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"The primary focus of this path of choosing wisely is learning to stay present. Pausing very briefly, frequently throughout the day, is an almost effortless way to do this. For just a few seconds we can be right here. Meditation is another way to train in learning to stay or learning to come back, to return to the present over and over again."
~ Pema Chödrön, from Taking the Leap  
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Entries in war (29)

Sunday
Oct272013

Battling Zombies

Excerpt from "My Zombie, Myself: Why Modern Life Feels Rather Undead," by Chuck Klosterman, The New York Times, December 3, 2010:

World War ZWhen we think critically about monsters, we tend to classify them as personifications of what we fear. Frankenstein’s monster illustrated our trepidation about untethered science; Godzilla was spawned from the fear of the atomic age; werewolves feed into an instinctual panic over predation and man’s detachment from nature. Vampires and zombies share an imbedded anxiety about disease. It’s easy to project a symbolic relationship between zombies and rabies (or zombies and the pitfalls of consumerism), just as it’s easy to project a symbolic relationship between vampirism and AIDS (or vampirism and the loss of purity). From a creative standpoint these fear projections are narrative linchpins; they turn creatures into ideas, and that’s the point.

But what if the audience infers an entirely different metaphor?

What if contemporary people are less interested in seeing depictions of their unconscious fears and more attracted to allegories of how their day-to-day existence feels? That would explain why so many people watched that first episode of “The Walking Dead”: They knew they would be able to relate to it.

A lot of modern life is exactly like slaughtering zombies...

Every zombie war is a war of attrition. It’s always a numbers game. And it’s more repetitive than complex. In other words, zombie killing is philosophically similar to reading and deleting 400 work e-mails on a Monday morning or filling out paperwork that only generates more paperwork, or following Twitter gossip out of obligation, or performing tedious tasks in which the only true risk is being consumed by the avalanche. The principal downside to any zombie attack is that the zombies will never stop coming; the principal downside to life is that you will be never be finished with whatever it is you do.

The Internet reminds of us this every day...

This is our collective fear projection: that we will be consumed. Zombies are like the Internet and the media and every conversation we don’t want to have. All of it comes at us endlessly (and thoughtlessly), and — if we surrender — we will be overtaken and absorbed. Yet this war is manageable, if not necessarily winnable. As long we keep deleting whatever’s directly in front of us, we survive. We live to eliminate the zombies of tomorrow. We are able to remain human, at least for the time being. Our enemy is relentless and colossal, but also uncreative and stupid.

Battling zombies is like battling anything...or everything.

More...


See also:

Wednesday
Oct232013

Many Things at Once

Excerpt from "Kerry James Evans: From Combat Engineer to Poet," by Dana JenningsThe New York Times: ArtBeat, October 22, 2013: 

Like a combat engineer, a poet is aware of many things at once: narrative, musicality, line length, image, rhythm, syntax, etc. A poet is always looking for a balance of literary elements to keep the poem alive. For example, three long sentences in a row will leave the reader out of breath. Too many polysyllabic words can cause a reader to trip over his or her tongue. However, when a poet finds the right balance with concern to formal technique, the poem’s meaning has a better chance of being understood.

More...


Barred

by Kerry James Evans, from Five Poems (Narrative Magazine)

 Gary, Indiana

I belly-crawled through rubble
and ash. Sidewalks
shattered against the curb,
and the asphalt
wintered itself like madness
leaving a wolf after the kill,
after the throat bleeds
out onto the ground.

I licked bullets from brick walls,
abandoned the car
at a steel mill. I dropped
from the sky like mortar fire,
like the youth
of this town—sponged
from a five-gallon bucket
and the liquor stores still open.


Kerry James Evans reads his poetry at the Florida State University Warehouse Reading Series.

Evans, K. J. (2013). Bangalore. [Copper Canyon Press, library]

Tuesday
Apr232013

What Humans are Capable of Inflicting

Excerpt from "Witnessing" by Susan Sontag from the introduction to Don McCullin:

"I would suggest that it is a good in itself to acknowledge, to have enlarged, one's sense of how much suffering there is in the world we share with others. I would insist that anyone who is perennially surprised that depravity exists, who continues to experience disillusionment (even incredulity) when confronted with evidence of what humans are capable of inflicting in the way of gruesome, hands-on cruelties upon other humans has not reached moral or psychological adulthood.

No one after a certain age has the right to this kind of innocence, of superficiality, to this degree of ignorance, of amnesia.

We now have a vast repository of images that make it harder to preserve such moral defectiveness. Let the atrocious images haunt us. Even if they are only tokens and cannot encompass all the reality of a people's agony, they still serve an immensely positive function. The image says: keep these events in your memory."

