Now in print: Classical Considerations

I’m pleased to announce that Classical Considerations is now available in a print edition. Life’s foundational questions come elegantly to the fore in this skillfully crafted nonfiction story about the late John H. Finley, Jr.

For 51 years Finley was the celebrated and erudite Eliot Professor of the Classics at Harvard. His musings transport readers on a soul-engaging journey of contemplation. Luminous and compellingly relevant, his story leads readers into direct engagement with the fundamental wisdom questions of a fulfilled life.

Classical Considerations is a small treasure, offering a compact but brilliantly lyrical array of intellectual sparks to help kindle enduring knowledge.

 

 

 

Step by Step ~ Paso a Paso

When I have a few moments I like to create memes like the one below, and then set them free on the internet. It’s a way to let people know about the epic, nonfiction saga of the Americas that I had the opportunity to live, write, and publish. The freely-available online saga is Odyssey of the 8th Fire. The true pilgrimage tale proceeds for over 225 deepening days from Atlantic to Pacific across the landscape and soulscape of both ancient and modern Turtle Island (North America).

In print: Teach Us to Number Our Days

I’m pleased to offer readers an engaging compilation of keys for adept aging. It’s not my wisdom, per se, but rather the wisdom of the ages gathered and curated in an easy-to-read, and poetic form. Teach Us to Number Our Days is now available in both print and ebook editions.

Would you happen to know anyone who happens to be growing older? As a gift, this small treasure can serve to uplift and enrich them as they condense their life experience in soul memory.

 

Now in print: Tales of the Whirling Rainbow

I’m pleased to announce that Tales of the Whirling Rainbow is now available in a print edition, as well as in a revised eBook edition.

Tales of the Whirling Rainbow is my account of some of the key myths and mysteries of the Americas, and an exploration of how those myths are resounding in real time. Drawn from sources both ancient and modern, this slender volume is a small treasure, conveying insights into key facets of North America’s unfolding saga. Read all about it.

Forgiveness to Transmute Poison and Pain

For your consideration, here’s a meme I created, based upon the true tales at the heart of my epic, nonfiction saga of North America, Odyssey of the 8th Fire,

Inconvenient Audience

My wife Elizabeth and I went to watch Inconvenient Sequel the other night in a sparsely populated movie theater. It’s a stunning film. We walked out of the theater feeling exceedingly sober, and with renewed determination to support clean, non-polluting technologies which are elements of an imperative, intelligent response.

Arid soils in Mauritania leading to a food crisis impacting over 700,000 people.

The new film is a sequel to Inconvenient Truths, both films produced by Al Gore, and both reporting the hard reality of what climate change is actually doing to our planetary support systems. The acceleration in the number of and frequency of documented, climate-related, ultra-extreme weather events is dramatic. The charts showing the rate of temperature change in polar regions and the world’s primary farming areas is stunning.

With all that’s going on in the world through the summer of 2017, I suppose climate change can seem like mere background noise. But of course it’s not. It’s real, it’s here, it’s intensifying, and we and our children and grandchildren will contend with the impact for decades to come. Climate chaos right now is a driving force behind the breakup of the North and South Poles, sea-level shifts, massive flooding events, droughts, resource wars, widespread migration of insect pests and diseases, massive waves of human refugees, and more.

After the first film came out in 2006 cadres of corporate-backed climate change deniers accused Mr. Gore of being “hysterical.” But now 10 years later everything that he, and more than 97% of the world’s leading climate scientists projected would happen has in fact already happened. More climate chaos is on the close horizon.

The consequences of ignoring the changes are obvious to all excepting the willfully ignorant. The Sanskrit word vidya means wisdom or knowledge. The prefix “a” signifies a lack or an absence. Adding the prefix to vidya establishes the word avidya, which denotes a fundamental blindness about reality, a refusal to acknowledge and deal with what is happening. Obviously there is a group of determined avidyans among us. Motivated by self-serving contrarian interests, they have poisoned our politics and thereby crippled our ability to respond to this crisis. But as the new film asserts, no lie can live forever.

