Thursday, January 24, 2008

Telesis File : Top health stories of 2007

From contaminated toothpaste and deadly spinach to DNA revelations and vegansexuals, there were surprises from all health fronts in 2007 as new fads emerged as well as new dangers. Here are just some of the most notable stories in medicine, health and wellness from a wild year. China - Getting the lead out: First, dogs and cats started dying - the culprit was melamine that found its way from animal feed in China to pet food in North America. Then, American and Canadian consumers were told to avoid Chinese-made toothpaste after thousands of recalled tubes in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama and the Dominican Republic were found to contain diethylene glycol, an ingredient in anti-freeze. When millions of toys — all made in China — were recalled in the United States over concerns about lead levels, things really got serious. Under political pressure from the United States, China cracked down on product safety, shutting factories and beefing up regulations. Oh, and it also executed - yes, executed the former drug safety chief. With the 2008 Olympics in Beijing approaching, the country not only needs to keep safety problems from reaching North America, but must also contain them at home, because product safety was an issue in China long before it reached us. Local Eating: Sticking close to home ‘Locavore’ was named Oxford’s word of the year, but that doesn’t mean there’s consensus on the definition. Is it eating food grown within 100 miles of your home, as two British Columbians committed to doing? Is it eating within your state or province? Your country? What if it’s local but not organic? And are the environmental benefits over conventional diets really that remarkable? Some people say maybe not, and argue that excluding far-flung foods may hurt struggling farmers in poor countries. Locavores say the environmental results are there, and point out the other benefits of a diet that sticks close to home: local foods support local farmers and artisans, and because they’re fresher, they taste better. Cloned meat - Got clones: The possibility of cloned meat sold on a mass scale has come up before, but in 2007, it started to seem more likely. The FDA debated what the regulations would be around the labelling of meat coming from cloned animals — if there would be any at all. A decision on the sale of cloned foods was expected by the end of the year. Meanwhile, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a California bill that would have required labelling for meat from cloned animals. And a Wired magazine investigation pointed out that while governments and regulatory bodies battle it out, consumers might already be eating meat from animals descended from clones. Gene sequencing - Your personal map, for a price: In September, Craig Venter showed the world his genetic sequence, revealing many things about him: he’s pre-disposed to waxy ears; he carries genes for heart disease and Alzheimer’s, but also longevity; he may be more likely than others to be a smoker, thanks to seven genes linked to tobacco addiction. There’s also a lot his genome doesn’t tell us, because we don’t know yet what those genes do and how they do it — and that’s what worries some people about companies like 23andMe (and deCODEme), which will decode your genetic make-up for about $1000. As scientists learn more about how our genes work, these services will give people more information about their health. The concern, then, is how will people react to the information and are they paying for something that ultimately may be meaningless to them. Food scares - Salad with a side of E coli: Most people wouldn’t think twice about eating spinach — organic spinach, no less. They might even go out of their way for it. It’s a vegetable, after all, high in folate and iron. But it also killed three people in the United States in late 2006 and infected nearly 200 others. The culprit was E. coli, a bacteria usually associated with meat that may have found its way into bagged spinach via cow manure through the irrigation system. The contamination and subsequent recall set in motion an examination of safety standards in the produce industry. But if several meat recalls this year didn’t remind people that the food supply might not be safe, a report on the Food and Drug Administration released by an advisory panel containing scientists and industry representatives that pointed to a funding situation that puts American lives ‘at risk’ certainly did. Functional foods - Healthy business: If you think that all foods are functional, you haven’t spent much time in a grocery store’s drinks aisle lately. The options have widened considerably beyond orange juice, apple juice, soda and bottled water. Now, if a beverage doesn’t offer some sort of additional health benefit, it’s passe. Exotic fruits like acai, mangosteen and goji berries are showing up in juice drinks, boasting impressive amounts of antioxidants and vitamins. Glaceau’s vitaminwater earned itself some cache with a purchase by Coca-Cola and celebrity endorsements from Jennifer Aniston and 50 Cent, even if critics charged the health claims weren’t supported. And speaking of Coke, they introduced Enviga, a green tea-spiked beverage the company says helps burn calories. It also set up a facility in China to research traditional medicines, with the hopes of applying that knowledge to future product offerings. Functional foods have really made a splash in the beverages category, but they’re trickling out into other parts of the grocery store as well — witness the sudden ubiquitiousness of probiotics in everything from yogurt to breakfast cereal. Vegansexuality - Meat-eaters need not apply: It was also a year in which our eating habits spilled into other areas of our lives, including our relationships. Enter vegansexuals: vegans who won’t date carnivores. There was some debate about whether the trend was real or mostly existed online and in newspapers. Either way, vegansexuality’s brief time as a hit with bloggers points to how much we’re paying attention not just to what we’re eating — and what everyone else is eating — but also what that says other aspects of our lives. US Health - State of the union: With all this in mind, where are Americans at the end of 2007, health-wise? For one, they’re living longer — three years longer in 2004 than in 1990 for men, and one for women. But during those longer lives, they’re also getting more chronic diseases, meaning more Americans are living with pain and disability. Obesity rates for adults have leveled off, with 33 percent of men and 35 percent of women reported as obese in a 2005/06 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up slightly from 31 and 33 percent respectively in the 2003/04 survey. That change isn’t statistically significant, but it’s still quite a way from the 15 percent rate seen in 1980. Ironically, some studies showed that the millions of Americans in the overweight range — defined as a body mass index between 25 and 29 — actually have a lower death rate than not only the obese, but also those who are underweight and normal weight. Childhood obesity , however, is still increasing, and recent studies have shown that obese children are at risk of future health issues, particularly coronary problems - some experts are predicting that we’ll see a spike in cases in 20 years.

