tumbledry

Helping

“There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.”

— Desmond Tutu

Essie

Essie

Pinkie Pie

Pinkie Pie

When I work in downtown Minneapolis, I drive home past a boarded up store spray painted with: “REST IN POWER, GEORGE FLOYD.” Invariably, I read it aloud to myself, alone in the car, and it gives me some hope. After the inhuman, brutal, cruel murder of Floyd in May, I was so relieved to see a national and then international series of protests. Judging by their duration, intensity, and organization, this could be what it looks like when the baton from the Civil Rights movement is taken up again to continue and escalate the fight against the inextricably intertwined institutions of United States racism and United States policing.

This is a picture of the smallest protester from a trio: Mykala, Essie, and the My Little Pony Pinkie Pie. When Mykala and Ess went to a Black Lives Matter rally in June, Essie wanted Pinkie Pie to come with and to hold a sign, so Mykala made this just wonderful little sign, a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. for her to hold. Notice she also wears a mask.

Living through history is exhausting. Mykala is making sure Ess knows which side we’re on.

Art and Craftsmanship

The Proper People summarize yet another expedition into a crumbling, roughly century-old building:

One reason I love this power plant so much is because there’s no reason it had to be built with all these intricate details and grandiose architecture. It’s just a power plant, after all; all it had to do was create electricity. I think that demonstrates a fundamental change of philosophy in the way we construct the world around us.

To me, the world is feeling more and more disposable. Everything is created as cheaply as possible, and it is simply a means to an end. But, when Port Richmond station was built, the builders thought they were constructing something that would serve future generations for centuries, and when we’re creating something permanent, it’s only natural for us to want to inject art and creativity and craftmanship into it. It’s part of what makes us human — and that’s what lacking from so much of what we build today.

Burning

In the style of Glennon Doyle…

Essie,

There’s a time in your life when you’ll be striving, reaching, seeking. Every new subject, every new interest, every new person will crackle with the possibility of sparking and bringing alive a part of you that you didn’t know existed. It’s the kind of ride you’ll know you’re on when you’re on it. It needs no label. And what’s more: by definition, you’ll enjoy it. It feeds the ego. For most, it occurs in late teens, early twenties. For some, it’s delayed by loss but ignites later in life, when there is time and space. For still others, tragically, it never happens.

You’re going to go go go. You’re going to push push push. You’re going to do things, that, when you look back on them, seem superhuman.

Fire burns hot, but it consumes. You’ll burn days, nights, entire semesters, money, connections, friendships, loved ones, girlfriends, boyfriends, with fire. And you must, because you’re forging your tools, and you are casting the alloy of your Self.

You’ll be burning fuel — how much do you have? How much time, how many friends? Don’t throw everything in; this needn’t continue forever. Because after a fire, you build.

To grow a garden, to go out and pull the same weeds and add the same water each day, trading your time, your boundless possibility, for the kind of hope for gentle weather that a gardener must have — that’s building. To have a child, to change the same diapers and make the same food, trading your time, your boundless possibility for the kind of hope for a gentle universe that a parent must have — that’s building. The plant grows up, the roots grow down, and building requires a commitment to sameness that you must freely choose. Only if you wish.

Know when you’re burning, and know when you’re building.

Principle over Privilege

“I must honestly confess that I go through those moments of disappointment when I have to recognize the fact that there aren’t enough white persons in our country who are willing to cherish democratic principles over privilege.”

— Martin Luther King, Jr., Anaheim, 1968

“We were partially liberated and then reënslaved.” Although black people had been fighting for freedom “for more than a hundred years,” the only thing that was “explicitly certain is that the struggle for it will endure.”

— Martin Luther King, Jr., Carnegie Hall, 1968

“Perhaps even more than the death itself, the manner of his death has forced me into a judgment concerning human life and human beings which I have always been reluctant to make,” [James Baldwin] wrote. “Incontestably, alas, most people are not, in action, worth very much; and yet, every human being is an unprecedented miracle. One tries to treat them as the miracles they are, while trying to protect oneself against the disasters they’ve become.”

