Twisting in the Winds of Now
I like lots of Americans, have been twisting in the wind since last year’s election, which brought Donald Trump to power. We have been feeling the invisible push of change for some time. We have been caught in the calls of our hearts and our science, to work towards a new level of human organization, towards a new era of deep care and respect for ourselves and the Earth. The election of Trump has left many of us feeling down and deflated, but few of us have known where to take that feeling.
Today I woke up to a wind that was whipping trash down the sides of the street, finding its way into all available cracks and open spaces, making noise. I woke up to it, and thought of the things people have said to me about protesting, getting active. I woke up realizing, admitting to myself, that since November I have been in mourning. Time and again, I’ve said to myself, “No More,” but still I find myself locked somewhere between privilege and basic needs, somewhere between anger and fear, trust and action. I listened to the plastic bottles of the family down the road as they escaped their brimming recycling can on trash day. The sounds of the plastic against the pavement left scratches in my mind. I could somehow perceive the clear bottles becoming cloudy, rub by rub.
The thing many of us know is that this moment has been on its way and the fact that Trump is the face of this transition period is by turns terrifying and surreal. He is a reality star from television more than anything else. He is the lack of corporate responsibility, the poster child of a society run by a few to the amazement of many. In the end though, his is only the face of distraction. His coif and his old man bluster are business as usual taken to an extreme, to a final conclusion. Anyone can see that this isn’t Trump alone making us want to throw our heads into our pillows or throw our bodies down into prisons and early graves. What anyone can see, and what many of us are feeling, is that this is the end of a very long era, and the death throes of heteropatriachy just got more violent, awkward and clingy.
There is no doubt in mind as I look out the few pine trees I can see from my window that change is everywhere, shaking our very foundations. I think of a book by Hermann Hesse, about the wisdom of trees and their enduring nature despite the weather. As I think this, a newspaper flies as if it had wings, bits of its corners coming off. I think about how even this newspaper, with its lies and its offers of discounts was once a tree. I say that I think about it, but really it’s more of an experience, a beholding.
Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life. — Hesse
The thing about these death knells of patriarchy and all its belief in the supremacy of one thing over another, is that we already know that it is false. We know that the sky is not superior to the sea, just because of their vertical placement on Earth. We know that the earthworm was Darwin’s biggest fascination before his death, and not his theory of survival of the fittest. We know that fitness itself has been lacking in context, since everything is proven to be interwoven, interdependent. This interdependence is the thing that not even television stars or anti-evolutionary zealots can avoid, despite all their rhetoric and arguments. I hear more trash in the wind, and let it go to consider this post election exhaustion and how to finally get over it.
I think of a conversation in Brooklyn last week, where a young shaman reminded me that all of this is a distraction. It is draining us he said, and that “Let’s it win.” What would be winning? He spoke with this lilt of an accent, spoke of a power found in balance. I wondered to myself, were his immigration papers in order? What would happen to him soon, even if they were. I turned my attention back to that question though, “What would be winning?” For a few days and nights it sat inside me, how drained I feel, how many deadlines I can’t seem to meet. I wrestled with the problems of business as usual, of keeping afloat, of living within this reality without turning cold, without resorting to apathy. I thought about this shaman, and the long game, the truly big picture.
The election of the 45th President of the United States was a big deal in history, the kind of big deal that leaves us questioning power and its structures. The election was also, not really a departure from the last several thousand years where the Earth and her people have continually been subjected to ideas of Sun gods and their rights above others. The election was in all actuality, the final win of delusion, the final play of Team Distraction. Hate and self aggrandizement is the work of Team Distraction and it has been for millenia. For me as a woman, I know I am the plastic bag to some. I am the refuse of their God. I am the trophy, discarded once conquered. In that bag, in that plastic bottle I don’t see myself completely, but I do see shades of myself. In those pieces of trash I see both the power and the problem of this very moment.
A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live. — Hesse
We are twisting in the wind, and we have been for generations. We will be recycled and it will be costly. We will find ourselves, or who we thought of as ourselves, to be completely changed. It’s an endless process, and still it has its particulars, specific to who we are and how we identify. If we feel solid and strong, or if we feel supple and likely to tear, however we build our sense of identity is up for challenging times. The bad news is, even if we saw it coming, we couldn’t stop this past election with its media barrages and its corporate overlords. We couldn’t save Bernie Sanders from blackouts, and we couldn’t save Ms. Clinton from her record of compromises accrued while climbing to the top of a heap that could only destroy her. These are those days. These are those winds. This is the only time we have and to live in the now, not in the yesterday or even in the tomorrow, is what will keep despondence down on the list of “How do you feel today?” infographics.
Today’s lessons are not new, and this particular moment is not actually special. People of color, people lacking in material power, have all been suffering the othering that gave me this laptop, that gave me the minerals that process these words. No, today’s lessons aren’t new, but they are intensified, amplified, because this is a turning point, a pivot heavy with accumulation. Our steps seem heavy because we bear the burdens of many generations of hyper exceptionalism, of thinking that someone is somehow better or more needed and inherently more special than any other. It’s OK to twist in the wind, to feel those burdens and the problems of who we are and how we were produced at cost to our biosphere, to the detriment of others. In fact, it is exactly this twisting that can remind us that not only birds do fly, and that the only thing we have to grasp is how we conduct ourselves in the now. The time is always now.