Good ol’ fashioned effigyniality

I’m not entirely sure what I expected out of a Burn, but I don’t think I could’ve planned for any of it.

It’s been so interesting entering wildly different spaces. No matter the theme camp, the unifying factor seems to be an overwhelming generousity of spirit. An excess of gifting, both emotional and of tangible goods. Walking through the grounds, I find myself hustled over by well meaning folk. “We’re having a bacon party” they’ll say. An array of treats greet your eyes. Bacon wrapped marshmallows smothered in chocolate. Cream cheese bacon dip, chocolate covered bacon bit shot glasses filled with vanilla and apple whiskey. An angel stops by the camp every morning with home baked cookies. A cornucopia of culinary delights. Spicy tequila shots, distilled spirits, sangria, midnight poutine, crepes, cold brew and that’s just the fucking tip of the iceberg. Oh, and iceberg lettuce in the free salad bar. My stomach and heart have been so gosh darn replete.

The generousity of activities are a marvel too. Octomassage was something else. Eight people rotating giving the person in the centre a simultaneous massage. Eight sets of hands on your body was an enveloping sensory experience. Everything was consent based, with participants aiming to give the massagee their desired physical release. Having hands on your shoulders, upper back, feet and butt at the same time was unreal. There was such a sense of goodwill, with no ulterior motive outside of making the face down participant feel as great as possible. Especially after having received such a boon, it was gratifying to be able to give back and help others access the same joy.

The most intense experience, however, was the burning of the effigy. I came in cynical about city hippies coming out to the country to set shit on fire. When it came time for the effigy to burn, I was taken in completely. Seeing ashes blow into the night sky, strata falling apart, all consumed by the encroaching flame, it stirred something inside. I began to question the person I needed to become and what I’d have to give up in order to get there. The pain of separation a thousand times over. A life of constant death and rebirth, finding myself again and again. One of our blissful connections, a French Canadian dude, came over to talk to me about the Maori gods. It brought up feelings of regret, guilt. Had I abandoned my homeland? What had I taken with me? Was I too proud to admit the pain of separation? Had my resolution in leaving been the right path? I stared into the flames and wept uncontrollably, wondering when it was I’d find my path in life, instead of the purgatory of aimless drifitng. I found comfort in the arms of my friends as I sobbed into their shoulders. I unravelled, cut open to the world with a vulnerablity I’m not sure I’ve ever felt.

Something in me shifted, and I’ve got no idea how it’s settled. I feel different this morning, attuned with my body and trusting that my mind will follow. I spent time in the sauna, sweat dripping out of my pores. As my bodily fluids drained, I felt something leave me, as if a possession had lifted. I’ve remained naked throughout the day. I joined friends in the field doing naked yoga. I lay bare underneath the sun to feel connected. I’m starting to feel centred. As if I’m coming back to rediscover who it is I am. I’ve got no idea what it is I’ll find beneath the surface, but I know I’m ready for something different.

With no concept of what’s burned away, I’m excited and scared to know what’s left.

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I guess I’ll swim

I feel like I was ready to have a good day, then I read about Scott Hutchison losing his battle with depression.

I do and I don’t know why it hit me so hard. Some dude at a party once told me I’d like Frightened Rabbit and he was alarmingly correct. I’ve listened to their album Midnight Organ Fight countless times. It’s this beautiful combination of gallows humour and earnest emotion. The rest of their oeuvre I’ve been appreciative of, but haven’t absorbed it as fully. I can sincerely say I’m a fan without the baggage of excessive fandom. Hutchison was an immensely talented lyricist who hung his heart on every line and a performer who brought everything of himself to the mic. He’s someone whose creativity and honesty I was in love with. A few days ago a news report surfaced saying he’d gone missing. I feared the worst and hoped for the best, but those hopes fell away this morning. It’s heartbreaking and no amount of platitudes make it any less so.

