Thursday, September 29, 2005

Ecstatic Experience

by Anonymous

Last night I was lucky enough to enjoy an ecstatic dance experience that is rare enough to enjoy. I went down to B-ton to attend a dance party thrown by the Psychedelic Dream Temple crew which I had been looking forward to for weeks. The place was divided into two areas -- the primary dance floor, which had two DJ's from Denmark-based Iboga Records on the bill, and a second, alternative floor which played mainly groovy ambient.

This is were it all came together for me. After refusing ecstasy that was being offered to me earlier in the night and watching in awe as the bouncers ejected some guys queueing for the bathroom for holding a rolled up £10 note in their hand, my hopes of getting my hands on something that would just facilitate enough of a psychedelic state to throw myself in the music was on the wane. In the end I plomped down on a sofa right next to a lovely couple who were bugging out on some Ketamine --a disassociative hallucinogen reasonably mild yet powerful drug if taken in measured doses with a very short halflife. [Mega doses have an ego-destroying, out of body, super-psychedelic effect... also worth a try. --AJ] Out of kindness they agreed to let me borrow their packet and I loaded up on a dose.

Over the next hour I had an amazing conversation with the two of them while riding the very rim of what's possible without going into a fully immersive k-hole. We reflected on the nature of London and how it is such an amazing nexus -- a super collider for people, of all sorts, of all origins.. and how the city in itself has psychedelic properties. Sound weird to you? Well, "psychedelic" means "mind-manifesting". London has a way bringing to light whatever is on your conscious or subconscious mind and presenting you with whatever experiences you need to be having based on what's going on inside you. If you come here to party, you can party. If you come here to work, you will find a job. If you don't know what you came for, things will happen to you will reveal the reasons why you came, and the nature of your personality if you take the time to reflect on your experiences.. it is unparalleded in this regard.

Following this logic, I suppose I had a definite need to rinse and flush out my system and get out there and I was about to get what I was looking for.. With the K waning but still very present in my system, I passed the ambient floor and got completely sucked into the music. It wasn't a conscious act of dancing, about contemplating how you will move which part of your body, at all. It was more like surrendering and letting the music take over. All in all this is by far my favourite kind of dancing.

I rode the grooves like a surfer rides the waves, for a good while, breaking a good sweat before the lights came on and the party wound down at 6am. Big smiles all around as all the like minded people who live for moments like this congregated to the music of the DJ. When it was all over introductions were made, backs slapped and good energies exchanged between the dancers before everybody bundles their sweaty limbs back into their warm jumpers and went back out into the London cold for a gorgeous early morning ride home on the 133 bus.

As I sat on the top deck of the big red bus contemplating, the music and experiences of the night still ringing in my ears, I felt glad to be a part of this. The tradition of the underground speakeasy, where you can drink and dance and partake in mind-altering substances without fear of any major reprecussions. (Besides, of course, being booted out of the club if you are too overtly partaking.) The bus crossed the bridge over the Thames and I was rewarded with a great view of Tower Bridge at sunrise, the orange clouds reflecting in the perfectly still waters of the river. Time to go back to my hostel and tuck into bed, with my faith in humankind refreshed again, just enough to answer the question of why we are putting outselves through this..

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The End of Employment

by Skald

A great quote from a great essay by Paul Graham:

I think the big obstacle preventing us from seeing the future of business is the assumption that people working for you have to be employees. But think about what's going on underneath: the company has some money, and they pay it to the employee in the hope that he'll make something worth more than they paid him. Well, there are other ways to arrange that relationship. Instead of paying the guy money as a salary, why not give it to him as investment? Then instead of coming to your office to work on your projects, he can work wherever he wants on projects of his own.

Because few of us know any alternative, we have no idea how much better we could do than the traditional employer-employee relationship. Such customs evolve with glacial slowness. Our employer-employee relationship still retains a big chunk of master-servant DNA.

I dislike being on either end of it. I'll work my ass off for a customer, but I resent being told what to do by a boss. And being a boss is also horribly frustrating; half the time it's easier just to do stuff yourself than to get someone else to do it for you. I'd rather do almost anything than give or receive a performance review.

My thoughts exactly. Ive been a peon wage slave many many times. Ive also been a "manager" and a "director". They both suck (though being a peon sucks more for sure).

