Interview with Chris Jordan: father, husband, son, photographer / cultural activist, musician and all around astoundingly beautiful person

Happy New Year Everyone —

Each month, we bring you with an interview with a muse, someone not unlike ourselves who faces the same existential questions and human experience we do.  This month, we present an interview with photographer and cultural activist, Chris Jordan.

I cherish Chris. In every way, I see  him being willing to be here now, to see the world without blinders, and live from his big heart.  Chris is what I call a willing participant in life as it is  and  as it can become. He doesn’t shy away from looking straight at the tragedies we humans inflict upon nature and living beings, as in his astounding upcoming film, Midway: a Message from the Gyre. Chris has spent years traveling to Midway Island with his wife, poet, Victoria Sloan Jordan, and film crew, to document the tragedy of the albatrosses who are dying en mass from burst stomachs due to eating and feeding their babies pieces of our plastic detritus, which ends up being swept in currents to what is called, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – (7 million tons of plastic spanning an area twice the size of Texas). Chris is not afraid to face these horrors, or that of poached elephants in Africa, mutilated and killed for their tusks. Chris walks his talk when he asks us in his film if we have the courage to face and feel these realities. 

Victoria Sloan Jordan, in her poem, Kaleidoscope, read at the 2010 TEDxGreatPacificGarbagePatch Conference, cuts to the core when she says, “How painful it is to be seento be called out of the darkness, cut from layers of sleep that hold us together, to have our eyes opened forever” The parallels are deeply apparent It is us, you and me, we, who have to face the pain of being called out of the darkness as well as the dead albatross, it is our eyes that are opened forever when we look at Chris’s work.  In the following interview I ask him how he lives with all that he sees and photographs.

Deep thanks to Chris for this great interview… Enjoy

Chris Jordan “I think of all the problems of our environment, whether it is the destruction of our oceans, or the damage to our atmosphere, or the cutting down of our forests or whatever as the symptoms of a greater disconnect that’s happened inside us, on a collective, global level. To me that is where the truest healing can really happen.” Chris Jordan

Chris Jordan (born 1963) is an artist based in the Pacific Northwest who is best known (so far!) for his large-scale works depicting the consequences of mass consumerism, garbage, and our love affair with plastic. His passion for conservation and awareness, and his love of nature have brought much attention to the inevitable consequences of continuing our unconscious habits and behaviors, and instead, as Joanna Macy says, contribute our energies to this time of the Great Turning– a name for the essential adventure of our time: the shift from the industrial growth society to a life-sustaining civilization.” His work, while often unsettling, is a bold message, and one we need to face.

Linda: Chris, your artwork confronts so many tragedies and ills in the world today. I wonder how you deal with facing so many of the horrors in this time of “dire beauty,” as Caroline Casey says? How do you face it all and take care of the inner soul of Chris Jordan in the process?

Chris: Well, that is the big question. It’s the question I’m trying to live, because I want to face it all. I don’t want to turn away from the smorgasbord of horrors in the world, because that would be to live in denial. Yet, at the same time, I don’t want to dwell only on the horrors because there is so much beauty in our world, as well. There aren’t even words to describe how beautiful and miraculous every moment of our life is. I want to learn how to hold these two extremes as fully as possible, and I don’t know how exactly – but I’ll tell you one thing I’ve made a practice of this over quite a few years now going back and forth to Midway Island, and to places like Kenya, being with elephants who were killed for their tusks. And just recently, I had the experience of losing my mother. I was with her over the last couple months of her life, and was with her for her last weeks, days and minutes. It was the most profound experience of my life by far. I’m only beginning to make sense of the question of how we grieve the loss of our mother. I can’t even fathom that my mother is dead. It’s been two weeks now and I just broke down yesterday as it hit me on another level — that my mother is gone. I’m trying to figure out what that really means for me, it’s like the bottom just dropped out, and yet at the same time, on a global scale, we are losing our mother. I want to learn how to hold this all, and grieve it, and it just seems so huge and overwhelming.

Linda: What a metaphor…I know. It’s so painful. My mother is still alive and I think about having to face losing her one day in the not too distant future and it’s going to be harder than I imagine, I know. I sit with teenagers all the time who are just beginning to face the horrors of the world, and the many losses. I feel for them because they live in a world that has been systematically and a purposefully desensitizing them, especially the boys. I see you as a person in an ongoing process of re-sensitizing yourself all the time. I don’t see you distancing yourself from the pain of being alive, but going towards it. So, what do you do to take care of yourself — what feeds you with whatever it takes to remember that sense of awe and beauty that also exists to help balance out all the horror that you see?

Chris: It’s a weird thing — it doesn’t feel to me like there are “bad” feelings that have to be balanced out with “good” feelings. To me it’s a continuum. On one side are all the feelings we think of as “bad,” like grief, sadness, despair, hopelessness, anxiety — all the feelings that come up when we face the horrors of the world. And on this other side we have all the feelings we think of as good feelings, like joy and love, and happiness. For me it’s like this spring-loaded continuum that can only exist in both directions at the same time.

What I find is the further I allow myself to experience the horror, the despair and grief the more the other side opens itself up to me in equal measure. They’re completely related to each other.  I don’t have the experience that the further I go into the sadness and grief, the sadder and more despairing I’ll become. It’s the opposite experience. The more I grieve for what’s happening in the world, the more I experience being happier than I’ve ever been in my life.  I don’t feel like I have to somehow compensate for all the sadness by doing something that produces happiness. They come in unison. So, whenever I am at a gathering where grieving happens, spontaneously there’s a tremendous amount of laughter and joy and celebration. These hard feelings don’t last forever. It’s counterintuitive to me and I think counterintuitive to our culture as well.  I think we all live with this feeling that if we face the horrors of our world or our lives, we’re just going to be sad forever. A friend of mine said, “I’m afraid if I start crying, I’ll never stop.” It’s like we hold back all those feelings because if we let ourselves feel them, we just might be depressed forever. But, it’s not like that, it’s the other way around – it’s the holding back that is causing our depression and paralysis and anxiety. Once we let ourselves feel, it’s like the hurricane comes through, it comes through and it moves on and then there’s clear sky on the other side.

Linda: Have you ever felt suicidal?

Chris: Yes, many times.

Linda: When those feelings come up for you, what gets you through that moment and keeps you from killing yourself?

Chris: There are a few things. The main one is the love and responsibility I feel for my family. It would just be such a terrible thing to do to them. And the other thing is that I have this intuitive sense that something good is going to happen later and I don’t want to miss out on whenever that is.

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Chris Jordan and his wife, Victoria, at home

My wife, Victoria’s father committed suicide. I can totally relate to what happened for him in that moment, but what he’s missing out on now is just so incredibly sad. He has missed out on so much all these years. He wasn’t there for our wedding, he wasn’t there for so many wonderful things.  We have a nephew recently who committed suicide and I feel the same thing. It is just too final. When I’m feeling really down and I start thinking about suicide, I think about the finality of it – it’s just too final — and so I think, ‘Okay one day at a time, I can still choose to do it tomorrow, let me just get through today and see if I still want to tomorrow,’ and then I wait one more day and if those two days were just absolutely hell, I think, ‘Well I can still do it the next day… just give it one more day.’ But something inevitably happens, and everything shifts. And then I look back and think, ‘Man, am I glad I didn’t do that.’

