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Re-visioning My Work

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Hello! If you began following my blog last summer, you may be curious about the absence of new posts over the last year. I had intended to post an entry concerning my adventures in the New Age and Human Potential Movements in the late summer but allowed myself to become preoccupied with my job search, relocated abruptly to start my new job, expended most of my energy weathering the transitions on- and off-site, and subsequently lost inspiration to reengage. In short, I felt uninspired to write due to a seemingly insurmountable obstruction to my creative energy. I found myself ruminating on a number of questions related to the nature of work in general and the nature of my work in particular but was reticent to publish an entry out of a concern that consciously articulating my dissatisfaction would make the period all the more difficult to endure. Despite the challenges that I encountered, this period was brimming with unexpected opportunities, both professional and intellectual. As a result of having withstood and responded to these challenges, I now find myself in a place of far greater, albeit paradoxical, clarity about where I have been and the many as-yet-undefined places I will invariably go.

I began working in higher education administration at an alternative graduate school in the greater Philadelphia area last summer as a way to support myself as I apprenticed with a contemporary African dance company in Philadelphia. I had hoped that returning to the Philadelphia area for this purpose would be a way for me to nurture my creative abilities and could provide a stepping stone to other creative work. While this endeavor did not unfold quite as I anticipated when the company took an unexpected hiatus from winter until spring, the greater challenge was determining how to make sense of myself in a daily work context in which I seldom felt inspired and alive. While I briefly flirted with the idea that my day job need not be a labor of love but only something that supports my true work, I have realized that between preparing for work, commuting, and the in-office work itself, a commitment to that life would require me to sacrifice half of my waking hours– that is, quite literally, half of my (waking) life. While some might find satisfaction in this way of existing, I do not and I have found that denying the truth of my being in this way prompts me to find superficial refuge in various distractions and destructive ways of thinking and behaving. I find it impossible to wallow in inauthenticity and self-negation for half of my waking hours and live with myself easily, let alone engage courageously and creatively in the world. The unmediated connection with self required for creative action is easily lost when one’s life work is solely animated by an employer’s singular agenda as opposed to one’s own. In my experience of this grim scenario, destructive self-distraction became essential to eclipse the dying of the self. Despite the seeming benefits of moving toward a known future with a clearly defined occupation and paths to advancement, the bounded nature of that course grew all too constricting. Despite the personal nature of my reflections on this matter, here again, the personal is political.

Despite my individual concerns, I am certainly well aware that there are countless people in this country and world whose employment takes precisely this form (and significantly harsher forms) due to the pernicious dynamics of global capitalism combined with other systems of sociopolitical domination. For many, securing a 9-5 American office position would be an unthinkable feat. Despite the various conditions of struggle in which people find themselves, if globalizing and universalizing the alienated and destructive middle-class American 9-5 office lifestyle is the end goal of the so-called movement for social justice, I would be prepared to throw in the towel right now. While I am surely cognizant of my significant and incalculable privilege in this area, my experience of this life which would have been unimaginable to ancestors of mine only a couple of generations back informs me that, while better than life under some other prior form of industrial organization, there is yet another culture of work and life beyond these models that has yet to be widely affirmed. I do not believe that the solution to the problem of our collective suffering is to cling to this dying model that demands that we become estranged from ourselves for the sake of productivity and offers us nothing in return but the possibility of a short-term, superficial survival. Beyond the damage rendered to the individual, I feel that the resulting self-loathing and complacency severely impedes the functioning of true democracy and limits our ability to engage in a truly radical re-imagining of society. While the job crisis and corresponding recession that has produced great financial hardship for many is not to be minimized, I ultimately see this social unraveling as an opportunity to consider the ways that these coveted occupations and so-called “life”styles, in fact, negate life. Education scholar Ron Miller writes of the transitions presently occurring in the American educational landscape, noting that the challenges of today’s mechanized system of American schooling may be a temporary, necessary step on the road to new forms of social organization and childrearing conducive to the flourishing of democracy and spiritual depth. In discussing our movement from feudal and totalitarian states to the political organization of the present, he writes:

