Sunday, February 20, 2011

(On asking for help.)

I thought a lot about my family on the bike tour with the hours and hours Pinar and I had alone in the wilderness. Something I see missing from so many people in the generation after me is a DIY ethic. Growing up poor, you don't really have a choice. When the apocalypse comes, I'm not going to ask the nearest greenwashed yuppie sipping a Starbucks latte from their Prius what to do. Ask rural America. Broke people know how to fix things. They've been doing it long before the internet was invented. We may not have had much, but between all the people in my family if something broke, one of us could figure out how to fix it.

While planning for a 6 week bike tour, I tried to cover all the possible worst-case scenarios of anything that might go wrong along the way. I taught myself more and more about bike mechanics, and began to build a "utility belt" I started wearing regularly just "in case of emergency."
In true action figure garb on the ferry from Seattle to Bremerton about to begin the Owlala Bike Tour, September 2010

Explaining basic mechanics to my traveling partner Pinar on the tour who was a beginner to that sorta thing reminded me that there are in fact many skills and basic things I am knowledgeable of that I take for granted. Things that seem crazy to me, like that some peopel have never used a lawnmower or grown vegetables or can't change a tire on their car (or bike!). The more I thought about this, the more I became determined to embrace that part of who I was and wear it on my sleave, or...actually use it to hold up my pants. A lot of the time I truly do feel like an action figure or a superhero. I am always carrying a lot of accessories and tools. I come in many different styles. Pedal-Action Bike Touring Paul! Vegan Chef Paul! Screenprinting Wizard Paul with Printshop Playset (Sold Seperately.)
Thinking about this more and more upon my return to Phoenix, always being the one person on 5th Street it seemed who carried a bike pump with him, I had an idea. Two or three ideas, actually.
The first idea was for a stencil for a tshirt:

And also to use this as a theme for another "manifesto" card to add to my growing set of them to get mass-produced in the coming months. This one would probably read something like this, as posted in the facebook description of this photo when I posted it on December 18th, 2010:

"Somewhere at any given moment, there is someone in your community who has the knowledge, skills, resources, experience, love and compassion to care about you, and help you do something that makes you otherwise feel powerless. You won't know, if you don't ask. What do you know how to do better than most others? What can you offer? What do you need? Ask for help!"

The other idea was to try to start offering bike repairs to the local community in exchange for bartering, which a few weeks later, prompted me to create this business card, by making a large hand-cut stencil to scale and laying my exploded tool bet across it on the sidewalk and taking a picture of it. No Photoshop for this old school boy unless absolutely unavoidable when it comes to my arts!

I shared these words in a facebook note last December to elaborate on my motivations for these creations. As I mentioned in my story earlier in the blog, trying to offer myself and my own skills more and more to the world and put myself out there available to others in need I felt was an important part of the process of my own healing. In reality, it was ME trying hard to summon the courage to finally actually ask my community and the world for help. But you know me, I always try to turn my every passion into some sort of clever art project or performance of sorts. It feels so wonderful to finally feel like my every creative project and outlet and all my positive energy and networking is for the first time ever in my life perfectly focused, and devoted to my own healing. This time, my everyday life is an elaborate performance art project, it would seem--an experiment in mutual aid, designed to save myself, but also be used as a model to inspire others. I for one, think that thus far, it is working.

What are you good at? What do you need help with?

by Paul Jones on Saturday, December 18, 2010 at 1:02pm
What are you good at? What do you want to learn? What privileges were you born with? What resources, tools and skills do you have at your disposal to offer others less fortunate what can you teach others? What is your purpose? How much of yourself are you willing to SHARE with the world?

I'm asking all who read this to ponder these questions, and make a list to repost.
Reclaim knowledge from the capitalist "experts" of auto repair shops, engineers and technicians, and teach yourself the skills that you wish to have, or that you can't afford to pay someone else for. Do it YOURSELF. Or ask for help from a PERSON, not the internet oracle. Wikipedia, Youtube and Google hold a wealth of answers, but we need to take this knowledge back and empower ourselves to teach others in our communities and build supportive networks for each other, not just rely on the internet (or the library for that matter) for everything. We need to relearn how to communicate with people right in front of us. We need to learn to disconnect from computers and reconnect to each other. Yes, I recognize the irony that I am using a computer to tell you this, but trust that I am striving each day to reach out and do it in person as well. We need to relearn the knowledge of our great-grandparents to fight the future. The present is a wonderful gift, and self-empowerment is a marvelous book that once opened, can never be closed, that we can all write together to prepare ourselves for the future, to get us through today with a slightly lighter load on our shoulders. I am ready to begin this journey with you all, and I'm asking for your help. "Many hands make light work," and many minds can change the world.

So I ask you again, what are you good at? What are your passions? What can you teach me? How can you use the gifts you were given and/or have nurtured your whole life to make the world a better place? What do you have to offer, freely and happily to others? How can you barter your way to a better life? And when will you begin to start doing so?

Here are some of my skills I am prepared to share with the world, on a sliding scale, or in exchange for others' offerings.

-how to cut and paint stencils in an endless amount of ways
-how to screenprint
-how to prepare a large variety of vegan meals and baked goods
-basic bike repair and maintenance
-how to prepare for a bicycle tour
-basic woodworking and general "handyman" sort of mechanics
-writing, poetry, how to be honest with yourself and express with language
-general entrepreneurship and how to start your own business
-how to build a loft bed
-how to change a tire on your car
-guerilla marketing strategies
-organization skills

and all sorts of smaller, "subcategories" of these things, like how to find a bike that fits you, to how to use bleach to put a permanent image on a tshirt, homework assignments to help you get in touch with your inner writing voice, how to build a spice rack, etc.

Now it's your turn!

‎"Will we be the monsters of our great grand-children's nightmares, or will we heroes and healers in the epic poetry of those still unborn voices? Will we be reviled for our entitled, destructive ways, or will we be lovingly remembered in the songs of our descendents as they recount the story of this lost and ...very wounded tribe that stepped back from the abyss and found its way home to the community of living souls? We get to choose. Who are we going to be?" ~TS Bennett (From the awesome documentary, What a Way to Go)

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