On Leadership

I think the gift for collaboration is the dividing marker between “success” and “failure” especially now with our highly social, collaborative Millenial generation, although Gen X and Gen Y are also obsessively social and needy in their pursuit of collaboration. So it appears to me, an aging Boomer with a decidedly “inner directed” personality and character. I was, am and always have been a highly quirky individualist with a flair and a gift for creativity, and an absolute horror of groups and collaborative ventures. Groups drive me crazy. What I have observed, and has been corroborated by science and observation, is that the best leaders are the best liars. Erich Fromm writes eloquently about the ethical considerations of modern men and women.

One of the decidedly noticable facets of many “leaders” and professional collaborators is their singular inability to contemplate death. The vast majority of leaders do nothing to explore the mystery of life and death, at least publically, and thus they deny the essential existential quality of being human. Their unwillingness to carry the contradiction to fruition or at least to the public domain, has meant that leadership is largely a game of denial and expository bullshit that is meant to assuage the fears and anxiety of the masses. Leaders, and groups under their augis develop a large cultural and societal groupthink mentality that encourages desperation, confusion and anxiety. No wonder we are an anxious society! With all the technogolical advances and medical progress we are still unable to stop killing one another in large and small numbers, we are unable to help people who are systemically incarcerated in large warehouses called jails and prisons, we cannot educate our children to think critically, solve problems, generate love and compassion and work for the greater good, we cannot celebrate creativity without exploiting it and numbing its rough edges, we cannot find and elect leaders who are individual, iconoclastic and challenging.

Our nationwide and worldwide docility will be the cause of the human species’ demise.

The problem of leadership exists because in the present day (20th-21st centuries) being a leader starts at the playground level–those chosen for leadership are usually the “tactful” ones whose ability to numb themselves or hide themselves from “debilitating” feelings and excessive compassion for the underdog selects them as suitable leaders–thus leaders are born, bred and schooled from youth onwards. And it continues on to adulthood where playground leaders become lying politicians and corporate grabbers without a conscience.

Because of this, we have people who have little or no understanding or compassion for others making decisions for large numbers of people. The gift for collaboration means that one’s “own” creative impulse gets shattered, watered down or absorbed by the group. There is no sense of accomplishment outside of a groupthink mentality. Dave Eggars latest book “Circle” explores this groupthink mentality in detail–it’s an excellent book. The bottom line is that groupthink is the death of original thought and action. It is always the outsider, the iconoclast, the weirdo, (often the people we reject and shame) that comes up with a direction toward a new paradigm for life on earth, Collaboration is only necessary for survival on the most base level–we need our staunch individualistic “inner directed” loners to come up with new pathways.

We are a dissatisfied, anxious and restless civilization. Part of this is because those who could and are willing to lead us to greater awareness remain marginalized from the central core of decision-making power. The Dalai Lama, Pema Chodrun, Ajahn Brahm, Eckhart Tolle–they all have a large following but none of their followers are willing to take the consciousness to the streets, the halls of the senate or board rooms of wall street. Perhaps it will become necessary for the streets, the senate and boardroom to be annhilated before real change can take place. Perhaps it will be necessary for anxiety and restlessness to become horror and pain on a mass scale before humankind can evolve.

In any case both our present and our future requires courageous leadership that has the ability to stand against the tide and make room for new ways of thinking, being and doing. This will require a huge leap of faith for the masses who are largely angry, confused and faithless. I do not know if this is possible, quite honestly. Sometimes I feel that we are a species that is doomed. Everything is born, lives and dies. Planets die, solar systems die, stars die, galaxies die, in Hindu teachings even the Universe has a birth and death cycle! I am thinking that we are now on the front lines of observing the human species dying. No wonder Stephen Hawking is pushing for us to colonize other planets! He knows we’re time-lived here on earth–suffocating ourselves by destroying the forests that absorb our carbon dioxide and emit oxygen, decimating our habitat, wildlife and plants, poisoning our systems with terrible non-food posing as food, killing each other in huge numbers–warfare, accidents, shootings–all signs of a civilization disintegrating from the outside in and the inside out.

As the Hindus call it, Kali Yuga.

