“Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.”
― Frank Zappa
I am leaving for Spain this weekend. I’ll be making stops in Madrid, Sevilla, Cordoba, Granada and finally Barcelona to meet up with a girlfriend. In preparation for my trip, I have chosen to post something I have grown accustom to in the last twenty years here in Seattle and the surrounding areas. Native art has not, until recently, been interesting to me. However, my tastes have changed dramatically and now I think it powerful and beautiful all at once.
“A Native American elder once described his own inner struggles in this manner: Inside of me there are two dogs. One of the dogs is mean and evil. The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog all the time. When asked which dog wins, he reflected for a moment and replied, The one I feed the most.”
– George Bernard Shaw
“So, please, oh please, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away, and in its place you can install, a lovely bookcase on the wall.”
– Roald Dahl
This photograph is of Bauhaus Coffee in the neighborhood of Capitol Hill in Seattle. It’s housed in an old run-down building. I don’t particularly care for Capitol Hill, but I love the coffee and feel at Bauhaus. Many years ago Capitol Hill was this great place to be and I truly loved the energy; a neighborhood full of artists, alternative thinkers, old run down buildings and people who made you want to stare at them in shock. Nowadays its full of young yuppies, college bound partiers, clubs and the old interesting buildings are being torn down for something new and contemporary – like the cool building that houses Bauhaus.
I’m not sure where Bauhaus will go, but it wont’ be in the high-rent newer building that will be taking its place. Most of the artists I know have fled and are filtering into the next area of town that in a few years, they’ll not be able to afford and again move on. And so goes the city life… You see, it’s the artists that choose the next “it” neighborhood…without even trying.
“Everyone has to scratch on walls somewhere or they go crazy”
– Michael Ondatje
I spent part of my morning on Capital Hill in Seattle chatting with a friend while enjoying both her and the atmosphere at Bau Haus Coffee. I know it’s über trendy and all and typically I avoid such places, but I gotta say, they have damn fine coffee and the art and books made me feel like I was in my own house. Okay, I’m sold – just this once I’ll frequent the trend….damnit.
I also tend to have a small fascination with graffiti. Not the graffiti that has no real meaning mind you, but the words people feel they need to share with the world on the bathroom wall or likewise. I wonder how many other people have lingered on the pot for a few minutes after piddling, just to finish reading the wall….or was that just me?
Recently I was on a flight from Seattle to San Diego. I rarely board an airplane early (typically preferring to board last). However, for some odd reason (and I forget why) I found myself to be one of the first people on board. I took my window seat, fished out my book and relaxed during the boarding process.
Not long afterward a woman sat down in the aisle seat across from me. She didn’t smile, didn’t move out of the aisle while taking her magazine and water out of her bag and when the person behind her said, “excuse me” so as to pass her, she ignored him, rolled her eyes a bit and at her own pace put her duffel bag overhead. She also placed her yoga mat overhead. I began watching her. She wore a tee shirt that said YOGA on it and the magazine she was reading was International Yoga. She must’ve sensed her being watched and when she looked over to me I simply smiled back at her. She didn’t return the smile and instead turned her attention to her magazine.
The plane began to fill. The flight attendant on board then approached the woman and politely asked if she would consider moving a few seats back so that a family could possibly sit together. The woman/yogi respond with a curt, “No. I paid for this specific seat. Find someone else.” The flight attendant, without responding to her rudeness moved on to the next row (where the people graciously agreed to switch seats for the family.) I closed my eyes and shook my head to myself – sad.
I wondered how a woman who so blatantly advertised to the world that she is a yogi could be so callous and rude to everyone around her. Her hypocrisy really bothered me. I once knew a man who wore either a Caduceus (wasn’t Mercury a protector?) or a Shiva pendant around his neck every day, had a collection of spiritual figurines in his home and was well versed in the yoga sutras and philosophy. However that same man, when asked by an old man to help him move his car on the street of Rome, ignored the man and walked away; refusing to help a senior citizen. Although his Caduceus dangled around his neck he held little compassion in his heart. The man I was with wasn’t a bad man altogether, he had just become so conditioned to say no to those on the street, asking for help. And who else was the old gent going to ask for help in protecting his car then someone advertising their spirituality? We all come across rude and unhappy people on an almost daily basis; and personally I am rarely put off by them: but, when someone announces to the world that they are a Yogi, a Christian, a Buddhist, a Taoist, a fill-in-the-blank-here….and then behaves as such a hypocrite – I want to cry.
