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"We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us."
This quote by Charles Bukowski (American writer 1920-1994) informs my week so I pass it on to you, dear reader. Many of Bukowski's bold poems and fictions dare us to search and reveal our "authentic" selves, raw spirits, to unfetter our unique creativity. Even his titles demand our attention: "War All the Time" or "Pleasures of the Damned", "Hot Water Music", "The Captain is Out to Lunch and the Sailors have Taken Over the Ship" and "Tales of Ordinary Madness" to name just a few. He did not write to shock, he wrote to express his particular experience of life and describe those parts of urban USA/LA that most were too timid to expose. Charles Bukowski was considered at the time, an 'underground writer', but he walked the streets and called out pretense, posturing and depravity. When he writes of living our lives "well", he implies both living our lives fully and living our lives on the right path. He praised those who braved pain. "What matters most is how well you walk through the fire," Bukowski wrote, reminding us to take risks, to persevere, to face the fires of life.
There are many types of 'fire' and fire fights these days. There have been attacks in many parts of the world reported this week. On a macro scale it is difficult to discern what the real motives of the attackers were/are. There are a number of narratives spun through media. What truly happened? Who are these people actually? How are the photos, videos, interviews and text constructed to engineer reaction, opinion, follow on? Is what is 'credible' legitimate and genuine? It appears the word 'investigation' is used as a stall for the public more than a vigilant course of action. It is often easier to dismiss most of the reports in much of the media as "fake" news.
Who is sincere in their proclamations whether it be to claim 'solidarity and brotherhood' with a cause or people, or to robustly condemn an action-very hard to tell these days, but one spokesperson I never trust is Linda Sarsour, who does a complete about face on her spouting of hatred for Israel, her support of violent Islamist leaders and organizations for a photo op and speech professing "love" on behalf of her position as the leader of MPower Change. She makes sure all the media knows she will do this in front of the Pittsburgh synagogue, during their vigil on Sunday. Is this an authentic change of heart, mind, political position? Her lengthy history of Antisemitism makes such an action unlikely at best. For more documentation read the article linked here: www.investigativeproject.org/7678/pittsburgh-synagogue-massacre-exposes-sarsour-two
Even on an individual level do we ask ourselves when an opinion forms in our mind or a condemnation passes from our brains to our mouths....is this really me or is this just me repeating someone else's judgement? Are we conscious of how our thoughts originate? Do we have a foundation of our authentic selves not a script played from images we ingested via all types of media? Are we still capable of allowing our emotions, feelings, perceptions to evolve without self censorship? Have we discovered who we are apart from the constructs, ambitions and repressions of our families, our employers, our religious affiliations, our national identity stereotypes? Do we ever let the mask(s) drop anymore?!
Do you remember that last time you did something that was completely spontaneous and your own idea? Can you recall when you spoke your original thoughts freely? I hope you do. My hope for you is if you were with someone else, that she/he/they responded in a way that validated your means of expression, whether it was singing aloud, speaking, dancing, drawing, running, designing, weeping, shouting, rolling about in the sand, down a hill, between the sheets, in the mud, on a mat, leaping, carousing, meditating, protecting, gathering, stretching, creating a new recipe, planting a tree, swimming out into the waters, diving beneath them, or cradling a child, playing like a child, wondering with open eyes. I am not speaking of material actions-spontaneous purchases, spontaneous twitter comments for recognition, spontaneous driving, or of swearing indiscriminately, criminal impulses or imbibing, ingesting substances that cloud or destroy your authenticity.
I am writing about unwrapping a hidden self or part of one's personality perhaps even one's soul, about having the courage to uncover it to yourself and in the company of other human beings. By unequivocally allowing the adventure of self discovery and capabilities to reach deeper/higher levels we add to the resonate music of the spheres, the energies of truth in the universe. To do this you have to confront your fears, to be not afraid of who you truly are, of what actually happened in your life, of what you may have done you do not wish to face, of what you really dream about doing, about your potential competencies, about loving wholeheartedly, about telling and revealing the truth. Our courage in doing this forms resilience and authenticity which can resist powers of imposed conformity which aim to re-make us, to counterfeit the human beings we are meant to be in our short lives. Be aware-once you find your authentic self you may experience forceful push back from those who are fearful of your truth, your power, your spirit and your bravery.
IF you are fortunate enough to have at least one person in your life who rejoices and reinforces the authentic "you", who re-directs you when you doubt yourself and bolsters you against those who seek to tear you down or plaster over your true self with another persona they want to be with; then so much more is possible. The most arduous struggle is to do this all alone in life. Although a profound belief in God or a Divine guidance may maintain you in times of struggle and confusion, being a human being on this Earth requires at least some affirming, actual contact with other human beings from time to time, ideally with those who speak your own language.
