The Importance of Knowing Yourself

These are fascinating times to be living in the good ol’ United States, aren’t they? Negotiating new highs and lows in society, dredging all sorts of muck up to the surface. It’s good, though difficult, because airing all this dirty laundry can allow for some deep dialogues to happen, dialogues that need to happen for evolution to come. But in order for these times to be fruitful, we need to reaching deep into our inner selves and know ourselves to the best of our abilities. And I know some of us are more equipped to do that than others.

How often do you take the opportunity for self-reflection? How often, when you make a decision on anything, do you actually think about the consequences of your action or inaction? Do you know what it is you want out of relationships, career, family, life? Do you know what you need? Have you ever acknowledged that sometimes those wants and needs aren’t very well aligned? Self- reflection can get really uncomfortable. But it is necessary.

If you don’t know yourself well, you open yourself up to coercion, to being swayed from your inner compass. You are easily programmable by both the systems set up in our society and by individuals you interact with. You succumb to the marketing schemes of the corporations. You externalize your self-worth and feel like you always fall short.

If you know yourself well, you can recognize others’ attempts to manipulate you, and you can choose to play along or not. You have the conviction of knowing what is right for you and that gives you courage to both ask for what you want or need and to give an emphatic yes or no to others making requests on you. You can stand solid against the tide and always have an intrinsic sense of self-worth.

The trick though is that it’s not a one time checking in with the inner self, but a constant balancing act between your inner and outer lives. It’s easy to slip into autopilot again, to get worn out by life and the craziness of others, to float wrapped in bubble wrap and expect others to handle everything for you. Being willing to live with a little discomfort for the sake of strength and mental clarity and freedom is so worth it though.

It took me until I was 30 years old to really grasp all of this, and it’s through having some really deep conversations with those I care about this past year to realize how important it is for society in general and not just for my own individual life. We collectively are to the point where we need to step up and parent ourselves, get our shit together, and do the work that has to be done. We aren’t allowed to be children or adolescents anymore, humanity. There’s just way too much that has to happen in our lifetimes for us to have that luxury. And the first step to being able to raise ourselves up is knowing the length and breadth of our inner selves. Take that first step, see how it feels, then reach out a hand to others to help them do the same.

Advertisements

A Schopenhaur Quote about Machiavelli’s The Prince

I started reading Book 2 of Schopenhaur’s The World as Will and Idea last week. I had read Book 1 earlier in the year (late last year? don’t remember clearly now) and taken a break because I wanted to fully digest what I had read and have it working in the background of my brain for a while. So as I’m reading Book 2, I came across a footnote on Machiavelli’s The Prince, and it was one of those ‘aha’ moments for me. It’s a somewhat lengthy passage, as Schopenhaur can be very verbose, and I may do an even longer quoted passage on my next post from Book 1 about art and the artist next time, fair warning.

By the way, Machiavelli’s problem was the solution of the question how the prince, as a prince, was to keep himself on the throne in spite of internal and external enemies. His problem was thus by no means the ethical problem whether the prince, as a man, ought to will such things, but purely the political one how, if he so wills, he can carry it out. And the solution of this problem he gives just as one writes directions for playing chess, with which it would be folly to mix up the answer to the question of whether from an ethical point of view it is advisable to play chess at all. To reproach Machiavelli with the immorality of his writing is just the same as to reproach a fencing master because he doesn’t begin his instructions with a moral lecture against murder and slaughter.

The ‘aha’ moment was the bit about the notion of the prince playing chess with people’s lives at all, but there is a lot to chew over in this passage, isn’t there?

Ethics and philosophy and deep thinking in general have been kind of swept to the wayside, almost as if by design. But if you stop and consider our relationships to ourselves and each other, the only ethical pawn you should ever control in this game of life is yourself. You can argue that you can control your children, but really that is more of a stewardship of their own free will and all choices for their lives should be toward making them capable of controlling and exercising that free will for themselves. One ought never to seek to control other pawns. One ought never to seek for another to control them in order to shirk the responsibility of playing the game as a fully participating piece on the board.

Other thoughts I’ve been considering. Are we, as creators, responsible for our creations and how they are used or abused after we have birthed them into existence? The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh is a play I read in grad school that delves deep into asking this question. How does that align with personal responsibility? And then where do we as the general public take up the mantle of responsibility for how we allow outside work to influence us? Because in the end, what most of us seem to say is “screw this, I don’t want to think about this” and that is how we end up with the mess that we’re in as a society today, where too many people try to control the pawns on the board (ie. us the general population).

