Sunday, December 13, 2009

Thinking about Charity and Gift-Exchange

It’s the Christmas season again, a time of year when we are called to focus upon those people who we consider less fortunate than ourselves. We are called to give from our own wealth to those who are perceived as lacking or in-need. We are repetitively informed that it is the season for such an approach to giving..



  • Charity is no gift-exchange.
  • In a gift-exchange we are giving in response to gifts already given, we enter into an emerging game of reciprocity.
  • The gift is always in response to an encounter with abundance.
  • The gift-exchange pays little interest in need or lack – that is the work of charity.
  • We all-too-often talk as if the world needs more charity, more people giving to other people who are lacking and in need.
  • I argue we do not require more charity.
  • We must resist the belief that human lives are empty and lacking.
  • Instead, we must see human lives as rich and full – understanding that this fullness is not always an easy thing, sometimes it can also be a source of pain.
  • We take on the responsibility of bearing witness to our own experience of the fullness in human lives, and in life in general.
  • And we take on the responsibility of creating meaningful, enlivening and specific response to our encounters with such abundance.
  • Such responses are always unique... they never can be truly scripted or anticipated.
  • We respond to a unique and irreplaceable presentation of a particular act of giving within a complex rhizome world.
  • We respond to the abundance of others, not to lack and poverty.


  • Such an emphasis on gift-exchange does not at all minimize the horrors of poverty.
  • On the contrary, poverty is tragic and reprehensible precisely because it repeatedly minimizes the gifts circulating within human lives and worlds.
  • Our response to poverty is actually not a response to poverty at all -- it is a response to the gifts circulating within the lives and worlds of those people we are engaged with.
  • And, our response to such a circulation of gifts is not limited to emotions such as gratitude, but might call forth any number of responses, including actions of anger which emerge upon the understanding that the circulation of these gifts might be minimized and limited.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Creating a Relational Work - Part II

Life and Work through Image: Bill Reid and The Spirit of Haida Gwaii.

To access: Creating a Relational Work - Part I, click here.

We are all too often led to believe that in order to give understanding and direction to life and work we are in need of the appropriate words. We are taught that it is in language that we are supposed to discover truth, meaning, instruction, enlightenment – it is hard to envisage any other way. However, I am here inviting an exploration of life and work through an encounter with an image.

In the international departures area of the Vancouver International Airport there is a large bronze statue created by the late Haida sculptor, Bill Reid. It is called The Spirit of Haida Gwaii -- it is sometimes also called the Jade Canoe. This image is also found on the Canadian twenty-dollar bill.

I will let Lynn Hoffman introduce you to this work of art (she first encountered The Spirit of Haida Gwaii in another location, not the airport):

Another feature of this work was a strong communal presence. During a break in my workshop, which was being held in Vancouver, a person in the audience took me into a room filled with green light. There, in the midst of ficus trees and bamboo, was an astonishing object. It was a greenish bronze canoe, half the size of the room, and in it a variety of totemic animals were struggling with each other: the raven with the bear, the wolf with the eagle, the crow with the dog, while half-human creatures like the Dogfish Woman, or the Bear Mother, paddled, watched over by the sombre Village Chief with his temple-shaped hat. I learned that this was the achievement of a sculptor called Bill Reid, who was himself descended from First Nations people. In this work, titled “The Spirit of the Haida Gwai,” Reid represented himself as the Ancient Conscript, paddling along with the rest.

Click here to access Hoffman's entire document.

