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Do Not Stand by My Grave and Weep

Hanoke Japanese Gardens, Saratoga, California
Hanoke Japanese Gardens, Saratoga, California

Do not stand by my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond’s glint on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripening grain.
I am the gentle autumn’s rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.
Mary Elizabeth Frye (1905-2004), Poem 1932

That lovely poem (often wrongly attributed to Native American origin and tradition) reads like a prayer or a hymn. This is not surprising since true prayer and true poetry both come from Sacred Space. It was recited this past Saturday as we celebrated  the inspiring life of a dear friend who left his body shortly before his seventieth birthday and his twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. He was a nature lover and we approprately celebrated his life out-of-doors at the Hanoke Japanese Gardens. Our friend died of chronic leukemia.

Throughout the fifteen years our friend lived with dying, there was nary a complaint. Even in dying he was true to his core value, thinking of – loving – others. Among his last sentiments was the hope – the encouragement – that the lessons we’d take from his life were to live with equanimity and to live hugely, kindly and consciously.

Also read at his Celebration of Life were St. Francis’ Prayer and The Buddhist Metta (Loving Kindness) Sutra (guidance), which was written in  similiar spirit as St. Francis’ Prayer.

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Amen.

– St. Francis of Assisi

 

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Like many of us today, our friend combined the wisdom of several traditions to create a spiritual life that worked well for him. Raised a Catholic he took seriously the injunctions in St. Francis’ Prayer. He also valued the similar life philosophies of oneness, stewardship, non-attachment and respect for silence found in Buddhist scripture and practice and in Native American spirituality. His daily practice was Buddhist for Buddhism is indeed the master of meditative technology.

In memory of B.K.S. xo

May all sentient beings find peace.

If you are viewing this in an email, you will have to link through to the site to enjoy this beautiful and peaceful video with a Metta chant put to music. It’s sung in Pali but offers English subtitles.

“The BeZine” – Table of Contents with Links to Features – Feb. 2016 “All God’s Creatures”

15 February 2016 (The BeZine)

photo 2-2“All God’s Creatures” … and what a menagerie we have, mostly dogs, cats and human beings … okay, a spider, a pig, a frog, a fly and a few birds.

This is a fun issue, though it has its inspirational moments too with the themed lead features by our premier essayists, Michael Watson and Priscilla Galasso; a lesson in detente from our resident cannoness, Terri Stewart; and with characteristic grace, good criter-loving book recommendations and a call for compassion from Corina Ravenscraft. Judith Westerfield is back for a visit with An Amnesty for Daddy Longlegs, a short piece with a double-edge.

Under humor, Mafia Cats (Roger McGough) and The Pig (Roald Dahl) should put smiles on your faces.

For the poetry lovers, there is quite a collection of poems in both the themed section and under “More Light.” Michael Dickel and John Anstie share themed poems.

Core team member, Joseph Hesch, offers two signature pieces – one poem, one flash fiction – and resident skeptic, James R. Cowels, tickles our brains with Life, Death, and the “Establishment Clause.”

Under art, check out Gretchen Del Rio’s beautiful spirit-animal paintings of my grand-kitty, Gypsy Rose.

Aprilia Zand is back – Hooray! – this time with a poem.

New in this issue with impressive bios and even more impressive work: Roger Allen Baut, Ann Bracken, Christi Moon and Judith Black.

You’ll enjoy a couple of true adventures in the Storytelling section with Judith Black in Turkey. She’s a funny lady.

Under best practices learn how Zena Hagerty and fellow artists turned the James Street area of Hamilton, Ontario from a rough neighborhood into an arts enclave where art crawls are held regularly, pulling the community together.

The featured interviews this month are Sharon Frye, Matt Pasca, Michael Dickel and Charlie Martin. All the interviews offer value added by virtue of vision and wisdom.

Many thanks to Michael Dickel for introducing Ann Bracken and Matt Pasca, to Naomi Baltuck for introducing Judith Black, and to Native American Girl for the music selection.

Enjoy! Let us know what you think in the comments section and with your likes. Thanks for joining with us in the celebration of life, love and art.

