Friday, April 22, 2016

My Quest Toward Enlightened Subjectivity

I pulled out my tarot cards for the first time the other day in a while. My cats had knocked some crap off my dresser, unveiling a book I have on tarot that I haven't used much and previously didn't find very accessible.

But this morning, I found some new spreads that were inspiring. One of them is about the sacred quest. It's a 7-card spread. Since I'm planning a quest this summer, it felt appropriate.

1. What is my quest?

10 of Cups, reversed

10 of Cups is a very obvious card for me to get as my quest mission. This card is about Ecotopia, a village in which families play in green pastures, praising the rainbow in the sky. To me it can represent sustainable community. According to one of my book, tens are associated with the concept of Kingdom. This card looks like the kingdom of Earth, a land in which we can dwell happily forevermore.

However, it is reversed. This brought up questions for me, such as, is a sustainable world/kingdom/community impossible?

Or perhaps it is encouragement to recognize the happiness I already have. I live in a village, of sorts - my residential community. This card can be a reminder to celebrate this.

But then, I realized something. Something about polarities reversing. A memory of witch camp, and one of my teachers beginning in the South, instead of North, while casting a circle. And it all clicked into place - this happy village already exists - in the Global South! While it is certainly a generalization, my impression of the cultures "below" the equator is that they tend to be more collectivist. And I hear words from a friend, spoken years ago, about her conversation with a Zapatista elder. My friend had asked, "What can we do in the states to support you?" Her response: "Break down individualism."

This is why I'm going to South America this summer. I need new templates of human interaction. We need this community way of being to survive. We don't have to reinvent the wheel, although we do need to adapt it for our place.

Note that I am under no delusions that the Global South, and South America in particular, is some paradise free of sin or human foible. I know there is a gruesome history of exploitation by those of us who come from European lands. Coffee, sugar, mined materials, and more - the commodification of these goods is tied up with immeasurable suffering at the hands of my kin and compatriots.

But, if nothing else, this card is validation of my journey this summer.

2. What path am I on?
King of Wands, reversed

Hey there KW! This fellow showed up in my life at the Montana national rainbow gathering, summer of 2013, in a random pocket trade. It was a different deck, but it's nice to see each other again.

First of all, I noticed the lizard near the top (since this card is reversed). I just learned the Konkow word for lizard - pic'ak. There's a lion at the bottom - Leo, my moon and south node, both signs being qualities I've already mastered and now need to move beyond. Wands channel magic, so maybe reversed, I'm on the path of letting magic flow through me - being the wand rather than using one.

Other than that, I don't make much of this card, and actually kind of want a new deck with less royalty and more imagery that I connect with. So, onward to the books.

This card seems to be about your basic bro who thinks he's so smart and rational and should be the philospher-king. Interesting. For one, this archetype is one that pisses me the fuck off, for lack of a better turn of phrase. Now I'm wondering if I need to honor my inner bro. Could I do this? At least I'm admitting I might have one (yep, I do).

Reversed, the basic bro experiences setbacks that transform him into someone more compassionate and understanding, as well as "serious and austere." (Hey, aren't I already on this path? What else do I have to learn here?) This reminds me of being the facilitator in a consensus-style meeting, rather than making decisions for others, as a king does.

I don't think this King of Wands is done with me. Apparently I've been on this path for at least two years, and I believe more. But let's continue.

3. Where does the path lead me?
The Emperor, reversed

I sure am getting a lot of royalty today. A lot of dudebros who think they are in charge - but they AREN'T, according to these reversals. A lot of undoing of the patriarchy, me thinks. Could the emperor reversed represent revolution?

According to my book, this card can signify civilization itself - so, reversed, undoing and dismantling that. It represents the laws of physics as well- which are broken by magic! It is also associated with setting boundaries and defending them - perhaps the reversal is a call to transgress and cross boundaries. And to act irresponsibly, since the Emperor is all about responsibility.

Again, like the King of Wands, the Emperor becomes less harsh and more compassionate and emotional when reversed. But he "may have trouble with clear thoughts and decisive action." (Not very feminist of you, tarot book - portraying compassion and emotion as in opposition to clear thinking.) Maybe decisive action isn't what is needed. This could be an excuse to hedge. The path of hedges...sounds like a deleted scene from Alice in Wonderland.

4. What opposes me?
Temperance, reversed

Temperance reversed sounds like a need for hedonism. Good call, tarot. I notice the red wings, the pouring cups, the flowers like daffodils, and a triangle on the dress.

