Saturday, July 30, 2005

Paragraph of the week

I really like this paragraph, from an article by Tim Radford about botanist Peter Raven of the Missouri Botanical Garden:
Ecosystems, he says, can be whatever you like. Hedgerows in Hampshire are an ecosystem; so are weeds on a railway line at Hammersmith. Savannahs, grasslands, prairies, rainforests, dry forests, pine forests, uplands, heathlands, downlands, wetlands, mangrove swamps, estuaries, oxbow lakes and coral reefs are all ecosystems, and they survive on diversity. The greater the variety of microbes, plants and animals in an ecosystem, the more resilient it is and the better it works for all, including humans. So it would not be a good idea to evict at least half of these creatures, especially if nothing is known about them. But, Raven says, that is what is happening.
I love the long list, so Edward Abbey, and the mix of ecoscience jargon ("ecosystems" "resilient") and plain talk about habitats (and the news is not good for us or them). Sometimes I just like to read.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Post lack not slack

My blog posts have become infrequent lately, and I wonder why: Is my personal life--at least that part of it I don't feel like sharing at this semi-public level--taking up so much of my time that I can't find the words to post? Are the subjects I am involved with at my job at SDSU's Summer Bridge Program, a set of first-year college composition readings, keeping me from accessing the stuff I need in order to post some personal ecology on the web?

All I know is that it seems like there's less stuff I want to write about on this thing lately. How has my life changed, in ways that make for fewer posts about the nominal paradigms of this blog? When I look at the subtitle of the thing, I start to get a clue; "literary ecosystems, ecological texts, and poetic politics" haven't been happening lately in my life; I haven't written a poem in a while, and most importantly I think, I haven't taken the time to be out in the wilds, really out for a few days, the time it takes to get the civilized smell off me and see the big picture.

Joseph Kleitsch (1881-1931), Laguna Canyon, 1923. Courtesy Florence Griswold Museum Posted by Picasa

Perhaps I have a classic case of what Richard Louv calls nature-deficit disorder: crushed by the interpersonal dynamics of human discourses, unable to engage in the organic play that frees my mind to write the stuff I want to say here, I find my voice blocked. It's a very complicated way to say "I'm too busy to write" but the problem for me is that writing about natural things, things that take in the total biosphere and integrate it with the human, is necessary for the well-being of my soul and my writing. I find myself thinking about, and writing about, the sterile mindgames of politics and spirit, the disconnected mental spaces of purely theoretical paradigms instead of getting my hands dirty with real work of the spirit, that kind of stuff done with shovels and feet, hands and asses, where you get tired and sit down for a while just to take it all in. I think I want to go for a nice long hike, and read some good stuff.
Pied Beauty
GLORY be to God for dappled things --
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced -- fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim. All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.
Happy belated birthday, Gerard Manley Hopkins!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Our Democracy at work, Sneaky Democrat Version

How am I supposed to integrate this little gem of a story into my idea of what it means to be a Democratic member of Congress who serves their constituency? I call the office of Rep. Susan Davis (some kind of D, CA) to find out how she is going to vote on CAFTA, the boondoggle Central American Free Trade Agreement. Her office aide, at 6:00pm EST, claims that Susan has not taken a position on the bill yet; she has not taken a position for months on this bill, despite numerous questions from press and public. I ask, "you mean she is planning on voting on the bill tonight but hasn't formed an opinion yet?" "Yes that's right," the aide responds with what must be a really straight face back there in the humid land of shirtsleeves at midnight. I ask, "well then; what time will the vote occurr? today sometime?" and wait for an answer, like it matters what this toady will say to me to describe the spinless actions of his toady boss. "We think it will be late, ten or maybe even midnight," he says, and I begin to wonder, why the hell am I putting up with this weasel? You call this open government, or democracy? Votes at midnight and she won't say what she's going to say as our representative? Fuck this; we need a new Democrat here, one that represents us or at least will tell us what she's going to do with our franchise.

Sounds like a time for an independence thing: you know,
" He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures."

That was in congress way back in 1776. It could happen again.

