Friday, November 05, 2010
...for your gift, that keeps on giving!
Square Top Mountain and Green River, Wyoming
When loneliness comes stalking, go into the fields, consider
the orderliness of the world. Notice
something you have never noticed before,
like the tambourine sound of the snow-cricket
whose pale green body is no longer than your thumb.
Stare hard at the hummingbird, in the summer rain,
shaking the water-sparks from its wings.
Let grief be your sister, she will whether or no.
Rise up from the stump of sorrow, and be green also,
like the diligent leaves.
A lifetime isn't long enough for the beauty of this world
and the responsibilities of your life.
Scatter your flowers over the graves, and walk away.
Be good-natured and untidy in your exuberance.
In the glare of your mind, be modest.
And beholden to what is tactile, and thrilling.
~ Mary Oliver ~
(The Leaf and the Cloud: A Poem)
Friday, November 05, 2010
Thomas à Kempis on Mount Saint Agnes, where the monastery he was invested with was located (painting from 1569)
One that is not prepared to suffer all things, and to stand to the will of the Beloved, is not worthy to be called a lover of God. A lover ought to embrace willingly all that is hard and distasteful, for the sake of the Beloved; and not to turn away for any contrary accidents.
-- Thomas a Kempis
Love is a sacred skill that we must work to maintain. And learning to bear up under changes in attitude and circumstance with an inner toughness is the best practice for loving. If we do not develop this kind of toughness, our love will not be strong enough to support the weight of close relationships.
One of my quarrels with contemporary civilization is the way it trivializes life. We have very little left that is sacred. In a scientifically advanced era, with the benefit of culture and education, we should grieve to discover that our love barely scratches the surface of life -- no wonder, then, that it fails to nourish us. Loving is already something of a lost art.
When we finally realize we are missing out on something sacred, we may no longer know where to turn. Love is so exquisitely elusive. It cannot be bought, cannot be badgered, cannot be hijacked. It is available only in one rare form: as the natural response of a healthy mind and healthy heart.
-- Eknath Easwaran
Eknath Easwaran, originally from Kerala, India, came to the USA as a Fulbright Scholar. He founded the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation in Tomales Bay, CA. He is a favorite teacher of mine. A Sanskrit scholar, he also earned a Ph.D. in English Literature. He is a gifted writer and translator and I would recommend any of his books:
I subscribe to Sri Easwaran's daily commentary on a spiritual text, Thought for the Day. www.easwaran.org/Thoughts Today's is just so relevant to the journey of our hearts, our communities, our country, our world, that I feel compelled to share it.
The last paragraph of his commentary so very powerfully sums it up: "When we finally realize we are missing out on something sacred, we may no longer know where to turn. LOVE IS so exquisitely elusive. It cannot be bought, cannot be badgered, cannot be hijacked. It is available only in one rare form: as THE NATURAL RESPONSE OF A HEALTHY MIND AND HEALTHY HEART."
Easwaran comments on a text by Thomas a Kempis, a great Christian mystic, who wrote among other works, The Imitation of Christ, one of the best known Christian books on devotion. His name means "Thomas of Kempen", his home town in Germany. He was born at the Lower Rhine region in 1380 and died in 1471. I highly recommend learning more about this amazing soul:
Eknath Easwaran, 1910-1999, teaching what is thought to be the first credit course on meditation offered at a major university in the U.S. at University of California, Berkeley in 1968.
Easwaran comments on a text by Thomas a Kempis, a great Christian mystic, who wrote among other works, The Imitation of Christ, one of the best known Christian books on devotion. His name means "Thomas of Kempen", his home town in Germany. He was born in the Lower Rhine region in 1380 and died in 1471. I highly recommend learning more about this amazing soul:
Thursday, November 04, 2010
It's like pulling a Tarot card from the deck that speaks precisely to my dilemma...or opening a sacred text to exactly the verse that I so desperately needed to consider...coming in the morning to this poetry of Stanley Kunitz that speaks so plainly and deeply to my heart and soul.
This process of moving toward optimal wellness that we participate together in here at SparkPeople feels to me like a peeling of layers...of what doesn't work to uncover what does, looking for our highest good, our wisest inner teacher, the Knower. This is the process for me anyway. How about you?
I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
"Live in the layers,
not on the litter."
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.
~ Stanley Kunitz ~
Stanley Jasspon Kunitz was born July 29, 1905 in Worcester, MA to dressmaker, Solomon Z. Kunitz and Lithuanian-Jewish mother, Yetta Helen Jasspon. His father committed suicide six weeks before he was born, and Kunitz was raised by his mother and stepfather, Mark Dine, who died when Kunitz was fourteen.