And the reason is dead obvious to any but the most brainwashed Republican corporate drone: "Our employer-employee relationship still retains a big chunk of master-servant DNA".

A fucking HUGE chunk, in fact. The boss-employee relationship is one of part-time slavery and nothing more. The interesting thing is that while "workers" have instinctively known this forever... some forward thinking business types are finally realizing it too.

They are finally cluing in that resentful slaves are not very "productive". And slave organizations are incredibly wasteful.

The bulk of Graham's essay is a discussion of blogging and open source. He correctly points out that amateur bloggers, working passionately, for their own joy, for free, are kicking the shit out of large "professional" publications.

He's dead on. Ill use my own field, teaching English, as an example. The "professional" publications in my field are dry, boring and utterly useless. They look slick. But they are lifeless. Ive never read one and gotten a good idea.. much less an earth-shattering one.

But Ive now collected a set of amazingly interesting blogs dedicated to my field. They are routinely filled with provocative and stimulating ideas. Ive revamped my entire approach after reading some of these blogs... and this has happened several times in the space of one semester.

Stylistically they are also superior. The writing is lively, clear, and concise. No longwinded academic bullshit.. and no use of the accursed passive voice.

And so we see that people who own their work, who are free and autonomous, who can indulge their enthusiasms however they choose... are also far more innovative and "productive".

This is no surprise to me... but its nice to see a few folks in the business world finally catching on.

Friday, September 23, 2005

More From Rollins

by Skald

"There are so many hammocks to catch you if you fall, so many laws to keep you from experience. All these cities I have been in the last few weeks make me fully understand the cozy, stifling state in which most people pass through life. I don't want to pass through life like a smooth plane ride. All you do is get to breathe and copulate and finally die. I don't want to go with the smooth skin and the calm brow. I hope I end up a blithering idiot cursing the sun -
hallucinating, screaming, giving obscene and inane lectures on street corners and public parks.

People will walk by and say, "Look at that drooling idiot. What a basket case." I will turn and say to them "It is you who are the basket case. For every moment you hated your job, cursed your wife and sold yourself to a dream that you didn't even conceive. For the times your soul screamed yes and you said no. For
all of that. For your self-torture, I see the glowing eyes of the sun! The air talks to me! I am at all times!" And maybe, the passers by will drop a coin into my cup."

So many laws to keep you from experience....
Laws against using certain substances (ganga, LSD, ketemin, mushrooms, etc...). Laws against certain types of sexual experiences. Laws against certain kinds of thought. And these are just the written down government laws. The most stifling laws are unwritten: societal "norms" enforced through intimidation, brainwashing, and reproach.

Ours is a society that equates learning with memorizing words written by other people. Most people who claim to be experts have very little first hand knowledge of their field. How many psychiatrists have experienced ego-dissolution, "disassociation", "hallucinations", visions, and the like? How many white-bread "Middle East experts" have actually lived there, among the local people, for an extended period of time? How many religion experts (ministers, priests) have experienced the spiritual or divine ("the godhead") directly?

Most of what we call education is nothing but a game of trivia pursuit. Its a quoting match-- Professor A says, "I know what so-and-so said about this subject", and Professor B replies, "Well such-and-such said this!". Back and forth they go, arguing about what other experience-deprived "experts" have written about a phenomenon-- none of them with a clue about the actual experience.

Non-professors play the same game... sometimes quoting the professors.

I love books. I love reading. I love that I have access to the thoughts of great thinkers like Thoreau, or Guatama Buddha, or Aldous Huxley, etc.

But though I am an avid reader & a language teacher, I contend that books and language are overrated. Without direct experience, they are nothing. Only the experienced can interpret their messages.

Rather than subject 18 year olds to four more years of drudgery in University, we should give them that money and tell them to travel the world: "Here is your $25,000 student grant/loan... if you don't return to this country for at least 2 years, you don't have to pay it back."

That would be a worthy use of education dollars.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Move Your Ass- Thoughts From Henry Rollins

by AJ

"Life is full of choices, if you have the guts to go for it. That's why I get immediately bored with anyone's complaining about how boring their life is, or how bad their town is. Fucking leave and go somewhere else. Or don't."

