Writing/Not Writing


Saturday 24 August 2013

Practice is meditation.  Non-practice is also meditation.  I read that quote, or something like it, in Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn.  What he means is that what you learn about meditation by practising is great, but that even in the space where you are not practising, even that is not wasted because there is much to learn in the not-doing.  You can see what meditation does for you by not practising it.  By experiencing the lack.

I am 1/4 of the way or so through the theory component of a Certificate III in Home and Community Care, which is to be followed by 120 hours of placement.  I'm grateful for those 120 hours but in terms of finance, the amount of time it takes to gain a certificate that will enable me to get a job that will certainly not be paying wonderfully stretches out over months and months and throws me into depression at times.  And meanwhile I'm floundering financially.  Me and finances have never been very good together.  We continue on in that vein.

The course, though it's only two days a week, feels like it's eating up a big chunk of my energy.  This week I had classes on Monday and Friday, and on Tuesday and Wednesday I went out both days, once to visit a good friend for lunch and once to meet up with my mum in the city to go to the Monet's Garden exhibition at the NGV.  So nice to get out and socialise.  But stretching it just a little.  For me.

It all caught up with me last night and I realised I was daydreaming while driving home about climbing into bed.  And so I did, while my partner cooked dinner (bliss) and stayed there for several hours.  I struggle to stop and rest.  How hard it is in a society where so many of us are seemingly addicted to the opposite?  Even though it is bad for us?  Even though it is a creepy playing to the oppression that is stifling the way we live as complete human beings.  I struggle to stop and rest because I feel guilty, even though I need to do it more than so many people I see every day who juggle kids and jobs and housework and still find time to do other things.  I struggle with the resentment I feel towards those people.  They're often the ones who if you mention fatigue-related chronic illness will say that yeah, they reckon they've got it too.  It is hard having a fatigue-related chronic illness in a fatigued society.  They can't begin to understand how far the spectrum stretches, and how well they are doing comparatively.  They think that because they're sucking it up and getting on with it, that you should too.  It doesn't, however, work like that.

If I could suck it up and get on with it, I'd have a few more bucks in the bank than I do now, believe me.  And less stress.  And more security.  And I'd be bigger in the world's eyes but smaller in my soul's because I wouldn't be looking after myself.  If we suck it up and get on with it, we keep the world's status quo, the insane version we dance to, and I'm not so sure that that's exactly the thing that doesn't need to die down to the ground, get composted, and reborn as something better.

But anyway, I digress.  I am nattering on with my usual frustrations of time management/energy management/money management because I feel like even though I make many lovely and varied efforts to keep my head above water, just keeping up the current level is a struggle.  And the frustrating thing is that I'm feeling smaller, and I know that it's because I'm not swimming in the ponds that give me energy, the creative ones.  Because they're the easy ones to put aside.  Because writing when you're aching is possible - and you forget about the aches - but getting to writing when you're aching is harder than it already is.  And anyone who has a regular creative practice knows that strange space where you are resistive to doing the very thing that you know once you climb enfolds you like a mother and opens up the minutes.

I read an article a few days ago where a writer was recommending that you have 40 submissions on the go at any one time - eight pieces, sent out to nine different markets.  That's great in theory.  I have about four things out awaiting reply at the moment.  One of them I received yesterday - another no.  I am thickening up ever so slightly, getting used to the ongoing nos.  Many editors are kind, and they make sure that they tell you that whilst they enjoyed the read/it was original/thought-provoking that they don't think it's quite for their publication.  And so on you go.

But the thought of having 40 submissions on the go is a crazy one to me at the moment.  It's about nine steps ahead of the stage I'm at now.  Because having that many submissions means that you've put time aside to spend researching markets and sending your stuff out.  It's quite a time-consuming process.  And that is on top of actually writing.  And I haven't been regularly writing.

