Some See Rainbows Acrylic on board 24″ X 48″ Anita S Tillemans
One can view this house on the way to Silver Lake by bus. The tree on its east, now gone, was a reminder of the elms that stood majestically along the boulevards in Minneapolis over 45 years ago. These trees have been taken down in great numbers … because, it seems, it was more cost effective to lumber them than to save them.
Trees are money of course. Never mind that they harbor and nourish wildlife, birds of all kinds and others, including humans, that require the shelter, the food, the shade, breadth and breath of an old tree.
Heart-sick watching these giants being harvested in the city of Minneapolis … to make room for more big box houses and parking lots, water parks, roads, sidewalks, and for pulp, mulch, or table tops and doors.
When will we, as a society, learn that old growth trees are essential … that we need clean air … clean water … and earth that is growing? In this regard, trees are vital. Money will not provide this. We will continue to see species extermination until this is learned in earnest throughout the whole of human society.
Do we own our technology, or does it own us? Do we own our possessions, or do they own us? Will we be happier with bigger houses and fancier cars, trips to somewhere else when we have no true investment in the places we live? Better not to grow any investment if it means destroying our base and, with it, the living legacy of our old trees.
I miss the canopy that stood over the boulevards in Minneapolis when I arrived almost 50 years ago … replaced by saplings, which are being trimmed regularly to optimize board feet when harvested. The arbor that arched over our streets cannot be replaced in an entire lifetime. What kind of world are we making on our way to making money?
We walked along the shore looking out over the Pacific Ocean, wandering around giant cedars that had drifted up along the shore … nature’s taking …. and yet mankind continues to take so much more – clearing mountaintops of ancient stands of cedars in the Olympic National Forest. Giants felled, and man the so-called “conqueror”.
Was this path intended all along? Civilizations have come and gone for much the same reasons; and we never seem to learn that these resources are finite.
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Seems the only answer to this dilemma; and yet, where are we along that path?
Living mother, lord of all, with beauteous even’ tides,
Garden of our ancestors, in loving care abide.
A curious child, unwitting, stands at the stormy gate;
Prods, provokes and challenges, but understands too late
That Time, oh precious little time, will beat no last retreat,
As earthly mother, lord of all, rumbles at his feet.
Souls seared and silenced,
Where tears merge with sand,
High pass mountain gales,
Forbearance, hushed and damned.
Stormy trails and trials emerge
Where icy winds and streams
Prevail in piercing whispers,
And raindrop crystal gleams.
Still beside the trail,
In stoic mind and stand,
Dreams of one no longer come
To war with any man.
In regard to Stonehenge, it is important for a bigger picture to consider the effect of farming cultures moving in to the British Isles, the sacrifices found at Stonehenge (one of an archer) the charred remains of people and animals (cremation of animals or food waste?), at henges made of wood in particular … the prime possibility that there was genocide, people burned at the stake (since there is evidence of charred remains at the posts holes in the wood henges) all of which could have occurred, displacing hunters and gatherers to the benefit of the agricultural community and the mining of metals. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Stonehenge in its final stage coexisted with wood henges. Were these political statements of sorts? One favoring the predominance of forests, one the elimination of these same forests for cultivation of food? Evidence of monuments to man and his beliefs can be found throughout our written history. Why not before?
All cultures have been fascinated by the heavens, by the sun, stars and moon … this is nothing new. It is also not news that powerful people require means to indoctrinate the masses to further the changes that they would like to see in society; and it is not much of a leap, either, to understand how farming became a way to gather more land and therefore more power.
We are familiar, as well, how the beliefs of indigenous cultures can be used to inculcate a system that supports the agendas of powerful people … time and time again. The hunter-gatherers were more or less nomads, moving with the wild and benefiting from the forests. Some would train wolves to guard and herd a few domesticated animals; but, on the whole, this did not take on the scale of farming methods brought in by the Europeans. It might have been a benefit, therefore, to use pagan rituals to create a system that would support the farming culture, and thus Stonehenge in its final stage, created not only to predict the changing seasons but to promote the change to farming in society through ritual and sacrifice (eg the Mayans).
Farming brought increased populations to the area because of the greater abundance of food, which then produced and required more tilled soil and less forest. So many studies make no distinction between the indigenous populations that created earlier versions of the henge in wood to the final Stonehenge created from stone. It is also interesting that attribution is not only made to the pagans, who had thrived off forests for thousands of years, but also to the “druids”,with little evidence of their existence before 200 BC; when, in fact, construction of the “stone” henge built by 2500BC, the one we see today, was a practice brought by those European farmers who immigrated to the isles during that time. It seems most likely that it was under this particular influence that the stone monuments and burial mounds were built.
By 2500 BC, metals were brought to England and then all hell broke loose. By 2000 BC most of the forests that covered the British Isles were a memory. I hardly think the culture that had practiced sustainability for thousands of years, like the indigenous peoples in Alaska and northern Minnesota would have built stone monuments that supported a practice to destroy their base.
