Thursday, 13 December 2012

Nature Always WIns

I just finished reading Verlyn Klinkenborg's inspirational piece in Environment 360 on yale.edu 'The Folly of Big Agriculture: Why Nature Always Wins'.

Klinkenborg has written a beautiful treatise against the mainstream of industrial agriculture and in favor of nature.

"...nature's big idea is to try out life wherever and however it can be tried, which means everywhere and anyhow. The result — over time and at this instant — is diversity, complexity, particularity, and inventiveness to an extent our minds are almost unfitted to conceive."

He goes on to say that we really ought to be rethinking the way we do agriculture.

"A reasonable agriculture would do its best to emulate nature."

Read the article at yale.edu: http://e360.yale.edu/feature/the_folly_of_big_agriculture_why_nature_always_wins/2514/

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Tar Sands in Maine

The Sierra Club Maine and the First Parish Church Environmental Justice team are co-sponsoring a public forum on Thursday, November 29th at 7PM in Fellowship Hall in Pilgrim House of the First Parish Church (on Cleaveland Street, Brunswick).

They will talk about a proposed plan to pump tar sands (diluted bitumen) through a 60 year old pipeline from Canada through Maine's Lakes Region, past Sebago Lake and to Portland Harbor and then shipment on Casco Bay.

The forum will feature a presentation about the realities and risks of shipping tar sands dilbit through pipelines, including the economic and environmental impacts to communities on and near the pipeline route from Bethel to South Portland and the impacts on climate change. Presenters include: Glen Brand, Director of the Sierra Club Maine, and Montreal attorney, Shelley Kath, who is a Senior Consultant for the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington DC.

Please go and invite friends from the colleges and in the community.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Orthodox Pastafarian Jedi

What with all this Buddha and Jesus talk on the blog my religious standpoint has come into question. TO be honest I am probably most closely aligned with the Orthodox Pastafarian Jedi.

I see Buddha and Jesus and all the great thinkers and philosophers and lovers of mankind as teachers. Maybe they saw something beautiful and were kind enough to tell others about it. It could be that they had some important things, some insights that I cannot overlook. I see them as psychotherapists of the whole of the human psyche, as fingers pointing to the moon.

But really, my faith, if I must say, is in pasta and in the force. It comes through, like Dan Savage in the fast lane, when I use the force to play Jedi mind tricks on the Italian waiters so that I can get more pesto and loads of extra Parmesan. Here in Vietnam I worship his noodleiness over a large bowl of Pho almost every morning.

May he touch us all with his noodley appendages and may the force be with you

How Westerners Miss the Mark

The Buddha told people that they were also Buddhas. He said he was the same as everyone else but that he was awake and they were still asleep. - He said that everyone has Buddha Nature or th ability to be awake id we can aware of it.

According to Doubting Thomas, that well traveled old apostle, Jesus Christ said it too:

'When you become acquainted with yourselves
then you will be recognized
and you will understand
that it is you who are children of a living father.

But if you do not become accquainted with yourself
then you are in poverty and it is you who are the poverty.'

So what is our problem anyway, we are also floating here in empty space on the thin crust of life with the same amount of nothing as the buddhists and Taoists... and yet... with thousands of years of this beautiful spiritual philosophy we miss the mark. As John Giorno complains 'none of us here got enlightened.

I have a dear friend on the way to Plum Village now and I talked with her about it:

I told her that I have been listening to a lot of Thich Nhat Hanh and SFZC podcasts and that they help me to clear things up 'life and death and all of the thoughts and ideas I have about them... Like a crystal clear lake to reflect the world in... somehow expanding my mind and heart while making them both clam and quiet.'
She said 'i know this feeling when i finally manage to meditate... its getting calm and warm and i feel deep trust in everything... i feel the oneness and the all love... Metta'
I told her a fourth hand story I heard that explains why it is so hard for westerners to meditate: Thai monk told an American meditator that Westerners do it all wrong. He said that if you want to build a table you have to follow a process: first go to the forest to select a tree, then cut the tree and mill it onto boards, then draw and carefully cut the pieces, then put them all together. Then, and only then, you should start to sandpaper and make it smooth. But we westerners go to the forest with sandpaper; we try to meditate although we have not yet worked out what kind of practice we are doing.

My friend said: 'i understand, and also westerners are used to just go to the stores and buy a table'

We just listen to the dharma like we are in a shop. Like we are shopping for a new table. Trungpa Rinpoche called it 'Spiritual Materialism'. We like to wear Metta and Buddhism and Compassionate living like a new dress from the shop, like a new table in the kitchen.

She said 'We can not just take this old coat off so easily.'

Thousands of years with the beginnings of enlightenment, all clouded by greed and manipulated to create and support violent and oppressive power structures. We have a big heavy old coat to remove and a chilly environment to do it in.

We need all the Metta we can give.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Resource Rights

I have just come across a new paper and am incredibly impressed. It's a great piece regarding villager's resource rights in 'National Production Forests' and 'National Protected Areas'.

