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November 1998, Volume 6 Nr. 3, Issue 63

Rejuvenation

Each of us have specific methods by which we re-energize ourselves. Often, small acts of rejuvenation allow us to continue our daily routine. We wake up each day, head off to work (perhaps to a job which we barely tolerate), deal with the boss, family, friends, not-so-friends, finances, cars, etc. - all the necessary (or so we are told) stuff of which life is composed.

What if all of it was unreal? What if all that our upbringing taught us was important was discovered to be trivial? What if that which we accepted as a necessary component of obtaining renewed vitality was part of a carefully (though not necessary consciously) orchestrated mythology? What if this mythology predetermines and limits the options of our genuine revitalization in order to inculcate a false sense of rejuvenation?

What if masquerading under the disguise of worthwhile endeavor and beneficial activity, our coopted and highly predictable acts of self inflicted pseudozest were nothing more extraordinary than Madison Avenue hype - a ruse for trendy wannabes who no longer are in touch with what energizes the soul, spirit and psyche?

It is more than just possible that rejuvenation can take place without the requirement of buying something new or spending money. The system of our ever-increasing consumerism has us spending hundreds of billions of dollars across the life span of the present boomer generation offering the power of purchase as the opiate fix for a tiresome existence. The disorienting consequence of this self-medication is the continued necessity of further application. We buy more.

Addict

An addict consigned to meeting their need immediately is oblivious to nor cares about an in-depth analysis of, nor have they the desire to find alternatives to the cravings associated with the causes of the withdrawal.

Such is the Madison Avenue pitch for consumerist rejuvenation that reassures the long-term development of an internalized psychological mechanism of refreshing (or more correctly, rebooting) one’s psychic state of mind. The purchase of something, even an unnecessary item (particularly an unnecessary item), for which there soon will develop a need for its replacement, is profligated as a rejuvenating activity.

How often do we as busy humans take the time to re-evaluate the contentions under which we operate? We are certainly not trained to closely examine the lives that we lead. Yet, from time-to-time, an internal familiar, but often ignored voice, demands attention saying, "Examine your life," If as Socrates said, "An unexamined life is not worth living" then no wonder many people are depressed and unhappy.

It is difficult to examine our lives when our parental inherited thinking, teacher "bestowed" knowledge and societal values bombardment tells us otherwise. Examining one’s life is an enormous task. Our assimilated significant guiding mechanisms suggest otherwise. They encourage ownership and possession as the key to affirming life. The message is that buying just one more item just one more time, then that will bring us more rejuvenation albeit momentarily. It is impossible however, to go beyond the difficulty of not being able to examine one’s life when we are devoid of the recognition of the continuously nurtured subliminal operating paradigm instilled from childhood.

Loneliness

Often, I come home from teaching wondering about the loneliness associated with a profession dedicated to the intellect and its expansion. There are few people with which an affinity exists such that stimulating dialogue arises outside the cultural commonality confined by the parameters of consumerism. Fortunately, there are people at home with which to explore personal limitations and venture trespass across the boundaries of personal limitation. Recently, I had a conversation with a colleague about what people could do to help the deteriorating world situation. What does one say when someone states, "Well. You know the end-time is near. He is coming." I’m so fortunate having a life-mate who reads, writes, discusses and can think.

Often, JeanneE and I discuss the supposed satisfaction or apparent comfort of unchallenged intellectual stasis. People appear not to want mental challenge. They seem content to stay where they are not wanting to seek more of the truth. Nor, do they wish to risk even the remotest possibility that what they perceive as truth be revealed as false. Far better to be comforted by a lie than to be challenged by the possibility of being wrong or a fool. This (self) state of affairs, however self-preservatory, is nothing more than avoidance of the work necessary to arrive at conclusions which question the identity of who we are - that which we have been trained to accept as who we are.

It is a confrontation and an affront to our concept of "I" that defines us such that a rebuke challenges the concept of who "I" am. This is scary for most people. There is the fear that all of a sudden we might conclude that we are not who we thought we are. If we are to accept that our acts of rejuvenation, which we have been repeating for years, are not our own nor that they really bring us real renewed interest of purpose, then we might lose sight of that which we thought was valuable for so long. Through opening up the possibility of neurosis (at least the fear of the possibility) this might lead to an internal examination of some important beliefs that have been held for years or decades.

Taking such action is not the path of least resistance. It is not the road we have been taught by society to follow. Yet, in the long run, it provides access to freedom from imposed methods of mental molding, a road less traveled but quite freeing in the end.

Consider a few prototypes, some old and some new:

  • The founding fathers were moral
  • Politicians do what they want
  • Big is beautiful
  • Rich is successful
  • Less government is better
  • Taxes are bad
  • Poor people deserve their plight
  • The homeless choose to be that way
  • We live in a democracy
  • One person can do little

When we internalize ideas such as these as valid we create a reality where what we want is what we get. Accepting a premise without question never questions the premise.