According to one source, this pouring cups can represent the combination of solar and lunar qualities. Reversed, this card can signify finding it difficult to act in a moderate way and instead going wild, overreacting, or getting caught up in people's emotions.

This is where I'm starting to get really confused by this reading, in particular all the reversals. So, it is Temperance Herself that is opposing me, or Temperance reversed? In this particular placement the reading is especially difficult, because of the opposition. Part of me thinks I need to have a temper tantrum - perhaps about the creepy friend of a friend who keeps showing up in my life and feeling entitled to touch me and feel me up while drunk. Perhaps I should stop holding back and give him a good smack or at least a yelling at. Either way, the call to be more temperate doesn't resonate right now.

Which is confusing, given that if I do need it, that would make it all the more important.

5. What aids me?
Justice, reversed

As if I am not already confused enough, now Justice is reversed too.

According to my book, Justice comes at the center of the Fool's journey. It represents the spiritual laws of truth, above the laws of society. It holds a commitment to honesty, as well as combining opposites as seen in the scales. It is about recognizing what we have done and what others have done - that it is never "all my fault" nor am I "always the victim." As has come up in my circles over the past year, "right-sized accountability."

Reversed, this card warns of an injustice in a conflict or our own behavior, and a need to look under the surface of the situation.

Ironically, as much as I love justice and love this card, I feel like the reversal goes hand in hand with Temperance. Just as Temperance opposes me right now, I feel that maybe I'm being called to be less "objective" (along with the Emperor and King of Wands reversed) and more "subjective." To honor my piece of the truth without having to track everyone else's. To hold down my side of the scale and not worry about the other side. To name victimization and trumpet it from the rooftops.

And, at the same time, I resonate with a call to recognize the ways I have victimized others, and may continue to do so. This is also a big theme in my life, one that I have begun expressing over the past year in part by creating a document full of past transgressions in intimate relationships, as well as traumas that influence how I show up for intimate connection. I share this document with new people I'm getting closer to. Justice reversed, in the Aiding position, would seem to approve of this work, and encourage me to continue deepening it.

6. What must I sacrifice?
Ace of Swords, reversed

If I wasn't already clear about the message of this spread, this is the final nail in the coffin of any current attachment to logic and cool rationality I currently have. The Ace of Swords is all about detachment - cutting remarks, a cold blade that pierces directly to the so-called essence of things, meanwhile ignoring that the delight is in the details. Swords remind me of violence and domination.

Reversed this card is associated with illusions, difficulty in thinking, anger, exaggeration, and the need to think more carefully. Again, this is difficult because, like the Temperance card being in the Opposition placement, it's a sort of double-negative - a card that must be sacrificed while also being reversed. It could go both ways.

But the feeling I get is that I actually need to think  less carefully, and more on a whim. I'm ready for that. I started by sending a flirty text to someone cute without overthinking it. (Well, I had been, and then I just went for it.) I'm sure there are much bigger applications as well. Like, time to start packing my bags for my trip, and call Air Panama to arrange that flight.

7. What will I become?
Queen of Cups!!

FINALLY...A CARD THAT IS NOT REVERSED! And it's the final card, the card I'm becoming. How perfect is this?

Cups are associated with the element Water, and this is a very watery card. Water is conventionally seen as feminine. She is seated firmly on the throne (reality), while the stream (emotion) flows into her dress and becomes part of her.

She is the Queen of love and sensuality (thank Goddess this wasn't reversed).

I couldn't have drawn a more perfect card to represent who I want to become in my life if I had tried. The throne of reality reminds me of my Venus in Aquarius, becoming the Goddess of Visionary Thinking. Yet I need this to be more than an airy abstraction. And that's where the water comes in.

I don't really even know what to do with this card, it is so wonderful. Am I deserving of this destiny? Do I have to/ need to work with the other cards more before I can embody this archetype? My answer is probably, but that doesn't mean I can't start all of them at once - all Time is Now, after all. We don't live in a linear existence.

One of my books suggests I spend the day with my cards; well, I've spent a couple days with them. I drew them Wednesday morning and have since spent multiple sessions journaling and reading about them, and now this blog. It also tells me to record my dreams and only follow my instincts today.

Closing Thoughts

One of my biggest takeaways from this reading is the idea of a reversed card representing the Global South (or the opposite of whatever hemisphere I happen to be in while reading?). The Ten of Cups asked, what does community and utopia mean in the South?

