How I tell it

“But so much is storytelling.”

I can tell a version that redeems everyone, or I can parrot a story that I’ve heard countless times since childhood.

It’s a bizarre, scary, daunting and liberating epiphany to notice that it isn’t just the events of what occurred but how I assign meaning to the occurrences that can influence, if not wholly determine, how I feel and what I suggest to listeners whether a single person or hundreds.

This is a trick about storytelling as it is a subtlety of self-perception. Recently, I told of four instances where a similar threatening dynamic occurred across 10 years and when I recounted them together, as a part of a set, I started to read new meaning into the dynamics coloring my life.

Over the last three weeks, I’ve seen how readiness to tell ones story depends on an agency to be the one to elaborate and describe. To be the subject rather than an object of a fly on the wall, a nuisance, or a passive extra in some larger event. It has been remarkable to witness the shift happening, as well as the consent or non consent to share, to tell.

Ailments > Healings

Earlier I read a phrase that the meager attempt of a solution providing resolution to a tremendous problem was akin to:

aspirin for cancer

And I jumped to the metaphor that the machinations of Democrats and the Democratic Party are antibiotics — over-prescribed and increasingly ineffective.

There are various fronts and flanks and subcommittees among the Democrats: senators and congresspeople within the federal system, legislators across the states, and those at the municipal and local levels; the Blue Dogs; the New Democrats; the Progressive Caucus; the social liberals who purport to be fiscal conservatives; the alumni of the Obama administration, the alumni of the Clinton administration, and those who worked in both; co-sponsors of the Green New Deal; the military hawks versus the peaceniks; and the Squad. Obviously, there are others but this is an incomplete list.

And there’s some sparring, jockeying, subterfuge, allying and aligning between different individuals and certain camps. I speculate that there’s not cohesion or unanimity on the benefits and reasons for growing the numbers of D elected officials as some of the DS in Congress do not care for other DS, and some of them are capable of befriending and cuddling and aligning with Republicans. The split between the Bernie Sanders supporters versus the Hillary Clinton supporters became a leadership vote (and upset) within the Nevada Democratic Party that is now causing the power and roles between the national body (the DNC) and the state parties to be renegotiated. Even though many leaders of the state parties may not have stood with the current NV leadership on the Bernie/Hillary vote, they are seemingly with the outsiders and insurgents-who-have-become-officials interns of data files, money and bank accounts and some other forms of power-sharing or power-grabbing.

That being said, the suggestions that what will salvage or strengthen the levers of power and structures of politics are more Democrats are offering a miserable remedy for a severely broken apparatus.

The continued dependence on a two-party system inhibits us from destroying some of the legal and financial structures that are barriers that essentially prohibit new actors from entering politics. When the legal barriers are too high that they are nearly impossible to alter, we are told to settle into the limited notion that we most work within the Democratic or Republican Party, which is inadequate for the ailments that we face. There are special interests who maintain the status quo and they do not wish to move towards greater democracy.

They will not accede without demands. so we must make many demands.

Sadness place

Earlier today, I wondered: where is sadness in my body?

My first thought was my heart. That was too obvious and a thought rather than a feeling. A few, split seconds later, I sensed my feet. Again, here I was returning to my feet.

A few months ago, I resolved to care for my feet in ways that I care for my hands. I’m still not doing that across the day as my feet are below my waist, not easily above my waist hundreds of times a day. Yet, I am offering more attention, soothing embrace of my two feet and ten toes. Still, this is not enough.

I won’t replace my shoes and socks with some sort of glove for walking but I do wonder how to afford ny feet more love when they are adjacent to the ground and so much of my day is spent upright, and when I round up, my eyes are six feet off of the ground. And my feet are just about six feet away from my brain with all these other body parts in between and clamoring for their own sort of attention, affection, acceptance, allowance, and appreciation.

So, the sadness. It may also be in my back. Weighing on my back. Scratching my back. Hunching my whole body forward, leaning forward towards the coming onslaughts of the rest of the day and future days. Tightened in my back. And constipated like knots in my back.

I was asking for the location as that may be a passageway into my tears, if and when I can locate the sadness. The mild sadness of four decades isn’t the pangs of sadness that beget sobbing. Mild sadness has created a callus of enduring, and of keeping on in the presence of so much shit that abounds and surrounds. I’ve banished certain categories of shit and suffering — quitting jobs, eliminating manipulators, ghosting on dickheads, refraining from professional sporting industry hoopla and hype from devouring weekends and evenings. But there’s thousands more types of shit and suffering beyond these few.

