Cosmic - (Week 12)
It has been so cold this week - everywhere it has been cold. And yet, in today's quiet morning sunshine, I swear I heard a bird singing. Have you heard it?
I've been constructing and working out the design of a baby quilt for friends this week. The 6" block that will make up most of the quilt is a traditional quilt block called a split 9-patch, made with six squares (half light, half dark) and three half-square triangles (HSTs). I'll need to make a whole bunch of HSTs - based on my rough math of what I think this will end up looking like, somewhere around 180-200. Since I'm figuring out my color/pattern mix as the quilt develops, I'm making HSTs gradually as I construct, rather than all at once.
But I'm all set up and construction has begun. Materials gathered and prepared:
Here's what one of the blocks looks like:
And here is how the design is emerging... I am still deciding what the centerpiece to the design will be - and I would love opinions in the comments! Both are foundation paper-pieced blocks I designed.
On capitalism, cosmic task, and a vision from a dream
Last night I had a terrible dream. The world was infected with a zombie-like plague caused by fear. The people were obsessed with the idea that the virus going around would turn others into flesh-eating zombie-fied, empathy-less beings... an idea I was convinced was rumor, just misinformation and lies. But people were afraid of the zombie hoards in their mind, coming to do them harm, so they started taking a pill called something like T455 - and that pill fed the fear. Convinced that it was keeping them from turning into monsters, keeping them and their families safe, the pill's actual work was to amplify their paranoia and fear - particularly of other people - so powerfully that strangers were attacking one another on-sight, unprovoked.
Justin and I huddled in our home in the winter freeze - it was the white house with the porch I grew up in - with Bubbles at our feet. Trying to just wait it out, to stay out of the fray. Afraid not of the plague but of the pills, of the hatred in the eyes of strangers. But we were safe there for now, until it got warmer, until the crashing and screaming outside stopped. And then a fire began, raging in the woods next to our garage. With a big whooshing sound, the pines went up in flames, twice as high as the garage roof. We knew we had to flee, we had only minutes to grab what we needed and go out into the snow and sirens - and we knew in this delusional, fearmongered world, there was no one who would help us. And we had nowhere to go.
Most dreams you wake up and feel relieved - whew I'm so glad that's not real. But I couldn't quite find that sense of relief at 3am today. Our isolation from one another is real. We retreat from one another more every day, sucked into the slot machine algorithm, our necks bowed, our eyes glazed. Everyone is drugged. Our world on fire is real and there is very little we can do now about the cataclysm that is coming, one way or another.
But I remember a moment in my dream - looking at Justin and asking "who can we call? who will help us? where can we go?" And I do feel some conviction - some hope - in those questions. I cannot change the looming disaster, but I can do everything I can now to make sure that there is someone to call. That there is someone else out there with their eyes open, someone not drugged by fear, someone who will say yes - when your house burns, come here. My house is warm and you will be safe here. We will figure out what to do next together.
I woke up today feeling... believing - knowing? - that fighting fear may be our work. For now, the way I know how to do this is by nurturing friendship and connection. And beauty. Beauty restores our hope, strengthens our power; it keeps us connected to our potential and to our courage.
Although I can probably blame this apocalyptic dreamscape mostly on Chernobyl (and a sprinkle of the fantasy novel I'm reading before bed these days), I'm so grateful for this dream today. After a couple more hours of sleep, I woke up feeling that my eyes are clear, and that I was able to see the bigger purpose that is trying to emerge and give itself form, that is gathering strength in me right now. There is a reason for all this, there is something - a bigger purpose, work that means something - that is calling my name. It is quiet. But I am listening.
Something I've been talking about a lot lately is how much I feel like I (we?) need a new mental model for thinking about our time. For me, trying to disentangle my decisions about how I spend time from the innate imperative I feel to prioritize projects that generate income has been difficult because of two big patterns of thought I'm beginning to be aware of/understand:
Yeah, capitalism, blah blah blah - but seriously: how much do you actually examine the assumption that as a human being born into this world, you need to pay for the right to live? That is a relatively modern idea - it hasn't been around all that long. But in our current cultural moment, it's hard to imagine... if I could pull this out of my brain, what new and different possibilities for how we spend our time on earth would become evident? I realize that capitalism is the system I'm living and participating in - I have a mortgage, I exchange money for goods and services, so that means - in this system - I do need to earn money through my labor.
But. What possibilities for myself - for how I conceive of myself as a human in the world and ultimately, how I understand the relationship between my purpose and day to day priorities - might I be able to see if I could loosen the connections between my actions and this system's demands and assumptions?
2 - From the moment I began living on my own (college was a transitional time, so let's say - when I was 22), I felt a serious, unshakeable commitment to my financial independence. I felt totally responsible for providing for myself - there was no safety net. And although fiscal responsibility was certainly a value I was taught from a young age, it was more than that - more than making sure I didn't get into credit card debt, more than avoiding the humiliation of becoming a couch-hopper or the groundlessness of being a semi-itinerant young wanderer. It was about my freedom. Making enough money to support myself was critical for me to safeguard my right to live the way I wanted to live... to stay out late if I wanted to, to listen to the music that inspired me, to move through the friendships and love affairs that helped me shape my own values, to eat the food I wanted to eat, to smoke cigarettes if I wanted to smoke cigarettes, and, importantly, to separate myself from the stronghold of religious rituals that defined my upbringing and make up my own damn mind about God and eternity and the unknowable. Financial independence was the protective barrier that gave me the breathing room to emerge as my own person - to shake off the chains of shame and judgments and expectations that defined my childhood and adolescence.
