Saturday, December 30, 2017

Ursula Leguin and "the realists of a larger reality"

 "I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries — the realists of a larger reality. "

  As she has been for so many years, Ursula Leguin speaks once more to the core for me.   I've visited numerous times every world she has shown us, and one thing she has always shown are  the infinite possibilities of the imagination and culture, brilliantly reasoned out through the eyes of the anthropologist's daughter that she also is. 

I have travelled with her through worlds of solitude, where a young girl must be alone  to "make her soul" in "The Birthday of the World" collection.  I've visited a world in the midst of an Ice Age, and come to love a pragmatic  hero who is also a hermaphrodite, neither male nor female on a world without gender, in "The Left Hand of Darkness".  I've visited Earthsea many times, and watched the coming of age of the mage Ged, who can talk with dragons, and  must learn not only about power, but more importantly, maintaining the Equilibrium, keeping the balance of the world.  And in "Four Ways to Forgiveness" I've seen two worlds come apart and re-form as slavery is ended, and former slaves and owners must find their personal salvation as well in the midst of a vast human revolution................thank you, Ursula, thank you for making it possible for me to visit those worlds, to escape my own when I needed to, to see with your words the infinate possibilities of  human experience.

Her speech (below)  is a call to artists as well as writers, and I felt, on the precipice of a new year, the need to re-post her 2014 speech.  She says what I have so many times thought, especiall recently - how "money sick" everything has become, and how we are losing our freedom in so many  ways. 

"But the name of the beautiful reward", Leguin says, "is not profit.  Its name is freedom."   The freedom to create uncensored, internally or externally,  by the endless demand that what is created somehow be justified, it's "real value" be determined,  by how much money "it" can make.

Which is no "real" evaluation of success at all, any more than the "success" of corporations has anything to do with preserving our planet's future.   Capitalism has become an oppressive force indeed, a force that can literally destroy the world.  We need to put money "values" outside the door when we enter the house of  creative integrity - otherwise it's like a loud cacophony of endless commercials, nattering away, obstructing any capacity to hear, see, know, be "en-souled".

When young artists come to my home, I'm always dismayed at how rarely any of them ask about the work displayed there, what it means, why I did it, what  it engages.  They rarely even ask what it's made out of.  Sadly,  most of them ask about shows, ways to promote work, what kind of prices I get....... how, in other words, did I make money from my work and can I help them to do so.  And I've never said this out loud, but the work displayed is a Conversation I secretly long for others to share with me, the painting, mine or any others, is really a Door into some other mention, a Window into Story.   In the babble and preoccupation with money,  the voice of the work  is rarely  heard. 

What wealth, if money was left outside the door like our shoes are so as not to soil the space........what real wealth might be found in the creative language being spoken on the walls of many places, what dialogues might be shared about the  impulses from which they sprang?

In accepting the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters at the 2014  National Book Awards, eminent  writer Ursula Le Guin made a knock-out speech about the power of capitalism, literature and imagination that, as she put it afterwards, “went sort-of viral on YouTube.”


I rejoice at accepting it for, and sharing it with, all the writers who were excluded from literature for so long, my fellow authors of fantasy and science fiction—writers of the imagination, who for the last 50 years watched the beautiful rewards go to the so-called realists.

I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality.

Right now, I think we need writers who know the difference between the production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. Developing written material to suit sales strategies in order to maximize corporate profit and advertising revenue is not quite the same thing as responsible book publishing or authorship. (Thank you, brave applauders.)

Yet I see sales departments given control over editorial; I see my own publishers in a silly panic of ignorance and greed, charging public libraries for an ebook six or seven times more than they charge customers. We just saw a profiteer try to punish a publisher for disobedience and writers threatened by corporate fatwa, and I see a lot of us, the producers who write the books, and make the books, accepting this. Letting commodity profiteers sell us like deodorant, and tell us what to publish and what to write. (Well, I love you too, darling.)

Books, you know, they’re not just commodities. The profit motive often is in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art—the art of words.