Kunitz graduated summa cum laude in 1926 from Harvard College and earned a master's degree in English from Harvard the following year. Kunitz's first collection of poems, "Intellectual Things," was published in 1930. His second volume of poems, "Passport to the War," was published fourteen years later when the author was serving on the European front in World War II. Although it featured some of Kunitz's best-known poems, the book went largely unnoticed and soon fell out of print.
Kunitz's confidence was not in the best of shape when, in 1959, he had trouble finding a publisher for his third book, "Selected Poems: 1928-1958." Despite this unflattering experience, the book, eventually published by Little Brown, received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
His next volume of poems would not appear until 1971, with "The Testing Tree." Kunitz's style was radically transformed from the highly intellectual and philosophical musings to more deeply personal yet disciplined narratives; moreover, his lines shifted from iambic pentameter to a freer prosody based on instinct and breath -- usually resulting in shorter, three-four stressed lines.
Asked to comment on this stylistic shift in Publishers Weekly, Kunitz noted that his early poems "were very intricate, dense and formal. . . . They were written in conventional metrics and had a very strong beat to the line. . . . In my late poems I've learned to depend on a simplicity that seems almost nonpoetic on the surface, but has reverberations within that keep it intense and alive. . . . I think that as a young poet I looked for what Keats called 'a fine excess,' but as an old poet I look for spareness and rigor and a world of compassion." If Kunitz's earlier poems were often intricately woven, intellectual, lyricized allegories about the transcendence of physical limitations, his later work can be seen as an emotive acceptance of those limitations.
Throughout the 70s and 80s he became one of the most treasured and distinctive voices in American poetry. His collection "Passing Through: The Later Poems" won the National Book Award in 1995. Kunitz received many other honors, including a National Medal of Arts, the Bollingen Prize for a lifetime achievement in poetry, the Robert Frost Medal, and Harvard's Centennial Medal.
Kunitz's 100th birthday on July 29, 2005, was marked by celebrations in New York and Provincetown, Massachusetts, along with W. W. Norton's publication of "The Wild Braid: A Poet Reflects on a Century in the Garden," co-written with Genine Lentine.
He was considered by many observers to be the most distinguished and accomplished poet in the United States at the time of his death in 2006.
Wednesday, November 03, 2010
AFTER GROWTH, FORTUNES TURN FOR MONSANTO
The New York Times, Business Day
By Andrew Pollack
Published October 4, 2010
Bags of Asgrow Roundup Ready soybean seeds sit inside a Monsanto lab in St. Louis. Monsanto, the world's biggest seed company, plans to complete most of its $800 million stock buyback plan more than a year ahead of schedule after the shares dropped to the lowest since 2007.
As recently as late December, Monsanto was named “company of the year” by Forbes magazine. Last week, the company earned a different accolade from Jim Cramer, the television stock market commentator. “This may be the worst stock of 2010,” he proclaimed.
Monsanto, the giant of agricultural biotechnology, has been buffeted by setbacks this year that have prompted analysts to question whether its winning streak of creating ever more expensive genetically engineered crops is coming to an end.
The company’s stock, which rose steadily over several years to peak at around $140 a share in mid-2008, closed Monday at $47.77, having fallen about 42 percent since the beginning of the year. Its earnings for the fiscal year that ended in August, which will be announced Wednesday, are expected to be well below projections made at the beginning of the year, and the company has abandoned its profit goal for 2012 as well.
The latest blow came last week, when early returns from this year’s harvest showed that Monsanto’s newest product, SmartStax corn, which contains eight inserted genes, was providing yields no higher than the company’s less expensive corn, which contains only three foreign genes.
Monsanto has already been forced to sharply cut prices on SmartStax and on its newest soybean seeds, called Roundup Ready 2 Yield, as sales fell below projections.
But there is more. Sales of Monsanto’s Roundup, the widely used herbicide, has collapsed this year under an onslaught of low-priced generics made in China. Weeds are growing resistant to Roundup, dimming the future of the entire Roundup Ready crop franchise. And the Justice Department is investigating Monsanto for possible antitrust violations.
Until now, Monsanto’s main challenge has come from opponents of genetically modified crops, who have slowed their adoption in Europe and some other regions. Now, however, the skeptics also include farmers and investors who were once in Monsanto’s camp.
“My personal view is that they overplayed their hand,” William R. Young, managing director of ChemSpeak, a consultant to investors in the chemical industry, said of Monsanto. “They are going to have to demonstrate to the farmer the advantage of their products.”
Brett D. Begemann, Monsanto’s executive vice president for seeds and traits, said the setbacks were not reflective of systemic management problems and that the company was moving to deal with them.
“Farmers clearly gave us some feedback that we have made adjustments from,” he said in an interview Monday.
