Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Happiness ~ Power & Powerlessness

Dedicated to Marshall Slade Agresto Smith, who killed himself the day after his 22nd birthday. His family includes French, Spanish, Native American and Lebanese blood. The blood of his life is on all of our hands.

suicide, cultural ills, guns, Marshall Smith

Marshall Slade Agresto Smith candlelight vigil dedicated to his life, which he ended with suicide with his own gun.

He was an acquaintance whom i met at the bar where I asked to dj and incorporate my own music with the set. He hung out there from time to time, when he wasn’t working as a chef. Cooking was his passion.

Mashall Slade Agresto Smith

Mashall Slade Agresto Smith

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I spoke to him, commenting that the way he dressed, he looked like the carpenter apprentices in Germany who wear a particular uniform and only walk between their apprenticeships, Zimmerman. I couldn’t remember the name, and intended to tell Marshall the next time i saw him.

Zimmerman is a tradition that is hundreds of years old, still practiced in Germany and parts of France.

Zimmerman is a tradition that is hundreds of years old, still practiced in Germany and parts of France.

A Zimmerman is basically a journeyman.

I noticed the last time I saw him to my astonishment that he had a real gun in a holster carried on his belt, hanging at his stomach. He said “yeah, it’s legal here in New Mexico”. Bout a week later, i was swinging by the plaza of Santa Fe coming into town at dusk and saw all these people standing holding candles and ‘CANDELARIOS’ lined up around the center.

Candlelight vigil for Marshall Smith

Candlelight vigil for Marshall Smith

I thought to myself, which tragedy happened now around the world, a new bombing or flight disaster? I approached and tried to see in the darkness the picture setting there. I soon learned that it was a vigil for Marshall, who killed himself several days earlier. The day after his 22nd birthday he shot himself with his won gun. His family stated in the announcement of his obituary, to not let people who drink be near guns, and not let people with guns near alcohol.

I came across this article a few days ago and sensed it that it’s appropriate to the current zeitgeist.

Broken Open, Heidi Barr, grief

Broken Open Heidi Barr on grief

“Politics.  Human decency.  Disrespect for women.  Self hatred.  Governmental control.  Fear. Complacency.  Planetary destruction.  Stealing.   Dishonoring sacred sites.  Destroying nations.  The despair of the poor.   The despair of the rich.  Outrage.  Ignorance.  Brushing it under the rug.  Dishonesty.  Hope.  Hopelessness. Wondering.  Paying the bills.  Running away.  Feeling stuck.

So I don’t think we need more guilt, or rage, or powerlessness.  We surely don’t need more entitlement, self hatred, or shame.   But we do need to grieve that which has been lost, that which has died, that which we or our children will never have, and that which is at this very moment fading away.  Stephen Jenkins says, “Grief requires us to know the time we are in.  We don’t require hope to proceed.  We require grief to proceed.”

Marshall’s one grandfather had been president of a local college, St. Johns. The other, a Native American who’s a fantastic chef, bringing the family together through this ritual and art, which his grandson Marshall adopted with a passion.

I feel that this is representative of a sickness of our culture.

We’re all ‘expected’ – by whom – cultural norms and habitual responses – to conform; i.e. in our economic incentives, the way we dress, the appendages and material possessions we obtain, through the work we do, the way we express ourselves and how we view and even interpret reality. It’s a structural conformity, that filters down to our routines and habits, the ‘weekend’ celebration, the time allotted from our economic machine to gather… otherwise – put your head down and don’t question. French, Ukrainians…question. Americans are severely brainwashed. Noam Chomsky communicated how the media contribute to this structural conformity in Manufacturing Consent. “proposing that the mass communication media of the U.S. are effective and powerful ideological institutions that carry out a system-supportive propaganda function, by reliance on market forces, internalized assumptions, and self-censorship, and without overt coercion, by means of the propaganda model of communication.”

Suicides, drug addiction are all representative of cultural ills. War is a condoned, anticipated and enculturated norm which is uncanny. War and artillery, weapons and the military industrial complex are viewed through the cloak of nationalism. It is your duty, and is equated with loyalty and honor to your country. I become so disgusted with this that I often feel just disappointment with my fellow man, and have more affection, adoration & praise for other animal & life forms, including plants.

