Montreal Protesters Shut Down NEB Hearing on Energy East

BREAKING: NEB cancels Energy East hearing in Montreal as protesters storm the room
The National Energy Board cancelled its scheduled panel session on the Energy East pipeline project after protesters criticizing the pipeline regulator’s integrity stormed the Centre Mont-Royal Monday morning.

“In light of the events of this morning, we are obligated to cancel the hearing for today. We want to ensure that we can proceed in an efficient manner, but most importantly in a safe manner for everyone involved,” NEB Director Jean-Denis Charlebois said, as he announced the cancellation in Montreal Monday morning.
Among those slated to speak were Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, Society to Overcome Pollution’s Daniel Green, the mayor of Laval, and representatives from the Union of Quebec Municipalities.
Protesters at the Centre Mont-Royal hammered on the NEB’s perceived conflict of interest in the hearings — with some calling for an end to the review process, saying the NEB can’t be trusted to give an objective recommendation on the pipeline. Others outside, including some union members, called on the pipeline process to proceed and commended its potential to create new jobs.
According to Ricochet Media’s Ethan Cox, who was in the room when demonstrators stormed inside, the scene began when a single protester chanting anti-NEB slogans rushed the front of the room where NEB panelists were set to speak. Security intercepted him, put him in a chokehold, but soon released him when multiple other protesters joined him at the front of the room with a sign quoting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that read “only communities can grant permission.”
Roughly half of the room’s audience then joined the protesters chants. Cox said the protesters announced their intention to maintain control of the room and prevent the hearings from taking place at all.

Multiple protesters link arms in front NEB panelists, where speakers including Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre were set to speak Monday morning. Photo by AJ Korkidakis.

Coderre leaves NEB hearings
​Mayor Coderre reportedly left the hearings before their cancelation, calling them a “circus” before storming out of the room. He may speak at Tuesday’s scheduled panel session, which are set to resume at 9:00 a.m. EST.
Coderre, along with a coalition of 81 other Montreal-area mayors, have long opposed TransCanada’s controversial 4,500 kilometre, $15.7-billion pipeline project — if built, it would be the third largest oil pipeline in the world.
He reiterated his concerns with the pipeline project at a scrum following his departure from the hearings, citing safety issues and the Husky pipeline spill that contaminated the water supply to Prince Albert, Saskatchewan earlier this summer.
“Frankly, one of the main issues is a contingency plan — everything regarding safety. Imagine what happened with the spill in St. Albert. There were 69,000 people [there]. There are 4-million people [in the greater Montreal area]. Can we afford to take a chance?” Coderre said.
Coderre said that there are “too many problems we are witnessing to accept this project” and that “the project they present is wrong.”
Denis Coderre, Peter Watson, NEB, Montreal

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre. File photo by the Canadian Press

And his opposition was bolstered after a National Observer report revealed that the NEB board chairman and two review panelists met secretly with former Quebec premier and then-TransCanada consultant Jean Charest.
Charest, who had retired from politics, was under contract at that time for TransCanada, the Calgary-based multinational energy company in charge of the Energy East pipeline project. The NEB, which has the powers of a federal court, is not allowed to privately discuss matters that are under review before the Board.
The NEB denied that commissioner and panelist Jacques Gauthier and the other commissioners discussed Energy East with Charest after National Observer’s first report on the matter in July

But the watchdog later apologized for providing false and misleading information after records released through access to information legislation revealed that the pipeline project was in fact discussed with Charest.
Those records consist of emails and personal notes from meetings, and show that Gauthier — who had already been named to a three-member panel to review Energy East — invited Charest to discuss the pipeline project in December 2014 with himself and two other commissioners.
Coderre called for a suspension of the federal hearings on Energy East last week in light of the ‘Charest affair,’ questioning whether or not the NEB commissioners who met with Charest are “apt to be panelists.”

Montreal police hold off a large crowd of protesters as the NEB’s Energy East pipeline hearings were set to reconvene before their cancellation on Monday. Photo by AJ Korkidakis .

