What’s your new world order look like?

Meditations on bringing a new world into being

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Image description: A stand of bare trees against a dark blue evening sky. An almost-full moon peeks through the branches. 

It’s 2020. The beginning of a new year, as marked by the Gregorian calendar. The beginning of a new decade. I know it’s an arbitrary designation, centered in a specific cultural context. On the other hand, it’s part of a collective experience for billions of people who follow this kind of time-keeping.

So I’ve spent the last few weeks looking back over 2019, assessing the events that unfolded in my life, how I’ve grown, and what I’ve learned. And I’ve been planning for 2020—my intentions and hopes for the year to come.

I’ve done all this with a feeling of the slipperiness of time  (which Tate Williams captured so well recently, referencing how algorithms and the climate crisis have affected our sense of time). I feel how so much has changed, so quickly, over the past few years, and how nothing has changed at all. How the structures of capitalism and heteropatriarchy and systemic racism grind on, maybe at a faster speed, maybe not, but toward, I believe, some culmination point.

That is to say, I feel how unsustainable these structures are. I feel it in my bones and in my psyche. And I think that culmination point will arrive soon—maybe this year or this decade, or maybe not, but it feels necessary to do the work toward what will come after. And I feel deeply how that work is not separate from planning my garden, or a trip to the wild Atlantic ocean, or the launch of my next collection of poetry. That the work is not actually about what will come after, but what we are growing and doing now.

I recently read an article championing “feminine excess” as a counter to patriarchy. And I was struck by these paragraphs:

As I peer timidly at the horizon, a new year and decade still murkily opaque, I fantasize about an empathetic and emotionally capacious ethics—dare I say, a feminine one?—that engages our ability to owe more to one another. … I want a culture impelled by rigorous compassion instead of punishing taxonomies and patriarchal directives. I want for us to delight in our excesses—in tears and food and sex and flesh—without branding them as such.

At the moment, there’s no clear trajectory to this glittery new world order.

I wondered if there is ever a clear trajectory to a new world order.

To be sure, sometimes order is imposed by lawmakers or monarchs, the church or the police state.

But sometimes—maybe most of the time?—a new world order bubbles up from the ground. It comes from the thousands and millions of actions that ordinary people take in their daily lives. Actions that shift culture, shift interactions, shift what’s expected and what’s possible. Actions that turn what we want into what can be, that turn fantasies of, say, a culture of “rigorous compassion” into a reality during one-on-one conversation or in a poetry workshop or at an organizing training.

I believe this is how what’s possible becomes what is.

And I would say that in simply writing and publishing “The Dawn of the Era of Feminine Excess,” Rachel Vorona Cote is helping map the way toward the glittery new world order she longs for.

January’s image from Glowing Season, by Molly Costello. Image description: A calendar hanging on an orange wall, turned to January. The image on the calendar shows a person with one foot in a world filled with blooming plants, the other foot in a world of stars. The person holds a shovel in one hand and is casting star-seeds into the star-world with the other. A full moon glows behind them.

My love gave me a new calendar for 2020 by one of my new favorite artists. The image for January is “Straddling Worlds,” paired with a quote from writer and artist Aurora Levins Morales: “In order to build the movements capable of transforming our world, we have to do our best to live with one foot in the world we have not yet created.”

As a new year and new decade begins thick with war mongering and the climate crisis and ever increasing state violence in the U.S. and around the world  (and some doozy astrology to boot), I know I have choices, in this moment. I can worry and feel super anxious about all of it. I can check out and try to go about my life as best I can, ignoring what I feel I have no control over.

Or I can engage as best I can with both the realities of the current situations and the realities of a different kind of world and a different kind of way of being.

One foot in the world that is, and one foot in the world I hope to help create. To me, this is actually the only choice.

And what gives me hope and courage is that I know I’m not alone in making this choice. I see people all around me straddling these two worlds. I see it in the groups and organizations I’m part of. In the conversations I have with people in my life, in the art that I surround myself with, and in the media and social media I choose to engage with.

And, in case you are feeling alone or are looking for inspiration to see how people are imagining and building new worlds all around us, I’ll share here just a few ways I see amazing people—particularly Black, indigenous, and folks of color—doing it across the internet and IRL:

  • People valuing emotional intelligence and the wisdom of the body as much as intellectual prowess and what the mind tells us.

I imagine if you made your own list, it would look different from this one, and maybe overlap too. The point is, the more we pay attention to how we and others are shifting things, even if in the minutest ways, the more those things will grow. The more those things grow, the more they will move from possibility to reality. And this is how we bring a new world into being.



Bringing a new world into being

I’m going to try to do one or many of these things in the next week, month, and throughout 2020, paying attention to what unfolds. I invite you to join me.

Make a list of how you and the people around you are stepping into/creating the world you want to live in. Take a nap. Cry when you need to cry. Do something absolutely useless, unproductive, and fun for an afternoon (a whole day. a whole week!). Listen to something your body is telling you and respond intuitively. Pull a tarot or oracle card for the new world order. Sing. Make art. Give something away. Make a wish at 11:11 and see what happens. Make your own heal/harm Venn diagram. Acknowledge one way you perpetuate white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, ableism, or any other system that harms. Sit with your discomfort. Forgive yourself. Decide how you’ll do one thing differently. Hang out with someone much older or younger than you. Learn the name and/or something new about a plant, weed, or tree that grows in your neighborhood. Say hello to the moon when you see it each day/night. Write about how something that you wanted and couldn’t quite grasp is becoming more visible, tangible, and real.



What else I’m reading/listening to/thinking about:
  • Two recent books I read manifest so much of what I listed above: Ross Gay’s delightful book of essays on delight, and Ariel Gore’s super smart and powerful memoir-novel, We Were Witches.

  • I’m still thinking about this exchange between a young organizer and 82-year-old veteran organizer George Lakey, on why he thinks this is the best time to be alive. This is nitty-gritty social movement strategy stuff that gives me another kind of hope and inspiration.

  • And I loved this article from Story Based Strategy on the top social justice memes of 2019, which are a lot about how folks are interrupting harmful narratives and creating new ones—another way of manifesting and building new worlds.


I’m the featured reader at the next Unearthed series in Dorchester, on Friday, February 7. If you’re in the Boston area, come by and say hi. (It’s also an open mic, so maybe bring something to read or sing!)

Thank you, and please share!

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