A Passion for Peace

Responsibility, respect and a loving connection with all beings and for this Earth we share.

"You'll love it here, and never want to leave!"

Life in Australia is easy. Social support structure, small population, minimal violence and international conflict (in Wikileaks, the US describes Australia as a "rock-solid" and uninfluential ally) make it quite comfortable here. And, as my Australian and ex-pat friends have been discussing, creates and attracts a number of vanilla custard-type people used to "the good life." 


Considering Maslow's Heirarcy of Needs, basic human rights are biological and physiological needs, governments are meant to meet safety needs, social and societal community structures strive to fulfill belongingness and loving needs, education to supply esteem and cognitive needs. And then you reach art, "the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination." If what gets you out of bed in the morning is being the world's best ballerina (here's hoping you stay saner than Portman in the Black Swan), then as long as your lower needs are met, I suspect you can find a way to do that Thing That Brings You Joy. How else to explain the numbers of persistent unpublished poets and unsponsored athletes and even stay-at-home parents?
Van Gogh only sold one painting in his lifetime. Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated. There are so many examples to help us realise that making money or earning accolades is not a reflection of how good you are at what you're doing, or its value to yourself and society. Money does make it easier to take care of yourself, and if basic needs are already cared for (ala Australia), money can increase quality of life so you can explore arts, a sense of self, etc. I work with and for many who struggle to gather the basic flour, eggs and water, much less have an oven to put a custard into--all while my life "struggles" are choosing flavours of icing and toppings. Because of my stability, I'm lucky to be able to focus on my art. And if you're reading this, you're likely also lucky enough to be in the icing or whipped-creme zone, too.

What I see with some vanilla custard types here is a lack of upward momentum, a getting somewhere stuck between esteem and self-actualisation, and resulting feelings of elevated entitlement. For example, unlike many Britishers in the news lately, I do not feel entitled to free university education in any subject. (On the other hand, unlike the conservatives in the US trying to dial back heathcare, I do think a measure of such care is a basic need the government should ensure and that no one should go into debt or avoid achieving health for lack of money. This also does not seem to me in society's best interest, if you think what the person could be doing if feeling well!) 

It's all relative. There was a study recently that once you earn above $75,000, your happiness actually decreases or stagnates. The theory is, if you want a new pair of shoes and you have to save for it, or go back later when it's on sale, you remember the anticipation, and when you do get it you have that story and excitement every time you wear it. If you're really wealthy and you just buy it because you look at it and like it, you don't appreciate it as much, you don't have a story, and you didn't reflect whether you really wanted or needed it. What I wonder with easy living, is whether people don't think about moving up the heirarchy because on a metaphorical level if they want the shoes they get them. Why consider even fancier shoes when you and everyone around can get nice shoes if they want?

Saturday night I sat in Federation Square watching the Australian Open on the big screen, snacking on carrots and hummus and chatting to friends. Walking to the train, my friend commented what a beautiful night it was, to which I replied, "Yes, and I love my life!" I do. I'm also all for national pride, and am tired of people telling me how much I'll love it and want to stay here. I do love it. I am here, and I chose to come. And, Australia, I do not want to stay for good. No offense (or offence). I'm enjoying our time together, and for what it's worth, I don't think you're uninfluencial at all. It's quite an antidote to South Africa, which I also adored.

If I'm Goldilocks, after all of this travel I'm thinking more and more that home-basing in the US will feel juuuuust right. You can test your fit into gross national happiness here. I'm a solid 35/35. Here's hoping you are too, and blessed to pursue whatever your art/heart desires!

Posted byValerie at 11:53 AM 0 comments  

Cheers! Salut! Prost! Oogy Wawa!

