Angela Natividad's Live & Uncensored!

24 November 2023

A shortlist of gratitudes

  • Marvis Matcha Green Tea toothpaste. It's delightful.
  • Caitlin, who talked me into getting a tongue scraper. I worry less about bad breath.
  • A sensual, lovely pregnancy with no swollen limbs, in which all my senses are attuned to beauty.
  • A partner who takes showing up seriously, who takes our thriving—individually, and together—even more seriously, and who makes me laugh nonstop. Even remembering the rare times we've fought makes me laugh.
  • My sweet and nurturing apartment.
  • Our shared home in Italy, and the in-laws across the garden who always have a kiss and a hot plate ready. Or just eggs. We always need eggs.
  • Being pregnant, and matrescing generally, in the French system. Sometimes it is overbearing and drives me crazy, but the attention to care, and the rigour, are legit. I feel so safe.
  • My friends, who have coalesced into family, closing ranks as I grow larger and more vulnerable. They show up with food or baby stuff, give me their arms when we go for walks, lift me literally to my feet. They have flown in from different countries, or rolled up from the 'burbs or the other side of Paris. They have loved me with delicacy and humour.
  • My actual family—my cousin who encourages me like a boxing coach, my sisters who gossip with me, my parents whose anticipation for this child borders on the frightening.
  • Pierre Hermé and Alain Ducasse.
  • Persimmons. I live in terror of running out of persimmons. They also remind me of my lola. Ancestors—what we inherit, what we owe to the future—is heavy on my mind.
  • The restaurant that makes perfect pie.
  • My community. After 15 years in this city, I'm finally in a 'hood where I feel installed, an acknowledged part of the fauna.
  • The stories strangers tell about their children, births, pregnancies, breastfeeding woes. People are always giving me stories, but pregnancy makes cups overflow with memories from these particular initiatory gates. This is probably the closest thing we have to being washed and fed by your kin, your neighbours, your people, before traversing said gates yourself. It is an intimate ritual we can't shake off. We don't even know we are doing it, and I am glad it is stronger than our belief in "progress."
  • Seasons.
  • Paris. Paris every day. Paris in the rain, Paris when it's grey, I don't care. This city is my mother. She called me once and I have never regretted answering. I will love her until I die.
  • My new gym ball. I can't wait to drape my arms over it, breathe into my lower back, and feel the pain slide off me like raindrops.
  • Maté, and the man who sells it to me.
  • Bright, vivid colours. It took me so long to love colour. I'm glad I finally got here.

04 November 2023

A thought

 People gamble what they can afford. We are in no place to dictate to others what they can afford.

02 November 2023

A spell for LinkedIn

I appreciate the people here looking to educate, share resources and decolonise minds—not only around imperialist, racist, and patriarchal structures, but around the belief that economic growth is the primary metric by which we should value ourselves, others and "progress".

I also get that many people are just trying to get by. They want to promote their businesses, cheer on successes, humblebrag, thought-lead, boost morale. That's what this platform is for. If I want something else, I can go to another platform and look at humblebrags of kids and vacations instead. If I'm sick of that, maybe I'll read a book, talk to actual humans or take a nap, instead of getting mad about how social media doesn't reward full-spectrum humanity. It's here to make money, not fulfill me.

With that said—the emotional gotchas, the rage-baiting, the "us vs. them", the zero-sum self-righteous judgment flowing through here now? They're not helping anyone. They're not paving the way to enlightenment. It's fast-acting venom that's making us sick. I don't know what the long-term effects will be, but they won't be good. The nausea I feel after a cursory scroll feels like radiation poisoning.

Stories are powerful. Words are powerful. Our energy is powerful, and it bleeds through screens. When I say "powerful" I don't just mean mentally. What impacts the body—our organs and cells, our guts and blood—starts in the mind and senses. We can heal and harm in the most literal sense without ever physically touching one another.

We can make each other ill for years, or try healing ourselves and those within proximity. We're responsible for wielding our powers mindfully.

It's important to understand this: Stories and words aren't just "technology," or vessels devoid of purpose. They live. They bite and suck and squeeze. They kill and maim. They can also restore, rejuvenate, and create fertile vivid possibility in concrete corsets over scorched earth. They can plant wild runaway gardens inside us and others.

May we use them kindly, judiciously and well. May we not poison just to poison, or curse others and ourselves. May we heal. I wish this for all of you and I wish this for me.

13 October 2023

I want to talk about this once. Then I never want to talk about it again.

Early on in my pregnancy I became obsessed with learning everything I could about Marie Antoinette. And while reading the biography on her life by Antonia Fraser, I encountered an explanation for the death of the monarchy that came distinctly across as blood magic—the kind of magic large states and entities engage in all the time, to initiate a new rule, or perhaps just to feed themselves.

