For a while now, the universe has felt like it is spinning faster and faster. Does anyone else feel that? Major storms, violent outbursts, everyone lashing out.
It feels like we are on a merry-go-round, spinning very fast. We are holding on desperately, but it just keeps spinning faster and faster. We are hit with a hurricane, then a decision about DACA that will tear our connections apart, then another hurricane. White men keep talking over me and at me, emails are piling up and my body has succumbed to daycare germs. I keep thinking about people being rounded up and all the ways that connections have been torn apart that way in the last few centuries. Connections between people, place, bones and their cartilage, mothers and their babies.
These forces make me want control, to make sure everyone will be okay, to run, to keep pushing harder for fear that we may not survive as a species. But I think that more than anything right now, we need to slow down. It goes against everything I’ve learned about how survival happens. But I think we have to focus on grounding our energy in the earth and asking: what exactly are we holding onto? What is the nature of our holding on?
While the spinning energy of our society easily leads us to want to hold tighter, to exercise the most supreme control we can muster, I want to suggest that maybe this is precisely the moment to surrender, to let go of our attachment to outcome and our desire to know, our will to control. Maybe this is the time to remember that Life is the teacher. I am not above this extremely chaotic energy. I am in it as well, my friends. It feels like our societal patterns are spinning out. And it makes me fear for my kid’s life and nothing makes me want control more than the desire to protect my baby.
The chaotic energy of our society right now seems to me like the obvious outcome of the patterns themselves: greed, sacrificing our connections to the earth and each other for short term gain, cannibalizing our own children for war on all the boggeymen we can think up. Our patterns are coming to fruition. We can talk about this as the afterlives of slavery (Hartmann) or racial capitalism or furniture without memories. We have to pay attention to all those dimensions.
In Keeping Good Time, Avery Gordon writes about an exercise that she does in her classroom where students list out all the reasons that dreams die in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. Gordon writes,
“It was a long list ranging from explicit externally imposed and internalized white supremacist standards of beauty and ugliness, the nature of white man’s work, and the dialectics of violence and hatred, to disappointment, to folding up inside, to the fear of being put outdoors, to the weather, to deformed feet and lost teeth, to nobody pays attention, to it’s too late, to total damage, to furniture without memories, to the unyielding soil, and to what she sometimes just calls the thing, the sedimented conditions that constitute what’s in place in the first place. These turn out to be not a random or simply surreal list, but a way of conceptualizing the complicated workings of those social structures we call race, class, gender. Such a conception requires that we constantly move within and between deformed feet and lost teeth and words with capital letters like Slavery or Capitalism. We must move analytically within and between them because that is the nature of their movement” (author’s emphasis, page 100).
Paying attention to the subtleties here might seem self-indulgent. A version of me is yelling “people are dying.” But maybe the intricacies of this chaos are what we must move through. The process we are in is not one that will be survived by increasing our busyness, by speeding up. We can’t conquer what we are experiencing. We have to move through the energy. We have to break patterns by slowing down, being more thoughtful while also acting in a centered way. What if we honored the exact place where we are right now as a society, on the brink? What if we honored our fear, looked at it squarely with compassion and calmly say “I see you there fear. I see the process through which you’ve arrived here and this is how I am going to choose to be in this moment.” Life will be the teacher and we will learn its lessons by moving through this world right where we are. Let’s notice what is coming up for us, how it feels in our bodies, what thoughts and images it brings to our minds. And then let’s work that energy. Move it around, dance it, breathe through it without judgement, knowing that we are exactly where we are supposed to be as a species and that the great changes we are undergoing are sacred. Because as Octavia Butler teaches us in Parable of the Sower– God is change.
Change can be something that happens TO us, or it can be a sacred force that we co-create with. Either way, it appears that change is upon us and our fear won’t protect us. Maybe by surrendering to who we could become, by letting go of the controlling narratives and patterns, maybe we will be surprised to find ourselves somewhere more beautiful than we could have imagined. Life is often like that I think. Sometimes, pain and struggle can bring us to a new place that is more amazing than we could have dreamed up for ourselves. Let’s slow down, surrender and be gentle with ourselves, each other and all the shit that is spinning. We are giving birth to a new world right now and she isn’t waiting for us to think we are ready.
By Renée M Byrd