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My tribute to Eric Garner—the illustrated words of Hank Johnson

Skethchnotes by the author

To the community of Black Americans and to activists globally, working tirelessly to offer voices to the oppressed, I had to create something of content in the midst of my life of great privilege. Yesterday I was again overcome with the agony of it all as I read tweets and facebook posts filled with the incredible black response to these insanely unjust court rulings. I finally chose to watch the footage of Eric Garner's death. My heart collapsed.

Then I move to the video content being created, read about the marches, the die-ins. Look at images of these demonstrations. It is how change will happen. I still ascribe to the truth as it is told by Howard Zinn. That history is created by the people. I also recognize that my privilege can be used to create change. And I do. I work everyday to live values that put compassion above all other spiritual or revolutionary impulses. As the Dalai Lama said, "Compassion is the new revolution." In the form of restraint, compassion is what I see on the streets. Walking the high road.

Hank Johnson finished his speech by saying that it is economics that divide us. Race is simply another symptom of what poverty offers by way of keeping us alienated. These conclusions were also made by Martin Luther King and Malcolm X right before their assassinations. I think each of us as humans knows better than to assume skin color and cultural differences are really all that scary. But when faced with our constant fear of survival due to ubiquitous economic hardship among the 99%, our fears spread easily. It is in our history.

We are victims of our own colonial heritage. To move outside and beyond that heritage requires first an acknowledgement of what horrors have transpired, then grieving, then reparations. Shifting Columbus Day to Indigenous People's Day in Minneapolis and Seattle is a gesture in that direction. Black History Month is crucial. But I will say honesty that real economic reparations are what are really needed for the people that gave their lives, families, and souls away. This Atlantic Article by Ta Nehisi-Coates forms an extremely eloquent argument, spelling out even how the latest economic crisis was built on the exploitation of black hardship—how it is merely the latest entry to the list of this kind of institutional oppression.

And if we are legislatively too blind to offer reparations to a cultural group specifically, then let's seek radical economic change that values life, compassion, and the planet from where we all originate. Models exist. And they are coming. Groups like Shareable are in open-source conversation about alternatives. Thought-leaders about sacred economics like Charles Eisentstein offer practical methods of phasing in a new kind of money system. See the film, Money and Life. The edge-consciousness community inspired by the work of Daniel Pinchbeck: Reality Sandwich tethers our economics to compassion. There are countless others. We can engage in this movement.

I offer this image as another way of feeling the truth of what has happened to Eric Garner. How it effects his family, and what it means for the soul of Black Americans. I offer it as a tribute to the media savviness of this movement as it creates empowering hashtags out of these martyrs like #Icantbreath and #blacklives matter. The incredible restraint being shown on the streets, and as a way for me to continue breathing while my own heavy heart pulls me into anguish. Share this image with anyone who needs to hear the story this way. It's just another way to tell the same truth over and again.

Thank you Black America. Thank you all compassionate people fighting to overcome oppression.

On Branding, Cattle, Tattoos, and overcoming a fear of labels.

In my post, I am not a Brand, I share my beef with branding. But I forgot to mention:

Branding began with cattle.

That says it all. If the purpose of branding cattle is to make a living thing into a permanent, fixed property, Why would I want to do this to myself?

I don't even want a tattoo. I'm evolving, fluid, free. A cow is inherently wild. 

There is a cultural double-standard:

We crave a title, yet we admire people who defy genre.

I'm discovering that my brand is not a label applied to property. It's a rich story with innuendos and subtleties as layered as any relationship. I like tattoos that are iconic—a circle on a wrist—clear, simple, mysterious. When a tattoo is obvious or derivative (spidermen, butterflies, hearts) I'm less interested.

How will I overcome this fear of labels? For me, it started with a name. I didn't even know what I would do. But the name had a mystery and a familiarity all at the same time. Then, I took a leap of faith. I sacrificed the freedom of being unidentifiable for the power of a name.

MORE BELIEF is familiar. We all seek to believe in something more than we do—usually ourselves. But a friend recently noticed that it has the word REBEL in the middle. I like that. The power in the name keeps informing me.

The label actually gave me more freedom than I could have imagined. Creating a limit also provides an opportunity to expand.

There is MORE after what you think is the end.

Photo by Author in Pawnee Grasslands, Colorado

The name of my company, MORE BELIEF, also refers to the MORE that comes after.

There is more story after the arc feels complete. There is another wave of this relationship yet to be played out. There is an ending after this happy ending. There is a beginning after this ending. There is forgiveness after this judgement. There is potential after this failure. There is empathy after this cruelty. There is more to this person beyond today's meeting. There is beauty after this destruction.

