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    The Need of a Spiritual Change

    Sri Aurobindo  |  16.Dec.13

    At present mankind is undergoing an evolutionary crisis in which is concealed a choice of its destiny; for a stage has been reached in which the human mind has achieved in certain directions an enormous development while in others it stands arrested and bewildered and can no longer find its way. A structure of the external life has been raised up by man’s ever-active mind and life-will, a structure of an unmanageable hugeness and complexity, for the service of his mental, vital, physical claims and urges, a complex political, social, administrative, economic, cultural machinery, an organised collective means for his intellectual, sensational, aesthetic and material satisfaction. Man has created a system of civilisation which has become too big for his limited mental capacity and understanding and his still more limited spiritual and moral capacity to utilise and manage, a too dangerous se... more

     

    Caring for a World with a Soul

    Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee  |  07.Aug.13

    “There is now a single issue before us: survival. Not merely physical survival, but survival in a world of fulfillment, survival in a living world, where the violets bloom in the springtime, where the stars shine down in all their mystery, survival in a world of meaning.”

    —Thomas Berry

    Earth is in distress and is calling to us, sending us signs of the extremity of its imbalance through floods and storms, drought and unprecedented heat. There are now indications that its ecosystem as a whole may be approaching a “tipping point” or “state shift” of irreversible change with unforeseeable consequences. 

    Some of us are responding to these signs, hearing this calling, individually and as groups, with ideas and actions – trying to bring our collective attention to our unsustainable materialistic lifestyle and the ways it is contributing to ecological devastation, increasing pollution, species... more

     

    Celebrating Crisis: Towards a Culture of Cooperation

    Elisabet Sahtouris  |  15.Jun.13

    We could be celebrating at least three major crises — in energy, economy and climate — now confronting us simultaneously, globally, adding up to the greatest challenge in all human history. That challenge itself is what I believe we should celebrate. Why? Because nothing short of a fundamental review, re-visioning and revising of our entire way of life on planet Earth is required to face these three interrelated challenges successfully. That makes this an amazing time of opportunity to create the world we all deeply want! Is this an idle dream, an airy-fairy ‘create your own reality’ pitch?

    Guess what? We humans created the reality we have now. It was not imposed on us by fate or any other outside agency. While some may still claim we had nothing to do with global warming, few would deny we have ravaged our planet’s ecosystems and loaded our air with pollutants. How many would claim we had no choice in how to produce our energy, or insist that ... more

     

    Buddhist Economics

    E.F. Schumacher  |  19.Apr.13

    Originally published online by the New Economics Institute.

    "Right Livelihood" is one of the requirements of the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path. It is clear, therefore, that there must be such a thing as Buddhist economics. Buddhist countries have often stated that they wish to remain faithful to their heritage. So Burma: “The New Burma sees no conflict between religious values and economic progress. Spiritual health and material well-being are not enemies: they are natural allies.” Or: “We can blend successfully the religious and spiritual values of our heritage with the benefits of modern technology.” Or: “We Burmans have a sacred duty to conform both our dreams and our acts to our faith. This we shall ever do.”  

    All the same, such countries invariably assume that they can model their economic development plans in accordance with modern economics, and th... more

     

    Culture of Contest Revisited

    Leyla Haidarian  |  22.Mar.13

    It was a rainy night in Johannesburg. There wasn't much to be done except sit in front of the telly and watch Survivor South Africa. I had lived here for several years and it had been great - don't get me wrong - but I had yet to be "bitten by the bug" as everyone kept telling me. That "African bug" that is supposed to bite you and make you never want to leave had somehow evaded me. While I was very fulfilled in the work I was doing, I felt equally capable of moving back to where public transportation actually worked, electricity was available consistently and I didn't have to have burglar bars on my windows. 


    But then it happened. I was stuffing my face with popcorn, watching two "tribes" compete for immunity on some challenge. The picture was complete: the skimpy clothes, the sweaty, emaciated participants, the creepy bugs. As the contestants of one tribe lined up to embark on their challenge, the members of th... more

     

    Flirting With Surrender or What Austerity Means To Me

    Vincent Toro  |  20.Feb.13

    First published in YogaBrains on 15 January 2013.

    Photo

    I don’t have a name for what I give away.
    Whatever Shams gave, that you can have from me.
    —Rumi 


    Plumbing. I draw the line at plumbing.

    I am readi... more

     

    After Darwin

    Elisabet Sahtouris  |  24.Jan.13

    Dr. Elisabet Sahtouris talks to Big Picture about reuniting spirituality with science in order to form a new world view.

