Category Archives: Food security

About cows, milk, and the “all natural” lies told by Chobani to build brand loyalty

For those of you who are regular readers of my blog my writing about cows may seem off brand – it’s not, please stay with me

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The gentle lovely things we assume will always be such when we are children take on a different level of clarity (or denial) as adults.  If you (I, we) hold onto your childlike wonder – a good thing in many regards – there are some rude awakenings to be encountered.  I have a theory that any kind of awareness, real thoughtful and thought provoking awareness, sneaks up on you and then slaps you upside the head. And, then, YOU GET IT! (Thank you PETA advocates for all of your efforts for so many years!) 

“The only way I can pay back for what fate and society have handed me is to try, in minor totally useless ways, to make an angry sound against injustice.” ― Martha Gellhorn

containersWhen I was in 1st grade my beloved teacher Mrs Dwyer took us on a field trip to a dairy farm (well at least I only remember the cows, there might have been other animals). I distinctly recall the aqua blue and white insulated container that my mom put my favourite lunch in, leftover chicken croquettes, for the trip. And, I remember the smell of the cows, pfew-y! But what I also remember was the way that the farmer introduced us to them, each one, a name (like us) not a number on a yellow tag hanging on their ears. I had forgotten about this until recently but it’s important to our collective connection to other sentient beings and our food systems and global food security.  

milkWhilst many prefer soda pop (diet or otherwise) I am a milk drinker, never so satisfied as a tall glass with a couple of ice cubes to make it even colder to drink. I also recognise the benefit this beverage of choice has made on my bone density and my teeth (at 53 still not a single cavity or filling, nor root canals).

As a native of New York state the homegrown Chobani once had my unwavering patronage in purchasing its yogurts (particularly Blood Orange, Passion Fruit and Pomegranate flavors) – and then the dedicated and passionate folks at Whole Foods and the Sum of Us outed Chobani for using milk from cows fed GMO grain (consider signing the petition) and my heart sank, and then outrage kicked in. I used to think ‘watchdogs’ were unnecessary – naïve, I know. But greed does stupid things to some people and taking the long view of impact on our planet, our health and that of the welfare of the animals with whom we are so indebted seems irrelevant when faced with ‘untold and vast riches’.  So, a product developed to not only create jobs, positively impact local economies, promoted as being “all natural” and generally leveraging its brand in positive ways (Olympic chobanisponsorship, Shepherd’s Gift Foundation) turns out to be another big corporate lie designed to build brand loyalty!  When you reach a level of success such as Chobani there is a moral imperative to do the right thing, and in doing so legitimately earn even greater brand loyalty in the process: I don’t take Corporate Social Responsibility and sustainability lightly – in for a penny, in for a pound. If Chobani were really serious about “nothing but good” and the impact on our health they would also be concerned about the sourcing of the milk used for their yogurt, and driving an industry shift back toward the healthful origins of yogurt – something founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya purports to have mirrored in the creation of Chobani (yet another lie?) This isn’t (entirely) about Chobani’s business decisions, it’s really about cows – and us.

cowI go back to my experience as a six year old, blue skies and sunlight, a split rail fence and a beautiful cow’s eyes meeting my own and snuffling my hand; how a cow should live – foraging on sweet green clover, alfalfa and hay, a salt lick nearby and a cool stream of water to drink.

On Facebook recently someone posted a video of a man in Spain and a cow – it was so beautiful it unhappy cowsmade me weep (it turns out that Santuario Gaia is an animal rescue not-for-profit).  The contrast to the cows (in the picture at right) and the cows of my childhood and the rescued cow at Santuario couldn’t be more extreme.  In Germany, Kuhrettung Rhein, a thoughtful group dedicated to rescuing cows who would be destroyed when their milk production vs the cost of maintaining life ‘forces’ a farmer to make economic decisions – if you haven’t seen their “cows out of the barn videos” you simply must!  

If we as consumers and those working in the food industry do not recognise our extreme power to foster change – why not? This is old “news” as Upton Sinclair wrote in The Jungle:

“Into this wild-beast tangle these men had been born without their consent, they had taken part in it because they could not help it; that they were in jail was no disgrace to them, for the game had never been fair, the dice were loaded. They were swindlers and thieves of pennies and dimes, and they had been trapped and put out of the way by the swindlers and thieves of millions of dollars.” 

