The Tao (Pt. 1)

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We get caught up, often, in the material part of the world, the part of the world that’s surface-level compared to what some would call “The Truth”. There are many truths for many people in the forms of religions, philosophies, anarchists, e.t.c. I’m not one who could consciously say any belief of anyone else is false, wrong, or ignorant. Everyone handles the struggles of life differently and that constancy will never change.

As for me, I don’t much affiliate with any religious preference, although I many teaching from many different religious texts, and I don’t much claim to be a philosopher with any set belief, although I’m entertained deeply by some western philosophers like Kant and Nietzsche. I’m not one to claim science over God, gods, deities, e.t.c, either.

I’m spiritually connected to the parts of my indigenous culture I’ve been able to learn about. I’m also engrossed heavily with Taoism (known as Daoism, or dào jiào, more correctly). For this article I’ll refer to it as Taoism and “The Tao”, because it’s what I’ve noticed a lot of people are more familiar with.

For those who aren’t aware, Taoism is one philosophy indigenous to China (6th century B.C, Laozi). Some call it a religion, but I’m more inclined to consider it a philosophy; there is no set creator like in Christian or Catholic religions. Although the cosmos and The Tao are the universe and the creation of, neither are worshiped.

First and foremost, let’s consider The Sage, as this understanding encompasses the majority of what the beliefs surround. Essentially, this is someone who is in completely harmony with her surroundings, in their environment as well as in the universe. What does this mean? Briefly, it means this person has gained a wisdom extending beyond intellect and instead enriched with an intuitive understanding of life.

“Rank and Reward make no appeal to her. Disgrace and shame do not deter her. She is not always looking for right and wrong. The world is ruled by letting things take their course”.

–Chang Tzui

We’re all capable of embodying these characteristics because they are all parts of our humanity.

As a way express and embody this, Toaism is birthed. The Tao is considered “the way” the-secret-book-cover-250x357or “the path”. It’s how we perceive and interact with the world around us, and how we interpret that reality influences our path of action. Do you all know that book “The Secret”? This book? They’re putting a really westernized twist on this philosophy of The Tao. 

The most important thing to understand, in my mind’s view, is that all of life, every manifestation of life, is part of this whole that is inseparable, an interconnected organic unity from The Tao itself. Life’s forces are attracted to balance because it’s their nature to do so. Sound familiar? It should; it’s pretty damn similar to the basis of The Law of Inertia, one of Newton’s three law’s of motion–an object in motion will stay in motion unless acted on by some unbalancing force. Essentially, it’s this “natural tendency” for things to say in the state they are in, unless they’re disturbed.

How can relate this to ourselves and the Universe? Well, we have a couple choices as humans, and one choice is to follow this “Way”, and “go with the flow” as you will, ot we can choose to do the opposite and remain disconnected from life.

As someone with indigenous American roots, this speaks volumes to me. My ancestors lived a life conducive with nature, with the cosmos, not one which ruled the land and claimed the Earth as “ours”. There was violence, there was hierarchy, yes, but with nature they were one and connected to life.

7030828-3d-yin-yangYin-Yang is also important to talk about here. This is the principal of change and harmony. They’re primal energies, not opposites as many think. They’re complimentary to each other: in other words, Yin creates Yang and Yang creates Yin. You can only know pain because there is happiness. You can only know good because there is evil.

This leads to the conclusion that one shouldn’t ever get intertwined in contradictions like right and wrong, to choose one over the other. Instead, we should only recognize their relatedness.

How can we relate this to ourselves? Well, how often do we find ourselves, especially those of you who are my mental health peers, picking at ourselves over parts of us we dislike, or disowning parts of ourselves? That’s fighting against the natural balance of things. In other words, although times are tough now, every force in life, including that which lies within us, strives for balance and we can’t achieve that balance within ourselves by fighting what must happen. If that means a shitty period in life, a horrible mental break down, or manic episode or days upon months upon years of hearing voices or anxiety or depression, than what’s what it means.

It’s not giving in. It’s recognizing that this reality is here, and to try and eradicate it would be like trying to erase a negative current from electricity just because it isn’t positive. Eradication is not balance. That’s like removing your left eye and then wondering why you can’t see out of it anymore.

There are two other areas I would like to speak of, the “Te”, which is the principal of inner nature, and the Wu-Wei principal of “non-doing”, but I’ll save that for a different post. As of now, I’d like to share two translations I found in a book at work, coupled with the Chinese writings of each.

“In the pursuit of learning, everyday something is acquired.

In the pursuit of Tao, everyday something is dropped.

Less and less is done,

until non-action is achieved.

When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.

The world is ruled by letting things take their course.

It cannot be ruled by interfering.”

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“The beginning of the universe

Is the mother of all things.

Knowing the mother, one also knows the sons.

Knowing the sons, yet remaining in touch with the mother,

brings freedom from the fear of death.

Keep your mouth shut,

Guard the senses,

And life is ever full.

Open your mouth,

Always be busy,

And life is beyond hope.

Seeing the small is insight,

Yielding to force is strength.

Using the outer light, return to insight

And in this way be saved from harm.

This is learning constancy.”

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The Treatment of Us

Opportunities are often snatched from chaos. They don’t drift by idly. They come as a result of coincidence often, of hard work, of belief. Sometimes they come to you because they were meant to come to you. Never leave any stone un-turned.

I’ve been amazed this past few months where much of my writing has taken me. It’s increasingly won scholarships and the recognition of professors, professionals, and magazines. Much of what I write about surrounds mental health, as you all know, and because of that I’ve run into many road blocks.

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I started a blog as a journal. As I found my voice I realized, as the comments rolled in, that my ideas surrounding mental health aren’t typical. I realized that peer support wasn’t something many could put as much faith into as I. I realized that medication and pharmaceutical companies were things many consumers of mental health were things they saw as requirement rather than option–and I completely respected that. I myself have been on and off medication, and as of now I’m on medication again. There’s nothing shameful about that.

What has bothered me is the lack of choice people realize they have. What has bothered me the most is the cold shoulder I’ve been given by many fellow consumers. And while I absolutely respect their point of view, as I at one point believed the same, I can’t help but grow frustrated that those mental health writers in complete support of the medical model, of the ideals that mental disorders are 100% a chemical balance, that we are people who are “ill” and “sick”, get more of a voice out to the mental health community than those of us spreading a different message.

I grow frustrated that my ideas and I are treated as an outcast because we’re not preaching subservience to the portion of mental health treatment run by corporations, by money, and by greed.

What is interesting is that the evidence is very, very clear. Peer programs, when they first began, showed extreme promise. The idea was created for people experiencing “first break” psychosis. It eventually developed into something to aide those with a schizophrenia diagnosis to stay out of psychiatric hospitals, to live independently, and to learn how to cope with experiences like voices. Upwards of 70% (or more), after they went through the peer programs and moved on in their life never fell into the hands of a psychiatric hospital again. Some never needed psychiatric medication again.

Let’s compare that to recent pharmaceutical research, where maybe 174 people in a clinical trial lasting six weeks meant to represent the entirety of a population that would be taking a medication for possibly years, found that there was hardly a significant difference between the placebo pill, an older medication, and the new medication. Those findings are tossed off somewhere in the research lab while the company developing the pill tells the researchers to advertise the drug towards a specific population and say it helps with a specific problem.

The paper is published in a scientific journal without the reject papers. That, my friends, is against the law and the code of honor of research.

And when those reject papers are found and wrote about (there are articles about it across the internet), not many hear about it because the companies settle out of court and get off with a slap on the wrist.

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Everything about mental health consumers, our health, and our livelihood is done without us. So if that’s the kind of care you want to promote on your websites, if that’s the kind of care you want to promote as a mental health writer, go right ahead. I’m not afraid to let go of a writing position or a chance to do a guest article if I’m required to mold to something I don’t believe in.