In some sense, the desire for material prosperity reflects the liberation of the masses from cruel forms of oppression and abject poverty that have characterized human society for many centuries. But now, people are discovering that material wealth alone does not satisfy the yearning for spiritual meaning and that the single-minded pursuit of wealth is dehumanizing, so our cultural evolution is not yet finished

Certainly, various forms of (largely covert) social oppression persist in our society, but I believe that Miller’s statement is intended to comment on the elimination of the social conditions of feudalism and totalitarianism in this western context, for example. We ought to move away from framing our present form of social organization as a zenith from which we can, at last, stand and admire ourselves and, instead, regard it as a mere stage in the development of the good society. By refusing to be confined by present notions of that which is unchangeable, inevitable, or innate, we can begin to imagine new futures. Though I initially wrote a long section concerning the social privilege and complexity inherent in this thought process, I have decided to save that content for a future entry which will explore how we conceptualize the work of social justice.

In an attempt to honor my own unique aspirations and imaginings, I resigned from my position in mid-May to enroll in a full-time master’s program in clinical social work. Now that my foray into full-time higher education administrative work has ended, I feel much more in touch with the truth of my being and value the indeterminacy of my future as it allows space for me to be transformed by my experiences. Despite my gratitude for the genuine kindness and vision of my colleagues, as well as the opportunity to explore a profession typically reserved for a much older professional, I ultimately interpret this unexpected professional opportunity as an invitation to remember who I really am. While it was tempting to consider the ways that continuing in my role and eventually earning a very high salary could theoretically simplify certain aspects of my life, the dilemma is that I would literally have to sacrifice my life to get there and, really, where is “there” anyway? Perhaps I am stating the obvious but I see this as no small price to pay; from my perspective, there is none greater! It strikes me that so many in this society are essentially willing to sacrifice their lives for a 8+-hour-a-day sedentary job performed under fluorescent lighting and in circulated air simply because it may offer a certain level of prestige (or at least the mark of seeming social productivity), a potentially high salary, medical coverage, and vacation time. This may seem a curious statement and I do not wish to minimize the relevance of these resources for countless people in an array of both individual and social circumstances, but I must ask nevertheless why the causal relationship between these debilitatingly unnatural work (and, hence, living) conditions of modern civilization and one’s need for the aforementioned resources is so seldom explored. While I cannot prescribe for anyone else, I ask myself: Why should I compromise my health, undernourish my relationships, and undercut my inner life and creative potential just to turn around and spend all of the wealth I have accrued over the course of my career in a doomed bid to reclaim these things post-retirement? Even if this widely popular approach was actually effective, why not skip the self-imposed drama and direct my energy toward crafting a life from which I need neither escape nor recover?

Though I currently write from Northampton, Massachusetts where I will complete the first summer term of my master’s program, my studies will bring me to the San Francisco Bay Area this academic year where I will complete the first of two full-time clinical internships. There, I hope to test and further explore some of the ideas I have explored or mentioned here on the subjects of activism, creativity, social justice, mystical and New Age religious movements, and other topics in a hands-on, practice setting. In light of the work being done in that region that unites these concerns, the possibilities for learning and engagement will be truly endless. Further, it seemed to me that gaining a broad background in human development in the social context would provide a useful foundation for an array of future endeavors, be they personal, academic, or purely professional. Perhaps I will later kick myself, literally and/or figuratively, for abandoning a career path that could have taken my earnings into the six figures in the next seven to ten years for one that is notoriously underpaid, overworked, and teeming with attrition. While such figures are quoted often in the popular media, I intend to utilize my training in a way that feels deeply meaningful, satisfying, and sustainable to me. As such, I understand that some or all of my work may occur in channels not typically associated with social work in the popular imagination. Despite the stigma often attached to such admissions in social work and related fields, it is increasingly clear to me that, as Frederick Buechner wrote: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Further, I can see that I must learn to trust and respect myself enough to move from a question of “what does the work require” (as defined by an employer, academic program, or established field) to “what is MY work” (as a being on the planet in this place and at this time with my particular gifts and liabilities) as it does and does not intersect with the terms of my present employment, commitments as a student, and expectations of my field.

