How absurd is consciousness seeking Purpose? Isn’t that the spectacle of Life? Sometimes I laugh Sometimes I cry Crave, Hate All enveloped in that Spectacle of light and dark Oh the absurdity of my Act! I act and Laugh As I continue to perform The never-ending Act zero
October 30th, 2016:
Here I am driving to the Split Rock Prayer Camp to be held in Ramapough Sacred Prayer Land in Mahwah, New Jersey. It is Sunday plus an exquisite sunny day during this late Autumn time where trees have already started teaching the impermanence of time to the attentive ones. The night before a kind friend shared this online pamphlet about the Split Rock Prayer Camp. A ground prayer was to be held in solidarity with Standing Rock and to continue action against the A.I.M. pipeline. To be honest I had no idea about the A.I.M pipeline, over the past few weeks I have only been learning about the North Dakota Access Pipeline so my perception had let A.I.M. escape. It is only now as I am writing these random notes on the laptop about the Split Rock Prayer Camp that I had finally learned a few things about the A.I.M. pipeline.
The A.I.M. stands for Algonquin Incremental Market expansion project which is a network of pipelines that is set to deliver fracked natural gas from the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania to satisfy the growing thirst for energy in the northeastern states of New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Connecticut. This is a joint project run by the Texas based company Spectra and its subsidiary Algonquin. As this project is nearly reaching its completion stage, safety and environmental concerns are pushing many activists and local residents to stand up against this controversial A.I.M. pipeline. One of the key issues is that this pipeline has been built close to the old Indian Point Nuclear facility in New York… What? A pipeline close to a nuclear facility? Is this market-induced stupidity? Or if you want to make it sound better, short-term efficiency? Or the bolder non-bullshit version – corporate greed, selfishness and the ignorance of the fact that everything yes everything and all sentient and non-sentient beings are interdependent whether our egotistical conceptions of self want it or not…
As I drive my mind wonders whether there would be a parking area next to this event. Do I have to park in a random parking lot close to Ramapo College and walk to 95 Halifax Road? I wonder if people will stare at me bringing this car that runs of gasoline to an event that protests against the North Dakota Access Pipeline… What a contradiction… Should I have taken an Uber ride to the place instead? But how about the rumors that I heard about Uber’s exploitative company policies… I don’t know wait Uber cars also run on gasoline maybe I should take a train ah I never took a train to Mahwah… Would I have to go to NYC first in order to catch some train to Mahwah? I am already in New Jersey… it’s a thirty minute car ride so I finally decided to take the car that runs on fossil fuels…
Yea I got lost driving towards Mahwah. I took several wrong exits but I finally reached the place. I drove past the Ramapo Athletic Center, crossed a little bridge with a sign “This is a private area” and then saw how one of the organizers was directing different cars to park in rows in this state park area. Oh there are parking spaces for the car… I tried to erase part of the guilt for driving to this event. I guess intention counts right? Also we are so ingrained in this oil-gushing system that it is almost impossible to get out from… No as of now my present selfish self and pampered body cannot live in a world without oil. Let’s hope that one day or maybe the next generations might become able to do so…
I park the car and put my camera bag slung across my body. I looked around and it seemed like the event didn’t start yet… no there wasn’t a big crowd gathered in a single place so I walked around the area. It was by the river and there were ducks swimming in there. I wondered if I should take my camera right away and snap some photos. I was hesitant to do so because an unmindful photographer can cause more harm than benefit the people he or she attempts to portray. No I didn’t snatch out my potential colonial camera… Only with permission from the person or group to be depicted that I will decide to do so. So I decided to walk the area and actually be here… I see the traditional tents also knows as “tipis” or “tepees”. As I continued strolling the area, I see how there were several families gathered close to the area where the prayer circle was going to be held.