See also: Don McCullin

Sunday
Sep252011

A Conscious Struggle for Following the Law of Nonviolence

Excerpts from All Men Are Brothers by Mahatma Gandhi:

I have been practicing with scientific precision nonviolence and its possibilities for an unbroken period of over fifty years. I have applied it in every walk of life -- domestic, institutional, economic, and political. I know of no single case in which it has failed. Where it has seemed sometimes to have failed, I have ascribed it to my imperfections. I claim no perfection for myself. But I do claim to be a passionate seeker after Truth, which is but another name for God. In the course of that search the discovery of nonviolence came to me. Its spread is my life mission. I have no interest in living except for the prosecution of that mission.

...

No man could be actively nonviolent and not rise against social injustice no matter where it occrred.

...

Where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence. Thus when my eldest son asked me what he should have done, had he been present when I was almost fatally assaulted in 1908, whether he should have use his physical force which he could and wanted to use, and defended me, I told him that it was his duty to defend me even by using violence. Hence it was that I took part in the Boer War, the so-called Zulu rebellion, and the late War. Hence also do I advocate training in arms for those who believe in the method of violence. I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honor than that she should in a cowardly manner become or remain a helpless witness to her own dishonor.

...

Perfect nonviolence is impossible so long as we exist physically, for we would want some space at least to occupy. Perfect nonviolence, whilst you are inhabiting the body is only a theory like Euclid's point or straight line, but we have to endeavor every moment of our lives.

...

In my opinion nonviolence is not passivity in any shape or form. Nonviolence, as I understand it, is the most active force in the world...Nonviolence is the supreme law. During my half century of experience I have not yet come across a situation when had to say that I was helpless, that I had no remedy in terms of nonviolence.

...

Love is the strongest force the world possesses, and yet it is the humblest imaginable.

...

I have found that life persists in the midst of destruction and, therefore, there must be a higher law than that of descruction. Only under that law would a well-ordered society be intelligible and life worth living. And if that is the law of life, we have to work it out in daily life. Whenever there are wars, wherever you are confronted with an opponent, conquer him with love. In this crude manner I have worked it out in my life. That does not mean that all my difficulties are solved. Only I have found that this law of love has answered as the law of destruction has never done.

It is not that I am incapable of anger, for instance, but I succeed on almost all occasions to keep my feelings under control. Whatever may be the result, there is always in me a conscious struggle for following the law of nonviolence deliberately and ceaselessly. Such a struggle leaves one stronger for it. The more I work at this law, the more I feel the delight in my life, the delight in the scheme of the universe. It gives me a peace and a meaning of the mysteries of nature that I have no power to describe.

Wednesday
Sep212011

The Need to Put the Values of Life above Self-Identity

Excerpts from "The Evolution of Change with Sari Nusseibeh," with Krista Tippett, On Being, September 15, 2011:

I do not see that the Palestinian has qualities that somehow differentiate him or her from being an Israeli or an Egyptian or anything else. Pluralistic by nature — to go back to my own upbringing and the openness of my being both a Muslim and having Christianity right in the middle of my own house at more than one level, my having been brought up in a Christian school, a missionary school that my parents who are Muslims — very Muslim — would send me to, was a reflection of a kind of openness of society that does no longer exist, I'm afraid, at the moment.

I think healing is important. I'm not sure how long it will take. I still feel that hope — not feel — I have a gut sort of faith in the fact that things will somehow right themselves, will eventually come back together. I'm not sure that we will be able to replicate what we had, but I think that with awareness, alertness, to the good things that we lost and the bad things that we've acquired and the ability to distinguish between the good and the bad, eventually we'll be able to create a new future with better, you know, with more things that are good, not necessarily the same.

I think we'd have to find a way to resolve the politics. You know, resolving the politics is something that's not impossible. And I think it's something that's happening anyway. It's not necessarily happening in the way that people assume it is happening. It's not happening in the sense of reading the headlines, that there's a solution and it's been signed by the two parties, but it's happening. It seems to me it's unfolding slowly in the sense that people on both sides are more and more aware of the fact that living in conflict is intolerable and that there is a way that can be found which would allow the two sides to live together.

Now, what way is not clear in my mind. For some time, it was two states. Perhaps in the future, it could be a federation of regions or city-states. I'm not sure how it will look, but I think, in general, people are slowly maturing, if you like, to the need to put life and the values of life as human beings above — not in place of — but above perhaps the more limiting aspects of self-identity and identification of themselves as being Jewish or Christian or Muslim or Arab or from this town or from that and so on and so forth.

In general, if you sort of compare between the attitudes of Israelis and Palestinians towards each other, fifty years ago, say, and today, you'll find we've gone through a sea change. Now, it's not been perceptible on a day-by-day basis, but if you make the comparison between those two periods, you realize that we've covered a long, long, long distance.

And if you ask people on the whole today, for instance, about two-state solution — I think even my mother would tell you — they're happy with a two-state solution, but it would have to be one to which also the other side would agree to. This is my mother's condition. And I think it's the condition that's probably put by most Israelis and most Palestinians. They're happy to come to solution on the condition that the other side is also willing to come to that particular solution.

And I think this attitude is new. I mean, it's open. It's basically saying we are prepared to live at peace. We do not wish to continue living at war, and that's, I think, what's most important.

Listen to the whole conversation...