Thursday, January 17, 2013

Productivity Is A Four Letter Word

I've been thinking a lot about the notion of productivity.

When one thinks about productivity, one usually thinks about what one has done that day. How many chores we finished, errands we ran, projects we finished, the work that we did. Personal productivity is the motivation for many people to drag themselves out of bed in the morning and put on pants. This notion of having to do things in order to feel good about oneself is very strange, don't you think? Simply being alive and breathing should suffice to satisfy our ego enough. So where does this come from? Why must I tally off each and every task completed and feel better about higher numbers?

So let's look at the history of "productivity" and see if we can unravel the conundrum of it's looming presence in our lives.

Productivity is an economic concept connecting the measurement of efficiency to production, relating the total input to the total output of a single unit. The term was coined in the early 19th century (1), during the escalation of the Industrial Revolution. A quick look at the history books will give you an idea of what was going on at the time. The world experienced a huge economic boom which, it could be argued, continues today. We have reached the peak moment in this event, however, and it is evident in all of our institutions that the Victorian ideals that drive our Industrialist philosophies are unsustainable and flawed.

Productivity has crept into the deepest recesses of the human psyche through the clever use of money and commodity. We are consumers, and the notion of economic productivity touches every facet of our lives. Even our expectation of ourselves as people.

Pseudonyms of productivity include, "abundance" (which relates to the creation of "starvation economies"), "fertility" and "potency" (relating subconsciously to gender politics), "richness" (relating to wealth, and wealth back to consumption; and also to quality of life). These words trigger different subconscious relationships to productivity in our brains.

Productivity as abundance means we will never have enough; we will work to earn and consume and hoard. We work to fuel the productivity loop. We create capital to gain capital. And if we find ourselves with more than we need, we hoard that capital in banks and garages and storage facilities. Or stocks and real-estate. If you are not productive in this way, you live a life plagued by unfulfilled needs. You are deprived, and poor, and lazy. Very negative things to be.

Productivity as "fertility" and "potency" feeds our instinctual need to create. One could argue that the drive to reproduce and gender politics are influenced by this subliminal aspect of productivity. If you are not fertile, you are sterile. If you are not potent, you are weak. For women, this means you cannot produce children, and for some women, it carries the ridiculous notion that you are "less of a woman". For men, it is an affront to their masculinity; we all know the toxic stigma that being "impotent" carries. I mean, you must be a sissy if you aren't sporting a raging boner at all times, ready to rock!

Productivity as "richness" is pretty obvious. If you aren't productive, you are a lazy, stinky bum who lives in a shopping cart in an alley and begs for change. For not contributing to the production/consumption loop, you are a burden on society. And no one wants that, right? (Except for those that choose it in the name of simplicity or adventure.)

Productivity is a positive word that people use to describe themselves. "I was super productive today!" "I had a very productive afternoon." "I was running around all day being productive!" These are all statements that make us feel very good about ourselves. This is productivity as progress, and this is where it gets complicated.

The notion of progress and the notion of productivity are married in their influence over our lives and culture. Lack of progress means you aren't "growing" or "allowing for positive change" or "developing". Further, and at it's root, it means you are lazy. And being lazy in this culture means that you aren't "producing" anything of "value".

Progress, value, and productivity are very toxic things in a starvation economy. They cause people to degrade things that have no monetary value, hold themselves to unrealistic expectations, devalue experience and the time it takes to gain it, develop toxic attitudes about taking time out for self exploration, attach deep meaning to material possessions and wealth, hoards of very negative things. And not meeting these unrealistic expectations we set for ourselves in the name of being productive makes us feel horrible about ourselves.

So what have we done? How did this abstract economic concept seep into every crack and crevice of our lives? I could rant about the unsustainability of the 1950's utopian concept of progress and the deep evils of capitalism, but you've no doubt heard about those elsewhere.

I propose something more... well... productive!

I propose that we unmask the concept of "productivity" for what it actually is. It is nothing. It is a rule we added to the game to complicate it for ourselves. Productivity is man made. Productivity is a restriction. Productivity is, above all, a stupid rule. I say we break the chains that bind us to ridiculous expectations and low self esteem. Dare to be unproductive! Deign to sit with yourself and do nothing but feel the sun and the breeze! Don't think about anything, don't move, don't listen to music, don't check your phone, just be here. Set a timer if you have to (I know it's lame, but it helps).

