Links of the Week – Saturday/Sunday October 25-26, 2008: The Sacred Places Edition

tom toles halloween
Cartoonist Tom Toles shows us this year’s scariest Hallowe’en costume. Thanks to my daughter Tiffany for the link.

The Power of Place: My friend Amy Lenzo is working on a four-woman project called The Power of Place with the Collective Wisdom Initiative to discover ‘transformational’ meeting places, where collaborative work just works better. Bowen Island, which is the first such place that comes to mind for me, is already on their map. Their plan is to identify the principles and practices that make such space work (a kind of pattern language exercise) and then see if they can be extended to create such places virtually. Brilliant project! If you have thoughts on this, post your comments to CWI. Specifically they want to know:

  • Where are these meeting places that have demonstrated their transformational influence? 
  • What are the characteristics and qualities they demonstrate?
  • How do they contribute to experiences of transformation and generativity?
  • What is the potential of transformational meeting placesó if made visible worldwide ó collectively committed to service in the world?

Being Poor: Three years ago John Scalzi wrote an extraordinary (and suddenly timely) article about the agony of poverty, and what it means, every day, to your sense of hope and self-esteem. Thanks to my Alaskan friend Chris Lott for the link.

The Most Radical Thing You Can Do:  The most radical thing you can do, says Rebecca Solnit in Orion, quoting Gary Snyder, is stay home. Live there, create work there, connect there, build new bottom-up authentic community there. Stop driving and flying and running away and make things work right where you are. It’s your right, and your responsibility.

Silence Like Scouring Sand: Also from Orion, Kathleen Dean Moore writes a lovely article on the attempt to make some places free from all human noise. Just listen:

How shall I describe the beauty of this place? Itís an open glade, like the nave of a cathedral, carpeted in deep green moss and deer ferns. There are huckleberry bushes, their bare green branches standing in the rosy litter of their own fallen leaves. The bunchberry leaves have turned red, but the wood sorrel is intensely green. From the forest floor, the columns of the trees rise impossibly high, closing at last in a vaulted green ceiling. Everything glitters with scattering rain. Even the air twinkles, as if it were champagne.

And what do I hear? A tiny lispóa bushtit maybe. Tick, tap, pock of waterdrops, different sounds for every surface they strike. I hear a drop of water pop when it hits a maple leaf forty feet way. There is the faraway rustle of the river. Time passes, unmeasured. Then the quiet is filled with the clatter of a bald eagle, a sound like stones shaken in a tin pot. Sitting on his heels in the damp moss, Gordon grins, but doesnít speak.

Next to him, almost hidden under the log, is a small metal canister. This is the Jar of Quiet Thoughts. Gordon put it here, an invitation to people who visit One Square Inch to record their responses to the silence. I open the jar and pull out crumpled scraps of paper. Many wrote of love. One couple came here to be married, a person came to pray, another found deep connection here, in the call of a thrush. Others wrote of wonder, to hear the voices of the deep quiet. I realize that One Square Inch has become a sacred placeósilence has made it so. Quiet is a kind of reverence.

A small wind shakes a huckleberry bush. A crow calls from the crown of an alder. A hemlock needle falls on my shoulder, and I turn, astonished to have heard it land. 

us financial debt gap
Deeper in Debt:
My friend Rob Paterson has posted the scary chart above showing the gap between household financial assets and financial liabilities in the US. That’s minus $4 trillion, folks, and this was before the recent housing and stock market collapses.

…But They Still Don’t Get It: Bush economist Greg Mankiw admits that the IMF and other deniers of the possibility of another Great Depression on the horizon are oblivious to the 1929 patterns forming, and the lessons of history. I’ve asserted, for the record, that I think such a depression is still a couple of decades off, though we’re going to have some grim times ahead before then. What astounds me are the dreamers who still expect the economy to bottom out, turn around, and resume perpetual growth imminently.

