Just be happy! Don`t try to, nobody needs anything to have the capability of happiness. Just decide to be happy and you will be happy, I promise!
|—||Comment on one of the Teafaerie’s Flow videos…|
America is alive. It was designed to evolve and adapt the same way that a living system does. This was the truly revolutionary advance that made our Nation something extraordinary from the outset, it’s the open secret behind our unprecedented success, and it’s by far our most genuine claim to the collective advancement of the human species. It also happens to be the reason why thousands of people are now occupying the financial centers of our major cities, raising awareness about a variety of pressing economic issues, and insisting on radical change.
Our founding fathers were entirely ignorant of the mechanics of biological evolution, of course, but apparently they had enough common sense to understand that the world was just going to keep on changing as it has always done, and enough wisdom to try to incorporate that insight right into the very structure of their wildly experimental new system of self-government. Nowhere is this illustrated more clearly than in The Declaration of Independence, in which our inspired founders eloquently recognized that every respectable government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed, and that whenever such a government becomes destructive to the pursuit of human happiness it is the right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute in its place a system that is yet better suited to meet the renewed demands of an endlessly evolving and engaged populace.
In practice, it seems to take quite a long history of rather blatant malfeasance to successfully arouse and motivate the body politic, and perhaps this is for the best. Even Thomas Jefferson thought that big changes ought not to be made lightly, though he also noted that for the most part humankind appears to be disposed to suffer those evils to which it has become accustomed, at least as long as those evils seem easier to bear than the onerous burden of action. In other words, the People are kind of lazy, when you come right down to it, and it takes quite a long train of abuses and usurpations to fully engage our active attention. It has to get pretty bad, in fact, and not just bad in theory, but bad in real and tangible ways that have a strongly noticeable effect upon all of our daily lives.
Well, welcome to the tipping point, folks. This is it. It’s nothing to worry about, it’s just our brilliant self-regulating feedback mechanism working exactly the way that it’s supposed to. The Occupy movement is an excellent example of the American People doing precisely what the framers of our Constitution had fervently hoped that the People of the future would do. We’re rising up to challenge a situation that has become fundamentally untenable, and insisting on the real and lasting changes that are needed in order to insure a healthy and dynamic economy, and in order to provide a secure and prosperous future for ourselves and for our children.
Our economy is in one sense an ecology, and in order for it to flourish it needs to maintain a dynamic balance within it’s own porous borders, and it must also foster a healthy exchange with the larger global economy from which it has emerged, and in which it must necessarily play a constructive and balanced role or risk disrupting the very framework that gave rise to it’s own existence. As things stand, our economy seems to be experiencing the same kind of a crisis that an ecology undergoes when an aggressive non-native species takes root and then, in the due course of time, begins to take over. Nature’s robust system of checks and balances can fail spectacularly when a novel element is introduced into a fertile environment in which no potential competitors or predators are yet in place. Left to grow unchecked, the newcomer can and often does unwittingly crash its own niche, savagely smothering or out-competing all of its would be symbiotic relations in the apparently single-minded pursuit its own relentless expansion. Unfortunately for such organisms, they can only do what they were designed by nature to do, even when such behavior is clearly counterproductive to their own long-term best interests. Likewise, many modern mega-corporations were explicitly designed by men and women to maximize their own profit at all costs, and now they’re growing and metastasizing like cancers, bound as they are to follow their own flawed charters even in the face of certain evidence that they’re contributing to an unsustainable situation.
Gigantic corporations are a relatively new phenomenon, and so are multi-billionaires, and so is the Fed. There’s a lot of stuff that’s new. The internet is new. Novelty is a marvelous thing. It does have a tendency to produce that cancerous runaway effect, though, at least until the novel elements have been successfully brought into symbiotic balance with the rest of the existing system. That process in now underway. It is natural that this should require some cultural dialogue, because it is the tendency of any living thing to expand until it is limited by external factors. We can generally rely upon the powerful to seek ever more power, for instance, as history has so consistently demonstrated. Power, however, must necessarily evolve inside of an ecology of the relatively powerless, and when that power is not leveraged in the best interests of the masses they tend to become disaffected with those who wield it. This leads to conflict, obviously, and since the have-nots invariably outnumber the haves by a wide margin, the oppressed tend have a distinct advantage when push finally comes to shove, so to speak. The wonderful thing about the United States is that it’s set up to accommodate such revolutions peacefully. We get to hold up signs instead of having to bust out the guillotines and so forth. We don’t have to kill our tyrants in America. Nobody has to die at all, in fact. Because the government answers to us, get it? And yeah, it has to answer to the rich and powerful people, too. But there are a lot more of us than there are of them, and every single one of us gets the exact same number of votes as the big shots do. All we have to do is convince enough people to give a damn, and the deed is essentially done.
So what do we want? The framers of the Declaration of Independence wrote out a long litany of complaints, some of them more relevant than others. The Occupy movement has a laundry list, too, and it’s now in the process of sorting out it’s priorities. Generally speaking, though, what we want is meaningful economic reform. We want to bring the system back into balance. We want to adjust for what we’ve learned about how some of these new entities behave, because we originally set them up as sort of an experiment, and that experiment has been running for a long enough time now that we can start to assess what’s working and what’s not working. One thing that’s obvious is that we can’t just let the winners make the rules, because if we did that we would end up with a broken game that’s no fun for anybody to play. Corporate power needs to be more elegantly integrated into the intricate system of checks and balances that keeps America vital. The rich need to be reminded that this is a Democracy, not an Oligarchy, and that their power, though very real, has very real limits and comes with very real responsibilities. Banks and insurance companies can no longer be allowed to essentially trick American citizens into bogus arrangements on purpose, not just because it’s unfair to the suckers, but because we’ve seen that situations like the credit crisis end up hurting the whole country in the long run. We’ve got to stop robbing the future for short term gain. No, really. We’ve got to stop! This means that we’ve got to stop cutting education, we’ve got to stop raping the environment, and we’ve got to stop warmongering in the pursuit of cheaper resources. We’ve got to bring back the middle class. We’ve got to get the debt down. We’ve got to create jobs. We’ve got to fix social security. We have to make more intelligent provisions for healthcare… The list goes on. In the end we’re going to have to retrofit the whole enchilada, essentially, because as it stands the economy only functions properly when it keeps growing all the time, and the planet that we live on is a closed system. Business as usual, therefore, is entirely off the menu. Something is simply going to have to change. A lot of things are going to have to change, actually.
Fortunately, our Nations autoimmune response just recently kicked in. The Occupation of Wall Street and the global movement that it has engendered are certain signs that People are waking up to the fact that some serious adjustments need to be made. And maybe they don’t know exactly what it’s going to take yet, but they’re actively in the process figuring it out. In the meantime they’re raising public awareness by demonstrating, which is probably the best thing that they could do at this point.
The founding fathers would resoundingly approve of the Occupy Movement. It shows that’s they system is working, not that it’s broken. It’s an excellent indication that that America is alive and well, in fact, and that it’s well on it’s way to becoming even better.
Written by The Teafaerie, October 10, 2011. Feel free to use it, please credit and let me know.