I have had a long career and a good one. In good company. Now here, at the end of it, I really don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river. We who live by writing and publishing want—and should demand—our fair share of the proceeds. But the name of our beautiful reward is not profit. Its name is freedom.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Woven - 20th Annual Solstice Celebration at Zuzi's

Woven - 20th Annual Solstice Celebration @ ZUZI Dance, Tucson [from 16 to 20 December]
"The art of weaving is a profound metaphor for understanding the workings of the universe and our place in it. Through the physical process of weaving, we gain a better understanding of this world and how we as human beings are woven into it. We are bound to our bodies with the fragile threads of earth. Our skeleton is a loom on which every system is strung and woven. The meeting of opposite elements woven into a whole is the quest of many seekers to find meaning in their life. The art of weaving is the essential art of creating the unified one of two opposites. Archaeological findings suggest that weaving is at least 20,000 years old, but because weavings are so organic and biodegradable, no physical evidence this old has been obtained. In this Solstice celebration we envision honoring the interconnectedness of our humanity as we move forward with the return of the sun."

Woven - 20th Annual Solstice Celebration

14:00 - 22:30


Map data ©2017 Google
ZUZI Dance
738 N 5th Ave,
Tucson, Arizona 85705

As the shortest day of the year, the winter Solstice marks the turning from the cold, dark days of winter to the warmer, lighter days of spring and summer. Historically, this season is a time of reflection, renewal, and community celebration. ZUZI! Dance production and local dancers, aerialists, musicians, and from the Tucson performing arts community and the weaving community will host this show. This collaborative effort highlights the elemental qualities of weaving.

“Woven” is directed/choreographed by Nanette Robinson, with special guest artist and choreographer Mirela Roza and Navajo weaver Marlow Kutoni. During the performance there will be lobby demonstrations by Tucson Handweavers and Spinners Guild.

In addition to the dancers in the cast, ZUZI! Dance holds a youth aerial workshop and a community workshop that are open to anyone to learn a piece of choreography to perform in the show. This year woven into the the community piece is the newly formed dance company, Dansequence, Karenne Koo, Director. These Solstice Community Workshops have been a long-standing tradition for ZUZI! to create a space and opportunity for people of all ages and abilities to work, move, learn and grow together. 

Participants have ranged in age from 7 to 72. This multi-generational approach to dance is rooted in ZUZI!’s belief that individual perspectives shared and shaped with others creates a healthy community. We will be hosting a gallery fiber arts display from local and regional weavers that will be on sale. A portion of proceeds from sales will go to ZUZI! Dance. 

ZUZI! will be accepting donations for Sister Joses Homeless Shelter for Women of sweaters, scarves, socks, hats, gloves. Bring a donation and you will receive a $2 discount for show.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Bring On the Dark: Why We Need the Winter Solstice

"We’ve rolled back the night so far that soon we will come full circle and reach the dawn of the following day. And where will that leave us? In a world with no God and no wolf either — only unrelenting commerce and consumption, information and media ... and light. We need a rest from ourselves that only a night like the winter solstice can give us."

I remember a winter night many years ago, when I lived in the country in upstate N.Y..   I shared a house with a second story living room that had a big picture window,  A  mid-winter snowstorm had left us stranded in a shimmering blanket of snow.  One could look out on that field of white, illuminated by the dark sky, the moon, and an occasional star,  into a vast,  dark silence.   For a while the lights went out, but we had no shortage of candles, and somehow that makes the memory even sweeter for me.  The intensity of the dark and the silence the snow that long ago December was not frightening, but intimate,  a landscape for sleep, for the incubation of dreams, a place to heal from the frenzy of achievement and obligation, a darkness ripe with dormant life.  A place where we could lie together in the warmth of our bed, becoming aware of  the occasional sound of snowfall, or an animal moving outside. 

I remember recently seeing a time lapse film of cities - vast networks of light, sky scrapers and traffic rushing along freeways like blood coursing along arteries, and I was struck by how much it looked like some kind of organism frenetically pulsing and extruding itself and consuming everything around it.  The truth is, it had a terrible beauty - the shimmering, glittering urban  triumph of humanity over nature, over the darkness.  Or is it?   In the years since, I have so often thought of those winter nights.

I  take the liberty of reprinting here a wonderful article by Clark Strand, whose book is well worth reading.  He has had such nights too, of that I'm sure.  


