By Liz Clayton Scofield
Hi! I’m writing you from the place you’ve been yearning for. I’ve included a map for your reference, some kind of guide to arrive at this Possible-Future. I know from isolation in your basement apartment in Baltimore, you’ve been longing to get Here Now, but you will, and so, you are.
This letter unravels as This Future unfolds. Things may get all mixed up. Keep dreaming of the Possible-Future.
I write to you from a community made up of artists, scholars, and various magical humans who came together over a shared dream to experiment with ways to live. Things got shaken up for all of us through COVID. I know, you’re experiencing this now. I don’t need to remind you. But that’s why I’m writing to you. You’ve been mapping possibilities to sustain creative and artistic lives of learning in community. I know you’ve been reaching desperately with tight knuckles towards Im/Possible-Future(s).
There are a million decisions between you and me, and even more possible worlds, but still, I’m writing to you to give you a glimpse. You must keep imagining. The seeds you plant grow into this tree shading me as I write to you.
What if, when we’re feeling anxious and uncertain, we resisted the impulse to attempt to do more? What if we paused in the moment with the anxiety? What if we did nothing?
I’m going to make a stack of postcards and send them to the Possible-Future.
Embrace the space between want and have. This moment is simply a moment, and, again, another moment. This too has passed, and you, while reading this, are already in the/(a) Future, always. Remember that – that every passing moment is already the Future unraveling for you, the Now and Past: remarkable.
I know you are driven, almost compulsively, to make art to make sense of what is happening now. Be gentle with yourself. You are still in the experience, learning. You need to rest, to take care of yourself and others as much as possible. If making art brings you joy with others, most certainly do, but do not concern yourself with what is not most relevant in the very Present-Future-Now-Moment.
You won’t always have dreams littered with hand sanitizer. You won’t have nightmares where strangers come too close and argue with you about social distancing. Dreams of parties where everyone is too close and then remembers we aren’t supposed to be. The traumas won’t always surface to be processed in your dreams. We still have nightmares, but COVID settles into its place among the monsters.
You need to release the last tattered tethers attaching art and ego – not for you, your career, your posterity, but for the moment, the passing-always-now moment.
We learn. We keep learning.
To enhance greatness channeling it through you to the world (not yours or of you but a shared collective well). You experience the tower crumbling, which, though inevitable, unexpected, and necessary change, leaves us to rebuild, to create through imaginings – to enhance greatness in the world.
I want to show you a place where we will be together.
Take a piece of paper and draw three shapes – one, to represent one thing you know to be true in your Present-Future-Now-Moment. Now, a shape to represent one thing you want to be true, and a third: a shape to represent something you don’t want to be true. This is a map. Fill in the surrounding landmarks, significant histories, marking the paths of time and space. The map you’ve made will help guide you to the place I am now.
Folded with this letter, you will find another map – this community.
Here, a school: learning not based on individual pursuit – not toward individual greatness or accumulation of material wealth or power – innovation and exchange for the greater good, learning collectively – creating in collaboration – in community. Learning as experience and process. A collaborative learning experience, in community. Different modes of learning and different types of knowledge – through play and care. Celebrating the curious mind. No masters!
Here! There is a garden: overflowing with fruits and vegetables. Chickens wander. There are bees. Goats!
Here, a dinner: cooking and sharing meals together to nourish bodies, hearts, and minds. Potlucks and conversations are creative practices.
Here… a library: of books, of tools, of memories and maps, an archive of histories to be treasured and created through the collective, from personal geographies, without hierarchy of what-is-included.
Here, we encourage the unknown, the together, the curious. Here, art as a doing, being, playing, learning, caring with others.
What does it look like when care becomes a central tenet of art practice? What does it look like when our creative lives center connection rather than isolation? Isolation as a tool of the capitalist white supremacy to alienate us – from each other, from the earth. Care for the earth: choosing sustainable resources and methods. Care for others: we foster connection. We have built something here. It changes every day. We are always learning together.
Are you really still asking me for guidance to be productive with this time? If you are worried about maximizing your output during a quarantine, you are missing the potential of the moment. The map I’m sending you does not lead you to me if you are sticking to the paths and tools you’re comfortable with.
