I believe in peace. I often lack it in my mind and in my life and so I strive for it, cultivate it. Lately, I find that this cultivation has been at a small standstill. I know I wasn't so nice after Hurricane Sandy--was inflamed by people gouging and hoarding gas and was utterly unsurprised by the spectacle of media that surrounded it. I wasn't surprised by much of the poor response on the part of the Red Cross, either, but hey, it apparently got to me. I can blame it on my lack of discipline. If I had kept up my self care of daily meditation I might have been less my tri-state self and bit more loving overall--but I get stressed sometimes and fall off the discipline wagon. I do my best. So where did I go for perspective? Why, I went not to the Dalai Lama or to Jesus, I could barely open up my copy of the Bhagavad Gita...instead. I went to the man who makes me laugh, yes, I went to Kurt Vonnegut (Jr).
The thing I like about reading Vonnegut in a times of stress is that he reminds me of these deeper truths in a way that pretends to teach me nothing. What I found lucky this time around was by reading Breakfast of Champions in my distress I found myself smack dab in a world where computers, robotics and data were right at the fore, colluding to highlight the insanity of our culture in a way that reminded me that there is a reason why the Buddha smiles. You just can't take the world seriously, no matter how serious it is.
From the moment I opened the book, from the moment I read Vonnegut's lines on the switch from Armistice day to Veteran's Day I felt more like I was reading a modern day prophet, one for any person of any religion, one for any person at all. Here's what I gleaned that I just need to share on this, an Election day, one that has been fueled less by our pursuit of democracy and more by our love of watching two men duke it out in the media coliseum:
"I will come to a time in my backwards trip when November eleventh, accidentally my birthday, was a sacred day called Armistice Day. When I was a boy, and when Dwayne Hoover was a boy, all the people of all the nations which had fought in the First World War were silent during the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of Armistice Day, which was the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one another. I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the Voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind.
Armistice Day has become Veteran's Day. Armistice Day was sacred. Veteran's Day is not."
And that's kind of how I feel about our political landscape these days. We invoke God all over the place and we sure invoke our love of soldiers, but we rarely allow ourselves to celebrate silence, peace and the moments where humanity listens. No soldier in his right mind wants to kill, to see blood on his hands. No human wants to go to bed at night with that playing in his subconscious.
Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not against Veteran's. I'm just saying, that amidst all the things we do for our country, our freedom or our sense of duty--we're somehow more focused on saying what we think God the big, truly awesome G-O-Dwants us to do, rather than just being peaceful, silent--receptive to another way. How many families can't speak a word of political difference to one another? Most likely, it's most.
The debates were a horror of watching two boys fight it out on the playground after school. My adrenals are happy they've passed. If no one watched them, do you think they'd still do it?
Next to Vonnegut and his prescient words on computers and some of what makes the promise of the Technological Revolution and the Information Age seem like a downer. In a story of science fiction written by the well known character Kilgore Trout,
"And even when they built computers to do some of the thinking for them, they designed them not so much for wisdom as for friendliness"
Well, if you talk to theorists, that's one of our issues; the promise of the digital age is also its greatest problems. Friendly search and keyword bots pre-digest our digital world for us, so we see the world we want to see. We get suggestions to read and relate to those things we find friendliest already. Knowledge shouldn't be this contentious thing, but it shouldn't just lull you deeper into your beliefs. Knowledge should help you broaden yourself, challenge yourself. It shouldn't be your Yes Man. But then again--that's my opinion, isn't it?
The very title and disclaimer of Breakfast of Champions predates the extension of copyright laws under the influence of Disney and the establishment of the Commons. The big champion of the commons Lawrence Lessig was born a little over ten years before this book came out, so maybe some meme of Vonnegut stuck into young Lessig's receptive portion of the collective unconscious and that's voila (!) how we got him as well as the Commons.
It's all ebb and flow
I'm going to vote now. I've been putting it off all day. I'm just not at my best lately, somehow falling a little under the weight of all the marvelous things I'm living, all this history personal and global. I'm stronger today, and feeling good, but I've got a day or two before I'm up at sunrise singing my songs and thanking the Universe for this gift of life. I'm thakful. I'm just not spry about it.
Suffragists died and were tortured for my right to vote in this land. My mom lived in a political refugee camp to give me this right. However screwy the system...I'm going out there and with a spring in my step I'm going to remember this is all one grandly gorgeous collective delusion and today I'm going to participate.
To march me there I have one last quote from Vonnegut, along with a Sutra from a Kundalini Guru (I reserve the right to have weird scholarship). From Yogi Bhajan, the man who gave us Yogi Teas and those cute, inspiring sayings that all the other tea companies now copy:
4. Recognize the Other Person is You
And in deference to all the people shot in Fresno today and in Aurora, and so on and so on. Vonnegut again:
"As I approached my fiftieth birthday, I had become more and more enraged and mystified by the idiot decisions made by my countrymen. And then I had come suddenly to pity them, for I understood how innocent and natural it was for them to behave so abominably, and with such abominable results: They were doing their best to live like people invented in story books. this was the reason Americans shot each other so often: It was a convenient literary device for ending short stories and books.
Why were so many Americans treated by their government as though their lives were disposable as paper facial tissues? Because that was the way the authors customarily treated bit-part players in their made up tales"
In an age of digital media production we have the ability to change our sense of authorship, to transcend into something, a type of human being a type of citizen with way more agency and way more importance in the world. We don't have to be a rich man or a greedy man's facial tissue. Right now that's hard to see. And some people don't want you to see it. They don't want you to be wise and they don't want you to hear the voice of G-O-D and some part of each of us is OK with that. Little by little, we'll improve. We might want to set aside some time each day to unplug. Again, I'm going to say, watch less and less tv, avoid the commercials whenever you can: stop worrying about your short lashes and your yellow teeth. Ignore any medication that might cause extreme seizure, vomiting, insanity or death just so you can eat cheese and still lower your cholesterol.
But first let's get through this election.
~Lots of Love dear RedRoom. I am preparing for a trip and will not blog again for at least a week. Thanks always for reading. In the next several months I'll have some ebooks to shill. I will send updates once I am settled back in the foothills of the Rockies. and I'm going to write using paper and pen for a minute.