Stefan recently sent me an email full of Henry Rollins quotes. All are brilliant, so Ill be posting them one by one. The one above is perhaps the simplest and most direct. Really cuts to the chase, doesnt it.

Leave and go somewhere else... or don't. For all of us stuck in crappy jobs (Ive been there MANY times), or crummy redneck towns (been there), or hopeless relationships (yep), or mental ruts-- the solution really is quite simple. Not necessarily EASY, but certainly simple.

Just leave. There are no good excuses, for the excuses are nothing but your own fears and doubts. I wrangled with excuses for YEARS. I fretted about what other people would think (all the while claiming I didnt care). I fretted about money. I cursed my fate.

And then, one day, I just decided. I bought a ticket to India.

Once I tasted freedom, I could never again be satisfied with a half life.

It really does come down to one moment-- one unequivocal decision.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Don't Ruin Yourself

by Skald

You can't compare yourself with others: if Nature has made you a bat you shouldn't try to be an ostrich. You consider yourself odd at times, you accuse yourself of taking a road different from most people. You have to unlearn that. Gaze into the fire, into the clouds, and as soon as the inner voices begin to speak, surrender to them, don't ask first whether its permitted or would please your teachers or father, or some god. You will ruin yourself if you do that.

--Hermann Hesse

Id say thats right on the money. A true diagnosis of the problem. Most people ruin themselves by constantly worrying about what is permitted. They worry what their teachers will think. They worry what their parents and family will think. They worry what their boss will think... and what their friends will think. Some worry what their minister, priest, or "god" will think.

Through this process they destroy their dreams... and lose their bliss. They become dry husks. They descend into monotony. Some acquire a measure of comfort from the security of monotony. But the more sensitive (ie. most reading this blog) tend to be tortured by what they have given up.

Always it gnaws at them-- that sense of living the wrong life.

Ill put it as straight as I can- to live a blissful life, you've got to piss some people off... or worry them... or disappoint them. It is impossible to be true to yourself while dutifully obeying others. Some relationships have to be sacrificed. You must let go of anyone who cannot accept you as you truly are or want to be.

The flip side of this... I have found that most people in my life accept me as I am. I imagined far more judgement and disapproval than I actually got. And Ive gotten a lot of unexpected respect and admiration for doing such things as living voluntarily "homeless".

But I can't promise it will always be that way. It doesnt matter. Hesse is right. A hard choice must always be made by those who would follow their bliss: will they serve themselves or will they serve convention and public opinion?

You cannot serve both.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Voluntary Experience

by Skald

Ive had a pretty charmed life, in terms of material and economic factors go. Ive never (involutarily) gone hungry, or gone without decent shelter. Ive had all the education I needed (far more than I needed, in fact).

I know many people like myself. But I dont understand many of them. Many who have had similarly charmed lives are filled with hatred and contempt. They accept their good fortune as a sign from "God" that they are superior. They sneer at those with less money, fewer opportunities, the wrong color skin, the wrong accent.

Why? My guess is fear. First, they fear losing all those trinkets and cash that they have, in fact, done very little to deserve. They are terrified of poverty, homelessness, unemployment, and the like. That fears makes them hateful and mean. They turn that hate on that which they fear: the homeless, the impoverished,.....

Another deeper fear, for some, is that know they dont really deserve their superior position.. they sense, deep inside, that they are lucky. And they are terrified that luck might run out.

These people need to suffer. Its the best answer. Preferably, they should suffer voluntarily. Experience, direct contact, and suffering often breed compassion. Its easy to dismiss fearful boogie-men when all you do is read about them or scurry past them (ie. homeless people). But if you've actually lived homeless for a while, talked to homeless people, had direct contact with the difficulties of that experience..... you tend to be less afraid, and more compassionate.

Living semi-homeless (in my car, and later, a van) was one of the best experiences of my life. And one of the most genuinely spiritual. Most people consider reading a fucking book and going to a building once a week as "religion". But to my mind, genuine religion (spirituality) must involve an expansion of awareness and compassion.

