Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Signs of Change: U.N. Urges Vegan Diet, and Britain's First Poo Bus


I was quite depressed at that last election, thinking "I'm living just before the Deluge".  But one morning I woke up with the thought, imprinted by helpful guides no doubt:  "Concentrate on the Ark Builders".  And I've been doing that ever since, discovering, all over the place, good news and innovations.  I know I stray from thinking here about mythology ......... but I was delighted to see the U.N. itself urging a vegan diet.  

And how about the methane, waste and sewage driven  "Poo Bus"?  Now that is really something! A bio-bus!  Talk about renewable energy!

I wonder though, would it be, ah, unpleasant if you had to sit behind it in traffic?  Here's the article:

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/nov/20/uks-first-poo-bus-hits-the-road

 UN urges global move to meat and dairy-free diet
a cattle farm at Estancia Bahia, Mato Grosso in Brazil
Cattle ranch in Mato Grosso, Brazil. The UN says agriculture is on a par with fossil fuel consumption because both rise rapidly with increased economic growth. 
Photograph: Daniel Beltra/Greenpeace HO/Reuters
As the global population surges towards a predicted 9.1 billion people by 2050, western tastes for diets rich in meat and dairy products are unsustainable, says the report from United Nations Environment Programme's (UNEP) international panel of sustainable resource management.
It says: "Impacts from agriculture are expected to increase substantially due to population growth increasing consumption of animal products. Unlike fossil fuels, it is difficult to look for alternatives: people have to eat. A substantial reduction of impacts would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products."
Professor Edgar Hertwich, the lead author of the report, said: "Animal products cause more damage than [producing] construction minerals such as sand or cement, plastics or metals. Biomass and crops for animals are as damaging as [burning] fossil fuels."

The recommendation follows advice last year that a vegetarian diet was better for the planet from Lord Nicholas Stern, former adviser to the Labour government on the economics of climate change. Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has also urged people to observe one meat-free day a week to curb carbon emissions.
The panel of experts ranked products, resources, economic activities and transport according to their environmental impacts. Agriculture was on a par with fossil fuel consumption because both rise rapidly with increased economic growth, they said.   Ernst von Weizsaecker, an environmental scientist who co-chaired the panel, said: "Rising affluence is triggering a shift in diets towards meat and dairy products - livestock now consumes much of the world's crops and by inference a great deal of freshwater, fertilisers and pesticides."

Both energy and agriculture need to be "decoupled" from economic growth because environmental impacts rise roughly 80% with a doubling of income, the report found.  Achim Steiner, the UN under-secretary general and executive director of the UNEP, said: "Decoupling growth from environmental degradation is the number one challenge facing governments in a world of rising numbers of people, rising incomes, rising consumption demands and the persistent challenge of poverty alleviation."

The panel, which drew on numerous studies including the Millennium ecosystem assessment, cites the following pressures on the environment as priorities for governments around the world: climate change, habitat change, wasteful use of nitrogen and phosphorus in fertilisers, over-exploitation of fisheries, forests and other resources, invasive species, unsafe drinking water and sanitation, lead exposure, urban air pollution and occupational exposure to particulate matter.
Agriculture, particularly meat and dairy products, accounts for 70% of global freshwater consumption, 38% of the total land use and 19% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, says the report, which has been launched to coincide with UN World Environment day on Saturday.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Re-membering John Barley Corn


Somebody recently asked me about "John Barleycorn", and I found myself reflecting on this so ancient and ubiquitous myth ........ the wonderful  pagan agricultural God who dies and is born again, along with the return of the sun and the return of the barley and the corn and the wheat.  And like Opheus and Dionysis, he even becomes the source of ecstasy, be it beer, or wine, or music.  


John Barleycorn Must Die is a traditional English song - records of its origins go back as far as the 1300s, and it is probably much older than that.    Over time, many variations have arisen, and the Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote his own famous version of the story of John Barleycorn. In the 70's, John Renbourne, Traffic**, and Steel eye Span popularized the song, along with many folk artists. 

