Inspiration in the City of Angels

Excerpts from articles I’ve written about a few of the compelling stories I’ve encountered here in Los Angeles:

‘Gifted’ Musician Rocks ‘Social Harmony’

He boasts a four-octave vocal range and has written more than 300 original songs. In just one year, he has led his band through nearly 60 performances in more than 30 venues. When he holds his15-second falsetto note, one wonders if he just might one day soon rival the long note of soul great Bill Wither in “Lovely Day.” Yet, there is one more reason they call this young musician “gifted.” Twenty-five year-old Scott Siegel lives with autism…

Filmmaker Leads Grassroots Campaign to Bring OCD to the Big Screen

It is a film about extreme paranoia and debilitating fear. It is a story of illusion and immobilizing dread. No, this is not a horror movie. It is a narrative drama meant to illuminate the disturbing realities of the fourth largest mental illness plaguing millions of Americans today. Machine Man, a feature film about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), is a story meant to save lives.

“I didn’t know that it’s so common and that people have these thoughts that are called ‘harming thoughts,’” Kellie Madison said. “They walk around in life worried that they’re going to hurt another human being and the anxiety is so great it debilitates them… it was so heart-breaking learning about what these people are going through. I knew I had to make a movie on it.”

Neighbor Goods Leads the Borrow Lend Movement

Why buy when you can borrow? That’s the idea behind 32-year-old Micki Krimmel’s new project – a website that facilitates lending and sharing within local communities. In an age where neighbors seem more like strangers, NeighborGoods.net encourages people to again borrow and lend as friends. “NeighborGoods is a service that connects friends and neighbors to save money and resources by sharing stuff they already own instead of purchasing new stuff,” Krimmel explained.

Mindscraps: The Dizzy Donkey Dance

Lately, I feel as if I’m caught up in a never-ending game of pin the tail on the donkey…

The nearly non-existent trickle of income is my blindfold. Short on funds, the hunt for a decent wage is a constant distraction from my true goals. I can’t seem to see past the “no cash” dilemma. So I focus on trying to make ends meet, instead of focusing on what my heart calls me to do. And that’s the irony. The more I allow myself to stray away from my true heart’s desires… the less success I find. The more I give away my time, energy and talents to outside aims, the more I find them used, abused and under-valued. I’m so eager to help. But in my eagerness, I’m learning, that “take advantage” seems to be the law of the land. I must be more wary of where I decide to invest. Lately, it feels as if my “investments” have only been sucking me dry.

It is the mysterious adventure of life that is constantly spinning me, whirling me, sending me in somersaults. I LOVE it. I LOVE the commotion. I LOVE the thrill. I LOVE her, life. But, at times, when I come up for air, I end up dizzy and confused. I know what’s written upon my heart… but which way was it that I needed to go? Which way is forward and which way is backward again? What step is the right step toward achieving my goals?

The hope? Despite the blindfold and the dizzy dance, the donkey – representative of the longings of my heart – is still there, whether I see her or not. Grasping at capital can momentarily obscure my vision. Life and her wondrous, thrilling adventure can disorient me. Yet, nothing can rob me of what lies upon my heart.

So, with the naivety of a child, I still believe and I will still try… to pin that tail on the donkey!

A quiet moment with myself: Let the dizziness clear. Realize the blindfold is a blessing in disguise. Use not the eyes of illusion to make out the way, but the inner eye of faith, wisdom and intuition.
Continue reading “Mindscraps: The Dizzy Donkey Dance”

Mind Scraps: Frogs and Turtles, Princes and Princesses

“Do you have a notebook I could use,” I asked my friend Benny – Biologist Benny we call him. “Mine’s about filled up.”

That’s when he offered me The Blue Day Notebook. He had just started using it, but insisted on giving it to me. It’s a cute little blue book with a cute little frog motif. As you flip the pages, the little frog tumbles along the edge…

I opened it up to read:

Laura,

Te quiero mucho mucho mucho. (I really really really care about you.)

Benny

Then I continued on to read the author’s introduction. Here is my favorite prose the author shared:

“True inspiration is everywhere, all the time. It’s in the objects on your desk, it’s in the flashing lights of an ambulance, it’s in the lyrics of your favorite song, it’s the way you hold someone’s hand, it’s the way a dog turns around twice before lying down to sleep. In other words, inspiration is seeing ordinary things in an extraordinary way – imagining what things would be like if they were somehow… different.”

“What is important is that you let your mind run free to consider new creative relationships and then have the decipline to put your thoughts down on paper.”

“To create interesting work you must live an interesting life.”

****

The night before last, Biologist Benny opened his heart to me and moved me to tears. He simply whispered the sweet words that anyone always longs to hear. Words like: special, unique, magic, light. I feel so blessed to have him in my life. He’s more than a friend, he’s a soulmate. I have discovered that we have not one soulmate… we have but billions and trillions. Every single being on this planet is a potential soulmate… we only have to open ourselves to see the light within. Benny is an enchanting person and I consider him one of my dearest friends. He is special.