Porter-Bolland L., Elllis E.A., Guariguata M.R., Ruiz-Mallén I., Negrete-Yankelevich S. and Reyes-García V. 2012. Community managed forests and forest protected areas: An assessment of their conservation effectiveness across the tropics. Forest Ecology and Management.

The authors offer an assessment of 77 case studies from around the world. Their work reveals that tropical forests managed by communities show a lower annual deforestation rate than forests within official 'Protected' areas.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

The Birth of Engaged Buddhism

Shambala Sun's John Malkin asked Thich Thay Nhat Hanh "Will you describe the origins of Engaged Buddhism and how you became involved in compassion-based social change?"

Thich Nhat Hanh said "Engaged Buddhism is just Buddhism. When bombs begin to fall on people, you cannot stay in the meditation hall all of the time. Meditation is about the awareness of what is going on-not only in your body and in your feelings, but all around you.

When I was a novice in Vietnam, we young monks witnessed the suffering caused by the war. So we were very eager to practice Buddhism in such a way that we could bring it into society. That was not easy because the tradition does not directly offer Engaged Buddhism. So we had to do it by ourselves. That was the birth of Engaged Buddhism.


Buddhism has to do with your daily life, with your suffering and with the suffering of the people around you. You have to learn how to help a wounded child while still practicing mindful breathing. You should not allow yourself to get lost in action. Action should be meditation at the same time."

The Grand Canyon at Sundown

This morning I am left asking myself what this whole thing is really about. 

What are we doing here?  

The thing to do really is just to hit the long grey dusty road again road and find out. 

Here is most of Bob Dylan's 'Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie' - Without the angst and frustration in the middle. 
When yer head gets twisted and yer mind grows numb
When you think you're too old, too young, too smart or too dumb
When yer laggin' behind an' losin' yer pace
In a slow-motion crawl of life's busy race
No matter what yer doing if you start givin' up
If the wine don't come to the top of yer cup
If the wind's got you sideways with with one hand holdin' on
And the other starts slipping and the feeling is gone
And yer train engine fire needs a new spark to catch it
And the wood's easy findin' but yer lazy to fetch it
And yer sidewalk starts curlin' and the street gets too long
And you start walkin' backwards though you know its wrong
And lonesome comes up as down goes the day
And tomorrow's mornin' seems so far away
And you feel the reins from yer pony are slippin'
And yer rope is a-slidin' 'cause yer hands are a-drippin'
And yer sun-decked desert and evergreen valleys
Turn to broken down slums and trash-can alleys
And yer sky cries water and yer drain pipe's a-pourin'
And the lightnin's a-flashing and the thunder's a-crashin'
And the windows are rattlin' and breakin' and the roof tops a-shakin'
And yer whole world's a-slammin' and bangin'
And yer minutes of sun turn to hours of storm
And to yourself you sometimes say
"I never knew it was gonna be this way
Why didn't they tell me the day I was born"
And you start gettin' chills and yer jumping from sweat
And you're lookin' for somethin' you ain't quite found yet
And yer knee-deep in the dark water with yer hands in the air
And the whole world's a-watchin' with a window peek stare
And yer good gal leaves and she's long gone a-flying
And yer heart feels sick like fish when they're fryin'
And yer jackhammer falls from yer hand to yer feet
And you need it badly but it lays on the street
And yer bell's bangin' loudly but you can't hear its beat
And you think yer ears might a been hurt
Or yer eyes've turned filthy from the sight-blindin' dirt
And you figured you failed in yesterdays rush
When you were faked out an' fooled white facing a four flush
And all the time you were holdin' three queens
And it's makin you mad, it's makin' you mean
Like in the middle of Life magazine
Bouncin' around a pinball machine
And there's something on yer mind you wanna be saying
That somebody someplace oughta be hearin'
But it's trapped on yer tongue and sealed in yer head
And it bothers you badly when your layin' in bed
And no matter how you try you just can't say it
And yer scared to yer soul you just might forget it
And yer eyes get swimmy from the tears in yer head
And yer pillows of feathers turn to blankets of lead
And the lion's mouth opens and yer staring at his teeth
And his jaws start closin with you underneath
And yer flat on your belly with yer hands tied behind
And you wish you'd never taken that last detour sign
And you say to yourself just what am I doin'
On this road I'm walkin', on this trail I'm turnin'
On this curve I'm hanging
On this pathway I'm strolling, in the space I'm taking
In this air I'm inhaling
Am I mixed up too much, am I mixed up too hard
Why am I walking, where am I running
What am I saying, what am I knowing
On this guitar I'm playing, on this banjo I'm frailin'
On this mandolin I'm strummin', in the song I'm singin'
In the tune I'm hummin', in the words I'm writin'
In the words that I'm thinkin'
In this ocean of hours I'm all the time drinkin'
Who am I helping, what am I breaking
What am I giving, what am I taking
But you try with your whole soul best
Never to think these thoughts and never to let
Them kind of thoughts gain ground
Or make yer heart pound
But then again you know why they're around
Just waiting for a chance to slip and drop down
"Cause sometimes you hear'em when the night times comes creeping
And you fear that they might catch you a-sleeping
And you jump from yer bed, from yer last chapter of dreamin'
And you can't remember for the best of yer thinking
If that was you in the dream that was screaming
And you know that it's something special you're needin'
And you know that there's no drug that'll do for the healin'
And no liquor in the land to stop yer brain from bleeding
And you need something special
Yeah, you need something special all right
You need a fast flyin' train on a tornado track
To shoot you someplace and shoot you back
You need a cyclone wind on a stream engine howler
That's been banging and booming and blowing forever
That knows yer troubles a hundred times over
You need a Greyhound bus that don't bar no race
That won't laugh at yer looks
Your voice or your face
And by any number of bets in the book
Will be rollin' long after the bubblegum craze
You need something to open up a new door
To show you something you seen before
But overlooked a hundred times or more
You need something to open your eyes
You need something to make it known
That it's you and no one else that owns
That spot that yer standing, that space that you're sitting
That the world ain't got you beat
That it ain't got you licked
It can't get you crazy no matter how many
Times you might get kicked
You need something special all right
You need something special to give you hope
But hope's just a word
That maybe you said or maybe you heard
On some windy corner 'round a wide-angled curve

