Category Archives: social science
ARTIST IN MOTION
Rhode Island, a place not known for cutting-edge artistic movements, is home to an emerging artistic force, who morphs the things forgotten into magnificent three-dimensional works. We had the pleasure to discuss Silva’s imagination with her recently, what inspires her, what motivates her…Let us introduce her narrative and glowing works to you all.
Silva: I have always had an artistic side. When I was younger I watched my father complete pencil sketches, he was good at it, but never took it anywhere. My brother also has an artistic side, and has done graphic art professionally. I took an art course at Rhode Island School of Design and learned many things, but I know that my brother and father were both positive influences. Only recently – the past 5 years or so – is when I began working on my own styles and my own ideas of what I believe art is, as opposed to mimicking family artists or through instruction.
This image above, what I call Blow your Mind, is one of my first in recent collection. I created this and similar themes to challenge people to think for themselves. This is a mixed media piece, as all of my collages are, which includes acrylic painting, cloth, and wood framing.
Interestingly, I discovered this portrait of the old man, basically discarded at a flea market, honestly just sitting alone in the back of this place. I can imagine that when he was alive he couldn’t have known his picture would end up being cut into art on my dining room table, nor in any flea market.
(My entire dining room is my art space) 😁.
As for my art/3D collage, it takes many, many layers. While I’m in no way trying to be political, some of my work cuts to the heart of the human condition. In a technology driven society, we tend to get disconnected through attachment to mobiles, technology, etc. and this distracts is from who we are as people sometimes. I like that theme.
I was invited twice to a Connecticut College to teach collaging to a group of special needs students. The students brought in pictures that were special to them; I brought in the supplies and personalized embellishments for each of them to use and held the class. I enjoyed helping them create their own pieces. It was such a rewarding experience, sharing my craft that way.
This piece above, entitled Love Slave, is a fun poke at Frankenstein and his bride. I really enjoy culture from the period of black-and-white TV and art deco of the 50’s; women were viewed as lesser beings or objects, and were expected and also relegated to domestic duties. This theme is captured deeper in the following pieces.
In this piece, there is direct objectification of the women, which still occurs today, unfortunately. It’s metaphorically demonstrated by the robot and woman (The way men are so responsive to the “perfect” image of a female). I have a personal aside to these types of presentations which also relates to my creative energy, how it is augmented. (See gallery below).
A handful of years ago, I was much heavier than my current self. I looked toward gastric bypass as an option to reduce my weight. This was not an easy road for me, and I imagine similar struggles for others who accept this type of treatment. For me, I simply wanted to live a fuller and longer life and this realization made my decision to undergo GB easier.
A very small percentage of GB patients keep their lifestyles in check to fulfill what GB is supposed to. I have remained committed to living. It’s partially from my personal, and ongoing metamorphosis within this experience that I am beginning to share myself through art. Women are strong creative beings and sometimes we forget this, or are talked into a different view of ourselves. I am happy where I’m going and realize now that art comes from within, and like people, a bundle of imperfect and ongoing expressive processes.
The two pieces below play off each other in a fun yet thought provoking way. The first depicts the role that women are stereotyped by men and society to – supposedly to be the domesticated goddesses of the home without any strength to be seen as equals with men in the working world.
The second image is my fun way of poking holes in that manner of thinking, by showing that women are stronger and more savvy than they are often given credit for.
The following image is a darker yet powerful depiction of how all of us, even in this day and age, are sometimes affected by depression, anxiety and other mental health challenges. I consistently witness people who struggle with these afflictions, they are mistreated by friends and family who often simply don’t know how to support them. This ignorance is a neglect and can negatively impact the sufferer exponentially. The feeling of loneliness, isolation, confusion and other damaging emotions are not dissimilar to how people felt when they were so harshly handled not so long ago. People with disabilities were often a shameful blemish on families and were committed to asylums and suffered horrifying treatments. Many were given unwarranted electroshock therapies, dangerous medications and lobotomies! It was atrocious maltreatment and something we should not forget. Our treatment of others causes a ripple effect in either a positive or negative way and is something we need to be mindful of. This is a piece I am personally proud of.
