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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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Past Shows


Writing the Wrongs and Other Tails

November 24, 2009

3P-052 Show Information (includes MP3 download link)

Welcome to the 52nd episode of Third Paradigm, which closes out our first year. Our title is Writing the Wrongs and Other Tails. We're ending this fast-paced annum with some improvements on our website, thanks to the indefatigable Mike Scirocco, webmaster extraordinaire. Now, when you type into your browser, with a 3 or a 't', it will pop up the latest show, Valid URLs complete with audio player and multimedia transcript. These are no ordinary transcripts. Mike has embedded dozens of videos, hundreds of photos and images, and over a thousand links. Designed for the ADD multitasker, if you aren't happy unless you're doing 12 things at once, these are for you. He now calls me on it, every time I think I can slip in a fact where I've forgotten the reference. But when I say "Video where George Bush doesn't have a clue," he goes right to all of them.

On the menu, under past shows, you can find lists of summaries, titles, or shows by theme. He's also written scripts that automatically index all of the poems and videos, and not only go to the relevant show, but scroll to the right place. Mike has generated a list of the thousand websites he's linked to, with a map showing all the places around the world they're from. I'm still catching up on some of the videos he's added. In the episode The Man Who Brought God to Guantanamo, I just watched Moazzam Begg speak about his detention at Baghram. He's an extraordinary person. In the same episode, Vanessa Redgrave reads a poem by the humanitarian worker who was bombed in a US air raid. After his leg was amputated, bounty hunters sold him from his hospital bed to the CIA. In US custody in Guantanamo, where he's still being held, his other leg was amputated and he sometimes has to walk on prosthetic devices held together with duct tape.

Mike has also designed a new website within the website that displays a Tereza Coraggio Reader, with 17 poems and 14 articles and essays for those who can't get enough of me. Did I hear crickets chirping? But before I explain what awaits those who dare to go where no audience has gone before, let's comment a little on this week's news.

Continuing with Guantanamo, we can add it to the lint-pile of campaign fluff we fell for. Democracy Now reported on Obama's indefinite delay for its closure and the pending federal trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who Amy terms "the self-proclaimed mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks." The label "mastermind" seems more like one Dungeon-and-Dragon playing drone attackers would use, rather than a Q'uran-practicing prisoner who's been drowned and brought back from the dead multiple times. Is Amy sure of her quote and the bravado tenor implied by "self-proclaimed?" His confession was given after four years in US custody and six months at Guantanamo under conditions the International Red Cross calls torture. In my episode, You've Been Framed!, I criticize Newsweek and NPR's Talk of the Nation for referring to the Inspector General's report on torture as "allegations," but labeling Khalid as "the confessed mastermind of the 911 attacks." Amy seems to be adopting their terminology, but Obama goes one further when he answers the controversy surrounding the trial with:

President Obama: "I don't think it will be offensive at all when he's convicted and when the death penalty is applied to him. What I'm absolutely clear about is that I have complete confidence in the American people and in our legal traditions."
Obama quote source
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

Maybe I'm forgetting what country we're in, but I thought our legal tradition was "innocent until proven guilty." Under what rock will we find an unbiased jury now that the President has both convicted him and sentenced him to death, stating that any other conclusion would be a betrayal of his confidence? And what exactly is the crime for which Barack has already condemned him in the media? The crime of which Khalid is accused is planning attacks on civilians in the US - a country that has military bases in his. Is it war or occupation? Are planned attacks on civilians of both countries answerable by death?

In an AfPak people's tribunal, would the death penalty be appropriate for Barack? Is he not the self-confessed mastermind of the Afghanistan surge and the Pakistan drone attacks? Were the people who worked in the World Trade Center less appropriate as international targets than the wedding and funeral parties Barack accepts as the collateral damage of an unprovoked war?

But perhaps Barack is judging Khalid not on intent, but on results. The bomb of a single drone attack has more firepower than the fuel on a 747. Two planes hitting two skyscrapers would kill, at most, a few dozen people. I want to know who killed the rest. Where is Obama's confidence in the American public to calculate the melting point of steel pillars and subtract the burning temperature of jet fuel? My 11-year-old could do the math. If the death penalty applies to the plotters of terrorism, surely we'll call into the trial the new building owner, whose contract cancelled all future payments in the event of a terrorist attack. Can anyone say, "motive?" Since extraordinary rendition is still in style this Presidential season, have we captured the elevator upgrade crew who were the only ones with the access to put detonators inside the walls? Rather than four years, they might give up the masterminds in about four days at Hotel Gitmo. Plenty of time to catch the perpetual going-out-of-business torture sale.