Telesis File : Deadly Poisons From the Deep

Fish flesh today is badly contaminated with toxic chemicals that are known to cause cancer and brain degeneration and is also the most likely of all foods to make you sick from bacterial contamination. Think Fish Is a Health Food? Think Again. Fish live in water that is so polluted, you would never dream of drinking it. But you’re ingesting this toxic brew—bacteria, contaminants, heavy metals and all—every time you eat fish. Fish’s bodies absorb toxic chemicals in the water around them, and the chemicals become more concentrated as they move up the food chain. Big fish eat little fish, with the bigger fish (such as tuna and salmon) absorbing chemicals from all the other fish they eat. Fish flesh stores contaminants, such as PCBs, which cause liver damage, nervous system disorders, and fetal damage; dioxins, also linked to cancer; radioactive substances like strontium 90; and other dangerous contaminants like cadmium, mercury, lead, chromium, and arsenic, which can cause health problems ranging from kidney damage and impaired mental development to cancer. These toxins are stored in the body fat of humans who eat fish and remain in their bodies for decades.5 Seafood is the number one cause of food poisoning in the United States. Seafood poisoning can result in extreme discomfort, kidney damage, nervous system damage, and even death. Seafood is also the number one cause of food poisoning in the United States. Many of our waterways are polluted with human and animal feces, and this waste carries dangerous bacteria like E. coli. So when we eat fish, we are exposing ourselves to the unnecessary risk of contracting a nasty bacterial illness that can lead to mild to extreme discomfort, nervous system damage, and even death. According to a report by the General Accounting Office, the seafood industry is dangerously underregulated. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t even bother to test most fish flesh for many well-known chemical and bacterial health hazards. It’s the Mercury Consumption of fish and other sea animals is the sole source of human exposure to methyl mercury. —New England Journal of Medicine (2003) Around the world, fish are accumulating toxic mercury in their flesh as a result of industrial pollution. Fish absorb and ingest the mercury and store it in their tissues. If you eat fish, your body will absorb mercury from the fish’s flesh, and the accumulation of this toxin can lead to serious health problems. It is worth noting that fish consumption is the sole source of human exposure to this known poison. Eating even small amounts of fish flesh can have a big impact on the levels of mercury in our blood. A study by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revealed that women who ate fish just twice a week had blood mercury concentrations seven times higher than women who hadn’t eaten fish in the previous month. Studies have also shown that a 140-pound woman will be 30 percent over the EPA cutoff for safe mercury levels if she eats just one 6-ounce can of white tuna each week. Mercury is known to cause severe health problems for humans, including brain damage, memory loss, personality change, tremors, spontaneous abortion, and damage to a developing fetus. Mercury Is a Poison "We found that if people eat fish, the mercury goes up. They stop eating fish, the mercury goes down. It's that simple ... It's a documented poison. Wherever it's seen, it's been a problem." —Dr. Jane M. Hightower Mercury is known to cause severe health problems for humans, including brain damage, memory loss, personality change, tremors, spontaneous abortion, and damage to a developing fetus.15 Mercury poisoning from eating fish can also cause fatigue and memory loss, which some doctors call “fish fog.” A study conducted by San Francisco physician Jane Hightower found that dozens of her patients had high levels of mercury in their bodies and many showed symptoms of mercury poisoning, including hair loss, fatigue, depression, difficulty concentrating and headaches. She found that her patients’ symptoms improved when they stopped eating fish.18 “[Mercury is] a documented poison. Wherever it’s seen, it’s been a problem,” says Hightower. Researchers have also shown that the mercury in marine animals can cause heart problems in humans who eat their flesh. A recent report released by the Research Institute of Public Health in Finland showed that men who have elevated levels of mercury in their blood from eating fish are roughly 1.5 times more likely to suffer from heart problems, including heart disease and heart attacks. Toxic Flesh Fish can concentrate extremely high levels of chemical residues in their flesh and fat, as much as 9 million times that of the water in which they live. Mercury isn’t the only dangerous toxin in fish flesh—people who eat fish also ingest PCBs. As big fish eat little fish, PCBs become more concentrated in their flesh. Fish-eaters who ingest these dangerous chemicals suffer from increased cancer risk and may experience decreased mental functioning and damaged sexual health. PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, are synthetic chemicals that were once used in hydraulic fluids and oils and electrical capacitors and transformers. These toxins were banned in the United States in 1979 for use in all but completely enclosed areas, but heavy past usage has resulted in environmental contamination worldwide, especially in fish. PCBs are dangerous because they act like hormones, wreaking havoc on the nervous system and contributing to a variety of illnesses, including cancer, infertility, and other sexual problems. Researchers at the University of Illinois found that fish-eaters with high levels of PCBs in their blood have difficulty recalling information that they learned just 30 minutes earlier. PCBs are absorbed into the bodies of fish. Bigger fish who eat smaller fish accumulate greater and greater concentrations of PCBs in their flesh and can reach levels that may be many thousands of times higher than the PCB levels in the water itself, which most people would never think of drinking. One bottle-nose dolphin had PCB levels of 2,000 parts per million (ppm)—40 times the amount required for hazardous waste disposal. Inuit natives, whose diets consist largely of fish, have been found with PCB levels of 15.7 ppm in their fat, far higher concentrations than the maximum amount considered to be safe in fish by the EPA (.094 ppm). Nearly all Inuit have PCB levels far above guideline levels that health officials consider safe, and some Inuit have ingested so much contamination from fish that their breast milk and body tissues would be classified as hazardous waste. In the United States in 2002, 38 states issued fish consumption advisories because of high PCB levels. PCBs Will Make You Stupid Fish-eaters in one study had high levels of lead, mercury, and DDE in their blood. Even low concentrations of lead can cause mental retardation and physical disability in children. Higher levels can lead to coma, convulsions, and death. Dr. Susan L. Schantz of the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine has been studying fish-eaters since 1992 and has found that people who ate 24 pounds or more of fish per year have problems with learning and memory. (On average, people around the world consume 40 pounds of fish per year.) She found that fish-eaters often have high levels of PCBs in their blood and thus have difficulty recalling information they learned just 30 minutes earlier. Says Schantz: “It had been assumed that mature adults are less susceptible [to PCBs] than are developing fetuses. This may not be the case.” Some fish-eaters in her study had high levels of lead, mercury, and DDE (formed when DDT breaks down) in their blood. Even low concentrations of lead can cause mental retardation and physical disability in children. Higher levels can lead to learning disabilities, behavioral problems, seizures, and even death. Fish Farming: Making Fish Flesh Even More Toxic Because salmon are becoming so rare in the wild, 80 percent of the salmon consumed in America today come from massive fish farms. These farmed fish are actually fed the flesh of wild-caught fish. It takes 5 pounds of commercially caught fish (all species that would not be saleable to humans) to create 1 pound of farmed fish. All that commercially netted fish comes with heavy doses of toxins, as discussed above, which then concentrate in the flesh of farmed fish, making it the most toxic thing that humans routinely put into their bodies. Farmed salmon also have twice the fat of wild salmon, and this fat collects even more toxins. Tests on farmed salmon purchased at U.S. grocery stores show that these fish are contaminated with even more PCBs than their wild counterparts. Plus, farmed salmon are dyed pink to impersonate their wild cousins. In 2003, a class-action lawsuit was filed in the state of Washington because the labeling on farmed salmon neglected to mention the artificial coloring. Scientists are concerned because the dyes used in salmon can cause retinal damage. Finally, in August 2004, scientists from Indiana University warned that industrial-strength fire retardant is showing up in salmon flesh worldwide. The health consequences of exposure to all the toxins found in salmon can be grave—the Environmental Working Group estimates that 800,000 people in the U.S. face an excess lifetime cancer risk from eating farmed salmon. Food Poisoning: Catch of the Day According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are about 75 million cases of foodborne illness every year, including hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands of deaths. And seafood is the number one cause of food poisoning in the United States.58 Symptoms of seafood poisoning include mild to extreme discomfort, nervous system damage, and even death. “[T]he seafood industry has a very poor record of compliance and there is no government testing to monitor pathogens often associated with seafood poisoning. FDA’s seafood-safety system is an industry honor system unworthy of public support.” —Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest Seafood poisoning is caused by eating foods contaminated with viruses or bacteria including salmonella, listeria, and E. coli. When Consumer Reports looked at bacteria levels in fresh fish bought at supermarkets around the country, they found that between 3 and 8 percent of the samples tested had “unacceptable” levels of E. coli, a bacterium that comes from human or animal feces, that pollutes some waterways. “Seafood is a major cause of food poisoning, sickening more than 100,000 and causing dozens of preventable deaths each year.” —Caroline Smith DeWaal, Center for Science in the Public Interest food safety director Many people may have had food poisoning without even knowing it, mistakenly attributing it to a case of “stomach flu.” Like the flu, people infected with bacteria from tainted marine animals often suffer from vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. If left untreated, this food poisoning can lead to death.61 Children, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with impaired immune systems are particularly vulnerable. Since fish flesh is a major cause of food poisoning, those who consume fish flesh risk unnecessary illness with every bite they take. The academic journal Environmental Microbiology published an alarming report in July 2006 about the human-health threat caused by the massive amounts of antibiotics that are fed to fish on fish farms. These drugs are used to keep the animals alive in filthy, crowded conditions that would otherwise kill them. But scientists are very concerned that the overuse of these drugs will cause antibiotic-resistant bacteria to multiply in the fish and that people who eat the infected fish flesh will contract dangerous illnesses that cannot be cured by drugs. “If we don't curb the heavy use of prophylactic antibiotics in aquaculture, then we will ultimately see more and more antibiotic-resistant pathogens emerging, causing increased disease to fish, animals, and humans alike,” said Dr. Felipe Cabello, the author of the study. The FDA: What the Government Doesn’t Tell You Can Hurt You The FDA doesn’t prevent even the most heavily contaminated fish from being sold, nor does it require warning labels on the fish that even the administration itself admits that pregnant women shouldn’t eat, making it difficult for consumers to know about the dangers. University of Arizona toxicologist Vas Aposhian says the government should put stricter limits on all canned tuna, explaining, “The new recommendations are dangerous to 99 percent of pregnant women and their unborn children.”69 According to a report by the General Accounting Office (GAO), the seafood industry is woefully underregulated. Seafood processors are only inspected by the FDA once every two years, and many aren’t inspected at all, since they aren’t required to register with the FDA. Only 1 to 3 percent of fish imported from other countries is inspected at the border. Many segments of the industry are completely exempt from regulation, including warehouses and most shipboard processors. When inspections do occur, they are inadequate, since there is an array of well-known hazards, including (remarkably) mercury contamination, that the FDA does not test fish for. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s Food Safety Director Caroline Smith DeWaal, “[The] FDA’s seafood program is riddled with deficiencies, woefully underfunded, and provides no assurance of safety for consumers.” Whose Side Are They on? Even though the dangers of consuming fish are well known, government agencies continue to place the interests of the fish producers above the health of the public. The Environmental Working Group charges that the FDA changed its mind about advisories limiting tuna consumption after being pressured by the seafood industry. One leading FDA advisory panel expert resigned in protest after learning that the FDA was going to “disregard” science and not warn consumers about the health risks of eating tuna. A University of Arizona toxicologist, Vas Aposhian, said that the advisory should have put stricter limits on all canned tuna. “The new recommendations are dangerous to 99 percent of pregnant women and their unborn children,” he said. “It seems that one should be more concerned about the health of the future children of this country than the albacore tuna industry.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Telesis File : Tibet - Give Us Liberty, Give Us Peace