    Part One:
    Humanity in crisis, sustainability, learning from living systems

    You may wonder what an evolution biologist is doing on a “World Commission for Global Consciousness and Spirituality” and that certainly is an interesting question. Because I wouldn't have guessed myself that I would be doing this kind of work. But trained as a Western scientist I came to feel that the world view I was taught was too narrow, like a suit one had outgrown, and was searching for the broader context for what a Western science would be. I've been working on that now for quite a few decades and have come to the view that consciousness is not a late emergent product of a material evolution but the exact opposite, the source of all material evolution.... more

     

    Who Will Collect the Garbage?

    Charles Eisenstein  |  11.Jan.13

    I had a conversation today about the beautiful world that I believe will be born out of the converging crises of our age. One characteristic of this world will be that each person will have recovered a very basic, simple birthright: to wake up in the morning excited and happy about your work for the day. We will be in love with what we do; in other words, we will all be artists.

    Everybody has probably experienced this feeling at one time or another, the feeling of being passionately involved in a creative project. That passion is the sign of what might be called authentic work, true work, or soul work. The human spirit rebels at doing anything we don't truly care about. The rebellion is closest to the surface in the young: hence, the sullen, resentful, rebellious, angry teenager. As we get older and the spirit crumbles, we come to accept that life is "just like that." Working in drudgery for external rewards so that you can live your real life during your "... more

     

    Humanity’s Second Spiritual Age

    Duane Elgin  |  15.Dec.12

    The phrase "axial age" has been used to describe the relatively brief period of time -- roughly 700 years -- when the great religions of the world arose: Hinduism and Buddhism in India; Confucianism and Taoism in China; and monotheism in the Middle East. The period from roughly 900 BC to 200 BC is referred to as an "axial age" because it set the orientation or direction for spirituality for more than two thousand years into the future.
    ALL_RELIGIONS more

     

    Garden of Simplicity

    Duane Elgin  |  31.Aug.12
    To portray the richness of simplicity as a theme for healthy living, here are eight different flowerings that I see growing consciously in the "garden of simplicity." Although there is overlap among them, each expression of simplicity seems sufficiently distinct to warrant a separate category. These are presented in no particular order, as all are important.

    1. Uncluttered Simplicity. Simplicity means taking charge of lives that are too busy, too stressed and too fragmented. Simplicity means cutting back on clutter, complications and trivial distractions, both material and non-material, and focusing on the essentials -- whatever those may be for each of our unique lives. As Thoreau said, "Our life is frittered away by detail ... Simplify, simplify." Or, as Plato wrote, "In order to seek one's own direction, one must simplify the mechanics of ordinary, everyday life."

    2. Ecological Simplicity. Simp... more
     

    Our Living Universe

    Duane Elgin  |  31.Aug.12

    There was something formless and perfect before the universe was born. It is serene. Empty. Solitary. Unchanging. Infinite. Eternally present. It is the mother of the universe.
        -- Tao Te Ching

    I believe that the most far-reaching trend of our times is an emerging shift in our shared view of the universe--from thinking of it as dead to experiencing it as alive. In regarding the universe as alive and ourselves as continuously sustained with that aliveness, we see that we are intimately related to everything that exists. This insight--that we are cousins to everything that exists in a living, continuously regenerated universe--represents a new way of looking at and relating to the world and overcomes the profound separation that has marked our lives. From the combined wisdom of science and spirituality is emerging an understanding that could provide the perceptual foundation for the diverse people of the world to come tog... more

     

    Soul Families

    Charles Eisenstein  |  15.Jun.12

    A main theme of The Ascent of Humanity is an Age of Reunion that is to follow the Age of Separation whose end we are witnessing today. In this transition, the converging crises of the planet are the birth pangs. Like a newborn coming to the breast, our species will experience a Reunion with each other and with Nature, yet at a new level of consciousness. We will recover the harmony and authenticity of the hunter-gatherer era—the womb of our species—at a higher level of organization and awareness.

    Part of this organic transition is the emergence of new modes of human relationship. The Age of Separation progressively dismantled the ties of tribe and village, clan and kin, replacing them with the distant, anonymous relationships of a money-based machine economy. Hence, the loneliness and alienation of consumerist society. ... more

     

    Sacred Economics

    Charles Eisenstein  |  27.Mar.12
    Sacred Economics
    The purpose of this book is to make
    money and human economy as sacred as everything else in the universe.

