Askese

eremoBei der Askese, wie auch bei der freiwilligen Armut, geht es nicht um den schmerzhaften Verzicht oder beabsichtigtes Leiden, sondern einfach um eine Haltung des Schaffens von Raum für das Wesentliche.

Asceticism

Asceticism, as well as voluntary poverty, are not about painful relinquishment or intentional suffering, but simply about an attitude of creating space for the essential.

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Bedingungsloses Grundeinkommen

Genug Heu für alle da! (photo credit: Jessica Jonker)

Die Idee eines bedingungslosen Grundeinkommens, wie es zur Zeit in der Schweiz oder in Kanada zur Diskussion steht, ist meines Erachtens ein relativ hilfloser, ökonomischer Ausdruck für die Tatsache dass jeder Mensch Würde hat und deshalb wichtig ist.

In einer Gesellschaft, die so dominiert ist von einem Weltbild der Wirtschaftlichkeit und Effizienz, in welcher menschliche Werte nebensächlich und zweitrangig werden, und in welcher unsere Umwelt und die Schöpfung bloss als ausbeutbare Ressourcen erachtet werden, braucht es wieder einmal einen Gedankenanstoss – so utopisch dieser scheinen mag – um uns in Erinnerung zu rufen, dass alle Menschen Solidarität und gegenseitige Rücksichtnahme brauchen um leben zu können.

Basic guaranteed income

Genug Heu für alle da!
There is enough for everyone! (photo credit: Jessica Jonker)

The idea of a basic guaranteed income, as it is being discussed right now in Switzerland or in Canada, is in my estimation a relatively helpless, economic expression of the fact that each human being has dignity and thus is important.

In a society, in which the paradigms of economy and efficiency are so dominant, in which human values become secondary considerations, and in which our environment and the creation are degraded to exploitable resources, we need another thoughtful hint – as utopian as it may seem – to remember that we as human beings need solidarity und mutual respect in order to live.

New light of the season

Krippe

Merry Christmas – Season’s Greetings

Christmas as a feast day is intended to remind us of the worldly presence of the divine Light, at the same time as the return of the longer daylight hours for those who live in the northern hemisphere.

More than forty years ago, I crafted the figurines for this simple nativity scene. The figurines survived in a box in my parents’ attic. I am glad they came out to see the light again.

It is tied straw work, a technique popular in german-speaking areas. It was made from a renewable and affordable resource for all.

Die Jahreszeit des wiederkehrenden Lichtes

KrippeFrohe Weihnachten und Festtagsgrüsse 

Weihnachten ist ein Festtag der uns daran erinnern soll dass das göttliche Licht auch auf Erden präsent ist. Gleichzeitig markiert das Fest auch die länger werdenden Tage für die Leute die auf der nördlichen Halbkugel zu Hause sind.

Vor mehr als vierzig Jahren habe ich diese einfachen Krippenfiguren hergestellt. Alles was es dazu brauchte waren Strohhalme und Faden. Die Figuren haben in einer Schachtel im Estrich meiner Eltern überdauert. Ich bin froh, dass sie nun wieder ans Licht gekommen sind.

Mein Gott, warum hast du mich verlassen? – My God, why have you forsaken me?

Here a few thoughts on Good Friday, inspired by the bible verses in Mark 15:34 – Einige Gedanken zum Karfreitag, inspiriert von den Bibelworten im Markusevangelium (15:34)

Chad2

These children are the children of God in today´s world. They are bearing the cross for us who enjoy the privileges and the security of an affluent life. They are only a few months old, with the facial expressions of an old person facing death. They look us straight in the eyes with little or no energy to show the slightest emotion. But I can clearly hear their question:

“Why have you forsaken me?”

This is a question that touches me directly and encourages me to fight for more social justice, in my immediate surroundings as well as on a global scale, that mandates me to act for the well-being of all humans and the creation, and that is not simply of interest in a ancient religious text that can be interpreted in a spiritual context. Back then, Jesus was nailed to the cross – these children die with the same innocence in front of our eyes. Therefore, it is very important for me to always recognize the divine in every human being I have the honour to meet on my journey through life.

The suffering of the children of God is unnecessary and avoidable. Death shall be the rounding off of a fulfilled life. This week, I was able to cry a few times in remembrance of my contribution towards easing the suffering; a commitment I need to renew on a daily basis.

Chad1

Diese Kinder sind die Kinder Gottes von heute. Sie tragen das Kreuz für uns, die wir alle Privilegien und Sicherheiten einer wohlhabenden Gesellschaft geniessen können. Sie sind einige Monate alt und tragen die Gesichtsausdrücke eines Greisen der kurz vor dem Tod steht. Sie sehen uns direkt in die Augen ohne auch noch die Kraft zu haben das geringste Gefühl auszudrücken. Aber ich kann ganz klar die Frage hören:

“Warum hast du mich verlassen?”

