…art that honors the art and artist as well as its content, and apprehends it as more than its socio-political reality. Art is hard to do and not everybody can do it. It is not merely a pretext for theory.Doug Anderson: Negative Capability — Vox Populi
And is that going to be what decides how we respond to the challenges we face? I worry that we are getting tired and want comfort above all.
I’m tired. But I am also clear eyed. Some where recently I read, when we are uncertain of the future, take smaller steps. The truth is we are always uncertain of the future. If someone tells you they know what it holds be clear enough to see their self-delusion before you make it your own.
I take smaller steps because I am older, my knees are bad and I am not as fast as I was in catching myself from a fall, but I am clear eyed and I am accustomed to what is uncomfortable. I also have a history of what seemed impossible becoming possible.
I have an idea of what the world can be because I have known love, I have witnessed courage. So my small steps remain on a path towards a world we can live in because it’s possible.
I owe a lot to many black people. In the last century, the one I grew up in, some of the greatest writers, activists and leaders, political, artistic and religious, came up against the odds and made us better as a species. Made me a better person.
It hurts to learn how black people have suffered and continue to suffer in ways I can barely comprehend.
Sure I had my troubles, I had to learn to swim hard but it wasn’t always against the current day after day. And I was so ignorant that at times I thought myself better, stronger and braver than I really was. I really was not aware how my white skin was the current carrying me.
So it hurts and some of that hurt is shame.
And that’s okay. Being ashamed of privilege is point of attention. As humans we should always be thankful for these reminders to pay attention.
It’s how we learn to live in a world worth living in.
Awareness is always an opportunity. When you see this you can see that it is continually arising As Your Life.
And all fabrications will wear out.
There is no separation between self and other that is not a fabrication. All separation is a lie, a covering, an obscuring of the essential truth.
So what are we humans to do?
Don’t hide in a comfy nest of made up stories of us and them. Answer all suffering with compassion and continue to practice. Do what ever you can when you see an opportunity to end suffering.
There is a difference between “JUST GET OVER IT!” and letting it go. It’s weird but one is a problem and the other is a strategy.
“Get over it!” is a very industrial revolution era type suggestion. This was a time when changes were brutal and corporal punishment was the way of the world. Any one who cared about you would caution you against any action you might take with the fire of injustice your belly. After all life was cheap, your life actually. Your only hope was to some how move on, get over it. This is a very toxic thing to have to do but probably not much worse than the air you had to breathe, the water you had to drink and the hunger and cold you had to endure.
“Get over it” was something I did hear often enough and young enough that I thought it had some validity. The trouble was there were too many indications that real justice could exist and maybe life wasn’t about just enduring shit. I was born in the 50’s, by the time I was an adult I didn’t believe it and society didn’t either (although there are indications it has made some major losses in this area recently).
But so is hypocrisy and we have learned enough about that in the last century or so that the one thing that made forgiveness possible, namely faith is really hard to maintain, if not just plain crazy. When faith was strong and instead of streaming t.v. shows the only stories you had for entertainment were ones where faith conquered over the bad guys EVERY WEEK, I think people might have actually managed to believe in forgiveness. (Lets not hasten a return to the Dark Ages okay?)
I myself have never been good at forgiveness. Forgiveness arises when I am lost in the delusion that I am some sort of ENLIGHTENED SAINT floating in my PERSONAL NIRVANA. It can happen. I might believe I am actually forgiving someone until I wake up from my spiritual revelry and I find am still pissed off. That’s not to say that someone else can’t manage forgiveness*.
As for “crazy” some Christians might tell me it is my faith in science that is crazy. I’d say fair dignum. I have actually had experience with how limited my understanding of science is and how weird my ideas are so I leave lots of room for possibility, and geez, won’t I look dumb on judgement day!**
But for most people Christianity just isn’t the Kool-aid that makes forgiveness possible any more, myself included.
