Thursday, December 24, 2009


Today I read a Yahoo news story which announced that there were 'hidden' anti-war, pro-environment messages in the film "Avatar."


I saw Avatar a few days ago. The script had every " Dances With Wolves" cliche in the book, but the movie was fun to watch, and the message was pretty clear: Don't Mess with Mama Earth.

Good Stuff: Those 'hidden' messages. Strong women characters. Fantastic visuals and special effects. A turncoat member of the "Jar-Head" Clan.

Dumb Stuff: White guy becomes 'hero-god' to blue indigenous colored people and saves the day. Silly tails growing out of indigenous aliens' butts.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thank You

(photo: Lisa Gale Garrigues)

...for red and green.
...for veins and branches
...for the circle
...for the unseen tree
...for the light

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Monkey on My Back

Several people have asked me what that thing is on my shoulder in my profile photo. So I will now let the secret out: it's a monkey. The monkey and I were in the backyard of a tiny café in a Peruvian jungle town called Salvacion, where I was on an investigative assignment for the newspaper Indian Country Today.

I have never really considered monkeys my power animals, preferring the grace of birds or the sensual power of cats, or even the tricksterish freedom of the coyote, or the haunting midnight song of the wolf. But here I am in my profile photo with a monkey on my back.

What’s up with that?

“Monkey on my back” is an expression which apparently originated with heroin users, who have said they have to feed their addiction because if they don’t it feels like they have a monkey on their back.

So this little monkey in my photo is a public confession that I am an addict. Not to heroin—much too costly and messy. But to a number of other things. To writing, for instance, this endless stream of self-generated gibberish which sometimes brings me to extraordinary focus and clarity, and sometimes just gibbers. To exploration, to the unseen image or realization or friendship that lies just around the corner, the boat tied up on the dock and ready to sail, the doors of the next train sliding open, the rickety bus to the next jungle town. To…coffee with one t-spoon of sugar and some cream. To a really good novel that seduces me into its world. To paintings whose colors and textures rearrange the blood in my veins. To the news that I can’t get on CNN, and have to rummage around the internet to find. To intelligent conversation.

Well, I could go on, but you get the idea.

I am also addicted to spiritual books and teachings that talk a lot about the Monkey Mind, that chattering and addictive self that won’t let you just sit under the Boddhi tree and be peacefully enlightened. I offer you this Self-Portrait-with-Monkey as a public acknowledgement that I am no longer fighting my Monkey Mind. I have it, as you can see, on a very thin string. But it will probably always have something to say to me. So now I just listen. And eventually, when it’s had its say, it usually shuts up.

Finally, what I like about monkeys is that they remind me so much of our own species--they are like tiny rambunctious humans that throw our own silliness back in our face. So I proudly wear this monkey on my shoulder because I think most humans take themselves much too seriously, myself included.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Susan Atkins Dies: Memories of Charles Manson and His Girls

Susan Atkins, ex-Charles Manson follower and convicted murderer of Sharon Tate, died today. Her death brought me back to when I was fifteen years old and stared across the room at Charles Manson.

The room was a courtroom in Los Angeles, crowded with spectators who had stood in line for hours outside to witness a trial that shocked the nation. Tate, more than eight months pregnant, and several others, had been found stabbed to death, apparantly in a brutal crime spree by a cult of drug-addled young people.

The doors of the courtroom had just opened, and I was filing into my seat with two of my high school friends. I had long red hair down to my waist and was wearing a green 'granny dress', and knee high boots. My teenage friends also looked like hippies.

Just before I found my seat, I turned to look at Charles Manson, the defendant, and found him staring at me. I had seen his face plastered all over the newspapers in Los Angeles---the crazy wide eyed stare that left no doubt that he was capable of doing the things he had been accused of.

To my shock, I found that the face I was staring into was not the same face that I had seen in the newspapers. "Charlie" was smiling at the three of us, a big wide beaming smile that indicated he felt we had come as supporters and welcomed that. His face had no trace of the craziness of that other newspaper photo. His smile was infectious, luminous, charming, as he beamed it across the room at us.

And we smiled back. Why? Because we thought he was innocent, we thought he had been framed. The societal and generational divisions of that time were so deep that some of us who were in the 'counter culture' thought that anytime someone who was relatively young and looked like a hippie was arrested, he or she must have been framed.

Linda Kasabian, one of the Manson girls who had turned witness for the prosecution, was speaking.

I don't remember exactly what she said, but I remember looking across the room at her and again being struck by how 'normal' she looked, this soft-spoken, dark-haired,conservatively dressed young woman.

Out in the hallway on break, I met "Squeaky" Fromme, another Manson follower who went on to be convicted for the attempted assasination of Gerald Ford, and who was recently released from prison just a few weeks ago.

She was blonde, tiny and pixiesh, with an open face and an earnest expression. She definitely could have been 'the girl next door'.

Except for the red X etched in her forehead, a protest emblem that all the Manson girls had put there as a symbol of solidarity for Charlie.

"Of course Charlie is innocent," she said. "How could they possibly be doing this to him?"

I was fifteen, raised on super-hero comic books and good-and-evil Westerns. Murderers weren't supposed to look like this, not like smiling charmers and sweet-faced girls next door. In the comic books and movies, you can always tell who the murderers are by their slimey aura and the evil they emanated.

Murderers were not Us. They were Them.

The Charles Manson trial shocked me out of that presumption. These kids looked exactly like me and my friends, and that was horrifying.

Despite all the talk of being 'framed', I sensed somehow that they had done the things they were accused of doing.

Later, after I became a criminal investigator and investigated many a murder trial, I learned how easy it is for a sociopath or psychopath to put on a convincing front. But I also learned how easy it is for a seemingly 'normal' person to slip in a matter of minutes from innocent to murderer--an instant of rage, a drug-filled evening, a descent into individual or group madness that in which you are convinced in absolute self-righteousness that 'the other' deserves to die.