I wonder, sometimes, if we aren’t hard-wired to destroy ourselves. Nothing else makes sense in my limited view. One thing’s for certain, if we don’t know the truth and we don’t live with our eyes wide open, we can never find a better way.
This painting is my vision of Stonehenge as a monument to the new culture of farming with the ghosts of a forest in the background as the land is cleared.
Anita Suzanne Tillemans, October 2014
The Nature of Intelligence and the Process of Peace
I have long appreciated an interpretation of Lao Tzu’s Tao Teh King by Archie J Bahm, who was a professor of philosophy at the University of New Mexico in the 1950’s. He interpreted “tao teh king” as “nature and intelligence”, and so appreciated Lao Tzu the scholar, librarian, and a man who did not intend his writings as “religion”, but a handbook on living intelligently through observation of the natural order. In this essay, I have taken from Professor Bahm’s text, published by Frederick Ungar Publishing Company, New York; and cited where necessary integrating with my own philosophy – a philosophy that has in part developed in the light of Lao Tzu’s great book and Archie Bahm’s insightful words.
At the basis of all, it appears, that for peace to reign one must “accept what is as it is” and in doing so “teach by example” [p 12 II]. “All distinctions naturally appear as opposites” and “opposites get their meaning from each other (finding) their completion only through each other” [p 12, II]. It follows, then, that “in conflicts between opposites, the more one attacks his seeming opponent … the more he defeats himself (and thereby demonstrates that only Nature, and not any opposite abstracted from existence) is self-sufficient [p14 V].
Acting with acceptance, essentially, we move closer to this ideal of self-sufficiency, a state that is necessary for freedom and a condition for any long lasting peace. Essential to this process is a healthy respect for, and acceptance of oneself, first and foremost, outside of the opinions of others. As a consequence our hearts turn outward and can accept the differences and the natures of others, in turn, allowing a process of peace to occur through respect, fostering freedom for others to act according to their own true needs.
Once achieved, “acceptance makes no distinctions of superiority and inferiority [p13, III]” and then true devotion to tasks rather than rivalries will prevail; envy being unaroused, people will be satisfied with things as they are [paraphrased from p 13, III]; understanding that “Nature contains nothing but natures; and these natures are nothing over and above Nature” [p 14, IV] … each and every thing being an essential part of the whole.
While Nature treats opposites impartially, the “best way to conduct oneself may be observed in the behavior of water’. “Water is useful to every living thing, yet it does not demand pay in return for its services; it does not even require that it be recognized, esteemed, or appreciated for its benefits” [p 16, VIII]. And yet, there is no life without it.
“This illustrates how intelligent behaviors closely approximate the behavior of Nature itself” [p 16, VIII].
“If experience teaches that houses should be built close to the ground,
That friendship should be based upon sympathy and good will,
That good government employs peaceful means of regulation,
That business is more successful if it employs efficient methods,
That wise behavior adapts itself appropriately to the particular circumstances,
All of this is because these are the easiest ways.
If one proceeds naturally, without ambition or envy, everything works out for the best” [p16, VIII].
Entities based on money are not drawn toward the easiest means, but the most profitable. As an example, multi-national corporations ship materials to other countries for processing by poorly paid workers for markets at the source, wasting resources, energies so that a few can profit from the desperation of many. There is no efficiency or real intelligence in these means and these inefficiencies foresee their ends.
Troubled societies, as we are experiencing now, based on money, elevating paid services and profit confuse the means with the ends; and our end, according to the Tao, is to “realize the potentialities of (our) indescribable original nature(s)” [p17, X].
Nature “procreates all things and then devotes itself to caring for them … willingly gives life, without first asking whether creatures will repay for its services” and, so, it “provides a pattern to follow, without requiring anyone to follow it. This is the nature of intelligent activity” [p18, X]. Concerned with genuine needs we avoid being confused by the superficial and can distinguish one from the other.
In this troubled world, temptations based on what money can buy, on capital gains lead to extremes. The very thing Lao Tzu advised against. Envy, greed and aggressive behavior trump intelligent activity and our original natures are sacrificed to the cruel intentions of those who would force their wills on others – all to obtain more of what will never bring anyone true happiness, and therefore, peace. In the end, Nature will do as it always does, impartially allowing the inherent initiation and completion of all things, without prejudice … our actions spelling our fates.
This is why, now more than ever, we must concern ourselves with our own inner peace. It is, as the Tao explained, of primary importance. “The inner self is our true self” and “in order to realize our true self, we must be willing to live without being dependent upon the opinions of others” [p20, XIII]. As a consequence of this “self-sufficiency” we will then act accordingly and feel no need to force others to our own will.
Assertions, envy, and actions out of sync with ourselves, in essence, upset the balance and provide endless opportunity for strife. We are all better served when individuals are given the opportunity to develop fully, truly. War is a sign that this is not happening.
Opposition, being inherent in Nature, as are the principles of initiation and completion, is eternal. As we start acting naturally, by being ourselves, this will be accepted and extreme measures avoided.