Hindus believe that human civilization degenerates spiritually during the Kali Yuga,[8] which is referred to as the Dark Age because in it people are as far away as possible from God. Hinduism often symbolically represents morality (dharma) as a bull. In Satya Yuga, the first stage of development, the bull has four legs, but in each age morality is reduced by one quarter. By the age of Kali, morality is reduced to only a quarter of that of the golden age, so that the bull of Dharma has only one leg.[9][10]

Hawking is pushing for colonization for another reason: the aggressive development scientists are undergoing with Artificial Intelligence. Of course the species with the Big Brain wants a challenge and the current big challenge is to design another beng that has all the capabilities of humans! Haha. Kind of God-playing mentality I suppose. Hawking said AI will be the end of the human species. Of course they will program this new species with a strong survival mechanism and we all know where that leads! AI will learn to destroy anything that threatens its own survival! I think we can easily compare this to how the Indigenous populations of North and South America felt when the white men from Europe came down in hordes with their “manifest destiny” mandate, their hubris, their arrogant self righteous power complex and their cruel disregard of the intuitive side of life and completely decimated their civilization in about 200 years. AI will decimate us imperfect humans in 20 years or less.

We’d better find space colonies soon. For us oldsters, we will be gone, but younger generations will be in the thick of this. Unless something else happens, like earthquakes on the fault lines, subsequent tsunamies, mass droughts, climate related catastrophies that destroy huge numbers of people etc. Any way necessary Gaia will create balance, but we may be the sacrifice in the bargain. Other species will have a go at intelligence and perhaps, for a while, they will do better than we did.

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A Departure

I will be looking at you as you were when you were six
small hands, cute little rounded body
long wavy blond hair before it would grow frizzy and african
in the teenage years
(if you had been a teen).
I will be wishing to grab you
and make you mine
just a little longer
hold you in the sphere of my arms
forever
whichever forever comes first,
but forever might be lazy.

I will be doing all of that
when I transmute this day into
something else.
But I will not be doing that now
today or never ever–
because The Man, The Father
has come into the room
in his irritating silent way of power
to ask if I am ready.

I am never ready so I wait.
I am silent
so is he
there is no talk
as I stand in the middle of your room.
Your bed signals me–a wave, a nod
I crawl into your sheets
to hide there.
Bury my face in your smell
roll in your body
that was just there the other day.

This day will never happen.

I will tell The Man, the Father, the Husband
that.
He won’t understand
that this day will not happen.

just as soon as I find my voice
I am telling him.
I would have told him before.
But only silence ticks out of my throat
like those birds that suddenly
decamp to the sky at dusk
devoid of sound
you look
they are gone.
I am the silent dusk birds
and you
The Father
are not here.

But The Father touches my arm
and says in such a voice that makes
a ripping sound. I come open like
a cracked egg.
“It’s time.”

I will be biking along that path in campus
that we love by the well and then
to the Student Union where you will
take fistfuls of water in your mouth
from the fountain. You are five.
I will lounge on the great tufted couch
in the Ladies Room while you lounge
on the floor with one of the books
we just bought at the bookstore.

I will do all those things.

But first, I will tell The Man, The Father
what I know.

“She is not dead.”
“I know,” he will say, in another world, another time.
I will abide and wait
because you will come back to me.
My baby, baby.
Only one baby.
Oh dear–

You will not be nine again, will you?
You will not be mine again, will you?

 

 

A Poem or A Heart Attack

A Poem or a Heart Attack

©2015 Allison Fine

April

1.

The shadows play differently now

I am not feeling the cruelty Eliot

Told me about—

Gentle air has replaced the deep, cold edges

Of March.

Bench-wise, park-wise, I am still

As many pass by in the little park.

old woman with a cane

young boy on a skate board

girl and boy in love—her skirt is short

he’s talking all the time

her hair is green

middle aged man snoozes on the grass

I sip coffee listening to “Indy Folk” on Spotify.

One lone bird in a tree says ‘hello’

I say ‘hello’.

I told them spring would be better.

I was right.

Yet sadness, slowness settles in

From the where when soft wind wails

I want to leave

But can’t.

2.

no leaves yet

ground still

too hard for digging.

My tree talks in low tones:

Don’t Go

the bush with white flowers

tempts me:

oh dear, she says, I am pretty.