But you know what I've found?  Where years ago I used to get scared, worried that the well will dry up, what I have learned in the process of not-writing is ... well, how much I've learned and grown in the times that I do write.  I know, with the comfort that comes from experience, that getting into the habit of morning pages for a bit - Julia Cameron's practice of writing (preferably first thing in the morning) several pages by hand of whatever the hell comes into your head, and throwing it away afterwards - opens it all up, that a few days of feeling grindy and grinchy and what-the-hell-is-there-to-write-about-ey are alleviated rather quickly until I fall into that space where I feel that I will never be able to write about all I wish to even if I had seven lifetimes over.

I trust the space is there.  Which is a comfort, when I'm feeling put out that I simply don't have enough petrol tickets to get there after the "concerns of life" are met.  Or not, as the case may be :)

We Belong


Pah to the prevailing paradigm that our lives don't matter.  Our lives matter.  I matter.  You matter.  I am tired of being dictated to by the Church of Fundamentalist Science that the entirety of the elephant is what they see - and that my place in that elephant doesn't matter.  Science is an awesome awesomeness.  But it's just one way of looking at the elephant.  That statement may seem hopelessly naive, but that's simply because we are stuck within the current narrative of our culture as much as people of other ages were stuck in theirs.  We look at previous ages and wonder how people could not have seen what was so obvious to us.  Future generations will look at us and wonder how stupid we could have been, just as we do to those who went before us.  But I'm not talking so much about a linear progression of technology leading to more and more advanced knowledge as I am about how our technology and our intellectual advances can get in the way of deeper forms of knowing, of wisdom, of body knowledge, of our connection to the earth.  Despite the amazing breakthroughs that have occurred in the scientific field, it doesn't mean that when it comes to making meaning of life, or of putting limits on things - of practising wisdom - that practitioners of scienctism-as-meaning are not looking right up the elephant's arse.

This is my home.  The earth is my home.  We are tied to her in a way that we as a people are only beginning of understand ... or remember.  Indigenous cultures who still have strong ties to the land know what we cannot easily know because there's no place on the spreadsheet for it.  We think we know so much, but we are overrun with information and completely depleted in seeing the big picture of how we all fit together.  We keep buying into the illusion of separation.  We are as limited in our viewpoint of "reality" as fundamentalist religionists of the Middle Ages, just in a vastly different direction.  Every age and era has a prevailing story it tells itself.  Each story privileges views that other stories hide.  Each story has its limitations.  We are seeing in the earth and in our insides the limitations of our narrative and its destruction even while we are unable to articulate and intellectualise what it is we are sensing.

I rejoice in the thought that the way I see intellectually is limited.  It validates the vast fields that I walk in but can't elucidate, the more beautiful world that's possible, as Charles Eistenstein puts it.  The world that is there, on a deeper level, one that encompasses my intellect but goes past it.  The heartspace.  We all have this.  It's lack of use is partly why we feel so ill at ease and disatissfied.  Life is waaaaaaaaaaay more than this particular paradigm.  And so are we.  We know this somewhere.  It is a trustworthy knowing.  It comes from the gut.

Berry Hard Work by JD Hancock

More Poet-Musicians/Less Private Equity CEOs


Wednesday 21 August 2013

Pic by John Riordan
Sometimes you see and read things on the interwebs that bolster your faith in humanity's ability to continue cutting through the bullshit to the other side.  Past the cultural tipping point to actual change.

This morning it was this:  On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs by anthropologist David Graeber.  Ever wonder why the jobs that actually benefit humanity the most - say, for example, the ones that give it meaning, the artistic fields - pay the least while those that we wouldn't notice if they disappeared - telemarketers and private equity CEOs - flourish?

Like they say, if something seems fishy and incomprehensible, follow the money.  And in this case we find again that it's those 1% at the top who are framing, defining, and determining the world that we live in. 

This morning I feel just that little bit more hopeful that humanity as a whole will one day say no to our cultural overlords continuing to pull the wool over our eyes.

Here's to new reframes.  And to work that is fulfilling and which matters.  Work that benefits us all.  And here's to corporate lawyers who are really poet-musicians being able to work at what really matters.


Body Beautiful


Sunday 11 August 2013

Pic mine (CC attribution/share-alike)
The body remembers things the mind has forgotten.