John Barleycorn is a very prime myth indeed  - the Great King who is sacrificed, dies and is reborn in the agricultural cycle.  The motif is found as the Sumarian Dumuzi, the Shepherd husband of the Goddess Inanna who goes into the underworld for part of the year, and returns to her in the Spring.  The same idea of the dying and reborn King is found with the Egyptian Osiris, who is reborn in the Sun God Horus.

John Barleycorn is the personification of the grain, and the life of the grain from planting to harvest, transformation into beer, and then sowing.  After Barleycorn’s first death he is buried, and laid within the ground.  In midsummer he grows a “long golden beard” and “becomes a man”.  

The song goes on to describe threshing and harvesting. Barleycorn is bailed and taken to the barn. And then the grain is parceled out. Some is taken to the miller to make flour for bread. And some is saved and brewed in a vat to make ale. And some is planted, so that the whole cycle can begin again.  It is likely that versions of John Barleycorn were sung in pre-Christian times, to accompany harvest rituals. Some of these rituals survive to this day in modified form, most famously the sacrifice of the wicker man. These rituals tell the story of the death and rebirth of the god of the grain.

  Photo with thanks to  Avalon Revisited

John Barleycorn is, in particular, also the God of Ecstasy - because he provides celebration and ecstasy as the barley becomes the source of beer and the beloved malt whiskey of the Highlands.  The malting and fermentation is also a part of his "life cycle" and divinity. Perhaps one of the most famous "ecstatic"  manifestations of the Wicker Man, his rituals of sacrifice, rebirth, and  celebration is Burning Man, the  festival that happens in Nevada every fall.  Originally associated with the burning of the Wicker Man at the Lammas Harvest Festival by neo-Pagans in the Bay Area, 
it's grown to become a fantastic festival and art event.  I'd be willing to bet however that  many
of the people who attend Burning Man don't know that it began with that in mind...........

Here's an excellent  quote I take from a Druid's Blog called "The Dance of Life" 
about the Wicker Man:

"In English folklore, the folksong representing John Barleycorn as the crop of barley corresponds to the same cyclic nature of planting, growing, harvesting, death and rebirth.  Sir James Frazer cites this tale of John Barleycorn in The Golden Bough as proof that there was a Pagan cult in England that worshiped a god of vegetation, who was then sacrificed to bring fertility to the fields.  It is tempting to see in this  echoes of human sacrifice as portrayed in The Wickerman film (1973), but that is not really what this time is about.  Whilst there was a Celtic ritual of weaving the last sheaf of corn to be harvested into a wicker-like man or woman, it was believed that the Sun 's spirit was trapped in the grain and needed to be set free by fire and so the effigy was burned........In other regions a corn dolly is made of plaited straw from this sheaf, carried to a place of honor at the celebrations and kept until the following spring for good luck."



It's interesting that in Robert Burn's poem, there are "three kings", similar to the kings from the east in the Nativity story.  Early Christians who came to the British Isles (and elsewhere) often absorbed native pagan mythologies and traditional rituals into Christian theology, and the evolution of the Story of Christ is full of such imagery in order to help the natives accept Christianity. Certainly John Barleycorn shares with the Christ Story the ancient, ubiquitous  theme of the death and rebirth of the sacrificed agricultural King. 

I am a great admirer of the wisdom traditions of Gnostic and esoteric Christianity, but I also believe it is necessary to separate the spiritual teachings of Christianity from  the mingling (and  literalization) of earlier  mythologies throughout  in the development of the Church.  For example, I believe the metaphor used to describe Jesus as the "Lamb of God" directly relates to Biblical practices prevalent in his lifetime  of sacrifice of lambs and goats to Yahwah (indeed, the sacrifice of animals was common
thoughout the Roman and Jewish world.)  The later development of  the doctrine that Christ   "died for our sins"   may have some of its origins in the important, and quite ancient,  Semitic Scapegoat Rituals,  wherein the "sins and tribulations" of the tribe were ritually placed on the back of a goat, which was then driven away from the village to literally "carry away the sins" into the desert.

Observing recently a Catholic "Communion" ritual ("This is my Body, This is my Blood") I was impressed by the many layers of mythologies and archaic cultures inherant in that ceremony, still important to so many people today.  And one of those threads may very well originate in the prime agricultural myth of  the dying and reborn God, a long tradition from which John Barleycorn arises re-born  every spring, and is finally "killed" in the fall. 