Dies ist eine Frage die mich direkt betrifft und mich anspornt mich zu wehren für mehr soziale Gerechtigkeit, im Kleinen wie auch in Grossen,die mich beauftragt mich einzusetzen für das Wohl aller Menschen und die Schöpfung, die nicht nur in einem alten religiösen Text steht und rhetorisch-spirituel interpretiert werden soll. Jesus hing damals am Kreuz – diese Kinder sterben heute genau so unschuldig vor unseren Augen. Ich finde es für mich immer wieder wichtig, das Göttliche in jedem Menschen zu erkennen dem ich begegnen darf auf meiner Reise durchs Leben.

Das Leiden der Kinder Gottes ist unnötig und vermeidbar. Der Tod soll ihr Leben abrunden nach einem erfüllten Leben. Diese Woche konnte ich einige Male weinen in Erinnerung an meinen Betrag, den ich jeden Tag neu leisten muss, um diese Leiden zu verringern.

(Photo credits: Brian D´Cruz)

The medical emergency interventions through Doctors without Borders/MSF were giving one of the pictured infants a second chance in life. For the other one returned to God prematurely. الله يرحمه ويدخله فسيح جناته (May God have mercy on him and make him enter His vastest paradise). – Die medizinische Nothilfe durch Ärzte ohne Grenzen/MSF hat einem der abgebildeten Kinder eine zweite Chance im Leben ermöglicht. Das andere ist vorzeitig zum Schöpfer zurück gekehrt. الله يرحمه ويدخله فسيح جناته  (Möge Gott ihm Gnade zeigen und in Sein Himmelreich einziehen lassen).

For more information on my encounter with the pictured children, see the following blog entries: – Für weitergehende Informationen über die Umstände meiner Begegnungen mit den abgebildeten Kindern, kannst du die folgenden Beiträge lesen:

With MSF in Chad

Hope on the Horizon and Hope on the Horizon (the movie)

Before I dance with Death… (+de)

Tafel 45 des Totentanzes auf der Spreuerbrücke in Luzern - Panel 45 of the Danse of Death series on the Spreuer Bridge in Lucerne.
Der Bauer: Tafel 45 des Totentanzes auf der Spreuerbrücke in Luzern – The Peasant: Panel 45 of the Dance of Death series on the Spreuer Bridge in Lucerne.

Ach Pur wie sur gwünst du dein Brot. – Ich gwüns mit Arbeit Angst und Not. –
Wil läben doch lieber ein Pursman. – Als gstorben für ein Edelman.

(transcribed in: Der Todtentanz: Gemälde auf der Mühlenbrücke in Luzern, 1881) Continue reading “Before I dance with Death… (+de)”

Is Providence Road a dead-end street?

Is Providence Road a dead-end street?
Is Providence Road a dead-end street?

When I think about the extent of misery I described in “Mapping it out”, there are many questions that come up for me:

When is this misery, this crisis going to end? This statement implies where we generally see the problem: The misery of “poverty amidst prosperity” seems to be the apparent problem that needs to be addressed. Why else would we find evidence of hundreds of charities and social services initiatives, both from the public and the private sector in Kensington?

Poverty is not the problem – Affluence is!

The early church fathers (5th century) have formulated it this way: “Some people are indigent for the very reason that others hold a superfluity. Take away the rich man and you will find no pauper. No one should own more than is necessary but everyone should have what they need. A few rich people are the reason why there are so many poor” (Pelagius, as cited by Wallis, p.116)

There is nothing wrong with wealth in its original meaning of the word: Being well. But affluence has nothing to do with well-being.

Affluence in the United States refers to an individual’s or household’s state of being in an economically favorable position in contrast to a given reference group.” (Wikipedia)

Jim Wallis describes how that dynamic of maneuvering into a favourable position for individuals, households, or corporations has led to a rat race that is ultimately destructive for the world. We seem to have lost some old fashioned values, like the concern for the common good. It is a sense of individual entitlement (“it’s all about me!”), and the instant gratification of wants (“and I want it now!”) that has taken over.

And we are not satisfied if we have all we need: The consumerist discourse suggests that we need to compete and get ahead of everybody else. Keeping up with the Joneses is one of the symptoms of affluenza, a non-medical disease that has become widespread in affluent societies:

Af-flu-en-za n. 1. The bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Joneses. 2. An epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by dogged pursuit of the American Dream. 3. An unsustainable addiction to economic growth.”(http://www.pbs.org/kcts/affluenza/)

Wallis describes how the market has become like a god. It is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-present. We have subjected ourselves to the power of the market forces to the point where we start realizing and suffering from the symptoms of affluenza: This unfulfilled feeling.

