The first recipients of the newly created David Suzuki Foundation Fellowship feature conversations with Brett Dolter, Jerome Laviolette, and Melina Laboucan-Massimo. We are also joined by Harpreet Johal the DSF Senior Fellowship Specialist who shares more information about this program. I am looking forward to a fun and engaging conversation as we learn what this opportunity means as they dig into their individual interests around finance, transportation, and sustainability. I hope you can join us!
Thesis/ Project Edited for the Western Symposium, Western Washington University
When looking at what’s going on in the world around us I often wonder if we are we more connected than ever and saying less in a digital age? The sounds of people screaming resonate in my dreams as I hear machine gun fire or the sounds of buildings collapsing from natures response to human activity. I wonder if a large-scale crisis whether from terrorism, a financial crash, or a catastrophic climate-related event could provide the pretext to declare a state of emergency where the usual rules no longer apply as Naomi Klein suggests. What happens if communication, media and our art, as well as some communities, are forced underground? Has the message been lost because we are too busy, or to the fear of capitalism and tyrants who routinely reduce funding, destroy art, censor, burn books, harass painters, journalists, professors, playwrights and authors? Could it happen here? Are we systematically suffocating these voices in a world distracted by capitalism, climate change, racism and socioeconomic struggle?
There have been significant benchmarks over time that question our humanity and offer a glimpse of our future. As the world seems to be racing out of control, the list of what’s wrong seems to be growing longer. I’m curious when we might give equal consideration to humans, animals and “other,” before more species slide into extinction, more forests and wetlands are obliterated, and more lives are destroyed by hunger, war, and climate change. With a growing homeless population in Vancouver, a city filled with smoke, and catastrophic hurricanes and earthquakes only hours away, our world, and our city have changed. If Sally Armstrong is right… “that there is no such thing as an innocent bystander,” what then is my role, and what is yours?
I recently attended the Climate Reality Project Leadership training in Bellevue (Seattle) Washington. It’s a not for profit organisation involved in education and advocacy and all about climate change. It was established in 2011 after the joining of two environmental groups, The Alliance for Climate Protection and The Climate Project, which were both founded in 2006 by Al Gore. Gore was the 45th Vice President of the United States and well known for his work regarding environmental issues and of course An Inconvenient Truth. Along with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), they were awarded The Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for their efforts to obtain and disseminate information about the climate challenge.
Hundreds of questions emerged during this three-day event such as; must we change, can we change, and will we change? Perhaps the most confronting were my reasons for being there. When exactly had I become an environmentalist and was I a fraud among these passionate activists and friends of the earth? Oddly, I felt at home and perhaps a little like Richard Dreyfus in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. An outsider at the beginning, and feeling more like I was in the right place with family and friends as the days blended together called together for some existential reason. It was easy to talk about how I had been beckoned down this rabbit hole in school as it began with an interest in defining what wilderness is, how we treat each other – humans, animals and other, and how it moved to a broader discussion about climate change and the speed at which it is unfolding and how it is making it increasingly difficult for us to adapt in what some believe is an apocalyptic scenario. Recognizing that it may not matter what wilderness is if we can’t address these issues, there is a growing vulnerability about what to do first and in the “five alarm fire” that Naomi Klein frames in No Is Not Enough, how to effect positive social change while we figure out what to tell our kids and future generations?
Remarkably, Mr. Gore brought this home for me with his closing comment’s. (you can skip to the bottom and hear him)
“As many of you know one of the most appropriate ways to frame this choice now before us is to project ourselves into the future world that we are going to bequeath to the next generation. And when they inherit the earth that we give to them – that we pass on to them, depending on the circumstances in which they find themselves, they will ask one of two questions.
And if they find themselves in a world of steadily diminishing hope and increasing despair with political disruptions, and chaos and billions of climate refugees, threatening governance structures and social cohesion, diminished food supplies, and challenges to the availability of fresh water, deeper droughts, stronger storms, floods and mudslides, rising sea levels, tropical diseases and all of the other horrors that the scientists – who have been right in their predictions of decades ago and are now telling us we must act quickly to avoid much worse.
If they lived in a world that was careening through such catastrophes and destroying hope they would be well-justified looking back at us in this time, and in this place and asking – what were you thinking? How how did you fail to see and feel that we were at risk? How did you fail to do what was necessary, to protect God’s green earth and the conditions that could give us happiness and joy and the lives that you’d told us we deserved.
But there is another alternative if they live in a world with rising hopes with hundreds of millions of good new jobs and occupations held by men and women who are busily transforming our civilisation into a sustainable and prosperous and clean civilisation. If they see that we have turned the corner and even though they face challenges, they know that they are in the process of diminishing and that they can not only survive but continue the work that will go on to safeguard our planet. If they can look into the eyes of their own children and feel with confidence and in their hearts that those children will have better prospects still. I want them to look back through time again and ask a different question: How did you find the moral courage to stand up to change, to work, to join together and to build a future that allows humanity to achieve its destiny”?
