to be, rather than to seem

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RUNAWAY is a Durham streetwear brand, and this is their take on the NC state seal, bearing the motto “Esse Quam Videri”, Latin for the phrase “to be, rather than to seem”.

 

Reflecting on state of being, settling into a new state, and looking toward manifestation in the year ahead, I’m struck with questions of autonomy and authenticity.

To be frank, I wrote this at least a year before publishing it. I think it took about this long to embrace what it contained, to be prepared to spring from it as I’d imagined – or rather, to learn not to hold myself back for or down to a single blog post, poem, or other statement, and spring forward a bit every day, at some point, any way.

What is it to be? How do we go beyond seeming to care, to being about it?

We want our actions, lifestyle, and relationships to align with the things we think and feel are right, right? Realistically, consistency and candor are tough – we are human, after all. But perhaps that inclination to live authentically is deeply rooted, innate, natural.

I struggle with conscious, socially responsible living; balancing concern for the world around me with the things close enough to be within my control. I’m learning, some of us feel guided to cultivate our own ideas of how to live, from which we can build intention and structure our lives.

 

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Sometimes, being open can be overwhelming and existentialism too abstract, especially when considering how to ‘make a difference’. Early on, I stole away into myself until the pressure sparked my next purge on Facebook. But it’s nice, this sense of my own capacity for actualization has welled up over the past year – as hope, I’m pretty sure.

Still, there’s that constant fear of falling short. Although there is no archetype for our dynamic selves, shame at falling short of it kept me from doing and engaging, from nurturing my psyche, capacity, and connection to the world. I’m learning that every step along our paths – charging forward, taking a reflective step back – holds meaning.

So, what makes the difference between seeming and being as we make our way?

looking back

Growing up, milestones like birthdays and new years catalyzed internal this is me, now phases and shredded notebook pages. Now I’ve realized, we can’t wait for overnight success, perfect timing, or infallible opinion. It’s more like “okay.. this is me.. and now.. wow, is it? yeah, still working on it” and as conditions change, so do we.

Philosophical questions surrounding human rights, our potential, the way we relate, and the conditions for an environment supporting self-actualization and connection drew me into my studies. The more I learned of the system and the status quo, I sought something different. But I wasn’t exactly sure what. I graduated lonely, unmotivated, and disillusioned – the earnest nerd at my core frustrated with the way higher learning was squashed into checkboxes. Academia and what felt like the weight of the world brought on bouts of spiraling doubt, anxiety, and a dissociated, floating feeling.

It was jarring to recognize the manipulation underlying..

  • ..income inequality and graduates crippled with debt for higher education supposed to prepare us to contribute to the (under-stimulated and outdated) economy.
  • ..industrial-scale practices that continually harm our environment and as a result, our health. It makes perfect sense that we ignore calls to climate action when corporate donations are technically constituent speech and when resources and rights owed to the people of Flint, Michigan and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe are simply political casualties.
  • ..concerted efforts by the criminal justice system, prison industrial complex, and pharmaceutical industry to perpetuate and benefit from the inaccurate scheduling of marijuana, criminalization of black and brown bodies, and the stigmatization of substance abuse and mental illness.
  • ..voter suppression and manipulative media. I was among the people distraught when Senator Bernie Sanders lost the democratic primary and the voters rightfully indignant and relieved by our cynicism once the Democratic National Committee’s (obvious) collusion to undermine him was confirmed.

..and I couldn’t unsee the connections, and I felt it was hopeless to try to point them out.

 

looking around

I know I’m not the only one who wants to dismantle systems of oppression, or whose given up on popular narratives and party politics. There are real nuances to living collectively, in a way that respects the environment and each other. I’m inspired by the people who have and continue the work to aspire and challenge, navigate and overcome, with conviction. Let’s continue to face the complexity, reject easy answers, and forge forward. We have a future to create. 

Durham’s artists and activists, the people that are fueling this place as it changes have irrevocably opened my eyes. It’s a place thats growing, gentrifying, breaking ground, and trying to stay whole all at once. Cities are living things too. Sometimes I think it’s no surprise this move has come with a new appreciation for change.

looking ahead: three things to keep in mind

Don’t waste time worrying about wasted time.

Underestimating what we can do as individuals, I was taught this year, is its own hubris. I’m speaking to the idea that you can’t do enough as just one person, so why try – or that you’re unsure exactly how to do something or make a difference, so inaction is inconsequential. Of course, there are real external and internal limitations, and the non-stop push and pull between them – but indecision is a decision.

People, plants, and projects grow and manifest with care and consistency.

I firmly believe we possess the agency to make the alignment of identity and existence happen, to live consciously and efficiently – not perfectly. If we are compelled to innovate, evolve, or forge our own path, don’t we naturally accept the capacity to misstep? It seems to be a mish-mash of taking things bit by bit, being engaged and aware, then developing some practice of reflecting for growth and projecting into the future. In doing so, we could break down fear bit by bit as we process and progress!

I’m of the belief that we’ve just got to work at a balance of thinking, doing, expressing, letting go, and sharing – personally and collectively – or else we hold on to more than is necessary or good.

You get as much as you put in.

I’ve explored dreams of pursuing the physically impossible and disrupting deeply ingrained societal norms in my poetry, but this year, more of the rose-colored, slimy-sweet gunk fell away from my eyes. Perhaps more than ever, the personal is political and while it’s surreal enough to observe, I do worry: if I am not versed in my own truth, tailored by fact and experience, challenged by criticism – will I speak up when it counts?

We have to speak, act, learn. This living is cyclical, manual, and involved, so where we can dig in to hone our skills and interests, we should. Whether its for our own well-being, towards self-sufficiency, or to help others. Many of us already do within the creator market, or when we crowd-fund for a cause.

 It is in our nature to share opinions, perspectives, and questions for collective thought. The volume of that voice can weigh us down when it goes unused. I believe, for everyone, expression is vital transference of energy.

Imagine, one opportunity or experience at a time, we take stock of the components influencing our lives – individual and collective – process them, and put them towards something more, leaving what no longer serves us behind. We are each but one contributor, but maybe what results from intentions interacting as a collective can feed all of our growth.

Vision matters.

My father says, “a river with no direction is a swamp”, and as my path develops, I know I must embrace motion, however things unfold.

There is a richness to the present, even in the coming darkness, and I feel a mystifying momentum driving human trajectory at this point. And we have always given of ourselves to movements and perspectives, to be catalogued and carried on. I am here as a documentarian, to contribute to conversations about real, radical social innovation, and to participate in the spread of conscious resistance to the current rate of consumption, living the green revolution.

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It would be wise never to claim to know exactly what that looks like. Hope is not direction, and relies on the absence of certainty. Misguided ego can confuse things, make “seeming” to others appear as real as “being” itself. But I’m comfortable working from somewhere in the middle; our actions must have effect to see positive change in any increment and vision doesn’t come with step-by-step instructions.

So, I’m trusting the writing process, which has always brought things to light. I’ll continue to be present, use my voice, and engage readers who share these interests, I hope. My commentary and musings, these blossoming posts will be awkward, opinionated, lofty, cynical, dreamy, hopeful, fallible, and flexible. Be forewarned.

Thanks for reading this little manifesto. This one’s a bit more for me than any readers but stay tuned, there’s more to come!

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