Image ganked from Ann Elliott Cutting http://anncutting.photodeck.com/
Contact me: email@example.com
First I had it played in Spanish while I spun fire, then I read it in English. It’s reversed here…
Maestros and Maestras of the Amazon,
I am deeply honored and humbled by this rare and precious opportunity to speak with you directly. My people are very much in need of your help right now, and I have come here as an ambassador to beg for your assistance.
I’m not anyone particularly important or influential back home. I was invited to speak here because I write a column about psychedelics for a popular information site on the internet. The first time I came to Peru was six years ago, for the very first International Shamanism Conference here in Iquitos. I was just another clueless tourist then - and maybe I still am. I was looking for adventure, and perhaps a little bit of magic to spice up my regular everyday life of decadent bohemian excess.
And I found it, too. Oh boy! I surely did. And it scared the crap out of me. Because I come from a world where grown ups aren’t supposed to believe in magic. Magic for us is the stuff of faerie tales - cautionary stories told to children, or staged illusions done with smoke and mirrors. The religion I grew up with was lousy with magical thinking, but it attributed every bit of it to a tyrranical demiurge and his openly evil alter ego, thereby stripping nature of it’s rightful power and perverting the worship of the spirit into a weapon of fear to extract tribute and impose control.
Magic - energetic healing, telepathy, precognition, remote viewing, and congress with the ancestors or spirits of any type is considered “supernatural” by my people, because they no longer understand their own nature, or the nature of the universe at large.
And yet. And yet I believe that we, too, must necessarily be an expression of nature and of the divine mystery that stands behind and exists within all things, because how could it be otherwise? The problem with human beings is that we’ve outgrown out evolutionary niche. Whoops! Now how did that happen? Did we fall, as I was taught? Or did we jump? Or were we pushed? Who knows? Who cares? What matters is that we’ve got to learn to fly before we hit bottom. And it’s coming up real fast! So fast, in fact, that it looks like it’s going to take a miracle.
So I’ve come here to ask you for a miracle. Because you happen to be sitting on the most powerful magic that I’ve managed to find out about so far, and even though it scares me silly, I reckon we’re really going to need that magic working for the home team if we’re sincerely talking about trying to save the world and stuff.
For years the shamans of the Amazon have fulfilled their sacred duty. You guarded the embers of the Secret Fire, and no matter what happened you never let that flame go out. Now the prodigal children are coming back home - some of us. Because the story is ending. Or this part of it is, anyway. And so it makes sense - doesn’t it? That we’re returning to our starting place - to the womb of nature that is the ground of our being. The snake has to swallow it’s own tail, right? The weary and broken traveller has to return to the village to find that the sought-after treasure was there all along, that it was hidden inside of his own heart, in fact, and that it has been ripened and enriched by his journeys, tempered by his suffering, and enobled by his sacrifice. At least I really hope so. Because otherwise I think that we might be screwed.
Look - we know that we’re marks, okay? We know that shamanism is big business here and we know that we’re arrogant, clueless and annoying, and it must be awfully tempting to kind of shine us on and just do the tourist shtick sometimes. Throw us in the deep end and let us sink or swim, right? We’re pretty much just gonna flail around anyway. But we need you to do your best for us, because it’s important. We need you to help us heal ourselves. We need you to broker some deals with the spirit world on our behalf. And more than that, we need you to help us work with this stuff ourselves so that we can adapt it to our specific needs and use it to heal the thing that we’re trying to become on a larger scale.
Because the time is here. The curtain is up the chips are down, the die is cast and the game is on. This is it. This is where we make it or break it as a species, and it looks like it’s going to be a photo finish, folks. So anybody whos got any magic left needs to put it all on the table right now. Because we need one hell of a healing. We need some sort of a mass excorsism. We need a big dose of mamma’s tough love. We need to be tuned in, turned on, torn apart, rebuilt, reset, defragged and debugged. We need to be inspired and revivified, reconnected and released. We need to be rocked until we’re weeping with gratitude and begging for mercy at the same time. Because otherwise we’re all going to die.
And maybe some of us deserve to die. But all of our eggs are in one basket now. All of our destinies are woven together, and all of our dreams are intertwined. If my culture self-destructs, I promise you that it’s going to take the Amazon with it. And, conversely, if we make it through this narrow pass we will almost certainly carry the essence of the Amazon with us as we go on to populate hundreds of worlds for millions of years. Go ask the plants which outcome they would prefer. And if they say that they would rather die, then go ahead and proceed with business as usual. But if they say that they want to go to the stars, then please consider kicking this thing up a notch, whatever that means to you.
If you want to be our doctors and our ministers, take the time to find out who we are and where we’re coming from, what energies we have at our disposal and what kind of demons we’re fighting. Poke around on the internet, at least. Learn about our myths so that you can reach us where we live. The whole Star Wars generation grew up wanting to be mystics. The Matrix generation is rejecting the program. The kids growing up on Avatar want to plug into the AI -the Amazonian Intelligence, and it’s real, it’s there, it’s as real as we could ever want it to be, and if this thing could be brought on board our lives in a way that fulfills our mythos, then I think that we could be fully activated by it.
And we want you to teach us your myths. We want you to teach us everything. Write down everything that you know. If you haven’t recorded all of your songs and detailed information about your techniques, please do that right away! There’s no more time for secrets. Look, you could be bitten by a snake! Every time a shaman dies in the Amazon 30,000 years worth of precious knowledge is lost to suffering mankind. Last time I was here I called for a real university where lots of different teachers could work together - where we could have real classes like Defense against the Dark Arts, and Icaros 101, and brain science, and botany of the Amazon - a place where visitors could come for a healing or a reset or just for an exploration or whatever, and full time students could help out with that and learn how to - if not how to be shamans themselves - then how not suck so much at least, how to get the most out of it, how to fend off energies that we don’t want to work with, how to invite helpful energies to come play with us, how to sing our way around the space, how to swim in it, how to steer, how to surrender…
We need for you to teach us how to be brave in the face of the unknown. It’s scary for us, you know, we’re formatted all funny and we don’t know how to process it. And we need to know what we really should be afraid of, too. Help us grapple with these things that we don’t have words for, and to square this strange new reality with the world that we know. We need to know how to open ourselves, and how to close ourselves again, and how to bear the pain of what it means to be human, and how to bear the beauty of it, even, and the truth about what we really are, and what nature is. I mean, we’re the children of god, right? But the child of a sheep grows up to be a sheep. The child of a human being grows up to be a human being. I don’t know if this is some kind of adolescence for us, or some kind of a birthing, but something is happening to us. Help us complete our metamorphosis because we can’t get out backwards. We have to go forward to go back. We have to evolve! We have to raise our children to be saner than we are - stronger, more stable, more capable, more committed. Help us to fashion a new and stable niche for ourselves and to fashion ourselves for our niche, and to keep our shit together under the psychic strain of a universe that turns out to be magic all the way to the bottom - because that’s really challenging for us to swallow, but it seems to be true, and you’re the ones who know how it works, and we need to somehow turn that situation to our collective advantage faster than we could possibly figure it out for ourselves in the absence your priceless wisdom and insight. So yeah.
