Monday, August 29, 2011

as it is

reflections on a vipassana 10-day intensive

imaginary facebook status update:
work out the terms of your own damned salvation
save yourself from your own misery

i wake up to 4am bell and walk out to dome of stars
every morning the moon is in a different place in the sky

WPEG radio
all peggy all the time
full slate of programming from gospel music to sutra chants to call-in talk shows
over days the volume diminishes

day 5: is this what silence sounds like?
as soon as the thought materializes the silence is gone

goenka's gravelly voice

he instructs me even in my sleep
in equanimous dreams

no keys phones pens notebooks money ID to carry around
how do we know who we are?
we cling to our water bottles
eager to make fetishes out of anything
guzzle water and burp through 1-hour sittings

1-hour sittings of strong determination
don't open legs or hands or eyes
my body eager for drama churns in empty-stomached digestion and hyperventilation
the dhamma hall full of sneezing and burping and the occasional fart

this too shall pass

avarice and addiction come out at lunch
food our only comfort
we weep in silent appreciation on day 8 when warm chocolate chip cookies are presented
just when we thought we were over our cravings

confession: breaking my vow to abstain from killing any being i swat 4 mosquitos over the 10 days
still trying to practice indifference
in adhitthana i feel one land on my neck
feel the sting and itching
then forget about it


every thought every emotion
manifests somewhere as a sensation
can i feel it?
where does it arise?
watch it come up and disappear
sensations arise to vanish
between sittings i watch bubbles come up through the algae in the pond
then pop

stop your ego-dependent psychoanalysis
the incessant inner narration
come back to sensation
come back to the body
only the body contains the truth
the body itself the healer

bring out your dead
a la monty python
i clean out all my closets and coffins
let it all pass

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Electoral Politics as Usual

As disappointing as the loss of Sandy Pasch to Alberta Darling may be, we are once again reminded that electoral politics is not on the side of the common good. The system has been corrupted to the point of serious dysfunction. Many would argue that it was never set up in the first place to serve the common good, thus the restrictions both historic and present on women, blacks, felons, not to mention the electoral college, voter ID bill, and many other restrictions.

How many times do we have to be abused before we pursue an alternative path? The first election to demoralize me was the 2000 Presidential election, decided by the Supreme Court. Then again the 2004 Presidential, and most recently with the "irregularities" in the Kloppenburg/Prosser election.

Not that we should abjure the responsibility of voting (although I completely understand why some marginalized people have given up on it completely), but that voting should be only one of a myriad other actions. Don't put all your food into a broken refrigerator. Everything will get spoiled. And don't spend thousands of dollars trying to fix that refrigerator. Instead, create alternative ways to preserve food without refrigeration.

So many friends invested all their hope into the recalls, and were left devastated in the wake, besieged with dozens of "if only's": If only I had given more money, if only I had spent another weekend canvassing, if only I could have convinced so-and-so to volunteer....

It's conceivable we could with tremendous effort and expense fix that damned refrigerator. But isn't our energy better spent elsewhere? What if we had spent the millions of dollars generated by the recalls and given it directly to the poor?

Because electoral politics is inextricably part of the system of white supremacy, to invest all our hope and energy in it is to support continued racism. As Jimmy Boggs points out, "Democracy to white people is fascism to black people." Democracy via electoral politics only works for a percentage of the population: the (shrinking) middle class and above. The poor and people of color have been excluded by both Democrats and Republicans throughout our history, and regardless of the party in charge, white supremacy has remained intact. Thus, the subtext of the "I Voted" sticker proudly worn on election day is, "I benefit from and uphold the system of white supremacy."

The fact is anyone benefiting from banks, media, stores, and elections upholds white supremacy. Our focus on electoral politics feeds our delusional conviction that equality is possible in our current system. As plummeting stocks and recent rebellions in Milwaukee, London, Philadelphia and elsewhere reveal, we have nothing close to justice in the USA nor abroad. Our global system of white supremacy maintains oppression and exploitation, and elected officials from both parties all too often vote in the interests of banks and multinational corporations, and are funded by them.

What are the alternatives to our dependence on electoral politics? This is a profound question addressing every single aspect of our lives. I'm building housing cooperatives. What else?
- Stop shopping. Make it, trade it, grow it, forage it.
- Band together with your neighbors to grow food, potluck, share childcare and eldercare, car-share, and keep trouble away so the police are unnecessary.
- Move your money to a local credit union.
- Stop driving. Walk or bike. If you have to use fossil fuels, carpool or bus it.
- Stop consumption of media: TV, radio, internet, phone, newspapers. All mainstream media is owned and operated through the system of white supremacy. Even much alternative media is funded by the same sources, and depends on fossil fuels for transmission. Reduce your consumption by having one or more days a week with everything turned off. Soon you won't want to turn back on.
- Learn how to be healthy. Stop going to the doctor. Learn homeopathics, naturopathy, yoga, nutritional healing, meditation, etc.
- Quit your job. I'm serious. Then you can stop or at least reduce coffee consumption, stop eating out, stop buying clothes, reduce your stress and medical bills, reduce fossil fuel consumption, and have time to do the stuff above.

A ridiculous if not impossible list? That's why we are stuck and at the mercy of our elected officials. But they will not save us, our health insurance, or our retirement accounts. Even a temporary "save" will soon come crashing down, for we no longer have the global resources to sustain a 20th century lifestyle. We have to band together and save ourselves, step by step.