Here I am.
Girl, reflected in a frame.
Frame, with another body inside of it, and it’s almost as if we are both of one body now.
But you can see me only if I adjust the lights, just right enough.
Our bodies exist within the continuum of other bodies; only then they gain meaning. Just like all else in life. Our body is in a way our identity; representative of the individual. In a way, since our biggest focus is on it, the body becomes representative of our individuality even more than our mind is. And yet as much as we relate to it as our ultimate identity, we sacrifice individuality to the collective. For example, groups often organize themselves around some common ideals, tradition or codes, and as such, they need a shared “code” or group identity, so that all acts of the group are attributed to the collective. And in a way, the individual doesn’t face personal responsibility, accountability and individuality. When these groups are involved in violence as means, for example, members often would share specific tattoos.
Here is the paradox and the problem.
Collectives often ask people to give up their individualities and yet the thing that defines and identifies individuality for most people, is precisely their relative place within the collective. So the problem is: when an individual sacrifices themselves to the group, the group can then sacrifice the individual. When we are immersed in groups, the problem isn’t as much the disillusionment of our individuality per se, as much as it is that the group demands the maintenance of the individuality to always be in alignment with the intentions of the group’s ideology. And how can individuals define themselves by connection to a group or collective, that ultimately makes them interchangeable?
And what happens when what we once thought to be a noble cause, suddenly turns harmful or destructive?
One of my favourite movies is “Eastern Promises” and Evan from The Nerdwriter analyzed its theme in a very thought-provoking way. There is this amazingly choreographed scene where the undercover agent, Nikolai, sacrifices his body by getting the star tattoos on his shoulders; a hard earned reward to being finally accepted in the mafia. And yet it is these same tattoos that then lead to his almost death by an opposing gang, where he is beaten naked in a steam room. This scene is incredibly symbolic because it shows the nakedness in the sacrifice and rawness of consequence; it is not just our individuality that’s made vulnerable, but also, it is the body itself. Furthermore, it is then the bruises and cuts on his body that prove his loyalty and devotion to the police, as the hero who used the “rules” of both the individual and the group to his own advantage. As Evan noted, we see that both victim and perpetrator exist in one body.
Let’s be honest. Our world has never truly supported authenticity. As much as we talk about “speak your truth” most people are only capable of hearing someone’s truth, as long as it aligns with their own narratives and beliefs. Otherwise, it’s “triggering” and we turn our backs.
Victim and perpetrator. Why are people who describe themselves as feminists, attacking and shaming other women who are different from them, in any shape or form? Why are people are have faced prejudice, being cruel towards other races? Why is it okay to judge anyone? Is it okay to compare pains? How much do we miss from life and from enriching our experiences when we discart people based on our own prejudice and labels and categories? When we categorize, we are only separating ourselves further. Why are we not holding ourselves accountable when we hurt other people; and disguise our attacks as justice?
How capable are we, as a collective and individuals, to look beyond the outer form, so that we hear and see someone? We are missing the point and need to wake up. The fight is to save our human rights. But the war is spiritual.
Scarcity mindsets, self-sabotage, inability to love or belief that we are “not good enough”, imbalanced emotions, projecting on others … all of these are because we are not aligned with who we are – we are just swayed by everything around us including other people, opinions and conditioned belief systems rather than being rooted within our true self. Now is the time to remember ourselves and find a way to live within our authenticity, as hard as it may be.
As a society, we’ve become intolerant and amazingly ignorant at listening to a viewpoint that challenges our own rigidities and biases. In a world where we were supposed to be more authentic and acceptive to our individuality, we all look the same and act more and more robotic. Just turn on social media and you’ll see what I mean. And the mainstream media only covers the same old crap, and any independent journalist is shut down (or rots in prison) when they voice uncomfortable truths. In fact, stories are only relevant and reality, if they have the followers and likes – and kiss some big guy’s ass. Are you aware of what’s happening with censorship the past few years?
