Friday, December 26, 2008

The Proliferating Christ




It was in 2004 that Canadian theologian Tom Harpur published his world-shattering book, The Pagan Christ. Harpur convincingly shows how the Christ of the gospels was not a new figure appearing on the scene in Palestine about 2000 years ago. On the contrary, the idea of Christ, down to the details of his reported daily lived life, were found in a mythical character from ancient Egypt – and these details were laid long before the stories of the biblical Christ. In fact, this Christ figure repeatedly appeared, not only in Egypt and later in Palestine, but in many ancient mythologies.

Clearly this appearance of a Christ figure in ancient worlds, far outside of the Judeo-Christian worlds, long before the creation of the New Testament stories, is a major challenge for contemporary Christianity. However, the challenge this creates for modern day Christianity might not be quite as straight forward as it might appear on the surface.

One obvious way of understanding this difficulty is to distinguish between an emphasis upon the historicity of the biblical Christ, as is seen in modern day fundamentalist Christianity, and the spirituality of a more mythological Christ figure.

The issue as I see it, however, is not so much one of historicity over against spirituality, but one of singularity over against multiplicity – and this, by the way, is a challenge which supersedes religion and effects the modern day secular worlds as much as the religious worlds. Harpur reveals a Christ figure whose mythology is proliferate, repeating, in its spirit and its details, throughout cultures and civilizations. A Christ is revealed who refuses to be limited to one incarnation, to one point in history. And, here appears a challenge not just to Christianity but to a legacy of Western thought, religious and secular. For, in the world which Harpur presents to us, truth itself is transformed, it becomes additive; truth follows rhizome, zigzag lines; truth refuses reductionist lines and instead accumulates possibilities.

Harpur’s world does not so much reveal the Christ as it creates, generates a universe of Christs. Using Nietzsche’s language, we can say that Harpur creates a “becoming” Christ, or “becoming” Christs, incarnating not only in ancient mythologies but in contemporary lives and institutions. And not only Christs, but also proliferating creations of endless possible spiritual figures. Spiritualities emerging which shed exclusivity and unity and instead create repeated affirmations of endless life possibilities. Life collects, life assembles... and life refuses a systemic or mechanistic unity.

While there is a long history of challengers to such singular views of truth, I want to conclude with an emphasis upon the generative spiritualities so beautifully discussed by American poet, Walt Whitman. No exclusive gods in Whitman’s world, just a spreading divinity which enlivens life in its every corner. Christ, divinity is created, like “leaves of grass”.

Speaking of his own work of writing as if he were a visual artist, Whitman says:

Painters have painted their swarming groups
and the centre-figure of all,
From the head of the centre-figure spreading
a nimbus of gold color’d light,
But I paint myriads of heads,
but paint no head without its
nimbus of gold-color’d light...

Walt Whitman





Monday, December 8, 2008

How to Talk about Life


I apologize to my readers for not having posted for such a long time now. I have been preparing a book, based upon pieces of this blog... and that job has been quite overwhelming. I am hoping that the book will be published possibly within the next month. During this time, however, my mind has been playing with many ideas I want to write about. So... I suppose I just have to start writing again.

In this posting, I want to talk about how we talk. I want to language about languaging.

I find myself tired of the techno/scientific language which has come to dominate our talk. It is a language which is far removed from nature, removed from connections with real life. No more anachronisms, like PTSD, or ADHD. We can talk about the challenges of having to live through horrific circumstances or the experiences of little boys in the classroom without such cold and dry language.

And so much professional language is impossible for the regular citizen to seriously address. Think of global warming, for example: scientists put together models of climate change, and those of us who are not scientists (more particularly, those of us who are not scientists of a climatology specialty) have no ability to make any reasonable judgment on such information. As a result of such types of discourse, we learn to trust schools of thought and specialists. We learn to champion certain schools of thought, types and outcomes of scientific research, in the same way we show loyalty to a sports team. And, in the process, we learn what seems like the necessity of minimizing and trivializing our own ability to perceive life and make decisions. In this process, we know we see life, but we are led to believe that the truth always lies far beneath our own perceptions. We learn that those things which are most important in our world are transcendent to the living of life, transcendent to experience, transcendent to nature, and are instead embedded in formulas and algorithms of labs and universities.

