Wednesday, October 28, 2009

On life, words and singing the body electric

When I am going through valleys, I turn inward to myself and my known comforts - warmth, quiet, words, books - those ageless friends of my girlhood and shapers of my self.

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In particular, the last month I've been reflecting on my sage Walt Whitman. I met him late, but at the right time. He is a frequent and welcome visitor. In fact, I picture him a literary precursor to my childhood neighbour Tom, who lived next to our farm in his trapper's cabin, who came by for dinner and enjoyed it so well he licked his pie plate. And who gave out full-sized chocolate bars at Hallowe'en, and threw beaver skulls in his back yard where we could find and collect the dagger-like yellow teeth. Only in this case Tom's quaint stories and anachronistic mannerisms have been turned by Walt into rhythmic phrases of vivid life. The 'barbaric yawp,' leaning and loafing and adoring all.

I have a Walt Whitman project I've begun. And while it comes to be, I'm enjoying being re-immersed in the words I find simultaneously expansive and comforting. This Leaves of Grass excerpt is from "I Sing the Body Electric" (which, coincidentally, was also a song that still moves me to tears from the original Fame, one of the most important movies of my teenage years):
I have perceiv’d that to be with those I like is enough
To stop in company with the rest at evening is enough,
To be surrounded by beautiful, curious, breathing, laughing flesh is enough,
To pass among them, or touch any one, or rest my arm ever so lightly round his or her neck for a moment—what is this, then?
I do not ask any more delight—I swim in it, as in a sea.

There is something in staying close to men and women, and looking on them, and in the contact and odor of them, that pleases the soul well;
All things please the soul—but these please the soul well.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Happy Birthday, BB

Twenty-years ago today I met the most amazing person. He was beautiful from the first moment - peaceful and happy and perfect. And, having met him, my life would never be the same.

Perfect turned to funny. Adorable. Exploring. Adored. No to mention friendly and charming and lovable. He could walk. Then run. Then climb trees.

BB has a smile that lights the world, a too-rare and precious laugh that makes me cry. And a generous hug that makes everything alright. He's kind, gentle, wise and an unbelievably fierce warrior. He's creative and inventive. He's an artist, a boarder, a philosopher and a lover of original Nintendo. And he's perfect - first and always perfect.

Today my BB is 20. He's not a BB anymore. He's a man, one I am unspeakably proud to know, whose wisdom and generosity and humour make me wish I could be more like him. And one who I hope I had some part in the goodness of. Happiest of birthdays, BB. Thank you for being my son.

It's just HBC & VANOC against the world these days.

Reposted from a letter by Brian Thom, Negotiator of the Hul'qumi'num Treaty Group

Our Olympic Image

Good morning chiefs. I am sure you have all been following the news of how the Hudson's Bay Company and the Vancouver Olympic Committee has knocked off the Cowichan sweater to produce their own version for the official uniforms for the 2010 Olympics, and which are being sold at the HBC stores for $350 each.

This rip-off is getting heavily criticized in the media, and Cowichan, I understand, is looking into their legal options with respect to their Trademark for Genuine Cowichan. This morning, the Hudson's Bay Company released a TV ad promoting their sweaters, and it is the most inflammatory, colonial, racist thing I have seen in a long time.

It tells the story of the coming of the white man to the new world, an empty place of rock and snow, which white man tamed and made into Canada. There is a half-second flash of seeing Cowichan-like sweaters hanging in some early settlement early in the ad, hinting that these came with the Europeans too. Through the ad, old Hudson's Bay Company symbols (blankets, chests, crests, etc) are flashed, as the white man expands their presence. The history told in this ad writes-out indigenous presence on the land.

It popularizes the legal fiction of Terra Nullius, the idea that North America was an 'empty land' here for the taking. It erases the whole place of indigenous people over the last 350 years, from the resistance to colonization, to the contributions made to the building of contemporary society. I believe that the political leadership of aboriginal communities should be aware of this vulgar portrayal of history by the Hudson's Bay Company, to promote their stolen sweater. The theft and profiteering off the genuine Cowichan sweater, along with the ironically parallel promotion of a re-telling of colonial history without indigenous people on the land, needs to be seen for what it is.

Please pass the information along widely to help generate what should be an anti-colonial response.

Brian Thom

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Self-flagellation - it's not as cool as the movies make it look

On our fantastic family retreat Thanksgiving weekend, we spent part of the first evening watching The Da Vinci Code and the inevitable 'what the hell is that man doing?' question came up. The man in question was Silas. And what he was doing was punishing the flesh to purify the spirit using self -flagellation and the wearing of a cilice.

It's quirky. A little disturbing. And somewhat hysterical. But I've been wondering this evening how much we do this to ourselves mentally. Oh sure, it's not as interesting or titillating as physical torture, but sitting for hours stewing/moping isn't much different, really. It's self-absorbed and creates nothing so much as more suffering.

My particular version of self-torture takes the former of biting my lip. And like self-flagellation its fairly pointless. I guess maybe I like the drama of it after all. It's certainly more martyry than just talking things through. And it's been many years since I could believably deny a martyr complex.

I'm sad. That's all really. And instead of just being sad I've been tightening the cilice with ridiculous stories that mostly begin "I should have" and "if only." I have no rosary to repeat 10 times. I just have what I'd hoped for to compare ad nauseum to what is.

And no. I'm not going to say more about that. ;-)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Not quite what I expected ...

I just wandered down a Google-led rabbit hole, and stumbled upon this interesting, quick 'life assessment' program called Clean Sweep. It's 100 True/False questions divided into the 4 major life areas of Physical Environment, Well-Being, Money & Relationships. The premise is that you check off the statements that are currently true for you, then go to work on the ones that aren't currently true for you, and come back regularly to re-assess until you get a 100 score, or a "clean sweep."

Now, I have a pretty good life. I'm aware of that. And I'm also aware that I've been tolerating some areas of life that really aren't working for me. In fact, just last evening my good friend had me promise to make a list (of all the things I said I'd do, or intended to do, but haven't done), check it twice, add in dates by when I'd do things and send it to him. And with that promise running in the back of my head, I thought I'd check out this Clean Sweep test.

I expected that I'd have quite strong scores in all areas except Money/Career. Quelle Surprise! Not so much! In fact, my current results were

Physical Environment - 6/25
Well-Being - 7/25
Money - 6/25
Relationships - 12/25

Wow. I'm actually kind of shocked. Not bad shocked, just 'I never would have guessed' shocked. And, I'm kinda inspired. The statements are all really straight-forward, which makes it easy to see what there is to do.

I guess the proof of the pudding will be in whether I actually do them or not. Anybody out there willing to take the test and share their results as well?

Oh, and it makes me smile that my Relationships score is double the rest of my life. I'm pretty sure that having a life full of loving people is what makes it seem like the other areas are more handled than they are. XO
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