Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"To know one's limitations and then to act ..."

I like A.S. Byatt. I first fell in love with her writing when I read Possession: A Romance. Read a couple of short stories that resonated deeply and now I am begin The Virgin in the Garden trilogy. Here is her speaking through a charismatic priest recruiting for the church.

"Very few people, he said, knew what they were really capable of. Most were afraid to find out. And afraid that circumstances might nevertheless force them to know. Better —he spread his hand, flickering, straining fingers — better to walk out and face it, purposefully, for a good reason. It was hard for man to know he had only one life, could do only so much and no more. But such knowledge, like all knowledge, was really power. To know one’s limitations and then to act, and act again, was power, and engendered more power. A man must use his life, must think how to use it." (The Virgin in the Garden, p.54)

Priest or no priest, words to live by.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Happy Elsewheres

With summer here, I’ve been getting out into the local hills more often. A few years ago I was on the trails fall, winter, spring and summer; rain, snow, sleet and wind, but for one reason or another I slowed down. I became, of all horrors, a fair weather kind of hiker. Regardless, I am back glorying in the dirt between my sandaled toes, bear spray nestled in my fanny pack and compass reassuring me I am going the right way.

I hike best alone. A friend named it for me the other day, she said it was how I manifested my spirituality. I was telling her how I am most alive in the wood and, while at times a bit lost (I am, sad to say, directionally challenged), it is where I also feel the safest. I revel in the giant firs and towering cedars; the Cornus Canadensis and the damp loving salmon berries. I walk into my church usually full of soul wrenching circular thoughts and come out refreshed; assured that life is indeed meant to be lived: enjoyed to its fullest and met with eyes wide open. I have cried, laughed, shouted and, at least a few times in my healing process, thrown rocks and bashed fallen branches against stony outbreaks to release inner tension. I’ve had many a conversation with my long dead mother and a few never-to-be-heard ones with friends that I needed to falsely denigrate before coming to the truth behind the matter — my role in the offending issue. I’ve had shamanic experiences, moments of grace, confirmation of my interrelatedness and a sense of spirit in all I encounter. I come out of the woods with batteries recharged and the knowledge that I can, indeed, follow my inner promptings: pay heed to the leadership that emanates from my core.

So, in other words, I haven’t been writing as much as my focus has been elsewhere —a truly rewarding “elsewhere” but elsewhere just the same. Hopefully to get back to a more regular writing practice… soon.

Happy hiking or doing whatever you enjoy the most.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Compassion Farms

I’ve mentioned Compassion Farms (run by Dirk Becker and Nicole Shaw) in a previous article. As I write this their organic farm is pending closure due to an inappropriate use of the local by-laws. The Lantzville council and certain members of the press are blatantly ignoring the facts and opinions of a large number of Vancouver Islanders who support their right to grow food on their lot. Read this article or watch the video to find out more.

I leave the last word to Nicole:

In summary, it is very important how we as a community, as a society and as a culture frame this issue. This is not simply an issue of a bylaw. This issue is a matter of sustainability in general, food sustainability, food security and basic human rights. Furthermore, this issue also addresses and delves into our societal values. It begs the question, at this point in time, with what we now know, what do we value more: unbridled development (further destroying farmland, our food system and our ability to feed ourselves by building yet more golf courses and shopping malls on farmland) or do we value our health, that of our children’s and the health of our environment – our earth which we depend on for our health and our survival. The future is for us to decide. Let us decide now.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Small Acts of Kindness

On June 29, I asked the following:

What small act of kindness is considered heroic in the community in which you live? Is it an accurate measure of our society?

I’ve been pondering these questions for the last two weeks and, in trying to answer, silently recorded “small” acts of kindness directed towards me.

There was my sister who remembered my long ago request for a certain birthday gift and my father who was able to stop expressing undo concern and say: whatever you do is fine by me. There was a friend who didn’t put pressure on me to visit even though she really wanted me to and another who understood my need for solitude. And, although the list continues in countless acts, I will conclude with the woman sitting beside me on the bus who stopped me from falling as I stood to leave.

