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NOTES FROM QUARANTINE

By Josh Liveright / filmsforaction.org
Apr 1, 2020
4.5 ·
2
NOTES FROM QUARANTINE

NOTES FROM QUARANTINE

The following string of words is brought to you from my desk in northern Manhattan, the epicenter of the COVID19 pandemic of 2020. Take them or leave them, I’m not doing this for ego gratification, only to pass on my limited view of the world for whatever it’s worth. An advisory, I have grown increasingly frustrated with the cognitive spinning wheels of my progressive left intellectual elite cohort. I long for solutions and keep coming back to the conclusion that only real change starts in the human brain. Many of us seem to be stuck in our uniquely human ability to churn out repetitive thoughts which get recycled by our deeper programming and often come across as a sort of pathological adolescence. You may feel that way about this tome. That's okay, I get it.

A side note, please notice how many times you hear “sort of” or “kind of” as a modifier in almost every interview or discussion. I’m not really sure what to make of it. It’s the “like” of our new era. Perhaps it’s tied into the realm of utter uncertainty we all face.

And doesn’t it seem like irony is making a huge comeback in the traditional Greek tragedy sense? Intelligent people shouting their positions from their solo stages without realizing they are performing in the same farce they are ranting against, and therefore perpetuating it.

I am hardly exempt so let me start this verbal construction project by shouting from my soap-box about health-care, which seems to be the biggest thing on our minds in these dark days of austerity and, perhaps necessarily, perhaps not, authoritarian control.

 

HEALTH-CARE

In my life, I’ve had my hands in many pots as one might gather from my lengthy email signature which reads “producer, writer, director, actor, hypnotherapist, baker, father”. I also curate the arts and social justice events at my local café in all my spare time. But my actual “day job” is working as a union payroll accountant in the film and television industry. It's how I've provided for my family for many years and how we've been able to receive health benefits. Full disclosure, I'm grateful for the paycheck and the benefits but it's a job I never in a million years thought I'd be doing. For the people in my life who know me well, it’s certainly not "me”, yet I've logged over 50,000 hours in the past 19 years.

My health-care benefits are consistent as long as I'm working consistently, even though part of how my industry works is moving from series to series. For example, in the past five years, I’ve worked on Mr. Robot for three seasons and then moved over to Ray Donovan where I’m finishing up my second season and sadly for Liev Schreiber, the show’s last. This is generally true for union crew members. For non-union crew, it's a different story. Before the advent of the ACA (Affordable Care Act) aka Obamacare, it was entirely up to the studio or network to decide whether or not they wanted to provide benefits to their non-union crew. Since the bill was passed, it's been a requirement to provide health care for all non-union full-time crew. However, in both cases, before and after, when the job ends, the benefits are terminated and the crew member has the choice to go on a Cobra plan or be left uninsured.

For people who are unemployed, Cobra is prohibitively expensive. The injustice here is that the way the system is set up, it makes it almost impossible for those folks to afford health-care so they more often than not choose to spin the Russian Roulette chamber and spend a certain amount of time between jobs, uninsured. What's happening now is there are no jobs at all for the foreseeable future since production has been completely shut down due to the current health crisis. I recently had an email exchange with a non-union post production crew member who was wondering about his recourse now that he's been laid off. Unfortunately, it's Cobra or nothing. The guy was understandably upset because he'll be applying for unemployment which will unlikely afford him the health-care he needs more than ever right now. It's a Catch 22 situation.

If you lose your job you shouldn't lose your health insurance. Even if you hate your job you shouldn't lose your health insurance. Moreso, if you get divorced you shouldn't lose your health insurance. When you turn 26 you shouldn't lose your health insurance. When there's a pandemic, you shouldn't lose your health insurance. You should NEVER lose your health insurance. Period!

I admit, I feel imprisoned by doing a job I hate in order to keep my health insurance. And I also realize that's a form of privilege because I'm fortunate to HAVE health insurance where 87 million people in this country are uninsured or underinsured. If there ever was a case for Single Payer Socialized Medicine, it's right now, during a pandemic where there are too many unknowns to be worrying about medical bills. Unfortunately, you're not going to get it with Trump, you're not going to get it with Biden but you may get it with Bernie, especially if we ALL put pressure on our elected officials to pass a Medicare For All bill. As I told the crewmember, going out on a limb, maybe risking my job, "here's my two cents, and it's my opinion only, what's crazy about this situation is so many people like you are losing their jobs, and therefore their health plans, which is why we should all be fighting for Medicare For All." Not a very radical idea under the circumstances.

