A man was walking across a field when he noticed a tiger stalking him. He ran, the tiger chasing after him. He came to a cliff, caught hold of a wild vine and swung himself over the edge. The tiger sniffed at him from above. Terrified, the man looked down and saw that, far below, were jagged rocks that would as surely be his doom as was the tiger above. Just then, two mice, one white and one black, began to gnaw at the vine. It was then that the man noticed a strawberry, fat and ripe, on the cliff wall near him. He knew that if he grabbed the strawberry his grip on the vine would not last long. He plucked the strawberry and ate it. The strawberry tasted so sweet.
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
Monday, March 28, 2005
One day a devoted Talmudic student ran out of the synagogue shouting, “What is the meaning of life? What is the meaning of life?” He ran through the streets shouting all the while. He found himself before the house of his Rabbi. He went inside and, almost in tears, pleaded, “What is the meaning of life, master?” The rabbi slapped the student across the face. “Why did you hit me,” asked the startled student. The rabbi answered: “Such a good question. And you want to exchange it for an answer? It is the answers that keep us apart. It is the questions that unite us!”
Friday, March 25, 2005
A giant quilt will be made to tell the story of the war on natural resources and resistance in Eastern Europe. This quilt will be given to the people living in Rosia Montana, where a Canadian company (Gabriel Resources) is proposing to build a giant gold mine. The locals are being psychologically bullied into selling their land.Gabriella has worked with the Beehive Design collective and Emma is a wonderful artist who has worked with PaperFire Arts Collective. Both plan to facilitate workshops that will include popular education, storytelling, mural work and more to contribute to the struggle of the people of Rosia Montana to preserve their lives and land.
They're holding a fundraiser - here's their announcement and invitation for those of you in Toronto this weekend:
COME AND JOIN AN EVENING OF STORYTELLING, MUSIC AND HOME COOKIN' FOOD
Where: in our living room: 119 Howard Park Avenue. 2nd floor, the winding stairs at back. When: Sunday, March 27th, starting with foods at 6pm. Performances starting at 7pm. Turning into a boogie event after 9pm, with skillfull CD swaper Ezra, my dear
Tickets: 10-20 dollars, or pay what you would like
This is a family friendly event, could be perfect for Easter Sunday. :-) If you can not make it, but feel a tickle to contribute, let me know.
Directons: We are at the end of the College streetcar's route. Take it to Roncesvalles and Howard Park and walk toward High Park (west). The nearest subway stop is Dundas West, from there take 504 streetcar going North and South, this streetcar comes also from Queen street. Parking is available on Howard Park Avenue. Bikes are welcome in the backyard of course.
Please call us for more information at: 416 535 8748
Gabriella, Emma and Ezra
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
A father and son were riding along slowly in their horse-drawn cart as they returned home from town. The father was flicking a whip to snap flies out of the air to save the horse from being pestered. The boy watched and watched as his father skillfully snapped the whip, each time hitting his target perfectly. Flies fell to the ground by the dozens. After some time the boy turned to his father and said, “Dad, can you teach me how to do that?” “Sure, son,” said the father with a smile and handed his son the whip. The boy took some time to learn how to use the whip and after much concentration and many attempts he hit his first fly. As they drove along, the boy practiced and was soon hitting most of the flies he aimed at. Then he saw a big, fat bug swing into his view and he took aim. Just before he snapped the whip his father grabbed his arm and stopped him. The boy turned to his father and asked, “why’d you stop me?”
“Look at that bug, son, it’s a bee.”
“So?” the boy said.
“Son,” the father replied, “those bugs are organized.”
Monday, March 21, 2005
One writes out of a need to communicate and to commune with others, to denounce that which gives pain and to share that which gives happiness. One writes against one's solitude and against the solitude of others. One assumes that literature transmits knowledge and affects the behaviour and language of those who read, thus helping us to know ourselves better and to save ourselves collectively. (in Days and Nights of Love an War, NY: Monthly Review Press, 1983, p.183.)Galeano reflects poignantly and, as always, eloquently, on the role of the writer committed to resisting oppression in a world where most of the people for whom one writes are illiterate. This remains a true condition in Latin American countries. In Canada we do not suffer the degree of illiteracy that is true in many parts of the world. But it remains disturbingly true that the vast majority of people in Canadian society receive the majority of their information about the world from television. But we write anyway, to tell our stories, personal and collective.
There's a lovely story on Judy Rebick's 10,000 Stories blog that someone wrote as a comment last week:
I enjoyed your speech last night here in Victoria. I brought my 12-year old daughter along. While she didn't have the background to understand everything you said, she was surprised to realize just how recently women had won so many rights. And they are important to her. Your presentation reminded me of how as a young woman many of these rights were quite new but that I was able to use them as I thought that I should.You can read the full comment here. It is evidence of the many-more-than 10,000 stories that are out there and that we'll hopefully hear/read more of in the coming months. So, just as Judy encourages people to write, so do i.