But that's what you need man, and you need it bad
And yer trouble is you know it too good
"Cause you look an' you start getting the chills

...

And where do you look for this hope that yer seekin'
Where do you look for this lamp that's a-burnin'
Where do you look for this oil well gushin'
Where do you look for this candle that's glowin'
Where do you look for this hope that you know is there
And out there somewhere
And your feet can only walk down two kinds of roads
Your eyes can only look through two kinds of windows
Your nose can only smell two kinds of hallways
You can touch and twist
And turn two kinds of doorknobs
You can either go to the church of your choice
Or you can go to Brooklyn State Hospital
You'll find God in the church of your choice
You'll find Woody Guthrie in Brooklyn State Hospital

And though it's only my opinion
I may be right or wrong
You'll find them both
In the Grand Canyon
At sundown

Monday, 29 October 2012

Participatory Research

It turns out that participatory research is not such an easy task.

All the investigations we do are expressly done to benefit the community and biodiversity - to work collaboratively with local healers and wild collectors and to produce outcomes which directly benefit them; offer tools and methods for the conservation of biodiversity and traditional practices; empower the people to tell about the role they play in conservation.

We are just there to interpret the story of the people an their relationship to nature. We look at it with researchers eyes, trained to be systematic and attempting to be as objective as possible. - (In-cognito?)

The interpreter has a role to play in the subject though. 'Any half-awake materialist well knows - that which you hold holds you.'

Here is another poem by Walt Whitnam 'When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer' - It speaks volumes to the issue of speaking about and trying to do 'science' with people.

When I heard the learn'd astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander'd off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Mekong Youth Alliance for Organic Agriculture and Agro-ecology Occupy Your Life Manifesto

I have just returned from the Toward Organic Asia workshop 'Mekong Youth Alliance for Organic Agriculture and Agro-ecology' on the Tha Thang Organic farm in Pakse Laos.

During the workshop young farmers from Bhutan, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam collected their thoughts for a collective vision for agriculture and we drafted it into the following 'Mekong Youth Alliance for Organic Agriculture and Agro-ecology Occupy Your Life Manifesto':

We are the Mekong Youth Alliance for Organic Agriculture and Agro-ecology. We write this manifesto in support of happiness in a system of agriculture, which includes healthy and abundant nature, healthy communities and a thriving economy.

Occupy Your Life follows the general principles of the Occupy Wall Street movement but focuses on the regaining of livelihoods of young farmers. Taking back responsibility and reclaiming our role in food production, instead of outsourcing to supermarkets grow our own food and get close to our food source. We should reclaim our health and consume healthy food rather than relying on hospitals and medicine.

Innovative, young, small-scale, diversified farmers are the future of agriculture. In order to secure our agricultural future we need to preserve biodiversity and manage the landscape in harmony with nature, use waste wisely and ensure fair access to fresh and clean water, offer respect for people to work with dignity.

We need to build on the creative potential of youth to solve global crises. Small-scale farms that work in harmony with nature and are run by young farmers are the solution to many global crises in that they offer climate change adaptation and mitigation, stop erosion, create sustainable and healthy local food systems, keep young people in rural areas and prevent urbanization and stop the loss of cultural diversity and traditions. These small farms help to change the course of things for rural people by alleviating poverty and creating food sovereignty.

Nature

Nature is beautiful, that has a value in itself.

Forests are a source of food they are the mothers of rivers and they form the foundation of watersheds. They are an important source of medicine, culture, and spiritual fulfillment.

We need integrated holistic thinking and philosophy in farm design, utilizing synergistic relationships within farming systems and in harmony with nature.

Our health, and the health of our communities, depends on healthy soil. Farming should work toward building soil organic matter, preventing and controlling erosion, preserving soil biodiversity and respecting soil life. We should practice farming with a long term focus, using more permanent crops and poly cultivation.

We need to preserve the genetic diversity of seed and livestock through building and supporting regional connections for small-scale diversified farms.

