Tuesday, May 21, 2013

How Soon Can You Make Beauty in Moore?

Since the very beginning of RadJoy, we have asked ourselves how we might respond to situations like the horrendous tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma yesterday. These are real emergencies that take lives, change lives, displace people, completely upend life as it's known. 

We came to realize that you can't ask people to look for and make beauty at a place too soon. First they simply have to get their bearings, find out if their loved ones are okay, if their home still stands. They need days, perhaps weeks to figure out what to do next. You can't possibly say, "Go make something beautiful at the site of your shattered home" when everything a family owned is gone.

What is important in the beginning, however, what is essential at that raw and terrible time, is simply giving to others with as much generosity and compassion as possible and, at the same time, to receive generosity and compassion when it is offered. Such acts, given and received, are immensely touching under drastic, tragic circumstances. I find I continue to be moved by the kindness with which a policeman broke the news to me that my beloved brother had died. Kindness helps people survive. In New York, after Superstorm Sandy, restaurant owners and grocers put free food on the street, and neighbors with electricity made it possible for those without to recharge their phones and computers.

After a while (but perhaps sooner than we even think possible!) we can start going out of our way to find and make beauty through larger gestures, more creative, more all-encompassing actions. The pilgrimage that the people in Joplin made through the path of the tornado there on the one-year anniversary, for instance, the tree they painted, the way they changed the name of the school from jOPlin to hOPe. In Tuscaloosa, after the tornado there in 2010, a group called Beauty Amid Destruction created an art exhibition along the path of the storm.

Radical Joy pierces most poignantly during very Hard Times. And no matter how much we are hurt, we can give it and receive it, just a little, sometimes a lot.

Photo above of Moore, Oklahoma after the tornado of May 20, 2013 by Steve Gooch, AP, Huffington Post

Monday, April 8, 2013

A fable about dust and pearls

Old Persian legends tell of Majnun, a crazy-in-love young man whose life is wholly devoted to searching for his beloved Layla, from whom he has long been separated. Majnun wanders the desert, his clothes ragged, his hair matted and filthy. He becomes so completely exiled from the niceties of human society that his only companions are wild animals. People shun him and laugh at him, even though many recognize that his dedication to love actually brings him closer to the divine.

One day, a man noted for his piety comes upon Majnun sifting through dirt in the middle of the road. “You claim such devotion to your beloved,” the holy man scoffs. “How can you grovel here, searching for such a pearl as she in the midst of all this rubbish?”

“Ah,” Majnun explains, “I seek Layla everywhere, so that one day I may find her somewhere.”

The story of Majnun’s undying, active love for Layla gives us a model for our own relationship to the places we have loved and lost and from which we often feel a painful exile. We can choose not only not to avoid these broken places but to actually seek them out. And, once there, we can search for the pearls.

The pearl, the essence of glory and beauty and love, can be anywhere—so we look everywhere. In this way we remember that all parts of the Earth, like all people, are essential parts of the beauty of the whole. Searching for what we love, even in a garbage heap, we cannot help but recognize that even what has been used up and tossed out is valuable, since our hands and hearts must sort through it to come upon what is precious.

May you find the pearls in a wounded place you love on the Global Earth Exchange this year, Saturday, June 22.

And, in the search, may you find pearls in yourself as well.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A cry of grief for the Earth—made 4,000 years ago

This is surely the earliest of all expressions of grief for a wounded place... a segment of the Epic of Gilgamesh (carved on stone more than four thousand years ago) in which the goddess Ishtar weeps for Earth after the great flood.
All of humanity was turned to clay,
The ground was like a great, flat roof.
I opened the window and light fell on my face.
I crouched, sitting, and wept.
My tears flowed over my cheeks.