In the spirit of peace and community,
Jamie Dedes
Managing Editor

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THEME: ALL GOD’S CHILDREN

Lead Features

At the Bird Feeder, Michael Watson
All that Matters, Priscilla Galasso
Reflections on Snowy Owl and Raven, Terri Stewart
Animal Stories, Corina Ravenscraft
Campaigning for Compassion, Corina Ravenscraft
Giving Amnesty to Daddy Longlegs, Judith Westerfield

Humor

Mafia Cats, Roger McGough
The Pig, Roald Dahl
Cat v Comma, Grammerly

Poetry

A Dog’s Life, John Anstie
Snow Dog, John Anstie
Frog, Michael Dickel
Fancy Flight, Michael Dickel
Reading the Signs, Aprilia Zank

Art

The Several Faces of Gypsy Rose, art/Gretchen Del Rio, words/Jamie Dedes

MORE LIGHT

Special Feature/Best Practice

How One City’s Artists Transformed a “Rough’ Neighborhood into an Arts Enclave, Zena Hagerty

Storytelling

Welcome to Istanbul, Not Constantinople, Judith Black
Stray Dogs and Shtreimels: What Does Istanbul and Mea Shearim Have in Common?, Judith Black

Poetry

Ghost Dance, Roger Allen Baut
The Code, Ann Bracken
Transformation, Joseph Hesch
Musicman, Christi Moon
Dandelions, Christi Moon
Nyctalopia, Christi Moon

Flash Fiction

Kansas Pacific, Joseph Hesch

Essay

Life, Death, and the “Establishment Clause”, James R. Cowles

Music

Red Shift Blues, The Sweet Lowdown
Chickens Under the Washtub and Western Country, The Sweet Lowdown

Getting to Know You

Interview with Sharon Gariepy Frye, a.k.a. Sharon Frye
Interview with Matt Pasca
Educating the Teacher: Poet to Poet, Ann Bracken and Michael Dickel
Charles W. Martin and the Ever-loveable Aunt Bea

photo-1-2Connect with us …

Beguine Again, Spirtual Community and Practice

Facebook, The Bardo Group Beguines

Twitter, The Bardo Group Beguines

© 2015, photographs, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved

 

 

 

Educating the Teacher: Poet to Poet, Ann Bracken & Michael Dickel

I think more than half the poets I know are also in education or were educators at one time. It’s not surprising then that academia is one of our key concerns.  Here we have one poet/educator interviewing another.  Michael isn’t new to these pages, but I’m happy to introduce Ann Bracken from the University of Maryland College Park.  Brief bios are posted under the interview. Look for poetry from Ann and Michael in the next issue of The BeZinePub. date: 15 January 2016 issue. J.D.

Ann Bracken
Ann Bracken

I had the pleasure of meeting Michael in Salerno, Italy, last summer when we both participated in the 100Thousand Poets for Change Conference. Michael joined me, along with Laura Shovan and Debby Rippey, my travel companions, in sharing a gourmet Salerno lunch in a wonderful ristorante. Michael also served as the emcee for one of our poetry nights. His work speaks of struggle and peace, and he is committed to using the arts for social change.

Ann: Welcome, Michael.

Does teaching have to contribute to the status quo? Must it be dominated by business models that value efficiency over humanity and greed over compassion?

MICHAEL: Yes and no. But, it doesn’t have to be this way.

This is my story. It just happened. And it’s been happening for years.

Michael Dickel
Michael Dickel

I’m letting go of teaching. I’m kicking and screaming, hanging on with my fingernails, letting go.

I’m sixty. I’m “outside faculty” (literally translated from the Hebrew, adjunct in plain English). One of my bread-and-butter teaching gigs will evaporate with a just-launched Ministry of Education, free, online, self-study English reading course.

And things are not working so well at a new gig this semester, where an administrator seems to have taken a dislike for me. I don’t want this constant battle in my life anymore, the struggle to make a living doing something I believe should have value.

After three months teaching, a group of us who are “hourly” teachers this semester saw a contract for the first time. It was dated Monday, the 18th of January. It begins three months before, 18th October. And, the contract expires this Friday, the 22nd. Four-days after they presented it to us. That’s, not coincidentally, the last day of classes for the semester.