(You think we left mass ritual sacrifice behind with the old gods and the "primitive"? Please.)

The argument was basically this (I'm paraphrasing, so forgive me that in advance). I'll start with some context:

Louis XVI wasn't a tyrannous king, or an especially shit one. He was, by all accounts (nobles were prolific, gossipy letter writers and record keepers), stunningly mediocre and passive. He wasn't even his family's first choice for the throne, but his brother died, and nobody even bothered to boost his self-esteem; they made it pretty clear they had no faith in him, even to his face. Many of the problems of France, for which he and his wife would later be blamed, were inherited. (This is the case of most leaders; at the scale of a country, you have to be a rare maverick, for better or worse, to really effect changes that wouldn't have happened anyway.)

The same can be said for Marie-Antoinette. She's one in 15 children, all strategically placed throughout the ruling world by her mother. She's sickly, small, not especially pretty or clever. But an older sister dies and suddenly she's the best option for Queen of France. She barely has her period when they shunt her over the border; she is oversold and underripe, told all the hopes of Austria rest on her capacity to integrate (which she works hard to do, though she's never quite accepted) while maintaining Germanic rationality and considering Austrian interests (which she tries doing, generally unsuccessfully, because diplomacy is a skill she simply lacks). 

So you've got these two kids with low self-esteem who were nobody's first choice for such important positions on the world stage. The ruling monarch, Louis XVI's grandfather, dies, and even Louis admits, "We are too young to rule." Monarchy's in a weird place; the settlers in the Americas—the exploitation of which made much of Europe rich and kicked off the international marketplace we inherited today—are threatening to overthrow their monarchial obligations. A Frenchman, La Fayette, is helping! He will later embroil France in the US's fight for freedom, then fight to overthrow the French monarchy, too! 

Shit's messy.

I'm going to skip ahead because this isn't really about that; it's about how it ends. When the French constitution is being drafted, there are attempts to strip monarchial powers while maintaining the monarchy symbolically, like what England's done. Louis plays along, wisely but for the wrong reasons: He's trying to stay alive and protect his family. He thinks people will get tired of all this work and go back to the monarchy on their own. There's also lots of people jostling for power, within the country and without, interfering—ultimately fatally—with these tense relations between monarchy and newly self-appointed stewards of a nation.

You know the rest: This ends with Louis XVI dying. Marie Antoinette is "tried" and killed a few months later. Welcome to the French Republic.

The issue is why the people saw fit to kill them.

The deciders of the monarchy's destiny generally agreed Louis XVI wasn't a bad guy, despite those awkward times he was caught trying to escape gilded imprisonment. It was never about him. The issue was the unpardonability of monarchy. If you can find anything in monarchy to forgive, you undermine the legitimacy of the Republic. So it doesn't matter how anybody feels about Louis XVI, or what kind of monarch he actually was. 

For the Republic to succeed, the cord must be cut clean. You cannot sympathise in any respect with the previous system; it must be guilty on all charges. This was the justification for killing Louis XVI: The division, the move from one reality to another, must be whole and complete. So in the first act of blood magic, the monarch is killed to symbolically kill monarchs, and slice the legacy of monarchy away from the country's spirit and future fortunes.

But what about Marie Antoinette? 

They have a problem with Marie Antoinette. She's 33, and already dying; it's suspected she had ovarian cancer during this time. In prison she's bleeding constantly, and prematurely ageing. She can barely walk. Lots of people think she should just be sent off to a nunnery, or exiled. These are all reasonable considerations. 

It's true that for a long time, MA was a fun and flashy fashionista. But once she had kids, being a mom was all she wanted to do. She didn't want to entertain court, go shopping, do pomp and circumstance; she wanted to hang out in muslin dresses and breastfeed. While this would probably fly today, at the time it was considered unbecoming for a queen. 

What's more, Louis XVI never took a mistress; he was faithful for his whole marriage. This was a political issue; mistresses played a critical role in the king's ear. They influenced policy, so the role was practically considered a cabinet job. (That's why Madame Du Barry, the mistress of Louis's granddad, was such a pill.) 

If the mistress position is open, then presumably Marie Antoinette is fulfilling both roles: That of wife (which she's fucking up, because she had kids and doesn't want to show up to state functions anymore), and of mistress, an influential voice in policy. Unfortunately, even when pressed by her family, all her feeble attempts to weigh in on policy fall flat. 

Nobody cares. Whenever people in France get mad about a decision, they put it all on the Queen: Her excesses, her failure to fulfil her duties, and her ostensible impositions in policymaking—which is inappropriate, because that's what a mistress does. And if Louis XVI doesn't have a mistress, that's all the more proof how influential she is, non?

