Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What if? Thoughts on the Newtown, CT massacre and peace

(El castellano sigue el inglés)
I mourn the deaths of the children and adults in Newtown, CT, killed in a Rambo-style massacre by an American. I mourn the deaths of children and adults everywhere who have been killed by weapons made in the United States, sold by the United States. I mourn the loss of dignity of people trying to make a living, and US culture offers them jobs as accessories to mass-murder -- working for defense contractors, the military, as a politician supporting war, or as an artist developing movies, video games, even novels, which teach and glorify mass-murder. I mourn being part of a culture which lives on the American continent only because our fore-fathers mass-murdered millions of indigenous people (including some of my native Algonquian relatives) and stole the land.

To end the cycle of violence that is systemic in US society, what would happen if the government sets an example by withdrawing the military from everywhere except military bases in the 50 states and stops making and selling weapons for export? What if US tax dollars, instead of paying for mass-murder, were used for humanitarian projects such as housing, education, health, community gardens, parks, arts and music?

As Gandhi and other pacifists have demonstrated throughout history, we can resolve conflicts in other ways, without violence. I mourn. And I have hope -- for any problem created by humans, can be solved by humans.

There are myriads of paths of learning how to live without violence. One path is improving communication skills and the art of dialog. Compassionate communication, also known as "nonviolent communication," is a skill we can learn through books and classes and practice. Lots of practice. It involves expressing our observations, feelings, needs and requests in respectful ways, and to learn how to better listen with empathy.

US former president Jimmy Carter is an expert mediator of international conflicts. In a talk he gave at Royce Hall at the University of California, Los Angeles, he said that all international conflicts are based on the same issues as any disagreement in a family. The scale is the only difference. What if the family is filled with domestic abuse, as our entire society seems to be?
Global domestic abuse? There are excellent books and programs for victims of abuse (everyone in the world), as well as programs for the abusers to learn how to change.

The key is to self-reflect, with the help of a skilled guide, on ones own beliefs, and to embrace other beliefs that are more respectful of life. Like Nichiren Daishonin wrote many centuries ago, "You must quickly reform the tenets you hold in your heart."

Nothing is impossible.

Article first published as What if? Thoughts on the Newton, CT Massacre and Peace on Blogcritics.


Yo duelo la muerte de los niños y adultos en Newtown, CT, muerto en una masacre al estilo Rambo por un estadounidense. Yo duelo la muerte de niños y adultos de todo el mundo que han sido asesinados por armas fabricadas en Estados Unidos, que se vende por los Estados Unidos. Yo duelo la pérdida de la dignidad de las personas que tratan de ganarse la vida y cultura de los EE.UU. les ofrece puestos de trabajo como cómplices de asesinato masivo - que trabajan para los contratistas de defensa, las fuerzas armadas, como una guerra político de apoyo, o como un artista en desarrollo películas, video juegos, incluso novelas, que enseñan y glorificar el asesinato masivo. Yo duelo ser parte de una cultura que se vive en el continente americano sólo porque nuestros antepasados asesinaron en masa millones de personas indígenas (entre ellos algunos de mis parientes nativos algonquinos) y robaron la tierra.

Para poner fin al ciclo de violencia que es sistémica en la sociedad estadounidense, ¿qué pasaría si el gobierno pone el ejemplo al retirar a los militares de todas partes, excepto las bases militares en los 50 estados, y deja de producir y vender y exportar armas ? ¿Qué pasaría si los impuestos, en lugar de pagar por el asesinato masivo de guerra, se utilizaron para proyectos humanitarios, como la vivienda, la educación, la salud, jardines comunitarios, parques, artes y música?

Como Gandhi y otros pacifistas han demostrado a lo largo de la historia, podemos resolver los conflictos de otra manera, sin violencia. Yo duelo. Y yo tengo la esperanza - que cualquier problema creado por los seres humanos, puede ser resuelto por los humanos.

Hay una infinidad de rutas de aprender a vivir sin violencia. Un camino es mejorar las habilidades de comunicación y el arte del diálogo. Comunicación compasiva, también conocido como "comunicación no violenta", es una habilidad que se puede aprender a través de libros y las clases y la práctica. Un montón de práctica. Se trata de expresar nuestras observaciones, sentimientos, necesidades y demandas de manera respetuosa, y aprender a escuchar mejor con empatía.

El ex presidente estadounidense Jimmy Carter es un mediador experto de los conflictos internacionales. En una charla que el dio en el Royce Hall de la Universidad de California, Los Angeles, dijo que todos los conflictos internacionales se basan en los mismos problemas que cualquier desacuerdo en la familia. La escala es la única diferencia. ¿Y si la familia está llena de violencia doméstica, como toda de nuestra sociedad también parece ser? ¿Es abuso doméstico Global?

Hay excelentes libros y programas para las víctimas de abuso (todo el mundo), así como programas para los abusadores para aprender a cambiar.

La clave es la auto-reflexión, con la ayuda de un guía experto, en las propias creencias, y abrazar otras creencias que son más respetuosos de la vida. Al igual que Nichiren Daishonin escribió hace muchos siglos, "Usted debe reformar rápidamente los principios que tienen en su corazón."

Nada es imposible.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Book Review: Lucy Plays Panpipes for Peace

Book review by guest blogger, Tantra Bensko
Lynette Yetter’s novel draws from her own life when she went to the Andes, pulled by the sound of the panpipes as a tool for transformation. Yet it is fiction, in the way called for in David Shields’ Reality Hunger. It means more knowing she really did something truly audacious and death defying. Here, we get a glimpse of how close to reality it is, and how the fiction made it into the powerful book it is.

“Hurtling through space and time, the blue orb was rapidly self-destructing. Vital fluids pumped out of its innards burned in orgies of greed. The vapors ate away its luminous ozone skin.