I can see much more clearly now that the personal crisis that I described in the previous entries was only the beginning of a lifelong negotiation between the demands of soul and those of a cacophony of external voices, most notably my own. My personal revelation did not constitute an endpoint but, rather, a point of departure for a journey whose destination is wholly indeterminate– and that is as it should be.  I can see that I cannot expect to make a single decision and then find myself conveniently and eternally on solid ground. Would that be truly desirable, anyway? The question that many people in my age range often receive: “What are you going to do with your life?” is instructive. Is life not a process? It is something that is lived and in perpetual flux. This oft-posed question implies that only one thing is done in all of one’s life and that the future is known and knowable. Only a person wholly out-of-touch with their developmental process and the ever-changing present could state clearly and accurately what they will “do with their life” in concrete terms. Why not ask someone what inspires them and enlivens them in living instead? Or, alternately, ask them to describe how they understand their work on the planet at this time. I think that most of us are afraid to pose this question to ourselves, let alone anyone else, because a truthful answer would force people to acknowledge that they are progressively sacrificing the precious minutes, hours, days, and years of their lives at the altar of social acceptance and short-term security. Thinking that living within someone else’s pre-formed mold will save them from the personal risk inherent in answering one’s inner call, many seem not to anticipate the deep psychic pain that results from ignoring it and the destructive behaviors that arise to obscure the unresolved internal contradictions. It seems to me that, here again, the challenge of defining and committing to one’s true work demands a fundamentally creative response– that is, one that arises from the depths of oneself and is unfettered by the demands and misapprehensions of others. While the outside world presents an array of undeniably complex demands and circumstances, it seems to me that freeing ourselves from our own misguided demands is an essential first step.

My friend Elizabeth introduced me to this quotation from the always polemical figure from the anti-psychiatry movement, Thomas Szasz. Regardless of what you might think about psychiatry and the anti-psychiatry movement, the relevance of his insight is undeniable. He writes:

Men are afraid to rock the boat in which they hope to drift safely through life’s currents, when, actually, the boat is stuck on a sandbar. They would be better off to rock the boat and try to shake it loose, or, better still, jump in the water and swim for the shore

I hope you will join me as I jump ship and abandon the proverbial sandbar so that we might swim in the direction of the work (and life) that is truly our own. I also hope that in claiming our deepest work, we help bring into existence a world in which all are empowered to do their deepest work. As I seek to further define what constitutes my deepest work, I hope that you will do the same and share your discoveries as they surface. Despite the challenges inherent in living off the cuff, let us rejoice in the opportunity to be consciously transformed by unforeseeable experiences and bring that authentic and ever-evolving self to the table for the betterment of all.

Love,

Kaitlin

Deconstructing Myself to Death; or, When Essentialism Stops Being Strategic

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First, I’d like to thank everyone who reached out to me in response to my first entry.  It is great to have your support as I begin my exploration of the issues I mention.

This second entry concerns my always shifting relationship with structural analyses of oppression, strategic essentialism, and so-called “identity politics”.  If this language is unfamiliar to you, Gayatri Spivak’s notion of “strategic essentialism” refers to the idea that it can be useful for marginalized groups to simplify their collective identity in order to help them achieve particular political ends in challenging systemic social oppression.  While there are other connotations of the term, they are not entirely relevant as my ultimate goal here is not to provide an analysis of the concept but to offer a window into where I’ve been and where I’m going.  One of the primary challenges I’ve encountered in my journey to reconstitute my divided self through creativity is contained in this subject.  Despite that, I have been highly reticent to comment directly on this topic not only because it requires some personal self-disclosure but also because it is a rather politically charged subject.  It is difficult to articulate my opinion on this issue without stepping on toes; it feels uncomfortable to suggest that a worldview which has provided countless people with such crucial tools for recuperating a sense of worth, place, and purpose in the face of  systemic disempowerment may have significant blindspots.