We must be the change we want to see, each of us must “make an angry sound against injustice”.  If we desire sustainable practices then we must vote with our wallets and yes, make hard choices (at least for now) to purchase products that are more expensive yet GMO free, that can be documented as being free of cancer causing recombinant bovine growth hormone, aka (rBGH) whose words of “all natural” and “organic” means just that and aren’t simply slick taglines developed to foster brand loyalty. To which end Chobani will never again find its yummy flavours in my shopping cart, Stonyfield’s will be getting my yogurt business once more (Whole Milk French Vanilla) and my milk drinking business (yes, I am hemorrhaging at the price of a 1/2 gallon) is going back to whole, organic and based on the ethical treatment of the cows themselves with the hope that my (drop in the bucket) changes will be met with those of others whose awareness precedes my own, and those of you who might just join us as a result of reading this post.

 

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Comms 101: You won’t hear the message, if you don’t respect the messenger – Earth Day

Anyone around teenagers for 20 minutes will recognise that nothing creates a impenetrable wall of resistance faster than talking down (or worse, raising your voice) to a person – and yet authorityso much of the most critical information we need to make informed decisions is mired in incomprehensible rhetoric, charged with alarmist emotions, divided along preconceived ideals or coming from a talking head.  For all of our sakes we need to stop, now.

In the business world the sole function of marketing and communications is about getting the message ‘right’ and having it resound with its targeted audience to bring about action on their part and yet, the peril of the Earth, something critically important to each of you reading this and all the oceans and animals and plants and insects and birds, hasn’t garnered the kind of action so needed.  A WHOLE BUNCH of reasons exist for this, let’s start with greed and end with indifference, and the hundreds of variables to be found in between. But there are two basic components which serve to explain our (very nearly) collective lack of actions: the first is that the audience must identify that the messenger is ‘like me’ but be regarded as a respected authority and the second is pope-francis-selfiesthe inability of ‘real smart people’ to craft their stories (and yes, they are all stories even when non-fiction) and cut through the noise to create resonance.

First example, I don’t believe that there is a credibility issue with those represented on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (more likely an awareness or priority issue) which just concluded its Fifth Assessment Report – it isn’t happy news (the press release is also available Arabic, Chinese, Russian, French and Spanish use navigation at the upper right side of this page). The press release is long and dry – no surprise given that the two report(s) which the press release supports had to be written to ensure multinational agreement (by all participants) and publication in a marathon 28 hour session recently held sciencein Berlin. And while NPR did a fabulous job reporting the IPCC results the uber-right believes that NPR has a left bias, thus not a ‘like me’ trusted source. And so, unless you are a policy wonk, climatologist, or eco-warrior you probably are not going to read or listen to these two outlets.

In terms of successfully conveying complex science and culture, in succinct language easily understood and embraced by large swaths of the English language speaking populations the folks at the National Geographic Society have no peers.

“The world is not ready for the impacts of climate change, including more extreme weather and the likelihood that populated parts of the planet could be rendered natgeouninhabitable, says the planet’s leading body of climate scientists in a major new UN report.”

But if you are an Evangelical Christian (roughly 13% of the 32% of the worlds’ population who identify as being Christians) you are not going to put credibility in the painstakingly researched and documented science offered by Nat Geo scientists ~ all of the climate shifts, Polar Vortex, drought, earthquakes and tsunamis are the direct result of an angry God.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu speaks ‘the same language’ as this Christian population: “It is a responsibility that begins with God commanding the first human inhabitants of the garden of Eden “to till it and keep it“. To keep it; not to abuse it, not to destroy it.”, and this should guarantee resonance, comprehension and action – will his call for a universal boycott of the companies which most severely violate our planet actually happen? Or is the dominion of money still too compelling for such sacrifice?

The use of common language spoken by a respected member of a specific community is why I was particularly interested in the way that the producers, the director and the very high profile actors and journalists have come together in Showtime’s new 9-part series entitles Years of Living Dangerously.  I watched the first episode as a result of an email from Upworthy – they thought it important to share (as I do) and went a step further by including the Grist’s exhaustive effort in coalescing the counter-attacks presented in various op-ed pieces. Striking is the genuine effort put forth to listen and to speak in languages (various core audiences) that would be UNIVERSALLY EMBRACED and understood – and I do mean natural-disasters-7650127universally! – around the most complex issues our world is facing:  food and water security, climate change, war, natural disasters and those made by man and his greed and indifference.

