an alternative gospel
*in some ways, parenting is first about teaching a child about the material world—the things we believe to be solid and fixed, literally and figuratively. “parents” “mom and mom” “dad and dad” “mom and dad” etc.
the transition into adulthood seems to be one of uprooting the foundations of what people believe to be the material world. adultness or maturity is often understood by a person’s capacity for open-minded thought, but how does one become open-minded? it comes from being lied to, learning that not everything people tell you is “true.” having an open-mind is a polite way of reframing a filter/censor that, over time, becomes more adept at hearing ideas, then organize them, then articulating why something is “shit” or “not shit.”
there is a misunderstanding people have in their late teens and early twenties: that we must uproot the material only once, or maybe just a few times, before we can settle down into the comfortable step of a person who has walked the Earth and knows the Earth, is not challenged by authority, is perhaps an authority figure, and to which all things come easier. in some ways, old notions of what a career, a college degree, a first marriage, a new house—what these things bring to a person reflect this perceived reality. this reality is predicated on a materialistic relationship with the world and the human beings in it—it is a colonizer’s way of thinking; truth is objective and you can own it, today, for the low low price of 19.99. (the colonizer generates power through an exercise in organizing the world so that it appears discrete).
some aged adults in the room are probably snickering, now. perhaps what makes them laugh is the lived experience of day after day, working with their garden of knowledge. they know that the uprooting happens constantly, as the seasons change and the soil changes. change is not just part of life—it defines life! only the fools think that the world is one way or another. only fools think that they will never change, or even that they are knowable in any particular moment—everything is always changing, always in a state of becoming.
thinking this way, though, seems a bit haphazard; it certainly doesn’t compliment the way many people are trained to think about survival in the American capitalist economy. people in that space seldom embrace change. success and reward in that space is predicated on how well a person can know the world and manipulate it, bend the world to human will. knowledge is power because knowledge is a tool for extraction. knowledge itself is a technology. preservation be damned; the objects we can order are untapped energies that we must control and harness. this is, ultimately, the consequence of being raised to think of the world as material and discrete. this all makes for a very violent confrontation with the way the world works around the colonizer.
change is in equivalency with loss, doubt, remorse, sadness. change is emotionally traumatic. acknowledging change is acknowledging the limitations (the “wrongness”) of understanding the world and the things in, around, through, and outside of it as discrete and fixed.
in the real world the evidence of this trauma is found in most any debate about anything and everything. as minds change, attitudes change, people change and they refract the depth and breadth of their knowledge garden. this isn’t to say that i believe in “right” and “wrong”—in my world these things don’t really exist in material sense. “right” isn’t an object, it’s a tag—perhaps a hashtag—that can only be defined in relationship to other things. “rightness” is not discrete; it reflects a way of organizing and understanding the world—righteousness is something else entirely.
knowing one’s “rightness” comes at the expense of navel-gazing and objectifying the self in a material way. when i say “i’m right!” i’m claiming that there is something material about a distinctly immaterial thing—put more simply, i’m talking about something that doesn’t matter (literally! ha).
the consequences of diverting human conversations into territories of right and wrong means that the focus of our attention is misdirected away from the material world—the trees, the ocean, the birds and the bees. by way of concluding my own navel gazing for the day, i want to misdirect this conversation (purposely with and with abrupt force) to the topic of climate change. climate change is a very uncomfortable subject to talk about because colonizers are not practiced in thinking comfortably about the interconnectedness of the world around us.
And then also it’s important to remember that the necessary conditions of our lives—those things that seem to us unavoidably to be the case—are not only debated by physicists and philosophers but exist, irrationally, in the minds of the rest of us, beneath contempt intellectually, perhaps, but we still experience them as permanent facts. The climate was one of those facts. We did not think it could change. That is, we always knew we could do a great deal of damage to this planet, but even the most hubristic among us had not imagined we would ever be able to fundamentally change its rhythms and character, just as a child who has screamed all day at her father still does not expect to see him lie down on the kitchen floor and weep. – Zadie Smith, Elegy for Country’s Seasons
i offer no conclusion to the blog today; there is none. perhaps, though, i’ll come back to this topic with more clarity and revisit what i’m growing in the garden of knowledge.
*there is no homogeneous group; this is an illusion the colonizer assumes in order to make sense of socialized biological categories.