Monday, September 29, 2008

More about a renewal of culture

The mountain attracts many travelers throughout the summer season which begins when the last of the snow drifts melt above Bunny flats sometime in June and goes until the snow flies in October. Those of us who live nearby don't entirely understand what it is that brings people here from around the world. Even though Mt. Shasta is the tallest peak in North America, it is out of the way from the larger west coast cities, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland where we might imagine the tourists will go. Some are glossy in fine automobiles and some are dred-locked skinny young people wearing colorful costumes and unusual names.

Meet J. Galaxy, she is Kansian. We had quite a lot in common as she is a sewer and jewelry maker. She told me that she is a teacher who takes the whole summer off to travel. And travel she has, many countries and many different cultures and ethnic traditions. She explained:

"I took a course in college on ethnic studies. The teacher asked each of us about our ethnic heritage. I am Kansian, was her answer, I was born in Kansas."

"That's not an ethnicity," the teacher replied.

Galaxy explained that having been born on the edge of the American plains where many formerly European people came by covered wagon through frontier hardships when very bad weather and devastated crops left everybody starving so much that their older people, mothers, grandmothers and grandfathers died leaving no information concerning their origins. No one who was left could remember their original homes lands, so, Kansian became their adopted heritage. I think of myself as frontier stock, a survivor among very tough people who made it in a very difficult land. After the class, my grandmother and I did some work on genealogy tracing our family back several generations to Scotland and France. But all that disappeared when we first came to the raw, flat, new land of Kansas and managed somehow to survive."

She also suggested that this lack of identifiable background has made her open and curious of people's heritage wherever she has traveled. For her, renewal has come to mean rich experiences of food and fun from many different places where she took her Kansian survival mentality to share across Europe and south to Mexico and Central America.

There is a fellow on the mountain who hosts the campground at Panther Meadows. Elders of the Indian nations, who have lived near the mountain for generations, persuaded the Forest Service to create a job for him. Johnny get paid to watch over the whole camp ground, to guide visitors seeking to hike the mountain and to clean out the outhouse making sure there is paper and a swept floor for all campers. He spends the entire summer on the mountain.

He visited our camp and shared the reasons for his being the camp host. He had spent many summers since his teen years hiking and camping on the mountain. As a friend to the Indians in this region, he attended many ceremonies and sweat lodges. He shared the story of the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy, part of which forms the basis of the United States Constitution, a story of peacemaking among strong nations that became a renewed code of honor among them and which placed the elder women (the grandmothers who watched over all the children) in a wisdom place: any one chosen as chief or any law which was not true for all the people could be vetoed by the grandmother council.

While I have been searching and listening, myself an elder grandmother, I have been gathering a greater understanding that the ideas of renewal that I am investigating are actually not a new phenomenon even in my quite small circle of influence. There is a great deal going on in our first world that is not reacting to the downturn of real estate values and the growing takeover of the central banks which squeezes the low income formerly middle class workers and their families. There is a turning inward instead to the small circles of the families and the close neighbors.

I remind people not to be defeated by their powerlessness in the workplace, in the face of the police and war mentality, or before the economic power of the central banks. I remind them that when we look at each other and recognize the heart within and the heart before us, we may experience being power-full, i.e. full of the power of our own spirit. In the circles of our peaceful confederacies, in our families and in our neighborhood circles, there we are power-full, there we are the decision makers guiding our lives in wisdom and peace. No insitution outside of these places can compromise our individual spirit, indeed, it is one and eternal in all people and all nations.

People may lose everything, may starve from lack of food, waring may maim or kill, spirit forever remains.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Who? Some whos comment on renewal.

I was up again on Mt. Shasta this time for my own purposes. During the few days I was there, I met a group of mostly women who had come from the Province of Quebec, Canada. There were about half a dozen ladies of various ages led by a couple.They had flown from Montreal to San Francisco to drive and climb up the mountain for several days of meditations, yoga and discussion about personal and spiritual renewal. They were excited to be on the tallest mountain in North America, to simply be there, to sense the energies of a sacred mountain and to search deeply within themselves what that might mean. We had several moments of great fun recalling my Montreal history from the 1960's: how I loved the big city, how it was so different in language and customs from what I had come from in western Canada. Their focus was personal and yet there was a spirit of something new, yes, renewal that they had been contemplating while they were there. They were taking away with them a magnificent experience and food for much thought for the next months. I gave them my blog card in the hope they will let me know about their progress.

Just a couple days later when I was in Mt. Shasta, the town, I met again some old friends: Djin and Becky. His 60th birthday was only a few days away. He was telling me about finding a reel-to-reel tape of music from the 70's which had been stored in a friend's basement for lots of years. When they were able to play it and download it to disc, they sent it to a recording company. Their response was highly enthusiastic: would he consider signing a 5 year contract to perform and record again? Here he is, at the 7 decade of his life renewing his musical heritage and giving it to the present generation. Now that is truly about a renewal.

Is there something in us that reverses aging? That could be known as: Youthing? Maybe so.