No words are necessary as we encounter this image. However, for many of us who see The Spirit of Haida Gwaii, who walk around it, who examine each detail and crevice, who touch the cool smoothness of those bronze creatures, we find that words cannot be escaped. For words are inevitably evoked, created in response to experiencing this creation. I will briefly share a few words that emerge through my own encounter with the The Spirit of Haida Gwaii:
  • Life is almost always full, abundant, even crowded.
  • The living of life can never escape a diversity of characters and relationships.
  • Some of that diversity which elbows through our worlds includes relationships with animals -- animals are people too (and, of course, people are animals too)!
  • We never move anywhere on our own through life, it is forever a communal event. The idea of individualism is simply a deceit – that emperor wears no clothes.
  • Our movements through life are never direct and pure. There are always bumps and obstacles to be encountered.
  • Our relationships in life are also never pure and free from conflict. There will always be a sense of clumsiness associated with our relationships, and, if we linger long enough in our looking, we will always find that somebody is biting somebody else.
  • Yet, through it all, we somehow together manage to paddle that canoe, and (again -- if we linger long enough) we will repeatedly be confronted with a sense of fullness and even joy in our movements through life.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Lynn Hoffman - Cloudwork

Reading the following piece by Lynn Hoffman is like joining into the midst of an ongoing conversation, the reader is not necessarily party to to the prior conversation pieces. Rather than attempting to create an introduction that would provide adequate context for what is written, I decided to leave it the way it is. Just suffice it to know that this piece was written by Lynn to be read (by another person) at the occasion of her 85th birthday celebration.

In this short piece, Lynn (in a manner that has been so typical of her entire career) draws together strands of thought and work, creating a rhizome space which both honours and generates relationship. Also, in the context of such relationships, we are able to gain a richer understanding of the work we are engaged in.


Peggy, Sarah (I remember you!), Bonnie, Kevin – Your responses filled me like a helium balloon, and I have to tether myself to keep from going off into the wide blue yonder. This is very bouncy stuff.

First let me address the question about why I chose those Pillars of Wisdom. They stand for our special Ancestors who recently died: Harry, Tom and Michael. I give each a memory phrase: “not knowing” for Harry Goolishian (of course, Harlene Anderson first described its genesis); “reflecting team” for Tom Andersen, which is what he and his followers became famous for; and “witnessing,” which Michael White added. Even though Michael took the format of the reflecting team from Tom, the idea of “witnessing” enlarged it, allowing him to bring in an anthropological perspective based on the work of the American researcher Barbara Meyerhoff, who had shown the healing effect that ritualized remembrances have on the lives of uprooted persons.

I also connect the Ancestor concept with Bruce Chatwin’s “The Song Lines,” which describes the walkabouts that Australian aborigines take to familiarize themselves with landscapes or creatures that are part of their history. They call these Ancestors, and make amazing pointillist pictures of them, with names like Lizard Dreaming. While walking they will sing a song describing what “lines” or pathways the Ancestor stood for.

Sarah, thanks for pointing out how puzzled people with psychology or social work backgrounds feel when reading works by people who don’t tell you “how.” It sounds like Alice, who threw the whole deck up in the air at the end of Wonderland, saying, “You’re nothing but a pack of cards?” Yes, but then how do you play the game?

For this reason, I have always been interested in close study of practices. Ellen Landis, a dance therapist, is getting a doctorate in Expressive Arts Therapy at Leslie College, and has transcribed six workshop meetings with therapists who work with traumatized people, first giving them a questionnaire on Compassion Fatigue and then repeating it at the end. In most of the sessions, Ellen brought in art materials: bits of cloth, colored paper, stars, which she asked the group to use in expressing their reactions, whether to the questionnaire, or to the situations they worked with. The meetings had an unusually positive effect on people, even though the last one ended with disappointment (a mild social action piece that was left to the end and seemed to wither on the vine). Ellen and I taped conversations about each session, trying to see what Ellen did that was special.

In her workshops, Ellen also used an exercise that we called “Sharevision,” a practice that was born at People’s Bridge Action in Athol where I worked as a consultant [not] during the 80s and 90s. I came once a month, and on the off weeks, the staff met without a supervisor in “pods.” The group later developed a time-map for these meetings, and the name was self-evident. In Ellen’s workshop, participants alternated between the meetings with Ellen and Sharevision meetings on their own. These meetings went so well that everyone was amazed.

