The video below is an artistic-musical journey of some of the events that defined and reshaped our shared reality over the past year. It spans natural disasters, disease disasters, and human made disasters that occurred beginning around Feb. 2020 to Feb. 2021.
I began by drawing the sad woman sitting by a fire contemplating something. I drew her early in 2020 before most of what happened transpired. Behind her is a dreamlike landscape, which was drawn some years earlier. However, I felt it belonged in this dream-like landscape. I then wanted images to appear between the flickering fire, but I didn’t know how to choose which ones to draw or feature among all the disasters and terrible things that occurred last year all around the world.
I decided to focus on the United States and found a regional map that I redrew artistically. I found other maps of where fires occurred, where the derecho hit Iowa and left a 750 mile path of destruction, where hurricanes came ashore, where Black Live Matter marches took place after the brutal murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis (my hometown), and where COVID-19 infections were rising. I artistically re-envisioned and redrew these maps as layers that could be used over the Regional Map or alone.
I blended live videos of 2020 events (e.g., driving through fire, driving through the derecho, hurricane mapping and video, Black Live Matter marches) as well as murals painted by artists worldwide honoring George Floyd and/or illuminating the collective struggle of COVID-19 into this video montage of 2020.
Towards the end, I include drawings I made many years earlier. There were lots so many glitches in getting this video posted, including having to throw out 6 songs at the very end and replace them since the musicians did not allow their music to be used with anything other than their original videos. I understand this, it is their creation. However, I am deeply grateful to the musicians who do allow their musicto be used with ad revenue going to them (as it should). I have cited all musicians and tried to give credit to all videos and images used that are not my own drawings or photography. I list these sources in the description section on YouTube.
It is with gratitude I offer Mother of Grief — Remembering 2020
Note: The above video is redone due to a copyright claim on one song that block the first version from being viewed. I have removed that song (and then two subsequent replacement songs that ran into the same issue) and replaced it with more gracious musicians who realize art is meant to create and give birth to new art, always. I will leave a link to the previous video because sometimes these claims get lifted.
I completely support any advertisements that the musicians place on this video so any money goes to them. I have never intended, nor ever will, monetize this video for my own profit. It is meant as a work of art expressing some of the dramatic changes that occurred around the world in 2020. It is a year that will be remembered as the moment the world walked through a doorway from which it will never return to the world it had known in the previous year.
How we move forward from this point depends on the quality of character of every living human being on our planet as measured through mind, heart, and each individual’s ability to see the humanity of all people and the preciousness of all life on earth.
Remembering who we have lost and how our lives have changed is important, especially as we prepare and begin making choices on how to move forward as individuals and as communities. Our choices matter. Without taking time to reflect and to grieve for what has been lost, we are bound to go in circles and repeat fixable mistakes in attitudes and ideas over and over. Taking time to remember and grieve is a sacred act. No matter if your life has been impacted in big or small ways, this past year has caused a pause–and Now is the time to reflect, remember, and cherish the precious gift of life–something that is so fragile and fleeting for all of us. This is how we grow and transform by remembering, reflecting, and cherishing what has been lost and using this remembrance (this accounting of one’s life to this moment in time) to make different choices moving forward.
Recently, I’ve been reading a book about the philosophy of the I Ching. It is a book one of my brothers got a long, long time ago. I don’t know how I ended up with it. For years it sat on my bookshelf collecting dust. Perhaps I would not have understood what the author was revealing had I picked it up earlier. However, after 5+ years of significant reversals, setbacks, and losses, it really resonates with me today.
Carl Jung said the East charted inner landscapes and developed a deep understanding of who and what we are as conscious living beings while the West turned its time and attention to charting and understanding the outer world. Neither focus is bad. Both are part of reality; however, the Western focus on the reality of the visible, outside world grew lopsided (very lopsided), creating an imbalance in the psyche that resulted in a lost of awareness of sacred inner landscapes forming one’s inner realities. This forgetting has put the wellbeing of individuals in peril, and possibly placed our collective survival as a species, a civilization in jeopardy as well. All hands are needed on deck to heal the chasm created by this extreme lopsidedness; I will tell you more about this in my book: Sapience.
Returning to what I was reading last night that felt like it belonged in this post. I was reading a chapter about the Student-Sage Relationship. The I Ching believes student and sage are one. And, we come to know our inner sage by developing inner discipline and quieting our mind. This is how our inner sage can be heard, understood, and followed for the good of self and the greater good.
What felt like belonged here is the following:
The Sage is polite, but firm in stating cosmic principles.
It is through such firmness that we perceive his total personality as gentle, kind, firm, and correct–one that believes in us in spite of our deviations.
He waits while we exhaust our enthusiasm for false ideas; he allow us to self-destruct if we stubbornly insist upon doing so, but would rather we did not, because, as he tells us, we have the potential for achieving something both great and permanent for the good of all, if we will do it.
While working with the Sage, we feel a nourishing, helpful presence.
If we become arrogant, however, this presences departs and we begin to feel lonely.
We are hardly aware of this presence until we lose it and miss it.
When we return to our path, the presence gradually returns.
It is as if an inner light comes and goes.
By his coming and his going, he teaches us about himself and about our relationship with him.
