Ram Dass has just moved on from this life. A spiritual pioneer who made Hindu teachings accessible for Westerners, he blasted open new portals for me to understand the universe and my place in it.
How vividly I recall the day I first caught sight of his bookBe Here Now on a friend’s coffee table in 1972. The book’s unusual cover drew me in like a moth to flame, and I was transfixed by what I found inside. Profound, accessible and timeless, it gave me a first peek into what was at that time a mysterious unknown realm of spirit.
Recently I attended a Climate Compassion Salon in Berkeley. Over 40 people crammed into the living room of a private home to hear Ezra Silk, The Climate Mobilization‘s Director of Strategy & Policy, speak at length about the climate emergency that we face. Below is my synthesis of inputs—Ezra’s as well as other Salon participants—from this memorable evening.
Friends, we are in an environmental, economic, social and spiritual crisis. For ten years people have been talking about climate change as an 11th hour problem. Now the climate clock has struck midnight, and we have a very small window of time to prevent ecological and social collapse.
Today’s news of Ursula K. Le Guin’s passing hits hard. With wistful gratitude I recall how her words touched me over the years. Like a mushroom hunter I head to the woods of the Internet in search of juicy quotes, returning with a full basket. Many of these are from https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/874602.Ursula_K_Le_Guin.
“It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end.”
“Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new.”
“It’s a rare gift, to know where you need to be, before you’ve been to all the places you don’t need to be.”
“We are volcanoes. When we women offer our experience as our truth, as human truth, all the maps change. There are new mountains.”
The Earth, the City, and the Hidden Narrative of Race by Carl Anthony is officially launched in the world today, and I am holding a copy in my hand at last. Over a period of 10+ years I collaborated with Carl to help midwife his legacy book into being, one of the most meaningful editorial projects I have worked on.
Carl is an African-American architect, regional planner, and environmental justice pioneer. A lifelong activist and an insatiable learner, he has worked full-on for change while connecting the dots of history, urban policy, cosmology, race, identity, and his unique and fascinating lived experiences. Carl has much insight to share.
Some months back as the manuscript was nearly finalized, we looked back on the book-writing journey. An edited version follows of his reflections.
Carl Anthony: Throughout my life, and in writing my book The Earth, the City, and the Hidden Narrative of Race, I have been exploring how to live and be in this ever-changing world. As an African American, I have both the benefit and the liability of being rooted in a richly layered yet challenging history, much of which has been buried from view. I have been trying to uncover that history, bring visibility to things that had been hidden, and make sense of parts of myself that had been not been within my awareness.
In the spirit of oral tradition, here are the words to the “76 Animals” poem, plus a recording of me reciting it in the cadence I learned 50 years ago from my 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Wood. This poem remains firmly anchored in my memory after all these years.
My recollection is that Mrs. Wood, who was nearing retirement, had learned it from her own teacher “back in the day.” This puts its likely origin around the early part of the 20th century. (See notes below about two other derivative versions, used as lyrics for a song called “Beastiary”.)
The poem’s author is unknown. Since I haven’t found this version online anywhere, I’m sharing it here to preserve it and pass it along.
Winding up our fascinating and hope-inducing dinner conversation
Recently at dinner with two old friends/colleagues, we plumbed the depths (and heights) of our reactions and feelings about recent events in the political landscape. The following reflections build on this rich conversation with my longtime social change companions, Mark and Teresa.
A World in Trouble
Our current political turmoil is turning up the heat and sparking the kinds of conversations we have not been having. People are scared. We are feeling pressure to keep our country, even our world together.
In these un-United States, our guiding vision of ‘one nation’ that is ‘indivisible with liberty and justice for all’ has gone off the rails. We are experiencing an onslaught of ‘othering’, with the harshest impacts falling on those who are already the most vulnerable. Continue reading →
Recently I joined in a “Wisdom Circle for a World on Fire” convened by Shams Kairys and Cindy Spring—a space to join others in exploring our deepest thoughts and feelings about climate change.
Here is a summary of our purpose, from Shams’ email that brought the group together:
“Those who are willing to peel back the forces of denial and look at our actual condition, who are often left feeling isolated and distraught, need to be talking with each other. In a dedicated space with a small group, we will peer into our hearts and minds and engage in honest conversation. This milieu is conducive not only for informing each other, but also for hearing our own trials and emerging recognitions in a fresh light. The focus is not so much on the facts of the matter or actions to address it as on expanding our capacity to face and integrate what we are learning, and its impact upon us.”
Onstage banners at the West Coast memorial for Grace Lee Boggs
On March 20, 2016 a celebration of Grace Lee Boggs’ 100-year life was held at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center. The memorial speakers offered stories and lessons learned from Grace, who was active in social change work for three quarters of a century. Here is a sampling of what was shared, followed by my full journal notes.
1. We remake ourselves to remake the world.
2. What do I need to change in myself to be more effective in changing the world?
3. What does it mean to “grow our souls”?
4. Praxis is about changing our minds and our perspectives in response to changing conditions.
5. Questions are more important than answers.
6. Go beyond simply complaining and waiting for others to change it or fix it.
The classic songs from “back in the day” bring a touch of familiarity and provide a fun way to interact when memory is on the wane but musicality remains strong.
I have just returned from a delicious dinner with Helen, my 94-year-old friend and music buddy. We both love to sing and are prone to break into song at any time.
This evening Helen is especially lively. At dusk on a cloudless day with spring blooms bursting forth everywhere, just having enjoyed an excursion at our favorite Japanese restaurant, she spontaneously breaks into a song that is new to me:
What a day this has been
What a rare mood I’m in
Why, it’s almost like being in love
Such a sublime articulation of Helen’s joy state! We consult the all-knowing Internet and have a great time watching Gene Kelly singing and dancing to “Almost Like Being In Love” in the movie Brigadoon.
For Helen and many of her contemporaries, it’s all about the Crooner era and hit songs from the big musicals. Being able to search for songs online brings fun improvisational moments of social and musical engagement.
Social change activist, philosopher and visionary Grace Lee Boggs died on Oct. 5, 2015 at age 100. Such a life of meaning she lived! If you didn’t know of Grace, I would like to introduce you to her.
Grace endeavored to better the world in every possible way, right up to her last days. Working for social change wasn’t something that she could ever retire from. It’s who she was, for over 70 years.
Browse the quotes and links below to learn more about Grace’s fascinating life and her unique vantage point on the human condition. For lots more, visit the Boggs Center website.
“The world is waiting for a new dream… We are shaking the world with a new dream. Feel it! Guard it! Treasure it! These opportunities do not come often.”
“These are the times to grow our souls. Each of us is called upon to embrace the conviction that despite the powers and principalities bent on commodifying all our human relationships, we have the power within us to create the world anew.”