So Finally “Letting It Go”
The advantage of Letting it Go is two fold. It doesn’t negate the injury you have suffered AND it doesn’t lead to you thinking you have a right to do something equally heinous to the person or persons who made you suffer.
Letting it go requires practice. All of the people who seemed to have the skill for moving past personal injury to address injustice had to work at it. So whatever it is you need to do to let go of the pain, you need to do it over and over. And OVER.
Every time the congealing of space around a thought or feeling arises come back to the breath, wiggle your toes and do your zen practice. You will eventually see this dense emotional state get thinner and more transparent and less of an affliction. It doesn’t mean you will lose your motivation to address injustice, but you won’t be suffering and communicating from a point of anger. Whether you call that “True Nature” or whatever it’s a lot like how it always is before a human gets messed up.
And you will have information that you can use to address social change and the strength to make real choices in your response to all the stupid stuff people do and say.
**you had to be there
“The changes that we need to make in this industry are not huge, they’re not impossible, and they can be embraced by all developers, all builders and all cities,” says Douglas Gilliland. He is the President of Taurus of Texas, and I interviewed him recently in a new subdivision in Austin in which the homes…
I’m Rio, most of you know that already, but it wasn’t always the case, so I am very happy to see my name listed on this wonderful book. I am sorry that I was unwell and couldn’t attend the launch, but I am so proud to be included with these women, many of whom I met at Sister Writes. They inspired me to push beyond my comfort levels and share a bit of my history. And they continue to inspire me to write with their brilliance.
and of course the cover…
The Stranger’s Case, is a speech written by Shakespeare, Sir Tomas Moore’s response to mobs attacking refugees. “Sit as kings in your desires” brings to mind a particular orange individual, but also the silence of those who put him there and who intend to profit from “a strong hand” in response to strangers.
“This Your Mountainish Inhumanity.”
The Book of Sir Thomas More, Act 2, Scene 4
Grant them removed, and grant that this your noise
Hath chid down all the majesty of England;
Imagine that you see the wretched strangers,
Their babies at their backs and their poor luggage,
Plodding to the ports and coasts for transportation,
And that you sit as kings in your desires,
Authority quite silent by your brawl,
And you in ruff of your opinions clothed;
What had you got? I’ll tell you: you had taught
How insolence and strong hand should prevail,
How order should be quelled; and by this pattern
Not one of you should live an aged man,
For other ruffians, as their fancies wrought,
With self same hand, self reasons, and self right,
Would shark on you, and men like ravenous fishes
Would feed on one another….
Say now the king
Should so much come too short of your great trespass
As but to banish you, whither would you go?
What country, by the nature of your error,
Should give you harbour? go you to France or Flanders,
To any German province, to Spain or Portugal,
Nay, any where that not adheres to England,
Why, you must needs be strangers: would you be pleased
To find a nation of such barbarous temper,
That, breaking out in hideous violence,
Would not afford you an abode on earth,
Whet their detested knives against your throats,
Spurn you like dogs, and like as if that God
Owed not nor made not you, nor that the claimants
Were not all appropriate to your comforts,
But chartered unto them, what would you think
To be thus used? this is the strangers case;
And this your mountainish inhumanity.
Theresa May is one member of parliament and yet she makes a lot of noise. (Even when she is asking for less noise in the house). We got a Green in Guelph, Mike Schreiner!
Think of it this way, you can have miles of pavement and one little dandelion can crack it! Here’s hoping he is our Dandelion in the Ontario legislature!
Call me “Sir”. As Supreme Being I Decree:
- Every seat in government has to be co-occupied, job shared so they can have a life while being involved in governance. That way, looking after the kids, the pets, the community garden, or community market, is part of their lives; so they can experience things that are about being a human being and not just an ambitious grasping jerk. Does that mean things will take longer to get done? Maybe, but they won’t take as long as fixing fuck ups! Like war, like bad legislation, like inequity, like sanctioned discrimination, like really bad ideas. I heard they are doing this somewhere, Iceland or Greenland, or Paradise Island…
- Anyone who is in a position of authority must be referred to as “Sir” regardless of thier gender.
