Sunday, March 30, 2008

Richard Moore-Thelma and Loise

All, I just finished reading something from the moderator of the website which is dedicated to the liberation of the human spirit and the establishment of a livable world. Richard Moore wrote the book Escaping the Matrix and the review for the movie Thelma and Loise that follows. I do hope you find the time to read this thought provoking review as it gets to heart of our current global predicament. Big Love-Don

Written by Richard Moore:
I re-watched Thelma & Louise last night and finally understood what it is really about. It is neither about women's empowerment, nor is it anti-maie, although those have been the most common assumptions. Indeed it is a put-down to women to assume that a great film with female stars must be about "women's issues". Do we assume that a great film with male stars must always be a "a man's thing"? Thelma & Louise is an epic saga for every one of us – it is about liberation and empowerment on a universal canvas. I picked out two key lines of Thelma's to share with you that make this clear...

(1) As they're driving in the desert near the end of the film:
Thelma: I don't know, somthin's, like, crossed over in me , I can't go back, I mean, I just couldn't live.
When she says this, it is clear from context that she is not talking about a fear of going back and facing jail. She is talking about going back her old life, her old world, the 'normal' life with house & husband and all. Even with a battalion of police and FBI agents after her, if she had the choice, she wouldn't undo her predicament and go back to how it was. Freedom to be herself had now become the most important thing in the world to her, more important than life itself. She hadn't realized that she had given up who she was in order to live in her old world – our world, our society.
When she says, "I just couldn't live", she becomes the voice of all of those indigenous peoples throughout history who have preferred death to giving up their way of life, as the curse of civilization reached their territories. They had always been free and liberated and they could see what we can't see, that civilization is a cage they simply could not live in, a cage that no one could live in and still be free, even in a leading role. Thelma had experienced real freedom, and would never again give it up.