The following image, with robots, is a direct exclamation about how thinking for yourself is important, especially given the technology dependence, as I mentioned. The idea behind it is: “Who is really the slave to technology?” Most can’t pull their gaze away from their cell phones to interact socially (one-on-one with others in the world. It reminds me that when we do that, we tend to behave more like robots, being programmed by the internet, than autonomous beings interacting and learning from each other.
My current interest is to compile a collection to offer a local restaurant my art to place along its walls. These make great distraction for hungry customers to inspect while their food is being prepared.
The final piece I’d like to share here, below, was a gift for my current doctors, who have really given me strength and hope throughout my post-op support. This is definitely a more livable experience, having adequate professional guides. Finally, this image depicts change, metamorphosis, and expresses my feelings toward life: in three dimensions.
To know more about our featured artist, please visit her website, her Instagram page, or email her for special inquiries. Thank you, Christin!
SinisterUrge/S1N Alliance Leader/ Clash of Kings West 😁
You may believe many things separate us from the rest of the animal kingdom, and while there are no doubt good arguments that can be presented in opposition – the reality is that only self-awareness distinguishes our behaviors from animals. This is no groundbreaking notion, but self-awareness opens the dark door to comparison, critique, and yes, higher consciousness. It is at the center of our higher consciousness that our ability to critique helps us realize we are distinct entities of an environment, that we are unique contradictions who need love, yet desire to stand apart.
Animals are not self-expressive. Aside from a muted “meow”, or high-pitched “hiss”, my cat cannot laugh, nor express himself through art, nor can he cry. As much as I may want to believe he has feelings, simply put, animals respond to instinctive drives, but lack self-expression. Perhaps this can be better illustrated the next time you and your cat are near a mirror. Place the mirror before it and it will behave as if its reflection is another cat altogether. It will sniff the image and look behind the mirror as if it realizes the barrier between itself and the “other” cat. At any rate, it’s worth a laugh or two. 🙊
While most of us grasp we are individually unique, some people have a difficult time indeed accepting this and blending in with others. This feeling of being out of place, is called alienation.
Instilling in one’s children a strong sense of self should be high priority for parents. This strengthens who they are, their unique qualities, and makes them less susceptible to pressures.
When one feels alienated, it can largely be traced back to a lack of confidence, an habitually extreme introspection, or hyper-awareness. The feeling of alienation can lead to, among other things, depression, isolation, and a debilitating preoccupation with conformity.(1) A most common disguise from such discombobulation is to dull the senses with alcohol or other psychoactive substances. This is the slippery slope: when one believes one can and needs to detach from oneself, whether by drug or psychological trick, bad things happen.
The process and state of losing one’s sense of individuality is termed, deindividuation. It is likened to a person “in a crowd of surging mob violence, and being swept up by the chaos” also participates in the mob behavior. It’s as if being deep in a crowd, that anonymity protects the individual from responsibility of action and consequences of choice (2).
Typical, hard-working people looted businesses in the L.A. riot of 1992. Swept up by the pandemonium, everyday people grabbed electronics, food, and clothes, rationalizing the items would have likely been lost to other looters anyway. This concept, deindividuation, is not lost on history nor contemporary civilization. To promote deindividuation, governments issue uniforms to its soldiers. The sense of anonymity and conformity of purpose is symbolized through the uniform. Deindividuating shields the mind, the conscience, from whatever actions may arise. After all, military service implies fighting; and when nations fight other nations, death emerges from the smoke.
Disillusionment is the realization that something, some belief, was not as great as it initially appeared to us. Disillusionment is an awakening of sorts, a dispelling of illusions. It is during this process that we must remain grounded, that we have strong enough “selves” to push beyond our previous blindness. Where we don’t have strength, avoid the urge to hide in the shadows or in the anonymity of a crowd. Reach out your hand instead, express yourself by seeking help from others.
Throughout our lives, we should hope to continue to unravel the beautiful mysteries of life. No matter the cost, no matter the consequences, we must learn to prefer truth and openness wherever possible. Though we should not don the banner of crusade, the most good comes from welcoming others, celebrating their uniqueness, and removing barriers to the gathering of truth. Using our self-awareness in a telescopic manner, as opposed to a microscopic view will allow you to better understand your purpose.
What do these ideas mean to you? What are your opinions?
1) Ankony, Robert C., “The Impact of Perceived Alienation on Police Officers’ Sense of Mastery and Subsequent Motivation for Proactive Enforcement”, Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies and Management, vol. 22, no. 2 (1999): 120–32.
