Monday, September 27, 2010

The Passing of Robert Müller

Eight years ago, I climbed to the top of a mountain in Costa Rica.  There, in a humble wooden home, I met Dr. Robert Muller.  

For those that don't know the work of Dr. Muller, he was a pioneer for world peace and global education. Dr. Muller was the Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations for 40 years; Recipient of the UNESCO Peace Education Prize; Co-Founder and Chancellor Emeritus of the University for Peace in Costa Rica; and Nuclear Age Peace Foundation World Citizen honoree for 2002.  In 2003 he was awarded the Goi Peace Award. (from AOND).

It was a sunny, golden and green Costa Rican afternoon.  I had walked three hours up a mountain road to get there.  The smiling old man, put in his hearing aid, apologized for talking loudly, then invited me to join him for coffee.  I had heared rumours about Dr. Muller in my time living in Costa Rica and I was brimming with curiosity.  I asked him many questions. 

One of the most fascinating conversations of my life ensued.  Dr. Mueller truly and deeply "thought" of the world in a way that transcended borders and nations.  

Long before twitter, blogs and Facebook, he would sit-down and write out an idea for world peace every day.  His assistants would send it out on email lists. A book was being compilled.  I still remember several of the ideas he brought up:

-  Corporate executives should by be compelled to meet and make decisions in places surrounded by nature.  This way, in making their big decisions they would remember the beauty and interconnectedness of the ecosystems their decisions would inevitably draw upon and effect.

-  Government foreign ministries should be abolished and renamed-- "foreign" ministries imply a nation's separation from the rest of world.  Better: 'Ministry of Global Affairs'.

That's two of hundreds of peace sparkling gems.

It's amazing how much I remember from the brief encounter.  It was as if he had crucial ideas that he had to pass on to me.  He cut right to the chase.  He even pulled out a tape recorder to record the conversation-- for me!

The most memorable moment however, was something else all together.  After sharing his ideas on peace and international political reform he looked off wistfully off into the horizon.  The sun glinted behind a cloud in the brilliant blue sky.  It was almost as if he was talking to himself at this point.

He sighed. In his Alsace German accent, the sun glinting off his metal framed spectacles, the lush green tropical trees wavering lazily in the breeze, he spoke.  I paraphrase:

"There are so few humans on the planet who truly think beyond the man-made, antiquated constructs of borders, nations and geopolitical lines.  Yet 'think' is the wrong word.  I mean, to truly know, operate, live and be in a way that acknowledges we're all on a planet.  I am one of only a couple hundred who are thinking this way now.  This must change".

For some time afterwards, his statement struck me as slightly arrogant.  Surely, there were alot more people who thought of the world on a global level!  Like me for example.  Surely.

As the years have gone by I have reflected on this statement.  And, I have seen the truth in it.  To truly transcend the cumbersome ideas of a world divided into nations  that we are born into in this civilizational moment is truly no easy task.  If you have a chance to read about Robert's amazing birth, childhood and life during the second world war do so.  Robert was brought up amazingly citizenless-- being born in the contested and at the time nationless area of Alsace-Lauren.  This upbringing gave him a remarkable boost to being able to think beyond borders and propelled the small town boy into his amazing career with the United Nations.

And this led him to found the Universidad por la Paz in Costa Rica.  And for him to settle on the top of the mountain beside it in his 'retirement'.  Some one would argue this has been his most consequential time.  Like me.  The Canadian expatriate who was in the foreign country of Costa Rica and who walked up the mountain to meet him that fateful and infinitely inspiring day.  That day, I began to climb a new mountain, to steadily become, truly and deeply, a citizen of Planet Earth.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Peace from a Waterfall

A little meditative journey to a little waterfall in the International Day of Peace to get a little wet and to reflect. Bomatoc Falls, Philippines.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Apple Expedition

Today I made a beautiful 8km hike into Fedilisan. Thanks to 1Mandala donations by Sarah and Andrew I was equipped with a bushel of apples and some family portrait printed from my last visit.

The only way to get to Fedelisan is a winding, precarious mountain foot path that takes a good 20 minutes down and 30 minutes up. It is a humble village of small tin houses perched on the side of a dazzling verdent valley of rice terraces.

From my last visit I had learned that many of the kids had never tried apples before! It seems they grow everything here in the Philippines-- except apples. They are eight times the cost of the local bananas and you can only get them in the larger towns and cities. I picked up some in my pass through Sagada and brought them with me.

They also don't have cameras or printers in Fedelisan! The family I had met on my last visit had no photos of their kids. I had snapped some of her family and her really shy son on my last visit. You should have seen the mother's smile when she opened up the envelope with the pics!

I was invited into the community hall for coffee. There I met Dawanee and Douane. Douane is 15 days old! Dawnee asked if I could take some photos of her newborn. Her first baby photos! Can you imagine not having photos of your newborn? I'll be sure she gets some prints too.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

250m below: Subteraean Inspiration

The other day, chance led Sarah and I to join a caving expedition here in Sagada. I've been meaning to visit the local caves for a while now. They are one of the main attractions of the area-- but I keep putting it off-- they are a serious spelunk that require a guide and a professional lanttern. I have been patiently waiting for the right moment.

And then a guide and two mexicans walked by us and invited us to join them. This was the moment! I am so glad to have had Sarah with me. What a beautiful moment and adventure.