Naturally, we’re all gonna witness events like this and turn inwards. We think about ourselves and how we relate. This becomes an important part of how we in retrospect view the outcome. I’ve been known to have my ups and downs, often between months. There are times in which I start to question all the structures around me and fail to find purchase. If you’re reading this, please don’t worry. Emotionally I’m in a downturn, but not with tangible lingering effects. I’m trying to figure things out, which is a world away from doing something stupid. Still, part of working through this kind of stuff is getting the negative ephemera out there to see it for what it is. With that precursor out there:

I’m having a hard time right now, as I have been for a while. I feel like my up and downswings have had me lingering at the bottom for a lot longer than I’ve been climbing. It’s rough. At the moment I’m having trouble finding purpose. I look at my day to day, week to week, year to year and see nothing in the matter of cumulative gain. I don’t feel like I’m further ahead at 31 than I was in 28. Of course it’s symptomatic of these kind of moods not to check your blind spot for the light you’re missing. Still, when I look ahead to the next six months, I don’t see the point. I don’t know what I’m doing here. I’m doing things, but none of them mean anything. I don’t know why I continue to sit in an office five days a week, not to be gaining traction. I feel like I’m living for escapism, but nothing concrete. I exist to consume, but I’m not consuming for any kind of existence.

I look at someone like Scott Hutchison, someone who made so much for so many, and I wonder what I’ve done. Once again, what am I doing? What am I doing for others? What am I doing for myself? If all I’m doing is going through the motions, that’s not enough for me. That’s not sustainable for the next 50 years. That’s a long time and I need a pretty good reason to hang around for another five decades. That’s not to say I’m looking for a way out. I’m looking for a way forward.

It sucks all the more because I feel like two months ago I had momentum. I felt indomitable, full of steam and drive, not knowing where I was going but not stopping to worry. Months later with nothing to show for it, the idea of picking myself up by the bootstraps seems a worthless endeavour. It’s hard to press on when the path seems to lead nowhere. I have no doubt I’ll turn this around in a matter of time, but right now that’s hardly enough for me.

Guess I’ll just wait.

Got to know when to roll ’em. Know when to fold ’em.

Occasionally the signs of ageing are so blatant that you consider shopping around for mobility aids.

I was at the gym stretching before my warm up. You know, the thing you’re meant to do in order to guard your withered bones and muscles from simply snapping? I’ve been getting over this planar fasciitis thing. I’ve been SO GOOD, taking my time, doing the exercises, keeping my activity levels down. So there I was doing a routine swan stretch and something twinged. In anything physical, a twinge never signifies something nice. A short, sharp, painful jab most likely means you’ve got a loose cog grinding away in your otherwise able machine. The loose cog, over time, is gonna bring other cogs with it. I dunno, maybe in this metaphor the cog is magnetised or particularly charismatic. In any case, I now have a weird injury in a place that’s difficult to stimulate.

“Fortunately” my body was already fucked up, so I’ve got a physio appointment booked tonight. My new injury is more urgent than the one that previously was urgent, because one of these makes walking more painful than the other. To be clear, they’re both pretty irritating, but this new one adds a significant amount of discomfort to the pre-existing condition. I was champing at the bit to be running by last week. There’s a chance this is an easy fix that requires some kind of radical physio-fu magic. More likely, it’ll instead push back my schedule by another few weeks. It’s all kinds of frustrating. If I’m gonna keep up with the clock metaphor, I’m pretty ticked off. I’m thankful my arms are working fine, but I’ll freely admit that if they hurt instead it’d really alley-oop my metaphor.

Especially if that’d help me save face.

Altogether, it does mean that time is marching on. Time has more mobility than my body seems to these days. My frequency of physical calamities is on the up too. Perhaps this is how it happens. One little niggle swells into a full blown injury, when then becomes yet another long-term condition. All of a sudden you’re wearing crocs for the sake of your health and you realise you’ve come to the end of any semblance of a life.

Soon enough I’ll think this is relevant news. Bleak.

As per the norm, I’m being intentionally maudlin. Sure, I’m irked that I don’t have full mobility. More than anything it’s reminding me that pulling out the foam roller daily for 20 minutes could drastically improve my quality of life. None of this is getting better, but maintenance could slow my degradation. Like how they repaint bridges all the time. From age 31, I’m basically trying to prevent the biological rust from reaching my heart. If I take care of myself, it could stave off the day I fly the flag at half mast.

