happiness

happiness alights
in the moment of idea
the rapt work of creation
a thing made that speaks your soul

happiness meanders
whispering through the forest
stealing the breath in beauty
the mystery of which you are part

happiness skips
pausing long enough to see
to offer a smile or a gentle word
an act of aid unsullied by strings

happiness enfolds
seeing the light in your eyes
feeling the touch of your hand
the warmth of you near 

alive with creativity
awake in spirit
woven by community
blossoming between souls:
in connection, there to be discovered.

###

Once again, a heartfelt thanks to Eugi’s Causerie for this week’s prompt: happiness.

fourth estate

I don’t know about you, but, for me, the news, even as it dominates our daily lives, has become absolutely worthless. It’s become nonstop coverage of government, government figures, government data, government posturing, government restrictions, government policing, government cover-ups, government blah-blah-blah. Oh, and, still, a whole lot of sports. 

I’m really sick and tired of government 24-7. I have no use for glorified sports. And it all looks like propaganda to me.

Remember what news used to be? 

Good old-fashioned newspapers used to have a local, community focus. Yes, you could read what your local government was up to, but you could also read about businesses, about community programs, about social events, about local concerns. There used to be whole sections devoted to features — glimpses into what cool things people in your community were into, along with what churches were up to, what was going on in the schools (actual education, not just controls and sports), art, music, books, movies, cooking, and more. Columnists were local people writing about the community, or about how big issues impacted the local community. 

These newspapers actually served to connect us with our communities and society and ideas.

Now, there isn’t much community to be had — in newspapers or elsewhere. Most community newspapers were swallowed up by national media entities which reduced them to a local story or two surrounded by a wealth of wire stories on the usual government and sports crap. They might still include some local crime information because that’s useful, divisive propaganda. They might throw in a dose of a generic wire feature to give the illusion there’s real people out there — somewhere.

I look at the last vestiges we have of local news, and it’s all pretty much worthless whether online or in print. It’s just garbage. 

The big news outlets, obviously, amount to garbage, serving only to remind us on a daily basis how extremely propagandized we are. 

Hence, there’s the usual sorting through of blogs and social media, much of which is now conveniently censored. 

It all serves to erode and oppress community and agency, and, God forbid, ideas. And it’s no accident. Nevertheless…

seems like an opportunity.

just questions

What becomes of children raised in a society laser-focused on fear and separation?

What becomes of people in the context of ever-deepening loss of community, connection, and culture?

What happens when people lose their personal privacy, integrity, and decision-making?

What becomes of a society that loses respect for differing opinions? A society in which debate, discourse, other points of view, and ideas that don’t fit the narrative are not acceptable, but rejected and censored away?

What happens to people’s health as social fabric disintegrates and the true tenets of health are ignored, obfuscated, and not supported?

What happens to a society relying on quick fixes like experimental medical treatments instead of actually taking care of health through true nutrition, exercise, rest, purposeful work, and good social connection and support?

What becomes of a society which tolerates the loss of autonomy and freedom, and the growth of state regulation, propaganda, and tyranny?

What becomes of children raised in a society that is very good at virtue signaling but fundamentally lacks compassion?

Just questions…

compassionate new year :)!

Perhaps 2021 can be the year we begin to build in earnest our own compassionate culture. After 2020’s time of introspection, its heavy dosing of fear, its many questions, lessons, and losses, maybe we can feel empowered to build something new.

We see, after all, the technocapitalist drill does not serve humanity, the other beings, the planet, quite so well. It’s really good at some things, but compassion — a key element for life — is missing entirely.

Let’s make this year the one where we bring deep, fundamental compassion to the system.  Let the system shiver and learn to adjust, or crumble.

Love. Health. Abundance. Creativity. Freedom.

question not

No matter the church doors shut,
science is the new religion.
Cover your face, humble yourself in solitary contemplation,
bow in fear of the awesome power of your new god. 

Believe! the white-coated preachers call.
Faith and money will save you.
Proffer ample gold at the altar of the chosen science,
then bring your body and soul to the sacrifice.