(2) Later, still on the road:
Thelma: Are you awake?
Louise: I think so.
Thelma: I'm awake. I don't think I've ever been this awake before. Everything seems different.
If you add to this the keenness in her eyes, and the radiance of her face, it is clear that she is talking about 'awake' in the same way the Dali Lama or Buddha uses the term. She had become fully awake to life and the universe, free of fear, a free spirit. This isn't a gender thing at all, or even a species thing; it's about the essence of life itself and about consciousness.
I've seen that look in eyes before, but only rarely in the eyes of humans. Many years ago I visited some friends in Nairobi and went on one of those low-budget safaris, where they take a group of us out in a truck to watch the animals doing what they do in the wild. It was migration season for the wildebeest and we had lots to see, so I stood up on the railings to get a panoramic view. At first I was trying to identify different species and similar tourist-type things. After a time, I just relaxed and let the whole scene sink in. And then it hit me – the gestalt of what it means to be wild.
Every wildebeest out there knows there are predators on the prowl, desperate for their next meal, formidable and dangerous. There are no sanctuaries to hide in, and no defenses other than alertness and fleetness of foot. I suddenly realized what that meant in terms of 'being awake'. Every moment they must be on guard, always ready to run for their lives. I could feel in my bones the heightened consciousness that is a constant part of being wild. It was a feeling of exhilaration, and of being fully alive.
I was feeling for the first time 'the call of the wild', and for the first time I could feel that we are missing something essential in the way we go through life, always worried about our future security, trying to insure all of our risks, subject always to stress or to boredom. Bob Dylan captured it, as he does so well in a single line, "...their life is nothing more than something to invest in". I thought of the others in the truck, who were mainly comparing notes of where else they'd travelled, unaware of the magnificent drama all around them, and I felt sad.
In the metaphor of the moment I felt the gestalt of civilization: it's all about being asleep to the world around us, doing everything we can to insulate ourselves from the world. We envy the wealthy, who can be idle and secure at the same time, and have no need to pay attention to the world at all. I said above that civilization is a cage, and if you responded to that at all you may have thought in terms of 'jobs we don't like', or 'taxes we must pay', 'restrictions on us', etc. But it's more than those kind of things. Civilization is a place where we accept the illusion of security and in exchange we give up who we are. We are in a zoo, and many of us have very comfortable digs in the zoo, but life is outside.
This is what Thelma and Louise is about, in their fleet-of-foot Thunderbird, pursued by formidable and dangerous creatures on the prowl, surviving only by their wits and by constant alertness. But of course we've seen desperate chase films before; there's nothing special about being on the run, and being alert. What's special about Thelma & Louise, and about Thelma in particular, is that we see much more than mere desperation – we see that desperation transform Thelma into being fully alive and awake. The desperation vanishes. She is ready for whatever happens, free of fear – and she could never go back to any other way of being.
I've found that the dictionary tells us a lot about our society, between the lines. Let's see what says about 'civilize':
Civilize: to bring out of a savage, uneducated, or rude state; make civil; elevate in social and private life; enlighten; refine: Rome civilized the barbarians.
Very, very, interesting. What we have here is an out-of-date anthropological perspective frozen into our language, imposing that perspective on us when we should know better. Over the past several decades, anthropological research has made it very clear that indigenous peoples are not at all savage in the sense implied in the definition above. One can certainly over-romanticize here, but we now know that 'wise' is closer to the truth than 'savage'. And I'm talking about mainstream anthropology, not a fringe view.
When a truth dictionary comes out, it will probably read like this:
Civilize: to domesticate to hierarchy; to cause a forgetting of the state of freedom. syn. domesticate: the horse trainer domesticated the wild herd
It is the trance of civilization that Thelma and Louise were escaping from, and in so doing they found a freedom they hadn't known was possible. They only experienced it for four days, but neither of them would have traded those four days for the comfort of the blue pill. They had learned that the comfort is fake.
None of us wants to think of ourselves as being in a cage. If you're getting upset with me about now that's your defense mechanisms protecting you from considering the possibility in your own case; it's a sign that the shoe might fit. If you are really liberated then my words on your screen cannot not upset you in that way.
After watching the film itself, I watched the making-of documentary in the special features section of the DVD. If you're into cinema I highly recommend the documentary. Ridley Scott is a genius, the one who gave us "Blade Runner", and its is great to see him interviewed on film. And it was Brad Pitt's first role in a big picture, making his interview particularly poignant. Geena and Susan's interviews are wonderful it goes without saying, but the interview I found most enlightening was that of the writer: Callie Khouri.
Callie said the story came to her all at once one night when she was in her car. She then wrote the script in her spare time. In the course of developing the film, and even while it was being directed, there were many attempts to make changes to the story, and considerable concern about the ending. But every time a change was attempted it didn't work. They tried changes out with audiences and they all flopped. The story had an internal coherence that couldn't be tampered with. The script barely changed from the first draft submitted to the studio.
Callie said that she later realized she had 'accidentally' stumbled onto an archetypal form, 'The Hero', ala Joseph Campbell. She said that's why the story couldn't be changed.
What this says to me is that the story was channeled, in the sense that it came from another level of consciousness than Callie's normal writer-consciousness. And as with all channeling, the channeler is not necessarily a reliable interpreter of the meaning of what is channeled. It is only as an outside observer that Callie surmises that the story might be of this or that archetypal form. She says explicitly that no such thing was in her mind when she was writing the story and she wasn't even consciously au fait re/archetypes at that time.
In fact the archetype of the film is not that of the Hero at all. The Hero goes out and slays dragons and then comes back home transformed and is recognized as a hero. (Almost every Hollywood film follows the heroic motif, typically with a love-interest side-plot.) Thelma and Louise certainly slay dragons, and Thelma is certainly transformed, but they don't come back home, and only the Keitel character can still see their humanity at the end – hardly a hero's reception.
Furthermore, the transformation comes too easily, compared to the classic hero motif. It took a lot for our female fugitives to decide to become dragon slayers, but once the decision was made the slaying became more a romp than a challenging exertion of will and strength. No, there is some other archetype at work here, equally profound but different. Thelma & Louise is neither about feminism nor is it about heroism, even if the writer, the director, the critics, and the actors all don't get it. And from the interviews, I'd say it was only Geena who really got it, whether or not she could articulate that in intellectual terms. It was still in her eyes in the years-later interview.
In A Long Kiss Goodnight we see Geena in the traditional hero motif. Her dragon-slaying there is very difficult indeed, calling for Herculean exertions and canny wit, and she is received as a hero at the end by the President himself. And in the last scene she returns happily home to the same unchanged husband and family, and she lays aside her sword and shield. As Thelma, she brandishes her sword and shield until the very end and beyond. They have become part of her, not merely her tools for a time.
The archetype behind Thelma & Louise is that of life itself. We are thrust into this life, it happens to us just like the attempted rape & killing happened to them, and once born we must use our wits to deal with whatever comes up. That's what life is really about – using your wits to deal with whatever comes up, and not fearing what might come up. Life is not about being always secure and having retirement funds saved up. Those amenities are veils of light that hide the bars of our cage. They are the opiate that helps us forget what freedom is about. We use our wits not to face the world, but to deal with the institutions and authorities that control our lives. Instead of not fearing what might come up, we live in a chronic state of insecurity about our futures, albeit unconscious.
