Shivering in Nashville

It was 33 degrees F at 1 am on a Friday in Nashville and I was in my largely comfortable hotel-room bed, but my weirdly feet weirdly cold and I was trying to get warm under the covers. OMG, I thought, I might have the novel coronavirus! I looked into my throat in the bathroom, tested my cough. Nothing unusual. I walked to the sliding glass doors and stared at the illuminated McDonald’s sign across the street. I was thinking about how we never allow our cities to be dark at night anymore and how that would be so so so lovely. I was thinking about how cold the sliding glass door felt on the tip of my nose and then I realized: Oh! It’s def freezing outside or near it. Let’s check the heat. But the heat was not set. The room was being blasted with cold air. Oh, I thought, that explains why my feet and body feel shivery. Twenty minutes later, the room is warm, and I have a few late-night feelings. That philosophical pillow of the mind before one drifts off.

What humans want to do is write, and make art, and play with each other, to make shelter together, to sing, to have sex, to walk beaches and woods. Humans want to create things together. We gather in what we call cities to be close to each other, to share ideas. Hyper-capitalism (NOT market economies) gets in the way of all of these things. We need to design better ways to trade and share and collaborate.

Late night feelings — catalyzed by very, very cold toes and anxiety. Sigh.

Big Little Lies

I was late to the show. Everyone else had already watched it. My older son who is crazy-busy in law school had watched it. So finally I watched. And while the writing and Monterey and the mystery are compelling what really slayed me was the sound track. In particular, the song “Cold Little Heart” that plays over (or is that under?) the opening credits. The singer is Michael Kiwanuka, who was born in London, and whose parents had fled to the UK from the Idi Amin regime in Uganda.

What the song brings to mind is the great soul singers, and Kiwanuka has been compared to Curtis Mayfield.

Sometimes a song arrives at just the right time and the words fill the mind in compelling ways. When I first encountered this song, I was deeply confused about a relationship. I had fallen into a bit of an entanglement with someone who then, for lack of a better word, sorta vanished one day. Not really a “ghosting” scene — more of a vibe where a layer appeared that created a distance. I did not know what was going on with him and he was not terribly forthcoming. Vague, really.

Then he re-emerged from beneath the layer and told me about how he had been deeply enthralled with someone else who turned out to be mentally unstable. How he had to break up with her. How hard the break up was. He told me about buying her $800 dinners and how she was rubbish at sex. It was weird. I listened but it took me two weeks to form a response. But he wanted to be back tight with me, he said in a sobby voice (this was a voice message) because he realized that I was one of the good people. And his new year’s resolution was to avoid what he called “sexy dangerous” people and spend more time with people like me.

Can we ever trust someone like this? Who vanishes because he has become deeply enthralled with another in a category that is so banal, almost comic book classification, ie, “sexy dangerous”? I think the answer is yes but no. Cold little heart. It chills the heart but maybe a cold heart is a safe and strong heart. I keep this person close but afar from my cold little heart. I listen to Michael Kiwanuka and he seems to get this on an almost cosmic level. Music offers this sort of cosmic connection in a way that actual humans sometimes miss.

I have moved on to other songs by Kiwanuka, particularly one that talks about how “you can’t break me down.” I wonder what happened to prompt this writing and I am grateful he wrote these songs. Solidarity.

OK: Just some thoughts.

ECOPOESIS: April 24-25, San Francisco with Joanna Zylinska!

We are gearing up for the April 24-25 ECOPOESIS Symposium/Workshop in San Francisco at California College of the Arts. Joanna Zylinska is joining us from London, where she is on the faculty at Goldsmiths, University of London, as a theorist and artist. Her book, The End of Man: A Feminist Counterapocalypse will serve as our thought starting point and guide. This is accompanied by Zylinska’s short film Exit Man.

Prior to that I will be presenting the project on a panel at the International Journal of Feminist Politics at Vanderbilt University, March 6 -7. Here are some words about what the ECOPOESIS thinks about —

ECOPOESIS is a conversation that began as a conversation between myself, Adam Marcus, and Chris Falliers — we are all colleagues at California College of the Arts in San Francisco. 

We believe in the power of gathering – to create a collective context and vocabulary, to see paths forward for humans and nonhumans alike.

We believe that apocalyptic visions for the future bolster instantiated racism, misogyny, and hypercapitalism with all its cruel tentacles. 

We believe the future is feminist and we have imbued this platform with qualities that reflect feminist discourse in the ecologies.

And so we designed ECOPOESIS as a platform for gathering to share the feelings and thoughts that climate change sparks in each of us, to learn to message these feelings, towards greater solidarity with humans and nonhumans alike. We believe that if we can design this unsustainable world, we can design a better one. 

The best part, aside from the shared made messaging, is the “hearth” and “community” we build during those hours: Gathering over homemade vegetarian meals, conversations buzzing, new thoughts, new colleagues, new paths forward. Despair is visible in all discussions of ecologies in the 21st century but there is also hope.

Eco-Thoughts: Chris Merrill

I write the Eco-Thoughts column for The Believer magazine and this is one of the true delights of my life at present. My editor, Hayden Bennett, is a gem and it is so fun and fascinating to talk to smart, kind, focused humans about ecologies and their take on life on Earth.

January 2020 finds me in conversation with Christopher Merrill. Check it out and send me some comments!