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Tereza Coraggio

Third Paradigm is an out-of-the-box thinktank on community sovereignty and regenerative economics.

We look at how to take back our cities, farmland and water; our money, production and trade; our media, education and culture, our religion and even our God.

We present a people's history of the Bible and a parent's view on how to raise giving kids in a taking world.

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Buddhas, Saints, and Fan Clubs

December 22, 2008

3P-006 Show Information (includes MP3 download link)

Welcome to the sixth episode of Third Paradigm. Our title this week is Buddhas, Saints, and Fan Clubs. But we'll start with a section on economics, where we'll look at Ecuador's decision to default on its debt and prosecute those who got them into it. Then on this holiday week, we'll celebrate the true – and I mean the really true - meaning of Christmas with a video preview from the Global Oneness Project, a bonus poem by St. John of the Cross, and ending a message from teenage girls and their grandmothers wild about the same guy. But first, I'll read one of my favorite poems by perhaps my favorite contemporary poet:

Shoveling Snow With Buddha

In the usual iconography of the temple or the local Wok
you would never see him doing such a thing,
tossing the dry snow over a mountain
of his bare, round shoulder,
his hair tied in a knot,
a model of concentration.

Sitting is more his speed, if that is the word
for what he does, or does not do.

Even the season is wrong for him.
In all his manifestations, is it not warm or slightly humid?
Is this not implied by his serene expression,
that smile so wide it wraps itself around the waist of the universe?

But here we are, working our way down the driveway,
one shovelful at a time.
We toss the light powder into the clear air.
We feel the cold mist on our faces.
And with every heave we disappear
and become lost to each other
in these sudden clouds of our own making,
these fountain-bursts of snow.

This is so much better than a sermon in church,
I say out loud, but Buddha keeps on shoveling.
This is the true religion, the religion of snow,
and sunlight and winter geese barking in the sky,
I say, but he is too busy to hear me.

He has thrown himself into shoveling snow
as if it were the purpose of existence,
as if the sign of a perfect life were a clear driveway
you could back the car down easily
and drive off into the vanities of the world
with a broken heater fan and a song on the radio.

All morning long we work side by side,
me with my commentary
and he inside his generous pocket of silence,
until the hour is nearly noon
and the snow is piled high all around us;
then, I hear him speak.
After this, he asks,
can we go inside and play cards?

Certainly, I reply, and I will heat some milk
and bring cups of hot chocolate to the table
while you shuffle the deck.
and our boots stand dripping by the door.

Aaah, says the Buddha, lifting his eyes
and leaning for a moment on his shovel
before he drives the thin blade again
deep into the glittering white snow.

~ Billy Collins ~
From Picnic, Lightning

While the Buddha is tossing dry snow over his bare mountain of a shoulder, Ecuador is refusing to shoulder a mountain of debt. That was the most graceful segue I could think of to get from Buddha to Ecuador. In addition, three ex-Ecuadoran Presidents face criminal prosecution for irregularities in securing loans. The current President, Rafael Correa, has pledged to prioritize the "social debt" over debt to foreign creditors. The Kichwas, the indigenous peoples, have long called the foreign debt illegal and illegitimate. "We have not acquired any debt. The so-called public debt really belongs to the oligarchy. We the peoples have not acquired anything or been benefited, and thus we owe nothing." Venezuela, Paraguay, and Bolivia have also created debt audit boards.

Critics say that this will hurt Ecuador's ability to borrow, but Ecuador has not borrowed in recent years and has no need or desire to borrow. These countries, plus Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, and the Honduras, met in their third summit over the financial crisis and agreed to create a Monetary Common Zone and issue a common currency called the Sucre, or the Single System of Regional Compensation. This is in addition to the Mercosur, the Latin American trading bloc, and the Bancosur, their banking system.

The Kichwas teach Debt Assessment

What can we in the US learn from this? We are, I believe, rather passively accepting our government's right to incur foreign debts on our behalf. I think that we're also under the impression that foreign investment – ownership of US corporations, property and resource rights, doesn't affect us. I've been talking with our Santa Cruz County Treasurer, Fred Keeley, about doing our own debt audit. What portion of the 10 trillion national debt do we consider to be our fair share? What are we paying as a county in aggregate in Federal tax, capital gains tax, State tax, property tax, and sales tax? Are we, unlike the Kichwas, benefiting? What do we get back, in terms of adequate services that we don't have to supplement – either through private insurances, charities or city funds? Are our water, ports, or farmland vulnerable to being appropriated to pay down the interest? If we co-sign the loans for these bank bail-outs, what do we get in return – do we hold the mortgage titles so we can prevent foreclosures? Have we bought out student loans so we can arrange work-outs that serve the community? These are some of the logical questions that the Kichwas of Ecuador would consider. When I asked Fred Keeley if we might be able to get this information, he said to give him a list, and that it would be fun. Fun! That's why I love Fred Keeley.