Walking around the area, I started noticing the beauty of the falling trees, the beauty of the moment, the beauty of the people gathered thus I rejoiced. What a rare and special moment… Then somehow I was greeted by two of the people camping here and organizing this prayer ceremony. One middle aged man with a big smile introduced himself as one of the chief-organizers of the camp. I greeted him. He said if there are any questions I could feel free to ask. I gathered some courage and decided to ask him,
“Can I take photos here?” The chief replied with a smile, “Yes you can but if you are taking those close-up portraits just make sure you ask people’s permission first because of their cultural beliefs… I am one of those people…” “Yes, true that. Thank you.” As I chatted with the chief, a thin, gentle, elderly lady joined the conversation. She was a white ally and kindness emanated from her. From my past experiences interacting with elderly white ladies in the suburban upper-middle class town I am staying in New Jersey, I often found these interactions to be quite artificial and forced. There was a slight condescending tone in the way they said “Excuse me” or “Thank you” in the public library or the supermarket. Sometimes I would wonder why maybe it is because of my appearance as a “poor”’ Chinese boy in their eyes… But this lady emanated inner-peace and gentleness… A conversation sparked between the lady and the chief about the location in which this sacred camp was held. The chief pointed beyond the hills and said “Wall Street is right there!” My mind wondered oh Wall Street where all those banks are located… Citibank, TD Bank… Are the headquarters of these banks located in Wall Street? Protest actions should be held in front of these banks because these two banks are part of a major coalition of international banking institutions funding the North Dakota Access Pipeline… Plus Bank of America which I am one of their customers perhaps I should do something about it and other banks such as Credit Agricole, Royal Bank of Scotland, ICBC London, Bank of Tokyo… the list goes on according to Bill McKibben in his inspiring article “A Strategy to Stop Funding Behind the Dakota Access Pipeline published in Yes! Magazine.
“Is this an elevated area?” asked the lady to the chief. He replied, “No, when Hurricane Sandy hit a few years ago the river bank swelled up and all my ancestors were under the water…” Some people near the tipi were calling for the chief so he excused himself. I tried to continue the conversation with the lady, “Are you part of any organization?” She said no but she was taking part of the efforts in sending small donations and supplies to the Standing Rock Camp. Then our conversation flowed to Ithaca where I went for college the Cayuga lake the vegan restaurant Moosewood and how she had purchased the recipe books of this restaurant. I looked up to the area where the prayer was going to be held and noticed how people started gathering there so I started slowly walking towards it.
People started gathering around the prayer circle. The circle was marked by sacred wooden statues… There must be a specific name for these but my lack of knowledge makes me unable to name these. The people gathered were of so many different backgrounds… If you drag the critical conversation towards the culturally constructed not biological concept of Race, there were Native Americans,Black, White, Latino, Asian and of Mixed race… Though different in external appearance in essence our purpose here was not so different – to show solidarity to the Standing Rock camp and oppose the A.I.M. pipeline.
The prayer circle was about to start. One of the organizers of the camp voiced to the crowd how people should line up to get smudged before going inside the prayer circle. An Elder was already inside the circle conducting the ritual close to the fire in the center of the circle. I went to join the queue for smudging. This is a ritual in which the smoke of sacred herbs and incense is used to purify and cleanse negative energies and states of mind. After being smudged people started lining up to later form a ritual circle. After most of the people were purified by smoke, an Elder stood in the middle of the circle and started the ceremony. He provided with some background knowledge to the people unfamiliar with prayer circles.
“The circle flows clockwise and we must keep the energy flowing this way. We must leave the East gate open so that our ancestors may join us. People can exit through the west gate. Remember to go clockwise.”
The prayer circle started. A group of Elders started playing sacred music close to the center of the circle. The ritual proceeded with prayers and blessings and sending positive energy for the people in the Standing Rock camp – the frontlines in the battle for the right to Water. After the first prayers were conducted, an Elder was invited to the center of the circle. She was an Elder from the First Nations in Quebec. She was going to lead the water ceremony. The Elder started with a story about how she learned the water prayer. I will not tell the story because I am not sure if it is appropriate for me to re-tell her story hence I choose not to do so. Then the Elder continued on how traditionally men performed the Fire rituals and the women performed the Water rituals. The Elder taught us a key insight,
“The North Dakota Access Pipeline is not really about the oil but about the right to Water! The Water element is in crisis!”