Economy

Young farmers are redefining economy with respect toward the values of nature and society. We need to change the way we think about economy. We are part of an interconnected web of life - exchanges are more than just monetary units. We need to work together, focusing on cooperation and friendliness rather than competition.

We should strengthen networks and offer support for grassroots actions for farming with dignity, integrity and self-reliance and to promote a pro-farming society that makes wise use of resources including wastes.

We envision a world wherein the producer and consumer choose health and happiness; they should feel a kinship. People should eat healthy local food and get to know their farmer. Farmers should care for consumers and produce wholesome food. Mindful marketing community supported agriculture, and farmer's markets can support the relationship between the producer and consumer.

Small-scale farms should have access to fair and reliable funding, building up wealth for their families and in the farming landscape in the form of healthy communities and abundant biological resources.

Society

Viable agricultural systems require strong communities, grassroots movements and young farmer networks. These communities form their own agreements based on self-regulation and open systems of management according to tradition and local knowledge. They agree on clear and pertinent rules to follow that help guide community actions and serve as a fundamental building block for food security and access to healthy living.

Traditional belief and wisdom gives meaning to life offering insights for living together with nature and creating ecological farming practices. Farming systems should have respect for culture and traditional belief and thereby see an intrinsic value in the landscape.

We need clear information sharing and transparency in education. Schools should serve to support and increase traditional agricultural knowledge. Young people should have access to information and training about farming sustainably.

Education is a fundamental aspect of small-scale diversified farming. It provides young people with opportunities for growth and personal development, cultivating not just food but people. These farms operate within a participatory learning process where farmers share methodologies and skills and help to convey the mindset of an occupied and active life.

There is an intrinsic value in animals. They deserve to be treated as friends and with respect and care. Food from animals is a gift. They deserve fair treatment, good health, and good living conditions. We need localized closed systems where healthy feed comes from a diverse farm and local community.

Happiness

We should promote happiness as a fundamental pillar of life. Our lives are dependent on all other life forms, when eating we should be aware and thankful for the hard work of farmers and to the web of life and society that brought us the food. Farmers are amazing people in that they work so hard to grow our food and get so little in return. We need to create agricultural chains and systems that support and acknowledge the hard work that farmers are doing and help create good conditions for them to work with dignity. Through their hard work farmers bring others happiness while fostering their own contentment like roots in the soil.

We should take care of people in need and 'share the abundance' through fair resource distribution.

Conclusion

We support happiness in farming, including healthy and vibrant systems of nature, community and economy. We need to take back the roles of young farmers in food production, reclaiming right livelihood.

Young farmers are the future of agriculture, which preserves biodiversity and an occupied life. They practice natural harmonious farming and offer respect and dignity for communities.

We need small and slow solutions in agricultural development and design in order to deal with the global challenges we are facing. Innovative young farmers offer those solutions we should support them.

In a world where resources are dwindling young farmers offer an abundant agricultural future and wish to share in the bounty.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Rain and Poetry

Sitting now in a serious rain storm in the mountains of Luang Prabang, The thunder and lightning seems to be carving new mountains and the rain is turning the streets to rivers.

I'm sitting here reading poems and thinking about the amazing chance we have here in all this mess of life, all the happiness and sadness, to see and to hear.

Here is a poem I am spending some time with from Philip Whalen, another vagabond American moving through Asia.

Hymnus Ad Patrem Sinensis

I praise those ancient Chinamen
Who left me a few words,
Usually a pointless joke or a silly questionA line of poetry drunkenly scrawled on the margin of a quick                        splashed picture- bug, leaf,                        caricature of Teacher            on paper held together now by little more than ink            & their own strength brushed momentarily over itTheir world & several others sinceGone to hell in a handbasket, they knew it- Cheered as it whizzed by- & conked out among the busted spring rain cherryblossom winejarsHappy to have saved us all.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

October

News from the Common Ground Country Fair and the rich harvest from a good summer brings me spinning back to New England this morning. - It is October there and everything has changed, the chimneys blow smoke into the salt air and the leaves blow past. It is also October here but the place seems hardly to have noticed. - There is no morning chill, no smell of pumpkin pie, no cold hands digging the potatoes from the damp and frosted morning soil. Yet somehow we can all still feel the October-ness on our sunburned skin. - In the swell of the passion fruit and the bounty of the rice harvest.

Here is Robert Frost's poem October:

O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
To-morrow's wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
To-morrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow,
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know;
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away;
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes' sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost--
For the grapes' sake along the wall.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Crossing the Mekong and Leonard Cohen's 'Anthem'

When we look up the river we can see patches in the mountains, now new upland rice fields or seedlings for rubber or teak. The river bubbles and rages below our little cracked long boat. - The engine sputters and chokes.
We look downstream at the tall forests and the healthy green mountains and we hope that the engine will keep running - and we hope that the forests will remain - and we hope that the people will find a way to be full and healthy here.

