River Phoenix- A Letter to the World

A few days ago, I came across an essay written by actor River Phoneix. If you’ve read my previous article, you must¬†have noticed my big respect and praise for this man. His essay made me proud I have chosen such an incredible human being to be my role model. I decided to re-post his essay¬†here, in my blog, because every belief expressed there is my belief too and because I want to remind people what we should really live and fight for. Even if one single person reads it and penetrates deep into its meaning, then I will have accomplished my task. Because everyone can make a difference.

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We are the world

(April, 17, 1990)

Heavens mourn above us until dawn
Weeping see her tears as rain they fall
Winds whip through canyons
Manifesting splintered wrath
Mother knows that we’ve betrayed her
Dealing with the aftermath.

Sailing ocean cross the sea
Floating vessel carries me
Once I’m there, what is it worth
If I’m betraying Mother¬†?
Stormy weather abruptly
Changes my course suddenly
It’s so unfair starting at birth
Still mistreating Mother Earth.

So you see my friends what we have done
Shadows linger overhead
Heavy like the fog in the valleys
Under heavy earth lay dead.
In a boxcar hides an orphan
Seeking shelter, nothing more
Gliding now tracks lay before him
Leading him to distant shore.

These lyrics are from a song called¬†Betraying Mother. This year, 1990, the year I leave my teenage years behind, I realize nothing else matters but this¬†: We must heal our planet if we’re to survive. Because my parents are so closely connected with nature and share the reality that Planet Earth is our home, I have always been conscious that we need to care for the earth as the living, breathing, supporting, feeding, nurturing home it is for us. As a young person, there were always other threats that seemed much greater to me along the way – nuclear war, the many hand-to-hand wars all over the planet, famine, poverty, crime, drugs, political prisoners, and an overall lack of compassion for every living thing. And closer to home, each of us has our own struggles with growing up.¬†

There’s a lot packed into our teenage years. We go from childhood into a time when hormones start taking over. It all seems to come at us so fast – we are developing physically and taking on much more responsibility at home. We’re dealing with our school workload, peer pressure, the continual ”¬†What are you gonna be when you grow up¬†?¬†” question, trying to set a good example for siblings, choosing a college – and the million of other things on our minds that have really little or nothing to do with our relationship to Mother Earth and our true nature as human beings who have taken it upon ourselves to be ”¬†in charge¬†” of the planet.

With so much going on, it was quite a relief to think that our elected officials would take care of all of those major planetary concerns while we were just to concentrate on growing up. It’s obvious now that not only was no one taking care of our home as we trusted, but that people were, and still are, perpetuating this planetary destruction.

Now as I look ahead to my future, I’m amazed at how the earth itself is letting us know in so many ways that there has been a gross injustice done by humankind. The many recent devastating floods, landslides, and weather changes show the earth’s pain and how out of the balance our ecosystem has become. At this point, not only have we polluted the earth we live on, the waters we drink and swim in, and the air we breath, but we have even altered the atmosphere itself.¬†

We are now in a global emergency, and for this reason I’m most thankful for Earth Day 1990, which hopefully will mobilize a worldwide massive citizen army to avert planetary disaster.¬†

There are solutions to these problems, but most of them will take a conscious effort by every human being to eliminate from his or her life the things that are leading us to impending disaster. I list the following problems and I ask you to join me and become a part of the solution.

The greenhouse effect

Gases get trapped in the atmosphere, which acts like the glass of a greenhouse, letting sunlight in but not letting all the reflected infrared heat out. Because our forests and oceans can’t filter out all of the carbon dioxide we spew into the atmosphere (from power plants, large-scale burning, and cars), it gets trapped and starts to put pressure on the planet. We must use less energy, less electricity, and reduce the burning of fossil fuels (mostly coal and oil). We really need to improve gas mileage for cars. We must make a transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources – like solar power – that don’t contribute to global warming. We must plant more trees because they are nature’s storehouses of carbon dioxide.

The ozone layer

The ozone layer is seven miles up in the atmosphere and is a shield from the ultraviolet rays of the sun. This delicate membrane is being destroyed by man-made chemicals that drift up there – mainly the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) that are used in air conditioners, refrigerators, Styrofoam ( as in fast food cartons), and industrial solvents. These CFCs eat away at the ozone and also contribute to the greenhouse effect. We need to work for laws that will ban CFCs. That’s the key. We can’t wait for everyone else to do it – you change the world by changing yourself.