Be present, not productive. Celebrate the little victories like putting on pants and feeding yourself. If you are warm, comfortable and fed at the end of the day, I'd say you were pretty productive! Don't get mad at yourself for taking a day off to think, or heal, or sleep. Do what you have to do! If it conflicts with your productivity, you are being too productive, and you are not being present.

I know it's hard. Doing nothing and being present may lead to enlightenment (or a general feeling of wellbeing) but it is much harder and less immediately satisfying than being "productive". Being present takes time. It takes time to learn how to do it, and one needs to make the time to do it. Because it takes time, the rewards, though greater, take time to manifest and appreciate, but they are worth the wait. (I hate the word "manifest", it's overused but it's the best I've got at the present moment.) Let go of your attachment to productivity and begin living up to your own expectations. And then let go of those expectations and really find bliss.

Do what you have to do, don't put productivity above yourself. I wish there was a word other than productivity that encapsulated the concepts of "do what you have to do" and "be true to yourself first". Silly English, you don't have the right words. Productivity is a 4 letter word, and that word is "work". Work is no fun. "Play" and "live" are much more fun! Feeling good in your mind and body is a lot more fun. That's not to say that you shouldn't take care of yourself, but "doing what you have to do" and "work" aren't necessarily synonymous. There is work in doing what you have to do, but do just that. Just do what you have to do, don't get hung up on all the extra side-quests.

The game doesn't have to suck, because we can pick the rules we want to play with. I'm leaving productivity, in it's negative sense, to people that like complicating things. I'm much too busy playing my mo'betta game over here. Not only that, but I demand to play my own game. It is my choice. Don't diss me because my game is easier and more fun than yours. That's your problem. No fair trying to make me feel bad about my awesomeness.

Try it. That's the main message here. Try doing what you have to do instead of what productive industrialists tell you you "could" or "should" be doing. "Could" doesn't mean "should", and "should" doesn't mean "must". There are 3 words for a good reason. Try it. And make sure you fit in things that you "like" and "want" to do too. : )

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Lost in Translation

I've always known that I am very eloquent when I write. Even more so than when I speak. I'm good at converting my thoughts and feelings into words, and I try to do it as often as possible.

As far as serious conversations go, however, I really suck at communicating sometimes. I always think of how better to phrase whatever I was talking about an hour or two after it happens. Kind of like how you always think of a better come-back to an insult after you walk away from it.

I have gotten better about speaking my mind through the practice of "blurting", which is just saying what is really on my mind in tense situations in an effort to get everything out on the table. It is a wonderful practice. And it has served me well recently, but it doesn't work in every situation.

In sensitive, serious conversations, where nerves are frayed and feelings may be hurt, blurting can only serve to aggravate the situation. So what is one to do? If I am made to participate in conversations like this, my blood runs cold, I start to shake like I was in a high school trumpet audition, and my emotions go positively haywire from the pressure. I used to be able to mask these reactions, but not anymore. Now things get lost in translation between my brain and my mouth. However, there are solutions to this problem.

Being an introvert means that confrontations are hard. They're hard to navigate and drain us quickly. And then we need time to digest the situation and recharge, which is nearly impossible in most situations. In these cases, writing is the answer.

When I write, I get to think about what I want to say, say it in the most eloquent and precise way I can conjure, and I have time to put my thoughts together to convey the meaning that I want them to. When I'm rushed, precision and true meaning are the first things to flee from my language, leaving me, mostly, at a complete loss for words. Which doesn't fly in serious conversations and leaves the other participant flustered and frustrated. But if you give me time to think about it and compose a paragraph or two, everything is made clear again.

This written approach is by it's very nature proactive, which is unfortunate. Reactionary writing does nothing to assuage the feelings of the person you are reacting to (who is often very emotional by the time the conversation jolts to an abrupt beginning). But in the end, it results in less hurt feelings and better understanding from both parties. I've heard the argument that text can be cold and unemotional and lead to all kinds of miscommunications, but I actually believe that it is easier to say what is on your mind when you sit down and actually think about it long enough to put it into words. I like writing poetry for this reason. Because then I have to really think deeply about what it is I want to say and how.

I hope that I'll find a place in my life that will be more open to this kind of communication someday. Until then, more journaling and more poetry. And if you receive a serious letter from me, don't be offended, take it as a compliment. It means that I care enough about you to tell you how I really feel.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

New Years Dreams

An overview.