"She deserves to die a horrible death, after all she's done," said a part of me when I saw Susan Atkins dying on the news. This was probably the part that knows what it's like to survive the murder of someone you love.

But another part of me, the part that I prefer to breathe into, saw that her attorney James Whitehouse had married this creature who did the unspeakable, this "sociopath." I watched him coaching her as she recited the Lord's Prayer and I saw the palpable love that passed between the two of them on her death bed.

And I was happy for her, that no matter what she's done, she was able to die next to someone who loved her.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Zelaya's Return Creates Pivotal Moment for Democracy in the Americas

reposted from Yes

As returning president of Honduras Manuel Zelaya remains holed up in the Brazilian embassy and the man who deposed him, Roberto Micheletti, maintains a cordon of state police around the embassy and a state of siege throughout the country, leaders at the UN are calling for his reinstatement in a moment that may prove pivotal for democracy in the Americas.

Zelaya's opponents on the right have criticized him with a familiar refrain: he is a left-wing dictator intent on dragging his country into socialism. But the people who elected him, a majority of Hondurans, have supported him as a new kind of president, with a consultative style of governance that engages previously marginalized people, including women, workers, farmers, and indigenous communities.

These were the people who, upon hearing the news that Zelaya had returned, left their homes at dawn and streamed into the city from the countryside by the thousands, filling the streets of Tegucigalpa with dancing and celebration.

Micheletti frantically tried to stem the tide of celebrants, first calling reports of Zelaya's presence in Honduras "media terrorism,” then sending the state police to beat and arrest the demonstrators. A piercing alarm filled the streets, said eyewitness Andres Conteris, director of the Program on the Americas for Nonviolence International. Three hundred people were arrested, and three killed, according to reports by Telesur. This morning Micheletti cut off electricity to the Brazilian embassy.

"I have come to engage in dialogue," Zelaya told the Columbian news station Radio W. "We don't want to live in war, we don't want dictators."

Arriving at the beginning of the UN meeting was a bold and astute move for Zelaya, throwing into sharp relief the contrast between his peaceful efforts to regain his presidency through the UN with Micheletti's brutal tactics in suppressing Honduran citizens.

But for those who danced in the streets on Monday morning, it was not so much Zelaya the politician they were celebrating as Zelaya the symbol. Like Bolivia's Evo Morales and Ecuador's Rafael Correa, he had responded to the groundswell of marginalized people that has swept across Honduras and the rest of Latin America in the past decade, a clamor for change and inclusion from those who have been most damaged by the neoliberal economic policies that have run rampant throughout the Americas for many years. This groundswell has transcended traditional political boundaries, including not just farmers, workers, the poor, and indigenous, but also, according to activists within Honduras, an increasing number of people from the middle class .

These are the people who elected Zelaya, and these are the people Zelaya was responding to when he organized a survey to find out how many Hondurans wanted to create a new constitution—one not based on the outdated class systems of the old Latin America, but inclusive of all people.

If Zelaya is a symbol of the new, Micheletti, with his gun-toting state police and his ties to the School of the Americas, represents a fading ghost of Latin America's past—a past haunted by violence, by fear, by death and disappearances.

The fear of change that exists in Honduras, in Latin America, and indeed in our own country, will not go away overnight. Battles will continue to be fought, waves of paranoia and resistance will sweep over us as we attempt to move forward to a more just and inclusive society.

The potential return of democracy to a tiny Central American country is more than just a blip on the historical radar. It is a moment we should pay attention to, because it mirrors back to us our own collective vacillation between fear and hope, between change by autocracy and gunfire on one side, and change by the democratic process on the other.

Jose Miguel Insulza, secretary general of the Organization of American States, told a UN press conference on Tuesday night that the presence of the elected president in the Honduran capital was an opportunity to achieve a peaceful resolution to the stand-off in this Central American country.

This morning, President Lula of Brazil called for a special meeting of the UN Security Council, which will force the United States to take a more active role in the crisis.

Micheletti may have replaced the government, but he has not been able to erase the popular sentiment that elected Zelaya in the first place.

Zelaya, Andres Contreris tells us, is prepared for "a long and belabored stay" in the Brazilian embassy.

Change, it seems, will not easily be evicted from the Americas.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

L'Shana Tova

(photo: Lisa Gale Garrigues)

This month I am celebrating and honoring Rosh Hoshana and Yom Kippur, the Jewish New Year and High Holy Days. Traditionally these are days of repentance and correction, of looking within, making amends, letting go, and moving on.

Last month I honored the Pacha Mama, with an Andean ritual to the earth.

We are blessed to be living in a time and culture with so many ways to honor the sacredness of our lives and environment.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Van Jones, the A-Word, and the C-Word

Van Jones, The A-Word, and the C-Word.

So Van Jones, Obama's Green Jobs man, has resigned because some Republicans got their undies in a bunch about some of the things he's done. Most of the media reports about the resignation have focused on these two things:

1) He signed a petition asking for investigation into how much the Bush administration knew beforehand about the 911 attacks.

2)He called the Republicans assholes and was videotaped doing it.

I'm not even going to talk about #1 Since when is it 'un-American' to try and find out the truth? The way I learned it growing up in the American school system, it's un-American to NOT try and find out the truth, even if that truth has to do with your own government.

Let's move on to #2. He called the Republicans assholes and was videotaped doing it.

The A-word came out of Van Jones' mouth in response to a question from an audience member about why the Democrats couldn't get bills passed with so many of them in office but the Republicans have always been able to push forward their agenda with far fewer people.

"Because the Republicans are assholes," he said, adding, "as a political science term."

