Archive for the ‘Creativity’ Category

SEATTLE and the FACING ALI PREMIERE: TONIGHT!

Friday, May 29th, 2009

Well, my friends, today’s the day. FACING ALI is having its first ever public screening at the Seattle International Film Festival tonight, 7:00 (and tomorrow at the Egyptian Theatre). I’m driving down there, leaving in a few minutes, down the 99 to the I-5. Here’s to hoping the border’s clear, people come, and they have a great experience!

And may it look good…

Ali (don’t) bomaye!

Ali (don’t) kill him! We’re all in this together, after all. Here’s to joy.

Lots of love to you—armed with yoga, stand and fight!

Pete

Learning (How to Live) From The Natural World

Sunday, May 10th, 2009

My religion [and science] consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.
—Albert Einstein

Feeble, perhaps, but what incredible details! And what can they teach us about the sustainable process of being? Consider the intelligence of systems within systems within systems, with a sustainability that we lovely humans can only weep at (yet we can, with ‘conversation’, learn from).

So after a little blog about the beauty of organic farming, this is a really beautiful TED video about biomimicry as a means to understand how to live, how “to redesign the human made world…” It comes from the very wonderful Janine Benyus on a TED talk.

Many great lines from Janine Benyus, about bio-mimicry, and sustainability:

“Learning about the natural world is one thing. Learning from the natural world. That’s the switch. That’s the profound switch. What they realized was that the answers to their questions were everywhere. They just need to change the lenses with which they saw the world.”

Beautiful. What a concept, what a context.

The Taoists have been doing this for centuries with every kind of kung fu; studying the crane, the tiger etc. The Vedas know this: to understand how something works, one must meditate upon it, the yogis have said. Absorption in another object, breaking the barriers between the seer and the seen is a type of samadhi, and allows true understanding.

Janine Benyus speaks of the need to have conversation with…

“…the genius of the natural world.”

“Solutions solved in context: the earth…How does life make things? How does life make the most of things?”

The difference between human-made devices and the massive amount of waste produced compared to the sustainability of natural things is stunning and humbling, and presently, dangerous for the species, it turns out.

“Life adds information to matter…”

“How does life make things disappear into systems…there aren’t things in the natural world divorced from their systems.”

Check this wonderful talk out, and delight in the intelligence with which we are surrounded and imbibed. So hopeful.

For all the inventions and advancements that have arisen from the use of fossil fuels, with the all-night lights and the oil-carried foods we have somehow lost the rhythms of nature, the seasons, the meaning of cycles; of listening, of seeing the genius going on around us, constantly, inconceivably—yes, even greater than our own genius, blackberrys and rocket ships notwithstanding. We’ve lost the conversation. Life, in Her infinite intelligence, is forcing us big-brained beings to re-examine the equation, and our place in it.

Although we have lost the language, Nature is asking us to change our relationship with Her from invasion to conversation. What a lovely invitation. RSVP required. BYOB (Bring Your Own Beauty).

Remember how amazing you are, and it all is,

Lots of love to you,

Pete

QUANTUM ENIGMA would be NO ENIGMA to GREAT MYSTICS—Just Part of the Cosmic Dance of Consciousness

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

I finished reading Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness, by Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner. They did a great job, I think, admirably doing what they set out to do. The book is inspired, informative, courageous, and accessible to the lay person (moi). Their punch is measured but not pulled, and I appreciate their dilemma, let alone the enigma.

I know I’m seeing Quantum Theory through my own lens, but I can’t tell you how much it resonates with Eastern thought (Vedic—Hindu Metaphysics—in particular, with flashes of Buddhist mind (manas) stuff as well).

A few final (of many) great moments. From page 155:

Quantum mechanics forces us to accept that the Mechanistic Newtonian view of the world [and thus could you not throw in the genius of Darwin's view, also?]—and the intuitions fostered by it—are fundamentally flawed

[I]t is also fascinating to explore what Nature seems to be telling us.

As [Physicist] John Bell [of Bell’s Theorem] says:

Is it not good to know what follows from what, even if it is not necessarily FAPP ["for all practical purposes"]?

By FAPP, they mean scientists being able to do quantum physics while ignoring the virtually undeniable confrontation of Quantum Theory and consciousness.

Bell goes on:

Suppose for example that quantum mechanics were found to resist precise formulation. Suppose that when formulation beyond FAPP is attempted, we find an unmovable finger obstinately pointing outside the subject, to the mind of the observer, to the Hindu scriptures, to God, or even only Gravitation [some paths in the Vedas would say Gravitation has consciousness, has beingness]? Would that not be very, very interesting?

Scientists with the courage to say such things are so inspiring.

And this monster from Niels Bohr:

[T]he apparent contrast between the continuous onward flow of associative thinking and the preservation of the unity of the personality exhibits a suggestive analogy with the relation between the wave description of the motions of material particles, governed by the superposition principle [let's say in infinite places at the same time], and their indestructible individuality.

It is as if, with observation, we ‘collapse’ to individuality. Before that, we are infinite possibilities. And in fact, even as individuals we are infinite possibilities (don’t get me wrong, I have no idea what this means, either).

The Bengali 15th century Vaishnava mystic Caitanya (Shay-tanya) said this: “We are inconceivably, simultaneously, one [with everything, the Supreme] and different [distinctly individual].”

Rosenblum and Kuttner repeat over and over and unabashedly that (pg 201):

“…if you take quantum theory seriously beyond practical purposes, it has baffling implications. It tells us that physics’ encounter with consciousness, demonstrated for the small, applies to everything. And that “everything’ can include the entire universe.

Copernicus dethroned humanity from the cosmic center. Does quantum theory suggest that, in some mysterious sense, we are a cosmic center?”

They finish the book with, in my opinion, just the right, beautiful emotion (at least for me!).

Most physicists will dismiss the creation of reality by observation as having no significance beyond the limited domain of the physics of microscopic entities. Others will argue that nature is telling us something, and we should listen.

Our own feelings accord with Schrodinger’s:

“The urge to find a way out of this impasse ought not to be dampened by the fear of incurring the wise rationalist’s mockery.”

Man, I love that. I’ll keep that in my heart, Dr Dawkins—whose greatness is not denied.

