Wednesday, June 15, 2016

We've Got Some Work To Do

     My brain is on fire.  With the onslaught of violence, fear, and hollow divisive rhetoric we’ve all been immersed in over the course of the past few months… I trust others are buzzing too. I’m finding myself over and over again in conversations and in front of television screens absorbing strings of words: words about radicalized religion, words about assault weapons, words about strategies, words about mental illness, words about refugees… all immensely weighted subjects. But somehow the talk still feels hollow, like we haven’t quite found the truth.. the right conversation, the right action.  
     I’ve long clung to the words of Emerson, “Select and collect all the words and sentences that in all your readings have been to you like the blast of a trumpet.” 
     What is shocking me, though, is that in the wake of the growth of ISIS… in the havoc this story has wreaked… in listening and absorbing and seeking the words of so many clouted intelligent humans, I haven’t heard many trumpet blasts.
     I haven’t felt once while watching the news that overwhelming, warm, passionate call to action that inevitably results from hearing what one’s soul recognizes as truth. Our conversation sounds hopeless and I believe, maybe spiritually, that truth never leads to hopelessness. Truth never leads us to compromise our morals or to abandon our humanity. 
     A friend asked me recently to honestly ponder whether or not I am “afraid” of radical Islam.  I’m far from perfectly enlightened.  The scared little girl version of Crosby is as fearful of being shot or bombed or plotted against as anyone could be.  But I can’t let go of the adult me, the fully human me, I’ve worked too hard on her… and there’s something different she’s fearing.  
     I am so very proud and thankful to live in America.  I’m proud to live in the country founded on a belief in universal human rights and dignity.  I’m thankful to live in a country that forces its children to understand that the world doesn’t fit into a singular story.  While raised in a religious household, I was undoubtedly exposed to the notion that living in America, means living amongst and loving people unlike myself. We have the freedom to live our own story, and respect each others’ unique stories.  I am thankful to have been raised in a safe country, governed by very capable intelligence agencies that protect me well.  This country has made mistakes, as any collection of humans is bound to, but I believe history prods us closer and closer to moral truths every day on a collective scale. 
       And the rational adult me, the one who doesn’t rely on fear to construct my worldview, is afraid we’ve become too complacent in sacrificing these gifts… these gifts that are our strength.  When fifty people are murdered while celebrating on a Saturday night, the simple and right human thing to do is to mourn, to cry, to condemn the senselessness.  I’m scared that our conversation shifted too quickly away from a human reaction to tragedy, that the reaction from the United States to the world… appeared  absent of the human heart. When the conversations I heard on the news and in homes jumped immediately to whether the issue is gun control or radical Islam.. it seemed to me as if we were looking for an explanation.  There is none and there never was. I’m scared we’re compartmentalizing our heads and hearts in a way that will lead us to value policy over people, that we’re desensitizing ourselves to pure grief. 
     I believe, again perhaps spiritually, that there is a rather beautiful explanation as to why military action against ISIS isn’t working.  This struggle requires us to sharpen our rationale, to expand our compassion, to look hard and cry as we search for truth…on a global scale.. it’s around dinner tables, at church, and at bars..  because this is a battle of ideas.  The good news is… in the battle of ideas the truth always wins.  

     For those of us that love life, that love partying with our friends, that love to hear profound stories of the human experience and cry if we have to… it is now our obligation to make sure truth is expressed as clearly and as often as possible.  Let us not construct our worldview out of fear and sacrifice our humanity, because then what we are afraid of surely wins.  In the words of Patton Oswald, “The good outnumber you and we always will.” So let’s live up to our potential.  

