The Rat Race

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Some of you may be wondering what happened to the regular posts on this blog. Just another blip on the radar, just another grain of rice growing in the fields of China, just another pixel in a wide-screen television broadcasting the latest sporting event. To be honest, the rat race had me wrapped up tightly in a chokehold. I was–and am–a slave to the system, whether I like it or not. 

Creative flourishing led into a period of intense creative stagnation, which covered me like sludge from the sidewalk as I stood dripping like a pole in the alleyway. It was an all-encompassing dirt, the kind that never quite washes out. Several thundershowers later, the pepper is flowing through my blood again, albeit without direction.

Inspired by My Ishmael, Daniel Quinn’s sequel to Ishmael, I’ve been considering the way we define success. Many people work part-time, some people work full-time. Most people work enough to get by, while others work enough to support their consumption habits. In a world with hundreds of thousands of different cultures and paths, who’s to say that you should work more if you have enough food? People think we should look to the gods, psychics, or gurus for answers to how to live, but the knowledge is in us. We just think of human nature as fundamentally flawed, but it’s not. It’s the system that’s flawed, and we conform to it because we aren’t presented with other options. 

Taking the GRE last week left me with an overwhelming desire for regression. To renounce all my possessions and work on a farm, living off the land and permanently muting the monotonous city soundtrack. To call this a regression is to apply our cultural norms to an alternative lifestyle–I’ve been brainwashed. Such a drastic decision would take a rebirth and a strong resolve to revolutionise my lifestyle. But why instigate change when things are comfortable ?

They say never to get too comfortable in any relationship or job. Ambition is healthy for the spirit. It is. To strive is to struggle, then thrive, in less-than-perfect surroundings. The question is, how long can we remain complacent living in a world where we have to trade our time for bags of food that are kept under lock and key in storage houses ?

That food used to be free. 

Trade in one situation’s problems for another situation and its set of problems. Or, find solutions. Community gardens, co-ops, and vertical agriculture all seek to eliminate urban food deserts. This topic is near and dear to my heart because I live in a food desert. The West side of Chicago has a beautiful park, but no grocery stores in sight. What comes next ? Indoor trellises with veggies and fruit snaking their way through the gaps ? Petitions ? Start-ups ? 

Living in an up-and-coming neighborhood has its perks. There are no obnoxious drunk people lining the street, the park is incredibly lush and well-preserved, and the culture is purely Puerto Rican. People have each others’ backs, and the bus drivers cut you a break when you need it. But after Riot Fest, we all realized that there would be less of the neighborhood spirit to go around once events started to happen more often. Give it five years, and Humboldt Park will be booming like Williamsburg. It’s a matter of time, evolution, and the rise and fall of civilizations. Maybe this place will find a sustainable way to live in this city, some method forgotten centuries ago. The machines are quieter here, so all you have to do is listen.

What is the Cultural Significance of DIY Collectives ?

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The process of creation is as mysterious as the process of destruction. Say ‘Yes’ to the exploration of both.

My last job had everything to do with me cranking out articles about how to make easy DIY crafting projects. Ever since I left the corporate world, I’ve been bombarded with situations in which I say to myself, “You could totally DIY that.”

I was covering a First Friday event at the MCA in Chicago and saw Jason Lazarus’s Phase 1/Live Archive exhibit right at the entrance. It had a bunch of picket signs that didn’t seem like they were of the beaux arts type. Like so many contemporary works of art I encounter, it was screaming “DIY” to me.

Jason Lazarus exhibit

It’s been said that the best ideas are the ones you wish you’d thought of yourself. This got me thinking: how is DIY culture connected to the anti-corporate mentality ?

The internet defines DIY culture as being part of the punk, anti-consumerist movement. Let’s be real though. Anti-consumerism gets more widespread the less money people have. Makers are mavericks in the years of the “Great Recession”.

2013 DIY collectives : 1600s Crafting guilds ?

My series on the one-year anniversary of the Occupy movement explores the new developments in modern protest culture. More and more people and organizations are using crowd-sourcing platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo to make their goals financially possible. Nowadays, DIY culture is everywhere. The microsites at the company I worked at had over 6 million subscribers. Whether it’s cooking food, sewing clothes, or making decorations, all of us DIY something everyday. This fad is beyond anarchists and hippies, and it’s not going away anytime soon.

Individuals that are well-off tend to not ask others for favors and often live more isolated lives because of it. Be proactive, collaborate with your community, friends, pets–even your alter-ego.

Say ‘Yes’ to the satisfaction that comes from making something. You will find countless doors opening to let you inside.