The “people love their private insurance” argument is complete propaganda, and let me be clear: co-pays and out of pocket expenses are not part of single payer health care. If we had the choice between single payer and private insurance, why would we ever choose to go out of pocket? Why would we ever choose co-pays. It’s only because there is this thing called the human brain that is susceptible to propaganda and corporate narrative. That’s it. We are stuck in this rigid mindset and we need to get ourselves unstuck, and quick. I do not like my private health insurance. It’s what I have and it’s better than no insurance but we can do much better.

WHY ON EARTH WOULD ANYONE WANT TO PAY FOR HEALTHCARE IF WE HAD A CHOICE?

The repetitive centrist question, “how are we going to pay for it?”, has evolved into a cosmic joke under our current circumstances. Ask yourselves, why is it okay to spend 53% of tax dollars on endless war but paying for what is integral to our basic rights - health care, social services, housing and education is ALWAYS questioned? Democracy is the rule of the many. Keep all this in mind and VOTE for candidates who have our best interests in mind. Complacency is how democracy turns into tyranny. I think Plato said that. Either him or the author and filmmaker, Astra Taylor, or maybe both.

 

THINGS COMING TO LIGHT

(inspired by Caitlin Johnstone)

“Corona is a black light and America is a cum-stained hotel room.” ~Megan Amram

Some things have suddenly become visible thanks to this pandemic. Here are a few I borrowed from Johnstone and embellished:

1. It's clearer than ever we are living in a corporate oligarchy. Corporate cronyism is running rampant right now after increasing exponentially for decades. Capitol Hill just passed an unprecedented multi-trillion bailout bill where most of the money is being used for the cause of corporate socialism, the trickle-down approach we’ve grown accustomed to. Many workers are getting a small slice of the pie and many won’t receive anything.
2. Capitalism worship is becoming akin to devil worship (hopefully). People are terrified about paying their rent while mountains of wealth are transferred to mega-corporations. Unemployment may soar to 30% but let's check in with the Dow, Bill. Debtors will need to wade through red tape in order to get relief (or choose to go to debtcollective.com). And at least half the population suffer while the rich take a forced sabbatical on their yachts or in their glorious summer homes.
3. The horrors of our healthcare system are staring us right in the face. See above for more details but the problems are endless and let's face it, the current system is a joke.
4. Wealth disparity is cruelly evident everywhere we look. Forty percent of us have no savings. When we die, we leave a legacy of less than zero as the average debt at the time of death is 62K. Tune into every single Bernie Sanders speech for the math we all know by heart but rest assured, when #eattherich is trending, it’s time to pay attention.
5. The insanity of our war machine is obvious. Taxpayers fund a military budget closing in on 800 Billion a year but the question, how do we pay for healthcare is a thing? Our defense budget is the most bloated in the world, outspending the next country by at least 3 to 1. The era of endless wars is over, if we want it.
6. What about our fake political system? The Reds and the Blues would like to sponsor a head to head fight with two white men who cannot seem to string a sentence together, both accused rapists, both empire agents. I personally can't wait for a debate between two patriarchs who have no idea what they're doing! Instills great confidence in how things are run, doesn't it?
7. Have you noticed our lying ass main stream media? I can't even read the NYTimes or listen to NPR anymore. It's clearly a full-blown propaganda machine and I turned to alternative sources of information long ago. At this point, I’d almost rather tune out completely as we’re faced with a new wave of op-ed style pieces. I honestly don’t need to hear Jimmy Dore or Michael Tracey’s opinions ever again, their cynicism has run its course. There are so few good journalists yet even the ones I admire tend to succumb to the current trend of opining in our faces with righteous soap-box energy. We hear the problems loud and clear but rarely any solutions.
8. Sanctions are good? People around the world are dying because of US sanctions. Pompeo has pushed for stricter sanctions in Iran during this pandemic and more people are dying. It's shock doctrine tactics, make the people miserable enough so they rebel against a government we hate. Venezuela, Cuba, Syria and our alliance with Israel helping to bring the Palestinians to their knees. 

