A Picture of Mohamed by Dr. Jordan B Peterson

written by Dr Jordan B Peterson on 14 Feb, 2017, in response to Canada’s M-103

 

Is this a picture of Mohamed?

Something woke me up at five thirty this morning.

Maybe it was my conscience. Maybe it was God.

Take your pick. I’ll go for conscience. In any case

this week Canada’s government is going to consider

an anti-Islamophobia motion M-103 in parliament.

Before that happens, I have some things to say.

 

Moses was a murderer. Christ was a bastard.

And Mohammad? Mohammad was a…

Mohammad was a… Mohammad was a…

…holy man whose every word and action was correct.

I ask Muslims worldwide,

                                               Can I say anything else?

On the week Canada’s government is going to discuss

anti-Islamophobia motion M-103 in parliament

I ask Muslims worldwide,

                                               Can I say anything else?

I ask Muslims in the West,

                                               Can I say anything else?

I ask Muslims in Canada,

                                               Can I say anything else?

I ask Iqra Khalid,

sponsor of M-103 in Canada,

                                               Can I say anything else?

 

Is this a picture of Mohamed? Where do I cross the line?

This is a picture of Christ. This is a picture of Mo…

This is a picture of Mo…

This is a picture of Moses.

 

This is a picture of Mo…

This is a picture of Mo…

Is this a picture of Mohamed?

This might be a picture of Mohamed?

Did I cross the line?

 

When do I become Salman Rushdie? I’m a Westerner.

I am Salman Rushdie.         Iqra Khalid,

                                               are you Salman Rushdie?

 

When do I become the Danish cartoonist?

I’m a Westerner. I am a Danish cartoonist.

                                               Iqra Khalid,

                                               are you a Danish cartoonist?

When do I become

                                               Charlie Hebdo?

I’m a Westerner. I can criticize

so that things

                                               can improve.

So that we’re not trapped

                                               in the dead past.

So that we’re not trapped

               in the embrace

                               of the corpses

                                               of the past.

I am Charlie Hebdo.

                Iqra Khalid,

                               are you

                                               Charlie Hebdo?

Which side are you on?

Every Westerner is Salman Rushdie.

Every Westerner is a Danish cartoonist.

Every Westerner is Charlie Hebdo.

Who is Iqra Khalid?

 

When push comes to shove, as it will this week,

where is she going                to stand?

 

Muslims of the world, on the week of

anti-Islamophobia motion M-103 in Canada,

Muslims of the West, on the week of

anti-Islamophobia motion M-103 in Canada,

Muslims of Canada, on the week of

anti-Islamophobia motion M-103 in Canada,

Iqra Khalid of Canada, who sponsored the motion

after the murders in Quebec City,

on the week of

anti-Islamophobia motion M-103 in Canada,

                  Can I say:

                                This is a picture

                                              of the prophet

                                                               Mohamed?          

 

Because if I can’t, it’s not Islamophobia.

is This a picture of Mohamed?

is This a picture of Mohamed?

 

This poem has been transcribed from its original spoken-word video source. 

 

Jordan B Peterson “2017/02/14: A Picture of Mohamed”. Online video. YouTube. 14 Feb, 2017. Web. 20 Sep, 2017.

Image source: art by Bosch Fawstin, a former Muslim

The Aliveness of Places

Places are alive. Setting, not merely a dull backdrop, is a topic near to my heart as a writer and as one who recognizes herself as a natural human animal. (And make no mistake, “animal” ought to be a title of honor and pride.) Much of my professional background is in the outdoor education field of “deep nature connection” and the “re-wilding” movement of reconnecting people to our natural environments. It is an educational movement based in loving the aliveness of a world shared with other members of the kingdom of life on earth. This is my starting place for so much of what I feel and do professionally, and it continues to mature in me over the years while influencing my relationship to writing especially.