Attempting to answer these questions lead to interesting discussions involving science, fake news, eco and social psychology, religion, domestic and foreign policy, centuries of socioeconomic inequalities around the world and a reminder from Thich Nhat Hanh, “…that only love can save us.” So what about future generations? It is not so accidental that I feel called to do whatever I can to make a difference in whatever little ways that I can. I really don’t want my kids or grand kids or yours asking me, “what were you thinking”? We have work to do!
(Al Gores closing comments from the Climate Reality Leadership Conference, Bellevue Washington June 29, 2017)
The Oxford Dictionary defines the word “edge” as a noun or a verb, and often described as the outside limit of an object, area or surface. It`s that place next to the steep drop; The point before something unpleasant or momentous occurs, as personal as an epiphany at the beginning or ending of a self-realized moment, it can be subtle and sweet, or as large as the economy, perhaps our world teetering on the edge of a recession or a country or civilization at the edge of collapse; An edge is also the sharpened side of the blade of a cutting implement or weapon; A thin linear thread or a thought that holds the edges of time between this and that, then and now; The line along which two surfaces, real or imagined, meet. The forest edge or the rocky shore are examples of ecological edges which are rich in diverse resources as are the edges in time, those magical moments between one period to another.
These edges are transitional or “liminal” spaces that exist in everything known. They occur every day and in every moment, and they have throughout time. They are often unannounced as they gently take shape around, as well as within us, often unconscious as we often don’t recognize them at first, sometimes decades. Others make a momentous entrance defining the beginning or end of something such as a birth or death, a change in a relationship, the end of war, hunger, poverty, or in this case, the edges between the ending of the old year and the beginning of a new one.
There have been centuries of discussions regarding humankind and the many wonders of our world. Every new decade, a spokesperson surfaces with a poignant opinion and is provided a place in history to proclaim their particular point of view regarding the many attributes and complexities of the world we live in. These queens and kings, philosophers, holy women and men, even politicians throughout time have witnessed us at our best and worst. Concurrently, with all of this wisdom and enlightenment, it would seem that populations have become less concerned with each other, animals and nature, as they have grown faster than our planet’s ability to sustain them as carbon fueled capitalism and consumption levels soar at unprecedented rates changing the face of our world, perhaps heading to the edge of something that only a few want to acknowledge.
With so many great thinkers throughout time pointing to the frailties of humanity, the ills of society and the way we treat humans, animals and nature, it’s hard to believe that we could be at the edges of the sixth extinction. This was 2016 for me as it began with a deep dive into Genesis, Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, and Seneca showing us how to live and die well. It ended (academically anyway) with Pope Francis, Rachael Carson and Frantz Fanon teaching us about the pitfalls of industrialization, racism and power and more questions than answers about our future.
I have been wrestling with how to make the transition from this apocalyptic scenario to a place of living in relationship with the rest of life and learning as much as I can from the Buddha within, you and many others at home, work, school and on the street. I like the way Rachel Carson frames this in Silent Spring: “We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost’s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smoother superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road – the one “less traveled by” – offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of our earth. The choice, after all, is ours to make.”
Carson’s reference in Silent Spring for a choice between two roads seems a metaphor for the edges between two points. A choice to continue doing things the way we always have, or a not so gentle tug to look at the world, each other and nature a little bit differently with hope that we might do better. There are daily reminders of our interconnectedness with our own spiritual and religious beliefs, on social media, domestic and foreign policy, and centuries of socioeconomic inequalities around the world whether it be in the Dakota Hills, Burnaby Mountain or Africa. Even Sally Armstrong’s words echo in my head as we approach the US Inauguration, “that there is no such thing as an innocent bystander” and a call for mindfulness as well as individual activism.
I found the edges distracting this year and I had to work my way back to the middle, finding those liminal moments for quiet refection and gratitude in each day. For all that I have learned from the Buddha within, friends and family, teachers and colleagues and many strangers around the world, I am ever grateful. Its easy to get lost in the past or future and miss those important moments like traveling down century old laneways that gave up stories of the people who lived in those old buildings that lined cobblestone lanes. And the many wonderful magical moments with friends and family in Vancouver, Kelowna, Venice and Cambridge watching my daughter (Paisley) get her Masters.
If loss and grief are gates to something better, perhaps we have seen enough to stop and hear the words of those poets that speak to each of us. They have left an indelible mark in history in front of us as we work our way from the shadows to save each other, animal, as well as our planet. Aeschylus with an all too familiar refrain seems a good message to take into our new year “Tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world”.