    Today we associate money with the profane, and for good reason. If anything is sacred in this world, it is surely not money. Money seems to be the enemy of our better instincts, as is clear every time the thought "I can't afford to" blocks an impulse toward kindness or generosity. Mone... more

     

    The Real Challenge of Our Times:
The Need for a New Worldview

    Anne Baring  |  25.Jan.12

    Neither do men put new wine into old bottles; else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles and both are preserved. Matt. 9:17

    To reclaim the sacred nature of the cosmos – and of planet Earth in particular – is one of the outstanding spiritual challenges of our time. Diarmuid O’Murchu, Quantum Theology

    The Real Challenge of Our Times_1Image Courtesy: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center & Naval Surface Forces


    The threat of global warming, the urgent need to free ourselves from d... more

     

    Discovering the Living Universe: Scientific Spirituality for a Global Family

    Elisabet Sahtouris  |  08.Dec.11

    The ancient Greek word for science was philosophy -- philos sophias, lover of wisdom. This name was intended to set science on a course of searching for wisdom, for practical guidance in human affairs through understanding the natural order of the cosmos to which we belong. It was exactly this search that drew me to study science and continues to motivate me, though it was a long time before I found any other scientists who shared it, most of them having accepted the belief that science should be neutral -- free of values and social intent -- or that the ever new technologies spawned by science are all humanity needs to solve its problems and continue its "progress."

    ... more
     

    Toward Fellowship of the Earth

    Nozomi Hayase  |  10.Nov.11

    "Every nation must now develop on overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies. This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one's tribe, class, and nation in reality is a call for an all embracing and unconditional love for all mankind"

    - M.L. King (as cited in Guardian News and Media Limited, 2010).

    In these words from the speech, "Beyond Vietnam" Martin Luther King, Jr. called for worldwide fellowship. The problems that mankind faces today - illegal wars, climate change and worldwide financial failure - urge us toward the birth of a larger consciousness that goes beyond the narrow constraints of the nation-state. The protest against the WTO in 1999, known as the Battle of Seattle, was an iconic moment in US history. It was a clash of two forces, one... more

     

    Awakening the Energies of Love

    Anne Hillman  |  13.Oct.11

    At a national professional conference thirty years ago, I stood before a hand-painted poster that so captivated me, I wanted it the way a child wants a treasure found at the beach. Since then, that sheet of newsprint has hung where I see it every day. The paint is faded and the paper worn, but Teilhard de Chardin’s message is timeless:

    When man discovers Love,
    He will have discovered Fire for the Second Time.

    AwakeningImage Courtesy: Stef Lewandowski (above left), Oksana (above right)

    I didn’t kn... more

     

    Two Suitors: A Parable

    Richard Tarnas  |  15.Sep.11

     

    Imagine, for a moment, that you are the universe. But for the purposes of this thought experiment, let us imagine that you are not the disenchanted mechanistic universe of conventional modern cosmology, but rather a deep-souled, subtly mysterious cosmos of great spiritual beauty and creative intelligence. And imagine that you are being approached by two different epistemologies—two suitors, as it were, who seek to know you. To whom would you open your deepest secrets? To which approach would you be most likely to reveal your authentic nature? Would you open most deeply to the suitor—the epistemology, the way of knowing—who approached you as though you were essentially lacking in intelligence or purpose, as though you had no interior dimension to speak of, no spiritual capacity or value; who thus saw you as fundamentally inferior to himself (let us give the two suitors, not entirely arbitrarily, the traditional masculine gender); who related to you as though your exis... more

     

    Humanity Grows Up

    Charles Eisenstein  |  18.Aug.11

     

    “We have taken a monstrously wrong turn with symbolic culture and division of labor, from a place of enchantment, understanding and wholeness to the absence we find at the heart of the doctrine of progress. Empty and emptying, the logic of domestication with its demand to control everything now shows us the ruin of the civilization that ruins the rest. Assuming the inferiority of nature enables the domination of cultural systems that soon will make the very earth uninhabitable.”
    – John Zerzan

    I have drawn great inspiration from writers like Marshal Sahlins, Derrick Jensen, and John Zerzan, but their work is just a starting point. They offer a salutary antidote to conventional assumptions of progress that I ironically term “the ascent of humanity", but let’s be clear: a return to a hunter-gatherer way of life is tantamout to a death sentence for 99.9% of the human race, given the low carrying capacity of the planet for foraging. I accept their ... more

     

    Spiritual Dimensions of Sustainable Development

    Arthur Dahl  |  21.Jul.11

    When we think of development, we usually think first of economic development to meet material needs, measured perhaps through growth in the Gross National Product (GNP). Yet is that all that there is to development? Does economics measure everything? It is clear that development must include not only material progress, but social and cultural dimensions as well. For instance, a developed society must have an effective legal system built up through years of parliamentary action and judicial interpretation, yet this is never considered by economists as a capital asset and included in national accounts, despite a very high human investment and replacement cost. Because development has such social dimensions, each society must define development in its own terms to reflect its underlying culture, values and goals.

    ... more

     

    Poem : Green Unplugged

    Culture Unplugged  |  16.Jun.11
    GU_2011_Img2

     

     

    human vision of ‘Green’,
    toned through time, traditions, trends, tempests.
    unplugging the hue today,
    how do you see?