But the NEB decided to soldier on with the hearings, opting to ban panel speakers from talking about their meetings with Charest and the alleged conflict of interest that represents at the Montreal Energy East hearings. The federal energy watchdog instead asked to receive written complaints about the Charest meetings from stakeholders, saying that anyone who wanted to present arguments or comment on the request for the recusals would have to deliver them on-the-record and in writing before Sept. 7, 2016.
“The Board has determined that it will establish a written process to consider these motions,” said the new letter, signed by Young, the NEB secretary, in response to the motions. “The Board will consider those submissions and establish any further steps after that date.
Green Party of Canada Deputy Leader Daniel Green was slated to speak at the hearing on Monday. He said he was held outside the room by police while protesters were arrested and dragged away. He said the level of frustration over the Montreal hearings is high, adding that “there hasn’t been a day in the last week where reports haven’t come out showing that the current NEB panel seems to be tainted beyond repair.”
“People need to believe that they will get a fair hearing, and people need to believe that one of the options of the National Energy Board is to say no to the pipeline. But evidence that has come out, and been corroborated by the NEB itself, shows that commissioners on the commission are not impartial.”
The lawyers representing environmental groups in Quebec and Ontario said the off-the-record meetings violated NEB rules and tainted the review process since the regulator is supposed to hold open, transparent and fair hearings. The NEB has powers of a federal court and must avoid showing any appearance of a conflict of interest.

Environmental groups, politicians, and other stakeholders have called for the NEB commissioners who met with Charest to recuse themselves from the hearings, or for the NEB to step up and replace them.
Green, who was going to speak to the panel about TransCanada’s urban spill preparedness, said that “social peace” was broken today with the outbreak of violence at the hearings. He said the evidence shows that NEB panelists have pro-pipeline leanings and that, to restore that social peace, they should recuse themselves from the hearings before Minister of Natural Resources Jim Carr is forced to step in.
“Clearly trust has disappeared. It has escalated to violence. This has to stop, and one way to make the conversation civil is to demonstrate that the hearing will be fair and impartial. This impression that the NEB has never met a pipeline it did not approve has to be quelled,” Green said, adding that the only way to accomplish that is to appoint independent commissioners “known to be beyond reproach.”
And Coderre has faced condemnation from political actors across the country for his stance on the pipeline project. Leader of Alberta’s Wildrose Party Brian Jean called for Coderre to stop “meddling” in the process and let the pipeline get built.

The pipeline, if built, would link Alberta oil sands to tidewater in New Brunswick, has strong backing of western Canadian oil producers who believe it will allow them to reach new markets. TransCanada says the Energy East pipeline, if built, would support over 14,000 direct and indirect full-time jobs across Canada during development and construction.
But First Nations groups, environmentalists, and some mayors along the route have fiercely opposed the proposal, arguing that it would prevent Canada from meeting its climate change goals and lead to oil spills that could cripple local economies.
“Even though that I do believe that this authorization of this pipeline will exclude any possibility of Canada meeting its greenhouse gas targets, the whole narrative here is ‘can we build a safe pipeline?’” Green said.
“If at the end of the day we come to the conclusions that it cannot be done, that the risks outweigh the benefit, then the pipeline won’t be built. Even though the elephant in the room is the fundamental question: ‘will this pipeline enable tar-sands expansion, and by doing that nullify Canada’s attempt to meet our Paris targets.”
The NEB said they’d issue a statement on the cancellation and plans for the rest of this week’s scheduled hearings later this afternoon.
Our story will be updated throughout the day as new information becomes available.
-With files from Mike De Souza

McGhee: Millennials Lose 8.8 Trillion Due to Climate Change

A new study has found that without action on climate change, the millennial generation as a whole will lose nearly $8.8 trillion in lifetime income dealing with the economic, health and environmental impacts of climate change. The study, “The Price Tag of Being Young: Climate Change and Millennials’ Economic Future,” was produced by NextGen Climate and Demos. We speak to Heather McGhee, president of Demos and Demos Action.

Consciousness and the Social Brain

Another book I absolutely must read but don’t have time: Michael S. A. Graziano’s Consciousness and the Social Brain (2013, Oxford Univ. Press) I scanned the summary page that encapsulates his theory of consciousness:

social brain.jpg


I will reproduce the text here:


The theory at a glance: from selective signal enhancement to consciousness. 

About half a billion years ago, nervous systems evolved an ability to enhance the most pressing of incoming signals. Gradually, this attentional focus came under top-down control. To effectively predict and deploy its own attentional focus, the brain needed a constantly updated simulation of attention. This model of attention was schematic and lacking in detail. Instead of attributing a complex neuronal machinery to the self, the model attributed to the self an experience of X—the property of being conscious of something. Just as the brain could direct attention to external signals or internal signals, that model of attention could attribute to the self a consciousness of external events or of internal event. As that model increased in sophistication, it came to be used not only to guide one’s own attention, but for a variety of other purposes including understanding other beings. Now, in humans, consciousness is a key part of what makes us socially capable. In this theory, consciousness emerged first with a specific function related to the control of attention and continues to evolve and expand its cognitive role. The theory explains why a brain attributes the property of consciousness to itself, and why we humans are so prone to attribute consciousness to the people and objects around us.

