Archive for May, 2012

Shapes In The Clouds: 
Loss of Enchantment, Return To Wonder

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Shapes In The Clouds:

Loss of Enchantment, Return To Wonder

by Jesse Wolf Hardin
www.AnimaCenter.org

“I cannot believe it, I was seeing shapes in the clouds just now!,” my dear friend Daniel breathlessly exclaimed.  He had a rare tear in his eye, admitting to me “It has been so very long, since I have seen shapes in the clouds…”

To a young child, the world and everything in it almost invariably appears as alive, meaningful and story filled, a matrix of shifting patterns that are constantly revealing new compositions and juxtapositions, songs and designs, whisperings in tree boughs and soft white dragons floating across bright blue skies.  It is only through the programming of disenchanting, conformist public schools and appearance and money focused television that a youngster is slowly ripped away from this essential view of reality as wonderfully mysterious, magical and miraculous, conscious and communicative.  A toddler can often be seen staring intently at a flower-licking butterfly, awestruck at a flash of lightning, or tripping-out on something as commonplace as the intersecting circles created by raindrops falling on a puddle in the yard, or fascinated by the intricate weave of their clothes as seen really, really close up.  What a terrible tragedy, when a child gets to a stage of acting like a common acculturated adult, no longer trusting that there is real magic outside of a movie’s special effects, unable to believe in their own capacities to be heroes and heras, wizards or healers participating in a most-purposeful destiny.  How sad to see someone who is running to get out of the rain, oblivious to the puddle’s patterns, unmindful of the shapes and faces formed by the dense clouds overhead.   How do we know when a society, a culture, is impoverished, un-moored, lost to its highest purpose?  When under any conditions, we can go through the years of our life without being captivated by the creations that wind and cloud do make.

What is it, that can stand in the way of our view, of the enchanted view of life unfolding?  What preoccupations and distractions, what prejudices and fears, what habits?  A hurried lifestyle, maybe, no time to look anywhere but directly ahead.  Being self conscious about our engagement and amazement, worried about being seen gazing for long minutes at the sunlit veins in a fallen leaf.  Feeling unworthy of leisure and undeserving of beauty.  Being a “hardened man” or a “career woman”.  Abuse that may have shut us down in this and other ways. Residing mainly in our heads, and thus simply missing, missing, and missing things again.  Or perhaps a soul stifling job or disingenuous or unhealthy marriage, that drapes a heavy wet blanket over every light and spark.

Sometimes it is several of the above, and so it was for the 30-plus year old Daniel, ally of and number-one aide to the Anima Sanctuary.  First, an emotional shutting down as a child, that he is only now overcoming.  Then, the distractions of partying as a teen, the necessity of a job, the responsibilities of becoming a father, and the oppressiveness of a relationship that failed both he and the mother… one that seemed to suck the very air and spirit out of him, draining his creative batteries, sending him ever further into the refuge of silence and withdrawal and his own solitary thoughts.  Only now, hurting from negotiations over child custody but relieved of his relationship, is he finding the world wholly fascinating again.  It is this possibility of lifelong excitement and awe, this insistent joy, that he hopes to ensure in his daughter.

“Will you look at that,” he says, pointing at the clouds over our canyon, a huge smile back on his face… and I gladly turn to see.

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Magnus and The Cleavers: Resistance To The Machine

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

THE OUTSIDERS

Magnus and The Cleavers:

Inspiring Resistance To The Machine We Reside In

by Jesse Wolf Hardin

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Let me preface by pointing out that no one is more likely to sneer at popular culture in general, from plastic boobed Barbie dolls to the latest Avengers movie blockbuster.  Entertainment for entertainment’s sake, quite frankly, bores the hell out of me… futuristic machine-filled drivel worst of all.  The closest I get to SciFi is rare super clever magical realism or post-apocalyptic books and films such as “Brazil”.  And while I see value in both revolution and self defense, I find no enjoyment in the gratuitous violence that is at the core of so much media including Magnus The Robot Fighter.  But Magnus is different.  He somehow managed to whack the heck out of all kinds of malicious bots without ever hurting another living thing, and always to protect life against the threats posed by our unliving machinations.  As a young boy, I eschewed Casper The Friendly Ghost and Superman in favor of the first of these Gold Key classics on the indomitable robot fighter, at what was then 12 cents per issue.  I was a barefoot backyard adventurer crawling deep into a hidden alcove within the landscape shrubbery in order to peruse the latest Magnus tale without distraction or interruption.. and I still find something to be recommended in them.