When I first acquired my peer support position and was dazzled by what I saw, I searched the internet for information. I found several articles about similar programs, and was astounded at the difference and impact respites and peer programs have done–things you never hear about unless you search for it. Things not published on websites who claim to give all kinds of information on mental health and different treatments.

One writer said, as a respect to peer programs:

Dream Two? When all people are able to set aside their need to label and diagnose another human being in order to understand “what’s wrong,” and instead sit at a kitchen table to find out “what happened,” and share stories. This is my dream of what “mental health” will look like one day.

–Yana Jacobs

Written by a woman who is the Senior program officer with the Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care.

Like it or not, change is coming. You can hold on to the old models all you like. You can feed into bullshit all you want. I personally don’t care what medication someone takes. I don’t care what their diagnosis is. I don’t care how many times they’ve been hospitalized. All I care about is who they are as a human being. I care about their story, where they came from, what they’ve been through. I care about what they have to say and how they express it.

You could write countless “list articles” about steps to “recovery”, or why you’re still “sick” on your medication. You can advocate compliance with the old system all you want. But you’re only perpetuating the idea that we’re all at the mercy of our “illness”, even when you’re trying to put out the most positive message you can. 

I’ve been blessed to have a lot of writing opportunities coming my way. Thank you, Thought Catalog. Thank you to my professor who ran after me in the rain to talk to me about my writing. Thank you to my blog followers who’ve kept me going for over a year now. Thank you to the people who’ve asked me to write an article for their websites. Thank you to the people who email me and ask me questions about all of this. Thank You IPS. Thank you to Second Story Peer Respite for showing me all you have, because without them none of this would be a reality right now.

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And thank you, most of all, to everyone who thinks I’m absolutely insane. You’re pushing me to fight harder to get this message known.

The Unmentionables

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In honor of mental health month, or week, or whatever (for my opinion on the matter, and the solid reasoning behind my opinion click here)  I’d like to take a moment to discuss something that isn’t spoken about very often until another study comes out proving the same statistics over and over again.

If you’d like to read the original article (from which I’ll be taking quotations as well,) you can also click here. 

The subject is schizophrenia and race.

Race is a touchy subject. Schizophrenia is as well, in my opinion: it’s something many people don’t understand, something some people refuse to understand, and as a result it isn’t spoken of often in the general public, not as openly as depression and anxiety.

I could spend a good four or five blog posts on the stigma behind schizophrenia and how bad I want to punch idiots in the face. But I won’t. I can’t make any guarantees about the punching though.

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Race is something many people refuse to recognize as a social construction and therefore it becomes a way to fuel our human instinct to judge.

So when you mix the two, it’s obvious it’s not a subject you’d bring up over coffee with your average “neurotypical” and expect them to not do this:

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The article I read, published on may 20, 2016 states the same old statistics that I’ve known for years:

African-Americans are nearly twice as likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia than whites and less likely to receive medication to treat the condition.

And this is according to a new study published.

And the response from the professionals who receive these statistics is the same as usual:

“It’s concerning that we saw a higher rate of diagnosis of schizophrenia and seemingly an undertreatment in terms of pharmacotherapy for that group . . . In general, pharmacotherapy is an important part of the treatment plan. That’s a finding that warrants some additional research.”

The woman who said that co-authored the study. What’s peculiar to me is their language. It’s just “concerning” that certain ethnic groups are being targeted specifically (or subconsciously,) and left to the deal with their own demons on their own time when there are treatments available for them to try. It’s a finding that “Warrants additional research”? Really? What the fuck is research going to do?

Now, let me and my ghetto self butt in for a moment, because I grew up with a very southern, black part of my family and a very midwestern, polish, White part of my family. It is not a secret that in African American hosueholds, mental health is not taken very seriously. In many ethnic groups this is the case. It’s seen as a weakness or a personality flaw that warrants seclusion. It’s also the case that most ethnic groups are of a lower socioeconomic status (which, remember, is a larger contributing factor to mental illness than people give it credit for)  and without insurance, so the prospects of treatment, of expensive psychiatrists, of expensive therapy, of expensive medication, are pretty much nil.

*Remember, you save a huge blow to your finances if you see a psychiatrist who also provides therapy services.*

“White patients were 77.8 percent more likely than other racial groups to receive medication.”

Once again, health insurance, money: all very important when receiving medication. Does this statistic mean the medical industry is racist? I don’t believe so. Does it mean there is a gap between treatment of races? Absolutely: of course there is, for finance reasons, so societal reasons, for family reasons. The problem isn’t just in the medical industry, it isn’t something that can be solved with “more research”, it’s a problem ingrained in the deepest corners of American history that we’ve, well, ignored.

It’s all nice and well to apologize for slavery, it’s all nice and well to encourage hispanic kids into college, to enjoy Chinese food, to talk for ten minutes in public school about Native American culture (ten minutes is better than it used to be) as long as you don’t continue on with the same under the rug bigoted behavior.

Which we have.

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For many years.

What was the point of the apology?

“Interestingly enough, Native American/Alaskan Native patients had the highest rate of any diagnosis at 20.6 percent, and Asian patients had the lowest rates at 7.5 percent.”

That’s a cute statistic. We are all aware of how stigmatized mental health is in Asian communities, I am sure. To be quite honest, it would be hard to distinguish schizotypy in patients with a culture rich in signs, symbols, ancestry, stars, and hallucinogens which are heavily present in Native American culture. There are some native cultures whose medicine doctors snort some of the world’s most potent hallucinogens, take a second to themselves, and then use the trip they go on as a way to heal their patients. They manipulate the hallucinations, the emotions they gain, and believe it a portal to the spirit world.

Hand if off to a westerner and they’ve been known to run off into the forest with their mind miles away from them.

The Office of Minority Health reported Black adults are more likely to have feelings of sadness, hopelessness and worthlessness in comparison to white adults.

I wonder why. 

Perhaps more African-American physicians are necessary to even the gap between Blacks and whites. The 1999 U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health found that Black doctors are five times more likely than white doctors to treat Black patients, and African-American patients consistently rated their Black physicians higher when it comes to bedside manner. Respondents said Black doctors had a more participatory style of interaction.

1And this makes the article all worth it, in my opinion. It’s not a matter of “perhaps”, it’s a matter of necessity. Not only for fair treatment of ethnics, but as a way to boost overall morale of all ethnic groups: we need people our children can look up to, people our children can see are successful not because their black or Asian, or white or Hispanic, but because they had a vision for themselves, a passion, and they went after it.

People think it’s about their own race “comin’ up in the game”, but it’s not. It’s about seeing someone you relate to, someone you can understand, make something of themselves. And that’s more powerful than any skin pigmentation.

Like I’ve stated before, I’m one of the lucky ones. I grew up accepting every asset of myself, my fantasy world, the weird way I shove random words from my face hole with shocking inconsistency, and as I’ve grown older the things I hear that others don’t, the things I catch glimpses of that others don’t, the people (every human being) I mistrust, the insomnia, the signs, the this, the that.

I say I’m lucky because I’ve never had the displeasure of breaking from reality indefinitely. I say I’m lucky because what I experience isn’t nearly as bad as what others do. Not yet.

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That doesn’t mean things aren’t annoying. For example, one reoccurring hallucination I call “megaphone” I think I’ve talked about briefly. Essentially it sounds like someone right next to my ear whose voice echos all down the street and all around my space, but hasn’t moved from my side. I can’t ever understand what they say, it’s just a mush pot of words.

Today it startled me twice. He usually comes around when I’ve been stressed. Although it sounded right next to me, it also sounded like it was coming from the lawn of the apartment across the street. But when I looked there was no one. No cars bumping loud music (that’s a first for that complex), no apartments bumping loud music (yet another first), and no kids screaming running around the grass (a third first). No live music, no microphones, nothing. Just dead silence. Except, of course, for the megaphone mumbling.