Rain forest destruction

Forty-nine millions acres of rain forest are destroyed or degraded each year. That’s equivalent to one and a half football field each second. These forests are vital sources of oxygen¬†: They moderate our climate, prevent floods, and are our best defense against soil erosion. Forests recycle and purify our water. One quarter of all prescribed medication in the U.S. is derived from raw materials found in these forests. They are home to millions of plants and animals. The beauty and inspiration of these forests are important to millions of people. Rain forest destruction contributes to the greenhouse effect because there’s no way to replant these jewels of nature fast enough to soak up the exorbitant amount of carbon dioxide they release into the earth’s atmosphere when they’re burned.

One force behind the destruction of the rain forest is our country’s importation of millions of pounds of meat annually from Central America. To provide pasture for cattle, these countries have been burning and clearing their priceless rain forests. We must make our outrage known to the businesses (especially fast food places) that use this meat¬†; we must demand that they stop contributing to the destruction of our rain forests. One reason our Central and South American neighbors have participated in this destruction is because of the tremendous debts they have to countries all over the world. By exporting meat they make some of the money they need to pay back these debts. I say we should figure out a way to forgive them their debts so we may all live.

It’s a tragedy that one thousand plant and animal species become extinct each year due to the destruction of tropical rain forests – and that the native rain forest tribes are being forced out. As the rain forests disappear, many of our migratory birds are also losing their winter homes. They’re dying, and this is harmful because they naturally control the population of insects – and tragic because their beauty will be lost to the world.

Garbage

We’ve run out of room for all the garbage our ”¬†throwaway¬†” society has created. We must implement recycling programs in our homes, schools and communities.

You can start by recycling aluminum, glass, newspaper, cardboard, and paper. Talk to your teachers and call your elected officials to find out how you can get involved. Buy products that come in recyclable containers. Be persistent. Be enthusiastic. Be determined.

Chemical, toxins and pesticide

We are literally poisoning ourselves because of the pesticides sprayed on our produce¬†; the chemicals dumped on our farmlands to ”¬†nourish¬†” the soil¬†; the hormones, growth stimulants, tranquilizers, and antibiotics fed to animals that humans meat¬†; and, of course, the pollutants spewed into the air.¬†

Pesticides don’t just affect the creature who ingests them first. They accumulate in the tissues of animals and then, as one organism is eaten by another, they build up in even higher concentrations. This means that a worm living in the soil will store pesticides in its tissues. Then a bird will eat the worm and ingest the pesticide eaten by the worm – and the tens of thousands of other worms it ingests in its lifetime. At each stage up the food chain, the concentration of toxic chemicals is greatly increased. The same is true of cows or chickens or pigs. Animals raised on factory farms build up especially high concentrations of chemical toxins because they’re fed great quantities of fish meal (made from fish swimming in polluted waters)¬†; their other feeds are grown on land heavily sprayed with pesticides¬†; and they are dipped in, sprayed with, and intentionally fed many toxic compounds to keep them ”¬†healthy¬†” while living in filthy and unnatural conditions inside these factory farms. The days of livestock animals grazing together in lush green meadows are over.

These poisons are retained in the fat of animals. Each step up the food chain, animals become ever more concentrated carriers of the most deadly chemicals. You sit at the very top of the food chain, and whenever you eat anything that comes from nature, you are ingesting these toxins, too.

The solutions to these problems will take time, but they will be accomplished. I’ve learned that if you can’t get it all together to accomplish this thing called peace, you do at least your part in your own life, because that’s where you can truly make an immediate difference. I’d like to stop all of the world wars, but that’s really an impossible endeavor for one person. But I¬†canstop all the wars in my life. I can start with myself and improve my personal relationships with everyone I’m in contact with. I’d like to stop world hunger and famine, but one man single-handedly couldn’t possibly stop everyone’s hunger. What I¬†can¬†do is spend my own time, energy, and money enlightening others about the plight of the poor. And although I can’t stop all cruelty to living creatures on the planet, I can be kinder to every living creature in¬†my¬†life.

Peace begins with you. Now. We must light the lamp of our consciousness so that we never react without thinking and questioning the means to get to the end that we are seeking. Because if the path along the way is covered with thorns, selfishness, cruelty, and greed, you can be pretty sure that the result will lead us to just about where we are today… near the end, if we don’t do something quickly.

