Guns as a defense from tyranny – where have you been?

The latest slew of violent attacks in the United States have left me reeling. And when all other arguments against proper licensing of guns and limitations on the purchase of certain ammo or models have failed against statistical facts, the big argument is that guns are important to defend against the tyranny of our own government.

This is an argument that I can actually understand the feeling and intent behind, but my question then is – where have you been? What level of tyranny do we need to be at for action to be necessary? Where were the armed protests against the passing of the unconstitutional Patriot Act? Where are the militias marching to free children from cages? Where are the armed patriots in defense of their neighbors who protest injustices to uphold their rights to protest and make sure police or private security think twice about using tear gas and water cannons or that opposers don’t drive through their lines with vehicles? Why hasn’t any pro-gun groups or individuals addressed the illegal operations of ICE and the TSA and the ever increasingly militarized police forces present in our nation?  What is the line that needs to be crossed by a controlling government for action to be taken? Because my suspicion is that the guns are really to defend your material goods from your fellow neighbors, and as long as you can pretend that tyranny never personally reaches your door (which is a gross misunderstanding of the world you are operating in), you are fine with things the way they are and in fact, frequently support those who are upholding the government and the status quo.

The way I see it, if you have knowledge, you take on responsibilities with that knowledge. It’s like being a doctor or getting certified in first aid – you then become responsible for stopping and helping in a situation, even if it puts you at certain legal or physical risks. Rights come with responsibilities for both yourself and others, and that includes gun rights. And as with so many other rights, too few understand that basic reality).

Don’t misunderstand me, I do not condone violence and death as a means of change. I value the potential of every human life to ever think of anyone as “collateral damage”. And I know that change reached via violence will never be a permanent change. But there is a lot hypocrisy in considering yourself a patriot and really just wanting your toys and the privacy to do with them what you want. So take some time to really question your motives.

We do live in dangerous times. We have willingly sacrificed much of our freedoms for the illusion of safety. We the people are angry, disconnected, isolated, sick from leading lives we should not be leading in order to survive in a damaged society. But when the building is on fire, the solution isn’t to keep throwing lighted matches at the house. And our society is essentially on fire right now.

I want a world of freedom. I want humanity to reach the point of true self-governance, where every heart and soul and mind is activated and recognizes the principle of being both individual and collective. That we don’t need to live in our fight or flight mode. But we are so far from that point right now, and there are so many systems in place that need to be dismantled to let us reach our true potential. That is where the fight needs to start.

Try Programming Yourself for a Change

We each come into this world pre-programmed a certain way, and like every piece of technology these days, there are settings and preferences that need tweaking and sometimes entire programs need to be deleted. And while our brains aren’t exactly parallel to computers, there are definitely similarities. The question you should be asking yourself is “who is doing the programming in my life?”. Because the truth is we humans are guided and manipulated in both subtle and overt ways on a daily basis – through our friends and family and our enemies, through advertising, through our education, through media consumption of all kinds, through the groups we belong to and give our time to. And the bigger truth is that we don’t have to give other people the reigns. You can program yourself, write your own code and delete the code of others, create yourself anew into the kind of human you want and need to be.

It may sound a little counter-intuitive to my message of creativity to think of yourself as a machine, but it’s a helpful visualization exercise for really taking stock of who you are and the materials you have to work with. One of the things I say a lot is that if you find it difficult to be honest with anyone else, at least be honest with yourself, and this is a very good way of doing so.

So what are my recommended steps for programming yourself?

  1. Acknowledge the fact that you have been programmed. This is very important. Then start to notice the subtle and not-so-subtle tugs at you on both a conscious and unconscious level. You can’t lose the unwanted programming unless you can find where it is.
  2. Decide what your programming switch is going to be for yourself and stick with repeating the message. Don’t try overhauling everything at once, but pick one thing at a time. It can be something simple like removing an unwanted food item from your diet  or choosing to stand up for yourself if you think you’re too meek or setting your inner alarm clock to actually wake you up early enough to write, or tackling bigger issues like looking at yourself in the mirror and loving the body quirks you used to hate (because body image issues are one of the biggest ways we’re manipulated) or taking more control over your own destiny.
  3. Realize that you may feel tugged in two separate directions for a while until your current programming overrides your years (decades?) of previous programming. And realize it’s a constant battle to fight the outside influences. Odd bits of programming may jam their way in, like spyware. So be vigilant about scanning yourself internally every once in a while.

Programming yourself, being your own coder, isn’t about making yourself over into something new. It’s about living up to the potential that exists within and has always been there. It may feel daunting, but it is entirely worthwhile. It is the path to individual freedom.

