Monthly Archives: March 2014

Human Nature

by Stephanie Chernish

I was in Bukkitinggi, Indonesia

– starting my descent –

keeping afloat with this enlivening lunatic.

 

 

It was an effortless reflection of madness.

A synchronization of astuteness, you could say.

A near slient rendezvous of eventual revelation. 

 

It was July.

We walked as melancholy soldiers  – in crowded streets – weaving through the central square.

He told me that bad spirits find me in Canada.

 

That’s why I stir.

 

That I should stay away from those places that invite them in.

 

His name was Lala, an abstract artist who’s name meant laughter.

He possessed a penetrating blue crust that encircled his corneas – like an electrified crater rim of one of the volcanoes I’ve climbed.

I could have fallen right into the center of his middle age psychosis.

But insects always scurried by holding caution signs. 

 

 

Strings of simple moments are all we need sometimes.

I think it takes about the length of your forearm (or the size of your foot) to hang most things of meaning – on the shaking walls in your mind that you label with value.

Strings nearly long enough to choke yourself with. 

 

Then, you come to decorate something of life with experience.

I was almost always alone surrounded by strangers – as they classically say – together we individually created collections of near identical aspirations.

Breaking the myths of any real differences worth deciphering.

What do we really need to know of human? Of nature?

 

Lala was the first person that understood me – drop dead silently.

So this rant is an ode to a Lala. 

 

 

We transcended language – who ever really needs these words that never leave me alone anyway?

His insanity mirrored my own – helping me begin the slow and painful process of unwrapping from the mesh wiring that starts to snag your clothes in too much solitude – exposing you in countries where you ought to be mindful of what you disclose. 

Or maybe it is the reverse?

 

So I untwisted the small elastic band from the plastic bag that just barely kept that gold fish alive.

It was for sale inside. 

But the dishonesty of standing by; just suffocated it, so I reused the elastic band for my hair and threw the plastic and dead fish into the street.

There is nowhere else to purge, nearly everything you could possibly imagine wrapped in, plastic bags and dead things in these countries.

And even if there was somewhere to bury it – out of site – when did we decide that to be any better?
 

Esthetically, pleasing?

I suppose.

At least here, the consequences of your consumption, of your thoughts,  all unfold in front of you, reminding you to choose wisely – or maybe to stop giving a shit because there isn’t much you can do anyway?

 

I suppose you can try and keep that garbage from your lunch and your trashy mind contained in your traditional Nepalese bag, but some things were made to be discarded.

So it goes.

 

 

The operations.

I met this local tour guide named Tom in the same restaurant that I met Lala.

Indonesia is the best for getting on a level with locals. So friendly.

Him and I spoke for hours about the concepts of superficiality, modern women’s uncanny ability to judge each other before they finish a blink – an evolving survival technique, or do I mean a neurotic maladaptation? Maybe it’s the same thing.

Maybe it once protected you from the cheer-leading squad that would binge and then purge you out because you were filled with way too many uncool calories?

Or from the moody user types..the girls who kept you close if you had cigarettes, drugs, money, or any method of escape.

Met 14 year old, Stephanie.

  

The girls, dissecting their own kind, rejecting them(selves), flunking each other out of ideal woman school.

It was the only courses I had a chance at passing in those days.

Oh the convolution.

Hey! 30 year old, Stephanie, can you change the subject.. please?! 

Almost. This isn’t what I am writing about again I swear.

 

Tom said how most girls want “fat boobs” (brilliant) but not “fat in their ass.”

Men want to “inject fat into their dick,” and Indonesian girls want a muscular Australian surfer – a thin Indonesian man will suffice no longer. 

We talked about his girlfriend’s struggle to love and accept herself, as is, even though he adored her. She felt fat.

I thought of the woman travellers I met (this includes all 10 1/2 months of them), and how nearly all of them were plagued by this same dreaded weight.

Aka self-love deprivation.

It is a heaviness that attaches to the skin, no matter the country, no matter the ‘fat’ in their boobs or behind – no matter the colour of their hair or dreads – no matter their experienced years traveling as organic freedom fighters, or if it was their first time leaving mommy and daddy’s after gradating college:

They all cared about their weight.

 

Peel off that retched natural paint and refinish her with a glossy newer model. 

 

Ok, I am done. 

 

 

We also spoke of poverty, it’s global spectrum and the broad definition of wealth.

What comes when a human finds wealth?

When needs are met?

Democracy? 

Brain-washed with soapy forms of domination and group control.

Health-care?

Pressure their brains – capitalism.

 

The appropriation – 

“the use of borrowed elements in the creation of a new work.”

 

 

I become flooded with despair, as these conversations can do to a girl.

Why are we being so sub-standard, so out of sync with our human potential? 

We are in need of so many band-aids.

How drunk we all are on so much wrong. 

 

Oh how wasted the human’s potential!

 

 

 

Then, Lala, that intoxicating creep who was sitting at the table beside us, but not involving himself whatsoever, interjects to our regurgitated ‘save the world’ babble and gives me the delightful gift of this epiphany.

“All I hear is you blah blah blah about this and that, but you don’t see – it is not gonna change. When you go it will all still be here, and it was all happening before you came here. They are just being human. Just let it be.”

 

The appropriation – ”the use of borrowed elements in the creation of a new work.”

 

BAM. 

The next day I go to the same restaurant and Tom is there.

This time it is a new Tom, I’m certain he is not the one I had just met the previous evening.