Before things really go to shit for the monarchy, Marie Antoinette actually works hard to make the life she wants into a new kind of role. She wants to be seen as the mother of the country, so she can be permitted to just hang out and be a mom. Sometimes this works, but most of the time it doesn't.

Let's return to her trial. The decision is made to kill her well before it begins. But the men in power can't kill MA for the same reason they've killed Louis XVI, because that would suggest a queen is equally as important as a king. That's not part of the French monarchial belief system; what is this, England?! Gross. 

So they instead attack where she's vulnerable: This notion of her as "mother" of the nation. What's the most heinous thing a mother can do? 


They separate her from her 7-year-old son. They beat him, get him drunk, play with him, just generally fuck with him—all within earshot of his mother, in a dungeon nearby (two tortures in one!). And they give him a story to tell. When Marie-Antoinette appears on trial, her son—dressed as a mini revolutionary and egged on by his new adult male friends—claims he was repeatedly molested by his mom and aunt. 

It's disgusting, terrible stuff, torn right out of speculative tabloids whose misogynist, xenophobic invective haunted MA's steps for the entirety of her reign. 

You know, I get Harry's trauma about the tabloids. A case can be made that they killed Marie Antoinette, too.

(In letters to family members and loved ones, MA asks them to forgive her son for these "confessions." "You know how easy it is to get a child to say what you want," she tells them. My heart aches for her. Nobody will have time to forgive him; her baby will die, isolated and starved, months after her. The new order was never going to keep a dauphin alive.)

Marie-Antoinette is tried and found guilty of incest: She has corrupted the role of mother in the most intimate way. When asked how she pleads, she says nothing; when prompted further, finally says something to the effect of, "Every mother here knows there can be no response to an accusation against which nature recoils." 

A lot of the women in the room, who were not on her side, are moved. They almost start to defend her. Sensing they might lose control of the situation, the men immediately charge MA guilty, and hustle her out to await death.

Why? Why did they need to kill her? 

In documentation and correspondence around that time, the case made is this: Nobody whose opinion mattered really felt Marie Antoinette deserved to die, though they allowed that belief to proliferate publicly. This sensibility is doubled once the king is killed; he is the embodiment of monarchy, and she is not. 

A blood sacrifice was already made to separate Republic from Monarchy. But to avoid the Republic meeting the monarchy's fate, to ensure its viability, it must be intimately wedded to its people. One of the best ways to do this is with shared complicity.

In essence, Marie Antoinette has to die because her death bathes the hands of Republic leaders and ratifiers, and the everyday citizens of France, in the same blood. Whether she merits dying is sufficiently murky a question that there is a tint of guilt, of judicial doubt, to this act—one everyone can share in. We buried and abused the body together. Now we are bound.

Why am I talking about this? 

Because what is happening with Palestine is driving me crazy. I don't want to fall too deep down the rabbit hole of social media, or join others on high horses. But watching this situation unspool makes me feel itchy with dis-ease, a sense of insanity that feels contagious. 

Of course people have the right to mourn what Hamas did. But also, of course we have the right to be alarmed, appalled, and frightened by what the Israeli government is currently doing to what remains of the Palestinian people. I don't know how you can see something like this and still try making the case that mourning genocide in plain sight is an anti-Semitic act.

Yet those are easy arguments to make, because they're officially sanctioned. I'm not just talking about the propaganda machine at work in the west. I'm talking about the United States' overwhelming military support to Israel in helping decimate an "enemy" that has no military of its own, that lives in what is commonly acknowledged to be an open-air prison.

I'm also talking about how, in France, marches in support of Palestine are actively, violently suppressed. All this happens in complicity with media, which advances one narrative—that of Hamas' victims—versus another: In the handful of days since Hamas attacked Israel, the latter has decimated their death toll, levelling whole apartment buildings, wiping out Palestinian families at the root. Celebrities have mistakenly posted photos of Gaza, or dying Palestinian children, believing them to be of Israel and Israelis. If they are later alarmed by the reality of their mistakes, it's not obvious; the posts are merely deleted, or sometimes replaced with the ol' "no children should die on any side" argument (I'm looking at you, Jamie Lee Curtis).

Meanwhile, the invective on social media intensifies. It should be easy to pick a side, comes one set of voices, before advancing the side that is so obviously the right one. Your silence is complicity, say others—as if the energy we've all wasted screaming at each other on these fucking platforms has benefited anyone, or anything, besides the platforms.

Some people have genuinely terrible takes that make me shudder. They feel dangerous, scary and myopic. I'm sickened by how we've come to conflate posts with action, Likes with impact.