Bow before the altar,
turn not your eyes toward any other. 
Make outcasts of those who would be scientists 
with data or ideas deemed unholy by your master.
Mingle not with heretics
no matter how learned.
Spit on them, damn them, gag them
in deference to the one true deliverer of science.
Shun the neighbor who questions.

Open your throat and
extend your arm for the sacraments.
Place your children on the pyre of the appointed science, too.
Empty their minds and yours of other notions.
The proclaimed science does not query, 
nay, it commands the natural world.
Question not.
The homeless, the unemployed, the lonely, the struggling, the ostracized, the injured, the ill, the once-free —
see how the saving arms of the only true science make it all so deserved.
Believe and be grateful.

fear culture: not a marker for good health

As we go back to ‘normal’, whatever that was (scratching head), it turns out there’s nothing normal at all. 

Everyone is skittish and leery of each other. All of our cultural activities, aside from protesting, are gone. It’s no fun to eat out with all the crazy protocols, even if you’re brave enough to go. There’s no singing together, no music events, even outdoors. No hugs, no pats on the back except at home. I can’t imagine who’s going to theaters and how that’s going to be done. Schools – I cannot fathom what we are thinking about doing to kids by placing them in what will be such unnatural environments. Doing anything where other people are around is a production. 

And the masks, everywhere the masks.

I can’t help but ask, what exactly is healthy about all this? I think more and more that what we’ve done is to actually create a very unhealthy environment. The constant drumming of fear along with the lack of community and culture are health detractors. For some people, it can be a killer. 

The people most at risk for COVID-19, we are told, are folks with underlying conditions. Just yesterday, I noticed articles mentioning that obesity is a big risk factor. Certain commonly prescribed drugs also seem to play a role. Heart disease, diabetes, the list goes on. Wouldn’t it make sense, rather than enforcing mask rules, strange protocols, and surveillance on everyone, to instead focus on getting and living healthy in the first place?

When I go to the grocery store, I can’t help but notice what’s promoted in the aisles and what people are putting in their carts. And it’s. not. healthy. How can we be surprised when it turns out there’s lots of people with underlying problems?

I don’t blame people. We have been rigorously trained via education and media to adopt unhealthy lifestyles. People are also victims of class problems that create unhealthy ways of living. Our health industry compounds the problems by pushing us toward drugs and procedures rather than working to create actual good health. No, the culpability rests at the door of government and the corporations making bank on all of our ‘normal’ woes. We do, however, have individual responsibility to ask questions, seek truth, and demand peace and justice at every level including our physical health.

If we’re going to rise above this crazy time, as we seek better lives for everyone, we can make the simple choice to live healthy and to help other people live healthy. 

The obvious first step is to go vegan, or at least to head in that direction. I know it’s a bitter pill for some people, but it really doesn’t have to be that way. Moving away from an animal-centric diet not only directly impacts one’s individual health in a positive way, it also supports the elimination of one of the biggest potential disease-spreading industries out there. Plus, it’s good for the animals and the earth, big time.

Pesticides. Herbicides. GMO. Antibiotics. Water contamination. That’s before you even get to excess fat. It’s kind of a no-brainer when you think about underlying conditions, isn’t it?

There may be a scary illness going around, but what we’ve done in response to it is terrifying and unnatural. Let’s back out of the fear culture. Let’s take responsibility for ourselves and get healthy. Going vegan is a great first step. 

a whole new kind of garden

Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey gets credit for showing up and engaging with the protestors there. He’s all about police reform, just like we’ve been hearing for years all over the country. 

When asked, however, he indicated that he would not support fully defunding the department at the epicenter of the current unrest. That response was met with immediate scorn from the gathering of protestors surrounding him. They jeered him from the event, the crowd parting for his shamed departure.

Calls for reform, at this point nothing more than a tired rejoinder, are just not enough.

And if you weren’t convinced that reform is not enough, have a moment to consider the members of the Buffalo, New York emergency response team — all of whom resigned their roles on that team (though not their jobs) in solidarity with the two now charged with felonious assault on a 75-year old protestor. They and others assembled to cheer those two after their release. Do the citizens of Buffalo feel safer now?