The Possibility of Change

When I was a pre-teen, my dad had a very cool girlfriend for a brief time. I don’t remember her name at all (Dineen maybe?) because she was too smart and too cool to be with my father for long (don’t get me wrong, I love him but being able to handle a relationship with strong and smart women was not a strong point for my father). The reason I remember this woman though is because she gifted me with a lovely hardcover edition of the first three “So You Want to Be a Wizard?” books by Diane Duane, now called the Young Wizards series. I adored these books, even though they were dated even in the early 1990’s when I was reading it.

Spoiler alert ahead: for me, the most striking moment in the first book is when the lead character gives the villain a chance to return to the light. She doesn’t destroy him because she can’t, she doesn’t force him to change, but she opens up the opportunity for him to change himself if he wants to. And this really is all we can do for one another in this world, isn’t it? And what we can do for ourselves.

Unfortunately, there is an increasing tendency in our society to shut each other down, and, perhaps more detrimental, to shut ourselves down, to the possibility of change and growth. Every time we speak in terms of absolutes, every time we say “it is NEVER okay” or “we must ALWAYS” or “that’s just the way it is and there is no changing it ever” means we are diminishing ourselves and others. Because the truth is, the list of things it is never okay to do or say is very short and can be boiled down to “don’t deliberately hurt other people unless they are threatening you with violence and tyranny”. This would cover torture, rape, mental and physical abuse, murder, child abuse (which I think is the worst crime of all), the massive slaughter of one nation against another, and indeed any general sort of nastiness where one person or group is using their power over another for whatever reason to deliberately prevent them from living life to their potential. But I digress. Bottom line is when we talk in terms of absolutes, even if only for dramatic effect, it cuts off the possibility of change for ourselves and for others. It traps us in a kind of stasis of the here and now, a bubble that is difficult to pop because even though it is just a bubble, it takes on the illusion of an impossibly strong substance the more we believe in the absolutism that we are speaking and feeling. Also, speaking and thinking in terms of absolutes opens ourselves to being controlled by those who play on those absolutes and our fears of moving beyond them.

So I invite you all in the coming months to really think about how you’re phrasing things to yourself and to others. Is an absolute you are speaking really an absolute? Or is it just a way for you to not have to address something that you’d rather not be dealing with and avoid potentially changing your viewpoint? And if you are comfortable with your absolutes, which is your full right to be in, then at least be considerate about not pushing those off on other people and trying to keep them in the slots you’ve decided they should be in. Inner development, growth, and change is what leads to outer development, growth, and change. The possibility of change is what creates hope for a better future for our species, so keep that in mind in your communication with others. The way life opens up when you keep this in mind is truly wonderful.

Reflect on the Past, Be Fully in the Present, Move toward the Future

I have taken a bit of a hiatus here, thanks to my typical internal retreat that seems to happen naturally this time of year coupled with a lack of energy from what turned out to be an iron deficiency. But a new year, and my energy is returning, and I’m feeling ready. For what, I’m not quite sure, but that’s okay.

Each New Year, while safely ensconced at my Writer/Artist retreat on Lake Ontario, I like to look back on my personal and creative growth from the previous year and set one major intention for my growth into the New Year. You can read the past years’ entries on this blog here, here, and here.

So how did I do in 2015? My personal growth goal was to learn to create balance within myself and to then help others find their balance. I think I’ve been able to achieve that as much as I could on the current path I tread. My chosen field is time-intensive and has crazy deadlines, but the craziness comes in waves so that I’m able to recuperate and spend quality quiet time with my family in the lulls. I’m more stable and steadily working on the inner work that needs doing rather than the leaps and bounds that were happening in previous years, and while it sometimes feel like I’m inching forward rather than soaring, that’s where I need to be right now, I think. I still don’t feel like I ever have enough time to accomplish everything that I want to accomplish in this life, but I’m much more accepting of that than I was in the past. What I’ve found to be true, though, is that the balance isn’t a constant. To walk a fine line means frequently feeling the pull from each side. It isn’t fixing something and then having an easy time of it. Creatively, my goal was to release my first novel and at least one major painting. I did release a painting, though I don’t know if I would consider it “major”, and while I made progress on my novel, I didn’t even make it halfway through. I did manage to finish writing the graphic novel draft I had been working on for years, which is something. And I went from a part-time position to a full-time+ position in a creative industry that I am really enjoying, which enables me to provide for my family. I’ve done some good freelance projects, and I’ve laid the groundwork for future freelance work for a decent fee. It is fulfilling at a different level than the work I do here, but fulfilling nonetheless. So I’m not disappointed in myself. I’m trying to go with the flow more, is all.

