This Precious Human Life



This morning my beloved uncle Bob died of cancer. He passed away gently, in his sleep. Yet another casualty of the cancer epidemic that is sweeping this planet. He contracted cancer from exposure to asbestos at a pulp mill he worked in. For much of his life, Bob was an inventor, and when he left this earth, he had well over a hundred patents in his name. Most of them were in the field of pollution control.

My brother Randy also died of cancer, just a few years ago. Too many of us, far too many of us have been touched by cancers cruel fingers. Although it is often difficult to prove, I believe that the huge spike in cancer we are experiencing is caused by a toxic environment, toxic products and toxic foods. We are suffering from the long term effects of a planet and a people that have been disregarded and disrespected, by those bent on profit and plunder.

Uncle Bob, despite being in the final stages of his illness, travelled to Los Angeles to testify at a hearing, suing the company, because he learned that asbestos is still being used, and workers are still being exposed, that unless it becomes too costly for them, these conscienseless corporations will do nothing.

One day, I dream of a world of integral business, where all factors are considered in the production, and consumption, of any product, or service. Where we think of the environmental effects, the human effects, the ethical effects, the spiritual effects of each and every enterprise. Where nothing is left out. Where we consider the future – seven generations into the future. I dare to dream of this world, for it is in the dreaming that the reality will emerge.

Uncle Bob, though a chemical engineer, a rational guy, had a real spark, a great sense of humour, a talent as a painter, and a whimsical ability to dream. His final dream, which seemed impossible, and unlikely, as he grew weaker and weaker, was to see the fabled Sandhill Cranes of New Mexico.   He would often talk about doing the journey but it seemed unlikely.  But he did, he pulled it off.  One last dream.  He was witness to a huge flock of the vast birds, rising from a lake as the sun set, a majestic sight of  awe inspiring liberation.  And then he joked, “okay, I can die now.”  And not too much later, he did.  Now, he is at peace.

When I received the news that he had passed on, I was walking on the street in New York City.  A few moments later I looked in a store window, where there was a picture of the Dalai Lama, and this inscription: “Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to have woken up, I am alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it, I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others, to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings, I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others, I am going to benefit others as much as I can.”

Uncle Bob didn’t wake up this morning, but we did.  The least we could is celebrate this life, open our hearts, and see how we can make this world a better place.   Let us wake up not only physically, but spiritually.   Every moment is precious, so very precious.  We always think that death is something that always comes to other people, but one day, we will not wake up.  So now is the time, the time is now.  Wake up!

The Purpose of Life

The old spiritual mantra of Be Here Now needs up dating. Spiritual teacher Andrew Cohen, suggests this one: “Do Here Now.” Be Here Now was about stepping into the depth of our Being, truly becoming present, inhabiting this moment, tasting it to the fullest. It’s what Ekhart Tolle teaches in such classics as “The Power of Now.”

But is the purpose of life then to be in the moment? No! Just as the purpose of life is not to breathe. But if we stop breathing, we die. And if we are not present, well – we’re just not here. We’re missing out on all the gifts – the boons and the challenges. Which, of course, are often the greatest gifts of all. So we need to fully show up. And then what?

Ah the big question. Well it’s different for each and everyone of us, but the first thing to do is to really look within, and ask yourself – am I squeezing the juice from this luscious fruit called life? Of course, many of us feel like we just keep getting handed a plate of lemons. In which case, the saying goes, make lemonade.

What are you here to do? Are you using this precious human born life to it’s utmost potential? Dare you ask that question? Let me suggest if you don’t ask that question, and ask that question every day, one day, you’ll be dead, And at that point do you think you are going to say: geez, wish I had of watched another thousand hours of television programming? Or are you suddenly wake up to the realization – holy crap, I just missed my life!

The wonderful, amazing, expressive, activist artist Rha Goddess, who we interviewed yesterday for Redvolution, says that when she dies she wants her tombstone to read “DONE” – D. O. N. E.

In other words, she wants to reach the end of her road secure in the knowledge that she did everything she is here to do. That she stepped fully into her power. That she rocked the house. That she shined her light. That she stepped up, stepped out and truly loved. That she awakened to who she truly is.

You deserve nothing less.

