OCCASIONAL MUSINGS AND AMUSEMENTS FROM THE OKANAGAN INSTITUTE|
| The Sun, On Turning Toward |
NUMBER 161 ll APRIL 2015
Taking Things As They Come
The first flowers are sticking their inevitable heads up through the soil, beckoning us outside to join their joyful celebration of the awesome power of nature. The dense multicolour carpet left by last years fallen growth has started to loosen its grip on the ground, and the soil beneath started to warm and give back its nutrients to the seeds, bulbs and rhizomes to enable them to push through the surface and reach for the sun. So too us. We are looking forward to sharing our new initiatives with you, and gather with you to showcase and share the creative spark and tinder.
Our regular Express series of community conversations continues this week, with a community conversation on the topic of Positively Main Street. Join us to engage with the people and ideas that animate our community. We're in the process of developing a stellar roster to address topics around creative and cultural affairs, the life of the mind and spirit, the culinary arts and agriculture, the natural and the built environment, as well as social and community issues. For more information about this, and our other events, go HERE.
Creative Aging is a powerful new social and cultural movement that is stirring the imaginations of communities and people everywhere. Often called Sage-ing, it takes many forms: academic, social and personal. It includes festivals, conferences, classes, group sessions and individual creative pursuits. Our new book, Creative Aging, brings together more than 50 essays and galleries of images that showcase the power of the imagination expressed and enjoyed. The book is 320 pages, 6 x 9 inches, paperback with french flaps, with 32 pages in full colour. Published in association with Wood Lake Publishing, the Okanagan's publisher. Available at quality independent bookstores, and online HERE.
The most recent issue of the Okanagan Institute Journal of Creative Aging, Sage-ing with Creative Spirit, Grace and Gratitude is now online. A volunteer publication of the Okanagan Institute, intended as an initiative for collaboration and sharing, the journal presents the opportunity for the free exchange of wisdom gleaned from creative engagement, and is focused on honouring the transformational power of creativity. We hope that your perspective on the arts and creative engagement might also change as you read stories of Okanagan artists, experienced and emerging, who engage in art for the joy of stimulating personal and community wisdom and well-being. It is online HERE.
Our Passionate Plates culinary arts program is starting to build momentum. It will introduce participants to the local food movement and engage them in expanding their healthy food choices and knowledge of sustainable local food sources. It will feature interactive cooking classes, producer talks and demonstrations, shared meals and delicious takeaways. A dedicated group of chefs, farmers, food artisans and food security activists will share their ideas for building the local food economy. The program will begin in late May. We are reaching out for volunteers and participants, and welcoming contributions. For more information, go HERE.
As some now know, our long-anticipated Proof project did not survive the rigours of winter. Although it had broad support, and was well on the way, the high costs of operating and the low margins of our business model made it too risky for a small, volunteer-driven, nonprofit organization to undertake. We truly appreciate the encouragement and support that many gave freely and hope that another group will find a way to make it work some time in the not-too-distant future. We learned a lot in the process, much of which we would be happy to share, not least in order to avoid some of the pitfalls and recriminations we encountered.
The Anguish of the Anima Mundi
Daily we see the visible signs of our ecological crisis, the glaciers melting, floods and droughts. We may also sense the deep anxiety of a civilization that has lost its way, forgotten its ancient connection to the sacred that alone can give real meaning. |
If we listen carefully we may hear the cry of the world soul, the anguish of the anima mundi as it feels its sacred substance being depleted, its light going out. If we are to take real responsibility for our present predicament, we need to respond both outwardly and inwardly. We need to work with the body as well as heal the soul of the world.
The first step is always to recognize what is happening. We can no longer afford to be blinkered by our materialistic culture and its surface values. Just as real sustainability embraces the biodiversity of the whole planet, it also includes the sacred within creation. Sometimes it is easier to feel this connection when we feel the earth in our hands, when we work in the garden tending our flowers or vegetables. Or when we cook, preparing the vegetables that the earth has given us, mixing in the herbs and spices that provide flavour.
There are so many ways to reconnect with the sacred within creation, to listen within and include the earth in our spiritual practice and daily life. Watching the simple wonder of a dawn can be a gift in itself. Whatever way we are drawn to wonder, to recognize the sacred, what matters is always the attitude we bring to this intimate exchange. It is through the heart that a real connection is made, even if we first make it in our feet or hands. Do we really feel how we are a part of this beautiful and suffering planet, sense its need? When this connection becomes alive, a living stream flows from our heart and embraces all of life. Then every step, every touch, will be a prayer for the earth, a remembrance of what is sacred.|
This is an opportunity for for all of us, and each of us, to reclaim our collective and individual role as guardian of the planet, to take responsibility for the wonder and mystery of this world and participate in its sacred nature.
Getting the Tomato We Deserve
Christopher Brewster || The tomato did not deserve this. It was clearly culpable but hardly responsible. People wanted nice red round tomatoes. Or they just wanted ketchup. Or they were told they just wanted ketchup.|
So all colours (orange, gold, yellow, purple), all variety of shape (misshapen, oval), were bred out or merely forgotten. People wanted tomatoes all year round, so they were grown in glasshouses, even heated hothouses, all through the winter. This was possibly one of the most environmentally damaging fruit and vegetable production processes then undertaken.
Most people did not care how the tomatoes were grown, or who grew them, and so other people, out of sight and mind, suffered birth defects, cancer and other illnesses from pesticides and chemicals in order to provide us with these tomatoes. Standardised hard balls which needed gas to turn the standardised red and become apparently acceptable for most consumers, transported across great distances, packaged in plastic wrappers, labelled as good for you, one of your "five a day". This belonged to a time when it made sense for some to grow tomatoes on the nutrient poor soil of Florida or use North Sea gas to heat greenhouses based on hydroponics.
