Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Life Nomadic

Change is Inevitable
It is very difficult to blog in the summer.  If there is any season that should be spent outdoors and away from a computer screen, summer is it.  The heat and vacation possibilities occupy a dominant share of mindspace, anything involving work is an afterthought.  This project and the accompanying blog were launched on July 1st when I informed a select group of 35 people on Facebook of my intentions.  It became official when I signed the agreement terminating my lease and officially became homeless.  Now two months in, this is only my third blog post.  Maybe starting out on a radically life-altering course of action during the Dog Days of Summer, which correspond to the dog star Sirius rising and setting with the sun and associated with periods of stagnation and the hottest muggiest days of they year was less than advisable.  Add in the influence of Mercury Retrograde, and astrologically speaking, probably the worst possible timing for choosing intentional homelessness.
Anyway, those facts are noted and I press onward unperturbed.  After all, I did not have much of a role in selecting when the project would commence.  The Universe presented with me with a set of circumstances, and I made a decision to take a less conventional path toward a solution.  The decision was to live as an Urban Nomad and not pay rent for 1 year, instead offering goods and service in exchange for a couch to crash on.  And now as the waning weeks of summer are closing in and autumn approaches, I can already feel the brisk air returning to sweep away the doldrums and bring clarity and purpose.  The harvest must be reaped, and there is work to be done to prepare for winter.
Beyond the changing of seasons, there are unforeseen circumstances that occur, that suddenly change our situation in a way that requires a different approach to the task at hand.  Such circumstances as say, a financial meltdown or natural disaster, challenge us to see the problem differently, to view obstacles as an opportunity to create new possibilities that only existed previously as a potentiality.  This is also a Supreme Law of Chaos Magic, by temporarily adopting an arbitrary change in your behavior or lifestyle, something outside the conventions of society or your normal beliefs and conditioning, you can access great insights and create new possibilities for yourself and others.
My purpose in choosing not to pay rent for 1 year has several aspects.  It is a protest against the cost of living in NYC, which continues to go up even as the economy worsens.   The system favors the wealthy at the expense of the vast majority struggling to get by.  Rent is an expense that accounts for a large percentage of our labor and productivity that we seem to take for granted.  For some reason we think it is natural to forfeit a major chuck of what we earn for the right to live on a piece of land we do not own.  How much more creative and productive would we be if we didn’t have to work so hard to pay the rent?  NYC used to be a haven for starving artists, who flocked here and made it the cradle of the counterculture and the avant garde .  You only have to look at the landscape of the Lower East Side to see how the times have changed. 
Another motivation is to promote a lifestyle and a new economy based on cashless reciprocal gift giving.  The economic order is imploding.  Everyone can see it before their eyes.  I believe that it is being engineered intentionally by the elite banking class, to provoke civil unrest and justify the institution of an all-powerful Police State.  It’s not necessary for you to believe that at this time, you only need to observe that the old system is no longer sustainable, and the solutions that have been offered by the establishment are not working.  Eventually, we will need to adapt to our situation and collaboratively solve problems for ourselves.  By paying rent, we are only perpetuating a cycle of exploitation and are not moving forward to empower ourselves.  Property and Landownership is essential for achieving personal autonomy.  If only an elite class has the means to purchase land, and the regular individual has to mortgage their entire financial future to the banks for that same opportunity, then we need to look at collective forms of landownership and communal living.
I propose a new Share Trade economy, which involves the sharing of goods and services through cooperative, cashless agreements.  It is necessary to implement this type of alternative to the cash economy now, before inflation gets out of control and access to goods and resources is limited by scarcity.  The old way of the Rugged Individual or the Nuclear Family unit, living in isolation from the greater community behind four walls and a roof will die out with the economic order that spawned it.   Our ancestors lived in tribal societies and had no concept of land ownership.  A return to a variation of tribal living with communal work and resources may offer a better hope of mitigating the effects of economic or environmental disaster.
Now, let’s discuss the practical motivation.  By my calculation, if I can live rent free for 1 year I will save $10,000. No joke.  Now how much could you save by living rent free?  The hardship of the situation is living out of a backpack and couch surfing for a sustained period of time.  Think of it as a kin to a long camping trip or backpacking through Europe.  With that $10,000 my vision is to acquire a piece of land and create a collectively owned, off-the-grid, sustainable, organic farming and permaculture, holistic, Interfaith, Free Love, cashless Share Trade intentional community, armed to the teeth with assault weapons(what is the point of owning land if you can’t defend it?).   It will require a large number of workers and shareholders to manifest this vision, but it does represent a legitimate alternative to the decaying authoritarian economic order.

