Podcast Episode 007: A Reading of N. K. Jemisin

Transcript (Quoting Jemisin):

Eventually, I considered it the topic of death.

I could kill myself now, probably. This was not normally an easy thing for any god to do, as we are remarkably resilient beings. Even willing ourselves into nonexistence did not work for long; eventually, we would forget that we were supposed to be dead and start thinking again. Yeine could kill me, but I would never ask it of her. Some of my siblings, and Naha, could and would do it, because they understood that sometimes life is too much to bear. But I did not need them anymore. The past two nights’ events had verified what I’d already suspected: those things that had once merely weakened me before could kill me now. So if I could steel myself to the pain of it, I could die whenever I wished simply by continuing to contemplate antithetical thoughts until I became an old man, and then a corpse.

And perhaps it was even simpler than that. I needed to eat and drink and piss waste now. That meant I could starve,and thirst, and that my intestines and other organs were actually necessary. If I damaged them, they might not grow back.

What would be the most exciting way to commit suicide?

Because I did not want to die an old man. Kahl had gotten that much right. If I had to die, I would die as myself–as Sieh, the Trickster, if not the child. I had blazed bright in my life. What was wrong with blazing in death too?

Before I reached middle age, I decided. Surely I could think of something interesting by then.


–N. K. Jemisin. The Kingdom of Gods, Book 3: The Inheritance Trilogy (2014, p. 1036). Orbit/Hachette Book Group: New York.

Podcast Episode 006: Mahacanattuck River Walk, Day 7


I’m not great at this time thing, time and timing. It’s day seven of the Water Walk. I think that’s right. I’m trying to finish the blogpost about kind of summarizing the first week. We got to hear the sound of running water a lot. On the day that we went for the 27 mile stretch of the upper, upper Hudson, the Muhheakanatuck. Shoot, Mahacanatuck. I don’t know. I think that’s the right way to say it, but my auditory ability to pick out tones, not so good. Chinese? Norwegian? Tonal languages, identifying birdsong. Anyway, there’s a little bit of running water near where I live, where I spend most of my time. It’s kind of special.

The pressure of the moment, the crisis is building, which means we have to be even more intentional about creating peaceful, nonviolent alternatives that still give people a sense of purpose.

For instance, it is meaningful to join the SacredWater is Life Prayer Walk. Communication can happen and does happen, regardless of whether we’re paying attention or believe, have been convinced by the evidence, whatever it is we rest our knowledge on, or our sense of confidence in the knowledge that we believe, or feel, or think that we have or that we earned, or that we acquired through effort. What if there are parts of it that are flawed and how do you identify that? Face it and change if it’s been dug so deep? Going on the Water Walk can be meditative because you’re walking. So that slows you down a whole lot more than any other mode of transit, and all the other modes of transit are typically preferred because they’re faster. So being on the Water Walk slows you down.

It’s meditative. But Grandmother tells stories and things happen, and you have to figure out this, that and the other thing. So you have to actually negotiate for silence if that’s what you would like or if that’s what’s called for, or discipline yourself to remain silent if someone else needs it. The efforts at healing, at restoration, at any kind of social repair; reparations, actually recognizing and acknowledging the need for reparations, and starting to do the work of figuring out how to implement it.

I think the question is not how much, the question is how, and then in the how, we figure out the engineering of the financial system that makes it work, so that people who currently feel pretty comfortable and can coast right up to the end, don’t commit suicide for all of us. Because they can’t emotionally figure out how to absorb the change.

But I think that kind of creativity is only going to come out of people spending quality time together in some kind of moving meditation. So your body’s engaged, but you’re actually able to bring your awareness to your body, because your body isn’t just moving in service of whatever it is you’re doing, or trying to do, or rushing to get to, or hurrying to get done. So you feel where it’s tight, figure out how to relax and become lighter and more nimble with responses, so that whatever it is that sets something off, you can be quick enough to go, “Oh no, no. I’m not going to go down the usual path. I know where that one leads, not so ideal.”

Would be happy to let it go. I just have to figure out what’s the other thing to do in that moment. But just to have that capacity to interrupt, is a big step and you can only get that if there’s a condition that stretches out your experience of time, so that the other things that occupy your mind, don’t get continually re-stimulated, and so they have a chance to kind of dissipate into the background. They’re not gone. They’re just not defining who you are at this moment. So I go back to the Water Walk tomorrow and hopefully I’ll have the blog post up by then, and we’ll get this event nailed down June 22nd, it looks like.

