Posts filed under Honesty

In Defense of Dirty Hippies

The soul of this country has always been nurtured by people more interested in freedom than in regular baths: revolutionaries, pioneers, cowboys, Henry Thoreau and Walt Whitman all lived in sweat and dirt.  

 

Yet in mainstream media I see a sentiment expressed time and time again: the Occupy movement would be great if it wasn't just a bunch of dirty hippies.  The implied notion is that to be dirty (presumably to be relatively unwashed- clothes muddied, hair greasy) and to be a hippy (someone committed to ideals of peace, equality, justice-- someone more interested in love than in profit) are cardinal, unforgivable sins.

 

This attitude, popular as it is, is itself a sign of the incredible mental and moral distortion that our country is suffering.

 

The notion that dirty hippies are wrong and bad for the fact of being dirty and being hippies is a weird, dislocated and perverse remnant of the protestant-puritan work ethic ideal. It's a notion that pretends to defend the dignity of clean, hard-working, upright people who live by the rules and produce the goods.  These clean, decent people (we are meant to imagine) are being harassed and put-upon by folks who are so lazy and good-for-nothing that they refuse to even take a bath. The image of the dirty hippy is raised up as a resented foil--- how dare someone relax their mandated hygiene schedule? How dare someone adopt principles that aren't supportive of the existing paradigm when I have to shave and shower and get up for work in the morning?"

 

In a bizarre manipulative twist, people learn to hate and revile those individuals who are doing their best to live outside the oppressive system (those damn dirty hippies) rather than the oppressive, corrupt system itself.

 

Here's something to consider, America: dirty hippies aren't stealing your money; dirty hippies aren't bleeding you dry with debt; dirty hippies didn't get billion dollar bail-outs from the federal government.  Who does that? Oh, that's right-- all those squeaky-clean, ultra-respectable bankers, that's who.  Out-of-control banks and corporations are the real threat to American decency and prosperity, not people who like to listen to Bob Marley and beat on drums.

 

Also, I'd like to advance a notion which may seem radical: the dirty hippies in my acquaintance are the hardest working people I know. They just don't work for corporations.  Instead they work doing things directly for the people immediately around them: caring for children, cooking donated food for free distribution to big groups, waitressing at small restaurants, building sacred art installations, teaching yoga, organizing community groups, skillfully repairing cars and musical instruments and clothing that others have discarded.  All of those things take intense amounts of work.

 

That's why I find it powerfully ironic when folks shout "Get a job!" at the Occupy Pittsburgh protesters standing with signs on the corner of 6th Avenue and Grant. As if a job was in itself an unassailable value.  As if the vast majority of jobs weren't repetitive, alienating, soul-deleting. No one needs a job. But we all need meaningful work and support to live.

 

Work is important. Work is tremendously valuable.  Work is labor directed in such a way that the whole community benefits.  That's the kind of work that the puritan forefathers valued: work that kept the village alive and prospering.  Labor done in the service of a gigantic corporation is not work in this sense.  It doesn't put value into the community so much as it extracts it.  All those laboring in these kids of jobs are left feeling depleted, drained, purposeless.  Their work has no obvious benefit to their community aside from the pay check it brings, and that is ever-shrinking. The value of their work floats off into the hands of their corporate overlords rather than extending to their children, their friends, their neighbors.

 

So then what happens? People become filled with ennui.  They turn to pornography, drugs (both psychiatric and recreational-- the distinction is perhaps not that substantial), alcohol, over-eating (witness the obesity epidemic), inane television.  Anything to numb the pain of not being free, of not being allowed to live as their souls dictate.  D.H. Lawrence said that people think freedom means being able to do whatever you want-- but it doesn't really mean that. Freedom means the ability to obey your own soul rather than an external authority, and it's an ability that can be cultivated and exercised even in the most adverse conditions, even in conditions that mean it might be hard for you to wash your clothes and get a bath if you chose to obey your soul.

