Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Robert Pirsig - Telling His Own Story

Robert M. Pirsig - 1929 - 2017

I was very saddened to learn yesterday of Robert Pirsig's death, who wrote Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I was first introduced to his book back in the early 70s, at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, in one of my first official Summer painting classes.

I can say Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was the most influential book I'd ever read providing me with the foundation to my art education and completely coloured my perceptions about creativity, balance, values and the importance of quality, and to this day I'm so very grateful that Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was a required reading.

Robert Pirsig described his book as being a culture-bearer not necessarily a good or bad book and that he was simply telling his own story. I'm so grateful he did.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Are We All Off Our Nut?

A protester holds a sign during a demonstration against unemployment benefit cuts on July 11, 2012 in Oakland, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

You know the kind of day you have, when your mind feels like it's on tilt, your half off your nut and the world's off it's axis? This is the day I had today.

I was feeling gray in spirit and the out of doors matched my insides, that is until I made myself get outside and dig in my garden for an hour and a half.
It's been said that the antidote to worry and/or despair is action. It's true.That's what I did today and I felt better.

Right now the world does feel like it's gone wonky and it's difficult to shake of the those feelings of worry and dispair.
I listened to a great interview today with the writer George Saunders who talked about war, love and the presidency and he said something funny, but it was a simple, succinct and a truthful message, that really struck me, because I understood what he meant and I was glad he said it. He said that America was violent and stupid. He quantified this by saying that he wasn't meaning everyone in America was violent and stupid, but there's been a history of a general fraction of US society that has long been this way.

A few days back I heard another interview with Robert Reich on the CBC program Ideas, about the rise of the anti-establishment. It was also a simple, succinct and truthful message. Hands down the best synopsis I've heard about the US and what is happening there with the Trump administration in the mists of post truth, fake news and alternative facts, and thinking that's anything but critical.

"It is a deep tragedy, bordering on calamity, that we have come to this point," says Robert Reich of the Trump presidency. In a lecture at the University of British Columbia, followed by an interview with Paul Kennedy, the former U.S. Secretary of Labor and Professor of Public Policy at University of California at Berkeley details how understanding the circumstances that led to the election of Donald Trump can help shape a new democratic political sensibility."

It's not all doom and gloom. This too shall pass. There is hope, if we can put that antidote to worry and despair into action.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Barry Avrich - Blurred Lines

 Barry Avrich - Photograph - (Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail)

 I'm not surprized at all to hear this story today about the so called  'art world' that Canadian multi-talented film maker Barry Avrich calls "Pump and Dump", but this situation always makes me want to scream, giving me a sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach.

 A few years back, I'd heard another similar description of the existing corruption, present in the so called art world. I prefer to call it the art market, which the art world has become, because it's all about the money not the art.

 Jerry Saltz wrote a great article, and he calls it art flipping, and the biggest art flipper of all he says, is Stefan Simchowitz, who he's deemed the Sith Lord. New York Times writer, Christopher Glazck has called him the patron Satan of the art world, and Sarah Thorton compared Simchowitz by describing him as the Donald Trump of the art world.

 All this name calling might sound funny, but the reality is it's all sadly true, and I so wish it weren't. I wish people purchased art, truly for the love of art, not for the edification of money. But as long as we have art capitalists, I'll call them art pimps, who are such good experts at knowing how to inflate the price of art for their own greedy gain, not for the sake and love of art or artist's, but for capital gain alone, it's only going to get worse, before it ever gets better.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Where's My Easter Bonnet?

 Spring, the Easter Season and all that goes along with it, is my very favourite time of the year. I'm so grateful to be alive to celebrate rebirth and new growth. All nature is coming into it's own once again, lifts my spirit and fills me with thoughts of happiness and hope.

There are many things to pray for right now living in our troubled world, especially prayers for world peace.
I find myself praying for this more than anything else.

