Sunday, April 24, 2011

These are the things...

Easter Sunday 2011

I decided I would go to the organic markets at Northey Street.  The morning was warm and flush with sunlight as I walked to the bus station and from the bus stop to the markets.

I've always enjoyed myself at the markets, catching up with some friends and several acquaintances as we sit for hours under the trees with our cups of coffee or chai that have been trained to last long.

Meanwhile, kettles and a newly installed coffee machine hiss and gurgle earnestly in the hub of this marketplace as the queue for hot beverages and toast extends and shrinks across the dirt track and cracked concrete.

Every now and again, a name is called out and someone rushes over eagerly to collect their order.  It's all very grass roots-y. 

The dress code here is casual hippie.  Yes, I mean casual-hippie.  Dreadlocks, leather sandals, rubber thongs, fisherman pants, t-shirts making statements such as 'Worms grow here' and 'I could be your father', halter necks, beads and toe rings all seem to land evenly and congenially on this flood-prone plot of land that has been successfully turned into an organic farm.

Under the trees, magic seems to happen as traders trade and purchasers purchase and conversations are struck on matters ranging from sovereign rights, Law of Attraction, spiritual transcendence, relationships, babies and pure coconut oil from Fiji to solar panels and their wattage limitations.

Masseurs of exotic disciplines and esoteric traditions seem to be constantly occupied as are the owners of my favorite stall.

That's the one where you're likely to order a milk or coconut based shake that you'd thus far, never encountered, comprising, as you choose, ingredients as varied as figs, mint and watermelon.

In this rustic setting,, however, and given the privilege of peddle-blending your own shake on a stationary bicycle equipped with a motorized blender, you know you'd be missing out if you didn't extend your palate.

I've asked the owners when they'll be ready to sell me one of those bicycles.

'We're still improving the design'  they tell me, assuring me that it's not at all difficult to put together.

Hmm...I can do some things but this???  I don't think so.   So I've called on hope instead.

When I'd had my fill of the markets, I made my way to the city.  There were two shops I wanted to go to.  JB Hi-Fi, where a sound card reader was waiting for my collection - one I'd ordered for my new netbook (Oh yeah!).  The other, Rivers, where I was hoping to check out a pair of shoes that were on special.  Neither store was open.

But, as often happens in the mall, there was free entertainment.  Today, under a canopy of greying sky, a trio of two lasses and a lad were singing and playing music of a distinctly Celtic flavor.

Ah, someone must have been eavesdropping on my dreams of late where I'm lost in the enchanted idylls of Scotland :).  My smile stayed with me the rest of the day :)

A change in the flavor of the music finally broke the spell I'd willingly gone under, so off I went to the only other store I felt like going to - a kind of warehouse filled with discounted books, painting and other art and craft materials and toys.

How rich and moving it all felt to me, as if my soul's prayer had been answered - to be in the company of those things that it longs to indulge in.  I was sure my tears emerged  from an entangled mesh of joy and relief.

These are the things that we simply cannot afford to put aside and yet we do.  These are the things we need to give most time to and yet we don't.  These are the things that stir up joy within us and yet, we foolishly dismiss them as 'nice but not necessary'.  Fools are we!  Or at least I am.

I spent time fondling, squeezing (for sounds) and silently talking to several soft toys that caught my child's eye. I heard myself thinking that I was experiencing some of the childhood I'd never had, one bereft of cuddly toys.  Actually, one bereft of cuddles and hugs too.  A childhood poor in material but mostly in spirit, the latter plundered by a mentally disturbed parent. 

Still, I smiled thankful that I was experiencing that unknown childhood  now.  Thankful that I could.  Thankful, in fact, for all of my life, all of this day, all that I have become and all that I am becoming.

I am rich indeed!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Does the C-word bring out the best or the worst in you?

I recently responded to a question in a discussion forum relating to that C-word.  You know, the one that's known to bring out the best in some and the worst in others while leaving the majority clueless, indifferent or vicarious wannabe-s.  I'm talking about Competition.

Yes, it's something that I can't claim to have had a good relationship with.  Matter of fact, I've pretty much excluded it from my vocabulary except when explaining why, of course :).  However, I'm interested to know how you feel about competition. 

Let's face it, governments and businesses claim that the economy would suffer to the point of extinction without it.  And, truth be told, I am probably complicit in the survival of competition.  I mean, I do tend to shop where I believe things are cheapest.  Go on, call me a hypocrite.

But perhaps it's not quite as it seems?  You see, I shop where it's cheapest for these reasons:

1.  That's pretty much what I can afford
2.  That's pretty much what I'm willing to pay
3.  I don't believe that I should pay any more and we wouldn't have to if most businesses weren't out to make a profit (and please read *profit* in terms of consumer demand as well as the supply of resources - people and other- from a position of disadvantage).

So, am I really complicit?  Perhaps. 

I'm deliberately ambivalent here because, as I see it,  my intention is not to help put anyone out of business.  On the contrary, I can see that often, it helps the biggest profit-makers make even more profit since they are the ones who can afford to sell at the lower/more *competitive* prices.

Effectively, I gain wrt my immediate needs and desires but not wrt my broader, more humanitarian aspirations. 