What is this group of people really about? They can avert their eyes and walk past a bleeding old man laying on the ground after members of their own delivered blows to him, but they’ll show up enthusiastically in a way that ultimately communicates the notion that laying blows on a 75-year old non-violent protestor is somehow justified in their world.

It is not enough to talk simple reform. All of the various attempts at reform still led to this day.

Defunding these departments and diverting the monies to positive, supportive development in the communities makes all the sense in the world. After watching so much police violence now and through the years, and considering some of the toxic police union rhetoric, fully defunding does not sound unreasonable.

As in disband. Let ‘em all go. Phase our current departments out, and start over with a whole new approach. 

We wouldn’t even call our new groups ‘police’ or use the militarized moniker ‘officers’ — or, for that matter, captains, sergeants, units, etc. Forget all that military stuff, including the weaponry.

No, I’m not sure what we’d call them but their objective would be laser focused on peace and safety for the people. They would be trusted community partners, not an opposing, militarized force acting as the muscle of the government and the privileged. They would value life and quality of life over property. 

It will require a lot of rethinking.

It is something that needs to be fleshed out in a community process. One that ought to get started in communities across the nation.

Let’s start a whole new kind of garden. Let’s do it permaculture style – sustainable, supporting life, resilient, caring, and fair.

rights and privileges

veru1_13_19.jpg

Yesterday, I found myself in the midst of a group of people anxious to see Bernie Sanders #RunBernieRun for 2020. They had gathered at a local bar to watch a livestream hosted by a grassroots entity,  Organizing For Bernie. They happily stayed to converse afterward.

What struck me about this gathering of mostly strangers was the gentle positivity, openness to ideas, and compassionate acceptance of others – traits I don’t often witness anymore in even remotely political discourse.

These folks easily hung around together for an engaging discussion that roamed far and wide, touching on topics ranging from Flint’s water to the concept of “rights and privileges.” The thoughtful and wonderfully intelligent conversation was a breath of fresh air. The talk focused on issues, very little on candidates or parties.

The discourse waded into the rights and privileges territory as participants explored healthcare issues. One person firmly took the stance that healthcare is a right not a privilege; another easily responded that they were not convinced that is the case. It was great to see all of the people in the group comfortably exploring this. There was no anger, no shame, no bullying, no dares, no put-downs, no unthinking repetition of shallow memes, just an honest and curious discussion turning the ideas over.

Much later, I found that discussion burbling in my brain – not exactly whether healthcare is a right or a privilege, but how we view and come to define rights and privileges.

The more I turned the topic over in my head, the more I realized it is just a matter of the lens through which we look at things. If we look at healthcare or water, for example, through the lens of capitalism, it’s about the price of things. It’s about who’s paying and how much. It’s about who owns it and how much benefit they receive from that ownership. It’s about one’s ability to pay, or whether they have to pay for someone else.

It’s really not a question of right or privilege – it’s just dollars and cents, the bottom line. Healthcare is simply a commodity. Life-saving drugs are commodities. Water is a commodity. Education, imprisonment, the ballot are commodities. Even war – life and death – is a commodity. It’s just about who’s going to pay and for whom. 

It is very natural to look at it through this lens; indeed, it is difficult to see it any other way. 

But there is another way. We can look through the lens of compassion. Our ingrained capitalist way of life has no room for compassion, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t or can’t be there. The question of right or privilege just serves to keep us off topic.

The very concept of “rights” implies a moral underpinning. We needn’t, we shouldn’t, shy away from our innate morality in order to accommodate a system and those reaping its profits. Denying our own very real ethics in subordination to that system is inherently unfree and inhumane – and we do it all the time without blinking. It drives us to ask such unthinkable questions as whether access to healthcare or potable water is a right or a privilege.

Most people I meet have a great deal of compassion, even if it masked by a stubborn allegiance to soulless concepts, leadership, and acts. It is human, it is life, to hold compassion.

