Category Archives: Personal Reflections

Never Give Up

Never Give UpNever Give Up has a strong ring. It’s full of courage, determination, perseverance…

Never Give Up need not be callous, hard-hearted, without compassionate, rigid, or inflexible.  It gives us guidance on our journey, can offer advice when we’re flagging, help us remember the bigger picture, remind ourselves that we’re in this for the long haul and, most importantly perhaps, that we’re in this together, through thick and thin.

In the aftermath of the most recent school massacre in Parkland, Florida, I read about the dedicated activist for whom the school was named – Marjory Stoneman Douglas.

I became further inspired by the students from Parkland, now standing up, showing up, speaking out, loudly and clearly, and who are now, as I write this, in Tallahassee speaking to legislators about stopping gun violence.

Here just two clips:

Douglas, who challenged the political and business establishment of her day, would be proud of the students’ courageous efforts to galvanize a movement for gun control, which now includes a nationwide walkout by students and teachers scheduled for April 20.”

and

“Be a nuisance where it counts,” Douglas once said. “Do your part to inform and stimulate the public to join your action. Be depressed, discouraged, and disappointed at failure and the disheartening effects of ignorance, greed, corruption and bad politics—but never give up.”

Never Give UpI quote another of my heros, Howard Zinn. His final point in his essay On Getting Along is  “Don’t look for a moment of total triumph. See it as an ongoing struggle, with victories and defeats, but in the long run the consciousness of people growing. So you need patience, persistence, and need to understand that even when you don’t “win” there is fun and fulfillment in the fact that you have been involved, with other good people, in something worthwhile.”  

Never Give Up, and enjoy the ride!

 

February Gloom

by Stan Hirst

Even though February was the shortest month of the year, sometimes it seemed like the longest -J.D. Robb

From my perspective on a dark and gloomy Vancouver North Shore being assailed by interminable chilly rain February absolutely seems like the longest month. And the whole world seems dark and gloomy. Environment Canada says we have just had the fifth wettest January on record. The trend is set.

Its actually a most appropriate backdrop from which to consider the world situation right now.  Its depressing and made more so by the unfettered barrage of negative news delivered non-stop from a multitude of TV talking heads and contained within rain-sodden pages of the daily papers.

News commentators view the US presidential decision to transfer the American embassy to Jerusalem as a strategic and political move. However, to many Christian evangelicals (who make up 26% of the U.S population) Jerusalem is of special significance. It is tied into the concept of the rapture — a time when, according to evangelical tradition, believing Christians will be suddenly and unexpectedly “raptured” up to heaven before the events that presage the end of the world. In most accounts of the rapture, believers go straight to heaven while nonbelievers are left behind to undergo a period of political chaos and personal torment.

Are we living in some kind of “end time” now?  Theatrics aside, we are definitely living in a highly altered world of rapidly and visibly changing climate, massive disruption of terrestrial and oceanic ecosystems, and burgeoning  and shifting human populations. Its not just that so many of the basic physical, ecological, social and political parameters have changed and now approach breaking points.  The thought that we are at some kind of breaking point has now become a point of focus.

Its hugely ironic that we now sit in this situation while at the same time being in possession of more scientific knowledge and technology than at any point in the whole history of our Earth.  There is more computing power in the laptop in front of me than there was in the whole IBM mainframe computer I timidly used just a half-century ago.  We know what is on the other side of the moon, we have closeup imagery of the surface of Mars, we can dissect and manipulate strands of DNA to produce new forms of life.  But we can’t stop ourselves from destroying the very foundations of the global ecological system that gave us life in the first place.  The ridiculousness is all too much for an eldering brain to embrace.

In his book Cosmos and Psyche, Richard Tarnas addresses this very question.  He believes that we are fundamentally unable to comprehend the greater perspective.  As a global society we suffer from a profound metaphysical disorientation and groundlessness.  Something essential is  missing, and it is tempting for many to think it might be on the spiritual level.

Pope Francis, 266th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, took a brave chance at responding to this type of global challenge back in 2015 and produced his 2nd encyclical Laudato Si. This emphasized connectedness and the need for global action, both socially and politically. The document has been read by millions worldwide but seems to have become more of a polemic than a mode of genuine transition to something better.

Ken Wilber, the creator of Integral Theory (or The Theory of Everything), provides another type of framework for (the attempt at) the understanding of what is going on with our planet and ourselves.  Often difficult to understand, at least to this Elder brain, the theory postulates four levels of universal consciousness, coded ‘red’, ‘amber’, ‘orange’ and ‘green’.

