Why I chose to get arrested for not having a last name.
Maximalism, to me, is about doing away with the superfluous, being anchored in minimal structure for the purpose of attaining greater freedom, consciousness and knowledge; it permits the hints and guidance of the universe to be more readily exposed. One bit of structure that I’ve adhered to is the banjo, sauntering around all day playing, healing haunted woods or entertaining babies, filling my environment with beautiful music, stopping for anyone who dare flash a smile or mouth the name of the instrument. Sharing my passion, spontaneous smiles, jam sessions, hoedowns and sometimes moshpits breakout and the world reverberates with love, pleasure and appreciation in a multiplicity of forms, further validating and sustaining my existence. A result of this lifestyle has been a dissolution of harmful illusions into a new sense of clarity; when you clear your life and mind of all the baggage, existence becomes lean and effective, you develop the tendency of cutting through any flawed logic or blockage that might hinder healing and healthy growth. Myths that ensnare much of society simply fade away, such as the notion that money is somehow intrinsically linked to survival, fulfillment and evolution. “Having something to show for it”, is revealed as a core fallacy of an aesthetic culture eagerly awaiting a meaningful existence.
At the amnesty international booth at the Vancouver folk fest, posters said, “Shelter, food and education are human rights”, therefore, spending any more then a few moments each day focused on the acquisition of these things, is a waste of time. Negotiating away the pursuit of excellence for the purpose of “paying the bills” negates access to the pinnacles of life. Exercising Maximalism, I’ve indeed been experiencing each moment as a pinnacle. Having no home, everywhere is my home, with no state I have no laws but my own, with no possession, with no second thought, I’m free to grab a back pack, banjo and skateboard to then sail to the next city, festival, moment. The hints are getting ever stronger along the way as more and more people are tickled with a banjo tune, a good philosophical chat and the wild notion that the best way to be happy is to have no virtually no material belongings. I’ve learnt that best things in life aren’t things, it’s the intangible feelings that fills a space when people share something beautiful. When you minimize structure, it get’s infused with your energy, grows with you; after four years of studying English and other things at university, my writing, spelling and grammar, remained fairly lousy, it wasn’t until I started blogging about the few topics that mattered to me, that all my fundamentals of communicating in English improved. The method was doing me so well, that when I took off on my first Canadian tour, I decided to perform under a single name, sleek, easy to remember, eventually it was all I needed so I stuck by it. Now after extensive travels though Canada and states with only name, Maxim means so much more then my three names every could.
Getting arrested was fun for me because it took on the form of a bizarre sociological experiment, focusing on what the enforcement wing of the bureaucratic conglomeration know as Canada, considered freedom. I didn’t set out to be arrested, I was simply skateboarding in the city of Nanaimo BC, where skateboarding is considered illegal anywhere outside skatepark. (I was longboarding actually, which is a completely different activity). The situation was ripe for critical analysis because cops were friends of mine; over the last two weeks we’d had multiple chats of decent length, all about my living without structure, the city of Nanaimo, about local bylaws which applied to skateboarding and about performing music on the street. They seemed to appreciate the chats, especially since all they seemed to do all day was bike around, hangout, drink coffee on the boardwalk and kept and eye on things. By all accounts it seemed like honorable work, I commended them for their wish to look after their neighborhood. The first time we spoke I told them I was disappointed that I couldn’t ride away on my longboard, they replied the streets were designed for cars and that the laws were there for my own protections, but we were pals, so with a wink they said they’d ride away first. One day, I absentmindedly rode past them about twenty minutes after another friendly warning, kicking their sense of civic obligation into a higher gear. As they were giving me a ticket, I meditated on the fact that I’ve only been going by one name for a while and I became curious about how these representatives of law would react to a human with only one name. This was not about standing up for any rights, or sticking it to any man, it was about plain old honesty, so I repeated that I only had one name. Apparently it was insufficient information, tantamount to obstruction of justice. “Everyone in Canada has a last name” they told me, I couldn’t vouch for everyone else, but I told them as far as our friendly conversation was concerned, and it was quite friendly, I was content sticking with my one name, that I was fine following the logical progression of what that decisions might entail.