One of the many problems with this end date is that we had been told to be present at the final exams on Monday, the 25th. Please note, that is after the contract ends. And, in addition to the paragraph that say, “you are hired from this date to that date,” paragraph seven also says something that loosely translates as: to be very clear, after the end date above, you are no longer an employee of the university, unless you are explicitly given an extension in writing. There is no extension of the dates.

This attitude toward those of us who teach is as destructive to education (and, by extension, society) as almost any other force other than war.

I hate having to fight for employment rights, like getting paid. The constant battling leaves me feeling like a failure. I am letting go of this work, which is no longer teaching, but a form of war.

I am hanging on to a lot of anger. I felt it as I left campus today. Boiling under the virus, feeding its fever. I am seething. And I need to find something else to hold on to.

I teach English as a Foreign Language reading comprehension to international students, Israelis, and Palestinians, in a post-high school prep program, called in Hebrew a mechina. (Yes, these students study together in the same classroom.) I love my students. I want to hold on to those marvelous relationships with students we teachers have the honor of sharing with them, where we learn together.

Today was our last regular meeting as a class. As I often do, I invited them to keep in touch—they have my email. Use it, I said. I’m on Facebook, I added. Three have already sent friend requests. Two of them are Palestinian students.

And just before supper, a student sent me an email (uncorrected and shared with permission of the student):

Hi Michael, this is __________, from English.

I want to tell you that you are a awesome teacher. Since the first lesson, I want to stay in your class. When I heard that we have to redo the [placement] exam. It’s my first time that I started to worry about if I can still be in a specific class.

I love the way you teaching, although sometime it is a little bit boring. I still remember that you played guitar and singing with us. And you told us that the purpose of teaching us is teach us how to think, about critical thinking. Since that, I knew that I was in the right class.

This particular student comes from China. He wants to study in Israel. He knows English already, and has been learning Hebrew. He also takes math, history, physics…a full load of prep-courses that has most of the students studying from 8:30 to 5 or later.

What he wrote at the end of his email, I will hold onto forever:

And I mentioned that I have something to share with you, the topic is that the relationship between war and education.

I found that, if a country want to get strong, it must have to good education in the nation. And the way to show others that you are strong, is to show them you have high tech and strong military. I would like to say high tech in some way is for high tech weapons. So who will provide the nation researchers and scientists to make weapons? Education do.

So in this way. I can say education make this world worse not better. And it get worse after every year. I believe that one day this world will get destroyed by those weapons and war. So who cause this? Education.

What do you think about this?

We had a unit on comparative education. The students spent a couple of classes online, looking at websites for places like Summerhill School (Democratic education), reading articles about Tiger Mom’s and Finland’s education system, and listening to TED Talks on the need for more creativity in education.

We did not discuss war, or its connection to education. That came from an amazing student. It didn’t come from me. Yet, providing students a chance to think such thoughts and to ask such questions—that is why I teach. And a successful teacher is someone to whom a student could write: I have something to share with you…What do you think?

I will hang on to the memory of this email. And hanging on to it will allow me to let go of frustrations with the difficulties and unfairness of a system that is stacked against him more than it is me. Hanging on to what matters will help me let go of what doesn’t matter.

It will also help me let go of this form of the work.

I wrote this student a long reply, which allowed me to hang on to what I really value. And, paradoxically perhaps, to let go of the job. The end of what I wrote went something like this:

If education doesn’t ask the questions that need to be asked, or, more importantly, teach how to ask important and critical questions, then you are right, education is part of the problem. It becomes an accomplice, helping to build the structures of dominance and power. Then, it feeds the cycles of greed. All of these things threaten our world today. If education is about training workers and obedience to authority, if it teaches accepted facts and does not challenge students to think for themselves, we are in trouble.

I think that this is one of the reasons why the Humanities are under attack, politically and economically, in much of the world today. It is why many politicians attack education—not because it is “failing,” but because it challenges. And why “reforms” are regularly introduced that use over-simplified models of “manufacturing knowledge,” teaching doctrinal facts (in whatever discipline or doctrine)—serving a purpose of producing workers and even leaders who “fit,” but not inspiring thinkers who question.

