change

The day after the election, Jen said that a friend of hers said that “we need to live differently, actually live it.” I agree. And I’m convinced we need to want different things. Whenever I feel rushed or competitive or urgent, my instinct is to take a step back. I haven’t been, but it’s my instinct nonetheless. The impulse to do things quickly or to ‘win’ or to treat as imperative some piece of paperwork feels like a trap that leads right to this political and cultural moment. We get caught up in such… nothing. Meanwhile, the sun rises, waves meet the shore, the breeze breezes.

If we’re honest, the ‘project’ of this culture has been to avoid our own suffering by passing it off on others. This is a serious problem, or rather more truthfully, it is a sin that isn’t also a crime which is the culture’s cosmic crime. The snake is eating its tail…

How do we want different things? For me – and I can’t even say I want different things; I enjoy life in the suburbs and all of the attendant middle-brow luxuries -, wanting different things starts with considering the things I want, my experience of those things, why I want them, and the origin of my desire. My hair and my skin are two ‘desires’ that I disentangled from the trap of this culture, and, while these might seem shallow, gendered and raced and primal (seeing is believing) as they are, renegotiating my relationship with them on my terms took/takes time and effort. For years, I saw (and was told) that I would be ‘acceptable’ if my hair was straight and my skin was lighter, so I straightened my hair and avoided the sun and felt like a fraud. At Howard, space existed for me to see and hear other perspectives on the ‘acceptability’ of my body, and so I was able to nurture a different relationship with my hair and skin, a relationship based not on fear and control but on discovery and appreciation. Can we do this with food? With health? With learning? With sexuality? With love? With each other?

(There’s a piece missing from my argument, the link between how Western culture foists its suffering on Others and its preference for straight hair and white skin. Maybe it’s something like… ‘We’re superior people and thus needn’t labor like THAT for our survival; you do it. But, maybe, if you’re more like us, you needn’t labor like that either…’ Something along those lines… right?)

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