In between sipping his Chang, he burps up some lies and tries to sell guided tours and hustle my friend of the moment from Holland way too high boat prices to some non-touristy island (the objective of every tourist – take me somewhere non-touristy: quite ironic as we parade ourselves wearing western name tags).

I think to myself what a let down. He is just like every other guide I’ve met in Indonesia and Nepal.

 

What a Fucking human!

 

 

 

I am looking out the window of the shuttle van, on my way to the airport.

I am heading to the island Java to do some more Wwoofing and volcano climbing.

Lucky, ya?

A beautiful man I once knew, reminded me that I created this luck. 

Fuck ya, I did.

 

 

I see clouds are being clouds.

The ones that live here today are hugging themselves tightly around the wide-open mouth of the volcano, Marapi. 

The smell of garbage. 

So repugnant.

Human’s nature.

 

 

 

Human girl trudging the world.

 

It’s July.

The Muslim woman beside me is hungry. 

I’m certain of it.

She is fasting for Ramadan. It is safe to say so is the entire Muslim population in Indonesia.

It’s such a cool time to travel.

 

 

She fasts to cleanse herself of all the sins she’s gathered from the previous year. 

So I hear.

 

Faith. Belonging.

WherecanIfindsome?

Deathiscertaintheysay.

Prepare.

What a human – Amazement.

 

The 12 year old boy near Lake Toba (the worlds largest crater lake which houses the largest known super-eruption volcano where 70,000,000 millions years ago it exploded – causing a massive cooling shift that lasted up to 1,000 years. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toba_catastrophe_theory) comes to mind.

He is in his adorable school uniform, as most kids are, walking towards – we anticipate our passing on the narrow side walk.

He is beaming in innocence. 

He says hello and I return the greeting with a massively warm smile.

Just as our eyes lock, he asks if I’d kiss him. Out of nowhere.

This kid that could almost be my child.

It was no innocence I detected but the ray of young perversion aglow – a case of human taking me off guard.

 

I point to the sky and remind him that god is watching.

I feel bad now thinking back on it, but he upset me and there is no short of perverse male’s frolicking in their supremacy around Asia so I snapped.

I pull their gods on them sometimes (I.e. Lakshmi sees us – you deceptive fucking Varkala tuk tuk driver, Allah doesn’t like liars – you toilet paper or bus ticket – overpricing bastard, what would Buddha think of you demanding more money for this cab ride as you’re holding my backpack hostage in the trunk until I have to pay what you want – you midnight snake of the Bangkok night!  God sees you, creepy grandpa that licks his teeth while simultaneously looking like he kind of wants to punch in mine, as he looks up and down my hairy hobo demeanour in a disgust really cloaking arousal) – you get the idea.

9.2 times out of 10, someone is trying to make you pay more than you should, so when I’m cranky, cornered, scared (which was so rare that you probably wouldn’t believe me), or outraged: I would whip out their gods on them, reminding them of their sometimes so easily forgotten deep faith that is always plastered around us in some form.

Fancy Tuk tuk stickers (sometimes including Bollywood actors, different shaped coloured and sized Buddhas, deities, reincarnates), or 3D and valour pictures of Jesus/Mohammad/Vishnu/Avalokteshvara – I could go on – framed and hanging proudling in their shops and homes.  

Dashboard ornaments.

Rearview mirror jewellery.

Again, the idea is there.

But really I don’t blame them, trying to rip us off, not one bit. If a sucker fish presents itself, it is asking to be sucked, and a tourist with money and no idea the reasonable tourist inflation of local prices, or the skills to try for local prices in that country – they deserve it. I mean that in the most loving way. It is just the way it goes.

Those few extra bucks can be the determining Indian or Nepalese rupees, rupiah, baht, or ringgitt that buy their families some dinner. 

And we all have nearly the same size of mouths, no matter how different they look or sound.

Families stuffed into homes the sizes of our garages.

Food that you pay for now and rarely grow. 

So Everyone is always trying to make a buck.

Hungry humans.

I think of the entire Christian fishing villages of Samosir island, where literally ALL of the women can sing like they were the originators of gospel, and who all mostly converted to Christianity only because the missionaries let them stick with their favourite diet of wild pig when the Muslims and Hindus were just trying to barrage them with their flesh restricting forces.

So the story goes.

So those Batak turned Christian for pig. 

Human song.

 

 

I’m driving to the airport still.

Muslim’s in the front, beside, behind.

Besides the island of Bali, and the pockets of Christian villages and islands, it is the normal in Indonesia.

 

I drink some water and feel their mouths begin to leak.

Then, I pop a ginger candy and hear the jungle tigers growl from their empty stomach cages.

I feel a sense of guilt when I eat in front of them during Ramadan, matched with a condescending desire to shove my face full of whatever crumbling baked good I can find to spite this countries secular erosion. 

But who the hell am I to say?

Everything shuts down for prayer 5 times a day.

Non-Muslim government. 

Ya right.

They shut down nearly all restaurants until dusk and if any are open there is a giant sheet or certain covering the windows or tables as they don’t want to tempt the hungry day walkers.

 

Humans? 

 

Death glares to the white girl eating peanuts – laser eyes from beneath the hijab.

Rarely.

Kindness and compassion emitted my way beneath the hijab.

That’s more realistic.

 

HUMAN.

 

All of it. 

Every single thread from every single sapien.

Every single thing I think, every single thing ‘they’ do. 

It’s nothing new.

The appropriation – ”the use of borrowed elements in the creation of a new work.

That is all everyone is ever doing.

Evolution is reweaving left over materials  – with or without you.

