Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Via Pixdaus via Kos.

Gratitude

Three years makes a tradition, right? The perpetual crisis, it seems. Here again are some excerpts from an article by Joanna Macy called "Gratitude," published in Shambhala Sun magazine:

"We have received an inestimable gift. To be alive in this beautiful, self-organizing universe--to participate in the dance of life with senses to perceive it, lungs that breathe it, organs that draw nourishment from it--it is a wonder beyond words. It is an extraordinary privilege to be accorded a human life, with self-reflexive consciousness that brings awareness of our own actions and the ability to make choices. It lets us choose to take part in the healing of our world."

"Gratitude for the gift of life is the primary wellspring of all religions, the hallmark of the mystic, the source of all true art. Yet we so easily take this gift for granted. That is why so many spiritual traditions begin with thanksgiving, to remind us that for all our woes and worries, our existence itself is an unearned benefaction, which we could never of ourselves create."

"That our world is in crisis--to the point where survival of conscious life on Earth is in question---in no way diminishes the value of this gift; on the contrary. To us is granted the privilege of being on hand: to take part, if we choose, in the Great Turning to a just and sustainable society. We can let life work through us, enlisting all our strength, wisdom and courage, so that life itself can continue."

"The great open secret of gratitude is that it is not dependent on external circumstance. It's like a setting or a channel that we can switch to at any moment, no matter what's going on around us. It helps us connect to our basic right to be here, like the breath does. It's a stance of the soul...."

"There are hard things to face in our world today, if we want to be of use. Gratitude, when it is real, offers no blinders. On the contrary, in the face of devastation and tragedy, it can ground us, especially when we're scared. It can hold us steady for the work to be done."

And this year we can at least add this, from a Thanksgiving eve email from President Obama: "So when we gather tomorrow, let us also use the occasion to renew our commitment to building a more peaceful and prosperous future that every American family can enjoy."

But even though this is a U.S. holiday today, let's not limit that committment to American families.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sky Show


I don't have a camera capable of taking shots like this, but the top photo approximates what I saw at dusk on Monday:the crescent moon with the planet Jupiter just below it, as the evening star. Skygazers with telescopes will be watching Jupiter's moons this week. It was about a year ago that the November lst quarter moon was joined by both Jupiter and Venus, commemorated in the lower photo. I did spend an hour or so watching the sky last week during the Leonid meteor shower. Mostly what I saw were sinuous clouds moving around the sky, though there were large, ever-shifting swatches where stars were visible, and I did actually see three shooting stars. I've still to see a real shower--the kind with one meteor per second.

The Healthcare Tragedy

The Senate is now debating and amending their healthcare reform bill. It took an enormous political effort and the least possible number of votes just to allow it to be debated, as if it's unworthy of the Senate's time. I don't pretend to know if it will pass, or what will be in any version that does pass, or what if anything will get into law. But whatever the outcome, I have to regard it all as a tragedy.

Tragic partly because the best that's even being proposed only makes the U.S. healthcare system less unjust and less wasteful, and less tragic, while probably further enriching the same people who have created a vastly unjust and inhuman self-serving system exploiting the very lives of vulnerable people for some very literal blood money.

But also tragic for what it has revealed about the civic life of America. Opponents of reform have used outright lies with so little basis in fact that no kindergarten child would get away with anything like them. Yet these transparently false and truly vicious statements get repeated as legitimate assertions, and they become believed.

The suffering of ordinary people is being ignored, and now in perhaps the most shocking moment of all, laughed at and scorned, by other supposedly ordinary people. People who are themselves at risk of losing their savings, their homes, their health and even their lives if they dare to get sick or injured in a way that insurance companies can use to deny them the care they need. People whose hysteria and mob viciousness is being fed by people who probably will never have to face any of this, because they are rich enough to afford the best care. Yet even some of them are likely to suffer from this current system.

Though it is not the only such incident, this moment in Illinois-- where vicious "tea party" people who probably call themselves righteous Christians verbally abused a woman whose daughter-in-law died because she didn't have health insurance--should itself be enough to blow away this fog of insanity that passes as a health care debate. But somehow I won't be surprised if that doesn't happen.

Health care as a right is something the rest of the civilized world has recognized, but here it can't even be politically suggested. It died with Teddy Kennedy.

Yes, I know the monied interests are fueling this. And I recognize the ability through history of a few rich white people to convince the many poor white people that their interests are the same (although I can't think of any reason why it works other than racism and xenophobia), but how much more generally tragic can it be that in the 21st century, the wealthiest nation ever to exist on the planet cannot even recognize the need to reform this destructive system and at least try to deal with the widespread suffering it causes, especially when it can easily do something that will be to its economic benefit and in its own national interest.

Well, there's the intense denial of the Climate Crisis, ultimately a bigger tragedy. But right at this historic moment, there doesn't seem a deeper one for this country than healthcare reform. It tests our soul, as well as the ability of our discourse to deal with increasingly complex and threatening problems.

For all I know a healthcare reform law will emerge that will save lives, prevent so much injustice, and begin to tame the power of rapacious corporate interests and their cannibalism called healthcare insurance. And perhaps the nation will look back on this debate with shame and disbelief, and history will record this debate as a tragedy as well as a travesty.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible."
Maya Angelou. Illus: The Salmon People, blanket by Susan Point at Spiritwrester Gallery, Vancouver. In honor of salmon season on the North Coast.