Happy New Year! Instead of rushing into the future thinking what I want to achieve in 2011, I'm taking time to reflect on and relish accomplishments of the past year(s) and celebrate personal and career growth, and the support of friends and family around the world. Sometimes it's hard to stay positive and strive towards the balance of being present with mindful planning and past introspection. I'm making lists of what I want to release from my life, and what I want to call in and cultivate, forming more philosophical goals than specific measurable ones. One broad goal is to be grateful. "Gratitude sees mistakes as natural and forgivable. It sees them as opportunities for self-correction, not punishment. Gratitude is about opportunities to change and grow. Gratitude is optimistic in that it allows for anything to happen in the next moment. Gratitude is about being open to transformation," quoted from here. (Jack & Coke in a can, typical Christmas and New Year's fare. I, however, abstained from such merriment and the inevitable drama that ensues.)

So often we have fond thoughts of others we don't share. Sometimes that gushiness feels so good! It's not the typical Aussie method. Here people tend to show affection by putting others down. "I'd consider coming over if I actually wanted to see you," instead of "I wish I could come, because I'd love to see you, and already have plans." Teasing can be fun, but not when it's all there is, or egos involved are fragile. An alternative is that we can all aspire to be Jedi, and follow the Zen advice of doing less. Example: when is the last time you listened to music? Just listened: eyes closed, not involved in any other task but listening and experiencing the music? How about watching a movie--not with your laptop whirring, while folding laundry, or cooking supper, but just sat and immersed yourself in a movie? The same can apply to anything from washing dishes and feeling the warm soapy water feed through your fingers, to walking in a park and stopping to smell a flower or seek out a bird flitting around a nearby tree. 1/4 of people in the US said it was okay to be online during sex. Eeps! I'm thinking more and more that multi-tasking is a bit like processed food and much of Western medicine: highly overrated and short-sighted.

As for my holiday celebrations, after a 40C (100F) day ambitiously spent cycling and wandering around St Kilda beach, I began 2011 in a state of zen listening to waves crash across a rocky seashore, watching a string of fireworks across the city from afar (at one point there were 8 different sets firing off all across the bay), in the post-picnic company of a friend. Christmas and my first Boxing Day were with friendly and lively large families, both fun and exhausting. It made me appreciate that my family is small so that holidays are restful simply due to the limited number of attendees. House-sitting now by the beach south of the city, I'm enjoying a lot of restful alone time, meditating and cycling often. It's hard to be stressed with sand between one's toes, lorikeets squawking in trees, a peculiar flowery smell outside one's front door, a large patio with a waterfall and huge kitchen to come home to. I realise I spend more time on porches and in kitchens than anywhere else in a house, and tend to sit on the floor instead of on a sofa. (Photo: lorikeet in a gum tree)

On the work front, the project to reform the Melbourne response to priest sex abuse is heating up, with a front-page story in the paper. And I routinely spend hours a day reading about child trafficking. I'm currently engaging in an interesting inner debate, whether or not it's better to legalise prostitution. Current research is indicating not.
Pro's: can regulate it, test prostitutes for disease, keep it above-ground, it's going to happen anyway so may as well monitor it and make it safe, gives women career option, tax it for state income.
Con's: increases the amount of trafficking, diseased/drug-addicted women are forced underground, women in the profession have a history of abuse and neglect and often perpetuate it into further PTSD and other disorders through prostitution, creates a culture of condoning the commodification of women and paying for sex, women have plenty of career options that do not violate fundamental human right of safety and sanctity of one's body and sexuality, ruins sex for the women, many men feel peer-pressured into it and regret using prostitutes.
It's Australia/Scotland/Netherlands/Denmark and other Western nations who've legalised prostitution and seen a huge uptick in trafficking, porn, prostitution, and abuse of women versus Sweden, where prostitution and trafficking have been decriminalised for prostitutes and sex workers so they have incentive to report and can receive help, and criminalised for traffickers and sex exploiters and those who pay for such services. Stopping the demand side.
I'm obviously leaning towards the Swedish model. With Australia #2 in the world creating demand for sex workers, one wonders how soon such laws and attitudes will change. Here's hoping, and working toward that end! (Photo: Black Rock beach in the moonlight)

And here's to a new year full of love and light, health and fulfillment, and for those of us in the market, paid work in our fields of choice so we can easily continue our life's work. *wink*

Posted byValerie at 4:10 AM 0 comments