A Sweaty Meditative Letter from Brooklyn

I’m thinking about time, appropriation, queerness, and always social movements. And the ways fungi are really out there doing things in community with other plants and trees in highly complex ways.

From Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change our Minds & Shape our Futures:

“How do fungi maintain a sense of a body subject to continual revision? Hyphae must be able to tell if they are bumping into a branch of themselves or another fungus entirely. If another, they need to be able to tell whether it is a different — potentially hostile — species, or a sexually compatible member of its own, or neither. Some fungi have tens of thousands of mating types, approximately equivalent to our sexes… Fungal self-identity matters, but it is not always a binary world. Self can shade off into otherness gradually.”

It also feels like 100 degrees in Brooklyn in the middle of the night. Today I’ve enjoyed this heat. I did not run the AC and have enjoyed the subtle art of cooling oneself in a NYC heatwave. There are ceiling fans, window fans, iced coffees, refrigerated lychees from Chinatown, cold showers, leaning into a sweaty meditative state, rose water face spritz, gelato after a pizza dinner outside in the night, straight up naked starfished on the bed under a fan at one point, made homemade iced tea from mint, geranium, basil.

As reference here are two pieces that have allowed me to be seen this week. Even allowed me to rejoice.

This podcast interview with Alok. As usual they are everything. What more can I say beyond listen to them, but more than that, change from it, act from it.

Then this piece in Noema mag by Joe Zadeh, which served to deeply validate how I have often felt about time.

The more we synchronize ourselves with the time in clocks, the more we fall out of sync with our own bodies and the world around us. Borrowing a term from the environmentalist Bill McKibben, Michelle Bastian, a senior lecturer at Edinburgh University and editor of the academic journal Time & Society, has argued that clocks have made us “fatally confused” about the nature of time. In the natural world, the movement of “hours” or “weeks” do not matter. Thus the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the sudden extinction of species that have lived on Earth for millions of years, the rapid spread of viruses, the pollution of our soil and water — the true impact of all of this is beyond our realm of understanding because of our devotion to a scale of time and activity relevant to nothing except humans.

As I think about decolonizing so many aspects of my own existence/thinking/death, I think about the close relationship that colonization has with appropriation. To be a colonizer is to take from, take of a people, of a land. It is a different thing than learning, spending time, acknowledging our teachers, acknowledging the work that went into something.

Alok speaks to the dangers of appropriation the trans community face currently: (and my quotes are not exact)

“…the ideas and aesthetics that are templated by visibly non-binary people are being abstracted without the due diligence for caring for our actual lives.”

“Black, Indigenous, racialized, trans, people must be instrumental, not simply ornamental.”

“…we do not only want the circulation of our ideas, must also have the circulation of resources…”

“…the onus is on us to be strong and brave, but how about we move onus onto perpetuators…”

“Last year , 2020 was the deadliest year recorded in anti-trans violence…”

It was never actually about comprehension

“The way that tokenization works is that it’s made the political ask “know us”, learn our pronouns.”

“The next ask is know yourselves…that’s the work ppl won’t do.”

“The lack of that spiritual work is creating the condition of violence.”

Because we cannot stop hurting others if we do not know ourselves. The work we do to be in loving community with each other requires spending an inordinate amount of time knowing ourselves, healing ourselves, grieving wounds. And knowing ourselves is a never-ending thing, requiring us to UNknow what we are told our value by everything around us.

We can spend this time healing and also act from that place / always movement. Do not forget the action. From a piece titled Grief Belongs in Social Movements. Can we Embrace it?:

Step 4: Take action from this place of grounded grief. In our conversation, Espinosa-Jones reminded me that an individual’s psychology can heal by finding the courses of action that match one’s felt need — but there are no skipped steps. Sitting with discomfort is always first, followed by connection and inspiration — but at the end of the day, we need action to metabolize grief and transform our material and cultural conditions. Metabolized grief can power deep and lasting change infused with profound joy, while unmetabolized grief becomes an almost insurmountable barrier to it.

