It occurs to me, as I sit here fidgeting in underwire and Dry Clean Only while considering a dead bird with lemons stuffed up its ass, that holidays are stupid.
“Dani, would you like to carve the turkey?” asks Reuben, my sometimes therapist, presenting me with a rather large knife and a pronged pointy thing.
“Um, no,” I shudder, thoroughly taken aback by the invitation, being the only vegan at the table, and all. “I’d like nothing to do with the turkey on any level, thank you.”
It’s not a new realization, that holidays are stupid. I boycotted my first Thanksgiving in the fourth grade – that is, I tried to, until my father barged into my room where I sat cross-legged on the floor, wearing all-black, mourning the travesty that was this “celebration” while listening to The White Album on my Holly Hobby turntable, and sulking, and he dragged me – frothing at the mouth and screaming YOU HAVE NO AUTHORITY OVER ME! I AM A SOVEREIGN BEING!! – down the stairs and into the dining room where I was instructed to sit and eat and have a good goddamned time…or, else because that was what passed for parenting in the 80s. I sat, reluctantly, still sulking, picking at my green beans with one hand, while holding the other skyward, balled into a fist, in symbolic solidarity with my dead brethren – native and feathered alike, for the entirety of the meal.
“You’re gonna get a cramp,” my father told me. “And then you won’t be able to put your arm down even if you want to.”
“Good,” I barked. “Cuz I don’t want to.”
While my arm did cramp, and was sore for days, as soon as everyone else adjourned to the living room to resume watching The Twilight Zone marathon, the shaky, achy appendage easily fell in my lap.
“Liar,” I muttered, stomping back up the stairs, disappointed to have not been rewarded for my devotion with a permanent deformity – a physiological testament to my high-minded integrity, and my weird eight-year old shoulder stamina.
All these years and thwarted revolutions later, still sulky, still dead bird averse, I’m realizing Thanksgiving is the least offensive of the bunch. Genocide and revisionist history aside, at least the etymology hinges upon the frequencies of something virtuous, an energetic force higher than mass murder and geographic larceny. In fact, I realize, considering the gelatinous mountain of electric cranberry-like product I’m now politely refusing because it’s certainly not organic, and absolutely loaded with sugar and aluminum off-gas, Thanksgiving – at its core – is probably the closest approximation to a vaguely sincere holiday we’ve got. I mean, sure, there’s Valentine’s Day and it’s alleged exaltation of love, which would put it in the running if it wasn’t so consumptively appropriated, while simultaneously bastardized as a shallow reduction to the sort of forever after-type romance that only morons and Disney princesses still buy into. We know the deal with Christmas, which is really just a euphemism for Buy lots of shit no one needs. Easter? I can’t speak to it with any authority being a Jew with a pronounced aversion to pastels and milk chocolate, but still – as far as mangled pagan fertility rituals go, I think it’s fair to say we’re doing a lackluster job at upholding the integrity of the intentions upon which it was founded.
It’s an integrity thing, I realize, sipping my water while trying not to look bored or like I’m revising my book in my head. Rather, a lack of integrity thing.
As a culture, we’re rocking none of it, integrity, that is; and this is reflected – perfectly – in our holidays, and how we “celebrate” them.
First and foremost, our holidays are days to not do what we normally resent doing – working, mailing shit, cashing checks and paying for parking. Secondary to the temporary time-outs from the slavery that is our status quo, holidays are days to (supposedly) honor the ideas and energies printed in our calendars. Yeah, right. When was the last time you celebrated Arbor Day? Or, President’s Day? Like, really celebrated, as in connected to the energetic frequencies of the oaks? As in prostrated before an altar crafted to symbolize the old white guys (and Obama) the day alleges to honor, while directing your attention toward leadership and the qualities that inform it?
Yeah, I didn’t think so.
“What do you think about the Ferguson case?” asks the woman to my left, the one who asked me to call her Mimi, even though everyone else is calling her Stephanie, which is confusing enough to have me not address her at all, a choice made all the easier by this whole holidays are stupid inquiry I’m waging in the confines of my mind.
“I think I don’t care,” I reply, picking at my sweet potatoes with my fingers.
It’s not that I’m not offended by institutionalized racism, and the travesty that’s become our judicial system, and our law enforcement system, and our every system. It’s just that I’m bored of whining about so many gross injustices. What’s the point? It sucks, I could say. It’s unfair. This country’s going to shit. What am I going to offer that everyone in the room isn’t already thinking themselves?