The problem is, we're all going to waste our time and our lives arguing like this, about any number of things from Covid to climate—to no deeper purpose—because we are all complicit. And if we were to stop for a second, step back, and look at the broader picture, we would finally see it. 

Lots of forces don't want us to do that; they invest in keeping us from doing that. But also, why would we want to?

It's not our fault. The vast majority of us fuelling this bonkers rage machine live in the heavily-armed, wealthy countries who 1) have an economic interest in ongoing instability in the Middle East, 2) have an ideological interest in continuing to support this colony, in part because they created it to assuage their own guilt (another act of magic!), and also because we are violently-held colonies ourselves, and 3) for all these reasons, must convince people that these issues are not about atrocity. It's about what's moral, what's right. Our countries—who just want democracy for everyone (even as we have suppressed Palestine's attempts to erect one, repeatedly)—are always on the side of right, because we tacitly, lazily equate democracy with freedom.

This is a lot to take in. Let me try to make this simpler:

Everything we think we understand about civilisation and progress is informed by violent subjugation. We subjugate others and we subjugate space and resources. In order to sustain itself, the systems we are part of must do this repeatedly, refreshing subjugations and finding new victims in order to continue enriching particular groups.

This is not the only way humans have ever lived. We fool ourselves by believing this is somehow a defining characteristic of human nature, or inevitable once human cultures scale to a certain size. It wasn't inevitable. Most of the world's cultures resisted European colonisation, and were forced to comply by the barrels of guns. Now the systems binding us are so large and pervasive that they easily sustain themselves (basic systems theory), because justifications for their existence feel like common sense.

This is just what people do. Fuck all the way off. It's one thing people do. It's not what all people do, or what people inevitably do. 

Still, we are complicit in every aspect of these systems of subjugation. The same countries that most loudly condemn human trafficking and slavery, for example, profit most, and consume the most, from countries that traffic and enslave. Our technology, clothing, food—basically all our consumption habits—make us complicit in those blood sacrifices.

It is very easy for some people, online, to say that silence is complicity. But that doesn't make allowances for the reasons people might have to speak, or to stay silent. Some are losing jobs or getting shadowbanned for supporting Palestinians' right to exist. And all this gets swept up in the (legitimate) anxiety many Jewish people have that their pain, which is historical, repeatedly triggered, and often evoked in popular culture, is considered less real than other people's. 

This bullying in the direction of one correct opinion isn't happening in a vacuum; think of Colin Kaepernick kneeling, or President Obama being accused of evoking the "race card" when he mourned the death of Trayvon Martin, or how Americans were asked to choose between livelihood and health—for themselves and others—during the most intense period of Covid, when most of the world was confined.

My family are from a country that was colonised multiple times. The US came to "help" liberate us; once we won, and while still exhausted from those wars, it announced it had purchased us. Filipinos resisted with the very last of their efforts and finally were able to drive the US out, sort of ... under the condition that we mount a democracy they approve of. 

The Philippines, its interests and its autonomy, has been compromised by American interests ever since.

This is the story of a lot of countries. But it is also the story of us, living in the west, individually. We are encouraged to consume to "help" our economies, then we're told global warming is our fault, our issue to solve by recycling, reducing, reusing; the conglomerates truly responsible for mass-scale resource extraction and pollution get tax breaks and go on producing more than we may ever wish to consume. Whole deserts are covered with clothes we never thought to buy, things nobody wants. Unsustainable objects are cheaper than sustainable ones; the "choice" to be sustainable is considered a luxury.

How is this our fault?

The bottom line is, we're not free—either to speak or stay silent. All possible positions are compromised because we are embedded in these systems to live. Like the citizens of France, collectively bloodied by the death of Marie Antoinette, we are complicit in the violations of our governments, which operate at the behest of the international market system, which never, ever existed to enrich people locally. It was exploitative from its very inception, bathed in blood once we started killing indigenous peoples for minerals to ship back. 

Local, poor Europeans became complicit in this system even as it subjugated them: Their right to farm was stripped, based on the false case that land privatisation, with harvests nourishing international needs instead of local ones, produces less waste. People suddenly found themselves unable to produce and consume their own food, and this remains the case today, particularly for meat. They were instead made to buy it, and ideally to become merchants themselves. Exploitation and desperation trickled downward. (Women launched food strikes. Guess what followed? Witch hunts. This is an oversimplification, but you get the drift now, I think.)

In modern times, our complicity deepens because we have really good incentives to hedge our bets. Survival is getting harder for more and more people. We have families to think about, expensive colleges to pay for. We want to keep jobs to keep roofs over our heads. Food is getting pricier, as is transport. Don't even talk to me about healthcare or retirement.

