Not a way forward…

Aside

Welcome to another installment of Solidarity Thursdays. With the wise words of Jaysen Waller at The Metta Garden blog, Esther Emery at Church in the Canyon, and t r i s k a i d e k a p o d as my companions we set out this week to discuss Cynicism.  Thanks for reading and please join the conversation by leaving a comment, submitting a topic, or linking to your own blog.

_________________________________________________________

If you’ve ever spent any time around a truly deep and committed cynic, you’ll know that there isn’t much point in arguing.  Indeed you may not even have to argue to meet the cynic’s denigration.  There are few things that will escape the scornful eye.  KnowYourEnemyThere are myriad examples in my life that have led me to consider the cynical attitude more deeply, one being that I tend to BE a bit of a cynic.  It’s this part of myself that I have been in constant conflict with for many years.  The cynic remembers all the bad stuff that has happened to them in the past and uses those memories as the predominant bank of knowledge when considering new questions or challenges with which they are faced.  This is primarily a protectionist attitude and one that likes to trim the fat from any expenditure of energy.  It can come in very handy when looking for the most efficient solution to a problem, and is a very useful tool when used to point out where we may not be meeting our ideals, but as I’ve considered this attitude within myself and in the world I’ve come to believe that as a default reality, it only stands in the way of expression and innovation and creative solutions to our problems.

To take an extent example that affects us all, we have seen an ideological gridlock in American politics that can only be attributed to cynicism at it’s most debilitating.  Among politicians on both sides of the aisle, we see a belief that things won’t change because things don’t change, a deeply cynical view of our world, especially because if one is diligent in their study of history, they will recognize that things DO change, although often quite incrementally.  We have a tendency to give up when things do not turn on a dime and thus become more and more cynical.  You’ve likely experienced wordcloudsnippet.jpgthis yourself in a work environment when you or a colleague makes a suggestion that is shot down immediately by someone who’s been there longer and claims that it’s all been tried before.  This person rarely offers any suggestions, you may notice, to try and solve the problem.  What I believe that person is failing to recognize is that incremental change is happening all the time, so if we’ve tried it before and it didn’t work, it is possible that the forces that stood in the way of success have changed and thus paved the way for success this time around.  In American politics today, we see each side of the aisle stubbornly sticking to old ideas and insisting their way is the only way based solely on the past and a cynical view of the “others”, while refusing to listen to their constituencies that are crying out for compromise, recognizing that things have changed, if only incrementally, allowing for a new and inclusive solution.

Let’s look at an example outside of politics that highlights the inverse of the cynical trap.  In the past week, two glowing examples of lives largely without cynicism have moved on to another realm.  Dave Brubeck and Ravi Shankar are no longer with us in the physical sense, but their contributions will be with us forever.  Their work in moving music forward highlights what is possible when cynicism is not allowed to overcome the creative spirit.

BrubeckPiano (1)Dave Brubeck was fascinated with time signatures, and although jazz music takes its liberties with 4/4 time by syncopating the rhythm, it was Dave Brubeck who moved jazz forward by employing a new time signature in a catchy and hip tune that would become one of the most important pieces of music written in the 20th century.  
“Take 5” changed the game and proved that experimental and ambitious music could still be accessible to the general public.  Cynicism doesn’t allow for that type of risk.  Cynicism plays it safe and sticks with the Big Band style that dominated the jazz scene in the previous decades, or even Bop in the standard 4/4.  Even the cynicism within Brubeck was challenged and overcome when a dreaded meeting between he and the Avant-Garde jazz man Charlie Mingus produced one of the easiest sounding pairings of the era between two men who were very far apart in their ideas about the genre, in their chance collaboration on Mingus’ tune “Non-Sectarian Blues”.

121212054903-ravi-shankar-horizontal-galleryRavi Shankar actually admits that when he was first approached by George Harrison of The Beatles, he was skeptical of his intentions.  Why would this Pop star be interested in the traditional ragas of India?  
Imagine if that skepticism or cynicism had overtaken him at that point in his life?  Instead he went on to change the way we see music outside of the mainstream, and the world and music are better for it.

There are infinite examples of this kind, and my point in bringing these up in particular is partly an homage to their legacies as I celebrate their lives, but it is also about recognizing that creative ventures are not possible if the default position we take in life is contradictory.  If our first response to a suggestion or a thought from others or within ourselves discredits the thought outright, no change will take place.  No innovation will come.  No beautiful music will be made.  Instead, if we can stop those contradictions and engage with new ideas, or even old ones for that matter if we consider how incremental changes affect new attempts at those ideas, we are more likely to succeed in our endeavors.

_________________________________________________________________________

If you would like to read more, please check out Jaysen Waller at The Metta Garden Here

Or Esther Emery at Church in the Canyon Here

Or   t r i s k a d e k a p o d   Here

t r i k a d e k a p o d

Thanks for reading…

Share this:

That which sustains us…

Welcome to another installment of Solidarity Thursdays. With the wise words of Jaysen Waller at The Metta Garden blog, Esther Emery at Church in the Canyon, and t r i s k a i d e k a p o d as my companions we set out this week to discuss Sustenance.  Thanks for reading and please join the conversation by leaving a comment, submitting a topic, or linking to your own blog.

