Sunday, July 27, 2008

Good News from the Heart of the Forest

Amazon Heart

Ayahuasca is declared a cultural patrimony of Peru

The decision of the Peruvian government, signed by the director of the National Institute of Culture, Javier Ugaz Villacorta, was published in the Saturday (July 19th) edition of El Peruano, the official daily of the country. According to the Peruvian government, ayahuasca has extraordinary cultural history because of its psychotropic qualities.

The resolution that formed the basis for the Peruvian declaration asserted the following conclusions:

- That the Ayahuasca plant—Banisteriopsis caapi—is a vegetable species which garners an extraordinary cultural history,


by virtue of its psychotropic properties, used in a beverage associated with a plant known as Chacruna-Psychotria viridis;


- That such plant is known by the indigenous Amazon world as a wisdom plant or plant teacher, showing initiates the very foundations of the world and its components. Consumption of it constitutes the gateway to the spiritual world and its secrets, which is why traditional Amazon medicine has been structured around the Ayahuasca ritual at some point in their lives, indispensable to those who assume the function of privileged carriers of these cultures, be they those charged with communication with the spiritual world, or those who express it artistically.

- That the effects produced by ayahuasca, extensively studied because of their complexity, are different from those produced by hallucinogens. A part of this difference consists in the ritual that accompanies its consumption, leading to diverse effects, but always within the confines of a culturally determined boundary, with religious, therapeutic and culturally affirmative purposes.

- That available information sustains the fact that the practice of ritual ayahuasca sessions constitutes one of the basic pillars of the identity of the Amazon peoples, and that the ancestral use in traditional rituals, warranting cultural continuity, is closely connected with the therapeutic attributes of the plant;

- That what is sought is the protection of traditional use and sacred character of the ayahuasca ritual, differentiating it from Western uses out of context, consumerist, and with commercial objectives.

More information on the Peruvian declaration is here.

A similar movement has been initiated in Brazil where a
fantastic chain of events led to this historic moment of the proposed recognition of the sacramental tea that carries the force and wisdom of the forest into the world.

Here is the Daime being made in Vila Fortaleza.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

From the Heart of Divina Luz

True love
Is a great Divine Light
It is a flashing star
A beacon that illuminates...

Divina Luz is yet another of my homes-away-from-home in Brazil. Returning to it is... well, like coming home.

I feel a deep gratitude to Madrinha Conceição and her family who hold the eclectic space of the Divine Light Open Center in Brasilia. Here, a true love is very present along with the dear memory of Padrinho Dalton, who we thought we lost but who still remains in our minds attending to us with his loving heart.

On this night, a few of us gathered to share the hymns of Ronaldo who carries the magic of Mapia and the forest into the world.


I pieced together a few video fragments...

And thus we enacted our own love

for Padrinho Sebastião,


for Padrinho Daltro,

Pd Daltro Rays

and for Mestre Irineu.


Here's a little slideshow from the evening...

Friday, July 25, 2008

From the Heart of Chris Abani

Chris Abani's first novel, published when he was 16, was Masters of the Board, a political thriller about a foiled Nigerian coup. The story was convincing enough that the Nigerian government threw him in jail for inciting a coincidentally timed real-life coup. Imprisoned and tortured twice more, he channeled the experience into searing poetry.

Abani's best-selling 2004 novel GraceLand is a searing and funny tale of a young Nigerian boy, an Elvis impersonator who moves through the wide, wild world of Lagos, slipping between pop and traditional cultures, art and crime. It's a perennial book-club pick, a story that brings the postcolonial African experience to vivid life.

Now based in Los Angeles, Abani published The Virgin of Flames in 2007. He is also a publisher, running the poetry imprint Black Goat Press.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

From the Heart of Roger Cohen

Roger Cohen

Today's NY Times op-ed from Roger Cohen is extraordinary.

July 24, 2008
Op-Ed Columnist
Karadzic and War's Lessons

Go to original.


After covering a war, a friend said, buy yourself a house. I did. I came to this French village where church bells chime the rhythm of the days, married here, raised children and parked Bosnia somewhere in a corner of my mind.

I had to forget. I had to write a book, so the horror would never be forgotten, in order to forget just enough to go on. There is always a measure of guilt in survival when so many have died. There are faces, in death and bereavement, that can never be eclipsed.

It's peaceful here. I'd been out watching crows in the stubble when I returned to discover Radovan Karadzic had been arrested in Belgrade, 13 years after the end of the war, to face charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.

