Auburn Lives of Commitment Ceremony, adrienne and Autumn’s speech

autumn: we are thrilled to be receiving the lives of commitment honor. we were humbled and surprised to get the news and wanted to start off by saying thank you all so so much.

amb: to be seen in our commitments feels like love in public. we are committed to certain ideas that have led both of our lives, rearranged us, picked us up from paths that were not ours, and deposited us on purpose.

autumn: we would like to share with you our guiding commitments. this is a moment when we need commitment to get through – commitment to each other, and commitment to having a future on the other side of this apocalypse. our first commitment is to the power of the collective – to finding ways to work cooperatively, generate interdependence, and learn to think and dream collectively.

amb: it is our right and responsibility to prepare for the future. we are committed to preparing ourselves, our communities and our children to survive in the future, and to shape it.

autumn: communities who live on the margins of capitalism have a lot to teach us about our own unlearning and remembering work. we are committed to learning from, and uplifting teachers from, those communities fundamentally opposed to supremacy, patriarchy, militarism and greed.

amb: we are a commitment to, as grace lee boggs taught us, transforming ourselves to transform the world. for us this means healing ourselves, not letting trauma control our reactions, and mending our relationships in order to contribute to healing the wound of human disconnection from earth and village. we want to learn from and collaborate with this miraculous planet, from each other…we must reconnect.

autumn: change is hard. even though we’ve known forever that this isn’t the way, it’s become familiar. what we need to move towards is a way of living that will give us futures, but it’s a huge risk. we are a commitment to taking risks, pushing off from the shore, being uncomfortable, but holding on to each other and encouraging each other towards liberation.

amb: we are a commitment to revolution. we honor the years of our ancestors and elders fighting for reforms to make this life bearable, while also recognizing that the societal transformation we need for the long term is complex, radical, and reaches into almost every aspect of human thought and practice.

autumn: we are a commitment to family, which, to us, means learning the unconditional love that gives us a foundation for transformative justice. we can learn boundaries. we are not our worst day. we must stop destroying each other.

amb: and finally, we are a commitment to pleasure. apocalypse is terrifying, and it’s hard work, and it’s going to require all of us to give all of ourselves. laughter, togetherness, play, rest – we are a commitment to filling up the cavern of sorrow with joy.

care for yourself and everything else (transmission)

(day 29 #pandowrimo prompt: Humans have broken the original agreements and we are at a crossroads. How do we restore the balance?
@elotedream)

everything is teacher, virus too is teacher, is practice ground, sickness, death, we all die, we all need practice. this virus has been a practice of coming into awareness of our collective selfishness. (I am not selfish you are selfish…) we can see the inward focus in others, but mostly feel ourselves to be good (I was trying to be as good, as thoughtful, as selfless as a saint, but I failed). trying and just failing to care enough for others, that’s us. the awareness of how selfish and self-focused we’ve been, when it comes (detonates from another’s mouth, or in a moment of stillness), can make us deny, panic, freeze, spiral, disappear.

selfishness is the contagion.

with this virus, the self falls away, or the selfishness is unveiled.

it doesn’t matter if you alone tend towards health, the virus will hitch a ride on your breath and collar to those who can’t protect themselves.

it doesn’t matter if you want to quarantine, your job is essential to others, or your big boss is unwilling or unable to give you the time off. or you need the money not to stop for a second. you need groceries, and you need to bring your kids.

it doesn’t matter if you wear a mask and bleach everything and wash your hands raw, that one coughing maskless person has no idea what six feet look like.

and even if, even if we’re all fine, if we all recover, if we all survive – we have to acknowledge (in spite of all evidence that we do not care) that the earth is thriving in our containment, our stillness.

our connection to everything is undeniable. i never knew the language of the original instruction but now I wonder if it’s written in each thing’s code, ‘here is how you be’. when i listen to my bones the instruction is care: care for this body and all other bodies, care generates harmony and balance, care for boundaries without borders. care for each connection, and if it must end, care for the ending. care for communities and have as many as you can care for. care for this planet with how you pet, feed, water, eat, till, plant, and harvest. if it is too challenging for you personally to care for strangers, accept your limitation, and just care for family, you define it, you define who you care for. care generally for futures, or specifically for your own future and the futures of those you can care for.

and you can be single and solitary and solo and silent and still be caring, still relinquish selfishness, maybe that isolation is your deepest care, maybe you need that quiet to heal enough to care again, maybe in this moment you need the care, and it is caring to let others care for you (did you know that caring feels like a burden only when it isn’t shared?) – the more people who care, the more joy, the more we are able to make use of this existence, which came with instructions, which everyone got, and some forgot, and some never learned how to hear, but nonetheless this is how it works: together.

capitalism IS a conspiracy

capitalism IS a conspiracy.

it works because it’s out in the open, and there are so many ways to be greedy that all of those benefiting from the conspiracy don’t have to coordinate. in fact, it feeds off conflict – intimate, electoral, corporate, and especially the conflicts that proliferate in moments of disaster.

you don’t need to add more once you truly understand how deep that rabbit hole goes.
follow the money. ask yourself who benefits from a confused and suspicious people?