When experts disagree, you may choose your expert. Since the quantum enigma arises in the simplest quantum experiment, its essence can be fully comprehended with little technical background. Nonexperts can therefore come to their own conclusions. We hope yours, like ours, are tentative.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

—Shakespeare, Hamlet

I loved this stuff, this book—and their honesty and intellectual courage. And I love to be in awe—as the “real” world spins crazily into a black hole bail-out—at the wonder and mystery of it all, love, consciousness, me, you, us.

Time for dream sleep. Lots of love,

Pete xox

Teaching Tips For Little Minds and Big Minds: Noam Chomsky on Education

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

BIG MINDS

I was glad when I read science may have finally found some evidence that old brains still have some plasticity left in them—which presently includes my brain. Hopefully there is some ability to expand on some level with age beyond the confines of a four lane highway and a Winnebago. After all, the gas mileage is an environmental disaster

Either way, even without science’s stamp of approval, the brain will do what it does—which is even beyond inconceivable (if you think about it).

LITTLE MINDS

As for little minds, literally countless friends of mine are popping out these wonderful six-to-ten pound beings lately, and I have found the discussion of education—how to educate a child—an ongoing topic rife with unknowing: public school, private school, home school, alternative school. This, of course, is a privilege, seeing as millions of children don’t go to school at all.

I like what legendary linguist Noam Chomsky said about learning in this 1987 interview in Language and Politics (pg 502). He first qualifies his answer by saying he is not an expert in the field of education:

My own feeling, for what it is worth, is that at any level, from the nursery to graduate school, teaching is largely a matter of encouraging natural development. The best “method” of teaching is to make it clear that the subject is worth learning, and to allow the child’s—or adult’s—natural curiosity and interest in truth and understanding to mature and develop. That is about 90% of the problem, if not more.

That’s profound to me, in that, I’ve seen children unwilling to do their schoolwork because they don’t have any idea of how it benefits them, or the value of what they’re learning. What’s fascinating is how difficult it also is for adults to find and offer a compelling argument (outside of duty and fear) as to why the subject should be worked at.

I think a few things might be usefully considered.

TEACHING TIPS: BIG MINDS AND LITTLE MINDS TOGETHER

1) Is the parent or adult sufficiently involved in the child’s learning?

2) Does the parent or adult find the subject (or even the child) remotely interesting?

3) If so, why?

4) If not, well, what do you expect?—unless the child is driven by grades, adult praise, the future and/or their stock portfolio.

5) Can the adult or parent find a way to inspire the child (or anybody else) with a truthful, inspirational, ongoing conversation about the richness/value of the subject and other subjects?

6) If not, and you really tried, and the subject is a waste of time, well, at least you’ll have a touch more compassion for the lazy little bastard.

7) Has the parent or adult even considered or explored the child’s natural learning tendencies?

8) If not, well, what do we expect? We have to open our eyes to both the greatness and the limitations of anyone we’re truly interested in. If we don’t, maybe we need the courage to admit we’re not really interested in that person (which would account, if we were honest, for a great deal of the frustration).

9) Finally, if after being truly worked at, none of the above help, maybe you have a deadbeat child.

10) It looks like military school for little Eddie.

9) and 10) were just sort of for fun. Anyway, being childless, I say it all with humility. I haven’t got a clue. But learning is such a great thing.

Lots of love to you,

Pete

RICHARD DAWKINS on the queerness, as it were, of the Universe

Friday, October 31st, 2008

I joke, because Taoists and Tantrics (and the Vedantists, in some paths) sometimes suggest the Universe unfolded and unfolds from the eternal embrace of yin and yang, Shiva and Shakti, the male and female principle in ongoing sexual embrace.

Two quotes, with which I feel a warm kinship (if one can feel kinship with a quote):

The inimitable Richard Feynman:

“I think I can safely say that nobody understands Quantum Mechanics.”

And from Sir Arthur Eddington:

“Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine.”

Anyway, I so enjoyed this inspired and funny talk from legendary evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins.

I found his “…we are evolved denizens of middle world and that limits what we are capable of imagining…” wonderfully provocative, exciting, and begs infinite questions. In fact, using both scientific equipment, as he knows, of course (and, brace yourself, even deep contemplation from, yes, millenia past—I can provide examples!), we have imagined much beyond this middle world, but his point is well taken.

Dawkins’ talk for me, I must confess (and forgive me, ye savage non-poets), is mystical in its passion and information.

He asks:

“Could we by training and practice emancipate ourselves from middle world, and achieve some sort of intuitive—as well as mathematical—understanding of the very small and the very large? I genuinely don’t know the answer…”

The talk, another of the brilliant TED talks, is here.

Lots of love, and an old chestnut, Wide Open.

Pete xo

SURFING THE INNERNET FOR THE RICHER WEB OF LIFE

Friday, October 24th, 2008

Watching my insatiable senses, it occurred to me that the only sustainable way to counteract the relentless compulsion to consume external things would be by increasing the awareness of and desire for internal things. What this looks like will likely depend upon one’s individual propensity, but requires at least the simple questions: What am I? Why do I do what I do? and Why was I so unaware of bad fashion sense in the 1980s?

In truth, reality paradoxically yet unequivocally tells us that reality is not what it appears to be—our mind as a conduit makes it so. Thus, our minds create the world as we see it. So, one could ask, who then sees the true substratum of this human reality, as it really is, and does the one or many who see things as they really are—whatever that is—have a phone number?

Who is the original seer? I don’t know, but I want her as a friend, boss, lover, parent, child and favourite music group.

A poem, to my beloved sisters and brothers:

I will not be afraid of pain
I will not be afraid of death
Creature comforts also bring
A stultifying hold on breath
The time is coming, time has come
And time already came
I will stand in love and gratitude
And face them all the same

Much love and remembering,

Pete xoxo

The Plasticity of the Brain—and the adoption of different worldviews (or their adoption of you)

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

All things by immortal power,
Near and Far
Hiddenly
To each other linked are,
That thou canst not stir a flower
Without troubling of a star.
—Francis Thompson

I’ve been reading a book called The Spiritual Brain, which interests me a great deal despite its lack of relation to Eastern spirituality/philosophy. The Spiritual Brain’s thesis is the difference between the brain and the mind, which neuroscientists as a rule consider the same entity. In Vedanta, loosely, divisions begin with the body/matter (prakriti), life force (prana), mind (manas), above mind (buddhi), and spirit/soul (atma) and Big Spirit! (paramatma). Atma and paramatma are considered transcendental.

