Home, home again.
I like to be here when I can.
When I come home cold and tired
It's good to warm my bones beside the fire.
– Pink Floyd, from “Breathe (reprise)”
The Eternal Flame
After reading an article, "The Beloved Community," which alludes to the nurturing aspects of the occupy movement and community in general, then connecting that with Indigenous prophecies highlighting an end to the macho-male era of predatory capitalism and the rise of the sacred feminine with deep respect for Mother Earth, the Greek goddess Hestia texted my mind.
Hestia is the "virgin goddess of the hearth (both private and municipal) and the home"1 or "rightly ordered household. The cult of Hestia can be seen as a ritual system whose primary purpose was the creation or maintenance of boundaries (i.e., public/private, secular/sacred, kin/stranger)."2
The occupy movement helped create 'new' boundaries within bustling cities, among other places. While the straight line is the shortest distance between two points it is not always the most interesting or enjoyable. The occupy sites served to dissect and re-route the 24/7 9 to 5 march of progress. The faux-powers-that-be do not like such yellow lights because people milling about, hanging around, and otherwise spreading themselves across an area predominantly intended for institutionalized commerce does not jive with said powers' spreadsheets. Such spontaneous activity puts a wrinkle in the plans of the great washed, whiter-whites mainstream culture.
In the aforementioned article, Randall Amster, J.D., Ph.D. and Windy Cooler write:
"Can we forge a union between the political ideal of solidarity and a traditional domestic vision? This represents a planned departure from alienation in the work of activists, creating supportive relationships inside activist communities where burnout has been a powerful, destructive force both personally and politically. We have seen examples of this in the occupy movement. What was more powerful in the camps of last fall and winter than the communal kitchens, our libraries, the childcare we created for one another? What is more powerful today than the home occupations?"3
At Zuccotti Park, in November of 2011, generators and containers of fuel, gas, or diesel were deemed forbidden by the FDNY.4 Whether legitimate or a pretext for evacuating the occupy site is debatable, but it is fair to say that this was a blow against Hestia's flame, and though the flame wavered it stays lit, having migrated to low-wage worker protests, occupy volunteers feeding FEMA personnel plus helping fellow citizens with hurricane full moon Sandy relief 5, and other under-reported activities.
Whether you warm yourself by the hearth of Hestia, the Anishinabe "Seven fires prophecy," or a weekend campfire — a flame is still a flame.
"The Eighth Fire is a term arising from the teachings of the Seven fires prophecy. The teaching suggests that if enough people—of all colors and faiths—turn from materialism and instead choose a path of respect, wisdom and spirituality, environmental and social catastrophe can be avoided, and an era of spiritual illumination will unfold."6
The sacred feminine does not exclude males, and words such as nurturing, justice, understanding, and intuition are gender-neutral.
Whether at home or municipally, whether in front of fire or gadget screen . . . the way we gather shapes the way the culture moves and the consciousness carried along with it.
On-The-Go or What Have You Done For Me Latte?
Electricity and gasoline have replaced fire as the main generators of society, and a shift in caffeinated beverages follows suit. Coffees, lattes, cappuccinos and the like provide an on-the-go hearth as people gather in coffee shops, coffee shops in bookstores, etc. to socialize and network.
Add an array of portable gadgets and one can see how this hearth away from hearth lifestyle is being embarced by a variety of electronic gypsy-nomads. Take note, too, that the hearth as commercial venue is often fueled by marketeers who are savvy at franchising a cozy atmosphere.
Empires and capitalist pugilists are not fond of real nurturing, rather a Caligulaesque decadence amidst the putrid fruits of not-their labor. They have little time to stop and smell the roses, rather cut and sell them. They have little time to stop and smell the coffee, rather steam and milk the customer. I don't mean to insult anyone's enjoyment of caffeinated beverages or a store owner’s efforts to do business, but those drinks have never appealed to my palate so I remain a $1 to $2 basic coffee guy marveling at how popular the plethora of $3 to $6 hot bevvies are, even during tough economic times.
Although the following is a questionable origin of coffee story, it does provide a useful metaphor:
"There is a legend that a long time ago (some have it around the year 800 BC, others around 500 AD), an Ethiopian goat herder by the name of Kaldi, noticed that some of his goats were frolicking about much more than they normally did. He saw that they had been eating something from a bush with dark shiny leaves. Upon closer inspection, he saw that they had been eating the red berries from the bushes. Kaldi ate some of the coffee cherries himself, and, being amazed at the stimulating effect that they had, brought some to the local monk. The monk boiled the cherries and made a beverage that was strong and bitter. Like Kaldi, the monk felt the effect of the caffeine in the drink and liked it very much. The beverage soon became popular as the monks found that it helped keep them awake during long hours of prayer."7
That monks could, subsequently, stay up later at night to pray lends a more tranquil image to coffee, though perhaps the monks prayed and chanted feverishly into the dawn.
