Recently I received a copy of Octavia Butler’s Kindred graphic novel, which was adapted by Damien Duffy and John Jennings. Reading the story in graphic novel form gave me a chance to see aspects of the book that I didn’t pay as much attention to as before. One was the mechanism by which Dana traveled back in time. On her second trip back to the past, Rufus mentions to Dana that he had seen her in the water right before she came traveled back to the past to rescue him. Rufus tells Dana that he saw her with his eyes closed and that he had stepped into a “hole” in the river where he saw her in a room full of books. He also heard both Dana and Kevin before the second time Dana came back. Rufus, although problematic, has inklings of visionary insight, but does he because of his connection to his future legacy in Dana (Rufus only has black descendants as he only had children with Alice) or because he was at the edge of imagining a different society but the slaveholding, racist, sexist, generally oppressive society around him impeded that?
One of my favorite mottos is to find the magic in the mundane because in doing so you realize how interdependent we all are to each other and to the universe. When we look at the sun and moon, we are so normalized to them that we can easily forget how we are dependent on them for our existence and how much they shape our existence. It has been our ability to use our imagination to see the world beyond the mundane and search for knowledge and meaning as well as our creation of technologies to observe the universe that has allowed us to see that. As I was reading Wendy Hui Kyong Chun’s “Race is/as Technology, or How to Do Things to Race,“she writes that “According to Martin Heidegger in his 1955 ‘The Question Concerning Technology,’ the essence of technology is not technological. Indeed, by examining tools, we miss what is essential about technology, which is its mode of revealing or “enframing.” So how does the creation of technologies to look and observe also reveal ourselves? Who is watching who and who is creating who at the same time?
Warning: some spoilers ahead!
This year has been packed with a lot of ups and downs, but it has also open a few unexpected doors for me that I cannot wait to see come into form next year. So here is a list of my favorite posts I did this year, so you can look back too before we head into the New Year. Thanks for joining me on this ride.
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Experiment: Write a letter to your future self or past self. Try to meditate and astral project yourself into the body of one of those selves before or while you are writing to do so. Can you remember past and future memories?
(Not from the book but in the style of it)
If you study metaphysics and archetypal psychology, you might have heard the term synchronicity. Popularized by Carl Jung, synchronicity is defined as “the coincidental occurrence of events and especially psychic events…that seem related but are not explained by conventional mechanisms of causality” or as he describes it, “synchronicity is the coming together of inner and outer events in a way that cannot be explained by cause and effect and that is meaningful to the observer. I’ll be honest I do believe in synchronicity because I have had numerous strange coincidences maybe because I was intuitively looking for something and happen to come across it, or I set things into motion by looking for something in one place and stumble across something relevant in another. For example, I applied for a poetry fellowship and I was compelled to go through the list of the previous fellows; one of them was Reginald Dwayne Betts. I read some of his poems and happened to like them. About a week or two later, I went to the library and randomly decided to look through the poetry section and found a collection of Robert Hayden poems. I remembered enjoying his poetry as well, so I flipped to the forward and started reading; the writers description sounded familiar and I didn’t realize why until I looked at the cover again and realized that it was written by Betts. How did I stumble across a collection introduced by Betts soon after I just found out about him? Hmmm? Does it mean something? I don’t know, but it was spooky.
Here’s the third recap from The Shadows Took Shape exhibition. Today, I am sharing the notes and questions (some thoughts came after the club) from the book club for Octavia Butler’s Kindred with moderators Rasheedah Phillips of The Afrofuturist Affair and artist John Jennings.
First, notes from Rasheedah’s presentation, Time, Memory and Agency
*The mechanics of the the machine: Who is controlling the time machine: Rufus, Dana or some outside third party? Is it an another ancestor or the books? Does Dana have a choice in going back; does she need to save Rufus, her ancestor? Who is more reliant on who to survive? How does the fear of death connect to a want of freedom as a kind of control button for returning from another time? How does Alice’s death figure into the conversation of death and agency?
*The grandfather paradox works on a sense of linear time, but Kindred seems to subvert the idea. Is it creating alternative realities or futures? Is it based on another construction of time, like Foucault’s “heterotopia of time“? How does African diasporic views of time, which tend to be cyclical and terms like sankofa, sasha, and zamani, fir into the discussion of Kindred? How is the book a dialogue between the and and future, recreating the present? Dana seems to influence the past in some ways and the past influences her relationship with Kevin. How does this apply to how we construct memory, whether cultural, personal, ancestral, or universal. How does Dana and Kevin remember memories from both the 20th century and the 19th century?
*How does the book make us rethink family and ancestry? We are told to honor the ancestors, but not all of our ancestors are honorable. How do we accept all of the people who came together to make us, no matter how painful? Would we save a character like Rufus, even at our own possible non-existence? What does the book reveal about moral relativity, and the complex web of family and slavery? Would we want to go back and change the past? Do we need it to survive as we are or would we want to create another future?
A few days ago I witnessed a twitter battle between astrologist Sam F. Reynolds and Science Nerd/Blogger Rai Elise on November 5th (click on view conversation to read her tweets) over the legitimacy of astrology and the conversation highlighted some important and common conflicts between art fields and science/math/technology fields. Reynolds says some key things in his argument that I wanted to spotlight (I rearranged the tweets):
“Science is only as good as its tools, like everything else…The tools of science have their limits like anything else. People seek astrology for meaning. Science may do that less for ppl.”
“I don’t have a hope of an objective reality. Even with our scientific tools, we see the cosmos as we are…It’s not objective reality we’re talking about. It’s consensual reality…We’re not talking about tools of science, but what inspires them and the net meaning derived from them”
About electricity: “That’s still a consensual use of a force that most of animal kingdom has no use for. Not free of subjectivity”
“You say it’s not true, but do we have independent & known perceptions of things from other species on this planet?”
“Astrology ultimately comments on behavior using planets as references…Astrology isn’t about studying nature, but the study of human nature as symbolized by celestial phenomena…The natural world has its motions, but how we assign meaning is the province of all other arts. Are they less important? …Astrology is poetry applied to celestial events. What’s to prove with poetry?”