48 years occupied by China - Over 17% of Tibetans killed - 6,000 monasteries destroyed - Genocide by the Chinese continues - Appeal to the world community for help - Give us genuine self rule autonomy! "The often used Chinese assertion that Tibet is a part of China is a complete lie," were the first words of Professor Thubten Jigme Norbu, the older brother of H.H. the Dalai Lama. The 75-year old gentleman with friendly face and bright eyes is at the head of a group of Tibetans on their 600-mile march from Toronto to New York City to protest the continuing occupation of Tibet by China, now in its 48th year. The United States have long supported the Tibetan struggle for freedom and independence for many years. President Bill Clinton received His Holiness the Dalai Lama in the White House several years ago, and met him again this spring Tibet was not part of China at any time, in any way. During the first few years of occupation the Chinese official line was that Tibet should be part of China because a Tibetan Emperor had once married a Chinese princess. Later on, the Chinese said that Tibet was part of China bacause of Genghis Khan. They talk about the time when the Mongols came to Tibet and subdued it. The Genghis Khan and the Mongols controlled Tibet, but they never incorporated Tibet into China. If that kind of reasoning were correct, then America should belong to England. Although the Chinese attempt to deny it, the Tibetans and the Chinese are completely different people: their culture, religion, way of life, habits, way of eating are all different. The languages are of course completely different. Tibetans have a spoken language, and a written language which comes from the Indian script Sanskrit. Tibet had its own government before the Chinese took over. It was a theocratic government led by H.H. the Dalai Lama. They had a National Assembly, and its own army. Tibet also had its own currency, gold and silver coins, as well as paper money. Tibet had its own postal system and its own stamps. Before the Chinese invasion, Tibet had nothing to do with the Chinese. What did the Chinese bring to Tibet in July, 1949 when they invaded this country at the top of the world? They brought many disasters and great sorrows to the Tibetan people. Now, all of Tibet has become a prison. Everywhere the Chinese spy on the Tibetans. So many people were executed by the Chinese, so many people perished! The Chinese can they pull any Tibetan out of his home at any time, day or night, throw them in the prison, and after that, no mercy: just execute them! Since the Chinese invasion over 1 million Tibetans were murdered by the Chinese. Six million Tibetans lived in Tibet before the invasion. So it was over 17% of the entire population of Tibet that the Chinese killed. For example, in the Amdo region of northeast Tibet, of the 100,000 people of the nomadic Golok tribe who lived there before the invasion, as of 1979 there were left only 4,700 survivors! In Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, the native Tibetan population is getting displaced by the Chinese; the Chinese are filling up Lhasa with their people and they want to make it all Chinese. This is a very grave situation. At this time, in Lhasa City, there is only 1 Tibetan for every 6 Chinese. So many Chinese immigrants came to Lhasa and to Tibet's other cities. Today, Tibetans are a minority in their own country. All the better jobs go to the Chinese settlers. Tibetans cannot find any jobs, since the Chinese took them all. The best job a Tibetan can get is as a truck driver. What the Chinese are really doing in Tibet is a genocide against the Tibetan people and their culture. The culture of Tibet is based on the ancient beliefs of Bon, and on Buddhism imported from India. Their daily life is based on these two: they are Bon believers and Buddhist believers. They take the best of the two religions, and their entire culture is based on that. Some interesting bronze sculptures have originated in Tibet, and also many tankas, religious paintings. Also in many temples, whole walls 30 - 40 yards long used to be paintings. The Chinese completely destroyed all this. Much of Tibetan art used to be in the art collection of the Potala Palace. Most of this art collection China took away. Now, today one can see in Peking, in what they call "People's Palace" and in its library all the good works of art which they stole from Tibet. The Chinese stole all this art, all these ancient books and manuscripts. They are not works of China; they belongs to Tibet and its people. The Potala Palace in Lhasa is an enormous building. Thirteen stories high, with more than 1,100 rooms. It has many large rooms, the Dalai Lama's apartment, ceremonial halls. Also monasteries, many temples, and many tombs of the previous Dalai Lamas. Government offices used to be located there: various ministries, the Dalai Lama's secretariat, the treasury, etc. It is a huge place. People talk abot the Seven Wonders of the World. Potala must have been one of the Seven Wonders of the World. But now it is changed so much. The Chinese made it into a museum, just for the tourists. The Chinese are only interested in making money. It used to be such a wonderful place. Even in the monasteries -- you go there, and see people wearing a monk's robe. But actually they are not monks -- they are lay people, who put on the robes only for tourists. The Jokhang is the most important temple in Lhasa. To visitors, it looks like it is still in operation, but one can go there only at certain times. In the old days, anybody could go there at any time, burn some incense, walk around, meditate. In this temple, there used to be many statues, built in the 8th, 9th centuries. But all these statues have been destroyed by the Chinese. Now they have only replicas there. The Tibetan people like to meditate, to pray, and to go on pilgrimages. To Tibetans, Lhasa is what Mecca is to the Muslims: at least once in lifetime they go to Mecca. And exactly in the same way Lhasa is important to the Tibetans. People may spend several years on a pilgrimage. Professor Norbu recalls: "For instance, from my home town, it is about 1,000 miles to Lhasa. And the people go there. In the old days, there were no airplanes, no cars, no railroad. I myself once went on a pilgrimage, and took a horse with me -- in 111 days I did it -- and it was just wonderful. We used to prepare all the food ourselves and for our animals, we carried it together ... that was in 1942 or 1943." "Usually a large group cannot travel together; there is no habitation; the northen plateau has high passes, say around 12,000 to 13,000 feet. Four of Asia's great rivers originate in Tibet, and are very wide even in Tibet itself. You get across by swimming on horseback. Sometimes you see only the horse's nose sticking out of the water. That kind of life is so nice. Well, you have a little problem on rainy days, or on snow days in the high mountains. It is very cold there. I often think how in Tibet we had torn shoes, torn clothes, and we traveled in 30 - 60 degrees below zero," remembers Professor Norbu. There was destruction of the ecological system and the environment in Tibet after the Chinese invasion. The woods in the mountains were deforested. Not to be used for building in Tibet, but all taken to China! Also many minerals silver, gold, lead, etc. -- all this is being taken to China. The Chinese are looting the country for the natural resources. They are building dams and destroying all the lakes in the process. Tibet used to have many waterbirds -- and the Chinese shot them and now they are extinct. Now you do not see them in Tibet at all. Professor Norbu continues: "When I was in Tibet in 1980, I didn't see a wild yak even once. Before the Chinese came, the yaks used to cover entire slopes of the mountains. And we used to have in Tibet many wild horses, wild antelopes, wild sheep and deer -- the Chinese destroyed them all! It is all so terrible, done by this ruthless Chinese government, by these ruthless people. There is no way the Tibetans can keep quiet about this. We must inform people about this, the Chinese must hear it!" Some of the very special places for pilgrimage in Tibet are Mount Kailas and Lake Manasovar. Mount Kailas is very sacred both to Hindus and the Buddhists. In the book My Tibet by the Dalai Lama, there are some great photographs of of both. "There is a picture in this book which I like very much ... of the panda," continued Professor Norbu. "Do you know that panda is actually a Tibetan animal? The Chinese liars say that it is a Chinese animal and give it as a "friendship gift!" Look, here is the picture and see what His Holiness says about it: "The panda is actually a Tibetan animal. Its original range overlapped the traditional eastern border of China and Tibet. The local people in those regions are mostly Tibetan. Some of the captive pandas should be named Tashi or Tsering instead of Ling-ling or Mei-mei." For the people of the Western World it is very hard to understand the Dalai Lama's attitude of non-violence. The Tibetans have suffered so much, so many of them were killed, so many suffer in prison. Why are most Tibetans still true to this philosophy of non-violence? Because of their religion. Buddhism came to Tibet around the 8th century , and the Tibetans have always lived in its philosophy of non-violence. Tibetans used to be very happy people. Many profound philosophical ideas were brought to Tibet from India, and the Tibetan people and their leaders all live by this creed of non-vilolence and peace. "The practice of non-violence is a wonderful thing, and I myself fully believe in it. This is very important. If you use violence, you will suffer again and again. People will continue to suffer," said Professor Norbu. Before the Cultural Revolution, the Chinese destroyed all our historical sites -- temples, monasteries, museums. They completely destroyed over 6,000 monasteries and historical sites! The Chinese put all the monks into labor camps -- some in Tibet, some in the Chinese Turkistan area, in the Mongol border area. Tibetans died in prison like flies. In 1989 the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. That was an important international gesture of support for independence of Tibet. And somewhat earlier, in 1987 the Dalai Lama came up with the Five Point Peace Plan. So many Chinese immigrants are coming to Tibet, taking over all their land, all their culture. Something must be done fast. So the Dalai Lama proposed the Five Point Peace Plan, but up to now, the Chinese have never answered in any way. On a recent visit to Taiwan, the Dalai Lama did not even speak about independence for Tibet -- he always suggests, use the "Middle Way". He asks China, "Give us genuine self-rule autonomy" -- that is His Holiness' wish. He is just trying to save some of his people, save some of their culture. We haven't heard recently much about Tibet in the United States media. The reason for this is that China is such a large, powerful country. Many governments think, "let us do business with China, let us get new contracts and make a lot of money!" But will they will ever actually get the money? That is a big question mark. But in any case, this is completely wrong. Nowadays, you go to a store -- any store -- and you buy an alarm clock, telephone, coffee maker, anything -- all is "Made in China". Economically, China is influencing the Western world too much. You buy all this "Made in China" merchandise, but it is produced by prison labor. Those people work day and night, slave labor, and also underage labor, young children! I think that people in the West should think about what they buy. And they should think, "Am I happy using this kind of product?" Anytime the Dalai Lama goes anywhere, the Chinese always protest, although he never says bad things about China. He always says that we must learn from our enemy. The Dalai Lama always says, "It's all right, it's all right; we will talk and we will solve the problems". With the world situation being what it is, the Tibetans are very lucky to have such a leader. In the Five Point Peace Plan, the Dalai Lama proposed to establish Tibet as a "sanctuary of peace". This is how he describes it: "It is my dream that the entire Tibetan Plateau should become a free refuge where humanity and nature can live in peace and in harmonious balance. It would be a place where people from all over the world could come to seek the true meaning of peace within themselves, away from the tensions and pressures of much of the rest of the world. Tibet could indeed become a creative center for the promotion and development of peace. The Tibetan Plateau would be transformed into the world's largest natural park or biosphere. Strict laws would be enforced to protect wildlife and plant life; the exploitation of natural resouces would be carefully regulated so as not to damage relevant ecosystems; and a policy of sustaining development would be adopted in populated areas. Tibet's unique history and spiritual heritage make it suitable to act as a "sanctuary of peace at the heart of Asia. In the future, Tibet need no longer be an occupied land, oppressed by force, scarred by suffering. It can become a free haven where humanity and nature live in harmonious balance". Many legislators worldwide accepted this proposal in principle, but unfortunately in reality nothing has been accomplished in this respect so far. There are so many Chinese immigrants continuously arriving in Tibet, that this proposal is the best practical solution, before it is too late. The Dalai Lama now spends most of his time in exile in Dharmasala, India. Since he received the Nobel Peace Prize, so many people want to see him, invite him to teach. In India, he often goes to all the Tibetan settlements there. And the people of the Western World want him to come to conferences. His Holiness is a marvellous human being. He has a big heart, a heart for everybody. Not just for friends. He says "We can learn from our enemies". Can the the Dalai Lama find enough time to continue his own spiritual and meditation practice, when he has all these demanding engagements and official duties? His brother replies: "Yes, yes. That's what I asked him myself when I was with him in Japan a few years ago. There are so many people coming, and he has so little time to sleep, so I said, "How can you manage all this?", and he said, "It's all right, it's all right, I can manage". He is really an amazing person." The six million Tibetans heroically continue their unequal struggle against the 1 billion Chinese. The Tibetan people desperately need help and support from other countries. "That's why I came for this walk-- to meet people, to share our sorrows with the world community and to tell China that we are not accepting what they are doing in Tibet. The world must find out what is happening there! But I think that we have hope. His Holiness guides us in his peaceful way. With justice and compassion, we must continue in a peaceful way, and we will win back our country," say Professor Norbu. "The 21st century belongs to the world community. In the new century it will be very important to protect everyone's rights. It is the most important thing, and we only ask for our rights. This is our Tibet! We hope that some day the world will help us. Yes, a six million Tibetans against a billion Chinese -- it is a very difficult situation. But with our peaceful way and the world's community's compassion and sense of justice, we will regain our freedom." Even now, in the spring of 1997, in Tibet many people are suffering in jail, many are being executed. The important thing is that everyone has a responsibility. We are asking only for our rights. There are 6 million people suffering in Tibet, and the world should support them in their struggle for independence. People should write to their governments and to their representatives about Tibet's suffering and about its desire for freedom and peace. The people of the world cannot close their eyes to this injustice, they should do something to help. We are all human beings--and human beings must help other human beings. There is no reason why some human beings must suffer. This oppression is very hard especially on the young people. "In every family in Tibet, they all had some disaster -- a parent killed, a brother killed, children killed. Some younger people are getting tired of waiting. But still, Buddhism, the Dalai Lama's wisdom prevail most of the time," said Professor Norbu. Looking at the political situation in China, Professor Norbu continues: "We all believe that change is always there. How -- we do not know. But definitely, there will be change. Whatever a superpower's strength may be, at a certain point it reaches an apex, and then it will fall. And Buddhism also teaches that change is very important. Everything is impermanent. So definitely the situation will change, but I don't know when or how." What is the attitude of the average Chinese people toward Tibetans? Not all of them support what their government is doing in Tibet. "Look, we are on this 600-mile march to the United Nations, where we will arrive on June 14, 1997," says Professor Norbu. "Some Chinese from Malaysia, from Formosa-Taiwan have come to walk with us. We cannot say that all Chinese are bad. There are so many good Chinese, and so many bad Chinese. Tibetans are the same way: there are good Tibetans and there are some bad Tibetans, too. The important thing is that because of this ruthless Chinese government, their propaganda movies, lies, leaflets, etc....people do not know how the Tibetans really are. What kind of Chinese go to Tibet? Only the military and the card-carrying communists and opportunists." Cultural exchanges and programs are very important. There should be more cultural exhibitions about Tibet, its people and its culture, such as the recent exhibition of Tibetan Art in San Francisco and New York City. Recently, a fascinating book by Heinrich Harrer, Seven Years in Tibet, has been made into a movie in Argentina, since China would not allow any part of the filning to be done in Tibet. The very special film will open in movie theaters in the United States in the fall of 1997. The Dalai Lama is always trying to make contact with the Chinese, but they keep the door to negotiations closed. He has always has said, "we can come up and talk with no preconditions". We must talk, but China has such a ruthless government that they continue to refuse hold talks with Tibet. Some time ago, the Dalai Lama said: "All the 6 million Tibetans should be on the list of endangered species. This struggle is my first responsibility". And there are people all over the world who feel genuine solidarity with the courageous people of Tibet, and wish them success in their long, truly heroic struggle for liberty and peace. - By Consul B. John Zavrel