December 19, 2014

WOODSTOCK, N.Y. — WHEN the people of this small mountain town got their first dose of electrical lighting in late 1924, they were appalled. “Old people swore that reading or living by so fierce a light was impossible,” wrote the local historian Alf Evers. That much light invited comparisons. It was an advertisement for the new, the rich and the beautiful — a verdict against the old, the ordinary and the poor. As Christmas approached, a protest was staged on the village green to decry the evils of modern light.

Woodstock has always been a small place with a big mouth where cultural issues are concerned. But in this case the protest didn’t amount to much. Here as elsewhere in early 20th-century America, the reluctance to embrace brighter nights was a brief and halfhearted affair.

Tomorrow is the winter solstice, the longest night of the year. But few of us will turn off the lights long enough to notice. There’s no getting away from the light. There are fluorescent lights and halogen lights, stadium lights, streetlights, stoplights, headlights and billboard lights. There are night lights to stand sentinel in hallways, and the lit screens of cellphones to feed our addiction to information, even in the middle of the night. No wonder we have trouble sleeping. The lights are always on.

In the modern world, petroleum may drive our engines but our consciousness is driven by light. And what it drives us to is excess, in every imaginable form.

Beginning in the late 19th century, the availability of cheap, effective lighting extended the range of waking human consciousness, effectively adding more hours onto the day — for work, for entertainment, for discovery, for consumption; for every activity except sleep, that nightly act of renunciation. Darkness was the only power that has ever put the human agenda on hold.

In centuries past, the hours of darkness were a time when no productive work could be done. Which is to say, at night the human impulse to remake the world in our own image — so that it served us, so that we could almost believe the world and its resources existed for us alone — was suspended. The night was the natural corrective to that most persistent of all illusions: that human progress is the reason for the world.

Advances in science, industry, medicine and nearly every other area of human enterprise resulted from the influx of light. The only casualty was darkness, a thing of seemingly little value. But that was only because we had forgotten what darkness was for. In times past people took to their beds at nightfall, but not merely to sleep. They touched one another, told stories and, with so much night to work with, woke in the middle of it to a darkness so luxurious it teased visions from the mind and divine visitations that helped to guide their course through life. Now that deeper darkness has turned against us. The hour of the wolf we call it — that predatory insomnia that makes billions for big pharma. It was once the hour of God.

There is, of course, no need to fear the dark, much less prevail over it. Not that we could. Look up in the sky on a starry night, if you can still find one, and you will see that there is a lot of darkness in the universe. There is so much of it, in fact, that it simply has to be the foundation of all that is. The stars are an anomaly in the face of it, the planets an accident. Is it evil or indifferent? I don’t think so. Our lives begin in the womb and end in the tomb. It’s dark on either side.

We’ve rolled back the night so far that soon we will come full circle and reach the dawn of the following day. And where will that leave us? In a world with no God and no wolf either — only unrelenting commerce and consumption, information and media ... and light. We need a rest from ourselves that only a night like the winter solstice can give us. And the earth, too, needs that rest. The only thing I can hope for is that, if we won’t come to our senses and search for the darkness, on nights like these, the darkness will come looking for us.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Conrad Bishop on "Why Make Art"

 I love the response  my friend Conrad Bishop, who along with his wife and collaborator Elizabeth Fuller is one half of the Independent Eye Theatre  gave when he was asked about making art in a time of turmoil:

"On Facebook, a friend from way back asked, “How does art help you deal with the current state of the world?” There were a number of truly inspirational replies. 

Mine was simpler.

My own art serves me the way eating or lovemaking serve me: a good thing to do while passing the time between Now and Death. The main point of living is to live

If you can give good things to other people, that’s good; and if you can have pleasure while doing it, that’s good. I suppose one might make a case that much art is financed by exploitation, as with the plutocrats who sit on the board of the Met, but that’s true of virtually every human endeavor. Our own work costs only what it takes to feed and house us, and I think we give back a lot—though not likely to those who are actually creating the wealth, working in the fields or on the assembly line. You can’t entirely escape the moral dilemma of living until you serve a free lunch to the worms.

With other art: When I experience Shakespeare or Bach or Rembrandt or Dickens, part of my feeling, intrinsic to its impact, is admiration for their making these extraordinary creations within a world that was just as distraught and demented as ours, if not more so: war, disease, slavery, torture, beggary, bigotry, the lower classes born into life sentences, sunrise followed by shitstorm—name your horror, it was there in spades.

