I just spent 3 minutes listening to the Pachamama Alliance’s “5 Reasons to be Optimistic about the State of the World,” as follows:
- #5 Scientists have proven we can begin to reverse global warming by 2050
- #4 The age of disposable plastics is coming to an end
- #3 The age of renewable energy has arrived
- #2 There is a worldwide resurgence of earth-based wisdom
- #1 A global movement for change is sweeping the planet.
I don’t know about you, but “optimistic” isn’t the dominant feeling I have when I think about the state of the world. It’s easy to be sunk in despair about many trends, a lot of which come from the concentration of power and resources in the hands of the few. (I do have some critiques of their points, briefly: Some deep systems aren’t changing, wealth accumulation for example. And…Earth-based wisdom has always existed, now colonizers are becoming more aware of it.)
However, following invitations by adrienne marie brown, Norma Wong, angel Kyodo williams, and the Zapatista movement, I’ve been thinking lately about the power of radical imagination. About cultivating the skills (and doing some un-learning) to be able to envision – to imagine alternate futures. I think this also stems from moving outside of the United States to Mexico where I’m learning about other versions of “history” and the present. This post is a little disjointed, but I want to share a little bit about these people below, so you can follow whatever threads you decide to pull.
adrienne marie brown, with one of her roots in Octavia Bulter’s science fiction, curated a book called Octavia’s Brood. I just spent a few frustrating minutes unsuccessfully trying to find the notes I took but the jist of the introduction is that social justice organizers are connected to science fiction by our work to invite people into an imagined (and more just) future, specifically one that has a vastly different power structure. In her recent book, Emergent Strategy, she pulls together various ways of understanding the world that underscore a very real future of overcoming and healing from the harmful dynamics humans have created in the world.
Norma Wong is a Zen practioner that supports the Resonance Network, a project I’m currently working on. One of the ways I’m aware of her support is through her teachings of tai chi and chi gong – connecting with one another through breath, physical movement and meditation. (literally: social movement) She underscores the need for practice, and that our modern world does not necessitate it or value it. Practice is different from habit in that it is intentional and repeated, and as she suggested, repeated until it is something you yearn for in your daily life.
“Our teachers — as much as we love our embodied teachers that come in flesh and bone and sit on cushions — are really the people, the situations that we confront moment to moment, day to day, month to month, year to year, that incite a sense of discomfort, dis-ease, awkwardness in us. And rather than seeing those moments as threats to who we are, if we could reorient, if we could center in our relationship to ourselves as evolving, fluid, ever-expansive creatures whose role is to be in observation of: What is that? What has that inspired? What has that called forth in me, that discomfort that is speaking to something that feels solid and fixed and is now challenged in its location? — if we could do that, if we could live our lives in a way in which we understand that our deepest learning, our deepest capacity for growth comes not from walling ourselves off from the things that make us feel a sense of threat or discomfort or out of alignment or out of sorts, but rather, figuring out what is speaking to us when we feel those things, and what do we have to learn from that teacher that is embodied in that situation, that moment — not so that we become something different than who we are, but that we’re evolving into a greater and greater sense of what it means to be fully human, to be radically, completely in the truth of the human experience and all of its complexities.”
Another quote from her website connects our inner worlds and outer worlds / our inner work and outer work:
“love and justice are not two. without inner change, there can be no outer change; without collective change, no change matters.”
The Zapatistas of Chiapas in Southern Mexico have been in resistance to dominant/dominating systems of governance for more than 20 years. In 1996, they released their 4th declaration which included: “El mundo que queremos es uno donde quepan muchos mundos” (Translation: the world we want is one where many worlds/worldviews fit.) Their idea of the emergence of a world where all worlds can exist – the end of domination of worldviews – has been resonating with me recently.
Living outside the United States, especially in the “Trump era” as the media people call it – it has become even more obvious how limited our worldviews are. Or the intention of the worldview that I learned about (in school and from various forms of corporate media) is ripe with domination of everything – it needs to expand to engulf everything, to make you think that there is nothing outside of it. This dynamic is evident throughout US imperialistic capitalism (white supremacy, heteropatriarchy) – that understands the natural world to be dominated as resources, and if it cannot be turned into a resource, it is not valuable. If it can’t be understood through science, it can’t exist. If your head can’t understand it, it doesn’t matter. It makes us uncomfortable with those things, uncomfortable with paradox and duality – of contradiction and conflict.
The header image is from the Audobon Society by Sean Graesser on an article about hummingbirds, about how the colors of their feathers doesn’t come from pigment, but actually from the structure of the feather itself: “Gorgets owe their brilliance not to pigments, like those found in fruits, dyes, and paint, but to tiny structures in feathers, made of microscopic air bubbles, that influence the reflection of light.”