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Future-Bending Manyfesto: Volume 1
Today's contributions by River Kenna, Tasshin Fogleman, & Lauren Uba
By River Kenna
The future is a garden, not a ghost city. It will be grown, not built. It is grown, every moment, with every seed we plant and every weed we pull.
There's a myth in the air; it wants to convince us that those with money, power, and connections are the ones who build the future. The set the agenda, lay the infrastructure, plan the layout. The rest of us can either get money and power, or we can forget about having a hand in the shape of the future.
This myth is pervasive, under-questioned, and frankly just nonsense.
Real estate developers in China spent billions to build entire cities, pre-planned and pre-fabricated. They built them up from paper into concrete, through sheer force of cash—and no one came. The ghost cities sit mostly vacant.
Myanmar built a new capital, Naypyidaw, with temples and government buildings and a 17-lane highway. My friend took a picture of himself in a sleeping bag in the middle of that highway; the lanes still stretch empty in all directions.
Facebook spent tens of billions of dollars trying to make the Metaverse happen. They've now quietly back-burnered it, after a slog of reactions that range from "neat, I guess" to "oh god what a heachache." The metaverse stands empty.
It's not enough to have all the money and power if what you're doing with them is detached from how people want to live their lives, from the kinds of futures people want to inhabit.
Conversely, if your own vision is deeply engaged with a present and future people want to be a part of, you don't need all the money and power to make it happen. You can gracefully and skillfully bend the future towards you and your people, navigate assiduously into a world you've shaped. (That said, money and power can be powerful fertilizers.)
We need to disentangle ourselves from the myth that the future is a thing that gets built. That money and power are the deciding factors, and the rest of us are eking it out in the margins.
The deciding factors are connection, drive, soul, agency, aliveness, and the stories we live about what we're here to do. These are the things that drive human energy, that garden and nurture futures worth living.
Let them build their ghost cities and metaverses. Let them throw money at every bad idea that strikes them.
We'll be in the garden, nurturing seeds and watching dew evaporate off the leaves. We'll be there together, growing the worlds everyone longs to live in.
In this many-festo, I've gathered some of my favorite people and thinkers and feelers to draw out specific moves, capabilities, stances, and possibilities for future-bending: ways that any one of us—even without any money, power, or connections, and even while busy with the rest of what life asks from us—can contribute to the soil and sunshine that the future emerges from and bends towards.
I say this with all my heart and from the depths of my soul: lfg yall.
You Can Just Do Stuff!
by Tasshin Fogleman
Tasshin is an extremely online pilgrim wandering this precious world for the benefit of all beings. He has three main endeavors: spreading love, following his curiosity, and empowering others.
“You can just do stuff!”
You can do stuff! You can do stuff your parents, teachers, boss, or friends didn’t tell you to do! You can do stuff without anyone’s permission! You can give yourself permission! You can do stuff you’ve never seen anyone else do before! You can do stuff no one in your life understands or values, things you can’t explain or justify, but you believe in anyway! You can decide what you care about above all else and value that, even if no one else values it!
You can just decide you want to do a project, and do it!
You can notice you feel called to do something new, something fun and interesting and novel, something challenging for you and unprecedented for the world—and then do it! You can trust the draw you have towards a specific project, even if you don’t understand exactly why you feel called or what ultimate value it will end up having! You can figure out what plans you need to set in place to make it happen, what obstacles you need to overcome and what milestones you need to reach in order to see it through! You, too, can experience the tremendous joy and satisfaction of envisioning a beautiful gift you could give the world, taking the time and effort to bring it about, and then giving it!
You can just start collaborating with people!
You can notice people in your life and networks that you resonate with, discern their skills and gifts and strengths and dreams, and invite them into your life and work! You can find win-win ways to collaborate with each other that aren’t necessarily dependent on money or salaries—fun, growth, intrinsic motivation, achieving one’s goals are all currencies you can learn to trade in! You can make having fun together working on something cool the basis of collaboration above all else!
You can just decide what your life’s work is!
You can decide how you understand yourself, and tell your own story! You can decide what your life means to you! You can notice certain themes in your life and decide to focus on them above all else! You can tell yourself and the world a story about yourself and your life’s work, and base your time and energy and your actions and your decisions around that story!
You can just decide to build an organization!