The world was once at the red level (egocentric, self-referential, instinctual), followed by amber (ethnocentric, authoritarian, pre-modern) and lately at the orange level (world-centric, rational, individualistic, modern). Apparently back in the sixties we started to move onto the green level (world centered, pluralistic, post-modern)

Wilber postulates that, somewhere along the way, Green  began to wander off course, increasingly caught in some internal contradictions that were inherent in its worldview from the start (e.g. maybe there are no such things as the widely supposed universal truth and universal values in the first place).

This brings me to the point I feared when I started penning this piece in the first place. I really don’t know how to end on a positive note.

Certainly, the world will continue to unravel the complexities of our existence, from the very, very large (think deep space and black holes) to the very small (snippets of DNA being coerced to do magical things). New ideas will come and go, hopefully some will leave a residue behind. The kids will grow up and hopefully be much better at this existence business than we Elders.

But I fear the wars, greed, interminable bickering, and upsurges of horrible diseases and ecological afflictions will also go on.  Why will the search for the magic bullet not continue to be an utterly futile quest?

It has stopped raining. I’m going out to clean the gutters.

 

Pick a Mantra

by Jill Schroder

Instead of making New Year’s resolutions and then not keeping them, what if we decided to pick a mantra? The current issue of Future Crunch, my favorite good news publication and source of much valuable and encouraging information, suggests just that: Pick a Mantra.

They suggest choosing one word that resonates for you, and making it your focus for the year – a guide, a touchstone, something to return to.  For a number of reasons the editors chose Optimism.  Not blind, or pollyanna optimism, but realistic, compassionate, courageous optimism. When I thought about picking a mantra what came to mind for me and for the year ahead was Simplify.

I love the ring of it, the flavour, the effect on my body when I feel into what that could mean for me and how it could manifest in my life.  And this is especially nice, even startling, because not that long ago Simplify meant ‘give up’, ‘stop doing’, ‘slow down…’  it felt like a lot of “shoulds” being laid on me — with all the fun taken away!  That’s a bit of an exaggeration but if I had been asked to pick a mantra five years ago, it would definitely not have been this one.

Why Simplify?  What does it mean, where does it reside, how does it resonate? First of all, I’d like to cull.…in many areas of my life.  I love passing on, getting rid of, consolidating, organizing.  It’s always easy.  For example, take the things I really like but never use.  Simplify would be a helpful, gentle guide when I get down to it: clothes, files, family pictures, stuff in general.

Then there’s my schedule, activities, use of time. Simplify would help me assess, with compassion and kindness, what really matters… day to day, and on through the year – activism, food, exercise, contribution, mind-body-spirit balance…

Plastic Pollution is the new focus of the Green Team in my building.  We are trying raise awareness, and encourage people to face this huge problem – reducing the amount of plastic that we use, especially single use. Have a look at A Plastic Voyage, a depressing yet inspiring documentary made by the daughter of a resident in our building. Simplify would help me, help us all, take a closer look at our consumer choices.  Little things done often by us all add up to a significant difference.

And then this biggie arrived today, Salient Facts and Actions regarding climate change.  In a nutshell it comes down to Fly less, Drive less, Eat less meat (especially beef). We could add, Buy Less (new stuff in particular).

Pick a Mantra.  Mine is Simplify.  I feel light (a little heavy too, if I’m wholly honest, but mostly light) and heartened.  Like starting a new adventure.  I feel my shoulders relax, my breathing slow, space opening up, right now, in the moment.

What might be a helpful mantra for you in 2018?

 

 

New Year rising

by Stan Hirst

Misty sun breaks through rising seafog. Chilly breeze stirs from the Salish Sea, whispering messages from distant island forests. Gulls rise; eagles search; scaups bob and scuttle, crows lay low and caw.

Take the Seawalk. Sun behind us. No oil slicks. They’ll come one day. Plod plod plod plod plod. Early morning spandexed nymphs and lyraced gods surge past and on to glory. Used to do that once, I think.

Ships at anchor in English Bay. Seventeen in total. Just keep coming and going. Yokohama, Shanghai, Kaohsiung, Port Klang, Tianjin, Qingdao, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Nanjing and Frisco Bay. Timber, wood pulp, canola, wheat and phosphate goes; nine-month jeans and plastic dreck comes. Can it endure? Marathassa was a warning. No dilbit yet. Sae let the Lord (and the gate watchers) be thankit.

Snow on Seymour, shining bright, Lions gleaming way up yonder. Look back at Koma Kulshan radiant under the rising sun. What would the lieutenant think today?