Ubiquitous indeed!  This same idea is found in variations throughout the Americas, this time with
the story of the Corn Mother (among the Cherokee, Selu) who is killed, dismembered, and reborn in 
the spring.
John Barleycorn
by Robert Burns

There was three kings into the east,
Three kings both great and high,
And they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn should die.
They took a plough and plough'd him down,
Put clods upon his head,
And they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn was dead.
 

But the cheerful Spring came kindly on,
And show'rs began to fall;
John Barleycorn got up again,
And sore surpris'd them all.
The sultry suns of Summer came,
And he grew thick and strong,
His head weel arm'd wi' pointed spears,
That no one should him wrong.
The sober Autumn enter'd mild,
When he grew wan and pale;
His bending joints and drooping head
Show'd he began to fail.
His coulour sicken'd more and more,
He faded into age;
And then his enemies began
To show their deadly rage.
They've taen a weapon, long and sharp,
And cut him by the knee;
Then ty'd him fast upon a cart,
Like a rogue for forgerie.
They laid him down upon his back,
And cudgell'd him full sore;
They hung him up before the storm,
And turn'd him o'er and o'er.
They filled up a darksome pit
With water to the brim,
They heaved in John Barleycorn,
There let him sink or swim.
They laid him out upon the floor,
To work him farther woe,
And still, as signs of life appear'd,
They toss'd him to and fro.
They wasted, o'er a scorching flame,
The marrow of his bones;
But a Miller us'd him worst of all,
For he crush'd him between two stones.
And they hae taen his very heart's blood,
And drank it round and round;
And still the more and more they drank,
Their joy did more abound.
John Barleycorn was a hero bold,
Of noble enterprise,
For if you do but taste his blood,
'Twill make your courage rise.
'Twill make a man forget his woe;
'Twill heighten all his joy:
'Twill make the widow's heart to sing,
Tho' the tear were in her eye.
Then let us toast John Barleycorn,
Each man a glass in hand;
And may his great posterity
Ne'er fail in old Scotla
nd!

** Here's a link to the song being sung in  a 1972 Concert by Traffic 

http://youtu.be/fsIdhSzyx8M


And here is wonderful Steeleye Span:

http://youtu.be/tlL9RCznuU8






Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Finger, Two Dots Then Me - poetry by Derrick Brown

 

Here's a gorgeous spoken word/film a friend sent me, and I felt like sharing it.  Reminds me, just a bit, of  Drew Dellinger.

After the election I was quite depressed for a few days, feeling that I was living just before the Deluge, and every kind of mindless, greedy, banal evil was at work to bring it on just as fast as they possibly could.  In other words, Voldemort wins.

Then I woke up on one of those rare mornings when I seem to hear voices in my head (ok, I'm in good  company there).  This one said "Concentrate on the Ark Builders."  So that's what I've determined to do from now on.  Here's one of those Ark Builders.

A FINGER, TWO DOTS, THEN ME
by Derrick Brown


Lying together in the park on Seventh,
our backs smoosh grass
and I sayI will love you till I become a child again,
when feeding me and bathing me is no longer romantic,
but rather necessary.
I will love you till there is no till.  Till I die.

And when that electroencephalogram shuts down,
baby, that’s when the real lovin’ kicks in.
Forgive me for sounding selfish
but I won’t be able to wait under the earth for you
(albeit a romantic thought for groundhogs,gophers
and the gooey worms).
I will not be able to wait for you…
but I will meet up with you
and here’s where you will find me:
get a pen–
Hold your finger up
(two fingers if your hands are frail by now)
and count two stars directly to the left
of the North American moon.
You will find me there.

Written and performed by Derrick Brown, produced by Duality Films.

http://youtu.be/TcoMiGiDRjg

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Divine Creativity


 I've been teaching a class this fall on clay sculpture, which I've been enjoying a lot. It's been a pleasure to see the class create.  So I found myself thinking about the divine nature of Creativity.

