Hi friends. I have a whole bunch of things in the works which I will have ready to share with everyone soon. A few of them are hard-hitting and political, but the major pieces are all pure uplift – tales of love, gratitude, creativity and overcoming.
But I find myself at a low ebb emotionally, and I have a feeling I’m not the only one. So many things seem to be coming apart at once right now, that the cost of our casual destruction of common 20th century ideas like civility and broad camaraderie is really starting to cut deeply.
Loneliness was already a huge problem for every one of the richest countries on earth – and now it feels not just like distance, but outright and almost unlimited hostility. The only people who are doing just great are the ones who own all the channels, websites and newspapers which tell us that above all else we must always be sure to hate each other – weird huh?
Anyhow, I do more than enough on the state of the world. Today, feeling the sadness and fighting the helpless hopeless direction that feeling can lead to, I had a thought along the line of ‘take your own advice, dummy’.
So – what do I know about being upset and extra frustrated because I feel helpless? I know that when I find the world painful in this way, my best strategy is almost always to find some creative work in which to place some of that pain, in a revealing or consoling way which makes it useful to others.
“Make it count for something” may be a wildly overused Hollywood trope – but we don’t have to be in a dumb action movie to have struggles before us – large and small. We all need ways to wrestle our sadness down so we can get up in the morning and plant more seeds.
Since I have a lot of friends who are, like me, creatively inclined, I thought I’d have a look for some of my unpublished poetry – since I am as a rule much better at codifying clear thought than following it! (and surely not alone there, either) ;o)
I found a few sweet ones which spoke far more to this moment than they did to the moment in which I wrote them. Which reminded me once again that the universe really does give out (always oblique and somewhat wonky) participation trophies whenever we make almost any sincere effort – in the form of an extra funky reality to live inside! (Most definitely not available on InstaMeta or Amazon).
Growing up in a commune formed around ideas from psychotherapy, I’ve been interested in the way emotions work (and the amazing tricks our conscious minds play, to disguise their influence) for as long as I can remember. One of the reasons Sufi literature fascinated me from my first encounter is that they are masters at encapsulating a useful insight in a way so clear you can never forget it. Better still, they choose humour over anger as a primary tool – so the insight doesn’t just make us smarter, it also makes us chuckle in a forgiving way about our own ignorance, and that of those who don’t yet get it.
This is, to be clear, a far lower level and infinitely more obvious point about human dynamics than the subtle and sophisticated insights of the Sufis – but I still hope it is clear, useful and funny.
Here’s one I wrote almost a decade ago, considering the deep meaning of the increasingly hostile relationship between the state at all levels, and the increasingly bewildered and alienated individual. As with the poem above – sometimes we can make an essay worth of points more neatly in a tighter form.
As a guy who experienced a lot of loneliness and setback in my early years, I’ve always been sensitive to those being bullied silenced and misunderstood. One of the reasons some of my less perceptive friends now question my leftist credentials is that I hate it just as much when leftists bully the innocent as I do the other way around. I have seen this sort of ignorant unprincipled political bullying happen for decades, and I stand with (and up for) the bullied one in every case (and regard anyone who is both a bully and a leftist, of which there are uncountably many – as letting down the side).
What does this have to do with Basquiat? Everything, actually. Almost everything we hear about the man is either blind (and in no way respectful) adulation of him with no understanding, or a hostility (just as blind) based upon the fact that the art market made millions off his incredibly raw looking work.
But if you grew up as part of the underclass that came of age in the eighties, his stuff hits you like Goya’s famous “Third of May” which spoke so powerfully to its own time. The anger is visceral, relateable, and the revolutionary passion remains heartbreakingly beautiful all these many years later (still perhaps the strongest expression of this, of our modern age).
Finally, here’s one about coming to understand one’s self in a different way. Recognizing the strength of certain kinds of vulnerability, and the limits we often self-impose, seeking illusory emotional safety.
Be well. Don’t overshoot and hurt yourself. Extend into pleasure again gracefully (so many of us are off our usual levels of balance and fitness) – and for those still unable to go that far (as some dear to me remain) at very least peel off that mental fear-suit and enjoy the moment of great improvement.
Got to save up some epinephrine for next week, don’t ya know!
Here’s something extra which I just have to share. I mentioned before that I think Caitlin Johnstone is probably the most fearless and relevant columnist writing today, but it never occurred to me before that her nerve was powered by the sort of genuine overproof all-in love the Mrs and I also enjoy.
I was nervous when I saw she also wrote poetry. Hearing someone say that is a little like someone saying “I play electric guitar”. The odds are high that we will be unmoved and unimpressed – but instead expected to encourage an amateur (nothing wrong with it – just a different function from sharing art).
But now I’m nervous another way. Her latest poem is so good that it made me cry reading it, then again when I played the version read aloud for Catherine. A marketing-headed fellow wouldn’t attach something this strong to the foot of their own modest efforts. But thankfully, that just ain’t me. I remain a crazy enthusiast above all else. So I want you to check her out, even if she makes me look like even more of a fool by contrast! ;o)