Reflections on Autonomy

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Seattle – Washington State – USA
Photo by Josh Fields on Pexels

This is the fifth in the series of my reflections on the “shifts of being” proposed by Jem Bendell in Deep Adaptation: Navigating the Realities of Climate Chaos (UK/USA 2021).

#1: Reflections on the Nature of Being
#2: Reflections on Entitlement
#3: Reflections on Surety or Certainty
#4: Reflections on Control

Jem Bendell uses the word “autonomy” in e-s-c-A-p-e ideology to describe the idea among the modern dominant culture that each of us is the separate autonomous origin of our awareness, values and decisions, and that it is good to become more autonomous (Bendell, p. 133). He asserts that this assumption is false. Instead, our ability to conceptualize, communicate, and perceive stimuli are built on social constructs and conditioning of our culture and upbringing. Even our free will is socially conditioned. We also cannot ignore the influence of human physiology in defining our nature of being.

I am one of those individuals who believe that I have the right to personal autonomy or self-determination, as I prefer to call it. Over the years, I have discovered that achieving self-determination has its limitations based not only on where one lives on this planet, but also on one’s gender, religion, race, income, and social status.

Earlier this year, millions of American women of childbearing age have lost their right to decide when to start a family, the spacing and size of their family, or not to have children at all. More recently in September, Iranian women took to the streets to protest morality police enforcement of hijab rules that endanger the lives of women who dare to expose their hair in public spaces.

Autonomy based on developing one’s own individual self is a more complex concept that I have yet to fully grasp. This emphasis on individualism goes against my own view of our interdependence as a species within the web of life and dependence upon the contributions of others within society. On the other hand, I have learned from living within three distinct cultures—Guyanese (British Caribbean), Brazilian, and American—that social constructs and conditioning of our culture and upbringing do, indeed, influence our self-awareness and vision of the world.

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Thought for Today: Trapped in a Loop

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Abstract Painting by Dibs on Pexels

Heavy is my heart this Thanksgiving for families grieving the loss of a loved one

targeted in yet another mass shooting

Just this month through November 26, across these disunited states of America

thirty-seven mass shootings, forty-eight people killed, fifty-two injured

Total figures for 2022 alone: 613 mass shootings, 642 deaths, more than 2,500 people injured

At war with ourselves

The next family hit could be mine or yours

No public space is safe or sacred

When will we say ENOUGH?

When will we break free?

Trapped in a loop woven with false narratives

“The Abortionist’s Daughter Declares Her Love” – Poem by Trinidadian Poet Shivanee Ramlochan

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Trinidadian Poet Shivanee Ramlochan
Photo by Marlon James – Poet’s Official Website  

My Poetry Corner November 2022 features the poem “The Abortionist’s Daughter Declares Her Love” from the poetry collection Everyone Knows I Am a Haunting by Shivanee Ramlochan, published by Peepal Tree Press (UK, 2017). Born in the twin-island Caribbean nation of Trinidad & Tobago, Ramlochan is a Trinidadian poet, arts reporter and book blogger. She is the Book Reviews Editor for Caribbean Beat Magazine, writes about books for the NGC Bocas Lit Fest, the Anglophone Caribbean’s largest literary festival, as well as Paper Based Bookshop, Trinidad and Tobago’s oldest independent Caribbean specialty bookseller. She is also the deputy editor of The Caribbean Review of Books.

Ramlochan grew up in an Indo-Caribbean family with a Roman Catholic mother and Hindu father. As a girl, she was more drawn to Hinduism than Christianity. As she came of age, she never fully found a home in either or any other faith. In an interview with Alice Hiller in January 2019, she related that her large, extended family regard her as “heretical, unorthodox, deeply disturbing, and irreligious.” As a self-declared “queer woman of color,” she added that they are puzzled about where she got “this whole gay thing from” and wonder if she would ever get married. Although the High Court overturned the law criminalizing homosexuality in September 2018, after the publication of Everyone Knows I Am a Haunting, same-sex marriage is not open for consideration.