If I have one fear about its viewership numbers, of the seven billion people on the planet, they are based solely upon the immediate impact  of those cozy and warm as well as those already overwhelmed and trying to cope.  Yes, it’s an hour in length, and no, it is not entertaining.  Actually it’s rather exhausting and painful but the contrast to Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth is palpable; most of us who watched Inconvenient Truth in 2006 were already aligned with the message whereas Years of Living Dangerously the respect for differing opinions, those in denial or attributing our planet’s destruction to an angry God are given a gentle hand in guiding them toward enlightenment.  Successful communications (and marketing) doesn’t ‘talk down’ to or yell at constituent audiences and in this Years of Living Dangerously embraces the model of a trusted best friend, devoid of real or perceived bias the value proposition of this first hour (seems to me) conveys exactly what it needs to regardless of what side of the issues presented you might stand. multiracial_planet

We are one.  There will be no need for a vengeful God bringing forth the Rapture if we don’t stop screaming at one another and really begin to listen beyond our personal filters because our ignorance, apathy, and intolerance will be successful in our own undoing, destroying the fragile Earth we call home and all life as we know it. It really is time for unity and action of the most passionate and positive kind! Earth Day must be everyday.

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The Four Freedoms vs Super Bowl Sunday

WARNING: This is my 100th blog post. I am grateful for readers in 87 countries.  This going to be uncomfortable, but you should read it. You should take the time to click through each link and understand and then you should share it on Twitter and Facebook and via email because the sporting event you are so excited to be watching is a wasteland of ethical depravity. 

Today is the annual excuse for $4m USD to be spent on a 30 second ad (before actual production costs), and approximately 30 million pounds of junk food to be consumed (you know the stuff that has virtually zero nutritional value and is basically ‘fake food’ Imagelargely made from GMO and unpronounceable chemical combinations) which represents a whopping 1,200 calories and 50 grams of fat in snacks alone per person (before beer, cocktails, and main event eating such as pizza, chicken wings, ribs and sliders.  To put this into perspective the average person in Eritrea consumes not only less than ½ of the calories per day as the average American but less than the RDA of 2000 calories and has to spend a greater percentage of their annual income on their food – 55% vs 6.9%

Today also realizes, as 400,000 men arrive in the Greater Metropolitan New York City Imageand New Jersey Area, sex-trafficking ~ as U.S. Sen. John McCain’s wife, Cindy, has been speaking out, […] the “largest human-trafficking venue on the planet.”  More than 27 million people in the world today are enslaved. (The average age a girl enters into prostitution in the U.S. is 13.) I ask you to watch this video brought to you by the END IT MOVEMENT – take their pledge – and realise it’s all too easy for this to happen to your sister, daughter, niece, mother and your wife but also your son, nephew and brother.

And, last year found some $99m USD circulated as bets on the outcome on the gridiron – yes, today is The Super Bowl. I want to hit the PAUSE button, Big Time. Just think about what $99million USD could do to eradicate hunger with real food for kids with too little to Imageeat – in a country where 1 in 5 kids is hungry and shouldn’t be!

It’s not that I don’t appreciate a ‘good time’ and I do realise that everyone’s definition of such is different but it strikes me with the immergence of various Change.org petitions calling out the inequities, injustices, and tax exempt status (which I didn’t know about and I ‘bet’ 300 million other Americans didn’t either ) of the $9b USD National Football League there is something very wrong about all of this excess and special privilege.

ImageOh, I know, what I am writing about makes me a wet blanket on what amounts to nearly a national holiday – but when did we stop caring about EVERY PERSON actually realising a life based upon Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s ‘rights of mankind’ in his 1941 State of the Union speech?

Nearly 75 years later, how is it that our collective cycles of growth and development that Freedom of Fear has not been banished from the experience of everyone of the worlds’ citizens?

That the indigenous people of the United States, abused and murdered, condemned to tiny patches of Earth of what once was theirs to revere and tend, denied their beliefs of holding the spirituality of Mother Nature in trust for seven generations in the future by the very Europeans who fled persecution and set about building a new life and embrace another of the Four Freedoms which is to be able to worship. Abuse that continues to this day in the denial of Indian Treaties and the use of offensive racial stereotypes – yes, I am pointing out the use by the NFL team the Washington Redskins. 