You can build a group, community, or organization that doesn’t look anything like any company, start-up, non-profit or organization you’ve ever seen before! You can build an organization that takes the best of everything you’ve seen from other groups you’ve been part of, but goes beyond all of that, and makes it your own! You can ask people to collaborate with you on specific projects! You can ask them to take on specific roles, with unique responsibilities and even cool, unique titles! You can have shared meetings and projects and goals and standard operating procedures and visions and values!
Your life is precious!
You don't have infinite time! You will die one day! You do have infinite potential—you are a singular person and there is no one quite like you in the universe! You don't have to live like other people! You don't have to be beholden to the stories you received from your family or teachers or society about who you are or who you're supposed to be or how you're supposed to live your life! You can decide all of that, who you are and how you want to live! It’s your life! Go and live a life that you are happy and proud to be living!
The Cosmic Dancer
by Lauren Uba
Lauren Uba is the founder of Climate Action Community, an organisation that aims to support individuals in moving from feelings of climate anxiety to collective climate action, through deepening connection to self, other, purpose, and planet. She has an interest in bridging modern cognitive science, contemplative practice, systems thinking, and creative expression as a way to compost crisis into nourishment and growth.
In the Cosmic Dancer Manifesto, she argues for the importance of recognizing dance, both literal and metaphorical, as an attunement to our environment and the co-systems that we both *are* and are surrounded by— and how this attunement is vitally necessary for moving forward well.
I went to a dance performance this evening. Dance and theater, based on Contact Improvisation. It was an expression of soul and being; a duet, sensing and feeling where each partner is and will be in each moment.
Moment by moment unfolding together, improvising with presence, openness, awareness, play. Leaping, falling, being caught in mid-air by a perceptive and receptive partner.
The Cosmic Dancer knows they are never dancing alone.
In a Q&A afterward, the dancers said there were some broad structures to the performance, but neither party knew for certain where in the arc they were at any moment. Broad structures help to anchor and to navigate the unlimited potential of dynamic unfolding.
A well-held social field has these scaffoldings that allow us to orient. Enough structure, matched with a willingness to break the structure. Enough courage to move beyond what is known or expected, into the full liberating freefall of pure presence, expression, sensing and feeling, leaping and being caught.
The Cosmic Dancer has the courage and the curiosity to lean forward into the unknown.
Can we use a new courage, practiced and refined in these moments of vulnerable authentic expression, of freefall into the unknown, to create something new? Another way of being in the world that enables us to receive information from the social and biological systems around us, in the same way that contact improv dancers move effortlessly around each other? To bend a new future for ourselves as a species, for ourselves as a manifestation of life on Earth?
Might we use presence and play to find innovative ways to see the world around us, to be in the world around us, to be with ourselves, to see the problems and envision solutions that touch beyond what the Default Mode Network thinks is possible?
The Cosmic Dancer sees beyond boundaries and borders and expectations and uses expanded awareness to move freely, limitlessly.
We live in systems, we are made of systems; we are complex living systems embedded in complex living systems. A stomachache alerts us that something in our system is not well. And just as a stomachache, an issue with a particular system in one body can be sensed by that individual, so too can we intuitively tell when something is stuck, or 'not right' in our social body. We can find which bits of the system feel 'not right' and intervene there. Often, with surprising outcomes. Through training in these collective sensing practices, new creative insights arise. New doors to possibility open to us.
This type of dance uses presencing and being, sensing, and nervous system attunement as tools to receive and transmit information. We are bodies made of millions of neurons, receptors made to make sense of the field of consciousness around us.
The Cosmic Dancer uses their entire body as a highly-evolved sensing apparatus.
Many such practices allow us to sense into the social body, to receive information from it in the same way that the contact improvisation dancers do.
Arawana Hayashi is the founder of Social Presencing Theater, a lecturer with the Presencing Institute, and a dancer. She created Social Presencing Theater as a way to sense the unseen fields and system dynamics between us so that we can find ways to collectively 'unstuck' ourselves and innovate for deep systemic transformation.
The root meaning of the word aesthetic is feeling, and anesthetic is numbness. Aesthetics increases our resonance with the world, our feeling sense, our embodied intelligence, our embodied knowing. It is an awareness. In Social Presencing Theater, this is not just an individual capacity for awareness. Our work is about a collective presence from which creativity is a natural outcome. We work with the body and movement. We make something visible through the body. The root meaning of the word theater is “a place where something becomes visible.” We make the social body visible. And the social field or social awareness, although it's not concrete or visible, is very experienceable, very resonant with our experience.
Arawana Hayashi in conversation with evolve Magazine
The Cosmic Dancer can sense the unseen, the invisible, the not-yet-there.
