"Chasing Coral" Documentary

It's painful to be awake, painful to watch the destruction of the planet, but essential to stay woke if we want to make a difference to the future.  That's why I so respect the filmmakers and scientists who made this film.  The oceans absorb 93% of the atmospheric carbon, which has caused them to warm considerably over the last 30 years.  Coral are the trees of the forest, living animals that are dying all around the planet in "bleaching" events.  The coral animal dies leaving only it's skeleton behind.  As a diver, I've watched the death of these living reefs.  It is essential that we stop using fossil fuels now.

Joshua Bell at the D.C. Metro in 2012

I've wanted to hear Joshua Bell perform live since I saw this video of him playing in a metro station.  Thousands of people walked by without stopping to hear one of the world's greatest violinists with his Stradivarius play for 45 minutes.  For me, it was an important lesson in remaining alive to your surroundings, alive to the people you meet every day.  As the Hebrew proverb says: "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it." 

Fortunately, I heard him play this weekend at the 20th anniversary performance of the score for "The Red Violin," for which Mr. Bell was also the violinist.  It was a special treat to have the composer, John Corigliano, in the audience.  I've loved his music since I saw the haunting opera "The Ghosts of Versailles" many years ago.
 

"Ama" by Julie Gautier

Via Aeon:

In what looks like an austere, water-filled room, the French free-diver, dancer and underwater filmmaker Julie Gautier performs a breathtaking aquatic dance for several extended minutes before rising to the surface to release a blossoming bubble of air. Titled Ama, which is the term for women who practise Japan’s millennia-old tradition of free-diving, the video gives the impression that the dance is undertaken in a single breath. Of its meaning, Gautier has said: 

It tells a story everyone can interpret in their own way, based on their own experience. There is no imposition, only suggestions. I wanted to share my biggest pain in this life with this film. For this is not too crude, I covered it with grace. To make it not too heavy, I plunged it into the water. I dedicate this film to all the women of the world. 

The video was shot in the world’s deepest diving pool, in Padua, Italy.

New York Times op-ed by Natan Sharansky

Opinion

The Essay That Helped Bring Down the Soviet Union

It championed an idea at grave risk today: that those of us lucky enough to live in open societies should fight for the freedom of those born into closed ones.

By Natan Sharansky

Mr. Sharansky, the author of “The Case for Democracy,” is a former spokesman for Andrei Sakharov. He spent nine years in Soviet prisons and the gulag.

Fifty years ago this Sunday, this paper devoted three broadsheet pages to an essay that had been circulating secretly in the Soviet Union for weeks. The manifesto, written by Andrei Sakharov, championed an essential idea at grave risk today: that those of us lucky enough to live in open societies should fight for the freedom of those born into closed ones. This radical argument changed the course of history.

Sakharov’s essay carried a mild title — “Thoughts on Progress, Peaceful Coexistence and Intellectual Freedom” — but it was explosive. “Freedom of thought is the only guarantee against an infection of mankind by mass myths, which, in the hands of treacherous hypocrites and demagogues, can be transformed into bloody dictatorships,” he wrote. Suddenly the Soviet Union’s most decorated physicist became its most prominent dissident.

For this work and other “thought crimes” the Soviet authorities stripped Sakharov of his honors, imprisoned many of his associates and, eventually, exiled him to Gorky.

In 1968, when this work was published, I was a 20-year-old mathematician studying at the Moscow equivalent of M.I.T. Although we dared not discuss it, my peers and I lived a life of double-think: toeing the Communist Party line in public, thinking independently in private. Like so many others, I read Sakharov’s essay in samizdat — a typewritten copy duplicated secretly, spread informally and read hungrily.

Its message was unsettling and liberating: You cannot be a good scientist or a free person while living a double life. Knowing the truth while collaborating in the regime’s lies only produces bad science and broken souls.

Sakharov’s essay, which coincided with the Prague Spring, helped energize democratic dissident movements that were just budding in a post-Stalinist world. The largest of these was one I would soon join: the so-called refusenik movement to allow the Soviet Union’s long-oppressed Jews the freedom to emigrate.

Some Russian dissidents mistrusted the Zionist movement as particularistic and unpatriotic, fearing it would distract from their broader human rights agenda. Not Sakharov. He supported the refuseniks because he recognized the right to emigrate as a gateway to democratic entitlement that opens everyone to embracing freedom in a closed society.

