Monday, September 30, 2019

I'm Not a Survivalist

The Boiler Room in Port Townsend Washington. While I never volunteered here, it is in drop-in centers such as this one that I've found some of the greatest joys of my life serving others in the community and being served at the same time.  

"I am not a survivalist. I am an incarnationalist. I don't believe we are here to just survive but rather I think we are here to revive and transform creation through the creative process of living joyously and loving one another abundantly, while celebrating the diversity of the universe we live in. I don't believe in libertarianism for the sake of some self-focused individualism that places the survival and welfare of self over the empowerment and welfare of other but rather I believe in the Commonwealth, only through which can the common good of all creation ultimately come to fruition." -Brian Ernest Brown
I wrote the quote above several years ago in a response to someone dear to me when we were discussing the whole prepper movement.  I think she assumed that since I was always looking for land on which to create community, that naturally I must have been a prepper, getting ready for armageddon, the zombie apocalypse, nuclear doomsday, or some such calamity.  Nothing could have been further from the truth.

In the event of an apocalypse of some sort I would hope that I would run to those in need of help the most, offering whatever assistance I could and sharing whatever it it is that I have.  I would hope that I would have the courage to walk the walk I've been talking about for so long and not hide in a bunker in the woods, protecting for myself, propane, silver, food, medical supplies, and precious resources.  I hope my belief in the social contract would encourage and empower my actions to be a helper and not a hoarder in such a circumstance.  However, I'm not naive enough to think I might not falter out of fright or greed but I would hope not. 

I've never been a survivalist.  I really don't think I have the gene for it.  I value my life but maybe I value yours more so.  Many of my friends and family have heard me say, "no one can take advantage of me because I'll just give it to them."  The same is true about stealing from me.  Ask, and I'll most likely give it to you.  You can't take from me, that which I'll give you.  It seems to be the way I'm wired.

I have always been a giver; a giver in the extreme.  It's almost always from a place of compersion for me.  What is compersion you ask?  Glad you did.  Compersion cannot be found in the dictionary, but Wikipedia defines it as “an empathetic state of happiness and joy experienced when another individual experiences happiness and joy.”  In many ways, I suppose, my giving nature is purely selfish; I derive great joy from people being happy and feeling joy.  While receiving gifts is not one of my favorite things, giving them is.

Simply put, I enjoy doing things for others.  Helping people in need but also even those in want more often than not.  I take great delight in the delight of others.

While most of my giving has been altruistic enough, with the exception of that little compersion thing that I get out of it, not all of it has been so.  I'm not quite sure what I feel about that but it's the truth and so I own it.

I have also used giving as a tool, a way of finding out what people really want from me.  Many times in my life when I've felt there were alternative motives in a relationship, be it personal, professional, or spiritual, I have given the person everything they asked of me to get to the bottom of the basis of the relationship and to see what was left when they had what they ostensibly wanted.  Many, times, though certainly not every time, that was the end of the relationship.  They got exactly what they wanted all along and I was of no use to them any further.

When it was all said and done, I could say, because of my love of compersion, "well at least I enjoyed the ride to the bottom," though the bottom was often a rough landing.  This kind of behavior has also offered me the occasion to start over many, many times in different arenas of my life.  I wouldn't necessarily recommend it, as it's a poor survival technique to say the least.  However, that's what this blog post is about, my lack of survival instinct.

I have said all of that to say this, I value relationship between people so much more than I value the false permanency of things or even life for the sake of life.  I value authentic honest relationship and helping others in need or even in want perhaps above most anything else in my life and I'm always willing to give my all in such endeavors.

I've had the big house, the precious collections, the expensive clothes, the fine jewelry, the foreign cars, the artsy galleries.  I've had it all and I'd trade it all again for authentic honest relationships and or to help out those in need or in want and that's a good thing because that's exactly what I've done most all of my life.

Now please don't hear me say that I don't like the finer things in life, nor that I won't always pursue those kinds of things.  I love to nest and I can be quite a collector at heart and in some ways, I'm just as materialistic as the next person.  One only need to observe my lust for new technology to realize that I'm speaking the truth here.  Hey, I own it!  Even so, I've realized over the course of my life that wanting is often sweeter than having.

As a result, I currently try to live a minimalistic life but not one a deprivation where I'm doing without for the sake of doing without but instead one of decadent minimalism where the things that I do possess or the things I allow to possess me are of great delight and quality to me.  And even then, I know in my heart that I will eventually part with them one way or another; so I'd rather part with things while I'm alive.  There's and old quote that's been hanging around for years and I don't know where it originally came from but it goes something like this: "Do your giving while you’re living so you’re knowing where it’s going."

