That One Insight (to save the world)

Posted on 18 November 2017 | No responses

American indian girls

We have been applying the wrong answer. We have been trying to create harmony within and among our nations by integrating people into a Western monoculture: a culture that is deeply flawed, a culture that has failed us, a culture that is destroying our living world.

We need to be seeking to integrate with those who have successfully lived in peace with our planet and one another, recognising the various ways in which it has been done. We need to stop insisting on being the teachers and open up to being taught.

Nobody has a corner on wisdom, and most especially not those within our dominating culture. Find the humility to accept help from small meaningful voices who know so much more than you are giving them credit. Someone sleeping in a city alley or travelling alone on a desert may have your answers. A small girl, a black elder, someone struggling with a walker may have that one insight that can save this world. Will you hear them?

Step back and give others a chance to transform this planet.

In love and peace,

Katherine

Ego and Godhood

Posted on 17 November 2017 | No responses

Solar flare
Imagine a voice, the voice of the universe, telling you:

“You are God, there are no others.”

Our egos can take this voice and we hear:

“You are the only God in this universe, no one and nothing else is God.”

But the intended message is:

“You are God, everyone you know is God, all things are God. There is no otherhood, we are one.”

The same quiet voice of the universe says:

“You are nothing.”

Our egos can hear:

“You are insignificant, your existence is worthless.”

But the intended message is:

“You are nothing and therefore can be anything. Let go of status. Choose what brings peace and joy into your life. You are not in fact burdened with destiny or even purpose, other than what you assign yourself.”

So long as we are frightened, we will want control. So long as we want control, we will want to see ourselves as all powerful while fearing we are powerless. That’s the crux of the matter.

From a journal entry in 2013

Peace and kindness,

Katherine

The Necessity of Kindness

Posted on 6 November 2017 | No responses

Boy digging sand

A: Although it looks reprehensible, I’m pretty sure almost all of the companies and people acted legally within the laws of their respective countries.

B: Doesn’t make it “right” though, does it.

A: What is right? What is right often is seen from a moral point of view and morals change as fast as fashion.

We are seeing a lot of cynical self-interest passing itself off as realism. This form of realism is polluting all ends of the political spectrum. The problem is that it’s ultimately self-destructive. If you only protect your own house when your neighbors’s houses are burning, you may suddenly find they were providing essential services you no longer have.

This was my answer to the above conversation:

What is right is to support the pro-social.

What is even more right is to support the life-affirming.

Allowing people to die in suffering and poverty will never be right.

Using up what our living world has to offer such that we are bringing about its extinction will never be right.

You can get a solid beginning in understanding what is right by reading these documents:

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
In 1948 of the 58 members of the United Nations, 48 voted in favor, none against, eight abstained, and two did not vote.

Declaration of a Global Ethic
This Declaration was signed at the Parliament of the World’s Religions gathering in 1993 by more than 200 leaders from 40+ different faith traditions and spiritual communities. Since 1993 it has been signed by thousands more leaders and individuals around the world.

Declaration of Human Rights and the Environment
On 16 May 1994, an international group of experts on human rights and environmental protection convened at the United Nations in Geneva and drafted the first-ever declaration of principles on human rights and the environment. The Draft Declaration is the first international instrument that comprehensively addresses the linkage between human rights and the environment.

In peace and kindness,

Katherine

Digging Holes

Posted on 2 November 2017 | No responses

Hole

Some people dig holes for others to fall down.

Some people who haven’t fallen down a hole walk past the holes and just ignore them.

Some stand next to holes wringing their hands saying, “This is awful”.

Some from high atop distant mountains shout that something should be done about those holes.

Some people jump down holes because they believe they deserve no better.

Some believe that if a person has fallen into a hole, they deserve it for not watching out for holes.

Some believe certain people should be in holes.

Some believe that those in holes should remain in holes in order to protect the rest of us.

Some believe that hole digging and people falling into holes is an inevitable part of life and absolutely nothing can be done about it.

Some believe everyone should be in a hole.

Some pretend to offer a hand of help to those in holes. This brings them the praise of those who don’t dig holes. However when no one is looking…they withdraw their hand.