- Queen Elizabeth the first (not our Queen Elizabeth, the zoo creature and her litter of baby zoo creatures) made a rule that one tree for every 100 acres every where in England had to be maintained. (She needed mature trees for building ships to fight Spain…) We can do that! We have surpassed Tudor England with Good Ideas We Can Do THAT.
- We will always have problems when laws and personal freedoms conflict, but lets face it, people are often jerks. They gripe about everything. Even a free lunch. This planet gives us a free lunch when it comes to air and water but we constantly ruin it! So these things have to be legislated up the yin yang. Because as I said, jerks.
- Corporations, and I heard they are now considered persons, can be HORRIBLE jerks. They need rules to govern them, rules up the whazoo. Corporations don’t need thier own armies. Nope. They can’t be allowed to go into a country and then build a fort with “private security”. If they are not benefiting in a direct way the people who live there so that the people there have an investment in their presence, they are breaking international law. Period. Saying you are building a school for the local population and then teaching them to be domestic servants in the hotel you are putting up (totally bulldozing over the local population and their needs) is NOT building a school. Unless a gulag is a school. Time was, people welcomed trade. But when its about flim flam, nobody welcomes them. Bad for business really is about bad for people, OTHERWISE IT’S ABOUT BAD FOR BULLSHIT AND THEFT.
- And we need gun laws, MORE OF THEM, because, again, people can jerks. Lets face it, many jerks are alive today because there wasn’t a gun handy at the time and I would like to think that where there is life there is hope. We might shop at “Jerks r us”, but we don’t want to live there. Or die there. I realized the other day that there are so many mass shooting in the United States that now they catagorize them. “Church mass shootings, school mass shootings, Walmart mass shootings…” Sheesh.
- Taking a life is not a good thing. It will never stop happening but it should not be a reason for celebration, ever. It should not be the object of any game. The enjoyment of violence is not something we want to encourage. It is not how we navigate towards our objectives as human beings on this planet, and anyone who enjoys causing pain and suffering is to be considered damaged, possibly ill/sick and should be denied employment where violence and abuse would be likely, i.e. the police force, the army and probably some sports. I recommend cross stitch for violent people. They can design whatever violent scene or sentiment they like but it has to be rendered in cross stitch. I know you are thinking that these are the jobs where we want violent people because “the enemy” is ruthless, bla bla bla, but I’m Supreme Being in this make-believe scenario remember? Nobody gets to have fun killing. End of discussion. Now go and work on your sampler.*
- As for sports, I find quilting pretty intense so I am no authority but I think it might change the game if commentors made comments like: “Youre right Jim! And that impressive body check he took will mean he will be ten times more likely to suffer early dementia, depression and suicide!” “Danger pay Rex?” “Well I say, God Bless them, they give us our careers Jim.” “Hahahahahahaha”. The camera can pick out a child in the bleachers who has seen the results of Repetitive Head Injury Syndrome in a parent. 😦 I would imagine competitive quilting and cross stitch would start to look pretty good. Okay, that’s maybe cruel. Cross stitch is hard to do.
I just realized that all these things are pretty much the things I would have decreed when I was six years old. So, just in case your were wondering, no it’s not likely I will ever succeed in becoming “Supreme Being” so relax. I mean, really, I can’t think of anything more unlikely happening…oh wait, ick, this is awkward…
Finally, it was argued recently that things are changing for the better. I don’t know. Talk is cheap. Only when we meet in the field of our own vulnerability, aware of this vibrant and improbable event that is life, when we are just there, not in an abstraction, but in the terrifing, liberating beauty of it, does anything change.
If not now? When?
Happy New Year!
* It seems there really is a program to teach inmate to quilt.