Following up with the climatology example -- Why is a discourse on global warming necessary to convince us that the earth is not well? Just living in this world tells us that the earth has been desecrated. Seeing the haze lingering over the city tells us this. Developing asthma as an adult, particularly during the hot summer seasons, tells me that the air is not well. Seeing the removal of much of the natural environment around me, noting the growing disappearance of the salmon from year to year, wondering why I no longer hear choruses of frogs in the springtime – all of this tells me that the earth is changing, and it informs me of this with great emotional impact. I don’t need a global warming discourse, of which I can truly understand nothing, and upon which I am unable to make any wise judgments. Democracy itself demands access to life without having to blindly rely upon what experts tell us regarding how we are to think about this very world we live and move within. I want to talk directly of nature and life, and not of abstracts such as global warming. I want to talk of life as it is accessible to us.

Some scientists are able to make things clear to people like me. Einstein, for example, revealed a world which was strange, yet a world we could understand. He revealed a universe built upon what he called “relativity”... that is a universe composed of relationships, vast realms where the relations between things truly matter. This connects with much more than physics, it connects with our experience of daily life. And Charles Darwin wrote “The Origin of Species” -- a document which is understandable to anyone who takes the time and energy to understand. It is not at all limited to experts. I find it interesting that those scientists we often consider the most influential, those we consider to be the greatest minds, are able to communicate in ways which you and I can find accessible.

When I talk of trying to talk without anachronism, without specialized languages which are disconnected from life and nature, I am not at all suggesting a simple language. I am not suggesting a language of limited vocabulary and grade-school level sentence structures. The way of talking I am referring to can be challenging, it can invite us to expand our usages of words and sentences. It also is not afraid to push aside the dryness of the language of professions, it is not afraid to push aside the secret languages of specialists.

I am referring to democratization of talk.

Let us talk like poets... savouring not just meanings, but also the tones and textures of words. As David Abrams suggests, let us listen to words as we also listen to the babbling of the running river, the chorus of wind in the trees, the laughter of the coyote, the dancing melodies of a song sparrow. Words, talk, language then becomes alive with something approaching magic. Words becoming living things.

I want to live in a world where language is living, where talk is beautiful, and where those words which are cold and disconnected from life are chased away --with no love lost.





Monday, October 27, 2008

Ideas for a New Vocabulary

By Lynn Hoffman





Chris Kinman and I are exploring a postmodern vocabulary that fits with the writings of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, who have given us the pair: Rhizome (decentralized) vs. Tree (hierarchical. The Internet is a rhizome too, billions of bits floating in an electronic colloid. Here are some more pairs:
  • Rhizome vs. System

  • Assemblage vs. Narrative

  • Webwork vs. Network

  • Sharevision vs. Supervision
    (see The Sharevision Group, Northampton)

  • Cloud-linked vs. Theory-linked
    (see “Cloud Computing” on the Web)

  • Starfish-structure vs. Spider-structure
    (see Ori Brafman and Aaron Beckstrom’s “The Starfish and the Spider”)

  • Aliveness vs. Health or Stability
    (see Kinman’s “Territory of the Alive”)
  • Gift-oriented vs. Problem-oriented
    (see Kinman’s “Confluences”)

  • A few ideas based on my correspondence with Clarke Millar:

  • “Collecting what Gathers Momentum" vs. Creating a Collection

  • "Floating Summer Midges"
    (Clarke Millar used this image to talk about ideas as if they were airborne swarms and schools. Again, a cloud-form)

    Example: “Family Therapy” just put out a "Genogram" of the family therapy pioneers, and I am in it. Rather a nice page with a picture and a biography, and I am in the midst of all the other First Midges, in the floating Midge Cloud.” (email from Lynn Hoffman to Clarke Millar)

Friday, October 24, 2008

An Idea and an Offer from Lynn Hoffman

On-Line Reflective Consultation

By Lynn Hoffman

What is “Online Reflective Consultation”?

It means that the consultant joins as an “outsider witness,” in Michael White’s sense, with a therapist who wants a supervision experience but does not live nearby. That makes a line dance troop of the consultant, the therapist, and the person or family she is working with. Other people and creatures, real or imaginary, can be online reflectors too.

How does it work?

First, the therapist emails the consultant and enlists. She describes the situation she is working on and what she wants help with. The rules are that any messages from consultant to person or family will go through the therapist, who shares them at her discretion. Likewise, if the person or family wants to respond back to these messages, they must do so through the therapist. The consultant may not get between the therapist and family or take over unless circumstances demand it.

What does this process look like?

A Moebius Strip, where top and bottom are always shifting into each other’s space. The consultant takes the therapist’s hand, the therapist takes the person or family’s hand, and their responses to the consultant close the loop, which then goes on looping. We try to conduct ourselves “without rank,” as the philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin puts it, since this style of working emphasizes collaboration.

What are my credentials for offering this kind of consultation?