to resist the conspiracy, spend less time consuming the internet, and more time developing relationships with real people with whom you share the tangible (shelter, transportation, masks, medicine, groceries, care, childcare) and the intangible (listening, loving, dreaming, trusting, laughter, grief). follow and respect the workers, the doctors, the scientists, the caretakers, those who call back to us from the front lines with strategies and requests for help and adaptation (as opposed to those who cower behind us and tell us to trust nothing, and not to adapt for collective safety).

capitalists are absolutely looking at how to benefit from the tragedy we are currently in – medical supplies, technology control, security, borders, data access, benefiting from an economy that crashes and has to rebuild.

we have to be looking at how we deepen our relationships to hold each other through this, claim power for our communities, and be accountable with those we most love and want to protect and be with.

two places for good reading on this:

Disaster Capitalism, Naomi Klein
@movementgeneration web page

please place more suggestions (clear, accessible analysis and thinking) in the comments if you have them.

suggestions so far

Paradise Built in Hell, Rebecca Solnit
Sacred Economics, Charles Eisenstein
Surveillance Capitalism, Shoshana Zuboff
I, Coronavirus – http://www.emergencenetwork.org/icoronavirus/
Arundhati Roy

shadows

day 12 #pandowrimo prompt:

How do we shape change from a place of turmoil and grief?

A) How do we deconstruct and disarm despair: what does despair take from us and how do we do the shadow work to replace what is stolen?

(what does it look like on the other side of shadow work?)

@ky_magdalene, @sea_witch_love, amb

…..

did I ever tell you
how everything about humanity makes me
so tender
I could be weeping all the time
my eyes see all the darkness
the shadows crawl across the floor
peek from the corners
laugh when I’m laughing
counting it down
they will take it back with the next sentence

I create troughs
threading away from my heart
spilling down my limbs to pulse out
sole of foot, palm of hand
all wide for the ground
in this way, I can open my eyes
since I was a newborn
people have asked me for direction
and I have almost always felt which way to point
away from me, away, away from me

I hear something coming
which is asking me to receive
to stop letting things go through me
to reawaken the black hole at my center
the part powered by what we lose
what we grieve, and by longing
to reach is to live, to reach is sacred
be attached to aliveness
and nothing else
trust: when life is done, it will let you go

Pandowrimo, prompt 8

pandowrimo prompt 8

We wake up and all the banks have closed overnight, leaving us with no access to our resources. (What are we told? What do we do? How do we change?) – @crumbsandcobwebs

What economy do we create in absence of a ‘functional’ racial capitalism?

FullSizeRender

1
i told you not to give them your money
I said fold it into the walls and the box spring
bury it at every crossroad to your beloved
I told them to keep a little out
I said it wouldn’t be worth nothing no ways
I said get you some gold
pour you a ring
build you a house
any real thing will be better than what you gonna
someday be missing

but nobody listens

2
ooh this fucking rage,
all the work we did in hunger
how long we’ve given more than everything

the rhythm of generational sacrifice
twists vibrancy in the marrow
turns down the volume of light
the brightness of sound

the rug that seemed like comfort
unveils bloodstained concrete
and we know that DNA, we remember
all of their names

3
we already know
some of us anyhow
about how precious soil is
some store it under our fingernails
so we can feel when we are home
where no one thinks they cleaned up
just to look down at what should have never become unknown

we already know that care equals care
a spell for a tincture, a birth for a barn,
a winter’s worth of wood for the newlyweds
the passed down bibs marked with
whoever came first in the order
we already know it’s a distraction, cash money
we can remember ourselves quickly
what with so many people,
who’ve been living this way always
always outside the myth of trickles

4
we can change whenever we want to
oh…we haven’t really wanted to
we had just enough to keep pulling the lever
just enough to shrug, innocent
just enough to keep our babies soft
just enough to plain clothes police each other
on the internet
to point and defer guilt to the “richer than us”
to pay for our own demise annually
to forget we need warriors and truth tellers and laughter and tomorrow

we see very quickly,
only sudden to a sheltered few
how we always have the numbers
as many of us as there are zeros in that bank
we can go and get that money
we can go and get so much more

5
when the time comes
we will pull off these masks
we will remember it wasn’t meant to be like this
it really wasn’t isn’t and will not be
the money is an idea – we are, this is, the value
so meditate, pray, submit to not knowing
the right way all the time
weep, scream. bury. blame. surrender.
choose a future for all of us
crack your knuckles, prepare for battle
howl at the waning moon until it waxes, and then?
from the depths of our grief
we’ll become green again

a telepathic communion with dino

amb: dino?

dino?

i’m trying telepathy to reach you because a lot is going on that i could use some ancient insight on. and frankly i don’t know when i’ll be allowed in the chicago airport again.

dino: i’m here.

amb: wow! wow i feel you!

dino (smiling): i’m always available. but if i explained how, it might mess up our whole thing.

amb: like i told santa, i choose the magic.

dino: every time. so. are you here to tell me where the masses have gone?

amb: you noticed?

dino: i almost exclusively see in patterns these days. the river is a stream, the stream becoming a drizzle.