What else? I’m sure many of you could chime in with 9, 10, 11, 12... The sun is shining on all the above and more. Perhaps it will burn away everything toxic. Bills are due today, it’s April 1. People are scared. We're now number one in the world in COVID cases, by a lot. Cuomo for President? Please. Anyone but Bernie right? Last night I dreamt of everyone in the country burning effigies of Trump. The GOP, and many Dems, are using us, killing us. This is our wake up call.

 

BERNIE SANDERS
We need to make sure everyone is taken care of, “made whole” as Bernie says. Especially the most vulnerable. It is an absolute no brainer at this point that a Single Payer system is one hundred percent necessary. There is no argument you could offer that would change my mind about that. And equally as important, because we need to connect the dots here, if you do not support a Green New Deal, you are either in denial or delusional. Those two policies alone are at the top of the to do list for this country. There is really no discussion. It’s dire. It’s already catastrophic.

If possible, reach down deep, turn your gaze to the people around you, not the privileged but the suffering, the marginalized, the 87 million without adequate healthcare, the people without homes, the people suffering in this landscape of vast debt, if you really looked at them and asked yourself who is the candidate willing to fight for them, there’s only one answer. You’ll have to drop the electability issue that MSM has planted in your brain. You’ll have to discard this cult of personality horseshit. Yes, it’s hard, I know but you have to look at the problem and realize the solution lies in implementing those two policies. The world cannot withstand four more years of a neocon or neoliberal president. We need a president who deals directly with the existential threats we face right now. It’s not too late to make Bernie Sanders the nominee. It requires courage though.

Bernie hosts panel discussions almost every night. Last week I tuned in and Dr. Joia Mukherjee was on claiming that testing is crucial (along with social distancing). She said tests kits could be available on the broad spectrum just like China and South Korea but the hold up is political. China is pretty much finished with this pandemic and South Korea is on the other side of the wave. The World Health Organization pointed out our government was informed at the same time as every other country. We have a huge problem with health care in this country. We have a huge problem with rot within the political system. This should not go unnoticed by anyone. Forget about Blue and Red for the moment and consider LIFE. We have a chance to shift things and it’s up to us. And here’s a clue, Biden is not the answer to our prayers despite all the corporate influence entering your brain in the form of data.

Let’s fight for reality. Socialized medicine saves lives. Preparation saves lives. Sanity saves lives. Rugged individualism not so much.

Some people learn from destruction, some people learn from creation. Yet they go hand in hand. Crazy Wisdom.

I spoke to a client yesterday about shadow work. For me the work is about noticing those parts of us in our deeper programming that emerge in times like this. If you shut your eyes you can feel where it is in our bodies. We can put our hand on that place and inquire. What’s the message? If all thoughts feelings and sensations are messengers, then what can I notice about that feeling of dread? How can that inform me? If my heart rate is rising a bit, if my breathing gets shallower, what’s the message? We can always take that pause and check in. These shadow parts are there to remind us of something. Perhaps we’re tuning into something connecting us to a part of ourselves that needs to be heard. And in our noticing, we may also realize that the shadowy bit is connected to something else, a part of ourselves that requires attention, like a need to connect, like a hunger to shift something. It’s a simple exercise that can bring us closer to ourselves. Yet it’s not always our first choice because it often feels uncomfortable or foreign to us. Noticing the deeper programming and realizing it may not be working for us anymore is a revolutionary shift.

I woke up one morning fairly recently thinking about meanness and viruses. We have a real chance to fundamentally change the way we do business in this country. It’s staring us right in the face and it’s about as uncomfortable as staring into a rabid dog’s bared teeth. A single payer system would alleviate suffering for so many. Taking on the big banks and corporate America would transfer power to the poor and working class. A Green New Deal confronts our major existential threat head on. Yet so many are sidestepping this opportunity by talking about how mean people are on the internet.

When half a million people are sleeping on the street, why is that even a concern? There are people trash talking each other constantly, and it truly feels like so many are frozen in a kind of pathological adolescence. This to me is a mind virus, a million times worse than this flu that’s spreading around. And yet this obsession with petty bullshit is also a pandemic. It’s moving through the world with our lens turned inward concerned about our own sense of safety and comfort. Not Me Us is a movement that turns the lens outward. What have you done that helps or supports someone you don’t know? Think about it. Does throwing darts at people feel good? Maybe for a second but then nothing changes.