Thanks for pulling me back from the edge!
With gratitude and heartfelt thanks, Happy New Year!
I shortened it to Humans, Animals & Other with SFU Professor, Stephen Duguid.
What is Wilderness became a whisper shortly after our cohorts first discussion of Aldo Leopold’s, A Sand County Almanac. The diverse opinion’s and viewpoints regarding what wilderness is or isn’t, started a journey down a fascinating rabbit hole that has led to interesting existential, political and economic discussions involving eco and social psychology, religion, foreign policy and centuries of socioeconomic inequalities around the world.
Professor Duguid and my cohort warned me that this was a very diverse and dense subject and that I should try to narrow this theme. If anything, it just keeps getting bigger. What was originally a dozen pages is now a twenty-page essay and growing weekly. This is an edited version from a recent symposium. Still, in an effort to provide a secure and definitive home for what is wilderness, I opened the door to more uncertainty and more questions trying to define what wilderness is or isn’t, how it came about and what we can do with it or for it as current events will certainly influence this subject.
This journey began with a few basic questions:
When humans enter a space for the first time that has only been enjoyed by other than humans, does that mean that the wilderness is gone? Or, as humans are we part of the larger ecosystem who share all of the planet with all that inhabit it, very much at home in wilderness regardless of where it is or who got there first?
As cities spread out around the world, wilderness seems to be shrinking, and nature is unexpectedly asserting itself. Many animals are not just adapting to urban centres, but actually thriving and, biting back so to speak. Some urban trees grow faster than their counterparts outside of the city which seems to beg the question, is there an urban wilderness?
If you were homeless and sleeping on the street what would be the difference to sleeping under the stars in an untamed forest?
Finally, is wilderness a place or a state of mind that resides deep within each of us?
These themes circle around a definition of wilderness, what it has become, the impact of society, climate change and more…
There are a number of viewpoints and definitions regarding what wilderness might be. One of those is from Gary Snider who writes in The Wilderness Condition that wilderness is a place where the wild potential is fully expressed, a diversity of living and non-living beings flourishing according to their own sorts of order.
Wilderness is usually thought of as a natural place on Earth that has not been modified by humans. Even Wikipedia, Merriman-Webster and many other sources seem to agree that wilderness “is the most intact, undisturbed and wild natural areas that humans do not control and have not developed with roads, pipelines or other industrial infrastructure.”
Aldo Leopold is considered an important wildlife and conservation figure in the US and one of many naturalists concerned about the welfare of nature and our planet. Leopold was concerned for what he considered the misuse of our planets natural resources and he felt protective of America’s wilderness.
In Wilderness and The American Mind, Roderick Nash says, That for all of its benefits, designated wilderness areas might be regarded as a kind of “zoo” for land. Wilderness is exhibited in legislative cages, clearly mapped and neatly labelled. The unknown is known. Uncertainty decreases. So do risk and fear. Trails, shelters, ranger patrols, and search-and-rescue teams further compromise wilderness. Quotas, permits, lotteries, waiting lists, prescribed itineraries, and campsite assignments devastate the feeling of wilderness.
In The Encyclical of Climate Change and inequality, Pope Francis wrote: Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know, which our children will never see because they have been lost forever. The great majority become extinct for reasons related to human activity.
As cities grow, wilderness becomes smaller and more exploited. Some simply believe that wilderness is a construct and that it only exists in the minds of humans. This seems like a paradox because mostly we tend to think of wilderness as places where there is an absence of human influence. Ironically, it would seem to make sense that in order for there to be wilderness, there needs to be humans in non-wilderness places defining what is wilderness and what it isn’t.
One of people that first struck me outside of our required reading was Mary Catherine Bateson who wrote in Composing a Life, The self does not stop at the skin nor even with our circle of human relationships – but is interwoven with the lives of trees and animals and soil: that caring for the deepest needs of persons and caring for our threatened planet are not in conflict.
As this wilderness theme widens, many believe that there are too many signs all around us of a society and planet in decline. Others are in denial in their busy lives and distracted by the changes taking place. Still, some believe that the technological advances that got us here will ultimately save us. Pope Francis, Carl Jung, Kelly Oliver, Freud and many others have written volumes about this.
As species diminish and oxygen and natural resources including wilderness become scarce, it’s hard not to wonder how we have come to a place where we are destroying the very home that supports all of us, wondering if at this pace – we will ever recognize or care what wilderness is, or worse, what it once was. How do we make the transition from this apocalyptic scenario to a place of living in relationship with the rest of life?