me: there’s a virus. it passes with no symptoms, hides inside us for two weeks, and it’s bigger than our healthcare system.

dino: nefarious. everywhere?

amb: at first it wasn’t, but now it really is. so we’re all staying home to try and slow it down while we find cures, vaccines, face masks, ventilators. thousands of people are dying.

dino: i’m so sorry to hear that.

amb, hesitant: is it our asteroid, dino?

dino, pausing a moment: you’re really scared, huh.

amb: terrified.

dino: but…isn’t this your thing? change, apocalypse? the collapse of capitalism? right relationship to the earth?

amb: totally. but i don’t want to lose the people i love. and i can’t make everyone stay home – i’ve tried. and i don’t want to die yet.

dino takes a deep breath.

dino: it’s hard when death comes in big waves. so much grief all at once.

amb: and for what? earth is getting this brief moment of respite, respiration. but so many bosses are still endangering their workers and plotting ways to capitalize this crisis. is this the end of capitalism, or the beginning of global authoritarian rule, or extinction, or liberation? what are we meant to learn?

dino: woah. hey now. it generally doesn’t help to make too much meaning of things that are still unfolding. from within the storm, vision is limited. and you, my friend, you and your species are in the storm.

amb: but deeper meaning helps me get thru the hard parts of life.

dino: hmmm.

amb: i need something to control. a narrative will do in absence of order, safety. i think i’ll become useless without meaning. the grief. the fear, anxiety, suspicion, sinophobia. the blur of my empathetic self feeling everything. i need something to root in to.

dino: i feel your chaos. perhaps instead of meaning, it’s time to revisit destiny.

amb: “the destiny of earthseed is to take root amongst the stars.”

dino: mmmm!

amb: octavia butler wrote that.

dino: she was always nice to me.

amb: that’s amazing. i have been rethinking her destiny. or, our way of understanding it.

dino: say more.

amb: i always thought it purely meant space travel. but she struggled with sequels, because no world she found in her imagination was as right for us as earth. and on earth, we are amongst the stars, here and now. this is a perfect home spinning in space. we may even be celestial to someone else.

dino, mulling it over: hmmmmmmm.

amb: i think we need to root here. re-root. choose here.

dino: perhaps. or maybe all of this, this way of being – on earth or in space – just isn’t your destiny. meaning, maybe human destiny isn’t the most important thing.

amb, sad eyes: now you say more.

dino: i often think that we are all experiments of an earth figuring out her destiny. she likes living things. she likes sentient creatures that love and make family and eat. in our experiment, she learned she wanted a species that could look up to the stars, defend her from asteroids.

amb: oh wow. so…our experiment could be teaching her to not let evil people accumulate all the power and money?

dino, chuckling: perhaps.

amb: or?

dino: perhaps it’s just time to see how what you call evil, what i call wrong relationship, how that can spread, can disconnect a species from its future.

amb: right. it’s like the virus itself, invisible. but making the wrong structures and systems and beliefs so visible.

dino: we can never teach how evil a thing is better than it will show us itself, with time.

amb: but it’s in all of us. or most, to varying degrees. this i, i, i, exceptionalism.

dino: hm.

amb: sorry. i want to let in new perspective. it’s just that all the problems are so big. and intertwined. and i’m supposed to be one of the ‘hopeful’ ones.

dino: what was that?

amb: what?

dino: that…tone. you sound…

amb: sharp? ugh. sorry – that happens when i’m trying to be funny but i feel something else. sad. scared. grief.

dino: ah humans. tone is the tip of your internal icebergs.

quiet together for a while.

dino: tell me something. can you imagine being sad and scared and still feeling hopeful?

amb: it’s hard.

dino: can i offer something?

amb: please.

dino: it’s not an asteroid.

amb, shoulders dropping: oh.

dino: hope, hopefulness, that’s the realm of the survivors. it’s not too late for y’all. grief shows us what we love, what we most want to protect. it swallows everything extraneous. and so much of what you love is still here. and tomorrow is another miraculous opportunity to change, to protect it.

amb: dang dino.

dino: ha. i guess i’ve been a little scared too. i don’t want you to give in, give up.

amb, hugging dino’s telepathic neck for a good cry.

dino, gently, into amb’s telepathic hair: we’re all rooting for you, you know. all the extinct ones. we’re all at your backs. you humans have so much beauty in you.

amb, sniffly: there is so much superhumanity and kindness and humility and change happening. and humor. and dancing online across all borders. and caretaking. and new kinds of honesty. and heroic communal isolation. and choosing to protect the future.

dino: very good. that’s life. grieve like the trees in october. but don’t forget you are nature, and spring is certain.

amb: i am glad to know we can be together in this way.

dino: me too. isolated is one perspective of this moment. deeply connected is another.

amb: love you dino.

dino: love you too.

sabbatical your quarantine

god is change, change is god. this has been a time of massive change in every direction.

a week ago i was at the end of a dirt road in tuscany having the rural italian sabbatical of a lifetime. i was initially a coronavirus minimizer, focused on how it wasn’t going to touch me personally, and how was i going to get to my pizza – one of the main reasons italy was a destination for me.

