"To Trump, whiteness is neither notional nor symbolic but is the very core of his power. In this, Trump is not singular. But whereas his forebears carried whiteness like an ancestral talisman, Trump cracked the glowing amulet open, releasing its eldritch energies. The repercussions are striking: Trump is the first president to have served in no public capacity before ascending to his perch. But more telling, Trump is also the first president to have publicly affirmed that his daughter is a “piece of ass.” The mind seizes trying to imagine a black man extolling the virtues of sexual assault on tape (“When you’re a star, they let you do it”), fending off multiple accusations of such assaults, immersed in multiple lawsuits for allegedly fraudulent business dealings, exhorting his followers to violence, and then strolling into the White House. But that is the point of white supremacy—to ensure that that which all others achieve with maximal effort, white people (particularly white men) achieve with minimal qualification. Barack Obama delivered to black people the hoary message that if they work twice as hard as white people, anything is possible. But Trump’s counter is persuasive: Work half as hard as black people, and even more is possible."

— Ta Nehisi Coates, "The First White President" 


"The seductive simplifications of industrial production threaten to render us blind to monstrosity in all its forms by covering over both lively and destructive connections. They bury once-vibrant rivers under urban concrete and obscure increasing inequalities beneath discourses of freedom and personal responsibility. Somehow, in the midst of ruins, we must maintain enough curiosity to notice the strange and wonderful as well as the terrible and terrifying. Natural history and ethnographic attentiveness—themselves products of modern projects—offer starting points for such curiosity, along with vernacular and indigenous knowledge practices. Such curiosity also means working against singular notions of modernity. How can we repurpose the tools of modernity against the terrors of Progress to make visible the other worlds it has ignored and damaged? Living in a time of planetary catastrophe thus begins with a practice at once humble and difficult: noticing the worlds around us. 

Our monsters and ghosts help us notice landscapes of entanglement, bodies with other bodies, time with other times. They aid us in our call for a particular approach to noticing—one that draws inspiration from scientific observation alongside ethnography and critical theory. Ant expert Deborah Gordon embodies the forms of curiosity we hope to cultivate. Rather than be lulled by liberal economic theories, with their focus on individual determination of group outcomes, Gordon begins with questions about 'collective behavior'—already in the realm of the monstrous." 

— Heather Swanson, Anna Tsing, Nils Bubandt, Elaine Gan,
"Introduction: Bodies into Bodies," Arts of Living on a Damager Planet


"We can bring deep time to mind as we go about our daily lives. Even as we wash the dishes, pay the bills, go to meetings, and so on, we can school ourselves to be aware, now and then, of the hosts of ancestral and future beings surrounding us like a cloud of witnesses. We can remember the vaster story of our planet and let it imbue the most ordinary acts with meaning and purpose. Each of us is an intrinsic part of that story, like a cell in a larger organism. And in this story, each of us has a role to play." 

— Joanna Macy, Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We're  in without Going Crazy


"Conflict, after all, is rooted in difference and people are and always will be different. With the exception of those natural disasters that are not caused by human misdeed, most of the pain, destruction, waste, and neglect towards human life that we create on thus planet and beyond, are consequences of our overreaction to difference. This is expressed through our resistance to facing and resolving problems, which is overwhelmingly a refusal to change how we see ourselves in order to be accountable. Therefore how we behave as bystanders in the face of other people's Conflict determines whether or not we have collective justice and peace. 

At the center of my vision is the recognition that above all, it is the community surrounding a Conflict that is the source of its resolution. The community holds the crucial responsibility to resist overreaction to difference, and to offer alternatives of understanding and complexity."

—Sarah Schulman, Conflict Is Not Abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility, and the Duty of Repair


"I now ask you to read this book the way you would watch a play: not to emerge saying, 'The play is right!' but rather to observe that the play reveals human nuance, contradiction, limitation, joy, connection, and the tragedy of separation. That the playwright's own humanity is also an example of these unavoidable flaws.

"this is not a book to be agreed with, an exhibition of evidence or display of proof. It is instead designed for engaged and dynamic interactive collective thinking where some ideas will resonate, others will be rejected, and still others will provoke the readers to produce new knowledge themselves. Like authentic, conscious relationships, truly progressive communities, responsible citizenship, and real friendship, and like the peace-making that all these requires, it asks you to be interactive." 

