Posts tagged #education

The poetics of occupation: pressing reasons we need to "occupy" our own cities

The Poetics of Occupation

I've been thrilled and privileged to participate in the Occupy movement via Occupy Pittsburgh. While sitting out in the cold and rain, I got to having some deep thoughts about the poetics of the occupation and I figured I'd share them here with you.

 

 

The term "occupy" has obvious military connotations.  The poetic use of the term as a metaphor to describe a peaceful protest demands some reflection.

 

Currently, the U.S. military is just winding down a massive, costly and controversial occupation of Iraq. This occupation of Iraq is the  prominent cultural back drop in the minds of most Americans when we hear the term "occupy." "Occupy" in this sense suggests going on to foreign soil where we're not particularly wanted or welcome and ensuring that our interests are protected there.

 

Thus, the notion that we would need to Occupy Wall Street, for example, frames "Wall Street" as a kind of hostile foreign nation, a place where we need to send "troops" (of peaceful protesters) in order to control the situation there and to protect our interests.

 

But Wall Street IS American soil, right? Why should we feel we need to "occupy" it?

 

How Wall Street Made Itself a Foreign Land: Usury

The answer to this, I believe, lies in the spiritual dimension of our financial institutions and failing economy. The spiritual malaise of Wall Street, the banking industry, and the corporations has created a sense of alienation and violation so potent that those institutions can no longer be perceived by Americans as even belonging to their country. There's a sense of these institutions and corporations as alien and hostile.  This sense is not imaginary or paranoid.  It's completely correct, and it has its root in the alienating and hostile actions of those institutions towards the American people.

 

In order to make my point clear, I need to explain a few rather arcane (but fascinating!) points which I first learned from Lewis Hyde's brilliant book, The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World.

 

To begin, the banking industry's practice of usury is a practice that was recognized in spiritual traditions throughout the ancient world as an act which promoted division, suspicion, and alienation within a community. I think we need to reconsider ancient and indigenous attitudes towards usury in order to understand the extent to the unity and spiritual virtue of the United States has been violated by Wall Street.

 

Today, "usury" means "lending at unbearably high interest." In the ancient world, usury just meant charging any interest at all on a loan.

 

Lending at interest itself is now widely accepted and taken for granted as perfectly acceptable and normal.  Loan-sharking, or lending at really high and outrageous interest, is the only stuff that raises eyebrows now.  Loan-sharking on the part of the banks is a large part of what created the sub-prime mortgage crisis.

 

We can keep in mind that the banks have practiced the intense form of usury-as-loan-sharking and that this practice has led to the current widespread poverty and outrage, but in order to understand the severity of loan-sharking, I want to start by discussing the problematic spiritual dimensions of usury, period.

 

In order to understand why usury (which is now so widely accepted) would be seen as a spiritual problem, we first need to understand a little bit about the way gifts work.

 

The Increase of the Gift

An interest-free loan is a form of a gift. For example: if I give you an interest-free loan of $1000 dollars, and you are able to use that loan to invest in a business which then makes you money. A year later, you return to me $1000, but you've still been able to create an "increase" out of the loan that I gave you, an increase that you wouldn't have been able to enjoy if I hadn't loaned you the $1000 to begin with.  So the increase that you make on account of me loaning you $1000 is a kind of gift from me to you.  Theoretically, if I had held on to my $1000 and not given it to you, I could have used the $1000 to invest and thereby enjoyed the increase myself.

 

Gifts are really cool because they create relationships of community and connection.  There's something magical and in harmony with the natural growth and decay of nature in the increase that properly treated gifts can create.

 

In indigenous cultures which maintained gift economies, it was always considered imperative that the increase generated by a gift  be passed on or used up, and never hoarded or used as capital itself. This passing-on or "paying it forward" was thought to be necessary in order to keep the "spirit of the gift" moving. So, for example, if you were able to make $2000 out of the $1000 interest-free loan I had given you, it would be good form for you to spend that $2000 on necessities for you and your family or to throw a big party and share the wealth. It would be very bad form for you to keep that $2000 to invest as capital or to hoard in savings.

 

The idea behind this is that gifts in a community should be kept in circulation and not used to unduly benefit or to create an unfair advantage for any one individual. When gifts are hoarded or used to create only private benefit, the spirit of the gift dies and the nihilism of separation, meaninglessness and isolation arises. This nihilism of separation creates a general atmosphere of cruelty. It's the atmosphere we're living in now.  It's the atmosphere that the Occupy movement has arisen to protest.