Our own dystopian achievement is in attaining greater megatonnage, raising the stakes on Gaia’s table and our capacity for self-destruction.  But unlike the troupe at the Elizabethan Globe Theatre, we don’t have to close our doors every time the Plague breaks out, and we don’t get our teeth pulled by the local barber, something I'm particularly grateful for. I’m all for being aware of—and working to change—the vileness of human destruction on the planet, but I don’t think we have a valid claim to being uniquely vile on the historic timeline.  History seems to be an equal opportunity employer.

In an NPR interview, a resident of Austin compared her city with the rest of Texas: “a diamond in a goat’s butt.”  That’s my sense of the place of art in the world.

Some would hope that the diamond might improve the goat’s digestive tract. I’d like to believe our new novel will have a butterfly effect, bringing peace, empathy, and better puppet shows to the 23rd Century, but I wouldn’t bet on it. “Confirmation bias” makes us love the stories that confirm our values, while making other people think. Euripides gave us portraits of immense passion and empathy, even as Athenian oligarchic democracy went to hell with imperialist ambition and atrocity.

At best, our art can do nothing more than preach to the choir. I tell myself, though, that the choir needs serious preaching to, lest they all stay home to gorge on Cheetos.

I guess my answer to the query is that art helps me deal with the current world by doing something that, still at the age of seventy-five, I’m struggling to learn how to do."

Conrad Bishop, 2017

(from our blog

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

America the Banana Republic by Neal Gabler

"Thanks to Trump the tinhorn dictator and those who elected him, this country is no longer a beacon of freedom, but a laughingstock......There is no longer even the pretense of concealment as there was in the good old days of Republicanism. Sure sounds like a banana republic to me. "

I take the liberty of sharing this article by Neal Gabler because, well, I think he's right. 

I know this has nothing to do with art, with consciousness, with synchronicity or myth..........but it has everything to do with the dismantling of the country I have lived in, and for all my activism and criticism, loved. 

In one short year I've watched the EPA removed and all environmental controls left to the wisdom of big oil and other polluters who seem determined to destroy everything in sight at the expense of future generations.  I've watched the NEA and NEH dismissed, as if the great Arts and Humanities of America are nothing.  I've watched us become the only nation not part of the Paris Accord, a president ridiculing the greatest threat to life humanity has ever faced.  I've watched a president laud Nazis, even as a World War was fought to defeat them, and relatives of mine died in it.  I've watched national monuments destroyed.  I've watched the war on education, medicine, health care,  intellectuals, and science.  I've watched NASA  become under the control of an evangelical, climate denying man who has no background in science.  I've watched our "ambassador to the Vatican" be replaced with the wife of  Newt Gingrich just to "get even" with the Pope.   I've watched a sexual predator, proudly proclaiming his right to "grab women's pussy" become president, along with his former sex worker wife as "first lady".  I've watched my tax dollars now increase, even as school lunches, tuition waivers, food stamps, aid to disadvantaged children, heating help to seniors freezing to death in  cold climates are scheduled to be removed removed from the budget.  Yet we pay to benefit  Trump's vacations, and an ever increasing military budget.  Corporate lobbyists are no longer even trying to disguise their contempt for people like me, the American public. 

In a land of refugees,  I've watched the most desperate of  refugees refused compassion.  I've seen the Constitutional separation of church and state dismissed  offhand, to benefit vicious, oppressive religious fanatics who, in my opinion, profane the  name of "Christianity".   I've watched efforts to  deny the rights of Muslims, Jews, Gay People, Women............ 

America.  What are you anymore?  For all our faults, you were also a place of hope, inspiration, innovation.    I'd pray that somehow "America" can recover from this, but I no longer trust what some people call "prayer".  I wonder:  is "America" over now?  Has it been replaced with an evolving tyranny of cruel mediocrity, the slow creeping banality of evil?  

Below is a picture of immigrants at Ellis Island, turn of the Century.  Any of them could look very much like I imagine my round-faced Swedish great  grandmother looked, just off the boat, so bravely seeking a  new life in the new world  at just 17 years of age.  Or my French Huguenot great grandfather, fleeing religious discrimination in his Catholic homeland.  Or my grandson's Jewish great-great grandparents, fleeing the violent pogroms of Russia.  Or my friend Susan's parents, arriving in New York and not knowing that they were each the last of their families as they fled  Nazi occupation of Poland.  Or my friend Mark's Irish great grandparents, their faces so desperate for work and maybe  just a good meal as they left behind  the potato famine of Black '47. name it.  For all the problems, and yes, slavery, yes, the genocide of the native people, yes, the omission of women in the plan.......... this was still a place of hope.   And in my small lifetime, I've seen that go forward, believe it or not, I've seen so many things change for the good.

