Freedom’s Just Another Word…

I came across this quote recently from the author David Foster Wallace that I thought was interesting, because it’s the exact opposite of what most people think of when they imagine freedom.

The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.

The truth is I have found more internal freedom than I ever thought possible through having my kids. I’ve grown so much in making space that includes family and deep soul connections in my life. I’ve lost fear. Which is the biggest freedom there is. So even though I can’t go out partying if I get the urge, even though I can’t blow my paycheck on concert tickets and new clothes, even though I frequently put another person’s needs before my own needs and almost always put someone else’s needs before my wants, I am free or on my way to being free in the ways that truly matter.  Sometimes, though, I very badly need the reminder, and so this quote hit home.

What are your thoughts on freedom?

Also, the title of the blog post comes from the Janis Joplin song “Me and Bobby McGee” which I’ve always loved singing along to.

Doctor Dragged from United Flight And the Greater Metaphor

There is the shocking footage currently circulating of the doctor that was dragged from a United Airlines flight due to overbooking. You can see the New York Times article here. And people filmed it, people verbally protested the man being dragged, but not one person moved to intervene. And following the incident, everyone, including the doctor, got back on the flight. This boggles my mind, because I would not go anywhere with that particular crew given that they clearly showed what they truly think of the passengers.

For me, I immediately imagined myself in that situation, or being at home and watching my neighbors be violently dragged away by “the authorities” for no reason whatsoever. And I honestly don’t know. One person against several are not decent odds. But an entire plane-full? Why didn’t they collectively demand a different crew, demand their money, demand for lawyers to be brought to the airport? It didn’t have to be a violent uprising, but some kind of uprising would be more respectful. We’ve been treated like livestock by the plane industry for years, but this really surprised me. Yet another sign of how complacent we’ve all become.

So here we stand, on the brink of yet another unjust war fought over oil on a foreign field that we helped set the stage for, that the powers that be have been manipulating and trying to accomplish for years. And we may loudly protest what will come, but will any of us actually try to stop them? Will we stop giving our power over? I don’t know.

A Blog Recommendation – Think Horizontal

I don’t think I’ve ever done this before, but I am recommending this new blog – Think Horizontal. The author has written some very thought-provoking articles, and I feel like they have coalesced a lot of the same wisdom that I have sporadically interspersed through my meandering blog here with a much more focused intent. I wanted to respond to all of the posts so far but my brain was mush last night as I read them so I just allowed the words to circulate in my head.

True freedom. What does it really mean? And are you prepared to do the work and the thinking necessary to achieve it? And then to teach others how to do the same?

Liberty for All – A Poem

What have we done to Fellowship?
Where’s the love for our fellow man?
The insular lives we now lead
Means that we don’t do all we can
No more living the Golden Rule
Each for theirself, so weak, so small!
No help for your neighbors, nor hope!
It’s one for one, not one for all.

Can we e’er find Equality?
So elusive, it seems to hide.
It’s us verses them ev’ry day.
To walk this path, always deride.
Rather judge a person theirself
By thoughts, actions, and their deeds.
Instead of what we still look at:
Gender, race, sexuality, and creed.

Whence has flown great Intelligence?
Where have our brilliant minds all gone?
No more knowledge for its own sake,
The focus is on rich gains alone.
The latest big consumer toy
Or vanity pills down our throats
Learning reviled, hated, in vain.
Party lines are our only quotes.

How can we now achieve Justice?
That lovely and resilient song?
Impartial code for all to see.
Two rights can never make a wrong.
No more destruction or violence.
Each working to remove that stain.
Natural rights for ev’ryone.
The end of strife and futile pain.

Who knows how to speak out the Truth?
Unbiased and clear as a bell.
And could we even recognize?
We may not know and dare not tell.
It still is there for us to hear.
All it takes is for us to start.
The clarion sound can ring out loud
If we carry it in the heart.

Who now remembers Liberty?
To get it, will you make a stand?
Rights and responsibility,
Alway together, hand in hand.
Never yet in our history
Have we seen this, but let’s begin.
To grow beyond our current fate,
Search the mirror, dive deep within.