One of the most important lessons I learned early on in my own nature-based education (unlearning and relearning) is about “the wall of green”. That is the feeling of disconnect, bewilderment, ignorance and fear that many modern humans feel when confronted with a forest or any other natural environment not walled in with four corners and a thermostat set to 70 degrees all year long. I remember it being absolutely overwhelming at first, until, by a slow and gentle establishing of relationship, the “wall” of green disappeared, and I realized I knew the names, and more importantly the distinct personalities, of many of the “plant people” and “animal people” who before had all looked the same. Seeing the natural world in this new way, I was disturbed by my own ignorance. Now I knew the difference between a Western Redcedar, the famous Mother Tree and Tree of Life of the Pacific North-West which provides medicinal tea and valuable building materials, as compared to a Sitka Spruce, an equally beautiful tree whose needled branches taste like candied mint when covered in ice but whose same needles can be extremely painful to grab or step on indelicately! So many species became alive to me: my eyes were opened, and I knew I could never see the living land as merely a passive, mechanical, impersonal “setting” or “backdrop” which only existed as a pretty, disposable decoration for more ostensibly important (and arrogant) exclusively human drama.

This massive paradigm shift has affected me profoundly, and in this I cannot even approach writing itself as a disembodied subject. The aliveness of the land, a being with a relational, lovable, even conscious personality all her own, will always be an important character in the writing process, as it deserves to be. I suspect that this will continue to make a strong mark on my developing career as a writer and obviously influence which subjects feel attractive to spend my time writing about.

elk-889125

And neither is an experience in nature-based education all sweetness and light. Many adult initiates go through an intense cathartic inner turmoil, a “dark night of the soul”, where we come to peace with the unavoidably harsh, violent, and deadly aspects of nature which live in our own human psyches. We find we become more creative, more aware of these primal forces, and we find healthy outlets are honoring them. We may come to honor our newfound awareness of our own edgier natures by channeling physical aggression through more exercise or sports, taking responsibility for our meat-eating by learning the bloody work of how to harvest an animal body on a farm, or enjoying the gothic literary genre and contemplating our own limited lifespans. Indeed, all of these are places, too: states of being expressed in the pitch-black of a forest at night, the strangely soothing beauty of a graveyard, a broken-down part of town that glimmers with a mutinous danger. All all these, also, are nature. Having contact with the magic of places and the night-side of nature provides much creative juice to an ecologically-minded creative writer.

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Now I live in a more urban area again, several years after that initial introduction to an indigenous mode of learning about Place. After several transformative years of living rurally surrounded by forests, it was at first a difficult transition “back” in many ways. Yet I chose to accept this new chapter with confidence that nature is still present in the cities, and the aliveness of the world around us comes to aid all of us, even in an urban setting. The movement of the city trees in the sunlight echoes the same effect of a woodland cathedral. We must love and rehabilitate even our urban environments in fiercely creative and regenerative ways, honoring them as not separate from the rest of the earth. We recognize their capability of hosting the same natural magic as the wild places, albeit with more urban flare. The spirit of Place is alive and magical, wherever it is.

Many wild animals have adapted to urban environments and bring their old magic to visit us. Crow, Fox, Coyote, Squirrel, Raccoon, Thrush, Jay, Bobcat, Lark, Butterfly and so many of the Insect Nation, occasionally Deer and even Eagle I know are near me, hiding just beyond or above the concrete sidewalks. There is a beautiful Bald Eagle who nests on a lamp post above highway 520 on the Seattle side facing Bellevue, signifying a threshold between the riparian marshes of the sea-sound and my species’ metal towers. This interconnected aliveness which calls out to us, involving our human-animal selves in their subtle web of life, cannot be disconnected from the writing of a writer who is aware of these relationships.

