OMG. Can you BELIEVE what he just did?

It’s madness I say! All this talk!

Be yourself.

Follow your bliss.

You can be or do anything you want.

…and then…

Did you SEE that dress she was wearing?!

Yeah, but you can’t make money at your art. You have to get a real job.

THIS is how it’s done.

I’m not good / pretty / rich / smart / connected enough.

Pure insanity! …this cognitive dissonance of declaring that we simultaneously have freedom and also must abide. Can we not see the disastrous effects judgment – certainly of others, but most insidiously of ourselves – wreaks? Is there any way out?

I wonder…

What could happen if we:

* unfurl, instead of bind

* celebrate, instead of constructively criticize

* unarm, instead of protect

* radiate, instead of compete

* affirm life, instead of deny it

* loosen, instead of furrow

* shoot from the hip, instead of prepare

* witness, instead of evaluate

* accept, instead of tolerate

* breathe

What if we stopped judging every little damned thing we see? What if we stopped deciding if everything fits neatly into either the Good or Bad column? What if that voluptuous woman wore that dress like no one’s business, painted her way into a living, and did it all on her own terms?

THEN would we shut up that petty little voice in our heads?

What if, I mean, really now…imagine if The Last Judgment wasn’t some day of reckoning, some hierarchical accounting of our sins, layered with the gross humiliation of guilt and blame and deeply rooted shame…and instead was simply…

The very last time we ever judged?

The End, er, I mean… The Beginning Is Near

Can you feel it? It’s happening – to me and seems to everyone I’m talking with lately. We’re clearing away cobwebby concepts, habits, defenses, abuses, misappropriations, faulty thinking, and old programming. Darwinian philosophy is dead, Cartesian duality isn’t serving us anymore, waste management is a misnomer, and the levees holding Top Down patriarchy from washing away are on the verge of collapse.

     I know, I know you probably scream and cry
     That your little world won’t let you go
     But who in your measly little world
     Are you trying to prove that
    You’re made out of gold and, eh, can’t be sold

     So, are you experienced?
     Have you ever been experienced?
     Well, I have

     Let me prove you…

     Trumpets and violins I can hear in distance
     I think they’re calling our names
     Maybe now you can’t hear them, but you will
     If you just take hold of my hand – Jimi Hendrix

Maybe you’re still pretending you can’t hear the distant music, but that’s because it’s being drowned out by puppets and agents of fear – both those in your head that keep the illusion on just the other side of smouldering rage, and those who are stoking that furnace, all while tweeting their exit strategies to 98,000 followers.

Chances are though, fiery anxiety aside, you can feel an emerging future; you and visionaries from Nostradamus to the ancient Mayans, from Charles Reich* to Hendrix to that sandwich board-wearing nutso down in the subway station for the last twenty years, babbling about the coming rapture. From furtive whispers to in-your-face proclamations – it’d be foolish to deny anymore that we are living, truly, through the apocalypse.

The apocalypse – how we quiver at that word. From the Greek, meaning “the lifting of the veil,” it points to revelation during a time of falsehood and misconception, not some Mad Max catastrophe. If we plot humankind’s presence along the timeline of the earth, it’s said we don’t show up until a few seconds before midnight, New Year’s Eve. Zoom in, like a microscope, and just sit and think about the past 100 or so years, a veritable blip. That’s an infinitesimally short time to wreak so much havoc and try to evolve accordingly. Yes, we’ve invented cars, airplanes, telephones, microwave ovens, laptops, remote-controlled you-name-its, as well as eradicated smallpox, raised millions out of poverty, extended lifespan, and figured out that a net can prevent malaria. But, we’ve also witnessed and participated in genocides of people, species and cultures that will never, ever be experienced again. We’ve committed acts of violence to ourselves and each other that you’d think, if I were to frame them as the workings of an alien society, unconscionably atrocious.

We’ve altered the fricking CLIMATE, fercryin’outloud.