Some in the holes lose faith that anyone will offer them a hand.

Some lose faith that anyone even wants to hold out a hand.

Some within the holes curse all those outside and are surprised when no one offers to help.

Some within the hole refuse the help of those outside the hole, because they cannot believe anyone outside the hole can be any good.

Some shout angrily from within the hole, “I didn’t dig this hole! It’s others responsibility to fill it in.” And while this is true, in the meantime they remain in the hole and their children will remain in the hole.

Some inside holes will dig even deeper holes for others in their hole.

Some inside holes come to hate everyone inside and outside of a hole.

Some within flatter those outside, then when they are helped out, join those who are digging holes.

Some will actively try to drag others into their holes.

Some who have newly fallen down the hole are abused by those who are already there.

Some people crawl over the bodies of others to get out of these holes.

Some believe that the bad behaviour of some in a hole gives them a reasonable excuse to continue digging holes or not helping people out of holes.

Some within holes give up all hope.

Some within holes give each other a foot up.

Some who are calling out, “Hey, we need some help!” are smashed over the head with a shovel.

Some who are just making it out of their hole are smashed over the head with a shovel.

Some who are helping remove people from their holes are either kicked down the hole or smashed over the head with a shovel.

Some communicate the need to get people out of holes, because they believe it’s important to get people out of holes.

Some communicate the need to get people out of holes, because they want to be well thought of.

Those who are in holes are not given many opportunities to let others know what it’s like to be in a hole.

Those in holes who speak out are often not heard by those outside holes.

Some in holes feel they should be the only ones who speak about their condition.

Some believe that not digging holes is enough.

Some believe giving money to someone else to sort out the hole problem is enough.

Some believe that praising those who aren’t digging holes is enough.

Some believe that pulling one or two people out of their holes is enough.

Some believe they can just leave the hole digging problem with their government and that will be enough.

Some believe that taking a shovel to the head of those digging holes is enough.

Some try to stop another from digging a hole once, and when that doesn’t stop all hole digging, give up.

Some seek a great savior to follow before bothering to help those in holes.

Some seek to be a great savior and demand people’s attention for their efforts pulling people out of holes. When they attain greatness, they use it to satisfy their own needs and damage the cause.

Some seek to be a great savior and demand people’s attention for their efforts pulling people out of holes. When they do not attain greatness, they join the other hole diggers and say that it is others fault they have been reduced to hole digging.

When some people are critical of the hole diggers, the hole diggers complain of how their backs hurt and their hands are calloused…won’t someone be sorry for their pain?

Some work so hard to pull people out of holes that they are used up and become sick in body and mind.

Some do what they can to help those in holes, when they can and without notice, their entire lives.

Eventually so many holes have been dug that it is easy for almost anyone to stumble into one.

The answer to these people’s problems is not easy. Together they must: stop hole digging, pull/push people out of holes, fill in the holes, learn how to respect one another, and stop wanting to dig holes.

How will you respond to the holes?

In peace and kindness,

Katherine

The World’s Greatest Conflict

Posted on 30 October 2017 | No responses

Mary Cassatt: Mother and Child

We are a power addicted society. We want power over our environment, power over one another, and power over reality. Power gives us control, control keeps us safe and protects our egos. We do many cruel and horrible things to ensure we have even a modicum of power.

We wipe out predatory animals. We tear down mountains and pollute streams for mineral wealth. We find ways to undercut others to ensure our dominance. We eliminate whole peoples, simply to not be challenged.

And what do we wage war on in order to make of ourselves powerful individuals? All that is loving.

You heard me right. Love.

Power vs Love.

If you feel the need to snort, if you feel I’ve made some sort of ridiculous and twee assertion, then you are in the grip of this war.

I casually read the work of one relationship psychologist who asserted: the person who loves the most has the least power. I put his book back down after seeing this formulation. I do not believe it. However, I do believe it is a strategy used by many people.

Love makes us vulnerable to caring. Caring causes us to do things that benefit others, rather than ourselves alone.

Power vs Love for our Living World

When we spend time in a forest, by the ocean, or on a vast grassy plain, we often feel great pleasure. The beauty can sweep us away. People report having a spiritual experience whether or not they believe in any sort of divinity. Those feelings stimulate a desire to care for and protect wilderness areas.

Pack everyone into cities where they rarely have contact with the natural world and it becomes easy for people to think of these areas as simple resources available to satisfy material desires. A tree is just lumber. Waterways are just convenient places to dump sewage. An animal is just food or clothing. We do not think further than that, because we have no love in our hearts for living beingness.

Power vs Other People

Dividing people up by colour, religion, or class are easy ways to remove these people from our lives. With that distance they start to lose not only their humanity but their reality as they turn into stereotypes. We stop interacting with them and as such form no friendships nor marital partnerships. Connections of love disappear. It becomes easy to use and abuse these people.

Two of the nastier divisions are between adulthood and childhood, and between manhood and womanhood.

Power vs Children

Children represent the future. Children are our surest individual immortality. Their physical well-being is intimately connected with their emotional well-being. Children can genuinely die from lack of love.

Children remind us of a time when we were without personal power and had to rely on others for our survival. We were completely at the mercy of the adults around us. If we were abused in any way by our carers, it is in no way surprising that we may grow to hate childhood. Our youth is when we should know joy and discovery, but some people are denied this.

To have our own children is to be called to responsibility, to lose our freedom, to be vulnerable to becoming a figure of hatred in the same way we may have hated an adult. Perhaps we felt robbed of our childhood and don’t want a child of our own stealing the limelight. We should be the centre of all adoration and service.

The things of childhood are mocked by our society. It’s okay for children to like toys, puppet shows, playing with a kite, etc. For an adult to indulge in simple joys makes them suspect and an object of ridicule. Until recently science fiction was seen as the domain of make believe and therefore belonging to children. Lovers of fantastic fiction were put down as nerds, geeks, and potential pedophiles.

Power vs Womanhood

The invalidation of womanhood creeps into all sorts of dehumanisation. When a white man jokingly says, “Well you know, white men can’t dance.” It’s not a backhanded compliment to men of colour. These men are claiming to be bad at something that they see as reserved for women. They are putting down non-white ethnic men by saying they are no better than women, thereby putting females down as well. People who are not cis-gender are mocked for having the taint of womanhood about them.

Various characteristics are divided by gender with all the “weak” characteristics passed off to the women: kindness, gentleness, thoughtfulness, etc. Young women, not wanting to be put into subservient boxes, will rebel by removing kindness from their behaviour in order to grab some of their own power. No one wants to be assigned a personality. However, allowing people to give pro-social behaviour low status is unacceptable. These are characteristics that should be cherished by all humanity.

Women are a deep deep source of love. They are our mothers. For many they are sex partners, life partners, and the mothers of our children. We are all biologically designed to desire the comfort of a woman’s presence. As such we are all emotionally vulnerable to the women in our lives. They end up being seen as the biggest enemy to individual power.

Bring Back the Love

If we are to have any hope of rescuing our planet, then we have to bring love back into the equation. We need a love of real consequence that cares with such fervor that taking the responsibility to ensure all living beings are cared for and treated with respect is done as a matter of course. Try as you might, no one can simply take love. It can only ever be given freely. Start giving it with all your heart, your mind, and your hands, building a future worth living in.

Peace and kindness,

Katherine

Economy’s End

Posted on 27 October 2017 | No responses

A Knight

“The time for small thoughts and little nudges is past. The time has come for new, radical ideas. If this sounds utopian to you, then remember that every milestone of civilization — the end of slavery, democracy, equal rights for men and women — was once a utopian fantasy too.”
Rutger Bregman

I am going to suggest something radical. I am going to suggest something that hasn’t but should be on the international table. And I am going to do this by busting through a few illusions.

Things as they are.

This is the world we live in.

According to the Global Wealth Report 2016 published by the Credit
Suisse Research Institute:
“Wealth inequality, measured by the share of the wealthiest 1 percent and wealthiest 10 percent of adults, as compared to the rest of the world’s adult population, continues to rise. While the bottom half collectively own less than 1 percent of total wealth, the wealthiest top 10 percent own 89 percent of all global assets.”

