December 16, 2016 § 14 Comments
“Strong currents continue to move through our collective fields. It’s easy to feel tossed around and swept up, but these are the tides of the times, and we are learning to become better swimmers so we can reach new shores.” ~ Mystic Mamma
*Comments on this post are automatically entered into an end-of-year raffle.
Coal needs pressure to become a diamond. The first stage of alchemy, called Calcination, involves burning off impurities under the heat of the flame.
We are in such a pressure cooker right now, collectively, as citizens of planet Earth. But we can use the heat & pressure alchemically, to crystallize our consciousness. Which will in turn give us more to offer the world in its upheaval.
In 2016 we lost a host of archetypal cultural icons—David Bowie, Prince & Leonard Cohen, to name a few.
Bowie & Prince in particular represented wild daring & freedom, revolution & authenticity.
From a mythological standpoint, all three musicians represent the archetype of The Bard.
This means they occupied the role of the sacred artisan-musician, vision-bringers & human vessels of divine inspiration. A sphere similar in our cultural iconography to a shaman in a tribal scenario—particularly Bowie fits this archetype, bringing in the idea of other worlds & magical transformations.
Both Prince & Bowie also harken back to the Anrodgyne in alchemy, a stage of spiritual integration wherein the inner masculine & inner feminine aspects unite, creating a whole & balanced human, symbolically represented by a hermaphroditic figure.
The respective deaths of these iconic figures, which seemed to mark the end of an era, coincided with a year of mounting grief and tension in America—in particular, over equality & racial issues.
According to the Washington Post, this year “unarmed black Americans were five times as likely as unarmed white Americans to be shot and killed by a police officer.”
One example of the pattern we are seeing can be glimpsed in the case of Terence Crutcher. “The 40-year-old was shot and killed by police on Friday after officers saw his stalled SUV in the middle of the road. Initially, the police department said Crutcher had not followed orders to put his hands up. The released videos, however, show Crutcher walking toward his car with his hands in the air.”(Source.)
The rising division between people who support the #blacklivesmatter movement and reactionary movements like #bluelivesmatter & #alllivesmatter—which don’t claim a white supremacist alliance, but whose emphasis suggests it to many on the other side—further solidified the national divide, which was then exploited for campaign momentum by Donald Trump in his efforts to procure the seat of president.
In the debates, Trump advocated for racial profiling and “stop and frisk” methods, which have been deemed unconstitutional. He blamed undocumented immigrants for leaching the system & endangering Americans. And, last month, despite having lost the popular vote by a landslide, he won the electoral college vote and became America’s next commander in chief, giving way to a rising sense of crisis for a huge swath of Americans, who now feel unsafe in their own country.
Trump’s decisions, like picking a climate change skeptic with close ties to Big Oil to head the National Department of Energy have environmentally conscious Americans terrified as well.
Internationally, the world has been watching the “complete meltdown of humanity” in the devastated Syrian city of Aleppo—either unable or unwilling to do much besides hand-wringing. The conflict may be technically over, but now what remains of the ancient city faces a grim, uncertain future.
At home in America, the protests in Standing Rock have represented an ongoing crisis, causing much angst as we witness tribal people attempting, once again, to defend their land in the face of an abusive & ruthless government takeover.
“For months, opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline have been expressing fears that it would affect local drinking water, because it was to be built under the Missouri River near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation—the primary water source of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.
“Last week, the US Department of the Army announced that it would not approve the crossing of the pipeline under the Missouri River. The massive nearby spill —which was discovered on the same day that the Dakota Access Pipeline construction permit was denied —might have just proved the protesters’ point.”
Indigenous peoples have long considered themselves custodians of the Earth.
This stand off between Big Oil and the Oceti Sakowin people represents the two forces currently in battle on our planet: systems of control versus the people, separation versus unity, violence versus peace, corporations versus the Earth, ego versus soul.
So, how do we survive the pressure cooker? By using it as a purifying force that will expedite the refinement of our own consciousness. Allow it to knock out complacency and revive your purpose.
Astrologist Cathy Pagano details that the configuration of Pluto in Capricorn offers each of us a way to engage in the transformation of the culture. Forcing us to ask ourselves what aspects of the collective mindset no longer serve the future of humanity. What parts should be expanded upon?
“We can begin to create this possible future with our art and our actions. Our actions, like what happened at Standing Rock with the Water Protectors, now will have more affect since we’ll do it as a group (very Aquarian of us). We show our Aries courage in standing up to the wrong use of power, to the stupidity of self-destruction. Life is what matters.
“Uranus is energizing our pioneering spirit again, though this time let’s seek the unknown for the good of all, rather than personal aggrandizement.