When was the last time you saw an earthworm or an eagle? We’re so disconnected from our planet that we need devices to tell us when it’s time to eat, what the air feels like outside, and how to wake up in the morning. We think a “week” is a real measure of time.

We’re so disconnected from ourselves that it’s not until cancer kicks us in our collective ass do we start to think, oh! Maybe there’s something wrong here. And the biggest killer of children, of CHILDREN I say, is that we are starving them to death through obesity, first by our own example and then by supporting the greed-based sources of the so-called ‘food’ we pretend to decry.

Further, we’re so disconnected from each other we barely make eye contact over our smartphones, we deadbolt our families behind gates (& call it a community), and it’s all we can do to piece together broken relationships with complaints / meaningless sex / gossip as our baseline. We’re terrified of answering real questions with honesty and humility.

But there’s good news! Really, really good news, although you won’t read about it in the newspapers or hear it on the radio, because those are part of the institutions that are either crumbling or transitioning. Creative destruction is allowing for magnificent innovation, technological transformation, and radical redesign. The evidence can be seen EVERYWHERE. While the old is getting earthquake’d and tsunami’d, more are being catapulted into a new paradigm. So surrender your erroneous defenses and create the life that’s been calling you – the world needs what only you can provide. The universe is conspiring to bring us unparalleled creativity, beauty, ease, and prosperity. And it wants you in on it. So put on your party pants and grab a partner!

     Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. ~ Steve Jobs

  • Aging – Screw dying when I’m 80. I’m going to live at least another 80 years.
  • Retirement – Bullocks! Why would I want to work like a dog for a paycheck just so that I could knit or play golf when I’m “old?”
  • Cash / Money – It’s the end of fiat currency, the end of worshipping false idols. Imagine getting what you want without the treasury middleman.
  • Jobs – I don’t want one. Do you? Jobs are going the way of the Yugo. And that’s a GOOD thing.
  • Banks – Let them fail. Yes, it’ll hurt. But no more than if we don’t.
  • Stock Market – Really? You’re still in it? How about locavesting…self-investing…community investing…
  • Disease – Heal instantly. Never be sick again. Eliminate this idea of illness as inevitable.
  • Peak Oil / Dwindling Energy Supplies – Mere corporate propaganda. No such thing. Praise the sun and the wind and the deep blue sea.
  • Time Travel – Yup. Done it. And so have you.
  • God / Universe / The Great Pumpkin – Nietzsche said “Dead!” Walt Whitman said “Leaves of Grass.” I side with the humanist.

This is what I’ll be writing about in forthcoming posts. Which is to say that all I learned and thusly railed against all my life were falsehoods and misconceptions: that which didn’t ring true, but were the foundations upon which the masses built their beliefs. So look forward. Let’s start questioning EVERYTHING we think we know is real. Let me push into what you think is not possible, and allow a seed to be planted. Come explore with me – what is something you absolutely believe to be true? Now hand me that sledgehammer.

************************************

I don’t know why we always cry
This we must leave and get undone
We must engage and rearrange
And turn this planet back to one
So tell me why we got to die
And kill each other one by one
We’ve got to hug and rub-a-dub
We’ve got to dance and be in love
(But what I really wanna know is)
Are you gonna go my way? ~ Lenny Kravitz

*There is a revolution coming. It will not be like revolutions of the past. It will originate with the individual and with culture, and it will change the political structure only as its final act. It will not require violence to succeed, and it cannot be successfully resisted by violence This is the revolution of the new generation. ~ Charles Reich, The Greening Of America, 1970.

Why Should You Remember August 26?

My name, Kellie, means “Warrior Princess,” which is apt because I’ve been a fighter my whole life. I’ve fought against authority, against containment, against ignorance, against hate, against those I think are wrong. I guess I took my cue from all the fighting my formal education was based upon – names, dates, and places of our history – which is to say the history of war.

I know too many dates like 1066, December 7, 1944 and September 11, 2001. Names like Genghis Khan and Vlad the Impaler or battles like Iwo Jima, and Wounded Knee Massacre. It’s all just so horrid what gets lodged in our brains. I don’t like having it there.

