In recent weeks I have found myself reaching desperately for familiar sources of wisdom. As someone stuck between the fluctuating but mirrored ethos of too little and too much, I find comfort in the intense conviction of others that I myself often find difficult to match. Who can afford to stay so passionately creative when constant social inequities and un-natural disasters punctuate the lives of literally everyone and tend to overwhelm the hearts of activists (environmentalists, facilitators, teachers, healers) especially?
Octavia Butler’s speculative fiction and adrienne maree brown’s emergent strategies are just a few examples of concepts I've had on repeat lately. Though I have only read one book by each of these women, their wisdom has acted as a reference point for me during DDCSP and beyond. Even now, with little energy or focus to read at length, I hold onto tidbits, quotes, and chapters throughout the day like scripture.
As much as I strive to be more present, engage in breath work, and “be here now” as many Instagram yogis recommend, those practices are challenging for me and sometimes feel rooted in privilege. What I think Butler and brown offer to my little practical Virgo soul is a way to engage with imagination and an unclear future in a way that is joyful and hopeful, rather than crushing.
Acknowledging how drastically different the world’s present is from its past just a couple weeks ago gives me hope for how incredibly and wildly different the future will be. After all, according to Butler, “The only lasting truth is change.” Re-reading the intro to Emergent Strategies echoed this sentiment, “Once there were kings and queens all over the earth. Someday we might speak of presidents and CEOs in the past tense only.” These reminders help me set the groundwork for imagining the world I want.
With the recent changes in our world, I’m clearly not the only one thinking about building the world I want. Several gardening stores have reported a steep incline in orders and some are even running out of seeds. And with eggs flying off grocery store shelves, many people have reverted to becoming first-time chicken breeders. Though this phenomena raises serious concerns about the wellbeing of the purchased chicks, it encourages me to see so many people making the connection between food security, sustainability, and capitalism. People all over are visioning a future in which they have a garden, spend time outside, and have a reliable food source.
Visioning for me often involves a specific goal, tangible next steps, and a spreadsheet. This makes it sound a lot like homework, but I love it! For other people, imagining a new future or a new world requires visuals like a dream board. There are a lot of online tools to find what method of visioning brings you the most joy. Some will look a lot like prayer or meditation, other forms may involve visual art or even dance. But the first step is to simply imagine.
People all over the world are facing extreme challenges heightened by this pandemic. Visioning doesn't ignore that; it addresses it. This isn’t about fantasy, which can sometimes add to a sense of lack rather than abundance. Visioning through this lens is thinking about how we can move towards each other, move towards justice. How can we keep moving with and to each other even in our current isolation? How can I more align my present self with my future self even though I am physically quite literally stuck in place? It may seem surprising, but world building like this actually grounds me more in the present rather than driving me deeper into chaotic worries about the future. So I highly recommend experimenting with this practice if you are struggling to feel grounded at this time.
Clinging to the hope or conviction of others as I find my own dwindling has been helpful for me throughout my journey as an environmentalist. This whole blog is really just an extended way of saying, I don’t know what to say right now. But I hope you feel encouraged and hopeful when considering the words of wisdom from these women. I will leave you with a final quote from another favorite guide.
- adrienne maree brown writes here about visioning through COVID-19.
- Try this visioning activity with a social distancing buddy or discuss with a friend over the phone.
- If you'd like to talk more about visioning, please attend our next webinar, From a Vision to Reality, with Ki'Amber Thompson on April 17th.