Hopelessness would seem a natural instinct however when I was speaking to students from UBC and SFU on my daily radio program, they were full of optimism and had a refreshing passion committed to saving our planet as well as each other. Each have a vision of a brighter future filled with social innovation and change, measured consumption of our natural resources, a growing respect for nature and all things living, and each with their own interpretation of wilderness. Whether this youthful optimism is enough for younger generations to avoid becoming super consumers like their parents and grandparents remains to be determined.
Francis Fukuyama wrote The End of History in 1992. He believed that the worldwide spread of liberal democracies and free market capitalism could signal the end of humanity’s sociocultural evolution and become the final form of human government. He initially thought that the future would lack any exhilarating struggles believing that life would be “boring”. Meanwhile that same year, the United Nations hosted a “framework” convention on climate change where it acknowledged, “that changes to the Earth’s climate and its adverse effects are a common concern of humankind”. Aware of the role and importance in terrestrial and marine ecosystems the United Nations put the world on notice. It seems hard to believe that less than two decades later countries around the world would be uniting to save our home and protect our “wilderness”, or that a Pope would be leading the world for climate change.
Ecopsychologists study wilderness and the relationship between human beings and the natural world through ecological and psychological principles. As they bump into the harmful use of fossil fuels, displacement of humans and animals, expansion and consumption beyond sustainability and the growing possibility of extinction, this expanding group of professional’s, academics, romantics and friends of the earth seek to develop and understand ways of expanding the emotional connection between individuals, animals and the natural world, thereby assisting developing sustainable lifestyles and solving the alienation from nature.
Carl Jung puts this another way in The Earth has a Soul: Nowadays animals, dragons and other living creatures are readily replaced in dreams by railways, locomotives, motorcycles, aeroplanes, and suchlike artificial products… This express’s the remoteness of the modern mind from nature; animals have lost their numinosity; they have become apparently harmless; instead, we people the world with hooting, booming, clattering monsters’ that cause infinitely more damage to life and limb than bears and wolves ever did in the past. And where the natural dangers are lacking, man does not rest until he has immediately invented others for himself.
Consider that our rainforests once covered approximately fifteen percent of the earth’s land surface and this natural resource is shrinking every year. Nearly half of the world’s species of plants, animals and microorganisms will be destroyed or severely threatened over the next quarter century due to rainforest deforestation. According to the World Wildlife Federation (WWF), it is estimated that we are losing approximately one hundred plant, animal and insect species daily.
With wilderness shrinking around the planet, behavioral ecologist Bill Bateman in an interview with the Zoological Journal believes that the cities of the future may be where wild things are. As their natural homes disappear, many carnivores have rooted themselves in cities as a means of survival. Have our animals become the new cast in a “Hunger Games” type of setting as we observe them being captured, tagged, computerised and watched 24/7, and then managed for the rest of their lives regardless of where their wilderness happens to be? If we are the audience, what can we learn from them as they attempt to teach us to be human?
The National Film Board of Canada released a web documentary by Leanne Allison and Jeremy Mendes in 2012 about a grizzly bear in Banff National Park, who was collared at the age of three and watched her whole life from trail cameras in the park. “Bear 71,” explores the connections between the human and animal world and the far-ranging effects that human settlements, roads and railways have on wildlife.
According to a recent article in the Globe and Mail Newspaper, conservation officers are reporting a dramatic increase in what they term “human-wildlife conflicts” in the lower mainland. There were over 1,800 human-wildlife complaints in September 2015. Bill Batemen stated that “the red fox, coyote, racoon, badger and other medium-sized carnivores not only survive in cities but have managed to prosper, living off garbage, fruit, rodents, birds, pets, livestock, roadkill and food that people intentionally leave out for them.”
As cites expand into what was once considered wilderness, city trees grow eight times faster than their counterparts in rural areas. The speed of which current climate change is unfolding is making it increasingly difficult for humans and our natural world to adapt. As pointed out by Pope Francis and others, some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable are already the most affected by global warming. Rising sea levels, droughts, floods, storms, heat waves and other catastrophic events are expected to disrupt food production and threaten wildlife and their habitat.
The World Wildlife Federation states that Canada is poised to feel the impact of climate change first. By the end of this century, the Arctic will be a very different place. Temperatures here are warming faster than anywhere else on the planet. Even a slight shift in temperature could potentially result in an ice-free Arctic in this century. As the Arctic warms, it has less ability to cool the planet, posing a threat to the entire globe.
Sigmund Freud in Civilization and Its Discontents believed that the sum of our achievements and the regulations which distinguish our lives from those of our animal ancestors serve two purposes – namely to protect men against nature and to adjust their mutual relations. Freud suggests that the primal needs of community and civilization are largely responsible for society’s misery and, “that human predisposition to aggression is a consequence of this primarily natural hostility of human beings and as such, civilized society is perpetually threatened with disintegration”. Freud goes on to say that “As men have gained control over the forces of nature to such an extent that with little help they would have no difficulty in exterminating one another to the last man”.