The Elder started with the sacred water song. As she sang, she faced the four directions and after the song was over… A large eagle or hawk hovered above us; it let out a warm cry and flew in a few circles before it flew away. I look around and noticed how people in the prayer circle were as surprised and amazed as I was… I wonder if this was some positive sign… The ritual continued with a bucket of river water being brought up to her and she blessed it. She said, “Before exiting the circle, people could drink from this water.” Then she voiced out to the women in the circle, “Whoever wants to learn the water song, come and join me by the river.” Most of the women in the group left the circle and went to join the Elder. Before they stepped out from the circle from the West gate, the women drank from the blessed water with a small dried gourd-like recipient. The circle felt quite empty after the women left…they made up about 70% of the prayer group… The group of male Elders started performing sacred songs with their musical instruments.
Not knowing what to do and looking around, my eyes focused on the dancing ritual Fire. How beautiful it was… How I wished that one day I could be brave and strong like this Fire… Throughout my childhood growing up as a Chinese boy in Portugal I was often targeted as the non-masculine boy of the classroom the sensitive one the weak Chinese boy who had good grades and always tried to be nice and please others I was the perfect target for bullying… Rain clouds thickened and it started to get dark the wind started blowing and blowing it ignited the Fire… The power of the adverse wind ignited the Fire… Perhaps hardships and suffering also makes a person braver and stronger… I overheard a brother next to me conversing to another brother how he was from Bolivia and how camping here was very healing for him because he dealt with displacement from a very early age… The sacred Fire grew stronger and stronger with the wind…
Is this the Fire of revolution? Mind wondered whether the state of global Bullying of the weak by the powerful is going to get worse and worse… The sacred Fire will continue resisting and growing stronger and stronger… Then I started wondering whether the NODAPL movement was my fight, my struggle. Fool of course it is… can we exist without Water? However there are many global frontlines… The Standing Rock is as important as the fight happening in Morocco before COP 22… which is as important as the fight by the Brazilian high school students occupying their schools in protest against the austerity measures of the newly right-wing government… which is as important as the protests against police’s widespread and brutal killings of Black people…all are my brothers and sisters…
The Fire becomes stronger and stronger… Mind reflects… whatever frontline I choose to join in the end it is all about an ongoing battle against the Colonization of the Mind… Since the beginning of times, peoples’ minds have been Colonized by the oppressive systems dictated by the powerful to exploit the weak… the true Revolution is the De-Colonization of the Mind. After all the word revolution signifies Revolution because of the Mind that perceives it as such… If I somehow manage to free this Mind perhaps the external shackles that bound me shall disappear accordingly… However I can’t De-Colonize this mind by sitting on my ass… It is only through an active struggle effort compassion and wisdom that the Mind can De-Colonize itself…
Rain starts falling…
Should I run away to my car? No let’s just enjoy the moment… All brothers in the circle share the joy of feeling the rain cleansing body and mind washing all the negativity away… With a smile I join the queue to drink the blessed river water from the bucket before exiting through the West gate. One by one we drink the water… I look at the Fire and an Elder was standing there holding an umbrella to keep it alive and burning… Then another Elder came next to the water bucket holding an umbrella and a big smile… I drank the water and slowly strolled back to the car… Should I go home now? No I waited and the rain stopped ten minutes later…
They say everything becomes more beautiful after the Rain so I finally took out the camera, walked around and clicked a few photos…
普陀山, Putuo Shan (also known as Mount Putuo in English) is located in the Zhoushan prefecture in Zhejiang Province, China. Putuo Shan is said to be one of the four sacred Buddhist mountains in China connected to the Bodhisattava of Compassion, Avalokitesvara also known as Guanyin Pusa in China. Somehow conditions arose for me to wander there with a camera so here are a few pictures (no prof. photographer so please be patient with my skills)..