This is what Chris Matthews at Fortune magazine has to say about the consequences of wealth inequality:
“So, why should we care that wealth inequality is so much greater than even the historic levels of income inequality? While inequality is a natural result of competitive, capitalist economies, there’s plenty of evidence that shows that extreme levels of inequality is bad for business. For instance, retailers are once again bracing for a miserable holiday shopping season due mostly to the fact that most Americans simply aren’t seeing their incomes rise and have learned their lesson about the consequences of augmenting their income with debt. Unless your business caters to the richest of the rich, opportunities for real growth are scarce.”

Here are further concerns that Elon Musk expresses:
“There will be fewer and fewer jobs that a robot cannot do better. I want to be clear. These are not things I wish will happen; these are things I think probably will happen. And if my assessment is correct and they probably will happen, than we have to think about what are we going to do about it? I think some kind of universal basic income is going to be necessary. The output of goods and services will be extremely high. With automation there will come abundance. Almost everything will get very cheap. I think we’ll end up doing universal basic income. It’s going to be necessary. The much harder challenge is, how are people going to have meaning? A lot of people derive their meaning from their employment. So if there’s no need for your labor, what’s your meaning? Do you feel useless? That’s a much harder problem to deal with.”

In summary:

Under our current social system we are seeing a serious gap in the rich/poor divide. Due to financial insecurity people who are poor or middle class are less interested in spending, which will impact the circulation of funds. It is through the circulation of funds that the upper class is able to accrue wealth by constantly siphoning off a percentage (eg banking transaction fees). The rich have traditionally collected more wealth than they circulate, that’s how they get and stay wealthy.

Add to this technologies that make it possible for industries to cut their costs by reducing the number of human workers in favour of machine labour. So long as people continue to use their services and/or buy their goods, these companies stand to increase their profits. Ultimately, they are creating more insecurity and poverty, and will undermine their own existence.

A few wealthy people are suggesting a Universal Basic Income may be the way out of this conundrum.

Heresy

Let me deconstruct this by beginning with what may seem to be a heretical statement to some of those on the left: Universal Basic Income is not the answer.

If you follow my writing, you will know that I actually support the installation of a guaranteed living income, but it is only a partial and temporary solution to humanity’s troubles. Businesses want UBI because it will perpetuate a system they understand. Money will again circulate and be available for their extraction.

Some have suggested this money will come from the cost savings of no longer supporting a byzantine system of welfare. Countless hours of determining and policing whether certain people deserve assistance will end. I have yet to see articles suggesting that the money could come from reducing military budgets or by honestly tackling the rich/poor divide by taxing the well-off.

From the Elon Musk quote you can see that UBI is also being used as a way to avoid tackling the issues of unemployment and underemployment. I have seen articles discussing the prediction that we are seeing the end of work. Whether this is true or not, believing this is the case is a good excuse to do nothing.

What concerns me is that we are seeing business people envisioning a world of two classes: a consuming class and a working class. Only how we are definining these classes would put Marx’s head in a spin. The working class would have more money and more assets than the consuming class, whose main purpose is to keep the wheels of industry turning so the working classes can accrue wealth.

Even a system of haves and have-lesses will foment discontent. The amounts of basic income I have seen put forward by groups such as the Pirate Party Australia to support the unemployed are below the poverty line. Pirate Party Australia promises a guaranteed basic income of just over $14,000. If you are not among the poor, think about how much you are paying in rent or mortgage, and with $14,000 how much you would have left for other essentials. With that sort of money how would you afford an education or collect enough funds to launch a new business and jump the class divide? How fair is this system when by accident of birth some will have access to more goods, services, and power than others. Little has changed.

The most critical flaw in this application of UBI is that it holds out a promise that we will be able to continue consuming at alarming rates. The Earth cannot sustain our current levels of consumption. Even a three percent growth in our GDP would negatively impact climate change. According to Tapia Granados, a researcher at the University of Michigan, “If ‘business as usual’ conditions continue, economic contractions the size of the Great Recession or even bigger will be needed to reduce atmospheric levels of CO2.”