The years fell away, fear resurfaced, and I've been unable to sleep. I find myself back in Pale with you, Dr. Karadzic, back in that two-bit ski resort you parlayed into the Bosnian Serb capital and bestrode with your killer hairdo, back asking you questions you never could answer.

Objectivity and neutrality are not synonymous. The head is useless without the heart. War teaches that better than journalism school. The unseeing eyes of young Sarajevan women penetrated by shrapnel had taught me the rights and wrongs of the war long before I met you. Still I wanted to look you in the eye.

Unhinged would be a kind description. You talked of your "love" for Sarajevo, the ethnically mixed city your boozy forces kept shelling. You told me, 32 months into the fighting, that you were ready "to declare a state of war." I stared in disbelief and asked about Ruzdija Sestovic.

Names dispel a numbing when the death toll rises toward 100,000. Sestovic had been seized from his home in eastern Bosnia on June 20, 1992, by masked Serbian forces and had disappeared.

He was one of thousands of Bosnian Muslims to meet this fate in the sharp bust of Serbian violence that opened the war and "cleansed" wide swathes of the country of non-Serbs, many processed through murderous concentration camps. Pits of bones form the bitter harvest of this genocidal Serbian season.

"Ethnic cleansing was not our policy," Karadzic responded with nonchalance. "It happened because of fear. Fear and chaos. I was not informed on a daily basis of what was happening in the first months of the war, although we got some information from our troops and police. But the fate of men like Sestovic was beyond our control."

An international court in The Hague will now examine that contention of the former Bosnian Serb leader. I don't doubt the outcome. Justice is important — for Bosnia and for amnesia-afflicted Serbia with its everyone-was-guilty evasiveness. But justice won't change the faces brought back to me now across the years.

Nermin Tulic, an actor, his legs blown off by a Serbian shell on June 10, 1992, telling me how he wanted to die until his wife gave birth to their second daughter and his dad told him a child needs his father even if he just sits in the corner.

I took that away from the war: the stubbornness of love.

Amra Dzaferovic, beautiful Amra, telling me in the desperate Sarajevo summer of 1995 that: "Here things are black and white, they are. There is evil and there is good, and the evil is up in the hills. So when you say you are just a journalist, an observer, I understand you, but I still hate you. Yes, I hate you."

I took that away from the war: the fierceness of moral clarity.

Pale Faruk Sabanovic watching a video of the moment he was shot in Sarajevo and saying: "If I remain a paraplegic, I will be better, anyhow, than the Serb who shot me. I will be clean in my mind, clean with respect to others, and clean with respect to this dirty world."

I took that away from the war: the quietness of courage.

Ron Neitzke, noblest of American diplomats, handing me his excoriation of the U.S. government and State Department for "repeatedly and gratuitously dishonoring the Bosnians in the very hour of their genocide" and urging future Foreign Service officers to be "guided by the belief that a policy fundamentally at odds with our national conscience cannot endure indefinitely — if that conscience is well and truthfully informed."

I took that away from the war: the indivisibility of integrity and the importance of a single dissenting voice.

Nobody labored with fiercer lucidity to inform America's conscience about Karadzic's crimes than Kurt Schork, the Reuters correspondent killed in Sierra Leone in 2000. I wish he were here.

Schork would be smiling — and chiding me for being careless with my Bosnian lessons in the onward rush of life. The precious is no less important for being unbearable.

Go to Roger's blog.

Friday, July 18, 2008

What's In A Name?

photo source: Laughing Squid

Go to Orginal

George W. Bush Sewage Plant plan is on ballot

Marisa Lagos, Chronicle Staff Writer
Friday, July 18, 2008

(07-17) 14:57 PDT SAN FRANCISCO -- San Francisco voters will be asked to decide whether to name a city sewage plant in honor of President Bush, after a satiric measure qualified for the November ballot Thursday.

Backers of the measure, who for several months circulated a petition to place the measure on the ballot, turned in more than 12,000 signatures on July 7, said organizer Brian McConnell. The Department of Elections on Thursday informed those supporters, the self-proclaimed Presidential Memorial Commission, that they had enough valid signatures - a minimum of 7,168 registered San Francisco voters - to qualify for the November ballot.

