Thursday, May 01, 2008

Animalogos 2.0

(Life is pushing me to ask more questions and rethink my own stances/understandings--thus, I have collected some of my reflections. I still value the power of dialogic exchanges, but I'm moving in a new directions with it... This is an autoethnographic weaving of texts that I have rewritten and revisited many times. It started out as a letter to someone who asked me for my background and what I believe in... an impossible thing to answer in that it only leads to more questions.)

I know you have "way to much" to read but I can supply some background for where I am coming from--why I feel and think the way I do... I was radicalized on the streets long before I ever came to college (my education just supplied me with fancy theories and words to express it--I'm not dismissing the power of that education--it was a necessary step, but not the only one):

Biographical Statement

I wasn't what anyone would call a "normal" kid:

What was up with that kid

I was a high school drop out (10th grade), lived on the streets from the age of 15, survived in gangs and underground lifestyles, built a close-knit communal tribe that lasted for years and dissolved in a flash, worked construction/labor for 8 years, and ended up working 22 different types of jobs before I became a professor. I never had much tolerance for work that didn't provide me with some sense of doing something of value (as in making the world better somehow).

I developed a destructive hard drug addiction in my mid 20s that I feared would destroy me or put me permanently in a restrictive institution (prison, mental hospital, etc...).

Left my home of California and headed for the Midwest to kick my addiction and entered communtiy college, got the A.A. in accounting, decided I wanted more and pursued the B.A. in English/History, then an M.A. in Cultural Studies because I wanted to study contemporary culture ... while I was liberal, this is when I became radicalized because my thesis involved how contemporary activist/alternative/radical subcultures were incorporating the theories of early 20th Century European Avant-Garde groups (Dada; Surrealists; Situationism, COBRA; Lettrist; etc...). Later I would pursue a PhD in interdisciplinary English Studies... with a specialty in pedagogical theories.

Unfortunately my early radicalism (during the M.A. years) was built on an arrogance about my experiences and where I came from and a fuck-all atitude of lets storm the gates and kick some ass. It verged on nihilism (Tim and JZ would understand where I was at). I had an awakening while teaching at that time that pushed me to reconsider how far I was from being enlightenend and how my very extreme and take no prisoners radicalism actually alienated most people (including my students):

Learning from El Mexterminator and Cyber Vato

I spiraled off from that pedagogical awakening and devoted every bit of energy for the next five years to learning how to be a better teacher. I was fanatical about it, to the point of denying every other need in my life. I didn't want to be a teacher who would climb up on a pedestal and preach down to his students (like that thread of Christainity that made me lose my religion at a young age), but instead I wanted to cultivate the courage/creativity to be an educator-learner who looked to his students as co-educator/learners.

I learn as much from my students as they do from me... some might be shocked by that (I have had people get angry when I say that), but that is the power of a cooperative and communal pedagogy. We are all citizens of this community/society/world and we should learn to cooperate and share in order to build a better world. Here is some specialized knowledge I know about, what do you care about?, let me show you how you can find more about that subject, all of us will go research our subjects and we will return to the group and present our findings--debate their meanings--then revisit and revise.

I had become a communal/cooperative/nurturing scholar/teacher/learner in the classroom, but I was a very hard person outside of work. Rejected notions of love, of cooperation, of possibilities for happiness. It was very contradictory, I would walk onto the campus and become an open-healing person, I would walk off the campus and it was as if I was at war (and I don't use that word lightly--that was my perspective) with the world.

Still I was learning and trying to change, hoping for something different... but then we never really come to a resting point in life (unless it is six feet under--that is when we can sleep soundly and dammit hopefully then we can get some answers from someone who claims to be in charge of the universe--click on XTC's "Dear God" below).