    *
    at the infinite, ground of being, do you feel Green to be,
    supra consciousness, eternally in motion
    fomenting, fertilizing, flourishing, in harmony,
    in atomic~cosmic world?

    ...
    ... more
     

    Character Assassination of Julian Assange

    Nozomi Hayase  |  13.May.11

    The actions of WikiLeaks sparked a worldwide media barrage and has changed the face of journalism. Julian Assange, the leader of this organization quickly rose to prominence, initially because of the unprecedented public attention from the WikiLeaks revelations. Then sex scandals and smear campaigns, along with threats from the Pentagon threw him further into the eye of the typhoon of public attention. Rhetoric from some US right wing politicians and pundits escalated to calling for his murder. Many eyes have been glued to the news feed reporting on the progress of his extradition to Sweden, all the while the leaks have continued unabated.

    Assassination is the intentional killing of a prominent person for political purposes. The death of John F. Kennedy shocked the world with newspapers and the TV broadcasting his tragic end. Soon after Dr. Martin King delivered a speech speaking out against the Vietnam War at New York’s Riverside Church, his voice was also shut down by ... more

     

    Love & longing: The feminine mysteries of love


    Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee  |  15.Apr.11

    The pain of love became the medicine for every heart,
The difficulty could never be solved without love.
    — 'ATTAR


    Love is the most powerful force in the universe, and for centuries mystics have understood the transformative potential of divine love. Love draws us back to love, love uncovers love, love makes us whole and love takes us Home. In the depths of the soul we are loved by God. This is the deepest secret of being human, the bond of love that is at the core of our being. And yet we have forgotten this essential nature of our being; we are hidden from our own deepest love. The mystical path is an uncovering of this love, an awakening to our own capacity to love and be loved.

    Like everything that is created, love has a dual nature, positive and negative, masculine and feminine. The masculine side of love is "I love you." Love's feminine quality is "I am waiting for you; I am longing for you." For the mystic it is... more

     

    Women Working With Oneness: Turning Our Attention to Embrace All of Life

    Anne Scott  |  31.Mar.11

    O women, there is a way that we can help life so much now. It is not as you expect. It is not about your doing, although we each need to do the work we are here to do. This is about being – a state of being that is your power, and many of us have forgotten that we even have it. Your forgetting can bring despair. Please, sit a moment. Breathe. Allow. Your soul is a power, an empty space within that connects you to all life. We need only find and recognize this vibrant, healing stream that flows through us from head to toe; it is our recognition that allows it to flow out into life.

    When we come together without judgment, creating a sacred space for this place in each of us, love pours through our differences and creates new pathways between us. It is the Real coming into life. We are the vehicles for this awakening because it takes place in our own lives. This is a beauty that has nothing to do with our problems. It just is. And within it are the qualities of ... more

     

    Waiting for the Dawn

    Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee  |  17.Feb.11

    Whatever names we use to describe our hope for the future, for real change in our world, we are together waiting for a dawn, for a new light. But we have been standing on the edge of this dawn for so long now, our souls dreaming of its coming, that when the dawn does finally come, will we notice it? There is a danger that our eyes have become so accustomed to the present darkness, to its attractions and distortions, that the dawn could easily pass us by. That our patterns of avoidance are so entrenched, our pursuit of self centered pleasures or problems so pervasive, that we will not be able to see something as simple as sunlight?  Or we will see something, but because our attention has been for so long in the half light and shadows we will pass it over, presuming it is just another mirage, another false dawn.

    ... more

     

    A World-Creating Matrix of Truth

    Charles Eisenstein  |  17.Jan.11

    God said, "Let there be light!" And there was light. -- Genesis 1:1
     
    It was an old story that was no longer true. Truth can go out of stories you know. What was true  becomes meaningless, even a lie, because the truth has gone into another story. The water of the spring rises in another place. -- Ursula K. LeGuin

    The purpose of this essay is to illuminate how we might restore the sacred, world-creating Power of Word.

    Powerful words - those that affect physical reality beyond the capacity of one set of hands - are those that create a story that enrolls other people. By a story, I mean a system of meaning that focuses human intention and assigns roles to those involved in that story. Here are some examples of stories: America, France, money, the government, property, marriage, the War on Drugs, the War on Terror, Citibank. That these things are stories becomes clear when people stop believing them. When people lose confidenc... more

     

    The Act of Kindness

    Debbie Ouellet  |  14.Dec.10

    What this world needs is a new kind of army – the army of the kind.  – Cleveland Amory, author


    Search the headlines in the dawn of this new decade and you’ll find countless examples of everything that’s wrong in the world today. The ongoing conflict in Afghanistan. Genocide in Dafur. A deadly earthquake in Haiti. Recently, a friend commented, “The whole world’s gone to hell and there’s nothing we can do about it.” The acceptance in that comment troubled me. It’s not the first time I’ve heard the sentiment voiced.