 

The Spirit of the Gift

We can think of the "spirit of the gift" as a sense of gratitude that puts human beings in an attitude of reverence and love for each other, nature, and divinity.  When gifts are kept moving and circulating, no one person has giant storehouses of money or goods to use as "security." The "security" and "prosperity" of an individual is instead intimately tied to the security and prosperity of the community, and thus to relationships of good will, love, and interdependency. Furthermore, a person who is living in the spirit of the gift, rather than seeking to extract and hoard the riches of the earth in warehouses instead respectfully fosters and tends for the earth so as to continue to enjoy the bounty of her gifts in a sustainable fashion.

 

Living in the spirit of the gift is an act of faith.  It involves a surrender of control.  This surrender entails two spiritual attitudes that are largely unknown to our control-obsessed modern world: 1) A general trust that the community / nature / divinity will continue to provide and 2) A graceful willingness to accept death and suffering in the event that the community / nature / divinity does not provide.

 

The act of living in the spirit of the gift is something which my favorite poet and all-around-awesome dude, Jesus, pointed to many times, perhaps most memorably in his Sermon on the Mount, when he suggested that everyone live "like the lilies of the field."  The lilies of the field, J.C. pointed out, don't do any work or save for rainy days, and yet they're gorgeous and happy. The lilies live in the spirit of the gift, accepting the nourishment of the sun and earth and giving forth radiant beauty.  Then they gracefully die when it gets cold and they don't whine about it. They don't control or hoard anything.

 

The Nihilism of Usury and the Control Freaks of Wall Street

Usury, in essence, is an expression of fear and clinging to material existence.  It's a refusal to surrender control. Usury hears about the notion of living like the lilies of the field and says "screw that!"

 

Usury seeks to maintain control over the increase generated by a gift.  It thus kills the spirit of the gift and creates disconnection.

 

When I give you that $1000 interest-free loan, I'm letting go of my say over that money. I'm letting you "use" it.  In turn, in our little gift society, I trust that you will put your "use" of the gift (the increase you accrue from investing it) to benefit all of us.  But I'm trusting. I've surrendered control of the "use" of the gift.  Through my trust, I'm making space for the spirit of the gift to live and breathe.

 

When I give you a $1000 dollar loan with 20% interest, I'm not letting go of my say over that money. I'm not trusting that you will use the increase of the gift to ultimately benefit our community and thus me. I'm demanding that you put the increase that you generate through your "use" of the gift back in my pocket. Thus I am controlling the "use-stuff" or "use-ury" or of the gift. In my control, I don't trust you and I certainly don't love you.

 

Usury = commerce between foreigners

Lewis Hyde explains:

 To ask for interest on loaned wealth is to reckon, articulate, and charge its increase.  The idea of usury therefore appears when spiritual, moral, and economic life begins to be separated from one another, probably at the time when foreign trade, exchange with strangers, begins. As we saw in an earlier chapter, wherever property circulates as a gift, the increase that accompanies that circulation is simultaneously material, social, and spiritual; where wealth moves as a gift, any increase in material wealth is automatically accompanied by the increased conviviality of the group and the strengthening of the hau, the spirit of the gift.  But when foreign trade begins, the tendency is to differentiate the material increase from the social and spiritual increase, and a commercial language appears to articulate the difference.  When exchange no longer connects one person to another, when the spirit of the gift is absent, then increase does not appear between gift partners, usury appears between debtors and creditors. (144-145 The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World)

 

The key point that Hyde makes here is that usury begins when foreign trade begins.  It's an economic relationship forged between groups of people who have no necessary bonds to each other communally or spiritually and who do not trust each other.  It's a relationship of outsider to outsider.

 

Think about this: usury now colors every exchange in our financial institutions.  The banks lend to us, the people, at interest-- and in the case of the sub-prime mortgage crisis at insanely high, loan-sharking interest.  They might call themselves things like "Bank of America" but to them, we, their debtors, are obviously foreigners.

 

The Occupy Movement as a Gift Society

Therefore, it makes perfect sense that the movement against the banks, against our financial institutions and corrupt government and corporations calls itself an "Occupation" and takes the form of physical encampments.

 

We are occupying Wall Street and occupying symbolic squares and parks in our hometowns because the banks have made themselves foreigners to us through their usury.  We have no fellow-feeling and good-will for them because we have no trace of a gift relationship with them. They've destroyed the spirit of the gift through their rapacious lust to control and their absolute unwillingness to trust.

 

They've treated us, the people, their fellow citizens, like strangers.