2) Reber, Arthur, and Emily Reber. (2001). Dictionary of Psychology, 3rd Ed. N.Y.: Penguin.
Images: public domain customizations
THE LARGEST RELIGION IN EXISTENCE is Christianity, pushing 2-billion plus adherents. It’s followers represent dozens of sects and denominations that actually disagree on more ideas than most care to keep track of. In a broad sense Christians share a few core beliefs, particularly that Yashua – a peasant Jew from Nazareth – was sent as Son of God to enlist believers in him and to atone for a sin that God’s first man was talked into. It’s in belief of Yashua (Jesus is what the Romans called him) that humanity gains eternal life. Yashua died on a cross and raised himself from the dead after three days.
So much can be added to that short summary of what the core elements of Christianity are, so many arguments could be had, too. Christianity is a theologically complex religion and is somewhat irreconcilable with itself as well as historical knowledge. Equally complex and irreconcilable are the 27 holy books making up the New Testament.
As a simple exercise, ask yourself a few fundamental questions – that implicate a variety of religions aside from Christianity. Why is eternal life an idea that is offered in exchange for adhering or believing? What is so fascinating about eternal life that roughly half of the world, mostly industrialized areas, find such an exchange fruitful? What exactly are some of the implications of becoming immortal ? Would eternal life be a suitable situation for you? Have you thought about it?
Personally, despite my own beliefs, I would psychologically and spiritually grow weary of eternal existence. I can confidently state that without having any concept or taste of any afterlife. Let’s say I died tomorrow, came into some phantasmal form. I could imagine initially being sad, then being amused for awhile. Going everywhere I’ve never visited, learning things I hadn’t previously had the time for. Yet, as years would pass, I would witness the loss of other loved ones – some of whom might not be so lucky as to obtain immortality. I would be helpless as I watched my people deteriorate, become sick, or grow old and struggle.
There I would be, eternally struggling with such loss, never needing sleep, never resting, only suffering for millennia.
Well, I don’t want eternal life, I wouldn’t want that for you either. After all, to compartmentalize loss, to bury emotion, to replace grief with eternal life, is tantamount to adopting sociopathy. A sociopath lacks a conscience, is distant from humanity; I wouldn’t want to turn into that, to grow cold as the universe, as it, too, finally freezes all light from existence. That sounds so lonely, living forever in a cold expanse.
As with many firsts, a first kiss, the first bite of an ice cream sundae, a first soda or any other possible vice, eternal life will – much like those – appear awesome and grand initially; however, as we experience more and more of something it will either kill us or grow less tasteful and unsatisfying.
But, then again, what do I know, right? Actually, what is known is that we have around five or so decades together – if we’re fortunate. We have now , the present, to do kind acts, to cry together, to laugh, to share memories at gatherings and share moments of accomplishment. We have now.
As for me, when all this is gone, when precious light fades from the back of my eyelids, I want to go in peace, I want to rest well knowing that I will leave this world to you in slightly better condition than when I found it.
1. Goldwag, Arthur. (2007). ‘Isms and ‘Ologies: The 453 Basic Tenets You’ve only Pretended to Understand. Madison Park Press. New York
2. THE BOOK OF GENESIS, Old Testament
Image: public domain customization
During the course of each of our lives we hear many things that cause us to listen. Some of these things are helpful, some disastrous, and between all that is conflicting advice. Take for instance, the concept of forgiveness. I have always been told by my elders to forgive people for their wrongs and accidental slights – no matter what these were. Few people have gone so far as to advise that, in addition to forgiveness, “to pray for them”, or “forgive, but don’t forget”. I’m sure I’m not alone in this confusing matter, so I’m going to briefly share what I think about it.
Forgiveness, at its very core, harbors the assumption that people will cross you, people will do you wrong, hurt you, use you, amongst all other manner of negative things. This means that forgiveness exists because people are capable of harm – directly or indirectly, and sometimes both ways.
Secondly, forgiveness assumes a therapeutic role – in that there is marginal benefit for victims and a vague notion that is to befall those unforgiving people. Resentment, negative expectations, deteriorated social relationships, spiritual stress, ailments, and sometimes deep-seated cultural morés, such as distrust in the “white-man” – or some such things – can be traced to unforgiveness.