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There is a poem that comes to mind, by Lisel Mueller, about not being able to go back to old ways after having experienced a new yet societally unrecognized way of being. The poem, called Monet Refuses the Operation, is about the impressionist painter Claude Monet’s refusal to have cataract surgery on his eyes so that he can see “correctly” again, because he valued what others called his “disability” of cataracts as a gift that allowed him to see all the world blending together in beauty, as his paintings revealed. Though I certainly don’t consider my re-wilding experience to be in any way a disability, the parallel holds symbolically in the line, “I will not return to a universe of objects that don’t know each other…” There is a poem that comes to mind, by Lisel Mueller, about not being able to go back to old ways after having experienced a new yet societally unrecognized way of being. The poem, Monet Refuses the Operation, is about the impressionist painter Claude Monet’s refusal to have cataract surgery on his eyes so that he can see “correctly” again, because he valued what others called his “disability” of cataracts as a gift that allowed him to see all the world blending together in beauty, as his paintings revealed. Though I certainly don’t consider my re-wilding experience to be in any way a disability, the parallel holds symbolically in the line, “I will not return to a universe of objects that don’t know each other…” I am happy to explain to people why setting is not just a lifeless thing in the background, but instead is a character as much a part of a story as an animal.
Below is a link to that poem. May it inspire us to see differently, unafraid to see the magic of setting, even in our own lives, with new eyes.

Doctor,
if only you could see
how heaven pulls earth into its arms
and how infinitely the heart expands
to claim this world, blue vapor without end.

 

……

Source: Lisel Mueller, “Monet Refuses the Operation” from Second Language. Copyright © 1996 by Lisel Mueller. Louisiana State University Press.

Poem: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/52577

The Art of Carrying Verse

When I first moved to San Francisco in January of 2010, I took nothing with me but a backpack and a satchel. I had given away my only computer, one of those old white-cased Macs. I wanted to be unburdened. I stayed at a youth shelter for a time where my only music came from my 2004 iPod, which was stolen. I didn’t miss it for long, because I carried with me a book of poems, songs and prayers that I hand-scribbled in black ink on soft, textured pages. At that time I was nineteen, nearly twenty years old and fighting one of the worst multi-year episodes of my lifelong depression. So I carried with me through that city of sea-fog and sunlit towers out of my league the words of poems to remember, and hymns and folk songs to sing. I memorized the verses I found and needed to carry, singing them to myself on the Muni, on BART, climbing those steep streets of fool’s gold to old churches past homeless encampments. Many a passersby seems to enjoy my spontaneous singing, it being so out of the usual in a modern American city. I sang to Golden Gate Park when, one day, I found a baby American Robin fallen out of its nest. I stayed a long time to see where it hopped to, trying to direct the distressed avian infant with my own winged motions to a place of safe haven. I hoped I’d find the same place for myself. To sing words by heart means you can call on their power whenever you need them, and they will assist you.

The old-school method of rote memorization of verse may, after all, not be so harsh if the pupil can but choose the words that call out to them. How many people today care to have tucked in their sternum the rhyming words of remembering love, the song your grandma sang when you were a child, a poem that grabs and squeezes your frozen heart ’til it warms and pulses again. When my grandparents were children in the 1930s, everyone knew by heart some songs and poems, and it was not unusual for young adults well into the 1950s to strike up a song together in chorus at a party, even unaccompanied by instrument, for the natural joy of it. I call this the lost art of carrying verse. Common people used to know poems and songs, the way people now know their favorite internet music channels. It is not to say that our excellent access to recorded music is a bad thing, but only that I wish we wouldn’t let it replace our own spontaneity at carrying and reciting verse from within us.

I first heard Anne Bradstreet’s famous poem on marital love, “To My Dear and Loving Husband” performed on audio recording by Robert Pinsky on his album of recorded poetry, Essential Pleasures. I had long been a lover of spoken poetry by then. I had never yet had an intimate partner at that time, and the poem spoke of a love and trust between spouses I hadn’t witnessed in my own never-even-married parents. Written sometime between 1641 and 1643, the poem, spoken passionately in the woman’s voice, moreover gives the lie to the stereotype of downcast and unfulfilled early European American woman. Being written by a woman, much less in the 17th century, it is an indispensable perspective in love poetry which too often makes the woman the thing to be looked upon, instead of the active agent who does the loving and desiring upon a man who receives her affections. Love poetry written by women does the dual medicine of amplifying women’s voices and experiences while allowing men to be loved themselves, for once. Finally, menfolk, take a break from always being the active agents. Lay back and let your women do some active loving!