Neuroscientist author Mario Beauregard admits he is mostly utilising Western spiritual descriptions/nomenclature while studying the brain patterns of Carmelite nuns during what is called unio mystica, self-described union with God. The results and description of said experiences are interesting to me—and immensely desirable!—and seem to resemble some of the ideas of the bhakti paths described in India.

Anyway, on pg 33, Beauregard and his co-writer Denyse O’Leary write:

For many years, neuroscientists believed that the adult human brain was essentially finished. It did not and could not change, any more than a billiard ball could…

In recent years, however, neuroscientists have discovered that the adult brain is actually very plastic [which I believe is recyclable plastic]…if neural circuits receive a great deal of traffic, they will grow.

According to Beauregard, brain activity of the Carmelite nuns during meditation and unio mystica gave results suggesting that (pg 275-276):

…mystical experiences are mediated by several brain regions and systems….

Second, when the nuns were recalling autobiographical memories, the brain activity was different than that of a mystical state. So we know for certain the mystical state is something other than an emotional state…

Do our findings prove that mystics contact a power outside themselves? No, because there is no way to prove or disprove that from one side only…What we can do, however, is determine the patterns that are consistent with certain types of experiences. Thus we can rule out some explanations [that "mystical experiences"—RSMEs—are simply a result of certain genes, a "God spot" in the temporal lobes, or neural disorders, or that they can be created through the use of certain technologies]…

To the extent that spiritual experiences are experiences in which we contact the reality of our universe [assuming, I think], we should expect them to be complex. We can certainly say that [brain] patterns of serious mystics definitely are [complex].

[These experiences are "mediated by several brain regions and systems...significant loci of activation in the right medial orbitofrontal cortex, right middle temporal cortex, right inferior and superior parietal lobules, right caudate, left medial preforontal cortex, left anterior cingulated cortex, left inferior parietal lobule, left insula, left caudate, and left brain stem. Other loci of activation were seen in the extra-striate visual cortex].”

Whether their conclusions are correct or suspect, I’m enjoying the bits of the book I’ve read, and I am perpetually awed by how much, and how little, scientists know and even can know. Unfortunately, most scientists will alway believe knowledge and understanding comes through dissection, vivisection, digging, blasting and external observation—I believe it was Francis “Eggzon” Bacon who spoke of raping nature until she releases her answers. Most true mystics (a bastardized word to be sure), on the other hand (and scientists with an inner mystic), will believe real understanding and knowledge comes through intimacy, surrender, listening, gratitude, humility, devotion, awe and internal observation.

Beauregard has an affection and wonder for his thesis—and it shows. Folks like the brilliant Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker and, say, Steven Weinberg have (in my opinion) only disdain for said thesis—thus understanding of the subject, again in my opinion, can never come to them, despite their great and vastly informed brains.

Their pointing out of the obvious problems with fundamentalist religiosity notwithstanding, this disdain is a great loss for science and humanity.

Further, (in my opinion!) because of this disdain, and an inability to hold, say, the “spooky reality (to paraphrase Einstein)” of quantum mechanics in their world view simultaneously with their self-assured classical/so-called pure materialism analysis of the world (ironically, meditation would help them do this), these great thinkers even fifty years from now will be only footnotes in scientific history, despite their impressive “advanced-Newtonian” contributions.

May you and I, and all sentient beings, be happy, loved, and loving.

For what it’s worth, and in a different direction of brain plasticity, here’s an excerpt from an article in Time magazine about the effects of the Internet on the brain. I am reminded of a most essential yogic rule that says, We become like that with which we associate (or meditate upon)—so be aware, and seek out beautiful beings for company, lovers, friends and road trips.

An excerpt:

Internet use enhances the brain’s capacity to be stimulated, and that Internet reading activates more brain regions than printed words. The research adds to previous studies that have shown that the tech-savvy among us possess greater working memory (meaning they can store and retrieve more bits of information in the short term), are more adept at perceptual learning (that is, adjusting their perception of the world in response to changing information), and have better motor skills.

Small says these differences are likely to be even more profound across generations, because younger people are exposed to more technology from an earlier age than older people. He refers to this as the brain gap. On one side, what he calls digital natives—those who have never known a world without e-mail and text messaging—use their superior cognitive abilities to make snap decisions and juggle multiple sources of sensory input. On the other side, digital immigrants—those who witnessed the advent of modern technology long after their brains had been hardwired—are better at reading facial expressions than they are at navigating cyberspace. “The typical immigrant’s brain was trained in completely different ways of socializing and learning, taking things step-by-step and addressing one task at a time,” he says. “Immigrants learn more methodically and tend to execute tasks more precisely.”

But whether natural selection will favor one skill set over the other remains to be seen. For starters, there’s no reason to believe the two behaviors are mutually exclusive.

True enough, but don’t fall in love with your hard drive, ipod or laptop—oops, too late. And, on the other hand, be careful booting up your lover. They need conversation, cuddles, and compliments. And all those other gooey, caramely sort of things.

The full article is here.

Love and love—and here’s to seeing and then seeing beyond our self-imposed conditioning and the box those conditions create,

Pete xoxo

A TRUTH, A DREAM, A MYSTERY

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

Well, it’s been awhile, but a few poems have been flowing out lately, so here’s one. Hope you can answer all the deepest questions, with footnotes and references. Hey, don’t forget how beautiful you are, okay?

