Articles

05 Oct / MERELY BY BEING

MERELY BY BEING

O

ne reason #ImWithHer in this election is because earlier in life I might have agreed with the transcendent view that “to choose between two evils is to participate in corruption.” Putting aside the complications of assigning Satan’s ethos to a human being, I came to realize that to opt-out of corruption entirely is to opt-out of living; and that there exists a need to hold space for our outrage so that we may go on with the corrupt business of being…

Merely by being born, I perpetuate the patriarchy.
My work is to dismantle the patriarchy,
but I cannot be immune from its grasp on me.

Merely by being a white male, I perpetuate
systemic racism by benefitting from its sweep.
My work is to dismantle the systems my ancestors built,
but I cannot deny my accountability.

Merely by being an active citizen, I contribute to
overpopulation and climate pollution.
My work is to create a clean, equitable economy,
but I cannot exact a carbon price on my enduring mobility.

Merely by loving and moving to Portland, I’ve contributed to
its gentrification and overcrowding.
My work is to create a harmonious society,
but I cannot reject my role in its divisions.

Merely by getting drunk and eating Taco Bell last Saturday,
Uh huh.

MERELY BY BEING we are given NO choice but to
accept the world we were born into.

But this fatalist frame is unnecessary
in light of its mirror overtone:

MERELY BY BEING we are given EVERY choice to
accept radical responsibility toward a brighter future.

Our work isn’t to figure out how to *not* participate in corruption. That search is futile.
Our work is to feel into how we might contribute to its healing, and to our awakening.

Our work is the petulant balancing act of honoring the legacy of our ancestors while advancing our own karmic place in progress.

How’s your balance?

– Danny/TL&TW/October 5, 2016

Posted by Danny Lampton in Articles, Media, Poetry, Politics, Resources Read More

On Political Idealism, On Earth.

I

f you’ve ever tried to interpret your dreams upon waking, you know that it takes a delicate touch or strange, detached patience to manifest in life what has suddenly been revealed to you as urgent.

Idealism. Idealism is the juice of dreams. The archetypal plum. Without it we’d be empty of its virtuous concentrate: possibility. But idealism can’t thrive in its raw form when applied in daily life on Earth. It must be trudged through, leaped for — wrestled to the ground in reluctant ecstasy, and fixed upon like gold-toasted marshmallows.

Idealism untamed isn’t idealism as we know it — not at all. Without it we’d be lost forever, yes. But swallowed whole, idealism is a mirage disappearing into its own horizon. It’s there where idealism turns from the antidote to corruption or cynicism and reemerges as its very accomplice.

At once we’re physical bodies living in consciousness. That means the loftiness we project is ours to carry — our own slice of karma to live. Ours is a reality borne of Earth’s limitations & Sky’s eternity alike — not cosmic justice alone.

We manifest our dreams by living *through* our aspirations — not by leaning against them. We weed our apathy and illusions from takeover not by living as though things already function properly, but with the foresight that purity we long for can be achieved only in human proportion and with human results.

This is in fact a *celebration* of human idealism, not a haughty retreat from its drudgery. This is no settlement with lesser evil, either. This is the acknowledgment of good and evil’s primordial coexistence. They’re not *Hillary’s* feet we must hold to the fire so much as our own penchant for discernment, tenaciousness and unity.

This is the grounding of our faith. This is the necessary acceptance of our own personal responsibility through the screen of a gray fortune.

#ImWithBernie #ImWithHer #ImWithJillInTheoryButNotInPractice.

– Danny/TL&TW/September 28, 2016

Posted by Danny Lampton in Articles, Media, Politics, Resources Read More

How We’re All Politicians

I

have an important message to share about my experience in politics. [Editor’s note: I worked for 2 years at the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) during President Obama’s first term.]

One’s survival as a political appointee — Democrats and Republicans alike — largely depends on how brightly strategic you can be in whatever office you’re working. The very nature of our system is to incentivize behaviors that create a leading edge for whatever side you’re on. As such, the perverse outcomes that surface eventually start to look predictable and nonpartisan.

Speaking very generally, political corruption is less anyone’s “fault” than it is the fault of a system designed to invite cunningness over the best in people. It’s a system designed to abate personal responsibility and incite blame in its place. We deserve to be angry about corruption in politics. It’s how we harness our anger that counts. It’s how we harness our anger that could really change everything.

Take this example from The New York Times of a Republican lobbyist scheming — in a recently disclosed email — about a very close election in Wisconsin:

“Do we need to start [falsely] messaging ‘widespread reports of election fraud’ so we are positively set up for the recount regardless of the final number?
I obviously think we should.”

This behavior is abhorrent no matter how we cut it. And yet, in the lobbyist’s view, he’s just doing his job and damn well at it. Gaming the system is only problematic when you’re caught — that’s part of the game, too.