Update 9:45 pm pst:
She voted against it, in a roll call vote at 12:03 am EST. But CAFTA passed, 217-215, thanks to the 15 Democrats who did Tom Delay's bidding and voted for it. What a bunch of weenies, Susan included; she could have come out with a position a long time ago, but instead supported the Republican corporations by waffling for a year. Ptui.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Acid Biography

A friend asks about that "fifth acid trip" from the last post. What was that about? I find it handy, when I think about my drug history, to connect it with music. The suits are right; those irreverent, subversive, rock and rollers of the past, and their present-day kin, really did advocate the use of mind-altering substances, no matter what they said at press conferences. But for me, the tone of the drug culture changed, from within me and from without, around the turn of the decade from the sixties to the early seventies. I was walking in the the desert, reading Carlos Casteneda and looking for the Oneness of the Creator; I was also listening to the Beatles, smoking weed, tripping on the colors and the wavy walls and rocks, looking for the Spirit that Tim Leary said we could find if we would just let the old ways of perception fall off our Western shoulders. For me, 1972 was a critical year to turn 18 and make the decision: drop out or mellow out and learn to take it from the man? I went for the mellow, so I started doing less-spiritual drugs such as coke and pills, drinking beers and going to parties, just to forget my problems: the draft, girls (or lack of them), a job, a future. I knew it was a waste of time but I had to look like I cared and it hurt; it was painful to live a capitalist lie so I needed recreational anethesia. From the positive, spiritual outlook of the Beatles I turned to the real deal of the workingman's Stones, who didn't pretend to Godhead but celebrated the dark passions of a pointless life, whose only solace was the ability to escape from it temporarily in debauchery. I went for it, and it was pretty nice for a while, like twenty years.

So there you have it. From Beatles to Stones, Mods to Rockers. Along in there I realized that a spiritual quest was a waste of time in an insane spiritless age, the Atomic/cold War age, when the spiritual was a refuge for those who couldn't handle the real. With enough substances I could handle it, so I didn't need the seemingly irrelevant spirit of Transcendent Perception. I am only just getting it back, just in time, I think

Friday, July 22, 2005

Saving Small Places

"A new question in the environmentalist's canon," writes Barbara Kingsolver, "is this one: who will love the imperfect lands, the fragments of backyard desert paradise, the creek that runs between farms?" Here in San Diego it seems like the only spaces we have left are imperfect; possibly, after 16,000 years of human habitation on this little bit of the biosphere the only spaces we have are "imperfect". But when I think of the notion of saving wild spaces and the reality of the history of this region, the "perfect" wilderness seems rather silly. I, for one have no desire to return the canyon near my house to its Pliestocene purity--if that's what it was back then--with mastodons and megathariums in the mix.

Besides, I can only access the sacredness of wild spaces through the people who have been there already. Kingsolver does it by looking at the way her daughter remembers a creek in Kentucky and by welcoming a hermit crab to Tuscon in High Tide in Tucson; she looks at the way habitats work in our heads, and the way we all share the earth as best we can, even those of us who wind up in unexpected places. I have taken hermit crabs home to Mission Hills, miles from the ocean and sat, like Kingsolver, in "stunned reverence" as they adjusted to life inland, and as a kid I had lots of prisoners: Butterflies, bugs, snakes, horned lizards and ants plus the more formalized cats and dogs. So it seems only natural that in order to get the picture in the natural world, I should have to become another human being's prosoner for a bit, and invade some space where I don't belong. Perhaps the words shouldn't be "invade" and "prisoner" at all; maybe what's really going on is integration, a type of expression of the basic ecological principle, connectedness. The spiritual is, for me, a form of communication with people and other beings; I long ago, with my fifth acid trip, gave up on the idea of directly accessing God and realized I would have to settle for glimpses of godhead garnered through the eyes of people like that guy waiting for the bus, or the kid at the pier looking at dead fish.

Or sometimes in a good film. The play of life and death, and the workings of fate, are wonderfully addressed in Ryan, a short animation I saw last night at the La Jolla Contemporary Art Museum's short film party, alt.pictureshows. Even drug addiction can be spiritual, if taken to its logical conclusion, a oneness with god while you're bumming quaters on the street.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Feliz Cumpleanos y Anniversarios

Thanks to Wood S Lot:

Happy Birthday, Carlos!
"Se que sera
Let's go sailing on
there's a wise man
in every fool"

And then there's that Moon thing to celebrate:

Friday, July 15, 2005

A Spiritual Extinction?

A friend of mine has found great peace and sprititual solace in the many appearances of a natural phenomena around her: white butterflies, either native Common White or the imported European variety, have become, for her and her many friends, a sign of recovery from grief, a message from the biopolis that life is forever renewed, and forever in our hearts.