There is no such thing as security in this world, and chasing the illusion of security is like cocaine addiction. The first time the addict does a line, he feels a pleasant high. He starts taking it regularly, and he spends a lot of time feeling high – not such a bad thing really. But over time something else happens; he needs the drug just to feel normal, and he always needs more and more.
Look at those who have the most wealth and power, the financial elites who control our societies. You'd think they'd be content. But no, they are more desperate than the rest of us. If they don't totally control the whole world, they live in constant fear that someone else will. Their security is their power, and they always need more and more. That's why the US is seizing oil supplies and surrounding Russia and China with military bases. That's why the elite's response to the resource crisis is genocide, rather than a transformation of our economic system. They are like Gollum and his precious, their moral universe narrowed to a pathetic grasping.
Our world is going to change, and very soon. You and I, my friends, are about to be thrust into a world totally unfamiliar to us. The world we now know it is going to disappear, gone with the wind, never to return. With 911 and the so-called war on terrorism we saw one pillar of our world fall down, the pillar that pretended we lived under the rule of laws and not men. With Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo the collapse of the pillar was rubbed in our noses, just to make sure we got the message, although many are so asleep they still haven't gotten it. We are reminded again every time we go to an airport, but still many don't get it.
Now, with the engineered subprime crisis, and the powerdive of the dollar into oblivion, another pillar is beginning to crumble, the pillar that pretended 'progress' was equal to economic security for you and me. Anyone who studies the history of Germany in the 1920s knows exactly what economic scenario we are going to be facing. The pattern is identical. First there was a credit crisis, arranged by the daddies of same folks who engineered this one. That was followed by hyper-inflation, where savings became worthless, and even those who were wealthy became paupers overnight. As we speak, the Federal Reserve is intentionally pushing us into hyper-inflation, as it conjures up out of nowhere trillions of dollars to save not us, but their own financial hegemony. The handwriting is not only on the wall, it is in the pages of every newspaper every day.
This will be very different than the Great Depression in the States. In that case cash was king. Those who had their wealth in liquid form became even more wealthy, in terms of purchasing power, than before the Depression. Mainly it was the lower middle classes and downward who were pauperized. This new collapse, modeled on the one in prewar Germany, will pauperize everyone except the super-rich. Scoff at your own peril. Already the homeless ranks are swelling, as millions are being evicted from their homes, and economic refugees from America are becoming a serious problem for Canadian authorities.
Whether we like it or not, our world is going to fall apart, and all the king's horses and all the king's men won't even be trying to put it together again. Our familiar illusion of security will be gone, and we will have no 'home' we can return to. We will be experiencing the inherent uncertainty of real life whether we want to or not. In psychological terms, we will soon find ourselves in the same place Thelma and Louise found themselves in. We can respond with fear and desperation, like the usual fugitive in films, or we can use this as an opportunity to wake up, and leave fear behind, as did Thelma. In either case, you will be better off if you realize your world is disappearing now, rather than waiting until that's totally in your face, and you have fewer options available to you than you do now.
Let us return now to the plains of Kenya, for there are more lessons there. As I was watching the panorama, and became aware of that heightened state of awareness all around me, I could also see that the wildebeest were not at all living in a state of fear. A band of young bucks were running around between clusters of adults, kicking up their heels, just like a band of children running around at a picnic. They were having fun, not worrying about predators. Those they would deal with if and when the occasion arose. Being wild is not about being afraid, or being chased, even though documentary makers love to seek out a chase when making their wildlife films, and they love to show the kill scene, as if that is what 'being wild' is all about. How comforted we are made to feel, sitting on our sofas in front of the TV, happy that we're not out there where lions roam. From our youngest days we are taught to fear the wild, to be grateful for civilization.
Meanwhile, those sitting down in the truck saw only a constant wave of nearby wildebeest, undulating away from the approaching vehicle. They never saw the exhilarating and dynamic pattern of the natural panorama. Then we came to a cluster of wildebeest who did not flee the truck, and in fact we had to slow way down and wend our way through them. They just stood around, not paying much attention to us, sensing that we were irrelevant to the game of life. I soon could see why they were standing around. One of their fellows had been injured and was on the ground. They could do nothing to help, but they knew if they left, the injured one would be visible, and predators would soon be competing for the meal. For as long as they could, and at increased risk to themselves, they were delaying their migration to lend comfort and protection from view to their fellow. Was I looking at a dog-eat-dog world? Not at all, rather a world of mutual concern and mutual aid.
That's how life is meant to be for sentient social species, survival through mutual concern and aid for our fellows. That's how our ancestors lived until they were subdued and corrupted by civilization and hierarchy. And as for the lions, we had no fear; lions were afraid of us. Once we had the bow and arrow, and probably long before, humans never lived in fear of predators. Of course there were occasional cases of humans being attacked, but that was no more a pattern of life than someone today being attacked by a turncoat pet dog. An exception to the norm. Even today, every thirteen-year-old Masai lad must kill a lion single-handed with a spear, as part of his maturation ritual. And a lone teen-aged girl protects a whole herd of cattle – out in lion country – simply by standing there unafraid in a red outfit holding a spear. I saw this myself, as our truck passed by, and the girls are not even trained to actually use the spears. They don't need to.
In fact it is not our real world that is going to fall apart, it is the fake world that is crumbling. We have been taught to think that 'our world' is that spectacle of events that we read about in our papers, and watch on our TV screens. Also we see 'our world' as the hierarchy itself, and we think the stability of that hierarchy is essential to our well-being. All illusion. Our real world is what's around us, the people and things we see everyday, directly with our own eyes. This is what we need to wake up to; this is the world we need to learn to live in, and the sooner the better.
Cooperation and mutual aid with our fellows is our only hope for survival as the hierarchy contracts its circle of concern to those at the very top, and our world-scale distribution systems begin to break down. We are not helpless, we are powerful, once we wake up and begin working together. If you want to see this dramatically demonstrated in a real-life documentary, check out The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil,, available from Community Solutions.
An important part of the Cuban 'world' had been its relationship with the Soviet Union, who supplied them with petroleum and bought Cuban exports. That 'world' fell apart all at once when the Soviet Union collapsed, and Cubans had to adjust or starve. Self-sufficiency for the island was forced on them. They started out in desperation, and as they worked together, planting gardens in every bare patch, and adopting non-petro-based organic methods, their desperation transformed into a new kind of community spirit and empowerment. In the documentary you can see the pride in their eyes, and you can see the same keenness and glow we saw on Thelma's face toward the end of that film. The collapse of their old world was a blessing in disguise, and now they eat better than they did when they had Soviet help.
I can't promise you a rose garden when you wake up to life and join hands with your neighbors to re-inhabit the real world. But then, no one every could promise you a rose garden; that was always an illusion and a deception. In the Cuban film we see the practical possibility of taking care of ourselves through our own cooperation and creativity. In Thelma & Louise we see the the precious peace and aliveness that comes from leaving fear behind, reclaiming our wild nature, and accepting life as the adventure it was intended to be by its creator.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Volunteer Project

