Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Trouble with Tribals

I have taken to watching the Tribals: the neo-hippie, eco-aware, university drop-out, ripped designer wearing, soon to be yuppies in 4WD suburbans, loaf around public lawn spaces together. I wish I had a tribe. If we could find our tribe everything would be fine. My personal affections would I think lean toward the neo-victorian, loft or old house living, esoterica collecting, arty, technophile crowd. But sadly there is no Mecca in North America for the purchase of such a lifestyle.

Silly thought really: lifestyle. Do I mean livelihood? Do I mean political values? Perhaps I mean community and perhaps I just mean cool stuff. Even if I had all the cool stuff, I'd still have to live next to Buba. Or Singen-Smythe. So in my dream I find a whole city with my aesthetic. I find my tribe.

Sadly, I am a pessimist about human nature, and realise that no matter what group you join, artistically, politically, socially, geographically, that the Pareto Principle 80/20 law applies. Shit! I've just joined a bunch of idiots. Worse, I also represent a bunch of creeps and looneys.

Maybe I'm just the kind who doesn't get along with anyone.

Mr. Kingfisher

Strange Attraction

My good friend Edward told me once, "They will try to put it on you: don't let them put it on you."

I have always lived a more alternative lifestyle. Alternative in the sense that I did what I thought to be right, and tried not to be concerned about what others thought of me. Usually this works fine, but sometimes prejudice still hurts. These are wounds that carve memories into the heart: to be called lazy by someone who beat you down, by someone who has benefitted from your free labours, to be considered to have less moral fiber by someone who follows the pack without thought -- the betrayals of hypocrisy. Then when even a casual faux-pas from someone...  touches these wounds, the reaction is out of proportion to the situation, but not the feeling -- betrayal.

Our ego personalities ultimately lead us to happy success or wretched failure. Good luck and bad luck certainly play a part, but I think most of what befalls us comes because we were outgoing or not; cheerful or not; kind or not; and so on.

Our personalities, our egos, are like the tracings of a chaotic system. While there is no solid thing at the centre (and hence the spouting of sages that the ego is nothing) there is a tendency for the pattern to stay mostly in the centre. We are not block of stone, we are clouds. It is my opinion that the strange attractor at our ego's gravitational centre is our attitude. The emotional state we choose to tend toward. What in days gone by they would have called 'character.' Therefore, change the attractor: change the life.

Now anger is not the best feeling for me. It's a terrible strange attractor. It is a chosen self-flaggelation. Why stay a victim of another's opinion?
1.) To not have to try.
2.) To justify your failures.
3.) To be right.
So why be mad at their hypocrisy? Surely if they want to be right so badly that they will bend the universe into a pretzel, your chastising them will lead nowhere. Am I looking for thanks? Gratitude?

In fact they will be mad at you for being mad. Emotions are infectious. It is amazing to me how some emotions are so easily transfered. Petty people make you feel like being petty. Angry people get you angry. Bad strange attractors. Being angry is my own undoing. It will eventually make me sick, I suspect. I think I'd rather let go.

The question is how. We are angered by many things. Siddhartha in Hermann Hesse's book of the same name has a son who is angry with him. Why? Because of the constant good deeds done toward him, make him feel indebted. And the easiest way to be free of that, is to blow off the debt. To get angry. And then to put that upon another.

The strange attraction of being angry is enticing. It involves me in way I cannot just say, "O, it's nothing." It is my view of the world that is askew. A world view that has expectations of reciprocality, fair-dealing, mutual interest. Does this put me on the road to the even stranger attraction of bitterness, if I expect the opposite? Perhaps this is why the Buddha said we should expect nothing, hold on to nothing. This rings with questions of right livelihood, and what one needs in the way of possessions. But even the hairshirt crowd has expectations of what holy disinterest should look like. Why let them put that on me?

Be kind, do in the world what you feel is right, and don't let them put in on you.

Mr. Kingfisher

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Then I'll Feel Better

I realize I can't buy my non-mainstream car for my non-mainstream life.