Bridge rises high out of the morning swirl. Pearl necklaces of cars twinkle behind the girders, fifty per minute. Corollas, Mercs and Beemers rule, F100’s too. Priuses, Leafs and Teslas lurk. Seaplanes clatter overhead: Comox, Sechelt and Maple Bay. Used to do that too, I think. The seaplanes, not the Teslas.

Coffee time. Time-honoured West Coast tradition rules. Hunch up and elbow through. Stay close behind me Dear: damn’d yuppies got no respect for their Elders. Laptops rule. Tickety tick. Spreadsheets abound. Yak yak yak. Expensive smiles. Condo deals. Colombian dark. Hah!

Back to Seawalk. Sunshine now. Plod plod plod plod plod. See the seal diving just inshore? Searching for a coho. Get past these old people, they’re so damn’d slow. What’s that lingo they’re speaking?

The seawalk’s wet here? It didn’t rain. Waves overtopped the wall. Will happen more and more methinks. Sea levels rising. Climate change? Indeed. How come it rains more in rainy places, snows more in snowy places, but just drought and death in Darfur? No fairness there.

Reached the pier, time for a breather. Three shiny otters lounge on the pontoon deck. There’s no plastic on the water, no plastic on the beach, coffee dregs in my personal mug.

Happy New Year!

‘Twas a week before Christmas

by Lillian Ireland and Rob Dramer

 

‘Twas a week before Christmas and all through the town,

Shoppers were busy up one street and down.

Hunched in the driver’s seat, patience grew thin,

As people were hustling, out doors and in.

The snow started falling and it didn’t cease,

And it gave us a lovely, yet false sense of peace.

The roads were quite slippery, so we were quite prayerful,

We knew in our hearts, we had to be careful.

It had been a strange year; the climate had changed.

The drought in the summer kept us longing for rain.

So, when in September, rains finally came down,

We opened our doors and rejoiced in the sound.

And when it was finished, the leaves were fresh green,

The smoke-covered landscape was finally clean!

So, in spite of the changes, the seasons do follow,

And we’ll have to adapt for each new tomorrow.

We’ll do what we can, there’s really no choice,

So let’s stand together and all raise our voice.

We’ll speak to our leaders, and pray ’til we’re blue,

and trust in the end that we all will get through.

So, no matter our age and no matter our stature,

We’ll hold on to our dreams and our hearts for what matters.

We’ll stand with the young, growing up in these days.

We’ll guide them and show them sustainable ways.

We’ll stand for our earth and her precious soil

and continue our exit from reliance on oil.

We’ll stand for the water which we need to sustain us

In small ways and big ways: accountable choices.

We’ll clean up the air as we all move ahead;

We’ll do what we can with this word we must spread.

So rest in this thought while we all work together,

Merry Christmas to all; may God grant us good weather!

December 2017

 

 

Reflection Leads to Connection

by Jill Schroder

Most years I have relished Advent. After all, Adventus, the Latin root for our word, means “coming.” On reflection, I can feel into the expectant waiting, the pleasures, the promises of the coming weeks.

This year there seems to be so much craziness in the world, the political weirdness added unto the commercial excesses that overshadow the season, that I find myself needing to take deep breaths to remember the promises of this special season: the rich, dark days, the inherently quiet time, the opportunity for reflection.

I was drawn to reflection as a title for this post, in part, because of the image of the “supermoon” we experienced recently. These magical moments are all around, if I create space and tune in. Then I remember how much I love the seasonal music, festive gatherings togetherness with friends, and I celebrate making my Advent Wreathe with its four candles, savouring tea and meditation with the appropriate number of candles lit, which is one of my real joys of these weeks.

Celebration, of wreathes, friends, music, brings me to connection, actually a “reflection on interconnection.” At yoga this week our gracious teacher read this quote from Einstein, and as I lay there quietly, I let it sink in and spread in my body like a healing wave. (Forgive and see past Einstein’s masculine pronouns… and fill in gender-inclusive terms.)

A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of … consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

We can help ourselves and each other to remember the countless and deeply encouraging signs of interconnection, compassion, sanity, balance – innumerable shifts toward more sustainable ways of being and making our way forward – not always on the surface, definitely not in the news, but to be found everywhere we look. We are all of the one, interconnected, as in Indra’s web, or the exquisite spider’s creation shown above. Reflection and connection, indeed!

It is my hope and inspiration that these signs and actions will swell to a tidal wave of change for the benefit of all beings, a veritable coming of the light. Let us all be part of this unfolding in any and all ways we can. Even in the dark times of the year and of life.

 

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