in relationship with others

the most important personal and political skill to develop is how to be in relationship to others.

tonight i had dinner with a group of people who have been teachers, mentors, friends, acquaintances, and facilitators in my life. they are each moving the skill set of relationship building in a different way, in different circles, communities, cultures.

learning to be deeply vulnerable, available, accountable and in communication with others is something that, for some, happens in the home, during childhood. for others, there is a longing to be in community, to be in relationship – but the learning doesn’t come until later.

there are, at this moment, communities all over the world who are learning together, learning new ways of surviving, caring for each other, and sharing the physical and mental and emotional space that we have together. we have a sense of the planet, and our cities, and our homes – all of it – as being limited.

simultaneously, we have the internal experience (at least i hope others have the experience) of being limitless. that infinite capacity to love and be loved, to care and be cared for, to open up and listen up – that capacity is within us in every moment we feel we have reached a limit.

to experience this on a personal level, transforming inside from a scarcity of time and ability and instinct to a space of awareness, purpose, and responding to your deepest knowledge – its remarkable.

but its not enough.

to experience this with one other person, moving beyond small talk and small thinking, gossip and shit-shooting, into the exploration of who we are and why, and what we are learning – that is what friendship should be.

and to grow in love, transforming from a secretive, jealous, manipulative attempt to own another, into an open, loving, pure and accepting way of walking alongside and weaving into the life of another – it’s liberating.

on the timeline of humanity, it would appear that we have spent so much time simply surviving, with romance only as a fairy tale. and now we are in an age where magnificent love is not only possible, i would argue that it is necessary if we are to evolve to the next level.

the practice of being in relationship with others is what we are missing. individualism – personal individualism and national or patriotic individualism – has created a loneliness amongst humans which is not survivable. the tendency to fight for what is ‘mine’ or ‘ours’ at the cost of what is ‘yours’ or ‘theirs’ means that we can become convinced that we must destroy in order to protect what belongs to us, even if that destruction is of our very selves. but everything we destroy is part of the meta-system that we too must exist on.

on a planetary level this looks like polluting and extracting and destroying part of a global ecosystem today which will only result in an unhealthy world for all of us tomorrow.

on an economic and political level, this looks like battling, murdering, stealing from each other and institutionalizing inequalities which lead to such hunger and need and anger that no one can be safe, or feel at peace.

on a diplomatic level, this means we work against each other when it is only by working with each other that we can resolve the great challenges that face our species.

mediation, facilitation, communication – these cannot be practices only for experts. this has to be part of the core set of skills that every human being gets to experience. we have to internalize the ability to be in relationship with ourselves and others, so that we can see the truth – we are each tiny fragments of a greater whole, and we are each necessary.

in community, our potential is truly realized. what we have to offer to each other is not merely critique, anger, commentary, ownership and false power. we have the capacity to hold each other, serve each other, heal each other, create for and with each other, forgive each other, and liberate ourselves and each other.

these are not new thoughts, this is what beloved community means. it is what we all long for, and what we all need.

so in this context i ask you to ask yourself – who are you in relationship with, and how can you go deeper, be more present, and offer more of your whole self?

life and death

i love love this image of life, the labyrinth. you don’t know how long this process takes, and when you reach that circle of light in the middle and pass through it is into the great mystery.

we are one year now past my father’s heart attack. this makes me think how short a year is, and how limitless gratitude can be.

my great aunt just passed, reminding me that you can never know someone’s journey, but you can honor that it turns again and again. i wish that i could be with my family this week, listening to the memories and the love.

as i couldn’t go, this weekend i surprisingly ended up in the home of a writer i respect very much, surrounded by her massive collection of books. i have been a writer first and foremost in my life, along every turn, in every other kind of work, in every other experience, in the form of prose, song, poems, love letters, critiques, and 140-character missives from my mobile.

i think of this labyrinth as a series of steps, and the way i have written about my life has been my footprints. this might need to be my next tattoo. it’s definitely a tattoo on the timeline of my life – i have seen the shape on key days, at key moments and turning points in my life.

while the facts of my life are static at the moment, how i participate is shifting radically. no compromises – i feel something within me that is the guide right now, submit to community, submit to network, submit to what’s next.

i’m in the labyrinth. close to me, life and death. and i feel more fundamentally at peace by the moment.

my favorite quotes for the 4th of july

i was thinking of a lot of things i wanted to say about this day, but what kept coming to mind were quotes i have heard about america…so i compiled them. they represent a full range of feelings and analysis. my only addition? liberation and independence happen within you. if anything in your life requires the oppression or destruction of other lives, then you are not yet liberated.

that said, i love fireworks.



I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live
out the true meaning of its creed:
‘We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.
– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Americans! your republican politics, not less than your republican religion, are flagrantly inconsistent. You boast of your love of liberty, your superior civilization, and your pure Christianity, while the whole political power of the nation (as embodied in the two great political parties) is solemnly pledged to support and perpetuate the enslavement of three millions of your countrymen. You hurl your anathemas at the crowned headed tyrants of Russia and Austria and pride yourselves on your Democratic institutions, while you yourselves consent to be the mere tools and body-guards of the tyrants of Virginia and Carolina. You invite to your shores fugitives of oppression from abroad, honor them with banquets, greet them with ovations, cheer them, toast them, salute them, protect them, and pour out your money to them like water; but the fugitives from oppression in your own land you advertise, hunt, arrest, shoot, and kill. You glory in your refinement and your universal education; yet you maintain a system as barbarous and dreadful as ever stained the character of a nation-a system begun in avarice, supported in pride, and perpetuated in cruelty. You shed tears over fallen Hungary, and make the sad story of her wrongs the theme of your poets, statesmen, and orators, till your gallant sons are ready to fly to arms to vindicate her cause against the oppressor; but, in regard to the ten thousand wrongs of the American slave, you would enforce the strictest silence, and would hail him as an enemy of the nation who dares to make those wrongs the subject of public discourse! You are all on fire at the mention of liberty for France or for Ireland; but are as cold as an iceberg at the thought of liberty for the enslaved of America. You discourse eloquently on the dignity of labor; yet, you sustain a system which, in its very essence, casts a stigma upon labor. You can bare your bosom to the storm of British artillery to throw off a three-penny tax on tea; and yet wring the last hard earned farthing from the grasp of the black laborers of your country. You profess to believe “that, of one blood, God made all nations of men to dwell on the face of all the earth,” and hath commanded all men, everywhere, to love one another; yet you notoriously hate (and glory in your hatred) all men whose skins are not colored like your own. You declare before the world, and are understood by the world to declare that you “hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; and are endowed by their Creator with certain in alienable rights; and that among these are, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and yet, you hold securely, in a bondage which, according to your own Thomas Jefferson, “is worse than ages of that which your fathers rose in rebellion to oppose,” a seventh part of the inhabitants of your country.
– Frederick Douglass

Slavery has never been abolished from America’s way of thinking.
– Nina Simone

You killin in my name I get the blame
Your co-defendant
So much arrogance
Its an embarrassment
Go see a therapist
For your paranoia of terrorists
While terrorizing
Analyze the flaws in your character
Do u really love me–or just lust for power–America?
– Invincible

the land that has never been/and yet must be.
– Langston Hughes

America will never be destroyed from the outside.
If we falter and lose our freedoms,
it will be because we destroyed ourselves.
– Abraham Lincoln

How do you sleep while the rest of us cry?
How do you dream when a mother has no chance to say goodbye?
How do you walk with your head held high?
Can you even look me in the eye?
– P!nk

Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels.
– Mark Twain

You’re not to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.
– Malcolm X

I threw a rock, then I ran
Cause I couldn’t stand anymore within the grip of the man
Y’all wanna ask me who’s sane
These biological gasses are eating my brain
Its a political grab bag to rape mother earth
Thirty seconds after they bagged dad for what he’s worth
Thousands will die now so millions can smile later
– Pharoah Monche

Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there,
no constitution, no law, no court can save it.
– Judge Learned Hand

I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.
– James A. Baldwin

I love this country not only because my ancestors’ blood is in the soil but because of its potential, what I believe it can become.
– James Boggs

Creating a more perfect union is sacred work, requiring faith and courage. The only way to protect democracy is to advance it.
– Vincent Harding

the democracy we’re creating is not about winning a seat at the table but about changing the rules of the game. We’re addressing the question of power internally, in order to build our sense of self, of family, of community.
– pamela chiang

My country is the world, and my religion is to do good.
– Thomas Paine

These are the times to grow our souls. Each of us is called upon to embrace the conviction that despite the powers and principalities bent on commodifying all our human relationships, we have the power within us to create the world anew.
– Grace Lee Boggs

michael and iran

my great aunt annie, who i have written about here before, has made her transition. we think she was 91.

she was the aunt of so many children, mother of many more – she was where all the children went at some point. my only memory of her is a constant smile – 91 years of smiling creates an organic infrastructure of skin and bone and teeth and joy that is unparalleled. all signs say she was ready to go, though i’m sure that doesn’t matter much on any other side. i hope she is reunited now with all the people she had to lay in the ground over her long life. i miss her now, and will miss her, and don’t quite understand the south without her there up that road by the church.

trying to work and be a person in the process of this kind of soft expected grief is odd.

before that news, i had to sing a song about how i feel about my neighbor fred moving out. i passionately love this man, and when he and the man of his dreams are ready i want to carry their child! did this song in 2 takes, so don’t take it too seriously.


my love for him is particularly noticeable because another neighbor has moved in across the patio – not into fred’s apartment but into the apartment across the way, the one which has windows which directly face mine. the person who has moved in there yells non-stop. at everything and everyone in her life from the couch to the dog to her visitors. with all the death and violence we’ve had here, i was hoping for a young black EMT or something. FAIL 🙁

this past week has been all about me realizing that there is an appropriate michael quote for just about everything. in this instance, “i’m a lover, not a fighter” comes to mind, but “beat it!” comes out of my mouth.

i’ve been aware of how much comfortable i have felt thinking and talking about michael jackson than about iran. in the most capitalist way of understanding things, i felt that MJ was mine.

i could take it personally that he didn’t love his blackness, cause it was OUR blackness. he was messing with the parts of his face that made him look like my dad.

and iran is not mine. it’s not ours, it’s not american property or soil, it’s not a prized economic partner. we don’t deal with iran, we put them in an axis of evil and keep it moving, asking them to not to do like us on the nuclear tip. i expect conservative voices to feel ownership when they hear the news from iran, because their worldview is that the u.s. should be managing the world, even after 8 years of a global episode of “the office”.

but i am surprised by the voices on the left, how comfortable we have gotten with “solidarity” before we understand the situation and the long-term implications. how quickly we simplify the issue – it’s riveting to watch a stolen election and see people do what we weren’t willing to do here. but iran is not ours – not our reality show, not our pawn, not our toy, and not our ally on some great path towards democracy.

sovereignty is deep – the idea that other nations are pursuing other paths for how humans should exist in this world, which aren’t ours to change or control, is humbling. so far we just can’t keep our fingers (and money, and weapons and voices) out of the mix.

when moved by something happening elsewhere in the world, trace the money, trace the influence. what needs to change in the u.s. to impact the world in a better way? how do we transform ourselves to transform the world? that, to me, is the only way to engage in a foreign politic with integrity. everything else is condescension.

now michael? michael was ours, as much as a court jester or dancing slave girl for an ancient empire, and we shared him with the world, and with each other. we consumed him, for better and for worse, and he made us reflect on ourselves, our race and class and culture and self-love and childhood, our ability to move and sing and change and make mistakes and continue on.

now i keep turning on man in the mirror and hearing the dark side of that song. the man in the mirror is exactly who he did change, his whole adult life. what would it have looked like for him to love HIMSELF the way he loved his musical legacies, african and black culture as represented in his sound and his moves? what can we learn about ourselves, this country and our communities from that?