A TRUTH, A DREAM, A MYSTERY

Life always tries to stay together
While pulling apart forever and ever
Life is also individuated
Yet all the while interrelated
Take for instance air and breath
No sky for lungs is instant death
What is this push that drives formation
While also pushing disintegration?
Why individuals at all
Inside this endless, cosmic mall?
And who’s the me who’s asking this
Observing forms and seeking bliss?
Forms who feel and long for pleasure
Avoiding pain in equal measure
Yet pleasure somehow leads to pain
And pain to pleasure and back again
Often the two we do confuse
And thus, in ignorance, abuse
Take when I write, I’m quite content
Yet soon enough my body’s bent
It hurts to stretch away the pain
By definition life’s insane
A mix of subtle and oh so dense
combined and needing maintenance
The world is entropy, surmised
For so much is so well organized
Thus seeking balance plays a role
Could that place be a taste of soul?
A still point ever still yet playing
Not attached to form’s decaying
Ah, there I go, grand speculation
To settle down form’s trepidation
at being a form while rearranging
For all these forms are always changing
And so it goes eternally
So little can these two eyes see
Yet here we are, we have arose
Why individuals? God only knows!
And through it all I feel like me
A truth, a dream, a mystery

A Vida E So Uma: MOZAMBIQUE and the SPIRIT of LIFE

Monday, October 13th, 2008

When I was in Mozambique (Kenya, Malawi and South Africa), I think two years back now, I went to this little clubhouse kind of place where kids meet to talk about topics of the day, and for community. They also gathered to become more aware of the truths and falsehoods about HIV/AIDS—whose treatment in Mozambique, despite the efforts of many great people, was minimal in terms of reaching the infected population.

For example, for a multitude of reasons—access, education, poverty, infrastructure etc—at the time only 2 or 3% of pregnant women were taking the relatively simple access drugs during delivery (let alone the rest of the time) to help prevent the spread of the virus to the newborn child. We talk about this in Hope In The Time of AIDS (actually, not in this excerpt—but a few of the tragic statistics are here).

Anyway, these wonderful kids at the clubhouse in Mozambique (Moputo) had a guitar and I borrowed it and in this hot little room just started playing.

The resulting music is on film but I don’t have the footage, unfortunately. One day. But the kids, maybe a dozen of them, just started singing along, ad lib counterpoint, and I made up a song on the spot called My First Day In Mozambique. It was rhythmic and sweet, and the experience wildly inspiring and fun. One day, when I find it, I will post it.

Then two of the boys took the guitar (they were about 17 or 18, I think) and sang, which was also filmed. I always wanted to make a video out of it, but I haven’t had easy access to the film. But I do have a recording of it, which I will post here. It was sang with great love and passion—even though the guitar wouldn’t stay in tune! They were amazing—as humans so often are—and I don’t even know their names.

But here’s an mp3 of their beautiful song. The lead singer wrote it. One day, hopefully, there will be a video of them playing, to accompany it. The joy will be clear.

Here are the lyrics in the Portugese original:

A vida é só uma

A vida é só ma
A vida irmãos é só uma
A vida é só uma
Vamos viver a vida
Porque a vida é só uma
Quando ela escorrega não se apanha

Irmãos Moçambicanos dêem as mãos
Sejamos um por todos e todos por um
Unidos ao mundo inteiro seremos fortes
P’ra juntos combatermos o inimigo
SIDA você não tem chance
SIDA connosco não podes

Coro

Vamos viver com jeito
Nós amarmos com jeito
Porque a vida é muito bela
Porque a vida é só uma

And in English:

WE ONLY LIVE ONCE

We only live once

We only live once
Brothers, we only live once
We only live once
Let’s live our life
Because we only live once
If you miss out on life there is no second chance

Mozambican brothers, let’s hold hands
One for all, all for one
United with the world we will be strong
Together we will fight the enemy
AIDS, you have no chance
AIDS, against us you can’t win

Chorus

Let’s live with care
Let’s love with care
Because life is beautiful
Because we only live once

Lots of love to them, and you, and joy, kindness and compassion,

Pete xox

And just because I like to post it, and it reminds me of the wonder of being alive, Wide Open.

For My Wonderful Sister: Dave Eggers (living up to being a staggering genius), creativity, learning, giving, growing, beautiful…

Saturday, October 11th, 2008

My sister is a wonderful, passionate, inspired and unstoppable force of a teacher, and funny as all get out. And this story from the wonderfully creative and brilliant Dave Eggers is extremely inspiring and flat out wonderful, too. Press here to see it. I can’t write now because I have to meet with family for Canadian Thanksgiving dinner. Love to you, and to the spoken and written word, and big, big love,

Pete

CHRIS JORDAN’S LENS on STATISTICS: Consumerism, Incarceration, Waste, Unconscious Behaviours and a refusal to ask who we really are

Thursday, October 9th, 2008

This passionate statistics-through-photography from Chris Jordan is startling and humbling—and reminds me to, yes!, be mind-blowingly disgusted by the ignorant lie of the War on Drugs, in light of cigarettes (tobacco companies!), prescribed drugs (drug companies!), and the non-sustainability and cruelty of excessive, compulsive incarceration (if not, something else has gone terribly wrong), and our collective inability to stop unnecessary waste every time we consume—eat, drink.

Don’t swallow the lie—believe in your discernment to make changes, to find great mentors, to step towards balance and love, towards expansion and possibility; to see this planet as life, as a being who responds to your actions—because that’s undeniably, scientifically true—and it’s a two-way, or rather infinitely multi-way street.

Check his photography/art website, and the stats therein; water bottles, cigarettes, breast augmentation and on and on. The numbers are, well, shocking to consume.

A FEW STATS

Granted, 300 million people is a lot of folks, but here are a few of the stats, depicted through photographs, on Chris’ website. Of course, I’m not sure of the accuracy of the stats, but cut them in half if you feel like it. Hell cut them by a half again.

