Saturday, April 02, 2005


It is the season of death and dying, death and dying,
death and dying…

The sun breaks through clouds of gloom
reminding us that we live on in grief and mourning,
through tears of sorrow, we live on in tribute and
in servitude to those who walked before,
whose gentle words and genteel manner
will comfort us no more.

What is sacred but that we most fear?

Nature is sacred as she wreaks havoc unmoved
by cries for mercy, immutable & Holy

God by any name, Almighty forces brought to bear
the more so by the myth of prayer
(and I believe in prayer)

Love, perhaps the greatest fear, trading places
in light and dark, lightning strikes and fills
the heart with horror…

Towers in the mind’s eye, symbols of the Great Terror
(the Phoenix) from dust to sacred art…

Life and its eternal foil
shuffling off this mortal coil
journeys to the endless night &
humankind’s most sacred fright

Goodnight, sweet Prince, &
flights of Angels sing thee to thy rest.

-- Random 4/2/05.

From There Outward by Jake Berry

(for Philip Lamantia and Robert Creeley, liberated)

There was a time
many years ago,
when I was a young child,
I did not write poetry.

In those days
my imagination lived me –
it overtook my body
and shaped it to every delightful and
mysterious purpose it could create.

I was imagination’s living form.
I had no mind, no self
I was motionless
until imagination stirred
some portion to song
(and every word was singing)
or dance
(and every movement was a dance).

Then I felt compelled
to make words.
So I wrote a poem,
then another and another
and people laughed
or made pleasant remarks.
And the girls were pleased
when I wrote for them –
those were kisses worth the poems.

But I recognized that
words failed imagination.
They were so carefully
reigned by books and teachers.
I had become imagination’s loss.

So I destroyed myself
and freed the constricted words.
I liberated them to
imagination’s tongue
and they once again
took their natural form
like a tree, or a sun, or a boy.
And people were confused.
they were afraid and turned away.

and I became serious,
a solid man.

I had to destroy myself
again and again
to liberate the words.

and speech was singing
and movement was dancing.

And today,
I hear the great poet’s death
and I think how lucky he is
to be nothing but
free imagination again,
to become pure poetry,
without a world of fools
that make us work
for what we already are.

Jake Berry 3.30.05

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Passing by Chris Mansel

An epic of transition is death. The body is a vessel of incarceration. There are horrors in the skies that descend to us a web of illness we are drawn to even as we attempt escape. The disease on the ground, the emaciation of the air, draws us inside and therefore closes and seals the process of death. Somewhere between the skies and the earth, somewhere in the bardo do we appear as we really are, clear thoughts amidst a solution of matter both gray and dark. Death always reminds us of where we are going and then we start to think of where we have been. Georges Bataille wrote, "There is no better way to know death than to link it with some licentious image." Either way you look at it death is a continuing process that if captured in a display of DNA would be a round strand that circles endlessly in a poetic path, tragic and ethereal.

- Chris Mansel

A Portion of the Soul Carries the Heart

By Chris Mansel

America, above purpose, defines itself as the last toll on the road to democracy. It creates its own vision of an idea and betrays it as often as it recites it. Defying international law and reconsidering its reasons it invades and assumes the population's wealth. Natural resources, the acquiring of by force, are not listed in the constitution or in any of its amendments. Democracy wastes itself on the definition of morality and indecision. Defending its agenda on the basis of the rights of the wealthy democracy completely undermines the rights of the poor to earn a living and concentrates itself upon the furthering of its principles of the class warfare it defends so abundantly through a two party system that only falls in the path of the law when it forgets itself and rushes ahead without the payment of graft and favors. William Julius Mickle wrote, "The less criminal spirits animate bees, singing birds, and other innocent creatures; while those of deeper guilt become wolves or tigers." These wolves don't disguise themselves and they eat their prey in front of the young to remind those looking that if you have none they will still take what you don't have. The antidote to patience is not resolve, but action. Words define only what the memory will allow. Choice is the omnipresent wage that drives the open minded and cannot be assumed by anyone through force or by law. The ability to vote, to write in a vote, clarifies what the two party system might describe as an un-American activity. To not employ the television media for news is to off load the spin for the truth.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Wait! Pull Back! By Tom Stephens

Environmental Justice and the Practice of
Sacred Law and Traditional Wisdom by Indigenous Peoples
March 24, 2005

Earlier this month, on March 5, I had the pleasure of appearing on a panel at the Law Union of Ontario’s annual conference in Toronto. Another speaker was Kate Kempton of the Toronto law firm Olthuis Kleer Townshend. Kate’s discussion of what she has learned representing indigenous peoples regarding rebuilding sovereignty and self-determination holds profound lessons regarding environmental justice, which I will try to briefly summarize here.