However, the market does not give you the comfort of the divine. It is not all-loving. If we feel unfulfilled, the market will produce yet another consumable for us and will give us the promise that everything will be taken care of. It sounds like providence

Kensington is a prime example of the hollowness of that market providence. It is not meant to be shared among all human beings. It is not meant to be shared for the sustained well-being of all of creation. Most of us are aware that natural resources are limited. We have made everything on this planet and beyond a commodity that can be exploited for short term gain. Few decisions are driven by the concern of the seventh generation from now.

A perpetual and unregulated growth society needs millions of impoverished and middle-class people that sacrifice themselves and contribute to the extreme accumulation of wealth by a few. Wallis gives stunning examples of the growing gap between the rich and the rest in America and the world. The 400 wealthiest people in the United States control more assets than the 160,000,000 people at the bottom end of the wealth spectrum together!

And the gap is widening every year. That is why I am convinced that poverty is not the problem. Once we rediscover that we are happier with less, and that we are all in this together, we will be heading towards a state of providence. If we redesign our economy and polity, as an expression of the divine will, there will be enough to meet the needs of every human being.

Street scene along Providence Road in Media, PA
Street scene along Providence Road in Media, PA

In the meantime, the self-proclaimed “road to providence by perpetual and unlimited growth and consumption” is indeed a DEAD END. It has led to the financial collapse of recent years, and it will lead to further crises and catastrophes down the road.

Unless we decide to plan for de-growth and create a culture of sharing, we will have to ask ourselves again and again: when will this misery going to end? Wallis suggests that we better start with the question: “How is this crisis going to change me?”

Wallis, J. (2010). Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street; A moral compass for the new economy. New York, NY: Howard Books.

Map it out – the extent of obvious misery

Here I am in the Kensington area of Philadelphia.

The row houses in the Kensington area were originally built for workers in the vicinity of the factories that employed them. They are a monument to industriousness and dignity. The factories were not social institutions, but apparently it was possible for many families to live in their own little house in the neighbourhood. It was a short commute to the workplace. There were many little corner stores selling things of daily needs, and bars for those who had daily or occasional wants. Some avenues were commercial districts with a variety of stores and shops. I have seen a library in a park, schools and a hospital – all in a similar architectural style making use of brickwork, just the way the factories were built. And there were many churches to comfort the ones hit by hardship and to celebrate with the ones who were able to make it.

Industrial Beauty - a restored factory portal in Kensinton
Industrial Beauty – a restored factory portal in Kensington

Continue reading “Map it out – the extent of obvious misery”

Daily Random Act of Kindness #3

The Kensington neighbourhood might be one of the rougher places in Philadelphia – the City of Brotherly Love.

There must be a way...
There must be a way…

Allegheny Station of the subway system is not particularly accessible. The trains are running elevated at the level of the third and fourth story of the adjacent houses. The station exit is not fitted with an elevator – just long concrete stairs down to street level, moist and slippery from the melting snow mixed with the grime of an administrative district with low-priority for proper maintenance. Continue reading “Daily Random Act of Kindness #3”

Spinning the yarn… tricoter pour le passé (knitting for history)

(English translation below)

Merci à Marie Villeneuve du Radio Canada de Vancouver. Elle m’a appelée cet après-midi pour une entrevue pour le Boulevard du Pacifique, une nouvelle émission radio d’après-midi où se croisent des réflexions et des découvertes sur notre société et ses cultures.

J’ai parlé avec elle des statues au centre ville de Whitehorse, Yukon qui sont au froid pendant l’hiver. J’ai remarqué qu’ils sont tristes, avec des larmes de glace sur ces visages. Personne a pitié ces personnage historique quand il fais les -35 degrés au Yukon. Alors, j’ai lancé un appel pour décorer les statues de la même façon que l’avion à l’aéroport de Whitehorse en août passé. « Yarn bombs needed » veut encourager tous les tricoteurs et tricoteuses du Yukon de créer des vêtements d’hiver artistique pour les statues de Sam Steele, Jack London, Robert Service et autres.

Good old Jack London looks much happier and warmer already!
Good old Jack London looks much happier and warmer already!

Continue reading “Spinning the yarn… tricoter pour le passé (knitting for history)”

A Better Yukon for All – the governmental strategy for social inclusion and poverty reduction

A critical review by Othmar F. Arnold

(All mentioned documents are linked directly to the original source.)