Yo, I had a drink called a “Zombie” tonight at this place:

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They served it in a tiki zombie ceramic cup. It was delicious: Rum, passion fruit, pineapple and lime juice. Delicious. 

Anyway, I deal with megaphone-for-brains often. I mistake silence or thuds and crashes for voices all the time, I hear my name all over the place, yada, yada,  other things: beliefs that I have evidence to support that people still seem to deny exist, women in bowling alleys conspiring with their friends to talk about me just because I was aware of their existence and probably would have spiked my drink last night if I had had one there too, blah, blah! You get it. 

I talk a lot about my anxiety and depression. But not much about these things. Why? Well, depression is a crippling disorder, there’s no doubt about that. So is anxiety. The majority of the population experiences some or all of the disorder at some point in their life. The same can’t be said for Schizotypal PD.

So I understand why African American families are wary of mental disorders and diagnosis, especially when it comes to something as life-alerting as schizophrenia. I understand we don’t like to talk about it: it just sounds plain ridiculous and ignorance is bliss. But since when has ignoring something ever made it go away?

*Cough* Racism *COUGH COUGH COUGH COUGH*

Sorry, I had a political tickle in my throat.

This is the why sharing is such a huge asset to those of us in the mental health community: fuck trying to change people, that’s gotten us no where. We need to know that if no one else on the outside is there for us, than someone on the inside is.

What happens when we’re not there for each other? Well, those aforementioned statistics, suicides and misery.

I used to wonder why people don’t believe in they self

and then I saw the way they portrayed us to everyone else.

They cursed us, to only see the worst in ourselves

Blind to the fact the whole time we were hurtin’ ourselves

–Immortal Technique 

A Sense Of Yourself

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The rate at which my hands turn to ice even on a day blessed with sunlight is too damn high.

I can’t even feel the keys on this Chromebook. I’m just stabbing the buttons in hopes my procedural memory will pick up the slack. In the midst of my stabbing I came across an intriguing article on the absence of spirituality in the modern mental health system. You can read the original here.

In case your attention span isn’t up for the challenge and you left your trusty prescription stimulant at home, I’ll provide a quick summary.

'I see the problem, Gibson- you forgot to borrow from your neighbor there in step 3.'You see, it all started when I forgot how to do a derivative. That’s usually how it starts, isn’t it? Then all of a sudden you’re combining some integration-derivative hybrid and you’re subtracting what you’re supposed to be adding and your by-parts turns into a gruesome monster spanning your entire page and you’re scanning your work in hysterics wondering where in the world you could have gone wrong when you’re a damned genius.

On four hours of sleep, I can barely add 2 + 2.

At any rate, I tossed the math aside and the first article I found to waste my time on was “The difference Between My Psychiatrist and My Shaman” by Dylan Charles.

Now, before you roll your eyes at me and say “for fucks sake not this again” and un-follow me, I’m going to say right off the bat this is not a post to diss the modern medical industry, it’s just a post to present to you a different side.

shaman_bA shaman, as I’m sure the majority of you know, is a spiritual healer. A lot of the times those of us assimilated into Western culture consider Shamans as practicing a primitive medicine, healing techniques which follow myths and legends of ancient cultures.

Many indigenous cultures, according to Charles, believe the symptoms of mental disorders are not the result of a defective person or brain, but are rather psychic energies within the person that are incompatible with said person and those energies must be either forced from the body or integrated into the body.

Films exaggerate this. We’re not talking about demonic possession. People infected by these energies aren’t doing the crab walk across the kitchen tile with their tongue flicking a mile a minute at your ankles (haven’t read the exorcist? You should).

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Shamans, then, have a healing purpose, to help restore balance among the energies. Their purpose is “not to correct or remedy anything, but is instead to facilitate change and integration within the patient “. 

Charles goes on to emphasize two plants which have been known for promoting healing and restoration of energy balance: Iboga and Ayahuasca. If you haven’t heard of them, than you probably don’t know about the recent craze of using these psychoactive substances to help treat symptoms of disorders like Schizophrenia and Depression. Don’t know the efficacy levels of those studies yet. It’s probably subjective like every other portion of psychology.

I won’t summarize Charles’ entire experience with a western psychiatrist and an indigenous shaman, I feel those words are better left explained by him in his article. But I believe he brings up a very deep conflict circulating through our culture today: where is our spirituality? Our connectedness with others? With nature? How much of our life, of our interconnection, do we jeopardize when business hijacks medicine?

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You don’t have to believe that mental disorders are a a hoax and that the symptoms are incoming energies throwing off your internal balance. You just have to have a mind capable of considering other possibilities. You need a mind capable of understanding that a scientific study created and ran by man (a terribly flawed creature) for a science which is subjective in its majority does not have all the answers. Just because they tell you the reward pathway in the substantia nigra is responsible for relaying addiction doesn’t mean the substantia nigra is responsible for addiction by itself. If it were, you could remove it and cure the very nature of substance abuse.

At the same time, you can’t consider these indigenous and/or ancient traditions “primitive” or “illogical” or “stupid”; what’s the point in doing so? They’re about as accurate as anything else man has thought up. Even physics has spent tireless hours proving our consciousness and our observation of the universe influences our surroundings and what happens to us, and no one seems to give a damn. To put the body and particularly the mind on a purely physical pedestal is, in my opinion, primitive.

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I’m sure people who have grown up with traditional, indigenous treatments out in jungles the “civilized” world has yet to have impact on would find our customs of modernized medicine really . . . odd. Just as I’m sure people in this part of the world find their customs . . . strange.

Westerners tried having a similar, spiritual take on things when they considered “Hysteria” the “Wandering Uterus”. Didn’t really have the same effect.

It seems western minds weren’t too keen when to thinking outside of a physical box.

Could this be true?

Another way to say this, which may make more sense to the Western mind, is that we in the West are not trained in how to deal or even taught to acknowledge the existence of psychic phenomena, the spiritual world. In fact, psychic abilities are denigrated. When energies from the spiritual world emerge in a Western psyche, that individual is completely unequipped to integrate them or even recognize what is happening. [Source]

 

Could this be true?

The causes of depression are not fully understood, but scientists believe that an imbalance in the brain’s signaling chemicals may be responsible for the condition in many of the patients. However, there are several theories about what this imbalance actually is and which signaling chemicals are involved. [Source]

Could they both be true? Could everything be true? Could nothing be true?

You have to consider all the possibilities. If you don’t, you’re lying to yourself. And the fact that we as a culture have simply, and uncritically, accepted simple explanations for complex human experiences disheartens me.

To make attempts at telling our body how to act is essentially vain. Disrespectful, as well. You are a human being apart of an entire universe, not just your job, not just your house, not just your family, not just your neighborhood–an entire universe which at times caters to your observation and which, at times, require you cater to its requirements. It’s a give and take. Don’t believe me? Go argue with a physicist, because I don’t have time for it.

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People (like me) complain about how corrupt businesses and industries and organizations have gotten. We’re human: every part of the Earth we touch will eventually be corrupted because we’ve lost that connection. We’re not in touch with ourselves or where we live. We’re so focused on ourselves we forgot who we are. 

So do mental disorders exist? We’ve created them: of course they do.

Careful: I’m not saying we’ve made up the behavior or the struggle we all face (that’s definitely real) or the “chemical imbalances” if you so choose to believe, I’m saying we’ve defined them as they are. We don’t see them as instances of humans suffering some great spiritual and physical and mental issue combined, we only see them as problems. Sicknesses. Illnesses. A part of our humanity need to be cured.

I believe all of our interpretations of mental health, mental disorders, mental illnesses, whichever you choose to call them are valid to some degree. The fact that we separate them into categories when they all very obviously overlap, the fact that we cater and fund more willingly specific treatments, biological only treatments, only further validates the disconnect in the industry.