_________________________________________________________________________

In the grand debate in this country, and indeed throughout Europe since the financial collapse of 2008, there is a lot of talk about what we need to get by.  In Europe they have instituted deep cutting austerity measures, cutting back all but the most essential government services, while a larger and larger percentage of their population slips into poverty, or least out of the once flourishing middle classes.

U.S. GDP Growth

U.S. GDP Growth

In the United States, we’ve largely avoided that type of austerity, opting instead for a Keynesian style approach to recession, employing stimulus and expanded unemployment and social services.  This is part of why the U.S. is actually climbing out of that recession, if slowly and languidly.  It’s important to mention that we have, indeed turned to some Keynesian models, and did so right from the start.  It’s important because largely, the U.S. had turned to another economic model, touting the principles of Milton Friedman at the top levels of government, that is until the banks, the insurance industry, and the housing market, one of the largest segments of our gross domestic product found themselves in trouble.  It was at that point, when those companies had sucked much of the marrow from the bones of the average American’s financial means, that we turned on a dime and socialized the costs of that reckless behavior.  It was at that point, when many Americans had little to nothing left and had watched their retirement security dry up as the stock market lost huge portions of it’s worth in days that we offered financial stimulus,

WordCloudSnippetI mention all of this because it’s an important framing of the debate about what we need as citizens to sustain us.  It was only when many corporations with political clout and armies of lobbyists with the ear of those appropriating our tax dollars that we suddenly got some financial relief, because it threatened their livelihood.  Up until that point, and indeed in most of the debate since, the argument has not been about what we can provide our citizens as a benefit of participating in a free and civilized construct that we call America.  No, instead the conversation has been about what we can cut.  Education, Head Start, Medicare, Social Security, Family Planning, Rehabilitation, Unemployment Insurance, Food Stamps, Tax Credits, Student Loans, Pell Grants, NASA, The National Endowment for the Arts, PBS, NPR, Health Education, Art, Music, Theatre, Dance, you name it.  If it benefitted the citizen, it was on the chopping block.  If it benefitted industry and business, it had to stay.  WordCloudSnippet2Take the military for example.  Consistently, Congress appropriates more money than the defense department asks for, because large corporations get the contracts to build, with tax payer money, military weapons, vehicles, planes, drones, surveillance systems, and much much more, that our military isn’t even asking for.  So we must ask ourselves.  Are we a country, a social construct, that exists only to produce?  To raise GDP?  To create wealth for a shrinking minority of our citizens?  Do we exist to feed the belly of industry or are we here to create prosperity for all?  And does prosperity mean monetary wealth?  I posit that we are more the latter, and that prosperity means more than how much cash is in our wallets.

Wealth, in the monetary sense, is only as good as it’s ability to keep us sheltered, healthy, and fed.  And I will even go as far as to say WELL sheltered, in a home that suits our needs as a family and is not in disrepair, one that provides shelter and pride of place.  I will go so far as to say PRISTINELY healthy, such that we are concentrating on preventative SolidarityNewsprintmeasures only and not on stop gap solutions and profit driven medications to keep us alive.  I will go so far as to say DIVINELY fed, such that our taste buds and nourishment are satiated and we are not concerned with children who go to bed hungry and then get up in the morning and head out to school still hungry.  I will even go so far as to say that some disposable income is a good thing to brighten our world in the ways that touch us individually and make our world more full, but all of the excess wealth that we protect to the point of absurdity is superfluous.  Yes, there are some amazing philanthropists out there. FlareEarthNewsprint I have a great deal of reverence for the work of many of our countries great philanthropic ventures, but this philanthropy comes from those that never needed the protections that we guard with the austere treatment of our poor.  Capitalism is not inherently insensitive or void of empathy, and those that use their wealth to solve big problems in the world are perfect proof of that fact.

Prosperity, as I see it, should be more about the success and flourishing condition of our people as a whole.  I don’t see that in financial terms, though it is possible that success FlatWorldcan include finances it is not the only measure.  Rather, I think, prosperity has to do with the notion of the happiness of our people, and this brings me to a larger point.  What makes us happy?  What constitutes a whole and complete person?  Is someone who has met the basic necessities of life whole?  Are they sustained? Or is there more?  I would argue that we have not reached our goal of a prosperous society until we have met those basic necessities AND given everyone the opportunity to be successful and happy – Until we have sustained that which makes all whole, which begs the question…  What makes you whole?

This is not an easy question and many of us spend our entire lives trying to figure it out, but the notion that a prosperous society is one in which all our people are whole demands that our questions about how to appropriate our resources be bent not towards protecting monetary wealth and GDP, but rather towards providing opportunities for every person to realize that grand vision of themselves.  WordCloudSnippet3Thus the question should be… What can we GIVE our people from our collective resources, not what can we take away?  We should be focused on how to give more education opportunities to our citizens – more art and music and theatre – more access to unbiased news and information through PBS and NPR and other similar institutions.  We should be discussing how to give better health care to more people and more loans and grants for students to reach for their piece of wholeness.  We should be reaching for the next big explorations of our Universe and inspiring our culture with new and creative visions of our world and our society.  When people have the opportunity to do what they love, to find their own sustenance, to realize what keeps them going, the whole of society benefits.

_________________________________________________________________________

If you would like to read more, please check out Jaysen Waller at The Metta Garden Here

Or Esther Emery at Church in the Canyon Here

Or   t r i s k a d e k a p o d   Here

t r i k a d e k a p o d

Thanks for reading…