I know that we’re beginners with a lot to unlearn, but we’re something new, we’re the universe evolving, and we’ve got a lot of potential and I honestly believe that we can be taught. Please help us - I ask you most humbly, sincerely, and with all of my heart. Thank you for listening, and for all that you do.
(Translation by Jessica Lucas)
Maestros y Maestras de la selva Amazoníca
Me siento profundamente honrada por esta oportunidad unica y preciosa de hablar ante Ustedes directamente. Mi gente necesita mucha ayuda en este momento, y yo he venido aquí como una embajadora para pedir que nos asistan.
Yo no soy poderosa o influyente en mi tierra. He sido invitada a hablar aqui por que escribo sobre plantas sagradas en el Internet. La primera vez que visite Perú fue hace seis años por motivo de la primera conferencia internacional de chamanismo aquí en Iquitos. Yo era una turista despistada en ese entonces - y tal vez todavía lo soy. Yo estaba en busca de aventura y tal vez un poco de magia para darle chispa a mi vida cotidiana.
Y la encontré!! ¡Madre mia! ! Sin duda la encontre. Me causo un miedo tremendo por que vengo de un mundo donde los adultos no debemos creer en magia. Para nosotros , la gente de El Norte, la magia se limita a cuentos de hadas e historias de precaución dirijidas a los niños.
La religión con la que crecí es pésima para el pensamiento mágico, todo lo desconocido se le atribuye a poderes oscuros y maliciosos, quitandole a la naturaleza su poder, y usando el miedo para imponer control.
Magia_ el curar a través de la energía, telepatía, precognición, clarividencia y juntarse con los ancestros o espíritus de cualquier forma que es considerado “sobrenatural” entre mi gente, debido a que ellos ya no entienden se propia naturaleza, o la naturalidad del universo a lo grande.
Y todavía. Y todavía creo que nosotros también, debemos con cierta necesidad ser una expresión d e la naturaleza y del misterio divino que esta detrás y existe dentro de todas las cosas. [porque] Como podría ser de otra forma? El problema de los seres humanos es que hemos crecido fuera de nuestro nicho evolucionarlo. Whoops! Como fue que paso? Nos caímos, como me enseñaron? O saltamos? O es que nos empujaron? Quien sabe? A quien le importa? Lo que importa es que tenemos que aprender a colar antes de que golpeemos el fondo. Y estas pasando rápidamente. Tan rápido que en realidad parece que va a tomar un milagro.
Entonces, he venido a pedirles un milagro. Porque ustedes, están sentados sobre la magia mas poderosa que he podido encontrar hasta ahora, y aunque me da miedo, reconozco que de veras vamos a necesitar esa magia trabajando para el equipo de casa si honestamente estamos hablando de tratar de salvar al mundo y demás.
Por años los chamanes del amazonas han cumplido con su deber sagrado- Ustedes han guardado las brasas del Fuego Secreto, y sin importar lo que pase nunca dejaron que la llama se extinguieran. Ahora los hijos prodigios están volviendo a casa, algunos de nosotros. Porque la historia se esta por terminar. Por lo menos esta parte. Y entonces tiene sentido, cierto? Que estamos volviendo a nuestro punto de partida al vientre de la naturaleza que es el centro de nuestro ser.
La serpiente se tiene que tragar su propia cola, no es cierto? El viajero cansado y desbaratado tiene que volver a su pueblo solo a encontrar que el tesoro que tanto buscaba estaba allí todo el tiempo, que estaba escondido dentro de su corazón, en realidad, que ha sido madurado y enriquecido por sus jornadas, templado por su dolor, y hecho noble por su sacrificio. Por lo menos, espero que sea así. Porque de otra manera creo que estamos en ruinas.
Mira- Sabemos que somos marcas, okay? Sabemos que el chamanismo es una empresa grande y sabemos que somos arrogantes, que no tenemos idea y molestos. Y que debe ser una tentación brillar sobre nosotros y hacer la rutina turística a veces. Tirarnos en la parte honda de la pilet a, y dejar que nos hundamos o nademos, no es cierto? Nos vamos a revolcar de todas maneras. Pero necesitamos que ustedes hagan lo mejor que puedan para nosotros, porque es importante. Necesitamos que ayuden a sanarnos. Necesitamos que ayuden algunos arreglos con el mundo de los espíritus por nustra parte. Y mas que eso necesitamos que nos ayuden a trabajar con estas cosas por nosotros mismos para que podamos adaptarlo a nustras necesidades especificas y usarlo para sanar la cosa en la que nos estamos tratando de convertir en la gran escala.
Porque el tiempo ha llegado. La cortina ha subido y las cartas están sobre la mesa, el ansuela se ha tirado y el juego ha comenzado. Es esto. Esto es donde lo hacemos o lo rompemos como especie, y parece que va a ser una final de foto, amigos. Así que a cualquiera que le quede algo de magia necesita ponerlo sobre la mesa ahora mismo. Porque necesitamos una buena sanción. Necesitamos una clase de gran exorcismo. Necesitamos una gran dosis del amor fuerte de mama. Necesitamos estar entonados, prendidos, desarmados, construidos, reiniciados y de fragmentados. Necesitamos ser inspirados y revividos, reconectados y liberados. Necesitamos ser hamacados hasta que estemosllorando con gratitud y rogando por misericordia a la vez. Porque de otra forma todos vamos a morir.
Y tal vez algunos de nosotros merezcamos morir. Pero tenemos todos los huevos en una sola canasta ahora. Todos nustros destinos estan entretejido y todos nuestro sueños estan entrelazados. Si mi culturase auto-destruye, les prometo que se va a llevar el amazonas consigo. Y de otra forma, si logramos pasar este estrecho vamos a verdaderamente llevar la escenca del Amazonas con nosotros mientras vamos a poblar cientos de mundos por millones de años. Vayan y pregúntenles a las plantas cual resultado prefieren. Y si dicen que prefieren morir, entonces sigan procediendo con sus negocios como siempre. Pero si dicen que quieren ir a las estrellas, entonces por favor consideren levantarlo otro nivel, lo que sea que eso signifique para cada uno de ustedes.
Si quieren ser nuestros doctores y sacerdotes, tomen el tiempo de averiguar quienes somos y de donde venimos, que energías tenemos a nuestra disposición y que clase de demonios estamos combatiendo. Averigüen por el Internet. Aprendan nuestros mitos para que puedan alcanzarnos en donde vivimos. Toda la generación de la Guerra de las Galaxias creció queriendo ser místicos. La generación del el Matriz estan rechazando el programa. Los niños que estan creciendo con Avatar quieren enchufarse a la I.A Inteligencia Amazónica y es real, esta ají, es tan real como lo hubiéramos querido, y si, podríamos tener a esta cosa a bordo de nuestras vidas de una manera que llena nuestros mitos entonces creo que podríamos ser activados a través de ella.