I have spent much of my time living on the East Coast being affected by seasons, but usually it is the start of work, of school, of deadlines, schedules, dates, that signifies the end of summer. Not necessarily a change in the actual season. This August feels especially prone to thinking about September, there is much uncertainty, fear around all the things we have already seen and some things we haven’t. Covid, kids, in-person school, anti-maskers, anti-vaxxers, the majority of the world just trying to get the vaccines we won’t use, how do we keep us safe. It’s a lot.

The hot days figuring out how to cool off is a kind of slowing down, feeling the time as it exists in this heat. Sort of stretched, quiet, we say more things to strangers on the streets because we are looser. We perhaps do not care so much about being perfect when its so hot, we just exist.

From Noema piece on time:

The Earth is not a perfect sphere with perfect movement; it’s a lumpy round mass that is squashed at both poles and wobbles. It does not rotate in exactly 24 hours each day or orbit the sun in exactly 365 days each year. It just kinda does. Perfection is a manmade concept; nature is irregular.

Also on the colonizing project of time (Noema):

“European global expansion in commerce, transport and communication was paralleled by, and premised upon, control over the manner in which societies abroad related to time,” the Australian historian Giordano Nanni wrote in his book, “The Colonization of Time.” “The project to incorporate the globe within a matrix of hours, minutes and seconds demands recognition as one of the most significant manifestations of Europe’s universalizing will.” In short, if the East India Company was the physical embodiment of British colonialism overseas, GMT was the metaphysical embodiment.

In other words, I am learning to trust/believe myself and the land on which I live.

In the spirit of loose, sweaty imperfect sharing with strangers, a list where the numbers are off because I cant figure out formatting:

  1. I dunno, right now, this song hits.
  2. Also currently checking out this playlist of Asian Women Artists in the West.
  3. This eggplant recipe is good, thank you to the person who made it for me.
  4. I had a bit of coconut milk left and modified this recipe a bit to make salad dressing.
  5. Birthing babies cant be all that it means to be a woman. More Alok. Plus there are multiple ways to birth and care for and be a life force.
  6. Not sure if I would call myself a relationship anarchist exactly, but I’m into the idea of undoing/deconstructing/rethinking everything about what we have been taught about relationships. Enjoy The short instructional manifesto for relationship anarchy.
  7. On whatever fungi are doing in relationships (Entangled Life): “More than the architecture of roots has to change for a fungus to bond with a plant. In response to each other’s distinctive chemical profiles, signaling cascades ripple through plant and fungal cells, activating suites of genes. Both reorient their metabolisms and developmental programs. Fungi release chemicals that suspend their plant partners’ immune responses, without which they can’t get close enough to form symbiotic structures. Once established, mycorrhizal partnerships continue to develop. Connections between hyphae and roots are dynamic, formed and reformed as root tips and fungal hyphae get old and die. These are relationships that ceaselessly remodel themselves. If you could place your olfactory epithelium into the soil, it would feel like the performance of a jazz group, with the players listening, interacting, responding to one another in real time.”
  1. Always this one.
  1. “We tend to think of the erotic as an easy, tantalizing sexual arousal. I speak of the erotic as the deepest life force, a force which moves us toward living in a fundamental way.” -Audre Lorde
  2. Melissa Newman-Evans, a graphic designer and poet, performed a poem entitled 9 Things I Would Like to Tell to Every Teenage Girl at the 2015 National Poetry Slam in August.
  3. Some more Alok from podcast mentioned above:
  • “ Living is a poetic praxis. The thing about being a poem is that its never finished. …
  • My security comes from ‘I don’t know, therefore I am’. Not ‘I know therefore I am’. I suspend all knowing. I love ignorant people. I think the people who are most fluent in their ignorance are the smartest people. How dare we even think that we know in a universe that is so huge and expansive.
  • Moving the onus away from empowerment of trans people towards actually making gender unknowable. …
  • I love ‘I don’t know’ because that means that I can try. And trying for me is the mode of existence that I want to be in.”

Writer. I care about justice for black and brown bodies, public education, good vintage clothes, how societies and technology work, and immigrant recipes.