You don’t need to go to a Shaman to learn your mind and your body and your surroundings are connected in more than just a physical way. You don’t need to go to medical school to learn that helping the mind, body, and spirit all together, whether that means medication, therapy, sweat lodges, whatever, can help any person regain a sense of themselves, no matter their ailment.

 

E.B.A.H And The World

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The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire. 

The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire. 

The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire.

We don’t need no water, let the motherfucker burn. 

Burn motherfucker, burn. 

If you haven’t heard that song by Bloodhound Gang, what have you really done with your life?

Music is a big part of my life. As I’ve briefly mentioned before, I listen to all types. Taking a world music class introduced me to some of my now favorites like Gamelan music from Indonesia, Classic Chinese, and the Pansori story-telling opera type music from Korea. I believe what attracted me to Gamelan was the class, the organization, and of course the on point timing the musicians intrinsically know. You don’t ever step over the instruments, only around them because stepping over them disrespects the spirits within them. Pansori reminds me much of Native American music which often tells stories of creation and morals, although I believe Pansori runs a lot, lot longer. Classic Chinese music has always interested me, before I had a chance to study it; it’s very high pitched but it’s a type of high pitched that strums a calming nerve in me.

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Here’s a video if you’ve never heard it. I strongly suggest giving it a chance:

What a lot of people in the western world may not know is that our music bars, our F.A.C.E and E.G.B.D.F are not universal. If you’re American you’re probably used to the 4/4 count, and if you’re part of latin and German roots you’re probably also used to 3/4 counts (Waltz). But a lot of classic and culture music from our neighbors over in the East is often improvised, without written bars, without specific counts, and taken only from the 90+ scales they have to memorize and master in order to become a respected musician.

Before I took the class a year and a half ago, I figured I’d never hear anything as complicated as, say, Through The Fire and The Flames by Dragonforce. If you haven’t heard that song, the solos and vocals are wicked and blew my mind when I was 11. While in that class, I learned Western, modern music is rather simplistic compared to the rest of the world that have certain musical traditions to uphold.

Don’t get me wrong, I love classic rock and metal and rap and Rhythm and Blues and Jazz and symphonies and orchestras and operas and choirs and a SELECT FEW Country songs as much as the next person. But I found myself culturally envious of the children across the world who are filled with thousand year old songs by their elders (whether they appreciate it in this day and age or not).

2492451_origI consider myself part of the world culture. I love, and am fascinated by them all, regardless of which gender they think is superior or which dictators they’re forced to bow down to. The culture isn’t corrupt, it’s the people, and therefore I respect their tradition, but not their choices.

Music does wonders for my mental health. I think it can do wonders for a lot of people’s mental health. Our music building at my college has walls dedicated to the psychology of music. It’s not only a good stress reliever but it’s a form of expression, of comfort, and it’s a way to connect with others. It’s a way to enjoy solitude and company. It carries tradition and message and religion and every human emotion, perhaps even the ones you can’t explain.

Many native traditions believe the universe was wrought into creation by a single song. I tend to agree.

Music is everywhere. Our voices can imitate pitch and tone. Your pulse is a beat, your car engine rumbles to a specific count. Math and music intermingle like courting eagles and without those two timing devices, what would our universe be today? Non-existent, most likely. Music is everywhere, if you open your ears to it.

maxresdefault3What bothers me about music as an industry is the introduction of synthetics. I don’t like the way they defile the rawness of the human voice or the way they only do so in pursuit of dollars. I stay away from most pop music because of the reoccurring themes of “omg, we broke up” and the cliche beats made by someone pressing three buttons and feeling accomplished in themselves. I can’t watch music videos anymore because I’m not that into porn. I turn on the radio to a local hip-hop station and find they’ve been dominated by corporation and therefore forced to play the same song ten times in an hour. Not to mention if they did play a different song, I wouldn’t know because all the rappers have the same tone of voice and brag about the cocaine in their car, the gun in their sock, and the bitch on their dick.

That being said, there are people into synthetics who get amazingly creative and I respect them for putting a level of originality into something that can fall dull pretty easily. There are some rappers who spit on a variety of topics and I respect them for defying the stereotype surrounding rap these days.

I don’t mean this to seem like a hate speech on today’s music (although they’re making it pretty easy for me) because everyone’s chosen way to express themselves is up to them.

Oops, I mean up to the record companies. Sorry for that error.

63b9d7_d43f48ba681549446f14aa647ac85da0So as youngster I did gravitate towards the underground scene. I supported local bands and political rappers before I understood politics. I liked Dead Prez and Immortal Technique but I clung to Tech N9ne the hardest for some reason.

Probably because he’s a motherfuckin’ boss.

But that’s beside the point.

I scanned one of our local club’s band list for the next six months and underneath Snoop Dogg and some stupid ass 2 Chainz was Tech on May 14th. His annual trip into our little town.

It’s funny. Besides Snoop Dogg and Ice Cube, I never see that club sold out with a line three blocks down until Tech comes. Maybe I’m bias. But those are the three biggest names to hit us, usually.

I wish he was coming after June 15th (my birthday) so I could hit the bar downstairs and head upstairs. Alas, on may 14th I won’t be close enough to 21 for them to let me sneak in.

largeI like downstairs better anyway. I like being in the front because, hello, you’re right there. Last time one of the rappers who’d already performed was standing right behind my friend and I and I jumped so high when I noticed. He was just laughing and taking some joints from the people beside me. He was chill.

Yes, I do take ear plugs. For sensory reasons and for ear health reasons.

Obviously, I’m hype for this shit. I miss when he used to come twice or three times a year, but I understand Strange Music has expanded since 2002 and honestly, as long as his ass comes once a year I’m satisfied.

A few of my favorite songs? Damn, I’m glad you asked. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re Gunna Free The Shit Out Of You

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I reserved today as a perfect day for a writing binge.

I’ve had a short story in the back of my mind for quite some time now and throughout the weeks I’d been jotting characters, quotations, ideas . . . you know, anything that came to my mind randomly that I could squeeze into the story. Some people plan their story, some people just write them, I do both. I scribble a rough skeleton on about seven different pieces of paper, pieces that are usually meant for something else, and occasionally I’ll jot them down on my phone, then when the time comes to write I have to scrounge them up.

I’ve never lost one of those papers. Never. Until now.

I lost one of the most important pieces I could have lost.

That is why I am now blogging. If I were not blogging, I’d be punching a wall or perhaps sitting in quiet rage. I hate loosing things. I do it all the time and I still hate it.

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Dramatic, right?

I have a leather bound notebook (100% leather, got it on sale for $70) where I have my most important writing and usually I’ll fold little scraps and slip them in between those pages because I take a great deal of care of that notebook. When I saw my little folded scribbles weren’t in there, it was panic mode. I’ve trashed my room and I’m not putting it back together. Not until I find those pages.

Of course the beautiful thing about the mind is that I can just make up more shit.

However.

I really liked what I started.

Damn it. Damn it. Damn it.

There’s a very strong bond between myself and what I write. Loosing those ideas is like a bank robber dropping three bags of bills while running from the cops. Those are my feelings at this moment.

My memory is also shit when it comes to stuff like this. If I tried to remember what I’d scribbled, I’d pop a brain vessel.

Sigh. Time to think about something else before I blow a gasket.

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Yes, This Is Completely Irrelevant

Last night my professor was telling us about how impoverished the Lakota people’s reservation is. He considered them the poorest people in this country and I’m inclined to believe that. The government has told them time and time again that, as “compensation for our ancestors disrespect and current government’s blatant stupidity” they’d give the people monetary benefits. A bunch of a money. Money, money, money.

The Lakota people refuse. They want their land back. They want to be able to run things how they want; they don’t even mind the white people living there as long as they abide by tribal laws.

Obviously the American government isn’t going to have any of that.

