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SOCIAL AWARENESS

May7/2006 6:44 PM

www.chomsky.info Because he’s necessary reading—to avoid necessary illusions—whether one agrees or disagrees. He is relentlessly committed to freedom of the disenfranchised. He is unbelievably prolific.

Not only that, in the ten or so times I’ve written him, without him having any idea who I am, he has written back every time the same day, and granted an interview upon request. Try that with anybody else, media star, athlete—and don’t forget he is the most famous intellectual alive.

chomsky
Noam Chomsky tolerating me in his office at MIT.

                  

zinn
Howard Zinn urging me to do something.

Howard Zinn is an historian of courage and honesty, exemplified in the early ‘60s during the Civil Rights Movement, where he inspired his students (which included Alice Walker and Marian Wright Edelman) at the Afro-American Spelman College to be political activists. They were so inspired that Zinn was fired in 1963.

In 1980,  Zinn’s counter-revisionist A People’s History of the United States was published. Like Chomsky, whether one agrees or disagrees with his work, Zinn will, if you’re willing, shift you towards greater critical thinking.

And how can you not appreciate a man who writes: “Writing this book, I do not claim to be neutral, nor do I want to be. There are things I value, and things I don’t…I am hoping that given more possibilities people will come to wiser conclusions.” www.howardzinn.org.

On the web, Chomsky and Zinn are, of course, highly valued, but also reviled in ways that are shocking. I feel sick when I read the detail of the attacks—both ways. If only we could speak our truths with less hatred. Nobody has a monopoly on the answers, and we are all under the dilemma. Believe me, I have shares in both ignorance and truth, and the stock market is volatile.

But having put Chomsky and Zinn here, my bias is obvious. It’s not that I agree with everything they say, it’s just that something has to counter the insatiable war machine which is ultimately causing so much grief to the health of the greatness of America and elsewhere.

If Zinn and Chomsky and so–called liberals and Leftists control the media, how on earth does one explain the omnipresent American business and military boa constrictor choking to death the Iraqi people to the tune of hundreds of billions?—not to mention the drain on public funds better used on human causes back in America.

There are more mercenary forces in Iraq than Coalition Forces (other than US forces).

This is beyond Left or Right—which lack any real meaning, anyway. This is power. And “Power,” in the words of Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore, “…takes as ingratitude the writhing of its victims.” We must increase love to decrease suffering.
 
www.ugandarising.com is the website for the documentary Uganda Rising, behind which the remarkable Alison Lawton (and many others) have put so much heart and soul and money—they are awesome and inspirational.

See also Alison’s www.actforstolenchildren.com, www.mindsetmedia.org and www.guluwalk.com, which was developed by two pals, Adrian and Kieran, who have brought so much international awareness to the plight of the Acholi and their children.

Also, www.invisiblechildren.com, three young Americans I don’t know, has been relentless in putting the word out there with extraordinary networking and footage.

Also, the Liu Institute for Global Affairs researches and advocates on behalf of global public policy issues related to human security, from peace and disarmament to the environment, global health and international justice. www.ligi.ubc.ca.

Erin Baines, who has done so much research and field work in Northern Uganda, at great personal risk—and was also interviewed in Uganda Rising—is a big part of the Liu Institute.

ugandarising         docors

 
liu        gulu

Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres never cease to amaze me with their courage, efforts and results. www.doctorswithoutborders.org

image007

www.oxfam.org are really great, I was told by a friend of mine who has done work all over Africa, most recently in Sudan (Darfur) and the Central African Republic. I think he knows what he’s talking about.

www.unicef.org does so much to create awareness of places in need. I just did an interview with Unicef President Nigel Fisher on the AIDS crisis in Africa (and India), which is almost beyond time, beyond hope. He was eloquent, compassionate, highly aware and generous, and has worked tirelessly for twenty years or more all over the world.

unicef

The world needs to know more, now, about the importance of preventing mother to child transmission of HIV. It is one of the key places to turn almost certain death sentences into a viable life.