These were definite acts of kindness but were they heroic?

Anne Michaels wrote that turning a blind eye to a man running (escaping) across a field was a heroic act in Nazi Germany. The witness (and the running man) could have been imprisoned if not executed for that small act of kindness.

On June 30, “vog” wrote that active, thoughtful listening (an act of kindness) was heroic.

Vog continued:
…To not let one's ego react, and to instead hold it back and let our compassion blossom, to block our own fears and denials ... to support another, yes, to me that is difficult to do, takes courage, and is self-sacrificing.

Anne Michaels’ example of kindness/heroism was in the face of physical deprivation, imprisonment and/or annihilation. Vog’s heroism is in the face of dismantling one’s ego. Both can result in death, although the latter is symbolic — letting go of a part of ourselves so to fully live; the breaking down of egoic defences (a form of death) so to live in compassion and conscious awareness.

When my father let go his worries and gave me his blessings he was, in a manner of speaking, sacrificing a way of life. He has always fretted about things but with age and, I am guessing, thoughts of his own mortality, his worries sometimes take on a life of their own. Perhaps his worrying gives him comfort or some illusionary form of control. Or maybe this way of being — retreating behind a wall of concern — is just so familiar for him that it is comfortable and a “safe” place to be. To let go of that behavior contains a certain loss and has the potential to feel like death.

By letting go, however, it allowed my father to let his love for me lead rather than the easier route of following his defences against life. His gift to me further opened my heart and we are closer because of it. In a symbolic way, he terminated a part of himself so to bring himself closer into relationship with me and, ultimately, himself. His act was heroic in that it was (and, I admit, I make assumptions) unexplored territory, fear provoking and unbalancing.

But is this determination of heroism an accurate measure of society?
Because I consider this almost simple act of my father’s heroic, does that mean I live in a self serving society, devoid of compassion and meaningful relationships? I don’t think so. Sure there are selfish and superficial people in my community but they are not special in this regard: we can all manifest these character traits on any given day. It is part of being human — we carry within us the light and the dark and all shades in between. Every moment contains a choice on how we are going to respond to life and what aspect of our inner being will be on display.

Acts of kindness, therefore, are only an accurate measure of the person giving it at that particular moment. It is not a generalized statement of who they are, nor a comment about society. It is also, interestingly, a measure of the person receiving… many such acts are ignored or met with disdain. To receive is as precious as to give.

Every time we act with kindness, heroic or not, we open up to the part of ourselves that is compassionate and that dares to live in authentic relationship with others. It is the ongoing human drama this choice we make and it is a heroic act when we make those decisions with an open heart.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Asbestos (oh, forgive me) Chrysotile Revisited

I wrote to several Canadian MPs regarding my concerns about exporting asbestos. (See Political Complicity). Recently I received a letter back from John Weston, Conservative MP for my district. He wrote:

Chrysotile, the only “asbestos” fibre produced in and exported from Canada, belong to the serpentine class. Serpentine minerals are structurally and chemically different from the amphiboles. Chrysotile is the only “asbestos” fibre that does not belong to the amphibole group. The risk posed by using chrysotile fibres can be managed if adequate controls, such as those established in Canada, are implemented and completely observed.

For over 30 years, the Government of Canada has promoted the safe and controlled use of chrysotile, both domestically and internationally. Scientific reviews show that chrysotile fibres can be used safely under controlled conditions.
Excellent, good to hear. So why then the resistance to the Rotterdam Convention? As stated in the Globe and Mail, all it is asking asbestos exporting countries to do is to “warn recipient countries of any health hazards”.

It is also interesting to note that on the Health Canada website it states:
It is generally accepted that chrysotile asbestos is less potent and does less damage to the lungs than the amphiboles.
What it doesn’t state is what exactly does “less potent” and “less damage” mean. It is kind of like saying “light” cigarettes are less damaging to the lungs.

Well, I shall write Mr. Weston back with my concerns. Will let you know what he says.