All of these, from Eddie S. Glaude, Jr.’s piece The History That James Baldwin Wanted America to See at The New Yorker.

Pajamas

I just said this tonight:

“Essie, I’m going out to vacuum the gutters, and I want you to have your jams on when I come in.”

And I have never sounded more… ADULT… in my life.

Honestly, if you had told me seven years ago I’d be talking about pajamas and gutter vacuuming, I’d have said — whose pajamas, and I don’t have any gutters NOR any interest in gutters. Life moves pretty fast.

Wesley Lowery and James Baldwin

Wesley Lowery writing at The Atlantic:

The power that is American policing has conceded nothing. Black men and women are still dying across the country as police unions continue to codify policies designed solely to shield their officers from accountability—such as rules ensuring that officers who kill can’t even be interviewed by investigators about it until their victims have been dead for days.

In the days since one of their own killed George Floyd, many American police officers have shamelessly brutalized the protesters whose chief demand is that the police stop brutalizing people.

James Baldwin, Down At the Cross: Letter from a Region in My Mind:

A child cannot, thank Heaven, know how vast and how merciless is the nature of power, with what unbelievable cruelty people treat each other.

The universe, which is not merely the stars and the moon and the planets, flowers, grass, and trees, but other people, has evolved no terms for your existence, has made no room for you, and if love will not swing wide the gates, no other power will or can. And if one despairs—as who has not?—of human love, God’s love alone is left. But God—and I felt this even then, so long ago, on that tremendous floor, unwillingly—is white. And if His love was so great, and if He loved all His children, why were we, the blacks, cast down so far? Why?

Something very sinister happens to the people of a country when they begin to distrust their own reactions as deeply as they do here, and become as joyless as they have become. It is this individual uncertainty on the part of white American men and women, this inability to renew themselves at the fountain of their own lives, that makes the discussion, let alone elucidation, of any conundrum—that is, any reality—so supremely difficult. The person who distrusts himself has no touchstone for reality—for this touchstone can be only oneself. Such a person interposes between himself and reality nothing less than a labyrinth of attitudes. And these attitudes, furthermore, though the person is usually unaware of it (is unaware of so much!), are historical and public attitudes. They do not relate to the present any more than they relate to the person. Therefore, whatever white people do not know about Negroes reveals, precisely and inexorably, what they do not know about themselves.

Baldwin, again:

I cannot risk assuming that the humanity of these people is more real to them than their uniforms.

The brutality with which Negroes are treated in this country simply cannot be overstated, however unwilling white men may be to hear it.

Sometimes Fun Floods In

Essie wrote a song on our bike ride today: “Sometimes Fun Floods into Your Day.”

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Smallness and Finitude

I have no wise words to offer during a time such as this. I never dreamed of such a scenario in my life; I always imagined the more mundane disasters: hospitals, accidents, bankruptcy. I’ve had a brush with none, and yet here I am, with all humanity, in this disaster.

Have I, this whole life, been picking my way through a labyrinth, each choice sending me down another corridor of choices? Or was I launched from a canon, my trajectory unknowable, and yet fixed? Am I the latter, thinking I am the former? Do I write silly questions, straw men in dual, false dichotomies, the truth an ineffable middle-place?

Well, anyway. I played tag in our backyard with Essie today. She loves tag. She chases me and laughs. I chase her and laugh. She chases me and laughs. She loves to run, just like I always have. Her doll, Abigail from Spirit, found dandelions and then I had to find her. Find Abigail, find the dandelion. Kneel down, pull the weed. Repeat. Would I’ve done this on a cold spring Monday without a global pandemic raging in the wider world? I have no idea. I don’t even know if I chose to do it, or if it chose to have me experience it.

And tonight: uproarious laughter from Ess as Mykala tickled her in the tub, made funny faces at her wrapped in blankets afterward. Sweet, sweet, sweet.

To see the suffocating intoxication of agency, amplified by the unhinged id, to realize that we may steer the boat, but not control the squall… it is not to relinquish that agency, but rather to be humbled by finitude and smallness. I feel humble today.

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