Friday, August 29, 2008

Walking the Straight Edge

Somehow I found myself thinking about Ian MacKaye. Besides "Minor Threat", one of the things that he is well-known for is popularizing the whole Straight Edge thing. So I started thinking about that. And I started thinking about how all of that relates to my life, values, and the choices that I make.

I notice that so very often I fall into the habit of thinking about something, rather than from it. That's how this all got started. I want to instead "feel into" something, and then open my mouth. This is a Focusing thing - but we don't need to stop because of that.

My mind is often like an ice-skater, constantly moving, doing tricks, perhaps even quite majestic – but not even acknowledging the treasures of the depth below. There is much to be found in there, and you can move up & down as well as side-to-side. So many possibilities. I forget so much of what is possible by entrancing myself with old patterns.

I notice different habits of mine which support the same-old continuing on as it has. Some of this has to do with drugs and physical shit, and related life-style choices.

Take marijuana. With it, my mind goes all over the place – wild, crazy, fantastic ideas. Big Thinking and paranoia. It has given me many wonderful experiences, as well as ruined me. It can help me with relaxation and creativity, but at what cost?

With caffeine, my body tenses up. I feel "on the go" with my mind racing. I can't feel the inside of my body though. It gives me energy, and I am addicted. Do I really want that? In that way?

I hate alcohol and cigarettes, we can just skip those.

As far as sexual / romantic relationships goes, I've considered celibacy, monogamy, polyamory - all the different "policies" that one can apply to these things. None of them really fits me thought, not really. I like the Straight Edge stance against "casual sex". I also like Gandhi's "subordination of sensual desires to the primary devotion to truth", the basis behind his vow of chastity. And if there is a strong drive to enter into a romantic relationship, well, I ask – Why? That prompts an inquiry into meaning.

A lot of Straight Edge people are vegetarian or vegan and I definitely see their reasons why. There is a very strong basis for this. For me, with my life of chosen poverty and unpredictability, relying on non-animal products alone doesn't seem really reliable. In other words, countless times I have found myself in situations where I have no money and a meal is offered to me – a meal of packaged toxic factory-torture crap, but a means to survive another day nonetheless. I have yet to find the faith to survive other ways.

What appeals to me the most diet-wise is Freeganism. - you eat that which is free. This has a direct "you work with what is there in the present moment" foundation, as well as no money going towards the meat industry. This to me seems the most in integrity with where I am at.

From all of that together, I would say that I want to pursue meaning, depth, connection – and all of which follows from that is secondary, incidental.

With all of these reflections & attitudes of Straight Edge is a shared value with Gandhi of living a life of Truth. For him, "Truth is God." He wanted "to see God face-to-face", or, as the Baha'is would put it, to "be close to God."

I prefer slightly different words. The words which most resonate for me are "Meaning" and "Clarity".

I crave meaning. I need meaning in my interactions with others, meaning in the work that I do, meaning in how I spend my time each moment of each day. I need meaning in who I am just with myself. Without it I feel shallow, empty, with a background soundscape rubbing up against my soul like an itch that you can't scratch. I just go nuts. Meaning drives everything that I do.

Meaning is a felt-thing, inside my body. My body, my whole being, tells me when I have it or when I don’t. It seems Big. Meaning, to me, is God.

And I crave clarity too.
Clarity in what I want, in what I am doing, where I am going, why I am here. Much of my life feels as if it has been a perpetual quest for clarity, hanging just over me. Just within reach - with proper effort.

I want clarity in meaning.
That is, "to see God face-to-face."

And how does this relate to Straight Edge? Well, with pot and drugs, my mind goes for the fantastic and amazing, not clarity. With caffeine my body just closes up and I can't feel meaning inside of me. With a focus on sex, meaning goes out the window and it just becomes a body-thing, reaction-based.

Aside from renunciation, there are things I can do to get that which I am wanting here. I can set aside specific times and places to put specific effort towards searching for the meaning behind things, within myself. A kind of inner-pilgrimage to a deeper place for communion with what's there.

And with others, I can search for the meaning that exists between us. I can turn down the noise and direct attention to what's there. Whether it is shared or not is not totally important, but the more we are walking astride the same path the more likely we can see where we are going together. If all else fails I can interrupt and ask about that.

I often despair over not finding the meaning I need or not having the clarity I want. But what I am despairing over exactly? Why? What's really important to me there? That's the way out right there.

The door is open.

1 comment:

Emma McCreary said...


I have a comment about meaning: Do you think meaning is something you can find?

I identify with the sense of feeling God in your body. But I don't identify that as "meaning".

I like this phrase that I found in a book called "Healing the Addictive Personality":

"I give everything the meaning it has to me".

You can do it as an exercise. For instance look at your shirt and say "I give this shirt all the meaning it has for me". Or the experience of God: "I give this experience all the meaning it has for me".

You can use it to take meaning out of situations you don't want to be attached to anymore.

You can also use it to *create* meaning, or validate the meaning something holds for you.

I think that meaning is created. That in fact it's one of the magical qualities of human beings, that we can create meaning.

All the rituals and myths in the world - those are meaning people created *around* God. The experience of God is meaningful because you find it so. And that's good!

It means you can meet that craving for meaning by creating what is meaningful for you - validating what you find meaning in - what is meaningful for you. I think the blueprint for what is meaningful for each of us is contained in our bodies/souls.

Does this spark any ideas?