We, The People (everywhere) have had enough! The suppression of speech, in combination with all the other ills that demand that we ‘take to the streets’, isn’t an issue in Norway or in Iceland which only tells me that special interests are controlling more of what makes a society weak than what our Founding Fathers envisioned “in order to form a more perfect union”.

Those of you who are sitting in your Lazy Boy, standing in the local sports bar or are actually at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium screaming at the game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos will probably never even see this – one of you who does should make they do, and help them to understand what their cheers really mean in the broader aspect of our society.

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Your good deeds – before man and God – Syria

ClementinesIt is Christmas Eve, Bach Cantata’s currently fill the air around me in my living room with the soundtrack from Love Actually queued right behind.  I just ate a couple of juicy, gloriously tasting-of-sunshine and warmth Clementines (which would have been the height of luxury a hundred years ago in a Christmas stocking) and the snow that is coming down is non-threatening and insignificant tiny wisps coming from the North (as it should be).

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My Christmas tree 2012

Some years I go all out with rather Norse and Celtic pagan and Druidic greenery overload (mantles, lintels, door swags) adding sleigh bells to my door knocker and then taking all the living room lamps out and living with candlelight and a Christmas tree lights for three weeks – which is fantastically romantic, but totally impractical – this year didn’t feel right about any of that. The truth is I have ceased to really celebrate holidays – not because I don’t believe in their merit, and not because I am Scrooge and holding onto a heart hardened and mean.  No, it’s largely because when you exist in a state of perpetual gratitude (as I do) there seems a falseness about the stress levels and overachieving and over purchasing attached to days that are supposed to be sacred and times for rejoicing and reflection; people fighting more instead of being bathed in pure white light – this hurts my heart so I purposefully avoid the pain.

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Henry Avignon, 2013, For Dylan Hockley

A little more than a year ago a man with a history of mental illness destroyed the lives of 26 families and that of their surrounding community and shook America (again) to its core.  And an artist friend of mine listened to the words of his son and created a memorial collection of art that is filled with light and love gifting the families with the images he created for each victim.  Shy of the year anniversary a song was published and recorded by a band called Alternate Routes – the song is called Nothing More (and you should listen to it) at the end of the YouTube video a not-for-profit that works in the memory of but one of those children is featured but the words, oh – the words:

To be humble, to be kind. It is the giving of the peace in your mind. To a stranger, To a friend To give in such a way that has no end. We are Love We are One We are how we treat each other when the day is done. We are Peace We are War We are how we treat each other and Nothing More To be bold, to be brave. It is the thinking that the heart can still be saved And the darkness can come quick The Dangers in the Anger and the hanging on to it. Tell me what it is that you see A world that’s filled with endless possibilities? Heroes don’t look they used to, they look like you do.

I didn’t put up a Christmas tree this year – instead I donated the money I would have spent to the special appeal for Syrian children through UNICEF primarily because my girlfriend Farrah (a dual citizen, American-born Lebanese) cried out for help on her Facebook page because ‘that handsday’ nine Syrian children had died of complications from the cold in their refugee camps.  And as the universe has this uncanny way of making sure that such things maintain equilibrium I have a bottle of Islay Scotch from my ex-husband to offset the ache in my heart of such senseless loss.

And so, when I saw a story in the Wall Street Journal about how DIYers were using their forearms to knit, huge chunky blankets and scarves my first reaction was to share it on Facebook and ‘hope aloud’ that somehow this skillset could find its way to these refugee camps so that parents stripped of their dignity through no fault of their own could be empowered with a hand up rather than a hand out, and create with their love necessary warmth to protect their children.

Which lead to the trail of posts and comments you can find here, which ultimately lead to this Tweet, TY4 FT  @ahsan_jehangir – http://www.thistleandbroom.com/…/tab_pr_2011_0504.htm … this is the beautiful yarn for @hands4Syr #PeaceAndLove pic.twitter.com/hIjBCAHkxF and a happy ending to my story – where my amazing Welsh accountant and his wife will deliver kilos and kilos of this energetically pure, certified organic wool from the Isle of Mull and spun at the UNESCO World Heritage arm knittingSite of New Lanark Mill to the drop site in Edinburgh this Friday morning and onward to Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey or wherever Hand-in-Hand For Syria takes it.