McConnell, who came up with the idea over beers with friends, often donned an Uncle Sam outfit to drum up support for the petition. The all-volunteer group of signature gatherers often carried around an American flag and blasted patriotic music from a boom box to attract attention. He said the campaign to pass the measure will be an equally grassroots effort.

The measure, if passed, would rename the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant the George W. Bush Sewage Plant. McConnell said the intent is to remember the Bush administration and what the group sees as the president's mistakes, including the war in Iraq.

Some people aren't laughing, including the San Francisco Republican Party, which sees the measure as an embarrassment, even to this famously liberal city. Chairman Howard Epstein has vowed to fight the measure with all means available to him.

A White House spokeswoman, when asked about the measure several weeks ago, refused to comment.

Go to Orginal

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Dark Side

therawstory gives us the following report:

Red Cross finds Bush administration
guilty of war crimes

Andrew McLemore
Published: Saturday July 12, 2008

In a secret report last year, the Red Cross found evidence of the CIA using torture on prisoners that would make the Bush administration guilty of war crimes, The New York Times reported Friday.

The Red Cross determined the culpability of the Bush administration after interviewing prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, according to the article.

Prisoner Abu Zubaydahwho said he had been waterboarded, "slammed against the walls" and confined in boxes "so small he said he had to double up his limbs in the fetal position."

The information comes from a new book written by Jane Meyer, who has frequently published articles concerning counter-terrorism in The New Yorker.

The book is titled "The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals," and will be released next week.

Mayer cited "sources familiar with the report" to explain the confidential document as a warning "that the abuse constituted war crimes, placing the highest officials in the U.S. government in jeopardy of being prosecuted."

The report was submitted to CIA last year and concluded that American interrogation methods are "categorically" torture that violates both domestic and international law, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow reported Friday.

Although the CIA had already admitted to the use of waterboarding, Meyer says in the book that several CIA officers confirm the findings of the Red Cross, including the other forms of torture mentioned.

Maddow called George W. Bush a "torture-approver-in-chief who has yet to be held to account for anything" and said that congressman Dennis Kucinich had reintroduced his articles of impeachment against the president.

Maddow questioned constitutional law expert Johnathan Turley about the development.

"The problem for the bush admin is that they perfected plausible deniability techniques," Turley said. "They bring out one or two people that are willing to debate on cable shows whether waterboarding is torture and it leaves the impression that its a closed question.

"It's not. It's just like the domestic surveillance program that the federal court said just a week ago was also not just a closed question."

When asked by Maddow if the chances are now greater that Bush will be prosecuted now or after leaving office by the international community, Turley compared the situation to Serbia in the early 90s.

"I'd never thought I would say this, but I think it might in fact be time for the United States to be held internationally to a tribunal. I never thought in my lifetime I would say that."

Sunday, July 13, 2008


Oil prices are soaring. Fanny May and Freddy Mac are collapsing. Food riots are spreading. Biodiversity is going down the tubes. We gotta save the planet.

NY Times science writer Andrew Revkin has been focused on the many challenges that a world heading toward 9,000,000,000 people presents. He recently put out an intriguing juxtaposition of the renown ecologist E.O. Wilson and the also renown comedian George Carlin at his DotEarth blog -- "Wilson's Law (and Carlin's rant)".

Here is Carlin's rant:

Written transcript of Carlin's rant here.

Seriously, I do wonder about all the moralizing about the human condition and the seeming emphasis on realizing the "new human being" in order to solve our problems. We are incessantly told that we must become the new Christian, or the new Socialist, or the new Altruist, or the new Humanist, or the new Eco or Planetary Citizen.

I've got to say that I'm skeptical. Human beings tend to be profligate, at the least they multiply and they waste. Not only that, but they have learned that scarcity can contribute to profit (for some) and that it can serve the goals of wealth, status and power (again for some). Yes, education has fallen prey to manipulation. This is exactly the outcome of the the scarcity paradigm.

I no longer have faith in the commonly offered remedy of waiting for the emergence of a nobler human being. It's almost like waiting for the Messiah to arrive to deliver us. With no disrespect intended for the saints and great souls who have offered us such deliverance, I must say that our more human qualities seem to prevail and that Malthus might have been right in saying that, like all other animals, human populations will exceed the carrying capacity of their niche and collapse. It's a harsh view.

But -- the BIG BUT -- there is a possibility that there is nothing really wrong with humans other that we have been functioning within a paradigm that is depleting -- that what we take or eat or use is at the expense of others. Because scarcity was the pre-condition from which modernity arose, we arrived at it habituated, not free from want but as fighters for survival, as individual, tribal, national or corporate competitors for the earth's resources. We are, in the words of Daniel Quinn, "takers" and not "leavers".

