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General Serial

Rend/Render III

TIFF Notes Summary Part III

Closing on us from the future is a primary challenge to our species. An empowering, potential-actualizing destiny for the human race is threatened. The current landscape of human existence is undermined by the pursuit of short-term, extractionary goals. Our awareness is inundated by noise and confusion. Our technology addicts us. Systems are designed to separate, divide and frighten us. What hope we have to shepherd our species beyond the problems on the horizon depends on the survival of the human soul. Spiritual agency is a vehicle for that journey and the throughline of these posts.

Agency is the power to exert control over your life. Spiritual agency is a more encompassing conception of that idea. At once, it is the specific authority of personhood while also an acknowledgement that life requires a deep process of actualization. It’s the freedom to think and to act based on factors inherent to your person. Agency is the foundation of identity and a birthright. Spiritual agency is the root of life, and a responsibility.

Running counter to agency is suffering. Suffering compels action, forcing reaction. As with chaos and order, light and darkness, these forces are forever in tension, always shifting. Agency helps create, while suffering is a destroyer. In an individual life, how great that destruction is often grows from the breadth and depth of the suffering being lived. These forces are interlinked. They demonstrate the power of suffering to compel acts of spiritual agency which inevitably end in annihilation.

Freeing yourself from suffering is a deeply motivating impulse. Getting free from suffering shifts some people only towards chaos and misery, perhaps driving their alcoholism, domestic violence, or self-harm. For others, it’s a matter of creation, of hobbies, of meditation. Any outcome is built of possibilities. In a normal life, freeing yourself from suffering is a matter of routine. In a homeless life, freeing yourself from suffering is a task nearly impossible to accomplish without self-destruction. As with even the simplest moments of our lives, options colour actions and choices. In this way, agency demonstrates its crucial role in human society. Tearing free of suffering is, appropriately, a definitive act of personal spiritual agency.

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General Serial

Rend/Render II

TIFF Notes Summary Part II

People who’ve never been homeless look for the silver lining. An article of faith, it’s existence is assumed. According to this line, homelessness holds a lesson for the individual. It’s not a well defined lesson, nor is it quantifiable. There’s a lot of talk of fortitude, stoic values, and wherewithal. Promoting this notion, typically, are polite men and women, middle-class and comfortable, people who’ve never gone hungry except by choice.

The don’t-lose-hope bromide of the housed is a broken conception of life. Originating in the axiom hardship mines beauty, it’s a flawed belief. Eventually, the thinking goes, a soul will emerge from a chrysalis of suffering and pain, transported, transformed, a thing of notable beauty. That is not how suffering affects most people. Austerity is pain. Excess does not build strength.

The public’s understanding of homelessness is a bundle of flaws. A disfigured preconception casts us all as a type, as a generic embodiment of sub-human life. What humanity we are granted is but a dim reflection of the public’s willingness to see us, and their need for affirmation. The homeless live in permanent dusk, a state of interruption, incomplete. This stasis, raw economic disadvantage, is the intersection of system failure and schadenfreude. We are adjudged less than equal to any and measured by an unequal standard.

Homelessness is an alien existence. It’s a terror. For the homeless, there is no hero’s journey model of redemption, and no reversal to propel us into resolution. Relegated to symbol and type, we are denied normal in all its forms. What option remains for us? How, when systems have failed so badly and communication is impossible, do you bridge these worlds?

Tell me, what are the boundaries of your existence, as you perceive them? What is a normal life? What is it you hope for, dream of? Any place on earth you’ll find the answer is very much the same. Love, family, friends. Purpose, meaning, a future. This way, life is made livable, the spirit is nourished, the world broadens to the limits of imagining. These commonplace ideas are what bring people together.

Metaphor, symbol, and imagery all work together to access and link the real and imagined. Language, in this, is powerful yet insufficient. Nevertheless… For some, the diamond serves as a useful metaphor. It’s true, a diamond’s beauty and value is the result of the application of time, pressure, and expertise. Yet, left buried, uncut, and never brought to its potential, a diamond has no value.

Categories
General Serial

Rend/Render I

TIFF Notes Summary Part I

The films and media I suggested during TIFF22 present elements which piece together to describe a conceptual through line. They’re not tidy or concise. Relying on the audience’s foreknowledge of context is a habit difficult to break. As an expression of core ideas, the posts are not particularly well composed. Nevertheless, I put together the series for a reason.

Eleven posts. It’s not as organized a work as I typically expect from myself, but that’s as may be, seeing much of what I’ve posted is written in haste. The limitations I face are not mysterious. Homelessness takes from a person everything they have, just to survive. It needs a reserve of dignity and self-belief to struggle on, often grappling with no less a beast than annihilation. The easiest thing a homeless person can do is lean into oblivion.

Homelessness has a profound effect on a life. Arising as if from nowhere, questions of mental well being, physical and emotional health fly, jittering, across consciousness. Desperate poverty subsumes time and opportunity, crushing everything before it without mercy. Potential is subverted. Circumstance, lack, and absence direct events in an unnatural inversion of human living, a scouring of the spirit, irrepressible and overwhelming.

Aphorisms reassure us life is a journey towards wonder and beauty. We are implored to weather the difficulties and take heart when in our darkest moments. Homelessness is, eventually, a destination. Ruled by the whims of others, life as a homeless person settles into patterns of disconnection. Perception narrows. Dreams atrophy. Goals focus on survival. Potential dries up. An ongoing trauma unfolds. Life in a shadow-world of time without meaning or a future is a deadly struggle in overcoming apathy. In every moment, the factors we live under choose the frame and set the lighting.

Deep in the wilderness of homelessness, perspective and self-awareness come alive. A new reality, cold and vast makes way as uncertainty, fear, and grief set in. Fierce and intimate adversaries, the fight itself is an achievement. Fail to resist, sink momentarily into acquiescence, and you face final defeat. That way lies only emptiness, and an inevitable, grinding, death of the self.

Persevering in this wilderness is a challenge that strips away everything a person needs to get safely home. Life and human society are what make the world, but power and agency are what make life happen, and make it meaningful.