Monday, May 9, 2016

How to Forgive My Brain

     I know exactly what I don’t want to talk about… exactly what I don’t want to write about.  
     The problem with this reality, this scraping truth, is that at this moment it’s all I can say and it’s all I can think.  If I can’t write about this… then it will be a long time before l I can write at all.  It’s the rhythm of the thoughts in my head and it’s the speed at which words exit my mouth.  This forbidden truth is the tempo of my reality… and I’m not one to write fiction.  
     I’ve been told more than once by the people I love that the things I’ve said or written when I’m most afraid are the things that matter.  I’ve absorbed the lectures and words of my favorite authors and thinkers… that the vulnerable space produces the truest work.  But shit it’s hard.  
     When I was sixteen I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, the lineage of which is embedded deeply into my blood, into my beautiful ancestry of tender caretakers and hard workers, of deep thinkers and God ponderers.  I worked hard, as so many of my name have before me, to live in this world with a mind that operates a little bit differently than most… it took years. I really believed I had outrun it. 
      After therapy, medication, meditation, and re-evaluation of beliefs.. I even started to doubt its existence.  It had been so long since I’d felt my hands shake.  It had been so long since I couldn’t shower or sleep without noise to distract me from my own racing mind.  My life began to feel like the causal blur I dreamed of and arrogantly imagined others experienced. 
      It had been years.  
     Then, after my vacation of floating and thoughtless abandon, I began to sweat.  I got chills.  My head felt heavy.  It came back and it is back.  
     What I fear the most about sharing my story, I’ve realized, is that I fear it stands in contrast to what I espouse, what it is I feel most passionately.  I believe the purpose of human life is to manifest the most selfless, compassionate, fully alive version of one’s self.  
     Talking about my own mental illness requires me to talk about ME, the all important self, admits that at my worst…my mind plays a constant news reel cycle of ME.  
     I fear that I have no right to talk about my struggle, as comparatively I’m aware there are so many beautiful humans on this earth whose struggle is mere survival.  The scared voice in my head convinces me that if I ask for help, I’m abandoning the real work I feel I was put on this planet to do.   
     But that’s where the truth, or God maybe shows up. I’m a thinker and a feeler.  I always have been.  While my words might be slow, my brain moves at a pace at which I can barely control. While this hurts me on my worst days, I believe it is my resurrection story and my truest source of purpose.  To look at a world of hurting people and not be hurt, is to not be fully alive.  At the very least, I know I’m quite alive.  

     My mind has brought me every ounce of the immense joy I’ve experienced in my still very young life.  It’s what makes me love reading and writing.  It’s what makes me love my family, my friends, and this world with such intensity.  But it’s time to admit it… my brain hurts sometimes.  If you ever need someone to talk to, it could be me.  I guess we don’t always choose our purpose.  

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Democracy 2016

   I have a lot of friends who hate talking politics… and I get it. 
     I understand that the wheeling and dealing of millionaires in Washington D.C. and at some United Nations conference in Switzerland doesn’t change much about most of our tangible realities.  Most of us will continue to go to work five days out of the week. We will continue to laugh about the same silly stories from our past weeks or years. We will continue to drink and dance and worry about money… and I truly believe we will continue to have conversations around tables that touch on a reality far deeper than the one we hear about on the news.. the kind of deep truths that only personal experiences and relationships can bring us. 
     So I’ve been contemplating what it is about political debate, then, that I still love, and I think it’s the way that it forces us to sharpen.. or soften.. our perspective of a world inhabited by so many people and communities other than our all-important “selves”. 
I love these conversations because they point to enlightenment. How highly do you value the policies of any one candidate or party that would do wonderful things… but only for people whose stories are identical to yours? How tightly to you hold to your own comfort?
The most beautiful political opinion or any opinion, in my perspective, is the kind that gives value to the concerns of people whose stories look nothing like mine.  If I were to base my political opinions on solely my own experiences, I’m far overestimating my own importance, my own story… and there is no way the seven billion people on this planet, or the three-hundred million people in this country, would holistically benefit from the economic and social policies that would benefit Crosby Damron and family.  
But hey.. I’ve always been self deprecating. 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Progress for the sake of progress