Another reason I’ve been hesitant to delve into this topic, especially so early on, is that I don’t want this blog to simply become a chronicle of my life story.  I’ve realized, however, that given the importance of this topic to the overall evolution of my ideas, I cannot afford to sidestep it if I wish for future discussions to be intelligible and communicate my feelings completely.  As much as I am committed to expanding my self-understanding beyond a purely political realm, the personal is inescapably political and any attempts to ignore it would be futile. Additionally, I have wanted to avoid falling into the classic, tragic tropes borne of our plantation past but that continue to crop up in popular culture and occasionally in other people’s mischaracterizations of me.  If you know me personally, you are probably aware that I am both African-American and of mixed race and that I identify as such, seeing no underlying contradiction.  Despite the ease with which I state this, resolving certain related tensions has not always been simple and so I have often avoided drawing unnecessary attention to that aspect of my experience, often anticipating that my deliberations would be misconstrued.

Yet another reason I have been reticent to broach this topic is that this type of critique is often limited to the particular “community-of-struggle” in which it surfaces due to the desire to present a unified front and to avoid damaging how members of the dominant culture understand what is at stake in that particular community’s struggle.  For example, there are some who believe that black public figures ought to avoid arguing with one another about issues that bring out some of the longstanding tensions that exist within the community; for example, Bill Cosby’s insistence that certain young black men “pull up their pants”.  The idea is that such public debates can make it more difficult for black leaders to then communicate to the non-black majority that racism persists despite the increasing elusiveness of its manifestations and the increasing differentiation of the black community.

Despite this array of concerns, I’ve realized that social complexity and the very real possibility of being misunderstood are not excuses for self-silencing.  I’ve also realized that I mustn’t pigeonhole people and attempt to decide what they can and cannot hear.  While the conclusions I’ve reached may be insulting to some readers, I find it more insulting to hold my tongue out of a belief that particular people are simply unreachable.  My opinions and perspectives are bound to shift and evolve as I do so I ask for patience and compassion from others who might hold (even diametrically) opposing perspectives. I think that regardless of where you find yourself on these issues,  if you’re taking the time to read this, you are a fellow truth-seeker, though we may find ourselves learning distinct lessons at present. I hope that you will not deny me the opportunity to learn from your own perspective, however different it might be.

Given my frustrations growing up witnessing social injustice but lacking support in fully unpacking it, I found myself immediately empowered by the theories of systemic social oppression put forth by academics and activists when I encountered them at the end of high school and then to a far greater extent in college.  I continue to appreciate this learning not only for the lifeline it provided at an early time but also due to the important responses they offer to dominant cultural discourses.  For example, the ideology of meritocracy that persists in this country (i.e. the idea that merit and individual choices alone, and not systemic racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism, colonialism, for example, determines an individual’s degree of success in the world) is one that I questioned throughout my upbringing, though with different language and levels of understanding.  The theoretical frameworks that I would encounter in my studies lent clarity and context to issues like this that had long troubled me but that were difficult to fully confront due to the predominance of such ideologies and the marginalization of relevant counter-discourses.  My enthusiasm initially prompted me to pursue a career in academia in the areas of black cultural politics and expressive culture, participate in the formation of an organization geared toward self-identified women of color, and infuse virtually everything I did with a corresponding consciousness.  Unfortunately, I would eventually realize that the paradigms I was utilizing were incomplete and ultimately promoted confusion about myself and the others around me.  While this worldview importantly asked how seemingly freestanding individuals are constituted as subjects in this power-laden and interdependent social web, it did so in often limited ways.  Judging individual actions and seeking to inuit deepest personal convictions through the use of static, formulaic frameworks (e.g. this straight, highly-educated, white upper-middle-class able-bodied male Protestant has these particular social privileges and milieux, and therefore believes X and functions as Y in the social sphere) now seems sorely lacking in scope.  While I continue to find it useful to be able to selectively deploy such thinking as I navigate my world and attempt to understand what might inform how different people come to know themselves and experience reality, I eventually reached a point where it became clear that there is much more to a person than the ways that they are constituted in the social sphere vis-a-vis certain critical lenses, however useful those lenses might be to macro social analysis.