There are no excuses to be made for missing the boat, really – we all have the potential within us, we are all Buddha’s to be. But we need to honour that seed within us if it is to flower. So an essential part of awakening to our full potential is to truly love ourselves. Yep, I know, easier said than done. Here in the west, we have an epidemic of low self esteem. All of us have to struggle with it. I know I do! It shows up in different areas of my life, at times, but when I shine a light deep into my unconscious, deep into that shadow zone, I can see a gaping hole where true self love should be. It’s an ongoing process, and I am getting better at it.

Note to self: self love is not about arrogance! Don’t confuse the two! A key distinction. In fact, self love is deeply humble, for you see all your spots, dots and warts, and still love them. Let go of any notion of perfection. Awakening does not mean suddenly becoming perfect. No, it means actually embracing your imperfections, forgiving yourself, and allowing yourself the room to grow. Awakening is a process, not an end point. There is no end point. But there is an aspiration – not a goal – but an aspiration, to fully grow into your potential. Which, like a rainbow in a field, will always move away just before you reach it. You don’t need to literally reach that rainbow, but you can keep your sights on it, and recognize that it is always there.

Friends can help! And you can help your friends. Parents, you can help your children – let them know how much you love them, how proud you are of them. Not for anything they do, not for anything they achieve, no that kind of validation, while temporarily thrilling, doesn’t actually mean much. True love is about just being loved for who your are, not for what you do.

Strangely enough, coming from that place of self love, of recognizing that you are not what you do, frees you up to truly “do” from an authentic place. You don’t “do” out of a need for validation, or to be loved. Whoa, that’s a big one for me. As a child who was bullied in high school, one of my shadow motivations for all my work is that need for validation. And yet, when it comes, it’s hard for me to actually accept it, because deep down inside, I had been taught by the bullies that I was nobody. I was no good. So there is a two fold challenge for me – let go of the need for validation, but accept it when it comes, embrace it, not because I need any proof that I’m a good person, but because I am a good person, that my true motivation springs from Love, and I deserve to be loved. We all deserve to be loved.

Each of us has our own issues to work through, our own ways to learn to love ourselves. One simple excercise is to stand in front of a mirror, look at yourself, for five minutes, thinking only positive thoughts about yourself. Forget about all the buddhist teachings about trascending the ego – for now. Just let yourself be loved. If you want to add an extra challenge to teaching, when you do think a negative thought about yourself, start over. Sheeesh, some of us could be there for hours!

So, you’ve done the work, you love yourself. Or at least your working on it! Now, how to find your true life’s purpose, how to figure out what your here to do?

Rha Goddess suggests that you start by going within – really look within. Throw out all the programs – all the advice from society, culture, all the people who have a different agenda from you. Let all that go! Your truth needs to come from deep within. You can look at the things that come naturally to you – what is it that you do that gives you joy, where time flies, where you don’t have to force or push? What are the things that people are coming to you to ask you to do? If you don’t know, ask your friends and loved ones – people you trust, but really ask them to set their own agendas aside. Be aware that this is sometimes difficult for people to do. But with love, the people in our lives can often can see our gifts, even if we can’t see them ourselves.

Then you need to look at how your gifts can be of service. To truly be effective as a life’s purpose, there needs to be an element of true service to your gift. How can your natural gifts be put into service? That’s key to a fulfilling life. Without service, service that simulatenously serves ourselves and others (people, other species or the planet), we will not have true meaning in our lives.

Finally, Rha says, decide to do it! Make the change, take the risk – now. There is no time to lose. Start the process, it may be baby steps at first, but start the process. Don’t procrastinate. Find out just what it is you are here to do, and do it! Unwrap your gifts, step up to the plate and shine. Because you’re needed now, you are truly needed now.



In this moment
The sun glitters breathless and ecstatic
In a clear clear sky

In this moment
A polar bear drowns
From melting ice

Hold on

To it all

and everything in between

It’s all You

Ever wonder
how much
one little heart can hold?

All of it.

There’s room for it all.

Sometimes it has to break wide open
Before that limitlessness

It all

Drink it in

Hold two contradictory thoughts
at the same time

It’s in the collision
of spirit
and matter
of mud
and blood
of bone
and light

where the juice
is found

the space between

that liminal zone

trust your path.
and choose your path.

at the same time.


Dare to Dream

“Hope and sincerity are the new punk.” – Antony Hegarty



For now, let go

Just for now, let it all go

Your worries, your fears, your addiction to suffering

Put your despair and cynicism

On the back burner

Turn the dial to “off”

And let all that stuff stew in it’s own juices.