Yeah, there’s a lot more Walk to 28 day cycle, closing ceremony on July 2nd, event June 22 and maybe something in-between. That’s not quite clear yet, but every day there’s Walking and we love to have Walkers with us. Grandmother especially, would love to have Walkers with her, who are there just to listen. Okay. Not just to listen. They want to help too, but to fit the form of the prayer that most suits Grandmother Carole.

All right. That’s this one.


Podcast Episode 005: Gathering Resilience


I’m in high gear now for Gathering Resilience. The event coming up in May — Moving from Woke to Woven. It’s high spring or I’m having an accelerated spring, recording this as I’m driving south from Massachusetts to Tennessee but I’ll be back in Massachusetts for Gathering Resilience. I’ve been thinking about what it would take to reorganize the food economy in western Massachusetts. For one thing I know we need milk distribution centers. I don’t know exactly, but maybe four or five throughout the state because that would make it possible for the smaller scale dairy farmers to sustain their businesses rather than be forced to work with these mega corporations that have no investment in the local social welfare.

Then there’s just producing food and making sure that we have no food deserts; that we have a really high level of resilience in terms of production and distribution locally. Again building up an economy or reconfiguring an economy that rewards people that do the work of growing, harvesting, packaging I guess, preparing the food and getting it out to everyone who needs it — which is all of us by the way. You noticed? I’ve been watching signs in grocery stores for a couple years that talk about a shortage of some produce or a particular product that has been impacted by a weather event and the rumors about what’s going to be in short supply or what will run out soon.

This is one of the trends of that instability that results from an increasing temperature in the atmosphere. Anyway, I don’t want to get into too many details but Gathering Resilience, Moving from Woke to Woven is coming up. You can get more information about it at learningresiliency.com. Yeah I think that’s it for this one. Catch you next time.

Podcast Episode 004: Transforming: Design and Engineering Part 3


Violence serves the interests of people in power. If we can reduce and minimize the kinds of motivations that channel people towards violent activities and violent actions, and if we stop sanctioning violence in our international and domestic relations, things will get better. It’s inevitable. That’s how it works. It’s not impossible or somehow precluded as a possible future. It could happen. We have to change some rules. That’s what humanity has done throughout evolution. We learn something, we change the rules. We learn something else, we change the rules.

Now, people have been changing the rules in a particular kind of way for several hundred years, since the industrial revolution and the advent of technology that gave us more control of people’s time, and increasing technology that allowed all of these transactions to occur without barriers, money, transactions, but that’s rules. The rules have been designed to allow money to move more easily than people, and it set up a contest between human beings who want to live in relationship with each other and the natural planet, the systems of the planet, and an artificial, constructed kind of hallucination, really, that endless accumulation, and the notion of continuous progress are somehow preordained as the only way to determine value.

Like, that’s just ridiculous, but we’re so enculturated, it’s so deeply embedded in us to worry about the monetary value of our time, especially those whose use of time has been bankrolled by a system that funnels other people, mostly brown people, plenty of other less-than-perfect white Americans, the image of what it means to be an American, the old image of what it means to be an American. Like, we’re just so steeped in a political economy that gives straight white men all the power, which they have used, in every field, to create a web of interlocking policies, laws, gendered cultural practices, and raced cultural practices, to keep themselves in power.

And those of us who don’t fit that, but are still benefiting from whiteness, like we have to understand that we are just as guilty. Like, there’s a way in which, at this point in time, at this historical epoch, our inaction, our coasting along on the existing fossil fuel infrastructure, and the stock market, and the way they game futures in this or that, our embeddedness in the healthcare insurance industry, all of the insurances. Like, all of those things are ways to extend white privilege, right? The people who get the most of those benefits and advantages are the people who fit into the industrialized corporate structure of big business, or small businesses that are playing by those rules and have a good enough product to be competitive, et cetera, et cetera.

Competition, I think, is still really important, but we can compete on different terms, or on terms that are defined, categorically, at a level that’s beyond a basic quality of life that our technology most definitely enables us to provide for everyone, if we chose to do it. And there’s really no reason not to do it. Our circumstances might shift in terms of… Like, I just think of it as a lateral shift. We’re bringing people up in collective ways, and there should still be a lot of variation. Culture matters tremendously, and we need to make sure that we create systems that enable bridges, and conduits, and spans of interpretation and transition from a setting or a context into another setting or context.