My karma is a burning wok
Cooking in stir-frying oil
Today I see you
Oh restaurant system
We are in a big hot mess
We are both cooking
Ourselves in it
Together with all the chickens,
Cows and vegetables in it
I see now that
You are a blind system
And I am blind to your blindness
Only enjoying your riches
Yes you have given me much dear
And I have returned little to you
We are both cooking
Ourselves in this hot burning wok
I now see that
I am you
I am all the brothers and sisters
Bonded in exploitative contracts
I am the bathroom cleaner
I am the dish-washer lady
I am the chef, the waiter, the cashier
I am the boss,
I am the subject,
I am the happy customer,
I am the annoying customer,
I am the angry customer,
I am the greedy one
I am the rich one, the poor one
I am the turtles and fishes swimming in the pond at the entrance
I am all the ‘factory’ animals chopped and cooked
Into dishes to be savoured by customers
Who are hungry and can afford it:
From singles to couples to families
Yes “Happy Family” is quite a popular dish
It sounds great doesn’t it?
But it’s expensive
We also serve the Americanized “Chop-Suey”
(In a Chinese restaurant in Portugal)
No don’t miss our globalized “Beijing Duck”
These fat Ducks are from Germany
Covered in sauces from China and Taiwan
Ducks are the new battlefield
Oh you feel like having chicken?
We have lots of chickens here
From spicy to sweet to sour…
Hm “Buddha’s Delight” is not yet in our menu
But let’s hope it shall be one day
Let’s move towards
The so called “right livelihood”
Are we getting closer to it?
I mean we don’t directly steal or rob others
We try to provide a service
To give happiness in a meal
Though with a heavy karmic load
Oh restaurant system
We sure are connected
Bonded in karma
I finally realize that
I can’t change you
We Change together
A hummingbird once whispered to me
That only if we are
We can flow towards a new future
Signs show that the world is already changing
Whether we want it or not
From climate change,
To social change,
To a global change in consciousness
So rejoice and let’s flow together dear
Towards a more sustainable,
Just and Humane future
Let’s hope that once we are both cooked well enough
We can be served as
What am I?
I ask myself
Flowing with life
I am not a writer
I lack wisdom to teach
Though I observe
Anthropologist I am not
Discipline I lack
To become a real researcher
I am active but not really an activist
I care but I am not a social worker
Connecting people I like
But community organizer I am not
I can take some photographs
But photographer I am not
I like to paint
But not really an artist
I can dance sometimes
Though bboy I am not
I enjoy playing with words
But poet I am not
What? What am I then?
I ask myself
Contemplating life unfolding
Am I that tiny little bird that sings perched on a blossoming plum tree?
Am I that tree that stands facing the unforgiving change of seasons?
Am I that clinging leaf that falls while pondering its impermanence?
Oh Mother Earth are you going to embrace me soon?
Am I that tingling morning dew dripping into the eternal river
That flows and flows through
Mountains and valleys and plains
To finally empty itself into the Sea
What? I am nothing really?
I must be something
Hm maybe I am nothing yet something at the same time
I don’t know
I am quite confused
Oh! Perhaps I am a confused bird singing perched on a blossoming plum tree with leaves filled with dew dripping into the eternally flowing river flowing towards the Sea emptying itself…
Oh I see you now ego! It’s nice to meet you my dear ego trying to be someone, to become something darn we do have a long journey ahead and lots of suffering on its way so let us wish ourselves a bon voyage towards the Sea it’s going to be a rough ride home
Oh ‘self-entitled’ activist
You want to change the world?
How about your mind?
Are you mindful?
Of the contradictory world
You encage yourself in?
