What My World's Like

discomfort in solidarity.

Dec
16

press play and continue to read.
[audio:http://www.whatmyworldslike.com/audio/solitude.mp3]

boarded a train in brooklyn today. the cars before the one in front of me were pretty packed, but this one wasn’t. just as i was getting on, i noticed a man covering his nose, and shortly afterwards, saw a few others clenching theirs. near the back of the car was a person covered in a coat, leaning forward, surrounded by plastic bags. there were stares of contempt, as if this person was disrespectfully sullying our commute.

when the train reached the next stop, many hurriedly moved to other cars. the thought to do the same entered my mind, but it was followed with another thought that made me pause.

discomfort in solidarity.

i was offended by the disgust some people seemed to have. not with the smell itself, but the ostensible disgust with the person emitting the smell. it occurred to me that as uncomfortable as everyone in that subway car was, no one was more uncomfortable than the person we all wanted to distance ourselves from. none of us knew that person’s story, and i’m sure very few even considered it. we know casualties of this culture exist, but despite that, we often blame and reject the individual, instead of pointing to our corrupt system as a highly plausible factor behind some of the uncomfortable social experiences we face.

in a moment, after having the thought to be uncomfortable with and not because of that person, i understood this. i understand how easy it is to enter or remain in poverty and homelessness. i understand pride and how easy it is to unnecessarily suffer because of it.

not only are so many jobs not offering livable wages, the jobs themselves are simply atrocious– repetitive, mind-numbing, body-numbing, spirit-numbing, dull. we are in a culture that seeks to numb and dull us. don’t let this system harden your heart. don’t let repeatedly seeing abject poverty and homelessness normalize those conditions. they’re not normal and they’re not necessary in a social system that is an entire human fabrication.

feel. connect. empathize. i’m all about feeling good, but there is a wholeness to the human experience that capitalism and class and media tell us that we can and maybe even should avoid. still, there is so much beauty in sometimes making the decision to suffer with people in solidarity.

“When ‘I’ is replaced with ‘we’ even illness becomes wellness.”
— Malcolm X

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soundtrack:
above: “solitude” by derrick hodge, live today
“taiwa” by marc cary, focus
“you ain’t alone” by alabama shakes, boys & girls

#notetoself: relax into the discomfort.

Mar
26

discomfort zone

This is the third #notetoself letter, originally sent on February 20, 2012.

Isla de Ometepe in Nicaragua is an island formed by two volcanoes with an isthmus between them. Many consider it to be a magical place, although I haven’t yet figured out exactly what makes it so, but suspect I will soon. It’s beautiful and there are more signs of nature than the 42,000 people that live here. I’m staying on a permaculture farm with all kinds of good stuff: random greens, herbs, coconut, banana, plantains, Moringa, Mayan breadnut, taro, jackfruit, neem, guava, cashew, cinnamon, mango and so much more.

When I first arrived, I was ecstatic. Everything about this place was cool– the outdoor showers overlooking Lago Nicaragua, the largest lake in Central America, the squat toilets, the compost toilets, the outdoor dorms with amazing views of the sky (basically just a covered platform with a black tarp on one side acting as a wall), the hammock on the platform in a tree overlooking Volcan Concepcion, the solar-powered outdoor kitchen…

I slept horribly the first night. The only two options for mosquito nets was one that was a bit too small for the bed and one that was the appropriate size, but disgusting. It could’ve been from bat droppings, flies, mosquitoes, any number of things. To me, it didn’t matter; it was just really too disgusting for my comfort. The second night, I forgot to charge my cell phone during the hours of 10-3 when we can charge only if it’s sunny. Since the 6:45 meeting is a bit early for me still, I needed an alarm. Rather than asking someone to wake me up, I decided to sleep in the hammock up in the tree where you can see bright, vivid stars. It was windy and cold all night long. Not a good call, but I was still happy about the experience. The third night, an insect flew into my ear while I was sleeping at 2 am. Another lady here helped me drown it with saline solution, but then I was bothered by the fact that there was a dead insect in my ear. The next day was a fumbling exercise in Spanish and patience, spent going to the town clinic, waiting for it to open, hearing it was closed, deciding to go to another clinic and while waiting for the bus to take me to the other side of the island, discovering the town clinic was in fact open but not really equipped to adequately help me. The nurse looked at my ear with a dim light from her cell phone and flushed my ear with a syringe, ejecting a small, black mosquito. Still, something in my ear didn’t feel right, so she urged me on to the other clinic, where I found out that there was no insect but there was “hongo”. Fungus. I have an ear fungus.

After returning to the farm and preparing for bed that night, I wondered what the hell I was doing. I’m in the mountains. With no electricity. Sleeping outdoors. With a mosquito net that’s obviously not very effective. Freaking out about the plethora of bugs grossly outnumbering me. Really, what?

(more…)