Linda: OMG, me, too, I love you so dearly, Chris, and you mean so much to so many. But, I do understand those moments of great despair…I’ve felt them and had the same thought. But thankfully, these feelings pass for me, as well. My mama used to say when I was very upset, ‘Linda, let the world turn; everything will be different tomorrow.’  Sadly, just last week, another teen here on Bainbridge Island committed suicide. It’s usually the boys who succeed.

Chris: So tragic. The other tragic thing is that the vast majority of suicides are accompanied by some kind of substance abuse: too much alcohol or too much marijuana or taking too many prescription painkillers. Those things can really mess with our minds and they mess with the parts of our minds that would otherwise be self-reflecting.

Linda: Teens and adults both need to be very careful with what they ingest in terms of substances, plant medicines, etc. There are many times I’ve seen great benefits for someone having taken a plant medicine in the right situation. It’s been an awakening experience.

Chris: Yes, there are a lot of things that can take us into an altered space. But, I would put chemical substances, whether it’s marijuana, or ayahuasca, or MDMA or whatever, into the same container along with things like witnessing elephants who have been poached for their tusks, or being with someone who is dying. Any of these experiences can be transformational experiences. They can be incredibly powerful experiences that can either lead someone into a newly self-realized place or totally crush them. They can do deep healing and/or deep emotional and psychological damage. It is all about how that substance or experience happens and the container in which it happens.

I think a great deal of substance use today happens in an unconscious or unintentional way, like using substances like MDMA at a party. It can be incredibly harmful. Then, of course, there are a lot of other substances such as meth or heroin, and a whole category of drugs that I think are harmful no matter how they’re used. I wouldn’t say I’m against substance use across the board. But the effect of marijuana, for example, when it smoked every day and abused as a way of escaping the world versus used in a Native American medicine ceremony is very very different. Each way is equally powerful. But powerfully destructive or powerfully illuminating.

Linda: Sometimes, as an artist, I think if I took more drugs, I’d be more creative and I would see and know more profoundly what it is I really want to create and I’d do it. You know? I look at all the artists and spiritual leaders who have gone into different states of consciousness and think to myself that maybe I’d learn something more about being human or have a greater understanding of this and other mysterious planes of existence.

Chris: I know, it’s very seductive. All those musicians like Coltrane, sometimes I think, it must be all those hard drugs that made them into geniuses! I think each substance, or plant medicine has different affects on each person. For some people, they increase creativity, and other for people their creativity is decreased.  I know a lot of musicians who don’t touch substances because they’re afraid it will mess their minds up. And others who use them and say they’re not fully there until they have the substance in them. People have their own personal relationship with substances.

I think it is very important to look really deeply into why we do any substance because I know for myself when I use a substance, alcohol or whatever, on an impulse, I have to look at the impulse and ask myself if I’m trying to escape something. Am I medicating a feeling I don’t really want to have? When substances are used for that kind of purpose it inevitably backfires because we still have the feeling we were trying to evade. We want to feel more deeply and yet we don’t want to feel the pain. It’s a paradox. I think it is really important for young people, and for us as leaders of young people, to help them learn how to have these feelings and to process these deep feelings in community.

Linda: Yes, I agree completely. I know many young people are want to get out of their heads, so to speak. We sure did in the 1960s in my generation, but having a community to hold us as we feel that which we are ashamed to let anyone know we feel and to process these feelings is the ultimate high! You do that with Joanna Macy. Her grief workshops must be extraordinarily valuable.

Life in balance

Life in balance

Chris: Yes. Joanna Macy is one of the most respected teachers and practitioners of Buddhism in our hemisphere. Her website is amazing. There is a wealth of information there. She’s also written many books worth reading.  She looks at this very issue of how we bear the horrors of our world. She believes as I do, and much of what I believe I learned from her, that when we face the horrors and when we honor our pain and allow ourselves to really feel it, it is actually a doorway back to ourselves and our connection to the world.  It is not an exercise in pain, not a self-punishment kind of experience at all, it is a doorway, perhaps THE doorway, back to a deeply centered, deeply connected, deeply self-loving, sacred relationship with the miracle of our world and the miracle of our own life.

In her workshops, she takes people through a 4-step process. It starts with gratitude, and then gratitude moves into honoring the pain of the world. When we experience gratitude, we can’t help but face the destruction and feel the pain. Through facing the pain we realize that the only reason we feel sad that our forests are being destroyed or species are going extinct is because we love those things. And that that’s what grief actually is: Grief is not sadness, it is love. It is a bodily, felt experience of love for something we’re losing or have lost. Maybe at no other time do we feel our love as strongly as when we’re grieving. Love may be the most powerful of all our feelings. We protect what we love, we advocate for what we love. So, then, the 4th step in her process is going forward into the world, newly empowered, deeply feeling warriors for the earth. I love Joanna and have immense respect for her and for what she has been doing for so many years.

Linda:  What a human being you are, Chris: authentic, honest, courageous, loving, talented, open…

Chris: Thank you, you’re so kind — right back atcha, baby!  You’re just looking in the mirror, Linda!

Linda: Thanks, Chris – I have my days when I have no idea who the heck I am or what good I’ve done in the world!!! Let’s talk about your Running the Numbers Series, which is one of the most important and easy to understand ways of continuing to help people become aware of what’s happening. You keep coming up with so many more.

Plastic Bag 1

Plastic Bags, 2007, depicts 60,000 plastic bags, the amount used ever 5 seconds in the US, from Chris Jordan’s series, “Running the Numbers.” Go to Chris’s website, click on specific images to zoom from the wall size mosaic to the specific pieces that create it. This project visually and stunningly demonstrates such dismal statistics as the numbers of American incarcerations, plastic consumption and oil use.

Chris: That’s one other thing I’ve been wrestling with lately — how to stay with it. There’s not an on or off switch where one day you become enlightened or whatever thing we aspire to be and then you’re like that forever more. I saw this quote from Thoreau in Walden that I really love. He said, “It’s not enough to merely awaken, we must reawaken and continue awakening.“ It’s a cyclical thing that takes a tremendous amount of discipline and patience with oneself. I mean, one moment I feel in connection with the world and feel my love for the world and I’m doing new artwork and I feel like I’m on it, and the next moment or the next day, I’m drinking too much alcohol or wasting too much time feeling really lost and frightened and thinking about committing suicide. That’s one thing I think young people should really know. It takes work to stay awake and not only to stay awake but to keep reawakening. From Sunday night to Monday morning we can suddenly lose ourselves and be filled with anxiety. Even after 14 years of therapy, I can fall right back to calling myself a loser.

Linda: Oh, thank you for saying this. You are not alone!! I go through the same thing. It’s so human. It’s actually refreshing to know I’m not the only one who puts myself down so… and knowing that you don’t deserve it sure informs me that I don’t either! I recently heard that one way to see the idea of discipline is to become our own disciples. Be our own disciples! Everyday for the past year, the minute I get up and see myself in one of my mirrors, I go close to it and say, “Good morning, beautiful, Linda, I love you.” It helps a lot!