All these variables compromise our capacity to do a bigger good if it ever invites conflict with the fluid motion of those variables. So we, in turn, engage in compromised medium goods: We can post on social media (the positions have to be correct, somehow both deeply emotive and carefully considered for their potential impact on the poster). We can start a B-corp, run workshops about "conscious capitalism." We keep our hands busy. The blood never washes off.

In the late days of the Aztec people, human sacrifice was almost unceasing, anxiety-driven: A way to advance empire while terrifying enemies while keeping people in line, culpable, fêting Huītzilōpōchtli—the sun god, who required constant sacrifices to defeat the night—in frenzies of grief, terror and ecstasy.

That's where we're at now. Rome is burning, the tired saying goes. We're in climate crisis, having clocked the hottest summer ever, and news articles actually have the gall to print things like "humans can withstand more heat than previously believed!" We are not done with what remains an ongoing pandemic. Millions of people have begun to migrate as the result of climate issues—mostly to countries that caused them, but who refuse to take responsibility for climate refugees dying by land and sea. We've watched the progressive genocide in Palestine for decades and are told it is not okay to sympathise; Ukraine, however, remains a priority (though Ukrainian refugees of colour have been stopped at European borders, even as their white counterparts are cleared to advance).

It's a frenzied, sick dance at the foot of a great altar, and we are all awash in blood. We cannot ever blame anyone without blaming ourselves—but also, this is how the systems we engage with were designed. As Gordon White said in a recent ep of Rune Soup, "All the water is poisoned." 

With our survival tied to violence, how can we combat the latter in good conscience? We can't. We have to find excuses that absolve us, that "logic" ugliness: It's human nature, these are ancient conflicts, capitalism is the best way to reward creativity, testosterone yields aggression, God made us stewards of all creatures, this is what progress looks like ... Take your pick for the fight in question.

We will never fight for the right things unless we first square with the reality of our own entangled relationships, and how difficult it is to extract ourselves without losing things we love. I think we have to mourn this—in our desire to protect some things, other, treasured parts of us have been maimed. If we can learn how to mourn this, properly and together, maybe we can start to see clear. Maybe we can get braver, because we know we have support from quarters unexpected.

Maybe we can starve the correct enemy, not each other or ourselves.

There's a reason why blood magic is the most vilified form of magic. It goes straight to what gives us life; it is the deepest magic to engage in, the hardest to undo. But the egregores such magic feeds require continuous sating. As they get hungrier, the returns they offer grow thinner. (This is, like, the entire premise of "Cabin in the Woods.") 

What if we just ... stopped? But we can't if we refuse to acknowledge they are there, that we feed them, that we are scared of finding out what happens if we stop

This, too, is part of their power: The delusional belief that we've left all this behind—the tearing-out of hearts and rolling-down of inert bodies to protect our fortunes, nourish our crops—that we're rational societies that make rational choices. 

Not all gods thrive by naming. The ones we feed thrive in the shadows of belief, their contours sharp in the negative space. If we can't or won't see them, how can any of us be made free? 

If we closed our eyes for just a second, took a breath and stepped away from our pressure cookers, we could keenly feel how free we are not. We would begin sensing all the ties that bind. We need to find what's on the other side of those threads.

10 August 2023

This little light of mine

A candle shot from the wedding of two friends.

I was reading about brothel candles, which populated European brothels between 1880 and 1905. The prostitute lit them as a timer, and you had until they ran out. (The candles are about the size and breadth of modern birthday candles, so maybe you're looking at 5 or so minutes? Definitely less than 10.)

This would be a good thing to implement for when somebody starts holding forth about a topic you just don't care about. You can lift a little birthday candle out of your pocket and hold it somberly aloft, and ideally they'd know they need to get all this out of their system before the flame hits bottom. Then you all have to move on, and they don't get to pick the next topic.

Blowing the candle out in bad faith would give them poor luck in that particular topic forever. Perhaps they'd develop an incapacity to get through it without stumbling over their words.

There are some logistical issues. You need to be able to stab a birthday candle into something, so the idea works best if you're in front of food. But you can also get a small conical ceramic holder for one single birthday candle, and just keep it in your pocket. 

I happen to own one, which I procured at a weekend market in Totnes. It's a fun worry item to roll between your fingers, while maximising your capacity to set up a single candle anywhere without losing time, which is of the essence when somebody starts venting about the same old shit, or getting way too excited about a topic that even the furthest-iterated parallel dimension version of you has no interest in.

That's my big idea. The world suffers from an overabundance of birthday candles, mostly forgotten in drawers. They merit purpose. We could get this off the ground so easily in the TikTok era.

13 June 2023

On Strength

I feel strong today. I have not felt this kind of strong, specifically, in a long time: Like there's a wide horizon of possibility ahead, adventures yet untaken, and I'm game. I have the energy for it, the desire to try navigating through new problem space. 

I'm reminded of something my print shop guy said last week: "To worry is to doubt God."

To worry is to doubt. The universe. Oneself. Everything.

Nothing special changed, except that I received a new worry today and it was the worry that finally broke the load. I'm out of capacity for being held hostage by an array of concerns that never quite change and are not especially important, except that they insist on their importance by imposing on my peace.

We forget, entangled as we are in the intrigues and hamster wheel of economy, that being alive is a crazy thing. So much can happen and is happening all the time. I'm not missing it to be in front of a screen most of my day, infusing myself with heroin shots of eternal-scroll short vids. I refuse.

I want to move my body on earth and in water and feel the sun kiss my skin. I want the wind to blow hard at me in Tintagel. I want to taste my food, and read books on the terrace with a pleasing beverage. I want to touch trees and breathe in forest, to stoop down and collect chestnuts from their moist, opened armour. I want scrambled eggs and hot chocolate, and sand between my toes, and laughing with my friends over candles. I want to be kissed by my lovers, and to give birth to lots of beauty.

I don't think I should only get to have these things if I make enough money to avoid the micromanagement of a feudal lord. The game of this past few years has been to frontload these things instead—make them the priorities, not my rewards for good behaviour.

If I'm honest with myself, it's going fine. Better than fine: Beautifully. Still: I'm not rich, so I worry.

But I think that's the point: To be able to live beautifully without hoarding resources. To know that compounding interest is only one form of abundance you want in your life, and not the most important by a long shot. You want health first. You want love most. You want beauty, because what is the point of waking up if your senses cannot rest on something truly sublime at least once a day, ideally more?

Today I divest the worry. I blow it out of my open hand as one would blow a kiss. It doesn't matter. What matters is to live. I can be braver about it now.

24 March 2023

Article 49.3

If you can walk Paris—if you deign to give her the attention she merits—walk her by night. By night she is ribald, volatile. You can't listen to music. You can't get lost in your thoughts. You have to be alert. She will leave you no choice.

This is when the city is most eloquent. You cannot ignore her. Tonight, there is no romance. Tonight she is full of discontent. 

The results of the day's protest spills over at sundown, like inflamed flesh. The garbage, left weeks uncollected, has exploded into the streets. Bins are aflame.

But there is also zeal, and for every ten restaurants that have closed as a precaution, one is open, its lights warming the faces peering out from their terraces. This is also Paris. It is Thursday and the night is young, the chaos embraced, no interruption to the desire to flee our small flats. 

Swamps are not polite places. They have a character that can't be beat down, no matter how much civilization you build on top of them, how many Haussmann buildings—or, in the case of Florida, how many resorts. The sharks will still come. The alligators will appear in your swimming pool. 

In the case of Paris, the discontent of its people does not fester. Like spirits responding to their mother, to the hurling of this wildland corseted under concrete, it explodes vocally, viscerally. You know the expression, "ask for forgiveness, not for permission"? It doesn't even ask for forgiveness. 

We walk atop what once was wild marshlands and it vibrates beneath us, never allows us to forget. Its character remains irrepressible: Chaos always threatening to retake space from the concrete. This is Paris. And if you're called here, if you live here, you feel it in your blood, vibrating under your skin. There is no taming it.

04 February 2023

The divine comedy

Many, many years ago, when community management was barely a thing and I was in the vibrating potential of my 20s, I went to New York to provide live social media coverage to a major advertising awards show. The bloggers were all put up in a fine hotel and given access to rare and special people to facilitate our coverage.

But things started going wrong almost immediately before the first day of work. I can't remember all the details. My wireless internet router didn't work, my Macbook Pro failed me and the Genius Bar took it away and said it would be out of commission for several days. I provisionally bought a new computer which they told me I could return after the week was over, minus the return fee, which I chocked off as a rental fee.

I didn't know New York that well, and barely had the funds for these emergencies. All this running-about, trying to get my shit together before the event started, was taxing. But finally it was done, and I got to my hotel and touched the key card to the door. It didn't open.

That is when I pressed my head to the wood and burst into tears.

It happened that, in the room next door, a housekeeper was just coming out. She dashed across to me with a look of alarm and buried my head in her copious bosoms.

"He hurt you," she said with conviction. "I'm so sorry, love, so sorry he hurt you."

I relaxed all my weight into her and kept on crying. It didn't seem important to correct her. In a way, a he did hurt me: Steve Jobs.

I blubbered about my door key and she sorted me out and ushered me into the room, tut-tutting the whole time, tucking me into my bed like a little rolly-polly.