Yes, I'll go back to art.  And beauty.  And Gaia.  And the Goddess.  Because that is what we all have to do, the best of what we each have to offer.  I'll share what I love, and what little  I know, and I'll adapt.

Because many, most people on this planet, it seems to me,  have to live with tyranny, with inequity, with endless corruption,  and somehow, in the impoverishment of it, they still have to strive to find meaningful lives. I've been fortunate.  Very fortunate.   Maybe people like me have  been naive, or overly idealistic in a world too damn  full of Trumps and Putins and the rest, and somehow we've managed to dream other dreams.   Maybe now is our time to come to terms with the "real world", if only briefly - because a truly  vast global tragedy of environmental destruction  awaits all of those who will follow us.  But for this moment, it helps to acknowledge, as Neal Gabler has, the reality. 

Tomorrow, some of us, acknowledging that, will figure out where to go from here.  Those dreams are still good dreams.

America the Banana Republic

When people call Donald Trump an authoritarian, it almost gives him more credit than he deserves.
You don’t think favorably of authoritarians; they are despicable. But you do think of them as monstrously large, grievously terrifying, as somehow taking the measure of the polity they control and drawing on its stature to puff themselves up, even as they destroy their nation’s moral core. Despots like Mussolini and Hitler epitomized evil on the grandest possible scale. To call them clowns would trivialize the unconscionable horrors they inflicted.
Trump is certainly an authoritarian, but he is more of a tinhorn dictator, a tiny, negligible man who, rather than inflating himself with the nation’s grandeur, has managed to deflate the nation with his own insipidness. Thanks to him, America is now a banana republic. It is no longer a country of soaring ideas and idealism, a beacon to the world, an example of freedom at home and a protector of freedom abroad, an anchor of sanity in a world often bouncing on the waves of madness.

Whatever her failings, America was once majestic. Now she is hopelessly diminished — a wealthier version of the corrupt nations in the developing world that we used to ridicule. And we owe it all to Donald Trump for making America small again.
The meme of America withering into a banana republic is not a new one. Some observers made the claim after the 2000 presidential election, when Republicans successfully wrested the presidency from Al Gore, just the way cabals do in those banana republics. And it was toted out again in 2008 during the great financial meltdown when the economy was revealed to be not some great dynamo but a fa├žade hiding a giant swindle, banana republic style. Citing the inability of the congressional Republicans to do anything but dither in the face of crisis, Paul Krugman called us a “banana republic with nukes.”
In Vanity Fair, the late Christopher Hitchens was more expansive. He enumerated the many ways in which America, the last great hope of mankind, had become a banana republic — primarily the way the government was willing to bail out the oligarchs while letting the general public suffer.
The chief principle of banana-ism is that of kleptocracy, whereby those in positions of influence use their time in office to maximize their own gains, always ensuring that any shortfall is made up by those unfortunates whose daily life involves earning money rather than making it.
Hitchens added that there is absolutely no accountability for the thieves. This all should sound very familiar this week, as Republicans retool the entire tax system to rob from the poor and middle classes and give to corporations and the wealthy. If that isn’t a banana republic, I don’t know what is.

