Choose Life

I wanted to get rid of the badness. Eradicate it. I wanted to wipe the earth clean of all traces of cruelty and hatred. I still do, a little bit, to be honest, don’t most of us? It’s not that I don’t want to do that now, but it’s that there’s more to it than that. As I see this life flash before my eyes, the time goes by and I see the task I had set before me was as wide and deep as the sky itself. I discovered I was tilting at windmills sometimes, and others stoking fires I was trying to put out. I realized I was chasing my tail, or shadows, or wild geese, or mirages. I began to see – not that there’s too much bad, but that there’s not enough good, not enough by far.

I had never bought into the idea before, because it felt so defeating to give up on fighting evil. Until I stopped and examined that mindset, and how nonsensical it was to fight for love at all. There’s already enough fight in this world, and there’s no such thing as a “good fight” to be fighting. There’s a slew of people that can’t stop fighting because they can’t or they won’t or they don’t know how. They fight for the right reasons or the wrong, but at the end of the day they’ve been fighting, so long. The goodness isn’t a given, it’s in need of makers.

I wanted to think that if we got rid of the bad, that there would be nothing left but good in the world. It doesn’t follow suit though, that logic I’d built. Because the truth is there’s plenty of middle ground in this territory. It would really be more of a barren wasteland if we got rid of the bad at this point, I fear. Because there’s precious little deeply good, truly great… the stuff we’re really looking for.

And that’s the heart of the matter, we want the sweet goodness that we feel badness covers up. We want that elation and satisfaction that comes from the best things. Removing hindrances is a great step to paving the way for goodness to come through. But we’ve got to do our part to bring the goodness itself in from the cold. We’ve got to be the catalyst or impetus or driving force. We’ve got to bring the goodness to light and bathe it in glory. It’s up to us to build it, maintain it and share it. It’s our place and no one else’s to make the good we want so badly.

I had done quite a lot of good things in my life, but they were largely situational. They were responses to circumstances or local changes made in the moment, or just being “not bad” in general. It had never occurred to me how badly it was needed for every minute, every hour, every day of my life to be striving for this. I couldn’t see before how badly people needed that little bit of goodness kindled and fanned into flames before they could join in. Once it gets going the reaction continues long after we’re gone. It’s like chemistry or physics, it naturally progresses. We don’t need to see it through to the end if we’ve got to move on, it’s ok because it’s got its own life by then.

I had wanted to be a warrior on behalf of goodness and I didn’t realize the only way to do that is to care for that goodness so it may bear fruit for us all.

We want and need goodness to strive for and enjoy, we have got to have something to live for, not just to die for.

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Tired

We’re all so tired. So so tired. We’re so tired we wake up tired. We sleep until we’re tired again. And then, we’re tired all day long. We’re tired on Monday, we’re tireder by Friday. On the weekend we’re exhausted and then we talk about how we got no rest then either. We come back and say “I need a vacation from my vacation.” In seriousness.

We get tired seeing each other, we consider it draining. We’re tired of work when we sit in meetings or type endlessly. We are tired year after year after year after year. We’re completely depleted with nothing to spare, forever on our last gasp of polluted air. We can’t seem to catch up on quiet time or rest, we’re forever pushed on to the next task.

My tiredness was relentless and I couldn’t seem to shake it for so long I thought I’d always be tired. Somehow on this journey where the road is the goal, not the end or transition to other worlds, I got so tired as I trudged along I forgot the most important song. Freedom is for all and I don’t have to run. I don’t have to walk, I don’t need to follow a straight line. I can step off the path and relax anytime, but somehow I was waiting for the moment to arrive. A good time in the neverending cycle to break out and sit down and check out for awhile.

It’s silly to think we could be all things, or be part of it all. But even when we try we just wear ourselves thin, wishing we’d saved ourselves something for the end. The road travels on whether we’re there or not, but it will be there when we’re ready to come back. There’s always a chance to get what we want, but it’s better to notice our own human condition. Without water or food we die quickly. Without rest it takes longer, but it’s no less vital.