As for Sarah’s mention of ideas about body, this has been a perpetual interest of mine. I became fascinated by Gregory Bateson’s research on communication which lacks a way to say “No,” like the speech of schizophrenics, the “language of the creatura,” the realms of humor, art, religion, metaphors, dreams, illness. After vainly trying to find a phrase that would nail the phenomenon in question, I ended up with the “Unlisted Languages.”

You ask about “Empathy.” Well, I tried to make it “Tempathy,” for Travelling Empathy. (see “Family Therapy: An Intimate History.”) I was not satisfied with the within-person idea but wanted to make it more like resonance, which is not “inside” anyone but is picked up variously, as whales pick up the sonar dimensions of their ocean-to-ocean habitat. It is the responses or echoes, not just the individual beeps, that count. What would “Sonar Practices” be like as a category of therapy?

I agree about Seikkula’s use of the love word, but that is a byproduct, and I would like to see what goes into that general effect – what the sonar of it is. Mary Olson did a nice paper with Seikkula on Open Dialogue, which I will ask her about.

Bonnie, nice example of being a telepath - like Sookie Stackhouse on Trueblood. But it is hard work for mere mortals. I use the Big Beach metaphor: the waves may be fierce, but even after a storm the beach will usually still be there, and you may find a new and interesting pebble or shell.

It’s true that models and structures exist for the comfort of the therapist, but if you have too many ropes or monkey bars, they can turn on you. Which bar or rope should I grab first?

And Kevin, I really like your so-called “mistakes.” Now Knowing is important. It cuts off the higher layers that get in the way, like “What if?” Seeing withness as witness is also useful – they go together. And the “contact improv” analogy is maybe more accurate than “conversation” for what we do. I think that text, conversation, written or spoken, is beginning to drop away as a guiding notion – that’s why I use the image of underground rivers, and more recently “cenotes,” the subterranean pools under the surface of the ground in places in Mexico.

As for Seikkula and Co’s break-through study of Open Dialogue, I love their emphasis on creating a common language rather than drawing a diagnosis out of an antique box. Redefining the goal as preventing chronicity, rather than suppressing symptoms is another great idea. Seikkula works with the whole ecology, in the service of creating a “sustaining web.” What is my definition of that? A setting where people can feel “more safe, more free, and more alive.”

I want to mention here a useful counter-practice invented by Chris Kinman who works with in indigenous communities in Vancouver. He came up with the idea of a “Collaborative Action Plan” instead of the “Problem-Oriented Record.” Question One: What gifts and potentials can this young person bring to the community? Question Two: What gifts and potentials can the community bring to the young person? Question Three: What are the Roadblocks that stand in the way of both? Tested on the public health nurses working in the Fraser River Valley, this change made life radically better for the front-line nurses, the university teachers, some of the bureaucrats, and all of the clients.

The ideas above are part of what I call the ˝Gutenberg Century” - the effect of a new technology on everybody’s ways of thinking and doing. If, as I suspect, the Internet is changing our ruling metaphor, which has been the System, we must leave unit-linked ideas like individual or family or ethnic group, and start looking at the connectivity suggested by certain kinds of Webs. The Internet can’t do web-building on its own, (witness the problems with MySpace or Facebook, or the aboutface by Wikipedia) but we should put our minds to this.

Cloud Computing stands for universal access, for better or for worse. Building Webs is the social must-do of the present. So are ideas about rhizomes. If we take seriously Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s warning against “arborescence,” the hierarchical tree-shape that imprints our current institutions, then why not take the Rhizome as a counter-concept? It will help us begin to see the pluses and minuses ahead.

The Ancestors who are part of my Songlines -Harry Goolishian, Tom Andersen, Michael White - were among the pioneers who already were playing with concepts of connectivity like webs and clouds. Then there are horizontal visions like the rhizome metaphor of Deleuze and Guattari, or Tom Friedman’s “The World is Flat.” Another work questioning our fetish for hierarchy is called “The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations,” by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom.

