(Dear Charles) The Shape of Our Future
This is the first in a series of ongoing letters between me and my friend, Charles Huang, exchanged via public posting. You can find his blog here.
I’ve had a lot swirling around my mind the past few days; so much is happening all at once and I often feel like I’m being swept up in a big current. Then there are moments like right now, as I revise this letter, having just meditated standing barefoot on the ground (literally grounding), and I feel at ease.
As you know, I just turned 31 this past week, and I’m considering more and more what I value, what we as a culture value, how I find myself within that and how to live a good life.
Over the weekend, I went to an offering to Pachamama; it was a beautiful day on Governor’s Island where I was surrounded by inspiring community members, and while I can’t speak to everyone’s specific personal beliefs, being together to honor ancestral traditions helped me to feel increasingly connected and supported in mine.
My spirituality is something I’d been wrestling with for a while; having been raised Catholic, I’ve faced a lot of doubts regarding what our relationship as individuals is to the cosmos, even as I move toward practices that feel more authentic and healthier to me than what I was raised with. It wasn’t the first ceremony I’d been to, though this weekend did feel like an inflection point in my understanding of those relationships.
There’s so much power wrapped up in our beliefs; the stories we tell of who we are, and where we come from, shapes our destiny.
To that end, there’s an Andean prophecy stating that humanity, in our current historical moment, has the opportunity to usher in a new stage of consciousness, to become more enlightened and compassionate as a people. It’s a big if; nothing about this is preordained in the Andean worldview from what I understand. And we’re currently up against the largest existential threat we’ve ever faced.
We have a global climate crisis at our doorstep; communities are already being displaced; myself I’m uncertain whether I’d like to raise a family because our collective future is so uncertain. And yet as I began writing this letter last week, I was embarking on an hour-long car ride to visit my family in upstate New York, followed by another 2.5 hour-long car ride to visit family in Pennsylvania. Later this year I’ll likely take a flight to see my family in Florida. Billionaires recently launched themselves into space.
Is it ethical to be doing all this consumption? Shouldn’t we all live locally within walking distance of our families and friends in small neighborhoods to limit our carbon footprint? Shouldn’t we be drastically reshaping our culture and institutions to preserve the planet for future generations?
Recently while meditating, in an effort to address these anxieties, I’ve been asking my ancestors and the universe for guidance. Doing this regularly, I eventually had the insight to try connecting with the value of ayni, or reciprocity in Quechua; and taking inspiration from the mudras of Buddhism, I’ve been holding my hands in positions found in the sculptures and artwork of the Andes that represent this idea of ayni — one hand on my heart, the other on my side; or one hand held out in offering, the other held out to receive.
Having set that intention, one day a visualization of the invisible tendrils and geometry that interconnects our reality came to mind; patterns interweaving, layered upon each other, our spirits as nodes in a vast web of those relationships, my entire being just a mirror reflecting the people, places, and circumstances of my life.
Increasingly this is how I’m beginning to see the world regularly, and it offers so much agency — everything we do, everything we are, matters — and the energy we receive, transform, and project into the universe has far-ranging effects we can’t begin to understand.
I don’t know where all of this leads yet. I feel hope, though. To see my life not as the span of my individual experiences, but the echoes and reverberations of all that has come before, all that is touched in the present, and all that ripples into the future, is both comforting and a challenge.
To know, to believe, that the world will not end, that it will simply be transformed, is so inspiring. As to what form that future world takes, that’s up to us, and one of the most radical actions we can take is believing that we’re going to make it out of this — sincerely recognizing our role in the interdependence of our surroundings — and gently cultivating the inner strength, agency, and intention that will allow us to transform the energy within and around us so that someday, we emerge as the humanity we aspire to be.
Someday, our descendents might look back and see, when faced with the greatest crisis we’ve ever known, we collectively reimagined and reshaped our culture, that we answered the call and rose to the challenge.
I’m still working through how this all manifests in my life; I feel like this is a start, though. To move forward, I think we need to remember who we are, and maybe that’s as simple as touching our hands to the ground, offering a prayer, and gathering in community to catch a glimpse of how things might be.
So here I suppose I’m sending you some of the thoughts, anxieties, and hopes that have been on my mind recently. I’m looking forward to reading your letter! And maybe reading some of the things you’ve been thinking up.