And when someone expresses an opinion that challenges us or in any way, we are triggered by it, then we become so quick to negate all else about that person’s character and even all the times when they’ve helped us, and we diminish them into some 2d image that is disregarded completely. There are uncomfortable things happening in our world, but we can’t look away and stay in ignorance; we have to face them and accept reality for what it is, and only then can we make a meaningful positive change that contributes to the welfare of humanity, and our united future.
As far as I am concerned, any state, any person, any establishment and any ideology that fails to recognize the worth, the dignity and the individuality of another person, is obsolete.
Are we aware that the percentage of intelligence on earth is increasingly non-human? As in, welcome to AI. Our efforts and ability to free-think and make our own decisions (which assumes holding ourselves accountable for the consequences of our actions) has greatly diminished. This is why social media platforms that are visually stimulating are so popular – because they don’t require much thinking; just swiping and momentary shallow pleasure. In a world that is, and will become even more digital and robotic, there is an important question we’ll need to ask ourselves: What makes us human? What does it mean to be human, and humane?
Intelligence is the ability to consider viewpoints and perspectives that challenge our own conditioned beliefs and narratives; to sit calmly and discuss with an open mind and empathy. And then we need to do our own research, with our own effort, and make our own choices based on our free thinking – because we are not sheep or a microchip (yet). The issue isn’t the differences – it is how we react and respond to them. Do we get curious or do we get critical and judgmental? The conversations would be very different depending on our choice.
Human eyes adjust to everything. If we look into the dark because we are in a pitch black room, our eyes will adjust and when a little light shows up, it will naturally scare us. Because it’s unknown and anything unknown is uncomfortable and scary. Any change, good or bad, will feel to our body the same way – because it is unknown and we cannot bond to it (yet) unless we have it in us. Our eyes will start to see even ourselves as dark figures in the mirror because we are used to seeing that outside of us. So how can we ever look into the eyes of light in someone else and expect to bond? We can’t. Their light will at some point trigger in ourselves the unknown and subconsciously trigger our insecurity and sense of stability – our very existence of who we are. So our first instinct becomes: destroy to save. Because we like being comfortable, even if it’s not good for us. And how would we know what’s good for us anyway, unless we ever had a glimpse of it somewhere along the way, and had the eyes to see it and the dedication to integrate it within us? Fear is a natural reaction when we are getting closer to a truth; when we are challenging our old narratives and routines.
Frames are like the boundaries of our own conditioned perceptions and established beliefs. Are we open to actually listening to another and expanding our perception? Do we follow or discover? Do we look out or look in? Are we attached to the “named” or open to the unnamed? When we categorize, label and define, we are only separating ourselves further from one another. Of course we like to identify things and people, because this makes us feel a sense of control and maintain certainty within instability. We like to know things, so that we can comfort ourselves that we might even understand humanity. That’s why we are so obsessed with categories.
All of us as humans have the need to belong – and that’s natural. But the danger is that there are far too many groups that prey on and exploit people’s vulnerabilities and tragedies, for their own self-serving interests, abusing their power and authority.
And if we speak our tiny frail voice, we’ll be left outcasted or censored. Being a lone wolf is fine, but not if we live in 2020. Things have become different now. We can’t go out and hunt (most days, at least). We are much more dependent on the system. Or so it seems. Our very identity (and life) is attached to some “cloud”. In fact, we are already sort of cyborgs; our phones and laptops are extentions of our bodies and minds, but it’s just that the connection and data transfer are too slow for us to comprehend. Let me ask this: if no one sees us, how do we know we exist? Now apply this question to everything else in life.