Hugo Chavez asks Barack Obama, "Are you a prisoner?" Latin America understands puppet governments, but they also understand collaborators and sell-outs. The most damning accusation I can make is that I think Obama is too smart to be just a sock monkey, as George Junior surely was. Which is worse, the enemy you know, or the friend who betrays?

But before I blow all my steam in the first ten minutes, I'd like to read two of my own poems from the new section of the website. The first is one I read at my gay friend's tetrimony – another group for whom Obama has done O'nada. Keith and three other men who had lived together up to two decades committed to continue living together as long as they could stand each other. Rabbi Michael Lerner presided over this exchange of sensible vows. The second compiles quotes from Leonard Cohen and homeless philosophers I've known and loved. In history, many of the great theologians and philosophers were homeless. In my experience, all of the homeless I've known are philosophers.

angeltriptych (30K)

Celestial Effervescence

When you meet someone who's gay,
you should be respectful because
he may be an archangel.

All the angels are gay, of course.
That's why they have men's names
and long hair with filmy dresses.

And the singing...
only the castrato choir
gets compared to the angels.
It's not "honk the Harold angel sings."

From seraphim to cherubim,
from Gabriel to Michaela,
every one so light in the loafers
they've flown right out of them.

We have a lot to learn from the angels.
How to have fun.
How to dance.
How to be family.

The water of laughter is thicker than blood.
It will hold us up. We can swim in it.
We can rise like the bubbles in God's champagne.

~ Tereza Coraggio ~

* * * * * * * *

The Holy Dark

I remember when I moved in you,
the holy dark was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah
Leonard Cohen

A homeless man once told me
every soul speaks a different language.
The interesting thing happens
when you learn someone else's
and you find that you're talking
to yourself.
Jesus, he continued,
wasn't the Christ
until he looked into Thomas' eyes
and saw his own looking back.

He called this The Science of Intimacy.
Chemistry or metaphysics?
I know that hunger in the night where
bodies join almost without waking.
An ancient call made and answered,
not a particular man and woman,
at the same time, only
this man and this woman,
lifting and crashing
in the fist of a pounding sea.

The place where self and not-self blur:
madness or sanity at last?
Sometimes the words
my tongue has lost come tumbling
from another mouth;
or a casual phrase plunders my heart,
knowing just where the key
is hidden.

I've felt my pulse skip
to synchronize and match another's
stride for stride.
A stranger by the spice bins calls
my true name, and the secret burns
like pepper on our lips.

Coincidence? the holy tramp says,
Coincidence is God's way
of keeping her anonymity.
He breaks the bottle's seal and murmurs,
For all the thirsty spirits,
solemnly pouring a capful
onto the ground.

~ Tereza Coraggio ~
Other Writings

Those were two from my now online collection called Becoming Yeast. The music was... You can find it at the Third Paradigm website by clicking on the menu item "Other Writings." This takes you to a page presided over by an iridescent beetle on a leaf. Mike has named the beetle Vox Diligo, which is word lover translated into Latin. Mike's grown quite fond of the little guy, and wants him to tell the story of how he got the dent in his back fender.

Below Vox are three columns. In the left column "Becoming Yeast" lists 17 poems of transformation. These include Trilogy of Fire and Breath, which did not win the Thomas Merton poetry contest, and Mollusks and Diamonds, which is patterned after Garlic and Sapphires, a rhyming section of T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets. This was not accepted by any publications that specialize in contemporary structured verse. There are also seven short poems, which include The Tao of Squash, Drive-In Opera, and Soup Recipe, a found poem from Crescent Dragonwagon's Dairy Hollow Inn Soup & Bread Cookbook. The attribution is longer than the poem.

The second column is the start of a book I call Revolutionary Mystics and How to Become One. It takes passages from the apocryphal Gospel of Philip and correlates them to passages from A Course in Miracles and interpretations of the Tao te Ching, some of which are mine. Each also quotes a poem from an Eastern or Western mystic, ancient or contemporary, and then I write an essay that connects them all. This is a really fun project, and one I hope to get back to when someone else takes over the job of pointing out the obvious in today's political news.

