blog – may 2023

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My monthly conscient blog for May 2023 where I’m sharing my learnings and unlearnings for the month of April

April 2 : about reconnecting

Stephen Huddart commented about e110 drain:

A witty, rhythmical reminder that water is constantly choogling, burbling, seeping and soaking through us, connecting us to the hydrologic cycle. Sounds like a segment of a larger piece on how we are connected to nature (to the land, to air, to whales, to our ancestors…reminds me of David Suzuki’s talk about air –

My response : 

Indeed, we are our environment, as Suzuki suggests, not separate from it. This deep disconnect is the cause of much of our self-destruction, therefore, reconnection with nature is what we need to do.

April 3: about accountability

I have the honour of serving on the Mission Circle of SCALE (Sectoral Climate Arts Leadership for the Emergency) since its inception in March 2021 and have announced my departure from this circle and as chair of its board of directors in September 2023. After that, I will remain an active and devoted member.

At our April 3 Mission Circle meeting we discussed how to govern arts organizations in  decolonized ways. We debated many of the issues I’m exploring in this podcast ,including the shift from ‘self-authorizing our power to enacting responsibilities’.

In other words, how can colonial structures let go of their systemic addiction to control? The answer is a key element in addressing the climate emergency and …

April 9 : listening in multiple ways

In response to e115 ordinary, Herb Bayley writes : 

I am very curious to hear your thoughts on listening in multiple ways at once. I will leave this curiosity open to allow you to…

I responded: 

My answer to your good question about ‘simultaneous listening’ is that over the years I have learned listen (and sometimes compose) in layers : aesthetic, contextual, analytical, kinetic, spiritual, etc. however my listening really deepened when I started doing daily zen practice (awareness of all body sensations without thought) and further broadening through the Facing Human Wrongs course I did in 2022 (and related decolonial studies) where I’m unlearning some of previous listening habits and opening new ways of listening (and feeling). Also, as of 2022 I’m an external research fellow with the Listening to Social Transformation through Engagement Network at Carleton University (led my Dr. Ellen Waterman). This project has identified four modes of listening : listening in time (past, future, etc. btw this was the theme of the 2023 WFAE conference), listening in place (land, mapping, migration, etc.), listening in relation (ecology, identity, governance, etc.) and listening to listening (intersensory, critical, intersectionality, etc.). Listening to listening is the most interesting to me now because it touches upon issues I’m exploring with my Sounding Modernity project : ‘What does modernity sound like? What does modernity feel like?  How do these sounds & feelings affect us? What can we do about it?’

April 17-22 : cafe at the edge of the world

I attended the Wolf Willow Institute for Systemic Learning’s cafe at the edge of the world, an ‘online, 5-day cross-cultural complexity immersion’ that invites participants into an ‘embodied experience of decolonizing time’. It was. 

Some questions I am pondering include :

  • What are our vulnerabilities as leaders?
  • How can we experience decolonized time?
  • How can we discover and preserve points of shimmering attentions (away from our phones)
  • How to be a good ancestor?
  • How to hold complexities in our bodies?
  • How to allow nature to take over?
  • How to develop a complexity mindset?
  • How to manage the issue of biting the hand that feeds you?
  • How to do burlesque?
  • Who is your helper?
  • How to let go of ‘me’?

One of the exercises we did was to sketch out one of our organs and to create a time clock around it. Here is mine (pancreas):

I learned of many new resources including and the Wolf Willow institutes’ 

My biggest learning however was to ‘not think’ or try to ‘understand’ but to call upon other forms of intelligence and knowing. 

Gratitude to wolf willow and my fellow learners. 

April 25 : passing of Robin Daniel Mathews

I published e117 – deeper into the forest on April 23, a poem by my father in law, Robin Mathews, who passed away 2 days later on April 25. His obituary can be found here. The YouTube version includes some of Robin’s recent paintings. 

Stephen Huddart shared this comment:

May Robin rest in peace. The poem is a gentle and evocative glimpse beyond life’s last curtain.

My response:

In the bonus content of this episode Robin notes: ‘It’s a bit of a haunting poem because it has these illusions of going under water and distant voices… and that the surface is up there somewhere and you’re under it.’

April 27 : failure as learning 

I wrote to friend that :

I know now that Sounding Modernity, in which I invested a lot of ‘credit’, has failed as an art project, which is demoralizing, but also successful, as a powerful unlearning. I’m more deeply self aware of my ego and my addictions than I have ever been and am going through a process of undoing ‘me’, or at least the part of me that craves validation and participation in collective activity. I’m grateful for that.