Talking about how the system sucks, and what the system needs isn’t actually going to repair the system. We’re too far gone. It’s not about another election, or Corporate Shill A versus Corporate Shill B in a divisive, antagonistic paradigm wholly dependent upon a disenfranchised underclass to play loser to its fat-cat winners, because that’s the whole point of that game – us versus them, rich versus poor, men versus women, cowboys versus Indians – whatever. It’s old. It’s boring. It’s pointless. So much so, that I can’t be bothered to offer up any opinions on the matter. I don’t have any anymore.
“That’s so apathetic,” Reuben says, judgment dripping down the sides of his face. No, wait. I think that’s turkey fat.
Except, it’s not apathy. It’s indifference. It’s that my interests lie elsewhere, an elsewhere that’s infinitely more compelling, and thus upon which I choose to focus my attention, and to sustain said attention, awkward dinner party lulls be damned.
You simply have to turn your back on a culture that has gone sterile and dead and get with the program of a living world and the imagination.
– Terence McKenna
It was McKenna who beckoned us to create culture – to not buy into the “shitbrained” dominator media pap that has us preening and twerking while our planetary Titanic sinks into the ocean of our collective distraction. It is our responsibility to create a functional culture that serves us in wonderful, un-shitbrained ways; and yet, most of us are just sitting around, biding our time in a thoroughly dysfunctional version that has none of our best interests in mind, waiting for some alien superhero to swoop in on a crop circle and save us from the corporate monstrosities hell-bent on stealing our attention and our sovereignty, our wellbeing and our peace of mind.
LOOK OVER HERE!!!!, hollers mainstream culture, tugging at our sleeves while screaming in our ears.
And so the Kool-Aid drinkers look, and then the so-called liberals react, and complain and feel morally superior and even more separate, and still the dead icky stuff continues to consume our attention, and distract us from what’s real and what’s True, and what’s beautiful and alive, and from expanding these energies until they overtake the old, dead, ick. Wash, rinse, repeat until we’ve decimated our ozone and our air and our oceans and our rain forests, and then…well, yell even louder, and keep washing, and keep rinsing, and keep repeating…until the whole thing implodes on itself.
Complaining about the shittiness of the shit isn’t going to undo the shit, nor is going through the motions of another dead holiday going to do anything but solidify the empty over-it-ness that defines the Millenials, and Gen Y and Gen X, shuffling through the bedazzled graveyard that is our current mainstream paradigm.
And so it is that I keep coming back to the holidays – holy days, supposedly, and in other cultures, maybe, but here, in Twenty-first century America – empty artifacts from a time when we were naïve enough to believe our leaders were honest and good, and that the institutions they represented exist to serve our wellbeing. We’ve since gone from knowing better, to jaded, to despondent, and to this end, I’m calling for new holidays – a fresh, relevant batch that will galvanize consciousness in service to presence and cooperation, foresight and vision, abundance and inclusion – a way to wrangle the collective attention toward what is useful and good, while raising our vibration, and expanding our consciousness.
“Well, that’s ambitious,” Reuben chuckles.
“Said every skeptic about every revolution since the beginning of time,” I reply.
I’m talking about holidays we can get behind, and actively celebrate, not with Hallmark cards or food coloring, but with intention and embodiment, with the conscious focusing of our attention on virtues, energies and qualities higher and more wonderful than the ones running our current show.
“Holidays?” sputters Stuart, the actor sitting across from me, clearly offended by the simplicity of my revolution. “What kind of holidays?”
Oh, just the rad kind that uplift and inspire. Holidays that are relevant to our now. Holidays that celebrate contemporary culture, and those who shape(d) it. Holidays that honor artists. Innovators. Masters. Visionaries.
“I hate that word,” Stuart winces, yet again interrupting my holiday revolution diatribe. “It’s so overused, it’s come to be virtually meaningless.”
“It’s only meaningless if we sign onto its misuse.”
Holidays that celebrate real-deal role models – people who actualized their potential and offered their genius to the world. Holidays that honor those who changed culture, who made it better, brighter, more beautiful, more bearable, more functional and more wonderful while inspiring greatness in us all.
“Like who?” chirps, Mimi/Stephanie.
“Like whommmmmm?” corrects Stuart, sounding all the snottier while condescending through his thick Sussex accent.
Well, like our boy Terence McKenna, and like Alan Watts, and Joan of Arc, and Pema Chodron, and Joan Didion, and Galileo, and–
“Why Galileo?” asks the screenwriter, interrupting my flow.
“Because he had the balls to stand behind his whole the Earth is actually round thing.”
“But, neither he nor Joan are contemporaries,” Reuben points out.
“True,” I nod, still picking at my vegetables. “But, Galileo’s courage to speak out against the prevailing narrative is absolutely relevant now, as is Joan’s devotion to divine providence, and what she knew to be high Truth. Both faced massive cultural resistance, and both stuck to their truth – to larger capital T-Truth – in the face of it.”