Many people are fighting now in the world – but are we remembering what we are fighting in the first place? We must be fighting together for a solution, and not fight against each other. We are separating ourselves further. What’s going on in society today is “divide and conquer”, which is takeover strategy 101. Our deepest ancestral wounds are brought up to the surface and they are difficult to deal with; and so we fall into fear or rage mentalities, into judging and blaming and dividing, which ultimately means that we are reacting based on instinct and are subconsciously paralyzed, limited and no longer capable of clear vision and higher alignment to our true self. And when we are in pain, we cause pain to others in the loudest of ways; we do this because we are in desperate need of attention, noticing, love and care. When we treat others hurtfully, whether by ridicule, critisizing, screaming, shaming, blaming or otherwise, we are actually in a desperate cry for help because we are in pain and are hoping to be noticed (heard and seen), but we don’t know how to express our pain – because we are afraid of acknowledging these deep wounds within us. These wounds need to be addressed and healed because otherwise we are just digging our own holes, and the holes of everyone else around us. Whatever you feel is okay, feel it; you need to witness those feelings. The answer is in spiritual development and self-work, and this is our responsibility and decision. I know this answer sucks but there is no other way around it anymore.
As a collective, we’ve become robotic, apathetic, materialistic and disconnected. When judging and reactive doing are so immediate nowadays, may we rather focus on listening, understanding, learning, helping and contributing. To love and unite in a hateful, divided world is a privilege.
Raising our voice against injustice is much needed and purposeful, but we need to complement this with our conscious actions to contribute to a better world, to unite, helping out one another even when no one is watching. I have zero tolerance for violence – and I don’t care in what bow wrap someone delivers it to me, naming it “justice”, “freedom” or whatever. Violence is violence, and that’s that – zero tolerance on my part. When we walk outside to do something, we need to tune into ourselves and be clear what is our true intention, or are we just falling into someone else’s narrative.
On the basis of colour, gender, culture, class and religion, much suffering has been imposed, much blood has been given and too many lives have been taken away throughout history. And still the problems endure; based on prejudice, greed, discrimination and biases, the same problems continue. We must understand and remember, that as long as we continue to separate ourselves from one another, and from nature itself, we will not change out human nature and move towards union. The answer is that we need to be more conscious towards everything in our lives; we need to evolve our human consciousness. We can’t think that we can hurt wildlife but we’ll be kind to human beings. If I hurt animals, then hurting humans will be followed not long after. It is all interconnected as one consciousness. The way we treat one form of life, is a direct reflection of how we’ll treat another, the moment it doesn’t align to our conditioned belief or “frame” anymore. Because once there is selective equality in our heart, this will flow into all else. Protests, riots, news and social media squares will go away, and then what? Will we forget again?
Human consciousness has to evolve to a more inclusive existence and it is our own responsibility to do this. If in our minds we are still selectively separating one form of life from another – unity will be impossible. This is our problem; that we are moved by one cruelty and not by another, that if it happens to “you” it’s not cruelty but if it happens to me (or someone/something that I like), it’s cruelty. This is what attachment means; that we are selectively entangled and caring, rather than equally caring and empathic towards life itself. Like Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” We have to learn to respect all forms of life. We have to learn to respect all creatures and all human beings. We have to learn to respect one another’s existence and authenticity, even when it doesn’t align with our beliefs.
Our sensitivity, tenderness, empathy and respect should be towards life itself – and not selectively towards one person or one problem. Equanimity starts from within and then expands beyond the conditioned frames.
Every living being and human being, is unique unto itself. For any relationship to work there must be three elements: silence, respect and sharing. Silence enables us to listen and to experience another as they truly are. Respect teaches us equanimity towards all other life forms, and to never take more than is needed. Sharing teaches us how to live together, in union, because we are all interconnected and interdependent on one another.
We also need to remember to shift our eyes towards those whose voices aren’t so loud, whose stories are hidden in the back alleys; the humble marginalized ones, who are offline and unreported. We need to shift our eyes away from the grand show-makers and see just how much our collective actions are impacting the quiet ones in the corners. Witness their eyes and see how they are being affected by a situation. Truly seeing someone is a beautiful purposeful thing. It can change a life.
We need to have the freedom to be able to find our individuality even in a room full of people, or within a common frame. Many of us grow up split inside because we don’t accept ourselves for who we truly are, and then endure even more wounds of our sense of true self from our childhood, youth and environments.