I do not see Van Jones' use of the word 'asshole' here as an insult to Republicans, but rather a backhanded compliment. From what I understand, he was saying they are willing to be tough where the democrats are more prone to slide into divisive wimpdom.

Um. Yep.

Guess it has to do with George Lakoff's Republicans= Strict Father, Dems=Nurturing Mother model of political rhetoric, but as usual the Republicans are playing a meaner game of hardball than the Dems, who in the current administration seem more intent on conciliation than on sticking with the agenda of change they were elected for.

And here's something I still don't get:
Folks like Rush Limbaugh and Tom Sullivan can make on- the- air references comparing the president of the United States to Hitler, a mass murderer of 6 million people, and that's okay. But Mr. Jones compares Republicans to a humble but crucial bodily part, and he suddenly has to resign.

I've never figured out why we humans are more ashamed of our bodily parts than we are of our mass murderers. But that's a whole 'nother rant.

I'll try to stick to Mr. Jones here.

He followed his A-word comment up by saying "And those of us who are not Barack Obama need to start being a little more uppity."

In other words, the Democrats need to learn something from the Republicans: start acting more like assholes, get a little uppity.

Well we all see where Van Jones' uppitydom got him. Right out of the Obama administration. Which makes Obama right now look like the opposite of uppity.

I'm tempted here to join Van Jones himself and some of my liberal friends who are saying the Democrats need to stop being so compromising with the Republicans and stand up for some of the things we elected them for, even if it means being a little more 'uppity', a little more like, uh, the A-word.

Very tempted. I would like, for instance, to have seen the Obama administration stand up for Van Jones, who dared to link 'social justice 'issues with green solutions, like keeping ex-cons out of prison by getting them jobs in wind and solar power.

I would definitely like Obama to stand up for public health insurance, despite the massive rattle of empty teacups that has occurred at his town hall meetings.

I also understand that Obama was elected on a platform of 'uniting the country' after the divisiveness of the Bush years. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and not call him a 'sell-out' or any of those other things he is getting branded with on the left. I'll allow that his willingness to compromise with people I may not agree with could stem from his desire to extend the Kumbaya Moment we all had back in January, when Democrats and Republicans alike were willing to give the man a chance, because, well, he was Making History and he wasn't George Bush.

I like that Obama is willing to listen to people I don't agree with. I really do.

I like ,for instance, the way Obama handled the confrontation between the white policeman James Crowley and the black professor Henry Gates. Have them both sit down and have a couple of beers together, get them to talk about it. You sit on this side and drink your brand of beer and I'll sit on this side and drink mine and we'll both learn how to talk to each other while drinking two different brands of beer.

Obama should have done the same with Glen Beck and Van Jones. Have them both sit down together and drink their different brands of beers and have a conversation. Only do it on national TV in a civilized manner so we can both see for ourselves what each of these guys has to say for themselves and to each other.

Instead,by accepting Van Jones' resignation, he effectively let Glen Beck come roaring in like the town drunk and spill his own brand of beer all over Jones, Obama, and a good many of the rest of us.

One of the big scary skeletons that Glen Beck brought shaking and rattling out of Van Jones closet and aired on Fox TV was that Jones had been a member of a communist/anarchist "revolutionary"group called STORM, a group that says in their own manifesto that they believe in change through the democratic process and makes no mention of throwing molotov cocktails or blowing up buildings.

In other countries of the world, ( backwater places like France and Sweden) the Socialists, the Communists and the Greens can sit down with representatives of the other political parties, just like Henry Gates and James Crowley sat down together, and make a government together.

Okay, it's not always so civilized but at least they are having the conversation.

But not here. Publicly accusing someone of EVER having been a Communist or Socialist is still tantamount to waving a national sex offender registry list around with that person's name on it.

Horrors! Those same "Communists" who were getting outed from so many closets in the 1950's have apparantly found their way into Obama's cabinet. Thank god for those brave men like Glen Beck in their white sheets,er I mean white hats, er well, white something.

Glen Beck has already promised the witch hunt won't stop with Van Jones,whom he called "the first stop" on his crusade to "examine" the members of Obama's advisory team.

In one Fox News segment , Glen Beck and two female analysts talk about the 'wacky' people in the Obama administration, Van Jones being one of the wackiest. This is, curiously, the same kind of epithet that was hurled against Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor as they lobbied to get some of the things done that we now take for granted, like
social security, unemployment insurance. Eleanor, in fact, received particular abuse from folks who told her she should 'stay home and knit' instead of publicly speaking out.

I wondered, as I watched these two female policy analysts vent their views on Glen Beck's show, where they themselves would be if a few wacky people hadn't pushed the unpopular views that women have a place in the public arena in addition to the home.

But these are fearful times. And in fearful times, it is easy to fall backwards, into divisive bogeyman words of the past, like "Communist" and "Hitler" instead of facing an uncertain future and together looking for solutions which will move this country forward.

We needed Van Jones, precisely because he was willing to reinvent himself and his political idealogy for a new era and talk about "green" solutions that will move us forwards, not backwards to an era of witch-hunts and hysteria.

Mr. President, I don't agree with you on this one.

But I'm still hoping.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Obsession. Passion. Fixation.

(photo: Lisa Gale Garrigues)

What are you obsessed with? Passionate about? Fixated on? A few days ago the editors at The Red Room gave their bloggers those questions. Here's my response:

I am obsessed with

getting it right. By this I mean I am obsessed with the unavoidable knowledge that I will only live this one life this one time, even if I allow for reincarnation and the possibility that I'll come back as a three-toed sloth. So I want to be as human as I can be this time around. I don't necessarily mean 'right' in the sense of 'right and wrong', I mean 'right' in the sense of being able to say, at the end of this life, that I knew and I appreciated and I loved being as human I possibly could, and no, I don't regret any of it.

