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reflections | on being responsive

There's a Louis Riel quote that keeps turning over and over in my thoughts:

"My people will sleep for one hundred years, but when they awake, it will be the artists who give them their spirit back."

(I came across it a couple weeks ago on the anniversary of his execution by the Canadian government Nov 16, 1885.)

unceded Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh Territory

nov 2021

I understand why Riel said what he said because I feel like I've lived it. In 2012 when the Idle No More movement began, I was a new-to-the-workforce registered nurse drowning in my inability to balance work-life with maintaining relationships and self-care outside of work. I remember my sister sharing stories of going to Burnaby Mountain, taking care of the sacred fire there, and standing alongside others in the name of Indigenous sovereignty and protecting the environment from further degradation. Her stories of that time are powerful. And yet, when I learned of what was going on I could barely feel anything. I was numb from working and doing my best to cope in the system that I existed in. The thought of heading out to a mountain to demonstrate, even for things that I believe in so deeply, simply did not appeal to me. I could barely even consider it. I barely even thought about it. I was in survival mode.

Now, years later, my life feels very different. I've made changes and created a life that sits in contrast to how it was back then when I was struggling to breathe (panic attacks & anxiety). Being creative, slowing down, taking time to be in my own flow, has increased my capacity to notice the world around me. To feel the feelings as they rise and to be present with what is happening right now. So, it feels natural that in being more present, I can also be more responsive.

Perhaps the reason Riel said that the artists would be the ones to bring the spirit back is because more often than not, artists have created lives that enable noticing and responsiveness. So much of inspired creativity comes from being in the flow of life, and for those who are paying attention to the activities of the world, naturally this becomes a responsiveness to whatever is in the current climate.

Our normalized system of work, eat, sleep repeat is unsustainable and incompatible with responsiveness. Everyone is too overworked, overtired, overstimulated. And its no surprise because the cost of living is such that this feels necessary in order to support a family. Even just to support ourselves. For those caught in this cycle, there's no room to look up beyond the individual family circle or friend circle in order to notice the injustices of the world. There's simply not enough bandwidth to feel the depth of racial and social inequity that we all condone by allowing the systems to continue as they are. It's been said by many others before and I'll say it again, the systems we live in rely on our complacency and are dependent on us being ok with things being the way that they are.

In spite of all this, there are still people moved to show up. Pushed to their limit of accepting the status quo and instead demanding something better.

I am deeply moved by the incredible work and progress made by the farmers' demonstrations in India and the good news that has come of it this week. Shockingly, the Prime Minister has apologized to farmers and reversed some of the legislation that favoured corporate over farmers' interests, which spurred the onset of these protests more than a year ago. (I recommend listening to today's episode of The Daily to learn more).

I am also moved by the consistent work of all those standing together on Wet'suwet'en Territory right now, particularly this week as the government sends in RCMP with canine units to remove Indigenous leaders, allies and journalists from the stolen territories (in the midst of this natural disaster). Records show nearly 50 million has been spent on surveillance and action against the Wet'suwet'en land defenders over the last three years. Are we ok with this?

Today the Americans launched a spacecraft into orbit that is intended to hit a football sized asteroid a year from now, in hopes of finding out if we'll be able to avert some potential future asteroid disaster that could wipe us out one day. I wonder what it would be like (and I know I'm not the only one wondering this) if we diverted those space funds into taking care of this home that we have right here beneath our feet?

These are some things I'm noticing. What are you noticing lately? How does it make you feel? What does it inspire you to do?

Here are a few artists who demonstrate responsiveness to me. Seeing their work makes me feel something. It helps me wake up and want to be responsive too:

And I'm going to add Jade Begay here too - she has a way with words that breathes inspiration into my body as she describes her work in climate justice and advocacy.

Those are just a few. Whose creativity inspires you?


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