Timeline: Hydras evolve approximately 550 million years ago (MYA) with no selective signal enhancement; animals that do show selective signal enhancement diverge from each other approximately 530 MYA; animals that show sophisticated top-down control of attention diverge from each other approximately 350 MYA. Primates first appear approximately 65 MYA; hominids appear approximately 6 MYA; Homo sapiens appear approximately 0.2 MYA.


Dennis Banks: We Are the Environment

Dennis Banks, co-founder of the American Indian Movement, has also taken part in the protests against the Dakota pipeline. Banks also was part of the 1973 Wounded Knee standoff:

DENNIS BANKS: What’s happening here is equally as important, because of the stand that you’re ready to make. When they threaten the environment, they’re threatening you. We are part mountain. We are part ocean. We are part river. We are part flower and grass and tree. All of this, we are part of all of it, so that when they threaten the environment anyplace, they’re threatening you. You have to be in that mindset like that. That’s who you are. That’s who we are. And our culture, our heritage is what has made us warriors.

Here Dennis Banks speaks a truth that is akin to the dharma of interdependence. We humans are part mountain, ocean, sky, river, fish, bird, otter, wolf, ant, bee, grass, flower, tree, and so on. Are we not then also part African or “black”, North European or “white”, Southern Mediterranean or “Arabic”, Asian or “yellow”, Indigenous or “red”? Are we not carrying within us all of these human traits? Are we not all gifted by this rich heritage of human diversity?

LaDuke: Enbridge Has No Right to Destroy Our Future

In North Dakota, more than a thousand indigenous activists from different tribes have converged at the Sacred Stone Spirit Camp, where protesters are blocking construction of the proposed $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline. Protesters say the pipeline would threaten to contaminate the Missouri River, which provides water not only for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, but for millions of people downstream. For more, we are joined by Winona LaDuke, Native American activist and executive director of the group Honor the Earth. She lives and works on the White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota.

Occupying the Prairie: Tensions Rise as Tribes Move to Block a Pipeline

Lakota riders from the Rosebud, Standing Rock and Lower Brule Reservations stood against a police line in a peaceful demonstration this month as part of a traditional ceremony to introduce horses. Credit Daniella ZalcmanLakota riders from the Rosebud, Standing Rock and Lower Brule Reservations stood against a police line in a peaceful demonstration this month as part of a traditional ceremony to introduce horses. Credit Daniella Zalcman

NEAR CANNON BALL, N.D. — Horseback riders, their faces streaked in yellow and black paint, led the procession out of their tepee-dotted camp. Two hundred people followed, making their daily walk a mile up a rural highway to a patch of prairie grass and excavated dirt that has become a new kind of battlefield, between a pipeline and American Indians who say it will threaten water supplies and sacred lands.

The Texas-based company building the Dakota Access pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, calls the project a major step toward the United States’ weaning itself off foreign oil. The company says the nearly 1,170-mile buried pipeline will infuse millions of dollars into local economies and is safer than trucks and train cars that can topple and spill and crash and burn.

But the people who stood at the gates of a construction site where crews had been building an access road toward the pipeline viewed the project as a wounding intrusion onto lands where generations of their ancestors hunted bison, gathered water and were born and buried, long before treaties and fences stamped a different order onto the Plains.

People have been gathering since April, but as hundreds more poured in over the past two weeks, confrontations began rising among protesters, sheriff’s officers and construction workers with the pipeline company. Local officials are struggling to handle hundreds of demonstrators filling the roads to protest and camp out in once-empty grassland about an hour south of Bismarck, the state capital.

More than 20 people have been arrested on charges including disorderly conduct and trespassing onto the construction site. The pipeline company says it was forced to shut down construction this month after protesters threatened its workers and threw bottles and rocks at contractors’ vehicles.

People demonstrating against the Dakota Access pipeline last week near Cannon Ball, N.D., about an hour south of Bismarck. Credit Daniella Zalcman

Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier of Morton County, who has led the law enforcement response, said at a news conference that he had received reports of weapons and gunshots around the demonstration, and that protesters were getting ready to throw pipe bombs at a line of officers standing between a rally and the construction site.

