This is John Roosevelt Boettiger's Typepad Profile.
Join Typepad and start following John Roosevelt Boettiger's activity
Join Now!
Already a member? Sign In
John Roosevelt Boettiger
Mill Valley, CA, Seattle, WA, Phoenix, AZ, Los Angeles, CA, Amherst, MA, Hyde Park, NY, New York City (Manhattan), Dedham, MA, Vikersund, Norway, Paris, France, Sebastopol, CA, Berkeley, CA
Author, writer, editor, psychologist, father, grandfather, great-grandfather
Interests: Writing, reading, conversation, hiking, walking, bicycling, asking and responding to intriguing questions, metta, silence, prayer, meditation, justice (social, economic, judicial, political, familial, personal), the wily craft of coyote politics, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, family trees, redwood trees and live oaks, marsh land, hillsides, mountains, geese in flight, birds of a feather
Recent Activity
Nine Years to Zero: The Climate Emergency Movement May 12, 2021 The movement to address the climate emergency at the scale and speed required is growing. Today TCM, along with over 650 allied organizations, has sent a letter to key Democrats in Congress demanding a Renewable Energy Standard to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2030 be included in the infrastructure package that is currently in the works. Please retweet and repost to help increase the pressure to achieve this key goal. Big news out of Hawaii: After diligent work from nearly 40 organizations that make up the Hawaii Climate & Environmental Coalition, the Hawaii legislature passed Senate Resolution SCR44, declaring a climate emergency in the state on April 29, 2021, paving the way for more comprehensive, urgent climate action at the state level. This resolution is the first state-level declaration of climate emergency in the United States. As the only U.S. state surrounded by the rising sea, this move sends a message about the severity of the climate emergency and the need to act to meet the scale of the crisis. This declaration brings the total number of climate emergency declarations in the U.S. to 146 within 24 states. 12.49%... Continue reading
Image
1. NEW DOCUMENTARY “EXTERMINATE ALL THE BRUTES” WAS 500 YEARS OF GENOCIDE IN THE MAKING The fact that Raoul Peck’s new HBO film on white supremacy exists shows that something profound about the world is changing. Jon Schwarz The Intercept May 2, 2021 IN THE FINAL episode of Raoul Peck’s HBO documentary, “Exterminate All the Brutes,” Peck says in a voice-over, “The very existence of this film is a miracle.” That is 100 percent true. Before this moment in history, it would have been impossible to imagine that one of the world’s largest corporations — AT&T, owner of HBO, with a current market cap of $220 billion — would have funded and broadcast a film like this. The fact that it somehow squeezed through the cracks and onto our TVs and laptop screens demonstrates that something profound about the world is changing. Decades, centuries of people fighting and dying were required both to widen the cracks and mold someone like Peck, the right human at the right time, to step through. “Exterminate All the Brutes” is a sprawling disquisition — four episodes, each an hour long — into the invention and consequences of 500 years of “white” supremacy, presented via... Continue reading
[There is some overlap between John Cassidy's assessment of President Biden's transformative policy proposals and the account of those proposals by Nicholas Kristof published in The New York Times two days ago. That is as it should be, as we are contemplating a major reconception of American governance. Biden seeks to strengthen the very foundations of our democracy. Both commentators agree that "like F.D.R. in the nineteen-thirties, (Biden is) looking to rebalance and preserve a capitalist economy that has been going askew for decades, reclaiming a vision of shared prosperity" that we have lost." The need for such change is palpable. The circumstances of 2021 differ from those of 1933, but only enhance the need for such rebalancing. The legacy of Trump—the emptying of substantive dialogue with the impoverished remnant of the Republican party—is a dismaying parallel, but all the more reason to mobilize popular support for Biden's initiatives.] John Cassidy The New Yorker, May 3, 2021 According to some commentators, President Joe Biden is turning out to be a quiet revolutionary. After he laid out his sweeping agenda to a joint session of Congress last week, reports described it as an epoch-shifting effort to reset the terms of American... Continue reading
Image