Copyright 2017, Kat Micari

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.

Helping Inner City Students Dream and Create Amidst the Violence of Their Daily Lives

Last week into this one, I was in six different inner city elementary schools through my employer with a major arts initiative. It was a hectic whirlwind of a week, but the end result was that most of the students (with only a handful pulled out for bad behavior) each got to have an individual moment of attention from half their school and from us, with their final projects each getting praise. I was a “guest artist” coming in, and I was wowed by some of the final results. I picked out specific design elements that were impressive whenever possible, and praised the overall project when I couldn’t. And the kids lit up. They soaked all that attention up like sponges. They had created something, and that creation was getting positive attention, something that many of them don’t have.

There were so many that I wanted to take home and give them a bath, a good meal, and clean clothes. So many that I could sense the fragility behind their swagger. So many that met my eyes with a soulful gaze. All at various stages of putting their walls up. All at various stages of losing trust in adults, in themselves.

And during this week, the videos from Spring Valley High School emerged, and people crawled out of the woodwork to support the officer’s violent actions against a child 1/3 of his size. Again, people preaching compliance towards a system rife with abuse, preaching we should all “respect” officers because of the badges they carry and the dangerous job they have, and I am ashamed to say that I once said the same not because of any respect toward them but because I wanted the general population to stay safe. But no, this action is not ever okay, especially not in a classroom setting. If any adult man had touched a daughter of mine like that, I would be in jail because my revenge on him would have been swift and merciless and he would no longer have any balls because they would have been shoved down his throat after being ripped off by my bare hands, and I don’t care how rude she was to him. But no daughter of mine would get treated like that by an officer of the law because my husband and I aren’t black.

That people think this action is okay because she didn’t comply with this officer is so wrong. I’ve seen people using it as a tool to complain about millennials yet again and their rude upbringing, lumping the childhood of the inner city child with those in the suburbs, and it is not the case at all. Last week, while at one of the schools, someone was shot on the street less than a block away and the school had to go into a safety drill. This week, on the last day, one of our people noticed two men going after each other with baseball bats just as school was letting out, again only a block away. The children live in this. The parents that struggle to raise them and love them live in this. Having that level of stress, those cortisol levels raised in the brain all the time do terrible things to you. Add a difficulty in getting proper nutrition and being in an education system that’s run like a prison most of the time, is it any wonder that they act the way they do? Beyond that though, how can so many still be in denial about America slipping into a police state? How can so many willingly hand their power over to others? I don’t understand the mindset at all.

I’m glad we were able to do what we did in the schools. Maybe getting them in touch with their creative sides will give them a means to escape the reality of their lives, will give them goals and dreams to work toward to hopefully break the cycle of poverty and abuse. That positive connection to adults may be enough for some of them. But not all. And that hurts.

Crumbs – a poem

I think I’ll just post this every November on Election Day until it no longer is relevant.

Crumbs

We squabble over crumbs on the floor
While the big pile of money… oops… food
Sits on the table just out of our reach.
We eat self-help slogans,
Never acknowledging that this game
Of life is rigged against us.
Sound bites offer little sustenance.
We dance as the puppet masters
Pull the strings.
We follow the magician’s
Sleight of hand
And allow ourselves to be astounded
By the misdirection.
We obsess with details,
Refusing to ever see the big picture.
And we are amazed that we remain
Forever hungry.

From The Little Book of Insurrection or the Poetry of My Discontent
Copyright 2013, Kat Micari

Taking Flight

You and I stand
On a precipice
Balancing on the edge
A pair of birds
On a telephone wire
Minus the wings
You marvel at the echo
Of the cavernous
Depths below
“Take my hand” I say
“And be free”
Time stops
And my heart leaps
Into my throat.
You slowly pull away
From me
From the edge
Your world fades
To black and white
I sprout wings
And soar
With only a single tear
To remember you by.

Copyright 2015, Kat Micari

Our Abusive Relationship with the Police

The general population of the United States is in an abusive relationship with the police force. It varies city by city and state by state, but it is a nationwide problem.

