Thinking about Columbus Day – a few days after the fact

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Rocking the Latina Vibe!

As part of my recent work with The Pachamama Alliance, I volunteered to write an editorial reconsidering ColumbusDay for some local papers in Tacoma. It was a fun assignment and I enjoyed it, but didn’t think much more about it until this evening when I discovered my Op-Ed in The Tacoma Weekly.

Here is the complete text – co-written with the kind folks at Pachamama. And I am happy to say – even before the publication of this piece, the city of Seattle designated Indigenous People’s Day on the day traditionally reserved for Columbus.

Reconsidering Columbus Day

With Columbus Day approaching, it’s interesting to consider what we learned, and more importantly, what we didn’t learn in school about the holiday and the man. We can all probably still recite the names of the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria, but what were we taught about the brutal legacy of Columbus’ venture and those that followed?

According to the late historian Howard Zinn, Columbus’ discovery initiated a time of mass killings and commenced an era marked by colonization, the tragic dispossession of native homelands – including those of my Taino ancestors – and a seemingly unending drive toward the accumulation of money and power. While much of our modern lifestyle is possible due to resources acquired this way – and much knowledge has been gained through interaction with other cultures – it’s time to consider the harm that has also been done.

Beyond the historical destruction of our natural world and the devastation of indigenous peoples, we would benefit by looking at the insidious impact these trajectories continue to have on contemporary lives as well. While the excessive development that ensued in the New World celebrated the notion that “more is better,” that belief has kept us all moving at unhealthy speeds to achieve an idea of success characterized by money, power and little else. With both human health and the health of the planet in jeopardy, it may serve us to question what values we celebrate in our modern culture and consider whether there are different values we should cultivate instead at this point in human history – values such as sustainability, social justice and spiritual fulfillment. Something else we didn’t learn much about in school was the mutually enhancing relationship indigenous cultures have had with the Earth for millennia – and this may be a lesson we ignore at our peril.

Last month more than 300,000 people gathered in New York for the largest climate march in history. It was a plea to return to a more reverent relationship with the Earth. With Columbus Day approaching, it’s time for a reality check on what we’ve learned, a correction of what we haven’t and the cultivation of a relationship between ourselves and the Earth that’s more in harmony with indigenous wisdom.

 

5 Steps On The Path To Peace

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Beach grass with dew.

1) In the October, 2014 issue of “O”  The Oprah Magazine, Paulo Coelho says: If you think small, your world will be small. If you think big, your world will be big*.

The smallest things seem big to me. When I was a child, I believed that if everyone slowed down and saw things as I saw them, there would be peace. Which is why I wanted to be a filmmaker. I wanted to show my world to people and have them experience life in all its perfection and glory.  If we took this world into our hearts, I believed, there would be no war.

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Fallen feather.

2) A heart is like a flower… It can be very brave, but it can easily be hurt.

As a young adult, I began to believe this desire meant there was something wrong with me: that I was naive and idealistic, that I was not cut out for the “real world.”

I was brave for a while but, as I grew older,  it seemed impossible that my vision of peace would be realized and I forgot my dream. My world grew small and I felt hurt.

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Purple Centaurea Nigra.

3) There is a Zen proverb that says, basically, if you want something, step aside and let this thing come to you.

And yet, once my heart was broken, it could be re-opened to the beauty that had captivated me when I was young. When I reconnected with the natural world, I reconnected with the vision of peace I had once known. Inside me was an inner child who said: Hey, do you remember that dream?

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Reflecting pool in an old tree stump.

4) A Personal Legend is the reason you are here…It is the only thing that gives you enthusiasm.

The only thing that gives me enthusiasm is the experience I have when I pay close attention to the world and my mind gives way to my heart. This experience is available to all people but it’s too often forgotten.

In Paulo Coelho’s terms, it is my Legend to live this principle: to demonstrate that peace is within reach at all times, within all people and between all divisions if we can slow down, listen and connect – with each other and the world around us.

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White clover.

5) If you are honest enough, God will guide you. Even if you take some wrong steps along the way, God will recognize that you have a pure heart and put you back on track. 

I have taken many wrong steps along the way but I am still on the journey. My resolve is tested daily. I’m not the proof but I AM the experiment and I live for peace not only as if my life depends on it, but as if yours does.

*All italicized statements from the Paulo Coelho interview in the October, 2014 issue of “O” magazine.

Reading about Global Warming…

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Last week, one of my friend’s posted a link to an article by environmental journalist Bill McKibben in this week’s Rolling Stone magazine. While reading it reduced me to skulking around in a stuporous gloom for the rest of the day – even though it was my son’s birthday – I highly recommend you take a deep breath (or a drink or a toke) and dive in.

Entitled “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math,” the article lays out the numbers – in terms of amounts and time – that are leading us towards almost certain environmental doom. I do not, however, recommend you read it just to be depressed (though that certainly is a possibility). 

You should read it so you know. AND so that you can make your own choices about how to proceed. Ultimately, McKibben advocates for social unrest of the kind that characterized the civil rights and Vietnam anti-war movements. There IS an enemy, he insists. It’s the Oil Industry* and they are an enemy worth fighting. 

Once you get that, however, comes the next question: what will be your role, should you choose to play one? What will be mine? How do I use  my specific strengths and gifts, to make the maximum contribution to the fight of our lifetime?

*Not that you didn’t know that. But just to be sure you do, you can also view Josh and Rebecca Tickell’s documentary “The Big Fix.