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Archive for the ‘Activism’ Category

(Satan Sowing Tares–Félicien Joseph Victor Rops 1833-1898)

Sometimes I look at other people and think, it must be easier for them than it is for me, they’re always so happy. I’m really picky. I only like certain things, at certain times, in certain colors, and they have to smell good. When things go off and get a different color, or maybe they were softer yesterday, or maybe they weren’t smart enough to dazzle me, or they biffed whatever fine point of perfection I was looking for at that moment, I get disappointed. Then I act like a fool. I throw little fits that are blanketed in clouds of judgement and disappointment and blame. Because as long as it is somebody else’s fault, I don’t have to change.

I recently attended a life changing conference with Marianne Williamson, called Enchanted Love. I got really clear on what I need to do to change my life with my partner. Take 100% responsibility for my experiences and my perceptions, stop pointing fingers, stop being a crackpot. Then I came home from the conference and I was great for about 48 hours…and then I threw a doozy of a blame fest. I won’t get into the details, but it wasn’t pretty…”poor little me,” mixed up with “you’re so mean,” mixed up with “why do I bother?” I took a late night drive and relaxed for a few hours on the couch, letting how much un-fun I was having settle in.

We have repeatedly emphasized that the barrier of grievances is easily passed, and cannot stand between you and your salvation. The reason is very simple. Do you really want to be in hell? Do you really want to weep and suffer and die? (A Course in Miracles–lesson 73)

Being mean is not fun. Being angry and defensive isn’t either. I give up all three, starting yesterday. Satan, Get Thee Behind Me. Thank you God.

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(the charming smirk of Count Cagliostro–Freemason, con man, alchemist, pimp, and saver of souls)

I’ve begun reading the book entitled The Last Alchemist: Count Cagliostro, Master of Magic in the Age of Reason. It’s a pretty good book. I just got to the part where the Count, who’s really just a regular-ish fellow named Giuseppe Balsamo, got initiated into the secret world of Strict Observance Freemasonry this evening. The author, Ian McCalman described his entry into the society thusly:

After he’d intoned his oath of absolute secrecy and obedience, several officials dressed in caps and aprons, blindfolded his eyes, tied a rope around his waist, and hauled him on creaking pulleys to the ceiling. Suddenly the rope gave way and he crashed to the floor. His complaints of a damaged hand did nothing to mitigate the ceremony’s next phase. Colonel Cagliostro watched uneasily while a pistol was loaded with powder and ball. His eyes were once again covered. He was handed the pistol and brusquely ordered to comply with the oath of obedience by blowing out his brains all over the tavern. He hesitated; he heard yells–coward, get on with it–and pulled the trigger. There was a detonation, he felt a blow on the side of his head and smelled acrid gunsmoke. By some miracle he was still alive; and as his panic gave way to clarity, he realized it had been a ruse: the lodge officials had given him an unloaded pistol and simulated the discharge (pg 40).

This passage reminded me of another book, The Secret Teachings of All Ages, by Manly P. Hall. Hall describes the tests a candidate had to survive in order to learn the Druidic Mysteries, to be “born again.” These folks had to get buried in a coffin and ride out to sea in an open boat. He also mentions the “strange machinery” found under a Greco-Egyptian temple of Serapis:

These machines indicate the severe tests of moral and physical courage undergone by the candidates. After passing through these torturous ways, the neophytes who survived the ordeals were ushered into the presence of Serapis, a noble and awe-inspiring figure illumined by unseen lights (pg. 25 and 27).

So. According to Manly P. Hall and other sources, there were two stories that Mystery School teachers came up with. One was simple, a moral code meant for Joe Everyman, which instructed him on the correct way to conduct himself in the world. The second story was deeper and secret, a story that had been passed down through the ages and only told to a very select few. These select were born into certain families and had passed the sorts of severe tests mentioned above. They starved themselves, broke bones jumping off cliffs, had limbs twisted into strange positions for long periods of time, etc., etc., in order to prove that they had overcome earthly limitations and were worthy of the truth (or perhaps to prove that they were willing to die in order to be included in the elite knowers of truth…)

There’s a lot of energy right now around these types of groupings, the elite v. Joe Everyman. A friend gave me a pin that says “99%” and I’ve been wearing it on my lapel. But, there’s something that’s been bugging me. What does being a part of the 99% mean, exactly? I wasn’t born into a fancy family. I have done a fast or two, but even just this morning in the shower I was vowing to never do one again. I hate being hungry. Am I a slave to my hedonistic nature? To be truthful, most of the work I’ve been doing with my counselor has been to help me feel ok with actually being who I am. Not trying to live up to some “moral code” written by some other dude who wore a wig and probably stole alms from the poor.