And also we are embedded in a culture and consciousness that is changing rapidly. The so-called "information age" is ushering in another possibility that we might profitably become "givers", that service to others may actually generate previously unimagined opportunities for wealth and abundance. This is the "google principle" of generating totally new business models by giving something away. It makes me think that Saint Francis might have been offering a formula about how reality works when he said that "it is more blessed to give than to receive". Perhaps we need less morality and more reality.

I believe that the "flaw" is not that the humans are voracious and wasteful but that the system depletes resources and sends the wastes to the wrong places -- to the air and the water -- when they need to be given back to the earth. Our extractions and depletions ultimately exhaust everything from oil to humans. In my opinion we must promote an awareness that giving back to the earth is the path toward abundance and that reciprocity is more beneficial for EVERYBODY than is depletion. The challenge is to place the same old wasteful human being into an ecological matrix where we may become a blessing rather than a curse upon the earth.

The soil is sacred. It is the mother, the placenta that feeds all new birth. Back in Oregon I learned that a cubic meter of mature temperate rainforest soil contains approximately 35,000 separate species and over 2 billion individual organisms. The scientists were quick to point out that that the forest of gigantic trees was a mere symbol or consequence of this awesome soil universe.

To realize and honor the earth under our feet -- the soil -- is holy, whole and wholesome. The recent explosion of interest in biochar (the modern version of the ancient Amazon agricultural
soil technology of Terra Preta de Indios) is surely driven by a search for solutions for the some of the world's greatest problems -- deforestation, climate change, hunger and energy scarcity. It is also something more. It is a quest for how humans might achieve a life of balance and prosperity on earth.

[Update - 25 July 2008: Richard Haard has a fine "hands-on" article about biochar here. And there's more information that I reported previously here and on-going updates from biocharfund and terracarbona.]

The thought that hooks me on this lovely Sunday morning in Brasilia is that we waste too much time blaming, criticizing, correcting, reforming or revolutionizing one another instead of discovering the most useful ways for realizing the beautiful gift of what we already are. Following Genesis, I believe that we were given dominion over the earth, but as caretakers of the soil, as gardeners rather than as miners. This is the way out of the Malthusian dilemma.

OK. End of Sunday morning sermon. Thanks for listening.

hugs and blessings,


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Don't Fence Me In

David Byrne recorded this song for the AIDS benefit album Red Hot + Blue, a tribute to songwriter Cole Porter. The video was directed by David Byrne.

VIVA! to Avi for sending the link for another interesting item.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

A Festival of Saints and Santo Daime

Ceu do Planalto
Brasilia, Brazil
12 June to 6 July 2008

I've been in Brasilia having a wonderful reunion with my friends at Ceu do Planalto which is the Santo Daime community where I first landed in Brazil.


My first connection came several years ago through an Oregon friend who delivered me into the friendship and home of José Murilo. Here I also found the gate to the world of Santo Daime in Brazil -- an opening which has led me to an ever-expanding treasure trove of friends and homes in many places, and to creating this blog to tell the stories.

It has been a special treat to spend this year's Festival among dear friends in Brasilia, far from the original forest setting of the Santo Daime, where a great study is taking place in which modern professional people are learning to incorporate the spiritual life learned from the Queen of the Forest while being centered in the bustling modernist capital of South America's largest country.

Festivals Of June, as they are popularly known, are performed in many cultural iterations throughout Brazil.

Painting by Gervásio

They center around the feast days for Saint Anthony (guarding home and family), Saint John the Baptist (opening the door of transformation), Saint Peter (building the spiritual community) and, in the Santo Daime, there is an additional memorial day in July for Saint Irineu (the founder of the mission).

A great bonfire is central to all of the main festival nights.


There is an interesting legend behind the bonfire. Even though no one knows if it is true, the story is told that during Mary's pregnancy with Jesus, she learned that a prophecy had been received by Isabel, who was expecting the birth of John the Bapist. Mary traveled up into the hills above Nazareth to visit her and the two women exchanged talk of their experiences and intuitions. Isabel, who was expecting the first birth, told of a prophecy that a time of great transformation on earth would begin with the birth of John and be continued as both he and Jesus opened a light into the world.