How can we truly change the world when we can’t even look at another person and see them, really see them. Social media feeds this disconnect but when we are moving through the physical world we have an easier choice. Here’s a suggestion, sometimes transformation begins with simply saying good morning to a complete stranger on the street. The lens turns outward for a moment and the endorphins surge making us feel lighter. If your goal is transformation then it starts with intention and moves from there. If not then sit back, sharpen your choppers, take another stab at “Bernie Bros”, and ask one of those irrelevant questions like, ‘how are we gonna pay for Medicare for All’? Then go watch MSNBC and feel righteous for a moment, maybe tweet something snarky. Meanwhile all the folks out there beyond your couch are still struggling, still suffering. But at least you’re comfortable. For now, anyway.

“Trump is simply lying; Biden is treating it as a problem; only Bernie is treating it as the crisis that it is, recommending full on economic mobilization to serve all Americans during a potentially catastrophic event.” ~Marianne Williamson

 

MENTAL SOVEREIGNTY

“You are not responsible for the programming you picked up in the download years of your childhood but you are 100% responsible for installing the upgrades.” ~unknown author

We need our mental sovereignty more than ever. A constant challenge for me is, don’t fall for false narratives. Stay awake. Russian interference is horseshit, Chinese interference is horseshit. The only interference is in your brain. Keep your eyes on the prize. It’s clearer than ever the establishment doesn’t want us to win so we need to be on our toes at all times.

As we head into a new paradigm (yet again), I think about some useful tools to get us through the turbulence. The stuff all of us may know but perhaps push aside for some kind of magical elixir that will save us from ourselves. True, I do believe there are various magical elixirs available but maybe not in the form that you might think (author says with a wink). But yes, we have the choice to simply sit back and do nothing. After all, action is something that many of us would rather avoid. We could allow things to unfold, sure. But nah. IMHO there are things we can DO.

First thing, FEEL. Reroute, reframe and RECLAIM feeling. Enter back into a relationship with direct experience. Become aware of all the mind tricks that keep us from that – case-making, judgement, analysis, critique and interpretation to name a few. Then when all that thought comes up, and it will, self-correct when necessary, or useful to do so. And then move directly into the realm of feeling, the place where we started back when we crawled around the floor stuffing things into our mouths until the food-givers told us that was BAD and we should spit them out. Let's face it, we've been taught NOT TO FEEL in too many ways to count so let's reclaim the direct route to FEELING. Start by hugging a tree or feeling the warmth of your cup of coffee. Describe it in basic feeling terms. You might find that to be more challenging than you think. After all a tree is a tree, not a good, bad, ugly or beautiful tree. If I asked you to meet me in the park at the ugly tree, we'd never find each other.

I'm discovering more and more that comparison serves very little purpose. It's another form of case-making, of judgement. Our experiences are both unique and universal so there’s really no urgency or need for comparison. We're all in it together and there happens to be a common language that is NON-VERBAL. This is the great equalizer. We don't need to wait for leaders to lead. Leadership is within us all. It begins with a shift of consciousness, by looking through a new lens. We can start doing that before the clock strikes midnight. We can do that right now.

So before you start the pre-recorded case-making, analysis and interpretation, check in with those thoughts, feelings and sensations and simply let them move through you. As author and self-proclaimed anti-spiritual non-guru Jeff Foster suggests in a not so recent post, "Feel your feet on the ground. Notice your breathing rising and falling. Feel the sensations in your face. Your hands. Your belly. Don't compare them. Feel the weight of your body, let it drop into the Earth. Listen to the sounds around you right now. Feel all the tingly, alive, fluttering, pulsating sensations in your body. Let the body be as it is. Feel the heat, the cold, the aching, the expansion, the pulse of life. Don't compare anything here to anything 'there'. 'There' is the lie. Bring your attention back here, to this living moment. Don't compare it with any other moment. Don't make it 'more than' or 'less than'. Bless it with your attention. There's literally nothing to compare you to."

FYI, thoughts feelings and sensations do not define us. They are weather patterns and are always temporary. Important to remember, always. What we're all born into is connection, spirit, essence. It's always been available to us and right now is no different.

Also, try using simple intentions, five or six words tops. It’s like building a bridge to transformation. And pull in your resources, your teachers and guides, a powerful piece of music or poetry perhaps. This helps us look past all the deep programming, all the propaganda, all the lies we're told by media, politicians, truth-tellers, spiritual teachers, hucksters, and takes us on the direct route to what's meaningful by connecting with those who actually see and hear you - your communities, your families, your friends.