    Is there nothing we can do about it? The question stayed with me for some time. Let’s face it: the problems plastered all over the evening news are so big that whole governments can’t seem to find a way to correct them. What hope does a solitary person have in making a change for the better?

    Like other Truth seekers, I decided to go looking for an answer - and found its... more

     

    The Nonviolent King

    Annie Brown  |  02.Dec.10

    “Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time.”
    -Martin Luther King Jr., Nobel Prize acceptance speech, 1964

    Martin Luther King is most remembered best for his leadership in the civil rights movement and as a voice for improved race relations in the United States. However, King’s words and actions were not just about race. King’s life was dedicated to god, morality and equality. A Christian preacher, and believer of non-violence, King advocated the use of love to bring about peace and justice for all people. He states,

    “I came to see at a very early stage [in the Civil Rights Movement] that a synthesis of Gandhi's method of nonviolence and the Christian ethic of love is the best weapon for this struggle for freedom and human dignity.”

    ... more

     

    Irom And The Iron In India’s Soul

    Shoma Chaudhury/ Tehelka  |  04.Nov.10

    Sometimes, to accentuate the intransigence of the present, one must revisit the past. So first, a flashback.

    The year is 2006. An ordinary November evening in Delhi. A slow, halting voice breaks into your consciousness. “How shall I explain? It is not a punishment, but my bounden duty…” A haunting phrase in a haunting voice, made slow with pain yet magnetic in its moral force. “My bounden duty.” What could be “bounden duty” in an India bursting with the excitements of its economic boom?

    You are tempted to walk away. You are busy and the voice is not violent in its beckoning. But then an image starts to take shape. A frail, fair woman on a hospital bed. A tousled head of jet black curls. A plastic tube thrust into the nose. Slim, clean hands. Intent, almond eyes. And the halting, haunting voice. Speaking of bounden duty.

    That’s when the enormous story of Irom Sharmila first begins to seep in. You are in the presence of someon... more

     

    Prospective/ Retrospective

    Jeremy Sorgen  |  28.Oct.10

    Printed on the shower curtain in my bathroom is a map of the world. The lines are drawn with a loose hand and the countries are playfully colored. Greenland’s green, Uganda’s peach, its neighbor Tanzania is pink, and the great swath of Russia is a dreamy blue—adding some cheer to the otherwise destitute tiled walls. My bathroom, with its leaky faucet and the closest thing to counter-space the top of the toilet bowl tank, is not the most charming feature of the small Fort Greene apartment, my home of four years.

    But so long as I’ve lived in New York, my home has never been more than a place to sleep at night, and I am aware that many people put up with worse.  For beyond the secluded hull of every apartment lies the magnificent cosmos of the city, the broad barreling avenues, the perennial clamor, the daily business with its unremitting bustle. It becomes difficult to see how anything could really be happening anywhere else, and if it is, certainly not so with such s... more

     

    12 Angry Men: Justice by A Minority

    Priyanka Borpujari  |  04.Sep.10
    Put 12 men in a room, give them a situation with limited facts, and tell them to draw a consensus on their verdict. Chances are they will revert within few minutes with a unanimous reply. However, compel them to sit through the details, and at least one person is bound to differ in his view. Now, if the task is to deliver a unanimous result, how tough or easy would it be for the thinking dozen to change their rationale arguments and concede with the single dissenter?

    The film '12 Angry Men' is the perfect example of the triumph of the minority. As writer-philosopher Will Durant who had said, “Truth always originates in a minority of one, and every custom begins as a broken precedent”, the film explains how 11 men change their sides to an argument. Each has his own way of thinking – clothed with past experiences, observations, theoretical knowledge, assumptions, ignorance, cowardice, ego, personal prejudice, the preference for status quo and laziness. The premise of t... more
     

    WikiLeaks, Open Source of Truth in the Global Matrix

    Nozomi Hayase  |  12.Aug.10
    Like many others, when I was young I looked up to larger than life heroes depicted in animation and films. The world of these super-heroes was made up of both the villains and those that take on evil forces of greed and power to fight for ordinary people. I remember a close friend in college once said "I wish I was independently wealthy, so that I wouldn't have to worry about making money and could become a superman to help humanity." His voice occasionally arises in me when I face the many injustices and social problems in the world.