Indigenous Elders, you might call them brain cells of wisdom, were ignored.

New synapses of fiber optic cable and satellite rays rationalized the destruction as ‘progress.’

Chaos surged like a flooding river.”

Thus begins the story in which Lucy goes to participate in the ancient culture of the Andes.

Coca Vendor (oil painting by Lynette Yetter)

Her words continue to swell when she extends her viewpoint outward, such as “Each person, a black-clad spark of soul, pulled by the inexorable gravity of survival. Together the seething mass of humanity ran. In their black mourning clothes, they were like primordial darkness churning. The light of humanity in their hearts bound each to the other as if to birth a new galaxy of life, in Warrior Town.”

It’s obvious Lynette knows how to write powerfully. I also appreciate how real and down-to-earth the language is, how honest and wholesome this book. It’s hip in a DIY kind of way, with Lynette doing a tour on bike for this book as activism inspiring others to follow their dreams and stand up for peace, and play. It also is a great example of what David Shields call for in his manifesto
Reality Hunger, which is taking the world by storm now. Lynette Yetter’s Lucy feels real, and the events occurred in the way that anything occurs in our memories—as fiction–stories we’ve told ourselves repeatedly and bundled into plot packages.

One of the things I like best is that she includes the vantage point of manifesting and finding our future—and doesn’t just include the times her intentions worked. Her idealism, naïve ideas of the simplicity of finding her heart’s desire are sweet, and ironic when faced with reality. She manages to keep her humor about the ups and downs that causes, though she feels such things very passionately, and they can shake her. Her naïve idealistic determination makes her follow the sound of pan pipes to Peru, where she plays in various venues, joining in with indigenous musicians, as she believes the sound can help create visions of harmony for others as it did for her. She believes she can make a difference to bring more peace to this world through them. But it’s just that quality, and her passionate empathy and love, that create the inspiring events of this book.

On location in Bolivia filming "Panpipes for Peace"

Lucy takes on oppression and segregation, pointing out the false flag of 911, the cultural imperialism of missionaries, the modern tendency to block people out of simply going out and camping under the stars, and she wonders at anomalies of government/military connections. In South America, she plays indigenous peasant music only recently made legal, and has no trouble associating with citizens  in the Andes who disrespect unfair political authority, and encourages harmony in dangerous situations. Even in competitive traditions she fosters a sense of oneness.

She acknowledges how magical the world is through synchroncities such as running into the man who wrote a song she was playing. Yet, this isn’t a treatise on creative visualization. The irony that can undercut such magic becomes obvious when she gets to know the song’s author. I love that combination. She’s not living out some formula, pretending it always works. So, when her intentions do manifest, her visions do come true, they are far more believable and powerful.

We learn about Andean folklore, such as the respectful relationship of miners to the Tios, earth spirits who live underground. We also learn that kusillos are androgynous entities who bridge the known and unknown.  And we follow closely: shocking international business practices, the role of civil disobedience in social progress, and the involvement of the U.S. in civil war. This book made me cry for a long time, tremble, and even shout out loud.

David Shields would like her book. In his, Reality Hunger, which also came out in 2010, he claims “Most, perhaps even all, good work (or, okay, work that excited me) eludes easy generic classification: once we know it’s coloring entirely within the lines called 'novel' or 'memoir' or 'Hollywood movie,' I honestly don’t see how anything emotionally or intellectually interesting can happen for the reader. . . . Just as out-and-out fiction no longer compels my attention, neither does straight-ahead memoir.”

I asked Lynette about the fiction/memoir interface: “My book and reality. It is heavily based on my own personal experience in Peru and Bolivia.

In order to better tell the Truth, to express Reality, I chose to fictionalize my experiences. As an old hiking buddy and PhD in English once told me — fiction is where we express the deeper truths of life. In short, she said, ‘Fiction rocks!’ Lucy Plays Panpipes for Peace started out as pure memoir — emails sent to friends and first person stories I told at performance spaces in Los Angeles.

But, it was too limiting to stick to chronological events and specific people.

By fictionalizing reality I can lump many people into a single character who then becomes an archetype. And in that process, new characters – 100% fictitious – are sometimes born. My favorite is Aunt Bert.

Aunt Bert came to me in a vision, you might say. I was riding in a bus along the shores of Lake Titicaca, when suddenly Aunt Bert appeared in my mind. She told me her life story. As I looked out the bus window at the scenery passing by, I was so moved by her life that I even cried at the sad parts. And when I got to where I was going, I wrote down what she had told me. That is how Aunt Bert came to be in the book.

Speaking of reality – to me, Aunt Bert is one of the most real characters in the novel – yet she is 100% fictitious.

Reality is so multi-dimensional. On one hand, it is the material world we can document with calendars and cameras and weights and measures. Yet it is also the invisible realm of the mysterious that animates all of life – is life. By fictionalizing the material world, I strive to reveal the deeper truths of what is invisible yet is the most powerful truth of all – our own lives.”

David Shields asks “A character is either ‘real’ or 'imaginary’?. . . . To be alive is to travel ceaselessly between the real and the imaginary, and mongrel form is about as exact an emblem as I can conceive for the unresolvable mystery at the center of identity.”

Headshot, Lynette Yetter

I can feel this book in my heart. I know Lynette bravely accomplished the amazing feats in this story, yet it isn’t a heavy handed recitation of her travels, or an SGI tract, but a call to go into our deepest selves, to cry, because there is a reality there that the fictionalization allows to live in a moving way, inside of us. There is no boundary between story and life, Lucy and Lynette, or our hands, wet with tears, and the pages they turn, which catch the light of the sun, that is not separable from the light of consciousness.