“No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.” — Stanislaw Jerezy Lec

It’s time to stop pretending. Real change comes by shining light on our individual and collective shadow. As we internally take full responsibility for our external environment — seeing ourselves as a creator in this world and not its victim — suddenly our ideas about guilt become those of collaboration. And as we own our collusion with the current system, politicians will have no choice but to do the same. This is nothing short of a paradigm shift and it’s on the tip of our tongues if we’d only accept its reach.

I’ve worked in politics and conscious leadership and have begun to learn what it means to own my shadow myself. Through this work I’ve learned to find compassion for ALL those working within a system — because we’re all ultimately conspirators of the same game.

Having compassion doesn’t equate to letting anyone off the hook for their transgressions. In fact compassion lends itself to a greater understanding of their predicament so that justice can be served with clear eyes rather than a pointed finger. Paired with taking responsibility, compassion is bridging our old world to the new.

The hard part — beyond imparting this understanding for all who care to listen — is converting our impulse for blame to the co-creation of the *next* system: A system designed to feed the very best in people. A system incentivizing radical personal responsibility to the point that it becomes obvious. It’s the only way I see in transcending an everlasting blame-game.

It’s at once incremental and revolutionary.

Let’s do it together.

– Danny/TL&TW/September 26, 2016

Posted by Danny Lampton in Articles, Media, Politics, Resources Read More

Regret, Masochism, and How To Stop Time Entirely.

5

years ago I forced myself to sit down and try to process what goes on inside of me during heartbreak.

Reading back now, I realize how catharsis isn’t so much born of new understanding, but of greater compassion for our enduring points of despair which continually rearrange themselves over the course of our lives. Sure, people can change. But if we can’t first afford ourselves the love that’s been deadened by its confusion in another, our changes behave more like ricochets that spin us into alternate universes of the same tired fate.

The type of lifelong joy I now dream of is that of the smile I might give at an ex’s wedding ceremony—a smile whose confused regret is outsized only by the joy of that confusion’s wonder. This to me is the type of whole joy we come to long for only when our fear of letting go is trumped by our ecstatic flirtation with time.

We’re all just passing through—why spend life yearning not to be human when solace is found in humanity’s embrace?

– Danny/TL&TW/December 6, 2015

I’m writing this post as a kind of letter of forgiveness to myself– largely in hopes of my grasping onto a catharsis that would bring me much needed peace.

All of us have had that relationship whose end equates to our longing for the beginning. Chances are, that’s most of our relationships to at least some degree: a finale of regret and rumination (or Hell’s version of classic R&R). Though everyone seems to have their own way of coping and moving forward. I know for me, it involves a lot of blaming myself and visualizing past instances of blissful intimacy with more color than the real thing. The trouble is, this method unnecessarily prolongs my mourning– especially because I’m against ‘rebounds’ (at least in theory)…

…Am I the only one saddened by the prospect of it requiring a contrived hook-up to lift ourselves out of the sorrow of our previous relationship? With these rebounds, we accept– consciously, even– that we are investing a fictitious affection in the reboundee. We bring with us an uncanny optimism, or naiveté, really, that is as absurd as it is sacred. It says, with our pervasive doubt suppressed: I still believe in intimacy, in love.

How precious this feeling is. And if only I can find it as factual. If I refuse to pursue a rebound, then, how can I shake off my sorrow? Time is the easy answer. I once said to a friend during his moment of discouragement, “You don’t want time to heal what was once real [but you must].” If only people were better at taking their own advice. But as I mentioned, my method involves endless rebuke, and the kind of ruminations that paradoxically manage to arouse me while giving the sensation that my penis is shrinking.

What kinds of ruminations might these be? The obvious ones are the dreams of her being intimate with someone other than me. But wait, those thoughts don’t arouse me– although they definitely give me the sensation that my penis is shrinking. No, I suppose the bulk of my ruminations are comprised of my present self visiting my past self– while in the presence of her, of course– and demanding me to awaken from my shade of indifference. I wish to freeze and unlock a moment’s time by the magic of objectivity and hindsight and to say, “Wake up, Danny! You have everything! Put aside your discontent; look next to you!” Alas, to do this would be to defy an unalterable law of our lives– things’ transitory nature. Milan Kundera wrote in what is now my favorite book, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, that “In the sunset of dissolution, everything is illuminated by the aura of nostalgia…” I will presuppose, then, that in the sunset of a good thing, we yearn to have it back. Either way, we fucking miss what’s gone. We’ll even miss our broken heart, because as long as we’re pouring salt into our wounds, we’re masochistically satisfied with the wound’s presence; because its being means that we’ve temporarily defied things’ transitory nature.

Even while my reluctance endures, my sheer exhaustion from holding open the doors of time will eventually propel me to move forward, ever so slowly. I have got to discover a new way of coping– something that steers clear of both ‘time to pretend!’ and stopping time entirely to brood and examine it. I guess this would also be a good time to say that I’m not one to have a ‘girls night out!’ either. Damn. I’m not intelligent enough to be as cynical as I am. My inability to reconcile what I hold true– the pain of regret and neglect– with what I believe to be false– the comfort of a rebound and friends’ well-intentioned distractions– is leaving me isolated—if not physically, then in my head, certainly.

