In my dream last night I saw a vast cityscape stretching outward across a massive hillside. This city was endless. I was in a foreign land with a man I seemed to know. I was complaining to him about an overwhelming sense of oppression. Being part of the human race was oppressive to me and I resented it.
Driving down Ventura Boulevard today I find myself gazing glumly at all the strip malls and countless shabby-looking businesses. Every inch of space is dedicated to the hawking of some product or other no matter how seemingly useless or stupid. It’s not that I don’t need a dry cleaner on occasion, and it’s not that I don’t understand the need for shoes and food and wall painters. It’s just that selling something is now the only thing anyone is doing. I think of people in the movie business or the music business, two glamorous and desired career locations for the lucky and talented. Yes, there is a great deal of interesting creativity involved in that work but they are still salesmen and saleswomen. They transform their creativity into a product and sell it. Writers, musicians, artists—sooner or later everyone must contend with the fact that their worth derives from product(s) they can manufacture and sell. If not a creative person, then very likely you are hustling 8-10 hours a day doing something you don’t necessarily love, rushing to and fro, just trying to “get by.” That's so sad to me.
I have been struggling with this issue of economic slavery for three years now. I used to have a very “successful” business and I thought it was the bee's knees. I, too, sold a product, trying my best to keep it as heavenly and spiritually aligned as possible, but, it was still a product. Since changing life paths, I have been trying to find a way to earn a living without rubbing elbows with the economically grotesque. But, as in my dream last night, the Land of the Salesman is endless and pervasive, so I feel oppressed by a sense of helplessness as I dig in my heels further and further, simply refusing to submit to a life of tyranny and iniquity. I’m an artist but even the idea of trying to get my work sold is distasteful to me because of the transformation of the art world into a massive whorehouse and despot-manufacturing machine. Globally powerful thieves and murderers are entwined with and confirmed by the art world and I can never forgive or forget that fact (only one among many ugly truths), much less try to join in.
As you might suspect, these attitudes have left me in a rather unsustainable living situation, pushing me into exploring rather alternative lifestyles. I have divested myself of most of my possessions. In fact, all my worldly goods now fit into one suitcase and I still feel like I have too much stuff. I have also drastically reduced my living area, which is down to about 100 square feet. I have reduced my monthly expenses to the bare minimum and practice living on $2-$10 per day. I go some days without spending any money at all just to see how long I can go without consuming something. I spend my time reading, doing schoolwork, drawing, painting, writing, and reading. I do a lot of reading these days since I’m in graduate school and have deiced to go on to get a Ph.D. I suppose instead of a house, car, career, and family I’m spending my time and money on acquiring knowledge. What sets me apart from most people who go to school is that I am not immediately thinking about how I can get some cash out of these efforts. Thinking about how to make money occupies exactly zero seconds of time in my mind-heart sky. This may seem insane to others, but, to me, the exaggerated busy-ness of brainwashed, acquisitive, egomaniacally ambitious hawkers of goods and services seems infinitely more insane. There’s no space for love and beauty in that busy-ness. There is no space for you, only for me. To continue along like this while people die of starvation, while the planet is destroyed, while billions live in piss and shit and have no water, that is insane.
I’ve written before about just stopping. I think it would give most people a heart attack to just stop. For the most part, as far as I can see, people are literally on their own personalized hamster wheels, crazily spinning around and around. But for me, this stopping and really slowing down is emitting fascinating results. For one thing, I’m learning to move slowly. I used to walk very rapidly, with a purpose, with great confidence. My walk said: “Look out, I’m a woman who knows what she’s doing and I’m on a mission!” It’s funny to me now and also a little sad. I hurt a lot of people and missed a lot of beautiful things and made a lot of mistakes on that patriarchally aligned logos warpath. Moving slowly gives the myriad mysteries ample time to unfold and delight the soul. What are we trying to achieve, exactly? We are all chasing a future happiness, something we currently don’t have. But we’ll never have it because permanent happiness does not exist. The thing that exists is the beautiful thing unfolding in the moment that is being missed as we run rapidly from task to task. And geez, don’t even get me started on LA people! I suppose big city folk continually labor under the misapprehension that they lead very important lives that must be undertaken with seriousness and rapidity. There is a powerful fear of being left behind if one is too slow. It's ironical, to say the least since there is no thing to get to anywhere. It may sound like I am trying to belittle these things, but I’m not. I am just lamenting the absence, well, not absence, beauty is always everywhere, but the rejection of beauty and tolerance in an endless cityscape of me-centered busy-ness.
Why lament so much? I don't know. Maybe because I feel what I feel and I am aware of feeling it. Feeling something is a way to deeper understanding. I was told today by an inner guide that I must rejoice in the concrete forest as much as I rejoice in the wooden one. Complaining is a form of rejoicing, no? Wow, this place is tacky! People are rushing around! Crazy! There, I rejoiced by pointing out truthful facts. In her book Descent to the Goddess (1981), Sylvia Brinton Perera explains the important relevance of complaining from the perspective of a feminine consciousness:
Complaining is one voice of the dark goddess. It is a way of expressing life, valid and deep in the feminine soul. It does not, first and foremost, seek alleviation, but simply to state the existence of things as they are felt to be to a sensitive and vulnerable being. It is one of the bases of the feeling function, not to be seen and judged from the stoic-heroic superego perspective as foolish qvetching and passive whining, but just as autonomous fact--"that's the way it is." (p. 70)
I’m searching for a way to live that does not include selling something. I’ll explain by relaying an insight I had a few days ago. Where was I? In a car going to the train station, I think. There was a big white van with a giant ant painted on the side. It was a bug-killing van belonging to a bug-killing business. Suddenly, I was hit by the absurdity and arrogance of our species. We come and take over the entire planet, then we go and stick our poison-dispensing hoses deep into the underground habitats of other species, calling them vermin and pests, obliterating them all, often in excruciatingly painful ways. Have you ever stopped to consider the extremely painful way in which a rat who eats rat poison dies? But we do this kind of extreme murder every day without even batting an eye. We do this poison hose thing to the darkened shadowy inhabitants of our unconscious as well. But those beings are harder to destroy and they take vengeance when they are treated with so much incivility.
Seeing the bug-killing van made me feel ever more convinced of the correctness of my position as an anti-salesman. I want nothing to do with any species that move in murder. I will continue to search for a way to live and exist in this admittedly unsustainable netherworld. Maybe, like Thoreau, I’ll find that prison is the only place for an honorable (wo)man in an unjust state. One can’t help but think longingly of certain European countries at this juncture in the thought process! Let it be known that much is unknown.