fter a couple was arrested for kissing hundreds of young people defiantly turned out en masse for a kiss-in on Bourguiba Avenue, under the slogan, "Let them arrest all the lovers in Tunisia". Bravo! There's hope yet!
Monday, May 20, 2013
Saturday, May 18, 2013
"What is in my mind is a sort of Chautauqua - like the traveling tent-show Chautauqua’s that used to move across America, an old-time series of popular talks intended to edify and entertain, improve the mind and bring culture and enlightenment to the ears and thoughts of the hearer. The Chautauquas were pushed aside by faster -paced radio, movies and TV, and it seems to me the change was not entirely an improvement. Perhaps because of these changes the stream of national consciousness moves faster now, and is broader, but it seems to run less deep. In this Chautauqua I would like not to cut any new channels of consciousness but simply to dig deeper into old ones that have become silted in with the debris of thoughts grown stale, and platitudes too often repeated.
There are eras of human history in which the channels of thought have been too deeply cut and no change was possible, and nothing new ever happened, and “best” was a matter of dogma, but that is not the situation now. Now the stream of our common consciousness seems to be obliterating its own banks, flooding the lowlands, disconnecting and isolating the highlands and to no particular purpose other than the wasteful fulfillment of its own internal momentum. Some channel deepening seems called for."
Robert Pirsig, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance"
Robert Pirsig wrote the above in the 60's, long before the internet. I wonder what he would say about that over-flowing river now.
I began this blog in June of 2007, when I went to Midland, Michigan on a Fellowship from the Alden Dow Creativity Center to pursue my project "Spider Woman's Hands". It's hard to believe almost 6 years have passed, and reviewing those early posts, I try now to see who I was, where these trails have lead me. I saved the quote above almost from the beginning of this blog, because I have spent many years in Chautauqua County, New York, and because I felt my creative journey was not just a "personal vision quest", but, in creating a blog and having a show, also my own "kind of a Chautaqua". It arose from a desire to share my discoveries in the course of my wanderings. I see that I wrote in August of 2007,
"But this has, now that I think about it, been a Chautauqua for me. Bringing forth what I know and have to share to a new community. It hasn't been easy, and one leaves not knowing what I've left behind. You have to let it go, and not concern yourself with how many people care about what what you're doing, not care about how much money you make or don't make, not care about what any institution or magazine or even colleague thinks art "is". Ultimately, it has to become your spiritual path, your meditation, but also your voice in the Conversation, your thread that seeks to weave you you into harmony and gathering depth."I have always disliked the cliche about art "You do it for yourself". That's a convenient way to dismiss artists, along with other cliches I've heard a million times. And a convenient way to justify the laziness and disrespect of the general public for innovative arts, which often treats artists as somewhere between cute, useless, great for real estate agencies that want to gentrify neighborhoods, and vaguely unpatriotic. Artists don't get multiple degrees, make economic and other enduring sacrifices, and dedicate their lives to the pursuit of expression just to "do it for themselves". They don't congregate in art districts (which are increasingly diminished, thanks to all those real estate agencies who monitor arts districts for profit) because they just want to be isolated. They congregate for creative discourse, and innovative art districts of the past, and places like the "West Banke" to Soho to the Haight Ashbury were seminal points of cultural transformation and dissemination, engines of creativity on the cutting edge of culture that reflect and germinate seeds that become an emerging paradigm 20, 30, or 50 years hence. Artists make art because they want to communicate. With their inner life, spirit, their communities, their nations, the world. It's a discourse continually seeking response and enlivenment.
|Lilydale, Chautauqua County, NY, circa 1920***|
For anyone not familiar with the term Chautauqua was an adult education movement popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I think the word, which is native American, means something like "place where the fish are". The first gatherings, and the title of the Chautauqua Institute which is still very active, were named after beautiful Chautauqua Lake. Chautauqua assemblies spread throughout rural America until the mid-1920s, and from rural Pennsylvania to Colorado town had their Chautauqua tents raised close by the railroad stations. The Chautauqua brought entertainment and culture, from violin concertos to storytellers like Mark Twain, for the whole community, with speakers, teachers, musicians, entertainers, preachers and specialists of the day. President Theodore Roosevelt was quoted as saying that Chautauqua is "the most American thing in America." And I think it was............the Chautauqua embodied that generosity that is one of the very good things about America, a desire to share and disseminate that is in the American character.