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Telesis File : China Must Free The Panchen Lama!

Background Information Gedhun Choekyi Nyima is the child recognised by the Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama. At the time of his abduction in 1995 he was probably the world's youngest political prisoner. He has not been seen or heard from since. The 10th Panchen Lama The previous Panchen Lama (Lobsang Trinley Lhundrup Choekyi Gyaltsen) was sometimes regarded as a controversial figure, but he spoke out against Chinese rule on many occasions and wrote a report chronicling Tibet's famines in the 1960s. As a result of his views the 10th Panchen Lama spent more than 8 years in jail. He died in suspicious circumstances in 1989. He is remembered with great affection by the Tibetan people. The Abduction In 1989, following the death of the 10th Panchen Lama, the abbot of Tashilhunpo Monastery, Chadrel Rinpoche, was given the task by Beijing to head the search for the Panchen Lama's reincarnation. Chadrel Rinpoche sent a list of possible candidates to Dharamsala and on 15 May 1995 the Dalai Lama announced that six year old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima had been recognised as the 11th Panchen Lama. The Chinese Government, intending to choose its own candidate, denounced the Dalai Lama's recognition as "illegal and invalid". On 17 May 1995 the Chinese authorities abducted Gedhun and his family. At the time Gedhun was probably the world's youngest political prisoner. Numerous arrests followed Gedhun's abduction, including Chadrel Rinpoche and his assistant Jampa Chung, who served six year and four year sentences respectively for "selling state secrets" and "colluding with separatist forces abroad". Chadrel Rinpoche was released at the beginning of 2002, though it is believed he remains under house arrest in Lhasa. Jampa Chung should have been released in 2000 though unconfirmed reports in 2003 suggested that he may have remained in some form of custody. The Replacement Six months after Gedhun's abduction China announced that it had selected Gyaltsen Norbu, a Tibetan boy from the same region as Gedhun, to become the Panchen Lama. Since his selection Gyaltsen has lived and been educated in Beijing, having only returned to Tibet on three occassions. His most recent visit in September 2004 was, as with previous visits, carefully stage-managed and policed. Official Statement In May 1996 China admitted that Gedhun and his family were being held at a secret location. In response to a formal question from the United Nations Committee for the Rights of the Child, China's ambassador to the UN claimed that, "(Gedhun) has been put under the protection of the government at the request of his parents." He did not say where Gedhun was being held. Xinhua reported, "the boy was at risk of being kidnapped by separatists and his security has been threatened." The Current Status The Chinese Government still refuses to reveal Gedhun's whereabouts or accede to the numerous requests from the United Nations and Western governments to allow impartial international observers access to check on his living conditions and well-being. This obstructive tactic is intended not only to discourage the international campaign but also, China hopes, allow time for their own Panchen Lama to become established and accepted. However, reports from Tibet indicate that Gyaltsen Norbu is not revered by Tibetans as the true Panchen Lama and the only homages made to him are those made under direction from the authorities. The Political Consequences The abduction and replacement of the Panchen Lama is part of China's efforts to 'stabilise' Tibet by controlling its religion and breaking the influence of the Dalai Lama. China is well aware of the influence the Panchen Lama can have on Tibetan society. The regard amongst Tibetans for the 10th Panchen Lama increased when he dared to write a report challenging the Chinese authorities for precipitating the famine in Tibet in the 1960s. He served eight years in prison as a result. He also promoted religious freedom in Tibet until he died suspiciously in 1989. As well as being the second most important figure in Tibetan Buddhism the Panchen Lama also traditionally recognises the Dalai Lama's reincarnation. There will be far-reaching consequences for Tibet if the recognition of the next Dalai Lama was to come under Chinese Government influence. To this end the Dalai Lama has stated that if he dies in exile his reincarnation will be born in exile and not in Tibet. - Gedhun Choekyi Nyima

Monday, January 14, 2008

Telesis File : GMO's - The Greatest Threat To Human's And Animal's In The History Of The Planet!

Six years ago, Americans began eating genetically engineered food. Surprised? That's because no one told you. While other countries require mandatory labeling of these food ingredients, our FDA has decided we don't need to know. A genetically modified organism (GMO, also called "genetically engineered") is a plant, animal or microorganism (eg, bacteria) that is created by means that overcome natural boundaries. Genetic engineering involves crossing species which could not cross in nature. For example, genes from a fish have been inserted into strawberries and tomatoes. While the Food and Drug Administration insists that foods produced by genetic engineering are the same as foods from traditional breeding, their own scientists reported that, "the processes of genetic engineering and traditional breeding are different and... they lead to different risks." (1) Why are companies spending billions on this crazy idea? Because they want to own copyrights on a genes that no one else 'owns' - so that they can make billions of dollars from them. RISKS? WITH FOOD??? Don't believe the people who say there is no evidence of the harm they do: To give just a few examples: 1. The lifespan of ladybugs (ladybirds) was reduced to half when they ate aphids that had fed on genetically altered potatoes in Scotland, according to a London Times article (10/22/97) by Science Editor, Nigel Hawkes. The ladybugs also laid fewer eggs. Note that the ladybirds did not even eat the genetically modified food directly, as we are doing now. They ate something ELSE that had eaten the GMOs. The danger lived on in the food chain. For more information. 2. A recent TV Show by PBS (Public Broadcasting) on GMO's showed how people have now created salmon that is several times bigger than normal salmon, and grows faster. Thankfully, these salmon are currently being farmed inland. However, to save a few dollars the salmon farm is currently seeking permission to farm the salmon in fenced off sections of the ocean. The problem is that if even a couple get away, they could cause the extinction of salmon, because wild salmon prefer the larger salmon because they assume they are better mates, and the resulting offspring have much less chance (if any) of surviving and reproducing. 3. The danger to many humans who are allergic to certain foods is guaranteed, because no one will know what they are eating. For example, say someone is deathly allergic to peanuts. A GMO may have a gene from a peanut in them. The allergic person could get a reaction from eating ANYTHING that contained the peanut gene. They wouldn't even know what caused it - because there are no labelling laws about GMOs. 4. Pesticides are now going to be INSIDE the food you eat! Most times when people start messing up nature they do bad things that they cannot undo. I am from Australia and you only have to look at all the troubles there caused by introduced species. Many small animals are extinct or threatened due to the introduced fox and cat. And farmers are constantly having to battle whole fields full of toxic Patterson's Curse which got loose from people's gardens (the florists who sell this pretty purple flower probably give it another name than that). The sad thing is that we don't even need GMOs to produce more food. There is already 2-4 times enough food on the planet to feed everyone. And if people want to grow food in their own area, then the methods described in "Secrets of the Soil" (below) will give them the abundance they seek, at the same time they IMPROVE their health. But multinational chemical companies with billions of dollars to lose don't want you to know this. Monsanto's View On GM Crop Safety A Monsanto official told the New York Times, October 25, 1998, that the corporation should not have to take responsibility for the safety of its food products. "Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food," said Phil Angell, Monsanto's director of corporate communications. "Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA's job." See the GMO link above. An article in Spectrum Magazine described a Polish experiment which showed that mice definitely prefer non GMO food to GMO food. And when forced to eat GMO food, the mice began to display bizarre behavioural characterisics. Please learn all you can on this incredible threat to life as we know it, and do your bit to stop it. Once the genie is out of the bag, their is no putting it back in!!! At least find out which foods have GMOs and boycott (stop buying) them. -

Telesis File : California Big Wave Surfer And Mavrerick's Pioneer Loses Life At Ghost Tree