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So the Lakota people live in squalor and poverty and probably alcoholism and addiction, with an unemployment rate of about 80% for the sake of integrity and dignity and culture. We talked about how if they let the U.S back them into a corner and succumbed to the monetary relief, it would be an example to reservations everywhere. An example of submission and defeat.

As a community of people, they understand that being together is how you strengthen individuals and strengthening individuals is how you strengthen a community. 

I was obviously raised non-traditional. I don’t go to ceremonies (although I’ve always been interested) and I don’t know any stories of creation or morals besides what I’ve learned this semester. I was raised with fried chicken, hot water corner bread, black eyed peas, greens, barbecue rips, James Brown, mayonnaise, and every once in a while a dash of Polish food. Food raised me apparently. James Brown wasn’t food but whatever, you get my point.

_DSC0284 (2).JPGHowever, my father knew a Tsalagi couple who had a giant wolf dog and house in the mountains and that’s where I learned to swim. They gave him hand crafted flutes and they listened to Walela together and watched nature and they designated him the name “EagleHorse”. So he has a bunch of stuff with eagles and horses. And Buffalo. People always gifted me Dream Catchers and I was taught that both God and the power of Dream Catchers protected me and my dreams at night. I understood spirits and interconnection from a young age–ever since I can remember. It’s always been with me. I never liked talking about it because other kids didn’t get it and when people talk about spiritual things around here it’s either tied to the Christian religion or ghosts and it’s never talked about with feeling, just knowledge and “facts”.

I’ve been in the closet for quite some time about my true beliefs. Throughout this class I felt like I was a fake–these things I should have known. I should have been apart of. And now that they’re here I’m suddenly embracing them.

But the truth is it isn’t my fault I wasn’t raised like that. That part of my culture has been desecrated over hundreds of years. How could I expect to be taught anything about it in a country that can’t even acknowledge they’re the reason for it?

If anything, I feel like I’m finally being given the chance to be true to who I am. Yes, I’m Polish and African American but I’m also Tsalagi and I never had a chance to celebrate that part of me. We talk a lot in this class about how Blood Quantum doesn’t matter, the way of life, the belief system, the value system does. I don’t care if the government ever recognizes me as indigenous. I don’t want their handouts or their “benefits” in college. I’m already African American, I’ll fill the diversity quota for all the universities. My professor is English and Irish and Tsalagi–but he was raised Tsalagi and even though he’s white, he’s indigenous. He’s lived it since childhood and I have to say, I’m jealous as hell.

If you go by stereotypes, I look “more Indian” than him.

But stereotypes are the reason white people tell me I’m not black enough to be black, as if they know what it means.

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I’ve never met anyone from a Lakota reservation but I stand behind them. Finally, there’s a living example of why I refuse to disgrace my integrity and dignity for a job. You know, the application I ranted about here.

When I talk about that kind of stuff, people are like “wow, that’s stupid, it’s a job. It’s for money. It’s work. Suck it up.”

Yes, it’s a job for money. That doesn’t mean I’m going to dishonor myself. I have the ability to find a job that isn’t degrading. It’s not about ego. It’s not even completely about integrity, it’s about truth and it’s about everyone. If I choose to answer those questions in a way that’s untruthful, in a way that makes me look like 1) a submissive rat or 2) a robot, than I’m saying it’s okay for companies to treat their employees as such and I’m saying it’s okay to let ourselves be treated as such.

And in my mind, none of that is okay. Therefore, if I don’t find it okay for anyone to be treated like that, I don’t find it okay to let myself be treated like that.

Can you tell I’m not a capitalist?

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Capitalism In One Picture

The people who have that sort of thinking that I’m “being ridiculous” have the sort of thinking that is the reason Donald Trump gets away with as much as he does. They have the thought pattern that allows poverty and racism and allows people to never focus on the reasons why poverty and racism exist, other than shallow reasons like “it’s natural for humans to judge”.

It’s the thinking that lets us talk about how racism needs to end but not doing the work in our past and present that needs to be done to end it.

That’s not a personal attack if you find me being ridiculous about the job shit. It’s an attack on the massive, national, illusionary thinking that is in American air today.

Ugh.

I have to find those papers.

Rant: END.

 

 

Unmasking The Enemy

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It’s rarely a time where I can say I’ve had great success.

But tonight, I’ve made great strides.

I TALKED.

That’s right, I sat my ass down in a group of two and I fucking talked and I had a conversation and my anxiety was at an all time low!

I shared ideas like your average Joe!

I know the two people I sat with usually sit with another girl, so at first I felt I was invading. I reveled in humiliation for the first ten or fifteen minutes of class but when we all turned inward to share the quotes we’d collected from this weeks book, I ignored the pounding of my heart and the flushing of my face and jumped over the first hurdle by saying one of the quotes I liked and explaining my idea behind it. It sparked a conversation between the three of us and the flushing got worse and the heart beat palpitated and I ignored it all because I was determined to make this night a success and dethrone my anxiety.

A little tiny piece of my personality shone tonight and that’s a huge accomplishment. They laughed with me and I could tell they were surprised I spoke more than five words and backed up my idea with concrete facts.

At the end of it all, I sat there in my chair and found myself thinking: It’s this easy? Are you fucking kidding me?

That’s right, I called talking with people EASY.

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I don’t know what’s sparked this confidence. I’ve been reading so much about my native ancestor’s culture, I’ve been learning more about who I am, and I’ve been so amazed at how all the native traditional ideas  I’ve been learning in this class were things I was taught as a child from my father that my father probably never knew were native traditions. They were always loose ideas, general rules for life I was taught, and I’m certainly not like the natives on the reservation, but I identify more with this culture than I do the others in my family lineage.

Coming to these realizations, identifying with a people who base themselves on community and giving myself a reason for my social anxieties other than “family troubles” or “genes” or “chemical imbalance”, and realizing that I can heal has given me this confidence, I think. I didn’t even have that much trouble forming the words in my brain as I usually do. They just came and I said them and I stumbled a bit at the beginning, but once I got going I couldn’t stop.

o-success-facebookThis is the first step of a very, very long healing process. I told you all at the beginning of this semester that this class was going to change my life and I wasn’t lying. It has. Tremendously. It’s reminded me of myself and my spirit. I thought I lost them in the hustle and bustle of puberty and homelessness, and addiction, and the transfer into adult life and the depression, but I didn’t. They’ve been with me this whole time, just hidden, covered, blanketed.

I remember watching documentaries on “gifted” children as a teenager. I was always amazed at these toddlers doing calculus and growing into teenagers who graduated college and worked in laboratories and were sensations in their scientific and professional communities. And I followed some of them into their young adult life and I wondered why, if they had such a large “IQ” and so many opportunities, why they didn’t tackle politics. Why they didn’t tackle government or worldly affairs. Why they huddled in isolated in labs in a corner of the earth.

I don’t think it’s because they realized tackling the world was too arduous of a task. There are many ways you can effect the world without being some magic savior.

I wondered all this because many claimed their gifted children sat in front of the news and cried over wars and poverty and all the sad things in life. They’d cry for hours. The documentaries had specialists claim that feelings for the whole of humanity were indicative of spectacular genius.

Is that another way to separate a love for humanity from the average population? As a child I was always sensitive to such things. I didn’t cry over these events because I was sad for the world, I didn’t cry because I should be sad for the world, I didn’t cry because of the horrors, I cried because I could feel the pain of those people. Not in a shallow way, not in the way we feel pain for others everyday. Not the way you sympathize with someone when they fall and break their leg and you recognize that hurt. No, this was a special way. This was a spirit to spirit, human to human connection, I knew this at age 5. If I told the average psychologist growing up that I was feeling others pain through the television, that I was connected to those people in a way they didn’t understand, they’d get wary of my mental state.

WATCH OUT, IT’S ATTENUATED PSYCHOSIS SYNDROME, QUICK A MILLION MILLIGRAMS OF THORAZINE, STAT! GO, GO, GO!!!

