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#1990 - Tuesday, November 30, 2004 - Editor: Jerry

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Native Americans

Editor Donna Ladkin, of GreenSpirit: The Association for Creation Spirituality in the United Kingdom, wrote, "Native American spirituality is a land-based spirituality. The relationship between the land and the people was one of mystical interdependence."

In short, Native Americans believe man is not above nature; man is one with nature.

The Storm Wind Web site, part of Tapestry: The Institute for Philosophy, Religion and the Life Sciences Inc., reports that all Native American religions involve rituals that gather the community together. Among the Iroquois of the Eastern Woodlands, each spring and fall, community ceremonies are led by the "false faces," wooden-masked impersonators of the spirit who protects the people from disease.

At the Niman Kachina rituals of the Hopi, men put on wooden likenesses of the spirit-kachinas and enact their return to their homeland, where the kachinas watch over the Hopi.

Doak Heyser, of
Boulder, Colo., has been studying and interpreting the rock drawings found throughout the southwestern United States.

Of the drawings on Legend Rock in central
Wyoming, Heyser said, "Known as 'Dinwoody' or 'Interior Line' style ... these pecked images are believed to be from the Archaic Culture, roughly the same age as the painted Barrier Canyon style figures."

"The 'Holy Ghost and Attendants' panel is part of the Great Gallery in
Barrier Canyon ... known for its numerous panels and superb anthropomorphic figures," Heyser said.

Native American religious art, like all the other religions, was not limited to paintings, music and dance. Poetry also played its role. A writing that makes this abundantly clear is one of the Seven Sacred Prayers, The Great Spirit Prayer, used here with permission of Martin Shutt of the Indigenous People's Literature, a part of the American Indian Resource Directory.

The Great Spirit Prayer (origin unknown)

"Oh, Great Spirit, whose voice I hear in the wind,

Whose breath gives life to all the world.

Hear me; I need your strength and wisdom.

Let me walk in beauty, and make my eyes ever behold the red and purple sunset.

Make my hands respect the things you have made and my ears sharp to hear your voice.

Make me wise so that I may understand the things you have taught my people.

Help me to remain calm and strong in the face of all that comes towards me.

Let me learn the lessons you have hidden in every leaf & rock.

Help me seek pure thoughts & act with the intention of helping others.

Help me find compassion without empathy overwhelming me.

I seek strength, not to be greater than my brother, but to fight my greatest enemy—Myself.

Make me always ready to come to you with clean hands and straight eyes.

So when life fades, as the fading sunset, my spirit may come to you without shame."





Snail slime may mark the fast route to ecological salvation
Reviewed by Claire Hope Cummings


Sunday, November 28, 2004


Nature's Operating Instructions


The True Biotechnologies


Edited by Kenny Ausubel with J.P. Harpignies




A lot of ink has been spilled over the biotechnology debate. The basic arguments haven't changed much in 20 years: Recombinant DNA technology is unproved and risky, or it's saving lives and the environment. The controversy rages on, as passionate and polarized as ever. The more interesting and dynamic part of this discussion is its subtext: the interrelationship between science, nature and society.

"Nature's Operating Instructions: The True Biotechnologies" dives right into that issue and unabashedly declares that science today is stuck in the industrial paradigm. This compelling collection of essays eloquently lays out an array of imaginative and practical solutions for some of the most perplexing environmental challenges of our time. The book both captures the spirit of Rachel Carson's "Sense of Wonder" and calls for a new, engaged, ecological vision for technology. It suggests sustainable solutions for how we feed ourselves and for environmental restoration that are both grounded in solid science and deeply respectful of the natural world. As contributor John Todd put it, this work weds "human ingenuity with the wisdom of the wild."


The fascinating complexity and innate intelligence of the natural world shines through all five sections of the book, which cover a wide range of topics, from the art of using nature to heal nature, indigenous science, the perils of genetic engineering, the economics of ecological design and natural capitalism, to storytelling in the service of cultural and biological survival. Where else can you read about soft energy paths, plant sex, African spirituality and political consciousness all in one slim volume?


