)

I’m a big fan of Bill Maher & the great & intelligent panel discussions & funny jokes he tells on his TV show "Real Time." Being a non-TV person myself, I watch these episodes when visiting a friend.

We laugh our socks off listening to Maher, who really does have the most interesting & insightful guests! A relatively recent one, for example, was Jack Kevorkian, who’d just been released from prison. Very clever & witty guy!

Maher also has a portion of the show called “New Rules.” He rhymes off a whole bunch of clever “new rules” about things that are in the news that are really raising his dander. They’re always incisive, well-worded & hilarious.

Now, I recently attended a Council meeting in Pembroke, Ontario. (Just for the record, this was on April 20, 2010.)

Pembroke is a small city in eastern Ontario, Canada (population? I think around 14,000) that is situated on the mighty Ottawa River. Up river from Ottawa (Canada’s capital city) & downriver from the town & nuclear facilities at Chalk River (also just for the record). Pembroke is home to the SRB tritium light facility, also. (I should say more about this, but not today… Check out this site for more. The Rick Mercer skit is a must-see!)

I couldn’t help myself during this meeting. I scrawled some notes about new rules I’d make if I ran the world – all of them coming as a result of watching the antics & shenanigans of the Council as they went about their business. (I’ve been to lots of Council meetings in my time, in several small towns. Folks used to suggest I run for Council myself back in two I used to live in, but for one thing, I used to believe I wasn't smart enough. Then too, I’ve always said the stuff small town politicians deal with is just too darn boring. Personally, I’d really rather watch paint dry…)

Well. I could say plenty about the stuff that went on at the meeting, & why I was there, & all that kind of razz-ma-tazz, but I’m going to spare you.

Instead, I’m just going to tell you the “New Rules” I came up with, OK? Here goes:

Business suits are to be abolished! Neckties also. I have always firmly believed that when men get themselves all suited up in suits & neckties, it cuts off their circulation. Their brains & good ideas. Their humanity, humour & common sense. It somehow just seems to make them lose touch with down-to-earth-ness. Off with the suits, I say!!

Henceforth, all meetings in the world will be conducted in circles. No fancy raised platforms for tribunal members, mayors, politicians or any other assorted (& self-proclaimed) experts & bigshots. Everyone sits in the same circle. Capiche?

The Lord’s prayer (almost always recited quickly, by rote, & with no depth, meaning or sincerity whatsoever) is to be replaced by a 3-minute reflection on at least 5 things for which one is grateful. This is an exercise that becomes more & more meaningful with time & practice, not less & less so, as appears to be the case with “the Lord’s Prayer.”

Democracy is under stern orders to be spruced up!! It needs to be made more fun; more… sexy?? People stay away from the political process & fail to exercise their democratic rights & responsibilities because all the folks involved seem so damn…serious. Boring. Fun-challenged. Bring on the fun, I say!! Dances. Parades. Music. Fun, dammit! We need some creativity here!!

Fancy titles & roles & any associated fancy-schmancy outfits are to be abolished immediatement. No more “Your Highness” & “Your Excellency” & “Your Worship” & other such fluffy & utterly meaningless, substance-less titles. We is all jes’ folks, hmm? It’s when we revert to roles & their trappings & their associated … bumph (did I just make up a word?) that we lose sight of our common roots & humanity. With the simple fact that we are all just people who pull our pants on one leg at a time (or heck, maybe both at once. Whatever!) Point is, no one is any damn better than anyone else. Got that?

Janet

p.s. a few bracing quotations about democracy (just ‘cos I feel like it & Hey! this is my blog; I get to say whatever I like!):

“The most serious threat to democracy is the notion that it has already been achieved.” – Source unknown

“True democracy is only possible when people have effective power over their own affairs, their own goals, and their own resources. The larger the governing unit, the less responsive it is to human needs, the more bureaucratic and inefficient its administration. Government, we must always remind ourselves, is not (or should not be) a professionally organized system to tell people how to run their affairs; it is (or should be) a means whereby people themselves are enabled to resolve matters in their own community.” ~ John Papworth in Putting Power In Its Place

“Life is a passion of activity, or it is nothing. Genuine democracy rests, not upon an attitude of pleased expectation of receiving, not upon an irresponsible sense of liberty to work one’s will, but upon unflinching self-surrender, unceasing activity in behalf of the common good. Services must be voluntarily rendered, often more strenuous than those exacted by superiors under the old feudal order. For democracy is a stern and lofty creed of willing self-denial, of responsibilities staunchly borne, or it is a chaos and a failure, a stampede of the masses for power or for gain.” – Margaret Sherwood, 1918

Tommy Douglas on Fascism: “Once more let me remind you what fascism is. It need not wear a brown shirt or a green shirt – it may even wear a dress shirt. Fascism begins the moment a ruling class, fearing the people may use their political democracy to gain economic democracy, begins to destroy political democracy in order to retain its power of exploitation and special privilege.”

