2016 (revisited)

I’m a storyteller, in several disciplines and mediums, including music and abstract expressionism. Understand, I don’t say this to brag. There is nothing to brag about when your principle skill is to abstract reality and try to inject fantasy, fiction, lies into the already inundated world we live in.

But what has been amazing me lately is that, through a combination of media manipulation and social conditioning, we have come to a point where strangers dying devastates us (me included) and liars winning has become not only predictable but acceptable. Pre-ordained, even. The underlying message is this: we are doomed.

This is at extreme odds with the message I have been trying to share and manifest in every piece of work I do. I am a hopelessly eternal optimist, a cynic bitten hard but determined to fight back. And 2016 has made many of my worst nightmares come true. Many of my creative and spiritually significant heroes and heroines have fallen, many well before their reasonably appointed time. David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Prince, Keith Emerson, Carrie Fisher (and then her mother, Debbie Reynolds, the very next day), and dozens more, too numerous to mention without writing a grotesque list with no context. These were all strangers, to me. I had never met any of them. But modern media and the advent of the internet had made them all not only influences and heroes to me, but had made them fundamental pillars in my personal makeup. They were and are a part of me.

Bowie taught me style and creativity, and telling great stories in the context of pop songs. Prince taught me to rock and roll. Alan taught me to grow up and be a good man. Carrie Fisher taught me to truly love and admire women of character and intellect, wit and beauty. And there were so very many others I’ve lost in the last few years, more so than at any other point in my life. Yes, the stars are all getting to be of an age. Yes, there will be more celebrity deaths. Yes, I will lose more heroes. Yes, I will cry more. No, the pain won’t stop. Life goes on, and gets harder as we grind to the finish.

Trump will be inaugurated in a few weeks. His cabinet, a veritable rogue’s gallery of the worst and most disgusting human beings on the face of the planet, will teach America the mistake of blind faith once and for all. We may even pay for the mistake with our lives. I’m only slightly exaggerating. I really do fear the next US administration, even from my comfy computer chair in Canada. Our own nation’s leader has turned out to be a political puppet, enacting policies we fought to stop the previous PM from enacting. Our planet is being denuded and pillaged for every last disastrous natural resource. If we don’t figure out how to get off of this beautiful, ailing planet in time, we will most likely perish ourselves, and I honestly don’t know if I think that’s a bad thing. The environment isn’t some frilly dress we can afford to strip off when it gets dirty. Our civil rights and freedoms are not excess baggage we should all be prepared to eject in the name of making rich men richer, whilst deluding ourselves that we are making the world better. We cannot turn back the clock. There was never a perfect, golden age that we can retreat to. It was ALWAYS the best of times, and the worst of times.

It’s not all doom and gloom. We are still creating wonderful, poignant works of art and music and literature. We are still aspiring to the very best that our monkey brains can manage. But we keep falling short of the mark with alarming regularity, and writing it all off as a misunderstanding or a gross misrepresentation of the ‘truth’ as we prefer to see it. We have all forgotten what the most important principle of humanity is: to be good to one another, and to help one another up when we fall. That is how we’ve survived this long. It wasn’t this social Darwinism lark we’ve been selling ourselves. It isn’t this dog-eat-dog attitude we’ve adopted. That way leads to short returns and long disappointments, and ruins lives in the process. There should be one and only once Golden Rule, and it is not ‘fuck you, I got mine’.

It is this simple truth: we either all rise together, or we fall into oblivion alone, sooner or later. No one gets to take the gold with them. Not the pharaohs, not the Royal Family, not the billionaires, nor the drug lords, nor anybody else. We are all here for a very short amount of time, and the only things we will be remembered for is what we gave to the world. We can give family. We can give monuments. We can give art. We can give love. We can give a legacy of peace and hope to future generations. We can inspire.

Or we can give misery. These are the only things that survive us. Corporations may or may not bear our names, but they are soulless, and they are not like the deities of old, who at least behaved like people. Corporations behave like insects, dividing and devouring us. Our Corporatist society is so alien to the human experience, but we’ve slowly conditioned ourselves to accept it without question, to  believe in it. To worship it. You don’t believe in God, anymore. You believe in the Corporations. You worship them with every fibre of your being. Try to deny it.

2016 has been a motherfucker of a year. It’s been the worst year I’ve had to live through yet. I believe in nothing but the specialness of existence, of the specialness and the sanctity of living. It’s not the same as religious faith, but it’s good enough for me. But what I fear is that we are cutting our role in this reality short by mindlessly following this cynical, jaded, pig-ignorant path. We are all star stuff. Sentience and life force are a bizarre confluence of matter and energy that has intent. Believe what you will about where that comes from or how it came to be here. All I know, and all I’m prepared to believe, is that it’s valuable beyond measure, and that we all struggle with it for the good of the future. We must bring some measure of sanctity to our dealings with the universe. We owe it to our past and our future, and the reality that bore us.

Accident, gift or curse, life is special, is sacred. It doesn’t have to be a horror show. We can make it better for everyone, if we would just open up our hearts and try. We do not need to horde all of the gold for ourselves. There is no merit to screwing everyone else. There is no need for hardship. There is no virtue in suffering. There is value in working hard to achieve great works, but there is no intrinsic value in being made to do so under adverse conditions. That is bullshit we are told endlessly by our ‘betters’, to help maintain the status quo and keep most of us in our place, well below a reasonable standard of living.

2015 took Robin Williams, Chris Squire, and a number of others who were important to me. 2016 has doubled down, taking more stars from us than we’ve seen go down since the war years of the early 20th Century. We are steeped in tragedy. Life is still precious, and still impossible to sustain beyond a point. It’s too short for us to waste on greed and desperation. There is no way to ‘win’ this game. It’s not a game. It’s reality, and the whole point is for us to learn what makes existence worth enduring. We come into the world crying, and we go out pretty much the same way, and in the middle, we have nothing but love to sustain us. We need to put value on that. We need to focus on that goal.

Let Love Be Your Goal.

2017 promises to be a very trying, heartbreaking year. It’s not getting any easier, despite our iPads and Samsung phones. The future is here, and it’s not what we were sold on. But we can’t demand a do over and expect to get it. We need to invest ourselves in the betterment of mankind, or get the fuck out of the way. I am not afraid of dying poor. I’m afraid of dying unloved, unremembered, unfulfilled. This should be the mantra of our society. We all need to start giving a fuck, no matter how hard it is. It’s work, this life, but there IS value in doing the work, in becoming someone we can admire.

There are still many things that ail our society, poison it to its core. Racism, Sexism, Classism, Otherism. Our determination to argue for our differences, for our limitations, is consuming us. We need to see beyond the colours and shapes and labels, and get back to learning who we are, both to ourselves and to each other.

We can fool ourselves into thinking there is some value in these baubles, these abstract numbers, these material acquisitions.

Or we can love.

“And so, Happy Christmas, and a Happy New Year. Let’s hope it’s a good one, without and fear.” ~John Lennon


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