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Guest Post: Enjoy the freedom of being yourself, accepting that being seen a fool is just a part of it! — Tamara Kulish

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In a world where the image of being pulled together and perfect set an impossibly high bar, sometimes giving ourselves the freedom to just own who we are, let our hair down and stop worrying about being accepted is such a breath of fresh air! I can’t tell you how many YEARS I agonized about not meeting with other people’s approval, or worse, living in fear of their disapproval. As long as my energy was focused on THAT, it was as though that was exactly what I attracted into my life! The disapprovers showed their colors to me time and again, when they showed me they really just wanted to control me and my life because they felt they could do a better job at it than I could. Even if that were true, it was still my life to live!

Enjoy the freedom of being yourself, accepting that being seen a fool is just a part of it! — Tamara Kulish

TAMARA KULISH is an artist, photographer, jewelry maker, and wisdom seeker. She is author of How to Heal Your Life on a Deep Heart Level and Love Art Journal Workbooks for use as life development tools. In her books and blog posts, she shares information and techniques she learned and implemented on her own healing journey from mental and physical abuse in her youth.

Reflections on Control

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Panorama Miami City – Florida – USA
Photo Credit: Ralph Nas / Pixabay

This is the fourth in the series of my reflections on the “shifts of being” proposed by Jem Bendell in Deep Adaptation: Navigating the Realities of Climate Chaos (UK/USA 2021).

#1: Reflections on the Nature of Being
#2: Reflections on Entitlement
#3: Reflections on Surety or Certainty

Jem Bendell uses the word “control” in e-s-C-a-p-e ideology to describe the idea among modern cultures in the West and worldwide that it is possible for the human, both individually and collectively, to control the environment and others, and that it is good to do so (Bendell, p. 131). As evident in the vast urban centers worldwide, we humans have succeeded in transforming our natural world to fit our needs. Yet, given global ecological collapse underway and the frequency of extreme global climate events as our planet grows hotter, it should also be evident that we are not in control of our natural world upon which our lives depend.

When the dangerous Category 4 Hurricane Ian struck the west coast of Florida on September 28, 2022, with maximum sustained winds of 155 miles (249 kilometers) per hour and a storm surge of 12 to 18 feet (3.6 to 5.5 meters), the people in its path had to get out of its way or hunker down, hoping for the best. Not everyone who sheltered in place survived Nature’s fury. Others returned home to find their neighborhood trashed beyond recognition. Faced with such a life-altering event, we realize that our control is lost in the rubble.

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Thought for Today: Honey of My Failures

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Front Cover: The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo

It seems impossible, but every humbled life has cried it is so: The sweetness of living comes to us when the very humanness we regret and try to hide, our seeming flaws and shameful secrets, are worked by time and nature into a honey all their own. Ultimately, it is where we are not perfect—where we are broken and cracked, where the wind whistles through—that is the stuff of transformation.

Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening, Red Wheel/Weiser Publishers, USA, 2020 Edition, Entry for October 18, p. 343.

MARK NEPO is a poet, teacher, storyteller, and “an eloquent spiritual teacher.” His #1 New York Times bestseller, The Book of Awakening, has inspired readers and seekers worldwide. He has published twenty-two books and recorded fifteen audio projects. In 2015, he received a Life-Achievement Award from AgeNation. In 2016, Watkins: Mind Body Spirit named him one of the 100 Most Spiritually Influential Living People. That same year, OWN also selected him as one of their SuperSoul 100—inspired leaders using their gifts and voices to elevate humanity. In 2017, he became a regular columnist for Spirituality & Health Magazine.

“Leviticus” by Ugandan American Poet Hope Wabuke

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Ugandan American Poet Hope Wabuke
Poet’s Official Website

My Poetry Corner October 2022 features the poem “Leviticus” from the poetry collection The Body Family (Haymarket Books, 2022) by Hope Wabuke, a Ugandan American poet, essayist, and critic. Born in the United States to Ugandan refugees, she earned a Bachelor of Science in Film and Media Studies (1998-2002) at Northwestern University, Illinois, as well as an MFA in Creative Writing (2004-2007) at New York University.