Way more than a machine of functional organs, a bunch of components, the body is a dynamic whole which moves energy (and blocks it too) throughout itself in a language that is like water, and a language which can be learned.

The body delivers up waking dreams, images that come to the mind which are creative expressions of what it feels.  Carl Jung knew this, and then he and others taught me.  The body is a walking dream.

The body misses the earth like a baby its mother.

We are made of stars.

Happy  Sunday y'alls <3

Making Money Beautiful

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Saturday 10 August 2013

Suppose I have twelve loaves of bread, and you are hungry.  I cannot eat so much bread before it goes stale, so I am happy to lend some of it to you.  "Here, take these six loaves," I say, "and when you have bread in the future, you can give me six loaves back again."  I give you six fresh loaves now, and you give me six fresh loaves sometime in the future.

In a world where the things we need and use go bad, sharing comes naturally.  The hoarder ends up sitting atop a pile of stale bread, rusty tools, and spoiled fruit, and no one wants to help him, for he has helped no one.  Money today, however, is not like bread, fruit, or indeed any natural object.  It is the lone exception to nature's laws of return, the law of life, death, and rebirth, which says that all things ultimately return to their source.  Money does not decay over time, but in its abstraction from physicality, it remains changeless or even grows with time, exponentially, thanks to the power of interest.

We associate money very closely with self.  As the word "mine" implies, we see our money almost as an extension of our selves, which is why we feel "ripped off" when it is taken from us.  Money, then, violates not only the natural law of return, but the spiritual law of impermanence.  Associating something that persists and grows over time with a self that ages, dies, and returns to the soil perpetuates an illusion.  Though we all know better, we imagine somehow that by adding wealth we add to ourselves and can gain the imperishability of money.  We store it up for old age, as if we could thereby forestall our own decay.  What would be the effect of money that, like all other things, decays and returns to its source?

We have attached an exponentially growing money to a self and world that are neither exponential nor even linear, but cyclic.  The result, as I have described, is competition, scarcity, and the concentration of wealth.  The answer to the question I posed earlier, "What has gone wrong with this beautiful idea called money, which can connect human gifts and human needs?" comes down in large part to interest, to usury.  But usury itself is not some isolated phenomenon that could have been different if only we'd made a wiser choice somewhere down the line.  It is irrefrangibly bound to our sense of self, the separate self in an objective universe, whose evolution parallels the evolution of money.  It is no accident that the first highly monetized society, ancient Greece, was also the birthplace of the modern concept of the individual.

This deep link between money and being is good news, because human identity today is undergoing a profound metamorphosis.  What kind of money will be consistent with the new self, the connected self, and a world in which we increasingly realize the truth of interconnectedness:  that more for you is more for me?  Given the determining role of interest, the first alternative currency system to consider is one that structurally eliminates it, or even that bears interest's opposite.  After all, if interest causes competition, scarcity and polarization, then might not its opposite create cooperation, abundance, and community?  And if interest represents the proceeds from the ancient and ongoing robbery of the commons, might not its opposite replenish it?

What would that opposite look like?  It would be a money that, like bread, becomes less valuable over time.  It would be money, in other words, that decays ...
~ Charles Eisenstein, who explains how in Sacred Economics, available as a download here for free, or for a price of your choice.

Public domain

Love Over Gold, Community Over Greed


Thursday 8 August 2013

From what I'm hearing, standing in the early morning light with a bunch of other protesters outside the proposed McDonald's in Tecoma, the beeping-in-solidarity ratio is approaching 10:1 compared to the non-beeps of the cars driving past.  Then there's the occasional judgmental comment - the usual fare, like "Get a job, hippies" or "Morons!" flung from car windows by people who I suspect do not understand the big picture of what this means, what it represents, and why giving a shit is in our best interests.  They are the products of our cultural alienation, not yet fully comprehending the extent of our slavery to a system which is not the only answer - indeed, it's no answer at all.  This protest is not simply NIMBY, although the inappropriateness of the development is a big factor in the wrongness of this particular Macca's build. This extends beyond Tecoma and the Dandenong Ranges, to the rest of the world.  To everybody.  To the way we live, the way we interact, the level of power we hold and the amount of freedom we are willing to fight for.