Therefore, I question everything with my consciousness lamp on to see if the road I take along the way will lead me to peace. In my life, I decided

  • Not to eat meat or animals products or to use their skins for my clothing, shoes, or decorations. There’s such immense cruelty involved with the raising of animals for human consumption that if I can stop their pain by boycotting their products, I will immediately make a difference.
  • To recycle. Also to question my habits of consumption. I try to use less of everything and reuse things whenever I can.¬†
  • To speak out and know that my voice can be heard by writing government officials, becoming politically active, lobbying in Washington, and becoming part of peaceful, educational demonstrations.
  • To use less and less of those things that add to the demise of our planet.

In our family, we never were big for celebrating holidays, but this year my mother is asking for something on Mother’s Day for the first time. She wants us to help her call attention to the world that this Mother’s Day, 1990, should be dedicated to the most nurturing mother of all – Mother Earth. If gifts are to be given on this day, let all mothers request that they be gifts to the earth. We could plant trees, make donations to environmental groups, or give other gifts to promote understanding of the condition of the planet. This would truly make for a day worth celebrating.

With the help of all of you, I look forward to the years ahead of us when our generation can work together to create a happy, healthy, clean, and loving environment.

River Phoenix (1970-1993)

 

Tomorrow Is Another Day

I’ve always loved classic books. The very word classic means that the piece of art- a book, a song or a movie- has been recognised by many as qualitative and deserving respect and admiration. I have recently finished reading Gone With The Wind– undoubtedly one of the top classics, both the movie and the book. Probably those of you who have read it know the emotions that follow after you reach the end- anger, despair, depression, but also hope; after all, tomorrow is another day.

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What I love about this book is the background- the tragic events related to the decline of a whole system of life- and the way the main character, Scarlet O’Hara, survives the crisis and fights for her and her siblings’ lives and rights. Many people would describe Scarlet as cold, selfish and cruel, ready to step over dead bodies just to accomplish her ambitions and desires. Maybe they are right in thinking so, but the coin always has two sides. I, personally admire Scarlet for her bravery and ability to adapt to different situations. The society she lives in is blind and fanatic and does not accept her behaviour, but Scarlet is an example of an emancipated woman. This same society lives by the old, restrictive rules which do not look favourably upon¬†women who work (especially ones who are running their own business like Scarlet), who “show off” in public¬†when they are pregnant, who live alone etc. But Scarlet is a modern, practical woman who rebels against the restrictions imposed on women by the vastly conservative society. And this is what makes Rhett Butler fall in love with her…

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Rhett is the male version of Scarlet- a cinic who’s rebelling against everything and everyone. He hates to be part of the crowd and is always there to criticise its manners and customs, its beliefs and ideals. However, behind the mask of a hardhearted turncoat, Rhett has a very gentle heart and is always ready to help his compatriots. He and Scarlet make the perfect couple, but their biggest misfortune is both of them carry too many masks, so their true selves can’t find each other. Rhett believes Scarlet does not love him, and Scarlet believes Rhett does not love her. Moreover, she fooles herself she’s in love with Ashley Wilks- her neighbour and friend from childhood. The only one who sees the truth behind the masks is Melany- Ashley’s wife. She is one of the last, true ladies who, unfortunately, belongs to the old times, the times before the war when everything had been much simpler and easier. The new order and the world she’s forced to live in are too cruel for her tender soul.

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Gone With The Wind is one of the greatest books I’ve ever read. So tragic in its credibility and so intense in its presentation of complicated personalities. I think everyone who loves books should read¬†Gone With The Wind because this is an incredible story of love and hate, war and peace, death and life.¬†But once you get deep inside¬†the pages, you realise hate is actually love, peace turns out to be war and those who are dead are more alive than the ones who remain living. But at the end, there is always hope as “tomorrow is another day”.

L. V. K.

River Phoenix- The Boy Who Was Worth Millions Of Planets And Stars

They say the brightest people leave the biggest shadows…

I’ve planned this post for a very long time; I wanted it to be informative, opinionated, accurate, perfect. But I realised whatever I say will always be too little to express¬†my great respect and admiration for a young life, lost too soon but having left so much.