I could ask the same question for each reversed card. What does the King of Wands look like in the South? How are men or masculine people embodying compassion in the part of the world I'm visiting?

What about the Emperor - this would seem to be an archetypal enemy of the South, considering colonization. But then again, didn't the Inka have Emperors as well, or analogous roles? What can I learn from this history? How were those Emperors different from the European ones? I'm thinking back to my reading of 1492, and remembering that in the Inka empire, there was an excess of goods stored in warehouses. Production was inefficient according to capitalist standards, but in a way that created security and abundance for people.

What does the South have to teach me about Temperance - is this a place for it, and if so, where? What about Justice? And the Ace of Swords, cutting rationality and exaggerated anger? There's a lot here, and I will be keeping my eyes, and hopefully my heart as well, open for what speaks to these questions as I weave my way further into my journey.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

EFT for Activists

I don't really need to add a lot of commentary to this video. I woke up the other morning and felt inspired. It is off the cuff, unpolished, unedited. That's OK. Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly (rather than not doing at all). Comments welcome - specific things that came up for you would be inspiring to make another one.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Activist Apprenticeship Invitation

I'm embarrassed to say that I started an animal rights club at 13 that didn't accomplish anything. 

I literally feel the same shame I felt then.

When I was 13 I lived in a small, poor, mostly white town in Northern California. I went to a middle school there and started this club. We met at a playground to discuss how we could help animals. I remember I spent an excessive amount of time coming up with words that made a great acronym, but I don't remember what it was.

One girl came almost every week. Her mom said, "This is perfect for her." I want to cry thinking about how I failed. I failed her - and myself. Why does this hurt so bad? It hurt then too. I was ashamed to admit I had no resources. I had no framework for offering this girl, one year younger than me, any more opportunity than myself to help animals in any way.

I talked about going to the animal shelter to volunteer. But I didn't know where it was; or what their volunteer policy was. I didn't know how to look that information up, even though internet did already exist by that time. I didn't look up the number. My mom didn't have a working car. I was too embarrassed to admit to this mom that I had no way of making this happen, this trip to the pound. I just kept talking about it, and the girl kept coming, and we'd play on the playground. It really was more of a club - people who have an interest in helping animals, and meet up to talk about it, but don't do anything tangible - rather than a project, movement, or organization.

I want to help teenagers like me to gain the skills of organizing. I might have an opportunity to do this next year, through my work, but I don't know if it will take off. I could just offer this to the world, but do I even have the space?

I have so many gifts to give to the world, and I have such a hard time keeping them all straight. Well, I'm not straight. (Queer joke. Womp womp.) I have a Capricorn Sun-Mercury-Saturn-Uranus-Neptune. That's a LOT of structure. I've been burning through my entire life on a wing and a to-do list. How many of those things actually get crossed off is sometimes more a matter of my Gemini rising though, or some other nefarious influences I may not know about.

But I'm reading a book right now about making organizations more like people, focusing on emergence rather than pre-planning. Letting things unfold. I wonder, does this include starting projects and allowing them to drop? Or how can I share my gifts in a less structured, more informal manner? Is this even possible? What about the value of structure to making things happen on a larger scale?

These are all questions emerging in my process right now. When I was 13 I needed help making my social justice dreams come true. If you know of any aspiring 13 year old world changers who need mentoring, send them my way. I'm happy to take on an apprentice.

Here's what I would tell my 13 year old self, off the top of my head:
  • Admit what you don't know. When people show up at your meetings, tell them about the vision you have, your ideas, and your resources (or lack thereof). Ask them for help. Be honest.
  • Ask adults for help who seem to have the same values as you. Many of them may be discouraging or patronizing, but some of them will be inspired and supportive.
  • If you are facilitating a meeting, co-create the agenda with whoever shows up.
  • Open up a phone book and get all the numbers of organizations that might have compatible focuses. Call them. Bike to their building. Start a conversation.

On second thought, I did more than I realized. 

It just wasn't organized, it was emergent, like the book I mentioned earlier is talking about. (It's called Anarchists in the Boardroom, by the way.)

Biking to the store one day to get groceries for me and my mom, I found a dog running down the road. In traffic. I grabbed her by the collar, wheeled to a nearby store, and used the grocery money to buy a leash instead. (Good thing my poor mom loves animals.)