It takes me about an hour including a twenty minute walk from my home, and then two bus rides to get to the elementary school that I´m doing a two week volunteer project. The school is very poor and the children wear tattered clothes and many are sniffling and coughing with runny noses. Its heartbreaking to see the wasted potential, but the kids, as all kids remain resilient and their energy is contagious. They know what time it is and hopefully we adults will stop short shrifting so many for our own egotistical reasons. After I finsih this project I will add some more pictures and thoughts to this post.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Semana Santa-Equinox

Semana Santa is the Name for Easter week in Latin America. Included in this week are ceremonies for the last days of Christ's life, the Crucifixion and Resurrection, as well as the end of Lent. Some people question whether Jesus as a historical person ever existed? Some suggest that religions came from mythic stories of birth, death, and rebirth of the sun. That Jesus represents a sacrificial king whom is connected with the sun as a dying and reviving god and its connection to the regeneration of the earth in springtime. Regardless, Christian churches were built on top Inca holy places, which in turn were built on top of the sacred spots of the Quicha´s. The myth that Latin America was NOT very densely populated for instance has now been shown be untrue, with just one example being that the Amazonian rainforrest was extensively cultivated for agricultural purposes and populated by a large number of people. This just goes to show that what we assume to be true is NOT always the case. Pictured to the left is a woman of Quichua descent selling fried bananas out on the street. Throughout Quito you will find lots of Quichua´s selling all manner of food items including an amazing array of fruits and vegatables. They live simple lives and continue to provide a powerful example of humility and kindness.

These 2 shots below taken on June 21´st are of the procession in Quito where the Old City was closed to cars and many, many thousands of people witnessed these folks in hooded blue and purple costumes called "cururuchos" along with multiple Jesus´s characters dragging crosses throughout the street.