Let’s find our way back to being the whole people that we are, not just citizens, taxpayers, workers. Let us radically allow compassion to help us determine our direction. Let us factor compassion into the most practical decisions of our society.

Let us worry less about defining rights and privileges under the gaze of the capitalist god, and look more to what’s simply best for all. Everyone’s boat will float higher when we do that.

encounters

veru1_9_19I cut along between some apartment buildings, briefly noticing an angular, skinny guy on the far side of the building before the building comes between us. I keep walking.

Grey sky. Michigan winter. I pull my jacket zipper up snug against the cold.

I hear sounds, louder and louder as I come to the end of the building. As I come abreast of it, I hear it full and big and hurting. I turn my head to the right looking toward the terrible sobs I am hearing.

There she sits, as if she simply fell there, humped over, heaving her sobs on the snow-covered grass. Her hair, a flaming dark pink, waves with her painful breaths. She wails oblivious to me, to anything.

I begin to approach her, but just then, a car comes careening around the corner and up the street. It flies right up in front me, in front of the girl, and roars to a stop. The passenger side door opens and a young woman jumps out. She rushes toward the sobbing figure on the ground.

“We saw. Are you alright?” the woman anxiously asks as she strides purposefully ahead.

The sobs turn into chokes, as the pink-haired girl looks up, clearly fearful.

The woman immediately stops and puts her hands out.

“It’s okay. Are you alright?” she asks, a little softer this time.

Despite her brash hair, the girl on the ground looks like a fawn, tender and young and vulnerable. She cannot hold back her sobs. Clearly frightened of the newcomer, she scrambles to her feet with difficulty, almost falling.

“I’m okay,” the fawn asserts.

She has no pants on. Her legs are entirely bare where she has been sitting akimbo in the snow. They are bleeding. She has no jacket on, just a long, thin shirt.

“You don’t look okay,” the woman challenges, taking a tentative step forward.

But the fawn sees the approach, and she backs up, looking a little wild.

“I’m alright,” she is breathless with sobs.

“Your legs are bleeding.”

“I’m alright. It’s just he pushed me down the stairs. I’m alright.” The fawn steps backward, and looks fearfully at her approacher.

The woman stops in her tracks, and turns toward me, as if to defuse the situation. As she steps close to me, she says under her breath, “We’re calling the cops.” She jerks her head slightly back towards the car, where I see a man at the wheel with his phone to his ear.

The fawn turns and begins to flee in earnest. She runs, half-stumbling, back through the complex with her bleeding legs and surging sobs.

The man jumps out of the car and we all keep our eyes on the fleeing girl.

We step down the street, tracking where she goes. The man relays the information to the dispatcher on the phone, as we note her location. Eventually, the man and the woman jump back in their car and make a distanced pursuit.

The fawn makes her way through the buildings, the parking lot, heads across the street, stumbles down a side street. I can see her progress, and I can see the fear in her. She continues to look wildly back.

The police pull up and talk to the man and woman in the car, then they go the long way around to approach the fleeing woman from another direction. And they do.

The man and the woman pull up and tell me thank you, but I tell them the thanks are due them. Indeed, I am deeply impressed by their caring.

I continue on my walk, sad and shaken. I look back at the police car, and it doesn’t make me feel any better.

I wish, I wish…. what. I wish we could have put our arms around her. I wish we could have held her in her tears. I wish we could have heard her story. I wish we could have found a way to help her, and a way to help the sorry male that pushed her down the stairs.

And I’m not at all convinced that help is on the way.

Later that day, just as darkness descends, I am driving down a quiet street. I get to an intersection. On the far side of the intersection, two people are standing in the middle of the road. A large man and a small woman are angrily screaming at each other, close in to each other’s face. They punctuate themselves with hard, intense gestures. Hands open, hand close, hands point.

My headlights are trained on them, and they are heedless.

I wait. I wonder. I just don’t know.

The man take several steps back and turns without leaving. They stand angrily in my headlights.

I finally turn and drive away.

I wish, I wish. I just don’t know.