 

To speak in biblical terms, our financial institutions have committed grave sins and the consequences of those sins are alienation and disunity.

 

It is absolutely no accident that the Occupy encampments in NYC and throughout the world are operating as communal gift economies with free healthcare (in the form of medic tents), free education (in the form of teach-ins, speakers, and lending libraries), free food, free shelter (in the form of donated tents, clothing, sleeping bags, etc.), and free entertainment (as people share their musical and artistic skills).

 

The Occupy encampments are modeling the living power of the spirit of the gift which the banks, corporations, and corrupt government of the United States had sought to destroy through usury, among other means.

 

Debts create suspicion, scarcity, distrust and death.  Gifts create love, abundance, trust and life.

 

Why doesn't Occupy need to articulate demands?

In the Occupy movement, the spirit of the gift is rising up and roaring through the hearts and minds of people throughout the world. This is what makes it enormously powerful and wonderful.

 

This is why it doesn't need to "articulate demands." The demand of the movement is implicit in its very existence.  The medium is the message.  Gifts, not debts. Consensus, not tyranny. Community, not commodity. The time has come. The spirit will prevail.

 

Check out this tour of the gift community at the Occupy Pittsburgh encampment, given by yours truly:

 

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTMvFWhjNq8

 

Love!

Carolyn

The Love Healer Manifesto (a long read that's worth it)

<3Creative Commons License photo credit: Daquella manera

I Know Why

 

I know why you’re depressed. I know why you’re struggling.  I know why your feel angry, unseen, unknown, unvalued, unwanted.  I know why you feel like you have to fight every day to make a living and stay above water.  I know why some days you feel like you’re drowning.

 

I know why you get into relationships with people who touch you so deeply with their wonder and then burn you so badly with their selfishness.  I know why you can’t reach sexual ecstasy and why you find it so hard to relax.

 

I know why the whole thing isn’t working.

 

What gives me this prescient knowledge? Am I psychic? Well, yes, a bit—but really I’ve just realized the truth of the matter for myself and I’ve seen clearly that what is true in my own deepest heart is true for you, too.

 

So I also know that none of the mess is your fault.  None of it is because you’re deficient or you’re not wise or smart enough.  None of it is because you’re not energetic or clever or sexy enough.  It’s not because you’ve failed or gone wrong in any way.

 

Yet though none of it is your fault, you are the only one who can make it better.  And you can do that—make it wildly, incredibly, soul-swellingly better.

 

So if none of the mess is your fault, what’s going on? Why does this stuff suck so much? Why is life so unbelievably hard in so many ways? Where is all this stuckness and suffering coming from?

 

Before I tell you my answer, I need you to slow down.  I need you to take some really deep breaths—and not pansy deep breaths, either.  Take giant, hearty, full-bodied deep breaths.  I need you to really let this sink in for awhile: none of it is your fault.

 

You are innocent, completely and totally.  Breathe in that truth for a moment: just be with it  It’s not you. Not your fault.  You are 100% absolved. You are 100% perfect.

 

Okay. So what’s the problem? What’s going on?

 

It’s this: you’re a love healer and you haven’t been shown how to own and take full responsibility for your talents because our culture doesn’t understand or respect love healing (although it needs it desperately).

 

When you know how to take full possession of your genius for love healing, when you know how to see and revere yourself for your amazing power, when you know how to deploy that power in your own life and in the lives of everyone around you, you will:

  •             No longer be depressed
  •             —you’ll be joyous.
  •             No longer struggle to make ends meet
  •             – you’ll be fully supported.
  •             No longer be unseen or unknown
  •             – you’ll shine like a beacon.
  •             No longer have painful relationships
  •             – you’ll experience rich harmony.

 

How Do I Know This?

I gained these insights by working through a 7-week course which I designed to be a kind of next generation of The Artist’s Way– it's called Awesome Your Life: The Antidote to Suffering Genius. the course put me and many others in touch with our innate genius and lifted us out of creative misery.  You can find its first few chapters here. That course contains some of the same wisdom I teach here and also a series of experiments that lead you through 7 steps of the mythic journey.

 

Working through the Antidote to Suffering Genius course put me in touch with my own genius for love healing (which had long caused me suffering because I repressed and denied it) and gave me the intuitive power to see and foster the same genius in others.  In the series of posts you're reading now, I share with you directly the knowledge that came to me about the genius for love healing—what it means, and how it works.   I offer this to you now as a kind of concentrated dose of wisdom which can use to stimulate your own inherent power to awesome your life.

