The existential shit-show, diversions and let’s pick a goat

These days there is a ton of anger out there – I’m mostly thinking interwebs here but I guess it exists is all sorts of spots – with people desperately looking for something to be outraged about and then eagerly and proudly proclaiming it.

It’s the Russians! Eeek! – Cultural appropriation. I’m OUTRAGED! – What! no purified drinking water coming out of the tap on my demand?! We have to boil our water to drink? That’s INHUMANE!

The list does goes on.

At any rate, I can’t help but think that a lot of this is a kind of existential panic that is flowing through the human population about the possibility that we are not actually immune to the tremendous damage that we have collectively wrought on every natural community on the planet including our own. Of course, the level of denial is omnipotent but there does seem to be cracks appearing here and there and those cracks do seem to be shining a narrow, not to mention, inconvenient, light on the pooled fog.

Take the climate situation, if you will. Yes there are lots that say that they are concerned and all, and many that are more than willing to use the Trump 25 Make America Great Again Lets Get the Hell Out of Paris! as their springboard to express their outrage at the situation. The thing is, well, two things is, that there is an implied assumption that it’s all his fault now with no acknowledgement that his predecessors, and quite likely pro-decessors were/will be pretty much all the same. This and at the same time it just functions as the headline for the day. Something to be well forgotten tomorrow and tomorrow until the need to burst forth with some outrage becomes once again uncontainable.

Perhaps it is just human nature, this, but perhaps not. I dunno.


Water Walks June 4

A two-parter and a bit of a long one!
Comfort, the necessitate to pull away from comfort, the joy of the two sides – gratefulness to have food on a plate – food advice that these days might mean the loss of your children stuff like that. – the great beauty and generosity of the people on the prairies.

ทรงสถิตอยู่กับเราตลอดมา – With us all along

English words and music creation and performance
แมว – Catherine Thompson
Thai words creation and performance
นางสาวเมธาพร สิงหนันท์ – Noon Methaporn Singhanan

With us all along – ทรงสถิตอยู่กับเราตลอดมา
This has been quite a year in so many ways and one powerful and one sobering aspect for me has been the ongoing exponential collapse of polar sea ice. On a more visceral and close to home aspect, this year, 2016/17, has been immense in another way, the monarch of Thailand, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, passed away to the great sorrow of many Thai people. This song is a response to a powerful moment that I had with a dear dear friend and sister as she said goodbye for now to the King that she loves so very much. It also came from the many conversations that we have had together about the King over a number of years. The main focus for me here is to try to show how a powerful being and soul can have influence beyond our present living on the earth; that such things can resonate for a long long time; that their love and presence can sweetly linger within us and beyond our own selves and time.

What a world it might be              สิ่งที่โลกอาจจะเป็น
what meant us only to see           สิ่งทรงความหมายที่เราเท่านั้นจะมองเห็น
that love and kindness                 ว่าความรักความเมตตา
in all its fineness                           แผ่ออกมาในทุกสิ่งอันดีงาม
Well, it’s been with us all along.    ทรงสถิตอยู่กับพวกเราตลอดมา

That giving all to all                                  การให้อย่างไม่มีเงื่อนไข
the living, the large and the small   ต่อทุกชีวิต ไม่ว่าใหญ่น้อย
for in our days                                ทรงอยู่ในทุกวันเวลาแห่งชีวิตเรา
in it’s myriad ways                          ทุกสรรพสิ่งรอบตัว
oh, it’s been with us all along.         โอ้ ทรงสถิตอยู่กับพวกเราตลอดมา

That to be one it seems                   การได้อยู่ด้วยกัน
not such a far away dream               ไม่ได้เป็นเฉกความเพ้อฝันอันห่างไกล
as our daily life might show us          ชีวิตในทุกวันเน้นย้ำให้เราเห็นเองว่า
when those days sit right before us   เหมือนทรงอยู่ด้วยกันตลอดเวลา
Well, it’s been with us all along.               ทรงสถิตอยู่กับพวกเราตลอดมา

march 26 water walk and blathering

Just to be clear, there is nothing serious, not really, or maybe really really, about this.
Upon watching it again, I’m starting to think that I should entitle these walking chats as something like, ‘A Hoser’s (Hosette’s ?) Take on the World Situation when it comes to Climate and Other Vexing Shenanigans’.
Anyway, I have a proper lav mic now so I’m trying the new tech out.
I’m mostly referencing Paul Beckwith and Guy McPherson, and I mention Jennifer Hynes, George Monbiot,  Kevin Hester and Dahr Jamail. I meant to also mention Wolfgang Werminghausen as well as Sam Carana and all sorts of other entities that one can find on youtube and other nefarious places. All worth checking out for more serious explorations.