This young man was not a conformist by any means>>>>and our culture screams for conformity. Consumerism overpowers the urge for genuine communication and cooperation. We all quickly assess and judge by clothes. How do you dress? What kind of automobile do you drive? What are these things broadcasting about you? What is your job or profession? How do you make your way in the world to pay for your housing and clothes…so that you have a place to sleep when your weekend respite arrives to spend some time at home enjoying these? We drive by one another insulated in our automobiles or interact while attending an entertainment event which we usually need to pay for. The entertainment standard is something we passively ‘watch’, rather than interactively participate in. I have been viscerally thinking about this and wrote while waiting to attend the ‘visitation’…that I’m disgusted with Marshall’s suicide, feel it is representative of cultural ills – not merely family.

fiery orange sunset

fiery orange sunset

The same day that I walked out of the visitation for Marshal and caught a glimpse of this fiery orange sunset which lingered pink on the horizon as I rode away, I later communicated the circumstances to a friend living in New Mexico who also saw this sunset. She said that just that day she had been reading about the Bridgend suicides, which were this sudden increase in suicides among mostly teenagers and young adults in the last few years in Wales. I found this article about it. The Mystery Suicides of Bridgend county

“The author talks to “cluster suicide” experts…Outbreaks like this are rare but not new…They have happened in Germany, Australia, Japan, the U.S., Canada, and Micronesia…Psychologists familiar with the phenomenon are saying that what’s going on in Wales is a classic case of the Werther effect, named for Goethe’s novel The Sorrows of Young Werther, about a young man who puts a gun to his head to end the agony of unrequited love and because he can’t find his place in the provincial bourgeois society of the day. The novel’s publication, in 1774, prompted young men all over Europe to dress like Werther and take their lives. It’s also called the contagion effect and copycat suicide: one person does it, and that lowers the threshold, making it easier and more permissible for the next…”

“These suicides are a symptom of a deeper societal malaise.”

This was just one individual, yet it prompted me to wonder how common suicides have been in history. It’s something I’ve never really wondered aboutinternational suicide rates. It appeared from my search that this has been on the rise in a number of different countries. I can’t imagine that this was common hundreds of years ago somehow.

International suicide statistics

International suicide statistics

About the same time that this occurred, George Monbiot – an environmental, social, economic and political writer – wrote this blog. “There Is Such a Thing As Society

Why should plagues of mental illness surprise us, in a world being ripped apart?

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 12th October 2016

“What greater indictment of a system could there be than an epidemic of mental illness? Yet plagues of anxiety, stress, depression, social phobia, eating disorders, self-harm and loneliness now strike people down all over the world. The latest, catastrophic figures for children’s mental health in England reflect a global crisis…There are plenty of secondary reasons for this distress, but it seems to me that the underlying cause is everywhere the same. Human beings, the ultrasocial mammals, whose brains are wired to respond to other people, are being peeled apart. Economic and technological change play a major role, but so does ideology.”

“Though our well-being is inextricably linked to the lives of others, everywhere we are told that we will prosper through competitive self-interest and extreme individualism.”

Another article and preview of the film which it refers to also presented itself during these same last few days.
From Brexit to Donald Trump: welcome to the age of hypernormalisation in London

“No one talks about power these days. We are encouraged to see ourselves as free, independent individuals not controlled by anybody, and we despise politicians as corrupt and empty of all ideas…But power is all around us. It’s just that it has shifted and mutated into a massive system of management and control, whose tentacles reach into all parts of our lives. But we can’t see it because we still think of power in the old terms—of politicians telling us what to do.”