New Years: I dreamt I was covertly covering for a handyman in my apartment complex that never fixed anything due to addiction and depression. I would steal his tools, fix stuff, and replace the tools when I was done. In order to do this, I needed to learn how to pick the locks into some of the other apartments, because the handyman kept all the keys. At the end of the dream, I was in the roofless tool room and I had found 2 practice locks (you could see all the parts of the cylinder) and a set of really good picks. Then I woke up.

Interpretation: I have the tools, now all I need is to learn and practice how to use them.

Jan. 4: Woke up at Grams' house in my dreamscape (which is a fascinating place in my mindmap). I was just staying 1 day there while traveling on to somewhere else. My mother and my sister walked into the room looking serious and looked at me. They nodded and said, "We have to do it." My sister said it after my Mom said it as if to affirm that my Mom was right. I looked at them and said, "Do what?" They looked at me with raised eyebrows and my Mom said, "What do you mean what? Haven't you ever seen your Dad do this before?" I said, "Do what?" My Mom and my sister exchanged a knowing look and said, "Ooooh, you don't know then..." And I was still confused when they walked out of the room. I went to follow them, but I woke up.

Interpretation: This is all very Freudian and trinity oriented. Sister, Mom, Grams = Maiden, Mother, Crone. I'm my conscious self, my father is my subconscious self where I know everything already. So essentially, I have the tools, now all I need to do is remember how to use them.

Jan. 6: I was somewhere in Claremont (dreamscape LA again). I was sitting with my cousin Marc and his fictional little brother. We were talking about drugs, Marc was pretty blasé about the whole thing but his little brother just really wanted to smoke pot with me. He took out a duffle bag of implements that we could use to smoke with. I zipped up the bag and put it back under the bench he had taken it out from under and basically told him that yeah, it's fun and all, but there's a time and a place for that, and now isn't the time. Then I woke up.

Interpretation: I have the tools, now all I need is to learn when they appropriate to use.

So I guess the overlying theme of my dreams lately has been pretty concrete. I have the tools, I just don't know exactly what to do with them. This actually makes me feel pretty optimistic! It means that I'm the captain, essentially. I'm driving this bitch, I just need to shut up and drive!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

"But you are a flier, not a faller."

Ducky: Who are you? Huh? 
Petrie: M-my name Petrie. 
Ducky: Petrie, huh? Funny name. 
Petrie: Uh, I...I flied? 
Ducky: No. You falled. 
Petrie: I falled? Ohh! (crying) 
Ducky: You cannot fly? How did you get up there? 
Petrie: I climb. 
Littlefoot: But you're a flier, not a faller. 
Petrie: Hard thing to fly.

-- The Land Before Time

I've been resisting making any kind of commitments for the coming year. No resolutions, no goals, nothing. This, however, is an avoidance behavior that needs exploring. I've noticed that whenever I have a knee jerk negative response to something and really dig my hooves into the ground to resist, it means that I need to read into it more. That's not to say that I need to take back everything I've ever said no to and give it another chance, just that I need to watch out for those responses. There's a pattern. I see the pattern. Now I can break the pattern.

I have been resistant to New Years resolutions because I have been feeling the effects of prolonged feelings of inadequacy. Why make a resolution to do more yoga when my body hurts most of the time? Why make a resolution to change my diet if I'm too poor to afford the food I'd rather be eating? Why explore artistically if I'm jobless? This is the wrong attitude.

It appears that I have created several of my own road blocks. My priorities are all messed up. I now know what is really important, but I haven't taken the plunge and promoted the important things to the top of my priority list yet.

The Bay Area is so different. It seems that my polar, linear mode of classification is of absolutely ZERO use to me here. This is a bad example, but there is no "gay" or "straight" here. It is so much bigger than that. Every single degree of difference between those two things, and around them, is present here in all of it's diversity. Not only that, but for every degree of difference, there is an entire group of people that embody it. There aren't just friends or lovers here, there is all the in between! There are platonic lovers and romantic friendships, and platonic friendships and romantic lovers, and loving friendships and platonic romances... The list is diverse and complicated, and this diversity applies to EVERYTHING.

Everything here is beyond my parameters of classification. And because of that, I'm stuck. I've rooted myself for stability in a narrow channel of questionably bad habits that I have been meaning to break. Habits that I am now clinging to in the name of familiarity as a flood of newness threatens to whisk me away to parts unknown. Why break bad habits when they give me comfort? Why reject them when they make me feel sane and safe? The new question is "why not"? And I have no answers.