Monterey local Peter Davi drowns in giant surf Although no one is exactly certain of how Peter Davi died, after talking with numerous people who were at Ghost Tree on Tuesday, December 4th, as well as friends of Davi's, we've managed to piece together a clearer picture of both who Davi was as well as what happened out there. Davi and Tashnick paddled their ten-foot guns out around 10am from Stillwater Cove. By this point, the lineup had about a dozen tow teams and six PWCs with photographers as well as dozens of people lining the cliff. The swell was inconsistent but somewhere in the 30 to 50 foot range. They sat on the shoulder and Tashnick successfully paddled into one or two waves, while Davi paddled into a few he couldn't catch. (While Davi and others first paddle-surfed here in the early eighties, as old surf buddy and fellow Monterey local Brent Bispo explained, "there's not much space out there. If you don't make the drop, you're on the rocks, so we ended up exploring some other big-wave spots in the area.") After an hour and a half, Davi paddled out to the lineup where the tow teams were. "I'm 45 years old and I want to get one of these waves," he told Kelly Sorenson, one of the PWC drivers and Monterey-area surf shop owner. Santa Cruz surfer Randy Reyes, who was partnered up with Davi's old friend Anthony Ruffo, offered to tow Davi into a couple waves on his gun. Davi successfully rode one, and then when a helicopter showed up on the scene, he said he was over it. (Davi was never a fan of the media circus.) Reyes and Ruffo offered him a ride to shore, but he declined, saying he wanted to catch one more by paddling. Davi paddled in towards the inside, and here's where things are still muddled. No one is sure whether he tried to catch a wave and wiped out or if he was caught inside. Either way, his leash snapped at the base and he ended up swimming on the inside. One report is that Davi started swimming towards shore and made it a couple hundred yards through the swirl and the chop and the whitewater to the two giant rock islands outside Stillwater Cove. "Davi knew every inch of this stretch of coast," explained Bispo. "He was 6'2", super strong, and extremely strong-willed." But by the time he got towards the rocks, he was lost to anyone on the cliff who was able to see. (Due to the nature of the swell, the tow teams out the back couldn't have seen him swimming that far in.) Meanwhile, the lineup was getting more and more packed, and tow teams Osh Bartlett and Peter Garaway and Ruffo and Reyes decided to come in together and head up to a less crowded zone. "We made it to the beach first, then Reyes and Ruffo came jamming back in and said they saw a body," Bartlett said. "Ruffo and I yelled at someone to call 911 and jammed back out into Stillwater Cove." "Davi was lying face down in a 10'x10' patch of kelp," Bartlett continued. "Ruffo got him and lifted him onto by rescue sled, which we were lucky we had, 'cause he's a big dude. You could see he'd been out there a while, he was white and really stiff. We motored in as fast as we could, and by the time we got to the beach (about 2 minutes) the paramedics were already on their way down the hill. They administered oxygen and sucked the fluid from his lungs, but it was too late." The official cause of death is drowning, but the coroner also found head trauma. Davi was a third generation commercial fisherman; his grandfather was a legendary captain from Monterey's Cannery Row glory days who ran 90-foot fishing boats. Davi took on the family career full-time after high school; he'd work on herring boats for a couple months, save a bunch of money and head to the North Shore for the winter, where he spent years cracking into the super-tight Pipe hierarchy. "We'd squid fish all night in the summers," remembers Bispo. "Then we could surf all day. Pete's whole life was centered on the ocean. He was either surfing, out on a boat or walking around collecting jade; he had a huge jade collection." By all accounts, Davi was a local's local. "If he liked you, he'd give you the shirt off his back," Bispo continued. "If he didn't, watch out." Makua Rothman, who won the O'Neill World Cup of Surfing Tuesday at maxing Sunset Beach, said this about his final wave: "Unfortunately, one of my friends never made it today in California, and he just sent me that wave. So this is for bruddah Pete Davi. All you guys who don't know, he passed away today. Aloha bruddah, we love you." He leaves behind a 17-year-old son. -- Marcus Sanders/

Telesis File : Remembering Butch Van Artsdalen -- "Black Butch."