Presently I drive a VW bus with a gash on the side. That, at least, sets me apart. I can't get a tailor made car, "Make sure no one has one of those, then I'll feel better."

Cause this is what we are trying to do: figure out who we are. A car seems like such a shallow thing to put that expression in. If it were a work art, then it would be easier. But it's manufactured by someone who isn't me. So I'm reliant on some factory somewhere that gives me a mass production car. I want to be an individual. And that's my dilemma.

I like old things. I like old buildings. Things that aren't around anymore. I like to believe that old things don't have to be cast off, that they still have value. But apparently it's not so with cars. Unless you have lots of money.

It's such a small part of who we are. There are more important parts of what we're about. It's just a small thing.

 "If we don't get the car, our life won't be the same..." -- It's a f*ckin' car.


Ms. Sparrow

Sunday, October 4, 2009

How much? Too much!

Going to the storage locker yesterday to extract some of our stashed treasures - Ms. Sparrow taking her daughter out to get a bookshelf and bed - the piles of paper that still surround us - having dinner with a friend who, despite having financial difficulties, won't part with any of her possessions - it makes me wonder whether we are men or magpies.

I appreciate beauty. I love beauty, if truth be known. The idea of a beautiful house, with a beautiful garden (well I've already left that), etc., it draws me, haunts me in some ways. Oh, yes, I have been thinking about making houses more environmentally neutral: choosing renewable building materials, refitting instead of rebuilding, considerations of multi family residences, neighbourhood structures that encourage, well... neighbourliness. These criss-cross my architectural noodlings. But the trump is always beauty. Super-green brutalism is not sustainable for me. Uber-hippie, organic blob houses do nothing for me aesthetically either, sorry. And I consider suburban mini-mansion developments as egg repositories designed by subterranean, telepathic, alien insects, who's young feed off banality and boredom. Obviously.

But am I so shallow that I have to have the perfect place to live? Worse, am I so infected with green-guilt that I am considering the hair shirt? Or is it just the money that I am worrying about? How much am I willing to pay for this beautiful life? Too much.

Sometimes we talk about not having a house at all.

As a more immediate example, Ms. Sparrow is looking for a new vehicle. The funky VW bus she has driven into the ground with our renovations is to be retired. She suffers from practical/beautiful vacillation, "A station wagon has more room," "I want a car that helps me envision a better life." She means this environmentally as well, of course. She also doesn't want to pay too much. The newest, cleaner diesel-hybrids (Toyota can see the writing on the wall) better one's odds in a world with contested resources. Especially in a place with ample hydro-electric power, plus bio-diesel fanatics. But she is not willing to buy one new, just to loose half its value as it's driven off the lot. And besides she says, the new cars are all unappealing. "How much would it cost to retrofit an old diesel to be a hybrid?"

Sometimes she talks about not having a car at all.

Mr. Kingfisher

Thursday, October 1, 2009

This Way

Today is the first day of the rest of our lives. At least that is our intention.
We have decided to discard some of the more unhealthy routines that we have slipped into, the ones that support our tendency more towards those of sloths than humans. And so the foods we chose will alter, and our bodies will have a chance to renew their connection with nature.
Today we managed a 45 minute walk, sans old dog who slows us down, around our new neighborhood. I was all decked out in my thrift store walking outfit. Lime green yoga pants, blue windbreaker and more than enough extra pounds to make the hill that much more steep.  We discovered an old underground building on the University grounds. Something to investigate another day!
Mr. Kingfisher (the chef in our family) is making a wonderful carrot soup to keep me from sneaking out to the local cafe for a latte and goodie. My great downfall.
Last night, I along with a friend, went to hear Starhawk. It was inspiring, especially the Spiral Dance at the end of her talk, out in the big field at the University. I think it was good for the energy of that institution. Introducing something organic back into its mainstream ways.
I have a sketch that I scribbled up as she spoke. I will try and get that scanned in today.

Ms. Sparrow