Sunday, February 19, 2017

Our old gods are dying and new ones not yet born

Demolished Dover NH 
CC Jean Stimmell 2/19/17

I yearn for the same thing 19th century sociologist, Emile Durheim,  was waiting for:

"a revival of  the profound collective experience, the experience of fusion and ecstasy, which is the essence of primitive religion and the womb out of which the renewal of society at any period takes place.: *

As Bellah so succinctly says:

"In a word, the old gods are growing old or already dead, and others are not yet born...A day will come when our societies will know again those hours of creative effervescence, in the course of which new ideas will arise." **

I believe that this new day – although a difficult delivery,  is now in the process of being born!

•   Bellah, R. (1973) (Ed) Emile Durh=kheim On Morality and Society. Chicago, The University of Chicago Press
**  Bellah, 1973, p. xivii

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Dancing with Coyotes

Photo accompanying Concord Monitor Editorial 2/8/17

This writing came out of me after gazing into his eyes. He was in a photo, accompanying a recent Concord Monitor Editorial opposing a proposed bill in the legislature declaring all out war on the coyote. He was what the sponsor of the bill called a “vicious animal.”

The coyote seemed to be speaking directly to me, saying, “Why me? I’m a social and intelligent canine with high family values, certainly on a par with your own family pet. Why do you hate me so?”

If truth be told, I think coyotes are reviled because they are smarter and more self-reliant than our Rover sleeping by the fire.  That’s something our culture resents. It’s the same entrenched patriarchy that looks down on smart and self-reliant women.

It’s not that I have a problem with having a season to hunt coyotes if the aim is to manage their numbers like we do with deer and moose – and even bear. But currently there is no closed season on coyotes: they can be hunted down year around.

The new proposed amendment – thankfully now withdrawn from consideration – would have only added insult to injury by adding unlimited night hunting.

When it comes to coyotes, the intent of our game regulations appears to be not management but extermination.

Of course, in reality, unrestricted hunting – with some poetic justice – accomplishes the opposite of its intent, breaking down their family structure, causing them to breed more, not less, thus increasing the population, creating a bigger problem than formerly existed.

Conversely, when the family structure is preserved by less hunting, only the alpha male and female mate, reducing the number of young. The remaining, resident population can be taught to avoid raiding the family farm under the thread of being shot or trapped by the farmer if they try.

But I digress.

I want to get back to discussing this patriarchal urge to punish and seek revenge against any one we can’t control, whether smart, independent, unbowed women or like-minded animals like coyotes.

Or course we have a long history of doing this in our country: just look what happened to Native Americans, who in the beginning were independent from white folks, living sustainably and in harmony with the land.

We, of course, attacked what we didn’t understand and, not surprisingly, the Indians fought back, hence becoming “vicious” heathens who had to be wiped out.  The cry went out, “The only good injun is a dead injun.”   

Just like what we are trying to do now with the coyote.

Our history of imperialism and patriarchy has cast a shadow on the soul of our nation, not only with our crusade against women and coyotes, but against minorities in our own country and non-western cultures around the world.

But finally, we have met our match!

Our ultra-individualistic, material way of life, treating the earth as just a commodity to be consumed, is now pitting itself against Mother Nature Herself, and we are finding that Mother Earth plays according to Her own rules, not alternative facts we conveniently make up.

The outcome is becoming clear: If we continue our American way of unlimited growth powered by extracting more and more fossil fuels from the earth, we will soon trigger uncontrolled climate change, which will lead to eliminating most humans from the planet: Exterminating not just us but most of our innocent, fellow species.

If we are to avoid this dismal fate, indigenous people have much to teach us. In fact, Frederick Gustafson, a Jungian analyst, posits that our extermination of Native Americans is a metaphor for how we deny this instinctual, primal part of ourselves:

That primal worldview, ingrained in our genes, provides the guidelines on how  to live in harmony and interdependently within the web of life.