I am passionate about

everything my five senses have given me: the taste of chocolate or peppermint or the ocean's salt on my tongue, the trill of a bird or the slow moan of a clarinet, the touch of sand or mud or the foot of a baby or the hand of a lover, the smell of rosemary crushed between my fingers, or freshly brewed coffee, or the wet fur of a familiar dog, the infinite textures and shapes of clouds in the sky, the diagonal rows of trees slicing past a train window, the glimmer of light in the eyes of some fellow human with whom I have shared, however briefly, an understanding.

I am fixated on

not being fixated on anything, but instead being able to let all of my obsessions and passions go, and surrender to the deep stillness which I know lives somewhere beneath them.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

At Starbucks, No Leaning in These Lean Times

Starbucks baristas are now being trained with Mr. Potato Heads and speed timers to make new pots of coffee every eight minutes,according to the Wall Street Journal. And no more leaning forward to get supplies from under the counter.

It's all part of a "Lean Strategy" that has been successful with Toyota and other manufacturing industries, experts say.

There's a lot of talk on the blogosphere about how successful the Lean Strategy will actually be in perking up Starbucks flagging profits, with some baristas and customers going grumpy over the changes they call 'robotic', and others calling the protestors a bunch of whiners. It has even been suggested that Starbucks, who recently added instant coffee to its usual gourmet fare, is becoming more and more like McDonalds.

Starbucks' vice-president, Scott Heydon, assures us in the WSJ article that the baristas are being taught to speed up so they can spend more time with customers.

"Mr. Heydon says reducing waste will free up time for baristas -- or "partners," as the company calls them -- to interact with customers and improve the Starbucks experience. "Motion and work are two different things. Thirty percent of the partners' time is motion; the walking, reaching, bending," he says. He wants to lower that."

Well now, that's nice, Starbucks is looking out for their baristas' knees. I appreciate that. It will definitely add to my Starbucks experience.

But wait a minute. In the very next graf Mr. Heydon tells the WSJ:

"If Starbucks can reduce the time each employee spends making a drink, he says, the company could make more drinks with the same number of workers or have fewer workers."

Same number of drinks, fewer workers. Hmm, maybe this isn't about the baristas' knees or about 'improving the Starbucks experience' but about perking up those saggy profits.

In other words, speed up dude, so we can lay you off.

Starbucks, of course, is a business, it's entitled to perky profits. I have no argument with that. But, the bottom line is--will it work?

Or will customers vote with their feet and decide they'd rather have a relaxed friendly barista at the local independant coffeeshop than a harried but efficient timecruncher at Starbucks?

(Mr. Potato Head photo courtesy John Wesley Barker)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Some advice for police officers who feel the need to bring out the handcuffs when someone insults their mama.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Homage to the Southwest

(photo: Lisa Gale Garrigues)

Nothing like the big wide skies and craggy buttes of Arizona and New Mexico. Opens the eyes, expands the soul. Here's a glimpse of last month's trip to Arizona, New Mexico, and the Navajo Nation.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Climate Change Brings Death to Peruvian Children

(photo: Lisa Gale Garrigues)

This was sent to me by actress and activist Qorianka Kilchner. Her website, On-Q-Initiative, tells about how to get involved and some of the great stuff she's doing in Peru.

Children die in harsh Peru winter

By Dan Collyns
BBC News, Lima

Children in the remote southern highlands are often malnourished
Almost 250 children under the age of five have died in a wave of intensely cold weather in Peru.
Children die from pneumonia and other respiratory infections every year during the winter months particularly in Peru's southern Andes.
But this year freezing temperatures arrived almost three months earlier than usual.
Experts blame climate change for the early arrival of intense cold which began in March.
Winter in the region does not usually begin until June.
The extreme cold, which has brought snow, hail, freezing temperatures and strong winds, has killed more children than recorded annually for the past four years.
A total of 246 under the age of five have died so far, only half way through the winter months.
One third of the deaths were registered in the southern region of Puno, much of which is covered by a high plateau known as the altiplano which extends into neighbouring Bolivia.
Aid workers say prolonged exposure to the cold is causing hypothermia and deadly respiratory infections such as pneumonia.
Children, who are often malnourished, are more vulnerable to the extreme cold.
Poverty is widespread in Peru's southern highlands and there is a lack of healthcare and basic services.
The government has declared a state of emergency in the affected areas but critics say the cold snaps are predictable and the annual deaths preventable.
Many have blamed government inefficiency for the deaths.
But Peru's Health Minister, Oscar Ugarte, has said regional officials have not effectively distributed government resources.
Meanwhile in the capital, Lima, it has become an annual ritual for businesses and ordinary citizens to donate blankets, clothes and food for the victims of the cold weather in the south of the country.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Meet Me At The Red Room

Lots to blog about, and new photos to post as well. So stay tuned. In the meantime, I've started an occasional blog at The Red Room, a Social Networking site for writers. Check it out.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

EFT: That tapping thing

Street Conjurer
Originally uploaded by ojodorado

I've been hearing great things about a therapy called EFT, Emotional Freedom Technique, so I decided to try it out. I went to an EFT group where the facilitator showed us how it works and led us in a few rounds of it. On the surface, it's extremely simple--you simply tap on certain points of your body which are supposed to be 'meridian points' and repeat out loud or to yourself whatever issue it is your working on as you tap. The idea is that this repeated tapping clears your energy flows of emotional blockages so that you can be happier, healthier and all that other good stuff. It's supposed to work with physical problems as well, based on the principal that emotions and body are intimately connected.

So here's my verdict: it works. At first you may feel a little silly tapping along, singing Birthday Songs and counting from one to five as you are instructed to do.
But here are some interesting studies that have given some scientific credibility to the work, as well as one that is much more critical.