Personal Trials

For a large portion of the planet’s population empowerment choices are severely limited. The millions of poor on the planet are actors, playing on a stage created by powerful script writers, stage managers and producers. The poor, however, for the most part are born by happenstance into a world beyond their power to change. To most of the impoverished world the more sophisticated question of rejuvenation is superceded by the necessities of survival. Those fortunate enough to change life circumstances which affords the luxury of putting pen to paper find the realization of the daily struggle for survival to be a non-sequitor.

It is an immense gift to be able to read, write and publish. Unless we have been there and done that at least once we cannot relate to either poverty nor illiteracy. While the rich have unlimited diversions, those that are not rejuvenate themselves through family, friends, singing, worship, taking care of each other, etc.

While neither my family is nor I am poor, I have been there and done that. I remember poverty as a child and the inadequate living conditions in a big city. I remember sharing a tiny bathroom (when we had one) with other families. I even remember attempting to eat toothpaste as a dietary supplement. I am not in that position now and perhaps, it is because of that experience and the gifts that my parents passed along to me, to question the value of everything, that my rejuvenation comes from events other than contributing to consumerism.

No too long ago I was feeling quite depressed over the dragging death of an African-American in Texas, the death of a gay student at the University of Wyoming, and I suspect, like millions of Americans, fed up with Monica-Bill soap opera extravaganza. Our family discussed these feelings and decided that there were indeed a number of things that we could and should do to rejuvenate ourselves. The first thing we did was to toss out our access to television broadcasting by disconnecting the satellite dish receiver and removing it. In rural Vermont without an external antenna this means no reception What a change! Life became instantly less hectic, more quiet and our home no longer sounded like it was being invaded by the corporate indoctrination of "go buy something!"

Over the past eighteen years we have had television for two years as an experiment. That has succeeded — TV is gone. If you desire rejuvenation don’t look for it in this medium.

Another decision was to identify one other thing that would make us refreshed, that which offers hope, is altruistic and giving. For me, this was of all things working on a political campaign.

Bernie

Bernie Sanders, congressman-at-large for the State of Vermont, is an independent progressive. Bernie is a democratic socialist from the Green Mountains who has been elected four times to the United States House of Representatives. He is the first independent in forty years to serve in the House. On November 3, Bernie was re-elected to an unprecedented fifth consecutive term.

I am amazed how little it takes to make a big difference. On two occasions, I spent a day leafleting the Farmer’s Market in Rutland, Vermont, inviting people to a barbecue (with vegetarian option) for Bernie. JeanneE volunteered to sing. The Saltash Serenaders performed as well. Since the religious Reich was making their presence felt in the Republican Party, and Rutland County was the home of Bernie’s opponent, I was determined that Bernie would win this county. I spent two Saturday’s handing out literature to hundreds of people while colleagues did what they could to further insure a big turnout. And, it happened. Right there in the middle of Republican territory, 350 people or more turned out for a barbecue for Bernie.

My rejuvenation at the barbecue was satisfying. There they were, hundreds of people many of which I had conversed with in the fall cold of the Farmer’s Market. There was JeanneE on the stage singing her heart and soul out as usual. There was good cheer, camaraderie, friendship and a sense that Vermont was heading toward a major contribution in rejuvenating progressive forces throughout the country. But, would Bernie win the county and the election?

I continued on my rejuvenating mission by asking permission for and planting dozens of re-elect Bernie lawn signs all over Rutland and Bennington counties. I called people from Bernie’s headquarters. Almost immediately, after any major event such as the barbecue, I created a webpage and posted pictures. This giving for Bernie and the progressive cause was so re-energizing that as the campaign continued I was filled with more and more hopefulness. For those who have access to the Internet, the two websites can be found at:

  • http://www.sover.net/~jozef/barbecue.html
  • http://www.sover.net/~jozef/victory.html

There was more rejuvenation to happen. There was the Rutland High School - Mount Saint Joseph’s annual rivalry football game. At 11:30 a.m., I stood with Chuck Naismith the head of the Rutland County campaign on a very obvious corner on Route 4. This corner was an important site for people going to the football game — most attending would have to make the turn there and we were highly visible. It was very cold. I held a large re-elect Bernie sign and decided that for the duration of the time I would campaigning in some special personal way. I decided to look at the driver of each car and the passengers, make eye-contact and offer a single-handed gesture of bowing to them as an act of offering goodwill.

The vast majority of people responded positively. Here in Vermont, it is not uncommon while driving on a side or dirt road for people to wave when they pass or look directly at each other. Vermonters pride themselves in expressing such simple gestures of good will (though it happens more often in rural than in the few urban areas).