 

You may find that working through The Antidote to Suffering Genius course for yourself is a wonderful way to supplement, process, and expand the truth I'm explaining here.  You also might find that the present work is all you need for your awesoming to commence.

 

Your History as an Oppressed Love Healer

Do you feel some doubt about the notion that you’re a love healer? Does that sound too good to be true or too fluffy and weird to be true? Or both? And “love healer”—what does that even mean, anyway?

 

I can answer these doubts and questions only by inviting you to think back to your very earliest memories.  Think back to when you were a very little child playing with other little kids, being with your family.  When did you feel the most alive, the most powerful, the most free and glorious and delighted?

 

I bet it was while you were loving someone or something (a person, a plant, an animal, a doll, a building, a group of friends, a patch of nature) and that someone or something responded to your love by becoming more beautiful, more strong, more whole, more vibrant, more wise.   In other words, it wasn’t just the act of loving that brought you joy (although that is wondrous in itself), it was witnessing the miraculous power of your love to positively affect and uplift what you directed it toward.

 

Put simply, I bet you felt best when you were healing with the power of your love.  Healing in the sense that I use it in this book doesn’t just mean fixing something that’s sick or broken.  It means raising something up to a higher level of order, beauty, and wholeness.  In other words, “healing” means “evolving” not just “fixing.”

 

Now think about all your time in school.  Were you ever offered a time and a place to practice this art of healing with love that brought you so much joy and aliveness? Were you ever encouraged and applauded, given an A+ for the magnificence your love brought forth? Were you ever given compassionate guidance and help in amplifying and focusing the power of your love healing?  Were you ever taught techniques for using it on yourself to heal your own wounds?

 

If you are like most of us who grew up in Western culture, the answer to these questions is “no.”  So what happened instead?  Your skill for love healing, which brought you so much happiness was completely ignored by your teachers.  It was something that you were only free to do at play time—something that you were taught didn’t “count” towards your success in life.

 

Did this happen to you? Was your love healing gift taken for granted, treated as unimportant and unlikely to bring you reward?  Was it glossed over with condescension and never taken seriously?

 

If yes, then your deepest source of power and joy was not nurtured.  Something sacred and stunning and core to your being was gravely insulted by your education.  To put it starkly, you were robbed.

 

 

How Our Present System of Education Generates Self-Destruction

 

At school they taught you to read and write, do science and math, understand history and maybe some other skills.  But they took away (ignored, smothered, insulted) the core talent which all these other skills are only meant to serve: your ability to heal with love.

This is why you’re suffering.  This is why you had or have an eating disorder.  This is why you cut yourself.  This is why you made suicide attempts and why you’ve done drugs.

 

You self-destructed in these ways because our society (represented in your childhood by the school system) did not in the least bit value, nurture, acknowledge or celebrate your magnificent, essential gift for healing with love.

 

Your mother and father didn’t adequately protect you from the assault and devaluing that happened to you at school.  They may have ever perpetuated it at home.  Why? Because the same violence had been done to them.  They had lost touch with their own power of love healing.

 

Think: how joyful and free were your mother and father? How centered and grounded and calm were they? Did they impress you as people with full sovereignty and strength, or were they individuals scarred by shame and self-doubt, by insecurity and misery which they handed down to you?

 

So why did your teachers do this to you? Again, the same answer: it was done to them.  They had suffered the same insulting, ignoring and devaluing and didn’t know how to offer you anything other than what they had received.   Our society has been skewed and violent and messed up in this way (and maybe 1000 other ways) for a long, long time.  There may have only been a handful of cultures on the face of the earth that ever properly valued and nurtured love power.

 

So what am I saying? In brief, I’m saying that your life is so difficult and you find it so hard to be happy because at your depths you are a love healer.  Whatever it is that you prefer to love and whatever medium you use to express your love (we’ll talk more about this later), you are a love healer.  You are a love healer in a society that completely devalues, mistreats, and fails to understand love healing.

 

Everyone Asks for Everything Other than the Love They Want

Let’s talk for a moment about what this means for you today.  We already talked about how very tough stuff became when you were a little child.  So what’s happening right now?

 

You’re in some institution of higher education. Or maybe you’re working now. Or maybe you’re out of work.  What are you doing with your time? It could be just about anything: designing movie sets, waiting tables, teaching yoga, doing research, caring for children.  Whatever it is you’re doing, people pretend that they don’t want your love healing, they want you to do a specific service:

 

Get the food to the table

Make the movie set

Teach me a back bend

Keep the kids safe and fed

Produce new academic knowledge

 

Or any other thing.  There’s a rule in our society: you’re allowed to ask for, expect, and buy tangible goods and services.

