I have several large projects about history, spirit, art and understanding underway right now. I am learning a great deal as I work on them, and try to resolve the many contradictions raised, and it feels as if I am making some genuine progress in difficult understandings. I’m looking forward to sharing some of the curious results, soon. But for today I want to talk just a bit about the weirdness and difficulty many questers face, just by setting out at all.
To be clear, there are plenty of quests which are misguided, foolish and even counter productive, and anyone who is always entirely certain that they are NOT in this camp, is really tempting the Murphic forces of the universe to find some hilariously dramatic way to prove otherwise (strictly for educational purposes, of course). ;o)
It is also really important to note that not all quests take a loud dramatic attention-seeking form. Some truly heroic effects are achieved through modest patience and dedication, applied over a long period. But if you are wired up in that funny way that makes you want to do something difficult and unusual, which might help to make the world a bit better, you need to gather a few key elements together, before you can really get started.
Most importantly, you need to have enough love to be bothered. This might sound corny, but I put this one first for a reason. There are lots of people who want to change the world who do not anchor this in love. But that is really about achieving our own emotional satisfaction, often at the expense of harm done to others. An exercise in ego and cruelty is not a quest. That’s cathartic at best (and sad, too).
Confusing these two very different feelings and forces is incredibly common nowadays, I’m tempted to say that advertising works against us, but I really mean the self-advertising falsity of social media. On some low days, it feels as if the counterfeit quester is a hundred times more common than the genuine article. But the genuine article still exists, and even though any of us might be deceived and taken-in by haters for awhile, it isn’t that hard to feel the warning undercurrent, if we check our hearts with modesty and remain steadfast lovers always.
So yes, I’m talking about love quests here, and I don’t care a bit how sappy that sounds.
Trying to make the world a little better isn’t trivial. We do this right, putting the world ahead of our emotions opinions and attitudes, or we shouldn’t do it at all, because doing it wrong just puts us back in that chaos boosting camp of narcissists, manipulators and sadists.
But having good contact with the vivid reality of our love, and having a sense of something which we might make better with some effort, are still not enough for us. We also need to feel that our effort will be understood by, or at least useful to, other people.
My younger friends will not remember a time when the left was the eternal laughing smart ass, and the right ever scowling, full of rules and categorical judgement. Nor will they have met a lot of people who believe that how you treat the people around you is way more important than which ridiculous and corrupt political sports team you favour. But these were both very normal, even in the late 20th century.
So it is important to understand that the whole idea of appealing only to our own little faction, and seeing everyone else as a dupe, an opponent, or an outright enemy, is not just socially destructive, lonely-making and bad for our metabolism (alienation just is), it again pushes us into the team of tantrum throwers who don’t care who gets hurt, instead of people whose love is more important than their anger.
In fact, if we step back and look with fresh eyes, we quickly realize that changing the world for the better HAS TO BE about learning how to respectfully and effectively address those who are not already convinced. Preaching to the choir is practise, not the big game. We’ve all had so much practise lately, we’ve almost forgotten the rules of the game itself, and lost the nerve and heart to play it anyhow.
The reason I talk so much about this ever-narrowing faction trap is that our senses have become badly distorted by electronic media, which amplifies some signals, dampens others, and channels most of our arguments into a format where both sides are importantly wrong and also completely unwilling to listen – all of which serves no one but that same American oligarchy which has grown grotesquely fat off two straight decades of using this internal division to cover continuous overseas warfare by corporate subcontract, and regrets absolutely none of it – not one shareholder dollar, lost hope, wasted chance, or innocent corpse.
So – when we’re thinking about the kind of distortions social media (and the multinational corporations which drive all ad media) set in front of us – making the moral consequences of war (which are always inescapable) seem invisible, whether it is to improve the way we see ourselves, or to improve the corporate profits of weapons pushers, proves outright evil effects very clearly, regardless of intent.
But my point is not to wind up with a gloomy insight here. My point is that in the old days we knew and spent a lot of time with people. We met for coffee, in bars, in parks, at libraries and bookstores. We talked to strangers, we read, we got a sense of how other people in the world felt in a sweet slow way that required effort – but those efforts also gave us huge and durable emotional connection rewards.
Now, when we ask ourselves “how many hearts out there, would be reached by this piece of work?” for example, we can very easily end up with an impression that owes a lot to greed-heads like Bezos and Zuck, and a whole lot less to our favourite greasy spoon server, or the newsagent down at the corner (a now extinct tribe which once had an uncannily sharp sense of urban reality).
What I’m saying is that all of us (me, very much included), are suffering from an artificial and manipulating vision, which is now so powerful that it can very easily displace our more balanced and human centred senses altogether, if we let it. Which means that the bleakness we so often feel is proven and obvious, is actually itself a part of an engineered falsehood. The manipulation of our voices does not and can not ever give us a more moral world, but instead produces a false sense of isolation which can transform our most sincere and hopeful aspirations into bitterness and anger, if left too long alone to fester.
