The Path Unclear

One of the many dangers of living in an increasingly polarized world is that it tempts us to think in terms of black and white – not just the literal black and white of racial discrimination, but the more insidious black and white of “either-or” thinking. Rarely are things so neat and tidy. But our general laziness as human beings seduces us toward the easy, uncomplicated, unexamined path.

My current path is nebulous and unclear. But I know, with a deep knowing, that the lack of clarity is purposeful and useful. It is like the murky head-space of dreams – where important things are worked out in the subconscious. My personal relationships are vibrant and satisfying, but mostly unclear and hard to label. My creative life is evolving into greater professionalism and excellence, but on the surface, nothing has changed. My day job continues as usual. My spiritual practice is personally enriching and sustaining,  but undefinable – I can’t just provide the name of a religion and have people nod their heads in recognition. Where other people seem to seek security and certainty, I have purposely chosen an enigmatic but captivating life path that is hard to explain.

I discovered this last night while trying to describe my life to a new friend. I didn’t 17_02_19realize how bizarre and riveting my personal experience has been until I tried to explain it. Perhaps this is the path of all artists (and we are all artists in our own ways). Perhaps our lives are meant to be like dreams – strange and non-linear, queer, but revelatory. Ever since graduating college – and certainly ever since changing career paths in 2009 – I have avoided a clear and definable path. Every choice has its pros and cons. But these choices have served me and my purposes in this life.

My hope for all of us is that – whatever path we take, whatever decisions we make – they will be consciously chosen, and based upon what we know is ours to do in the world. May our lives reflect our deepest values and personal truths. May we weed out all hypocrisy and any limiting beliefs that would prohibit us from becoming all we were meant to be in this life. Here’s to a week of increasing courage – the courage to be radically unique individuals in a world that generates thousands of copies.

Peace and blessings,

Raven

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

My New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year everyone! I hope everyone had a good time. I sure did!

There are two times of the year when I am at my most introspective: New Years and my birthday, but especially New Years. Some people look at New Year’s resolutions as a cheesy or hopeless activity where one writes down clichéd and impossible goals one has no intention of fulfilling. However, for me, New Year’s resolutions are fun. And I have every intention of fulfilling everything on my list.

For me, resolutions are not so much about goal setting, performing certain tasks, or “fixing” myself. The New Year is about fine-tuning how I actually define myself. I get to look at the past year and decide how the lessons of that year will inform how I approach the next year. I get to decide who I want to be and why, based upon my values and my past experiences.

So, here are a few of my New Year’s “resolutions.”

  • I resolve to advocate for myself at all times. I’ve had to learn this the hard way this year. If I don’t radically stand up for myself and advocate for my own needs, people feel no shame in inconveniencing me, pushing through my boundaries, forcing their beliefs and agendas on me, etc. No one cares more about me than me!
  • I resolve to develop and share my gifts out of respect for my incarnation here on the planet. I believe that the reason we are all born with different innate talents, interests, and ways of being in the world is so that we can show up authentically as that – and benefit our communities and the world. We can’t all be accountants, computer programmers, and doctors, regardless of the salaries these fields offer. I plan to do what I need to do to support myself and make a living, but I have an obligation to myself and the world to nurture that which makes me special, that which makes my heart sing.
  • I resolve to love people authentically and without agenda, regardless of the consequences. Our social contracts often teach us that we have to play games with each other in order to get what we want. In dating situations, men and women both play manipulative games in order to push their agendas on each other. In work situations, people play “office politics” in order to edge one another out as they claw their way to the “top” (the bottom, in my opinion). I resolve not to participate in this. If I care for someone, I will act like it. If I later learn that they are unworthy of – or ill-equipped to receive – that caring, I will remove myself from their life and bless them from afar. But I will not lower myself to game-playing and manipulation, even if I know it would “work.” People are not things to be used, but eternal beings to be cherished and respected.
  • I resolve to give the lion’s share of my attention to my spiritual practice. I cannot and will not limit myself to one spiritual discipline. There are many that I draw from, and I will continue to do so, regardless of other people’s opinions. Being honest with myself about that, and developing a personal practice that makes sense to me, has made me into a person that I deeply respect. I will continue to develop and fine-tune my practice as my wisdom increases.

These resolutions are the bedrock of my intentions for 2017. The actions I take will align themselves with these principles. So I think it’s going to be an amazing year.

Good luck to everyone in fashioning the life they want this year and every year thereafter.

Peace and blessings,

Raven