 

I see that sure enough the road is being a road, good work.

I am feeling sick of being sick and lonely…human, check. 

I recognize that everything is just being itself. Every metaphysical making or hunk of matter.

 

It is so simple.

 

Becoming, then sustaining some forms of collective energy for a selected while, slowly they will dissipate, destruct, and then reconstruct themselves into something else. 

 

Every expression of human – nature. 

 

So back to this adamant importance of sustaining what is natural. 

The ‘right’ choices.

The ‘wrong’ choices.

Humanity is supposed to behave this way while the earth organizes itself in that way so I should be eating this way if I want things to be the best way and I want to be that way.  

We know right?

 

 

We know it all.

Human check list.

Earth check list.

Organic check list.

 

Yet, rarely any follow through with this knowing?

Only the selective often privileged few with the wealth to follow through on this….choice.

And some of us think –

If these countries could just get on board, if we could just tell them what is best, that they should live within their means..means?

Why don’t they start acting more human, optimizing our potential – living inline with the natural.

 

I’m pretty certain one day soon someone is going to construct the New Organic Testament for the next organic superhuman movement, and one day these scriptures will be worshiped as the literal representation of…of? A giant garden vegetable?

 

Yes, please.

 

The ashes of the authors will be buried in N.O.T. stupa mounds around all the rich Western countries so that we can get down on our optimally functioning and internally lubricated knees and pray. We can give away our money and admiration to the organic raw vegan monks that have created little vestigal home pockets of escapisms.

What a fucking awesome visualization; I’d love to be one of those monks one day, not have to face the realities of what it took to get these clothes, bowls, bricks that surround me, but that’s not my point here.

But however it comes, I’m certain humans will continue to quench that natural thirst for dogma. 

Among so many other things.

It’s not going to change quickly.

 

Counterpoise.

We have created visions and scientific based ideas about certain phenomena being acceptable and appropriate – ideal, in fact for humans as well as for the earth’s evolution, while others are fueled with hours of deconstruction and complaints (story of my life) and long discussions on all of the ways things must change – all the excuses to point fingers. That is almost indisputable.

 

Yet, really I see we are just creating more of that familiar suffering. 

 

 

We discuss the most appropriate human behaviours. 

The most exquisite sapiens.  

 

What do they do, you might ask?

 

Well, I think I’ve finally discovered it.

 

This guy in Ohio goes and buys a taquito from 7-11 everynight for dinner because he doesn’t drive and can’t afford groceries because he blows most of his welfare cheque on meth. He collects bottles that are thrown out on the streets for a few extra bucks.. for more meth.

This Bikkhu from Thailand, who ordained at the age of 6, who today is desperately trying to sustain brahmacarya, when his eyes penetrate that of a foreigner’s who is doing a vipanssana course in his monastery. Attempting to suppress the urges that bubble from our biological make.

And a woman in Vancouver goes and spends enough money to live for a year in India on a shopping day at Louis Vuitton. A whole year.

The transgendered 7-11 clerk in Chiang Mai slanging cheap substances; I see her leave the store. She litters.

This women from Bombay, who rides the trains back and forth all day trying to sell chai that is probably a few days old, festering in the smoldering heat, that she made from the street cows she catches and then milks. Hoping to score enough cash for some chapati’s for her kids to at least eat something that day, for when they get back from making and trying to sell whatever it is they can. Day in and day out.

And this guy from Yogyakarta plays soccer with his Christian friend’s who are only from his Christian neighbourhood and go to the same Christian school, every Friday, bonding in their coloured bubble in comparison to the muslim kids who are doing the same thing down the street at the basketball court. But this boy invites me along to show off.

This guy from Holland, who goes all the way to BC to pick fruit for the summer – passes on the gift of chlamydia to all the free spirited, let’s not wear a condom, women (and some men) who really just dug his accent. Ooops.

This women from Sumatra who fishes all day, drying, selling, trading her every waking moment to the god of fish. 

The girl from Saskatchewan drives a big ass diesel truck, all year, and works at a processing plant for wheat, reads the bible and likes to fix up cars with her dad. Dreaming of one day throwing Katy Perry in the back seat. She doesn’t tell anyone.

Then, this lady who eats so much raw vegan-perfection-obsession that she could sprout a vegetable garden in the sewage system if it were possible. Or she could sprout a small herb garden in her consumer driven fashion enemy’s 1200 dollar LV bag that she metaphysically shits in through her ‘but I love the world’ ‘and she doesn’t’ disapproval and judgement. 

And everything else in between.

Different forms of distractions. 

Hiding and running from death.

Beautiful humans.

It is all the same thing. Everything that we choose, even the illusion of choice, everything we say and become and leave behind. It is the recreation of so few ingredients.

 

Confessedly, when Tom and I spoke, I was feeling slightly rejected because these two backpackers from Germany were stand-offish and really unhelpful when I asked them some simple questions about climbing this volcano.

They were rude and it really hurt my feelings.

I got insecure.

 

 

But really, what I’d deem acceptable doesn’t really mean anything at all. 

There is no right or wrong way, there are only humans being humans. 

 

EVERYWHERE.

 

We create expectations of people. We all do it. 

Expectations of humans interacting with the earth – the play of the entire universe. 

It should operate accordingly to our knowing – of course we know what to do. It is them that create the problem. But really them, most likely think it is us, and really all we are really trying to do is find happiness. Find love.

 

We think humans should behave in these idealistic ways or they are not being right humans. Not truly worthy humans anyway. Not even really ‘real’ humans sometimes.