And somehow I think it's important, as our world becomes both more frenetically "connected" and also more strangely isolated within all that cyberspace.....to remember the Chautauqua, our personal "Chautauquas" as well as the generosity and enthusiasm of another era.
|Concert at the Chautauqua Institute|
***For a good article in the Huffington Post about Lilydale Spiritualist Community (I love Lilydale)
***The "Burned Over Land" refers to the area of Western New York where Chautauqua County is where for the past 200 years all kinds of Utopian experiments and communities, spiritualist and religious movements have come and gone. In the 19th century the "burned-over land," in upstate New York saw the strange origins of the Mormons**, Seventh Day Adventists, the Shiloh Community, as well as the beginnings of American Spiritualism and Lilydale Assembly, and of course the Chautauqua Institute. The past century saw the first encampments for the Suffragettes, and many of the underground railroads for escaped slaves as well. Continuing in the tradition of exploration, it's also the home of the Brushwood Folklore Center.
**OK, I can't resist this bit of strange information, which to me is as weird and as ironic as the ancient Goddess Yoni Stone at the center of the pilgrimage to Mecca. . Here's what Wikipedia has to say about the Prophet of Mormonism:
"Joseph Smith, Jr. (December 23, 1805 – June 27, 1844) was an American religious leader and the founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, the predominant branch of which is Mormonism. At age twenty-four, Smith published the Book of Mormon, and in the next fourteen years he attracted thousands of followers, established cities and temples, and created a lasting religious culture.
Smith was born in Sharon, Vermont, and by 1817 had moved with his family to an area in western New York later called the burned-over district because it was repeatedly swept by religious revivals during the Second Great Awakening. The Smith family was not united in their religious views, but they believed in visions and prophecies, and participated in folk religious practices typical of the era. According to Smith, beginning in the early 1820s he had visions, in one of which an angel directed him to a buried book of golden plates inscribed with a Judeo-Christian history of an ancient American civilization."
One of the "revelations" of Smith concerned the appearance of Christ among the native Americans just before the coming of the white men, and of course the famous Golden Plates. What most people do not know is that 1) the Burned Over zone was ripe with prophets and vision in that era,
2) there was a pervasive religious motif and legend among the native peoples, including the Seneca and the Iroquois, of "Peace Maker", a great spiritual leader who came, like White Buffalo Woman among the Lakota, to unify the tribes and teach the ethical codes. No doubt Smith interpreted this existing legend to mean Jesus.
And 3) throughout the Mississippian, as well as more northerly tribes, there was high religious status associated with copper objects, including sacred copper and brass plates, which were probably derived from early contact with Spaniards or French explorers. Native tribes had not yet developed metallurgy (although there is some evidence of copper axes found among the mound builders), so copper and brass plates would have been highly prized, even considered magical. Smith, being surrounded by earlier native American lore, would have been aware of the importance of "sacred brass plates" in tribal lore. (http://www.academia.edu/823368/The_North-South_Copper_Axis)
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Homicide, battering, and rape statistics overwhelminglhy demonstrate that women and girls suffer great violence in this country, and thoughout the world. But apparently these patriarchs don't think it's worth passing a bill to protect them, or even make a passing comment on the problem. But the good news is that the bill passed. The bad news is that these people are still in Washington.