Joe Biden Is Electrifying America Like F.D.R. Credit...Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group, via Getty Images By Nicholas Kristof New York Times May 1, 2021 YAMHILL, Ore. — The best argument for President Biden’s three-part proposal to invest heavily in America and its people is an echo of Franklin Roosevelt’s explanation for the New Deal. “In 1932 there was an awfully sick patient called the United States of America,” Roosevelt said in 1943. “He was suffering from a grave internal disorder … and they sent for a doctor.” Paging Dr. Joe Biden. We should be clear eyed about both the enormous strengths of the United States — its technologies, its universities, its entrepreneurial spirit — and its central weakness: For half a century, compared with other countries, we have underinvested in our people. In 1970, the United States was a world leader in high school and college attendance, enjoyed high life expectancy and had a solid middle class. This was achieved in part because of Roosevelt. The New Deal was imperfect and left out too many African-Americans and Native Americans, but it was still transformative. Here in my hometown, Yamhill, the New Deal was an engine of opportunity. A few farmers... Continue reading
The Heart and Soul of the Biden Project It’s a daring revival of “the American System.” By David Brooks Opinion Columnist, New York Times April 8, 2021 What is the quintessential American act? It is the leap of faith. The first European settlers left the comfort of their old countries and migrated to brutal conditions, convinced the future would be better on this continent. Immigrants all crossed oceans or wilderness to someplace they didn’t know, hoping that their children would someday breathe the atmosphere of prosperity and freedom. Here we are again, one of those moments when we take a leap, a gamble, beckoned by the vision of new possibility. The early days of the Biden administration are nothing if not a daring leap. I asked Anita Dunn, one of President Biden’s senior advisers, to reflect on the three giant proposals: Covid relief, infrastructure and the coming “family” plan. What vision binds them together? What is this thing, Bidenomics? Interestingly, she mentioned China. This could be the Chinese century, with their dynamism and our decay. The unexpected combination of raw capitalism, authoritarianism and state direction of the economy could make China the dominant model around the globe. President Biden, Dunn... Continue reading
Image
Biden Plots a Revolution for America’s Children By Nicholas Kristof, Opinion Columnist New York Times March 24, 2021 National pre-K and affordable day care don’t have to be a dream. The most revolutionary part of President Biden’s agenda so far is his focus on a constituency that doesn’t write whiny op-ed columns, doesn’t vote, doesn’t hire lobbyists and so has been neglected for half a century: children. Biden’s proposal to establish a national pre-K and child care system would be a huge step forward for children and for working parents alike. It would make it easier for moms and dads to hold jobs, and above all it would be a lifeline for many disadvantaged children. Imagine: You drop a kid off at a high-quality prekindergarten program in the morning and pick the child up on the way home from work. That’s how it is in many other advanced countries, and in the United States military. When my wife and I lived in Japan in the late 1990s, we sent our kids to one of these nurseries, and they were a dream. But the United States never developed such a system, because for half a century as other countries were investing... Continue reading
Don't Go Back To Sleep The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. Don't go back to sleep. You must ask for what you really want. Don't go back to sleep. People are going back and forth across the doorsill where the two worlds touch. The door is round and open. Don't go back to sleep. Rumi Continue reading
Image
"Novel Overtures to the More-Than-Human World" is not only focused on climate change and its implications. It does raise compelling issues that may intrigue readers of Reckonings as they have me. Climate change affects not only humans like us, but the overwhelming number of species that are not human: yet they are our kin; thus "the More-Than-Human World." It's an awkward construction, yes, but it should be clear to us all that the well-being of our own species, homo sapiens, is intimately, consequentially interwoven with the quality of non-human life with which (with whom?) we share this planet. "Nature," we are accustomed to say, or "the natural world," as if it's ours to enjoy, despoil, care for or not, alarm, be alarmed by, admire or ignore. At the bottom of this message is an alternative construction in the essay by David Bollier (http://www.bollier.org/ and https://centerforneweconomics.org/people/david-bollier/). Readers may also enjoy Robin Wall Kimmerer's related essay in The Ecologist magazine, "Living beings are our kith and kin." In Kimmerer's essay and in her altogether admirable book cited below, Kimmerer suggests we need a new pronoun in order to avoid objectifying the world of nature. Her choice, with good reason, is the word... Continue reading
Image
