Winter Woes and Wonder

I was lucky to grow up where I could see the sun set across fields in winter, to see where weather came from, to see people skating on ice toy-sized. Winter arrived exactly where I was and it could swallow me. In my slightly distorted reckoning of things, it was a kind of freedom. Winter let me see horizons.

Sigrun’s latest post includes two paintings of winter got me thinking about my childhood impressions of winter. Bruegel always makes me think about childhood, why would require some thought, hmmm, another day perhaps.

The atmospheric changes for a child go way beyond temperature (despite the fact that in most places in Canada winter temperatures are something worth mentioning) but all the changes: the way the house smells and creaks; how adults behave, necks shorter, shoulders higher, (they make huffs and puffs when leaving and they return home louder, stamping and banging); bedtime and breakfast both arrive in darkness; boxes of tissue are everywhere and you have to wash you face and hands even when you aren’t dirty; you get hot chocolate, or hot cider, and you don’t have to scream for it; going pee when you come inside becomes the most wonderful sensation: All these things are like being in a new world.

As inside the house gets louder and more claustrophobic “outside” becomes quiet and larger. Things take their place on a canvas with lots of spaces, minus the sound and garish colour of summer. Wintertime if there is green it is the sky.

For children who are naturally egocentric, and they all are, it is as if they have been thrown untethered in space and time into the cosmos. How big BIG is is quite awesome when you suddenly know how small you are.

Sitting a Three Day Sesshin at Oak Tree in The Garden

Sitting Zazen for Extended Practice

It is really easy for me to be seduced by the couch and practice is one of the things that I can build up a lot of resistance to even though I have been doing it for a long time. I have so many  examples of how much I benefit and it’s even better when I can have the company of other people sitting. So I was glad when I had the opportunity to sit a three day Sesshin lately with Oak Tree in the Garden. And yet even as I was preparing to head out I was thinking of excuses for cancelling at the last moment. (wtf?)

We are often encouraged to indulge by advertising: to eat what doesn’t satisfy any nutritional need, to buy what serves no purpose, to want what we can’t afford now and even when experience shows us these things lead to despair that *ping* in our brain that happens when we follow an urge feels like satisfaction. I watched a show on the science of fast food; apparently the “stomach share” is how fast food companies look at us. It was frightening. The worst thing was I started craving junk food while watching the show! I know it is fun to commiserate with others about our favorite snack food and how we are “going without”. We know it is ridiculous in our part of the world to do something like that. The only real “problem” of food is the lack of it and it still is in many places in the world.

So why is it so hard to do what makes us really feel better? Is it really a corporate master plan to ruin us?

It helps to understand the success of marketing when trying to change behaviour. We do have to be a bit of a bore to pursue practice and to make change happen. When confronted with the onslaught of advertising that encourages instant gratification, heck it makes it seem like a virtue, well, it helps to commit to practice for change.

It also helps to practice. Establishing good habits may not sound like fun but it really makes more fun possible. The other problem is that we have been convinced of a lack of time. I am happy to say I have been reminded what a difference a day makes, or recently, three days. 😛

“OVER 2500 YEARS OF CUSTOMER SERVICE, THE GOLD BUDDHA AWARD FOR SESSATION OF CRAVING, COUNTLESS BEINGS SERVED. GET YOUR SLICE OF CUSHION NOW! RIGHT NOW. REALLY NOW. THIS IS BIG, BIG REALLY REALLY F-ING BIG!!!!”

 

Can Poverty be Re-branded?

“Sometimes when it feels like things are falling apart it’s just things falling into place”.

This inspirational saying brought to mind the Monty Python skit of “Catch that prize!” where if a contestant could catch, say a refrigerator, dropped from a fourth story window he could keep it. It is annoying how many pithy sayings there are for things falling apart.

I went to a lecture titled, “Is poverty a disease? Could treating poverty work like medicine?” Dr. Gary Bloch, a nice young  doctor who works out of a hospital in T.O. in an area with a lot of homeless people using the ER. *

I am biased, three times around the big C has introduced me to lots of doctors, I have found many doctors, young white males in particular but not exclusively, to possess large egos if not pugnacious attitudes of entitlement. I have read a bit about what internships are like, so I add exhaustion as an excuse for some of them, and then there are the ones who really want to do good… and this guy is one of them. But he is still coming from a culture (medical professionals) that looks at everyone as a set of symptoms.  It is also a culture that is very difficult to enter because of the costs of medical school. Why money should be allowed to be a deciding factor in who might want to be, or might be able to be, a doctor is another question. Most doctors tell me that I can discuss only two things per visit. However, if one of them is about O.H.I.P. the clock seems to fly out the window. Sorry I am griping. 😛

At the very end of the lecture I got to say my two cents worth. My heart was pounding so hard once I decided to try to speak that I might have not heard all of his lecture.  I brought up the Harris government, 25 years ago in Ontario targeting single mothers, reducing their family benefits by 1/3 OVER NIGHT and then standing back to watch the fallout. All the tax payers who could accept the cost of constant road repairs before they accepted the cost of social repairs? Well, if driving over the bodies of welfare mom’s had caused a bumpy ride to work they still might have supported this bludeoning of Family Benefits. I’m not sure but the effects were not as immediate as a bitter cold winter on ashphalt so they weren’t too bothersome. But a large number of women and children fell through the cracks. “Falling through the cracks” meant they went missing in the minds and hearts of the society that they belonged to. And many ended up in peril.

