Tomorrow is Tu B’Shevat, the New Year of the Trees, or their birthday. It is the day of the year when all trees, regardless of when they have been planted, turn another year older. The rabbis standardized this day in an effort to minimize complexities, since in the land of Israel, fruit can only be eaten from trees that are four or older (Leviticus 23-25). Tu B’Shevat, then, on a practical level, marks how old fruit bearing trees are.
The holiday has evolved since then. In the 16th century, Kabbalistic mystics developed a seder to celebrate the holiday, which involved eating certain fruits, drinking both red and white wine, saying blessings, and reading certain mystical texts. Each type of fruit one eats has a specific mystical meaning whether the fruit is completely edible (i.e. apple), has an inedible pit (i.e. olive), has an inedible shell (i.e. pistachio) or has a covering one generally wouldn’t eat, but could (i.e. orange). To this day, many congregations observe the holiday by hosting their own Tu B’Shevat seders often ripe with such kabbalistic overtones. Continue reading “When Every Day Will Be Tu B’Shevat by Ivy Helman.”
My mother, in the great tradition of all mothers, says things sometimes that: 1) crack me up; 2) speak some depth of human truth; and 3) plainly and pithily state facts that could never be otherwise articulated, even if the task were undertaken by the whole complement of talents of Shakespeare, Goethe, Dostoevsky, and J.K. Rowling combined. I occasionally feel that I have failed as a mother myself because I do not have a mom-ist voice. If I have one, it surely isn’t pithy. I often find myself spending four hours in a graduate seminar, lecturing on some aspect of Christology and ministry or the like, only to summarize the whole thing with a “momism” that better said what I was getting at all along.
Today, in conversation, I came back around to one of my mom’s oldest and best bespeakings of truth-to-power. Some years back, we were talking about a sale at Macy’s, observing that the base prices on things seemed to go up and down in relationship to sale percentages, such that one always pays about the same, whether the item is “on sale” or just “for sale.” Even the language of “on sale” seemed ridiculous, we mused, since everything in the store was being sold. If the sale is “on,” I guessed that means it is “on,” like a string of pulsing Christmas lights or a kettle of boiling water or a revving engine, as opposed to a static, dusty package of picture hangers forgotten in the bottom rack of a narrow row in the bowels of a hardware store (unless, of course, the picture hangers were, well, on sale). Continue reading ““Don’t Let the Store Shop You” by Natalie Weaver”
A poem by Thích Nhất Hạnh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist, “Call Me By My True Names,” lists various situations from natural world and the world of humans, most of them to do with violence and death. He claims in the poem to be both: the victim and the perpetrator of violence.
This poem has always bothered me. I can understand a world perspective where you express solidarity with all the sufferers, but how to come to terms with identifying oneself with the oppressors and murderers?
At my current limited level of understanding of the Buddhist teaching I can only say that perhaps the words: “I am a rapist and a murderer” point to tendencies that are present in all of us. First and foremost it is a tendency to divide, to separate. The most noticeable separation is between the “I” and the “outside” world.
First we counter position ourselves against all the others. Next we start believing that it is possible to achieve happiness just for ourselves, at the expense of the others. So we live egotistically. From here, I suppose, there is only a small step to rape and murder.
This saying is one of those that sound a bit curious to a Western ear. It is almost as if the Buddha was against fun or humour. However, we all are familiar with the Buddha’s depictions where he smiles. The canonical texts also bear witness to the Buddha’s smiling.
It has become clear to me that the Buddha points here at the preciousness of the limited time we have in this human life. In short, he was saying that suffering is not a laughing matter, and life is not a joke.
Time is running out – the message that is even more relevant today, as it relates now not only to each of us individually, but to all of us as a species.
One of the concerns of ecofeminism is the modern materialistic mindset of capitalism. Materialism in capitalism instills not just owning many possessions, but it also inculcates the “need” to own the newest innovation. In addition, materialism advocates a throw-it-away mentality. In other words, it is often cheaper to buy a new shirt or computer than to have them repaired. Similarly, it is not enough to have a cell phone. Rather, one must have the newest and best one! The environment pays the price.