— Sarah Schulman, Conflict is not Abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility, and the Duty of Repair


"We have to look at our own inertia, insecurities, self-hate, fear that, in truth, we have nothing valuable to say. It is true that when we begin anything new, resistances fly in our face. Now you have the opportunity to not run or be tossed away, but to look at them black and white on paper and see what their silly voices say. When your writing blooms out of the back of this garbage and compost, it is very stable. You are not running from anything. You can have a sense of artistic security. If you are not afraid of the voices inside you, you will not fear the critics outside you. Besides those voices are merely guardians and demons protecting the real treasure, the first thoughts of the mind. 

Actually, when I look at my old notebooks, I think I have been a bit self-indulgent and have given myself too much time to meander in my discursive thoughts. I could have cut through sooner. Yet it is good to know about our terrible selves, not laud or criticize them, just acknowledge them. Then, out of this knowledge, we are better equipped to make a choice for beauty, kind consideration, and clear truth. We make this choice with our feet firmly on the ground. We are not running wildly after beauty with fear at our backs."

—Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones


"Prodigy is, at its essence, adaptability and persistent, positive obsession. Without persistence, what remains is an enthusiasm of the moment. Without adaptability, what remains may be channeled into destructive fanaticism. Without positive obsession, there is nothing at all." 

Earthseed: The Books of the Living
by Lauren Oya Olamina

— Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower


"Everyone knows that change is inevitable. From the second law of thermodynamics to Darwinian evolution, from Buddhism's insistence that nothing is permanent and all suffering results from our delusions of permanence to the third chapter of Ecclesiastes ("To everything there is a season..."), change is part of life, of existence, of the common wisdom. But I don't believe we're dealing with all that that means. We haven't even begun to deal with it. 

We give lip service to acceptance, as though acceptance were enough. Then we go on to create super-people—super-parents, super-kings and queens, super-cops—to be our gods and to look after us—to stand between us and God. Yet God has been here all along, shaping us and being shaped by us in no particular way or in too many ways at once like an amoeba—or like a cancer. Chaos. 

Even so, why can't I do what others have done—ignore the obvious. Live a normal life. It's hard enough just to do that in the world." 

Earthseed: The Books of the Living
by Lauren Oya Olamina

—Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower


"As a theoretical concept, desire interrupts the binary of reproduction versus resistance. In social science, it is often believed that people are bound to reproduce or replicate social inequity or, on the flip side, that they can resist unequal social conditions. Critics on both sides accuse the other of oversimplifying, of underestimating the immense and totalizing power of systematic oppression on the one hand and the radical power of the human spirit and human agency on the other. It seems that the positions are irreconcilable.

Edward Soja (1996), deploying Henri Lefebvre's 1991 concept of the third-space, has described a process of thirding as a way to break the closed circuit of an irreconcilable binary: 'Critical thirding as othering is the first and most important step in transforming the categorical and closed logic either/or to the dialectically open one of both/and also...' (p. 60). Further, he characterizes the thirdspace as introducing 'a critical 'other than' choice that speaks and critiques through its otherness' (p. 61). Desire is a thirding of the dichotomized categories of reproduction and resistance. It is neither/both/and reproduction and resistance. This is important because it more closely matches the experience of people who, at different points in a single day, reproduce, resist, are complicit in, rage against, celebrate, throw up hands/fists/towels, and withdraw and participate in uneven social structures—that is, everybody. Desire fleshes out that which has been hidden or what happens behind our backs. Desire, because it is an assemblage of experiences, ideas, and ideologies, both subversive and dominant, necessarily complicates our understanding of human agency, complicity, and resistance." 

— Eve Tuck, "Suspending Damage: A Letter to Communities" 


"One of the truths we know is that we live in an enchanted universe. The up-there and down-here mingle, the earthly and the heavenly mirror each other. We have no choice but to continue to redeem the world, to save the world from our own selves. We are, ironically, the cause of the breaking and just might be the channel of healing. To make the world whole, we ourselves have to become healed, become whole. Our well-being and the world being well are linked together.

To tend to our own inner life is not selfishness; it is wisdom, it is essential, and it is unavoidable."