River Phoenix & Keanu Reeves

River Phoenix & Keanu Reeves

I first came across the name River Phoenix just a few months ago, while reading an article about one of my favourite actors and role models- Keanu Reeves. Like most people, I took an interest in his unusual name- River Phoenix. I decided to check him out so I did a little search on him and my god, what I found was a precious diamond! After that, I watched My Own Private Idaho and got totally addicted to that extraordinary person. I wanted to know more about him, his beliefs and his unusual life. We all associate ourselves with famous people at times. Some of us choose our role models for their eccentricity, others for their appearance, behaviour, unusual relationships, modesty, work etc. I choose my role models for our mutual beliefs and for they are down-to-earth, good-hearted people who care about the world that surrounds them. And River Phoenix is one of the very few celebrities I truly admire and respect for that.

It is true River was a very contradictory person. Just like the name he was carrying, he seemed to be¬†indecipherable- calm on the surface but turbulent and unpredictable underneath. River was one of tumblr_m7k29uErt11rbucumo4_400the first vegans and animal rights activists in Hollywood. He was promoting a clean life, a conscious life where one would live in harmony with nature trying to minimise the harmful impact humanity has had on¬†this planet. And yet he died of a drug overdose. These are the two sides of the coin in River’s life- one was extremely¬†bright, the other too¬†dark. We all have these inner demons that are fighting with our inner angels, two completely different types of energies; some call them yin and yang, others good and evil. The Native Americans have a saying about this, which I particularly like:¬†There are two wolves inside us all. One is evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, resentment, lies, inferiority and ego. The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy and truth. Which wolf¬†wins? The one you feed.¬†For an intense person like River, the two wolves inside him, being too strong for a normal person to bear, destroyed each other taking him with them.

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River’s early life was marked by poverty, uncertainty and abuse. His parents were members of the “Children of God” religious cult, which was famous for encouraging incest and abusing young children sexually. We will never know if River was abused¬†during the time his parents were in the cult¬†(although he mentions in an interview his first sexual contact was at the age of 3-4) but as young as he was, witnessing the things the members of the sect were doing between each other were enough to scar him for life. He never had a normal childhood, never really attended school and started working as a street performer at a very early age to support his family. The aspect of his life that made him most fragile though was the fact he had been living in his family’s own world, not experiencing what the world outside was really like. He never really learned how to communicate with children his own age, apart from his brother and sisters. He was perceived by the family as a messiah which robbed him of the experience of being a child. And straight after the missionary, street life in South America, still too young and fragile, he was thrown straight into the deep- Hollywood…

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Not being able to change the world the way he wanted to, and not knowing how to communicate the message he had, probably left River disappointed and confused. I watched him recently in a talk show in 1990 discussing issues such as vaccinations, food poisoning, water waste, breastfeeding etc. in front of an audience. Issues that are still relevant nowadays. The way the audience responded to his ideas was awful, hitting him below the belt with stuff like criticising his appearance (which was absolutely normal for a 20-year old boy), laughing at his and hissiblings’s names, suggesting him to focus on something else and put his eccentric ideas aside and so on. I could see the way he felt- misunderstood and rejected by the audience; rejected for being different. And he was different because he was living way ahead his time and was wise beyond his age; as a friend of his described him “he was under-educated and over-intelligent“. His ideas and lifestyle were revolutionary for the society he was living in. I could see the audience was a typical bunch of sheep, being prisoners of their own ignorance,¬†anathematising what they couldn‚Äôt understand. And this is what made River so vulnerable and suffering. Adding to that, he was the main source of finance for his family, which was stressful enough by its own, having his privacy brutally interfered by the public and being part of the dirty show business in Hollywood which was forcing him to do things contradicting his believes, it is no surprise River found escape in drugs and alcohol. He was just a lonely, pure soul which happened to live in a cruel world, robbing him of his ideals and believes. And even though he was surrounded by people- family, friends and fans, I think he was lonely.

I wish someone could have helped River overcome his drug problem; I wish he could have survived the Viper Room in October, 1993; I wish I could have seen his talent revealed and his ideas implemented. But even though he left this world at age 23, he made a huge impact and was one of the founders of a new, better world. After all, he really did change the world.

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I don’t want to get so lost in thinking about me and talking about me all the time in interviews. It’s so nice to unwind and just look at other things and get out of yourself. It’s hard to detach myself from myself without neglecting myself. You know what I mean? I don’t want to get in to the habit of thinking about my career because when it comes down to it, it’s not really that important. I could die tomorrow and the world would go on.

River Phoenix (1970-1993)

L. V. K.