Further following the monastic trail:
"'Cappuccino' comes from the diminutive form of cappuccio, meaning hood or something that covers the head. The coffee beverage has its name from not the hood but the colour of the robes worn by monks and nuns of the capuchin order. The capuchins chose the particular design of their orders' robes both in colour and shape of the hood back in the 16th century, inspired by Francis of Assisi's preserved 13th century vestments. The long and pointed hood was characteristic and soon gave the brothers the nickname 'capuchins' (hood-wearing). It was, however the choice of red-brown as the order's vestment colour that, as early as the 17th century, saw 'capuchin' used also as a term for a specific colour."8
The boundaries of home, monastery, and coffee shop are open to interpretation.
Yet Hestia's sense of hearthy, comfy boundaries can be seriously abused. WW II concentration camps for Jews, gypsies, gays, and others . . . Native American reservations aka POW camps . . . wooded areas fenced-in with signs from the State, "No Trespassing" . . . having to pay to enter a National park site . . . free speech zones . . . the barely living spaces of factory farmed animals . . . sweatshop slave labor . . .
Recent news brings to mind the likes of Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, Leonard Peltier, and Mumia Abu-Jamal; four human beings imprisoned or penned-in without conclusive evidence of harm done, and, to varying degrees, being treated harshly.
Assange is in an Ecuadorean embassy in London. Peltier, at age 66 and with health issues, has been imprisoned for 35 years and is currently at a federal correctional complex in Florida. Abu-Jamal, after 29 years on death row, is still locked up in a state prison in Pennsylvania, though death row is no longer his bunkmate. These are high-profile cases, used, in part, as example to quell the masses.
Being penned-in, however, does not necessarily squelch the pen. Julian Assange recently released his book Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet. Leonard Peltier's book, Prison Writings: My Life Is My Sun Dance, was published in 2000, and Mumia Abu-Jamal is the author or co-author of numerous books, including Live from Death Row, The Classroom and the Cell: Conversations on Black Life in America with Marc Lamont Hill, Jailhouse Lawyers: Prisoners Defending Prisoners v. the USA with Angela Y. Davis, All Things Censored with Noelle Hanrahan and Alice Walker, and Death Blossoms: Reflections from a Prisoner of Conscience with Cornel West.
At a "pre-trial hearing at Fort Meade in Maryland" Bradley Manning was quoted as saying, "If you took your head and put it on the cell door and looked through the crack, you could see down the hall the reflection of the window . . . there was a skylight. You could see the reflection of the reflection of it if you angled your face on the door of the cell."9
He was, of course, seeking the light, literally and metaphorically, for what greater hearth is there than the sun? What greater awakening than light itself?
"Manning related how he tried to keep healthy and sane within the tiny confines. For the first few weeks of his confinement in Quantico he was allowed only 20 minutes outside the cell, known as a 'sunshine call'."10
Meanwhile, too quietly amid the societal chatter over caffeinated beverages the following news gets reported: "After months of negotiations, lawmakers voted 98-0 to approve the $631 billion National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, which actually began on October 1."11
That wad of money (and perhaps all monies ever used as such) has behind it a track record of supremacist brutality: The Civil War ("The black troops, however, faced greater peril than white troops when captured by the Confederate Army."12) . . . Native American POW camps . . . Hiroshima and Nagasaki . . . Japanese internment camps . . . the use of Agent Orange on the Vietnamese . . . Guantanamo and related Islamophobia . . . higher than average incarceration rates of African Americans and Latinos . . .
In the face of these shackle factories, though penned-in, the likes of Bradley Manning are examples of Homo sapiens' indomitable spirit, hard-wired to find the light, the fire, and if luxury permits, a $6 caffeinated beverage.
If, as the scientists say, part of the Earth's core is molten, then we are all, in fact, one people gathering around one hearth.
- The Beloved Community
- Occupy Wall Street Fire Hazard: Real Or Just A Pretext?
- Occupy Sandy: A Human Response to the New Realities of Climate Change [FILM]
- Seven fires prophecy and The People of the Seventh Fire
- The History of Coffee
- Bradley Manning: How Keeping Himself Sane Was Taken as Proof of Madness
- US Senate approves $631 billion defense budget
- The Fight for Equal Rights: Black Soldiers in the Civil War
Mankh (Walter E. Harris III) is an essayist and resident poet on Axis of Logic. In addition to his work as a writer, he is a small press publisher and Turtle Islander. He edited the anthology, The (Un)Occupy Movement: Autonomy of Consciousness, Practical Solutions, Human Equality, and hosts an audio show "Between the Lines: listening to literature online." You can contact him via his literary website.
READ MORE OF MANKH'S POEMS AND ESSAYS ON AXIS OF LOGIC