economic hope and the smell of mushrooms

i’m finally understanding the creative block i’ve been feeling since visiting my parents in arizona last month. it’s related to the tension between, on the one hand: the ongoing and active deprivation of hope from where you expect it and, on the other hand: a very steady certainty that there is so much good happening in the world right now.

the mainstream news outlets’ lights and cameras are narrowed to a point, highlighting so much going on, but it all just looks so hopeless. the new supreme court justice being treated with such disrespect. the contrast of growing wildfires with bumper stickers on massive pick-up trucks: “trump 2024, save america.” this media spotlight reinforces a complete lack of vision for the future, let alone suggesting movement toward anything else than what we already know. and then there are the random distractions like will smith punching chris rock. (and then all the memes on social media, and then all of the people giving their opinions about it, and then news outlets pitting them against each other!)

the tension between all of this garbage and the absolute knowing i have that there are SO many amazing leaders, projects, groups doing such great work. “work,” though, is too narrow of a word to describe what i mean: it’s not sitting at a desk, it’s not something you clock into. it has to do with opening up worldviews, creating and repairing cultures, seeing each other in fuller ways. and i can feel it. i’m remembering this shortened version of a quote used as the motto of the US Social Forum by Arundhati Roy: “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.” the longer quote has to do with imperialism and capitalism:

“Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness – and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe.

The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling – their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability.

Remember this: We be many and they be few. They need us more than we need them.

Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”

― Arundhati Roy, War Talk (2003)

but what does she say after that?? (adding reading that book to my library’s waitlist right now!)

so what i feel compelled to do is write into each of these things that are happening. to show them as an interconnected movement, a thriving ecosystem complete with several kinds of functioning parts – composers, pollinators, whatever other parts there are (ha!)

not to overwhelm us even more, but to let people know what is happening. not just to give us hope, but also to showcase the variety of what we could get more involved in. maybe for each section that could be a little part: how to get involved locally – what it takes, what you need. (and maybe those could connect later to parts of the personal work, thinking specifically about decolonial projects.)

like i want to inspire and excite people by sharing this sense of knowing i have – of how much is happening! so we can stop looking at where the lights and cameras are pointed and see all of what else there is. we get to be ecologists, to look into all of the parts that are happening, get our hands dirty in the soil, smell fresh air. but like… economically.

redwoods in “muir woods” on Coast Miwok land

really when was the last time you felt invigorated economically? i mean something similar to those feelings you get in a healthy forest: filling your lungs up with the dense humidity of a lush, damp forest; taking in the honey-like notes of pine sap; the slight decomposing sense of mushrooms’ presence; hearing bird chirps far up in the canopy; your movement silenced by pine needles underfoot.

i can say for sure that i have a visceral feeling when i pay my taxes. maybe that would be akin to the choking smell of coming across a dead animal in the forest. but i mean, when was the last time i felt something good in my body because of my relationship to economics?

i used to have that feeling, the slight tingling feeling: “yes, i’m saving the world,” kind of thing happen at farmers markets, or purchasing at my community food co-op (of which i was a member). i remember that feeling when seeing visionary art (favianna rodriguez comes to mind) that invites my true self into economics (not just an outstretched hand with dollar bills). hearing gopal from movement generation speak about their visions for the future. i definitely felt a lot while i was organizing for occupy on my university campus (not as an undergrad, i’m not that young!). and i felt new sensations like a folding of time from past to future while i was supporting the sogorea te’ land trust in “oakland” “california:” that the way these leaders were thinking was connecting their 5,000+ year old traditions through colonial rupture to a future that continues and preserves what is sacred.

how can we imagine more into this? (one way is to listen to this short episode of the light ahead) what feelings can we hope for, economically? what do we already know in our bodies (not necessarily just the physical ones, but also ancestral, spiritual, etc) that can guide us?

so i guess my creative block is letting up – i’ve got a list and a diagram of the ecological parts of next economies drawn up and am excited to start writing about each of them, sharing examples and ways we can support and/or participate in them. i imagine navigating this landscape like butterflies in migration – moving from the death and decay of capitalism, through decomposition (smelling the mushrooms!), through healing together, to creating next economies that support our “soft animal bodies” (as mary oliver might say).

in the meantime, if you liked the content of this post, you might be interested in this session, happening next week:

Spider’s webs are their brains

Western science recently figured out that spider’s webs are kind of like extended, out-of-body brains.

Spiders tighten and loosen specific parts of their webs to become more attuned to vibrations, and they can tell the difference between, say, a fly moving around or the wind or other creatures buzzing. This makes sense, as arachnids have been evolving these webs for who knows how many millions of years.

Seeing the spider and web as one and inseparable challenges the ideas we’ve learned about separateness: that there is a spider that is separate from their web. But without a web, the spider couldn’t survive. The spider can’t exist as a disconnected individual.

While this is magical in and of itself, it is also a metaphor for something I’ve been wondering about in networks for a while: how do we embed sensitivity in networks? Rather than thinking about it in a more narrow and mainstream idea of “communications,” how can we think about our activities in networks as sensing? This would have to go hand-in-hand with our work to distribute and decentralize networks – we don’t want to repeat the hierarchical structures of organizations, where only the hubs “hear” about what’s going on – we want to increase access to this hearing/sensing.

We could metaphorically peer into one thread within the network, listen in on what’s happening there. Then put one of our eight arms on another thread and see what’s going on over there. Doing so we are better informed and able to act more strategically – in alignment and harmony – with what is happening elsewhere in the network.

Bees bridge, foxes garden: we expand

I saw this post yesterday on instagram, and then a friend sent me this article, that basically says that Arctic foxes build gardens over the span of many generations, creating nutrient-dense spaces in the harsh climates they inhabit.

Also, did you know that bees build bridges with their bodies and a kind of glue they secrete? It’s called festooning and looks like this:

Bees festoon
They build bridges with glue secretions across impossible spaces
Photo from Flickr by Maja Dumat/blumenbiene.

For me one of the ways in which is relate to nature is through awe. Or I could say it this way: being outside or otherwise in contact with the natural world has the potential to fill me with awe, to get me into a state of being bigger than the bounds of my own body – to see and feel and know things I don’t normally consider. In nature we can sense possibilities, sense more for ourselves, than we can from within our human systems.