I suppose I could raise a similar (and equally unconvincing) argument with respect to voting in governments who take their countries to war.  I don't want to go to war but it's part of the total election package, which overall, provides me with more benefits than losses .  It's too bad about the war thing. which, of course, I don't support.  Besides, I wouldn't give my vote to any of the other contenders...

Oh, look, I'm veering well off the topic of competition but I just thought I'd mention that war point since I talked about complicity (another C-word, in case you hadn't noticed :)).

Anyways, back to Competition.  Aside from the competition in the so-called *free* market, there are many other instances of competition.  Like I said earlier, even though I may be inadvertently complicit, I don't enjoy a very good relationship with Competition.  Here's why as I explained in my response at the discussion forum to a question about the 'ups and downs of competition':

The only logical reason I would have for entering a competition is to win. This effectively means that I need to do better than everyone else who enters that competition, however *better* is defined. It puts me right off.

I begin to feel anxious and my confidence and interest rapidly decline as I am certain that even though I would be doing my best, there could always be someone else who is *better*. That someone will win and I will not. All my effort and achievement will pale into insignificance in the blinding light of someone else's achievement. It's not a nice feeling at all.

To compete means to try and outdo others. I haven't yet found this a joyous thing.

Why do we have to try and outdo others? I guess for some people it may be an effective way to bring out the *best* in them. So far, it hasn't done this for me.

For me, my best is not a one-dimensional achievement but something that impacts on several aspects of my life in a holistic sort of way. It results in a sense of fulfillment that transcends my personal wellbeing and joy to the wellbeing and joy of others.

You could say that I feel I'm doing my best when what I do has a positive impact on myself as well as on others. In other words, I feel I'm doing my best when I'm contributing with harmony and joy. My experience of competitions to date has rarely been anchored in harmony and joy.

If, however, my motivation for doing something is to see how far I can go regardless of how far others have gone or may go, then I believe that I can (and do) do this without having to compete. I'm always *challenging* (I prefer *inviting* and *inspiring*) myself everyday in little ways. I am also inspired by others, including children. To respond from inspiration is a much kinder and loving way to treat myself and it allows me to enjoy the flow-on effects on others.

If, on the other hand, competition actually means *inspiration* then, hey, I'll be first in line (how's that for a bit of good ol' pushin' and shovin' :)) 

What are your thoughts?  I promise I won't be rewarding winners and punishing losers :)

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Should we observe rituals before cutting down a tree?

A customer came into my store yesterday wearing a tee-shirt with a picture of a tree through which there were three horizontal lines marked Past, Present and Future. 

 Image from Threadibles

The top, green part represents the condition of trees, and by implication, the condition of our planet in the past.  The middle bit represents their current declining circumstance and the bottom bit their fate if business as usual rules.

It prompted a conversation in which he and his wife lamented the chopping down of a native tree in their body-corporate managed residential complex.  This, the man said, with deep emotion, despite pleas not to.  He was feeling particularly discouraged about the fate of our environment but managed to ask me if I had an affinity for trees.

Do I ever!  I shared with him two things that reflect my affinity with trees.  The first was that, as a child, I spent countless hours sitting on my back doorstep absorbed in the presence of the graceful and majestic trees that lined the street by my house.  They were hours of deep solace for me during a time in my life when domestic violence and turmoil were a certain part of the daily diet.

The other thing that I shared which was more recent was a sight that literally stopped me in my tracks.  I was walking up a hill towards the main street when a truck went charging past with its burden of pine logs that had been cut, shaped and *treated*. 

The sight of those logs, taken from trees that had been castrated and left with no dignity filled me with anguish.  I stood still, reeling from the pain that I felt for those trees and their brutal treatment.  It is an image that I have not forgotten and that brought tears to my eyes even as I described it to my customer.

When some people speak of the spirit of trees, I have a sense of what they mean.  After all, all beings arise from the same source, the same power that pervades the entire universe.  I became interested in how these people relate to non-human forms such as trees, rocks, rivers and all the other aspects of nature that most of us ignore or simply take for granted. 

I've read about druidism and am fascinated by the relationships between humans and other life forms in various cultures.  I especially love finding out about the rituals that are practiced. 

I have long abandoned the crude distinctions that I was taught in school and university about *living* and *non-living* things as well as *intelligent* and, by implication, *unintelligent* life forms.

But my recent conversation at work prompted me to look up the rituals for tree-cutting and here's one that I found relating to the Lumads in the Philippines:

Lumads also observe rituals before cutting down trees especially if these are believed to be inhabited by powerful spirits. An example is the balete tree the cutting of which is prohibited as a rule. If the tree grows in a farm lot and it becomes necessary to cut it down, the farmer gives offerings to the spirit-dweller and interprets his response. If the offerings remain untouched it means the spirit has agreed to transfer to another tree and the tree may be felled. But if the offerings are scattered, it means the spirit has turned down the request to cut down his dwelling place.
 This is the full article, A Glimpse of Indegenous Resource Management.

Do you have an affinity with trees?
Do you believe that the same life force pervades all of life?
Do you think that a ritual for tree-cutting should be encouraged?

I''d love to know :)


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