I know I have, in earlier years in the pages of Reckonings, offered this deeply moving blessing by John O'Donohue. I do so again, just after discussing his attention to grief and its manifold lessons, because the complementarity of the two is so compelling. I wish I could include, as well, his own reading of "Bennacht." He read it in a conversation with Krista Tippett of On Being: https://medium.com/@onbeing/beannacht-a-poem-8c2c29a4d14e. (Scroll down when you come to that page.) The only two Gaelic words readers may not know are, first, the poem's title, Bennacht, which means blessing, and mid-poem the word "currach." A currach is an Irish boat principally used for sailing in the west of Ireland. An Oxford dictionary offers this definition: "a small boat made of wickerwork covered with a watertight material [like canvas], propelled with a paddle; a coracle." With that brief introduction, here is John O'Donohue's poem. Beannacht by John O’Donohue On the day when The weight deadens On your shoulders And you stumble, May the clay dance To balance you. And when your eyes Freeze behind The grey window And the ghost of loss Gets into you, May a flock of colours, Indigo, red, green And azure... Continue reading
Image
George Arthur Wilson (1931-2020) My dear friend George might be touched and amused—or perhaps say "Why not?"—that he reminds me of an Irish saint: 5th century Brendan the Navigator, the voyager, one of the earliest Irish saints, after Patrick, after Brigid of Kildare. There is Frederick Buechner’s beautifully composed fictional biography, titled simply Brendan. As Thomas Cahill wrote of that book on its flyleaf (think of George): “A lusty, teeming, festooning, dancing marvel of a book for anyone who cares about Ireland or Christianity or paganism or history or sailing or — reading.” George was truly an anam cara, a soul friend. Obituary from the East Hampton Star: George A. Wilson, Minister and Sailor By Mark Segal October 22, 2020 George Arthur Wilson, who started his ministry at the Old Whalers Church in Sag Harbor (among the Hamptons on Long Island, NY), ended it at the Springs Presbyterian Church, and sailed the world between postings, died in Mill Valley, Calif., of late-stage kidney disease on October 15, 2020. He was 89 and had been ill for seven years. Mr. Wilson had deep ties to the East End (of Long Island) and its waters, according to his longtime companion, Betsey Crawford.... Continue reading
Image
The writings of Martin Buber, including the masterpiece for which he is most known, I and Thou, have lived deeply in my learning and teaching for half a century. Their incarnation has often taken on new meaning as I’ve grown. Now, for example, my rabbi son Joshua and I meet once a week — virtually during the pandemic — to explore religious texts that, for various reasons, have again come to intrigue us. As a child and through most of my teenage years, I hardly knew the Episcopal tradition in which my Roosevelt ancestors lived. That began to change during my late college years, when my mother and stepfather were living abroad and my grandmother—so characteristic of her generosity and love—invited me to share her home, both in New York City and in Hyde Park, New York. I began to know and treasure Martin Buber’s social thought in my earliest teaching years, first at Amherst College and then more richly at Hampshire College. More recently I renewed my love and regard for his work when I encountered its expression in a fine blog I’ve followed for several years, Maria Popova’s “Brain Pickings” (https://www.brainpickings.org). Here are the fruits of her gathering.... Continue reading
Image
I have become familiar over the years with much of the writing of the Celtic bard John O'Donohue, but until very recently I was unfamiliar with this poem. "For Grief" came to me through reading the remarkable journal of my dear friend Betsey Crawford, embedded in her altogether lovely website The Soul of the Earth. I'll always remain struck by and grateful for the circuitousness of the ways gifts come to us, if we have eyes to see and ears to hear. Betsey wrote: After reading my last essay, A Year of Love and Death, on the losses of 2020, both personal and worldwide, my brother-in-law sent me a poem by John O’Donohue called For Grief. My partner George’s Irishness was a wild and wonderful force in his life. In the years before his death, he explored Celtic spirituality with his usual exuberance and loved John O’Donohue. So I was doubly moved by the poem, which means more to me every day. _____________________________________ Now to a few of my own thoughts: Yes, we've all known it, though it still astonishes me how we can occasionally twist ourselves into misshapen forms of ourselves to avoid our consciousness of it. I'll speak... Continue reading
Many thanks to you, Judith, for sharing your experience of Modum Bad. I am still in close touch with some of my friends and colleagues there, and treasure my time at Modum Bad as the most nourishing therapeutic community I know. Warm wishes, John