Leaders from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, whose reservation lies just south of the pipeline’s path, say the protests are peaceful. Weapons, drugs and alcohol are prohibited from the protest camp. Children march in the daily demonstrations. The leaders believed the reports of pipe bombs were a misinterpretation of their calls for demonstrators to get out their wooden chanupa pipes — which have deep spiritual importance — and pass them through the crowd.

The conflict may reach a crucial moment on Wednesday in a federal court hearing. The tribe has sued to block the pipeline and plans to ask a judge in Washington to effectively halt construction.

The pipeline runs overwhelmingly along private land, but where it crosses bodies of water, federal rules come into play and federal approvals are required.

The tribe says the pipeline’s route under the Missouri River near here could threaten its water supplies if the pipeline leaks or breaks, and it says the United States Army Corps of Engineers failed to do proper cultural and historical reviews before granting federal approvals for the pipeline.

CJ Clifford, a member of the Oglala Lakota, said he saw the protests as part of a historical continuum reaching to Little Bighorn. Credit Daniella Zalcman for The New York Times

“This is our homeland,” said Phyllis Young, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux. “We are Dakota. Dakota means friend or ally. Dakota Access has taken our name.”

In legal filings, the corps rejects those claims. It says it consulted extensively with tribes, including the Standing Rock Sioux, and it says that tribe has failed to describe specific cultural sites that would be damaged by the pipeline. Energy Transfer Partners says it has the necessary state and federal permits and hopes to finish construction by the end of the year. The pipeline’s route starts in the Bakken oil fields of western North Dakota and ends in Illinois.

With the fate of the land here and this $3.7 billion project in the air, people here have decided to take action. They are occupying the prairie.

Echoing protests against the now-scuttled Keystone XL pipeline, environmental activists and other tribes from the Dakotas, the rest of the Great Plains and the Pacific Northwest have been arriving to camp in the open fields and protest near the parcel where the pipeline company has secured an agreement with the landowner to build.

The protesters sleep in tents and tepees, cook food in open-air kitchens and share stories and strategies around evening campfires. There is even a day care. At morning meetings, speakers warn parents to keep their children away from the Missouri River at sunset, and remind one another they are camped out in prayer.

A campsite was formed for the hundreds of protesters near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. Credit Daniella Zalcman for The New York Times

“It’s a major movement in Indian country,” said CJ Clifford, a member of the Oglala Lakota, who drove up from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. He saw the protests as part of a historical continuum reaching to Little Bighorn. This battle, he said, was being waged peacefully.

For many, the effort was about reclaiming a stake in ancestral lands that had been whittled down since the 1800s, treaty by broken treaty.

“Lands were constantly getting reduced, shaken up,” said Dave Archambault II, the tribal chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux. “I could give you a list of every wrongdoing this government did to our people. All of that is frustration pent up, and it’s being recognized.”

He added, “It’s a tipping point for our nations.”

This month, a line of sheriff’s officers retreated in the face of riders on horseback circling and yipping through the grass. (Tribal members said that the display was a Lakota gesture of introduction, and that they have no quarrel with law enforcement.)

There have been no moves so far to disband the camp or keep people from demonstrating. But Sheriff Kirchmeier told reporters that the demonstration had become an “unlawful protest,” and Gov. Jack Dalrymple, citing “public safety risks,” declared a state of emergency on Friday.

The Creekside Singers from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota last week at a campsite near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Credit Daniella Zalcman for The New York Times

Local law enforcement officers set up a barricade on the main road leading to the pipeline site, and officials here in Morton County called a special meeting on Monday to talk about the traffic and how to handle a hundreds-strong protest that could linger for weeks or months.

At the sprawling campsite down the road from the protest site, there had been portable toilets, 500-gallon tanks of drinking water and an air-conditioned trailer with medical supplies provided by the state. But late Monday night, people at the camp said the medical trailer and water tanks had been removed, leaving them to scramble for a new water source for hundreds of people.

After a prayer ceremony at the construction site one recent afternoon, a few young men on horseback opened the gate and rode onto the land. A few days earlier they might have been arrested and accused of trespassing, but that day there were no officers to stop them.

The pipeline company said that it temporarily stopped work here this month while “law enforcement works to contain the unlawful protests,” but that construction was continuing elsewhere.

