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.

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

love love love

i believe we are living on the precipice of the next phase of our species. and i’m with such good people, people who cry hard and laugh harder. and do one to move through the other, rolling across the full emotional span in epic waves. we feel what’s gaping and yawning underneath both of those releases, that scale of lovegrief that can’t be captured in any words i know…we let it be in our eyes, at our core.

the more i learn/remember how to feel, the more in love i fall with the particular aliveness that only sparks between us. that met longing felt when the interior world unfolding in me comes to a border and longs to be porous, expansive, vast, one, multitudes. this opening, these moments, this work, this makes a viable future possible.

today i remembered a song i was taught over a decade ago:

“oh i say thank you
oh i say thank you
oh great spirits
in this way
i long to give my life to you
in love and devotion
in love and devotion”
(this was taught to me as a gwitch’in song from haida gwaii)

even now, especially now, with a mask over my mouth and a storm at my back, i am learning what i must realize in myself, what i must defend and protect, what i must cultivate in the face of fear and death and supremacy: love, love, love.

earth do what you will/forgive us

prayer/submission/spell

earth do what you will
mother father creator home
full of wrath, molten, tremoring
you show us how to live and to hurt you
all our life, we spiral out from your body
stardust and sea, anemone and feather
flesh and flower, metal and bone

earth forgive us
all children are greedy
we all demand love beyond what we can give
we all expect your miraculous patience
we are nonsensical, ungrateful
we take your hours, wooden toys, all the sweet
the attention, life force, and all your peace

earth do what you will
how long have we terrorized you
we violate your soft/sacred-ness, deny
that you are changed and changing, that your heart is broken, spirit struggling for respite
venom spilling from the wounds, swelling the surface, catastrophic chasm opening within

but earth please forgive us
for we are split as a species
let us who see you and love you
let us join you, we can tell you where the hurt begins, we can tell you where it ends
let us stay and whisper love songs to you in the turning of the cosmos. let us stay.

earth do what you will
cast us into the endless sky
make us brief

earth forgive us
before we learn to apologize
see us whole

earth do what you will
say finally, enough
take back each perfect gift

earth – forgive us
for we think we are walking
when you carry us

earth do what you will
we thought we could live without you
we have been wrong every day

earth forgive us
every step away from you is an error
even now, we love you

pieces of fiction we’re pretty sure are actually real (like happening now)

the other night i was watching the Walking Dead season 7, which has the most devious, charming, terrifying bad guy. it felt disturbingly current, including the zombies. i asked the ever generous facebook what fiction feels like it’s happening right now and generated this amazing list, an abundance of work to read or watch.

or, you know, just look around.

Books

the Kate Daniels books, Ilona Andrews

The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
The Maddadam Trilogy (Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood, Maddadam) Margaret Atwood
(Elena says: “extreme genetic modification, separation of corporate-compound and pleebland communities (extreme economic imbalance). Also new beings, new ways of living and of communicating (even between different species).”

Coyote Kings of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad, Malcolm Azania (pen name Minister Faust)

Wind Up Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi

Blues for Mister Charlie, James Baldwin

Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury

Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents, Octavia Butler
(Enei says: “make America great again”, Karissa says: “keep trying to convince people to go in on some property further North cause Octavia told us to go North.” Anne’s partner thinks we’re in the prequel.)
also everything else she wrote.

Ready Player One, Ernest Cline

Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
(Judy pulls out this opening quote: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”)

Makers, Cory Doctorow
Walkaway, Cory Doctorow
(Dan says: “It’s maybe the only anarchist-ish future that I’ve read that didn’t sound like it would suck. Still not the future I’m trying to build, but if things do go that way, at least there’s been some good thinking on how to build good lives in it.”)

The Circle, Dave Eggers

American War, Omar El Akkad

Solitaire, Kelley Eskridge
(Vanissar says: “Because citizens vs people living on the margins, because technology + incarceration. Because our imaginations will save us.”)

Slow River, Nicola Griffith
(Vanissar says: “because water, technology. because desperation.”)