What is most remarkable about these ideas is that they are so immensely practical. When Andy Lipkis suggests that the city of Los Angeles could capture the rainwater it now throws away, and reduce its dependence on imported water, suddenly the idea seems so obvious. Similarly, wastewater treatment plants work more efficiently when they imitate living systems, and retrofitting urban architecture and transportation can reduce the use of fossil fuels. Coating chain-saw blades with fungus spores hastens the regeneration of forests, and while the antibacterial properties of mushrooms have been known for thousands of years, it took the genius of Paul Stamets to figure out how to put them to work digesting toxic pollution.


Still, it's surprising to find out that there are grasses that gobble up heavy metals or that cows can be used to reclaim mining wastes. Or that a biochemist named Randall von Wedel brewed a special bacterial smoothie in a blender and used it to clean up old gas station sites and truck terminals. And some day soon, the brilliant Wes Jackson, who has been out in the Midwest "thinking like a prairie," will succeed in perennializing our food crops and restoring the natural fertility of the nation's soil.


The sheer breadth and audacity of some of these ideas make for fascinating reading, while others are essential reminders about what must be saved, like heirloom seeds, such as Malcolm Margolin and Dennis Martinez's essays on the need to preserve what remains of traditional medicinal plant knowledge and indigenous land conservation practices in North America.


Janine Benyus, the lead contributor, has a flair for using the most telling and dramatic details to illustrate her points. She doesn't just say that nature can be relied on to spell out "a pattern language for survival." She describes how the humble garden snail can instantly spurt out a "highway of slime with a lubricant than can absorb 1,500 times its weight in water," which gets it across hazards unharmed. Her lucid book "Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature," published in 1997, made her one of the first to describe these eco-friendly design ideas. She and other contributors claim that these are the "true" biotechnologies, while genetic engineering is a more limited industrial technique fixated on patentable products.


The book's content comes from speeches given at the Bioneers Conference, held each October in the Bay Area. While the enthusiastic tone of these presentations is understandable in that context, it does mean that the arguments are less tightly reasoned and the language of the book suffers occasionally from the assumption that it is addressing a friendly audience. Readers who are unfamiliar with Bioneers, which means "biological pioneers," may understandably wince at the occasional lapse into hyperbole.


"Nature's Operating Instructions'' will appeal to anyone interested in an engaging mix of great storytelling, nature's wisdom, spirituality and commonsense solutions to complex problems. It probably won't resolve the debate about biotechnology, but it should inspire a more nuanced discussion. The book's real contribution, though, is in articulating a persuasive vision for how science and technology can serve both the public interest and the natural world.


Claire Hope Cummings is an environmental lawyer and journalist.






ANGELICA Panganiban in the title role doesn’t take the usual sinner-to-saint route but struggles throughout.


In the tradition of all memorable storytelling


WITH "Alexander," "National Treasure" and "The Polar Express" currently competing for the precious
pesos of local moviegoers, homegrown bet "Santa-santita" would most likely fade away. But if it's
still in theaters, you might want to see it. It would be a shame to miss this movie.


"Santa-santita" delivers all that one could ever hope for in a movie, whether foreign or local, and that makes it well worth squeezing in between the smorgasbord of Hollywood blockbusters I mentioned. In fact, if your budget can accommodate only a couple of movies from among those now showing, make this one of them.


What "Santa-santita" lacks in physical size and scale, it more than makes up for on an emotional and spiritual level. This is a movie that's as true to its own heart as any you're likely to see.


The movie is set in present-day Quiapo, where the everyday human carnival is immersed in a zesty Roman Catholic sense of sin and redemption. As the movie opens we are introduced to Chayong


(Hilda Koronel), a single mother who makes a living praying for others inside Quiapo church. She prefers to call it a panata or devotion but nevertheless accepts monetary donations for it.


Fire in her eyes


Chayong's only child, Malen (Angelica Panganiban), tries to help out by selling rosaries and scapulars outside the church but it's obvious she isn't exactly thrilled about the job. She's a soon-to-be woman who has set her sights outside the world of Quiapo.