The book is called: The Philosophy of theI Ching. It was written by Carol K. Anthony who I came to discover recently died in August 2020. She founded her own publishing company and lived close to me. I could have met her had I been a little faster in my curiosity about the I Ching, but time and fate is what it is. Her biography is beautiful:
Carol began her study of the I Ching in 1971, during a mid-life crisis, when she was age 41. Her difficulties made her receptive when a friend, desiring to be of help, introduced her to the Wilhelm/Baynes translation of the I Ching. It taught her to meditate in a way that helped her to understand what the hexagrams were saying. She kept notes of these insights as they occurred. Within seven years she had a complete set of notes on each hexagram that helped friends understand the hexagrams they received. She quickly realized that her notes filled a unique need. Two meditation experiences led her to publish them under the title, A Guide to the I Ching, and to found Anthony Publishing Company. This book was followed by The Philosophy of the I Ching, in 1981, The Other Way, Experiences in Meditation Based on the I Ching, in 1990, and Love, An Inner Connection, Based on Principles Drawn from the I Ching, in 1993. These books interested other publishers and some of them were translated into German, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Croatian.
Kojo is retiring soon and will be missed. This was a wonderful look back on a year that turned world upside down.
It was Friday, February 28, 2020 on The Politics Hour when we first covered the coronavirus in any detail. We discussed it again briefly on The Politics Hour a week later. But at that those moments we had no idea how deadly the virus would become and how the year would unfold. We were talking about elbow bumping and hand washing.
Over the days that followed cases started to gradually increase in the D.C. region and throughout the country and the world. And on March 10 we devoted the entire show on the virus with doctors and public health officials and began covering the COVID-19 pandemic regularly.
This broadcast will take a look back at the year of COVID, with insights and reflection from Emergency Physician and Professor Dr. Leana Wen, Washington Post Columnist and Parenting Coach Meghan Leahy, and WAMU/DCist Staff Writer Elliot Williams.
Description:The year 2020 was one of painful loss. We said goodbye to respected leaders and lawmakers, to gifted athletes and entertainers, to people who have inspired us and enriched our lives even if we didn’t know them personally. In some cases, people were taken from us far too soon, victims of a pandemic that has caused death and suffering around the world. And some of those we lost were the victims of grave injustice, cruelly robbed of years of life they might have spent with family, friends and loved ones.
To lose these people is a reminder of the fragility of life, and a reminder to take care of one another to the best of our ability. But in the midst of feeling sorrow for people who are no longer with us, we should also take comfort in the gifts they gave us while they were here. Here, TIME pays tribute to those who left us in 2020, people who changed the world for the better and helped show us a path forward.
The year that COVID built: a look back on 2020
The World Economic Forum put together a wonderful snap shot of 2020 based on what we searched for on the Internet as well as other key moments of 2020.
“Breath Is Too Precious for Hate” — Rev. William Barber
In a time of Great Grief, one must find a thread of Great Belief to hang onto. Not just any thread, but one grown and spun from the center of your heart… the core of who you are as a living being traveling through space and time with other living beings all struggling to survive the setbacks and challenges inherent in being a space-time being. It must be a thread spun with compassion, understanding, truth (at least a willingness to sink into and see truth as it is revealed through time), kindness, patience, and love. This is an elusive thread to find because so many of our systems of being are based and reward the opposites of all these precious qualities of being human. But to survive Great Grief, this is the only way that will lead you and everyone you love to a better place in space and time.
But how do you do this? How does one find this rare and precious thread inside oneself to hang onto as the waves of lost, injustice, disease, death, isolation, exploitation, cruelty, ill treatment, and so many other things that happen to us as we try to survive through time…things that wash away at our very soul?
Just breathe… breath is powerful.
In a Scientific American article that I link to below (Vision and Breathing May Be the Secrets to Surviving 2020), the Stanford neurobiologist Andrew Huberman discusses two things all of us can do to control our response to distress, trauma, pain, and suffering, even during a high-stress time such as this past year has been with an extremely divisive election, racial disparities spotlighted in brutal, traumatic ways in the killing of George Floyd (and so many more individuals unjustly) and unequal access to wealth and healthcare causing black and brown people to suffer the highest death tolls from the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the world.
Breathe has never been more forefront and center than it has been this past year with the tragic events leading to chants across the country, indeed the world, of “I can’t breathe” combined with COVID-19 patients struggling to breathe as the novel coronavirus robs them of their ability to do so.
In the article mentioned, Andrew Huberman says, “Breathing represents a bridge between the conscious and unconscious control of the body.” Since I’ve been writing about consciousness and unconsciousness in my story Sapience, drawing much from Carl Jung’s work, I wondered what is the equivalent to breath for the psyche. Then, I remembered this song Breathe by Télépopmusik.
I brought you something close to me Left for something you see though you’re here You haunt my dreams There’s nothing to do but believe Just believe Just breathe
Another day, just believe Another day, just breathe Another day, just believe Another day, just breathe
Breath has long been a symbol for spirit–that invisible force powering all living beings. As human beings, we are aware of this spirit that is powering us and flowing throughout our life on Earth. Jung talks of the importance of this thing that is aware, he calls it Self or psyche. He explains that this small part of self that is aware must swim between that which is conscious inside oneself and that which is unconscious inside oneself to generate the energy necessary to maintain consciousness. This is what gives us the ability as human beings to choose actions different than what our instincts would otherwise dictate. It requires us to ascend up and down within the parts of ourselves that we know about because they exist within our sphere of consciousness and the parts of ourself that we do not know about because they exist within the sphere of our unconsciousness (the bigger sphere). Belief might be like a psychic vessel (a ship, a submarine, or maybe a fish) that we create inside ourselves (in our mind space) in order to make our epic journey through space and time.