So, here I am, discussing forgiveness – an idea that most of my loved ones proclaim I should adopt, yet, they have such difficulty themselves with forgiveness. (This is not to say they are sociopaths.)
Perhaps the world I want to see doesn’t have forgiveness at all; a world where there are no people whose words trespass against anyone, and that acts are no longer harmful; eliminating all of those things that typically trigger the need for gifting or asking forgiveness. Of course, that’s not a reality; however, just as forgiveness does, we can also act upon our world in ways to preempt forgiveness: we can work to eliminate forgiveness. This idea may seem, at first glance, tricky, for us Indigenous people, having carried so much pain about the world in which our ancestors lived, a world near universally lost. But, if we can change our approach to how we are affected by others, we would do some real good for our next generation – freeing them from the weight of all that could have been.
Tags: community, conscience, Culture, Education, emotional intelligence, First Nations, Forgiveness, leadership Success, Letting Go, Love, Mind, Peace, philosophy, psychology, religion, self~aware, social science, sociology, stanford prison experiment, stress, thought
After this century began, I had the pleasure of reading an anthology of short-stories, stories that implicated the human role in the larger scheme of existence. Is human life an absurd situation, or is there any inherent purpose in life, at all? For a guy who, at the time, didn’t have any formal college education, the old dusty book posited interesting questions about how people behave in ways so that life has meaning. That struck me as very interesting! The book, published in 1963, is called The Existential Imagination. Many copies of the book are still available via Amazon.com and for as little as a penny (shipping and handling, is extra). Need I mention, I’ve owned three copies over the years?
There are many good stories in the book regarding issues unique to the human condition. I don’t necessarily have any favorite story because they are all good for very different reasons. I would like to share the plot from one of the stories, here, and hopefully it allows you to ponder about any philosophical or theological implications thereafter. Hopefully, you are curious enough to go buy a copy, then read the rest of the book yourself.
The story that I mean to share is called Saint Emmanuel The Good, Martyr. It is the longest story of the anthology at around 35-pages. It’s written in the form of a fictional memoir, a letter found by the true author. The letter is an account of an Italian woman, Angelita, who takes the reader through her life, beginning as a young girl who entered convent school – at her brothers bidding. She spends five years there – until at age 15 – before returning to her village, Valverde de Lucerna. There she introduces us to the true protagonist in her memoir: Don Manuel, the priest in her beloved village.
The Don is described as a healer, a saint, who chopped wood for the poor, the protector, and nourishment to the village. He is kind to all – favoring “the most unfortunate…especially those who rebelled” (102).
One of my favorite quotes came from this story. It’s great advice even if stemming from a work of fiction. It reads:
“We should concern ourselves less with what people are trying to tell us than with what they tell us without trying” – Don Manuel
Angelita, also wrote about a time when a man in the village sent his boy out into the woods in a heavy rainstorm to fetch a loosed calf. The Don, saw the boy wandering near the trees, so he went out in the heavy rain to inquire why the boy was out at such a dangerous time. The boy explained, his father sent him out for a lost calf, whereafter listening, the Don sends the boy home. He explained he would locate the calf and bring it home for him. Upon returning to the boys home (with the calf) the father went out to meet the Don, who was soaking wet. The man, Angelita wrote, was thoroughly ashamed of himself.
The story builds to denouement once Angelita’s brother, Lazarus, returns home from America. Lazarus was not Catholic, and further did not believe in God. However, Don Manuel and Lazarus spend so much time together that after Angelita’s mom died, Lazarus chose to take communion, thereby converting to Catholicism. The village rejoices, and because, Don Manuel, had yet again, performed a miracle!
Later in the evening, Angelita finds herself alone with her brother, to whom she asks, “What things did Don Manuel state to you, that caused this conversion?” She hugs him. Lazarus finally replied that he only did so for the people, not because he himself believed, nor to seek eternal life. The Don implored him to take up religious life so to set a good example for the people, by taking part in religious community life. But Lazarus explains solemnly, that he also asked the Don, why he seemed to ask that he live a lie, adding, “Do you, believe, Don Manuel?” The Don, looking out over the lake, silently wept. After a few moments, the Don said:
“The truth, Lazarus, is perhaps something so unbearable, so terrible, so deadly, that simple people could not live with it,” and, “I am put here to give life… to make [people] happy, to make them dream they are immortal – and not to destroy them. The important
thing is that they live sanely, in accord with eachother…with my truth they could not live at all…”, “…let them live…”, “with the illusion that all this has a purpose” (120).