Fonesca is the customary soup made only during the week of Semana Santa. Twelve grains are used in the soup to symbolize the 12 disciples. The lady in red sitting next to me is my teacher Carmen. I made everyone laugh and, me blush, when I said, talking about the peppers in the soup, "Estoy Calliente!", which literally translated means "I´m Hot" with sexual connotations. Learning a new language is filled with such moments.
After the meal at school, I took some of my fellow students over to my former home, Hostal Centro Del After the meal at school, I took some Mundo. My housemate Josh and fellow classmate Ben went up the El Panecillo
Living as we do in the New World, indigenous people such as the Quichua indians of Ecuador give us an opportunity to change course and treat the earth as sacred. It is NOT too late. In this modern world pollution of our bodies and the earth have reached epidemic proportions. Cancer being just one of many indicators of a massively contanminated environment. The Global Justice movement has documented how the health effects of industrial pollution disproportionately burden communities of color such as our Quichua friend shown above.
"A "green" religious movement is indeed beginning to grow. But people of faith can also address the environmental crisis another way: by celebrating. Australian environmentalist John Seed says, "I believe that loss of the ceremonies that acknowledge and nurture our interconnectedness with nature is a large part of the problem. We modern humans are the only ones— as far as I can tell— who have ever attempted to live without these rituals as an integral part of our lives." Among the holidays we observe each year, only Earth Day and Arbor Day honor the natural world. Both are worthy occasions, deserving of full "legal holiday" status, in my opinion, but clearly secular ones. Since 1995, "Earthlings" in Atlanta have been reclaiming the Equinoxes and Solstices as religious occasions. Four times a year, Atlanta's interfaith community is invited to come together to remember that the Earth is sacred, and celebrate the "birthday" of another season. Because the Solstices and Equinoxes existed before people did, they belong to all human traditions and therefore to none— fitting occasions to set aside our differences and pray and celebrate together.
These festive events have a serious intent: to remind city folks that whatever our beliefs, we all depend on nature for food, water, air, and Life itself, just as our ancestors did and our descendants will. It may be the one thing that people of all religions and no religion at all have in common. We call the entire spectrum of faiths together publicly because of the tradition of gratitude they share— and because what they share is just as important as each faith's uniqueness. Especially now, when the ethical discipline of religion is so desperately needed, we come together as members of Earth's spiritual community to say: Life is a miracle. Gratitude to the Creator is respect for Creation. Respect for Creation is essential to our children's future, as gratitude to the Creator is the essence of a spiritual life."
I think the family that I am living with heartily agree with what I quoted above, taken from the net". Estela is the mother of the clan and had 10 children. Two of her daughters, Amelia and Eulalia are shown here. The ten kids had 20 and the 20 had 40. Yes you read that correctly, Estela has 40 grandchildren. They have opened up their house to me and made me feel like a member of the family. Truly there is hope when love is around.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Middle of the World

Quito, Ecuador: Sunday, March 16

Scott and Nick with the lovely Erika at her ChiQuito cafe.

Alejandro is a well known artist and partner of Erika. He took two years to build the home they now share and that also functions as cafe and as a gallery for Alejandro´s work. Erika is a fabulous baker and we really enjoyed her delicious offerings.

Scott and I met Nick at this cafe and we ended up staying for about 6 1/2 hours. Alejandro is truly a remarkable man and had us riveted in rapt attention as he shared passionatly with us on a wide range of topics . Can tell what we think of Bush and the U.S. policy towards Cuba.

Here I am lying on the Equator as determined by GPS. To look at some more information about the significance and meaning of the "Middle of the World", click on any of the three links below.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Big Sur in Quito

Across the street from my Swiss owned hostel is a gorgeous restaurant-bar called Big Sur. It is owned and operated by an American named Lars Klassen (click to see his blog) Lars worked the Latin American "Beat" for 30 years in the U.S. Foreign Service. He has been here in Ecuador for the last 6 years, but has lived in Central and South American countries such as Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador for years at a time as his job demanded. We talked a bit about why Latin America still stuggles so massivley with poverty and other social problems. I mentioned the book Confessions of an Economic Hit Man and Lar´s indicated that he did not think much of the book or the author, but that there was some truth to what the author was talking about. I look forward to continuing our discussion. He recommended 4 books to better understand the realities of South America:
The Soul of Latin America: The Cultural and Political Tradition . Howard J. Wiarda
Underdevelopment as a State of Mind: The Latin American Case . Lawrence E. Harrison
The Pan-American Dream Latin America's Cultural Values Discourage True Partnership with the United States and Canada?
The Liberators: Latin America's Struggle for Independence, 1810 - 1850 by Robert Harvey

