coevolution through friendship

coevolution is “the change of a biological object triggered by the change of a related object.”

a couple of years ago i hosted a community of practice. one of the outcomes of our year of building relationship and sharing of ourselves was an idea articulated toward the end by gibran rivera: coevolution through friendship. meaning we evolve in relationships of mutual transformation.

since the community’s formal time ended, i have watched and felt this relational coevolution continue in a variety of ways, including close daily personal contact, occasional opportunities for mutual support, noticing and supporting each other’s work and growth from afar, and being more intentional about bringing this practice into the way we hold all of our relationships.

these past few weeks i have been really aware of the power of coevolution through friendship as i have been in what feels like a growth spurt. babies do this, suddenly overnight become taller, fuller, using new words, more confident in their bodies and complex in their communications. it’s pretty incredible to watch – and to feel that the growth doesn’t end even if it changes form. in this period i have been supported, inspired, encouraged and witnessed by a marvelous circle full of people in their own growth.

the very nature of this is iterative, so i am not writing any definitive guidelines up for y’all. but it is so delicious and impactful that i wanted to share some of what i am noticing, some elements of coevolution through friendship.

self-transformation. both/all people in the relationship are committed to their own self-transformation, aligning with the words of grace lee boggs that ‘we must transform ourselves to transform the world.’ we see ourselves as microcosms of the world, and work to shift oppressive patterns in our bodies, hearts, minds, speech, interactions, liberating ourselves into purpose, liberating our communities into new practices.

curiosity. we have curiosity about our own lives as learning labs for our values and figuring out what it means to be human at this moment in time. and we have curiosity about each other’s lives, about why we do what we do, about the roots of our behaviors. we want to know if there are lessons and changes available in the reflection and action cycle of life. this curiosity ranges from philosophical to academic, historical, nosy, somatic. our lives are our life’s work. what matters is that we are authentic with the questions, we believe the answers are important and we listen to each other accordingly.

vulnerable reflection. we reach out to each other and say things like ‘something incredible is happening’, ‘i don’t know’, ‘i fucked up’, ‘i think i hurt someone’, ‘i’m overwhelmed’, ‘i’m terrified’, ‘i think i’m hurting’, ‘i’m lost’, ‘am i falling in/out of love?’, ‘_____ happened, what should i do?’, ‘i want to do something new/different/marvelous/dangerous/that feels essential to my soul – help!’ and so on. we ask others to be mirrors for us at our most vulnerable places, so we can see what we are learning, see new possibilities in our lives.

pattern disrupting. i know i am always whole theoretically, but i don’t always feel that way, i feel half sometimes, i feel fragmented sometimes, messy. being whole includes owning all of that as me. when i am feeling fragmented or limited, seeing any of my friends in their wholeness reminds me of my own capacity. and as i stand in my wholeness, which includes being more honest with myself and others about what i want and who i am in the world, it exerts a pressure on others, both to receive me and to become more whole in themselves. this disrupts those familiar diminishing patterns in my friends and in myself, the internalization of a world that has rejected every aspect of my identity at some point. counter rejection. still i rise. and new patterns become possible, more interconnected and interdependent patterns which rely on being open.

present and intentional. this is perhaps the biggest place to practice. life is not happening to us. we are learning to be in the actual current moment, to recognize where we have choice…in a terrifying twist it turns out we always have it*. so the great question is how to be intentional, in the present moment, to take responsibility for your state of being, and for your life? another participant-teacher in the community of practice asked us to consider, ‘what if i am responsible for everything?’ it’s not a singular task, to be responsible for what happens in this world – we do not exist or transform in isolation. we are in this universe. we are actively reflecting on how to be in our lives, to best embody our greatness and to yield a more liberated future for ourselves and thus, in the fractal sense, for all of existence.

there is a lot to be careful of. we are not yet masterful, even though there are moments of collective genius. sometimes we misread each other, push each other too hard, get defensive or give unsolicited coevolution pressure.

sometimes what is happening in the world is so terrifying and urgent that we forget our complexity, or wonder why take time on ourselves or our friendships when there is so much work to do. what i am noticing is that it is not a privilege to practice coevolution through friendship – it is the deepest work.

i believe it is how communities have survived.
i believe it is harriet tubman going back to free others, because it wasn’t enough to free only herself.
i believe it is ubuntu active in my life.
i believe it is the freedom that we are longing for, which will never be given to us, which we have to create, the pulsing life force of the collective body we are birthing, the rhythm of a shared heart.

“coevolution through friendship is a path to liberation.” – gibran rivera

*recently i have been wrestling with even seeing death as a liberatory choice in response to oppression and suffering, as a wave of suicide moves through and near my life. this doesn’t give me peace, but it gives me pause, trying to see wholeness in a life ending when i wanted it to continue. endings are sacred too. it gives me pause. what i can say is that the unknown is a massive yawning universe, and i have to respect it.

memory lane

mmm just had dinner with a dear friend and we ran through memories – remember when what’s his name…and then we were…and that one party that was so sticky hot and everyone was…was someone shooting at us?…did you know i…yeah girl. the conclusion, thank god we were 19 once, and able to scream, sing, fall down, be in a city, be of a generation, hurl insults at the ruling class, believe everything was possible.

i’ve been of many minds of late. on one hand, i have given in to my deep urge to move to detroit, for love and mentors and to be immersed in a place that has largely moved beyond dependence on systems that rely on oppression. detroit is a violent place, a falling down falling apart place – and the most foward looking, viable solution place i have ever been.

on another hand, i just came out of an inspiring ruckus retreat where we basically decided to go harder than ever – or at least recently. our arc of success can’t simply be a good training, or a training that leads to a good action, or even a training that leads to an action that leads to good media. our arc has to be towards justice, towards tangible change in our communities. we have to put aside judgment, hurt, doubt and scarcity mindset and develop a body of fearless capable activists. i am excited to be ruckus at this time.

on yet another hand i watched the little short video, “if star wars were made by environmentalists”, a startling accurate critique of how many movements function now, measuring success based on process and media, rather than on actual change – changes we make and changes we demand for our survival. derrick jensen is the voice – and i went and watched other videos of his. he asks the question, do you believe that people will voluntarily make the changes needed in society for survival? and if you do not believe that – and based on all current evidence, it would be foolish to believe it – then what will you do? how far will you go? how will you resist? these are relevant questions, and this line of thinking is why i am so excited about urban agriculture, about a city like detroit which has depopulated to the degree that the city which was once home to over 2 million people now holds only 800,000. it’s why i am so excited about guerilla gardening, and reclaiming (or claiming for the first time) land for the purpose of community resilience. i am tired of complaint without action, and i am tired of action without change. i love the look of self-determination, particularly when it’s balanced by a sense of sustainability, a sense that there is a whole planet upon which we are all dependent, and with which we have to reformulate a physical and spiritual relationship if we hope to be here for any foreseeable future. he says that cities are not a sustainable model, because at the root a city is a mass of people that rely upon importation of goods, exhausting the local natural resources and having zero relationship with the people and places from which most of our food, clothing, fuel and materials come from. i am a city girl, but i know this is true – that i have lived at a point in humanity that is a golden age of urbanity, and that will likely pass into post-industrial agrarian modes, or implode. or both. jensen offers more questions than solutions, but they are relevant questions.

on another hand i am going to be an auntie, again. the miracle of my first nephew has changed my worldview. i am not merely interested in the world left for the next generation and those that follow – it is not a theoretical commitment anymore. my only purpose in life may be to carve out a world in which he can experience safety, acceptance, joy, sustenance, abundance. every day i want to learn something new that makes his world a better place. and now he will be a big brother, with a little sister or brother close enough in age to play with. and now both of them are my charge, my responsibility, the loves of my life. what a gift…

and there are more hands. there is a self that is only thinking about facilitation, truth and reconciliation, community processes and accountability. i have been thinking a lot lately about the ways in which people occupy their marginalization. every word from their mouths is critique or victimization. they want the freedom to act anonymously, in the ether, in the internet, behind closed doors, behind backs, calling personal attacks “not personal”, and trying to create divides and boundaries and borders that they believe will make them safe. i see it all over the “movement”, or the many movements for justice. i see a similar long-range hateration from the radical right…with no intention to change, only add to the negative and downward spiral of humanity. it is like a peak of powerlessness – so far from self-awareness and the ability to impact the world – that i feel overwhelmed with compassion, and grateful for the voice i have found to offer my thoughts and visions for the world. the reality is hard enough, the horrors we have exacted on each other and on the planet is enough. “everything we do now should be done in a sacred manner, and in celebration” – thus say the hopi elders. this makes sense to me. but the things we do in a sacred manner should be sacred things, as well – grieving, loving, creating, learning. why expend the precious gift of breath and blood pumping through our veins for anything less than amazing awareness and forward motion?

i don’t have most of what i have had recently – i have relinquished at least 2/3 of my belongings for this move i am making. the things i kept are things i love – memories, photos, music, books. the things i have given away had no memories in them, nothing essential. they were things i thought i needed but have realized i can live without. i feel lighter, like my touch on the earth has less damage in it, like i have distributed an old life, shed an old skin, in order to feel the shape and simplicity of the next iteration of my life.

i am a writer, and like many writers, i write worlds into existence. when i ask others to consider what they are being called to, i can hear the future opening up to me in my own life. writing to people about the love i feel for detroit made me realize i could no longer be a long-distance admirer of that city, i needed to know it more deeply.

it is becoming harder and harder for me to see the surface of things, the presentation, the false solutions we are told to galvanize around and advance as policy and politics. i want to live deeply, as if i were a genius, as if my life matters, as if the future depends on it. not on my particular contribution, but on the way i live – as honestly and freely as possible, feeling what is right and knowing it as the only possible strategy.

and the conversation i had tonight reminded me that i have always known this is the way i need to live, though it has looked differently in my life. so, again, i commit to integrity and wonder, and letting go of obeying, letting go of the labels and boxes and politeness and falseness that thwarts transformation.

it is good to remember – if i don’t want the bliss of ignorance then let me know only that which gives me power, and brings more justice to those i love.