For me, this is about saying no to ongoing, relentless corporate expansion which decimates the environment (and does not pay for its decimation, ever noticed?) and ignores the wishes of the people.  About saying no - not just in our hills home to a proposed 24/7 outlet not far from a primary school and kindergarten, on a single-lane road, bordering national parks, in an area that Melbournians drive to on weekends to escape suburbia - but everywhere to unsustainable systems.  The fight is strong here because there is a lot to lose.  People don't fight proposed Macca's outlets in, say, Clayton or Bundoora because those places are already built-up and relatively soulless.  But it doesn't necessarily mean residents are happy about yet another Macca's being built, five minutes from the other one.  It's just hard to muster yourself up out of the apathy that comes from living isolated from your community, surrounded by fast food outlets and building supply chains.

When your own council votes unanimously against McDonald's building on the site, and 80% of your own community is opposed, but the decision is then overturned by VCAT and is proceeding despite that level of community opposition, that's a fight worth having.

And it's a peaceful fight, despite what you might hear to the contrary.  It's right to fight this, because progress is not inevitable, and if we don't, the whole world will resemble a multi-storey carpark, with servos on two corners and fast food outlets on the other two, all in the name of the great corporate god's expansion at all costs.  Because that's the paradigm.  And it's a paradigm that comes from short-sightedness and greed, from a worldview where it is okay to make profit for yourself at the expense of the many.  We are so used to living this way that we think it's the norm.  We think that it's survival of the fittest playing out, and it's always been so.  I beg to differ.

Protesters at the march, where an estimated 3000 people
said no to Maccas in Tecoma.
It is our rapacious culture that is the anomaly to history - except we sort of don't have much of a culture.  Not in the sense of understanding how powerful we are when we're in community.  The closest we get to it regularly is at the footy, or at a concert when you feel that you are part of something bigger than yourself.  This culture, whatever it is, has alienated us from the earth and from each other.  It's one whose media can have on its nightly news a story about climate change interspersed with a story about our awesomely-behaving economic growth figures (we do love our sport), but which seems yet to fully face how one directly feeds into another.  It is a culture which is slowly becoming aware of the extent to which we are in chains to a corporate few, those who control our money supply, and how we must change this to gain our own freedom.

What group of people, if they were inventing a culture, would be happy with one where a small bunch of uber-rich invent our money out of thin air (literally), and then charge interest to the majority, who then spend years of their lives paying back way more than they borrowed in the first place, in servitude to the dollar instead of their passions and interests and talents?  Deep thinkers and far seers in cultures other than ours have warned long against the indebtedness that comes from a system based on charging interest.  It leads to slavery.  And slavery breeds apathy.  It's easy to be apathetic becuase this thing is too big, so what's the point of fighting it?  The system is too big to change, or to fail.

Except the only reason Wall Street hasn't failed is because its puppeteers continued to wrangle its strings after 2008.  This economic system has within it the seeds of its own destruction, and it has already begun turning within and devouring itself.  It's only a matter of time before the whole thing collapses, and what we will have left will be a bit of agoraphobia, and more freedom than we first know what to do with.  And it will take us years to understand that what seemed to be the end, was in fact the beginning.

Those are some of the far-ranging reasons why I have spent four of the past 24 hours in the cold (a couple last night in the rain, with reddened fingers) holding a sign saying "Maccas Says No to Democracy".  You don't do that sort of shit unless there's some passion from within to warm it.  I don't know who made that sign - it was one of the communal ones available for people who come down to join the fight.  Yesterday was the first day I came down.  I've been involved in this protest from the beginning - going to meetings, tweeting, marching - but yesterday was my first stint of sign-holding.  I admit I was scared to come down.  Like many people, I don't know many of my neighbours, or my extended community.  But then yesterday afternoon someone I do know rang local ABC radio to complain about one of its reporters insinuating that things were gearing down at Tecoma now the buildings have been demolished.  In fact, it's the opposite, she said.  She was just about to make her way down there herself after she picked up her daughter from school.  I recognised her voice and took the opportunity to go down there myself, to see someone I know to speak to rather than simply recognise the many I have come to know by sight from the last many months but who I don't actually know.  It was my way in.  And I was scared.  But I have overcome a little of my shyness in the past 24 hours and met people I wouldn't have met before, united in a common cause.  It's amazing how people will open up to each other when they have something in common to share.  This is what community is - people with commonalities, people who share the commons.  I feel like a part of this community much more than I did 24 hours ago.