Hyper normalization Living in an Unreal World

Hyper normalization Living in an Unreal World

Hyper normalization, film, Adam Curtis

Still from trailer of Hypernormalization film by Adam Curtis

“The aim of the film I have made — HyperNormalisation — is to bring that new power into focus, and show its true dimensions. It ranges from a giant computer high up in the mountains of northeast America that manages and controls over 7 percent of the worlds total wealth, to the complex algorithms that constantly monitor every move and choice you make online- giant computer constantly compares events happening around the world to events in the past. If it sees a dangerous pattern, it immediately adjusts its trillions of dollars to keep things stable. That is real power. The algorithms on social media constantly look at the patterns of what you like and then feed you more of that—so you enter into an echo chamber that constantly feeds you back to you. So again nothing changes—and you learn nothing new that would contradict how you feel. That too is real power.”

In the meantime, Native Americans and a handful of white people are in North Dakota trying to defend their land.

In North Dakota, Dakota Pipeline, protestors, Water Protectors

In North Dakota, the Dakota Pipeline protestors are actually Water Protectors

By the way, I learned the other day from a man I met who had been adopted by a Native American family who is a Native American Literature professor, that in contributing to the writing of the United States Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson was inspired by the Iroquois. The Six Nations: the Oldest Living Participatory Democracy on Earth

“The people of the Six Nations, also known by the French term, Iroquois Confederacy, call themselves the Hau de no sau nee (ho dee noe sho nee) meaning People Building a Long House… The original United States representative democracy, fashioned by such central authors as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, drew much inspiration from this confederacy of nations. Together these peoples comprise the oldest living participatory democracy on earth. Their story, and governance truly based on the consent of the governed, contains a great deal of life-promoting intelligence for those of us not familiar with this area of American history.”

Iroquois, 6-nations, Participatory Democracy

Iroquois 6-nations Oldest Living Participatory-Democracy on Earth

Karl Marx was also influenced by the Iroquois in his political philosophy.

In fact, every kid in school is indoctrinated into this with the daily pledge of allegiance.

United States Declaration of Independence

Second paragraph of the United States Declaration of Independence

And yet, I don’t particularly feel that we are all created equal, especially when those who inspired the declaration are the very people who live in sacrifice zones – A sacrifice zone is a geographic area that has been permanently impaired by environmental damage or economic disinvestment. These zones are most commonly found in low-income and minority communities.

Speaking of Democracy, wikileaks now reveals that it is not ‘we the people’ in a Democracy who vote for our representatives, but in fact just before the last election it was Citibank who were already planning even before Obama was elected, who were going to be taking the top posts in the Federal government. This New Republic describes The Most Important WikiLeaks Revelation Isn’t About Hillary Clinton

What John Podesta’s emails from 2008 reveal about the way power works in the Democratic Party.
BY DAVID DAYEN October 14, 201

“Michael Froman, who is now U.S. trade representative but at the time was an executive at Citigroup, wrote an email to Podesta on October 6, 2008, with the subject “Lists.”

This was October 6. The election was November 4. And yet Froman, an executive at Citigroup, which would ultimately become the recipient of the largest bailout from the federal government during the financial crisis, had mapped out virtually the entire Obama cabinet, a month before votes were counted. And according to the Froman/Podesta emails, lists were floating around even before that.”

 Is Compassion the Antidote to Neoliberalism

Is Compassion the Antidote to Neoliberalism

Meanwhile in his article addressing climate change and the disasters and devastation of the petroleum industries’, Monbiot writes in his blog “What Lies Beneath” – a nice play on words – is as biting and bold as his honest assessments always are.

“All this nonsense is a substitute for a simple proposition: stop digging. There is only one form of carbon capture and storage that is scientifically proven and can be deployed immediately: leaving fossil fuels in the ground.

“Their (governments in the pocket of the oil industry) choices are as follows. 1. a gradual, managed decline of existing production and its replacement with renewable energy and low-carbon infrastructure, which offer great potential for employment. 2. allowing fossil fuel production to continue at current rates for a while longer, followed by a sudden and severe termination of the sector, with dire consequences for both jobs and economies. 3. continuing to produce fossil fuels as we do today, followed by climate breakdown. Why is this a hard choice to make?”