Last night Benny led us on a magical excursion. From shore we silently marveled as the giant sea turtles emerged from the dark waters of the night and slowly crawled their way across the beach. Whips of sand began flying as the turtles stopped and began digging… digging their nests right there in the middle of Cancun’s tourist-trampled, white sand beaches. Then the stillness came and they did not move. The “trance” had begun. The conservationists slowly moved approached the turtles beckoning us to follow with care. Astonished we watched white, mucas-covered eggs pop out from behind the tortoise’s tail. The we helped gather the eggs in buckets, moving them new nests we had already dug in special nurseries built away from tourist trample. Hopefully, we’ve given some little new embryos the chance to survive, grow and hatch.

As we walked back from this incredible glimpse into the mysteries of nature, it was Victor’s turn to move me to tears. His words resembled Ben’s, but were spoken with Victor’s uniquely charming touch. Again my ears wrung with words like special, unique, magic, light and my heart swelled with love. “You really don’t know just how much you’ll be missed,” he told me. When I think of Victor I will always imagine the strong, young mahogany-colored warrior dancing with heart and soul.

Two Australian girls also accompanied us. Biologist Benny was hosting them through Couchsurfing. Benny had told me ahead of time that Grace and Zia were “encantadoras” (enchantresses). He was right. In less than 10 hours, these two young hippie girls who grew up on a commune out in the wilderness of Australia’s bush had also earned a very special place in my heart. Two powerful young women full of love and magic.

Of course, Perla was there. Throughout the day, her pure, sincere and unassumingly loving friendship provoked my eyes to moisten. She is as faithful and loving as man’s beloved best friend. A true spitfire in her own right. I adore her…

RIP: Human Rights Defender Bety Cariño

Tragic news like the murder of two human rights workers in Oaxaca, MX leaves me feeling frustrated, exasperated… yet more determined to believe that this world can change. Thanks to La Cebollita who forwarded this info on to me:

Human rights defenders in Mexico paying with their lives, warn UN experts

Human rights defenders in Mexico are under increasing threat, a group of independent United Nations experts cautioned today, speaking out against the recent killings of two defenders in the country’s southeast.
Rights defender Beatriz Alberta Cariño Trujillo and international observer Tyri Antero Jaakkola, who were on a monitoring mission in Oaxaca, were killed on 27 April when ambushed by paramilitaries.

Several others, including journalists, were killed in the attack, and four members of the mission were rescued by the police after being stranded in the forest following the incident.

UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston, who focuses on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, acknowledged the complexity of the situation in Mexico and the challenges the country’s Government faces in fight against drug cartels.

“But there is no justification for failing to take strong steps when human rights defenders, journalists and others are killed,” he emphasized.

“Human rights must not be permitted to be a casualty in the fight against drugs and crime.”

Below a recent speech Cariño gave at the Front Line Dublin Platform, February 2010

MIXTECA – OAXACA – MEXICO

OUR FEET STEADY AND FIRM ON THE GROUND – OUR HEADS HELD HIGH; DIGNIFIED, WITH FOCUSED SPIRIT AND BURNING HEART

BROTHERS AND SISTERS,

With my voice, I speak for my brothers and sisters of my mixteco people, from rebellious Oaxaca in this great country called Mexico. And in these lines I cannot speak of myself without speaking of the others, because I can only exist if they exist. Therefore, we exist
as us. Brothers and sisters, these women I am; a daughter, a sister, a mother, a comrade, a teacher, an indigenous woman, a Mixteca, an Oaxaqueña, a Mexican, they represent us women who go forward leading our peoples against the looting of our mother Earth, for the benefit of large transnational corporations and financial capital. Today, with our voices, with our struggles, with our hands, the legitimate wishes for social justice of the Mexican Revolution are being kept alive; our struggle is the same one the Morelos, the Magón, the great Zapata and, in today’s Mexico, the EZLN led, a struggle that has cost the lives of thousands of Mexicans, all of them poor people from the bottom of society who have fought these fights. The place they have been given in history continues to be one of exclusion and they have been forgotten. Today we, the young, the indigenous peoples and the women are at the head of this catastrophe.

Our fields now are the scenes of ruin and disaster, victims of indiscriminate commercial
opening, genetically modified crops, the ambitions of the multinationals; this has consequently caused the forced migration of millions of our brothers and sisters who, in the words of my grandfather, “have to leave in order to remain.”

In Mexico the right to autonomy, the right to exist for the indigenous peoples is still being denied, and today we want to live another history: we are rebelling and we are saying enough is enough, today and here we want to say the they are afraid of us because we are not afraid of them, because despite their threats, despite their slander, despite their harassment, we continue to walk towards a sun which we think shines strongly; we think the time of the peoples is coming closer, the time of unrepressed women, the time of the people at the bottom.

