Tuesday, March 29, 2011

a healing story

Her healing happened when she went to a sweat lodge and coming out of it (it was evening), saw a trail of light outside and decided to take off all her clothes and follow the trail of light. The others didn't know what was going on with her and stood to watch where she was going. But they, too saw the trail of light and saw that it led to a pond. When she got to the pond, naked, she jumped in and those who were standing to watch saw the whole pond light up in this bright glow of light. Coming out of it, she realized then that she was healed, stopped all her medication and has been well since then. Oh, before she saw the light, she saw a medicine man dancing behind her--this, no one else saw. Gloria now works to help homeless people build shelter from scraps (she ran a construction project in the past). 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Who's afraid of sharia law?

Today I got another chain email. This time it's an essay supposedly written by a woman Muslim convert to evangelical Christianity, warning of the coming sharia law in the US as Muslims in America begin to gain political clout.

I usually don't reply to chain emails but this time I couldn't help it. I wrote back to my friend who sent it and said:

Dear ,
I am very concerned about this kind of chain email circulating in our communities. I think it stokes our fears of the "Other" and makes us undermine our own faith in our professed democratic pluralism.

Even if the personal story of the writer is true, I doubt that the majority of American Muslims share her fear of shariah law ever taking over the U.S. I won't get into this lengthily here but I have faith that all of us who came to this country to find our personal freedom will be wary of any one fundamentalist doctrine threatening to rule our lives. (Of course, whether we find that personal freedom is another topic.)

This email could have been the story of one Filipina woman who was abused by an American man and then the word spreads that all American men are violent. Or the story can spread that a Filipina woman marries a white man to get a visa, exploit him, and then divorces him for another and then the story circulates that all Filipinas are the same.

Please let us be mindful of fear-mongering and let us not be afraid of other-ness.  Let us not forget that Filipinos in the US are still also considered "other" along with other communities of color. 

I just checked out the author of the piece you sent on wikipedia. She claims that she did not write the piece that is circulating. Also, her views should be considered as the views of a Muslim convert to evangelical Christianity and we know that an evangelical can espouse a dualistic world view that is just as sinister as its counterparts in the Muslim world. Is it really an either/or world with nothing in-between?

I hope you can send my remarks to the rest of your listserve. Thank you!
There is enough Fear circulating right now that is undermining our capacity for an ever widening and deepening appreciation for our diversity - religious views included. Our public discourse has been reduced to this "us" versus "them" or "West vs. the Rest" and we all suffer the fall-out from our lack of capacity to imagine how else we could view the world beyond dualisms.

Last week in class, we talked about jazz as life metaphor for improvisation; as the capacity to listen deeply to each other; the ability to create bridges instead of slamming doors in each other's faces; the need to learn how re-frame and reconcile rather than divide and conquer. 

It is beautiful to see that when my students listen to each other's stories, they develop a profound compassion for the one who is not like them. Then we remind each other that ideologies and discourses in the dominant culture would have us mistrust and fear each other.

How can we ever find our common ground if we  allow ourselves to be fearful? to be subjected to fear-mongering without critical reflection of what is at stake and who benefits when the people are afraid?

I know Fear intimately. I think about it everyday: I'm afraid of earthquakes, tsunamis, radiation. I'm afraid of oil running out; I'm afraid of soil erosion, global warming, etc. etc. The list is endless.

So I seek refuge in ancient stories about the Water of Life. I seek refuge in trickster stories. I seek refuge in the Beauty that takes my breath away. I seek refuge in the lemon, pomelo, apricot, pear trees in my small garden. I seek refuge in watching the finches feeding off the bird feeder outside my window. 

I seek refuge in writing...about this Fear...and allowing it to swallow me until the alchemy transmutes it into something else that is no longer Fear but Awe in the Mystery even if this mystery is tremendum. 

May all our fears become daffodils in the spring.