The rest of the week went fine. But thereafter, I had the strong feeling that I was on the hotel's suicide watch. I came home every day to a pyramid of chocolates and handwritten notes from housekeeping. The staff kept calling to "check in." In the midst of all that stress—the week did not turn out so great in the end, though it had nothing to do with my work, nor anything I could have done—I felt loved and held by strangers.

This is how I feel at this moment. I'm standing at the very edge of a private endeavour I've poured months of myself into. It twisted my life around, made things chaotic, and at the same time I kept encountering people—improbable strangers and professionals—who seemed destined to help me succeed. Kisses from the universe.

Now we're nearly at the end, and success does not look like the most likely possibility. The grief sits heavy on my heart. There's one last salvo, then few remaining paths. It will be over, and the machine will simply stop.

Discovering what we truly desire, and why, is a transformative act. We spend so much of our lives being encouraged to measure and temper our desires against the societies and norms we grow up in; to deviate from this single-mindedly, in the pursuit of what we alone want, is a radical thing.

But desire is not equivalent to entitlement. You are owed nothing; the universe is not a meritocracy, and I'm not even convinced that a meritocracy is an ideal. Desire is merely a compass. You follow the direction where your heart beats loud and strong, and that's important; it vitalises you.

I have finally arrived at the place I've struggled with finding for the past three months. I cannot control this outcome. It has nothing to do with me "rising to the occasion" or "meeting the challenges." This is not a gauntlet for the gods. From my vantage point at this moment, life is playful, our time here a series of games. We learn things or don't, we feel things or don't; there are no wrong answers, only experiences and new possibilities, and all that enriches the cosmos. 

It's about us, sure, but we can't forget the macro sense of who we are. My life is about me insofar as that I'm living it, but I extend beyond my body. 

I am kapwa: I am me and you, me and the community, the community and the environment. I extend to my interactions, known or unknown, and cannot be divided from this fertile, murky mess in any meaningful way. So this story can only be about me in that sense. It's me as the cosmos, not me as a small slice of anxious ego wanting a happy ending from a very narrow spectrum of perspective.

I brought up the story of that woman and the hotel because it's on my mind. It feels related to this moment. Over the course of this project I've met with many forms of chaos, but also many people that, for a multitude of reasons, I believed were signs I was on the right track, and a "positive" outcome to this project was meant for me. They were strangers who became friends and they fought for my interests and still do, or spontaneously reassure my fears without me asking them to, or answer questions I didn't know I had, seemingly making the path clearer ahead.

All this time, I thought this was about me getting the right ending. But this isn't about the ending at all. It's specifically about those interactions. All those years ago at that hotel, everything went wrong but I felt held by strangers, cradled by the universe. I feel this now: As the project slowly unravels in front of me, as hope begins to rise softly from her chair and move toward the door, I realise I'm not alone in this room, have never been alone.

I am still held by strangers. I am still cradled by the universe. And this says more about my value to myself, my value to everything, than securing the fucking outcome. Though losing it, to be frank, breaks my heart. 

I can feel it: softening me, making me more malleable, relaxing my muscles with the grief. I bury my head in the copious bosoms of the universe. May I be worthy of the gift of the hands that go on holding me, and moulding me.

It is beautiful to be here. 

01 February 2023

Brigid's creation song

St. Brigid's Cloak, the Shannon Academy.

It is Imbolc, that middle place between the winter solstice and spring equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. We're in that first salvo of the creation principle, awakening after a long sleep. Imbolc is the primary feast of Brigid, goddess of fire and water, with dominion over midwifery, poetry, crafts, brewing, iron-working, and technology, per Judika Illes in "Imbolc: Crafting the Creative Flame," in Taschen's Witchcraft tome.

I lit a candle yesterday, on Brigid Eve. This morning—sun bright, frost still clinging to its edges—I dug through Sean Kane's Wisdom of the Mythtellers and found one of my favourite passages. This is Brigid's song of creation, written by Ella Young as told by Alice Kane: 

Now comes the hour foretold, a god gift-bringing,
A wonder sight.
Is it a star, newborn, and splendid up springing
Out of the night?
Is it a wave from the Fountain of Youth, that is upflinging
A foam of delight?
Is it a great immortal bird that is winging
Hither its flight?

It is a wave, high-crested, melodious, triumphant,
Breaking in light.
It is a star, rose-hearted and joyous,
Risen from night.
it is a flame from the world of the gods, and love runs before it,
A quenchless delight.

Let the wave break, let the star rise,
Let the flame leap.
Ours, if our hearts are wise,
To take and keep.

Brigid sings this song and moves the hearts of the other gods, who quickly recognise it doesn't come from her alone. She describes it as the song of the earth, who dreamt of beauty and longs for it now. Thus inspired, the gods descend to earth—a dark, formless abyss, chaotic and frightening—then begin paving it with beauty, each gifting it with their own pulsating wildfire touch.

When they have finished, the earth is rampant green and blue, clothed in flowers. They commit not to duplicate, there, the things that exist in other places. They decide to stay and collaborate with the earth, helping cultivate a beauty that is hers alone.

Only Brigid opts to leave. Her work done here, she turns her mind to other matters. The gods lace a ribbon of remembrance to her mantle, and off she goes, needfully separating herself from the creation she contributed to.

20 January 2023

Every fire

Each morning I wake, put on my rubbery boots, and gather wood and kindling from the shelter in the garden.

At the stove, I clean the ashes out from the previous day.

I make a sandwich of paper, kindling, cardboard, more paper. I light it bottom to top.

In some configurations I know this will go well, but it doesn't always; the fire can be colicky, slow to take.

Every fire is a different fire. Each has its own temperament, its own way of being coaxed into autonomy. I start it off with soft foods, then move on to progressively bigger, harder comestibles. 

It will spend its first hour toddling, needing careful attention—a spare ear or eye forever monitoring its condition, even as I prepare breakfast, stretch, start my computer. By afternoon it will seem more confident, but experience knows this is not the case; left to its own for an hour, it could be dead-cold, not an ember left to revive it.

Every fire is a different fire. My job is to forget the nature of the one that accompanied me yesterday. I spend the day weaving my attention to it, hoping that by nightfall it will be fully its own, raging hot and radiating, dangerous in its certainty.

18 January 2023

On making my new phone mine

There's a lot of change happening—shifts backed by years of marinating. In the midst of two big shifts I'm engaged in at the moment, I had my phone stolen a month ago and decided to break it off with Apple. I'd been considering it awhile, the cost of it had started outweighing the value, and a chaotic, stressful situation was the perfect last straw.

So I got a Google Pixel and lost half the data I've accumulated over 13 years—phone numbers, apps, messaging data (iMessage!), any number of things that seemed really important at the time. I spent a weekend in a foetal position and another week trying to understand my new normal, then came out the other side and decided it was time to start adapting the phone to my needs.

I'm very much an Otterbox fan because I drop my phone a lot and have often enjoyed the exercise of throwing it across the room to demonstrate the value of "military-grade" protection. But I'm over that now. Protection for ordinary drops is fine, which means I don't need a case the size of a commando's walkie-talkie. In keeping with that, I also decided against getting a phone clip, which in any case has proven too bulky for the type of gear I carry lately, and utterly impractical for attaching to a bicycle.

I still want to be practical. But it's a time of change, and I'm interested in who I'm changing into and how she manifests herself, especially in terms of styles and textures. These are the things I got:

First, this most delicious leather phone case from Bellroy with a secret orange interior that I have already forgotten about and which has consequently delighted me all over again. It is delicious to touch and yields perfect grip.

Second, this fully-rotatable ring and stand from Burga which is pleasingly smooth and niftily associates with my tropical leopard water bottle—an acquisition that followed the loss of my black Zojirushi bottle, which vanished as I was sliding off a cliff face last year.

I like this—these leaping-out greens and oranges that mark such delectable contrast to the monochrome accessories I have favoured most of my adult and adolescent life. It's a new language, muted but playful. It leaves room for other kinds of exclamations, new ways of being.

None of this is very important but I wanted to put it somewhere because it makes me happy. I also like how these colours interact with others in my life: The orange metal pen sitting beside my phone at this moment, the black Merci wristwatch with the subtle red details. Why have I spent so much of my life refusing my eyes this lush indulgence?

10 January 2023

On heroes

There's a convention in the very old oral stories where a prophecy is given, but its completion relies entirely on the central person not knowing about it.

This is a crucial distinction, completely at odds with the convention that you, the Hero, are aware of and thus driven by your destiny. Knowing or believing you're the Hero is a burden for you and others.

In the older tales, there aren't any side characters, not really; the whole universe conspires to bring the prophecy to fruition. Even your mistakes are critical. Sometimes you have to die. Sometimes you resurrect, unable to be the person you were before. But you need everybody. You are part of a larger story that isn't really about you at all.

A story where a central character is infused by their own heroism enables the hero to use (and treat) everyone around them as collateral. The hero is not only protected and supported but enabled, including by the audience. Their belief in their own story—that they act in the service of a Greater Good—ultimately corrodes the very qualities that made them heroic, because there is no place for a greater good—for others—to flourish.

Somewhere along the way, the story came to be about them alone.