For Our Beloved Lost Ones (After the Shooting), With Love

DSCF0531

For our beloved lost ones …

We are in the hallway,
we have our books, our friends,
and every wild certain hope for the future.
We step through the front doors
and into the hallway,
end in sight, giddy for the outcome,
a turned corner, a new day,
for love, for lovers, for learning.
It is our work to be young,
to shoulder what responsibilities we can,
to live in a world with kindness,
to be protected. To be protected.
We have lost so much.
We have lost almost everything.
The hallways, now, lined with our terror,
the classrooms teaching principles
that are not abided by,
so our lives are torn asunder.
It is our right to be young.
We are taught to trust and obey
in something that is now sick and dying.
It is time to to tear these hallways down
and find what serves,
what is worthy of our belief,
to find a radical starting again.
To plumb the depths oceans
and scale the mountain peaks,
to sit in dark, quiet caves and listen,
to learn our truths for the first time in our young lives,
and believe in them above all else,
and build with love
on the ashes of our beloved departed,
grow flowers where they lie,
honour them every hour of every day,
not stop until what is sick is healed,
be the change that will save the world.

– Tammy Takahashi

 

 

 

Advertisements

New: The ‘Read Every Book on your Bookshelf’ Project!

I took the photo, but this is not my bookshelf.

I took the photo, but this is not my bookshelf.

What? Why have I never thought of this before?

The ‘Read Every Book on your Shelf’ Project! The REBOYS Project?

Well, for one, it’s terribly daunting. I mean, who’s ever actually read all the books on their bookshelves? Or the night table by your bed, where many of them tend to migrate?

I can buy chocolate and have no problem devouring it, but when I buy a book, unless I consume it voraciously, right away, it becomes decoration and kind of ceases to exist the way it’s meant to be in this world: to be read and loved, just like it deserves to be. Like I do with so many of its friends, newly bought or borrowed.

I just wrote an article about the importance of reading actual books, and it was published on elephant journal. And I stand by every syllable I wrote there.

But I also realized, as much as I love reading and DO read, how have I managed to escape reading all the books I actually own, over and over in my life, no matter how many times I’ve purged and started over?

Habits are hard to break.

I love love love love books. In addition to actually reading them, I love holding them, flipping through the pages, smelling them, arranging them by aesthetic appeal, taking in the magic of typology and design. Give me a bookstore through Door A and any other store through Door B, and I’ll choose Door A every time (there are probably some exceptions, but I can’t think of them right now.)

I honestly don’t have too many weaknesses when it comes to buying things, but books are utterly in a world of their own, in my “books” (ugh).
Before I upped and left my home in Canada for years of travel that have not yet ended, I gave away most of my furniture, kitchen stuff, shoes and clothes … you name it. But I couldn’t part with my books. Into box after box they went, and I currently fantastize about them in my parents’ basement. (thanks, Mom and Dad!)

I spent years and years cultivating and fine-tuning those bookshelves! They made my living room, and eventually a wall in the kitchen of my fairly small apartment what they were. They breathed life and living into my space.

No, I never quite read all of them. But I really meant to. And those I did read, some over and over, were alive with our joint history. I scribbled notes in them, had one-sided debates and love affairs with the authors, and simply had a long and full relationship with them.

How does one part with that?

Yet I did (de)part, first for Southeast Asia and India, and then for Japan, with my newly-minted Japanese husband (who doesn’t quite share my fixation with books).

We spent years shuttling back and forth between Thailand, Laos and India, and I managed what I thought would be impossible – to keep my “shelf” of books down to the two or three I was currently reading, which I would trade in for new books when I needed to. It pained me to let go of the books, some of which I came to hold dear, which happens all too often. Sometimes I’m afraid to read a book, which I think consider to become a part of my skin, and who parts with their skin?

I’ll admit I kept a few I deemed absolutely essential (like a book on Tibetan dreaming), and I eventually sent a few of these essentials “home) (thanks Mom and Dad, and in-laws!). I mean, there was no way I was going to be in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram bookstore and not buy a few treasures.

As I mentioned, I’m in Japan now, and not in Tokyo, where my beloved Kinokuniya bookstore (which I ‘met’ in Bangkok) resides. I have very little access to English-language books, and I’m trying to avoid collecting – for now. So, my bookshelf consists of the books we managed to amass in our last weeks in India (slightly more than a few), along with some books we sent to my husband’s parents over the years, and ones I Amazon-ordered before a trip to see family in the U.S. last year – oh, and my parents gave me a few from their collection while I was there. And oh – I have managed to find a few here, as it turns out …

My photo. Not my books. I can't understand these, and even that's barely keeping me from wanting to own them.