How is it, you may ask, that emotional issues that people have spent thousands of dollars and hours in therapy trying to resolve appear to disappear with a few well placed taps?

Something about energy meridians? Maybe. The placebo effect? Why not. You feel so silly tapping and singing along that you want to laugh and forget your problems? Could be.

How about this: We are ready for it. It's my belief that certain memes make their way into the collective human consciousness when we are ready to receive them. Like The Secret, and the Law of Attraction, which despite my criticism in the previous post, have managed to shift a whole lot of people away from 'victimhood' to 'empowerment' in a way that is simple and easy to digest.

The underlying philosophy of EFT seems to be that healing can be easier and faster than we think. That to me, is a huge leap forward.

Monday, June 01, 2009

The Shadow of "The Secret"

(photo: Lisa Gale Garrigues)

When the book and movie "The Secret" came out, I thought, "Well this is really nothing new, it's just packaged in a new and zippy way."

There is a lot about "The Secret" and the "Law of Attraction" that I like, the fundamental part being that it encourages us to take more responsibility for our lives, examine our own 'self-talk', and move out of victim mode into creativity, hope and possibility.

However, at it's worst it's a cream puff philosophy that encourages magical, egocentric thinking and flattens the human condition into a simplistic polarity of good and bad,

as in the following from 100 quotes from The Secret:

16. We don't need to complicate all the "reasons" behind our emotions. It's much simpler than that. Two categories .. good feelings, bad feelings.

17. Thoughts that bring about good feelings mean you are on the right track. Thoughts that bring about bad feelings means you are not on the right track.


14. EVERYTHING in your life you have attracted .. accept that fact .. it's true.

15. Your thoughts cause your feelings


26. It's important to feel good ( ( ( (((good))) ) ) )

27. You can change your emotion immediately .. by thinking of something joyful, or singing a song, or remembering a happy experience.

While "The Secret" moves us into taking greater responsibility for our happiness, it leaves out some pretty important bits, as far as I'm concerned. One is just plain old fashioned compassion. All too often, I've heard people use The Secret and The Law of Attraction to a) convince themselves that the world revolves around themselves and their needs, and b)that they can run from any responsibility for making the world or their neighbor's world a better place, because after all, bad things only happen because on some level we have attracted them to us by our thoughts.

"Ew," somebody said recently when told that a friend had developed cancer. "Why would she want to attract THAT to her?"

The reasons for 'attracting' cancer to oneself may be multiple--you may have lessons to learn from the cancer, you may learn through it to develop compassion for others, you may just be ready to call it quits, or maybe it had something to do with the asbestos in that office building you worked in for all those years.

Our response to tragedy or difficulty in our life or the lives of others can enrich us or shrink us. If one's only response it, "Aw gee, I guess I--or she or he--just didn't think enough positive thoughts---then that to me is shrinking us, not enriching us."

The other important bit "The Secret" and "the Law of Attraction" seems to leave out is the human shadow, which is that part of ourselves that we do not want to own consciously--our 'bad' thoughts and feelings like anger, fear, shame, etc. This shadow is not easy to face, but it is packed with power if we do face it and embrace it within ourselves in a compassionate way. After we have faced it, then we can loosen its hold on us, and perhaps even let parts of it go completely. But running from it, even if we think we are doing ourselves a service by 'not thinking negative thoughts' only makes it bigger.

Here is a beautiful example of one person's struggle with "The Secret", and with her own shadow, from a sassy atheist blog called Heaving Dead Cats:

"I developed this fear that my thoughts controlled my husband’s success or failure at driving to and from work. If I had a worry based on the weather conditions that he might have an accident, I would panic and had to tell him to drive carefully, and I had to think only positive thoughts while he was on the road. This became an obsession in which I had to tell him to drive carefully before leaving or he would crash. It didn’t have anything to do with his driving skill, the safety of our well-maintained car, or anything else. It was all down to my thoughts. The problem is, the more I tried to avoid thinking about accidents the more they filled my mind. If he did have an accident it would have been my fault entirely. It wouldn’t have anything to do with the stupid deer that stand in the road, the patch of black ice, or the idiot that stopped dead at a green light because he was texting his girlfriend.

This then led to other obsessive thoughts that seemed to be incredibly important for our happiness and safety. Innocent random thoughts became terribly important. Mild concerns harbored doom if they weren’t countered with positive thoughts. A mild and common worry about leaving the coffee pot on would lead to thinking of the house burning down, a brief worry that would turn into a horrid panic. I had just sealed my fate by having that flash in my mind. It doesn’t help that my mind is graphic and vivid in technicolored detail for such things. That only led me to believe I actually had power over such events."

If you've lost a good friend or family member, if you've been diagnosed with an incurable disease, or if you're just suffering some day to day human drama, thinking all the positive thoughts in the world and singing happy songs ain't always gonna cut it. Grief and tears, anger and rants, can be cathartic--if we allow ourselves to feel and let go of these emotions, then we can move into a more purified state where our whole being is enlisted to bring us more light.

Shadow makes light visible.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The New Prosperity

Dancing Hands
Originally uploaded by ojodorado

I'm noticing with the current economic slowdown that people are beginning to find wealth in each other. Barter and
local currencies are sprouting up all over the U.S.A., just as alternative economics flourished in Argentina during their 2002 economic crisis.

I visited one of these 'local networks' the other day in Fairfax (Marin County) California. The primary organizer,Matthew, explained that he viewed currency in three concentric layers, the first being our direct family and friends, with whom we can use trade, the second our community, with whom we can use a combination of trade and regular currency', and the third being the bigger world, where we operate with 'traditional' currency.

The Village Network in Fairfax operates as a membership, where people can post their needs and what they have to offer, and then earn credits according to how much they have given or received. A bulletin board in a small shop called Origin, one of the network's three public spaces, is filled with colored cards that people have posted, offering and asking for massages, business services, housing.