In the meantime,

Great Barrier Reef officially declared Dead after 25 million years

Great Barrier Reef officially declared Dead after 25 million years

The Great Barrier Reef is officially dead: http://www.theearthchild.co.za/great-barrier-reef-officially-declared-dead-25-million-years/

I am in the library with my laptop, the only place to come to, not having residual cash to pay at a cafe to sit and linger in communication with the rest of the world. I’m here among library patrons along with a regular homeless population, of which, I guess i’m sort of one. In Tucson, at the grandiose university student library, there were a lot of homeless people too. There are no places to congregate really, unless you have money to spend. I wish to continue writing blogs and doing the research to complete my book, wish to continue playing bass guitar and piano and composing music with computer programs. I am lost as to how to find an artist residency.

… I entertain myself through learning and reading and doing various creative projects, which except for the tools – is free – all the time and effort put in to it have returns in the delivery of delight and joy gained through doing something. It is empowerment through action, not through consumption.

I have been kicked out of numerous places over the last year; parent’s home in PA, the workaway on a ferry in Brooklyn, my friend’s house in PA, the WWOOF i had arranged in the middle of nowhere in Arizona, and then voluntarily from the place i could no longer afford by paying rent with my credit card…and a few other places among familiar people, because people need their space. In fact there are a lot of quite large homes here in Santa Fe and people with homes left vacant while they live in their other homes….and I now have even more stuff that I’ve aggregated to my side; a suitcase of clothes, my laptop, bass guitar, favorite piano book, camera, now a few more frisbees since I’ve joined in on local ultimate frisbee pickup games in each towns I’ve lived in…and yet am almost homeless again, as I’m living so far up into the hills – literally encroaching on the animal habitats of the animals that have no more space for their own territory to live and survive – that my back is started to feel the weight of carrying everything with me down the hill and then trekking back.

I’m going to attend the debates tonight again in a public forum, just to exchange with people around me in their loathing. I had found a place and exchanged a friendly conversation for almost two hours with the woman with whom i thought we had a lot in common, and she said she had to sleep on it, and then never bothered to call me to say she didn’t want me as a housemate. then i moved to this mountain home guest of a man living alone there whose dog I walk, and the other woman who i was going to move in with and had to wait 2 weeks + to move in, called it off at the last moment, after i’d taken down all my signs, stopped looking for housing. a day before move-in i received an email in blue ink, very comforting looking, saying that she wasn’t moving in. then i had my first day at a job substitute teaching and instead of the principal telling me that it wasn’t going to work while I talked to her about potentially exchanging positions with the music teacher substitute who didn’t know how to read music…didn’t bother to tell me to my face that the job was off, but i found a ‘system response’ later that night. Had i not seen it, i would have gotten up again at 5:30 am to get there. then last night, i went to practice bass with a band, and neither of the guys bothered to phone to tell me that this was off, in fact they were playing earlier together with another guy on bass, when the day before i was trying to arrange an alternative night to accommodate the one guys’ new job.

It appears to me that gay men control the fashion and the art industry and then a small percentage of people control everything else. I’ve put out housing ads, and there have been a few people who randomly contact me with obscure cryptic texts, and then there have been a few men who send me pics, practically sexting, to their abs in pictures.

In the meantime, An eye-opening flight over California’s dying forests
By Kurtis Alexander Updated: August 6, 2016 8:00pm

Dead trees sweeping across the Sierras, California's dying forests

Dead trees sweeping across the Sierras – California’s dying forests

The four crew members were halfway through two weeks of flights over landscapes shifting ominously from green to brown, and already they’d begun to draw their conclusion: The mind-boggling number of trees that have died in California due to drought — an estimated 66 million over five years — is only the beginning.

It’s creeping farther north, and to higher elevations, not only providing tinder for wildfires, but also obstructing the forests’ fundamental ability to provide clean water and absorb carbon dioxide.

All i want is an artist residency where I can physically contribute to learning about and maintaining sustainable living, while also helping to ensure animal habitat conservation. My dream; a community of people contributing this, who are also committed to completing new works on an ongoing basis, the work which blends into education and awareness of the fragile planet and interrelationships that need to be sustained. DOES ANYONE KNOW WHRE THESE EXIST? WITHOUT A WAITING LIST?

guess i'm going to have to adjust the sails

guess i’m going to have to adjust the sails

Le plus dur n’est pas de rêver, mais de ce réveiller

….the most difficult is not to dream, but to wake up…..