and then, with everyone else, i faced the reality – coronavirus is going to touch us all, impact us all, change all of our trajectories. i woke up a week ago and adapted quickly. i grieved the sabbatical i had planned, and then i opened my heart to something else.

i booked a place to be where i could still rest, create, be away; still do my internal work. i traveled around the shook world with a face scarf and torn gloves, stocked up on groceries, and drove away from humans. i have been self-quarantined since i landed, while also in touch with all the people i know on earth.

several of these earthlings have said to me, ‘well, now everyone’s on sabbatical!’

and i keep thinking: no they aren’t!

but then today i thought: but they could be!

you could be!

change, pivot – it can feel in moments like this that change is only happening to us. but octavia taught us that we do not have to be victims of change/god. she said:

“A victim of God may,
Through learning adaption,
Become a partner of God.
A victim of God may,
Through forethought and planning,
Become a shaper of God.
Or a victim of God may,
Through shortsightedness and fear,
Remain God’s victim,
God’s plaything,
God’s prey.”

feeling fear and choosing adaptation is a mindful pivot. here’s the thought process of this pivot…

my initial ‘no they aren’t’ is rooted in the conditions of this moment…sabbatical is a planned, paid time to learn and practice ways of getting to your best self, best life. it can involve moving a big piece of work that isn’t doable in your normal schedule, or deep rest, travel, learning things. the COVID-19 global pandemic is unplanned, urgent, changing every day, and – for many people – means unpaid or less paid time. on lockdown. in your home.

a quarantine can be a massive inconvenience, a shift from external to domestic work, a period of financial crisis, a period of familial and communal fear. but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to bring some sabbatical spirit to this time.

almost everyone i know could use a period of unstructured, or less structured, time. to rest and create, to feel. most folks could use more permission to just be. and, it turns out, there are aspects of quarantine that align perfectly with a good sabbatical setting. so…here are some suggestions for sabbaticaling your quarantine.

see the time as a gift. the sooner you accept the time as a gift, the more time you’ll have. nothing is forever, so how can you be present right now?

you’re alive – thousands of people aren’t, because of this virus. but you are.

thousands are working overtime on this crisis. but you are quarantined – to help our collective health, you are staying home.

you have this day. it might be a gift of more time with your children, or your beloveds, or yourself. i am focusing on the last option, because i am on solo sabbatical. if you have informed suggestions for sabbaticaling your quarantine with kids or lovers, please add them in the comments.

do nothing. plan nothing. see what you want to do with wide open space. do it. don’t judge your longings, or need to rest, or masturbate all afternoon. release structure, especially if it supports ways of being that you’ve outgrown.

unless a schedule makes you feel more alive. then by all means, do that.

offer gratitude at the beginning and end of the day. as simple as ‘thank you for this day’, or a writing practice naming what you’re grateful for, or a longer ritual.

notice that you are feeling. in our daily lives, we can get too busy to feel our feelings. feeling is life, feeling helps us understand the next needed adaptation. all the feelings we’re having are justified right now…fear and anxiety about the present and the future. grief, anger at systemic incompetence, anger at people still ignoring the safety protocols and endangering others. urgency to transform everything instantly. depression over not wanting to (or feeling able to) do anything. overwhelm…especially the parents/caretakers out there. helplessness at the scale of crisis.

or…joy. ease. curiosity. fascination. the thrill of canceled plans and extra cuddle time. all of the above and more. i spend an immense amount of sabbatical time feeling.

harness the big feelings as generative energy. what do the feelings need – space? expression? support? solitude?

sabbatical includes having room to feel and to examine the feelings. sometimes i need to sit and let the feeling move over me like a wave. or punch a pillow, or journal, call a friend, or my therapist. or write a short story, paint, dance. feeling is what infuses my actions with life. and feeling yields the most interesting creations.

– if you can’t work, or must reduce work, notice how it feels when you aren’t working. do you miss the work itself? or are you relieved? part of sabbatical for me is assessing if there are shifts i need to make to increase both the internal joy and community impact of my presence on this planet at this time.

make it easy to create in your space. i think back to when my nibblings were in montessori school, how their classrooms were full of opportunities to create and play. in each sabbatical location, i put opportunities to create, play and learn out where i can see them – my watercolors, my tarot decks, my books, my journals, my writing area. i move through the days by moving between creation and rest.

learn something. what do you want to know more about, or master, that you can learn at home? masters classes, duolingo, yoga, dance apps, youtube, the names of all the trees in your neighborhood…sabbatical is about expanding what you know.

indulge. and get curious, rather than shaming, about what indulgences feel most nourishing. i stocked a healthy af kitchen for the quarantine. cool, fine, grown. but two days later i needed an extra special NASA-suit excursion for frozen pizza and häagen-dazs. i am not wasting my precious time feeling bad about these culinary additions. pizza and ice cream is the meal i would offer aliens in first contact. actually that may be my next short story.

get with nature. cause nature is everywhere. find the beauty of the sky where you are, the earth where you are, the creatures, trees, the water. align with the sunrise, settle down in the darkness of night. if you can’t go outside, remember that you, too, are nature. neither sloth nor hummingbird, but human. what does your nature need, how can you balance your ecosystem? care for your skin, water yourself, sweat, hibernate. because i returned from a level 3 country, my nature experience right now mostly involves sunbathing on a balcony and watching the sea. i see more each day.

relinquish knowing. you had other plans, your calendar was full, you thought you knew the future. but actually none of us know how all of this is going to play out. new articles come out every other day shifting the timeline, the protocols, the expectations. the revolutionary potential of this moment, the threat of abusive state control, it’s all happening and i hear grace lee boggs voice in my head asking ‘what time is it on the clock of the world?’

and that’s just the external world…it’s also never too late for you to change, to uncover new interests, longings, callings.

relinquish knowing, and get in touch with what you most love and care about. whatever clarity we can have now, whatever possibility opens up for the future, it’s going to be rooted in what we love.

p.s. i recognize the economic variance and limitations folks are in and i know lots of people are working on mutual aid and redistribution. this piece doesn’t cover all of that, because i am on sabbatical and i am just writing what i know and can offer right now. i will say asking for help can be a crucial part of sabbatical. my community supported a huge portion of this journey i am on, and i have been donating back to various funds and efforts to help those who can’t make ends meet right now. (lean on me starts playing: ‘for no one can fill those of your needs that you won’t let show’.) a sabbatical only feels solitary – it actually takes a village, like anything we do in this life. so if you need support, ask your community. give and receive.

On Rushing Toward Apocalypse (with Aja Taylor)

a conversation on the possibilities of this moment, with Aja Taylor *

Aja: DC, MD and VA have now all declared states of emergency. Italy’s death toll has officially surged past 1,000. COVID-19 has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, and yet – I am on the edge of my seat with barely-contained wonderment. My 3rd grade self – obsessed both with epidemics and dystopian fiction – is positively mystified by what we are seeing across the globe.

It isn’t the spread of the disease that mystifies me, but rather the opportunities and truths being unearthed in this very moment.

amb: i am on a plane from italy to the u.s. via paris, having canceled a beautifully planned two-month journey through europe. i was in tuscany for the last two weeks, during which the word ‘quarantine’ became a new undercurrent rhythm in my ears, a heartbeat. i’m on sabbatical, which will show in my unspooled writing voice (Aja will be more direct so feel free to skip me, she says it all). i’ve been trying to intentionally avoid the news, the triggering, election year ughs. my friends and family have gently screamed questions at me while waving digital newspapers and, of course, supporting my boundaries and my agency. (love smirking)

and when i turned to face it, COVID-19, i felt ashamed because i’d delayed so long, and because my speculative mind activated instantly, my emergent mind, my apocalypse dreamer self, feeling the familiarity of a moment i’d never lived, but prepared for. ashamed because during any thought of possibility, just north of me, grandparents were dying in hospital hallways.

i don’t believe in justified collateral damage, and while i love the vulcan quote “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one,” i actually don’t believe it, because i can’t say that many and one are different things…i highly and publicly suspect we are part of one creature, one system. we just don’t know the scale: are we a cell in the earth body? is earth the cell in a universe body? are we all the light beams of a god body?

nor do i think we can argue that any life is less miraculous than others, though we overlook some of the most important ones. twyla tharp says something like ‘destiny is a function of persistent parenting’, and i would add grandparenting, eldering, teaching, community-ing. think about the future inventors, storytellers, organizers, alien’s life partners, who fundamentally needed the encouragement of a certain elder or immune compromised teacher, lost because people didn’t know in time that they’d been weaponized with an efficient killer, couldn’t stay safe.

i offer this because the conversation we are about to have doesn’t presume that the lives of those who survive are more precious, worth more, than the lives of those who don’t survive this, or who suffer greatly in this. they aren’t giving their lives for us – we have to hold the complexity of senseless loss and undeniable possibility.

because this? this is already apocalypse.

Aja: This could be the very apocalypse we’ve been waiting for.

Apocalypse. Rooted in the Greek words “apo,” meaning “un,” and “kaluptein,” meaning “to cover,” apocalypse is generally regarded as something terrifying and negative. A life ending event. But as my Emergent Strategy “Creating New Possibilities” group explored this past summer in the Emergent Strategy Ideation Institute, what if apocalypse was indeed an ending – but to all of the things we actually needed to end in order to sustain life on this planet?

amb: i’ve been saying ‘things are not getting worse, they are getting uncovered’. it’s the age of COVID-19, already bigger than the intimate reach of 9/11, the Titanic, and many man made and natural disasters we’ve defined eras by. we are in history, in an apocalypse moment in history.

Aja: At its etymological core, apocalypse means to uncover – and COVID-19 has uncovered so damn much, hasn’t it?

amb: so much, including for a lot of people just how privileged and/or precarious we have been. those already struggling in this system are often shamed into hiding our financial, physical, mental and emotional challenges. we didn’t know how bad our healthcare system was cause we were good, or we were so overwhelmed by navigating it that we couldn’t look up and notice the patterns.

we didn’t realize how quickly borders can change, and standards for who is allowed to move and who isn’t, especially if our parents were born here. now more of us see that we can all end up on the wrong side, classified as a threat overnight.

and we’ve been too ashamed to show the precarity of our own bank accounts. we didn’t realize how many people in the richest nation in the world are living check to check. people are getting sick because many of us are more terrified of the proximity of losing income than risking our health and that of our families, communities and clients (i was so disappointed to land in the u.s. and, in addition to zero screening or questions about my health anywhere, to see all the airport restaurants open, all those exposed workers with no protection).

it’s a lot to take in. but it’s all about what we do in this unveiling. i’ve been dreaming that we ‘hold each other tight and continue to pull back the veil’. see both the wild wrongness in so many of our current structures, and the wild possibilities if we apply our visioning, organizing, earthling selves to the conversation and pattern seeking.

the first pattern shift i noticed was the dropping emissions as industry in key production areas slows, stops. the organizers i serve have been pushing for corporate emission reduction, and getting “no no no, impossible, maybe ? of that in twice the time, no even if we’ll all be dead it’s more important that 1% of us experience excess right now.”

COVID-19 comes and emissions are down 25%, and that’s just the beginning?

Aja: Everyone deserves a place to live, regardless of their ability to pay. Evicting someone because they cannot afford to pay is inhumane. And yet, capitalist forces have persuaded us that in order for society to function, people must pay or be put out. COVID-19 comes and suddenly, the inhumanity of evictions becomes politically expedient, and more people now know that if they wanted to, the government could absolutely step in and halt evictions.

amb: behavior shift can actually happen very quickly once we collectively decide to do it. relearning en masse how to wash our hands. i was part of a group in the rome airport who learned what one meter felt like, the social distance encouraged everywhere now. it was taught directly, impersonally – “not that, this. too close! good.” boundaries held collectively immediately relaxed my shoulders. it was so much harder landing in france and the u.s. where very few people seemed aware of personal space. i want that mindful level of collective boundary norming and consent for all bodies all the time, against street harassment and racism, for recycling and dogpoopscooping and helping each other.

Aja: Protecting workers makes sense. Making sure workers have adequate paid time off is good for people, good for a thriving workforce and good for our communal health. “We can’t afford that!” the business community lined up to testify. COVID-19 comes and suddenly across the country we are seeing lawmakers and businesses get creative to make sure that people can work from home, and even that hourly workers and folks who can’t telework have ways to have the time off and still recover wages.

amb: i am most fascinated by how much small personal bravery is emerging. my group text threads are full of people sharing the bold initiating moves they’ve been making in their workplaces, with their parents, at their gyms, kids’ schools, with friends.

we are either vectors of doom or safety in this.

it’s also brave when people who ignored or ridiculed the response to COVID-19 for a while finally let themselves be moved by new data and start helping with containment and slowing it down.

and at least in movement spaces it looks like we’re starting to listen to people who have been trying to teach us collective pathways for a while.

it’s also time for organic redistribution – those who have more than enough are going to need to move funds to help artists, freelancers, chronically ill, immigrant, jobless, houseless and other economically vulnerable communities. i am excited by how quickly needs and pivots are being understood and activated, how many people i know who are thinking collectively.

Aja: Making sure people with disabilities can have equitable access to convenings and workplaces makes sense. But our disabled siblings hear time and time again how “teleconferencing technology is so expensive!” and “it’s too hard to figure out—we’ll think about it for next year.” COVID-19 comes, and now more people know that yes, companies and organizations can indeed make spaces accessible, and choose to prioritize cost over cause.

amb: i know there is tragedy here, unfolding, the scale of which we cannot, will never, measure in terms of heartache. but i’m also aware of us moving towards things we have needed to move towards. how do we widen the space within us for the grief and wonder? fear and vision? the surrender, and the creativity, the relief, the humor, the possibility?

this is an opportunity to stop trying to ‘cling to the shore,’ as the hopi elder prophesied. say the shore is our crisis level individualism, and the river is interdependence. we don’t really know what intentional post-capitalist interdependence looks like at our current national, much less global, scale. it’s still time to push off, go forward, into that unknown, holding each other, in pairs, in circles.

now is a time to learn about relinquishing boredom. this is a time for generating life by rooting where we are. and learning intimacy as a survival tool, because we need to be able to communicate our realities, needs and wants – a level of communication that previously often happened only through proximity, pheromones and subtle facial shifts.

the overlay of all of this is deepening connection towards a right relationship to the earth.

i’m also excited to start using the vulcan “live long and prosper” hand greeting in place of hugs or fist bumps.

Aja: As an organizer, this uncovering – this apocalypse – is one I feel like running toward. It pushes us to be sharper, to contemplate organizing our folks through chaos and disorganization, and presents so many opportunities to politicize and contextualize for our folks. The things we fight for are not just right, but POSSIBLE. And I don’t know about y’all, but this election cycle especially had me feeling so depleted. So impossible. So hopeless.

amb: demoralized! dejected! apoplectic! watching us divide, forget what matters and divide.

Aja: And then COVID-19 came, and reminded me that the world we are fighting for is nigh. Now is not the time to pump the brakes or abandon hope. The world we are fighting for is just on the other side of apocalypse.

amb: asé and hallelujah

* Aja Taylor is a community organizer, fiction-loving facilitator of mischief and meetings. She enjoys good food, analyzing birth charts, octopuses and thinking about how sexy consent is. She is also Director of Advocacy and Organizing at Bread for the City and one of the co-founders of Two Brown Girls Consulting Cooperative, both based in DC.

Additional Resources for Facing Coronavirus/Covid19

ah loves, turns out it’s not easy to take a sabbatical during a global apocalyptic event. in my attempt to stay away from news, work, stress, and distraction, i found myself a little rural hideaway which, who could have guessed it, is now in a quarantine zone. i am fine, supported, connected, stocked, staying calm and solo and washing my hands in that near-obsessive way virgoes are prone to do naturally.

but there’s no escaping this, even with reduced contact – friends, family, media, strangers in the grocery store…we are interdependent and it shows so deeply in moments we are asked to stay apart for our own good.

i keep thinking – should i write about this? and, conversely, am i really writing about anything else? every bit of fiction and song emerging from me swerves into the territory of connection, safety across generations, virus, right relationship. i am writing about this, but there’s also so much that i and others have already written and spoken that might be helpful for the human, land, spiritual, community, movement, familial, network, and/or society side of this virus at this moment.

the science, the protocols, i leave that to science and government: wash your hands, stay home, think collectively.

and here are some resources that might help you think about where to be, how to be, and how to see the possibilities even in this moment, how to move towards life.

1. Octavia’s Brood.

over the past few days as i have had to consider where to be, i was comforted by Dani McClain’s excellent story Homing Instinct and then remembered how Mia Mingus pointed to society shaped by those with chronic illness and disability in Hollow and how Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha reminded us we can travel without traveling in Children Who Could Fly. these texts feel relevant now, as we would do so well to learn from those who survive toxic exposure daily and know about being safe and connected in vulnerable bodies.

i am challenged anew by the implications of my own story The River, in which earth moves to protect herself and those who love her. only time will tell how this moment will impact our relationship to earth, but early reports of reduced emissions appear to be a silver lining to this tragedy.

here is a real-time resource leah just passed on to me for mutual aid and survival!

2. Emergent Strategy.

change is constant, be like water. we are used to being a rushing river pounding through every obstacle. now we see there is danger in that endless rapid flow and we need to find a place to pool deeply and be still and let time cleanse us in its way. i have received messages from people who are finding a first or re-read of the book useful in this moment.

a few bits to highlight:

* “transform yourself to transform the world”, grace lee boggs’ wisdom is literal right now. this virus doesn’t stop because of blame, pointing at other people’s faults, or races/ethnicities. it only stops, or slows, because each individual increases their own accountability to the collective. people have suggested different songs for hand washing time, to help stay in the sink long enough to do an adequate job. i found this bit of magic with the ‘fear is the mind killer’ guidance from Dune that i love. i am also often just saying a little universe prayer – “with this handwashing i align with the universe, with this handwashing i wage love, with this handwashing i care for [here i insert the names of elders and compromised immune systems i cherish].” i am transforming my own behaviors through practice and repetition.

* there is a conversation in the room that only these people at this time can have…there are conversations that will only happen because you initiate them, lives that will be saved because you risked being the awkward one to ask ‘how are you adapting safety protocol in response to coronavirus?’ i have a text thread of dear ones who are sharing news with each other and one had to push thru the resistance of her elder family members (our elders have seen so much – how do we honor their experience and dignity and still acknowledge that this virus is hungry for them, specifically?). another just changed the safety trajectory of her pilates studio. and in another friend circle a european book tour was canceled. this is no time to politely drift along with the herd, this is the time to ask direct questions and generate unique community solutions in conversation.

* there’s always someone already working on the problem. i think of all of my patient friends who have navigated chemical sensitivity for years. or those with lyme, gluten intolerance, fibromyalgia, cancer, aids…who in our communities must we protect, yes, but who has been surviving collective cluelessness and obstinance, who must we now listen to?

* beware of haters (and infiltrators). here we are, figuring out massive issues of safety during a fraught election year in the u.s. under a government hungry for tighter borders. this virus may change how voting happens, and how communication around the election happens – if we are all dependent on the internet to contact each other, campaign, even vote, there’s a lot of uncharted and quicksandish territory. our electoral system is dysfunctional on a good day. and, this collective experience will impact what people seek from leadership. and, the outcomes of this election will effect the future of this virus and how other similar global threats are handled. it is not a time for petty, haterish, divisive behavior. it is a time to be in heightened awareness of infiltrators, instigators, agitators. beware the lone wolf, beware the critic who isn’t oriented on any solution, beware the social media poster who has few followers and fewer posts, beware time sucks, red herrings, and vapors posing as people. it’s easy to get sucked in. liberate your attention back to the much more important and difficult work of finding political alignment and righteous compromise amongst the people you know and live next door to, your relatives, people who care about you.

* pay attention to patterns. what is being detoxified from the soil? what is migrating? who is in drought, in flood, in peril, in privilege? i am definitely influenced by having just finished The Overstory by Richard Powers but…ask the trees what they think this virus is about. what to learn, now?

* localize your attention. what grows near you? who grows it? how can you secure resources together vs stockpiling individually and combatively?

* and, as aways, what’s in your go-bag?

3. Pleasure Activism

right now we are getting to experience the unexpected expected. we all knew contagion was coming and have made countless entertainments about it…but when, how, from where?

it may seem counterintuitive, but i am putting my attention on the pleasures of quarantine, aka ‘if introverts ran the world’. what to do when you can’t go somewhere else and be around mad people to do it?

obviously there is a way of working with less distraction when isolated, which those of us liberated from offices already know to be a pajama-infused delight.

i have made a list of additional recent pleasures i opted to fully experience instead of panicking – washing my hands in warm water, writing, reading, new kinds of orgasm, cooking, painting, slow yoga in the sun, going out in the yard to observe my local ecosystem during the day (which often involves attending to what is usually the periphery – the sound on the edge of hearing, motion on the edge of sight) (and which, during my writing of this post, included watching and hearing two bumblebees mating in the air!), and at night listening to owls, porcupine, wind, river, traffic, life. catching up on shows, extended and deeper video chatting with loved ones. inventory (this may just be me but i like assessing that i have enough), being topless outside, creating and executing rituals. getting high, or, lately, getting that other high that comes from not getting high, but getting present.

i encourage you, whether you’ve already been quarantined or it’s coming soon, to at least attempt the mental emotional embodied exercise of not fighting it, but finding the pleasure and connection potential in it. how can it increase your freedom to have your routine disrupted? how can it allow for more intentional and reverent interdependence? don’t just think about where you will get your food and water, also map out where you will get your togetherness, your touch, your laughter, your joy.

4. how to survive the end of the world

in the years of doing this podcast with my sister, we have had many conversations that feel relevant to this moment.

our conversation with Sister-Doctor Alexis Pauline Gumbs on breath, among other things – we need to practice breathing deeply thru a respiratory invasion. our conversations with Toshi Reagon on prophecy and responsibility. and with Angel Kyodo Williams and Lama Rod Owens on being still. with Mariame Kaba on justice – because this virus is largely spreading by human error, and how do you address the harm caused by someone not washing their hands, the sickness and death caused by humans who didn’t mean to hurt anyone? and the conversation with Siwatu Salama-Ra, how to generate freedom within when externally contained? and, of course, our talk with Michelle Mascarenas-Swan of Movement Generation, about the larger systems at play in this great turning. plus roughly every other conversation.

5. generative somatics.

this is a time to get more curious about your body, your health, your patterns. listen to your gut – the other day i was ten minutes out from home heading to the store when i realized i’d left my hand sanitizer on the table after checking if it has enough alcohol in it. with almost no thought, my body found the next spot to turn around (i am way down a single lane dirt road) and went back to get it. i used it four times while out and was so grateful my body knew i needed it. my body steers me away from people with sniffles and coughs, processing information faster than my brain can generate a logic for me. if it’s hard to hear and trust your body, get into this centering practice from generative somatics genius Sumitra Rajkumar, let repeated centering awaken you. there’s time.

so. visionary fiction, emergent strategy, pleasure activism, and surviving apocalypse. attention liberation, somatics, right relationship. listening, adapting, surrendering.

may this serve as it needs to. i am with you, of you, and you are of me. let’s do this transition well.

in the corona

we’re all in the corona now
jewels, wet crystal, one structure
heavy and precarious
learning how much we live to touch
our never really seen faces

of a species that won’t do things for others
even just wash our hands
I slip into obsession with my spray bottle
ashamed (to maybe kill the ocean a bit to feel some comfort)
but I’m an American (my weapons are organic)

I tie a silk floral scarf around my face
to say: i’m terrified of death
but those ghastly masks are sold out
and anyway i have to be me
right til the end

rumors rumble up through airways
that in the pause, the death and questioning, the earth is able to breath 25% more again
we stifle and stretch her gifts when it’s up to us, she gasps while we cover our coughs
thinking of the {3000} dead

isn’t this the moment we’ve expected?
able to fly now we test her gravity
‘are we seriously going to die?’
answering, we become split futures for the
BEST SPECIES IN THE UNIVERSE
(admit it, you wonder…

when you say there’s no one out there, you mean no one better
honey I disagree
i turned back from the mountain when a spider said stop – better lives all around us)
when my lip sweats it feels worse than danger
and I pull my shield down around my neck

my loved ones whisper to each other
‘how will we protect our children’
‘it only eats the infirm and elderly’
‘so how will we protect them?’
everyone is ours to carry now
the checkmate generation, trying desperately to evolve the game

but we don’t know another one
we don’t even know what losing means
it’s almost unimaginable
but it’s also already happening
“god is change” “the river is very fast now”

I’m scared / I’m trusting
I’m contained / I’m in motion
we’re shook / we’re normal
we’re here / we’re gone
and time goes on