Here's another thriving barter experiment in Madison,Wisconsin.

Any community can start something like this. It is a way of shifting our
attention away from our 'lack' of money and/or jobs towards the real resources we have as individuals and as community.

The photo is of two hands meeting during a dance last summer at a Choctaw Pow-Wow in Mississippi.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Comforting Human Noise

Trumpet Player, Houston 2
Originally uploaded by ojodorado

Went to North Beach yesterday to meet some friends. It was a sunny day, and throngs of locals and tourists were enjoying the weather, walking the streets of North Beach, sitting in cafes, watching dogs cavort in Washington Square.

I love San Francisco, and I love North Beach. Sitting in Mario's, waiting for some friends, I became aware of how the sounds of human voices in the restaurant were merging and blending,like a river.

Interesting, I thought. When I've had too much of the city, I go to the country to visit the sound of the river. When I've had too much of the country I go to the city, to visit the river of human sound.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Moving Out of the Age of Stupid

Step Into The Light
Originally uploaded by ojodorado

Yesterday afternoon, there were people crying in the Kabuki theater where I had gone to see a film at the San Francisco Film Festival. One of them was a woman in her twenties who, later, spoke angrily to her friends out on the sidewalk: "No, I am NOT going to have a child. Why should I bring a child into this?"

"This", according to the film
The Age of Stupid and numerous reports by climatologists on global warming, is basically collective human suicide.

The film reports on the years leading up to this suicide from the fictional vantage point of a survivor in 2055. Sitting in a cavernous building where he has saved thousands of books and artwork as momentos of a lost human civilization, he plays documentary footage of pre-suicide years, focusing on the lives of six individuals.

These six people are our contemporaries--they are us: a man who works his entire life for the oil industry loses his home in Hurricane Katrina, a Nigerian woman decides to trade in black market diesel after her fishing business is devastated by oil exploitation, an Indian entrepreneur decides to fight poverty in his country by creating an airline while a British couple decide not to take an own airline flight on their vacation because it will increase their carbon footprint.

One of the most powerful moments in the film for me was the confrontation between a British wind power entrepreneur and the group of residents who didn't want the wind farm near them because it would 'spoil the view', even as each one of them spoke of how supportive they were of alternative energy sources and slowing ecological disaster.

In other words, many of us want to halt global warming, but only in a vague, pleasant, abstract way. When it comes to actually allowing wind farms to move in next door, or not taking that airplane trip to Paris, or not buying that plastic bottle of water when you are thirsty, it is far more difficult.

I include myself in this. Ironically, just before seeing the film I had been discussing with myself all the reasons why I should buy a car.
Now I think I'll hold off a little longer. Busses may take longer but I meet more interesting people on them than when I am driving alone.

The Age of Stupid is a powerful and effective film, ultimately not leaving us with a sense of despair but with some practical solutions for change.

Afterwards, the filmmaker was on hand to talk about how British politicians had approached her to watch the film as world governments prepare for the
/Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change which will attempt to develop a framework to move us out of the Age of Stupid and towards a more positive and sustainable future.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Swine Flu: The Real Disease is Fear

The Mask
Originally uploaded by ojodorado

This little piggy went to market,
This little piggy stayed at home,
This little piggy had roast beef,
This little piggy had none.
And this little piggy went...
"Wee wee wee" all the way home...

The world is all a twitter with swine flu, going 'wee 'wee wee' from coast to coast and continent to continent over the developing news of this pandemic.

We've had two cases all ready in the Bay Area,and yes, I do find myself looking askance at people when they cough,especially if they are sitting next to me.

I don't like getting sick any more than the next person, and I suspect we are going to be dealing with this for awhile, and that it is going to challenge us in both the individual and the collective sense.

The twitter comments are revealing

YumYucky: Swine flu has hit the University of Delaware campus, which is only a few miles from my home. I bought masks to have on hand for my family.

kvikks: New swine flu feared to be weaponized strain - (expand)
less than 10 seconds ago from TweetDeck · Reply · View Tweet

2 minutes ago from web · Reply · View Tweet

But, let's face it: on some level, we LIKE to be afraid. If we didn't, we wouldn't have so many movies and tv shows featuring horror, suspense, and brand-new cars hurtling into the air at 100 mph.

So, when something like swine flu comes along it's a great opportunity to participate in our very own horror movie: "How bad is it gonna get?" "Do I have it?" "Will I get it?"

At a recent visit to a game store the other day, the owner told us that the most popular game these days was called "Pandemic."

"And," he added, "what's really unique about this game is that it's not a competitive game, it's cooperative."

Another aha moment.

So, while we're all putting on our face masks and avoiding each other like, um, the plague, I hope we can remember how to play the game.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Chaos and Socks

Man and Stone
Originally uploaded by ojodorado

This has, so far, been a chaotic week. Missed appointments, slipped up communications, lost cell phones, misplaced Stuff.

Oh,and get this--you know how easily your socks disappear from your life,so that you end up with always one sock insead of two? Well,today I went to pick up a box of my Stuff from a friend's house and we found a tiny little anklet that looked like it belonged to a child on the floor of her closet.

"Is this yours?' She asked.


"Not mine either," she said.

So my theory is that as we approach 2012 (the end of the Mayan calendar, and for some, a sweeping apocalyptic change of season), and life gets more chaotic, not only are more and more socks disappearing from our laundry into that interdimensional sock-hole that sucks them up, but now the interdimensional sock hole is regurgitating other people's socks into our lives so that we might find them on the floor of our closet, or in our laundry, or god knows where.

Whew. That was a long, and chaotic sentence.

But wait. I happen to be one of those rare people who thrive on a certain amount of chaos--I love the challenge of maintaining one's balance in the midst of it all.