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
Why not, too, think of the child as moral protagonist or antagonist - as in the South's racial conflict? Ruby, at ten, looked back at four years of somewhat unusual school attendance. A black child, she walked past hostile mobs at age six to enter a once all-white school in New Orleans... Her view of her experience? "I knew I was just Ruby," she told me once, in retrospect - "just Ruby trying to go to school, and worrying that I couldn't be helping my momma with the kids younger than me, like I did on the weekends and in the summer. But I guess I also knew I was the Ruby who had to do it - go into that school and stay there, no matter what those people said, standing outside. And besides, the minister reminded me that God chooses us to do His will, and so I had to be His Ruby, if that's what He wanted. And then that white lady wrote and told me she was going to stop shouting at me, because she decided I wasn't bad, even if integration was bad, then my momma said I'd become 'her Ruby', that lady's, just as she said in her letter, and I was glad; and I was glad I got all the nice letters from people who said I was standing up for them, and I was walking for them, and they were thinking of me, and they were with me, and I was their Ruby, too, they said."
Unreflective pragmatism is also encouraged by much of the left's dependency on foundations.And i would add that we need to look at the full picture of how the Left commits its resources (financial, material, human, etc.) across sectors (labour, ecumenical, anti-poverty, anti-racist, feminist, etc.) to assess how it is we collectively neglect our responsibilty to think better and more critically about the world we claim we are trying to change.
On the issue of pedagogy (an admittedly technical term), we need to look at how critical thinking is taught. For surely anti-intellectualism is linked to our common experience of education which has so much to do with how society is structured. Popular education is a practice that includes a fundamental idea/practice: that theory and practice must be combined. Not exactly a new notion nor one that is exclusive to popular education. Nor is it one that all self-identified popular education manages to meet well. To the thinkers named in the article (Bakunin, Marx and Fanon) i would add Paulo Freire whose practical and theoretical work on education and social change is a key to the intellectual work that is desperately needed by the Left. (There's plenty of other thinkers to add to this list as well - i'll save that for future posts).
One last point for now. The authors take an interesting swipe at participatory learning:
Nonprofit culture fosters an array of mind-killing practices. Brainstorming on butcher paper and the use of breakout groups are effective methods for generating and collecting ideas and/or organizing pieces of a larger action. However, when used to organize political discussions these nonprofit tools can be disastrous. More often than not, everybody says something, breakout groups report back to the whole group, lists are compiled—and nothing really happens.
I certainly recognize the naive application of tools for democratic learning. I suppose you could add to "activistsm" the unfortunate practice of "fli-chartism" - a naive interpretation of democratic learning that equates brainstorming lists of issues or points. Rather than simply dismiss participatory tools as "disastrous" when used for political discussions i suggest that we look critically at what participatory tools are good for and combine them with rigorous practices of collective critical thinking of which there are plenty. The field of popular education has a wealth of such practices (as well as excellent theory to support them). See the Catalyst Centre link (as well as the others) on the right of this page. Check out the Applied Research Center in Oakland (excellent work). And there's a new site that has just been launched: GlobalLocalPopEd that's worth perusing.
Sunday, March 13, 2005
Poetry is an endlessly inspiring thing in my life. Poetry combines the joy of riddling with the play of language and metaphor with the rhythms and melodies of music. Poetry alchemically transforms the ordinary (and mostly unnoticeable) words and phrases of the everyday into the complex and specific meanings of our so, so variable experience – experience that is simultaneously joyful and sorrowful, mysterious and prosaic, emotional and spiritual, contradictory and logical and much, much more. Pablo Neruda never fails to break my heart (in the good way – the breaking that is the opening of our heart to our so beautiful and bittersweet world) and, in an essay called Childhood and Poetry, he writes of a boyhood encounter in which he exchanged, with a boy he never met, a pinecone for a toy sheep. He writes:
I have been a lucky man. To feel the intimacy of brothers is a marvelous thing in life. To feel the love of people whom we love is a fire that feeds our life. But to feel the affection that comes from those whom we do not know, from those unknown to us, who are watching over our sleep and solitude, over our dangers and our weaknesses, that is something still greater and more beautiful because it widens out the boundaries of our being, and unites all living things.
That exchange brought home to me for the first time a precious idea: that all of humanity is somehow together. That experience came to me again much later; this time it stood out strikingly against a background of trouble and persecution.
It won't surprise you then that I attempted to give something resiny, earthlike, and fragrant in exchange for human brotherhood. Just as I once left the pinecone by the fence, I have since left my words on the door of so many people who were unknown to me, people in prison, or hunted, or alone.
That is the great lesson I learned in my childhood, in the backyard of a lonely house. Maybe it was nothing but a game two boys played who didn't know each other and wanted to pass to the other some good things of life. Yet maybe this small and mysterious exchange of gifts remained inside me also, deep and indestructible, giving my poetry light. (from Neruda and Vallejo: Selected Poems, Robert Bly, tr., Beacon Press, 1993)
Friday, March 11, 2005
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
Check out pics from the event.