    The release of an explosive 2007 video by a shadowy organization called WikiLeaks titled 'Collateral Murder' recently shook the world. Opening with a quote from Orwell’s 1984, it depicted from the point of view of Americans in an Apache helicopter the gunning down of Iraqi civilians in a Baghdad street. The news of this WikiLeaks group  taking on powerful government secrecy and corruption of power somehow reminded m... more
     

    Lists and Limits

    Erica Shindler Briggs  |  29.Jul.10
    Bow when meeting someone (even if you’ve met them already.) When giving something to someone (money, papers, a business card,) do so with both hands. When offering something (carrying bags, giving up your seat,) don’t take no for an answer; offer at least once more and if the offer is still refused, then relent, though asking again later is recommended. Take shoes off before entering a home and some public spaces. Don’t blow your nose at the table.  

    Before moving to Korea, I bought the books that guided me through the cultural do’s and don’ts. I don’t like making mistakes, at least not in public, and certainly not those that cause offense. I read up on everything - social hierarchy, professional etiquette, table manners. I noted what products and services were readily available and what I would have to learn to live without. I made a list of “Must-Bring” items: vitamin and mineral powder with lots of zinc, salmon jerky, plus size clothing. Upon arrival, however, I qui... more
     

    The Spiritual Inheritance of Teenagers

    Analisa Lee  |  16.Jul.10
    Sometimes when I’m doing psychotherapy with urban homeless teens, I think of the world’s great rivers. In particular, I think of how, in a world of myriad natural forms, it is the fractals in nature that give us an ample chance to see the whole, simply by looking at what’s right in front of us. Imagine the Colorado River, for example, and how the water’s eddies and circular back-flows have carved little mesas in the rock and clay along the shore. You could hold some of these mesa forms in the palm of your hand. And yet, they are tiny replicas of the huge massive stones that fill the desert landscape: structures that have been carved by eons of water and wind, and are so huge that it could take an hour or more to walk across  one. So when I find the hungry ache of a homeless teen’s heart and soul sitting across from me, I know I also have before me a poignant fractal of the West’s aching condition.

    What do these teens hunger for? They have no stable homes, no village to... more
     

    Otaku: A Silent Cultural Revolution

    Nozomi Hayase  |  01.Jul.10
    If a tourist walks down the street in Tokyo, moving from the office district into the Harajuku or youth district, in a moment they are transported into a sort of surreal scenery that stands in stark contrast to the grey formal face of Japanese corporate culture. A kind of virtual reality blends into the scenery as anime characters and role-playing games find their way into the public space. Especially popular is a costume play known as Cosplay (Kosupure in Japanese) being taken up by Japanese youth. It is a kind of performance or fashion art with elaborate costumes where participants act out dramas, dance and move in ways that express their favorite animation characters. For Americans to get a sense of this social trend, it might help to imagine this as a kind of weekly Japanese version of Halloween. People who share this fad gather together to create a stage in public places, primarily expressed through their costumes. Sometimes they just hang out or even create a kind of fla... more
     

    The Soul of Touch

    Analisa Lee  |  12.Jun.10
    One day last January, at a center for developmentally disabled kids in Ubud, Bali, an Australian volunteer told me that in her country, she’s not allowed to touch the disabled children she teaches. This came up in our conversation because I, also a volunteer, had been sitting very close to a Balinese girl who was scared out of her mind, and I had been stroking the girl’s arm to comfort and soothe her. The girl had barely been out of her family’s housing compound for most of her thirteen years, and the new world before her was understandably overwhelming; she physically clung to anyone who seemed nice enough. Because the child wasn’t verbal, and seemed to communicate mostly through tactile expression, I was using touch to communicate to her that she was safe. Since I was training to become a counselor in the United States, and had not worked much with children, I found the Australian teacher’s comment to be rather shocking.  How could one not touch such an obviously touch-hungry c... more
     

    Some Reflections on ‘Selfishness’

    Romit Chowdhury  |  17.May.10
    After a speedy one–week vacation at home in February last year, I found myself on a train bound towards Bombay, where I was studying for a master’s degree in Media and Cultural Studies. My parents had come to the station to see me off. The time being close to departure, I secured my luggage in the compartment and looked through the tinted window to see if I could locate my parents. I didn’t have to look far as they were standing right in front of my compartment. The train started. And I saw my parents wave goodbye. At an image of me in their heads, because they couldn’t see me through the tinted glass. They looked very helpless then, bidding farewell to their son who had already been claimed by distance. The sight pained me deeply.

    Even before I could make peace with this sentiment, a garrulous co-passenger (a gentleman probably in his late sixties) initiated a boringly familiar conversation – what do I do; where am I from, where and what have I studied? I churned out the re... more
     

    Culture of Contest Revisited

    Leyla Haidarian  |  22.Apr.10
    It was a rainy night in Johannesburg. There wasn't much to be done except sit in front of the telly and watch Survivor South Africa. I had lived here for several years and it had been great - don't get me wrong - but I had yet to be "bitten by the bug" as everyone kept telling me. That "African bug" that is supposed to bite you and make you never want to leave had somehow evaded me. While I was very fulfilled in the work I was doing, I felt equally capable of moving back to where public transportation actually worked, electricity was available consistently and I didn't have to have burglar bars on my windows.