The one particular thing I wish for on a personal level, which to some will appear trivial and even silly but I always think about how I wish I could find an Easter Bonnet. I know this might seem like is a nostalgic left over from a my childhood and adolescence. But for me it was an important glue that edified and involved family, friends and a face to face, in the flesh social connection with our community,  a time when Easter was celebrated for spiritual reasons and it wasn't co-oped by commercialism with giant gross wax chocolate bunnies and copious amount of sugary candy brought by the big fictitious secular Easter Bunny.
 Capitalism, work and money has become what we mostly edify and value these days.

There are a group of individuals I think who haven't forgotten the meaning of Easter and celebrate accordingly. I wrote about a group of women in Nova Scotia that have continued the Easter traditions and I think you might call it having an "hattitude" of gratitude.

Happy Easter friends, pray for peace and may you find your own Easter Bonnet!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Quiet Passion - Emily Dickinson

 Many years ago I was given this beautiful hard cover book of poetry, simply titled, Emily Dickinson POEMS, broken down into a series of "Books".  I admit I'd never read any of her poetry prior to receiving this book, that reflects her loneliness, her passion for nature, love of language and life.

She was greatly influenced by the Metaphysical poets of 17th century England, and engaged in her own personal search for spirituality. Reading her poetry did give me some sense of who she was, but I think Terrence Davies film, The Quiet Passion, soon to be released, is sure to bring Emily Dickinson's personality to life.

In reading her poetry I do get some sense of who she was, but truthfully I can't say I fully appreciate or even understand many of her poems. Though she was considered a modern poet of the 19th century, I find much of her writing rather difficult to relate to. But then there are some that resonate and touch me, especially her poems about nature.

At the front of this book she wrote beautifully in 1890:

"THIS is my letter to the world,
 That never wrote to me,
 That simple news that Nature told,
 With tender majesty.

 Her message is committed
 To hands I cannot see;
 For love of her, sweet countrymen,
 Judge tenderly of me!

The BBC review of the film by Mark Kermode's really conveys his contagious enthusiasm for Terrence Davies portrayal of Emily Dickinson, and makes me very excited to see it. I'm one of those who's never heard of Terrence Davies until listening to an interview with him today, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Eric Fromm - "Creativeness Is To Be Born Before One Dies" - "The Art of Unselfish Understanding"

Before I married my loving and creative late husband I said this to him, "What I love about you Bill is that you are a human being first and a Christian second". What I meant to convey to him was this. He didn't have of all the trappings based on the kind of dogma, referencing the idea of original sin, attached to organized religion that isn't biblical in it's origin, but he knew in the depth of his heart that we're are all created in the image of God, and this is the blessing, not the curse left over from Adam and Eve.

My late husband Bill was a creative free thinker, both wounded and wise and cared deeply about life, love, and his fellow human beings.

Eric Fromm I believe was wounded and wise as well, an atheist, a philosophical humanist, civil rights activist against nuclear weapons and was involved in the protection of the environment.

He once stated in an interview. "I didn't want to participate in any division of the human race, whether religious or political." 
 Fromm saw authoritarianism, including religious beliefs, as being a threat to human freedom.

 Through his purpose in life, and his work as a psychoanalyst, meant that he was actively engaged with the preservation of the human spirit, regardless of his religious beliefs, and he was greatly influenced by a number of individuals, in particular Rabbi Salman Baruch Rabinkow, who was his most influential mentor introducing him to mystical Chabad.

My friend Rabbi Brian has a wonderful insightful website I subscribe to, Religion Outside The Box. Today he posted a great article written by his good friend Bill Johnson, about being ourselves, that I'm certain Eric Fromm would greatly appreciate and love.
Below are a few related quotes that give pause to meditate on, and I would compare them to being much like Sutras.
  • “I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being.” Hafiz
  • “Now, with God’s help, I shall become myself.” Søren Kierkegaard
  • “God has entrusted me with myself.” Epictetus
  • “You have been taught that there is something wrong with you and that you are imperfect, but there isn’t and you’re not.”  Cheri Huber
  • “Close your eyes and imagine the best version of you possible. That’s who you really are, let go of any part of you that doesn’t believe it.” C Assaad
  • “Now all that is left is for you to become yourself.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  • “O God, help me to believe the truth about myself no matter how beautiful it is.”  Macrina Wiederkehr

 I think Eric Fromm believed in the basic goodness of humanity, although he was greatly affected by man's inhumanity that he was witness to during war time. Also in his own family he'd grown up with a mother who suffered from depression and a very moody father.