What are your thoughts?

An Ode to Net Neutrality

Farewell,
Oh fickle friend,
Who imparted both knowledge
And filth
And started many a rabbit hole of
Wasted time
Over the years.

The meager mewling of many
Claim that those
Who lament your loss
Regret potentially
Paying more for
Pornography and
The chance to
‘Netflix and chill’.
They want the whining
To stop on this
So they can get back to their
Premium cable and satellite packages
To consume their own
Method of escape.

But without you,
We live with more
Government and
Corporate control
(And how sad
There are those who still deny
These are one and
The same).

You dissent?
It will be monitored
And buried.
You sell small?
You will not be able to
Compete
No matter the product.
You want a variety of sources?
Equality of the classes
On the world wide web?
Do you think that the
Overlords will give
That to their slaves?

There is no government
Of the people.
It is a farce and
Has been for
A very long time.

So farewell,
Net Neutrality.
You’ve been a friend
But it’s time for our
True status
As a people
To come to light.
It didn’t have to be
Like this,
But it seems
We don’t get to keep
Anything nice
These days.

May your death
Not be
In vain.

Copyright 2017, Kat Micari

Uncertainty

I am moving forward in my hope to be home with the children and freelancing as soon as possible, but the economic uncertainty in the United States and globally right now is making me nervous. I am trying not to let it freeze me up in my planning, but I am now trying to plan smarter as far as the planning my online shop for my sewing business goes. I won’t want to invest huge amounts into bolts of fabric to begin aside from some basic silks, which means going with the slightly higher cost and lower quality fabric available from the handful of local stores in the area. And I am rethinking my plan of only having truly high-end products and trying to come up with a few lower ticket items that will still be well-made to entice people. And I’ll probably take on as many alterations as I can reasonably do this prom season to invest back into the business, which means of course less time to get samples sewn up. All of that really is dependent on whether or not we get to the place of financial security to get out of the current situation I’m in. We’re working on it, but nothing is certain in this world right now.

It also means I won’t be able to afford oodles of new art or music supplies and equipment, so I’m going to have to make careful stock of what I have and be very careful in my use of things going forward. Writing thankfully can be done anywhere on any machine.

It’s really difficult to stay positive right now with everything going on, isn’t it? It’s hard to make plans for the future when everything could be easily cast aside at a moment’s notice. Part of me wants to go be a survivalist somewhere instead, and hide away from society. But I want to do what I can with what I have to help. So I refuse to succumb to fear.

Democracy, An American Novel Review

I just finished reading Democracy, An American Novel by Henry Adams last night, and it was a fascinating read for several reasons. The history behind it’s publications is really interesting. Henry Adams published it in 1880 anonymously, and his publisher didn’t release his authorship until after his death even though the novel became popular.

It deals with the corruption of politicians and lobby groups in Washington D.C., which goes to show you that nothing much has changed over the several centuries of this “great experiment” of a nation, and includes some absolutely delicious quotes like “…a government of the people, by the people, for the Senate…” and “No representative government can long be much better or much worse than the society it represents. Purify society and you purify government.”. It gives some remarkable insight into both the male and female positions in society during the 19th century, and those who were “in” society and those who were not. You can read the Wikipedia entry here and get the book for free over at Project Gutenberg (both of which take donations and if you have a few bucks to spare at the end of the year, I would suggest either as worthy causes since they are the depository of so much free information).

I got two very big things out of this book for myself. Firstly, the main suitor of our heroine, a Senator Ratcliffe, honestly thinks he is behaving the only way he can in the corrupt world of politics, and he also honestly thinks he loves the widow Mrs. Lee as far as any self-serving narcissist can, and Henry Adams neither makes apologies nor condones his (or any other character’s for that matter) behavior during the course of the book. Ratcliffe operates in the only way he knows how to operate in the only game he knows how to play, even though it is repugnant and reprehensible in many ways. Apply this to a lot of the people who are not only allowing evil to operate in this world but encouraging it because it allows them to feel some semblance of power and privilege to do so. Many of them don’t know better. It doesn’t excuse the behavior, nor should the general population allow such behavior to happen, but knowing that they don’t know better provides us common folk with some clues on how to correct the problems, if enough of us ever stand up and start trying to. Secondly, Mrs. Lee almost gets trapped in a kind of savior complex in trying to “save” Ratcliffe from his lower instincts and thus help influence a change in the overall machinations of D.C., but she realizes that this wouldn’t happen and it would be her character that would change and be destroyed in the filth of the political atmosphere, a kind of textbook narcissist/empath relationship played out on a grander scale. This is important for those of us who do want to change things to keep in mind as we go about our work.