Chris: I have a friend you have to meet, Kurt, he is a deep practitioner of Zen. He goes on 28-day meditations, where folks meditate 16 hours a day, in total darkness. When he comes back, he’s just the same guy as when he left. One day, I asked him if there are any insights that happen for him there, or things he’s learned or something he can share, and he said in a beautiful kind of honesty, “I don’t know, I just do it.” A couple weeks ago, we were sitting around a campfire and he came forth with this insight that was the sum total of all his years of meditation. It was such an incredibly astute insight. He said, “Have you ever been doing something, like doing the dishes or just sitting around, whatever, and you suddenly go, “What is happening? What is this?” And on the deepest level, you’re just thinking, “What is happening?” Victoria puts it in a beautiful way. It’s an idea she’s been working with in her poetry, for quite some time. It’s preverbal. The real question is just WH? She writes it as WH with a question mark. Like WH?  It’s just pure WH!

Linda: Wait, do that again – I’m using Capture to take photos of you as we speak! I want to capture you doing WH? That’s hilarious. It’s so true. Yes! WH? It’s short for what the fuhhhh, right!?

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Linda: Got any favorite poems or music right now?

Chris: I love that Rumi poem, the one that goes “Out beyond notions of wrong doing and right doing, there’s a field, I will meet you there.” I mean, what deeper wisdom can there be than that. And as for music, oh my gosh, I just discovered a new musician, Mike Stern, and I’m completely in love with his playing. Do you know him?

Linda: No, I don’t.

Chris: I just saw him twice at Jazz Alley. He’s a jazz guitarist. His playing is just wicked! I’ve been a Pat Metheny fan for many, many years, and Mike Stern is on that level, but his playing doesn’t have the kind of sweetness that Pat Metheny has. Mike comes from rock, funk, blues, that kind of background. His playing is so incredibly hip and hard driving and cool. I’m all about Mike Stern these days.

Linda: Sweet, I’ll do a Pandora Mike Stern channel. Ok, here’s my last question. What is your favorite question interviewers ask you?

Chris: Pretty much the questions you ask. I always think it’s interesting when people start an interview, or introduce me as an environmental photographer. I don’t think of myself as doing environmental photography. What I’m really interested in is not making artwork and talking about what’s happening out there, but what’s happening in here, inside us. I think of all the problems of our environment, whether it is the destruction of our oceans, or the damage to our atmosphere, or the cutting down of our forests or whatever as not being the actual problems. These are the symptoms of a greater disconnect that’s happened in here, inside us, on a collective, global level. To me that is where the truest healing can really happen. I’m interested in questions like how can we face the pain and bear it, and transform ourselves. We need to heal the disconnect that caused the problems we have in the first place. That’s why I like to call myself a cultural activist, because that’s the place where we can change. We might not be able to do anything really meaningful about saving the elephants. But, one thing we can do, where we are all empowered, one place where we can really be an activist and make a big difference is right in here. This is one place where we can take complete responsibility and transform. What if there was more activism around that subject?

Linda: Oh, yeah. Well, it’s an inside job, right?

Chris: Yeah… Being around my mother in her last weeks and days, I became more interested than I’ve ever been before in energy — interpersonal energy — attuning to it. My mother became incredibly attuned to my energy. It was almost telepathic, near the end of her life, there were very little words but she was so tuned in to my energy. I realized that that’s the place where the most powerful activism can happen, shifting energy — on a cultural level, interpersonally, and individually.

Linda: I know you have to go to another interview, Chris, and I feel we’ve only just started to talk about this. Just one thing more: what are you up to for the future with your work? I know the Midway film is going to come out.

Chris: Well, yes, someday soon. What I really want is to get back behind my camera. I’d like to go back into Washington’s rain forest again. I have a way to photograph really big trees, that, as far as I know, hasn’t been done before. It’s a super cool idea I’d like to experiment with.

Linda: Well, I know whatever you are going to do, is going to be great, Chris.Thank you so much for this special time with you.

After this interview, I went out with Chris to photograph one day. Here’s a few from that experience.

Chris photographing reeds in the pond near his home, December 2013.

“Let the beauty we love
be what we do
there are hundreds of ways
to kneel and kiss the ground” Rumi

Linda's shot

Here’s one I did that afternoon using Chris’s 18mm Fisheye lens… reminded me of how much we need to reach out to each other….

Important Organizations to research and support:
Plastic Pollution Coalition   Plastic Pollution Coalition is a non-profit, global alliance working to stop plastic pollution and its toxic impact on humans, animals and the environment.

5 Gyres  Their mission is to conduct research and communicate about the global impact of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans and employ strategies to eliminate the accumulation of plastic pollution in the 5 subtropical gyres.

Iworry  The iworry campaign was created by The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) and exists to raise global awareness to the devastating impact the illegal ivory trade is having on elephant populations.

 

Singing, Dancing and Merry alternative holiday Ditties

Hello,

It is nearly the end of the year, and we are all having the holiday experience, even if we don’t feel like it!!! It’s here — This is the time of year when I want to take a trip to the moon, but I bet there will be cheesy Christmas music up there already, too! OK, so I’m not into cheesy holiday music — any kind of it. Some of my friends see me as a downer because of this. But, wait. I protest. I just love beautiful holiday music – it’s just that I want to hear new, fresh songs that we can include — like this one… It is beautiful and meaningful… it is about caring for this precious Earth… LISTEN:

Yesterday, I went to lunch with my old boyfriend, Forrest. There was a time when I would have sung this song at the top of my cracking voice, tears dropping in sweet relief for the soul depth that such love brings.  I feel so blessed to love the people I have loved and to have them in my life, still loving them, knowing how much we gave to each other in our brief moments of mutual journeying. Our muses are arrows stinging the heart with sweet song.  LISTEN:

But, the moments, hours, days, weeks, months of pining for a lost love, “the only one I’ll ever have, there will never be another,” end… they really do. The sad thing is when lives are cut short because a young one or someone believes this lie… the soul, some say, is something we grow into — and suddenly, we know, it’s a new day… a new world… a new warmth … and our enthusiasm returns with great gusto. And love springs forth anew. Eric, my dearest – this one is for you… This one you gotta SING:

Everyone who knows me knows that two of my eternal muses are my daughters. There is nothing I have ever done, or could ever do that would amount to a hill of beans next to them. They have brought this very organization and body of love offerings to the world – these workshops, circles, books, gatherings in the name of Daughters Sisters Project (TTC). To them, and to their dad, Tom, my amazingly beautiful, big hearted wusbend, who I honor with all my  heart and soul – I dedicate this holiday lullaby. I sang this to my girls when they were little girls, most likely every night. And of course, we can’t forget the Dylan one either! SING TO YOUR YOUNG ONES:

OK OK OK, ONE Christmas song…just for Lilly and Matt, who are dancing around the office with me, in full feeling as we blast these songs full out…

Have a wonderful holiday season, all friends and family — to you, I leave you with one last ditty: One of my favorite young, enlightened sound vibe makers, Cosmo Sheldrake. This is superb holiday music! My suggestion, forget buying gifts, make compilation CDs for those you love.

Many hugs, linda (and lilly and eric — the singing/dancing office staff!)

LIVE THE LIFE YOU LOVE AND LOVE THE LIFE YOU LIVE!

PS… oh… nearly forgot — soon it will be Spring — and guess what, (we have to shamelessly let you know) we have two $500 off scholarships we can gift for the Yelapa Women’s Retreat (www.womenscircles.net) come dance and sing with us in Mexico – get in touch!)

September 2013 TTC Interview with David Franklin, author of Radical Men, Simple Practices for Breaking the Myth of Masculinity and Embodying Your Authentic Self

Lilly Schneider: What motivated you to write your book?

