Wednesday, February 21, 2007

These poems...

These poems, these poems,
these poems, she said, are poems
with no love in them. These are the poems of a man
who would leave his wife and child because
they made noise in his study. These are the poems
of a man who would murder his mother to claim
the inheritance. These are the poems of a man
like Plato, she said, meaning something I did not
comprehend but which nevertheless
offended me. These are the poems of a man
who would rather sleep with himself than with women,
she said. These are the poems of a man
with eyes like a drawknife, with hands like a pickpocket's
hands, woven of water and logic
and hunger, with no strand of love in them. These
poems are as heartless as birdsong, as unmeant
as elm leaves, which if they love love only
the wide blue sky and the air and the idea
of elm leaves. Self-love is an ending, she said,
and not a beginning. Love means love
of the thing sung, not of the song or the singing.
These poems, she said. . . .
You are, he said,
That is not love, she said rightly.

Robert Bringhurst

Monday, February 19, 2007

Freedom Songs

I've been working on a collection of 'freedom songs' for the past while. Eventually I'm going to make a mix-tape (well, mix-CD) out of them. Except lately I've been finding so many that I might have to make a 2 part album... Disc one would probably have pre-1980s songs (of which there is an abundancy of good stuff); side B would have post-1980's music (of which there is a limited amount of goodness) - e.g. Common's new single 'I Have A Dream'* or Wyclef Jean's 'Million Voices' or U2's 'Sunday Bloody Sunday' (its about the Troubles in Northern Ireland didn'tyaknow!).

Almost all of the pre-1980s songs have to do with civil rights and racial equality, whereas the post-80s songs are more protest/anti-war/world-issues songs. (For example, Million Voices - from the movie Hotel Rwanda - is a lament over the Rwandan genocide. )

What I'm noticing the most about the pre-80's freedom songs is that they're incredibly powerful sounding! Listening to them either puts tears in my eyes or makes me feel like grabbing a piece of cardboard and spray painting it black (no Rolling Stones pun intended there, I swear). Most of them were either either written at the height of the civil rights era or were old slave or gospel songs 'reinvented' for the cause (click the link to hear some samples). The feeling at the time must have been amazing! Music that could stir and uplift and inspire people to action played such a huge part in the success of the movement!*

There's this one Martin Luther King, Jr. speech which he brilliantly intersperses with quotes from 'We Shall Overcome.' Listening to it gives me 'a delicious thrill' (as Anne Shirley would say). I've got a sound clip of the part I'm about to quote and it'll definitely be going onto the Freedom Songs CD:

I know that there are still some difficult days ahead, there is still much work to be done, and I know that some of us so often have to stand amid the surging movement of life's restless sea, constantly face chilly winds of adversity, but in spite of this I still believe that we will solve this problem. Oh, every now and then it becomes difficult to believe it, but I will never lose that faith. Living every day amid the threat of death, living amid the agony and the tensions that inevitably come as a result of being on the front lines of the struggle, one is tempted to despair at moments, but we have a theme song in our movement, and I will continue to sing it because I believe it: "We shall overcome, we shall overcome, deep in my heart I do believe we shall overcome.”

Now, before the victory's won, some of us will have to get scarred up a bit, but we shall overcome. Before the victory is won, some more will be thrown into crowded and frustrating jail cells, but we shall overcome. Before the victory is won, some will be called bad names, some will be called Reds and Communists simply because they believe in the brotherhood of man, but we shall overcome. Before the victory is won, some more may have to face physical death, but if physical death is the price that some must pay to free their children and their white brothers from an eternal psychological death and eternal death of the spirit, then nothing can be more redemptive. Yes, we shall overcome, because the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.

We shall overcome because Carlyle is right, no lie can live forever. We shall overcome because William Cullen Bryant is right, truth crushed to earth will rise again. We shall overcome because there is something in the very structure of the cosmos which justifies James Russell Lowell in saying, "Truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne, yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own." With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope; with this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to speed up the day when all of God's children all over this nation, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, we are free at last."


But you've really got to hear him say the words to understand just how awesome it is. Man, did he have an amazing voice.

Anyway, the version of 'We Shall Overcome' - arguably the greatest anthem of the movement - that is most famous is the one done by Pete Segeer (and there's a great write-up about it here and another one about the history of music of the civil rights movement here). I've listened to 4 or 5 renditions and Pete's is my favorite. My second favorite is the one sung by Joan Baez. They're both going on my CD.

If anyone wants a copy, let me know.

* Although, that one's still up for debate. Its catchy but I'm getting kind of annoyed with the repeating MLK sample.
* See, good music = success! Just look at the Nazis! Oh, wait...
Fun and Games With Books

Via the Claw

Instructions for the "Book Meme List... Thing" which is circling the Blogging World this week: Look at the list of books below. Bold the ones you’ve read, italicize the ones you want to read, cross out the ones you won’t touch with a 10 foot pole (I've highlighted these in
RED instead), put a cross in front of the ones on your book shelf, and asterisk* the ones you’ve never heard of.

(For the record, I've read 50 of the 100 books on the list.)