My photo. Not my books. I can’t understand these, and even that’s barely keeping me from wanting to own them.

Sigh.

Yes, it’s a pretty meager shelf of books – and I’ve successfully persisted in my habit of not reading most of them. I skim, I read chapters, but my Internet-addled brain (and Internet-based job, which I do from home) have left my head swimming with half-read articles, stories and the like.
Though I far precede the era of reading on phones, tablets, Kindles and whatever, my brain is slowly starting to move in a direction away from delicious full-book reading, and more into snippet consumption.

I don’t like it. I want to read my books, slowly, savoring them like fine wine, without a care in the world, with full capacity to lose myself in the moment.

And that’s why I’m starting this project. I will read every book on my shelf, start to finish. It may take a while. I hope it doesn’t take that long. And of course, since I’m a writer and I like sharing, I’ll write about it. I would love to see people all over the world embracing this project, and forming a community where we can reclaim our power to read-read – and to remember how delightful it is.

My photo and my shelf. I made Lucy to motivate me. She has great eyes for reading.

My photo and my shelf. I made Lucy to motivate me. She has great eyes for reading.

And what an accomplishment it would be, to actually self-educate and entertain with a collection of books we ourselves have curated for this very purpose!

We have created our own inbuilt entertainment unit, and cast it aside like yesterday’s news! And then we claim we’re bored!

How great would it be to re-visit our years-long curation project, and remember bits and piece of who we were then, who we are now, what we like and don’t like, and how we’ve changed?

How great to have a reminder of what we’d like to keep reading and what we are no longer interested in?

Let’s not waste years of book-collecting, or the actual books themselves. If we really don’t like them, we can give them away, so this is effectively a book-cleanse as well as an enriching, even enlightening experience!

I’m excited now. And I’d love for you to join me, and Read Every Book on your Bookshelf!

Here are the rules:

1) Walk over to your bookshelf.
2) Remove dust if necessary.
3) Take a book off the shelf.
4) Read it!

Am I saying, don’t buy any new books until these are done? Hmm. I’m saying try. At least be very aware and mindful of the fact that you still have a lot of other books you will joyfully be getting through, and wonder to yourself (out loud, if need be), if yet another book is necessary at this point.

Am I saying, stop reading anything online? Nope! Just make time, ideally each day, to sit down, maybe with a nice cup of coffee or tea, and enjoy the book from your shelf!

Am I saying, stop reading what you’ve got on Kindle? Well, no … but let’s start with the library that came first!

Any questions/comments? I’d love to hear from you!

Happy reading!

No More Teachers … 5 Quotes and Movies to Get the Learning Going

 

 

 

Tammy T. Stone

Tammy T. Stone

 

 

“And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Kids all over are going back to school this week.

For moms and dads, this might mean combined feelings of swelling pride, the excitement and anxiety over how it will all go (and maybe some panic over scheduling), and then some wistfulness for those years when your baby was still too young for school and you could witness the moment-to-moment joys of their development.

For those without kids, there can still be a twang that erupts come Labour Day. It’s partly nostalgia for those awkward and anticipation-filled first days back in the land of lockers and cafs:

What should I wear?

Will my crush be as cute in September as he was last June?

There’s also some dread mixed in, because blissful, vastly expansive summer days are giving way to too-early mornings and endless classes on arcane subjects.

Remember the hypotenuse theorem, anyone? (Okay, I do, but there’s lots of stuff lost in the folds of time.)

As someone who spent long, long years both enduring and revelling in those first days back (I went to school continuously from nursery school to Masters, and then went back to start a Phd after a break), the overriding feeling I get in early September is a renewal of desire to learn and a sense of wonder over what forms learning will take this time around.

It goes without saying that learning happens everywhere, all the time,  in the most fascinating of guises.

Since every moment is an opportunity to learn—about ourselves, others, the world, and these are all one thing, really—I wanted to share “five and five”—five education-themed quotes and five movies to watch.

Let’s get learning, everyone!

5 Quotes:

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.” – T. S. Eliot ~ T. S. Eliot

~

“Have you learned the lessons only of those who admired you, and were tender with you, and stood aside for you? Have you not learned great lessons from those who braced themselves against you, and disputed passage with you?” – Walt Whitman

~

“There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti

~

“Ideally, what should be said to every child, repeatedly, throughout his or her school life is something like this: ‘You are in the process of being indoctrinated. We have not yet evolved a system of education that is not a system of indoctrination.

