October 21, 2018

between home and a hard place

nicholas b. jacobsen
between home and a hard place
 Muley Point
October 12, 2018

         Utah is a place that is very close to the trouble for me. There, I am inbetween so many things--between the family I was born into and the family I have made since leaving Utah, between the land that is home to me and the culture in which I am no longer welcome, between everything I come from and everything I've become, between home and a rock place. 
        "Trouble is an interesting word. It derives from a thirteenth-century French verb meaning 'to stir up,' 'to make cloudy,' 'to disturb'" (1). Trouble is just what Donna Haraway's Staying with the Trouble did for my practice in Muley Point. Things that seemed clear (what I am doing, how I want to do it, and my sense control and connection to the work) became stirred up, clouded, disturbed--more troubled with each page I consumed. My cosmologies are rooted in my spiritual practice that has its tentacles in Shambhala Buddhism, Taoism, psychedelic experiences in my early 20's, and the rocks that I became-with at that time. I know of cyclical systems of being, especially over long periods of time, like the rock cycle. I know from meditation of a powerful force that undergirds all action and can easily be misunderstood as inaction. Haraway troubles all of this for me. She writes of the importance of non-innocence in our becomings. She emphasizes the tentacular to the cyclic. She makes me wonder what I am doing. 
        I see myself slowly shifting the very foundations my culture has been built upon, like lichen softens the rock to sand. I see myself becoming-with the unruly, the out-casted, the undesirable, the uncomfortable, and the aching--but do I try to do this innocently? Do I misunderstand or misuse the Buddhist concept of "do no harm"? Is it possible to do no harm when living and dying on a damaged planet?
         Because of this troubling of my mental and emotional spaces (which were already troubled in our time with Daniel Tso in the Fracking is Fracking Reality Tour AND then being in and with my homeplace, which reawakened my own ""originary' trauma" (92) with my familial and community kin) I think I spent most of my practice trying to find a new space of stability in this whirling, muddled, ongoing processes of living and dying found in so many spacial, temporal, geophysical, political, economic, existential layers. But isn't this false sense of stability exactly what Haraway (and one of my other favorite troublers, Pema Chödrön) wants to trouble? I struggle leaving these spaces of seeming stability because I don't trust what I will do outside of them. Being raised by a violent, sexual predator father in a nearly omnipresently patriarchal sub-culture within the dominant imperialist, white-supremist, heteropatriarchy--how can I trust myself to work from a place of instability where I can't keep a close eye on my intuitions and unthinking actions? As a white man, in this three-layer cake of toxic masculinity, frosted with privilege, how can I learn to decolonize my mind (and thus my words and actions) without these spaces of relative safety from which to learn? How can I trust my intuitions when they've been shaped and encouraged to be the very thing that I am working to change? How can I act in non-innocence without perpetuating the kind of damage I am heir to, the kind of damage that is killing us all? 
        I recognize that I will make mistakes as I learn and do, and that that is part of action, but these various originary traumas are paralyzing in such a complex ongoing worlding of oppression, dominance, and violence. 
        This is what I think came of our time near Bears Ears--another reminder, and jolt, to get deeper, take more risk, and be open to learn from the inevitable face-plant-in-the-mud-and-muck that comes-with--AND to learn to trust that process and myself, while remaining gently critical of both.

between home and a hard place is an ongoing, unfinished, especially vulnerable effect of Staying with the Trouble. 

Haraway, Donna J. Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Duke University Press: Durham and London. 2016.

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