Monday, July 08, 2002

The following is an essay written by a friend of mine, Steven Ra$pa, reflecting on Independence Day, America and our freedoms.
Though it's a few days past the 4th, the ideas and thoughts provoked by this essay are strong enough that i feel like it merits being displayed here as well.
I just returned from an amazing weekend deep in the Nevada Desert on a thing called New Moonie excursion.
About 150 people got together in the desert and shared craziness, freakishness and a whole lot of other stuff both physically (!!) and mentally (!!!). It was quite a time....seeing people on their various edges, tossing sanity to the wind.
and the hot springs, ahhhh, the hot springs. amazing as well.
all in all, YES!! i feel wonderful..

ok...more on that later.
here's steven's wonderful words:

Independence, Tyranny, Pride, Walls and Cake!

I had hoped to go to the Black Rock Desert this weekend, make art and camp with friends, but decided it more prudent to stay home and spend the weekend looking for work, paying bills, doing taxes (I'm sure the government will find this very patriotic!), looking for a less expensive apartment (that does not have a construction site across the street), and making time to reflect a bit on life. Except for the last, these are not things I
Relish doing. No. So I am thinking, and today I am thinking especially about the nature of independence and pride.

No one is completely independent. No one is completely free from tyranny. And yet artists and freethinkers--oh yes, and quite often the insane�seem to come closest to living independently. Artists and freethinkers live beyond national, even personal, boundaries; they question the things they love in order to love them anew and more intensely; they open themselves to new and frightening experiences; they do things that make no sense at all and they do not confine themselves or restrict others by erecting walls in order to preserve what they love. Rather, they are in the business of removing walls. To me this makes extaordinary sense. Walls that are created with pride, walls that are created to keep others out, walls that creep up to preserve what we love most--become prisons. Walls are ultimately self-defeating. I have rallied around "radical inclusiveness" (a fundamental aspect of Burning Man, which is a natural compliment to my theory of MEW--and no, I shall not discuss that here; it's far too simple, which makes it extremely dangerous!) as an idea because inclusion is NOT about walls. Neither is independence. And both are a challenge to uphold.

Pride, my dear friend and enemy, Pride! Tyranny is often born of pride; and yet it is natural to celebrate what we share and hold dear. It is also natural to feel good about our lives and what we have created for ourselves.
Pride is a birthday cake with candles; and it is also a stick of dynamite. I often laugh with and at it, if you know what I mean. With their need to feel special--and their resulting pride -- people have created terrible blind spots and done small-minded, short-sighted and hateful things to one another.
Idiots and morons! And yet "THEY" are "US." And here I am today in America, living a charmed life, having tasted liberty in doses that defy politics, nationality, good sense and at times even imagination itself. And I am proud! Or at least grateful--even as I am concerned about reductions in civil liberties thought necessary to make this country "safer" and to preserve our freedoms. I won't get into it; you know what is going on � and for perfectly good reasons. But is that independence? Is it freedom? I am as proud as I am not -- of myself and of this country. We can always do better and must always try.

I believe the path to true independence is to humbly open oneself to the world again and again; to question and challenge our fears, even the things we hold dear; to make ourselves vulnerable and to offer greater freedoms to others than we can even offer ourselves at times. And yet freedom, too, is a burden and creates its own kind of tyranny. The price of information and experience is often the cost of understanding the impact each of us has on our communities and the world...the cost of knowing better and knowing that you do not know better. There are no absolutes, no best way to do anything,
no best place or thing to be. And yet we must do what we can and live our values. Yes,
yes independence creates its own burdens and challenges. Even the word begs the question, "Independence from what?" It's an old story and the construct itself has walls worth knocking down, even as we embrace it. As it has been said many times before, �May we never be free from freedom!�

Well, may we, as artists, free-thinkers -- and perhaps, the criminally insane -- never be independent of Independence Day; may we make it our own, wherever we spend it. May we be Americans on our own terms...and may we also be citizens of the world without the blinders of national pride. May we always live life fully and work steadily to disperse the tyranny of ages -- within and around us. And may we always keep our eyes on the
Birthday cake, even as we are delighted by the candles and thoroughly enjoying the taste of every preposterous bite!

I HOPE-WISH-PRAY-DREAM (and pledge allegiance to the United States of
Humanity etc and so forth!) that this 4th of July finds you creatively celebrating your own independence -- in the very best ways you can muster! (Or is that mustard?)

With Love, Light and a Hearty Ka-BOOM!

- $teven Ra$pa

"During a carnival men put masks over their masks." - Xavier Forneret, 1838

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