So, there were tough questions, indeed, utilizing deep human conflict, one that many people have grappled with over the millennia. I, too, have often looked to the stars, asked my elders, and sought the answer to the very questions this story outlines, namely, Is there a God, and what does that mean for us? If there is no God, what then? Is life a pointless marathon unto death? Maybe it’s not so bad that we are left to answer this question alone? The greater point is that it’s a wonderful journey trying to figure it out for yourself. As I believe Don Manuel would say: At times, you might feel sad, or liberated when pondering the meaning of existing only a short while. Life may seem very lonely in that view. Whatever answers you come to, I’m sure you will be fine when choosing to live for others; according to one priest, it is exactly the same as living for God.
1.Karl, Frederick R., and Leo Hamalian, eds. (1963). “The Existential Imagination.” First Premier Books/Fawcett. NY
3. Images, public domain, customizations
Tags: ''self'', Art, community, conscience, Culture, Dostoevsky, Existentialism, GOD, Love, Mind, Peace, philosophy, psychology, religion, Sartre, self~aware, Shakespeare, Social Learning Theory, social science, sociology, thought
AS HUMANS, DESPITE OUR COLLECTIVE TALENTS and knowledge, we all encounter challenges in our lives. Although one challenge may be greater than another, challenges create action, create impetus to change, to adapt, or employ patience or some other skill that allows us overcome them and to evolve beyond them.
Challenges can be physical, such as in making the basketball squad in your school or college (a challenge that is not subject to diplomacy: you either are good enough or not). Then there are emotional challenges, such as, involvement of the bereavement process (loss of a loved one) which may further invoke spiritual, religious, and intellectual challenges, i.e., consideration of creeds of worship or religious rites. Moreover, challenges can be social, and perhaps any combination of any of these. No matter the types of challenges, they create stress.
So what do you do then?
Well, some people exercise – to increase endurance; some people do sudoku or perhaps take a night class or online course. Whichever method utilized to combat stress, hopefully it works for you, but there is a pre-stress technique I would like you to be aware of which may allow you to affect a positive outcome in the face of certain social challenges. The technique, termed force-field analysis, comes to us from social-psychologist, Kurt Lewin.  Force-field analysis is used in business, collective-bargaining, and mediation. It can be employed by anyone who takes a few minutes to conduct such an analysis, and it is quite easy to remember. Force-Field Analysis, then, can be viewed like this:
In response to challenging stimuli, people will behave as resistant or encouraged to change – in relation to the adversity. There are 3 types of forces in any “field of controversy”. The first set of forces is called restraining forces – which aid ones resistance to change. Then, there are driving forces – which encourage change. Finally, there is the “inertia force” in the field, where both restraining and driving forces collide. The term force-field analysis is named for the insight used to devise strategies based on what is learned from competing forces in the field.
Let me clarify with an example:
You have been tasked with a project at work, this Friday afternoon, and due to the nature of your employment, are forced to work overtime. The project will likely add another 6-hours to your shift therefore you will certainly miss your son’s coveted playoff basketball match – one you promised to make. However, you realize that you could complete the extra work in around two-hours and still be able to keep your promise to your son if you could convince another colleague to also work overtime – which for any one of them – is not mandatory. After your initial inquiries nobody is convinced to stay late. There is one lead who seemed promising, but she had voiced concerns about additional pay for the babysitter, and was not sure she could afford to cover an extra 3-hours considering she has already exceeded her monthly budget expenditures.
A Force-Field Analysis for this scenario would look like this:
In this situation, without the analysis, it looks as if you will miss your son’s senior basketball game and you will have broken a promise to him. However, a close analysis provides hope. If you are able to introduce an additional driving force (money) it might act upon your colleagues resistance. Offers to cover the babysitter out-of-pocket, and/or perhaps order a take-out meal to reinvigorate your colleague’s energy stores, or you might offer to baby sit for free a few nights, so your colleague could get a night on the town at some point in the future? Whatever course you choose, the answer lies in the creativity you attach to your analysis of the forces at play. This technique not only works well in business and in mediation-type arenas, you might discover that it can be used to see many kinds of challenges from a clearer perspective, thus, overcome resistance to behaviors you wish to modify.
