The Red Pill

By Natalie Janovak

Photo by Allen Sandico

On September 17th I found myself holding a cardboard sign on the corner of 4th and Pike. As this was the one year anniversary of the Occupy Movement, I had decided to jump from the fringes of observation and into the fires of participation in the democracy that I hold dear. My sign was a raw statement, meant to put a face to an injustice that I survived and that is still causing sleepless nights for countless others. I stood there without shame, wanting nothing more than to say my piece in support of the ideals held by the Occupy Movement.

This was but one step in an unorchestrated dance that has become my life since my eyes were opened through loss. I say unorchestrated because prior to losing my job and home to the financial meltdown I lived in the fast lane of our orchestrated consumer culture. My hands and energy had fed a machine that was built upon principles of greed and exploitation. At the time I was fine with this. I was programmed to think and act this way, never reallly understanding why it made me feel so empty inside. During the years that followed my departure from WaMu, I went through the motions of economic and emotional recovery. In the warm embrace of support and encouragement from my loved ones, I healed through facing my fears and misunderstandings then locked firmly into a perspective that I have esoterically held my entire life: Live simply and act with loving intention. After all, we are all in the same boat.

On a grander scale this philosophy embodies my attempt to merge reality with the dream, and it is a challenging and deeply fulfilling journey that has only just begun.  I swallowed the proverbial Red Pill and committed myself to keeping my eyes open for those slivers of hope that surround me admidst the grand orchestration of our modern civilization. These slivers take different forms every day and are  a constant reminder rather than an irritation. People, their words and expressions, remind me that we are all beautiful notes in a piece that is being played as it is written, and the melody is our collective choice. As I stood holding that sign I heard chords that fed my soul.

All I wanted to accomplish that day was a chance to inspire others to consider that this game of civilization includes the potential for loss. Ironically, loss is often the first step in freeing oneself from the constraints of any verb we can conjure to justify, rationalize or express our actions. We are socialized to equate loss with material posession, but it goes deeper, into that which invigorates and enlivens our mind, body and soul every day. This kind of loss saddens me, and if I were to hold up a different sign for every day of the week I would say this:

  1. Have you laughed today?
  2. Did you make someone smile today?
  3. Have you thanked someone today?
  4. Have you given of yourself today?
  5. Did you watch the sun rise today?
  6. Did you try something new today?
  7. Hug yourself, hug a tree, and hug your neighbor.

The common denominator to the Red Pill is simple: pay attention, keep an open heart, and be grateful that you have air in your lungs so you can experience it all.

Thank you to Occupy Seattle giving me a chance to stand up. Thank you to the people of Seattle for seeing it. Thank you to Allen for our lunch conversation and creative solidarity. And thank you, Ben, for encouraging me to seek others who live this way and for giving me the title for this piece.


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