“Propaganda is to democracy what violence is to totalitarianism.” ~ Noam Chomsky

“The twentieth century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: the growth of democracy; the growth of corporate power; and the growth of propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy.” Alex Carey

“As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.” – H.L. Mencken (1880 - 1956)[Now ain’t that one a beauty! Any recent Prez’s come to mind??]

“You want sanity, democracy, community, an intact Earth? We can’t get there, obeying Constitutional theory and law crafted by slave masters, imperialists, corporate masters, and Nature destroyers. We can’t get there, kneeling before robed lawyers stockpiling class plunder precedent up their venerable sleeves. So isn’t disobedience the challenge of our age? Principled, inventive, escalating disobedience to liberate our souls, to transfigure our work as humans on this Earth.” – Richard Grossman

“Democracy is not something you believe in or a place to hang your hat, but it’s something you do. You participate. If you stop doing it, democracy crumbles.” – Abbie Hoffman

** lots more relevant quotes here


 

I’m not Okay – YOU’RE Okay

<April 1/10>

I’ve been doing environmental work for 20 years now. (Before that I did all kinds of other community-oriented volunteer work & was also a full-time Mom/homemaker, & before that I had a brief “career” in corrections & a short stint in the psychiatric world, & before that, I got a B.A. in Psychology at a very very lovely vine-covered Canadian university.)

What I actually set out to do, as a teen-ager, was “save the world” (we humans sure like to think big, don’t we?) and, as I like to joke, my career seems to have been a bit of a bust. Heh heh.

For sure my life – all the way along – has been one of privilege, although as a child in an unhappy home, “perks” like a big house & Yacht & Golf & Country Club membership didn’t bring the satisfaction one might have supposed. (As an adult looking back now, I can see that, as a kid, I took such privileges for granted. Privilege & entitlement: an interesting topic to muse upon…)

I assume I developed the “save the world” complex because I didn’t (still don’t) like to see people suffer. Seems as though on this gloriously beautiful & abundant Earth there ought to be enough for everyone. Oh dear – subject for another essay, hmmm? I heard on the radio today of a woman who did not have enough money to bury her stillborn babies. Yesterday I’d heard about Ontario government employees who “earn” (ahem) close to a million dollars a year. Income disparities like that have always made me want to scream. But I digress…

Okay. Mixed-up childhood, “save the world” complex, a pull to environmental activism, a broken marriage. Meanwhile, an obsessive reader, I’ve gobbled more books about the environmental crisis – & self-help books – than would comfortably fit in a canoe. (An old boyfriend used to say he wanted to be able to put everything he owned in a canoe. Resonates for me somewhat. My books won’t make it, though.)

There have been some mighty outstanding books along the way. Ishmael – An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit and In the Absence of the Sacred – The Failure of Technology & the Survival of the Indian Nations and My name is Chellis and I’m in recovery from western civilization(1) convinced me that the problems of the human race date back to our decision 10,000 years ago to abandon the gathering & hunting lifestyle.(2)

When we stopped living in tribes, things gradually changed. From living with the constant support & encouragement of our fellow humans, we moved gradually toward separation from others. (Nietzsche said, “Sin is that which separates” & that also resonates for me.) “Nuclear” families (love that adjective, eh?) cannot give us what a tribe can.

We evolved to be communal creatures. Creatures who need the company & support & collective help & wisdom of others. We simply did not evolve to function in the individualistic fashion we now take so much for granted (that “Everything is all about ME,” heads-up-our-own-arses lifestyle so wonderfully nourished by the world of advertising & consumption, hmm?).

Okay. So. Life in a nuclear family often sucks. Two parents simply cannot do the job properly (especially if, as is likely, they were improperly nourished in their own dysfunctional families with shoot! Maybe war & dislocation & sexual abuse & violence involved in the mix. Geez. No wonder parents screw up, hmmm?).

So, mostly, they don’t do so very very well.

A lot of us grow up feeling pretty mighty darn inadequate. To put it mildly. Without the love & affirmation we need & crave, we come to believe (I suggest) on some unconscious level, that “I am not okay. You are okay.”

We put other people up on pedestals – especially celebrities of any & all kinds. As long as they have lots of money & “look good,” we worship them & want to be like them.

And we amass, if we are able (since it’s a very inequitable world we live in, many or most are not able) lots of things. Houses, cars, cottages, boats. Expensive vacations. Etc. Theoretically at least, these things (& experiences) make us “happy.” Often, of course, they don’t do this at all. (In many cases, they just isolate us even more.)

Why? Because we are hollow inside. All that “stuff” we put in just pretty much falls out the other side.

So. What’s missing?

