It was a great relief when they let the house lights up for the Q&A. #latergram
This is neat: Andrew Yan, a senior researcher and urban planner with Vancouver’s Bing Thom Architects, mapped Vancouver’s independent tea and coffee shops using business license data from the City of Vancouver’s Open Data Catalogue, discovering that “the third place” is a crucial connection point for building community.
… it’s no coincidence that high incidences of coffee shop clustering are, as Yan says, “often located in neighbourhoods with some of the strongest urban identities in the city.”
The mapping project paves the way for an interesting urban planning experiment that could involve allowing independent neighbourhood cafés to operate in residential neighbourhoods rather than on major transport corridors.
I realized recently that I’ve been altogether too serious since committing my life to serving God two years ago.
The thought came after hearing that my favourite television show is returning after years on hiatus.
The news thrilled me. Sent me immediately searching for the old familiar, many-times watched episodes I’d loved, each cherished line sending me into hysterics. It felt fantastic. Like coming home. I hadn’t belly laughed like that in ages, lost as I’ve been in my holy ruminations.
As it goes with all things, the love I feel for Arrested Development wants to be shared. And so in the afterglow of my giggling euphoria - Oh, Tobias, you ol’ blow hard… - I’m likely to gush. To anyone around. When I meet fellow fans, it’s like discovering a brother or another member of a secret society. Nevernudes! It used to be a surprise to discover those people who’d either never seen the show or who simply didn’t care for it. Are you kidding me? Come on! Gob’s Segway? Or Lucille’s drunken wink? Hot Cops?! Mother Boy?! Les Cousins Dangereux?! Now I know better than to witness to these folks, but only after experiencing many times over the losing battle to explain the show’s transporting magic.
Trying to describe humour is about as futile as describing the Divine. The ecstatic experience of either as incorporeal as your grandma’s perfume; yet unmistakably, a single waft enough to etch itself indelibly into the written history of your psyche.
I offer this anecdote as preamble, as I’ve been invited to participate in a panel discussion on the topic “Does Faith Have a Role in Social Movements?” (tonight, May 23, 2013, at SFU Woodwards) - and I’d been feeling unsteadied by my ego’s doubts as to whether I can translate my experience of the transcendent and its relationship to movement building to an audience of agnostics.
I know why I was asked to join at least. As a lifelong Quaker, environmentalist and social activist of sorts, I have pedigree. As a non-academic, a Burner, a digital loud mouth and a quiet woman of faith, I’m not the sort often appearing on the inter-faith dialogue circuit (yes, apparently there’s a circuit). It was for these reasons that the event’s conveners, Chris Boyle and Am Johal, approached me, they said.
In the lead up to the discussion, Chris and Am extended an invite for a chips-n-salsa chat at La Casita in Gastown several weeks prior. There, my fellow panelists Meharoona Ghani, Kai Nagata and I (in the absence of Shadae Johnson and Deborah Littman) were introduced to Chris and Am’s vision for the event, framed around several key questions:
Have faith-based movements adequately acknowledged their role in the colonization of Canada? What role do new immigrant communities, much more comfortable in the world of faith-based movements, have to offer to the discussion of the development of social movements in Canada? Can we put aside disagreement on some topics, in order to work together on issues of common concern?
Is there the basis for dialogue which speaks to people’s longing for meaning and purpose, while addressing the critical social and environmental challenges of our time?
It wasn’t until that last one that I could find my toehold in the conversation.
For me, the question is imperative to human survival, and I’ve dedicated my career to becoming skillful in pursuit of its answer. But, in pondering its meaning, I realized the extent to which my spirituality has in fact become me. For I believe it is not for us to address such challenges but rather to live the solutions.
How can I empower myself and others to make positive choices for ourselves, our communities and the planet? This for me is the real question underlying Chris and Am’s. And in the stillness of contemplative worship, I’ve discovered that in even asking it, my Faith is revealed.
But Faith was not always the wind filling my sails, nor was it so steady as it is now (the proof revealed to me daily through the details of such things as words I now capitalize that - despite a knee-jerk cringing - I am unable to lowercase, in deference to the holy spirit that moves me).
Before Burning Man delivered me back to my mother’s religion, my agnosticism shifted back and forth - left foot, right foot - between futility and awe, the explainable and the unfathomable, pure science and exquisite creation. I understood there was something greater than myself at work in the universe, but whether it had agency or a purpose or governed goodness, I wasn’t prepared to say. Nor did I care to. It was enough to believe in the laws of the universe, as I understood them, to which could be added a dose of that magic fairy dust called “meant to be” or “timing” or, later, “synchronicity.” Quantum mechanics felt like a suitable compromise to quell the incongruity between my left and right brain; pure potentiality a type of religion I could sink into, especially if allowed to bend the rules on how “energy” could be defined.
