Dozens of questions

I was looking for an interview of/with Dorion Sagan revolving around Notes from the Holocene, which I’d borrowed from the library a few weeks ago. I have yet to read a page, though sometimes these internet-parallel searches offer just enough carrot to lead me to open a book tomorrow. So, for Dorion, there is tomorrow.

I cannot recall how I came to learn about Dorion Sagan though it was following the reading about his mother, Lynn Margulis.

Not finding any interview, I did encounter a summary and review of the Powell’s bookstore website that included these 12 questions lifted from the book:

  • Why does life exist?
  • Why do we drink water?
  • Can we save the Earth from global warming?
  • Are human beings central and special?
  • Is it possible that we’ve arisen by pure chance?
  • Is the Earth an organism?
  • Are we part of it’s exo-brain?
  • if it is alive, can it reproduce?
  • Can the universe?
  • What does the future hold in store for us?
  • Does God exist?
  • What is the nature of ultimate reality?

Earlier tonight, I spent 10 minutes flipping through pages of the online encyclopedia better known as Wikipedia where I read about: the Holocene, the Pleistocene, the Meghalayan stage and the caves of Meghalaya, the Younger Dryas, regolith, and the Mid Pleistocene Transition or Mid Pleistocene Revolution.

All of this after the weekend’s atmospheric events surrounding the Hunga Tonga Volcano that was somehow heard in Alaska (5,000 miles across the Pacific) and initiated some 70,000 lightning bolts in some short span of time (maybe 60 minutes) where there were 15 lightnings per second and seemingly 1/50th the severity of the 1991 explosion of Mount Pinatubo.

I read decades ago that something along the lines of, “the universe is so big, human brains are so small” was attributed to Osho.

On forgiveness

Ridiculous. Infuriating. Asinine. Callous. Those are some of the feelings as I read an op-ed by Michael Eric Dyson spinning Desmond Tutu’s death and legacy as an alternative to the current calls for racial justice and the reckoning of the genocide across US history and the colonization of North America by European immigrants [https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/28/opinion/desmond-tutu-america-justice.html].

I want to jump to and, who is the audience for this editorial? Because why M.E. Dyson writes is preposterous.

I find the processing of whiteness — white guilt about white supremacy and whitewashing to pretend that the record is not as sordid as it is — that passes as civics and domestic politics within this nation state to be depleting and by that I mean exhausting and energy-sapping and life-taking to meet callousness with compassion, to forgive when they willfully forget and perpetuate and perpetrate new lies.

I am not a close student of Desmond Tutu’s public speeches and statements, leadership and political moves and public stances. I’ve done some reading about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission following the end of apartheid but we are far from being in a place where white America will tell their truths.

I want to ridicule Dyson by pointing out the absurdity of being a tenured professor at Vanderbilt University writing about the merits of making it work out. I find it difficult to read because this is more naive than Democratic legislators trying to negotiate with Republican peers who do not accept women and people of color as equals.

I once believed a myth that Black people in the United States could save the rest of the citizenry. But I don’t but much faith in such savior roles or racial dogma at this juncture in my life. I want to judge my younger self for harboring such foolish naïveté, as I did about all the shovel-ready-projects that were supposed to lubricate the stimulus package in 2009. But all that grandiose policy amounted to little of what was promised. It was futile for the president and members of Congress to promise about an 21st century energy grid or rapid transit trains spanning from Florida to the Northeast to California when they could not guarantee governing majorities for years on end. Instead, they made multi-year promises when they rose to committee chairs then were sidelined into minority party status by November 2010.

There’s something similarly amiss when Black Lives Matter is being conflated with cancel culture and then blamed for the inhospitable and dysfunctional and violent state of affairs between races in the United States.

Dyson doesn’t say “turn the other cheek” but he suggests that the well of indigenous and Black redemption of reckless white Americans is a renewable resource. To highlight the forgiveness of family members of the Charleston 9 is unfortunate, if not perverse. To have to hold and accommodate a man who pretended to be coming for prayer group is a tremendous and horrendous burden. Maybe redemption and forgiveness can be infinite but at this stage in my life, they do not feel sufficient for the illness and ailments that plague this society.

