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.

Poem “After” by Brazilian Poet Martha Medeiros

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Brazilian Poet Martha Medeiros
Photo Credit: Martha Medeiros Official Facebook Page

My Poetry Corner September 2022 features the poem “After” (Depois) by Brazilian poet, journalist, and chronicler Martha Medeiros, born in 1961 in Porto Alegre, capital of Brazil’s southern State of Rio Grande do Sul. With more than thirty books published, many of which have been adapted for theater, TV, and the cinema, she has become one of the most read and respected writers in Brazil.

In the 1980s, after graduating in Social Communication from the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul, Medeiros started out as a copywriter and content creator in advertising and marketing. Her debut poetry collection Strip-Tease, published in 1985, received great success. Over the next sixteen years, ending in 2001, she published five more books of poetry. Her favored themes were love, lovelessness, and relationships.

In the poem “The measuring tape of love,” she concludes: It’s not height, weight, or muscles that make a person great. / It’s their immeasurable sensitivity.

The extensive list in the poem “What is the purpose of a relationship?” includes:

A relationship has to serve you in feeling 100% comfortable with the other person…
To teach one to trust, to respect the differences that exist between people…
A relationship has to serve for one to forgive the weaknesses of the other…
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The Queen and I

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Queen Elizabeth II (1926-2022) – State Visit to British Guiana – February 1966
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

I’ve never personally met Queen Elizabeth II. The closest I’ve ever come to Her Majesty was watching her drive by in an open-back vehicle in the company of her husband Prince Philip. That occurred in early February 1966 when she visited then British Guiana for the first time since her coronation in 1953. The two-day royal visit also marked the first visit of any reigning monarch during 152 years of British colonial rule. For the auspicious event, we showcased the best of our city, our culture, and our hospitality.

Following its independence in May 1966, Guyana joined the Commonwealth of Nations, founded in 1949 and headed by the British Monarch. The independent nation remained tethered to Britain with Queen Elizabeth as the Head of State until it became a republic in February 1970.

When I read the online announcement of the Queen’s death on Thursday, September 8, around 11:30 a.m. Pacific Time, I stopped what I was doing and tuned into the BBC TV news channel. My teary-eyed response surprised me. Such is the nature of my love-hate relationship with the British monarchy. Their fairy-tale lives had captured my imagination as a child. Over the years, I’ve soaked up news of their marriages and births, scandals and divorces, and deaths.

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Reflections on Entitlement

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New York Skyline with Brooklyn Bridge – USA
Photo Credit: Kai Pilger at Pexels

This is the second 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

The word “entitlement” did not enter my vocabulary until I arrived here in the United States. In Guyana, we used the word “spoilt/spoiled” to describe other kids and youth our age who believed that they deserved the biggest and the best of everything, and that the rules of good conduct did not apply to them. In Brazil, the Portuguese equivalent of entitlement translates as “to have the right of or as deserving of.” In Brazilian vernacular, the spoiled or entitled rich kid earns the label of “daddy’s son or daughter.” Entitlement takes on additional manifestations among white, rich, and male humans in the advanced rich economies: the right to the pursuit of happiness; the right not to feel emotional pain and suffering; the right to have one’s feelings heard and validated; and the right to have one’s basic needs met (Jem Bendell, pp. 125-127).

It would be great if we could all have our basic needs met and have a voice in issues that affect and govern our lives. Instead, the entitled few among us take a far greater share of Earth’s natural resources and offer little return for our collective human production. They also hold the power to silence our voices when we cry out against the extreme inequality and injustice. While the entitled rich and powerful get away with major crimes—including our current threat of omnicide—minority and poor populations face draconian punishment, even death, for simple infractions of the law.

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Thought for Today: The Human Comedy: Remember You Must Die

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Chinese Artist Ai Weiwei with glass sculpture La Commedia Umana: Memento Mori / The Human Comedy: Remember You Must Die – Venice – Italy – August 26, 2022
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Luca Bruno

We see the environment completely disappearing, being destroyed by humans’ effort … and that will create a much bigger disaster or famine. Or war, there’s a possible political struggle between China and the West as China asserts greater control over Hong Kong and threatens control over Taiwan…. We have to rethink about humans and legitimacy in the environment. Do we really deserve this planet, or are we just being so short-sighted and racist? And very, very just self-demanding, selfishness.

~ Chinese artist Ai Weiwei on his latest sculpture La Commedia Umana: Memento Mori / The Human Comedy: Remember You Must Die, Venice, Italy, August 26, 2022.

La Commedia Umana / The Human Comedy by Ai Weiwei (Detail)
Photo Credit: Lisson Gallery – Venice – Italy

One of the largest works ever created in Murano glass, the hanging sculpture is composed of over 2,000 pieces of blown and cast glass, weighing around four tons with a width of 6.4 meters (21 feet) and towering overhead at 8.4 meters (27.6 feet) high. The series of hand-crafted black glass bones and isolated organs first became a striking monument to the lives lost over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, with the war between Russia and Ukraine, the monument also encompasses those who die from all kinds of human conflict. If we want to leave behind more than the bones of our broken bodies, we must work together to address the dangers that threaten our survival as a species.     

Learn more at Berengo Studio.


AI WEIWEI, born in 1957 in Beijing, China, is a global citizen, artist, and thinker. He attended Beijing Film Academy and later, on moving to New York (1983-1993), continued his studies at the Parsons School of Design. His art works have been exhibited worldwide. Among his numerous awards and honors, he holds the lifetime achievement award from the Chinese Contemporary Art Awards (2008) and was made Honorary Academician at the Royal Academy of Arts, London (2011). He now lives and works in Portugal.