The nature of intelligence then, like water, finds the path of least resistance and avoids conflict. Inner peace augments the natural order. Accepting that there is a beginning and end to all things, that opposition is perpetual, a defining element and source of growth, we will take the middle ground in our disagreements.
Over two thousand years ago, Lao Tzu understood that the source of peace lies within. Wise individuals who had found this peace have spoken. Yet we continue to make distinctions, passing judgment and acting out of these misconceptions. When we understand as a society and act accordingly, allowing each thing to realize its true nature, more people are likely to find peace in their lives.
Anita Suzanne Tillemans
July 28, 2014
There was a time along the north shore of Minnesota when paper birch and mountain ash thrived. This was before mining in the Minnesota Iron Range sent its tentacles to the North Shore and a town now known as Silver Bay. Along with jobs came the inevitable pollution of water, land and air as a coal-fired plant started up along the shore, along with dumping of taconite tailings into the pristine waters of Lake Superior. This has had a lasting effect on the entire north shore.
Although the dumping of tailings was stopped by Judge Miles Lord in the 70’s, the coal plant remains and the taconite tailings basins are not far from shore. One night stay in Silver Bay, as I walked outside on a fall night, the plumes of this plant blew decidedly north along the Lake Superior shore. This is when I realized what had happened to the birch and the mountain ash.
What are we doing to this world? What madness decides that ores of any kind trump clean water, air and land? The last thing we need in the heart of this treasure is another mine or coal-fired plant. What of sane and sustainable infrastructure that promotes and protects the land and waters of the Arrowhead a major source of freshwater in the world?
My comments on the Polymet proposed copper mine:
Passions find outlet for all of us, whether destructive or creative, sublimated or expressed. With so much imagination collectively, these manifestations can often be a force for destruction … especially when our passions are perverted and misdirected. We find examples of this in all walks of life; and each one of us can find examples in our own life.
Art, music, children, nature have always offered an outlet for understanding because of the propensity to wonder in each. There is freedom in our ability to imagine, to explore and grow through our experiences and no one finds joy in a cage. There are always limits to the freedoms, though; but these are part of learning to function in a society with respect for the rights of others and their freedoms. Any activity that pollutes water and air, destroys our lands, our mountains and leaves devastation behind is not, by definition, sustainable … no matter what words are used to describe these activities.
We fight when an act of war is declared. What do we do, then, when the same effects can be seen all around us … by any other name? What is it called when corporations pollute our waters, our air, our land, our food, destroy mountain tops, disrupt the bedrock, clear cut forests, creating earthquakes and mudslides, avalanches and massive loss of life, animal and human?
This will be a time of important decisions … and action, because words are nothing without it. I believe it was George Washington that said “vindicate our rights with firmness and cultivate peace with sincerity”. We might look to our forefathers, then, and the constitution for some of the answers sought today in protecting hard fought individual freedoms with due vigilance.
Consider that in Minnesota there have been no reliable studies to determine the numbers of wolves in the area for years. In effect, the necessary study and a 5-year moratorium on hunting (after delisting) have been essentially bypassed to rush into a hunting season this fall before actual numbers of the timberwolf (grey wolf) have been determined. What purpose does this serve and why?
Consider that the designation of “endangered species” served as a roadblock to exploitation of mineral resources in Northern Minnesota and that these resources, which (among others) include vast deposits of copper, are in the cross hairs along with the wolf …. Companies are waiting to dig for these minerals and studies have begun.
Study what copper mining, taconite mining … have done to other wild places and weep; or better yet, save the wolf at the gate of our northern wilderness in Minnesota by protesting the wrong-headed decision to issue 6000 licenses in 2012 to hunt and trap 400 wolves before we even know how many actually remain. Will only 400 wolves be taken by 6000 hunters? How will the DNR ensure this? How do we know that there are 400 wolves to take … wolves that by the taking will not endanger the entire Minnesota stock? This is a taking for trophy pelts which will most likely affect the strongest, most beautiful animals, the alpha males who protect and defend the pack. What does common sense tell us about this kind of hunt where almost every means on the ground will be used to take this creature down?
There is entirely too little time in the rush to hunt the wolf to determine the health of our wolf population, the numbers and the viability of a wolf hunting season this year.
In turn, to discuss the survival of the wolf exclusively without understanding the dynamics at play is shortsighted and does not address the problem … the wolf is not only an apex predator serving to maintain a balance in the wild, it is essentially an important key in the protection of our natural resources and maintenance of a healthy environment.
As it has been said so many times before: Where the wolf goes, so goes the wilderness….
Anita S Tillemans
August 13, 2012
A scene at Granite Pass in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming.
A white pine on what used to be sandy shore of an extension of the waters of Lake Calhoun in Linden Hills. This pine is just a baby, maybe 60-70 years old and could live another 100 or more, if allowed … what a magnificent sight that would be. If only, like Thoreau, we could live our lives more simply … as he describes in “Walden”, pp. 323- 324:
” I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”