Perplexingly, justice seemed to be maintaining a certain trajectory that day, one in which my lack of a last name, obstructed it’s course. Until I gave them a last name, or any semblance of one, “ just make one up” a girl at the adjacent restaurant offered, they had the duty, to arrest and hold me until they could find out who I really was. Since we were pals and I’d been so “sociable” as the officer put it, they pleaded with me to say my name, gave me multiple chances and as they put the handcuffs on, actually commended me for sticking to my guns, believing in something and going through with it. A crowd had gathered, I was all smiles as usual, feeling as close to a radical as I ever had, sporting handcuffs in a relatively official manner for the first time. While still politely chatting with the officers, they started digging through my bag, “I do not consent to this search”, “That doesn’t matter”. “In that case fellas, we can skip probably skip some paperwork, my driver’s license is in the front pocket” “we’re still going to take you down to the office”. The cruiser pulled up and they started pilling my banjo and bag in the back, “why don’t you just double him on your bike” yelled a spectator, “that would be illegal”. In the back seat, hands cuffed behind my back, I had to lean forward in order to not crush my wrists. Also, they didn’t buckle me in! I had to make a special request. The officer came around back, pulled out the belt and practically lay across my lap in order to clip me in, what a vulnerable position, I thought. Being slightly claustrophobic, I got nervous about being locked inside a large rolling cage, I also thought about how my mother might not have an overly favorable opinion of this particular experiment. But then I thought about how much my blogdience would enjoy the tale, did some slow breathing and laughed it off. Preparing to take off, the driving officer was even more polite and jovial, “ Officer Dave tells me your a great guy” he said. Inquiring about his line of work, he told me his job was boring, that it was mostly just dealing with a few drunks on the weekend. After 25 years he was sick of it, I felt bad for him, it looked the uniform weighed heavy, although he seemed pretty happy over all. At the station, for some reason it took 5 people to book me, go through my bag, photocopy my passport, count my cash, check the serial number on my lap top, (which I hadn’t even yet done) and to everyone’s amusement, started reading through my journal aloud. A young cop stopped at year old to-do list and offered out loud to the group “Graphic novel, yoga, monster bike, breakdancing, wow, you have a really interesting life”. They took my picture and were even kind enough to throw away the paper napkins that had been sitting in the bottom of my backpack. An administrative assistant asked If I wasn’t proud of my last name, I told them I quite proud of it and of my family, but my issues was with their authority; in BC, there are virtually no treaties with the natives, we were on unseeded land, therefore my captors were an occupying force and since I identified myself as first nation Metis, they were violating international law. They explained that since they’d found my ID, they wouldn’t press the charges, I guess I was lucky, because if I hadn’t had government issue ID, I would have found myself in front of a judge, whom if it suited, could have apparently held me indefinitely, again until they could find out who I really was. Within 45 minutes I was back on the street, telling my story and hanging out with an adoring group, one of whom offered me gig at a bluegrass festival, we played some songs then I ate some delicious sea food.
I chose to get arrested in order illustrate the point that everything we think we know about structure, any structure, be it a thought, law, bond, promise, word, building, concept or social organization, is a fluid thing that can be manipulated in any number of ways. In my case I manipulated the law in such a way to expose it’s utter absurdity: the cops were literally pleading with me to produce a last name, any last name, which as it just so happened I was short of, so that they could be relieved of their ridiculous obligation of arresting a “great guy” like me, for an arcane reason. They didn’t want to do it, and were getting annoyed that I was forcing the technicality. What I was doing was prying open an administrative anomaly, exposing a euro-centric, bureaucratic anachronism. To distill some significance of my arrest, one could suggests that only those with at least two names are welcome in this Canada, and those falling outside of that perimeter, will be subjected to a greater level of scrutiny, control and enforcement. In essence, it’s a racist rule that has no place in any society possessing basic comprehension of how the world actually works.
The greater meanings of this sociological experiment were beginning to make themselves abundantly clear; according to the Canadian state, freedom is not a right, it’s a privilege deserving only to those capable of presenting the correct pass code at the arbitrary insistence of armed enforcers. To reiterate my claim of absurd, any last name would have done, I was arrested for not having two names. More observations: beyond multiculturalism not given the slightest consideration, since countless cultures employ only one name, the inclination never even surfaced that a duo-cultural or single name human might possibility exist, without being considered a threat. The greatest lesson I took from the situation was that these cops, like everyone else who’s caught up in a pursuit of money rather then excellence, spend most of their time fluctuating between being stressed out, bored, hungry, tired or probably watching TV. And like everyone else, instead of dealing with the minutia of the daily grind, such as arresting a smart aleck twenty four year old over an archaic procedural technicality, would in all probability rather be engaged in acts more productive, suited to their talents and beneficial to the world at large. But then again, perception is a fluid thing...
When it comes to any notion of reality, these laws and structures are for the most part already mute, they have no real bearing on our lives; everyone breaks which ever law gets in their way, if you want something, it’s really just a matter of how bad? There is no law or rule that can’t be broken and go unpunished without appropriate foresight and/or resources. We are all beings striving towards some kind of peace and happiness, we don’t need anything telling us how we should or shouldn’t act, in general or towards each other, everyone knows already. One cool way to think about life, which I heard on a TED.com talk, is that traditional eastern philosophies appreciate both structure and chaos, that the two need each other, like ying and yang, and that they function best when working in harmony. That philosophy has influenced Maximalism, that the soul will soar and reach it’s greatest potential when it ‘s intertwined with a few simple and glorious things, like a banjo and a macbook.
