There is a wonderful part of Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone’s book, Active Hope: how to face the mess we’re in without going crazy, that explains that we often mistake a freeze frame for reality.
But “reality” or the story of life, is in constant movement. (Go sit by a creek or river for a while and watch it go by. Which part is the creek or river? Which water molecule is still near you, after you’ve sat for an hour? Baby, that former glacier is on it’s way back to the ocean, and cloud and snowstorm and drinking water… )
The news (and fake news and disinformation creation) media present us a story that comes across as definitive, and yet, it’s simply one moment, one view on one moment… or, as Joanna Macy said, it’s what one person can turn their camera lens on, at one small point in time.
It isn’t the full story, the whole story, all the stories, or the ongoing story. It has limitations. It’s good to remember that sometimes, when it feels overwhelming.
On January 1, 2018, the activist and wise woman, adrienne maree brown, made a commitment: she would only put her attention where she wanted something to grow.
Want hate and unrest to grow? Keep consuming that narrative. We’re feeding into it.
Want imagination, creativity, kindness to grow? Go looking for that, loves. Share that. Create that. Amplify that. Attend to that.
That is true engagement with the world.
Here is the rest of Brown’s January 1st commitment. (New Year is coming up. What might a 2022 version of this look like for you? Where will you deploy your superpowers – of attention, of effort, of intention, of energy?) (And if you want to proclaim it publicly, drop me a note. We’d be honoured to to share it here.)
today i am entering a year-long commitment of putting my attention on what i love and want to grow.
i have been heading this way, but still giving too much of my attention to that which i cannot shape, that which i cannot reach. i want to hold my attention as precious sunlight that i bestow on every practice or person or concept that advances the way i believe things should be. i want to affirm that which is done well, and/or is done bravely.
to have enough attention for this focus, i am intentionally removing my attention from those who hurt humanity or the planet, or hurt movements learning and working to protect either of these.
i will practice:
each day i will practice focusing my attention on my breath through silent meditation and black feminist chanting.
“i am who i am doing what i came to do.”
“the world needs to hear her voice.”
“my people are free.”
“god is change.”
2. centering daily in the commitment of attention liberation. i am a commitment to being/shining sunlight on what i want to grow.
3. redirecting what isn’t mine. i will direct people to a resource page (link coming soon) for folks learning things that are no longer the best focus for my attention.
i will also disengage from gossip at the interpersonal or ‘media’ level. “Be the boss of your business or be bossed by those that can’t mind their own.” – Chani Nicholas
4. find the people already working on the solution.
Wherever there is a problem, there are already people acting on the problem in some fashion. Understanding those actions is the starting point for developing effective strategies to resolve the problem, so we focus on the solutions, not the problems. – allied media network principles
i don’t read the news simply to be appalled and then rant about how appalled i am. i stay informed about the world with my attention on (and material support flowing towards) movements and people i believe in. we are the solution.
5. put my attention on growing transformative justice in conflict and grievance. this one is big. and this level of work doesn’t happen on social media.
while purely punitive measures can feel briefly sayisfying, i know they do not work outside of a transformative justice process, at worst recreating/proliferating harm, shame, repression, and isolation; at best making people act right without healing whatever is broken at the root.
once light is shed on a harm, i will participate in tj processes where appropriate, or support by mediating or connecting those involved to someone who can help get them to and through a process of resolution.
if that isn’t possible (for instance, if both/all parties are not willing to participate in a process in good faith) i will hold and support strong boundaries, wish all parties the sacred work of transformation, and keep it moving.
i will not give attention to continuous case building against people or institutions where i do not see a commitment to resolution and transformation.
6. i will report back on new year’s eve of 2018, on what i learned through this practice.
wish me luck, and/or join me.
bonus: emergent strategy mantras
i am no victim of life; i shape change.
we are not victims of circumstance; we shape change.
i practice what i want to become.
we practice what we want to create.
i am a microcosm of all the possible justice, liberation, pleasure and honesty in the universe, and i act accordingly.
i remember that i exist only in relationship to other people and systems.
i accept that i cannot change others, but i can hold standards for my own life.
i willingly engage in and support transformative justice processes for accountability and getting in right relationship.
i create more possibilities in the face of scarcity thinking.
i act from and towards love.adrienne maree brown