Journey to the East, Herman Hesse

Brown Girl in the Ring, Nalo Hopkinson

Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neal Hurston
(Supriya says: “As Irma was about to hit and Houston was reeling and Katrina was in my heart: Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston.”)

Brave New World, Aldous Huxley

Redwall and Mossflower series, Brian Jacques
(Jessica says: “animals have rich and amazing lives.”)

In the Heart of the Valley of Love, Cynthia Kadohata

It, Stephen King

The Telling, and The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas, Ursula le Guin

the Wizard of Earthsea series, particularly The Other Wind, Ursula le Guin
(Morrigan says: “We’re finding lost languages, understanding our misguided limitations on magic, undoing the suppression of the wind. restoring the pattern.”)

California, Eden Lepucki

That Hideous Strength, C.S. Lewis
(Teika says: “I haven’t read it for years and don’t really remember a lot of the plot details, but the one element that really sucks with me is something about being governed by an embalmed head connect to a machine, and that 1984-style autocracy and the effed up psychology of state domination / oppression / greed.”)

It Can’t Happen Here, Sinclair Lewis

The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison

The Girl Who Owned A City, OT Nelson

Rats of NIMH, Robert C. O’Brian

Who Fears Death?, Nnedi Okorafor
(Leah says: “bc Black femmes using spirit to destroy white medical industrial capital fuckery and climate chaos, Black survivors using witchcraft to defeat rapists, and spirits are present and walking with us.”)

Shadowshaper, Daniel José Older

1984, George Orwell

The Turner Diaries, William Luther Pierce (pseudonym Andrew Macdonald)
(Minaj says: “White supremacist utopian novel written in the 70s that has been downloaded millions of times and is their blueprint for the revolution. It starts with the police. They’re trying to make it happen. Also I should add major trigger warnings for racism, sexism, every kind of ism, n word usage, etc. Read it to know their game plan, not for literary insight.”)

Woman on the Edge of Time, Marge Piercy
(Mistinguette says: “Parallel utopia and oblivion, and making conscious choices about them.”)

Celestine Prophecy, James Redfield
(Amber says: “I feel like just as much as destruction occurs around us, humans are waking up to spiritual guidance en masse. More and more people are focusing on listening, balance, centering ourselves, opening our eyes, ears, and hearts to signs, etc. it’s easy to not see it when so much negative is happening, but we vibrating higher. I can feel it.”)

The Mars Trilogy, Kim Stanley Robinson
Three Californias Trilogy, Kim Stanley Robinson

Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie
(Supriya says: “When I think of my beloved India and wretched nationalism, xenophobia, anti Muslim terror… the crack on the fissure of his face in Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, or Mahdhweti Devi’s “Draupadi.”)

Almanac of the Dead, Leslie Marmon Silko (Laguna Pueblo)
(Sophia says: “Silko says she wrote it almost channeling the anger of the Earth herself. There’s also a lot in the book about amplified spiritual activation of Native & African ancestors as we fulfill prophecy (in this case, Mayan prophecy) by resisting corruption, chaos and white supremacist colonial greed- with some specific focus on the desecration of sacred Native sites. Her writing also gives a big fuck off to respectability politics, cuz many of the most significant characters have substance dependencies, are houseless, non-neurotypical, former sex workers or current drug smugglers…all that feels familiar in this moment too. Damn… *goes to reread it*”)

The Fifth Sacred Thing, Starhawk

The Book of Joan, Lidia Yuknovitch
(Marika says: Crazy dystopian novel. Can’t say I either enjoyed it or hated it, but it was poignant and sadly prescient:
“We are what happens when the seemingly unthinkable celebrity rises to power.
Our existence makes my eyes hurt.
People are forever thinking that the unthinkable can’t happen. If it doesn’t exist in thought, then it can’t exist in life. And then, in the blink of an eye, in a moment of danger, a figure who takes power from our weak desires and failures emerges like a rib from sand. Jean de Men. Some strange combination of a military dictator and a spiritual charlatan. A war-hungry mountebank. How stupidly we believe in our petty evolutions. Yet another case of something shiny that entertained us and then devoured us. We consume and become exactly what we create.”)