See Biography and Bibliography sections for information on my 45 year journey through the field of relational therapies. This year, having some new ideas about online consultation, I renewed my AAMFT Approved Supervisor credentials. Although AAMFT prefers face-to-face supervision, I found out that in cases of geographic hardship, it can be half and half. Currently, I am offering online supervision to a therapist in Canada who is getting the face-to-face requirements in the city where she teaches.

What are the possibilities for writing about Online Reflecting Consultation?

An online exchange is archived automatically, so that with the appropriate permissions, one can create a story out of the work that has been done. Names and other identifiers can be changed and the print-out of the story can serve several purposes:

1. As an honoring testimonial for the person or family to keep.

2. As a paper which can be part of the qualification of the trainee.

3. As an article in a collection about Online Reflecting Consultation. In this
case, the consultant would be the main author.

What has been my previous experience in doing and writing about Online Reflecting Consultation?

From 1993-2004 I was part of psychologist Lois Shawver’s Postmodern Therapy Newsletter, a very literate online conversation having a connection to psychology, philosophy and therapeutic practice, and offering a periodic magazine.

From 1999-2001, I worked online with Gisela Schwartz, a psychologist from Austria, as a one-person “reflecting team” for several of the families she was seeing in her practice, and we put together stories about two of them. These will be published in “The Rhizome Way,” an online publication being assembled by myself and Chris Kinman, who is a community consultant in Vancouver, Canada, and a present writing partner. (See christopherkinman.blogspot.com)

From 2002 to 2004 I was invited by Lois Shawver to join the online faculty for the online Professional Development program as part of a Master’s Level course in Discursive Therapy offered by Massey University in New Zealand and Calgary University in Canada. This experience proved to me that it is possible to connect with people online using embodied language that has the power to move participants in unexpected ways.

I am also putting together the story of “Nina’s Box,” which tells of getting past a “stuck point” in a year long therapy. The therapist, Olga Sutherland, worked with me and her client, in a kind of three-way braid, for several months. At the end of this time, Olga had to leave for another city, and transferred her client to another therapist. But this client, on her own, decided to make a “healing box” out of bird’s eye maple and gave it to her therapist as a parting gift. This golden, beautifully made box amazed us all.

To whom am I offering this experience?

Practitioners who want a time-limited exposure to what some of us have called “Sharevision,” which is a horizontal, collaborative approach combining practices from the late Tom Andersen’s body-oriented “Reflecting Process” and ideas from Michael White’s poststructural “Narrative” orientation.

Trainees who need an experience of Online Reflecting Supervision with an Approved AAMFT Supervisor, and can complete the face-to-face time where they live.

Students in health and service fields who would like to enlarge their repertory by taking part in discussion groups focused on new ideas like “The Rhizome Way,” or by joining temporary reflecting teams for selected therapy interviews.

Other topic suggestions: “Notes on Sharevision,” - “Evidence for the Gutenberg Century,” - “Gregory Bateson and Ecologies of Mind,” - “Webwork and Netbuilding in Online Consultations”- “Decentralized Starfish Structures on the Internet” - “The Nature of Paralogical Conversations.”

***

If anyone is interesting in taking Lynn up on this offer, feel free to contact her at:

lhoffman2101@charter.net

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Becoming Animal

I fear the animals regard man as a being... seriously endangered by the loss of sound animal understanding...

Nietzsche
I play with the words of Nietzsche. For something emerges which is hard to expose within the carefully crafted, academic works of other philosophers, but is not at all difficult to discover amidst the rhythms and rhymes of the poets. It makes repeated appearance in Blake and Coleridge, Whitman and Pesoa. It also appears in the poetic-prose of the likes of D. H. Lawrence and Herman Melville, and later in the diverse explorations of Gregory Bateson.

What is it that appears? Follow Nietzsche through a few of his poems.

First of all... he bemoans the clock.

Around my neck, on chains of hair,
The timepiece hangs – a sign of care.
For me the starry course is o’er
No sun and shadow as before,
No cockcrow summons at the door,
For nature tells the time no more?
Too many clocks her voice have drowned,
And droning law has dulled her
sound.

Nietzsche is not calling for a conservative movement here, not a return to simpler days when the cock crowed to wake the farmer, and the stars and moon told of the coming seasons. No! Nietzsche is, however, calling us to ourselves, to who we are, yet who we repeatedly deny that we are. Nietzsche is suggesting that we are not distinct from nature; we are inescapably connected to the animals, to the seasons, to the hedgerows, to the sun and the streams. If we do seem separated from all this, it is an artificial separation, yet it is also a violent division which leads nowhere but destruction. And the ways of this heartless separation – including the imposition of blind law, distinct from any connection to nature, and an insistance upon a spirit of submission -- he clearly despises.