It’s just not undoable. We could really do it. We just need enough people in enough different industries, the various pillars of society, government included and essentially in government, and businesses, especially bigger corporate businesses, to own it, and say, “It’s our turn. It’s our time to be a great generation.” And not just one generation, like only a certain subset of the ages of the generations that are currently alive, but intersectional, across, intergenerationally. Let’s be the people that do this thing.

Podcast Episode 003: Transforming: Design and Engineering Part 2


All right, so I’m having ideas and I’m just going to keep talking, because it could be done. For instance, the other day, I was driving over to see friends to have dinner and go to a concert, and I just looked around, and everybody’s driving. Everybody’s out in their cars, going somewhere. Like, this is a problem. We can’t all be in our cars going somewhere anymore, right? That’s a lifestyle that is perpetuating the fossil fuel industry, and we need to stop. We need to shift it. So okay, how would that happen? Well, what if there was a buyback program for cars? They’ve got buyback programs for automatic weapons. New Zealand just did it. The US has done it in places before. So if we thought about personal vehicles actually as instruments of ecological warfare, and understood that we need to turn them in and get around by a different mode of transportation, that would move us a pretty far distance down the timeline of transition.

But then what would happen? Well, why can’t all the cars go to disassembly plants or whatever kind of manufacturing facility can convert the parts into the parts needed for better public transit. Like, that’s what we need, right? People still want to be able to get around. We need a system that allows people to get around together, through public transportation, conduits of trains, rail, maybe some kinds of buses. I mean, the stuff that the Chinese have is… Like, there’s crazy technology out there for mass-moving people around, and there can be enough variety in the routes, in the types and the routes, to make it so you can get pretty much anywhere. We just have to decide that’s what we need to do, and then we just do it, so we retool.

We go on a kind of economic footing like we did for the World Wars, and like we did when 43… Was it 43? 42? Bush. The second Bush decided to go to war against Iran. He used a phrase at that time about the United States being like a bear waking up from slumber, and being an unstoppable force once it gets moving. Well, supposedly lots of people are getting woke, but we haven’t really started moving in any kind of coordinated fashion yet. There are a lot of efforts, but they’re siloed, kind of piecemeal, and not very intersectional. Kind of like the Academy, which has been talking about interdisciplinarity for decades, but still struggles to reward people who are actually doing it.

But that’s what we need to figure out, is a big bold plan. The Green New Deal could easily be a label, a container, for hashing out the plan, or the plans, because there will need to be many. Transportation’s one sector. Education is another sector. Healthcare is another sector. They all need to be integrated to the extent that we know where they intersect each other, and that’s where we need to make the transitions, or the juxtapositions, the intersections seamless. They need to be smooth.

So transportation takes you to where your healthcare is, and education allows you to understand how to use the transportation system and the healthcare system to maintain your own health and wellbeing, and that of your family, as well as finding means to situate yourself in a good housing situation and an income situation, or networked ability to receive enough food to be able to eat well and feed your family well. Like, there are just some basics. If we took those basics as the essentials, and approached them with a long-term view, such as indigenous people have, and have always had, and are trying very much to tell us, if we would only listen, we could do this thing.

It doesn’t mean it will be without disruption. Things will change. But the change doesn’t necessarily have to be for the worse. Conditions are going to get much more challenging, and to the extent that we try to protect the things that cushion us in the old economy, we impair our ability to transition smoothly to the new economy. But if we just engage the reality that things need to change, and then diligently work at how to make sure everybody gets enough, and build that into the… I mean, it could still be capitalist. Build it into the infrastructure of the circulation of money, because that’s what keeps an economy going. It’s not that everybody keeps trying to accumulate as much as they possibly can, although obviously there are always going to be people who are motivated by that.

But an economy only works if the goods are in circulation, and right now, most of the goods, the financial goods, are tied up among an astonishingly small number of people, who are probably sick with this disease of needing to hoard it to themselves, and battling with each other to outmaneuver each other, get a little bit more. And while they’re playing that game with the rest of us, we’re trying to figure out bigger solutions, that shift the rules of the game so that the circulation happens in a more equitable way, a more fair way. It’s just that simple.

