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Jesica Hanley Vega

Sing Your Song

Month

May 2014

Arianna Huffington and Me

I love Arianna Huffington. I love her intelligence, her sense of humor and her Greek accent.

I first watched this Wisdom 2.0 talk a few months ago and was inspired when Arianna gave out her email address and invited listeners to “continue the conversation.” I wrote down her address, but didn’t know what to say. Listening to it again this morning, I composed my response and sent it off.

For your enjoyment, here is Arianna’s wonderful talk about Well-being, Wisdom, Wonder, and Giving, followed by my response:

Arianna-

Having just listened to your Wisdom 2.0 talk on The Third Metric, first I would like to say that you are one of my favorite thinkers. I first heard you speak in Venice, CA during your campaign for governor but prior to that, as a teenager, I was deeply moved by Picasso: Creator and Destroyer.

For someone who – from an early age – longed to be an artist, your depiction of Picasso provided a powerful cautionary tale about the dangers of prioritizing personal vision and success over human relationships. And, in fact, though I devoted a decade to chasing “success” in the entertainment industry, ultimately I acquiesced to something more sustainable.

I’m inspired, therefore, to share my own first-hand observations from the trenches of my own third metric life:

  1. Well-being, Wisdom, Wonder and Giving shape my days. I live in a 1 bedroom apartment with my husband and two young children. I cook for my family, practice yoga, meditation and writing. I provide card readings and direction for people seeking more soul-centered lives, and spend as much time as I can in nature. My readings, blog and divination/guidance are my greatest forms of giving, but I also actively nurture relationships between the families in my apartment complex. 
  2. As a family, our income is small and, though much can be achieved with mindfulness and thrift, there is a consistent sense of uncertainty about the future. The status quo persists on the assumption that, through participation in conventional “success”, you can control your future by means of retirement savings, home ownership and education, etc. And though that’s not strictly “true”, stepping away from even an imagined safety net creates its own stresses and anxiety. 
  3. Iain Thomas certainly has it right when he says “And everyday the world will drag you by the hand….” because it takes effort, persistence and courage to constantly yank it back. One of my biggest challenges is feeling discomfort and embarrassment for not having first demonstrated my social worthiness with conventional success. My on-going task is to believe my life is inherently valuable for the way I live it and not due to external “results.” I have to remind myself of this everyday. It is not reflected back to me by mainstream culture. 
  4. Lastly, though I’ve never had economic wealth or privilege, I have had the privilege of being well-educated, well-informed and healthy. Until this conversation and these choices are accessible to people living in poverty – or working their asses off so that they’re not – third metric living risks remaining yet another elite lifestyle trend. For me, this is where sustainability, non-violence and mindfulness represent more than just personal “choice” but form a platform for social change. 
  5. So, how can the media spread the message beyond its own elites and those who are already educated and informed? I don’t have the answer. That’s just my question.

Yours, Jesica Davis

Man With A Gun On A Beautiful Day

A bucolic day at the creek. Interrupted by the man with the gun.
A bucolic day at the creek. Interrupted by the man with the gun.

A few weeks ago, our family was picnicking at the creek with some friends when I noticed a man with a gun.

It was holstered to one side of his shorts and on the other side hung his bullet clips.

I’d heard about open-carry advocates showing up at Starbucks and Playgrounds around the country and hoped I wouldn’t have to witness such a thing.

But there he was.

My heart began to pound and I had the impulse to run away or scream at him…but then I walked up to the man (his name was Justin) and started asking questions.*

Why do you carry a gun? What do you need it for? Do people ever ask you about it?

Justin was appreciative of my curiosity and during our conversation I learned some things about my NRA card-carrying neighbor.

The most intriguing was that no one had ever approached him to discuss his gun before.  In fact, the only public reaction he’d ever had was from a woman at Safeway who screamed in terror that there was a gunman in the store planning to shoot children. Which, of course, Justin would never do.

He was just trying to protect himself “in case something happens”.

He was a decent enough seeming guy who walked around with a German Shepherd, a sheriff-like swagger and detailed knowledge of the 2nd amendment.

And yet he had never considered how frightening it was for two mothers to be picnicking with their children and see a man with a gun. Nor had he considered that people might be too scared to talk to him because they’d witnessed gun violence (like my friend), been threatened with it (like me) or even suffered directly at the hands of a man with a gun.

So immersed was he in his perceived threat of constant danger that he didn’t get that – for most women – a man with a gun means being overpowered, disadvantaged and possibly raped regardless of how good your self-defense skills are.

As an anti-gun advocate, I am afraid of people with guns. But I am increasingly aware of how much more afraid they are…of assault…of home-invaders…of a government that uses force against its own people.

They are afraid – ALL THE TIME – and they want, they NEED, to be prepared “in case something happens.”

People who are gripped by fear do not respond to reason or logic. No heated “debate” would have convinced Justin that his gun was creating more – not less – danger in the park on a beautiful day.

And shouting at him may have convinced him more deeply that anti-gun advocates are hostile to his beliefs. And then he may have become even more entrenched in his 2nd Amendment inspired determination to carry arms. In public. All the time.

After all, who doesn’t tend to “dig in” when attacked?

But maybe our conversation made him less afraid of me as an anti-gun advocate and more open to our side of things. It certainly felt that way at the time.

There is no one solution to gun violence and the divisiveness between pro and anti-gun advocates – just as no mass shooting has only one cause. Blaming only the NRA, or psychoactive prescription drugs or mental illness or politicians oversimplifies the complexities of the situation.

But that day I realized my own solution is to be a stand for peace on all sides: by releasing the violence in my heart, by understanding my enemies and by showing courage in the face of fear.

*Veteran Civil Rights Activist and Congressman John Lewis was an inspiration in my moment of choice. From this interview, I learned how much courage Non-Violence requires and how much power lies in the mastery of one’s own fear. Please take the time to listen.

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