Art doesn’t know what it’s doing yet! Isn’t that exciting! Artists – trying to figure out how to stay productive – product!? Move away from art that produces – finally! Potential. Art as things, increasingly bored by ego-driven art! Bored with the hyper-professional, the commodified, the career artist, the logistical practitioner! Towards art that breaks at its seams and deteriorates, dissolves, that doesn’t pass the test of time because its relevance is now! Greatness not from the individual but generated collectively and channeled through divine interventions.
How to be productive? Too addicted to the constant murmur! (And! I, trying to continue a sense streaming these words together!? How to make less sense? A speculative fiction of a letter dissolves into an ocean, and hopefully we all end up disoriented. Then at least, to feel a body!)
A crisis in meaning is not new.
Meaning, not here yet (isn’t here) but a map to it that unfolds like time around (both constructs, both tools we invent to understand our experiences, frames) as process (what might unravel) – to fashion it together in some linear form to tell others… a story!!! But meditation teaches us to let go of the story, to stop following the trail – lost in thought tumbling over each other (let go): presence.
How to let the letter itself be in crisis/how to let it be what it is. To try and fail, or to resist answering its own question (is to maintain its living form). This is a letter! A love letter! I am writing it to you! From the Possible-Future-Now!
The fragment, the contradiction, the nonsense: the curiosity and amusement in an idea not seen through to its end. So. That. It. Can. Live!
And what if you burn the map?
Not to make sense! Make no thing!! To care!
How do you tend your garden!
We only have so much time! We have to do what we want. And here, a juncture: the time to imagine what we want and at the very least try. Here, a foot hovering over the edge of an abyss. The uncertain is always, now: we realize. Is it a featherbed?
Do you follow the magick? I’m writing to you as an invitation: let this map and these words lead you to me.
A fragment lets the idea live. The limits of a body/the limits of a sentence or a garden bed. Can you feel into the expanse and breath? (But there, you’re spinning words together, ignoring the ache of our body (overwhelm).)
Did you dig a hole in the sand to bury meaning or uncover it? Did you put an orange there to memorialize or relinquish? Can meaning be both and always moreover and not either or never not gonna do it — listening with compassion to multitudes not reducing experiences to an understanding a meaning a story ——- peeling with intention after whispers, I did dig a hole in the sand holding peels and marking with a stick gritty pulpy – I stood and held a clementine in my hands – feeling into its peel the most pleasurable of skins – I moved a sharpie along naming the clementine, close to my face while whispering secrets – this the most beautiful orange, in this moment – I walked to the crest of the ocean with you and we held the clementine together saying prayers – cast it into the waves to be free…
Did you see the clouds that looked like us? Floating above us —
Wow! I fell in love again with you and life and, wow! That cliff over the ocean and the light spraying from behind it! So beautiful! The jellyfish!
Remember when we were laying on the beach together in our fortress made of a towel and looking up at the sky watching the clouds fold over into each other and shatter together? Remember collapsing into each other building a world with just us. We were lying next to each other, and the distance between your head and my head was an odyssey but we made it. You took a time out, and I pulled myself from the towel, walking around it to arrange the toys to play, wanting you to play with me. Then the waves crashed closer, suddenly invaders approaching! You stood peeing and I pointed at the invaders and shouted, Look! People are coming! and as they passed we tried to act normal and as they passed we looked at each other playing out the parts rehearsed in everyday conversations and as they passed the waves receded. We were safe again for moments passing, and meaning doesn’t matter. We don’t have to try to understand. Like a dream, it has meaning inherently, not in the logic, but like a map – what is to be discovered, explored, investigated, marked, curious..
We are not on a boat!
What magick is possible with just a shift of perspective? What logic led us into 2020, the expected events to occur in sequence after the events preceding (how we drew tarot on New Years and set intentions for 2020), how most certainly more than ever the very deep lesson worn in – revealing the myth of linear progress, that one could expect what is to come based on what came before – but the potential also held in that moment : liberation.
You are alive — change is constant!
What if we resist meaning, for a while? Will you receive this map and embark on the journey to this Possible-Future? We want you to live with us here in this Magickal Place. Now is the juncture: imagine what you want and at least try.
You make it here eventually. It’s a beautiful place to be.
Liz Clayton Scofield is making maps of Desire Paths to Possible-Futures.