My paternal grandparents were my greatest mentors and advocates in my formative life. They were also the most vivid, remarkable (and what some outsiders might label "eccentric") people I knew. My grandmother encouraged in her children, her students and her family-original thinking, attention to causation, observation and the value of cultivating spiritual discipline. She easily broke out into song in a number of languages, could dance until the end of her life and was openly affectionate to those who deserved her hugs and vigorous kisses. My grandfather was staunchly outspoken, a warrior against injustice, an avid reader with a most expressive voice, laughter and discerning eye. He was not a big man, but I saw him go up against much larger men including the Gambino family members who at one point lived next door. He used his words and his wit as his weapons most of the time, but he wasn't afraid to jump into a fray if need be. He loved generously and when he married my grandmother readily adopted my father and his sister. He was a wonderful grandfather to us all. He tended his garden himself till the end of his life. Grandpa Peter often repeated to me in a voice with a grave tone: "Evil flourishes when good men do nothing," and he would urge me to ask myself when a decision was called for, "What is the right thing to do? Do it because it is the right thing to do, not just the expedient thing to do."
They were vital people, speaking with their hands and their bodies not just their mouths, they were my greatest fans, sometimes driving hours to see me at an event, at a graduation ceremony, speaking at a conference or performing onstage. I was their first grandchild and received the most time from them in their younger years. They urged me to use my "God given talents", to develop and refine my skills even if they might not earn me money. They also reminded me there are "no guarantees in life". You could "do all the right things, meet all the right people, go into a respectable profession and still your life could be miserable."
My grandparents were tremendously proud to be Americans and proud of their Sicilian/Italian/Sardinian heritage. They never saw a conflict with their layered ancestry or tried to be "the Anglos". They articulated their strong opinions in private and questioned why I held some opinions I did. They urged debate and civility and the chessboard was never far away from the dining room table. They lived through the Great Depression and the second world war, through sudden deaths of family members at a young age, through prejudice against them, financial hardship and as victims of crime. Luckily for me, they were a formidable team, united in love until the very end of their fully lived lives. They were "characters", unique, memorable, not able to be replicated and never easily swayed to do or say anything they felt would endanger their family or their integrity. For the sake of peace at family meals one of them would caution, "No talking politics at the dinner table!" since there were different party allegiances and perspectives on issues within our own and extended family. My grandparents would often comment that swearing and/or using foul language just meant you had "a very limited vocabulary" and therefore "a very limited way of thinking."
Below I have included 2 photos with my grandparent(s) in their later years: 1) at my graduation from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. 2) Visiting my grandfather after the death of my grandmother-Gertrude Inez Ziniti Patti Munisteri and the lst birthday of my son, Denali-in Brooklyn, New York, 1989. Unfortunately I never was able to see him alive again since we lived overseas. Peter Pino Munisteri died in 1994. He was in his late eighties and was still living independently before he passed on.
We did not take many photos in those days and I do not have photos digitalized of my grandparents when they were younger, but the kinesthetic contact I had over decades with them is imprinted in my memories. I still hear their words and remember their reactions in regard to discussing teaching strategies, on how to listen to music carefully and on ways to analyze texts and motives. My grandfather was especially direct and unafraid of calling out anyone he considered "a phony". My grandmother was a scientist with a sharp eye and a diplomat's demeanor-an uncommon combination. Each of them was "one of a kind".
With surveillance in most public places a fact of life, with 'eyes and ears' in the skies, on the streets, embedded in our appliances and tools for communication; an evolution is taking place. The 'tech iron masks' are self imposed by many people. They have been successfully 'socially engineered' , particularly in regard to their relationship and time spent on social media. They can now 'create themselves' in accord with social media "permissible" algorithms. "Look at the socially constructed 'me' will you?!", is the new cry for attention and approval in cyber space.
If anyone decides to express a viewpoint outside the parameters of corporate/political 'correctness'-they will be 'deleted' online. They will be effectively erased from wider social networks. Analytical algorithms will relegate them as non-conforming-and "disappear them" much as regimes from history in various parts of the world found a way to "eliminate undesirables" from their populations. For some, it will be as if they never even 'existed' once they have been de-platformed. This is already happening to hundreds of "pages and sites", every week. The protests against this have been anemic so far. Why aren't more people, especially in the "west" standing up to this heinous phenomenon? Could it be we are already bowed down in submission to the technocracy, machines and artificial intelligences (AI) we have created?
Authentic connection, human to human, is becoming a rarity.
Closing tonight by including a link to a video of the late, fully expressive, authentic Yemeni/Israeli singer, Ofra Haza. She sings the Kaddish soulfully and offers a prayer for the whole world which is sadly appropriate, especially this week in the USA, a place which used to be known as a safe refuge for so many peoples, but especially for Jewish people. www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hQ0OkcLKuE
Until next week,