Sunday, April 17, 2011

Krishna Drives My Chariot

What do you do when someone who is clearly not quite at one with reality attacks you?  Someone who may not be entirely off their rocker but who nonetheless seems teetering on that line somewhere between very odd and actually mentally ill.  Are the rules different from when someone completely sane has a go?

Possibly, possibly not.  By the end of this post you may reach a conclusion, I don't know.  I haven't, but in the end I decided it.......well, you'll see.

When someone who is from out of left field in their own reality attacks, then chances are it will come in a slightly bizarre form, and may require extra consideration in defense.  Issues of compassion also arise, but this takes us straight into the territory of 'who is right to judge', doesn't it?  I mean, is a person whose grip on consensus reality is demonstrably loose more worthy of our compassion than one who can be said to be rational?  Back when I was at school, there was this whole thing about 'not hitting a kid with glasses' - turning a supposed deficiency into some kind of moral defense.  By the way, when that kid eventually took one liberty too many, you can bet those glasses got slapped right off his shocked little head.

The more spiritual (and possibly more intelligent) martial philosophies teach us to be flexible in the face of a force against us - to deflect, bend, or absorb the energy of an opponent's strike rather than meet it with simple opposing force.  Newton's Third Law applies - all you would achieve is an expenditure of your own energy and cause a cessation of the opponent's force.  But instead, directing the opponent's energy and momentum to one's own advantage - think how a quick sidestep and extended foot sends the charging opponent sprawling -  is a far better use of energies.

Sometimes though in the realities of our imperfect social world, things aren't quite so neat.

I was attacked recently, in an online sort of way.  Complicating my emotional response was the fact that the attack hurt good friends of mine - was actually calculated to do so - and as a by-product hurt hundreds of other more-than-innocent bystanders.  It removed a whole bunch of people's ability to help each other in important and (not to be overly dramatic) sometimes life-changing ways.  An attack purely on my person I can deal with pretty easily and be clear about.  But when I and my friends are used by another, clearly unhinged person to do such hurt to others, simply getting out of the way will not do.

What happened, in brief, is this: friends and I set up a Facebook page called 'Blenderized Diet' as an adjunct to the popular and helpful free forum of the same name ( so that people could offer mutual support about all things to do with real food used for tubefeeding to one another.  It was an entirely not-for-profit thing.  4 days later a third party, let's call her Lesley Diane Marino for that is her name, had the page shut down, in a deceitful and malicious way.

She did this by unlawfully misusing a Facebook policy.  This policy is a self-protective mechanism for Facebook, whereby if a third party like Lesley alleges through use of a legal instrument that they are the legal owners of intellectual property - in this case use of the term 'Blenderized Diet' - and a page breaches their IP rights, then  Face book will take down that page and it can not be reinstated without the consent of the plaintiff or a legal ruling contravening their claim.  They take no account of evidence or simple logic - the like fact that the term was in print at least as far back as 1952, before Ms Marino was born, and is in such common usage it generates 43,600 google returns.  It was deceitful because she just did it without asking us first to stop using the term, and then would not confirm or deny she had done so until Facebook finally released her name to us as the complainant.  It was malicious because she only directed a complaint against us, not any of the other thousands of pages on Facebook using the term, nor against any other party.  You see, Lesley has a personal problem with me and one of my compatriots, from a similarly cowardly action she took in banning us from what she considers 'her' forum a few months back.  Lesley claims to be protecting her 'business interests' btw, which can be barely said to exist, if they do at all.

But this is where we get into the unhinged territory.  Lesley may actually - despite reams of evidence to the contrary, despite hundreds of people contacting her directly with good reasons why she is wrong and should rescind her complaint, - may actually believe the words she wrote, that she "invented Blenderized Diet after my daughter was born".  which was in 2001, btw.  Her actions subsequently do seem to my not-professionally-trained eye to be those of someone with both a grudge and a very tenuous grip on consensus reality.

But does that mean anything for how to respond and protect ourselves and the rights of others to help each other, to continue to use the very words they have used forever to represent the thing that's so important in their lives and for their health and that of their children and loved ones?

I couldn't quite decide.

When it first erupted, I was sure it was her, but there was no proof.  I was angry.  I do not like anger so much, it makes my tummy hurt after a short while.  Plus, it's just not nice.  Yet I have always had the curse/blessing of a strong righteous streak.  Only one thing to do, I realised, as I watched my brain start to over-analyze my response - let Krishna drive my chariot.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it comes from the Mahabharata, an epic poem of some 18 volumes or so that forms sort of the creation stories of the Hindu pantheon.  A single chapter from one of those volumes, the Bhagavad-Vita, forms the basis of scripture of the Hare-Krisna movement.  The whole Mahabharata is frankly a rocking good tale.  The Bhagavad-Gita is essentially a conversation between Krishna, a sort of immortal avatar of the forces of love and 'goodness' and a warrior monk type called Arjuna.