“When we return the Arts to their archetypal purpose—to teach, to heal, to create, to enliven, to imagine, to share, to learn—they will lead the revolution just as John Lennon and the Beatles opened up the world to a new paradigm. (December 8th-RIP John.) Artists can bring the message home to the heart. If we play our parts in truth, it will be a peaceful revolution.”
Leave a comment for a chance at winning a “Tao Te Ching” pocket edition! (Most wisdom in one book you’ll ever find, best translation, too, by Stephen Mitchell.) The raffle will be held on January 1st 2017. Tell me a bit about how your year went, or your dreams & goals for 2017—or what subjects you would like to see me write more about.
I promise I won’t keep posting about politics, I know we’re getting it from all sides right now. (I might have to sometimes, as conscience demands, but I know that Parallax has traditionally been a respite from all of that, and I intend to keep the majority of posts that way). It just seemed like it had to be addressed. And it’s become a tradition here at Parallax to create a “year in review” raffle post at the end of each calendar year, so I had to revisit that caustic cocktail one last time, but 2017 will see a return to our favorite Parallax themes:
What is the nature of reality and what is humanity’s role within the cosmos? What are the latest scientific breakthroughs in understanding consciousness? How to be a visionary in a cookie cutter world. Why your genius lies in your wounds, and how to reclaim that power. How to live a mindful life & embrace your authenticity...My intention is to make Parallax your haven of thoughtfulness in a world gone mad!
May 2017 be the year of lived dreams for each & every one of you!
October 16, 2016 § 10 Comments
“Politics is the art of choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.”
“We try to fix the outside so much, but our control of the outer world is limited, temporary, and often, illusory…achieving durable happiness as a way of being is a skill. It requires sustained effort in training the mind and developing a set of human qualities, such as inner peace, mindfulness, and altruistic love.”
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
On top of an already fraught, fearful & divided world, the approaching presidential election of 2016 has ramped up feelings of rage, alienation & despair across America.
In part, because social issues—race relations & sexual politics—are at the forefront of the debates between Clinton & Trump, this election season has invoked a truly personal, emotional response in us.
The advent of smartphones has given us the means to monitor our monitors, and footage of police abuse of power against black male bodies surfaces constantly, raising pleas for social justice to a fever pitch.
While many are listening to these raised voices of protest, large swaths of the conservative demographic are reacting with mistrust and shutting down. And so the #blacklivesmatter movement gives way to responses of #allivesmatter and #bluelives (meaning officers) matter.
Yes. We all matter. That is the point of the “black lives matter” hashtag—a reminder that a swath of our “all” is struggling and needs attention.
As if this issue weren’t fraught enough, it has become politicized. The left, being the party of social progress, has taken up this and other causes, attempting to “explain it” to the right; which has largely been perceived by conservatives as a buzzword-fueled lecture and accusation.
Although it may be difficult to understand why anyone with such superior social power would deign to listen to the struggling underdog, this reaction itself is framed in a certain view with specific assumptions. The people who aren’t hearing the message behind #blacklivesmatter, for instance, aren’t filtering it through the same set of reference points. The right perceives itself as the underdog under attack.
The “us” vs. “them” mentality is in full effect, raging across America like a wild fire. We seem to be in a Chinese Finger Cuff situation—the harder we pull, the more stuck we become; if the goal is ultimately peace and human unity. Which, come on, if we are to survive as a nation and a species, it logically has to be.
One important fact to remember is that the “us” vs. “them” mentality is literally hardwired into our neurology; the second we identify with a certain group, it has been proven in experiment after experiment that the brain begins filtering facts to skew the data towards the perceived “us.”
“Our tendency toward partisanship is likely the result of evolution—forming groups is how prehistoric humans survived,” remarks Brian Resnic (“How Politics Breaks Our Brains.”) “That’s helpful when trying to master an unforgiving environment with Stone Age technology. It’s less so when trying to foster a functional democracy.”
“Studies have shown,” adds Steven Handel, “that people tend to favor a group bias even when they are categorized on relatively meaningless distinctions, for example: eye color, what kind of paintings they like, or even the flip of a coin.
This tells us that we can potentially separate ourselves from a certain group of people on any random and arbitrary characteristic. Therefore, everyone is susceptible to be a perpetrator and/or victims of social prejudice and ostracism.” (“The Us Vs. Them Mentality.”)
Although it feels like things are getting worse, this very well may be a time of national exorcism; the rock we didn’t want to look under has been overturned and we are staring directly at its maggoty underside. At least now we are facing it directly; the dank hidden pocket of darkness is being aired. And we are looking at it, talking about it.