Wait, what the fuck am I talking about? Didn’t stretching and taking care of myself get me into this mess in the first place? Screw all this positivity shit, I got dealt a lemon. I’ll be here moping until someone finally cuts me a slice of that sweet, sweet, nanorobotics pie. This non-augmented biological organism scene is a sham.

Until then, can we get Caterpillar P-5000 Powered Work Loaders for old people? That’s the future I want to live in.

Anyone need a spleen while I’m there?

Last night I dreamt that I had a rapid onset illness where my body stopped producing new cells. Untreated, I had a life expectancy of three days. We somehow caught it right away. My parents came over to Canada then whisked me away to London so one of the world’s top doctors could figure out what to do. It happened in what seemed like an instant and there was no chance to say goodbye to anyone. When I asked how long I’d be staying in this London lab I was told in an unwavering manner “this is your home now.” I asked about my girlfriend back home, our flat, my job. All my friends. They told me that was all over now, that there was science to be done. I was ostensibly not dying, but it didn’t seem like they had care for my quality of life. It felt a lot more like they were just intrigued by my condition and what a cure could mean for them on the global stage.

I got a message out to my girlfriend and told her our dark family secret. That my real estate parents had hidden genetic clones of me and my brothers in cryostasis, in the basements of three houses they’d sold over the years. She travelled to New Zealand and met up with one of my childhood friends. They cross-referenced every house my parents had sold with all houses currently on the market. They then posed as newlyweds pretending to be buying their first home and infiltrated every open home on the list, sneaking off to try find secret basements and hidden passages where my clone could be kept. Meanwhile I was wasting away as a London lab rat. Still alive, but barely more than a test subject.

I woke up really wanting to know how it ended. Did I die? Did my girlfriend find my clone? Was he an actualised person? Did I ever see her again?

It felt like a weird prescient dream given the events of last night. A friend hosted a birthday bonfire on the eve of Beltane. She read a passage on the Death card in Tarot rising with the pink moon. It emphasised the importance of letting old patterns and behaviours go. Beltane is a time of renewal and growth, part of that being death to held customs and anxieties. That in order to grow, it’s necessary to shed the known self and discover new potential. A time of transformation and the awakening of sexual energies. To discover your fertile self in every layer of meaning. Also we lit sparklers, which was dandy.

My spiritual belief cache has been barren for quite some time. It was nice, however, that the passage was written in a pretty down-to-earth manner that was easily relatable. We all feel stale from time to time, like we’d benefit from widened perspective. The idea of taking stock of where you’re at and questioning what brought you there is rarely a wasted exercise. It’d be no surprise for regular readers to hear that I’ve been feeling like I’ve hit a wall and stagnated. That I’ve been treading water long enough I’ve started to question weather or not my head is still above water. That not being dead doesn’t hold the same place as feeling truly alive.

Maybe the answer is to burn away those things inside me that no longer serve a purpose. Have I been getting in my way this entire time? What version of myself has yet to come out of cryostasis, held in reserve by a simulacrum past its expiration date?

Once I figure it out, I’ll make sure to light some sparklers.

Calling it a day, because what else would you call it?

I slept more than zero hours but probably fewer than four last night. My body is still in the throes of the cold that I’ve had for the past week and a half. On top of all that, I’m in A Mood. So once again, in lieu of quality content, I’m going to drop utter nonsense in bullet point form in the hopes that it fulfils my daily obligation of 30 minutes writing. Today, that’s about all I have in me.