Chaos theory says that chaos only appears to be random, it is really part of a structure that we simply are unable to decipher. So I figure if i find someone else's sock in my Stuff, it is probably trying to tell me something.

Now what that something is I don't know--I can only organize the data according to my own puny mortal mind, and come up with my own ideas.

Maybe it's the sock of some angel child who slipped into my friend's closet at night,and cinderella-like, left her foot covering behind.

Maybe it's trying to tell me that what I think is mine is really mixed up with what's other people's and what I think it other people's is really mixed up with what is mine. That maybe, let's get real profound here, what I think is organized neatly into My Stuff and Your Stuff is really Our Stuff.

So that all this chaos many of us in the world are experiencing right now is meant to shake up our ideas a bit about what Your Stuff and My Stuff really is.

For example, people who had lots of Stuff just a few years ago and looked askance at those that didn't now find their Stuff disappearing from beneath their, uh, socks. Which has forced some people to examine the importance of Stuff in general.

Whether we believe in God or in Chaos Theory or both, chances are that what we now call chaos will eventually be identifable as part of a much larger structure that we just can't see at the moment.

Chaos allows us to freefall into the beauty of unknowing, of realizing that we are not as in control as we thought. But when we cling to disappearing structures, we prevent chaos from washing over us and doing its job.

So if your socks are disappearing from your laundry, maybe it's time to let 'em go.

And if other people's socks are showing up unbidden in your life, maybe it's time to invite them in.

Give chaos a chance.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Fresh Out of Prison

Originally uploaded by ojodorado

Once again I am astounded by the encounters that a person can have simply riding the bus.

Today I was on the Greyhound coming back to the Bay Area from the Sierra Nevadas. After Sacramento the bus got pretty crowded, and it got loud. Some guy behind me was rapping enthusiastically to himself, his eyes glazed and a faint smile on his face like he had left part of himself on another planet. Another guy behind me was talking loudly about something, and I was trying hard to ignore his voice by burying my nose in a book on Chinese medicine.

Rapper guy just kept right on beboppin by himself and Loud Guy finally asked if anyone knew about local Bay Area busses, so I turned and answered his question. So Loud Guy and i get into a conversation about Chinese medicine and the book I am reading, and turns out he's talking loud because he's deaf. Also turns out he's just gotten out of prison a few hours ago, and he's reading a book by Bo Lozoff , a guy who teaches prisoners how to turn their cells into ashrams with the human kindness project.

The book has pictures of chakras and endorsements by people like the Dalai Lama and letters from prisoners all over the U.S.

Loud Guy's real name is David but he goes by Crow, and I can tell by talking to him that he's pretty nervous about being out of prison for the first time in three years. He's wearing a white t-shirt and loose dark pants and slippers and carrying a little bag and a hundred dollars. He apologizes for not having street clothes yet, he says a relative was supposed to greet him at the prison gate with clothes, but never showed up.

Out of his forty-two years, he says he's only spent six 'on the outside'--all the rest were in institutions of some kind or another.

He's gonna try real hard this time to not go back, he says, even though alcoholism 'runs in his family' and makes him do crazy stuff.

"Just one step at a time," he says, "just one step at a time."

The bus sails over the Bay Bridge and the wide expanse of the city and the bay open up before us.

"Wow," he says.

I leave him at the bus station on Mission Street, clutching his book and his bag, shivering in his white t-shirt, waiting for the next bus to take him to a homeless shelter in Marin.

Good luck, my friend.

Friday, March 13, 2009

A Moment of Kindness

The Dalai Lama
Originally uploaded by ojodorado

I had two things on my mind to talk about when I sat down to blog today. One was an incident on a bus that reminded me of the importance of the small moments of kindness in the world. And the other was China.

What photo was I going to choose that could illustrate one or both of my thoughts? Ahem, said the Dalai Lama from my flikr page, choose me choose me.

So I did, and in posting his smiling face I am reminded of that powerful moment when I snapped the photo in Cusco, Peru, as His Holiness arrived to meet with representatives of the Qero people.

I had many many powerful and 'mystical' moments in Peru which I am now being challenged to translate to my ordinary life in the daily slog of a crumbling and shifting California.

So, first the moment of kindness. And then China.

I was waiting for a bus in Richmond California to go visit a friend in Marin County when I struck up a conversation with an elder woman who said she liked the color of my hair. Turns out she was a psychic and had
all sorts of interesting things to say. But probably the most interesting was that she thanked me for the conversation, saying that she had been feeling that people
in Marin were not very kind, and that our conversation had reminded her that there were still kind people in the world.

This came at a time when I wondered if I was 'wasting my time' and not 'doing enough' with myself, watching everyone buzzing around in their cars and hammering away on their laptops while I seemed to be spending more time these days noticing what is actually going on around me.

So it was an 'aha' moment,like the beautiful stone you find on your path that reminds you that you are on the right road.

Now for China. In the news today there's an article about China's nervousness about the U.S. economy, and its advice to us to spend our money wisely or they may not want to give us any more of it. All of a sudden I felt like I was back in the 'developing' world, when I was always reading articles about how the U.S. wanted the government of whatever particular country I was in to act. Them that holds the cash holds the power, I spoze. And now the shoe is on the other foot.

But wait, my photo of the Dalai Lama says. Now you have to somehow link these two ideas. And what, he says, does kindness have to do with China and the economic crisis?

Well, you of all people can certainly tell me about China, I say. And maybe I don't know the answer to that question.

But I do know that kindness, like fear, is a kind of viral disease---the more you feed it the more of it you get.

And that if you are foolish enough to be riding buses in Marin County when almost everyone else is driving, you never know what you might find.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Coraline, Flordemayo, and the Day of The Feminine

Two Young Girls
Originally uploaded by ojodorado

Blue haired girl confronts evil button eyed Spidermom in Coraline, a creepy animated fantasy that takes us through scary tunnels and stirs up psychological ambivalence about Good Mom/Bad Mom.