Queremos que ustedes nos enseñen sus mitos. Queremos que nos enseñen todo. Escriban lo que sepan. Si no han grabado todas sus canciones e información detallada sobre sus técnicas, por favor háganlo ahora! No queda tiempo para secretos. Vean, los podrían picar una serpiente! Cada vez que muere un chaman en el Amazonas 30000 (treinta mil) años de conocimiento que es precioso se pierde al sufrimiento humano. La ultima vez que estuve aquí pedí para una universidad real donde vario maestro podrían trabajar en conjunto- donde podríamos tener clases reales como Defensa contra las artes oscuras, e Icaros 101, ciencia cerebral, y botánica amazónica- un lugar donde los visitantes podrían venir para una sanacion o para reiniciarse o solo para explorar o lo que sea y estudiantes de tiempo completo podrían ayudar y aprender como hacerlo por si mismos- si no, como ser chamanes ellos- por lo menos como no hacerlo de forma equivocada, y sacar lo mas posible de ello. Como despejar energías con las cuales no quieren trabajar, como invitar energías que ayudan a que vengan a jugar con nosotros, como cantar nuestro camino a través del espacio, como nadar en ella, como manejar, como entregarse…
Necesitamos que ustedes nos enseñen a tener valor cuando estamos en la cara de lo desconocido. Nos da miedo, ustedes saben, estamos formateados de una forma diferente y no sabemos como procesarlo. Y necesitamos saber a que le tenemos miedo. Ayúdenos a alcanzar estas cosas para las cuales no tenemos palabras y a encuadrar esta rara nueva realidad con el mundo que conocemos. Necesitamos saber como abrirnos, y como cerrarnos de vuelta, y como soportar el dolor de lo que significa ser humano, y como soportar la belleza hasta la verdad de lo que en realidad somos y que es naturaleza. Digo, somos hijos de Dios, cierto? Pero el hijo de una oveja crece a ser una oveja. El hijo de un ser humano crece a ser un ser humano. No se si estas es una clase de adolescencia para nosotros, o algún tipo de nacimiento, pero algo nos esta pasando. Ayúdenos a completar la metamorfosis porque no podemos salir al revés. Tenemos que ir adelante para llegar atrás. Tenemos que evolucionar! Tenemos que criar a nuestros hijos para que sean mas sanos que nosotros, mas fuertes, mas estables, mas capaces, mas cometidos. Ayúdenos a construir un nuevo y estable nicho para nosotros y construirnos nosotros para el nicho, y de no perder la cabeza bajo la presión de un universo que termina siendo construido del magia hasta el final- Porque eso es realmente un desafió para tragar, pero parece ser cierto, y ustedes son los que saben como funciona, y de alguna forma tenemos que arreglar la situación para tener una ventaja colectiva con mas rapidez de lo que nos tomaría resolverlo nosotros solos en la ausencias de Sun invalorable sabiduría y conocimiento. Así que si.
Se que somos principiantes con un montón que des-aprender, pero somos algo nuevo, somos el universo evolucionado, y tenemos mucho potencial yo honestamente creo que se nos puede enseñar. Por favor ayúdenos. Les pido humildemente, sinceramente y con todo mi corazón. Les agradezco por escucharme, y por todo lo que hacen.
by The Teafaerie*
Originally written for FlowArts.net http://flowarts.net/featured
When people ask me what I do, I tell them that I teach Flow Arts. That’s much is easy. The hard part comes about three seconds later, when my well intentioned interlocutor inevitably insist that I define my terms.
What is Flow Arts? It’s a question that has been posed to me countless times. As one of the co-founders of Flow Temple (along with Burning dan), I’m often asked to explain why so many fully grown adults suddenly seem to be rediscovering the magic of playing with a certain class of toys. The answer turns out to be complex and involved, but it’s ultimately intuitive at the core. Which is actually a fairly decent description of Flow Arts itself, now that I come to think about it.
According to the propaganda on our website Flow Arts is a meditation and self transformation practice that improves patience, balance, confidence, dexterity, focus, coordination and self-esteem. It’s also a fun and sexy performance art. All of this is true, and more. Or not. It’s one of those things where what you get out of it is largely dependent upon what you bring to it in the first place. Some people spin for years and only have an increasingly sophisticated bag of tricks to show for it. Which is a noble and worthy accomplishment, don’t get me wrong! On the other hand, some practitioners experience it as a sort of an integrated physio-energetic practice like yoga or like martial arts, (but with less martial and more art). I’ve seen several of my beginning poi students turn their whole world around in just six weeks, simply by getting in touch with their minds and bodies, and by applying the profound insights gleaned from their practice to surprisingly diverse aspects of their daily lives.
At Flow Temple our focus is on flow, not tricks. It’s sort of a bottom-up rather than a top-down approach. Both methods work, and of course they can be (and always essentially are, to some extent) used in combination. If you just stand there and do a bunch of basic moves over and over, you will eventually find yourself immersed in the flow almost by accident. On the other hand, if you start out cultivating your flow from day one, most of the basic tricks will tend to manifest and unfold themselves quite naturally in the course of your instinctive and/or methodical exploration.
So what is flow? Now there’s a fun one. Now we’re getting to the good part! Which, typically enough, turns out to be somewhat challenging to describe.
Flow is obviously not unique to Flow Arts. In fact the movement as a whole only started using that term relatively recently, as the practice has evolved in that direction over a number of years. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the author of the book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience defines flow as a state in which “action and awareness are merged”. Flow is the state of relaxed responsive focus that you feel when you’re “in the zone” and ready for anything. Flow is what happens when your body, mind, and spirit are in dynamic balance and the Now is so compelling that everything else fades away. Ego and fear dissolve in the perfect moment, time slows down, and whatever you’re doing becomes a meditation.
The basic principles that apply to objects in motion turn out to be fairly universal, and a deeper understanding of these principles helps us to to operate much more flowfully in our daily lives. In almost every scenario, for instance, there is effort needed to accomplish our goals, and close examination will usually reveal that a light touch at the right time will redirect the relevant momentum much more efficiently than roughly yanking the whole situation out of it’s given trajectory. Insights of this nature come up constantly in the course of our exploration; so much so that it sometimes makes a stick or a sock with a water balloon in it seem like some kind of a magical teaching tool.
Part of what Flow Arts does, at least in our experience, is extend the time that the practitioner is capable of paying attention from about a second and a half to almost a full three seconds. And that makes all the difference in the world! There are very few manipulations that take more than three seconds to complete, and if you can stay focused for that long, it turns out that you can accomplish almost anything you desire. Flow Arts does not require an enormous amount of strength or agility, and though it rewards natural talent, most of it’s principle techniques can be mastered by anyone with a good attitude and a willingness to devote some time and patience to an engaging enterprise.
Fortunately, this is not hard to convince people to do, because Flow Arts is rather addictive. It’s the only system of meditation I’ve ever found that starts paying off right away. I think it has something to do with the way the human brain responds to intermittent reward. It’s the same reason why so many people are addicted to gambling. We’re programmed to respond with interest and enthusiasm when we succeed at a task in which the outcome is uncertain right up until the last moment. When we successfully accomplish a new move, our brains supply us with a big dose of happy juice that’s designed by nature to keep us coming back for more.
And more is easy to get, because the possibilities are virtually limitless! It’s like playing a musical instrument. Even if you work at it every day for the rest of your life, you’ll never bottom out. You’ll never run out of the infinitely precious commodity of something that you can almost-but-not-quite do, and that you could almost certainly learn to do in an hour if you buckled down and tried real hard. One side effect of this, if you do it a lot, is that you artificially inflate the percentage of encountered challenges at which you are able to succeed simply by applying patience and intelligence to the task at hand. Imagine what your life would be like if you were more instinctively confident that this was true!