Enough abstraction. What is it, exactly, that I regret? Perhaps answering this will arm me with enough sound logic to climb myself out of the emotional trenches. One thing, to which I’ve already alluded, is immediately apparent: I’m sick of lying in the shade of my indifference. Further than taking people and events for granted, I’m sick of being unable to rise above a despondence that leaves me only partially there—in conversation, in lovemaking, and most importantly, in my support of her. Ironically, I believe this to be the same detachment that helped attract her to me in the first place. I can hope not. “We can never establish with certainty what part of our relations with others is the result of our emotions– love, antipathy, charity, or malice– and what part is predetermined by the constant power play among individuals.” Just as we hope and probe to find that our significant other’s attraction to us is ingenuous, I’m continually devising methods to discover the source of my emotions and ensure my candor (perhaps in vain).

There’s my first lesson, right there: if you don’t want girls attracted to you for your mystery, then try to be more in attendance with her. I can’t be this nitpicky with myself, though I can try. How about, lesson #1: she can’t read your mind, so you need to show it. That’s about right. Plus, I think I kind of enjoy the fact that many girls see me as mysterious—considering I was an open book through high school, and open books are no fun for starry-eyed girls who seem to simultaneously want both the unknown and what they expect. Or is it that they expect the unknown and to be able to change him when he arrives? After years of adolescent heartache, I’m fairly certain it’s some form of combination. In any case, I seem to have gone from one extreme to the other (as I do in many aspects of my life). Well in the future, if I’m going to be closed-off, I sure as hell better learn when to open up.

Post-logic, the dull pain insists. I remain in the trenches. It’s a good thing I can only hold open the doors of time for so long. And throughout all this time, I’m supposed to keep telling myself that if it were truly any of these nitpicky things that drove her away, then I should be happy it is so. But what reasons do most significant others have when they part? A kind of culmination of nitpicky things that drive one or the other away. A good end to a relationship could then be characterized as a mutual acceptance of each other’s nitpickings. Perhaps I’m afraid of what lies beneath: an individual knows, viscerally, when a relationship is no longer possible. More unsettling still, it is not possible for the other to understand the instinctive feeling. Yes, I believe this to be the most unsettling regret and rumination of them all. I’ve parted from another in the past without explanation; and in my coolness, it was impossible for me to see that what lie on the other side was neglect and misunderstanding.

I had remained cool with her even while the torches burned, signaling the end of our journey. She said to me, “When people at work ask me if I have a boyfriend, I say no, because I don’t, but I can’t help but think that I do…” Later, I would come to dread this moment as a crux of fate and locus of my regret. That was when I was supposed to chime in with “But you do have a boyfriend!” Instead, I held my breathe out of the fear of a long distance relationship. Was fear my inhibition? Or was it my turn, first, to know viscerally that the relationship was not possible. Does it matter? I often worry I may never be able to discern between my instinct—too often wrapped in our fears that we are beckoned to overcome—and my intuition—a kind of divine insight that we too often ignore, or to which we don’t know how to listen. My sadness burrows. Even our instincts, which are usually the best guides we follow, are simply veiled primitive fears, manifested in our gut. Perhaps I need to stop yearning to be superhuman and accept that our desires, and ultimately our lives, are shaped, above all else, by our fears. In the meantime, I can see that one of my life’s greatest callings and challenges is to develop my intuition, and distinguish between it and my instinct. This may be the closest we can get to escaping humanity and getting closer to God—whichever aspect of the same end you wish to emphasize. Amidst all my banter, I’m further convinced of the intractable world of Kundera in which human beings are deprived of a proper context for their humanity. “Now we are longtime outcasts, flying through the emptiness of time in a straight line. Yet somewhere deep down a thin thread still ties us to that far-off misty Paradise…The longing for Paradise is man’s longing not to be man.”

Indeed, I’ve prayed for forgiveness for my shortcomings, to see each other’s lives with clear vision, and to understand why the relationship had to end as I was beginning. Which of her nitpickings and fears signaled the crest? One night, she was kind enough to visit me in my dreams to try and explain. She looked shy and sincere, and all I could remember of what she said upon my awakening was something to do with clouds. Something like, “being with you was cloudless, and I needed to be in the clouds.” I can’t help but hope she’ll come back someday and again explain so I can get it right. Whether she revisits me or not, I’m bound to her. Years in the future, in my dreams, when I’m again visiting a nostalgic scene from our past, I’ll again be reprimanding the Danny of the past. I’ll ask him why he must remain so despondent. Only then will I tell him that I’ve held open the doors of time, time and time again, and having been on to the next heartbreak after the other, “suffice it to say that you are already happy……Now.wake.up.”

Apparently I say ‘suffice’ in my dreams; I’m more badass (and far less mysterious) than I had thought.

– Danny/TL&TW/September 17, 2010
Pentagon City, Arlington, Virginia

Posted by Danny Lampton in Articles, Media Read More