— Omid Safi, "Tending to Our Inner Life to Make the World Whole"


"I have to give a convocation talk at Wesleyan, and so I’m working on The Talk—that’s what it’s called. I’m thinking, what do you say to these twenty-year-olds, these twenty-one-year-olds? What occurs to me is that it’s not about how powerful we are, it’s about how powerless we are. And in the face of the lack of power, what do we do then? What do we do then? That’s really the question. Are we willing to fail and fail in order to continue to say no to this? Because that’s what we should be doing. We shouldn’t actually be in this room right now. Because stuff is going down."

—Claudia Rankine, at BAM's "Eat, Drink, and Be Literary" 5/9/17


"The city tells me that mastery is beyond my grasp, that the grandest gift of the streets in mystery. New York promises that, in a place where ambition is the treasured watchword, we can more fully find ourselves in each other, and learn to be enchanted by the things revealed and the awareness that much is held back, awaiting our gentle curiosity. 'And what happens next,' to borrow the wisdom of Seamus Heaney, 'is a music that you never would have known to listen for.' This inexhaustible city need not exhaust us—we can walk into wonder."

— Garnette Cadogan, Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas


What might keep us awake to the dimensions of the danger—so gruesomely literal, so massively material, that it can hardly be addressed without recourse to the phantasmagoric? How can we sustain resistance to destruction without expecting to triumph? That is, how can we acknowledge the apocalyptic dimensions of the late-modern situation in which we find ourselves entrenched without either clinging to some millennial hope of steady progress or then flipping, disappointed, back to pessimism? For within the U.S. context there is a traditional tendency to get active, to get enraged, and then to give up, surrendering to the lull of the comforts and conveniences extracted from the tribulations of the rest of the planet... We think that we must 'save the earth.' Who can carry this?... [T]o the extent that we get uncritically hooked on apocalypse—not merely the situation but the habit—we contribute to it. We wish for messianic solutions and end up doing nothing, for we get locked into a particularly apocalyptic either/or logic—if we can't save the world, then to hell with it. Either salvation or damnation."

— Catherine Keller, Apocalypse Now and Then


"And once you're here, you're ready to give everything, or almost everything, to stay and play a part in the great theater of belonging. In the United States, to stay is an end in itself and not a means: to stay is the founding myth of this society. To stay in the United States, you will unlearn the universal metric system so you can buy a pound and a half of cooked ham, accept that thirty-two degrees, and not zero, is where line falls that divides cold and freezing. You might even begin to celebrate the pilgrims who removed the alien Indians, and the veterans who maybe killed other aliens, and the day of a president who will eventually declare a war on all the other so-called aliens. No matter the cost. No matter the cost of rent, and milk, and cigarettes. The humiliations, the daily battles. You will give everything. You will convince yourself that it is only a matter of time before you can be yourself again, in America, despite the added layers of its otherness already so well adhered to your skin. But perhaps you will never want to be your former self again. There are too many things that ground you to this new life. 

Why did you come here? I asked one little girl once. 

Because I wanted to arrive." 

— Valeria Luiselli, Tell Me How It Ends


"We don't practice to feel good, we practice to feel more." 

— adrienne maree brown, quoting some of her community in Emergent Strategy

"To sit and be fully aware of the air going in and out of your nose, and nothing else, this sounds really stupid. If you haven't tried it yet, try it. It is really stupid. Nothing your intellect can do to help you do it. This must be why so many people for so long have used it as a way towards wisdom."

— Ursula K. Le Guin, quoted by adrienne maree brown in Emergent Strategy


"As Detroit movement ancestor Jimmy Boggs taught, 'It is only in relation to other bodies and many somebodies that anybody is somebody. Don't get it into your cotton-picking mind that you are somebody in yourself.'

"We are all learning what it means to be somebodies who shape the future, to operate at the scale of transformation." 

—adrienne maree brown, Emergent Strategy


"Get into an experiment or two, feel how messy it is to unlearn the supremacy and repurpose your life for liberation. Critique as a participant who is shaping the work. Be willing to do whatever task is required of you, whatever you are capable of, feed people, spread the word, write pieces, make art, listen, take action, etc. Be able to say: 'I invest my energy in what I want to see grow. I belong to efforts I deeply believe in and help shape those.'"

—adrienne maree brown, Emergent Strategy