(Fall Equinox '21 newsletter)
Last week, I read adrienne marie brown's "We will not cancel us." I highly recommend the book as well as her (and her IG page) in general. In one of the opening sections that preface the essay first published online in 2020, brown offers the concept of living with contradiction. An example she cited was engaging in environmental activism but in doing so, traveling by plane to a conference and creating a ton of waste at the event.
All too often, our values and our actions can be in contradiction. Furthermore, our different values can come into conflict with one another. Worse, our basic survival needs may conflict with our values, especially amidst the unjust and inhumane systems we live within.
Back in college, likely in a Religion and Psychology course, I recall an epiphany about the fracture in our cultural psyche and how it has contributed to various schisms and psychological (psyche from the Greek meaning soul) dis-ease. When we're faced with integrating conflicting information (creationism and evolution for example) psychological fractures can occur. And, if our values and beliefs are far from what we participate in from being born into systems that so blatantly disregard life, then confusion, disassociation, depression, psychological illness, addiction and many other forms of ailment may haunt us.
Striving towards coherence took me from ethical struggles to paralysis at times and kept me from pursuing many paths. When I started hoop dancing (happy 21st anniversary, precious practice!), the simplicity of spinning inside a circle alone and subsequently with a wide diversity of people in city streets, in schools, at festivals and on stages was direct, simple and joyful enough that I felt 90% good about every human-to-human interaction the hoop inspired and was supported out of the culture-induced depression I'd been in. (The 10%? Well, there was still that pesky plastic problem. Then, there's the way capitalism sneaks into everything, putting people of similar soul-tribes into competition. Oh, and then there were the bigger money gigs for corporations. The irony of being paid well to hoop dance in a dangerous situation [on a six-foot pedestal] for a health insurance company that I couldn't afford coverage with.)
This idea of contradiction, not at all foreign to me, still felt timely to sit with. I've taken it as an opportunity to reflect on where my own contradictions currently exist.
Like many, I have a longing to belong. In life. And in death. Living on a few acres by the Haw River awakened something in me. The longing to belong to land, to place. For the first time, I really felt the wish to steward land and to return my body to the earth naturally with blood and soul family when I die. At times I've shared that off-grid dream to escape the system of banks and utility companies, but one just about has to have independent (or more likely intergenerational) wealth to do so. And so, to be in a long-term, reciprocal relationship with land and to liberate myself from some oppressive structures, I have now deepened my participation in a racist, classist, misogynist, inhumane system to "purchase" (be in debt to a bank for) land that was long ago colonized, stolen and harming to native peoples (some of those my ancestors also) in order to steward that land with the vision of establishing a system based on a gift economy and community collaboration rather than profit to eventually build soil with our corpses and imagine alternatives to the medical and funeral industry complexes that dominate our lives and deaths. Ya know, just that whole paradox of owning land that existed before us, that will outlive us and engaging in the corrupt systems the ruling class has created to maintain an illusion of supremacy over other sentient beings and control over "resources" in order to extract profit and pursue unsustainable growth. Please, don't get me wrong. It's a privilege and sacred honor to have the opportunity, especially as a woman, anywhere in this world, to steward land. I am humbly, deeply grateful. So much so that I could start leaking tears onto my keyboard here. And the reality is complicated. To name this contradiction is culturally, organizationally and psychologically important.
Community tending a freshly buried beloved at Heartward Sanctuary
Paradoxical tugs like these can turn into shame, existential crises and self-harm. Since I was a child, I've felt these struggles in regards to food. I still feel them in the grocery store while struggling to find something that I feel 100% good about eating.
Are these the fruits of a economically devastating banking arrangement with another nation such that they are now indebted and have to sell their produce to us and have insufficient local food for themselves? Has this been harvested or produced by modern forms of enslavement and harsh working environments globally? Does anyone recycle aseptic containers?
To be truly present during every choice can send thoughts and feelings swirling into a familiar downward spiral until I put the avocado down and sometimes leave the store hungry.
I tend to shop in (smaller) places where my psyche can manage the input and complex variables--at farmers' markets and the no-longer-that-local co-op--but that also brings in other issues of access and economic privilege.
While I strive to live by the values I cherish, the list goes on of the ways I sense my breathing American air makes has me living in contradiction. I remain complicit. It's painful to navigate. A few days ago, on my moon cycle, my cramps yielded grief from the depths of my uterus through the red thread of my lineage and out to everyone impacted by these systems.
As much as most of us wish for systemic-level change, we are utterly entangled with and dependent upon the systems we desperately wish were different. Compassion to us all.
This isn't to inform you of this predicament, or accuse anyone of anything. But rather to name the struggle, to share some process and to be curious:
How are you doing with this? This week, for the brief wind