Finally, there is Chris Kinman’s beautiful self-printed essay: “Territories of the Alive: Nature, Community and the Gift.” Website:

To summarize, I am experimenting with new terms like Web-Building, Cloud-work, Sonar Practices, Kinman’s “The Rhizome Way.” “Sharevision” is another concept that fits. A number of philosophers like Mikhail Bakhtin, J.F. Lyotard, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari have been our heralds and soothsayers, and Gregory Bateson was the first to see as basic the evolutionary unit of creature and natural world. Nothing is congealed yet - we are still taking the measurement of the changes that are engulfing us - but we have a chance to fill the new mold while the metal still runs hot.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Speeding and Shape-Shifting

Rethinking the Idea of the Gift

The gift... a concept I have been moved by, an idea which has been important to me in my work and life.

I wish to explore this concept a bit more in this posting. I wish to make a simple distinction, but a distinction that, as Gregory Bateson would say, makes a difference.

Two ways to talk about the gift.

Gift – as Possession

In this manner of thinking the gift is understood as:

  1. An item of value which is provided to an individual or other entity without expectation of an equitable exchange of monies or other goods.
  2. The item exchanged, by means of the exchange, and in spite of the inequitable exchange of monies or goods, becomes the property of the one receiving the item.
  3. The emphasis becomes the gift as property/possession.
Such a conception of the gift is wrought with many legal meanings and histories.

With the idea of gift as possession, I give a gift to my friend -- let’s say I give a bottle of wine. After I give the gift, the bottle of wine is then understood to be my friend’s property. A person's relationship with the gift is one of proprietor and property.

In a similar vein, we use this type of language of gifts in connection with people and the unique contributions they bring to the world. We may notice gifts such as intellect, athletic abilities, business acumen, even compassion, but we see these gifts as connected to and owned by a particular individual or group.

  1. She has a gift of intellect.
  2. He has a real gift with his athletic abilities.
  3. Those people seem to have smarts when it comes to doing business.

Such gifts are also distinguished as items which a person is in possession of. The emphasis is not so much on the exchange of gifts but upon the item given and the fact that the item is the property of the individual. Such a conception of the gift tends to isolate a person, it proposes that the person who owns the gift is different from others around him or her precisely because the person is in ownership of the gift. "Giftedness" in education is built upon this idea.

Gift – as Movement

But the gift can also be distinguished by virtue of its movement, its economy -- if I may. The emphasis shifts from ownership to flows and speeds of movement. In cultures where gift economies are emphasized, the focus is typically upon the gift-in-movement, not upon the perceived owner of the gift, and not even upon the unique embodiment of the gift in that particular moment.

Gifts are seen as moving within and through communities; gifts transform their embodiment as they change hands; and people (and the land, animals, plants) are conduits, carriers and transformers of these gifts.

Within this way of understanding the gift, the emphasis is not on the bottle of wine, or on the one who owns it or gives it. Rather, the bottle of wine is given in response to the perception of gifts being given previously (for example, the bottle of wine is given in response to an invitation to dinner); and the reception of the bottle of wine transforms into further gifts of appreciation, hospitality, and on and on. The gift, in a way, moves through the items given and through the people giving and receiving, it keeps circulating and expanding, taking on ever new embodiments. This gift never ceases.

And a gift such as compassion, therefore, becomes so much more than a possession owned by an individual; it becomes a response to previous gifts too innumerable to mention, it becomes part of ongoing flows and exchanges. To tie down solidly a gift, such as compassion, into a body, as a possession, can deny both the complexities of movement that brought that gift into its current form, and the endless possibilities of how that gift can move and transform in the future.

It has been my sense for some time that people tend to feel uncomfortable when the goods they bring to life are seen as possessions which they carry within their bodies. People want to be part of ongoing flows of gifts, they don’t so much want these gifts stopped and settled upon their own bodies – such a weight can feel far too heavy to bear.