TV/Movies

Alien
American Gods
Black Mirror
God’s and Monsters
House of Cards
Idiocracy
Insecure
Mad Max
Mary Poppins
Matrix
Rats of NIMH
The Simpsons
Sleepdealer
Underground
X-Files (Gabriel says: “The alien / government coverup storyline is actually somewhat based on a book that says it’s nonfiction – ‘behold a pale horse’.”)

living through the unveiling

things are not getting worse, they are getting uncovered. we must hold each other tight and continue to pull back the veil.

people have been detained at our borders, people are being deported, people are being sent away from the US. we are making plans with the people we love about what to do in case they get stuck outside these borders or sucked out of these borders.

there are white supremacists, overt white nationalists, in office at the federal level, people who don’t hide their feelings of supremacy.

there are climate change deniers, people who seem to think what we do has no impact on the earth, being appointed to have oversight of our US relationship to the earth.

people with no experience or even apparent concern about the majority of human beings are being appointed to oversee how we are educated, how we are housed, everything about how we live.

it certainly feels like this is worse than what we have been experiencing from our federal government. i say feels like because, as a radical, i am not certain that that’s true. In fact, i’m pretty sure that it’s not true.

at no point in my adult life have I seen the government make the necessary decisions about climate, take real leadership to turn and face the changes we have to make in order to survive. everything has been woefully incremental. we have been facing climate apocalypse for some time now.

police, and military, are, and have been, armed racial profilers filling modern day slave cages, upholding imperialist lines of power. black people have been in the streets saying we are not paranoid and we are not criminals – there’s something rotten in this nation. indigenous water protectors have been telling us there’s something rotten in this nation. our comrades in the global south, in Muslim nations, all over Latin America have been telling us there’s something rotten in this nation.

our history is bloody with governments who have faced our interventions, whose borders have moved, whose people have died if we didn’t like how they looked, how they prayed, if they didn’t want to support our economic interests over their own.

our borders are littered with the bones of those who were not only not welcomed, but hunted down by militia, left with no water in the desert. in most cases, those people have come from the same places that our interventions destabilized.

and I live in Detroit, where we have lived under emergency management for years. in the corruption of the city we have seen overwhelming displacement and overwhelming denial of services to people who are just trying to live, raise children, be a part of this place.

so why, now, does it feel like this?

why can’t we sleep, why are we in extreme patterns of drinking, smoking and numbing? why are so many of us in pain as our bodies try to keep up with the news? why are so many of us in a panic all day every day (and those that aren’t sound like they are in denial or rocking unearned hubris)?

perhaps the number one privilege of being an American is our narrative. we have a story that covers all of our wretched behavior, that makes us exceptional regardless of what we do. we’ve gotten lost in that story. we have believed that the beautiful princess wanted us for our virility, the apple was a nutritious offer from a frenemy, Oz was a magical city and that we are a benevolent, caring nation that really loves all of our differences, our democracy, our global nature. that we were almost there, to that place where we can know we are better than this.

as a nation we have quietly turned away from any numbers that seemed to make a counter argument about what we were up to – the suicide rates of trans people, the number of bodies along our southern border, the increasing rate of C-sections, sterilization and fibroids amongst women of color and poor women, the length of the existing wall, the number of people killed by our drones, the percentage of black people in prisons, the pace at which people of color are murdered by the state, the rising heat and ocean levels during this golden age of global warming. and so much more.

those of us who have shouted these numbers out, who have taken action in order to raise the attention of this country, have been called uncouth, negative, hyperbolic.

and we have been working in silos, each of us digging deep down into our own particular issues, our own particular numbers and making a case for why there’s a crisis.

so, what feels new is the unveiling; the heaviness is the increasing weight of the truth becoming undeniable as more people believe it.

right now, more and more of the truth of this country at this time is visible, left naked, made obvious. not only are each of us right about the particular crisis we have been holding, but others coming up out of their silos are right too – and the intersecting crises are massive.

now that it is plain to see that we are up against white supremacists whose plan for survival seems to be eliminating the majority of us, we no longer have the luxury of pretending we can change their minds with logic, or survive the pendulum swing of universal survival issues made partisan.

we have to be willing to engage in radical resistance and radical futuring.

because people are looking at us like, well, you were right, now what do we do?

we must increase our collective tolerance for truth. this means we must learn how to hold the full breadth of emotions we feel upon hearing the truth, and to keep listening, changing, taking action, learning. we must be willing to look at what actually needs to happen to address the truth.

we must deepen our connections to each other. there is no way the majority of us will survive this time if we continue working in isolation or in competition. we must meet at the intersections and lovingly figure out how to be in right relationship. we need the largest, and most authentic, collaborative efforts for justice and liberation that have ever been witnessed on this planet.

we must take the risk of leading. we must be willing to assert the solutions we believe in, to experiment with alternative ways of being human on this planet at this time. we must be willing to try out post-normative paths, we must be willing to say unpopular things.

we must divest. i am still trying to figure out what this looks like in real time. i know part of it is boycotts and buycotts and I am excited to see the lists of places we can stop putting our money and where to redirect it already moving around the internet. i know part of it is really being willing to stop financially supporting all of these things we so viscerally disagree with (#alternativetaxes).

i also think we need to learn to divest our attention from the circus in DC. i do not mean to ignore it or to escape it, but it’s not going to work to continue to spend the majority of our hours saying what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck to what’s coming out of DC.

i am grateful for those who have focused on tracking our resistance and our victories, that is really helpful. we must figure out how to get the information we need from the dying, antiquated present-day systems, and use it to continue doing the most radical work possible. we must put the majority of our attention where it can grow the next world.

not only are we the ones we have been waiting for, but this is the exact moment we have been shaped for. and even though it came so quickly, it has actually taken forever. but here we are, in this moment, the present moment, naked and messy and visible right down to our roots.

the veil never hid us from others, it only ever hid us from ourselves. now that more of us can see who we truly are, we must begin/continue to move towards who we truly want and need to be in order to sustain human life on this planet.

liberation is no small task – it is appropriately daunting for miraculous beings. it is a gift, to be given such undeniable purpose, such immense odds. hold each other tight, and let’s do this work.

obama farewell, in parts

obama farewell, in parts:

darkside me: i want him to incite rebellions, he is going for super shady.

eeyore me: but what do you say when democracy requires a peaceful transition to an r-kelly costar?

yoda me: listen you must. strategic he is. coherent sentences you may not hear again from this office.

this is the read me: he’s basically reading the fuck out of mump.

organizer me: much respect to people protesting right now #pardonusall

lucious from empire me: he got it all figured out and no one sees it. he gonna let dude play himself out, just watch.

zen me: there are no borders, there is no separation. everything is right.

beyoncé me: flump breaking all these rules, obama should just stay president.

neil degrasse tyson me: science and reason Do matter.

prince me: when you play the future you play yourself.

mariah carey me: shit happens.

post-nationalist, post-imperialist me: we are on the death star. the leadership doesn’t change the function.

abolitionist bae me: did he free the political prisoners yet?

black great/grand/daughter me: hush. listen – i can still feel a lineage of pride flowing through me.

clingy me: plus he said final point which reminded me what’s coming (sad face).

detroit voter me: and now he’s like y’all need to vote – that hurts more cuz i’m disenfranchised!

neal degrasse tyson me: wait was that bill nye the science guy?

american citizen me: i do wish it felt like this country he speaks of.

boggs-reader me: you have to love america enough to change it.

james baldwin me: i have said it before, but: I love America more than any other country in the world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.

darkside me: he has come for scump on every single frontline – the force of shade is an art with this one.

organizer me: he told people to organize. (clap clap clap)

beyoncé me: that look he gives michelle. i can’t.

darkside me: hear that shade of melonino?

zen me: you know nothing, relinquish attachment to this experiment.

fearful me: live live live

astrologer me: and just love. the whole mess. right now this love is the force most required in the universe. love directly and without shame. him and each other, there is enough.

me me: but (broken heart).

auntie me: glad he mentioned how malia and sasha nibblings have grown up so beautifully.