Flow Arts gently teaches you to celebrate your triumphs and to persevere in the face of frustration. It teaches you about how you learn as an individual, and if you’re lucky and persistent you may even learn to love to learn again, as we all naturally did when we were very young. At Flow Temple we make a big deal out of all of out little victories, because we find that a high-five or a rousing cheer from across the room literally helps to lock in the successful sequence. When we drop our props or smack ourselves in the face, it simply triggers a reminder to return our consciousness to our breath, to focus our minds, and to try it again more slowly. It’s not possible to mess up when you’re practicing. Practice is perfect, always. We find that we learn as much from our mistakes as we do from our successes, anyway.
One of the things that makes Flow Arts such a terrific practice in general is it’s amazing versatility. When I need an endorphin boost, spinning is a quick chi-up. When I’m bubbling over with excess energy it can also be the perfect chill down. When I need to focus myself, I can attempt the most challenging move that I know, or I can simply concentrate on trying to do an easy move perfectly. On the other hand, if my brain needs a break I can just trance out and spin on automatic pilot for a while. It’s grounding and invigorating at the same time. And there’s a whole lot of room for personal style! Everybody does it a little bit differently. Burning dan could famously look out across Burning Man and tell you who all was spinning at what camp, just by observing the distinctive geometries traced out by the tiny balls of distant fire.
There’s till plenty of room left for making novel discoveries, too! Beginners come up with new moves all the time. Flow Arts rewards what Zen calls “beginners mind”, and it’s important to maintain an attitude of exploratory inquiry as your practice develops. It can be easy for intermediate students to fall into the habit of just doing the tricks that they know; but I’m always encouraging people to lean into their challenges, because that’s where the good stuff happens. I often find myself deeply moved and inspired by watching beginners, because unlike many of us who sometimes imagine that we know what we’re doing, beginners are always trying new things and pushing themselves to play at the very edge of their ability. I have found the Flow Arts community at large to be exceptionally welcoming to folks who are just starting out. Everybody was once a beginner, and established spinners tend to be enthusiastic about what they do, and most are quite eager to help novices find their flow.
Sometimes when people asked dan what he did, he would tell them that he was trying to save the world by spinning socks around. And then they’d look at him funny. Sure. He was kind of serious about it, though. Or if not exactly serious, then at least sincere. Flow Arts is good for you. It builds up the connections between the hemispheres of your brain. (Which is one of my pet theories about why it tends to make it’s practitioners so much more well-integrated all around.) It makes you smarter. It really does. It makes you more patient with yourself, too. It fills you full of endorphins without being especially dangerous or making you feel all crappy the next day. It moves your body and it stills your mind. It teaches you how to react in bullet time. It makes you more Force-sensitive. It makes you better at everything that you do. And most important of all, it teaches you how to play. Or rather, it reinforces the state of open engaged receptivity that that is at the root of play, and ultimately at the root of everything that’s awesome.
(feel free to repost elsewhere, just credit and let me know - ruespieler@yahoo)
An Open Letter to the Alchemeyez Visionary Arts Community, from The Teafaerie*
Have you ever had one of those trips? You know, the kind that turn you inside out and blast you through a vortex of incomprehensible beauty, where you’re shown impossible things, tantalized by illusive meaning, disabused of your most dearly held illusions, overcome with bright optimism, confused, challenged, redeemed, purified, reborn, humbled and finally left weeping with gratitude and laughing hysterically at the same time?
Well, I just had one of those trips last week. It was called the Second Annual Alchemeyez Visionary Arts Congress on the Big Island of Hawaii, and it changed my life forever.
I write a regular column for Erowid, and last year I wrote an article about the inaugural Alchemeyez event and how deeply I was moved by the spirit of what I encountered there. (http://www.erowid.org/columns/teafaerie/2010/07/07/artgasm/) I’m tempted to say all that again here, since it’s all still true and then some, but this is intended to be a letter of thanks and hopefully a message of inspiration to the organizers and to the participants who helped catalyze this year’s potent and unique act of collective alchemy rather than an overt commercial for the next turn up the Spiral, which will no doubt be even more magical and spectacular than this iteration’s rousing success portends.
I want to talk to you about this thing that we’re all building together, or maybe it’s something that we are together, or that we’re starting to be. And I’m not just talking about being the core group associated with the manifestation of a certain recurring event, or even of a Movement, as awesome and as worthy as all that is. I don’t want to talk about how all this could eventually provide us with opportunities to advance our personal and artistic agendas, because that seems to be implied clearly enough if we can manage to keep our momentum up. I don’t even want to go over what went wrong and how much better we could do it next time, because most of that kind of thing is always fairly obvious in retrospect, anyway, and I don’t think we’re going to come up against any new hurdles that we can’t handle once we’ve really got the drill down with the hotel or whatever. There’s always going to be a re-engineering phase after the first few runs of whatever we do, and it actually came off fairly well in fact, all things considered. Big Ups to Rio, Maricela and the rest of the Alchemeyez production crew for all that they do, both as gracious hosts and behind the scenes. We couldn’t do it with out all of us, of course, but those for whom Alchemeyez is a year-long endeavor deserve extra props and special thanks for their efforts. There’s no such thing as “above and beyond” the sacred call of Duty, but the Alchemeyez team gives it all that they’ve got, and in the end it turns out to be quite sufficient, with a big helping of Yum Sauce on the side. And it’s only getting better. So go Team Awesome!
What I’m really interested in is what went right at Alchemeyez this year. Now right and wrong, as we all know far too well, are rather slippery terms. The Universe is Perfect and it does what it Does, but naturally we as human beings have various dreams, desires, goals, hopes, passions, aspirations et cetera, and we define things that seem to be moving us in a direction that resonates with our aesthetic sensibilities as generally positive. So then the question becomes what is it that we resonate with? What do we want? What, if anything, are our common goals, and are we getting any closer to achieving them? What are our guiding visions, and upon what foundations do we propose to build our laboratory and our temple? What fuels shall we choose to stoke and temper the sacred flame that flickers and surges within each one of us? And what shall become of us all once the gold nuggets start piling up?
The official Alchemeyez Mission Statement says: “As collective of Visionaries from multiple disciplines, we aim to use our talents and methods to create new maps and models for an emerging society that will be based on principles of balance, sustainability, healthy ecology, and the promotion of an economy and society based no longer on the old paradigms of ignorance, violence, illusion, malice and self-centeredness, replacing them instead with a Vision of communities rooted in intuition, peace, intelligence and beauty!” And all that sounds pretty okay to me. Right? I’m willing to define that general direction as “good” for our purposes. Have we made any progress in that direction? (Suck it up for a second, I’m getting back to how awesome we are, I promise.) This is a harder thing to quantify. We certainly used up a couple of big airplanes worth of jet fuel getting to and from the conference. And frankly half of the people at Alchemeyez are artists. I mean at least half. (Although, of course, this may shift over time.) Which means, in the broadest sense, that for the most part we’re preaching to the choir. Everybody at Alchemeyez is already rooting for the Home Team. So much so that it seems almost masturbatory, insofar as we’re a legion of galactivated superheroes who are essentially just getting together to celebrate ourselves and to enjoy one another’s company. And to sell each other stuff. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But how is it saving the world?
