The Magic is Back

The Magic is Back

Neoliberalism was born and dies in Chile

It was never really gone, but it is now front and center, proud, visible. Not hiding. Taking it’s righteous place.

I’m talking about what happened last weekend in Chile. After 30 years of a democracy that didn’t feel inclusive, equitable, diverse, or fair – a direct result of Chile being the first lab in the terrifying neoliberal experiment that prioritizes things over people, people are changing things. And they are not changing them a little bit, on the edges, in the periphery, with apologies. No, no, no, no siree, this time we are changing things deeply, transformatively, from the ground up.

I am talking about the first ever modern nation state that has agreed to write a brand spanking new Constitution, crafted by the first ever democratically chosen group of 155 people that embodies gender equity, diversity, and thank Goddess, left leaning tendencies. And by left leaning I mean an understanding that we are all in this together, and that government can and should serve the people. I mean left leaning as opposed to “If you don’t have money, tough shit” which is the more common right leaning approach. That’s all I mean for these purposes.

Even a short few years ago, the idea of creating a Constitution sounded absurd. “You can’t just rewrite the most basic document of governance in a country!” Oh yeah, hold my drink, why the hell not? If it’s not serving the people, if it’s corrupt, if it’s hurting us, TEAR THE MOFO DOWN!!!! When I was young, the most infuriating thing I would hear about why progress couldn’t happen in Chile was that some ideas were “unconstitutional”, and I’m like, “Yeah but a dictator wrote the Constitution (not quite, but basically), so can’t we just get rid of those bits?” And I would be met with eyerolls and sighs of “poor baby – no entiende nada.”

Anyway, time went by, and “all of a sudden”, after 30 years of trying to tweak things and try social and political change by any and all means possible, Chileans realized that there’s no way to eat a turd that will make it taste good. We need to get an actual meal. In October of 2019, a “social outburst” aka estallido social, began (you can read my writing about it here and here) and ended with a democratic referendum for the country to go through a process to write a new Constitution. But not just any ol’ Constitution, a Constitution to be written by a Constitutional Assembly of real everyday people that actually represent their peers, not a bunch of corrupt career politicians. 

Once the referendum took place (which had to be delayed due to the pandemic), EIGHTY percent of Chileans who voted expressed their desire for a new constitution written for and by their fellow countryfolk. Those 155 people were elected last weekend and they now have 9 months – the same time it takes to create a new life) to deliver the document. They may be able to get a one time only extension of 3 months, which means that in a year we should have a new Constitution that then will be taken to the polls for a Yes or No referendum. 

And who’s in charge of this massive job of writing a new Constitution? By the numbers:

  • 77 women and 78 men
  • 60 lawyers
  • 45 years old on average
  • 41% under 39 years of age
  • ⅔ quorum needed, meaning that consensus building will be necessary and no one will be able to impose their views without negotiation, collaboration, or compromise.
  • 17 are representatives of Indigenous people. 

How this will all turn out, we will not know for another year. This is what we do know: what we’ve been doing until now has been failing miserably. The fact that the first place that was subjected to the neoliberal model is the first place to take radical action to reject it, and embrace an open, democratic, and fair process to try something new, is poetry. I also don’t think it’s an accident. Chile has had it with this because we’ve been putting up with it for the longest. May the transformation that we are engaged in lead us to a better tomorrow, may it inspire other nations, may it center Life and Love and Human Rights. I have no doubt it will.

So mote it be.

Rites of passage as limits and boundaries

Rites of passage as limits and boundaries

Left: Billie Eilish age 17, right: Billie Eilish for Vogue interview age 19

I like to think that back in the day, before the industrial revolution, when an infected tooth could kill us cause we didn’t have antibiotics yet, ritual was a more explicit and clear part of our lives. If you’re into anthropology, ethnography or even sociology, you might have read about all the different rites that announce a life, demark childhood from adulthood, how care of elders differs from other types of care, how death can be accepted and processed in many different ways – and us witches maintain that how we do any and all of these things has a big impact on the quality of our earthly lives.

Take Billie Eilish, for example. She is a 19 year old ridiculously talented musician who became absurdly famous as a teenager – read, as a child. Being a public persona, all her fans and the media follow her every move, and she chose a baggy clothing style as her trademark so people wouldn’t comment on her body or give her shit of any type. This is both brilliant on her part, and demoralizing and depressing that she had to hide her body as defense from nameless assholes who feel entitled to having opinions about women’s bodies. 