What does being a part of the 1% mean? Can the 1% be compared to the initiates of the past? What tests do they have to pass in order to get in? I can go to the library and read loads of words that tell me exactly what the different secrets of the ages were. It’s actually downright overwhelming all the secrets I’m privy to, and I didn’t even have to wander naked into the woods without any food or water. Does that make me a part of the 1%, now that I know the secret handshake? But then I remember that 2500 years ago Plato was splurging “secret” meeting minutes all over town after he was initiated into the elite.  Even then the secrets were available to anyone who was even slightly curious.

Do you think that God would put you on the earth without the tools possible for you to understand the secrets to sublime happiness? Are some people truly here without recourse from a life of misery, bound to the “simple moral code” of behave-now-and-you’ll-be-rewarded-later, forever doomed to 80 hours a week of assembling iPhones? Do the 1% still know some secret handshake that the 99% don’t? Is it possible that reading a book on a secret understanding won’t clue me in to the actual energy behind the words without the experience of pain and suffering that precede initiation? Why am I so lucky to be happy, when other people are suffering?  Is it because of what I’m doing? Or is it just because I’m lucky? To boil it all down, are there really secrets that you have to be born in the exact right time and place to understand? Or are these all figments, illusions, distractions?

More to come on this illustrious topic…Feel free to answer any of the above questions.

(Mystical Seven–a secret society at Wesleyan University of Connecticut)

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The following is a summary of an interview between Sue Supriano and Elvy Musikka. You can listen to the terrific interview in its entirety here at Steppin’ Out of Babylon, a radio interview program minus the filters of corporate greed. This posting is in honor of the fact that I recently saw Elvy Musikka at an activism event and I remembered how totally awesome she is…

With a bucket of marijuana cigarettes…(photo by Don Ryan for the Seattle Times–Associated Press)

Elvy Musikka is one of four people who have a federally granted permit for to use medical marijuana. As a child Musikka suffered from congenital cataracts, which developed into glaucoma after several surgeries. She began using marijuana to treat this condition despite the opinion of her ophthalmologist, who felt that she should have surgery instead. Musikka chose to have the surgery on one eye, while continuing to treat the glaucoma using marijuana, obtained illegally to treat her other eye. She was in constant fear of getting arrested and loosing her children, but the marijuana was working.

By 1987 the eye she was having surgery on was blind and Musikka was arrested for possession of marijuana. By this point her children had left home for college. The press was alerted to the story and followed every move from her arrest to her trial. At the trial, Dr. Palmberg, Musikka’s doctor, convinced the judge that no marijuana for Musikka would be a “life sentence to blindness.”

On August 15, 1988 Musikka was acquitted. Later that same year she was enrolled in an experimental program run by the Federal Government that allows her to fly to Florida annually and pick up a year’s worth of marijuana. She also completes a progress report every year that is never published, because, according to Musikka, the government is driven by the demands of the pharmaceutical, tobacco, alcohol and prison industries which all gain by the “hideous prohibition” of medical marijuana.

Since her acquittal, Musikka has become an activist to help others who are in the same position she was. In September 1988 Francis L Young of the DEA stated that “marijuana in natural form is a benign therapeutic substance.” He also stated that for a government to come between patient and health benefits of medical marijuana is “capricious, unreasonable and arbitrary”—Musikka adds that it is also unconstitutional and immoral. Musikka travels the country speaking with legislators to push for changes in the law regarding medical marijuana. She also speaks at educational functions in order to raise consciousness about this issue.

There are 20 million people in jail for drug possession. There are one million drug related arrests per year. The environment suffers. Elvy Mussika says (citing the source medicalcannibus.com) that our government is “arresting and robbing own citizens.” She also says that it is our own “personal responsibility to end this hideous prohibition.” If we don’t, the consequence will be on us.

