Writing prompt for soon: What is significant about the violence that didn’t happen but we’d been anticipating between 1/6 and 1/20? How were we feeling and managing expectations of what could or might happen?
“When we speak of these not as things or products or commodities, but as gifts, the whole relationship changes.” Says Robin Wall Kimmerer in The Serviceberry.
In the presence of such gifts, gratitude is the intuitive first response. The gratitude flows toward our plant elders and radiates to the rain, to the sunshine, to the improbability of bushes spangled with morsels of sweetness in a world that can be bitter.
Gratitude is so much more than a polite thank you. It is the thread that connects us in a deep relationship, simultaneously physical and spiritual, as our bodies are fed and spirits nourished by the sense of belonging, which is the most vital of foods. Gratitude creates a sense of abundance, the knowing that you have what you need.
Gratitude and abundance get mentioned often though they can mean many different things to different people, which isn’t inherently a problem. It is problematic when a term is so frequently used but not conveying the enormity of what it is meant to express.
We have been told over the last decade or two that having abundance and a change in outlook can change everything. More than having it we are supposed to be abundant. But the trick is to not trick ourselves into saying things that we don’t actually abide by.
And gratitude is an edict we cite though we rarely experience it. Awash in the trends of heightened competitive sensitivity and more economic and social precarity, it is challenging to feel levity.
In recent days, I have been unraveling more of my beliefs about anger. Two days ago: got-headed was a euphemism for violent. Yesterday: my father could not express rage in his home or in public spaces because it was not safe. Today: it is preferable to process anger and resolve anger alone away from others.
As I child, I did not allow myself to feel or express anger or at least that is not what I perceived and understood my feelings as. I opted for sadness rather than anger. I did not trust anger to not be violent or vengeful or lash out at others. Any of those reactions seemed worse than a feeling alone so I didn’t want to experience a feeling that was oriented towards others. Sadness oriented me inside and quieted me so i did not divulge with others.
Isolating anger is curious for me as I wonder if I don’t trust anger as a constructive way of being with others.
Now I experience anger and oftentimes find myself saying words that are lashing out, seeking someone to land on. It still feels untrustworthy and inaccurate. And I don’t know how genuinely what I say demonstrates what I’m feeling. The words that come out in my angry outbursts seem like distractions rather than insightful.
Sadness takes me away from my words and keeps me inside some feelings and many thoughts. I may run through sentences in my heart and head but I’m not trying to persuade or explain to others what feels messy or conflicted or shitty when I’m sad.
It isn’t exact or precise or best. It’s simply where I’m at with my aging relationships with both anger and sadness.
Pablo Larios interviews Yvette Mutumba about decolonization and she rattled off a list of twelve with the most fabulous prelude that I’ve ever read:
What follows only begins to touch on a matter of decades of thinking, working, experiencing, talking and growing.
As for the 12 definitions of decolonization:
> that I will not do the job of those sitting inside institutions and organizations that are predominantly white
> conversations which create serious exchange, but also discomfort, maybe even pain, on the other side of the table.
> having to sit with that discomfort.
> understanding that decolonization is not a matter of ‘us’ and ‘them’, but concerns all of us.
> acknowledging that this is not a current moment or trend.
> not necessarily being political, but no choice to not be political.
> admitting that having grown up in a racist structure is no excuse.
> transparency from the institutional side.
> stepping back and making space.
> creating safe spaces.
> changing structures as much as building new structures
In 1975, Ursula K. Le Guin named the pitiful norms and dominance of othering, blind cultural superiority of men writing science fiction books in an essay called American SF and The Other (pages 93-96 in The Language of the Night).
It’s amazing how pervasive and entrenched this white male complex is:
In general, American SF has asssunmee a permanent hierarchy of superiors and inferiors, with rich, ambitious, aggressive males at the top, then a great gap, and then at the bottom the poor, the uneducated, the faceless masses, and all the women.
Such notions of self and character development enable rape, belittling, disgust, and false senses of supremacy.
If you deny any affinity with another person or kind of person, if you declare it to be wholly different from yourself—as men have done to women, and class has done to class, and nation has done to nation—you may hate or deity it; but in either case you have denied it’s spiritual equality and its human reality. You have made it into a thing, to which the only possible relationship is a power relationship. And this you have fatally impoverished your own reality. You have, in fact, alienated yourself.
These last two sentences are intriguing because they distill what happens when men orient by wanting or having power over. It is a position to prohibits us from getting reciprocity or being able to benefit from learning, and prohibits us from being able to benefit from the experience, wisdom or wealth of others since the experiences and knowledge and resources of others are not seen or seen as only serving some pre-conceived idea of how others will be KF service.
Wisdom’s door we pay attention to placing oneself in the position of others. (xix)
When leaping, incorporate rather than exceed (be better than and separate from). (4)
Kindness evolves to (becomes) mercy. (4)
Spiritual practices are the flying spirit propelling itself or stimuli. (5)
These are a few of the insights in the first fifteen or so pages of Stephen Levine’s Animal Sutras: Animal Spirit Stories (2019, Monkfish Book Publishing Co.).
Paulo Coelho writes on page 93 of The Spy that:
“For millions of years, [humans] spoke only to what [they] could see. Suddenly, in one decade, ‘seeing’ and ‘speaking’ have been separated. We think we’re used to it, yet we don’t realize the immense impact it’s had on our reflexes. Our bodies are simply not used to it.
“Frankly, the result is that, when we talk on the phone, we enter a state that is similar to certain magical trances; we can discover other things about ourselves.”
This in a story set in Paris in the 1914 — after the Exposition Universelle (nee World’s Fair) of 1889 and before World War One.
A few, notable passages from previous pages include:
“A nice cup of coffee will salvage the rest of your day.”
“Maybe you’re looking for things you haven’t yet found…. And suddenly life turns into utter boredom.”
A dear friend was in the emergency room twice and made a call to 911 yesterday. Enabled by corporate health insurance as we wade and drown through a medical peonage system that tars and feathers and sullies us all when we seek to live. Or in the proximity of the ER, seek and hope and pray to stay alive. Or at least, those who love us and we are in touch with to know of an episodic venture to and fro a hospital and brinks of death.
I learned of these medical immersions a day after we exchanged words about the joys and bizarre inane of fatherhood with two children. Becoming a parent is more than double the fun. More than double the work. Double the pee, doubled the poops to supervise and scrutinize when not cleaning derrières and scraping diapers.
Fitting that poop thoughts leads me to how we live so precariously, always a few steps or select circumstances, largely unseen, from death. We are fragile like an eggshell and salad greens and fragile like the bud that becomes the flower that morphs into the unripened fruit that becomes the fruit that will perish by spoiling in short order. Fruit may be furthest from death when it is hard and unripened, which makes me wonder if we are furthest from death when our bones are more pliable and bodies are limber in some span of the early years of childhood. We are such fragile beings walking and waking and eating and defecating upon the Earth’s crust.
I don’t take for granted that I will see friends and family members when I travel away from them or they travel away from here. Rather, I cannot hold the probabilities of all who will live and who will die in the window of some unknown amount of time — be it months or years — before I see them again.
From more than 3,000 miles and three hours separated by the international time zones, I offered some ceremony later today once I am home. I don’t know what combination this ceremony will be. One certainty will be to name some blessings and gratitudes before dinner. One option will be to pull out one of our favorite books at home, Byrd Baylor’s I’m in Charge of Celebrations (ISBN: 0689806205), illustrated by Peter Parnall and published in 1995 by Aladdin Books. For all the baking and recipe swapping that I’ve done with this friend, I ought to bake, if not tonight, then something sweet and delicious in the next four days. And to find some laughter and be in charge of such laughter so I know that I’m doing so ceremoniously.
It is not just the proximity of his death, but the tender, vulnerability of all of these living things that constitute this plane and this world and this word as I know it through my current belief systems that i am reminded to celebrate and offer love and truth to today.
But suddenly the racial interest … felt like a kind of corruption to me.
Never has the perversity of racialized thinking been so clear as when it is being applied to a newborn baby.
Says Danzy Senna in page 165 of her memoirs, Where Did You Sleep Last Night? (Published in 2009 by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.)
Something for me to ponder. To sit with. And to revisit.
The corruption of being aware of race and being fixated with race in ways that were preordained many generations ago. There is some naïveté to not knowing or pretending to not know one’s history of the histories of a place, of people, and of things. But, that compulsion to pursue and understand becomes a cycle of attempting to know and analyze the world through some lens crafted by ancestors, both ours and our oppressors, that illuminates and also distorts like mirrors in a funhouse. What may be shameful one decade can be empowering in a different mirror. What looked too broad at one moment may become just right in other circumstances.
By looking back to What The Negro Wants, published 75 years ago by Rayford Logan, Paul Prescod writes in Jacobin about A. Philip Randolph and the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP) that created the March on Washington Movement (MOWM). As persons writes:
[The MOWM] caught on because the issue was compelling, the demands were clear, and the moment was politically strategic.
Today, the fight for $15 is clear and compelling and I’d argue strategic by doubling the wages of many people earning minimum wage. Yet, plenty of politicians, especially Black politicians and other politicians or color, do not attend picket lines, speak up and out about $15/hour.
Further, Medicare for All is clear, compelling, and strategic. And the Green New Deal becomes more clear and compelling with each wildfire, hurricane, human cesspool of plastic or radioactive compound, poisoning of waterways and unprecedented hurricane-tornado-or-blizzard storm.
Prescod proceeds to illustrate how Black Power, coming out of the Civil Rights Movement, moves away from a working class solidarity with other races to a racial solidarity with middle class and owning class Blacks.