Monday, February 13, 2012
World-renowned musicians Baaba Maal and Toumani Diabate at the music school opening in Kirina, Mali (Habib Koite was also there)
My good friend CRYSTALJEM posted a poignant blog today, "The Best 5 Minute Cry Ever"...and I know just what she means because for no apparent reason my eyes well up with tears every time I watch the latest video from one of my favorite organizations, Playing for Change. And today was no exception -- playingforchange.org/news/detail/the
I love music with every fiber of my being...and in the first years of Playing for Change I remember talk of the dream of starting music schools in Africa. And I deeply resonated with the idea of change...and peace...through music! And now OMG -- LOOK! It has become a reality! This is SO exciting. And Mark Johnson, Playing for Change Co-Founder, the white fellow you see in the above video, is obviously SO happy.
Roger Ridley, Santa Monica, CA
This awe-inspiring cover by Roger Ridley, et al, of Ben E. King's "Stand By Me" was my introduction to Playing for Change those many moons ago and this was the song that "transformed Playing For Change from a small group of individuals into a global movement for peace and understanding."
Isn't this what feeling the love is REALLY all about? Happy Valentine's Day Kirina, Mali!
Mark Johnson with a young friend, is a Grammy-winning producer/engineer and award-winning film director whose visionary concept a decade ago became the driving force behind Playing for Change. His work was recently spotlighted in a profile on the PBS series "Bill Moyers Journal," he has also been a keynote speaker at the United Nations, TED Global, and the University of Michigan Martin Luther King Day Celebration, as well as the Million Dollar Round Table.
I just noticed this winning opportunity to help spread PFC's love with a click of the mouse -- give the Valentine's Day gift that keeps on giving!
More on the $50,000 grant we can vote on for PFC:
Friday, February 10, 2012
Compassionate action starts with seeing yourself when you start to make yourself right and when you start to make yourself wrong. At that point you could just contemplate the fact that there is a larger alternative to either of those, a more tender, shaky kind of place where you could live. --Pema Chodron
Upon waking this morning with the joy of Kitty Rama at my feet, I first completed the pleasant ritual of preparing a cup of delicious coffee. Next, with coffee in-hand, I came to see what had arrived in my InBox. Pema Chodron's words first greeted me via www.gratefulness.org
Then I went on to revel in lovely goodies and notes from exquisite SparkFriends. Finally I opened this morning's Panhala offering, an amazing poem by Wendell Berry.
Today offers me a blank slate (well, not really if ya' wanna' get technical, but kind of...) and I'm determined to move ahead step by "grounded-and-balanced" step, holding myself accountable for how I use the precious moments. It has been a rough week. Wednesday saw profound interpersonal difficulties, which brought on extreme behaviors like binging, when I stopped tracking that day. Yesterday was difficult, but I did track food. I haven't been exercising this week, but that is changing today, with strength training at the very least. These small steps are the tiniest tip of the iceberg of loving self-care. But I will persist.
"I can no other answer make but thanks, And thanks, and ever thanks," dear friends for our connectedness through it all. We're in this struggle together, seeking the worthy goal of wellness of body, mind, and spirit. Could we be on a better journey together?
Though at first reading, Berry's poem seemed somber, repeated readings of it moved me to a place of joy and near ecstasy, as well as deep insights about the week's challenges:
THE WISH TO BE GENEROUS
All that I serve will die, all my delights,
the flesh kindled from my flesh, garden and field,
the silent lilies standing in the woods,
the woods, the hill, the whole earth, all
will burn in man's evil, or dwindle
in its own age. Let the world bring on me
the sleep of darkness without stars, so I may know
my little light taken from me into the seed
of the beginning and the end, so I may bow
to mystery, and take my stand on the earth
like a tree in a field, passing without haste
or regret toward what will be, my life
a patient willing descent into the grass.
~ Wendell Berry ~
(The Collected Poems, 1957-1982)
I would be terribly remiss if I didn't lead any who don't know of Wendell Berry, truly a great treasure, to him...
...an American man of letters, academic, cultural and economic critic, and farmer; a prolific author of novels, short stories, poems, and essays; an elected member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers and a recipient of The National Humanities Medal:
Sunday, February 05, 2012
Can't resist more on Szymborska...just ignore it if you don't grok it or have time for it...or, better still, read it on the dreadmill!
God (and goddess) knows that I KNOW that this is a wellness site. "They" also know that poetry is part-and-parcel of my wellness, as is sharing it with my friends...so that's what this is, a heart sharing:
SZYMBORSKA'S 'VIEW': SMALL TRUTHS SHARPLY ETCHED
Every other year, it seems, the Nobel Prize in literature goes to an obscure European writer, full of hard consonants and solemn purposes, whom we all agree to honor for a day and forget all about right after.
