ceased publication. This website is maintained for informational
To learn more about the upcoming Special Edition of Satya and Call for Submissions, click here.
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
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
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
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.
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.