Monthly Archive for March, 2016

wedding speech (renna and geoffrey)

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welcome. thank you all for being here. renna and geoffrey thank you for letting us all bear witness to the love you share.

i am holding a box with the beloveds’ rings in them. after today, geoffrey and renna will wear these rings every day of their lives to symbolize their commitment to each other. and they have asked us to bless their rings, to each take a moment to hold them and silently imbue these rings with our love and best wishes for their future. i am going to pass these around so that every person here is woven into that future. (don’t open the box! and…do your most efficient blessing.)

so. we are here today to celebrate good news. renna and geoffrey you found each other – congratulations!

congratulations to your families, to those who created you, to your friends, to every life experience that has shaped you both to be so awesome for each other. well done.

really, what a miracle!

love is always a miracle.

not just dating or crushes or even relationships, all of that is miracle development work.

in this big world where we somehow sift through our portion of 7 billion people and find those beyond our families who we can love unconditionally, you have found each other.

and this is a heartbreaking world. so you have to be making choices along the way, staying open hearted in the onslaught, healing, reopening, being available to scar your heart on the sharp corners and jagged edges of other people’s growth.

and your own.

you have to be willing to be seen in your wholeness. and wholeness is a nakedness, we are taught to only show our faces, our hands. on a hot day some elbows and knees. but love is letting someone see us all of a piece, the imperfections and scars and stretch marks. the funny shaped this or that. the messy mornings and exhausted evenings, the times when we laugh so hard we snort, the grief that has us laid out unbathed and unbothered on the floor. our pettiness, our insecurity, our beauty, our ecstasy. our humanity.

i work as a doula and so far in every birth, there is a moment when the birthing parent says, ‘nope. can’t. mm-mm. i will go now.’

because miracles are inconceivable. even though they happen daily, and even when they are happening…its impossible until it is done.

and in love we do the same thing. we get to the edge and look down to the depths of ourselves and realize we can’t see the bottom. the feeling coming through is too big to speak with our small mouths, to feel with just our hearts.

then we jump, fall, fly, speak, commit: i love you. forever. you are a piece of my wholeness.

and whenever this feeling occurs, it is life itself, moving up against terror and danger and unworthiness.

true love is always political – it is always a way of being a warrior, asserting a future in spite of and in response to the past.

love is the best of sentient life’s gifts.

in this world where we cultivate hierarchy, otherness, enemies, borders and never ending consumption, love is a balm.

love counter offers equality, togetherness, comraderie, shared land and life, and the deep sleep that comes from having exactly enough.

we need to love each other.

and as we prepared together these past few months, renna and geoffrey and i noted the importance of this particular union.

these two lovers before us today, a syrian woman and a black man, bring with them mutual legacies of persecution. both come from peoples who are in utmost danger in the places they call home.

i was just traveling outside the us, on the same journey these two are about to take for their honeymoon – and i was asked a few times how, why black people don’t flee america, given the frequency of state violence against us. and i was in places where syrian refugees sit in family units on street corners asking for mercy.

stay, go, there is no right answer, no safe geography in this interconnected world.

the only way forward, the only safety, is love. to love ourselves and each other, not just in spite of the messages from the world that tell us not to, but as our act of resistance. as our evolution.

to reject the narratives that say we are separate. then to love each other, unconditionally:

you are lovable
i can forgive you
i can see you whole

we can love
we can love in ways that heal our legacies of persecution and trauma and heartache and loneliness and small thinking

we are whole
we can only remember that together

love taps us directly into that force of life that is greater than ourselves – god, creation, the tao, the way. it reminds us that even in the course of our mundane, frustrating, funny, ever improving lives, we are always miraculous, we are all, already, pieces of divine light moving through this world.

so thank you renna and geoffrey, for weaving your lineages together into a future, for increasing human resilience by choosing love.

thank you for the ease and maturity of your union. it is so healing to be around you! keep it up.

thank you for turning towards the work of opening up to each other, trusting each other and nurturing life together.

james baldwin said ‘love is a growing up’ – you two embody that. for myself, for us, as individuals, and for the species, but thank you both for growing towards the sun and the light.

now it is time for the vows.

(the lovers exchanged gorgeous vows to each other, each based in gratitude that the other person existed, incredible love, and promises to each other. they had the following vows for the community)

community, i am going to read your vows now, and if you can make this commitment, please respond with ‘we do’.

Community, as Geoffrey and Renna’s extended kin, do you promise to do your best to remain sane and loving.

To intervene with hope and possibility during the darker times.

To communicate honestly, past the ‘masks of composure’.

Intervening with truths, perspective, humor and time as needed.

(We do.)

Do you vow to rejoice together, and mourn together, and to delight in each other, helping to ensure each other’s optimal well-being and fullest potential?

(We do.)

three additional highlights:

1. the music! there was a zaffa band to lead the bridal party in and out, and dj emancipation spinning with curator ola khalidi supporting. emanne and i want to manifest being a brown feminist radical love team for sacred unions :-)

(i danced for the first time since my injury – music heals.)

2. meeting a couple who were older and had found each other as ‘spirit-loves’ three years ago. they had such ease, sweetness and gratitude to be in each other’s presence, showed so much care. it is never too late for love.

3. geoffrey’s uncle spoke on behalf of his brother, geoffrey’s father, who passed when geoffrey was young. i wept at the beauty of this responsibility, this love, and then goosebumps moved over my skin, over the crowd – that long gone father spirit swept through the room and we knew the union was good.

so grateful to be part of it – here’s a few pictures of this incredible day:

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myth of safety (rant/love from istanbul)

hello from istanbul.

yesterday as i spent the day falling in love with this city, it was bombed, and people i love around the world were reaching out to me to find out if i was safe. i posted a message that i was safe, but it felt like a lie, so i want to say something more honest.

i am in a country that was bombed yesterday, 4 people killed, over 30 injured. it was a group of tourists killed and injured, apparently not the intended target, but the lives available for taking when the police started noticing the bomber. the bartender at my hotel is from east turkey, he said ‘isis’ with a shrug in his shoulders, a mournful and familiar shake of his head. since it happened i can’t access most social media directly.

i was doing the same thing yesterday as those who died, walking around taking pictures, in crowds, looking up in awe amongst strangers. the bomber just chose a different tourist center in the city. or perhaps it’s because i am kept very local due to my healing but still compromised knee, so i chose the places near my hotel.

so i am not safe, i am just randomly still alive.

and i can’t feel too much of a way about it because i actually stopped believing in safety a long time ago. i was in college when amadou diallo was killed walking distance from my dorm room. i was stopped by a group of undercover burly police, surrounded, guilty of walking while drunk, and i ran home shaking. i was in the subway under the twin towers moments before the first one was hit, i walked home through the ashes of other people and still see ghosts.

i live in a city where water and heat are not guaranteed to individuals, only corporations. i live in a country where we need a movement for black lives because the rate of police/state murder is so high that we don’t want to speak the numbers to our children. where children of immigrants are building a wall to keep out immigrants.

i live in a country where people are so economically desperate that they are uplifting a presidential candidate running on hate speech.

i live in a world where friends die because they take their own lives, exhausted by oppression. and friends die because people are texting and driving, and friends die because they are fighting for mother earth and get assassinated.

i live in a country whose tax dollars continually move towards disrupting stability and sovereignty all over the world, a nation of never-full consumption of the world’s resources, a nation outsourcing growth and greed as our worldviews.

so…i am not safe. we are not safe. if we think we are safe, it is because we are not awake to the intersecting crises of economy, environment, privilege and militarism. none of us are safe, and, as adults, i am not sure i even think we deserve that.

how can we be safe while also complicit in conditions of constant unsafety for others? even the ones who walk away from omelas had somewhere else to go – our planet is so small. it’s reductionist, yes…but all of us or none. safety is an interconnected magic, it only comes from holding each other, whole.

so. what i am instead, what helps me to sleep at night and to laugh with my whole body and to love as many people as i can, is on purpose. i am doing everything i can to focus the offering of my life towards the best that humanity has within us, to be an ultralight beam nourishing what is dignified and healing and collective and miraculous in us.

my soul is intact, thank you nina.
i feel deliberate and afraid of nothing, thank you audre.
i know that god is change, thank you octavia.

i am going to spend another day in this city, more alert than yesterday, and even more focused on the beauty of the people i meet here, the rocks and hard places they are in, the preciousness of all our lives.

dubai diaries

assorted notes from the dubai leg of my journey:

– first impressions

prevalence of head cover for men and women is nowhere more intriguing than in customs. to see a row of attractive men and women in the roles of power, wearing the very pieces that create the most racist responses in the u.s., was thrilling.

everyone is brown. as i always feel when that happens – maybe i could feel at home here.

i got hit on twice before getting to my shuttle and had a moment of concern for how i was dressed, in a casual off the shoulder shirt, sports bra straps showing. i hadn’t thought about dress code for this precise moment, 26 hours into my journey, feeling travel dirty and it’s steamy. i hope i am not being disrespectful to the local culture, then wonder if that fits my systems of belief…what are the gender dynamics here?

– one day in (facebook musing)

landed into the loving arms of Amal Khalaf and Joe Namy today for a first go at #dubai. this is my first impression of dubai:

wtf?!?!

grateful to be taking it in with their analysis of this strange, capitalist colonialist explosion (as a novice to dubai coming from the penultimate exporter of capitalist colonial values, the us of a).

it’s all roundabouts, construction, tall buildings that feel in no way sustainable or connected to the desert that lies in every direction, and then the beaches on the gulf, which yields to the indian ocean, full of divers and kiters.

i was told there is like a 5% local population, everyone else is transplant.

the city is jaw dropping in its excess, like vegas or tokyo x times square x disney x…money. it becomes clearer daily what the options for the future are – short term archi-techno-capitalist fantasy places like this, deteriorating infrastructures and city ruins like much of the u.s., with cycles of disconnected development, or off grid family style hyper local life.

i am still seeking middle ground for the radical earthist humanist tech loving nomad.

the convergence of cultures is exciting. it feels like everyone is here. the arts and food scenes i am about to learn more of, and i’m going to check out a hammam with my old friend Larisa Sharifi tonight. more soon!

– architecture

a lot of the buildings seem to be empty, rejected developments, brand new and quite shiny ruins. the sea is calm, the clouds are slow. i watched a documentary a while ago about the slaves of dubai (which someone reposted on my site when i mentioned visiting here, i guess wanting to make sure i knew that i was traveling from one nation built by slaves to another) so the connection between development and injustice here feels familiar, home grown. but this place feels more removed from desperation, more constructed for an elite body from it’s inception. i want to touch something real, i can’t tell if anything here is real, it’s all innovation.

then there is the burj kalifa, the most beautiful new building i have ever seen. she catches my eye the way mountains do – i keep looking to see if i can see her and i always find her. she seems to emerge, slender, down from the sky, and open up as she drops. larisa pointed out that the tube structure means she looks like a lotus flower from above. at a certain moment of sunset, she looks like a torn out crevice in a sheet of white paper. at night her light is subtle. no picture does justice to how delicate she is. i can’t remember a time in recent history where i felt this kind of a thrill at a modern building.

– facebook post after my global art forum talk/moment

during today’s talk at #artdubai we conjured octavia butler.
i:
– made a naughty joke about sitting on her face (how pleasure activists respond to pillows with their whole-being-crush’s face on them – i am praying i get that pillow without stealing it [[apparently many people want this pillow, i will keep y’all updated on it]])
– talked octavia’s brood and collaborative ideation and pleasure activism
– then made the audience of artists, curators and art buyers turn and recognize each other’s divinty until they felt something (ranged from awkward to beautiful tears and laughter and new friendships)
– met an artist named Abdullah who spent months working with my sister Autumn Brown
– reconnected with the elegant and gifted Kamrooz Aram whose art I have followed for years via Dani McClain!!
– saw art that moved me to tears and met people like Mohamed Elshahed doing powerful socially woke art in cairo!
– met a man named Reza who stumbled into my talk and found part of his soul in the work.

just so grateful to:
– Amal Khalaf for being a unicorn and for finding me in my home
– Joe Namy for consistent brilliance and for connecting us
– Uzma Z. Rizvi for being a glorious human and
– Larisa Sharifi for being my soul sister after all this time and helping me navigate the deep shallows of crowds to find sustenance both food and spiritual!!!

– notes from twitter

art is the light in the darkness of times like this, and also the fire we can use to burn shit down. – @laurenbeukes

(can’t access twitter here so i will add more later)

– confession:

when i was invited to dubai i said yes because of who was asking, and why. amal stayed at my home while i was away and came to deeply understand my work in my absence. she emailed to ask me to dubai and i thought 1) yes and then 2) that’s near my sister. so i said yes right away.

i thought i was saying yes to a local gathering called our dubai, with a global arts forum component. instead it was art dubai, a major art fair, overall a different thing than i expected. to her credit, amal was clear, i just heard what i could comprehend. so that is how i ended up at a beautiful big strange gathering where everyone was very fabulous and talked very fast.

as with most insular worlds, some of this way of being goes over or around my head, some of it feels so purely conceptual, or unnecessarily controversial, or unaware of itself. overall there was this expressed longing for hope and optimism without much rooting in the justice work it takes to create a realistic foundation for such things. the premise of my work is that there is nothing in life that is neutral. not art, not spending, not attention, not desire – everything is interconnected, growing justice or injustice, growing prisons or liberation. and we are complex, imperfect beings who have to work together to achieve something pleasurable and honorable and dignified with our lives.

i was grateful to be part of the global art forum because in the midst of some very dynamic, stylish, artistic, willowy and apparently wealthy people, there was a series of conversations that were oriented around equity, feminism, collectivism, and using art to foment revolution and resistance to capitalism and colonialism. this is a global conversation, because we are one species on one planet. and it is a local conversation, because we are all operating inside of cultural and economic contexts that cannot be ignored.

– day 2:

tonight I spoke with a lovely kuwaiti artist named aziz (part of an incredible collective of artists, all of whom excited me throughout the gathering). he asked why americans are so concerned with categories. it got me thinking…it is because we are so clearly and daily oppressed based on someone else’s categories.

it’s actually something i struggle against, to not let myself, ourselves be defined by what someone else hates about me, or is ignorant of, to stop centering whiteness or maleness, for instance, in our work. i wanted to talk about that complexity, how do we decolonize and uncategorize the self while still being in relationship to the socialized differences, particularly those that need attention and transformation?

but its hard to reach moments of depth at an art fair, so much champagne. so instead i get to ruminate and reflect on this difference, and notice how many artists in the fair were speaking in some way about not being/having race, not wanting to be labeled.

– outsider

my last day there i saw the director of moma speak with an artist named el seed who is tunisian and did a massive mural in cairo. i was moved by the video about making it, and it was really cool looking. then i got curious about his words on how an outsider can help shift the perspective of a place, like he did in this community inhabited by people called (by others) ‘the people of the garbage’ – people who live by gathering and organizing the waste of cairo.

living in detroit for six years has really given me a particular perspective on outsiders – being an outsider, understanding how a community will benefit long-term from what you have to offer, noticing when you take attention and how. what happens when you leave (often or forever) and the community is still there…does the art give anything back? change anything? he said the people were happy and that also made me curious. i have also experienced this joy in spaces that seem to have scarcity, lack. and i don’t doubt the sincerity of it, but i wonder where agency enters.

we can make the choice to make art because there are a lot of people who don’t have the choice to do so, as individuals or communities. or don’t feel they have permission – to tell stories, to draw beautiful things, to have a vision. i wanted to sit and talk with el seed, but then i wanted to sit and talk with roughly one thousand people there.

– global art forum

i enjoyed so many of the talks organized by amal and uzma, all under the theme ‘the future was‘…mine was ‘the future was collective’.

a market expert named elie offered ‘the future was the market’, and made the case that the market is an entity as massive as the future, and as such, no algorithm can replace human decision in a realm of infinite possibilities.

hito offered ‘the future was the future’, with a video presentation about a game that cannot be played, that plays you. i developed a hard art brain crush watching her video, hearing her quiet ferocious talk.

lauren and sophia shared that ‘the future was the desert’, speaking of the ways that the future often happens in the desert in our projections (from tattoine of star wars to the wild desert roads of mad max), and in both of their works. we got to experience sophia’s incredible film work, and a reading of the draft first chapter of lauren’s next book – swoon swoon swoon!

joao made the case that ‘the future was the cloud’, and built a conceptual bridge between the atomic cloud and the information cloud, and the places we hold as sublime.

perhaps my favorite presentation was ‘the future was two semicircles away from the face’, christine’s presentation, which came right after mine. she was presenting in sign language with an interpreter, about sign language, about interpretation, about art pieces she has made about the american sign language ways of speaking of time and the future using the body. she was so captivating, and her interpreter, beth, was perfect, dynamic and expressive, being a voice.

so – my talk flew by. 30 minutes is nothing when there are major things to discuss – octavia’s brood, pleasure activism, emergent strategy. so i touched on things, but mostly gave time to exercises of embodiment, feeling collectivity, things i think of as recognizing the divinity of the other.

here are some notes:

let us conjure octavia. please stand, feet shoulder width apart, relax shoulders, soft hips. repeat after me -> all that you touch you change, all that you change changes you, the only lasting truth is change, god is change.

all organizing is science fiction – we are imagining what doesn’t exist, shaping the future. walidah imarisha and i came together around this idea. i was obsessing over octavia butler, she was cultivating visionary fiction.

we believe art is not neutral. you are either upholding the status quo, or subverting it, moving us towards justice. we want fiction that makes room for the future we need. a collective, collaborative future. someone mentioned the martian earlier…we write stories where matt damon couldn’t be cast as the lead. he will be in the future, his place is secured. what about everyone else?

octavia’s brood holds 20 stories from people shaping the future. my story is set in detroit, where the river rises up and sweeps away people who don’t love the city. it was an angrier story than people expected from me, but like sorhab just spoke about, we need to engage our hopelessness, our grief, our current state. there are also two essays, one from horror writer tananarive due, the other from us political prisoner mumia abu jamal, you can listen to him read it on our website. and the book is here, in the art dubai bookstore.

we created workshops for the book, to make it more than a product, more of an experience, to grow the skillset of collaborating the future. we discovered through this process that everyone has worlds inside them, but we don’t know we have permission. so we live in other people’s imaginations – often people who hate us, who are advancing singular visions to serve the elite, with no room for people, planet, memory, grief, healing.

the more people who imagine and shape the future together, the more who will feel their belonging there, who will be cared for, loved, find pleasure and not just survival.

so pleasure activism. i want justice and freedom to be the most pleasurable human experiences. not to organize the future as a NO!, but as an erotic, sensual, collective and liberated yes. pleasure for all, decolonized desire. an irresistible, ecstatic, even orgasmic future. which means we must be able to feel, to be bodies in a natural world, full of data, full of brilliance. that is why we began in our bodies.

((didn’t get to, but still sharing:

emergent strategy! emergence is the way complex patterns and systems arise out of relatively simple interactions. birds in murmuration, mushrooms whispering secrets in underground networks. patterns like the spiral of your fingerprint, your guts, labyrinths, galaxies.

i’ve been studying nature and how those of us shaping change can learn from nature to be adaptive, interdependent, fractal, decentralized and resilient, nonlinear, practicing transformative justice and creating more possibilities. rejecting a system that denies our humanity, and co-creating systems that love us.

art is key to that, making and keeping art collective. we must reclaim the future with our decolonized imaginations.))

now i can tell you things, but i want you to feel it, feel what i mean. so stand up, face each other.

people were feeling so much – resistance, awkwardness, laughter, discomfort, wonder, awe, laughter. there was weeping. there were hugs and exchanges of information. i was very pleased.