Anyway, she grew up in the public eye and just this month she is on the cover of Vogue magazine in what are considered traditionally super sexy and provocative clothes: lingerie, corsets, high heels, stockings, the works. Most of her fans love the look, a few feel she “sold out”, most people aware of such celebrity comings and going have an opinion. 

My opinion is this: I love that this 19 year old young woman chose to scream to the world, with her look and style, “I’m a sexy grown-ass woman”, and that she didn’t do it at 17. I think she probably would have done it at 18 but the pandemic and all, so who knows. Her Vogue cover leaves no doubt about the fact that she is choosing a very specific look, with very specific connotations, that are appropriate for an adult and not a child. 

And while the difference between 17 and 18 may not be that much, and it may be that at those ages humans are already mostly grown, and probably super sexually charged, it is important that we draw the line somewhere. Why? Because we can’t be protecting young ones from older predators on an individual basis. While sexual consent is a whole nother topic, it is important that as a society we agree that it is not available until children are grown ups, and that the limit of childhood, the boundary of adulthood, occurs at 18 years of age. 

This doesn’t mean that you are fully grown and won’t continue to mature after 18, it just means that before then, you are a kid, and you deserve our love and care and protection as a child. And that after 18, you are free to run wild and trash your life or thrive, as you see fit.

My gut reaction to Billie Eilish’s new look was that of “OK, she gets to do whatever the hell she wants now that she is a woman. Glad that she shared with the world such an explicit memo”.  When younger media personalities are sexualized, it’s confusing and dangerous for all involved. I super apprecite the clarity of the boundary this photo shoot as rite of passage communicates. It is now clear to all that Billie Eilish is no longer a child, and this has been communicated at an appropriate time. How refreshing! May we all find the rites of passage we need for all stages of our lives.

The day the sun didn’t rise

The day the sun didn’t rise

It’s Wednesday September 9, 2020, and the sun didn’t come out in San Francisco. Actually, it didn’t come out in the Bay Area at all. Cars are driving around with their headlights on and I have all the same lights on that I have on at night. My neighbors lights are also on. I went outside and it’s cold, a weird, eerie, creepy cold that I don’t think I’ve felt before. It’s chilly not because it’s actually cold like a normal cold day, it’s cold like it should be a hot day except the sun is being blocked by a massive cloud of smoke so thick that the light can’t get through and the day is not warming up.

It’s my mom’s birthday. She’s in Santiago de Chile and I waited to get a hold of myself before calling her cause I didn’t wanna freak her out about the end times feeling particularly dramatic in SF today. Chile is barely dragging itself out of a Covid induced hole that has been battering the country for months. There is a critical referendum in October. Also – strikes, economic downturn, the whole thing.

My bestie lives in Herzliya, 8 miles outside of Tel Aviv. I video call her so I can show her the shitshow outside my window, but I also know that Israel is going through a deep moment of intensification of their own shitshow. Israel has never been an easy place, but for those of you who follow world news, you know that right now Netanyahu is acting out. My bestie, her partner and their teenage daughters have been going to protest in Jerusalem every Friday for weeks. So I don’t keep my friend on the phone for long cause I at least try to condense my whining/ freak out sessions to the bare minimum. 

And the bare minimum is this: it is important to acknowledge the pain, to feel the fear, to worry about worrisome things, like the loss of NATURAL LIGHT to ecological collapse. But we can’t afford to dwell in those places. So what do we do instead? Well, I got up a bit before 8 am and have been working this morning. I have been reading the news, and sending messages to loved ones all over the globe telling them about what’s up here. Because there is something transformative in the act of sharing, and it makes it easier to have support from others. I sat at the altar, as always. Pulled a tarot card, so beautiful and filled with joy that it felt “wrong”. But in my experience the tarot is never wrong.

It’s true that my life right now is beautiful and filled with joy. I get to celebrate my mother’s birthday, at a distance, but celebrate nonetheless. I have so many friends in the Bay that I could literally spend the rest of the day calling them all. Actually, I may just do that. My phone has been filled with texts and calls from folks that are feeling confused, sad, terrified, angry… The best thing we can do right now is be together. We don’t know exactly how we’re gonna get through this, but we know we won’t do it alone. We will need each other, and not having all the answers right away has ALWAYS been the state of things for humans. It’s just that right now it’s slapping us on the face harder than it has since we can remember. Taking the next step together will then reveal the following one. And the following one. We will most definitely make it through. Se hace camino al andar. Don’t forget that.