A quarter of all children born with AIDS will die within the first year of life—half within two years. Antiretroviral drugs at the time of birth can prevent this with great success.

Right now, only 10% of HIV infected mothers in Africa have access ARVs, which in some worlds would be considered a crime against humanity committed by those who could supply the drugs. Once again, my bias shows.

Amnesty International fights on behalf of political prisoners and against the inhumanity of terror www.amnesty.org.

Mike Simpson is a new friend of mine, a great guy, and he has an equally brilliant wife, Gail Hochachka www.drishti.ca. Both are putting their (wonderful) souls and bodies into alleviating the misery of others.

The goal of Mike’s One Sky Company www.onesky.ca is to promote sustainable living globally through appropriate technology systems—and against impossible odds, things change.

Gail (a writer, philosopher, yogi), has been in El Salvador and Ethiopia and Nigeria and elsewhere, working with women using her vast wisdom and an “Integral Approach” to community and international development www.integralinstitute.org.

  gail   mike
Gail Hochachka   Mike Simpson

 

SPIRITUALITY

www.jeffreyarmstrong.com Jeffrey is a yogi, lecturer, writer, poet and teacher with a library’s wealth of Vedic (Hindu) knowledge (and other traditions) inside him, and has generously offered me relentless inspiration, knowledge and friendship for spiritual understanding and growth.

For followers of any religion, or spirituality, even agnosticism—okay, atheism too—Jeffrey’s passion for the Divine (in all Her forms) will expand anyone’s mind—and if so inclined, any open soul towards greater intimacy and conversation with the Source of their existence (and who can get enough of that?). Fax numbers and e-mails included.

Jeffrey is a great warrior soul, demanding we see the miracle of being here, and I am grateful for that.

jeffrey


Ken Wilber's first book, The Spectrum Of Conscious (among many others) blew my mind in my early 20s, when I was rather troubled and thirsty for a good mind blowing. Just trying to follow what Ken was saying expanded the universe that we are.

Since then he’s been unbelievably prolific with his Integral Philosophy, has had his collected works republished in his lifetime (compare this to my posting of a few poems on my website) and offers the reader great insights and access to other sources.

Although I find his final conclusions on spiritual awakening and the nature of eternal personhood to be in some ways “flatland” (to use his own phrase), he shows all the symptoms of genius. www.integralnaked.org, www.kenwilber.com.

wilber
Ken Wilber staring down my spiritual conclusions.

 

Other Influences: Too many to mention, but...

In my early twenties I discovered (through my dad) Joseph Campbell. The vastness of his knowledge is extraordinary (Vedic, Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Sufi—and, thank God, indigenous spirituality). His enthusiasm for the subject of Mythology is infectious and inspiring. I will always be grateful.

Also in my early 20s, Matthew Fox's book Original Blessing led me into a deeper relationship with Christianity and the mysteries of faith and life. His love for the Christian mystics of the middle ages resurrected much of their knowledge—names like Hildegard of Bingen, Julian of Norwich, Meister Eckart, Mechtild of Magdeburg, and many more. These mystics and their revelations would be lost to us, were it not for thinkers like Fox.

Elaine Pagels' The Gnostic Gospels was a wealth of innovative thought to my wondering brain. I also read Northrop Frye's books, elucidating the bible and literature, and the influence of William Blake. Viktor Frankl's Man's Search For Meaning is a classic, of course, of the human dilemma. John Eldredge is interesting.

Eastern mystic thought has always reached in and grabbed me by the spirit. The amazing and concise Bhagavad Gita encompasses much of Vedic (Indian) thought; the Tao Te Ching helped expand the journey. Kabbalah, Sufism (through a few of the poets), Buddhism (again in pushing awareness of the collective human condition). The list goes on and on and may it continue...