  • I woke up with McDonald’s’ “Double Cheeseburger” ad in my head. The thing that’s pissing me off the most isn’t that it’s lodged firmly in there, but that I can’t find an example of the exact ad I’m talking about. I was all prepped this morning to do a Facebook post of “Sure there have been some bangers in the last 20 years, but let’s not pretend McDonald’s Double Cheeseburger song doesn’t exist.” Laughs would’ve been had by all, right? Thing is, it was a campaign that ran years ago and resurfaced basically every decade in a different iteration. Not only this, but there were national variations across the world. There are multiple US versions, multiple Australian versions and a whole host of assorted dubs. You know it for sure, the “double double cheese cheese burger burger please” one. In 90s New Zealand we had our own and I know this for sure because the price on ours was “Only two dollars and fifty cents”. That’s burned into my memory in places where basic motor skills were meant to go. I found a New Zealand version, but it’s clearly too old because it mentions $1.99 or something. I can’t be bothered going down a Google wormhole for the sake of this, so instead I’ll sit here and stew in my own fallibility. Anyway, here’s the old Aussie one ’cause it’s cheesy as shit. Doubly so.
  • Infinity War has too many characters. I’m doubtful it will be a good movie. I’m happy to be proven wrong.
  • The new Venom trailer is out and it looks similarly trash. I don’t think I’m gonna be proven wrong, but I’m very happy that it’s spawned this content.
  • Since we’re on the topic of ads and selling out, I’m happy to be a corporate shill too. I did my taxes today using Simple Tax, like I do every year. It took all of ten minutes (since it links up with your past return details and the CRA). If you’re in Canada and plan on doing your taxes in the next week, give them a shot.
  • Our bus was evacuated this morning because two homeless people got on and started arguing. The bystander effect was strongly in place and nobody really knew what to do. We just heard yelling and conflict (though nothing physical) between these two men who clearly had history. I’m assuming most everyone assumed mental illness was a factor and didn’t want to either dehumanise anyone or intervene in an unpredictable situation. Instead everyone just got off and walked to the bus stopped in front. The driver sat behind his plasticised screen and waited for things to subside, then went out of service. He probably had some kind of report to file. I walked the rest of the way to work in a daze.
  • Toronto in general is pretty conflict avoidant. I guess it has a lot to do with everyone possessing the illusion of being busy at all times. Even in the video of yesterday’s van based terrorism, people in the background are sort of just going about their day. There’s this police and suspect stand off in the middle of the street and passers by mostly seemed to ignore it or not give it a second look. Weird.
  • Speaking of the van attack, it seems to have been a terrorist attack rooted in toxic masculinity. The guy was some kind of incel and, I don’t know, wanted to go out in a blaze of “glory” or something. It was pretty fucked up. The cop who dealt with the situation acted like a total professional. All of the guy’s actions made it seem like he was angling towards suicide by cop. He was acting like he had a gun in his pocket, but the cop called his bluff. If we needed a better illustration of how our rigid forms of masculinity are harming young men, yesterday’s attack was it. This guy, like Elliot Rodger before him, decided that he was entitled to women’s bodies. That their lack of attraction to him demanded violent reprisal. There are ten Torontonians who will never wake up again because this lonely child acted from a place of anger and misguided indignance. How many families are today in mourning because of what we’re teaching men in our society? When are we going to reframe our long held beliefs to teach compassion and understanding instead of harmful stoicism? The Marlboro Man died of cancer. Toxic masculinity is a similar blight. When are we gonna cut it out?

I’m done.

By this point, it’s do or die.

An admission. I’m not in a balanced headspace right now. I’ve been watching clips from the March for Our Lives and it’s been affecting me. My skin is hot, I have constant shivers and I’m alternating between states of incredible fury and heartbreak. I’m in a very emotional state and I feel like psychological dissociation is a very real threat right now. So I’m going to write in the hopes that it will tether me. Because I’m not sure what else to do. Frankly, the fact that I’m utterly powerless to do a thing is probably the hardest pill to swallow.

I can’t do shit. I’m an unimportant spec of New Zealand Canadian who has never lived in a country where it was legal to carry firearms. Guns terrify me. Back home our police weren’t even allowed to wield guns. There was serious ethical friction when the idea of equipping the cops with tasers was raised. So everything I’m saying is of a mentality that’s the furthest possible from accepting open carry. I now live in Canada. Open carry is not legal here. The country also has a significantly lower volume of gun violence than America does. I don’t know a single country that doesn’t. I’m saying this not to gloat, but to point out that my words, my emotions, my capacity as a voting member of the public are in every single manner totally useless to do a thing about the horrific state of the United States. I feel worthless and it’s radiating out from a point of frustration into a total body experience. I can’t do a thing. I need to accept the things I cannot change and focus on what’s within my power.