I brought this dog home and she lived on the porch of our studio apartment building for a few days. My mom called animal control and it turned out that the dog, who I named Pooch temporarily, lived nearby and had run away. The animal control officer took her home.

But the next day or so, she was back. This happened a couple of times, until finally the officer gave her family our number so we could communicate directly. It turned out that the family had just gotten two new dogs, little hairless purebred creatures that yapped and annoyed Bandit (the name this dog already had). The family said that we could keep Bandit if we wanted, because she kept running away and wasn't getting along with the new dogs. In hindsight, this was pretty irresponsible of them, since they didn't really check us out. We weren't really in a position to care for Bandit that well, but my mom and I did our best with what little resources we had, and a lot of enthusiasm.

At this same time, there was a studio cat named Thomas who lived on the porch of our building. Sometimes my mom and I gave him canned food. He sort of belonged to everyone, and he fathered most of the kittens on that street. I liked him. One day, another resident in the apartment told us that he had called the cops (animal control again) because Thomas bit him. They took Thomas in for quarantine. He would be held for ten days and then probably adopted out.

The year before, my aunt had started a savings account for me. She put $50 in it. I never added to it. I used this money to go get a voucher from a vet proving that I would have Thomas spayed. Then the pound released him to me. Pretty soon he was home, though without his testicles.

We talked a lot of shit about that neighbor, calling him a wuss for being scared of a little cat bite. One day I was feeding Thomas canned food on the porch, and I told him, in a baby voice, "You can bite whoever you want, Thomas." And he chomped down on my hand. I teared up but laughed it off.

Big picture, or interpersonal changes?

While these stories connect me with what I have accomplished, and did accomplish at that time, in service of my values and passions, I see that they didn't change anything at a systemic level. As important as I believe interpersonal kindness are - crucial, essential - I want to change the systems that allow for scores of animals to go without homes, be euthanized, tortured in labs, bred to have deformities and diseases, and factory farmed. (This isn't actually my focus anymore, though I still feel this way.)

Maybe, though, this interpersonal stuff is a good place for beginning activists to get their start. To ground in service, getting to know the populations we care about on a personal level. Our neighbors, in whatever form - humans harassed by police, animals without homes, trees being cut down, rivers polluted.

I don't have all the answers or the one best way. I have this experience, which is valuable. And I am willing to share it.

So contact me if you're that 13 year old (or 12, or 11, or 14...) who wants some support in actualizing your vision for the world, embodying your passion ... and noticing how you are already living it.
Use my current email:

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Notes from Washington - Spring Lobby Weekend

Friday, March 11, 2016 - In transit, c. 2:14pm

Flying across the country, I see miles and miles - thousands or more - of patchwork squares and rectangles, and a few circles, below on the ground. I can't comprehend that humans have altered this landscape so incredibly much, to bring this regular geometric forms to such a large expanse of land.

Earlier, when I woke up from my initial in-flight nap, I looked out of the window just as we passed over the Grand Canyon. At least, that's the only logical explanation I could come up with for that big of a gash in the land below, and the flight tracker seemed to confirm that we were in the right place for it.

When I arrive in Kansas City for a layover, I'm challenged on the notion that women's bathrooms are cleaner (although I didn't actually compare) - there's a little gendered thought. Only four or five stalls - my neighbor said it was a small airport. The cardboard box of seat protectors is pushed halfway out of the metal dispenser meant to contain it, leaving it mangled and disgusting.

Back in the air, I'm listening to a book about the history and exploitation of Latin America to prepare for my trip this summer and pass the time. The starting place for my trip is climate change - cambio climático - but as I listen to the history of enslaved indigenous people forced to work in the mines and all the life that has cost, I remember that climate change is merely a symptom of a system. I call it capitalism; some say it is bigger - civilization itself. It is hard to know without learning more about how communist or socialist societies have conducted themselves - did they colonize? I think at times they did. Certainly the Inka seemed to have done so, and from what I understand, they were a very successful socialist society, according to the book 1492.

Saturday, March 12, 2016 - At the conference

In the opening session of Spring Lobby Weekend, during Welcome Reception, attendees stand up and share stories of what brings them here. This includes stories of how and why people have interacted with the criminal justice system - selling drugs, trespassing. We don't get all the background to these stories, but what strikes me is how something deeper is going on here. This isn't just about changing the outer world. This is also about getting to know one another's shadows. In the Quaker community, I sometimes feel there is this shame for not fitting into society or conforming in some ways. Ironic, given Quaker history and legacy of protest and dissent. I don't usually discuss my history with drug use in Quaker circles. This has more to do with how I think it would be received than any rejection of this history I feel.