Across the road from the proposed site is an impromptu No Maccas HQ.  A local community member has made available use of their front yard.  They've put up a tent, provided an urn for a cuppa, and it's such a basic thing but it is so damn powerful.  People have written songs about this protest, made videos, taken photos, written, used their PR and admin skills, all for free, and all from passion.  This is what life really looks like.

I came here this morning along with a bunch of other people for a candlelight vigil, to mark the sadness of the day before when the buildings which were once the Hazelvale Dairy, built in 1920, were demolished to make way for a generic prefab plastic city producing plastic food.  It was lovely, seeing the hills lightening in the background, and people with candles and lanterns, singing "No Maccas no."  It was a gentle way of grieving the violence of the day before, and for reigniting the hope that though the buildings have gone, the fight will continue.

You can sign the change.org petition here (over 81,000 signatures at last count).

Dear Jim Diamond

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Wednesday 7 August 2013

Dear Jim Diamond,

Your song I Should Have Known Better was a hit in 1985, when I was 14 and my passion for Brian Mannix, lead singer of local Melbourne band Uncanny X-Men, was burning bright.  That's why when I think of that song, the memory always comes in with him saying at the film clip's end, "So sad, isn't it?" presumably on one of the many nights he hosted the weekly music show Countdown (an Aussie institution).

It comes into my head sometimes, this song, and Brian's comment.  I don't know why.  I need neither of them, to be honest with you, but they stay nonetheless, relentlessly stained into the groove of my teenage years.

And so I found your song again in my head before, in the strange way of earworms.  A spin of a word sometimes is all it takes - I feel sad, I say the word "sad" in my head, and then before I know it my brain's flung open my head's filing cabinet and taken out the file marked "sad" and out spills Jim and Brian together.  I would like to refill the file with things that do not lead to annoying earworms, but I'm not quite sure how to do that yet.  It requires defragmenting abilities that I am able to do on my computer, but not yet in my brain.

I am feeling sad today, Jim, because Saffron Cottage in Tecoma is being demolished to make way for a McDonald's that many here do not want.  It has been an ongoing fight, which is not over, and will not be over, because this relentless march of expanding capitalism/corporatism/economics is a childish concept that, once you examine it, turns out to be something bordering on insane.  But I digress.

I do not wish to launch into discussions about economics.  Instead, I wish to take issue with one of the lines in your lyrics, if I may.

Your song is all about how awful you feel because you shagged some chick at the pub one night after a few too many Jimmies, and now you are remorseful because your relationship broke up as a result.  You wish for forgiveness.  Because as you say, you've never loved no one as much as her.  And you should have known better to lie to one as beautiful as her.  But surely ugly chicks don't deserve to be lied to either.  Which leads me to a question:  years later, after the wounds have healed from your relationship breakup, would you say in hindsight that it was only because she was beautiful that you felt awful lying to her?  You should have known better to lie to one as beautiful as her.  If she looked like Hatchetface, would you have felt bad for lying and betraying her confidence, or would that have been not as bad?  Were you feeling bad because you fucked up and now the beautiful girlfriend you punched above your weight to have (let's be honest, one plain person to another) dumped you on your bum?  Did she take you back?  I hope so, if that was the right thing for you both.  But if not, I hope the wounds have healed via the love of another woman, and that you resisted the urge to shag people-not-her.