If ever two were one, then surely we.

If ever man were loved by wife, then thee;

If ever wife was happy in a man,

Compare with me ye women if you can.

I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold,

Or all the riches that the East doth hold.

My love is such that rivers cannot quench,

Nor ought but love from thee give recompense.

Thy love is such I can no way repay;

The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.

Then while we live, in love let’s so persever,

That when we live no more we may live ever.

Bradsteet’s poem echoes Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 (“Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?”) in tone, though it be twelve lines instead of fourteen. I already knew Sonnet 18 by heart, and I scooped up Bradstreet’s love sonnet like silver, memorizing it into my hopeful San Francisco hymnal. The author’s voice of joy rising to crescendo conveys this earthly love up to her prayers, putting the woman’s love that happens on earth squarely in the realm of that which is respected as sacred. Her comparison of this love’s greatness to the inconsequentiality of the world’s riches might make us mistake that she disdained this world. But she rather draws all earthly things into it; in the large way of the poet. Her love is by her husband reciprocated.

When I read it, I held this poem in my hands, there in those San Francisco streets, and then I held it in my memory, as a potion to find such love as this. Lonely, short-haired, I looked for this largeness of love and verse yet incorporeal to me in rose gardens owned by institutions, but which gave their floral splendor to me indiscriminately. I looked for this love already coming to live in my own life, recovering from my depression.

Bradstreet’s poem is anaphoric in nature. It is in the rare second person, addressing her Beloved with all the boldness and tenderness of a young lover even in her middle-aged marriage. Bradstreet’s poem connects all us women through time, ancestral wisdom, like the wisdom of carrying such words within us. It tells me, with much relief, that in every age before me there has been true marital love, not only in our ostensibly more enlightened time, but inherent to all eras of human life. Now I have found my beloved. My partner, T, is much worthy of this poem. If I hadn’t remembered it and carried it, would I have had such perspective in earlier years that finding him would be possible? Would I have had Bradsteet’s ancestral help in my recovery from depression? I take inspiration and reassurance of this deeply human experience written down by a woman cultural ancestor so many generations before me.

I no longer live in San Francisco. I left that city June of 2012, tired of the impossible cost of living and established societies difficult to break into and find real community. I went to attend an outdoor school in the woods of the Pacific Northwest, the greater region which I have now settled in, with T, my object of poetic affections. I still battle depression– it’s a condition I will always have, but I now know how to manage it a little better. I still have my book of verse, and I find new words to imprint in my memory, bright words of power to carry.

Icon

 

when I go to draw the face of Beloved
I see I can make no true form
in the line of a pen
in the curve of wet clay
for to worship is to draw close to the real
the one who cannot be repeated

what angle, what curl of hair
in this corner of memory
is quite like the body I know–
it is dark where his eyes fall
into shadowed circles of dusk
between daylight
and dreaming

 

 

Image source: public domain

Here

Get a yard           grab a lot
one in the middle of a shitty city
with the wrong kind of death.
Fight the system to get some space
a bit of land        to love, to call your own
fuck the permit
just go sit in that place
and do something radical       –like listen
and remember that you are an animal
here with the ones with paws,
with claws, with wings
not too different from your own,
the ones you have in dreams.
Listen to Them who speak to you
in love-words of remembrance, words of power
in the city. And when you rise and go
take power with you,
and go into the city
the city of shatters
and you go be water and land
for the people of all species.
Bring the good word to the people
starting with Here.

 

 

Image copyright © Amber MV. All rights reserved.

The Re-Creator

 

Through the tempest flows the Xi, incendiary
to the nightmare of endings,
resisting rock, becoming motion,
becoming still as
broken suns splice tree branches
into shadow and their leaves parachuted down
to destroy and renew the whole world.