FRIENDS

Friends. Ah, friends. First my beloved, darling Samantha, who not only fills my heart but runs a wonderful business that celebrates in book form the miracle of the human experience through memoirs—be they a grandmother’s hundredth birthday celebration or an uncle’s war years, or a private wedding or a child’s birth. The books are exquisite, and the gift of a lifetime.  www.echomemoirs.com

sam     

 

Jeffrey Armstrong, at www.jeffreyarmstrong.com is a great friend as well as a teacher.

jeff

 

Jesse James Miller not only has a fantastic name (and is one of my great friends), he directed Uganda Rising with me, and is a deeply creative director, writer, editor, musician. He also edited See Grace Fly. He runs Backyard Buddha Productions, a full online and offline facility, where we put together Uganda Rising—and Jesse took care of everything. The website is coming soon.

jesse and me
Me and Jesse

 

My dear friend Lori Paul is an extraordinary singer, heartfelt songwriter and devoted poet who continues to re-amaze me with her relentless journey in sublime creation (see inside the Spider Lodge). She's one of those rare intelligent artists who just get better and braver. The angels have already heard her voice and heart, the world is next. Please check her out, and be enchanted; you will cry and laugh. Lori also graced me on the aptly titled Be Brave Tonight.

Lori Paul

 

Vince Ditrich is a terrific musician, producer, songwriter and writer, and played drums on everything I’ve recorded. Beyond being the drummer for Spirit of the West, a great friend and a fellow history nerd, he has a terrific blog, or forum—one of those things where you write and post it. www.vinsynch.com and www.sotw.ca

vince       imagehockey

 

Sonja Picard www.sonjapicard.com is a wonderful friend, and an unstoppable spirit who creates beauty because she has to. My mom has an addiction to her jewelry—as do all people with good taste.

sonja

 

Paul Hyde www.paulhydemusic.com is a great songwriter, from the Payola$ to Rock and Hyde to his solo career, from folk to pop to heavy rock. He has had number one hit singles, won several Junos, help produced some of my earliest songs—my fourth ever live gig was opening for Paul on his Turtle Island Tour in about 1990, where I also met Vince Ditrich. He continues to be prolific and vital.

hyde

 

Timothy Clayton is not only a wonderful painter with a huge heart, as you can see at www.timothyclayton.ca (my mom has one of his paintings), he is also married to one of my favourite people in the universe, the incomparable Gina Chiarelli. Both feed my soul through love, conversation and, when schedules permit, Gina’s cooking.

painting1     gina     painting2
Gina and Pete

 

Paul McGillion www.paulmcgillion.com is a terrific actor and hilariously funny, but still struggles horribly with women— mostly since playing the lead role of a repressed lay missionary in See Grace Fly. He blames me, but he has the issues.

Paul also isn’t a doctor but he plays one on TV, with an impeccable Scottish accent—Dr Carson Beckett, Stargate Atlantis.

Paul's mother finds me very handsome, which has caused more tension between us that we need to resolve. In turn, my mother finds him "charming," which also needs clearing up.

paul
Paul McGillion

 

John Mann www.johnmann.ca is a born creative soul— songwriter, thespian and lead vocalist for Spirit of the West—and a sweetheart. He's said some great things to me at just the right time, if you know what I mean.

john

 

Larry Anschell www.turtlerecording.com and I have been friends since Demolisten ’91 (see Breathing and Trusting), when he thought Oh Yeah was a lot better than we were. I love people like that.

Larry came from America, about thirty years after the American invasion of Vietnam, and built his very own mobile recording studio. He has recorded and produced several legends—from Nickelback to Sarah McLachlan (live) to Kenny G, and he even put up with me. The guy can build anything.

turtle

 

Janice MacLeod at www.breakuprepairkit.com is a wonderful creative spirit. This is the webpage for the book she wrote with Marni Kamins. Their next book is on its way.

janice

 

People have done so much for me. Through parents to friends and beyond, the debt I have incurred, like the debt on the world today—Third World and the West—can not possibly be paid back. The difference is my beautiful debt is of love and gratitude, and that debt is control and misery.

Love more.

 

 

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copyright 2006 Pete McCormack