I need to accept that there are more people, cultures, definitions, vocabularies, symbols and classifications in my life here than I can ever hope to identify and attach meaning to. This is unnerving to me. I guess my challenge this year is one of letting go. I need to cut the anchors holding me back in order to really soar. Soaring is scary because I could fall. But the focus should be the soaring, not the potential falling, crashing, and recovering.

So my new years resolution is to be present, avoid classification, take care of myself first, kick ass, and learn to fly. My focus is to accept things for what they are, not what they could be or what I think they should be. The challenge is to not get bogged down by the obstacles that present themselves along my path, but to forge a new path around them if necessary. And above all, I need to let go. Stop clinging to the familiar and "safe" knowns in my life as if they can help me, because they can't. I help me. I need not look outside myself and this present moment to find all of the answers, stability and comfort I require to be happy, healthy, and at a safe cruising altitude.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Pen Pals

I have a friend named Tom. He is my pen pal. We met a couple of years ago, and literally the next week, he was carted off to prison. Our mutual friends have kept contact with him and I made the decision to have correspondence with him while he serves out his sentence.

Prison is a horrible place. I've read quite a bit about it, and watched documentaries and the like. Seriously, it's probably one of the most soul-crushing institutions on the planet. You are forced onto a schedule, robbed of individualism and self-expression, stripped of personal possessions, made to eat sub-par food, sleep in discomfort, and plagued with torturous boredom. And while some much needed care, counseling and rehabilitation is available for prisoners, there is very little that is positive about the experience. Most of the time.

Tom's experience sounds surprisingly positive compared to all that I've read. He's lost weight, he is in therapy (and it's helping him tremendously), he has better nutrition, he is exercising, and he's dry. In his letters he describes a tragically boring day and a very regular schedule, but he has managed to stay positive and deal well with his sentence.

I write to him because I have learned how lonely incarceration can be. If there is one thing I took away from all my reading it's that letters from outside can be a tremendous help to the prisoner. Letters help to focus prisoners on something outside the walls and keep them from getting bogged down by the loneliness and monotony of their incarceration.

The cruelty of incarceration really struck a chord with me. After my research, I wanted to reach out and help someone, but the thought of sending letters to a complete stranger was slightly unnerving to me. Then I thought of Tom, a man I barely knew, and with whom I have many mutual friends. I asked them about him when they'd receive letters about how he was doing and got fairly regular reports on his status. Finally, I decided I would just start asking him myself! I got his address from friends and sent him a letter.

He was very happy to receive it and we've been corresponding since October! It's been great to get to know him through his letters, and I'm very happy to know that he enjoys talking to me too.

I guess the point of this post is to encourage anyone reading it to have compassion for those we have locked away in prisons. And also to encourage writing to those people during their stay there. Your letters will be a great source of relief for them.

We punish criminals because what they do makes us angry. So angry that we take everything away from them and keep them in a pen under the watchful eyes of authoritarian men and women with guns. Victims of crime usually push for the longest sentence possible as a means of assuaging their anger toward the person who wronged them. And they are completely justified in doing so. Far be it from me to condemn the anger of any victim of crime. But I have known prisoners, and I know the hardships of being locked up.

Tom isn't the first prisoner I've known. I knew another guy, Dan, who had a horrible time in jail. He received no help for his emotional problems and minimal rehabilitation. He took his own life a couple of years after his release. His punishment turned out to be death, and all he did was steal a car and a credit card and go on an underaged binge.

I firmly believe that people need to be treated with compassion. No matter how angry they make us, we need to treat people fairly. Volatile behavior is a symptom of a bigger problem. Crime is a symptom of a broken legal/political system, and people moved to crime have very real reasons for committing them. Just as it is right for the victim to be angry, it is right for the criminal to be met with compassion.

So many crimes are the result of people being unable to care for themselves. We punish the poor, the homeless, the hungry, the mentally ill, the sick, and the elderly for being victims of circumstance. We punish the violent because they hurt us and make us uncomfortable. And they are locked away because it is more convenient for us (as a culture) to let them rot in a cell than to actually take the steps needed to solve their problems. I'm not an idealist that believes that everyone can be rehabilitated, but I do believe that those who can't be rehabilitated are fewer in truth than statistics say.