Harris’ cuts weren’t even cost effective, they shifted the expenses to totally ineffective services and removed large numbers from the data for political purposes only.  Add mismanagement of support payments, often those coming after a forced combative situation, a stipulation of receiving benefits was legal action against the absent partner, and voila, many families found themselves unable to pay rent. Their next step was into homelessness. There were piles of cheques for support that were months late and yet they sat unprocessed. Miscommunication, hostility and ineptitude turned up the heat on fathers who were labeled and threatened for being “dead-beat dads” which did not help moms and kids either. Many of my peers who didn’t have any other support network to help them were lost as the stress of jumping through hoops and sorting through requirements turned them back either to abusive situations or bad choices or emotional collapse and mental breakdown. The resulting years have led to the cost to taxpayers in law enforcement, incarceration, emergency services and health costs all skyrocketing and all caused by the repercussions of what were applauded as reforms twenty-five years ago.

I ended my diatribe with “Poverty is not a disease, it is a crime.” and I got applause.  (That was a bit frightening actually).

However quietly, fearfully we do it, we need to speak up about the things that maintain poverty so we can talk about the things that can alleviate it. Poverty is a crime being committed against the most vulnerable, and it is global. It is endorsed by the most wealthy and most priviledged. Poverty makes possible all sorts of abuses of human rights and so often leads to violence and even war. But I worry about calling it a disease. People living with poverty are already in isolation.

*I wrote this draft perhaps five years ago never publishing it.  If you go to the link for Dr. Gary Bloch you will see he is doing many positive and constructive things and lecturing other doctors. Maybe he is changing the culture from within? As I said, he is one of the good ones.

closing in on a picture

paintingw (1)paintingw (3)paintingw (2)My progress is very slow, (my easle went to a wedding reception at one point to hold a photo of the bride and groom), but I hope to finish up today. I am not really a watercolour painter but I like the fact that it requires less space and time and can be set aside if necessary without lost opportunity. As I said, I am not a watercolour painter, so my work is not very spontaneous and I probably waste a lot of the wonderful aspects of the medium. But now I only ever paint to make gifts. 🙂  I still enjoy the sort of attention it requires. I think it is good for my brain even if my back and hand complain! The orginal photo was by Wilfrid Birnie (s.i.l.)

Me too? Piss off!

I have been walking around feeling lousy because I have been remembering times when I did things I didn’t want to do and times when I didn’t say things that I should have and thinking about all the circumstances surrounding those times and just feeling so awful just because I don’t like to think of myself as a victim even when I was. I think I would rather be a whore than a victim. Then I read this:

https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/01/06/martha-nussbaum-agency-victimhood-dignity/
and I started to feel better.
Once I knew a man who wanted to go and harass women who were on a “Women Unite, take back the night” march. He thought because they didn’t want him march with them they were being sexist and therefore he had a reason to yell at them and interfere with their march. (I recently listened to an interview with the woman from Pussy Riot who told of a man who joined the band dressing like a woman who was horribly beaten for it and I thought, cool that he did that but typical he got beaten for it.)
The genius of non-violent demonstration is the inclusiveness of non-violence. This man, (and I said nothing to him at the time because I was in love with him and constantly aware that he was smarter than me, like all men, starting with my father) This Man needed only to respect the value of their message or at least their right to express it. Their message was, “We should be able to dress as women (how we like) and still walk safely home. It is not a privilege. Acts of violence are criminal.  Being female in THIS PLACE at THIS TIME is not something we should need to justify any more than any man has had to.” And then it occurred to me, any man who is not a black youth in a hoodie that is. (If you say things like “all lives matter” in response to Black Lives Matter, you are not getting it. If you say, “that is disrespecting the flag”, you are missing it again.
Bending a knee is a non-violent means of making a point. However uncomfortable it may be for those of you who like quibble about anything that might make it seem to be about something else, citizenship is the right of citizens and that includes non-violent demonstration.)
As for all the recent “news” about moguls who abuse their power and intimidate women (and who knows who else) for sex, well why is it getting so much attention right now? And is it going to change things? Is there a nugget of hope here or is it another tittliating story? SEX SEX SEX
In the tape Harvey says, “come on are you going to ruin a friendship for five minutes?” or something and I thought, if only she could have said “this is not about friendship this is about an exchange for sex” and then put a price on it per minute, a million per minute. (No doubt considering the recent press it would have been a great deal for him). I am being facitious of course but seriously, who would be the criminal if she had? She would have been. How insane is that?
It is time to own up to the fact that it isn’t about sex (or even gender though frequently women are the demographic). Sex is a smoke screen, a diversion. This is about control. This is about culture dominated by a small number of powerful people who want a large contingent of people who will do stuff for nothing or next to nothing. It is about unpaid labour and abuse of an entire populice. Women (and others) doing things to avoid violence, to avoid arrest, to avoid losing a promise of financial security, not even “wealth” often , just doing things to avoid being called a WHORE and being rejected even by other women. Meanwhile the collateral benefit goes to those who just shiphon off the gravy that they had to do nothing to recieve except be powerful or perceived as being powerful.
This is the formula: maintain fear, remove autonomy, encourage desention, work them to death and make them grateful to think they are your friends.