Caroline, who is stuck with a couple of imperfect parents--an irritable Mom and a tipsy inefectual Dad, finds a secret door in her house that leads to what seems to be the Perfect Family. . .

Though the animation--- complete with dancing mice, cotton candy cannonballs, stripper trapeze artists,and unraveling worlds---was fascinating to watch,and Coraline was appropriately courageous, the overall creepiness of the film left me with a bad taste in my mouth. And no,it wasn't the popcorn. Even her real parents were pretty creepy.

Afterwards, I went to a healing meditation given by one of the 13 indigenous grandmothers, FlordeMayo, a woman of Mayan ancestry and very powerful healing abilities. After a group meditation,she said that yesterday, in the Mayan calendar, was the Day of the Feminine. Also the day of Empowerment, and of following the Laws of the ancestors.

What an interesting contrast Flordemayo was, in her incredibly healing and feminine power, to both the evil Spidermom and the irritable "real" mom of Coraline.

Her presence was more potent than anything she said, but a couple of good reminders stuck with me: the importance of surrender, and "If you know something, it's your responsibity to share it."

Friday, February 27, 2009


Horses in the Andes 1
Originally uploaded by ojodorado

Maybe. A Chinese story about a philosophic farmer.

(This story courtesy Garsett Larosse)

One day, the farmer's horse ran away, and all the neighbors gathered in the evening and exclaimed ‘that’s a shame!’
He said ‘maybe.’
Next day, the horse came back and brought with it seven wild horses.
‘Wow!’ they said, ‘Aren’t you lucky!’
He said ‘maybe.’
The next day, his son grappled with one of these wild horses and tried to break it in, and he got thrown and broke his leg. And all the neighbors said ‘oh, that’s too bad that your son broke his leg.’
He said, ‘maybe.’
The next day, the conscription officers came around, gathering young men for the army, and they rejected his son because he had a broken leg. And the visitors all came around and said ‘Isn’t that great! Your son got out.’
He said, ‘maybe.’

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Silence Is Golden

Scarf and Coat
Originally uploaded by ojodorado

Okay, so now I'm not only Flickrd but Facebooked. This could turn into a full time job. I am so busy keeping up with my internet friends and contacts that I don't have time to discuss the really important things in life here on my the definite change in the air since Obama has taken office, and how much I am enjoying the sunny streets of San Francisco,

There was a beautiful instant right after the Obama election, an instant that lasted for maybe a day or so, when everybody, even a large number of people who had not voted for Obama, just shut up and acknowledged that importance of the moment. One friend told me of how the French leftist newspaper Liberation kind of wanted to criticize Obama because he wasn't left enough, but couldn't bring themselves to because the mere fact that he was black (or bi-racial) was a major shift in this country, and the world. Even among the Republicans, it seemed that many people who didn't agree with Obama's politics still felt compelled to shut up for at least a little while.

These moments that force everyone to shut their mouths for an instant are a good thing. In that brief, fleeting silence, when we feel compelled to let go of our 'usual' discourse and the attachment to that discourse, great transformation can occur.

So it was nice while it lasted. Now many folks are once again taking up their 'positions' behind well-worn fences of discourse and idealogy. (I include the left, the right, and myself in this.)

I think one of the reasons I spent so many of these last months doing nothing but photography was out of this need for silence, and stopping. There is nothing like a photograph to allow you to stop the world, and really look at it.

But now, it seems my own addiction to words is returning. Which is fine, because I can at times be relatively good at this addiction.

It is a joy to have my friends from Peru and Mexico and Argentina and Spain and the U.S. all on the same Facebook page, and to be able to throw our words (and photos) back and forth. Everybody is asking me when I am going to return to their particular city. It is nice to be loved in different corners of the world. I wish I could be physically present with all my friends at the same time. But Facebook is the next best thing.

Now, for at least a little while, I'll shut up, and fall into that great transformative silence.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Baby Come Back

Baby Come Back
Originally uploaded by ojodorado

Baby Come Back

Vuelvete, Amor.

She's been on a one-way rush to acquire more and more things in order to try and cover her nudity. But, as you can see, she's a statue, stuck in mid-leap for many years. Now, as the stores she's been rushing to shop in are all closing, and her money to spend has disappeared, he calls her back. Come back, my love, he says. We have nothing now. Only ourselves, our nakedness, and our love for each other.

This is a fairy tale, of course. But, like all fairy tales, it is a parallel universe that breathes beside us all the time, almost close enough to touch.

Ella ha pasado muchos anos corriendo y corriendo para adquerir cada vez mas cosas para ocultar su desnudez. Pero, como ya ves, ahora es una estatua, atrapada en el salto imposible desde hace muchos anos. Ahora, las tiendas donde ella suele hacer su shopping se van cada una cerrandose, y el dinero para comprar cosas se desaparce. Entonces el le llama a ella: Ven mi amor, dice, vuelvete. Ahora no tenemos nada. Solo tenemos a nosotros mismos, a nuestra desnudez, a nuestro amor.

Esta historia, por supuesto, es un cuento de hadas, Pero como todas los cuentos de hadas, toma lugar en un universo paralelo que suspira a nuestro lado todo el tiempo, casi tan cerca como para tocarlo.

(photo: Detail, sculpture, Nashville, Tennessee.)

Friday, January 09, 2009

Last Dance

Last Dance
Originally uploaded by ojodorado

After 8 years of doing his dance, I guess the man needs a rest.

Meanwhile, America (on the left) looks ahead,somewhat anxiously, hoping for better times, along with the rest of the world.

(Photo taken last summer at the Houston Art Car Festival.)