It seems to me that we usually want to live in response to others and the gifts they bring; and we wish others to live in response to us and the gifts we bring -- gifts moving through us, changing form in their passing.

Such a sense of gift exchange, I propose, creates its own flows of gifts; for one, it creates an ongoing experience of a good life, of a life well lived.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


Chehalis, a First Nation situated near the confluence of the Harrison and Chehalis rivers in what is now known as the province of British Columbia, is developing ways for working with children and families that honour their own history, widom and values. The people of Chehalis have created a document that represents such values and gives direction to the work of assisting their own people.

This document describes what is important for the people of Chehalis when it comes to assisting families within their own community. However, I find this document to be of value for all of us. I asked Anna Charlie, from Chehalis, if I could share this document with those who read this blog. She said that they would be happy to share this document if it would benefit other communites.

I hope you find this document of value, as I have.


Snowoyelh is the natural law the creator provided for us. It is the "Law of Everything", the law of life, the stages of life. Snowoyelh is based on respect to all things, recognition, obligation and traditions, and is the basis of our culture and spirituality.

Emi:melh is a generic word meaning children, but also means family, whether by blood or association; the word has both social and spiritual connotations.

Sts'a'lies is who we are.

Snowoyelh Te Emi:melh is an obligation that we as Sts'a'lies people have to our children, our families, our ancestors and those yet to come, because that is the natural law.

Snowoyelh Te Emi:melh includes these principles:

  • Our families are paramount to our culture and society
  • We have the capacity to codify family law
  • Our culture, spirituality and traditions are core to our identity
  • Past, current and future generations are all important to us
  • Our children are our most precious gift
  • All children have unique gifts
  • We are measured by the actions of our children and grandchildren
  • Families must be recognized and supported
  • Extended families have a role in raising children
  • Our families have connections that extend beyond our community
  • Healing must be provided to those family members who need it
  • Healthy communities are based on healthy families
  • In family there are no 'reserve' boundaries
  • Community leaders have a place supporting and advocating for their members

Monday, July 6, 2009

Talking about Talking

I want to think of a world where talking is not something which separates us, cuts us away from the worlds of animals and nature, but where out talking emerges from the movements of nature, and where our talking (I sincerely hope) also returns us to the prolific world of life from which we came.

I wish to think of our talking as connected to the songs and calls which animals create.

I imagine the call of the wolf, the mystical song of the thrush, the vibration of the cricket, the chatter of the chickadee, as emerging from the same sorts of relations and creative impulses as do our own words and our own songs.

I imagine that our talking is similar to the sonic engagements of the bat or the whale -- calls are put forth, but it is in the return that the contours of worlds are explicated.

It’s not in the speaking, therefore, that any meaning is produced, but it is in the return of our calls that worlds are brought forth.

Our sense of language, of words, of song is not about a search for a truth, not about knowing the correct formations of reality, but rather, in the return, rich, pragmatic, and complex worlds are produced -- this is not a knowing of precision, but a multifaceted and sensual experience of contour, texture, proximity and distance.

Words can only come from life – I search for words as a return to honour life.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Jacques Derrida's Cat

On discovering one is being looked-at, rather than looking-at

Jacques Derrida in his book, The Animal That Therefore I Am (2008, Fordham), discusses the expectation before him to talk about animals, but, instead of "talking about", and instead of describing animal as a generality, or even as an assortment of species, he describes an incident, a specific moment with a singular and real cat, with his cat. He described a moment of being naked in the presence of this cat, with the cat looking at him. He described a sense, of discomfort, even shame from this experience of having his naked body gazed upon by his cat. Derrida saw that he was not so much looking as he was being looked at, and not by some global category of "animal", but by an all-too-present, staring feline.