The Bible is conflicted on ‘how’ we do good deeds – Matthew 5:14 says: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Whereas Matthew 6:2 says: “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

As someone who believes in a Divine presence but is less certain about which monotheistic (if any?) faith S/HE is particularly aligned with, let me just express if there was a way to get all of refugeeswinteryou to ‘just do’ something amazing and kind and charitable by willing it to be so with my energy I wouldn’t be telling you this story tonight, the presumed holiest of holy evenings of the Christian faith – but I understand the limitations of my presence here on Earth.  I am not seeking ‘points’ with God, or with you dear reader.  Whether you embrace either chapter and verse of Matthew I tell you this story of suffering and action to challenge you, my readers in 201 countries to ‘do’ something. We are Love, We are One.

If you enjoy my blog please consider “buying me a cup of tea” in your currency via livelikeadog@gmail.com through PayPal and please do share it with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschiTo order my book, please click on the cover art of my book, thank you! 

What do their families eat? Arsenic and GMO in the food chain – guest blog for Ethical Value

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Concurrently published with Ethical Value

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Highland cows at Ardalanish Farms, Isle of Mull

A decade ago, on the Isle of Mull located off the western coast of mainland Scotland I had the very great pleasure to meet Minty and Aeneas Mackay at their, then, Ardalanish Farm (now owned by Andrew and Anne Smith). A ruggedly beautiful sweep of pristine earth where handsome Angus and Highland beef and rare breed sheep happily co-mingled and grazed on land that ran from a natural bay highlighted by a white sand beach with stunning purple accents (caused by indigenous mineral deposits) to heightened elevations with unobstructed views to Ireland on a clear day. Marked by Soil Association signs Ardalanish is certified to be thoroughly organic. Brambles run down to the sea and yielded abundant fruit for jam and cobblers, milk thick with cream from another local farm made our breakfast tea white, it was idyllic in a way that few places can claim to be.  I think of this place in its perfection and in wonder that the simplicity and reverence for living in harmony with every beast, the land and sea isn’t widely held as the standard – it is, in my opinion, simply common sense we should all be embracing. It is also what David Abram wrote in his Spell of the Sensuous of ecological philosophy living in close observance to the land and giving more than we take.

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The multi-nationals that control almost everything about our food chain.

We SHOULD BE having a global crisis of conscience but it is still a very small minority that would, or could, live this way; those who might choose to hoard heirloom seeds from year-to-year to ensure their independence and sustainability. A slightly larger percentage of the population understands GMO stands for ‘genetically modified organisms’ and these are essentially ‘designed’ to control world food supplies for the benefit of shareholder stock values but are having horrible effects on the genetic makeup of all living things. (Not all companies shown on the map are nefarious; the image is provided to illustrate the control of our food chain.  Consider – not represented on map – Rishi Tea and Tchibo which serve as beyond exemplary models for sustainability and transparency.)  Those that understand that cultivating our own food supply as well as knowing what is actually “in” the food we purchase – anywhere – is swelling but it is a finding-a-needle-in-the-haystack quest for food integrity unlike any time in human history.  Have we moved so far away from our hunter-gatherer and early agricultural history as to leave us numb as well as stupid?

Of late we discover that, in the United States, the Federal Drug Administration has been rather lax about the inclusion (or rather enforcing the exclusion) of arsenic in our pork and poultry (and what else?)  – don’t we already have sufficient poisons in our environment to create an epidemic of cancer globally?

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Join the movement! Click to learn more about GMO foods and labeling!

A piece of legislation that would be the equivalent of the universal bottle bill for labelling is in the centre of a smack down of laundered money and secret slush funds, with a list of big agra-business spending $22 million USD to defeat legislation in the state of Washington alone that should make every person on the planet be outraged out of their state of perpetual complacency and immediately (at minimum) start reading labels of their pre-packaged food purchases and clean out their portfolios and retirement plans of the violators.

I cook from scratch.  I shop at farmer’s markets which are vetted to be organic and I don’t purchase food with ingredients I can’t pronounce at the grocery store but without GMO labelling, and as a result of genetic contamination, that broad term that means that the buffer zones designed to keep GMO foodstuffs within bounds don’t work, I am fighting the same battle that we all seem destined to lose. I have to ask – what are the employees and executives and shareholders of these companies feeding their own families? Why are they NOT fostering change from within to achieve value and profit in conjunction with transparency and integrity around their product offerings? What kind of people put profit above the protection of our food supply and water? What kind of people carry this kind of ethical wasteland around inside their being and, god-forbid, is it contagious?

