Today Is The Day…

Today is the “stream of consciousness” post for HAWMC, the goal being to write continuously, with no prompt, for who knows how long. “Don’t stop, don’t edit!” they say. Grammar be-damned! I will be fixing typos, but true to form I’d rather “meta.” Reminds me of “beta” in rock-climbing jargon, though I have yet to fully discover what that means (I learned “match” just a couple weeks ago). Why is writing freely intimidating? It’s not, I guess, but given the goal of this blog is to inspire change, to highlight freethinkers and activists who are making a difference, or “sticking up”…well, I’d rather not babble on about a personal diatribe.

But therein lies the fallacy, I suppose – why should a stream of consciousness be any more personal than a well-edited, peer-reviewed paper? Is that not produced from the conscious mind of the researcher? Is a well-executed movie, written over years and years and with millions of dollars, not a “stream” of conscious thoughts from the writer, director, actors, etc.? After wading through Sam Harris’ The Moral Landscape I’m somewhat convinced we don’t quite know what we’re thinking about, at least, accurately. So in a sense, everything we say, write, do, or act is a stream of consciouness, but it could be more apt to say a stream of unconscioucness.

Maybe that’s the scareist part: what if I write, quickly, efficiently, hoping to explore what lies ahead of each word with a significant amount of tact and intellect, only to discover, at the end of the day, that it was all unconscious, and the connection between my brain and fingers is a lot longer and shallower than I think it is! That’s a frightening proposition (at least, when I consider about who sees what I write), but also a liberating one. We all have this bias – we all think we are in control, saying what we thinking and acting in a way that our brains corralled us to. As Harris says, “the illusion of free will is in itself…an illusion.”

Photo: Chicago Art Dept.

Live For This, The TNTSU Theme Song

live for this

When I wrote about my experiences with PETA for their activist spotlight piece, I said the following:

With veganism, I found that I could be deeply passionate about something and instill that passion in other people. Veganism, while profoundly important, was also the catalyst to simply be an activist: to stand up for something, to not be afraid of looking weird or different while holding a sign or (in the case of PETA) laying half-naked in 28-degree weather in front of a meat-packing plant to protest the slaughterhouse and factory-farming industries. When I made the realization that it was actually quite easy to abstain from eating animals, I felt it a necessity to fight for that cause. Going vegan was one of the most important decisions I’ve ever made in my life.

Life is about passion. That could probably be the sum total of what I have, what I want, and what I seek: because with passion you find the drive, the motivation, and the will to seek, fight, and simply exist. While I love showing people that it’s easy to eat plants, and watch them get excited about it, it’s almost the same to see them get excited about anything. If we have a life of love, a life of living for something, the rest is easy. It’s with that idea that I present the first choice that came to mind for the blog’s theme song, Hatebreed’s “Live For This.” The chorus: if you don’t live for something you’ll die for nothing is absolutely, 100% true. What are you living for? Is it worth it? Are you passionate about anything? Get stoked, and get active.

 

See the lyrics for Live For This right here. This post is part of a series for the month of April, entitled Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge (HAWMC). While I haven’t gotten to them every day, I’m doing my best! Read more about HAWMC at WEGO Health Blog.

Keep Calm And Carry the F&$%! On

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Ah yes, the ubiquitous “keep calm and carry on” poster! It has an especially good meaning today as I’ve missed the last two HAWMC prompts (“write about what you want” and “best conversation you had this week”), so rather than abandon the quest, let’s get back on track! Today’s prompt is to generate your own “keep calm and carry on” poster, at the Keep Calm O-Matic website. I gotta say, at first I thought this would be kind of goofy, but I got into it pretty fast. Little did I know, the historical significance of these posters is keep, as the site explains:

Keep Calm and Carry On was the third in a series of World War 2 posters drawn up by the UK Ministry of Information in order to boost the morale of the British people by passing on a message from King George VI. The posters were a stark white text on a red background, with the only image on the poster being the royal crown of George VI.

The first two posters, “Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution will Bring Us Victory” and “Freedom is in Peril” were widely printed and distributed. However, the third poster, which carried the simple message “Keep Calm and Carry On” although printed, was never distributed, as it was intended only if invasion was imminent.

Just as I mentioned about Occupy art last week, the type face and imagery here is really striking. I love it. So making my own was pretty damn awesome! Here’s what I came up with; mouse over to see any explanation. Some are serious, and some are just silly. The site lets you make an unlimited number for free, and you can even order them as posters!

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Be Strong, Write Haikus! (#HAWMC Day 6)

Marcus Aurelius

Be strong and do good
Act as if it were your last
Seek truth and reason

Today’s haiku, and consequent writing prompt, is inspired by none other than Marcus Aurelius, one of the most famous stoic philosophers of all time, and the last of the “five good emperors” in Roman history. His writings are in inspiration to us all, and between wading through Meditations and a wealth of his finest quotes, I came up with the above 5/7/5 (haiku) tribute to Aurelius and his stoic beliefs.