It was rather poignant, your recounting of you seeing her walking by the other day, and knowing that she saw you but she turned away.  You were lost.  That is very sad.  But it brings me to the real thing that I take umbrage about in your song, your ode, your plea, Jim (may I call you Jim?)  And it's this.  You say:

You see, I've never loved no one as much as you
I fooled around, but tell me now
Just who is hurting who?

This is the bit I don't understand.  It seems obvious that your relationship was a conventional monogamous one. I could understand your confusion if you were in an open relationship, but it seems from your ex-girlfriend's response that you, my dear, went over a line that was unacceptable to go over.  And you broke something that was beautiful.  You broke her trust.

And so I ask you this:  why did you project your stuff onto her, Jim?  Tell me now just who is hurting who?  Why is she hurting you - because she broke up with you, because she turned away?  You know why she turned away?  Because you hurt her.  Her reaction, breaking up with you and then not speaking to you when she runs into you outside the supermarket, is not her hurting you.  It is the result of your actions, porking said chick in said pub. 

I hope that in the intervening years, if she didn't take you back, that you can at least concede that one. 

Yours sincerely,

Undefending the Defended


Sunday 4 August 2013

Postscript pre-post:  Eek!  I have just come back and read this again today and hmm, I am being awfully judgmental, aren't I?  Along with swearing a lot.  I must say, I wrote this in response to somebody who really presses my buttons.  And it's obvious that I have some stuff to deal with, and that I can be mean.  I was tempted to delete this.  But I'm not going to.  I struggle enough with owning my stuff sometimes.  To delete something that comes from that ugly space just in case you don't love me anymore after reading it?  - no, not the way I'm trying to play it.

But I do understand if you think I'm a cow here.  I think so, too.  The real question is why does that person push my buttons so (inferiority) and what can I do about it? (lots of things - the quest to let go of things that no longer serve continues).

~ ~ ~
It works well enough that many of us keep coming back to it, boosting our flagging self-esteem by noting behaviour or reading things others write that confirm how fucking awesome our own views are, and how totally *stupid* or *illogical* or *weak* or *childish* or [insert whatever your pet abhorrence is here] theirs are.

It makes you feel better in the same way that eating a couple of Tim Tams for lunch will keep the hunger at bay.  It gives you a sugar boost to keep reminding yourself how ridiculous other people are, how much bullshit they surround themselves with.  In comparison to you, of course.  You are proud of how little you are taken in, of your ability to stand back and accept nothing of what sucks other people in and makes them look weak.  Because you're strong, and nobody will ever make YOU look like a fool.

Etc.  Etc.  Etc.  Blah blah blah.

But you still, in the end, hate yourself and your small life just as much as you did before.  But hating everybody else is a comfort, and is much easier than the hard work required to ownyourownshit.

Whereas there's other people out there who have sorted out some of their shit.  Those people breathe a sort of freedom out ahead of them, and it wafts in behind them.  Whenever I come across them they both make me feel more comfortable, while making the bits of me I like least - my fearfulness, my defensiveness - dwindle, and bringing to the forefront those things that I love the most - my creativity, my openness, my willingness to learn.  They've dealt with a lot of the things that have made them smaller, angrier, more fearful.  They've dealt with some of their stuff, and so they inspire you that you can deal with yours too.  They are far more able to put themselves aside than the many who are so fragile in their beings living in this complex age that they have to puff themselves up like fish to get away from the feeling and the worry that they are in fact pieces of shit.  And in their defensiveness make themselves look smaller.  Whereas the others, who are able to make themselves smaller, appear bigger.

They're the people I admire, when I think of how much we need to change if we are going to stay alive on this planet.  They're the people who inspire me because they know better stories, and when I think of the breadth of humanity - its patheticness at one end, and its soaring beauty at the other, which we do not see anywhere near enough of and which we all possess - and remind myself of the sort of person I wish to be, it's those people I keep in mind. The ones who don't need to boost themselves up at others expense, because they don't need to boost themselves up at all.  That's real freedom. 


Justine Musk has been talking recently about the same sort of thing from another angle here.

Pic by Andreas Trepte (creative commons share alike/attribution)