I realized the direct parallel while watching the video from Sandra Bland’s arrest.

While watching the video, I could hear the voices of many of my relatives in the back of my head. “Why didn’t she just comply? Why did she have to say “fuck”? Why did she antagonize him?” And it sounded exactly like the victim-blaming that still happens in many issues of domestic violence. “Why did she provoke him?” But this kind of thinking is really dangerous. Sandra Bland knew her rights, and she stuck up for them, and she probably died for them. And this is just one case, and it goes for both men and women in their interaction with officers who are supposed to be upholding the law.

And if you think that you are safe because you are white and middle or upper class, because you only break the law a little bit when it suits you, and because you grovel whenever you do come in a contact with an officer with a gun, then you are wrong. It is only a matter of time, because people with a gun and without a conscious, people who think they are above the law, people who think they deserve the perks they get, people who feel they have something to prove even when it crosses the line into violating the rights of others will not stop their actions. Maybe you’ll just be crossing a street somewhere at the wrong place or time, or they’ll get your house number mixed up with someone else in your neighborhood suspected of dealing drugs, or a neighbor will report a supposed domestic situation and they’ll come and kill your dog. Your status in this society is worth little to them, except for the fact at this point it’s a little harder to shut you up if they do cross the line. But with the growing wealth disparity, that is rapidly becoming a null point.

I still remember seeing my father completely change character when he was pulled over for a traffic infraction, and then again when we were working various summer festivals and a group of sheriffs would come over. (Married sheriffs who were asking the 19 year old girls working behind the counter for my dad to come out and party with them after their shift, by the way.) He would become completely servile and ingratiating, and when I asked him why after the first time I witnessed him doing this, he told me “You always respect someone with a gun.” We’ve come to a point in our society that that kind of thinking won’t fly. You can respect someone with a gun the way you would respect a dangerous or rabid animal, but until we all start being more vocal about the rights for every citizen in this country, we are going to see all of our lives grow more dangerous daily. And that is a travesty.

Let Yourself “Be”

I’m tired… the kind of tired that comes from working hard physically and mentally, that comes from carving out time to hike and play outside, that leaves you collapsing into bed at night and sleeping so soundly that nothing can disturb that rest. I’m tired, and I’m happy in the exhaustion. I’ve got so much going on at work and in life right now that my head is spinning, but I’m enjoying the dizziness for the moment.

But I almost self-sabotaged. Not six hours after finding out the details of my new position (as well as my new official salary and benefits), I had this horrible fear suddenly grip me. That I wasn’t going to thrive, that instead it would become an abusive situation of giving more than I felt capable of giving, of having too many expectations thrust on me, of not being able to maintain any semblance of a work-life balance. This was going on while I simultaneously was experiencing deep inner spiritual/creative growing pains that shook me to my core and had growing pressure put on me regarding certain “big decisions” that have to be made. And I started feeling trapped by it all, like a big cage was descending over me that would bind me and hold me against my will.

It was a difficult week adjusting to everything. I asked myself “why can’t I just let myself be happy?” I had to dive deep and experience the fear and the pain, and then I let it go. And I found that I could let myself be happy. I can find joy in my life, in my work, in the path I tread. But I wouldn’t have been able to maybe if I hadn’t had everything rising up at once.

Life is of course not perfect. I do miss my son horribly working these long hours, but the way he greets me as I walk through the door every day and the way he holds me so tight as we cuddle is worth everything to me. And there is still some things that need working out in the realm of inner growth, a lacking that could fill me with despair if I dwelled on it. But I’m so busy right now that I can’t worry at it, which is a blessing at this point I think. I was ever one to worry ahead of time, and this is not something that will be rushed. So for now it is just a single black drop in my crystal-clear waters that I am mindful of, and, if anything, it only helps me see how fortunate I am in every other area. Which maybe is the point for the frustration right now.

Anyway, life is good. I’m the happiest I’ve been in a long time because I am allowing myself to “be”. I’m experiencing each emotion as it arises and then releasing it, and I’m finding joy in both the small and large moments in my life. After feeling a week of being trapped, I feel freer than I have in a long, long time.