Energy Transfer Partners has sued Mr. Archambault and six other people over the protests. In a federal lawsuit filed last week, the company accused them and other protesters of blocking access to the construction site, threatening workers and trespassing onto private land.

Jon Eagle Sr., the historic preservation officer for the Standing Rock Sioux, watched from the side of the road as the young men rode into the grassy field, toward a construction floodlight and heaps of excavated dirt. He did not want the pipeline to breach this land. But he did not seem to approve of this either.

“They need to stay out,” he said. “They don’t know where the burials are. They don’t know where the sacred sites are. I’m trying my best to keep the peace.”

Gov Orders Police to Cut Water Supply to Native Americans as Pipeline Protesters Skyrocket

from Warrior Publications


Thousands join protest camp as supporters are holding a rally in Washington D.C. on Wednesday outside of Army Corps hearing.

Growing in number and spirit, the Standing Rock Sioux protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline is swiftly gaining strength ahead of a federal hearing on the controversial project. Support has spread across the country, and thousands have descended on the peaceful “prayer camps” in recent days, prompting state officials on Monday to remove the demonstrators’ drinking water supply.

North Dakota homeland security director Greg Wilz ordered the removal of state-owned trailers and water tanks from the protest encampment, despite the sweltering heat, because of alleged disorderly conduct, according to the Bismarck Tribune, including reports of laser pointers aimed at surveillance aircraft.

“People are getting overheated now already,” said Johnelle Leingang, the tribe’s emergency response coordinator, as temperatures hovered around 90º F on Monday. “It’s very hurtful.”

The supplies were provided last week by the North Dakota Department of Health at the tribe’s request to support the roughly 2,500 people now gathered along the Standing Rock reservation’s border on the Cannonball River, near where the pipeline is slated to cross.

Standing Rock spokesman Steven Sitting Bear said he’s received “notifications from tribes all over the country that have caravans in route, so it’s continuing to grow.”

On Wednesday, high profile activists and supporters are rallying in Washington D.C. outside the U.S. District Court, where members of the Standing Rock Sioux will argue that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers granted Energy Transfer Corporation approval for the 1,172-mile pipeline without tribal consent.

The tribe says that the pipeline—which will carry up to 570,000 barrels of fracked Bakken oil daily across four states to a market hub in Illinois—puts the sacred waters of the Missouri River at great risk.

“The Army Corps of Engineers might back off… We might, after five centuries, actually listen to the only people who’ve ever successfully inhabited this continent for the long term.”
—Bill McKibben

Climate campaigner and co-founder Bill McKibben penned an op-ed on Monday titled “After 525 years, it’s time to actually listen to Native Americans.”

McKibben notes that in recent years Indigenous people like the Standing Rock Sioux “have been the vanguard of the movement to slow down climate change,” and offers a vision of “what it might mean if the  if the Army Corps, or the Obama administration, simply said: ‘You know what, you’re right. We don’t need to build this pipeline.’”

“It would mean that after 525 years, someone had actually paid attention to the good sense that Native Americans have been offering almost from the start,” he continues:

One has the ominous sense of grim history about to be reenacted at Standing Rock. North Dakota authorities—who are in essence a subsidiary of the fossil fuel industry—have insisted that the Sioux are violent, that they have “pipe bombs.” There are rumors about calling in the National Guard. The possibility for renewed tragedy is very real.

But the possibility for a new outcome is there as well. The Army Corps of Engineers might back off. The president might decide, as he did with Keystone, that this pipeline would “exacerbate” climate change and hence should be reviewed more carefully. We might, after five centuries, actually listen to the only people who’ve ever successfully inhabited this continent for the long term.

Construction on the pipeline remains halted after developers paused the project last week in anticipation of the Wednesday hearing.

Meanwhile, a U.S. District Court hearing on whether a preliminary injunction should be issued against the protesters has been rescheduled from Thursday to Sept. 8, although a restraining order against the demonstrators has also been extended until then. Filing the order on Monday, U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland wrote that factions are ‘”strongly encouraged to meet and confer in good faith’ to try and resolve the dispute out of court,” the Tribune reported.

Updates are being shared on social media with the hashtags #NoDAPL and#RezpectOurWater.