    But then it happened. I was stuffing my face with pop-corn, watching two "tribes" compete for immunity on some challenge. The picture was complete: the skimpy clothes, the sweaty, emaciated participants, the creepy bugs. As the contestants of one tribe lined up to embark on their challenge, the members of the opposing tribe made themselves comfortable and sat down to watch... more
     

    Heart of Africa

    Eliana Velez  |  25.Mar.10
    Yesterday was the first day in two weeks I saw the actual color of my feet; they are now clean. My blistered hands are healing, and my sun burnt skin is no longer peeling. I guess I would say that physically I feel fine. With these aftermath conditions I could have just spent two weeks anywhere, but I didn’t. I spent two weeks in the heart of Africa, Malawi, and on the forgotten dirt roads of Zambia. To explain it best: I feel emotionally raped.

    In retrospect …

    We (students at Franklin College) are in general people of westernized countries, and are accustomed to the luxuries of life. And by luxuries I simply mean the daily shower, the freshly pressed bed, and the choice of 3 meals a day. Prior to arriving in Malawi, we had decided that one of our goals would be to connect and to attempt to be equal with the local people. This goal was inspired by our month-long course on imperialism, development and globalization. But oh, how quick we forgot about all of our goa... more
     

    Slaves in the UAE

    C. M. Reinhardt  |  11.Mar.10
    “When two people meet, something good should result for a third.”
    -The Lubavitcher Rebbe, quoting his father-in-law Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn

    Work takes me many places, most recently to the United Arab Emirates, a small country on the Arabian Peninsula tucked just down the road from the intersection of oil and war. With the country's new wealth, most nationals enjoy the luxuries of the standard five and six-bedroom sprawling walled-off villas attended by a staff of help including a driver, nanny and housekeepers. These compounds become buzzing, isolated hubs for independently operating families, leaving little reason to reach out to foreigners, except to employ them. Our company-provided villa was no exception. We were surprised with en suite rooms and two full-time house attendants caring for the oversized mass of marble, stucco and ever-present sand. With two staff for four expatriates, it became clearer why it is esti... more
     

    Masters of War

    Annie Brown  |  11.Feb.10
    I listen to Bob Dylan at least once a day. When I play Dylan’s records I can’t help but brood over the realities of our time and how these factors make peace a difficult dream to achieve. In 2009, does Dylan’s voice still speak to a movement for peace? I hope so, but I cannot be sure. I believe in peace, and always will, but the possible inevitability of warfare haunts my thoughts. The following is a sampling of the inner-struggle that goes on in my mind and country everyday…

    Peace:
    Come you masters of war
    You that build the big guns
    You that build the death planes
    You that build all the bombs
    You that hide behind walls
    You that hide behind desks
    I just don't want you to know
    I can see through your masks

    You that never done nothin'
    But build to destroy
    You play with my world
    Like it's your little toy
    You put a gun in my hand
    And you hide from my eyes
    And you turn and run farther
    When the fast bullets fly <... more
     

    Oh! No Canada! The Cultural Identity Crisis

    Debbie Ouellet  |  31.Dec.09

    Why have we as a people been able to continue to exist? Because we know where we come from. By having roots, you can see the direction in which you want to go. 
— Joenia Wapixana, attorney, Roraima Indigenous Council, Brazil, quoted in the NY Times


    As a taxpayer, writer and parent with a daughter in the Ontario Public School system, the state of the educational system as it relates to literature and the arts has always been a concern for me. I’m also a proud Canadian, aware of the privileges we enjoy through our constitutional freedoms and the vast diversity of our population.

    But as our schools teach our children what they need to become contributing members of our society, how much of that information relates to the rich roots in history and the arts that is their homeland? Nothing captures a culture’s essence better than its poets, writers, musicia... more

     

    Holding On and Crossing Over: The Rituals that Define Us

    Debbie Ouellet  |  16.Dec.09

    Return to watering holes for more than water—friends and dreams are there to meet you. -African Proverb

    As a writer and poet, it's my job to notice things. Bear witness, as best I can, to those defining moments, large or small, that resonate and overlap the boundaries of age, gender and culture. These moments are what define us. By paying tribute to them, we honour the very essence of our humanity.