And yet within the frame: you and I are of one integrated whole consciousness, observing and experiencing itself through the infinite points of contact of the human collective. We witness each other and the world’s crippled states, face to face, eye in eye. We can’t look away from the inhumane treatments of one another and yet we must also understand that our own choices, even those made in the name of freedom and justice, can inflict pain and harm to others. Negative externalities is a term we use in impact investing and social entrepreneurship – which means that even when we introduce a great program of positive high impact to alleviate poverty or relieve other social issues, we need to re-evaluate consistently how it is affecting all else and all others within the community or region.
As humans we are individuals, with our own minds and bodies and hearts. Our blood is unique but can also be symbolic and poetic, like the red thread. And yet it can be very physical, like our DNA; blood can save a life, birth a life or send us to jail.
Ultimately, our bodies expose a truth worth remembering: that we are both the victim and perpetrator of our own reality.
And we are somewhere in the middle, disembodied and yet completely embodied.
According to psychologists, little children wake up in the middle of the night not to see whether we’re there, but to see if they’re there. And it is the repeatedness of this that assures them of their existence. That’s how the world works: repeatedness becomes reality and identity. Maybe that’s why it’s so hard not to repeat history.
And here we are, seen, because of a frame. Formed perhaps because of the experience of our own formation. And that’s how the stories begin. We are born and start forming. And perhaps shape is our understanding.
Themes, ideas and images, all live within the formed walls of our body. I understand that it is almost annoying for us to believe that our self-questioning, doubts, fears and limitations, all have their roots in the lack of cuddles and bedtime stories before the age of four. But maybe it is precisely this acknowledgement and acceptance, that will allow us to be more intentional, aware and conscious, when we weave auras of affection, love and compassion around children, and around one another – because it is never too late.
Social media squares and news shocks can’t change human nature. It is what we do offline, with the choices we make, every day, when no one is watching, that creates a change. It is our formations that come into existence as shaping power, and then project onto others. Our nurturing and our form-making ability is one to be treasured and properly understood, so that we live a more conscious life; one, not of rigid forms, but of continuity of existence, of humaneness and humanity.
Our greatest form making ability is our imagination and opening of our perceptions, which leads to expansion of consciousness. Like one of my most favourite film directors, David Lynch said:
“If you have a golf-ball-sized consciousness, when you read a book, you’ll have a golf-ball-sized understanding; when you look out a window, a golf-ball-sized awareness, when you wake up in the morning, a golf-ball-sized wakefulness; and as you go about your day, a golf-ball-sized inner happiness. But if you can expand that consciousness, make it grow, then when you read about that book, you’ll have more understanding; when you look out, more awareness; when you wake up, more wakefulness; as you go about your day, more inner happiness.”
Physical matter if zoomed long enough, is vibration and energy; a rhythmic play of different sounds. It exists in what seems as silent and invisible. But it isn’t.
In an age where everything is becoming increasingly dehumanized, people are separated and forced into non-people soon to be robots or algorithms, and where even “culture and art” seem to diminish our life as opposed to enriching it, we need to remember our ability to love, and the values of humanity and humaneness; because we all came from one.
My entire blog, Art of Love, is based on a simple philosophy: Our greatest adversary to re-claiming our power is forgetfulness; forgetting our heart, inner truth and ability to love. While “love” is a word greatly overused, it is even more greatly misunderstood; for love is a verb, not a noun. And love is about acceptance; accepting our beingness and uniqueness. The greatest gift is settling into who we truly are. And the meaning of our form is what we do with its shape.
One body. Then, another. Together, in a frame and within it, all else in the wombed room. One love.
Remember who you are. Connect deeply to your heart and expand your perceptions. Choose love and build a fortress of trust around it. Settle into higher faith. Develop your virtues.
May we remember being human(e).
In love, faith + peace
Photography is by Canadian artist Aleksandar Antonijevic. I went to his exhibit “Voyage Into The Sacred Harbour” in 2016 and these are my photos from opening night. The artist explores the simplicity of the human body as its ultimate sophistication.
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