Sheryl WuDunn, co-author of "Half the Sky", which became a powerful documentary aired on PBS last year, said that gender violence and discrimination is the "Injustice of our century", and I believe she is absolutely right. So deeply embedded in our culture is the oppression of women, that it was some 70 years after freed black male slaves were given the vote that women were allowed to also vote in the U.S. - and only because courageous women made that possible through great sacrifice. We have a Martin Luthor King Day, but there is no day devoted to the Suffragettes, to Susan B. Anthony or Lucy Burns, or Margaret Sanger, who first made birth control available to women, or innumerable others who worked to give to women the same rights over their lives, finances, and bodies that men took for granted. Nor is the work over.
I love TED talks, and was delighted to hear this one by Jackson Katz, Ph.D., who points out that addressing gender based violence is not "just a women's issue", but a profound human issue. I think all boys and men should hear him.
Jackson Katz, Ph.D for TEDxFiDiWomen.
Monday, May 13, 2013
|Linda Johnson as "Bridgit"|
"If we don’t become aware of both our personal myths and the cultural myths that act upon us like gravitational forces, we risk being wholly overpowered and controlled by them. As the maverick philosopher Sam Keen has written in Your Mythic Journey, ‘We need to reinvent them from time to time. . . . The stories we tell of ourselves determine who we become, who we are, what we believe."Phil Cousineau was a colleague of Joseph Campbell, and I recently re-discovered this article in my files, which I haven't read since 2001 (time to go through my files again). It's important, especially now, for artists (and everyone) to remember that they are Myth Makers, people who imagine the templates for each new era. It's work that matters.
On Myth and Mythmaking
excerpt from book by Phil Cousineau
Once and Future Myths: The Power of Ancient Stories in Our Lives (2001)
I was raised on the knee of Homer, which is an Old World way to describe growing up on stories as old as stone and timeless as dreams. So I see myth everywhere, probably because I am looking for what my American Indian friends call “the long story,” the timeless aspect of everything I encounter. I know the usual places to look for it, such as in the splendor of classic literature or the wisdom stories of primal people.
|Valerie James as "Sophia"|
I want to explore the aspect of myth that most fascinates me: its ‘once and future’ nature. Myths are stories that evoke the eternal because they explore the timeless concerns of human beings—birth, death, time, good and evil, creativity and destruction. Myth resembles the god Proteus in the Odyssey, a shape-shifting creature who knows the secret that the lost Greek sailors long to hear—the way home. But they must learn how to get a grip on him, if only for one slippery moment, so he might surrender his hidden wisdom.
This is what I call ‘mythic vision.’ The colorful and soulful images that pervade myth allow us to step back from our experience so that we might look closer at our personal situations and see if we can catch a glimpse of the bigger picture, the human condition.
" The new myth coming into being through the triple influence of quantum physics, depth psychology and ecology suggests that we are participants in a great cosmic web of life, each one of us indissolubly connected with all others through that invisible field. It is the most insidious of illusions to think that we can achieve a position of dominance in relation to nature, life or each other. In our essence, we are one."But this takes practice, much like a poet or a painter must commit to a life of deep attention and even reverence for the multitude of meaning around us. An artist friend of mine calls this ‘pulling the moment,’ a way of looking deeper into experiences that inspire him. In the writing classes I teach, I refer to this mystery as the difference between the ‘overstory,’ which is the visible plot, and the ‘understory,’ which is the invisible movement of the soul of the main characters. In this sense myth is a living force, like the telluric powers that stream through the Earth. It is this mythic vision, looking for the ‘long story,’ the timeless tale, that helps us approach the deep mysteries because it insists there is always the stories we really live by, rather than the one we like to think we are living, and moreover, decide if our myths are working for or against us.
If we don’t become aware of both our personal myths and the cultural myths that act upon us like gravitational forces, we risk being wholly overpowered and controlled by them. As the maverick philosopher Sam Keen has written in Your Mythic Journey, ‘We need to reinvent them from time to time. . . . The stories we tell of ourselves determine who we become, who we are, what we believe.’
"What is the new mythology to be, the mythology of this unified earth as of one harmonious being?"