Like human behaviour should be acted out accordingly – follow the manual.

Pass the exam. 

And of course the markers are the brilliant Western minds who – oh I don’t even have to explain do I?

 

Careful, you may fail and loose your ability to drive, and some superior entity will come and say, “I’m sorry douchy backpackers I have to revoke your human license because you suck.”

 

We hold onto to this ideal that it is always everyone else behaving shamefully or selfishly. That it will be our non-recycling neighbour who will be exposed as the sub-human that he is. It’s certainly not nearly all of Asia who is casually throwing every single one time use package, that they must have in single one time use form, out the windows and on to the streets, fields, and forests. 

 

So am I.

 

No, not the great Eastern examples of spirituality?

Not the Sadhus!? They are mystical and enlightened – in tuned with the land. They wouldn’t be eating potato chips and throwing the packages into the Ganges would they?

 

Sub-humans.

So we try harder.

Oh no, but look at me, I choose organic, non-synthetic dyes, and I choose compassion and work in deperation to heal my inner child and claim I welcome death and that solitude brings comfort, and that I am not afraid of the mystery of life – the infinite of the cosmos, the total oblivion, the unknown. The immeasurable phenomena of consciousness itself.

Nope. I’m cool.

 

 

But as far as I can tell, when I just sit for a moment, in the middle of near nowehere with not a familiar face in site, and I empty out the jars in my brains that have been filled to the brim with the “something someone once told me’s” – which are crammed full of the million theories and hypotheses I’ve once read – the million opinions and copies of ideas that were never my own – that go back to my origins as a child – even the things I knew weren’t true as a kid or that weren’t right for me, but with time I conformed anyway because I wanted that love stuff that good humans seemed to be getting for shutting the hell up and surrendering their baby ways.

 

Becoming human.

 

But in the name of this epiphany, I realized something!

 

That really there is only one way to be a human, and guess what?

 

 

 

 

You are doing it.

 

Yes, this way of being human will activate these genes, those instincts, and you may become more inclined to chase these biological urges, and this guy might end up alone after driving everyone he loved away after years of drug and alcohol induced short circuitry, or she might do the same from the billions of births that create the chance game we play with our genetics – in our overpopulated glory that spews out the many intrinsically detailed circuit boards that surely can’t all run our machines optimally.

This gal bashes her head into walls – faulty psychological wiring.

His gal bladder burst. Organs are cool.

 

And we all have the inevitable deterioration of this gift of a body – (though some, many, can’t see through their self-hatred fog to know it) hopefully makes it to the days of potential isolation, pissing your pants, and senile. Kidding – kind of.

 

 

 

The beautiful spectrum.

The potential.

 

I am sure I am not coming across as; in awe; as I feel.

The beauty I can extract from these lines.

 

The person you are sure you can fix in your codependent haze, that old friend that lost your respect and you deleted from Facebook FOREVER, the obnoxious wrongs being blurted out by the loud mouths in nearly every social quarters.

The man chasing ghosts off the drive way with a chain and lock around his neck in Penang, Malaysia. The pervert jacking off outside my apartment window in Varkala.

 

They are just being human. 

 

Who else would they actually be? What else could they be doing?

 

Sure the person you want to wear in intense admiration seems human.

The writer you adore and want to wrap around your mind like a gorgeous feminine hijab – or that woman from work that you fantasize about devouring if you had the chance – she seems much more human to you than the pesticide pumping global forces you read about in the Facebook streams.

 

What humans some are though – delicacies. 

You like it – them – their mass. 

But stop for a moment.

Catch your breath.

 

We are just coins – flipping back and forth within a spectrum of our spastic human potentials, limited capabilities, and ultimately externalized behaviours. 

Consuming, whether we think we are or not, as we categorize and compartmentalize the appropriate from the vulgur.

 

But it is all human whether we want to accept it or not.

My obsessive analysis and search for answers to the unanswerable, the global anxiety and delegation of responsibility, of self-control, your perversions – deep down in there where you try to hide them.

The hit and run – those romantic months turned into a predictable routine marriage – your nose picking – your nail biting – your random acts of kindness. 

 

Congratulations, you are being human fucking perfectly! 

 

 

That insensible worry.

Your illogical fears that make you lie awake at night – well guess what? 

 

You get first prize at being… 

 

Human.

 

 

 

Nature? 

 

 

Same as us, we are no different, but a branch of nature remixing and reconstructing itself.

Shifting, evolving, modeling into new oldness.

That idea that there is nature/animal and then there is us, non-animal. Drives me fucking nuts.

 

Anyway.

 

What do we do?

We consume. We throw away. 

Thoughts. People. Products. 

Is there really a difference between the three?

 

I see a plastic Oreo wrapper in the ditch. I think it’s brilliant!

More so, I think it knows it’s brilliance.

It’s nature. 

Today, I see no difference in its beauty when I compare it to the plant that it’s smothering.

 

The earth created it you know?

Do you really?

 

Mosquitoes.

Electrical outlets.

World wars.

Barbecues.

Phone towers.

Rape.

Tetris.

Ulcers.

The desire to dye your hair.

BPA.

The desire to shave.

Pine cones.

How you can’t stop your lying –

how you don’t even notice you do it anymore.

Atomic bombs.

Robberies.

The desire not to shave.

DDT.

(Non) monogamy.

AK-47s.

lady boys.

Nuclear power.

AIDS.

Newspapers.

Coffee.

And every single thing you don’t like please insert here – and we can categorize them, write them down and burn them all if you like but it is all as natural as that grass you lazed in as a child when you were still undefiled by rights and wrongs. 