ImageDavid Franklin: It’s complicated. I’ve been doing counseling, coaching, workshops and facilitation for years and have a strong desire to create a new paradigm around what being a man could look like. I’ve realized that so many of us share a similar struggle. I think somewhere in the back of my mind I thought that one day I’d write a book. The idea came up, and my partner was like “Just do it.” So I sat with it for a couple weeks, and then I just started writing it. I think I wrote it in three weeks.

Lilly: Wow, only three weeks? That’s awesome.

David: It just kind of came out. There really wasn’t much planning or forethought, but it’s a culmination of the work I’ve been doing for the past twenty years.

Lilly: Could you tell us a little about the work that you’ve been doing and the work you’re doing now?

David: I do individual coaching, and I also facilitate groups and workshops for men. In my work, I emphasize embodiment and presence. Rather than only talking about issues, my work focuses more on creating present moment change, in a way that men can then practice and take into the rest of their lives. Rather than a theoretical experience, it’s about providing practical tools men can use, to ultimately feel more connected to who they are, and discover more of their authentic self. My work combines numerous modalities and practices that I’ve studied over the years –from meditation to ecstatic dance, to music, to core energetic therapy, to various coaching styles all rolled into one.

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Lilly: So then does your book, as an extension of your work, provide exercises, and things people can do, with clear guidance?

David: There are fifty practices in the book, and they probably comprise the majority of the book. The rest of the book is more talking about where I’m coming from, what I’m proposing, and then how to actually achieve it.

Lilly: Was there an intended audience for the book?

David: It’s really meant for everyone. I think to some degree, the men who are going to get into it more are men who have already started thinking about it a little bit, or might have some idea that there’s more to what it means to be a man than what everyone takes for granted. I think anyone could pick it up regardless of where they’re at, and really get what I’m talking about—and do the practices. I also was hoping that women would look at it as well, hopefully women who are moms, or who are involved in raising boys— it will give them greater awareness around the possibilities of what it can look like to be a man so that they can parent or work with boys differently. Or for that matter with their partners—although a lot of times I’ve found that for men, when their partners want them to do something, they’re even more resistant to doing it.

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Lilly: So how did you get on this path? How did you find that this was your work?

David: Since I was young I had a sense of wanting to create real change on the planet. I didn’t necessarily know what that would look like, but I knew that something else was possible beyond how things were, and I just felt a strong call to do something about it, to step into leadership and to take action to create change. As a teen I went to a lot of counseling, as a client, and in my very late teens started exploring more spiritual practice, spirituality. Through those things I began to become a lot more aware, and also a lot more self-aware. I was twenty or so when I first joined a men’s group. I’d heard about men’s groups from a friend who had joined one and at first I was like, “Huh, that sounds kind of weird, I don’t understand.” Then he explained his experience and I was like “Wow, that sounds awesome, I would love something like that.” From that point on I experienced a strong resonance with it, both because of my own struggles as well as connecting and seeing how it impacted so many men. How men are expected to be seemed like such a burden to so many men, and I just really felt called to do something about it.

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Lilly: What do you see in our society that concerns you, that motivates you to do your work?

David: Men, historically and in our culture, have more power. And I think that men with that power very often misuse it, in a lot of different ways, because they’re so disconnected from themselves and from other people. A lot of our political leaders are men. A lot of people in positions of power and who make decisions are men, a lot of people who have control over how things get done are men. Realizing that, if you look at our world and the things that are happening, a lot of those things come as the result of decisions that people in power (men) have made. I think women have more so than men been willing to look at themselves and become more aware, maybe challenge themselves and challenge a lot of norms around how things are in culture. Many men really haven’t gotten there yet, and are either ignorant or in denial or stubborn, or just really don’t want to give up their power. If things are going to change, men are really going to have to step up and take the initiative and not wait for women to tell them to change or do it in reaction to that, but because they feel, “Wow, this really isn’t working” and that they have the power to do something about it.

Lilly: I think most people in the Western world would say they’re aware of the gains of feminism, the women’s liberation movement, the women’s empowerment movement. But this could be a men’s liberation movement hat perhaps the average person isn’t aware of. Carol Gilligan says in a recent interview we did, “matriarchy is not the opposite of patriarchy, it’s democracy.” Democracy is power with, not power over.

ImageDavid: In the late seventies, early eighties, there was definitely some men’s movement stuff going on, but at the same time it was nothing like the women’s movement. Where it gets tricky is people say “Oh, what’s the need for a men’s movement? Men have all the power. They’ve got it easy, they’ve got it good, so what do they need to change anything for?” Unfortunately that’s what keeps everything in check. People assume that men don’t suffer from the patriarchal system. But if you look at a lot of things that are going on in the world, it’s because men have problems and they’re not really looking at them. That impacts everyone. It impacts men, it impacts women, it impacts children, it impacts the planet. Men have all these things going on that aren’t really being acknowledged. Sure, they do have the power, and at the same time, look how they’re using it. Or misusing it.

Lilly: What are the challenges that you see facing you in your work—and what are the challenges that men face?

depression David: In my work there’s the initial challenge of just getting men to acknowledge that there is a problem. Because most men don’t want to look at it. Getting men to be open to the possibility of something beyond what is, or getting them to really look at themselves, is really challenging. And a lot of time it takes something really drastic to force men to look at themselves. It takes a midlife crisis or some severe event before men are like “Whoa, I feel totally disconnected from myself, from my family, I don’t feel happy with my work, I don’t really feel intensive meaning or purpose in my life, I feel kind of empty.” But a lot of men just don’t want to admit that. And again there’s the catch-22, because men’s programming sort of enforces the “don’t look at those things” attitude. The programming focuses them on achievement,  being big and powerful and having a lot of money; all those things that ultimately empty — not really fulfilling. So just getting men to hear the message is probably the biggest challenge. And again, the challenge is getting past the conditioning men have, getting men to be willing to feel and express their emotions, and communicate more openly with other people, getting them to have accountability for themselves and for their lives; getting them to be more active parents, and more active partners, and to actually do work in the world that’s meaningful, and that means something to them, rather than just doing it for a paycheck, just because they think it’s something they’re supposed to do.

Lilly: Thank you for talking with me today, David. Your work is so important. Best wishes.

Radical Men can be purchased online at David Franklin’s website, or checked out at your local public library. For more info go to: www.davidfranklin.net

For more info on important work by men, check out TTC board of advisor mentor, Jackson Katz. http://www.jacksonkatz.com

August Jubilee!!!

ImageHello Friends

TTC is officially no longer a teenager! We are 20 years old. I can’t believe it, actually. First, how fast time flies and second, how we keep on keepin’ on! Seems TTC is just as important now as it was then, if not more so. The world is just as confusing and just as exciting and teens are just as full of hormones, feelings, struggles, excitement, hopes, dreams, and adventurous spirits. 

We wanted you to know what we’ve been up to this past year (June to June). Because it’s because of YOU we are still here to meet the many various and awesome requests we receive to give whatever we know to others. 

