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June/July 2003
Editorial: Just say Yes!

By Catherine Clyne


A few years ago I attended a retrospective of the art of Yoko Ono. When I was younger, I’d heard stories about how her conceptual art had knocked John Lennon’s head off, sparking one of the most controversial love stories of our time. One of the “pieces” on display was a ladder underneath a dot on the ceiling with a magnifying glass hanging down, inviting the curious to climb up and inspect what was there, which was simply a microscopic word: Yes.

Ono conceived of this in a time when people felt comfortable participating in a creative process, and meant to get people involved, drawn into an experience. Some 30 years later, reverent visitors in a crowded museum gawked, but few climbed up the ladder. It was art after all, something so valuable that it’s protected by high-tech alarm systems and security guards. Touching it is a no-no.

There is something so refreshing about Ono’s simple and positive expression, yet, from my (perhaps) jaded standpoint, it seems trite, juvenile even, which is truly a loss. What happened?

It’s simple. No happened.

There are so many no’s in our lives, we don’t even notice them anymore: no crying; no feeling; no caring; no complaining; no “pets”; no resting; no being sick; no protesting; no thinking—just shut up and go with the flow. Oftentimes, especially now, “the flow” floods into places no slightly intelligent, caring person would want to go. Rather than fight, it’s easier to surrender to the onslaught—enabling a growing repression that, the less we notice it, becomes increasingly damaging.

Similarly, the overwhelming message, although crucial, from progressives and activists is an angry clamorous No! No war for oil; no factory farms; no clear-cuts; no corporate-controlled media; no fur; no GMOs; no sweatshop labor; no this; no that. With all the no’s out there, it’s no wonder people become paralyzed and, seeking escape, put on blinders and ignore the messages altogether.

No More No’s!
Words have a toxicity we rarely acknowledge, yet we slog our way through a torrent of them every day. Sure, the hate spewing through the airwaves and television from fundamentalist nut-jobs and conservative party-liners is harmful and can’t go unchecked. However, the words we use for our messages to the world, and those we use for ourselves and each other, can have acidic effects when they are negative or hateful—the opposite of what we’re supposed to be all about. What you get is a bunch of burn-outs attacking other activists—angry people who prefer to put their egos before the important causes they work for. The stakes are far too high to allow ourselves to get tangled in ego clashes and intra-group politics. If we do, we lose sight of the goal and we all lose. The animals, environment and social causes hang in the balance—it’s our job to fight on their behalf, not each other.

One of the major causes of burnout is a lack of compassion for one’s self. Think about it. There are hoards of people fighting day and night for a more compassionate world. Yet, many of them don’t relax ever—they can’t. One moment to catch a breath, one day of relaxation is precious time taken away from the cause; it’s selfish, lost time. And unfortunately, such folly is endemic. Taking care of ourselves, however, is not a luxury; it’s a necessity. Ironically, by fighting the need for time out, worn-out activists waste even more time. Creating change is work—hard work. And the opposition is very strong. But like any challenge, change won’t happen if the force is fractured and diluted, pulled a thousand different ways by activists who won’t work together.

At the risk of sounding touchy-feely, we’ve simply got to get more positivity into our lives, more yes’s. Most importantly, this means giving ourselves permission to stop and take a moment for our selves. It’s as if we have to convene a mental board meeting in order to stop feeling guilty about taking a break every now and then. It’s time to take the time to breathe, to laugh, to cry. To relax, recharge, regroup, and rebound.
There are so many ways to relax, some of which are explored in this issue. I encourage everyone to give it a try, to give ourselves the gift of literally catching our breath—regularly.

Bed Head
In the late 1960s, John Lennon and Yoko Ono tried to change the world by staging a “bed-in” for peace. They spent one week in Amsterdam and another in Montreal to protest the war in Vietnam, and the media ate it up. The world saw images of the pajama-clad newlyweds lounging in a hotel bed calling for peace. Critics ridiculed them because they looked foolish and were not terribly articulate, which is true enough. But the song “Give Peace a Chance” was recorded bed-side and it hit the charts and became a global anthem. “All we are saying is give peace a chance” is still chanted by generations young and old. It may have been a silly PR stunt, but the positive message they sent, which helped a generation fighting to end the war in Vietnam, is still a potent catchphrase for peace activists the world over.

Very few have the resources to change the world by crawling under the covers, but everybody has the power to lounge in bed and recharge themselves to work for change; we need only give ourselves permission. So, do yourself and the world a favor, stage a “bed-in”, a “bath-in” or whatever floats your boat, for inner peace.

Catherine Clyne



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