In the end, it's community, the commonwealth, relationship, whatever you want to call it that appeals to me most, not money or material things  It's living this life together, for and with one another that is most meaningful to me.  If you are currently in my life, whatever our connection, thank you for your present!  If you were in my life but no longer, whatever our connection, thank you for the memories and the lessons.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

What You Shall Do

“This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.” -Walt Whitman

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Continuing to Downsize: 16,000 Emails

Today was kind of a bittersweet day. I spent much of it continuing to downsize. I had put off and put off working on my biggest collection yet, my email archives.

There were about 16,000 of them. Many of them were of no real importance but some of them were from friends and family who died and or from ended relationships of some sort. It was particularly hard to part with the latter; to in a way, finally say goodbye even to the memories but say goodbye I did. I deleted all but five emails, ones that would require my immediate attention.

 My final collection, almost as large as my emails, are my pictures. I'm not sure I'm ready to tackle that and I'm not sure that I will ever be ready to tackle that. Though ready or not, I'll turn loose of them one day, one way or another.

When I was getting rid of my molecular pictures I took digital pictures of them or scanned them into the computer. That allowed me the illusion of downsizing because now they were only digital and took up virtually no space in my physical life. Even though somewhere there is a server or several servers with my pictures spread around. Even digital things take up space.

The thing about downsizing is that we're all going to do it some day one way or another. I'm just continuing to do it myself, in the now.

I'm still not sure I'm ready to give up my pictures. Maybe tomorrow I'll be ready, or maybe next week, next month, or next year. Time will tell the story.

Friday, September 20, 2019

The Mystic Swims

When I get in too deep and I feel myself slipping down, down, down, into the depths, I just have to remember to simply let go and float...

"The psychotic drowns in the same waters in which the mystic swims with delight." -Joseph Campbell

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Does That Thing Even Run?

For the most part, my last year and a half living in a rolling home has been amazing, memorable, and for the most part the people I have encountered have been kind, hospitable, encouraging, and even envious. 

Sure, it's had its challenges, trials, and tribulations.  There has been a series of repairs, though no breakdowns which stranded me.  I switched vehicles in mid trip which was a journey in and of itself.   There have been some health challenges which seem to have been mollified for now. There have been longer than unexpected layovers where I spent much more time in one place or another than I had anticipated. And some of the shows and sales I have had haven't been up the financial levels I am use to.

However, all in all, my surprise life in a rolling home has been an adventure I wouldn't trade for anything and one I would recommend for almost anyone wanting to learn more about themselves and the world in which they live.

And then there are moments that just make me shake my head...

During my continued and extended stay in the Ozarks Mountains I rolled over to a retreat center/ministry place I have a deep and loving connection with.  The people who run the place are absolutely the best and I count them as dear friends.  Their hospitality, generosity, and kindness is the kind one rarely finds in this old world of ours but one often shared in these here Ozark Mountains.  These folks and their ministry are a blessing to me in every sense of the word.

I had been staying there in my motorhome, Milton, when a wedding party booked all of the lodging facilities on the grounds.  This didn't really affect me as, in the lyrics of an Arlo Guthrie tune, I was boondocked "off the side of a side road" and was in fully self-contained mode with no hookups, nor need.

I had been out and about on the town with a friend, when we returned to the motorhome to find a fellow wanting to speak with me.  He was with the wedding party.

Now let me say, never wanting to be a burden, I had checked with the team at the center to see if I needed to move off the grounds to make room for anything or anyone from the wedding party. They had assured me that I was fine.  I reiterated yet again my offer to vacate and they assured me everything it really was okay for me to stay there. Being parked barely off of a gravel road leading to several houses down the street and plenty of distance away from any loding or building and completely out of sight of the wedding circus tent they were raising, I thought I was in a pretty out of the way place.

This fellow with the wedding party didn't think so.  He said that they were going to use that area for parking. 

Now, my motorhome is a mini motorhome.  It's five feet longer than a conventional full sized van and  at twenty-two feet, just one foot longer than a 1972 Oldsmobile Delta Eighty-Eight Royale Convertible that I use to own. Milton takes up a single parking space and a half.  For an RV, he has a small footprint.

So I looked at the fellow, looked at the proposed parking area, looked at Milton, and asked a gentle and yet pointed question,

"Do you really think that a parking space and a half would make a huge difference in the parking spot availability?"

Seeing the logic in my question he shifted tactics...

"Well, the bride and groom want to take some pictures with an uninterrupted view."

I countered...

"And a grassy knoll parked with the cars, trucks, and vans of wedding guests wouldn't obstruct the view?"

By then I knew what was up, they simply objected to the motorhome itself.  Milton is an 1985 model and though he's in good shape for his age, he is not, however, the most beautiful boy at the dance.  I find most motorhomes and RVs to be terribly ugly and older ones can be even more so.  Milton might not be the most beautiful boy at the party but he ain't the ugliest one either.  One might gently describe him as homely, a fitting description since he is my home.

