Do You Want “Change” or a Revolution?

With the turning of the seasons come shifts in attitudes and perspectives. A new year tends to bring new resolve towards achieving goals, and manifesting our deepest desires. The prospect of a new and different type of president has filled our common talk-space with various chirps of rage, dread, cautious hope, and giddy elation.

The common idea underlying all of the above is a longing for “change.” The New Year brings with it hopes for change. Many presidents have won elections promising change. Somehow, though, nothing, or little, ever changes. Why is that? Do we really want change? If so, is “change” enough? Or is revolution what we really need?

Revolution, based on the word revolve, means to turn things around. A revolutionary acts fearlessly (which doesn’t mean not feeling fear, but acting boldly in the face of fear). A revolutionary challenges existing practices, institutions, and people in power, questioning their very validity. They are willing to upset the status quo in order to achieve their goals, whatever that means (Vocabulary.com). There are very few genuine revolutionaries.

Artists of all kinds – fine artists, poets, musicians, performers – tend to have revolutionary temperaments. It just seems to come with the package. We spend a lot of time looking and observing; feeling everything deeply, too deeply; analyzing and questioning; making connections between disparate things, connections other people don’t seem to see; trying and failing to communicate what we see to the larger world.

"After the Tears Dry" 16" X 12", Acrylic on canvas
“After the Tears Dry” 16″ X 12″, Acrylic on canvas

This is the real reason, in my opinion, for the starving artist stereotype. It’s not that people don’t care about art or that art is not valuable, it’s that the temperament to make art and the temperament to make money are not often found in the same person. These two things require different skills, different mindsets, different priorities. It’s hard to be a wealthy revolutionary. Society rewards conformity and predictability, not radical change.

And this is what hinders many people, artists and non-artists alike, from truly behaving in revolutionary ways. Society and its denizens will punish you if you do. You might want to revolutionize relationships, or workplaces, or politics, or the financial system. But when you attempt these things, you will be punished. Not jailed, necessarily. But criticized, threatened, ostracized, ridiculed, abandoned. You will lose relationships. And money. And status.  Many people talk a good game. But when it really comes down to it, most shrink back and do as they’re told, or continue to do as they’ve always done. This isn’t a criticism. Pressure is pressure; it’s hard to bear. But it’s better to live in such a way that your words and your actions are a match.

Therefore, many people who truly live revolutionarily, in whatever sense, do so quietly. This is the best way. People who talk a lot and make a big outward show out of going against the grain usually turn out to be all talk; their lives are often quite conventional. The few people I’ve met who are truly living counter-culturally, are quiet but insistent about it. They tend to hurt people’s feelings without trying. They withstand the rejection of family, friends, and society at large in order to be true to their beliefs. They give up certain privileges and comforts if it contradicts their sense of what is right. For all the people who prattle on about “change,” few are willing to pay the price of the revolutionary.

Although I’ve never thought about this before today, I find myself naturally attracted to the revolutionaries. The small price I’ve paid is loneliness and sometimes isolation and/or being misunderstood. I can tolerate this. I would rather pay the price than be a hypocrite. I’d rather be isolated and uncomfortable for being who I am than have stability and comfort at the cost of my integrity.

So, to be more specific, here are some examples. I believe that monogamy is optional, not mandatory. Non-monogamy is a healthy and more realistic alternative and something I believe in. All of the institutions and ingrained beliefs that support and mandate marriage and monogamy are based on sexism and the transfer of property. I actively question all of these beliefs. Religion is a way of coping with life but it does not matter in any kind of life or death sense. All decisions based on fear are wrong. I believe in choosing what works for me. Through my eclectic spiritual practice, I have become a more loving, wise, balanced, and resilient person.

The current political structure is bankrupt. Community organizing is the pathway to lasting change. The current law enforcement system is also hopelessly corrupt. I believe it should be dismantled altogether and a new system based on community empowerment and community responsiveness should be in place. In other words, having police prowling around looking for people to “get” should be done away with. Rather, they should respond to empowered community law enforcement task forces who should be voted into their positions by their communities.

These are just a sample of some of my unpopular beliefs. I usually keep them to myself. I provided them here only as an example. I believe the next (successful) revolutionary movement will be stealthy, quiet, thoroughly tested and integrated into many facets of life. As a take on that famous Gandhi quote: “Be the revolution you wish to see in the world.” I would add: be consistent, and be quiet about it.

