“If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I am living for, in detail, ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for.”—Thomas Merton
nagging is complaining. negotiating is seeking resolution in order to come to an agreement.
'picking your battles' establishes how you will communicate. the question really is, why does there have to be a battle in the first place? establish a relationship 'team' that can talk about issues and negotiate conflicts- both big and small.
So, this is my final, final, final note on the late, legend, Whitney Houston. I know, most of you are either thinking, “Enough with the Whitney commentary,” or, “Wait, Jason, you havent said anything about her yet.” No I haven’t , but I have in my head. I just haven’t had time to write about it, not to mention, I too have grown weary of the propaganda machine and wasn’t sure if I really wanted to contribute any thoughts at all.
But alas… this my LAST (and only) two cents.
I don’t want to talk about the drugs, etc. Not really important, and there isn’t much to learn from that, other than what we already know from our corny D.A.R.E. assemblies (80′s babies), and even moreso through our many lost loved ones.
But there is something far greater to learn from Whitney’s death. The one thing people such as Kevin Costner, and many others keep pointing out, is her push for perfection and her struggle with not being able to perform the way she used to, due to the depreciation of her voice over time. Can you imagine being a piano player and suddenly your fingers don’t work? Can you imagine being a dancer, but your ankles have grown brittle? Even as a writer, I don’t know what I’d do if I could no longer express myself though words – language. Apparently, Whitney sufferered from the fall from grace, not only in public image, but also in professional skill, a skill that perched her atop a mountain of greatness for years, and turned her into a musical aphrodite.
No one can sing “I Will Always Love You,” like Whitney. Including Whitney herself, later in her career. The pressure and stress of maintaing relevance, and performing at a perfect level most have been thick enough to suffocate her.
And I can relate. Not to the degree she was going through it, of course, but there have been times where I’ve sat in an open mic, and heard the next best thing ripping the mic apart, and realized that I’ve lost a step, or that there’s a budding new generation of shiners on the rise, with a new, more evolved style. Or even when I write my novels, and I second guess my diction, my stories, and ultimately my purpose, swearing nothing is as good as the last thing I wrote. When I’ve felt untrained, unprepared, unqualified, though I’ve been granted every opportunity I’ve ever wanted. It’s real. So real.
But there’s a lesson in this, from Whitney, and I’ve been processing it since before her death, but I’d be lying if I said her demise didn’t drive it home even more for me. It’s simple.
WHAT WE DO AND WHO WE ARE HAVE TO REMAIN TWO SEPARATE THINGS.
What we do, can change. But who we are HAS to be solid, so that we aren’t changed in the process.
The worst thing Whitney ever did (in my opinion) was become a fan of herself. We knew her as “Whitney the singer,” and unfortunately, she began to only know herself as that, as well.
if a man invites me to the farmers market, and then back home to prepare a mostly vegan meal- after which on a walk around a body of water surrounded by grass to lie on a blanket and read a book- in my mind, he’s probably trying to seduce me.
“We too are called to withdraw at certain intervals into deeper silence and aloneness with God, together as a community as well as personally; to be alone with Him — not with our books, thoughts, and memories but completely stripped of everything — to dwell lovingly in His presence, silent, empty, expectant, and motionless. We cannot find God in noise or agitation.”—Blessed Mother Teresa
Randomitus: An immensely visceral article from a talented and insightful essayist. I urge to read this and take a good look at yourself in the mirror. I think it fair to appropriate the old “Green” slogan: “Think globally, act locally” when it comes to this issue. We, the fortunate, have a moral responsibility to our fellow human beings.
Empathy has crashed. No more cruel to be kind. We must simply be cruel.
The argument that there is enough money to go round is now a fairytale, like winning the lottery.
She is there whenever I go the shops. Every time I think she can’t get any more skeletal, she manages it. Wild eyes staring in different directions, she must have been pretty once. I try not to look, for she is often aggressive. Sometimes, though, she is in my face and asking me to go into the shop, from which she has been banned, to buy her something. A scratchcard. She feels lucky. “Maybe some food?” I suggest pointlessly, but food is not what she craves. Food is not crack. Or luck. She has already lost every lottery going.
An addict is the author of their own misfortune. Her poverty is self-inflicted. All these hopeless people: where do they all come from? It is, of course, possible never to really see them, as their distress is so distressing. Who needs it? Poverty, we are often told, is not “actual”, because people have TVs. This gradual erosion of empathy is the triumph of an economic climate in which everyone, addicted or not, is personally responsible for their own lack of achievement. Poor people are not simply people like us, but with less money: they are an entirely different species. Their poverty is a personal failing. They have let themselves go. This now applies not just to individuals but to entire countries. Look at the Greeks! What were they thinking with their pensions and minimum wage? That they were like us? Out of the flames, they are now told to rise, phoenix–like, by a rich political elite. Perhaps they can grow money on trees?
Meanwhile, in the US, as this week’s shocking Panorama showed, people are living in tents or underground in drains. These ugly people, with ulcers, hernias and bad teeth, are the flipside of the American dream. Trees twist through abandoned civic buildings and factories, while the Republican candidates, an ID parade of Grecian 2000 suspects, bang on about tax cuts for the 1% who own a fifth of America’s wealth. To see the Grapes of Wrath recast among post-apocalyptic cityscapes is scary. Huge cognitive dissonance is required to cheerlead for the rich while 47 million citizens live in conditions close to those in the developing world.
This contradiction is also one of the few things we in the UK are good at producing. I heard a radio interview recently with a depressed young man with three A-levels (yes, in properly Govian subjects) who had been unemployed for three years. The response of listeners was that he was lazy and should try harder. Samuel Beckett’s “fail better” comes to mind. Understanding what three years of unemployment does to a young person does not produce a job, any more than the scratchcard will change a crackhead’s life. But pure condemnation is divisive. This fear and loathing of those at the bottom is deeply disturbing.
Three years ago I was on a panel with Vince Cable at The Convention of Modern Liberty, when Cable was still reckoned a seer for predicting the recession. He said then that the financial crisis would mean civil liberties would be trampled on. But what stuck in my mind was a sentence he mumbled about the pre-conditions for fascism arising. Scaremongering? The emotional pre-condition is absolutely this punitive attitude to the weak and poor.
At what point, though, can we no longer avoid the poor, our own and the global poor? Or, indeed, avoid the concept that frightens the left as much as the right: redistribution, of wealth, resources, labour, working hours. Whither the left? Busy pretending that there is a way round this, a lot of the time.
The idea that ultimately the poor must help themselves as social mobility grinds to a halt is illogical; it is based on a faith for which there is scant evidence. Yet it is the one thing that has genuinely “trickled down” from the wealthy, so that many people without much themselves continue to despise those who are on a lower rung.
The answer to poverty, you see, lies with the poor themselves, be they drain-dwellers, Greeks, disabled people, or unemployed youth. We will give them bailouts, maybe charity, and lectures on becoming more entrepreneurial. The economy of empathy has crashed, and this putsch is insidious and individualised. No more cruel to be kind. We must be simply cruel.
The argument that there is enough to go round is now a fairytale, like winning the lottery. Poverty is not a sign of collective failure but individual immorality. The psychic coup of neo-liberal thinking is just this: instead of being disgusted by poverty, we are disgusted by poor people themselves. This disgust is a growth industry. We lay this moral bankruptcy at the feet of the poor as we tell ourselves we are better than that.