A hundred years ago, only white men could vote in America. Today we have a black president and a female candidate. We have progressed! But we are still healing from historically recent wounds. Sociological blindspots, unconscious prejudice, glass ceilings and abuse of power still remain as a result of that past. The specters of oppression can not be banished so easily or quickly.
With emotions running high and so much dissonance in the air, empaths and highly sensitive people are particularly vulnerable to depression & anxiety—it is essential that we combat this by practicing steady, systematic, daily routines of self-care. We must stoke our own light in order to better illuminate this darkness.
As we all navigate these stormy times of controversy, misunderstanding, anger, alienation and above all the tendency to break off into warring factions, let us try to outsmart our biology.
When politics breaks our brains, let us turn to the heart. For our goal logically must be harmonious co-existence, and we are united by more than divides us.
April 19, 2012 § 18 Comments
“Our defense is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes liberty as a heritage of all men, in all lands, everywhere. Destroy this spirit and you have planted the seeds of despotism around your own doors.” ~ Abraham Lincoln
“Those who would sacrifice essential liberty to obtain security deserve neither and will lose both.” ~ Benjamin Franklin
“The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.” ~Thomas Jefferson
Ironically, America’s War on Terror has become a source of terror itself. Terrorism, as defined by Webster’s Dictionary, is “the systematic use of terror, especially as a means of coercion.”
It is a definition upon which much depends, considering that as of December 31st 2011 the United States government has codified into law the ability to indefinitely detain US citizens suspected of terrorist involvement without trial, a provision to the National Defense Authorization Act that gives US military the power to carry out domestic anti-terrorism operations on US soil .
This effectively means that, in theory, if the US government wanted me gone, I could be taken from my home via military force and detained indefinitely. Under the 2012 provision of the National Defense Authority Act, all they would have to do is call me a terrorist suspect — no proof needed, no rights enforced — and just like that, I could disappear. Legally.
President Obama admits to having “serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation and prosecution of suspected terrorists,” noting that the fact that he “supports this bill as a whole” does not mean that he “agrees with everything in it.” (Somehow that doesn’t make me feel any better.)
In the same statement, the president goes on to contradict direct lines from the controversial Act, assuring us that “administration [ …] will interpret section 1021 in a manner that ensures that any detention it authorizes complies with the Constitution, the laws of war, and all other applicable law” (italics mine.)
Apart from the fact that the president’s use of the word “interpret” acknowledges the room for flexible reading of the NDAA, and setting aside the fact that Mr. Obama has made other promises he did not keep — for instance, the termination of Guantanamo Bay — his statement only applies to his administration.
As Senator Bernie Sanders asserts: “The legislation could give future presidents the authority to throw American citizens into prison for life without charges or a trial.”
I should note that Obama has made some effort to improve the controversial aspects of this bill, though the essential problems remain (see comments section.)
“In a country famous for the belief that one is innocent until proven guilty,” observes Alton Lu in the Huffington Post, “this is an upsetting change that is being foisted upon the American people with many unaware of what it means.” He continues:
“The Fourth Amendment grants liberty from unreasonable seizures, while the Sixth guarantees every U.S. citizen a trial in front of a jury. No matter what supporters of the bill might have said about the provisions being misunderstood, the simple fact is that it is unconstitutional.”
For an exhaustive yet readable breakdown of the NDAA, I recommend Glenn Greenwald’s article “Three Myths About the National Defense Authorization Act.”
The War on Terror has been bad news for civil liberties from the beginning, starting with Bush Jr.’s Patriot Act — which made it legal for the FBI to spy on Americans and search telephone, email, and financial records without a court order.
The Act also contained provisions allowing for the indefinite detention of any alien whom the Attorney General believed may cause a terrorist act. And now, with the new provisions added to the NDAA, this will apply to US citizens as well.
The very fact that I am able to criticize this new act, and post critical tongue-in-cheek pseudo-propaganda political cartoons is a testament to the America I cherish. I don’t want to lose that America.
Yet the fact that I am wondering if tags from this blog post could possibly land my name on some FBI worker’s hard drive is cause for serious concern.
Currently, the legal definition of a terrorist is defined by “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents.” However:
“Controversy centers on the loose definition of key words in the bill,” relates The Guardian‘s Paul Harris. In particular, vague terms like “associated forces” have many wondering exactly what constitutes a terrorist tie. Harris notes that “civil rights experts have said the lack of precise definition leaves [the NDAA] open to massive potential abuse.”