Many of us have a similar attachment to another species of butterfly: the Quino checkerspot, an endangered species indigenous to San Diego County which for us symbolizes, indeed defines, some sacred places in our lives-- places where we find solace and peace, where we rejuvenate out spirits and recover from the many challenges in our lives. As we walk in the chaparral the rare sight of one of these colorful marvels reminds us that we live in a precious place that is inhabitated by very special beings who live no where else, which on good days is the way we like to think of ourselves. Maybe we aren't that special, but it sure feels that way, and when I walk in our backcountry I feel blessed with the biophiliac bliss of communion with other beings in the world; the Quino checkerspot is one of those special beings.
That's why is was so disturbing to watch Nightline last night. In a story devoted to global warming, our own native Quino was featured as one of the many biological victims of global warming, and had a good overview of the problem, the minute changes in temperature that can disrupt natural processes and cause the extinction of species who are unable to cope with the changes and cannot move. Many scientists, such as lepidopterist Tom Emmel, are concerned that "the government is burying its head when it comes to the environment - pointing out that a population of butterflies in the western United States is fleeing to higher altitudes because the climate in its old habitat is suffering the effects of global warming."

It would be a shame to lose the beautiful messengers from the spirit to our non-pedestrian need for fossil fuels. And I wonder if we are not losing something much more valuable to us and to the biosphere than an endemic species that, after all, doesn't do much for many people. Perhaps what we lose when a species goes extinct is not so much its ecological importance but an aspect of spiritual significance in our lives that cuts us off from the relationship we have with the Universal One.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Poetic Density and Revolution

Met a really good dead poet today, and he's good because he uses the fewest words to get over the most complicated things, and because he was a good revolutionary, too; my poetry would be greatly enhanced if I could do the things Roque Dalton did, like formulate a revolutionary strategy that, claims Claribel Alegria, forged "links between the clandestine politico-military organizations and the open mass organizations [and] came to be the accepted line for all the principal revolutionary movements" in Latin America. He also miraculously escaped certain death at the hands his executioners twice, once by coup d'etat, and once by a more spiritually connected earthquake. That would be nice enough, but he was a good writer, too who avoided the overworked, wordy ways of typical revolutionary poetry, good at heart but long of tongue. Like mine:
America I’m sick of pointing my finger at evildoers.
It’s getting too hot in the world, and America keeps putting fossil fuel on the fire while widows in Chicago freeze in the dark, and the butterflies could be wiped out by habitat desecration leaving poets only traffic lights to describe with density.
America do you even want poets anymore?
I haven’t smoked marihuana in years but the gateway is still open for soul butterflies to pass over and I am still psychotropically connected.
Reality TV is still false, newspapers still write lies, and the hyperreal is still unreal but I still see the desert wide open to the sky.
I have not applied for copyright protection but still need security for my own obsessions.
I remain a cocksman but I won’t fuck the world on your dime, for a hundred-dollar pair of sneakers, for a $1.25 gallon of gas, for a low-fat burrito, for fresh strawberries but I will if we all come in a orgasm of atmospheres biospheres tropospheres hydrospheres fucking pulsing juices fragrant with sweaty bliss, lubed for love of planet, wet holy ecstasy.
America do you remember when sex was holy?

Well that's a lot of hooey to say what Dalton says in four short lines:
Love is my other country
the primary one
not the one I'm proud of
but the one I suffer for.
By the way, you can find a lot of great Dalton tributes in Roque Dalton: Redux from Cedar Hill Books. Some of it, of course, is that long-winded Latin Revolutionary stuff. That's ok.


I haven't blogged in awhile. Life 'n shit.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Holy Spirit Blowing

I go about pitying myself
While I am carried by
The wind
Across the sky
(a Chippewa song)

As San Diego County gets ready to make use of the "clean energy" of the strong winds in our backcountry, I wonder if we ecologically-minded folk ought to look for a spiritual solution to a knotty problem that seems to divide our community into two opposed camps: on one side, some environmentalists say that human beings need to stop using such destructive technologies to create and distrubute power--we need to start developing renewable energy sources such as wind power quickly, in the most effecient, easy manner possible, in hopes that our slide down a polluted, globally warmed path will cease; on the other side, locally-based conservationists, who also feel the armegeddonish crunch inherent in our ways of producing energy, still want to save what's left of our wild spaces. (For example, read David Suzuki wrestle with both sides of the issue in his own mind here and here.) Two recent reports in the San Diego Union Tribune (which is kind of surprising when one considers its major patrons/advertisers) point out these difficult issues: an article about Altamount Pass and the problems caused by giant windmills that kill birds and bats along this important flyway, and the recent article in Sunday's business section about the issues surrounding development by Big Energy of windy places in the East County of San Diego. These places are valuable ecologically and, because people were living here in harmony with the planet for thousands of years before we white folk got here, valuable in a spiritual sense; three-hundred foot-high windmills seem to take away some holiness from culturally important places, the sacred spaces in our habitat. What to do?