Have Faith in CHAOS
  
I am writing this blog from my parent’s home in Pennsylvania.  This trip was planned for months as I come home once every summer to visit them.  However, it is also coinciding with Hurricane Irene.  This blog will be published before the storm hits New York City.  I am praying that the storm will die down rapidly and the damage and inconvenience will be minimal.  Having been in NYC for 9/11 and The Blackout, I have seen how disaster situations pull people together.  I am hoping that the hurricane is not too significant but serves as a wake-up call and inspires people to start creating the types of resource sharing infrastructures I am suggesting.  Even if this storm becomes a major disaster, it is only the first of what could be many more.  When inflation hits, the suffering will be on a mass scale.
As for me, I am not sure when I will be able to return to NYC.  When I do, I will need to stay somewhere.  I will need more places to stay than the 4 or 5 places I’ve stayed regularly.  I would like to be able to move around based on where somebody has a need, not based on my need for somewhere to stay.  This process is not about me needing a place.  It would be easier for me to rent an apartment of my own.  I have willingly chosen this as an obstacle to work with and create new possibilities.  It is a spiritual journey for me.  To prove to myself I can commit to an idea that sounds absurd and follow it to its logical conclusion, trusting that my Spirit Guides and Allies will protect me.  It is an attempt to prove that one can live free simply by utilizing their gifts and sharing them with others.  It is karma yoga.  It is kind of like a literal attempt to follow the example of Jesus Christ, who was homeless and just traveled from place to place doing good things for people.  It is a challenge and an opportunity.  I hope to be successful and inspire others and create new possibilities, and to Find a Way.
So, when I come back to NYC, I will need you to offer me a floor or a couch to crash on occasionally.  In exchange, I am offering to assist you with your needs.  I have intuitive, healing and magical gifts to share, and many other talents.  Think of any task you need accomplished, whether it something mundane like cleaning or something larger like starting a business.  Send me your ideas of what you need, and I will help you get it done.  All I need in return is an occasional place to sleep.
This is a social experiment.  Perhaps it will fail miserably.  I have no idea where it will lead.  I have an invitation on the table to go to California.  I am willing to go wherever I am called to be of service.  New York, you have always been my first love.  I just need you to show the love back.
Follow this blog or @kellyheresy on Twitter for updates.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

HOME NO MORE

Goodbye, Spencer Street House

Every so often in a person's life, the Universe redirects ones path in a way that cannot be foreseen or even remotely expected.  But out of this context patterns emerge, and new opportunties arise that seemingly always existed of which we were unaware, until thrust out of the familiarity of normal everyday circumstances. Such has been my experience recently.

For the past few years, I have been trying to find ways to make my living situation more affordable and more creatively stimulating.  In December of 2010, a friend and I signed a lease on a duplex apartment in Bedstuy/Clinton Hill, which we remodeled and subleased to artists and creative types.  The idea was that we would be able to live cheaply by renting out the spare rooms, while also giving creative people an affordable place to live and a community environment to work and collaborate.  Unfortunately, this vision was never fully realized.  It would take too long to list the reasons here, but most importantly the fact that the building was in violation of numerous codes and the landlord refused to address any of our complaints.  In the end, we decided to negotiate out of our 2 year lease rather than get involved in a long and expensive court proceeding and risk being on the hook for the balance of the lease.

Freedom

July, 1st 2011 was my 10 year anniversary in New York City.  It was also the day I signed the agreement terminating my lease, which made me officially homeless.  It was this strange confluence of events -  the money lost on the investment and hours of work spent refurbishing the apartment, all the hassles of dealing with roommates and collecting rent, and dealing with a landlord who refused to invest any money into the property to make it more attractive to renters but rather let it deteriorate while extracting any money he could get out of it - that lead to my decision that I will not pay rent in New York City for 1 year.

I understand that on the surface this must sound completely insane, that nobody of sound mind would willingly choose homelessness especially in a large urban environment like New York City.  But I arrived at this decision with much greater ease than many would imagine.  For one thing, I had been seeking an opportunity that would release me from being tied down to a specific location and allow me freedom to travel for awhile.  And the bourgeois lifestyle centered around a home where people live and accumulate material possessions has never held much interest or appeal to me.  So getting rid of my belongings and freeing myself up to be more mobile was not very difficult.

But what really made up my mind was a disinclination to have to pay another landlord after what I had just experienced.  New York City is a renting city.  70% of New Yorkers rent rather than own the place they live.  We pay the highest rent prices anywhere.  I remember paying $420 a month for a nice sized studio apartment in Pittsburgh, which would cost probably $1200 a month in NYC.  You can't even rent a closet for $420.  Even worse, the rent prices continue to go up even though only the top 2% are better of today than they were a year ago.  The rent prices are such that it often accounts for 1/3 or up to half of a persons income.  When you consider that many of these landlords are scumbag slumlords that don't even keep their buildings up to code (which often are never enforced), it is very hard to justify giving these people a large percentage of your income each month.  It is easy to see why we are in the midst of a housing crisis.  100,000 New Yorkers are homeless each year, yet new luxury condos get built and go unsold or half filled with renters.

So circumstances guided me to my decision to not pay rent for 1 year.  But there are deeper philosophical reasons for this as well.  I believe that land ownership is the biggest issue facing the world today.  The division between the Propertied and Tenant classes is a vestage of feudal and colonialist society.  The economic order sustaining these class distinctions is in the process of collapsing.  As a result, we will either experience extraordinary human suffering and social unrest, or we will move into a new cooperative and sustainable paradigm.  Our survival will depend on how we adapt to the challenges of the disintigration of the false system of cash and competition once currency has been devalued to the point of having no practical use, and if we create value through communal living and shared resources.  I am advocating for a return to the Archaic Mind, to our hunter-gatherer origins, and a return to the tribal family.  This is a new lifestyle movement, the Urban Nomad lifestyle, and a new Share Trade economy.  These concepts will be explored and developed.

In this blog, I will document how I am managing a rent free lifestyle, so that you can use some of the techniques if you choose.  I will also be exploring various issues related to homelessness and the real estate industry, and interview experts on these topics.