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Anyway, my professor and guest speakers often speak on this type of feeling and that’s how I learned I wasn’t alone.

In this way I am different from the people around me. I say it’s different because when I feel these things I don’t ever forget. I don’t move on with my life and forget. I don’t set out an annual day to take a moment and remember and “respect” what happened; I’m always aware of them. I’m always aware of the grief others feel because I feel it beside them. I believe it disrespect to think you can take horrible events, traumatic events, set a day aside or a moment in time to mourn them, then go on with your life like nothing ever happened. That’s not recovery; that’s the shallowest form of sympathy.

To me that’s barbaric. You learn to carry those horrible events with you and you remember them because in remembering them, you remember yourself. Those events that happen around you, that happen to you, are apart of you and your community and this giant spinning ball we all inhabit. If you act like they don’t happen then you’re ignoring part of yourself.

I choose not to ignore the pain in my life or the pain of my ancestors. I’m not going to “let it go”. I’m going to learn to carry it properly and I’m never going to forget what it’s taught me.

No wonder we can absentmindedly start wars and absentmindedly put ads 2-army-strong-adon television for you to join an army that fights for a purpose it doesn’t even understand.

Don’t be blind. If you can’t see with your eyes, feel with your spirit. It never lies. Your eyes can deceive you; they only see what people want them to see. With what I’ve experienced, your spirit is connected to the Earth and the universe, two things humans will never be able to manipulate as well as they do Google Ad Sense.

Do I sound like a loon to you? To some of you I might. And that’s okay. Just remember that science and math and western philosophy and all that fancy stuff has spent the last few hundred years proving native beliefs right. We’re all in the same boat here, we just have different grasps on the same concepts.

Some sooner than others.

Sorry math/science geeks. I’m one of you as well, but I can’t deny the facts. You were all a little late.

But anyway, while you’re reading about the latest Celebrity Botox and Butt-Lift and watching the latest music video of Taylor Swift singing about some dude no one gives a shit about, or video of rappers telling you to fuck bitches and get money, take a little moment out of your day to think about this:

One in three native women are raped on reservations today.

Ninety three percent of those abusers are non-native.

There’s a court case underway right now that you know nothing about because Nicki Minaj’s ass is blocking your vision. You want the full explanation, you can read it here.

But basically it goes like this: Dollar General is a chain on a Choctaw Reservation. Reservations are outside of federal court jurisdiction. People within Dollar General have been abusing workers. The story in that article is of a boy who, when he was thirteen, signed up to get work experience and ended up being sexually abused. His parents sued Dollar General in a tribal court because their son had been violated sexually by a grown man. Dollar General said fuck you, you can’t sent up a civil case against us for sexually abusing your son, we’re not part of this reservation, we’re within federal jurisdiction. Dollar General then took the family to federal court and sued the family for trying to sue Dollar General in a tribal court because their son was sexually assaulted several times by the store manager.

Why the emphasis you ask? Because a kid was sexually assaulted! And what does Dollar General care about? JURISDICTION.

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People there are afraid of the U.S court ruling in favor of the corporation (and they have historical evidence for reason to be afraid) and allowing any non-native operations inside the reservation to never be tried in a tribal court.

So if you want to commit a heinous crime, go work for a non-native corporation on a reservation and you’ll never see the walls of a prison in your life or the sting of a punishment on your wrist.

Or become a priest and snatch you some young boys.

People adore blindness. Nicki Minaj is much easier on the eyes than men of God dicking and breeding and bleeding innocent asses of young, crying, flailing, alter boys and corporate retail staff shoving their grimy, fat, sausage fingers into the virgin holes of little girls, don’t you think?

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Look At All The Pretty Glitter

 

So go ahead and forget what I just told you. It’s okay, it’ll be easier for you.

This class has not only given me a few tools to take away the power of my anxiety, but it’s helped me realize there’s a cause for my anxiety. It’s historical and generational and environmental and biological and genetic, it’s everything you want to call it. And I don’t want it to leave me. I want to embrace it and live with it side by side.

I’ve never complained over my depression or my anxiety or any other mental health issue. I’ve grieved over it and I’ve felt the pain and it’s sucked some royal ass, but I’ve never cursed it or wished it away because where the fuck would it go? Where am I supposed to wish it away to? It’s got no where to go. It’s part of me; am I going to rip myself in half and throw myself into the atmosphere?

What am I supposed to do? What am I supposed to do other than learn and live?

 

Let Me Drop A Bomb Of My Own

Alright you know I have to say my piece on Paris.

I’ve been coming across random posts about it and I’ve just been sitting here waiting, lurking, eager for more information to come out. These things are always touchy subjects, especially in western civilization. It’s sparking a lot of fear (if you didn’t already know, America is known for it’s Culture Of Fear) and a lot of heartache.

Of course my heart goes out to the people of Paris who lost their lives, the people of Paris who lost their family and their friends, and the people of Paris who are now living in a state of emergency. It’s a moment in time that will affect the rest of many people’s lives in the worst way possible. For that reason it’s disheartening.

I hear a lot of people saying “we’re all in this together, stop the senseless killing.”

I hear a lot of people saying “we have to love each other, you guys.”

I hear a lot of people saying “fucking terrorists”

I hear even more people saying “fucking terrorists are going to come over here!” 

And now that it’s been revealed ISIS was behind the attacks, I’m sure I’m going to hear a lot more of “Fucking Islamic terrorists!”

Hmmm. Let me take a moment before I open my big ass mouth.

Stop. Stop with the “we’re all in this together” stop with the “fucking Islamic terrorists” stop with the fear. Stop and silence yourself. Now think.

ISIS is obviously a radical group. They obviously have an affinity for decapitation and mutilation and violence. There is no question about that.

And so do we. There is no question about that.

France vowed to get their revenge according to an article that was released two hours ago. They declared it an “act of war”.

Lets get one thing fucking straight here. This isn’t anything new. It shouldn’t be shocking. When you’re over in the middle east shooting down families, burning huts, blatantly disrespecting their religious choices, you think that’s not an act of war? You think it’s alright for all these armies to storm in there claiming they fight for “Freedom” (whatever the fuck that means) when really they only provide weapons and aide to the allied countries that supply them with oil? You think those haven’t been acts of war?

These attacks are not random. This is a cauldron of bullshit that has been bubbling for years and ISIS just happens to be one of the radical groups with enough power and craziness to act. So yes, you should be scared; there’s now a group with enough power to play your little game back at you.

This is not to say killing innocent people is alright. I feel deeply for the people of Paris; the citizens have done nothing to deserve this, just as the citizens in all those middle eastern countries did nothing to deserve the attacks on them.

You ever notice in all the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and such, we never got the true numbers of how many of their people died. We got the number of our soldiers. We were taught to grieve for our soldiers (and rightfully) but we don’t hear about the families torn to shreds, the children living in fear, the parents struggling to walk outside of their house to get food in fear of getting caught in the crossfire between radical groups and western troops.

And let’s also consider why the fuck groups like this even form. Yes, many have a religious agenda. Many hate their government (and have reason to). Others are like the Guerrilla’s in “When The Mountains Tremble”; they’re fighting because people are fighting them.

Let’s flip this around. Say America has some nice resources the rest of the world depended on. Let’s say we had civil unrest and our government was struggling and Europe wasn’t willing to save our ass and let’s say there were several groups formed throughout the country fighting for power. Would you agree to have ISIS over here and force their will and their agenda upon us with their guns and their tanks and their soldiers so they can secure their cash crop on our land?

My point? Mind your own fucking business.

Stay the fuck out of countries and countries will stay the fuck out of you.

I don’t care how much oil you loose. I’ll drive a Fred Flintstones car, I don’t give a fuck.