Peace and blessings,

Raven

Advertisements

Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all my followers and readers. I deeply appreciate your love and engagement. Thanks to all who commented. Thanks to all who read, but decided not to comment. I love you all and hope you have a happy and fulfilling holiday weekend.

Below are a couple of my latest paintings. It has felt really good this year to give homemade gifts and practical re-giftings. There is no need to go bankrupt trying to celebrate the holidays, which are supposed to be based on love and peace. In the new year I hope to shed even more material possessions and embrace the freedom of minimalism.

Stay safe, be well!

Blessed be,

Raven

"Blue Bird" Watercolor on paper. 12"  16"
“Blue Bird” Watercolor on paper. 12″ 16″
"Grandma" Watercolor on paper. 16" x 12".
“Grandma” Watercolor on paper. 16″ x 12″.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to live authentically. It’s almost a cliché to say that we want to live authentic lives. What does that even mean when society hands us a script at birth with our parts highlighted in yellow? We quickly learn what we’re supposed to wear, say, and look like. We’re told whom we can love and whom we can’t, what our relationships are supposed to look like, and when they’re supposed to happen. There’s an acceptable range of jobs we’re supposed to have, with an accompanying amount of money those jobs are supposed to earn us. In addition to this general script there are the ever-narrowing scripts doled out to us based on race and gender. This is the music you’re supposed to listen to. This is the god you’re supposed to worship. Here is the list of acceptable activities, and the ages at which it’s acceptable to do them. The only way to avoid going crazy is to pretend that the scripts aren’t there, to tell ourselves that these scripts are our own words, our own choices – the only right way to be.

But…when you commit to a deeper understanding of life, when you embark on a spiritual practice – especially meditation – it becomes harder and harder to accept the script.

A typical Buddhist question to ask yourself is “Are you sure?” In answer to whatever rigid opinion, fearful thought, or cry of self-pity you might have, ask yourself “are you sure?”

"Blue Bird", 12"x 16" watercolor and gouache on paper
“Blue Bird”, 12″x 16″ watercolor and gouache on paper

Are you sure you’re going to die alone? Are you sure you’re supposed to have children? Are you sure you need to make $50,000 per year, minimum? Are you sure you can’t wear a mini-skirt and long hair after age 40? Are you sure that the only legitimate love relationship is one man, one woman? Are you sure the man always has to be the one to propose? To say “I love you” first? To open all doors? Are you sure you have to smile and hide what you really feel, ignoring the elephant who is not only in the room, but who has a favorite chair? Are you sure?

I’m not sure about any of these things. Taking baby steps, I’m trying to question my assumptions, and try something different. I don’t want my script anymore. I want to improv for a while. What that means for me is that I’m trying different kinds of relationships. I’m trying to address feelings as they come up rather than allowing them to eat at me from the inside like cancer. I’m trying to do the things I really want to do, rather than force myself to do what other people want me to do. I’m trying to be there for the people I love, not because they expect it, but because that’s who I want to be. And I’m trying to tell people I love – not just tell them, but describe in colorful detail – how I feel about them, because life is uncertain. I can’t control life or other people. But I can dictate what I allow my mind to dwell on. I can share with people how important they are to me, whether or not I get anything in return. I can do things that help people, that make the world a better place – not just for them, but for me. Because this is who I’m choosing to be. My actions may be misunderstood, but that too is outside of my control.

Living this way is giving me a deep sense of security. That security is not based on what any person or any god or any group thinks about me. It is based solely on what I know to be true. This knowledge comes from the Quiet Place within me, the Me who has never been hurt – that place inside me that truly doesn’t give a fuck – in the highest and best meaning of that expression.

I’m wishing you all a happy week full of improv.

Peace and blessings,

Raven

Have you ever felt like you just happened to be in the right place, at the right time, with the right people? It’s a beautiful feeling. It reminds me that life has a purpose, one which is unique to each of us.

Last night I went to a poetry reading. Of a gathering of about ten people, only one of us brought any poetry. Apparently, the rest of us were there to “listen.” That’s a whole other blog post in and of itself. But the highlight of the night was when the remaining six of us went out afterwards.