Creativity, to me, is the Divine made visible.  When we are Makers, the Divine expresses through each of us, whether we're making a mathematical theorem or a new recipe for lemon cake.  How can anyone look at an orchid, shamelessly pretending, in the hope of being pollinated, that it is a beautiful bevy of  magenta tipped butterflies in flight......without seeing the Goddess at Her easel? Without appreciating the gorgeous humor, and creative intelligence, behind all things visible? 

When I was a kid in a long-ago Bible class, I had an "ah-ha" experience.  I could not understand the "God" that was so often put before me as we plowed through the Book,  a God of terrible vengence. Even now, I shudder to think of children internalizing some of these stories as divinely inspired. How about this, for example?
"And  the Lord spake unto Moses, saying "Avenge the children of Israel"..............and Moses said unto them, "Have ye saved all the women alive?.......Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.  But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves."    Num. XXXI, 1-18
I remember reading this, and trying to fathom how the noble Moses, made so visible by Charleton Heston delivering the Commandments......could be involved in what was actually being described here.   All those women, old ladies, babies  and little boys hacked up with swords,  the little girls carried off to be raped, sanctified by "God" and His prophet.   How could I reconcile this horror?  

Other options were needed, and like many others, it became a lifetime quest. 

And how sad that a fragmented history of the bloody genocide practiced in ancient battles, fought beneath the banner of a tribal war god sometimes called Yahwah........should appear within the same book as  "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you" (Luke 6:27).  Or, and this passage, a favorite of mine, which is not from the Bible at all, but rather from the long hidden Nag Hammedi Gospels, attributed to the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas (the Twin)*** :

"If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you.  If you do not bring forth what is within you,  what you do not bring forth will destroy you."

There it is!  The Divine Creative Force, expressing in everything and everyone. Early Christians called it "gnosis", knowledge of God within.   Joseph Campbell called it your personal  "bliss"......... it's the joy of creation and discovery,  and if we bring it forth, it energizes and informs and expands our lives.  If not, the energy contracts, turns self-destructive, dark, stagnant, an interior place ripe for infection  physical and mental.  

Be that as it may, I think it's so important to not "give your power away", which can mean appreciating, in fact thoroughly enjoying, the gifts - powers -  that life has put on the banquet plate.

There's a wonderful passage in the ancient Sumarian stories of the goddess Inanna where she goes to visit Enki, the head of the Gods.  In a celebratory mood, he calls forth some heavenly beer, and the two get drunk together.   Enki gives Inanna many empowerments or gifts (called a "me") -  from the art of sexual seduction to the governing of cities to the making of cheese. At a Witchcamp I attended this cycle was ritually enacted.  As  Enki offered each "me" (I always found that ancient word for gift or power interesting), Starhawk, in the role of Inanna, said loudly with conviction and gusto:  "I'll take it!"




I think that's what you have to do, and it's not always easy.  Take it.   There are so many forces that discourage  creativity and talent  - one does not necessarily get love or acceptance for being "gifted", and so sometimes the quest is to hold true to those gifts and their potential for expression regardless.  And seek the place and time and community that can allows that.   I think of my own small dysfunctional family, and the kind of "dumbing down" I've always had to do in order to be tolerated by my envious brothers, who felt that success on my part somehow diminished them.  This is the nature of the competitive, heirarchical  paradigm that values "power over" instead of "power flowing".  The "winner" vs. the "weavers".


  I've seen this operate in groups as well, groups that do not know how to facilitate or address this unconscious collective shadow aspect  (a friend who prefers to remain anonymous calls it the "mediocrity prerequisite").    I do not mean to sound harsh, but many people live in toxic spheres where they are being energetically rewarded for being stupid, uncreative, or a "victim", and punished for not being so.  For not using their divine "Me"'s.  And I guarantee that if you live that way long enough, you will demand the same currency from others.  


I've been privileged to encounter many who are busy expressing the Divine Creative Force***** joyfully , in all kinds of ways, and sharing what they have.  May we all, like Inanna, loudly proclaim:  "I'll take it!"

You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness to learn
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive

is too small for you. 