Maybe the timeless aspect of the oppressed’s forgiveness is that we are all humans and ultimately, there will/must be some balancing amongst the humans but it is hard to feel that when most of what I see is ignorance and defiance among people who have been accustomed to others suffering being coupled with their indulgence. Even as they learn of their impact, they don’t want to rein their excesses in. They want to continue to be violent and genocidal in their supremacist belief systems.

What’s the point of taking the moral ground when the ground is being seized and taken or plundered? Rather than prescribe maybe he could acknowledge the anguish and disgust that people of color feel. The pain that more whites acknowledge and empathize with and can acknowledge rather than argue or avoid. But there’s no reconciliation without going through the agony and saddling the burden of that leadership on people of color and other oppressed majorities is not how we rectify the brokenness of the powerful.

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.

12 definitions of decolonization from Yvette Mutumba

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.

> re-centering

> stepping back and making space.

> creating safe spaces.

> changing structures as much as building new structures

Emanating from the, contained or unrelenting, masculine

From the Introduction of King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine, published in 1990 by Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette:

Patriarchy is an attack on masculinity inits fullness as well as femininity in its fullness. Those caught up in the structures and dynamics of patriarchy seek to dominate not only women but men as well. Patriarchy is based on fear — he boy’s fear, the immature masculine’s fear — of women, to be sure, but also fear of men. Boys fear women. They also fear real men.

The patriarchal male does not welcome the full masculine development of his sons or his male subordinates any more than he welcomes the full development of his daughters, or his female employees.

How often we are envied, hated, and attacked in direct and passive-aggressive ways even as we seek to unfold who we really are in all our beauty, maturity, creativity, and generativity! The more beautiful, competent, and creative we become, the more we seem to invite the hostility of our superiors, or even of our peers. What we are really being attacked by is the immaturity in human beings who are terrified of our advances on the road to ward masculine or feminine fullness of being.

Patriarchy expresses what we call Boy psychology. It is not an expression of mature masculine potentials in their essence, in the fullness of their being. King, Warrior, Magician, Lover. Introduction, xvii.

And from Fire in the Belly, by Sam Keen:

The historical challenge for modern men is clear — to discover a peaceful form of virility and to create an ecological commonwealth, to become fierce gentlemen.

How we can accomplish these monumental changes is unclear. As modern men we have little experience to guide us in the task of becoming earth-stewards and husbandmen. We do not yet know how to take the fierce warrior energies, the drive to conquest and control, the men have honed for centuries, and turn them toward the creation of a more hopeful and careful future. We do not yet know how to restrain our technological compulsion, limit economic growth, or keep population within an ecological balance. We do not yet know how to act purposively and rationally on the natural world in a kindly way. We have not yet developed technological wisdom, technological discipline, technological stewardship. Ecological destruction is not the result of science and technology, but of social decisions that allow scientific and technological institutions to grow in undisciplined ways. We do not yet know how to distinguish progress from growth, development from frantic activity. We have not yet found the courage to calculate the true profit and loss to all species that results form trade, business, and industry. We have not yet created a form of government in which the nonhuman constituency of the land are given an equal voice in decision that determine the fate of all members of the commonwealth of living beings.

living history through primary sources

There have been some incredible pieces of historical documents written and distributed in the last month. Three that jump to the forefront of my mind are:

 

 

when deemed less than human

I am not surprised. This is symbolic of a court system and a set of values that do not consider a 17 year old boy being equal to a human. He is deemed to be less than human.
Part of my shaping of not surprised might be my patina of masculinity, to shield my fragile and sensitive being from the dehumanizing brutality of how humans treat one another.
Grieve. Feel your rage, disgust and disillusionment. And rise tomorrow to live for another day. Dedicate yourself to work towards a life of significance, to make a living, giving life, stoking hope and inspiration, appreciating the beauty and love in the Black people, Brown people, Red people and even the white people too, who surround us.