Around the world most nations have been forced to face the harsh realities that are impacting them. It’s inspiring to see how are responding vigorously by shifting to solar and wind power, and aggressively taking natural and technological steps to mitigate the situation, and to reduce human activities which make extreme climate-change related events increasingly common. Here in the US, however, our politics have been hacked, and we remain crippled in our collective response. For now, individuals and associations must respond on their own, while the government attempts to bury everyone’s brains deep in the muck of illusion.

Knowing that industrial agricultural systems are among the leading causes of pollution and the greenhouse gases that exacerbate climate chaos, I am renewed in my determination to advocate for and to support organic, biodynamic and other agroecological food-production systems that heal the land and that can help mitigate the dangerously intensifying changes. It’s common sense. It’s essential common sense.

The choice is between right and wrong, Mr. Gore asserts toward the end of Inconvenient Sequel. It’s right to protect and defend the natural systems of the earth that make our lives possible. It’s wrong to ignore reality, or to pollute and poison the natural systems and to make the problems worse. It’s wrong to destroy the very things that make our lives possible.

“Fight like your world depends upon it,” Mr. Gore concludes, “because it does.”

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Upholding the Pillars of Food Sovereignty

Don Bustos of Santa Cruz Farm (author photo)

It was a blessed relief to hear the quietly passionate oration of organic farmer Don Bustos as he stood upon the land for 20 minutes to speak amid shifting rays of softening sunlight on an early August evening in Santa Fe, New Mexico. With dignity, he stood for clean food, for community food, and for food sovereignty.

Earlier on this crossquarter day the outpouring of farm news had been grim. We learned that the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico caused by fertilizer and chemical runoff from industrial farming has swollen to an area larger than the state of New Jersey. We learned that despite scientific warnings the EPA declined to ban chlorpyrifos, a highly toxic farm pesticide known to interfere with human hormones, and to diminish IQ in children. We learned of serious labor shortages in the farm fields as immigration officials drive farm workers away from US lands. We learned that dramatic changes for industrial agriculture are essential now to reckon with the intensifying impact of climate change. We learned also that the suicide rate among US farmers is higher than that of the overall US workforce.

Without referencing any of these specific news items, Bustos acknowledged the larger system of which these developments are part. He mentioned the corporate industrial “militarization” of agriculture. Then with clarity and conviction he said that’s not the way to go. “We must grow food with respect. We must grow it in a way that acknowledges Creator and the spirit in the land.”

Bustos talk was part of the Farms Films Food program hosted by the Santa Fe Farmers Market Institute in collaboration with the Center for Contemporary Arts and the Street Food Institute.

The acequia-watered Santa Cruz Farm in Española, New Mexico that Bustos now tends has been in his family since the 1600s. Speaking broadly to encompass all of agriculture, he said that his big goal is “to make it possible that our children can farm on the land for the next 400 years.”

Nowadays Bustos cultivates about 70 crops on 3 ½ acres. At that scale, he’s developed an economic approach that enables him to give attention to the wider world. He trains young people to work the land, and to keep alive the centuries-old traditions of family farming in New Mexico. He’s a champion for community food sovereignty and for food justice at local, state and national levels. In 2015 he received the James Beard Foundation Leadership Award, specifically honored for his work “in support of farmers’ rights and education, and his efforts to include farmers of color in the national food movement.”

When he spoke in Santa Fe this week Bustos said that in his farming he’s guided by three keys: the traditional rituals and practices of northern New Mexico farmers, modern organic cultivation practices, and the Biodynamic Calendar.

“The strongest connection with Creator comes,” he said, “when you have your hands, feet and knees on the soil, and you are working with plants.” “Nature will tell you. You will understand signs so that you know you are on the right path.”

“I still grow and save seeds from our crops to plant the next year,” he said. “Saving open-pollinated, heirloom seeds is really important, but it’s not a silver bullet to solve the problems of agriculture.”