I hate to follow and I hate to lead.
Obedience? No! And ruling? No indeed!...

I hate to guide myself, I hate the fray.
Like the wild beasts I’ll wander far afield....
Instead of obedience, he becomes a wild beast! Yes... he becomes! As Deleuze would say, Nietzsche becomes a Becoming Animal...

Not a return to nature. No... but a Becoming forward toward nature. There is no need for a return, for our yesterdays were no more connected to a real world of sun and sky, fish and frogs, weeds and insects, than is our today. There is nothing to return too, instead this is a Becoming.

We see this Becoming in the next poem, where Nietzsche becomes a serpent. Not a serpent in the tradition of Western thinking -- the evil, conniving snake which deceives first the gullible woman and then the weak man – and an obvious misogynist man at that. No, this serpent is what it is, it moves through the rocks and the grass, it sheds it skin, it Becomes into newness, and it eats the food the earth provides. This serpent is real. It is even vulnerable to the violences of the human hand and foot. No emblem of evil here! Nietzsche not only loves this animal, he himself, through the words of this poem, Becomes this animal. And, we also, if we are able to read without interest in the narrow violations of evaluation and judgment, become this serpent. We Become the Becoming animal...

My skin bursts, breaks for fresh rebirth,
And new desires come thronging:
Much I’ve devoured, yet for more earth
The serpent in me’s longing.
Twixt stone and grass I crawl once more,
Hungry, by crooked ways,
To eat the food I ate before,
Earth-fare all serpents praise.

It is in this place, the place of the Becoming animal, that the powers-at-be loose their grasp. It is, for Nietzsche, in Becoming serpent, or mouse, or dog, dragonfly or tiger that a freedom and a joy emerge. For in the world of the snake, there is no more sin, no more God, no more king or queen, no more dominance of governing authorities, no more underlings to govern... but there is the grass to crawl through, one’s skin to shed, a feast of the earth to eat. Nietzsche cared not to call for either rigid structure or chaos; he created a world antithetical to both the Nazi and the anarchist. But he did call for an awakening of the animal, the animal whose influence we cannot escape, the animal which could be the serpent or could be the dove, but the animal which we dare to Become.

How strange this all appears. So removed are we from the creatures we share this world with, from the very creatures we are and we can become, that such concepts seem strange and utterly bizarre. Yet, perhaps, never before in our history has the Becoming animal been so required within our lives. We destroy creatures and the worlds they move within not because we are hungry, not because we, like the tiger and the hawk, desire to hunt and eat, but because, on the contrary, we are separate, distinct, disconnected from almost everything living. Let us Become that spider, that fly, that migrating songbird, that salmon, that disappearing shark. Let us become the hawk, the owl, the worm. Let us become Nietzsche’s serpent, and in so doing, discover the beauty and power of Becoming not just animal, but also wonderfully human.

_______________________________
Friedrich Nietzsche (2006). The Gay Science. New York: Dover Publications.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Sadness

The language of depression invites a process which turns inward, to internal movements, those supposed inner mechanics of mind and body. As if the person, and the feelings he or she experiences, is somehow separate from an outside world of people, things and nature. Apparently, in the worlds created through a language of depression, there is something deep inside, and that something deep within is broken, malfunctioning.

Yet, while this deep, dark, interior world, closed in by body and psyche, is the reality which is repetitively presented to us, the solutions we create do not come from such a place. And they cannot come from such a place, I argue, for such an interiorized place does not exist.

These days the dominant method for helping people deal with this thing called depression is a carefully created mix of chemicals. While we may be led to believe that these chemicals are synthetic, created by pharmaceutical companies far removed from nature, they can only be created by that which the earth is able to produce. They are, even though the legalities of property ownership might suggest otherwise, gifts of the earth. The only way we as human beings can create anything is with that which the earth and life are able to supply. So that which we call “treatment” for depression is through connections created with a world which is not interior to mind and psyche, but outside of us, outside of our bodies, through connections with life and planet. And, while these connections might be bureaucratised, placed within cumbersome institutions -- medical systems, research systems, capitalistic production systems -- it is still impossible to remove the necessity and reality of connection with nature, as well as with human hands and faces.

This is not a world of interiority, this is a world where the body and mind open up to an outside and connect with humanity and nature. Yet the language of depression is still a language of deep and troubled interiority.

I am tired of the word depression! I don’t want to be depressed anymore.