Start with your breath and dropping into your body with awareness. Pay attention. Look into the eyes of love by turning your gaze outward toward the rest of the world.

We're taking off into a new realm of consciousness, a new paradigm. The sun is rising for all of us and we all have the capacity to embrace it. So perhaps this isn't really the spring of 2020. Antonio Gramsci, the Italian Marxist philosopher, put it this way on January 1, 1916, "I want every morning to be a New Year’s for me. Every day I want to reckon with myself, and every day I want to renew myself. Because it will hurl into the trash all of these dates which have no resonance in our spirit and, if it creates others, they will at least be our own."

Everything is a resource. Every problem or feeling. Every stress or sensation. Every judgement or thought, even the casemaking I talked about above, even the ego, all the so-called negative emotions. When we welcome our resistance we can say, hello. And then, isn’t that interesting? Then we have a choice. Could be salvation. Could be destruction. Make room for the obstacles. They are also our teachers.

I have a new classification for people who feel things deeply. SAF. Sensitive as fuck. For us SAF folks, and I certainly am one, we get triggered by life events very easily. In a recent dream I bombed a building then woke up feeling deeply responsible and guilty. My mind playing its tricks maybe but at the root is grief. And I welcome the grief as I know it’s painful but also necessary and cleansing. And sometimes when the grief comes it comes on strong and all my angels appear. Woody, my beloved lab and dear friend, spent some time with me after that heavy dream. My Aunt Beth visits me. My dear friend, Bè. My beloved grandparents. And more.

For us sensitive as fuck people times like these are totally triggering and the weight of it feels heavy. Welcoming all that along with all the souls I’ve said goodbye to over the years, who are always here to guide me through the grief can be a comfort. Allowing the tears to come is a comfort too, and cleansing.

My friend Celeste wrote this to me: “Grief, death, old shit, all the new shit... I have been feeling a great loss and breaking of old structures. It’s been intense time for so many. Dreams! Wow. I had an earthquake dream and my house was rubble. So, yeah, structures are falling.” Yes, the temple is crumbling and will be rebuilt, stronger and with even more sensitivity and compassion. My old structure was hard, often impenetrable. My old friends in South Philly called me a “hard guy”. Those survival skills don't work for me anymore.

If this traumatic time has taught me anything so far, it’s reminded me about letting it all crumble to the ground and taking the direct route to my essence, to the grief. Let it all breathe and be and let the hard stuff be my teacher.

I’d rather be a SAF person than a hard guy. The hard guy thing served me for a while but it’s not me at my core. Sometimes we all need the tough reminders. I’m taking a look at that now.

“Nothing is ever solved. Solving is an illusion. There are moments of spontaneous brightness, when the mind appears emancipated, but that is mere epiphany.” ~Patti Smith, from Year of the Monkey

 

WEALTH DISPARITY

“Knocking on doors in Detroit was a heart-breaking experience. Entire neighborhoods have been decimated by extractive capitalism. They say if a Democratic Socialist wins it will be the end of days. How can anyone look at the despair and not have the moral clarity to understand the economic system that puts profits over people needs to be transformed. Donald Trump did not destroy these neighborhoods. We can get rid of Donald Trump, maybe elect Joe Biden and like he said, “nothing will fundamentally change” for anyone in these neighborhoods or for the Wall Street speculators and developers that profit off them. This is what the status quo, the return to “normalcy”, looks like for tens of millions of people. They deserve more. We all deserve a world where we thrive, where we have joy, where we live in dignity. There’s only one candidate offering that vision and it ain’t Biden. Regardless of what happens in this primary I will not abandon my commitment to fighting for and with people I don’t know. Folks like the ones who live in these communities. Should he become the nominee, Biden better get used to being the target of our movement because this will NEVER be OK with me regardless of whether the occupant of the White House is a Democrat or Republican. ~Jennifer Epps Addison

The 500,000 homeless people in our country are invisible to most of us privileged enough to have a roof over our head. They are especially invisible to the wealthy oligarchs who have taken over our country. Have you had enough?

There’s a woman in my neighborhood named CeCe. She’s homeless, an addict, and can be a real pain in the ass. She has a big heart, feels things deeply and has no problem getting up in your face. She loves to dance, sing, and play even though she has no voice. Literally and otherwise. Democracy is the rule of the many. Poor people outnumber the rich. Therefore, democracy is the rule of the poor. This is not a democracy.