Derrida continues, always returning to the cat, his cat, the specific cat staring at his naked body. He reminds us that the experience of being looked upon by an animal is almost never the vantage point from which animals are talked about in both science and philosophy. Instead, the gaze is repeatedly and consistently from the human eyes upon the body of the animal. We, the humans (and in particular, we the philosophers, the scientists, and other institutional players) are the observers, and from the position of looking upon the animal we also find ourselves with the privilege of being the ones who name, who examine, and who interpret the animal. The scientific and philisophical eye never expects the animal to be examining the examiner.

As in Genesis, where the animals are brought before Adam, who then looks upon them, and from that vantage point provides names for them, and also, as in Genesis, where dominion, authority, power is granted to Adam and his descendents over animals, so in a modern world, the human gaze (and, more particularly, the institutionalized gaze) looks upon and gains mastery over animal worlds. Yet Derrida, breaking with all that overwhelming philosophical and scientific tradition, invites us to see the animal seeing us. He invites us to explore the intensity of being gazed upon by the animal.

While science and philosophy have kept this objective, unidirectional gaze upon the animal, other forms of human discourse have, at times, explored life from the position of the animal’s gaze upon us. Derrida suggests that poetry has enabled such forays.

I remember William Blake.

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright,

In the forests of the night...

In what distant deeps ofskies

Burnt the fire in thine eyes?

Few animals evoke the varied emotional experiences which come with being gazed upon more than the cat. With Blake, it is the eye of the tiger. As the cat looks at a human being, her gaze so frequently goes, not upon bodies, naked or otherwise, but rather, her eyes cut directly into human eyes. An intensity of stare, like heat from a fire, breaks right through those “windows of the soul”. Such a gaze can awaken awe, a sense of nakedness of spirit, it can demand us to respond, it can demand us to provide food or open a door, and, it can also instil a sense of dread. As fire penetrates and shatters, so the eyes of the cat.

Yet our language is dominantly about looking at the animal, not of the animal looking at us, and certainly not of the exchange of looking which so often occurs with the animals we share our lives with. Language itself is seen as that activity of looking which separates us from the animals. For we can put our observations into words, animals can’t. We can observe animals and name them -- it appears that animals cannot do the same thing.

However, what a cold and dry understanding of language this is! For I do not see language so much as a tool of objectivity, a tool for determining what is true, what is name-able, what is decipherable. Rather I tend to see language as something which emerges, both in evolution and in day-to-day life, within the midst of exchanges, in the midst of social connections and interactions. I imagine language as more akin to the actions of hands rather than the exchange of information. Language touches us, it moves us, and it strikes us, and these hand-like movements reverberate, they are communal, they never come from and never stay within just a two-person realm.

Words are certainly not the only way to touch and be touched, yet words are so often seen as that which distinguishes us from, makes us superior to all other animals. Our adamic heritage is still intact, even within secular realms – it is still often assumed that because we name, because we use words, we are therefore superior; because we use words to look down upon, to observe and evaluate, therefore we have dominion, we can control.

Yet the eyes of the cat tell us otherwise. For it is a challenge to experience the stare of a cat and not feel some intensity within the moment. I have heard stories of encounters with wild cougars – few events can strike terror into the heart more than finding one’s eyes caught in the stare of a wild, large feline. And, it's not just fear, but also the shame of being naked, the joy of being loved, the excitement of play... all such experiences can be evoked as we encounter the eyes of a cat.

Language is one way to touch and be touched, it is obviously an important method that we as humans use, but it is only one way amidst a plethora of ways within nature for connection to occur. The human animal is able to touch and be touched through language. And many animals, in their own desire to connect with us, while they are not able to speak to us with words, they are able to be touched by our use of language. Many animals can develop some resonance with our use of words. Yet, in spite of such remarkable animal responsivity, we still imagine that we are superior in some way.