—one million plastic cups, the number used on airline flights in the US every six hours.
—one hundred million toothpicks, equal to the number of trees cut in the U.S. yearly to make the paper for junk mail.
—two million plastic beverage bottles, the number used in the US every five minutes.
—83,000 Abu Ghraib prisoner photographs, equal to the number of people who have been arrested and held at US-run detention facilities with no trial or other due process of law, during the Bush Administration’s war on terror.
—200,000 packs of cigarettes, equal to the number of Americans who die from cigarette smoking every six months.
—2.3 million folded prison uniforms, equal to the number of Americans incarcerated in 2005 [my own note: 1 in 4 of ALL prisoners incarcerated worldwide are American].
—11,000 jet trails, equal to the number of commercial flights in the US every eight hours.
—426,000 cell phones, equal to the number of cell phones retired in the US every day.
—1.14 million brown paper supermarket bags, the number used in the US every hour.
—106,000 aluminum cans, the number used in the US every thirty seconds.
410,000 paper cups, equal to the number of disposable hot-beverage paper cups used in the US every fifteen minutes.
65,000 cigarettes, equal to the number of American teenagers under age eighteen who become addicted to cigarettes every month [the War on Drugs! Huh!]
213,000 Vicodin pills, equal to the number of emergency room visits yearly in the US related to misuse or abuse of prescription pain killers [1/3 of all overdoses].
29,569 handguns, equal to the number of gun-related deaths in the US in 2004.
60,000 plastic bags, the number used in the US every five seconds.
—30,000 reams of office paper, or 15 million sheets, equal to the amount of office paper used in the US every five minutes.
—nine million wooden ABC blocks, equal to the number of American children with no health insurance coverage in 2007.
32,000 Barbies, equal to the number of elective breast augmentation surgeries performed monthly in the US in 2006.
—3.6 million tire valve caps, one for each new SUV sold in the US in 2004.
—125,000 one-hundred dollar bills ($12.5 million), the amount our government spends every hour on the war in Iraq.
—170,000 disposable Energizer batteries, equal to fifteen minutes of Energizer battery production.
etc. etc.

Believe in beauty, my friends. And believe in changing oneself. In the Bhagavad Gita, it says that the most beautiful, conscious and healthy type of change is incremental (this increasingly conscious behaviour is considered to be sattvic, for those interested).

On the other hand, it can be unhealthy and unconscious (tamasic) to be immobilized by the enormity of problems, seen and unseen—so take a little step to whatever calls you towards more beauty, kindness, balance, community, self-knowledge.

It’s not easy to be human. We are here. Believe in a moment of giving more love, more thought, more attention. They add up.

I’m also excited by the countless beautiful people who really love, love, love a lot, and inspire me to remember, to love more. And this journey is sacred, no matter what our politicians, our scientists and our clergy (and our own actions) say and do, or don’t say and don’t do.

Wishing you lots of love,

Pete

PS I must throw in a song or three. Jean Paul Sartre, Wide Open, Ever-Blessed.

UNPREDICTABLE LIPS and other DESIRES

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008

UNPREDICTABLE LIPS

Lay my soul bare
in a sun-bathed
wind-swept harvest of gratitude
that I may weep
from the golden river within
singing pools of devotional tears
rising tides at the taste
of
Your Kiss
limitless source of that river
winding through this moveable city
with the help of undercover angels
yes, that Same Kiss
that meanwhile
organizes
all of everything
within the helplessly
unorganized
en-tropic-al
rain
storm
of quantum mechanics
simultaneously
known as
Her
Unpredictable Lips
that when puckered
on mine
lay bare
my soul
in a sun-swept
wind-bathed
harvest of remembering
that I may run after
reflections retold
on the mirror of my mind
no more

SHEEP IN WOLVES’ CLOTHING: JUST SAY NO TO FACEBOOK AND ITS CIA-SPONSORED PHILOSOPHY

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008

“Facebook boosters say social networking represents the future of online activity. Advertisers are attracted to these sites because they offer an opportunity to aim ads at particular users who are likely to be interested in their product or service.”
—Brad Stone, New York Times

“Clearly, Facebook is another uber-capitalist experiment: can you make money out of friendship? Can you create communities free of national boundaries—and then sell Coca-Cola to them? Facebook is profoundly uncreative. It makes nothing at all. It simply mediates in relationships that were happening anyway.”
—Tom Hodgkinson, the Guardian

I recently read that Facebook sold 1.6% of its shares to Microsoft for, I think, 240 million dollars (we all gasp, ‘Why didn’t I think of Facebook!’). This leaves Facebook’s total ‘value’ at something insane like $15 billion. One cannot quite comprehend how this could be, in a world of such disparity. Then again, what better place?

I never got Facebook at all. I clicked on to join from being asked quite a few times and barely knew how to write messages or anything else. And I have no illusions that my life is at all private in this day and age of uber-technology. Yet no matter how brutal or intrusive the world may be (and we allow it to be), I remind myself, there remains that beautiful symbiotic treasure known as the heart and mind.

Halelujah!

People try to change it, push it, hurt it, twist it, torture it and destroy it, but nobody else can own it (not even Facebook). It is yours.

FACE(RECOGNITION)BOOK

As for Facebook, my girlfriend read this article from Tom Hodgkinson in the Guardian called With friends like these… and decided she didn’t want to be on Facebook anymore (she had never really been on it anyway, except from the urging of friends).

Having a lot of that sheep-like nature the owners of Facebook are compelled to manipulate, I was more than happy to follow her lead and delete myself from the system, too (you can check out any time you like but can you ever leave?).

I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH INTELLIGENCE

Read the article for yourself, of course (notice the CIA stock involvement—and if you feel your heart can take it, read about the CIA a little more in The Shock Doctrine). The piece in the Guardian describes some objectives (and perhaps natures) of some of the principle shareholders of Facebook.

I have no real idea about the deep intentions of the founders and owners of Facebook, but some of their quotes in the article are alarming if predictable. I actually hope for them in the future great wisdom and joy (to go with their money), and a shift in their certainty of how things are.

An excerpt from the Hodgkinson article, with a take I do not agree with in its entirety—for instance I do not want to sit around with friends in a pub, virtual or otherwise—but the information is useful:

Although the project was initially conceived by media cover star Mark Zuckerberg, the real face behind Facebook is the 40-year-old Silicon Valley venture capitalist and futurist philosopher Peter Thiel…

But Thiel is more than just a clever and avaricious capitalist. He is a futurist philosopher and neocon activist [whether he calls himself a neo-con, I don't know]. A philosophy graduate from Stanford, in 1998 he co-wrote a book called The Diversity Myth, which is a detailed attack on liberalism and the multiculturalist ideology that dominated Stanford.

He claimed that the “multiculture” led to a lessening of individual freedoms [one can only ask, of course, freedoms for whom?]. While a student at Stanford, Thiel founded a rightwing journal, still up and running, called The Stanford Review—motto: Fiat Lux (“Let there be light”).