Truth is, we think it’s work or other people that tire us out. Truth is we’re wrong about that, for the most part. We may be tired from doing, but we’re made for that so it’s more complicated. Truth be told we’re overstimulated and overexcited constantly. We feel obligated to be happy and respond to everything that comes along. We’ve been socialized to answer every look, word, and implication. We are asked to interpret and react correctly to assorted infinitely variable scenarios.

As much as we want to entertain every thought, feeling, or ethical conundrum, we can keep in mind we are each but one person. There is only so much anyone can handle, even on our best day. When we’re tired and frustrated we can’t see the light of day. We don’t have to wear ourselves paper thin. We don’t just don’t have to, we honestly shouldn’t. We’re not getting more done, we’re just spreading around our limited resources in new and different patterns.

It’s easy to lose sight of details, or the big picture, when our spyglass is dirty and needs to be cleaned. If our eyes are bleary from sleep deprivation we can’t really look through the peephole expecting much clarity. It doesn’t make sense and all swirls around because we need to sit down and stop taking it all in. We don’t need to be mindful of everything around us, we need to be mindful of the silence inside us.

 

What do lynchings and internet warfare have in common?

If I had much of a reputation or public image to maintain you’d be rarin’ to tear it down and make me start over again. You want to lynch this post before it’s even begun: because it uses the word lynch, and it says there’s bad people in all corners. Does that make me that other person out there who equates mowing down humans in a car with standing peacefully on a streetcorner? Until I assert anything, I haven’t done so yet – “lynch” me for what I really have said (not just what it seems like, and as an aside who the fuck could actually make that comparison at all?).

The court of public opinion is lynching every relationship and reputation indiscriminately. The new judges, juries, and executioners got no regard for evidence or due process. But now they enjoy a wider audience, and they come from all sides. The new pitchforks are words stabbing livelihoods and relations. The new torches are media purveyors shedding light on microcosms, throwing the rest of truth into further darkness. The new posse riding at night setting churches on fire is urged on by propaganda that’s electronic, not verbal.

There’s no testimony we can give, no answers we can have that are good enough to defend our honor in this court anymore. The dissected remains of twisted information run the trial, and the jury gets half that, if anything – sometimes even less… but justice is blind and deaf anyway. Condemning others in society’s eye has lasting consequences, albeit different than physically harming them – yet people seem more than willing to throw each other under the bus.

The slightest transgressions no longer draw a little heat, they’re engulfed in flames and fried to hard crunchy nuggets. Mitigating circumstances or any context is disregarded, let alone our history or best intentions involved. For some reason we no longer get the benefit of the doubt, we don’t get any leeway or time to sort it out. They want to call out the police for the same shit the public does online; ruin lives without due process or respect for any parties involved. It’s funny how quickly hypocrites turn tail and run, but not before the damage is done.

We could all say “but that’s only them over there”, yet the truth is plain out here – we’re the same as them when we call it like that. The deeper realities may not seem to apply to us, but we’ve all gotten this way more recently, in general. There is a difference in the goodness being put forth by people – not to belittle it, but to be honest, it now has a different flavor.

We’re seeing more action to build an image to be displayed. We’re dealing with more posturing than honest to goodness altruism. And it’s fine to do good from whatever angle, yet it can and often does feed into judgment and further separation. When we talk about how others’ efforts aren’t good enough or not the right kind, what we’re really doing is judging them, and comparing to ourselves at the same time.

We can say we believe that we’re right and they’re wrong, and say it for any number of reasons. But thinking less of others for not agreeing with us is thinking we’re better than they are, plain and simple. When we believe they’re wrong because they differ from us, and we’ve determined that we’re right and cannot be wrong, it’s not just disregarding their ability to come to conclusions independently, but refusing to acknowledge our own ability to learn so we can grow and work out differences with others.

No one really says “I’m better than others” so plainly, but it is obvious from certain behaviors when one of us sees ourself as somehow better – whether they consider it “earned” or “inherent”. Putting ourselves in a position of feeling superior, looking down on others as inferior, is all divisive and hurtful in the end. It’s not like it’s encouraging people to cooperate and work together to build a functional future for the greater good.

And the answer to the not-so rhetorical question in the title is: mob mentality.

Think for yourself, and build goodness if you want it in this world.