Monday, March 10, 2008

Giti Neuman-Artista y Humaitario

Today I had the great honor of meeting a wonderful artist from Quito. Gita Neuman has her works exhibited on five floors of the Cultural Center at the Catholic University. I just happened to walk in off the street as I had a bit of time before my spanish class. Art exhibits usually don´t do much for me, but this one was different. As I wandered the floors, looking at her paintings and mutliple other pieces in various forms, I was moved by the presence of spirit. Her works spoke to me in a way that cut through all the words and got at what it is to be human at this point in time. Posing questions about war, mans inhumanity to man, the place and imprtance of sex and sensuality. Gita happened to be present and was gracious enough to spend time with me. We talked about her work and the painting we are standing in front of is called S.O.S for the time that we are in now. If there is an artist that matches what I am striving to convey with my words it is Giti.

El 21 de febrero el Centro Cultural de la Pontificia Universidad Católica inaugura la muestra antológica de la artista visual de origen checo y nacionalidad ecuatoriana, Giti Neuman.

Artista Ecuatoriana acreedora a la beca Fulbright como profesora, conferencista, e investigadora en la Universidad Estatal de San Diego. Ha exhibido sus obras de arte en Norte, Centro y Sudamérica como también en Europa. Actualmente es Presidenta Ejecutiva de la Fundación Museo del Papel en Quito, Ecuador.

La obra de Giti Neuman (n. Praga, República Checa, 1941) en gran medida está marcada por su cercana experiencia con la violencia de la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Llegará con su familia a Quito en 1947 luego de que sus padres lograron escapar de campos de concentración nazi.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Quito on Foot

Walked about 12 hours today from 8am to 8pm thoughout both the Old City and the New City of Quito. Wandered through a wealthy enclave and watched a photo shoot of the bathing beauty
pictured here. So much money here in the hands of a relativley few wealthy families (old money), big international companies and a lucky few individuals. It struck me that Ego is at the root of how it is possible for a system of such radical inequity in wealth distribution to exist. The corresponding domination and exploitation of the majority of the population can be understood from the point of view of seeing how Ego operates. The illusion is that we have two systems, one capitalist and the other socialist. The socialist system is founded upon the belief in Noblese Oblige whereby the government makes policies for the broad social good. The capitalistic system is founded upon the belief that individuals (State Rights) should be left alone for the most part and decide for themselves how best to distribute the fruits of their industry. In fact there is no system, there is only life. It is only the ego that defends and explains and wants us to believe that there are these different systems. The only thing any one person can do is to diminish their ego to experience life more directly. This is actually quite radical and revolutionary. When the United States went through the Great Depression, individually and collectively, Ego was greatly diminished. People pulled together and the New Deal got people back to work through massive public works. This along with the sacrafices of many in WWÍI produced what is known as the Greatest Generation. Reminding me of this type of selfless service that exemplified the Greatest Generation was a young man named Josh from Austin Texas that was in the same dorm as me my first night in Quito. He is working for six months out in an isolated rural village to help make a health center. So far he says he has only been working on generators and basic electrical stuff(the vilage just got electricity two years ago) but he says people ride horses for two days just to come to the center they are working on. It is funded by a German Non Profit of sorts and has doctors from Germany and other Latin countries helping out. Josh has just finsihed college and is planning on going to medical school to become a doctor himself. It is in young people like Josh that there is much hope.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Ecuador-The Unbearable Lightness of Being

After three buses and more than 24 hours in transit, I am now esconsed at the "Backpacker´s Inn" here in Quito. I remember traveling in Prague in January of 1990 right after the wall came down, and I was struck with a similar feeling wandering through the bus station here in Quito. Time slowed down and my senses seemed to absorb everything. On the bus from the border I met a local indian woman named Rosita, pictured here. Crossing the border, I changed some of my extra Colombian currency for what they use in Ecuador, the U.S dollar. I was struck by the poverty and that this country got "dollarized" helps to explain its continuing exploitation.Before getting on the bus in Medellin I watched Uribe and Chavez on the television at the Rio Group meeting, (along with the rest of Colombia that was glued to the set), and was struck by the nodding heads of many Latin American presidents as Chavez spoke. In the past the United States would have gotten away helping to take Chavez out in 2003 and similarly not much would ahve come of the murder of Reyes. But now, the tide has tunned and many of the presidents of Latin America have escaped from being dominated by the United States. Bush and Company of course don´t like this and talk about fighting terrorism, but the majority of the world is really sick of the rhetoric. The cat is out of the bag and as Europe and Asia grow stronger, the United States is left looking more and more like the proverbial ""Emperor with No Clothes" living in a house of cards.countries nodded the and entering into Ecuador I was struck by the poverty