Mr. Begemann said that Monsanto used to introduce new seeds at a price that gave farmers two-thirds and Monsanto one-third of the extra profits that would come from higher yields or lower pest-control costs. But with SmartStax corn and Roundup Ready 2 soybeans, the company’s pricing aimed for a 50-50 split.
That backfired as American farmers grew only six million acres of Roundup Ready 2 soybeans this year, below the company’s goal of eight million to 10 million acres, and only three million acres of SmartStax corn, below the goal of four million.
So now Monsanto is moving back to the older arrangement. SmartStax seed for planting next year will be priced about $8 an acre more than other seeds, down from about a $24 premium for this year’s seeds, Mr. Begemann said. The company will also offer credits for free seed to farmers who planted SmartStax this year and were disappointed.
Monsanto has also moved to offer farmers more varieties with fewer inserted genes. Some farmers have said they often have to buy traits they do not need — such as protection from the corn rootworm in regions where that pest is not a problem — to get the best varieties. This issue has surfaced in the antitrust investigation.
Monsanto’s arch rival, DuPont’s Pioneer Hi-Bred, has also capitalized on the lack of options under a campaign called “right product, right acre.”
“If they don’t have a need for rootworm then we won’t have that trait in that product,” Paul E. Schickler, the president of Pioneer, said in an interview.
After years of rapidly losing market share in corn seeds to Monsanto, Pioneer says it has gained back four percentage points in the last two years, to 34 percent. Monsanto puts its market share at 36 percent in 2009 and says it has remained flat this year. In soybeans, Pioneer puts its share at 31 percent, up seven percentage points over the last two years; Monsanto puts its share at 28 percent last year and said it had dropped some this year.
Monsanto had a similar problem with lower-than-expected yields on Roundup Ready 2 soybeans last year, when the crop was first planted commercially, forcing it to slash its premium.
But this year, the yield appears to be meeting expectations, said OTR Global, a research firm that surveys farmers and seed dealers. That could bode well for SmartStax next year.
One reason is that the Roundup Ready 2 gene is now offered in more varieties, making it better suited to more growing conditions. The yield of a crop is mainly determined by the seed’s intrinsic properties, not the inserted genes. An insect protection gene will not make a poor variety a high yielder any more than spiffy shoes will turn a slow runner into Usain Bolt. In the first year of a new product, few varieties contain the new gene.
Still, Monsanto is bound at some point to face diminishing returns from its strategy of putting more and more insect-resistant and herbicide-resistant genes into the same crop, at ever increasing prices. Growth might have to eventually come from new traits, such as a drought-tolerant corn the company hopes to introduce in 2012.
“Technologically, they are still the market leader,” said Laurence Alexander, an analyst at Jefferies & Company. “The main issue going forward is do they get paid for the technology they deliver. The jury is still out on that one. It’s going to take a year or two of data to reassure people.”
Two reader comments worth repeating:
But please whatever you do do not think that the war is over, this is but one victory, in one battle, and I am sure, just as many have said here Monsanto will just remake itself and continuing doing it's dirt.
Oh, you mean that the people at Monsanto, who've been trying to play God for so long, might finally be realizing that the job is a bit larger than they thought? They remind me of a 12 year old who feels qualified to operate a motor vehicle because he's tall enough to reach the peddles and knows how to turn the key, but with no sense, whatsoever, of the possible consequences or any responsibility.
And the great website where I first read about the NYT article, which has the comments that I quoted above:
Wednesday, November 03, 2010
"If we can start with the silence, we can make the most beautiful music in the world," says Brother David in a segment of the "In Search of The Great Song, a Song Without Borders" documentary series by Michael Stillwater. In it he also quotes the incomparable poet Rainer Maria Rilke:
I live my life in big circles
that surround all things,
that circle around all that is.
Maybe i will not complete the last circle,
But i will attempt it.
This new video was a striking and joyful contrast to other news that I woke up to this post-election morning and helps me to balance it all in the fragile receptor of mind.
The REALLY big news today is that Brother David's exquisite website www.gratefulness.org
is celebrating 10 years of offering amazing and unique resources to the world. (It was in this email announcement that I found the new video.) Every time I take the time to explore gratefulness.org, I am awestruck by its wonder and focus.
Benedictine monk Brother David Steindl-Rast has been enlivening my search for many years now, since I first read the book, _Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer: An Approach to Life in Fullness_, that he authored with Henri J. M. Nouwen back in the mid-80's. He and my teacher Swami Satchidananda were good friends and that book was recommended reading in the Integral Yoga Teacher Training program I completed back-then.
I know many of you have also seen Brother David's earlier video, A Good Day:
I go back to it every now-and-then when I need a dose of goodness.
These are the kinds of resources that help me through the dry periods of body-mind-spirit and point me back in the direction of loving self care.
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