I hope this was helpful. May the force be with you. 😉
1. Lewin, K. (1951) Field Theory in Social Science, New York: Harper and Row
2. Simple guides to carry out force field analysis, with examples in management, see: http://www.mindtools.com/forcefld.html.
CONSTRUCTS of REALITY
IN LIFE THERE ARE MANY EVENTS that force us to redefine our reality. Think back to that childhood moment when you realized that Disneyland was in California, and that California was over a thousand miles away, or that Santa Claus did not exist! What was to be done with that “new” information? How are white lies incorporated into our morality – especially the one about an elderly do-gooder, dressed in red, who sneaks into our houses to leave gifts and eat our cookies? What is realized when we come to understand mom and dad aren’t going to pack away the family for a week of fun in California when simply getting to school some days remains a challenge?
Aside from these seemingly trivial matters, I’m sure we have all had thoughts along these lines, shared the developmental milestones that opened our consciousness to a society filled with grey areas and the realization that the “real world” is sneakier than we imagined. Obtaining what we want in life – for many of us – begins exactly with a strangely dressed bearded fellow purportedly steering a reindeer sleigh – and evolves into truth: success takes time, patience, hard work, which includes a lot of planning – not simply socially accepted behaviors as reinforced through economic coercion and wrapped gifts. Additionally, these consciousness milestones allow us to question deep-seated cultural and family practices such as bases for religious ceremonies and customs, and a belief in a single immortal being whether called God, Jesus, Great Spirit, Allah, or Yahweh.
With religious ideas, it can become less clear with age just how to maintain these conflicting precepts, especially in our busy lives. Also, the more intelligent we Earthlings become, the less we can honestly conceptualize any divine place. For instance, we now know with complete certainty that “heaven” is not a place behind the clouds, and the “underworld” is neither a place below the Earth’s crust, yet these facts still have the strength to tug at our sense of place and at our family or cultural loyalties – more so than when we discovered it was our lactose intolerant dad who would drink the milk we set out for the burglar we called Santa; and that mom and dad were, in fact, collectively, Santa !
It’s true, no matter the constructs of our beliefs (or disbeliefs) – these ideas are our own. So long as these ideas do not advocate hatred or violence we do ourselves and our communities a service by welcoming diverse views of the world. After all, we can never honestly know how difficult it is (or has been) for those who maintain or adopt ideas we know to be false. Fresh ideas push evolution in consciousness – as our loss of Santa and the knowledge we would never reach Disneyland did. We are a better people without the illusions, and a more empowered people knowing we can influence the mindset of future generations. What do you think? What do you believe?
A MERE FIFTY-SEVEN YEARS AFTER The Emancipation Proclamation, humanity was granted the timely presence of a great man. This man’s words are archived for us in the many beautiful poems and ideas he left regarding the dual-consciousness that some African-Americans felt during his time: on the one hand, learning to assimilate into white society, and on the other, struggling to maintain cultural autonomy. Even without knowing who this man was, a poem such as, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”, waves that dual-consciousness a generation removed from bondage.(1) This poem – if one can see past its vivid sadness – hides evidence of an energy that would aid the birth and rise of the Harlem Renaissance.
Langston Hughes wrote that poem as a teenager in 1920, where he sat as a passenger on a train that took him directly over the vast Mississippi River. Langston was on his way to meet his estranged father, who lived far to the southwest, in Mexico City.(2)
About his poem, Langston stated the river made him feel a connection to history, pre-January 1st, 1863(3). That he recalled reading President Lincoln’s biography, about the horrors of bartering over and selling humans, in places near the Mississippi: the same water that nourished the cotton fields, once smothered his people. Feeling this, he wrote, “I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the human blood in my veins…I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.”