But Krugman and Hitchens were writing before we had a bona fide banana republic dictator to rule our kleptocracy. And while America long has had the economic and social characteristics of a banana republic, it took Trump, who has the instincts and temperament of a gangster, to finish the transformation. There is no disguising it now. We are what we are.
Tick down the list. If kleptocracy is the hallmark of a banana republic, Trump is the kleptocrat-in-chief. He not only appears to be using the presidency as his own personal ATM, now promoting a tax-cut scam by which he stands to gain tens of millions of dollars, he also has been petty enough to steer business to his hotels and hawked his “Make America Great Again” tchotchkes. Check.
Apparently not satisfied to have enriched himself at the public’s expense, Trump has brought unprecedented nepotism to the presidency in a way that only tinhorn dictators do, giving his family access to the public trough while placing his unqualified cronies in positions of power. In this administration, everyone may be on the take. Check.
Just about every Trump directive, from health care to the environment to so-called tax reform to trade policy, seems expressly designed to give benefits to a small coterie of the wealthiest Americans while the rest of the country goes to hell. There is no longer even the pretense of concealment as there was in the good old days of Republicanism. Sure sounds like a banana republic to me. Check.
Like other tinhorn dictators, Trump has no use for the essentials of democracy.
Like other tinhorn dictators, Trump has no use for the essentials of democracy. He openly attacks a free press and has a house press of his own, Fox News, and soon, quite possibly, Time Inc., the acquisition of which has been partially financed by the Koch brothers. More, there are allegations that he may using the levers of government to punish his press opponents, using the Justice Department’s antitrust suit against the proposed AT&T purchase of Time Warner to try to force the divestment of CNN.
This, too, is unprecedented in an American democracy, but not in a banana republic. Meanwhile, the Voice of America has placed on administrative leave (a reporter whose bias has leaked into his stories and who on the side has been advancing Trump’s right-wing agenda and casting racial epithets at others in the media. Check.
Trump has taken aim at the electoral process itself, not only claiming that his loss of the popular vote was a fraud, but empaneling a government commission whose sole purpose is thought to be the disenfranchisement of voters who might oppose him. This is pure banana republicanism and an affront to democracy. Check.

Banana republics are often agent states — that is, they operate at the behest of larger states. In fact the phrase “banana republic” first was coined by the writer O. Henry back in 1904, to describe the dependence of Central American countries on American businesses like United Fruit, which ran plantations in those countries and exported bananas.
Now, America itself is one of those agent states, thanks to Trump’s troubling obeisance to Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Let’s not pretend otherwise just so we can save some face. There is no more face to save. American elections interfered with by Russia and a president intimidated by a Russian dictator? Check.
In banana republics, ideology is nothing, policy is nothing, ethics are nothing. Power is everything. Trump is notoriously nonideological. He has no policies or any interest in them. His sole desire is to feed his own inflated ego. In this, he stands with other banana republic potentates. Check.
Tinhorn dictators do everything they can to dismantle a system of checks and balances. Trump has done everything in his power to do the same.
Tinhorn dictators do everything they can to dismantle a system of checks and balances. Trump has done everything in his power to do the same — from dismissing FBI Director James Comey, who was investigating Trump, intimidating the Justice Department and taking over the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to…. well, you name it. Untrammeled power is his goal. Check.
In a banana republic, power is concentrated in the hands of one man or a small coterie. Trump has been openly contemptuous of any delegation of authority, even calling himself the “only one that matters,” which is dictator talk, not the talk of a democratically elected chief.
What’s more, he actively has worked to damage any countervailing authorities, essentially gutting the entire diplomatic corps, to cite just one example. Check.
In a banana republic, the dictator makes his own rules and lives by his own reality. Clearly, Trump thinks he is above the law, be it legal or moral. He boasts of it. He also is above fact. The latest example of the thousands of his presidency: According to The New York Times, he privately has declared that the Access Hollywood tape was not actually him! Banana republic time. Check.

And last but not least, there is the tragi-comic state itself — a kind of laughingstock of governance. America has joined that company of buffoonish nations that keep tripping over their own feet. By one account, when Trump took his first world tour in May, other leaders were aghast at Trump’s ineptitude. One foreign expert commented on how “rapidly the American brand is depreciatingover the last 20 weeks.” Check.
Donald Trump has demeaned himself, but he has also demeaned the country that was deranged enough to elect him. These characteristics speak to a corrupt and desiccated nation, one that is staggering into oblivion.
The “alt-right” insist that until Trump, America was going the way of Rome — rotting from the inside. They are wrong. It is not decadence that is destroying America, but petulance. We are going not the way of Rome but the way of Guatemala or Zimbabwe or the Philippines — the way of banana republics. Thus does this once great nation tumble.
Check and double check.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The "Elephant Whisperer"

Painting by Jonathan Truss
 Lawrence Anthony was  a legend in South Africa.  The  author of 3 books including the bestseller The Elephant Whisperer, he bravely rescued wildlife and rehabilitated elephants all over the globe from human atrocities, including the courageous rescue of Baghdad Zoo animals during the US invasion in 2003.