America, you’re fucked and there’s nothing I can do to help.

I’ve been looking at the groundswell of activism in American youth. It’s both warming and breaking my heart simultaneously. It’s so far beyond incredible that the English language doesn’t yet have a word strong enough for it. This burgeoning generation has inherited a systematic nightmare they should never have had to face and will spend their lives trying to disentangle from it. Those who are lucky enough to still have their lives. Do you want to think about that for a second? The number of children – and these are fucking kids- who face the “privilege” of being able to wake up in the morning? Those who have seen classmates buried. Who will spend the rest of their lives permanently altered by injuries both physical and psychological. Who will have to unpack the unearthly weight of their fortunes for the rest of their goddamn existence.

Despite this colossal opposition, they’re staunchly fighting for their lives with an unbelievable vigour. We don’t deserve them and I can’t wait for older generations to bite the fucking dust so they can inherit the earth. These kids, who’ve been teased about their safe spaces and language policing, are braver than we’ve ever given them credit for. They’re creating the world we’ve told them they deserve and they’re doing everything within their power. Because utopia has been taken from them by the selfish, complacent, short sighted generations that came before them. Fucking myopic nationalist simpletons who think their desire to keep their toys is more important than these kids’ right to keep their lives. Politicians caving to gun lobbyists, favouring the money slipping into their back pockets over the safety of the country they have been charged to preserve and lift.

The thing that breaks my heart, is that it’s all going to amount to nothing. No change will come of this. The rallies, hashtags, impassioned speeches, truth spoken to power. The callouts and cries for reform, the lives lost and sacrifices made? I sincerely fear that there’s no way it will even nudge policy. I would love nothing in this world more than to be proven wrong. If anything concrete was going to happen, it would’ve happened when a gunman walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed 20 children between the ages of six and seven. Nothing did. Crickets. The lives of kids who probably still listed their ages in half years were ended. Congress gave them thoughts and prayers.

For years you’ve been told that together, your voices can move mountains and make the earth quake. You’ve been told that you live in a democratic society that works for the good of its people. Lies, all lies. You’re all fucked because these politicians consider their income to be more important than your rights. Sorry, you lost. Good luck next time. Your loss, fears, hopes and dreams aren’t enough. None of this will end until the politicians responsible for protecting their broken system know what it feels like on a personal level.

But why would you want to move mountains? Moving a mountain would be a colossal waste of energy. It’s far more efficient to drill underneath, to undermine. Pure force pales in effectiveness to subterfuge and I can’t imagine a generation better suited to using everything at their disposal to manifest their dreams to reality. You’re compassionate, intelligent, resourceful and mobilised. Use that. Don’t try to shame congress into action.

MAKE THEM AFRAID OF YOU.

Reach out to sympathetic legal professionals and discover what the absolute limits of your rights are. Then do everything within your legal rights to make these politicians terrified. Use your resourcefulness to figure out every single politician taking bribes from the NRA, then ruin their lives. Be merciless. Send them physical letters every single day demanding change. Send these letters to their office, their homes. Group together, each of you sending mass individual letters. Send emails too. Post comments. Look for every public outreach channel they have. Dominate them with your voices. Twitter. Facebook. Linkedin. Instagram. Call their offices demanding change. Endlessly. Go to their homes and peacefully protest. When they’re out in public, be there. Be everywhere. When they’re out there looking for a nice PR opportunity? Be there. When they go out for dinner? Be there. At the supermarket? Be there. At their family picnics? Be there. At their kids sports events. Be there. Make your voices be heard. Don’t take no for an answer. Make your presence so insurmountable that they can’t do their jobs. What if they start putting out restraining orders? AMAZING. Get others to join in and force them to bring out more restraining orders. Tie them up in the legal system. Take their time. Force them to funnel their money back into the system or shell out for hiring private security guards. Make it impossible for them to live their lives. Make them terrified to leave their houses. You outnumber them exponentially, you’re quicker to react, you’re smarter and better. Make their existence a nightmare. Every single one of them. Let them see just how effective their thoughts and prayers are against a motivated, politically mobilised generation who are better, smarter and more multitudinous than they are. You’re inspiring the rest of the world with your actions and conviction day by day. They forfeited their right to happiness when they chose comfort over doing the right thing. Let them feel even a percentage of the unbelievable misery they’ve brought into this world. Beat them at their own game by changing the rules.