Here you are in Paris
Where the world has its eyes upon
The COP21 negotiations
Nations have gathered
And ‘activists’ like you
You live in a hostel
You attend different workshops
Meet new people
Learn new things
It seems like
You are becoming conscious
Of the contradictions
Of your dualistic world
Did you know that
Ben and Jerry’s
Which sponsors your hostel
Is owned by the multinational Unilever
Remember those free ice-cream shots with whisky
It’s ‘a GMO free ice-cream’
But its cream
Is derived from Monsanto’s milk
Did you know that
Some Muslim, some not
Clean your beds, bathrooms and have to undertake
Your hypocritical ‘recycling’
Sometimes you walk past these brothers and sisters
And show no appreciation for their service
While you go outside and eat
Food served by Muslim immigrants
The French military
Bombs the Muslim ‘terrorists’ in Syria
What a contradictory world is this?
While you go attend
COP21’s “green zone”
The visitor’s section
The French police visit
Mosques, Muslim restaurants and houses
Raiding for potential terrorists
What a contradictory world is this?
While you sit in front of your laptop
Writing for the so called
Social, environmental, humanitarian causes
People are starving, dying and
Losing all hope in Life
Refugees stuck in a limbo
Between the French and English Channel
What a contradictory world is this?
Why was it so hard
After you had your nice “croque-monsieur” meal
For you to give some baguette bread
To a women beggar with a child?
Are they fake beggars?
Are they cheaters?
They wore head-covers
Most likely Muslims migrants
Where were they from?
Turkey, Syria, Lebanon?
Or other countries far away
From your limited consciousness
How can you call yourself an ‘activist’
If you can’t Love?
How can you call yourself an ‘activist’
If you can’t Love
The woman beggar with a child
Torn in dualistic concepts
Corporations and non-corporations
Oppressors and the oppressed
White and non-white
French and non-French
We and them
Me and you
Self and non-self
Delve beyond the world of contradictions!
As you mindfully breathe
Become conscious of the world around you
And how to act upon it
Break free from the gap
Between your actual self and ideal self
Be in moment
Gain courage to Love
This is the Bridge
This is the Bridge
This is the Bridge out of this contradictory world!
Now go spread Love around the World!
New chinese bourgeois
Oh you studied in America?
“The Land of the Free,
Home of the Brave”
Are you brave enough
To stab the Oppressor in you?
Are you Free enough
To realize that you are caged
In a wheel circling endlessly?
You are going to Portugal
To help your mother?
Then here are some words for you
New Chinese bourgeois
Since you’re in Portugal
I’ll speak Portuguese to you:
Nova burguesia Chinesa
Porquê esta frieza
No teu coração
Para os trabalhadores
Que outrora foram
Porquê esta fraqueza
Contra a perda da tua riqueza
Mentindo e manipulando
As tuas irmãs?
Porquê esta dureza
Nas tuas ordens
Para com os teus subordinados
Considerados por ti
Eles são, por ti
Porque não abres
O teu coração
Para o sofrimento que infliges
Com a tua existência
Olha, estás cego?
À tua frente estão
Os teus irmãos e irmãs
Quase mortos de Espírito
Forçados a uma rotina desuhumana:
Continuando esta routina
Sempre trazendo dinheiro para os teus bolsos
Que prisão de existência é esta
Em que tu fazes de gerente?
Porque é que continuas a ignorar os sinais
Da tua Morte iminente
Cuidado, eles vêm aí para te buscar
E Acorda finalmente
Dos teus sonhos nublados e pesadelos
Morre, Oppressor, Morre
E Levanta-te de novo
Como Homen Livre
Luta lado a lado
Com os teus irmãos e irmãs
E morrer juntos
Contra este Sistema
Que nos imprisona
Não ouves os sons do tambor
Do teu coração?
É o som do Amor divino
Os três perdidos
Eles já voltaram
Deixa tudo para trás
Para uma nova Revolução!