Podcast Episode 002: Transformation: Design and Engineering


What is it today? It is Saturday, March 23rd, 1:49 PM. I’m recording through something on my phone plugged into my car. I do have cruise control on, except it’s not set, which means it’s not doing anything. It’s just on, which is … Is that kind of like a metaphor for society right now? Like we really, we have technology that’s got us in cruise, but we don’t trust it because it’s the old technology. So we’re leaving it on, but we’ve got our foot on the gas, and maybe what we really need to do is actually change the technological infrastructure and pick a different system to determine the standards, the baseline measurements or the target measurements. Like all those things have to get measured. Lots of measurement for the transition, because we have to do the transition. We have to do a technological transition. We can’t just let it happen to us. Like we just let it happen to us all the way up until this point, and that’s the wrong thing.

Maybe some of us didn’t know better, and I think people with more privilege whom the technological society was supporting, it’s easy. We forgot. Like we really have forgotten because it hasn’t been in our consciousness how it is to live as if you have to find and prepare your own food every single day, you have to find and store and manage your heating, et cetera. Like it’s not that we necessarily have to go back to being individually responsible for that. We could still do it in groups at the group level, but not at the size of group that it is right now.

At least, maybe the other way to think is a better way to think, that we actually need to make it bigger, but we need to make it bigger based on other terms. So those of us who are entirely dependent on someone else to grow and process and sell us our food, and those of us who require the electrical grid to be operational, to have heat in the New England winter, we’re entirely dependent on the fossil fuel infrastructure. Like we’ve got to understand that that’s where we are locked in. That’s what we have to unlock, and why not make a horizontal slide right over to the next system? But here’s the thing, the next system has to be bigger. It has to encompass more people. So we have to give free power and free infrastructure for the power and the wifi and the access to communication technology. We need to make sure everybody has access to that, and that the security protocols from privacy are strictly enforced, like rigidly enforced, like actually enforced.

I just think it’s possible from an engineering perspective to figure out what needs to get done, and what’s the best way to do it, and places can probably experiment with different strategies, and then we can compare after the fact, or at the one year and the two year and the three, like on an annual basis or every … Whatever. After two years, after five years. It’s like, make sure that it’s a long enough period of time for something significant to have changed to a significant degree. You know, like what does it have to be? More than two and a half standard deviations for it to count as a real thing?

So you define that, and we start doing it, and the industry retools. Businesses make their decision about what their current setup positions them for in terms of retooling to make new products or variations of their old products that fit the requirements from the new system.

That’s got to be enough. Okay. Ah, this is great fun. I look forward to feedback, interaction, although there’s a lot of that happening. Can I just say? There’s a lot of that happening, and it’s something to do with timing and attention as to what I’m working on at any particular moment. Right now, I’m driving and I have to stay focused on driving. It’s a beautiful day though. It’s 39 degrees and partly cloudy, but the sun … there’s blue sky up there, some, and the overcast, gray, cold morning with a bit of snow overnight has dissipated. Definitely has that spring feeling. So we’ll catch up with you next time.

Podcast Episode 001: Entering Conversation

Structures of Interaction episode #001!


So now hopefully I’m recording something new. Chapter two, which is these conversations that I’m simultaneously participating in that have long histories. Maybe not in terms of the individuals involved at this particular moment but in terns of the content of the conversation. So race, whiteness, the original indigenous people of this land and how those obligations of engaging in a real conversation with each other should apply. It doesn’t matter if it’s a relatively new conversation for you to be jumping into or if you’ve also had many conversations over the course of your lifetime or even in a concentrated manner in a short, recent period of time. They tell this anecdote in the field of Communication, in communication studies, one of the early theorists described communication as a process of walking into a party and all these conversations are already happening and you just join in where you can with who you want to, and you go from there.

But the conversation is already been happening and it’s always like that. Whatever interaction we’re having, whatever we’re talking about, it’s ritualized. There are elements of it that are similar to other kinds of interaction and there are topical possibilities for connecting it to other conversations and different places with different people. And then there’s also the arc, right, the trajectory of every time you’re in that conversation in your own life. Yeah so there’s this Responsible Whiteness series that my partner and I are co-facilitating right now through the Truth School. It’s the Sojourner Truth School for Social Change Leadership. And we’re also doing a project with a local elementary school. We’re Organizers in Residence for the sixth grade which is really, really cool. And I’m planning an event in May and I’m involved with other individuals in groups who are trying to protect the Northeastern Woodlands, the forest that covers Massachusetts and other states, which needs a lot of protection right now. It needs the strongest protection we can possibly give it.