(Photo above shows the part of the tablet that describes the flood.)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Bird singing at the bottom of a lake

The beautiful photo above, by Simon du Vinage, is of South Lake at Tamera, southern Portugal, where a group of us from about fifteen different countries did an Earth Exchange last summer. Tamera is a community, "a healing biotope", a living experiment in sustainable permaculture, an educational center, and a remarkable place where people truly work to match their practices to their ethics. They've created several lakes in the past few years with remarkable results... springs bubbling up from dry, cracked ground; animals and birds coming to visit; plentiful plant growth. But after this particular lake was dug, the rains of 2011 did not come, and the land was dry.
This photo, by Carsten Dolcini, shows our Earth Exchange last August. We are standing on the bottom of the lake! Everyone put a stone into the center of the circle, naming as they did so a place they loved that they are concerned about. We spent some time exploring the land, discovering such amazing things as frogs inhabiting the puddle in the background and the velvetiness of the cracked earth beneath our feet. Then we made a big bird out of stone.

You can imagine that a bird made simultaneously by forty people would look a bit odd. Some people thought it was too disproportioned, pudgy, and that we should redo it. No, said others, it's perfect! One woman added that it had to be plump so it can float under the water!

So now it is doing so! The rains came last fall, and the bird is singing under the water. My friend Silke Paulick, coordinator of the ecological team at Tamera, also writes that South Lake has become more of a community gathering place since our ceremony.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Moors, Love, Magic, Beauty, Tears

The wonderful Schumacher College in Devon, England has just reduced the price of my five-day course there May 13-17 from £795 to £550! This is a fantastic opportunity! The offer's only good until April 8!!

Please join me there!

The course is called "Finding Beauty and Power in Wounded Places: Earth Activism for Our Times." In it we'll explore—with some discussion and lecture, but mostly through time spent in nature—the deep relationship between people and places. The health of the land affects our own health. Our sense of powerlessness, grief, betrayal when places we love are damaged seeps into our general well being. By awakening to this relationship and attending to the land in simple, transformative, creative, even wild and joyful ways, we dramatically shift the way we live on Earth and how we live with all the parts of our deep selves.

We still need a few more people to enroll in this course for it to go, so please do join me there and if you can't make it, pass this along to someone you know who'd be interested.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Words from Lily Yeh

Last November, the fabulous ORION magazine did a webinar in conjunction with my article, "Gaze Even Here."
Joining me for the hour-long discussion were the internationally acclaimed Chinese-American artist and activist Lily Yeh and Australian philosopher Glenn Albrecht. Lily has worked with people in Rwanda, a Palestinian refugee camp, China, Haiti and other broken places to create large-scale public art projects. Glenn coined the word “solastalgia,” widely recognized as the first descriptive term to define and validate “the pain one feels when the place where one lives and that one loves is under assault.” The webinar was hosted by Erik Hoffner of Orion.
Lily has been a keynote speaker at Bioneers and other places, and she speaks with such passion, conviction, and experience that she can rouse you to action and make you fall in love with your world in just a sentence or two. During the podcast, fortunately, we got to hear lots of her gorgeous sentences. For instance: 
“We can enter into the depth of what it means to be human, the human capacity to destroy—and then we have the power to imagine, to create, and then to take action, and this action can lead to change. What gives me hope is that though each individual is very small, we can be defiant in dark circumstances and dare to create beauty in these broken places. It’s like making a fire in the dark night of winter. It gives us hope and warmth and beckons to other people.”
Approximately two hundred people from around the world tuned in for the live discussion. The podcast is available through Orion or iTunes  (see item #10).

RadJoy blog is back

Greetings! This blog has been on vacation for about nine months, and I'm happy to bring it back with some noticeable changes.
As a person who has had a literary bent all my life, I tend to write blogs as I do essays and books. They are longish, grammatically correct, with a beginning, middle, and end, and lyrically phrased. Not surprisingly, with such regulations, my self-imposed assignment to create these blogs became a chore. 
Now, in keeping with the way social media—indeed just about all media—works these days, I have determined write more frequently, less literarily, and more pithily! 
At least on the blog. No such guarantee with my essays, articles, and my next book!
I am looking forward to the switch and hope you'll find what's here of interest and inspiration.