wild seed dinner, albuquerque nm

on june 3 we had an octavia butler dinner in albuquerque, an intimate event, just three of us (myself, host andrea quijada, and ob lover elena letourneau). this format made me kind of want to do it this way more often – the intimacy we were able to achieve was quite remarkable before we even started speaking about the book.

then we moved into speaking about wild seed, the first (and achingly good) book in octavia butler’s patternist series (the first series she wrote). this book is my favorite starting place for anyone who hasn’t read her work.

we had one of those gorgeous conversations where you get to the root by exposing it. a lot of what we shared wouldn’t fit into words. however, at the end we summarized the shareable things we thought/discovered together:

it’s quite possible that gardening and living together and building community together is the most radical work. intentional community is a skillset to develop. but in a u.s. context, individual spaces, interdependent. shifting to intentional living – but slowly. everyone has their own space in it, with shared kitchen, yard, garden.

the interconnection of these communities brings to mind safety in relationships. right now with the balancing between online and offline work and organizing, there is a way we can commune globally. (example given: march on monsanto). we have lost a lot of physical relationships with people, which leaves everyone feeling isolated. but safety is in relationships more than any other structure.

wild seed speaks to the isolation of being a leader, of being special. (how that loneliness piles up, how deep the desire to be met and matched.)

the radical strategy is to love.
we are in perhaps a dark age. our legacy might be that we maintained and remembered the way to love.
vulnerability, attachment, care, attunement, these are the ways we remember. we have to remember to feel.

anyanwu is the living embodiment of ‘transform yourself to transform the world‘.

this book is an incredible exploration of the arc of long term relationship, from the initial passion –> to negotiations and struggle over power –> to transformation.

noticing that in the relationship between anyanwu and doro, that they loved each other after seeing the shadow sides of each other. there are people who are our mirrors and show us what we don’t want to see, and we want to run. we need mirrors. we need also to be able to see and love ourselves. (moved to share nina’s song ‘images’

She does not know
Her beauty,
She thinks her brown body
Has no glory.
If she could dance
Naked,
Under palm trees
And see her image in the river
She would know.
But there are no palm trees
On the street,
And dishwater gives back no images.
– poem by william waring cuney
)

loving the body, feeling the potential of breath and self-love and healing in each body is radical. (anyanwu is a study of feeling deeply – perhaps we all have her capacity to heal if we could listen inward?)

we appreciate our bodies when we use them. yoga! breath. walking and being outside doing what it is meant to do. ‘moved to tears using my body for myself.’

our culture teaches us not to love our bodies, that something is wrong. it is radical to reclaim loving our bodies.

gender and body insecurity is interesting too – men/boy bodies usually have to do something to get called names. women bodies just walk in, just people look at us and call us names. doing things for ourselves in our bodies is radical. other gender norms…women have to look good on outside, but vagina always good. men can generally look aight but their penis has to be big/just so. insecurities related to those stories. what does this mean for how anyanwu and doro traverse the world, him jumping bodies, coming to her in any body, with her healing and shapeshifting the one she has.

‘i want all women, all people. to lay on the floor and just feel your body and loving each amazing living part, the living organism of the body.’

what is most radical? to transform ourselves.

**

makes me wonder – what is your secret gift?

this life is miraculous. what if you don’t waste any day, any gift? if this day, this activity is as miraculous as anyone’s very best day and offering…what then is the call?

wild seed (geek-out notes)

i recently got to hold space for an intimate conversation on octavia butler’s novel wild seed with a group of fans/geeks at solespace in oakland. i mostly didn’t document it because i was immersed in the full body thrill of being present. however i do have the list of framing questions and the closing thoughts. i share them here purely to titillate.

framing questions:

(from Octavia Butler Strategic Reader)

– Are you currently suppressing or hiding a skill/ability because it would make you stand out from others?

– How do we learn to apply our skills/abilities in positive ways?

– For Doro and his children, death is not really seen as a consequence for their actions – how does immortality or longevity relate to morality?

– What is the relationship between immortality and privilege? (Longevity as privilege at the expense of other peoples’ lives)

– In Wildseed specifically there’s a reliance on a gender-based binary set-up. How does this impact the story? Are there moments of gender subversion?

– This series can be read as a new Adam and Eve narrative, with Africa as an Eden. What is similar and different about this from other creation myths?

– How does this series relate to Darwinism with it’s presentation of the struggles between human vs. superhuman vs. subhuman?

(from Mkali Hashiki, conversation starter)

The piece about power. Why is it that she can only “get power” by planning suicide?
And is that power?
What is Butler saying about power dynamics in relationships here?

—-

closing thoughts from the group – the feelings and brilliances were very much a group effort:

about the experience

i feel gratitude that an artist could be so playful and imaginative and lay stuff out that can get us so engaged. and then to come together and engage with it, to get really excited.

just reveling in embodied geek bliss

grateful for this space to rebound and geek out. i can geek out on the web and mental orgasm as i am talking virtually, but sitting together like this is awesome.

this conversation restores me.

about the book

i am aware of the relationships between art making, different communication styles, somatics, ritual and magic. of all it takes to create a pattern of decentralized networks of coordination.
*
i am interested in having a discussion of men on this content/book, exploring what it says about masculinity.
*
doro is the ultimate disassociation character. he jumps out of body as a traumatic response and continues to do so, as so many of us do, he can never stop, he can never ground and get back into himself. the question i have is: can doro be healed, is he healable?…i’m sitting with the idea that nobody ever tried, i have the feeling (anyanwu) couldn’t – but i don’t think she ever tried.
*
that’s the reality of so many young men of color in our communities. that is our responsibility, for young men, for everybody. i’m left thinking about survival strategies, self-preservation and agency.
*
it’s intriguing to talk about when to quit (and how). somatics has good practices around that.
*
i’m thinking about the creation myths and stories i grew up with, and the world we are in, the glittering world – what it really takes for bigger entities to quit, to give up.
*
neither anyanwu nor doro has much humility. why should they, they’re immortal, that’s their downfall, their inability to seek out help, change or healing. stuff is coming up for me about organizations and leaders not being able to change – we default to hierarchical structures. there are organizations that should die and don’t, there’s a lack of humility and vulnerability.
*
and what does it mean to quit, give up, let go, pick up…it’s deep to see her commitment as positive, her commitment to suicide…how do we do this in our movements, and personally – how do we make transitions constructive?
*
there are no accidents. I’m one of those people who left the movement, committed political suicide, im done, im tired, going to go do something where i am not tired. moved across country and changed my name. now in my wellness work (not healing, as i think of that as something done to someone else) its leading me back to organizing work. not an accident that my favorite author is sparking this conversation as i need it.
*
powerful for me as a filmmaker. i came up organizing. i remember being on the phone saying I have to step back. i was crying, cause we have been doing this so long, it takes a toll on me. it was a moment of self-reflection. i was crying out, and said i want to use my art to create change.
*
it is important to examine whether anyanwu was surrendering to something inevitable when she decided to die, or whether it was her commitment, her power. power or powerlessness – which was it? does it matter out beyond exhaustion? what is the distinction between these two? which had the most influence over doro? her surrender or commitment? which do we need to do – commit or surrender? fully let go of the world which can only exist in violence? or is it that we must commit to surrender – surrender our hold on the old, surrender to the unknown?

the next reading is the next book in the patternist series, mind of my mind. let me know if you want to be looped into hearing about octavia butler and emergent strategy events 🙂