Turn off the television. MSNBC, CNN, the local news and Fox are all channels who’s coverage is to disgust, despair and disempower you. Each hour that you are mired on a channel — from ABC to HBO to Spike — is another instant that you won’t have back or get back. Instead, dedicate your life to activities that advance social justice and humanity, dignity and democracy. This means more time with real people, less time in television. And time with yourself. If you are so despondent or rudderless about what this means at this moment in history, remember that adage of Frederick Douglass that “power never concedes anything without a demand. It never has, and never will.”
50 years after the March on Washington and the delusion, smoke and mirrors that we were all equal (and propelled some to purport to being in a post-racial era), let this remind us — show us, instill in us — that many institutions and people do not see us as human. I do not know if they care to quantify us as more than 3/5ths of a human or less than three-fifths, but in our impaired nation, we are deemed less than human.

Let us not isolate ourselves from the other people of color who are other test subjects in a maniacal experiment of racial domination. For the last 12 years, Muslims, South Asians and Sikhs and others have been caught under the heel of Uncle Sam’s strange and trembling empire while Latinos/as, immigrants and people of color have become the next wave of men, women and children to fill the jails, prisons, detention centers, private prisons, parole offices, cells of solitary confinement, tent camps and extraordinary rendition as the Global War on Terror has come home to roost.
And, let us remember that most of the white people in this country, and the vast majority of people in the world, long for justice and democracy and to live in a country that adheres to tenets of justice, liberty, equality and dignity.

Saturday a.m.: appreciations for walking other paths

I appreciate the paths less taken by each of my parents. My mother, was the first in her family to get a BA. She had sought out adventure, the kind that travel fosters, since high school when she attempted to be an exchange student. Her travel bug metamorphised probably much earlier than that. While attending the state university in Boulder, one of the gigs she chose was to become a resident advisor. 

Through that RA, she made an acquaintance with my dad. One of the few stories that i can recall from what I have been told was how they were supposed to do a new student orientation. Well, when it came time to begin speaking with the students, he was silent and left much (if not all) of the talking to her. A pattern that has been evident for much of the four-plus decades that they have been together. 

The collegiality of RAs led to them getting to know one another, and eventually going on a date. I cannot fathom what it was like for mom, to date a black guy in the mid 1960s. They married in June of 1967, 12 months prior to RFK’s assassination in Los Angeles. 10 months prior to MLK’s assassination in Memphis. 

There are so many instances that I can glimpse how she is walking another, a different path. From having her own business in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Bringing silver jewelery from Taxco, Mexico and selling it around Denver. I have never asked how much she would make, but it was a creative outlet, exploration, and set of skills that mom built in the midst of raising four kids — who in 1980 ranged from 2-10. 

****

My father’s path of embodying a different type of maleness is what has been salient to me. To be a grown male in the latter half of the 20th Century, was a particular thing. Yet, (some of) my father’s uniqueness comes from not only being a man, but a Black man. Who was an oldest child. Having a father who had fought in the Korean War, and later taught at Tuskegee Institute. A father who was not only in the service and a veteran, but one of the Tuskegee Airmen. There are so many layers to my relationship with my father, and I can only fantasize (hypothesize, romanticize as well as idealize and be frustrated by) what my father’s relationship to his father was. My grandfather died a few years before I was born — I want to say three years prior, but I am not convinced. So, what I have known of him have been through stories, photographs, and family traditions, mannerisms and other subtleties that may be passed through genes as much as upbringing. 

A few more forms of my father’s intersectionality include black/male, oldest child/with a developmentally disabled sister, only boy/with two sisters. Over the past decade, I have attributed meaning to who my father is, trying to lump my notions — of identity, experience, values — onto a skeletal structure of what I conceptualize his early life having been. I am more conscious of the gender make-up in my dad’s family, and in my own, because he embodies such a unique form of masculinity for me. 

In my 20s, i was flabbergasted, sometimes irate, with his inability to express, to divulge, to share. As a kid, he taught all of us the mantra, “if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say it.” (that reads with far too many negatives than my lawyer-father would utter. if my memory serves me correctly) Those notions kind of worked in elementary school and as a teenager, but in adulthood I sought more perspective from him and everyone else in my family on what was coursing through his veins, his soul, his heart and mind. In my 20s, I fought the reality of what was, rather than embrace things for how they were. And those struggles have played some part in things being different today than they would be if I had not banged on the door of his feelings that he did not give voice to. A lot has changed in the eIght years since my mom told me how the only times my father would express his feelings were when he was sloshed.