But then something happened. As my then-partner, an engineer-turned-lawyer, poo-poo’d my growing interest in applying quantum theory to the unscientific, I allowed the phenomenon of life to become increasingly mystical. I began practicing a new form of yoga, focused on the subtle body, and came into the path of new and unlikely teachers who talked to me about Buddhism, neo-shamanism and Gnosticism. I read Daniel Pinchbeck and Reality Sandwich, learned about something called the Mayan calendar, and began a practice of meditation, the purpose of which was to discover the pockets of silence that exist in every moment, waiting in patience, having only to be sought to be discovered. Intentionality formed my worship, energy my religion.
Throughout all of this, my scepticism for New Age theories and my hesitance to acknowledge the existence of the Divine remained. But I couldn’t deny the fact that each of these perspectives on the nature of reality bore upon me flashes of resonance, if however fleeting. I at once believed there was something greater than myself at work in my life and felt unhinged by the idea that the unexplainable could be explained by anything like a Creator. The universe seemed too insignificant to be the brainchild of a master architect. A speck of dust floating aimlessly from the old tattered bookshelves of another dimension my brain hadn’t yet evolved the ability to comprehend.
It was around this time that I became troubled by the Big Bang. Time and space were beginning to play funny tricks on me; my awareness of their abstract and subjective nature heightened as I observed their incongruities. I decided that all time was simultaneous, and the Big Bang was both still in progress and also complete. My metaphor for all of existence became that of the strike of a match: a flame reaching its zenith as its consumption of matchstick wood and oxygen approach maximum, a moment also marking its decline; the eons surrounding that flare the most vital, yet their experience the most compressed.
Then I went to Burning Man, a quantum experience if there ever was one. A Las Vegas for artists, where from the nothingness of the Nevada desert moonscape a city is born - a brimming spectacle! - and burns within the period of a week. There, fire and light and darkness and destruction are as sacred as the love and equanimity that flow through the veins of the masses who call it home. It is harsh and extreme - truly survival camping - and it is also overflowing with joy, a lightness of being not likely experienced anywhere else. For one week every year, there is a place where you can be anything, anyone and indeed anywhere you need to. We need only dream it and build it; “together” being the key. Of the legitimacy of those dreams, there are no sneers of judgement to disempower us from the purity of our intention - and so our relationship to the universe becomes one of call and response. And trust. For in the harshest of terrains, in Black Rock Desert, where nothing grows and commerce is all but non-existant, a beautiful kinship unfolds. We become truly our brother’s keeper, and fear and suffering are distant memories.
But do not be fooled, Burning Man is not a holiday from reality; rather, it is reality itself. Once you experience that truth, and the greater truth of its 50,000-people-(dressed in horse costumes)-power engine, you become what is called a Burner. And it is only upon returning to the Default World that you realize the very great power of Faith shared by a critical mass of people all rejoicing in a common value system - Love! Life! Creation! - for creating such paradise on earth.
Upon my return from my first and second Burns, my answers to life’s questions became simple: Love. Life. Creation. Why do we do what we do? Simple, for Oneness. Because it is in achieving that, if even for a moment, that we live in the Kingdom of God - which I now understood was merely a code name for this plasticine playground we have only to shape. As it is not a He that is our Creator, but rather a We. We co-create, each of us, every day, in every moment, in conspiracy with each other. Yes, we are the gods and goddesses of ancient mythology. It is both our duty and our privilege to light the match and dance in the flames.
From the foods that we eat and the thoughts that we nurture, to the decisions we make, to how we spend our time and how we react (or don’t) to the sea of stimuli through which we swim, we are Creating - yes, capital “C” Creating! - our kingdom and our hell with every inhale and exhale.
A gooey morass, reality - its depths lined by the collective consciousness that extends through time and space, filled by the dreams, actions and intentions of ourselves and our fellow co-creators, whether consciously or not.
So I choose Love as my creation. I choose Life as my medium. And from there it has become my task to become skillful with the tools at hand to Create a life that produces a legacy my energetic body will continue to appreciate into perpetuity. Because, as we know, energy is neither created nor destroyed. But it can be shaped and its tone can be made harmonious with that of our neighbours, which of course includes all of life, not just humans.
I have only the stuff of trying for proof.
But alas, the simplicity I’d seized on at Burning Man - Love! Life! Oneness! Creation! - slowly became the foodstuff of my ego, as the fires that had been ignited in Black Rock City burned through the last of my heart’s kindling upon reentry to the Default World. And so I set myself to the task to discover how to Love and Live sustainably, beautifully, optimally, to achieve the longest burn possible.
For most of my adult life, I’d been telling people I was culturally Quaker, unwilling to take it on as an identity. But within a month after returning from my second Burn, I suddenly had the impulse to attend Sunday meeting. And have returned most Sundays since. It is there, in the fellowship of Friends, in the turbulent stillness of our silent worship, that I feel the force of God at its strongest. We speak through and for each other, our separateness an illusion, our journey to Truth a collective endeavour.