Why can’t I be sad, instead?

Sadness seems such a neglected and repeatedly diminished concept, as if the idea of sadness was somehow cheap and shallow, not fitting for a professionalized world. Sadness also might not seem to fit well with the industries associated with depression, for it is a language which tends to escape both the necessity of, and the practicality of, easy solutions. Sadness might not even invite a solution at all. For sadness does not have to be treated. The language of sadness does not imply that it is something which must be removed from our lives.

And, sadness is inescapably connected to relations with an exterior world. The language of sadness usually suggests that we are sad “because” of something. Sadness connects us outside of the mind and body, and usually connects us to relationships which we see as significant. Relationships shift, change, rupture; and in response we may feel sad.

Sadness is not just fit for human beings, for even a cat can seem sad, a dog, a horse, a cow. We have even seen plants which look sad.

While sadness is not always an experience which we must escape, there are things which we can do to move away from sadness, if we choose to. We can engage with other people, we can play and sing and dance, we can read a book, watch a movie. We can even imbibe in chemicals – including the ones the doctor provides. There are endless possible ways for distancing ourselves from sadness if that is what we feel we need to do. But all of these ways necessitate an opening up to worlds which are exterior to our own bodies and minds.

I have felt the rupture of relationships. So have you. We all know this sensation, or conglomeration of sensations, which we call sadness. I, for one, prefer to be sad, not depressed!















Friday, September 19, 2008

The Return



It's autumn again along the coast of British Columbia. The salmon are beginning to migrate up the rivers to the locations of their own birth. Every year I am reminded of that impossible to distinguish line between life and death. The salmon return to their birthing waters, they spawn, and they die. Their remains bring forth a multitude - seagulls, ravens, eagles, crows, trout, bear, crayfish, innumerable insects, crustaceans and other life forms -- all dining on nutrients provided by the salmon's decaying bodies. This spectacle of the alive awakens human bodies, our own senses, it moves in conjunction with our own livings and dyings. As if an ecstasy and a sorrow, a feasting and a horror, together come begging for return.

The following video was made from images and audio I obtained from one particular location where the sallmon have returned to spawn. A loud abundance moved around me -- you will hear thousands of gulls, the splashing of salmon, the occassional call of an eagle. However, most obviously, you will hear the ravens who took particular interest in me; watching me from a high perch, repeatedly flying over, croaking loudly, checking out my every activity.

video

Monday, September 1, 2008

Gregory Bateson

(1904 - 1980)
And the Territories of the Alive
















Picture from Wikipedia

The following video is a slideshow with audio which I made last year. It was inspired through my readings of Gregory Bateson. Probably more than any other writer Bateson has influenced my thinking on the idea of the Territories of the Alive.

video

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Questions and Affirmations

Imagining with D. H. Lawrence


So let us leave the way of the question, and try again the older way of affirmation. We shall find that our mind now definitely moves in images, from image to image, and no longer is there a logical process, but a curious flitting motion from image to image according to some power of attraction, some sensuous association between images.

D. H. Lawrence

D. H. Lawrence compared the actions of AFFIRMATION with the actions of QUESTIONING. I want to further explore this comparison.

Lawrence’s thoughts can be found in a small non-fiction book titled, Apocalypse. It was originally published in 1931. The thoughts below, however, are mine... spring-boarding off, inspired by Lawrence’s thinking.

Questioning

Questioning – perhaps a modern obsession (on the other hand, it is a method which has been around as long as there has been an assigned priesthood).

Questioning is what academics tend to do (among many others).

It is the process of never taking anything at face value, the process of always presuming that what one sees, what one hears, what one feels is not what it seems to be.

The true meaning, in the Questioning process, is only found deep underneath our perceptions.

The determination of meaning requires an archaeological-like process whereby layers of depth are successively exposed and interpreted, with a continual movement deeper.

Senses are not to be trusted; rather depths must be exposed, and meanings must be determined by priest-like specialists, interpreters such as academics, researchers and scientists.

When a questioning process is embraced, there is a turning away from the varied gifts which life might offer for fear that the experience of these gifts would be untrustworthy. Instead, there is a reliance upon constructions of meaning provided only by this new priesthood of experts.

Affirmation

Affirmations are actions which include a focus upon what one senses (for example, an emphasis upon image with Lawrence); a bodily acknowledgement of what one senses; and, in some way, a celebration of a world which enables such senses to emerge.

Affirmations emerge on a local, lived level; and they do not require priest-like experts to interpret what is experienced.

Affirmations show very little interest in depth – the abundance of life which awaits affirmation is almost always right at the surface... almost always right at hand.