May the true spirit of love be your guiding light.-Elvy Musikka

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I had a dream once, a couple years ago. In the dream I was standing in line at the grocery store and a tall, droopy man with a newsboy cap and a trench coat with an unlit Capri cigarette dangling from his lips was standing in front of me. He proceeded to let several people go ahead of him, even though they had just as many items as we did. In the dream I was furious that he would do that without asking me first. I was so furious that my rage woke me up and I couldn’t get back to sleep.

Maybe only smokers or ex-smokers would get how funny the cigarette part is. This from Wikipedia:

Capri is a brand of cigarette manufactured by R.J. Reynolds. Introduced in 1987, it is the first widely-available cigarette having an extremely slim shape, at 17 mm in circumference and 100 mm in length, specifically marketed towards women as a way to increase or enhance their sexual appeal. By comparison, standard cigarettes are 25 mm in circumference, and slim cigarettes are 21 mm in circumference. Capri is available in regular and menthol light varieties, as well as regular and menthol ultra-light varieties. Capri is also available in a 120 mm length, which the packaging describes as “luxury length.”

And this oh-so-sexually-appealing vision from the website…ahem…wait for it now…morningcigarette.com, taken in 1993:

Who is that lady with the brown tights and the super slim cigarette? you might find yourself softly murmuring as you read this blog. And did people really wear those hats in 1993? I doesn’t feel like that long ago, really.

Anyway. Back to reality and to the real pertinent question at hand: Why was Andy Capp gumming a super slim and letting people cut in front of me in my dream? And why did I remember the feeling of deep anger two years later, so strongly that I had to go and find where I wrote it all down so that I could post it here?

Here’s a secret…When I was 16 I found a pack of Capri cigarettes on the floor in the mall. It was under one of those circle rack things that they hang clothes on. I have no idea how I happened to be sniffin’ around on the floor under a clothes rack at the mall…maybe I was looking for money? Anyway, it doesn’t really matter. I took them home and smoked them and became addicted to nicotine, developing a habit it would take me more than 15 years (on and off) to shake.

I was embarrassed to smoke the Capris, those skinny things, in front of anyone, so I did it in “the old playhouse” at my parents. So much for sex appeal…sneaking off to the glorified shed full of ancient looms and undiscovered Pollock paintings and broken kiddie pools and god-knows-whatever-else was in that little be-shingled troll dwelling to crouch under the broken and tarped window, puffing on a 17 mm, trying desperately to look like James Dean. I’m sure I didn’t.

So the Capri cigarette, possibly a symbol of emasculation (for lack of better term). The droopy fellow (I forgot to mention he had chapped lips too) letting people into the line who didn’t earn the right to be there, like I had, perhaps a symbol of powerlessness. And my fury at him…that probably represented my fury at the unfairness of whatever was eating me at the time. And what did that fury bring me in the end? A sleepless night. A funny story to tell at work. A psychological indication of my fear of being taken advantage of, taken for a fool, left without recourse…

I’ve been thinking about Egypt. And power. I’ve been thinking about microcosms. I’ve been thinking about forgiveness and fury and angry dictators who have ruled my life, made me powerless. I know how good it feels to be in love and how crappy it feels to be angry. But we can’t always choose to be be happy, because people do things that aren’t fair. I think we can, however, trust that good will eventually prevail because it is just the teeeeniest bit stronger than hate…although at times they appear to be neck and neck.

Gandhi said this:

When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it–always. (from here)

Martin Luther King Jr. said this:

I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. (from here)

I believe inherently what these men said. We all watch the news wondering “what will happen? what can I do?” I realized that ask myself these same questions every day, only in a different, smaller format from various positions in the conflict. I have 25 students at school. In what ways to I treat them as my servants? In what ways do I teach them freedom? I have a boss who tells me things to do in my classroom. Do I do what he says? Where do I choose to exert or give away my own power in my own controlled life situations? What I can do is to seek out my own inner dictator and remind her of some things. What I can do is find the places where my voice is weak and do my very best to gently turn up the volume.

Sometimes Andy Capp will be there with his chapped lips and his effeminate cigarette making me crazy. And sometimes…well, sometimes he won’t.

