Photograph by Lauren Elizalde, more ISM’s can be found HERE

I recently wrote the forward for a really neat book to be released through ISM: A Community Project entitled “Define Your ISM.” Writing pieces like this are a great opportunity to get my brain working especially since I am struggling so deeply to get this novel finished. Right around the time I wrote this I was looking into the life of the writer Ayn Rand someone who I feel has been deeply misinterpreted as a writer and subsequently misunderstood as an individual. Its funny to reread this knowing what I was thinking about at the time. My thoughts definitely made their way through…

Here it is…

At some point in the history of the English language (around the late 1600’s) the term “ism” detached from the noun where it was serving the purpose of turning it’s host into a way of expressing a commonly held belief, widely practiced style or a system of organization, and it became it’s own term.

But not just any term. The journey of the newly freed ism became, at that point, much more complicated. Wrought with opposing viewpoints and conflicts of every sort, the liberated suffix began to represent the radical social movements of the day (Abolitionism, Feminism, Fourierism, Pacifism, Prohibitionism, and Socialism). Society was officially moving towards the cult of “us” and the intellectualization of social “responsibility” dramatically reaching its zenith with the formation and implementation of Communism, in the Marxist-Leninist sense, with Fascism soon to follow.

ISM as a term became shorthand for the modern American Zeitgeist of To Be? instead of Not to Be?

We, as Americans and citizens of the world, are still grappling with the philosophical parameters of the individual’s responsibilities towards our fellow man and a system of beliefs that have lead us to this point in history. Currently, we are in the middle of a social/political climate that can be perceived as a battle between the continuation of ism’s in a broader sense and a swift move towards more individualistic ideals. The question is not which side is right or wrong, but rather, How can the individual have a say, outside of the sway of those who possess the most personal prosperity or the swelling support of a larger group?

How do we individualize the ism?

It is this question that inspired ISM: A Community Project to form 10 years ago as an independent arts organization dedicated to fostering connections between individuals in order to create not just a community, but a network of free-thinking creatives for the benefit of the community. The theory was: implement individualism through personal expression and creativity (i.e. use your imagination).

It is through the active imagination of the human mind that social constructs come into being in the first place and it is through the process of ownership of an ism by the individual, body, mind and soul that it takes on any power. However, it is a tragic consequence that power formed by many individuals owning one ism often leads to the gross misuse of that power, often used for purposes that directly contradict the ideals of the original idea.

One way we can continue together in peace is not with one large idea, or even several larger ideas, but to respect and celebrate little moments and small ideas; the coffeeISM, the mommyISM, the foreverISM.

ISM: A Community Project has tremendous respect for the input of others and the success of their projects over the years have relied heavily on varied voices and support.

More than anything, the creativity and sense of community that lies at the heart of ISM: A Community Project also lies in the successful future of society as whole: respect and nurture the individual, respect and nurture yourself, take what you love and make it a movement of one with all the glory, pomp and circumstance of the lumbering ideologies of the past 500 years.

The pages of this book are comprised of ruffling banners in the form of 11 x 17 cards, passions marching in strict formation in rhythm to one heart beating and the micro-altruism of loving your life and wanting to share it with those around you.

More information about the project and the book can be found at Paperfarms or ISM: A Community Project.

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