If there were to be experts in the world of affirmation, those experts would probably be children and dogs.

Take a child to the beach and every pebble, every shell, every tiny shore-crab, every sandcastle, every seagull has the very real potential of emerging as an object of affirmation.

Affirmations are much more than words. They are responses to life which find expression, above all, in the body, in the face and hands. Words fit within acts of affirmation when they are responsive to the experiencing of life. A verbal responsivity must be fluent with the responsivity of body, face and hands.

Affirmations require the communal. While a singular body may sense and give response to given movements of life, the process of affirmation requires an additional level of response. Responsive action must be given to the initial responsive action before a sense of affirmation is produced. That is, affirmation requires two levels of affirmation – the affirmation of life, and the affirmation of the affirmation of life.


For it is not words that beget new things, it is feeling.

D. H. Lawrence

But now, instead of being naked vital man breast to breast with the vital cosmos, it is naked, disembodied mind losing itself in a naked and disembodied universe, a strange Nirvana.

D. H. Lawrence

Friday, August 15, 2008

A Meal of Crabs and Clams


The years gather together
In a dizzying lucidity
So much
Such a long time
Now merging into one
Unfinished conversation

Bits and pieces

Perhaps the sacred
Can be made of nothing else

A life is shared

A whole life
Yet
Never all of it

And it comes to be
As do
Our crabs and clams
From local abundances

Still after all this time
Local abundances

We sit together
A plastic table cloth
There is no way to eat this and be clean
So life is devoured
In it’s messiness

Perhaps all these movements
These comings
These goings
These glories
These tired bones
These spirits
Still soaring with the seagulls
And this spattering crab nectar

It all comes together
In a local eatery
Amidst a buttery
Clutter of
Sacrificed crustaceans
And the charm
Of a local hospitality

And it is never finished
For there remains
Always
A pile of
Broken shells

Arguably
Not a sacrifice at all
But a return

From calcium to calcium

Perhaps the sacred
Can be made of nothing else

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Big Fat People

In a Big Fat World







I want to write about being fat.

There seem to be well-accepted rules which are evident to many about how to respond to a person who is considered large/big/fat/overweight/obese. I continually struggle with weight and become acutely aware of the antagonistic voices which are out there directed towards those of us who fit such fat status. Some of these voices include the following ideas (I must emphasize, this list is certainly not representative of ideas I personally value):

1. First of all, it is clear that those who are heavy are so because they choose to be. That is, they are making choices about food and exercise which are directly making them fat.

2. Secondly, and in a similar vein, we must assume that those who are not fat are that way because of their wise choices. They also are the product of their decisions. And their successful fat-fighting lifestyles must be examples for those of us who are fat.

3. Fat people are grouped together into a population. They are, in a very real way, through the politics of language, separated from the real communal settings which life has connected then to and instead they are identified by their fatness. The same happens for many others too, where questions of identity tend to centre almost exclusively upon specific issues such as race, sexual identity, disability, intelligence ratio, etc.

4. Fat is undoubtedly and unequivocally a bad thing. There is nothing honourable or redemptive about being fat. Fat is an enemy to be fought against.

5. Fat is considered the product of over-consumption, the product of capitalism gone awry. Fat is hated in the same way that pollution is hated, that carbon-spewing city traffic is hated – it is the product of having too much. (If fat people are the product of capitalism gone awry, if they are the product of people having too much, then why in the Western world is fat disproportionately an issue of the poor, and skinniness disproportionately connected to the rich?)

6. The evil of fat can be treated, if the fat person is willing to admit he is fat, and to submit to strict restrictive and painful regimes of sacrifice which are usually institutionally packaged, sold in an anti-fat marketplace, and then applied to the identified problems which are making the fat person.

7. It can be safely assumed that fat people are not putting adequate effort into their health. Therefore anyone who meets a fat person can feel free to offer that person advice, for such advice has previously either been lacking or it has not been heard by the fat person. More advice is needed and should be received gratefully by the fat person.

All this is no surprise to me. As with other supposed plagues upon our society, fat is addressed, even in the strict secular realm, within clear Christian traditions of fall redemption. Fat is a sin – a secular sin these days. Fat is a destroyer and is to be seen as having nothing redemptive about it. It must in turn be battled against. The people who are fat, however, can potentially receive salvation from their fatness by listening to righteous and priest-like experts who know how to become slim and fit; also, by entering secular confessional processes where one’s fat-producing choices are admitted; and then by entering strict regimes of sacrifice and penance – necessary pain designed to eradicate the evil of fat.