 He dedicated himself to creativeness, and to the preservation of the human spirit through love. I ask myself isn't this what all religions could do, and what all human beings could aspire to, if there was only to will to do so?

I don't believe an individual needs to profess themselves as Christian in order to be a person who intrinsically understands what it means to love. I think Eric Fromm was one such person.

 "Selfish persons are incapable of loving others, but they are not capable of loving themselves either."
           - Eric Fromm 

In The Art of Listening Eric Fromm provides a list of six points about listening which is the largest part of understanding communication, language and culture. I think listening is directly connected to learning 'the art of loving.' 

 " The danger of the past was that men became slaves. The danger of the future is that men may become robots."

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Vimy Ridge - Captain Percival Anderson - Syria - Father Nadim Nassar

The Easter season, with the arrival of Lent, Palm Sunday and Good Friday and then Easter, always brings for me conflicted feelings of solemnity and hope.

The same feelings exist even more poignantly today remembering the 100 year anniversary and sacrifice at Vimy, remembering those is the Middle East and through out the world who suffer at the hands of war.

This Palm Sunday I intently listened to the story of Captain Percival William Anderson from Cape Breton who lost his life at age 32 fighting at Vimy Ridge,  followed by the Anglican Priest Father Nadim Nassar who has an impassioned message for the world and to all those who think that only wars make presidents.

"Today, we are remembering one of the most brutal battles in the first world war," he says. "Today, we should remember also what is happening in Syria is the most brutal civil war, proxy war, that happened in history." 
                                                       - Nadim Nassar

Captain Percival William Anderson

 "Arise to beauty, joy, peace, and work inspired by love. Arise from death to life anew,  for you do not need to fear even death."
                                                   - Look To This Day

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Eco-Anxiety? Really?

The Good Steward

 Considering the world of psychological and mental health disorders, dysfunction and diagnosis, I wasn't quite sure what to think when I heard about the condition Eco-Anxiety that the American Psychological Association states is increasing, and commonly found throughout the world, with the on set of rapid climate change.

 Not surprisingly, those living in isolated areas of the North are bearing witness to the affects of climate change and have been at the forefront of raising awareness of this anxiety that is threatening the destruction of  habitat, their environment, and even our world.

  When I was a kid I had a friend who's parents immigrated to Canada from Denmark. I vividly recall my friend's mother, who I think was way ahead of her time, considering it was 1966, 51 years ago, giving us fairly regular health lessons about our bodies and the environment.

 As we huddled over the kitchen table, Annette's mother would show us text books with pictures of healthy and unhealthy bodies, about breast cancer and  the like and discuss diseases. I think they must have been European medical books. She was also was very informed about global warming, explaining to us in detail how the green house affect was going to be devastating to our world, if there wasn't some preventative action taken.

 Looking back, these facts she shared were disconcerting to a couple of prepubescent girls. I know her intention was to try and prepare us for what was to come. But the thought of the greenhouse affect really did make me anxious then, and couldn't imagine what I could possibly do about it, which left me with a feeling of dread.

 I'm certain Annette was use to all these kinds of reality lessons from her mother, but I wasn't. My parents were basically comfortably ignorant, struggling with their own issues and so we were all just trying to be happy, and that seemed to be a hard enough thing to do, let alone taking on the causes of climate change that no one had ever heard of yet.

I'm not complaining about Annette's mother's lessons. I'm glad she tried to educate us at such a young age. It's something I never forgot about, and of course I'm now acutely more aware of health and environmental issues today, and I think Annette's mum was in part responsible for me being this way.

Eco-anxiety isn't something I am overwhelmed with. Having a sense of humour helps, but there sure are times when I feel despondent and about the state of the world, how greed and power supersedes the health and welfare of humanity.

Like the proactive, good steward David Suzuki says, he has to have hope, and so I too have to remain hopeful, and concentrate on proactively practicing good stewardship, instead of staying stuck in Eco- Anxiety.