Thursday, October 17, 2013

Time means more than money; and money can't buy time.

Time means more than money; and money can't buy  time.        

                                      By Reggie Smith

Rockets, moon shots, Spend it on the have nots

Money, we make it, Fore we see it you take it

Oh, make you wanna holler, The way they do my life

Make me wanna holler, The way they do my life

Inflation no chance, To increase finance

Bills pile up sky high, Send that boy off to die; Bad breaks, set backs, Natural fact is

I can't pay my taxes; Oh, make me wanna holler, And throw up both my hands

Trigger happy policing, Panic is spreading

God know where we're heading

Oh, make me wanna holler, They don't understand;  This ain't livin', This ain't livin', No, no baby, this ain't livin'.

                       Marvin Gaye

Have you ever been faced with your own mortality? When I was at the end of active addiction to heroin, I thought I wanted to die and wanted time to stop. When I was diagnosed with AIDS, I thought I was going to die and didn't want time to end.  In either case, life was being measured in time.  There have been many moments in my life where I would like to have had the power to stop, rewind, or fast forward time, but I never have figured out how to do that.  When I thought I was facing imminent death, the best I could do is to take my watch off and stop being manipulated by my perception of time.  Every moment we spend here on this plane of existence is truly an opportunity to resolve the questions that life has for each of us.  The blessing of my life is that my “reality” has motivated me to understand more fully what time is, and how I could best use what time is allotted to me.


In my opinion, time is a way to mark and measure our human existence.  Time, like pictures, can be useful to look to the past at how our lives and humanity has evolved.  The more time you see, the faster it seems to go. Life is an experiment.  We do not have all the answers, but we make “educated” guesses based on the outcomes of similar experiences we have had or observed.  We often try to predict the future the same way; by guessing what will happen based on what has already happened in past similar situations.  Mostly, our future is predicated on the assumption that we will be here and alive to be a part of it.  As we see on a daily basis all over the world, life often ends abruptly in more ways than we can imagine.  From being bombed by a drone, shot by a deranged sniper, hit by a drunk driver, poisoned by a power hungry dictator, or simply waking up dead from starvation; there are an infinite number of ways for our life clocks to stop.  That is not morbid; it is a fact of life.  So what are we going to do while we are here?


In one of my favorite books, “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle, I got a better grasp on the way I am sometimes distracted by my own mind and ego away from the purpose of life.  My mind and ego continually conspire to keep me locked in the past or the future.  The confusion that the past and future creates does not allow me to fully participate in this now moment.  It is in this now moment that my past and future are created.  Everything that is created in this material world begins with a thought.  My mind may think whatever it wants, but I have the ability to change or filter those thoughts into the actions that will manifest whatever I focus on.  Furthermore, like when we pray together or visualize and act together as a group, we have the ability to create an outcome that supersedes probability.  We see that happen all the time in sporting events when fans seemingly will their underdog teams to victory.  So, why do so many spend so much of our most valuable commodity, time, in the pursuit of money


Money can’t buy you time.  Recent reports show that income inequality in the United States is at perilously high levels.  Major media is corporate driven, and will not work against it’s own self-interest, so we can't count on them to start or support a movement for change.  Money is energy, and it should be used for the improvement of the lives of those of us here on the planet.  Instead, there are a few with more than they could ever need or use, and many, many more with barely enough to get by.  So, in order to maintain life, the masses are spending too much valuable time trying to get money.  Medications, food, fuel…everything cost moneyNow is the time to change the way business is done.  We live in strange times where greed trumps what is good for the planet and the people. I’m not rich, and I have nothing against those who are, but I am focused on using my time to change the flow of energy.  We must come together to change our priorities.  That would be a great way to use our time, right?  Yesterday is history and tomorrow is a mystery.  NOW is the time to RISE!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

When in Rome, speak with the Romans.

I had a great experience while at the United States Conference on AIDS in New Orleans.  I have been participating in the conferences for the past few years of this annual gathering.  This year I went with a minimum of expectations and/or questions.  The focus this year was on how the HIV epidemic is disproportionately affecting the Southeast, and understanding the effects of the so called “treatment cascade” – a study of how people access and maintain treatment for HIV.  With the access to care being a major issue, and the Affordable Healthcare Act changing the lives of many, I hoped to get a sense of how to help make sure more people get the information necessary to make this transition.   My role in the arena of HIV has evolved over the past 25 years from clandestine observer, to an active advocate.  Now, I feel like a grandfather wanting to make sure that I share my experiences and act as a vessel for love and information.  Wisdom has taught me not to burn myself out at these conferences, and to trust that the people and information I attract are exactly what I need.  Most times that means having the faith to follow spirit, not the crowd, believing you are where you are supposed to be.  The magical adventure I had this trip to New Orleans proved, once again, that the universe is perfect.