All that hurts my heart – that which is left somewhere to attempt its dreaded centuries of near to nothing decomposition in this closed system.

But it is here. 

 

It all dived off the same plateau. Each known existing material or metaphysical action or psychological disruption or newly developed medical advancement all jumped from that same ledge. 

We are all buffalo walking with other buffalo – 

Stomping the forest flat.

 

My to go cup is natural.

It’s a buffalo. 

 

That compulsive sex addict is a buffalo.

 

Strychnine. Buffalo.

 

The guns, and war, and disease that wiped them out. Natural.

 

The idea of something literally being synthetic or unnatural so to speak – would mean that something alien has created and injected these foreign properties into our galaxy. Right? 

 

Synthetic is only synthesizing nature from nature.

 

Where else would it be created from?

It’s itself.

We are itself.

One remix.

Wicka wicka.

 

I’m pretty certain that a scientist made that synthetic red dye #43.9402 for your neighbours kid’s birthday cake from sources that all originated from the earth. For as far as I know we aren’t extracting and raping materials from comets or other planets just yet. So the idea of synthetic not being natural is just not true – we know this in theory, maybe some anyway, but we don’t really see that nature is merely synthesizing nature into something else, into a different pattern. 

Sure we don’t like some of the formations.

 

 

As is with the human. 

Every single thing you have ever done is human. 

Painfully normal human.

Most of you anyway.

 

What else would you be doing?

Synthesizing non-human sources of self? 

What else could you be doing? 

You beautiful fucked up creature, you.

You brilliantly unintelligent intelligent animal. 

 

Look at us go!

Right down the drain..

 

 

I think the categorization of good and bad anything are tools created by the ego so it can feed on itself. And there is just so much to feed it these days.

Again, we and you, is me, the lucky westerner who has all her needs met so she can sit around inside her overactive noggin and question everything that bares questioning but painfully provides no answers.

The ego wants to separate. To stand out. to create a divide when none really exists.

All their selfish wrong choices that you hold as burning resentments that corrode your physical health.

 

All the wrongs that they have done to you – was them just being human.

Those beautiful moments you shared opening to a lover who became the most trusted person in your world, human. Who ended up fucking your best friend – human.

The nightmares you endured as a child – the millions of stories of perversions, the sick games that web onto the branches of the darkest human potentials.

 

 

It’s all human.

 

Like a game of jenga. 

Some crumbling under the rubble of others, of themselves, some make brave moves and claim massive triumphs.

But we always perceive and label that which we deem beneficial and that which we think destroys, and it’s not like it isn’t obvious what feels good and what doesn’t. What, sure, is ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’ But it is relative and who am I to know what is true to another.

 

They are just following their path to happiness, however warped or misguided another perceives it to be.

There is much that is so fucked that I cant even imagine that humans are capable.

Then there are the Mother Theresa’s, and the many monks I’ve met, who remind me that faith can move the Himalayas.

What I do see now is that whatever it is, it all eventually falls away just the same.

Some creates peace where some harms your peace of mind.

This piece you’ve been given by no one. 

But ultimately someone will always be starting the game again – over and over again. 

Today I can see that the rapist is being nature, the mosque, the Orangutan, the signal light, the guava, the garbage can, my flip-flop. 

 

It’s all been here before me and it will inevitably continue when I go. No matter how momentous I think my effect, my illusion of grandiosity as a fractal player in the mass of creation.

 

In some version of my so called life (loved that show).

It is my version, as it is yours.

 

 

But I am exhausted of feeling guilt ridden for always feeling like I am coming up short.

Trying to refurbish myself into the highest quality of human packaging.

Or like I am a substandard person for becoming angry or sad for days on end when I see that my mind will never function like yours, and how I can really change nothing.

That the only thing I can change is to try and just show up as me – honestly.

 

Whoever that may be in that moment. But really i can’t be doing anything but.

 

Human.

 

It’s all doing itself. Being itself. 

It will all change no matter which move I make.

Some may argue that.

 

 

And some of it will be labelled with mastery, someone will clench its value, and then it will all collapse. 

Then it will revise into something else.

 

We are constantly trying to make deals with probabilities. 

Promises with a flux of chances, but they don’t play that way.

We have choices, ideas, labels, reactions, tendencies that are all spinning in events of impermanent subjections that we try to cling to like we are saran wrap.

 

Why do we want to be police?

Trying to enforce right and wrong. 

Late night infocommercials trying to endorse reality where there is none.

 

Writing publications after publications of what a life is, how it is to be lived.

What nature is – what is natural, what isn’t.

It’s all operating within laws we will never get outside of to even come close to measuring anyway, let alone change.

Our imagination is too limited.

We just create ourselves and what is out there – but it’s all from within – that without stuff. 

You think that I am me.

 

Ha!

Really I am a projection of your making – continuously breathing in and out, 

up and down my thin chest rides the hill tribes of my breath from these deformed lungs.

 

I become a continuous wave every moment that you keep me in your focus – until a puff of distraction comes. Once a flowing stream, now succumbs to fall and you start to see your breath at night, the water comes to freeze: I have done something wrong.

You don’t like who you’ve created anymore; you think it’s now time to search out an ocean. A more rational being, a grandeur person of proper nature. Bye, Stephanie.

Create me away, you epic human conception.

 

We think we behave abnormal. We feel guilty for wrong choices, there is an incisive slavery we volunteer our sanity for – that keeps us consumed by what we have done or haven’t done by whom we have played and created.