camped in a small coffee grove

at the foot of Doi Lanka. I decided to camp here and then make my way up the following day unencumbered by a big pack. Had a few hours and so I thought that I’d do a little strumming. I’m not sure whether I will bring my Shamisen next year if I decide to go on a walkabout again. Though I love the idea and what bringing the instrument represents, I didn’t really play it too much. I suppose that these walks are more about finding inspiration and a kind of meditation.

last eve of 2nd walk

I do believe that I’ve posted this already but I thought that I’d pop it up again since I’m now getting to posting stuff about the 2nd walk. Some minor philosophising on this as seems a common thing to do, for me, at the end of a journey. Going to go all non-linear on this go around with Goze posts, so it’s the last day, first, or rather 2nd as the butterfly post was the first and non linear in that it was also the first day.

Dok Seaw Festival in Ban Pamiang

This project, Goze in the Foothills of the Himalaya, is really a continuation of my work in general that explores ideas of non-modern ways of living, connection with nature and the search for a way to find a kind of oneness with the wild. I have been puttering around with these ideas for decades now.

The above is true, generally, but it was the first time that I happened to stumble upon the small rural flowering tree (Dok Seaw) festival near Ban Pamiang that was the kernel for the idea of the project. I imagined a time long ago when a festival of this sort might hav been common throughout the countryside in my places on the planet. A place where people would meet up and share each other’s company, eat food, play games, get into fights… all that sort of thing. I then connected it in a roundabout way to the Goze (of Japan) which in itself was connected with the Shamisen and intolerant musical traditions.

So, it was wonderful once again to spend some time at the festival today. I reckon that this is the fourth time attending for me and this year was a little different as there were a number of people that now recognise me and know a little bit of my story. It was at the school in Ban Pamiang that I brought my instruments to play with the kids, and I have now walked through the village a number of times in my two walks that were a part of the project. Below I’ll add a video and a gallery of some photos from the day today.

It was a gorgeous day, lots of people, lots of smiles and laughter.

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The Transformative Possible Impossible

The line of the land makes a sound; a music that sings in my heart, stitched together with a thought and a dream

“In the very earliest time, when both people and animals lived on earth,
a person could become an animal if he wanted to
and an animal could become a human being.
Sometimes they were people and sometimes animals and there was no difference.
All spoke the same language.
That was the time when words were like magic.
The human mind had mysterious powers.
A word spoken by chance might have strange consequences.
It would suddenly come alive and what people wanted to happen could happen –
all you had to do was say it.
Nobody could explain this.
That’s the way it was.”
Nalungiaq as spoken to Knud Rasmussen
(source: The Spell of the Sensuous by David Abram)

dscn4817photo: the view from up the ridge a ways from where I live.

This piece is, in part, a response to what appears to be a current tendency towards fundamentalist thinking in the west. It seems so on the ‘right’ and the ‘left’, the religious and the non-religious and specifically, and relevant to this piece, the whole concept of a person changing their sex or gender and the mayhem that has recently arisen over washrooms and whatnot.
And so, in that, this bit of mine becomes really a pondering of possibilities of transformation from gender to our human place on the earth and of course whatever might lie in between.

• Derrick Jensen has written and said (or at least something akin to it) that if a person wants to know how to help a river or a forest, the best thing to do is to actually ask the forest or the river.

• It appears that in indigenous societies it is well accepted that a shaman (or whatever word one wishes to use here) and perhaps some others have/had the ability to transform into other animals. Useful for all sorts of practical, not to mention spiritual reasons, I would say.

• I think I heard/read it from Wade Davis or perhaps it was Jeremy Narbi or maybe both. That, when asking indigenous people they were visiting, how they know what plants they could use for food and medicine, they were told by the people that they knew what plants they could make use of because the plants told them.

In the industrial west it would be easy to think of all this, if thought of at all, and think that these examples above are surely just metaphors. But no, I do not think so. I do not think that these statements were metaphors at all but rather simply a statement of the real. It has been stated a number of places that that is how the people saw it.