Let your seen too much eyes

Be fresh and clear again

Let your heard too much ears

Open to the music of hope

Let your felt too little skin

Feel the ecstasy of possibility


Feel the wind of change


Let your battered and beaten heart

Beat proud and loud and full of fire


Let your shaken and broken soul

Be whole and fierce


Let your Love shine out

Let your voice speak up

Yes, we know, we’ve heard, all the doubts, all the complaints, all the limitations and hesitations that will arise

In this all too real world

But today, let all that fall away.  

Just for a day.

Tommorrow, tommorrow, tommorrow…

It’s time to take responsibility

To take a chance

To become the dream you dare to dream today

Take a chance

To make that dream into reality

Take a chance

To become the change

You know is coursing and bubbling through your veins

No one else but you

Can do this

As we step into the Obama era

It’s up to us to keep on dreaming

No one needs to do it for us

Not me, not him, not them – 

Just you.

Because, this is about you.

Today, I dare you to dream.

Tomorrow, I dare you to become that dream.


~Velcrow Ripper, on the day of Obama’s inauguration



True Life Confession


I have a true life confession to make: I woke up this morning with Daryl Hannah’s pig in my bed. Snuggled right up. I have no recollection of the night before. Let me say one thing in my defense- Molly, the pot bellied pig, is a discerning, clean, pig, even if she is well….a bit of a pig. And even if she does have a pot belly.

(Editors note: just learned that technically Molly is not a pot bellied pig – she is a micro pig. Daryl rescued her from an unhappy life of being tossed from foster home to foster home).

I’ve been staying at Daryl’s place for the last couple of days, in the wake of my new feature documentary, Fierce Light’s U.S. premiere, at the Palm Springs international film festival. Daryl is featured in the film as an eco-activist, during the struggle to save South Central Farms, North America’s largest urban communty garden, from the developers bulldozers.

Her  home is the stellar opposite of the usual movie stars pad – it’s in a treed valley, that she helped restore to its natural state, with a stone house, and surrounding smaller buildings, including a yurt, and a teepee. Her living room is outside, with a carpet of living moss. I stayed in the yurt last time, but this time around I’m in the main house, where the pet pig roams.


According to Daryl, the nomadic way of living is in fact the most sustainable. You leave a light foot print. Your structures do not destroy the earth – you step lightly, camp lightly, and move on, with a minimum of stuff, a minimum impact on the ground. I’ve always had a thing for nomadic structures. Maybe it’s because I’m such a nomad myself. I’ve lived in houseboats, and wall tents, cabins and campers, caves and squats, rooftops and hammocks, and the modern nomads half way houses of artists residencies and film festival hotel rooms.

Daryl’s green oasis is home to a marvelous menagerie – two Alpacas, llama like beasts from South America, an assortment of rescued fowl with names like Andy Warhol and White Cloud, a cat named Flaco and a dog named Toto, and the aforementioned pig, Molly. Recently she snuck half the crowd into a motel room en route to Colorado – well just two dogs, the cat and the pig. But still.


All the animals have been rescued from scenarios in which they were abandoned or in danger of getting killed. Flaco, worlds most friendly cat, was once a feral cat, and the alpacas were going to be killed, cause they weren’t up to snuff as show animals – one had the right bangs, but the wrong coat, and the other had the right coat but the wrong bangs. Somehow or other, these animals find a second chance at life in Daryls place.


Daryls love of animals, and her intense love of nature has inspired her long and deep commitment to environmental activism. She has come to the stark realization that the planet is in a state of emergency, and the sanest response to that is to put everything you can, into trying to saving it. Parallel to her acting career, in which she became famous for her roles in such classics as Splash, Bladerunner and  Kill Bill, Daryl has become an outspoken voice in defense of planet earth, as well as a committed activist. Daryl is always appearing at conferences and events, speaking out for sustainability and environmental concerns. She runs a regular on-line Vlog, in which you can follow her journey to the far corner of the worlds, searching out stories of sustainability in action.

Daryl Hannah and John Quigely, arrested at South Central Farms

Daryl has also been involved in direct action, most famously at the encampment in defense of South Central Farms, the largest urban garden in North America. When the call went out to help save the beautiful urban oasis from the developers bulldozer, Daryl found herself tree sitting (despite her fear of heights!) alongside veteran activists John Quigely and Julia Butterfly Hill, well known for her two year tree sit high atop the ancient red wood tree Luna, which she suceeded in saving.