Why don’t we just say fuck it and see that it was just us being natural all along.

Us being nature: together.

 

Like wood decaying. But also like plastic, and its’ not so decay-able nature – but still remember it’s possibilities. 

Then, to just surrender and let go of this illusion of control – maybe them we might have a chance to change something. To really shift all that is hurting us.

 

That elastic band is always tightening natural law.

No matter what liquid idea it contains, it will still spill without you here.

Without you doing a thing. It will clean itself too, one day without you.

 

So come down from there.  

Come sit with me and let’s stop.

 

We can’t comprehend anything really real, anyway.

The earth is and it isn’t. 

But what a transcendent wonder it is! 

 

That terrifies me and drives my maladaptive coping behaviours and then soothes me when I can momentarily surrender to its unstoppable force.

 

Yes, it’s sometimes coloured too brightly or dull, but something magnificent is creating and recreating itself here with only a limited amount of materials – and we are a part of it.

It gave us the ideas that circulate through the text books that I have wasted years reading in an attempt to learn something that got me further and further away from ever really knowing anything about who or what I really am.

I have discovered that just sitting has taught me more than any class I’ve ever taken.

It is also harder than any exam or task I have ever completed.

 

Yes, so much is completely fucked up – near incomprehensibly so, but it is here, and no amount of wishing can change what has been done to create what is now – and rotting about it just wastes this gift that is waiting to be discovered.

Because then if we surrender, we just might be able to see something mirroring a truth, and in our minds we may derive some purposeful meaning through the shows that flash.

And we can drop the illusion that – if we can convince ourselves that we have mastered life – we can overcome death.

 

Equanimity is when you reach between those lavish eruptions of emotion, placing your hand right inside the volcano, and you grab a handful of lava, knowing full well it will disintegrate your arm. But you have the guts to just fucking do it anyway.

You have the guts to let go of what isn’t surviving you any longer, and to leave behind all of that.

 

No matter who is with you.

 

Then Finally, you can see somewhere in the distance it is all coming into one.

Then it never seemed so obvious.

Sure you dont have an arm anymore but you never needed it anyway, did you? 

 

 

“When you realize how perfect everything is you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky”. Buddha

 

 

 

So I try to relax, to remember this.

It is ALL natural.

It is all going to contribute to my death.

And right now it all contributes to my life.

The interconnection of humans, in all its fucked up glory – in all my chaotic honesty.

And I am learning to be grateful for every single atom.

Everyday, your fork, your pants, the table you sit at to eat almost anything you crave, the sugar in your tea, the plastic wrapper, the apple, the things I must accept that I cannot do for a while, the roof shingle, the pebble that snuck into your room because it was stuck to someone’s shoe.

Perhaps it was from a lover or a friend?

Lucky you.

 

 

Human – Nature.

Interconnectedness consumer.

As user.

As builder.

As creator.

As liar.

As murky water.

This piece was re-posted from Stephanie’s blog: http://indiariesandindiamonds.tumblr.com

Why playing ‘more activist than thou’ is a game with no winners

by Michelle La Guilla

In March of last year, a small controversy erupted concerning this blog and the other blog I co-run, kickingtoryassonwelfare@wordpress.com.  (My response is embarrassingly belated; I’ve been kind of missing in action).  I had posted a piece on KTA advocating the declaration of lawful rebellion, according to an old paragraph in the Magna Carta and achievable by simply writing to the Queen: http://kickingtoryassonwelfare.wordpress.com/2013/03/23/when-all-else-fails-write-to-the-queen/  Soon after, Will Taylor published a strongly worded piece on Rad Uni whereby he critiqued the KTA piece as, essentially, advocating going cap in hand to figures from the establishment and the elite asking for a better deal; something which, in Taylor’s view, ‘surrenders political agency to the already powerful . . . so much better to organise amongst the powerless to increase their agency’.  You can read the whole piece here: https://radicaluniversity.wordpress.com/2013/03/24/why-writing-to-the-queen-and-lawful-rebellion-is-a-monumental-waste-of-time/

 

Well, yes.  Despite causing a minor hullabaloo at the time, prompting us to create a safe spaces policy for Rad Uni (obviously a good thing) due to the original wording of Taylor’s piece, and whereby I was pretty damn pissed off to be put in the position of either censoring Rad Uni or be, as I felt at the time, humiliated on a forum which I had created; despite all this, I by and large agreed with Taylor’s points.  Since the publication of the KTA piece, which I wrote semi-ironically after seeing lawful rebellion discussed in one of the welfare campaigning groups I belong to on facebook (and admittedly knowing very little about it beyond this), I’ve come to agree that it was perhaps a naïve move considering the history of lawful rebellion and its co-option by lots of highly unpleasant right wing elements.  Yet I stand by my original intention in writing the piece.

 

Taylor’s piece in its final form was articulate and well argued; however, it’s my belief that he and I were looking at the same issue from utterly different angles.  My intention in writing the KTA piece was simultaneously quite light hearted – no one really thinks that writing to the queen will effect change, that she will receive such a letter and immediately exclaim ‘I had no idea things were so bad, let me immediately depose the government!’ – but also a serious attempt to offer something practical KTA readers could do.  We know the queen doesn’t give a shit; however, what Taylor in my view failed to consider is that KTA is a forum aimed at the most powerless people in society; our readers are on benefits; some are disabled or mentally ill; they are by and large not people that get listened to, rather in the current climate they are daily heinously slandered.  They – we, because I am among that number; on benefits due to severe mental health problems all my adult life – are also, scandalously, still dying; just this week the Guardian reported on a man with Asperger’s syndrome, OCD and an eating disorder who starved to death after being found fit to work, despite a letter from his GP stating he was ‘extremely unwell and absolutely unfit for any work whatsoever’ (http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/feb/28/man-starved-to-death-after-benefits-cut). 