Basically, Butch did three things equally well: surf, drink and brawl." -- Kip A. Kennedy "A gem of a surfer and a man who breathed life into many a person." -- Fred Van Dyke "[Butch went on to] single-handedly rescue more guys in trouble on the North Shore than probably anyone else ever will. He was one of the last of a breed that started when surfboards were made of solid wood and faded out when they became light little slivers of foam and fiberglass." -- Gerry Lopez “I learned too late that ‘enabling’ a friend with a terrible chemical dependency like alcoholism is not what true friendship should really be. In Butch’s case, we should have tried to help him stop drinking. God rest his soul.” -- Fred Hemmings "Butch Van Artsdalen," wrote Steve Pezman when he was editor at Surfer magazine in the 1980s, "was from Windansea, which in itself said almost everything. Along with Hynson and Frye, Butch was a gremmie in the heaviest beach crew ever, the one that went on to become 'The Mead Hall Gang', the first ever to do the North Shore and ride the heavies, back when they were known to be impossible." Butch had earlier been a three-sport letterman and a football and baseball star at La Jolla High. "It was said he was a shoo-in as a major league catcher," continued Pezman. "He was a tremendously strong and instinctive natural athlete, but his heart was more in WindanSea, the Shores, Maynard's all-you-can-eat spaghetti and beer nights, and cruzin' up to Swami's and down to Baja with the crew. "Butch was a radical drinker (honorary mayor of the Long Bar in T.J.), fighter, surfer and very well known for his pranks up and down the coast. As Butch grew older, tales of his antics spread..." "He was invincible. At one party in La Jolla," Steve wrote, "he squirted shaving cream all over some guy's date who thought she was hot stuff. Desperate to maintain his honor, the girl's date picked up an iron skillet off the stove, and with Butch's back turned, full force cold-cocked him over the head with it. Butch, who was chugging a cold one at the time, was seen to wince, buckle his knees slightly, but amazingly didn't go down, and then slowly turned around to face the guy, who by then had shrunk into a whimpering fool down on the floor pleading for forgiveness." "The legend and lore surrounding Butch is deep and rich," Steve continued in an introduction to a collection of Butch stories he ran as editor of The Surfer's Journal in 1996, "from his WindanSea roots, to his early period on the North Shore as the first King of Pipe, to his self-destructive final years. The rare haole completely accepted by the Hawaiians as one of their own, Butch could drink, fight, laugh and love with the best of them. He could be gruff and frightening, yet tender and kind. He was a versatile surfer, adept in both delicate smaller waves and the heaviest of the huge." "Butch Blocks Home Plate" "Butch and I played baseball together for La Jolla High School," Jim Helming told Hoyt Smith. "I was a pitcher and he was a catcher. Butch used to guard home plate like a bull. He would attack the base runners if they tried to come in to score. It didn't even matter if he had the ball. He would completely block the whole plate anyway, set in that same crouch that must have got him through those tubes at the Pipeline. Players would have to go directly through him. He got knocked on his duff quite frequently and I think he actually enjoyed it. He'd get up covered with dirt, his elbows might be scraped and bleeding and he'd have this huge grin on his face. That was the way Butch was." "I remember," continued Helming, "playing San Diego High School, which had a real good team. We ended up beating them on this one play. The batter hit a ground ball and this 200-pound guy tried to come in from third base to score. The shortstop fielded the ball and threw it to Butch. The ball bounced before it got there, but Butch blocked the plate so well that he kept the player from reaching home. He was way up the baseline. It was a heck of a collision, knocking Butch back three or four feet. They both went down. Then Butch reached over, grabbed the ball and tagged the runner out. It made the other team so mad there was almost a brawl, whcih was never unusual with Butch around." "The R.F." A later tale was told by Steve Pezman, who knew Butch before he moved to the Islands: "Bob Beadle and I had loaded my '50 Ford woodie with watermelons from the field on Coast Hwy.," began Steve, "just north of Dana Point above Silver Strand, and motored south into Baja. We surfed that afternoon, trading melons for tacos and tequila. The next morning being Sunday, we headed north to Plaza Monumental, the bullring by the sea, outside of Tijuana, where el numero uno matador de México, Luis Procuna, was fighting that afternoon. Beadle and I bought tickets in the sun, then slipped down into the shade next to a crew of surfers that included Butch Van Artsdalen from La Jolla and some acquaintances from Seal Beach. Our downfall was the two watermelons we brought in with us soaked in tequila. As the day progressed, we ate from the melons and got smashed. The fight wound on. Procuna did poorly and the Mexicans around us began bombing the ring with fruit, bottles and cushions. Adding our watermelons to the barrage seemed like a good idea. It wasn't. They smashed poor Luis on the feet and covered him with melon bits, seeds and booze. The crowd's mirth turned to rage and we were arrested and led from the ring and handcuffed to a chain link fence surrounding the Plaza. After being subjected to untold humilities by a group of rowdy drunks full of beer who had suddenly become avid devotees of the matador (you can only guess what they did), we were taken to the infamous Tijuana jail. While spending the evening in an anteroom below the main cell blocks prior to being booked, we were told we had visitors. There was Butch with a lady friend -- a savior had arrived." "'Hey man, what's your bail?' he asked. We didn't know. 'How much money do you have?' he asked. We had about eight bucks between us. 'Give me your money and I'll go back to WindanSea and raise a bunch more off the beach and come back and bail you out.' We were so stoked. We kept a dollar for emergency funds, (we ended up using it to buy drinking water so we didn't have to drink from the bucket they gave us to sluice the crapper) and gave Butch the rest of our cash and he left. "Our dads mercifully arrived to bail us out two days later; we never did hear from Butch again. About a month after that I received a note from his lady friend. It seems that Butch had the best of intentions but stopped at the Long Bar for just one beer. After that his good intentions were history. Try as she might, she couldn't get him to leave until the money had all been drunk up and his memory of the earlier events of the day were erased. She sweetly had enclosed seven dollar bills along with her abject apology." "Upon returning home," Steve concluded, "Beadle and I were heroes around our local beach for a while. It turns out the La Jolla Breeze had run an article with the headline, 'Hoodlum Surfers Throw Watermelon at Procuna.' And while we were still kinda pissed, we eventually came to accept how and why Butch had RF'd us." Paddling for WindanSea "It was the Winter of '62-'63," wrote Steve Pezman, beginning to tell of a tale Phil Edwards had told he and some friends, "and Phil Edwards was sitting at a table full of notable surfers of the period telling tales fo the Seaview Inn in Haleiwa. Phil was describing the fierce, almost maniacal force that he had once witnessed in Butch Van Artsdalen during a paddle relay race in which Butch was competing for his beloved WindanSea against teams from other beaches..." Windansea shack, 1960s "I was in shape at the time and feeling pretty strong," Steve recalled Phil Edwards saying. "Each leg was about a mile and his teammates had roused Butch out of a semi-comatose state to paddle the anchor lap. Butch had started his leg well behind me and I was comfortably in the lead rounding the last mark. Gradually, as I dug towards the finish, I could sense someone closing behind me, muttering something as they paddled. I looked and there was Butch, digging deep and... slowly... but... surely... paddling... right... by me chanting, 'Come on WindanSea!' with each stroke, over and over, like he was in a hypnotic trance. It was as if he willed himself by me, and at that moment, anyway, I was powerless to stop it." "Butch was a great and fiercely competitive racing paddler," Steve Pezman noted, "... But his will to win could quickly be distracted to other games. At a WindanSea two-mile paddle race, he was first around the buoy boat by almost 200 yards, when when the race 'official' in the boat offered him a pull from a jug of Red Mountain, Butch climbed in for 'a couple'. One by one, the paddlers finally caught up to him, rounded the boat and headed in toward the beach. Butch figured he'd wait for the last straggler to go by then pass them all again easily, but by then he had lost interest in the race completely and was more into laying back on the boat. He finally came in around 5 in the afternoon. At one of the early California surf contests, Butch's comment on the judging consisted of throwing a stinking dead fish up into the judge's stand." "The Day Butch Became King" "When Butch went to the Islands," continued Steve Pezman, "he ws immediately accepted by the locals as one of their own, for while most haoles were too afraid to go drinking with da boys, Butch would match them 2 for 1, and was known never to back off from a friendly little head-cracking fight." Steve told another story about Butch Van Artsdalen -- the day Butch became the first "King of the Pipeline," a.k.a. "Mr. Pipeline." "It was the morning of a late November day during the Winter of '62-'63 on the North Shore," Steve recalled, "that Roy Crump and I were drawn to the beach at Pipeline on a really perfect ten-foot day. We had checked Sunset and it was going to be fine that afternoon, but we had time to go see the show. "The brightest stars of the surfing world were gathered on the beach at Pipeline, and each was taking their turn out in the lineup -- each feeling required to establish their credentials in the newly crowned 'ultimate challenge' that was Pipe. You must remember, at that time, the place had only just been [regularly] surfed since the prior winter by a mere handful of the stoutest wave-men (well, a wave-woman had done it too. Candy Calhoun had bodysurfed it at six to eight feet, nicely blowing our minds a bit in the process. In fact, Butch was rumored to have dated Candy when she lived in Laguna -- that mythical coupling being a waterperson's version of Zeus and Aphrodite having a brief but cataclysmic fling)." "Back to the story," Pezman redirected, "Ricky Grigg was just coming in from performing quite decently on a six -- or eight -- footer as Crump and I positioned ourselves off to the side of the rooting gallery down on the sand. Next up, Phil [Edwards] had to paddle out (the pressure was on each guy and it wasn't that enjoyable for them -- this was defense of reputation rather than a fun thing going on here). Edwards chose an inside four-footer, took off deep, managed a dangerously high, right-go-left top turn, dropped in a foot or so more, totally upright and relaxed, cross-stepped into forward trim and flew outta there (making a stylishly clean solution out of the ticklish problem) then straightened out and came right in, reputation gracefully intact, thank you. Crump and I nodded sagely -- Phil was cool. He hadn't gotten sucked into a high-risk wave by the crowd pressure. He had done it on his terms and then called it off." "By then," Steve continued, "the beach was packed with the kings of surf. John Peck, Diffenderfer, Dick Brewer, to name just a few, and Butch, who had been studying the waves, decided to paddle out. Mike Doyle, who had paddled out earlier, caught a macker, ten plus, and it just collapsed on him and blew him to smithereens. His board was swept up hard on the granular sand and he washed in after it about ten minutes later. Crump and I were taking in the entire spectacle with rapt attention. Doyle came out of the water, droplets glistening on his deeply tanned, staturesque frame. As he walked up the beach toward his board, he held his hands away from his body and shook the moisture and sand particles from his finger tips, preening and pumped a bit from the considerable exertion of the swim." "Suddenly," continued Steve Pezman, "Diffenderfer shouted, 'Check out Van Artsdalen,' and pointed out to sea. Butch was dropping in on a huge one. He was way too late and way too deep to make it. But with his animal instincts somehow matching up with the crusher wave, Butch held it in as he careened sideways down the face. Doyle, having twisted his upper torso so he could view what all the commotion was about, was sudden;y fast frozen in amazement at what he was watching. The curtain threw out and over Butch, then it erupted into a thundering explosion all around him, but we could still see the flash of his red trunks streaking through the falls. It was totally impossible that he could pull it off. Then Diff stood up and screamed, 'Come out of it, Butch! Come out of it!' That show of emotion absolutely stunned us. Then Butch did come flying out. We gasped in disbelief. Doyle fell to the sand face down, rolling over and over while muttering, 'Nobody does that! Nobody does that!'" "In that instant," declared Pez, "Butch Van Artsdalen had become the first 'King of the Pipeline.' Crump and I looked at Doyle rolling in the sand, then out at the waves, then at the crowd on the beach screaming their guts out, then at each other and we just shook our heads. "Later that winter, from Max Lim's cottages off to the right of the point, Bob Beadle and I personally witnessed Tommy Lee at Waimea Bay paddle out alone with no one that he knew of on the beach, ride five twenty-five foot waves from behind the boil, then come in, slide his gun into the back of his '57 Ford wagon and drive off without saying a word to anyone about it. And I rode fair-sized Waimea and some big days at Sunset myself, but that day at Pipe, when Butch came out, was my personal most memorable moment in surfing." "Butch's Wild Rickshaw Ride" George Lanning told this Butch story to Hoyt Smith: "One night Butch said to me, 'Let's go to Waikiki and have some fun.' So his girl friend and I drove in from the North Shore. Butch was a member of the Duke Kahanamoku Surf Team at the time, so we went to Duke's nightclub and there was a big line of people waiting to get in. Right in front of the club was a rickshaw, which was chained to the post. They didn't give rickshaw rides in those days. We'd been drinking and were feeling pretty loose, so Butch grabbed the rickshaw, pulled the tow bar away from the side handle and slipped the chain off. "The girl and I jumped in the rickshaw and Butch ran us through the International Marketplace, jumping up and down, getting real high off the ground, hollering 'Ching how, Ching how!' When we returned, this tourist couple, newlyweds, came up to us and the man asked if they could have a ride. He thought we were legitimate businessmen. I said, 'Oh, of course.' Butch didn't talk. He just kept going 'Ching how, Ching how!' We'd been drinking excessively. So Butch took them for a ride around the Marketplace. When they got back, they were very excited. The husband said it was the most fun he'd had on the entire honeymoon and slipped Butch a $20 bill." "Right after the newlyweds left," continued George Lanning, "two big Hawaiian policemen grabbed each of us by the neck and marched us up past this incredibly long line to the front door. It was about 9 p.m. and everyone was waiting to see the Don Ho show. The policemen knew who Butch was. They told us how bad we were and how we shouldn't have been doing that. Then they told the people at the door to seat us immediately, before we got into any more trouble. The door people took us up to a front row table. We had the best seats in the house. We ordered a round of mai-tais and Butch disappeared. His girl friend and I were sitting next to each other, wondering where he was. We couldn't find him anywhere. Suddenly the show started. We looked up and there's Butch on stage, wearing these giant sunglasses, dancing the hula and singing with Don Ho." "The Lifeguard" "I met Butch for the first time as he screamed out from behind Peter [Cole] and me at Sunset," recalled big wave surfer Fred Van Dyke, "he yelled, 'Move, shoulder holsters, move,' did a switch stance as he climbed up the face and shot behind both of us. Paddling back out to the lineup he jibed us about being 'Chicken $@#!,' we should take off where the waves were a challenge. He did the same thing at Pipeline, always farthest back and the hairiest takeoff." "However, the part of Butch's life that got less recognition," Van Dyke continued, "was his job as lifeguard at the Pipeline. He was one of the first guards on the North Shore along with Eddie Aikau. Butch loved his job and put in time beyond his daily schedule. "While surfing Pipeline on late evenings after work, he continued to make incredible rescues. His concern was such that he would attempt to prevent a disaster before it occurred. With a patience that belied his sometimes rough demeanor, he would dispense friendly advice, handed out to both surfer and tourist alike that was almost always received with gratitude. He never made anyone feel insecure or in the wrong for getting into a tight spot in the surf, aside from his friendly jibes at his friends who all rode the shoulder in his opinion. After all, who would argue with Mr. Pipeline?" "One day I was sitting on my surf check near Butch's tower. I had just taken a break from cutting my lawn which ran right down to the white sandy beach. "Looking toward Pipeline, I saw Butch jump from his tower, run with his lifeguard board underarm, launch into the shore break, and sprint into the middle of the rip. I put the binoculars to my eyes and saw a small group of surfers supporting a motionless person. "Butch arrived, deftly pulled the body up on his board and tandemed to the beach, spending only a few seconds to accomplish that much. Jeff Johnson and I ran down the beach and helped Butch carry the limp form up the sand. No life appeared. No pulse, no breathing. He was a black kid from Schofield Barracks, about 18, and for all practical purposes dead. A surfer had seen him face down on the bottom; how long he'd been down there no one knew. "I felt sick looking down upon this young man, but Butch took command, ordering us to massage his arms and legs. The kid's face was blue, his eyes rolled up into his head. Butch, focused on resuscitation, leaned forward, checked for foreign objects in the throat, bent and breathed into the