We can read so much from the way Malen walks, how she talks, how she gets castigated for the way she dresses by Chayong and she doesn't even care. There's that light, or maybe fire, in her eyes that says she's desperate for something to happen to her life. She knows that her self-belief and native street smarts can take her someplace else, somewhere her mother's zealot friends can't frown upon her and where there are no stupid boys to make lewd remarks every time she passes-which the boys in her neighborhood do, if they're not gaping open-mouthed at her heaving torso.


One day Malen meets Mike (Jericho Rosales), a tourist driver who uses his job to hustle for other things and who is not above prostituting himself in the process.


Mike is hustling for a better life, maybe for his sick son who's in the care of his uncle (Berting Labra), but also maybe because he knows essentially he's just strong enough and unscrupulous enough to earn it. Mike may share the same yearnings of Malen but it is clear he's operating out of a different dynamic altogether.


He's a guy who's used to running the show, accustomed to wielding his grassroots toughness to get what he wants. Early on in the movie he also shows subtle, startling glints of poisonous malevolence that tells you his descent, in time, would be inevitable.


A living out of praying


What Malen sees in Mike, though, is a kindred soul, someone who can give her a glimpse of that other world she dreams about. When she goes against Chayong's admonitions and runs away from home to be with Mike, she literally breaks her mother's heart, and causing her mother's death.


Left alone to fend for herself and knowing no other way to make a living, Malen takes over her mother's prayer practice inside Quiapo church, much to the dismay of her mothers' colleagues in the so-called devotion. But she begins to mysteriously fulfill the needs of everyone with whom she comes into contact, even though she doesn't really pray for them seriously. And before long, there's a long line of salvation-hungry faces pleading for her intercession.


Malen doesn't know what's happening and is scared, even more so when she starts dreaming of herself
receiving stigmata, the wounds suffered by Jesus when he was crucified.


In the tradition of all memorable storytelling, "Santa-santita" entertains, illuminates and


Unlike many of the movies that deal with religion and spirituality (there is a difference), it does
not patronize or satirize. The movie is not preaching to the choir, although it did have something
to say about the slavery of some Catholics to dogmatic thought and about the forces that make
religion more into institutionalized bigotry and less as a path to healing and understanding.


Gifted and courageous


There aren't many people in the local film industry gifted enough to make a movie like this, and
fewer still with the courage to deal honestly with a subject both spiritual and complex. Laurice
Guillen is one of them. She and her writers-the screenplay was written by husband Johnny Delgado,
Michiko Yamamoto and Jerry Gracio, who also wrote the story-have done a fine job of putting
onscreen the solid substance of "Santa-santita." And cinematographer Lee Meily's impressive camera
work and the musical scoring by Vincent de Jesus provide a starkly realistic backdrop against which
the story can unfold.


Guillen wonderfully accomplished not only a graphic fleshing of the movie's theme but also got a
truly brilliant and engrossing display of acting from her cast.


As the movie's santa-santita, Panganiban gives us a protagonist we could watch without ever losing
interest. She goes from being the subject of autoerotic pasttimes to somebody who shares the
stigmata experience of Francis of Assisi and Padre Pio without ever quite transcending the nuances
of her true nature. She doesn't take the usual sinner-to-saint route but struggles throughout, thus
making her character more believable.


The movie also showcases Jericho Rosales in incendiary form. He gives us a performance here that is
both acting and being. There isn't a scene in "Santa-santita" that isn't watchable, but the best
one for me is the one Rosales shares with Delgado, an actor so unaffectedly good it has become
redundant to say so.


Delgado creates yet another quietly unforgettable character in Fr. Tony, a Catholic priest who's
become something of a flimflam artist because of his alcoholism. In the scene I mentioned, Rosales'
Mike goes from being Delgado's tentative drinking partner to become somewhat his diabolical
seducer, tempting and taunting the man of the cloth, indeed questioning the very cloth from which
the priest is cut. It's a scene that is not easily forgotten, and when the nominations of local
film award-giving bodies are announced, I suspect Delgado and Rosales won't be either.

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