From time to time

From time to time I’ll have a conversation with an American and although I can’t directly tell that they are American, they will eventually reveal their identity in passing. Sometimes, because I’m a Canadian, I’ll hear them reveal how they believe that things are better in Canada. For instance, I might hear them describe how there are still race problems in the states, unlike the progress of we, the rainbow-nation neighbour of the North. I politely listen to that person even though I disagree as it’s not an unreasonable belief. Many Canadians believe that we’ve moved ahead of lots of our racial issues and often tote our national identity as one which values multiculturalism, as a proud tapestry or mosaic. But I don’t really buy that.

In middle school we used to have this thing called “multicultural day.” This day was set up to celebrate the different ethnicities that comprised our schools and as a custom, we were encouraged to bring our ethnic cuisine to share. We would have wide aluminum pans steaming with fried rice, tasty and fragrant curries, pita and hummus, cheesy and potato-ey perogies, and sometimes delicious, sweet baklava. This was usually a good day for lunch as I could skip the ordinary sandwich or burdensome thermos for some hot, fresh, spicy, and savoury food. Come lunch hour, we enjoyed our food and then went on to do usual adolescent kid stuff: talk to friends, play a game of soccer or tag, trade snacks. Later, we might have had a block of the day – usually in social studies – where we had a quick discussion about issues of multiculturalism, none of it I can remember now.

All of that seemed really cool, and even as I went to a very privileged school (upper “middle” class) I bought into the idea of how great multiculturalism is in our country. I ate the superficial assumptions, like racism isn’t really a Canadian issue, as easily as I scarfed down lunch. Really, I had no idea what multiculturalism was about, aside from some generic assumptions.

If Canada really were a multicultural country, why do we need to have a “multicultural day?” Is it a day where everybody can remember that they’re racially different or oblivious to their ancestral traditions? What if my Canadian parents – sorry, Chinese-Canadian parents – want to bring homemade fried chicken?

A multicultural nation would celebrate and accept and recognize our differences everyday. Instead of simply coloured folk making dishes for white folk, maybe white folk would make some dishes to bring for everyone to enjoy, too. Maybe I would have some tasty indigenous cuisine with my samosa, because parents brought food everyday or the cafeteria made them. Maybe we would not just learn to cook yaki soba in cooking class, but also learn to carve Russian dolls and read fantastic myths of Old Arabia.

Schools are more than the students, they’re the community.

love is an ocean

Love is an ocean
And im just a plot on the seafloor
Where you chose to anchor;

And there is good reason to
for we get adequate sun and
Have bountiful sealife,
Green seagrasses waterlife grazing,
Room for lifers and vagrants...

But should storm come and storm go
I would not hold against you
Your sail,
The winds prevail by definition
And you couldn't breathe water,
No matter how hard you tried.

So set sail for other lands and other
For love is an ocean
And wi'll always be.

What is now?

What follows is an incomplete blog post inspired by this article by film critic Roger Ebert.

What is now?
Many self-help “gurus” will tell you that the key to happiness is living in the present – but what does that really mean? I think what they mean is that you need to be with yourself in the “now,” in the current constant motion that passes. But I feel like there’s something missing to that. Inspired by this post, I want to challenge what being present means.

First off, for there to be a “present” by necessity there must be a past and future. Just like there needs to be a concept of dark for there to be a concept of light, there also needs to be a concept of lived-time and to-be-lived-time if we are to consider current-time. So if that’s the case, living in the present means living with a conscious understanding of the continuity of our lives: that our now is only significant as much as it acknowledges our pasts and futures.

In my ancestral culture (Chinese), we pay respect to our elders and those who have come before us – as we do those who are born after us. There is some connection to a bigger picture, a timeline that is happening on the macro level yet lived on the individual level. And I think the leap that we took in our Western society (the colonized world dating back to Ancient Greece) is that we think it’s always been about the individual. That because we can only seem to experience things as individuals, that that must be the fundamental quality of reality.