“Who else?” presses Reuben.
Hunter S. Thompson, Thich Nhat Hanh, John Lennon, Frida Kahlo, Osho, Buckminster Fuller, Jimi Hendrix, Alvin Ailey, Bill Murray, Martha Graham, Madame Blavatsky, Mother Teresa—
“Bill Murray?” scoffs the actor. “Why Bill Murray?”
“Only because he’s mastered the art of unsentimental, continues to grow and evolve as an artist and a human, and is uniquely, authentically and uncompromisingly himself.”
The thing about the geniuses, at least the batch I’m curating for this particular revolution, is that they are moved by energies larger than themselves, energies that are mysterious and thoroughly magical. The honoring of said geniuses allows us to stay connected to these very energies – to avail ourselves to the wisdom and intelligence they have to share. Because these are the energies that inspire us to shift on the inside, where change happens – real change, not the mundane Let’s shuffle some things around and pretend it’s different and that it’s gonna work this time version, but the mountain-moving, unforeseen miracle(s) that save our species and our planet kind, the kind that may very well be our only hope.
“So, what do these holidays look like?” asks the sound healer.
I don’t know that they look like anything, and in some ways, I hope they look like nothing, because posturing doesn’t necessarily equate to contemplative worship, and I tend toward the minimalist. Still, I imagine they will quickly give way to some fairly creative altars, celebrations and collaborations. First and foremost, the genius holidays are about examining the qualities that comprise the visionary in question. What makes Björk so darned rad? Let us ponder while listening to Homogenic and watching “Pagan Poetry” and invoking the energies our sexy little Icelandic rock star embodies. Let us avail ourselves to the expansive levels of authenticity and unabashed expression that color her so very dazzling. Let us use our voices in weird and wonderful ways. Whether it’s Madame Blavatsky’s mystical vision, Buckminster Fuller’s high-minded invention, Steve Jobs’ technological genius, or Tom Robbins’ wily wordplay, let us acknowledge the qualities that inform genius, and spend our days directing our attention and appreciation toward them.
“Well, that’s quite Kumbaya of you,” Stuart snarks, rolling his eyes.
I harbor no illusions about how easy it is to slough off the holiday revolution as so much woo-woo, New Age, nutter-butter nonsense while clinging to our cooler than thou images duly armored in a freshly waxed paradigm of materialist “thinking,” as we sleepwalk through our shitbrained status quo, and continue to do nothing, while being pulled along the ferocious momentum of a swiftly crumbling all of it, which – let’s be clear – is only going to get epically messier and more excruciating. Cool isn’t helping, and cool isn’t going to get us out of this mess, and so, uh…yeah; yay, cool. Still, the genius holidays are for us to do with what we wish, and so if contemplative invocations freak you out, or inspire full-body revulsion, find a different means of worship – offer up a silent thanks, wrap yourself in a swan, take a screenshot and make it your wallpaper for the day, or pour yourself a drink and go head-to-head with your neighbor as to why so-and-so isn’t actually a genius at all. Whatever. How it looks is secondary to the wrangling of the collective attention towards inspiration and awesomeness, and so whatever form that takes or doesn’t take is just dandy. Although, I think it’s important to say that fun is definitely encouraged, as fun is always definitely encouraged, because—well, isn’t life tough enough?
“I like this,” Reuben smiles, nodding. “I like the Genius Holidays. Who’s next?”
Joan Didion turns eighty on Friday. If I wasn’t on a zillion deadlines, I’d celebrate by driving out to Barstow, for no reason whatsoever, barefoot, while listening to Slouching Toward Bethlehem. Instead, I will park myself in front of my laptop while channeling Didion’s critical eye, pondering eschewing adverbs and optimism while likely doing neither, though still honoring her excellence and her mastery, and maybe rewarding my diligence with random White Album readings between my own pages. Regardless of how it looks, I will keep Didion in my heart and in my field, and invite her genius to inform my own, while listening to The Doors’ Strange Days, and wearing my Joan Didion is My Power Animal t-shirt, but mostly being grateful for the words she shares, and my great fortune in having read them.
Genius holidays: one small subversive step for those of us badass enough to own them as our own, one massive leap for culture at large.
Yay for change. Hurray for the visionaries. Thanks for playing, y’all.
Dani Katz is launching the holiday revolution by way of her 2015 I Am Calendar – a hand drawn gem of a time-tracking device that includes mercury’s retrogrades, monthly intentions, mantras, exercises and affirmations, as well as solstices, equinoxes, moon cycles, and – of course – visionary genius birthdays. It doubles as a portal to higher dimensional frequencies, as well as a coloring book. Buy many today at www.somethingdani.com