Thursday, 10 January 2008

Peace and Frustration: Life has some of each....

I've been waffling lately what to write about next. On the one hand, I had a great time at our Taoist Tai Chi workshop this past weekend, and came away from that feeling very energized yet peaceful. On the other hand, I am really ticked off at Prime Minister Stephen Harper again, due to his threats to fire the head of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) after she spoke out against starting up the Chalk River nuclear reactor before it had upgraded its safety features. But then I remembered what I've been reading in my latest Pema Chodron book, which is that life is a dynamic mixture of everything all the time, and I could write about both in the same post.

So, let's start with the Tai Chi workshop. Apart from doing a lot of practice on our tai chi forms, this workshop also included information from our instructor on the roots of Taoist Tai Chi and its founder, Moy Lin Shin. Our instructor was a student of Mr. Moy and gave us some background on him and the health issues he struggled with his entire life. As a child, Mr. Moy's mother brought him to the temple of the the "three traditions" - a temple that was rooted in a combination of the three traditions of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. The instructor went on to say that this would be akin to a church in western society today that combined the teachings of, for example, Judaism, Protestantism and Catholicism. We all chuckled a bit at the prospect of such a church, and how unlikely such a place would be.

This idea has stuck with me ever since: can you imagine a world where a place of worship like that would be the norm? Imagine if all the religions decided to look at what they had in common instead of what makes them different. Imagine if the leaders of all faiths and churches decided that since they all only worship one God/Tao/Creator/Allah, it must be the same one, with different names. Imagine the peace!

And during the workshop we got to taste a little bit of what that kind of peace is like, as fifty people of all ages, races and backgrounds did our tai chi together, prepared and ate meals together, and learned from one another.

So now: how do I hold on to this peace even a little bit while hearing on the news yesterday about the Harper government's threat to fire Linda Keen, president of the CNSC. It is difficult. I don't seem to be able to do it. How can I have any confidence in the government of this country when Harper's minister of natural resources, Gary Lunn, is poised to fire the person who did the job she was supposed to do: make sure that the nuclear facility at Chalk River didn't get reopened until the proper safety standards were met. The government overturned her decision however, letting the facility start up again generating medical isotopes. I've got nothing against medical isotopes, but surely there had to be some kind of back up plan to generate the isotopes elsewhere when this particular nuclear facility needed maintenance and upgrading!

I'm no expert but surely it's important for nuclear reactors to be upgraded now and then? You know, to make sure they aren't leaking or anything? And maybe a regular schedule of upgrading and maintenance should be put in place, say like you would do for your car, bicycle, furnace or computer? It's a nuclear reactor after all. Maybe something other than a cavalier attitude would be appropriate, given the potential for environmental catastrophe? And the one person who speaks out about this, whose job it is to speak out about this and take safety concerns seriously, is the person they threaten to fire? By what definition can such action be considered responsible government? By what definition is this any kind of government? If a person's job is threatened because they question the government, what kind of democracy are we living in?

There is a good chance that a federal election will be called this year in Canada. When that time comes, I urge all Canadians to question candidates about their position on nuclear power and other environmental issues. Use your right to free speech while you still have it. Speak out for peace.

Picture of Guan Yin, bodhisattva of compassion, courtesy the International Taoist Tai Chi Association.


DC said...

Astronomers estimate there are about 100 thousand million stars in the Milky Way galaxy alone. Each one of these star systems potentially contains planets that support intelligent life. This makes me hopeful that such life does exist somewhere in the universe. It’s certainly hard to come by on planet earth, though. We haven’t even progressed to the point where we can stop blowing each other up, much less stop all of the environmental degradation going on.

It can be a real challenge to be concerned about the fate of the world and not let all of the negativity in it bring you down. But if we wait to feel inner peace until the world is outwardly calm, it’s going to be a long, long time. In the past six thousand years of recorded history, some things have gotten better, and some have gotten worse. It’s anybody’s guess as to how long all of the insanity will persist.