beyoncé me: see he is also most proud of parenting. just sayin.

scarface me: biden’s a tough dude.

me me: he looks heartbroken. they all have break-up-but-still-soulmates faces.

eeyore me: where is sasha?

cool teenager me: malia is counting down in her head.

this is the read me: everything after this is basically trash. basura.

zen me: its always what we make of it.

me me: love hurts. exhale.

be more of you (new year’s invitation and spell)

“we honor our ancestors by thriving.” – dallas goldtooth

it gets in our bones, fear. fear of ridicule and isolation, fear of the unknown, fear of past traumas being repeated.

fear that what we experience now is all there is.

fear of dying – individually, as a people, as movements.

the older we get, the more ways we watch people die – celebrities snatched up by the heart, economic and climate refugees swallowed by salt water, surprising accidents, death by state and/or other lynchings, drawn out battles with internal opponents, our perpetual global wars.

when the threats come we can shrink. as this year crash lands in a stand of burning trees, we have watched an unfolding of the unexpected against our radical will, a daunting removal of certain collectively held bubbles for those of us in us-based social movements.

we shrink in part by ignoring our own emotional breadth – our surprise, our grief, our mounting fears.

one of the ways we do our oppressors’ work for them is to deny our own complexity, wholeness, our right to exist; to attempt to shrink or disappear those parts of ourselves deemed inferior or undesirable to the mainstream. we can forget that WE shape the mainstream and all the alternative streams with our own lived assertions and divergence.

in the spirit of honoring change, taking the new year’s ritual as an opportunity to assert a collective behavioral commitment, i invite you to speak a spell aloud to yourself in the mirror until you believe yourself.

do this in the darkness of new year’s eve and anytime afterwards when such a spell is needed, including at the top of your lungs in the face of anyone even slightly challenging your right to be all of yourself.

remember the kinds of humans who transitioned this year – prince, bowie, gene wilder, prince be, phife, carrie fisher and debbie reynolds, george michael, leonard cohen, don mcvinney and so many others. in addition to your personal familial losses, take on these ancestors. be the fantastical and unique voice on whatever front lines you hold. hold your existence as sacred, drop into your post-compartmentalized whole self.

let this commitment to hold your wholeness as sacred inform your relationships, economics, fashion, food, and time use choices.

do not concede any of the ground you have gained on the path the liberation. be You with the volume on a million – all of your intersecting identities, cantankerous opinions and unorthodox pleasures. be unapologetically complex, a distinct individual in an interdependent network that thrives in part because of your unique offering.

do not shrink in the face of fear as we enter and live through a period of future-history that currently looks…foreboding at the least. instead, be more you.

thrive, at every level, as the living and joyful resistance towards the spreading blank, the nothingness, the sameness, the monoculture, the norm.

here is an offering towards the spell, feel free to use it verbatim, or remix, add onto, create your own:

i assert the sacredness of my whole self, as is.

i love myself with curiosity (as a student) instead of perfectionism.

i do not shrink inside of, or ignore, my fear – i move towards my longings with my fear as a part of my emotional wholeness.

i do not regress in my own expressions and assertions of liberation, i don’t take back anything that i have unveiled to be true in my politics. i recognize both the construct nature and consequential, experiential impacts of race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, ability, coping mechanisms, lived experiences, and so on. however whole i am today, i will fill that in in the face of fear.

i am kind in the heart of conflict – without betraying my beliefs.

i seek to understand the motivations of those who differ from me – without denying my full humanity.

i think my own thoughts and feel my own feelings, i cut through groupthink with love.

i have no reason to be ashamed of anything that has shaped me.

i grow movement and liberation through authentic connections and honest processes of alignment. i trade in urgency-based work for efficient, emotionally-honest work.

i relinquish my obsession with outcomes and with control.

i deepen into the call to shape a world that can hold all of me, knowing i can feel that world in my bones, even if i cannot yet fully comprehend or even imagine it.

i use the majority of my attention and words to generate joy, gratitude, positivity, solutions, pleasure, intimacy and liberation in myself and others.

in the neverending process of change, i will be more of myself.