How many times have I seen people advertising their faiths with tee shirts, crosses around their necks, WWJD bands, OM pendants, Mandala beads, spiritual tattoos, Shiva bracelets and such, only to watch them put down, strike out and otherwise ignore the humanity around them? Why is it that there is a need to market our beliefs anyway? And, if we choose to market them shouldn’t we hold ourselves to a certain standard towards our own social graces. Perhaps we have simply been taught false advertising. Even when it comes to advertising our beliefs and core values.
In no way am I stating that I have not been hypocritical in my life. I most certainly have. There were times that I have asked of those around me something I was incapable of giving back to them and so on. At one time I called myself a vegetarian and continued to eat fish; a hypocritical act. However, although I have been hypocritical myself, I have never once announced to the world that I practice yoga, believe in the serenity of Buddhism and so on, only to then denigrate those I had held myself to a higher standard to. Also, I have always shied away from advertising my beliefs for some reason. I’ve always felt that words never go so far as deeds I guess.
Maybe we are all just looking for something to belong to. Perhaps we hope that one day we can live up to the standards we advertise with our words, wear on our shirts, our necks, our arms and our hands. But in the meantime….is it so hard to just give up our seat to a family…or help an old man move his car??…
Anne Lamott once wrote, “You get your intuition back when you make space for it, when you stop the chattering of the rational mind. The rational mind doesn’t nourish you. You assume that it gives you the truth, because the rational mind is the golden calf that this culture worships, but this is not true. Rationality squeezes out much that is rich and juicy and fascinating.”
There were times, even entire years, that I have ignored her – my intuition. Once in a while, however, I would listen and She would reward me with warmth and ease, while other times I considered her my foe, deeming her incompetent. She would scream at me and I would scream back in argument. She would jolt my stomach, a warning to be weary, and I would swallow an antacid. If She created a storm of apprehension, I would put on a raincoat and galoshes and fare the weather of emotions like some great sea-captain. Some months back my cup was emptied. I lay broken on the shower floor and She softly reminded me, via a whisper, that She had told me so.
I conceded that day and we’ve become close, She and I. While I’ve agreed to heed her warnings as well as embrace the signs of encouragement and wonder, She has agreed to leave my stomach be and cease all storms. My willingness to finally acknowledge, as well as listen and feel her, has reaped many beautiful new friendships, opportunities and artistic endeavors.
As I make my travel list for my six-week working vacation in Verona, Italy this September, I find myself leaning on her simple art of knowing more and more. There are many other places I’d like to visit, however She moves me once again towards Italy. While transferring the money to my Italian landlord to secure my apartment today I was struck at just how easy it was to commit to. Although there have been many times that my rational mind sets out like a gun for hire to thwart my plans, I find he always misses the mark and she prevails as the more intelligent of the two. As money to pay for my trip appears and co-workers step up and offer to cover my work while away, I am reminded of just how universal She really is.
Since my decision to embark on an extended working vacation in Verona, and through my listening to her, I have since made friends with an amazingly gifted artist living in Seattle who happens to have grown up in Verona, Italy. She will in fact be staying on Lake Como in just a few short weeks. Yet another new friend has introduced me via email to a wonderful couple my own age living in Verona who have already opened their dinner table for me with open arms. Even my parents, who haven’t been to Italy in years, are looking forward to a bringing my teenage sons for a week-long visit and letting me show them, my family, the country as well. I’ve offered my second bedroom to a few friends; and I do believe they both are making their own travel plans as I write this. I assume if they all listen to their own “She” then it’ll be just as easy for them as it’s been for me and their own gun for hires dressed as “rationality” will be thwarted as well….