I hope that humans as a civilization will find more effective ways to deal with criminals in the future. Ways that champion compassion and love instead of punishment and hate. And I hope my friend Tom comes out okay. And in the interim, I'll keep sending him letters.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Male Nesting

The phenomenon of male nesting is very interesting. Especially when you live with men who like changing rooms around every few months. I'm a little different, I tend to assess the situation for a long time, put stuff the way I like it, and keep it there. Forever. It's the Bull in me. But the boys have different tendencies. One, aquarius, likes to change EVERYTHING as often as it strikes him, maybe every 3 months. The other keeps changing things around as he obtains additional things to fill out his vision of what his room should be. They did that thing where you buy stuff around Christmas. What a concept... I am now in rooms with furnishings, lamps, rugs and other things that weren't there before. I too received a rug. It's purple and gold. Very awesome. : )

My room will be going through some major changes soon too. I'm getting a bed! Yes! A bed! At long last I will have a designated place to sleep, with a real mattress! I'll be glad to stop sleeping in my sleeping bag on my couch in my room. It was nice, but I'm over it. Now I can sleep in my room WITH other people! I don't have to choose between my cat and my bed buddies! Yay bed! It's another loft, I loved my last one. This one is from IKEA, I might end up bracketing it to the wall in case of earthquake. *cough*

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Off To An Awesome Start!

So, I thought I wouldn't have much design to report until a couple weeks from now, but then I found THIS! Alt.kilt has made an awesome red kilt for Atlas the Mighty in Circus Bacchus with my logo on it! Best ever!

New Years has started out completely wrong in the diet department. However, having eaten nothing but junkfood all day, I am satisfied that all need for pizza and potato chips has left me. I look forward to all the pretty fruits in my fridge. I have 2 kinds of mangos, a prickly pear and 3 different kinds of apples and pears! Oh! And persimmons!

Sea of Dreams was tons of fun! I had a really great time. The venue was HUGE! I'd love to go to an event there again. Very well laid out and easy to navigate, with plenty of room. Room for 4 stages, 2 chill areas, a vendor village and galleries! They even had a few food trucks outside. Once again, Mexican food saved my life. And there was literally a bar in every area to keep you from getting thirsty.

It was my 4th time seeing Gogol Bordello live and they were hugely impressive as always. If you have never seen them live, do it. They put on one of the best, most energetic shows I have ever seen. They are consistently awesome.

Shpongle was Shpongle, always a joy. I had seen that particular set before and it was pretty cool. They did the Quixotic Masquerade show this time. It has just been too hard to gain enough room to really dance at all of their shows! Tragic, but I continue to dream of larger dance floors!

And then there was The Glitch Mob. Sorry everyone, but I have rarely been so underwhelmed. I really appreciate their energy and their showmanship was awesome! It's just that I really hated their music. It was terrible. The sound was abrasive, too much contrast between the trebles and the bass, and absolutely nothing in the middle to connect them. It sounded like they should have been making beats for hip-hop, not putting on their own act. But I digress, I'm an electronica snob, so please feel free to judge for yourself. I see potential here, the reggae style beats and some of the rhythmic structure was good, but the musicality was under par. Feel free to have a look at them though, great performers.

Trentemoler was pretty cool, but I was too busy watching another DJ to pay him much attention. All the headliners were great, but the highlight of my night was Dex Stakker, who was spinning some sick, dirty breakbeat trance until midnight. He even shared my distain for 2012 declaring, "Fuck 2012!" as midnight approached. Made my night. : ) He rocked my whole world for a good 90 minutes. So awesome! I waited until the end of his set and told him how impressed I was and he gave me a CD of his vocal mix (and it ROCKS). Totally want to see more of him this year.

Also, there was a gallery of artworks, a display of different kinds of kinetic/interactive installations involving lots of lights and projectors, and live artists working on paintings! One had a figure model sign-up sheet. Hopefully I'll be hearing back. : )

Also, I have to mention the awesome circus performance by CirQularius and the fabulous samba interludes by Samba Drop. Great fun and great acts!

Last night, I had a dream that I was living in an apartment complex that might have been Arcosanti in my dreamscape. The handyman was completely unreliable due to alcohol addiction and I covertly stole his tools to do the work myself, replacing them when I had finished. I also needed to pick locks to get some of the work done and I remember gaining some practice locks and some picks to play with before I woke up. Interesting insights for a new year. Apparently I have all the tools, I just need to figure out how to use them. Sounds about right.