#61 - on the pluriverse
and getting COVID
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THANK YOU, LOVE YOU.
if we all fall asleep
who will watch the night?
meet the moon for tea and
let it know that you notice
the way it spotlights
blunt, entitled feet.
we are the caretakers
the protectors of
quiet creatures and
a sun can only rise
if it is safe to set.
It happened. I almost wrote finally, but I think I resist the idea that everyone getting COVID is inevitable. It feels a bit too resigned, even if there is some truth to it. The two lines that appeared across the plastic test last Sunday felt shocking. Better than a pregnancy test, but worse than a pH test. I realized that over 2 years I had developed an invincibility narrative. If I haven’t got it by now, I am probably immune. I wasn’t any more careful than the average public-health-abiding person, so I considered myself lucky and fantasized about having a top-notch immune system, able to fight even the most contagious virus. On being positive, shame immediately flooded my system despite the popular narrative. Had I made some poor decisions?
We had been exposed the week before on a cottage trip and began testing every day. In between, I saw a few friends briefly and the immediate ripple effect in real time was overwhelming. One friend was about to launch in-person events that would have to be cancelled if they were positive, and another was about to get on a plane for their first trip in two years. Each of them had to tell another 5-7 people who could be impacted if their exposure to me turned positive. I felt like a walking virus that could temporarily blow up a few weeks of someone’s life; maybe even longer. Our interconnectedness was palpable.
I’m not sure if my symptoms have been mild. I have felt fatigued like never before — which I didn’t even know was possible after 2 years in a pandemic. I was carrying my body, instead of my body carrying me. My head throbbed to tears and a fever waxed and waned. Every time my breath slowed I wondered if I should go to the ER. How do you know when it’s bad, bad? It’s been 10 days since I tested positive, and just when I thought I was in the clear, phantom exhaustion enveloped me yesterday. Every time I opened Twitter, there was another personal account of long COVID in thread form and I catastrophized against the unpredictability of my worst nightmare while simultaneously hoping the vaccines would see me through. The battle of mustering emotional strength during physical weakness is perhaps the poetry of it all.
Characteristically, I told everyone that I was positive within 24 hours. This was partly responsible, and partly a way to not feel completely isolated in an isolating experience. Almost immediately, I felt a mushroom of care bloom like a time-lapse video after a rainy fall day. There were tender check-ins, words of affirmation, soup and green juice deliveries, and just an overall genuine concern for my well-being. A friend even sent me a Happy 10 Days Out of Isolation message and meme, to which I replied, ‘we now have a new kind of celebration’. I felt profoundly grateful and wrapped in a sense of shared safety. Inside my little world, the fragrance of collective care was rich.
In reflecting on this experience, I realized that in reality, I didn’t actually need to be cared for. I could have distracted myself with endless sleep and Netflix; kept my diagnosis to myself and ordered food on UberEats if I was desperate. But being held while feeling fragile is the surest way to rebuild strength. The concept of care is not revolutionary — but asking for and receiving care can be revolutionary. Every time someone offered support, my instinct was to respond with I am fine - which was mostly true, but it also did not acknowledge their genuine act of giving. Let us love you, a friend wisely said to me.
The part of me that resists receiving is the part of me that sees care and interdependence as a burden and being seen or made to feel special as too vulnerable to digest. I’ve tried to get better over the years, and it certainly is not binary, but I notice the ways my chest and throat tighten with each compliment or extension of care. The alternative ways of being we advocate for are the clearest indications of what we need the most for the liberation of ourselves and our lineage.
My experience with covid has made me think a lot more about the concept of a pluriverse — as coined by the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, who advocate for a world within many worlds. This connection was perhaps struck from the brief euphoria of all being in this together, to definitely not being in this together, and the upcoming lifting of vaccine and mask mandates in Ontario next week.
The frame of a pluriverse counters the universal, instead embracing ‘many universes,’ and encourages infrastructure to support infinite alternative ways of being. For instance, one way the concept of a pluriverse has taken form is through a campaign led by The Bretton Woods Project that advocated for alternative financing mechanisms for the Global South separate from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) - a centralized and predatory lending platform - to include structures such as worker co-ops, self-government and collectively owned modes of production. This kind of shift would disrupt centralized dominance and power.
In 2018, Columbian-American anthropologist, Arturo Escobar wrote Designs for the Pluriverse: Radical Interdependence, Autonomy, and the Making of Worlds. Instead of suggesting we must tackle merely colonialism, patriarchy, neoliberal capitalism etc. - Escobar reckons that we need no less than a new notion of being human. He believes that we can’t look within modern life to find solutions to modernity - but rather, we must step outside our way of life and learn from communities, namely Indigenous communities across the world who have secured autonomy and understand relationality across species. As a designer, he views the contemporary world as a massive ‘design failure,’ that we must design our way out of. To accomplish this, he suggests that all ontological design must be made for and driven from political autonomy, meaning the kinds of relationships that become possible within space as a function of design.
Pluriverse design is less about expanding choice and liberal freedom, he contends, but rather about transforming the kinds of beings we desire to be through reimagining and reconstructing local worlds steeped in non-modern and relational worldviews. What I appreciate about this perspective is the recognition that there is space for many different types of systems to exist, and many different values and expressions to be represented. In reimagining possible futures, replacing one hegemonic system with another, under fancy new banners like ‘decentralization,’ might simply be the emperor in new clothes. In a pluriverse, we can imagine exchange systems that aren’t simply driven by western rationality, short-termism and maximization, and perhaps considering emotions, interspecies relationality, generational responsibility, while still valuing scale as a marker of sustainability. There is some semantics here because at the fringe of dominant systems is a pluriverse, but I am a firm believer that the words we choose shape the way we see and experience the world. We must name the ways that govern how we want to live.
Perhaps what feels so sacred about care is that it doesn’t scale well and therefore exists as a ‘slipstream’ between hegemonic systems. When you try to optimize care, it becomes less caring, less able to be adapted and responsive to the unique needs of a whole person, and more institutional and one size fits all. We see this most often with the treatment of elderly folks in *some* long-term homes.
Dominant systems are inescapable by design but we often see the first glimmers of new worlds forming at the doorstep of our small worlds. Perhaps the greatest message we can seed in the present for the revolutions that are upon us and await us is that alternatives are possible. Alternatives are necessary. And the most compassionate gift we can offer is the skills and courage to create many worlds within a world.
Ari Honarvar @RumiwithviewGrieving that which you haven't yet lost—what's the best poetic word or phrase to describe this?
relationships.txt @redditshipsI am [M34] and my wife is [F29]. She has asked me to pay her almost $50,000 to have our child, and I'm not quite sure what to do. https://t.co/1yAug8ZnkN https://t.co/WL52gGMEgj