Poking Holes in the Illusions

A popular metaphor worth thinking about concerns fish being unable to conceive of water because it is all around them — they can’t see it until they are outside of it. We are all so deeply invested in our capitalist society that it can be difficult to fully grasp where genuine issues and solutions lie in order to overcome our current problems.

> Myth 1

The first myth we need to grapple with is that work is the activity you pursue for money. Anything else is seen as a hobby, or volunteer work, or simple chores. Worse, anything that does not accrue a paycheque is seen as inherently less worthy and of lower status than a “proper job”. None of us would be alive if it weren’t for the free labour of our mothers. This is not about the genuine worth of work. This is entirely about social hierarchy. This is why people feel so free to abuse the poor. We love the rags to riches story, but rarely consider that if the story is indeed true, perhaps we should be treating the homeless better because one day one of them may be our boss.

Valuing only that work which accrues money means that only businesses can bestow livelihood and thereby status upon people. When status is critical to our well-being this is a considerable power for businesses to have. It’s no wonder corporations lobby so hard to ensure the government employs as few people as possible. They want the money to be had from government contracts. They want the money to be had by holding critical services hostage. They talk about the value of competition, but want to knock out any possibility of government competition. They are also out to ensure that a non-transparent, non-democratic system has significant power over people’s lives.

The truth is we have plenty of work in need of doing in this world. We need to clean the plastic from our oceans. We need to remove space debris from our upper atmosphere. We need to actively protect our remaining environmental resources. We need to tend to the less fortunate. All of this is work for which governments could be paying, but aren’t.

> Myth 2

The second myth has to do with a perverse theory of human motivation. People are believed only willing to work if presented with a “carrot” or a “stick”. Either people must be given a significant reward, as are CEOs, to ensure their labour — or they must be threatened with destitution and becoming pariah, as are the vulnerable, to ensure their labour.

I have had people repeatedly ask me, how do you get people to do the dirty or dangerous jobs if there is a basic income? It surprises me that no one considers that perhaps you pay more for those jobs. To rely on coercion to ensure essential services are done is a form of slavery. These are of course the sorts of jobs that should be robotised. In the meantime a friend of mine in Finland, where a basic income exists, suggested that if people really don’t want to do those jobs then perhaps they should be shared out among a number of people who only do them part time.

Mincome, the most famous experiment in Universal Basic Income, made this discovery, “The project’s original intent was to evaluate if giving cheques to the working poor, enough to top-up their incomes to a living wage, would kill people’s motivation to work. It didn’t.” Think about that for a moment. When people’s needs were sufficiently met, they worked anyway. This has been shown to be true in subsequent experiments as well. And why wouldn’t it be true? Humans were around some time before currency was invented. Now let’s take this a step further.

> Myth 3

Believing we need an economy. The problem isn’t that we need more jobs or more money. The problem is that we need fair, equitable, sustainable, and democratic systems of distributing goods and services. We have been trained to focus on the wrong end of the stick. Which end you focus on determines who gets the power.

A community builds a bridge. A knight comes and takes it over. No one has access to the bridge unless they pay him a toll. He threatens violence to anyone who tries to get past him. Later the bridge needs repair. The knight recognises that he will lose his revenue stream if it falls down. So he hires someone from the village to fix it. Does that community need that knight? He gave someone a job, but he took that which was made by and already belonged to the community. He can claim he was the only one with enough foresight to set aside money for repairs. However, the bridge was already built without the need of him or his money. In the meantime he has not offered much in the way of goods or services to the community.

We don’t need corporate knights and we don’t need banking knights. We now have the technological wherewithal to deliver goods and services just because people have asked for them. However, if I give you the spare apples in my garden then neither corporations, banks, nor governments can extract value because no specie was involved. This is what it truly means to have a cashless society, not simply moving everyone to online bank transfers. Community currencies help get around the knights, but they are local and they don’t always provide sufficiently for those who cannot work such as the elderly, the infirm, and children.

