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.”

June is Reparations Month

Turns out that M4BL has decreed that June is Reparations month. Yesterday, I was cringing at the prospects for something substantive, something that was more than performative bullshit. And I wrote about that. Today, I feel like reparations month is taking root in my soul.

It must be Reparations Month as I’ve read two stories in two days on the Politico website, that bastion of two-sided storytelling trying to paint both political parties as decent and honorable endeavors.

Tonight, I learned that, according to the United Nations, all reparations have five components: 1) Cessation, assurances and guarantees of non-repetition. 2) Restitution and Repatriation. 3) Compensation. 4) Satisfaction. 5) Rehabilitation.

Learn more from the M4BL Reparations Toolkit.

What we talkin about when we talk about

messages lie in words …. But it’s metamessages that have clout, because they stir emotions, and emotions are the currency of relationships.

So said Deborah Tannen on page 10 of I only say this because I love you (2001).

Tannen wrote “those closest to us have front-row seats to view our faults” yet they also have the proximity to our attributes, gifts but we perpetuate a culture that does not appreciate as much as it deprecates.

A decade ago, I remember how bringing an assets based approach was a welcome salve in the nonprofit/civic sector rather than the continued fixation with being motivated by what was missing or lacking in a place and wanting to be the problem solvers by confronting those things that were missing. But a few workshops in a year full of meetings results in a low concentration. And that short lived attempt to embrace what a place had was challenging to sustain when being critical is easy and familiar and a way that we have been told to treat one another in school, at work, in public spaces, and at home.

Now, I have made it a fixture of naming appreciations for the people i am with on a daily basis, at the end of most of the webinars that I design. And still it is difficult for people to begin with what they like.

Tannen elaborated no messages and metamessages by saying:

  • message: the meaning of the words and sentences spoken, what anyone with a dictionary and a grammar book could figure out.
  • metamessage: “the meaning that is not said, what we glean from every aspect of context: the way something is said, who is saying it, or that fact that it is said at all.

Or using another metaphor that “message is the word meaning while metamessage is the heart meaning.” Tanner elaborated by saying how metamessages are implicit and difficult to pinpoint as they are about relationships. Her early suggestion is to distinguish metamessage from message and one way of doing so is metacommunicating or talking about communication, which I suppose is using words to describe the implicit heart emotions.

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.

Baboon Patriarchy

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.

Animals by Stephen

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.).

Separating seeing and speaking

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.”

And

“Maybe you’re looking for things you haven’t yet found…. And suddenly life turns into utter boredom.”

When facing racism, undercut and expose

I wrote an email on Wednesday with a subject of: “About Black hair & portrayals of Blackness” to the mother of another child in the 3 and 4 year old class. What propelled, if not compelled, me to do so was having read a helpful article on microagressions by Ruth Terry in the October 2019 YES magazine a few weeks prior. In it, Terry describes how Derald Wong Sue responds to microaggressions with:

 By “naming” a microaggression, a concept Sue borrows from Paulo Freire’s seminal work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, we are able to undercut its power and expose metacommunication behind it.

I’ve had mixed feelings about microaggressions for years, yet the article provided me with some new perspectives of how to name what happens with ignorant interactions and how to deal with them, leading me to conclude that this was an opportunity to practice confronting the petty bullshit that white people spew and do in the faces and over the days and lives of people of color.

Simultaneously, I have been doing work this year where a big piece in the group dynamics work is to “name the thing.” Having to practice what I am preaching, I sent the “portrayals of Blackness” email in order for me to name to one white mother how whites — in her family and in the world — need to figure out how to talk about and tell stories about whiteness, family histories, and experiences with race. And when I say race that is shorthand for racism and racial differences and race-based consequences be they in school, in workplaces, or in society.

I had to name the thing for myself because to not do so would be to placate and accommodate ignorant, hurtful conduct. I was deliberate about writing how this other parent’s behavior was racist as well as name some of the larger implications of racism and the heft of what it is to be Black in the United States; though, I could have said Black in the world, but that would have been a bit too meta and likely abstract for a white person that I had never had a conversation about race before Wednesday’s email.