This year, I had more freedom to move around because our RISE team of bloggers included Dr. Luther A Virgil, Jr. and A’Lexius Culpepper.  They covered much of the technical information from their unique perspectives as a medical provider and case manager respectively.  We are ecstatic to say that you will see their contributions here in RISE regularly as content contributors!  There was a lot of great information shared inside the seminars and symposiums, but how could we come to N'awlins and not go talk to the people?  So our bell captain, Antoine, asked our driver and guide, New Orleans native David Bell, to take producer/videographer, Richard Shabazz and I, to find out how the HIV community has been affected by the trauma of Hurricane Katrina.  Following the theme of the conference, we were interested to see who was (and were not) getting and staying in treatment for HIV.  We were advised not to venture out into the “dangerous community”, but this USCA conference was focused on the south, so we wondered about the real people in the city the committee chose to host it.   After all, the data about HIV doesn't pertain to you if you are not in treatment, and the numbers can never tell the whole story.  As “Project Runway” winner and conference presenter, Mondo, so aptly put it; “if you are not counted, you don’t count”.  There is a great deal of data that has been gathered about who is in treatment, but it is impossible to know much about who is not in treatment.  Despite any and all data, the number that matters most is ONE, and that one is you.  In New Orleans, due to the ongoing catastrophic trauma caused by the floods, it is even harder to know who needs care.  Watch this video {below} of an innerview with residents of the 9th ward, in the shadows of the levies, to see what we found.

First, we talked to T. J. Rogers, an administrator at NO AIDS PROJECT, the largest AIDS service organization in New Orleans.  He gave us some wonderful background about how his city is still dealing with the effects of Katrina.  There are many life issues, like food and housing that take priority to HIV.  The people of New Orleans, eight years ago, had the unique experience of being totally displaced due to the floods. Many of the people who lived here and were in treatment were exiled to other cities and have never returned and are now impossible to track.  

I know that most of the people visiting here for the conference from other cities took the opportunity and time to imbibe the food and culture of the city.  I, too, was swept up by the wonderful energy the city displayed surrounding the N.O. Saints NFL football rivalry with the Atlanta Falcons.  Actually, visiting sports stadiums and arenas in different cities is on my bucket list, so putting another check in that column was big fun and very healing for me.  As a vegetarian, I fell in love with the delicious food I was blessed with while here as well.  New Orleans is a unique city, with a distinct culture.  I am very happy that we took the time to get out into the community.  I found the people are very friendly and hospitable, but underneath there is anger, bitterness, and a feeling of betrayal about how they have been systematically pillaged by bureaucracy.  The New Orleans culture is not replaceable, so those displaced experienced trauma, but so have those who are still here in a still broken system. 

Meanwhile, back at the conference, I began to look at what demographic or culture of people is under represented at the conference, and may mirror some of the same issues as the people of New Orleans.  I realized that heterosexual men, especially heterosexual men of color are never a part of any meaningful conversation about HIV.  The infamous “down low” phenomena was the Hurricane Katrina for our particular demographic, because it sent straight men into self imposed exile, and they have yet to recover.  I could count on one hand, the number of hetero men I ran into that were here for the conference.  We will have to change that dramatically if our families are going to thrive, and thrive we must.  The data collected about how many people are in treatment, called the “treatment cascade”, cannot accurately measure those not in treatment.  The Affordable Care Act has the potential to make healthcare available to millions more people, but not if you are hiding and afraid to access it, or being too intimidated to demand it.  I, and others, am committed to making sure heterosexual men are more fully represented.  I pray that you are as well.   

Mental health issues, homophobia, “heterophobia” and stress have created an atmosphere that has fostered the behaviors and attitudes that help perpetuate HIV disease.  We need to be careful about being too insulated when we get together at these conferences to share gratitude, knowledge and information.  Some Republican lead states continue to make a concerted effort to kill “the least of these” by making healthcare inaccessible, and that is unacceptable.  We need think outside the box when it comes to finding ways to heal our communities and ourselves so that the waterfalls of the treatment cascade blesses us all.  We can change the energy, but we need you to be willing to fight through the fear in order to make it happen. Don't go chasing waterfalls.  It is time to RISE.