Here’s the skinny – 
• In the past year, our teen circles, programs, handbook, trainings, retreats, fundraisers, Youtube movies, radio interviews, magazine articles, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, TTC Blog, and conference presentations have reached thousands of people (Included on the list are a presentation of Full woman at the TEDx Elliott Bay Women Conference, interview on Women Rising Radio, feature in Lilipoh Magazine, presentations at the Deva Premal concert and the Ruins Fundrasier, our TTC Training and the Yelapa Women’s Retreat.)
• 31,700+ people from over 150 countries around the world, as of today, July 31st, 2013 have viewed and shared our Girl’s and Women’s Empowerment film, I Am A Full Woman (https://vimeo.com/35541100) and the comments they share are quite powerful. 
• We’ve provided 32 people from 24 organizations TTC Facilitator Trainings this year. (Included are people from Washington, DC Ethical Society, Tomales Bay Youth Center, Cliffside Malibu Rehabilitation Center, Oaks Christian School, Native American Community Academy, and Marin Indy High School)
• We reedited our TTC Handbook and had 2500 new copies printed of our 3rd Edition!
• We produced two fundrasiers, which 284 people attended.
• Our 2 Facebook pages and Twitter feeds have over 800+ people as friends.
• In an initial search 40+ partnering organizations and important people are presenting TTC on their websites (including, chomsky.info; bainbridgereview.com; seattlechildrens.org; ojaifoundation.org; womenintheworld.org)
• We have been invited to be consultants to 3 different programs, including my being present at the Generation Waking Up 4 day workshop, as an elder. 
• 13 people are on a list for a worldwide distance training (as soon as we can figure out how!)
• Countless youth and adults have benefitted from this past year’s ways we have continued to offer TTC into the world. We can’t even keep up with the many ways those who have been touched, trained, or involved with our work is unfurling in the world. We do know that there are currently 2 master theses and 1 PhD thesis that are using TTC as the central focus of their study.

Our exciting next project happens on September 14th. A Japanese film crew from the PBS station in Japan has hired TTC to run a circle of 10 youth on Bainbridge, which will be filmed for a segment in a series on cell biology. How cool is this! Our local girls group starts again this Fall, and believe or not I’m taking a 75% sabbatical after 20 years from September – April, 2014. Lilly will be in charge!

Thank you again for everything you do for TTC, me, and the world. With gratitude and love, Linda 

See http://www.teentalkingcircles.org for dates of our June 2014 training and April/May Women’s Retreat. 

Joanna Newsom speaks with us, while Robin Pecknold practices. @ the Moore Theater, Seattle

ImageEric, Viox, Linda, Melanie Curran, Sean Matteson, Corbin, Joanna Newsom, Heather Wolf

Joanna Newsom Interview for Teen Talking Circles 

Well over a year ago, we met as a group with Joanna Newsom, one of the most prominent members of the modern psych-folk movement. Her recording Ys is one of the most beautiful CDs to have come out in the last few years. While we were talking backstage in her dressing room at the Moore Theater, Robin Pecknold, lead singer of the Fleet Foxes was rehearsing on stage. His gorgeous guitar and voice echoed ethereally through the halls and created the perfect background sounds for this interview.

The following conversation with Joanna addresses topics we all feel: The courage to share our authentic voice; pressures to to fit in; staying true to oneself; creative inspiration; insecurity and the songwriting process.  Feel free to forward this to share this with the teens you love and care about. 

Heather Wolf: I’ve been thinking a lot about one’s voice and true expression, particularly the female voice. I facilitate a youth arts camp where I find few young women with any musical practice of their own. I find many young women at the camps have blocks to opening that form of creative expression, because of their discomfort with being heard. I am curious about your experience with this, especially because I witness your own unique voice in your work, and recognize the courage and trust that takes. 

Joanna: I feel like I had a lot of luck and blessing to come of age creatively in an environment that really welcomed my voice — a family and music teacher that welcomed it. I had a music teacher that encouraged improvisation and composition from the very first lesson, from when I was a little child. She always valued the writing voice of her students. 

I did have a very similar experience, not only in terms of hearing someone’s singing voice, but in hearing someone’s writing voice. It was very rare, I felt, for girls to be heard. Growing up in my small town, I knew a lot of young women who were musicians, but almost all of them were classical or folk musicians and none of them wrote. It was one of those towns where all the people who were a few years older than me were in a band; amazing local bands that we were fans of. There was a certain point that I realized they were all guys, all of them, including my big brother, whom I idolized. He was in all of these rock bands and I was kind of the weirdo harpist, you know, writing music. 

For years between about age ten and age nineteen, I didn’t sing at all. I wrote music. I decided in my teens I wanted to pursue composition as a career, but I stopped singing, because I didn’t think I had a pretty voice. Prettiness or a lack of prettiness is often something that’s discussed vis a vis the female voice much more than with the male voice. Even in popular music my examples and the idiosyncratic voices that I admired were men, like Bob Dylan. And then when I was in college I started taking classes that were surveys of American music and starting hearing women’s voices that were very different than those in pop music. 

I started to realize my own voice was something I could consider to be a tool, at my disposal, in the same way that the harp was, and in the way that my compositional voice was. But it took a long time, and I sympathize with any young person, male or female, who’s trying to find their own singing voice, because if you happen to not be exposed to a very wide array of music, I feel like it’s hard to know that there are lots of ways that beauty can reveal itself in music. 

Melanie: This is just the struggle I’m experiencing, getting into the Jell-O of my own creativity. With your work, something that amazes me is the level of authenticity you bring out into the world that you don’t keep within yourself. I’m curious to know what the process of coming out is like. 

Joanna: You mentioned the idea of authenticity, being able to make music that is truly a reflection of yourself on every level, and I think I certainly went through a period in my life of inauthenticity. That happened for me, as I think it does for a lot of young people, from maybe sixth to eighth grade, when I was trying really hard to fit in. I really wanted to like the things that other people liked. The music other people liked, the clothes other people liked. I was trying to locate the appeal in those things desperately, listening to pop music, wanting to be tough—the whole gamut of things people do to be liked and admired by all their peers, and this also coincided with me not being very happy.  

I moved around in schools. To public school, then to a more creative private school,  and scattered years in Waldorf schools. Even when I was in Waldorf school in eighth grade, it wasn’t some perfectly idyllic place where the pressures of wanting to be cool didn’t apply, it just maybe had different standards. I think anywhere you are at that age, most folks struggle with that. 

Honestly, somehow, around my ninth or tenth grade year, I just stopped caring. I just stopped. I started wearing really weird clothes, and having a wide range of friends who didn’t necessarily know each other. What I think it was, actually, was that I was in love with music. 

The key, I believe, for pulling yourself out of the limbo of not knowing who you are or not embracing who you are, is to love something enough to not care. Sometimes it takes us a long time to find it. There are so many things out there, there’s so much nuance to being human beings, it sometimes takes a really long time to locate it. But for me I loved it [music] more than I loved the unattainable goal of being cool. 

I think it’s really important not to wonder too much about the question of whether what you’re doing creatively is brand new, or whether what you’re doing has never been done before. I think the only time that happens is when that’s not the reason you’re making it. The reason you’re making music is because “This brings me joy.” I might have to work through version after version of this song, or this piece of art, until it’s like a bell ringing, where you’re like “Oh wait, that’s me!” 

It is important not to judge yourself or censor yourself along the way with those questions: “Has this been done before?” or “What am I doing right now that makes this worth doing?” You just kind of do it. 

Heather: How do you work through self-criticism? 