 

But that's just the kind of freedom that dirty hippies are exercising, and they're doing it on behalf of all of us.  They deserve our gratitude much more than our scorn.

 

 

 

 

3 gifts of radical transparency + Poems rewired my brain

 

I have a philosophy of radical transparency which sometimes gets me into HOT hot water.  But painful as the scalding is, I keep doing it.  I keep trying to tell as much of the truth about myself as loudly as I can to the people around me because I've become constitutionally averse to the practice of hiding anything about myself and my true nature.

 

Sometimes I overstep bounds and end up oversharing-- which sucks, and I'm learning to have more finesse with that-- but in my heart I know I would rather err on the side of too-much-truth than too-much-hiding.  In fact, I highly recommend it to all geniuses.

 

Here are some of the rich benefits of not hiding:

 

1. More space on my dance card - The folks who can't cope with what I have to say and the truth I have to tell leave.  This is really scary-- but also really freeing. Because once they're gone I no longer have to spend time persuading or appeasing them. I've lost a few friends this way-- and I'm glad I did.

 

2. More energy -- When I'm transparent, I let go of my control over other people's opinion of me.  Since I'm just being who I am as honestly as I can, I'm not manipulating or managing anything. This frees up my creative and emotional energy.

 

3. I find more people to collaborate with. The people who genuinely like who I am and what I have to offer can find me and know me because I'm letting my freak flag fly. They can walk right up and say "Hi!" and feel confident that we're on the same page-- because I'm being really open about what page I'm on -- even though that page is rather weird and far-out.  It's my page, damnit, and I'm on it.

 

4) Less stress -- I don't have to jump through the mechanical performance of trying to be someone I'm not--  when I'm truthful about my real limitations and my real beliefs right from the get-go I don't let people peg me with false expectations and I therefore don't unconsciously try to meet their expectations.  I just show up and I give what I can as freely as I can.

 

Because I enjoy the benefits of radical transparency so much, I've decided to be radically transparent with my students in my Reading Poetry class this semester about who I am and what I really think.  I'm not selling the university's agenda or any notion of academic literary studies any more.  I'm offering the real way that I allow poetry on the page and in life to read and change me.

 

So I put this little list of things about myself and my views on the syllabus for this term, and I'm kinda proud of it, so I'd figured I'd share it here:

  1. Poems are like hits of acid and can massively alter your consciousness. This means they need to be treated with respect and ingested properly.
  2. I think our entire educational system is corrupt; I expect most of the things you’re offered in college won’t actually help you in life at all; I’m trying to make this class an exception to that.
  3. I haz a blog which you are welcome to read: www.awesomeyourlife.com.
  4. I haz a Facebook and a twitter, too: @carolynhoney.  You’re welcome to friend me.
  5. I don’t really read new poetry unless it’s by a friend of mine. I think most contemporary publishing poets are bores and charlatans. (And yes, I know that’s mean and I’m working on letting that go, but there it is—that’s what’s true today.)
  6. Poems completely rewired my brain (see point #1) making it impossible for me to write a conventional doctoral dissertation, which means I won’t get a degree and that has made me sad a lot but also might be kind of a good thing because conventional doctoral dissertations in English kind of suck and also I like my rewired brain better than the old one I had.
  7. My book is on ending suffering genius but somedays I still suffer, a lot.  I think that’s because not suffering as a genius is sort of a day-by-day , moment-by-moment thing like not smoking cigarettes as a former smoker.
  8. I’m part of a group which throws big conscious art parties and hosts other rad events, called Evolver Pittsburgh.  Perhaps you would like to check our stuff out on Facebook.  I’ve been thinking maybe I should start a chapter of Evolver right here at Pitt—what do you think?
  9. I really love parties—but not beer-soaked ones— I like strange and mysterious ones, preferably with costumes and fire-spinning.
  10. I sometimes pray to the spirits of Emerson, Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman.  Emerson and Dickinson have stained glass windows in Heinz Chapel so that makes it easy.