Total Pageviews

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples

Wednesday is the United Nations International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. Throughout time and across the globe, we as Indigenous peoples have had to fight for our lands, our languages, our cultures and often, our very survival, as explorers sought to conquer and colonize us. Armed with the Doctrine of Discovery, a decree issued by Pope Alexander VI in 1493, tyranny was the way most colonies were settled.

Canada was no exception. Despite treaties and agreements founded on partnership and sharing, early colonial governments set out to rule Indigenous peoples. Successive governments set up the Indian Act and the reserve system to break down our traditional ways of life. Governments created the residential schools system to destroy our languages, our cultures and families, and took decisions about development without our proper involvement as peoples with continuing pre-existing rights in our traditional territories.

Denial of our rights to self-determination and our right to benefit from the rich resources of our lands has led us to where we are today. A vast socio-economic gap grew between First Nations and Canadians resulting in a shorter life expectancy, higher infant mortality, higher rates of chronic disease, incarceration, substance abuse and suicide.
In 2017, we are finally taking first steps toward meaningful change. Prime Minister Trudeau pledged to work with us when he said no relationship was more important to Canada, or his government, than the one with Indigenous peoples.

Of the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, 16 are tied to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The UN declaration recognizes that the rights of Indigenous peoples are human rights, and that countries, including Canada, have obligations to respect those rights. Through several UN General Assembly resolutions, Canada and the global community are committed to its full implementation. The next step is to work together to develop legislation and a National Action Plan for its implementation.

The declaration is a framework for reconciliation based on recognition of rights, as opposed to the many Canadian laws written to deny those rights. The Assembly of First Nations has called for a joint table to bring Canada and First Nations together to review laws, policies, and practices to ensure they align with the UN declaration. Canada’s Constitution must also be understood and interpreted in light of the UN declaration and the inherent and treaty rights it protects.

Our current effort to co-develop an Indigenous Languages Act is an example of partnership to repair the legacy of the past. Language is central to our songs, stories and ceremonies. Our languages are fundamental to our self-determination. Together, we must put the same amount of effort into revitalizing and maintaining our languages as Canada put into trying to eradicate them.

There is still much work to do. An urgent priority is ending the ongoing discrimination that causes our children to be taken from their homes and families in numbers that exceed those taken at the height of the residential schools system. Canada must immediately end its discriminatory underfunding of First Nations child welfare, discrimination that’s been proven and upheld by Canada’s own Human Rights Tribunal.

The UN Declaration is a framework for all this work, a path to progress and prosperity for all. Now is the time to commit ourselves to giving it life and full expression, to realize a new and transformed era in Indigenous-Crown relations.

Our history as the first peoples of this land is as old as human memory, older than the treaties and older still than our first meetings with the newcomers. We remember that history, and look forward to the great changes ahead. Changes that will see our rights and our potential finally, fully realized. On this International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, our message to Canadians is that these changes will benefit us all.

So when you hear of new laws and new approaches, rights and title, language legislation and land recovery, don’t fear these changes. Embrace them. They represent a new and long overdue chapter in our shared history and a path to a brighter future built on respect.

Perry Bellegarde is National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Film being made about Basho and his student

Zen monk Seigaku: A life with less can be so much more

Special To The Japan Times
Japanese monk Seigaku lives a Zen life with as little money as possible in Berlin. The desire for popularity led Seitaro Higuchi from Tottori on the Sea of Japan to Germany’s capital, transforming himself along the way. He had sought to become an actor — and instead became a monk. How did this come about?

“I wanted to be popular with girls,” Seigaku says over the phone, laughing. He is speaking from Kyoto, where he is shooting a movie over two months in summer.
As fate would have it, the 36-year-old monk is now also an actor, playing the role of a monk who was a student of poet Matsuo Basho in a fictional documentary by Swiss filmmaker Richard Dindo.

The documentary traces the life and times of the famous poet, who has since become famous for his haiku verses. Dindo wanted to use real monks in his production and so chose Seigaku to play the role of the student and another higher-ranking monk from a temple in Kyoto to play Basho.
Image result for pic of Basho
standard pic of Basho

Seigaku, who spends most of the year in Berlin since moving there in 2011, has quite a story to tell.
Born Seitaro Higuchi, he became a Zen monk at the age of 23 after graduating from Keio University with a degree in politics.