Go Egypt, go…

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(Carl Jung, 1909 in Zurich-photo from the Library of Congress Prints and Photos division)

I’m presently reading a book called The Shadow Effect, written by Deepak Chopra, Debbie Ford, and Marianne Williamson. It is a book all about the dark side of humanity, the dark little secrets about ourselves that we try to banish from our reality. Unfortunately, says The Shadow Effect, banishing “the shadow” only serves to make it stronger in the long run. An excerpt from Deepak Chopra:

The first step in defeating the shadow is to abandon all notions of defeating it. The dark side of human nature thrives on war, struggle, and conflict. As soon as you talk about “winning,” you have lost already. You have been dragged into the duality of good and evil. Once that happens, nothing can end the duality. Good has no power to defeat its opposite once and for all…There’s a shocking conclusion hidden in this: you can’t have a universe if you don’t have darkness contending with the light (The Shadow Effect, p. 14 and 22)

The Shadow is, according to Carl Jung, the part of us (all of us) that causes us to commit unconscious acts of violence or hate against others, ourselves, or the earth. The Shadow doesn’t want you to know it’s there, it wants you to think that it is you, so that it can remain intact. Once you know it’s there, the power of the Shadow immediately decreases. Once you begin to give yourself permission to have darkness in you the darkness looses its iron grip. Here’s another quote from Deepak Chopra:

The shadow, then, is a shared project. Anyone can have a hand in building it. All you need is the ability to remain unconscious. Countless fear-mongers believe they are doing good. Every defender of the homeland expects to be honored and praised. Tribes warring against other tribes deeply believe that they must struggle in order to survive. We resist our shadow and deny its existence because of past indoctrination and the hypothesis of social conditioning. Childhood experiences can cause unending later reminders that “this is good, this is bad; this is divine, this is diabolical.” Such indoctrination is the way all societies are structured. What we over look is that we are creating a shared self at the time. If children were taught to become aware of their shadow, sharing even dark feelings, forgiving themselves for not being “good” all the time, learning how to release shadow impulses through healthy outlets, then there would be much less damage to society and the ecosystem (p 26).

Of course, for children to be taught that the shadow exists and can be tended to in a healthy way, the adults of the world need to first tend their own shadow, which is very hard to do on your own. Chopra gives four steps: 1. Stop projecting 2. Detach and let go 3. Give up self judgement 4. Rebuild your emotional body. It all sounds so easy doesn’t it?

I suggest therapy. Everyone needs a therapist. It’s an interesting phenomenon that so few people use this amazing tool. Many people would rather pop pills (herbal or conventional) to try to feel better, happier, healthier. The only thing that can truly begin to allow you lasting eternal health, is to face your shadow, a shadow that was created in your childhood and has continued to leach your conscious moments more and more assiduously as you let it go unchecked. I love my therapist. Anyway. I end this blog post with a poem.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

~Rumi

(Click here for the story of this amazing nebula)

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(Robert Kennedy at a CORE rally in 1963-photo from Library of Congress Prints and Photos Division)

My counselor said something very interesting the other day. She said that assertive equals respectful. Usually we think of assertive people as the opposite of respectful. They are more likely described as domineering or powerful or authoritative. They know what they want and they know how to get it and all that.

I had just finished talking about a dynamic between my partner and I, where I feel like my power is being taken away from me and I dig my heels into the ground and refuse to budge. My partner sees this as being assertive. My counselor saw it as being stubborn. Here’s the difference. When I know what I want and can voice it clearly without anger, then I’m being assertive. When I am reacting/defending my (fill in the blank) out of fear that it will be taken away from me, I’m being stubborn. One feels good, helpful, open and loving. The other feels constricting, hateful, small and mean.

I’ve been ruminating on this for a few days now. My New Year’s resolution is to try to stop being so reactive to my partner and everyone else in the world, not because I want them to like me better, or even because I want to be a better person. I’m doing it because it makes me feel better. To hell with altruism! I want to feel great all the time! I want to be relaxed and un-triggered  as much as possible. The other stuff (people liking me better and being a better person) are just welcome side effects.

So anyway, all this got me thinking about being truly assertive and how people think about power. I googled “how to achieve power,” to see what people think about it. (Secretly this is research for a new writing project I’m doing too.) Here are some insane steps that I found on wikihow.com in an article entitled How to Achieve Commanding Success:

  1. Believe in yourself . Otherwise, no one will believe you. However you see yourself, others will see you. Except for possible self-derogatory remarks for the purpose of humor, never demean yourself. Act as if command in social situations has always reverted to you all your life.
  2. Build some folks’ self esteem by complimenting them. People like to be around those who make them see something new or good about themselves. Compliments are doubly effective if you mean them, so whatever good you notice in others, be sure to mention it. If somebody says something good to you about someone else, pass the compliment on.
  3. Wear down some folks’ self-esteem. In his book Impro, the improvisation guru, Keith Richards, says that whenever somebody belittles another’s worth, his own worth rises. You will notice many leaders use this technique, criticizing superfluously. If you notice someone making a mistake or doing something less than good, say, “You’re really bad at handling money.” or “You’re physically clumsy.” However, the point here is not to make him feel worthless; the point is to make him dependent on you and look up to you.