Assuming Freud was over zealous with his comments and that humankind chooses another path, then, what is wilderness really? Is it in our mind or all around us? Are we better off in urban clusters with confronting signs of a society in decline or is there a call for something different, a call for change. As more animals become displaced, homelessness and placelessness has become epidemic in large urban centres for animals and humans alike. While animals search for abandoned buildings and cars as well as parks and alleys for safety and rest, where do our homeless go when shelters are full or are unavailable. Both human and animal interventions are on the rise as police and conservation authorities respond to more calls from displaced humans and animals every year. Our newly urban and unwanted wild, animals and human, seem to have a kinship as they are both victims of a social, economic system that marginalises and controls.
The field of ecopsychology extends beyond the conventional purview of psychology, which had traditionally considered the psyche to be a matter of relevance to humans alone. Ecopsychology examines why people continue environmentally damaging behaviour, and to develop methods of positive motivation for adopting sustainable practices. Evidence suggests that many environmentally damaging behaviours are addictive at some level. Considering Freud for a moment, if civilisation and the loss of wilderness or our own wilding imposes such great sacrifice on humankind and our “aggressivity,” how can we ever be truly joyful if we have just traded our happiness for urban security.
While discussions of denial and hopelessness prevail, at the 9th World Wilderness Congress in Mérida, Mexico, “WILD” in collaboration with other international organizations, governments and individuals, officially debuted Nature Needs Half, a social movement to protect and connect at least half of all nature on Earth, land and water, in order to support the existence of nature and the services it provides. To offer more hope, many Canadian provinces are exceeding WILD’s goals and Norway recently banned deforestation.
Kay Milton shines a light in Loving Nature, towards an Ecology of Emotion: If human beings are truly a threat to life on earth, we shall have a better chance of reducing that threat if we understand as fully as possible the kinds of beings we are.
As we come out of this rabbit hole, climate change, ecological and economic crisis, as well as social unrest, are all signs that our wilderness and our planet is in great distress. There is no shortage of material or opinions regarding wilderness, the many things that it can be, or its interconnectedness with our own spiritual and religious beliefs, domestic and foreign policy, or centuries of socioeconomic inequalities around the world.
If it is nature and our personal definition of wilderness that allows us to realise that we are not the centre of the universe and that it helps us reconnect with the voices of our ancestors, can we get free from this trap of a modern world that is reliant on more technology to solve our problems? Is Freud right that it’s our loss of connection with the past and ourselves which has given rise to the “discontents” of civilisation? Can we learn to travel in this world and give equal consideration to human, animal and other – before more species slide into extinction, more forests and wetlands are obliterated, and more lives are destroyed from hunger, war and isolation.
It would seem that consumption aspirations are going to have to change with a radical commitment to equality. As Pope Francis suggests, this will have to be a global initiative, which means the more highly developed countries will suffer the most in order for us to reach any kind of global equality. It saddens me when I see Great Britan and other countries building stronger borders to keep the world out.
Finally, If loss and grief are gates to something better, perhaps we have seen enough – to stop and find the wildness and soulfulness in ourselves as we work our way from the abyss to save each other, animal and human, as well as our planet.
Italy in the Ancient and Modern Imagination
When invited to join the Liberal Studies Program at Simon Fraser University, I was deeply moved knowing that I would be learning about the ideas and beliefs that have guided human beings and shaped civilizations for thousands of years. This journey through the ages has provided an introduction to an amazing roster of authors. During this excursion into time, I was drawn to Hilda Doolittle and her Selected Poems. Often referred to as H.D., her work seemed strangely familiar, perhaps even – Sappho like, a centuries old text.
Struggling to understand her life as well as her work more thoroughly, my search for context led me down familiar paths of other passionately and equally creative women that I have been introduced to over the years. Each woman was fiercely talented, expressive and in search of her individual freedom.
These included Georgia O’Keeffe and Simone de Beauvoir in particular who appear to share similar lives and views. Gifted and involved in complicated, if not often conflicted relationships similar of H.D.’s, these relationships appear to interfere and restrict their freedom and creative expression as well as allow for the nurturing of a new creative spirit and soulfulness in their work.
In the following pages I hope to explore some of the themes that these amazing women share in common, get to know them a little better through their work and, perhaps, begin to discover a deeper appreciation of my role and understanding about my own significant relationships.