Of course that’s kind of a rhetorical question because I went on and on about the power of art in my Erowid essay last year; but it’s also sort of a serious question, or at least it’s a sincere one, because asking it forces us to take a closer look at what we do and why we do it.
The most obvious thing we do at Alchemeyez is art. We make it, we show it off, and we share our artistic visions, stories and techniques with one another both through official presentations and in the course of our casual encounters. And hooray for that! Art is great. It’s amazing. It’s a fucking miracle. And that goes double for Visionary Art, which often touches upon aspects of human experience that for one reason or another evade or confound rational apprehension. If the entire merit of Visionary Art lay exclusively in it’s power to communicate the commonality of, or at the very least the rough isomorphism between some of our most profound, personal, and difficult-to-express experiences, it’s value to the human race would be incalculable. Oh, but it’s so much better than that! Tell them what else they’ve won! That’s right! Not only can good art let you see into other people’s souls and vice versa, it can also inspire personal and social change, help us to revision ourselves as individuals and as a species, catalyze emotional integration, and prepare us for the next stage in our cosmic evolution. Even those who are already hosting the Vision can always be activated on a deeper level when exposed to the right stimulus. Right?
But when does that really occur?
A whole suite of things have to go right in order for one person’s vision to successfully move and transform another person’s life. There were a lot of pieces at Alchemeyez this year that were obviously beautiful and well-executed. There were a lot of interactions taking place with the art on a “wow, I really like this one!” level. Or even “I really resonate with that one, I feel like I know where it’s coming from.” But what does it take to put someone into a state of aesthetic arrest where they honestly can’t move because they’re staring at this piece of …art… that’s totally rearranging their soul-settings and modifying their entire concept of what it means to be a human being? It requires a set of nested synchronicities that don’t really seem all that likely: the artist has to be a clear channel for Spirit in the first place (which I do not propose is in opposition to the positive applications of the ego http://www.erowid.org/columns/teafaerie/2010/06/03/altered-ego/ ) and the ideal witness has to be in exactly the right frame of mind and standing in just the right spot at the right moment with the right song playing in the background, and all of the other ten billion things that have to line up precisely perfectly in order to create the space for a genuine miracle to happen all have to happen to occur at the exact same instant. That’s when the shit gets real. That’s when hearts and minds are changed. That’s when art has the power to heal people. That’s Alchemy, folks.
And it happens all the time. Or anyway it does around folks like us. Have you noticed that? If you haven’t noticed it, then you’re out of the loop or you’re not paying attention. So many people at Alchemeyez were actually talking abut it. Yeah yeah, I know, we’re pattern recognizing machines and all. Pick a number out of a hat and you’ll start seeing it everywhere if you obsess on it hard enough. And certain lifestyle choices can make things seem deeper and more portentous than they “objectively” are. I get it. But you know how it is when there’s a vibe at a party that’s so thick you can stick a fork in it? Do you know what I mean when I say that sometimes the Game is On and everything just meshes like clockwork? It’s a state in which it seems possible, even trivial, to manifest damn near anything you want. Everybody has crazy stories. Like whoa crazy. Ask people. And mini-miracles are so common in our community that many of us take them as our due and kind of feel out of sync when books don’t just fall open to the right page every time or whatever. You know how it is: you go looking for your friend and guess who steps out of the elevator door when you push the button? Boom! You reach into your bag and blindly withdraw that one little thing you normally might have had to dump your whole backpack out onto the lobby floor to find, the bathroom stall you pick at random is clean and well stocked, and your comic timing is impeccable. In the fire spinning world we call this state Flow. And it’s some kind of a resonance thing. Like literally. And casting it and holding it and nurturing it and using it to create or potentiate tiny moments of grace and great big huge size-matters-not type world-saving miracles is a shamanic art form and most of us are really really exceptionally good at it, whether we do it intentionally or not.
When it comes right down to it, that’s what I think of as the most intriguing and important thing about Alchemeyez. I mean, it’s all about the art, of course. (and here I include music, dance, flow arts, body modification, fashion, ritual, theatre, performance art, and etc. as well as traditional painting and sculpture) but part of the important thing the art is doing for us is it’s opening us to our higher natures and bringing us more deeply into resonance with one another. It’s literally helping us format ourselves to sync up better, so we can create a stable field dynamic (I know I’m reaching for terms here) so that everybody who catches the wave can draw on the collective pool of energy or signal strength or bandwidth or whatever. And we all know a few ways to make that effect just a little bit stronger, now don’t we? (hint: it works better when you’re happier and more open) And it’s not all that often that so many of us are in the same place at the same time doing the same thing, you know? Not with so much intention and so little distraction. And I don’t think that there’s anything at all that we couldn’t make come true if we collectively wanted it hard enough. Because even one tiny little person can mold the whole Universe like silly putty when they’re really On and truly free of internal conflict and almost every single one of you already knows that as a fact.
And I did see genuine miracles at Alchemeyez this year. Some of them were of the type I described earlier: the kind that are about seeing good art. And others were more about being good art. The morning march of neo-tribal space elves after the 6 AM sweep or a perfect moment on the dance floor can be as beautiful and transcendent as any canvas. (And not just for us. Our interactions with the muggles are all part of the magic, and I bet we inspired at least as many people as we offended. It is, after all, our mission to comfort the disturbed and to disturb the comfortable, and if we rocked even one random world it was well worth it!) Hotel room hook-ups and elevator alliances can be as potent and important as feature presentations, when all is said and done. Heck, I saw one ten minute trip in the jungle that was a good enough reason to drag all of our asses out to the Hawaiian Aina, just by itself. There is an subtle order that’s particularly intrinsic to a certain type of chaos, and if every single one of you hadn’t done exactly what you did and talked to exactly who you talked to and etc, those particular people never would have run into each other just then and there, and that scene never would have happened. Like I said: we can’t do it without all of us.
And it seems like we’re going to be doing this Alchemeyez thing together for a while. So I suggest we take the opportunity to get really good at what we do best. Which is making good art and being good art, making and being good friends, having a good time, upholding one another, doing the kind of magic that we do, validating and empowering each other’s inner warriors and inner superheroes, focalizing our collective intention around our collective intuition, learning more about ourselves and about each other, honoring our planet, celebrating our victories, and figuring out how to better tune ourselves into a mutually reinforcing state of collective resonance and flow.
There’s real live Alchemy going down at the Waikaloa Hilton and that’s not all. The time is here, the game is up, the die is cast, the chips are down. The stakes are very high. This is it. And it’s our sacred Duty - no really - to rock it as hard as we can.
Repost elsewhere at will, just credit and let me know. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The End of Cobra Commander by The Teafaerie
My friend Andre was 4 years old the day that Osama Bin Laden became a household name. I was Andre’s nanny, so I was one of the people who had to explain it all to him. We talked about it kind of a lot, actually. I was away when it happened, but I guess his parents had been glued to the television for days, and by the time I was able to get in and do some damage control he was already suffering from secondhand exposure to Fox News. When I asked him what he had gleaned from the amalgamated hysteria, he told me that the real-life Cobra Commander had blown up a bunch of big buildings with airplanes and he said that he was just going to keep on trying to blow stuff up but the army was going to go find him and kill him so we didn’t have to worry. Right?