We all know, and, of all people, fat people certainly know that there are often effects upon the body for being fat. A quick reminder though, there are many other things that effect health. I would certainly not be surprised if one day it is discovered that extreme physical exertion, such as running marathons, performing triathlons, creates serious detrimental effects upon health. But, my argument is certainly not directed towards a stopping of these things, but rather at recognizing the innumerable possible influences upon health – not just the influence of fat.

We as individuals need to take actions upon our own health, and we need to do it out of love for our bodies, and knowing that others love our bodies, not out of a loathing for our bodies, our fat bodies, as fat people are repetitively asked to do.

I want to suggest that many fat people have done far more to try and improve their health than most of the population has done. They have often attempted to reduce dietary intake, to sacrifice, to enter painful and extensive exercise regimes. But such changes are incredibly difficult to maintain. And, those who do well in this type of sacrificial arrangement, I argue, are those who are already predisposed, either genetically, or through other life influences, toward a desire for sacrifice and pain. Those who are predisposed toward joy, celebration, the beauties of food and other bodily pleasures, find it excruciatingly difficult to keep up with such regimes of sacrifice. Yet, over and over again, they try... often to a shortly-maintained success followed by further weight gain -- often beyond their previous weight.

Rarely is the relationship between fat and poverty addressed. If I walk into a high-end store, set aside for the more well-moneyed, I generally see slim and well-groomed people walking around. Yet, if I go to Wal-Mart, where many of the lower-class people will shop, I see far more fat people. A lifestyle seems to develop for the poor that tends to exclude things such as gym membership, which leads toward not buying high quality proteins and fresh produce (these costs are becoming increasingly out of reach). The lifestyles of such people tend to become overly dependent upon highly processed carbohydrates – sugars and grain products. Such foods of course lead toward an increase in obesity.

Recently, the aboriginal community of Alert Bay, just off the North-East coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, decided to adopt a diet more approaching their traditional diet; it included high quantities of healthy fats (in previous generations they would eat eulachon grease – eulachon is a small fatty fish -- with much of their food); much local protein such as salmon, shellfish and game, leafy vegetables, small amounts of fruits and root vegetables. Many in the community who practiced this diet lost significant weight; many also found their cholesterol counts and their blood pressure improved. And, to top it off... they loved eating this way. Check out their story:

CBC:
http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2008/03/10/bc-alertstudy.html

CBC (Discussion): http://www.cbc.ca/documentaries/discussion/2008/03/my_big_fat_diet.html

Canadians Talk:
http://canadianstalk.ca/viewtopic.php?f=19&t=6556

However, if one is not able to catch one’s own protein, collect nature’s pickings in the wild, this kind of diet is very expensive to maintain. Urban settings invite those with little money to rely upon more affordable, high carbohydrate diets.

Certainly we can all learn to eat food which is real and nourishing – and we must discover these foods for ourselves. However, at the same time, I want to invite a renewal of celebration of fatness. Yes, I mean this! Fuck the attack on fat people. We are large in the world, and many of us have the potential for much joy and much influence. Let us carry ourselves with confidence and bravado!

A quick story... a few years ago I saw in a small Korean corner store a cheaply made, plastic, smiling Buddha. He was laughing hysterically. His eyes sparkled with pure joy and humour. But, what most struck me about this plastic Buddha was that he was very fat. Yes, this Buddha was fat and overwhelmingly happy. Like a fool... I never bought it! I wish I did, but, even so, I carry its memory with me.

Compare this happy, laughing and very fat Buddha with the religious image that the Western world was built upon. Not a fat god living in abundance, but an almost anorectic, dying Christ -- sacrificed, hanging upon a cross. I will argue that the joyless, sacrificial, anti-fat society, in which we live, as secular as it may appear, is clearly just a reinvention of certain Christian values in a world in which religion is supposed to be denied. I am at a point in life that I want that fat, laughing Buddha. Christianity, and the new secular Christianity, needs to discover its own fat heritage – for it is there.

For those of us who are considered fat, let us wear these fat bodies with dignity. Let us willingly impose our largeness with energy, with joy, and, of course, with the plastic Buddha’s sparkling eyes upon this anorectic Western world.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

For Children in Care

Some Thoughts on the Work

By Drew Moore and Christopher Kinman

We all (including children in care) experience our world, our place within that world and ourselves only through the context of relationship.

Children and youth have a persistent impulse towards health, growth and relationship. We need to recognize this impulse, honour the impulse, and find ways of gently joining with the child or youth in this impulse.

Children and youth often engage in conversations using nonverbal means to express their desires and needs in relation to their growth and development.

