There were so many things that I wanted to write down last year that I didn’t write down…or I just made some illegible notes on the envelope of a bill and then proceeded to place the paper in my pocket never to be seen again as anything more than wads of paper in the dryer. In a similar way, there are the remnants of dreams when I wake. The residues of another world, that I quickly wash away by clicking my phone on to see what number is associated with the cold that my bones feel. Some days, I pause while putting on my socks and wonder about the loss or inability to listen well to these sources. I, again, allow practicality to snap me back to my ‘to do’ list. I allow an anxious urgency to mandate several deep sighs about how there is not a chance of completing what I have written down. When I think about new year’s resolutions, It’s as if I could use a ‘to don’t’ list. It might go something like this:
1. Don’t use social media or the internet as a sani-wipe to remove disturbing residual dreamtime. I am of the generation that remembers PCP (pre cellphone). I also lived in the desert in Somalia for a time with no electricity. This combination was remarkable. Ghosts and dream residue might hang out in your room for months. You could go to swim in the Indian ocean or into the market to buy camel meat and the gang was all there when you got home. There was no ritual with my thumb or fingerprint to banish them.
2. Don’t use ‘I must be practical’ as an excuse. The etymology of practical simply means something that can be done. It is the same as saying that something has not been done, therefore, it cannot be done. We idolize those who have ‘discovered’ new inventions or ways of being after they have benefitted us but ridicule the ‘impractical’ process by which this happens. What ‘practicality’ has collapsed into meaning is ‘what culture deems worthy’ and in the culture of the U.S. that has further collapsed into ‘what creates money.’ Nothing is practical until it is practiced. I don’t practice ways I long to be in the world because I deem them not practical…do you see how little sense this makes. The queen in ‘Alice in Wonderland’ tells Alice this very concept using the word ‘possible’:
"Alice laughed: "There's no use trying," she said; "one can't believe impossible things." "I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
3. Don’t allow your imagination to collapse into eating table scraps, It is actually an amazing chef. My friend was arguing with some people about how design is the future of our small town. If we design and bring into the world novel structures and activities, people will come and support us in many ways including financially. The counter-argument was that all ability to draw people to our area relies on the casino which relies on the historic domed hotel. My friend’s response was that someone built the domed hotel. It is so easy to forget that we still have the ability to be authors of our reality. It is so easy to think that we are only making notes in the margins of a text written long ago. But someone wrote that text. They made that up. This is why I have never agreed with the atheist denigration of the source of creativity (god) as ‘imaginary friend’ I think what they are trying to say is ‘un-imaginary friend’. Because the imaginary friend (call her whatever you wish) is the counterpart that brings us back to authorship of this reality. She is the womb that holds space for new ways of relating, creating, living and dying.
4. And following closely on the heels of #3 is ‘Don’t accept that this is just the way it is.’ This is the underlying collapse of all imagination. Why doesn’t anyone speak of the verse from the bible in which Eesho says that those who follow will do far more amazing things? Most ‘Christians’ would consider the idea of ‘outdoing’ Eesho as heresy. I think that this is a deep seated self-hatred of the isolated modern person. First it is a collapse of the role of human into a fragmented individualism. That we act as a single unit and not as a community or body (Christ). Second, this is collapsing time into the idea that our actions are separate from all of our ancestors and all that will follow. Likely, the verse I refer to is a poor translation of something like “This caravan will continue on and travel to many places”. So ‘Don’t accept this as the destination’ might be another way to say this…or as I heard Neil Douglas-Klotz say once: “The world is a bridge, just don’t build your house on it.” The caravan is still moving. We are a part of it. It is our responsibility to take time to listen deeply and plot our route from the allurement of that listening. We are not simply riding this experience.
5. Don’t spend your time denying or trying to distance yourself from your privilege. I think one of the blocks we might have in taking authorship or our experience is that we are grief illiterate. If we are the authors, then why are women treated the way they are. If we are the authors then why don’t black lives matter. We can’t claim authorship without grieving that these ways of relating are real and were written to serve someones collapsed interest. Simply making these distorted ways of relating ‘wrong’ is like trying to spend all of our time erasing what is already written. We need to read these perversions and then write something more beautiful. It is futile to spend our time trying to distance ourselves from them or erase them or justify them. We need to see grieving-the-shit-out-of-them as the same activity as writing something much more beautiful and with space for more than people that look like us.
So there is my list. I’m going to be writing this year. If you know of ways to help me connect this with keeping the lights on give me a shout. May you all be fierce enough to hold space for your wild uncomfortable dreams in the coming year. Andrew