But there's an even more aggressive move that Ecuador is taking, which is the criminal prosecution of those who incurred the debt for private gain. Why aren't we doing this? It seems like gathering data on the last eight years would be a start. Even collecting the data would put the incoming Obama administration on notice. Accountability is, strictly speaking, accounting. We need to run the numbers and follow the money. Three Ecuadoran Presidents are out of office and it's not stopping the prosecution. Neither should it stop us.

Princess Dresses and Baby Buddhas

Well, speaking of following the money, this week is the most dreaded and anticipated time of the year, when expectations and credit card allowances soar. But this year, there seems to be a new level of sanity that's crept in with the economic crisis. I hear talk of re-gifting, which we've done for several years. We send books and our old princess dresses to our niece. We send our nephew books and the stuffed animals my brother sent our girls each Christmas Eve when they were little. I hear from my brother that his 4-yr-old son would prefer the princess dresses, but they're trying to mildly discourage that. I also send the other relatives different tchotckes than the ones they've sent us, hopefully.

When I drive around town, it seems like the light displays have also become more modest. My kids thought we should put lights around the 3' sign by the door that says, "Torture is Wrong." I've had it up since the Fourth of July for Torture Awareness Month, and I hope to be retiring it within days of the new administration. Until then, Torture is Wrong. Happy Holidays!!

I talked to my sister-in-law yesterday, who said that her daughter, recipient of the coveted princess dresses, asked why we give presents to each other. She couldn't think of a good answer. It made me think. What are we celebrating? What does Christmas mean to me? I decided that for me, it's a celebration of family, because the family is the place where the Christ is born, again and again and again. The monk and poet, Thich Nhat Hanh, compared the story of the sage Asita, who first recognized the infant Buddha, and the gospel story of the prophet Simeon, who saw the baby Jesus and declared him to be the Christ. In Living Buddha, Living Christ, Hanh writes,

"Whenever I read the stories of Asita and Simeon, I have the wish that every one of us could have been visited by a sage when we were born. The birth of every child is important, not less than the birth of a Buddha. We, too, are a Buddha, a Buddha-to-be, and we continue to be born every minute. We, too, are sons and daughters of God and the children of our parents. We have to take special care of each birth.

Moments of Intimacy, Laughter and Kinship

The family is the place, like it or not, where we're helping each other continue to be born every minute, to be brought kicking and screaming into the world. No matter how carefully you vet your friends, family ensures that diversity will find you where you live. It's the grand equalizer – everyone has one. But family can also be found. In 1999, a global photography contest was held called MILK – moments of intimacy, laughter and kinship. In a photograph by Aranya Sen, a naked six-year-old street urchin Babloo holds up his tiny hand to stop an oncoming car as he helps three blind friends cross the road to their school in Calcutta, India.

Family, in this sense, comes even closer to the Christ. It includes the whole human family with a child leading us, we who are blind to our kinship with each other and even our kinship with and fearlessness of the oncoming car. And moving from these photographs of the human family to videos, there's a beautiful series out that illustrates our connection to one another. This is, I believe, the Christ that exists in the living space between us. The series is from the Global Oneness project, and is available for free to anyone who'll share it and pass it on. When my youth group is finished watching it, you're welcome to have my copy. This is their trailer, which includes gorgeous footage of a little Indian girl wearing a swirly skirt, dancing along and beckoning the viewer to follow. And a little child shall lead them...

[Global Oneness Project – Movie Trailer]

If you have a group who'd like your own free copy of these twelve short videos, go to On their website you can view many more films and interviews with subtitles in over a dozen languages.

Virgins and Saints Against Suffering

St. John of the Cross was also a believer in the Oneness that knows no religious boundary. He was both the confessor and student of St. Teresa of Avila, from whom I take my name and its pronunciation. She was in her fifties when he was 25, she was the head of the abbey, and a formidable and funny woman. He was thought to be a bit in love with her, in the holiest sense of the word. Teresa was fearless, smart, and may have been secretly a Jew. When her grandfather converted back to Judaism, the Inquisition rounded up his family, including her six-year-old father, and threatened to burn them all at the stake. He became again a converso – a forced Catholic convert, but perhaps still covertly a Jew.