Friday, March 07, 2008

Adios Medellin! Hasta Ecuador

Today I leave Medellin, a city that has won my heart. Medellin reminds me of San Francisco. Yesterday there where large peace marches throughout Colombia and around the world. The march in Medellin had an estimated 15,000 participants and I walked the full route taking pictures, talking to to people and being moved to tears by a group of mothers who had lost loved ones. Click here to look at the pictures I took at the event. Much of the focus of the march was aimed at the paramilitaries, who have inflicted incredible violence on the people of this long suffering country. Take a look at this article to see a perspective you won´t find in the mainstream press, but represents the sentiments of many of the marchers. Compared to the march against FARC that I saw in Santa Marta in February, this one was represented a much more diverse cross section of Colombian society. Watching the demonstration against FARC, I was struck by the flawed logic of stating that they were against violence, yet that they were going to militarily eliminate FARC.
How can you end violence by using violence? Alfie, an International Relations student from Norway is pointing at the headline in the paper about the march. He is studying Spanish along with Joe, a Paramedic from New York, at one of the universities here.
They helped me figure out my signs that I proudly wore Yesterday.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Medellin Day 2

As the political conflict caused by Colombia´s incursion into Ecuador to kill the ¨Number 2 FARC Commander" heats up, it has been reported that the United States provided key information to facilitate the operation. I love my country and loathe my government. Someday it will be nice when people who justify the use of violence some to their senses and stop making so much ugliness. Onward to practical concerns, my visa expires this Sunday so I will be haded to Quito this Sunday. I took a bunch more pictures today and captioned them and if you want to see them Click here for my Medellin Day 2 pictures. I am doing a week of language school at one of the Universities here for two hours a day. I am glad to get back into the langauge learning mode. I see that spending so much time thinking and writing in English is counter to me leanring the Spanish. So you should see in the coming months a mark drop in the amount of chronicling that I do in English. Pictured are Alber and Katalina whom I met on the tram.

Sunday, March 02, 2008


Arrived in Medellin today after a 13 hour overnight bus ride from Caratagena. Click for photos. Got off the bus and was welcomed by a giant aerobics class being held in the bus station. Hopped onto their very nice metro system that took me to within a few blocks of the Palm Tree Hostal, the best backpacker digs around. At the Palm, met Judy, a young German, who just finished two months on a project called Casa Taller Las Moyas in Bogota. The projects helps youth who might be headed down the wrong path with school and mentors them in activities like ceramics. Clearly she got some kids really turned onto working with their hands. Judy is a recent college graduate who will soon start teaching language at a high school in Germany. She is fluent in Spanish, English, German and even understands French. At first, her boyfriend did not her want to come here because he thought it was not safe. This FALSE perception has Medellin not being a very popular place on the Gringo Trail. It is truly a gem and people are definitley losing out by not coming here. We visited the top of Mutibaria hill where they recreated a Paisa village. The Paisa, as people around here are called, are the folks of mostly of European descent who settled the area by working the land on the promise from the government that they would be given title. They are known for being hard working and industrious. The current President, Uribe, is a Paisa and is known for starting his cabinet meetings at 5am. Later we visited the area around the University Metro station. The nearby Botanical Gardens are fantastic. They have a big exploratorium for learning physics and technology through play that is really impressive. They also had outdoor water works that were open to the public. This city is certainly doing many things right to make for a high qulaity of life for its residenst. It will be hard to leave here as it was tough leaving Cartagena, as it was leaving Santa Marta. My 60 day visa expires in less than a week, so soon I shall be headed to Ecuador.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Still Life with Woodpecker-Book Review

One of the greatest pleasures in life for me is having the time to read a good book. I just finished Still Life with Woodpecker written by Tom Robbins back in 1980. Instead of summarizing the book I thought I would pull some quotes from the book to illustrate why this is such a good book. All that follows are lines from the book Still Life with Woodpecker.
This may be said for the last quarter of the twentieth century: the truism that if we want a better woprld will have to better people came to be acknowledged, if not thoroughly understood, by a significantly large minority.