However, belief is not omniscient (all-knowing, all-wise, all-seeing) in and of itself. Belief is a part of the immortal body that exists somewhere in the realm of mind, but it is also very mortal and because of that imperfect. For belief to exist through time, just as the body exists through time, beliefs must be refreshed and refined with new knowledge (hopefully even wisdom) all the time, just like the lungs must be refreshed all the time with new air, fresh air so the corporeal body may live.
So how does one hold on during a time of Great Grief, Great Sadness, Great Stress, and Great Lost--like now? It is breath. It is belief. But one must take care to keep the immortal and mortal air breathed clean and refreshing for beliefs can lead individuals into very dark places as well as into illuminated places. It is up to you to choose which place you journey through space and time.
Following is a collection of stories percolating through me since I heard them that have inspired these thoughts. Or perhaps, I should say immortal breaths…and so, another day, just believe, another day, just breathe…
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST: And finally today, it’s been less than two weeks since the Biden administration took office, and it has already been a whirlwind. The president has signed more than two dozen executive orders addressing everything from immigration to climate change, as well as one of the issues he says propelled him to run for the presidency for this third time, racial justice.
So we thought this would be a good time to check in with civil rights activist, the Reverend William Barber II. He was invited to offer the homily at the inaugural prayer service. The text came from the prophet Isaiah.
SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING of the Rev. WILLIAM BARBER II:
“And so the prophet gives the nation God’s clear guidance out of the jam it is in. Choose first to repent of the policy sin, and then repair the breach. The breach, according to the imagery of Isaiah, is when there is a gap in the nation between what is and how God wants things to be.”
MARTIN: It was both an affirming message but also a call to action, so we wanted to hear Reverend Barber’s take on what that should look like. To remind, he is the president of an organization called Repairers of the Breach, which is based in Goldsboro, N.C. He’s a recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship, the so-called genius grant, and the co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign. And he is with us once again.
Reverend Barber, welcome back to the program. Thanks for joining us.
BARBER: Thank you so much for having me on today.
MARTIN: What gave you the inspiration for the sermon?
BARBER: Well, I was asked to deliver it, and that was quite a humbling request. And then they asked me, did I know much about Isaiah 58? And, of course, that is one of the major passages of scripture recognized by Jews, Muslims and Christians especially. It is a scripture specifically speaking to the nation about how to repair itself after it has been through lying leadership, extreme leadership, mean-spirited leadership, oppressive leadership. And it really gives a step-by-step what has to be done.
MARTIN: Well, to — you know, to that point, I mean, the president in – President Biden in running for office and certainly at his inaugural message has been stressing a message of unity. And during your homily, you spoke of unity. I mean, you said the breach would be knowing the only way to ensure domestic tranquility is to establish justice, but pretending we can address the nation’s wounds with simplistic calls for unity. Can you expand on what you’re saying here?
BARBER: Well, surely. You know, one of the things I think more than just being a civil rights activist, I’m trying my best with others to be, you know, a moral leader, one who looks at things through the lens of moral analysis, moral articulation and moral activism. And you can’t have a simplistic view that all we need is “Kumbaya.” All we need to do is slap back — is pat each other on the back. No, no, no, no. There are real forces — and we have seen them — forces that we saw that would rather put a person on the Supreme Court than protect people from dying in caskets from COVID, forces that would rather give trillions of dollars — trillions — to corporations during COVID while billionaires make almost a trillion dollars and then fight to just give a few trillion to poor and low-wealth people and those who are hurting. These are real battles. And some people are not going to unite with justice. But if enough of us can unite with justice and love, we can move this country forward.
MARTIN: But I am interested in how you feel that happens when some have made it abundantly clear that they do not agree with this agenda. I mean, for example, I mean, your first, as I – you announced on Twitter that beginning tomorrow, the Poor People’s Campaign will be holding special Moral Mondays events. Your first event will center on increasing the minimum wage. Your group is calling for some very ambitious things like universal health care, limiting defense spending. I mean, the fact is that a significant number of people in this country don’t agree with that. So how does he reconcile both the desire that some people clearly have for a more sort of temperate, more moderate, more constructive tone and yet people like yourself who say, no, there are ambitious things that need to happen? How does he resolve that?
BARBER: Now, yes, 70 million people voted for Trump, but over 80 million people voted for Biden and Harris. They knew they were going to pass – they were going to fight for living wages, addressing systemic racism and to address health care. Biden won 55% of all poor and low-wealth people voting under – that made under $50,000 a year. In Georgia and other places, poor and low-wealth people voted for Biden and Harris at a rate 14% higher.
We’re talking about, how do we heal the soul of the South Side? And it’s only by healing the sickness in the body. And so what we’re talking about is a must – is a must. These things must happen, and when you have the power, even if you only have one vote – Republicans showed us something. They did it for the wrong reason, but they didn’t care if they had just one vote. They did what was wrong. So people who have one vote now must do what is right.
MARTIN: I can’t tell from listening to you whether you feel encouraged or you still feel frustrated.
BARBER: So I’m encouraged because the movement is encouraged. I’m encouraged because more people turned out to vote in the midst of COVID than ever turned out in the history of this country. I’m encouraged because 6 million more poor and low-wealth people turned out in this election than they did in 2016. I’m encouraged because this country has shown us that if you run on a progressive agenda, if you talk about health care, living wages and dealing with racism, you can win in California. You can win in Georgia. You can win in Pennsylvania. You can win all over this country if you give people a vision of progress for which they can vote.