My sister and I were raised by our grandmothers. I believe that experience allowed me to grow up differently from many men. While only skimming the surface of the past one hundred years or so, thanks to the many women in my life I believe that I have a better appreciation of the struggles in the fight for equality and women’s rights, healthy loving relationships, and a deeper understanding of the complexity of relationships and how they impact our creativity. Each has taught me something new about myself, about love, speaking my truth, staying inspired, not judging, and being truly present, moment by moment.
The end of the nineteenth century saw tremendous growth in the suffrage movement that helped open doors to women into the next century. For decades, women became incredibly active and influential as writers, artists, photographers, business leaders and activists as they began to occupy more positions once dominated by men. By the middle of the twentieth century, women in the Western world had redefined their roles in almost every social, political and cultural arena. Hilda Doolittle, Georgia O’Keeffe and Simone de Beauvoir were just three of these women who caught my attention.
Hilda Doolittle was born in 1886 and the oldest of the three women; one year older than Georgia O’Keeffe and twenty-two years older than Simone de Beauvoir, who was born in 1908.
H.D.is primarily known as an imagist poet; however, she also wrote novels, memoirs and essays. Her work is considered innovative and experimental, both reflecting and contributing to the avant-garde climate that dominated the arts in London and Paris until the end of World War II. Immersed for decades in the crosscurrents of modernism, psychoanalysis with Sigmund Freud, mythologies and feminism, H.D. brought a unique voice and vision to her writing. The similarity and delicate writing in some of H.D.’s work is likely attributed to her fascination and love of Sappho. As well, the sensuality of Hilda’s work was often likened to the intense eroticism of Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings.
Hilda had a difficult and challenging relationship with once fiancée and lifetime friend, Ezra Pound. “In-the End To Torment, ” H.D. wrote that “Ezra would have destroyed me and the center they call Air and Crystal of my poetry” (55). H.D. said that she felt “smothered and smudged out” by Pound (55). While Ezra Pound remained a close friend all of her life and was even present at her marriage to Richard Aldington, H.D. lived a life in open relationships that remained a central pattern that she discussed with Freud. It is reported to have been encoded in much of her writing
In her poem “Eurydice,” from the archives of the Poetry Foundation, H.D. writes:
At least I have the flowers of myself, and my thoughts, no god can take that; I have the fervour of myself for a presence and my own spirit for light; and my spirit with its loss knows this; though small against the black, small against the formless rocks, hell must break before I am lost; before I am lost, hell must open like a red rose for the dead to pass.
A heartfelt embrace in her aloness as H.D. takes in all that life has to offer.
Georgia O’Keeffe was considered an early modernist in the 1920’s. She was the first female painter to join her male contemporaries. Her exquisite flower paintings were sensual, as were her sculptures and collections, and gained her a reputation of rendering nature in shapes and forms that made them seem familiar and, at the same time, new and different. Georgia had a lifelong relationship and marriage with Alfred Stieglitz. His penchant for younger women, however, turned this into more of a business relationship, allowing, perhaps forcing, each to spend time apart with their lovers for the remainder of their distant marriage and friendship.
Of their relatively open marriage, O’Keeffe wrote to Stieglitz in 1934, “The difference in us is that when I felt myself attracted to someone else I realized I must make a choice—and I made it in your favour. . . . You seemed to feel there was no need to make a choice” (Collection of O’Keeffe Museum Research). While Stieglitz remained in New York until he died, Georgia found her most creative moments in an old pickup truck outside of her new home near Santa Fe in picturesque New Mexico.
In the collections carefully stored in the O’Keeffe Museum Research Center, Georgia O’Keeffe once said of her encounter with a hummingbird:
One day a hummingbird flew in. When I had it in my hand it was so small I couldn’t believe I had it- but I could feel the intense life- so intense and so tiny. And I am, at this moment, willing to let you be what you are to me- beautiful, and pure, and very intensely alive.
Simone de Beauvoir is considered a post-modernist and the mother of the second wave of feminism. A French existentialist philosopher and writer, she played and worked alongside the likes of Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Maurice Merleau Pone and many others. She was prolific and wrote about ethics, feminism, fiction and politics. One of her best known works is The Second Sex that remains an important text in the investigation of women’s studies. Simone shared a loving yet seemingly tormented relationship with Jean-Paul Sartre, who wanted an open relationship. While she appears to have reluctantly agreed to this, Simone was prone to depression and jealousy, walking the streets of Paris in search of him and his lovers.