Please, yes, and may it be full of wisdom, compassion and understanding of both the beauty and difficulty (and potential) of being human—as opposed to a light that blinds the unready citizen into terrorised paralysis.

Thiel is a member of TheVanguard.Org, an internet-based neoconservative pressure group that was set up to attack MoveOn.org, a liberal pressure group that works on the web. Thiel calls himself “way libertarian”.

The term Vanguard was also well-used by Vladimir Lenin, for the record. Lenin believed utterly in the Vanguard of the proletariat—a few people who control the many, who are ‘free’ but need to be controlled due to their stupidity. Is there not a similarity here with the Facebook fellas’ viewpoint? Indeed, laissez-faire actually means laissez-faire for the respective vanguards.

Hardly original.

This little taster from [TheVanguard] website will give you an idea of their vision for the world:

“TheVanguard.Org is an online community of Americans who believe in conservative values, the free market and limited government as the best means to bring hope and ever-increasing opportunity to everyone, especially the poorest among us.”

Fair enough…but has anybody noticed the bipolar clash lately between the ideology of Conservatives in power over the last, say, forty years (yes, including Reagan), and conservative values based on anything close to the original meaning of the term?

Could these ‘Conservative’ US leaders of the last quarter of the 20th century up to today, with their vast subsidized-by-the-tax-payer spending, possibly have found any better way to make a bigger State?

The debt, the war, the trough of subsidies (handouts) to countless companies, from Agribusiness to Weapons to Securities, is a manipulative, Orwellian scam, and has nothing to do with a so-called free-market—nor has it ever, as far as I can tell.

Hodgkinson continues:

Their aim is to promote policies that will “reshape America and the globe”. TheVanguard describes its politics as “Reaganite/Thatcherite”.

The chairman’s message says: “Today we’ll teach MoveOn [the liberal website], Hillary and the leftwing media some lessons they never imagined…”

When Hillary—with her grand ties to all the massive multinational corporations that these guys adore, by definition—is seen as a problem, an outsider, by the Facebook neo-cons (as they are described), the word extreme comes to mind.

Exactly what massive ‘Conservative’ corporation would Hillary not have to be sold out to to be in line with the TheVanguard?

PARTY POLITICS

Further, does not the idea of teaching people “lessons they never imagined…” have a disconcerting Nazi ring to it?

Anybody wise knows that surely even within the so-called “leftwing media” there are some important ideas. To not see this is to be profoundly unoriginal and deeply predictable—which does not mean that one still can’t possess exorbitant amounts of power and influence.

By the way, if the “leftwing media”, as it is disparaged, was truly in control, there wouldn’t be a war—let alone a war that has enriched the multinational Vanguard and pushed several nations and their citizenry into inconceivable debt.

Individuality is profoundly complex, and to not recognize the strengths and beauty of those outside one’s own way of thinking is anything but libertarian or small ‘c’ conservative. Perhaps, though, it is Reaganite/Thatcherite, which suddenly, in spirit, resembles the Bolsheviks, Stalinists, Troskyites and Marxist-Leninists—to return to the Vanguard idea.

To confuse ‘the freedom to maximize profit regardless of human dignity’ with ‘freedom to be one’s self’—and consider the former libertarian—is to be, it seems to me, totalitarianly confused.

So, Thiel’s politics are not in doubt. What about his philosophy…?

Thiel’s philosophical mentor is one René Girard of Stanford University, proponent of a theory of human behaviour called mimetic desire. Girard reckons that people are essentially sheep-like and will copy one another without much reflection.

This, of course, has truth in it.

‘People do appear to follow trends,’ I said, aware of the understatement. And Girard’s ideas (which I do not know well), about the source of desire after our basic desires are met, are interesting, but far from definitive.

A THEORY ON A THEORY

I have no idea if what I am about to say is valid, but let me suggest that if we humans are essentially sheep-like with our desires, then there are, with great variation, of course, three possible options.

They are, one: to not realise this fact of our sheep-like nature.

Two: to realise this fact and exploit those who do not realise this fact.

Three: to realise this fact, and be in service of those who remain in ignorance. I use the word service in the most conscious sense of the term.

The first two options are so predictable as to be unoriginal. Could the third way, perhaps, offer some transcendence from our greedy and ignorant sheep-like natures?

The grandest ignorance of all, however, might be to believe that one can somehow be in control of his or her situation—all the more by controllng others. Death ultimately proves this fallacy.

Everybody alive today, wildly possessed by all of these problems, will be dead within a hundred and twenty years. Everybody. In the meantime, even birth for countless billions, into brutal, seemingly unchosen conditions, might also to some suggest how little control we have.

THE ORIGIN OF NATURES

In short, what Facebook strategists possibly don’t understand is that they, too, are followers—even with their immense power and wealth. They are following, like sheep (or maybe pack wolves), a philosophy that says ‘people are sheep, and the only thing left to do is maximize the exploitation of said sheep.’

If one chooses a Darwinist worldview (or it chooses them), perhaps exploitation is intelligent. But is social Darwinism the truth of our being here? And following its core value is many things, but original is not one of them.

THE COMPANY’S COMPANY

Hitler (and Lenin and others) and Burson Marstellar etc work on similar beliefs. Hitler said something to the effect, “It is fortunate for leaders that people do not think.”

Fair enough. I prefer to think that I would like as many people as possible around me, including myself, to learn to think more, for the sake of each other, for the planet, for everyone.

Instead of exploitation, why not, as the song says, try a little tenderness? Why not create, say, video games that actually increase a person’s knowledge, decrease sheep-like tendencies and increase deeper-thinking solidarity, instead of hand-eye coordination for mindlessly shooting people one has never met?

If you’re so brilliant, owners of Facebook, create that. Create beauty.

If Thiel and his co-sheep herders find a salvation (and perhaps they do) in their ability to manipulate sheep, I would suggest that says as much about Thiel and co. as the sheep.

Were a person with such desires able to transcend that desire, that nature, would not the result be stunning and expansive originality?

To quote Pindar, if one doesn’t transcend such disdain of people, they risk “becoming like that which they hate.” Of course, those disdaining will have money and be celebrated and have the freedom to sit around slapping each other’s backs and see the world as a chess game, but they still remain their own cynical race of sheep—and they don’t even know it.

