Sunday, April 27, 2008

A New Work

I recently read an intriguing new book by Amy Sutherland: What Shamu Taught Me about Life, Love and Marriage. Sutherland talks about the new generation of animal trainers, particularly trainers of exotic animals. She becomes fascinated with how the ideas which motivate these animal trainers are helpful not just to those who work with animals but to all of us as we maneuver throughout the challenges of our own relationships. Her book inspired -- at least in part -- this posting.


Perhaps these thought are just too out of the ordinary for the therapeutic professions, and also for many who play the political game on its various levels, but in the field of animal training it seems to be becoming commonplace.

That is (I am using my own words and understandings here):
  • Our work is not at all one of getting rid of undesirable behaviour, thinking, attitudes, etc.

  • Our work is about assisting in bringing to life the person’s/animal’s natural desires and vitality into movements of relationship and ways of life which promotes the well being of all concerned.

  • Our work is not the work of violence which the therapeutic domain has become accustomed to – that of identifying evils which, in turn, must be torn away.

  • Our work is one of creation. Joint creation! Creating ways of life, being, becoming, relationship which are desirable and enhancing of the Alive within the varied relations which make up our world.

And, regarding the way we engage in this practice:

  • This work is not primarily a work of words, not even primarily a work of relations between the givers of words. This work is about bodies which communicate, and words are connected to bodies which communicate. The responsivity of bodies to each other within a living moment of mutual engagement is the context whereby desired goods/gifts are brought further into the realm of life.
  • This work is not primarily about the relationship between a practitioner/trainer and the one she/he is working with. This work is about community, it is about complexity, it is about the responses of many bodies to each other. If we have any influence at all, it is somehow within this communal realm (granted, it is possible that the communal can be awoken and influenced through one-on-one interactions).

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Immanent

The Immanent I

The sound of wind in the trees
It sings of Powers

But not the powers of gods and demons
Not the powers of ghosts and soothsayers
No, No, No...

The sound of wind in the trees
Sings of many powers
But what kind of powers does it sing of?
What powers are revealed?

Just perhaps
These powers are

The sound of wind in the trees

Just that
The power of what it is
The sound of wind in the trees
Nothing more nothing less

And why transcend such a moment?
Why step away from
Remove ourselves
From the crescendos of this fleeting event
From an unrepeatable chorus of ten thousand leaves?

We stand beside such disruptive forces
Hot in the desert
Carrying hurricane and thunderhead
But here, none of that
Just wind in the trees

Every imagined and
Every created power
Becomes nought
In this instant
When the heavens brush
Against a living earth

The Immanent II

The earth never begs for our ear
It cares less whether we bother to hear

But even so there is music

Exquisite rhythms
Harmonies and dissonances
Lyrical exchanges

But only within
A living exchange
A chance meeting

The song appears only when there is an opening
A breach
An infringement
A possibility

An opening of arms
Of eyes, heart, hands
Of lungs, lips, ears

An opening toward
The turnings of this earth
The endless engagements
Of the Alive

No ghosts no gods
Fend off all that is transcendent
Only such movements as the earth
As Life
Tosses before us
Mindlessly sends our way

The only true spell
This living instant

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

In the Poet's Words

These words came to me after spending some much-loved time with the words of two particular poets: William Blake and Fernando Pessoa...

In the poet’s words

There comes...

No purity of amusement
No tidy rhythms
No market-crafted sentiments
No American Idol
No expert designs
No legal precision
Nothing that is ever spotless

Never any satisfaction...
For clarity-desires


The Nazi
Hated all
In the poet’s words
But (and why do people so often forget?)
He loved hygiene

Honorary Title: Master of Sanitation

Perhaps the original sin of the Nazi
Was a desire to produce...
(An insistence upon producing)

And the second sin
A bureaucratizing of that desire


In another world
Far from those
Carefully formulated
Policies and procedures

Amidst a mess and a beauty
A messy beauty
Amidst overgrown vines
Uncut grass
A littered shoreline
Amidst all those un-see-able creatures
And (even worse)
Those see-able creatures
Crawling wiggling swarming
In the dirt beneath the feet
In the water we refuse to drink

Amidst such abundances
(Such undesired excesses)
We find again
And again and again
Which is Alive

We accidentally uncover
Twitching and squirming
Evading our pills and our bleach

And in this uncovering
We come to see
That the Alive
Is laughing
(And not with us)
Laughing at us
At our futile insistence

We stumble upon

We fall into all of that

In the poet’s words

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Our Princes Are Dying (and one Queen)

In memory of just a few who gave so much to the field of Family Therapy...

by Lynn Hoffman

I could not bear to hear of Gianfranco’s death,
While trying to help some roadside travelers,

Or the death of his good friend, young Guido Boscolo.

I could not bear to hear of the death of Tom Andersen
Our beloved patron from the Arctic snows.

