counter lesson on currency (8/30)

write a palinode. And what’s that? It’s a poem in which the poet retracts a statement made in an earlier poem.

    counter lesson on currency

yesterday
queen aya taught you
‘when we came here,
we left behind
systems of getting
without doing’

which is not precise
but you cannot pinpoint
those who forsake memory
and live only in afterglow

the first currency of this planet was favor,
the first value love

the founding queens
played creation games
with each other
everything you see now
results from their vigorous
winning and losing

the first planetians to find here
looked to aya’s glittery smile
after each dusty task

she only saw e—,
and did not notice us

she held seed bursting ideals,
and we held her,
myth and magic…
stories and misquotations

it was never enough to
simply exist, to revel in the
abundance of our miraculous lives

we had to also be marvelous
fantastic and fascinating
complex, kind and mysterious
stunning as the pallique sea

then she would feed you
everything

the first ones to die here
were simply dull stardust
hard workers with no brilliance
they never caught her eye
they withered, reaching for her
she was ignorant
always shifting the center
always in motion

it shamed her to devastation
when she realized what was happening
when she knew that in spite of her pretty thinking
she was money dirty

that currency of attention,
so hard to trace
is why the queen wears the
moonshade veil
so that we understand the cost of immeasurable beauty
and are fair with praise
and always look for the light

how about a beginning of self-determined care?

my friend b loewe wrote this blog an end to self-care, and i was moved to respond.

hi lovely b 🙂

thank you so much for putting this out there, i feel the energy of it. and as a community-supported self-care queen on day 8 of a juice cleanse, i have to engage.

my negative feelings on self-care kept me in a state of not caring for myself for years, delaying me in getting what i needed, keeping me in unhealthy movement spaces, feeling powerless and tired.

my community had to intervene. they generated the resources to send me off to take care of myself. if they hadn’t done that, i don’t know if i would be here at all.

once they had intervened, i still had to go through an internal process to get to a place where i determined that i needed this healing, that i wanted to be able to give to movement from a healthier place.

so…i love the idea of community care…but what is that, if not community supporting each other in our self-determined efforts to care for ourselves and our families?

there’s that relationship wisdom, “you can’t change someone else.” i feel that – i know it’s true for me, when people try to change me i root my feet down into the soil of what is.

grace boggs speaks it into movement, echoing gandhi, “we must transform ourselves to transform the world.”

for me this includes self-care. or perhaps more precisely, self-determined care. because the messages we receive are that our lives don’t matter, that we don’t deserve love, or even to exist. to choose instead to value ourselves, our health, and the health of our communities – all as one, not at odds with each other, is radical, it’s self-determination.

and i love the idea you put out that “movement work is healing work” – it absolutely should be, and sometimes it is. and when it is, it’s amazing.

but so much of the movement work we do these days is not structured in ways that promote sleep, much less healing. there are some beautiful flows of intense work, but more often than not, in my work as a facilitator, organizational development lover and coach, what i see over and over again are isolated, exhausted and overworking organizers in endless loops of tasks, conflicts and fundraising. i observe work done in a state of urgency that often leads us to not have time to cook for each other, care for each others’ kids, or even to pursue that “political clarity” which maria speaks of.

when movement is full of individuals with scarce energy and health, that scarcity flows in every direction – it leads to us competing with each other for resources. that’s what this capitalist system wants us to do, compete with each other for what we are told is enough. the shift towards grassroots fundraising is a beautiful response to this – that we generate abundance within ourselves, so our movement work can be self-determined.

that is the same thing we need to seek as individuals – abundance that allows our lives and work to be self-determined, community-determined.

i think that burn-out happens when life is not lived with intention. when we are mindful and intentional, we can begin to experience abundance, not in the material sense, but from the joy of living our lives on purpose.

its a privilege for us to even have this conversation, i recognize that. but there are some people, people with less time and resources than either of us have, who are just beginning to get a tiny little bit of encouragement to take care of themselves, and i would hate to see your words take away from that, or make people feel guilty for that.

i think it matters that we value and love ourselves and each other. and to me, that looks like affirming the radical act of love however it comes, without judgment, whether it’s through a movement retreat, or a yoga class, or knitting, or a protest, or a garden.

so yes, let’s get specific about community care – how does it look to do this so that people are able to do for themselves what they need? some people thrive working long hours with very little alone time…others thrive with two hours of meditation every day, or physical activity.

how do we create communities where everyone can self-determine and ask for what they need, offer what they have to give, where the result is abundance?

long blog short, i don’t think this is either/or. i think this is yes: more health, more care, everywhere. getting more people in more communities talking about what a healthy caring life looks like, how they are already living and caring for themselves and each other, and how we all support each other. and not just how generations from now people might live a healthy live, but how we are and can be practicing health, well-being, joy and justice in the here and now.

because from experience, the healthier i am, the more authentic love and contribution i am able to give to movement, to the next generation in my life. the more i prioritize caring for myself, caring for my community and accepting care from my community, the better and brighter spark in the movement flame i can be.

love beyond sovereignty: a discussion

(the following dialogue is from a facebook conversation launched by jenny lee, in which micha cardenas and i participated deeply for a night. our friends emi, jon, invincible, morgan and leah were also participating with likes and bravos. i asked permission to repost the conversation here because it was a joyful noise! i only edited out the parts where we went on tangents focused on “you’re awesome and i love you OMG!!!”)

jenny lee posts:
“When we engage in love we abandon at least a certain type of sovereignty. In what ways would sovereignty not be adequate in explaining a social formation that was grounded in love? If we were to think of the sovereign as the one who decides, in the social relation of love there is no one who decides. Which does not mean that there are no decisions but, rather, that there would be a non-one who decides. That seems like a challenging and interesting question: what is a non-sovereign social formation? How is decision-making then arrived at? These are the kinds of things that require modes of organization; that require, if not institutions, customs, or habits, at least certain means of organizing the decision-making process. In a politics of love, one of the interests for me is a non-sovereign politics, or a non-sovereign social formation. By thinking love as political, as somehow centrally involved in a political project, it forces us to think through that non-sovereignty, both conceptually, but also practically, organizationally.” – Michael Hardt on love as a political concept

Micha: So do we not decide whether or not to love, or to “fall in love”? Is there a decision to love?

Jenny: i think so. especially a decision of *how* we love. we’re trained not to exercise our agency in determining whether or not and how to love. it seems important to make that distinction between agency and sovereignty.

Micha: oooh, good point! I think we have a choice to some degree. It makes me think of being polyamorous and the way that you can choose to give more attention to someone and know that will lead you to have more feelings for them, or you can choose to manage those feelings and try not to get swept up if you don’t want to. But I think there is often not a choice to fall in love with someone, but there can still be agency in how you react to your feelings, and that’s the hard part to learn.

Micha: reminds me of Adrienne’s blog post gifting my attention – ‘what we give our attention to grows’

adrienne maree: yes, it also really brings up the idea of impact. in the positive use of the concept of sovereignty I have always seen an assumption that the goal is decisions are made by those who are impacted by those decisions. a sovereign nation is led by the people of that nation, ie, we long for the sovereignty of Detroit. but in truth, interdependence means we are all to some degree impacted by each others’ ‘sovereign’ actions, whether or not we want to be. so in a love politic I think one piece of it is attending to impact, within ourselves, and the impact we have on others. this is not the absence of decisions, but the decentralization of decisions and of holding the impact of those decisions. so that when I say I am in love, I mean my community is holding love through me, with me, and at some point I will hold love for others, as we all grow and decide our futures together. utopia? or just the basis for a survival that feels both thrilling and possible and not boring 🙂

Jenny: yes! decentralization feels fundamental to non-sovereignty. if we understand sovereignty as the establishment of a center, around which identity forms and decision-making processes flow (like we are a ‘sovereign nation’ because we invest power in a certain leadership entity who we then expect to act in our best interest). a more participatory model of governance would require an investment in the power of our relationships. when those relationships are authentic and rooted in love, trust, etc. there’s less of a need to abdicate decision-making to a representative.

Micha: hmm, but Jenny, love can also mask when someone is making poor or unhealthy decisions on your behalf…i love what berlant says in this interview (and everywhere else) “I think sovereignty is a bad concept for almost anything. It’s an aspirational concept and, as often happens, aspirational concepts get treated as normative concepts, and then get traded and circulated as realism. And I think that’s what happened with sovereignty. So, in ‘Slow Death’ I say we should throw sovereignty out. But people are so invested in it [so] maybe we can’t because you can’t just decide ghosts don’t exist. You have to find a way to change something from within. There’s another way of going at this that also has to do with a different relation to incoherence. Part of the reason I think that queer theory and love theory are related to each other as political idioms, is that queer theory presumes the affective incoherence of the subject with respect to the objects that anchor it or to which they’re attached… Training in one’s own incoherence, training in the ways in which one’s complexity and contradiction can never be resolved by the political, is a really important part of a political theory of non-sovereignty.” but perhaps her disavowal of sovereignty is a very privileged statement, considering indigenous and latin american struggles for centuries over sovereignty…

Jenny: but in that case is it *real love* ? (in the mary j. blige conception of real love)

Micha: omfg i already heard the song in my head before i got to your parentheses – but it seems to me like part of the value of including love in one’s political organizing is to decenter love from a heteronormative one and only forever kind of love and expand it into a more collective affect. i’m afraid mary’s version is more about one person, “i thought you were the answer to the question in mind”, but maybe it’s radically utopian instead!

Jenny: about that contradiction between the ideal of non-sovereignty and the fact of centuries of violation of indigenous peoples’ sovereignty — Invincible Detroit and i were saying today, it’s nearly impossible to relinquish your need for sovereignty, in the face of someone constantly trying to take your shit. but i guess that’s the aspiration: towards a collective risk-taking that could result in either part’s demise, or the liberation of both.

adrienne maree: I think any time we are talking about love it is a privilege…to me this is because ‘real love’ is fundamentally abundant and abundance is the true privilege (striving for abundance of space and life and growth vs abundance of material decay of course) and also talking love and love politic is incredibly necessary work, one of the ways we are accountable to each other in the realm beyond shared victimhood…another piece to throw in here is related to that normative aspect, our socialization around what is normal…what is normal to dream of, strive for and build? once we see our socialization, can we assess ‘normal’ and embrace or reject it? and how do we practice intentional new form, such as a love politic, in an environment where we are socialized towards sovereignty, isolation and ownership as modes of everything from pets to children to lovers to land? especially without rejecting, patronizing or dismissing the very real emotional investment our loved ones have in the ‘norms’?

adrienne maree: also the real love is all good, but how much can we have? I’m aiming for a series of ‘the one’s. a wise friend recently told me she aims to feel that ‘in love’-ness once a year. really reframed my thinking. decentralizing oneness!