Getting back to the yoga article, I think that where we veered off as a society was in separating pieces from wholes. To understand the benefit of exercise we’ve teased apart an entire way of life embedded in a culture thousands of years old so that we can fit it into our daily schedules. And yet, do we really benefit in the long-run because of it? Maybe we’re missing something.

Simply Amazing

Excerpt from The Blind Man Who Taught Himself To See.

If you happen to be blind and want to live a bold, stereotype-smashing life, there will be blood. I witness this firsthand when I spend a day mountain biking with Bushway and Ruiz. (Kish, acceding to the realities of near–middle age, stays home.) We ride on a roller-coastery ridgetop trail in the Santa Ana Mountains, above the town of Mission Viejo. Clipped to the rear fork of each of our bikes is a plastic zip tie, attached so that the end flicks through our spokes, creating a constant snapping sound that lets Bushway and Ruiz know where the other bikes are. But to determine where the trail is going, and where the bushes and rocks and fence posts and trees are, the boys rely on echolocation.

Makes you wonder the world of sound that you’ve been missing. I do wonder why we haven’t heard of a similar story from a woman, though.**

**Answer: probably because I found this article in Men’s Journal.

The best true story on beauty I’ve ever heard

Posted from Tamarack Song’s new blog.

The small size of villages means that girls approaching puberty have few, if any, peers to compare themselves to. Thus they do not develop to maturity in a context of intense comparison and competition. Each young girl is likely to be the center of attention for a number of years. As a girl begins to mature, the men of the village offer running commentaries on the changes in her body—obvious in a culture where the breasts are not covered—and joke about wanting to marry her or to run away with her. It is unlikely that the attention will have to be shared.

This experience seems to inspire self-esteem, as shown in the following sharing I had with a twelve-year-old girl. Her breasts were just starting to develop, and I saw her admiring herself. She was a lovely girl, although not outstanding in any way except by being in the full health and beauty of youth. She saw me watching. I teased in the !Kung manner I had by then thoroughly learned, “So ugly! How is such a young girl already so ugly?” She laughed. I asked, “You don’t agree?” She beamed, “No, not at all. I’m beautiful!” I said, “Beautiful? Perhaps my eyes have become broken with age that I can’t see where it is?” She said, “Everywhere—my face, my body. There’s no ugliness at all.” These remarks were said easily, with a broad smile, but without arrogance. The pleasure she felt in her changing body was as evident as the absence of conflict about it.

From pages 269-70 of Nisa, The Life and Words of a !Kung Woman (NY: Random House, 1983) by Marjorie Shostak.

We’re all just watching television

“Before I was shot, I always thought that I was more half-there than all-there – I always suspected that I was watching TV instead of living life. People sometimes say that the way things happen in movies is unreal, but actually it’s the way things happen in life that’s unreal. The movies make emotions look so strong and real, whereas when things really do happen to you, it’s like watching television – you don’t feel anything. Right when I was being shot and ever since, I knew that I was watching television. The channels switch, but it’s all television.”

— Andy Warhol, 1968

A home in the wilderness

To be connected with the land is to find a home within the wilderness. If we always think of our surrounding ecology (for those fortunate enough to live where there is still wilderness beyond their walls, or for those who live without walls) as something to be at battle with, we will never be at peace. Yes, that’s a truism, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Ever since reading Trauma Farm, I’ve been more aware of my connection with everything. To live peacefully with the land is to accept that the Land is something we are a part of. To know our place is to know that it is our choice to settle in that location, but it is the natural ecology which will outlast our lives and choices. Like a kitten that finds the inside of your elbow as a place to sleep, we can find a place to live and thrive within our wilderness. Whether it’s the physical landscape of the country or the philosophical natural chaos from which we get our diamonds or sustenance, accepting our wilderness is key to our survival.

This article was inspired by this blog post from An Ecology of Home.

too much food

too much food is wrapped in plastic
tied in elastic
keeping freshness inside

life is not meant to be contained
in a box,
or a vacuum

clear or clean
oil is still oil,
the product of a thousand million years
of evolution

toxic to the taste
made to waste
and waste