This entry first appeared on Memorial Day Weekend, 2012. Because my world view informs my life and my art — what I offer to you — I’m sharing it again.
|Photo by French Photographer Marc Riboud|
It’s Memorial Day Weekend. Sales. Back yard barbecue. A quiet trip to a grassy graveside. There are many ways to mark the day.
I’ve had mixed feelings about this holiday for much of my adult life. But my relationship to the day shifted with a growing realization: choice is a slippery thing. A person makes choices based on what she knows and understands, her vision of the world as well as her perception of herself.
Once upon a time, without even realizing it, I based my choices on the notion that power and authority were right and must be honored. And after all, authority figures knew best AND often argued love as a motivator. Subconsciously, I believed that my own instincts were suspect, requiring validation from older, wiser heads. Cooperate and all will be well. Challenge authority and things get unpleasant.
But authority figures can send conflicting messages:
You can do anything you set your mind to. Don’t you want to get married and have children?
We love you just as you are. You shouldn’t be so sensitive.
Art is nice. How much are you paid for that?
Or, for a day like today:
We follow the Prince of Peace (as a Christian nation). Freedom isn’t free.
Life abounds with conflicting messages. And fear, I notice, usually ties snugly into many of them.
F. Scott Fitzgerald makes a compelling argument:
The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.“
A determination to make things otherwise motivates many Americans who go to war. I honor and respect that. I also see the choice of war as a hopeless action that breeds more hopelessness. Exhibit A: History. Yes, Americans value the worth, rights and freedom of the individual. However, war implicitly argues that some individuals are more valuable than others. A love of freedom becomes a hatred and fear of “the other”.
A week ago I attended a Nonviolent Direct Action workshop. I met 24 engaging people from various backgrounds, each with experience in culture jamming, i.e. demonstrating. I have none. The highlight of the day for me: reflecting on the work and tenants of effective Nonviolence activists: Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr.
I’ve been thinking about these tenants ever since.
- Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people
- Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding
- Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice not people
- Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform
- Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate
- Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice
These tenants resonate deeply with me. They open life-affirming options and give me new tools to examine my motives and the underlying, often conflicting, messages that birthed them.
I step away from the fear narratives of my own conflicting messages. I choose to love, but disagree with voices of authority that promote war as a good, or even the best, answer. I honor people who choose to fight, but lament the limited choices and lack of imagination the current culture presents.
I choose to be a culture jammer.
How? In many small ways. By pursing peace in my own life. By listening to my own heart. By small acts of redemption that include creating visual laughter. By choosing friendship, patience, and understanding toward voices that argue that my little artistic life, like a flower in a gun-barrel, is ridiculous. After all, love is stronger than fear; love casts out all fear.
How do the tenants of Nonviolence speak to you? Please comment.