As an inevitable extension of my fixation on analyzing the world around me, I found myself increasingly critical of and alienated from myself, unable and uninterested in probing into what dreams, hopes, and deepest intentions I carried beneath my articulated social identity.  Perhaps this is due in part to the fact that I found it more difficult than some to wholly demonize and essentialize particular dominant social groups, as I straddle some of them, if not literally then surely on a theoretical level.  At the risk of sounding utterly tragic a la Jazmine DuBois of The Boondocks and the classic trope she represents, I should be clear that this was not specifically a function of me trying to overcome internal contradictions related to race or even other aspects of my social identity but was ultimately about me learning to relinquish intellectual control and make space for the heart to enter.  While delving into silenced histories, literatures, and ways of knowing were vitally affirming for me on the one hand, it eventually became clear that these particular pieces were not the only ones missing from my personal toolbox.  Because the necessary foundation of self-love had not been fully formed, what were temporary sources of empowerment became yet another set of tools to add to my arsenal of self-destruction.

Eventually, I realized that my approach to questions concerning the presence of suffering  in individuals and in our society was incomplete because it completely disregarded what is in the heart of both myself and others. I found myself asking that if we actually believe that transformation of the oppressive social institutions and material conditions of existence are possible, can we honestly believe that we can get there through oppositional consciousness alone? Despite the legitimacy and importance of separatism in certain contexts, why are we marching toward a future that does not feature compassionate cooperation with differently positioned, yet fellow travelers? As Desmond Tutu has written, there is “no future without forgiveness” and, I would add, without compassion and humility. While I am not suggesting that we take this as our cue to launch ourselves into an imagined post-racial, post-oppression utopia, I am suggesting that rage, while legitimate and important, needs to be tempered with heart-guided feeling.  In my opinion, any analytical framework that allows the depth of an individual’s agency and transformative capacities to be subsumed under a glibly assigned categorical identity will not give us a future worth living in.  Indeed, I’ve realized that if the communities and discourses to which I’d allied myself were to take over the world tomorrow, that world would not be one in which I would actually wish to live.  I cannot speak for others engaged in these conversations, but the world that I am trying to help bring into existence is not one in which people are so deeply confused about their essential divinity and creative capacities that they believe that they’ve arrived on the planet with no other purpose than to be enraged or in a constant state of symbolic warfare.  While I am hardly suggesting a recourse to apolitical passivity, I have found that much is lost in this endlessly adversarial approach to living and yet it seems to fuel so much of the political engagement that I witness (and in which I have surely participated myself).

In short, what I have discovered is that strategic essentialism and related approaches stop being strategic when they prohibit full and authentic engagement of self with others, as appears to have happened with so many of us and certainly with me. We must ask how such strategies serve our specific objectives, at what point the strategy devolves into a pattern of convenient and comfortable oversimplification, and whether the future we seek to actualize through the use of this strategy can actually accomodate our complete, undivided, and non-essentialized selves.  For me, the answer is a resounding “no”.  While I have not abandoned this paradigm entirely as I believe that it lends certain crucial insights, it is clear to me that it cannot stand on its own. Ultimately, my goal is to cultivate my ability to see (and act) with both heart and head.  Seeing with the heart is easier said than done, however, and walking the line between resistance and allowing, love and criticism is not always a seamless task.  I feel, though, that living solely to resist is unsustainable and ultimately antithetical to creative, visionary activity. Informed resistance is incredibly necessary but I have learned that doing so as an end in itself is little more than a race to nowhere.