Meanwhile, as researchers we try to grasp all the complexities of the situation and try to wrap our minds around the dynamics of it.
How can we know what is happening or why? - We are taking out boddhisatva vows to try and find some solutions in an endless sea of delusion and confusion. We attempt draw out some possible answers from the chaos of information and complex human and nature interactions. - Never saying we are certain and attempting to prove that we are wrong before saying anything.

This song came to mind as I was sorting through all the data:

The birds they sang
at the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don't dwell on what
has passed away
or what is yet to be.
Ah the wars they will
be fought again
The holy dove
She will be caught again
bought and sold
and bought again
the dove is never free.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

We asked for signs
the signs were sent:
the birth betrayed
the marriage spent
Yeah the widowhood
of every government --
signs for all to see.

I can't run no more
with that lawless crowd
while the killers in high places
say their prayers out loud.
But they've summoned, they've summoned up
a thundercloud
and they're going to hear from me.

Ring the bells that still can ring ...

You can add up the parts
but you won't have the sum
You can strike up the march,
there is no drum
Every heart, every heart
to love will come
but like a refugee.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.
That's how the light gets in.
That's how the light gets in.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Buddhism meets Animism

The elders of a small village here were having troubles with illegal logging and over-harvesting in the communal forests - they took direct action to save the trees.

They organized a Bo Ton Mai ceremony and ordained all the trees as monks. The local pagoda and the most famous monks from the region came along with all the villagers and nearby people. The offenders who had been cutting trees and damaging the forests even took part in the ceremony and acknowledged the sacredness of the forest and the trees.

The problems with forest mis-use did not continue.


Read Susan Darlington's story about Buddhist Ecology in Thailand: http://ccbs.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JR-ADM/susan.htm

Friday, 7 September 2012

Rain and Janis Joplin's Deepest Heart

It is the rainy season here and I am sitting in the rain in the nostalgic early morning. - Thinking about a quiet saturday afternoon in the late summer. My father and I had just gone for a long walk in the forest and were rained out and made it back to his wood paneled ford station wagon. It smelled of woodworking and cigarettes.
He put on this tape by Janis Joplin and we listened to her speech a few times through while we sat in the dryness of the car with the rain drawing a curtain between us and the rest of the world. Just my Dad and me and Janis Joplin totally hopped up on some kind of crazy drugs and energy and sharing her heart.
Here is the poem that she shared on stage in the middle of a song. It might be titled 'You can destroy your now by worrying about tomorrow'

I don't understand how come you're gone
I don't understand why half the world is still crying
when the other half of the world is still crying too, man
and it can't get it together.

I mean,
if you got a cat for one day
I mean, if you, say, say...
maybe you want a cat for 365 days, right?
You ain't got him for 365 days
you got him for one day, man.
Well I tell you that one day, better be your life.
Because, you know
you can say, oh man
you can cry about the other 364
but you're gonna lose that one day,
and that's all you've got.
You gotta call that love, man.

That's what it is, man.

If you got it today you don't want it tomorrow, man,
'cause you don't need it,
'cause as a matter of fact, as we discovered on the train, tomorrow never happens, man.
It's all the same fucking day, man.

The Peace Of Wild Things

Sitting now in the breezy cool quiet after a storm in Luang Prabang. - All my colleagues are busily working on making maps and carefully preparing to present our research ideas tomorrow.

- Presenting the research idea to them all day was enough work for me so I am reading poems and eating bananas.
I'll sneak out for a beer now and look at the Mekong and the forests.

The Peace Of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

— Wendell Berry

Monday, 3 September 2012

"I sound my barbaric YAWP over the rooftops of the world"

I'm now on the rooftop of the Mekong Region in Luang Prabang Province about to head off into the wilderness to work for Hmong and Khmu ethnic minority groups. I am lucky enough to be traveling with three incredibly hard-working and dedicated environmentalists and permaculturalists who are acting as translators and sounding boards for ideas about how to test the hypothesis - that utilization leads to conservation: all within the new model of Bio-Human Ecology (unpublished) by my boss and the Founder of the Social Policy and Ecology Research Institute (SPERI): Ms. Tranh Thi Lanh.

Life is exceedingly good and full of adventure mixed with hard work and laughter.

Here is a poem by Walt Whitman I am revisiting this morning:

"This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body."

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Sister Chan Khong

I've been listening to the songs in Thich Nhat Han's "Touching the Earth" for some time now and have basically memorized the song by Sister Chan Khong. - It took some doing to find out what the actual words were (I have been singing it to my friends and they catch a word or two as I get better at it).

Here they are:

Đây là tịnh độ, tịnh độ là đâyMỉm cười chánh niệm, an trú hôm nay
Bụt là lá chín, Pháp là mây bay
Tăng thân khắp chốn, quê hương nơi này
imgres.jpgThở vào hoa nở, thở ra trúc lay
Tâm không ràng buộc, tiêu dao tháng ngày.

Pure being is happening now
Mindfully smiling, reside in today
Buddha-nature is ripe
Clouds spreading over the countryside
The sangha is everything, everywhere
Inhale in as a blooming flower, exhale as a mountain
We are not bound, sailing among the islands of our days.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Paldang Organic Farms

Some good news has just come from Korea – a success in the struggle for the preservation of the Paldang Organic Farmlands.