Reading recently, with extreme disgust, about Trump's repeal of laws that prohibited trophy hunters from bringing their "prizes", the heads of elephants and other endangered animals, into the U.S., I remembered this wonderful story about the intelligence, and memory, of elephants. 

Anthony  died on March 7, 2012  in a hospital in Durban and his body was brought to his game reserve and home  to be buried. Two days after his passing, a remarkable thing happened.  The wild elephants he had come to know and rescue showed up at his home, led by two large matriarchs.  According to a story widely circulated,  shortly after his death  two herds he rescued and worked with before releasing into the wild  started moving to his house, which they had not visited in over a year. They had walked patiently for  miles.  The herds were visible in the background whilst the funeral took place. They later split again into two groups  and moved to their separate parts of the reserve.  Lawrence's wife, Francoise, was especially touched, believing the  elephants wanted to pay their respects to a friend.

According to Truth or Fiction, a fact finding site similar to Snopes,  this story of two herds of elephants  reintroduced into the wild, and later  travelling to the home of Anthony after his death is true. 

"Reports that two herds of South African elephants that were rescued by wildlife conservationist Lawrence Anthony traveled to his home to pay their respects upon Anthony’s death are true.   This according to a March 11, 2012 article by the New York Times.   Anthony’s son, Dylan Anthony, told the New York Times that the elephants gathered on the edge of the reserve near his house every night after Lawrence Anthony's  death.
Anthony was the author of numerous books on wildlife conservation. He also created the 5,000-acre Thula Thula wildlife sanctuary and adopted herds of elephants that would have been killed, according to the  Times obituary.  Elephants have been known to grieve the deaths of friends and relatives. They sometimes stay beside the bodies of loved ones to mourn for up to three full days, according to a January 30, 2013 article by the Daily Mail.

Friday, November 24, 2017

A Candle in the Night

I keep the above little bit of a color xerox (2 inches by 1 inch)  in a small frame in my studio, and recently a conversation with a friend brought it to mind, so perhaps it's a good time to tell its story.  The image of a hand holding a flame  is a detail from a painting I did for my "Rainbow Bridge Oracle" deck back in 1993.  It was my version of "The Hermit" in the traditional Tarot, which became later "Solitude" as my own  Oracle deck evolved.   The model was me (I used  people I knew as models) and the image represented my concept of  of the card in shamanic terms. 

I also keep it there because, well, I view it as a miraculous little reminder.  That's because when I did the first 5 paintings (they are small, 10" x 17") I took them to be color xeroxed (which was still expensive at that time).  When I copied this painting all that came back was a big piece of paper with this little detail in the middle!  I tried again and the whole image was reproduced, and it wasn't till I took the bundle of papers home that I noticed what had actually been copied in that "mistake".  Of all the details to zoom in on!

So I keep it as guidance.  

When one finds a way through through the solitary  "dark night of the soul",  one becomes a pathfinder.  My little "excerpt" mistake reminds me that I need to try to be a candle in the night, to  try to share what I learn along the way.....  You never know,  the light you carry  might help to illuminate the way for someone else.

"A woman, bearing a flame in her hand, emerges from the darkness.  Originally based upon the Tarot card "The Hermit", this image is about bearing the light of truth, the flame of consciousness.  The woman pictured has returned from the journey into the "underworld" passages of her long, and solitary,  journey to wisdom.  Her journey may have been precipitated by a quest for understanding, or perhaps by an emotional crisis or by a loss of faith.  Whatever the catalyst, her initiatory journey  was the solitude necessary to "know thyself".  She emerges with the kindled flame of illumination that led her back into the world.  The final  phase of that journey is to become a "light-bearer"  - to share what has been learned, offering that knowledge to others on the path.  

If this image is speaking to you, you have learned more than you probably realize, and/or healed yourself in some important way.  Now you've come back to tell the tale.  Whether you heal with your hands, words, craft or art, or by your wise presence in the world, you have much to do now.  Hold that light before you wherever you go.

Reversed:  You may have become be too withdrawn from the world, too used to your isolation.  The card may be reminding you to connect now with others -  you are too alone, and too much isolation can mean an end to learning, and simply a fearful retreat from life.   Share and participate -  that's the emergence you are finally in need of."