One essay outlines the first book of the Bible as "The Genesis of the Dysfunctional Family." Another, called "Sowing in the World of Winter," extrapolates theology from Ursula K. Le Guin's novel, The Left Hand of Darkness. For one called "The Indiscriminate Lover," well, you just have to read it to figure out what that's all about.

For further spiritual titillation, I've included a chapter called The Mirrored Bridal Chamber, which examines intimacy in Philip, which is the same Gnostic gospel that inspired The Da Vinci Code. There's also an article called The Myth of the Solitary Soul. I submitted this to Parabola Magazine on their theme question of whether the body and soul are one or two entities. I theorized that they're neither, zero, and that we don't exist in separation from each other, either physically or spiritually. I back this up with quotes from primordial scriptures and poetry by Thich Nhat Hanh. My friend Isa Dempsey edited it, and after going through it with a fine-toothed grammatical comb, finished with one overall comment: they should give you a book contract.

A few months later I got an unexpected phone call. It wasn't a book contract, but the news that Isa had died without warning. The same week, my plan to turn mortgage interest into a revenue stream for global charities was turned down by the credit union I'd worked with for three years. Isa had been the first to say, "I don't have much money, but I'll do it." Then the next day, I got the rejection letter from Parabola. Boy, was I disgusted with God. I could understand that these things might take time, but would it be so much skin off his nose to leave me my biggest fan?

Isa had introduced me to the yahoogroup Panhala, from which I now get my poems. Joe Riley of Seattle joins together poems, photos, and music, and sends them out five days a week to thousands of people around the world. Barely knowing him at the time, I sent a short note explaining that he could take Isa off his mailing list. He wrote back, "I woke up this morning feeling an urgent need to work on a particular poem without knowing why. If there is a reason, I guess this is it." I read the Joy Harjo poem he sent, and it was Isa to a T. It captured her lonely childhood, and the idealism that led her to become a nun. It captured her later disillusionment, but not the forged note from the Pope saying how disappointed he was in her. As the Mother Superior's secretary, Isa had recognized her handwriting and it cinched her decision to leave. It even captured the love of nature and animals she'd come to at the end of her life, herding llamas, and doing grief counseling for those who'd lost beloved pets.

Let's read the Joy Harjo poem, and then I'll read the one that I wrote after Isa's death. The Music is Cherokee Morning Song performed by North American Indians.

[North American Indians – Cherokee Morning Song]

* In memory of and gratitude for the life of Isa Dempsey *

Morning Prayers

I have missed the guardian spirit
of the Sangre de Cristos
those mountains
against which I destroyed myself
every morning I was sick
with loving and fighting
in those small years.
In that season I looked up
to a blue conception of faith
a notion of the sacred in
the elegant border of cedar trees
becoming mountain and sky.

This is how we were born
into the world:
Sky fell in love with earth,
wore turquoise,
cantered in on a black horse.
Earth dressed herself fragrantly,
with regard for the aesthetics
of holy romance.
Their love decorated the mountains with sunrise,
weaved valleys delicate with the edging of sunset.

This morning I look toward the east
and I am lonely for those mountains
though I've said good-bye to the girl
with her urgent prayers for redemption.
I used to believe in a vision
that would save the people
carry us all to the top of the mountain
during the flood
of human destruction.

I know nothing anymore
as I place my feet into the next world
except this:
the nothingness
is vast and stunning,
brims with details
of steaming, dark coffee
ashes of campfires
the bells on yaks or sheep
sirens careening through a deluge
of humans
or the dead carried through fire,
through the mist of baking sweet
bread and breathing.

This is how we will leave this world:
on horses of sunrise and sunset
from the shadow of the mountains
who witnessed every battle
every small struggle.

~ Joy Harjo ~
From How We Became Human

* * * * * * * *

Thoughts on the AfterLife

for isa dempsey

Don't waste your sorrow on her.
Awake before, she'll stick around,
a milkweed pod now burst open
and blown by the wind. She is
everywhere at once, untamable.
Hear her voice, still laughing.

Even the soul who's barely
cracked out of its tight-fisted
shell merely sleeps through,
to be wakened gently in time
for the resurrection. If I were
God, that's how I'd design it,
and surely God has a bigger
heart than mine.

But for the ready-made angel,
there are several jobs
for which she's been
training all her life:
imaginary friend of only children,
prophetess to taunted adolescent,
keeper of lovers gone but not forgotten,
keeper of hope in countries not forsaken,
witness to the small kindness,
profligate spender of praise.

Too shy to sing, she'll stand
behind you, elbows jutting out
like pointy wings, and gently
chiding: "You don't have to eat
all the problems of the world
in one bite. Digest
a little first, it will keep."

She will tell you that you are
an otherworldly being,
a spiral in evolution,
a translator of birdsong.
She will ask to skywrite
your poem in the clouds.
It will be harder to believe
without her voice, but your ego
never lies this extravagantly.

In fact, dare I say, bless
the passing that releases the one
that we would hoard and keep.
As spirit, she covers the earth,
relaying the words of our heart
more reliably than language.
Small and nimble, she is everywhere,
willful and fierce as a bluejay.
She hops ahead of you, squawking,
"make way for the chosen one,"
putting the twinkle back
in God's eye.

~ Tereza Coraggio ~

That was Morning Prayer by Joy Harjo, followed by my poem for Isa called Thoughts on the Afterlife. The music was Cherokee Morning Prayer.

We're celebrating the final show of Third Paradigm's first year by introducing a new feature on the website called "Other Writings." We've talked about and read three of the poems from the collection called Becoming Yeast: Poems of Transformation. We also introduced a book called Revolutionary Mystics and How to Become One, on the apocryphal gospel of Philip. The last column on the page contains a selection of articles and essays. There's a brief response to Jeffrey Sach's book, The End of Poverty. I called it "The End of Slavery." You see how that shifts the debate? It was meant to be the beginning of a thorough rebuttal, but fortunately, Vandana Shiva came along and did a far better job. When I first read it, Bono was the darling of the One Campaign, and Jeffrey Sachs was his mentor, with George Soros mentoring him. To criticize the holy trinity was heresy. And now Philippe Diaz has made it the subject of his film The End of Poverty? which adds the question mark to Sach's confident pro-development pronouncement. The movie is an official selection in over 25 international film festivals.

The next essay does give an in-depth response to "The Singer Solution to Poverty" by Peter Singer. I call it, "Why Americans Aren't Greedy and How We're Taking Everything." After you watch the Diaz movie and feel hopeless, come home and read this article. It will show you why it isn't your fault, so you can stop wasting time and get to work changing it.

The next piece is under the category, A People's History of the Bible. I wasn't allowed to present it at the Jesus Seminar. Like pirate stations, I guess, even radical Bible scholars have their dogmas. My paper asks whether Jesus was a rebel or an imperialist. It takes the Greek word lestes, which the Bible translates as robber or thief. But a contemporary of the New Testament authors, Josephus Flavius, uses this same word to indicate the Jewish insurgents who were fighting for sovereignty. Josephus has scathing regard for those rebelling against Caesar, which might be understood, for him, since Caesar had adopted him as his son. But given this translation of lestes, so does Jesus.

This may sound like a dry piece of academic scholarship, but if true, it holds the key to ending 2000 years of imperialism under one Caesar or another. We need to name the Bible for what it is – ruling class propaganda that authorizes land-theft and enslavement as the will of God. It establishes a pyramid of exclusion, starting with women, 50% of humanity, on the bottom tier in the first story. True religion is the question of how a god of equality can co-exist with the world as we know it. But the Bible reverse-engineers God to fit an unequal world. It kicks more and more people out of the kingdom until God only has eyes for one, a son who bears a marked resemblance to our boy Josephus. Rome may have made Caesar into a god, but the Bible has made God into Caesar.

This has been Tereza Coraggio with Third Paradigm. Thanks to Skidmark Bob for sound production and to Mike Scirocco for the website, vox diligo and all. Thanks to Joe Riley for a year's worth of poems of feisty inspiration, and to Ken Dowst for tips on how to record a phone interview without a radio station. I hope to use this in a future interview with Helen Caldicott. We go out with Michael Franti's Hey World. The refrain, "You got to let go of remote control," is something the Judean rebels might have said, if only they knew what that was.

Thank you for listening.