Yes you are, I tell her back.

that big gray cat

says hello.

Hello yourself.

People on this street live nice lives

I think.

it’s not so bad but

I don’t know. When summer comes

I’ll find out.

  1. does not

that old woman does not like me—

her stare is on the edge of “fuck off”

but

she navigates the sidewalk

across the street

and

gone.

Cuban.

Her son was homeless

Then he died, a drug addict.

She will never forget him

As a baby

Wriggling in her lap

Crying for daddy.

The forgetting tree sways

But does not break.

She walks slowly—I want

To help

But her bag swings

On her back.

It, too, shouts go away.

  1. the street

empty store fronts

graffiti

restaurants and bars,

doggie day care

McDonald’s

the sunrise grocery that never has anything

the shelves often empty,

Pay Half closed—fashion for the poor no more—

Some shoe place with leggings on booties in front

Tropical optical (hopeful title, that)

Three cell phone stores

The Gap Outlet

A couple of banks

The new gym

A Thai fast food

A laundry (now closed and Out of Business)

Some trendy little eateries with

Artisanal this and that

Intelligentsia where you can get an exotic cuppa

For $8.00,

Hipsters, Oldsters, poor, trendy, up and coming,

Middle class, no class,

Two jewelry stores and

A suspicious music store

Someone says is a drug front,

A new smoke and inhaling shop

HUH?

The square

The Park

The Monument

Apartments

Condos

My world.

 

Quinoa

Photo on 2-10-15 at 3.01 PMI entitled this blog Quinoa for absolutely no reason. Just because I feel like it. And I do like Quinoa!

I really just want to riff on some thoughts. It’s been a long while since I posted–months and months–almost a year. Hardly anything in 2014. Perhaps the internal process has sucked me into a vortex and I simply didn’t have the desire to share the signposts I was passing as I fell through the Rabbit Hole. And good thing, too. Those signposts are just that–signs on posts–signifying nothing but colors along the way. I have now landed (somewhat) in Wonderland so I have a moment to look up before I start meeting the strange characters I am bound to meet. These days the characters I meet are aspects of myself and we are engaging in interesting dialogue.

There is a lot of talk about ageism these days. But I am saying, so what? It is nothing new really. Our culture is really terrified of death and letting go of the little ego and all its attachments and that’s where it stems from. People who are young and still in the “game” so to speak don’t want the presence of elders to muck up their delusion and illusions, that’s all. Yes, Madonna looked terrible at the grammy’s and her dancing was atrocious. And while I am a playful woman at 66, tinging my hair with purple and wearing colorful outrageous clothing, for me it is a play–I am a character in my own play and everything around me is the scenery–it is not a bid to get accepted by the cultural social zeitgeist–it is just my art form. As a writer, actor and musician I am not a visual artist, so I express my visual sense and love of color in the clothes and makeup I choose to wear. It’s for myself, really, and if others like it or not, I really am not concerned.

I understand my age and stage of life and I am receptive to life as it is, not as I would like it to be. However, that said, we creative elders would love the opportunity to collaborate with young people in the creative process, however we are not being invited to do this, and that is what Annie Lennox is really talking about when she says:

“There’s this youth culture that is really, really powerful and really, really strong, but what it does is it really discards people once they reach a certain age. I actually think that people are so powerful and interesting – women, especially – when they reach my age. We’ve got so much to say, but popular culture is so reductive that we just talk about whether we’ve got wrinkles, or whether we’ve put on weight or lost weight, or whether we’ve changed our hair style. I just find that so shallow.”–Annie Lennox, 

I think she and I would love to see a cross generation collaboration based on creativity and excitement about life–one that disregards age, race, religion or creed. However, I have 6 years on Ms. Lennox so I’ve had 6 years in my 60’s to come to terms with how others in my culture perceive me and how I perceive myself. There is certainly a huge disconnect.