In The Body Family, Wabuke explores her family’s escape in 1976 from Idi Amin’s Ugandan genocide and the aftermath of healing in America. She focuses on the nature of personal trauma juxtaposed against national trauma. In her interview with Julie Brooks Barbour for Connotation Press, the poet explained:

“I look at the national trauma of the genocide in Uganda as part of the legacy of colonialism in Africa by European powers, and the national trauma of violence against black bodies in America that has been ongoing since the founding of this country. These two violences are interconnected. There is a global culture of anti-blackness that is manifested, whether in post-British colonial Africa or in America, where the black body is erased, and what is layered upon it are negative stereotypes of blackness. Both are an erasure. Both are a disappearance. A large part of my writing is to get past these layered stereotypes, to unerase the erasure.”

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The Writer’s Life: Banned Books

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Banned Books Week Logo
Photo Credit: Banned Books Week

Until recently, I have paid little attention to parents protesting about books they would like to remove from the shelves of their school and public libraries, alleging moral corruption of their children. Since I don’t enjoy the privilege of seeing my novels on the shelves of libraries, I had no cause for concern. Then, the article “Forty Years of Banned Books Week” by Priscilla Wu, published in the September/October 2022 issue of the Poets & Writers Magazine, grabbed my attention.

It turns out that book challenges for the eight months into 2022 is set to exceed last year’s alarming record, according to a press release on September 16 from the American Library Association (ALA) ahead of Banned Books Week (September 18-24, 2022). ALA documented 681 attempts to ban or restrict library books and targeted 1,651 unique book titles. Compare these numbers to the year 2021 when 729 attempts of censorship targeted 1,597 books, then the highest number of attempted book bans since ALA began compiling these lists more than 20 years ago.

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Reflections on Surety or Certainty

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Las Vegas Welcome Sign – Nevada – USA
Photo Credit: Pixabay/Pexels

This is the third in the series of my reflections on the “shifts of being” proposed by Jem Bendell in Deep Adaptation: Navigating the Realities of Climate Chaos (UK/USA 2021).

#1: Reflections on the Nature of Being
#2: Reflections on Entitlement

Jem Bendell uses the word “surety” to describe the threefold human assumption that we can be certain of reality, that it is good to be certain, and that there is a universal standard through which we can all agree what reality is and how to know it (Bendell, p. 127). For centuries now, humankind have used the rational scientific method, free from individual subjective bias, to determine and expand our knowledge of the nature of reality. We have made enormous strides in such fields as medicine and engineering.

Those who hold fast only to reality derived from the rational scientific method disagree with the subjective bias of faith-based religious belief systems. The gods, prophets, and saints who respond to our pleas for help are not real, they argue. They are only a figment of our imagination to alleviate our pain and bring certainty to our lives. They also reject individual spiritual experiences as an integral part of our reality as human beings.  

Human nature itself has also come under the microscope. Are humankind essentially good or bad? The human capacity for both heroism and barbarism is evident across time and space. No people, no society, no country is exempt. We are complex beings with limited senses and cognitive abilities.

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A Winter of Our Global Discontent

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Let’s have no illusions. We are in rough seas. A winter of global discontent is on the horizon. A cost-of-living crisis is raging. Trust is crumbling. Our planet is burning. People are hurting – with the most vulnerable suffering the most. The United Nations Charter and the ideals it represents are in jeopardy….”

We are gridlocked in colossal global dysfunction. The international community is not ready or willing to tackle the big dramatic challenges of our age. These crises threaten the very future of humanity and the fate of our planet….”

But the reality is that we live in a world where the logic of cooperation and dialogue is the only path forward. No power or group alone can call the shots. No major global challenge can be solved by a coalition of the willing. We need a coalition of the world.”

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, address at the opening of the general debate of the UN General Assembly’s 77th session, New York, USA, September 20, 2022

I highly recommend that you take the time to listen to Pakistan Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif’s address to the General Debate of the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, September 23, 2022. What a “monsoon on steroids” has unleashed on the people of Pakistan will not stay in Pakistan.