I love political comedians. I've been watching Colbert and Oliver talk about presidencies and ridiculousness and everything in between for most of my adult life now. Every time I watch lately now I can't help but wonder what it is about the segments that make me laugh through a cringe. I think I've finally found it. While it's necessary to call out bullshit and it's necessary to laugh (I love coping mechanisms so much) it is gross when done in a dehumanizing manner. See: Brené Brown's take on dehumanization and American politics.
I read a lot of Austin Kleon. Every day I read his blog. I feel like I'm constantly refreshing his page to see if he's posted something new. And when he hasn't I remember to check my e-mail for his newsletter. I usually find an unread one that I can peruse and go off onto research tangents. I'm a firm believer in having 17 browser tabs open on 3 subjects at any given time. This morning I woke up and painted, rode my board, did my morning routine. I feel a lot calmer and clearer heading into work than when I wake up and eject myself into the day. I want to start painting more and writing more and creating more. To start leaning into the idea of writing and painting even for an hour every day. That hopefully at the end of the year I'll have something to mash together into a cohesive piece of media. Austin Kleon talks of this a lot. I can't wait for his book "Keep Going" to come out.
If this post is random and not cohesive it is because I showed up to the work today and it is unpolished and pretty.
What does it mean to be free? Images of flags, military men, and sparklers amongst others come up for me. But freedom and it's loss can be subtle. In a modern age how do we fight in the war against our attention, power, and ultimately our freedom?
1. Garden. Suggested to me by authors and professors over the years as a means to participate less in the less than moral side of the global economy. Gardening cuts you off from the grocery store chain; a place designed to make you spend more, eat more, and waste more time. It helps you really see and feel the effort and time and resources put into a singular food item. Gardening is not only a great cultivator of produce but of gratitude. It also revolutionary.
2. Avoid ads. Did you know companies hijack and capitalize on attention? We see more ads today than we ever have before. Our clothes, phones, laptops, freeways, stores, and virtually all of our public and private space are constantly trying to get us to buy a product or mind space. Avoiding ads help us focus; on connecting with ourselves, on making genuine connections with others (especially friends and loved ones), and on nothing. They free our brains of busyness so we can harness the power of meditation.
3. Visit or Sell at a Farmer's Market. Sure, there is some aspect of economy at a farmer's market. You have a product that you trade people for monetary value. But it is up to you to participate. You are the proprietor and can decide for each and every transaction how much you are willing to give and receive. You are also a direct link between the producer and the consumer. And probably most exciting is the ability to bypass the monetary system and operate in the bartering one. Making trades creates relationships and a diversity of assets in a more human way than simply purchasing the same items from a company.
4. Make art. Write. Draw. Sculpt. Dance. Do whatever you can to create something in a space that no one else can touch. Paper notebooks are the ultimate space to write a curse word, draw a dirty picture, or whatever else you need to get out of your mind without judgement. You own that space. In a way that transcends the attention grab-bag that is social media.
A sense of justice, though essential, grows pale and cynical when it stands too long alone in the face of overpowering injustice. And moral outrage, by itself, finally turns intelligence into rant.
Wendell Berry, What Are People For?
The other day, on a whim, I deleted my Instagram.
I didn't have many followers on there. And yet I still found myself on it every day looking for likes, inspiration, and the right hashtags to place in my next post. It was taking lots of time. Lots of time away from creating and being real and human. All for some little bit of artificial success; some hint of 'making it' as an artist.
I've been reading a lot of social and cultural critiques from some of my favorite old and new writers: Shauna Niequest, Wendell Berry, Morris Berman, Jenny Odell, and Austin Kleon. They all seem to keep talking about the hustle generation. The generation of blurred lines between home and work. The generation of never quiet, never restful, never making enough money. And the more I've been reading the more I've been reconciling the seemingly unknown source of anxiety and emptiness in my life with the sense that the culture I was born into is not one I want to be a part of.
Three years ago, I started thinking about these topics when my environmental economics professor broke down the true definition of the word "economics". It's Oikonomia in Greek meaning 'household management'. This changed everything for me. I always became angry at the idea of economics; the idea of paying any kind of special attention to the paper jail that is the American dollar. Especially angry of anything that splits an idea up into its constituent parts and degrades to mean only one of those definitions. My life's goal is wholesomeness and the modern take on the idea of an economy is anything but whole.
Time is money someone once said and I'm tired of spending beyond what my budget allows on gaining approval, curating, becoming distracted, disconnecting from nature, and disconnecting from other people. Cheers to a new economy. To the economy of baking bread, of painting over a period of months and letting the art pieces be seen at coffee shops, the economy of laughing with friends, the economy of creating out of joy and peace and love.