Month: November 2008

The Problem With You Is. . .

You know what the problem with you is?  You think too much, you’ve got your head in the clouds, you need to come down to earth.  You’re too literal, too much a dreamer, you make poor choices, you’re not as smart as you think you are.  You never learn, when will you ever learn?  You over-analyze things, you don’t think things through, you want everything to be easy, you don’t try hard enough, quit trying so hard, you make everything too hard, life just isn’t that hard.

pigtatDo you know that Wim Delvoye has a farm in China where tattoo artists cover pigs in elaborate tattoos? They put the pigs on high tables where there is no chance of escape, and spend hours puncturing them with needles.  Afterwards, they show the pigs in art galleries and exhibitions.  People show up – they pay to see this.  The pigs then get slaughtered, and their skins are sold to the highest bidder.  Delvoye, whose other art includes birdhouses dressed in leather, and x-rays of people taken in the act of coitus, has been wildly successful.

There are no accidents, everything happens for a reason, life is a folly, a fool’s game, there is no rhyme or reason.  Accidents happen,  buck up, be strong, find your bootstraps. You’re on this earth for a reason, better days are coming, look ahead, don’t look back, learn from your mistakes, learn from history. You’ve got to stand up, stand tall, back down, back off, be gentler, take some pride, you’re too proud, don’t be so arrogant. Look out for #1, remember there’s only one you, don’t be so self-serving, remember you’re not that special.

The other week, a 13 year-old Somali girl was raped.  When her family filed a complaint, they sentenced the girl to death by stoning.  They buried her in dirt up to her neck, and let a group of men and boys throw rocks at her until she was dead.  I know, it’s the culture, right?

You’re too strong, it’s not all about you, no woman is an island, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, stay strong, be stronger, tomorrow’s a new day, things will look different in the morning, get real, face problems head-on, think of something else, think positive, luck will come, think it and be it, the world is your oyster, the world doesn’t revolve around what you want, give yourself a break, put your nose to the grindstone.

Right here, in America, a woman didn’t want to be with her husband anymore, so he threw acid in her face.  She lost her eyes, her nose, her ears, her mouth. That’s not our problem, right?  I know. The thing is, see, it really is. . .the same human impulse to injure someone, to leave a punishing mark, exists on a smaller scale all around us, and we cover it up in self-blame and platitudes, and create this false paradise where our minds and emotions – that thing called spirit – is so disconnected from our physical bodies that it supposedly can’t be affected by any actions except our own. It’s this lie, ingrained and long-told, that is killing our compassion and ability to empathize.

You need to love yourself more, you don’t love yourself enough, be humble, you’re too confident, you come off as a bitch, you’re intimidating, look people in the eye, don’t stare, don’t be so intense, laugh more, smile more, if you smile too much people won’t take you seriously.  There are no problems, only solutions, no obstacles only challenges. Try, try again, keep trying, if you had any talent at all you would have made it by now, why don’t you find something else to do.  Rise above it all, take a breather, be realistic, pay attention, heal yourself. See, the problem with you is. . .

tatpig2Yes, I know.  I have no tattooed pigs.  It would never have occurred to me to tattoo a pig. I am closer to the pig, and feel more for her, than for the artist.

You can’t afford that kind of thinking.  No one wants to hear the pig’s side of the story.  They want bright and colorful amusement.  Something they can laugh at, make a calendar of, display on their coffee table, or frame on their wall.  A conversation piece, a knick-knack, a little something to gab about at the water cooler.

I would rather rescue the pigs and damn those who collect tortured skins as art.

Don’t be an idiot.  Pigs cannot buy their own farms; artists can and do.  Stop making excuses.  All any of us can do is find our own version of the painted pig, parade it around, and hope it’s successful enough to buy us the freedom to do what we really want to do.

You’re really fucked up.  Wim Delvoye is fucked up.

It’s a fucked up world we live in, and see, that’s your problem. . .

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In Defense of the 2009 Dream

John Lennon struck a chord when he sang, “you may say I’m a dreamer, well, I’m not the only one”. And he was right. To be human is to dream — and to want to bring our dreams to life. Dreamers, though, have gotten a bad rap. Our antagonists would have the world believe that those who imagine a better, more inclusive and peaceful world are ethereal beings, idle wanderers, and lost souls.