Saturday, May 11, 2013
I am a lover of the steady earth
and of her waters
let the light be brilliant
to one who will cherish color;
what if there be no heaven?
touch my breasts
the fields are golden
her songs are all of love
every blue yonder
her grass harp rings
in her rivers our cherished sins
our musts drift voiceless
in her clouds
she will rust us with blossom
she will forgive us
She will seal us with her seed
For Mother's Day I remember Gaia, Mother Earth, whose unlettered love and generosity and endless creativity gave birth to all of us. And there is no greater Bard, in my opinion, to celebrate Her than Robin Williamson, whose song above (and sung below!) celebrates Her with the long and sweet magic of his poetry, and his own Celtic lineage.
"She will seal us with Her seed."
And below Robin's Homage to Gaia, I could not resist placing his best known, and truly magnificent poem "Five Denials on Merlin's Grave", that winds and meanders among the silent standing stones and the green meadows and the roaming stories of the ancient Celts....if you have not heard this poem, especially if you are of Celtic descent, it is so much worth hearing, and will evoke something "Older yet, and Lovelier Far......." that
still ghosts to the vitality
of our most early and unwritten forebears
whose wizardry still makes a lie of history
whose presence hints in every human word
who somehow reared, and loosed, an impossible Beauty
enduring yet............and I will not forget.
FIVE DENIALS ON MERLIN'S GRAVE
Friday, May 10, 2013
Representations of Gender in Media is a school project that was created for a Women and Gender Studies class at the University of Saskatchewan by Sarah Zelinski, Kayla Hatzel and Dylan Lambi-Raine. The group wanted to show how the media portrays gender roles and stereotypes in advertising.
And it’s absolutely hilarious. I love these guys!
Thursday, May 9, 2013
The Fifth Sacred Thing is the fifth element, Spirit, at the center of the union of the Four Elements of Earth, Wind, Fire and Water. It represents unity and balance, and is represented by the color white. In the illustration above, Starhawk and her collaborators have chosen the wheel of the 4 elements with a spiral in the center, the "fifth element".
Starhawk is a powerful writer, activist, community facilitator, and true visionary for our time. She is also a Witch, one of the founders of Reclaiming, and her book was my first introduction to the realm of the Goddess. I use the term witch in the sense of the actual roots of the word: "witch, wick, wicca" - weaver, woven. She is a true Weaver.
I read Starhawk's book back in 1995. As a native Californian who lived in Los Angeles, but attended Berkeley, I remember well the prejudices between progressive Northern California and materialistic Southern California, and had to laugh when Starhawk imagined an utopia in San Francisco with Southern California becoming an autocratic, fundamentalist corporate state. Starhawk has been a terrific inspiration in my life - in 1986 her book "The Spiral Dance" was the inspiration for a show I had at the University of Arizona. More than a decade later, when I moved back to Berkeley, I joined Reclaiming, Starhawk's collective, and created the Masks of the Goddess for the Spiral Dance in San Francisco. Once again she and her colleagues set me on a path of powerful inspiration.
So I was delighted to learn that Starhawk's book THE FIFTH SACRED THING is in the process of becoming a movie, which as she herself says, is a long process. Here's the video introduction to the Project which I received recently below.
"The novel describes a world set in the year 2048 after a catastrophe which has fractured the United States into several nations........The story is primarily told from the points of view of 98-year-old Maya, her nominal granddaughter Madrone, and her grandson Bird. Through these and other characters, the story explores elements from ecofeminism and ecotopian fiction." ......Wikipedia
"Making a movie is a long, long process! But along the way we’ve created a video, to quickly explain the story to those who haven’t read the book, and to show off some of the art and music we’ve created. Pictures speak louder than words—so here it is: http://www.fifthsacredthing.
com Also on YouTube:http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=lROCSDQg9WM. I wrote the narration, Olympia Dukakis speaks it and our lead producer Philip Wood put the video together and edited it. Joshua Penman did the music. Yes, it’s a long haul, but we’re all feeling the growing momentum!"In gratitude,Starhawk