“Food should be grown in healthy soil with healthy water by people who are healthy. Then you have right relationship to the earth. The silver bullet is for everyone to take responsibility for their food by growing it, or supporting the people in their community who grow it for them. That connection to the Earth,” Bustos emphasized, “is important for everyone. It’s one of the Pillars of Food Sovereignty.”

EVERYTHING AT HAND – Massive, impressive cast-iron sculptures by Tom Joyce are on display until Dec. 31 at the Center for Contemporary Arts, site of the Farms Films Food program. (author photo)

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Beauty Way Portal: Our Great American Eclipse

I created the meme displayed below to acknowledge our collective Summer 2017 Great American Eclipse Experience. The meme makes direct, grounding reference to the enduring, strengthening traditions which are an available heritage for every person who walks our North American continent (Turtle Island) with respect and in honor. In this manner it’s possible to walk through portals of time, archetype, and insight toward healthy states of understanding, and thereby to acquire wisdoms both practical and ethereal.

Considered in the light of the beauty way, the blessing way, Odyssey of the 8th Fire, the epic online saga I had the opportunity to author earlier this century, is a true, sincere, and respectful exploration of the grounding traditions of the Americas. Those traditions have roots many thousands of years deep, and they endure to an provide an essential foundation for all in our era and for generations of our children to come.  – SM 

A Fresh Breath of Storytelling Wind: Reviving the Legend of the Rainbow Warriors

Once oft’ told, the story that I came to know as the legend of the rainbow warriors has in recent years been drowned in the ceaseless tsunami of online information. The tale has slipped beneath the digital flood at a time when its vision is sorely needed.

It’s time to invoke a great whirling surge of Nilch’i Diyin (Holy Wind) into the story, and thereby help it rise back to the surface

The rainbow legend has been glimpsed in vision and then articulated in myriad ways for hundreds of years in various parts of the world, often as well on Turtle Island (North America). The story is told from a spectrum of perspectives, given life by storytellers using music, words, art and dance to animate the tale in their own creative way.

In brief, the legend relates that when the world becomes desperately dirty, sick and chaotic with divisive hate agents at work in realms of race and religion, many people will recognize that they are destroying themselves and the earth they depend upon for survival. With spiritual insight and support, the rainbow warriors — people of all colors, cultures and spiritual outlooks — will respond creatively with insight, intelligence, honesty, caring, sharing and respect. Through personal example and positive, peaceful means, this rainbow network of awakened souls will establish a golden era of peace.

Often mocked as pixie-dust fantasy or outright condemned as fakelore rather than folklore, the rainbow legend persists because it has deep roots, and because it echoes a venerable theme in storytelling: paradise lost, paradise regained. We are squandering paradise in our modern world. Is it therefore surprising that there should arise hopeful tales of a time when a better world may be attained?

Whirling Rainbow (author’s collection)

Mythologist Joseph Campbell noted that a society that does not have a myth to support it and give it coherence goes into dissolution. “That is what’s happening to us.” Campbell wrote in Transformations of Myth Through Time. And that, I feel, is why it is worthwhile to tell the rainbow tales again in yet another way, to contribute a picture of what I regard as a coherent and positive mythic dimension of understanding for our times.

For 200 years or more a dominant myth in the developing world has been an interpretation of the American Dream suggesting that most people can attain wealth by taking from the land and sea at an industrial scale with a mechanical consciousness, and that happiness will follow from profit. This myth is relentlessly reinforced by advertising images. Yet the unbridled pursuit of these versions of the myth, often by people deep in sleep, has plunged us into a nightmare of environmental devastation, economic upheaval, ethical bankruptcy, and cultural confusion.

As I write more than 40 wars are raging around our world, and another 200 or more armed conflicts are underway. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has reported that “the weather is noticeably more chaotic.” Our world is home to more than 7.5 billion human beings. Well over one billion of those human beings are hungry or starving.