We need local, national, and international systems whereby people are made aware of what physical resources are available and what the impact of using those resources would be. We then need the means to agree to how we are going to allocate resources. By removing dollar values it becomes much harder for politicians to disguise the impact of various decisions. When the government chooses to make a cut in support to schools, they can’t simply say they have reduced the budget by some number — they must say they are firing teachers or no longer supplying new books. Suddenly the picture becomes clearer and it is easier to set our priorities. Saying we need to do something because of “the economy” is meaningless. We are then acting out of a sense of abstract virtue, not real world consequences.

Yes, I believe rationing and the elimination of currency is our future. During the war in many ways Britain was at its healthiest and best when it relied on rationing. Sadly, it was only under duress people agreed to it. We may be heading toward a situation where under duress we will have to accept rationing as well. For the planet’s well-being we need to start building a rationing system now.

Yes, we would have to rely more on government to manage the distribution. It is why we need to become more civically involved to ensure our governments are just, transparent, and democratic. If the future really does hold fewer jobs, then that means we should all have more time to politcally engage, as well as spend time bonding with our communities and our support networks. Work becomes a matter of people volunteering to do what needs doing. Most nomadic communities have functioned this way for hundreds of years. If anyone seems to be shirking, instead of punishing them, send them to a counsellor who can help them find their niche for contributing to social well-being.

This vision may sound utopic, but little of this is new, other than the application of technology. We can no longer play around with half measures that keep certain people in their comfort zones. We need to make significant changes that will ensure our future and the future of our children.

In peace and kindness,

Katherine Phelps

Who is Human?

Posted on 19 October 2017 | No responses

A beggar

People who are impoverished are still citizens.
People who are impoverished are still human.
We only have “human rights”, when we include all humanity in the claim of those rights.

When only the poor are required to take drug tests for their livelihood;
When only the poor have no choice with who and where they are employed;
When only the poor have removed through a special credit card their right to choose how they use their livelihood;

Then a whole section of our society is being treated like convicted criminals and are being imprisoned in their circumstances.

When did we go from compassion for those in need to punitive measures for being a social inconvenience?

Poverty is an environmental issue.
It is critical to our collective survival that we address it.

Peace and kindness,

Katherine

Power Broken

Posted on 9 October 2017 | No responses

Dandelion with butterfly

A dandelion is growing in your garden. If it spreads, it could choke out your newly planted carrots and tomatoes. Cut off its head and leaves, it will quickly grow back. Pull at it and break its root part way and it will also grow back. The only way to get rid of the dandelion is to pull all parts of the plant from the ground and remove it. That’s what getting at the root of the problem means. If you don’t dig deeply enough, you won’t actually rid yourself of some difficulty you are facing.

I remember being at an environmental rally a number of years back. People were running around in “Fuck Abbott” t-shirts. In Australia Prime Ministers represent their party and are not voted into position by the nation. If a party is unhappy with its Prime Minister, they can replace them with a different representative without waiting for a national election.

Tony Abbott was a well hated prime minister. I told people that it was senseless to focus their energy on this one man, because if his party removed him, they would simply replace him with someone else who would continue with the same destructive policies. In the US if Donald Trump were impeached, Michael Pence would be put in his place and continue the classism, race war, and environmental devastation.

We are currently facing two foundational problems to humanity’s existence: mass poverty and environmental crisis. Like leaves on a dandelion, these problems originate from the same root cause.

We have people tearing at a leaf that represents waste, another pulling at equal access to services, still another pulling at a leaf representing police brutality. These are all important, but have we made the culture change that will turn small victories into a world in which we can all live?

The culture change that people may suspect I’m heading for is the removal of capitalism. This certainly needs to happen. It’s part of the root of our problems. Capitalism leads to excessive exploitation of natural resources. It leads to a system whereby some segment of the population will be dehumanised in order to take their money, their labor, and their lives. Capitalism relies on grinding both people and our living world into destitution.

However, capitalism is simply a very effective tool for those who are perpetuating a much worse problem. People rarely want money just to have money. They want money in order to have status. They want status in order to dominate. This is about a toxic will to power.

My will be done.

When every executive act performed by Barack Obama is being systematically undone by the current US president, that’s not about capitalist based policy, that’s about vengeance. That’s about putting someone in their place, so that they are comprehensively invalidated and crushed into dust for daring to claim any power whatsoever.

