Monday, June 29, 2009

Get On the Bus


In my 20's I bowed down at the alter of higher education. It was a ticket out of where I came from into the world of adulthood. For years, education remained a hallmark of legitimacy and success amongst my contemporaries, an essential in the development of an adult persona worthy of admiration and praise. As it turns out, what it isn’t, for most people, is a direct path to either a viable vocation or a sense of self definition and fulfillment. As it turns out there is no intellectual or financial shortcut to happiness or the pursuit of an authentic life. There is no end point, just the journey. Now, with all my tangible success as defined by modern society, I find myself out of pace with my contemporaries. The fruits of my previous labors have satisfied my early ambitions, and the expectations of society at large, but no longer satisfy my soul. For all the middle class comforts I may have available to me based on age, career, education, and situation, I appear to be unable to settle, either down, in, or for something less than a true manifestation of myself. I find myself, so to speak, unable to get on the bus. Ironically, I am returning to the University as a place of refuge. No longer a means to an end, education is now a way to practice and hone my craft, to live a life that satisfies my soul. I am often asked, with regard to my returning to school to dance, “And what will you do with your degree?” As a geologist, I was asked this question often enough, and was quite keen to answer it, with all my professionalism and all the things that make me look good on paper, to prove that my choices would serve a greater purpose, push me ahead, in to a new tax bracket, into a new house, a job, stability. I was keen to prove that the fruits of my labor would justify my path, that I would, in fact, be on the bus. Now, my answer is far more simple. What will I do with it? I will dance. I will not wait for outside fulfillment or validation, I am not working towards some future goal of happiness, I am manifesting it, right here, now, as I walk my path. I will dance as though no one is watching, and as for the rest, I’m not particularly worried about it.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Laying On of Hands

One of my favorite things to advocate for in terms of the promotion of a healthy environment and good nutrition is the formation of community. Or, put differently, the loss of community in the modern way of life appears to be intimately linked to the destruction of the environment and the deterioration of public health.
We began to lose community in the process of trying to create it. In building suburbs we created lifestyles based on long, isolating, gas-guzzling commutes that eroded our personal time making social interaction and exercise harder to come by. Beyond that, we designed our suburbs without sidewalks, town centers, or public play spaces, effectively isolating our children from one another and putting them and their caretakers back in the car in order to grocery shop or go to the park. Of course, once you’re in the car, the likelihood of each person on a particular street going to a different park or grocery store increases, decreasing the casual everyday interactions between neighbors that do so much to foster community. The time and energy required to prepare meals of whole foods from local sources was also squeezed out by the distribution of our lives across a greater geography and our increasing desire for “down time” and instant gratification.

And isolation breeds isolation. Once disconnected from our neighbors and surrounding community, we are more likely to tell ourselves that video tennis is a reasonable substitute for actually going to play tennis, forgetting that going to play tennis may involve taking a walk, running into the neighbors, getting substantively more exercise and valuable vitamin D, and interacting with our children and the environment.

And infrastructure breeds infrastructure. Once we are tied to our cars for all of our activities we need an increasingly large number of roads, increasing in size, to handle our increasing numbers and increasingly large cars. Retreating to our houses necessitates larger and larger houses, filled with more and more things, to fill the void left by the absence of regular social interaction and the necessary chores of a conscious lifestyle. Consumption itself becomes a hobby. Instead of community centers, our houses become show pieces, museums to ourselves with all the accoutrements of a modern lifestyle, televisions, stereos, Jacuzzi tubs, and little evidence of actual interaction with the world at large.

I suggest that the formation and fostering of community in and of itself is an act of subversion, or at least a tangible protest of the current status quo. I believe that community is one antidote to deteriorating pubic health, eroded social services, environmental decline and climate change, and the propagation of an unhealthy and unsustainable popular monoculture. And it’s easy. And it’s free.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Re-education of Little Miss


In the art of trapeze, during a release, there is a moment in which the performer has to let go of the bar behind them and reach out to the thing in front of them. They float, suspended for a moment, before reaching out to grasp their new anchor. It’s the moment that the audience comes to see, to witness someone put themselves into that space of vulnerability and risk to emerge, whole and strong, on the other side. It’s an art based on the concept of looking forward, fearless, and letting go of what’s behind you. This is the moment in which I find myself. I think, I hope, that it’s a moment that will be embraced by increasingly more of us, as we struggle to redefine ourselves in this new climate, economy, and global community.

Real change, whether we seek it out or have it thrust upon us, requires us to embrace this moment of release, with all its fear, uncertainty, and aloneness, trust that we will be alright, and reach out for the things that make us whole.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Eyes Wide Shut


I am an idealist. Still. Not because I maintain naiveté regarding the nature of the world or ignorance of its evils and seeming inevitabilities, but because it’s in my nature and, well, someone has to be. Idealism gives us cause to fight the good fight. Idealism gives us hope. However one of the complications of being an idealist is the ever-present and looming threat of disillusionment. To combat this I have had to create a paradigm of hope and faith in certain over-arching values, love, compassion, charity, through which to see the world in order to reconcile the evening news with my vision of a peaceful society. The extension of my idealism to my personal life and relationships creates a peculiar and piercing vulnerability, particularly in terms of trust. And trust, as with idealism, is both important and dangerous. Trust is the thing that binds me to the people to whom I am the closest, it lets me be my true self, free from fear of judgment, allows for the exchange of confidences, and combats loneliness. Betrayal of trust is the fastest route to a loss of self respect and a profound sense of abandonment that I have ever experienced. It is easy in the face of betrayal to want to put up barriers and refuse to trust again. But we can’t afford to do that. I think my willingness to trust other people is directly tied to my idealism, my hope. And I choose not to live a life devoid of hope. So I take a breath, gather myself, and begin to trust again.