I assured him that the Army would almost certainly get Osama Bin Laden, since we had like a million army guys and he was just one man who anyway wasn’t going to be able to make too many evil plans now because he was going to have to be pretty busy hiding from the Army for his whole life. I tried to simplify and soften it for him. I tried to help him to feel safe. I honestly don’t think he ever really felt completely safe again, though. 9/11 was some kind of a turning point for Andre. Before that day he had never been really afraid of anything, or rather he had never been afraid of anything real. I mean he was afraid of monsters and the like, but that was different because he didn’t actually believe in monsters, and he could turn it off whenever he got over the thrill and decided to shake some sense into himself. I think maybe it was the first time that he became aware that the politics of the larger world could effect him personally in ways that he was ultimately powerless to control.
Our favorite games up until that point had always involved Star Wars toys, whose complex web of interrelationships allowed for a robust modeling of a wide variety of human interactions. (I had taken a stand for only letting him watch the classic canon but I lost, and he was forever handing me Amidala to play opposite his Little Anakin, a relationship that I found mildly disconcerting.) In the weeks and months that followed the attacks on 9/11, Andre started abandoning the Star Wars figures in favor of GI Joe, whose guys have more moving parts and thus explode in more satisfying ways when you throw a model airplane at the gigantic block towers that they’re supposed to be guarding. After a while he switched sides and decided to play Cobra Commander, I guess because it took him out of the victims seat and put him in what he perceived to be the position of power. It might also have been because Cobra Commander was the coolest action figure. For months Andre carried the faceless villain with him everywhere, at once a strange sort of companion and a totemic representation of his deepest fears. I really worried when he started sleeping with it, though. When I asked him why he wanted to do that, he said it was so he would always know exactly where it was.
Andre asked me about Bin Laden every day for a while, and at least weekly for all of the rest of that last year we were to spend together. Had they caught him yet? Was he still alive? When our errands and adventures took us to places like banks or museums he would become reluctant, explaining that they seemed like something Osama Bin Laden might like to blow up. I made him go in anyway, of course, we don’t stay out of the yard just because we might get stung by a bee. And if we let him make us all afraid to go out and do stuff then he wins because that’s what he wanted us to feel. Right?
I fervently hoped that they would find him quickly, if only to ease my poor little friend’s troubled mind. But they never did find him. Which really sucked, because that’s not the way the story is supposed to go. We’re supposed to kill the bad guy and get some closure at all costs. Suddenly at war with an amorphous enemy that can never be fully defeated, many of us, like my little friend Andre, slapped Osama Bin Laden’s face on that steely mask of terror, painted a target on it, and defined revenge as victory. Which was actually kind of emotionally intelligent, even if it’s also real-world stupid. How do you purge free-floating anxiety? First you have to create an effective ritual. Objectify your fear and then destroy the object that has become the fear’s symbol. Pick or plan a near future event and invest it with significance. When we kill Osama Bin Laden, then we can all stop waiting for the sky to fall. It was the natural and obvious outcome to invest in, especially since most of us expected it to be coming right up. Everybody had their spring-loaded catharsis all cocked and ready to go. We waited and we waited and we waited. But the other shoe never dropped, the parenthesis never closed, nobody ever knocked the last two knocks of shave-and-a-hair-cut, and eventually the world forgot that it was holding it’s breath.
Until a week ago. When I heard about Osama Bin Laden’s death (on the car radio while stuck in Los Angeles traffic) the first thing I thought about was Andre, although I haven’t actually seen him since the night that Revenge of the Sith came out. Gosh, he must be 13 years old! I wondered if he was still a nervous kid, and if he would somehow sleep easier now knowing that GI Joe had finally gotten Cobra Commander. I pictured him digging out his old battle-worn blue action figure, kept safe all these years in the sort of box where boys keep their best treasures, and burying him in the back yard. I visualised a pubescent Andre dancing on Osama Bin Laden’s mock grave and it gave me a warm sense of long-awaited satisfaction. Which lasted for about a minute or so. I kind of wish that I had made it last a little bit longer, because I could certainly use the catharsis myself.
I mean, insomuch as a person’s death can ever really be said to be a cause for celebration, I think that most of us can agree that the world is well rid of Osama Bin Laden. He’s the closest thing to a cartoon bad guy that our generation has ever seen. Not since Adolph Hitler and etc, and I’m sure that there was jubilation in the streets when Hitler died, too, and that’s just human nature for you and I get it. We’re programmed to think in terms of good guys and bad guys, and Osama Bin Laden was the 21st Century’s first supernemisis. And he was totally taken down by the ultimate Top Secret Navy SEAL Action Team, too, just like in the movies. Go Joe! Obama made good on his campaign promise to do the obvious thing if his number happened to come up, and the United States seized a bunch of valuable data that will almost certainly help save innocent lives and bring more dangerous terrorists to justice. The media went into an orgiastic feeding frenzy, of course, and the families of 9/11 victims were finally granted a modicum of closure. Even the conspiracy theorists who were still choking on the president’s birth certificate were made happy by last Sunday’s events, having been tossed a new bone by the admittedly suspicious or at least suspiciously hasty-seeming burial at sea ploy. It’s a big bundle of Win all around. Ding dong, the witch is dead! Let the glorious news be spread. Right?
Osama Bin Laden isn’t Cobra Commander, though, and it’s hard for me to pretend to myself that he is. For those of you who don’t remember the old GI Joe cartoon or the recent Hollywood movie, Cobra Commander is the fictional leader of the Vicious Evil Network of Mayhem, an international terrorist organization that, like al Quaeda, has an egregious propensity for causing massive civilian casualties. There’s an important difference, though. VENOM has evil right in it’s name, and it’s goals essentially boil down to world domination. Osama Bin Laden, on the other hand, was a different kind of madman entirely. A vastly more dangerous kind, when it comes right down to it. As wrongheaded as he was, Osama was never out to do evil for it’s own sake. He surely did things that were evil, by any reasonable definition of the word, and he was doubtless plotting to do much worse. But from his own point of view, and from that of his followers, he was the scrappy underdog hero who risked everything to strike a blow against a hostile and aggressive superpower. I bet he really honestly did pray 5 times a day, as strange as that sounds, and I bet that in his heart he never really thought of himself as a bad man. As far as I understand it, nothing in the Koran justifies what he did, so I’m not saying that he’s golden according to Islam. Quite the reverse. On the other hand I believe that President Obama probably really does pray to something like the Christian God sometimes, and the Bible quite clearly says Thou Shalt Not Kill. I guess they were both determined enough to disobey the very Gods and to risk their immortal souls to accomplish political ends. Does that make either one of them evil? Does it make either one of them a hero? How about a hypocrite? Osama Bin Laden just wanted the United States to go away. He wanted a homeland for his people and respect for his religious tradition.