Beatific, the shimmering,
after death she makes it all new.
Glory to She who invites the intrusion
into pure bliss where we thought
we would never be shaken.

Fire intwined with ice now falls,
the rambunctious teeth of time
digesting human hubris.
Kali swallows all.
Dark Mother
eats you up,
gets you dreaming.

She sends her ripple out again
on calm waters, on boats
She brings back soil
to the flooded earth.

She lays you down in heat, Goddess on top,
takes and blows the seed of your mortality,
all your beauty and your folly
to life.

 

 

Image copyright © Amber MV. All rights reserved.

“Swiftly arose and spread around me…”

“Swiftly arose and spread around me the peace and knowledge that pass all the argument of the earth, and I know that the hand of God is the promise of my own, and I know that the spirit of God is the brother of my own, and that all the men ever born are also my brothers, and the women my sisters and lovers, and that a kelson of the creation is love, and limitless are leaves stiff or drooping in the fields, and brown ants in the little wells beneath them…”

– Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

 

 

 

Image source: Pixabay License. Free for commercial use.

The Vacation of Birds

 

A door opens to bells: eyes turn
toward the sound to see
the awaited face emerging,
at once the act of revelation,
of birthing and becoming.

The Word became incarnate,
but what became the Word?
The Word is like the body
in this way: what is within us
is beyond description,
spirit yearning after form.
All life longs for the Word
through whom the sound
of The World is heard.

When angels come to earth,
they take the form
of birds.

 

 

Image source: pixabay.com, Public Domain

Cascadian Journey: In the Beginning

Last night I hauled out around the fire pit, and snoozed upon the sweet hard earth. No cushion– that’s how I needed it. (“He made him ride on the heights of the land and fed him with the fruit of the fields. He nourished him with honey from the rock, and with oil from the flinty crag…” goes the old Tanakh tales…) No body beside me other than the slugs and bugs, who did not frighten me. No light but the stars, my dinky little fire, my soul and it’s Maker. No music but the song I sang to the Beautiful One, “Come down, O love divine/ seek thou this soul of mine, and visit it with thine own ardor glowing…” And I made my way into the darkness around me, eyes opening wide into the night.

Over the past few years I have been mysteriously reminded by people unconnected to each other that it is possible to see in the dark. I have been shown this with love. You open your eyes so wide that the tangible darkness gets into them like a thickness, but it makes you see. Your skin, more attuned, becomes electric. Your center repositions, your skin-hairs alert, and you see how the animals see.

And you understand then that you can do what you thought you couldn’t, that you have reserves of strength in places you never considered. That is Grace: we don’t create it, just open to it already there in the world. You see that there is light in unlikely places, that you are never left without a way through the thicket. Not a songbird is lost.

In the words of the one hundred and thirty ninth’s psalm, “Even the darkness will not be dark to You; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to You.”

 

 

Image © Amber MV. All rights reserved.

Reporting Live from Earth

 

Reporting live from Earth:
people were nice to each other today.
A tattooed guy helped an old lady across the street,
and she smiled.
A soldier adopted a kitten who purred
when the man nuzzled and kissed it.
Kids played in Mexico City, lovers had sex,
and a woman in Africa gathered plants in peace.
An Iraqi girl strolled the streets of Baghdad,
feeling beautiful, and an Indian man
had a really good sandwich.
A North Korean told a joke,
her friends bent laughing,
while a Westerner sat quiet in the woods,
buying nothing.
A scientist got caught in wonder,
forgetting the formula, and missed his wife.
A politician cried.
It was while the old trees stood without worry
that salmon spawned in cool waters,
and a large feline stretched out under the milky way
on one side of the world,
and on the other side it was day,
and pink flowers bloomed in the deserts,
and a reptile slowly closed its eyes
in the sun.

 

copyright AmberMV 2016

 

photo: pixaby.com Public Domain