And also planning, starting to plan for this summer’s sacred water, Water is Life walk. That’ll be our second year supporting. And then there’s the daily stuff, right. So there’s what’s happening in the news, what the news is recording or reporting on. It’s pretty dire, a lot of it. I go back and forth between sensationalism and journalism. I think it does depend what outlet you’re getting it from and more important than that though, I think is how you listen to it and how you notice, how you respond to the choices that they make when they’re telling the news. Because everything they say or everything they show you is part of a conversation, and it’s part of creating the parameters for the conversation. What can be talked about and what can’t be talked about. So if you let what you hear set the boundaries for what can or cannot be talked about you’ve already curtailed the possible future.

So I think I started the first podcast or attempted a podcast with describing that I was going to listen to Sherri Mitchell’s interview with Travis through an app called Podbean and I’m drawn to it right now because of the timing. Sherri was in New Zealand last week when the mass murder of Muslims in their house of worship, in the most sacred act of worshiping, were killed by a person who has become so full of a certain type of rhetoric that the only thing he can imagine to do is act on it. And we all get full up in different ways with different things and think we can’t limit our ability to think through options and act differently or act according to principles that lead us toward a future that has more solutions in it. Yeah, so if you actually made it through listening to this, wow. Thank you so much. What an achievement, an accomplishment, a something something. I’ve been talking for eight minutes and 20 seconds. Holy cow. Yeah, hopefully it was coherent or coherent enough and made some kind of sense. I might do this again.


Podcast Episode 000: “Which Avocado?”

Episode #0 of the new podcast, Structures of Interaction, in which Steph, Lindsey and Fugu talk about racial and cultural preconceptions getting in the way of efforts at social change.

The meal.

Moving from Woke to Woven.


Lindsey: It was pretty funny in her email-

Steph: What was it? “Please select.”

Lindsey: Yeah it was …

Fugu: It was-

Steph: It was well done originally.

Lindsey: “Please select.”

Steph: “Please select.”

Lindsey: “Which avocado?” I know, I’m like-

Steph: What was the other option? The other option was outrage or-

Lindsey: Not outrage, society– [crosstalk 00:00:24]

Steph: Or like, proactivity instead of reactivity.

Lindsey: Proactivity is too neutral. Because, in fact, you can be proactive in an asshole, kind of, outrageous way.

Steph: Right. Which is why-

Lindsey: So, it’s actually saying, to be in the world in a way that does not generate outrage.

Steph: Yes. And when you have the impulse in yourself to outrage-

Lindsey: That you work-

Steph: That you have some skills to go, “Whoa. This is something happening through me and, maybe it’s me, but maybe it’s not exactly me, and there’s some room-”

Fugu: But it’s- also, there’s also kind of a narcissism, right? The fact is, the minute people have outrage, they realize that, “Here is a way that I can get some attention.” Because the minute I put my outrage out there, “I said this first,” becomes a huge thing, right? “So-and-so says, or, so-and-so pointed out.” And you’re like “So, this is all about you getting a little moment” as you said, like this lady having a moment? It’s the same thing, everybody’s seeking that little moment, it’s got no, like, deep investment in the topic, or what is change, or any of it. And, I’m like “this is what we’ve created,” everybody’s hungry for their little piece.

Lindsey: Ironically, I don’t know why I have to go here, but I have to go here. Ironically, the very thing you described, like, if you have this drive to, like, burst out, to like, go and do that work.

Steph: Yeah.

Lindsey: That’s, like, how I was trained.

Fugu: Exactly.

Lindsey: Inside of whiteness, and as being a woman inside of whiteness. Which is critiqued now, from, there’s a negative critique of that very dynamic.

Steph: Right.

Lindsey: So, part of the challenge, I’m just gonna say, for me personally, but I think it expands to, like, people who’re formed in a certain way. Um, and of a certain color, like, it’s, to figure out how to do that and not have it be re-investing in the, um, silencing culture.

Fugu: Yeah.

Lindsey: Because, there’s a way in which you can do that that’s silencing versus that’s, um, like, you know, whatever, real.

Fugu: Right.

Steph: Right?

Fugu: Good points.

Steph: Good points.

Fugu: All-

Lindsey: Outrage [crosstalk 00:02:36] point.

Fugu: Please select.

Steph: Please select.

Fugu: Which avocado?

Steph: Please select.

Fugu: [inaudible 00:02:45]

Steph: You said the larger one.

Fugu: I mean, it’s rather, like, self-explanatory.

Steph: Whew!