Friday, March 18, 2011

please do not forward those websites, newsletters, emails that warn about:
-- financial collapse in the US due to hyperinflation
-- radiation fall out from Japan reaching the west coast

i read this stuff and when i get to the end, i realize they're just out  to get me to buy their stuff.
i am hit with ads on what to buy:
--  get the financial newsletter that will tell me how to make money even after everyone have lost their shirt!
--  buy gas now and evacuate, am told. where to? 30 million Californians emptying out the state headed where??
--  buy potassium iodide, spirulina, chorella, seaweed, baking soda, etc.etc.

i already know that shift is happening. it is only hubris/ego that pretends that control and security is guaranteed.

when i was young, every year we waited for the monsoon floods. we anticipated the inundation and destruction of our house. my dad waded in chest -high water to find us food. we stayed home from school. read by candlelight. in 1972 we were under water for a month and when the water receded, our house was half-buried in silt.

i recall the Mt Pinatubo eruption and how it dumped ashes on my parents' house; how lahar flowed and buried entire towns. a friend's family was rescued from the rooftop of their home after being soaked in rain for more than 24hours. 

now the same things happen with severity and more dire consequences. there is 24hour unrelenting media. i am glued to it until i begin to wonder if i have become a voyeur.

i retreat into my center of calm. i remind myself not to be seduced by fear and ego. 

instead i sing. i watch the birds outside. i watch the rain. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Smile or Die

Barbara Ehrenreich has been hitting the right notes lately. In this video, she talks about delusional thinking in the finance world that led to the financial collapse of 2007 among other things....

Sunday, March 13, 2011

o dear mother
sometimes heartbreak

your silence becomes
a roar

all that is
made by

please forgive us
humble us

us to become
wise, kneel

Friday, March 11, 2011

tsunami dream

Am looking at the earthquake and tsunami photos in Japan. The other night I saw the same scenario in my dream (tsunami). I woke myself up because I was afraid but then when I realized I was dreaming, I went into lucid dreaming and I told myself that this wasn't an apocalypse; it's the Earth dreaming. When I imagined the Earth dreaming and I allowed myself to drown and float with the waves, my fears changed into calm. Now as I look at the photos/faces of the people in Japan, I see the same calm...I imagine it comes from an understanding and respect for the Mother's dreams.

Friday, March 4, 2011

an exercise in thinking outside of empire

an art history teacher from the Phil asked (via Fb - where else?) if having an MA degree will allow him to find a college teaching job in the US. i told him i've not seen it happen and that, in fact, a lot of people with phds in the US are currently underemployed or unemployed. i asked why he wants to come to the US and he tells me that he wants to pursue further studies in art history and then return and be useful to the Phil. he says that Manila universities do not have good research facilities and art theorizing is not current.
winona laduke said that when she went to harvard she was told that if she wants to study european art she should go to the fine arts department; if she wants to study indigenous art she should go to the anthropology department. so there....

she also said that it's time to start thinking outside of empire...
so i tried to tell R that if he wants to be useful to Kapampangan culture, maybe he should look to other indigenous artists or communities who are way ahead in theorizing and practicing sustainable arts and crafts -- like the Maoris in NZ or even our own Heritage and Arts Academies of the Philippines. i also mentioned the names of two Fil Am artists that he could dialogue with. i said that with the availability of online information, books, and social media networks, perhaps he could learn what he wants to learn without an academic degree.

i don't know if this was good advice or not since i'm a beneficiary of a graduate degree. how can i discourage someone else who want to pursue higher education? it may not seem fair but i also recognize that the federal program that gave me a doctoral fellowship no longer has the funding; access to educational opportunities (in all levels) has been dwindling since then (just listen to the rhetoric around or against public education in the US these days). nowadays, most students take out loans to pay for a college degree. one of my former students who recently graduated from law school ended up with a $250,000 educational loan and she told me she couldn't even land a well-paying job that will allow her to support her family and pay off her loan at the same time. 

on the other hand, some students are leaving college without employment prospects and so they stay in school for an MA or Phd program thinking that they are improving their future prospects. sadly they also feel that their undergraduate program doesn't really prepare them for the current realities not just in the workplace, but in the larger context of the global economy, and the even larger context of an imploding ecosphere under the weight of manic global capitalist structure.