You are powerful beyond belief, but they only way you can win is if they know what loss feels like.

Show them.

Who’s the Better Man? Eddie Vedder or Leon Bridges?

It’s nice feeling indomitable again. After sinking to the depths of a mental parabola, I’ve come out the other side with a renewed vigour. I’ll run with this momentum for as long as I can. Maybe the runner’s high can keep me aloft. Anyway, let’s sprint to the next paragraph.

A friend was hosting an event for the Red Cross. It was the kind of thing I’d normally let pass me by, but a mutual friend was keen to go. My girlfriend and I were meeting her for lunch, so after the meal we went on down to check it out. You know what? I found it quite compelling. Here’s a thing. Compassion fatigue is a big force in my life. I scroll through Facebook and Reddit daily seeing just how terrible the world can be. I’ll see a number indicating fatalities or misplaced refugees and there’ll be no difference in my head between 20 and 200,000. Numbers are black and white, they mean very little to me without colour to flesh them out. I’ll hear about a tsunami in some developing nation and it’ll blend into all the other terrible stuff that happens to places that aren’t me and/or don’t play host to anyone I know/love. It’s easy to ignore atrocities when they’re so far from your day to day experience.

This event was fascinating. I dunno, maybe I was just in an inquisitive mood. I get like that sometimes. They had one or two doctors who’d worked in an ERU (or Emergency Response Unit) floating around a space that’d been outfitted with various screens and audio components. There were pictures of the Bangladesh environment in which the Red Cross had administered aid. Talking to one of the doctors, I was able to construct a greater understanding of the scope and scale of the organisation. I had no idea that the Red Cross had 190 different international organisations around the world. I was curious to hear how they distributed aid. Apparently they’ll often have specific jurisdictions or areas in which they’ll tend (Canada deals with North America, etc). Outside of this however, if they have the resources and are interested in sending aid to an area outside of their jurisdiction they’ll get in touch with national outposts closer to the affected area. They’ll then facilitate the type of aid the area needs and how to make it happen.

The ERUs I mentioned earlier are basically mobile hospitals. The setup cost of each is about $3,000,000. This allows for equipment, personnel and capacity for training. They’ll be prepared for setup, which takes around 12 hours altogether, then they’ll be all ready for operation. The idea isn’t just to get into an area, help for a bit, then leave. What they end up doing is creating a hospital, then skill sharing. They’ll pass on knowledge to local medical professionals (and to be clear, the doctor I talked to emphasised, these people have medical experience. The knowledge they’re passing on is how to use all the particular gear the Red Cross is equipped with. It’s not like they’re coming from a place of elitist ethnocentrism). The end result is that after the Red Cross have pulled out, they’ve ideally left a self-sustaining facility that can then skill share and pass on that knowledge.

What I thought was even more interesting is that there are a shortlist of ERU varieties and a limited number of them. Water and Sanitation, Logistics, IT/Telecommunications, etc. What’s more, specific countries have specific types of ERUs. They might only have one complete unit they can send out, but these countries do have experienced personnel locked and loaded to send off to other ERUs if required. So say Canada sends a Rapid Deployment Hospital, New Zealand could send their Communications team to help smooth the relief effort, disseminating vital information, etc.

I don’t want to come away from this experience sounding like I’ve become a walking evangelist for The Red Cross. My friend did make a point of emphasising that there are a myriad of various NGOs all doing valuable work throughout the world. That the notion of helping is a bigger cause than the PR of making sure you get the best photo ops. It was cool to see that some people (better people than I, even at my most indomitable) are giving so much of themselves to those in need. I doubt I’m about to start monthly donations, but it was fascinating to gain perspective on affairs that I usually would look past.

I don’t know that I’ll become a better human, but maybe I’ll listen to Pearl Jam’s “Better Man” a couple of times.