  1. Gratitude. Gratitude is – or ought to be – the very basis of our existence. When we are regularly & actively grateful for this very beautiful Earth & the particular blessings of our own life (yes, this may take work & practice; see ‘Gratitude: A How To'), a major shift gradually takes place inside us. We begin to lay aside customary preoccupations such as greed & envy & endless consumption & comparisons that leave us feeling inadequate. We begin to feel…full. Content. (I only suggest a regular gratitude practice to anyone who wants to be happy or help change the world, though; if you like things just the way they are, better not take it up!)
  2. Community. Tribe. Belonging. When we feel we belong – when we feel supported, appreciated & affirmed – well, there’s really no limit to what we can achieve! We also “get” that the stupid game of “S/he who dies with the most toys wins” is not one we’re even vaguely interested in playing. The neurotic game of always doing our best to “look good” also tones itself down considerably.

There is still our self-loathing to deal with, hmm? I think self-loathing runs all too deep in most of us. Mostly unconsciously, I suspect…

This essay was in fact motivated by an attack of my own. I had sort of a personal little meltdown last night. Folks who know me well may suppose my self-esteem is rock solid – & it is relatively firm. But I have my demons, & my “holes,” & I can go down into a Very Deep Pit(3) just like anyone else.

The world is in quite a state, hmm? I’m not even sure why I keep up all this infernal writing. I should probably be off somewhere constructing an off-grid house, & gardening, & hunkering down to get ready for the apocalypse that seems to be heading fairly rapidly in our direction.

I suppose I hope that, the more I write & the more I help encourage others to pay attention, the bigger the tribe of us actually caring & doing things there will be. And the more of us behaving like the members of a caring & supportive tribe there are, the saner, perhaps, the outcome will be.

And the more like a party! I’m always up for a good party as much as anyone!!

Janet

p.s. Since I drafted this essay, I picked up 2 books by Alice Miller: From Rage to Courage – Answers to Readers’ Letters & The Body Never Lies – The Lingering Effects of Hurtful Parenting. Hooey! This is the psychotherapist whose brilliant insight “The way we were treated as small children is the way we treat ourselves the rest of our lives” rocked my own little world when I heard it. You may want to visit her Web site at www.alice-miller.com Ms. Miller doesn’t write about the environmental crisis or the pivotal need for the things I am always emphasizing so much (gratitude & belonging or community), but she sure does help us understand essential lessons about the roots of our individual (& thus societal) neuroses/psychoses.

‘Quote of the day’ with this post: “People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning of life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re really seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.” – Joseph Campbell, “The Power of Myth” (more JC quotes here)


(1) All of these referenced in the blog posting “Recommended Reading.

(2) Yes, it used to be referred to as hunting & gathering; now the 2 words have been reversed to indicate that the meat part of our diet was, shall we say, a tad sporadic

(3) Very Deep Pit is a Winnie-the-Pooh reference. Winnie-the-Pooh stories are high on my list of life’s essential (reading) treasures.

Anarchy, Fairy Tales & Freedom

<March 16/10>

I actually wanted to call this essay “Communism, Fairy Tales, Anarchy & Freedom,” but I know how afraid of communism most people are, so I left out that word.

I became interested in communism in my late teens, after a privileged & pretty mixed-up childhood. Money held no fascination for me whatsoever – but the idea of communities & sharing needs & abilities definitely did.

But then I got caught up in what I now look back on as the fairy tale phase of my life, & my interest in communism (politics of any kind, really) just kind of fell away.

At first during that “happily ever after” phase, I had a job in which I told myself I was “helping” people (& who knows, maybe I did even somehow sort of help one or two individuals), but the prince & princess living “happily ever after,” for me, consisted mostly of marriage & family life – which, admittedly, was pretty darn wonderful for quite a few years there. My prince & I “made one another happy” for quite a while – just not “ever after,” alas…

15 or so years into the fairy tale, a passion for environmental work overtook me (to my own great surprise) & this has led to a great many unintended consequences (a phrase I now just love; it covers such a lot of territory, doesn’t it?).

So here I sit, today, writing this on a sun-warmed rock in a lovely outcropping on a pretty hillside in southern Ontario, where I’m living for a while in this current nomadic phase of my life. No set “home” – a “foot in three camps” as I like to joke (‘though I still have only two legs!) – not knowing what may come next, nor where I am likely to land.

The marriage ultimately didn’t work out (though 20 years & two great kids are certainly nothing to sneeze at), & relationships since don’t seem to have, either. Given my own personal life/childhood history, the 5000-year run of patriarchy & its far-reaching & not necessarily well-understood impacts, women & men’s current confusions over relationships & who we are & what we want – & the state of the world in general – this is not so surprising, really.