Wow. With advice like this, it’s no wonder so many people are so emotionally twisted up! This is like a recipe for personality disorder! I agree with my counselor. True power comes from a source much deeper than our human intellects can muster. I want to treat the people around me with respect (which doesn’t always mean that I have to agree with them, only that I need to truly listen to them and empathize with their feelings qualitatively), calmly, coolly, and collectedly. Reptile Brain, deactivate! (until a tiger comes anyway…)

(Sojourner Truth-1864-Photo from the Library of Congress Prints and Photos Division)

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(Roman lictor with fasces by Cesare Vecellio)

I was reading this terrifically sad and horrifyingly hilarious blog post about the body scanners and pat downs yesterday (don’t read it if you don’t like harsh and borderline obscene language…but you really should read it though), when I came across a quote from a fellow named Roger Cohen in the New York Times who said in his brilliant op-ed piece entitled The Real Threat to America:

I give thanks for Benjamin Franklin’s words after the 1787 Constitutional Convention describing the results of its deliberations: “A Republic, if you can keep it.”

To keep it, push back against enhanced patting, Chertoff’s naked-screening and the sinister drumbeat of fear.

(Chertoff is the former secretary of Homeland Security who is poised to make a fat wad of cash off the expensive “Rapiscan” devices that provide a 3D view of whatever happens to be inside it, via a wash of radiation, the health effects of which are yet unclear. In this article, Annie Lowery of the Washington Post tells about her experience of looking at the 3D scan of an executive vice president at Rapiscan, in which his “appendages are clearly visible.” Ew.)

I’m not going to get into the whole body scan issue because it’s already been done beautifully well. My only job in that category is to congenially refuse to let my appendages (or lack thereof I suppose) be viewed with radioactive light come traveling time this holiday.

What I am interested in is the sinister drumbeat of fear. While the cadence of the phrase confirms the feeling, consistent and ever present, ever threatening, it also belies the manic hysteria that propels this fear forward, top heavy and seemingly out of control. How do we stop it? My first instinct has always been to throw myself on top of it and wrestle it until one of us dies. As I grow older (and, alas, a tiny bit flabbier) my instinct is slowly changing.

This is what I read in A Course in Miracles this morning:

You are indeed essential to God’s plan. Without your joy, His joy is incomplete. Without your smile, the world cannot be saved. While you are sad, the light that God Himself appointed as the means to save the world is dim and lusterless, and no one laughs because all laughter can but echo yours.

You are indeed essential to God’s plan. Just as your light increases every light that shines in Heaven, so your joy on earth calls to all minds to let their sorrows go, and take their place beside you in God’s plan. God’s messengers are joyous, and their joy heals sorrow and despair.

We will prepare ourselves for this today, in our five-minute practice periods, by feeling happiness arise in us according to our Father’s Will and ours. Begin the exercises with the thought today’s idea contains. Then realize your part is to be happy.

Now, when I first read this, I was like…ummmm…just go ahead and be happy? Even if I’m not? I think that Jung would call the repression police and bring me in for delusional therapy. But then I started to remember what my (also fully accredited) counselor told me about letting go of things that make me angry…she said I should do it, not because I am so like Jesus and able to be so giving and fair, but because when I don’t, it doesn’t feel good. No altruism necessary. It’s not fun to be bent out of shape and unhappy.

Last bit, and here’s the real rub, my counselor told me that the best cure for when you are being selfish is to be generous instead. So when I’m feeling down in the dumps because nobody wants to to their own dishes, what I really need to do is to give away shoulder rubs or something. But wait a minute! Then they will think that I’m always going to give away shoulder rubs AND they won’t do the dishes!! Grumble, grumble…If they think that I’m going to…they’ve got another thing coming…

The sinister drum beat in my head. Fascism starts at home.

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