That does not come from an overly translated, obtuse book. It only comes from experience.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Strange Days

by Skald

Strange days indeed. I am in the very unusual position of doing something I love and getting paid for it. What a novel experience this is. Im having a fantastic time teaching. I go to "work" everyday full of energy and enthusiasm. Im always brainstorming new ideas for teaching. I have superb students. I have the autonomy to do what I want in the classroom.

It doesnt feel like a "job" at all. So it is possible to be passionately engaged in an activity and make an income (though not easy).

Once again, what strikes me as so ironic is how much my "employers" are benefitting from leaving me alone... and giving me a good schedule. By not bugging me or wearing me out, and by not controlling me.. they have inherited a maniac. Im going bananas with innovative ideas. Ive got incredible energy during class. Im having a fantastic time and thus doing so much more for my students. Im not a drone or a clock puncher.

So why the fuck do most organizations do the opposite? Is it that they only care about the quick buck... exploit the workers and drain 'em for everything they have.. then move on to the next one? Is it that they have fragile egos and get off on the petty power trip of being "the boss"? Is it that they are horribly insecure and dread being "found out"... and so they disguise this fear with bully behavior?

Truth be told, I dont care why they do it. Im sick to death of working for and with egomaniacs, insecure assholes, control-freaks, drones, cynics, bureaucrats, and toadies. Living "homeless" was far superior to most of my job experiences.

And so Im particularly euphoric right now... doing something I love... something I would quickly volunteer to do... and getting paid for it.

My take home message from this (and you know I always have to find a take home message): Be mercenary. Never stay at a shit job longer than necessary. Never hesitate to leave a job for a better one. Keep moving around till you have the autonomy, income, and enjoyment you desire.

Freelancing and Free Agency are the only way to go!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Bury Them

by Skald

Its the same almost everywhere.... its not enough that people who are homeless must struggle with the basic difficulties of their situation. No, on top of hunger, the stress of sleeping in public, the elements, etc... homeless people the world over are subjected to brutal harassment.

Its no different in Bangkok. This week, a large group of homeless people were "evacuated" from Sanam Luang... a large public field that adjoins the Grand Palace. By "evacuate" I mean they were rounded up by police armed with clubs, bullet proof vests, and guns... and drug away. What was their "crime": Sleeping? Being dirty and ugly? Making tourists and the wealthy feel uneasy?

Number three is the true answer. The smug and well off are not content to live in their McMansions, drive their obscene vehicles, dine in upscale restaurants. They arent content to drive down wages and bust unions and create unemployment. Nope.Not only do they insist on being smug, safe, comfortable, and pampered... they cant bear to be reminded of the suffering of other people.

The homeless people's crime was existing. Rich people dont like to be reminded that they exist. And they certainly dont want to come in contact with these nasty people. And so the order goes out, the "scum" are rounded up... and shipped off to a warehouse or slum somewhere. Ahhhh... the rich rest easy. Tourists are spared inconvenience. Everyone pretends this is the correct and sensible thing to do.

Disgusting. Criminal. Downright evil. Thats what it is.

The truth is, most countries have now criminalized homelessness. If you are homeless, you cannot exist without being a criminal. If you piss or shit, you are breaking the law ("public urination"). If you sleep, you are breaking the law ("trespassing"). If you rest in one place, you are breaking the law ("loitering"). If you ask for help, you are breaking the law ("soliciting"). If you have sex, you are breaking the law ("public indecency").

What this means in practice is that the police have a license to harrass a homeless person at will. They can interrupt their sleep, prevent them from sitting on a bench, forcibly relocate them. Since every basic human function of a homeless person is illegal... they are automatically criminals. When I lived in my car.. I broke the law everytime I went to sleep at night. Only my clean white face and neat clothes saved me from suspicion and harassment.

This is the ugly truth: The well off, the suburbanites, the "responsible and employed" detest poor people... especially homeless people. And there is no real difference between the latte-liberals and the rabid right-wingers. Both detest the poor. The conservatives would be happy if they could all be gassed in chambers or drowned in the Mississippi (though they'll never admit this openly)... while the liberals want them warehoused and benignly imprisoned out of sight (ie. put in to shelters). The liberals then congratulate themselves for being so generous and high-minded.

Which is why Ive always known that the only hope homeless people have is themselves. Thats why Dignity Village is important.... because its a place where homeless people are taking care of themselves.

Why not a homeless people's union?