I am discouraged on one thing, and it’s — but it’s going to come — that we still don’t hear enough about poverty. We hear Democrats talking about the middle class and workers. But if 43% of this country was poor and low-wealth before COVID, and 8 million more have been thrust into poverty since May of last year, and if only 39% of this country can afford a thousand-dollar emergency, we must use the word poverty. We must talk about poor and low-wage people. We must say their name and say their condition. And we must say we’re not going to lift from the middle up. We’re not going to trickle down. We’re going to lift from the bottom up.
MARTIN: So before we let you go, I want to acknowledge that, as you have acknowledged, that many people are still struggling because of the pandemic, because of the downturn. Obviously, some people – many people were struggling before that, but a lot of people are suffering right now. And this is something that you brought up in your homily. And I just wondered if you had some words of encouragement for people who are struggling.
BARBER: You know, as a pastor, I will tell you, in this season, sometimes I have not had words. I’ll just be honest. All we’ve had is presence, even if it was distant presence. All we’ve had is love. All we’ve had is sometimes just getting on a video and crying together when people couldn’t go visit their loved one. Sometimes that’s all we’ve had.
You know, one of the things some of us have done is ask the question real seriously, why are we still alive? I mean, in this moment when any of us could be gone in seven days, seven minutes – you know, we could contract COVID. We could be breathing fine one minute, and it could all shut down – why is it that we’re still alive? Or more importantly, what is it that we’re going to do with the breath we have?
And some of us have decided in the midst of the tears, in the midst of the hurt, in the midst of the pain, we decided that breath is too important to waste. We don’t have any breath to waste on being mean and hateful and unjust and hurting people. The only real use of our breath is to try to breathe some more love and truth and grace and justice into this world and in this society.
And so whether we live seven minutes, seven days, seven months, seven years or 70 years, that’s what we’re committing ourselves to do with every breath we take from now on because this moment has been a moment where we all have to face the potential of our own mortality in a very real way. We can end any moment, be alone on a breathing machine with nobody able to come and see us. And many people have died like that. And in their name and in their memory, even with our pain, we must use every breath we have to turn things around, to push our political system to do right from the bottom up, with every breath we have left until we have no more breath in us.
MARTIN: That was the Reverend William Barber II. He’s president of Repairers of the Breach. He’s co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign. Reverend Barber, thank you so much for joining us once again.
BARBER: Thank you so much. And blessings to you and your staff.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.
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After hearing the Rev. William Barber speaking with Anderson Cooper earlier in the year of 2020 at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and then again in the aftermath of the brutal murder of George Floyd, I was so inspired by his deep wisdom, knowledge, and words that I created a playlist: Repairers of the Breach. We are all responsible for the existence of this breach, which grows deeper and wider with every act of ignorance, malice, and hate that we conduct into the world through our thoughts, words, and actions.
But we are all also healers of this breach, and we can repair this breach when we act with knowledge that we have distilled from our experiences in the world and that we have gained by taking the time to educate ourselves about things, about great mysteries and unknowns in this complex and beautiful world, and when we pay attention to great masters/teachers who have lived throughout time who can help us remove the veils of illusions and delusions–sadly created by others who have chosen to trick and deceive people for their own self-betterment.
We can repair this great divide, the breach we have all forged inside ourself and between each other when we conduct ourself with love and compassion, when we take time to pay attention to other people, especially to people who are suffering, who are in need, who have been ignored and left behind, who have not received the blessings meant for all living being on Earth because these blessings have been diverted and hoarded by a few, especially in these modern times.
Each of us is a healer and repairer of this terrible breach that has broken so many families and friendships recently, but we must constantly refresh our beliefs.
I had heard Act 1 of This American Life before (Down the Rabbit Hole, which is the story of Lenny Pozner, whose son, Noah, was killed at Sandy Hook. In the years after Noah’s death, Lenny and his family were harassed by people who believed the shooting at Sandy Hook never happened – that it was all a conspiracy. Until one day, Lenny decided to fight back).
This is a powerful, heart-breaking, and terribly important story to hear. So, if you have not heard it, you should start with Act 1.
Act 2 is new to me, and it blew me away. Reporter Jon Ronson travels to Texas to uncover the origin story of Alex Jones, infamous founder of InfoWars. Having just finished watching HBO’s Watchmen, I was into origin stories. This is one that needs to be heard because it encapsulates an Archetype of our time. One that is dominating the minds of millions and millions of people these days. One defined by Conspiracy Obsession—Satan Fixation—Bully Compulsion tendencies. It is so prevalent in America society today, percolating even more fiercely by the isolation imposed on every human being in the world due to COVID-19. Alex Jones is a man who had great sway and influence on our former President, Trump, who has a very similar mental world bound by the same Conspiracy Obsession—Satan Fixation—Bullying Compulsions as Jones—something we all saw fall off the page of Facebook and come to life in the storming of the Capitol of the United States of American on Jan. 6, 2021.
I can just feel how one’s breath must tighten and grow shallower and shallower as one depends deeper and deeper into such rabbit-holes of deception and obsession that leads to hate, grief, and pain all for the good of someone like Alex Jones or Donald Trump, not for the good of the ones going into the holes.
Which direction in life will you choose to go? The journey running away from grief and pain by going to fancy parties and coronations in fancy golden high heels? Or will you choose to climb the highest mountain to see the llama or the Lama? 😉
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The TedRadio Hour
Breathe— “Breathing is essential to life. And lately, the safety of the air we inhale, or the need to pause and take a deep breath, is on our minds a lot. This hour, TED speakers explore the power of breath.”