While initially empowering, my relationship to these ideas severely dampened my sense of possibility, agency, and capacity for personal transformation.  In an effort to extricate myself from the cage I’d built around myself, I embarked upon a search for meaning outside of, beneath, and above the surface concepts to which I’d previously clung in self-doubt.  As a result, I found myself trying on an array of new ways to understand my reality and though they were not without their own limitations, all produced helpful insights.  In my next entry, I will discuss my attempts to make space for the heart as I explored the so-called “New Age” and “Human Potential” movements.

In the meantime, I hope that you will consider reaching out to me with any insights that relate to what I’ve shared above and that you find significant.  All too often, such challenging yet important conversations seem quickly truncated and redirected in favor of less risky subjects. I hope that the conversations begun on this blog can be an exception.

Thanks for reading!

Love,
Kaitlin

Introduction

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Hi friends!  Thank you for checking out my blog!  You may be wondering why I have decided to start this blog and what exactly I plan to discuss in it.  The title “Creative Response” may not seem particularly specific– you might ask, “a response to what?” and “isn’t a blog inherently ‘creative’?”  To begin to answer that, I must provide a bit of backstory.

After graduating from undergraduate school a year ago, I have embarked upon a journey of discovery and soul-searching that has taken me in a number of directions, both geographically and philosophically. In my attempts to determine how I ought to engage with the issues of greatest importance to me, I have found myself reviewing the approaches I have taken in the past. I find myself at a critical juncture between figurative adolescence and adulthood and as I move from student to professional– or from one who simply analyzes to one who must act and contribute, I am forced to acknowledge that my prior modes of engagement with these issues no longer suffice.

My interest in questions of suffering, for example– why people suffer individually and collectively– is one that I’ve sought to explore in a number of ways.  In high school, this meant engagement in electoral politics as the road to coherence and justice.  Later, it would mean social activism and critical approaches to cultural politics through academic scholarship.  Following my adventures in the latter area, I would find myself not only unsatisfied by the incomplete answers that these frameworks provided but also lost in a deep state of alienation from both myself and others.  I realized that the approaches I had been taking over the years, though different, were alike in their myopic focus on the collective or systemic and simultaneous denial of the depth, complexity, agency, and creative capacities of individuals.  I would realize that the seeming counter-narrative I had devised to reconstruct my fragmented sense of self actually required me to divide and compartmentalize myself into oblivion.  Ultimately, I would be faced with the harsh reality that none of these frameworks could resolve my internal contradictions and tell me who I am– none could teach me to see with the heart.

I’ve realized that life in today’s society, amid all of it’s violence, alienation, communal breakdown, despair, and unceasing complexity, demands a creative response.  By creative, I don’t necessarily mean a piece of visual or performing art, but rather an offering that challenges alienation in its expression of connection with soul– that specific place within the family of things which is your’s alone and that, despite the reproducability of cultural artifacts in today’s world, cannot be replicated by anyone else.  To me, this type of creativity entails offering something without regard for the misperceptions of others and without need for external qualification or permission.  This kind of fearless individuality and creative sharing requires a level of self-awareness and sense of place that our contemporary cultural practices actively undermine.  I believe that one of the primary issues we are facing is the erroneous idea that we can transform our fundamentally sick society without first transforming our relationship with our deeply dis-eased selves. For example, most seem to understand that our collective lifestyle is ecologically unsustainable but we seldom seem to discuss how we are, ourselves, unsustainable people and that these phenomena are closely intertwined.  This is a society in which we are endlessly instructed to medicate our malcontentment with every manner of addiction and distraction so we can avoid confronting, inhabiting, and sharing ourselves fully.  Meanwhile, we understand this pathological suppression of the true self as the only sane and mature way to be in the world and consider all those not placated by these diversions insane.