To me, future-bending is about adapting the remarkable biocomputers which an unbroken chain of 3.7 billion years of evolution has lovingly bestowed upon us. It is to dance with what is, and what can be, through uncertainty and complexity, by training our cosmic dancer muscles — letting go, trusting, attuning, sensing, intero-preting, and transpersonal awareness. The cosmic dancer archetype may be a new way to envision our capacity to move through metacrisis. To handle complexity and to improvise and respond to the unexpected, which appears to be only accelerating. We need new ways of thinking and being to navigate our way out of the contemporary quagmire we find ourselves in, and cosmic dancing sounds like a lot of fun. Will you join me for a dance?
The Cosmic Dancer is you, too.
Cosmic inspiration from the ‘Meeting Point’ performance of Tomáš Wortner & Danny Kearns with music by kėkė creatur held March 2023 at Medley, Berlin.
Future-Gardening (i): Look at your Garden
by River Kenna
River is struggling to find a self-description that isn’t “Mythosomatic Philosopher” but frankly he’s coming up short, so we’ll keep that for now. He teaches Somatic Resonance to help modern people ground into the wisdom of the body, and Mythopoetic Inner Work to help people navigate the unconscious. He also organized this whole Manyfesto shindig, so if you’re enjoying it please support it.
The first step with future-bending, as with almost everything, is to simply notice the situation at hand. To begin noticing, we can feel into a few key questions—maybe even journal or tweet through them:
What does it look like?
We each have certain senses of what kinds of lives feel nourishing. Of what futures we want to leave to our older selves and the next generations. The first step is to simply notice what’s already there in our hearts and minds.
Note, we’re not trying to intellectualize this, lay out a platform, get into the bylaws and meta-systematic interplays of this and that and whatever other concepts we want to play with.
No, right now we’re taking a deep breath and noticing what worlds we seem to lean towards—in all their vagueness and specificity, all their sharp edges and impressionistic blurs, all their intellectual textures and emotional atmospheres. When we drop awareness into our bodies and feel towards worlds worth nurturing, what’s there?
What’s mine to do?
We each have one life, a life made up of 24-hour days, responsibilities, surprises, joys, frustrations, and drives. None of us can do everything—we can’t singlehandedly bend the arc of time towards better futures. But we can do the parts that are ours to do, and we can find ways to help others do their parts.
In concrete terms, ask yourself: from my sense of the worlds worth nurturing, what parts of it are mine to tend? Maybe:
writing fiction that magnetizes human drives in particular directions
raising children with the virtues you see the world needing
attending conferences on particular topics, contributing to the atmosphere and ideation and criticism that make the work of this field stronger
writing and giving talks on a set of issues you see as under-emphasized and potentially transformative
giving lessons in under-utilized skills to people who are driven and interested
any number of other things
The key here is to sense for yourself what is yours to do—not to let someone else convince you of what the Best Practices are for Being A Good Person or Optimizing Your Impact. No—we take a deep breath, let awareness move through our lives and bodies, and we allow ourselves to notice the answers that are already waiting for us—and to stay open to more answers as they come.
Who’s doing what’s not mine?
This question doesn’t need to be complicated: look around at people doing projects you like and believe in. They might be writers or philosophers or coaches or just some guy making videos that are silly in exactly the right way and serious in exactly the right amount. They might be farmers in Montana or programmers in Seoul or the lady who runs that perfectly-curated bookshop across town.
As you match the world you want to live in with the work that needs to be done to bring it about, you’ll notice that there are many people who are already out there, doing what they can to move towards that same world. Find out who they are, take note of them, and take an interest in them.
How can all this work together?
We’re still just noticing at this point, not necessarily moving towards action yet—but as you begin to move towards potential action, this question becomes relevant. You’ve noticed the world you feel a need to move towards, you’ve noticed what you can do to take part in its growth, and you’ve noticed other people who are tending to different aspects. Now, what can you do to link these people, this goal, these actions? What can you do to cohere the potential that’s been here since long before you even noticed it?
There’s endless ways you could go about this, if you’re creative. The starting point is always simply building connections. Reach out to people, mention folks to each other, start up a group manifesto project and invite these people to contribute 👀
If you need more ideas, look up to Tasshin’s entry, “You Can Just Do Things.” Cuz seriously: you can just bring people together. You barely need an excuse.
That’s Volume 1
We’ll be back in a few days with Volume 2.
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