And I’ve pushed the squalor into some far corner or high shelf in a closet within this body where I don’t stick my hands or cast my eyes. Switching from neglect to attentive is not an easy pivot. Or maybe it is, but I’m in need of ways to come into that sadness without dissociation or critical analysis. That feels like the balance needed for bike riding, not leaning too far towards the side of critical analysis not leaning too far forward or backwards that I flip over handlebars or fall off of the bike seat. I learned to bike at a late age, later than most, and maybe, I’ll do something similar when it comes to learning to feel the big sad. Maybe that place where my butt is on the seat and my feet are on the pedals is not that far away. But, I ought to figure out where to place my feet and my hands and where to place my back without getting too heady as I go there.

Abyss

Some humans want to bring abysmal into the abyss.

Driving along highways, I see different colors and textures on the surface of the water. Some days, the stature of the ocean looks more pronounced or elevated from my line of sight as I move along familiar paths, which may simply be an optical illusion or may be something far more abstract seeing that it is beyond my ability to comprehend it.

I read of chemosynthesis giving life rather than the familiar photosynthesis and I read of the 50 paths to bioluminescence and I read of the luciferins (compounds) and luciferases (enzymes) tiny drops of confirmation that there so much underneath the abyss.

The creatures of the deep have been putting on the world’s greatest light show for tens of millions of years. Widder thinks that if people could witness this spectacle—or even just be made aware of it—they’d pay a lot more attention to life at the bottom of the seas and the many hazards that threaten it.

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/06/21/the-deep-sea-is-filled-with-treasure-but-it-comes-at-a-price

We humans can choose this: “Meanwhile, she writes, “we are managing to destroy the ocean before we even know what’s in it.””

Or, we can choose this: “Some of the seas’ most extraordinary animals live around hydrothermal vents—the oceanic equivalents of hot springs. Through cracks in the seafloor, water comes in contact with the earth’s magma; the process leaves it superheated and loaded with dissolved minerals. (At some vents, the water reaches a temperature of more than seven hundred degrees.) As the water rises and cools, the minerals precipitate out to form crenellated, castlelike structures.”

Erdrich on Great Spirit

Perhaps all of creation from the coddling moth to the elephant was just a greatly detailed thought that God was engrossed in elaborating upon, when suddenly God fell asleep. We are an idea, then. Maybe God has decided that we are an idea not worth thinking anymore.

Erdrich, Louise. Future Home of the Living God. Page 20. 2017

Dear feet,

Oh, how I relate to you with complexity, challenges and discomfort.

A dear friend reminded me today of “rooting in my feet” and it is something for each day. I asked him if he would “keep reminding me about rooting in my feet.

You are such a fraught place within my body as I continue to adjust how and where I place you and position myself over you. I stumble with how I use and locate you when I stand or when I sit. You are a place where I habitually do not take up space where I cower in the first four inches up from the ground in an attempt to take up less space, which feels both uncomfortable and agonizing. I will continue to recognize that you are the roots that nourish the trunk and branches and limbs and appendages that the rest of me rises from.

In another conversation today, another friend said how the arms of an embryo extend from the heart which immediately made me ask myself where do the legs and feet extend from? My guess is from the sacrum and/or hips and/or spine which makes me curious about how I might feel differently about you if I was constantly acknowledging how you are a continuation of my spine and my back and that the gap the torso to you is small even though the legs are vast, as are the three sets of joints in between you and the hips.

For much of my life, I’ve appreciated the lengths and places you’ve taken the rest of me. Yet, I have been negligent towards your care and the pristine nature of who and what you are. I read last year how researchers cutting up cadavers noticed how 40% (or so, if my memory is in any proximity to what was written) of the tension and strength within the arch of the foot does not come from the familiar arch on the bottom side of you but that 40% of the muscle capacity is in an arch in the top of the foot.

As I searched to find a reference for that dissection history, I came across how much written about you is in terms of pain and how many bones and muscles inside of you. Names that are unknown and bewildering and some things to learn more about …

here: the talus and calcaneus in the hindfoot + the 14 toe bones and 5 metatarsals in each forefoot + the 5 tarsals of the midfoot

… and here: like the muscles of fibularis longus and fibularis tertius and fibularis breviary

There is so much about you that I have yet to heed. And for this, I thank you for your patience and guidance and for your inability to run away and leave the rest of me behind.

What is the ocean?

My answer in the form of a question: what is the ocean?

The ocean was the setting for the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

The ocean was the bridge to colonize the Americas.

The ocean is the medium for global capitalism.

These were the epiphanies in a conversation with a handful of other people of color earlier this week as I had not thought of the ocean’s role and distinction in these forces with global spread.

Today as I drove along the highway, I did see a whale repeatedly breaching and splashing about off of the coastline. Looking out at the blue expanse, I wondered what humans would need to recognize the enormity of the ocean and settle into the dominating presence that the ocean has over the continents. The ocean hegemony is not how it is perceived by humankind as we are self-focused though there are so many facets beyond comprehension, never mind the depths that are beyond cognition.

The ocean hegemony as the water gave life to all life, the lands arose from the ice and water and the life depends on the cycle f precipitation that depends on the evaporation of all that water out there.

The ocean hegemony is so all-powerful that humans do not register the supreme spot that the ocean holds as infinitum. We are partial to life on land as it is what we know, what we know better, and essentially all that we know even with the limited knowing of ocean matters.

To sit with and revisit

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.

Solnit stories, in metaphors. 

Starting a new book by Rebecca Solnit, Whose Story is This? Old Conflicts, New Chapters (Haymarket Books, 2019) it opens with some beautiful writing summarizing current events and social movements and political moments of the past decade. In pages 1-9, I am struck by the following metaphors: 

  1. Building a structure;
  2. Collective projects;
  3. most important are the most subtle.
  4. A million tiny steps;
  5. Delegitimization of the past and 
  6. Hope for a better future.
  7. New clarity about how injustice works … Makes it recgonizable when it recurs, and that recognizability strips away the
  8. Disguises of and
  9. Excuses for the old ways.
  10. Culture matters.
  11. It’s the substructure of beliefs that 
  12. Shape politics, that change begins on the
  13. Margins and in the
  14. Shadows and
  15. Grows toward the center.
  16. It’s the pervasiveness that matters most.
  17. We live inside ideas:
  18. Shelters,
  19. Observatories, 
  20. Windowless prisons.

There are so many fabulous sentences in “Cathedrals and Alarm Clocks”:

The title essay of this anthology is about the struggle of new stories to be born, against the forces that prefer to shut them out or shout us down, against people who work hard at not hearing and not seeing. (7)

This is a time in which the power of words to introduce and justify and explain ideas matters, and that power is tangible in the changes at work. Forgetting is a problem; words matter, partly as a means to help us remember. When the cathedrals you build are invisible, made of perspectives and ideas, you forget you are inside them and that the ideas they consist of were, in fact, made, constructed by people who analyzed and argued and shifted our assumptions.  (4)

Remembering that people made these ideas, as surely as people made the buildings we live in and hte roads we travel on, helps us remember that, first change is possible, and second, it’s our good luck to live in the wake of this change rather than asserting our superiority to those who came before the new structures, and maybe even acknowledge that we have not arrived at a state of perfect enlightens, because there is more change to come, more that we do not year recognize that will be revealed. I have learned so much. I have so much to learn. (5)

Despite the backlashes — or because they are backlashes — I remain hopeful about this project of building new cathedrals for new constituencies (9). 

You can see change itself happening, if you watch carefully and keep track of what was versus what is. (3) 

Amnesia means that people forget hte stunning scope of change in recent decades. That change is itself hopeful, as evidence that people considered marginal or powerless — scholars, activists, people speaking for and from within oppressed groups — have changed the world. (6).

The opposite is falling into the nightmare that is also such a powerful force in this time, the nightmare of white supremacy and patriarchy, and the justification of violence to defend them….. I call it a nightmare because it is delucional in its fears and its fantasies a of grandeur and its intention of making decades of changes evaporate, of showing new ideas back into the oblivion from which they emerged and returning to a past that never existed. (8-9)

We live inside ideas. Some are shelters, some are observatories, some are windowless prisons. We are leaving behind some and entering others. (3)

We are building something immense together that, though invisible and immaterial, is a structure, one we reside within — or, rather, many overlapping structures. (1)

The consequences of these transformations are perhaps most important where they are most subtle. (1)