So. In this context, how is it that the concept of changing one’s sex or gender or what have you become so difficult to then imagine? Naturally, this difficulty of imagination is perfectly reasonable to those that believe in the supremacy, divine right and exceptionalism of the industrial human. However, I find myself terribly confused by a similar point of view from those that actually do believe in the possibilities and wisdoms of ancient peoples who also then seem to refuse to consider the possibilities of this in the context of sex or gender transformation… or what have you. It seems a rather strange thing to me. A number of rather excellent writers and commenters, some of them directly exploring the place of modern humans on the planet, environmentalists, if we want to use what is progressively becoming a dirty word (referencing here John A Livingston’s distain for the general environmental movement, of which he said that, on the whole, it consisted mostly of a bunch of people just trying to keep things the same and still manage to get away with it), who seem to make ready use and reference of indigenous ways of approaching the world. Generally, I do believe they mean this in a positive way, often suggesting that this sort of ancient knowledge might be our only chance of transforming our modern world into one that could have any chance of sustainability (which is also becoming a bit of a dirty word these days) and one in balance with the natural world.

I do believe that people deciding, or declaring, or preferring to live in another sex or gender (or what have you) was common enough with many ancient peoples and there are lots of instances (though it seems not necessarily universal) recorded with the coming of Europeans to the North American continent in the long ago, (but not all that long ago, not really) days.

Surely transforming into a wolf or hawk must be a much more complex activity than merely keeping oneself as a mere human but with a minor shift of how they present sex or gender-wise or what have you. Or maybe not. Perhaps it is difficult to say with any sort of surety.

My own experience of dreaming a new existence tells me that it is possible. And dreaming is what it indeed is/was. A long meandering, lifelong and difficult dreaming. It also tells me that it might not be possible after all. I haven’t really decided yet and I reckon that this is my prerogative to view it so. In this world of transformation little is as it appears, at least to me as an industrial human desperately trying to slough off that particular heavy burden. To slough off that burden is actually the more vital element here and really more to my whole bloody point. It is possible. It could be and it might not be and for that matter it could be possible and impossible all at the very same time. You see, I have a feeling that we need to be careful of our big dreamings. I think that it must be that rarely, or never, does the dreaming become the solid lived but rather the dream, the imagining, becomes the conduit to create a new or renewed existence in this physical, on the ground, world. Sometimes the landing on the hard ground, on the surface, doesn’t seem to resemble what was in the air. Or maybe it does and it is simply our imagining and vision of the actual dream was skewed in the first place. In that case, the dream might have been  right all along.

I think that the possibility of transformation, of the impossibility of the imagining of a new perspective on the world and have it become real, is what I am trying to get at here. I’m not saying that every tranny, trans or what have you person now becomes the go-to person to seek wisdom as to how to find a path to a world at one with the wild, with nature, to reject the industrial. Far from it. Neither would every person in an ancient group of hunter gatherers have the ability to go into trance (trans… hmm, those two words suddenly seem similar) and become a bear and so tell them where to go to find a good salmon run.

Not everyone can have all the same gifts and skills.
But they do exist, they did exist.
I believe.

I thought that I’d throw up a few Youtube videos that came to me on writing this.

One of my all time fav videos. From Jeremy Narby who I referenced above. Among many things, he talks about an amazonian shaman transforming to Jaguar. I truly love the way he presents his thoughts here. Completely focused and thoughtful and full of humour and a distinct lack of any sort of supremacy. Narby’s book Intelligence in Nature is fab and here he is talking on that.

A vital and truly powerful talk from Waziyatawin…

And this from Wade Davis. Had the chance to see him speak over in Banff a few years ago. Wonderful speaker and thinker.

Donna Haraway, Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene: Staying with the Trouble
Brilliant, poetic and gorgeous…
Vimeo won’t let me embed this, but just click on ‘Watch On Vimeo’ and it should take you somewhere that you can watch it.

At the beginning of this, I reference a quote from David Abram’s book The Spell of the Sensuous. That and his later work, Becoming Animal are vibrant books for me. Here is a rather interesting video with him talking about the idea of the shaman, magician and, in part, in context to its diverted usage, at times, in the west…