Here I was wearing my homemade red beret, long hair flowing, long graying beard, sharing my good spirits and rejuvenation with anyone and everyone that I came in eye contact with. And of course, in my left hand, being buffeted by the cold north wind, was the re-elect Bernie sign. While I cannot tell for certain, I had the sense that even in those few vehicles which had little sympathy for the progressive cause that I was being effective. The mere fact that I was acknowledging the presence and humanity of another human being through my gestures and posture was a positive activity. I wonder how many people were affected enough to reconsider their position on Bernie Sanders and change it to a vote cast in favor? I will never know. What I do know is when I came home after hours of bowing on that corner and a few hours handing out Bernie stickers to the crowd at the game that I felt good, ready to take on the world.

Later that evening, JeanneE and I joined Bernie, Chuck and other campaign workers at a Rutland coffee house where we devised a simple strategy for working the crowd during the Rutland, Vermont, Halloween parade. Ten-thousand people showed up for that parade. Bernie walked around on the outside periphery of the crowd letting the people focus on the parade rather then on him. People called him by name, "Bernie. How you doing?" He gave out pins as we walked with him.

On one rare occasion, Bernie handed two women a pin and as he walked on one of them tossed the pin on the ground. I picked up the pin and handed it back saying, "You dropped this." She responded by saying that, "I don’t want that." I mentioned that that was your choice but that, "You could be a bit nicer."

Bernie himself is a positive force for rejuvenation. Through self-example he shows people that they can empower themselves and help make Vermont and the world a better place within which to live by being part of doing something good for others. Bernie has spent most of his life doing just that.

In a debate his opponent, Mark Candon, accused Bernie of being an activist for social justice. I suspect most people who care about the state-of-affairs of poor and working class people would take such an accusation as the compliment that it is. I should be so honored.

Blocks

I have friends and acquaintances who see themselves as liberal or progressive. Many of them were disheartened by the goings on in Washington and across the country. Yet, when I asked some of them to take a small step for fostering rejuvenation they would find dozens of excuses against doing so. I asked close associates to simply place a Bernie sign on their front lawn. Those that declined stated that they were not "sign people" though they would support Bernie. It was so difficult enlisting others to volunteer a few hours to make phone calls, stand vigil at the polling booths, hand out literature, etc. Yet, I know if a big sale was happening in town, may would flock to it spending more money than they want or have the ability to do. Which of the two would have rejuvenated them more? I know what works for me. Perhaps, my friends and readers should try it and see what happens.

End Rejuvenation

November 3, election day came. That evening, JeanneE and I joined hundreds of people at the Sweetwater’s Restaurant in Burlington, Vermont for a party. By the time we had arrived (7 p.m.) the Associated Press had declared Bernie a winner. Bernie won that election with 64% of the vote, an astonishing victory taking all 14 Vermont counties and most towns. Bernie even won the conservative districts in Burlington.

If that were not rejuvenation enough, U.S. senator Alfonse D’Amato was defeated in New York State as was senator Lauch Faircloth in North Carolina. The net result of the evening was that the Democrats picked up five House seats. While I am not a Democrat, I was glad to see the right-wing agenda of the Republican Party soundly thrashed that evening. And, as I write this issue, Newt Gingrich has announced that he is stepping down as speaker of the House and will not seek re-election as a Congressman.

I understand that my cause for rejuvenation may be someone else’s cause for just the opposite, this is after all a newsletter of progressive thinking. Perhaps, it is the balance of a multitude of ideas with respect for each other (as with my salutations on the street corner) that would give all viewpoints cause for rejuvenation as we are all in this together. It is not necessary to attack in order to achieve. It is not necessary to despise in order to benefit people. And, it is not necessary to divide nor to defeat.

When we realize that rejuvenation is possible through action and that very little is required for dramatic results perhaps next time we may take an more bold step. We become empowered to continue. We become more free from the bill of goods that the purveyors of consumerism have sold us. We are, after all, capable of far better things.

Quotes

The unexamined life is not worth living. It is not the responsibility of philosophy to answer our questions, but rather to question our answers.

  • Attributed by Plato to Socrates

A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.

  • George Bernard Shaw

 Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us.

  • Bill Watterson

 Do not fear death so much but rather the inadequate life.

  • Bertolt Brecht

 Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life so. Aim above morality. Be not simply good; be good for something.

  • Henry David Thoreau

One of life's quiet excitements is to stand somewhat apart from yourself and watch yourself softly becoming the author of something beautiful, even if it is only falling ash.

  • Norman Maclean

Men acquire a particular quality by constantly acting a particular way...you become just by performing just actions, temperate by performing temperate actions, brave by performing brave actions.

  • Aristotle

I have long since come to believe that people never mean half of what they say, and that it is best to disregard their talk and judge only their actions.

  • Dorothy Day

The actions of men are the best interpreters of their thoughts.

  • John Locke

The great aim of education is not knowledge but action.

  • Herbert Spencer

1998 Jozef Hand-Boniakowski

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