1. +
The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown) [A friend gave me an illustrated copy so I decided to see what all the fuss was about.]
+ Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
+ To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)
+ Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
+ Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)*
+ Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)
Angels and Demons (Dan Brown) [I dropped it after the first chapter; it was much worse then TDC]
+ Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
+ Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
+ Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling)
17. Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)*
18. The Stand (Stephen King)
+ Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban(Rowling)
+ Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
+ The Hobbit (Tolkien)
The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
+ Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
+ Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
+ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
+ Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
+ The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)*
+ Dune (Frank Herbert)
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
+ 1984 (Orwell)
The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
36. The Pillars of the Earth* (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One* (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40. The Alchemist* (Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear* (Jean M. Auel)
42. The Kite Runner* (Khaled Hosseini)
Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven* (Mitch Albom)
+ Bible
Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
+ Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
Great Expectations (Dickens)
The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
+ Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
58. The Thorn Birds* (Colleen McCullough)
+ The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrew Niffenegger)
Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
63. War and Peace (Tolstoy)
Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
65. Fifth Business* (Robertson Davis)
One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants* (Ann Brashares)
68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)*
69. Les Miserables (Hugo)
+ The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
+ Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell)
+ The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
+ The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
+ The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
+ A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
+ The World According To Garp (John Irving)
79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
+ Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)
81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)
+ Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
84. Wizard’s First Rule* (Terry Goodkind)
+ Emma (Jane Austen)
+ Watership Down (Richard Adams)
+ Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
+ The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. Blindness* (Jose Saramago)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
+ Lord of the Flies (Golding)
+ The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
+ The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)*
The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100. Ulysses (James Joyce)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

But I have a belief of my own...

"...But I have a belief of my own, and it comforts me."

"What is that?" said Will, rather jealous of the belief.

"That by desiring what is perfectly good, even when we don't quite know what it is and cannot do what we would, we are part of the divine struggle against evil - widening the skirts of light and making the struggle with darkness narrower."

"That is a beautiful mysticism - it is a - "

"Please not to call it by any name," said Dorothea, putting out her hands entreatingly. "You will say it is Persian, or something else geographical. It is my life. I have found it out, and cannot part with it. I have always been finding out my religion since I was a little girl. I used to pray so much - now I hardly ever pray. I try not to have desires merely for myself, because they may not be good for others, and I have too much already. I only told you, that you might know quite well how my days go at Lowick."

"God bless you for telling me!" said Will, ardently, and rather wondering at himself. They were looking at each other like two fond children who were talking confidentially of birds.

from MIDDLEMARCH by George Eliot
(pg. 392)

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

"Let no one be discouraged by the belief there is nothing one person can do against the enormous array of the world's ills, misery, ignorance, and violence. Few will have the greatness to bend history, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events. And in the total of all those acts will be written the history of a generation."

Robert Francis Kennedy, 1925-1968

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Continuing lessons from children...

Try attempting to describe abortion to a nine-year -old without making it sound like it involves killing a baby.

Go ahead. Go on. Try it.

P.S. Check out the Claw's related post.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Against my better judgement...

I'm going to post about a subject I find extremely upsetting: blood transfusions and Jehovah's Witnesses.*

I'd like to draw your attention to some recent happenings in Vancouver, British Columbia which revolve around sextuplets born to parents who are Jehovah's Witnesses. Two of the babies died soon after birth. Three of the four remaining babies were subsequently seized by the BC child welfare director so that they could be given blood transfusions against their parents wishes. The parents are now taking the province to court saying that their religious rights have been violated.

You see, JWs believe the Bible is the infallible word of God and they consider the taking of blood into one's body to be a violation of Acts 15: 19, 20 and Leviticus 17: 10-14. Acceptance of a blood transfusion is one of the most serious breaches of God's law-according-to-the-JWs that a JW could ever commit.*

Oh, but they're okay with accepting organ transplants, blood products, and blood components - like albumen and hemoglobin. They can basically accept any part of the blood - just not whole blood in the form of a transfusion (or any whole blood product used in food).

I know. That really doesn't make sense to me either.

There was a case similar to this a few years ago that became a real tragedy. Only it involved a fifteen year old girl named Bethany. She refused to accept blood (although eventually it was forced upon her) and fought for the right to be considered a mature minor by the Canada court system. In the process her family was torn apart as her father - completely grief-stricken at the thought of losing his daughter - reevaluated his belief system, came to the conclusion that the JWs did not have "The Truth" after all, and that this particular religious belief was definitely not worth losing his daughter over. He began to insist that Bethany be given blood, going against the rest of the family, and in the process he was disfellowshipped and shunned by his wife and daughters - including Bethany.

The ending?

"Bethany eventually received 38 transfusions, but by the time they were administered, it was too late. She died in 2002... She was only 17-years-old."

Here's my opinion on the current BC situation, very briefly: The babies should be given blood transfusions against the parents wishes for as long as need be because they are too young to communicate their own will. Their lives should be preserved until such time that they come of legal age and are able to decide upon the matter for themselves.

P.S. Here's a fantastic article - pretty well done for a news story but not exactly unbiased imo - in which one medical ethicist says that the BC court may in fact have saved the JW parents from an agonizing, "impossible social situation."

* I may be 'picking on' them a lot over the course of this blog; I used to be one and have a lot to say as a result.
* Elliot the Claw has recently written an excellent post about the JW's very unusual interpretation of the scriptures which they claim support their anti-transfusion stance.