     I used to say I saw no value in small talk.  I used to condemn it strictly for its shallow inquiries, and its tendency to encourage us to never actually open our bored ears.  How's school? How's work? How are your parents or your kids?  I can't remember what I answered or worse, what you said.
      I don't hate it so much anymore though.  To be honest, I think I shied away from it so vehemently because I was embarrassed of my answers.  When my parents' friends or acquaintances strolled in to buy coffee at my work, I would begin to formulate half-true answers to all too typical questions.  "I'm in online school", "I'm about to get promoted", "I'm trying to move out of town", or "I'm looking for another job"... struggling to justify my existence to practical strangers.  I'm worried we do this in smaller ways all the time.
     It turns out, though, there is more value in this kind of conversation than I ever imagined.  So much fodder for what I think and write has stemmed from my discomfort at the assessments we make of each other based off of information that is entirely non-reflective of our cores.   It is what we ask each other when we don't listen, the questions we ask rhetorically, assuming the answers are given, that point solely at what we have been taught and accept as the stipulations for a valuable life. Most of these conversations at my age, maybe at any age, boil down to an explanation of our never-ending movement, always ensuring each other that we are in the midst of a whirlwind of progress.  "Trust me, please. Believe I'm working towards something better than where I am now."
     We feel guilty at the audacity of the thought, embarrassed to admit, that maybe we're standing still.
     And this is where remembering that I'm one of seven billion beautiful humans on this earth has changed me.
     I make very close to minimum wage, sure.  Still, the externals of my life on paper would make me look like a damn Beverly Hills socialite in comparison to millions of our suffering human brothers and sisters.
    I've visited foreign countries with people I love.
    I own a car.
    I cook beautiful meals for my friends.
    I drink clean water thoughtlessly.
    I buy myself beer and makeup.
    I go to concerts.
    I'm surrounded by creative people who have the luxury of contemplating artistic pursuits.
   And what if career and school wise I aspired to nothing more?

     Do I want to better myself? Absolutely.
That sounds like constantly striving to love my friends and family better, to learn as much as I can about the world outside of myself, to absorb the words of poets and authors that ignite the fire of my own creativity.

     I hope we can stop explaining our progress in terms of countable productivity, because it's not who we are.  Let's tell each other what we've been reading or what makes us dance.  Tell me what's bubbling out of your soul... because what we do might have nothing to do with who we are. I am content with where I am, no progress to speak of, but I promise you my soul is still moving.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Right Here Right Now

Twenty-two is a weird age. I’m very much a kid and I feel that truth in my bones.  I stay up unreasonably late, dance for so long at bars that my feet hurt in the morning, and accept invitations to practically every social opportunity over enthusiastically. I require at least two days of my mom’s pep talks before doctor’s appointments and avoid setting up a 401k because I can’t imagine parting with fifty dollars of fun money every month… money I quite easily justify spending on fancy candles or concert tickets. 
Interestingly enough, this kid lifestyle is pretty new to me. Anyone acquainted with me at seventeen can attest to that. I’ve always been a thinker, at times for better and at times for worse. Obsessed with my own anxiety, my responsibility to save the world, and my desperation for the approval of others, I sacrificed the possibility of experience in a years-long attempt to figure out what it “means” to be alive… the purpose of the human experience. Luckily though, I failed. I wrote about it, I read about it, I cried about it. 
I’m done philosophizing my way out of life, because it doesn’t work. I can read and write about social theory, ponder with the smartest friends I have for hours about how relationships are supposed to work, develop staunch opinions on the importance of maintaining strict standards for human interaction… and then still end up with my heart-broken when a boy changes his mind about me. The silliest of young adult moments, the kind I was sure I was above… there’s no running from them. No opinion in the world, even the most beautiful words from your favorite poet, can safeguard you from experience. Because it is life itself, not the analysis of it, that cultivates and sets a flame under truth. 

