I’ve had a rough past couple days #ontheroad, which I’ll soon expound upon at my personal blog site. But a large part of the trouble yesterday was with attacks from close friends (via facebook, ugh) on my character, worldview, and lifestyle – especially my views and praxis regarding freeganism, my sense of self-worth, and the value I place on my own art.

Caught off guard by certain harsh critiques, I posted the following on Twitter:

I've this strange feeling that some friends are ashamed of me. Not for what I've done but for who I am. Not really friends? What say you?

To this one of my dearest and closest friends, infamous for his lack of tact and internet manners, replied:

“Real friends expect something better. Being broke and poor is not a fashion. It's a state of mind #riseabovemediocrity.”

In the following interchange he also said:

“Bitching about everything that is wrong with the world while sucking on its teat… You have basically made the choice to eat scraps of others labor and call them evil for living this way because the life you chosen for yourself is so much more fulfilling then theirs. Goddamn you are being so blind to your own bullshit. You've made your crusty bed that you made with sweatshop labor hand me downs now lie in it and dream of a revolution of beggars and complainers. #be@peace with your own hypocrisy. [sic]

When you work a 9-5 40hr a week job and buy the things that you need to get you buy, then you can judge rightly the truth that you so desperately believe."

As you can imagine, I felt the need to defend myself from all of the above attacks. My defense produced some great blurbs explaining my views on freeganism, art, and evaluating self-worth. Find them here compiled and edited together for coherence.

Are you suggesting that I choose poverty because I think it's fashionable? Are you also suggesting that just because a person has more money (we both know is worthless), nicer clothes (made in sweatshops), a home, or any other modern luxury, that they are inherently better than the person who has little possessions?

I may be materially poor but I am existentially, spiritually, creatively, relationally, communally (etc) rich. And no lack of (virtually worthless) money could change that.

I don't lead a life that results in dumpster diving for sustenance because of financial necessity or desperation. I'm not homeless or a vagrant and my state of mind is the furthest thing from poverty. I'm not a charity case, I work hard, I'm proud of my work, I'm happy with my life and my contribution to society, and I ask for nothing from anyone that I'm not willing or able to reciprocate in kind. My life is far richer than most of my supposed friends apparently understand.

Should I work some BS job that makes me unhappy and siphons my time and energy into an exploitative, consumption-driven economy solely so that I can have enough money to pay for things I don't really need?

Look, I'm all for supporting local and ethical business, farming, etc. Except that 1) it's expensive. 2) There's plenty of food to be rescued from the waste stream that 3) I don't want to end up on top of some landfill in a low-income neighborhood in Jersey while 4) thousands of people are dying of starvation and 5) so much money, man power, water, oil, and other resources have already gone into the production and transportation of said wasted goods. With these considerations in mind, nearly all the food that I eat and the clothes that I wear were either found or given to me by people who no longer wanted or needed it for whatever reason.

So if I did have the money to buy food or clothes I would still rescue it from the trash and probably give the money to ______ [insert non-profit organization working toward peace and justice here].

You can think what you want about the food I eat. I know that it's just as nutritious, beautiful, magical, and love-filled as yours when it's shared in community. As far as what goes into/out of my mouth: "it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person." Matt 15:11

[Which brings me to music, art, and expression.]

I don't necessarily believe that my music is solely mine. There's inspiration there - whether God, muse, community, other, or some combination. But as messenger I do consider my music, my craft, as being priceless. So I don't put a price tag on it. As you know, I put a lot of work into my music and craft and I have no qualms with offering it for free (or donations).

Be careful not to conflate your "compensation" so much over my "tips". Tips and donations are the opposite of obligation. People give me money because they want to give (whatever their motivation), not because they have to. And I want them to be able to listen to my music, whether they can afford a $5 donation or not. I made it for them.

Maybe that's not you. Then do you!

I was happy to pay $15 for your album. I didn't complain, ask questions, or make excuses even though it was very difficult for me to do so. Because I knew that it was worth so much more to you.

Because I love you.

Perhaps I'll buy your next album for $15 $20 or whatever. It will still be priceless to me.

So you see: I'm not militant about this stuff and I'm not judging you or anyone else who is making their life in a noble way - especially creative people who live off their craft. We work our asses off. We're proud of our work. We're happy. And we are living the lives that we wish to live, not merely existing. We just have different means to achieving these ends. And no one need be ashamed of that.

Thus you also have no right to judge whether I am “living” or [merely] “surviving,” you have no idea the abundance of joy, peace, community, and wealth that I have. So it's not measured in dollars and cents? Big deal, you don't get to keep any of that when you're 6 feet under. And the economy is likely to collapse much sooner than that anyway. Then you'll be bartering just like I am.

[In conclusion,]

I live this way because I believe that it is noble and right. Not better than anyone else, but best for me. My acknowledgement need not come from mere humans and my compensation need not be measured in dollar signs. I know what I'm worth and what my work is worth and I need no other to validate it besides God herself. And S/He does.

Then other friends sent me the following encouraging messages, mostly unawares of the heated discussions occurring elsewhere on the interweb:

Gio, I think you're awesome. It is hard work to stand up against the things you think are wrong and still have as much cheer, joy, and love as you do. Keep on persevering. God has such huge plans for you, and I am inspired by your commitment to working out your salvation with fear & trembling and to cultivating your calling and gifts with diligence. I am so excited to see how He will direct your steps. Peace, bro! I'll say it again- you are awesome. You are a blessing to have on this earth!

You’re a rolling stone. Wherever you lay your hat, that’s your home.

You are like Pocahontas living with the wind and shit.