To set the scene:  There are goodies and baddies.  Arjuna the archer, the invincible warrior, is with the goodies.  The baddies have turned up with a massive army to do bad things to the goodies and all of the people.  Arjuna is torn.  Here it is in 30 seconds:

Krishna: Fight them and win. Just Do It.
Arjuna: Dislike.  Fighting kills and life is sacred etc etc, so shut up.
Krishna: Suck it up.  You are a good character, born invincible, and they will do bad stuff.  You must act. HTFU and do it.
Arjuna: OK then, because you are like, wise and stuff, but only if you drive the chariot so your radiant spirituality blasts my mind clean of its over-analysis and lets me see the spiritual purpose of doing bad shit like killing as a natural and good thing.  Dude.
Krishna: Hop on board, here's that never-run-out sack of arrows I promised.  There will be blood.  They'll write a book about this day, you'll see.

So I just surrendered to what I hoped was my higher nature and let it be an abstract. Let Lesley no longer be the bitchcowmollslagbushpig I had unkindly and judgementally cast her as (old skool tribal hardwiring for demonising an enemy to get aroused for physical combat and danger, you see) and let it be an action by someone without character except as a strategic fact to be considered, and acted from there.

I can tell you, it made for interesting viewing.  I got to see my friends' reactions in a slightly more dispassionate way, which helped me feel less hurt on their behalf.  I saw and helped marshall the responses of quite literally hundreds of folks all arrayed on 'our' side against this outrage.  I allowed a natural righteous anger to flow out, rather than occlude my view or propel my hand too hard.  I recalled how, as a young male testing my virility and so forth that excess anger would always be my undoing in a fight, yet a steely resolve simply to prevail would get the job done.  Counterintuitive, it seemed, at the time.

This all reminded me how there's a part of me that really does quite like a good fight, and much as my spiritually seeking self might find that backwards and needless it is there, and needs to be honoured.  Good thing too, when and if the need arises.

What I had to do to be effective was to let go of the righteousness and just act.  Trust that my actions would lead to 'right' outcomes.  And that's harder to do than it sounds, when you're someone who has made a great career on the moral high ground.  It's harder to hit the targets on the low ground from up there, and sometimes it seems they do need to get hit.  One must remember that as we are all blood, occasionally we must spill and wade in it.  Without the righteousness my compassion was more easily able to return, even as I took harsh and determined action to corral and disempower the destructive wrongdoer.  I feel for her, just as I feel for my friends and all those who have been affected.  Yes, there is a sadness.  Yes, there is a certain elation in the moments of battle enjoined.  It's all very real.

It is all turning out well, in ways I would not have predicted.  We may not yet have seen the back of Ms Marino's attempts to despoil the good works and names of others, as she seems not dissuaded by the clear evidence that every time she tries it, she ruins her name and face all the more.  This is her karma, perhaps.  The more I stay free of any surety in that judgement, the more I stay with dharma, and go as Arjuna.

When you just act, not thinking about whether it's right or not, with a mind as close to Zero as can be, I feel that the room for the 'right' things is there - it allows what's needed to happen.  You feel free of worry.  You do in fact feel the thrum of a certain spiritual invincibility in your veins, without it being an ego or a competitive  thing.

Perhaps it's what Spike Milligan was alluding to when he said:

"We don't have a plan, so nothing can go wrong".

Doug Anthony Allstars once did a song called (I think) Krishna Drives My Chariot.  I couldn't find it.  Please enjoy this instead.  Paul McDermott is one of my favouritest singers of all time.  Seriously.  And this is a great song.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

How far, how fast we travel.

It's been said that the whole blogging phenomenon is essentially a mass exposition of narcissism.  I can see that point of view, as I can see the whole modern consumerist western edifice of society as driven by just that very narcissistic impulse.  To love ourselves into a sense of safety and security that our too-slowly-evolving hunter-gatherer headwiring does not allow, perhaps.  More personally, I acknowledge my sometime delight in seeing my expression of myself here in the mirrored surface of the online pond, shining back at me with the assurance that as I can see evidence of myself there, I must be - as I think I am.

Of course, that is but one part of my own motivations for engagement online, with the social aspects more and more fulfilled of late by work for the real-food-for-tubeys cause and the countertextual plays of wittery, blathery and genuinely meaningful engagement through Facebook and the like.  Which is why I'm not blogging as much - well, partly.  But I've had cause to re-read an old and quite personal post here, and what's touched me the most is not how different a person I feel to that person who wrote it (in his then-narcissism, if you will), because I feel really used to changing now: Rather what struck me was just how recently I wrote it.

I mentioned just a little while ago that I've got two book writing projects going on right now.  As part of that I'm writing a piece including stuff about what it was like for me to get my feeding tube.  I was merrily tapping away at the keyboard when I remembered - "I did this a while back".....and if you haven't read the story I'd encourage you to read it before going on (I'll wait for you) , it's just HERE.

