“…when you sense a faint potentiality for happiness after such dark times you must grab onto the ankles of that happiness and not let go until it drags you face-first out of the dirt - this is not selfishness, but obligation. You were given life; it is your duty (and also your entitlement as a human being) to find something beautiful within life, no matter how slight.”—Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (p.115)
Long answer: It’s complicated. In general, it isn’t helpful to try to play the oppression olympics - fighting about who has it worse generally divides groups suffering under the same system against each other.
…In addition to that, most people will never get to experience what it is like to have some one else’s oppression directed toward them. We all feel our own oppressions very keenly, but only understand the oppression of others on an intellectual level - if we choose to empathize at all. So it’s hard to say what’s “worse” if there is no objective measuring tool.
“Collectively, as a species, this is our emotional landscape. I met an old lady once, almost one hundred years old, and she told me, “There are only two questions that human beings have ever fought over, all through history. How much do you love me? And Who’s in charge?” Everything else is somehow manageable. But these two questions of love and control undo us all, trip us up and cause war, grief and suffering.”—Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (p. 157)
“He said, “Just as there exists in writing a literal truth and a poetic truth, there also exists in a human being a literal anatomy and a poetic anatomy. One, you can see; one, you cannot. Ones is made of bones and teeth and flesh; the other is made of energy and memory and faith. But they are both equally true.””—Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (p. 144)
“The other day a monk told me, “The resting place of the mind is the heart. The only thing the mind hears all day is clanging bells and noise and argument, and all it wants is quietude. The only place the mind will ever find peace is inside the silence of the heart. That’s where you need to go.””—Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (p. 141)
The Canadian Press Posted: Apr 18, 2011 5:56 PM PT
Vancouver’s controversial safe injection site became an election issue Monday after yet another published study showed it has saved lives, prompting the study’s author to say Conservative policy on the site has no basis in fact.
Critics demanded Prime Minister Stephen Harper drop his government’s opposition to the clinic and abandon efforts to have it shut down.
Harper was in Yellowknife on Monday where he touted his government’s national drug strategy, saying it is based on prevention and treatment.
But the Conservative government has said in the past that it doesn’t condone the safe injection site and claims it fosters addiction.
The latest study was published this week in the influential medical journal The Lancet. It was written by Dr. Thomas Kerr, along with his colleagues from the Urban Health Research Initiative at Vancouver’s St. Paul’s Hospital.
"Canadians should be concerned about how the federal government is approaching problems like drug addiction — that they’re really not basing their decision on science, they’re basing it on ideology," Kerr said.
Fatal overdoses decrease
The clinic, Insite, opened in 2003 as the first of its kind in North America. It allows drug addicts to inject their own drugs in a clean environment under the supervision of a nurse, but it requires an exemption from federal Health Act legislation to operate.
The study concluded the site has helped reduce the number of fatal overdoses in Vancouver’s notorious Downtown Eastside by more than a third.
"This is further evidence showing that Insite is meeting its objectives [and] it’s very important because it’s showing it’s preventing death," said Kerr.
Researchers tracked fatal drug overdoses in the clinic’s immediate area over a 33-month period before the facility opened in September 2003, and for 27 months after it opened. The fatal overdose rate plunged 35 per cent after the site opened, the study found, while the number of fatal overdoses in the rest of the city fell by just nine per cent during the same period.
But the Conservative government has indicated it wants to end the exemption and see the supervised injection site closed.
Advocates for the clinic successfully challenged the federal government, winning a B.C. Supreme Court decision later upheld by the B.C. Appeal Court in January 2010 that found Insite is a health facility and so falls under provincial jurisdiction, not federal.
Federal lawyers appealed, however, arguing that Insite makes it easier for people to break the law.
This drew criticism from then-B.C. health minister Kevin Falcon, who pointed to the large body of independent research supporting the clinic.
The Supreme Court of Canada is expected to hear arguments on the matter next month.
'U.S. style war on drugs'
Kerr said Monday the Conservative’s stance on the matter is unenlightened.
"We’re really taking a step backwards by trying to employ a U.S. style war on drugs, which is a well documented policy failure," he said.
"Insite has also been shown to be highly cost effective. So if you’re concerned about the economy, this is clearly something that you should support."
Janice Buchanan, vice-president of the BC Nurses’ Union, called on the Harper government to drop its appeal in light of the Lancet study, saying the study shows Insite helps addicts get into detox and recover.
"Instead of wasting taxpayer’s money on lawyers and courts to try to shut down this legitimate health-care service, the ruling Conservatives — and all other political parties — should use this moment as an opportunity to ensure that their health-care policies are based on evidence," Buchanan said in a news release.
The B.C. government has spent about $3 million a year on Insite, a pillar of its harm-reduction strategy to battle drug addiction.
Over two dozen studies in various medical journals have hailed the facility as a success story, suggesting it has reduced overdose deaths, HIV and hepatitis rates and crime in the 10-block radius of the impoverished Downtown Eastside, where the city’s intravenous drug users are concentrated. The B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV-AIDS has said that since Insite opened, there’s been a 30 per cent increase in the number of addicts who enter detox.