I love being around young people–the very very little ones I coach once a week at the after school programs where I am a volunteer. One is on the South side:( http://www.betterboys.org/) The Better Boys Foundation–a wonderful place where kids can go to be creative, safe and challenged all at the same time, where my out-of-the-box diversity is totally accepted along with everyone else’s, and the other is 826 Chicago, Dave Eggars outfit, where young 20-somethings and 30-somethings and I connect while we teach/reach/excite kids of all ages. 826 is a program for young people in the Chicago schools emphasizing reading and creative writing. All these opportunities have opened me up in ways I need to be opened up.

Most of all I am learning, at this late stage of life, to accept myself as I am, to accept others as they are, and to utilize play as a connecting point.

However Annie Lennox is a pop artist and singer and what she is mourning is exactly what I mourned when I landed here in Chi-land way back in 2008 at age 59. I was in fantasy land. I envisioned myself jumping in feet first into the art-music-theatre-film-writing community and getting all excited with collaborating on new projects and great new ideas. I had SO MUCH TO OFFER! I thought. I had just finished my MFA at age 58! I was filled with the puffed up hubris of the knight returned! I had gone out hunting for 12 years and coming back with the Holy Grail–writing, a canon of work, music, performance and the great experience of having survived the trenches of Grad School and Sundance and living in the mountains of the west! OH MY OH MY–I was the Wizard of Oz who would lead the artistic youth of Chicago on an exciting journey through Wonderland–and excuse me for mixing Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz references in one sentence!

The youthful and soon-to-be middle aged artists of Chicago quickly put me in my place. And with a vengeance.

I was thrown back onto my own resources.

It has taken me 7 years of internal work to understand, to release, to comprehend, to embrace and to accept. Things are different. We don’t have integrated ages working together in the commercial art world right now. Elders are to be seen and not heard–and sometimes we’d rather we didn’t see them either. Only 24% of the Chicagoans don’t own a car and rely solely on public transport–buses and trains–to travel. I am one of this minority. Who do I see on the buses? The poor, the infirm, the sick, and the old. Trains carry young professionals to and from downtown, but it is on the buses that one sees what is really happening at the ground level in our city–there are many, many elders who are disabled and poor and many who are mobile and poor and many young people with children who are working and poor.

That reality has changed my outlook. I am no longer obsessed with the art community accepting me as an equal artist. I am concerned with being an advocate for the disenfranchised of our culture and that group is growing larger every single day.

I am concerned with saying YES to my experience moment to moment, no matter what that experience is.

And I will do it with purple hair!

Gray Tones

You might have come here for just a year
thinking
one year and I’m out again
to the great adventure of
Life.
But you got stuck
you couldn’t leave,
money gone
jobs dried up
you got old
you got sick
you let your hair go white.

It;s seven years now.

You watched people in their 40’s
act like kids,
did you do that in your 40’s?
You wondered.
You might have had too many kids
at home back. then.
Perhaps you try different clothes
and make up and hair styles
and clubs and venues,

But nothing works.
Is it me? you might ask.

Or is it the place?

You’ll never know
because you got stuck.
you cannot leave.
You might dream of going back
west to the mountains but you figure
you could be sad and
lonely
and die there too.

The thought of dying here
frustrates you.
you have made your life so small
it is the size of two rooms.

But if it were bigger,

would it matter?

On Sarcasm

 

 “Sarcastic: scornful, contemptuous, withering, cynical, satiric, ironical, sardonic. See: ridicule; DISRESPECT.”

Roget’s Thesaurus

 I often enjoy and laugh with love or appreciation, at least, when sarcasm and cynicism are expressed by other people—(usually in writing, sometimes in conversation), though rarely when I am having a good talk with a friend or someone I’d like to get to know. As a daily relational expression, it doesn’t work for me. It’s really hard to have a good conversation with someone if they are being sarcastic and you are being sincere. You either have to adopt sarcasm (read: defensiveness) or leave the conversation. It can be annoying.

It’s also mean to be sarcastic with someone who is sincerely trying to share something with you. How far can you get if a friend is sharing her grief over the loss of a boyfriend and you are sarcastically blowing her off with offhanded remarks? She won’t appreciate it unless she believes that somehow your sarcasm is really an expression of how much you care and that this is a sign of how your group operates in the midst of emotional turmoil. At my age and stage in life I find I simply do not have the time to wade through some else’s hidden motivations in the midst of conversation. I’d like to feel their support up front, not have to guess by picking through the morass of derisive and caustic reactions. To some this may be delightful. I posit they are predominantly the young. We expect our young to be cynical, it’s their imitation of maturity. As we grow and evolve, the goal is to drop all that baggage. As Robert Bly once said, “we spend the first half of life putting things into the bag and the second half of life taking things out.” We all know how ugly an old sarcastic individual can be. Someone who carries that much armor and defense around at a late stage in life is not an attractive person to witness or be with.