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Check it out: Magnus lives in a future time when machines have have developed to the point of doing all the heavy work formerly done by humans.  Distant planets are mined for minerals, while much of Earth is dotted with giant metropolis where even the weather is controlled.  The inhabitants are generally disinterested in Magnus’ warnings that human kind is getting weaker, softer and easier to manipulate as a result, being satisfied to focus on the latest technological amusements and distractions.  An exception is a group of Magnus-inspired pre-teens calling themselves “The Outsiders”, ostensibly named because they prefer adventures outdoors to sedate activities inside, but they are clearly outsiders to their own parents and kind as well, due to their unwillingness to remain passive, and how very differently they view the world.

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Magnus was specially prepared for his unique role as a champion of both the foolish and unfit citizens, and of the “old ways” that he believes could be humanity’s single best chance.  Every issue, he is called to put a halt to the destructive acts of robots either set into motion by accident or directed by some demented person on the sidelines.  In doing so, he often draws on the powers of the earth, the forces of nature, or the spiritual and magical assistance of Native Americans both still living and long deceased.

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Magnus was trained since childhood in both awareness skills and a secretive martial art, a technique that somehow allows him to karate chop through the metal necks of heady robots without breaking every bone in his hands.  It’s a good thing, since he is forever finding himself fighting alone, one of the only ones who has a clue and is determined at great risk to do something about a threat or injustice.  We see him again and again, surrounded on all sides by an unfeeling enemy, trying to hem him in and incapacitate him as he wildly but deliberately strikes in one direction and then another.

I could relate.  Nearly a decade before I had any fuzz on my face to consider shaving, I was already feeling besieged myself. At home in the early 1960s, I was surrounded by miles and miles of suburban cookie-cutter tract homes, inundated with the sounds of lawn mowers giving bristly haircuts to the poor bluegrass lawns no different than the crewcuts that parents usually made their kids wear.  And surrounded by people pretending to be happy in order to get along, copying each other in desperate attempts to conform, robotically going through their days on automatic pilot, taking orders from higher-ups, repeating the same polite phrases to one another whether they meant it or not.

I sensed that underneath the pallid skin of television’s “Leave It To Beaver” Cleaver Family was something other than flesh and blood, something coldly manufactured with pre-programed abilities and limitations, prescribed limits and penalties.

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…with lifelike plastic skin, guaranteed not to fade or wrinkle

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If the kid they called the “Beaver” ever pulled what we now think of as a Fight Club plot device and blew up his own home, amongst the smoldering ruins of the supposed “American Dream” I was sure they’d find a prostrated June and Ward, wires and diodes observable through a host of ugly wounds, their acrylic hair curled into umber afros by the intense heat of flaming formica counters and poly playthings.

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“Did I do THAT?”

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Unlike the “Beav”, I’d had enough of the sameness and lameness, the habituation and automation, I was ready for training, ready to fight for what’s real and natural and right!

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A blow for diversity and wildness!

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But like Magnus, I also felt as if I were in a confrontation with soulless machinery, in a battle with the larger machine that we civilized people reside and function within.  Thus, when Magnus struck out at robots large and small, it was in my young mind’s eye a swipe against the television and its lies, the public school system that felt more like an automated factory to me, the real estate developers gobbling up the last wild places and replacing them with endless streets and strip malls, the lawyers and legislators that are its cogs and wheels, the government robots that repeat the same hollow tape-loop rhetoric over and over again until one day their batteries give out and slur and stall, a swipe at the faceless corporate-body robot that controls it all.

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“Won’t tolerate rudeness in a life quashing machine, no’sir!”

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Long before I became a social and ecoactivist, first coined the word “rewilding” or moved onto this wild riparian sanctuary that has for over three decades been my home, I found inspiration in the decisive things that this muscled hero in goofy orange spandex would do, and found support in my being an “Outsider” too…

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Anima Nature Awareness & Herbal School

www.AnimaCenter.org