I was reminded what I wrote in my February blog  about failure: 

I re-read the gift of failure document this week. I recommend it. In particular, I took to heart how the article begins:

We chose the word “gesture” for the title of our collective to underscore the fact that decolonization is impossible when our livelihoods are underwritten by colonial violence and unsustainability. The food we eat, the clothes we wear, our health systems and social security, and the technologies that allow us to write about this are all subsidized by expropriation, dispossession, destitution, genocides and ecocides. There is no way around it: we cannot bypass it, the only way is through. … How we fail is important. It is actually in the moments when we fail that the deepest learning becomes possible and that is usually where we stumble upon something unexpected and extremely useful. Failing generatively requires both intellectual and relational rigour.

April 28 : purging my reading list 

I posted this message on Facebook and Linked In:

I’ve been collecting hundred of articles and podcast episodes on the ‘reading list’ function of my phone, to read, ‘one day’. That day has come… however, I realize that no matter how much I read, learn or unlearn, the ecological crisis will continue to unfold and what I am mostly doing is trying to make myself feel better by grasping for hope or possibility through words and images, sometimes art. I decided to purge 95% of my list and focus my attention on publications that help me ‘sit with the trouble’ while smelling the flowers…  Current topics of interest include situated listening, speculative eco-fiction, trans-species collaborations, etc.

I am grateful for the three responses I got so far…

Kenneth Newby

Jan Zwicky addresses just this, the elephant in the room, and what we can do to live in this time of looming great change. In short, live with grace: 

I love this excerpt from this article :

Letting something happen instead of forcing it to happen, and simultaneously letting yourself be enlarged. Letting the facts form a poem in your mind is a way to practice thinking like an ecosystem, thinking like a planet, thinking like a world.

and this one : 

The task of seeking wisdom in the face of ruin and devastation is the task of “learning to die”. Few of us seem willing to attempt such learning, probably because it is inherently unpleasant, uncomfortable, and requires mourning. But without this mourning we will never transcend our hubris, and finally learn how to be in the world without being the centre of the world.

My response:

It’s on the 5% list!

Deanne Esdale

This is so intentional, interesting, and functionally creative. Thanks for sharing. I’m inspired.

My response :

Thanks. I don’t mean to be creative here but maybe functional. My intention is to help people wake up (mostly through art) to the reality of the 6th extinction that is tragically underway (extreme weather and climate migration) with catastrophic and compounding consequences coming soon (irreversible feedback loops), etc. We seem to be either in deep denial (drinking corporate cool-aid) or looking for easy ways out (e.g. art will save the world), hence my interest in what the Gesturing Towards Decolonial Futures collective call ‘walking a tightrope between desperate hope and reckless hopelessness’ (see e112). I am well aware of the dangers of doomism also of complacency and inaction, which is why I am choosing to sit with the trouble, all of it, and see how I can help, while smelling the flowers, if any are left, and if they are all gone, find seeds and plant some more until my last breath…

Robin Parmar:

Yes, this is the existential conundrum. Those plays of Beckett become more meaningful each year. We continue because it’s all we can do.

My response :

Indeed. One of the greatest lessons so far in this project has been about my own ‘hope-ness’ through knowledge and the ‘power of the arts’. I’ve discovered that one of their most potent gifts is to comfort our anxiety and prepare us for what is coming. Little did I know that my ‘sounding modernity project – exploring what modernity sounds like, how it affects us and how to ‘create the conditions for other possible worlds to emerge in the wake of what is dying’ was actually about releasing ego and addictions and that my greatest contribution is the undoing of ‘me’ so that others can see how it can be done (or not done).

Parmar later added :

The willingness to change, and to sacrifice through change, is all that we need be asked for and all that we need give. Anyone not willing to, for example, pay 10% more to save a forest, is not part of the program of change (assuming they have this to give, obviously). Unfortunately I know too many in that camp. Beyond this, the burden of guilt falling on us “ordinary folk” is a ploy of the 1% who actually make all the decisions, and who are responsibly for environmental degradation. We, as individuals ARE NOT responsible and need not bear the guilt for what others have done. (Again, so long as we are willing to change, as above.) Sartre made this point clearly. The problem is that since we are those ethical people, we DO get guilty for things we are not responsible for.

I responded :

I think ´ordinary folk’ in developed countries consume far more than their fair share of resources and therefore have a higher burden of responsibility, however it’s a system of greed and endless exploitation that got us here, in which individuals are complicit, but also victims, so we need to ‘change the system’ if we’re going to survive. I like the 80-20 principle that I talk about in this blog :  :

  • I first heard this theory from arts and climate leader Kendra Fanconi. The idea is to spend 20% of your time and energy on reducing your carbon footprint and changing the things you control (less travel, local foods, giving to worth causes, recycling, being kind and joyful, etc) and 80% of your time and energy on collective action towards systemic change (advocacy, voting, coalitions, campaigns, protesting, decolonization, reparation, supporting for those in high-intensity struggles, directing anger towards positive change, etc). This helps take some pressure off our collective shoulders, while focusing our energy on positive, long-term action.’

There’s more, there’s always more, like but that’s enough for now.

Thanks for reading and listening. 

See you in June.





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