This episode is all about breath. I did not think too much about it after I heard it, but then I heard the words of Rev. William Barber and I saw the importance of these stories in a new light. Because of this, I am highlighting them here and providing links to them so you can listen to them as you have time and interest to do so if you decide to explore the links between breathing, believing, and life. [Note that the images accompanying each story do not necessarily match the TedRadio Hour images but rather link to similar ideas/stories but different sources.]
Description:In 2002, free diver Tanya Streeter completed a record-breaking dive of 525 feet—in one breath. She reflects on the obstacles she faced, and the experience of pushing her body and lungs to the limit.This is a riveting story!
About:Tanya Streeter is a world champion freediver who was inducted into the Women Diver’s Hall of Fame in March 2000. For more than two months, she held the world record — for both men and women — diving to 525 feet in the “no limits” category, which is still the women’s world record for No Limits Apnea.
She has been featured in the documentaries, Freediver, and A Plastic Ocean. She also hosted a show on BBC Two called Shark Therapy, in which she attempted to overcome her fear of sharks.
Streeter received degrees in Public Administration and French from the University of Brighton.
Description: Journalist Beth Gardiner and activist Yvette Arellano explain the long-term health effects of air pollution. Yvette lives in a Houston neighborhood near the largest petrochemical complex in the U.S.
About: Beth Gardiner is an American journalist based in London. For ten years, she reported for the Associated Press in New York and London.
Now, her reporting primarily focuses on the environment. She has discussed her work on NPR’s All Things Considered, WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show, and the BBC’s World at One.
Gardiner is the author of Choked: Life and Breath in the Age of Air Pollution, an exploration into the long-term health effects of air pollution. Gardiner received grants to support her work on Choked from both the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and the Society of Environmental Journalists.
Description: Dinosaurs ruled Earth for 180 million years, but to dominate they had to outcompete a slew of other animals. Paleontologist Emma Schachner thinks their lungs could have been the competitive advantage.
About:Emma Schachner is an anatomy professor at LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans. She also specializes in the 3D digital modeling of anatomy from CT and MR images, as well as scientific illustration, which merges anatomy, art, and scientific communication.
Schachner’s research uses an interdisciplinary approach to study the soft tissue and skeletal anatomy of a broad range of animals including alligators, chameleons, parrots and ostriches. She uses these data to reconstruct the biology of extinct reptiles, particularly dinosaurs and the fossil ancestors of crocodilians.
She received her master’s degree in paleontology at the University of Bristol and her PhD in philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania.
Fifth Story: Andy Puddicombe: How Can Breathing Help Us In An Ever-Changing World?
Description: Mindfulness expert and Headspace co-founder Andy Puddicombe guides listeners through a meditative reflection on breath and impermanence.
About:Andy Puddicombe is a former Buddhist monk and the co-founder of Headspace, a project to make meditation more accessible to more people in their everyday lives.
Puddicombe also writes for The Huffington Post and The Guardian on the benefits of mindful thinking for healthy living.
He attended Wellsway Comprehensive School in Keynsham, and studied Sports Science at De Montfort University. He also has a Foundation Degree in Circus Arts.
Each day, we breathe about 22,000 times–and all that time we smell. Scent historian Caro Verbeek recreates scents of the past. She says, just like music and art, smell is a part of our heritage.
About:Caro Verbeek is an embedded researcher of olfactory heritage at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the Rijksmuseum and International Flavours & Fragrances. She creates olfactory tours and interventions for museums.
Verbeek teaches the course ‘The Other Senses’ at the Royal Academy of Arts The Hague and is the curator in chief of the olfactory culture program ‘Odorama’ at Mediamatic Amsterdam. She is also an advisor for immaterial heritage projects at Mondriaan Fonds.
She received her M.A. in curatorial studies at VU Amsterdam University and her M.A. in art history at the University of Amsterdam.
NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro speaks with Sophie Fustec, known artistically as La Chica, about her new album La Loba, in which she comes to terms with her brother’s recent death who died after jumping into a hot spring to save his dog. I was deeply touched by this interview and Sophie’s beautiful voice.
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Then there is the tragic death of another beautiful Sophie–Sophie Xeon who was popularly known as just Sophie. She died at 34 after a terrible accident where she fell from a roof that she climbed to get a picture of a full moon. Ludovica Ludinatrice, Sophie’s representative, said: “True to her spirituality she had climbed up to watch the full moon and accidentally slipped and fell. She will always be here with us. The family thank everyone for their love and support and request privacy at this devastating time.”
Each breath we take is precious for every breath links us to every individual we ever come into contact with each and every day. Breathing\believing is how we weave the web of life (our shared reality). It is a timeless process done in our corporal bodies through breath and in our immortal bodies through belief. We all need to breath…to believe to survive and thrive.
What will you do with your breath today?
It is so precious…you are so precious…and life is so fragile and short.
Taking a break from the news over the weekend, I had not paid attention to the emergence of Naked Athena until I heard NPR’s Michel Martin talk with Portland NAACP President E. D. Mondainé about ongoing protests taking place there. Martin begins saying:
“Let me just go to the piece that you wrote. It’s gently worded, but it’s very tough in its message. You said that I don’t believe it’s a time for spectacle; unfortunately, spectacle is now the best way to describe Portland’s protests. Vandalizing government buildings and hurling projectiles at law enforcement draw attention. But how do these actions stop police from killing Black people? Was there a particular moment in the course of all this that made you feel this way? I mean, in your piece, you speak about the woman who’s being described as Naked Athena…”
Reality is Messy & There is Never One Simple Narrative to Explain It, Ever
I had to see Naked Athena in Portland, OR. When I found her, I did not see spectacle. I saw splendor. For centuries, women have live under lopsided male-centered, patriarchal cultural bondage. It goes on today taking many forms, but the core impulse is to control women and deny them their rights as a human being–often cruelly and violently. The same weekend as Naked Athena made her appearance in Portland, teenage girls were harassed and spit on by the Moral Police in Iran. I heard this report on the BBC and found it written up in UK The Daily Mail.