 

But you know what? Beyond the very basics, most people don’t really want goods or services at all.  What they really want is to be loved, to be healed and evolved by love.  And that’s what they really want from you—love healing.  But in our society (I like to call it the mad world) there’s a profound taboo: you are never allowed to ask for, receive, or benefit from love healing.

 

So people never ask you for your love healing, even though that’s what they’re really craving from you (the taboo against asking or receiving love healing is so deep that the vast majority of people don’t even know that that’s what they really want and are looking for).

 

So because no one knows how to ask for or receive your love healing, they ask you for other things.  Actually, they don’t just ask, they demand.  And these demands can get very loud and very mean.  You hear messages all the time (spoken or unspoken) like:

 

  •                         This set design isn’t good enough
  •                         This dissertation isn’t up to standard
  •                         You’re not a brilliant yoga teacher
  •                         You’re not doing a good enough job with the kids

 

On and on.  People find things to criticize you about or demand from you endlessly.  You get fired, or let go.  Or you push yourself really hard to meet all their demands and you end up on the floor in a ball, heaving and crying because nothing you do is ever good enough for them.

 

What’s happening?

 

This is what’s happening: everyone who comes into contact with you senses subconsciously that you are a profoundly amazing love healer.  But you don’t know that consciously and neither do they.  So they ask you for a zillion other things, whatever they can think of.  And since you’re broke and trying to make ends meet you run around going nuts trying to jump through the hoops, meet the specifications, be up to snuff, win the race—get the pay check, the job, the fellowship, stay afloat.  This makes you feel frayed, frantic, miserable.  You don’t feel loved or loving—so you’re not offering love with your work.  You’re just trying to get by and hoping that they don’t completely devour you.

 

You don’t feel you have much motivation for doing anything, even things you at one time really liked doing.  Why? When the people you trusted devalued you as a love healer, they cut out your fundamental motivation for doing anything, for relating or for creating  They struck a very deep blow against the core of your self.

 

So you feel miserable.  The people demanding stuff of you feel miserable.  The taboo against ask for, receiving, or celebrating love healing persists.

 

Sounds grim, right? Look around and you see this everywhere in your own life and among your friends.  This is abuse.  This is wrong.  This needs to change. But how?

 

The Deep Change

 

Well, it starts with one person. You.

 

One person who is willing to completely own, value, cultivate, celebrate and revere her own talent as a love healer.  One person who is willing to revere and celebrate the same talent in other people.  One person who is willing to offer her real gifts with no apologies.  Who is willing to stop trying to jump through hoops of false demands and instead stand in her strength and give people just what they are really asking for from her: love, radiant love.

 

The more you do this—offer your love gift freely and support others in offering theirs—the faster the fire of love will spread and the quicker our culture will heal.  You will free others from the taboo.  You will free them to appreciate and value you at your depths.  Gradually, you feel much less confused and threatened when people seem to be making demands of you or criticizing you because you know what they’re really trying to do: ask you for love healing.

 

I want you now to imagine a world where every child’s talent for love healing is nurtured to the utmost—where it is cherished and cultivated and applauded.

 

And I want you to realize that you’re not miserable because you’re not good enough at what you do. You’re miserable because you’re not grounded and centered in the deep knowledge of who you are.

 

Think about it—if you felt totally seen, known, cherished, valued as a love healer, wouldn’t you….

 

  •                         Feel relaxed?
  •                         Enjoy whatever you’re doing more?
  •                         Feel brimming with inspiration for grand ways
  •                                     that you could offer your love to the
  •                                     world?
  •                         Love making stuff?
  •                         Love everyone around you, and yourself a whole
  •                                     lot more?

 

A Big Vision

 

So here’s my vision for you:  you are fully seen, known, celebrated and valued as a love healer—first by yourself and gradually by others who are inspired by your knowledge.  You express your love healing in the world in a way that perfectly delights and strengthens you.  You are richly rewarded for your love healing in wealth and honor.  You see the world evolve, within your lifetime, into something radically different and radically better—thanks in part to the love you shared.

 

I want you to know this:

 

  •                         You are a love healer.
  •                         Just you being in the world makes everything
  •                                     way better.
  •                         Your value is immeasurable and crucial to the
  •                                     survival of our world.
  •                         You deserve to be richly supported just for being.
  •                         You deserve all respect and all beauty and
  •                                     comfort.
  •                         In a just society, you would be richly supported
  •                                     just for your very being.

 

We can make this happen.  Stay tuned for ideas on just how.