kid's mouth. His motion became a rhythm, push breath into the kid, lean backward and apply heart massage. Minutes passed, Butch yelling, 'Damn it come back, come back.' in between breaths. Butch's face flushed. He appeared that at any time a blood vessel would burst, but he didn't let up. Ten, fifteen minutes passed. He screamed at us to massage harder, help him with the heart massage. Butch appeared to be the master surgeon, the man so involved that when, suddenly, the kid threw up into Butch's mouth, he only turned sideways for a moment, spit and went back to mouth-to-mouth. "The ambulance arrived with the resuscitator and oxygen. Butch hooked the kid to the machine and sat back. Unbelievable, but suddenly I watched the young lad take a breath, his stomach convulse, and then he sat up. Butch supported him with all his strength and held him in a sitting position. Color returned to his face, and the kid stood, walked with the assistance of Butch to the ambulance. He would be all right. "Things quieted down, returning to the tourist's 'oohs' and 'ahhs' while surfers took gas at the Banzai Pipeline. Butch asked me to watch his guard stand while he took a short break, walked back into the shade, opened a cooler, cracked a Primo and lit a cigarette. "Butch finished that day of lifeguarding the same as all of the rest," Fred Van Dyke ended. "He worked until he passed away... A gem of a surfer and a man who breathed life into many a person." "Black Butch" "Riding a surfboard that weighed 40-50 pounds with a shape more like a rounded-off door in comparison to the sleek designs of today took an altogether different cut of surfer," Pipeline legend Gerry Lopez began his recollection of Butch. "The designs, or lack of, being what they were meant wipeouts were not infrequent and being a surfer required a certain amount of swimming skills as well. The image of the modern, light-weight, serious-minded, specialized surfer in the mold of Derek Ho or Tom Carroll is the exact opposite of the big, strong, carefree waterman of the '50s and '60s." "In that time," continued Gerry Lopez, who, after Butch, was the second person to hold the "Mr. Pipeline" moniker, "'when men were men,' Butch Van Artsdalen was one of the best. A top surfer through the '60s, one of the North Shore pioneers, the original 'Mr. Pipeline,' an innovative switch footer, and an unrepentant partier. When the '70s and the shortboard came along, he moved easily into position as one of the early lifeguards on the North Shore. "Anyone who has surfed at Sunset Beach knows there is no such thing as a simple or easy wipeout. And in those days, before the use of surfboard leashes, it didn't take long to find out there was nothing simple about the swim in either. I remember one afternoon session back in the early '70s, the swell running about 10-12' from the northwest and the peaks shifty and windy like usual. Suddenly, a huge set loomed on the horizon and everybody scrambled to get out of the way. I knew I was too deep and too far inside, but kept paddling anyway, up the face of the first wave with just enough momentum to break through the pitching lip. In that weightless airborne moment in the blinding spray, one glimpse was all I needed to see that the next wave was much bigger and was already breaking. Landing on the backslope, I took a couple of half-hearted paddles, hyperventilating like crazy, silently cursing my inattention in the lineup and rolled off the side as the thundering mountain of white water bore down on me. One of the good things about not wearing a cord is being able to dive deep and get under a breaking wave with little danger of being sucked up into the boiling cauldron. There are, of course, those occasional waves at Sunset that will just pluck you off the bottom and rag doll you so bad you don't know which way is up, but I was lucky on this set. The next step, having escaped the ravages of the first set, was to get out of the impact zone before the next set came in. The thought of a serious pounding is a powerful enough incentive to turn a weak swimmer into a Mark Spitz." "In those days," continued Lopez, "as soon as you cleared the detonation area, you had to immediately start looking for your board. There was always a chance it would drift out into the channel and start going back out to sea in the rip. This was good if you spotted it because it would shorten the swim, but if you missed it, it wasn't like it is now where there's a lot of people watching on the beach or paddling out who could tell you where your board was -- back then it was sayonara surfboard. There were lots of guys who would paddle out on a brand new board, get caught inside, lose their board and never see it again without catching a single wave and ever knowing how it worked." "Anyway," Lopez regrouped, "getting back to our story, I looked in, saw a red board on the beach and bodysurfed, swam and clawed my way in through the little channel between Val's and the Point, saving myself from that skin-removing scuttle over the reef in front of Val Valentine's old house. Running up the beach, I got that sudden sinking feeling as I could see the red board was not my red board. Not recognizing whose board it was, nobody had decals on their surfboards back then anyway, I stuck it upright in the sand so its owner could spot it from the water and dashed off down the beach towards the main channel in a mild panic. My board was nowhere on the beach, and this was the first time I had ever missed seeing it in the channel on the swim in. I was determined to never, ever, lose a surfboard in the rip at Sunset Beach, especially not my favorite red gun as I ran towards a couple of guys further down the beach. One of them was Butch and I asked if either had seen a red board in the rip. The other guy pointed out towards Kammieland and Butch and I both spotted it at the same time, about halfway out the channel. "Butch just said, 'I'll go get it,' and jumped into the water. I yelled after him, 'Hey, what color is your board.' Remembering that big, heavy, old red board up the beach, I knew what he was going to say before he shouted back, 'RED,' and was gone, plunging out to sea in that mile-eating lifeguard stroke. 'Wait a minute,' I said, then somewhat feebly, 'Your board's on the beach, that's mine out there...' Not knowing what else to do, I sat down and watched him swim after my board which was really moving out with the current now, getting smaller by the moment. It was starting to get late, when the glare goes away and the light gets soft before the sun starts to set. I could see that he was making good time, only about a hundred yards or so from the board but way out there, almost even with the outside lineup when a big set comes rolling in at Kammie's, with the board right in its path. It drifts up the face of the first one, hangs in the lip for a moment then pops over the back. Butch is swimming like mad now, angling in from the channel as the board does a repeat on the second wave, doing a couple of barrel rolls as it flies over the back and lands in the trough. Butch manages to swim up and get a hand on it as the third wave breaks and whisks it away from him. I watch as the board tumbles all the way in on the last wave. As I walk down the beach to retrieve my board, I'm trying to think up what I'll tell Butch, knowing he's going to be really pissed. Finally he comes ashore down near the bridge and I run over as he comes up the beach. "'Hey Butch, jeez. I'm sorry, that wasn't even your board and you really had a long swim.' I can remember him in that golden moment as the sun was setting, shaking the water out of his short-cut black hair (when everyone else had their's long), big and broad shouldered, striding through the sand in a pair of faded plaid Bermuda shorts with the pockets turned out. "'No sweat kid, that's all I go out there for anyway. You guys can have the surfing. I just do rescue work and your board looked like it needed some help.' I looked at him sideways and he started laughing. 'Yeah, I saw you stick my board in the sand up there but I wanted to swim some more, so what the hell... anyway, if you don't want your board going out the rip, just bodysurf the biggest wave right in, it's more fun.' "'Sure Butch, yeah that sounds, uh, good,' I answered kind of dubiously, 'and thanks again anyway.' "'See ya, kid,' and he was gone. "I don't know if he rescued any more boards, but he did go on to single-handedly rescue more guys in trouble on the North Shore than probably anyone else ever will. He was one of the last of a breed that started when surfboards were made of solid wood and faded out when they became light little slivers of foam and fiberglass. You won't find many like him anymore, but there's a lot of guys like me who still remember the tales, but that's another story." "Aloha, Butch" "I was born and grew up sufing in the San Diego area in the early 1960s," began Kip A. Kennedy in a memorial story he told for The Surfer's Journal. The top surfers in the San Diego area at that time were Skip Frye, Mike Hynson and Butch Van Artsdalen. "As young surf nazis, we heard a lot of the 'Butch stories.' Basically, Butch did three things equally well: surf, drink and brawl. Butch was quite the brawler. We had all heard the stories of Butch at parties and bars, such as Butch drinking and partying with some of the San Diego Chargers in the early history of that franchise. Allegedly Butch punched out a couple of their biggest linemen. Butch was notorious for drinking and carousing at popular Mexican bars south of the border, such as the Black Cat, the Blue Fox, the Chi Chi Club, the Long Bar and Hussongs. There were stories of Butch passed out in the back of his car at the old 'Maynards,' a famous surfer eatery by Crystal Pier, popular for its 25 cent spaghetti night. Then later on, the drinking and brawling stories over in the islands at such landmark spots as the Haleiwa Sands, the Outrigger Canoe Club, Duke's and other famous bars in Waikiki and Hotel Street, with such famous legends as the quarterback of the Washington Redskins, Sonny Jergenson, who was a good friend and drinking buddy of Butch's." "Butch was also a very gifted athlete," continued Kip Kennedy. "We all know he became Mr. Pipeline, but before that, Butch was the King of 'Big Rock', La Jolla's answer to the Pipeline, where he ripped. Butch was an all-star baseball player at La Jolla High School, and was so good, the San Diego Padres signed him to a major league contract. But the call of the Islands was too strong -- Butch took his baseball signing bonus money and left San Diego and baseball to fulfill destiny and become Mr. Pipeline." "In 1970," Kennedy retold, "I moved to Hawaii to work at Joey Cabell's Chart House in Honolulu and to surf the big waves of the North Shore. In 1973, I became a Honolulu City and County Lifeguard, and guarded at Sandy Beach for many years. In the lifeguard service at that time were many of the top watermen, including Eddie Aikau, Buffalo Keaulana, Jimmy Blears, Mark Sedlak, Mark Cunningham, Daryl Picadura, Bruce Lee, Teneé Froiseth, and, of course, Butch Van Artsdalen, who lifeguarded on the North Shore at Pipeline. "On my days off from guarding at Sandy Beach in the wintertime, I would go up and surf the North Shore. I really loved bodysurfing at Pipeline where I would visit with Butch. We would sit on the bench under the plumeria trees next to his lifeguard stand and visit and talk story, usually about San Diego, surfing, sports, etc. These two stories that Butch told me have always stood out in my mind:" "In the old days," Kip Kennedy retold a story Butch Van Artsdalen told him, "there used to be a plate lunch restaurant just before the Haleiwa Bridge called the Fly Trap. One day, Butch and his friends stopped there on their way to go surfing. After they had eaten and were leaving the restaurant, they noticed a big army troop carrier truck from Schofield Barracks pull up and the driver enter the restaurant. Butch passed by the truck and happened to look inside and noticed that the keys were in it. He then winked at his friends, grabbed his surfboard, thew it in the back of the army truck, jumped in, started it up, and roared down the Kam Highway with his friends in hot pursuit. After a couple of miles down the road, he made an immediate turn off the highway and crashed the truck through the jungle and kiawa bushes, all the way to the beach where he jumped out, grabbed his board and paddled out leaving the Army guys to figure out where their truck was and how to get it out of there." "One day," Kip A. Kennedy told another story of Butch, "Butch and I were surfing at Ehukai Beach in front of his lifeguard tower and Butch was riding an old Hobie longboard. I commented to him afterwards what great rides he had gotten since he hardly surfed anymore. When we got out of the water, he showed me on his board where all the shapers, glassers, sanders, etc., had signed his blank with some pretty rude and funny stuff, such as 'Butch is a fag and can't surf,' etc., etc., and then he told me the rest of the story. "The board was shaped and glassed at the Hobie factory in Dana Point. At that time there was vacant land next to the original Hobie shop which was full of king snakes and garter snakes. The guys who packed Butch's Hobie to send to Hawaii also threw in a couple of king and garter snakes to accompany Butch's board to the Islands. When Butch's rudely inscribed board arrived, Butch gleefully ripped open the end of this board box, stuck his hand in to pull his board out, and was immediately struck by a half-starved king snake who bit the shit out of him and coiled himself around his hand, while Butch did the dance of the serpent. Boy, I wish I had that board today." “Toward the end of his life,” Kip Kennedy explained, “Butch lived with a good friend of mine, Milton Beamer III, the manager of the old Surf Line Surf Shop in Honolulu. I still remember the three of us sitting on Beamer’s front porch on the North Shore, drinking and talking story.” Butch died on the morning of July 18, 1979, his life cut short by alcoholism. His sister Annette wrote me about Butch’s passing twenty-three years later: “As I write this e mail there is still much pain and emptiness in my heart for my brother, Butch. “My mother, sister and I flew to Hawaii as soon as the doctors at Wahiawa General Hospital called us and told us Butch was in grave condition and would need a caregiver that could stay with him 24/7. Butch had his own apartment at the time of his death… My Mom and I stayed in it part of the time during the month we were in Hawaii to settle Butch’s affairs. “Fred Hemmings and Michael Tongg were lifesavers for my Mom and I… many people… were there, too... Fred was very much a part of making the funeral arrangements and giving a eulogy for Butch. However, Rev. Harvey Angel, of Haleiwa Baptist Church, was also present and led the service. There was also a couple that sang and played a guitar. “As for the paddle out, I was blessed with the privilege of scattering my brothers ashes. He had been my BIG BROTHER and protector and taken such great care of me. The least I could do was muster up enough strength to scatter his ashes into the place his heart and soul loved, the ocean! As I scattered my brother’s ashes Fred was right there beside my sister and I. My Mom stayed on the shore with Rev. Angel.” “When Butch passed away,” Kip Kennedy remembers, “Beamer called me and told me Butch was gone. He and I attended Butch’s funeral together at Pipeline. It was probably the biggest funeral ever seen on the North Shore at that time. I still remember that Fred Hemmings gave a beautiful eulogy for Butch, and then we all paddled out to the peak at Pipeline where Butch’s ashes were scattered. At the same exact time, there was a corresponding service at WindanSea... on the mainland. After the service at Pipeline, everybody went up to the park at Ehukai to drink and tell Butch stories.” "To this day," Kip Kennedy wrote, "I have a beautiful picture of Butch surfing at the Pipeline that Dr. Don James shot hanging in my study. If there is one thing I would like to see as a lasting tribute to Butch, it is someone like Skip Frye, Donald Takayama, Mike Eaton, Mike Diffenderfer, Phil Edwards or another reputable longboard shaper, design and shape a classic three-stringer Butch Van Artsdalen Big Rock/Pipeline model in his memory. I would certainly buy the first one." Butch’s Lesson “Most of the people who knew him,” wrote Fred Hemmings in his book The Soul of Surfing is Hawaiian, “would agree that Butch was one of the most handsome and athletically gifted surfers in the sport. He looked like a dark-haired Robert Redford. Butch was drafted by a pro baseball farm team after high school. He could consistently punt a football 60 yards. He played basketball like a pro. This guy had it all. He also had a fatal flaw.” “Butch stories abound,” continued Fred. “He was the first Mr. Pipeline. A goofy foot, Butch perfected the art of pulling up tight into a Pipeline barrel. He was fearless. He rode big Waimea. Butch could switch stances naturally. He did it all. He also drank… too much.” “Butch and I traveled with the Duke Team,” Fred went on, “and ended up partying and being wild men together. I was a weekend warrior drinker, too. After bouts with drinking, Butch had one of the strangest habits ever. He would sleep in precarious places. We once dropped a young lady off after a date. I was driving my mother’s old ’56 Chevy wagon. We started to drive back home, and I decided it would be better to pull over and sleep it off. I awoke later to find Butch sleeping under the car. Once, in San Francisco, we rose in the morning after being out on the town to find Butch sleeping in a planter box one story up, outside a bay window. Everyone who surfed in the sixties has a Butch story.” “This is sad,” Fred wrote. “Butch was a terminal alcoholic. In the early seventies, when I focused my energies on the business of pro surfing, I dropped out of being a North Shore regular. Though great friends during our Duke Team days, Butch and I drifted apart. How tragic it was to periodically run into Butch and see that the ravages of alcoholism were slowly draining away his life. Butch drank himself to death at 38 years old [July 18, 1979]. Alcoholism, like drug addiction, ultimately destroys lives. We gathered on the beach at Ehukai for his funeral. After eulogies by friends, we took his ashes out to the Pipeline lineup. “I learned too late that ‘enabling’ a friend with a terrible chemical dependency like alcoholism is not what true friendship should really be. In Butch’s case, we should have tried to help him stop drinking. God rest his soul.” Sources Used In This Telesis File: The Surfer's Journal - Fred Hemmings - Annette Lucas - All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Telesis File : Impermanence

