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 – 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.


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
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
A pile of
Broken shells

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 (Discussion):

Canadians Talk:

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.