I quickly kicked into patronizing wide smile mode and was in the process of assuring him I would move and that it would take me a little bit of time to have everything ready to go, when he asked a question that triggered no small amount of egotistic irritation in me.

"Does that thing even run?"

I didn't say what went through my mind at that point.  My southern manicured manners wouldn't allow it. I won't even write it but instead I'll leave it to your colorful imagination.  I had previously turned around and was getting ready to climb in Milton to ready him for departure but this fellow had hit a nerve in me and he now warranted my full seething attention so I slowly turned back around.

As I turned I let slide across my face the most southern deprecating smile I could muster.  One that spoke volumes - with curled lips and almost fiery glaring eyes. One that would make small southern children quake in the realization that they just had just crossed a point of no return with their teacher and had better retreat quickly.  One that would make Pastor John rethink his refusal to the invitation to Sunday dinner from Sister Margret when they shook hands after the service.  I think I even straightened my shoulders and squared them off a bit when I offered,

"Why, yes of course he runs!  I've traveled in him quite a few places and in fact I live in him.  I am a longstanding visitor and guest to this place and am here, like you, with permission."

My ego got the best of me and to my shame I pointed out that not only was I a frequent guest and visitor there but that I had also, at times over the years, held mass there in the chapel and conducted other gatherings and retreats on the grounds.  I am ashamed of this part of the conversation as the proper and humble thing was to simply say nothing but smile and move on.  However, my perception at the time, rightly or wrongly, was that somehow he was treating me less than and talking down to me and that poked my usually slumbering ego into waking.

At that exchange the fellow looked at me differently and began to backpedal, trying to offer several alternative parking places for me, none of which would have really worked for the wedding party or for me but he was trying, bless his heart. He now looked a little less condescending and aggressive and perhaps even a little penitent and I dare say sheepish.

Inwardly I smiled at his new found humility and as quickly, felt revulsion and guilt at my own shameless display of peacockery.  I recovered my sanity and stinging with disappointment in myself, smiled tiredly and gently said,

"Well, that's neither here nor there.  I'll gladly move just give me a few minutes."

I told my friend that I'd be ready to go in a few and where I planned to rendezvous with her to figure out where to head next.  To my friend's ingenuity, and while I was readying Milton to move and the wedding fellow was still trying to find a compromise, she called her landlord, whom I had previously met, to see if I could simply park in the driveway overnight.  The lady and lord of the land graciously consented and we were off.  My friend and good old fashioned Ozark Mountain hospitality had saved the day.

In VanLife or RVLife people in more traditional homes and living circumstances can sometimes and often do, refer to us as homeless and I think they honestly see us that way.  They question our quality of life, the sanity of our choices, and often try to project their own needs, desires, and insecurities upon us.  People have even suggested I am punishing myself by living the minimalistic lifestyle I live.  Nothing could be further from the truth. 

I always counter with: I'm not homeless, my home just rolls where yours stays in place.  And with: I'm not deprived at all but quite the opposite, I feel like I live a decadent life of comfort, freedom, and ease.  They then almost always ask solicitously, "But you really want a real home don't you?"

And I answer, "I have a real home."

The maybe unconscious condescension in these types of questions and assumptions sometimes challenges me.  It did so during this encounter. It may have been my own projection onto this fellow with the wedding party and I own that but it seemed to me that he began the conversation treating me as a seemingly homeless person in a broken down vehicle who was something to be pushed aside from the view of the bridal coronation that was to take place.  As something less than.

The whole exchange has offered me the gift of introspection.  After all, the only thing I can honestly do is to look within myself for a change in my own heart, rooting out my own insecurities and my own stinging pride and to change my own reactions when such encounters happen and they will always happen while I choose to live in a real home which just happens to be on wheels.

The wedding party fellow was only acting out of ignorance, wedding stress, and within a construct of societal norms and projections.  All of which were temporary, forgivable, and able to be addressed within the context of mind-expanding education.  He gave me a great gift though, one of self-discovery and exploration, and for that, I thank him.

It also gives me further insight into how people treat others who unlike me and those of us embracing this #VanLife or RVLife lifestyle may have been forced into a living situation such as ours, and how those unfortunate people may feel with the kind of condescension that often comes from others in regards to their forced lifestyle.  That's another gift of this encounter, one of broadening and deepening my empathy and again I'm thankful.

Hopefully, in the future, I will be more sensitive to everyone concerned with this kind of issue and in this kind of encounter.  Until then, I'll work on my own ego and tendency to project. 

I will also work on my deprecating southern smile. I don't really think it was withering enough!  More evidence that I've spent too much time in the northern states.

Happy trails!  Do what you love and love what you do!