29 April, 2012

The Real Guatemala?


The Real Guatemala?

Bright Colors, Stark Poverty
McDonalds, Walmarts, Tiendas, Taquerias
Street Food, Diarrhea
Strong Coffee, Beans and Tortillas

Gringos, Latinos, Indigeneous, Garifuna
Spanish, English
Kaqchikel and Mam

Starving children begging for their lives
Stray Dogs, Chickens and Pigs in the streets
Church music playing until midnight then starting again at 5
Shady businessmen selling weed
Others friendly, helping with directions, despite their poverty, afflictions

Bananas, Mangos, Corn and Coffee in the Mountains
Crisp air at 5 AM as the sunrises
Yoga, Tea, The Chocolate Shaman

A new president is elected
An Indigineous Man tells me "He's not OUR president"
I visit Tikal, Copan, Mayan Past
They say "History is in the Present"

Beautiful Beaches, Aggressive mosquitoes
Hola, Buenos Dias, Mucho Gusto, amigo

Confusion
Pollution

I don't know if this is the real Guatemala.
But It is Beautiful


Ruin is the Road to Transformation

Falling along with the leaves in November
Crashing headlong in the bushes when we're high on the throttle
Darkness surrounding, tryin not to remember
Struggling to be strong, holding onto our smiles
as we blaze along the back roads, broken

The brambles burn into our eyes Dust blows in the wind, Chemicals from the gutters
Everything in shambles as we roll from high to high
As we're reborn again, the light blinding the shuttered
And we struggle to hold onto pasts that are token

Our shattered hearts hearken, alighting in sensitivity
Searching hidden deep wells for hope, for reconnection
Fearing the darkness and our broken connectivity
Changing alignment as we rise from the wreckage
Knowing Ruin is the Road to Transformation
Pain is the Path to Our Salvation

25 April, 2012

"Art"



I cautiously call movies, comics and modern pop music art. After a long day of practicing driving, running errands, looking for jobs and volunteering, I thought I'd sit down and watch a movie- I didn't want something too heavy so I picked "Tintin" and was promptly bored out of my skull.

Maybe it is the fact that I have written movie scripts myself, read perhaps hundreds of novels and "how to" books and in the process grown tired of stale, formulaic movies. Or maybe it's the fact that Hollywood and most commercial art are not things that, really say much of anything.

There was a time in my youth when I devoured Disney movies, Batman comics and cartoons of every kind. I dreamt of being a cartoonist or comic artist, but somewhere along the line I moved from Batman and Donald Duck to Bob Crumb and Cerebus.  
Editors Note: For those not in the know, Cerebus is kind of like Howard the Duck meets Duck Soup, Bob Crumb's work is psychedelic inspired insanity.

 I don't think there is anything intrinsically better about a Bob Crumb comic. Or, for that matter, a Kubrick movie. To tell you the truth, I wish I could just switch my mind off and enjoy things sometimes. There are certain innocent movies I have enjoyed, but more and more they don't come from Hollywood. And perhaps that makes me a bit of  a snob.

But looking at the upcoming movie slate, I am more and more depressed. Avengers. Spiderman. 2 or 3 other superhero movies, all of which follow pretty much the same script. A few more sequels of stale Dreamworks animations. I don't pay much attention any more, but when I do, I feel so out of touch.

But then I realize- Hollywood makes these movies because we support them. And from time to time, something interesting does come along. Something that doesn't require a trip up to the art house theaters.

And it's my job to support them and to return this turd "Tintin" promptly to the Redbox so they don't charge me for another night!

The Observer

In business suits, in college jeans
they live and I observe their dreams

Recovering from drug addled pasts
seizing the day, forgetting lapse

Round here as there as everywhere
Chasing love, fleeing despair

Repeating history's mistakes
Life is life, it's never changed

Can't Say Goodbye

Across the waves the signal is clear
The call to action is heard resounding
as we continue to dream, of things once near
The President speaks, with satisfaction

Focused and intent, he is and strong
driving hell bent, we is, all night long
Blazing well intentioned, abating the fright
I hold hope near my heart on this cold summer night

Near my heart in my hand is my cell
in which I left a message intentioned so well
Now Lost forever I'm sure as I laugh through the night
Laughing because I'm too scared by my fright

By the bomb that was dropped by my friend who had died
as they rushed aimlessly in their lives just as I
the last thought that I thunk before lead filled my veins
was this all can't be real, 'fore I turned red with rage

And noone could drive faster than this lie

I left her a message, but now I can't say goodbye
but it's just her not me, and others died too
But now that she ain't here I don't know what to do

An excuse or a lie as I drink and I drive
by myself as I lie and I hear our old Prez
Whisper Let's Start a War
Let's Kill them Again

And so the War it begins
and I can't say goodbye
and I can't make amends
to my now dead best friend

20 April, 2012

Earth Day



"Everything is backwards now, like out there is the true world, and in here is the dream" Jake Sully , Avatar.

When I came back from Guatemala, I had a difficult time adjusting. In some ways, my trip was an escape. An escape from the muddled aimlessness my life had taken on. I worked part time at a farm and an ecological center, away from the concerns of the real world. Away from the cities and modern life, speaking Spanish and Kaqchikel. Despite the very real violence that I knew was happening there, and despite the poverty, I felt something there that I very seldom felt in the USA. Compassion.

Despite the wonders of modern life, the cell phones with email, bananas that come all year round, electric heat, modern life depresses me. Those small moments when I get out into nature, have real experiences, that is the real world.This world of commitments, of money, this world where I pollute and live and destroy, this world where I have endless chores, lists and commitments and where friends die of cancer and alcohol, that's not the real world.

Yet here I am. Here all of us are. In some ways I feel like Hollywood and movies distort reality, make us search after this elusive Neverland that could never exist. Make us participate in a story of riches that does not feed us. Maybe it gives us a feeling of entitlement. Makes us hope for a hero, a Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Batman, Superman or Woody Allen to save us.

One that never comes.

Like many others, I recycle. I compost. I have a small garden. But I still consume electricity and though sometimes I like to go to protests, sometimes I feel like it is all pointless. I feel weak. Confused. I watch more and more friends leave me, I watch the world change from a distance. I apply to another job for a freelance artist or at a nursery or even Target, hoping to find a way out.

When I was in Guatemala, at first, I was overwhelmed, then I became very sad. I was very sad because I saw the poverty and the vast income disparities as an extension of how we live here. I saw how we were responsible and how we were living off of the poverty of others. I wanted to help, but at the same time, I didn't know how.

One of my friends at the farm had the habit of giving the poor children of the village coins and bread, which only led them to beg more and more. I also saw the small villages with well-meaning churches and evangelicals who, despite their well meaning had taken away much of the villages autonomy. I also saw, in the strange light that can only be seen in another country the racism that is inherent in much of the modern world, in Guatemala, it was the Latinos who were rich and many of the Indigenous who were poor. The systems that were set up made it almost impossible to change that, despite well intentions. I came back to the USA full of love for the people, the culture, but also full of confusion, despair.

This coming weekend is Earth Day and I feel hopeful, but I want to be realistic, too. I think we've passed that point of no return. This record setting March cements it for me, although I have no scientific proof. The world is going to heat up no matter what we do, and it's going to take a long time to heal, possibly a few hundred years. Planting trees is a nice gesture, but it isn't what we need.

The Occupy Movement, the hope with the newest election, the growing awareness of environmental issues shows me that people care. But we don't need more guilt or shame or fear. We need acceptance. We need to stop blaming ourselves and start living in the dream.

To start living in the real world. I don't know exactly how, but I think in the beginning, things are not always clear, but we need to start living.

Like Jake Sully in Avatar, every single one of us.

Happy Earth Day!

17 April, 2012

Life is Messy

The DSM-V is arriving in 2013. The current DSM(Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) in use is version IV, Text Revision. It is the manual used for diagnosing and describing mental illness and it's not extremely useful in my opinion. It is useful for billing insurance companies, and may help some to understand themselves better, but it's also true that it makes many feel helpless and many dehumanized.

Mental Illnesses are one of those things that are very tricky. "Depression" or "Anxiety" are terms that are in such general use and are such a common experience that almost everybody can recall feeling depressed or anxious at some point or another in his life. But it's also true that for some people, anxiety, depression, psychoses and other extreme mental states take over their lives.

The reasons for Mental Illness are many. It's not as simple as diabetes type 2 where a bad diet has caused or exacerbated underlying predispositions and despite what many say it's not as simple as diet and lack of exercise, although that plays a part. There are many misunderstandings and assumptions about mental illness out there, many of which psychiatry and the drug industry are only furthering such as the idea that these conditions are primarily chemical imbalances and of a physical nature, and many which society tends to further as well, thus adding to the confusion.

As far as I can tell, my mental state is influenced by the following things: my genetics, my past (including stressors, traumas, behavioral tendencies), toxins in the environment, my social ability, my income, my social connections, toxins in my diet, the level of stress in my current life, the amount of power I feel I have over current situations, my coping mechanisms and any drugs in my system. This is a pretty long list and if I think about it some, I am sure I could come up with some more things to add to that list. As you could guess, this kind of thing is very specific to a certain person and his or her environment, upbringing and means.

Using drugs in my experience is a very tricky thing. Especially since drug use coincides with mental illness quite a lot, using drugs is very cognitively confusing. Unless you have extreme schizotypy, it is difficult to recommend the anti-psychotics because of their extreme side effects which include feeling like your brain is in a plastic bag, heart palpatations, rolling of the tongue and sleeping sixteen hours a day. Antidepressants on the other hand have a nasty habit of not working while making it impossible to ejaculate. That said, cannabis, heroin and meth, while may alleviate some pain have quite a few of their own problems. And while all drugs have their dangers, sometimes the benefits of short term drug use outweigh any negatives (such as dying by vicious, violent suicide).

In the end, the path to take is up to you. I still think we're a long way from a sane way of treating the mentally ill, partly because we don't live in a sane society and partly because we don't have a sane psychological system(ie one that doesn't try to classify and patronize its patients) although the peer support movement is very promising. It is a tricky road, because mental illness is not something that is just caused by personal choices but by genetics, social status, past traumas and things that are difficult, even for someone not overwhelmed with anxiety to address.

The other part of mental illness, spirituality is something that I have not touched on much in this little blog post. I think spirituality is one of the most important factors in recovery from mental illness, because at a certain point our mind is out of our control, and we need to trust in the wisdom of others, and our deeper self to heal.

In the end, I wish you all the best of luck, even though life is messy.


GRANOLA!

Ingredients:
3 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup coconut flakes(unsweetened)
1/4 cup oil(I prefer peanut. Butter will burn easily)
1/4 cup honey(or other sweetener)
Cinnamon, Cardamom, Lavender, Turmeric, Sea Salt or Other Spices to Taste

Preheat Oven to 300 F
Mix the above ingredients well then place in a pan, trying not to make the mixture more than a few inches deep in a large pan.
Place in oven, checking every 10 minutes to stir. Depending on the amount of granola it will take 20-30 minutes.
After cooling, add raisins, other nuts and seeds to your liking



Does it make me a hippie that I make my own granola? Or that I sometimes put hemp seed in there? I smoke cannabis very seldomly and don't listen to Bob Marley or The Dead very much. I do have a small garden and prefer to walk around the city or ride my bike rather than pollute the air so maybe that cancels out the not smoking part? I don't know.

According to Wikipedia, "Both the words "hip" and "hep" came from African American culture and denote "awareness".[1] The early hippies inherited the countercultural values of the Beat Generation, created their own communities, listened to psychedelic rock, embraced the sexual revolution, and some used drugs such as cannabis, LSD and magic mushrooms to explore altered states of consciousness."

I find that I can relate to parts of this label, but any label, be it "hippie", "goth", "beatnik", "schizophrenic" or "lazy" makes me feel claustrophobic and dehumanized. I don't think we will ever stop having categories, but I also don't think we will ever be able to successfully categorize humanity and personality which has a million different reasons for being the way that it is and is not easily reduced to a category.

As well as Granola, I have been known to make my own yogurt and sometimes bread, although dumpster diving at the Essential Bakery in Fremont, Seattle is where I prefer to procure the goods for my glutenous needs. So maybe I really am a "hippie".

But enough about me and my diet. There are a million other websites that do a better job of sharing good recipes than mine. You know, ones written by those crazy "health nuts".