These millionaires and billionaires never ask where the money will come from when it comes to their wars and occupations. They never ask how we will pay for prisons and police. But let it be housing, healthcare, climate, or college, they sneer and berate. Why is spending taxpayer dollars on defense deemed democratic and spending taxpayer dollars on what matters most to us deemed socialism? That makes little sense! And why can’t we decide how we spend our money? We know the answer - it’s because elections are bought and sold by the corporate oligarchy. You know this, I know this, and yet here we are. Again.

Is it okay to have some relief? Is it okay to be okay? When did this file get started? Can we simply say, done with that, not reading that data any longer? When I hear the sound of a dove, I feel safe. That cooing sound centers me, provides comfort, brings me to a place of calm, the true Mother, nurturing angel presence. I have an old print on the wall in my living room, part of a series of block prints by my distant cousin, the French artist Paul Elsas. A dove clutching an olive branch on Noah’s ark, bringing the news of land. I imagine the ark floating on a sea of tears. I close my eyes and picture the ocean representing all suffering, all the tears wept by humans past, present and future. I gasp and then listen for the dove cooing, speaking to the story of not enough, offering an olive branch of peace along with the news, there’s another story out there for you to land on as you traverse this sea of tears. The great Mother wrapping us all up in her arms -- the message is, pay attention. Close your eyes and envision the warmth of this alternative story and let the old story, the insidious programming of our pain, all that data, drift by in the ocean of tears. Watch as how suddenly a rogue wave takes it all and washes it away along with our collective suffering. Watch it go and say goodbye. Goodbye! And then say thank you with supreme gratitude. Thank you! You are not needed any more yet you’ve been worth your weight in gold. So long and thanks for the memories! And our inner voice gives us the gentle reminder that we have experiences yet they needn’t define us.  We have a body but we aren’t our body. We have an asshole but that doesn’t mean we are one. As thoughts, feelings and sensations enter the conscious mind we can inquire, what do they mean about me? What do they mean about others? What do they mean about the world? And we can then close our eyes to let this data drop in and realize the choice to inquire is always available. And perhaps we’ll hear the cooing of the dove, or whatever else spirit might offer us.

"People are seriously still smiling on sunny beaches and exotic mountains, saying yes to free swag, wearing shoes and bathing suits and whatever else made in sweatshops, without a care in the world how their actions are a direct contribution to the pain of others. Why don’t most of us seem to register that the life we say yes to normalizes slave labor, encourages consumerism, pins people against one another in social brackets of acceptability, and at best, wastes precious finite resources, and at worst poisons them? How can this continue as normal? We passively encourage one another, celebrating gigs and collecting paychecks. We of course want to support those we love, of course. But at what cost? Can we find new ways of creativity, success, and support? Can we begin to function on a community level? Perhaps stop seeking accolades for useless ventures? Animals, plants, and insects are losing their homes, their lives, and people are too, simply because of the rampant climb to be at the top of an endless tower of sameness." ~Sera Lindsay

Life is the full catastrophe. Healing is a life-long journey requiring faith and surrender. Recently I’ve been experimenting with ice baths. First there’s intention, next preparation and then we can plunge into the depths of something deeply uncomfortable, with awareness. It is unfamiliar territory requiring courage and a bit of insanity or crazy wisdom. Hard to tell! Paradoxically this engagement has the potential to create harmony - a physical, emotional and energetic relationship emerges that can be surprising. Our unconscious contains deep pockets of shadowy spaces, forgotten, scary, unfelt with thick veins of gold to be mined. The journey in can be treacherous and the rewards bountiful. The cosmic joke is that everything remains static when in fact the mind is always updating just as our cells are constantly regenerating.

"Indigenous cultures tend toward animistic earth-based spiritual practices that honor the local environment and elements. This earth-based "shamanism" predates organized religion, making it the earliest expression of spirituality. Tragically, many indigenous peoples around the world who carried the knowledge of these original earth-based rituals and traditions have been killed or colonized over the last five centuries. Although colonization and the domination wrought by expanding kingdoms and empires have existed for thousands of years, the last five hundred years have seen the most brutal destruction of native ways of life in all parts of the world. This colonization has been fueled by the agglomeration of land ownership by European kingdoms, expanding their reach across the world by extracting resources in the form of objects, precious metals, rubber and worst of all -- human beings as slaves. At the same time Christian missionaries arrived in the new colonized lands. Under the guise of education and healthcare they disrupted indigenous traditions and aggressively imposed their belief system on native people. The disregard for indigenous traditions and blatant devastation of earth-based ways of life continue to this day through the unbridled growth of capitalism and its resulting destruction of forests, rivers and mountains where many indigenous peoples live. Thus, many people have been severed from their original ways of tending their connection with one another, their community, and the living earth." ~Françoise Bourzat

Let’s stop conflating the idea of love with empire. The present exists to repair the past and prepare the future. We are time traveling present moment animals.

