The post-punk romantic struggle-themed jam “You Never Knew Me” by legends Magazine from their The Correct Use of Soap album once posed this question: “Do you want the truth or do you want your sanity?” This could apply to many sides of life. People live with blinders on and trust woefully compromised two-party candidates. People tune out harder sides of reality. People are human and we all have times we can only process so much.
According to Noam Chomsky’s Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance, Putin tripled Russian military spending in direct correspondence with the Bush administration’s rising use of “pre-emptive strike.” While I am not defending Vladimir, who is often quite draconian towards social justice activists and many others, we don’t live in a closed circuit where one nation’s actions don’t affect others’ reactions. Karma is like food coloring added to water — suddenly the whole cup turns blue. Unfortunately that “cup” is our once-blue globe which is turning dirty-toilet brown, chemical-fouled gray and spilled-blood crimson daily.
So how do we live and adapt? Stop studying history? Try to stay freshly startled? Or cling stubbornly to our own views? Get cynical? Pretend trans bathroom issues don’t affect some people just because you might not think about it?
As Kale Kaposhilin of Evolving Media Network mentioned to me the other day, Kingston has saved itself by bootstrapping its own economy. This also includes nurturing community and interconnectedness.
I saw a big crowd of kids outside BSP the other night for the Paul Green Rock Academy David Bowie tribute. A few had glitter on their faces or were dipping their toes in the excitement of their young social circles. Meanwhile in the back of the venue there was a “Queenston” event with people wearing actual fruit codpieces, but that’s a level of LGBTQ glam you need to sort of graduate to (literally and figuratively).
It was cool to see kids finding their own access point into the arts. Hey, maybe cynics will say the Guns ’N’ Roses reunion now will never be as cool as the early days of the band’s “Reckless Life,” but does that mean no new person can be inspired? Face facts. Many indie bands people drool over now are super derivative in some ways and find their own way in others. Heck, Magazine begat ’80s music that influenced the underrated Stellastar* (one of the truly best bands of the last 16 years) who influenced other bands that play today and are being discovered or finding their way.
Life still has surprises. Not everything has been done. Sometimes even Bob Dylan ends up singing Sinatra, so you never know what is going to happen, right?
People joke that Living Colour are their favorite “black metal” band (in that case it should be “KVLT of Personality”), but if you investigate the albums that African American hard rock and funk act made, they truly found their own style through experimentation and years of woodshedding or a desire to grow as players and excited souls experiencing life. Incidentally, they play The Chance Theater on Friday, June 3 (doors at 6:30 p.m.). It’s sure to be a Vivid night.
My life story, and it’s OK
Today on Twitter, the trending hashtag is #MyDepressionLooksLike — a well-meaning way for people to share their struggles and promote understanding. Maybe being matter-of-fact or truthful about stuff like that is tacky to some people, but unless you struggle with depression you don’t know how important it can be to have people understand your cycles. Many people bottle up things then explode.
I’ve been reading my departed father’s bedside copy of Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki in an attempt to calm myself after weeks of horrible racing thoughts and anxiety attacks. Suzuki writes of cultivating one’s own spirit as a way of finding constancy in life and a means of having a rudder to steer through turbulence with.
I tend to be generally cool, try and focus on the positive and keep my substantial baggage at arm’s length, but without shame. Sometimes I overshare when nervous or as a “matter of fact” and people are alarmed at candid anecdotes of deceased friends, drug abuse or bouts in the suicide ward. I don’t have milestones of a marriage or graduation I was able to make my parents proud of, but they were proud I beat some demons. It is OK to accept that’s my life story. Not like I have much choice but it’s unhealthy to dwell on what could’ve been. I’d rather have people understand that under stress I can get really manic and get racing thoughts or talk in circles than maybe not be able to monitor it myself or get written off as just a nut, when with support I can reset to calm and conquer trauma triggers.
Cleaning a local bar the other day I found a horrific napkin in a trash can covered in serial killer-esque delicately cursive sentences saying “You’re such a whore,” “I hope you get a DUI” and “I can’t believe I spent money on you.” Increasingly hostile Iago-like brooding. How sad and degrading! We need more objectivity. We’ve all been guilty of this, to some degree. I have definitely ranted at people who cheated on me before, for example. But time lets you realize they were going through things themselves.
My twitter friend @Wolfpusssy reposted a Theglobeandmail.com article about how politeness conditioning stops many abuse and rape victims from finding their voice to speak up, or even in many cases staying with their abusers, cooking breakfast, etc. As a man who has also been raped and in domestically abusive situations during my life, gender roles or doubts can also smother your will to feel confident or make you just push it down inside instead of dealing with the problem.
Wouldn’t it be better to course correct this in society by not victim shaming or name calling and trying to hear one another more?
A Christian Death lyric that hits me so hard goes, “We stand still, we stand like whores, we are alone.” Like, no matter what you will be judged by someone but you have to live with yourself. At least, that’s what I take from it. But in finding that key, you can end up not being as alone via solidarity, friendship or forgiveness. Or appreciating someone else’s experience as new to them or powerful and worth respect. That is the cool thing to do.
Hard to navigate
Last year I really fell for the actress/musician Yasmine Kittles of Tearist and we corresponded for a number of months as friends. She has been under immense stress as the only person in the Life or Death PR sexual assault scandals against publicist Heathcliff Berru to press criminal charges. She is a great person and super-talented singer, very real and raw with a lot of heart. I also think she is probably the prettiest lady ever and at some point I really started to like her, but that was hard to navigate. I had come to feel safe in our correspondence, and I don’t trust many people but my nerves made me lose sight sometimes of her own sensitivity, to my true sorrow. I tried to often say I hoped I wasn’t bothering her and I really thought she was growing to like me the same way, but in the end we had a communication breakdown and weren’t on same page.
My mom’s dementia was worsening, an ex of mine had a dangerous labor and I was worried on many fronts and increasingly manic, like a pendulum of incoherency. I stressed Yas out probably oversharing my own traumas or checking in on her too much and rambling and felt so stupid and terrible when it was finally clear. But I’m not going to dismiss her experience or invalidate and hate her or something, even if I know I was well-intentioned. If anything I deeply hope we can repair our friendship at some point, respectfully. I’m very thankful for her support and loving encouragement she gave me last year and truly hope I also helped her more than hindered her on her own path.
In closing this week, think of someone in your life you care about and give them a hug, help someone (even yourself) grow, encourage a young person in their art even if they are currently just copying Beyoncé or Bieber, forgive your own ghosts a bit and get outside and breathe. Most importantly, exhale some light and love.
That is the way to live with truth and find sanity at the same time.