    In North America, the months of December and January are pivotal times. Ends and beginnings.  Reunions and separations. Remembering and moving on. They are rich in the rituals of family: reunion, storytelling, reaffirmation, returning to your roots. They are times of crossing over: sorting through the tangled strings of our lives, making c... more

     

    Woman’s Right to Choice

    Debbie Ouellet  |  03.Dec.09

    The world has never yet seen a truly great and virtuous nation because in the degradation of woman the very fountains of life are poisoned at their source.  ~ Lucretia Mott

    An article in the Toronto Star on October 25th told of a young Toronto Muslim woman, Maryam Rana, who chooses to wear a niqab—a black veil used to cover the face and hair when traveling in public places. Her choice, and that of many immigrant Canadian women like her, has sparked much debate in the human rights and feminist circles about the oppression of women. They argue that the wearing of these coverings is symbolic of the rights denied to women who are forced to cover themselves and bow to male-dominated laws in many parts of the world today.

    What these groups fail to recognize is that the wearing of the niqab by Rana represents a pinnacle expression of the exact opposite—freedom for women—a hard-won right earned over the past century in North America. Human rights; freedom of expre... more

     

    A Ca(u)se de Paix / A Case for Peace

    Nidhi Zakaria  |  19.Nov.09

    In 1946, with the scarring, shameful memory of the fate of two Japanese cities forever seared onto world conscience, Bernard Baruch, representing the United States at a meeting of the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission, proposed to the world a mechanism to assure that atomic energy would only be used for peaceful purposes and to preclude its use in war. The Baruch plan, as it was known, called for international, multilateral control over nuclear fuel cycles and facilities; the disarmament and elimination of existing nuclear weapons; and the renunciation of the acquisition of nuclear weapons for the future. The consequences of violating this agreement—it was assured—would be swift and sure, and no veto power of the U.N. Security Council could stand in the way.

    What we signed instead, ‘the global a... more

     

    Red Fridays - Lest We Forget

    Debbie Ouellet  |  05.Nov.09

    “If ye break faith with us who die
    
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
    
In Flanders fields.”

    In Flanders Fields— Lt.-Col. John McCrae (1872 - 1918)

    In Canada, November 11th is the day set aside each year to remember the sacrifices made by the veterans of war. Right or wrong, whether or not you buy into the politics behind the conflicts, the sacrifices made by the countless young men (and now women) on the front lines in order to uphold our personal freedoms must never be forgotten.

    There is a growing movement in Canada to recognize and s... more

     

    The Language of Less

    Debbie Ouellet  |  29.Oct.09

    "The impulse to enter, with other humans, through language, into the order and disorder of the world,
    is poetic at its root as surely as it is political at its root"
    - POET Adrienne Rich In "What Is Found There"

    Throughout history, poets and the language they employ in their metrical conversations with the world have reflected the mood and pulse of their culture. How could they not? Language itself is the first element of culture that defines a people.

    Ezra Pound once said, “Poets are the antennae of the race.” Recently, in the wake of the economic upheaval that has rocked North America, I’ve seen a subtle shift in poetry posted on on-line boards. Though these, admittedly, are not always the best example of the highest caliber of poetry of... more

     

    What Black Is, Really

    Erica Shindler Briggs  |  22.Oct.09
    “Excuse me, but um…what are you?......No, I mean what are you, really?.... Yeh, but what else?”   This line of questioning is so familiar to me, I’ve started a collection: “Give me a dollar and I’ll tell you.”  I figure the frequency of the inquiry should give me enough money to set free every black man in jail or kill U.S. poverty, whichever shame is greater. If I must explain my existence to such bold interrogations before I am even asked my name, by complete strangers, I believe I should at least be paid for my time and the indignity of having to justify why I claim my identity. ... more
     

    How Things Came To Be This Way

    Danielle Tyree  |  08.Oct.09

    Despite the system of categorization developed by people, we are all very alike. Someone untouched by cultural conditioning, observing our political boundary lines, language differences, and gender distinction would become muddled ascertaining why the various skin tones and physical features play such a role in our divisions. Though many of us try to overcome these categorical differences, it is the mind's natural cognitive operation that needs these categories to determine a lime from a lemon, a knife from a letter opener. The distinctions in themselves are not the problem, but their assumed hierarchy as culture defines them; furthermore, our actions based on this hierarchy. We must examine the definitions that seem inherent to the words in order to redraw the lines as our sense of justice de... more

     

    Dogma : Obstruction to Intercultural Peace

    Danielle Tyree  |  10.Sep.09

    “Are you saved?” Growing up in the American southeast, colloquially “The Bible Belt," I’ve often had this question posed to me by non-family and family members alike. After much thought on the subject, having been raised in a family of devout Protestant Christians, I find this question is loaded with presuppositions regarding the nature of religion. That being said, I’ve asked it to others before in the innocent, blind faith of my childhood following in the footsteps of my elders, but now my conclusions lead me to other questions with religious and cultural paradigms at their center. ... more