Whether with language, or whether through connecting with the eyes of the animals, we see the other looking at us. We see the cat responding to us. But, we see even more, we see a mutual looking, a mutual touching and being touched. We see turns and returns of response. We see realms of relationship, numerous lines of connection and reciprocity built through light, sound, touch, even smell -- tying us together as people, and tying us together with the animals and the worlds around us.

Let us not forget, we are animals also. Do we look upon each other, as we so often do upon animals, with this unidirectional eye, this philosophical and scientific gaze? Do we look upon people, as with the other animals, with a one-way objectivity, from a viewpoint separate from, higher than, able to evaluate, interpret and establish names? Or, are we able to see ourselves being seen? Do we see the mutuality of our seeing? Do we see such complex and shared engagements? Do we find ourselves not only coming to connect and understand through communal exchanges, but also collaboratively creating new worlds wherein we can all in our diversities, people and animals, learn to live and thrive?

Call and response is clearly not simply a task of language, for the feline is a master at it. Jacques Derrida’s cat stares upon his naked body. We now see the animal, and to our intense surprise, we are not just looking at her, she is looking upon us, and she is insisting that we respond.

Returning to the Blog

I apologize for taking such a long time to return to this blog.  During this break I have taken some time to go through my previous blog entries and have used much of this material to create a new book.  It is titled:

Territories of the Alive: Nature, Community and the Gift.

Feel free to contact me if you would like to order a copy.

Now I am ready to return to this blog.

Christopher James Kinman

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Why no Colours?

I write of the Somali rapper, K’naan... but I have no pictures of Somalia, and if I did they would not be mine... so instead I provide my own pictures, images where, as I see it, beauty emerges out of the ordinary and the sub-ordinary. These images come from my own world.

I heard an interview the other day with K'naan, the Toronto based, Somali rapper. He talked of his home country, Somalia. He talked with great love, he talked in words defusing great beauty as he remembered his own land.

He also talked about the eyes of the media, the predominant Western way of looking at his land in particular; that is the way images are presented of Somalia. He said that the images on the news and in the films is over-and-over-again of a beige, grainy world -- a world of devoid of colour.

And he wondered, where is the colour? The land he knew was infused with colour. Where is the colour?

There were plenty of images of a land taken over with war and warlords, plenty of images of pain, of fear, of terror in its birth. But where is the colour?

Why no colour?

Even in those darkest corners, there is never a purity of the degenerate. Beauty is always right before the eyes, glaring at us. What effort, what discipline we all must make to ensure that this beauty is not acknowledged.

There is colour in Somalia.

There is beauty everywhere, in and around all of us...

Let us make every effort... not to make the colours show (we do not need to do that)... but to remove those nasty boundaries -- liberal and conservative boundaries; boundaries created by a preoccupation with social injustices, breaches of principles, rather than the pragmatic gifts of life as they are inescapably presented before us; boundaries which make a fetish of, as Elton John once said, that Madman Across the Water, that evil in far-away lands, troubles in places and people always removed from us -- boundaries which hide beauty and love from us in its most obvious demonstrations.

Open those blinded eyes... for there is no true effort in looking for it, those gifts of life are everywhere around us.

Friday, February 6, 2009


I write as these pictures portray, lines of difference, between a this and a that, between water and land --distinctions which truly matter in the movements of this world.

However, these lines of difference, while they can be clearly distinguished within an image, a stopping of time... in the real world where living things find their home, these lines of demarcation are never solid, never still, always in movement.

Whether it is the distant movements of the pacific tides, daily raising and lowering the waters in the river; or whether it is the undulations caused by the rising winds or the passing boats; or if it is the less dramatic changes wrought by the swans and the ducks, by the migrating salmon -- it all creates lines of demarcation which can never be solid are always undulating with the movements of life and planetary forces.

Two truths, the double vision of William Blake -- life creates lines which mark differences between a this and a that, but these lines constantly undulate, forever shift and move.

Let us respond, move to the liquid flows which are inescapable in the movements of the alive.