Different World Views

The applicable world-view of “environmental law” in 21st century post-industrial society is linear, hierarchical, and based on dominance. This dominance permits and provokes subjugation of nature and peoples who hold nature as sacred and internal, and provokes creation and recognition of rights in individual and especially corporate property, in the form of precisely defined and carved-out parcels. These property rights, in turn, are valuable for purposes of commodification and exploitation of resources, primarily for their narrowly defined economic benefits. Environmental regulations and law are “linear,” in the sense that they assume a direct progression, from proposals and initiatives about resource exploitation and protection, to the outcomes of regulatory and legal proceedings. Interests, all themselves defined within boxes, are weighed and ostensibly “balanced” against each other, not with each other as a model of sharing would create. That ostensibly rational, linear, ahistorical and economistic model does not accurately describe the fundamental issues and values at stake in today’s world-reshaping and -defining conflicts over resources, sovereignty and environmental health and justice.

One characteristic of the dominant, linear world-view that distorts our perceptions and our decisions regarding our relationship to nature involves putting the environment in a box, separated from issues of cultural and economic survival. Under this view, “more” is “better,” including more exploitation of the environment by dominant economic and cultural forces. The false ideological and psychological “box,” separating the environmental from the socio-economic and from self-identity, blinds us to the permanent and irreversibly damaging consequences that more exploitation of a rapidly diminishing resource base threaten for us all. In our time, the “line” that symbolizes this world-view depicts us, through the transnational corporate forces of dominance and hierarchy, patriarchy and white supremacy, driving ourselves to the end of the line (lines end in “dead ends”), and off the edge of the cliff of social, ecological, economic and civilizational survival.

The contrasting indigenous world-view, symbolized by the circle, in which our environment, humans and our culture are embedded within and intrinsically sharing with each other, is the basis of indigenous sacred and traditional law and wisdom and, at its best, also of environmental justice. Kate Kempton has an indigenous client/associate who describes her practice, in his language of Cree, as “ses-qua”, or “Wait! Pull back!” That is what we must do to meet the fundamental environmental justice challenges of the 21st century, by recognizing and consistently acting upon the interrelationship between our environment and our cultural and economic survival. Such practices and philosophies encountered our natural resources in their spectacular fullness millennia ago, they established ways of living on sacred ground in peace and justice, and they continue to safeguard a remnant that remains subject to their jurisdiction today. When will we ever learn?

Change or Die

Trying to protect the essential environmental interests and fundamental human rights of indigenous peoples, and other people of color and low-income people, within the dominant, hierarchical and linear framework of what we know as “environmental law,” is like trying to fit a big round ball into a small square box. It is bound to fail. And because of the huge global issues at stake in today’s world regarding environmental health and human survival, if we continue to pursue this failed strategy, we will eventually fail ecologically, socially, economically, and as a matter of human survival. No amount of scientific regulation or careful legal or administrative weighing of data will change this stark reality.

Unlike the line, the circle never ends (it has no end points), yielding a very different and much more authentic version of cherished human “freedom.” This is potentially the basis of a different, more holistic, sustainable, fair, and potentially successful environmental law. Only within a sacred (and truly democratic) circle is it possible to see how things weighed in dollar amounts do not always outweigh things that are beloved, irreplaceable, unique, invaluable, and necessary for survival; to effectively assert rights, power, and control over vital interests, without falling into the trap of dominance and subjugation that denies them to others; to implement sustainability on individual, local, state/provincial and national/ international levels. On all these levels, dominance systematically threatens human and ecological survival today. Therefore we have to implement alternatives to dominance. Both to preserve material survival of the environment, and to establish justice among humans, we urgently have to implement alternatives. To continue with unfettered exploitation, with the illusion of the separate environmental “box” and the potential for infinite “growth,” is a death sentence for both humans and our cultures.

We urgently have to remember the sacred wisdom of our childhood, that (in Kate Kempton’s words) what we “need” is not the same thing as what we “want.” And what we think we want, in the world of lines, is not what we really need – for identity, survival, and happiness. We need to say “wait,” to “pull back,” and “we need to take this whole assembly of lines apart” in order to provide both a human future for our children and a natural future for our world. The long-overdue recognition that environmental justice must become an integral part of the public policy of democratic governments around the world, and that environmental racism and disproportionate exposure to environmental contamination and risk must be opposed and eliminated, is just one necessary step on this sacred road.

Tom Stephens,, would like to express his appreciation to Kate Kempton,, for her review and editorial assistance with this essay.