1 reply
Image
Pope Francis: A Crisis Reveals What Is in Our Hearts To come out of this pandemic better than we went in, we must let ourselves be touched by others’ pain. By Pope Francis The New York Times, Nov. 26, 2020 In this past year of change, my mind and heart have overflowed with people. People I think of and pray for, and sometimes cry with, people with names and faces, people who died without saying goodbye to those they loved, families in difficulty, even going hungry, because there’s no work. Sometimes, when you think globally, you can be paralyzed: There are so many places of apparently ceaseless conflict; there’s so much suffering and need. I find it helps to focus on concrete situations: You see faces looking for life and love in the reality of each person, of each people. You see hope written in the story of every nation, glorious because it’s a story of daily struggle, of lives broken in self-sacrifice. So rather than overwhelm you, it invites you to ponder and to respond with hope. These are moments in life that can be ripe for change and conversion. Each of us has had our own “stoppage,” or... Continue reading
Image
Entering the Bardo by Joanna Macy Emergence Magazine In this short essay published in Emergence Magazine, eco-philosopher and Buddhist scholar Joanna Macy introduces us to the bardo—the Tibetan Buddhist concept of a gap between worlds where transition is possible. As the pandemic reveals ongoing collapse and holds a mirror to our collective ills, she writes, we have the opportunity to step into a space of reimagining. We are in a space without a map. With the likelihood of economic collapse and climate catastrophe looming, it feels like we are on shifting ground, where old habits and old scenarios no longer apply. In Tibetan Buddhism, such a space or gap between known worlds is called a bardo. It is frightening. It is also a place of potential transformation. As you enter the bardo, there facing you is the Buddha Akshobhya. His element is Water. He is holding a mirror, for his gift is Mirror Wisdom, reflecting everything just as it is. And the teaching of Akshobhya’s mirror is this: Do not look away. Do not avert your gaze. Do not turn aside. This teaching clearly calls for radical attention and total acceptance. For the last forty years, I’ve been growing a... Continue reading
Image
Rumi's poems have for more years than I can remember been sources of inspiration and guidance in nourishing the crafts of life and offering inspiration and guidance in how to live it more fully, more closely to what I have come to know as sacred. Naturally over the years I have been drawn to others who have found similar companionship in Rumi. Seldom, though, has that experience come as richly and from more than one source at once. I feel blessed that such is now one of those instances. The first is a book given to me by a friend. Carol Saysette brought it yesterday to my door, saying she had helped modestly in the book's publication, and so purchased a few copies for her own friends. I only glancingly know its author, but the book is entitled Julie Taylor's Best Loved Poems. Julie Taylor's life and my own have drawn nearer to one another because we have been grateful fellow members of the Community Congregational Church on the top of Rock Hill Road in Tiburon, California. I didn't know until I began reading Julie's best loved poems that in her preface she gathered the poems partly in thanks to... Continue reading
Image
I want to share with readers of Reckonings two photos of father and son, Joe and Hunter Biden, in the context of excerpts from a current New Yorker article by Liz Plank on changing views of masculinity in the US. Here's a bit from Liz Plank's article: "President Donald Trump and his allies have tried a series of increasingly desperate tactics to derail former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign momentum. As these would-be October surprises fall flat, Trump surrogates appear to have reverted to the oldest tool in their political arsenal: attacking Biden's masculinity. On Wednesday, John Cardillo, a host on Newsmax, a Trump-aligned media network, tweeted out a photo of Biden holding his son Hunter and kissing him on the cheek. "Does this look like an appropriate father/son interaction to you?" Cardillo asked. "While Cardillo isn't an official Trump surrogate, his attacks are very much in line with Trump's incessant bullying of his opponent's masculinity. From mocking him for the size of his masks to simply calling him physically weak, Trump hasn't been subtle. Many male voters have taken notice. Because like many other institutions in America, fatherhood is changing. Men want to be able to express their love... Continue reading
Image