Shrinking Our Way to Survival: New research shows that, to achieve CO2 reductions needed to avert climate catastrophe, we need to shrink the global economy by between 1 and 3 1/2 percent every year through 2050. The recent contraction in affluent nations, if we embraced it instead of panicking over it, could move us along that path, provided (and this is a huge ‘provided’) the rich and powerful (who received almost all the incremental wealth in the last 40 years), do most of the shrinking over the next 40, and restore some level of equity to our society and economy.

Canada Dumps Toxic Asbestos in Struggling Nations: Canada remains the only affluent nation that still hasn’t banned the use and export of asbestos, which has horrific health consequences for both producers and users, and the right-wing Canadian minority government is working hand in glove with the asbestos industry this week to keep it that way. Shameful. Thanks to Graham Clark for the link.

The Law, American Style: So let me get this straight: The “tough on crime” Bush administration supports “three strikes” laws allowing repeat offenders to be imprisoned for life, and supports capital punishment for a host of crimes, but if they, in their absolute discretion, decide that something in the law (like a prohibition on torture or extraordinary rendition) is not to their liking they just need to write a “signing statement” exempting themselves from it. So the President, charged with upholding the law, is above the law, and the constitution doesn’t apply to him. “The Bush administration has informed Congress that it is bypassing a law intended to forbid political interference with reports to lawmakers by the Department of Homeland Security.” Can someone explain to me why for that reason alone this whole regime is not in jail?

Credit Default Swaps: 55 Trillion Dollar Time Bomb: Even the head of the SEC says the completely unregulated CDS market has played a big role in the collapse of financial markets, and could yet undo the trillion dollar patch we’ve placed on the wound, unless it’s properly regulated, and fast. And even Alan Greenspan is now basically admitting that “self-regulated” markets are unregulated, rogue markets, a colossal failure of policy and political will, and a catastrophic mistake.

Just for Fun: Two wonderful and inspiring and lovingly crafted songs on YouTube. From the UK’s Imogen Heap, the wonderful anti-procrastination song Headlock. And (thanks Patti for the link) from Tracy Chapman, the romantic and moving song The Promise.

Thought for the Week: From the writer’s preface to the controversial play Doubt by John Patrick Shanley (thanks to Tree for the link):

What is Doubt? Each of us is like a planet. There’s the crust, which seems eternal. We are confident about who we are. If you ask, we can readily describe our current state. I know my answers to so many questions, as do you. What was your father like? Do you believe in God? Who’s your best friend? What do you want? Your answers are your current topography, seemingly permanent, but deceptively so. Because under that face of easy response, there is another You. And this wordless Being moves just as the instant moves; it presses upward without explanation, fluid and wordless, until the resisting consciousness has no choice but to give way.
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2 Responses to Links of the Week – Saturday/Sunday October 25-26, 2008: The Sacred Places Edition

  1. Paul says:

    Regarding the play “Doubt” by John Patrick Shanley: I saw it recently and recommend it with reservations. I was put off by the end of the last scene, in which the parochial school principal might not have behaved quite in character (as I judged it). But overall the play was provocative, held my interest, and offered the actors a good chance to show exciting characters. As with many good modern plays, the characters are a mix of both attractive and unattractive characteristics–no one is the outright hero/heroine or villain, no one has a monopoly on the truth. The truth is a bit ambiguous, we’re never sure how much is being hidden.The play argues that “principles” or beliefs can be an excuse for failing to examine a situation adequately, so that we fail to know the truth (and fail to know others, or perhaps ourselves). Doubt (skepticism) can be a powerful antidote, but in the extreme it can also become just another set of beliefs that hides the truth (and leads us to treat others inhumanely). The playwright offers no easy answers here.The play makes an attempt to peel away the surface layers of its characters to reveal what “presses upward”, but it doesn’t go very deep–just enough to provide some surprise and to excite our curiosity. A play is so short–you probably need a novel to do such peeling well. Or a diary.

  2. Dave–The link to the song Headlock actually is to the Orion article on silence.Thanks–

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