Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Personally Political: An Exercise in Integration


It’s been a long time since I posted regularly on this blog. In fact, I have never posted very regularly. I have posted intermittently in regards to a wide array of subjects. I am often called to write when something affects me deeply, but at times I have felt unable to articulate what it is that I want to say. Part of the reason I have had difficulty maintaining this blog on a regular basis is because of internal blocks regarding writing. Sometimes I feel like my blog should have a more specific focus, and I’m not sure how to integrate all the disparate parts of this blog, of myself. Today, I decided to write about some of those blocks, in hopes of removing them and allowing myself the space for expression once again.

When I started this blog I was in my senior year of my undergraduate education at UC Santa Cruz, and posted frequently about art, history, film, and politics. All of those pieces were directly related to my studies, the bulk of the writing being papers that I had submitted for various classes. I was, and still am, proud of the work that I did there, and I wanted to share it with a larger audience. As my focus has changed, I have wondered if it still fits here. Should I delete old posts to make it more cohesive? No. I am proud of those writings and I want to keep them here. Should I limit myself to posting only things that seem to gel together readily? No. I am a whole and multifaceted being, and my writings are unified, because they reflect parts of my whole self.

Nowadays, my focus is often less on what is typically considered political, and more on the personal.  The local.  The every day.  Compassion in each moment.  It is not that I am apolitical or do not care about what is going on in the world.  I care very much.  What is the definition of political anyway? Google defines the word as “of or relating to the government or the public affairs of a country.”  Who makes up the public?  What are public affairs?  The line between public and private is not so clear as we might imagine.  The whole is greater than the sum of the parts, yet each part is integral to the whole.

I am not suggesting that anyone, including myself, should abandon political awareness or action.  It is, and has always been, a crucial part of creating social justice.  I am suggesting that everything we do, everything we write about, and talk about, all of the art we make, everything that comes authentically from the heart, can be transformative for ourselves and for the world.  We can integrate all of it.

Carol Hanisch wrote, in her 1969 essay “The Personal is Political”, “There are no personal solutions at this time. There is only collective action for a collective solution.”  I believe that more than ever we vote with our everyday actions: with the way we see ourselves, with the relationships and communities we create, with the art and writing and media we produce, with the food we eat, with the way we spend our dollar.  I am working on shifting my own patterns of everyday action and consumption in response to my concerns about our global climate.

I now spend a lot of time participating in several different women’s groups. Some of these groups are not engaged in direct political action, but provide a space for support, discussion, and empowerment. I argue that these groups are radical and are political, not in spite of, but because of, their focus on the personal aspects of women’s lives. Some of these groups are international, while others are local. Women are using modern technology to create vast networks of support that span oceans and generations.  When we share what makes us tick, our creations, our music, our stories, our truths, we make space for other women to do the same.  This is revolutionary.

Hanisch went on to say, “I think ‘apolitical’ women are not in the movement for very good reasons, and as long as we say 'you have to think like us and live like us to join the charmed circle,' we will fail. What I am trying to say is that there are things in the consciousness of 'apolitical' women (I find them very political) that are as valid as any political consciousness we think we have.”  Hanisch spoke about the women’s movement of the 1960s, but her words apply to our current state of affairs as well. Women today are effecting transformational change, in our own lives, that radiates into the public sphere. We are the grassroots, and we are being the change we want to see.

To come back to the beginning...this is why I want to write, why I need to write.  About whatever I want.  Without needing to put it into a neat box with a pretty bow.  I am allowing myself the space to share my voice, to turn my lens on whatever issues I find compelling and meaningful.   One of my favorite sayings is the Jewish phrase, "tikkun olam," which loosely translates to "to save one life is to save the world."  Through writing, I transform myself.  Through transforming myself, I connect with others.  Through connecting with others, we transform the world.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Thursday, September 12, 2013

False Idolatry 2013

Whenever I am disillusioned with something, or no longer having fun, I tell myself “Everything is a learning experience.” That’s how I have managed to cope with heartbreak and loss, embarrassment and shame, feeling out of place and ostracized, and everything in between. This year at Burning Man, that was my mantra.

I am well versed in the perils of expectation and well aware that the Playa can provide both ecstasy and misery, sometimes back to back. Last year, I rode through the week on a cloud, only coming to a crashing halt when my campmates (new friends with whom I had bonded deeply) and I packed up to leave. We adventured in tight little cells, streamed through the crowds on the way to the burns, screamed “Orgasm!” in unison at the top of our lungs, miraculously found just the right places, huddled together with our crew, bladders full of piss and hearts full of bliss.

This year's Burn fell flat in comparison. I felt so far away from that candy-coated cloud I had navigated through the desert in 2012. I felt alone, disheartened, and disconnected from most of my campmates and the sea of drugs that they were swimming in with joy and abandon. It was a tripper’s paradise, and this year I had turned down the Kool-Aid. But then, I know the perils of comparison too. I adjusted my perspective, repeated my mantra, and looked for the beauty in the breakdown.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Butterfly Circus


The Butterfly Circus - HD from The Butterfly Circus on Vimeo.

The Butterfly Circus, directed by Joshua Weigel, is one of the most beautiful and inspiring short films I have seen in a long time.  The film tells the story of a troupe of unique performers, all of whom had to fight their way through very difficult circumstances before finding happiness in the traveling family of the Butterfly Circus.  "The harder the struggle, the greater the triumph," says the ringmaster.  We see this theme played out as the newest addition, a man without limbs, struggles to escape his past as a sideshow curiosity and embrace his full potential.  This is a must watch.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Sounds of Late


Blackbird Raum

Agent Ribbons

The Devil Makes Three

Florence and the Machine

Friday, April 8, 2011

Words of Wisdom

Excerpts from “What I Believe“, J. G. Ballard 1984.

“I believe in the power of the imagination to remake the world, to release the truth within us, to hold back the night, to transcend death, to charm motorways, to ingratiate ourselves with birds, to enlist the confidences of madmen. . .
I believe in Max Ernst, Delvaux, Dali, Titian, Goya, Leonardo, Vermeer, Chirico, Magritte, Redon, Duerer, Tanguy, the Facteur Cheval, the Watts Towers, Boecklin, Francis Bacon, and all the invisible artists within the psychiatric institutions of the planet.
I believe in the impossibility of existence, in the humour of mountains, in the absurdity of electromagnetism, in the farce of geometry, in the cruelty of arithmetic, in the murderous intent of logic. . .
I believe all excuses.
I believe all reasons.
I believe all hallucinations.
I believe all anger.
I believe all mythologies, memories, lies, fantasies, evasions.
I believe in the mystery and melancholy of a hand, in the kindness of trees, in the wisdom of light.”

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Global Relationships: Wong Kar Wai's Happy Together



In my junior year of college, I was fortunate enough to take a class in the in the history of Asian art and visual culture taught by the amazing Professor Deborah Stein.  This class, like the best ones always do, transformed my understanding and left me with treasures.  Among these treasures is Wong Kar Wai's masterpiece of film, Happy Together.

One of the ways that Happy Together can be understood is as an allegory of globalization. The film does not provide a cohesive narrative, but rather a broken sequence of events and images. Gaps in the story are frequent and must be filled in by the viewer. On the surface, the film is about a gay couple from Hong Kong, Ho Po-Wing and Lai Yu-Fai. It follows the trajectory of their emotionally abusive relationship over a period of two years. We are provided with minimal narrative in voice-overs, but long sequences of pure imagery and music allow the viewer to imagine the particulars of the narrative.