 

The Paldang region is the birthplace of modern Korean organic agriculture and has been the source of drinking water for the residents in the metropolitan areas of Seoul. The Korean government under its ambitious Four Rivers' Restoration Project planned to convert the region into bike trails and public parks, claiming that organic agriculture has a negative impact on the water quality of the region.

 

The struggle of the Paldang organic farmers was joined by the organic, environmental, religious and other social groups in Korea and it became symbolic in the national struggle against the Four Rivers' Restoration Project. Dumulmeori, a beautiful scenic haven in the Paldang region remained the last region to be developed under the Four Rivers' Restoration Project.

 

In October 2011, the IFOAM membership present at its 20th General Assembly unanimously passed a declaration in support of the Paldang farmers. The Declaration "openly supports the determined efforts to maintain organic management of the land inthe Paldang region" and recognized that Paldang as the birthplace of Korean organic agriculture "has a symbolic value for the national and the international organic movements."

 

On 12th August 2012, the Ministry of Land, Transportation and Maritime Affairs and the Committee for the Preservation of the Paldang Organic Farmlands came to an agreement on the preservation of the organic farmlands to be managed as a community ecological park, taking as example CERES of Australia, a measure that was suggested  by the organic farmers since two years ago. 
 
 The success of the negotiations was possible due largely to the mediation of the Catholic Church whose members held daily mass in the Paldang region for more than two years.

 

A common consultation body is to set up with the participation of the local governments of the Paldang region (Yangpyeong County and Gyeonggi Province), and the members of the Committee for the Preservation of the Paldang Organic Farmland. The budget for conversion into a community ecological park would be borne by the government. The organic farmlands will be preserved and Paldang will be a model of sustainable development in watersheds.  

 

Based on the peaceful resolution of the crisis and the public consensus reached, Paldang farmers "promise to strive to promote and preserve organic agriculture in Korea."
 
The Four Rivers' Restoration Project has proven to be an environmental disaster with floods and environmental damage in all areas developed under the project. Wetlands have been destroyed and the natural habitats of many migrating birds have disappeared. Contamination of the rivers have worsened and  flooding have become more frequent.
 
Many politicians are asking for the dismantling of the dams built as part of the Restoration Project and most of the presidential candidates have taken this up as their campaign slogan.  
 
The courage of the four farmers who remained and fought to the last will always be remembered as well as the unfailing solidarity of the Catholic Priests who held daily mass regardless of rain, snow or scorching heat.   

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

What is this?

Max Erdstein, Global Manager of Google, gave a great talk at the Insight Meditation Center about 'peeling back the onion' through a combination of vipassana and zen meditation. He said that after years and years of zen practice he went on a vipassana retreat and suddenly realized that he did not know how to meditate - and had a consequent breakthrough in deepening his mediation practice.

"The ritual is an elaborate ruse; a kind of kabuki."

The moral of the story seems to be letting go of learning how to do meditation is the way to learn how to do meditation. - To breathe in you have to first breathe out. - In a way, not knowing is a way to 'breathe out;' breathe out the ego-based practices by letting go of 'knowing' how to do something or about something; a kind of learning through 'don't know mind' as Suzuki Rochi says.

In the vein of celebrating not knowing, here is the poem 'A child said, What is the grass?' by Walt Whitman. It is a part of 'Song of Myself' and is one long and hopeful question.

A child said, What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;
How could I answer the child?. . . .I do not know what it is
any more than he.

I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful
green stuff woven.

Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropped,
Bearing the owner's name someway in the corners, that we
may see and remark, and say Whose?

Or I guess the grass is itself a child. . . .the produced babe
of the vegetation.

Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow
zones,
Growing among black folks as among white,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the
same, I receive them the same.

And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.

Tenderly will I use you curling grass,
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men,
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them;
It may be you are from old people and from women, and
from offspring taken soon out of their mother's laps,
And here you are the mother's laps.

This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old
mothers,
Darker than the colorless beards of old men,
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.

O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues!
And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths
for nothing.

I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men
and women,
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring
taken soon out of their laps.

What do you think has become of the young and old men?
What do you think has become of the women and
children?

They are alive and well somewhere;
The smallest sprouts show there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait
at the end to arrest it,
And ceased the moment life appeared.

All goes onward and outward. . . .and nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and
luckier.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Grow Nothing Gardening

I just talked to a friend in New Hampshire who lost a few rows of lettuce to a gopher one evening and her compost bin to a bear. - I tried to comfort her while klüchscheißing about my radical wild collection ideas at the same time. In part it is an exhaustive rationalization for laziness and in part I really feel i am right. - In any case I didn't get quite enough of it out then, so I'll rant a bit about it here.