“An Iranian undercover morality agent spat at teenage girls and asked them ‘where’s your dirty owner?’ after seeing them without a hijab. In a shocking video, which has been circulating on social media, a man stops his car and gets out before hurling abuse at the youngsters.”
Think again. Reality is never as simple as we would like it to be as human beings. It never has been, nor will it ever be. But our propensity as a species to simplify reality is tremendous. It always has been, and probably always will be.
In times long past, humans used myth, folklore, and magical tales to explain complicated, perplexing, and frightening things that confronted them and challenged their survival. In my last blog, The Beautiful Gift of Outrage, I give an example of old Scottish folklore about fairies that swap out a healthy human baby and replace it with a changeling to explain why a new born infant would fail to thrive. They did not know modern medicine. They did not understand that their newborn baby was sick and needed care, not to be left out on a fairy hill to see if the fairies would bring the real child back to them. But our species has created many stories that now days sound strange and outlandish to explain the unexplainable.
And, we are still doing it today.
Untied States of Conspiracy
Frontline is airing an episode tonight titled: The United States of Conspiracy. Also, Fareed Zakaria aired a special on CNN about Conspiracy Theories; Mondaire Jones; Hillary 2016 Communications Director; Your Anecdotal Census; and Protesting During a Pandemic. Both of these episdoes explore the deep roots of misinformation entering into American culture, politics, and the rise of Trump who has long purported kooky conspiracy theories, such as the birther theory hurtled against President Barack Obama. Trump used this cockeyed theory to launch his political career (or more aptly to launch his political farce and mockery of democracy). Zakaria covers all the conspiracy theories of the past 50 years, including one of the most recent to emerge: QAnon, which is a far-right conspiracy theory detailing a supposed secret plot by an alleged “deep state” against U.S. President Donald Trump and his supporters. Zakaria makes the connection between believing in fairies and fairytales in times past to believing in whimsical, outlandish, bizarre conspiracy theories today. Doing so, provide simple, linear explanations to reality, especially to people who feel like they are losing control of their lives or their values or their culture.
From the Frontline report , a write up says:
“The United States of Conspiracy includes a striking sequence that illustrates how Trump adopted Jones’ claims — voicing them publicly in a way that shocked even InfoWars staffers as he ran for the highest office in the land.”
As 2015 drew to a close, then-candidate Donald Trump made an appearance that was unprecedented in the history of modern presidential campaigns.
It was on InfoWars, the hard-right outlet run by extremist conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, a trafficker in false information who had exploited national tragedies from 9/11 to Newtown. And it was brokered by Trump’s longtime associate Roger Stone, a frequent InfoWars guest, in a bid to win over Jones’ millions of viewers.
A new FRONTLINE documentary traces how the alliance between Jones and Trump, facilitated by Stone, would help to bring conspiracy theorist thought into the political mainstream — ushering in the current era, in which misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic has spread like the virus itself.
Everything. The spectacle is Trump and the rise of modern myths and fairytales that millions of people believe–stories that are just as strange and farfetched as fairies and changelings. Trump is taking advantage of this human fallibility to win. He got away with it in 2016, but reality is catching up with him. The Coronavirus refuses to comply to his fairytale, and his complete and utter failure to deal with it is causing him to lose in the polls. Of course, he is losing in the polls because of this. We are nearing 150,000 deaths in the U.S. from COVID-19. Meanwhile, many European and Asian countries have successfully gotten the novel virus under control so they can reopen their economies safely and mark COVID deaths in the hundreds… not the hundreds of thousands. But, not us.
What exactly does 150,000 deaths looks like? What if all these deaths were concentrated in one geographic location? What would it look like?
It would be like losing McAllen, Mesquite, and Killeen, Tex.; Dayton, Ohio; Fullerton, Orange, Valencia, Torrance, Pomona, and Pasadena, Calif.; Syracuse, Borough Park, Astoria, and East Hampton, N.Y.; Savannah, Ga.; Bridgeport, Conn.; Naperville, Rockford, and Joliet, Ill.; Paterson, N.J.; Clarksville, Tenn.; Hollywood, Fla.; Kansas City, Kan.; Alexandria, Va.; or Springfield, Mass. Eric A. Gordon captures this for us to imagine in a compelling article titled: 150,000 dead of coronavirus in U.S.: What monument will they have?
So Trump needs a distraction. He needs his loyal believers of his fairy tale about reality to not look at the real spectacle of this moment–his utter lack of interest and ability to deal with reality–but to believe that America is falling into the clutches of the fatal-thinking, wacky left wing democrats. So, what does he do? He co-opts the beautiful, genuine cascade of Black Lives Matter protests and marches that are sweeping across the country, and across the world, after the brutal murder of George Floyd by a white police officer who believed he could get away with murder. Well, he didn’t. Here is a map a professor created of all the protests around the world evoked by George Floyd’s death.