This list of the Great Obscure is long, but the bright exception to it is the Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska, who won the Nobel in 1996. Szymborska is not merely a great writer, like many others; she is a necessary writer, as necessary as toast. Every month, it seems, I give to someone a copy of one of her books and get for her work, in response, not mere admiration or respect but eyes alight with delight, recognition, laughter and that special kind of happiness that comes from seeing a small truth articulated as a sharp ironic point, an emotion given a shape neither all too familiar nor all too abstract.
No one could possibly have chosen a worse time to arrive on the planet, or a harder place to arrive. Born in 1923, and spending most of her life in the Polish city of Krakow, she survived the Second World War as a railroad worker, and then spent the long years of the Russian occupation as one of the more discreet kinds of dissident.
Yet her exposure to the pain of history did not turn her into a poet of history in the usual sense. She lived through some horrible times, but rarely wrote about them directly. Her experience, instead, deepened her commitment to the belief that the poetic impulse, however small its objects, is always saner than the polemical imperative, however passionate its certitudes.
Her poems take small subjects and make much of them. In her poetry, a child about to pull a tablecloth from a table becomes the type of every scientist beginning an experiment; a visit to the doctors, with its stripping down and piling on of clothes, a metaphor for all we go through in the company of the odd mechanisms of our naked bodies; she ponders the onion's many layers, and the inner life of Hitler's dog.
In the poem that I used for the epigraph for my own latest book, she writes all about the range of human difficulties, over time, that make the decision to have a child impossible at any moment. We just can't do it, it's the wrong time; and yet, we do. (Read "A Tale Begun.")
And I have always been moved and inspired by the text of her Nobel Prize acceptance speech, in which she takes on the "astonishment" of normal life:
"Astonishing" is an epithet concealing a logical trap. We're astonished, after all, by things that deviate from some well-known and universally acknowledged norm, from an obviousness we've grown accustomed to. Granted, in daily speech, where we don't stop to consider every word, we all use phrases like "the ordinary world," "ordinary life," "the ordinary course of events." ... But in the language of poetry, where every word is weighed, nothing is usual or normal. Not a single stone and not a single cloud above it. Not a single day and not a single night after it. And above all, not a single existence, not anyone's existence in this world."
That's Szymborska's faith. I have a hard time knowing how I would get through a single ordinary day without her poetry.
More exceptional reading from The New Yorker, Feb 2:
Sunday, February 05, 2012
The path to international fame as a poet generally doesn't involve writing short poems about sea cucumbers. Yet for the Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska, who won the Nobel Prize in 1996 and died Wednesday, the little things -- onions, cats, monkeys, and yes, sea cucumbers -- turned out to be very big indeed.
A popular writer in Poland for many years, Szymborska became a reluctant international literary celebrity after her Nobel win.
Szymborska is an ironist. But in her work, irony becomes playful, almost whimsical. She thinks of the poet as an acrobat who moves, as she puts it, with "laborious ease, with patient agility, with calculated inspiration."
Szymborska's poems generally focus on everyday subjects or situations, and her tone stays firmly in the middle ground. She doesn't rant; she calmly assesses. She's a poet of dry-eyed, athletic precision: an acrobat, as she says, not a powerlifter. Here is how she begins a poem called "Under One Small Star":
My apologies to chance for calling it necessity.
My apologies to necessity if I'm mistaken, after all.
Please, don't be angry, happiness, that I take you as my due.
May my dead be patient with the way my memories fade.
My apologies to time for all the world I overlook each second.
My apologies to past loves for thinking that the latest is the first.
Forgive me, distant wars, for bringing flowers home.
Forgive me, open wounds, for pricking my finger.
And the poem concludes:
Don't bear me ill will, speech, that I borrow weighty words
then labor heavily so that they may seem light.
Yet if Szymborska's touch is gentle, it can still burn or freeze. Consider her sea cucumber (or "holothurian") poem, which is called "Autotomy." The poem begins:
In danger, the holothurian cuts itself in two.
It abandons one self to a hungry world
and with the other self it flees.
It violently divides into doom and salvation,
retribution and reward, what has been and what will be.
An abyss appears in the middle of its body
between what instantly becomes two foreign shores.
Life on one shore, death on the other.
The sea cucumber can become two parts, one living, one dead. Szymborska compares this to the way in which writers have long argued that when they died, their work would live on — granting them a kind of immortality. But Szymborska is skeptical. She doesn't think anyone exists outside of time, or that writing poetry is a matter of falling on the right side of an abyss. As she puts it in the poem's conclusion:
Here the heavy heart, there non omnis moriar --
Just three little words, like a flight's three feathers.
The abyss doesn't divide us.
The abyss surrounds us.
The ending of the poem could seem grim. After all, she's suggesting that there is, in the end, no way to cheat time. But if that's the case -- if we can't continually evade death -- then this is at least something we all share. It's no surprise that her poem is dedicated to the memory of one of her friends.
Szymborska has now fallen into the very abyss that she wrote about with such understated passion. And yet it's hard not to think that, with all her delicate power, she somehow still walks on air above us.
David Orr's most recent book is called Beautiful & Pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry.
Get An Email Alert Each Time VALERIEMAHA Posts