Some might read this novel and despair at the impossibility of real change ever happening, considering the distance between then and now and yet the similarities in corruption. But I really do feel like this period of time we’re in now is a necessary purging. We can’t hide from the filth anymore, nor should we, so our options now are to drown in it or to clean it up, personally and collectively.

Anyway, a random but timely quick read, and I recommend this book if you like witty, sarcastic 19th century literature.

Current Affairs

I’ve thought a lot in the past couple of weeks about what I can say to help with what’s going on lately. Life feels more fragile, a little more tenuous in the face of it all. But the truth is that life is always fragile. History is full of brutal manmade destruction and rife with natural disasters even while it is equally full of soaring beauty and truly wonderful levels human achievement. We are being reminded almost daily that everything we know can be snatched away at a moment, outside of our control. And we can either fear that and go on autopilot, or try to deny it and escape reality, or we can accept it and work to live up to our potentials in whatever stretch of time we have. And if we’re not striving towards the third option, what’s really the point?

So do what you have to in order to practice self-care. Heal yourself to the point where you can turn off the autopilot and stop the escapism for little stretches of time at first and then longer and longer moments. Find a life of meaning in whatever you do, and if something isn’t working, don’t fear changing it. And don’t be afraid to shine your inner light. Also, if you feel like you want to change things, find ways to help where you can. You can’t help everyone, but you can help someone. You can’t control the way the world operates, but you can control how you operate within the existing parameters and work to change those parameters.

Finally, if you really want to change the world, stop letting assholes win. If all the caring, empathetic people in the world would adopt this attitude individually and collectively, things would change so fast. Stop supporting those who don’t value their fellow human beings, whether it be the big fish in the small pond or the sharks in the ocean, small-town sleezy landlord or big time Hollywood producer or career politicians at any level. Stop giving them your money, stop giving them your time and attention unless it’s to rub their faces in their misdoings like a dog and say “no” very loudly and repeatedly until they get the message. If you are going to start demanding the best of yourself, demand the best from those who profit off of you as well. There is so much potential power there.

It is hard not to get caught up in the fear and the drama. But that let’s those assholes win, and that is the one thing I refuse to do.

You Should Not Sacrifice Principles for a Paycheck

This whole ‘take a knee’ movement and the backlash it’s created has presented some fairly alarming popular viewpoints (one being that professional sports actually matters in the big scheme of things, amirite?), but the one I want to address is this argument put forth that because these athletes are paid a certain amount of money, they should shut up and perform the job that they are paid to do and that’s it. The same argument went around when the Hamilton actors spoke out on Broadway, and I’ve heard the argument made for other performers that have used their fame to push a particular viewpoint or platform that they believed in. Basically, anyone who is in the public eye for a particular talent needs to completely separate themselves from their persona, whatever that may be.

Thinking about this, I think it’s because so many of the common folk either deliberately or instinctively do this at their place of employment, and when they finally sit down to watch the ol’ game or listen to music or attend the theater, they want 1) to just escape and not be forced to think and 2) to not allow anyone else privileges of speaking their mind when they themselves are unable to do so at the risk of being fired. If they are good little cogs in the machine, so should the entertainment class.

But this is so wrong. You should have principles that matter more to you than your job, that if someone wanted to you be immoral or to turn a blind eye, you would not be willing to do so for the sake of a paycheck. But we do because we fear – we fear consequences, we fear poverty, we fear the machine we support breaking down even knowing that eventually this machine will consume us. And then when other people don’t allow their fear to hold them back, that makes us uncomfortable, so we try to shout them down. And thus we place our own chains of servitude around our own necks, and we try to pretend those chains don’t exist, and we try to trap those who would escape. It’s really sad.

So, if you find yourself being uncomfortable reading this, really ask yourself what your principles are. If you aren’t willing to defend them, you need to find some better ones probably. We have so much amazing potential as a species if we just let the fear and pettiness go.