The two hour voyage takes you 250 meters below ground into the dazzling sculpture studio of Mother Earth. There, for the last hundred of thousand of years, she has been diligently at work. Here her water has had it's way with the limestone-- hewing it into the must surreal shapes-- smooth, curved, bulbuos, undulating forms that would inspire the most abstract sculptor. Curtains, elephants, and crocodiles emerge in the curvaceous stone formations. Water trickles everywhere, forming endless streams, pools and cascades of water over the subterranean playground. My limited and flashless iPhone photos doesn't do it an iota of justice.

You'll just have to take my words and imagine. All I can say is that it was very, very, very cool.

The sheer monstrosity of the time involved in the making of these wonders is deeply humbling. One drop of water at time made all this. It is a grand testimony to the inevitable creativity and beauty of persistence, consistency and determination.

Thanks Mother Earth.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

She is Light

My good friend Sarah is visiting me in Sagada from Manila. We have been experimenting with a new way to do 1Mandala portraits using mudras-- symbolic hand gestures with ancient meanings. Here is one great shot. This mudra is associated with the statement "I am light".

Location:Halsema Hwy,Bontoc,Philippines

Monday, September 13, 2010

Rejection - A good Sign!

I read this today and was inspired!

"If you aren't getting rejected on a daily basis, your goals aren't ambitious enough"

Friday, September 10, 2010

A video intro to Sagada and 1Mandala Strategy

"Russell in Sagada leads the 1Mandala team through a circular flow chart that integrates each social element of the 1Mandala project into a contagious cocreative circle that can inspire and sustain viral growth."

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

1Baby Cloths

As I make my through different countries and some of the most disadvantages places, I have the unique opportunity to direct the good energy of the advantaged into creative blessings to those who aren't asking asking, but sure are happy to receive.

Here in the village where I am now staying, I eat out at the local restaurants. There I was served by an incredibly dour and grumpy waitress. I verged on judgement and condemnation. Fortunately, circumstances conspired for me to find out a little more.

I discovered the story. She's 18, pregnant and alone from her family. Her boyfriend had just run away to leave her on her own 7 months in. It is sadly a common phenomenon here in Catholic Philipines, where womans reproductive rights, education and birth control is virtually non-existent. She had been having a rough day.

As the French say, "Tout comprendre c'est tout pardoner". To understand all is to be able to forgive all.

Andrew and Susie have both just donated to the 1Mandala. I used their $ to buy baby cloths, which I heard from a colleague she was in need of. The girl makes less than a $100 a month so this kind of thing is hard to afford, yet, important!

She was totally surprised and really happy-- but a little shy! Here's a photo taken to pass on the thanks to Andrew and Susie.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

What the *@#$ are we doing?!

Oh my... I wrote this a month ago when I was down and out in Sagada here... but it never posted!  I am reposting it now.


I am pissed off.

A confluence of factors-- notably going hungry and watching just the right wrong movies have got me angry.

I downloaded the iTunes movie of the week last night. Mainly because it was only 99 cents, and partly because it was based on a comic book I read when I was a kid. The Punisher. To add to it, the last two nights I've watched some other movies in my hotel room. Taken and the one before that Never Back Down.

WHAT THE @#$@#?

What am I doing? What are we doing? What are we thinking? I am talking not just about myself here but about Humanity.

Each of these movies is a full out celebration of violence, vengeance and even torture. And we're not talking the bad guys in the movie doing it-- we're talking the good guys. Half the movie is composed of human beings hurting and killing each other. Millions of dollars goes into making these Hollywood movies. Millions of people watch them and get ideas.

Don't we realize that by celebrating stories, characters and mode of being like this we are simply perpetuating this in the real world? Don't the directors know that by showing some innovative way of torturing someone, someone, somewhere is going to be inspired and do the same thing. Don't the actors-- the artists-- making these creations realize that their wonderful performances means that others, in real life, will imitate? Don't they realize that they make it just a little bit easier and more readily having seen it sanctified on the silver screen.

Imagine if you were an alien. No really-- Imagine.

Imagine you came down to Earth and you saw what type of stuff we watch and pay money to make and see. You'd shake your tentacled head. What are these humans doing? What are these artists and creators doing? Are they not conscious?

Like those movie directors, like those actors, I am an artist.

And here I am, doing my work, my movies and my art. I am working hard. I am putting all my skills and education and talents to use into another mode of art. And I am just barely surviving. I am struggling here to make money and keep myself eating while millions of dollars go to these other insane creations.

Yes... I am intensely aware that I have put myself in this place and predicament. I've been reflecting on this for the last few weeks in this peaceful village. I am reflecting on how my deep rooted patterns, values and ideologies-- many of which are ancient cultural relics-- hold me back from prosperously doing what I am doing. A big part of it is simply being convinced that my work and calling is worthy of asking sustenance for. It is simple as that, but, when you grow up in a world drenched in these values (like having read the Punisher comic books when I was a kid) it is hard to attain that particular confidence in a completely opposing way of doing things.

But no more.

Here we are doing this project-- the 1Mandala-- it is motivated not by violence, vengeance, profit, or anything else fear based. It is loved based-- the motivation is to find harmony, beauty and symphony. It doesn't protest conflict or war. It simply trascends it. It is the type of process and activity that simply is peace. No matter how convincing the special effects, you can't be fighting or warring to peace. There is no way around it.

And it all starts with art and ideas.

A good friend sent me a quotation the other day. She said it reminded her of my art:

"Art during the middle ages was communal, unindividualistic; it came out of a group consciousness. It was without the driving painful individuality of the art of the bourgeouis era. And one day we will leave behind the driving egotism of individual art. We will return to an art which will express not man's self-divisions and separateness from his fellows, but his responsibility for his fellows and his brotherhood."

Time for the shift. Support my work here: