gratitude and magic

gratitude and magic

The job of a blogger is to keep blogging. And in the last few months, I’ve really struggled with coming up with anything meaningful or helpful to say. I feel pretty firmly, as many are articulating very powerfully (please see this podcast hosted by Autumn Brown and adrienne marie brown, How To Survive the End of the World“, passed along to me by my friend and colleague Aadita Chaudhury this weekend*), that we’re facing the end of one order of the world  (Brown and brown 2018) — explicitly, I think we’re seeing the fracturing of the white supremacist, heteropatriarchal, colonial-capitalist paradigms that have ordered knowledge and being in the academy and western/imperialist society for so long. And frankly, it’s incredible to be alive to see what so many generations of my Indigenous ancestors could only imagine or dream of. Dr. Kim TallBear‘s work reminds me that through all of this, we still have the radical capacity to tend to dynamic forms of kinship, something that my Métis ancestors were denied on so many levels as the state sought to re-order our families, our logics, and our movements across the prairies.

But. There’s also the stark realities of what it means to bear witness to, and live through, the fraying and fracturing and synaptic overload of folks who have ruled through control, fear, exploitation, extraction, violence, and selfish unfettered greed losing a small iota of their grip on the world. Tyrants lash out in rage when they are scared, and the folks who have taken for granted their firm planting as the voice of knowledge and reason for centuries are lashing out in terrifying, violent, predictably unpredictable ways. This is happening at the nation-state level, but also on a more personal/immediate level within our own disciplines and gathering spaces in the academy. Power is shifting and those who held it unquestioningly for so long are not going tenderly into the night. It is a time of measured joy (feeling my heart beat quicker as I recognize some of the violent orders falling apart), and caution/protection (acknowledging that this world remains so very unsafe for so many folks who are targeted by angry white supremacists).

So what is there to say? I can only offer solidarity, and some small seeds of hope. I know hope has been exploited and distorted by many actors to serve the ends of imperial neocolonialism. But it still has value, this word. We can reacquaint ourselves with its pluralities, re-engage it, reciprocally imbue it with our own stories and meaning. Words may be abused and distorted by a great many structures and machinations, but words themselves have agency. They do not always commit to their most egregious translations. So. I offer solidarity and hope. And in that, I mean that I offer a small bit of tenderness. And maybe patience. And humility. And recognition that all of us, for the most part, are doing our very best to make sense of life, and that all of us will screw up in myriad ways as we try to figure out how to navigate these complex times. Over the last few years, I’ve returned many times to this speech by Valerie Kaur (2016), who asks, hauntingly and emphatically:

“what if this is the darkness of the tomb, but the darkness of the womb?” 

I keep coming back to this statement and to this speech. We cannot control a vast majority of what happens in the world. The great folly of human exceptionalism has turned repeatedly on arrogant efforts to control environments, to destroy other nations, to violate the tender reciprocity between our flesh and the fellow human and non-human entities and beings who sustain and maintain us. But what I have learned that I can do is learn to slow down a little (and I recognize that not everyone has the luxury of slowing down — so this is by no means prescriptive) — but if I can just muster a little hope, if only for a split of a split of a second, I feel less despair and more belief in the overall capacity and audacity of the folks moving through the world to transform this collective of beings and existences and stories and knowings towards something a little bit less awful, degrading, and extractive. Humans are capable of such great violence and destruction. But also such magic.

I suppose all I can say is: in the last few months, it’s taken everything in my being to wake up every morning and will myself to believe, if only for the shortest of seconds, in magic.

And with that, I’ll leave you with this poem that I wrote last week:

What if we, after the work of adrienne marie brown (2018), practiced an anthropology of gratitude. And magic** (Edit October 15, 2018: Aadita pointed me towards some more awesome links — see adrienne marie brown’s work on radical gratitude here:, spell for radical gratitude here: here:

What if we, guided by all the brilliant folks already speaking this truth, tended to these roots and seeds gathering their courage in the rich, storied earth?

October 15 edit: ** more work by adrienne marie brown to cite and incorporate into your scholarship –

Works Cited:

brown, adrienne marie. 2018. Spell for Radical Gratitude.

Brown, Autumn and adrienne marie brown. “How to Survive the End of the World”.

Kaur, Valerie. 2016. “A Sikh Prayer for America on November 9 2016”.

Tallbear, Kim (2016) “Failed Settler Kinship, Truth and Reconciliation, and Science”

*A special thank you to Aadita for holding space for conversations that keep me believing in magic and our collective capacity to transform our worlds towards something more tender, reciprocal, and hopeful.

2 Replies to “gratitude and magic”

  1. I just wanted to say, and I apologize in advance for the probably inadequate comment, that I really appreciate and in turn feel grateful for this post. This year I have really come to rely on your ability to make sense of our unfolding historical moment as I struggle (like a lot of people) to make sense of the increasingly awful “fraying and fracturing and synaptic overload,” of these moments full of potential and also full of depressingly lethal waves of reaction. It’s an odd gift to the internet that you found the time to write up something that keeps being so real and manages to dodge the traps of despair & panoptimism.

    I also really relate to this image of blogging overload, and I wanted to send a small solidarity message on that front. I’ve kept a blog around since 2007, but the truth is that months go by without feeling like I need to write anything, and while I used to get something out of the discussion in the comments, now all the discussion has shifted to other social media platforms. But — and again I think I first learned this thought from you, on Twitter! — I really believe none of us owes anything to the anonymous internet public. So I hope you can keep blogging without feeling sucked into the awful expectations about free labor and timeliness that somehow circulate these days. Sending solidarities in the contradictions.

  2. Zoe, your enthusiasm for Kim Tallbear’s work has had an impact. Yesterday I downloaded the Kindle edition of Native American DNA. Have just begun reading, but it’s fascinating.