I am going to begin this entry simply by saying how glad I am that Louise Glück has won the 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature. A prominent website for poetry, www.poetry.org, offers a brief biographical description: "Louise Glück was born in New York City on April 22, 1943, and grew up on Long Island. She is the author of numerous books of poetry, including Faithful and Virtuous Night (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2014), which won the 2014 National Book Award in Poetry; Averno (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2006), a finalist for the 2006 National Book Award in Poetry; and Vita Nova (Ecco Press, 1999), winner of Boston Book Review’s Bingham Poetry Prize and The New Yorker’s Book Award in Poetry. In 2004, Sarabande Books released her six-part poem “October” as a chapbook. "Her other award-winning books include The Wild Iris (Ecco Press, 1992), which received the Pulitzer Prize and the Poetry Society of America’s William Carlos Williams Award; Ararat (Ecco Press, 1990), for which she received the Library of Congress’s Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry; and The Triumph of Achilles (Ecco Press, 1985), which received the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Boston Globe Literary Press Award, and... Continue reading
Image
Although it is well known among poets and those who love poetry, I read this truly wonderful, insightful and thoughtful poem by Naomi Shihab Nye for the first time a few days ago, courtesy of a nourishing online journal, BrainPickings, written for many years by Maria Popova. In her preface to Nye's poem, Popova draws upon its spirit in lines of her own: "The measure of true kindness — which is different from nicety, different from politeness — is often revealed in those challenging instances when we must rise above the impulse toward its opposite, ignited by fear and anger and despair." KINDNESS By Naomi Shihab Nye Before you know what kindness really is you must lose things, feel the future dissolve in a moment like salt in a weakened broth. What you held in your hand, what you counted and carefully saved, all this must go so you know how desolate the landscape can be between the regions of kindness. How you ride and ride thinking the bus will never stop, the passengers eating maize and chicken will stare out the window forever. Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness, you must travel where the Indian in a... Continue reading
Image
Yesterday, Thursday, June 25th, two columnists for The New York Times, Paul Krugman and David Brooks, trained their minds upon the manifold challenges faced by the United States in the months ahead, with impressive clarity, intelligence and complementarity. I admit to surprise that Brooks does not directly address the climate crisis; so we are left to imagine the likely fate of that crisis in the context of the political, economic and medical crises described below. Krugman has examined climate change earlier this year, and explicitly chose to focus yesterday on the economic and political issues related to COVID-19, so it's understandable that he reserves the climate for other occasions. I'll keep you appraised. Rather than summarize Krugman and Brooks, since their columns are relatively short, I am going to give them to you here, with a short paragraph from The Times about their professional accomplishments. Historically, I have aligned my own views more closely with Krugman as a liberal political economist and a fellow Democrat. That is still my view. Brooks has generally been more conservative, perhaps what we used to call a “liberal Republican,” but that phrase over the past decade and more has become increasingly meaningless. I respect... Continue reading
Image
Racism, Police Violence, and the Climate Are Not Separate Issues Bill McKibben June 3, 2020 The New Yorker I find that lots of people are surprised to learn that, by overwhelming margins, the two groups of Americans who care most about climate change are Latinx Americans and African-Americans. But, of course, those communities tend to be disproportionately exposed to the effects of global warming: working jobs that keep you outdoors, or on the move, on an increasingly hot planet, and living in densely populated and polluted areas. (For many of the same reasons, these communities have proved disproportionately vulnerable to diseases such as the coronavirus.) One way of saying it is that money buys insulation, and white people, over all, have more of it. Over the years, the environmental movement has morphed into the environmental-justice movement, and it’s been a singularly interesting and useful change. Much of the most dynamic leadership of this fight now comes from Latinx and African-American communities, and from indigenous groups; more to the point, the shift has broadened our understanding of what “environmentalism” is all about. John Muir, who has some claim to being the original modern environmentalist, once explained that “when we try to... Continue reading
