Owning our happiness

Good moments are for you! Hold on to them tight, think of them fondly when you remember them at night. They’re yours to cherish and relive every day.

I don’t need to tell you about happiness, or how to be happy. When it happens, you know it and it washes over you in glorious waves of joy and tranquility. You love it and feel it and seek it to be it and live it and love it no matter what I’ve ever said. Your happiness is yours and I couldn’t take it away if I tried.

I wasn’t put here to make you happy, although it’s a nice coincidence when it happens.
At least not anymore than you were put on this earth to please me either – or were you?

I love to live my life and live life next to you, when times get tough that doesn’t diminish for my part.

I’ll tell ya about troubled waters or how to navigate them, not to bring you down man, but to help you set your expectations. I’ll teach you about strife to keep you from fights that no one wants a piece of. I’ll let you know about rough roads and brews gone sour so maybe you could have sweet wine and smooth driving.

I’ll commiserate and struggle with you, because it makes tough times a little bit easier. It may seem crazy not to bother with making merry, but it’s not that I don’t, it’s that I don’t shy from the other. I don’t need good made better, I would like the bad softened but need the contrast to know the difference between them.

I don’t owe anyone my happiness because it’s mine to have and hold. It’s mine to cultivate or shun as I would. I like to let my little shine bright, but without direction it quickly fades in the distance. So I focus my inner light like a laser beam, just exactly where I want. If I withhold it that’s only because it needs to illuminate the right things, be spent in the right measure, be doled out in the best sequence.

 

 

 

 

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Art IS Life

Being overly analytical, I had long dismissed the arts as a waste of resources at worst or irrelevant at best… but I had been sorely mistaken. Art is everything. Art is the foundation for our purpose as a species. The perfect expression of consciousness and abstract thought is art, in all forms. Regardless of the medium it is inherently a way to produce and disseminate pure emotion and experience. It is largely unfettered by the trappings of societal constraint, while building cultural material that heavily influences societal trajectory.

I had always wanted to get more done, and had foolishly thought that if we could eliminate all inefficient things that we could accomplish everything that needs doing. I have always listened to my grandma and for us, art was eating dessert before we’ve had our dinner – but it was a mindset that was faulty and shortsighted. It turns out that the things that make our dreams take flight are the things of fancy and frolic, and the things that light a fire in our passion are the things of misery and suffering. To turn away from the nature of how we process experience is to turn away from what we are and how we depart or arrive or move through life’s situations.

When we make the mistake of removing our hearts from the picture, we cannot and will not grow or learn very well. Art is the repository for our collective expression, our aspirations and our shared human identity. Without art, there is no reason for us to do better, no reason to dream or want to improve anything. Without art we are driving somewhere without direction, chasing our tail, spinning our wheels, running a fool’s errand. We need to have things to strive for, and we need inspiration to convince us to strive at all.

Art doesn’t imitate, it creates. We need art to chart our course through celestial white noise. We need it to help us understand the universe.

Art is the magnet that stops our moral compass from spinning out of control. Art is the heartbeat of life as we know it.

Emotional boundaries are a labor of love

It is not endearing to violate others’ boundaries. Yet somehow, American culture has come to a place where violating other people’s boundaries is commonplace, accepted and even encouraged. It’s treated as normal and condoned in public settings as well as in private. It is disguised as exercising free will, instead of the bullying it really is. And as with other bullying the victim is blamed for being hurt, they are ridiculed and demeaned in order to make it clear to all parties that supposedly the perpetrator is only joking. It’s almost always couched in joking terms, as if someone who were actually joking but ended up hurting someone would ever behave that way. Which, they do, but basically just as an extension of this behavior pattern – which is to say they were never joking and only using that as a tool to manipulate the person they just victimized.

Part of violating other people’s boundaries has to do with bullying culture, but part of it also has to do with family dynamics. Plenty of world cultures have very close families that care deeply for each other, be they siblings and immediate family or larger extended families. Plenty of humans feel this closeness and choose to build that closeness through caring for and supporting one another. When reared together the average healthy human feels loyalty to those people closest to them, which entails a desire to protect those people and the relationship with them.

Unfortunately, Americans largely aren’t building healthy relationships with appropriate boundaries, and instead have been emotionally isolated and personally devalued, destroying most American’s ability to build any functional relationships. Most importantly, the family group has been made out in cultural context to be restrictive, prohibitive etc. and as such is avoided. That’s wrapped up in the focus on individualism that divides a person from the group, and that gap is reinforced through lack of trust. This comes from cultural pressure to be independent despite the very real need for social support to function as a healthy human. That dichotomy is emotionally damaging to the individual, and sows the seeds of instability in the community.

Americans have been taught a narrative of competition so complete that it is applied to their own family members as well as the rest of the world. However, American culture demeans work and sacrifice – despite the dogma that’s touted. Americans may proclaim that hard work is the road to success, but they hate having to accomplish anything personally. Americans would much rather force someone or something else to accommodate them so that they may achieve success without extending personal effort. Because, above the satisfaction of accomplishment, achievement is seen as an end to be gotten through any means, and manipulative means are seen as intelligent competitive strategy.