As Within, So Without

As Within, So Without

The lovely Brian Truskowski interviewed me for his podcast “Illuminate”. In introducing myself, I found myself saying that I’m a witch, I work magic, and I have a bunch of spiritual tools that have allowed me to build a really beautiful life, one that I enjoy and I’m fortunate to have. And, I’m also an activist, I spend my days working on social change, and I am obsessed with the socioeconomic political context that affects us all.

These two things are core pieces of my identity, why and how I am a witch is a longer story, but I’m an activist because I can’t imagine being a witch and not wanting to influence the outside world as well. As within, so without.

In my conversation with Brian, I told him about three ideas that are important to me, that you’ve heard me talk about before but that explain my deep connection to both witchcraft and activism:

1. Paradox is the organizing principle of Life.

When I believe this idea, I can love more openly and I can love more fully. I believe that connectedness and embodiment of Love is what I need to be healthy and happy. Things that are seemingly contradictory can be true at the same time: I can be very strategic and very analytical and very sharp operating in a pseudo corporate environment and bring to it a decolonizing strategy lens, bring to it an open heart, bring to it a depth of intuition. That doesn’t make the strategy any less valid and it doesn’t make the magic any less magical. But that’s a lot of work: to incorporate seemingly contradictory things and to embody the Paradox. Owning the paradox means that I understand that I may mess up things but that doesn’t make me a messed-up person. You might not be the upstanding human that I want you to be 100% of the time, and that doesn’t make you any less human. Embracing this allows me to love you anyway, and to love you openly and with compassion. I can do this for myself first, and then for everybody else. 

2. Speaking truth is the path of liberation.

The act of speaking truth itself has magical powers. It changes consciousness, creates connections, transforms realities. There’s a reason a classic social change phrase is “Speak truth to power”. Because if there is no problem, there is no solution, and because we do certainly speak our reality into being, it is critical to search for the truth, speak, and when you think you found it, keep searching for it. Truth is direction of travel, not a location.

3. Politics matter.

The rise of fascism, of authoritarianism, of oppression and violence are real. I call it out every chance I get because the way these things happen at a political level is when we try to pretend that it’s not happening or we’re too scared of talking about it. I am terrified of the political situation in the US and while I can’t do everything about it, I can do something about it. This is not going to sort itself out, we’re going to sort it out. 

So if you think that we can love and light our way out of the current mess, please take a seat, and listen to the women and men that have been resisting for centuries and take a page out of their survival playbook. If you think you can green smoothie your way out of your spiritual thirst, you have a long way to go in your search and may I suggest your path will be clearer if you think about others as well.

You don’t have to be a witch to have spiritual power, but it helps. You don’t have to be an activist to be happy, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. I wanna invite you today to do one thing that will get you closer to spirit, and one thing that will make the world around you a little bit better. And let me thank you for that on Life’s behalf.

 

The Liberation in Discomfort

The Liberation in Discomfort

Gentrifiers for social justice – one of life’s many paradoxes

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be uncomfortable and why folks are so terrified of the idea. The illusion of certainty (even if the certainty is not of something appealing) is reassuring, while the reality of how messy we are as humans can make us very uncomfortable.

For the last couple of thousand years we’ve done a phenomenal job of denying our nature, exiling parts of ourselves that would have made it impossible to develop an extremely patriarchal, misogynistic, racist, neoliberal capitalist system that has us struggling for liberation. We’ve bolstered a system that favors some kinds of ideas over others: the idea of being male, straight, able bodied, wealthy, being somehow superior. That system only works if we embrace the idea that some humans are better than others, and that we are all too different.

But no humans are better than others, and we are all the same. This is not about gender, race, sexual orientation, class, income, wealth, or any other category we put each other in. This is about the fact that putting each other in categories to the extreme that we have is toxic for our souls, and destructive to communities and societies. Only when we box each other as an “other” can we abuse and exploit the shit out of each other (which is how all “isms” operate).

And yet, of course we are all different, and those differences make life amazing.  Those differences also have made some of our lives a living hell for generations, simply because we are in the wrong box. My point is that we are not so different that some of us “deserve” better or more than others. Both things are true: we are all unique and we are all the same, we are all different and yet we are all one. Life is a paradox. Paradox is uncomfortable.