I first met Daryl after she saw Scared Sacred during it’s theatrical release. It’s part of the Fierce Light Trilogy, the story of my five year journey to ground zero’s of the world, in search of stories of transformation. She called me up out of the blue to say how much she loved the film, and offered to help in any way she could.

A year later, she phoned me from South Central Farms, where she had gone to film for She ended up not only filming the story, but becoming part of it. She convinced me that this was an important story, one that would fit perfectly into my new project, Fierce Light: When Spirit Meets Action. Cher Hawrysh, my producer, and I had to make a quick decision – we had yet to raise a dime for the film, but it was clearly a breaking, powerful story. We decided to cover it, and I flew down from Toronto to join in the action to try and save the farm. This story became the back bone for Fierce Light. John Quigely called the struggle to save the farm the most important story of the last decade.

Watch out for Daryl over the next few years – she’s on a mission to throw a wrench into the machinery that’s destroying mother earth, and we need all the life loving warriors for the earth we can muster right now.  Her central message is:  Love Life.   If we start from that place, everything else makes sense.  From a place of love, of what Matthew Fox calls “biophilia”  from  a place of life centeredness, we will find the resources to stand up and be part of the solution.   A force of positivity in contrast to the forces of necrophilia – the death forces of the Industrial Growth Society.    This is the time to stand up for this beautiful world that we are a part of, that is part of us.  We have the tremendous honour to have been born at a time of utter crisis, and have the opportunity to rise to the occasion, and reap all the incredible boons stepping into  your true self offers – finding your purpose, your own calling in this time of crisis.   

Step up, step out, and let your fierce light shine, for the love of life. 



~      ~      ~

Watch Daryls Vlogs about the action to save South Central Farms

Learn more about Daryl and South Central Farms  on the Fierce Light website. 

Jewish Women Say No to War

This is a protest my friend Judy Rebick took part in, one of Canada’s leading feminist activists.  Eight Jewish women took over the Israeli consulate in Toronto, to protest the bombing of  Gaza.  Judy  is in my feature documentary, Fierce Light: When Spirit Meets Action, and is writing a book called, Transforming Power: New Paths to Personal and Political Change.


Moments after I posted the above, this wonderful news came in:

Israel Announces Cease-Fire in Gaza

Israel announced a unilateral cease-fire on Saturday evening
in the three-week-old war in Gaza that has killed at least
1,200 Palestinians and 13 Israelis. Prime Minister Ehud
Olmert told Israelis in a televised address: “The conditions
have been created that our aims, as declared, were attained
fully, and beyond.”

Read More:

More on Jews for peace:

What would Love do?

“O Love, O pure deep Love, be here, be now,

Be all – worlds dissolve into your 
       stainless endless radiance,
Frail living leaves burn with your brighter
        than cold stares –
Make me your servant, your breath, your core.” – Rumi


Sufis by Velcrow Ripper

What would love do?  

Ever asked yourself that question?

See how your day is transformed when  you flash yourself awake, before you act. 

The next time the phone rings, take a breath, and ask yourself: how would Love answer? Then, let Love answer, no matter who is calling. Love always knows what to say.

 What would Love say to the people you meet today: to your family, your friends,  to the dog, the bird, the people on the street? The guy who drives you crazy at work? The beggar on the corner?  Love is not guilty or dogmatic. Love knows what to do.

Love is not a wimp. Love stands up for justice, for truth, for dignity, and sometimes that means being Fierce. Fierce Love, Fierce Compassion, Fierce Gentleness. Fierce Sensitivity. Don’t insult Love with a hallmark imitation. We’re talking about the real deal here. Love is able to remain loving, unconditionally, in every circumstance, without exception. That’s fierce.

Sound like too much work to be Love all day? Then wait until it’s really needed-the moment irritation or anger or fear arises. Stop for a moment before you respond. Look at what it is that’s really triggering you.   Can you approach this problem with freshness, with aliveness, as it is, not with a big bundle of pre-conceptions that stops you from seeing the other as a real human being, someone who suffers and dreams, just like you?

Before you respond to anyone or anything, ask yourself: what would Love do?

Awaken yourself to Love-in a flash.