That all being said, what are my goals for 2016? Well, we’re buying our first house soon, so I am looking forward to trying to make a more sustainable life for us. It is ridiculous how excited I am at the notion of composting and growing my own vegetable garden this summer. We are going to look into grants for solar panels. And we’ll be slowly building a true home. One of my goals is to use the house to further nurture people, either by literally feeding them love through dinner parties and creative meetups or running small classes out of the house occasionally to share my skill set and increase the confidence of others. I don’t know how far I’ll get in that this year, but I want to lay the groundwork at least.  I also want to see what kind of an impact we can have in our new local community, so there will be some research that needs to be done once we move to our new village. I guess, in brief then, my goal for this year is to nurture others while continuing to nurture myself so that I can do that work for others. My other big personal goal is to integrate my title of this blogpost into my life. I know many people focus on the attempt to detach entirely from the past and the future to be in the present, but I want to try integrating all three (while still attempting to let go of the attachment to time in general) and see what good I can accomplish through that. It should be an interesting mental and spiritual exercise.

Creatively, I will continue to work at my novel, I will continue to make art, and I will continue to make music, but I am not going to pressure myself with deadlines this year. There are too many other things that need my attention. I am really looking forward to having my piano back home once we move though. It will be so soothing to be able to play multiple times a week instead of just once every 2-4 weeks like I’ve been doing. It makes a difference.

It is strange to me that in the midst of the tumultuous world, in the violence and hatred that continues to grow, I’ve managed to find some calm, safe waters for myself. And it’s not that I’m hiding myself away from what is going on, that I’m not experiencing grief and concern, but that I’m navigating through all of that with an ease I’ve never had before.

We’re all responsible for our own selves. That is true freedom, I think. To own our space in this world fully. Hard work to do. But necessary and wonderful in the long run.

May you each find your own calm waters when you need them in the ensuing storms. May 2016 be the year we can all take charge of our own destinies and follow the true purpose of our lives. The world is changing and shifting, and we can make it a change for the better. But it is up to each of us to do the work necessary for that to happen.


Is Tolerance on the Internet Possible?

Last week, I posted my illustration Vessels with my poem An Open Letter from The Little Book of Insurrection or the Poetry of My Discontent up on Tumblr. Within a short span of time, it had been reblogged on an anti-feminist site with a long diatribe showing how it is a prime example on how bad all feminist poetry is. It wasn’t excessively cruel, and the language wasn’t overtly violent or offensive, but I was amazed that someone had expended the energy to create an anti-feminist Tumblr account and deliberately searches the feminist tag for posts to mock. I went back the next day, though, and the reblogging had been removed. I don’t know if they actually did a little research and realized that my collection was only 1/12th of feminist leaning or what. I’d be interested to know their reasoning behind taking it down.

VesselsI, honestly, was more entertained than anything. And I felt rather bad that someone hates an entire group of people so much that they waste their time and energy on such a fruitless task. Truth be told, An Open Letter is my least favorite poem in the collection. It’s too long but didn’t lend itself to cutting it down. However, the message it contains is important, full of my righteous anger at the legislation being passed against women. I also love this illustration I created to accompany it.  And as a woman, the issues pertaining to women concern me.  So I included both illustration and poem in the collection.

A confession: up until my mid-twenties, I was one of those women that wanted nothing to do with the term “feminist”, except in a historical context. Part of my desire to be judged as an individual and not take on the characteristics of any group, I’m sure, more than anything else. But the pendulum of equality has really swung in the opposite direction since the economic downturn in 2009, for everyone, and I accept the label of “feminist” now. It’s difficult to be aware of the facts and NOT take on that label. Although, in broader terms, perhaps I’m more a secular humanist than anything.

Anyway, today, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I am acutely aware of my privileged position in society. As a well-educated white hetero married woman, I am granted access to opportunities and have a much easier time than I might otherwise. I mean this in all sincerity, that to only be judged based on gender and class and the fact that I’m an artist (and maybe to a certain extent my intelligence – smarts can be a detriment these days) means that my life is a piece of cake comparatively. But that doesn’t mean that I am incapable of fighting the good fight, working towards more social justice for everyone.

It seems to me that people who care passionately about societal issues, of which there seem to be a growing number, are all fighting different battles in the same war. We can’t, as individuals, possibly fight on every front simultaneously, and if we try, nothing will ever be accomplished. So it seems in our best interest to respect each other’s chosen path, to tolerate and try to understand alternate viewpoints, to build each other up rather than tear each other down, regardless of whether you’re fighting for women’s rights, class rights, race rights, education, animal rights, climate change, etc. The end goal, enabling everyone to live a quality life, not free of strife or sadness, but free of oppression and hatred, is the same. But we won’t ever get there if we hold our own path as superior to any and all others, in my opinion.

I am a Zombie

I’m exhausted and stressed and feeling worn down.  My eyes are bleary today, aided by my allergies in being even more heavy-lidded.  My day job has been a whirlwind of activity, as I fill every moment with either wrapping things up here or planning the move or sneaking a few precious minutes in to work creatively.  I wonder if I can get through the next few weeks without burning out or melting down.

But I’m also excited at embarking on this new journey.  And I’m happy to be doing the work that I’m doing to push myself forward.  It means so much to be seizing the reigns of my life and steering myself in a different direction.  Change is never easy, but it is good for growth.