Paradox: Mystery Is Endless Knowability

Richard Rohr is a Franciscan Monk who teaches the Roman Catholic mystical tradition from a non-dualist perspective, incorporating many Buddhist and eastern ideas and practices. He’s one of the few Catholic teachers I draw from. I am not a deist, so I apply references to “God” to “spiritual practice.” 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

How do we live the contradictions? Live them—not just endure them or relieve ourselves from the tension by quickly resolving them. The times where we meet or reckon with our contradictions are often turning points, opportunities to enter into the deeper mystery of God or, alternatively, to evade the mystery of God. I’m deliberately using the word mystery to point to depth, an open future, immense freedom, a kind of beauty and truth that can’t be fully spoken or defined.

Many mystics speak of the God-experience as simultaneously falling into an abyss and being grounded. This sounds like a contradiction, but in fact, when you allow yourself to fall into the abyss—into hiddenness, limitlessness, unknowability, a void without boundaries—you discover it’s somehow a rich, supportive, embracing spaciousness where you don’t have to ask (or answer) the questions of whether you’re right or wrong. You’re being held and so you do not need to try to “hold” yourself together. Please reflect on that.

01-e1417564431601.jpgThis might be the ultimate paradox of the God-experience: “falling into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). When you can lend yourself to it and not fight it or explain it, falling into the abyss is ironically an experience of ground, of the rock, of the foundation. This is totally counterintuitive. Your dualistic, logical mind can’t get you there. It can only be known experientially. That’s why the mystics use magnificent metaphors—none of them adequate or perfect—for this experience. “It’s like. . . . It’s like . . . ,” they love to say.

Mystery is not something you can’t know. Mystery is endless knowability. Living inside such endless knowability is finally a comfort, a foundation of ultimate support, security, unrestricted love, and eternal care. For all of us, it takes much of our life to get there; it is what we surely mean by “growing” in faith. I can’t prove this to you. Each soul must learn on its own, hopefully aided by observing other faith-filled people.

Gateway to Silence: Welcome what is.


Adapted from Richard Rohr, Holding the Tension: The Power of Paradox (CAC: 2007), disc 3 (CD, MP3 download).

Last Days of the Buddha: Modern Opera

The Triumph of Life: The Last Days of the Buddha, an opera by Maitreyabandhu, performed at the London Buddhist Centre, UK. This is a brilliant musical score, a great piece of modern performance that should be known throughout the opera world. What amazes me is how much energy and emotion is expressed within what is normally considered to be a very dry subject, the death of the Buddha. I don’t have much information on the composition, direction or staging of this event, but I’d like to know more. If anyone has information, please comment below.

Avant-Garde Buddhism

I finally hit on what it is that I’ve been seeking in my Buddhist practice that is so missing in the usual sanghas of Buddhism-as-religion: avant-garde Buddhism. I have called it by many names: post-buddhism, x-post-non Buddhism. But “avant-garde’ finally hit the nail on the head.

My greatest inspirations in the dharma have been avant-garde  artists who were also Buddhists, or who were influenced by Buddhism: Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, John Cage, Laurie Anderson, Lou Reed, Meredith Monk, and transcendental artists like Patti Smith and Bjork. I’m about to get into a book on the subject: Nothing and Everything – The Influence of Buddhism on the American Avant Garde 1942 – 1962  by Ellen Perlman (Penguin-Randomhouse, 2012).


But beyond avant-garde art forms, I’m also keen on avant-garde approaches to the dharma per se. Avant-garde art influenced by Buddhism gives way to avant-garde transformations of Buddhism itself. I’d like to courageously push the dharma as far into the avant-garde edges of mysticism, philosophy, sociology, art and human experience as I can. I’m sick of religious Buddhism and its use as a narcotic for the neurasthenic middle class. I want to engage in a practice that pushes the dharma and my own practice experience to a vertiginous edge.

I’m working on a new piece of music and performance art called Shunyata: process, flow. I use electronic and improvised music, light, chant and dance to portray shunyata as the process/flow of natural events.

The key for me is not to push only on the avant-garde end, but to let the rebellious dissent and transgression of the avant-garde vibrate in tension with religious Buddhism. If one only pushes toward the avant-garde, then all you get is something that tries to be weirder than weird and fails to communicate anything. But if you let it stand in direct tension with religious or traditional Buddhism, it gives the avant-garde something to push against, something to define itself.

And mind you, this is not some schmaltzy attempt at the “middle way.” No, this is a head-on collision between two opposing forces, and the messy explosion of atomic energy that it generates.

The following blog post by author Joseph Hutchinson starts to say what I’m getting at.

Buddhism, Darwinism, Avant-Garde