“I couldn’t find a reason to work for capitalism,” he recalls, thinking back to his final years at university. Instead, he was looking for something he felt would be more fulfilling.
There was also the desire for popularity. He wanted to be liked and decided to imitate someone who was already popular.

Noting that a popular senior student in his ice hockey team was also an actor, Higuchi seized his chance when a friend invited him to take part in a theater production produced by Yoko Narahashi.
The internationally renowned casting director and film producer also headed an English drama theater group for students at universities in and around Tokyo. Higuchi realized this offered him a great opportunity.

However, Higuchi’s enthusiasm was soon brought down to earth by Narahashi, who told him not to do anything in front of the camera. Narahashi told him he was “doing too much and trying too hard,” advising him to “undo” what he was doing. Such advice tore Higuchi apart.

“Up to this point, I thought that we have a purpose in life, and that we have to find this purpose by doing the very best that we can,” Higuchi recalls. “It was difficult for me to change my mind-set.”
At the time, Narahashi was working on “The Last Samurai” starring Tom Cruise. Higuchi wondered why such a popular actor was into samurai warriors. He realized that the Japanese kanji for samurai (侍) contains two parts: “human” (人) and “temple” (寺). This connection between a samurai and Buddhist ways of thinking led him to develop an interest in Buddhism and Zen.

A cousin of Higuchi’s father was serving as a monk in a Zen temple and so he asked how best to practice Zen.
His distant relative told him the best way to practice is to become a monk. And so he did.
Higuchi decided to practice as a monk for one year at Eiheiji, one of two main temples of the Soto school of Zen Buddhism. Eiheiji is located in Fukui Prefecture.
He enjoyed living at Eiheiji very much, although life in the mountains was pretty ordinary. A typical day would consist of waking up, eating, cleaning, sitting and meditating (zazen), and sleeping. All these activities — especially the cleaning routine (called samu) — would be carried out with mindfulness as a part of Zen. One year at the temple turned into three years before he even knew it.
Higuchi, who had by now adopted the name Seigaku, went back to his former life in Tokyo only to realize that he needed money. He tried to earn the minimum amount needed to survive, working in an izakaya pub as a bartender and chef.

“Once I earned the minimum amount, the amount I saved grew larger,” he recalls. “At the temple I hadn’t used electric appliances like TVs, laptops, mobile phones and so on. Once I saved a little bit of money, I thought I should get a phone so that my friends would be able to communicate with me. The more I earned, the more I started living like I used to before I lived in the temple.”
Eventually, he worked less and only practiced Zen. He shared an apartment with friends, where they would sit and meditate together.

His next goal would be to attempt living this kind of lifestyle in other parts of the world.
“By living like this, I could prove that this way of life is OK,” he says. “The Zen way of life could therefore become an alternative way of life to capitalism.”
Seigaku had planned to move to New York in April 2011, using a scholarship for monks from the Yokohama Zenkoji Scholarship Foundation for International Buddhist Study that would grant him ¥1 million for one year.

But then the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident in Fukushima occurred and he changed his destination. Seigaku had just married and his wife was expecting their first child.
“Nobody knew what would happen next. The situation was changing a lot,” he recalls. “When Germany decided to phase out its nuclear power plants, we chose to move to Berlin instead.”
He arrived in Germany with his pregnant wife in May 2011. The scholarship helped them get their first apartment in Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood and his wife gave birth.
“I like the relaxed atmosphere in Berlin a lot,” Seigaku says. “It feels like people don’t seem to depend too much on capitalism and on the economy.”

In Berlin, Seigaku has been meditating every day. He first did it in his apartment. Then, friends started to join him in his home. One day an attendant invited him to do it in his cafe, and the word started to spread.
For nearly two years, Seigaku has been holding zazen classes in a yoga studio, owned by another attendant, where students give donations. He also holds zazen workshops in a salon space called Ryoko that is run by Ryoko Hori and her partner, Daniel Kula. Likewise, participants don’t pay a fee for the service but instead offer a donation.
“Berlin has changed me,” Seigaku says. “I’m healthier today. I have met many different people and become confident that the Zen way of living could be a real alternative for the next generation. That said, it’s always difficult and never stable.”

Sometimes he goes to a square dressed in his black robes. He just sits there and places a bowl in front of him. Occasionally, people put food or money in his bowl.
“I want to stay in Berlin because more and more people seem to be interested in my way of living,” Seigaku says.