In the midst of these stark realities, various myths or frames are conjured via the broadcast voices of demagogues, and the bloody, fear-provoking images so common in movies, music and computer games — the fear-driven myth that the world is hate-filled and chaotic beyond redemption. For many people, in the absence of something more wholesome, such barren and toxic visions become embedded in the psyche as working myths, albeit often unconsciously. Yet the rainbow tales are as possible as the visions of a global death spiral. The enactment of our future is up to us.

The Environment of the Soul
I’ve encountered a spectrum of rainbow myths, beginning in the 1970s when I read the book Warriors of the Rainbow, by William Willoya and Vinson Brown, and then in dozens of other readings and listenings. As is the custom among storytellers and as a lifelong journalist, I passed on the tales I heard later in my own words at gatherings, and in my writing.

My 1992 book Legend of the Rainbow Warriors was an exercise in creative nonfiction. The book relates many of the ancient versions of the rainbow warriors legend, uniting a chorus of voices. It cites seers such as Black Elk and Crazy Horse of the Lakota, Quetzalcoatl of the Toltec, Weetucks of the Wampanoag, Plenty Coups of the Crow, White Buffalo Calf Woman of the Plains, Eyes of Fire of the Cree, Ku’Kulkan, Quetzalcoatl and Montezuma of the of the south direction, the Peacemaker of the Haudenosaunee, Padmasambhava of Tibet, and Alinta of Australia. I included in my book some of the teachings that I’d absorbed over the years from Grandfather William Commanda, Don Estevan Tamayo, Arvol Looking Horse, Martin Gashweseoma and Thomas Banyacya, Oh Shinnah Fastwolf, Slow Turtle, Sun Bear, Reuben Snake, Cachora, Grandmother Doris Minkler, Manitonquat, Don Jose Matsuwa, Dona Josepha Medrano, and others. Though they lived at different times and in different places, they shared a sense of what would unfold.

Legend of the Rainbow Warriors was my effort as a journalist to create an account of one of the core myths of the Americas, and to also explore of how that myth might be playing out in real time.

Do the voices and the rainbow tales add up to something that is ultimately, absolutely verifiably true? That is for you, the reader, to consider and to create. Mythologist Joseph Campbell looked at it this way: “A myth is something that has never happened, but that is happening all the time.”

Greenpeace’s flagship, Rainbow Warrior. (Wiki photo, Creative Commons).

Those devoted solely to measurable evidence run the risk of missing the point altogether. The rainbow tales are both myth and mystery. Myth creates the opportunity of inspiration, a chance to become aware of something the intellect has not the scope to grasp: access to “the supersensensible environment of the soul” as poet William Butler Yeats expressed it. To this the myth adds a note of mystery: spiritual truths knowable not through reason alone, rather but through contemplation or revelation.

My friend the late Leon Secatero, To’hajiilee Chapter of the Navajo Nation, explained to me that he appreciated these teachings not as prophecies, but rather as knowings.

Leon’s friend and colleague, Don Alejandro Cirilo Perez of Guatemala, elaborated on that insight. Longtime President of the Maya Elders Council and a initiated Daykeeper, Don Alejandro told me: “There is truth in the teachings about the rainbow and the rainbow people. People from all of the Americas will unite with people from all the other nations, and they will realize that we are all family, brothers and sisters. This is not my personal vision, but a cosmic vision presented by all the elders – a vision that we all share.”

A Kitchen Table Telling
I’ve heard 40 or more tellings of rainbow mythology over the decades. On the afternoon of May 13, 2006, I heard another convincing rendition while traveling with my friends Stephen Clarke, and Carlos White Eagle. We were seated at the kitchen table in a rustic ranch house in Haystack, New Mexico, visiting with Navajo Grandfather Martin Martinez, his wife Janice, and their daughter, Kay.

Grandfather Martinez at the 2004 Sodizin Ceremony on Tzoodzil (Mt. Taylor, NM).