In the fall I was river watching in Inwood Hill Park. For some reason, hanging on for dear life with clenched jaw, knit brow. The “Hudson” River, so-called by white men, was moving north I think. Seemed slightly confused actually, maybe the tides were turning. I sat on a rock overlooking the water, traffic moving both directions on the “Henry Hudson Parkway” below. The true name of the River is Mahicantuck, meaning the river that flows two ways. I bowed to indigenous wisdom likely imprinted in that very spot, Lenape land, not mine, not yours. Sensing the vigilance they must have once felt, I remembered how the original stewards of this land were steam-rolled by empire, wiped out by genocide. I wept for them and the whole human race who, along the journey of history, succumbed to the narrative of manifest destiny, of empire, the main story of this age of separation and destruction. I too am complicit, having fallen for it, and struggling to awaken. It’s not easy! Those who control the story, the narrative, control everything. I take one step toward truth and three steps back into the collective mind virus because so often the story feels benign even though it’s insidious. I wept for all of us but most of all for those who have suffered the most.

The River keeps flowing despite attempts to pollute it, efforts to divert it, empire building upon its banks doing its best to control it. Yet, I imagine it will be here long after I’m gone, plodding on toward the sea, and perhaps it will grow stronger. I hope so.

The real plague is mind, and stories. We are slaves to narrative. And it’s clear how stories are either rigid or expansive. Two clear paths. Again, I turn to Native Wisdom, human beings who relied on stories to maintain connection. The stories of empire maintain separation. Which path to take? Asleep we choose separation. Awake we create new stories. New old stories actually. Our indigenous brothers and sisters held truths we must return to, we-are-one type stories like the circle of life, River-Sky-Mountain-Fire, Four Directions, Seven Arrows. And so many other symbols that point the way back home. A-HO!

Life's an emotional roller coaster. We climb the steep slopes and zoom down into the valleys pretty much on a daily basis. And we get this message we're not being present. Gotta be present goddamnit!! So we fall back into our spiritual practices, go to a meeting, sit in meditation, go to therapy, pop a pill, etc, etc, in order to get back with the preciousness of the present moment. It occurred to me as I was doing the dishes that the unpredictability of life is just that - unpredictable. And moreover we have brains that are a combination of present moment machines and past and future monitors and meaning makers, storytellers. So we sometimes get ahead of ourselves and sometimes feel stuck. Yet, we can always access the present with our choice of practices. Or not! All these big feelings that pop up, unpredictably, annoyingly, yet pretty much on a daily basis, trauma from the past, that thing we feel unable to shake so we bow down to it with a strange reverence, or worry and anxiety, those time traveling feelings, often keeping us stuck, usually feeling like our forward momentum is impeded, they both exist in the human brain which is simply feeling big shit rather than small shit. And this big shit is normal because it's all related to how un-integrated our brains are, at once always present and, at almost the same time, creating stories about past and future. What a fucking mess!! What Zorba the Greek described as the full catastrophe. All this messy shit going on and on, and feeling like the end sometimes and the beginning some other times. We're always living in the moment whether we "try" to access it or not. So let's give ourselves a break! The human experience is a big messy experiment with feelings that run the full spectrum. Sometimes all you have to do is stop and consider how serious you're being, how much "meaning" you're putting on whatever it is that's so important, like a spectator, you can observe as whatever you're doing turns into a big old failure of epic proportions and then you can look in the mirror and laugh, or maybe even start dancing.

Mike Scott of The Waterboys, during a recent performance of his beautiful song “We Will Not Be Lovers”, quieted everything down and sang:

“Now the world's full of trouble
everybody's scared
The landlords are frowning
cupboards are bare
People are scrambling
like dogs for a share
It's cruel and its hard
but it's nothing compared to
what we do to each other
to each other.”

What we do to each other. Maybe we can think about that as we slow down and turn the lens outward.

 

 

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