The difference between a criminal and an outlaw is that while a criminals frequently are victums, outlaws never are. Indeed, the first step toward becoming a true outlaw is the refusal to be victimized.

Have we a common goal, that goal is to turn the tables on the nature of society. When we succeed, we raise the the exhilaration content of the universe.

Outlaws, like poets, rearrange the nightmare.

There are essential and inessential insanities. Essential insanities are those impulses one instinctively senses are virtuous and correct, even though peers may regard them as coo coo.
Poetry, the best of it, is lunar and is concerned with essential insanities. Journalism is solar (there are numerous newspapers named The Sun, none called The Moon) and is devoted to the inessential.

The outlaw is someone who cannot be gotten. He can only be punished other peoples attitudes.

That´s because only the better ideas turn into dogma, and it is this process whereby a fresh, stimulating, humanly helpful idea is changed into robot dogma that is deadly.

There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who beleive that there are two kinds of people in this world and those who are smart enough to know better.

A better world has gotta start somewhere. Why not here with you and me?

Equality is not in regarding different things similarly, equality is in regarding different things differently.

Were our own dragons and as our own heroes, and we have to rescue ourselves from ourselves.

I guess love is the real outlaw

What limits people is that they don´t have the fucking nerve or imagination to star in their own movie, let alone direct it.

The bottom line is that (a) people are never perfect, but love can be
Loving makes love. Loving makes itself. We waste time looking for the perfect lover instead of creating the perfect love.

Love is the ultimate outlaw. It just won´t adhere to any rules. The most any of us can do is sign on as it´s accomplice.

Jablonski came to beleive that Bernard simply had too much fun.
Fighting the system is serious business., the lawyer had reminded her client. It´s serious business that creates the system, answered Bernard.

That´s the trouble with political people, he said. There´s not one of you, left, right or center, who doesn´t believe that the means are justified by the ends.

no matter how fevered a romantic might support a movement, he or she eventually must withdraw from active participation in that movement because the group ethic, the supremacy of the group over the individual, is an affront to intimacy. Intimacy is is the the principal source of the sugars with which life is sweetened. It is absolutely vital to the essential insanities. Without the essential (intimate) insanities, humor becomes inoffensive and therefore pap, poetry becomes esoteric and therefore prose, ertoicim becomes mechanical and therefore pornography, behavior becomes predictable and therefore easy to control.

A romantic, however, recognizes that the movement , the organization, the institution, the revolution, if it comes to that, is merely a backdrop for his or her own personal drama and that to pretend otherwise is to surrender freedom and will to to the totalitarian impulse, is to replace psychological reality with sociological illusions,

The word that allows yes, the word that makes no possible. The word that puts the free in freedom and takes the obligation out of love. The word upon which all adventures, all exhilaration, all meaning, all honor depends.

every totalitarian society, no matter how strict, has had it´s underground. In fact´two undergrounds. There´s the underground involved in political resistance and the underground involved in preserving beauty and fun, which is to say, preserving the human spirit.

He made it in very midst of the Nazi occupation, filmed this beauty inside the belly of the beast. He called it Les Enfants du Paradis-Children of Paradise

Objecthood was by no means our only major theme. There was, for example, the matter of the evolution of the individual, how evolving is not accomplished for a person by nature or society but is the central dimension of a personal drama to which nature and society are but spectators. Wasn{t it made clear that civilization is not an end in itself but a theater or gymnasium in which the evolving individual finds the facilities for practice?

(1) Everything is part of it.
(2) It´s never too late to have a happy childhood.

Cartagena for the Select Few

Onwards from Cartagena, click here to see photos, to Medellin. My friends at the Marlin Hotel taught me much about life in Colombia. The people here work long hours, sometimes they get only one day off in a month. It is normal for a person, even a skilled laborer to make about $7-10 a day. Yet, the amount of energy and their general level of happiness is quiet high. One night I went out to the discos with a group of travelers (see photo gallery). Most places charge between $2-4 for a beer, you do the math. There are definitely some people here in Colombia that have money, the vast majority, like my friends at the Marlin do not. My friend Jose pictured here with Graciela and Stella all help to keep the Marlin the best place in Cartagena to stay for those traveling the Gringo Trail. Graciela (in black) is a year younger than me (45) and already has three grown children and even more grandchildren. Jose has three kids. Colombians always say "Al la Ordren". Which. literally translated means "At your service". The amazing thing is that they really mean it, you can feel it, it is not some sort of hype. They are really an amazingly gracious and hospitable people.