ISIS is a result of all this past bullshit. Yes, they’re militant and yes they’re religion based and they’re obviously ruthless, but they came from countries torn apart by unrest and foreign armies and induced poverty and government corruption. They started with radical demands for their own country, not anyone else’s. This attack wasn’t random, and the following attacks won’t be random. This is unrest that’s been bubbling for years and years and now it’s spilling over the rim.

That much hate doesn’t develop out of thin air. If the entirety of ISIS are enraged sociopaths than I’ll bite my tongue, but I don’t think that’s the case.

War is never about peace or freedom; war is about money, it’s about divided beliefs, and it’s about allied countries.

An article already speculates ISIS struck Paris because America finances Saudi Arabia.

What the fuck does that have to do with peace, religion, freedom, or any of that bullshit?

Okay, Okay, if I haven’t convinced you, consider this: How could something as gruesome as war blossom into something as pure as peace? It doesn’t. No one’s been fighting for freedom or justice. ISIS hasn’t, America hasn’t; the last justifiable war was World War 2 and I will forever stand my ground on that.

Anyone feel a World War 3 approaching? The best thing we can hope for is that everyone will be so busy taking selfies with their guns to show how badass they are hardly anyone will get killed.

So to those who say “why can’t we live in peace and love each other?”, there’s your answer. Because it’s never been about peace or love. It’s never been about helping people, it’s never been about embracing freedom and human rights because all three principals are violated in the midst of war. ON BOTH SIDES.

Why don’t we grieve both for Paris and for the countries ISIS has bombarded? For all the families that have been torn apart by governmental and military industrial complexes? And grieve for ISIS; they’re lost people. They grew up in war and the only thing to cling to in the midst of horror is faith, religion, God–everything else gets blown to hell. They’re fighting for what they believe in because they’ve had nothing else to believe in. That’s not giving them an excuse to murder. It’s proving to you there is humanity amidst tragedy and pain and delusion.

If you truly believe in “World Peace”, if you truly wish we could “all love each other”, if you truly believe we’re all apart of each other, than you’ll be able to have compassion for even the most diabolical, the most freakish, the most fiendish, loathsome monster.

If you truly believe in worldly unity, in Truth, in love, than you’ll be like the mother who hugs her child’s killer in an act of acknowledgement, in an act of selflessness and realization that hurt occurred in their life as well.

You’ll be the one who understands the difference between compassion for these people and justification of their actions.

We’ve been structured to have emotions only for ourselves, only for our great country and our great values. We aren’t taught to explore the possibilities of other’s hurt. We’re taught to see that what ISIS did was wrong but not to understand that it wasn’t unprovoked.

It’s good to live in the present; it’s atrocious to live without acknowledgement for the past and that’s what we’ve been doing. I’ll say it once more; groups like this don’t pop out of the ground.

I’ll also say this once more: ISIS has no justifiable reason for their murders. Rarely is there any justifiable reason for murder. What they did was disgusting, it’s horrendous, it’s soul crushing. As is every other bombing, shooting, and act of war across the span of the globe. This is nothing new and it’s nothing shocking. Stop acting like it.

Acknowledge what you’ve done, learn from where you’ve been, and apply it to the present. Once government/military agents, radicals, and religious sects come to this sort of consensus, once we all realize our world is only as humane as our strongest opposition to humanity, maybe then we can claim ourselves progressive and civilized.

Until then, I’d get used to considering yourself primitive.

P.S: I think everyone would do well to educate themselves about actual Islamic practices. ISIS should do this more than anyone. 

P.S.S: America will have it’s time. We’re not invincible and neither is Europe. I’d suggest they all examine this truth a little more closely.

Hotwater Cornbread Isn’t A Muffin, Ya’ll

One of my greatest comforts in this world is food. I admit it. I’m spooning chocolate ice cream pie into my face hole as I type this. Contrary to what you would think, I’m not overweight. I have the knowledge of nutrition and exercise. I don’t stuff five thousand calories a day down my throat, I probably eat a little under than what I should. I will snack on almost anything and I will try almost anything. I have never been a fish person but I gave sushi a try at a birthday party and hacked it back up. So I learned I don’t like raw fish either.

Being where I live there’s a lot of different Mexican foods to try. For example, I learned they don’t put cheese on their tacos traditionally.

I know, overly excited cat, I was surprised too! After eating a million of them I finally realized hey . . . there’s no cheese on this. It’s not yellow corn tortilla either, it’s white tortilla with the meat and some cilantro and onions maybe, some type of salsa and you call it a day. They’re just as delicious with cheese as they are without cheese.

I like spice. And steak sauce. I put A1 on my chicken, on my fish (it makes it taste like real meat), on my steak, on my burger, whatever. A1 is the shit. Hot sauce is the shit. I want to sweat when I eat, that’s how you know it’s good to ya.

That being said, I never understood why no one in my tiny, Californian coastal town of mainly Caucasians and Mexicans had never heard of grits or hot water corn bread. I mean, I literally spent the majority of my high school years baffled. Just like they’d ask me if I’d ever tried Posole and at the time I was like I don’t even know what language you’re speaking and they’d give me a look like I’d just run over their whole family with a tour bus. I’d give them an equally confused look when they said “You mean .  .  . the muffins?” when I mentioned hotwater corn bread.

So let me fill you in. Hot Water Cornbread is not a muffin. Hence the “hot water” part. You take cornmeal and put it in a bowl. You boil water. You pour just the right amount of the boiling water into the cornmeal until it’s just enough for the cornmeal to suck up the water and clump together. Then you cup it in your hand and press it into a puffy hand shaped patty and toss it in a skillet to fry. My family usually fries with left over bacon grease or vegetable oil. When you google hotwater cornbread you get this little perfect patty all rounded and shit . . . fuck that, it’s meant to be handled with you hands with love put into it that you viciously fry away until the outside is a deep golden yellow. Then you slice it open and put some butter and munch out on it with some blackeyed peas, some mustard greens, some potato salad, and some baby back ribs.

That’s how I grew up.

Grits is also not a type of rice soup. I . . . I don’t even know where people come up with this stuff. It’s also a type of corn. It’s good with eggs and sausage and bacon and toast.

I could eat hotwater cornbread and grits with anything. It’s one of the reasons I want to visit the south where half of my family grew up. Hotwater cornbread started with Native Americans (in the southern region like Tennessee and Mississippi and such) frying these concoctions on the iron skillets from the new comers. I would love to walk into a restaurant for once and order a plate of what I grew up with, surrounded by people who also grew up around the same, with people I might actually be able to relate with.

I love Mexican food, I love burgers, I love curry, I love vegetables, I love fruit, I love grits, I love hotwater cornbread, I even have learned to love the fish Tilapia. I used to fish for crawdads and kept one as a pet. I watched my father clean fish a lot. We went fishing often when I was younger. I love gumbo, particularly the crab and sausage kind even though I don’t even like crab. Haven’t tired the one with fish head and brains in it, not willing to go that far. I’ve also never eaten pig feet or hog head cheese. I guess you could say I’ve been westernized.

I love everyone and I love them even more when I try their food and it’s good.

I don’t like when people try to push cultures on me. I know I’m all jumbled together, but that’s who I am. I’m not going to become “white” and eat hotdogs and hamburgers all day, I’m not going to become Mexican and eat tacos and fish and I refuse to drink grape soda and munch out on fried chicken just because you think I need to be more black. Just let me be who I am. Why is that such a hard thing for people to do?

Food heals the soul. What you eat is part of your identity. I eat a lot of different things because I am a lot of different things. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What’s your favorite childhood snack? If someone says hotwater cornbread I’ll forever love you.

No pressure.

How Responsible Are You?

There are two things that come to mind when I tell someone I want to (eventually) do volunteer work. Can you guess them?

