Monday, August 31, 2009

Art Makes A Difference! Tonglen, and how I got out of my head and into The Girl Effect, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights!

I've been really self-centered lately. I woke up in a self-centered spin, in fact. Here's an edited version of the internal monologue.

Jon's Little Voice
I need a motorcycle. My scooter is fine but
how great would it be to have a Harley.
Or I could get a little bike for the city and
then get a Harley when we're up in Vermont.
Oh speaking of Vermont, I can't believe
we didn't buy that house on Lake Champlain.
Wow, if we bought that house. I could put my
Harley in the garage. Or maybe a Triumph.
Or a BMW, but not a new one. Maybe an old
one. But not too old. I should be a vegetarian.
I should give more money to charity. I need to go
work out that jury duty thing. The letter said
I could go to jail. I should talk to a lawyer. Or
just answer the damn questionnaire. I wonder
how much college will cost for the kids. How
can I help them look at colleges if I'm in jail
for not answering the jury duty questionnaire.
What a loser I am for wanting a Harley.
Should my next tattoo be on the outside of
my arm or the inside? If it's on the inside...

And so on.

We all have our inner monologues, our little voices. (As they say at Landmark, right now your little voice is saying "what's he talking about? I don't have a little voice!") For me, one of the quickest ways to settle it down is... meditation. It helps quiet the voice, and also helps me recognize it when it shows up so I can smile and say "hi, little voice!"

This morning, I worked on some tonglen, which I was reminded of by Marc Ian Barasch's book Field Notes on the Compassionate Life, which, shock, I'm really enjoying. The fantastic Richard Cardillo of Peace Games sent me the book and it's awesome.

If you're not familiar, here is tonglen according to Wikipedia:

"In the practice, one visualizes taking onto oneself the suffering of others, and giving one's own happiness and success to others."

Anyway I'm reeling from this morning's tonglen, which sure as shit quieted down the little voice for a bit. I'm reeling with a sense of urgency. Urgency about compassion. Urgency about any artist's ability to make a real difference in the world by taking on compassion.

I came into the office and started cleaning up my email, ready to take the world by storm, and I noticed this video on the home page of United Global Shift, an organization that, according to its website, is "...causing a united global shift in what is possible for humanity, focusing on the environment, employment, entrepreneurship, health and education. A shift from survival and scarcity to possibility, partnership and peace." Inspiring! Check out the video:

This video, which is a beautifully depicted presentation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is in support of the U.S. Campaign for Burma. The declaration is a thirty-article document adopted by the United Nations in 1948; it's a powerful piece of writing which includes such seemingly obvious statements as, "no one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all forms," and "no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment."

Good stuff, right?

Here's the thing. It's been around since 1948 and I barely knew it existed. Maybe you knew about it, and maybe you have it scrawled in soy ink on your living room wall. But I only had the vaguest idea what it was.

And suddenly, through the power of art, through the power of art, design, and music, it's indelibly embedded in my skull. Thanks to someone waking up one day, and with a great heart of compassion, creating this video. It's all obviously important stuff, but I was free to ignore it until I watched this video!

Here's another unmistakable use of art from
Zoo-wee-mama! That's some powerful stuff. But the facts are readily available to us; we all can Google. Why is it that this particular website makes us jump up and pay attention? I've talked about this before, how we're ruled by Feeling, even when we think we pay attention to Reason.

So here you go, artists, use your powerful artist-muscles to make a difference in the world! It'll quiet down the little voice, and you can stop thinking about your Harley long enough to actually do something for someone else out there. Remember, all happiness comes from helping others!


p.s. I worked out the jury duty thing. All good. No jail. *

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