Joanna: I work in phases. When I’m sketching out a song, I don’t let myself be too critical of it. I actually love editing my work. I love interacting with the text, transforming it by rearranging it, the syntax, nuance, and all that. There’s a way to approach it where it’s not scary and judgmental towards yourself. There are different phases where different kinds of editing come in, and the phase where I’m allowed to wonder if a song or a record is going to be terrible is when it’s finished. And then sometimes I will throw out a song, or be like “No, this one doesn’t represent what I want this record to sound like.” I make little deals with myself: hold it at bay until the work is done, and then you can tear it apart as much as you want to. 

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Linda: It’s so beautiful to hear Robin Pecknold upstairs, isn’t it? I love his music…
Just a moment ago, Melanie mentioned the word “ritual.” I’m wondering, are you a disciplined person by nature? Do you have any rituals that help you creatively?

Joanna: No. In fact music is the only thing in my life that I’ve ever had any discipline about. Ever!

Linda: So you don’t get up in the morning and ritually do yoga and meditate?

Joanna: I stay up ‘til six in the morning and sleep ‘til two some days and get a coffee and look at silly things on the internet. You know, I would deeply love to get more discipline into my life but there’s the one thing that you really love, and sometimes for people that’s lots of things, but you’re able to summon discipline around that task because it brings you joy. If you’re forcing it, if it’s a chore, you don’t want to do it.

Corbin: I play music, and when I perform it, I always feel I’m giving just a little piece of myself to an audience, and sometimes it’s received and sometimes not. Would you give insight on how that must be on a daily, yearly basis, to be constantly giving, and how you rejuvenate yourself, or when you get off balance, what you do.

Joanna: I don’t know before I go onstage whether or not it’s going to be a performance where I’m totally present, connecting with the band and the audience, or whether it’s going to be a performance where I’m struggling the whole time to get there. In a way I actually love that it’s so possible to have a terrible show, because it reminds me of the lack of control. If you could guarantee that every show you played for the rest of your life was going to be amazing, it would be so boring. There would be no stakes.

I’m still learning how to construct tours, or arrange my day before a show so that that I’m not completely run ragged by the end of a tour. I used to do seven or eight week long tours and now I’m doing three, two-week tours and then taking big breaks between them.

Linda: How do you pronounce “Ys?”

Joanna: “Ees.” It’s the name of a mythical French city on an island in Brittany, and there are various mythical and historical documents that suggest it did exist, that it sunk beneath the ocean. 

Viox: What inspired the Ys album, and what are the mythological implications of that?

Joanna: With that record, I had gone through one of the harder years of my life, in a very unquiet way. I think some years are harder in a way you can’t put your finger on; this one was hard in very notable ways, and a lot of the hard stuff of life happened over the space of basically a single year. The “Ys” idea infiltrated the record from all sides slowly. The album isn’t about that myth, but a theme that runs throughout the entire album is an excess of water, as a metaphor for the way that year felt

 I actually dreamt that the album title needed to have a “y” and an “s” in it, in some permutation of those letters, and it needed to be single syllabic, and a word that didn’t immediately connote anything for most people who picked the album up. Basically the whole album had been constructed as this very delicate and in many ways formalized or stylized projection of very brutal and simple human emotions that I had gone through. I finished it, it was like it was in a snow globe—this little hyper-stylized, detailed world, where I had been so detail-oriented, from the lyrics to the composition to the arrangements to everything, and somehow I wanted the title to feel just like a rock through a window. To have this brutality and instantaneous confrontational energy to it, like, ‘What is this word?’, ‘This is hard to pronounce’, ‘It looks funny’. I was actually reading somewhere a text about Ys, and there was a line in the text that was the exact wording of a line in one of the songs, the wording “It is that damnable bell.” It was really weird. There were all these connections that chose the title for me. 

Linda: So it sounds like you get very inspired by your own emotions and your life, really, and that is what you bring to most of your music?

Joanna: This is a very controversial position of mine, but I personally believe that every fiction that we gravitate towards, reading or writing, is some reflection or projection of our own lives and is our way of working through it. One of the reasons that, say, a novel is successful–in terms of the story that’s being told–is often because it resonates with something that has happened to many of us, an emotional truth.

Eric: I think a lot about voice, and I’ve heard you talk about composition. Were you always a songwriter, were you always writing lyrics?

Joanna: No. For a number of years, I was writing music and I was writing poetry and prose, and I was refusing to connect the two in my mind for a really long time. The missing key was that I didn’t consider myself a singer. I couldn’t write lyrics, because I wasn’t a singer. So I wrote very structurally archaic poetry, because I was drawn towards rhymes, methodical distribution of syllabic emphases, and all these older approaches to poetry that actually are more related to song structure and musicality. And then I would write these very overwrought and embarrassing short stories. I did try writing words for years and years, but not songs, until I was about nineteen or twenty. Before I was about ten years old I wrote lots of songs, before I learned to dislike my voice. [Laughs.]

 Linda: Thankfully for all of us who love music, that phase didn’t last!

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Now for the news: The last TTC Facilitator’s Training, a week ago was off the charts. Here’s a quote from one of the participants:  “Thanks to all of y’all for feeding my soul and bringing me to deep knowings that 15 years and 87,000 therapy modalities could not.” LK, Malibu. The next training is happening in September. Check here: http://ttcsept2013.eventbrite.com

LOTS OF LUV AND HAPPY SUMMER – Linda & Lilly 

Noam Chomsky Interview with Linda Wolf for TTC – April 9, 2013

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Linda: It’s so good to actually speak with you again, Noam, instead of emails. It’s been about thirteen years. The last time we spoke on the phone was for the book “Global Uprising.”

Noam: Yes, yes, I remember that.

Linda: First off, I just want to say how much I love you. Our correspondence over the years has been such an inspiration to me. BTW, how is your “pseudo grandson,” as you call him, Ernesto?

Noam: Oh thank you, that’s a nice way to start. He’s doing fine. I just saw him this weekend, coming up to his third birthday… It was pretty nice weather, so we went out for a walk in the woods. He had a ball climbing rocks. Lovely, little kid. It’s interesting with his mother, and his aunt. These are young women who grew up in villages in Guatemala; by the time they were four years old, they were adults, working in agriculture, climbing trees to pick avocados. As soon as we get out in the woods, they start acting like children, and climbing the trees, you know, climbing boulders, jumping around. Ernesto with them, of course. It was fun to watch.

Linda: Oh, nice! So you were all together?

Noam: …Yes, there are some nice pictures that one of them took; the girls on top of a big boulder and Ernesto on the boulder.

Linda:  Noam, there are so many things I want to ask you. For example, I have a friend, Christen Lien is her name, she’s a tremendous musician, and she’s just created an album called Elpis. Elpis is the last of the evils in Pandora’s box. The Greeks translated Elpis as hope.

ImageChristen Lien

Noam: What is it about?

Linda: In Pandora’s box Elpis was the last, heaviest, of the evils, according to the Greeks. Christen is doing a study of the concept of hope. Thirteen years ago, I ended our last interview with “Do you have hope, Noam?” Everything that you speak of, that we know of, about the ills of the world, which are so terrifying, in so many ways, especially to young people—

Noam: They should be.

Linda: And they are. You know, there’s this spirit that we need to have, which we call “hope.” But I’d like you to dwell on that for a minute with me. If the Greeks thought it was the heaviest evil in Pandora’s Box, how can we come to terms with this idea of hope? Do you have some thoughts on that?