Grandfather, in his 90’s and nearing his transition on the Beauty Way, had life experience as a rancher, a rodeo rider, a Code Talker in World War II, and for many long, honorable years as a community leader, a traditional Singer, and the ceremonial keeper of Tzoodzil — the Blue Bead or Turquoise Mountain, now called Mount Taylor. Rising majestically under the blue skies of New Mexico, Tzoodzil is the South Mountain among the Four Holy Mountains that mark the Four Corners of Turtle Island (North America)

As we sat around the kitchen table in the family ranch house, Grandfather told us a story. He spoke in Navajo, and his daughter Kay translated. We smoked a pipe in a sacred manner, and Grandfather said he could remember long ago when he was a boy hearing some of the Medicine elders talk. The Medicine elders told him that during his lifetime there would come a dark era when many problems would arise on Earth. For many people it would seem as though there was no hope.

At that time, the elders told him, the rainbow people would arrive. These rainbow people would find a way to bring healing. The elders told him that it would be a good and important — and that he would see it come true. Grandfather told us that he had never experienced that teaching in fullness until our moments at the kitchen table, and that he was happy to be in ceremony with us, some of the rainbow people. He offered us his warm smile, and three totems. Then he settled in contentment.

Basic Wisdom
An underlying premise of the rainbow legends is that there is a basic wisdom that can help solve the world’s problems. This wisdom does not belong to any one race, religion or culture, but is a tradition of caring, sharing, and sacred light and sound that has existed throughout human experience and that has been expressed by many human beings, certainly including the saints spoken of in the world’s formal spiritual institutions, as well as thousands of other human beings of less formal renown.

We are in a time when many millions – actually billions – of people can and are by circumstances called to give the archetype expression in their lives. Thus the challenge is laid down before us all: live up to the promise.

In light of the legend, my understanding is that rainbow people choose themselves and then strive to live with exalted physical, moral and ethical courage, appreciating that the problems and weapons of the world have been made by the human mind, thus they can be unmade. Rainbow warriors and rainbow walkers need to cultivate compassion, a fundamental attribute of human beings, which will gift them with energy and the power to take action. They will also have to develop insight and intelligence, which will guide them to apply the power of compassion via skillful means.

Rainbow warriors and walkers do no harm, inflict no pain, and cause no suffering. They work to set things right by good example. Their lives are about having integrity, being brave, and standing forthrightly but peacefully for all that supports life. Their quest is for safety, sanity, and respect. According to the legend, ultimately they are triumphant. So the story has been told to me. So in my  way I tell it to you.

Dedicated to the Unconsoled

Dedicated to the Unconsoled – These were among the final words of novelist Arundhati Roy last night when she spoke at the #Lensic Theater in Santa Fe. She was telling us about the 20 years of personal and planetary life that have unfolded into creating her new book The Ministry of Utmost Happiness (June, 2017).

Arundhati Roy 2013 photo courtesy of Wiki Creative Commons.

Offering an eye-and-spirit opening array of perspectives on India and the world at large, Roy quoted her friend and colleague John Berger (Ways of Seeing): “This is for those who have learned to divorce hope from reason.”

Roy spoke and conversed eloquently for almost two hours before a packed house, courtesy of her radiant, penetrating intelligence, her talent in fiction and nonfiction, and her charismatic warmth. The good work of the #Lannan Foundation made it all happen

The author shared in particular her ways of seeing developments in India where Hindu fundamentalism has taken a strong corporate-backed, yang militaristic grip on the institutions of power. I could not help but recognize in this a parallel with developments in the USA and Russia, as well as in some Muslim nations. All of this fear-based culture choking unfolds swiftly now in the context of poisonous misogynistic attitudes lacking in all honor or worthiness, in extreme need of redemption.

Roy read passages from several of her books, including her acclaimed novel, The God of Small Things (1997). And she commented both obliquely and directly on the broad picture of global affairs, offering fresh, penetrating and soul-filled ways of seeing.

“We are in a very disturbing place,” she said. “We are pressed up against the wall. There is a different kind of power at work. We need to win the battle of the spirit, the battle of the heart. What we need today for survival is long-term vision…

…and we need a feral howl.”