Perhaps we should start from a more humble position:

Oh Great Spirit
whose Voice I hear in the Winds,
whose Breath gives life to all the world,
hear me! I am small and weak; I need you strength and wisdom.
(From a Sioux invocation)

Verses from Earth Prayers, ed. by Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Celebrate the Cycle with Tenzin Gyatso

Happy Birthday!
(1935-the rest of time)

"I am just a simple Buddhist monk - no more, nor less." Posted by Picasa

From the Nobel Peace Prize Lecture, 1989:

"Responsibility does not only lie with the leaders of our countries or with those who have been appointed or elected to do a particular job. It lies with each one of us individually. Peace, for example, starts with each one of us. When we have inner peace, we can be at peace with those around us. When our community is in a state of peace, it can share that peace with neighbouring communities, and so on. When we feel love and kindness towards others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace. And there are ways in which we can consciously work to develop feelings of love and kindness. For some of us, the most effective way to do so is through religious practice. For others it may be non-religious practices. What is important is that we each make a sincere effort to take our responsibility for each other and for the natural environment we live in seriously."

His Inspiration, from the writings of Saint Shantideva:

"For as long as space endures
And for as long as living beings remain,
Until then may I too abide
To dispel the misery of the world.

For as long as space endures
And for as long as living beings remain,
Until then may I too abide
To dispel the misery of the world."

Govenment of Tibet's Website on the Dalai Lama

Monday, July 04, 2005

Time to Get Busy

It is our right, indeed our duty, to get rid of tyrants. Says so right here in this thing below, from which I took a few relevant excerpts. See if the list of charges reminds you of anyone you might know in Washington DC, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refuted his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Happy Birthday (1923--)

Wislawa Szymborska Posted by Picasa

The Three Oddest Words

When I pronounce the word Future,
the first syllable already belongs to the past.

When I pronounce the word Silence,
I destroy it.

When I pronounce the word Nothing,
I make something no non-being can hold.

By Wislawa Szymborska Translated by S. Baranczak & C. Cavanagh

From "Tortures"

Nothing has changed. Except for the course of boundaries,
the line of forests, coasts, deserts and glaciers.
Amid these landscapes traipses the soul,
disappears, comes back, draws nearer, moves away,
alien to itself, elusive, at times certain, at others uncertain of its own existence,
while the body is and is and is
and has no place of its own.

From "The Poet and the World," Nobel Lecture 1996:

" . . . inspiration is not the exclusive privilege of poets or artists generally. There is, has been, and will always be a certain group of people whom inspiration visits. It's made up of all those who've consciously chosen their calling and do their job with love and imagination. It may include doctors, teachers, gardeners - and I could list a hundred more professions. Their work becomes one continuous adventure as long as they manage to keep discovering new challenges in it."

Friday, July 01, 2005

Overwhelmed: Supreme Networking Opportunity Edition

Big stuff happening in that faraway Washington--Sandra Day O'Connor retiring--but here in the 21st century, you can do your little bit with the magic of technology. DavidNYC over at Kos has some suggestions, one of which has been used successfully in Italy and other parts of Europe where they love their cell phones:
If you have a cell phone, sign up for People at the American Way's Mass Immediate Response site. This way, you'll be able to receive text message action items instantly as events break. (If you signed up during the nuclear option fight, you'll need to re-sign up.)
There are some other, more traditional ideas for a bit of action in the post, too. One is to write a letter to the president, not because you think he'll pay any attention to your views but so we can set a rhetorical position for the media. So send a copy to the press, too.

Think Small Power

As some of my friends get set to make enemies in some quarters of the environmental movement by trying to stop wind power generators in our wild backcountry, we wonder how we are going to come up with an alternative vision for renewal energy on the planet. Never mind the fact that we are not energy experts, and the bad guys spend millions of our taxpayer dollars and use thousands of real experts to promote their vision; we are still supposed to have an alternative energy future in our rhetoric. Thank god I found one that makes a little sense in yeaterday's Guardian: now I can at least suggest something positive. The idea here is that small generation facilities, owned by the users, might take the place of giant profit/power plants.

From "Micro-Power Hailed as Cheap Safe Energy of Future"

Renewable power, particularly schemes where thousands of homes have their own microgenerators for heat and electricity, are a far cheaper way of meeting the UK's energy needs and combating climate change than nuclear stations, says a report out today.
This is an idea I have been kicking around in my head for awhile, and it's always pooh-poohed by people as impossible--impossible to break the stranglehold the big power company has on us and impossible to manage over an urban grid. I know that's not true. So do the guys at the New Economics Foundation:

The potential of getting energy from a decentralised system of very small-scale, micro-generation from renewable sources has been critically overlooked. In the UK, for example, one estimate suggests that if just around one third of electricity customers installed 2kW of micro-generation, using solar photovoltaic (PV) or wind systems it would match the capacity of the UK nuclear programme.
So there. I knew it.