Noam: Well, the easiest way to do it is kind of like what I just described. Go out in the woods with a lovely three-year old kid and his mother and his aunt, who escaped from hideous atrocities. These are refugees. They’re Mayan, so they’re refugees from the genocide in the highlands in the early eighties. Everything was destroyed; people are still fleeing. It was very courageous—the mother of this kid crossed the border, I think, seven times…She was picked up the last time, and she was pregnant the whole time. She finally made it through, in her seventh month of pregnancy. I don’t have to describe to you what a border crossing is like. Solidarity workers who have hope, wonderful people in Tucson, you may know some of them, who roam the desert, illegally in fact, because they try to pick up stragglers, or leave water bottles, and so on –they managed to get her, to find her. She had a sister here, in Boston, so they got her here, and when she moved in with her sister, the landlady kicked them both out, so they’ve been living with my daughter, and Ernesto was born here while they were living with my daughter. But anyway, when you watch these people, and you just think of the—I mean you look at this little kid, of course he’s happy, he doesn’t know what’s happening — but there’s a shadow hanging over him. I mean his mother could be picked up any minute and be sent back to Guatemala. He’d go with her and grow up in miserable poverty in Guatemala, or would never see her again. All of this is right over their heads, but they’re happy, and cheerful, and looking forward to the future. Many things like this, you can duplicate them all over the world, and they’re signs of hope. In fact, if you look at what—it’s kind of a remarkable situation now—but if you take a look at what indigenous people, tribal societies, first nations, what they’re doing all over the world, it’s pretty spectacular. I mean they’re the only ones who are making a serious effort to try to avert major catastrophes that are looming — like environmental catastrophes. They’re actually trying to do something about it. Now, we’re doing the opposite. So, you want to have hope, look at people who are struggling and achieving. You can always find them.

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Linda: It’s a beautiful definition of hope, this story. But do you honestly think there’s much hope for this world, as it is?

Noam: Honestly?

Linda: Yeah, honestly.

Noam: No, but you can’t give up. I mean, objectively speaking if I try to be completely objective, if I forget about caring about people and the world and so on, then we’re just racing towards disaster, eyes open, going as fast as we can. In fact it’s rather striking to compare the poorest, least developed, least educated, what are called the “primitive” societies of the world, and the richest, most powerful, most educated countries of the world, and at the poorer end, you have what I just described. Ecuador has a large indigenous population, enough to influence policy. And one of the policy efforts in Ecuador is to try to gain support from the wealthy countries to keep their oil in the ground. They’re a big oil exporter. Keep it in the ground, where it ought to be: that’s Ecuador. Indigenous population. You go up north, to Canada, and the United States, the richest countries, ever—they’re putting every effort into extracting every drop of hydrocarbons out of the ground and using it as fast as possible. And are lauding the possibility, are euphoric at the possibility, of a century of energy independence, while busy accelerating the destruction of the world. If ever a future historian is looking back at this moment, he or she would think the species is insane.

Linda: Well we could be! This morning, I was ruminating about death and asking you what you think happens when we die. For me, spirituality is so deeply rooted in nature, and everything has its life, its lifetime. And I’m thinking, well maybe we’re just part of this, too. We Homo sapiens, we have a life span, and maybe that’s what we’re doing.

Noam: I wrote about this once. There’s a great biologist Ernst Mayr, died recently, about a hundred years old, he was a grand old man of American biology. He once wrote an article, in which he basically argued that intelligence is a kind of lethal mutation. He looked at it as biologist. You ask about the biological success of various species, and the ones who do very well are things like bacteria, which mutate very quickly and adapt to changing circumstances. Or beetles, which are all over the place, they have a fixed ecological niche, they can’t survive anywhere else. They stick to it, and they make out. But as you move up the scale of intelligence, to mammals, primates,  Homo sapiens, you find less and less biological success. That’s why there are very few apes around. Humans look like an exception, but that’s only in the last few thousand years. Go back to ninety-five percent of Homo sapiens’ history, we were scattered bands of hunter-gatherers. He points out just what you said, that the average life span of a species is about a hundred thousand years, and that’s roughly what homosapiens are approaching. So we may be following that unpleasant natural law which says we have achieved the capacity to destroy ourselves, so let’s go ahead and do it.

Linda: Wow. You spoke the word “no.” You said “No, really I don’t ultimately have any hope for us.”

Noam: But I do have hope, because you have to have hope. Otherwise you wouldn’t do anything, to try to carry things forward. And there’s always a chance, you know. You asked the question objectively, do I think there’s hope. Objectively probably not. But it doesn’t follow that we have to give up hope, we don’t know.

Linda: Are you afraid of dying?

Noam: I used to be when I was about ten years old but I got over it (laughs.)

Linda: If you could go back, if you were let’s say thirty, or twenty again, what would you invest your life energy in right now?

Noam: I don’t know about you, but when I was twenty, or even thirty, I didn’t really think about it much. I just did what I thought I oughta do.

Linda: Get married, and have children?

Noam: Not even that, just anything. Now first of all there’s an interesting fact about the male brain which is relevant. The male brain matures rather late.

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The female brain matures at maybe eighteen or so. The male brain doesn’t mature about until mid-twenties. In fact in some countries like Canada they’re thinking of treating young men in their early twenties as juveniles, because that’s basically what they are. But one of the aspects of that is that you just don’t think about risk. I mean I can remember it myself, and I can see it with my children and grandchildren. Just do anything, because you’re invulnerable, you don’t have to think about the future. I didn’t think about it much, I just did the things I wanted to do. In fact I already was married, by the time I was twenty, and I didn’t think much about planning for the future. In fact I had no academic prospects. I was working, and it’s kind of an accident that I’m in the academic world. I was working, developing an area that actually didn’t exist, there was no academic—but it never bothered me much, I figured I’ll do something or other. The same with the political activity. I was very active about doing things I felt oughta be done.

Linda: But if you were forty, let’s say, now—

Noam: By the time I was forty I was pretty well settled, had responsibilities. By the time I was forty, actually, I was facing a long jail sentence. By then, consciously, I was thinking of what I was doing, because of the involvement in resistance activities. I was in fact up for trial when the TET Offensive came along, and it convinced the government to drop the trials. [The TET Offensive in 1968 [the National Liberation Front’s surprise temporary takeover of virtually all of South Vietnam’s cities overnight –Ed.]

Linda: I heard you say something so important in an interview recently about the movie, “Manufacturing Consent.” You said you were skeptical about that movie because it sort of placed you in a position of stardom…

Noam: I like the guys who made the movie, they’re friends, but they were just following me around. If I got off an airplane, you know…like some kind of celebrity. I’m not a celebrity.

Linda: Right, I really appreciate that, because as you said, it’s those who are working together on the ground, shoulder to shoulder, that never maybe get any recognition—

Noam: Like these indigenous people in Ecuador, for example. They’re really doing something. Who knows who they are?

Linda: So with young people today, my question is, where would you put your energy now, in what arena? I mean would you go to Ecuador, would you work with the Ecuadorians—?

Noam: The most important place to be is the United States. For one thing I’d stay here because it’s where my attachments and everything else are, but just objectively it’s the most important place to be. Because what happens here is going to be much more influential in the whole world than what happens elsewhere. Very important things happen elsewhere, it’s not that the United States runs the world, but you look at the degree of influence and power, although U.S. power is declining, has been for a long time, it’s still incomparable and will be for a long time to come. For example, take almost anything that’s happening. There was an international conference recently, and they general assembly reached a small arms treaty. Well that’s kind of important, you know. Tens of thousands are being slaughtered all over the world from small arms exports. In Mexico alone, most of the deaths come from guns from the United States, which incidentally wouldn’t be affected by the treaty. But the small arms treaty is important. Will it have any effect? Not if the United States doesn’t sign it. And it’s very likely that the U.S. won’t sign it. That’s one example, but you can proliferate them enormously. So the most important thing that can be done right now are changes within the United States.

