Opinion Advocates for ideas and draws conclusions based on the author/producer’s interpretation of facts and data.
Murmurations: Stewarding the Future
There are thoughts moving through my mind like a murmuration of birds, and I believe that if I share them out loud, you can help me see the patterns, particularly those patterns which can help us avoid predation and extinction. That is the spirit with which I will be approaching this space, a column inches wide and miles deep, for YES! Media.
My name is adrienne maree brown. I am the writer in residence at the Emergent Strategy Ideation Institute, which is a collective of facilitators, mediators, artists, healers, and curious human beings interested in how we, as a species, align with each other, this planet, and the future.
My work and thinking are rooted in emergent strategy, which is the way we get in right relationship with the constant force of change—specifically, how we build patterns and relationships that can hold our complex nature through relatively simple interactions. It is a way to remember we are earthlings, we are of this place, and we can learn to earn our place here from the adaptive practices of everything around us. Emergent strategy includes adaptation with intention, interdependence and decentralization, fractals, nonlinearity and iteration, resilience through transformative justice, and creating more possibilities. How do we change in ways that increase our freedom and our compatibility with Earth?
My work is also informed by visionary fiction and radical imagination. I believe we are living in a world imagined by ancestors who didn’t love us, who didn’t believe in an abundant earth and our collective power to steward it. It is time for us to imagine beyond the current oppressive construct. My work is powered by pleasure activism, the belief that justice and liberation must become the most pleasurable experiences we can have, and that we must reclaim for everyone the experience of joy and satisfaction. How do we build the future on a deep yes, a deep longing for what we want?
Attention is the difference between a life you observe from a distance (sometimes within your own bodymind) and a life you live.
My writing is informed by over two decades of experience as a facilitator of movements for social and environmental justice and more than four decades of being alive in late-stage racial capitalism and a rapidly expanding climate catastrophe. I have stepped back from facilitation in the past year to rest, train emergent strategy facilitation, make room for other incredible facilitators, write, and make meaning of the patterns I have observed in human behavior. How do we keep returning to a beginner’s mind about our species’ survival?
This column will be a space to ask these questions and share what I am seeing and feeling as potential answers or directions.
What do we mean when we say abolition, accountability, interdependence, community, liberation, and compelling futures? These are the kinds of topics I want to explore here.
I want to ask aloud a lot of questions that I thought I had answers to. So many of us speak as if we have answers, but we aren’t free yet, so I suspect we would all benefit from a period of listening and shifting in nuanced but distinct ways, together.
Let’s write and inspire all manner of fan fiction and fan poetics for the future as our collectively channeled answers to questions beyond our comprehension.
Let’s explore how the justice we mete out interpersonally connects to the way we treat our own bodies and the planet. Let’s explore how we consider justice for those who have less power than us, and those who have more. Justice for babies and children, for elders, for species who speak in ways we have not yet learned to understand.
Let’s examine hopelessness as a tool of our oppressors. And cynicism and meanness. And capitalism, which nourishes death in all these ways and so many others. Can we slip the fatal grip of the economic system of our lives?
How do our relationships reflect and shift our economic conditions? Our survival of gender and race constructs? Can everyone learn to be in healthy relationships? Can we learn these things without captivity—I mean, without the armed guard under which we currently all live, tithing our overseers?
How do we face the children we love? And the children in our imaginations? What do we owe them as stewards of their futures? That was the other possible title for this column, you know: Stewards of the Future. It’s aspirational. I shamelessly want to cultivate that sensibility in everyone who reads this and in everyone they tell about this column.
There will be prose, with some gifts from poetry. The emphasis here is on experiential learning, observation of patterns, and what to practice. And how to be loyal to the miracle of our lives. The emphasis here is also on being more than doing. I deeply believe you can live a completely worthwhile life in contemplation and reflection, and waste it all while working every second of waking life.
All of my work is about attention. Attention is the difference between a life you observe from a distance (sometimes within your own bodymind) and a life you live. My work is also always about change. How do we pivot from being victims of change to being shapers of it? I am one of many who picked up this lifelong question from the Buddha and Octavia E. Butler, among others.
On each solstice and equinox I will offer a spell, because it’s a way I know to be in reverence of the cycles of life on this planet: through patterns and spells and evolution.
adrienne maree brown is a writer, editor, activist, social justice facilitator, coach, speaker, and doula. Her books include Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds, Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good, which she wrote and edited, and Octavia's Brood: Science Fiction Stories From Social Justice Movements, which she co-edited. She is a YES! contributing editor.