  1. Oh wow, that’ll look great on your transcript!

Or

2.  Oh wow, that’ll look great on your resume!

Sure, I get a few “that’s great work you’re doing” and some people who suddenly think I’m a great person for helping out a few homeless guys. Yes, I make it sound trivial on purpose because these people are missing a concept that one man finally put into words tonight that no one else could and that I’d yet to figure out how.

Responsibility is usually a term we use to describe someone’s duty, what they should be doing, usually on an individual scale. It’s your responsibility to take out the trash. It’s your responsibility to recycle. It’s your responsibility to not yell at the best buy workers because they seem to only come around when you don’t need something rather than when you do. Now, as someone with social anxiety, I’m not particularly keen on helping a bunch of strangers for a few days a week, not because I’m some malicious, anti-social personality who wants to stab everyone in the face, but because it’s very stressful for me and I know I won’t do the best job I can when under that amount of stress.

However, there is another reason. When I ask adults, students, friends, why I should have to do community service, the only answers I ever get revolve around how it will make ME look, and that I’m just supposed to “support” my community.

But why? I always ask that question. I ask “why” to everything. I ask physicists why they think the Big Bang created everything. I ask why people actually think money is important when it’s an inanimate object we place our own value on. I ask why anyone thinks getting a degree means something. I’ve never understand any of it and yet, yes, I am a scientist; I love it. I do like money, it buys me things and keeps me alive.And yes, I do want a Medical Degree.

However; I’ve learned a lot tonight, more than I’ve ever learned in any structured class, from a Native American man who spoke with my class.

Firstly, the professor wanted me to do the honors of presenting a gift to the guest speaker (I assumed this a common way to greet people) on which I said it was “on behalf of the class; a way of thanking you for speaking with us tonight”. Of course, me being the nervous wreck I was, I started freaking out in my head  twenty minutes before the man got there because I knew for that brief second I’d need to stand up in front of all those people (three classes were in that room tonight; wish I would have been warned) and speak to someone I haven’t even got a chance to look at good yet.

Anyway, I did it, and I didn’t fuck up any words. I did, however, slam into the desk next to me while trying to sit down because I was so eager to get back to my seat. Almost spilled a dude’s coffee all on his crotch. He would have been pissed if I was the reason he’d never be able to have kids.

The first words out of his mouth were a song about fog. The second words out his mouth were about responsibility, the responsibility people have to their community. Not the county which I live in, but the people, the ancestors, the ones who lived first on this land and the ones who live on it now. A responsibility to the people of the community, not the community itself, because those people are the reason you’re here. They’re family, friends, acquaintances, whoever; they’ve given to you and so you must give back not because it’s a golden rule or whatever but because it’s how you show appreciation. It’s not an obligation. It’s not being nice. It’s not being a good person. It’s being responsible and acknowledging what has gone into making your life possible. And that to me is greater than any mark on some stupid fucking transcript.

That’s how I knew tonight was life changing.

Now, there are many things I believed in as a child. One of them was connectedness of everyone, everything, including the earth itself. I wasn’t taught it, I just felt it; I knew it existed because I could feel it within myself. I still do, everyday of my life. Yes, I’m socially anxious and half of the time prefer to be alone, but that doesn’t make me any less connected to the people around me. When they’re in pain, I’m in pain with them. I felt, as a nine, ten year old, everything effected everything, we were all intertwined. Our spirits and our minds.

Physics jumped on a treadmill to get in shape to race to meet us at the finish line. They call this connectedness Quantum Entanglement. To them I bow and say welcome, it took you a while.

As I grew older, there were other things I felt. When I learned about the Big Bang Theory I was intrigued. The more I read on it the more I laughed at it. Your math is nice and everything but honestly . . . you made math up. How do you expect it to explain something like nature? I always felt there was no beginning and no end, that we’re here in a perpetual cycle, that the only realness is this moment and each second that passes is gone forever into another world and each second that is in the future only exists as a potential moment. I dismissed the European ideas of God (but am absolutely respectful of them; we all believe the same thing just in different ways) and instead felt the consciousness of us all, the spirit of us all, gathers into another place, a realm we can’t touch but that calls to us, guides us even. A place we will return to one way or another.

Once again, Physics jumped on that old dusty Treadmill of theirs (they ate too many Twinkies and got out of shape again), joined the marathon and just barely fell across the finish line. They have evidence to dispute the big bang theory and they call that consciousness in the sky the Cosmic Mind. And once again, I bow and say welcome, it took you a while.

Am I saying I’m right in everything and physics is right in everything? Absolutely not. I’m just saying what I’ve felt since I was six years old. And tonight this Native man spoke about all of this, about the mind and the brain being separate, about the physicists taking forever to “prove” something his culture (and mine) has known for thousands of years.

The man who wrote that book I blogged about a while ago, “The Morning The Sun Went Down” said he was told by an elder to “Go into the new-comer culture, learn it, and use words as bullets against them as they used them against us”. And he did so, spectacularly.

And now that’s been passed down to me.

I’ve owned words ever since I can remember. Meaning, I’ve been using my words as bullets since I went from annihilating my french last name (I’m not French) to sculpting it with eloquent cursive, to once again annihilating it with a sloppy signature. Using my words as bullets is all I know how to do.

And this culture really is obsessed with the individual, it really is obsessed with the brain and not the mind. Two kids pulled out their laptops tonight. Another few had notebooks. What the hell are you taking notes on? I simply relaxed in my chair. The stuff this man spoke about were not things you can scribble down and memorize and say you understand. If you can’t feel it, you will not understand it and that is a truth, not an insult. You have to feel it to be fully human in these cultures and I think that’s a beautiful thing.

Elders of different tribes sit around at ceremony’s and tell their stories of how we were created. And you know what? After each elder is done, the other elders say “that’s a wonderful story” and then tell theirs. The cycle then repeats itself. The day you can get some of these Radical Christians and Radical Muslims to do that is the day hell freezes over.

This man tonight also spoke on the fact that we’re all native to somewhere but that the most spiritual people he’s ever met, the most “native” people, were the ones who dreamed in their own language. There aren’t a lot of Native languages left in this country of America. How could there be when “American History” in public school these days starts in the year 1492. How . . . how does that make sense? I suppose we only teach the history of the government and not of the country. People were here for thousands of years. Stop fucking these kids’ heads up.

Anyway, another kid in the class, the same one who rambled on about nothing last time, started rambling again about nonsense and analytical bullshit he was taught in school, then asked the odd question of “You say I’m native to some place, but do you think I’ll ever dream in my own language?”

He’s not feeling it. He’s analyzing it, he’s understanding the words, but he has no clue what he’s talking about. In that sense, these people were fake tonight, once again. I know the word “fake” has a bad connotation but it’s not a bad thing. It just means they’re being analytical (how you’re narrowly taught to approach things) and extra respectful (saying thank you, remaining quiet, forcing engagement) when they’re most likely never that respectful to any of their other teachers. I’m sure they do care about this subject and are great people, but if you can’t be who you are to everyone, then what does that make you? Are you pitying them? Trying to avoid being disrespectful? Why don’t you just feel it and shut up?

You memorize math. You feel culture.

I only have one picture of my great-grandmother holding me; I remember she has the deep brown skin and the high cheek bones, the eyes that hold years of stories, of being one with nature, of being human, and the two long braids that went from the top of her head to the tile of the floor. She wears multicolored clothes as a dress. She is not smiling. And yet, it’s one of the most beautiful pictures I have in my memory. I realize this now.

In this culture, death means you crossover. You can come back, you can watch over you. Your ancestors do and because of that they’re always a part of you and you are always a part of them just as we are all apart of the universe.

As for my medical degree; I could give two shits about that piece of paper. So what, I passed Chemistry and Physics and Calculus. I know the bones in your body. You think it makes me smart? You think that actually means something? Ha!

It’s what I do with it that matters.

Physicists should abandon calculus and differentials and just talk to a Native Elder. They might learn something useful.