It was written and posted on the 27th of July 2010.  Now if you're in your twenties, that was probably, like, before last Christmas which was ages ago.  If you're in your thirties (or if you have a home-gestated child) you can probably already appreciate how stuff that happened less than 9 months ago can seem like yesterday and forever ago at the same time.  I'm 41, and if you're much older than that you might still smile wryly and indulgently at how young that is too.

So yes, I am used to changing as a person now, I seem to be doing a lot of it.  Or am I?  Has it always been this way and only now that time seems to be speeding faster and faster do I actually notice a rate of change as we go along?  I'm not sure.  The Doppler effect is definitely more pronounced.

But I remember that feeling, being that guy who suddenly got that realisation, and if you'd have asked me earlier today about my feelings of relative acceptance of my illness and near-certainly soonish demise I'd have told you that I'd have come to that point "quite a long time ago now, really."

The Doppler effect - where waveforms like light and sound seem to compress as they rush at you but elongate as they fall behind, like the change in pitch of the ambulance siren as it powers on quickly into someone's destiny story.  Doppler seems to act in memory too. It makes me feel like the past is further and further away, and the future much trickier to predict than ever before:  Leaving me increasingly motivated to specialize in the now.

Do you suppose that's what they mean when they talk about the wisdom one gains in aging?  Is it simply that your ability to still be one with your ill-remembered past and naively-imagined future diminishes, leaving you standing all the more clearly reflected as yourself in the still mirror of the quiet moment?  Or was I also right back then, that it's often the agency of tipping points like the stress and compulsion to accept what's needed right now for survival (or die) regardless of how it might change you that root you more firmly in your middle place?

One other thing I've noticed though - although I ask a whole lot more questions, my need to find the answers is slowly fading into a vague sort of interestedness rather than a desperate path of want - of search for self-identity.  And that's a relief.

This is also a relief.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

TFTD - how many are not really here?

Today's Thought For The Day is brought to you by the letter D and the number 'lots and lots'.  D is for drugs.  Those who have been following my story of late would know that I've had occasion to sample quite a variety of drugs for different purposes, but the ones I'm thinking about right now are the ones that definitely alter one's mood.  I do have pain, true, and to be kind to myself decided some time back to dispense with my knee-jerk anti-meds-wherever-possible reaction and allow myself to be in less, or perhaps even no pain.

Paracetamol doesn't do it, and neither does ibuprofen.  Not that I'd ever take ibuprofen for more than a day anyway.  I can't believe it's still legal.  So the next step up is the opiates and opioids, and after much trial and error I settled into a reasonable regime.  Reasonable in that once I got used to the side-effects, I was perfectly functional whilst being in little pain for most of the time.  I could supplement with extra, other drugs if needs be for 'breakthrough' pain (wonderful terminology they use, isn't it?).

But that's the thing, you have to get used to it. And there are two ways you can go with that.  Because your perception of the world subtly but undeniably alters, you can either learn to work your mind around the drug's effects and back to a 'clearer' pre-drug state (much like developing resistance) or just give in to the stone and go zombie.  It's nice to know that you can always choose the latter state for a holiday anyway.

I have a slow-drip regime, with a transdermal patch doing the heavy lifting analgesia-wise, so it's a little different from the up/down/sideways cycle of oral drugs, but the experience has made me wonder - given the huge amount of prescriptions written for these sorts of drugs every day in Australia - indeed in the developed world - what percentage of people we see in the supermarket are off their dials on painkillers?  I'm thinking lots.  Let's say that as 1/3 of the population suffers back pain at some point in their adult lives, and they have that 1/3 of the time, then 1/9 of the people have dodgy backs at any given moment.  There's more than 10% right there.

Imagine this.  Stand still in your local shopping mall.  See the people all about you milling around, and notice that they're all getting slower, and slower, until they're barely moving, like they're in treacle, and they almost, but not quite, completely stop.  Now, place a little yellow light above the head of 1 in 5 people.  I reckon that's the amount of folks with some painkillers in them affecting their mood somewhat.  Now look around again.  1 in 8 people are on antidepressants at any given time, so give them a light too.  Now do another 10% for those using prescription and other drugs illegally.  Don't forget to do just under a quarter of all the kids on ADHD meds and more than 3 quarters of anyone over 65.  Now do 5% for the functional alcoholics.  Add another 5% for the undiagnosed or untreated seriously mentally ill.  Give yourself a light if you need one.  Getting pretty yellow in here, isn't it?

Is it any wonder that advertising is so effective, when so many people are not the prime determiner of their own brain chemistry?

OK, you can let them all go now, not forgetting to thank them and give them a little nod and bow of love and kindness.

Zombies don't need to eat our brains, they're eating their own.