All posts tagged: eastern philosophy

Content with an emphasis on Eastern philosophy – Buddhism, Shintoism, Taoism etc.

One Straw Revolution Masanobu Fukuoka

Food, Awareness, Action: The One Straw Revolution

Humanity’s relationship with food is elemental; our daily food choices serve as vivid reminders of our dependence upon the living world. In The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Nature History of Four Meals, author Michael Pollan writes, “daily, our eating turns nature into culture, transforming the body of the world into our bodies and minds” (p.10).I read The One Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka not long after becoming aware of permaculture, a branch of ecological engineering that draws inspiration from natural ecosystems. His little green book forced me to reexamine my own assumptions on how I came to know the world around me. At times radical, counterintuitive, and unsettling, The One Straw Revolution is a fascinating account of one man’s physical, spiritual, and philosophical journey through life.

Shan Shui Chinese Industrial Pollution

Past Meets Present: Shan Shui Environmental Art

Literally translated as “mountain water”, Shan Shui is a specific style of Chinese landscape art that rose to prominence in the 5th century during the Liu Song Dynasty (wikipedia). In the depiction of pristine rivers, ethereal mists, and hallowed mountains, the artist’s ultimate goal is to capture the ch’i, or vital breath, of the world around them. This ch’i must be caught even at the expense of realism, for if the artist misses it, they have lost the very essence of the landscape. In this way, Shan Shui paintings are only expressions of art, but also provide insight into how the artist, influenced by culture and society, views the natural world. I recently came across the work of a modern artist who sought to introduce modern human presence and impact into Shan Shui paintings. Commissioned by the China Environmental Protection Foundation, Yong Liang Yang utilizes the traditional art style in ads to promote awareness of major environmental problems. The paintings and the associated video highlight the effects of rapid industrialization and urbanization within a Chinese …

Avatar: The Last Airbender Wordle 3

Avatar: The Last Airbender – Balance and Moral Courage

It may seem excessive to devote an entire write-up to a single character, but I believe Aang, the chief protagonist of Avatar: The Last Airbender, warrants such an exploration. In an age of brooding, melodramatic, and angst-filled heroes, Aang provides a refreshing counterexample to what it means to be an emotionally intelligent, internally resilient, and ethically principled individual. His role as the outsider to a war-torn world, coupled with his unique upbringing and temperament, makes his character growth throughout Avatar fascinating to watch.

Avatar: The Last Airbender Wordle 1

Avatar: The Last Airbender – World and Mythology

Just to make it clear, this will not be about James Cameron’s Avatar. Nor is it about The Last Airbender, the live-action adaptation by M. Night Shyamalan. Instead, this series will be devoted to the popular animated television show titled Avatar: The Last Airbender. I’ll simply refer to the show as Avatar in this and other subsequent posts. The series was first brought to my attention by a good friend of mine; I initially paid little heed to his initial sales pitch of “it’s really good!” because we generally have very different tastes. But on one Sunday afternoon, I happened upon an episode (now known to me as Bitter Work) and was caught off-guard by the show’s blend of Eastern influences, subtle characterizations, sharp dialogue, slapstick humour, layered mythology, and most important of all, excellent storytelling. Intrigued, I decided to catch up on the series from the beginning. It has since grown to become one of my favourite television shows, animated or otherwise, of all time. Like many contemporary works of fantasy for children and young …

Flight of the Hummingbird

Action, Responsibility, Empathy: Flight of the Hummingbird

I was introduced to Flight of the Hummingbird during the first residency of my Master’s program in Environmental Education and Communication. A parable inspired by the Quechan people of Ecuador, the thin tome serves as a powerful and moving call for environmental action. Illustrated with Michael Nicoll Yahngulanaas’ distinctive Haida manga artwork, Flight of the Hummingbird resonated with many of my fellow colleagues. By the end of the residency, our class had adopted the hummingbird as our unofficial mascot. The ideas found within Hummingbird have stayed with me ever since, continually shaping my thoughts on the nature and efficacy of environmental action. The story begins with the Great Forest catching on fire, and the animals within it fleeing for their lives. All save one. Dukdukdiya, the tiny hummingbird, would not abandon the forest. She flies to the stream, picks up a single drop of water, and drops it on the raging fire. Again and again she continues her efforts against the inferno at great personal risk. The other animals watch on the outskirts, warning Dukdukdiya …

A Landscape’s Story: The Nitobe Memorial Garden

With the focus on nature-culture relationships within the confines of the garden, I would like to share my experience at the Nitobe Memorial Garden at the University of British Columbia last week. A Japanese Zen garden can itself be interpreted as a narrative of change, revolving around the natural and human cycles of birth, maturation, growth, and death. (At least that’s what the pamphlet says!) Here are some photos and descriptions of my journey through the beautiful and meticulously designed landscape: “Each tree, stone and shrub has been deliberately placed and is carefully maintained to reflect an idealized conception and symbolic representation of nature. There is harmony among natural forms – waterfalls, rivers, forests, islands and seas – and a balance of masculine and feminine forces traditionally attributed to natural elements.” (Nitobe Memorial Garden website)  “Water crossings reflect different life stages such as marriage, spiritual growth, etc.” (Nitobe Memorial Garden guide pamphlet) “…the 7-storey pagoda adds an exotic beauty to aid peaceful meditation. The buddha carving suggests a teenager’s search for life’s meaning.” (Nitobe Memorial …

Ged and Lebannen

Mindful Action: Le Guin’s The Farthest Shore, Part 1

The Farthest Shore is my favourite story of the Earthsea series. It is also one of my favourite novels of all time. While I loved Wizard more growing up, Shore is the book I come back to as an adult.  The prose is graceful and fluid, written by someone with mastery of the language. The exchanges between the characters are honest, heartfelt, and thought-provoking. It is a story that tackles the one theme we all must face: Death. I have taken both meaning and solace from its pages during times of loss and grief. The exploration of The Farthest Shore will be split into two parts; there’s simply too much material to cover in one entry. I’ve spent a tremendous amount of time with this book, so it’s no surprise that I have forged many connections with it. Let’s get started!