If you ask me, we need a collective reality check and I believe that one way we can help bring this into existence is by, as my brilliant teacher F. Christopher Reynolds has written, “waging creativity”.  I feel that creativity, as a process through which we may come to experience ourselves as gift rather than liability, is perhaps the most important antidote to alienation and modern despair.  As Spike Lee comments in his 1992 film Malcolm X, “The most dangerous creation in the world, in any society, is the man with nothing to lose.” In a space of creativity, however, I believe that we have the opportunity to experience ourselves as agents, cognizant for perhaps the first time that what we do actually matters. It took me a while to realize that my alienation from my own creative capacities has been a longstanding yet unacknowledged challenge underlying most of my deepest personal trials.  The fear of being judged, of not belonging, of being misunderstood, and so on often dominated my thoughts.  For this reason, the prospect of authoring a blog on anything of a substantive nature long intimidated me.
Beginning a blog thus seems like an ideal and timely “exercise in letting go” as my dear friend Claire has said.  Despite my great enjoyment of stage performance and even public speaking in certain settings, the prospect of sharing something of my own making and design without an external prompt and on the internet is definitely a new experience for me.  My friend Eva reminded me of the words of Audre Lorde who wrote “I was going to die, sooner or later, whether or not I had even spoken myself. My silences had not protected me. Your silences will not protect you…. What are the words you do not yet have? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence? We have been socialized to respect fear more than our own need for language.”  While I am fortunate in that I do not feel my life is in any immediate danger due to disease or particularly dangerous surroundings, I have often noticed that I behave as though I’m waiting for some sort of grim diagnosis to grant me the permission I need to finally get on with the business of living fully.  This blog is an attempt to redress that behavior. It is also an exercise in complete seeing, and by that I mean, seeing with both heart and head.  All too often in the past, I approached issues in a surface manner.  Ill-equipped to see into someone’s heart to discern what it is that they are truly trying to share, I found myself often stuck on jargon and semantics, lacking the tools or a loving commitment to probe deeper.  I know that I cannot control how others interpret what I share but as I learn more and more to see rightly, I understand that the only way to promote a deeper and more authentic understanding with others is to share from the heart and without attachment to initial reactions.  Misunderstandings are inevitable but I am confident that others ready to practice seeing with all of themselves as opposed to their surface minds will be interested in uncovering what lies behind the words.

In addition to my desire to challenge myself just by maintaining a blog, there are also an array of specific issues that I am eager to explore in a manner unimpeded by disciplinary boundaries and the paradigmatic assumptions that exist within particular cultural discourses and communities. Ultimately, I am striving to “unite the opposites” as they surface in my life, such as the tension between thinking and feeling, the individual and the collective, history and mystery, nature and culture, immanence and transcendance, resistance and acceptance, love and criticism, innocence and experience, reflection and action.  In sitting with various concrete  issues animated by these classic dichotomies, I’ve realized that you, my friends, have a multitude of perspectives, many conflicting and many overlapping, which you bring to bear on your diverse work as healers, teachers, community organizers, artists, spiritual midwives, soul guides, entrepreneurs, radical home(place-)makers, parents, spouses, partners, academics, activists, and cultural creatives of all stripes.  I feel very blessed to have become connected to a group of people with such a diverse array of views, social identities, life experiences, spiritual orientations, and political perspectives.  I enjoy getting to both think and feel with people and am excited by the possibility of doing so with multiple people at once, especially where friends with very different views could potentially enter into conversation with one another. Regardless of the response and the specific conversations that this does or does not generate, I am really just committed to bringing all of myself to the table and know that this is enough.

I want to close with this  poem by Terry Loder which I feel summarizes my intention for this blog:

Lord of laugther, as of tears,
shake me awake
and teach me to laugh at myself
at my black-drape solemnity,
over my petty preoccupation with success and failure,
through all the hurt and adversity
until my laughter lures me deep
beneath the terrors without names,
beneath the questions without answers,
beneath the pain without relief;
lures me deep
to the love in me unused,
to the courage untapped,
to the dream unrisked,
to the beauty unexpressed;
all the way down
to the inescapable bottom,
to the awareness that I must get on
with being who I am
as fully as I can,
as unflinchingly as I can,
as accurately as I can,
which is to say,
as gracefully,
as powerfully,
as faithfully
as you have created me to be.

I thank you for reading and hope that you will consider joining me in conversation, whether on this blog or elsewhere, as I explore all of this and more.

Love,
Kaitlin
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