Questions for No Guarantees ’16

A dear friend and I spend hours discussing life’s deeper questions surrounding presence, purpose, love, relationships…but also pop culture and politics and how we are making connections between all of these things as individuals and as a society. Most times our conversations end with more questions than answers, but I’ve cozied up to this notion as a really important aspect of our existence. Questions keep us fascinated, provide guidance, help buffer the impact to many of life’s nonsensical tragedies, and prevent us from getting “mired in the details” as my friend often says.

As we entered 2016, I felt no excitement. I felt a belabored continuation of the year before and no hope in sight of life becoming easier anytime soon. However, since the beginning of the year, I have also embraced the notion of “things not becoming easier anytime soon” as another important aspect of our existence. In fact, I believe we’re heading towards greater difficulty and greater challenges in creating an equitable world. It is clear we are at a worldwide boiling point. In alignment with the shifts of the universe, we are recognizing the many fear-based, survival mode, scarcity-derived mentalities that have shaped our politics and our perspectives. It’s not as though there haven’t been justice warriors since the beginning of time, but due to the non-stop bombardment of information and the copious connectivity afforded to us by modern technology, confrontation(s) with our deep-seated, inequitable and oppressive practices has become glaringly inevitable. We are unearthing many of these concepts, and due to the enormous weight of what already is, the breakdown and building of something new is going to feel quite violent. The rising tension resulting from increasingly polarized and sensationalized politics and culture “wars” is taking its toll on our psyches, spirits and bodies. Unfortunately, I believe that in more instances than not, a symbolic and often painful snap or breaking away from what is will be necessary before rebuilding is even possible. Moreover, it is largely impossible to tell when these snaps will occur, how they will be handled, and whom they will impact.

As bigotry becomes more and more desperate to stay alive, there’s no telling what exclusionary, oppressive laws will be passed, what biological warfare will be unleashed on the people, or what innocent life will be stolen by an over militarized police force or misguided vigilante. I say all this not to be fear mongering, but to acknowledge the tumultuous era into which we’ve entered. Because for all of the disheartening moments, there are moments of resiliency, creativity, wonder, beauty and innovation. Who knows the next time a poem perfectly expressing loneliness will connect everyone who reads it, a fashion student will design a jacket that doubles as a flotation device, or a dollar contributed to a stranger’s gofundme will keep that person from losing electricity in their house.  It’s important we concede to neither hopelessness nor naive complacency. So, in the face of such uncertainty in what I’ve labeled as “No Guarantees ’16,” what do we do? Where is the balance between not feeling overwhelmed and being diligent about not conceding to complacency?

I’ve compiled a list of questions inspired by the many long conversations shared with my friend. They focus on engaging the self and assessing for ourselves where our fear-based systems of oppression have manifested in our individual bodies and mentalities. They are guidelines in creating presence and intentionality for our existence. My friend’s major esoteric influences include Conversations with God by Neale Donald Waslch, Jonathan Livington Seagull and Illusions by Richard Bach, and The Heart of the Soul and The Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav. When infusing my own take on the various life questions we discuss, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho comes to mind but more so the prolific writings of Black and other queer people of color feminists such as Audre Lorde, bell hooks, James Baldwin, Cherríe Moraga, Gloria Anzaldúa, and then other activist heroes of mine such as Grace Lee Boggs and the many other social justice super stars and friends from whom I’ve had the privilege to learn from directly.

Are my decisions/acting no taking me closer to who I want to be? The highest version of who I want to be, and to the most fulfilling experiences?

Am I being most true about my deepest desires?

Am I investing in people/experiences that both affirm and challenge me?

Am I engaging in difficult dialogue?

Am I pursuing/living decolonization?

Am I holding understanding of white feelings while not prioritizing them?

Am I naming and challenging white supremacy and all other -isms and phobias when I see them?

Am I doing my own privilege work?

Am I interrogating/healing my own internalized dominance?

Am I interrogating fear? Its roots, its cycles? Within me, within community?

Am I seeking solution?

Am I assessing the weight of my words?

Am I committed to what I believe in? Are my actions reflecting my beliefs?

What am I allowing?

What am I making room for?

How am I discerning learning?

What do I already know about myself and the world?

What am I saying no to? (What needs to be rejected/denied?)

Am I celebrating myself and the people around me?

Am I facilitating healing through creation?

Am I providing affirmation?

Am I redefining love and relationships? Am I living my most authentic self within them?

Am I growing my own roots?

I’ve posted some of these questions on social media before and another dear friend asked, “are you were willing for some of them to go unanswered? Is it enough to speak the questions.” I replied, “It is enough. In the ways that the process is enough, and constant. Yet, it is never enough to stop seeking their answers.”