Because of this, many fear the provision could extend to journalists, authors, peaceful activists and academics. For writer and political consultant, Naomi Wolf, fear of the NDAA’s vague wording has already effected her ability to do her job as a journalist:
“My understanding of the bill has forced me to decline to meet with certain newsworthy individuals, [to report] on facts and stories that I otherwise believe are newsworthy, and contribute to a healthy national discourse – for no other reason than to avoid potential repercussions under the bill.”
Among others, she sites declining to interview controversial internet activist Julian Assange of the international whistleblower site, Wiki-leaks, because of statements made by high-level United States officials regarding their views of Assange as a terrorist (Joe Biden has called him a “high-tech terrorist”.)
Unfortunately, America is not above guilt by association witch hunts.
My paternal grandparents were both blacklisted for a decade from working in Hollywood (which was their livelihood) during the McCarthy Era Red Scare, simply for running in a circle of actors and artists, some of whom had communist ties — though my grandparents themselves did not. The nail in the coffin happened when my grandmother, an activist and humanitarian, gave a speech for the Red Cross at a podium at which, hours later, a communist speech was delivered by a person totally unrelated to her.
Even though my grandfather, Eddie, was a war hero who had volunteered to serve his country, he and his wife, Margo, were interrogated by the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and officially barred from working in Hollywood. Overnight they became unemployable pariahs. People became afraid to associate with them, lest they invite the same fate upon themselves, and like other blacklist victims, they became public faces for people’s fear: when the newly married couple stepped out of St. Patrick’s Cathedral on their wedding day, people spit on Margo’s white dress in the street.
They were forced to create a Vaudeville-style husband and wife act, performing in night clubs across the country until the ban was lifted, almost a decade later.
Witch hunts of a far more brutal caliber have happened, to be sure. Yet these people had done nothing wrong and they were put on Kafkaesque trial by the US government for no good reason. I’ve read the transcripts. They’re chilling: pummeled with leading questions and manipulative interrogations, suddenly held accountable for every casual comment they ever made and forced to justify their choices — in friends, in social clubs — to total strangers.
And that was before the information age.
How can America thrive when freedom — the very force that made her special — is vanishing one Patriot Act, one National Defense Authorization Act, at a time?
Then there’s the anti-protesting law (officially, the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011) challenging Americans’ constitutional right to assembly, the freedom of the individual to come together and collectively express, promote, pursue and defend common interests. Up until now, the freedom to assemble has been recognized as a human right in America.
“The House of Representatives approved a bill that outlaws protests in instances where some government officials are nearby, whether or not you even know it […] That means disruptive activity, to whichever court has to consider it, will be a federal offense under the act.” “ (Source)
This literally means that booing presidential candidates could land you in jail.
At least SOPA — which would allow the government to effectively “shut down” websites — didn’t pass. Yet.
With acts like the NDAA and the anti-protest law passing, I’m frankly surprised.
Stay informed and write your local representatives, urging them to take this incredibly important issue to the Supreme Court — which is our only hope at a repeal. As Forbes‘ Erik Kain notes: “people concerned with civil liberties should begin to walk away from the old left-right dichotomy entirely and focus on electing civil libertarians to congress.” If our civil liberties vanish, the social issues close to our hearts will become moot points.
Ironically, America’s War on Terror has become a source of terror itself.
As Erik Kain observes: “Each time we allow our fear to undermine our freedom we concede to the very terrorists we hope to defeat.” But fear is not the only obstacle; apathy, denial, self-absorption and laziness are our greatest enemies. In a country rich with unprecedented privilege, opportunity and freedom, we have frankly become complacent; even cocky. We feel that it will never touch us. But it already has. And, unchecked, the threat will only continue to advance, like a shadow across the land.
International readers, what does our situation look like from the outside? And what’s your situation like at home?
American readers, if you choose one issue to become active on this year, make it this one. Civil liberties are the bedrock of our nation. Without them, we lose everything.
November 26, 2011 § 35 Comments
“It is advertising and the logic of consumerism that governs the depiction of reality in the mass media.” ~ Christopher Lasch
“Who covets more, is evermore a slave.” ~ Robert Herrick
So named to imply the state of profit for retailers known as being “in the black,” Black Friday, which should perhaps be renamed Bloody Friday, is getting darker every year.
in 2008 a 34-year-old Long Island Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death by a crowd of product-and-savings-crazed customers who pushed the door off its hinges before the store was open, chanting, “Push the doors in.”
“She was competitive shopping,” quipped Los Angeles Fire Captain, James Carson. But it has apparently become a bloody sport.
In San Leandro, California, a family was accosted by two men demanding their recently purchased products in a park. In what could be called misguided attachment, the family refused to fork over the loot, and the assailant opened gunfire. The victim was rushed to the hospital in critical condition.