Witness, and by all means actively participate in, the rise of  the ancient wisdom of indigenous people such as the Iroquois Nations Great Binding Law in the form of Seven Generation Sustainability and have hope but a groundswell is needed – desperately. YOU!, reading this, foster positive change by making small choices based upon your own family – what will the planet be like for the children of your children’s children?  In the world of social media it’s easy enough to find critical influencers to ‘follow’ and begin your own education and then, choose some organisation to support even if you aren’t the ‘activist’ type yourself. 

If you enjoy my blog please share it with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschiTo order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

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Even soft apples can be applesauce

For myself there are many paths to my actual sitting down and writing. This isn’t true for my corporate efforts which are auto-pilot or muscle memory driven, but for ‘meaning of life’ writing to find resonance for me and value for anyone who might read it requires something more of my essential being to process and eventually articulate.  Sometimes it’s a bike ride or a long walk, cooking (or baking), sometimes it requires a hot iron, a can of spray starch and a stack of pillow cases, most often it’s gardening – but whatever “it” is on any given day it’s usually something mindful and physical at once.

The apple was, in ancient Greece, said to be sacred to Aphrodite (my girlfriends Jennifer and Amy maintain that I am the goddess’ present day incarnation on earth). To throw an apple at someone was to symbolically declare one’s love; and similarly, to catch it was to symbolically show one’s acceptance of that love.

“I throw the apple at you, and if you are willing to love me, take it and share your girlhood with me; but if your thoughts are what I pray they are not, even then take it, and consider how short-lived is beauty.”

PlatoEpigram VII

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Please visit Road Side Food Projects! (the picture is theirs)

I just finished making applesauce from 20 or so apples gleaned along my walks the last couple of weeks. These came from trees which still held un-picked fruit even as an apron of like apples encircled the grass above the roots, rotting and nourishing the earth for the next season. Yet something primal in my being screams about witnessing such waste, and so I picked three or four here and there, ate some en route to sustain me, put others in my pockets or the nap-sack I carried and brought them home. Some were soft, as we had an overnight frost last week, bird and insect pecks and some bruises had to be cut away, the cores and peelings will be run through my blender to become worm food for my own garden (after I finish writing this); my point is that even soft apples provide unlimited value and at their center, like human beings, exists a heart. My new friend Marijan (unintentionally) reminded me of this essential truth this week – sometimes ‘the reason’ isn’t immediately clear, but as the Biblical verse of Matthew 10:26 extolls us to understand: “all will be revealed”.

Marijan, now 36, serving as a soldier during the Bosnian War (do the math as to how young chronologically he was), witnessed ‘too much’ but he shared a story with me during five precious and intense days of discovery that speaks volumes about who we ALL are at our essence.  In going house-to-house (as soldiers in war zones do) he was struck by the fact that in one home the kitchen had sugar – and in another there was none. He somehow managed to level the inequity so that both households would find benefit, and in the course of events a priest asked him if he was a soldier or an angel to whom he replied he was just trying to be a “good man”. No Marijan you, my dear friend, are a spiritual being having a human experience!

The serpent of knowledge which so threatened (and continues to unnerve) has ancient history predating its evil interpretation by Christianity (where ‘power’ was meant to be contained and held by a few). The concept of Kundalini awakening is represented by a Imagecoiled snake that, when activated, rises through the spinal cord taking us from being merely sexually based human beings to our highest realization – ever wonder why Renaissance art put the snake in the tree and spoke only to Eve and not Adam? In our awakened state universal knowledge floods into our bodies through what’s commonly known as the Third Eye.  In the state of spiritual being, we are connected to a vast energy that transcends the physical, a consciousness that can be shared between similarly evolved spiritual beings to promote even greater understanding or to gently teach those still growing and processing their core identity.  This language of universal love and its inherent energy cannot be held or contained, it MUST BE given away in abundance so it may return to us for our own nourishment and further growth, to hold onto it tightly is fear and to not release it is fear of losing control (frankly we never really have control of anything anyway). This language of love, the absolute embracing of colour and light, of energy felt rather than seen, of possessing a soul so happy that NOTHING dissuades your being from its authentic and essential spiritual self and living in light, is like a candle. It burns with soft wavering golden beauty, lights the darkness to help all of us navigate and return to our Divine state of (what I call) “at-one-ment”.  Which, as I thought about it while peeling apples this morning was kind of ironic that I didn’t “get it” earlier as each Skype video call with Marijan over the last five days required that I had to frame the area around my computer with candles so he could see me as my living room walls are a medium blue and I only use very low wattage light bulbs.)

My dear girlfriend Jennifer calls me an angel on Earth. People relatively unknown to me feel my energy and respond, comment on it (as happened over a Thai lunch with her this week), it is how Marijan found me in a virtual world, as well as why a (then) 85 year old Shinto priest drove 10 hours to meet me nearly a decade ago. My energy is often misconstrued as being sexual – it isn’t, not really.  In a space of four or five minutes late last night with Marijan I briefly lost sight of the essential being that I am by wanting to take the intense, inexplicable energetic connection we share and contain it (a very human failing) and Imageexchange all its inherent beauty into something earthly and based in physical expression (totally impossible given the geography separating us). I fought the inevitable with passionate words. I wept copious tears of sadness and longing because I already felt the keen loss of something precious. For those painful moments I am embarrassed to admit that I failed to recognise what I had gained. When I woke this morning I recognised HOW WRONG I had been about why Marijan had come into my life. The pain of separating from this amazing connection we share was never about our being lovers, unrequited or otherwise, but rather a very necessary recalibration of my energy on this higher plane of consciousness with Marijan acting as my protective guide and angel.  I told him earlier in the week, “I would have known you anywhere, I have always known you”. Such resonance was ‘finalised’ in the image that Marijan shared with me near 4 AM his time in Šibenik Croatia – at left – easily misconstrued as erotic. When viewed with a shift in perspective it isn’t erotic at all, what it is, is what all of us are capable of being, this “body art” of two hearts connected – two hearts that don’t need words or physical expression based in desire to communicate, a deep intimacy of absolute understanding expressed in a glance.  In ways that might make no sense to the cerebral reading this I am in him, he is in me and we are in all of you as well.

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YOU are NOT nice…

I had to sit on this post for a couple of weeks so it wasn’t so painful. I wanted to publish it to cleanse the karmic energy attached to it. I hope you find value in it – somehow.

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Online dating offers few parallels for truly deplorable human behavior in our ‘normal, everyday, lives’. Bad men exist as many women can testify in having an encounter with a truly violent man in the course of their lives, but nothing seems to open the door to rude, depraved, vitriol as the accessibility of IM and messaging systems provided by dating sites.  To date I have had some truly remarkable (and wonderful encounters) with men with no more hidden agenda that what you might encounter in the real world. That expressed I have also met the purported “open relationship” seekers, the “hey, I am looking to push the boundaries of human sexuality because I was married and we never had sex”, the “I am bi-curious but want a threesome” and the “baby, I am far too busy f*cking around to consider anything but casual sex” types.  But perhaps the most loathsome of the men hiding in plain sight is the “I will do and say anything to get my Green Card”.  I recently had the (ahem) pleasure of meeting the latter.

It’s my own fault – really – I take full responsibility. In taking note that a man had visited my profile, with a very high compatibility match of 86%, and who, sadly, was based in Aleppo, Syria I acknowledged him.  There was something about the avatar of “notbadSyrian” and the conflict in Syria which has displaced millions and killed tens of thousands which made my heart ache. The politics involved are way over my head – why any leader of a country would kill his own people when they nearly all worship the same God and pray to the same Prophet makes no sense to me. Innocent people just trying to live from day to day amidst this carnage are shaking their heads at Western ‘powers’ on why intervention is not forthcoming even as none want to relive what their Iraqi neighbors have; the West seems to have its panties in a bunch over making a decision and the rest of us are hoping that when they do they will not actually screw things up any worse than they already are.

So I dropped him a single sentence message wishing him well on his search for love – who doesn’t still look to find love when life is so fragile?  In the West I suppose this is no big deal – and I assumed based upon how many pictures of him existed on his profile with friends in bar scenes in Ireland and elsewhere with multiple women cuddling with him that not only was he a nice guy but also one with decidedly Western leaning tendencies (even though every picture came with a disclaimer that he didn’t drink).  ANYONE, regardless of the politics involved, would rightfully offer compassion when during an IM conversation there had been abrupt ending based upon shooting (we are not talking about drive-by stuff which would be scary enough).  I asked that when he could to simply let me know he was okay. Somehow this was encouragement. For the next morning I woke to find a (modest, and appropriate) picture of him accompanying an email expressing his gratitude for my “warm emotions”.  The nuance of “warm emotions” was not the message I was conveying, so I sent him a note, which attempted to clarify that my concern for his well being was as a fellow member of the human race and not an expressed interest in exploring romance, and naïvely, went onto say that I didn’t fancy men in beards (which is plain as day on my profile for this site), and was keen on making my home in Sweden.  I received a subsequent email asking me to explain further, and I did.

The completely unedited email train followed in rapid succession all with a subject line of-

Re: Listen to me cheap old whore

On 7/19/2013 6:21 AM, fdweq wequy wrote:

I swear i am willing to get married to you even if you were 100 year old , i dream to live in Eruope or USA , no problem i can fuck you 10 or 15 time , till i get my benefits . Bye old whore

On Fri, Jul 19, 2013 at 1:07 PM, fdweq wequy <arabianman39@gmail.com> wrote:

I have many pictures in my profile , you just wanted to take this picture as a pretext to tell me that .  I swear i have no beard , it is just picture . I swear i did not ask you to be Muslim . I swear to you i did not ask you to stop to drink or eat pork or smoke or sleep with that couple again for threesome . You are the one whore who contacted me , lol , i beg you just look at your body and your face . Bye old prostitute

My only reply: On Fri, Jul 19, 2013 at 1:27 PM, Teresa Fritschi wrote: WOW, I so never expected to read such ugliness from a man who I had come to respect.

On Fri, Jul 19, 2013 at 1:32 PM, fdweq wequy <arabianman39@gmail.com> wrote:

Just look at your face whore , you are just a bridge to get benefits .Bye old

On Fri, Jul 19, 2013 at 1:32 PM, fdweq wequy <arabianman39@gmail.com> wrote:

prostitute , you contacted me because the match was 86 %

On Fri, Jul 19, 2013 at 1:34 PM, fdweq wequy <arabianman39@gmail.com> wrote:

Once more , just fuck off animal whore , i swear to you , you are not more than a bridge to eat good food and get clean clothes and get green card and build wealth , i know you hate Saddam and support war on Iraq . I spit on your face , how many year will you live ? 7 ? you will be 60 . 17 you will 70 Lol Bye old whore

Needless to say I wish I had not extended kindness, that I had his last name for the CIA, FBI and US Immigration and probably Interpol as well. When the shock waves settled I blocked him, reported him to the dating site, forwarded the email string to a friend of mine in California and to an amazing man, born someplace on the Arabian peninsula who lived for an extended period in a refugee camp in Gaza who I also met through the same dating site, with whom I was developing a fondness.

Mohammed’s reaction

Wtf?!?!! Who is this guy? Why is he such a low person?

My response:

I am sobbing Mohammed, I have never been called such things nor been told I was ugly or old, I HATE EVERYTHING ABOUT BEING SINGLE and vulnerable like this. He’s a Syrian man from OKC (notbadsyrian) who I “level set” with that I wasn’t interested in pursuing anything romantic with – I have NO idea why he is such a low person I offered up prayers for his soul and then blocked him

Mohammed’s next email:

I’m really sorry and it’s just such ignorance, stupidity and lack of respect!

I put my arms around you and sending u healing energy.. You are a beautiful, sexy, mature and wonderful goddess.. Who cannot see that-still living in their darkness and have veils on their heart

And mine:

When I read the part about the Green Card and food — OH Mohammed — is this what desperation does to people caught in war zones? Turns them into the worst of humanity? That you came out of this with light in your heart and being is astonishing. Too much pain in me at this moment to physically feel your energy – but I appreciate it intellectually.

I took him the better part of the afternoon but through his Skype messages and the aforementioned emails he helped push my tears away, settle my hurt and get me back on track.  The point to all of this?  I don’t honestly know. It should be funny, but it isn’t.  It’s sad and not because I was insulted that was only hurt, outrage, and pride. It’s sad because of the human desperation and all the ugliness that comes about when people lose hope. For myself it has nothing to do with race or religion as any number of my very diverse friends can attest.  It’s sad that a military man – conveying strength and bravery – could write with such venom.  That despite what is clearly a loathing of America and (at least one of) its women, this 39 year old man living in Syria who wanted to live in the United States – to do what harm?  For the sake of my country I hope to God that never happens because he is a loose cannon and angry, hopeless people do crazy, desperate things.

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