Isabel said that she would let Mary know of John's birth through a great bonfire which would be lit as a signal that the transformation had begun. Nowadays there are many traditional festivals in Brazil which include a bonfire to celebrate the never-ending opportunity for human transformation, especially during the festas of June.

This year the festival began with the night of Santo Antonio and the wedding of Ken and Shobam.


Next, the community was delighted to receive Padrinho Alfredo and the comitiva of singers and musicians who had been traveling abroad and were now en route to their forest home center of Mapia in Amazonas.



Singing the Oração (prayer) of Padrinho Sebastiao with the family line is always a special treat.

A few nights later we celebrated the Night of St John but I was so preoccupied with my own process of transformation (whew!) that I never lifted my camera. Sorry, no photos from that night, just a note of gratitude for having been able to clear away so much old stuff as a result of the ritual.

Next came the 83rd birthday of Madrinha Rita (the widow of Padrinho Sebastião and matriarch of the family line)

Md Rita (6-19-05)
Photo from June 2005

And then the night of Saint Peter during which the young and beautiful Irene received her star beginning her personal journey along the path of Santo Daime.



It was good to see Ana in the joy of expecting the birth of her first child.


The guys dressed for a cold winter night (in June!).

In the morning there were birthday celebrations for Clarice, Ricardo and Irene.




The hymns of Padrinho Alfredo were sung, ending with "My God, My Saint John."

The kids are getting bigger year-by-year

Helena and Isabel

Tiago and Cintia

The formal end of the Festivals of June occurs in early July with a ceremony commemorating the gift of Mestre Irineu with the singing of the hinario of Tetéo, which ends by saying that the power of the Santo Daime is no "small force."

Small force does not reach me
Small force does not confuse me
Because I have God with me
I am with the highest force

I have God with me
And I should pity no one
My Master is who determines me
I am with the highest force

This force is divine
It is the higher power
I'm with Her hand-in-hand
I am with the highest force

I am with the highest force
It is the higher power
I am with my Queen
And my Master teacher

Of course, there's really no adequate way to put all of this into words. I guess, for me, some pictures of the happy faces can better tell the story...

It was Lidia's birthday

Jesus is the happy face serving the Daime

Val and Neia

Ken and Fernando Luis

Marina and Marcelo

Ricardo spreading news from Save the Urubu, which is the neighborhood network for the conservation of the local watershed.

Manuel and Caetano


Morning light at the Festival's end. Bom Dia e Parabéns

There are more Festival Photos here.

Sunday, July 06, 2008


[UPDATE: Too bad but this great link to one of George Carlin's best is no longer online. YouTube says, "This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by a third party."]

Thanks to Avi for sending this wonderful link [enjoyed while it lasted].

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Hey, Murilo's in Budapest

Murilo - Budapest
photo by Joi Ito

[UPDATE: There's a very thorough report on the Citizen Media Summit at Open Democracy.]

Our good friend Jose Murilo is Budapest where he has been attending the Global Voices Citizen Media Summit 2008.

In addition to being the Global Voices Portuguese language editor, Murilo manages information technology and Internet stuff for the Brazilian Federal Ministry of Culture and is the Vice President of the Ceu do Planalto Santo Daime community in Brasilia.

Here's Murilo's early report in English and here's where you can listen to the world everyday at Global Voices Online. The voices at GVO are truly starting to be listened to. For example, Andrew Sullivan whose column appears at the online Atlantic Magazine recently reposted Murilo's
report from Brazil on the first black president.

At the Citizen Media Summit, Murilo says that he was especially drawn to the probing discussions about Internet censorship, and amazed by the deep integration that was achieved by the Global Voices community of managers, editors, authors and translators in debating the solutions for today's constraints and the vision for the future of this young organization.

He thinks Joi Ito -- one of the world's first bloggers and now the chairman of Creative Commons and the newly created Stitching Global Voices -- really captured the spirit of the conference when he said,

I think that by providing voices to all over the world, we have the ability to connect people and get people to care more.

I also believe that voice is probably more important than votes or guns. I believe that combating extremism is most effectively done by winning the argument in public, not by censorship, elections or destruction. I believe that providing everyone with a voice to participate in the global dialog is key.

Murilo just sent these "wind up" photos:

'Global Table of Booze' in Budapest
A table of "Global Booze" for the final party.

GVOers in Budapest
Some happy faces of the global voices.

And here's the flickr link to
everyones' photos.