Seeing hard work as a burden they would rather avoid, Americans use tactics to basically force others into emotional commitment in friendships and dating. They use tools to make the person feel vulnerable and inadequate, but then reinforce that this is part of their culture of intimacy. Partly because they all feel insecure and inadequate themselves, they ensure others feel the same way as some sort of bonding or shared experience. But it’s also a handy way to manipulate the person into feeling desperate enough to seek support and/or compromise their own values to be included in the group, or more accurately, to avoid exclusion. When people feel inferior, they try to impress others or otherwise gain their approval, especially when faced with the fear of rejection.

The hard work I’ve been alluding to is emotional work. It is work to come to others and build intimacy, which is inherently from a place of vulnerability. Americans are terrified of that, both because it’s associated with weakness, which is demeaned in the culture, but also because it strikes at their fears of survival, since they’re isolated and can’t seek support when they need it. This all results in a lot of relationships built on social currencies like obligation and status, that are injected with pressure and explode in messy, emotional outbursts as people are only willing to admit their own emotional needs or boundaries when they’ve been pushed well beyond their limits, or when they’ve engaged in self destructive behavior enough to bring themselves to a place of being able to allow closeness at all (e.g. drinking too much alcohol, engaging in sexual or intimate behaviors, etc.).

It’s scary to try to trust someone or let them get close to us (which gives them a level of power over us). When we feel secure in a broad social network, an individual relationship does not garner nearly the same power that it does when we essentially have no network to fall back on (except more people we don’t fully trust or feel accepted by). As much as it is scary to open up to others, it’s scary to stand our ground with them as well. Despite our fears, we can’t have the healthy relationships we all desperately need without risking being hurt by them too much. That’s why it’s so critical that we know how to create and maintain appropriate emotional boundaries with others – to be able to let them in our hearts without letting them destroying us.

Building healthy, functional relationships takes a lifetime of compromise, sacrifice, effort, goodwill, forgiveness, flexibility, vulnerability, trust, respect, responsibility, focus, acceptance, support, encouragement, communication, adjustment, accommodation, collaboration, ingenuity and, hopefully love.

 

Talk about missing the point

In this age of finally being able to gain a small foothold against the tyranny that blames victims for assault, abuse, sexism, hate crime, and more, there has been a disconnect that formed and grew, and is now becoming a fresh problem in American society. Although there are no absolutes, broadly put, the left wing has come to blame some of the victims of the right wing’s efforts as culprits instead of seeing them as they victims they are. If we look at statistics and know that predominantly right wing communities count significantly lower levels of education and resources than the upper classes, and we know that right wing culture discourages using social support while needing it more, and we know that the right wing disempowers wide swaths of the populace through convincing them to infight as well as vote and spend against their own best interests (let alone through discrimination against minorities), and we know that the right wing ethos is that people are only poor if they are dumb or lazy, or somehow exceptionally removed from the data set, and if we know that the right wing insists that hard work is enough to succeed and prosper unconditionally, if we know that they do glorify classism while blaming the victims of the upper classes’ abuse, then we on the left are blaming the victims of the right who have been duped and destroyed by their own “leadership” while being convinced they need to blame other victims in the very same position.

Every time we antagonize and bully these people on the right we are blaming the victims of a very small group of perpetrators. Governmental, community and commercial leadership is not such a large pool, and they are using every method they can to draw attention elsewhere so they can run out in the middle of the night with spoils from both sides of the war they started. The culture war is deep and intense and motivated by the most serious of our concerns as humans: survival. When the upper classes alighted on the ability to drive action through manipulating the lower classes into feeling constant threat to their survival and/or wellbeing, the result has been generations of dysfunction and self sabotage as the victims struggle with their own inability to do what they know to be true, which is cast off the small group of leeches that are sucking us dry. The average American citizen of right wing persuasion as well those one the left know that  banking and loan policies are predatory, as is marketing of all stripes, and that little to no financial education is provided to new consumers before entering the workplace or the marketplace, yet people on both sides choose to participate in processes they don’t understand, including contractually binding themselves to agreements they can’t uphold because they are victims of fraud, misrepresentation, manipulation, coercion or intimidation.

If we know that the right oppresses women, ethnic minorities, those outside of the right’s identity standards, the disabled, the elderly, children, the abused, the poor and the wretched, then why do we blame those poor victims for eating from the only open hand in sight? How can they abandon the limited knowledge they have without even realistically knowing the alternative because they’ve been kept from the truth and we know it? If we know these people aren’t capable of making decisions based on critical thought until they get more education and support, then how can we blame them for that? They didn’t keep themselves from it with intent, they’ve been deprived of resources that are fundamentally necessary to being able to escape their role as victims of manipulation and control. Clinging to the only defense mechanisms they’ve been afforded shouldn’t be punished as a self aware decision when it’s really just uneducated self preservation.

In short: if we don’t blame the average citizens of Germany for what Hitler and the SS did, and we don’t blame shrouded women in the middle east for what Gaddafi or Bin Laden did,  and we can make that distinction in so many other cases, then we need to make that distinction here and stop demanding that victims save themselves or take responsibility for their victimization. They need our help, our support, and access to tools and resources to be able to begin empowerment and self sufficiency.

Because either we’re trying to help those who are suffering or we’re just kicking them while they’re down.