What if I pivoted 180 degrees and created a new language, a new framework for understanding the world? What if we all did? What if we stopped fighting against poverty, racism, or to be first in line? What if we stopped declaring war on terror or childhood hunger or especially, each other?

Imagine if we started standing ‘for’ our values and became advocates for peace, for food security, for equality instead.

Starting now I’m changing my mind, literally. I’m changing my vocabulary and my perspective.  I am for justice and liberation and the rights of all humans to live out the highest expression of the lives we’re given.

So, let’s celebrate today, August 26, and not just because today is my birthday. (Although if you raise a glass in my direction, I’ll certainly revel with you). Let’s celebrate those Americans who gave this day true meaning – women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott. Lydia Taft and Ernestine Rose. Susan B. Anthony and Lucy Burns. They fought for what they knew was right, for what they believed in.

Because on this day, in 1920, women gained the right to vote in the United States. And that was something worth fighting for.

Darwin Is Dead.

The late nineties were pivotal in my evolution as a thinking person. Y2K, partying like it’s 1999, and all the premillennial madness was drum beating me into a travel frenzy. Infected with the proverbial wandering bug, on steroids no less, I was anxious to launch that round-the-world trip I’d been dreaming of, before the gong sent Cinderella home. What if the world came crashing down before my jet-setting jaunts could be quenched?

I salivated over the lonely planet. Where to?  Seattle > Anchorage > Seoul > Indonesia > Nepal > Johannesburg > Rome > London > NYC?  Or perhaps Mexico City > Lima > Patagonia > Kenya > Delhi > Beijing > Sydney > San Francisco?

I chewed on each country like jeweled jujubes, until they blended into a kaleidoscopic jawbreaker. Turning to my sister, no neophyte in the Delta mileage program, for destination distillation, she emphatically warned me to stay away from certain Muslim-populated countries, informing me that there was a price on my soft American head by a radical faction led by a man I’d never heard of: Osama bin Laden.

Seriously, I asked? Who would want to hurt little ol’ me? I’m a nobody. But my awareness of the greater world was on the verge of being blown wide open, and simply that I carried a passport issued by the military and cultural powerhouse of the 20th century put me in the 99th percentile of economic and political advantage. In a dog-eat-dog world, this meant I was prime meat, and we all know our human tendency to knock over those on top.

So in 1999, instead of a twenty-country bonanza, I opted for just one: China, rumored one of the safest countries for a solo woman traveler, and fortunately home port for the Mandarin and Asian culture I’d been studying. Off I went to see the land of revered mountains, towering Buddhas, and great walls.

While teaching English there, in Changsha, the capital of the Hunan Province and hometown to Mao Zedong, one-time leader of the not-so-free world, I was assigned a “monitor,” Hsui (English name: David). His responsibilities included making sure I didn’t spread pro-capitalist propaganda, subvert the Communist government, or otherwise pollute the pristine waters of my students’ shallow worldview. (and here I had thought myself sheltered from those who sought to squash my red-blooded love of freedom!) What I didn’t know was how two-dimensional my outlook would prove to be.

Once, while trying to spice up a rote vocabulary lesson, I considered myself keen, dividing the class into two rows and giving the end person in each line an eraser. I’d say a word like ‘kitchen’ and the end person would name something that could be found there – chopsticks! wok! MSG! – and then pass the eraser. I explained that the first team to get their eraser from one end of the line to the other, with correct enunciation and accuracy, would be the winner. I thought my little game fun and lively. However, during the first round, David suddenly stopped the game, jumping in to declare authoritatively, “Friendship first. Competition second.” Lively, indeed. Score one for Mao.

Now, if you’ve ever played a card game with me, you know I turn it into a contact sport. I’m out to win. I even configure ways to beat myself at solitaire, just for the thrill. I never considered any other M.O. Wasn’t Darwin the centerpiece of Western education? Isn’t the survival of our species dependent on the biggest, fastest, strongest?