In The Second Sex, Simone writes
When not encountering love, she may encounter poetry. Because she does not act, she observes, she feels, she records; a color, a smile awakens profound echoes within her; her destiny is outside her, scattered in cities already built, on the faces of men already marked by’ life, she makes contact, she relishes with passion and yet in a manner more detached, more free, than that of a young man. Being poorly integrated in the universe of humanity and hardly able to adapt herself therein, she, like the child. is able to see it objectively; instead of being interested solely in her grasp on things, she looks for their significance; she catches their special outlines, their unexpected metamorphoses. She rarely feels a bold creativeness, and usually she lacks the technique of self-expression; but in her conversation, her letters, her literary essays, her sketches. she manifests an original sensitivity. The young girl throws herself into things with ardor, because she is not yet deprived of her transcendence; and the fact that she accomplishes nothing, that she is nothing, will make her impulses only the more passionate. Empty and unlimited, she seeks from within her nothingness to attain all (374).
Hilda Doolittle, Georgia O’Keeffe and Simone du Beauvoir share a spirit and passion complicated by a world of human relationships, emotion, love and control. Clarissa Pinkola Estes perhaps best describes this in Women Who Run with the Wolves, “The psyches and souls of women also have their own cycles and season of doing and solitude, running and staying, being involved and being removed, questioning and resting, creating and incubating, being of the world and returning to the soul place” (276).
Misogyny functions as an ideology or belief system that has accompanied patriarchal, or male dominated societies for thousands of years and to this day, continues to play women in subordinate positions with limited access to power and decision making. While important figures in these women’s lives, Pound, Stieglitz and Sartre may have brought a shadow or corrupted old world belief system into their relationships where love and control could not co-exist, thus impeding and suffocating the creative spirit of all three women. In spite of this, each woman transitioned through the difficulties of complicated relationships and the cavities of depression to find herself and her creative freedom.
These women were all very distinguished and creatively passionate artists. The men who were instrumental to them remained close throughout their lives. but each woman sought the freedom to create the space to be in their truth, to be all that they could be, and, in the process, they had to allow and accept their significant loves to be all that they could be as well. Perhaps caught between their desire to live out a female destiny and to function independently both at work and in their personal life, they found their own unique freedom in this polarized world.
I find it interesting to be invited to explore these three incredibly gifted and talented women at a time when I am exploring my own feminine and masculine aspects and how they impede or restrict as well as compliment everything, including the relationships in my life. What do I and other men have in common with Pound, Stieglitz’s and Sartre that we have the capacity to change in order to bring about deeper, more loving, free and creative relationships? Forced to relinquish their focus from their lovers and traditional relationships, these women appear to fall back in themselves to discover an inner love, a different terrain from which to experience themselves and their creative worlds. A self-love to be all that they can be!
Families around the world used to gather and listen to what Orson Wells referred to as the “magic inside that little box”. Those gas filled tubes glowed brightly with the news of the day, live music, special events, theater and voices large and small that brought our world a little bit closer. The format was as varied as the talent and we called it “full service” radio. Most days there seems little magic left on the radio with more sensationalism, shrinking playlists, less creativity, less choice and very few stories worth sharing.
I believe the internet saved radio, or at the very least, leveled the playing field so that almost anyone with something interesting to share could reach people with similar interests. With the exception of some very small town radio stations who remain hyper “local”, most commercial radio stations haven’t caught on to what’s happening at CBC, NPR, BBC, campus or community radio stations or hundreds of online storytelling sites that can be really interesting to listen to.
Just over a year ago our small company which is made up of four families from British Columbia and a staff of about 30 was awarded a license to build a new radio station in Vancouver by the CRTC. After what seemed like years of dreaming, endless hours of brainstorming, research, planning and finally writing a heartfelt application for a commercial radio station with a community focus that we call Roundhouse Radio, we set out to build it.
As our small team celebrates our accomplishments of getting this far in a new digital age – its a great time to reflect on the past year and what lies ahead in the new one. There was finding a building from 42 others, building permits, designs and construction. The painting, staining, furnishing and Yvonne guiding our hiring, look & feel.
Tracey, Monique and Barb in temporary offices at Red Robinson’s planning our web and and social media strategies and hours with Tracey and I meeting at Nelson the Seagull looking for potential team mates one at a time from over 300 resumes. Six applications to the City of Vancouver to find a better transmitter site and a nine month delay, hundreds of community meetings and weeks of rehearsals, 100’s of little things and then finally signing on the air October 13th 2015 with Sarah McLachlan. What a year! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g5v2xuFGUGA
Our owners group and advisory boards have been amazing through this crazy “startup process” and a real source of support and inspiration. In my 52 years in this crazy business, I have never seen anything like what is happening at our roundhouse. It’s magic on air, online and on the street, with a stellar lineup of heartfelt and talented hosts and support staff, a steady stream of guests focused on social change and regular people who simply want to make Vancouver a better place to live. It’s a joy to be a small part of such a unique project that is truly making a difference. That’s real magic!