thus, i feel burdened by the questions of younger folks like R in the Philippines who think that going to the US to work and study is feasible and if so, how. part of me feels that i should encourage this desire and another part of me wants to challenge him to reflect more deeply about his love for Kapampangan culture and what is really necessary to nurture indigenous arts, crafts, practices to make them sustainable.  
winona laduke tells the stories of scientists seeking the advice of indigenous elders on problems like global climate change, the disappearing salmon, etc...and the elders answer: we didn't create these problems, you did. solve them.
what does it mean to think outside of empire in this case of R's question?  and why is it necessary to learn to think outside of empire?
i stop writing and i go to google: "thinking outside of empire"...
well, i didn't really have to google because i've been meditating on civilizational collapse for awhile now along with many others who are asking the same questions: the 20,000 at the World Social Forum 2010, for example; the Great Turning movement; Bioneers; Indigenous Environmental Network; Seventh Generation Foundation; Indigenous Science  Network, Post Peak Oil, Global Climate Change, Pachamama Alliance, 350.org, etc...

i can point to so many movements (within the empire) that are thinking outside of empire. and yet those who still perceive themselves as being on the margins of empire, seem to want to move closer to the heart of empire. maybe that is the just the yin-yang of phenomena. 
as for R who wants to come to the US...perhaps he should come and see for himself. but only if he finds a fellowship or a grant or a wealthy auntie who can fund his sojourn; this way he wouldn't have to sink himself into the debt pit which no one seems to get out of these days including the good ol' USA.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Who are my elders?

she asked: what do you think of inviting elders ,who are not Filipinos, to guide us since we do not have elders in our community?

who are my/our elders? what is an elder?

i understand where this question is coming from. in an indigenous community that is still primarily oral, the elders/council of elders take on the mantle of guiding the younger ones. they lead, they tell stories, they live by example. they keep the life of the community coherent, stable, meaningful, purposeful. they hold up the cosmic story and the  creation stories that give people their sense of belonging and identity. the shaman/medicine men and women work alongside the elders in keeping life in balance. in land-based communities and stable communities over time, knowledge and wisdom are passed on orally. knowing is embodied and lived. rituals and ceremonies are part of daily life.

but what about those of us in the diaspora? those of us who live in cities as modern subjects, as postcolonial subjects of empire? who are our elders?

when i think of my elders i start a list: my ancestors whose names i do not know. my theoretical ancestors whose works gave me the language that liberated me. some of them are not Filipinos. i think of my older friends who are my career mentors. i think of my parents and grandparents who -- by intentions and omissions -- guided my choices. i think of a lover who tutored me. i think of the IPs i met in Mindanao - many of whom i didn't get to talk to personally but i know of their lives and work and what i know teaches me and nurtures me. i think of authors i've read who confirm and validate my processes and my path and who often articulate what's still on the tip of my tongue, still searching for a language. i think of my husband whose steady hand, big heart, and clear mind provides a container for my ruminations. i think of my siblings. i think of my son and grandson -- they may be my descendants but the Indigenous Soul lives in them, too.

what then is an elder? who is an elder? in this context, in the absence of a community, i am grateful for the people, books, and experiences that became my teachers, guides...that shaped my life work, that led to this place of trust and knowing that my life is nurtured by the Indigenous Soul, that i belong to the earth, that i live in the embrace of the cosmos.

is this possible? to conjure the role of elder thru these weavings? i do not have a choice. but even if i don't have a choice, it is my responsibility to do this work of decolonization and indigenization. i am drawn to the community of like-minded seekers. but each of us have our own work to do since we each have different histories (familial, personal) that we need to unravel to shake off the  dust off our larger colonial history that has shaped us. 

i understand the yearning to be in the physical presence of elders who are wise and who are able to connect the past with the present and then envision a future aligned with a cosmic story that is beautiful and sacred.  i long for elders who have the gift of vision. 

in their physical absence, i have found this guidance elsewhere -- in conversations with others, in books, in dreams, in retreats, in meditation. could it be that the elders speak through these visitations in various forms? do we know how to hear when they are speaking? do we know how to discern their voice amidst the din of psychobabble that litter the road? 

i am learning.