Linda: Did you vote?

Noam: Ah, sort of. I mean Massachusetts happens to be a safe state, it’s gonna go Democratic, so I voted for Jill Stein, Green candidate, nice person. But if I had been in a swing state, I would have held my nose and voted for Obama because the alternative was—you know I don’t like him and his associates, the alternative was much worse. These things make a difference. Given U.S. power, it makes a difference whether say, if Bush was in office or Gore.

Linda: Thank you so much for speaking with me today, Noam. We’ll talk again soon, I’m sure. Best wishes to everyone. I hope you and Ernesto liked the cookies.

Noam: Yes, Cookies don’t last long here in the office!

Addendum:

June 11, 2013

Just prior to posting this interview, The Obama administration is reportedly preparing to charge NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden with leaking classified information. I wrote Noam for his response:

Noam: “He should be admired for bravely meeting the responsibilities of citizenship: letting the public know what their government is doing to them. The claim that the massive government surveillance programs are necessary to secure the population from terror barely merits ridicule, coming from a government that has quite consciously been increasing the threat of terror to Americans as the predictable consequence, well-understood in high places, of the global drone assassination program, which is also by far the most extreme international terrorist campaign in the world.”

Yelapa Mexico, Edward Snowden, Noam Chomsky, and the benefits of Kraut!

Lilly Schneider Interviews Linda Wolf, director of TTCImage

Lilly: Hi Linda, welcome back from Mexico. How was the women’s retreat?

Linda: Fantastic.  It was the best retreat yet.  There were 9 of us, a full house. A mother and daughter, who have come three times, already signed up for next year. They consider it a yearly “tune-up” for their relationship! For me, it’s an opportunity to feel very free, in nature, like I was as a young woman. And the nature there makes me euphoric. It is 2nd in biodiversity to the Amazon. Check out this house, Lilly, it belongs to Claudia Brown. She’s a massage therapist, a tropical garden gardener, has a bird sanctuary, and makes the most beautiful jewelry – lives in Yelapa full time. This lily pond is inside the house!

Lilly: Wow! Remind me where the retreat takes place?

Linda: In Yelapa, Mexico, a fishing village. Kellie Shannon Elliott (who will come next year again) led 5Rhythms dance each morning; we met in circle for a few hours before a late lunch, and later Norma Jean Young, a great Reiki Master, led us in relaxation in the late afternoons.  The thing I love the most about Yelapa is feeling of sun, the air on my skin, the sound of the waves 24/7, and that we get to swim in some of the most pristine water on the planet – One day, we hiked to this waterfall in another village to swim in a glorious poor. We just strip down and jump in. Here, see these photos. After the waterfall, we go by boat to another little fishing village and have a home cooked lunch with a Mexican family, replete with moonshine and guitars.

Lilly: That sound amazing! Well, that’s not the only event that the beginning of summer has in store for TTC, is it?

Linda: That’s right. Not only are we doing our facilitator training, which is happening in a couple weeks, and BTW, there are still a few places left (check our website: www.teentalkingcircles.org), but also some other partner organizations have some great offerings this summer. Check this out:

We have Isabel Machuca-Kelly from Wild Whatcom, along with Vanessa Osage of Rooted Emerging, offering girls’ talking circles in Bellingham, Washington. People can find out more about the details by checking this site: wildwhatcom.org/about-teen-talking-circles/ Also, Rite of Passage Journeys, in Washington, is doing some really powerful summer camps where they do circle. And Wilderness Awareness School has some amazing programs this summer. http://www.wildernessawareness.org

Lilly: I heard you’re invited to be an “elder” this summer at the Generation Waking Up Leadership Training, which is happening in a couple weeks on Whidbey Island, at the Whidbey Institute.

Linda: Yes, it’s true –  I don’t know many youth on the face of the planet who are more incredible than Barbara Jefferson, Dan Mahle, and Joshua Gorman, who are leading this Wake-Up. Check it out; there are scholarships and more spaces…http://www.whidbeyinstitute.org/conversation/id/53080a

By the way, we have an exciting event in the planning stages in September: We’ve been invited by the PBS station in Japan to create a special circle, which will be filmed for a segment of a series on cell biology. This one will be about youth development. I’m intrigued to see what they’re going to be doing. More about that later. We’re going to need some volunteers – so the call is out there. Any teens interested???

Lilly: Wow. How does something like that happen? That’s great…

Linda: They found us on the Internet.

Lilly: Hey, what about that Noam Chomsky interview I just transcribed – when does it come out? And the Joanna Newsom interview from so long ago?

Linda: The interview I did in April with Noam will come right after this blog post. The one with Joanna, very soon. Both are powerful and important. I’ve been interviewing Noam since 1999. I just wrote him today asking him to comment on the Edward Snowden’s leak. I just heard that ACLU has put forth a lawsuit against the government now, as well. Here’s what Noam wrote back. “He should be admired for bravely meeting the responsibilities of citizenship: letting the public know what their government is doing to them.  The claim that the massive government surveillance programs are necessary to secure the population from terror barely merits ridicule, coming from a government that has quite consciously been increasing the threat of terror to Americans as the predictable consequence, well-understood in high places, of the global drone assassination program, which is also by far the most extreme international terrorist campaign in the world.” Noam does not mince words.  I say, Activists UNITE… I asked Eric the other night what he thought we can do other than what we are already doing… I said it feels like the machine is so big, we’re like Cervantes’ Don Quixote, tilting at windmills. We agreed, we just gotta keep doing what we’re already doing. Working to help shift from the patriarchal, dominate paradigm to the holistic, partnership paradigm…

Speaking of interviews and just keeping focused on what one person can do, Brenda Starr, star reporter for KHSU, Humboldt State U interviewed me for Through the Eyes of Women. It will be aired Monday, July 8th, at 1:30pm PST and will be streamed on the station website, and on their blog: www.khsuwomen.wordpress.com. I speak not only about TTC, but about my photography, and how both these acts give me a way to express my values.

Other than that, we’re having a beautiful summer here in the Pacific Northwest – the veggie garden is full and we’re eating out of it daily – we’re also eating a lot of Kraut – Iggy’s Sauerkraut, to be exact. My tummy has gone down, which feels so much better. I was pretty bloated for some reason, but the Kraut, and this cleanse I’m doing with Chaparro Amargo, which we got in Mexico, is a summer boon to my system. I’m also intensely glad to have my daughter, Heather, back in town, and her sis, Genevieve is done with her first year of UW Nursing School (halleuluja), and Eric wrote another story while we were in Mexico…so life is good. Plus, I also love that you’re working here in the office with me on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Lilly…

Lilly: I love working here, Linda!

Linda: Thank you, Lilly. I love having you here!

Lilly: Thank you, Linda!

Linda: Ok, enough work for today – let’s go jump on the trampoline and get outta this office!  The sun’s out… can’t miss it while its here, now can we!  Oh wait, it just started to rain. Dang! No, wait, it’s back… let’s get outta here!