Thursday, June 23, 2011

I Am Not An Angry Girl... Usually

But today I am livid.  There's something that makes me madder than almost anything else, and so I try not to think about it.  But sometimes I need to think about it.  Sometimes the things that move us most dramatically need the attention their scope commands.  Getting away from myself though.
Hardly a day goes by anymore that I don't think about bolting.  I feel like the time for hitting "reset" is coming close.  How can it not be, with such things dominating my consciousness such a large part of the time?
and generally my generation
wouldn't be caught dead working for the man
and generally I agree with them
trouble is you gotta have yourself an alternate plan

Sometimes I just want to ditch all of my possessions except a few pieces of clothing and my favorite, most rereadable books. And my camera, of course. And maybe a few photos. I'd pack up these few items into my little hatchback and drive out to the desert to live like Georgia O'Keefe taking pictures (since I can't paint) of skulls and rocks for all eternity, until I die or lose my mind completely.  (Aside: I never knew much about GO'K until fairly recently, not being a particular fan of her paintings.  But the more I learn about her, the more I respect and admire her.)
Other times I want to shave my head and move to Kathmandu and go hang out with some monks and practice denial, simplicity, meditation.  Try to reach a place of peace that is so far from the reality of my current existence as to feel unreal.
Sometimes I want to abandon the desk, the chair, the house, for the hoe, the field, the ground.  Work my hands til they're blistered and raw, dirt caked under fingernails, and then fall asleep to the tinkling music of insects under a bowl full of softly glowing stars. 
And then occasionally, I want to jump.  Not just metaphorically as we've discussed, but literally.  Though I know the solace imagined in the freefall would be fear and pain instead, and maybe even a little regret.
and I have earned my disillusionment
I have been working all of my life
and I am a patriot
I have been fighting the good fight

A year and a half ago I laid out all the options.  Considered them, making calculations, savoring their different flavors.  How to escape, what path to take.  In the end it came down to money.  I chose the tamest path, the change with the least change.  The path defined by money.  And money is what makes me so blindly, haphazardly angry.  It is nearly impossible to live without money.  Each generation that has proceeded mine has taken more and more steps every year to further cement this detestable, illusory system into the fabric of our lives and our society. 
From the very simple, to the very complex - money is required for nearly all actions.  Want to drive your car off to the desert to create?  Better have money for gas.  Money for food and water. Money for shelter. Want to go work on a farm?  Better have money to pay the doctor when the inevitable injuries of hard labor begin to take their toll. 
Or at least, this is what we've been taught to believe.  That money is somehow necessary for all of these things.  But it feels so ridiculous if you actually stop and think about it.  Nothing hammers this point home for me more than gold.  Gold is pretty and can be used to make beautiful things, but what is it really worth?  What is it really useful for?  Someone decided it had an inflated worth and everyone else went along with it.  People in my business always talk about there never being anywhere safer to put your money than in gold.  In Turkey, families in rural areas often store their wealth by buying gold bangles, as opposed to putting it in banks or even tin cans in the backyard.  Our own government has impenetrable fortresses whose only purpose is to store it.  But if it really came down to it, if we faced some kind of apocalypse or reset - what good would it do the government to have a bunch of gold?  "Here, take this, give me something of value in return!"  Um.  "Let me melt it down to make a blanket."  Oh wait.  I'm pretty sure a shelter made out of gold would work similarly poorly.
In that same vein, I always loved the idea that today a cigarette lighter costs 99 cents in any convenience store in america, and a cell phone costs 99 dollars, or more.  Yet if the whole world came crashing down around our ears tomorrow, which of those two items would have more value?
I am questioning questioning always.  There are some things I know for certain in my heart or in my mind, or sometimes both.  There are so many more things I still need to figure out.
One of the things I thought about as an actual option, as opposed to the hyperbolic examples above (which I do actually think about, just not seriously considered last spring) was joining an intentional agricultural community in Virginia.  I was motivated by a desire to do more simple, physical work.  To live in a place with less electronic stimulation and more books and good conversation.  To escape from the trappings of money for awhile, having felt like the last 5 years had been spent over obsessing about it (or at least citing it as a primary motivation to remain in my stagnant situation).  I even contacted the people who ran the community by email to ask them some questions that had occurred to me while reading their website and literature.  But there was one factor in particular that ended up stopping me cold in my tracks.  This particular community, which had seemed so awesome and progressive and hopeful versus others I had looked at, had a hard and fast rule.  People who join their community on any kind of permanent basis (which I think they defined as longer than 6 months) had to turn any income earned on capital assets over to the community.  Meaning, I couldn't join these people for a time and allow my fifty thousand dollar IRA to keep growing while I did it.  Any 'unearned income' is the 'property of the community.'  And to me, that just didn't seem fair.  I reasoned that I worked hard to save that money long before joining the community, so why should ANY of it benefit them?  And they didn't just want earnings on stocks, bonds, real estate, etc. but they also went as far as to specify social security, pensions, and interest from a plain checking account.  I guess their philosophy is that by joining the community you are accepting their social contract of providing for members based on need and equality in exchange for work credit, and that represents some sort of rejection of capitalism (therefore justifying any income earned from that system becoming communal property).  But at the time, I couldn't handle that idea.  I was super protective over what I had earned and been given.  And to be honest, even now, the idea sort of bugs a little.  Although I get it.  And I respect it. 
It gets me thinking, because the money thing is definitely one of those questions where it seems a little silly to go half-assed on it.  Either you buy into the system, or you don't.  The thing is, there are so many pragmatic challenges to rejecting the system outright.  Truly rejecting money is an incredibly difficult thing to do in our society.  I know of a few people who have done it, like the Peace Pilgrim and Suelo.  But it is a hard existence, or at least, it seems that way to me as an outsider.  One of the biggest difficulties for me is property ownership.  I don't want to live in caves where I occasionally get ejected by a park ranger.  I think I would want to own some sort of semi-permanent shelter.  But then very quickly you get into the question of property taxes and how even when you own something in our society you never really own it.  How crazy is that??  The day I learned about property taxes so many years ago was like a giant rambaldi ball bursting and drowning me in the resultant flood of water.  I guess maybe a way to circumvent that would be to rent but use bartering of goods and services for rent instead of money.  Although it's still a form of currency.  God, the issue goes so deep.
Anyway, I've been working-on-slash-thinking-about this thing all day today, and there's still so much more I could say.  But I really can't right now.  And my anger has faded quite a bit as the realities of the day, and of work, intrude on my musing.  Perhaps I'll write some more when I get home from bowling tonight, but in all likelihood probably not.
Either way, rant about money aside, the winds of change are blowing.  I feel them on my skin.
i've got a lack of inhibition
i've got a loss of perspective
i've had a little bit to drink
and it's making me think
that i can jump ship and swim
that the ocean will hold me
that there's got to be more
than this boat i'm in

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