Carol Keiter, blogger

Carol Keiter the blogger

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Carol Keiter aka nomadbeatz welcomes donations for her writing, photography, illustrations, eBook & music performance and composition

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Pursuit of Happiness  | IDEA  | Authentic Happiness  |  PERMA | Motion

In my pursuit of happiness, a couple months ago I decided to take a trip. It appeared to be pretty spontaneous, yet I had intended to eventually make this circuit, after having lived for the last 6 years in Europe. I had moved to Barcelona in 2004 and then Berlin, Germany for a second time in 2005. It had been a while since I had physically visited these former communities and friends living there, upon returning to the United States on the eve of Christmas, 2011. My first prompt was to reach San Francisco by the day of the How Weird Street Faire http://howweird.org, which would certainly bring a lot of people together in one place, from among the community of people I knew while living in the ccc warehouse, back in the day when my housemate Brad Olsen had established the first How Weird. En route, I decided that I could visit friends in Taos and Santa Fe, New Mexico, as I made my way to the West coast. I was originally drawn to Taos, a high desert town not far from the Colorado border and nestled in the lower reaches of the Rocky mountains, for snow skiing. I had worked at the ski area there teaching skiing for several years, then later lived in Santa Fe in 2003, teaching skiing at the Ski Basin. The point of this trip was to assess where I might wish to relocate, if it happens to be in the United States, and also to visit with friends who I hadn’t seen in a while. As I mentioned in the last blog, I found a flight to Denver, with the intention of hitch-hiking to Taos, as my first destination. After staying in Taos for the first stretch, I continued hitching on to several additional New Mexico locations, and further on to California. I successfully made it to the street fair on time, and really had a delightful visit throughout. I cut my journey short however, because of a number of reasons. Though my initial incentive was to investigate Portland and Seattle as well as Los Angeles, as potential places to consider relocating, I opted against them. Basically, I intuited that probably each of these towns offer a combination of what I’m looking for in a residence; lots of opportunities for people to participate in music, cultural, art related and outdoor sports like mt. biking, ultimate frisbee and nearby mountains for skiing and snow boarding, as well as having a solid infrastructure for bicycle routes along with a good public transportation network (with the exception of LA). However, what I would miss, is the accessibility of dipping into different European languages on a regular basis, which is typical in Berlin. I studied cultural anthropology and am fascinated by languages and the movement of them along cultural migratory routes. I have to admit that I am not too keen on monotone weather either, and really prefer the dynamics of four seasons.

My visiting adventure came to a poignant exclamation mark wrap-up, when I found myself seated on a return flight to the East coast next to a woman who had just written an article http://positivepsychologynews.com/news/elaine-obrien/2012053122448 in Positive Psychology News about health, fitness and general well being. She was touching on the subject of happiness, which I’ve ironically been blogging about numerous times. The mantra of many of my friends is ‘there are no coincidences’. Elain was returning from the 2012 IDEA Health and Fitness Convention, and had just published an article about it, writing specifically about the association. Here are their publications. http://www.ideafit.com/idea-fitness-journal

With her aura of helpfulness and kindness, Elaine was ebullient as she offered information about the subject of fitness, health and Kinesiology (movement). Years ago when I lived in San Francisco and was sketching a guy sitting next to me at a bar, he asked me to draw my ‘favorite thing’. I responded with an impromptu picture of concentric circles, indicating that this was an image of the concept of motion. Here’s the original sketch on a napkin

and a subsequent version on a card I created.

Motion

I spontaneously revealed that motion is my favorite thing; both geographical, intellectual, physical, spiritual…indicating that through moving to a new place/perspective, can one acquire a new insight. I later read Elaine’s article and saw a quote of Plato’s prominently placed at the beginning: “Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical exercise save it and preserve it.”