A gathering of six strangers could go in any number of directions, but this was a special group. The most welcome surprise was that although we had come together for poetry, we ended up talking about polyamory – the practice of dating more than one person at a time. In the presence of one charming and scandalized skeptic, the other five of us joyfully recounted our interest, fascination, experimentation, and speculations about polyamory. It was funny, lovely, and delightful that we were all in a similar boat. Our handsome skeptic clearly – but very politely – thought we were nuts. He also calmly, yet emphatically, informed us that we would all get AIDS.

Ironically, despite our enthusiasm, we were all either single or currently monogamous, so throwing AIDS into the mix, was a bit of a histrionic stretch. But his objections were fun (for us, anyway, I don’t know how he felt). All in all, it was one of those nights that I’ll remember for a long time. In honor of the night, here’s my latest abstract painting, The Future of Love.

"The Future of Love." 18" x 24" acrylic on canvas.
“The Future of Love.” 18″ x 24″ acrylic on canvas.

Peace and blessings,

Raven

There are some people who can watch horror movies while eating. Some people can put their bare butts on public toilet seats. There are those who can eat the leftovers off of other people’s plates. Right or wrong, I am not any of these people. I guess you can say I have a sensitive stomach. It has recently occurred to me that I also have “sensitive sexuality”.

This has nothing to do with being squeamish or a prude. It’s just an acknowledgment that my insides are changing. In the past, if a man was attractive and fun, that was enough to possibly start something. But now, as I’ve gone on date after date with no response on my part, I realize that’s no longer enough. Friendship and a real connection have to come first. This seems backwards in a society where Married At First Sight and Dating Naked are actual shows with real participants; where a text that says “S’up?”, or contains only an emoji, passes for communication; where people want to know your credit score before they know your middle name. I am, perhaps, a dinosaur. A dreamy, old-fashioned character in a Charlotte Bronte novel.

Maybe so. And so be it. I want to be able to get to know people – all people – without agenda or expectation. I want to be friends first, before anything else is expected or demanded from me. I want to communicate with people, men and women, in complete sentences, about things that matter. I want to share and learn from people, love them, want the best for them, and know that they want that for me in return. I don’t know if I can find all this in a lover. But what I do know is that I have some wonderful friends whom I love very much. For me, for now, that’s enough.

Aside from navel-gazing, I’ve also gotten back to my art. Below is my latest piece, a tribute to a level of consciousness beyond the mundane details of the day-to-day. It’s called “Beyond Birth and Death,” a nod to the concept of Nirvana, a state of consciousness where all worldly passions – those desires and cravings which cause us so much suffering – are finally extinguished.

"Beyond Birth and Death" 18" X 24", Acrylic on canvas
“The Pure Land” 18″ X 24″, Acrylic on canvas

 

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending a workshop in which several studio executives and television writers shared their accumulated wisdom about the industry. What came up time and again was the necessity of knowing yourself as a writer – and being yourself at all costs.

We are used to thinking of this kind of advice as cliché. We picture those old-school after school specials starring some sad, unpopular teenager whose mother tells him to just be himself – “Your true friends will love you just the way you are!” We roll our collective eyes and think “Yeah, right.”

However, it turns out that that tired advice is true. As writers – and artists of all kinds – it is not choice of materials, or connections, or where you went to school, or even years of experience that matter most. At all stages of our careers, we must know whom we are, and stay true to that no matter what.

abstract watercolor on paper
abstract watercolor on paper

This is easier said than done, of course. Our consumer-driven, materialistic society is obsessed with the idea that we are not okay as we are. We are flawed in every possible way – but if we buy Widgets A, B, & C, maybe, just maybe, there is hope for us! The artist’s way of life, however, rejects this notion. Not only are we “okay” the way we are. Staying who we are is absolutely essential to the proper functioning of the world. You matter. You are the way you are for a reason. So get in touch with it and play!

This may be difficult if you are relying on your art for money. But, even so – do what you have to do to put food on your table. But always, always, put some time aside to work on your own projects – the things you really love and want to do. That is your real art. That is your gift to yourself and to the world.

So, have a beautiful week of love and creativity. And, no matter what – be the best version of You you can be!