There are parallels today which beckon the spirit of Langston Hughes – a disunity of culture which cannot be broadly articulated. Yet, this is a great month, a great opportunity to spy the past, realizing that everyday can be a Mississippi River – an image that stirs our core energy and compels us to bring about our vision of who we want to be, perhaps 57-years from now. We all carry that energy, but like Langston we have to have the courage, the will to express it – even when things are dark and out of reach…
We all have those days, mornings when the sunrise seems more of a weapon of torture than a symbol of a new day, of new beginnings. When I get down, or when I’m lonely, when darkness calls for friendship, I find myself sitting on the front porch steps listening to Langston’s mama talk to him, encouraging him. Langston archived this image in one of his most famous poems. He wrote it for you:
“..Boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps.
Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now — For I’se still.
I’se still climbin’, And life for me.
ain’t been no crystal stair. “ (4)
1. Langston Hughes, 1920, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”
2. Langston was of mixed race, picture Terrence Howard after three or four strong cups of coffee.
3. Official signing of the Emancipation Proclamation
4. Excerpt from, “Mother to Son”, from Hughes, Langston. “(James) Langston Hughes.” Gale Database Contemporary Authors (2003): Web. November 13, 2010
Photo: Langston Hughes, circa 1925,public domain
STANDING ROCK RESERVATION IS NOT A TOURIST ATTRACTION; however, it is a place reeling from the unintended effects of history, yet remains home to thousands of Sioux. Kristen has survived Standing Rock, but not without her share of bumps and bruises.
Despite turmoil, a home is difficult to leave. If all one knows is alcohol, emotional and drug abuse one believes it’s typical. Kristen herself had been left with her two sisters in the car while a girl, as mom and dad drank in a bar. She knows the pain of home.
”That’s how dad died, drinking. So drinking was not my thing. I first left home for job corp. at 16, and had not experienced methamphetamine until 18. I used to be a runner and sometime enforcer when asked. I loved to fight. I tried the drug and it has been an uphill battle since then.”
Part of Kristen’s strategy to break the cycle of poverty, drugs, and alcohol was to head to Rapid City, S.D., a new place, greater opportunities. Through it all, she managed to keep all that’s important to her: her boys, Ashton and Logan, a healthy mind, and renewed faith in God.
”My parents, the rez, exposed me to many things. Others’ alcoholism profoundly affected me, my sisters, and my kids, too. I still don’t know where my youngest sister is, but she’s not in a good place. I know what it’s like for alcoholics, but for female meth addicts it’s scarier. Some women steal, lie, con, and prostitute themselves for drugs.
I pray for them.”
Alcoholism is a creeping disease, like meth addiction.
”Some don’t realize the time gone by, years and money wasted until it’s too late to make a difference. One of my major regrets
is losing education. I am a pretty good artist, so while Standing Rock was rough, and we were poor, I learned to paint and craft from my dad. I’ve done tattoos for 20~plus years, so home is still with me, you know. I try to mentor young girls from home and help them cope and understand how bad stuff affects a woman and how to cope.”
Women are especially vulnerable to drug addiction and abuse. Humans were not meant to undergo such trials. Yet, through all the victimization and pain and loss. We still drink, still chase drugs.
”I support myself through craft, making dancers’ outfits, and tattooing. My second tat ever was on my mom. (laughs) I broke apart a Walkman and someone showed me how to construct a tat gun and I began tattooing; sometimes even to get/stay high, so my home is always with me.
I recall we had an outhouse, we had to fetch water, we were poor…”
Life continues, even when you don’t live it. Remaining sober is not a unique challenge, it can very well be ones greatest.
”Anymore, I exercise, go for walks, or read scripture to occupy my mind. Sensitivity to loud/sudden noise, nervousness, suspicion of others are ever present effects from my personal fight with meth. I think about it at times, but I’m wiser, my boys deserve me, and I don’t want to end up a zombie. I do pray a lot and drink water when I feel down. My son likes to smudge (marking with the black ends of burned sweetgrass, for prayer). He smudges the cat, too!” (laughter)
We’re going to be baptized soon, so God and spirituality is a great part of my recovery and lifestyle.”
Kristen’s keys to success.
”Hearing yourself speak heals you; talk to someone immediately. Maybe an elder. If you don’t have someone you can absolutely and genuinely trust, find them. Expressing yourself makes a lot of changes…and you have to stay away from old places and those types of people.”
Thank You, Kristen. Blessings to you.
”When He, the spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth…from him you will receive what He will make known to you.” (John 16: 13~14)
Support Kristen’s effort, order regalia at: firstname.lastname@example.org