How about we plant ourselves here, right where we are? I’m learning to develop my “life theories” while I live, not before I live. I don’t want to float above experience and comment while the rest of the world dances or suffers.. because my feet are planted here and I want to soak it all in like the burning rays of the sun.  I’m done living a life of ideas and turning it in for a life grounded in moments, because as it turns out you can’t distance yourself from your own story… and I’m tickled to have discovered that life has been chasing me for quite a while. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

If I Believed in God Part 2: The Death Hour

     I used to think I was unique for having an anxiety disorder... generalized anxiety disorder as my charming grandfather-like psychiatrist specified quite nonchalantly to the sixteen year-old version of myself.  I thought it was slightly glamorous and comforting, an excuse to let my brain off the hook.  The dark weight, though, rolled in and reminded me that it's always been pretty sickening. I stumbled upon my own mortality at age six, while bouncing on a trampoline and cried to my mom that I couldn't believe a day will come when "I don't have any thoughts".  The terror of this weird realization haunted me until last year when I finally mustered up the willpower to go to a "cognitive therapist". With some characteristic rambling to a man I didn't know outside of the confines of that bleak-looking room and a whole lot of work... I conquered this death obsession for now. I am uncomfortably conscious of my reality, that this obsession will likely be replaced with something new, but in this moment, my mind is peaceful.  I'm pretty damn thankful.  Now I'm trying to find some meaning... to find out why God would have implanted this debilitating obsession with life's brevity in my brain for so many years... and the truth is screaming, reeling around in my eardrums.
     If I believed in God... he would want his followers to plant themselves firmly in the here and now... on the dirt of this Earth with the people it sustains.  We are supposed to be here.
     The sacred texts I learned in church regarding the after-life are mythical... airy words, romantic promises of a future we hope for but can't really feel.  Less vague and more tangible?  The calls to action in this life... calls to love one another, to work towards justice, to withhold judgement, to protest on behalf of the poor and the oppressed.
     Our obsession with the insignificance of this temporary life threatens to convince believers that the betterment of life on Earth is futile, insignificant in the light of eternity.  In this strain, where is the drive to feed a starving child?  If what awaits the impoverished is a life in paradise after their quickly impending deaths... then all we must do is convince them to claim Jesus? No... if I believed in God... we feed them and protest the hoarding mentality that sustains poverty.
     I think a lot about the scripture, "Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven".  I want to live and work for justice like this life I have on Earth is the most divine thing I will ever experience, because it feels immensely sacred.  How do we conquer death? We live... because it's really fun.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

If I Believed In God Part 1: Camp Nelson

     My grandfather, Duane Damron, recently turned 80.  At his charming birthday party, I cried as my family and I sang Buck Owens songs with him, loud and giggling in his house perched high on a Bakersfield hilltop. The gifts his life has given me danced along in my mind to to the sweet melody of my singing family. One echoing over and over in my soul... my Papa taught me to love nature.  Not remotely a conscientious environmentalist, my Papa's fondness for the Earth is one of tradition and divine respect.  My Papa and Grandma Frances raised only boys and bought a simple cabin high in the Sequoia National Forest as soon as they could afford it, a wilderness untamed enough to wear out the energy of three hyper little boys. As my divine luck would have it, my cousins and I ventured to this same haven every year of our own childhoods.  We caught salamanders, fell in rivers, buried ourselves in snow, and trekked mud through the carpets of the cabin for years... all the while I fell in quiet love with nature.

     If I believed in God... this God would inspire his followers to recognize his existence in these quiet places and require of them the prioritization of its reverence and conservation. If God didn't intend for humans to marvel at and fight for nature... how can we possibly justify the beauty that exists on this planet? I have to believe the Yosemite Valley and the peaks of Patagonia serve more of a purpose than to remind us that God is talented... they must be a call to action: to seek to make God's "will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven".  If Yosemite is God's will... then damn I'm all for it.

If I believed in God, I would believe that every time a Christian supports the compromise of nature for the idol of financial gain... his heart breaks.