And so it is my duty to work for social and environmental justice. To be kind. To recycle. To give thanks. To be filled with gratitude. As I do this, I feed my own spirit, and in so doing, I feed yours too.
We’re all in this together, friends. And my growing Faith in our creative capacity to make homes for ourselves in the Kingdom of God reminds me of that big bold truth, giving me strength to continue in my work, allowing me to shhhhh the greedy voice of ego that wants only to care for itself.
Praise be for Arrested Development, an oasis in itself, allowing me respite from my heady ponderings to laugh at that ego, as it dances across the screen in the faces of each of the characters. The ego hates to be laughed at, and the heart loves to laugh. (It also surprising loves potty humour…)
In some respects, little has changed since I embarked on my spiritual journey. My Faith has only slightly changed the outward appearance of my work. However, having witnessed many times over the uncanny power of intentionality directed by love, compassion, simplicity and patience, particularly in community with others whose attentions are similarly guided, I have come to discover that in fact I am more than simply a woman who was raised Quaker. And that laughter is contagious :) And that Faith amplifies action.
Just as not everyone gets the same side-splitting effect from Arrested Development, not everyone in that audience tonight will understand what I mean when I speak of how Faith works in my life. But my hope is that perhaps I will learn from the agnostics and non-believers about what moves and fuels them - and apply these lessons to the work of Creating a world that serves all of us.
— via PBS.org’s Quantum Mechanics page as part of the TRANSISTORIZED series
Good luck, John!
Sending a fist pump out to John Restakis upon news that he’s stepping down from his post as Executive Director of the BC Co-operative Association after 15 years of tremendous service! Thank you, John. You’re a hero.
via the BCCA e-newsletter:
Co-op Pioneer Leaves Lasting Impact: Co-op Growth and Elder Care Strategy
BC Co-operative Association ED John Restakis steps down
VANCOUVER, May 21, 2013 - John Restakis may be stepping down from the role of Executive Director at the British Columbia Co-operative Association (BCCA) but his legacy, which helped launch successful co-ops like Nelson’s Community First Health Co-op to upcoming projects targeting elder care and the arts, will forever change the way we think about co-operatives addressing societal problems.
Tobias Funke, in the role of The Everyman, contemplates ODD SAC. #insertmeanywhere
It’s the way of things. You have a problem that you don’t know the answer to, you turn it over every which way, things appear murky and unclear - uncomfortably oblique - and then one conversation leads to another, a magazine article triggers a thought, a sign appears just as you’re primed to receive its message. Then, revelation.
It’s not always that epiphanies become realities, but sometimes they do. Especially when they’re exactly right, at exactly the right time.
FREE seminar: Show & Tell: Kim Werker May 21, 2013
This looks like it could a good opportunity to sharpen our focus and push through obstructions to creative output - like the ego. Hope I can make it!
via HOT ART WET CITY:
Sometimes It Ain’t Pretty:
How the Painful Parts of Creativity Can Be Our Strongest Assets
No amount of you-can-do-it cheerleading can prepare us for the inevitable pitfalls inherent to creative exploration. We’re going to struggle, we’re going to stumble, we’re going to fall flat on our face. The thing is, everyone does. So rather than avoiding failure at all costs, I say we allow – or even force – ourselves to dig deep into it for a while. From an intimate understanding of our relationship with failure we can become stronger, more flexible, less afraid, and more adventurous.
Kim Werker leads a project called Mighty Ugly, helping people of all sorts work through their discomfort so they can have more fun making stuff and generally being creative. Her book on the subject is due out in the spring of 2014. She works as a writer and editor from her Vancouver home, which is also home to a two-year-old, a mutt, and a post-doctoral researcher.
Dear Grandmother, aren’t we the lucky ones - to be blessed with days like these, with green tea and little sandwiches, tins of colourfuls pens, and sunlight streaming through copious green things growing all about? Thank you, I say. Thank you. My gratitude is as much as I can offer back to this moment, all else too pale to offer.
When life imitates art: #EastVan presents Rossellini’s Flowers of St Francis, in collaboration with Fellini…
This is so profound I’m swooning…
via the Burning Man blog:
A temple is being built in Christchurch, New Zealand, commemorating the magnitude 6.3 earthquake that devastated that city in February 2011, killing 185 people.
Inspired by the ritual of Burning Man’s temples, and a recipient of a 2012 Black Rock Arts Foundation grant, the Temple for Christchurch will serve as a sacred space where people can leave mementos and write on its walls before witnessing its eventual burning. The intention is to help residents of Christchurch reflect upon and come to terms with the aftermath of the disaster.
Artist Hippathy Valentine designed the Temple as an architectural interpretation of the Richter scale waveforms that were created by the earthquake itself — and it symbolically stands 6.3 meters in height at its peak. Fittingly, it’s being constructed on one of the many empty demolition sites that now are common in Christchurch. Its modular design allows the structure to be taken apart and reconstructed in the New Zealand countryside, where it will be burned.
hahaha there’s gotta be a gif out there for this…