And I could not bear to hear of the death of Michael White,
Another angel here in human guise.

Harry Goolishian, Steve de Shazer, Insoo Berg, had warned us, going first

And there are some in the wings, waiting, that I have heard about,

Too many, too soon, too dear,
A mid-life massacre,

But living on in our immense regret.
I pay my grave respects to all of these,

And am reminded of John Webster’s “Dutchess of Malfi,”
In amending the deathless phrase that closed the play:

Cover their faces
Mine eyes dazzle,

They died young.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A Revolution of the Alive

Pessoa at his favourite coffee shop -- with loyal friends.

A new love is introduced into my world...

Upon a recent trip to Portugal I was given a book by the poet, Fernando Pessoa. He is this new love! His words!

Pessoa is a most intriguing person. He wrote much of his poetry from the perspective of several other characters, he called these characters Heteronyms. Yet, within the words of each of these persons there is a feel of Pessoa also being present, never a sense of him ever being truly distinct from these various characters.

Within Portugal, and most certainly within Lisbon, Pessoa is a national treasure, a hero. Yet, his heroics are of the ordinary-people kind. In my (very new) reading of Pessoa, I never had any sense that he was directing his writing toward academia, or even toward any higher or prestigious class. Certainly an unusual poet, for his words were rarely written as his own, and, at this point in time, his words are certainly not his own, for they are now the people’s words, they are Portugal’s words.

My favourite of Pessoa’s heteronyms was named Caeiro. Pessoa himself claimed that he (Pessoa) was a disciple of Caeiro. Caeiro’s words were simple and lovely, gentle, and it could be easy to stay in this quiet place. Yet there is a power which awakens with his words, and this power quickly becomes disruptive and political. While we are not looking, Caeiro overturns tables, long standing tables, tables of religion and science, mystical tables, metaphysical tables, tables of power and control, he overturns them all, sending the golden coins and the transcendent thoughts scattering down those cobblestone streets. He was a prophet of sorts, awakening hearts, minds and bodies to something we might call “nature.” Not that nature was separate from humanity, separate from mind – not at all. For Caeiro a levelling democracy occurs, wherein the full diversity -- people, flowers, the wind, the sea, the donkey -- all is nature. However, it must be emphasized that while Caeiro used the term nature, he also disliked the word, for it was never sufficient, and all too often, through the way people used language, it became a singular and unifying thing -- and this was anathema for Caeiro.

A few of Caeiro’s words...

I believe in the World as in a daisy
Because I see it. But I don’t think about it
Because thinking is not understanding...
The World was not made for us to think about
(To think is to be eye-sick)
But for us to look at and be in tune with...

I have no philosophy: I have senses...

If I speak of Nature, it’s not because I know what Nature is,
But because I love it, and that’s why I love it,
For a lover never knows what he loves,
Why he loves or what love is...

As Gilles Deleuze argued for the immanent, for a world where nature is able to speak, on its terms, within its on uncountable diversity, and as Gregory Bateson turned toward what he called the grammar of the Creatura, so also Pessoa... Through Caeiro he calls forth a world where we cease to assess and calculate, we cease to encapsulate, to reduce to simple terms, and we experience life as close as possible to where it is encountered, in the way it is encountered, with a language which sees, and in turn, loves.

Nature becomes not a singularity, but many things, many possibilities which must be experienced in their own unique presentations, and not even as things enfolded under the singular umbrella of nature itself.

And also people, all those people we meet, they too are part of this nature (or this un-nature), they too are to be encountered, engaged with, experienced, discovered to be in relation with us -- and, in the end, they are to be loved. No more assessments, no more words which reduce and minimize the beautiful and even tragic complexity which we all, as people, carry with us. No more of that professional gaze which Foucault so carefully unpacked for us. But for Pessoa, for Caeiro, the motivation for this change never emerged from an abstract place of social justice, neither did it come from a commitment to environmental, cultural, gender activism... No his politics emerged from the poet’s engagement with rocks and trees, with children and oxcarts, with herds of sheep, with grass and sea and sunlight. These things of the Alive, moving upon the land and waters of Portugal... it is these things which really turn over the tables, that send our assumptions tumbling down those hilly streets. And, it seems to me, that Pessoa, through Caeiro, would have it no other way!

Just a few more of Pessoa’s words...

I look and I am moved,
Moved as water flows when the ground slopes...

Only Nature is divine, and she is not divine...

Monday, April 7, 2008

Looking Down

A poem. Inviting a look into the common, the small, even the mundane, where the abundance of Alive emerges in pure splendour.

I notice that those who walk
Upon this rocky beach
Mostly look down

Not up to the imposing scenery
Of sea and sky and mountain

But down
To the time and surf worn rocks
To a myriad of scuttling and hiding creatures
To varied mysteries washed up as tide and currents halt upon these stones

Perhaps abundance is more intimately encountered
Beneath one’s feet

In vulnerable unnoticed detail