Image
What if there were no George Floyd video? Even when racism doesn't go viral, it's still deadly. Nicholas Kristof There is no video to show that a black boy born today in Washington, D.C., Missouri, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi or a number of other states has a shorter life expectancy than a boy born in Bangladesh or India. There’s no video to show that black children still are often systematically shunted to second-rate schools and futures, just as they were in the Jim Crow era. About 15 percent of black or Hispanic students attend so-called apartheid schools that are less than 1 percent white. There’s no video to show that blacks are dying from the coronavirus at more than twice the rate of whites, or that a result of the recent mass layoffs is that, as of last month, fewer than half of African-American adults now have a job. “There is another kind of violence, slower but just as deadly, destructive as the shot or the bomb in the night,” Robert F. Kennedy said in 1968 shortly before his assassination. “This is the violence of institutions; indifference and inaction and slow decay. This is the violence that afflicts the poor, that... Continue reading
Alan, what a pleasure to hear from you, and to learn about your encounter with Randall Jarrell. I never saw him personally, but I became familiar with the wonderful diversity of his writing while I was under the tutelage of a memorable Amherst College professor, William Pritchard, who wrote Randall Jarrell: A Literary Life. In that book, Pritchard said that "Jarrell will be remembered as one of the best American lyric poets “for his brilliantly engaging and dazzling criticism, and for his passionate defense… of writing and reading poems and fiction.” I also recall, at the time of Jarrell's death, The New York Times covering the memorial service held in his honor, quoting Robert Lowell crediting Jarrell with writing “the best poetry in English about the Second World War,” and describing his friend as “the most heartbreaking poet of our time.” I think the most anthologized of Jarrell's poems has been "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner": From my mother's sleep I fell into the State, And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze. Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life, I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters. When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose. Warmly, as ever, John
1 reply
Image
[Preface by John R. Boettiger: I've loved the company of trees all my life, their singularity and community, their slow growth and decay, their extraordinary diversity of lifespans, their changing seasonal colors of leaves and intertwined rootedness, their hospitality to other lives, their responsiveness to breeze and wind. As a child I loved to climb them, swing from their sturdy branches, find nooks in which to contemplate, read, find refuge, soften my soul, allow my imagination to wander. [I wanted to be a forest ranger, living atop a tower in a room of, say, 200+ square feet, with a 360-degree view, caring for the forest that surrounded me on all sides, forest trails open for exploration, resupply and companionship. Hiking forest paths is still my favorite form of recreation. I was born and spent my earliest childhood years in the Pacific Northwest, and came especially - virtually lifelong - to admire the wonderful tangle of California live oaks and to stand in awe of redwoods and giant sequoia, of which the oldest recorded lifespan was an astonishing 3,200 years. Now in my later adulthood, after too many and too stumbling - but also nourishing - moves, I am settled again... Continue reading
A poem about finding life while we shelter in place Jane Hirshfield March 23, 2020 Award-winning poet, essayist and translator Jane Hirshfield lives in Mill Valley. Editor’s note: In the days following the Bay Area’s shelter-in-place order, The San Francisco Chronicle contacted poet Jane Hirshfield, asking if she would write about this rare and unsettling experience. The celebrated Mill Valley writer replied by offering a poem she’d already written, that morning, reminding us that sometimes poetry can summarize a moment with great poignancy. Today, When I Could Do Nothing Today, when I could do nothing, I saved an ant. It must have come in with the morning paper, still being delivered to those who shelter in place. A morning paper is still an essential service. I am not an essential service. I have coffee and books, time, a garden, silence enough to fill cisterns. It must have first walked the morning paper, as if loosened ink taking the shape of an ant. Then across the laptop computer — warm — then onto the back of a cushion. Small black ant, alone, crossing a navy cushion, moving steadily because that is what it could do. Set outside in the sun, it... Continue reading