The preamble to the new strategy document outlines very nicely what a better Yukon for all means: “A socially inclusive society is one where all people feel valued, their differences are respected, and their basic needs are met so they can live with dignity. It is a society where everyone has the opportunity to participate and to have their voice heard.’ (p. 8) And it continues with deep insight about social exclusion: it “is the result of barriers in the social, economic, political and cultural systems” (p. 8).

In the introduction, the scope of the strategy is presented as a guideline to social policy development; or in other words, how government will facilitate a way of meaningfully living together. From the research the government conducted, it concluded that service delivery and access to services appear the main reasons for the fact that some people in the Yukon do not feel included. Furthermore, “poverty is one of the most obvious factors contributing to social exclusion, but social exclusion also stems from and is exacerbated by inadequate education, housing, health, social participation, employment and access to services (p. 8)”.

Continue reading “A Better Yukon for All – the governmental strategy for social inclusion and poverty reduction”

A Better Yukon for All – a new strategy paper

The Government of Yukon has recently released its long-awaited

Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Strategy

It has been in the works for a while and there were several delays in releasing the document. But I am glad that it has finally seen the light. The entire strategy document can be downloaded from the following page: A Better Yukon. On the same page, the government released the 2010 background research report: Dimensions of Social Inclusion and Exclusion.

A socially inclusive society is one where all people feel valued, differences are respected and basic needs are met so they can live with dignity. Barriers in social, economic, political and cultural systems can prevent people from being part of their community. Everyone is affected by social exclusion and poverty, and everyone plays a role in finding solutions.

Vision

A Yukon where social exclusion and poverty are eliminated, diversity is celebrated, and all Yukoners have the opportunity to prosper and participate to their full potential, free from prejudice and discrimination.

The strategy document provides guiding principles, goals, and a commitment to measure success.

Evidence of Homelessness in Whitehorse: abandoned camp along the Yukon River
Evidence of Homelessness in Whitehorse: abandoned camp along the Yukon River

Continue reading “A Better Yukon for All – a new strategy paper”

Landfillharmonic

Dear Friends,
please enjoy and get inspired by this teaser film for a documentary called “LandFillharmonic” I found on an other blogsite. It is excellent evidence that we can make the best out of whatever we have, even if we have nothing!

“One day it occurred to me to teach music to the children of the recyclers and use my personal instruments,” explains 36 year-old Chávez, who worked as an ecological technician at the landfill. “But it got to the point that there were too many students and not enough supply. So that’s when I decided to experiment and try to actually create a few.”

Working beside the families for years Chávez eventually made friends and became acutely aware that the children needed something positive in their lives. He was inspired to do something to help. He began using the trash in the landfill to create instruments for the children.

The town of Cateura was built virtually on top of a landfill. Situated along the banks of the Paraguay River, the landfill receives over 1,500 more tons of solid waste each day. There are seven different neighborhoods built around the landfill, accounting for over 2500 families living in close proximity to dangerous waste. Most of the families, including children, are employed by the landfill as recyclers. The poverty has forced children to work in the landfills, neglecting any education that might lead them to a better life. (from: artjournal.com)

It matches the powerful message of my own film project about community development, empowerment, and resourcefulness “Healing in Babalmé”. Watch the short film on YouTube or follow this link:

Hope on the Horizon – the movie

Here is the link to the Landfillharmonic video: The world sends us garbage…

Scribblings from the Bluegrass

Check this out:

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Namenstag: Othmar

for an English version: Feast Day: Othmar

Otmar wuchs wahrscheinlich in einer angesehenen alemannischen Familie am Bodensee auf. Er wurde dort auch geschult und später nach Chur zum Studium geschickt. Nach der Priesterweihe wurde er im Pfarreidienst eingesetzt. Im Alter von dreissig Jahren wurde er beauftragt im Steinachtal bei der Zelle des Gallus ein Kloster zu errichten.

Otmar hatte eine ausgeprägte soziale Ader, verschenkte Klostervermögen an die Armen, baute in der Nähe des Klosters das erste Haus für Aussätzige in der Schweiz und nahm Kranke, Blinde und Arme in einem weiteren Bau auf, wo er sie auch nachts selbst betreute; die enge Verbindung der Klosterbrüder zum einfachen Volk begründete Missionserfolge und brachte ihm den Namen Armenvater ein. Er fürchtete den wachsenden Reichtum seines Klosters und kleidete sich selbst einfach, ritt nur auf einem Esel statt auf einem Pferd. (Ökumenisches Heiligenlexikon)

Continue reading “Namenstag: Othmar”