We need to find ways to inspire students to think—as I see you have been doing—about our world, about how to make it better, about how to find reasonable and well-reasoned approaches to fixing the problems we see and providing a sustainable, healthy, and worthwhile future for our species.

I don’t have the answers. I hope that we will find the right approaches, or at least, good enough approaches. And I hope that education does not end up only serving the powerful, the military, and the greedy.

However, it is always about possibilities. We must look for and welcome new possibilities into our lives.

From the Jewish tradition, we have this teaching, too: “You are not obligated to complete the task, but neither are you free to desist from it” (Pirke Avot 2:21).

I believe that we can stop the destruction you fear. I hope that we can. May we not desist (stop) from trying. May we continue to seek forms of truth, practice heartfelt communication, and learn compassion for each other. May we cooperate and share with each other solutions as we find them. And may we always look to improving the world, not simply existing, or, worse,“using up” the world.

I believe that you could be someone who makes a difference. Start with your questions. And then, look for those possible solutions. That is all I know to say to you as an answer to your question about whether education is causing the destruction of the world. Yes and no. And, it doesn’t have to be this way.

With respect and hope for your generation,
Michael Dickel

BIOGRAPHY: Michael Dickel (Fragments of Michael Dickela writer and digital artist, currently lives in (West) Jerusalem, Israel, and teaches in Tel Aviv. He is the chair of the Israel Association of Writers in English. His most recent book is War Surround Us (Is a Rose Press, 2014), available at bookstores and online.

BIOGRAPHY: Ann Bracken (Ann Bracken, Poet, Author, Creator of Possibilities) memoir in verse, The Altar of Innocence, was released in 2015 by New Academia Publishing. Her poetry, essays, and interviews have appeared in anthologies and journals, including Little Patuxent Review, New Verse News, Scribble, Reckless Writing Anthology: Emerging Poets of the 21st Century, and Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence. Ann serves as a contributing editor for Little Patuxent Review, lectures at the University of Maryland College Park, and leads workshops for creativity conferences, book clubs, schools, and adult education programs.

Education: Bachelor of Arts, Speech Pathology and Audiology, Towson University

Master of Science, Communication and Learning Disorders, Johns Hopkins University

Training in Poetry Facilitation and Journaling, National Association for Poetry Therapy

Post-graduate Diploma, Drama in Education, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland

© 2016 Ann Bracken and Michael Dickel, text and photographs, All rights reserved

EARTHLINGS, Make the Connection

Horrific. Devastating. Unflinching. If, when you think of farms and ranches, you think of old MacDonald and happy cow advertisements, think again. I figured if I couldn’t watch this movie I had no business eating flesh, going to the circus, or wearing animal skins. I have no business asking other human beings to do my dirty work for me.  I forced myself through Earthlings in part to firm my vegan resolve. I’m probably not the only one to do this. Among other things, I found a video of Ellen DeGeneres on YouTube where she talks about having done the same thing.

Earthlings goes where our best-self fears to tread. Using undercover cameras it takes us inside of farms and dairies, slaughterhouses, labs that do animal testing, fur ranches, and circuses. It shows us the pain our younger brothers and sisters in the animal kingdom suffer for our sakes. It also shows us just how far we humans can go to debase ourselves: at least that was my reaction to seeing people skinning animals alive and leaving them to die slowly, slitting the throats of cattle while they hang alive and upside down, tossing male chicks into a grinder while they’re alive, swinging chickens on a hook just for the fun of it, tossing a live dog into the back of a garbage truck and laughing about it, digging hooks into elephants to train them … you get my drift.  It’s painful to think of the calves that are separated from their mothers to prepare them to be veal and of all the dairy cows and chickens going insane packed into small indoor spaces and never walking the good earth or seeing the sky.

A key point this movie makes is the link between our ability to be cruel dominators of our fellow creatures in the animal kingdom with our ability to be cruel to other human beings. It shows the damage done to the environment as we pursue dominance over nature and not stewardship of it. Both thumbs up on this one. It’s the movie to watch for the sake of our humanity.

The trailer below is not as graphic as the movie. You can view the entire movie for free HERE.

© 2011, Jamie Dedes All rights reserved

Video uploaded to YouTube by