Elaine writes that Peter and Kathie Davis started the group IDEA, to ‘inspire the world to fitness and wellness’, back in 1982, which has now grown to 65,000 members worldwide. They wanted to create “an association where fitness professionals could learn from each other and from the experts”. According to Peter, “Fitness professionals focused mostly on the body for the first 25 years. What we at IDEA have tried to do in the last few years, is to encourage fitness leaders to understand the mind, the body, and the spirit together in a wholeness model. Through this, we can inspire wellness and positive transformation.” Their incentive is to re-frame the way that people look at health and fitness, to recognize how integrally these are related to the pursuit of happiness. They wish to inspire people to make healthier behavioral changes towards wellness.

She also quotes Tal Ben-Shahar, “Exercise feels good, enhances self-esteem, induces calm, improves thinking, makes you feel more attractive, has virtually no negative side effects, is legal, and is free.” He teaches a course on ‘Happiness’ within the Positive Psychology department at Harvard, University, and has written a book “Happier”. Interviewed on The Daily Show, he mentions that students claim that the course makes them feel happier. He hopes to raise the level of happiness and quality of life in the community.

How do we understand happiness and how can we apply this to our lives? There’s a growing movement in positive psychology and for the first time a ‘science of Happiness’. A study done by the Nobel Prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman, not to be confused with con man’-)) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Kahneman has found that people are less happy if they are too distracted. Therefore, this is not merely about physical fitness and motion, but the necessity of being ‘present’ in what you’re doing. In addition, studies demonstrate that meditation can actually affect how the brain works, so that people can feel the positive emotions more fully and be more resilient to deal with negative ones. Incidentally, my frustration with my refusal to specialize, and insistence in juggling multiple projects in disparate areas, sometimes causes me to feel like I’m not making enough headway. A few weeks ago as I was sensing this, I decided to ‘randomly’ pull a magazine out from a pile of “Utne Readers” to see if the one I picked might synchronistically deliver a message. Ahhh, the one that I slid out from near the bottom of the stack spoke ardently about my ‘problem’.

A Focused Life

It was the issue with the theme of “Focus” and “Why We Are So Distracted and What to Do About It

My airplane neighbor Elaine also talked about Dr. Martin Seligman, the Director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. It’s more than serendipity, that his homepage is “Authentic Happiness” His website welcomes visitors to use the tools and resources available for free.

An excerpt of his book, “Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being” “What Is Well-Being? The Original Theory: Authentic Happiness” describes that we not only make choices because something makes us feel good, with more measurable happiness; such as pleasure, comfort, delight, joy, ecstasy. But we also can really derive happiness by being ‘in the flow’ of an activity, when we are totally engaged. This is when time appears to stop, because we are so completely absorbed in an activity that we lose track of time. Engagement is different, even opposite to positive emotion he says, because people often become so involved in an activity that they are aware of nothing, and are not thinking or feeling. The flow involves having to employ your highest strengths and skills. With respect to this, I like to make the analogy of Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, when he talks about “using the force”. Seligman states that the third element of happiness that he defines in his book, is meaning. Summarizing his well-being theory since revising it further, it is encompassed in these measurable elements which all contribute to happiness, expressed in the acronym PERMA. Positive emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning/purpose and Accomplishment.

I like the fact that my journey pulled me back to these same themes, motion and happiness, which I am engaged in perpetually, in my pursuit of happiness, fulfillment and meaning. My intention is to aspire to and maintain health, resilience and awareness, balanced with forever engaging in what I love to do, so that I can somehow contribute to inspiring and guiding others to find their own path.

https://carolkeiter.wordpress.com/2009/10/20/happiness/

http://digesthis.wordpress.com/2010/03/10/guides-to-living-longer-happier-lives-right-here-right-now/

http://digesthis.wordpress.com/2011/11/20/speaking-of-happiness-laughter-yoga-giggling-guru-madan-kataria/

http://digesthis.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/happyness-making-the-best-of-what-you-have/

http://digesthis.wordpress.com/2012/04/12/gross_domestic_problem_-why-measurement-of-wealth-depends-on-a-healthy-environment/