I’m deeply fascinated by the intersection of spirituality and activism, because we have got to embrace the paradox that I’m describing to make any real change. We have got to consider that we all have different visions, wants, and needs, and yet we are the same in that we all want a way to fulfill those visions and wants and needs. As I’ve mentioned before, I believe paradox to be Life’s organizing principle, and the only way I know to come to terms with paradox is spiritual practice.

My brain can’t easily accept paradox, not in the way my heart and my spirit can. The truth is, every single category that we use to alienate and abuse one another is present in all of us. Some people might look perfectly healthy and be struggling with disease or disability. I am a woman and yet have many of the characteristics that are traditionally associated with men. Men are also suffering from not being able to express their full selves in a system that discourages them from owning every aspect of their being. And all other genders under the sun are fighting to even be acknowledged and seen. What is wrong with us?!? I am horrified by what overconsumption is doing to our bodies and souls and the planet, yet I definitely have a greedy streak in my being. You do too. We all do.

So as long as we don’t get comfortable with paradox, we’re gonna continue to put ourselves and each other in tiny little constraining boxes of good vs. bad and us vs. them, forgetting that we are all victims and we are all perpetrators, that we are all divine and also evil at the same time. All of us. These boxes are not moving us towards liberation. At all. They are keeping us imprisoned. 

And yet, our identities are critical and sacred and we can’t lose them, and we shouldn’t lose them. But we really need to stop weaponizing them. We can’t hold who we are against each other. We need to keep the boxes in the way they elevate who we are and we must dismantle them in the ways we use them to abuse each other. Both are true. This is a paradox, and it can be uncomfortable. It’s more comfortable to hang on to the illusion of certainty than it is to accept the reality of paradox. Paradox is uncomfortable. But it is in that discomfort that we walk the path of liberation. I’m not suggesting you enjoy it, I just encourage you to get comfortable enough with it so that we stop self sabotaging our liberation. In this way, we truly are all in it together.

Two Magical Powers for Evil Times

Two Magical Powers for Evil Times

Magic is both nature and in nature

Because the times demand it, I’ve been very focused on the sociopolitical situation in the US for the last few weeks. These are atrocious, scary, shifting, evil times. Those are strong words but a string of lynchings in the US are at the very least evil. Today I want to share with you two magical powers that can help us all at the very least get through this, and hopefully even begin to heal and transform ourselves away from these evil times.

Magical Power #1: Paradox

The most powerful message I can share with you today is this: Paradox is Life’s Organizing Principle. 

It is absolutely critical that you develop the physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual practice of becoming comfortable with paradox. For example: we are all part of the eternal cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. Death is absolutely inevitable. Yet that is no reason to be apathetic about the systematic killing of people. Here is another example: You will most likely make absolutely no difference, but you absolutely cannot not try. Because we never really know what will actually shift things, you have to consistently throw all your love and mind and energy and resources at it, not because of the outcome, but because your contribution to chasing it will eventually get us all there. Last one: You must put yourself first so that you have a good life and the only way to have a good life is by being of service to others. Both of these statements are true, and finding a way to embody them is the key to liberation and happiness and it takes most people a lifetime. Many don’t even try, they get stuck in selfish soullessness or they become martyrs for causes that didn’t need more martyrs. Don’t be that person.

Magical Power #2: Nature

Second Magical Power to handle these evil times: remember you are an ANIMAL. A Human animal.

This means that you are in and of nature as much as dogs and trees and the ocean and your favorite musician and your most detested politician and rats. And that means that you are part of the elements and the elements are part of you. Staying connected to the wind, the fire, the water, and the land is critical for your sanity and wellbeing. It will also help you align your mind, energy, emotions, and body, and connect to the Earth and the Universe at large. Realizing that you are just another animal on this planet is quite liberating: you are simply playing a part in the larger ecosystem and you’re not that big of a deal. You need to eat, sleep, fuck, feel safe and connected – it’s not that complicated. Yet, following Magical Power #1, the paradox is that you’re not just an animal, you’re a Human animal, which means you have the capacity for thought, spiritual evolution, agency, and choice. You can choose to live a whole life. You can choose to live a loving life. You can choose to demand human rights for all. And a bunch of other things that our kin in the animal kingdom don’t get to do in the same way. The more you surrender to the paradox of your insignificance as just another beast on this rock, the more important your role as a human will become, and the more meaning your life will have, and the happier you will get, and the bigger difference you’ll make for others and yourself before your time is up. 

And these powers of accepting paradox and understanding nature and my part in it, are a sweet little taste of what magic is about, and how it can help us through and transform these times.

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