This sort of power gaming is everywhere. It has even sunk its roots into progressive movements and organisations. Positions of power attract people whose sole interest are positions of power. I’ve watched two independent left-leaning political parties go down in flames because power seekers had insinuated themselves into leading roles. I have seen environmental groups, technology groups, and more go down when sexual abuse and threats of violence became part of the dynamic.

We dominate nature. We dominate one another. Soon no one is cooperating because we are all too busy protecting ourselves, and eventually the world can no longer support us. The end.

We must all learn how to take responsibility and how to share power. We must be able to share power with people of colour, women, young, old, people of diverse genders, those of differing abilities, etc. We must be willing to take responsiblity for doing the work to improve the living conditions of much of humanity and to repair the damage we are doing to the environment. These responsibilities will include replacing capitalism with a more equitable, fair, democratic and sustainable means of distributing goods and services.

We have much to do. Remember that the reward will be great: living in a peaceful world where we can all find contentment.

Peace and kindness,

Katherine

“artists” and Artists

Posted on 22 September 2017 | No responses

Van Gogh Starry Starry Night

Starry starry night.
Paint your palette blue and grey.
Look out on a summer’s day
With eyes that know the
Darkness in my soul.

Perhaps I am writing this for myself.

Perhaps this is an unburdening for which I am seeking witness.

Perhaps it is a fit of ego.

Since I was a small child, and I mean around five years old, I saw myself as an Artist with a capital “A”. Some people will make this sort of claim as a sort of justification that they should be endowed with greatness. At that age and for many years it was not about drive and passion and some strange feeling of destiny. It was about both joy and concern.

I find creativity of any sort a deeply ecstatic experience. I used to drive my family nuts when putting condiments on my hamburger because the mustard, ketchup, and mayonnaise had to be arranged just so. I love painting, I love singing, I love dancing, I love writing, and more. It is it’s own reward. The feelings that pass through my entire body feel like sparkles of light that then flow out of me to every living thing on the planet. It is glorious. I cannot imagine doing anything else…

I grew up during the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement. As a deeply empathetic child these events rattled me. When much later I watched the movie Across the Universe, which makes use of Beatles songs in order to portray the events of the 1960s, I came out a complete basket case. In particular I remembered how upset I had been about the Kent State massacre. I would have been six-seven years old when university students were killed for peacefully protesting the war. I had not been born into a safe world where parents listened to and protected their own children.

At some point I had a discussion with myself about what I wanted to do with my life. What I wanted to do was save the world: save animals and trees from destruction, save people from hatred, save the whole damn planet. That’s a big call for a little girl. I thought about politics: the problem with political power is that if you don’t change how people see the world, a politician can only go so far. I thought about various types of helping jobs like conservationist: again, if you don’t change people’s hearts and minds, you can only go so far. Then I thought, Art changes hearts and minds. Art has on many occasions brought people to care and to act on the behalf of what is most life-affirming. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, without being a great book, nevertheless caused people to sympathise with the plight of enslaved peoples and do what they could to end US slavery in the nineteenth century. At the age I had this discussion, I don’t believe I was so eloquent with myself, but the ideas were all there.

For me this was an obvious answer, but it gave me more fervor in selecting my future path.

Shadows on the hills,
Sketch the trees and the daffodils,
Catch the breeze and the winter chills,
In colors on the snowy linen land.
And now I understand what you tried to say to me,
How you suffered for your sanity.
How you tried to set them free.
They would not listen,
They did not know how.

On various online publications I see articles on how to become rich and famous as an artist, how to do your work more effectively by doing it like an artist, how to raise your status through artistry. To be an artist has become a feel good commodity and an “easy” path to self validation.

I really wish I could make a living through my art. However, to do it as the gurus say I should quite honestly would kill my soul. I am no angry artist who makes abstract works that make everyone feel confronted. Though, to be honest, there’s a place for that. No, I want to do this in the way Jim Henson did when he told Jerry Juhl and his writers: let’s make a show about world peace and created Fraggle Rock. However, I am a woman and to take this path is to not be taken seriously. And to be honest, I’m still confrontational. I celebrate those who are vulnerable, so that everyone can see their beauty — regardless of gender, color, religion, age, shape, you name it. I bring to people’s attention startling ideas that could potentially change the world, and being who I am, they are often presented like a great big pot of joy soup!