These days, discontent is present throughout the length and breadth of our national territory. Because of this the presence and participation of us, the women we defend,cannot be put off any more in the daily business of human rights; we want to construct a world with Justice and dignity; without any kind of discrimination; today we are pushing forward a profound and extensive process of organisation, mobilisation, analysis, discussion and consensus which is helping us to build up a world in which many worlds can fit. We are the result of many fights, we carry in our blood the inheritance of our grandmothers, our roots make demands of us and our daughters.

For Bety Cariño’s Bio click here: Continue reading “RIP: Human Rights Defender Bety Cariño”

Barefoot for a Cause

Since I’ve been kickin’ it with the Rarámuri (Tarahumara), an indigenous culture that lives in deep recesses of the Sierra Madre’s Copper Canyon (Northwestern Mexico), I thought it most fitting to spread the word about going barefoot for a good cause. The Rarámuri culture sparked a barefoot running craze after athletes learned this talented running people wear nothing but huaraches – scraps of rubber tire and cow leather – on their feet. Now, a new campaign (One Day Without Shoes) is encouraging people to go barefoot worldwide in an effort to raise awareness about children who lack proper footwear. Here’s an excerpt from HalogenTV.

April 8, Go Barefoot for a Good Cause

Asking your customers to forgo wearing shoes doesn’t sound like smart business from a shoe company. But, then again, TOMS isn’t your normal business.

Started by Blake Mycoskie in 2006, TOMS is founded on the promise that for every pair of TOMS shoes a person buys, TOMS will give a new pair of shoes to a child who needs them. The company’s tagline, “One for One,” is the driving force behind their business, and they make periodic “shoe drops” where new TOMS are distributed to children in developing countries. Since its May 2006 beginning, TOMS has given over 400,000 pairs of shoes to kids based on the One for One model.

Read more by clicking here.

Check out the video:

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Justifying Indifference to the Needy…

Really… what ARE you supposed to do when in a coffee shop in Chihuahua, Mexcio working on your stupidly expensive Mac laptop and a mangy woman walks in and shoves a piece of notebook paper in your face?

No doubt a petition for money justified by some alleged plight. Her young daughter following a half a shuffle behind, peering at the screen you’re glued to, witnessing how all of us barely even glance at her mother as she begs.

Give a woman a fish instead of teach her to fish? Turn her away because you can’t be bothered? Because she didn’t make the effort to connect with you in some way before begging? Refuse on the account that you don’t want to contribute to the concept of supporting those who don’t earn their wages through work?

As if they is work that would pay her a humane rate…

I probably give more often than most, yet still refuse way more often than I give. Whether I give or not, I never feel like I’m doing the right thing…

Whistleblower for Peace

Falling Whistles

an excerpt

I had heard.known.cared. I had even reacted and raged. But when these boys told me of the whistle blowers, the horror grew feet and walked within me…

Captured by Nkunda’s rebel army, the boys not big enough to hold a gun are given merely a whistle and put on the front lines of battle.

THEIR SOLE DUTY IS TO MAKE ENOUGH NOISE TO SCARE THE ENEMY AND THEN TO RECEIVE – WITH THEIR BODIES – THE FIRST ROUND OF BULLETS.

Lines of boys fall as nothing more than a temporary barricade.

Those who try to flee are shot at from behind. The soldiers call it “encouragement” to be brave. Without a gun to protect themselves, the smallest boys are placed between the crossfire of two armies – forces fighting for reasons far beyond their ability to understand.

WITH FALLING WHISTLES, THEIR ONLY CHOICE IS TO FEIGN DEATH OR FACE IT…

As with us all, the boys gained freedom from sharing their stories. Tears turned to smiles and smiles to laughter. Little in our respective lives was similar, but storytelling is strange and powerful. Surrounded by angry and onlooking guards, we found some small comfort in one another…

Sadiki had been dropped in a hole, deep in the ground. Nearly 300 boys were forced into the ditch for 20 hours of the day. They sat and slept in their own excrement. Slowly, they awaited the other 4 hours of the day when they found themselves tortured and trained to ?re a gun. Only to be dropped again into their own ?lth…

Many of us have heard the stories of child-soldiers. Invisible Children and stories such as A Long Way Gone have been groundbreaking in granting us glimpses into their tortured lives.

The only Rwandan of the group was sure that he had fought against Nkunda’s army – the very same rebels that had abducted these Congolese boys. I asked if that made them enemies. He looked at me, laughed, and kissed Sadiki. “We are only boys. How can we be enemies?”

Can You Spare a Quarter?

The latest campaign to raise awareness about global hunger from the World Food Program announces that the global population is setting a new record:

For the first time in the history of mankind there will be more than one billion people facing chronic starvation at any given moment.

Yay us.

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Becoming a part of the solution, though, can cost as little as a quarter. So how bout it? Can you spare some pocket change?

Fill the red cup:

Donate to feed the hungry