'In the vast majority of cases a person will be happier if he has no rigid and arbitrary notions, for gardens are moodish, particularly with the novice. If plants grow and thrive, he should be happy; and if the plants that thrive chance not to be the ones that he planted, they are plants nevertheless, and nature is satisfied with them.' ― L. H. Bailey, Manual of Gardening

I remember in Witzenhausen I was invited to look at a friends newly planted garden in the early spring, the last frost had just passed and he had put out a number of seedlings in the fresh tilled earth. - There they were, tine tender and helpless little baby plants in a sea or upturned bare earth. - I looked up to the edge of the garden and saw fresh spring green nettles and dandelions bulging from the hedge, practically begging to be part of a dinner. I thought about the nutrition available there in that readily abundant food source that nature had provided without any effort on the part of these hard working young farmers and I laughed.

I say we should just eat what grows rather than growing what we want to eat. Why are we dong all of this work?


"I do not particularly like the word 'work.' Human beings are the only animals who have to work, and I think that is the most ridiculous thing in the world. Other animals make their livings by living, but people work like crazy, thinking that they have to in order to stay alive. The bigger the job, the greater the challenge, the more wonderful they think it is. It would be good to give up that way of thinking and live an easy, comfortable life with plenty of free time. I think that the way animals live in the tropics, stepping outside in the morning and evening to see if there is something to eat, and taking a long nap in the afternoon, must be a wonderful life. For human beings, a life of such simplicity would be possible if one worked to produce directly his daily necessities. In such a life, work is not work as people generally think of it, but simply doing what needs to be done." ― Masanobu Fukuoka, The One-Straw Revolution

Friday, 27 July 2012

The Bum on the Rods and the Bum on the Plush

Just heard an old recording from U. Utah Phillips reading some poems. - He read a kind of radical
socialist poem by a hobo (traveling worker) named Frying Pan Jack ' The Bum on the Rods and the Bum on the Plush' - I hadn't heard it for years but I used to recite it all the time when I was in my late teens. - I sort of left off with my praise and admiration of lifelong homeless wanderers after spending some time near New York buying them sandwiches and chatting with them. - I heard a lot of deeply disturbing and sad stories in that time and did not meet any enlightened poetic people who saw themselves as free.

Nonetheless, it is a lovely radical uprising poem and extremely timely with the ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor.

In the poem the 'Bum on the rods' is a hobo who rides freight trains to get from job to job. Riding the rods is a way to ride on freight trains without getting inside or on top. This was common in the depression era when freight trains had axel rods that a hobo could climb on top of. It was extremely dangerous and killed many people but it was easy to get on and off in a hurry to escape the police.

The Bum on the Rods and the Bum on the Plush

The bum on the rods is hunted down
As the enemy of mankind
The other is driven around to his club
Is feted, wined and dined.
And they who curse the bum on the rods
As the essence of all that is bad,
Will greet the other with a winning smile,
And extend the hand so glad.

The bum on the rods is a social flea
Who gets an occasional bite,
The bum on the plush is a social leech,
blood sucking day and night.
The bum on the rods is a load so light
That his weight we scarcely feel,
But it takes the labor of dozen of men
To furnish the other a meal.

As long as you sanction the bum on the plush
The other will always be there,
But rid yourself of the bum on the plush
And the other will disappear.
Then make an intelligent, organized kick
Get rid of the weights that crush.
Don't worry about the bum on the rods,
Get rid of the bum on the plush.


Thursday, 26 July 2012

Grow Nothing Gardening

I just talked to a friend in New Hampshire who lost a few rows of lettuce to a gopher one evening and her compost bin to a bear. - I tried to comfort her while klüchscheißing about my radical wild collection ideas at the same time. In part it is an exhaustive rationalization for laziness and in part I really feel i am right. - In any case I didn't get quite enough of it out then, so I'll rant a bit about it here.

'In the vast majority of cases a person will be happier if he has no rigid and arbitrary notions, for gardens are moodish, particularly with the novice. If plants grow and thrive, he should be happy; and if the plants that thrive chance not to be the ones that he planted, they are plants nevertheless, and nature is satisfied with them.' ― L. H. Bailey, Manual of Gardening

I remember in Witzenhausen I was invited to look at a friends newly planted garden in the early spring, the last frost had just passed and he had put out a number of seedlings in the fresh tilled earth. - There they were, tiny tender and helpless little baby plants in a sea or upturned bare earth. - I looked up to the edge of the garden and saw fresh spring green nettles and dandelions bulging from the hedge, practically begging to be part of a dinner. I thought about the nutrition available there in that readily abundant food source that nature had provided without any effort on the part of these hard working young farmers and I laughed.

I say we should just eat what grows rather than growing what we want to eat. Why are we doing all of this work?

"I do not particularly like the word 'work.' Human beings are the only animals who have to work, and I think that is the most ridiculous thing in the world. Other animals make their livings by living, but people work like crazy, thinking that they have to in order to stay alive. The bigger the job, the greater the challenge, the more wonderful they think it is. It would be good to give up that way of thinking and live an easy, comfortable life with plenty of free time. I think that the way animals live in the tropics, stepping outside in the morning and evening to see if there is something to eat, and taking a long nap in the afternoon, must be a wonderful life. For human beings, a life of such simplicity would be possible if one worked to produce directly his daily necessities. In such a life, work is not work as people generally think of it, but simply doing what needs to be done." ― Masanobu Fukuoka, The One-Straw Revolution

Friday, 20 July 2012

Tomorrow

Tomorrow will be another try for a period of 'thinking about not thinking'

How to 'try' to think about not thinking?
It is different than trying.

Vietnam doesn't want foreigners hanging around with a robe and a bowl at the pagodas.
The Yen Tu Police came to the Zen Temple and asked me to pack up and go. - My knees and my doubtful mind thanked them.

I refuse to be one of the bald-headed westerners, walking slowly through the park, having given up on the West.

In them, I see my father preaching from a street-side pulpit in Rockland, Maine
The seventies having ended with a crash and come-down
His long hair cut short
His torn blue-jeans replaced with pleated suit-slacks; benders replaced with worship

Scared the 'jeepers' out of us to come down from Sunday School to see it all
Him standing before the congregation to bless the sweaty, trembling aunts and neighbors, speaking in tongues

Maybe it is a family tradition
Nothing in moderation, not even piety or spirituality
I just prefer robes to a suit


Here is a poem by David Budbill called Tomorrow

Tomorrow
we are
bones and ash,
the roots of weeds
poking through
our skulls.

Today,
simple clothes,
empty mind,
full stomach,
alive, aware,
right here,
right now.

Drunk on music,
who needs wine?

Come on,
Sweetheart,
let's go dancing
while we've still
got feet.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Ryōkan's Poems that are not Poems

I just finished listening to Shohaku Okumura Roshi give two short talks at the Sanshin Zen community on the 'poems that are not poems' from Zen Master Taigu Ryōkan. - Ryōkan is the Han-Shan of Japan. He has an extremely inspiring story - though he came from a very wealthy family Ryokan spent the majority of his life begging as a practice (called takuhatsu).

Shohaku Okumura Roshi shared a few wonderful poems and I looked around for a few more. - Ryōkan was so clear-minded and open-hearted that peace and calm come through clearly in his simple words.

Down in the village
the din of
flute and drum,
here deep in the mountain
everywhere the sound of the pines.

One day he came back to his simple shack from a day of begging and a thief was there taking what little he had. The thief ran when he saw Ryōkan and left behind one cushion. Ryōkan grabbed the cushion and ran after the thief to give it to him. He then wrote this poem:

The thief left it behind:
the moon
at my window.

Most of all Ryōkan was a powerful teacher.

First days of Spring-the sky
is bright blue, the sun huge and warm.
Everything's turning green.
Carrying my monk's bowl, I walk to the village
to beg for my daily meal.
The children spot me at the temple gate
and happily crowd around,
dragging to my arms till I stop.
I put my bowl on a white rock,
hang my bag on a branch.
First we braid grasses and play tug-of-war,
then we take turns singing and keeping a kick-ball in the air:
I kick the ball and they sing, they kick and I sing.
Time is forgotten, the hours fly.
People passing by point at me and laugh:
'Why are you acting like such a fool?'
I nod my head and don't answer.
I could say something, but why?
Do you want to know what's in my heart?
From the beginning of time: just this! just this!

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Testing Questions For ‘Genuine’ Progress & Improvement

Here is my own adaptation of a series of 'testing' questions and categories (stuff to think about before you go off and start to do something) that I found very eye opening and thought I would share.

Personal

1. Does it support: empowerment, awareness, creative visioning, values clarification, acquisition of essential literacies and competencies, responsibility, wellbeing and health maintenance, vitality and spontaneity (building & maintaining personal capital – personal sustainability)?

2. Does it support: caring, loving, responsible, mutualistic relationships with diverse people (valuing equity & social justice), other species, place and planet (home & ecosystem maintenance)?

3. Does it support: positive total life-cycle personal development and change?

Socio-Political

4. Does it support: accessible, collaborative, responsible, creative, celebrational, life- promoting community and political structures and functions (building & maintaining social capital & cultural [including economic] sustainability)?

5. Does it support: the valuing of 'functional' high cultural diversity and mutualistic relationships?

6. Does it support: positive cultural development and co-evolutionary change?

Environmental

7. Does it support: effective ecosystems functioning (building & maintaining natural capital & ecological sustainability)?

8. Does it support: 'functional' high biodiversity, and prioritised use and conservation of resources

9. Does it support: positive ecosystem development and co-evolutionary change?

General

10. Does it support: proactive (vs. reactive), design/redesign (vs. efficiency & substitution) and small meaningful collaborative initiatives that you guarantee to carry through to completion (vs. heroic, Olympic-scale, exclusive, high risk ones) and their public celebration at each stage - to facilitate their spread - thereby making wellbeing and environmental caring 'contagious'?

11. Does it focus on: key opportunities and windows for change (pre-existing change 'moments')?

12. Does it explain: how it will effectively monitor and evaluate its progress (broad, long-term, as well as specific & short-term) by identifying and using indicators and being attentive to all feedback and outcomes (& redesigning future actions & initiatives accordingly)?

Adapted from the work of Professor Stuart B. Hill –-Foundation Chair of Social Ecology School of Education, University of Western Sydney