ReMembering and Anticipation
By ReMembering for Life teacher/course designer Chris Fici
Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it
History moves on the cross-current winds of enlightenment and ignorance. How often do we quote some variation of Santayana's sutra without actually thinking about what he means. What is it exactly we are trying to remember? Genocides, holocausts, displacements, lynching trees...Human histories, especially the histories of the victorious colonizer, can be nastiest kind of maya (illusion). The illusion cuts deep, convincing us of a Manifest Destiny of human progress which is the ecocidal id of whitened-out humanity. These are the histories which attempt t0 cover up our blessedly real his/herstory, the stories of the wise, kind, and fierce resisters and devotees of truth, justice, compassion, and love. We strive to remember why some voices have been silenced. We strive to remember what these voices still say to us today.
In 21st Century space-time, we sit, stand, and dance at a crossroads mix of toxic and holy flows. From the rush of this river we hear the voices of Earth call us to the new/old task of ReMembering and Anticipating. To ReMember: to remember what has dismembered and displaced us, to somatically, intellectually, and devotedly confront the evil of structural sin and evil, to begin to repair, to make reparation, to heal, to become resilient. To Anticipate: to create the change we want to be, to climb over the walls of hopelessness and ecological grief to the fertile ground on the other side, to seize the opportunity which comes from the fierce love of infinite Divinity which exists within each Earthly atom.
To ReMember/Anticipate is to get back to our roots, to the undercommons of our collective being together. It's to return to the spaces of our communion.
The eminent Christian theologian Willie James Jennings, in his masterwork The Christian Imagination: Theology and The Origins of Race, writes:
The space of communion is always ready to appear where the people of God reach down to join the land and reach out to join those around them, their near and distant neighbors. This joining involved first a radical remembering of the place, a discerning of the histories and stories of those for whom that land was the facilitator of their identity. This must be done to gather the fragments of identity that remain to learn from them (or at least from their memory) who we might become in that place. This must also be done to discern the ever-present processes of commodification and transformation of place. We must learn the history of a place that has entered into the state of transition, because therein lies our point of departure for imagining a future by remembering a past. (286-287)
Our Anticipation depends on our ReMembering. These are the two legs we dance with now in the state of transition we call the Great Turning or the Anthropocene. Getting over our numbness and nausea at the wall of hopelessness and ecological grief-historical literacy is one sturdy ladder to climb over to the other side. Historical literacy is our weapon of love and devotion. Historical literacy is what fills us with the courage and compassion to ReMember the legacies of American Holocausts and Jim and Jane Crow old and new.
We ReMember in order to re-discover our capacities to radically reimagine how to be intimate with each other. How to be ecological with each other, Historical literacy is after all pretty damn sexy!
The embracing, dancing practices of ReMembering and Anticipation contain many multitudes. One such element which always emerges, as the DNA of the soil from which these practices take root, is creative play. When we ReMember/Anticipate together we can ask: What if this particular element of history, this particular bit of white-out, hadn't happened? How do we play/create in that imagination? Where do we find this creative moment now? Who are the voices seemingly silenced then that we hear again now, so alive and still with us? Who are the peoples we can yet offer us capacities for reparation and devotion in our play?
ReMembering/Anticipation is our place of play. The place of play is anticipatory community, described here, from his book Earth-Honoring Faith: Religious Ethics in a New Key, by our dear teacher, the Christian theologian and ethicist Larry Rasmussen.
‘Anticipatory communities’ are home places where it is possible to reimagine worlds and reorder possibilities, places where new or renewed practices give focus to an ecological
and postindustrial way of life. Such communities have the qualities of a haven, a set-apart and safe place yet a place open to creative risk. Here basic moral formation happens by conscious choice and not by default (simply conforming to the ethos and unwritten ethic of the surrounding culture). Here eco-social virtues are consciously cultivated and embodied in community practices. Here the fault lines of modernity are exposed. (175)
We often reach the wall of hopelessness and ecological grief. We acknowledge the reality and integrity and honesty of these feelings, but we cannot get stuck there. To wallow too much in this grief is both a sign of cowardice and a sign of being privileged enough, with working AC and a full fridge, to have the luxury of such wallowing. We must climb over this wall. We must in fact tear down this wall. What is on the other side? Anticipatory community. As Rasmussen further explains, anticipatory community is where we manifest the desire and the resultant praxis for deep systems changes. We do, as Rasmussen echoes from James Baldwin, "our first works over." We do our sacred work of historical literacy.
We plant the seeds of a healthy Earth Ethic, cultivating roots, fruits, and flowers of a renewed Earth being which takes us through and beyond the fault lines of modernity, the pressures of market and law which feed the monstrous maw of systemic evil. We bring the tools of community-building into our tool-shed, repairing and renovating them to make the fibers of our communities more just and resilient. We learn the arts of adaptation through our commitment to creative deviance on the front lines of climate change.
These anticipatory communities will necessary include communities practiced in death and renewal as life's deep rhythms, communities that wash all things in gratitude and contrition, in forgiveness and re-beginnings...New wineskins are needed. (183)
New wineskins made of creative, compassionate, and constructive contrition for the historical wounds of the colonizers, still festering, which we are all called to heal. Made of gratitude for the chance to re-discover the just and good pathways of history once lost and still there to activate. The activating of our Earth-honoring, decolonizing imagination, rediscovering history as it has and hasn't been experienced, opening into creative transformation. New wineskins made of forgiveness of our sins in our ReMembering which fertilizes the new beginnings of Anticipation.
ReMembering pulls the threads of history out not to shatter our ultimate cherished self-worth but for emancipatory healing. The doorway into a real and renewed devotion for the liberation of Earth and all of her most vulnerable creatures opens. This fierce devotion is the sustainable energy which fuels our Anticipation. The practice of ReMembering/Anticipation reminds us that our histories are always living within us-embodied, intimate, active, flowing through us, affecting us whether we are conscious of it or not. ReMembering/Anticipation allows us to take conscious hold of our historical destines, as we re-examine questions of sovereignty, relation to land (Earth), and our aching need for intimacy between humans and between species.
Jennings concludes for us:
The space of communion draws into itself the social divisions enacted by and facilitated through that stratification in order to overcome them...We who live in the new space of joining may need to transgress the boundaries of real estate, by buying where we should not and living where we must not, and being identified with those who we should not. Thus the new space may betray the logics of geographic commodity form by drawing local communities...into a wider, even global kinship network. (287)
The space of communion is our anticipatory community, where we ReMember/Anticipate. May all of us who take on this sacred task invite each other to further and deeper intimacy.