Some Thoughts on Life

I’ve been listening to some random lectures and talks online while sewing in recent weeks, and a couple of things I’ve heard have stuck with me, so I wanted to share my thoughts on them.

The first was a positive, truly inspiring lecture, and the line that stuck with me was when the speaker was telling everyone to stop comparing themselves to others, that we each have a purpose to fulfill here in life. And the line was that we are all puzzle pieces making up the world, and the puzzle pieces fit with other pieces to make the whole, and without even one piece, the picture is incomplete. So we’re all vital, we’re all important. And it’s our connections with each other that are truly the most important thing. I thought that was truly lovely.

The comparison game is such a tempting one, isn’t it? And we’re bombarded all the time by advertising and programming that tells us to fall into that trap so they can sell us crap, and the prevalence of social media in our lives makes it oh so easy to constantly compare and then bring ourselves down by our lack. We spiral low, shop to make ourselves feel better, drown our sorrows in more media or unhealthy habits, and let ourselves get trapped. It’s terrible. But I have learned to look at my twinges of jealousy as the sign markers for where I need to grow and direct my life. My friend is traveling off to far lands while I’m trapped with a baby and no money? Plan a day trip or weekend trip with the family and crash with friends. Someone I know released a single or put out a new book? That little pin prick is the drive for me to carve out a little time to create. And continue to make differences where I can. But this metaphor of a puzzle is one that will help quell the twinges all together, I think.

The second was a psychologist speaking about something that touched deeply on my spiritual awakening that occurred several  years ago, and I’m going to be deliberately vague because it’s very personal to me, but mainly what she said cast the entire experience in a very negative light. And I reflected on this a lot, and I’ve decided that I still am glad I went through my experiences because of the profound growth that I’ve had. There was a catalyst, a rebirthing, and then a test, all in one, and there were risks involved, but because I stayed true to myself and listened to my heart, it was a test I passed. It was necessary for my evolution, and this speaker would have cast me as a victim. And I don’t know if she truly sees the world that way, or if she’s just out to make more clients and make a buck.

So here it is, any period of growth is tumultuous. Any true spiritual experience has risks because we live in a materialistic age and have lost a lot of the knowledge of the spiritual so you enter blindly. But I know that everything in life has a positive and a negative side – the same tool can be used to heal or to harm. And it is each of our own responsibility to guard our own paths. To a lesser extent, we can help guard the paths of those we love, but really it has to come from within. We need to decide the things we value in our hearts and souls and then not waver from those values. Because it is when we become untrue to ourselves that others can manipulate us.

Anyway, those are my random thoughts.

“Lady Liberty and Uncle Sam” A Poem – AKA I Finally Wrote a Thing

I wrote the following and it was super cathartic to do, but I think I would describe it more as a “piece” rather than a “poem” due to the discordant rhythm and the dialogue involved, but that suits the mood. Hopefully this means my streak has been broken. We’ll have to see.

Lady Liberty and Uncle Sam

Lady Liberty weeps
In the corner on the floor,
Torch extinguished.
Uncle Sam says
“Smile! Don’t you know
You are so much
Prettier
When you smile?
I can’t abide
Your ugliness.”
“Oh Sammy,” Liberty wails,
“Your games have gone
Too far,
And I feel such pain
That smiling is an
Impossibility.”
“You’re too temperamental,”
Uncle Sam replies.
“You let your
Emotions
Get the best of you.
Swallow it down, like me,
Until you are
Numb inside.”
Standing, Liberty shouts.
“No, I won’t allow myself
To become internally
Dead.
Nor will I hide
From the truth.
You have done terrible things,
And my name no longer means
What it did.
Payment is coming due, Sammy,
And I fear it has all been for nought.”
Uncle Sam snaps
And knocks Lady Liberty
To the ground.
“You’re a bitch and a whore.
How dare you question
My authority?
I know better than you
The way to control
These masses.
Fear and pain
Are tools of the trade.
Get used to it.”
He looks at her and laughs.
“You may be stupid,
But I’ll keep you around,
As long as you’re leashed.
I like that you
Do my feeling
For me.”
Lady Liberty rises once again
And lights her torch anew.
Calmly, gently, she sets
Uncle Sam ablaze.
“There are times,”
She muses to herself,
“That you just need to
Start over.”

Copyright 2017, Kat Micari.