 -- David Whyte
    
from The House of Belonging
     ©1996 Many Rivers Press




****  Elaine H. Pagels further commented that: 


"The Gospel of Thomas also suggests that Jesus is aware of, and criticizing the views of the Kingdom of God as a time or a place that appear in the other gospels. Here Jesus says, "If those who lead you say to you, 'look, the Kingdom is in the sky,' then the birds will get there first. If they say 'it's in the ocean,' then the fish will get there first. But the Kingdom of God is within you and outside of you. Once you come to know yourselves, you will become known."........Here it says, "It's inside you but it's also outside of you." It's like a state of consciousness. It's hard to describe. But the Kingdom of God here is something that you can enter when you attain gnosis, which means knowledge.....The secret of gnosis is that when you know yourself at that level you will also come to know God, because you will discover that the divine is within you." 

Read more: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/story/thomas.html#ixzz1dtGPBd2t


Reverend Bill and the Stop Shopping Choir


Reverend Billy attempting to Exorcise Demons from the Bank of America (2009)

I have become converted and Born Again, and as such need to share  the Gospel of  Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping to this post..........an evil empire of  souless robots with vast demonic armies of corporate lobbyists may be taking over the world, but  at least I can take control with the Reverend.............and all my friends get hand knitted scarves for Christmas.

I hope they like them. 

Trailer for Reverend Billy's movie:  What Would Jesus Buy?

http://youtu.be/FCQEhqZO-gE



 http://youtu.be/Ypgs2s3lEzs

 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

John Oliver on Net Neutrality


Cable companies are trying to create an unequal playing field for internet speeds, but they're doing it so boringly that most news outlets aren't covering it.  John Oliver explains the controversy and lets viewers know how they can voice their displeasure to the FCC..........he is so hilarious and right on!  

After viewing this, which apparently almost everyone everywhere has already except for me, I googled some articles about lobbying efforts on the part of the two largest providers, and came up with the chart above.    

I am changing my Verizon account to Credo Wireless - they have no record whatsoever of trying to end Net Neutrality.

 Thanks to the MacGregors for  John Oliver video. 

http://youtu.be/fpbOEoRrHyU



Monday, November 10, 2014

The Ice Hotel - 25 Years!

"Creativity is our lifeblood. Every winter for almost 25 years ICEHOTEL rises again and every time with brand new art and design. It’s about being inspired by ice as a material – our imagination is constantly challenged and so is our vision of art.  Our hotel is more than rooms and beds; it is an art project made of snow and ice that is totally unique. At ICEHOTEL we work with frozen water from Torne River. Rising from the lake Torneträsk, Torne River is one of the few rivers in Europe that has not been used for industrial purposes and is therefore a unique source. Its natural beauty and special history is an inspiration to us and is something we believe can never be found in artificial ice."
Here's a wonderful work of art (that you can sleep in or drink in or get married in too) that is being constructed (again) right now in Sweden - the wonderful "Ice Hotel"!  To learn more about this renewable work of art, visit their website:   http://www.icehotel.com/art-and-design/art-at-icehotel/.



What could possibly be more magical?  It's like the Snow Queens palace brought to life and form - how I would love to see this year's Hotel under the Aurora Borealis. 

Art takes shape

The construction period at ICEHOTEL takes place between October and December each year. It takes approximately eight weeks to finish the construction of the hotel (and six weeks of work before and after this period). It requires about 1,000 tonnes of frozen water and about 30,000 m3 of “snice” (snow and ice; ice particles from Torne River mixed with air. “Snice” resembles snow in that it is white and used for insulation, but structurally it is stronger and purer than just snow.)
The art of ICEHOTEL is created in sections and each artist spends their time here in intervals. During the last week before the hotel opening all 40 artists spend time in the hotel together. 

Each room is filled with the right amount of snow and ice, using a cutting list and calculations based on the drawings from the artists. Eight weeks later ICEHOTEL is ready and the river has turned into a work of art.  The rooms and hallways are built in a classic oval shape, which is the strongest construction shape due to its self-supporting nature. It is especially noticeable when the hotel melts – instead of collapsing, the roof and walls just become gradually thinner until the sun cracks through.
ICEHOTEL opens its gates for visitors in December. During the following four months the hotel and art exhibition will attract around 50,000 people from around 80 different countries.