Tools of Oppression – Part 2 of All These Ism’s – Classism

The toolkit of oppression contains assorted emotionally manipulative techniques, chiefly those associated with traits we cannot hide or change. Because we cannot change our appearance or our gender with complete control, the result is that how we are treated is still affected by those around us, and that aspect of being human strikes at the heart of many of our insecurities.

Oppressors are master manipulators that take advantage of insecurities just as they play on fears and lack of knowledge. They insinuate, indicate, imply and other words that may or may not start with I, but all these subtle cues are as powerful (if not more) than outright inflammatory tactics. But they’re not above being incendiary, since that works on people too.

People with power and resources understand some underlying social concepts, like rarity drives demand which drives production and, by extension, value in the marketplace. Or they know that vulnerable and hurt people buy more to protect themselves. They know that when people are too tired or overstimulated or distracted they can’t make coherent decisions. They know that controlling your feelings leads to easier control over your decisions.

We know the truth that some people of all colors, genders, attractiveness and background have managed to become wealthy, powerful or influential. These people have risen to enjoy places of privilege be it through their own efforts or others, be they talented or charismatic. Despite, or possibly because of setbacks, those people prevailed and gained what is considered “success”. That’s not to say that these tools of oppression are not used to keep down wide swaths of population, because they are used exactly in that way – and that’s the point of this piece. Basically, the upper classes would use racism against their own if they could, but when they can’t they just use some other tactics to the same end.

Racism, sexism, ableism, and assorted other isms are tools of oppression. These tools are used to affect changes in people that result in emotionally driven decision making that is against our own interests at best. These are highly charged mechanisms that draw attention away from the actual culprit, and lay the blame at the feet of societies that have been deceived into judging each other intensively according to perceived affiliations or shared traits. The upper classes are not part of or representative of society at large. However, it is easy for them to employ tools against societies when the general populace sees the upper classes as part of broader society, allowing them to manipulate the masses relatively unfettered.

These tools of oppression are very real and very powerful and very common. What people are failing to adequately understand is that while the majority of people are fighting each other about the finer points of definitions of types and styles and levels of isms, there is a population who isn’t playing along – because they’re too busy. This population is driven by a different purpose, and that purpose is to get ahead of the rest. While the masses squabble about differences that certainly are differences, those differences don’t affect the totality of our existence or development. The smoldering hatred and discontent that harden the lower classes was not just sparked by, but fed tinder and tended by the upper classes for generations. They fan the flames of their little campfire to draw attention away from the forest fires behind all of us.

The stark reality is that they will let anyone into the upper classes, if they are valuable or ruthless enough to earn a space in what is treated as a limited pool of valuable influence and resources. But the members of upper classes won’t move over to make space, they crowd together like water molecules only parting for something they cannot dissolve and assimilate. Once a part of the upper classes in manner or substance, the member is included only so far as they can command influence or control outcomes. There are no warm welcome hugs into upper echelons, no one is included, they are all begrudgingly accepted at best.

What the lower classes seem to miss is that the upper classes are no less ruthless or cunning with each other than they are with outsiders. Their cultivated demeanor is but a façade that is used as one more layer of interwoven deception induced by self preservation that overrides ethics and respect. The upper classes are willing to do what it takes to secure resources, regardless of costs. Those resources, material and social, are the basis for the power they wield. They only share resources with those more powerful or those emotionally closest to themselves, regardless of genetic ties or any other recognizable traits.

The upper classes don’t actually care about what you look like, where you come from, or where you want to go – unless you’ve got a hand in their pie or a dog in their race. They respect power only because it carries inherent value, and they aim to get as much of it as they can for themselves. Rulers of commercialism, government, mafia, cartels, religions, organizations, and other power groups – the upper classes maintain their status through manipulating power dynamics. In every group of humans there are those on top, working tirelessly to get more from others and the universe.

When we fall prey to parlor tricks and cheap illusions we devalue and disempower ourselves. If they can please you or lull you into submission, all the easier. If they can deceive you or distract you they will. If that doesn’t work they resort to pulling your heartstrings. If that doesn’t work they put you down or destabilize you. If you still stay strong they use systemic methods to keep you busy defending yourself, shadow boxing. If you survive and thrive, they will work to discredit you and bring you back down. They’ll make sure you feel excluded and left out. They are the kids on the playground who make all the rules of all the games, then change them all over again to manufacture desired outcomes.

