I've been in retreat mode for several months this winter, and now I am slowly coming out of it. To go into retreat is not something I necessarily choose, but my body chooses it for me when time and space allow. I had a break in between classes, and I welcomed that time to return to my writing. This also coincided with the ongoing demise of our government as we know it, and the struggle to stay informed about everything that is being assaulted each day-- without allowing the news to overwhelm me. As you may be able to relate, this has not been easy. I want to be more of an activist, and I briefly was consumed with the energy to step into this role in new ways, but then, I took a break and I couldn't get back into it.
On the other hand, my writing has been taking off again; I have been reconnecting to my second manuscript, a book that I've longed to return to for many years. And there is something about sinking into a writing project that requires the ability to turn off all of the noise-- the ability to ignore non-essential emails, to ignore the dirty dishes, and yes to ignore the calls to urgent action, the wailing pleas for help, the incessant cries of "the world is going to hell." Don't get me wrong, I am still appalled and outraged, or rather in some kind of deep ongoing mourning about what is going on. I have not retreated from following the news, talking to my friends, and continually questioning, what role can I play in this, what is the long-vision view I must take to understand my work and contribution to the greater good? But I also know myself, and I know that I am no good to anyone when I am not doing my creative work on some level. And so, when the muse arrives in the midst of our collective crisis, when the time and ability to sink back in arrives, I cannot deny it. For I know on some essential level that this solitary work is connected to the political and communal work that I want to do in the world, that I seek to keep cultivating. But it is hard to justify my retreat from making political phone calls, for example, when I rationally know how important they are. It is hard to justify art-making of any kind when faced with immediate crisis, need. But I know that art-making, ritual, inner-compass seeking, meditation, and creative expression are so, so important. And so I've tried to accept this retreat for what it is. Tried to embrace my swells of happiness and inspiration in the midst of so much despair. To deny it would be foolish.
If I had more time I would turn this into a longer, more thought-out essay. But right now, I just want to get something posted, anything, to signal that I am coming out of hibernation and back in emergence mode. I don't know what this means exactly, except maybe that you'll be hearing from me more. Maybe I am ready to ask the question again about what solitude and silence can offer us in times of despair-- how to bridge inaction with action, listening with speech-- and not privilege one mode of being in the world over the other. Not even to accept that these modalities are in opposition to each other, but rather to see our roles in the world as being in constant flux-- not in a linear mode of progress (e.g. from being "quiet" to being "outspoken" = good progress), but rather in a spiraling evolution, revolution of change. What I need, the ways I need to grow may not be the same ways you need to grow. This should be obvious. And yet in our world of binary thinking, we are all too often pressured to feel like if we are not doing "x" thing then we are not doing enough. Or that if we have chosen one particular course of action for now, then we cannot allow for our trajectory to change.
To be sure, I am not fond of spiritual platitudes, passivity, or feelings of "there is nothing I can do." There is always something we can do, even if it doesn't outwardly look yet like "activism." Whatever hope, love, righteousness, or beauty you have to offer the world, in whatever form, we need it now more than ever. May you find it, may we find it, may we harness it, may we suck the shit out of that holy nectar and birth a better world.