Monthly Archives: December 2012

Festive Inspiration from ‘the happy wanderer’

It’s been tough, coming up with Festive cheer to end this year, with civil war raging in all its ghastliness in Syria, other conflicts world-wide, this autumn’s hideous Jimmy Saville paedophile sex abuse revelations accompanied by other kinds of institutional corruption in the UK – and the appalling ‘massacre of the innocents’ in the USA just last week.

However, at the eleventh hour, just before Xmas, I have succeeded – thanks to one Graham Hughes, a native of Liverpool, UK.

Graham arrived back in the UK on the Winter Solstice 2012, having begun a most unusual adventure on January 1st 2009. His take on doing ‘something nobody had done before’ was this: to become the first world citizen to travel to all 201 of the world’s sovereign states without flying. And he did it, the Odyssey Expedition, unsupported by a back-up crew, doing his own filming – on a budget of less than $100 (£62) per week. The charity Water Aid is to benefit from the sponsorship he has raised.

A98drSVCEAAIE8W(from Twitter, 23.12.2012, via Marcus Chown ‏@marcuschown “It’s a beautiful world: Milky Way over Quiver Tree Forest, Namibia” (Credit: Florian Breuer) 

I read about Graham’s amazing journey yesterday in the MY WEEK section of the UK’s Sunday Times. How did he manage it? “It helped that I’m a good blagger” he is quoted as saying in his relating of the tale to Francesca Angelini.

How about this, his best blag? He managed to get a free ride on a cruise ship travelling from New Zealand to Australia – complete with a huge room with champagne every day, “even although my shoes were in pieces and my clothes were threadbare.”

By the end of 2009 Graham had ticked off Central America, North America and Europe, and had been to 133 of his list of countries. Having broken off to go home to Liverpool, UK  at the end of 2010 to spend time with his terminally ill sister before she died, “I thought about packing it in, but my sister wanted me to keep going”. So he returned to his journey, carrying on where he had left off.

Of his many adventures and setbacks including a brief  spell of mistaken imprisonment on the Cape Verde Islands, his best story comes from an overnight bus journey in Iran.

He describes sitting near a little old lady who was chatting to someone on her mobile phone. Suddenly, she prodded him in the ribs and handed him the phone. The person on the other end introduced himself as Said Hussein, grandson of the old lady. She had called Said to express her worries for Graham, being concerned that when the bus got to its destination in the morning, he might have nowhere to go for breakfast. She wanted to know if she could take him home to cook breakfast for him.

By the time I had finished reading this wonderfully touching story, I was almost in tears. But it was his conclusion that really uplifted and inspired me. I want to share it with everyone who reads this blog:

“You come across jerks in each country, but for every one there are 100 people who will do everything in their power to help you. Most people are good eggs really. This trip reaffirmed my faith in humanity.”

Festive greetings everyone! Thanks for your continuing support via visits, comments and emails – and may 2013 be a fulfilling year.

River Kelvin Dec 2010

River Kelvin Dec 2010

600 words copyright Anne Whitaker/Graham Hughes/Francesca Angelini 2012
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

Support from Guardian newspaper for Glasgow’s North Kelvin Meadow campaign!

Check out this article from today’s “Guardian” newspaper:

The Guardian supports: Glasgow residents’ final fight to save North Kelvin Meadow from bulldozer http://gu.com/p/3ckyz/tw  via @guardian

  

Not quite what Rudolph had in mind…..great excitement in North Kelvin, Glasgow, UK!

Friday  14th December 2012. It was a dark and rainy night….despite which around one thousand children, parents, aunties, uncles and grandparents all came out to see North Kelvin’s first Reindeer Parade, escorting Santa Claus through The Children’s Wood:

Santa Sets Off!

Santa Sets Off!

(photo: Anne Whitaker)

Festive excitement and pleasure – Santa, Reindeer, spirited recitation from the Stick Man, juggling, delicious cakes, mulled wine (hot blackcurrant for the children) – combined with serious purpose. We were also there to protest, make our banners seen:

Save Our Children's Wood!

Save Our Children’s Wood!

(photo: Anne Whitaker)

Think globally, act locally urges people to consider the health of the entire planet and to take action in their own communities and cities. Long before governments began enforcing environmental laws, individuals were coming together to protect habitats and the organisms that live within them. These efforts are referred to as grassroots efforts. They occur on a local level and are primarily run by volunteers and helpers…..” ( Wikipedia )

May 2012 saw the start of The Children’ Wood – an offshoot of the sterling efforts of the North Kelvin Meadow Campaign, for the last few years the latest in several local initiatives, whose objective over a long period of time now has been to save a patch of local waste ground for community green space use, as opposed to its hosting yet another set of newbuild flats  – in an already built up area –  if Glasgow City Council‘s plan for the space goes ahead.

To give you a wonderful ‘flavour’ of what this land means to our community, DO watch this brilliant short film Dear Green Place made recently by film maker James Urquhart.

Time is now getting short. The community’s formal objections have to be lodged by 4th January 2013. To find out more about this and find out how YOU can help, click HERE.

AND – to sign our on-line petition, go HERE. Thanks!!

Meadow in the City

The Children’s Wood

(photo: Anne Whitaker)

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NOTE: Blog/Twitter followers, Facebook friends, community activists and enthusiasts, please do what you can to pass this post around your networks. Thanks!