One of my favorite speakers is Jondhi Harrell from The Center for Returning Citizens. He really brings home the human element of mass incarceration. To learn more about this organization's work, here is their website:

During the first meeting for worship, rich beautiful ministry was shared that reminded me of the value and importance of having a spiritual well from which to draw for our activism. One man mentioned the story of Paul and Silas singing in prison. It reminded me of this song I learned at witchcamp a summer or two ago from Rose May Dance.:

We will rise with the fire of freedom/
Truth is a fire that will burn our chains/
and we will STOP the fires of destruction/
Healing is a fire running through our veins

A Unitarian participant mentioned lighting candles and believing in the good we can accomplish. With songs still in my head, this reminded me of the Nahko song about good things coming.

There's a line in my notes that sounds like a quote, but there's no name attached to it, so I think it came from my own brain - but of course, it was an assemblage of sentiments being expressed in that room; I can't claim I created it anymore than anyone can claim to have originated anything:

"Just like you can't buy God, you can't put a price on human dignity."


 Sunday, March 13 - Monday, March 14, Assorted Factoids, Quotes, & Notes

The structure of the conference is hard for me. I would rather have Meeting for Worship at the end of the day, to integrate the mental and psychological distress of taking in all this information about human suffering. I wish we had already started our lobby training too, gotten to meet our state groups. We need to plan the visit; people are nervous. Nevertheless, I manage to take in some information.


It costs $30,000/year to house imprisoned people.

Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, was moved by grassroots lobbying to take a stance on sentencing reform, and draft the Sentencing Corrections and Reform Act. He was convinced by the fact that many states, "legislative laboratories," have had success with similar legislation.

Please read the sentencing reform bills and dispel some myths about them. They are not "soft on crime" or a "get out of jail free card."  (For FCNL's central page on incarceration legislation, go here.)

The Senate and House of Representatives are people, even though the DNC, RNC, and Congress are themselves corrupted institutions. Faith inspires people to take risks, go against the grain of those corrupted institutions...which creates a chance for a mass of people to seize a moment, a chance, for sudden change.

This is an opportunity to pass meaningful bipartisan legislation at a time when there is not a lot of hope. ... Hope for bipartisan collaboration, hope for a functional Congress.

March 14, 7pm: Cory Booker

He is by far the most charismatic speaker this weekend. I'd never heard of him before, and since getting home, one of the seasoned activists in my community expresses some disappointment in his policy choices in the past - despite acknowledging what a great speaker he is. He's very quotable; in fact, I believe some of my previous notes, that were written after the fact, were influenced by his words. Here are some more:

"If you love your country, you must love your countrywomen and men. ... It will break your heart."


"Cynicism is a refuge for cowards."


"If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can move mountains."
"Sometimes you have to fast and pray."
(OK, these last two are actually from the bible).


"Stay faithful." - Mrs. Jones, Cory Booker's old neighbor.


Somewhere along the way, maybe because Cory used to be a mayor, I start thinking to last summer, when we met a DC city councilor as part of our training for Advocacy Corps. I remember how she said that her run for city council included knocking on almost every door in the city, three times each. I think Cory says something like this too, so I start doing math for my future city council run. If there are about 90,000 people in Chico, there should be no more than 45,000 doors, probably less, but some people are single, while others live in families or couples. [I'm damn close - according to the census, there are about 37,000 households - even easier!]

If I allow for up to 20 minutes per conversation, to really meet people, and only spend 3 hours a day doing this (I'll still have to work and have fun while campaigning!), that's 9 doors a day. At that rate, it would take 5,000 days to meet everyone in Chico. ... Uh oh, that's about 15 years. I'm going to have to rethink this somehow. (This is a good example of why money corrupts politics - someone who doesn't have to work to live can campaign all day long without having to support themselves.)

Booklist from the Weekend

The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander
United, Cory Booker (he recorded it himself for audiobook, I now have it on Audible!)
America's Original Sin, Jim Wallis
Just Mercy, Bryan Stephenson




But, wait! Aren't you going to tell us how the lobby visits went?

I think there's enough to chew on here for now. I might come back to that, though I'm not making any promises. You can listen to my cohort's thoughts about it at this podcast, though.