There is more than you think there is. It comes after you've already thought it was already finished. Play it out. Pay the respect it is due.

When you die, you have to come back.

Photo by Author at Venice Bienalle 2007. Artist unknown.

Life is a closed system. You can't get out.

  1. If you believe in heaven or hell, then you come back to life in heaven or hell. Great (or not). But what if you don't believe in heaven or hell?
  2. If you believe in reincarnation, then you return as another living being. But what if you don't believe in reincarnation?
  3. If you believe in only what the rational mind will allow, then your body will decay into the ground and provide nutrients for other life.

Since energy cannot be made or destroyed, the energy we have to live our lives will remain forever and ever. We are basically here to affect that energy positively or negatively. In this way, we're living in our own heaven and hell all the time, every minute, as we make decisions that cause harm or do not cause harm.

My son suggested his own solution to the mystery of death: "When I die, I will knock on everyone's door and they will die too and come with me."

Like my son, I'm not scared of dying, I'm scared of doing it alone. If everyone can't come with me, then at least everybody in the world can come and say goodbye.

Meanwhile, we have to come back!

(unless you eat a lot of preservatives—here's a daunting list— assuming your soul can't go anywhere then your body will never decay)

(oooh. Bummer, the preservative thing is an urban legend, sorry.)

I am not a brand

Photo of the author by author's father

In this day when every gas station has an app, every name is a URL, and every feline has a social media strategy...

I am not a brand.

Even if every idea I have seems to turn into a story that contributes to my branding, I am not a brand.

What am I? I am a story. A story, unfinished, that I haven't heard the end of yet.  I'm flesh and bone, for now, but that's pretty temporary. I'm made up of characters, plot points and climaxes. Some fictional, some real. Mostly fictional.

So. Isn't that a brand? Well, yes. But just the tip of it is my brand-identity. Most of the story I save. Most of the story is a secret. Most of my story is intimate wilderness.

How to believe in the end times

Photo by Author of a Squirrel skull in rural Colorado

As my company is called More Belief, I like to track what is being said in the world of "believing"

A fascinating poll (here) from the Christian Point of View. I say let the Christians have their end times. My hope is that perhaps maybe it will end the version of Christianity fixated on blind faith and damnation.

What comes after that. I'm curious.  Zombie stories are too easy. Even if the Walking Dead is supposed to be great.

My understanding is that the holiest will be swept away to heaven while the sinners will be essentially torched in hell for eternity. But where is heaven? And what is hell? They both might be on earth. At any given point, we're living in a state of denial and causing our own hell. We could also be awakening as individuals and creating our own heaven right here on earth. 

Men are Limited

This is not news to women, nor is it exclusive to men, but it must be said out loud sometimes.

Men are limited.

The highest any man has ever jumped is a hair over eight feet. And while I am amazed that Javier Sotomayor managed to do this, it's only eight feet.

There are no Million Dollar Men; there are no Jason Bournes; there are no James Bonds. In fact the closest thing we have to any of these characters are war criminals or psychopaths or both. See this Mother Jones article about the 62 mass killings America has witnessed since 1982 committed by 44 men and 1 woman.

So do men suck? They don't, they are limited. I am limited. But we are taught to be strong yet gentle, wise yet foolish, powerful yet meek, free yet stable, proud yet humble.

There are many paradoxes faced by women too. Men are catching up trying to identify their own.

We are a limited species living in a culture that believes in doing more than we can. Let's confess that we are human (and maybe stop producing war criminals and psychopaths too). At the very least, let's slow down and relate.



How I use earplugs to practice clairaudience

photo by author of Author's Truth ear

  1. Are you clairaudient? Do your ears ring? Do you know truth intuitively when you hear it? 
  2. Always carry a pair of foam earplugs in your pockets—one in the left, one in the right. These are my favorite earplugs. 
  3. Determine which of your ears hears the truth. For me, my right ear is more sensitive to loud noises. Plug that ear often. Protect it from noise pollution. Maintain its sensitivity.
  4. Now. Listen for the truth. For me, it's like an agitation all over my body when I feel I'm listening to something inauthentic. My chest gets tight. I feel panicked that I've somehow caused a bad interaction. It could be different for you.
  5. Learn to track this feeling. Don't blame yourself for it. Use it for good.
  6. When you can't make a decision, find a moment. Use both earplugs and listen inward. Sometimes you'll hear a clear voice. Sometimes just focus on the ringing, and you'll feel an answer arise. 
  7. Occasionally, take the time to replace these earplugs with fresh ones. This keeps the truth fresh.
  8. Thank your old plugs for their help.