Well, here’s to the sheep-like irony of human nature.

Because one can bash someone else’s brains in, it doesn’t make one better by therefore doing so. Perhaps one is ‘better’ by actually considering that another person’s life, their desire to live, to be free and so on, like their own desire, has meaning.

For those who believe in exploitation, manipulation is simple. Why? Well, most people, I think, tend to figure others are generally on the up-and-up—although that belief may be diminishing too. Hence, kids never go out in the city alone, gated communities etc.

The article continues:

The theory would also seem to be proved correct in the case of Thiel’s virtual worlds: the desired object is irrelevant; all you need to know is that human beings will tend to move in flocks. Hence financial bubbles. Hence the enormous popularity of Facebook.

Girard is a regular at Thiel’s intellectual soirees.

What you don’t hear about in Thiel’s philosophy, by the way, are old-fashioned real-world concepts such as art, beauty, love, pleasure and truth.

And you most likely never will. Humans are of different natures. We follow that nature. Disdain for the masses, cynicism, maximizing profit is not original, it is the sheep-like response to following one’s—some would suggest unfortunate—nature.

Exploitation is not original!—although it is clearly seductive and addictive. And to be fair, a given method of exploitation may be original. But exploitation itself is as old as hello.

The internet is immensely appealing to neocons such as Thiel because it promises a certain sort of freedom in human relations and in business, freedom from pesky national laws, national boundaries and suchlike. The internet opens up a world of free trade and laissez-faire expansion.

Thiel also seems to approve of offshore tax havens, and claims that 40% of the world’s wealth resides in places such as Vanuatu, the Cayman Islands, Monaco and Barbados.

Fair enough. No taxes? Great. But does it matter at all where that money comes from? It has been suggested that 8% of the world’s wealth is from narco-trafficking. Great. You’re rich. Congratulations. And the banking lobbies continue to do all they can to avoid laws or bills being passed that try to uncover the origins of this dirty money, let alone stopping it from going through their system.

As the Chinese leader recently said about Darfur: “Business is business.”

And on the news every night, the sheep-that-we-are listen to the travails of the War on Drugs—which is, in sum, kept alive by an endless repeated barrage of propaganda and lies because certain Vanguards here and there think it’s a good thing to maximize profit by exploiting and manipulating the sheep. Congratulations.

To finish:

I think it’s fair to say that Thiel…likes the globalisation of digital culture because it makes the banking overlords hard to attack: “You can’t have a workers’ revolution to take over a bank if the bank is in Vanuatu,” he says.

Lenin for all his rhetoric also hated the worker’s desire for standard rights—and from there came the Soviet Union. Very original? Not so much.

The full article is here.

Say No To Facebook, if only to celebrate your own non-sheep-like mysterious beauty, while the wolves circle. And anyway, wolves are beautiful too, they just don’t know it yet. Once in a while, armed with yoga, one has to stand and fight.

Love, freedom, creativity and true originality to you and yours,

Pete

LOOKING AT CLOUDS WHILE WALKING GENTLY ON A BEING’S BACK

Monday, February 25th, 2008

Again, I’ve been so busy with research and planning and so on for the Ali project, that I haven’t had time for writing. But I did play a little concert on Friday night, and read a poem before singing. I read the poem because of what happened that Friday, early afternoon.

I was on a panel as a writer/blogger, and afterwards—on a stunningly beautiful Vancouver day—I was suddenly overwhelmed by a cloud. Don’t ask me to explain too much. I’ve never been mesmerised by a cloud before, nor do I do hallucinogenics. But this thick white billowing beauty with the sun glistening off it, and the occasional sun-drenched sea gull zooming by, yelled out to me, and I felt quite filled with emotion.

A few thoughts followed? Why a cloud? Why me? How are we related? Why such a great life? Why such a difficult world? Why so much beauty? Where exactly is the bus terminal? and so on.

Anyway, I found the bus terminal, and I sat down—grinning evidently, because it was pointed out to me by a fella in the seat in front of me, and I was asked why. Never too uncomfortable, I said, “Well, this might sound strange, but I was overwhelmed by a cloud.”

Get this. It turns out the guy was was a professor of meteorology at UBC. What are the odds? 2-1? And who totally understands. he says, “Yeah, well, we’re from the same energy system.”

Not only that, he works in the area that actually asks if the earth is a living organism—and of course it is! So we talked about the wonder of organization in an entropic system, increasing photosyntheis as the Spring approaches, James Lovelock (whom he knows) and the Gaia hypothesis, and the similarities between a cloud and a human, energetically speaking.

This led me to pulling out a poen that I’d recently written—I seldom read poems to women on buses, let alone men. I only read half of it, actually, but this is it now, in its entirety (and I read it at the gig):

Sing your song with all your breath
For all of this from birth to death
Is held in flow by pure vibration
A subtle taste of liberation
An all-pervasive cosmic song
Invisible beings sing along
Then hum the song to you and me
A divine fragmented melody
An endless kiss, an invitation
Veiled by body’s limitation
But when in bursts we hear that song
We see the soul in everyone
At least a flash if not the whole
For pure vibration is the soul
So if you find your song’s off course
Listen closely for the Source
And if you still can’t find the key
Sing for all divinity
Enter into pure vibration
Divinely blessed imagination
Your beingness is not delusion
That’s another soul’s confusion
And even if they don’t agree
They never give up trying to be
An individual, with a theory
That alone should make you leary
But let’s get back to pure vibration
Forgetting is my limitation!
And know that every song you sing
Is from the Source of everything
Not nothingness but ecstasy
Not void but wild divinity
Not “you” as “we” are understood
But pure vibration personhood
A thought barely conceivable
A dream and yet retrievable
Hid behind shadows and light
A pure vibrational delight
A concert with a trillion acts
Why else scientific facts?
Why else love songs and atheists?
Why else this life with all its twists?
I do not mean to cause offence
But we’re kept alive by intelligence
We’re not just matter rubbed together
A result of dirt and stormy weather
We are here by pure vibration
As Einstein saw in contemplation
Held in tune by a soul much greater
To who we all sing now or later
An ode to vast intelligence
A soul like us in every sense
Save magnitude and lack of doubt
So smile within and sing without
Let pure vibration be your song
To the One who’s sung you all along

I mentioned the conversation at the gig, too. The crowd seemed quite amused (plus, due to
entropy, I probably embellished).