The solitary streak in me has grown very wide. Years of living alone have made me…ever more solitary. A bit anxious when around other people’s company & routines for long stretches of time. (For some reason too, I have a positive horror of being “in the way” – some weird holdover from that … difficult childhood, I reckon. I’ll do almost anything to avoid feeling I am in the way…)

I live on a teeny-tiny income no one else I know could begin to survive on (or even want to get by on), and since money & things don’t interest me much, I don’t “have” to “work” right now. This seems to really rattle some people. (I wonder, do they resent/envy my freedom? My choices?)

I adore my current freedom – but it has & does come at some cost. Everything always does, doesn’t it? Biologist Barry Commoner(1) articulated “4 Laws of Ecology: Everything is connected to everything else. Everything must go somewhere. Nature knows best. There is no such thing as a free lunch.”

Note that last one, hmm? No free lunch. We do always pay for what we get. I pay for my freedom in several ways, trust me. (We all pay for our choices, hmmm?)

Well, for the past few years I’ve begun thinking of myself as a bit of an anarchist. Like communist, the word “anarchist” seems to frighten people. (Imagine grown-ups being afraid of mere words & concepts; a bit silly, isn’t it?)

The Collins dictionary available to me here defines an anarchist as 1. A person who advocates the abolition of government and a social system based on voluntary cooperation. 2. A person who causes disorder or upheaval. Kurt Vonnegut has a character in his novel Jailbird say “Anarchists are people who believe with all their hearts that governments are enemies of their own people.”(2)

Works for me!

Anarchism-Abbey

All I know is, things on Planet Earth don’t seem to be working too very well. Ya think? Our air is foul, our waters polluted, & much of our Earth now toxic. As the planet sickens, so do we. (Know anyone with cancer? I rest my case.)

A clever quotation I’ve run across goes “There isn’t a problem with the system. The system is the problem.”

Capitalism & “democracy” don’t quite seem to be doing the trick, do they? (Like Christianity, real democracy remains mostly un-tried. (3))

I keep meaning to write an essay called “What is Missing?” & maybe I will finally get to it.

What is missing, in my view, are 2 things:

  1. Deep, deep gratitude for this unbelievably awesome, generous wondrous Earth we’ve been given;
  2. Community. Tribe. Belonging

If we all begin working on these two big pieces of the puzzle that you might call Earth Falling Apart in 2010, I think a lot of pretty cool stuff would start happening. (Of course, lots of cool stuff is already happening!! There are tons of people working away on this stuff as we speak.(4))

Of course, I do not possess a crystal ball. Seems to me this whole shebang could “blow” at any time. Of course, that’s an excellent argument for practicing gratitude, living fully in the present moment, & building community. We might as well keep our focus on what really matters in life, since there are no guarantees about what will happen around the next bend. I have a suspicion that the less we focus now on what really matters, the nastier it’s liable to be.

So sayeth I, your friendly local anarchist. One who is trying hard to bring us all back to the really, really simple things: gratitude, community and circles.

Janet

p.s. There are many essays about gratitude on this blog. Only because it’s the primo, most important & perhaps most left-out thing going on Planet Earth. And because it’s free & wonderfully rewarding & liable to lead, when practiced faithfully, to much happier lives & communities & families – & even a healthier planet… No kidding!!

‘Quote of the day’  with this post: “…as the Buddha told his cousin Ananda, the whole of the holy life is good friends. Our relationships – and our love – are ultimately what give depth and meaning to our lives.” – Joan Halifax in Being with Dying – Cultivating Compassion and Fearlessness in the Presence of Death.

My first idea for ‘Quote of the Day: “The aesthetic indictment of industrialism is perhaps the least serious. A much more serious feature is the way in which it forces men, women and children to live a life against instinct, unnatural, unspontaneous, artificial. Where industry is thoroughly developed, men are deprived of the sight of green fields and the smell of earth after rain; they are cooped together in irksome proximity, surrounded by noise and dirt, compelled to spend many hours a day performing some utterly uninteresting and monotonous mechanical task. Women are, for the most part obliged to work in factories, and to leave to others the care of their children. The children themselves, if they are preserved from work in the factories, are kept at work in school, with an intensity that is especially damaging to the best brains. The result of this life against instinct is that industrial populations tend to be listless and trivial, in constant search of excitement, delighted by a murder, and still more delighted by a war.” [Ouch!] Bertrand Russell – June 1921 issue of The Atlantic Monthly.


(1) From the Center for Biological Systems & author of Making Peace with the Planet

(2) Jailbird, by Kurt Vonnegut, Dell, 1979. Page 216.

(3) If you think Canada is a democracy, then I think you are not really paying attention! And if you think dumping Harper – the best prime minister oil money can buy – for Ignatieff would make a whole lot of difference, you are REALLY not paying attention… ***** Lots of great quotes about politics & democracy here.

(4) Paul Hawken’s wonderful book Blessed Unrest is very eloquent & inspiring on this score.