If this piece sounds exceptionally resonating, it’s because it’s the most important thing I’ve ever written and I’d like humbly suggest, perhaps the most important thing you’ve ever read. It is my “coming out” piece as the spiritual entity known as Maxim, and now that you know about me and my philosophy, there’s simply no going back. I’m having the time of my life, every single day, and I owe it all to simply letting go of all the clutter, junk and bad systems of life. Letting go of all expectation of others and the self, of all the physical things, all the drama, all ambitions and desires and just plain loving you, learning from the universe and the heart. All bodies are just going end up as ash one day, so we might as well start living in the spiritual world now. The alternative to my lifestyle has made itself abundantly clear: it’s the alberta tar sands, the BP disaster and any resource based conflict. These are the repercussions of an ideology, that believe it’s somehow important to “own”, the result is disaster, pure and simple. The purveyors of the global monetary systems would rather go on creating wastelands on earth, rather than consider the possibility that their way of doing things is anything but perfection. I would suggest, and I think you already know, that it’s the absolute worst.
Unfortunately none of our hands are clean of these schlockmeisters’ actions, and any minute contribution to the petroleum or big business game validates and perpetuates, my answer is permaculture.
That’s do it yourself, build your own life exactly how you feel is should done, never relying on anything but the local community and the traditional cultures of the land. Take your cargo bike to the coop farm, work the crops, write a blog on the communal computer, take part in the hoedown, skate the park, read a novel, rite a play, hunt a dear, make a coat, do a million other fun and productive things that don’t require the consumption of fossil fuels, like taking a nap with a friend, pick up the chicken jerky you’ve been curing, who’s meat was generously donated by your friend clara the chicken, who lived a long and wonderful life in the yard when she wasn’t laying delicious eggs in the hen house, and go track down the last few homeless alcoholics who may not be coherent or responsive enough to outright thank you for the blanket and food, but who will appreciate it none the less.
In conclusion, and in all seriousness, I’d like to respectfully challenge Don Cherry to a fist fight. For those who might not know, Don is a commentator on the long running “Hockey Night In Canada” on CBC, and is a main proponent for fighting in the sport. I’m not a violent person, in fact I’m one of the calmest and happiest people about, but as the tittle of this article would convey, I believe in sticking to my guns, so as a lover of both hockey and sparring, I feel they should be enjoyed separately. Fighting and hitting don’t have anything to do with hockey, contact ruins the flow while choking out the true talent and beauty of the game; stick handling and skating. I challenge you, Don Cherry, to a fight me, Maxim, because as you’ve said so many times, “it helps settle things”, this is an issue I’d really like settled. I’ve weighed the options and I feel it’s the best way to calmly and effectively raise that issue with you. In all truth, I’d much prefer that you just knock it off, your position poisons the minds of millions, making people believe that fighting is actually an acceptable way of solving anything. Maybe I can trade you a poem or some manual labour if you stop, or how about some oral pleasure? Any man who spends that much time and money obsessing on clothing can’t be completely straight, I’ll bet dollars to donuts all machismo is just a cover, isn’t it Donny? Maximalism is as much about effectiveness as anything else, so if you’d rather not trade skills, I’ll trade blows. If I win, you stop promoting fighting in hockey, maybe it’ll inspire you to create a new sport where two guys put on pads and skates, go out on some ice, then beat each other senseless, we could call it “ice fighting”, I’ll even take part! If you win, by all means go on promoting violence in sport and society, watch as it continues to permeate playgrounds, marriages and peewee hockey, I’ll even agree to whatever punishment or humiliation you might dole out. Just remember Don, if you don’t acknowledge me or refuse to fight and go on with your diatribes about the importance of “throwing down the gloves”, everyone will see you as a double talker, an instigator, a bully and a coward.
Love you all,
I met some travelers yesterday and we were one-uping each other on the porous nature of the Canadian border. “At one place in Alaska, the border is just a guest book”. “At my grandparents old house in the eastern township, it was their neighbors backyard”. “You can just sail through the gulf islands, It’s the just coast guard who do any checking, and they don’t do very much, you can just say your on a day sail”. “Most first nations don’t recognize the border, you can just cruise right on through a reserve, if you’re polite and have something to trade.” “On Pender and Gabriola Islands, the border was a rusty old sign at the doc saying ‘all those arriving in Canada please call customs at 1800..’”