In a less bloody but equally poignant example of the madness, a grandpa in Phoenix, Arizona, was slammed to the ground by amped up police for putting a game in his waistband to lift his grandson up over the crowd.
People are blaming the economy, but in this author’s opinion that’s a flimsy excuse. We’re not talking about food here. We’re talking about stuff. Gadgets, games, flat screen TVs. These are luxury items. And yet the madness is being framed increasingly in the light of class.
A conspiracy theorist might point out how much more convenient it is for us to turn on each other than to recognize the problem of our blatant overconsumption.
Yesterday, The New York Times, for instance, commented that,”Budget-minded shoppers will be racing for bargains at ever-earlier hours while the rich mostly will not be bothering to leave home.”
The rich, and also the wise, not willing to suffer the bloody sport of “competitive shopping” in the name of material acquisition.
In an article for Business Week elaborating on the class angle, Dan Beucke discusses the subject with Marshal Cohen, the chief industry analyst of The NPD Group, which studies consumers and retailing:
“Time and again, Cohen saw consumers whose shopping reach had exceeded their spending grasp. A credit card maxes out and a member of the shopping party is sent outside to collect another card from the waiting car. Or the cashier offers up a sub-total and the shopper starts striking items until the bill fits the cash on hand.”
The story is supposed to illustrate the budget-strained struggles of a pressured working class. But is there a deeper story going on?
It seems more symptomatic of a mentality that people are willing to spend their last dollar on, go into debt for, “stuff.”
Again, these are luxury items people are buying. They are not necessities. The perversion of the American dream has resulted in a bloated, yet ever-hungry consumeristic monster.
The only difference between the Black Friday people pinning sales clerks against the wall in their rush to snatch their plastic prize and the consumers who stay home and buy their shiny toys another day is spectacle.
To call this simply an issue of recession is to read the situation on a very superficial level. Rather, we must assume it is indicative of a gross misplacement of priority. What else can we call it when people become so crazed for things that a fellow human being becomes just one more obstacle between themselves and an XBox?
As economist Paul Heyne notes, “The gap in our economy is between what we have and what we think we ought to have – and that is a moral problem, not an economic one.”
“Experts in ancient Greek culture say that people back then didn’t see their thoughts as belonging to them. When ancient Greeks had a thought, it occurred to them as a god or goddess giving an order. Apollo was telling them to be brave. Athena was telling them to fall in love. Now people hear a commercial for sour cream potato chips and rush out to buy, but now they call this free will. At least the ancient Greeks were being honest.”
And so we, as conscientious dreamers, must ask ourselves, as the crazed shoppers of Black Friday do not, what are we really hungry for? And what should we truly be feeding that hunger inside?
I say feed it experience, feed it human relationship, feed it books (you don’t have to buy them, go to the library!) feed it art (every museum has a free admission day!) feed it good music (in the city weekly papers, there are always free music events!) Feed it the sound of the wind in the trees, and rivers running. Feed it campfire stories, the sky and the stars. Feed it significance through reading, thinking, dreaming. Feed it love. Feed it beauty. Feed it knowledge.
We are hungry, but as a nation we are stuffing ourselves with metaphorical and literal junk food. If you’re reading this, you already know this. So what can we do?
In the bracing and vitalizing words of fellow journeyer Terrence McKenna:
“We have to create culture, don’t watch TV, don’t read magazines, don’t even listen to NPR. Create your own roadshow. The nexus of space and time where you are now is the most immediate sector of your universe, and if you’re worrying about Michael Jackson or Bill Clinton or somebody else, then you are disempowered, you’re giving it all away to icons, icons which are maintained by an electronic media so that you want to dress like X or have lips like Y.
This is shit-brained, this kind of thinking. That is all cultural diversion, and what is real is you and your friends and your associations, your highs, your orgasms, your hopes, your plans, your fears. And we are told ‘no’, we’re unimportant, we’re peripheral. ‘Get a degree, get a job, get a this, get a that.’ And then you’re a player, you don’t want to even play in that game. You want to reclaim your mind and get it out of the hands of the cultural engineers who want to turn you into a half-baked moron consuming all this trash that’s being manufactured out of the bones of a dying world.”
What form does this take? You decide.
For me it takes the form of writing this blog and informs the direction of my work. It takes the form of conversations with fellow journeyers and conscious decisions to identify, and sometimes curtail, the buying urge that’s been implanted in my brain via psychological programming. Of recognizing and celebrating my difference from mainstream consumer-based culture and its distorted value system, and in further investigating how I can be part of creating something better.
For George Carlin, it took the form of fantastically searing philosophical comedic diatribes: