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Editor’s Letter

By Jane Bauer

“Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.”
Herman Hesse, Bäume: Betrachtungen und Gedichte

What a challenging time this has been! Circumstances have made many of us reflect on our lives. Perhaps you have questioned how you spend your time and what really matters. What changes will you make? What is the intention of your life?

This month our writers explore the theme of trees.

As you read this, what is the tree that is closest to you? Contemplate it for a few minutes. How long has it been there? Was it planted by someone or did it spring up by the grace of nature? Run your fingertips along its bark. How do its branches reach- extending out like open arms for a hug or like a child on tiptoes trying to touch the sky? What is the shape and color of the leaves? Press one to your check and feel its texture.

Now imagine its roots reaching underground and connecting to the next closest tree. What information or secret are they sharing?

You don’t need to me to tell you how necessary trees are to our survival- we all learn it as children and yet we seem to forget. We are an entire species hell bent on self-destruction. We are literally cutting down the very things that allow us to breathe- somewhat ironically as a virus that affects the respiratory system fills us with fear and has us staying indoors and wearing face masks.

Last week when we had the alarming earthquake that made our homes sway and, dishes and mirrors crash to the floor, I couldn’t help but notice that the trees remained sturdy. From the tallest leaning palm along the boulevard to the giant guanacastles that are peppered through Huatulco, their roots held firm and they stood.

I opened this editorial by commenting on what a challenging time this has been. I should have added… for humans. The world is actually ok. It is humanity that is out of sync with nature. During quarantine I have been thinking about a whale. I imagine him deep in the ocean, large and magnificent. I think of the ships that have stopped crossing above him and I hope he is enjoying the brief respite from our symphony of industry.

Go to the tree closest to you. Touch it. Listen to it. Learn from it.

See you next month,

Jane

Editor’s Letter

By Jane Bauer

“Live your life, do your work,  then take your hat.”
Henry David Thoreau

What does our collective reaction to COVID-19 say about our values? I am home, of course, with lots of time to ponder this question. I have friends who are reposting conspiracy theory videos and interviews with doctors on how best to proceed. There is a ton of information – much of it scientific and hypotheses abound on where we are going with this.

What are we protecting when we stay home? Is it our intense value for human life? I don’t think so. As I write this there have been 212,000 deaths (www.worldometers.info) related to COVID-19 in total. In contrast, this year there have been 270,923 deaths caused by water-related diseases and there are 802 million people with no access to a safe drinking water source. In this one day – today – 14,789 people will die of hunger.

As a species, we have very little value for human life as a whole. We regularly enter into wars that have mass casualties and the majority of us only ‘help’ others to the point that it will not affect our own quality of life. Staying home protects you from the contagion of the outside world. Nothing illustrates the inequality in our economic system than the ability for some of us to stay home in comfort, while others will be devastated economically by this reaction. Putting the world economy on hold is having a debilitating effect on food supply chains, social services that protect women and children, those who live in some sort of limbo and who may in fact not have even have had a home before all this madness. Time will tell how we look back on this world crisis and the long term effects of our actions.

There are currently 70.8 million people who have been forcibly displaced worldwide, and 37000 people are forced to flee their homes every day due to conflict or persecution (www.reliefweb.int). Due to conflict or persecution – it is helpful to note that this conflict and persecution comes from other humans. How have we responded to this? Visit any chat group and you will feel the hatred people have for other people – immigrants and refugees are turned away at borders, branded freeloaders and lazy. As a collective there is nothing humane about humanity.

As a species our most comfortable members have an overblown sense of importance. We prize our individual existence above all else. We just had a disgusting display of survival mode on a global scale as people rushed to stock up on toilet paper and dry goods. I understand. Death can be terrifying since we do not know what awaits us on the other side. Of course religions offer some solace but most of us view death as something to fight against rather than what it is, which is the inevitable for each of us. You will die. I will die. Is it noble to fight so hard?

Buddhism teaches its followers to accept the inevitability of death: “We fail to see and accept reality as it is- with life in death and death in life. In addition the habits of self-obsession, the attitude of self-importance and the insistence on a distinct self-identity separates us from the whole of which we are an inalienable part.” (Buddhist monk Geshe Dabul Namgyal, quoted in The New York Times, Feb. 26, 2020.)

One of the aspects I love so much about Mexican culture is its attitude towards death. I lived beside a small town cemetery for eight years and I learned how to celebrate life and mourn joyfully for those who have departed. Modern day culture has an unhealthy fear of death.

So why is this happening? Culturally we think we are above the connectivity of ourselves with nature. If you don’t believe me just watch some of the protests resisting climate change. Just look at your own life choices; how often do you fly? How much do you pollute? How much do you waste? Nature is smart. We love to post and share feel-good quotes about our connectivity with the universe, but how many of us really live it? We are intricately connected to the natural world around us and you must know in your heart that we are the parasites. The definition of a parasite is an organism that lives in or on another organism (its host) and benefits by deriving nutrients at the hosts expense. Sound familiar?

More people died today from human related traumas- hunger, displacement, murder – than from COVID-19. And yet we are completely focused on our individual protection. The human population grew from 1 billion in 1800 to 7.774 billion in 2020. Moreover, each person now consumes in a way that couldn’t even have been imagined fifty years ago. Even with the small (compared to other causes) number of deaths related to COVID-19 we are still putting 100,000 new people on the planet every day!

Nature is always finding balance.

See you in July,

Jane

 

Editorial March 2020

By Jane Bauer

“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”
Audre Lorde

I was just finishing up this issue of the magazine, the editorial hanging over me as I pondered what I would write about. My mind drifted over the injustices I have faced or my friends have faced; sexual harassment and assaults, underestimation in the workplace, a culture that uses our form to sell everything from soda to cars, a culture that sexualizes us in almost every context.

I got home, poured myself a well-earned glass of wine and was feeling a little self-pity over my femininity when there was a knock on my front door. With a heavy sigh of annoyance I opened up to find a girl I know from the village where I live. M. is my daughter’s age and when they were little she would often come knocking to see if she could come in to play. My daughter was not very interested in this friendship, but I would make her acquiesce and they would visit for awhile, the other girl seeming to marvel at my daughter’s toys, dresses and pretty room. Eventually, to my daughter’s relief, I would send the girl away saying that it was time for homework.

The girls grew up and my daughter is just finishing up her second year at university in CDMX. She lives with four other girls in a modern highrise. Her social media is a frenzy of art galleries and trendy restaurants.

In contrast, M. has two young children and a young baby clutches to her chest as I open the door. Despite the hardships life has dealt her she always wears a pearly white smile and bright eyes. She asks me if I have any work. I don’t have any work at the moment and even if I did, she is the primary care giver for her kids and does not have a strong support network that would permit her to take on a job. Her mother is gone, her father was sexually abusive, her two younger sisters also now have children and there is no beacon of light or event that is looming in the future to change or improve her circumstances.

The world is full of young women like M. The numbers of women on this planet who do not have access to education is astounding. The numbers of women who live in situations in which they do not decide their fate is intolerable. The numbers of women who live in fear of sexual abuse is shameful. Gender inequality is a cancer on our humanity.

March 8th is International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. But it is not enough to celebrate the achievements of women who have exceeded what was expected of them. We must acknowledge all the women whose potential is suffocated by economic disparity, lack of access to healthcare and education and by abuse. Those of us who are drowning in privilege must find the way to help all women rise.

See you next month,

Jane