Be mad that they use your race or gender against you, but recognize that it isn’t genuinely about those specifics – it’s just a handy way to get you down quickly and keep you from standing back up again. They’d as easily needle you about your weight or guilty pleasures as they would about your sex life, or the color of your feathers.

Funniest part is it comes from the fact that they’re terrified of living like the rest of us do all the time. So we’ve got every advantage if we can see it that way. They are the fleas struggling to hold on to the shaking dog. They may suck our blood, but that will never put us down. It’s actually sad that they’re so scared of everything else that they’re on the defense and they can’t trust anyone at all. We don’t have to help them or feel bad for their case, but we can realize how hard they’re trying to keep us down, and why. It’s because we’re actually so powerful; it’s true. The only thing keeping us down is they’ve convinced us that we’re weak and shut out on principle. When we believe constructs that are illusions we’re the fools, thinking there are roadblocks when they’re nothing but hurdles.

Witness to Bear

I’ve heard tell some folks’ worst nightmares, and darkest secrets of their lives. I’ve been let in on the most hurtful of other people’s memories and experiences. There are things I wish I had never heard that haunt me still. Unprompted and uninvited I’ve heard almost all the horrid stories of human interaction possible, from a firsthand survivor point of view. Abuses sexual, physical and mental don’t begin to describe them. I hesitate to share them despite this being the nature of the post and the medium at large. Let’s say I’ll share one of (if not THE) most painful: a father bringing his son to his knee in order to shoot a kitten in the head, ostensibly to teach something, although no method can be cast over the shadow of this madness.

I have watched a couple break up, their 10 year marriage melting before my eyes – two close friends I cared for deeply had gotten to the point of public humiliation and physical suffering over their tortured relationship’s tattered remains.

I have patted backs and held hands, sitting quietly as they bear their hearts and souls to the light of day for the first time. They’ve told me secrets whispered quietly in the early dawn, feeling like it’s still late at night… a 15 yr old girl says in the almost-darkness “I’m pregnant, but please don’t tell anyone”.

They have told me their secret fantasies that they don’t tell their partners. They tell me their sexual adventures and exploits galore, unasked. People have come out to me as not-heterosexual when they were terrified to tell anyone else.

I have watched others have sex and do drugs and strip nude to skinny dip in the moonlight drunk.

I have been trusted and let it on countless dirty tales, sworn to secrecy, told in deep confidence of my discretion, just as I’ve been let into pools of shame big enough to drown in.

Strangers have stopped me on the bus or street corner to tell me about their lives when I’m just on my way home, delving into excruciating detail for strangers in the night. They talk about crazy happenings and all the things they’ve witnessed in their time – catching me up on any happenings I missed in my limited capacity as just one human.

I’ve watched a crack-head excitedly show her friends a fat $20 rock she had got, just to fumble and drop it so all 3 are on hands and knees sorting through trash in the alley hoping to find it.

Snapped a picture once of a homeless man with half a large pizza all to himself.

I’ve watched seizures, freak outs, and tantrums enough to write about for pages.

I’ve watched my family’s every moment as they keep looking back to make sure I’m watching.

I’ve watched people hurt themselves only feeling safe with me by their side, even if that safety isn’t enough to keep them from it.

I watched a man beat a woman in the front of their car, with us just staring on from the sidewalk, unable to respond to her honking the horn until they drove away together.

I’ve seen pure ecstasy take over and rapturous wonder flood faces high on life, praying or dancing or ranting or singing or just living another day in the sun.

I’ve seen more than one person confide in me that they handle their business – and that business turns out to be self defense.

Blood on knives never lies.

Many a praise has been said of my understanding, when really they’re exhorting my skills at accepting what has come to me in this life, understood or otherwise.

 

I have watched lives and times go by, and long believed I was put on this earth to bear witness to it all.

It’s almost as if I have no purpose of my own, save but to witness and accept that which came before me in this universe, without my input or participation in any way.