Other Canadian cities, such as Victoria and Toronto, have said they want to open their own safe-injection clinics, modelled on Insite.
Liberal MP Hedy Fry, a physician whose Vancouver Centre riding encompasses the Downtown Eastside, said Harper must act on the evidence.
"If you recognize that addiction is an illness and it is a medical problem and you should deal with it with medical solutions, one of the most important things is prevention of death," Fry said. "[Insite is] achieving this objective in a remarkable manner."
Fry said the site is an effective public health tool.
"Stephen Harper lives in the flat-earth society. Evidence is what you look at. It works? Good."
“The art of living is neither careless drifting on the one hand nor fearful clinging on the other. It consists in being sensitive to each moment, in regarding it as utterly new and unique, in having the mind open and wholly receptive.”—Alan Watts (via oceanofmind)
last night i was thinking about what my tender heart would look like if i could see it. i am sad to say that the heart i saw in my head looked far too weathered and weary for my age.
i think it is really important that we continue working really hard at learning how to take of each other and conduct ourselves with courage and integrity our relationships. when i say ‘relationships’ i mean all of the different kids of relationships we have with others - not just with our dates. that saying “be careful with each other so we can be dangerous together” is really important to me right now. we live in a really scary world, and when things feel really dark i have to fight hard to see through the ugliness and destruction. we need to begin to be vulnerable and honest, we need to keep having real conversations and share our hearts even when it feels terrifying. we need to keep creating spaces to take care of each other so we can continue to be bad ass and tough, and do the activism we do. this world kicks the shit out of our hearts every day. when we turn around and do that to each other we are fucking each other over just as our respective states would like us to. one of the most revolutionary things we can do is cultivate new ways to connect, to be gentle and tender with one another in a world that is trying constantly to divide and conquer us. we can’t be tough without also being tender.
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given to you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions.”—Rainer Maria Rilke
Yes, I’ve finally started reading Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, and just finished “Book One: Italy or ‘Say It Like You Eat It’ or 36 Tales About the Pursuit of Pleasure”
I, too, am learning of this delight:
…I was actually feeling kind of delighted about all the compartments of time and space that were appearing in my days, during which I could ask myself the radical new question: “What do you want to do, Liz?” Most of the time… I didn’t even dare to answer the question, but just thrilled privately to its existence. And when I finally started to answer, I did so cautiously. I would only allow myself to express little baby-step wants. Like: I want to go to a Yoga class. I want to leave this party early, so I can go home and read a novel. I want to buy myself a new pencil box. (p. 23)
The last line of the Divine Comedy, in which Dante is faced with the vision of God Himself, is a sentiment that is still easily understandable by anyone familiar with so-called modern Italian. Dante writes that God is not merely a blinding vision of glorious light, but that He is, most of all, l’maor che move il sole e l’altre stelle… "The love that moves the sun and the other stars." (p. 46)
Riotous and endless waves of transformation… This is resonating with me as I embark on another adventure of uncertainty. I think I’m a little more at ease about it this time around.
I look at the Augusteum, and I think that perhaps my life has not actually been so chaotic, after all. It is merely this world that is chaotic, bringing changes to us all that nobody could have anticipated. The Augusteum warns me not to get attached to any obsolete ideas about who I am, what I represent, whom I belong to, or what function I may once have intended to serve. Yesterday I might have been a glorious monument to somebody, true enough - but tomorrow I could be a fireworks depository. Even in the Eternal City, says the silent Augusteum, one must always be prepared for riotous and endless waves of transformation. (p. 75)
This passage is followed by one that details her friend’s response to her “I don’t know what to do.” The response was, “Tell the truth, tell the truth, tell the truth.” Yes, to each other, but to ourselves too.
Oh, Lord - responsibility. That word worked on my until I worked on it, until I looked at it carefully and broke it down into the two words that make its true definition: the ability to respond. And what I ultimately had to respond to was the reality that every speck of my being was telling me to get out of my marriage. Somewhere inside me an early-warning system was forecasting that if I kept trying to white-knuckle my way through this storm, I would end up getting cancer. And that if I brought children into the world anyway, just because I didn’t want to deal with the hassle or shame of revealing some impractical facts about myself - this would be an act of grievous irresponsibility. (p. 94)
Remembering. Though when I was in Venice, the sadness, the melancholy of that appropriately rainy day was my own too. Even the year that followed, yes, my body, it leaked like a sieve.
I can cope with, and even somehow enjoy, the sinking melancholy of Venice, just for a few days. Somewhere in my I am able to recognize that this is not my melancholy; this is the city’s own indigenous melancholy, and I am healthy enough these days to be able to feel the difference between me and it. This is a sign, I cannot help but think, of healing, of the coagulation of my self. There were a few years there, lost in borderless despair, when I sued to experience all the world’s sadness as my own. Everything sad leaked through me and left damp traces behind. (p. 101)
“We are all facing choices that define us. No choice, however messy, is without importance in the overall picture of our lives. We all at our own age have to claim something, even if it’s only our own confusion. I am in the middle of growing up and into myself.”—
Sabrina Ward Harrison
(from Spilling Open: The Art of Becoming Yourself)
“Long have you timidly waded holding a plank by the shore, now I will you to be a bold swimmer, to jump off into the midst of the sea, rise again, nod to me, shout! and laughingly dash with your hair.”—Walt Whitman
…instead of denying feelings like anger, irritation, fear, or reluctance. articulate the other person’s point of view. In other words, Make people happier by acknowledging that they’re not feeling happy.
