Ed Pilolla is an awesome writer living in the Los Angeles area – and is also a new dad! I was excited that he agreed to participate in this interview because his blog with his journalism, stories, and poetry have always shows such thoughtfulness, complexity, and heart. Check out what he’s sharing with us today…
What or who inspires you most? The prospect of death inspires me. I know I’ll have to lay in that grave, and what do I need to do in this world to have peace is sometimes what I ponder. I think journalism is a joke if a journalist isn’t reporting from the perspective of marginalized people. Power produces abuses. There are no exceptions. This type of reality means there are plenty of stories of injustice. Understand this doesn’t mean that as a reporter I can’t have fun and cover something super light. But speaking truth to power is a motto worth embodying, and though there are many more talented journalists than me, at my best I am pursuing those types of stories.
The reality of death also inspires me to love. I was single for 20 years, but approaching 40 put me through a needed midlife crisis. It was part of a larger, personal progression, so it all made sense. But it was painful, too. This darkness, or challenge, forced me to come to terms with what I would not have otherwise gotten serious about: love. In my experience, getting serious about love meant giving up the dream of shiny, perfect love. It was more like accepting practical love, which is actually the real love and, ironically, the love through which that shiny, perfect love can be experienced at times.
What do you turn to when you need strength? I pray. That is, I pray if I don’t break down. But even if I break down, I end up praying. Sometimes I read randomly from books for messages. Sometimes I just chalk it up to having a bad day and veg out in front of the TV and hope the next day is better. But now that I have a kid I am less able to do that. My kid reminds me that I have strength because there’s little I wouldn’t do for her. So I see the world as it is traditionally seen from a classical perspective, as a tremendously fallen place, where power crushes weak people to continually enrich itself, and so forth. I’d rather just live my life and not participate in the dominant paradigm as much as possible. But if we don’t actively and peacefully oppose the military-police-prison industrial complex we are told provides our freedom in this country, then we can at least speak out against it. Only a good education that includes cultivating life-affirming values can provide us with a chance at true independence of mind through critical thinking, and that also gives us the opportunity to find happiness and thus freedom.
How can women best support and/or empower other women? It’s important to be aware of women’s struggles historically, and not just that the right to vote was gained some hundred years ago. Matriarch-based cultures are significantly less violent historically than patriarchal-dominated societies. It’s also empowering to know that there are alternatives to today’s patriarchal society. There are intentional communities to become affiliated with, and there are simple individual lifestyles that bring us into contact with others who share the same lifestyle values. Every little bit we exit the dominant culture, the better for humanity. Women are traditionally life-giving and nurturing. Women have that in common with other women across cultural and political divides. This is a powerful force.
What do you love to grow? What would you like to try growing someday? Ha! I don’t grow much. I have a thumb without any shade of green, it appears. However, I have ‘grown’ a dog.J And when I am volunteering regularly at a local soup kitchen, I inevitably water the fabulous garden dining area and that is a treat to be a part of. The men who trim the trees say the vegetation grows from the positive energy of the place. I’d like to grow bamboo someday, maybe banana trees and even a palm tree.
What are your creative outlets? Is there anything you’ve always wanted to try but haven’t? I have always wanted to make stain glass. I will have to learn soon. I’ve been collecting photos of color schemes for when I make a piece, so I appear to be serious. I work as a local freelance reporter, so I enjoy being creative with certain off-beat features. Newspaper writing is traditionally stogy, but you have enormous freedom so long as you write concisely.
In what environment(s) do you feel most in your element? I miss working in a newsroom. But that said, I could never do any creative writing in a newsroom. Metaphorically, I love going into my cave to write. I love being cut off from the outside world with something to say and a writing utensil, preferably a keyboard.
Who are your top three nonprofits you support and/or volunteer with and why?
Los Angeles Catholic Worker runs a soup kitchen in Skid Row, Los Angeles. It is an intentional community of about 12 people who live in a house of hospitality with formerly homeless folks. Although there is no profit, LACW is not a 501(c)3, which designates donations as tax deductable. The organization does not want to be an official non-profit so it can feel free to protest against government war and economic policies. Publicly opposing government policy jeopardizes an organization’s federal funding if it had non-profit status.
PETA – Though it often attracts criticism from the mainstream, including myself at times, the people at PETA have won so many victories for millions of animals suffering needless pain. The world is such a better place because of PETA.
Los Angeles Downtown Women’s Center – my wife Alecia works there, the only shelter for women in Skid Row, the neighborhood with the largest concentration of homeless people in the country. Being homeless is no joke, especially for a woman.
What recent “green” change have you made in your own life? What’s next? Well, we use as many cloth diapers as possible, and that quantity is increasing. Right now, we basically use disposables at night and when we travel. We can do better, knowing that disposable diapers fill up the landfill more than anything.
My next ‘green’ task is bringing my every-couple-years clothing load to Goodwill and buying a few things there for a periodic Goodwill makeover. My long-term ‘green’ goal is to drive a car that runs on vegetable oil.
Where in the world do you consider a sanctuary? Why? I don’t currently have one. I used to visit a corporate water fountain near where I lived. I loved it! I’d walk around the pool, sit and reflect. I moved away a year ago, and as a matter of fact they drained the fountain for some reason so it’s not the same place anyway. I consider it a sanctuary because I made it so, but it had some qualities that were probably essential: proximity to home, relative seclusion (hey, this is L.A.:) and natural beauty.
What advice would you give to your younger self? The same advice my 80-year-old self gives me: Relax, there is no need to worry about anything.
How can we as a society be more radical in supporting a healthy planet?
I think that all progressive movements and fronts are related. So radically supporting a healthy planet means being involved to whatever extent in peace and justice issues one can. Sure, it would be great if there was a large scale revolution of people who simply exited the dominant society in significant ways, or if a few thousand non-violently shut down Wall Street to compel our fearless leaders to revisit the social contract. But until that day comes we can only do what we can do. Consume less. Celebrate simplicity and honor it in others. Find ways to get inspired. Inspire others. Believe and dream. The alternative is war and darkness.
What sparked your interest in environmental issues? What’s the first “eco” thing you ever did? I’ve always lived simply, starting with the fact that as a community journalist I never made the money to have an extravagant lifestyle. A lot of green choices are only available to someone who can afford the option, like new products. The green choices that are most attractive and compelling, I believe, are those that are available to the population without extra cost, and that’s why reuse and simplicity can’t just be fashionable. They are true human community values.
How do you live simply? I supposed I live from the heart. I have done what I wanted to do, to an extent. There are inevitable sacrifices. I have, for the most part, lived without working unless I wanted to do the work. I think that’s turned out to be fundamentally simple living.
Could you leave us with a favorite quote of yours? “Since the government hides virtually everything that they do at the threat of criminal prosecution, the only way for us to learn about them is through these courageous whistle-blowers — who deserve our praise and gratitude, and not imprisonment and prosecution.” ~ Glenn Greenwald (author of reports in The Guardian about the National Security Agency’s collection of phone records).