Clearly I had crossed cultural boundaries and sensibilities, for then and on, David wouldn’t even let me go to the cafeteria alone, much less around the neighborhood, lined as it was with dozens of mom and pop stores, all selling the same limited merchandise for the same price. How did they stay in business I asked? Was there any benefit to buying your thermos from one over another? All those shop owners smiling and nodding was confusing, and all those choices – not really choices at all.

Over time, David diplomatically played ‘tour guide,’ as we explored his city and developed a simpatico relationship, one that flourished with mutual Q & A’s. Over sautéed bok choy and cilantro we attempted to build common understanding, but it was a bit more like sparring.

“Why do you kill your presidents?” David would ask.

“Why do you throw your garbage in the rivers?” I’d counter.

Eventually, we called a truce (a veritable peace treaty at camp David), which led to a growing fondness as we opened each other’s eyes to the dangers of narrow stereotyping and believing what those in power tell us to be true. It’s all propaganda, we realized, but we still had to navigate its mire and muck, he more than I, perhaps. (Perhaps not.) When I finally left, I returned to integrate my experience of life in a communist/totalitarian state with a new eye towards the American democratic experiment/myth with more textured perspective. My unlikely new friendship enhanced my contrarian leanings as I doubted the headlines of home and questioned even more enthusiastically the gospel of a superpower.

Still, I appreciated that I could hop a plane anytime as long as I had the money, whereas David wasn’t allowed to leave his motherland, and was relegated to his job and apartment until the forces that be changed their mind. At least I had the American Dream to hold up as a shining star of possibility, pointing to our founders as bastions of the revolution.

I relished having not one, but two jobs to come home to, and the liberty to come and go as I pleased. While the rest of the patriots thought the dream was to work like a maniac, pay the bills, compete for limited resources, and hope to win the lottery, I said no thank you.

In order to finance this off-peak lifestyle and traveling affliction, I worked two restaurants in neighboring towns, and when I made a few thousand, I’d head off again on another globe-trotting adventure. Sometimes a thorn in my bosses’ sides – you want two months off this time?! – I nevertheless managed to keep my balls in the air to truly capitalize on the idiosyncrasies of the service industry. We were in it together, when we needed to be, yet we served self-interest first. No health insurance or paid vacation, but as long as the shifts were covered, there would gallivanting.

My peculiar philosophies were sometimes misunderstood, but more often they intrigued those around me. Pat, the hardworking owner of the first place once asked me how I felt when a new Italian joint opened up next to the second place.

“Aren’t you mad that your one horse town now has competition?” he prodded.

“Nope. The more the merrier,” I replied. Despite David’s reminder of the primacy of friendship, I still felt a little competition was a good thing. “It’ll bring in more people. Our small village will become a destination for dining, and customers can choose what they’re in the mood for once they get here.”

“Pshaw!” he said. “You don’t know anything about business.”

Maybe not, but I was familiarizing myself on the fluid spectrum between the polarities of working ‘against’ and working ‘with’.

For what it’s worth, his restaurant closed within a few years and I went on to earn a living with one of the best in the industry, learning that while the strong can survive with a little competition, they actually thrive exponentially in collaboration. I found that joining forces with both the people I worked with, and, ostensibly, those in vying establishments, caused greater prosperity and opportunity all around. Talent, ambition, and passion bred more of each, and my earlier adversarial tendencies evolved along those inklings I’d had of all boats rising with the tide. David’s legacy was intact. In fact, what I learned after being employed in both hemispheres can be boiled down to this:

Listen to the accepted truth, try to understand the foundation upon which it was built and the environment in which it was conceived, then discard 80% of it, keeping only the part that doesn’t make you bristle. Stay open to emerging ideas. (My contrary nature reveals there’s a little truth in everything, but most of it remains a mystery.)

Competition is a hulking, rusted relic of the past.

Cooperation is becoming the present.