One attempt to deny the hold of materialism is minimalism. The minimalist movement seems to run the spectrum. From the ideals of less is more, there seems to be some competition between mindful consumerism and extreme self-denial. Mindful consumerism suggests that minimalism is a journey of recycling, reusing and repairing combined with well-researched, well-considered, as-ethically-produced-as-possible purchases when necessary. Extreme self-denial advocates owning almost no material possessions. While I strive toward mindful consumerism, I have serious concerns about extreme minimalism. Continue reading “On Minimalism by Ivy Helman”
There are three vicious circles: patriarchy, samsara and wanton destruction of environment. All three lead ultimately to annihilation of life. All three are incredibly difficult to escape. One of the reasons for this difficulty is that there are pay-offs. Someone or something benefits from keeping the cycles going.
I am visiting my home town in Russia for holidays. I have not been home for 3 years and I have not lived there for 12 years. Many things surprise me. One of the features of contemporary life in my home town is the relentless and often destructive onset of capitalism. As I have said already, currently patriarchy has joined forces with capitalism in order to suppress nature and oppress women.
One of the ways capitalism does this is by involving women and men into an endless rat race and by substituting their Wild Nature (as Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estés describes it) with an identity of a consumer. People willingly put on masks of consumers who live to make money and to spend it on entertainment which is sold to them.
When I said in my response to Carol P. Christ’s comment that on one level Goddess spirituality and Buddhism are about the same thing, I am afraid it could have sounded shallow. What I wanted to express is that for a Goddess adherent, the primary goal is not to go through death and be reborn. Neither is the primary goal for a Buddhist to go through death and not be reborn. I believe they both seek the same thing: to be happy in this lifetime, to be comfortable with themselves and the world, to be OK with the reality of their own death. Carol says: “For me, regeneration applies to the community, to nature, to the whole, not to the individual”.
The two faiths just lead to this result by using different theology and practices. One of the ways Buddhism installs this peace of mind is by dissolving the very notion of an “individual” and thus, their impending death becomes less of a problem. From the Goddess side of things, listen to an episode of Karen Tate’s Sex, Religion, Politics podcast Enlightenment for the Rest of Us/Shamanism with Polly Campbell, author of Imperfect Spirituality: Extraordinary Enlightenment for Ordinary People. Karen is a Goddess advocate, and what Polly was teaching could be called secular Buddhism: the same breathing techniques, being in the moment and being grateful.
“I had known that dumpster diving is subversive….What I hadn’t considered previously is its arguable feminist and biblical precedents.”
The following is a continuation of a two-part blog. Read part I for what prompted me to go dumpster diving, what freeganism is, and what three things surprised me the most about dumpstering beyond the sad and shocking reality of tremendous waste.
My Dumpster Dive Haul
After sorting through several trash bags of edible food in the approximately 10 minutes that we spent at one site in my first ever urban scavenging trip, this is what I ultimately brought home.
(Reminder: As explained in part I, I have intentionally photoshopped out the store’s name and the use-by/best by dates).
“I get that consumers generally prefer to buy produce that looks a certain way, but can the routine act of trashing whole bags of clementines, apples, or tomatoes because of a few imperfections be justified in a world that is full of hungry and malnourished people?”
Renowned climate change activist and author Bill McKibben spoke at our graduation earlier this year. Among the charges he gave to all of us in attendance (i.e., not just the graduates) was for us older folks to be willing to bear more of the possible “costs” of political activism. His reasoning was that being a 20-something with an arrest record was not a particularly good thing for young job-seekers today.
I was inspired. I thought to myself, “I have tenure, I work with colleagues who champion prophetic civil disobedience, and my class privilege would allow me to post bail if arrested.”
When chatting with a graduate that afternoon, I told him that I’d like to make good on something we once discussed in class during a session on the ethics of consumption—I’d like to go dumpster diving with him.
Mind you, I don’t fit the stereotypical urban scavenger profile (although middle class dumpster diving is on the rise). I grew up in a gated community, once brought my portable curling iron on a junior high church group camping trip, and today am more bourgeois than Bohemian. So what interest did I have in electively digging through garbage?