Children and youth present behaviours that express their understanding of themselves and their world. These behaviours are the equivalent of words, and they are the child’s or youth’s best efforts at expressing himself or herself at that particular point in time.

We wish to see any changes occurring for a child or youth (whether desirable or non-desirable) to be a movement toward his/her own maturity -- emotional, psychological, physiological and spiritual maturity. These changes always occur in conjunction with significant relationships within her/his world.

The relationship between caregivers and the youth is the point where the most potential for growth and development occur. We say caregivers (plural) because we include the assigned caregiver(s) and the child’s or youth’s own family and community.

We see it as our work to maintain a primary focus upon the relationship between caregivers and the child or youth. This relationship-location is where life-effecting work occurs. Therefore, we understand our work as with relationships, not with individual people. Even when talking with individuals, we still see such a conversation as a work of relationship.

In order to fully support this work those surrounding the caregivers and child or youth must view themselves as in positions of support – not authority. Our work is to enable such a network of rhizome-relationships to work toward the support of the relationships between child/youth and caregivers.



This is a work of relationship... this work creates environments that support and nurture the development, stability and longevity of relationships between those caring for children and youth and those children and youth being cared for. This includes the relationships between the caregiver and caregiver’s family, but it also includes the children’s or youth’s relationships with his/her own family and community.

Compassion is the only foundation that will effectively support the growth and development of the youth. This compassion must be circulated freely, not only directed one way. Compassion must be directed toward the caregivers as well as to the child or youth. To talk of compassion for the child or youth but not direct that compassion to the others connected to the child or youth is a breach in the movements of compassion. The children and youth will typically be the first to perceive such a breach, and to be troubled by it.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Six Billion Sexes



A child is born who has never come before and will never come again, a child who carries an unrepeatable singularity (composed of uncountable multiplicities). Yet, immediately, upon entry into life, this singularity is destroyed. The child is torn into two; a determination is made as to whether this new life is a boy or a girl -- no other alternatives, just boy or a girl. And the results of this tear will impose direction and limitation for most every movement in this life.

Why must there be only two sexes? Why are there not more than six billion?

Sometimes, either because we wish to be open-minded, or, perhaps, because we wish to be mean-spirited, we allow ourselves to see masculine characteristics in a female body and soul, or feminine characteristics in a male body and soul. But why? Why must some ways of moving through life be considered male or female? Why not each life in its singularity simply be what it is and become what it becomes, within a richness which vastly exceeds a world of two options?

Even such added distinctions such as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, as liberating as these distinctions might be, do not go far enough. They still play around the male/female borderlines. They still are far from acknowledging the over six billion genders which move within our world.

I wish to find ways to talk of people, and, more than people, to talk of life in its splendid diversity, in ways which acknowledge a uniqueness far outside simple hand-me-down distinctions, and certainly far beyond the most basic of distinctions-- male and female.

I wish to find ways to talk of people in languages profuse with colours.

I wish to think of the living of life as carrying textures, depths and elevations.

I wish to imagine our movements as in the midst of constant traffic, where we continuously have to negotiate our turns.

I wish to imagine bodies as always becoming and as eternally in rearrangement.

I wish to think of life as never, ever finished, never decided, and never truly describable.

I believe that by such imaginings we can, and we regularly do, live outside the simplicity of a world divided into two.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Honouring Community

The Work of the Rhizome Way

There is a work which we love
A type of work
A way of working

We call it the Rhizome Way

But this is a work which has been around so much longer
Than our words

It is not the work of fixing
Whether that is fixing people or communities

But it is a work of
Honouring
Honouring community
Bringing to life
And celebrating
Those innumerable gifts which circulate
Within our own communities

It is a work of
Honouring relationships
Even those which often frustrate
For it is through such varied connections
That our daily lives
Find sustenance

It is not through experts
That our hope emerges
But through the gifts
Which circulate within
Our communal realms

This work concerns
A bringing to communal life
In ways which we can all see
That vast array of gifts
Which move into life and world

And this work
It is also about creation
Creating
Things

Things made by hands
Arts crafts
Equipment and machines
All such creations
Coming from and returning to
Life itself

Also, this is a work of creating words
Ways of talking, singing, writing
Which connect people together
Which bring love, understanding and hope

We together create more than community
We create
A people
Which in a way
Has not yet come

For this work creates
A people of tomorrow
A future

And not a future
Of gloom and decay
But a time when the
Very gifts we share today
Return in renewed ways
They return with our children and grandchildren
And they return with
So much more than we can now imagine

We engage in a work which creates
A People
And a future
Which are not
(quite) yet...