This is the battle Trump is fighting. He is turning a long overdo moral accounting of White Privilege into an urban war to scare the hell out of his core supporters. He and his collaborators (like Barr) are not interested in saving or protecting human lives. If so, Trump would be sending PPE and swabs to hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, clinics in the 70% of the country he said not to look at when he was telling America how well we were doing in combating the coronavirus. He would be much more concerned with human life (black, brown, elderly, and everyone else) rather than abusing his power as President of the United States of America to protect a building in Portland. In the same insane compulsion to win the 2020 election, Trump is systematically and cruelly undermining all the hope and promise that the Black Lives Movement is bringing into the light of day. This means coming to terms and reckoning with everything this country has done to black and brown people–slavery, Jim Crow laws, Redlining, endemic impoverishment of black and brown people due to racism and structural inequalities putting white people first, and police brutality.
This is Trump’s War. He is making sure these changes don’t happen on his watch and that’s why his supporters need to reelect him in 2020, but what he keeps hidden to himself is that he doesn’t have an ounce of empathy for his supporters. He does not care what happens to them after he is elected. He is demonstrating this right now in more outlandish ideas about miracle cures for COVID-19 citing a doctor (just yesterday) who talks about demon sperm. He just wants to serve himself to more helpings of greed and gluttony for another four years.
Wag the Dog
Most U.S. Presidents who have gotten in trouble just before their second term are fabled to begin a war to keep in power. Trump’s war is with Americans. He is sending in federal troops (many contracted military units not trained to deal with lawful protesters) to stir up trouble precisely so he can get great photos and video footage to bolster his lopsided narrative of America falling into chaos and violence. This is the spectacle.
Naked Athena is the beautiful emergence of ancient knowledge and wisdom of dealing with men like Trump and the troops his has sent into cities that do not want them there. It is no accident she was named Naked Athena–the Goddess of wisdom, handicraft, and warfare. These ancient Gods and Goddesses are not dead because we no longer believe in them. They live inside of us. They are part of us. They are the building blocks of our psyches that hold the energies inside each of us that move us to take action. How that action is expressed depends on the constellation of archetypes that begin to take shape when we are born and become consolidated when the ego is born at the moment of the Primal Split, as defined through Melanie Klein’s work and object relations theory. Archetypes were first described by Carl Jung. They are poorly understood by modern humans, but they hold the psychological templates of everything that we feel and do: love, fear, greed, war. If we do not pay attention to them and the balance of our inner worlds, they can get triggered and take over our minds–sometimes this is good, often it is bad. They can also emerge collectively in moments like these and quickly turn into monsters. Naked Athena placed herself between the beasts of our collective rage on both sides of the divide. She emerged at the right moment like soothing rain to calm the archetypes rising in rage against each other. That’s what the ancient myths, legends, and folklore are all about. They are stories about our own abilities to create reality or to destroy it. To me, Naked Athena is a beautiful counter force to hate and violence–in her nakedness, she is vulnerable and unadorned by trappings of modern civilization, placing her body bravely in the middle of the line of conflict. Some say this is the moment that these protests descended into spectacle. I say, it is a moment they ascended into a realm of transformation and good trouble. We must remember how to travel and navigate our inner spaces. This is where things become cloudy, inside the mind, for the body is a clear place.
Appendix of Resources
I am not going to digest all these things here, but all of them feed into my ideas about why Naked Athena is part of the Splendor of this moment rather than the Spectacle of it. White people have a lot to work out now and a lot of it is between other white people. So much has been hidden, kept secret, silently enforced. There is a reckoning going on many levels and the streams inevitably will spilt, but the force all of them are pushing back against is the spectacle of Trump, his base, and his collaborators, not naked Athena or any of the protests going on that include examples of Good Trouble and Bad Trouble, yes, reality is messy and there is not one easy, simple, all-inclusive narrative to explain any of it.
A flawed response to a global pandemic. A string of falsehoods concerning the efficacy of mail-in voting. A violent and undemocratic response to nationwide protests against police brutality and racism.
The president of the United States has a lot to answer for in the eyes of his critics.
Ibram X. Kendi is the author of “How to Be an Antiracist” and the founding director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University. He’s written a cover story for The Atlantic detailing how President Donald Trump’s racism has forced America to confront its own, especially the prejudiced systems which have allowed the oppression of minority communities in the United States.
Ed Yong is a staff writer for The Atlantic. He recently published a piece for the same magazine painstakingly detailing the numerous failures and inadequacies in the federal government’s approach to combating the coronavirus. Yong explores how the underfunding of medical resources left minority communities particularly vulnerable to coronavirus, contributing to the country’s skyrocketing death toll.
We ask both of them: Is America ready to reckon with its past? And what happens to America’s future?
This is a five-minute listen that is time well spent. One of the thing Jonah says is ‘we are going to see glorious video clips of how violent and degenerate America has become in future Trump for President ads and during the republican national convention.’
Seattle mayor calls Trump’s response to protests ‘un-American’ — Protesters and police again clashed in a number of U.S. cities over the weekend, including Portland, Oregon, and Seattle. President Trump has defended sending federal law enforcement to the cities, but many local officials say their presence is only exacerbating the existing unrest. Amna Nawaz reports and talks to the mayor of Seattle, Jenny Durkan, about what she’s seeing in her city.
I found the following part of this interview particularly compelling:
Amna Nawaz: Mayor Durkan, I should point out, your critics will point to the fact that, for weeks, protesters several weeks ago had basically taken control of a few downtown city blocks.Your police chief had to go in earlier this month with heavy machinery and riot gear to clear that area. There was already concern about violence over the weekend. The police chief called it a riot on Saturday night.Do you think that the presence of federal forces could help quell these protests before they get out of control, and something similar to what happened before happens again, where protesters are able to take over some chunk of city space?