So I continued to seek and question, I continue to this day, because I feel there is so much that I don't know. I went through some particularly devastating personal tragedies in the past few years (the big 3D... death, divorce, depression...) in response I have returned to a broader pantheist exploration of spirituality to soften the sharp corners of my (ir)rationality:

In Rejecting A/Theism I Learn Finally to Develop My Own Spirituality

Most recently I have been trying to cultivate a sense of politics that develops out of a radical understanding of "love/friendship":


but, just like in my angrier phases, there is a danger in extremism of any sort... even, to my surprise, in a complete devotion to acts of "loving-kindness" (no matter what Chema Podron says) the danger is when we suppress/ignore the shadow we all have. I had tried to be really nice/supportive/nurturing all the time--sublimating my needs for others--but like any volatile brew, if you bottle it in, there will be powerful fissures that eventual erupt and spew the potent (toxic) mixture all over the place. This actually led to some of the darkest depressions I have ever experienced. I had to face this directly recently when the long repressed dark side exploded out of me because I wasn't paying attention to it... I ended up disappointing and angering some very close and dear friends. Just another lesson about balance... now I'm searching again as always. Can't ignore disappointment/anger/pain, they are a part of us and must be fully incorporated...

I'm trying to conceive of an animalogos


logos = Etymology: Greek, speech, word, reason
reason that in ancient Greek philosophy is the controlling principle in the universe

and incorporate as a radical politics that is holistic in that I conceive of all beings as equal and deserving of the same dignity of life--that environments should be thought of as large interacting ecospheres that depend on the welfare of all beings (mineral/plant/animal)--that humans are arrogant in thinking they are the only higher evolved creatures on this planet and that they are the only living beings that have achieved higher-functioning consciousness--that love/loving is necessary for good personal health, caring/nurturing realationships are necessary for healthy communities, but that we cannot ignore/suppress our shadow (one of the benefits of creativity for me is channeling that shadow and light into my art in order to create a perspective that accepts them both)--that a pantheist/interdisciplinary perspective works best for me in that I develop the strongest under-standing (foundation) and response-ability (critical voice) from engaging the most possible ways of looking/seeing.

Can there be a meeting of the spirit and rationality = animalogos? Can I create/conceive a positive reality without burying other equally important conceptions of the world?

I look forward to asking more questions and learning from others.

Peace my friends


James Barrett said...

In my opinion a beautiful piece of writing. I felt a resonance with much of what is described here. The despair that comes with that growing awareness at an early age when the society which educated you is revealed as a cold cruel master. The drug flag thus unfurled and flung in the face of macho teachers, evil bosses, inhuman industry and the silent corpses of the once proud conquered peoples (Indigenous genocides, military madness, commodity spectacle). Then the expansion if you survive; learning, compromise and infiltration as you position yourself in relation to the enemy and the necessities of surviving this post-industrial holocaust. Creativity against patriarchy, education as empowerment, pedogogies of the oppressed. Making spaces for autonomy and expansion.
Thanks for the inspiration. You are not alone. There are millions of us.

Michael said...

Thanks for your comment and unique insights.

I also feel a resonance with your mapping of the issues many of us face and I appreciate the reminder that there are millions of us.

Now to link up...

Susannity said...

Lots of thoughts going through my head right now, but I'll just say this. What strikes me first and foremost when I see your transitions in thought, lessons learned, new approaches taken is that you are 'trying'. That really is the key from my perspective at this time in my life. Trying to be self-aware. Trying to be a 'good' human both macro and micro. Defining what is important to expend your energies towards and the opportunity costs.

It is work and I have pondered if I am the fool for it, but when I look at my life and those in it, I think fool or not, it is what gives me joy.

Many other thoughts I will think about. Thanx much Michael.

Michael said...


Moving from the micro to the macro (and vice versa) seeing the forest for the trees and trees that make up the forest, shifting perspective(s)... and asking questions... I value your input fellow traveler and enjoy hearing about your unique perspective from the Pacific NW.

Namaste :)

Wherespaul said...

i'm so glad i found your blog. you made me feel normal :) ha.


Michael said...


You are very inspiring and I wish you the best on your trip to raise funs for children who have dyslexia and learning-disorders.


Michael said...

8 Wishes and 10,000 Miles

Paul's Project!

Allan said...

Excellent peace.