The pace has been quick and I almost became a casualty to our momentum in a car accident driving to Kelowna this December. As my Jeep lost control on the black ice and tumbled into oncoming traffic the first four cars had a nurse and helpful partners who likely saved my life. What’s the chance?
Anne Newlands suggests that there are no accidents in life so…This could be an existential crisis, or more likely, one of those wake up calls that gave the holidays a very special meaning as everything changed for me in a heartbeat.
Every moment has become more precious as it clearly wasn’t my time. I am revaluing everything in life and what I am doing with it, understanding and feeling our impermanence and finding more meaning in every moment. https://www.kelownanow.com/watercooler/news/news/Kelowna/15/12/17/Social_Media_Brings_Okanagan_Crash_Survivor_and_Good_Samaritans_Together/
It seems like a good time to wake the Buddha within!
To suggest this has been a bench mark year for me is an understatement as I could write volumes. It’s been as big a a year for my family and friends – old as well as new, at Roundhouse and with a great cohort at SFU. We all became a little bit closer. I am full of gratitude for everyone’s love and support and that I am able to write this and dream about how to make tomorrow even better! It seems somehow ironic in all of this that I will be leading the discussion next semester on Genesis?
I hope you have an opportunity to reflect on the wonderful things you accomplished this past year and consider the new one with optimism, wonder and joy.
While awkward and humbling, I am naturally full of gratitude for all who made this possible. I did my best to thank everyone that took the time to help me along the way in a few interviews and at CMW this past week.
Acknowledgments (from my CMW Speech)
I am honored to be this year’s recipient of the Allan Waters Lifetime Achievement Award. Allan was a great broadcaster and humanitarian and I am grateful to the CHUM organization, the Waters family and everyone at Canadian Music Week to allow me to share this stage with so many good friends, mentors and colleagues.
With me today are my wife and partner Yvonne Evans, my daughter Paisley & her husband James, my son Evan – my son Heath with his son Oliver – my daughter Ally – my sister Khris and Tracey Friesen who is our Director of Programming at Roundhouse Radio. Unfortunately my daughter Shalon and my step daughter Monique, were unable to attend today along with my daughter in law Sarah, granddaughter Esther and my nephew Ben and his family.
I’d like to think Shalon is here in spirit.
Having just celebrated 50 years in broadcasting I am indebted to a handful of owners & managers who had the faith and vision to turn their radio & television stations over to me. I am as grateful for the talented teams I was allowed to work with and for their patience and understanding as I learned my craft.
There are many people to thank as it’s been many years since listening to the magic of that little box late at night growing up in Pittsburgh. I mentioned some by name in a recent FYI interview but there just isn’t time to thank everyone in every chair at every station, all the passionate music people, promoters, artists, advertisers and good friends that I have met across the country.
There were some lost years learning more about my craft and myself. Leaving the states and traveling across Canada has taken it toll and I will forever be humbled by the love, understanding and most importantly – forgiveness of my family and close friends for those darker times.
I would be remiss not to acknowledge those who have seen me through some of those darker times; Yvonne, Gary Slaight, Bill Varecha, Nancy Brown-Dacko, Rob Parkin, Eric Rothschild, David Marsden, Jim McLaughlin, Nancy Brown Dacko, Gail & Cliff Goldman, Neil Dixon, John Parikhal, Shelley Zavitz, Frank Gigliotti,John Honderich, Roy Hennessey, Ray Daniels, Sam Feldman, Bruce Allen, Red Robinson, Terry David Mulligan, Jim Waters, Rick Pushor and my coach Dr. Anne Newlands.
Heartfelt thanks to my family, each of you, a great independent ownership group and the CRTC. I have never been more excited to be building a new radio station with a new team that are inspired to make a difference in Vancouver.
In closing I would like to leave you with a few thoughts.
Sally Armstrong says that there is no such thing as an innocent bystander. You can be part of the problem or a part of solution!
Taking my own advice, I hope that CMW will consider having more women on their panels next year!
Also, I’ve become a big fan of David Whyte. He is an Irish poet that lives on a little island in the Pacific Northwest
In his poem “Sweet Darkness” he writes,
When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.
When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.
Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.
There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.
The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.
You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
That anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.
I have had the privilege of working at a time when there were no rules, formats were in their infancy and creativity was encouraged by some of the most amazing owners and teams – that were never too small for me, and with very few exceptions – they all brought me alive.
I have always loved radio and I remain passionate about what it can do. Gifted story tellers, artists and creative people from all disciplines will always find a way to be heard. As will driven journalist who are committed to witnessing the world we live in.
Radio can do much good work in local communities and I believe that the companies that encourage innovation and allow creative teams to do what they do best will be the most successful on air, online and on the street!
So please remember
anything or anyone (any person or any company)
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.
Thank you very much