Wednesday, December 2, 2015

What is the work of this god? -- Reclaiming the Mean(ing)s of Production

Who is this flower above me/ and what is the work of this god?// I would know myself in all my parts.  -- Victor Anderson

It breaks my heart to see the ways in which so many of us healers and activists and artist and teachers and priests keep martyring ourselves to a god we don't even believe in by driving ourselves into the ground in the name of concepts of productivity derived from capitalism's cult of progress.

My decade and a half of full time activism saw me alternating between periods of working sixty hours a week and periods of barely being able to get out of bed.   In both states I constantly berated myself for my lack of commitment -- and my lack of tangible results.

Surrounded by a culture that values people primarily according to their ability to generate wealth, countercultures and opposition movements unwittingly replicate capitalist values by subtly and not so subtly measuring their members' worth and dedication by the amount of toil they engage in and by their outwardly visible achievements.    Guilt, shame, and feelings of inadequacy are both consciously and unconsciously exploited to elicit more work from people.   Eventually the voices demanding productivity become deeply internalized.

As an Autistic person I am acutely aware that the degree to which most people are willing to grant me autonomy and equality is related to the degree to which they define me as "high functioning" -- ie able to engage in work that the culture values economically.   Though I pass as neurotypical or at least not obviously divergent in some settings sometimes, I require long periods of silence and solitude to reset myself after engaging with most humans, and after being in environments full of unfamiliar and artificial sensory stimuli.   Nevertheless, I push myself to take on the same level of commitments as someone whose processing and cognitive styles more readily allow moving quickly from one task to another in places full of people -- and sometimes to take on more than is expected hoping that it will make up for my real and perceived deficits.  (eg the inability to turn in attendance sheets competed properly and on time)   I end up paying the price in terms of brain fog, autoimmune flare-ups, further declines in executive function, and brief periods where I cannot speak.   And when I recover from these setbacks, I quickly throw myself into desperately trying to catch up, terrified that my life will come apart at the seams if I can't regain my level of outward productivity.  

Besides my health, crucial and unique elements of my perception and cognition get lost in the process.   My ability to write, to teach, to craft ritual, to do medicine stems from my ability to see systems and networks and relationships differently than other people.   And that capacity depends on my ability to spend time in non-lingusitic space, letting the forest and the stones and those beloveds who know how to hold silence wordlessly remind my heart of its identity and its place in the world.   On the time spent listening deeply to water and stars and strange water plants.  My heart yang -- my outward expression -- draws nourishment from my heart yin -- my ability to receive beauty.  

I am a priest of a religion that says that the universe arose when the original darkness fell in love and in lust with hir own reflection and exploded outward in desire, dividing hirself again and again for the sake of discovery.    I hold ecstasy sacred.   So why I am I allowing my worth to be determined by what humans do and don't see me do?

The true work of the god that I am  -- and the god that you are -- is the work of becoming ourselves.  "Fully human, fully wild, fully divine" as I was taught, aligned and whole in all our parts, centered in the black heart of innocence that mirrors the original darkness with its infinite potential.  

So why do we keep putting the needs of the false gods of market and progress ahead of what we are truly called to produce -- lives of love and pleasure and meaning?

Its long past time to drive the bosses from our heads and reclaim the means and meaning of production.


CuriousWitch said...

This is an extremely important post, I think. As I ponder the likes of Taliesin and the fili, the Druids and whatnot, I doubt if, after the fire in their heads, the turning of their Cauldrons of Motion and Wisdom allowed them to pour forth terrifying streams of speech -- they had to fill out an attendance form or make certificates or what-have-you.

As a teacher of witchcraft, I also now have to ponder my own ideas about "productivity" and learning, or doing, the Craft.

Wild Talewort said...

Thank you for these words, and all of the wisdom on your beautiful blog. As a writer and artist and also a very sensitive human I resonate so deeply with this piece. These are questions I have really been grappling with, especially over the past year when a period of intense overwork dredged up old patterns of anxiety & panic & disconnection and forced me to really examine my patterns. My relationship to the earth, to the land and to the wild ones is the ground and the root of my spirituality, my creativity and my heart; in such places and forms of connection, it is so clear that this drive to be productive, to get "enough done" in a day, instead of savoring and celebrating the beauty of being alive, is absolutely mad! And yet I believe it's a matter of story, the power of story in our lives-- we've been told this story since we were very small-- of productivity, of work, of what a "worthwhile" day looks like. And it's a very hard story to shake, due to all the tangled-up guilt and shame and fear associated with it. I'm trying to find, and tell myself, new stories; stories that are more healthy and more whole than the story of capitalism; we are, after all, storytelling, storymade beings. And yet it is very hard in the face of an entire, behemoth culture that is telling the opposite one!

Sorry for the ramble-- all of this to say that I thank you for doing this work and trying to tell a different story with your life. x Sylvia

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