Meditations, which is a collection of 12 short “books” that Marcus Aurelius wrote in the 2nd century CE., is a powerful work. It implores one to “analyze your judgement of self and others and developing a cosmic perspective,” and Aurelius “advocates finding one’s place in the universe and sees that everything came from nature, and so everything shall return to it in due time” (wiki). When I found the book in my collection, I was intrigued, and also reminded of Tim Ferriss’ love of stoicism (mostly Seneca), which prompted me to investigate further.

What I love about the writings of Aurelius especially is the pragmatism and real, concrete advice, written thousands of years before the drama of Facebook or the interruption of a cell phone. Assuming we can believe the translation, he was on to something: put aside all the bullshit, and get at what’s really bugging you: you. If we were to really focus on health, shouldn’t we, as the individual, be the starting point? Yes, we’re all in “this” together, but if you’re pissed off, angry, if something just isn’t quite right, it’s mostly like you, and not them. My favorite self-help writer Don Miguel Ruiz echoes this in The Four Agreements, and I couldn’t agree more.

My haiku speaks to this: be strong, in your actions, your words, your thoughts, and your life. Do good, to yourself first and foremost (self-love is crucial!) but also to others, and to animals. “Act as it if were your last” – this may be cliche advice, but the thought is worth contemplating. If today were your last day with someone, or in town, or on earth, what would you do? Waste time squabbling about stupid stuff? Worry about things we can’t control? Hell no – we’d act, enjoy, experience, and love. Love is crucial to all of this, mind you. Seek truth and reason: don’t fear an imaginary god and eternal damnation, don’t be plagued by societal guilt that you aren’t living up to what you’re “supposed to be.” Seeking truth goes hand in hand with what Ruiz called his “Fifth Agreement:” Be Skeptical. Absolutely. With reason, we can determine what is real, and what is not – what is a human-construct, and what must logically be. Be skeptical, but loving, truthful, but caring.

Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones. (Marcus Aurelius)*

Photo: Jungle_Boy (thanks for the CC license!)

*Apparently there is controversy as to whether he actually said this or not. Who cares? It’s a great quote and the foundation of the Atheist’s Wager.

Ekphrasis and Copyright

Flowers/Ekphrasis

Ekphrasis or ecphrasis is the graphic, often dramatic, description of a visual work of art. In ancient times it referred to a description of any thing, person, or experience. The word comes from the Greek ek and phrasis, ‘out’ and ‘speak’ respectively, verb ekphrazein, to proclaim or call an inanimate object by name.

That’s a new word for me! But I love learning new words, especially those of Greek origin, and as I often have trouble appreciating visual art (like a painting or picture), a dramatic description is a good thing to have! Day 5 of HAWMC invovles using Flickr’s “explore” function to generate a work to dramatically describe, and you can see the result above. What’s interesting, however, is that this flickr tool really only cycles through about ten different images over and over, including this one, which I honestly don’t think merits the acclaim it has on the page. This elephant shot is pretty boss though!

The photo above, “Untitled,” was taken by Rachel Bellinsky, a photographer based out of San Diego. It’s a beautiful shot, and evokes color, passion, and an appreciation for what the earth can yield. While it has been edited digitally, it is nonetheless a gorgeous photo. Bellinsky should be applauded for the photo, and I would be the first to state that her other photos are indeed just as grand. So, why, then, does it cost an astounding $125 to license this photo at a resolution of 700 by 500 pixels? That’s beyond me. Getty Images, in conjunction with flickr, allows one to make such a deal, and while I’m no professional photographer, I would love to hear some justification of this price (for a high-res version it’s $325).

As far as I can tell, all of the photos through flickr’s “explore” tool are copyrighted, some without even a licensing option. Are we that protective of our work that a friendly share on another’s blog is outlawed? Art can inspire, art is passion, and that’s something to be shared, not kept on a single elite site. Talk of copyright reminds me Crimethinc’s “N©! license” which states:

The publishers, the notorious CrimethInc. ex-Workers’ Collective, humbly put this book and all its contents at the disposal of those who, in good faith, might read, circulate, plagiarize, revise, and otherwise make use of them in the course of making the world a better place.

Possession, reproduction, transmission, excerpting, introduction as evidence in court and all other applications by any corporation, government body, security organization, or similar party of evil intent are strictly prohibited and punishable under natural law.

So, all that being said: this is where my “writer’s challenge” is…challenging! Day 4 was skipped “why I write about my health…” but that’s pretty clear: because it matters, and I want to inspire others! Day 5 is here, but late, and Day 6 remains. HAWMC, I will conquer you, one way or another! Watch out.