What is it for you today, growing older or growing younger?

Friday, September 12, 2008

What? With my reporter's hat on, I'm asking about renewal

While I have been out and about these past few days, my 'reporter's hat has been on my head. Sitting in the late afternoon sun at Panther Meadows on Mt. Shasta who should come walking over but a gentleman friend of long past who I have not seen for at least a couple years. After the greetings, I showed him my card and asked him if he had thoughts to share about renewal.

Bob is 72 this year, came from a highly technical corporate background to settle a few years ago in Siskiyou Co where he married again and had 2 children now nearly teen aged. In this time, rather than using his mind on detailed engineering problems, he leads vision quests for other men who, like him, are exiting the tech world to rediscover their very human cores.

"I've been renewing myself for a couple of decades," he says, "I guess my second family has shown me some things about what I missed before, like, that I have a very mushy heart, I love to play frisbee and checkers with my kids and that I was probably much too serious about money and prestige in my younger years. Being in love again has warmed me up and I like that very much."

"Vision quests are my gift to some of the men of my generation who kind of lost themselves and are taking back the power they gave away to their bosses and an ideal which left them hollow and dissatisfied by the attaining of the very accomplishments they had striven for as worthwhile."

"Renewal means to me, renewing myself first. Now what I am doing feels very much more like real accomplishment."

The next morning while I was walking around the alpine campground there were two beautiful, very young people relaxing in their camping spot. I went over and introduced myself. After hearing a little from them, I asked them for their ideas about renewal.

River is 29. He lives where ever he is out on the road, working when the need arises. He says he is concerned most about improving himself, seeking to learn true spiritual ways. "I'm not sure I can marry and have a family. I've seen so much of that kind of life that I am a little scared that I would lose what I have found of myself. Still, I love my woman. We talk about what if we should marry. There really are no clear answers yet for me. I see the world changing. I have no place in the world of my parents, nor do I have any idea how I might make my way in an emerging world. I believe that if I keep my heart open, a way will be shown to me."

While many of my peer group have settled in front of the TV, on the properties or in the homes their hard work achieved for them, only a very few realize somewhere that the need our society shows us to have our own money, our own house, lawn, and automobile somehow robs us of experiences of a collective wisdom, shared resources and a more human spirituality not church or organizationally based.

The younger ones, say those with only 2 decades or 3 behind them, are convinced by the ecological mess the natural environment is in that there must be something better. It is hard to break out of the old conditioning but they are daily breaking down barriers. They know it is a real challenge making a living as a fringe dweller.

They are saying there is more to life than surveillance cameras watching and recording every move we make, that the burgeoning prison culture is anathema to the pure spirit in each person, They believe that fewer things and voluntary simplicity can renew us all.

Money is not it. Love is. What is the state of your heart today?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Why? Inventing a renewal culture beyond ecology.

When I began a few days ago to write this blog, I thought I might be fairly glib about what I thought a renewal of culture was all about. It has turned out quite differently. There is a great deal to say and it's taking me a lot longer to make it sensible to my readers, bless you, every one!

There is my own personal history: all that has led me to consider the idea of renewal in the first place. Perhaps every writer has these experiences: not so much what to write but what to leave out of the narrative, to hone the work to an intelligible clarity and sharpness. It's not hopeless and it is much more enormous a task than I first anticipated. So, darlings, bear with me while it all gets sorted out.

I trust you (as few and as rare as you are right now) will assist with feedback from your lives. Thank you before you read and thank you after your comments!

The beginning of the tale:

I was born just at the outset of World War II, raised in Canada by later Victorian children who lived through the Great Depression. Everything in our house was used and used again. I remember the first plastic bags my mother got from the store: they were washed out and put on the line outside to dry to be used over and over - for months!

Now, say only 60 years later, it's hard to conceptualize that 30 billion plastic bags are used every year and 10 billion paper.

My parents saved dimes and quarters over many years so they could go to the car dealership to buy a new car for cash. Can you ever remember being able to buy any kind of 'big ticket' item without credit? You might be met with some serious questions should you appear in a car dealership today with cash in your wallet to buy a $20,000 automobile: where and how did you come by this much money? hmmmmmm?

Our western, so-called first world society in the early 21st century consumes much more than its share of the world's resources and still we buy like there is no tomorrow. Some people don't even believe in tomorrow thinking that a religious rapture will take them away to heaven. Trash the earth, we won't be around to worry about it.

In my view, it seems obvious that the real value of resources, from the ordinary plastic bag to the lawnmower sitting in the garage, lies in the use, and sharing, of such resources. Does every household really need their own laundromat, even their own automobile? A renewal culture goes way beyond the style of capitalistic considerations of 'ours' and 'theirs' seeking, instead, how many may share the use of fewer things.

Here, I think, is where the consideration of renewal may begin: with an inventory of what we own that may be shared, that may even by superfluous, or even toxic to us and to our overall well being. What could you, quite nicely, do without?

A person is rich who knows they have enough.