John's grandfather was also a converso and a wealthy silk merchant, but his father was disowned when he married a poor orphan girl, possibly of Moorish descent. Teresa became a fierce reformer of the corrupt abbey system, and convinced John to follow her lead with the monasteries. However, he was kidnapped by his fellow friars and confined in an unlit cell too small to stand. He was taken out repeatedly and beaten by his fellow priests until he was permanently crippled. For nine months he slept and ate in his own excrement. One night, after a particularly fierce beating, the Virgin appeared and said that she'd indulged his belief that he needed to suffer long enough, and now commanded him to escape. Miraculously, he did. In the following time, he became one of the most prolific visionaries the world has ever known. So this may read like a sentimental greeting card, but it's come through the fire to us.

If You Want

If you want,
the Virgin will come walking down the road,
pregnant with the holy,
and say,
"I need shelter for the night,
please take me inside your heart,
my time is so close."
Then, under the roof of your soul,
you will witness the sublime
intimacy, the divine, the Christ
taking birth
as she grasps your hand for help,
for each of us is the midwife of God,
each of us.

Thanks to Daniel Ladinsky for this translation and background
...from his book,
Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West.

Next week, we'll continue with A People's History of the New Testament. We'll look at the issues of sovereignty, resource theft, and armed resistance, and how Jesus weighed in on these weighty matters, which would have been critical in an occupied country. But this week we decided to follow our own advice for Christmas, which we hereby pass on to you. It's this: be kind to the religionists in your life. My oldest daughter asked if we could go to church on Christmas Eve because she's sad that Grandma and Grandpa won't be with us. It made me realize that we can't abandon the old traditions until we've made new ones. Religion is the only vehicle we have for expressing our love for each other, the love that makes us family, whether by birth or by choice, and that extends to everyone. Personally, I think that it's a vehicle whose axels have been bent so it won't get us anywhere. But for now, it's the only vehicle we have. And look how magnificently we've used it! In order to show our love for each other, we've had to get out and carry the damn thing on our shoulders, or be trapped under it until the Virgin commands us to escape. Imagine how powerful our love would be if we actually had a vehicle made for it.

Grobanites and Sappy Anarchists

In closing, I'd like to leave you with a song by Josh Groban called Don't Give Up, You Are Loved. I heard about him, or rather about his fan club, on KarmaTube. For his 21st birthday, they wanted to give him a present but couldn't think of anything appropriate for the guy who had the undying adulation of thousands of teenage girls and their grandmothers. So they ended up raising $75,000 for charity. Since then, they've continued raising money. They formed Grobanites for Charity and Grobanites for Africa, which targets AIDS. 100% of the donations go to the cause.

Just to warn you, my 14-yr-old daughter finds this song a tad sappy, and this from a girl who slept with Twilight under her pillow for three months. But for me, it rings true. Maybe it's knowing that he has fans who raise money for global charities. Maybe it's the video that was on YouTube yesterday, with real faces of real people around the world. Today, however, it's been pulled because of copyright claims of the NASA Superbowl, who are definitely not part of the gift economy. But even through our twisted and perverse commercial culture, as through religion, I think that people are managing to say what's true. And this message - that you're loved - seems like the real essence of family, humanity and all religions to me. So call me a sappy anarchist, but I like it. I hope you do too.

Until next week, this has been Tereza Coraggio as your host of Third Paradigm, broadcasting from Free Radio Santa Cruz. Thank you to Skidmark Bob for production and editing. Thank you for listening, and I hope that your holiday celebrations, whatever they may be, are filled with kindness. Torture is wrong. Happy holidays.

[Josh Groban - You are Loved (Don't Give Up]

Don't give up
It's just the weight of the world
When your heart's heavy
I...I will lift it for you

Don't give up
Because you want to be heard
If silence keeps you
I...I will break it for you

Everybody wants to be understood
Well I can hear you
Everybody wants to be loved
Don't give up
Because you are loved

Don't give up
It's just the hurt that you hide
When you're lost inside
I...I will be there to find you

Don't give up
Because you want to burn bright
If darkness blinds you
I...I will shine to guide you

Everybody wants to be understood
Well I can hear you
Everybody wants to be loved
Don't give up
Because you are loved

You are loved
Don't give up
It's just the weight of the world
Don't give up
Every one needs to be heard
You are loved

Thanks for listening.