I know I’m sort of dancing in circles here (and apologize for it, truly) but the reason I ended up with this particular thought is that after writing a series of books about saving love, kindness, inspiration, forgiveness, art, wisdom and understanding (with a few choice small business tips thrown in, for good measure), and now stuck in the middle of jumping never ending technical hoops to bring out new editions, (and also multi-format standard vendor available Ebook editions) I find myself with a nagging doubt as to whether there is any meaningful group of people left out there that still cares much about any of those old ideas. Sometimes it feels as if I am merely footnoting the poetry of a vanished age and approach to life. A few details of value to future archaeologists, perhaps.
But to let my head get out there is crazy, of course. I know so many people who still put heart first, and thanks to my wonderful long city exploration and photography walks with Nada, I have confirmed that even in this weird new century, heart is still out there to be found any day of the week, all over the place, in every form you can imagine – if only we are willing to bring our hearts out and share them also.
Beyond that, I began that big project out of gratitude and appreciation for a whole group of beautiful friends and mentors, as a way for me to try to bring some tiny echo of their special quality to life for those who could not ever meet them. Nothing there has changed at all. And I bet this same heart-source anchor point is true for many of my creative friends, who might also be struggling right now.
I remain completely convinced that love is the point (both for how you live your life with others, and how things should be organized on a larger scale). Mind you, I am definitely and happily biased, since I am still completely head over heels in love. I also remain certain that any project begun from gratitude is worthwhile – my intention was never commercial – the point is not to address a ready market, but rather to add one small piece of sustenance to a quality of faith in the many good hearts around us all. Again, anchoring there helps – a high storm can rock you, but you will still be there in the morning.
DB Hawkes, a dear friend of mine who has introduced me to more of my favourite music than the next three keeners combined, and has been broadcasting on CIUT FM since 1987, maintains that you never want to dumb down your act, just to chase popularity. When you make your thing smart, you show your audience respect and you really do make them smarter also, by taking them along on your own learning journey. Do it long enough, and like him, you might even bring in an audience which is sick and tired of dumbed down (and/or Manichaean) everything, and will love you twice as much for being so inspiring, caring, wide-ranging and discerning.
Same thing applies to love – top to bottom. As I said earlier, we do our thing with open and caring hearts, or we should stay home and learn more, until we finally can. (be signal – not noise)
My audience isn’t muttering unwashed loveless web-trolls in basements, cynical policy wonks in back rooms, or any of the million other flavours of modern narcissists, who actively and continuously isolate themselves behind a wall of loneliness, by treating everyone around them as a resource, an obstacle to be defeated, or a mere thing.
My audience is not only numerous and all around the world, they are really beautiful – people like you – who have always been growing and are still trying to grow, and who, like me, want us all to actually DO better, and not just get in one last stupendously great round of “I told you so”, as the whole grand creaky edifice of civilization implodes around us. (not with a bang or whimper – but an offstage Big Bird prat fall, concluding with that one tin can lid that doesn’t ever quite want to stop doing circles). ;o)
So, when I take a deep breath and still my mind I know I have to be a little more patient with my old-man brain, take the time it takes to learn the necessary new tools and systems, and then bring you finely crafted new and true good things, with all the love and intelligence I can put into them, so that I can then move on to finishing the next set of projects with a light heart and step, unencumbered by unspoken residue or unmet duty.
Anger might be the spirit of the moment and even of this century so far. Criticism and division may well seem more important than building bonds of love and loyalty to some, though I am convinced that many young people are now coming to realize their hope and joy are always intertwined, and not ever to be given away lightly to any dogmatic preaching oldsters.
But love? Love is not ever going out of style – nothing else can replace it – and love has not ever been the wrong place to start and to finish.
My friends, please remember that and take heart, the next time you sit down at the keyboard, uncap the pen, open the drawing pad, lift the brush, click the shutter release, or purse those lips to blow true sweet and clear.
Of course love wants you doing this – and all the lovers in the world are on your side also. Sneer as they might, it is the doubters and the mud throwers who are the real losers, for outrunning all the love in their own lives, when it has always been ready and waiting to embrace them too.
Here are two links for endless happy new stimulus – the first for DB’s superb and eclectic two hour Wednesday afternoon show Music with DB Hawkes – and the seconod for Club Ned – his amazing (and epic endurance) Saturday Midnight six-hour extravaganza, which he very deliberately times to go with the hour and the season. For many years, he even checked that he has his mood right, by bicycling around the city and listening as the (pre-recorded) show aired, to make sure that his two AM selections went down well at two AM, and especially that the dynamics of dawn were made far sweeter for any of his listeners who were also watching and experiencing it with him. Both of these shows are worth downloading regularly (and when he gets into a theme especially, you may very well find yourself with a whole folder of keepers with ultra-rare treats, that you just have to play for someone else who loves music).
And here’s a really interesting take from one of the last great independent minds in the whole world of digital realities – Jaron Lanier – who old fogeys like me will remember, was also one of the first really bright and humane lights on the digital scene (damn I miss “Reality Hacker” magazine). His insights about social media having an ‘operant conditioning’ effect are kind of terrifying, because they seem to fit the downside of our shared digital culture experience lately, way way way too perfectly!