For a primer on what we can learn from indigenous people, I highly recommend Dancing with Wolves, the movie starring Kevin Costner: it is a wonderful primer on how, in a more perfect world, we could have/and still can learn and gain wisdom from Native Americans.

We have a long history in our country, much to our detriment, of too often declaring: It’s either my way or the highway. By necessity, the time has come to be more welcoming and inclusive, to have higher aspirations for ourselves.

I will close this essay with one such aspiration, quoting Luther Standing Bear, Oglala Sioux Chief:

I am going to venture that the man who sat on the ground in his tepee meditating on life and its meaning, accepting the kinship of all creatures, and acknowledging unity with the universe of things was infusing into his being the true essence of civilization.”

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Don't sweat this strutting showman

Snowman on Jenness Pond
CC Jean Stimmell: 2/1/17

Don't sweat this strutting showman
carrying the big stick:

In the heat of light he does melt:
It is certain no heart beat felt.*

• I am indebted to my friend Len Ziefert, for suggesting this last stanza for my little ditty, a great improvement over my original

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Scientists find our 'oldest human ancestor'

Those who read my blog know I often photograph imaginal beings that dwell in that magical space between me and the collective consciousness of the world.

Thus, you can imagine my delight when science jumped into the act, photographing just such a "being," a transgendered individual, both male and female, they call Saccorhytus.

Here's what they say about her: "Saccorhytus was about a millimetre in size, and is thought to have lived between grains of sand on the sea bed. Saccorhytus was also covered with a thin, relatively flexible skin and muscles. It probably moved around by wriggling."
quote from

Saturday, January 14, 2017

I had a dream last night: A Parable for Our Times

A newer version of this piece with added postscript 
was publishedn1/28/17 in the Concord Monitor:
A Homeless Woman in San Francisco
CC Jean Stimmell: January 2017

I had a dream last night.  It was about a homeless man living on the streets, beaten down for so long he had lost all hope, until one day his only friend died, ravaged by abuse and neglect from a faceless oppressor.

Roused from his zombie-like existence by her death, he found himself carving a likeness of her killer on the roots of an overturned tree in the nearby park. It was physically hard work but even more so emotionally, trying to recover such a fundamental repressed memory from a lifetime of trauma.

People passing by stopped to stare but became energized by his passion and began donating gouges and carving knives to promote his cause. Over time, the sculpture started to take shape in the form of an avenging god.

The homeless man called it Moloch in reference to Allen Ginsberg’s poem “Howl,” which he had read in a tattered book he had rescued from under some rotten food in a dumpster.

In fact, he had memorized the opening lines: “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn…”

The truth of what the poet was saying resonated in every fiber of the homeless man’s body and soul: his heart went out to the unemployed, the mentally ill, the veterans, all the regular folks in our country who have been discarded for being just another unneeded item, a commodity that has outlived its usefulness.

The homeless man was correct: Moloch is Ginsberg’s metaphor for global capitalism, the avenging god of the marketplace, the relentless overseer who runs our whole nation like one big, for-profit business; Moloch, whose money and power makes him the hidden ruler, even over our government, keeping both democrats and republicans meekly in line.

Each day more people came streaming to the park to see the homeless man’s creation, which was slowly but surely, revealing the secret identity of this terrifying apparition who had lurked in the shadows of their nightmares all these years.

The sculpture became a sensation. Some pundits pointed out the statue’s resemblance to the new orange-haired president. More and more people streamed to the park feeling empowered that they could finally identify their real oppressor.

Rising up as one, the people began to protest, refusing to remain passive pawns in a system that rewards the top 1% at the expense of the 99% of the rest of us; in a system where eight men (six of whom are Americans) own the same amount of wealth as one-half the world’s population.

Looking back years later, historians agree this was the turning point when the people rose up against this gross inequality and demanded power be returned to them, restoring democracy in America.

The moral of this story is that sometimes all it takes is a single, committed person to change a nation.

New Trump Mural: Mission Distict, San Francisco
CC Jeam Stimmell: January 2017