….there was also a dance performance that moved me, a display of strength and precision that built to a soundtrack of phillip glass, by yasmina.

oh and i liked noura – an emirati sci fi writer who began writing children’s and YA sci fi to engage young people in reading arabic, and to increase empathy amongst young people overexposed to war and violence. i fangirled her on twitter and she sent me her novel!!

i was really into the future imaginings of mishaal, who read aloud a love story between a man and the person he had coded ten years earlier, after breaking up with a bedouin gender fluid lover. this was one of four postcards from the future, short films, dance, music. such excellent curation.

– and finally, art

i also loved some of the art i got to see. abdullah and sarah built a corrugated tin hut with survivors of violence telling each other’s stories inside. and when the talking became overwhelming, i snuck into the galleries and just got lost in the abundance of wildly diverse pieces. there was a mirror piece that seemed to create a tunnel into the dark of the wal, called plunder. there was a kehinde wiley piece, i am not tired of his work.

my favorite piece by far was from faisal samra, a projection from the ceiling onto a twin bed in a dark room. the projection was a black woman, crying – wailing and gasping – under a white sheet, until she turned into a fetal position and slept/disappeared. i watched it loop a couple of times, moved to tears, ignoring the drunken art fair people who stumbled in and out without experiencing it. i want to find out more about this artist :-). i want to see and collect so much more art.

possibly tmi pleasure activist footnote:

i spoke about sex and pleasure in public, and afterwards several people told me some combination of wow and thank you. i said everyone needs to be able to feel pleasure, in order to turn towards it, to ‘stop settling for suffering’ as audre lorde teaches us.

at the restaurant we went to the last night, the waiter told me i was a sex bomb and brought me a ‘sex on the beach’ – moroccan mint tea in a glass with extra mint. it may have been my lipstick.

there were beautiful men and women everywhere, most in head-to-toe dresses…but i got no sense of beauty for erotic consumption – everything was so manicured. i wanted to make a mess.

no porn sites that i know of worked in the city, when i mentioned weed everyone looked around, spooked. my (plug-in) vibrator turned into a violent jackhammer when i tried it (not really my thing personally, no judgment).

thank god for the handheld water vibrators in every shower!

i didn’t speak of it, but i thought it kind of lovely that the only release in the desert was water.

in semi-poetic response to my mri

technology means i can get an instant notice on an app that my mri results are in.

and i can wade through the foreign language of Medicine enough to feel daunted. vindicated.

i knew something was bad wrong inside my left knee, the knee of my heart. i have aligned all my ways of knowing, these pictures are confirmation more than revelation.

there are a few words i understand – there is a tear at the root, and there is a difference in the meniscus i was born with. it’s always been different, perhaps always leading towards this moment of dysfunction.

it’s humbling to mostly not understand what i am reading, these big english words, all of which i want to use in scrabble, and otherwise want nothing to do with.

the data that something is torn and there’s a reason for my pain that can show up on a magnetized picture is also a relief. my pain is rarely so clear.

my knee is changing my outlook on life…

my heart has changed

chambers open inside chambers and i feel infinite

i need my whole self
i need my boundaries
i need my life’s work
i need my tenderness

the more i explore myself with eyes of love the more vastness i can comprehend

heart opening is a part of any other healing that my body needs

the knee bone is connected to the heart
no matter what the doctor says – she only thinks of me for fifteen minutes at a time

this sacred body is becoming my obsession

my damaged always-full moon
coming out of the dark

i have been a witch
now again now turning inwards
anyanwu, flesh on my tongue
learning to heal
with imagination and marrow and attention

i just needed a destination for this black magic
my lineage
we know to find the joy at the torn root
we know to dance with fingers pointing north
we know our bodies are our inheritance
we turn our prayers
into tomorrows

A Strategy for Upholding Your Values In Spite Of R. Kelly’s Catchy Music

I shared this tonight with a group of people and realized I wanted to share it further.

Last year, or maybe the year before, Radha Blank suggested we all remake verses from R. Kelly’s music to reflect his habits of sexual predation.

I couldn’t think of a good enough verse. But since then, I’ve found myself really wanting alternatives to those songs. They are fabric of life songs for me and many others of a certain age, catchy, connected to innocent memories of losing innocence.

At some point I realized that all of the songs felt gross now, knowing that his attention was on underage girls, apparently as a reaction to his own untreated childhood sexual trauma.

So here’s what I’ve started to do. As soon as I catch an R Kelly song moving through my mind or, god forbid, through my lips, I interrupt it with a Personal Service Announcement.

Like this:

“You remind me of my jeep” –
It’s also 14 years old.

“My mind’s telling me no
But my body” –
Oh wait. Doesn’t matter. No means no. Because you’re underage.

“Step in the name of love” –
With people in your peer group.

“I don’t see nothing wrong with a little bump and grind”
Unless you’re too young to vote or drink, or legally sleep with me.

“It’s the remix to ignition
Hot and fresh out the kitchen” –
No. Underage girls are not bread.

“It seems like you’re ready” –
But I know that’s just my own trauma. Because you’re a child and I need professional help.

I could go on but you get it.

Add interventions if you have them, and feel free to use these. They really do help with unlearning rape/sexual assault culture.

Berta

I cannot go to sleep on this night without a word on Berta Cáceras, who was assassinated in her home in Honduras last night.

Our paths crossed briefly. In September I moderated a plenary at which she spoke, supported by a translator. She was beautiful, vigilant and clear; an environmentalist with her own inner light, no nonsense in her commentary, witty and exacting through the translation.

She made an impression on me. Something about the ease of her smile and the heat of her fire brought to mind my friend Charity, killed by a texting driver in 2014. Berta felt unique, necessary in the same way Charity did, irreplaceable, leaving in her wake a chasm that is hard to imagine being filled.

As racism and xenophobia get naked in this country, the depth of U.S. imperial madness like fresh bruises on ancient white skin, pulling our collective attention into high alert – I am grateful I got to cross Berta’s path. Her life is a reminder to let this world matter to us, to be of the dirt, to struggle for this home of ours. Her death is a reminder that we are at war for the future of the planet.

Berta. You did so much with your precious life. Fallen comrade, sister, freedom fighter, I light candles in your honor and wish you gentleness in your ongoing journey.

Is Facebook Made of Sugar?

For the past few months I’ve been in parallel experiments with reducing things in my life which have a negative impact when over consumed.

Sugar is a lifelong dance for me – she is my comfort in grief, my celebration of pleasure, my private friend. After a year of back to back grief, sugar wrapped herself around me in the form of pounds of flesh I had worked so hard to let go of, and honey the return was cloud-soft. She slowed me down with her sweetness, pulling on my bones until they forgot how to connect to each other. Now everything inside me is out of alignment and I’m in the process of turning back to myself, my rigor, my ease in my body.

And sugar can be a part of that, but only in certain forms – natural, fruit. Left to her own devices, under the influence of greed, I know she’ll kill me.

Which brings me to Facebook.

Last fall I started to notice I was scrolling down the page of Facebook even when my interest was barely peaked by what I saw. It was always available, a conversation I could watch or join.

I noticed the patterns, the types of posts people share, the rhythm of affirmation or dissent in response:

Isn’t it so annoying/fucked up/racist/patriarchal/depressing when (enter the ‘they’) do (enter an action)?

Tragedy (either specific, with a call to action, or mysterious, with a call to prayer)

Opinion on trending topic, expertise not required

Food/travel

Achievement

Baby/dog/cat (either a picture of one of yours doing something adorable or a short video of a stranger doing something hilarious)

I realized that I was seeing these patterns more than the content itself, more than making any connection. More, even, than caring about the response levels to my own posts. I was posting too, inside these patterns. But mostly, just scrolling.

And in that scrolling, I was losing time. Precious, miraculous, irreplaceable time. Creative time – time I wanted to spend writing novels and being present with loved ones, having my own thoughts in order to make my own contribution to the world instead of just reacting to other people’s reactions, or crowd sourcing my opinions.

It got to where I wasn’t even aware of opening Facebook. I would just notice I was scrolling on my phone in the middle of a conversation, meeting, or what was supposed to be writing time.

So I started taking little breaks. I just wanted to have more agency. I built up from hours to days away from the website. I learned some things:

1. Because I already recognize intersecting systems of oppression dominate our shared human practices, I don’t need to see videos or pictures of black suffering to tap into my rage or shape my resistance. When I hear of oppression-based tragedy I light a candle and continue doing my daily work to unlearn those oppressions inside myself and evolve the species beyond them in the world. I value these brutal documentations for the sake of waking up those who would deny the realities we live with. But my inner empath works hard enough based on the stories, they break my heart already. So no more automatic transmission of trauma.

2. I have opinions that are at odds with people I love. Or rather, I have opinions that are sometimes at odds with groupthink. I have been giving myself more and more space to love what I love, to see what is lovable in the complex, to see growth in relative terms, to be excitable. To love ‘it’ first and then reflect on why, to nuance my analysis from the place of love. I also don’t really pay any mind to stuff that doesn’t ideologically or aesthetically please or intrigue me. My miraculous life, my choice.

3. I love people learning in public, though it’s a delicate dance, to learn, to be, without an unhealthy degree of performance. I’m in that dance myself as a somewhat public person. Sometimes I catch myself posting for likes, and that’s usually a post the world can live without. I’m always curious about why people share or don’t share, and this ties into mindfulness practices for me – how do I bring intention to each act, live or virtual?

4. My real life is more interesting to me than most things on Facebook, but Facebook can make me forget that.

The exceptions to this are when I’m missing a certain group of people, or someone passes and I’m far from community, or when I need support around something (lately it’s been my sugar shift).

It’s not that there’s no usefulness to Facebook – but there’s just no need to spend hours on there or have it be the default home of my attention.

5. Facebook can kill my creativity. That time spent scrolling yields some gems, but I slowly forget to think of poems, and songs, and stories and other remixes of the experienced world. Facebook shows a portion of what is, and some of that’s good news, good data. And I’m cultivating a focus on what is needed, what is yet to be, what can and must be.

6. For me Facebook is distinct from other social media. Twitter I go to for collective entertainment or moments, but I don’t linger. Instagram pleases me but I never feel caught. Tumblr is a little younger than where I am. Facebook is much more personal, when it’s good it’s so good. When it’s bad it’s so toxic and numbing.

So after this reflection and these experiments with my attention, I’ve landed in a basic practice of about fifteen minutes of Facebook a day. That amount of time allows me to see what’s of interest and share some things without getting/feeling lost in the pattern.

Some days it’s more, and I notice it now. And when I notice it I ask myself the same questions I have been asking myself around sugar:

Do I need this right now?
Am I avoiding something – a feeling, a deadline, a longing?
What do I choose right now?

I’ve removed the apps from my mobile devices as well, which my paranoid friends say is smart. This means my user experience is less pleasing and thus I’m less likely to just meander with my thumb. It also means I have to go out of my way to find it on a browser. I have friends with computers who are using apps that block the site temporarily, and that also seems to help.

Finally I’ve been practicing not starting my day with Facebook. This is so obvious (!!!) but y’all, I was turning to Facebook in the mornings like ‘hey baby how were your dreams?’

Now I put my phone on airplane mode at night, and make sure I do my morning meditation, stretching, and other sacred and grounding practices before letting the world in via Facebook (or email or other social media).

I feel freer, more focused and much more prolific/productive than I have in a while.

Are y’all up to any social media detoxing or behavioral shifts? More tips invited.