There is so much out there on the net nowadays about our place on the planet. I find it hard to really know where to go with everything out there, but perhaps this is a good place to head towards.
Here is a video from Derrick Jensen. There’s lots of stuff from him all over Youtube and elsewhere. His books Endgame 1 & 2 were electrifying to me and he has other written things out there for those interested. Along with the people I mention above, Jensen presents one of the major voices out there exploring the path to trying to understand our human place in the modern world and what possibilities there might be for us to shift it. And there are more like minded voices coming to the fore every day.
Edit. March 15 2017. I seem to have come to some sort of crossroad regarding Derrick Jensen. I have been tolerant for years with his (and others) mean, unimaginative and puritanical position on Trans issues and have attempted to counter posts and comments from him (and others) with measured responses to attempt to foster a balanced discussion about this complicated and varied issue. I now find myself feeling nausea when I listen to him speak or watch videos such as the one below and that is what the bloody crossroad, for me, is. It’s damn abusive and that is pretty ironic, if you ask me. Having said that, the video below is about his book, Endgame Vol. 1 &2. Those books were electrifying for me when I read them years ago. I’ll leave the video up here as there might be some that will get something from it. His perspectives on the predicament of industrial civilisation are truly powerful and an important part of the discussion. For myself, I just can’t bear it anymore. So there.

What it’s all about…

Ok, back to telling tales about the first walk of the project. I am going to try to finish this before the second one starts. I think that the chances of this happening are good, however today I am jumping a head to recount a wonderful get together with the rural school of Ban Pamiang high up in the mountains in Lampang, not too far from where I live in Chiang Mai. In fact, the provincial border is a mere (if steep and so farther than it might appear on a map) 6km away from where I write this.

It is pertinent, this, because as I mentioned in my last post I managed to damage my shamisen and so left it with the wonderful Kru Jamnong while I wandered south for 6 or 7 days. On return, I asked her if I could come by and show the children some of my musical instruments and let them play them as well. Luckily my mom, brother and sister where visiting and they rented a car. This meant that I could load the boot up with a bunch of instruments. Otherwise it would be me on my little motor bike and a few of the smaller instruments. Ie. sans kora.

I brought kora, shamisen, a drum made using a small gourd that I left with them, some bone flutes, bone percussion ribs, a couple of tin whistles and my wooden  Irish flute (a transverse instrument different than a tin whistle).

From here, I’ll mostly have photos and videos. They say much more than me writing here could ever do. I’ll never forget the day. As always, the most wonderful part is when the kids take over and start paying (in the truest sense of the word) with the instruments themselves. Thanks to my brother Michael for helping out!

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Near to around 4:50 you’ll see the kids rapping on the wood floor with their own improvised percussion. A gorgeous moment to be sure!

Walking and the essence of a slow approach

Today on pondering what to write about on this post (the 3rd of my remembrances of my walk that ended almost 2 weeks ago now), I thought about how on my 3rd day I would go off of paved roads altogether and onto a trail that I had a hint about but was not certain of its border. This then brought me to remembering how on my long ride the slowness of our (me & 2 horses and just to make clear long travel on horseback is essentially the same as walking. One doesn’t lope from one camp to another!)
travel allowed people I might come upon to have the time to open up to a stranger. Yes, I was with horses and in the southern Canadian open plains the mere company of a horse creates an instant kinship that is difficult to quantify. Still, on approaching a ranch house or a farm house or simply some people just out and about, I would always dismount and the three of us would walk at a leisurely pace to meet whoever was ahead of us. It is the respectful thing to do and brings great dividends (to use a word that has been so horribly hijacked by the economic world).img_3640

This is one aspect to my walk in the mountains of northern Thailand that is very similar to my 3 year long ride and what is so beautiful about it is that in many ways the greetings and small or large welcomes are so very similar. I also knew in my heart that it would be so.

note: at one point this lovely woman asks me if I was a falang (a foreigner, and I think it also implies a white foreigner)  I didn’t quite understand. It would have been better for me to ask her to repeat what she said but a little slower. Instead of that I decided that she might have asked me how old I was as this a a question that is often asked of me and is a standard question here in Thailand in general. Hence the slightly perplexed expression on her face accompanied with a wonderful graciousness of the moment that is, in my experience, also a standard way of being over here.

img_4264One could never make an approach in some sort of vehicle and expect the same openness. To be sure, in both places one could come by car or motorbike and then take the time to bring an openness, I have experienced this on many occasions here and in Canada, but by a slow approach subtle decisions get made long before words become a part of the exchange. And in that, suddenly language can take a bit of a lesser importance to things. And I think that in so many ways, this might just be everything.

img_4265This my 3rd day was fairly long with an uphill walk that wasn’t too too extreme followed by reaching a kind of height of land, a ridge continuing on with a long downhill walk to a small village that I knew (granted, knew very little) about. The walk down to this village brought me through a gorgeous forest that had the feeling of great age to it in this high area with many trees wrapped with a cloth wreath of the same colour that many monks that live in the forest wear in their robes. A muted brown leading to orange.