It’s a myth that dreamers are incapable of rationality and lost in the elusive. Both rationality and imagination are behind every brush stroke of Mona Lisa’s smile, and Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. They have connected – beautifully – in the pen strokes of Shakespeare, in the musical notes of Mozart, and in the inventive genius of men like Isaac Newton and Bill Gates. Every human being has the potential to share this duality. We are, as a species, gifted with complexity, and a desire to know the divine.

It’s a new election season in America, and on the heels of disaster, the possibility of change sparks both our imaginations and our desire for a more rational world. Is it possible, we ask, to heal the wounds of people and the rift between nations? Is it possible to overcome the well-oiled machine that has sanctioned the rule of morally bankrupt and intellectually empty leaders? Can the voices of reason and possibility rise above the rallying cries of war and more war?

Despite those who would suggest otherwise, it was dissent against rigid dogmas, and not religious fervor, that informed every word of our Declaration of Independence. And then, as now, the authors of a new age seek both a dream and an absolute. The dream is peaceful progress and the building of a nation where every human being has the opportunity to reach their highest potential. The absolute is never again. Never again can we allow the want of revenge to override reason. Never again can we stand idly while politicians and big corporations sink our country into the morass of corruption and the swamp of endless debt.

When our highest dreams and most rational actions are joined, we may overcome not just the stalemate of political divisions, but other social issues.

Presently, over 500,000 children live in the limbo of foster care. I can imagine a day when the most innocent and vulnerable among us are truly protected, not just in a time of crisis, but for the duration of their childhoods. When the “best interests of the child” is a promise fulfilled, and where a child’s right to live in safety, without fear, is considered paramount.

I imagine a world in which every child is given multiple and varied opportunities to find, nurture, and expand their potential, and where doing so is not a luxury, but a given. I believe that if we were truly motivated to nurture the best within our children, we would find many more Galileos in our midst. Einsteins and Kings, Van Goghs and O’Keefes, and yes, Barack Obamas.

In a country that sought to revitalize the rational-imaginative minds of its people, we might see a final end to discrimination. We might see a day when false limitations are universally known and believed to be false – and where character really is the ultimate determinant of one’s opportunities.

I can envision a time when rational tolerance is practiced. When the steady progression of humankind is the goal of all cultures, including the cultures of the traditionalists and the devoutly religious.

Religion and tradition should not be used as justification for stunting the evolution of humanity, or as an excuse for denying the inherent right of others to liberty and freedom. No God or other high-minded entity would have us mutilate the genitals of little girls, rape women, or slay, torture, or starve thousands of people in order to advance a political, religious, or cultural agenda. To live in a world where even one act of such violence is considered unavoidable, or par for the course, is to have twisted the noble concept of tolerance into soulless apathy.

Humanity is not soulless, but our challenges are many, our divisions are great, and recent years have discouraged our ideals. So many, reeling from tragedy, or facing a time of personal struggle, are feeling the weight of despair. They may even be afraid to hope for better days, particularly in a climate that has traded rational dreams for ever-deepening political divides – a climate in which war, torture, and death was marketed as a rational response, and those who sought answers and accountability were derided as “bleeding hearts”.

There’s a saying – “we all want to change the world.” Actually, we know that some, particularly those who profit in a time of war and destruction, would like to see it not change at all. Others find change threatening in some fashion.

The dreamers among us move forward, past our fears, because our minds recognize them as unnecessary limitations, and our imagination longs to see what is on the other side. We long to expand the boundaries and break the unnecessary barriers. We long to fill our individual selves with the light of possibility, and then carry that torch to the outside world. We long to create a legion of united individualists, who will stand together and usher in a new age of revitalization, and the reconciliation of our ideals with our everyday realities.

If we can dream it, it is possible. A battle to revitalize the human spirit requires no enemies, and a revolution of peace requires no violence.

If we were to each follow our highest ideals, we would likely find ourselves not divided, but united. Not alone in our idealism, but joined. Not lost in idle dreams, but wholly invested in making them come true. 2009 is only our beginning. Our end is nowhere yet in sight.

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