The tomato did not deserve this maltreatment, it did not deserve to be complicit in a long abusive supply chain, abuse of our environment, abuse of people, and for an aesthete, the supreme crime, abuse of our taste buds.
Most people in fact never ate real tomatoes, rather they ate some form of processed tomatoes in pizzas and ketchup, as part of the infinitely varied, completely non-nutritious modern industrial diet.|
In the future we deserve, our tomato will not be available in northern climes, in mid winter, out of season. But when it does come to our local farmers' market, we will celebrate its arrival, we will thank the seasons for its return once more, in all its variety, its different colours, and variegated shapes. We will taste that tomato and it will bring back memories of childhoods, of delicious lunches and dinners with friends, of picnics by a river with past or present loves, of juices spilt and sauces poured. In the future we deserve, fresh food will come a short distance to us from farmers whom we either know or can easily get in touch with. Food will carry a story from the past and the present, it will be a central part of human communication and community, it will be a tool for conviviality.
In this future food will be recognised as central to human existence and humanity's cohabitation with the flora and fauna upon the earth. Our agricultural practices will be in harmony with the environment because these practices produce more, reduce poverty, improve nutrition and reduce the possibility of climate change.
For more information:
Barry Estabrook, Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit.
Making Sense of Consumption
Citizens come together and make conscious choices about how they want to live and who they want to be as a community, organization or nation. Consumers, well, consume. |
As John McKnight writes "The essential promise of a consumer society is that virtually all satisfaction can be purchased. This promise runs so deep in us that we've come to take our identity from our capacity to purchase: I shop, therefore I am. The dependency on shopping is not just about things, it includes the belief that what is fulfilling or needed in life can be bought - from happiness to healing; from love to laughter; from raising a child to caring for someone."
In our effort to find satisfaction in consumption, we're converted from citizens to consumers. The implications are profound. Consider the impact on just two parts of our lives: the family and the community. Families have lost much of their function; communities have become incompetent. The family is no longer the primary unit that raises a child, sustains health, cares for the vulnerable, and assures economic security. What's more, we are disconnected from our neighbors and isolated from our communities. Hence, community and neighborhood are no longer competent - competence is the capacity of the place where we live to be useful to us, to support us in creating those things that are best produced in a connected community.
Competent communities support the capacity of a family to fulfill its functions. They provide a safety net for the care of a child, attention and connection for the vulnerable, economic survival for the household, and the social tools that sustain health.
When did citizens become consumers? Imagine an idyllic past where merchants knew their customers personally, knew their tastes and their budgets. The intimate knowledge in this relationship made for a win-win. Into this commercial Eden, the 20th century brought "scale." The local market became Walmart, we traded relationships for better selection and one-day sales, and business people got MBAs, and saw their jobs as cleverly cramming ever-increasing quantities of stuff down the throats of beings whose job is simply to consume it all. No wonder we're overweight, in debt and depressed.|
When we lose sight of real people, economic growth becomes a video game that we win by cleverly cramming more and more stuff down consumers' throats. This is understandable because more stuff is easily produced and easily measured. Producing and measuring more value just hurts our heads.
There's a huge misunderstanding at this intersection of stuff and value, and sustainably managed businesses need to craft their messages around this issue carefully. It's easy to interpret the "less stuff, more value" impulse as a poverty mindset. People worry that "our children will be the first generation with a lower living standard than their parents." We need to focus on the "more value" and let the "less stuff" part take care of itself. Fortunately, our children already get it. They want a richer life, not necessarily more stuff.
We are at a real watershed moment. Even more than the shiny new digital toys that fascinate venture capitalists, sustainable business represents a new era in our economy. The secret to real economic growth in the 21st century is to activate a citizen mindset that wants more value, not to seduce artificially fattened consumers who want more stuff.
Cultural change is about feelings as well as beliefs, and stories about lived experiences are surely the way we will get there. Just about everyone finds out eventually that what matters the most when we are frail, ill, or dying is the kindness of the hands that touch us. The political will to support the dignity of those who are not able-bodied - frail elders and other people who need assistance in their daily lives - will come from all of us speaking up, telling our tales about the home care workers and family caregivers who are the unsung heroes of our world. One by one, friend to friend, we must talk about what we have witnessed and experienced in the dark of the night, both as caregivers and as those receiving care. The confluence of our individual narratives could become a tidal wave, a demand for change that will sweep away political inertia. This is how it happens, how something personal becomes larger than ourselves and finally turns into a national conversation and then a movement. - Wendy Lustbader
Celebrating the Creative Age
The most recent issue of the Okanagan Institute journal Sage-ing with Creative Spirit, Grace and Gratitude is online at www.sageing.ca |
A volunteer publication of the Okanagan Institute, intended as an initiative for collaboration and sharing, the journal presents the opportunity for the free exchange of wisdom gleaned from creative engagement, and is focused on honouring the transformational power of creativity.
We hope that your perspective on the arts and creative engagement might also change as you read stories of Okanagan artists, experienced and emerging, who engage in art for the joy of stimulating personal and community wisdom and well-being.
A JOURNAL OF THE ARTS & AGING|
"One of the strengths that sages possess, regardless of age, is a willingness to be educated by all things. Curiosity leads them to learn from all they encounter. They do not judge people or situations. When one relaxes into just being, everything can nourish and stimulate. For those who embrace life as a sage-ing experience, things come to them from the world and from the events in their lives. By taking time and giving attention to creatively respond to what might at first seem ordinary and not deserving of notice, life ripens with significance and meaning."
To view online go to www.sageing.ca