I made a clear request for corrective action and also asked that they let me know of their choice. I made that request not assuming that they would definitely respond or even acknowledge my missive. On Thursday, I did get a response from the husband saying two things: that the corrective action had been done and that I should not (maybe it said never) contact them again.

I was not looking to make friends with the other parent. If anything, I was undercutting power by exposing what was already in the internet. And I was practicing for my own liberation. And for the liberation of my descendants, both blood and chosen.

9 months later, and 10 years on

May 2015. Today is Mike Brown’s 19th birthday. This I learned from the political education and relationships that I have benefitted from through the It Starts Today campaign that ends today on Mike Brown’s birthday. April 2005. Ten years ago, I was invited by John, Courtney, and Jamie to apply to join the Advisory Board at Resource Generation. I did so. I entered my first board meeting at the Walker Center in suburban Boston in a cohort of rookie board members along with Andrew, Ajita, Penny, and Meg. We were some kind of board Fab 5 heading into headwinds of organizational turbulence, interpersonal challenges, and divine breakthroughs that I could hardly fathom when I first walked through that doorway as board member. It was revolutionary to attend meetings where the culture was to introduce yourself by saying four things: Your name. The place you live. Your class identity. Your “PGP” (preferred gender pronoun). I’ve been more schooled in and on gender and sexuality from the colleagues, friends, comrades, and confidantes of RG than any Women & Gender Studies classes could have instilled. At the first RG conference that I attended (circa 2006), multiple RGers did not only talk about their inherited wealth but told stories of how they could trace their white families’ wealth all the way back to slavery. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up. It rocked my world. And, I was hooked. RG gave me the tools, the political education, the camaraderie to be able to say that “my mom grew up in a working-class, white family” for the first time. I had never understood this, nor seen this facet of my family tree before being immersed in spaces that were explicit and unapologetic about class, classism, capitalism, and class dynamics. Not by being outwardly focused and waxing philosophical about class in society, but by being inwardly focused on families and the belief systems and biases that color my choices. I have been off of the board for just about four years and forever give thanks and have multiple, daily appreciations for the gifts that having been a board member at RG has bestowed upon me. Wisdom, love, patience, courage, trust in others (in their anxieties and their daring feats and so much more), impatience, humility, a yearning to tell stories and write blog posts among them. And ask others questions so they will write their blog posts and tell different versions of their stories. Today, I honor the life, the premature death, and the legacy of Mike Brown and all the people of Ferguson, Missouri. As one more name, place, and episode in the long legacy of lynching and the addiction to violence that discolor the US Constitution. I had not known the name of Ferguson before last summer. The people and popular outrage of Ferguson compelled me to figure out how I could act where I was and with those people that I already knew. To inquire who were the small group of people that I could band together with in such a nauseating, perplexing, horrifying time. If you’ve got some change in your pocket, some discretionary dollars in your bank account then go and invest in Black liberation, in Black leadership, and in Black dignity. By investing in Blacks in America, we are investing in all humankind. Thanks, yall. And, praise Jesus that I’ve learned to see that those who believe in freedom are of all races, of all classes, of all nationalities. And, I will continue to seek out those who believe in freedom and civil disobedience.

regurgitating poison

yes, the vitriol, the hurt, the despondency that people are experiencing and spewing is intense. sometimes it feels like people are regurgitating the poison that’s been fed or forced into them.

i have been cautious, quiet and calm about not being subjected to too much. the systems of media and cable tv are as complicit in this moment as a courtroom in florida. and then getting small glimpses of the behavior, and wrong-speech has been humiliating. so, i have been around few dosages of it.

and, i was writing about my mixed race self on monday morning, which i shared with a friend. how my mom’s whiteness — as the only (wholly) white person in a six person family — connected me to cousins who have given me life, experiences, knowledge and stories that have been instrumental in cultivating compassion for someone who is racist. that has been a doorway for me to be compassionate, and just be with someone who is misogynist, sexist, abusive. and compassion has given me a better sense of my own self to note when i am splayed out emotionally, psychologically or physically.

so, it is an intense moment. our humanity is ill, and this is one more reminder and instance of it. yet, there are still ways to find life, goodness, love, brilliance and beauty in everyday interactions.