Jenny Durkan: I think that when you saw that the area on Capitol Hill that we were able to return to normal, that our police were able to go in there and clear that area with very little conflict and restore it back to a place that all the neighborhood and businesses could enjoy it.Contrast what’s going on in Portland, where, night after night after night, it is proven that what they’re doing is not working. They have not quelled anything. To the contrary, they have escalated it.So I do not believe that there’s any evidence whatsoever that any of the strategies that the president is trying to employ will lead to peace. And I don’t think he wants it to.He’s been very clear that what he is doing is targeting cities that are led by Democrats to show that there can be division and the lack of law and order, so that he can run on that as a president.That kind of political maneuvering of law enforcement really is un-American. And I think it’s dangerous for us to go down that path.
Amna Nawaz: Mayor Durkan, very briefly, you weren’t told before the current federal team that’s on the ground in Seattle was sent in. Do you have any assurance you will be told in advance of any further deployment?
Jenny Durkan: So, the assistant secretary did say he would call the chief of police and myself if the posture changed. But I know that — look, there’s one person who’s guiding the activities of this administration, and that’s the president of the United States. And so, regardless of assurances that anyone else might give me or any other local government official, we have to take the president at his word. And he keeps escalating his rhetoric, and then the behavior follows that rhetoric. And so, as a mayor of a city, I will tell you, I do need the federal government’s help. I need more testing for COVID-19. I need to make sure that, as this health emergency gets worse, that my hospitals can withstand it. I need the kids who are hurting not going to be back in school to be able to learn. That’s the kind of help we need from this federal government that we don’t get. A president should step forward and lead the nation. And, instead, he’s dividing the nation. And I think it’s a really dangerous time for America to be on this point of inflection in our history. And what — our choices today will decide what happens for generations of Americans to come.
When Trump first pulled this stunt (with Attorney General William P.Barr serving as his hedge man and is is testifying before the House Judiciary Committee this very day about this despicable day of failed democracy), I published this short video blog:
“White supremacy has made recent local news, between Jeremy Christian’s murder trial in Portland, and the presence of white nationalist groups in rallies across the state. A special edition of the Oregon Historical Quarterly is out now, that reminds residents that the problem is actually rooted deep in state history.
KLCC’s Brian Bull talked to the journal’s editor, Eliza Canty-Jones. Bull asked how ingrained white supremacy is in Oregon’s settlement.”
Chris Cuomo and Difference Between Good and Bad Trouble — The CNN anchor went on to define what is “good trouble” and “bad trouble.” Cuomo echoed Lewis’ assertion that the Black Lives Matter movement was “good trouble,” but noted that the “riots” and “touching to hurt” and “destroy” was not included, suggesting that focusing more on the violence rather than the protests is “bad trouble at work.”
This is a Fox News report. I watched this broadcast when Chris Cuomo made these comments and did not come to the conclusions being made in the Fox article. But, we all do this, twist what we see and hear to fit our narratives. Trump is a master in doing this. He has a natural born instinct how people are reacting and how to twist any reality playing out in front of him to appeal to his willing supporters and collaborators
“To the American reader, references to Vichy France, East Germany, fascists, and Communists may seem over-the-top, even ludicrous. But dig a little deeper, and the analogy makes sense. The point is not to compare Trump to Hitler or Stalin; the point is to compare the experiences of high-ranking members of the American Republican Party, especially those who work most closely with the White House, to the experiences of Frenchmen in 1940, or of East Germans in 1945, or of Czesław Miłosz in 1947. These are experiences of people who are forced to accept an alien ideology or a set of values that are in sharp conflict with their own.”
One of the powerful things Applebaum said during this interview is that politics are just ideas that men and women form in their minds, then get together to try to implement in society, nothing more. Often these ideas have nothing to do with the reality of the people. Rather, they tend to be overly idealized and simplified ideas of how to run a civilization. For Trump, it is even more lopsided because he knows the ideas he promotes has nothing to do with reality. To him, it is a game to see how many people he can get to believe them.
The example of the old Scottish folklore about fairies swapping out a healthy human baby and replacing it with a changeling, comes from Outlander. Claire is the lead character of this series, and she would soon find out why her friend Geillis Duncan warned her not to go up the Fairy Hill. Claire did not listen. She searched for the child, but found it too late. It died from exposure. All she could do was hold it tenderly; her heart broken because she could not find it in time. Her beloved Jamie finds her, puts the baby back in the tree, and takes her home… telling her perhaps believing the real child will live forever with the fairies will bring comfort to the parents who lost their child.
In the next episode or so, we find out why Geillis warned Claire not to go up the Fairy Hill. She was not warning Claire about the fairies, but the town’s people. When Claire and Geillis get arrested and put on trial for being witches, Claire listens in horror as the mother of the child she tried to save testifies to her witchery and spells. She realizes as she listens and looks at all the town’s people crammed into the court that they are turning into an alien, broiling, in-human lump of hate and violence that seeks only one thing: To see her and Geillis burned alive. The Fairy Hill was a metaphor for the townspeople who lived in a one-sidedness that was unsustainable. The monster inside of them all had to be let out once in a while, and it was coming out now as she and Geillis were about to be killed by these gentle folk. They were they fairies, and they were turning into zaries right before her eyes–evil, mischievous, in-human things.