Either way, sarcasm, unless everyone present is being sarcastic, tends to be a conversation killer and a distancing device. I think it comes from FEAR: 1) You fear not being cool so you act like you don’t give a shit about anything 2) You fear the underlying emotions of whatever is being shared or expressed. Either way, sarcasm, to me, kills genuine flow. Unless the parties agree that everyone views life from that POV–sarcastically; derisively, it can really be alienating. I think it also comes from disappointed idealism–people who are always sarcastic are people who have lost hope that things will be better than they are. I am from the Boomer generation and my memories of being young are tied up with tremendous (if misguided) idealism and hope. We really thought we could change the world and make it a better place. We did and did not succeed. The history of the 60’s are filled with triumphs and failures, but I am sure nothing would have been accomplished if we had dismissed the possibility of a better future for ourselves and others with a sarcastic and cynical ennui that excused us from even trying. We were, quite simply, idealists. We were sincere in our self-expression. Some of that sincerity came from being protected and naïve, I grant you that, but we retained a childlike response to life and I cherish that.

I continue to live a life guided by a strong sense of the childlike because that is what keeps my creative process and my artistic impulses flowing. I remember striving always for honesty. I still do. Not just integrity and doing right, but being honest with people in my day-to-day interactions. This past idealism, the hope of our childhood and youth has produced in me and many others of my age the ability to be shocked at the cleverness and cynicism of our politicians and our government, our businesses and our institutions. I know not everyone has honesty and integrity upfront as their guidelines, but the lengths to which people and institutions in power have gone to lie and cheat and steal–the sheer mendacity of their actions–completely blows my mind still, to this day, and I survived Nixon.

The only way to assail this kind of abuse of the human condition is to go at it with scrupulousness, and demand that leaders and businesses and institutions that govern us and control our daily lives come clean about their hidden agendas. I see nothing wrong with that. We cannot do this if we are engaged in derision and contemptuous scorn for life–it must come from a strong and real belief that there is an essential goodness to people and we must demand it from our leaders. Sarcasm is a symptom of a lack of hope– it is dishonest because the person denies real feelings in favor of brushing things off or in favor of appearing uncaring and cool. If you are busy being uncaring and cool you simply don’t have the time or will to unmask the decision-makers, who are way beyond uncaring and cool and have graduated into cruelty, manipulation and destruction.

The danger of sarcasm and cynicism as a daily dose, if practiced for long enough, is that it produces a lack of love and compassion. A young person who sneers at life becomes an elder who manipulates the marketplace and commodifies every piece of information for his or her own gain. Yet I know many compassionate, loving people who are sarcastic. They hide truly wonderful, caring natures and they are often there for people they love in tangible ways, although they would be the last to admit it. However, I do believe that in the midst of being sarcastic and cynical, it is really hard, if not impossible, to also be compassionate and loving simultaneously. The two states are mutually exclusive–sarcasm and compassion. We have to be willing to be tender, to be soft, to be open to ourselves in order to be open to the true nature of another. This takes bravery and courage–a coward never faces pain in himself or someone else.

In the annals of literature, many great writers, whom I have loved and continue to love, expressed an incredibly cynical view of life, but somewhere, somehow, the greats always managed to pull out of this with a character or a sequence that rises above the ordinary defensiveness that human beings have developed to protect themselves from vulnerability.

Vulnerability. That is really the crux of the discussion. I feel that we, as humans, have developed all sorts of elaborate techniques to hide from ourselves and others who we sincerely are: vulnerable humans who are going to die. We are exposed, frail beings who get hurt and lost and fearful and wonder about the meaning of it all. The only recourse against the tide of dismissal is to embrace the acceptance of both the pain and the miracle of life. In doing so we are becoming a part of that miracle and that will activate a new kind of power.

 

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