By the mid-1970s I was serving as Sakharov’s spokesman, and I remember after yet another friend of ours had been sentenced to prison, he told me: “They want us to believe there’s no chance of success. But whether or not there’s hope for change is not the question. If you want to be a free person, you don’t stand up for human rights because it will work, but because it is right. We must continue living as decent people.”

Sakharov’s decency made him a moral compass orienting not just the East, but also the West. He insisted that international relations should be contingent on a country’s domestic behavior — and that such a seemingly idealistic stance was ultimately pragmatic. “A country that does not respect the rights of its own people will not respect the rights of its neighbors,” he often explained.

As Sakharov and his fellow dissidents in the 1970s and ’80s challenged a détente disconnected from human rights, Democrats and Republicans of conscience followed suit. Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan disagreed about many specific policies, but both presidents linked human rights and foreign policy. President Carter treated Soviet dissidents not as distractions but as respected partners in a united struggle for freedom. President Reagan went further, tying the fate of specific dissidents to America’s relations with what he called the “evil empire.”

Approaching the fight to win the Cold War as a human rights crusade as well as a national security priority energized Americans. It reminded them that, regardless of the guilt and defeatism of the Vietnam War or the shame and cynicism of Watergate, the country remained a beacon of liberty.

This anniversary of Andrei Sakharov’s heroic essay comes during similarly dark days for the United States.

Despite the dramatic discontinuities between Donald Trump and Barack Obama, in divorcing human rights from foreign policy President Trump is following President Obama’s lead.

Mr. Obama repeatedly prioritized engaging dictatorial regimes rather than challenging their human rights records. His eagerness to strike a nuclear deal with Iran muffled his moral voice during Iran’s Green Revolution of 2009. And he refused to make diplomatic progress conditional on demands that Iran stop supporting terror globally or executing its own people at home.

Mr. Trump has taken America’s human-rights-free foreign policy to absurd new heights. His assertion that North Koreans support Kim Jong-un with “great fervor” undermined America’s moral standing, sabotaged North Korean dissidents and legitimized an evil dictator. His shocking refusal to confront President Vladimir Putin of Russia over his country’s blatant interference in the 2016 United States presidential election highlights his unwillingness to protect Americans’ democratic rights, let alone Russians’ human rights.

The wisdom of Sakharov’s essay may not be in fashion these days, but the truth it contains is eternal. People all over the world are waiting for an American leader to recover it.

Natan Sharansky, the author of “The Case for Democracy,” is a former spokesman for Andrei Sakharov. He spent nine years in Soviet prisons and the gulag. This essay was written with Gil Troy, a historian at McGill University and the author of “The Zionist Ideas.”

 

Saransky.jpg

"Sojourns in a Parallel World" by Denise Levertox

 

We live our lives of human passions,
cruelties, dreams, concepts,
crimes and the exercise of virtue
in and beside a world devoid
of our preoccupations, free
from apprehension--though affected,
certainly, by our actions. A world
parallel to our own though overlapping.
We call it "Nature"; only reluctantly
admitting ourselves to be "Nature" too.
Whenever we lose track of our own obsessions,
our self-concerns, because we drift for a minute,
an hour even, of pure (almost pure)
response to that insouciant life:
cloud, bird, fox, the flow of light, the dancing
pilgrimage of water, vast stillness
of spellbound ephemerae on a lit windowpane,
animal voices, mineral hum, wind
conversing with rain, ocean with rock, stuttering
of fire to coal--then something tethered
in us, hobbled like a donkey on its patch
of gnawed grass and thistles, breaks free.
No one discovers
just where we've been, when we're caught up again
into our own sphere (where we must
return, indeed, to evolve our destinies)
--but we have changed, a little.

"Singularity" by Marie Howe

SINGULARITY
by Marie Howe

          (after Stephen Hawking)

Do you sometimes want to wake up to the singularity
we once were?

so compact nobody
needed a bed, or food or money —

nobody hiding in the school bathroom
or home alone

pulling open the drawer
where the pills are kept.

For every atom belonging to me as good
Belongs to you.
   Remember?

There was no   Nature.    No
 them.   No tests

to determine if the elephant
grieves her calf    or if

the coral reef feels pain.    Trashed
oceans don’t speak English or Farsi or French;

would that we could wake up   to what we were
— when we were ocean    and before that

to when sky was earth, and animal was energy, and rock was
liquid and stars were space and space was not

at all — nothing

before we came to believe humans were so important
before this awful loneliness.

Can molecules recall it?
what once was?    before anything happened?

No I, no We, no one. No was
No verb      no noun
only a tiny tiny dot brimming with

is is is is is

All   everything   home