Change is a central feature of life. It can be exhilarating, frightening, exhausting, or relieving. It can spark sadness or happiness, resistance or grasping.

Insight into impermanence is central to Buddhist practice. Buddhist practice points us toward becoming equanimous in the midst of change and wiser in how we respond to what comes and goes. In fact, Buddhism could be seen as one extended meditation on transience as a means to freedom. The Buddha’s last words were: “All conditioned things are impermanent. Strive on with diligence.”

Impermanence is not a uniquely Buddhist insight. Many religions grapple with impermanence and suffering. Some spiritual traditions equate the world of impermanence with suffering. For these, the solution to suffering is to transcend the world of impermanence.

The Buddha approached suffering differently. He said that suffering is not inherent in the world of impermanence; suffering arises when we cling. When clinging disappears, impermanence no longer gives rise to suffering. The solution to suffering, then, is to end clinging, not to try to escape from the transient world.

It is possible to find ease and grace in the world of change; it is possible to trust the mind of non-clinging and so find our liberation within the world of impermanence. One means of reducing clinging is to see the transient nature of what we cling to. This insight can either show us the futility of trying to find lasting happiness in what is impermanent, or it can encourage us to examine deeply why we cling.

Impermanence can be understood in three ways. First, is the obvious, ordinary understanding of impermanence. Second, is understanding from insight, from the intuitive, direct seeing of the nature of things. Finally, there is the way in which seeing impermanence can lead to liberation.

The ordinary understanding of impermanence is accessible to all; we see old age, sickness and death. We notice that things change. The seasons change, society changes, our emotions change, and the weather changes. When I lived in Tennessee, they had a saying, “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.” Sometimes, realizing that an experience is impermanent, we can relax with how it is, including its coming and going. Other times, seeing that change is inevitable helps us to let go of clinging to how things are or resistance to change. And sometimes recognizing that we are all equal in being subject to aging, sickness, and death is the basis for compassion.

While we may intellectually understand the fact of impermanence, we may not really believe it. In the Hindu epic, The Mahabarata, Yudhisthira is asked: “What is the greatest wonder in this world?" He replies, "People see death all around them, but do not believe they're going to die themselves. This is the greatest wonder.”

When I was young, of course I knew that I was going to die, but I lived my life as if I would live forever. Wisdom can come as people age, not just from life experience, but also from increasing awareness that our own lives will end. It gets harder and harder to avoid this realization when what remains of our expected lifetime gets shorter. This often encourages people to look closely at their priorities and values. Opening to the ordinary level of impermanence in a deep and profound way can bring tremendous wisdom.

Beyond the ordinary experience of impermanence, Buddhist practice helps us open to the less immediately perceptible realm of impermanence, i.e., insight into the moment-to-moment arising and passing of every perceivable experience. With deep concentrated mindfulness, we see everything as constantly in flux, even experiences that ordinarily seem persistent.

Perhaps you have had an opportunity to bring mindfulness to a strong physical experience such as pain. We tend to see pain through our ideas about it. With very strong mindfulness, however, we find that we can't pinpoint pain; as soon as we think we have located the pain, it flashes out of the existence and reappears a millimeter to the side. It becomes a dance of sparking sensations located in no particular place. Pain that seemed solid is actually in constant flux. In this deeper experience of impermanence, we realize that it doesn't make sense to hold onto anything, even temporarily. There's nothing that we can hold onto because everything simply flashes in and out of existence. We also realize that our clinging and resistance have very little to do with the experience itself. We mostly cling to ideas and concepts, not things or experiences in and of themselves. For example, we don’t cling to money, but to the ideas of what money means for us. We may not resist aging as much as we resist letting go of cherished concepts of ourselves and our bodies. One of our most ingrained attachments is to self, self-image, and self-identity. In the deeper experience of mindfulness, we see that the idea of self is a form of clinging to concepts; nothing in our direct experience can qualify as a self to hold onto.

As we see impermanence clearly, we see that there is nothing real that we can actually cling to. Our deep-seated tendency to grasp is challenged, and so may begin to relax. We see that our experiences don't correspond to our fixed categories, ideas, or images. We realize that reality is more fluid than any of our ideas about it. Suzuki Roshi summarized Buddhist understanding as: “Not always so.”

Confronting impermanence profoundly, in this meditative way, can open us to liberation. The final, liberative level of impermanence is the movement towards letting go at the deepest level of our psyche. Ajahn Chah once said, “If you let go a little, you’ll have a little peace. If you let go a lot you’ll have a lot of peace. If you let go completely, you’ll have complete peace.” This release is sometimes called Mahasukha, the Great Happiness, which is said to be the only happiness that is ultimately reliable.

adapted from a talk by Gil Fronsdal, January 1st, 2001