Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Vacillations - Reflections on 2012

I have a personal tradition that I have carried on for a number of years now where at the end of each year I think back on the year that just happened and I write a blog entry reflecting back on it, my experiences with it, and the personal meanings that they contained. So, here it is for the year 2012.

This year, similar to the years 2009 and 2010, was a year where I lived in one place for the entire year. Although I did do some traveling to different places throughout the year, my home was an apartment in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis for the entire year. I’ve been living in this apartment with my partner Liz, and living with her is something that I have been very happy with and grateful for.

One thing that I was very disappointed with this year was politics. Whereas 2011 was all revolutions, protests and excitement, 2012 was dominated by the national elections, anarchists arguing about whether to vote and if so for whom, and the once-inspiring revolutions and protests in the Middle East turning into very messy and bloody affairs. Although I thought, talked, and wrote about politics a lot this year, overall that experience left me feeling very drained and discouraged.

As far as for my experience of the year itself goes, the first quarter of the year (January, February and March) I spent in a bad depression. A number of different factors contributed to this – one of which was feeling a strong sense of personal isolation and loneliness, another of which was finding out about my friend Mario’s suicide, and lastly in March there was the sudden death of the one person I knew in my neighborhood. My depression continued on until basically things warmed up outside and I made some plans to go travel to other places outside of Minneapolis. Doing other things with other people I believe did a great deal to help me to get a better sense of perspective.

Throughout all of that depression, one source of both emotional support, as well as stimulus for my feeling of social isolation, was my involvement with the internet and telephone-based group called the "Consciousness Transformation Community". I first joined that group back in 2010, and it was in 2012 that I saw that group explode in a big internal conflict that eventually left me feeling so disgusted and alienated with the group that I decided to leave it. A number of other people also decided to leave at around the same time I did, and I do not know if that conflict resulted in that group itself ending or not.

Speaking of the internet, Facebook ended up playing a huge role in my life this year, so much so that I actually feel a bit embarrassed to admit it. I spent way more time and energy with Facebook than I would like, and looking back I wonder what good that all was. My friend Rachel wrote a blog entry about her experiences and thoughts about Facebook, and in many ways what she says here mirrors my own. For 2013 I hope to dramatically cut down on my Facebook usage, and to interact with it more intentionally.

In the face-to-face world, as opposed to the Facebook world, I am pleased with how things evolved over the course of the year. I ended up feeling more connected with different groups of people in Minneapolis, including the Icarus Project, the Minnehaha Free Space, Sisters Camelot, the Twin Cities Anarchist Bookfair organizing collective, the Really Really Free Market and Radfam. I am also hoping to get to know some other groups better, such as the Mennonite Worker, the Rye House and the Common Ground Meditation Center. Altogether this is resulting in me feeling a much stronger sense of community and belonging at the end of the year than I did at the beginning.

As far as traveling goes, I did end up going to a number of different places, including Camphill Village Minnesota out in Western Minnesota, a gathering of Liz’ relatives in northern Minnesota, gatherings of my relatives in Ann Arbor and northern Michigan, the Illinois Vipassana Meditation Center and various parts of Arizona. This summer I did a massive trip that involved my going to Camphill Soltane in southeastern Pennsylvania, the Washington D.C. area, various intentional communities in central Virginia and to Cleveland, Ohio. I suppose you could also add Lewes, Delaware and Camden, New Jersey to that summer travel list too.

I am also glad to have had some traveling friends come to visit me here in Minneapolis this year as well, including my close friends Dan and Seth, as well as my friends Seya whom I previously had not seen in nine years and Jesse whom I had not seen in six years. Interestingly enough I had three friends from Cleveland come to visit Minneapolis just shortly after I saw them in Cleveland.

All this people-stuff aside, one of the most profound experiences of being really empathically understood this year came from the writings of a dead person. Jack Kerouac’s two-part book “Desolation Angels” and “Passing Through” (both of which are usually combined under the title “Desolation Angels”) was by far my reading high-light of 2012. In many ways that book and the sentiment expressed therein reflects back a lot of my inner state for this year.

Buddhism, both of the Kerouac variety and beyond, continued to be a big thing for me this year. This year I did a special Satipatthana Sutta course at the Illinois Vipassana Meditation Center, which I suppose is something like a symbolic entering of me into the ranks of the more serious old students within this tradition. This year I also officially joined the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, which is like the main group for "Engaged Buddhists" in the U.S.

Anarchism-wise, this year I read the book entitled Desert: Can Active Disillusionment Be Liberatory? and that had a big effect on me. This pamphlet, along with a piece that I wrote this year about Anarchy As A Relationship both express well about where I am coming from these days regarding the big a-word.

I still maintain an interest in intentional community living, particularly income-sharing intentional communities with cottage industries. This year I have been in touch with my friend Paxus about creating a new FEC community within the central Virginia area. I also attended this year’s Twin Oaks Communities Conference as well as a regular discussion group about intentional communities facilitated by EXCO here in Minneapolis. At the Twin Oaks Communities Conference I met some people who are from Innisfree Community, which is also based out of central Virginia, and I hope to check out that place again sometime as well.

I have to say, the very fact that the year 2012 came and went is something I find to be somewhat amazing. Around from 2005 to 2007 I was something of a believer that the year 2012 would bring great momentous world-changes in human consciousness, spirituality, the social-political order, you name it. There was even a part of me that believed that the changes in the world in 2012 would be so crazy and enormous that I could very well somehow be killed before that year was over. Of course from 2005 to 2007 I was far more open/susceptible to New Age and esoteric spiritual beliefs than I am now, but still even with me no longer subscribing to those beliefs I always remembered that I once had them and as a result a part of me was always keeping an eye out for Big Stuff to go down. Especially around December 21st, the supposed end of the Mayan Calendar. Nothing out of the ordinary happened, and life went on.

So where does all of this leave me? To an extent I have my hopes and dreams tied up in newly-forming projects with odd names, such as "The System Stinks" and “Chubby Squirrels”. I also have a lot of faith tied up in very old things, such as writing more, being with my partner, and practicing Vipassana Meditation. Beyond all of this stuff, I don’t have much more clarity than I did last year, or the year before that. The good thing, though, is that I am beginning to feel at peace more with that fact, and that counts for a lot.

I am wishing everyone all the best and May All Beings Be Happy!!!

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