Anger and anxiety are natural responses to what’s going on today, but I try to remind myself that the world has enough of these things already, and holding on to such feelings won’t make anything better. The outer world and the inner world are connected. I believe that when we find peace within ourselves that this makes as much of a difference in the world as social action and other external activities.

For me, it has been helpful to let go of the need to have answers and make sense of it all. All of the answers that can come to the mind only beg more questions. Surrendering all of the questions, doubts, worries and judgments to the Unknown is a wonderfully freeing experience.

There is an old story about Saint Augustine walking on the beach, thinking that he had finally "figured it all out." He comes across a young boy who keeps pouring water from the ocean onto the sand. “What are you doing?” Augustine asks him. “I’m emptying the entire ocean onto the land,” the boy answers. “Don’t you know that is impossible!?” the saint retorts. “The ocean is far too vast, and when you empty each cup on the shore, the water just drains through the sand and back into the sea.” The boy smiles and replies, “Why then, Augustine, do you think you can understand the vastness of the Divine with your little human mind?” Then the boy vanishes.

May we all be actively peaceful and peacefully active as the mystery of creation unfolds.

Theresa said...

Ah, DC that is beautiful! Thank you for increasing my peace quotient today!

dabomb said...

Hi Theresa,

Isn't the internet an interesting thing. I've been following the "no impact man" blog for a few months. From there I found "Crunchy Chicken" and then, from some of your comments, found your blog, and you live in Edmonton, too. Interesting and kind of scary how small the internet makes the world. I feel a little like a stalker. (I'm not!)

It seems that you and I hold some similar political views. As I get older (I'm 39 yrs old) I become more interested in politics and the world around me and my place in it. I'm finding it hard to sit still and be quiet when I see so many things occuring around me that are at odds with my values and beliefs. So now I'm not so quiet.

I find North American politics incredibly frustrating and disheartening. I really can't believe what a greedy, self-centered society we live in. It makes me grind my teeth when I see people continue buying things for the sake of spending money and throwing so much stuff out when there are so many people around the world that have nothing. I can't believe that people are so blind to the destruction of life around them and that they really care so little for the world and North American politics just reinforces our societies lack of foresight and concern for others. It's all about making a buck and taking the easy way out. Sometimes it makes me wonder why I try so hard when so many others couldn't care less.

So, I try to be an example for my family and the people around me. It's great to have discovered the existence of other people via the internet that believe in the same things I do.

In regards to your comment about different religions co-existing together, I discovered the Unitarian church through Earth's General Store's activist newsletter. I went to the Westwood Unitarian winter solstice celebration. That has been the only time I've gone so I'm not a Unitarian expert or anything. I found their website interesting. It's not Christian-based or anything. It seems they are a mishmash of tennents from many different religions. You might find it interesting.

Take care,


Theresa said...

Hi there dabomb;

I saw you over on Hippie Girl's website too, I think! It is a small blog world, and it is really nice to connect with someone so close by. I find it very encouraging when that happens!

I hadn't thought of the Unitarian Church in that context, probably because I know so little about them. I will check out their website because it would be nice to see what it is they are unifying in their beliefs.

Ooo, I just love the Earth's General Store. I try and get there every few months to look through their book and magazine collection, and to just soak in the atmosphere. And to replenish my stocks of natural toothpaste, moisturizer, shampoo and the like. If I'm lucky I make the trek down to the Organic Roots cafe for some lunch...mmmmm.

Theresa said...

Also, I agree with you completely about the issue of greed. I think part of the problem is that people don't know just how greedy they are. I know I didn't. I really didn't see my purchases of clothes, soap, lamps, even grocery store food as having an impact on anyone but me. Until it clicked in my head that what I do/eat/buy is connected to the lives of everyone/thing else, it really didn't seem like I was being greedy and using more than my fair share of things. But frankly it would be a great improvement in the state of the world if people just stopped doing the obviously greedy things, like buying new things just for the sake of having new things.

I am reading the Affluenza book in preparation for Crunchy Chicken's book club, and it does a really good job of outlining the all-pervasive consequences of greed.