Sounds easy, right? Wrong. I had no idea how often I contradicted other people’s assertions of their feelings until I tried to quit. “You always have fun when we go.” “You should be thrilled, this is great news.” “It won’t be that much work.”
For a moment, I feel so awake. I feel a beautiful alertness, as if the sorrow and calm and joy and exploding furious vengeance of the world have all settled into me and shown themselves to be the same. Yes, all of an identical essence, different reflections of one basic feeling, one notion, in the way that water is at once an iceberg, the surf, a cloud. Why would I ever sleep?
”—Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lam (p. 336-337)
“Our lives are not as limited as we think they are; the world is a wonderfully weird place; consensual reality is significantly flawed; no institution can be trusted, but love does work; all things are possible; and we all could be happy and fulfilled if we only had the guts to be truly free and the wisdom to shrink our egos and quit taking ourselves so damn seriously.”—Tom Robbins (via oceanofmind)
I cure Mrs. Amin’s hiccups by bringing her a large plastic cup of ice water a a thin white straw. I have her plug her ears tightly, pushing both her right and left tragus (that little triangle of springy flesh that arcs backwards over the ear canal).
I cheerlead, “Go, drink, go, go, don’t stop!” She follows my instructions and drinks the entire glass of water through the straw without pause, without releasing the pressure over her ears. The hiccups stop. I love it.
"Miraculous," she says, smiling. She does not hiccup.
I love doing this because hiccups are of no significance, because this entertaining clinical intervention works, and I have no idea why it works. There is delicious freedom in doing something I do not understand, which cures a condition of no importance.
Again, from Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures, by Vincent Lam (p. 320-321)
bits and pieces that struck me from Vincent Lam’s work…
this reminded me of the emotions and late-night discussions of last year. oh, but the beauty of pining!
The pain of rejection was a significant shade different from the longing of desire, he noted, although drawn from the same palette. (p. 8)
the ever-present interview/application question: why do you want to xyz? why, why, why?
Others were not genuine, they agreed, and transparently wanted to become doctors for money and prestige. Ming and Fitzgerald wanted medicine for the right reasons, they told each other: service, humanity, giving. Because their motivations were clean, they were certain they deserved it more than those among them. They did not ask why they wanted to serve, be humane, or to give. These simply felt like the right motivations, and being correctly motivated should improve their chances of success. This was enough, and these sentiments felt easy and immune from questioning. If forced to reflect, both Ming and Fitzgerald would have had to admit that these convictions were, at their core, somewhat improvised. They did not challenge each other, but instead reinforced each other’s sense of moral correctness as a virtuous conspiracy of two. (p. 9-10)
don’t we all have secrets? and what of shame? that we beg to casually divulge in order to relieve ourselves of the burden. yes, that relief…
In this instance, however, their pre-set constraints meant that nothing would be lost by discussing this thing that she carried like a full bowl of water on her head - so careful to not spill it and yet every moment wanting to smash it into the ground. (p. 23-24)
past and present. perspective. baby, we’ve come a long way…
Fitzgerald thought of a ferry trip to the Island with Ming before she met Chen, and was surprised that he could remember this without bitterness, without needing to know whether Chen knew that Ming and Fitzgerald had once spent a sunny afternoon on Centre Island. He felt good, that it was mostly a pleasant memory of a woman whom he now hardly knew, and of himself as a person he remembered. A slight pang, of course, but after an unusual length of sobriety he was able to see that this was mostly a pang for his present aloneness, and that there was no truth to representing it otherwise. (p. 292)
and then just the visceral beauty of rich description:
The sun has left the city. The day collapses into a violet glow - this new purple sky which is the warm birth of night. I look down into the bright windows of houses, at two shadows of boys under a street light, and over the convulsive writhing of a tree’s body in the wind. I resent night, the long awakening darkness that will be flickered by red, yellow, and green at intersections, slashed open by arcing headlights, this void gasping for breath, and punctured by the sudden smash of fist into shouting mouth. I see an ambulance hurtle straight up Spadina Avenue, like a bullet shot into darkness. (p. 306-307)
“Well I feel there’s a glow that lives inside everything and every moment that sometimes we get to see and to know. We see it when we love people and things, when we are grateful. As for me, I love music, I love the ocean, I love my friends, rowboats, amusement parks, Elephant 6. There’s no room to even begin, but all of these things are made of magic. What is magic? The sense of wonder and delight caused by that which we witness transcending physicality; expressing something well beyond it’s boundaries. It’s life. It’s love.”—Julian Koster of The Music Tapes and Neutral Milk Hotel (via oceanofmind)