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300 words copyright /Anne Whitaker 2012
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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Let’s talk some sense about Mayan Calendar Prophecies….

This post from last Spring 2012 seems much more relevant  NOW as Winter Solstice 2012 hysteria begins to build….what do you folks out there think of it all?

“…. Have you heard about millenarianism? It is at the root of the current hype about what dire events are supposed to happen at this year’s Winter Solstice, according to the latest versions of Mayan calendar prophecy.

To quote respected historian and astrologer, Dr. Nicholas Campion, from “The Great Year (1994, 331):

“….Millenarianism has been a political force in Europe for almost two thousand years….Its flames have been fanned by social and economic dislocation, but its militant power has always derived from an ideology that preaches that destruction is necessary before the world can be reborn….”

There have been bouts of millenarianism for a very long time, despite which we are still here. The most recent one occurred at the Millenium –

Anyone remember The Millenium Bug which was going to reap dire havoc worldwide? I seem to recall a Hong Kong taxi driver’s meter going a bit wonky after midnight, but that was about it.

And here we are, as the world goes through one of its periodic bouts of more turmoil than usual, at it again.

Mayan Calendar

Mayan Calendar

crystalinks.com

It is only March and I am already getting rather fed up of being asked whether I think the world is going to come to an end at the Winter Solstice. My answer is usually that I doubt that very much. But then no-one knows anything for sure, not even Richard Dawkins……

This morning, having a trawl around the Net, I found this very sensible, very erudite, very detailed and very LONG article by astrological historian and Mesoamerican Astrology researcher Bruce Schofield, PhD.

His trenchant comment is that 21st December 2012 ” is most likely going to just be another Friday full of last minute Christmas shopping….”

To read the full article and become fully informed for your future discussions with your local Prophets of Doom, click below:

“Fear-Driven Doomsday Rant Has Badly Misinformed the Public”.

(many thanks to Mary Plumb and this week’s Mountain Astrology Blog for including a link to this article) ….” ( March 13 2012 ) 

UPDATE 13.12.2012:  Mary Plumb has her own thoughtful reflections on the Mayan Calendar issue in this week’s Mountain Astrology Blog

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400 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2012
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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Order and Chaos – a Buddhist ‘take’ : honouring the late Bo Lozoff

I found out tonight from the Big Island Chronicle (Hawaii) which published a link from my blog yesterday, that the great Buddhist teacher Bo Lozoff  died in a car crash on 29th November 2012. This post featuring Bo’s wisdom, is republished in his honour.

Along with many people, I owe a large debt to Buddhist wisdom. Of the many books of Buddhist psychology I read during my 2001-8 time in the Underworld, three stand out which I would recommend to anyone going through crisis. They provide both practical coping techniques and spiritual support:

Pema Chodron’s When things fall apart”, Jack Kornfield’s After the ecstasy, the laundry”, (see  Book Reviews  page for review of this great book) and  Bo Lozoff’s“It’s a great life – it just takes practice”.

Lozoff describes a prolonged solo retreat in which day in, day out, he meditates upon the following :

“Anything that can happen to anyone at any time can happen to me, and I accept this”. He keeps this meditative thread running through days of allowing fantasies of the worst things that could devastate him, and those he loves, to rise and dissolve. At the end of the retreat he goes home, more at peace with the realisation that chaos can and does arise at any time to sweep away the order of our personal and collective lives.

Bo Lozoff is now in his sixties. His spiritual journey began at the age of eighteen. A typical self-absorbed materialistic American teenager (his own description) driving home late one night, a momentary lapse of concentration caused him to crash into a lorry and smash himself to bits.

Many months of painful surgery and rehabilitation put him together again – a person much deepened and strengthened in spirit, no longer interested in pursuing the shallow materialistic agenda of his culture, intent on a life of service and of finding deeper answers to the big WHYs : eg  Why are we here ?” and “Why do we suffer ?”

In essence, the Buddhist view is that suffering is caused by wishing for things to be other than they are.

I found reference to this simple, penetrating piece of wisdom – prominently displayed in our kitchen –  bracingly therapeutic during my long period of recovering my energy, especially at times when self-pity threatened to take me over.

Life requires both chaos and order. With chaos alone, nothing could take form. Order by itself shuts down creativity and ultimately life itself. Chaos and order interpenetrate at every level from the most trivial to the most profound.

Most of us who are at all computer-literate have at least once had the experience, early on, of pressing the wrong key or clicking the wrong box – sending our beautifully ordered and pleasing words which we haven’t backed up, into the void. And I know of hillwalkers who, slipping in the wrong place, fell to their deaths throwing loved ones’ lives into chaos in seconds.

How do we cope with this ?

Buddhism advises us to hold very lightly to order, knowing it can turn at a blink to chaos; and to walk into chaos, regarding it as ‘very good news’ in the challenging words of renowned teacher Chogyam Trungpa.

Clinging to outdated structures whilst the storms of life are tearing down everything familiar, usually doesn’t work. ‘Leaning into the sharp points’, trying to face and learn from upheaval, is a more fruitful strategy. But its rewards may take time to become evident, and it can be very hard to find the trust that new order will eventually emerge.

At an ordinary day-to day level, the key to coping well with the ever-changing energy pattern of life is cultivating the ability to live in the present moment. “Carpe diem” as the Roman poet Horace famously said in his Odes : “seize the day”. Now is all we’re sure of. Let’s live it fully!

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600 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2012
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page