We are sorry, but it is the best we can do. What you are being taught here is an amalgam of current prejudice and the choices of this particular culture. The slightest look at history will show how impermanent these must be. You are being taught by people who have been able to accommodate themselves to a regime of thought laid down by their predecessors. It is a self-perpetuating system.

Those of you who are more robust and individual than others will be encouraged to leave and find ways of educating yourself —educating your own judgement. Those that stay must remember, always, and all the time, that they are being moulded and patterned to fit into the narrow and particular needs of this particular society.’” – Doris Lessing

~

“There is a story of a woman running away from tigers. She runs and runs and the tigers are getting closer and closer. When she comes to the edge of a cliff, she sees some vines there, so she climbs down and holds on to the vines. Looking down, she sees that there are tigers below her as well. She then notices that a mouse is gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries close to her, growing out of a clump of grass. She looks up and she looks down.

She looks at the mouse. Then she just takes a strawberry, puts it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly. Tigers above, tigers below. This is actually the predicament that we are always in, in terms of our birth and death. Each moment is just what it is. It might be the only moment of our life; it might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat. We could get depressed about it, or we could finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life.”

~ Pema Chodron

5 Movies:

There are so many brilliant films from all over the world dealing directly or indirectly with learning and education. Films have actually been a huge part of my formal and informal education, no matter what the subject, so this list is just a tiny drop in the amazing bucket of cinematic delights, as they came to my heart!

 

1. Dead Poets Society (Peter Weir): A teacher (Robin Williams) teaches students about freedom of belief. Simply a must.

See trailer here.

 

 2. Spellbound (Jeffrey Blitz): A quiet, uncannily compelling documentary centred around the beloved (and feared) spelling bee.

See trailer here.

 

3. Project Happiness (John Sorensen): A very inspiring documentary traversing the globe with students, and winding up in India in search of the meaning of lasting happiness.

See trailer here.

 

4. Into the Wild (Sean Penn): A chronicle of a young man eager to live life to the fullest and learn about life from the source: nature’s wild.

See trailer here.

 

5. The Class (Lauren Cantet): A brilliant, quasi-documentary in which a teacher plays himself in his racially diverse Parisian classroom.

See trailer here.

 

Bonus: H. H. The Dalai Lama  on learning and never forgetting the importance of compassion.

View here!

 

94

 

Writing Genesis (and Shakespeare).

DSCF4646

 

The Shakespeare sonnet below has been in my life since I was 13 and our visionary, absolutely brilliant English (and French) teacher, Mr. Wilson, made us memorize it, long before we could possibly know what it was about.

I tore it apart, sounded it out, learned new words (livery?), and reveled in its rhythms. Sometimes I thought I got it a little bit, and then it would be gone. All I could hear were its melodious tones reverberating in my head because of the way repetition can make the most familiar words strange.

A few years later, I visited my elementary school and Mr. Wilson invited me in to say hello. Without warning, he prompted me to recite the poem. I knew he knew I would still have it memorized. Which I did.

I can hardly believe I’ve reached the impossibly faraway age referred to in this poem, and that it’s still etched so deeply into me.

I love the way the poem asks us to take a look at ourselves as we change, at the nature of change itself. Parts of who we are bound to fall away. This is the nature of things. We become stripped, bare, a gaping, open thing awaiting our discovery.

I love the way Mr. Wilson, one of my foundational teachers, allowed us, in our earliest of teens and barely out of childhood, to play with an unfathomable future, to have a taste before understanding would becomes possible. So that it would.

I thank him from the bottom of my heart for encouraging me to make my own magic out of words, before I really knew how delicious and powerful they could be.

 

When forty winters shall besiege thy brow, by William Shakespeare

When forty winters shall besiege thy brow,
And dig deep trenches in thy beauty’s field,
Thy youth’s proud livery, so gazed on now,
Will be a tatter’d weed, of small worth held.

Then being asked where all thy beauty lies,
Where all the treasures of thy lusty days,
To say, within thine own deep, sunken eyes,
Were an all eating shame and thriftless praise.

How much more praise deserved thy beauty’s use
If though coulds’t answer, “this fair child of mine
Shall sum my count and make my old excuse.”
Proving his beauty by succession thine.

This were to be new made when thou art old,
And see they blood warm, when thou feel’st it cold.