Then I sang a few songs. It was sort of a sexy night, discussing the 64 arts of the Kama Sutra, so here’s the set list:

Learning How God Loves
Naked Love
Wide Open
Be Brave Tonight
Ever Blessed

And a request for Wise Old lady of Love.

It’s a fantastic crowd—the only one in the world that knows the words to my songs. I love singing those songs, live, and thinking we are an organism living on an organism, and so on, and so on, and so on until you feel endless gratitiude for the fact that you have your own place.

As for our own little universe, I have heard that of all the cells withing us and around us (stomach bacteria etc), only 5 to 10 percent of these cells are actually us. The others are hosting on me, like us to the earth.

Love to you,

Pete

COMPOSING/DIRECTING: How To Salvage A Crap Film With A Good Score

Friday, February 15th, 2008

Okay, that’s not the real title. But Steven Spielberg did once say the music from Jaws (John Williams) was thirty-percent of the film right there. Now I’m not sure if there’s a formula for blockbusters (I sure haven’t found it), but the importance, pressure, intensity, revelation and joy of scoring a film can not be underestimated. Cued at the the right time, with the right mood, a film moment can be profoundly elevated. It can also be bled dry.

However the process works, it is a remarkable marriage of the elements—video and sound—and the people working on the film—director and composer. I’m part of a talk called “The composer/director collaboration,” with Dennis Burke, a great talent and a great guy, who did the score for both See Grace Fly and Uganda Rising.

It should be fun—and hopefully inspiring, revealing and informative:

Emily Talks, at the Emily Carr Institute on Granville Island in Vancouver, as part of the ECI Spring Speaker Series.

Pete McCormack and Dennis Burke

“The Composer/Director Collaboration”

Thursday February 28
7:00 pm

All talks in Lecture Hall 301, South Building

Director Pete McCormack and composer Dennis Burke discuss the collaborative process in
filmmaking, moderated by John Sereda.

Sponsored by the Guild of Canadian Film Composers, Department of Canadian Heritage Creators’ Assistance Program and the SOCAN Foundation.

FEBRUARY 23rd

And just in case you missed the earlier blog, I’m on a blogging panel (a very cool and diverse panel, it seems) at the popular Northern Voice 2008 Weblogging Conference, February 23, 11:30-12:10, in Vancouver, called From Book to Blog or Blog to Book.

From book to blog or blog to book: how authors use blogs to attract publishers’ attention and to connect to each other, to readers and to the media.

…among other things, clearly.

Lots of love to you,

Pete

Oh, and here’s a link to a recent video, well, just because. The opening line is my grandmother, around the spry ol’ age of 97.

GRATITUDE and THOUGHT FOR FOOD

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

I just wanted to thank people who comment on the blog. I get really great feedback, insight, theory, and, well, love and kindness, actually, which is a wonderful thing.

Again, with projects, I haven’t had as much time as I’d like to write lately—and when I had a chance last night, for example, I spent it answering comments on the Marc Emery blog post.

TSUNANIMOUSLY YOURS

Ah, yes, if you experience information overload, spinning knowledge, repetitive thoughts, anxiety or depression with the world as you think it, and so on, what I am about to offer may not help at all. Nonetheless, I wrote a little poem (yes, I can’t help it) the other day that offers an idea, an image, a process, that hopefully makes those wild thoughts a little more digestable—or, for that matter, this run-on sentence a little more digestable.

THOUGHT FOR FOOD

If you find your mind is wild
A billion thoughts unreconciled
Into your belly, drop your doubt
Fill your tummy and push it out

Strange, I know, this gut suggestion
But that’s where thoughts will find digestion
For those with crazy thoughts in flight
Tend to hold their tummy tight

Which keeps one’s thoughts up in the head
Drop them to your gut instead
We’ve all heard of “food for thought”
But “thought for food” we’re never taught

So if you find your mind is wild
A billion thoughts unreconciled
Into belly fire, drop your doubt
Love your tummy and let it out*

*This is to be done consciously, and in that way, aware of one’s breathing pattern, too. This is counter to the unconscious process of the worrying that makes one’s stomach, as they say, “sick with worry.” This Thought For Food is a digestion/letting go/offering process, that sends the thoughts into the sacrificial belly fire, to be burnt away. Or, if you’re particular skilled, to be reheated into Venus Fertility Goddesses who understand the Tao of nature (which is different than the Dow Jones).

This process can also be used to warm your feet and provide reading light. I made that up. Money back guarantee, batteries not included.

Lots of love to you,

Pete

THE POTENTIAL

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

I was at a wonderful and deeply informative philosophy of yoga class tonight, with Jeffrey Armstrong, on the subject of finding useful physical and mental asanas (positions) and thoughts to inspire and deepen one’s meditative practice.

A just-before-meditaing yoga saying was mentioned—and I think it’s worth mentioning here, for its beauty, even if one doesn’t meditate.

The truth is, we all meditate on something. The yogis say: “Humans become like that upon which we meditate (or associate).”

This other phrase, spoken out loud—try it, it might freak you out—simply reinforces and reminds a person of their inherent, eternal right to be here, to exist—and may that be full of dignity, love, joy and gratitude:

I am sitting in the lap of my Mother the Earth
I love her and she loves me
I am exactly where I need to be
Now I am going to meditate

And this reminded me of a poem I recently wrote, on a bus scooting along the Coquihalla Highway, just after Christmas, with the days getting lighter (if not drier):

THE POTENTIAL

The potential to feel healed
is already you
The potential to stand
ever softer in strength
is the dance lesson
we are already enrolled in
Being born is written
in the imagination
of the universal Beingness
Growing old is on that circle
of timeless exhales

Remembering in a giggle
that we are none of these things
full-time
is our true dance

Being none of these things
at all
is our true nature dancing
I am not the sand
blown by the wind
I am the wind
who occasionally
gets sand in her eyes
Inhale!
We are home!
Exhale!
We’re on our way home!

Lots of love to you, beautiful soul. Don’t forget to write your own lines,

Pete xox

Wide Open, for those longing to remember.