Monday, March 07, 2005
The Master Archer
There was once a general of war who was tired of fighting. He had spent his whole life perfecting his skill in all the arts of war, save archery. Now he was weary and wished to end his career as a fighter. So he decided that he would spend the rest of his days studying archery and he began to search far and wide for a master to study with.
After much journeying he found a monastery where they taught archery - he entered the monastery and asked if he could live there and study. He thought that his life was now over and the remainder of his days would be spent in study and meditation behind these monastery walls. He had been studying for ten years, perfecting his skill as an archer, when, one day, the abbot of the monastery came to him and told the former-general of war that he must leave. The former-general protested saying that his life in the world outside the monastery was over and that all he wished was to spend the rest of his days here. But the abbot insisted, saying that the general must now leave and go into the world and teach what he had learned.
The former-general had to do as he was told. Having nowhere to go when he left the monastery he decided to return to the village of his birth. It was a long journey and as he neared the village he noticed a bulls-eye on a tree with an arrow dead-centre. He was surprised by this only to notice more bulls-eyes on trees and, in the centre of each, an arrow. Then, on the barns and the buildings of the town he saw dozens, hundreds of bulls-eyes with arrows in the centre of each one.
The peace he had attained in tens years of monastic life had left him and he approached the elders of the town, indignant that after ten years of devoted study he should return to his own home and find an archer more skilled than he. He demanded of the elders that the master archer meet him by the edge of town in one hour. Waiting by the mill the general could see no one coming to meet him though he noticed a young girl playing by the river. The girl noticed him and came over.
"Are you waiting for someone," asked the girl looking up at the former-general.
"Go away," he said.
"No, no," said the girl, "you look like you're waiting for someone and I was told to come and meet someone here."
The former-general looked unbelievingly at the little girl and said, "I'm waiting for the master archer responsible for the hundreds of perfect shots I see around here."
"Then it is you i was sent to meet. I made all the shots," said the girl.
The former-general looked even more sceptical, convinced that this girl was trying to humiliate him. He said to the girl, "If you're telling the truth then explain to me how you can get a perfect shot every single time you shoot your arrow."
"That's easy," said the girl. "I take my arrow and I draw it back in the bow and point it very, very straight. Then I let it go and wherever it lands I draw a bulls-eye."
Sunday, March 06, 2005
Saturday, March 05, 2005
Friday, March 04, 2005
Once there was a university professor who decided that he wanted to study zen. He travelled to a local monastery. He was shown in to the abbot’s study. The abbot was about to pour himself some tea. The professor stood before the abbot who looked up. The professor explained that he had been studying and teaching in the university for many years and that now he wished to add to his knowledge and learning by studying zen. The abbot nodded and began to pour himself some tea. The professor watched as the teacup filled to the brim and, apparently failing to notice the full cup, the abbot continued to pour. The cup overflowed and still the abbot poured. The professor was reluctant to embarrass the abbot but finally said, “Master, your cup is full and overflowing. It can hold no more tea.” The abbot continued to pour tea into the full cup and said, “Yes. And how do you, who come here with your cup so full, expect to fill it with the teachings of zen?” The professor nodded and smiled and bowed before the abbot.
A friend saw Nasrudin searching for something in the street out front of his house. "What have you lost, Mulla?" he asked.
"My key," said the Mulla.
The friend joined Nasrudin in his search. On their knees they both and looked about for the key. After a time the friend asked: "Nasrudin, where exactly did you lose the key?"
"In my own house."
"Then why are we looking here in the street?"
"There is more light here than inside my own house."
Thursday, March 03, 2005
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
Eduardo Galeano, one of the greatest writers in any language, spoke about "doubt" in an interview he did many years ago for NACLA's Report on the Americas. These words have acted like a mantra for me ever since as i struggle to be an effective participant in the struggle against injustice. What week or month goes by without adding to our burden of discouragements? Galeano's words remind me that discouragement is not something to fear, nor need we compound it with an additional burden of bad feeling for being discouraged. As Galeano writes, discouragement is proof that we are human.
...I do not have a bad opinion of doubt. I think doubt has been a factor in the movement of history. I have grown to appreciate doubt more and more and, at the same time, to distrust those compañeros who only offer certainty. They seem too much like the wooden men which the Popul Vuh in Mayan mythology describes as one of the mistakes the gods made when they attempted to create man and didn't know how to construct him and finally they made him out of corn and he came out alright. But one of those attempts consisted of creating him out of wood.
The wooden man was just like a man except that no blood ran through his veins; he had no spirit or courage and didn't speak a word. I believe he had nothing to say because he had no courage and therefore was never discouraged. The proof that one has courage lies in the fact that one can be discouraged. And the proof that one can arrive at certainties that are truly capable of transforming reality lies in the ability to entertain fertile doubts before arriving at certainty; doubts that buzz around in one's head, one's conscience, one's heart, in the imagination, like tenacious flies. We need neither fear doubt nor discouragement: they are proof that our endeavors are human. And we are fortunate that these endeavors are human. Otherwise, these would be the endeavors of false men, men of wood, that is to say bureaucrats, dogmatic men, people who choose models over reality. Discouragement and doubt indicate that one sees reality as it really is.