And then, after those tender young adult years, it became a habit. Habitual, yes, in that I kept having increasingly good jobs that paid me more and more as my financial needs evolved into my 30s. But also a habit in the sense of an addiction. I began chasing it. Because it felt good - to have more respect, to be celebrated for my achievements with better job titles and bigger salaries and more important responsibilities.... feeding that hungry achiever inside. And on the other side of things - there's me, now us (Justin and I), wanting fuel for our adventures and our passions, while rent turned into a mortgage and the personal stakes got higher and higher. The combination of external validation, familial support, and my intrinsic drive to stay free have been powerful.
But things are different now. Looking around my life now, in my 40s in this beautiful home surrounded by family and friends - I am free in so many ways. Certainly in the ways I was fighting so hard for as a young adult. Justin is taking on more of our familial support needs. And I have grown up a bit. Though my cravings for external validation will never entirely go away - the short-term reward of the pat on the back pales, now, in comparison with the deeper truth, the brighter light that guides me from inside.
So I find myself craving new ways to organize my relationship to income-generating work. It's clear to me that generating income no longer needs to be the organizing principle to how I prioritize my time. An element, certainly (I live in the world and a magical safety net has not materialized). But what if generating income was one factor among many that influenced my choices? What would replace income generation as the dominant driving force guiding my choices?
Of course, my sense is: purpose. Continually organizing myself around: what am I here on earth to do? The work that Maria Montessori referred to as your "cosmic task" (which I love). What can only I do/contribute while I'm alive on earth? What if pursuing that work became the guide - and generating income was one of many needs that can be met through my choices?I feel excited about this, and somewhat intimidated (which is a good sign).
And my sense is - fighting fear with beauty and connection is part of what I'm here on earth to do. To bolster our courage by strengthening the connections between us, keeping our internal fires burning bright, keeping us connected to our values, calling us in to hard choices and conversations, giving us strength to endure the inevitable discomfort of living truly, of growing and changing, of becoming the best of ourselves.
It would be amazing if I could generate income by doing that - because it would make it possible to do more of that, more powerfully. But perhaps to start - I could just make the shift to putting the income-generating work I do take on in service of this bigger work. And hopefully through that shift, I might learn how to be unwilling to sacrifice the purpose for the money, and conversely - willing to give up the money if my real work is calling me to do so.
Footloose (2011) - Footloose is my favorite movie. When I saw the 1984 film for the first time when I was 11 or 12, it was a revelation. This town where dancing was forbidden, ruled by fire and brimstone from the pulpit every Sunday; these teenagers with their red cowboy boots and wild spirits, bursting with life and frustration and pain; and this Kevin Bacon-shaped hero-activist who works through his frustration by dancing out his feelings in abandoned warehouses and fights for justice by making impassioned speeches about dancing at town council meetings... HOT DAMN. It inspired me. It made me believe. It stirred something in me.
And it still does! And there is a remake to love too. I resisted when it first came out but it is also absolutely fantastic. The writing improves on the original, the cast is great, it is buzzing with life and joy. I love them both so much.
The Daytrippers (1996) - A little family drama indie with a lot of humor and some glorious 90s stank. Come for the great outfits and charming New York scenery, stay for Liev Schreiber wack politics, Parker Posey with her sass turned all the way up, and Campbell Scott at his swooniest. So charming!
Also on-screen at our place:
From "Free Fruit For All! (The Orchard: The Eighth Incitement" in Inciting Joy, by Ross Gay:
Though I didn't yet have words for it, planting that orchard--by which I mean, you know this by now, joining my labor to the labor by which it came to be--reminded me, or illuminated for me, a matrix of connection, of care, that exists not only in the here and now, but comes to us from the past and extends forward into the future. A rhizomatic care I so often forget to notice I am every second in the midst of. By which I came to be, and am, at all. Despite every single lie to the contrary, despite every single action born of that lie--we are in the midst of rhizomatic care that extends in every direction, spatially, temporally, spiritually, you name it. It's certainly not the only thing we're in the midst of, but it's the truest thing. By far.
And in a turn of absolute delight, I am just about halfway through A Court of Thorns and Roses, the first in a fantasy series from Sarah J. Maas (and a gift from my sister - thank you!) and I am loving it. I already googled fan art of the characters, if that's any indication of my investment. Pure sexy fantasy adventure page-turning bliss.
We gathered in the cold and shouted Tyre Nichols' name in the street - feeling the weight of the chain of horrors that brought us here under the bluest sky.
The sunshine has been a real star in our house this week.
Holy Time - Planting the Future
Slides from this week's experience--with words from bell hooks, Taha Muhammad Ali, Ross Gay and Zeina Hashem Beck and music from ODIE--are available here.
Holy Time is a weekly online gathering - Thursdays, 8:45pm CT on zoom (https://zoom.us/j/94849428936).
All are welcome.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or for more information.
Black Country, New Road - Ants From Up There
Neutral Milk Hotel - In An Aeroplane Over the Sea
What you are making and reading and writing and doing? What is inspiring you? I'd love to hear from you in the comments.