He also wanted the streets of American cities to glisten with the blood of our innocents, and he had demonstrated a full-on willingness to go there, so he needed to be locked up or put down. No argument. But remember that from the other side, the goons who hijacked our airplanes are seen as the brave Rebel Alliance guys who proudly gave their lives to put a big ding in the Deathstar. No, really. It’s almost exactly like that for them. And who mourns for all of the stormtroopers that got vaporised? What about all the desk clerks and the radio guys and the funny little aliens who work at the Death Star cafeteria? “Shouldn’t have been working for the Empire,” we say, and shrug dismissively. Right?
A good friend of mine worked in the Twin Towers, at just about airplane height. He survived because his wife went into labor early, and he stayed home to welcome his son into a world that would be forever changed. My friend admits that from a certain point of view he was pretty much working for the Empire, when you come right down to it. The big financial institution that employed him to streamline it’s data flow wasn’t exactly evil by most Americans definition, but for sure it was part of the business-as-usual machine doing what it does. And some people (like most of us who are privileged to be able to read this on the internet) are really stoked out by that machine on a regular basis, at least as far as the availability of cheap commodities and a relatively high standard of living go. But there are other people out there who feel like they’re getting screwed by it. There are a lot of intelligent and righteous people in the world who have good reasons to resent American adventure politics and our unapologetic and self-serving interference in what they perceive to be local affairs. Many of them see us as a morally bankrupt culture with a cancerous consumer agenda that threatens all life on Earth. Which is not to say that the murder of my friend’s office mates, many of them parents themselves, was in any sense justified. There are no excuses for what Osama Bin Laden and his co-conspirators did. But there are explanations, and it would serve us to get a grip on the complex causes of of a phenomenon like al Quaeda before we condemn ourselves to repeat a history that we never really tried to understand in the first place.
By Monday afternoon my slightly guilty sense of satsisfaction was replaced by a creeping nausea. I kept refreshing the news, even though I knew better. Click. A beamish Obama says what a good boy am I. Click. Al Quaeda vows unspeakable revenge. Click. A burial at sea suggests an immersion in the unconscious to me. It’s almost too awesome a symbol set to just hand to those guys. I wonder what they were really thinking? Click. Reports say Osama Bin Laden was unarmed and one of his wives might have thrown herself in the line of fire. Click. Was Pakistan trying to play it both ways? Click. Who will be the new head honcho of al Quaeda? Nature has a special abhorrence for a vacuum of power and doubtless dozens of the Osama-wannabes that we helped to foster with our relentless (and sometimes ruthless) manhunt will step up and throw their turbans in the ring. First guy to score a palpable hit on the United States gets to play Destro. Right? Click. An unseemly crowd gathers in a public place to celebrate the assassination of a charismatic religious leader. Click. Certain pundits are using the death of Osama Bin Laden to retroactively justify torture, which all right thinking people abhor. (Says she who would totally make you tell her where her kids were if she thought that they were in danger. I’d ask nice first and everything, but when it comes right down to it I’d have to insist.) Click. I don’t like this anymore.
So, like many of us, I officially recused myself from the celebration, I put that faked MLK quote up on my wall, I told everybody that I was over it, and I kept on clicking anyway. I don’t know what’s so damned fascinating about it. It’s not like we really won the war on terror or anything. That’s no more possible than winning the war on drugs is. We’ve removed an ugly tumor, but the malignancy metastasized long ago, and we’re going to need to develop some sort of system-wide solution because a decades long game of whack-a-mole isn’t going to make us any safer. You can’t kill a hydra by cutting off it’s biggest head. (A hydra is one of those monsters that keeps growing new heads and you have to stab it in the heart to do it in.) The wicked witch turns out to have a sister, (surprise surprise) and a couple of wives and a daughter and a few sons and a whole horde of fanatical followers who are ready to lay down their lives in his name. They threw a rock at our hornets nest and now we’ve thrown one back at theirs. Awesome. But if I were president Obama I wouldn’t be sending out for the Mission Accomplished banner quite yet, if you know what I mean.
Look, I’m not saying that we did the wrong thing. Ideology aside, killing innocent civilians has got to be taken off the menu of viable modes of political expression. Everybody needs to know that if they attack random American Citizens (or any group of non-combatants), they will almost certainly be hunted down and killed. And the events of this weekend probably did help drive that point home to some would-be terrorists. Of course, for some folks the threat of death loses much of it’s sting if they can reasonably hope to come out of it smelling like a martyr. Removing Osama from the picture really might still make a difference, though. Lots of movements have faltered when their big leader was taken down. We can all think of some. We can all think of some that caught fire when that happened, too… it’s a calculated risk. But it’s what we had to do. Right? And I guess that I’m glad of it. He was, after all, plotting to kill me if possible, and now I’m alive and he’s dead and that’s how I wanted it to be. No doubt the world is a safer place, or anyway a less concretely scary place without him in it. It’s complicated, though.
The so-called War on Terror is not a cartoon. I have a brother who was a tank commander in Afghanistan and I know what I’m talking about. Not everybody who’s plane blows up floats away to safety on a little white parachute. Main good guys who are totally part of the plot sometimes die and stay dead. And main bad guys do, too. And this time it was a bad guy’s turn to die. Osama Bin Laden was a real bad guy. He was totally merciless, and he was willing to stop at nothing to accomplish his objectives. The United States was rather merciless in it’s persuit of him, too, for that matter, having killed more Afghan civilians than the total number of 9/11 victims and caused many other grave human hardships in the process. We didn’t do it on purpose, of course, (not directly, anyway), and that does matter, but it doesn’t necessarily assuage those people’s grieving loved ones, who are understandably eager for catharsis and revenge, just like we were.
So whoopee! Yes, I guess on some level GI Joe finally DID get Cobra Commander, or the closest thing we’re ever likely to see in our lifetimes. A great price has been paid to accomplish this thing. And those of us who grew up playing that out are naturally going to be inclined to celebrate. And it’s probably good for us to finally let that breath out that we’ve been holding for so damned long. Maybe for some of us it will come out as a defiant shout. For others it will be a long delayed sob for lost loved ones, or a whispered prayer for mercy or for peace. God knows we need some kind of a release from all this tension. But when we’re done gloating over the fallen, or rather, when we get done with the ritual celebrations that we need to heal our traumatized spirits on the symbolic level, we will need to take careful stock of the real situation and reassess what now needs to be done. It’s going to be tough to exchange our specific fears for more nebulous and ill-defined ones, but I’m afraid that our satisfaction might turn out to be short lived if we keep allowing ourselves the luxury of thinking in cartoonish terms. We have to grow up and stop simplifying and softening it for ourselves. It doesn’t make us any more safe. Quite the reverse. The army may have gotten the bad guy, but it’s going to be the politicians and the captains of industry, the farmers, the bankers, the teachers, the artists, and the social workers who win the war on terror, if it’s ever to be won. It’s going to be the Pastors and the Rabbis and the Imams who preach love, tolerance, unity and forgiveness who save the world in the end, if it is indeed to be saved.
We need real heroes now, not action figures, and it’s time we started teaching our kids to know the difference. Cause knowing is half the battle. Right?
(go right ahead, just credit, link and let me know! ruespieler@yahoo)