 

The point I was trying to make – arguably rather poorly – was that with all these odds and injustices stacked against you, sometimes you just have to do something, that the outcome isn’t necessarily the point, the point is to – as Anais put it quite beautifully during the whole short lived acrimony – own your own reality.  To say, by whatever means are available to you, not in my name.  This is wrong.  I dissent.  And those means aren’t equitably distributed; when you’re housebound by disability, or struggling with severe depression and the hideous revolving door of medical/appeal/medical, a letter or a signature on an online petition may genuinely be the most you can do. Not that they are ‘medicals’; no doctors are involved; and regarding that revolving door, I was called to another assessment while my first was still under appeal.  I was told by welfare rights that unfortunately this was in fact lawful, as I was appealing my fitness for work related activity and they would be testing my fitness to work.  Such pedantic semantics and relentless hounding, for people who are already ill, can easily crush the spirit completely; hence the many suicides and hence how doubly important it is to be able to do anything, however small and ultimately inconsequential, that feels like fighting back. 

 

Not everyone is able to engage in street protest and direct action, for a multiplicity of reasons; therefore to suggest implicitly or explicitly that these are the only worthwhile forms of resistance is both offensive and facile.  Mental illness and disability do, unfortunately, often breed isolation whether that’s because of mobility issues, the horrible feeling of not wanting to inflict your deep depression on others, or being literally too afraid to leave the house.  ‘Organising amongst the powerless’ is a wonderful ideal, but it can be very difficult to achieve in practice.  I can no longer go to street protests due to my anxiety, with the very real fear of police violence and kettling compounded by my panic reaction to busy streets and crowds.  But I do what I can; I blog, and even when I was in the grips of suicidal depression last year, signing online petitions enabled me to feel I was still fighting the good fight in my own small way.  It was the only thing I was physically and mentally able to do, and hopefully the petitions achieved what they were aiming for; but on a personal level, when I was utterly broken and utterly powerless, they made me feel I was still using my voice even though it was hushed to a whisper.  At such times, ANYTHING that helps you to feel, if only ever so slightly, more in control of your own destiny is a good thing.

 

Of course there’s also a broader issue here; many activists do, unfortunately, have a somewhat condescending attitude to clicktivism, which I am defining here as any political action done via computer, such as blogging, writing to MPs, signing online petitions, even posting political content on social media.  Yet clicktivism can be an incredibly powerful tool; I’d suggest that both Rad Uni and KTA in their different ways have been dynamic forces for good.  Rad Uni acts as a political voice for any left wing writer with something to say; a branch of Lancaster University Anti Capitalists (formerly Lancaster University Against the Cuts, in whose writing group its first seeds were sown), collecting LUAC press releases and comment in easily accessible form; and a showcase for comment, art, series, even poetry, on a broad range of activist issues.  KTA, on the other hand, was set up by myself and Laura C in response to the devastatingly unjust cuts to benefits and in particular the death toll after Atos assessments.  As well as posting pieces on the relevant issues, we also give support, advice and signposting via our email address; we don’t pretend to be experts and always direct people to welfare rights and CAB in addition to ourselves, but we do know enough to give useful information and, crucially, the reassurance that people don’t have to struggle on alone with this.  We’ve had countless messages of thanks and I think that personal support is the reason why; I know as well as anyone how isolating, frightening and overwhelming it is to wrestle with a benefits system which aims only to shed claimants at any cost and as such is no longer fit for purpose.  One piece I wrote, again in March last year, about negotiating ESA and the work capability assessments, has had almost 5000 hits at last count and I am still receiving lovely messages about it today.  This kind of thing is quieter, more low key than street protest for sure; but I feel that Laura and I have done a great deal of good with KTA and it’s one of the things I’m proudest of in my whole life.

 

It’s all too easy – and unfortunately, common – to dismiss those not out on the streets protesting by taking a ‘more activist than thou’ attitude.  Yet this is hugely counterproductive, belittling and alienating those who already feel forgotten.  Street protest and direct action are hugely important and I salute the bravery and commitment of those who risk police brutality and arrest to stand up for their cause; if, however, this twists into an attitude of disdain and superiority for those who can’t, we risk selling out the very powerless and oppressed populations we claim to stand for.  And if that is the case, how are we any better than the right wingers who preach that the poor and dispossessed are in fact workshy and feckless?  Sneering at fellow activists – at fellow human beings – is a dangerous game, and it can never have any winners.

 

Car sharing with a person of mass destruction

Reposted from the following site: http://couldknowabout.wordpress.com/2014/03/02/car-sharing-with-a-person-of-mass-destruction/

Last weekend I car-shared for the first time. I’ve reached that level of broke. The level where you get in a car with a complete stranger, the only info you have about him being “Paul, male, 50-60 years old”. He offered me a lift to Sunderland free of charge and I was both intrigued to meet this man who offered something for nothing, and apprehensive. And I had reason to be. It turned out I could hardly have got into the car with a more dangerous person. When he told me what his job was I had two options… either get out of the car immediately, or play dumb and use this ridiculous opportunity to hear from the Head of Weapons at BAE Systems, a man responsible for the death of thousands. I chose the second option. “Is that the arms company?”