For the foreseeable future, my modus operandi will be to prosper in the community of others. I am completely a product of alliance and reliance, as we all are. What lies beyond that, I don’t know. We may or may not have evolved from the apes, but we are evolving to create global webs and bridges and understandings. It’s what we gain from these interdependencies that propel us, allowing more precise and complex truths to emerge of who we are and why we are. Darwin was just a link in the chain.

********************************************

More cross-cultural Q & A with David: Taking My Breath Away

Dismantling Youth

“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.  My sin. My soul.  Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth.  Lo. Lee. Ta.”

When I was 20, maybe 21, signing up for yet another semester of Humanities at the local community college, adulthood perpetually as imminent as the red button, the Cold War was unknowingly about to end.  In a desperate ploy to hang on to childish things, to look cool in the eyes of others, I graffiti’d a pair of white Vans with titles of Vladimir Nabokov novels in red magic marker.  Save for that  stunning opening paragraph that even now astounds me by its physical lyricism, I hardly knew who Nabokov was, much less Stanley Kubrick or James Mason, who together brought Lolita to the screen.  Smitten as I was with the younger intellectual skateboarding boys on campus – with their long hair and side-parts, lanky surfer bodies and West Coast fantasies – I scrawled ‘Bend Sinister’ across the left shoe and ‘Invitation To A Beheading’ across the right, in true contrarian embrace-the-enemy fashion.  What’s that mean? they’d ask, as we’d hang out in concrete basement bars, pretending we were old enough to be there, but not so grown up to be confused with the proletariat drinking their dollar and a half draughts during dusky happy hours.

God forbid our fraud should slip.

While Michael, boyishly cute and charming and the one I had the maddest crush on, played aloof, I did my wiliest to mirror his nonchalance (therefore showing him how much he really wanted me) and instead tried impressing his friends with arcane Soviet trivia.  When I found them gawking over stacks of nudie magazines one afternoon after class, I casually mentioned Nabokov’s penchant for getting published in Playboy, proving that yes, men really did read it for the articles and they should, too.  Were any of us planning on graduating and growing up at some point?

We never saw that our restless energy was held in check by end-of-the-world-as-we-knew-it propaganda.  What young adult wanted to stake claim in an era of Reagan and Gorbachev and the crisis of missiles?  We did as we were told:  good little Communist-haters, except that we weren’t.  We were too naive, still, to really understand anything, so we played on both sides of the rail, never knowing when the train was going to race down the tracks and split everything in two.

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Meanwhile, I taught them to play chess, (the Russians were masters, right?) and we’d plot moves until dawn, taking rooks and pawns and they taught me to say “Prost!” as we toasted with cheap vodka;  it wasn’t until I went to Germany years later did I realize that I didn’t have a trademark on affectation.  In time, our attempts to dazzle each other with bluster and bloc fizzled, but as the breezes of destiny blew, it turned out we all just really loved being together.  Especially Michael and I.  Ultimately, we paired off, whirling around in a magical wonderland with passionate abandon, leaving the group behind.  For months, we were intoxicated by the blindness of bliss, closing our eyes and diving deep enough inside to feel lo. lee. ta.  in each other’s mouths.

Eventually, the other boys all said goodbye, scattering off to four-year universities or low-paying jobs in nearby towns.  Michael and I remained, still partly caught in the stickiness of our infatuation, but somehow sensing a shift in the wind.  That fall, with legs entwined, curled up in front of the TV, we watched the Berlin Wall come down, governments toppling like dominos, the only world we ever knew crumbling, and we tried to imagine life without impending nuclear catastrophe and its fear we unwittingly swallowed. The structures that had defined us were no longer.  Where do you go when you can go anywhere?

As we planned our escape to California, as far from New York as we could  imagine, tragedy struck.  There was an accident and his brother died.  All spells broke.  The world had changed;  nothing would ever be the same.

The stranglehold of the eighties loosened and catapulted us into our futures.  The cocoon of youth dissolved.

He left for Hollywood, alone.  I never saw him again.

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