It does indeed seem that a life with less can be so much more.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

interviews for Eel Pie Island Dharma movie script going well

I had my second phone interview with the script writers at noon yesterday. I meant to limit the time, but I was so engrossed in telling my stories (sooprise!) that somehow an hour and 10 mins slipped by before Tom asked if that was enough. I'd only sipped half my beer, and honestly had thought we were only 15 or 20 mins into the interview, so obviously I was thoroughly enjoying it.

Afterwards I Googled Twickenham and found the site for the Twick Museum. I sent them an email asking to be  added to their list of writers and poets connected with Twick history - be interesting to see if they reply. Also on the site was a map of Twick area, and I must have spent half an hour revisiting various old haunts. I was able to find the street the Squires lived on, as well as The Hermitage (street in Richmond) where I briefly lived in a flat with Crippled Eddie. The interviewers wanted to know how and where I lived in the time period between my narsty cousin throwing me into the street and when I moved into the Eel Pie Hotel. l didn't write a lot about this period in EPID, so again it was interesting to remember and reminisce  ;  )

We're taking a break from the interviews for at least a few days, which I think is a good thing all around. As much as I may like to talk about myself and my adventures, it can get a bit tedious - fortunately the interviewers claim to find all this blather fascinating (?)

Twickenham Museum
Twickenham Museum on The Embankment

Footage of PurdyFest by Professional videographer

Hi Henry,
It's a real longshot that the 2 young Brit actor/playwrights will get beyond writing the script - figure it's a 10,000 to one longshot that a movie will ever be made. But it's exciting that they think so highly of the book that they want to do this! We started a series of interviews yesterday - here's yesterday's blog posting:

I'll post stuff on the blog from time to time to stay updated. Part of why I emailed you is that you took professional footage of the PurdyFests. I don't know how much of my literal story will be in the script and if they'd want an update on my activities for inclusion in the film (if made!), or if the script will be more an an "everyman hippie", which was a bit of my intention when I wrote Eel Pie Island Dharma.

Be great if you decide to take some R&R at Tai & Kim's B&B on Presqu'ile. It's a gorgeous place, both their house and the park. Have you ever visited there?

keep in touch ;  )-
peace & poetry power!

On 2017-08-02, at 11:03 AM, Henry Martinuk wrote:

Hi Chris,
very exciting news about the Eel Pie Island Dharma movie. Looking forward to seeing it!
I thought the Milt & Gwen reading was a bit subdued but it may have been the heat in the bookstore; no circulation & lots of bodies.

I really want to visit & Tai is encouraging me to also stay in his B&B. Lots of possibilities in the fall.
I'll definitely give you plenty of notice before I head to Marmora so we can connect.
cheers, Henry

Monday, 31 July 2017

Eel Pie Island Dharma: THE MOVIE!?

Two fine young playwrights who grew up in Twickenham have long been intrigued with the legends of local Eel Pie Island. Curiosity and the search for a fresh project inevitably led Tom Hanson and Sam Gillett to stumble upon my friend and former Eel Pie communard Weed's website. And among Weed's intriguing memorabilia of the psychedelic 1960s they found my hippie haibun/memoir of that magical period, Eel Pie Island Dharma

A Hidden Brook Press book "The Texture of Days, in Ash and Leaf" by Bruce Kauffman

So now Tom and Sam have my permission to write a screenplay based on Eel Pie Island Dharma. Today we began the first in a series of long distance interviews to help them with their in depth research.

From our initial conversation I can tell they intuitively understand the soul, spirit and intentions of my manuscript. In fact they noted some chapters in the book which they better understand are key to the narrative than I did as the author. They also have an understanding and appreciation of haiku/haibun, as Tom performed in a play based on Basho's Narrow Road to the Deep North.  

It will be incredibly fascinating to read Tom and Sam's screenplay interpretation of Eel Pie Island Dharma.  They bring a fresh-eyed perspective to the spiritual heights and social turmoil of a period I've always considered a mini renaissance in human consciousness.

Will Eel Pie Island Dharma end up on big (or little) screens around the planet? Is the time now ripe for a revisiting of the sixties? The thought of the soundtrack is enough to give me kundalini - Hendrix is on my stereo, The Wind Cries Mary, with its haunting lyric the tiny island sags downstream