Inches away from me was a man who’d sold missiles to Gadaffi, fighter jets to Saudi Arabia. His F-16 fighter jets had bombarded Gaza and turned its children to dust. But I’m not going to describe the unforgivable horrors of war, anyone can do that. I stopped myself from voicing these thoughts and whenever the topic steered to his work (as often as possible without appearing too interested) I looked out of the window so that he wouldn’t see me shudder as he gave an insight into the world’s bloodiest industry.

Paul had an easy personality. He likes to sit in his car and stare out to sea, he goes on package holidays. He lives with his girlfriend and his son wants to study history. He likes curry. He laughs, he jokes, he smiles. He describes dropping missiles from planes as “sexy”. That’s what it was like! I would find myself inadvertently reciprocating his friendliness and then he would humiliate us both by bringing the obscenity of his work into the car with us. And it was a very small car. A flash car. He earns 100k a year, owns two cars (a Ferrari and the sports coupe we were in) and two houses, all paid for by the production and sale of instruments of war. UNICEF provides us with the overwhelming statistic that 90% of war casualties are civilian… and this man worked for the second largest arms company in the world, consciously profiting from the killing of innocents. How could he talk about likes and dislikes? How could he talk about retiring to the Lake District, when he’s provided machinery which has taken away that privilege from so many others? My mind was blown.

One protest I participated in against BAE Systems was what’s known as a “die-in”. It’s what it sounds like. At a careers fair at Lancaster University we wore bloody clothing and dropped dead at the BAE stall to illustrate what you sign up to when you deal in arms. Yet, when I asked Paul whether people ever reacted badly to his talks etc., he said no. He said one time a student got so excited by one of his talks he had an asthma attack, another time a student argued to the point of tears, but he spoke of these stories as light-hearted anecdotes and mentioned no other forms of protest. He’d trained himself not to acknowledge the segment of the population which makes it necessary for extra security measures to be taken when BAE enters campuses and which makes secrecy a fundamental feature of their company. He’d immunised himself to opposition.

Whilst he wouldn’t acknowledge arguments against, he did tell me why he was in favour of arms. You’ll be delighted to hear, he does it for us! Yes, for you and me. He said he sells arms “so that people like you” can have opinions on things. His example being that “if somewhere like Saudi Arabia was able to take control of us because we couldn’t defend ourselves with weapons, they’d force their way of life on us and women couldn’t drive”. Women, let’s be thankful that Paul at BAE is protecting our right to drive by selling arms to tyrannical regimes (including that of Saudi).

When we arrived in Sunderland I tore the smile off my face and vented my frustration on my unfortunate friend. The weekend passed too quickly in a delightful blur of rum and dancing (and rowing but that’s enough about THAT eh Leah?!:)<3) and when Sunday came I dreaded getting back in the car. But there was no alternative but to pretend again.

On the return trip I asked Paul if there were any restrictions on the kinds of weapons BAE are allowed to sell. He said yes, there are some, for example cluster bombs which BAE used to sell but are now not allowed to (these kill indiscriminately and are illegal under international law, the Convention on Cluster Munitions). He then said he knows BAE sell platforms which are bought with the explicit intention of dropping clusters from, therefore telling me that BAE’s only ethical policies are ones installed by law. He watched my expression as he said this. I hid my disgust shamefully well.

Soon after he surprised me by saying how, when he was at university,  the Palestinian and Jewish societies had competed to get more members than one another. Since we were nearly back I told him I was president of the Palestine solidarity society. He looked shocked I held a political stance on something. He surely wondered if I knew about the huge volume of BAE produce in the hands of the IDF. What he said next made me feel even worse than when he said he sold bombs for my benefit. “This is why the arms industry is so important. We need it for countries like Palestine. Because if Palestine had weapons, America would respect it. Israel would leave it alone.You need weapons to be able to defend yourself, to not be walked all over.” He then said Israelis have their army, but Palestinians too have their army. I told him no, the Palestinians have no comparable army (Palestinian annual military expenditure is $3 million, whereas Israel’s 2012 military expenditure was $15.2 billion). Paul has no idea of how his company’s sales influence politics because to him only countries with a large stockpile of weapons exist on the playing field. Weapons are sold to those who can afford them (or those who can’t, spending millions on weapons when their people live in poverty).

We reached Lancaster and I grew anxious about our parting moments. The car stopped. “It was nice to meet you” he said. I wondered if it was worth just leaving the car – he’d offered me lifts to Sunderland whenever I liked, and it could have been useful to know about future BAE plans on campus which had the potential to be disrupted… but after six hours I couldn’t let him leave thinking he’d made a friend. I said what I wanted, instead.

“When you first said you worked for BAE, I didn’t know whether to get straight out of the car, or wait and see if you could in any way justify what you do.” Realisation dawned on his face, and he turned away to look straight forward, sneering but listening. “I’ve listened to everything you’ve said. I may be a 20 year old arts student but I know what’s justified and what isn’t. You talk about women’s right in Saudi Arabia, then say you sell to Saudi. You say arms exist for countries like Palestine, yet you sell F-16s to the IDF which bomb Palestinian children. You say you sell weapons for people like me, so we can have liberty and opinions, but you can’t say that. You in no way represent me by what you do. You’re responsible for the deaths of thousands of people. Your hands…” He’d become unrecognisable. I pitied him, but then I thought of his victims and their families.

“I’m sorry if I’ve made you feel horrible, but…” I began.

“I don’t feel horrible.”

*Shudder*

Hope none of you expected anything more exciting to happen