I have chosen to place my time and efforts on my art, and as a consequence I make less than poverty wages. I only get by because I have a partner who is just making enough for the both of us at a social justice nonprofit. This is where people sniff that art degrees are an MRS. The world is falling apart because people have lost focus on such things as kindness and generosity. I am dismissed for reminding people of this. Nevertheless, I tell people that like toilet paper, it is possible to be both strong and gentle.

Artists with a capital “A” rarely know that the rest of the world eventually found them “great”. Many have died in penury. They simply followed their calling. And yes, it’s very much a calling whether or not every such Artist hears angel trumpets. I have had standing ovations, I have had the odd five star review for my work, but quite honestly I have in no way cracked the “1000 true fans” mark. I can only physically do so much. So, I keep creating and keep hoping what I do is reaching even a few people, and like a pebble dropped into a still pond, make the most beautiful silvery waves.

Someone recently sent me this message about a song I published in support of Australia’s queer community during the national marriage equality survey.

Thanks so much for sharing that song. I got goosebumps and cried while listening to it just now, it is beautiful as is the sentiment behind it. It really spoke to me (and I am one of the people feeling devastated about the lack of respect in this so-called debate about my family, community and relationships)

As of this date fifty-five people have bothered to look at it. Sometimes I get frustrated thinking, how can people even know whether my work is good or bad if they don’t even look at it? Sometimes I think, I thought I was all right, maybe I am wasting my life. Then I get a letter like the above.

This is a hard call. It is impossible for me to ever know the value of my own work. But I continue to live my life as an Artist. I continue to care.

Perhaps they’ll listen now.

In peace and kindness,

Katherine

Lyrics to “Starry Starry Night” by Don Mclean

Peace Like A River

Posted on 21 September 2017 | No responses

Ansel Adams The Tetons and Snake River

Peace is not the absence of war.

Peace is not an acquiesence that keeps waters still, in order to not rock the boat.

Peace is not reserved for those who meditate long hours. Though, we can all use moments of stillness in order to find ourselves, steady ourselves, and renew our focus on those things that will make for a peaceful world.

Peace is when we live within a certain range of security whereby we have all we need to eat, clothe ourselves, shelter ourselves, and provide for our health needs.

Peace is when our security is in danger, we are confident of the goodwill of our neighbors and our nation to ensure our wellbeing is attended to.

Peace is living in a society whereby difference is tolerated, and discrimination and bullying is not. In fact diversity is embraced as a sign of a healthy, vibrant culture.

Peace is feeling confident that those in positions of power take their responsibilities seriously and act for the wellbeing of their charges.

Peace is living in a society where power is shared. And though any one person may have only partial control over the shape of their country, they take that portion and use it wisely in combination with others to ensure together we are building a peaceful nation and a peaceful world.

Peace is knowing that the value of fairness is resolutely applied whenever and wherever it is needed: everyone has their needs met, everyone has access to justice, everyone’s voice is given consideration, everyone is treated as equally human.

Peace is always working toward wise and compassionate solutions to conflict, whether it is at the individual level, the civil level or the international.

Peace is providing for the world that is providing for us, thereby living in security that our children and our children’s children will be able to enjoy the goodness of our living world.

Peace is fully embracing the values of kindness, compassion, care, service, and cooperation. Peace is ensuring our children are taught these values and their children. We are always caring for those who will care for us.

Peace requires bold and peaceful action. Those who think of peace as solely personal security may use violence in order to block universal peace. Those of us with a larger more encompassing vision must hang on, because the reward will be great: a world where we can all find real contentment.

In the meantime peaceworkers may find themselves feeling anger, frustration, and fear. Sometimes we will be bashed, even killed. No this will not be easy. Yet we will keep responding to that tiny light within that says “love”, purge ourselves of hatred and continue to build peace with peace.

Happy International Day of Peace!

Katherine

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